Cloud of Witnesses

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Sir Archibald Johnston

This truly eminent and excellent person was bred to the profession of the law; and having given unequivocal proofs of his zeal in favour of the reformation then going forward was chosen clerk to the General Assembly in 1638, and afterwards procurator for the church. In these offices, and in the various matters that they led him to undertake, he conducted himself in a manner that secured to him respect of both the church and state; and in 1641, he was knighted by his majesty, and appointed a lord of session. Afterwards, in 1643, he was sent as a commissioner to the Westminster Assembly, an appointment that lasted till 1648. In 1650 the act of classes being repealed, he took a prominent part with those who protested against it; and in 1657, repaired to London with some others, to plead the cause of the party. This appointment, honourable as it was, proved fatal to him. He was won over by the insinuating arts of Cromwell, and prevailed on to accept the office of Clerk register at his hands. And this, together with his zeal for the protesting cause, was, after the restoration, turned into a charge against him, upon which he was condemned. The following speech he read at his execution, on the 22nd of July, 1663.

ĎRight honourable , much honoured, and beloved auditors and spectators, - that which I intended and prepared to have spoken at this time, and in this condition, immediately before my death (if it should be so ordered that it should be my lot) is not at present in my power, having been taken from me; but I hope the Lord shall preserve it to bear my testimony more fully and clearly, than now I can in this condition, having my memory much destroyed, through much sore and long sickness, melancholy, and excessive drawing of my blood; though I bless the Lord my God, that notwithstanding the aforementioned distempers, I am in some capacity to leave this short and weak testimony.

1st, I desire in the first place to confess my sins, so far as is proper to this place and case, and to acknowledge Godís mercies; and to express my repentance of the one, and my faith of the other, through the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ our gracious Redeemer and Mediator. I confess that my natural temper (or rather distemper) has been hasty and passionate, and that in my manner of going about and prosecuting of the best pieces of work and service, to the Lord, and to my generation, I have been subject to many excesses of heat, and thereby to some precipitations, which has no doubt offended standers by and lookers on, and has exposed both me, and the work, to their mistakes; whereby, the beauty of the Lordís work has been obscured; neither have I, in following the Lordís work, His good work, been without my own self seeking; which has several ways vented itself, to the offence of both God and man, and to the grief thereafter of my own conscience, and which has often made me groan, and cry out with the apostle, Ď O miserable man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death;í and to lie low in the dust mourning and lamenting over the same, deprecating Godís wrath, and begging His tender mercies to pardon, and His powerful grace to cure all these evils. I must withal confess, that it does not a little trouble me, and lie heavy upon my spirit, and will bring me down with sorrow to the grave (though I was not alone in this offence, but had the body of the nation going before me, and the example of persons of all ranks to ensnare me), that I suffered myself through the power of temptations, and the too much fear anent the straits that my numerous family might be brought into, to be carried unto so great a length of compliance in England with the late usurpers, which did much grieve the hearts of the godly, and made these that sought God ashamed and confounded for my sake, and did give no small occasion to the adversary to reproach and blaspheme, and did withal not a little obscure and darken the beauty of several former actions about His blessed and glorious work of reformation, happily begun, and far advanced in these lands, wherein He was graciously pleased to employ , and by employing to honour me to be an instrument (though the least and most unworthy of many) whereof I am not ashamed this day, but account it my glory, however that work be now cried down, opposed, laid in the dust, and trode upon.  And my turning aside to comply with these men, was the more aggravated in my person that I had so frequently and seriously made profession of my averseness from, and abhorrence of that way, and had shown much dissatisfaction with these that that had not gone so great a length; for which, as I seek Godís mercy in Christ Jesus, so I desire that all the Lordís people, from my example, may be more stirred up to watch and pray, that they enter not into temptation.

2nd, I do not deny on the other hand, but must testify in the second place, to the glory of the free grace, that the Lord my God has often shown and engraved on my conscience, the testimony of His reconciling and reconciled mercy through the merits of Jesus Christ pardoning all my iniquities, and assuring me that he would deliver me also by the graces of His holy Spirit, from the tyranny and dominion thereof and has often drawn out my spirit, to the exercise of repentance and faith, and often engraved upon my heart in legible characters, His merciful pardon, and gracious begun cure thereof, to be perfected thereafter, to the glory of His name, the salvation of my soul, and edification of His church.

3rd, I am pressed in conscience to leave here at my death, my true and honest testimony in the sight of God and man, to and for the national covenant; the solemn league and covenant; the solemn acknowledgement of our sins, and engagement to our duties; to all the grounds and causes of fasts and humiliations, and of the Lordís displeasure and contending with the land; and to several testimonies given to His interests, by general assemblies, commissions of the Kirk, Presbyteries, and by other honest and faithful ministers and professors.

4th, I am also pressed to encourage His doing, suffering, witnessing people, and sympathizing ones with these that suffer, that they would continue in the duties of witnessing, mourning, praying, and sympathizing with these that suffer, and humbly to assure them in the name of the Lord our God, the God of His own word and work, of His own cause, covenant and people, that He will be seen, found and felt (in His own gracious way and time, by His own means and instruments, for His own glory and honour) to return to His own truths and interests, and servants, and revive His name, His covenant, His word, His work, His sanctuary, and His saints in these nations, even in the three covenanted nations, which were by solemn bonds, covenants, subscriptions and oaths, given away and devoted unto Himself.

5th, I exhort all these that have been, or are enemies to the Lordís name, covenants, or cause, word, work, or people, in Britain and Ireland, to repent and amend, before these sad judgements, that are far posting, come upon them, for their sinning so highly against the Lord, because of any temptation of the time, on the right or left hand, by baits or straits whatsoever, and that after so many professions and engagements to the contrary.

6th, I dare  not conceal from you. That are friendly to al the Lordís interests, that the Lord (To the commendation of His grace, be it humbly spoken) has several times, in the exercise of my repentance and faith during my trouble, and after groans and tears upon these three notable chapters, Ezra Chapter 9; Nehemiah Chapter 9 and Daniel Chapter 9, with other such suitable scriptures, and in the very nick of fervent and humble supplication to Him, for the reviving again of His name, cause, covenant, word, and work of reformation, in these covenanted nations, and particularly in poor Scotland, which first solemnly engaged to Him, to the good example and encouragement of His people, in the other two nations, to do the same also, that the Lord, I say, hath several times given me good ground of hope and lively expectations of His merciful, gracious, powerful, and wonderful renewing and reviving again of His aforementioned great interests in these covenanted nations; and that in such a way, by such means and instruments, with such antecedants, concurrents, consequents, and effects, as shall wonderfully rejoice His mourning friends, and astonish His contradicting and counteracting enemies.

7th, I do earnestly recommend my poor wife and children, and their posterity, to the choicest blessings of God, and to the prayers and favour of all the Lordís children and servants, in their earnest dealing with God and men in their behalf, that they may not be ruined for my cause, but for the Lord my Godís sake, they may be favoured, assisted, supplied, and comforted, and also may be fitted by the Lord for His fellowship and service; whom God Himself has moved me often, in their own presence, and with their own consent, to dedicate, devote, and resign alike, and as well, as I devote and resign my own soul and body to Him for time and eternity.

8th, I beg the Lord to open the eyes of all the instruments of my trouble, that are not deadly irreconcilable enemies to Himself and His people, that they may see the wrong done by them to His interests and people, and to me and mine, and may repent thereof and return to the Lord; and may more cordially own and adhere to all His interests in time coming; the good Lord give unto them repentance, remission, and amendment; and that is the worst wish I do wish them, and the best wish I can wish them.

9th, I do earnestly beg the fervent prayers of all His praying people, servants, and instruments, whether absent or present, wherever they be, in behalf of His name, cause, and covenant work and people; and in behalf of my wife, children, and their posterity; and that the Lord would glorify Himself, edify His church, encourage His saints, further His work, accomplish His good word, by all His doings and dealings, in substance and circumstance toward all His own.

10th, Whereas I have heard, that some of my enemies have slandered and defamed my name, as if I had been accessory to his late majestyís death, and to making of the change of government thereupon; the great God of heaven be witness and judge between me and my accusers in this; for I am free (as I shall now answer before His tribunal) from any accession, by counsel or contrivance, or any other way, to his late majestyís death, or to their making that change of government; and I pray the Lord to preserve our present king his majesty, and to pour out His blessings upon his royal posterity, and to give unto them good and faithful counsellors, holy and wise counsels, and prosperous successes, to Godís glory, and to the good and interest of His people, and to their own honour and happiness.

11th, I do here now submit and commit my soul and body, wife and children, and childrenís children from generation to generation for ever, with all others His friends and followers, all His doing and suffering, witnessing and sympathizing ones, in the present and subsequent generations, unto the Lordís choice mercies, graces, favours, services, employments, empowerments, enjoyments, improvements, on earth and in heaven, in time, and eternity. All which suits, with all others, which He hath at any time by His Spirit moved and assisted me to make and put up, according to His will, I leave before, and upon the fatherís merciful bowels, and the Sonís mediating merits, and the Holy Spiritís compassionate groans, for now and evermore. Amen.