Cloud of Witnesses

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George Gillespie

Mr Gillespie, was the son of Mr John Gillespie, minister of Kirkaldy. Being from principle a supporter of Presbyterian government, he was for sometime licensed to preach, before he could gain admission to a living. He was at length, however, ordained minister of Wemyss, in 1638; being the first who was inducted during that period, without an acknowledgement of the bishops. Henceforth, he became a most zealous defender of the Presbyterian interest. In 1641, he was translated to Edinburgh, and two years after was a commissioner for the church of Scotland, to the Westminster assembly.

On his return from this court, in which he distinguished himself highly, he continued to take a prominent lead in the public affairs of the church, and in 1648 was chosen moderator of the general assembly. He was also appointed to superintend the treaty for uniformity of religion with England, but shortly after, being seized with his last sickness, he died on the 17th of December following. His last words, whilst they record his sentiments with respect to religion in general, have a special reference to the question which then agitated the public mind, with regard to the Duke of Hamilton's unlawful engagement in favour of the king.

His Latter Will

' Being, through much weakness and sickness, in expectation of my last change, I have thought good, by this latter will, under my hand, to declare first of all, that the expectation of death, which appears not to be far off, does not shake me from the faith and truth of Christ, which I have professed; neither do I doubt, but this so much opposed covenant and reformation of the three kingdoms, is of God, and will have a happy conclusion. It has pleased God, who chooses the foolish things of this world, to confound the wise, and the things that are not, to confound the things that are, to employ me ( the most unfit and unworthy among many thousands) in the advancing and promoting of that glorious work; and now I repent no forwardness or zeal that ever I had therein, and dare promise, to as many will be faithful and zealous in the cause of God, it shall be no grief of heart to them afterward, but a matter of joy and peace, as this day I find it, through God's mercy, passing by my many and great infirmities, and approving my poor endeavours in His cause.

But if there be a falling back to the sin of compliance with malignant ungodly men, then I look for the breaking out of the wrath of the Lord, till there be no remedy. O that there were such a spirit at least, in such of our nobility as stand for the truth, that they may take more of God's counsel, and lean less to their own reason and understanding. As for dangers on the other hand from sectaries, - I have been, and am of the opinion, that they are to be prevented and avoided by all lawful means; but that the dangers from malignants are nearest and greatest in this kingdom.'

His Testimony

Seeing now, in all appearance, the time of my dissolution is very near, although I have in my latter will declared my mind of public affairs, yet I have thought it good to add this further testimony, that I esteem the malignant party in these kingdoms, the seed of the serpent, enemies to piety, and Presbyterian government, (pretend what they will to the contrary) a generation that have not set God before them.

With the malignants are to be joined the profane and scandalous, from which, as also from heresies and errors, the Lord I trust is about to purge His churches. I have often comforted myself ( and still do) with the hopes of the Lord's purging this polluted land; surely the Lord hath begun and will carry on that great work of mercy, and will purge out the rebels. I know there will be always a mixture of hypocrites, but that cannot excuse the conniving at gross and scandalous sinners. This purging work which the Lord is about, very many have directly opposed and said by their deeds, ' we will not be purged nor refined, but we will be joining and mixing ourselves with these whom the ministers preach against as malignant enemies to god and His cause.' But let him that is filthy be filthy still, and let wisdom be justified of her children. I recommend to them that fear God, sadly and seriously to consider that the Holy Scripture doth plainly hold forth, 1st. That the helping of the enemies of God, or joining and mingling with wicked men, is a sin highly displeasing. 2nd. That this sin hath ordinarily ensnared God's people into divers other sins. 3rd. That it hath been punished of God with grievous judgements. 4th. That utter destruction is to be feared, when a people, after great mercies and judgements, relapse into this sin, Ezra 9:13-14.

'Upon these and the like grounds, for my own exoneration, that so necessary a truth want not the testimony of a dying witness of Christ, also the most unworthy amongst many thousands; and that light may be held forth, and warning given, I cannot be silent as this time, but speak by my pen, when I cannot by my tongue; ye, now, also by the pen of another, when I cannot by my own, seriously, in the name of Jesus Christ, exhorting all that fear God and make conscience of their ways to be very tender and circumspect, to watch and pray that they be not ensnared in that great dangerous sin of conjunction, or compliance with malignant, or profane enemies of the truth, under whatsoever prudential considerations it may be varnished over, which, if men will do, and trust God in his own way, they shall not only repent it, but to the greater joy and peace of God's people, they shall see His work go on and prosper gloriously.

In witness of the premises, I have subscribed the same with my hand at Kirkcaldy, December 15th 1648, before these witnesses, Mr F. Carmichael, minister at Markinch, and Mr Alex Monerief, minister at Sconie.