Cloud of Witnesses

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John McCulloch

John M’Culloch of Barholm was “a gentleman of good parts and great piety.” He had already suffered much for his conscientious adherence to the Presbyterian church, having shared extensively both in 1663 and 1665, in the fines and exactions which were levied from Galloway.

He was now far advanced in life, and we may be sure it was no ordinary oppression that had induced him to embark in the late insurrection. It appears he had served in the army, and had attained the rank of major.

In consequence of this circumstance, as well as from his family influence, it is probable he was regarded as the most distinguished of the prisoners taken at Pentland.

He was therefore one of the ten who, immediately after the defeat, were condemned and executed. And hence he was the first to affix his name to the following testimony, (which, in addition to that previously agreed to by some of them,) they subscribed in the prison, at Edinburgh, on the day of their death, being 7th December, 1666.

“Men and brethren, - This is a great and important work, both for us, who are now to render up our spirits to Him that gave them, and for you who are not a little concerned in the cause, and in our blood, by justifying or condemning our sentence; and therefore, as we speak to you as dying men, who dare not dissemble with God or man, nor flatter ourselves; so ye should not be idle, curious, or unconcerned spectators.

“We are condemned by men, and esteemed by many as rebels against the king (whose authority we acknowledge) but this is our rejoicing, the testimony of our conscience, that we suffer not as evil doers, but for righteousness, for the word of God, and testimony of Jesus Christ; and particularly, for our renewing the covenant, and, in pursuance thereof.

For preserving and defending of ourselves by arms, against the usurpation and insupportable tyranny of the prelates; and against the most unchristian and inhuman oppression and persecution, that ever was enjoined and practised by just rulers, upon free, innocent, and peaceable subjects.

“The covenant and cause being so just in themselves, and the duties of self preservation and mutual defence in maintenance thereof, being to judicious and unbiased men so clear, we need to say the less for vindication of our practice.

Only, the laws establishing prelacy, and the acts, orders, and proclamations made for compliance therewith, being executed against us by military force and violence; and we, with others, for our simple forbearance, being fined, confined, imprisoned, exiled, scourged, stigmatized, beaten, bound as beasts, and driven unto the mountains for our lives; and thereby hundreds of families being beggared, several parishes, and some whole countrysides exceedingly impoverished.

And all this, either arbitrarily, and without any law, or respect had to guilt or innocence or unjustly, contrary to all con­science, justice, and reason, though under the pretence of iniquitous laws, and without regard had to the penalty specified in the law: and all remonstrating of grievances (were they never so just and many) and petitions for redress, being restrained by laws condemning all former remonstrances and petitions in the like cases.

There was no other remedy left to us, but that last of necessary self preservation and defence. And this being one of the greatest principles of nature, warranted by the law of God, scriptural instances, and the consent and practices of all reformed churches and Christian states abroad, and of our own famous predecessors at home, it cannot in reason or justice be reputed a crime, or condemned as rebellion by any human authority.

“Though we be not the first that have suffered for the cause of God within the land, yet we are among the first that have been legally condemned and put to death expressly for taking the covenant, and we are so far from being ashamed thereof, that we account it our honour to be reckoned worthy to suffer for such a cause; and cannot but bless the Lord, that we have such a cloud of witnesses, in this and other reformed churches, going before us in the same duty for substance, and in suffering therefore.

“We cannot but regret (if we could, with tears of blood,) the na­tional and authorized backsliding of the land, by perjury and breach of covenant; the overturning of the work of reformation; the great desolation of the house of the Lord, by smiting of the shepherds, and scattering of the flocks; the intrusion of so many mercenary hirelings into the ministry, who, because of apostasy, perjury, ignorance, and profaneness, can neither be acknowledged as God’s mouth to the peo­ple, in preaching, nor employed as their mouth to him, in prayer.

The abounding of popery, superstition, and profaneness, by unheard of oaths, blasphemies, uncleanness, and drinking, even in some whose office and place requires them to be more exemplary; and the shedding the blood of the saints by the rage of persecution.

And therefore we cannot but disown all these abominable laws, courses, and practices, and declare our abhorrence of the same, and dissent; protesting before angels and men, that we be not interpreted as consenters thereto; and beseeching the hearer of prayer, that we be not involved in the guilt thereof, nor partake of the plagues which follow thereupon.

“As this land was happy above all nations, for the purity and plenty of the gospel, and for a form of church government more conformed to the pattern in the scriptures, than in others of the reformed churches; so we acknowledge His great goodness to us in special, that gave us our lines in such pleasant places; for we have full persuasion of the truth of the reformed religion in the church of Scotland, and have felt so much of the power and sweetness thereof, that we do here declare our firm belief and persuasion of, and adherence to the same, in doctrine, worship, discipline, and government, according to the ‘National Covenant, the Solemn League and Covenant, the Confession of Faith, Catechisms, Directory of Worship, and Propositions for Government; accounting it our honour and happiness to have been born in it, to have lived in communion with it, and now to die, through grace, members, witnesses, and assertors thereof.

And further, as Christians, and as members of the same church and commonwealth, in the fear and zeal of our God, in love to our brethren, in desire of the preservation of church and kingdom, and for our own exoneration, now when we take our leave of the world, we do seriously, and in the bowels of Christ, supplicate, warn, exhort you all the inhabitants of the kingdom, from the king to the meanest of the subjects, according to your old principles, professions, promises, declarations, oaths, and covenants, faithfully to own, maintain, preserve, and defend the said religion.

And after the ex­ample of our noble and renowned ancestors, to quit yourselves like men and Christians, in endeavouring by all just means, according to your places and powers, to shake off this heavy yoke of ‘prelacy, which neither we nor our fathers were able to bear,’ and which is destructive to all our true interests, religious and civil; as ye would not involve yourselves in the guilt and plagues of perjury and breach of covenant; and as you tender the good of your own names, persons, estates, families, and liberties, as well as of your immortal souls; and as you would partake of the good of God’s chosen, and of our joys, when ye come so near eternity as we are.

“We shall say no more, but as we were not afraid to take our lives in our hands, so we are not afraid to lay them down in this cause; and as we are not ashamed of Christ because of His cross, so we would not have you offended in Christ, nor discouraged because of us.

For we bear you record, that we would not exchange lots with our adversaries: nor redeem our lives, liberties, and fortunes, at the price of perjury and breach of covenant.

“And further, we are assured, though this be the day of Jacob’s trouble, that yet the Lord when He has accomplished the trial of His own, and filled up the cup of his adversaries, will awake for judgment, plead His own cause, avenge the quarrel of His covenant, make inquiry for blood, vindicate His people, break the arm of the wicked, and establish the just; for to Him belongs judgment and vengeance.

And though our eyes shall not see it, yet we believe that ‘the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing under his wings;’ and that He will revive His work, repair the breaches, build the old wastes, and raise up the desolations.

Yea, ‘the Lord will judge his people, and repeat himself for his servants, when their power is gone, and there is none shut up or left. And therefore, rejoice, O ye nations, with his people: for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and he will be merciful to his land and people. So let thy enemies perish, O Lord; but let them that love him, be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might.’”