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John Neilson

Mr. Neilson was laird of Corsack, in Galloway - a man of excellent parts and sincere piety. Being conscientiously attached to the Presbyterian worship, and not attending the Episcopal curate, an in≠formation was laid against him to Sir James Turner, and he was ex≠posed forthwith to the most severe oppressions on account of his nonconformity.

Under the influence of these, he joined the rising which shortly after took place in his neighbourhood. Far, however, from wishing to avenge himself on the instrument of his sufferings, he, at Dumfries, interposed in behalf of Turner, and saved his life.

He then accompanied the insurgents in their progress to the Pentlands, where he was taken prisoner, and conducted to Edinburgh. The sufferings to which he was shortly after exposed, afford matter for one of the blackest pages in the history of persecution.

With the youthful martyr, Mr. Hugh MíKail, he was, on the 4th December, put to the torture, ďand so fearfully tormented, that his shrieks would have melted anybody but those present, who still called for the other touch.íí

He was, with Mr. Robertson and others, tried on the 10th, and suffered the sentence which was passed upon him on the 14th of that month. Here follows the testimony which he left behind him.

Being made a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men, I found it necessary for vindication of the truth, and of myself, for undeceiving of some, and encouraging of others, to leave this line behind me, which, with my innocent blood, may speak when I am gone.

I am condemned, I shall not say how unjustly, as a rebel against man, but the Lord God of gods he knows, and all Israel shall know, that it is not for rebellion against God, but for endeavouring to recover the blessed work of reformation, and particularly for endeavouring to extirpate prelacy, which hath been the cause of so much sin and suffering within this land, and for renewing of the covenant, from the obligation whereof (seeing I made my vow and promise to the Lord) neither I myself, nor any human authority can absolve me. And if any account this rebellion, I do plainly confess, Ďthat after the way, which they call heresy, I worship the God of my fathers.í

Although the insupportable oppression under which I and many others did groan, were enough to justify our preserving and defending of ourselves by arms, yet know that the cause was not ours, but the Lordís; for we suffered all our grievous oppressions, not for evil doing, but because we could not in conscience acknowledge, comply with, and obey prelacy and submit unto the ministry of ignorant, light, and profane men, who were irregularly and violently thrust upon us.

Neither did we only or mainly design our civil liberties, but the liberty of the gospel, the extirpation of prelacy, the restoration of our faithful pastors, the suppression of profanity, promoting of piety, the saving of ourselves from unjust violence, until we had presented our grievances and desires; and, in a word, the recovering of the once glorious, but now ruined work of reformation, in doctrine, worship, discipline, and government, according to the national covenant and solemn league and covenant, to which I declare my adherence; and through grace shall seal the same with my blood.

ďMy advocate drew up a supplication for me, wherein was acknowledged, that I had been with the rebels, but let none offend thereat: for I do hereby declare, that I was so far from accounting that course rebellion, that I judged, and still do judge, it was my duty to join therein, and my honour to suffer therefore.

Otherwise, I should have counted myself accessory to the blood of the Lordís people which is shed: and cannot but regret that others of the Lordís people, when they heard of us, did not come forth with speed to help the Lord against the mighty; much more let all mourn, that not only many have appeared as enemies, but also conjured themselves against the Lord, and the same covenant which they so solemnly swear; and as the petition itself, I knew not that expression was in it.

Being conscious myself of so much weakness, and so many heinous sins which predominate in me, and of unfruitfulness under the gospel, and unsuitable walking thereto, I confess myself the vilest of sinners, and desire to mourn for the same, and pray that the Lord for Christís sake may freely forgive me, as I have forgiven them that have wronged me, and hope through the righteousness of Jesus Christ to obtain the same.

And I do exhort all and every one of my friends to more holiness, prayer, and steadfastness, always abounding in the work of the Lord; and above all things, to detest and shun that wicked declaration against the covenant, the apparent temptation of the time, and the very mark of antichristian prelacy.

ďAll that I have is but little, but if I had many worlds, I would lay them all down, as now I do my life, for Christ and His cause; nothing doubting but the Lord will abundantly provide for my wife and my six children, whom I commit to the Lordís care, and recommend to the kindness and prayers of the faithful.

And do lay an express charge on my wife that she show all my children, that I have bound them all to the covenant, for which now I lay down my life, and that she lay it upon them as my last command, that they adhere to every article thereof.

ďThe work and people of God are brought very low; it may be, because they were not ripe for a deliverance; and for the greater trial, and filling up of the cup of the adversaries: or, because there was little, or less prayer than should have been among those who appeared at this time, that the Lord hath made this late breach.

But, dear friends, be not therefore tempted to call in question the work of reformation; or to think the worse of Christ and His cause, because of sufferings; nor be discouraged because these few who took their lives in their hands, fell before the adversary; for as sufferings are often sweetened by the Spirit of God and glory that rests upon the sufferers, and afterward bring forth the peaceable fruits of righteousness unto them that are exercised thereby; so the Lord will arise in due time, and have mercy upon Zion; and plead the cause which is His own.

This testimony, as I am this day to seal with my blood, so I subscribe with my hand.

John Neilson