Cloud of Witnesses

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John Wodrow

With respect to this person, who was imprisoned in the same room with Mr. McKail, and suffered along with him, very little information has come down to us. It appears be was a merchant in Glasgow, and had probably joined the insurgents during their progress through Ayrshire, or at Lanark.

He seems at all events to have been cordial in the cause which they had in view to promote; and as has been observed, has expressed himself in regard to it with a degree of propriety and force not to be expected from his education or condition in life.

His last words consist in a letter to his wife, written on December 22d, being the day of his death, and the testimony delivered by him upon the scaffold.

His Letter to his Wife

‘My heart, - Reverence the good providence of the Lord our God, who can do nothing wrong; for whatsoever He doth is well done, and my soul saith, Amen.

I had not a will of my own, my heart, since that day wherein you and I parted, my Lord and my God captivated it, and brought it to a submission unto His will: I bless Him for evermore for it, that I was never left to my own will: praise, O praise Him all ye living! and O thou, my soul, praise the Lord for it.

I bless the Lord for evermore, that ever He visited my father’s family, that ever He condescended to come unto my father’s family, and to give a visit to the like of me: He visited me there, and set His love upon me, and has chosen me for this very end, to be a witness for His covenanted reformation.

For this my soul is glad, and my glory rejoiceth for this honour, wherewith He has honoured me; and that, though I be condemned to die by men on earth, yet am I justified of God through the blood of my Saviour Jesus Christ, who standeth in our nature in heaven, and hath made me free through His imputed righteousness, made over unto me, in which I stand for ever: and within a few hours I shall see Him in peace, as I am seen of Him, and behold and wonder, and wonder and behold for evermore, even that most glorious excellency which is in Him!

All that which is spoken of Him is but little: O my heart, my dear love, come and see, I beseech you! I thought I had known something of my dearest Lord before, that I had some love from and to Him before, but never was it so with me as it has been with me since I came within the doors of this prison, many a precious visit has His gracious Majesty given unto me.

He is without all comparison; O love, love him! O come to Him: O taste and see, and that shall resolve the question best. The thing I suffer for is the covenanted reformation.

I bless God, and all that is within me doth bless and magnify His holy name for this, that Scotland did ever enter into a covenant with the Lord, into a sworn covenant, with the hand lifted up to the Lord: and I have now sworn and renewed this covenant again for myself, and you, and my four children, in all the parts and points thereof; and I pray, God help you to abide in the covenant forever!

“And now I give you and my four children unto the Lord, and commit you to Him as your covenanted God and husband, and my children’s covenanted Father.

I say no more, but either study to be indeed a sincere Christian, and seeker of His face in sincerity, or else you will be nothing at all. I recommend you and your young ones to Him who is God all sufficient, and aboundeth in mercy and love to them that love Him, and keep His covenant. The blessing of the covenant be upon you, so fare you well.

So saith your loving and dying husband,

John Wodrow

His Speech on the Scaffold

‘Dear friends, I am condemned to die.

I shall say little concerning men who have judged and condemned me, they are to an­swer to God for it; but I bless the Lord, who hath counted me worthy to die for so good and honourable a cause.

And that I be not mistaken after I am gone hence, I have thought fit to testify, that in singleness and sincerity of heart, I came into the service, not constrained, but from conscience of my being engaged by covenant to God, and with a full purpose to perform my vows made in that covenant unto the Lord, in the strength of Jesus Christ; and that I might endeavour to restore again the precious ordinances to their former purity and power, and to recover the fair church in this land (which our blessed Lord has purchased to Himself, and bought at so dear a rate) to her former beauty, which is now defaced: and particularly to bring down that anti Christian prelacy, and that perjured crew of prelates, who have so perfidiously wronged the interests of our blessed Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.

This is the only cause for which I undertook this service, and joined with others my dear and covenanted brethren; and that I had no intention to wrong the king’s person or authority, but to seek his real good, according to my duty in the word of God, and also as I swear in the same covenant wherein I did swear against prelacy.

And notwithstanding I be condemned of men as a rebel, yet I am justified of God, my God and Father, in and through my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who giveth me sweet peace of conscience and joy of heart: I grant it is not enough to justify me before Him, that I had a just cause, unless likewise I had therewith the acceptation of my person through faith in the merits of Jesus Christ who standeth in our nature in heaven, which I dare declare this day as a dying man, that I have obtained.

For I am confident that through His righteousness made over unto me, He hath made me tree, in which I shall stand forever; and that within a few hours I shall see Him in peace, as I am seen of Him; and behold and wonder, and wonder and behold for evermore that most glorious excellency of His.

And this yieldeth to me great consolation in all my extremities, were they never so great; this, I say, is my peace and consolation this day, even Christ my righteousness, who hath both accepted my person and cause: therefore I count it a small thing to be judged and condemned of men, for my testimony is on high, and my record in heaven.’

‘And now, my friends, I am condemned to die for adhering to my covenant made with God, for reformation of religion and conversation, to which all ranks of the land are bound as well as I, though many (alas! too many) shaking off all fear of God, have despised the oath, not only by breaking the covenant, but by professing and declaring avowedly the bond thereof null, and not binding, either to their own or other men’s consciences: and this mischief is framed by a law, which doth greatly heighten the sin.

‘O I tell it not in Gath, and publish it not in Askelon.’ Oh I that this should be heard of amongst papists and pagans, that professed reformed protestants should stand in so little awe of a solemn oath, and name of the great and living God.

But I exhort you all, that so much the more as others have made void His covenant, you would esteem it the more precious, and closely follow the reformation vowed, in every article thereof, upon all occasions given you of the Lord; and that you abhor, detest, and refuse any engagement whatsoever, that may wrong your oath in the covenant directly or indirectly, as ye would escape the wrath of God that is coming on such breaking of covenant; but rather choose the greatest extremity of affliction, than the least sin of this sort; as Moses did, who refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, but chose rather to suffer reproach for Christ: and be not afraid of suffering for Christ, as though it were an evil thing, neither scare ye at his cross, for the Lord himself saith, ‘ My yoke is easy, and my burden light;’ yea, it is lighter to us, than to many that stand by.’

‘Believe it, faith makes all burdens light to the believing sufferer.’

‘And now I beseech you believers in Christ, abide in Him, bring forth fruit unto holiness; and study tenderness in all manner of conversation, and holiness, ‘without which no man shall see the Lord;’ and let not this profane nor mocking generation have anything to reproach you with, but that whereof you would not be ashamed; that when you suffer, ye may not suffer as evil doers, that whereas they speak evil of you, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.

It is not knowledge, nor a bare profession that glorifieth God, but tenderness, holiness, and righteousness, that do commend religion and His cause to all men, and shall convince your adversaries of their wickedness in wronging you, and make them the more inexcusable in that day when they shall be judged: yea, what know ye, but ye may win others, by your tender and good conversation.’

‘I recommend to you, that ye would be much and fervent in the use of that precious duty of prayer, wherein most near communion with God upon earth is to be found: be much in prayer with and for others.

‘Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is,’ (I wish they may see the evil of it who neglect it) ‘but exhort one another, and so much the more, as you see the day approaching’. Earnestness and diligence will hasten the Lord’s coming with relief unto you, and to the Lord’s work and your slackness in this, may make the wheels of His chariot to move the more slowly.

For, the effectual fervent prayer of the righteous availeth much with God; it will do more than armies of men and weapons of war for your defence and deliverance.’

‘I beseech you also, my dear friends, that you acquaint yourselves with the word of God in the holy scripture, that ye may have acquaintance with Jesus Christ, who is clearly set forth therein; that ye may know Him in His excellency, and come to love and believe in Him whom ye know.

That ye may be acquainted with His revealed will therein, and may know what is true, and cleave fast thereto, from a sure persuasion that it hath the warrant of His word; and may be guarded against every error of the wicked, and that ye may fully know what is good and what is evil: and that ye may suffer with confidence, when ye are brought forth thereto as I am.

‘Finally, my dear friends, be ye perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace and the God of love and peace shall be with you.’

John Wodrow