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Ralph Shields

This person, as is evident from the tenor of the following testimony, was by birth an Englishman. Having come to Scotland in the prosecution of his worldly employment, he seems to have settled in Ayr, and to have practised the trade of a clothier.

It is probable he joined the covenanters whilst in that neighbourhood; and it must he obvious from his own words, that he did so from the most cordial acquiescence in their principles. He was one of the five who suffered along with Mr. McKaiI on the 22d of December, 1666.

The following is the testimony which he declared on the occasion.

“My Friends, am come here to die, and I thank God it is not for evildoing, that I now suffer, although I be charged with rebellion against the king’s authority, yet I declare before God and you all, that in all this matter, I never intended to wrong his majesty’s just power and greatness, but for conscience’ sake, did respect authority as the ordinance of God, appointed for the punishment of evildoers, and that I wish his majesty all welfare both in this life, and the world to come; and that it may be his happiness to consider his obligations to God and perform the same, that so it may be well with him and his posterity to many generations; and I pray to God make him a friend to His cause, and the truly godly who own the same, though falsely called fanatics or turbulent persons.

“I declare I have such persuasion of the interest of religion reformed, and sworn unto in the covenant, that I dare venture not only to lay down my own life, but if every hair of my head were a man, they should all be put to venture for this cause.

I would not have the world to stumble at the cause, because of my death after this manner; for I rejoice greatly in it, and I desire every good Christian, as they tender their own souls good, that they would grip fast, lay hold on, and cleave to Jesus Christ and His way.

My coming out at this time, I say, was not against his majesty, but for the covenant which is now trodden under foot; my intention was for the cause of Christ.

I take God to witness, it was nothing else I came out for, and for that I am free to lay down my life.

“I bless God I am much encouraged in this, and not at all afraid to die for so good and clear a cause; and I hope, He will bring me through all my difficulties in this dark shadow of death: I hope I have the peace of a good conscience, and have had some glimpses from Jesus Christ, of His countenance and reconciled face, since I came into this prison.

For which, I desire to bless His name with all my soul, heart, and spirit. And I rejoice that He has made use of me to suffer for His cause, and I think it too little, not only to lay down my body, but (if it were possible) even my very soul at the stake for that cause, and for Jesus Christ my good and kind Master, who hath loved me, and given Himself for me.

I give the Lord thanks that I had some of His presence since I came into this condition: and again I say, I am much encouraged and not afraid to die, and bless Him that I die not as a murderer, or evil-doer, or rebel against authority, but for such a cause as this.

“O that it were the happiness of my nation of England, once to subject themselves unto the sweet yoke of Christ’s reformed government, under which this nation of Scotland hath enjoyed so much of the power and life of the gospel, by a faithful ministry, according to the covenant sworn by them both!

“And now, my dear friends in Christ, and fellow-covenanters, though I be a stranger in this land, being an Englishman, but trusted by providence in the prosecution of my calling, to have my residence for a time here in Scotland, (which I look upon, as a singular evidence of God’s special love to me) though I be a stranger, I say, to many of you, yet I must be bold, as a dying friend, to beseech you, by the mercy of God, and by your appearance before Jesus Christ, when we shall have to do with none but Him as our Judge, that ye be faithful and steadfast in the cause of God.

And the covenant which ye have sworn with hands lifted up to the most high God, which no power on earth can loose you from, and that ye keep you from snares unto the contrary, and not suffer yourselves to fall into a detestable neutrality and indifference in the cause of God; especially that ye keep yourselves free of any engagements by word or writ, that may wrong your oath of the covenant.

I commit my wife and children to His care, who careth for them that put their trust in Him before the sons of men, not doubting but they shall be eyed with good will and favour by the godly, after I am gone.

And now I render up my spirit to Him who gave it me, and for whose sake I now lay down my life. To this God, my covenanted God, be glory, blessing, and praise, for now and ever!

Amen.

“That this is my mind and testimony, which I leave behind me, I witness by my ordinary subscription.

R. Shields