Cloud of Witnesses

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William Govan

Of this person, who suffered along with Mr Guthrie, little information has been transmitted. he is in some papers styled 'captain Govan.' At all events, it is evident he was a soldier, and that as the chief offence charged against him, he had deserted the king's standard at Hamilton, in company with many others, when the protector's successes had rendered farther resistance useless. It was also  alleged against him, that he was present on the scaffold when Charles II was beheaded; but to the satisfaction of all, he was evidently an adherent of the Presbyterian interest. His speech, which he delivered immediately after Mr Guthrie's execution and just before his own, contains almost all the account that now remains of his life and character.

'Gentlemen and countrymen, I am here to suffer this day; and that I may declare to you the cause - it is for laying down my arms at Hamilton, as did the rest of the company that was there. What was I, that king and parliament should have taken notice of me, being a private boy thrust into the fields, who was not worthy to be noticed by any? For as yet I was obscure in myself, so my actions were not conspicuous. Yet it pleased the Lord to employ me as a mean and instrument (unworthy as I was) for carrying on a part of the late reformation; which I did faithfully endeavour in my station, not going beyond it, - for which I am to suffer this day.

'Licentious people have taken occasion to calumniate me this time past, in saying I was an instrument in his late majesty's death, and that I should have said I was on the scaffold at the time of his execution:- all which I do here deny, in the presence of Almighty God, to whom I must shortly answer. And, before you all, I do here protest, as I hope for salvation, that I was not instrumental in that, either in word or deed. But on the contrary, it was sore against my heart, who was still a well wisher of his majesty, and even wished he might be to these lands as David, Solomon and Josiah. But what could a simple protestation of one who is the least among men do? I do remember I was honoured to bring up Montrose's standard through these streets, and deliver it to parliament; in which I glory, as thousands more than I did at that time, for I was then but an executioner, but now I am a sufferer for these things.

'Let me now speak a word to some sorts of people. First of all you that are profane, leave off your profanity, forbear sin and seek mercy; otherwise you will undoubtedly repent it when too late. For ere long you must answer, as I am shortly to do, before a just God. Again, to you civilians and indifferent folks, who, if your own private earthly interest prosper, do not care how the affairs of Christ and His church go, - know that that will not do your turn; you must bear a testimony for God, be zealous for His cause, and repent now of your sins; so shall you avoid that curse pronounced against the lukewarm Laodiceans, - I will spew them out of my mouth. As to the really godly, I would say this; be not afraid nor astonished to bear testimony and suffer for His truth.'

'As for myself, it pleased the Lord, in the fourteenth year of my life, to manifest His love to me, and now it is about twenty four years since; all which time I professed the truth which I suffer for, and bear testimony to at this day, and am not afraid of the cross upon that account; it is sweet, it is sweet, otherwise how do I look upon the corpse of him who hangs there, with courage, and smile upon those sticks and that giblet as the gates of heaven! I die confident in the faith of the prophets and apostles, bearing my testimony to the gospel as it is now preached by an honest ministry in this city; though alas! there be a corrupt generation among the ministry.'

'I bear witness with my blood to the persecuted government of this church, in general assemblies, synods, and Presbyteries, and also to the protestation against the public resolutions. I bear witness to the covenants national and solemn league, and now am to seal these with my blood. I likewise testify against all popery, prelacy, idolatry, superstition, and the service book, for I have taken not a little pains in searching out those things, and have found them to be but the relies of the Romish superstition and idolatry left in king Henry VIII's time; who, though it pleased the Lord to make use of him for beginning the work of reformation, yet he was no good man.'

After having thus spoken he took a ring from his finger and gave it to a friend upon the scaffold, desiring him to take it to his wife, and say that, ' he died in humble confidence, and found the cross of Christ sweet.' He declared that ' Christ had done all for him, and it was by Him alone he was justified;' and being desired to look up to Christ, he answered, ' He looks down and smiles upon me.' Then mounting up some steps of the ladder, he said, ' Dear friends, pledge this cup of suffering before you sin, as I have done; for sin and suffering have been presented to me, and I have chosen the suffering part.' Then the cord being put about his neck, he said, 'Now I am near my last, and desire to reflect on no man; I would only acquaint you of one thing; the commissioner and I went out to the fields together for one cause; I have now the cord around my neck, and he is promoted to be his majesty's commissioner; yet for a thousand worlds I would not change lots with him!! Praise and glory be to Christ for ever.' After having again prayed for a little, he gave the sign, and was forthwith turned over.