The Just Man’s Lamentation, and the Wicked Man’s Triumph

Taken from, Light Shining in Darkness
Written by, William Huntington
Edited for thought and sense.


If the foundation be destroyed, what can the righteous do?

–Psalm 11: 3.

In the Lord I put my trust: how say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain? -Verse 1.

The psalmist was brought off from all reliance on his own strength, from all trust in his own heart, and from all expectations of either hope or help from the law of God and from all confidence in his obedience thereto. He knew that the Lord had made with him an everlasting covenant, well-ordered in all things, and sure; this was all his salvation, and this was all his desire. And be knew that this covenant was made with the promised Messiah as the covenant head, and with David in him; and that it was to be a covenant ratified and confirmed by a human sacrifice in union with the Word that was God, and that the human nature, which was to be assumed by the Word, was to be of the fruit of David’s body, on which account Christ calls himself the root and offspring of David.

To build upon this rock David was led, upon this foundation his heart was fixed, and in this Almighty Savior David put bis trust for protection and defense for all supplies in a way of providence, for grace, and for glory. He knew that all things, were put under bis feet, that he was heir of all things, that he was anointed with the oil of gladness above all that ever had or will have fellowship with him; that all grace was poured into his lips, and that he was King of Zion, yea King of Glory, the Lord of Hosts mighty in battle and therefore he asks his carnal advisers why they bid him fly from his enemies like a bird the mountain, when his trust was in the omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent Savior. Where shall I go from his Spirit, or whither shall I flee from bis presence? If l ascend up into heaven thou art there, if I make my bed in “hell thou art there also; if I take the wings of the mornings and remain in the uttermost parts of the earth there art thou in all these places. So that there is no cause to flee, when I have a present help, a God at hand.

For lo the wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrows upon the firings. By the wicked man’s bow, I understand his tongue; they bend their tongues like bows. The arrows are doctrinal lies, lies of slander, or bitter words: the one is intended to injure the judgment and distress the soul; the other to wound the reputation. The firing of the bow appears to me to be the cord of sin, or the bond of iniquity, which keeps Satan in his possession of the heart, and the sinner safely bound to Satan’s service; and it is the devil’s work to keep this string tight, and to aid this archer with his assistance; hence the Savior says; “This is your hoar and the powers of darkness; ye are of your father the devil, and his works ye will do.”

These bowmen are said to shoot privately, or in darkness. They hate the light: hence it is that they generally circulate their heresies, first in a secret, or private way, till they get a majority, or a number on their side, and then the whore’s forehead appears abroad; and if they intend to slander the righteous, it is never done to the face but in secret, therefore such are justly called backbiters.

The upright in heart are the targets at which such archers shoot, in order to remove them from the foundation, or the foundations from them; but if the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do? One foundation is the secret purpose and good will of God toward us, which is his prescience or foreknowledge of us ; and is a knowledge of approbation, of love, of choice, and of a gracious acceptance of us in his beloved Son. In this his decree he has given us a sure and firm standing in his sovereign love to us in Christ Jesus: as it is written, Never the less the foundation of God standeth sure; having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his.

Christ Jesus is the foundation which God in his decree appointed, and in the death of him he laid this foundation in Zion; and he is the foundation that is laid by all the wise master builders that ever God employed in his building, whether prophets, apostles, evangelists, or teachers.

He has borne the weight of all our sins, and of all the wrath and all the curses due to us on account of sin; and has approved himself; a tried stone. To this foundation the Father draws us; here we cast our burdens and cares too; here the weary soul rests; here hope anchors, and faith fixes: into sweet captivity every thought goes, and love sweetly unites us to him whose strength is put forth in our weakness, and from whom life is communicated to every living stone that rests upon him: here we are sensibly borne up above despondency, above a spirit of heaviness, above the meditations of terror, and above the dark regions of the shadow of death. Upon this foundation the sure mercies of David (in the salvation of sinners)are built up forever; and in our glorification truth will be settled in heaven.

In laying this foundation, or in the founding of Zion judgment was laid to the line, and righteousness the plummet. Isaiah 28: 16, 17. The undertakings of the Savior, and the judgment that was executed upon him answered all the demands of precept upon precept, line upon line; and the everlasting righteousness that he wrought out and brought-in was divine, perfect, complete, and in every sense adequate to the plummet, and answered to the uttermost all the rigorous expectations of vindictive justice. So that this building of mercy upon this foundation, goes up with the even eyes of the Lord upon it (Zech.3:9, 4:10), and is a building complete; there is no breach, shake, or settlement in its occasioned by any dishonor to the law, nor any part that overhangs to the injury of justice; for both line and plummet have been stretched and laid to this great work, and to every living stone in it, who have all died and suffered in their surety, and have been justified in him at his resurrection.

The divine founder and fabricator has inspected very minutely every part of this building; he chose the corner-stone himself, and engraved it with grace, grace unto it I and he likewise gave the building its name, the temple of the Living God, and the city in which it stands is “Jehovah Shamma: which names continue to this day”and ever will. And sure I am that this foundation will never sink, and that this building will never be laid in a ruinous heap. Foundation signifies also the beginning of the work of grace and truth in the sinner’s soul, which is the doctrinal and experimental basis in the believing heart; such as, repentance from dead works, and faith towards God, which are the beginnings of Christ’s work and word in us; because there is no salvation without repentance, which is a clearing away (of some sort) the rubbish that lays between us and the foundation; and because faith, and repentance, under the Spirit’s operation, square, fit, and polish, the rude, rough, impenitent and stony-hearted sinner, and make him more fit to join and cleave to the foundation, and when once he is cemented to it by a feeling sense of divine love he becomes settled, firm, and ornamental in the building. Such a humbled sinner ranges and lines with the rest of the building, and appears to be one of God’s chosen materials whom God has chosen in the foundation and called to union with it, to rest on it, and to cleave with the whole heart to him, that bears him up as a foundation, and that holds him fast as the head stone in the corner.

Abraham looked for a city which hath foundations, whose maker and builder is God. If that city be the heavenly Jerusalem, the bride, the Lamb’s wife, the triumphant church; then the glorious perfections of the Almighty, agreeing and harmonizing in Christ, are doubtless the twelve foundation’s of that holy city, which God founded, and which will be in the end perfect in one; that is, complete in God, Father, Son and Spirit, and be filled with all the fulness of God, when he will be all in all, all to it, and all in every part of it.

Now if these foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do? Satan has got a number of laborers working to undermine these foundations. The children of spiritual pride,who are self-willed, self-righteous, and self-seeking, labor against God’s eternal decree of election, which has this seal upon it, “The Lord knoweth them that are his.” The Arian is working to overthrow the foundation that God has laid in Zion, and warning us from all trust in Christ, because he is no more than a man; and cursed is he that trusts in man: but Christ is God, and blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

The Deist works at the doctrinal foundations, and ridicules the scriptures, though these can never be broken; while the Atheist and the Sadducee declare that there is no hereafter, nor world to come; but, if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. 

Now if these foundations be destroyed what can the righteous do? It is true the self-righteous and the self-fulfilled can do well enough, being so wise in building as to set at nothing this head-stone of the corner. Others build upon Peter; some build without a foundation, and others build upon the sand; and some, like the Babel-builders, begin to build without counting the cost, and therefore must expect not only to leave the building unfinished, but that when the Judge of all the earth shall appear to confound their language, the ruin of it will be great and many will meek, saying, These began to build, but had not wherewith to finish.

Of this stamp were the children of Edom in the days of old, whose soul loathed Zion, the people of God, and the place where God dwelt, where his people met to pay their homage to him, and to bring their tributes. Whenever any evil happened here, whenever any enemy besieged this holy spot, then these enemies triumphed. “Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem,who said, Raze it, raze it, even to the foundation thereof.” Psalm 137:7. This is the wicked mans triumph, and the just man’s lamentation.

But can these foundations be destroyed? No, not in themselves; but seducers who lead us astray are said to destroy the way of our paths; and those who blind our eyes, seduce us from Christ and from the purpose of God, are said to destroy the foundations, because they pervert the word of God, and obscure the foundations he has laid by explaining away the sense of truth, and throwing false glories upon it, in order to blind the understanding and mislead the judgment of the simple. In this way the path of the just is blocked up with stumbling blocks, the ways of Zion are unoccupied, and people go in by-paths, and the poor sensible sinner gropes for the wall like the blind at noonday. In such perilous times as these God raises up some of his own workmen, and fits, and qualifies them by his Spirit, as he did John, to raise up these foundations again,as you read, And the Lord shall guide thee continually and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places; thou shall raise up the foundations of many generations, and thou shall be called. The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in. Isaiah 58:11:12. Here is an account of new workmen raised up of God to put these foundations in their course again. He calls them by his grace; he guides them continually, and satisfies their souls in these times of drought, when the drink of the thirsty fails; he makes fat their bones, the joy of the Lord being their strength; he makes their souls like a watered garden and his Spirit within them is a living spring whose waters fail not. By such workmen the waste places of Zion are comforted again, which have been wasted by the internal artillery of those evil archers, who scattered some, seduced others, threw down many, wounded more, and blinded all.

The righteous raise up the foundations again, and bring them forth to light; and root out the heresies, superstitions, and formality, that has been cast over them; and these foundations remain again in view to many generations.

Such workmen are called the repairers of the breach, because they are instrumental in removing the lies and falsehood, the self-righteous, the blindness and ignorance, the pride and superstitions which separate between God and the soul. They are said to restore the paths to dwell in, because Christ, who is the only way to the Father, the way of life and path of peace (in which the saints should walk, and in which they should dwell by faith), being obscured by the blindness and wickedness of these works and workers of darkness, are now brought to light again by the preaching of the glorious gospel of Christ; and by these means these paths are restored which were refuted, rejected, and set at nothing, by these faithful men, who know nothing but what they know naturally, and in these things they corrupt themselves; but when God shines upon them again in the word they are restored; for the select of God shall not be finally deceived, nor the counsel of God frustrated, for he hath laid the foundations of the earth in the death of his dear Son, and he will plant the heavens with all those that trust in him, Isaiah 51:16.

Surprised by Grace: The Wonder Working God

Originally posted on The Protestant Pulpit:

Isa 64:4  For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.


Our God is unique. There is no other God like Him, for there is no other God but our God. The greatness of our God has been greatly dimmed in our day of pluralism. For example, there has been a decided effort to make Jehovah like unto the gods of the nations.  Studies in comparison of religions have tried to do this. They point out similarities in assertions, stories, and ethics. But there is one thing that is vitally different. We not only assert, but there is a history –the history of a nation and the history of the church—that reveals that our God is real. Their gods are merely the fiction…

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May I say something? Thoughts for the Lambs and Sheep, and some Personal Reflections about your Pastor.

Written by Michael Pursley


There is an old, old story of some Russians crossing wide plains studded over here and there with small forests.

“The villages were ten or a dozen miles from each other, the wolves were out, the horses were rushing forward madly, the travelers could hear the baying of the wolves behind them; and, tho the horses tore along with all speed, yet the wolves were fast behind, and they only escaped, as we say, “by the skin of their teeth,”managing just to get inside some hut that stood in the road, and to shut-to the door. Then they could hear the wolves leap on the roof; they could hear them dash against the sides of the hut; they could hear them gnawing at the door, and howling, and making all sorts of dismal noises; but the travelers were safe, because they had entered in by the door, and the door was shut. Now, when a man is in Christ, he can hear, as it were, the devils howling like wolves, all fierce and hungry for him; and his own sins, like wolves are seeking to drag him down to destruction.”

Your pastor hears the wolves, and if he is following the Lord’s directives, he feels deeply for the safety of your souls. He yearns, with an agonizing yearning, for your eternal safety. And often, while he is striving for your souls, he is himself, lonely, depressed and may be financially broke.

Sometimes your pastor’s path is full of light and happiness, flowers of blessings may bloom along the way, and he feels confident and he is full of patience. But at other times he is walking through the very “shadow of death.” During those times he is being hounded by wolves and lions and every hurtful creature. He struggles with his weaknesses within, and the Satanic attacks without. Often these attacks by Satan are initiated and carried out by the ones who are the closest to his heart. Sometimes a spouse, or a child, parents, friends, employers, and most often the very sheep who he yearns so strongly for; the ones he has spent entire nights in prayer pleading in their behalf; those weakest one, are often the very same ones most apt to turn on him.

During these times, is it easy for him to take his eyes off of Jesus and begin to fight the battle in his own terms, and in his own strength? You bet it is. You pastor is not perfect by a long shot. But I will also bet you that no one feels his weaknesses more keenly than he does. And when he stops, God has usually has given him a wife, who he has also entrusted with a ministry, the “ministry of the pin,” that little sharp instrument that she sticks into his heart to bring his attention back where it belongs, and his eyes back on to Christ. God bless her! God has let her be your pastor’s pastor; the one who God often uses the most to hold him accountable. Yet, she too, is often lonely in heart, and not perfect by a long shot. Yet those two… Those glorious two people are called, not to be your friends, they can never truly be your friends, for they have been given a higher calling, to be your minister.

How should your treat the pastor and his wife? You should treat them with the utmost kindness, patience and abundant respect. Regarding them each as shepherds and helpers, to whom God has given the responsibility of helping you find your eternal home.

And be assured that God himself will hold your pastor with a holy accountability, that is more dreadful in its judgment, more terrible in its scrutiny, more demanding than imaginable in any earthly court, and with more of the consequences of responsibility than you would ever want on your shoulders. So the next time you want to growl, condemn, and eternally find fault with your pastor…or his wife… stop dead in your tracks! For the same God that holds your minister accountable is the same one who will defend him with every angel in high places if necessary, –if he feels that what he wants. Remember, “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” And may I say, be careful, be very careful, for you really do not want fall into God’s hands for hurting the minister he has sent to guide you.

Grace and peace

In Loving Memory: The Story of Dr. William P. Mackay, And the Faithfulness of God

4139076958_051b875bd2William P. Mackay, was born in the year 1839.

At the age of 17, he left for college. His mother was a very godly Christian woman, who didn’t want him to go, for fear that he was heading down a path of destruction. But she turned him over to the Lord, and let him go on his way. Before his departure, she gave him a Bible to take with him, and in the fly-leaf of the Bible, she wrote his name, her name and a Bible verse. The young man left for college and then went on to the university medical school but he began to travel with the wrong crowd. And one day, in a drunken spree, he pawned the Bible that his mother had given him for money to buy more liquor.

He wandered far away from what he had been taught at home. Yet, at the same time, the young Scotsman went on to become a very successful doctor, rising to the head of the largest hospital in Edinburgh. Forsaking his upbringing, he became a committed infidel, and was even elected president of a society of atheists in the city.

Yet God had a plan for this man. One day, an accident victim came into his hospital and was under Dr. Mackay’s care. The patient, learning that he only had a few hours to live, asked Dr. Mackay, “Will you please send for my landlady, and ask her to send me the Book?” The doctor agreed, and within a few hours the landlady arrived with “the Book.” It was the dying patient’s Bible.

Within a short time, the patient died. Dr. Mackay was curious as to what kind of book the patient wanted. He asked the nurse, “What about the book that he asked for? Was it is his bank book or date book?” The nurse replied, “No, it was neither of those. It is still under his pillow. Go look.” The doctor reached under the pillow and pulled out “the Book.” When he opened it, his eyes fell immediately upon the front flyleaf. To his amazement– it was the very Bible he had received from his mother that he had pawned years before. He saw his name, his mother’s name and the Bible verse she inscribed.

And so overwhelmed, he slipped the Bible under his coat and rushed back to his private office. It was there, in that office, that the doctor, who had become a wicked infidel and atheist, fell to his knees praying that God would have mercy on him, and save him. He asked God to forgive him for his sinful life. As he prayed, he remembered a verse his mother taught him long ago: “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Dr. Mackay immediately contacted his mother to tell her of his salvation, and how God used the Bible she gave him to dramatically answer her prayers. In due time, Mackay’s life proved that “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

By the grace of God, William Patton Mackay, a world renowned doctor went on to become a Presbyterian preacher, well-known author and songwriter. In fact, it was from his pen that we received the beautiful hymn:

“Hallelujah, Thine the glory.
Hallelujah, Amen.
Hallelujah, Thine the glory.
Revive us again!”

In his paper called, “Ye Must Be Born Again,” Dr. Mackay wrote: “Jesus did all the saving work. He brought the cross to our level. Get saved by looking to Him… Lie down as wounded, helpless, ungodly sinner, and look away from yourself to Jesus…”


Taken from the Cobblestone Road Ministry website

The Imbecility of Grace

Excerpt taken from, “The Art of Patience and the Balm of Gilead under all Afflictions.”
Written by, Richard Alstree, Royalist, 1654.
Completely rewritten for thought and substance into modern English by Michael Pursley


You complain of the imbecility of Grace. You feel some little motion of God’s Spirit; but it is so small, so insignificant, that you cannot find any solid comfort in it.  You see others (so you say) whose breasts are full of spiritual milk, and whose bones are completely moistened with spiritual marrow, Job 21:24, while you are languishing under spiritual leanness, discomfort, and insensibility. You are suffering these feelings, you say, while you are yearning for that vigorous heat of holy affections, and that alacrity of the spirit in the performance of those holy duties which you observe so prominently in other Christians.

I like your complaint, and I will plainly tell you that without this, you couldn’t possibly be on the way to happiness.

Do you think that those who you esteem so highly in grace don’t also make the same groan in the Spirit that you do? Only those who have never tasted grace, would not make the complaint that they had too little. Every true Christian is sensitive to his own weaknesses; he feels his own spiritual shortcomings, and he tends to censure himself for his own apparent unworthiness when others applaud him.  Even the man after God’s own heart can say, “but I am poor and sorrowful, Psalms 69:29. David was a great king when he said this, and it wasn’t because he was suffering and was impoverished as a king that bothered him; but his spiritual neediness. You see, just before in the same beautiful psalm, David had confessed his heart; “O God, Thou knowest my foolishness, and my sins are not hid from Thee.” Psalm 60:5.

It was the observation of wise Solomon; “There is one that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing; there is one that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches.” Proverbs 13:7. In the latter half of this verse, there are many pious souls, and yours (I hope) who have never been so rich in grace; but surely, even in this sense the saint may say with the apostle Paul, when I am weak, then I am strong.  I say this because often the complaint of weakness argues strength.  On the other hand, if a person feels that they have sufficient grace, and need nothing, it is usually evident, that their conviction is a sign of their true emptiness.

But suppose that you are as poor as you believe you are; think about this, it is not what we have, as it is about how we improve upon what we do have that counts.  How many people have you known that have become rich even though they started with very little? And, how many people have you know that have started off with great wealth, and ended up with nothing?

Think about the servant in the Gospel with the one Talent. He employed it to the gain of the second, and he was, as expected, proportionately rewarded.  But so too was the one that Master gave five talents; he also was proportionately rewarded with ten talents.  In our temporal estate we are warned by wise Solomon to take heed that, “he who makes haste to be rich will not go unpunished.” Proverbs 28:20.  And the Apostle also tells us that, “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.” 1Tim. 6:9.  Surely, is there also not a small danger in accumulating too many  of the endowments of the soul, too quickly? For, if you were to obtain these endowments before you were ready, would you also be led into the temptation of unthankful distrust? Why? Because the real Christian, the true Christian, will believe and place his trust in God to give his gifts on his timetable, and for his glory. Realize this, God will not make unwise haste to give his blessings just because we are over-eagerly reaching for that which we do not have.

Now tell me, you spiritual complainer, do you not acknowledge that you have received God’s gift of eternal life? If you have received all of this, can’t you allow the Benefactor of Heaven, to dispense his favors as it pleases him? So what you are telling me is that you are discontented because God thinks best to fill your vessel with only “drops of grace,” while he is pouring whole bottle of grace on somebody else?  Listen, if you enjoy any grace, it is because of his bounty. Further, you can’t pay for any of it, for God’s grace cost far more than you could ever pay.

So take what you can, and let me encourage you to wait with a thankful spirit for the rest.  For isn’t it the privilege of the donor to give the free gift at his convenience?  What sturdy beggars we are, not to stay at the door until we are served; and grudge our portion when it comes.  Look at Abraham and you will find him eighty-six years old, and still childless; –and then he got Ishmael, –and then he had to wait fourteen years to receive Isaac, the Promised Seed. Even then, just when Abraham was really enjoying having his son, he finds out that he must sacrifice him back to God the giver. So too, must our faith be exercised for a time. But even then, the exercise of our faith, will be made with the measure of mercy.

Ok, so you are weaker in grace than you want to be; that is not reason to be upset. Don’t you know that there are all ages and statures of spiritual maturity throughout the body of Christ? Now if there was a set standard, or a measure of grace we had to reach, I could see why some might be upset and deeply troubled. But look at what Jesus said, “suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for such is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19:14.

Now to be sure, in some legal aspects, it did please God to regard time and space. For an instance, the lamb for the passover, and for the peace offering, Leviticus 3:7, and the bullock for the Sin Offering of Israel, Leviticus 4:14. In each of these cases the sacrifice had the acceptable age for sacrifice assigned. In other cases, calls for two turtle doves, or two young pigeons to be sacrificed. Leviticus 1:14, 5:7,11, and 12:8 and also 15:14. Interestingly, according to ancient Jewish writings, Old Pigeons and young doves were unlawful to be offered as a sacrifice. But in that Spiritual Sacrifice made for us, once for all, he that is Eternal regards not age nor time.

What really perplexes you is that you think that you have made slow progress in the Graces.  Your desires are directed heavenward, and you are upset with yourself because you are not seeing a lot of movement. You have a happy ambition and its going to take you to heaven. So pull yourself up out of your despondency and remind yourself with a good pep-talk that God has led you this far, and he will lead you home. Just understand, you are not going to reach perfection while you are here, for the bible doesn’t give way to haste.  How many have we known in this journey of life, who by way of their aggressiveness, got lost on their spiritual journey, they lost their footing?  But I am glad, that it is the desire of your soul to “run the way of God’s commandments.” Psalms 119:32.  And I would encourage your zeal to purify yourself to run the Holy Race of life. Make sure that you are always praying that you run with the grace that you are given. Run in such a way that you may win. 1 Corinthians 9:24.


The Cause and Custom of the American Thanksgiving, Part 5.

Originally posted on Regeneration, Repentance and Reformation:

thanksgiving2The very first Thanksgiving Holiday was different. It was Canadian!

The history of Thanksgiving in Canada can be traced back to the 1578 voyage of Martin Frobisher from England in search of the Northwest Passage. His third voyage, to the Frobisher Bay area of Baffin Island in the present Canadian Territory of Nunavut, set out with the intention of starting a small settlement. His fleet of 15 ships was outfitted with men, materials, and provisions. However, the loss of one of his ships through contact with ice along with much of the building material was to prevent him from doing so. The expedition was plagued by ice and freak storms which at times had scattered the fleet and on meeting together again at their anchorage in Frobisher Bay, “… Mayster Wolfall, [ Robert Wolfall ] a learned man, appointed by her Majesties Councell to be their minister and preacher, made…

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Jenny Geddes War: Providence, the Unseen Hand of God is Still at Work. Part 7

(c) National Galleries of Scotland; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

When the time of grace granted by the Government had passed…

…those ministers who still refused to obey the Glasgow Act were required to leave their parishes. The well-known events of 1843, enable us to judge how much suffering must have been the consequence of this earlier severity in the case of those who were subjected to it; but it is remarkable with what a light hand these days of pain and anxiety are treated in the memoirs of those who endured them. The sufferings which followed were indeed of so much graver a kind as to make the first beginnings of persecution seem hardly worth dwelling upon.

The three Presbyteries of Duns, Chimside, and Earlston then contained thirty-two parishes, and of these some seventeen were under the charge of ministers who refused to conform. Three of these men were already deposed by the Synod as Protesters; three more were beyond the direct reach of the Act because they had been ordained before 1648, and were granted a guarded kind of toleration in their respective parishes while they lived; Paterson of Whitsome, Bume of Langton, and Bamsay of Mordington received the same indulgence, the last of these charges being insignificant, and the incumbent related to a powerful family in the area; the rest of these ministers, being six in number, were turned out of church and manse.

Several of the nonconforming clergy contrived to resist the operation of the Act for some time. One of these was Mr John Hardy of Gordon, who continued, under the protection of Pringle of Greenknow, the principal heritor in that parish, to occupy the pulpit there till July 1663. At that date, however, he was cited before the Council for this breach of the law. His sentence bore that he should forthwith remove, and take up his residence in some place which should be not less than twenty miles from his parish, six from Edinburgh, and three from the nearest burgh town. A week or two afterwards these provisions were extended to the case of all the deprived clergy in what was called the Mile Act, but the pastor of Gordon had the honor of being the first sufferer in this way.

The charge which Hardy thus left vacant was presently filled by the appointment of Mr James Stratton, a conformist who had hitherto served the cure at Eyemouth. This settlement, as we should suppose, gave but little satisfaction to the people. The curates, as those were called who fell in with the policy of the Government, were very unpopular, and the parishioners of Gordon soon began to draw unfavorable comparison between their late respected pastor and the man who was now set over them, whom they heartily despised. There is indeed no account of any forcible opposition being made to his entry, such as took place at Ancrum on the induction of the curate who supplanted Livingston in that charge –a slight tumult which the High Commission thought fit to punish by using the scourge and the branding iron on the women and boys concerned in it, and by sending them to the plantations. At Gordon the expressions of popular resentment, if not so violent, were yet significant enough. One parishioner is reported to have said that the new minister was “fitter to be a shepherd than a clergyman,” and another was cited before the Session for declaring that “they who went to hear Mr Stratton should never come to heaven.”

These expressions probably reflect pretty accurately the general feeling of the country. Contempt was naturally felt for the men who had changed their religious opinions at the bidding of the Government, and the character and attainments of those who were hastily pressed into office to supply the places of the nonconforming ministers were far from adding lustre to their party, or crowning the policy of the Government with success. Several notorious instances of immorality which were seen in the case of the incumbents at Iilliesleaf, at Channelkirk, and at Crichton, contributed not a little to increase the odium now generally felt against the State Church, and to confirm a large number of the people in their determination to separate from it.

One of these was Walter Pringle of Greenknow, who found himself obliged in conscience to refrain from hearing Mr Stratton, and this not so much because of any dislike he had to the man himself as on account of the innovations now introduced in the public worship as practiced in the parish churches. Prayers were read from a book by the schoolmaster, the doxology was sung at the close of the Psalms; and though it may be said that these changes imported no more than a return to what had been at least the permissive use of fifty years before in the Scottish Church, when many ministers read from the Book of Common Order, yet to the mind of Pringle –no rude or uncultivated man, let it be remembered –such an innovation represented something of serious consequence. He saw in go it the hand of an authority which he and many others refused to acknowledge when it made itself felt in the spiritual sphere, and a revival of modes of worship which Laud’s Liturgy had rendered odious, and the whole spirit and practice of the nation had for a generation consistently discarded.

The prayers and doxology might be harmless in themselves, but as now imposed they were part of a studied repudiation of that bright past which many at least regarded as the golden age of the Scottish Church, and as such this stout Covenanter and his party would have none of them.

It is indeed customary to take a somewhat false view of the ritual of these days, following the opinion of writers who have represented it as the unchanged worship of Presbyterian times, as if the Government had taken care to avoid offending the susceptibilities of the nation, and had, while giving them Bishops, allowed the old forms of service to continue as they were before. Such would indeed have been the most politic course, and might have done much to conceal from the people the magnitude of the changes that had passed upon the Church, and to secure their adherence to the new Establishment. We cannot suppose, however, that the case of Gordon was an exception to the common rule, and the truth seems to be that while no attempt was made in the meantime, unless at Holyrood or Salton, to use the English Liturgy or any considerable imitation of it –the Government fearing a return of the old tumults– yet a real, and, to some, offensive, innovation was made by restoring the use of read prayers and the chanting of the “Glory” no doubt as a prelude designed to try the temper of the people, and prepare them for further changes so soon as these might be judged advisable.

Besides, the 29th of May, which was ordered to be observed yearly as a thanksgiving for the King’s restoration, St Andrew’s day and Christmas were restored to the Calendar as Holy days, and, most extraordinary of all, the Privy Council repeatedly ordered a strict Lent to be kept, besides three fish-days every week, under civil penalty in case of disobedience. Dispensations allowing the use of flesh at these forbidden seasons issued from the same respectable authority, but as the only one which seems to be still extant was granted to a gentleman of some considerable property –Thomas Scott of Whitslade– it is likely that these indulgences were not to be had save at a price which put them beyond the reach of the people at large. Taking all such details into account, we see how considerable these ritual innovations were, and how respectable was the nonconformity of those Presbyterians who refused to fall in with the new order of things.

A very complete system was now in force for the detection of nonconformists: the curates famishing the government with accounts of all who absented themselves from their parish churches. The standing which Walter Pringle had in his county, and the fact that he was already a suspected person, made it certain that his case would be dealt with both speedily and stringently. He was summoned before the High Commission in July 1664, and that Court sent him to the Bishop to take the oath of allegiance. This he found impossible, scrupling as his master Livingston had lately done, to affirm the king’s supremacy in the ecclesiastical as well as the civil sphere. The Commission told him he must either pay a fine of some hundreds of pounds or else enter his person in ward, and giving him time to consider the matter, sent him home, desiring he would confine himself to his house of Greenknow till further orders.

On the 24th of November a messenger-at-arms riding with three troopers of His Majesty’s Life Guard came to Greenknow and took the laird prisoner. They carried him that night to Whitburn, where they had left one of their party sick the day before, and so by Channelkirk to Edinburgh, where Pringle lay sometime in the Tolbooth. Here he had the sympathy of many friends of the family and cause to which he belonged, and doubtless found much comfort in the visits they paid him, and the interest they promised to use on his behalf with the Government. The Bishops, however, carried it all their own way in the Commission through the Primate who then presided in that Court, and in a little Pringle’s sentence was pronounced and proved severe enough. He was ordered to go to Elgin and be confined within the bounds of that burgh, and if he did not pay his fine before Candlemas, he was to be kept thereafter a close prisoner within the Tolbooth of the town.

After a little respite, which he owed to the delicate state of his wife’s health –their daughter Anna was born on the 30th of January –he left for his northern exile in the wild wintry weather of February 1666, his heart torn by the pain of parting from his wife and children, and their aged mother. His faith, however, was high and strong, and proved a great consolation to him. “For His Name’s sake,” he kept saying to himself as the storms of that tempestuous season beat upon his cheek; and riding by the coast of Aberdeen, he arrived at last in Elgin, taking comfort in the assurance that these sufferings were laid upon him because he would not deny the cause of Christ in Scotland.

Thoughts and excerpts taken and adapted from, “The Covenanters of the Merse” 
Written by, James Wood Brown