Stories of the Great Scottish Covenanters: The Life of Mr. Bell, God’s Man for Truth. Part One of 2.

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Mr. Bell was the proprietor of the estate of Whiteside, in the parish of Anwoth, in Galloway…

…the scene of the early ministry of the famous Samuel Rutherford. He was the son of the heiress of Whiteside, who, after his father’s death, was married to the Viscount of Kenmuir. Mr. Bell was a man of uncommon piety, and possessed of great prudence and intelligence.

No gentleman in the district in which he lived was more highly esteemed for his religion; and his good sense procured the respect of persons of every class. He was implicated in the affair of Bothwell, and being a landed proprietor, he was exactly one of those against whom the persecutors wished to find a pretext. Immediately after Bothwell his house was pillaged, and all the best of his horses carried off. Claverhouse made Whiteside a garrison for his troopers, where he lay for several weeks, till all the provisions were consumed, and the meadows eaten up by the horses. When he was, through necessity, obliged to leave the place, he took away everything that was valuable, tore the very timber from the building, and destroyed the plantations. He drove away the whole stock of sheep and all the horses, and at the same time gifted the entire crop to the curate, who greedily and dishonorably received it.

For several years after Bothwell, Mr. Bell was forced occasionally to wander and hide in remote places, when he dared not venture to reside in his own house. “Many were the straits,” says Wodrow, “that this excellent gentleman was put to, in his wanderings, those four or five years which I must pass.” The following anecdotes respecting this worthy man are in circulation in the district.

One day when he was at home, and suspecting no harm, a company of soldiers appeared near the house. It happened at the time that a female servant was employed in sorting a quantity of crockery, and it instantly occurred to her that Mr. Bell should disguise himself, and take in his hand basket filled with the earthenware, and walk slowly away, and appear as if he were a dealer in that article, proceeding to the next house to dispose of what he had to sell. The stratagem succeeded, and he passed the soldiers without discovery, and escaped.

At another time, this good man was surprised in his own house by the unexpected arrival of a troop of horsemen in quest of him. He fled into a retired apartment, and hid himself in a large oak chest which stood in a corner. The more immediate danger in this case was, lest he should die of suffocation. To prevent this, however, one of his attendants, in closing down the lid, took care to insert a piece of cloth, so as to leave an opening for the circulation of air. The soldiers examined every chamber, and groped into every nook, sparing no place whatever in the close search which they plied with all diligence and exactitude. They entered the place in which Mr. Bell was concealed, in a very uproarious manner, tossing about the furniture, and prying into every place of supposable retreat. The good man lay with a beating heart, expecting every moment the covering of his hiding place would be lifted up, and himself dragged forth to a military execution.

But though the old chest stood in their way, the men never seemed to notice it, because the likelihood of its interior containing the person of him whom they were so eagerly seeking never once entered their mind. They passed and re-passed the ancient piece of furniture, and probably sat, down on it, as happened in cases somewhat similar, and yet it never occurred to them to lift the lid to see what was within; for though they might not expect to find the man, they might find some articles of clothing, or what else might perchance suit, their cupidity, property being sometimes as acceptable to them as persons. It was therefore the more wonderful that the chest was left unheeded, and unsubjected to their greedy scrutiny. At length Mr. Bell heard, to his great relief, the company leave the apartment, and retire from the place, he considered this deliverance as a special interference of Providence, and often afterwards mentioned the circumstance with heartfelt gratitude.

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Taken from, Traditions of the Covenanters
Written by Robert Simpson, Published in 1867