Jenny Geddes War: Our Favorite Heroes, with New Adventures! Under Darkening Clouds. Pt. 3



It would appear that after so many signal victories…

…and after so many times that the hand of Providence had been so prominently displayed on behalf of the Protestant Covenanters, that things would become easier for these committed Christians. But such was not the case. Serious disunion began to appear, even among the Covenanters themselves.

In 1648 when the life of the late King had been in danger, the Parliament of Scotland levied a new army in his defense. The expedition had been defeated by Cromwell at Preston, and the Churchmen who had protested against the enterprise immediately acquired a new influence in the national councils. This beginning of strife was now to assume more serious proportions.

When Cromwell heard that the young King was come to Scotland, he marched north and defeated the royal army at the battle of Dunbar. All parties in Scotland were agreed that there should be a new levy in the King’s interest, but great difference of opinion soon showed itself as to the manner in which the troops should be embodied.

The party of the Court distrusted the Covenanters, whose counsels, they held, had caused the late defeat at Dunbar. These, on the other hand, desired that none should be admitted to fight for the King unless they had taken the Covenant. As the King himself had already done so, this condition would seem to have been an easy one. In fact, however, it proved the cause of a schism which cut deeply into the unity of the Church herself,” some of the Covenanters going with the Court party under the name of “Resolutioners,” and the rest, fewer perhaps in numbers, but full of zeal and determination, making a stout stand for what seemed to them the only safeguard of national and religious liberty. From the form which their opposition took they came to be known by the name of the “Protesters.”

One of the chief leaders of the Protesting party was a minister who for ten years previous to this time had filled one of the most important charges in Berwickshire. This was Mr. James Guthrie, late of Lauder, and since 1649 one of the ministers of Stirling, then a city of some note, where the Court often came, and meetings of Parliament were sometimes held. He was of gentle birth, the son of Guthrie of that ilk in Forfarshire, and had been trained at St Andrews, where for a time he avowed himself of the Episcopal party. In a little while, however, he came under the powerful influence of Samuel Rutherford, who had been sent by the Assembly of 1638 to fill the pulpit at St Andrews, and counteract the Episcopal tendencies of the place. In this enterprise, Rutherford was very successful, not only by his preaching, which proved most attractive, but also by the private meetings he encouraged in the place, and which formed centres of influence acting upon many of the finer spirits in the University. One of these was James Guthrie, whose heart a great disappointment had just opened –he had paid his addresses to Spottiswoode’s daughter and had been refused, –and who was therefore peculiarly apt at this time to seek the help of a master in the divine way of life.

Rutherford, we may believe, spoke much to him of the love of God, and thus found the key to his wounded heart. This was indeed the peculiar excellence of that great teacher, and one which appears very clearly in his famous letters, where he treats with melting power of the Nuptials of the Soul to Christ, of the heavenly delight which breathes in these moments of conscious union with the Beloved, and of the ease and sweetness with which even desertion and loneliness may be borne for the Saviour’s sake. Thus, a noble champion was won for the cause of the Covenant in Scotland, –Rutherford, who attached great importance to the open confession of Christ, urging his pupil to sign that engagement, and inducing him to do so before he left St Andrews.

Guthrie is said to have had perhaps the greatest mixture of fervent zeal and sweet calmness visible in any man of his time, a disposition which must have been partly natural to him, but was doubtless much heightened by the use he made of Rutherford’s instruction and appeals. This temper he carried to the work of the ministry in Lauder, where he was ordained in 1642. His gifts and breeding were publicly honored a few years afterwards, when he was chosen one of the three commissioners from the Assembly to King Charles I, then with the army at Newcastle. When Guthrie was translated to Stirling, the imposing and affecting scene witnessed at his last communion in Lauder bore witness to the worth of his services among the people of our shire.

In his ministry at Stirling, Guthrie not only displayed such courage and constancy among his flock that he was known there by the name of “sicker foot,” but showed the same qualities on a wider stage, to which his new position gave him access. He preached against the Resolutions, and even employed his pen in the same cause; drawing up for his party the paper called “The Causes of the Lord’s Wrath.” The Committee of Estates called him to account for his bold words, but he declined to acknowledge their authority in a matter touching the liberty of the pulpit, and in company with his colleague Mr Bennet, who had concurred in his action, he was sent into a brief exile beyond Tay.

More serious perhaps, as indeed the event proved, was the collision which occurred between Guthrie and Middleton. This was a soldier of fortune, who stood well with the young King, and unfortunately gained great influence in the royal councils. Middleton succeeded in persuading His Majesty to escape from Perth on the pretext of a hunting expedition in the north, with the purpose of placing himself in the hands of the Highland chiefs, who were pledged to rise with their clans in the royal interest. This wild scheme soon miscarried, the King, after a brief absence, returning and placing himself in the hands of the Presbyterians. Middleton was attainted of treason, and was condemned by the ecclesiastical courts to be excommunicated. The Spiritual sentence was put in the hands of Guthrie, who with great and intrepid solemnity proclaimed it from his pulpit at Stirling.

In spite of the advantage derived from the leadership of such a man as Guthrie, the Protesters found themselves in a decided minority in the national councils. There the Resolutioners carried all before them, and matters being in this posture the misfortunes of the army in the field were not only in the interest of the Protesters, but proved a real advantage to the kingdom at large, by tending to compose these unhappy differences, which indeed grew less and less evident under the resolute government of the Protector.

The more favorable turn of affairs which took place in the Commonwealth soon showed itself in the quickening of religious life throughout the country. The state of religion had indeed begun to amend some time before this, but now, in the enforced peace which the strong hand of Cromwell knew how to secure so well, even greater advances were made. The preaching of the Word was frequent and earnest, especially at communion seasons. Great multitudes assembled on these occasions, and there was reason to think that never since the Reformation itself had so many souls been converted to Christ in Scotland.

We owe this testimony to the pen of one well qualified to judge, and whose favorable opinion may be supposed to relate to the shire at least as much as to any other part of the country. Mr. James Kirkton, the author of the “Secret and True History of the Church of Scotland,” was settled in the parish of Merton for five years before the troubles which followed the Restoration, and his testimony is strengthened by that of Livingston, who gives us to understand that the flourishing state of religion was particularly evident in the Merse and Teviotdale.

Mr John Livingston made so great a figure in this part of the country that we may well take some account of his position and services. Like that of James Guthrie, his origin was noble, his great-grand father having been the son of the Lord Livingston of a former day. His early principles as an adherent of Presbytery stood in the way of his obtaining a charge as long as the Bishops were in power. He therefore took the situation of chaplain in the Earl of Wigton’s house at Cumbernauld, and while here preached his famous sermon on the Communion Monday at Kirk of Shotts in the year 1630, when there were such evident signs of the presence of the Holy Spirit, and so glorious a revival of God’s work in that part of the country. Eight years later he was settled in the church of Stranraer, and in 1648 he came to Ancrum upon a presentation by Lord Lothian, and the call of the people there. He became, as we should expect, a strong adherent of the Protesting party, leading that cause in the Synod of Merse and Tdaelveiot as Guthrie did in the north.

The Protesters were favored indeed by Cromwell, and thus enjoyed much power and influence during the times of the Commonwealth. This was not due to any want of courage on their part in declaring their sentiments of affection and loyalty towards the exiled king; for when Guthrie was summoned to preach before the Protector, he spoke as boldly in that presence as he had formerly done in the court at Perth, defending the King’s right to reign with the greatest plainness and courage. Cromwell, however, had the magnanimity to remain tolerant in the face of these utterances. He even conceived a great favor for Guthrie, and for Livingston too, who also had the honor of preaching before him, seeing them to be thoroughly honest men, and resolving to give them and the party they represented his best countenance and help.

In 1654 Livingston was appointed one of the Protector’s “triers,” that is, one of those deemed fit to examine the claims of preachers before their admission to parishes. He had already acquired much influence in the surrounding district by the weight of his character and the brilliance of his gifts, and the new position he now enjoyed was one which enabled him to do much towards supplying all that country with like-minded ministers. Thus the times of the Commonwealth not only secured peace and religious prosperity but were a true preparation for the coming trials. The Protesters were simply Presbyterians in earnest, and the strong hold which that party gained contributed greatly to the success of the good cause in the Merse.


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

Jenny Geddes War: The Prayers of an Army, and the Glorious Commitment of a Nation. Pt. 2

(c) City of Edinburgh Council; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

THE events which immediately followed the tumult in St Giles’ Church are well known to all students and lovers of Scottish history.

A Parliament was summoned by the popular will alone, and it sat down in four “Tables,” as they were called, to discuss the affairs of the country, and to offer a serious remonstrance to the King. The famous Covenant was drawn up, and carried to the Greyfriars’ Churchyard, where it was signed by thousands of people amid a scene of the greatest enthusiasm. The nation and the Church now began to realize their power, and in a kind of fierce emotional transport many opened their veins, and signed that league against Prelacy, Popery, and the Prerogative with their blood.

In 1638 the first Free Assembly held for a generation in Scotland gathered in Glasgow. Here the Bishops were impeached, their Order declared null and void, and several of their number deposed and excommunicated. They had indeed been men of loose and evil lives, and had done much by the scandal of their immoralities to make Episcopacy unpopular with many who knew no other objection to it. We may here note, as a matter more particularly concerning this history, that the first man to give his vote upon these great questions was the minister of Polwarth, Mr Alexander Cass, whose remarks on that occasion are said to have been very pointed and witty, so much so, indeed, as to give great offense to those who bewailed the great changes now on foot.

Lest it should be supposed, however, that the ministers of the Merse were not cut of the same cloth as that of Polwarth, we may here allude to a circumstance very creditable to our county which had happened some five years before. In 1634 the Bishop of Edinburgh wrote to the different presbyteries of his diocese, requiring the ministers to observe carefully the Articles of Perth, and the Canons of the Church, and in particular,to see that they failed not to minister Holy Communion in their congregations on Easter Sunday, nor to prepare their flocks for that occasion by “preaching the Passion” on Good Friday. To this the Presbytery of Duns sent a stout refusal by the pen of their Moderator, Mr David Hume of Greenlaw, who ventured to tell the Bishop that the wrath of God would certainly come upon him if he persisted in urging obedience in matters not commanded in Holy Scripture. Mr David Hume died in the month of April 1637, only a very little before his fearless words were fulfilled to the letter.

The King, who deeply resented the revolt of the Scottish Church and country, came with his army to the Border, and here the forces of the Covenanters met him, making such a warlike appearance “they were 20,000 strong” that without a blow being struck, articles of peace very favourable to their interests were concluded.

General Leslie, who was in command of that force, consented to disband it, but on the condition of a Free General Assembly being summoned to meet, and a free Parliament to sit thereafter for the ratification of the Assembly’s Acts. The Covenanters’ camp had been set on Duns Law, a circumstance which gave rise to the jest that the Scottish Bishops had been deposed, neither by civil, nor by canon law, but by Duns Law. Thus the first appeal to arms in that long constitutional struggle which issued in our modem liberties was made in the cause of the Covenant, and it was the Merse which had the honour of being chosen as the seat of this righteous resistance and signal victory.

The army of Duns Law was, in some ways, the most remarkable that Scotland has ever seen.

The wonderful unity in which the nation here stood to the defense of her civil and ecclesiastical liberties appeared in the number of noblemen then commanding, and of gentlemen who served in the ranks. The officers had their quarters in the Castle of Duns, where a copy of the Covenant is still preserved, bearing the names of many who subscribed it at that time. Lord Cassilis’ troop was quartered in the following year at Choicelee wood, between Langton and Polwarth. They carried with them as their chaplain was none other than the famous preacher, Mr John Livingston.

In his Memoirs, Livingston tells us that having made known from his pulpit at Stranraer that he was appointed to go to the army, a woman in his congregation came to him with eight gold pieces for the good cause, saying that she had kept them as a marriage portion for her daughter; but since God had been pleased to take the child to Himself, He should have her money too, –a touching proof that the country regarded the cause of the Covenant as that of the Lord, and the expedition sent to the Merse as a solemn appeal to the God of Battles.

It was indeed their piety no less than their gentility and culture which distinguished the soldiers of the Covenant. In the camp at Duns Law and Choicelee was heard every night the sound of praise and prayer from the huts and among the guards. Every Sabbath able and devout ministers from many parts of Scotland gathered to the army and drew with them crowds of the neighboring country people. The religious exercises of Cromwell’s Ironsides would seem to have been borrowed hence, and when, in the next generation, the Covenanters were driven to the fields that they might there worship God according to their conscience, those of our shire could make choice of many a place which had been hallowed in that way before.

The success of the Covenanting army was eagerly watched by the leaders of the Parliamentary party in England. The long struggle for constitutional freedom called the Civil War was just commencing; and very shortly the popular party in the south, whose interests were so closely joined with those of our Covenanters, entered into the Solemn League and Covenant with them, a union of hearts which was presently cemented when the Westminster Assembly sat, uniting in its councils both Presbyterians and Puritans together.

As the close of the conflict drew near, the King, hard pressed by the Parliamentary forces, took refuge with the Scottish army, then at Newcastle. This expedition had been sent under the new alliance to help the cause of the Parliament, and Scotland gave a somewhat extreme proof of confidence in her allies by rendering the person of the king to their mercy. This surrender made way for a series of events which ended in a situation of the utmost consequence for the Covenanters.

His Majesty, as is well known, was soon brought to the scaffold at Whitehall, and the royal family passed to their exile abroad. Scotland, however, had always been loyal. It was with little apprehension of the dread event that their army had surrendered the person of the King, and the execution of Charles began a strong reaction there in favor of the monarchy, a new current of feeling which acted strongly upon many of the Covenanters.

An embassy was soon sent to Holland, one of whom was John Livingston, and in their company the young King returned to his native land in 1650. He signed the Covenant in his ship at the mouth of Spey before he was suffered to land, and renewed the same solemn act at his coronation, which took place a few days later. Under this engagement he was now welcomed by the nation as their lawful sovereign. It is easy to see how these events began to open a division between Scotland with her Covenanted King and the Parliamentary party in England.


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

ITS WAR AT CHURCH ! … Jenny Geddes throws her stool at the Pastor

Scottish LadieNOTE: Jenny Geddes (c.1600 – c.1660) was a cabbage grocer at the local market, in Edinburgh.  One day, she’d had enough and threw her stool at the head of the minister.
…The act sparked a riot which led to the Wars of the Three Kingdoms including the English Civil War.


An order was given by the King to introduce a new Service Book into the churches of Scotland…

…and this was to be done on the 23rd of July, 1637. On that day a great concourse of people, including the Lord Chancellor and the Archbishop of St. Andrews, along with several members of the Privy Council, the Judges of the Supreme Court, the Magistrates of the City, and a great multitude of the citizens, assembled in the church of St. Giles, then called the “Great Church,” to witness the ceremony. In the morning the usual prayers had been read from the old Book of Common Order. The Dean of Edinburgh, in his surplice, was to read the new service, and the Bishop of Edinburgh was to preach.

Book_of_common_prayer_Scotland_1637As soon as the Dean took his place in the reading-desk, and opened the obnoxious volume, a murmur arose in the congregation, and on his proceeding to announce the collect for the day, an old woman, named Janet Geddes, who kept a green grocer’s stall in the High Street, is said to have exclaimed,

“De’il gie you colic, the wame o’ ye,
fause thief; daur ye say Mass in my lug?”
“Devil give you colic in your stomach,
false thief: dare you say the Mass in my ear?”

She then flung the stool on which she had been sitting at the Dean’s head!

A scene of uproar and confusion immediately ensued. A crowd, consisting principally of women, rushed to the desk with loud menaces, and the Dean, in great alarm, threw off his surplice and fled.

350px-Riot_against_Anglican_prayer_book_1637The Bishop of Edinburgh then ascended the pulpit and attempted to restore order, but without effect. A volley of sticks and other missiles was hurled at him, accompanied with cries of “A pope!   A pope! …Stone him!   Stone him!” So that he could not be heard. “The gentleman,” says a contemporary writer,” did fall a-tearing [weeping], and crying that the mass was entered amongst them, and Baal in the church.

There was also a gentleman who was standing behind a pew and answering ‘amen’ to what the Dean was reading. A she-zealot, hearing him, starts up in choler. ‘Traitor,’ says she, ‘does thou say mass at my ear?‘ And with that struck him in the face with her bible in great indignation and fury.”

The rioters were at length expelled from the church, and the doors having been bolted, the Dean emerged from his hiding-place and resumed the service. It was rendered almost inaudible, however, by the shouts of the mob without, who battered at the door, and shouted, “A pope!   A pope!   Antichrist! Pull him down!” and other exclamations of the same sort. At the close of the service, the Dean made his escape unnoticed; but the Bishop of Edinburgh, who was very unpopular, was threatened and assailed by the populace, and was with difficulty rescued from their hands.


Charles II head croppedHere is some additional history of a Protestant Christian variety and part of your Christian heritage:  Since the early years of the 17th century, the Scottish Church had been established on the same Episcopalian basis as its English cousin, but was far more puritan, both in doctrine and practice. In 1633 King Charles I came to St Giles’ to have his Scottish coronation service, using the full Anglican rites, accompanied by William Laud, his new Archbishop of Canterbury. In the years that followed he began to consider ways of introducing Anglican-style church services on Scotland. The King arranged a Commission to draw up a prayer book suitable for Scotland, and in 1637 an Edinburgh printer produced:

The BOOKE OF Common Prayer
AND Administration Of The Sacraments:

And other parts of divine Service
for the use of the CHURCH OF SCOTLAND.

These developments met with widespread opposition.

The first use of the prayer book was in St Giles’ on Sunday 23 July 1637, when James Hannay, Dean of Edinburgh, began to read the Collects, part of the prescribed service, and Jenny Geddes, a market-woman or street-seller, threw her stool straight at the Minister’s head. 10723Some sources describe it as a “fald stool” or a “creepie-stool” meaning a folding stool as shown flying towards the Dean in the illustration, while others claim that it was a larger, three-legged cuttie-stool.

3884924002This was the start of a general tumult with much of the congregation shouting abuse and throwing Bibles, stools, sticks and stones. Prebble reports the phrase “Daur ye say Mass in my lug?” as being addressed to a gentleman in the congregation who murmured a dutiful response to the liturgy, getting thumped with a Bible for his pains, and describes Jenny as one of a number of “waiting-women” who were paid to arrive early and sit on their folding stools to hold a place for their patrons. The rioters were ejected by officers summoned by the Provost, but for the rest of the service hammered at the doors and threw stones at the windows.

Casting the Stool - reasons title page 1744More serious rioting in the streets (and in other cities) followed, and the Provost and magistrates were besieged in the City Chambers, to the extent that it became necessary to negotiate with the Edinburgh mob. At the suggestion of the Lord Advocate it appointed a committee known as the Tables to negotiate with the Privy Council. Characteristically, Charles turned down the Tables’ demands for withdrawal of the Anglican liturgy and more riots ensued with talk of civil war. This led to widespread signing of the National Covenant in February 1638, with its defiance of any attempt to introduce innovations like the Prayer Book that had not first been subject to the scrutiny of Parliament and the General Assembly of the Church. In November of the same year, the bishops and archbishops were formally expelled from the Church of Scotland, which was then established on a full Presbyterian basis. Charles reacted by launching the Bishops’ Wars, thus beginning the Wars of Three Kingdoms.

Story taken from, “The Religious Anecdotes of Scotland.”
Biographical excerpts taken from Wikipedia