Monday, November 06, 2006

what 5 November means for Scotland

Scots have a reason to remember the 5 November 1688, the beginning of the glorious revolution, when William III landed at Torbay at the head of 15,000 men in order to save Protestantism. Eventually he displaced the Romanist Stuart king James II from the throne. James was determined upon restoring Roman Catholicism in Britain. In the spring of 1688 he ordered his Declaration of Indulgence, suspending the penal laws against Catholics, to be read from every Anglican pulpit in the land. The Church of England and its staunchest supporters, the peers and gentry, were outraged. The birth of an heir, James Francis Stuart (later known as the Old Pretender) increased public concern about a Roman Catholic dynasty; fears confirmed when the baby was baptised into the Romanist faith. Open favour to the Roman Catholic cause was in fact manifest when the official commemoration of the Gunpowder Plot in Edinburgh (Fountainhalls Notices, 5 November 1685) was discontinued; no sermon was preached and no salute of cannon from the castle ramparts took place. The object apparently was not to upset any papists.

In Scotland James had waged war upon the Covenanters and they were hunted across the mountains and moors. According to Daniel Defoe's report to the English Parliament during the Killing Times over 18,000 men, women and children were killed or suffered severe hardship in the furnace of persecution, he reckoned that “above 18,000 people have suffered the utmost extremities their enemies could inflict”. It was a war still continuing in 1688. As Alexander Shields, the author of A Hind Let Loose, a defence of the Covenanters first printed in Holland in 1687, says: 'The more they (i.e. the authorities) insisted in this inquisition, the more did the number of witnesses multiply, with a growing increase of undauntedness, so that the then shed blood of the martyrs became the seed of the Church; and as, by hearing and seeing them so signally countenanced of the Lord, many were reclaimed from their courses of compliance, so others were daily more and more confirmed in the ways of the Lord, and so strengthened by His grace that they chose rather to endure all torture and embrace death in its most terrible aspect, than to give the tyrant and his accomplices any acknowledgement, yea not so much as to say, God save the King, which was offered as the price of their life'.

James Renwick, Scottish Covenanter, was born on February 15, 1662 and was executed on February 17, 1688. He was the last Covenanter minister to be martyred for the faith during the "Killing Times." In June 1688, in Sorn, Scotland, the Royalists interrogated a sixteen-year-old boy called George Wood. hoping for leads. When he proved unable or unwilling to tell them anything they shot him. Wood was officially the last and youngest victim of the Killing Times. The most notorious and vicious of the persecutors was John Graham, Earl of Claverhouse, Viscount of Dundee known as "Bloody Clavers" because of his brutality. In 1688 when William of Orange invaded, James II made Graham second-in-command of the Scottish army and named him Viscount Dundee. Less than a year later he was mortally wounded at the Battle of Killikrankie.

On 5 November 1688 the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion and they were as men that dreamed. It was a revolution which ended the Stuart tyranny and extinguished the fires of persecution. As John Willison of Dundee, the evangelical minister of the 18th Century put it:

"BUT behold how the mercy of God appeared for us, after innumerable provocations, and when all ranks had made fearful defections from God and their engagements to him. And after this church had lien under oppression for near twenty eight years, and Popery was far advanced, and the civil power in the hands of Papists, and there was but little wanting to accomplish the ruin both of our civil and religious liberties; the mighty Lord stept in, and in made a wonderful appearance for us, by sending over the Prince of Orange (afterwards proclaimed king) in November 1688, to rescue us from Popery and tyranny, and that at a time after several attempts for our relief had misgiven, and the hearts of all true Protestants were beginning to faint within them, and the Popish faction had a numerous army to support them. Yet now, when God's time was come, our deliverance was brought about with great facility, through the wonderful working and concurrence of Divine Providence: So that it was not our own arm, but the Lord's right hand, that wrought this salvation for us; a salvation never to be forgotten by the friends of religion and liberty.—In particular, the church of Scotland ought always to commemorate the glorious deliverance and revolution in 1688, whereby she was raised out of the dust, and to be thankful to the great God the Author thereof, and to have a savoury remembrance of the name of king William the happy instrument of it under God."