Monday, April 28, 2008

They shall come with Songs unto Zion

'The ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come with songs unto Zion' (Isa. 35:10),

The truth of this is well illustrated by the experience of the Covenanting martyrs who had the songs of Zion in their mouth as they approached the heavenly Zion.

Donald Cargill, While in prison he wrote a letter to James Skene, ..." The God of mercies," he writes, " grant you a full gale and a fair entry into His kingdom, which may carry sweetly and swiftly over the bar, that you find not the rub of death." He was executed at the Cross of Edinburgh, July 27th, 1681. On the scaffold he sang his favourite psalm. Psalm cxviii., from the 16th verse to the end; and his last words were, " Welcome Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! Into Thy hands I commend my spirit."

Baillie of Jerviswood, condemned to death on December 34th, 1684, was hanged the same afternoon at the market cross of Edinburgh, with all the attendant barbarities of an execution for high treason. Yet even in his last hours, oppressed by mortal sickness, hourly expecting his sentence, he felt, as he told his son, that God's promises were sure, and that the "testimony of David" would, in his case also, be verified. " I have been young, and now am old, and yet saw I never the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging their bread" (Ps. xxxvii., verse 25).

Renwick. On February 17th, 1688, he was executed at the Grassmarket in Edinburgh. More than once his words were drowned by drums. But he sang a part of Psalm ciii., the psalm which was always chanted by " the Saints " at the celebration of the Sacrament; and, as he was turned over the ladder, his last words were "Lord, into Thy hands I commend my spirit; for Thou hast redeemed me, 0 Lord, Thou God of truth" (Ps. xxxi., verse 6). The same text, in whole or in part, was quoted by more than half of the great army of " witnesses " who suffered on the scaffold, between Hugh M'Kail in 1666 and James Renwick in 1688.

On January 1st, 1685, for example, Daniel McMichael was led out into the fields to be shot, and died singing part of Psalm xlii. In the following February, Alexander McRobin was hanged upon an oak tree near the Kirk of Irongray. At the tree-foot, a friend asked him if he had any word to send to his wife. "I leave her and the two babes upon the Lord," answered McRobin, " and to His promise; a father to the fatherless, and a husband to the widow, is the Lord in His holy habitation" (Ps. Ixviii., verse 5). And so he died, as Wodrow records, " in much composure and cheerfulness." In the parish of Ingliston was a cave, which had been a place of safety to not a few of the Covenanters. On April agth, 1685, guided by a traitor, the soldiers were brought to the mouth of the cave, where they seized five of the wanderers who had found refuge in its shelter. John Gibson, who alone was permitted to pray before he was shot, sang part of Psalm xvii., telling his mother and sister that it was the joyfullest day of his life. The rest were shot, "without being allowed to pray separately."

In January 1681, two "honest, worthy lasses," as Peden calls them, Isabel Alison and Marion Harvie, were hanged at Edinburgh. On the scaffold they sang together, to the tune of "Martyrs," Psalm Ixxxiv. " Marion," said Bishop Paterson, " you would never hear a curate; now you shall hear one," and he called upon one of his clergy to pray. " Come, Isabel," was the girl's answer- she was but twenty years of age—" let us sing the 23rd Psalm," and thus they drowned the voice of the curate.

The Two Margarets of Wigtown were also cruelly put to death. Of the younger it is said that as she was almost drowning she sang the 25th Psalm:

"My sins and faults of youth Do Thou, O Lord, forget;
After Thy mercies, think on me, And for Thy goodness great ";

and so continued singing till her voice was choked in the rising tide.