It is a snare to the man who devoureth that which is holy, and after vows to make enquiry.—Proverbs 20.25.

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WAS THE BISHOP’S DEATH

MURDER?

Excerpted from:

THE

REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN.

VOL. XXIV.

JANUARY, 1860.

No. 1.


X

TrueCovenanter.com Editor’s Introduction.

“Was the Bishop’s Death Murder?” — This question was, in the late 1600’s posed to men and women in Scotland, by the officers of a pretended government carrying out an effort to identify and eliminate individuals unwilling to comply with a course of national perjury and apostasy.  A dissident voice would not be tolerable to a party which had overthrown the national constitutions of Reformed Christianity, and were enraged that the sword had been lifted up to stay their course in the bloody advancement of the kingdom of Satan.

Who was “the bishop” that wicked men accounted to have been assassinated and murdered?  His name was James Sharp, Archbishop of St. Andrews, and he was a pure Judas to the Church of Scotland.  His course had begun with betrayal of his Church, in compacting with her enemies, and long continued in various measures of persecution designed to suppress every element of sound Protestantism in Scotland, or whatever of religion bore a resemblance to the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The consequence was, as might have been expected by a rational man who was not a monster, that Justice and Divine Vengeance would at last bring an end to Sharp’s devices.  And if it could not come by way of the appointed ministers of Justice, it would be sure to come some other way.

In adorable mercy a mere hint of this was first given by the Lord. Thus Sharp might be brought to know he was not immune to the Lord’s vengeance merely because the public ministers of justice were corrupted in his favour.  This warning came by means of an individual named James Mitchell.  Mr. Mitchell was a student of the ministry, but obstructed from the exercise of a ministerial charge by means of the prevailing Episcopal and Erastian tyranny.  In 1668 he aimed a shot at Sharp as he sat in his coach about to take in Andrew Honeyman, Bishop of Orkney.  The shot missed, however, and instead struck Honeyman in the wrist of his hand.  Mr. Mitchell managed to escape at the time, but was later apprehended in 1674.  He obtained an oath from the Chancellor that his life would be preserved if he would make his confession.  This he did, but it is little surprise that his confession was used against him nonetheless.  He was executed, or more properly, “murdered,” at the Grassmarket of Edinburgh, January 18th, 1678.

But Sharp’s escape from Justice was no more sure than Mitchell’s escape from Persecution.  Upon the third of May, 1679, while he was travelling in his coach, a party of Covenanters led by James Balfour came upon Sharp in convenient circumstances and determined to regard this as a providential call to dispatch this monster while the Lord favoured them with means to do so.  They demanded that he exit his coach and make preparations for death; but this favour, so much more than he would have offered them, was rejected.  He would offer them money, but he would not pray.  In the end he was stabbed with the sword, and his life taken for reasons previously specified in hopes that he might be persuaded to repent of his sins and turn to the Lord Jesus in saving faith: “opposition to the kingdom of Christ, murdering of his people, particularly Mr. James Mitchell, and James Learmond;” or as another told him, not for any particular interest, nor yet for any wrong done to him personally, “but because he had betrayed the church as Judas, and had wrung his hands, these 18 or 19 years in the blood of the saints, but especially at Pentland, &c.”

Thus much will suffice as an introduction to the history of the event considered in the following article.  The circumstances will surely compel any good man to hesitate before declaring the killing of this “bishop” murder.  But if it was not murder, was it otherwise sinful?  What answer would be best to pronounce under the pressures of an interrogation?  Should such a deed actually be justified?

2014.03.17::JTK.

“WAS THE BISHOP’S DEATH MURDER?”

Time was, dear reader, when if you had dared say “No” to this question, you would certainly have had your ears cropped, and might be very thankful if you did not suffer also the loss of a head.  This little word was then of alarming importance, and few there were could screw their courage up to boldly utter it when the hour of trial came.  None but the brave old Covenanters, who feared not the face of man, and to whom the scaffold was as welcome as a throne, had resolution and daring enough for such a dangerous assertion.

It is true that some of them answered in the affirmative, and that as a body they were not responsible for the death of Sharpe, since it was done without common deliberation and consent.  And this, we suspect, formed a large part of the reason of their acknowledgment, since they afterward declared their determination to punish all viperous bishops, curates, and spies according to their power and the degree of the offense.  But this determination, and especially the taking of Sharpe’s life, has met with small favor in any quarter, being condemned by Hetherington, M’Crie, and many other historians more or less strongly, so that it may not be amiss to consider the subject a little.

We may confine ourselves chiefly to the death of Sharpe, as it covers nearly the whole ground.  The disapprovers may be divided into three classes.  There are those who call the putting to death a bishop, curate, or spy, for any such cause, an atrocious murder.  These are your High Church Episcopalians, Romanists, and those who have no religion, except that they mortally hate the true.  The second class are those who call it a fanatical and unjustifiable act. These are your milk-and-water Presbyterians.  The third class are those who say such persons deserved death, but regret that Covenanters allowed themselves to act on such an unscriptural and dangerous principle.  These form the better portion of Presbyterians generally.  But we cannot heartily join even this class.  We think it very ungenerous and unfair to judge of the times in which these men lived by our own.  We think nature itself teaches us that different feelings are called into exercise, and different principles must be acted on from those which suit a period when every man dwells peacefully under his own fig-tree and vine. [Micah 4.4.]  And we protest against connecting as cause and effect the taking of Sharpe’s life with the long train of unexampled cruelties, bloodshed, and butchery of the nine succeeding years.  Far more stress has been laid upon this theme than it will bear.  His death was indeed made an ensnaring question to many, and often the pretext of their own. But it was nothing more than a pretext—one of the speediest and most convenient means of sending the victim to the scaffold with some show of decency.  Had a man proved himself unquestionably free from any connection with that affair, had he shown it impossible for him to have aided or abetted in any way, had he unhesitatingly {13} pronounced it an act of murder, that would no more have freed him from their deadly clutches than it would have proved that Sharpe died a natural death—unless he were prepared to answer satisfactorily other questions that immediately followed.  Not a few did declare it murder, but did they escape?  Is it not a fact that Lauderdale and many of the nobility disliked and hated Sharpe, and that he had fallen in the king’s estimation, so that as far as the primate’s death was concerned the severity of the prosecution should have relaxed or remained nearly unaltered?  It was not so, however.  It had increased before his death, and that increase can be accounted for on far different grounds.  And even had there been more connection than there is, away with this detestable, driveling expediency!  Fiat justitia, si ruat cælum!  Pity it is that Mitchell’s aim was not as steady as his soul was dauntless.[1]  When the tyrant fell he fell justly, and honor, say we, to the man who had the courage and the nerve equal to the occasion.  Let those who have tears, shed them for the victims whom his merciless soul spared not even when his monarch bade him hold his hand; and let those who love justice, rejoice that such a superlative scoundrel did not finally go unwhipt of justice.

The world has ever done slow and tardy justice to Christians, and they have too often done tardy justice to each other.  We are told that the men who put Sharpe to death were murderers, assassins, cut-throats; and their act fool hardy and most atrocious.  We are not skilled enough in casuistry to see this.  We hold that their deed, desperate as it may be accounted, and rash as it may seem, yet under their circumstances was perfectly right, justifiable and praiseworthy.  Only look at it as a matter of justice.  We account the receiver of stolen goods as bad as the thief; and the leader of a band of thieves who directs their operations, tells them where they can steal property, and sends them to steal it, we think the worst thief of the whole.  In like manner the man who is accessory to murder is held guilty of it—a principle approved by the soundest civil and ecclesiastical jurisprudence, and clearly sanctioned in the Bible.  Take David’s case for example.  It cannot, therefore, be denied that Sharpe and other such viperous bishops, curates, and spies, were the basest, meanest, and most detestable of all murderers.  On their head comes the accumulated guilt of many murders, by them conceived and planned, and accomplished under their guidance and direction.  So far, therefore, as justice is concerned, the lives of these men were forfeited, and all that can be charged is some irregularity in the mode of execution.

For this reason, in connection with the peculiar circumstances, we object to calling such acts assassination.  It is a begging of the whole question.  It is affirming what is not true.  For assassination is to murder by surprise, and to murder is to take away life unjustly and intentionally.  But the life is not taken away unjustly, therefore, it is not murder, so that it cannot possibly be assassination.[2]

Of course we are here met with the assertion that though Sharpe {14} deserved to die, it was nevertheless murder in Covenanters to put him to death.  Few writers, however, trouble their readers with reasons for such a decision, and perhaps they find a difficulty in mustering any.  We cannot but think a very different verdict should be given.  Under ordinary circumstances it might indeed be unnecessary and inexpedient for any but the appointed officers to execute justice on murderers.  The general consequence of a contrary course might perhaps be evil.  We are not maintaining that such viperous bishops as Sharpe should not be punished in any other way than he was.  What we contend for is, that they should by all means be punished, and that circumstances alter cases.  While anything approximating to justice is dispensed by a public tribunal, let it be administered in that manner.  But if justice cannot be thus obtained, if the public tribunal instead of justice dispenses injustice, if this is not occasionally but generally the case, if judges and bishops are banded together to rob, murder, and oppress, and systematically send to the block men they should honorably acquit, and so act that he who dare raise the voice of complaint, or presumed to impeach the guilty, would beyond all question endanger his own neck, then we hold it manifest that the sooner the land rids itself of such men by the summary infliction of justice the better.  Let justice be done—in the regular manner, if possible—but any way, let it be done.  Better a thousand times that it should be irregularly inflicted on two, twenty, or a hundred murderers, than that honest men should be slaughtered by them like so many sheep.  Sharpe’s case was a plain one.  To his numberless other villainies he had added that of putting nine men to death contrary to the express command of his master.  And he had continued oppressing and plotting against every good man and true from that onward.  No lengthened consideration was needed.  “Wild justice” was all that he deserved, and was all that was possible.  And we deny the necessity under all circumstances of a public tribunal’s sitting, receiving evidence, deciding on the guilt of the criminal, and then inflicting punishment.  It was not so in the case of the man slain by Phinehas, and yet his conduct was approved.  It was not so in the case of Ehud who slew Eglon.  Nor was it so in the best and palmiest days of the Jewish commonwealth.  When a man was murdered, no court met or judges sat before the avenger of blood dare lift up his arm.  Soon as he learned the deed was done he started in hot pursuit of the murderer, and wherever he overtook him in his flight to the city of refuge, he smote him prostrate in the dust, so that he never rose.  This was justice, in the very manner too sanctioned and prescribed by God. [Numbers 35.]  And now as then, and in Scotland as in every where else, the voice of nature in the nearest relatives and friends is to avenge a brother’s death by the immediate slaughter of his murderers.  This feeling is the legitimate faithful working of that constitution God has given us.  And if this right had been yielded up to and centered in a magistrate, it was not irrevocable.  If he refused to exercise it, they may and must appoint another.  If he {15} pardoned the guilty and condemned the righteous willfully and systematically, they might depose him—peacefully if they could, by force if they could not.  What! resist the magistrate?  Yes, by all means.  Resist—rebel—exact justice without the usual formalities as better than no justice.  It is not making matters worse than they were, for such is the treatment they and their compatriots have been receiving.  And extreme circumstances are not to be judged by ordinary times; they are a law unto themselves.  Forbearance is no longer a duty, endurance ceases to be a virtue, and he who first strikes the tyrant does the greatest service to religion and humanity.

There is still another ground of justification.  The right of self defense is a right man never entirely relinquishes under any government.  A man may be attacked in open day, and if his life is endangered—of which he only can be the judge—he may kill his assailant.  And under different circumstances this permission is extended.  Should a man forcibly attempt to enter your house at midnight, you are at liberty to shoot him, because he may probably murder you before he leaves. [Exod. 22.2.]  In other words, where government does not, can not, or will not protect you, you must protect yourself.  And you are not left to your own option whether you will do this or not.  You are bound to do it.  Nature itself teaches you, and revelation teaches, that self preservation is a duty, and any neglect of it a breach of the sixth commandment.  Life is a treasure to be guarded with the utmost vigilance, especially in times of persecution and great public danger; for the loss of a good man in such a time is a greater loss to civil and religious liberty.  On this principle of self defense, then, we maintain that it was right to put Sharpe to death—a duty resulting from the desperate efforts he was constantly making to destroy them.  We are not urging that it is right in every case for men to take the law into their own hands, nor do we say that for one instance of remissness in a government you are to act as if there were no law; or that for one perversion of justice you are to rise in rebellion.  What we maintain is, that extreme cases justify and demand extreme proceedings.  And this was an extreme case if ever there was one under the sun.  What were the circumstances?  Those who should protect, persecuted; those who should preserve your life, sought it—they were the murderers.  Sharpe, every one knows, had been a leading actor in all the great crimes perpetrated since the Restoration.  He had betrayed the church—divided her—destroyed, as far as in him lay, the work of reformation, and was guilty of treason against both church and state.  He was a member of Parliament, a member of the Privy Council, and the great instigator of the oppressive measures, exactions, and cruelties—the man who, above all others, fanned and heated sevenfold the fires of persecution.  He, of all men, was the man who led the van in the work of persecution, and excited, stirred up, and hounded on those who came behind himself in hate.  The Privy Council was too slow and tardy in its movements, and far too merciful, for him.  And so he {16} conceived the plan of a Court of High Commission, procured its establishment, got himself made president of it, and was the life and soul of that body whose terrible power was felt far and wide.  As judges they dispensed only a mockery of justice, while bands of soldiers scoured the country with power so ample, that Turner, after all his villainies and atrocious acts, could demonstrate beyond all doubt that he had not even acted up to his commission.  Where did he get this bloody commission?  By whose influence and authority was he sent forth on these murderous raids?  By Sharpe’s.  He it was who kept ever complaining and urging on the deadly work, cruel in disposition, bloodthirsty, merciless, relentless and insatiable as the grave.  Lauderdale was nothing to him.  He accused Lauderdale to his face before the king for his remissness, want of zeal and pernicious lenity.  Finally, with the Court of High Commission, and himself as president, the work of oppression went on apace.  The nation groaned, the people were ground in the dust, gray-headed fathers, mothers, and daughters, and little children, all alike felt the weight of his deadly arm.  No age or sex was spared.  And over Fifeshire he exercised an especial care; it was his own domain, his private hunting ground, which he studied to make a model for his emissaries in other parts.  Here he reigned supreme, and ruled it with a rod of iron.  His agent, Carmichael, apprehended, fined, imprisoned, plundered, beat and abused women and children, committed rapes and adulteries, and other abominable wickednesses—and there was no legal method of redress possible or to be expected.  No man dare demand redress—not even regarding the agent, far less of the great criminal Sharpe himself.  Yet we are told that the men who put him to death were guilty of murder.  No matter though they, and their friends, and relations, and the life of every honest man in the country was in constant danger through him; no matter though hundreds had fallen victims to his thirst for blood, and though redress was otherwise impossible.  This is surely being merciful, with a vengeance.  It is loving your neighbor better than yourself. It is sparing the murderer at the expense of the virtuous, God-fearing man’s life.  It is allowing such to be slaughtered like sheep rather than execute justice without the usual formalities of law.  It is esteeming such formalities in a time of lawless oppression and judicial murder as more valuable than justice itself.  Away with such pusillanimity!  It is contrary to the spirit of the sixth commandment.  The men who put Sharpe to death discharged a duty they owed to the many victims he had sent to the scaffold—a duty they owed to their brethren hunted for life o’er mountain and moor—a duty they owed to their country, themselves and their God, to defend that life and liberty He had given them, and fight to the last gasp for truth, justice, and freedom.

It may indeed be objected, that to take away life in such a manner at least encourages assassination.  But with far greater fairness may it be replied, that not to do it in such a crisis encourages real, willful, judicial murder, besides many acts of undeniable {17} assassination.  It stands on record that the last thing Sharpe did was the voting and pushing through the council a very violent proclamation on the 1st May; and that on the 6th he was to have taken a journey to court expressly to make his representations there, and use his interest for more vigorous and cruel methods against the sufferers.  There is the best testimony to the fact that by his death new and cruel projects against the Presbyterians were disappointed, and therefore the cutting off of this man was not without effect.  But moreover we say—No, such acts do not encourage assassination any more than the summary proceedings of the avenger of blood, or the acts of Ehud, or the Revolution of 1688, and the American Revolution, encourage assassination, rebellion and revolution.  Clearly the blame rests elsewhere.  The guilt of such acts, if guilt there be, lies on the men who render such measures necessary; and the only way to make them cease, or at least to become morally wrong, is for kings to quit their tyranny, and bishops their bloody deeds.  From the very nature of the case under such circumstances, there is no other remedy left.

And finally, in addition to all this, there is another consideration which of itself amply justifies the taking of Sharpe’s life, and the resolution of the Covenanters to put to death all viperous and malicious bishops, curates, and spies.[3]  They were engaged in a contest for the freedom of their country.  In their judgment—and they were better able to judge than any other men[, being] in such circumstances—yet even they, with all their excessive attachment to the house of Stuart, thought matters had now come to such a pass that they were bound to resist.  In vain it is said that Christians should not resist evil, and that magistracy is an ordinance of God.  To be sure it is, but systematic oppression and grinding tyranny are not; and therefore may and ought to be resisted.  Christians, we know, in their private capacity, are not to resent injuries, they are not to cherish vindictive feelings, they are to overlook slights, insults and all lesser wrongs; nor should they resist robbery or oppression, when resistance is manifestly and completely hopeless.  But, further than this, that often perverted passage from the Sermon on the Mount has no bearing on the case whatever.  Christians may and should seek redress when their wrongs are great and flagrant.  Christ, when smitten with the palm of the hand, rebuked a public officer with becoming indignation, [John 18.22,23,] and Paul once and again took refuge in the laws of his country. [Acts 16.37; 21,39; 22.25; 23.3; 25.11.]  Christians have all the rights of other men, and if others may resist and seek the overthrow of a tyrant, they may.  The Covenanters renounced their allegiance to Charles; they declared their determination to make war on him, and do their utmost for his overthrow.  And in this they were right, or else resistance never can be justified under any circumstances.  Americans had not the twentieth part the tithe of cause for resistance that they had.  With them it was no mere question of taxation, but a matter of life and death—their wrongs were great, grievous, and intolerable—their rights were trampled on—their liberties wrested from them—their houses and homes {18} plundered and ravaged by a brutal soldiery—their religion proscribed—the blood of their brethren smoked on every mountain side—and themselves were hunted and shot at like wild beasts of the earth.  And will men pervert the Word of God by crying patience, patience! as if there were no other virtue in the world but that one?  It is a crime in men to tolerate tyranny or evil of any kind when the remedy is in their own hands.  They are then guilty of sanctioning it.  Resistance to a despot who subverts the end of all government is a duty that nature itself teaches us.  Christians have rights as well as other men, which they must maintain, unless they are willing to degrade themselves to a level with the brute creation, and be trampled over by the offscourings of mankind.  Nor is it a valid objection that the Covenanters were few in number.  Mere numbers is not the surest pledge of victory.  It was enough for them that there was a reasonable prospect of success, which, though distant, might be obtained by nobly persevering as Wallace and Bruce had done.  The spirit of their fathers lived within them, and in the power of desperate endurance they equaled and excelled their ancestors.  They kept alive the spirit of resistance.  They hastened on the crisis.  They jeoparded their lives for the general good by striking the first blow.  That first blow was the death of Sharpe, and it matters not whether it was struck by nine men, or ninety, or nine hundred.  Then followed the famous Rutherglen declaration—Drumclog—Bothwell Bridge —Airsmoss!  There shone forth the spirit, the daring, the dauntless courage of men who feared not death, and scorned submission to a tyrant.  What though they were unsuccessful at first?  Their cause was good, their spirits were unconquered, and they struggled on.  Such has been the history of almost every contest for freedom.  Detested be the dastardly spirit that abandons the right because success is not reached at a bound.  Detested be the man who, for this, or the fewness of those that stood up for truth, will question the lawfulness of their deeds.  Is liberty nothing? religion nothing? the safety and security of their homes nothing? the cry of an outraged nation nothing?  All these and the widespread disaffection urged them on, and justified their course; and if in the terrible struggle they had inflicted death on every spy that fell into their hands, it was only what was just and right.  It was an act of justice, necessity and mercy to the nation and themselves.  War has its laws as well as peace; and such characters never can be tolerated.  And if men wearing the sacerdotal robe or an Episcopal mitre are found among them, so much greater is their crime, and by so much the more signal and condign should be their punishment.

For our part, therefore, we have no fault to find with the determination of the Covenanters regarding viperous bishops, curates and spies, or with the conduct of the men who executed justice on Sharpe.  If we have not demonstrated the rectitude of both, the fault is ours, and is not to be attributed to the weakness of our cause.  Our covenanted forefathers had as clear conceptions of right and wrong as most men who either preceded or succeeded {19} them.  They did nothing rashly.  Their actions will stand as severe a scrutiny as those of any men that ever lived.  Whatever is lovely, or honest, or honorable, or of good report, for them we claim it. [Phil. 4.8.]  In religion pure as the purest, in practical godliness a pattern to all, in self-denying zeal unsurpassed, in true unbending integrity and patriotism unrivaled.  No sordid motives or selfish purposes stain their escutcheon.  Others may laud the heroes of Greece and Rome—the warriors who fought at Marathon, who bled at Leuctra, who perished at Thermopylæ, or who fell at Philippi; yet they match not the men who bore up the banner of the Covenant on Scotia’s storm-rocked mountains.  On them the world has not lavished its praises, yet they were as daring and intrepid in soul, as dauntless in war, as indomitable in spirit, and far nobler and loftier in purpose.  Their women performed deeds as heroic, as worthy of renown—yea, more to be admired than those of any character of Greek or Roman story.  Where shall we find the rivals of those lion-hearted Covenanters, so glorious in life, so triumphant in death?  O thou envious, unjust world, thou hast robbed them of their rightful honor!           CAMERONIAN.


Edtior’s Postscript

The above article, presented as it is found in the old Reformed Presbyterian magazine, (with the exception of some adjustments to punctuation and additions of scripture references,) must tell the reader something about the historic position of Reformed Presbyterians on this topic.  In 1860, the slaying of “Lord Saint Andrews” was readily defended, and the approval thereof considered fit for their denominational magazine.  Should this surprise us?  In Scotland? In America?  What American dare oppose such thoughts and reasons, when there can be no defending their own national independence, and the means by which it was obtained, without consenting to the reasons and principles of the Covenanters?

Certain as these things are, however, there are writers and historians, even among those that admire the Covenanters, who look upon the above deed as unwarrantable.  As time has worn away something of the zeal of those who are themselves called Covenanters, one of their own historians eventually ranked himself with the critics.  In a popular history of the Covenanters, Johannes G. Vos recounts the history of Sharp’s slaying, commenting with the following words: “Although extenuating circumstances existed, it is impossible to justify this deed of blood, and as a matter of fact very few Covenanters justified it at the time or afterwards.”  Now, the reality is, this is no “matter of fact” but rather plain falsehood.  It is hard to believe that Mr. Vos was actually misinformed about this matter; but we must also say it is harder to believe that he was intentionally labouring to deceive his readers.  The facts are, however, that not only a number of the martyrs justified this deed, but also Alexander Shields in his elaborate history and defence of the Covenanters, A Hind Let Loose, refers to this as the deed of “several worthy gentlemen” who “executed righteous judgment upon him in Magus Muir.” Moreover, the entire body of the United Societies of the Covenanters in the next century declared their approval of this deed in a marginal note to the published Renovation of the Covenants at Auchensaugh, 1712; which publication was then accounted as a term of communion in the Reformed Presbyterian Church into the next century after that.  Impossible to justify the deed?  Surely, it has been justified by many.

As a last note, it is desired that readers beware of a cold and distant consideration of these questions and reasonings.  We know not how long until the time come when a solid conviction and stable persuasion will be needed in a new conflict wherein our own persons may be called to endure and endeavour the things which our weak hearts had rather only read about in history, or discuss with friends during a peaceful visit at home.  The fact is this: the enemy is already on the field.  It is true, we ourselves are not hunted upon the mountains and into caves at present. May the Lord avert such things. He knows well we are not ready.  But the enemy is present.  True religion is mocked. It is classified under terms and categories designed to suggest that it is dangerous.  Many who presume to exercise rule in our times are astoundingly hardened in sin.  They defend and support institutions which go about the murder of multitudes in our land which cannot defend themselves. They cannot tell that capital crimes are any crime at all. They cannot tell that idolatry and blasphemy stand outside the scope of natural rights. They cannot tell that men were meant to marry women. They cannot tell that the legalization of lying is dangerous to themselves. They are surely persuaded that morality is what their own laws may determine.  How essentially different are they from the villains of the past?  Do we believe they can be persuaded to change their ways? or that they can be voted into a compliance with true government and order?  Will we pretend these characters are our fellow countrymen or leaders, rather than the enemies of our country?  Must they touch us before we will call them criminals?  Must they murder us before we will call them murderers?  Must they compel us to worship them before we will call them ungodly and Antichrist?  Surely, our fathers would want us to remember their experiences, weigh their examples, and answer these questions early, and not late.


Footnotes:

1. As mentioned in the introduction, James Mitchell was the first to attempt the slaying of Archbishop James Sharp.  He failed in the endeavour, his shot striking instead Andrew Honeyman, bishop of Orkney. This was in the year 1668.  More information can be found concerning Mitchell and these events in Naphtali; or, the wrestlings of the Church of Scotland, in the additional material published with the editions of 1693 and afterwards. These include original papers, his personal testimony, etc.  There is also an account of Mitchell found in Howie’s Biographia Scoticana.—JTKer.

2. The reader is encouraged to see these points stated most precisely, and with great carefulness for the sake of those living in a time when such measures were very necessary, in Alexander Shield’s Hind Let Loose, Head 6. There the question of extraordinary executions of judgment is viewed in a general way, with an abundance of Scripture brought to give light on the question, and several considerations set forth to prevent mis-guided applications of this principle.—JTKer.

3. The precise wording of the Covenanters in their Declaration of 1684 should be considered.  Though strained by many years of persecution, it is really more carefully phrased than what is suggested by our author above; for they make no threat to kill every spy and curate, but only that such who dedicate themselves to the cause of murdering the Presbyterians should be punished “according to our power & the degree of their offence.”  All this is prefaced with very important statements to clear themselves from the reproaches and slanders of others, who would represent them as being of murderous principles, or planning to kill all who differed in judgment and persuasion from themselves: a godless lie devised by their enemies in an effort to make the generality of the people afraid of the Covenanters, and prejudice them against all who would take a stand for the safety and deliverance of their country.  From this we must take due warning not to give heed to the pronouncements and warnings of ungodly rulers and propaganda machines when they attempt to give their abused people “warning” or direction against those who oppose their intolerable wickednesses.—JTKer.