WALTER SMITH was son of Walter Smith, in the parish of St. Ninians, near Airth, in Stirlingshire. He was an eminent Christian, and a good scholar. He went over to Holland, where he studied some time under the famous Leusden, who had a great esteem and value for him, as being one both of high attainments and great experience in the serious exercise and solid practice of Christianity.
In 1679, we find that he made no mean figure among that little handful of the Lord's suffering remnant, who rose in their own defence at Bothwell Bridge. For he was both chosen clerk to the council of war, and also a commanding officer among the honest party; and had the honour not only to witness and protest against the sinful compliance of that corrupt Erastian party who then foisted themselves in amongst them, but was also one of three who were appointed to draw up the "Causes of the Lord's Wrath against the Land" (of which the Hamilton Declaration was to form the last cause), together with a new Declaration which they intended to have published at that time. Although both of these were undertaken, yet the Lord did not honour them to publish the same, as some of them, with great regret, unto their dying day, did acknowledge.1
After the overthrow and dispersion of the Covenanters at Bothwell (in which the Erastian party among them had no little hand), it appears that Walter Smith went over for some time to Holland, but did not stay long, for we meet with him again with Donald Cargil at Torwood, in September 1680; after which, he was very helpful to him in his conversation and advice in difficult cases, and praying in families (when Cargill was fatigued with sore travel, being an old man, and going then often on foot), and many times in public preaching days precenting for him.
He had a longing desire to preach Christ, and Him crucified, unto the world, and the word of salvation through His name. Mr. Cargill had the same desire; and for that end, it is said, had written to two ministers to meet him at Cummerhead, in Lesmahagow, in Clydesdale. But ere that day came, the door was closed, for they were in the enemy's hands. However, Walter Smith followed the example of our blessed Lord and Saviour, by going about doing good in many places and to many persons, in spiritual edifying conversation, and was a singular example of true piety and zeal; which had more influence upon many, than most part of the ministers of that day.
A little before his death, he drew up twenty-two rules for fellowship or society meetings, which at that time, partly by his instrumentality, greatly increased from the river Tay to Newcastle. These afterwards settled into a general and quarterly correspondence, that so they might speak one with another, when they wanted the public preaching of the Gospel, and appoint general fasting days through the whole community, wherein their own sins, and the prevailing sins and defections of the times, were confessedeach society to meet and spend some time of the Lord's day together, when deprived of the public ordinances.2 Mr. Cargill said that these society meetings would increase more and more for a time; but when the judgments came upon these sinful lands, there would be few society meetings when there would be most needfew mourners, prayers, and pleaders, because of carnality, security, darkness, deadness, and divisions.
But he [Walter Smith] was now well nigh the evening of his life, and his labours both. For having been with Mr. Cargill when he preached his last sermon in Dunsyre Common, betwixt Clydesdale and Lothian, he was, next morning, by wicked Bonshaw (who had formerly traded in fine horses betwixt the two kingdoms), apprehended at Covington Mill. He was, with the rest of the prisoners, carried from Lanark to Glasgow, and from thence taken to Edinburgh, where, upon the 14th of July, he was brought before the Council, and there asked, if he owned the King and his authority as lawful? He answered: "I could not acknowledge the present authority the king is now invested with, and the exercise thereof, being now clothed with a supremacy over the Church." Being interrogated, if the king's falling from the Covenant looses him from his obedience, and if the king thereby loses his authority? he answered, "I think he is obliged to perform all the duties of the Covenant, conform to the Word of God; the king is only to be obeyed in terms of the Covenant." Being further interrogated anent the Torwood excommunication, he declared, He thought their reasons were just.
On the 19th of July he was again brought before them, and interrogated, If he owned the Sanquhar Declaration? It was then read to him, and he owned the same in all its articles, except that he looked not upon these persons as the formal representatives of the Presbyterian Church, as they called themselves. And as to that expression, "The king should have been denuded many years ago," he did not like the word denuded, but said, "what the king has done, justifies the people revolting against him." As to these words, where the king is called an usurper and a tyrant, he said, Certainly the king is an usurper, and wished he was not a tyrant.
Upon the 26th, he was with the rest brought before the Justiciary, where being indicted in common form, their confessions were produced as evidence against them. They were all brought in guilty of high treason, and condemned to be hanged at the cross of Edinburgh, upon the 27th, and their heads to be severed from their bodies, and those of Messrs. Cargill, Smith, and Boig, to be placed on the Nether Bow, and the heads of the others on the West Port; all which was done accordingly.
After Cargill was executed, Walter Smith was brought upon the scaffold, where he adhered to the very same cause with Mr. Cargill, and declared the same usurpation of Christ's crown and dignity, and died with great assurance of his interest in Christ, declaring his abhorrence of Popery, Prelacy, Erastianism, and all other steps of defection. He went up the ladder with all signs of cheerfulness; and when the executioner was to untie his cravat, he would not suffer him, but untied it himself, and, calling to his brother, he threw it down, saying, "This is the last token you shall get from me." After the napkin was drawn over his face, he uncovered it again, and said, "I have one word more to say, and that is, to all who have any love to God and His righteous cause, that they would set time apart, and sing a song of praise to the Lord, for what He has done for my soul; and my soul saith, To Him be praise." Then the napkin being let down, he was turned over praying, and died in the Lord, with his face bending upon Mr. Cargill's breast. These two clave to one another in love and unity in their life; and between them, in their death, there was little difference. Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided, &c.
The now glorified Walter Smith was a man no less learned than pious, faithful, and religious. His old master, the professor of divinity at Utrecht in Holland, when he heard of his public violent bloody death of martyrdom, gave him this testimony, weeping and saying in broken English, "O Smith! the great, brave Smith! who exceeded all that ever I taught; he was capable to teach many, but few to instruct him." Besides some letters, and the forementioned twenty-two rules for fellowship-meetings, he wrote also Twenty Steps of National Defection; all which are now published; and if these, with his last testimony, be rightly considered, it will appear that his writings were inferior to few of the contendings of that time.
1. See a more full account of this in Wilson's impartial relation of Bothwel-bridge, page 13. &c.
2. The reader will find an account of these their transactions in their own register now published of late, under the title of Faithful Contendings displayed, &c.