THE LAST SPEECH AND TESTIMONY OF THE REVEREND MR. JAMES RENWICK
Minister of the Gospel, who suffered in the Grassmarket of Edinburgh, February 17, 1688. Emitted from his own hand, the day before his suffering.
MY DEAR FRIENDS IN CHRIST,
It hath pleased the Lord to deliver me up into the hands of men; and I think fit to send you this salutation, which I expect will be the last. When I pose [i.e., question] my heart upon it, before God, I dare not desire to have escaped this lot; for no less could have been for His glory and vindication of His cause on my behalf. And as I am free before Him of the profanity, which some, either naughty, wicked, or strangers to me, have reported that I have been sometimes guilty of, so He hath kept me, from the womb, free of the ordinary pollutions of children; as these that have been acquainted with me through the tract of my life do know. And now my blood shall either more silence reproachers, or more ripen them for judgment. But I hope it shall make some more sparing to speak of those who shall come after me; and so I am the more willing to pay this cost, both for their instruction, and my succeeders' ease.
Since I came to prison, the Lord hath been wonderfully kind; He hath made His word to give me light, life, joy, courage and strength; yea, it hath dropped with sweet smelling myrrh unto me; particularly these Psalms and promises:
For now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son (Genesis 22:12).
Neither be ye sorry, for the joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10)
There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest. There the prisoners rest together; they hear not the voice of the oppressor (Job 3:17, 18).
But He knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot hath held His steps, his way have I kept, and not declined. Neither have I gone back from the commandment of His lips; I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food. But He is in one mind, and who can turn Him? and what His soul desireth, even that He doeth. For He performeth the thing that is appointed for me: and many such things are with Him (Job 23:10-14).
The word of the Lord tried Him (Psalm 105-19).
Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them. For, behold, I have made thee this day a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brasen walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land. And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the Lord, to deliver thee (Jeremiah 1:17-19).
A glorious high throne from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary. O Lord, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters. Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved (Jeremiah 17:12-14).
He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of His eye (Zechariah 2:8).
'But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for My name's sake. And it shall turn to you for a testimony' (Luke 21:12, 13), and 19 of St. John's Gospel.
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds (Hebrews 12:2, 3).
Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him (James 1:12).
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you. Be sobers be vigilant; because your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:6-8).
'I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name. Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is New Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name' (Revelation 3:8-12). Revelation, chapters 19, 20, 21, and 22, and several other Scriptures.
O what can I say to the Lord's praise! It was but little that I knew of Him before I came to prison; I have found sensibly much of His divine strength, much of the joy of His Spirit, and much assurance from His word and Spirit concerning my salvation.
My sufferings are stated upon the matters of my doctrine, for there was found with me the sum of my two last sermons at Braid's Craigs, which I wrote after I did preach them: the former whereof was upon Psalm 96:10:
Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
And in the latter upon Hebrews 10:38:
Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.
And I was examined upon the application made therein unto the sins of the time; all which I owned once and again, as it is to be seen in my indictment; and being tried, and an assize set, I adhered to my former confessions explicitly; so my sentence of death was drawn forth upon these three heads:
- Because I could not own James VII to be my lawful sovereign.
- Because I taught the unlawfulness of paying the cess, expressly exacted for suppressing the faithful and free preaching of the Gospel.
- Because I taught it was people's duty to carry arms at the preaching of the Gospel, now that it is persecuted, for defending of themselves, and resisting unjust violence.
I think such a testimony is worthy many lives, and I praise the Lord, for His enabling me to be plain and positive in all my confessions; for therein I found peace, joy, strength, boldness. I have met with many assaults in prison, some from some of the Indulged party, and some from some of the Prelatic; but by the strength of God I was enabled to stand, that they could neither bow me nor break me. I was also assaulted by some of the Popish party. I suppose they were of their ecclesiastic creatures; but they found none of their own stuff in me; I told them, after sundry debatings, that I had lived, and should die, an enemy to their way. However, some that knew me not, reproached me with Jesuitism. But I was much pressed by sundry to seek a reprieve, and my answer was always, that I adhered to my former confession, and if they pleased to let their appointed time of my death stand, let it stand; and if they pleased to protract it, let them protract it; for I was ready and willing both to live and die. Howbeit there came a reprieve for eight days, but I had no hand in it.
They still urged, Would I but say that I desired time, for conference with some persons anent my principles? I answered, that my time was in the Lord's hand, and I was in no hesitation or doubt about my principles myself: I would not be so rude as to decline converse with any, so far as it might not be inconvenient for me in my present circumstances, but I would seek it with none.
I have no more to say upon this head, but my heart doth not smite me for anything in the matters of my God, since I came to prison. And I can further say to His praise, with some consciousness of integrity, that I have walked in His way, and kept His charge, though with much weakness, and many infirmities, whereof you have been witnesses.
Now, my dear friends in precious Christ, I think I need not tell you that, as I have lived, so I die, in the same persuasion with the true reformed and covenanted Presbyterian Church of Scotland. I adhere to the testimony of the day, as it is held forth in our Informatory Vindication, and in the testimony against the present toleration; and that I own, and seal with my blood, all the precious truths, even the controverted truths, that I have taught. So I would exhort every one of you to make sure your personal reconciliation with God in Christ, for I fear many of you have that yet to do; and when you come where I am, to look pale death in the face, ye will not be a little shaken and terrified if ye have not laid hold on eternal life. I would exhort you to much diligence in the use of means; to be careful in keeping your societies; to be frequent and fervent in secret prayer; to read much the written Word of God, and to examine yourselves by it.
Do not weary to maintain, in your places and stations, the present testimony; for when Christ goeth forth to defeat antichrist, with that name written on His vesture and on His thigh, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS, He will make it glorious in the earth. And if you can but transmit it to posterity, ye may count it a great generation work. But beware of the ministers that have accepted this toleration, and all others that bend that way; and follow them not, for the sun hath gone down on them. Do not fear that the Lord will cast off Scotland; for He will certainly return, and show Himself glorious in our land. But watch and pray, for He is bringing on a sad overthrowing stroke, which shall make many say that they have easily got through that have got a scaffold for Christ; and do not regard the sufferings of this present world, for they are not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed.
I may say, to His praise, that I have found His cross sweet and lovely unto me; for I have had many joyful hours, and not a fearful thought since I came to prison. He hath strengthened me to outbrave man and outface death; and I am now longing for the joyful hour of my dissolution; and there is nothing in the world I am sorry to leave but you; but I go unto better company, and so I must take my leave of you all.
Farewell beloved sufferers, and followers of the Lamb.
Farewell Christian intimates.
Farewell Christian and comfortable mother and sisters.
Farewell sweet societies.
Farewell desirable general meetings.
Farewell night wanderings, cold and weariness for Christ.
Farewell sweet Bible, and preaching of the Gospel.
Farewell sun, moon, and stars, and all sublunary things.
Farewell conflicts with a body of death.
Welcome scaffold for precious Christ.
Welcome heavenly Jerusalem.
Welcome innumerable company of angels.
Welcome General Assembly and Church of the first-born.
Welcome, crown of glory, white robes, and song of Moses and the Lamb.
And, above all, welcome, O thou blessed Trinity and One God!
O Eternal One, I commit my soul into Thy eternal rest!
February 13, 1688.
Minor editing by Angela Wittman