Saturday, May 11, 2013

Wigtown Martyrs

   On this day, in 1685, a testimony was given that would stand through centuries. Not by the edict of kings, bending the will of nations to cower under their high hand, but by the bending of the devout hearts of two humble women to the everlasting King of kings. These faithful daughters, one in her twilight years, the other in the flower of her youth, were given a document to sign, known as the Oath of Abjuration. This test was given to suspected upholders of the covenant and sympathizers of those who attempted to stay the persecution that was flooding Scotland. With all constancy, they refused, joining their souls with "the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held."
    Here is the womens' end related in The History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland by Robert Wodrow, who dubbed the bloody suppression of the Covenanter movement in the 1680′s “The Killing Time”:
The two women were brought from Wigton, with a numerous crowd of spectators to so extraordinary an execution. Major Windram with some soldiers guarded them to the place of execution. The old woman’s stake was a good way in beyond the other, and she was first despatched, in order to terrify the other to a compliance with such oaths and conditions as they required. But in vain, for she adhered to her principles with an unshaken steadfastness. When the water was overflowing her fellow-martyr, some about Margaret Wilson asked her, what she thought of the other now struggling with the pangs of death. She answered, what do I see but Christ (in one of his members) wrestling there. Think you that we are the sufferers? No, it is Christ in us, for he sends none a warfare upon their own charges. When Margaret Wilson was at the stake, she sang the 25th Psalm from verse 7th, downward a good way, and read the 8th chapter to the Romans with a great deal of cheerfulness, and then prayed. While at prayer, the water covered her: but before she was quite dead, they pulled her up, and held her out of the water till she was recovered, and able to speak; and then by major Windram’s orders, she was asked, if she would pray for the king. She answered, ‘She wished the salvation of all men, and the damnation of none.’ One deeply affected with the death of the other and her case, said, ‘Dear Margaret, say God save the king, say God save the king.’ She answered in the greatest steadiness and composure, ‘God save him, if he will, for it is his salvation I desire.’ Whereupon some of her relations near by, desirous to have her life spared, if possible, called out to major Windram, ‘Sir, she hath said it, she hath said it.’ Whereupon the major came near, and offered her the abjuration, charging her instantly to swear it, otherwise return to the water. Most deliberately she refused, and said, ‘ I will not, I am one of Christ’s children, let me go.’ Upon which she was thrust down again into the water, where she finished her course with joy.”

Martyr's Stake
Martyrs stake monument, Wigtown Scotland

The Twa Margaret's
Auld Merrick views o’er Bladnoch burn
That weaves as silk tae Solway’s shore;
Thru fertile lands it twists an’ turns -
It’s flowin’ burden, aft and fore.

Meg Wilson frae Glenvernoch came,
The highest Covenant tae swear;
A virgin blesst in Jesus’ name:
Her will strong, like her flaxen hair.

And Meg McLaughlin’s aged years -
Knew love’s proud veneration;
She faced oppressors without fears,
Refused the Oath of Abjuration!

Come wind doon frae the highest bough;
O come surf frae waves o’ the sea:
Carry them up tae Heaven now;
And in peace, lay their souls tae be.

At Grierson’s hand their fate did fall -
Bound tightly on a lowtide stake:
Both bold an’ true tae their call -
As waves o’er them, did rise an’ break.

Ashes to ashes; dust to dust;
When Truth is Treason Freedom dies;
Immortal wings tae a’ things just:
We remember.... when the wind sighs.

Here westlin’ winds, o’er Wigtown blaw
Here spirits haunt the morning mist;
And when Maytime rains do fa’,
They are seen, where the shore is kisst.
Patrick Scott Hogg 

    I love the line "When truth is treason freedom dies." Freedom is not strong when it stands on it's own; it is tall and beautiful but without deep roots, the blustery storms of tyranny will blow it to the ground, where men, drunk with power, trample it underfoot. How do we protect our freedom? We protect the truth, even as these and other faithful martyrs have.

In case you are interested, The Abjuration Oath ran thus:

 I A,B. doe hereby abhorr, renunce and disoune, in presence of the Almighty God, the pretendit Declaratione of Warr lately affixed at severall paroch churches in so far as it declares a warr against his sacred Majestie and asserts that it is laufull to kill such as serve his Majestie in church, state, army or countrey, or such as act against the authors of the said pretended declarations now shewne to me. And I doe hereby utterly renunce and disoune the villanous authors thereof who did (as they call it) statut and ordaine the same, and what is therein mentioned, and I swear I shall never assist the authors of the said pretended declarations or ther emissaries or adherents in any poynts of punishing, killing and makeing of warr any manner of way as I shall answear to God.

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