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THE CO V E N A NTING P R E A C H E R S.
III. JAMES RENWICK.
BY REV. J. H. THOMSON, HIGHTAE, LOCKERBIE.
HE death of Richard Cameron, This meeting was held December 16, 1681,
and then of Donald Cargill, in Logan House, a lonely farm-house in the was a severe blow to the pious moors, about seven miles to the south of people who for years had Strathaven, in Lanarkshire. It was the first braved so many dangers to of a series of what were called general meethave the satisfaction of hearing ings, that were held at different places at short the truth from their lips, but intervals of from three weeks to three or four it did not paralyse them. The months, down at least to the Revolution. The
Scottish Parliament began its correspondency' was made up of local meetsittings July 28, 1681, the very day after ings held all over the country. The meetings Cargill suffered martyrdom. It passed several held near each other had representatives Acts of the most offensive character. “The from each other every fortnight, or at furthest kings of this realm’were said to derive their once a month. These local meetings elected ‘royal power from God Almighty alone.' It representatives to the general meeting. The was asserted that no difference in religion, conclusions of the general meetings sent down nor no law nor Act of Parliament made, or to to the local meetings or societies formed the be made, can alter or divert the right of suc- ' general correspondence' that ran circular cession' to the crown. To do anything by through the whole.' Michael Shields, the clerk writing, speaking, or any other manner of of the general meetings,' drew up a record of way,' to prevent the Duke of York from their proceedings, which John Howie pubascending the throne, although he was a pro- lished, with his usual alterations, in an octavo fessed Roman Catholic, was declared to be volume in 1780, under the name of 'Faithful high treason. The cess voted by the Conven- Contendings Displayed.' The original manution of 1678, for the putting down of the field- script is still in existence among the papers meetings, was continued for five years. If a of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, now tenant or servant attended a field-meeting, united with the Free Church. The germ of the proprietor or master must pay the fine these meetings lay in the meetings for prayer incurred. The fines already in existence were and religious conference that for some years doubled. A test of the most contradictory previous had begun to be common in Scotland. and ensnaring character was ordered to be With one of these prayer-meetings Renwick exacted from everybody in any office in was connected so early as some time before Church or State throughout the realm. 1678, but he withdrew from it because of the
These Acts roused the bereaved followers of contentions on behalf of the cess that were Cameron and Cargil to action. Lest they might expressed by its members. Hence he became be 'looked upon as consenters to, or at least deeply interested in the steps taken to insticonnivers at, such wickedness,' they resolved tute'a correspondency' among the meetings to issue 'some public testimony someway cor- for prayer and consultation on the part of responding to the notoriety of the sin.' To do those who groaned under the tyranny of the this effectively, they endeavoured to acquaint times. He was present at the first meeting, all in every place of the nation' whom they and took part in the publication at Lanark, knew approved of the testimony against January 12, 1682, of the Declaration emitted tyranny and defection, published by Cameron by it. At the fifth general meeting held at and Cargill, of their purpose to hold a meeting Edinburgh, October 11, 1682, he was one of for mutual consultation, and for settling a the young men chosen to go abroad to follow correspondency thereafter amongst them.' their studies, with a view to their being
ordained to the Christian ministry. His pre- ministrations, and tended to confirm the civil vious history more than justified their choice. power in its efforts to take away spiritual
James Renwick was born in the parish of liberty from the Christian people. And at Glencairn, in Dumfriesshire, February 15, the same time he became persuaded that the 1662. His father, Andrew Renwick, was a king had broken all the pledges he had made
He was 'a fervent and faithful when he ascended the throne. The last words Christian.' He died when James was in his of Cargill, at whose execution, July 27, 1681, fourteenth year. His mother, Elizabeth Cor- he was present, strengthened him in this person, was a woman of similar piety to her suasion. And when, in the October following, husband. Like Hannah of old, she dedicated he met with some praying people to consider her son to the Lord, and it soon appeared that how best to collect and preserve the Testithe Lord had accepted the gift. Alexander monies of the Martyrs that had lately suffered Shields admiringly records that when he was death, he cheered their hearts by his frankly but two years of age he was discerned to be telling them he approved of the truths preaiming at prayer! This early blossoming soon sented in these testimonies, and that it would ripened into fruit. “He began by times to be a pleasure to him to be engaged with a fall in love with the ways of God, and to remnant who would follow out and seek to delight much in secret prayer and reading the perpetuate them to the succeeding generation. Word.' The circumstances of his parents In December 1682, three months after the made it no easy matter for them to give him general meeting had agreed to send him, a learned education; ‘yet they consulted his Renwick sailed for Holland. The general inclination,' Shields quaintly says, which meeting voted him twenty-five pound Scots was constant for his book, and with great to defray the expenses of the voyage, and a difficulties kept him at it until Providence did further sum for clothes and other necessaries' very propitiously furnish him with means of was afterwards raised. greater proficiency at Edinburgh, where many He arrived at Groningen in January, and were so enamoured with his hopeful disposi- prosecuted his studies under Professor John tion that they very earnestly promoted his Marck, the author of many theological works, education; and when he was ready for the but perhaps best known in this country by university, were careful to encourage him in his 'Christianae Theologiae Medulla,' a small attending on gentlemen's sons for the improve compendium of theology that was a favourite ment of their studies and his own both.' book with Dr Chalmers. While at Groningen These latter words doubtless mean that, like Renwick kept up a correspondence with his many a Scotch student that has risen to emi friends in Scotland, as well as with Sir Robert nence, Renwick, during his university career, Hamilton, then in Holland. Much of this did much to support himself by teaching others correspondence is contained in ' A Collection whose worldly circumstances were better than of Letters,' with a short preface by M‘Millan his own. The temptations incident to a city of Pentland, afterward of Sandhills, Glasgow, university life had little or no evil effect upon published in 1764. Unfortunately this collechim. His faith and hope increased with his tion has been very carelessly edited. Several years; and when his studies, previous to a of the letters are misplaced. The printer has degree, came to a close, he found he could not read the word ‘June'as if it were ‘ Jan.,' and take the oath of allegiance as it was then May' as if it were ‘March,' and the postframed. It owned the king to be supreme in scripts have been generally left out. But with all causes, an acknowledgment that no one these drawbacks, that might be easily rewho regarded Christ to be supreme Head of moved in a new issue, this correspondence His Church could honestly make. His name says a great deal for the piety, and kindliness, accordingly was not presented when the and Christian patriotism of the writer. It degrees were publicly bestowed. But he after- very plainly shows why Renwick was a man wards, with two others, obtained bis degree so much beloved by all who knew him. privately. After he had taken his degree he His friends in Scotland, that were altogether continued at Edinburgh, and prosecuted his without a Christian ministry, wearied greatly studies. For a short time he attended the for his return. He, too, was not less desirous meetings held by the Indulgence ministers, to enter on his work. But there were formidmany of whom were living in or near Edin-able difficulties in the way. Holland has burgh. Renwick soon saw that their sub- always been a fertile soil for theological dismitting to the Indulgence and living in Edin-cussions, and at that time there was a keen burgh really deprived their flocks of their controversy about the views of John Koch,
better known in this country by the Latin reports respecting him they spread abroad. form of his name-Cocceius. Koch died in Exile is not favourable to a charitable frame 1669, but the controversy continued after his of mind. Men who have fled from their native death. Evangelical theologians are now gene- land in seasons of trouble do not sufficiently rally agreed as to the great service Koch did remember that those left behind cannot always to theology by calling it out of the scholastic be thinking of them, and, from the very forms into which it was settling through the necessities of their position, inust often take influence of Melanchthon, and giving it a more steps in vindication of themselves, or in selfBiblical direction.* But Koch was not always defence, without apprising them beforehand. very guarded in his statements, and Professor In the loneliness and solitude of foreign soJohn Marck took a prominent place among journ they are apt to fancy that in such steps those who disputed or denied the orthodoxy they have been entirely forgotten. This fancy of some parts of his teaching. Renwick sym- soon begets worse feelings, and ere long they pathised with the views of his professor. His who once were friends become enemies,disposed friend and adviser, Sir Robert Hamilton, was to suspect that an evil intent lurks in every of the same mind with himself. Hence, when proposal made by the other. It is only thus we ordination came to be spoken of, Renwick was can explain how it was that Renwick and the exceedingly desirous to be ordained by men Societies in Scotland were often so misinterof the same opinions as Professor Marck. preted by their exiled countrymen in Holland. MMillan's 'Collection of Letters' contains a Now that he was ordained to the Christian long letter by Sir Robert Hamilton to 'Some ministry, Renwick was eager to return to Friends in Scotland,' giving a minute account Scotland. He went to Rotterdam, where he of the difficulties that had to be overcome ere met with much discouragement from the ordination could be secured. At last it took exiled ministers, but it did not turn him from place at Groningen, May 10, 1683, by the his purpose. He found a ship ready to sail Classis or Presbytery of that town. The ex- for Scotland, and he got on board at the amination must have been thorough, for it Brielle, then much resorted to by Scotch lasted for four hours, but the Classis was fully merchants. But a contrary wind kept the satisfied. Alexander Shields, in his Life of ship in the Maas for several days. MeanRenwick, has preserved copies of the certifi- while the profanity of some of the passengers, cates, or, as he calls them, the testimonies and their efforts to get him to drink the given? by Professor Marck and the Classis. king's health, and their threatening to inform Their language departs a good deal from the upon him if he continued to refuse, led him usual style of such documents, and shows how to go ashore and seek for another vessel. He cordially both Professor Marck and the Classis found one bound for Ireland. He seems to acted in the matter, and how deep an interest have set sail in the close of June or the they took in the suffering Church of Scotland. beginning of July 1683. He had a stormy
The day after his ordination Renwick pain- passage, and on the way the ship was comfully experienced the quarrelsome disposition pelled to put in at Rye, in Sussex, where the that so often appears among Scotch Presby- captain proved himself very unfriendly. Renterians at that period. A letter came from wick has given an account of his voyage in two the Scotch ministers at Rotterdam, containing letters (xxii. and xxiii.) in M'Millan's Colserious charges against the Societies that had lection. We transfer from Renwick's own sent over Renwick. It was intended to pre- autograph the twenty-second of these letters, vent the ordination. It came too late for especially as it appears in a much mutilated success in its primary object, but it led to form in M‘Millan's pages.
The passages searching inquiry, and the result was that within brackets are now printed for the first Renwick's Dutch friends became more his time. Renwick signs himself • Robert Bruce,' friends than ever.
But the Scotch ministers the signature he assumed when his letter might at Rotterdam were often afterwards a source cause danger either to himself or his correof trouble and grief to him by the unfounded spondent. The letter is address to Sir Robert
Hamilton. The dangers referred to are those See an article by Dr A. Ebrard upon Cocceius that arose out of the Rye House Plot, which and his school, in the third volume of the new edition had been recently detected. of the 'Real Encyclopädie,' by Herzog, Plitt, and Hauck. Dr Ebrard's paper is somewhat coloured
DUBLIN, August 24, 1683. by his dislike of the Synod of Dordt, but it contains
(Right) HONOURABLE SIR, much interesting matter about Koch and his fol
I am assured that you will think it strange lowers, although he does injustice to Witsius. that ere this time I should not have written