Cloud of Witnesses

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Alexander Robertson

It has been supposed that there were two individuals of this name connected with the Pentland insurrection. And certainly there is some difficulty, without this supposition, to reconcile the statements that have been made with respect to a person or persons so desig­nated.

The following particulars seem undoubtedly to refer to the author of the following testimony. He was a preacher of the gos­pel, and the son of a minister. He had joined the insurgents so early as their arrival in Dumfries, where it appears he was present at the seizing of Sir James Tarner. From thence he accompanied them to Ayr, and then to Lanark, where he took the covenant with the rest of the party.

He then proceeded with them to Collington and Pentland, where he was seen fighting with a sword and pistols. He was basely betrayed by the laird of Morton, his friend, to whom lie surrendered upon promise of his life.

He was one of five who, on the 10th of December following, were put upon trial, and con­demned to he hanged. One of the five obtained a respite. Mr. Robertson and the other four were executed on Friday, the 14th of that month.

“Fearing that after the example of others, I should not be permitted to speak openly to the people, I thought fit (beside my adherence to what my brethren, who have gone before me, left behind them concerning our common cause) to leave a word in writ for satisfaction of them who survive me.

“That, for preservation and defence of the true religion of this church, and for the relief of my poor brethren afflicted and persecuted therefore, I joined with others in arms, and that I renewed the cove­nant, that all men might the better know my cause and principles, I am so far from denying or being ashamed of, that I both acknowledge and avow it as my duty; but let no man, that will not condemn him­self upon the same common obligations to do what I did, account me a rebel therefore, because with the same breath that I did swear, and with that same hand that I did subscribe to preserve and defend religion, I did also swear to defend the king and his authority.

“Our church was not more glorious in herself, and terrible to her adversaries, while we enjoyed pure ordinances of word and sacraments, and her beautiful assemblies for government and discipline, of the Lord’s own institution, than she became of late deformed by the usur­pation and tyranny of prelacy; and I solemnly declare as a dying man, who dare not dissemble, that as I thought and still avow, that the erecting of this abjured prelacy is the cause of much of the sin in the land, and of all the sufferings of the Lord’s people therein; so I had no worse design, than the restoring of the work of reformation accord­ing to the covenant, and more particularly the extirpation of prelacy, to which his majesty, and all the subjects are as much obliged as I.

And let that be removed and the work of reformation restored, and I dare die in saying, that his majesty shall not have in all his dominions more loving, loyal, peaceable, and faithful subjects, than these who for their non-compliance are loaded with the reproaches of fanaticism and rebellion.

“The sufferings and insupportable oppression of these, that could not, because of the command and oath of God, acknowledge and com­ply with prelacy, may seem light to some, in whom the spirit of the old enmity, that is betwixt the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent remaineth, and to others (perhaps their friends) who look thereupon at a distance; but as there is just reason to think, that if these rigid oppressions had been made known to his majesty, his justice and clemency would have provided a remedy, and as the half thereof would have made the prelates, their patrons and adherents im­patiently mad, for as loyal as they pretend to be; 50 in the like cases of irresistible necessity, when there is little open door for representing of grievances and desires, and less hope of relief thereby, I suppose it will not be found condemned by the confessions of reformed churches, or doctrine of sound divines, but that it is authorized by the light and law of nature, by uncondemned examples in the holy scripture, and by the practice of all Christian states, - by arms to preserve and defend men’s lives, their religion, liberties, and fortunes; and especially, where they are not seeking to acquire a new religion or new liberties, but only to preserve their old, or recover them, when they are vio­lently and unjustly spoiled of the same, as in our case; otherwise we should sin against the generation of the just, and condemn as rebellious the most of the thorough reformations of the reformed churches abroad, and of our own at home.

“If this course was lawful, and if it was our duty to join therein, as I believe and lay down my life in the persuasion - that it was; and if all the kingdom was (as they are) bound by covenant to assist and defend one another in the common cause of religion and liberty, what­ever may be said of these that came not forth to help the Lord against the mighty, - it cannot but be their dreadful sin, who joined themselves in arms, or took oaths to oppose, suppress, and break it, seeing they have sided themselves against the Lord and his work, and their car­riage is a much higher degree of accession to the blood that was shed, than Paul’s keeping of the clothes of them that stoned Stephen to death; and I wish that they may lay the matter to heart, and repent of it, that God may forgive them, as I forgive all men, and particu­larly Morton, who did apprehend me.

“I know that there is a holy seed in the land, who shall be the substance thereof, and I pray that the Lord may make them more zealous and valiant for the truth upon earth; I know also, that there are many whose bowels of compassion have been drawn forth toward these who took their lives in their hands, by prayers to God for them, and charity to them, and especially in Edinburgh toward the poor prisoners (of whom I may not only say, that what they have done, deserves to be told for a memorial wherever the gospel is preached, but am assuredly confident, that besides the blessings of the poor and persecuted, the Lord is not unrighteous to forget their work and labour of love, which they have showed towards His name, and that they have ministered to the saints and do minister) and yet I must needs regret, that so many in this city once famous and honoured for harmonious owning of the cause and covenant of God, and blessed above many other cities with solemn assemblies for worship and government, should have been ensnared into an oath so contra­dictory to the oath of the covenant; and which was devised, contrived, and imposed in lieu of the declaration against the same, and for a grave-stone to suppress the revival of the work of God within this land.

“The apostasy of this land is very great by perjury and breach of covenant, and so much the worse and more aggravated, that it is au­thorized, and very universal.

And as I cannot but regret that so many are ensnared therein, so I must needs warn all to abhor and be­ware of all declarations and oaths contradictory to the covenant, and renunciatory thereof, as they would not involve themselves in the guilt and plagues denounced against, and ordinarily inflicted upon per­jury and breach of covenant; and so much the rather, because this is like to be the Shibboleth and trial of the times.

“As for myself, I have seen and do find so much worth in truth, which is to be bought at any rate, but sold at none; and so much transcendant excellency and amiableness in Christ, that not only with cheerfulness and confidence I lay down my life for Him and His truth, committing my soul to Him, to be kept in hope of a joyful resurrec­tion of the body; but also bless Him that gave me a life to lose, and a body to lay down for Him; and although the market and price of truth may appear to many very high, yet I reckon it low, and all that I have or can do little, too little, for Him ‘who gave Himself for me.’ and to me: ‘for I account all things but loss and dung for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord, for whom I now suf­fer the loss of all things, that I may win Him, and be found in Him, and that I may not only know the fellowship of His sufferings, but the power of His resurrection, and attain unto the resurrection of the dead.’

“And as for you, my dear friends, as I pray for you, that ‘the God of all grace, who has called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after ye have suffered a while,’ may ‘make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, and settle you;’ so I recommend to you the same truth, that ‘ye be not soon shaken in mind, but that ye hold fast the profession of your faith without wavering: and ‘as you have received the Lord, so walk in him; warning and obtesting you, by all manner of obliga­tions, and by the hope and joy of that crown which I wait for, that ye keep yourselves unspotted with the abominable courses and practices of these times, whereunto ye may be tempted by the extremity of suffering, and particularly, that ye beware of unlawful oaths and de­clarations against the cause and covenant of God, that ye have no compliance with, nor give consent unto this prelacy, which ye have abjured; and that you be afraid and aware of popery, which by con­nivance doth so visibly abound and daily increase; but by fighting in the good fight, and keeping of the faith, you may finish your course, as I do, in the assurance of the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, hath laid up, and shall give unto me, and not to me only, but to all them that love His appearance.