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James Wood

Mr Wood is spoken of as having been one of the brightest lights of the period in which he lived, and a person most eminent for his piety and learning. Of his early history we have no account. But, at the restoration, he held the office of principal in the old college of St. Andrews, and was minister of that city. Having given offence to the archbishop, with whom he had formerly been intimate, by some bold reflections upon his lately discovered treachery, he was, in July 1663, cited before the council, stripped of his office, on the plea that he had received it from the usurper, and ordered to confine himself to Edinburgh. Shortly after, however, his father’s illness and other affairs requiring his presence at St. Andrews, he obtained leave to go there; and, previous to his return, he took sick, and died there, early in the following year. During his sickness, he was visited by Sharp, who spread the report that he now felt a total indifference with regard to Presbyterian government. It was to contradict this misrepresentation that he emitted his Testimony, as evident from the following very full detail of his last words.

His Last Words

Upon Monday night, being the 29th of February, 1664, which was the first day of his keeping bed all day without rising, his brother in law, Mr John Carstairs came to visit him; to whom, with outstretch arms, embracing him, he said, ‘ long looked for, long looked for.’ And beginning to speak a little of his spiritual condition, he said, ‘ I have been under several shakings, but that word hath stayed me, ‘ Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out; ‘ blessed be the mouth that spoke it, may I not trust to it?’

On Tuesday, the 1st of March, he caused send for some persons concerned, and when they were come, he caused read over his Testament, and, after he had desired his brother in law to pray, he subscribed it. And having been informed of some reports that were going through the country, anent what was spoken by him to Mr Sharp, when he came to visit him, and hearing that some persons whom he respected were in town, he earnestly desired that they might be sent for in the evening. And when they were long in coming, he inquired once and again if they were come saying, ' I am pained till they come.' And though it was the time of the evening that he used to take some refreshment, yet he put it by till he spoke with them, with another occasionally in company with him, he did with much earnestness of mind, and more than ordinary extension of his voice, speak to them to this purpose, taking one of them by the hand, and saying, ' I am glad to see you, an honest man. The bishop might have spared his visit, but since he offered that civility, they could not keep him at the gate. I hear several reports have gone of what passed at that visit, as, that when he was speaking his dissatisfaction with the brethren that did not keep the meeting, that i should have assented, and said, ' if I live, I will testify against them' the false lie that ever was spoken.' And being inquired whether he called church government a nicety, and, if he lived, he would abstract more from such niceties, he answered, ' Fie, fie, never such a thing I did indeed, that the bishop might not think that I was pursuing that controversy against them, say, I had a great business to think upon my salvation and peace with God at the stake; but I did not say, nor think that Presbyterian government was a nicety. I judge it to be a truth of God, an ordinance of Jesus Christ, a part of His visible kingdom. for which every Christian, as called to it, should suffer even unto death; and I would exhort them to it, for it is but little that we have suffered yet, and, if I were to live, I would through the grace and might of the power of God, account it my glory to lay down my life in defence of that truth. There is no man in the world that has more and stronger obligations on him, to stand to the maintenance of that government than I, wherein that Lord has cleared me with a strong hand. I bless the Lord that made me understand the nature of His covenant, and gave me light in the point of justification, and helped me in some measure to hold out light therein to others, and cleared me in the controversy with the independents, and this anent prelacy.' He said, ' he had said before, and said so still, that if ever he should come to be against Presbyterian government, he might fear to meet with God's everlasting wrath, and be made a spectacle to others.' He said further, with much grave confidence, ' God will give an outgate, ( meaning of the prelates) though they will say, it is impossible, and how should it come; he can hiss for the bees, as beyond the river.' He said also, nothing of it being suggested by them to him, ' that he had a mind to leave a testimony behind him.'

On Wednesday, the 2nd of March, when in the forenoon it was told him that a co-presbyter of his was coming up to see him, while he was coming up stairs, he said to his brother-in-law, 'That is a precious man, with little din.' And when he came near him, he spoke a few words to him, and desiring him to pray. And when he was about to take his leave of him, he said (nothing to that purpose having been hinted at by the person nor any other) 'I take you witness before the Lord, that I did not, directly nor indirectly, speak anything to the prejudice of Presbyterian government; but to the contrary, I judge it to be a truth of God, and a part of the kingdom of Jesus Christ, for which every Christian, if he be called to it, should suffer. The Lord bless you, and make you a blessing to his church, and you are a blessing.' He did that morning, none moving any such thing to him, expressly desire the person that had written to him all the time of his sickness, who was going a little out of town, to execute somewhat relating to the security of his children's provision, that he would come in to him about twelve or one o'clock, for he had somewhat to write that would take time. And when he had asked if he would do it now? 'No,' said he,  'for I must think of it.' And when he came in, he did after dinner fall very weak, yet with wonderful calmness, presence, and composure of mind, caused him to write the following testimony to Presbyterian government, whereof he had spoken the night before, to divers ministers, and for which he had desired the young man that wrote to him to haste him in again, so much was the thing in his heart, and so deliberate was he in it.

Mr William Tullidaff, one of the subscribing witnesses to this testimony, came in after the writing of it, most occasionally, knowing nothing at all of such a business; whom, after the testimony was subscribed by himself and the witnesses, after the distinct reading of it over, he commended as a very faithful friend, 'and whom.' he said, moreover, 'they say he is led by me, and that it is by my influence upon him that he doth not conform: but I say it before you, brother, (directing his speech to his brother-in-law) that it was not through my influence, but the strength of reason in himself, that he hath not done it.' He continued in a most sweet and divine frame of spirit all that night; so that when at the other end of the room, was at supper. blessing the table, and speaking somewhat of a frame fit for heaven, he cried out, 'O to be there, O to be there!' And in midst of the night spoke most refreshingly thus: 'I would fain, I would fain be taken up with the love of Jesus Christ, and be exercised in commending of it, which I hope shall be my exercise to all eternity: I think I will now lay by my doubting, and stay myself on him. Many, many challenges, but now the feud is taken away, the feud is taken away; he hath said, 'because I live, ye shall live also.' When, after sitting up a while, he laid his head down upon his pillow, he said, with great weight and seriousness, ' Many say, who will show us any good? But, Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us, for thou hast caused more joy and gladness to my heart than they have, when their corn and wine abound; I will lay me down and sleep, for thou only makest me to be in safety; I would not for a thousand worlds, for a thousand worlds, change my present condition with their bishoprics.' And when it was said to him, ' It is another sort of sweetness and satisfaction that ariseth from the hope of seeing God's face, than these things can afford,' he said, ' Nay, even from present approbation of myself in the course wherein I have suffered.' A little after, he said, ' I hope my anchor is cast in good ground, it will not drive, but draw me home to the harbour.' He did twice that same night pray sweetly himself, being much therein taken up with the Mediator's sympathy with his afflicted members. Now, are all these so gracious sayings and deliberate doings, the sayings and doings of a man that knew not what he said or did? What man of conscience ingenuity, or reason will say it?

On Friday, he called for his brother-in-law, and said, 'Brother, O for one hour's converse with Him, for one hour's converse with Him.' On Saturday, in the evening, after he had been  much tossed with sickness all the day, his brother-in-law told him that Dr Yeoman, whom he had caused send for, was come. and asked what he was doing? He answered, ' I am long, longing for a sight of that blessed face: O blessed be he that laid down his life at Jerusalem for poor sinners! O the love. O the love, O the love of Jesus! I bless him, that ever was pleased to reveal himself to me: O what would have become of me if he had not done it?' When it was said to him that it would have been sad lying in that posture, if Christ had not died, and that death would have had a most dreadful aspect, he said pleasantly, 'O death, where is thy sting?' Then a little after, when somewhat was spoken of sin, he said, 'O to be freed from indwelling corruption, from a body of sin and death.'

On the Lord's day, being the 6th of March, he was sorely oppressed with sickness and great weakness, yet he said,' He knew it was the Sabbath.' Then he said, ' Poor thing, poor thing, under a clog!' He would fain have spoken somewhat further; and when it was asked what he would say? he replied, 'What shall I say, what shall I say, but Jesus, but Jesus; I am heavy and dead, but he must pardon, and I hope he will pardon.' Then he desired that the family would withdraw for seeking God together. Toward the evening, he said, 'O friendship with Jesus Christ! O friendship, friendship, with Jesus Christ!' When he was inquired whether the Lord had left any doubts with him about his friendship, he, after a while's silence, very soberly said, ' I dare not doubt, I dare not doubt; nut I fear a new storm.' Then, a little after, he said, 'Dearest Lord, dearest Lord, sweet Saviour, save me from all that I would be saved from; he will save me from all that fear: I was beginning to fear, but he will disappoint my fears.' Then he did, gripping his brother-in-law fast by the arm, cry with great earnestness, 'O to apprehend Jesus Christ - brother, brother.' Then he said, sweetly, ' Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.' When it was said to him, ' It is but a little , and it will be sung; 'bless him who hath pardoned all thine iniquity, and hath healed all thy diseases, which he is now healing;' he said, ' that will sing sweetly, that will sing sweetly.' Speaking of a certain person, he said, ' I have said , and say so still, that God will honour him, as he hath honoured Him; God will bless him and his family; I am persuaded God will bless his family, I am persuaded of it.' A little after, he said, 'Dear Lord Jesus! -  the matter of a song, not of straitened words, but of enlarged praise to all eternity.'

On Monday morning, being the 7th of March, his brother-in-law did inquire how he had been all that night? He said, 'Not well, but I bless the Lord I had some comfort. I would fain have sung a psalm with you if you had been here, I would have sung a part of it myself:' and being inquired what psalm? he said, 'the 103rd,' which he had caused his son William to read to him a little before. Toward the evening, when upon an apparent change, his relations were weeping about him, he said, 'Would you have me coming again when so near the shore, when so near the shore, when so near home?' In the night when he was so full of tossing, even till the morning, he spoke some sweet words in his agony: 'I am weak in my thoughts, but God will pardon; he hides all mine iniquities.' When it was asked him if there were any challenges now haunting him, he answered, ' I have many, many and grievous challenges; but Jesus Christ answers them all; through him, matters are fully taken up between God and me. Blessed be God, blessed be God that ever was pleased to send his Son to die for sinners; what would have become of us if he had not died.' When he was inquired, whether the thoughts of being a while under sharp affliction were terrible to him. he said, 'Not : death is not terrible to me, but sweet to me; I will assure you, death is not terrible to me, for things are taken up between God and me.' When God's pardoning mercy in Jesus Christ was spoken of, he said,' I would fain sing it, but challenges detain me from it a while; yet all matters are taken up between him and me.'

On Tuesday, having been silent almost all the day, when he was inquired why he spake not? he said, 'I cannot I am very weak, but I hope I am strong in the Lord Jesus.'

On Wednesday morning, the 9th of March, being exceedingly weak, he was enquired if his mind was quiet? to which he answered, 'Somewhat quiet, but I cannot speak; fain would I be enlarged, to speak to the praise and commendation of the Redeemer.' And being asked, whether there were any challenges moving now about him? he said, 'None, but such as are answered by Jesus Christ.' And when one sitting by, spoke of the answer of a good conscience, he cried, 'No matter to challenges but through the blood of Jesus Christ.' And when it was said to him, that before long he would be associated with the spirits of just men made perfect, and sing his part of their hallelujahs before the throne, he lifted up his eyes and hands with much gravity and seriousness, a considerable space. A little after, having spoken a few words about common business, when he was desired not to trouble himself now about these things, he said, composedly. ' Let then all business be laid aside : welcome, welcome, Lord Jesus; come, come, come sweet Saviour; make haste, make haste, Lord; hasten thy pace, and come on the mountains.' On this occasion the woman that waited on him, and had waited on his first wife when she was dying, said that she did chant and sing sweetly a whole night, and that in the next morning she lifted up her eyes steadfastly, and said,' I see him as it were putting his head through the clouds, and coming upon the mountains.' And when the woman was asked how long that was before her death? Mr Wood overhearing, said, 'it was the same day she died: and,' said he,' I thought I then saw heaven.' About eleven o'clock, the defluxion coming down mightily on him, it was said by one standing by, there is a torrent of it, whereupon he took occasion to cry out: 'A torrent of the love of God, a torrent of the righteousness of Christ; I cannot enough wonder at the love of God, and at the love of Jesus Christ in his purchase; what would have become of me, if he had not died?' he added, 'Lord, pardon all mine iniquity; Lord Jesus, intercede for me, and interpose between me and the justice of God.' When it was said to him,' your dissolution seems to be at hand; put yourself in a posture to wait for the coming of the Lord; let your soul be on wing to meet him.' 'To meet him,' said he, ' to meet him, blythe at my heart at my heart; he will give me wings, he has promised it.' In the night he was sorely oppressed, and much tossed about with fever. Yet, when some death like passions did overtake him he was gathered and sweetly composed, and said to his weeping relations, ' Hold me no longer, I am going; I desire to take leave of you.' Then he spoke a few weighty words in reference to his own case: 'There are many faults, but he will pardon them all: Death makes a fast bargain between God and the soul, I mean of the believer. the bargain is agreed, death is not terrible, but sweet to me; Jesus Christ has taken away the sting of it. Good news, good news, I am coming to heaven.' When it was said to him, 'God makes your passage easy,' he replied, with a wonderful presence of mind, ' He hath made it easy, by a word that he spoke to me even now; it is 'He hath made him to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God through him.' When he was inquired if all fears and doubts were now blown away, he said, 'I am scarce able to speak;' yet, with lifted up eyes and hands, he said, ' they are blown away, only, only through the righteousness of Jesus.' After which time he had but little speech; only on Friday he was overheard cry, 'Lord, loose a poor prisoner!'

On the Lord's day, March 13th, about two or three in the morning, when he was inquired, if under this sore and long conflict he did win quietly to believe that the love of God was the same to him, he said, sweetly,' Yes, blessed be God, blessed be God; I find no change in him, he is constant, and just the same he was.' After which he spoke few sentences, or none at all. He fell asleep in the Lord, on Tuesday the 15th March, about ten o'clock in the morning.

His Testimony

' I James Wood, being very shortly , by appearance , to render up my spirit to the Lord, find myself obliged to leave a word behind me, for my vindication before the world. It has been said of me, that I have, in word at least, departed from my wonted zeal for the Presbyterian government, expressing myself, concerning it, as if it were a matter not to be accounted of, and that no man should trouble himself therefore, in matter of practice. Surely any Christian that knows me in this Kirk will judge that this is a wrong done to me. It is true, that I being under sickness, have said sometimes, in conference about my soul's state, that I was taken up about greater business than anything of that kind; and what wonder I said so, being under such wrestling anent my interest in Jesus Christ, which is a matter of far greater concern than any external ordinance? But for my estimation of Presbyterian government, the Lord knows, that since the day he convinced my heart, which was by a strong hand, that it is the ordinance of God, appointed by Jesus Christ, for governing and ordering his visible church, I never had the least change of thought concerning the necessity of it, nor of the necessity of the use of it. And I declare, before God and the world, that a true Christian is obliged to lay down his life for the profession thereof, if the Lord shall see meet to put him to trial; and for myself, if I were to live, I would account it my glory to seal this word of my testimony with my blood. Of this declaration I take God, angels, and men, to be my witnesses; and have subscribed these present at St Andrews, on the 2nd of March, 1664.