'Do you see yonder wicket Gate?' Evangelist pointing Christian in Bunyan's Pilgrims Progress to the way of salvation The Men of the Blue Banner
(The Scottish Covenanters)
by W.J. Seaton 1968

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In this edition of the Wicket Gate I would like to acquaint you with the Covenanters. If you are able to obtain a copy, an excellent introduction to this "noble army of Covenanters" is to be found in the volume "Fair Sunshine"; the author is Jock Purves.

"Fair Sunshine" is a collection of sketches of the Covenanters issued earlier in two separate volumes, but now brought together within one binding. (The Banner of Truth Trust in 1968). The style of writing may take some getting used to, but this will prove to be a labour of love in getting better acquainted with the men and women of the "Killing Times" - that dark, but glorious page in the history book of the Church of Christ in Scotland.

The book may in places disturb some of us in these days of "easy believism", but surely the dear testimony of the people of the Covenants is the all-sufficiency of the grace of God to keep us "!gainst every stormy wind that blows". Almost any of the thirteen sketches in the book bears ample witness to this fact; and whoever Mr Purves is dealing with, whether it be old John Brown, or the youthful Hugh Mackail, we get a thorough-going picture of those of "the line of valorous grace".

The book begins with an account of the "short little man who could not bow" - as the great Oliver Cromwell called the "Zaccheus-like" James Guthrie. How heart-warming it is to read of this soldier of the Cross. Like the Apostle Paul, "short of stature", but like the Apostle Paul, "mighty in deed and in truth". Mr Guthrie, we are told in the book, was once approached by a friend and given what he considered to be a piece of worldly advice regarding his stand for Christ. "We have an old Scot's proverb", this friend told Guthrie - "Jouk (duck) that the wave may gang oure ye!" "There is nae jouking in the cause of Christ", said Guthrie, "there is nae jouking in the cause of Christ".

Like the rest of that noble army of Covenanters to which he belonged, of course, James Guthrie discovered the cost of refusing to "jouk" in this cause of Christ in Scotland; he discovered that those who would not receive the Bishop's mitre would receive his rope, and receive it he did. "Art thou not from ever-lasting, O Lord my God?" With these words of the prophet Habakkuk falling from his lips James Guthrie was put to the rope, and his severed head placed on a spike high above the Netherbow Port in the city of Edinburgh. It was placed there for all to see - even those that had come from Guthrie's own loins. "I've seen my faither's heid", was the cry often upon the lips of a bewildered little boy,

"I've seen my faither's heid.
They have set his head on the Netherbow,
To scorch in the summer air".

In many ways, once we have read the sketch of James Guthrie, we have read the book, for his is the story of all the covenanters; a story of unyielding loyalty to the things of the Lord which resulted in hardship, and suffering, and some of the most cruel deaths ever endured by the Lord's people.

Those who read this book will never lose the awful scenes that we are presented with in the sufferings and death of the gentle David Hackson. But, although the James Guthrie sketch, The Blue Banner or the Covenanters Banner in may ways, tells the story of the "men of the blue banner", still withal, each picture presented is individual and vital to our understanding of the Lord's abounding grace towards His people which enables them to endure in perilous times.

Who could find a greater lesson in leaving this vain world than by reading again and again the gallows' speech of young Mackail? "Now, I leave off to speak any more to creatures, and turn my speech to Thee, O Lord. Now I begin my intercourse with God which shall never be broken off. Farewell, father and mother, friends and relations! Farewel, world and all delights! Fairwell, meat and drink! Farewell, sun, moon and stars! Welcome, God the Father! Welcome, sweet Lord Jesus, Mediator of the new covenant! Welcome, blessed Spirit of Grace, God of all consolation! Welcome, glory! Welcome, eternal life! Welcome, death!"

It is in this sketch that Mr Purves also gives us one of the most concise and yet precise statements of the Covenanters' power to "endure all things". "They were of the school," he tells us, "who know the permitted power of the devil, and in adversity rebel not against God …"

Time nor space don't permit a detailed review of any one of the thirteen sketches in this book, not to mention the book itself. How many vivid scenes are brought before us from the pen of Mr Purves. Who can forget that dungeon incident when the head and hands of young Ritchie Cameron are thrown out of a sack before the sorrowing eyes of this ageing old father. "Do you know whose these are?" he is asked. "I know them", he answers; "I know them. They are my son's, my own dear son's. It is the Lord. God is the Lord, who cannot wrong me nor mine, but has made goodness and mercy to follow us all our days".

What of the sufferings of "the two Margarets" - "the matron and the maid" as the hymn writer would call them. One 70 years of age, the other 20; but as the cold waters of the Solway rise above both their heads they enter the land of eternal day where there is neither age nor suffering.

"What shall I say in this great day of the Lord, wherein in the midst of a cloud, I have found


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This Page Title – The Men of the Blue Banner — The Scottish Covenanters
The Wicket Gate Magazine "A Continuing Witness".
Internet Edition number 50 – placed on line September 2004
Magazine web address – www.wicketgate.co.uk