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The Anecdotage of Glasgow
The Burning of Two Glasgow Martyrs - 1538


ABOUT the year 1538, persecution raged in Scotland, and many faithful ones were consigned to the flames. So much was this the case, that emulation began to operate among those who sought to destroy the righteous. Cities vied with cities as to which was to have the most honour, as some thought, in burning heretics. Were Edinburgh and St. Andrews to have all the glory? the Archbishop of Glasgow seems to have enquired. and answering No, to have sought victims to render his city illustrious. He found two—Jerome Russell, a Cordelier friar, and Alexander Kennedy, who, it seems, though only 18 years of age, had, by his poetical effusions, distinguished himself as a child of genius.

They were brought to trial in Glasgow, before the bishop and his court, aided by some agents from Edinburgh more skilful than themselves, perhaps, in ensnaring, or more insensible than they to pity. Kennedy (and his youth must be his excuse) was faint-hearted; he would, it is said, have recanted the opinions which he had avowed, but his death was determined on, and for him there was no repentance. When he found there was no escape, his vigour of mind returned, the Spirit of God again gave happiness, enabling him to exclaim:

"O eternal God, how wondrous is that love and mercy Thou bearest to mankind, and unto me, the most miserable above all others; for even now, when I would have denied Thee and Thy Son, Thou hast pulled me from the very bottom of hell, and makest me to feel that heavenly comfort which takes from that ungodly fear wherewith before I was oppressed. Now I defy death; do what you please; I praise God, I am ready."

Russell was superior to fear—he never quailed—but in words which should have been powerful over the minds of his murderers he said:

This is your hour and power of darkness; now sit ye as judges, and we stand wrongfully accused, and more wrongfully to be condemned; but the day shall come when our innocency shall appear, and that ye shall see your own blindness to your everlasting confusion. Go forward and fulfil the measure of your iniquity !"

When they were being led to the place of execution, Russell, moved by the fragile frame and former weakness of his fellow-sufferer, conifbrted him thus:

"Brother, fear not; more potent is He that is in us, than he that is in the world; the pain that we shall suffer is short, and shall be light; but our joy and consolation shall never have an end; and, therefore, let us contend to enter unto our Master and Saviour by the same straight way which He has trod before us; death cannot destroy us, for it is already destroyed by Him for whose sake we suffer."

The flames raged around them, but they fainted not. The voice of praise only burst from their lips. They died; but others were stimulated to maintain and extend their doctrines.


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