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Scotland's Influence on Civilization
Her Great Historic Names


NOT a little of the heroic and romantic mingles in the Iong story of Scotland's struggle for civil and religious liberty, giving rise to an illustrious roll known as the "Scottish chiefs" and the "Scottish worthies." Who are best entitled to stand as the representative heroes of that history? Unquestionably, the three greatest names are those of William Wallace, Robert Bruce and John Knox—Bruce, the noblest of her warrior-kings; Wallace, the most renowned of her people and gentry; and Knox, the grandest champion of her Reformed Church.

There are two notable epochs in the Scottish history, each having all the elements of a magnificent picture. One of these belongs to the sixteenth century, with Knox and Queen Mary in the foreground; the other carries us back to the days of Bruce and Wallace and the great house of Douglas, at the close of the thirteenth and the opening of the fourteenth century. A stern and lofty grandeur gathers around the brow of Knox. It is not surprising that Carlyle in his Hero-Worship sets up the great Reformer as a veritable king of men, the highest type and embodiment of a nation, a man created for the times, the foster-child of divine Providence, "one of the few immortal names that were not born to die."

"John Knox," says Carlyle, "is the one Scotsman to whom, of all others, his country and the world owe a debt." "The life of Knox," says one of our own countrymen, Prof. Samuel J. Nilson, "was one of the grandest ever lived on this footstool of God. He has been dead these three hundred years. During all this time history has been busy with his life and character. These have been fiercely assailed and eloquently defended. For three centuries his work has been speaking for him with ever-increasing volume of meaning and eloquence. He needs no other monument. He needs no other apology." John Knox at St. Andreas, or in his pulpit of St. Giles at Edinburgh, or summoned into the presence of Mary Stuart at Holyrood Palace, is a figure as grand as Martin Luther before the Diet of Worms. When standing before the imperious young queen for the fifth time, alike unawed by her threats and unmoved by her tears, and confronted with angry, indignant questions, "Who are you in this commonwealth, and what have you to do with my marriage?" what could exceed the calm dignity and heroism of the Reformer's reply? "I am a subject born within the same, madam; and, albeit I am neither earl, lord nor baron within it, yet has God made me, how abject soever I am in your eyes, a profitable member within the same. Yea, madam, to me it appertains no less to forewarn of such things as may hurt it, if I foresee them, than it doth to any of the nobility."

It was not in vain that during the dark period of ten years' civil strife the voice of Knox had been heard ringing like a clarion in St. Giles's pulpit at Edinburgh, and that his words had been echoed in all the pulpits of the land. "His was the voice," says Professor Wilson, "that taught the peasant of the Lothians that he was a freeman, the equal in the sight of God with the proudest peer or prelate that had trampled on his forefathers. During the trying vicissitudes of civil war, Knox was the one pillar of strength upon which Scotland Ieaned with her whole weight. Wise in counsel, utterly fearless in action, mighty in the resistless torrents of his eloquence, the nation turned to him instinctively as its God-given leader. With a price upon his head, with hired assassins waylaying his path, ever at the post of duty and of danger, careless of his own life, thinking only of his dear Scotland in the darkest extremities of perilous times, waking the expiring courage of heroes with the trumpet-peals of his eloquence,—he fought the good fight bravely through until peace was proclaimed, popery was abolished by act of Parliament, and a Confession prepared principally by himself was adopted. There never was a nobler fight, or one that was more signal in its achievements."

The names of Sir William Wallace and King Robert Bruce, from the earlier period of Scottish history in the close of the thirteenth and opening of the fourteenth century, have been the loved themes of the poet, the historian, the orator and the statesman through all the succeeding ages. They have been the laurel-crowned heroes not only of their own country, but in all lands where the love of freedom has burned brightly in the hearts of the people. They have been the synonyms for natural independence, manly courage, heroic daring and perseverance unto death. They are the very watchwords of liberty for every oppressed race and nation, in every battle of the weak against the strong, of the right against the wrong. Though one of them, Wallace, after win-icing one great battle, was crushed by treachery and superior numbers in a second, and at last shamefully executed as a traitor, his name has yet come down through history as one of the honored and immortal names that can never perish. Bruce a few years later took up the same battle of his country, and after almost unparalleled disasters and the most heroic energy was at last crowned with victory in the memorable battle of Bannockburn. He lived to show by one great example how freedom's cause may at last be won. If little Scotland had done no more than produce her Wallace and her Bruce, she Would thereby have gained the lasting gratitude and admiration of the world, and sent down an influence and a prestige to be felt as long as independence and liberty are appreciated among men.

In this connection must be briefly mentioned two other illustrious names on the roll of Scotland's canonized heroes. They stand as the pioneers and the representatives of her noble army of Christian champions in the cause of truth. These are Patrick Hamilton and George Wishart, the precursors of the great Reformation—the first a young man of twenty-three with the blood of earls and dukes in his veins and a brilliant future opening before him; the other, the learned and eloquent evangelist whose voice rang like a trumpet over Scotland, and whose powerful preaching, whether in churches or in the open air, drew crowds of admiring people to hear him. By order of the papal hierarchy each was arrested, condemned and burned at the stake before the doors of the University of St. Andrews, which in better times they might have adorned by their learning and their eloquence. The worthy predecessors of Knox, and endued with his heroic spirit, they bravely met the issue, and nobly died for the rights of conscience and the word of God. From their ashes was kindled the flame of reformation that soon spread over all Scotland and prepared the way for the work of Knox. In them, truly, the blood of the martyrs became the seed of the Church. Cardinal Beaton sought to cover their names with infamy and to extinguish their influence for ever. All generations have delighted to do them honor. The influence of their example has gone out over all the earth. It has become an inspiration of zeal and courage to the champions of truth and liberty in every civilized land. It is one of Scotland's precious contributions to the world's history.

While to the thoughtful student all the elements of moral sublimity will ever gather thickest around the later period, with Knox as its pioneer and leader, still in the popular estimation probably the highest heroic interest of the Scottish history culminates, in the earlier period, around the names of Wallace and Bruce. The men of all free and civilized nations, the very boys and girls at school to the end of time, will read and be thrilled by that story. It was the era of the troubadour and the tournament, when Europe rang with the fame of the crusader and Christendom bowed at the mention of the cross. It was the noonday of romance and chivalry—the apotheosis of manly honor, of womanly beauty, of gallant prowess, of martial glory. There were indeed giants on earth in those days, and Scotland's heroes were among them.

With all its glory, it was an age of iron, an age of blood. It is not the purpose of this sketch to dwell on its great characters or its cruel conflicts; it is enough now simply to point out influences and results. Was all that gallant blood, of both the earlier and the later period, shed in vain? Assuredly not. It was the price of independence, of self-government, of civil and religious liberty. Costly as was the sacrifice, long and terrible as was the conflict, it was not too dear a cost at which to purchase such a boon. When it was won, it was not won for Scotland alone, but for posterity, for mankind. All that Scotland is today, all that she holds precious in the arts of peaceful industry and in the possession of civil and religious freedom, she owes, under God, to her own deathless struggle for independence, renewed from century to century until it had reddened her fields with blood and filled her land with ruins and monuments. No portion of the earth's surface is perhaps more thickly strewn with the ashes of martyred heroes and the bones of the slaughtered champions of truth and right. The seed was long sowing, but the harvest has been abundant and glorious. Victoria reigns today as truly Scotland's queen as she is England's —fifty-fourth sovereign of the Scottish royal line from Kenneth MacAlpine, and fifty-first of the English from Alfred the Great.

It has been finely said that a land without ruins is a land without memories, and a land without memories is a land without liberty. "The land that wears a laurel crown may be fair to look upon, but twine a few sad cypress-leaves around the brow of some bleak and barren land (it may be dark and lonely as Montenegro) and it becomes lovely in its coronet of sorrow. It wins the sympathies of the heart and of history. Crowns of roses fade; crowns of thorns endure. Calvaries and crosses take deepest hold of humanity."

"Who would be free, themselves must strike the blow."

Byron's strong line might be taken as the text and the key to a large portion of the Scottish history. In the struggle for national independence and constitutional liberty the soil of Scotland was made not only a battlefield, but a crowded cemetery. No equal portion of the earth's surface could better illustrate the sentiment of a living American bard:

"Give me a land where the ruins are spread,
And the living tread light on the hearts of the dead;
Ay, give me a land that is blest by the dust
And bright with the deeds of the down-trodden just.
I honor the land that hath legend and lays
Enshrining the memory of long-vanished days;
I honor the land that path story and song
To tell of the strife of the right with the wrong.
Yes, give me the land with a grave in each spot,
And names in the graves that shall not be forgot:
There's a grandeur in graves, there's a glory in gloom,
For out of the gloom future brightness is born,
And after the night looms the sunrise of morn;
And the graves of the dead, with the grass overgrown,
May yet form the footstool of Liberty's throne,
And each single wreck in the warpath of might
Shall yet be a rock in the temple of Right."

Every part of Scotland is crowded with such memorials of the past—venerable ruins where " the living tread Iight on the hearts of the dead," battlefields that " tell of the strife of the right with the wrong," sacred enclosures "with a grave in every spot " and " names in the graves that shall not be forgot." Most of all do these grand monuments of the past cluster around Edinburgh, the unique and classic capital enthroned among crags where the new and the old so strangely meet. There a thousand associations of the past chain the antiquarian, a thousand beauties of the present make it to the eye of the artist the most picturesque city in Europe,

"Where splendor falls on castle-walls
And snowy summits old in story."

Upon the splendid city of to-day the old castle looks down out of history. Within or close around it were transacted many of the most memorable scenes in the life of the nation. A mile from the castle, at the eastern termination of the Canongate, still remains in antique splendor the famous Holyrood Palace, flanked on one side by the monument-crowned Calton Hill, and on the other by the loftier Salisbury Crag and Arthur's Seat, that stand like sentinels to guard the enchanted spot. Just on the outside of the city, in the Greyfriars' churchyard, the National Covenant—the Magna Charta of Scottish freedom—was signed in the presence of sixty thousand persons. Close at hand, in what was then the open space of the Grass Market, hundreds who had signed that Covenant suffered death at the stake rather than abjure the rights of conscience. Thousands all over Scotland shared the same fate.

They lived unknown
Till persecution dragged them into fame
And chased them up to heaven.
Their ashes flew No mortal tells us whither."

Their heroic virtues, however, survived fresh and green in the memory of succeeding ages. The influence of their example became the heritage of Christendom. Not only Scotland, but England and America, became the richer for the legacy. All lands where history is read, where civil and religious liberty is prized, have felt the inspiring influence of that example. It is a part of the history of modern civilization. Our Christian institutions in America are to-day in large measure indebted to that moral power of truth and right and freedom which Scotland's martyrs for conscience' sake so nobly illustrated on the scaffold and at the stake.


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