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Life Sketches from Scottish History of Brief Biographies of the Scottish Presbyterian Worthies
Hugh McKail


It is scarcely possible to conceive a case more deeply affecting, than that of this youthful martyr. Having finished his education, he was taken on trials, and licensed in 1661, when only twenty years of age. After officiating several times, much to the benefit and gratification of those who heard him, he was called to preach in the great church of Edinburgh, on the Sabbath immediately preceding the day fixed for the arbitrary removal of its ministers; and having in his sermon been led to remark that “ the people of God had been prevented by a Pharaoh on the throne, a Hainan in the state, and a Judas in the church,” he was thought to have alluded to the then rulers, and a party was sent next day to apprehend him. He escaped, however, and concealed himself for about four years. At last, worn out and rendered useless through fatigue, he was apprehended near Edinburgh, and lodged in prison.

When he was brought before the Council, he was interrogated respecting the leaders of the insurrection, and what correspondence they had, either at home, or abroad. He declared himself utterly unacq1uainted with any such correspondence; and frankly stated how far he had taken part in their proceedings. The instrument of torture was then laid before him, and he was informed that if he did not confess, it should be applied next day. On the following day, he was again brought before the Council, and again ordered to confess on pain of immediate torture

He declared solemnly that he had no more to confess. The executioner then placed his leg in the horrid instrument, applied the wedge, and proceeded to his hideous task. When one heavy blow had driven in the wedge, and crushed the limb severely, he was again urged to confess, but in vain. Blow after blow succeeded at considerable intervals, protracting the terrible agony; but still, with true Christian fortitude, the heroic martyr possessed his soul in patience. Seven or eight successive blows had crushed the flesh and sinews to the very bone, when he protested solemnly in the sight of God, that he could say no more, though all the joints of his body were in as great torture as that poor leg. Yet thrice more the wedge was driven in, till the bone itself was shattered, by its compression, and a heavy swoon relieved him from longer consciousness of the awful agony. He was carried back to prison, and soon afterwards condemned lo death.

Being carried to the scaffold, he addressed himself to the people, and ended in lids exalted strain, “thereafler I will not talk with flesh and blood, nor think on the world’s consolations, farewell, all my friends, whose company has been refreshful to me in my pilgrimage! I have done with the light of the sun and moon. Welcome, eternal life, everlasting love, everlasting praise, everlasting glory! Praise to Him that sits upon the throne, and the Lamb for ever!”

Having done speaking to the people, who heard him with great attention, he sung a part of the 31st Psalm, and prayed with such power and fervency, as forced many to weep bitterly Having ended, he look of his cloak and hat and when he turned and took hold of the holder to go up, he said with an audible voice, “I care no more to go up this ladder and over it, than if I were going home In my father's house.” And as he went up, hearing a. great noise amongst the people, he called down to his fellow-sufferers, saying, “Friends and fellow-sufferers, be not, afraid, every step of this holder is a decree nearer heaven;” and after many affecting remarks, he closed with that sublimely eloquent  address, “And now I leave off to speak any more, to creatures, and in in my speech lo thee, O Lord! and now I begin my intercourse with which I shall never he broken off. Farewell, father and mother, friends and relations; farewell, the world and all it's delights; farewell, meat, and drink; farewell, Him, moon, and stars! Welcome, God and Father; welcome, sweet Lord Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant; welcome, blessed Spirit of grace and God of all consolation; welcome, glory; welcome, eternal life; welcome, death! 0 Lord, into thy hands I commit my spirit, for thou hast redeemed my soul, Lord God of truth! ” Thus in his 26th year he died, as he lived, in the Lord.


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