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Scottish Stories from the Treasure Chest
Andrew McGregor


I.

"The noble army of martyrs praise thee.”

HOW many of God’s people “who escaped the martyr’s death, yet suffered for the same noble cause, taking joyfully the spoiling of their goods, and suffering hunger, arid thirst, and cold, and nakedness,” may surely be numbered among that “glorious army of martyrs,” and are now wearing the same crown and rejoicing in the same eternal rest.

On a lovely morning, in the early autumn of the year 1558, a young girl, in the dress of a peasant, was seen passing along the road toward the town of Perth, with a basket upon her arm, containing what might be supposed was produce for the Perth market. As she drew near the town, she looked anxiously around her, and then suddenly turned down a narrow and unfrequented pathway, which led her from the main road on to the moor. Before her lay the grand old hills, which now stood like golden pyramids in the morning sun. The moor or valley lay in the shade; here and there the sweet-scented heather-brush, covered with dew, sparkled like diamonds flung around in careless confusion, as the sun soared higher and higher above the hills, casting his rays over different parts of the moor; but this lovely scene could not be enjoyed by our young traveler. She hastened on, until she was lost to sight among the hills. Here, putting down her basket, she knelt down upon the green moss and most heartily and devoutly thanked her Heavenly Father for thus far bringing her on her way in peace.

This young girl was the daughter of a Scottish gentleman who, for the past three months, had been hunted, as the wild birds of his native country, from hill-side to glen, and from glen to morass—the most remote-cave and den affording but uncertain protection from his enemies. Why was this? What crime had he committed against his king and country that he should be driven from his home and family of loved ones, thus to wander among the dens and caves of the earth? Why was it? For the same reason that many others at that time had taken their lives into their hands, and in the midst of hardships and privations, separations from those they loved, counted as among the off-scouring of the earth, and suffering even death itself rather than give up their faith in that blessed Savior who had died for them, and submit themselves to the authority of the Church of Rome.

Andrew McGregor was among this number. He was a gentleman by birth and education, affable and courteous, beloved and respected by all who knew him. He resided on his estate, which was situated on the outskirts of the town of Perth. His wife was from a noble family, who had seen great trials from the persecution of various members of her family, and when she consented to share the lot of Andrew McGregor, she felt that it would be blessed, whether for “weal or woe.”

Three sweet bairns were given them, and their first and greatest care was to use every available means in those perilous times to train them in a firm adherence to the Protestant faith. Helen, the eldest, now just thirteen years of age, had early given her heart to Jesus. She was a lovely bud, retiring and timid in her disposition while shielded by a father's love and protection but now, at the time our story commences, bold as a lion, and the stay and comfort of her sorrowing parents.

Andrew McGregor had been seized on account of his religion, and forcibly dragged from his home, by those cruel persecutors of his country, by whom he was thrown into a filthy, loathsome prison for more than six months, without being allowed one word of communication with his sorrowing family. At the expiration of that time, he was taken before the Bishop of Saint Andrew’s, who was then staying at Perth, and who, not wishing to proceed with harsher measures toward him, tried, with much philosophy, worldly wisdom, and deceitful vanity, after the tradition of men, and not after Christ — tried hard to persuade him to submit himself to the Church of Rome, to acknowledge the Pope as itg head, and to interpret the Scripture not otherwise than the Church did; beseeching him also to consider his wife and children, and, for their sakes, to recant all those heretical opinions he was now professing to hold.

After this seemingly fair speech, Andrew, with holy indignation, answered them:

“This is my faith, and in this faith, by God’s grace, I live or die: I believe in only one Catholic and Apostolic Church, without which there was no salvation; and that this church is but one, because it hath ever confessed, and shall ever confess and believe, one only God, one only Messiah, and in Him trust for salvation; which church, also, is ruled and led by one Spirit, one Word, and one faith; and that this church is universal and Catholic, because it hath been since the world's beginning, is, and shall endure to the end of the world. Comprehending within it all nations, kindreds, tongues, degrees, states, and conditions of men, built “only” upon the foundations of the prophets and apostles, Jesus Christ “himself” being the chief corner-stone, and not upon the Romish laws and decrees whose head the bishop, of Rome was; neither had it any supremacy over empires and kingdoms, but it was a poor, simple flock, dispersed abroad as sheep without a shepherd in the midst of wolves; and that this Church is led and ruled by the Word of Christ, he being its Supreme Head, and assisting, succoring, and defending it from all assaults, errors, and persecutions wherewith it is ever encompassed. Secondly. Even for the sake of my wee bairns and my loving wife, I dare not, can not, will not deny my Lord and Master, for he hath said, ‘He that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me.’ And into the hands of a covenant-keeping God I desire to commit all that is nearest and dearest to me on earth, believing that fc He doeth all things well'” At the close of this noble confession, the bishop and judges present were much enraged, and declared he should die. The bishop then ordered him back to prison, and from thence to be taken to the Green, and there burnt at the stake a week from that day. On hearing this sentence, Andrew replied:

“Think you I have been so long God’s prisoner and have not yet learned to die? Yes, yes, I doubt not but God will strengthen me therein.”

He was then sent back to prison, where he fell on his knees and humbly returned thanks to God for the grace given him during his trial, and then imploring aid and consolation for his sorrowing wife and little ones.

II.

We left Helen kneeling upon the greensward in prayer. Now rising and looking carefully around, she took up her basket and began winding her way round the side of the hill farthest from the town. Her progress was much impeded by the briers and underbrush that were in her path, and sometimes her steps seemed to falter, but only for a few moments at a time did she rest. Love gave her strength to carry what, for her tender years, was a heavy load; and the thought that it wa3 for her beloved father, who for three long months had been wandering about, weary and worn, not daring to come near his home, though ofttimes within its sight. Was she not also the only one her dear mother could trust to go to him, now they had heard of. his place of concealment, and assure him of her continued love and affection, and carry him some food to nourish his poor, weakened frame? These thoughts encouraged her to press on until at last she came to a deep glen on the opposite side of the hill, and within sight of the “robbers’ cave ”—so called from its having been the resort of a gang of smugglers. Here she quickened her pace, her heart throbbing for joy to think she should so soon behold her dear father, and be clasped in his arms. She quickly though gently pushed aside the heather-brush and brambles that led to the entrance of the cave, carefully replacing them as she passed, that no one passing over the hills might suppose the cave had been visited; then rolling aside the stone that was at the entrance, she stepped over, and in a few seconds was in the arms of her father. Neither of them could speak, but Helen felt the hot tears falling on her cheek as he pressed her to his heart. See him she could not. Coming in from the light, it appeared to her total darkness in the cave; but after a few minutes she began to discern the form of her parent and the outline of the cave.

But, oh! what grief oppressed her heart when she could see more plainly the wasted form, the pale cheek, the sunken eyes of the parent she so much loved; and she fell weeping on his bosom; then, suddenly recovering herself, she begged of him to eat a little food, and began to display the contents of her basket, assuring hioa that her mother had put every thing in with her own hand. But Andrew could not eat then; his heart was too full: the sight of his first-born, after being in prison, and then a wanderer, more than nine months, quite unmanned him, and he wept and sobbed like a child. Again Helen pressed him to take some refreshments, and when he had recovered himself a little, he said:

“Not yet—not yet, my precious bairn; you must first tell me how your dear mother is, and Amy, and my bonnie babe Jamie. Come here, my darling;” and he drew her to a seat in the cave, and, putting his arms around her, again repeated the question:

“How is thy mother and the babes?”

Helen replied that the health of her mother was feeble, but that the children were well, and, until the soldiers were placed in their house, were as happy as children could be without their dear father.

“What soldiers?” inquired Andrew.

“O father! did you not know that after you had been taken from us a long time, and it was said you had. escaped from prison, two soldiers were placed in our house, and they used to insult mamma, and terrify the servants into doing things she did not like to have done; and sometimes Amy and Jamie would cry, and call papa, when the soldiers would use such dreadful words, and threaten to cut off their ears? One day, they took our bonnie Jamie from mamma, and fastened him in a tub, and would let no one go near him, saying if he did not leave off screaming soon, they would kill him. Poor mamma went and shut herself up in her room; and she told me afterward she prayech that our Heavenly Father would send him sweet sleep, and He heard her prayer, for he soon after went to sleep, and slept sweetly until after dark. I then begged of the soldiers to let me go and take him out, and, after a little entreaty, they said yes. I ran down stairs and lifted him out. Poor darling, he was so pale and cold! and he put up his little mouth to mine, and, kissing me, said:

“‘Me dood now, sister.’

“Dear mother kissed him, and cried over him, assuring him he was not naughty—he was good; but it was a long time before he could forget that dreadful punishment.”

“It must have been, indeed,” said Andrew, “a dreadful trial for him and his dear mother. Would that I could see you placed in safety on the shores of Holland, away from these bloodthirsty mon; but, my darling, we must still strive to say, ‘Thy will be done.”

III.

Helen now persuaded her father to partake of some food, and after placing the remaining provisions in a secure place, Andrew again inquired of his daughter by what means they heard of his hiding-place; and when he found it was from the herdsman to whom he had a few evenings ago made himself known, he felt thankful there was one near him whom he could trust.

“But how,” asked Andrew, “was he able to let your mother know, as you tell , me you are so strictly watched by the soldiers? and how came you to succeed in eluding their vigilance?”

“Why, dear father,” replied Helen, “you know he is confined to his bed with a sprained ankle, so he sent his boy, little Davie, to tell mamma he thought it would be best to sell the white cow, and would like to see her about it, if she would step down to his cot, as he could not walk, having sprained his foot. This message the soldiers heard, and being thrown off their guard, allowed mamma to go down alone. When she heard of your hiding-place, she was greatly rejoiced, and wished me to assure you of her love and great desire to come and see you herself, but feared to make known your hiding-place by so doing. After returning home, she told the cook she wished some nourishing food sent down to Davie; and, on one of the soldiers entering the kitchen, said, ‘If you put it up, I will take it down myself; and through this means was enabled, in one or two visits, to carry down these few things for you. Then, hoping I should not be missed, she took me into her confidence, and asked me to undertake the bringing of them to you.”

“Bless you, my bonnie bairn,” said her father; “may God in heaven bless you, my darling child;” and again the once strong man wept as a child. Helen wept also, but presently lifting up her head, said:

“I do often, dear father, think why does God thus permit his people to be persecuted. Since you have been in prison, the good pastor Ferguson was taken from his church and shot at his own door, and many others cruelly used. Why does God permit his enemies to triumph over his people?”

“My darling,” replied her father, “we must not doubt the infinite wisdom and love of our Heavenly Father, in thus permitting his enemies to triumph for a time. Did not our blessed Lord himself say ‘Jthat his Church, his people, should be hated of all men, for his name’s sake?' but with that he gave the promise from his Father that ‘he that overcometh shall inherit all things, and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.’ Yes, my child, great, indeed, are the persecutions of his people; but do not, my Helen, doubt the love and care of your Heavenly Father, who will bear you through all trials he may call you, or any of us, to pass through; and then, my sweet bairn, think of the reward; ” and, taking his Testament from his bosom, read to her from the seventh chapter of Revelation— “And the elder said unto me, what are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou know-est. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple ; and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” Andrew closed the book, and then, kneeling down with his beloved child, poured out his soul in prayer to their Father above, who had given them such exceeding great and precious promises to guide, and cheer, and allure them on their way. Then how he wrestled in prayer for his loved wife and children, that, amid the darkness and difficulties of their path, their faith might be strengthened, and their whole trust and confidence placed upon the rock of their salvation. They then rose from their knees, and, after assuring himself that Helen might, with safety to himself, remain all night, he took some heather from the corner of the cave, and, spreading it upon the ground, besought her to lie down and take some rest after the fatigue and excitement of the day. Poor Helen indeed felt the need of rest: unused to toil, it had been a heavy task for her to carry sufficient provisions to her father to last him a few days; so, after affectionately kissing him, she lay down, and was soon asleep.

IV.

ANDREW McGregor, with his elbows resting on his knees and his head leaning on his hands, sat a long time communing with his own heart. His thoughts carried him back to the time when he was dwelling in the bosom of his family, happy in each other’s love: now he was a proscribed man; his wife and little ones left with no earthly protector at the mercy of a hard-hearted soldiery; he himself hunted for in every nook and corner of his native hills—condemned to be burnt at the stake, if not shot down by the blood-thirsty soldiers. Then he thought how many more were suffering, at the present time, even greater trials than these “each day;” some witnessing a good confession, and sealing it with their blood; and these thoughts led him to rejoice that he had been deemed worthy to take his place among that noble army of martyrs throughout the world. He now sought a few hours’ repose, and was awaked by a slanting ray of the rising sun shining through a crevice in the roof of the cave. When Helen awoke she could not at first collect her thoughts. She thought at first that she must be dreaming, until she saw her father spreading their morning repast. She then arose, and, after embracing each other, they again knelt down and thanked the Father of all mercies for his kind care of them during the night, and craving his protection for them all during the day, and for an especial blessing on his child then present with him, that she might regain her home in peace, and that, if they were never permitted to meet again on earth, they might meet an unbroken family in heaven.

After partaking of their simple repast, Helen began to prepare herself for her homeward journey, as she knew her mother would begin to look anxiously for her return. She asked her father what message he would wish delivered to her mother.

“Give her my warmest love—the warmest love that an earthly creature may bestow upon another without putting up an idol in God’s stead. Tell her to be of good cheer, for I am quiet in my conscience, and feel assured that my God will supply all her need. God bless my children; and you, my Helen, who art the stay and comfort of thy parents, may God give thee a double blessing; may you stand strong and steadfast unto Christ and his word, Und beware of idolatry.”

After this blessing, Helen bade a tearful adieu to her father, and stepped from the cave. The morning sun shone bright and beautiful as Helen retraced the path she had taken the day previous, and she carefully replaced the sweet heather brush as she passed along that no trace might be given of her father’s retreat. The sound of the busy bees humming among the sweet heather-flowers, and the notes of the birds caroling their morning song of praise, made her heart feel lighter than for many days before, and she felt her heart run over with gratitude and joy that she had been permitted to minister, in some measure, to the comfort of her parent.

She succeeded in reaching the herdsman’s cot unobserved, where the poor man rejoiced with the “bairn of his laird,” and gave God praise for helping her “sae weel.” After changing her dress, and entering the grounds around the house, she succeeded in passing unobserved to her mother’s chamber, where that dear parent received her with open arms, tenderly inquiring after every look and word of her beloved husband—which Helen repeated again and again.

Hope again reigned in their hearts as they heard of no particular search being made for some weeks, during which time Helen, through the faithful services of the herdsman, was enabled, several times, to visit her father, who himself began to entertain the hope that possibly he might elude his persecutors and escape to Holland, whither his family might join him.

Once Mrs. McGregor, on the plea of visiting a friend in town, ventured to see her husband at the care. This painful meeting—still more painful parting — words can not portray; yet they both endeavored to strengthen and build up each other in their most holy faith, so that, living or dying, they might be one in Christ. They spoke of trying eventually to reach the shores of Holland, and Andrew instructed his wife to consult with Davie, the herdsman, as to the best means of carrying out this intention. She then parted, with some faint hope of & future meeting.

V.

Alas for human hopes! A few days after this interview, Helen visited her father with a fresh supply of provisions, and on returning, as she was carefully replacing the brambles and heather across the path, she was seen from the neighboring heights by one who was a bitter enemy to all professing the Protestant, faith, and surmising that some of these hated persons were concealed in that neighborhood, he at once went and gave intimation of the figure he had seen passing along the glen. Two soldiers were at once dispatched with their informer, who, after searching every spot around the glen, at last discovered the entrance to the cave, which they entered, and, with horrid oaths and threats, drew forth into the sunlight poor Andrew McGregor.

All hope now vanished from his heart, as regarded this world. He knew that no mercy would be shown him, but ho begged for one moment’s interview with his wife as he passed his house. This was granted. When it was told to Mrs. McGregor that her husband was again in custody, she appeared at first prostrated by the tidings; but being made to understand he was waiting in the hall to bid her farewell, she tried to nerve herself for the interview, and looking to the strong One for strength, she immediately hastened to him. Andrew fervently embraced her, told her to pray for him that he might glorify God in the fire. No other words passed between them; their thoughts were too sacred to express in words before their cruel persecutors. They each felt the full force of their divine Master’s words: “Whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven;” and neither would consent to do this.

The soldiers now, with oaths, told them to separate, when Andrew, again embracing his wife, lifting up his eyes unto heaven, said, “Even so, Father, for so it seemeth good in thy sight."

Thus they parted, each to meet again as conquerors through the blood of the Lamb.

He was then taken to Perth, where the sentence first passed on him was ordered to be carried out on the following morning. The whole night he spent in prayer.

On reaching the spot where he was to suffer, he knelt down and humbly addressed himself to Almighty God, until interrupted by his popish enemies, who now fastened him to the stake and set fire to the furze and wood. He died with fortitude and resignation, triumphing in the midst of the flames, and exulting in hopes of the glory that awaited him. Soon after Andrew McGregor’s martyrdom, Queen Mary died.

The Protestant religion was again established, and the poor persecuted Christians for a time had rest. Mrs. McGregor, though mourning deeply the loss of her husband, could but rejoice in the change of affairs, and by her earnest teachings and holy example, had the unspeakable happiness of seeing all her children growing up bumble and devoted followers of the Lord Jesus. Should not all honors be shown to those heroes and champions of our faith who were baptized in blood for their strict adherence to the faith once delivered to the saints? And may the triumphant deaths of the martyrs increase our attachment to the cause which we have espoused, and strengthen our faith, and hope, and joy in the Lord.


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