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Scottish Stories from the Treasure Chest
Isabel Fraser

IF the many interesting landscapes which scattered among the Grampian Hills, the one most interesting is the vale of Rannoch, in the Highlands of Perthshire. In the middle of the valley, a lake, twelve miles in length, fresh and pure as the dew of the morning, lies laughing under the sunbeams in the safe embrace of its parent mountains. At a point near the eastern end of the valley, rugged rocks, around whose giddy summits hawks and ravens are seen constantly wheeling, rise almost perpendicularly to a height of several hundred of feet. Away farther on to the left is the Black Wood, still dense and flourishing, a remnant of the ancient forest of Caledonia. And still farther on, at the western end of the valley, beyond miles of uneven ground, thickly strewed with huge boulders of granite, lies the far-famed Moor of Rannoch, which, for extent and awful solitude, is without a parallel in Britain. And overlooking the whole scene, at the eastern extremity, stands the lofty, “cloud-capped” Shiechallion, one of the highest peaks of the Grampian range. About a mile from the foot of this mountain, and on the other side of thie valley, Isabel Fraser, the subject of the following sketch, was born. At the early age of four years she was left alone with her widowed mother. Her father was one of those who had signed the solemn league and covenant, and had since sealed his testimony to the truth with his blood. Many of their friends and neighbors had also suffered the loss of all things, and even life itself, rather than give up their belief in the truth. Their pastors were forbidden to preach, even in the fields, and many were driven out to wander among the morasses and mountains, and dens and caves of the earth.

Scotland was red with the blood of its inhabitants. Their persecutors appeared to delight in cruelty, and in shedding the blood of the innocent. But these glorious sufferers, relying on the goodness of their cause, and hoping in the promises of God, did not suffer or bleed in vain.

Many would gather together to worship God in many of the caves of the mountains; and on the quiet Sabbath mornings, Isabel might be seen leading her mother to the nearest cave, where the good pastor would dispense the word of life to those who met there from many a lonely valley and secluded glen.

It was usual at these meetings to place sentinels on the nearest rising ground, and along to the entrance of the cave, to give notice, should they see the soldiers approaching, who were hunting for these little assemblies of Christians like wild beasts of the earth. Isabel had grown up to womanhood a sincere and humble follower of the Lord Jesus. Lovely in person, the stay and support of her aged and infirm parent, she was now about to unite herself in marriage with a son of one of her father’s friends, who was himself a strict adherent of the covenant It was a lovely Sabbath in June. After the usual services were ended, the minister rose, and requesting the congregation to remain, saying a marriage was about to take place between two of the young friends, Isabel Fraser and John Brown. Here the young couple moved forward, when the pastor solemnly addressed them on the vows they were about to take, reminding them also of the dark days of persecution that was then hovering over them all, exhorting them to be helpmeets for each other in every good word and work, and to stand fast for the faith once delivered to the saints. Many were moved to tears, as, placing his hand on the head of Isabel, “he prayed that the God of her fathers” would supply all her need out of the riches of his mercy in Christ Jesus. All present sincerely joined in these petitions, for truly was she endeared to them, by her consistent life, and kind and endearing behavior. The pastor was just pronouncing his closing benediction, when the cry arose from the sentinels, “The soldiers are coming,” and before they could escape, they were even there. The little congregation dispersed in all directions; some were taken prisoners, and among them was the poor old minister, who had numbered more than seventy summers. There he stood in the midst of his foes, who were thirsting for his blood. One Graham was the leader of this band of soldiers, and he was not far behind, in cruelty and bloodshed, his cotemporary, “The bluidy Claverhouse.”

Isabel, on the first alarm of the soldiers, was hidden by John in a cleft of the rock; there she was supported by him, half fainting with fear and dreadh While in this retreat they saw their beloved and venerable pastor standing at the entrance of the cave, with his arms bound tightly behind him, his white locks flowing in the wind, his eyes lifted up to heaven, while his cruel persecutors taunted him with his captivity, and told him he should die. lie mildly replied to his persecutors, and said, “That God would certainly avenge himself of his adversaries, and that though they might be permitted to prevail for a season, yet he would doubtless arise and plead the cause that was his own.” He then said, “He was ready to die,” and added, “Farewell, my friends, for a season. Welcome, sweet Jesus, Mediator of a new and better covenant! Welcome, wel—” and the last sound passed away from his lips, as a volley of musketry was fired at that moment by the soldiers upon the old man and his two friends who had been foremost in their endeavors to shield him from the cruel assaults of his enemies. After this the soldiers departed, and when Isabel and her husband found they were indeed alone with the dead, they came forth from their hiding-place, and with many sighs and tears, they, with some difficulty, removed the bodies of their friends and pastor into the cave, and bringing water from a neighboring spring, they gently washed the blood from their faces, and left them until they could procure assistance for their burial. Haying reached their home, they found two of their neighbors with her mother, whose anxiety had been great for the safety of her child. She was now too feeble to go far from her home, therefore had not been present at her daughter’s marriage, and had only heard of the peril they had been in from a neighbor who had fled on the first alarm of the soldiers. Now, what grief was expressed, what tears were shed, when they heard of the cruel death of their beloved pastor and friends! A few others ventured to join them, and the night was spent in prayer and supplication to their Father in heaven, that he would arise, and take vengeance on his adversaries, and give his people rest from the fiery persecutions under which they were now passing. God, in mercy, answered their prayers for a time, for although persecution still raged in many parts, this valley had rest for two or three years.

Years of happiness they were to Isabel and her little household, though death. had gently removed their mother to a happier home. Sometimes a sense of fear would come over them when they heard of the continued oppression of their brethren and sisters in other parts of the land, and the question was often on their lips, and in their hearts, Would the storm of persecution again visit their secluded valley?” and daily and hourly did they pray that they might be found, “if called upon to suffer,” faithful even unto death. The summer’s sun was again shining brightly, making every thing appear glad and smiling in his beams; but on this day John appeared more depressed and grave than usual, and at their morning devotions he was more earnest in prayer, for strength under every trial—so earnest, that Isabel remarked it, and on rising from her knees, said, “John, have you heard any further tidings of the persecutions going on around us?” He answered, “No!” but he said, “Isabel, if called upon, canst thou give me up?” Isabel answered, “I will pray for grace to do so!” He then left her and went to work in his fields.

A few hours afterward Claverhouse passed that way with three troops of dragoons. Information had been given to him, by Graham, of John Brown’s non-conformity, and he, stopping at John’s house, caused him to be brought from his field to his own door. After some rough interrogations, Claverhouse said, “John, you may go to your prayers, for you shall immediately die;” upon which the martyr kneeled down and poured out his heart in language so affecting that the soldiers, hardened and depraved as they were, were moved almost to tears. He was twice interrupted in his devotions by Claverhouse; and when he had finished, the cruel wretch ordered him to take leave of his weeping wife and two infant children who stood beside him. “Now, Isabel,” said the martyr, “the day is come of which I told you when I first proposed marriage to you. Can you answer me the question I put to you this morning?” “Indeed, John,” she replied, “I can willingly part with you!” Then he added, “This is all I desired. I have no more to do but to die; I have been looking for this death many years.” After he had kissed his wife and children, wishing them all purchased and promised blessings, Claverhouse ordered the soldiers to fire. But the prayers of the good man had made such an impression on their minds, that they resolutely refused to have any hand in his death. Irritated at the delay, Claverhouse shot him dead with his own hand, regardless of the tears and entreaties of the poor man’s wife, and then, turning to the widow, he asked her “What she thought of her husband now?”

“I ever thought much good of him,” she replied, “and as much now as ever.”

“It were but justice to lay thee beside him,” replied the murderer.

“If ye were permitted,” said she, “I doubt not your cruelty would go that length; but how will ye answer for this morning’s work?”

“To man I can be answerable,” replied the hardened villain. “As for God, I will take him in mine own hand;” and he immediately rode off.

Poor Isabel then laid her infant on the ground, gathered together the scattered brains of her beloved husband, bound up his head, covered his body with the plaid, and then sat down and wept over him.

Poor, poor Isabel, here we must leave thee! Great is thy trial, but thy God will sustain thee, for, a Father of the fatherless, and a Judge of the widow, is God in his holy habitation.

My young readers, do you ever consider the many great and sore trials our forefathers went through, contending for the faith once delivered to the saints ? Are you earnestly seeking to obtain like precious faith, and striving to keep, in all its simplicity and purity, that faith for which so many of them laid down their lives, and with their blood secured to us the religious privileges we this day enjoy?

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