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Scottish Stories from the Treasure Chest
The Maiden Martyrs

SOME thirty-five hundred years ago, one who was not without experience of what wealth and high position were worth, “esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.” At a later date, one with a similar experience sung: “Thy (God’s) loving-kindness is better than life and, at a still later date, a noble confessor said: “Let fire and the cross, let the companions of the wild beasts, let breaking of bones and tearing of limbs, let the grinding of the whole body and the malice of the devil come upon me, so that I may enjoy Jesus Christ.” And in every succeeding age there have been those who have, in like manner, estimated the love of God their Savior, and rather than forfeit it, they have been ready to go to judgment, prison, and death.

It was this estimate of the precious love of the Savior that nerved the hearts of the Scottish martyrs, represented in the frontispiece, and which enabled them to sing his praises amid the gurgling waves as their life ebbed away. On the 11th of May, 1685, might be seen a troop of horsemen guarding the two helpless prisoners, Margaret McLaughlin and Margaret Wilson, to the beach, where the water of Blednock meets the sea, on the west coast of Scotland. They were intent on the execution of a sentence passed on these helpless women by their cruel commander, Major Windram, viz., that they should be “tied to stakes fixed within the flood-mark, and there be drowned by the returning tide.”

A cruel sentence. What had they done to deserve such a doom? They had done much, in the estimation of ungodly despots. They had contended for the right to worship God in accordance with the dictates of their own conscience; they refused to subscribe to the doctrine that the authority of the Church was derived from the king. They even held the opposite doctrine, that the Lord Jesus Christ was the source of the Church’s authority; and this was regarded as treason by the king and his minions. Hence their cruel sentence. But what was accounted treason by the king of Britain was, they were persuaded, counted loyalty to the King of heaven, and they preferred his favor—they knew that it was life, and that his loving-kindness was better than life. Hence, with brave hearts they had gone to prison, as they felt, upon their Master’s service and now, with firm step, they march to the place of execution. The elder, Margaret McLaughlin, was first fastened to the stake farther down the beach than her younger companion, that her death, if she refused to retract, might have that effect upon her more youthful friend.

But their persecutors knew nothing about the power of principle, or the influence of the love of Christ on the hearts of Christians. Accordingly, when the tide was rising, she was besought to give up her principles and acknowledge the supremacy of the king; but she replied: “Unless with Christ’s dear servants we have a part, we have no part with him and then she encouraged herself, singing the old Psalm: “To thee I lift my soul, O God.” And Margaret Wilson, instead of being frightened by the sight of her fellow-sufferer’s death, was only emboldened to hold fast her profession. Said she, looking upon her dying friend: “What do I see but Christ in one of his members wrestling there? Think you that we are the sufferers? No, it is Christ in us; for he sends none a warfare upon their own charges.” Brave words from so young a martyr; but she was inured to suffering, for though now only eighteen years of age, she had for five long years been a wanderer from home and friends for the cause of her Master. Like the martyrs of old, she had wandered about in dens and caves of the earth the greater part of the time since her thirteenth year, that she might escape the wrath of the enemies of Christ and his truth, and she is not now likely to desert it; consequently, when the water had reached her face, and she had been loosed and asked to disavow the doctrine of Christ’s supremacy and acknowledge that of King James, she replied: “I will not—I am one of God’s children—let me alone.” Yes, she was a child of God, and nobly was she acting in her high position, and bright will be her crown in the kingdom above.

Thus died those noble martyrs in the cause of truth—in behalf of the crown rights of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In Christian lands no king would now claim the prerogatives that were claimed by King James; and how much we are indebted to these humble martyrs for the increased religious liberty—aye, and civil liberty, too, for both will stand or fall together—which is now enjoyed in English-speaking Christian lands, we can not tell; but the seed thus sown and watered with blood was doubtless not in vain. And their story still teaches and inspires its readers with loftier purpose and increased determination to live and witness for Christ and his truth.

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