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Biographia Scoticana: or, A Brief Historical Account of the Lives, Characters, and Memorable Transactions of the Most Eminent Scots Worthies (Second edition, corrected and enlarged, 1781) by John Howie is most commonly known as "Scots Worthies," this edition contains Howie's footnotes (defending the Covenanters) and Howie's appendix titled "The Judgment and Justice of God" (which chronicles God's judgments upon Reformation apostates and those who persecuted the Covenanters).
It is the only edition in print which contains both these sections intended for publication by the author (as later editors often removed either one or both of these parts of this book).
Biographia Scoticana (Scots Worthies) covers the history of "noblemen, gentlemen, ministers and others from Mr. Patrick Hamilton, who was born about the year of our Lord 1503, and suffered martyrdom at St Andrews, Feb, 1527, to Mr. James Renwick, who was executed in the Grass-market of Edinburgh, Feb. 17, 1688. Together with a succinct account of the lives of other seven eminent divines, and Sir Robert Hamilton of Preston, who died about, or shortly after the Revolution."
This is one of our best history books (over 700 pages), covering all of the major Scottish Reformers. Howie summarizes his book as follows: "The design of the following was to collect, from the best authorities, a summary account of the lives, characters, and contendings, of a certain number of our most renowned SCOTS WORTHIES, who, for their faithful services, ardent zeal, constancy in sufferings, and other Christian graces and virtues, deserve honourable memorial in the Church of Christ; and for which their names have been, and will be savoury to all the true lovers of our Zion, while Reformation principles are regarded."
Furthermore, the momentous nature of the struggles chronicled in this book are succinctly noted when Howie writes: "the primitive witnesses had the divinity of the Son of God, and an open confession of Him, for their testimony. Our reformers from Popery had Antichrist to struggle with, in asserting the doctrines of the Gospel, and the right way of salvation in and through Jesus Christ. Again, in the reigns of James VI. and Charles I., Christ's REGALIA, and the divine right of Presbytery, became the subject matter of their testimony. Then, in the beginning of the reign of Charles II. (until he got the whole of our ancient and laudable constitution effaced and overturned), our Worthies only saw it their duty to hold and contend for what they had already attained unto.
But, in the end of this and the subsequent tyrant's reign, they found it their duty (a duty which they had too long neglected) to advance one step higher, by casting off their authority altogether, and that as well on account of their manifest usurpation of Christ's crown and dignity, as on account of their treachery, bloodshed, and tyranny... which may be summed up. The Primitive martyrs sealed the prophetic office of Christ in opposition to Pagan idolatry. The reforming martyrs sealed His priestly office with their blood, in opposition to Popish idolatry. And last of all, our late martyrs have sealed His kingly office with their best blood, in despite of supremacy and bold Erastianism. They indeed have cemented it upon His royal head, so that to the world's end it shall never drop off again."
Moreover, the importance of this book can be clearly seen when Johnston, in Treasury of the Scottish Covenant, reports that, "Walter Scott refers to Howie as 'the fine old chronicler of the Cameronians' ...Howie's book has been for upwards of a century a household word, occupying a place on the shelf beside the Bible and the Pilgrim's Progress." Written for God, country, and the covenanted work of Reformation. Stirring history!
Here is a short (and amazing!) sample from this most edifying book -- and there are many others like it in Howie's classic: From "The Life of Mr. John Welch" in John Howie's Biographia Scoticana or Scots Worthies (1871 edition). John Welch "married Elizabeth Knox, daughter to the famous Mr. John Knox minister at Edinburgh... If his diligence was great, so it may be doubted whether his sowing in painfulness, or his harvest in success was greatest; for if either his spiritual experiences in seeking the Lord, or his fruitfulness in converting souls be considered, they will be found unparalleled in Scotland: And many years after Mr. Welch's death, Mr. David Dickson... when people talked to him of the success of his ministry, that the grape-gleanings in Aye, in Mr. Welch's time, were far above the vintage of Irvine in his own...
One of his hearers, who was afterward minister at Moor-kirk in Kyle, used to say, that no man could hear him and forbear weeping, his conveyance was so affecting" (p. 137 and 151, emphases added). "He was sometime prisoner in Edinburgh castle before he went into exile, where one night sitting at supper with the Lord Ochiltry, who was uncle to Mr. Welch's wife, as his manner was, he entertained the company with godly and edifying discourse, which was well received by all the company, except a debauched popish young gentleman, who sometimes laughed, and sometimes mocked and made wry faces; whereupon Mr. Welch brake out into a sad abrupt charge upon all the company to be silent, and observe the work of the Lord upon that profane mocker, which they should presently behold; upon which the profane wretch sunk down and died beneath the table, to the great astonishment of all the company" (p. 143). "There was in his house, amongst many others who boarded with him for good education, a young gentleman of great quality, and suitable expectations, and this was the heir of Lord Ochiltry, captain of the castle of Edinburgh.
This young nobleman, after he had gained very much upon Mr. Welch's affections, fell ill of a grievous sickness, and after he had been long wasted with it, closed his eyes, and expired, to the apprehension of all spectators, and was therefore taken out of his bed, and laid on a pallet on the floor, that his body might be the more conveniently dressed. This was to Mr. Welch a very great grief, and therefore he stayed with the dead body full three hours, lamenting over him with great tenderness. After twelve hours, the friends brought in a coffin, whereinto they desired the corpse to be put, as the custom is; but Mr. Welch desired, that for the satisfaction of his affections, they would forbear it for a time, which they granted, and returned not till twenty-four hours after his death were expired; then they desired, with great importunity, that the corpse might be coffined, and speedily buried, the weather being extremely hot; yet he persisted in his request, earnestly begging them to excuse him once more; so they left the corpse upon the pallet for full thirty-six hours; but even after all that, though he was urged, not only with great earnestness, but displeasure, they were constrained to forbear for twelve hours more.
After forty-eight hours were passed, Mr. Welch still held out against them, and then his friends perceiving that he believed the young man was not really dead, but under some apoplectic fit, proposed to him, for his satisfaction, that trial should be made upon his body by doctors and chirurgeons, if possibly any spark of life might be found in him, and with this he was content. -- So the physicians are set to work, who pinched him with pincers in the fleshy parts of his body, and twisted a bow-string about his head with great force, but no sign of life appearing in him, the physicians pronounced him stark dead, and then there was no more delay to be made; yet Mr. Welch begged of them once more, that they would but step into the next room for an hour or two, and leave him with the dead youth; and this they granted.
Then Mr. Welch fell down before the pallet, and cried to the Lord with all his might, and sometimes looked upon the dead body, continuing in wrestling with the Lord, till at length the dead youth opened his eyes, and cried out to Mr. Welch, whom he distinctly knew, O Sir, I am all whole, but my head and legs; and these were the places they had fore hurt with their pinching." "When Mr. Welch perceived this, he called upon his friends, and shewed them the dead young man restored to life again, to their great astonishment.
And this young nobleman, though he lost the estate of Ochiltry, lived to acquire a great estate in Ireland, and was Lord Castle-Stuart, and a man of such excellent parts, that he was courted by the earl of Stafford to be a counsellor in Ireland; which he refused to be, until the godly silenced Scottish ministers, who suffered under the bishops in the north of Ireland, were restored to the exercise of their ministry, and then he engaged, and continued so for all his life, not only in honour and power, but in the profession and practice of godliness, to the great comfort of the country where he lived. This story the nobleman himself communicated to his friends in Ireland" (pp. 146-147).
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