A May Day Story Worth Remembering (Scottish Covenanters)

Friday is for Heart Songs

Scottish CovenantersJohn Brown was poor farmer in Scotland whose great hope was to become a pastor and preach the gospel. Unfortunately, but he had a bad stammer and had given up on that dream. Possessing a brilliant mind, he put his love of the Bible into the service of the youth of his community teaching theology at the family farm. 

At the same time, Brown’s Presbyterianism was not in favor. In fact, they were outlawed and persecuted. “Being a Scottish Covenanter meant being willing to give up his life for Christ at any moment, and Brown taught his students not to fear persecution but rather to consider it a joy to suffer for Christ. Students came for miles to be inspired by the gifted teacher.”

It was a sobering time; a time when life was precarious and standing for the gospel was costly. Here’s the part of his story that brought me to tears:

In 1682 Covenanter pastor Alexander Peden performed the wedding ceremony for John Brown and Isabel Weir. After the ceremony Peden said to the bride, “Isabel, you have a good man; but you will not enjoy him long, Prize his company and keep linen by you to be his winding sheet; for you will need it when you are not looking for it, and it will be a bloody one.”

On May 1, 1685, the king’s troops came to Priesthill [Brown’s home] looking for Peden. They surprised Brown in his field and brought him back to his house and ransacked it. Finding some Covenanter literature, they began to interrogate him. Speaking in a clear, stammer-free voice, Brown’s confident answers made the chief officer ask whether he was a preacher. When told no, the officer replied, “Well, if he has never preached, much has he prayed in this time. Go to your prayers, for you shall immediately die.”

John Brown fell on his knees, asking  God to spare a remnant of believers in Scotland. The officer cut him short, accusing him of preaching rather than praying. The officer later confessed that he could never forget John Brown’s powerful prayer.

Brown then said to his wife, “Now, Isabel, the day is come that I told you would come when I spoke to you first of marrying me.”

She said, “Indeed, John, I can willingly part with you.”

He replied, “That is all I desire. I have no more to do but die. I have been ready to meet death for years past.”

As he said his good-byes and kissed his wife and baby, the officer broke in and ordered the troops to shoot him. The soldiers were so moved by the scene that they would not comply. The officer angrily pulled out his pistol, walked over, and shot John Brown in the head.

“What do you think of your fine husband now?” he asked Isabel.

Through her tears she answered, “I ever thought much good of him, and more than ever now.”2

Wow! That is the kind of men and women we need in the church today. I want to produce John and Isabel Browns through my ministry. Will you pray with me toward that end? Will you pray that I become like John Brown?

1  E. Michael and Sharon Rusten, The One Year Book of Christian History: A Daily Glimpse into God’s Powerful Work. (Tyndale, 2003), 244.
2  Ibid., 244-245.

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