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The Scottish Reformers
by [?]

“O thou Governor of the universe, we rejoice that, at all times and in all circumstances, we have liberty to approach Thy throne, and that we are assured that no sacrifice is more acceptable to Thee than that which is made for the relief of the oppressed. In this moment of trial and persecution we pray that Thou wouldst be our defender, our counsellor, and our guide. Oh, be Thou a pillar of fire to us, as Thou wast to our fathers of old, to enlighten and direct us; and to our enemies a pillar of cloud, and darkness, and confusion.

“Thou art Thyself the great Patron of liberty. Thy service is perfect freedom. Prosper, we beseech Thee, every endeavor which we make to promote Thy cause; for we consider the cause of truth, or every cause which tends to promote the happiness of Thy creatures, as Thy cause.

“O thou merciful Father of mankind, enable us, for Thy name’s sake, to endure persecution with fortitude; and may we believe that all trials and tribulations of life which we endure shall work together for good to them that love Thee; and grant that the greater the evil, and the longer it may be continued, the greater good, in Thy holy and adorable providence, may be produced therefrom. And this we beg, not for our own merits, but through the merits of Him who is hereafter to judge the world in righteousness and mercy.”

He ceased, and the sheriff, who had been temporarily overawed by the extraordinary scene, enforced the warrant, and the meeting was broken up. The delegates descended to the street in silence,–Arthur’s Seat and Salisbury Crags glooming in the distance and night,–an immense and agitated multitude waiting around, over which tossed the flaring flambeaux of the sheriff’s train. Gerrald, who was already under arrest, as he descended, spoke aloud, “Behold the funeral torches of Liberty!”

Skirving and several others were immediately arrested. They were tried in the first month, 1794, and sentenced, as Muir and Palmer had previously been, to transportation. Their conduct throughout was worthy of their great and holy cause. Gerrald’s defence was that of freedom rather than his own. Forgetting himself, he spoke out manfully and earnestly for the poor, the oppressed, the overtaxed, and starving millions of his countrymen. That some idea may be formed of this noble plea for liberty, I give an extract from the concluding paragraphs:–

“True religion, like all free governments, appeals to the understanding for its support, and not to the sword. All systems, whether civil or moral, can only be durable in proportion as they are founded on truth and calculated to promote the good of mankind. This will account to us why governments suited to the great energies of man have always outlived the perishable things which despotism has erected. Yes, this will account to us why the stream of Time, which is continually washing away the dissoluble fabrics of superstitions and impostures, passes without injury by the adamant of Christianity.

“Those who are versed in the history of their country, in the history of the human race, must know that rigorous state prosecutions have always preceded the era of convulsion; and this era, I fear, will be accelerated by the folly and madness of our rulers. If the people are discontented, the proper mode of quieting their discontent is, not by instituting rigorous and sanguinary prosecutions, but by redressing their wrongs and conciliating their affections. Courts of justice, indeed, may be called in to the aid of ministerial vengeance; but if once the purity of their proceedings is suspected, they will cease to be objects of reverence to the nation; they will degenerate into empty and expensive pageantry, and become the partial instruments of vexatious oppression. Whatever may become of me, my principles will last forever. Individuals may perish; but truth is eternal. The rude blasts of tyranny may blow from every quarter; but freedom is that hardy plant which will survive the tempest and strike an everlasting root into the most unfavorable soil.