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The Scottish Reformers
by [?]

“Gentlemen, I am in your hands. About my life I feel not the slightest anxiety: if it would promote the cause, I would cheerfully make the sacrifice; for if I perish on an occasion like the present, out of my ashes will arise a flame to consume the tyrants and oppressors of my country.”

Years have passed, and the generation which knew the persecuted reformers has given place to another. And now, half a century after William Skirving, as he rose to receive his sentence, declared to his judges, “You may condemn us as felons, but your sentence shall yet be reversed by the people,” the names of these men are once more familiar to British lips. The sentence has been reversed; the prophecy of Skirving has become history. On the 21st of the eighth month, 1853, the corner-stone of a monument to the memory of the Scottish martyrs–for which subscriptions had been received from such men as Lord Holland, the Dukes of Bedford and Norfolk; and the Earls of Essex and Leicester–was laid with imposing ceremonies in the beautiful burial-place of Calton Hill, Edinburgh, by the veteran reformer and tribune of the people, Joseph Hume, M. P. After delivering an appropriate address, the aged radical closed the impressive scene by reading the prayer of Joseph Gerrald. At the banquet which afterwards took place, and which was presided over by John Dunlop, Esq., addresses were made by the president and Dr. Ritchie, and by William Skirving, of Kirkaldy, son of the martyr. The Complete Suffrage Association of Edinburgh, to the number of five hundred, walked in procession to Calton Hill, and in the open air proclaimed unmolested the very principles for which the martyrs of the past century had suffered.

The account of this tribute to the memory of departed worth cannot fail to awaken in generous hearts emotions of gratitude towards Him who has thus signally vindicated His truth, showing that the triumph of the oppressor is but for a season, and that even in this world a lie cannot live forever. Well and truly did George Fox say in his last days,

“The truth is above all.”

Will it be said, however, that this tribute comes too late; that it cannot solace those brave hearts which, slowly broken by the long agony of colonial servitude, are now cold in strange graves? It is, indeed, a striking illustration of the truth that he who would benefit his fellow- man must “walk by faith,” sowing his seed in the morning, and in the evening withholding not his hand; knowing only this, that in God’s good time the harvest shall spring up and ripen, if not for himself, yet for others, who, as they bind the full sheaves and gather in the heavy clusters, may perchance remember him with gratitude and set up stones of memorial on the fields of his toil and sacrifices. We may regret that in this stage of the spirit’s life the sincere and self-denying worker is not always permitted to partake of the fruits of his toil or receive the honors of a benefactor. We hear his good evil spoken of, and his noblest sacrifices counted as naught; we see him not only assailed by the wicked, but discountenanced and shunned by the timidly good, followed on his hot and dusty pathway by the execrations of the hounding mob and the contemptuous pity of the worldly wise and prudent; and when at last the horizon of Time shuts down between him and ourselves, and the places which have known him know him no more forever, we are almost ready to say with the regal voluptuary of old, This also is vanity and a great evil; “for what hath a man of all his labor and of the vexation of his heart wherein he hath labored under the sun?” But is this the end? Has God’s universe no wider limits than the circle of the blue wall which shuts in our nestling-place? Has life’s infancy only been provided for, and beyond this poor nursery-chamber of Time is there no playground for the soul’s youth, no broad fields for its manhood? Perchance, could we but lift the curtains of the narrow pinfold wherein we dwell, we might see that our poor friend and brother whose fate we have thus deplored has by no means lost the reward of his labors, but that in new fields of duty he is cheered even by the tardy recognition of the value of his services in the old. The continuity of life is never broken; the river flows onward and is lost to our sight, but under its new horizon it carries the same waters which it gathered under ours, and its unseen valleys are made glad by the offerings which are borne down to them from the past,–flowers, perchance, the germs of which its own waves had planted on the banks of Time. Who shall say that the mournful and repentant love with which the benefactors of our race are at length regarded may not be to them, in their new condition of being, sweet and grateful as the perfume of long- forgotten flowers, or that our harvest-hymns of rejoicing may not reach the ears of those who in weakness and suffering scattered the seeds of blessing?