From Bothwell Bridge to the Kirk of Greyfriars
It was a visual stunner. There we stood in a secluded field outside of Edinburg, Scotland. We could see nothing but rolling-meadows and the only sounds were that of a dog barking in the far distance. To get to this secluded but historic place we had to traverse a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. I had to wonder why Jimmy, our tour host took us there. We soon figured it out. Directly in front of us stood a monument inscribed with a tribute to the Covenanters who had become martyrs. Their crime? They wanted to be able to read the scriptures for themselves.
Back to that meadow. In those days during the Reformation it was illegal to assemble for worship in many of the church buildings. However, worship and fellowship was so important that many of these saints would gather outdoors in what was referred to as “Conventicles.” During one of those illegal worship services the English army initiated a battle in that meadow where the Covenanters used the ploy of a hidden marsh that bogged down the English horses and allowed them to soundly defeat the English.
That battle and subsequent victory emboldened the Covenanters to battle the English again at a place that is called Bothwell Bridge. The odds were firmly in favor of the English. After all, there were 3000 Covenanters to battle 50000. British. The outcome was brutal. Only 1200 Covenanters survived. Another 900 bodies never recovered from the river under the bridge to this day. The surviving men had their ears cut off while surviving women were face-branded. They were imprisoned in an outdoor prison at Greyfriars church where the ones who survived that imprisonment were then sold into slavery to the American colonies. The “outdoor prison” where they were kept is now owned and operated by a company that sells ghost tours where the ignorant are led to believe that the ghosts of the Covenanters are alive and well inside the gates.
We stood at that locked yard and it took all I had not to begin weeping. Men, women and children brutalized for only desiring religious liberty, to love Jesus the way the scriptures teach and to teach their children how to read so that they could study the Bible. What a price that was paid!
What scriptures did they declare to one another, when God seemed absent from their suffering? Some that came to mind on that rainy day in that silent cemetary:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart….
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet…..
I run in the path of your commands, for You have set my heart free…..
My heart is steadfast, O Lord, I wll sing and make music with all my soul….
It is very convicting to me as a free Western believer who takes his Bible for granted. I had to ask myself if I would have given my life for this right. I hope so!
Such a sacrifice endears God’s Word to me even more – it is a treasure, a priceless record of God’s love for me. When you hold your Bible, remember those who walked by faith, giving their very lives for this privilege.
In His Grip,
Dr. Chuck F. Betters
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