‘Scotland’s last martyr’ : remembering James Renwick

February was a suitable month to remember James Renwick  (15 February 1662 – 17 February 1688). Renwick was a graduate of Edinburgh University who accepted a call to the ministry within the independent Presbyterian church ‘societies’. These communities were formed by the Covenanters, so named because they bound themselves in ‘covenants’ to maintain the Presbyterian doctrine as the sole form of religion in Scotland. They rejected the attempts of the Crown to control church government and patronage in Scotland.

Renwick’s short career included illegal field preaching, baptizing, and eluding capture by the authorities. His sermons and letter were published as tracts and pamphlets, some of which are preserved in New College Library’s Pamphlets Collection.

Renwick, James. A sermon.

Renwick, James. A sermon. Glasgow? : s.n., 17? .Z.h.49/34

Renwick was arrested in the Cowgate, Edinburgh, on 1 February and hanged for treason in the Grassmarket on 17 February. New College Library holds this manuscript letter of testimony:

Renwick, James. Letter of testimony, Edinburgh, 13 February 1688. MS BOX 4.4.1

Renwick, James. Letter of testimony, Edinburgh, 13 February 1688. MS BOX 4.4.1

Written in prison days before his execution, he reasserts his Christian beliefs and bids a touching farewell :

“Farewell beloved sufferers and followers of the Lamb…farewell, night wanderings, cold and weariness for Christ…farewell, sun, moon, and stars, and all sublunary things…”

James Renwick’s Letter of testimony will be on display at the Centre for Research Collections, University of Edinburgh April-July 2016, as part of the ‘Given in Good Faith’ exhibition.

Christine Love-Rodgers, Academic Support Librarian – Divinity

Kirsty Stewart, New College Collections Curator

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