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HE “CLOUD OF WITNESSES," an edition of which we
now present to the reader in a new and handsome setting, was originally published as a small quarto volume of 290 pages. Its title page, of which we give a fac-simile, contains the name neither of printer, publisher, nor of compilers, but simply the year in which it was printed, viz., 1714. Considering the
rude state of the art of printing in Scotland at that time, after the tyranny and oppression under which the land had groaned for so many years, when much of Scottish literature had to be printed in Holland, and was secretly brought over and circulated in the country, it may be considered a very creditable specimen of typography; the title page being printed in two colours with a considerable amount of taste. There are, however, a goodly number of typographical errors in the text, which the compilers apologise for, at the close of the volume, in the following quaintly courteous sentence :-“Good READER,—There being several mistakes of the press in this impression, too many to bear any reasonable apology; it is hoped thy candour and ingenuity will pardon the smaller, and thy pen amend the greater, which may mar or aiter the sense ;
list whereof follows." The frontispiece, of which a fac-simile is also given, shows, in a still more remarkable degree, the low condition of the engraver's art in Scotland at that period, although in the next generation the future Sir Robert Strange learned in Edinburgh, under a Mr Cooper, the rudiments of an art, in which he was yet to rank among its greatest masters. But rude as it is, it has a power approaching to the sensational, and, no doubt, would lead many to read the book itself.
The second edition is said to have been published in 1725, but, while the first edition is not uncommon, this is one of the rarest of books. It is not in any of the public libraries, and even the recent discussions on the authenticity of the story of the Wigtown martyrs have not been successful in bringing a copy to public view. The third edition is an 18mo of 388 pages, and was published in 1730. It contains several additions to the matter of the first, such as the inscription on the grave of Margaret Wilson at Wigtown. fourth edition was published in Glasgow in 1741, and is a 12mo of 408 pages. It gives for the first time the Testimonies of John Nisbet younger, John Nisbet of Hardhill, Robert Millar, Thomas Harkness, the letters of John Semple and Archibald Stewart, and the epitaph at Rullion Green. The fifth edition was published in Glasgow in 1751, and is one of the most correct as well as the most beautifully printed of the early editions. It adds to the matter of former editions the testimony of John Finlay. Edition after edition followed the fifth in quick succession : the eighth edition was printed at Edinburgh in 1765; the tenth at Aberdeen in 1778; and in the same year (evidently in ignorance of the one issued from the banks of the Dee), another tenth edition was published at Glasgow. “A new edition " was printed in London in 1794, a fifteenth edition in Glasgow in 1814, and it has been given to the world in many different forms since.
So early as 1686, the Societies entertained the design of collecting and publishing the testimonies of the martyrs. In a letter (found in substance in the “Faithful Contendings,” but here given verbatim from the original autograph) to Sir Robert Hamilton, dated March 7th, 1688, Michael Shields, writing in their name, says
“It hath been our design and desire more than two years by-gone to collect an account of the sufferings of this poor despised remnant, with what the rest of the land have suffered, under the domineering
tyranny of the late deceased tyrant, and of the present usurper, to the end the same might be printed and published.
This we think a part of our generation work, and a duty laid upon us, as we would desire to have the cause of Christ, which we own and suffer for, handed down and transmitted to our posterity, and not be guilty of robbing them of such a rich treasure as the fragrant and refreshing account of the sufferings of the martyrs, witnesses, and confessors of Christ in this age is, and will be to those who come after us."
Through a difference of opinion that arose between the Societies and the person who was to edit this proposed collection of the testimonies of the martyrs, the publication did not take place, and it was not until some ten years after the Revolution that the proposal was again entertained.
The minutes, in manuscript, of the meetings of the General Societies, still in possession of the Reformed Presbyterian Synod. detail the steps taken for the publication of the “Cloud," as well as for the erection of stones over the graves of the martyrs. These minutes are
“Conclusions of the General Meeting at Crawfordjohn, April 21, 1697.
“ That a true and exact account of all the persecutors within the several quarters ; of the remarkable judgments and deaths, or what hath befallen to their families or estates ; be made up and brought to the next general meeting.
“CRAWFORDJOHN, April 5, 1699. That all the respective Societies send an index of all the late martyrs' testimonies, not in 'Naphtali,' to the next general meeting.
“CRAWFORDJOHN, Oct. 29, 1701. “ First concluded, that all the correspondences provide and make ready stones as signs of honour to be set upon the graves of our late martyrs as soon as possible ; and all the names of the foresaid martyrs, with their speeches and testimonies, and by whom they were martyred or killed in house or fields, country or city, as far as possible to be brought to the next general meeting, in order for the epitaphs ; and likewise an account of those martyrs' carriage and behaviour in the time of their martyrdom.
“Secondly concluded, a review of the former conclusions concerning the remarkable judgments of the persecutors, and the diligence of the correspondences and Societies to be diligently brought to the next general meeting.
“ CRAWFORDJOHN, Oct. 21, 1710. “That an index of all the martyrs' testimonies that are not in ‘Naphtali,' who were martyred in Scotland, be had from all quarters against the next general meeting; likewise an account of all the martyrs' names that suffered in this kingdom.
“ CRAWFORDJOHN, February 23, 1711. “ The martyrs' testimonies were given into Mr Alexander Marshall and Hugh Clark their hands, to be by them compared, and the correctest transcribed for the general meeting, and the copies to be returned to the several correspondences from whom they were collected, and the said persons were appointed to go to the (Rev.] Mr Linning (of Lesmahagow), and require a sight of the testimonies that he had from Mr Alexander Shields, belonging to the general meeting, and their diligence to be returned to the next general meeting.
“ CRAWFORDJOHN, Oct. 6, 1711. “ The several correspondences were appointed to take a copy of the epitaphs engraven upon the martyrs' gravestones in their several bounds, to be brought to the next General meeting, and that they be inquisitive what account can be had of any remarkable instances of God's judgments upon persecutors in their several bounds, and to have an account as well warranted as can be.
"CRAWFORDJOHN, June “It is enjoined to the several correspondences to be caresul to see what money may be advanced for printing the martyrs' testimonies, and an account, to be brought from each, of the quotas they think they can advance.
"CRAWFORDJOHN, Oct. 26, 1713. “The several correspondences are appointed to take care to get a true list of the martyrs who were shot or otherwise killed without process of law, their names, abodes, time and place of their deaths, who killed them, and any other particulars about them, with a true duplicate of the elegies on all the gravestones, against the Ist of January, to be sent to Edinburgh.”
These extracts show that the Societies had been engaged in gathering the materials of the “ Cloud of Witnesses” from at least 1697. Part of their first design, to notice what had befallen the persecutors, they seem to have laid aside, and to have been satisfied with the account given by Alexander Shields in his “Short Memorial of Grievances."
Alexander Marshall and Hugh Clark, to whom the Testimonies were to be given in, were prominent members of the Societies. Thirty years after the publication of the "Cloud," Alexander Marshall was licensed as a probationer by the Reformed Presbytery, and was soon afterwards ordained. He was the first probationer licensed by the Presbytery after its constitution in 1743. We are inclined to attribute the drawing up of the Appendix to him. Hugh Clark acted as clerk to the general meetings of the Societies in 1714. After his