Lament for the Sons of the Covenant

December 20.
Hugh M’Kail was hung.

His ambition was to preach “Christ, the power of God, and the wisdom of God, unto salvation,” even through persecution by the English. After he was taken captive, they tortured him with the boot, which crushed the shin bone into a pulp. Yet still he refused to own Charles as head of the church. He was sentenced to die, but his response was joy. “Only four more days till I see Jesus,” he said.

When they took him to Grassmarket for his hanging, he spoke to the crowd. Usually the drummers would drown out whatever the condemned said, but today they were silent while M’Kail spoke. He told them not to mourn for his youth, for his blood might cause more to repent than many sermons would have.

He sang a part of the 31st Psalm, prayed, and then ascended the ladder.”I care no more to go up this ladder and over it, than if I were going home to my father’s house… Friends and fellow-sufferers, be not afraid; every step of this ladder is a degree nearer heaven.” He seated himself and addressed the crowd again. His whole speech is moving; here are excerpts.

“I do willingly lay down my life for the truth and cause of God, the covenants and work of reformation, which were once counted the glory of this nation; and it is for endeavouring to defend this, and to extirpate that bitter root of prelacy, that I embrace this rope.”

“There is a great solemnity here, of a confluence of people, a scaffold, a gallows, a people looking out at windows; so there is a greater and more solemn preparation of angels to carry my soul to Christ’s bosom; again this is my comfort, that it is to come to Christ’s hand, and he will present it blameless and faultless to the Father, and then shall I be ever with the Lord. And now I leave off to speak any more to creatures, and begin my intercourse with God, which shall never be broken off:—Farewel father and mother, friends and relations; farewel the world and all delights; farewel meat and drink; farewel sun, moon and stars; welcome God and Father; welcome sweet Jesus Christ, the Mediator of the new covenant; welcome blessed Spirit of grace, and God of all consolation; welcome glory; welcome eternal life; and welcome death.”

I wrote a lot about the Covenanters last year, and wrote this lament.
It isn’t meant to be sung, but I did write a melody to it, as a piece for solo violin. I sent it to my friend Anna, knowing she would understand the heart of what I was getting at, as well as the Celtic style. We recorded it this summer at Csehy, and you can hear it here.


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