Andrew and Elizabeth Renwick, a young couple, weavers, lived in the hills of Glencairn, Scotland, in the 1600s. All their children had died. Andrew accepted his grief, but Elizabeth cried to the Lord day and night for another child.

The Lord answered, and little James was taught the Holy Scriptures from infancy. Growing up, his conscience was tender; his mind, sharp. He excelled at the University of Edinburgh, but was denied a degree because he refused to accept Charles II as head of the Scottish church.

Remaining in Edinburgh, James watched with alarm as non-conformists were martyred, their severed heads and hands nailed to the city gates as a warning to others. He left Scotland for training and ordination abroad, but his heart was still in the highlands, and he soon returned to preach, teach, organize, counsel, and wear himself out. “Excessive travel,” he told a friend, “night wanderings, unseasonable sleep and diet, and frequent preaching in all seasons of weather, especially in the night, have debilitated me.” He trudged with diligence through moors and mountains, in the cold stormy nights and by day. His study was often a cold glen or cave; his pillow, a rock or log. He managed a hundred escapes, but at length one winter’s night in Edinburgh he was captured, put in irons, and convicted of treason.

His widowed mother visited him in prison, her heart breaking apart. “O James!” she cried, “How shall I look up to see your head and hands upon the city gate? I shall not be able to endure it.” He comforted her as he could, and on February 16, 1688 smuggled a message to her, “There is nothing in the world that I am sorry to leave but you. … Farewell, mother. Farewell, night wanderings, cold, and weariness for Christ. Farewell, sweet Bible and preaching of the gospel. Welcome, crown of glory. Welcome, O Thou blessed Trinity and one God! I commit my soul into Thy eternal rest.”

The next morning he embraced his weeping mother once more, then went to the scaffold.

He was twenty-six.

Keep on being faithful to what you were taught and to what you believed. After all, you know who taught you these things. Since childhood, you have known the Holy Scriptures that are able to make you wise enough to have faith in Christ Jesus and be saved. (2 Timothy 3:14,15)

Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Feb. 16.

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