Along the southern coast of Scotland, sits a small homely village named Wigtown. It has a population of less than 1,000 souls. Travel there today and you would stroll by a wide range of book-related businesses. Many tourists come to this quaint and restful little town in order to escape from the commotion of everyday life and enjoy the quiet coastal landscape. Nevertheless, for all its peaceful quietness and beautiful scenery, the town served as a backdrop for one of the most heart-wrenching events during Scottish and church history.
As we go back in time, the events that happened below occurred more than a century beyond the Scottish Reformation, which ended in 1560. As years passed, many questions about the structure of church government went unresolved. Ultimately, the political tension between the public opinion in Scotland and the monarchy in England turned violent in late 17th century. The year 1685 in Scotland was known as "the killing times". Soldiers of King Charles II of England hunted down thousands of Scots, including women and children, and killed them in the most unimaginable ways possible. Rather than recognizing the King of England as the Lord of the church, the crime against many Scots was their commitment to Jesus Christ as head of the church. They sought to worship Him, and called themselves The Covenanters.
Two Covenanters, Margaret MacLachlan and Margaret Wilson, found themselves thrust into the middle of this war. Margaret MacLachlan was 63 years old. She was a widow and known by her neighbors as a devout Christian. Government officials of the king threatened and harassed her saying she must forsake her Covenanter minister and worship God only in the way that the king ordered. Although scared, she would not violate the truth behind her faith. She was eventually imprisoned by the King's soldiers when they burst into her home as she knelt down to worship the Lord.
Margaret Wilson was only 18 years old when she was arrested by the king's soldiers. She had been hiding in the woods with her 13 year old sister. They had been drying themselves near a fire, after being forced to live in the forests and marshes as they hid from the king's soldiers. Both Margaret and her sister were thrown into prison inside the "Thieves Hole" which was reserved for the worst criminals. There, in the dark and damp cell, they waited for two months before the start of their trial.
On April 13, 1685 both women stood before the judge of the court. The judge asked them to swear an oath recognizing the king as the head of the church in Scotland. They answered, "no". The judge, seemingly enraged at this point, had the soldiers force the women to their knees as he decided their fate. Their punishment: the two were to be tied to a post and sentenced to death by drowning from the incoming tide at the Solway Inlet.
After the sentencing was done, a small contingent of soldiers marched the two Margarets out to the beach and hammered two long wooden poles into the sand of the tideland. As they did this, they placed MacLachlan's pole further from the shore and tied her to it. They then strapped Margaret Wilson to a pole closer to the bank. The soldiers wanted Margaret Wilson to watch as MacLachlan suffered and died in front of her. Their hope was to force Maraget Wilson to recant from her pledge to the king of England. As this happened, many family members and villagers gathered to watch the tragedy unfold. They prayed, in hopes that their lives would be spared.
As the tide rose to the shoulders and neck of the older Margaret she remained silent. Each wave came in slammed into her. Minutes passed as the cold, salty and brackish water covered her mouth. She gasped for air one last time. All the while this was happening, one of the soldiers yelled out to Margaret Wilson, "What do you think of her now?"
Margaret answered, "I see Christ wrestling there. Do you think we are the sufferers? No, it is Christ in us."
As the waters passed by the lifeless body of Margaret MacLachlan and surrounded Margaret Wilson she began to sing Psalm 25.
As she was singing the soldiers waded through the waist deep water and handed her a Bible as they untied her hands from the post. Margaret immediately turned to Romans 8 and read out loud the following passage. "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." - Romans 8:18. She continued reading aloud and finished the chapter by reading the following, "For I am sure, that neither life nor death, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in creation, will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" - Romans 8:38.
Margaret Wilson would die the same terrible death of Margaret MacLachlan that day. Just before the tide was to consume her, the soldiers once again lifted her out and asked for her to recant and asked her to pray for the king. With her body shivering, her lips blue and her skin pale she answered, "God save him if he will, for it is his salvation I desire." The soldiers pushed her under the water and held her down until she drowned.
This story and others like these are very sobering reminders of living a life that shows the worth of the gospel. History is full of courageous men and women who did not yield to the darkness of their times. Instead, they spoke the truth. As John Piper once stated, "speak of the light of Christ from what you have learned in the closet." Stand fast, stand firm in the faith and do not fear any man.