March 8: Lady Mary Johnson, the Countess of Crawford

Not Many Noble are Called

Our title for this post could be the all-embracing title of many a post this year as this author recently was referred to a mid-nineteenth century British book entitled Ladies of the Covenant. The book was written by the Rev. James Anderson in 1851, and records the goodly number of elect ladies who were distinguished for their support of the Presbyterian cause in Scotland, despite physical deprivations and cruelty, including martyrdom, by the government against these people. By including posts about these godly women here on our blog, we answer one subscriber’s good request for posts on women who stood for the faith as well as men did in perilous times in Scotland and England.

Our subject today represents not only the fairer sex, but also one blessed with a high position among the men and women in that era of Scottish history.  She was Lady Mary Johnson, the Countess of Crawford.  Today we will not speak so much about her high position in birth and life, but will instead focus on her marriage to William on March 8, 1670. William was himself by his heritage ranked as an earl.  But of even a higher importance than these earthly honors is the fact that he was a friend of Presbyterians and of the suffering Covenanters in the land.  Throughout the history of the persecution, William was a man marked by the authorities such that he once considered fleeing Scotland for the Continent for his own safety. He never did actually leave for Holland, but by God’s grace, managed to remain in the land of his birth.

His first wife, Lady Mary Johnson, certainly had not been reared to take up favorable support for the Covenanters of Scotland.  In fact, her early training at home was contrary to all that for which the Covenanters stood. But with her marriage to William, so began a change in her personal character and religious sentiments.  Still, it was not until she sat under the preaching of the Rev. John Welsh that the spiritual change of regeneration took place in her soul.

Rev. Welsh was a field preacher, at a time when faithful ministers of the gospel had been thrown out of their parishes and pulpits, and Welsh had come to the area of her home, near Struther’s House, seeking out a place to declare God’s Word. His sermon, as the article in “Ladies of the Covenant” puts it, “was accompanied by the influences of the divine Spirit,” and “was the means of turning her from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God.”  And so by the mighty work of God’s Holy Spirit, the living marks of a child of God became characteristic of her life, in the few short years she had left on this side of glory.

Lady Mary Johnson died somewhere before November 15, 1682. A living example to others, she had labored much in the Lord’s work, not fearing the king’s prohibitions so as to absent herself from these field preachers.  Indeed, many were killed immediately simply for attending these sermons in the field, while others were seized and imprisoned, only to await trials and eventual martyrdom. But after  Lady Johnson’s conversion, she could never be persuaded by her unsaved relatives and friends to attend the prelacy churches, as they were called at this time.  Instead, she would take every opportunity to attend the simple preaching of the gospel, and thereby witnesses to her three children of the power of the gospel.

Words to Live By:
It is true that most, if  not all of our readers are not in the high positions of society, as the subject of our post was in her life time. It is true that, as Paul wrote, not many nobles are called in the history of the visible church. But it doesn’t say that “not any nobles were called,” just “not many nobles were called.”  In the providence of redemption, some have been set aside by the decree of election in eternity past, and called by God’s Spirit to saving faith and repentance in time.  Question, dear reader?  Regardless of where God has put you in your position in life upon this earth, have you come to a place in your spiritual life where you have repented of your sins and trusted in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation?

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