December 2: Lady Colvill imprisoned for her faith (1684)

Entitled to the Benediction of the Savior
by Rev. David T. Myers

In the famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus pronounced a blessing upon His followers in Matthew 5:10, 11 when He said, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (NASB) There can be no doubt that the subject of our post today was entitled to the benediction of the Savior in her life.

Her name at birth was Margaret Wemyss, but through marriage with the Lord of Colvill, she was called Lady Colvill. From that union, which ended with the death of her husband in 1671, she bore two daughters. Our focus today is on this wife, and her son. The former was “A Lady of the Covenant,” and steadfast in her adherence to Presbyterianism in Scotland.

Her “crimes” were two-fold in the eyes of the Anglican government. When Presbyterian ministers were ejected in Scotland from their pulpits and parishes, they began to minister the Word and Sacraments in the fields and pastures of the people. Anywhere from mere handfuls to many thousands of laypeople would attend these field worship services, among them being Lady Colvill. To do so was to risk persecution, as the authorities frequently sent out troops of soldiers to fine and imprison and even kill these Presbyterians.

Her second “crime” was that she, being in a high and prosperous position in the realm, was frequently able to extend hospitality to these ejected Presbyterian pastors, providing for them with food and accommodations in her own home. When it became too dangerous to hold worship services in the fields, she opened up her home, holding services in the evening hours. From time to time, she, like hundreds of other Covenanters, was forced to flee to the mountains for safety.

Through all of this, to give her son a sound religious upbringing, she instructed him in the common doctrines of biblical Christianity, especially those of the Reformed faith. This especially met with opposition from the government, as Parliament had passed a law in 1662 that none should teach the second generation except those who had been approved by the Anglican bishops. When she insisted on teaching him herself, she was imprisoned  in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The order which was signed by the Lords of Session was signed on this day, December 2, 1684. It read, “The Lady Colvill is imprisoned in Edinburgh tollbooth (e.g. prison), by the privy council, for her irregularities, and particularly for breeding up her son, the Lord Colvill, in fanaticism and other disloyal principles, and abstracting and putting him out of the way, when the council was going to commit his education to others . . . .”

Translated for our readers, the above order means that Lady Colvill was imprisoned for withdrawing from her parish church, attending house and field preaching, and particularly for training her son in the principles of Presbytery and the Covenant.

Lady Colvill remained in difficult circumstances for several months in prison. In a rare exception, she was freed from prison so as to recover her health. But soon she was ordered back to prison. We lose track of her history at this point, but it is obvious that she endured much for her Christian Presbyterian convictions.

Words to Live By:
Rejoice and be exceedingly glad for such affliction, the Savior reminds us in our text above. What present and future persecution we suffer for Christ puts us in the same line of the saints of the past who suffered for the Savior’s cause. Be in preparation now for such times. Their likelihood increases even in our nation of America more and more. While none have been killed in our land, there are those who for the cause of Christ have had their businesses destroyed because of Christian convictions. Pray for them and be in prayer that we will remain faithful to Him and His cause.


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