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CE N the reign of King James the IV., some time be
fore the year 1500, it pleased the eternal Jehovah, who in the creation commanded light to shine out of darkness, amidst the ignorance of that age, to
cause his marvellous light take influence on Mordoch Nisbet in Hardhill, in the parish of Loudon and shire of Ayr, for attaining to the true and saving principles of Christian knowledge. His eyes were opened to see the vanity and evil of Popery, which, through grace, instantly inclined his heart to loathe it: so he deliberately resolved against it, turned from it, and joined himself with those called Lollards, the first name given to British Protestants, whom Papists called Heretics. But in the reign of King James the V., the Papists perceiving the Lollards began to grow numerous, and they not willing any should disturb their kingdom
of darkness, raised persecution against them. Then Mordoch fled over seas, and took a copy of the New Testament in writ. What else he did we cannot say; but after some stay abroad, he came home to see his native country, with others who had been elsewhere upon the same occasion ; two of whom were taken and burnt at Glasgow, viz., Mr Russel and Mr Kennedy, as is to be seen in the first book of Knox's History. Mordoch being in the same danger, digged and built a vault in the bottom of his own house, to which he retired himself, serving God and reading his new book. Thus he continued, instructing some few that had access to him, until the death of King James the V. But when the Queen Dowager held the regency, the true religion began to be more openly professed, the monuments and ornaments of Satan's kingdom of darkness pulled down: Mordoch, though then an old man, crept out of his vault, and joining himself with others of the Lord's people, lent his helping hand to this work through many places of the land, demolishing idolatry wherever they came. But having served his generation, he died, and left his son Alexander Nisbet heir to his New Testament zeal and concern for the true religion, which he indeed took care of, and continuing therein to his life's end, left his son James Nisbet heir to the written New Testament, and other relatives. This James was humble, meek, and very religious, but nothing of a public spirit. He married one Janet Gibson, who was eminently religious, bold, and public-spirited, beyond many of her sex. She died young, and left him with two children, a son called John and a daughter called Mary. I have heard her much commended and lamented though she was dead twenty-four years before I was born. James lived a widower all the rest of his days in the profession of the true religion and study of holiness, training up his family in the fear of God very painfully, some particular instances whereof might be given, but I incline not to enlarge. When he died, he left the written New Testament to his son John, who was adorned with the human advantages of a tall, strong, well-built body, and of a bold, daring, public spirit. He went abroad and joined in the military, the knowledge of which was of great use to him in time of the after persecution. Having spent some years thus in foreign countries, he returned to Scotland, and swore the covenants when King Charles at his coronation swore them in Scoon, 1650.
John leaving the military, went home to his own house, and married a young woman called Margaret Law, who proved an equal, true, and kind yoke-fellow to him all the remaining days of his life.
That she was endued with gracious qualifications suitable to his suffering circumstances, may readily be guessed at from the particulars anent her, which I refer to their more proper place.
John, after he was married, lived christianly and comfortably with his wife and family, until the year 1661, when King Charles and his underlings overthrew the glorious and ever famous work of Reformation: he conceived such dislike of them and their wicked proceedings, that particularly, frae once they burnt the covenant, he would neither cut his beard nor countenance them in the least, but witnessed against them on all occasions in his place and station. In the year 1664, he baptized a child with the reverend Mr John Blackader, one of the outed ministers : Home, the Episcopal curate, hearing of this, was greatly enraged, and published in his pulpit, that he would excommunicate John Nisbet in Hardhill the next Lord's day. But ere that day came, he was snatched away by a sudden death, so the execution was prevented. The persecution was then but newly begun; not exceeding three persons had suffered public death for the cause of religion, viz., the Marquess of Argyle, Lord Waristoun, and Mr James Guthry; and this seems to have been the reason why the malicious curate fell on such a ridiculous method of procedure. When the persecuted people met together at Lanark in 1666, and there renewed the covenant, John being one of them, and more known than others, was threatened with death for that and other zealous appearances which he had made. He being sensible of this, found himself obliged for his own safety, as well as principle, to follow these people, and keep with them in arms. At Pentland fight he received seventeen wounds, was stript naked, and left for dead; yet as much strength and life reserved as enabled him to make his escape in the night, though it was a twelvemonth before he recovered. At Drumclog he did good service, behaved to a wonder, yet was preserved. At Bothwell he fought openly and boldly, being not only a zealous Christian but a man of great bravery and resolution; he stood while any man would stand, after all he made his retreat, and at that time escaped from falling into the enemies' hand. The next day they came in search of him, but missing him, took all that he had in the world, thrust out his wife and four children, and locked the doors. Moreover, on some hell-hatched consideration, a party came immediately back to fetch away his wife and children, but they being got out of the way to seek shelter elsewhere, could not be found. Then was a proclamation issued forth, offering three thousand merks to any that would apprehend him; and if any harboured him or any of his, and did not deliver them up, they should be taken and punished, and all their goods confiscate. This took so among the frighted people, that nobody would let them in at a door that knew them; so they were obliged to wander from place to place among strangers. In this condition John and his family seemed to resemble those who are described in the xi. of the Hebrews and 38, “They wandered about in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens, and in caves of the earth.”
Thus, above six years, in the extreme heat and violent rage of persecution, especially from the year 1679 to 1685, he lived, as I may say, suffering all kinds of distress, not accepting deliverance, that with a safe conscience he might preserve to himself and others the free enjoyment of the Gospel faithfully preached in fields and hills, whither he and a select company, such as he was, came always well armed, as well to defend themselves as to protect their ministers and brethren from violence during the worship of God, as occasion should present. Notwithstanding of all this hardship, John would not abate his
Wodrow says he was Captain of a troop at Bothwell.
zeal, but still saying, “ Whoso will not be faithful in little will not be faithful in much; whoso putteth his hand to the plough, and looketh back, is not fit for the kingdom of heaven," and that, with Moses, we were not to lose hair or hoof. He went on pleading for truth, and contending against the sinful compliances of those times, hearing the Gospel when preached by Mr Donald Cargill, Mr Richard Cameron, and Mr James Renwick, and at all meetings of the Lord's people, where Providence furnished him opportunity, giving his counsel and advice anent carrying on of a testimony for truth.
Amidst these troubles, his wife's cheerful acquiescence and sincere sympathy with him was great comfort and encouragement to him. This woman preferred the peace and safety of a good conscience so far, (which to him and her was a continual feast,) that she was never heard nor seen to show the least discontent with her lot, although she underwent many troubles, such as her house and goods many times rifled, besides that at Pentland, and at the Highlanders plundering, when eight thousand of these cruel savages were turned in upon the western shires to press the bond of conformity. And, lastly, at Bothwell, all her sustenance and worldly substance was entirely taken away, after which, as hath been said, she might not stay in any place, nor none of her children where they were known. The proclamation formerly mentioned had intercommuned them, so that if they came to be known, or if intelligence was gotten to whom they belonged, there was no longer residence in that bounds for any of them. But the year 1683 and month of December put an end to all her troubles: she died in the eighth day of her sickness, more than twenty-three months, but not full two years, before he fell into the hands of his cruel enemies : she was buried in Stenhouse church-yard, where eight days after, her daughter was buried by her side. This natural and Christian duty behoved to be performed at midnight, because it might not be known what they were, neither would any body do it, but such as might not appear in the day-time. The curate having knowledge of them, and to whom they belonged, threatened to take them up and burn them, or else cast them to the dogs; but some