|The Killing Time|
|Part of the Restoration|
James Renwick executed in 1688
|Covenanters (Presbyterians)||Privy Council (Episcopalians and monarchy)|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Casualties and losses|
|c.100 executions |
The Killing Time was a period of conflict in Scottish history between the Presbyterian Covenanter movement, based largely in the southwest of the country, and the government forces of Kings Charles II and James VII. The period, roughly from 1679 to the Glorious Revolution of 1688, was subsequently called The Killing Time by Robert Wodrow in his The History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland from the Restoration to the Revolution, published in 1721–22. It is an important episode in the martyrology of the Church of Scotland.
In the century following the Reformation Parliament of 1560, the question of church government had been one of growing tension between popular opinion and the Monarch. While the Church of Scotland was Presbyterian in its legal status according to various acts of Parliament,  King James VI had developed a compromise which tended towards an Episcopalian church government, but Calvinist theology.
When King Charles I acceded to the throne in 1625, his policy increasingly antagonised the nation by imposing High Church Anglicanism and Erastian state control over spiritual matters of the church. This culminated in the 1638 National Covenant which was a widespread popular expression of the nation's protest at the King's policy. Ultimately the Bishops' Wars resulted in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. On 5 February 1649, six days after the English Parliament executed the King, the Covenanter Parliament of Scotland proclaimed Charles II "King of Great Britain, France and Ireland" at the Mercat Cross, Edinburgh,  but refused to allow him to enter Scotland unless he accepted Presbyterianism throughout Britain and Ireland.
In order to protect the Presbyterian polity and doctrine of the Church of Scotland, the pre-Restoration government of Scotland  signed the 1650 Treaty of Breda to crown him king and support him against the English Parliamentary forces.
However, at his Restoration in 1660, the King renounced the terms of the Treaty and his Oath of Covenant, which the Scottish Covenanters saw as a betrayal. The Rescissory Act 1661 repealed all laws made since 1633, effectively ejecting 400 Ministers from their livings, removing patronage in the appointment of Ministers from congregations and allowing the King to proclaim the restoration of Bishops to the Church of Scotland. The Abjuration Act of 1662 …was a formal rejection of the National Covenant of 1638 and the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643. These were declared to be against the fundamental laws of the kingdom. The Act required all persons taking public office to take an oath of abjuration not to take arms against the king, and rejecting the Covenants. This excluded most Presbyterians from holding official positions of trust.  Essentially, this returned church governance to the situation that existed prior to the expulsion of the bishops by the Glasgow General Assembly in 1638 and overthrew the Presbyterian form of organisation favoured by the Covenanters.
Church ministers were confronted with a stark choice: accept the new situation or lose their livings. Up to a third of the ministry refused. Many ministers chose voluntarily to abandon their own parishes rather than wait to be forced out by the government.  Most of the vacancies occurred in the south-west of Scotland, an area particularly strong in its Covenanting sympathies. Some of the ministers also took to preaching in the open fields in conventicles, often attracting thousands of worshippers.
The Scottish Privy Council attempted to end the dissent in the form of the First Indulgence of 1669, followed by a Second in 1672. These allowed ministers to return to their churches on condition that they remained silent on the issues dividing the Kirk. The English spy Daniel Defoe, who studied the period, listed the reasons why the more intransigent clergy refused to countenance the offer:
The Stuart regime, worried about the possibility of disorder and rebellion and resentful of the Covenanters' having made their fighting for Charles II during the civil wars conditional upon the maintenance of Scottish Presbyterianism, attempted to stamp this movement out, with varying degrees of success.  Fines were levied upon those who failed to attend the parish churches of the "King's curates", the death penalty was imposed for preaching at field conventicles, and torture of suspects using inventive punishments such as hanging people by the thumbs or using the boot or thumbscrews became a tactic of first resort.  In 1678, some 3,000 Lowland militia and 6,000 Highlanders (the 'Highland Host') were billeted in the Covenanting shires and plundered their unwilling hosts.  These policies provoked armed rebellions in 1666 and 1679, which were quickly suppressed.
The early summer of 1679 saw an escalation of civil unrest with the assassination of the Scottish Primate James Sharp, the Archbishop of St Andrews, the Battle of Drumclog and the Battle of Bothwell Bridge. The Sanquhar Declaration of 1680 effectively declared the people could not accept the authority of a King who would not recognise their religion, nor commit to his previous oaths. Read publicly at Sanquhar by a group of Covenanters led by the Reverend Richard Cameron, it renounced all allegiance to Charles II and opposed the succession of his brother James, Duke of York, a Roman Catholic. In February 1685 the King died and was succeeded by his brother as King James VII.
In response to these shows of political sedition, the Scottish Privy Council authorised extrajudicial field executions of those caught in arms or those who refused to swear loyalty to the King and renounce the Covenant by an Abjuration Oath.  This Oath of Abjuration was specifically designed to be repugnant to Covenanters and thereby act as a "sieve, the mesh of which would winnow the loyal from the disloyal."  John Graham, Laird of Claverhouse was commissioned to carry out the orders of the Privy Council and was responsible for various summary executions which earned him the name "Bluidy Clavers" by the Covenanters. 
Around 100 executions are recorded as a result of the Privy Council's orders, the majority being of radical Cameronians who were executed over a short period of several months in 1685, for civil crimes punishable by death.  Despite the relatively short duration of this action and its limitation to a single faction of the broader Presbyterian community, it has since come to dominate the historiography of the period.  
Amid rising tensions in both Scotland and England, the Stuart regime descended into chaos and the Glorious Revolution of 1688 ended James's reign in England when he fled on 23 December to exile in France. The ensuing political crisis in Scotland, which, pre-empted by English events, left Scotland without a king and saw the members of the Scottish Privy Council swiftly ask William to take over the responsibilities of government in Scotland on 7 January 1689.  Having read the mood of the people that there was a lack of popular support for James' regime and that William's political support grew as the crisis unfolded in a similar way to England,  the Scottish Parliament passed the Claim of Right Act, thereby establishing in Scots Law, that the throne was left vacant upon James' departure.
The persecution ended with the accession of William of Orange as King William II of Scotland in 1688 and the acceptance of Scottish Presbyterianism by the Act of Settlement 1690.  The execution of James Renwick in 1688 is regarded as closing the period of martyrdom.
at least 270.
Abjuration is the solemn repudiation, abandonment, or renunciation by or upon oath, often the renunciation of citizenship or some other right or privilege. The term comes from the Latin abjurare, "to forswear".
James Sharp, or Sharpe, was a minister in the Church of Scotland, or kirk, who served as Archbishop of St Andrews from 1661 to 1679. His support for Episcopalianism, or governance by bishops, brought him into conflict with elements of the kirk who advocated Presbyterianism. Twice the victim of assassination attempts, the second cost him his life.
The Wars of the Three Kingdoms, sometimes known as the British Civil Wars, were a series of intertwined conflicts fought between 1639 and 1653 in the kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland, then separate entities united in a personal union under Charles I. They include the 1639 to 1640 Bishops' Wars, the First and Second English Civil Wars, the Irish Confederate Wars, the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland and the Anglo-Scottish war (1650–1652). They resulted in victory for the Parliamentarian army, the execution of Charles I, the abolition of monarchy, and founding of the Commonwealth of England, a Unitary state which controlled the British Isles until the Stuart Restoration in 1660.
Alexander Peden, also known as "Prophet Peden", was one of the leading figures in the Covenanter movement in Scotland.
The Nonjuring schism refers to a split in the established churches of England, Scotland and Ireland, following the deposition and exile of James II and VII in the 1688 Glorious Revolution. As a condition of office, clergy were required to swear allegiance to the ruling monarch; for various reasons, some refused to take the oath to his successors William III and II and Mary II. These individuals were referred to as Non-juring, from the Latin verb iūrō, or jūrō, meaning "to swear an oath".
The Privy Council of Scotland was a body that advised the Scottish monarch. In the range of its functions the council was often more important than the Estates in the running the country. Its registers include a wide range of material on the political, administrative, economic and social affairs of the Kingdom of Scotland. The council supervised the administration of the law, regulated trade and shipping, took emergency measures against the plague, granted licences to travel, administered oaths of allegiance, banished beggars and gypsies, dealt with witches, recusants, Covenanters and Jacobites and tackled the problem of lawlessness in the Highlands and the Borders.
James Renwick was a Scottish minister with whose death on the scaffold, at the early age of 26, closed the sanguinary persecution directed against religious liberty in Scotland by the house of Stewart. He was born at Moniaive in Dumfriesshire on 15 of February 1662, being the son of a weaver, Andrew Renwick. Educated at Edinburgh University, he joined the section of the Covenanters known as the Cameronians about 1681 and soon became prominent among them. Afterwards he studied theology at the university of Groningen and was ordained a minister in 1683. Returning to Scotland “full of zeal and breathing forth threats of organized assassination,” says Mr Andrew Lang, he became one of the field-preachers and was declared a rebel by the privy council. He was largely responsible for the “apologetical declaration” of 1684 by which he and his followers disowned the authority of Charles II.; the privy council replied by ordering every one to abjure this declaration on pain of death. Unlike some of his associates, Renwick refused to join the rising under the earl of Argyll in 1685; in 1687, when the declarations of indulgence allowed some liberty of Worship to the Presbyterians, he and his followers, often called Renwickites, continued to hold meetings in the fields, which were still illegal. A reward was offered for his capture, and early in 1688 he was seized in Edinburgh. Tried and found guilty of disowning the royal authority and other offences, he refused to apply for a pardon and was hanged on 17 of February 1688. Renwick was the last of the Covenanter martyrs.
Margaret Wilson was a young Scottish Covenanter from Wigtown in Scotland who was executed by drowning for refusing to swear an oath declaring James VII of Scotland as head of the church. She died along with Margaret McLachlan. The two Margarets were known as the Wigtown Martyrs. Wilson became the more famous of the two because of her youth. As a teenager, her faith unto death became celebrated as part of the martyrology of Presbyterian churches.
The Battle of Rullion Green took place on 28 November 1666, near the Pentland Hills, in Midlothian, Scotland. It was the only significant battle of the Pentland Rising, a brief revolt by Covenanter dissidents against the Scottish government.
John Brown (1627–1685), also known as the Christian Carrier, was a Protestant Covenanter from Priesthill farm, a few miles from Muirkirk in Ayrshire, Scotland. He became a Presbyterian martyr in 1685.
Bishop Adam Bellenden was a 17th-century Scottish churchman serving the Church of Scotland and rising to be Bishop of Aberdeen.
A conventicle originally signified no more than an assembly, and was frequently used by ancient writers for a church. At a semantic level conventicle is only a good Latinized synonym of the Greek word church, and points to Jesus' promise in Matthew 18:20, "Where two or three are met together in my name."
Robert Fleming the elder was a Scottish Presbyterian Minister. Following the Restoration of King Charles II, he declined to accept the authority of the newly imposed bishops in the Kirk. He was therefore ejected as minister at Cambuslang. For the next ten years he remained in Scotland, preaching as he had opportunity. In 1669 he published the first part of Fulfilling of the Scripture in Rotterdam; it was later expanded to 3 parts and it is for this work and other treatises that Fleming is chiefly remembered. On 3 September 1672 he declined indulgence at Kilwinning, disobeyed a citation of the Privy Council, and fled to London, where his Scottish speech somewhat marred his usefulness. On 30 December 1677 he was admitted colleague to John Hog, minister of the Scots Kirk, Rotterdam. After the Revolution he might have been restored to Cambuslang, but preferred to remain in Holland. While on a visit to London, he died of fever, 25 July 1694, after a short illness. Daniel Burgess preached at his funeral and also recorded some memoirs of Fleming's life.
Alexander Shields or Sheilds or Sheills was a Scottish, Presbyterian, nonconformist minister, activist, and author. He was imprisoned in London, in Edinburgh and on the Bass Rock for holding private worship services. After his escape from prison he wrote A Hind Let Loose which amongst other things argues for the rights of people to resist tyrants including the bearing of arms and the resistance of taxes. It even argues that assassination, in extreme cases, is sometimes justified. Shields was one of the ministers who supported the Cameronians who disowned the king. They were brutally put down. All three of the Cameronian field-preachers, of which Shields was one, rejoined the church after the Revolution. Shields served as a chaplain to King William's armies in the Low Countries. Shields was later called to be a minister at St Andrews but did not stay there long as he joined the second Darien Expedition. After its failure he died on Jamaica under 40 years of age.
Covenanters were members of a 17th-century Scottish religious and political movement, who supported a Presbyterian Church of Scotland and the primacy of its leaders in religious affairs. The name is derived from covenant, a biblical term for a bond or agreement with God.
The Restoration was the return of the monarchy to Scotland in 1660 after the period of the Commonwealth, and the subsequent three decades of Scottish history until the Revolution and Convention of Estates of 1689. It was part of a wider Restoration in the British Isles that included the return of the Stuart dynasty to the thrones of England and Ireland in the person of Charles II.
The Reformed Presbyterian Global Alliance is a communion of Presbyterians originating in Scotland in 1690 when its members refused to conform to the establishment of the Church of Scotland. The Reformed Presbyterian churches collectively have approximately 9,500 members worldwide in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Scotland, France, the United States of America, Canada, Japan, South Sudan, and Australia.
Robert Hamilton (1650–1701), second baronet of Preston, was one of the leaders of the Scottish Covenanters. He was the son of Sir Thomas Hamilton, and brother of Sir William, first baronet of Preston. Hamilton was educated at Glasgow University under Professor Burnet. He attached himself to the cause of the Covenanters, and appears in command at Drumclog and Bothwell Brig. After the defeat he retired to Holland, where he remained with his brother-in-law, Gordon of Earlston, until the Revolution of 1688. He declined to recognise title of Prince of Orange, on the ground that he was not a Covenanted sovereign. He was arrested in Edinburgh for being concerned in the second Sanquhar Declaration of August, 1692, issued by the "United Societies". On liberation, he left his testimony afresh against backsliding in Church and State, and becomes as far as one person could be the main stay of "the afflicted Remnant." He died, unmarried, aged 51.
The Glorious Revolution in Scotland refers to the Scottish element of the 1688 Glorious Revolution, in which James VII was replaced by his daughter Mary II and her husband William II as joint monarchs of Scotland and England. Prior to 1707, the two kingdoms shared a common monarch but were separate legal entities, so decisions in one did not bind the other. In both countries, the Revolution confirmed the primacy of Parliament over the Crown, while the Church of Scotland was re-established as a Presbyterian rather than Episcopalian polity.
Scottish religion in the seventeenth century includes all forms of religious organisation and belief in the Kingdom of Scotland in the seventeenth century. The 16th century Reformation created a Church of Scotland, popularly known as the kirk, predominantly Calvinist in doctrine and Presbyterian in structure, to which James VI added a layer of bishops in 1584.