Tag Archives: Covenanter martyrs

At his execution, John Nisbet of Hardhill “sang the first six verses of the 34th psalm, and read the eighth chapter of the Romans, and prayed with great presence of mind, and very loud. He then went up the ladder, rejoicing and praising the Lord.”

JOHN NISBET OF HARDHILL (1627-1685)

“John Nisbet was born about the year 1627. He was the son of James Nisbet, and was lineally descended from Murdoch Nisbet of Hardhill, who, about the year 1500, joined those called the Lollards of Kyle; when a persecution being raised against them, he fled over seas, and took a copy of the New Testament, in writing, along with him. Some time after, he returned home, and digged a vault in the bottom of his own house, to which he retired, serving God, reading his new book, and instructing such as had access to him out of it.

John Nisbet being somewhat advanced in years, and having the advantage of a tall, strong, well built body, and of a bold, daring, manly spirit, went abroad and joined the military. Having spent some time in foreign countries he returned to Scotland, and swore the covenants at the same time that King Charles, upon his coronation, swore them at Scone, viz. 1650. Then, having left the military, he came home and married Margaret Law, one who proved a true and kind yoke-fellow to him all the days of her life, and by whom he had several children, three of whom survived himself…”

At the time of his execution…

“He sang the first six verses of the 34th psalm, and read the eighth chapter of the Romans, and prayed with great presence of mind, and very loud. He then went up the ladder, rejoicing and praising the Lord. And so, upon the 4th of December, 1685, in the 58th year of his age, ended that race, which he had run with faith and patience.”

Psalm 34:1-6 from the 1650 Scottish Psalter:

1 God will I bless all times; his praise my mouth shall still express.
2 My soul shall boast in God: the meek shall hear with joyfulness.
3 Extol the Lord with me, let us exalt his name together.
4 I sought the Lord, he heard, and did me from all fears deliver.
5 They look’d to him, and lighten’d were: not shamed were their faces.
6 This poor man cry’d, God heard, and sav’d him from all his distresses.

From Lives of the Scottish Covenanters by John Howie, p465 ff, found here

John Nisbet the younger “had a grave courage and staidness when he came to the place of execution; he prayed, and sang Psalm 16:5, to the close, with a great deal of affection and joy.”

“In 1683, Major White was fully empowered to fine and imprison all those who refused to acknowledge the Episcopal rule, or were supposed to sympathise with the Covenanters. It was in this year the Council granted him Justiciary power upon his apprehending John Nisbet the younger, as he was styled, to distinguish him from John Nisbet of Hardhill to prosecute him on the spot on the charge of being at Bothwell Bridge. He was accordingly tried at Kilmarnock, and sentenced to be hanged at the Cross. The spot where the gallows stood at the south comer is still marked by a circle of small white stones, and the initials of his name, J. N. Wodrow says “he had a grave courage and staidness when he came to the place of execution ; he prayed, and sang Psalm 16:5, to the close, with a great deal of affection and joy.”

Psalm 16:5 from the 1650 Scottish Psalter:

God is of mine inheritance and cup the portion;
The lot that fallen is to me thou dost maintain alone.

Nisbet belonged to the parish of Loudon. His execution was the only one which took place at Kilmarnock. His remains were buried in the Low Church burying-ground; an upright stone marks his grave, on which is carved a pistol, cross swords, and flags, and on a sculptured scroll the words,

Solemn League and Covenant, God and our Country, and underneath is inscribed :

HERE LIES
JOHN NISBET
who was Taken by-
Major Balfour’s Party &
Suffered at Kilmarnock
4th April 1683 for adhering
To the Word of GOD and our
Covenants. Rev. xii. & 1 1
Renewed by Public
Contribution
A.D. 1823.

On the other side:

Come, Reader, see, here pleasant NISBET lies :
Whose Blood doth pierce the high and lofty Skies.
Kilmarnock did his latter Hour perceive ;
And Christ his Soul to Heaven did receive.
Yet bloody Torrans did his Body raise
And bury’d it into another place :
Saying, Shall Rebels ly in Grave with me?
We’ll bury him where Evil-doers be.

Near the grave of Nisbet is a martyr-stone of remembrance to John Ross and John Shields, who suffered at Edinburgh, and had their heads set up at Kilmarnock.

From Inscriptions on the Tombstones and Monuments Erected in Memory of the Covenanters [microform] with historical introd. and notes (1881), p 134-135 found here