The Time Was Not Ripe
by Rev. David T. Myers
This mysterious phrase is found on a stone memorial on the grounds of the Battle of Rullion Green which is located eight miles south of Edinburgh, Scotland. It tells the tragic story of defeat in the first battle of the Scot Covenanters—Presbyterians all—against the English government of Charles II.
This battle was part of the Killing Times era of Scottish Covenanters. In essence, the Anglican government had declared war against the Presbyterians of Scotland, asking for unconditional surrender on their part. Their pastors—some 400 of them—had been ejected from their pulpits, their manses, and their parishes. When some of them began to preach to their people in the fields and moors, that whole scene became a dangerous practice, with fines leveled against the attenders, and imprisonment and death as well. All that was needed was a spark to ignite the smoldering indignation of the Scottish people of God.
That spark occurred on November 13, 1666 when an old man by the name of John Grier was accosted by the soldiers of the English government. Unable to pay a fine for his absence from his church with its Anglican curate in the pulpit, he was beaten severely that day. Four local Covenanters happened upon the scene, and tried first to reason with the soldiers. When that failed, words turned to actions, and one of the soldiers was shot. Other villagers joined in the fray and took the solders prisoners. At this point, the Covenanters numbered ninety people.
Aware of the danger posed by their actions, they marched to Dunfries, Scotland, where they attacked other soldiers, killing one in the process. By this time, their numbers had reached two hundred and fifty. On the way, they captured Sir James Turner, the overall military commander in the area. Continuing further, they encountered a soldier friend by the name of James Wallace, who had experience in warfare. He and his military subordinates joined the Covenanter crowd. They then headed to Edinburgh, the capital city, to find more support for their actions to stop “the killing times,” though to their surprise, the weapons of the citizens were turned against them. The time was not ripe for a rebellion against English rule, evidently, despite their numbers having reached some three thousand or more by this time.
The English government dispatched General Thomas Daiziel against them, who with an army of 3000 (some sources say 5000 soldiers), marched after them. The Covenanter force, with their inadequate weapons and supplies, began to fail, with many deserting the force, leaving some 900 left to do battle. On the afternoon of Wednesday, November 28, 1666, on a long slope in the country side south of Edinburgh, three thrusts by the government forces eventually brought a crushing of the valiant forces of the Covenanters. Some fifty were killed, including two Presbyterian ministers from Ulster. But that was only the beginning of the killing done that day. A bloody retribution was exacted upon the prisoners, including starvation, death by handing, and sending many on prison ships to the American colonies and the West Indies.
Words to Life By:
On the monument which marks the battlefield, there is carved a biblical text from Revelation 12:11, which reads, “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.” Another inscription reads,
“A cloud of witnesses lyes here,
who for Christ’s interest did not appear,
For to restore true Liberty
Overturned then by Tyrany
and by Proud Prelates who did rage
Against the Lord’s own heritage.
Their sacrifices were for the Laws
of Christ their king, his noble cause,
These heroes fought with great renown,
By falling got the Martyr’ Crown.”