It is the 18th of June 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I’m Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1788. Today we will stay in one country: Scotland; one year: 1788; and will look at three different deaths, the last of which took place on this day.
It was in this year that Bonnie Prince Charlie died. The so-called pretender to the throne was the grandson of King James II, the last Stuart king of England and Scotland. Bonnie Prince Charles’ full name was Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Severino Maria Stuart. He grew up in Rome, where he harbored the desire to reclaim the English and Scottish crown with Catholic, French, and especially Scottish assistance. Charles was able to make his way to the Scottish Highlands, where he marched on Edinburgh. He planned to head southward, picking up disaffected Brits on his way to the throne in London. English forces famously defeated him at the Battle of Culloden, and, like his grandfather, had to be hidden and secretly sent back to the continent where he would live out his days, dying in 1788.
While the news of the pretender dying made some waves, it likely didn’t overshadow the trial of the century that led to the hanging death of William Brodie. Brodie was hanged in 1788. The story of the devious deacon would echo throughout Edinburgh and eventually, the rest of the world. Brodie was born in 1741 in Edinburgh. While he was of a humble background, his training in woodworking led him to meet and work for many fashionable socialites. He was called a deacon, not because of his religious position, but rather because he was the head of his guild. However, Brodie had a devious double life. As a reputed woodworker and locksmith, he was hired to help build security mechanisms for many of the city’s elite. Brodie also had a severe gambling problem as well as two different mistresses with whom he had five children. And so, the temptation was too much. He began to make copies of keys he reproduced or make wax impressions of keys to the homes in which he worked. For 20 years, he terrorized those from whom he stole. His cover made him impossible to catch until finally, an accomplice ratted him out, and he was captured in Amsterdam awaiting a ship for America. The story became a scandal and Brodie was tried and hanged in this year. One of the elites for whom Brodie worked was one Thomas Stevenson. Stevenson’s son, Robert Louis, inherited the furniture made by the infamous woodworker, and being fascinated by the story of the man with a double life, retold it to the world as “The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde.”
And it was in that same city, that same year, on this the 18th of June in 1788, that the Reverend Adam Gib died. The popular and controversial Scottish pastor was similarly a cause celeb who led the so-called Anti-Burgher faction of the Scottish kirk. He was one of nine children born to a family of some means. He studied in Perth and Edinburgh, where he was interested in mathematics and medicine. However, one day while walking through the high town of Edinburgh, he saw a man hang on the gallows, possibly the same gallows that would later hang Mr. Brodie. It set the young man off into an existential crisis that led him to take up the study of theology. He stated that it was reading Luther’s Commentary on Galatians that led him not only to saving faith but to a conviction that he was to be a minister of the Gospel. It is said that he wrote a compact between himself and God, which he signed with his blood. I don’t know if that’s true. It is indeed, strange.
By the time he was ordained, the Burgher controversy was in full swing. In short, a burgher was a town official who would traditionally swear an oath of fealty to the state and the church. Gib was the head of the Anti-burgher faction, which didn’t mean he was anti-Burgher as much as he was against the idea that the burghers should swear an oath to the church. This oath was a big issue in late 18th century Scotland pertaining to the church and state. Gib, who once preached against Bonnie Prince Charles when the pretender was in Edinburgh, was no stranger to controversy. He left the church of Scotland in 1753 and preached to thousands in a parish in southern Edinburgh until his death. The tempestuous, radical, proponent of a kind of separation of church and state, Adam Gib was born in 1714. He died on this, the 18th of June, in 1788.
The reading for today comes from another Scot, the pastor, and poet Thomas Erskine. This is a couplet from his Gospel sonnets, this from his work “The Believer’s Principles.”
To hear of an incarnate God,
Is yet most wonderful and odd;
Or to behold how God most high
Could in our nature breathe and die.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 18th of June 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by Bonnie Prince Christopher Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day. and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.