James Renwick (1662-1688) was the last of the Scottish Covenanter martyrs. Born in Dumfriesshire, he was educated at the University of Edinburgh, graduating with a Master of Arts in 1681. Whilst at Edinburgh he witnessed the execution of Donald Cargill, a radical Covenanter preacher who had repeatedly preached against the restored Stuart monarchy and the imposition of the episcopal system of Church government. The event convinced Renwick to join Cargill's fellow adherents, most notably Richard Cameron, and he was sent to Holland to continue his theological studies. In 1683 he finished his studies and was ordained. He returned to Scotland via Ireland in the same year and began his ministry, organising various secret meetings in fields and empty churches. He gained popularity amongst Covenanters through his skill at preaching but in 1685 he refused to join the insurrection of Archibald Campbell, 9th Earl of Argyll, and lost many friends and supporters. In 1687 James II granted two indulgences giving Presbyterians full liberty to assemble for their worship in meeting-houses or private residences, on condition of registration and taking an oath of allegiance. All but Renwick and his followers agreed to the stipulations and he and his followers were hunted down by the authorities. Renwick himself was captured on 1 February 1688, whilst visiting Edinburgh. Although he was given plenty of opportunity to recant his opposition to the Stuarts throughout his trial and before his execution, he refused and was duly hanged on 17 February 1688.
During his life Renwick never published any of his writings or sermons but soon after his death they were collected, transcribed and published, with a faithful follower, the Reverend Alexander Sheilds (1660?-1700), composing first a eulogy of his death and later a fuller biography of the man.
Source: D.F. Wright, 'Renwick, James [James Bruce] (1662-1688)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. By permission of Oxford University Press - http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/23382.