The indulgences had managed to divide the Covenanters and now government persecution began to get worse again. But more and more conventicles were held in fields and houses with more and more people coming to them. Thousands of people came to hear ministers preach and to take communion. Some of those going to conventicles also began to bring weapons to defend themselves if they were attacked. Nearly as many people were attending these illegal conventicles as were going to churches to hear the official ministers preaching.
Many who preached or attended conventicles were put in prison, and were often kept there for a long time without even being given a trial. Some were even killed just for being at a conventicle. Clans of highlanders from the north of Scotland known as the ‘Highland host’ were sent to terrorise the south-west of Scotland.
Things got even worse after nine Covenanters killed Archbishop Sharp in May 1679. Sharp had been behind a lot of the persecution, so when the Covenanters heard that he was going to be passing by, they attacked his coach and killed him at Magus Moor near St Andrews. Many have seen this as murder and a reminder that even the Covenanters were not always right. But whether it was right or not, the persecution now got even worse.
J. G. Vos, The Scottish Covenanters (Edinburgh, 1998 ), pp 103-4.
Ian B. Cowan, The Scottish Covenanters 1660-1688 (London, 1976), pp 81-95.
DSCHT: Sharp, James
David George Mullan, ‘Sharp, James (1618–1679)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004