DONALD CARGILL - BIOGRAPHY, Part Two
CHAPTER V. Sharp's assassination and the battles of
Drumclog and Bothwell.
THE year 1679 was made memorable in Scotland by three events which stand closely related, and which, in future years, were often used by the persecutors as instruments of detection and torture. Those were the assassination of Archbishop Sharp, and the battles of Drumclog and Bothwell Bridge, regarding which events it was customary to put ensnaring questions to the persecuted, and thereby to secure their condemnation. The first, which occurred on the 3rd of May, spread terror throughout the land, and also created dissension among tho Covenanters themselves. James Sharp, Primate of all Scotland, popularly known by the name of Judas, and universally regarded as the evil genius of his country, was returning from a meeting of the Council in Edinburgh, where he had succeeded in carrying through a still more severe measure of cruelty and repression than any hitherto adopted. In a few days he expected to leave for London, that he might obtain the royal authority for this fresh edict, and meanwhile he was travelling to his palace in St. Andrews in company with his daughter. At a lonely place, not far from his destination, known as Magus Moor, he was overtaken and slain by some of the wilder and sterner spirits among the Covenanters, who acted on the impulse of the moment, and solely on their own responsibility.Far from being daunted by the uproar which the Archbishop's death occasioned, the Covenanters of the West resolved to celebrate the 29th of May by a new protest, known as the Rutherglen Declaration. Having assembled at Rutherglen, a small royal burgh two miles from Glasgow, they first extinguished the bonfires by which this day was being celebrated, and, having burned certain obnoxious Acts of Parliament and of Council, they then affixed their own Declaration or protest to the market cross. This new act of rebellion was at once resented by the Council, who commissioned John Graham of Claverhouse, a dashing officer recently returned from service in France and Holland, to disperse the rebels.
On the following Sabbath, a large Conventicle was being held at Drumclog, near Loudoun Hill in Ayrshire, and, as was now the custom at such gatherings, a goodly number of those present carried arms of one sort or another. Claverhouse, who was in command of a garrison at Glasgow, on hearing of the intended meeting, hastened thither at the head of his own troop of horse, assisted by two companies of dragoons. The sermon was just beginning, when one of the watchmen on a neighbouring height fired the signal gun, and retreated at full speed towards the assembled congregation. Ere long the peaceful assemblage of Christian worshippers was transformed into a body of stern and fearless warriors, ready to suffer and die for Christ's Crown and Covenant. According to the old tradition, which still survives, the Covenantors formed in battle array, and marched in solemn majesty to meet Claverhouso and his dragoons, singing together the grand old Psalm "In Judah's land, God is well-known,"
Sung to the strains of the half-plaintive, half triumphant "Martyrs," this inspired song filled the Covenanters with a superhuman courage, while it spread dismay among their enemies, and soon Claverhouse was glad to flee with the shattered remains of his troops. Had this victory boon followed by earnest and united measures on the part of the Covenanters, there is reason to believe that the history of the next ten years might have been very different from what it actually became. But, unhappily, the spirit of suspicion and disunion entered their ranks, and three weeks later, on the 22nd of June, they met with a crushing defeat at Bothwell Bridge. In this battle, the Government troops, fifteen thousand strong, were led by the Duke of Monmouth, a natural son of Charles II., while the Covenanters numbered only about five thousand, and suffered both from want of proper equipment and from the miserable disputes by which their camp for several days had been turned into a bear garden, or at least a debating club.
Besides the ministers who had already accepted the Indulgence, there were now two distinct parties among the Covenanters, one consisting of those who, while refusing it themselves, had not cut themselves off from communion with the Indulged, the other regarding it as the very invention of Satan. The latter party, to which Cargill belonged, was led by Robert Hamilton, son of Sir Thomas Hamilton of Preston, described by Hetherington as "a man of personal piety, but of narrow and contracted views, ill-directed zeal, and overbearing temper." His recent victory at Drumclog, where he commanded against Claverhouse, had doubtless increased both his military reputation and self-confidence, and made him more determined than ever to adhere to his own narrow policy. Of the eighteen ministers who were present none of them had takeim the Indulgence, but all with the exception of Cargill and Douglas were willing to treat it meanwhile as an open question, and to enrol all Presbyterians under the same banner.
The chief of these was John Welsh, the outed' minister of Irongray, whose strenuous exertions to unite his brethren and to prevent impending disaster proved unsuccessful. Inheriting many of the qualities of his grandfather, the minister of Ayr, and of his grandmother, a daughter of John Knox, he had for many years been one of the most intrepid of the field-preachers, and had been hunted by the Government as a "declared and proclaimed traitor." Having, however, attended a meeting of ministers at Edinburgh, where an attempt was made to bridge the gulf between the indulged and the non-indulged, he had incurred the suspicion and opposition of the more extreme among the Covenanters, and his arrival at Bothwell, accompanied by a considerable number of what were then called Moderate Presbyterians, brought the disputes between these two sections to a head. James Ure, of Shargarton, in his interesting "Narrative" of the battle, throws much light on the situation. He and his company, most of whom were from the neighbourhood of Kippen and Gargunnock, were among the 300 who kept the bridge, which was the key of defence. "The enemy," says Ure, "came hard to the bridge end and spoke to us, and we to them. They desired us to come over, and they would not harm us, and called for Mr. Hamilton to speak with him: so Mr. David Hume (who had been minister of Coldingham, Welsh's right-hand man) went over, and another gentleman with him, and spoke with the Duke, and desired his Grace if ho would prevent the elluffusion of blood. He told them their petition should have been more humbly worded, and said lay down your arms and come in his mercy and we should be favourably dealt with. So he returned and told us. When Robert Hamilton heard it, he laughed at it, and said And hang next'!" Ure, like Welsh himself, was a man of indomitable courage, and for nine years he and his family underwent inexpressible sufferings, though happily he survived the Revolution, and died at his own house in peace. But he was unable to agree with Hamilton and Cargill in their view of the situation. Addressing the former, he told him that he had a wife and five children and a little bit of an estate, all which, together with his life, ho was willing to sacrifice to get the yoke of prelacy and supremacy removed, but that it was evident that those who followed him intended to tyrannize over their consciences, and lead them into a worse snare than that in which they had been. This wrangling over the Indulgence has been described as the tedious warfare of men who had need of union in face of the serious injury inflicted on their Church, and of the wrong done to their country's freedom.
It was not the Indulgence, however, which alone divided the Covenanters, but another question which now became more prominent and urgent. This was the question of allegiance to Charles Stuart as their lawful king. The great body of Presbyterians were still loyal, and while protesting against the character of the king's government, were prepared to defend his throne with their lives. But Hamilton and those who were most closely associated with him had begun to realise that their liberties, civil and religious, would never be safe so long as the Stuart family reigned. This difference of opinion, which was no new thing in the experience of the Covenanters, had recently been more strongly accentuated by the necessity of publishing to the world the grounds on which they took up and continued in arms. In a draft Declaration, prepared by the moderate party, the king's authority was expressly acknowledged; while this step was vehemently opposed by the others, who contended "that as they had not mentioned the king and his interest, and had waved any positive declaration against him, so they might be excused and not urged to declare positively for him." The Declaration, as finally agreed upon at Hamilton, though dissented from by Cargill and many others, contained the following reasons in explanation of the so-called present rebellion:
(1) The defending and securing of the true Protestant religion and Presbyterian Government founded on the Word of God and summarily comprehended in our Confessions of Faith and Catechism, and established by the laws of this land, to which king, nobles, and people are solemnly sworn and engaged in our National and Solemn League and Covenants, and more particularly the defending and maintaining of the kingly authority of our Lord Jesus Christ over his Church against all sinful supremacy, derogatory thereto and encroaching thereupon.
(2) The preserving and defending the king's person and authority in the preservation and defence of the true religion and liberties of the kingdom, that the world may bear witness with our consciences of our loyalty, and that we have no thoughts nor intentions to diminish his just power and greatness.
(3) The obtaining of a free and unlimited Parliament, and of a Free General Assembly, in order to the redressing of the foresaid grievances, for preventing the danger of Popery, and for the extirpation of Prelacy. To this Declaration, and especially to the statement regarding the king's person and authority, exception was taken by many of the Covenanters, and, in the following address by Cargill on the occasion of the first public Fast in the fields after Bothwell, it is singled out for special condemnation. To understand the allusion to "the bonds for ministers," to which he strongly and consistently objected, it should be stated that, after their defeat at Bothwell and largely through the influence of the Duke of Monmouth, a third but short-lived Indulgence was procured for those Presbyterian ministers for whom a certain bond or security was given. This was fixed at the exorbitant sum of 6000 merks, and under this penalty the parishes were bound to produce their ministers for punishment, whenever they should transgress the laws. Besides ignoring the Church's claim to spiritual independence, and entailing serious responsibility upon consenting ministers and their sureties, the "bond" helped to widen tho gulf between different sections in the ministry, and to introduce still greater confusion into the ecclesiastical affairs of the land. It is to this new stage in the drama that Cargill now refers, and from the tone and tenor of his speech we can easily perceive that in his opinion the movement was a retrograde one, and fraught with serious consequences.
"Now," he says, "we are here this day met together to humble ourselves before the Lord. Humbling is a great work. Oh for sincere hearts ready to receive convictions, and for tenderness of heart to mourn over sin when it is seen. If once we had gotten off our burden of sin and our bonds of unbelief and hardness of heart, we would then more easily wrestle through that which is before us. Ye know not what a sea ye have yet to pass through. Should ye not then make light for your voyage? Should ye not seek for a horse to carry you through the floods? Therefore put off your burden of sin and seek to be mounted upon Omnipotence; otherwise you will sink, and the first sinking will not be the worst of it. I say again we are met here to humble ourselves before the Lord, and the more so as hitherto we have not done it rightly, which is evidenced by this that the Lord has not answered our desires, and His wrath and judgments have increased. He has smitten us, and after such dealing not to see our sin is blindness, and to conceal it is a mocking of God. It was a sad word of a minister on a public fast day when he said that there were some sins we must put our thumb upon. It may easily peep out to a serious soul what was the fault of our former fastings. There is our main land-sin which has never been acknowledged, which is one of the greatest controversies God has against Great Britain and Ireland, namnoly, the espousing of a malignant' interest. This was the great cause of our first stroke, and we may justly charge all the blood at Bothwell upon the authors, imposers, or consentors to that Declaration at Hamilton, which drew the wrath of God upon the whole army. And so we may impute our losses at Dunbar and Inverkeithing to the same, because we did palpably mock God by not purging those armies from the malignant interest. But it may be objected that we have sworn allegiance, and are bound by our Covenants to our king. I answer, we are indeed bound and have sworn allegiance to a Covenanted King and rulers, who are for religion and reformation, and Established Church government. But where are they? . . . This day our eyes should be on these three things :
(l) The sins that are past, both our own and the nation's;
(2) the present captivity and slavery of the Church;
(3) the judgments that are coming on these lands."
Referring then to the sins of the nation, he says:-"And yet if any speak against the Indulgence, paying of the Cess or bonding for ministers, ye rise up in wrath against them. Ye will rather fight against those who would convince and instruct you, than search out and mourn for those abominations of the land. But ye will say they are good men, holy men, great men, who approve of these things. Well, the greater they be, their sin must be acknowledged if we desire to have success with God. As to our rulers, some may think we have no reason to mourn for their sin. True, from them we neither have thanks nor expect thanks; but it being a sin of the nation, we must mourn for it if we expect to be marked for mourners before God, and we must refuse all sinful subjection to them if we would not be accounted undutiful to God and rebels against him."
In some further remarks on the captivity and slavery of the Church, he observes:-"We ought both to mourn and petition God because of this. But we are so far from doing this, that in many of our actions we concur with and confirm it. Amongst others, ye that come before the Council to bond for ministers bring as it were a rope with you to bind the Church, and every new bond is a new rope. For to have ministers only from the King and Council upon bonds is a strengthening of the Church's captivity. And who is there that is not by this and other things this day helping to bind the captive Church, and so consenting that Satan shall have a triumphant kingdom in the land By this you thrust Christ into a corner, and give Satan leave to reign at large."
The defeat sustained by the Covenanters at Bothwell Bridge was a crushing one, and would have been followcd by still more disastrous consequences but for the clemency of Monmouth. For this he was taunted when he returned to London by the Duke of York, and also by the king, the latter remarking in the most heartless manner, "If I had been there would have been no trouble about prisoners." "If that was your wish," replied Monmouth with great dignity, "you should have sent not me, but a butcher." As it was, about four hundred perished on the field or in the chase, and twelve hundred were taken prisoners. Those were dragged in triumph to Edinburgh, where at first they were mostly confined in the Greyfriars Churchyard without shelter or covering. Many were liberated on sundry conditions, others escaped at the risk of their lives, while the rest, after remaining there for five months, wore shipped for the American plantations, but were wrecked off the coast of Orkney, and with few exceptions miserably perished. Cargill, who was severely wounded in the battle and taken prisoner, though, strange to say, left by his captors, as his wounds seemed fatal, found it advisable to leave Scotland for a theand to retire either to Holland or to England, whence however he soon returned to take up his abode for a thein the neighbourhood of Queensferry.
SITUATED on the south shore of the Firth of Forth, and on the direct road between Dunfermline and Edinburgh, South Queensferry was from an early period a place of interest and importance. In 1636 it was erected into a royal burgh, but for centuries before it possessed peculiar privileges, arid as early as the middlo of the 11th century it receives historical mentions. The Hawes Inn, which is still a.favourite resort for those who visit the Forth Bridge, is mentioned by Scott in The Antiquary and by Robert Louis Stevenson in Kidnapped, but in Cargill's thethere was a humbler place of entertainment about a mile to the west of this, and right in the middle of the town, which, though now in a very dilapidated state, is still known as the Covenanters' House. Here at the begining of 1680 a serious encounter took place with the Governor of Blackness, which resulted in the death of Henry Hall of Haughhead, and from which Cargill barely escapod with his life. For some thethese two brave men had been lurking in the neighbourhood, finding shelter among their friends on both sides of the river, and taking advantage of opportunities as they occurred to advance the cause they loved. Recognised one day by the curates of Borrowstounness and Carriden, information was at once sent to the Governor of Blackness, who ordered some soldiers to follow him at a distance, while he and his servant rode after the outlaws till they reached Queensferry. We give the story now as it is told by Howie in his Life of Henry Hall: "here perceiving the house where they alighted, he sent his servant off in haste for his men, putting his horse in another house, and coming to them as a stranger he pretended a great deal of kindness to them both, desiring that they might have a glass of wine together. When each of them had taken a glass and were in friendly conference, the Governor, wearying that his men came not up, threw off the mask and laid hands on them, saying they were his prisoners, and commanded the people of the house in the King's name to assist. They all refused except one, Thomas George, a waiter, by whose assistance he got the gate shut. In the meanthe, Haughhead being a bold and brisk man struggled hard with the Governor until Cargill got off; but after the scuffle, as he was going off himself, having got clear of the Governor, Thomas George struck him on the head with a carbine and wounded him mortally."
On their way to Edinburgh Henry Hall died in the hands of his captors, who carried his body to the Tolbooth and after some days buried it secretly. Though related to the Earl of Roxburgh, arid possessing much influence among the Covenanters, so much was he an object of hatred to those who were then in power that his friends could not obtain for him even an honourable burial. This was partly due to the fact that after his death a paper was found on him, in which the king's authority was formally disowned, and a solemn promise given that those now contending for liberty would continue the struggle until it was successful, or would hand it down to those who followed them. But for its length and its clumsy involved style, we would have given this Paper in full, partly because of the cruel and unfair use made of it by the Government of the day, and partly because it contains, as many think, the very pith of sound constitutional doctrine regarding both civil and ecclesiastical rights.
This, which is generally known as the Queensferry Paper, was commonly ascribed to Cargill, though he himself refused to acknowledge its authorship. Most probably it was meant to form the basis of a general Covenant or Declaration such as that which shortly afterwards was fixed by Cameron and his friends to the cross of Sanquhar. There were some expressions in it, however, which even Cargill objected to, and inasmuch as it was without his, or indeed any other signature, it would be manifestly unfair to claim him as its author. After his marvellous escape from the Governor of Blackness, Cargill was taken by friendly hands to a house in Carlowrie, whore his wounds were dressed and his wants attended to. There he lay in a barn all night, and next Sabbath preached at Cairnhill, near Loudoun, from Heb. xi. 32, "And what shall I more say, for the thewould fail me to tell of Gideon," etc. In reply to some person who aftorwards said, "We think, sir, preaching and praying go best with you when danger and distress are greatest," he admitted that this was the case, that the more his enemies thrust at him that he might fall, the more seemingly the Lord helped him. Then, as if to himself, he repeated tho words of the 118th Psalm, "The Lord is my strength and song and is become my salvation." This, as later on we shall have occasion to observe, was the Psalm he sang upon the scaffold.
Soon afterwards, on the 22nd of June, the first anniversary of Bothwell Bridge, about twenty armed persons rode into the town of Sanquhar, one of whom, Michael Cameron, after religious exercises, read what is now generally known as the Sanquhar Declaration, and affixed a copy of it to the market Cross of that burgh. In this they publicly disowned the king's authority, threw off all allegiance to the House of Stuart, and claimed for themselves and for their children the right of a Free Parliament and a Free Assembly. This has been truly described as the first scene in the drama of the revolution in which the reign of the Stuarts was brought to an end. "These men were traitors and rebels," says Professor Herkness: "but to what cause, and to what person? They were traitors against the organised tyranny that styled itself the Government of Scotland, rebels against the king in whose name they had been persecuted for abiding by that freedom which he had solemnly sworn to preserve."
Four weeks later, an engagement took place between them and the king's troops, in which Michael Cameron and his more distinguished brother Richard were both slain, after displaying the most extraordinary bravery. Of this fatal encounter at Airsmoss, in the parish of Auchinlock, we have an exquisitely beautiful and appropriate memorial in the following poem, written by an Ayrshire shopherd lad, James Hyslop, to whose memory a monument has recently been erected (poem removed by editor - available on request)
Two who survived the battle and afterwards suffered martyrdom in the Grassmarket of Edinburgh, on the 13th August, were John Malcolm and Archibald Alison, to whom Cargill found theto send a long and interesting letter, from which we make the following extract (see menu for letter two)
Three days after the battle, Cargill preached in the parish of Shotts from the text - (2 Sam. iii. 28) "Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel?"
He and Cameron were kindred spirits, soldiers in the liberation war of humanity, and as watchmen upon the walls of Zion they saw eye to eye. "As for Richard Cameron," he wrote to the lady of Earlston, "I never heard anything from him in the Lord's truth, but am both ready and willing to confirm it." Cameron's death was, therefore, a heavy blow to his friend, and doubtless helped to intensify his hatred of the existing oppression. Only a few days before the battle, they had preached together at the same conventicle in Evandale, Cameron preaching from the words - "Be still and know that I am God;" and before they parted it was arranged that they should do so again at Craigmead in Stirlingshire, on the first Sabbath of August. But meanwhile God's providence had interposed, and one was taken while the other was left. Doubtless with peculiar feelings, on that Sabbath morning, would Cargill find himself at the appointed place, and his utterances would gain immensely, both in his own and his hearers' estimation, by the recent and lamented death of him who was popularly known as the Lion of the Covonant. Now that this lion-hearted man was dead and his mighty voice was silent for ever, his enemies might perhaps think that the cause for which he suffered and died was irretrievably lost. Not so thought Cargill, when, after drawing a parallel between Coniah, the King of Judah (Jor. 22, 28), and Charles Stuart, he uttered these memorable words : -
"If that unhappy man upon the throne of Britain shall die the ordinary death of men, and get the honour of the burial of kings, and if he shall have any to succeed him, lawfully begotten, then God never sent me nor spake by me."
Thus, under the influence of recent events, and feeling himself divinely summoned to give a last and fatal blow to existing tyranny and oppression, Cargill took another step towards a full and final development of the covenanting struggle. This had hitherto been carried on by those who believed in the divine right of kings, and who not only claimed to be, but really were, the loyal supporters of the throne. For more than forty years the Covenanters had refused to throw off, under the greatest provocation, allegiance to the Stuart dynasty, and, while fighting for their civil and religious liberties, had continued to hope that these might be secured and defended without revolutionary measures. But to Cargill and thoso who thought with him, it had become more and more apparent that a "root and branch policy" was necessary to remove intolerable grievances, and bring in among them a reign of righteousness and truth and peace. Hence in September, 1680, at a great gathering at Torwood, on the road between Larbert and Stirling, he pronounced sentence of excommunication upon the King, James Duke of York, General Daiziel, and other prominent persecutors. This step was strongly condemned by many of the Presbyterians at the the, and has ever since been the subject of much debate; but that Cargill himself had no doubt regarding his duty in the matter appears from some words ho uttered on the following Sabbath - " I know I am and will be condemned by many for what I have done in excommunicating these wicked men; but condemn me who will, I know I am approven of God, and am persuaded that what I have done, on earth is ratified in heaven. For if ever I knew the mind of God, and was clear in my call to any piece of my generation work, it was in that transaction."
Accordingly, he went about the work of the day in a most solemn and orderly manner. First, he preached from Ezekiel xxi. 25.27 - "And thou profane wicked prince of Israel, whose day is come, when iniquity shall have an end. Thus saith the Lord God, remove the diadem and take off the crown; this shall not be the same; exalt him that is low and abase him that is high. I will overturn, overturn, overturn it, and it shall be no more until He come whose right it is, and I will give it Him." Then, after pronouncing sentence of excommunication, indicating plainly the grounds of it and delivering the persons named to all its terrible consequences, he preached from the words - (Lam. iii. 31, 32) "For the Lord will not cast off for ever. But though He cause grief, yet will He have compassion according to the multitude of His mercies."
Preaching the same month, from Rev. xx. 11, 12, on the great White Throne, he sought also to apply the subject to all sorts and conditions of men, and to engage his hearers in the useful work of judging not others but themselves. "Many," he said in conclusion, "are now earnest and solicitous to know if their names be in these woeful commissions to take and apprehend you. But 0 that it were in the hearts of men to be in earnest to know if their names be in the book of life, and that they might see their names written there. 0, Sirs, take care what you give God now to write. Alas! alas! you give Him many ill deeds to mark against you. But 0 that He had this to write, that you had unfeignedly repented of them all."
This reminds us that Cargill was pre-eminently a spiritual and practical preacher, and meddled with politics and public men only when in conscience he could not do otherwise. That his conduct at Torwood, looked at in the light of subsequent events, commended itseif to thoughtful men, is evident from the following remark of Do Foe : - "The sentence was expressly founded upon the same grounds as was afterwards the renouncing of the king by the Revolution, and was abundantly justified by the practice of the whole nation in the Revolution."
To this period should probably be assigned two of the sermons in Howie's collection (on Rev. xx. 11-12, and Jer. xiii. 12-17), as also one hitherto unpublished, which we now submit to our readers. (see sermon four)
ONE effect of the Torwood Excommunication was to incense the Government still more against Cargill. On the 22nd November, a Royal Proclamation was issued, stigmatizing him "as one of the most seditious preachers," and "a villanous and fanatical conspirator," and raising the sum already set upon his head from three thousand to five thousand merks. This reward was to be given to any one who should bring him in dead or alive; and no greater proof can be offered of God's protecting providence, and of the watchful and loving care of which he was the object, than is afforded by his extraordinary escapes. On one occasion be was induced by an informer in the service of Middleton, the governor of Blackness, to
|accept an invitation to preach in Fife. On his way from Edinburgh he was accompanied by friends, some of whom, however, had set out 'earlier on foot,' while Cargill and another friend followed on horseback. Meanwhile a detachment of soldiers was lying in wait on the road to Queensferry, by whom those who were in advance were seized and taken prisoners to Edinburgh, where three of them were afterwards put to death. In the confusion, however, one fled and succeeded in warning Cargill of his danger, and thus securing his escape. Two of the three who suffered martyrdom belonged to Borrowstounness,while a third was James Skene, brother of the Laird|
of Skene in Aberdeenshire, to whom, when in prison,
Cargill addressed a touching letter, from which the following extracts are
taken : - "Dearest Friend, - Thore is now nothing upon earth that I am so
concerned in, except the Lord's work, as in you and your fellows; that you may
either be clearly brought off or honourably and rightly carried through. He is
begun in part to answer me, though not in that which I most affected (desired),
yet in that which is best. My soul was refreshed to see any that had so far
overcome the fear and torture of death, and were so far denied, to the
affections of the flesh, as to give full liberty to the exoneration of
conscience in the face of these bloody tyrants and vile apostates. And yet
these by our divines must be acknowledged as magistrates which the very
heathen, endowed with the light of nature, would abominate. But go on, valiant
champion; you die not as a fool, though the apostate unfaithful and lukewarm
ministers and professors of the generation think and say so." "Farewell,
dearest friend, never to see one another any more till at the right hand of
Christ. Fear not, and the God of mercies grant a full gale and a fair entry
into His kingdom, which may carry sweetly and swiftly over the bar, that you
find not the rub of death. Grace, mercy, and peace be with you. - Yours in
The next three months were spent by Cargill in England, where, we are told, "the Lord blessed his labours in the ministry to the conviction and edifiation of many souls." During this absence from Scotland, ho sent a letter to his "Paroch of the Barony " Kirk in Glasgow, of date March 27th, 1681, beginning thus : - I am a debtor to all, but especially to you; but how to requite my obligations, I know not. To return all is impossible, to return nothing is great ingratitude." He then continues, "Be humble always, thankful for what ye have received, and still thirsting after more; for His fulness is infinite, and your wants are wonderfully great." "0 that God would open men's eyes that they may see how little good and how much evil it (the Indulgence) has wrought, how little it has done for the freedom and enlargement of the kingdom of Christ, and how much for confirming its thraldom and confining its enlargement." "0 fear, trust, watch, and pray, for yourselves and one another, knowing that ye have all the same conflict, temptations, and weakness of the flesh; and have the more fervent love among yourselves seeing ye are now fewer; and have all your things common, your griefs, your temptations, your mercies, your joys, your substance, your goods, so far as it shall be needful; for it is like the time is very near that will make all alike in these things. I fear many are buying, building, and gathering for our enemies."
In a postscript he adds - "As for your collections the poor are yours as well as others, and ye ought to see to them either by yourselves or others; but as for your contributions to ministers, I see not how ye can do it any more than you can hear them."
In April, 1681, we find Cargill once more in Scotland, busily engaged as ever in preaching and discharging other ministerial duties, but also much distressed by the followers of Gibb, who seem in many respects to have resembled the Anabaptists of Luther's time. John Gibb was a shipmaster in Borrowstounness who had adopted strange ideas on the subject of religion, and whose followers, mostly women, left their homes and wandered about in search of proselytes. They were known as the Sweet Singers," and their zeal and apparent spirituality drew many to their standard. Regarding them as earnest and well-meaning persons, but weak and extravagant, Cargill laboured ernrnestly to reclaim them from their errors, and later, when some of them were cast into prison, ho remonstrated with them in writing, though, so far as we can judge, his efforts were unsuccessful. Among other absurd opinions, they hold that the metrical version of the Psalms was an unwarrantable meddling with the sacred text, and should therefore be torn out of their Bibles and burned; that Catechisms and Confessions of Faith, Acts of Assembly, Covenants and Declarations, were all inventions of the devil, to be ignored and trampled under foot; and finally, that all who were in authority, including ministers of religion as well as ministers of State, should be resisted and disobeyed by those who were the Lord's freemen. To the last of these tenets Cargill refers in his letter when he says - "Alas, this your liberty, that you so much bragged of, would have lasted but a. little while, and was among your other beguiles, and was nothing else but Satan stirring you about to giddiness. . . . If your liberty that you talked of had been true, it would at least have stayed till it had brought you to other thoughts, other works, and other comforts. And it might have been easily discerned not a true liberty, but a temptation, that led you from public preaching, the great ordinance of God's glory and men's good, as the Apostle has that word forbidding us to preach to the Gentiles.' . . . But in the next place, you will join with none in public worship but those who have infallible signs of regeneration. This seems fair, but it is both false and foul; false, because of its false foundation - viz., that the certainty of one's interest in Christ may be known by another, whereas the Scripture says that none knows it but he that has it; foul also, for this disdain has pride in it, and pride is always foul."
In the following sermon from Isaiah vi. 8-13, which belongs to this period of his ministry, and which appears now for the first time, he makes obvious references to the opinions and practices of this fanatical sect. This sermon seems to have been preached at Holmes Common, near the junction of the Biggar Water with the Tweed, and to have been followed by another in the afternoon from the words - " Be not high-minded, but fear" (Rom. xi. 21). In the latter he intimated "that those who knew themselves best. would fear themselves most; and that as it was hard to determine what length a child of God might go in defection, having grace but wanting tho exercises thereof, so a Christian might go through nineteen trials and carry honestly in them, and fall in the twentieth." isaiah, vi. 8-13. Sometimes God exercises great mercy towards His people and sometimes He executes great judgments upon them, and He is wonderful in both. Yea, we may say more ; where is there any person on whom God is not doing both, and doing this daily? For when He is exercising great and wonderful mercies, which are still mis-improved and abused, He is executing at the same time great and wonderful judgments. Now the way of God's mercies has been wonderful in this land, and there is no nation where His judgments will be more severely felt. 0 that we were out of the way, for the storms that are coming on Scotland are like to be very rough and boisterous. The Lord is even saying of this generation (or else we are far mistaken) that He will not be entreated for it. There are two or three things God is calling us to.
(1) He is calling us to pray that the Lord would hasten his judgments, and would make a short work of them.
(2) He is calling us to pray that a holy seed may be saved to be the substance of the land. Now, have you had this for your work? Remember you should pray that He would hasten, shorten, and sanctify His judgments and prepare a remnant for Himself.
But we must go and speak more particularly about these verses, although, alas I ye are unfit to hear and I to speak. "Now I heard," etc. What is this I heard? The voice of the Lord. It's but few that hear what God is saying, and but few who are familiar with Him and admitted to know his secrets. He is working on the right hand and on the left, and has laid on His stroke, and yet few of us regard His speaking or working. Indeed, there are many who know no more of God than if He had never made them, or had never called them to know Him. We shall not speak of folk pretending to know Him or of ministers hearing His voice. We believe there are great mistakes in the holy, not to speak of the ungodly. Some say of silent ministers that they pretend to know the mind of God. We will say only this one word that all the knowledge they have is but like the sight of a blind man. Besides Satan speaks in some souls sometimes where the Lord has spoken. We are not speaking of those wretched creatures who are under the power of the devil, but of some holy men who have once spoken for God, but in whom Satan is now speaking. We shall say no more of this, but we should draw near to God and hear what He speaks. The person who draws near to Him he will get God's mind, and inform them when He is about to execute judgment. But observe now what the voice said, "Whom shall I send, and who shall go for Me?"
There are here two questions proposed. The first one tells us how hard it is to find a fit man for such a message. Some think any one will do for the execution of judgments, but the Lord thinks otherwise, He sent one of the seraphim with a hot coal in his hand, and no doubt it put him in a more fit frame for the work. When the Lord has some great work for His servant He qualifies him for it. Woe to us! Woe to us! but 0, there is a difficulty to get men meet to be ambassadors of God.
The next question is, "Who will go for us? " This intimates that there is a scarcity also of willing men, of men who are ready to go upon His errand. Some offer themselves for this work who are not qualified. It had been better for them they had been shepherds and had kept sheep on these hills. May we not say there are few this day in Scotland who will go with this message to harden hearts and shut eyes. But he who is preparing himself for this work, theLord will prepare him and give him strength. Observe now the answer, " here am I, send me." Here is one, but where is another? The coal that is in the tongs taken from the altar has been helping here, the hand of God has been at work, otherwise he had not been so ready or so fit for following of Him. 0 that ye would pray Him to send fit men out, that ye would pray Him to rouse up many that have their hearts touched, who are both fit and ready to carry His message. But observe, tho' He have a. full and sufficient call yet he must have a commission. "Send me." 0 that we might be ready to lay ourselves before God so that He when He has any commission to put in our hand, of mercy or judgment, we might be able to say, "Here am I, send me." Here is one, and the Lord takes him at his word. "Go." But what shall I do? Go, He said, and tell this people what shall be the effects of your preaching. We shall say this word before God, we think that the Lord is bidding us tell you that there is a judgument upon all your ordinances if God prevent not. He is bidding us preach you blind, deaf, obstinate, and without heart to understand anything. There are many whose eyes and ears God has closed, and whose hearts He has made fit for the word that would have convinced before is now so plagued by God that it will not move you. The Gospel proves not your mercy but your judgment.
The next thing is (and we shall say no more but a word on it), "Then said I, Lord, how long?" That is the question, and theanswer is, "Till the land be utterly desolate," etc. We confess, if we durst refuse any message of God, a man that's tender would refuse this one and be ready to say, God forbid; he would choose banishment rather than this. But this concerns God's glory, and so we must be silent. And tho' it be bitter it must be done in obedience to God's command, as well as the message of mercy. The herald must give obedience to the one as well as the other. We are persuaded that the slighting of the Gospel in Scotland shall be followed with judgments, and this shall be the preaching that shall shortly be preached - desolation in Scotland, England, and Ireland.
Now there is one sweet word ye see, "and there shall be a tenth," etc. Ye use to say it is a sore war where all fall, but here there is a little remnant. It's oftimes a third part, but here it's a tenth. The others shall be casten off and destroyed, but "they shall be like a teil tree," etc. In effect it says, that as the sap is in the root of the trees in winter when they cast their leaves, so the tenth part shall be left shall be the substance of the land. You must not be discouraged at the temporary stroke that a holy God has given you, for if ever we be brought to suffer we shall be made to give thanks to God for a good temporal turn : but we will leavo it."
CARGILL'S life was now rapidly drawing to a close. His last public appearance was on the 10th of July, at Dunsyre, on the confines of Midlothian, where he lectured on the first two verses of the 1st chapter of Jeremiah, and preached from the last two verses of the 26th chapter of Isaiah. According to Howie, the Communion was observed, and after its observance he preached in the afternoon from Hosea ii. 6, "Therefore behold I will hedge up thy way with thorns, and make a wall, that she shall not find her paths." But Patrick Walker, who was present, speaks of the sermon on Isaiah xxvi. 20, 21 as his last, and there is some reason for thinking that Howie mistook the word Common for Communion, and also introduced the sermon on Hosea ii. 6 at the wrong place in his collection. In either case, however, it was a good day's work for an old man, now more than sixty years of age, whose life had already been one of so much privation and hardship. Referring to this solemn and interesting occasion, Walker says: "I had the happiness to hear blest Mr. Cargill preach his last public sermons (as I had several times before, for which while I live I desire to thank the Lord), in Dunsyre-Common, betwixt Clydesdale and Lothian, where he lectured upon the 1st chap. of Jeremiah, and preached upon that soul-refreshing text, Isaiah xxvi. 20, 21, Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers and shut thy doors about thee,' etc. Ho was short, marrowy, and sententious, as his ordinary was in all his public sermons and prayers, with the greatest evidences of concernedness, exceeding all that ever I heard open a mouth, or saw open a Bible to preach the Gospel, with the greatest indignation at the unconcernedness of hearers. He preached from experience, and went to the experience of all that had any of the Lord's gracious dealing with their souls. It came from his heart, and went to the heart; as I have heard some of our common hearers say that he spake as never man spake, for his words went through them. He insisted what kind of chambers these were of protection and safety, and exhorted all earnestly to dwell in the clefts of the rock, to hide ourselves in the wounds of Christ, and to wrap ourselves in the believing application of the promises flowing therefrom: and to make our refuge under the shadow of His wings, until these sad calamities pass over, and the dove come back with the olive leaf in her mouth. These wore the last words of his last sermon."
Next morning he was seized, while in bed, at the house of Andrew Fisher of Covington Mill, near Lanark, his captor, James Irvine of Bomishaw, exclaiming, as he thought of the 5000 merks, ." 0 blessed Bonshaw, and blessed day that over I was born, that have found such a prize this morning." Two others, Walter Smith and James Boig, both students of theology, were apprehended at the same the, and executed with him at Edinburgh. In Walter Smith's Testimony, the following sentence is of more than ordinary interest, as the lady referred to is much blamed by Patrick Walker for having persuaded the three martyrs, contrary to Cargill's judgment, to leave the house where Cargill would have passed the night, and go to Covington Mill. "As to my apprehending, we were singularly delivered by Providence into the adversaries' hand, and, for what I could learn, were betrayed by none, nor were any accessory to our taking, more than we were ourselves; and particularly let none blame the Lady St. John's Kirk in this."
Smith also refers to the fact that on their way to Edinburgh they were at first treated with great severity, being made to be all night "bound," and being refused permission to pray with one another or engage in other religious exercises. This continued as far as Linlithgow, though later, he affirms, the Lord's kindness and tenderness were shown in restraining the fury of their adversaries. At Lanark, where they were set on horseback without saddles, Bonshaw with his own hands tied Mr. Cargill's feet below the horse's belly very tightly. Upon this, we are told, the good man looked down at him and said, "Why do you tie me so hard? Your wickedness is great; you will not long escape the judgment of God." At Glasgow, where they stopped for a little, many crowded around to gaze at Cargill, probably with very mingled feelings. One of those was the Archbishop's factor, a notorious drunkard, John Nesbit by name, who approached Cargill and mockingly said, "Mr. Donald, will you give us one word more?" alluding to a frequent expression of his when preaching. After looking sorrowfully at him for a little, Cargill replied, "Mock not, lest your bands be made strong: the day is coming when you shall not have one word to say though you would." Without claiming fom Cargill the gift of prophecy, we cannot refrain from stating that in the early and miserable death of both persecutors the martyr's words were almost literally fulfilled.
Another coincidence of a similar kind occurred at the trial in Edinburgh. The Chancellor, Lord Rothes, not able to forgive Cargill's excommunication of him at Torwood, was particularly severe in his examination, threatening him in the most violent way with torture and death : to whom Cargill calmly replied, "My Lord Rothes, forbear to threaten me, for be what death I will your eyes shall not see it." Soon afterwards Rothes was seized with sudden illness, which terminated fatally on the morning of Cargill's execution. So great was the impression which this illness made on tho other Judges that it was actually proposed that, "as Cargill was old and had done all the ill he would do, he be sent to the Bass and kept there a prisoner during life." By the casting vote of Argyll, however, who said, "Let him go to the gallows and die like a traitor," it was finally decided that he be hanged at the Cross, and his head afterwards placed on the Netherbow Port. One morning, some years later, during his own premature and ill-fated rising, Argyll was asked by one of his followers why he was looking so sad. "how can I be otherwise," he answered, "when I see so few coming to our assistance, and I am persuaded I will be called infatuated Argyll? But all this does not trouble me so much as that unhappy wicked vote I gave against that good man and minister, Mr. Cargill. And now I'm persuaded I'll die a violent death on that same spot whore he died."
This anticipation was fulfilled in the execution of Argyll at the Cross of Edinburgh, on the 30th June, 1685. Cargill was condemned on the 26th, and executed on the 27th of July, 1681. When on the scaffold he sang a part of the 118th Psalm, from the sixteenth verse to the end, beginning with the words -
"The right hand of the mighty Lord,
Exalted is on high:
The right hand of the mighty Lord
doth ever valiantly."
and ending with the words -
"Thou art my God, I'll Thee exalt,
My God I wilt Thee praise;
Give thanks to God for He is good,
His mercy lasts always."
Several times he tried to address the people who stood
around, but always as he began to speak his voice was drowned by the noise of
the drums; and, after a short prayer, he said as he ascended the ladder, "Tho
Lord knows I go up this ladder with less fear and perturbation of mind than
ever I entered a pulpit to preach." Standing on the highest step he exclaimed,
"Now I am near to the possession of my crown which shall be sure; for I bless
the Lord and desire all of you to bless him, that He hath brought me here and
makes me triumph over devils and men and sin; they shall wound me no more. I
forgive all men the wrongs they have done me, and I pray the Lord to forgive
all the wrongs that any of the elect have done against Him. I pray that
sufferers may be kept from sin and know their duty." Then, raising the napkin
from his face, ho cried, "Farewell, all relations and friends in Christ:
farewell acquaintances and all earthly enjoyments : farewell reading and
preaching, praying and believing, wanderings, reproaches, sufferings. Welcome
joy unspeakable and full of glory. Welcome Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Into
Thy hands I commend my spirit."
After death, the heads of all the five martyrs were cut off, and his, according to the sentence, was placed upon the Netherbow Port, where it remained for many a day.
"They have set his head on tho
To scorch in the summer air:
And months go by and the winter's snow
Falls white on his thin grey hair.
And still the same look that in death he wore
Is sealed on the solemn brow;
A look as of one who has travailed sore,
But whose pangs are ended now."
Standing in the crowd on that July day was a slightly-made,
fair-haired youth, only nineteen years of age, who listened breathlessly to
every word which fell from the martyr's lips, and, when all was over, turned
his back upon the city and sought in the solitude of the mountains to know the
will of God. It was the beginning of days for Renwick, known still and beloved
as the last of our martyrs, who for the next six years and more, carried aloft
the standard which, as it always seemed to himself and others, he then received
from the brave old veteran's hands. Those who are anxious to know what this
young spirit did for his Church and country during the short time that elapsed
before his martyrdom, will find much to interest them in The Life and Letters
of James Renwick, Edinburgh, 1893, as also in his own work, the Informatory
Vindication, which we hope to issue soon. Meanwhile, if we are justified in
comparing him to Elisha, we are equally so in speaking of Cargill as the Elijah
of the Covenant, who often said of himself that "it was well won that was won
off the flesh," and of whom it was also said by others that "preaching and
praying went best with him when his danger and distress were the greatest."
A man of genius has said that one could not open his lips or put pen to paper if he were bound to say only what nobody else has said. We do not presume to deny that in the previous pages we have recorded many things with which our readers were already familiar, and that, indeed, little has been said for which the claim of novelty or originality can be advanced. But remembering Ruskin's saying, that the greatest thing a human soul over sees in this world is to see something and to tell what it saw in a plaim way, we have endeavoured to present our readers with a plain, unvarnished narrative of a good man's life, and labours, and sufferings in the cause of civil and religious liberty. The business of history, it has been truly remarked, is not merely to record, but to interpret; it involves not only a clear conception and a lively exposition of events and characters, but a sound, enlightened theory of individual and national morality. This we now leave to our readers to work out and apply for themselves, entreating them to remember that the debt we owe to our fathers for their faithful contendings and sufferings is a great one, which we should be glad, in our altered circumstances, to honour in ways which God's Providence and Spirit will make plain to us, and that, while every new age has its peculiar difficulties and dangers, we need never despair of the triumph of truth over error, and freedom over tyranny. Truth, like the sun, submits to be obscured, but only for a time; and
"Freedom's battle once begun,
Bequeath'd by bleeding sire to son,
Though baffled oft, is ever won."
Cargill was a man of his own time, as we all are,
circumscribed in thought and action by the ideas and spirit of his age, and
therefore liable in some respects to be misjudged by us, and to be unjustly
condemned for unreasonable obstinacy and intolerance. But in spite of much
imperfection, which no one would have been more ready to acknowledge than
himself, we hear in his earnest contendings, even unto death, the eternal voice
of humanity ever struggling against tyranny, which is of the devil, and for
liberty, which is of God. And we are not worthy of the noble heritage, which he
and others by their faithfulness have secured and handed down to us, unless,
when the occasion calls for it, we too are willing to suffer the loss of all
things for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord! Those of
our readers who feel disposed to blame us for our sympathy with traitors, ought
in fairness to remember that the rebellion in which Cargill and his friends
took so prominent a part culminated a few years later in the Revolution
Settlement, and that what they did and strove to do was then repeated and
ratified by the nation at large. It is true that Charles II was never the
religious bigot that James became, and that, nominally at least, he remained a
Protestant until the end. But he was none the less a tyrant who had broken his
most sacred promises and trampled on the liberties of his subjects, as well as
a shameless profligate, whose life was a source of weakness and pollution to
the whole nation. "The one thing," says Green in his History of the English
People (Vol. VI., 175), "he seemed in earnest about was sensual pleasure, and
ho took his pleasure with a cynical shamelessness, which roused the disgust
even of his shameless courtiers. Mistress followod mistress, and the guilt of a
troop of profligate women was blazoned to the world by the gift of titles and
estates." Moreover, with few exceptions, the men by whom he was served,
especially in Scotland, were, like their master, preeminent in profligacy and
cruelty. Of Claverhouse and the bloody Mackenzie the next of our series will
afford a better opportunity to speak the truth, but as we read of Middleton and
Lauderdale at the head of the Government, and of Turnor and Dalziel as their
willing tools, we are, easily reminded of the saying of a philosopher, that the
meanest reptiles are found at the summit of the loftiest pillars. Instead,
therefore, of blaming Cargill and those who companied with him for their overt
acts of rebellion, we should rather thank God that in such an age there were
even a few who had the manliness and courage to assert a people's right, the
right supreme, to make, and also unmake, their kings, and who did not shrink,
for their country's and their Church's sake, to lay down their lives on the
altar of sacrifice.
Among those, however, who, in the light of subsequent events, are now prepared to justify the Cameronians for their treasonable conduct, there are doubtless many who still blame them for their separation from the great body of the Presbyterians, and for the extreme measures they pursued. For such it would be well to remember, that, in estimating what may now appear to us as trifles, we should always make allowance for the angle at which, and for the light in which, these minute points are seen. Besides in every great cause are there not some who lead that others may follow, and who have to pay the penalty of their greater zeal and urgency in misrepresentation and reproach! In that age, therefore, of strife and confusion, where the law of religious toleration was not yet either understood or practised by presbyterians any more than by Episcopalians or Independents, can we wonder that the religion and patriotism of some good mon possessed a stormy and almost an exclusive spirit, or can we deny that these were the men who led the nation from darkness into light, and from oppression into liberty!
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