Donald Cargill’s preaching at ‘Bendry Bridge’

Near Benry Bridge  © Copyright Richard Webb and licensed for reuse.

In June 1681 Donald Cargill held a field preaching at a mysterious location known as ‘Bendry-bridge’.

According to Patrick Walker’s Life of Cargill: ‘The next Sabbath-Day [in June] he preached at the Bendry-Bridge, betwixt Clydsdale and Lothian’. (Walker, BP, II, 36-7.)

Bendry Bridge is almost certainly Benry Bridge (NT 004 580), a remote moorland location that lies precisely on the boundary between Carnwath parish in Lanarkshire and West Calder parish in Edinburghshire.

Bing OS Map of Benry Bridge

Google Street View of Benry Bridge

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Walker’s Life of Cargill also confirms the exact date for Cargill’s preaching at Benry Bridge, as he provides a chronological narrative of Cargill’s field preachings prior to the capture of Cargill on 11 or 12 July 1681. According to Walker, Cargill preached at Coulter Heights on a Sabbath in early June, ie. on Sunday 12 June, and on following Sabbaths at Benry Bridge (19 June), Lomond Hills (26 June) and Auchengilloch (3 July) before he preached his last sermon at Dunsyre Common on 10 July. (Walker, BP, II, 34-42.)

Walker appears to have attended Cargill’s preaching at Benry Bridge and provides details of Cargill’s lecture and sermons. According Walker:
‘He lectured in Zechariah, on Joshua standing before the Angel [Zechariah, 3.1]; and preached in the Forenoon upon that Word, Gird thy Sword upon thy Thigh, and ride prosperously [Psalms 45.3-4]. His first Note was, That no sooner Christ became All and all to a Soul, but the next Wish of that Soul is, O that he were thus to all the World! And let never none think that they are in a right Exercise of true Religion, that want Zeal for God’s publick Glory: And in the Afternoon upon that Word, What will you do in the Day of Visitation? where will you flee for Help? and where will you leave your Glory? [Isaiah 10.3-4] From that he said, What would all that knew not God and obey not the Gospel do? for he was coming with flaming Fire to take Vengeance upon all such [2 Thessalonian 1.8]: And what would all wicked Laws Inventors, Enactors and Executors do, and all iniquous Law-obeyers and Keepers do? Where would they flee for Help? and where will they leave their illgotten Glory?’ (Walker, BP, II, 36-7.)

Thanks to Walker’s account of the preaching, one of Cargill’s sermons from that day can be identified. It is Cargill’s sermon on Isaiah 10.3-4, which was printed, along with a lecture on 2 Chron 19, in an early eighteenth century quarto pamphlet entitled A Lecture and Sermon preached at different times by that faithfull and painfull minister of the gospel, and now glorified martyr, Mr Donald Cargill. (Walker, Six Saints (ed. Hay Fleming), II, 208.)

Cargill’s surviving sermon from Benry Bridge reveals the apocalyptic political platform put forward by Cargill to the Society people in wake of the Sanquhar Declaration, which renounced the authority of Charles II, and the Torwood Excommunication of the King.

The full text of the sermon, with occasional historical notes, is as follows:

‘Isaiah, 10th Chapter, 3rd Verse. And what will ye do in the Day of Visitation, and the Desolation that shall come from far, to whom will ye Flee for Help, and where will you Leave your Glory?

We see here, the Feast is done, and the Reckoning is come. The most part of us that’s here, has gotten already that which Sin can give us. I say the Feast is Small, and there is no Body, but they will say so, when it’s over: O! but I have gotten Little. There are some Woeful Creatures that thinks they shall have their Penny-worths of Sin: But there was never a Man yet that got a Penny-worth at the Devil’s Hand, and so it is in his Hand now. Have ye gotten your Wills out? There are some Folk who must have out their Wills, cost what it will. Well, it shall cost you Dear enough. Has the Great Ones gotten their Wills out? Nay, They have not gotten it out yet; They have gotten out some of it, and some of it not yet; They will be keeped always short of it: For when they shall be raised and reckoned with, they will begin and say then, I have not gotten my Will. And ye got your Will, the Earth would be made like a Hell. Now we must consider whom he is speaking this of, Whom is he speaking it of? He speaks it of Men like ours; that had made many a Sinful Act. We call them ours. We desire in the Sight of God to retract that word: But he speaks to Men that had done many Sinful Acts. In the first Verse [of Isaiah 10] it is said, Woe to them that Decree Unrighteous Decrees, and that Write Grievousness that they have prescribed. And if they have not Decreed Unrighteous Decrees, and prescribe Grievousness, let their Act of Council and Parliament Testify. The Generation afterwards will Wonder that ever Men made such Acts. It may be thought, there has been as Ill Acts before. There was an Abominable Act made by a King in Scotland, that all the World counted Abominable: But they have over-passed that Filthy Law of King Kenneth: For their Laws are more Abominable, nor if they should have Enacted Publick Whoredoms and Stew-Houses [i.e. brothels].’

The ‘Filthy law of King Kenneth’ which Cargill claimed had been ‘over-passed’ by the Restoration monarchy through its acts of parliament and council was an alleged law of succession to the kingship that established royal authority over the People, which was supposedly established by Kenneth III, king of Alba from 997-1005. King Kenneth’s law is a historical fiction, but in the seventeenth century constitutional debate was grounded on an interpretation of a mythical history of the early Scottish kings and later historical record.

George Buchanan’s Grave behind Greyfriar’s Kirk, Edinburgh © Copyright kim traynor and licensed for reuse.

What probably informed Cargill and his hearers’ views on the ‘Filthy law’ was the Reformer George Buchanan’s discussion of it in De Juri Regni Apud Scotos or ‘The powers of the crown of Scotland’ published in 1579. The Society people saw themselves as the heirs to the Scottish constitutional tradition based on Buchanan’s political thought.

George Buchanan’s discussion of the law takes the form of a dialogue between himself and Thomas Maitland, the brother of William Maitland of Lethington and granduncle of John Maitland, 1st Duke of Lauderdale (d.1682):

Maitland: I am not asking at the moment what has happened in the past; but, by what right do
kings exercise authority.

Buchanan: Very well, let us return to that topic. Up to the time of Kenneth the Third, who, first of
Scottish kings, established the succession to the throne in his own family, the sovereignty of the people in the
matter of creating their kings and in controlling the succession was perfectly clear. It must be understood, then,
that Kenneth either coerced the people by force or got his way by persuasion.

Maitland: That is undeniable.

Buchanan: Moreover, if he coerced the people by the use of force to submit to him, the people, just so
soon as they began to feel confidence in their own strength, would have thrown off this government by force. For all the laws accepted for the government of the relations of kings and people declare, and nature proclaims, that anything which is done by force may likewise be undone by force.’ (Buchanan, De Regni Apud Scotos (trans. Charles Flinn Arrowood), 102 [31].)

Cargill’s sermon continues:

‘We shall say that one word, That first of Sinful Laws lights on the Subjects; But the last and the heaviest lights upon the Makers; I say the last: and the heaviest. Now it has been heavy and sad to us to Obey. But it has been sadder and heavier for us to suffer; That was the first: But what will come of the last and the heaviest? And what will come of you when you come to Reckon for your Laws and Grievances. Shortly thir words shews that Great Law-Makers on Earth will be put to thir Questions. Yet Kings must come down off their Thrones, and stand at the Bar of the Tribunal of God, and their Laws, Which they have made will be laid down before them, and it will be said to them, Will ye own them? Own them we must: He that will own them, must Disown God, & that Entails him to the Wrath of God; and they own their Laws before God, as they own them now, it will be a strange thing: But this is the thing that we are saying, and which we see here, that the Greatest upon Earth, upon the account of thir Laws which they have made, will be put to thir Questions before God, and there are Three Questions in thir words. O! that every one of us were at a Point, and could give an Answer and Solution to them.’

Cargill then turned to the Apocalypse when King Jesus would return on the ‘day of visitation’ and sit in judgment on all human beings:

‘The first Question is, What will ye do in the Day of Visitation? What you is this? Even you that made Laws. What more these nor other Folk? Because they made Evil Laws: How so? Ye did set up a direct contrary Judicatory to God. When Laws is directly a contrare Judicatory to God, it says, Ye take upon you to give out Laws, and Laws that are contrare to God’s Laws. Now what will ye do? O! but this Question will put to Silence and Amazement the great part of Men. What, we have nothing to do with their Sinful Laws, we never made the Laws; Well, nevertheless, ye did give Obedience to their Laws: It will be, here the Law-Maker, and the Law-Obeyer. What will ye do in the Day of Visitation? If ye Consented to their Laws; Is there Nothing that you Fear? Dare you boldly come before God? Mind this, but till you get the Book of Items, it Concerns you all that you can give an Answer to this Question, What will you do in the Day of Visitation? God will be through you all, He will be through us all; and ere long the Lowest of us all will give an Account of his Doings. Now, What will ye do in the Day of Visitation? Says some, I have done ells. What have ye done ells? I have Compted, I have Paid, I am Discharged: That’s well, if you can say these Three. I have Reckoned, I have Judged my Self, I have Paid, not by my Self, but by another, viz. The Cautioner came in & told down for me, and God Reckoned it up in my behalf. Have you Paid then? I have Reckoned, I have Paid. Thirdly, I am Discharged. Where is it? We have it in a Common Proverb, such a Man is evident, that is to say, it is not Subscribed, that is a Fools Evidence. Many says they have the Evidences, but they want the Subscription. O to have the Seal of the Living God to every Discharge. There was Wrestling before I got it, and I have laid it up, and kept it well, and when I take it out at the Great Day, He will acknowledge that it is His own Hand. Now see to it. Then Woe to him that Ventures upon the Tribunal of God, unless he have these Three; I have Reckoned, I have Paid, I am Discharged.

But now, What will ye do in the Day of Visitation? Consider it; It will put you sore to it. Sin will seek out and find you out; Justice will Pursue you: And if ye let it come to that, Remember this, they that come to the Judgment of God Unpardoned, never goes without Condemnation. They use to say of some Prisoners, they that Enter by such a Gate comes out to the Scaffold again: So they that Venture upon the Tribunal of God Unpardoned, What will come of them? They never come out Uncondemned. What will you do then? Even this, if you answer rightly; I must go to Hell. And what have I for that?

A Second Question is this, To whom will ye Flee for Help? That Imports this, Is there any in the World can Shelter you against God? Ye have God your Pursuer, remember that. Where will ye get a Shelter? Where will ye Flee to? Is any Stronger nor God? Can any Hide you from God? Can any come between you & God? and take off your Reproof from off your Hand, and say here I am to Answer for him, I bade him do so: Nay, nay, ye will have enough to do to Answer for your own. Your bidding is sinful, and his obeying is sinful, and both shall Suffer. We shall say this one word, Let every Man look to what Obedience he gives to Powers, to Rulers, to Tyrants; They are no Rulers but Tyrants. It’s true they are Powers; but not Powers ordained of God, that is a Terrour to Evil Works, and a Praise to Good. Well, let every Man look to what Obedience he gives to Wicked Laws: It will not be that it is the King’s Law; It will not be Kings-Courts, nor Councils, or Parliament; They must be looked over, if they have not the Character of Justice and Equity, there must none of them be Obeyed. They will speak of a Sacred Character on them; There is no Sacred Character on any: There must be another kind of Stamp. But Laws must be Stamped with this, with Justice and Equity, and so they have the Authority of Heaven, as well as the Authority of Men; And if ye Obey them without considering whether or no they have this Mark, in Obeying of them, ye Disobey God; and Remember this, stand to it. Now ye see the many Orders that hath gone forth, so that ye cannot do so much as give a Soldier Provenent for his Beast, but ye Displease God. Let them take what they will, and be answerable to God for it; but my Hand shall not give it. There are many who thinks nothing of it. Woeful Creatures, think you nothing to Uphold Soldiers, all whose Works is to Fight against God and Religion. Now see if ever there was an other Turn in their Hand. But before we proceed to the next Question, we shall speak a few words, To whom will ye Flee? Who will Shelter you against God? There was never a Man so Great, but there was ay some fleeing from him, and there was some Power to which we might have joined ourselves that would be able to Defend us from him. But where will you Flee? God is the Pursuer. Who can be the Defender? We shall say that one word, There would not be such ready Obedience to the Sinful Commandments of Men, if the Greatness of God were Considered. It is a Dreadful Thing to fall into the Hands of the Living God. I put myself in the Hands of Justice by giving Obedience to Sinful Laws. I Homologate their Deed, and my Obedience is as if I Consented to their Deed; So they come to every Man’s Door, obey, or not obey: He who obeys, Consents to their Laws; and he that disobeys, Dissents and Protests: But the Thing that is evidently held out, (for we will not return again) is this, in all the World against Justice and the Strokes of God, Where will ye Flee, to whom will ye Flee for Help? Go your way, and do as ye will: But Remember, this you shall have, the Justice of God to pursue you. Next, and to whom will you Flee?

But now the next and last Question, is this, And where will ye leave your Glory? What means he by this? They would hide their Glory that it should not be Stained. Nay, there is more in it nor that; Their Glory shall be, as it were, a Sting. How are ye therein? It will be said to Kings and Rulers, How got ye that Glory? Then they would gladly be quit of all their Ill-gotten Glory, lest the Just Judgment of God come on them when they are upon their Thrones, because they got them Ill, and used them Worse. Now where will ye leave your Glory? Well then, Remember that the Day is coming when these Things that Men boast of, they would gladly hide them, because it will be their Ruin, when God is Judge.

[Isaiah 10] Verse 4, Without me they shall bow down under the Prisoners, and shall fall under the Slain, &c. We shall say this one word from it; It is enough to want God, but it is more to have God: One Enemy (without me) if Judgment come, ye shall fall under them, tho’ they were Prisoners and Slain-Men, they shall be enough to Slay you; without me, ye cannot bide nor bear Judgments; but much less can ye able to bear, when I am not only absent from you, but turned to be your Enemy. We shall now hasten to an end.

The first Thing Observable, is this, There is a time of Visitation coming, and all has need to Prepare for it: For it will put all Sore to it. What Sin have ye? What Debt have ye Paid? What Discharge have ye? There is a Two-fold Visitation, (to wit) of Mercy and Judgment. First, Of Visitation in Mercy; These words are spoken. We heard that God had Visited his People by giving them Bread. But, Secondly, There is another Visitation of Judgment: The Justice of God will go about and hold his Court; It will go about, and through all the Land and keep its Court, and Arraign all Subjects, all Kings, and Rulers are as well Subjects here, as the Meanest Beggar. O but it is wonderful to hear tell that the Ministers of the Gospel should Talk at such a Rate. Where was ever such a Thing as that heard? What Scripture can you get (say they) for to Excommunicate Kings. Are they not Creatures and Subjects to God? And are they not bound to be Holy as well as the Meanest?’

Cargill’s audience would have understood his Bendry Bridge sermon in the light of his excommunication of Charles II, James, Duke of York, and several members of the privy council at the Wallace Oak at Torwood in September 1680.

Cargill’s sermon continues:

‘This word we shall say, Unworthy are they that ever they should be Clothed with Authority that follows not God with it. Will not God Judge Kings? And should not the Ministers of the Gospel Excommunicate Kings? But the Scripture that says, Kings ought to be Excommunicate; says, put away the Wicked Person from amongst you. And if a King be a Wicked Person, it says, put him away. But the Ministers of Scotland has woefully perverted the Power which God has given them; For they have Excommunicate Godly and Holy Men; and the Excommunication of Godly, and Worthy, and Valiant Strachan, is lying upon the Church of Scotland, and they have neglected the Excommunication of the most Vile and Profligate Persons. Are Kings exeemed then?’

Cromwell’s Victory at Dunbar, 1650

Colonel Archibald Strachan (d.1652) is one of the most fascinating Scots involved in the British Civil Wars. Renowned for his capture of the Marquis of Montrose and his militant views, Strachan was the darling of the Kirk Party. In 1650, Strachan, who was deeply opposed the Covenanters’ pact with Charles II, had taken part in unsuccessful secret talks between Cromwell and some of the Covenanters to remove the king and prevent war between Scotland and England. Inspired by the biblical story of Gideon’s three hundred, he believed that a regiment of the godly would inevitably defeat the enemies of the Lord’s cause.

In pursuit of that ideal, he was actively advocated the purging of the Scottish army before the battle of Dunbar. He and his men served with distinction at Dunbar and following that disastrous defeat he became an officer in the militant Western Association. However, following the defeat of the latter at the battle of Hamilton in December 1650, he chose to join Cromwell, rather than the Scots under Charles II. For that action, he was declared a traitor and excommunicated in January 1651.

The Society people later viewed Strachan’s excommunication was one of the first steps of defection which had brought God’s wrath on Scotland. Cargill’s sermon at Benry Bridge on 12 June and Walter Smith’s paper on the ‘22 Steps of Defection’ from 1649 and 1681, which was drafted by the imprisoned Smith for the Society people in Lanarkshire in late July, helped to establish that narrative among the Society people. (Jardine, ‘United Societies’, I, 42; Walker, BP, II, 55, 62-3.)

Cargill’s sermon continues:

‘There is a Visitation of Judgment, we say, and it is of Two or Three Kinds. There is a Temporal Visitation: God sits a while in one Land, as it were, and while in another Land, and He Judges, and executes Judgment, and makes the Pestilence sometimes to be the Rope, sometimes the Sword, sometimes the Famine; So that all these are Visitations of Judgment. Scotland has been long Unvisited; now the Longer the Sorer; it will have a Sore Visitation. O! for Wisdom. O! for Tenderness to Tremble: For Wisdom to Foresee, and for Grace to Prepare against the Day of Visitation, and a Severe God. But next, There is a Great Visitation of the whole when all the World shall be Visited; and this is such a Narrow Net that None will go through: Ye may Escape Visitations on Earth, and win by the sides of that Net one Way or another by Providence: But there is a Net coming that will Catch all. What will ye do? Tho’ ye should win by all Things, ye will never win by the Judgment of God, and the Tribunal of God. What will ye do then when you come there? Let us Pray. (A Lecture and Sermon preached at different times by that faithfull and painfull minister of the gospel, and now glorified martyr, Mr Donald Cargill (no place, no date), 15-22.)

After his field preaching at Benry Bridge, Cargill preached at Devon Common near the Lomond Hills in Fife and then attended a meeting at Benty-rig. (Walker, BP, II, 37.)

Additional Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All rights are reserved.

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~ by drmarkjardine on February 15, 2011.

7 Responses to “Donald Cargill’s preaching at ‘Bendry Bridge’”

  1. […] was also remarkably accurate when he pinpointed the locations Cargill’s preachings at Benry Bridge, as ‘betwixt Clyd[e]sdale and Lothian’, and at Cairnhill, as between the Lothians and […]

  2. […] preaching at the Lomond Hills in Fife took place between his preaching at Benry Bridge on 19 June 1681 and a meeting at Benty-rig on c.28 June. He was almost certainly called to preach […]

  3. […] he mistakenly dates Cargill’s sermon to Wednesday 1 June 1681 and confused Benty Rig with Benry Bridge. (Howie, Scots Worthies, […]

  4. […] May), Loudoun Hill (5 May), toured the South West (c.12 May- c.5 June), Coulter Heights (12 June), Benry Bridge (19 June), Devon Common (26 June) Auchengilloch (3 July) and Dunsyre Common (10 […]

  5. […] The location of the preaching is not known. Carnwath Moss to the north of the village was used as a field preaching site by Covenanters. In June, 1681, Cargill preached in the same parish at Benry Bridge. […]

  6. […] Walker specifically states that Donald Cargill preached on 19 June, 1681, at ‘Bendry Bridge’ which lies on the road that crosses the […]

  7. […] one of the sites used in the 1680s. Donald Cargill had preached near Carnwath in October, 1680, and at Benry Bridge in the moorland on the boundary of the parish in June, 1681. The latter site is recorded in later tradition, as is […]

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