‘He Will Have His People Up Again’: Cargill’s Torwood Sermon on Lamentations 3.31-32.
On the afternoon of the Torwood Excommunication, Donald Cargill preached a sermon on the survival of “a Remnant” of militant presbyterians.
According to Patrick Walker:
‘That Afternoon he preached upon that Text, 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. [Lam. 3.31-2.] In which Sermon he touched neither the Tyranny nor Defections in the Land. This confirmed what he says in his dying Words, However it be with me at the last, tho’ I should be straitned by God, or interrupted by Men; yet all is true, and shall be well: I have followed Holiness, I have taught Truth, I have been most in the main Things; not-that I thought the Things concerning our Times little, &c. (Walker, BP, II, 8.)
The full texts of the lecture, discussion, excommunication and afternoon sermon at Torwood can be found here:
The afternoon sermon was as follows:
“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.”– Lamentations 3.31-32.
‘We know not of any Scripture that the Lord confirms oftener unto us than this. It is often borne in upon us. I say, He will not cast off a remnant: “for the Lord will not cast off for ever.” Oh, but it is a sweet word! but alas, there are many sweet words that are hardly believed, because we are lying under much guilt. There is one thing sure, God will not cast off a remnant for ever. And if ye be sure of this, that ye once had Him, we will make you sure of this likewise, that if ye have had Him, ye shall yet have Him. We have a great pledge of His return, but we fear that if ye have Him not, He will not return. And if He return not, then a soul should not be exercised about this, “If ever He will come again,” but rather if ever He shall be theirs. Hath He ever been yours? If He hath been within you, I assure you He will yet be within you. He will yet return, and we shall say this, His absence is but short to some, but to some it is very long. But he that guides best gets Him soonest back again.
Now these words foreshow sad things – a sad condition indeed!
1. It is a sad thing to see a people cast off. Is it not a sad thing to see a wife cast off by her husband, and thrust out of doors?
2. As there is a sad condition shown in these words, so there is a fair hope given, that there will be help given in this condition. We shall say this, the departure of God would be even misery, if there were not hope of His return.
3. We have in the words the rise and spring of His returning. “Yet will He have compassion according to the multitude of His mercies.” He shows what is the thing that will bring Him back, “for yet He will have compassion.” As for this desertion, blame yourselves; and for His return, give thanks to God-give thanks to Him for His mercy and compassion. And blessed be God, that it is so. If it had not been so, if His bowels of mercy and compassion had not been such, if He had not abundance of bowels in Him, we had sinned Him out long since. Yes; we have sometimes wondered, that after all our sins, provocations and backslidings, there should be one spark, so to speak, of affection in God towards us. Tempt Him not always very sore, though His bowels are very great. But oh, the ingratitude that is in us! Our ingratitude makes such a base return for all His goodness long continued towards us.
Now we shall not go through everything in this text. We shall only consider this:– That the more that casting off causeth grief (when the Lord casteth off it causeth grief, but mistrust in grief is sorest), it helpeth us against our grief the more we consider that there is hope that “he will not cast off for ever.” But when unbelief is added to grief, and they are both together, it is even like a stream that is carrying away the poor soul-it is like to be overwhelmed. But He stays the stream with this, “For the Lord will not cast off for ever.” Oh, but grief with unbelief is sore! We will say this one word, that grief that hath unbelief joined with it should be stopped; for there is no benefit by abiding that case long. Ye may say, “What will stop this grief that is accompanied with unbelief?” In a word, dwell much upon God’s part, and be sore upon yourselves. I say, dwell much upon God’s part. He hath not done it without cause, and the cause of it is from ourselves. Justify God, and then be much upon His part; for though we have procured it, He will mind it. We shall say this, that though God cast us off, it shall not be perpetually. Though our sins be great, and though our castings off for our sins be but short (oh! it is His compassion and mercy that make them short), though we provoke Him to cast us off, yet blessed be God who hath done that which will make them that they shall not be perpetual, and this is founded upon His goodness, upon the goodwill of God, upon His mercy and compassion. Our casting off flows from our sins, but this is His goodness and compassion, that He will not cast us off for ever. And besides, there is nothing required as a condition of His engagement, or of the continuance of His engagement, but what He promises freely of Himself. But there are a few things whereby He shows that His casting off will not be perpetual, or for ever.
1. His nature is unchangeable. Ah! It would go farther than casting off! Yes, it would go immediately to consuming. Were He not unchangeable, we would be in a poor case-it would even be consuming. Though we be changeable yet He is unchangeable. And it is not at all in us, but from Him, if we stand or if we be in a state of believing.
2. His faithfulness engageth Him. He hath passed His promise, and what He hath said, He will not recall. What hath He said? He hath said, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” [Heb. 5.13.] What is the Lord like unto in this respect? We will say, He is like a husband that goes out and in, to and fro, about his employment, and afterward he returns home again, and he never leaves his wife, nor his house, or rather he never breaks wedlock. Oh, the faithfulness of God! If He had dealt with us as we have dealt with Him, what would have come of us ere now? Oh, His faithfulness is strong! If His faithfulness had not been strong, we would have broken and run away from Him, and never returned again. We run from Him and He brings us back again, like Adam when he had sinned. But it was God that brought him back again.
But 3. As God’s unchangeableness and faithfulness are engaged, so the great affection and love that are in God, make the casting off of His people not be perpetual. There is a great love and affection in God towards His people. He will not only exercise His love toward Himself and His own Son; but He will have a creature to exercise His love upon. Oh, wonderful that He should exercise His love on a creature! It is a wonder that we are not saying everyone to another, “I can never love, but when I am loved of Him.”
4. As this word imports a casting off, so it imports that there hath been a oneness in the case. Where God hath forsaken them, there His love hath once been towards them. If His love did not bind them, it would be a dreadful casting off. If ye cannot say that once ye received Him, nothing can follow. Now, this is the foundation; I have once been with God. If ever ye have been resolved here, then it is a marriage indeed, and there is a remarkable feast, for there is never a marriage but there is a feast. He would give us the marriage and the feast, if we would give Him the heart. I would then ask you, “Got ye ever the feast? Had ye ever greater delight in God, than in all other things?” I shall say this one word: If God had been the greatest feast and the greatest delight unto you, ye had oftener feasted. Thus it imports a oneness, and that oneness is the foundation of His return. And it likewise imports casting off, though the Covenant be not broken, and that casting off must have a great fault. And where there is casting off, it is a wonder there is not a longing to see where the fault lies, and what the great fault or faults are-that since casting off hath a cause, what that cause is? There must be a cause, for there is real displeasure of God, though that displeasure be constantly with love, yet according to our carriage He will cast off, or delight in us. And just as we behave we may expect to find Him. There are two things here. There is a real displeasure, and a real cause of displeasure; and therefore God is not to you as before. Then reflect upon the cause. Reflect upon yourselves. The cause is in you. O happy soul, that never goes to God, till it find a fault with itself and what is the cause of His withdrawings, and acknowledge it and so find Him again.
But 5. The many castings off now say that there is great untenderness, for where there is great untenderness, there are many castings off. If ye would not have Him stay away long, be very circumspect, be more tender; for in effect untenderness in a Christian makes his life differ nothing from that of a heathen. A Christian’s untenderness will never keep off crosses, but will keep off a present God. Now then we are sure of this, that frequent casting off flows from great untenderness, and this is the great sin of this nation. We are persuaded, though we never knew what is within you, that this is the present generation’s sin, for it is evident that untenderness can neither enjoy God long nor frequently.
6. It imports this, that if once there be an interest in God, His castings off will not be perpetual. “The Lord will not cast off for ever.” There is no creature that hath an interest in Him but He hath reserved hope for it, so that though there be a casting off, yet there will be a return. I say, there are none that have their foundation sure, but He will return unto them. Is your foundation sure? Have ye His tokens? Have ye, I say, got His tokens? Have ye His earnest? Have ye His seal? Have ye the sealing of the Spirit? I fear ye have yet all these to seek. And without these, ye can have but small comfort when cast off. But if ye have these, I assure you, He will not “cast off for ever. But though he cause grief, yet he will have compassion, according to the multitude of his tender mercies.”
Then 1. We see that when God casteth off, there must be grief; because the cause of our casting off is from ourselves.
2. It causeth great grief because there is much time lost, much time runs over, and we do no good. We never do a right turn. I think everyone should say with Joshua, “O Sun, stand thou still,” [Josh. 10.12.] until I get God again. We should weary of our time, when He is away.
3. A thing that not only adds to our grief, and makes it not only great but desperate, is want of the assurance of His returning. The greatest grief and misery are when there is no hope of His returning. This makes grief not only great, but desperate. I say, it makes the grief great, because the cause is from ourselves. It would quiet our minds somewhat if we were not the procuring cause of it ourselves, but how can I be quiet, when it is procured by myself? In this case, there is no good done, and much time ill-spent, for all evils are present.
4. This casting off brings not only grief, but is desperate without an interest in Christ. But where there is an interest in Him, this casting off will not be perpetual. But ye may say, “When will He return?” His returning will be according to our diligence. If ye can want Him, He will tarry the longer. Yes, indeed He will tarry the longer, if ye can want Him. When He is absent, ye never go a right step till He come again. When He is away, all good departs, and all ills come. Oh, how poor and wretched art thou that canst want Him! How greatly is it your interest to get Him, and, when got, to endeavour to keep Him; for when He is gone your wisdom is gone; your strength is gone; you are laid open to all your enemies, and made a prey of by them. You cannot do anything without Him, but sin.
Use.- Here we might make several uses of these things, but we shall only speak to this one, which is even here for comfort to them that are smitten with any casting off and forsaken: “Yet He will have compassion.” He hath cast the Church of God long off, and He hath cast His people long off, which is very sad. But I trow the people of God have more ground to hope for His return to themselves than they have to hope for His return to all the Church. For it is now alike with all nations. We have no token of restricting Him to our nation. He was never restricted to any nation after the Jews, yet we are far from discouraging any from believing His return again unto this land. We acknowledge this indeed, that there is more to press down our hearts, than to hold them up. But we yield this also for your encouragement, that He hath showed as great a love to this nation, and as strange mercies, as ever He hath done to any. But they will force him away out of despite, and He will have them once overturned, and then He will rise up against their will. But if He return, see that ye be not away, when He comes. Oh, that woeful bonding and cess paying! O this shire! [i.e., Stirlingshire] This shire! I know not a place in Scotland like it. Woe to them when God comes back! Ye will neither get favour nor pleasure. He will be a terror to you. But when He comes, He will be to the afflicted their desire and the answer of their prayers. Have ye kept His bed chaste? If ye have kept His bed chaste, He will come again, and He will thank you, so to speak, for so doing.
Now what say the words more? They say this: “I will turn the wheel upon the wicked.” [See Prov. 20.26.] He will turn again and see who is wrong and who is right. There will be many complaints given in unto Him. Be ready, Sirs, with all your complaints, with all the wrongs done to the work of God, and to His honour. This one thing I say, He will turn the wheel upon the wicked, and He will have His people up again, though He give them away for a while. Though He cast down, He will take up again. He will reckon with them for all their wrongs. Now, when He comes, enemies will not get one foot-breadth of ground. Though He cause grief, “He will not cast off for ever.” There the thing is His compassion and mercy. If His compassion do it not, it is impossible that He should return. If His bowels of mercy make Him not return, it is impossible that He will return again. There is nothing that will make us sure of His return, but His compassion and mercy.’
This sermon was printed as Sermon III in Sermons Delivered in Times of Persecution in Scotland, 502-506.