Handed Down From the Scaffold: The Cargill Bible
One of Cargill’s last acts on the scaffold on 27 July, 1681, was to hand down his bible to a sympathizer and instruct them to pass it on to his sister. The incident is recorded in a handwritten entry in Cargill’s bible:
‘[Cargill] Bore this Bible to the Scaffold as his last best friend and handed it therefrom as his last sad legacy to be carried to his oldest sister Anne Cargill with these memorable words – ‘I am sure of my salvation being complete in Jesus Christ as I am of the truth of all that is contained in this holy this inestimable book of God!’ (Quoted in Crawford, Scotland’s Books, 214.)
Cargill had three sisters. His bible was handed down via the family of Anne Cargill, the eldest of them. A second sister, Grizel Cargill, was married to Donald Crockatt, a notary in Alyth parish, Perthshire.
A third sister may have been married to John Miller in Watershaugh in Shotts parish. Lanarkshire: ‘Mrs. Miller, the worthy spouse of the occupant of Watersaugh, was the sister of Donald Cargill, and Watersaugh thus became one of the haunts and hiding-places of Cargill.’ (Brown, Historical Sketches of the Parish of Cambusnethan, 147.)
His bible is recorded in Johnston’s Treasury of the Covenant:
‘Cargill’s Bible. In the village of Strathmiglo in Fife, in the possession of one who is lineally descended from a sister of Donald Cargill, is the Bible which he carried with him to the scaffold in 1681. It is a very beautiful Cambridge edition [of the King James Bible], printed in 1657, with red marginal lines, ornamentally bound, and strengthened with silver clasps, which the respect of its subsequent owners has added. This venerable volume shows on some of its pages the weather marks which it received, when on the lonely hill-side or on the naked moor Cargill held it in his hand, and under the passing storm proclaimed to those who received no mercy from man the sovereign and abundant mercy of God.’ (Johnston, Treasury of the Covenant, 640.)
He probably obtained his copy of the 1657 edition a few years into his tenure as the minister of Barony parish. He certainly obtained it after the death of his wife. It was the most up-to-date version of the text which was based on the 1638 revision of the King James Bible of 1611. The 1638 Cambridge edition is known for its ‘scholarly niceties’. In the view of Norton,‘Bible translation was of necessity a pedantic matter… [However,]… One man’s pedantry is another man’s fidelity, and it should never be forgotten that there were genuine problems in the first edition text [of 1611] that the Cambridge editors contributed greatly to remedying’. (Norton, A Textual History of the King James Bible, 91, 92.)
It may, or may not, be significant that Cargill did not use any of the post-Restoration minor revisions of the Bible. In general, Cargill was averse to post-Restoration developments in religion. However, the next influential revision of the biblical text in English did not take place until 1762. Cargill’s Bible is now held in the library of the University of St Andrews.
Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.