Letter to the Martyrs, Archibald Stewart and John Potter, November, 1680 #History #Scotland


The following letter was sent, probably by Donald Cargill, to Archibald Stewart, from Bo’ness, and John Potter, from Uphall, prior to their execution in Edinburgh on 1 December. 1680. Both men had been captured after the Mutton Hole incident and were suspected on the basis of dubious evidence of being part of a gunpowder plot to kill James, Duke of York.

‘Dearest Freinds,—We are comforted in your comforts, and though some have long sadness from these prisons, yet of late it hath followed from that hath refreshed the hearts of sincere and zealous ones, and though we have love to you as our oun life, yet we dare not bid you return from that way quher you see truths and find God. You is much set by by us, and we think there is nothing above that—but God’s glory, which always ought to be highest to a Christian—at present in our souls; and yet we dare not advise you, but quhat we ours selves by God’s grace are would choise if we were in your souls stead, not to retreat on foot, for a temporall lifes protracted for many years, which yet no man by any imaginable probability can promise to himselfe, and fareless can he promise grace to himself to use rightly quhen he hath so gotten it without God’s aprobation. And we see how lifes so redeemed ar.imployed, and the lives of the great part of our ministers and professors may declare, quhonever after that wins to a supleaded living for God’s glory and publick good,but ar his in darkness, deadness and in deit. And I am perswaded, besids,that some fe a years cannot be a great temptation to a devot soul, quho hath the experience of this world’s vanity and the assurance of eternity’s glory; they, knowing som quhat of the vast diferance, cannot but joyfully expect of admission on their part wholy, for to them to live is doubt[less] that we should shew ourselves taking part with Christ quhen wronged, though we should suffere and die for it.

Quhatever men shall put us to upon this account, we may, upon a well grounded peace, beare it; and undoubtly it is not the tenderness of this generation, (for if it were tenderness it would be kything in somequhat else, whereas in nothing at this time true tendernese to kyth in,) but a malignant affection of loyalty, which is highest quhen religion is lowest, and greatest to men quhen they themselves ar worst and in their higest (sic) usurpation, and in their greatest apostacy from and opisition to the Son of God. It must then be from an untenderness and sinfull love of life that men sids with powers, quhen they and Christ ar so sundred that both the on and the other ar crying—Who ar on my side, quho? So that we cannot kyth on their side; but with all incontinently we kyth oposits to him; and as for that which they mainly require, that we acknowledge them, we cannot more acknowiegd them in their capacities quherin they stand, and the power they now exercie, mor than we can acknowledge the power of pope, for they have robbed the [Pope] of his usurped power, and he hath robbed Christ of that quhich is his due power, so that they take it from him and exercises it for him, and will return it to him again.

And that divine quho pretendes so much to know principles, as he saw ecclesiastick persons not to be acknowledged in civill courts, so he might have seen also ecclesiastick power exercised by civill and ecclesiastick persons not to be acknowledged, or at least he might have seen his oun practise nearer to Jesuiticall principalls than ours; but his intent was to shew himselfe loyall, and not religious nor zealous for his wronged Master (if he think him so). But it may be thought, do we not acknowledge their civill power, and decline their ecclesiastick? For answer—It is an ecclesiastick [power] that they have usurped and are obtruded upon us to be acknowledged, to wit, a power that judges of excomunications, quho shall preach and quhat shall be preacht, quhen we shall hear and quhere we shall hear, is, for their civill power, the tirranie they exercise, the enmity against God and his Anointed they shew, the perjury they avow, which, according to our Scots laws, takes away the priviliges of standing in judicatories, much mor a sitting in judgment, dos sufficient to exhonour us of alegeance. As for that other part touching excommunication (which is meerly ecclesiastick, quherof they cannot be judges), if ever any excomunication was just, this is; and so fare orderly as the times and states of affairs will permit, for the consent of the Church cannot be expected in the preturbed state thereof, neither ought it to be waitted for in a declined and corrupted state of the Church. As for other things that they have fristed into your libels, which ar nether your principles nor consequentiall to them, eject and publickely decline them. And for these that hath, been the mean of your beleeving, tho they cannot have a sad heart at your sufferings, yet they do not know themselves to have on ill conscience; and I am perswaded the whole land shall be ether broutght (sic) to the things ye ar now at, or mad to endure worse and harder things if not both.

Dearest freinds, go on then and secure other things, accordingly, that as you have peace in your present quarell because of your suffering, so man may have safty as to your future and eternall state. And as for my part, he hath given me such abundant liberty in your behalfe, that I am perswaded that I shall be imbarked ansred (?) in. the on or other. And blessed be God that I have somquhat quherwith to comfort you and to be comforted anent you, beside the hop of a temporal life; and tho he be able to give you the on as wel as the other, yet let not the hop of this abate ether the ardence in your prepration or the zeal in your testimony, and expect only his mercy in your duty. Go on then kindly morning for your sins, humbly creeping forward to the scepter halden forth, firmly beliving in the sufflciencie of a Saviour for the quenching of all challenges, and for the obtianing of a perfect righteousness, quherby ye may stand unfraid befor his tribunall. And let not the marjowes [i.e., mar joys] of your oun thoughts disturb your peace in beleiving. No more, but grace, mercy and peace be with you.’

Transcription of D Hay Fleming in ‘Notes on a manuscript volume of Covenanting testimonies, letters, and sermons’, PSAS, (1911), 248-49.

~ by drmarkjardine on June 8, 2017.

One Response to “Letter to the Martyrs, Archibald Stewart and John Potter, November, 1680 #History #Scotland”

  1. […] The following letter was sent by Donald Cargill to James Skene, after the latter was condemned to death on 24 November and imprisoned in Edinburgh Tolbooth. Skene was executed on 1 December. Cargill may have sent an earlier letter to Skene. He also wrote to the two men executed with Skene. […]

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