A Letter To A Martyr in 1680 #History #Scotland


The following letter was sent, probably by the field preacher Donald Cargill, to a captured Covenanter awaiting execution in Edinburgh, probably in 1680. From the context in which the letter is found, with another letter to Archibald Stewart and John Potter, it is possible that the letter may have been sent to James Skene in November, 1680. The letter asks him to give testimony to the Queensferry paper and in his gallows speech Skene gave testimony to ‘Mr Donald Cargill’s papers, taken at the Queensferry, call a New Covenant, according as they agree to the true original copy’.

‘Dear Brother,—If my soul could be assistant to you in your suffering, it wold; and though kindness to suffer[er]s be our duty, yet it is somtims their prejudice for as me[n] bestow he holds in, knowing we cannot bear both, so that quhen we ar served by creatures, we ar like on getting in their debts from severall hands in smalls, quher we must sit doun and spend and drink a part with every one; and though this way in the time may content them, yet they know not so well quhat good it does them. Turn to him quher you shall have it better, swetter and surer. Besid sufferers so upheld ar never sure, for we may be outbiden, and quhen we loss our martyr, our witness, our saint, for these that corns not of martyrs ceases from most part to be saints. Woes us that we can nether shew nor receive kindness without danger; and though we cannot do, this is our comfort that he hath done at our intreatie; and let it be your comfort that, though all should stand aloof, he is neer quhois infinite in love, compassion, power and tenderness.

But think ye not to find out his goodness so much by the way he takes, as by the end he aimes at and the work he effectuats. His way be sharpe quhen his end is good; his way be banishments, prisons, scaffolds, and his end purifleing, perfiting, glorifying. And as the heart is casten down with the on, so it is raised up by the other. And, undoubtly, non can be so content as they should be with God in his sharp dispensations, quho finds not in experience their good working, and see it in hope perfiting, and I think you can hardly mistake God or gurg with dispensations. He sent you already to prison to begine it, and you ought to think that he hath sent you again to prison to increase if not to prefect it, and there non that knows the greatnes of that benefits but would joyfully receive it, tho it wer to be effectual throw a thousand years of the extreamest sufferings of a sinless hell. And yet, it will be a thousand to on if ye once fall not out with your crosse, and it also raak you think litle of that kindness that intends his onn glory and your good in all this, and all your enemie will labour to have your heart discourted with providence, so to have your consciences disquieted with challengs. I will not say that challengs for sin at such a time is only from Satan, though it be not ordinary with God to be sor in both (I mean sufferings and challengs) at on time; and though it be not his time of craving debt, yet let it be your time of seeking pardon. And I am perswaded if God charge you with debt at such a time, it is to put you to seek pardon, that he may gratify your sufferings with a free remission of all. But Satan may challeng you anent the cause of your sufferings, your call and entery to your sufferings, your carriag and testimony under them and anent your other personall evills; ye must go throw all thir with your selfe (though not for Satan), and for your own peace, for we must not only pray this doun which we will have oft to do over again. I but answer them in silence, which gives them the greatest dash, and us the longst and surest peace, and that ye find cannot be auswred should not be kept but discairded. A word then of each of them.

As to the first, this generation cannot get a cause larg enough for their bit sufferings (tho the least of its truths be a suficent cause, in holy Christ’s esteem, of the gretest sufferings); but it is like they shall niether be greater (I do not say that there will not be greater indignities don to him, greater invasions mad on his prerogatives, and greater alterations in religion, for all these may be greater, and not greater to them) causes, nor be more called to take up his crose, for as it hath been befor, Take up my cross; it may be after this, Take up your judgments, that your other sins and refusing of his cross hath procured. But as to the cause of your sufferings, the following and avowing the publick wrongs of God against the inhabitions and edicts of men, as it was in old the visible distinguishing characters betwixt pagans and Christians, so it is at this time a distinguishing characters betwixt these that hath yielded to the usurpations of men, and these quho are standing out and keeping possession for Christ till he return. And I must say, if single and rightly performed, that it is the work this day that is most acceptable and most called for; and the occasion offering, and your health permiting, was a sufficent call to you to be present at that time.

As to the 2d, I have no tim to say any more to it at this time, but this, tho the late papers [i.e., The Queensferry Paper?] and actions were not publickly concluded and consented to yet search them, and, so far as you find in them truth, give your testimony to them, for I am mistaken if the truths of God and the ease of your consciences be not in them, and that which all most be at befor we get our desires, that is, that his wrath depart from us. But I cannot proceed. Grace be with you.

Transcription of D Hay Fleming in ‘Notes on a manuscript volume of Covenanting testimonies, letters, and sermons’, PSAS, (1911), 246-8.


~ by drmarkjardine on June 10, 2017.

2 Responses to “A Letter To A Martyr in 1680 #History #Scotland”

  1. […] was sentenced to be hanged on 24 November. It is possible that Donald Cargill wrote to him before his execution. He was executed on 1 December with Archibald Stewart and John Potter, the latter of whom was […]

  2. […] 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 […]

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