Donald Cargill’s Letter to John Malcolm and Archibald Alison, prisoners #History #Scotland

The following letter was written by Donald Cargill in late July or early August, 1680, when Archibald Alison and John Malcolm, who had been captured at the battle of Airds Moss, were awaiting execution in Edinburgh Tolbooth.

‘Dear Friends,—Death in Christ, and for Christ, is never much to be bemoaned, and less at this time than any other, when these that survive have nothing to live among but miseries, persecutions, snares, sorrows, and sinning; and where the only desirable sight, viz., Christ reigning in a free and flourishing Church, is wanting, and the greatly grieving and offensive object to devout souls, viz., devils and the worst of the wicked reigning and raging, is still before our eyes.

And though we had greater things to leave and better times to live in, yet eternity does so far exceed and excel these things in their greatest perfection, that they who see and are sure (and we see, indeed, being made sure), will never let a tear fall, or a sigh go at the farewell, but would rather make a slip to get death nor [i.e., than] to shun it; if both were not equally detestable to them, upon the account of God’s commandments, whom they neither dare nor are willing to offend, even to obtain Heaven itself. And there are none who are His, but they must see themselves infinitely advantaged in the exchange; and accordingly hasten, if sin, the flesh, and want of assurance did not withstand. And there is no doubt but these must be weak and poor spirits, that are bewitched or enchanted either with the fruition or hopes of the world; and as earth has nothing to hold a resolute and reconciled soul, so heaven wants nothing to draw it; and to some, to live here has been always wearisome, since their peace was made, Christ’s sweetness known, and their own weakness and unusefulness experienced. But now it becomes hatefully loathsome; since devils and the worst of men are become the head, and dreadful, by their stupendous permissions, loosings, and lengthenings in their reigning; and friends are become uncomfortable; because they will neither Christianly bear and bide, nor rightly go forward to effectuate their own delivery.

But for you there is nothing at this time (if you yourselves be sure with God, which I hope either you are or will be), which can make me bewail your death; though the cause of it doth both increase my affection to you and indignation against these enemies. Yet for you, notwithstanding of the unjustness of the sentence, go not to eternity with indignation against them upon your own account, neither let the goodness of the cause ye suffer for found [i.e., be the foundation of] your confidence in God and your hope of wellbeing; for were the action never so good, and performed without the least failing (which is not incident to human infirmity), it could never be a cause of obtaining mercy, nor yet commend us to that grace from which we are to obtain it. There is nothing now which is yours, when you are pleading and petitioning for mercy, that must be remembered, but your sins, for in effect there is nothing else ours.

Let your sins, then, be on your heart, as your sorrow; which we must bewail before we be parted with them, as the captive her father; not because she was to leave him, but because she had been so long with him; and let these mercies of God and merits of Christ be before your eyes as your hopes, and your winning to these as the only rock upon which we can be saved. If there be anything seen or looked to in ourselves but sin, we cannot expect remission and salvation allenarly [i.e., solely] through free grace, in which expectation only it can be obtained; neither can we earnestly beg, till we see ourselves destitute of all that procures favour, and full of all that merits and hastens vengeance and wrath.

And besides, it heightens the price of that precious blood, by which only we can have redemption from sin and wrath; it being the only sufficient in itself, and only acceptable to the Father; and so it must be, being the blessed and gracious device and result of infinite wisdom, which makes the eternal God to be admired in His graciousness and holiness; having found out the way of His own payment without our hurt; and which makes all return to their own desires, and there to rest in an eternal complacency; for this way returns to God His glory, to justice its satisfaction to disquieted consciences of men, frighted and awakened with the sight of sin and wrath, ease, peace and assurance; and to the souls of men, fellowship with God, and hope of eternal salvation. Now the righteousness of Christ being made sure to us, secures all this for us, and this truth is believed and apprehended by faith; it being the hand by which we grip this rock; and if it be true, it cannot but be strong, and we saved.

Look well, then, to your faith, that it be a faith growing out of regeneration, and the new creature, and that it have Christ for its righteousness, hope, and rejoicing, and be sealed by the Spirit of God. And what this sealing is, when it comes, it will abundantly show itself; and there can be no other full satisfaction to a soul than this. But seek till ye find, and, whatever ye find for the present, let your last act be to lay and leave yourselves on the righteousness of His Son, expecting life through His name, according to the promise of the Father.

Dear friends, your work is great, and time short; but this is a comfort, and the only comfort in your present condition, that you have a God infinite in mercy to deal with, who is ready at all times to forgive, but especially persons in your case, who have been jeoparding your lives upon the account of the Gospel; whatever failings or infirmities in you that action hath been accompanied with; for it is the action itself which is the duty of this whole covenanted kingdom, and not the failing, for which you are brought to suffering. Seek not then the favours of men, by making your duty your sin; but confess your failings to God, and look for His mercy through Jesus Christ, who has said, ‘Whosoever loseth his life for my sake, shall keep it unto eternal life.’ And though it will profit a reprobate nothing to die after this manner (for nothing can be profitable without love, which only is, or can be in a believer), yet it should be no disadvantage, but in a manner the best way of dying; for it would take some from his days that he might have lived, and so prevent many sins that he would have committed, and so the sin is lessened that is the cause of eternal sufferings.

And let not this discourage you, or lay you by [i.e., overcome you], that the work is great, and the time short; though this indeed should mind you of your sinful neglect, that you were not better provided for such a short and peremptory summons, which you should always have expected. It also shows the greatness of the sin of these enemies, who not only take away unjustly your bodily life, but also shorten your time of preparation, and so do their utmost to deprive you of eternal life. Yet, I say, let not this either discourage or lay you by, for God can perfect great works in a short time; and one of the greatest things that befall men shall be effectuate in the twinkling of an eye, which is one of the shortest . I assure you, He put the thief on the cross through all his desires; conviction, conversion, justification, sanctification, etc., in short time; and left nothing to bemoan, but that there did not remain time enough to glorify Him upon earth, who had done all these things for him.

Go on, then, and let your intent be seriousness. The greatness of your sorrow, and the height of love, in a manner make a compensation for the shortness of time; and go on, though ye yourselves have gone short way; for where these things are, one hour will perform more than thousands where there were not either such enforcements or power; and be persuaded in this, you have Him as much and more hastening than yourselves; for you may know His motion by your own, they being both set forward by Him. And, dear friends, be not terrified at the manner of your death, which, to me, seems to be the easiest of all, where you come to it without pain, and in perfect judgment, and go through so speedily; before the pain be felt, the glory is come! But pray for a greater measure of His presence, which only can make a pass through the hardest things cheerful and pleasant.

I bid you farewell, expecting, though our parting be sad, our gathering shall be joyful again. Only our great advantage in the case you are in is, to credit Him much; for that is His glory, and engages Him to perform whatever ye have credited Him with. No more, but avow boldly to give a full testimony for His truths, as you desire to be avowed of Him. Grace, mercy, and peace be with you.

Donald Cargill.’ (CW, 15-19.)

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~ by drmarkjardine on July 27, 2017.

2 Responses to “Donald Cargill’s Letter to John Malcolm and Archibald Alison, prisoners #History #Scotland”

  1. What a letter and what calibre of a writer and human being!

  2. […] ordinary followers of Cameron who had been captured at Airds Moss. Perhaps as a result, Cargill wrote to the two men after they were sentenced to death on 3 August with advice on how they could best offer testimony at their martyrdom. (Thomson (ed.), CW, […]

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