Donald Cargill’s Letter to the Sweet Singer Women, Prisoners in Edinburgh #History #Scotland

The following letter was sent by Donald Cargill to the Sweet Singer women imprisoned in Edinburgh’s Correction House, probably in June, 1681, after the women had rejected a paper from the Sweet Singer men. The Sweet Singers had been captured at Wolf Hole Craig in the Pentlands in mid May. Before that, Cargill had preached against them at Underbank Wood on 1 May and at Loudoun Hill on 5 May. Some of Cargill’s letter is taken up with refuting the Sweet Singers’ views as expressed at a conference with him at Darngavil in Lanarkshire on 24 to 25 April, 1681.

The Correction House (centre left) below Calton Hill, Edinburgh.

Cargill’s letter to the women is as follows:

‘Dear Friends,—I think ye cannot but know that I am both concerned and afflicted with your condition, and I would have written sooner, and more, if I had not feared that you might have been jealous, under your distempers, that I had been seducing you to follow me, and not God and truth.

It had been my earnest and frequent prayer to God, as He Himself knows, to be led in all truth, and I judge I have been in this graciously answered; but I desire none, if they themselves judge it not to be truth, to adhere to anything that I have either preached, written, or done, to any hazard, much more to the loss of life.

But I have been afflicted with your condition, and could not but be more, if God’s great graciousness in this begun discovery, and your sincerity and singleness, gave me not hope that God’s purpose is to turn this to the great mercy of His poor Church and yours, if ye mar it not; and yet the great sin, and pillar of Satan, that is in this snare, makes me tremble. It was God’s mercy to you, that gave you such convictions; that made you, at least some of you, once to part with these men. And it was undoubtedly your sin, that you continued not so; but after convictions, did cast yourselves in new temptations; for convictions ought to be tenderly guided, lest the Spirit be grieved, from whom they come; but this second discovery, though it be with a sharper rebuke, as it makes God’s mercy wonderful, so it shall render your perseverance in that course sinful and utterly inexcusable; for God has broken the snare; and it will be your great sin, if you go not out with great haste, joy, and thankfulness, when God’s wonderful discovery has made such a way for your delivery. For God, having now shown you the ringleaders and authors of these opinions to be persons of such abominations, calls you not only to deny credit to them, but also to make a serious search of their tenets; which will, I know, by His grace, bring you undoubtedly to see, that these things are contrary both to God’s glory and truth, that they so much pretend to.

And now, dear friends, I cannot be tender enough of you, who in your zeal and singleness have been misled. For though this did bewray a great simplicity and unwatchfulness, yet it did also betoken some zeal and tenderness; that being beguiled, it was in things that were veiled and busked [i.e., adorned) with some pretence to God’s glory, and public reformation. And on the other hand, I cannot have great enough abhorrence of the persons, who, knowing themselves to be of such abominations, did give out themselves to be of such familiarity with God, and of so clear illumination, to make their delusions more passing with devout souls. Let nothing make you think this is malignity, or natural enmity against the power of Godliness, or progress in reformation, that is venting itself in me: For though I cannot win [i.e., get] forward as I ought, yet I have rejoiced to see others go forward.

And I am sure, there lies in this bed within you, a viper and a child. Satan, transforming himself into an angel of light, has put these two together, to make it passing with some, and to be spared of others who are of tenderness. But my soul’s desire is, to kill the serpent and keep the child alive; and God is calling you loudly to sever the good from the bad, that the wit of Satan’s subtilty has mixed together, and to deliver yourselves speedily, as a roe from the hand of the hunter; and not only return, but bitterly mourn for your high provoking of God, in offering such foul sacrifices to His glory, and sewing your old clouts upon that new garment; in your making the enemy more to despise that cause and company who are enough despised already, and discouraging those who were following and going forward with you in that which was right; so that now, neither have they heart nor hand for the work, nor can they look out till God recover them again.

There is much in the whole of this, that may, and does weight and overwhelm some spirits: but there is nothing in all their cogitations about it that they find comfortable; unless it be, that He is cleared in afflicting us, and continuing to afflict, because there were such persons among us. I speak this but of some of you, and beloved by us, though ignorantly; and we wish that this be the last and great stop that was to be removed, before His coming to revenge Himself, and reign. I would not say but by this also He showed His tenderness, of preserving integrity of doctrine, and sound reformation, and His purpose not to suffer errors and heresies to prosper.

This I told you, when I met with you, that there were some things ye were owning which were highly approved of God; such as, an inward heart-love and zeal to God’s glory, which I perceived to be in some of you, so far as it can be perceived; and setting up that before you, as your end, in pursuing it always as your work, and a forgetting of all other things in regard of it; excepting only these things without which we cannot glorify Him; as a workman that intends his work must mind his tools; even our own salvation, and the salvation of all others, as if they were not things wherein He is greatly glorified; for His glory is in righteousness and mercy, and in, and by these, is the salvation of man infallibly advanced, and to these it is inseparably connected.

Next, I would advise you to set apart more, yea, much more of your time, for humiliation, fasting, and prayer, in such an exigence, when the judgments of God appear to be so near and so great; so that it be done without sin; for God cannot be glorified by sin, ‘for if my lie hath more abounded to His glory, why am I judged as a sinner?’ I was against such as deny nature, and others their right dues; for He that allows dues to others, allows them to be paid also. And we must be like prisoners, who are of great debt and honest hearts, who know they cannot pay every one their full sums, yet are resolved to give every one some, and to the greatest most, and to the rest accordingly. And as there cannot be a total abstinence from meat without self-murder, so there cannot be a total denying others their dues, such as the benevolence of husband to wife, and a total abstaining from work, without a transgression of God’s commandments and laws; which can never be a glorifying of Him; which the more impartially they are kept, the more He is glorified.

Next, ways are allowed of Him, that ye may make yourselves free, so much as in you lies, of all the public defections, whatever may involve you in these, or contribute to their upholding, without either an overpowering force, or an indispensable necessity; for I may buy meat and drink in necessity, whatever use the seller make of that money I give for my meat and drink.

Next, He allows these particulars of reformation, such as change of the names of days, of weeks, of terms of the year, and such like, warranted by the word and example of the Christians in Scripture, that have been neglected before in our reformation; so that there be not too much religion placed in these things, and other things more weighty, which undoubtedly have more moral righteousness in them, made little in regard of them; but in these good things Satan will quickly (if it be not already), over-drive you in your progress, and leave you only to hug a spurious birth.

But there are other things that ye maintained when I spoke with you [at Darngavil] (and the viper has more since appeared [in the Paper from the Sweet Singer men]), as truths and parts of God’s glory, that are utterly contrary to, and inconsistent with the glory of God. As first, laying aside of public preaching, some of them saying no less, nor [i.e., than that] they had no missing of it; so that ye thought, ‘Ye had reigned as kings without us, and would to God ye had reigned.’ Your flourishing should have delighted, though we had not been the instruments and means thereof. But, alas! this your liberty, that you so much bragged of, would have lasted but a little while, and was among your other beguiles, and was nothing else but Satan stirring you about to giddiness, and raising of fantastic fumes to the tickling of the imagination, but leaving you altogether without renovation of heart, or progress in sanctification; so that I cannot compare this your liberty to anything else, but to an enchanted fabric; where the poor guests, only placed in imagination, imagine themselves to be in a pleasant place, and at royal entertainment; but when God comes, and delusion evanisheth, they will find themselves cast in some remote wilderness, and left full of astonishment and fears.

I told you, while I was with you, that the devil was sowing tares amongst your thin wheat; but I was not long from you, exercised in thoughts about you, but I saw clearly there was sorcery in your business; and now, I tell you, I fear sorcerers also. I know I have spoken this against my own life, if they get the power they desire; but I am in a defiance of them, and I know also in a defence by Him who hath preserved, and I know will preserve me, till my work be finished. But if your liberty that you talked of had been true, it would at least have stayed till it had brought you to other thoughts, other works, and other comforts; and it might have been easily discerned not a true liberty, but a temptation that led you from public preaching, the great ordinance of God’s glory and men’s good; as the apostle has that word, ‘forbidding us to preach to the Gentiles;’ but especially to leave public ordinances at this time, when they are the only standards standing which shows Satan’s victory against Christ’s kingdom in Scotland not to be complete.

Yet, dear friends, when you hear this, let not Satan cast you as far to the other side, for it is rare to see the most devout souls altogether out from under his delusions and temptations, as to make you believe that it is impossible to attain unto anything of certitude of truth, liberty, manifestations, and communion with God, if that which seemed to be so firm be delusions. But shall Satan have such power to make men believe lies, and shall not God go infinitely beyond him, in making men to see and believe truth? There were many that thought themselves at the height of assurance, when under the greatest temptations—as Psalm lxxiii., ‘Verily I have cleansed my hands in vain;’ and yet they have a greater certainty when they come to see that there is no such unquietness of spirit under this, as they found in the former. And seeing it is so, rest not till ye attain that assurance of your own interest, and of His main truths, which is both above doubt and defect, that ye may be able to say, ‘Now we believe, and are sure.’

But in the next place, ye will join with none in public worship, but those who have infallible signs of regeneration. This seems fair, but it is both false and foul. False, because of its false foundation, viz., that the certainty of one’s interest in Christ may be known by another. Whereas the Scripture says, ‘That none knows it, but he that has it.’ Foul also, for this disdain has pride in it, and pride is always foul; and though there be a difference amongst men, and though we should have regard of repentance and brokenness of heart, yet those who have well fought and seen their own filthiness, will judge themselves the persons of any that should be thrust out of the assemblies of God’s people, and that not only in regard of what they have been, but also in regard of what they daily are.

Next, ye would have all to be prayed to eternal wrath, who have departed and made defection in this time. Alas! we need not blow them away; the great part is going fast enough that way; but this, I am sure, is not to give God His glory, but to take from Him, and limit Him in His freedom and choice in the greatness of His pardon. It is remarkable that the angels, in their glory to God, joined also with it good-will to men.

Next, you have rejected the Psalms, with many other things, by a paper come from some of you [i.e., the men]; and I cannot see upon what account; except it be, because it is man’s work, in turning the Psalms out of prose into metre. Then ye must reject all the other Scriptures, because the translation of them is of man’s work; ye have not yet learned the original languages; ye must betake yourselves altogether to the Spirit, and what a spirit will that be, that is not to be tried by the Scriptures? I told some of you, when I last saw you, that ye were too little led by the Scriptures, and too much by your own thoughts and suggestions; which, indeed, opens a wide door to delusion, and alas! lays yourselves open to Satan’s temptations.

As for the rest of your denying all your former covenants and declarations, this cannot be from God, they containing nothing but lawful and necessary duties; and, suppose they did not contain and include a complete reformation, yet they did not exclude it; so that still holding them, we might have passed on to more perfection, and they might be inviolable obligations with us.

And next, your cutting off all that were not of your mind, and delivering them up to devils, was not justice and religion: it being done neither in judgment nor righteousness, upon conviction of their crimes, but in unbridled rage and fury. But these things I cannot fully speak to now; yet there is somewhat that I cannot pass, but must tell you, that I fear there shall remain some of the leaven within, which shall not only spoil an orthodox Protestant, but also a true, tender, and humble Christian, and give us nothing instead of it but a blown bladder; for I am persuaded, if Satan should have the tutory but a while, he should bring it to this; for it has been his way with some—first, to make them saint-like, and afterwards to settle them at atheism; like a cunning fisher, running a fish upon an angle, who at last casts it on dry ground. God is my witness, my soul loves to see holiness, tenderness, and zeal in such a generation, where there is nothing but untenderness, unconcemedness, and lukewarmness; and, by His grace, I shall ever cherish it .

I desire you then, in the bowels of Christ, to retain your zeal; but see well to this, that it be for His glory. Indeed, the more ye are zealous, and the further ye go forward, so that the word of God direct your course, ye are the more pleasing to God, and shall be the dearer to us. And persuade yourselves, that though I cannot equal or go before, yet it is the sincere desire of my heart to follow such. And my soul wishes you well, though, it may be, I cannot here point nor lead you the way to well-being; yet this I must say, that if I could lead you the way that He has led me, I should let you see eternal life, without these things that I am desiring you to relinquish.

Hold truth, glorify God, be zealous to have Him glorified ; but think not to desire the condemnation of any man, simply on that account, that they dare not come and continue where you are; or that to put a bar by prayer between them and a return, is a glorifying of God. We glorify Him in this kind, when, as He Himself desires, we acquiesce in His sentence when it is past, though we wrestle against it before it be known to us.

I cannot bid you go forward in all, but I desire you to go forward in that which is surer and better. And dear friends, let not the world have it to say, that when ye are become right, ye are become the less zealous; only take the right object, and let your zeal grow. O let not your sufferings be stained with such wildness; and think it not strange that ye have not such liberty in your return, as ye seemed to have before; if you take the right way, and hold on, ye shall find it, in His time, greater, and better, and surer.

I shall only add, that there must be an express disowning of your errors and evils, and an express owning of His truths; whereof ye have been persuaded before now, but which now are either denied or doubted; otherwise you will come to nothing of religion, or worse; this will either state your sufferings right, or be a mean to obtain a cleanly liberty from God in His due time. Grace, mercy, and peace be with you. Amen!

Donald Cargill.’ (CW, 19-26.)

Return to Homepage

Additional Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved. Please link to this post on Facebook or other social networks or retweet it, but do not reblog in FULL without the express permission of the author @drmarkjardine

~ by drmarkjardine on July 29, 2017.

One Response to “Donald Cargill’s Letter to the Sweet Singer Women, Prisoners in Edinburgh #History #Scotland”

  1. […] of Cargill’s ‘reasonings’ at the conference could be found in a later letter that Cargill sent to the Sweet Singer women when they were imprisoned in the Correction-house…. See Wodrow, […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.