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

•July 29, 2017 • Leave a Comment

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


Donald Cargill’s Letter to James Skene of November, 1680 #History #Scotland

•July 28, 2017 • Leave a Comment

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.

The letter to Skene is as follows:

‘Dearest Friend,—There is now nothing upon earth that I am so concerned in, except the Lord’s work, as in you and your fellows; that you may either be cleanly brought off, or honourably and rightly carried through. He is begun in part to answer me; though not in that which I most affected, yet in that which is best.

My soul was refreshed to see any that had so far overcome the fear and torture of death, and were so far denied to the affections of the flesh, as to give full liberty to the exoneration of conscience in the face of these bloody tyrants and vile apostates. And yet these, by our divines, must be acknowledged as magistrates! which very heathens, endued with the light of nature, would abominate, and would think it as inconsistent with reason to admit to or continue in magistracy; such perjured, bloody, dissolute, and flagitious men, as to make a wolf the keeper and feeder of the flock. But every step of their dealing with God, with the land, and with yourself and brethren, is a confirmation of your judgment anent them, and sufficient ground of your detestation and rejection of them; and it is the sin of the land, and of every person in it, that they have not gone along with you, and these few in that action. But since they have not done that, they shall not now meet with the like honour, if ever they meet with it, till vengeance be poured out upon them; and they and their king shall either be keeped together in wrath or divided in wrath, that they may be one another’s destruction.

But go on, valiant champion; you die not as a fool, though the apostate, unfaithful, and lukewarm ministers and professors of this generation think and say so. They shall live traitors, and most part of them die fools. I say, traitors; as some men live upon the reward of treachery, for their quiet and liberty; if it may be called a liberty, as it is redeemed with the betraying of the interest of Christ, and the blood of His people. But He Himself hath sealed your sufferings, and their thus saying condemns God, and His sealing condemns them. But neither regard their voices, nor fear; for God will neither seal to folly nor iniquity. He then not only having sealed your sufferings, but your remission, go on to finish and perfect your testimony, not only against them, but against all that subject [i.e., yield] to them, side with them, or are silent at them.

And as for these men that will be our rulers, though they have nothing of worth or virtue in them; I am persuaded of this, that none can appear before them and acknowledge them as they have now invested themselves; standing on a foundation of perjury, which is an act recissory of their admission to the government, with Christ’s crown on their head, and a sceptre of iniquity and a sword of persecution in their hand; but must deny Christ. And in effect, the whole land generally hath denied Christ and desired a murderer; and as for that unsavoury salt that lately appeared, acknowledged them, and was ashamed of this testimony, and in so doing gave the first vote to your condemnation, and proclaimed a lawfulness to the rest of assizers and murderers to follow in their condemnations [i.e., Mr John Carstairs, elder, whom Skene mentioned in his unpubished testimony on 19 November], God shall require this, with his other doings, at his hands; and I am somewhat afraid, if he be not suddenly made the subject of serious repentance, that he shall be made the subject of great vengeance.

But forgive and forget all these private injuries, and labour to go to eternity and death with a heart destitute of private revenges, and filled with zeal to God’s glory; and assign to Him the quarrel against His enemies, to be followed out by Himself in His own way against the indignities done to Him, and against the mocking perfidiousness, impieties, and lukewarmness of this generation.

And for yourself, whatever there has been either of sin or duty, remember the one and forget the other, and betake yourself wholly to the mercy of God and the merit of Christ . Ye know in whom ye have believed, and the acceptableness of your believing, and the more fully you henceforth believe, the greater shall be His glory, and the greater your peace and safety.

Farewell, dearest friend, never to see one another any more till at the right hand of Christ. Fear not; and the God of mercies grant a full gale and a fair entry into His kingdom, which may carry sweetly and swiftly over the bar, that you find not the rub of death. Grace, mercy, and peace be with you.
Yours in Christ,
D[onald]. C[argill].’ (CW, 10-13.)

Return to Homepage

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

•July 27, 2017 • 1 Comment

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.)

Return to Homepage

Donald Cargill’s Letter to Friends in the West before he fled to Rotterdam #History #Scotland

•July 26, 2017 • Leave a Comment

The following letter was written in late 1679, after the Covenanters’ defeat at the Battle of Bothwell Bridge and immediately prior to Donald Cargill’s escape to Rotterdam.

‘Dear Friends,— I cannot but be grieved to go from my native land, and especially from that part of it for whom and with whom I desired only to live; yet the dreadful apprehensions I have of what is coming upon this land may help to make me submissive to this providence, though more bitter.

You will have snares for a little, and then a deluge of judgments. I do not speak this to affright any, much less to rejoice over them, as if I were taken, and they left; or were studying by these thoughts to alleviate my own lot of banishment; though I am afraid that none shall bless themselves long upon the account that they are left behind; but my design is to have you making yourselves prepared for snares and judgments, that ye may have both the greatest readiness and the greatest shelters, for both shall be in one.

Clear accompts, [i.e., accounts] and put off the old; for it is like, that what is to come will be both sudden and surprising, that it will not give you time for this. Beware of taking on new debt. I am afraid, that these things which many are looking on as favours are but come to bind men together in bundles for a fire.

I am sure, if these things be embraced, there shall not belong time given for using of them; and this last of their favours and snares is sent to men, to show that they are that which otherwise they will not confess themselves to be. Tell all, that the shelter and benefit of this shall neither be great nor long, but the snare of it shall be great and prejudicial.

And for myself, I think for the present He is calling me to another land; but how long shall be my abode, or what employment He has for me there, I know not, for I cannot think He is taking me there to live and lurk only.

I rest,
Donald Cargill.’ (CW, 14.)

The Covenanter’s Poisoned Musket Ball #History #Scotland

•July 24, 2017 • 2 Comments

On 12 November, 1680, when the militant Covenanter James Skene was captured at the Mutton Hole, near Edinburgh, he had in his possession a poisoned musket ball so that ‘none’ would ‘recover whom I shot’ with it…

He was hanged in Edinburgh on 1 December.

James Skene was the brother of the deceased laird of Skene in Aberdeenshire. He lived somewhere in the North of Scotland, yet was involved in militant presbyterian networks in the South. He probably did not participate in the Bothwell Rising in June, 1679, as he stated that he was at his home in the North at that time. (CW, 82.)

From his martyrs’ testimony, it is clear that Skene knew the field preacher Thomas Hog, as ‘my somtims revernd and dear freind’. However, by late 1679, he was opposed to Hog’s failure to join with Richard Cameron in restarting field preaching and rejecting moderate indulged ministers in the aftermath of the defeat at Bothwell. At ‘my last coming south, within few moneths’, i.e., in about September, 1680, ‘I found him [i.e., Hog when he met him] clear of that mind, [that] the indulged ministers should not be left’.

According to the interrogation of Archibald Stewart, after the Bothwell rising, in the winter of 1679 to 1680, Skene was in the house of John Gibb, elder, at Bo’ness with John Spruell, later imprisoned on the Bass, John Gibb, younger, and Ann Stewart, later one of the Sweet Singers. It may have been at that time, that Skene read Robert MacWard’s letter ‘to profesors at Borrowstounness’ that he refers to in his testimony, below. If that is correct, then MacWard’s letter that was printed in Earnest Contendings (1723) p369-374 was sent to a society that later produced the Sweet Singers. That places an argument by the editor of Earnest Contendings that Wodrow’s claim that MacWard’s letter was in part a warning about the Sweet Singers/Gibbities in context. It is clear that the letter was sent to the society containing Gibb/the Sweet Singers, but that it arrived over a year before the Sweet Singers emerged out of the Bo’ness society. (See p381).

That the chief ideologue of the militant presbyterian movement, MacWard, probably sent a letter to the Bo’ness society may alter our understanding of the place of John Gibb, the Sweet Singers and those with him in late 1679 in Presbyterian historiography. Usually, the Sweet Singers have been seen as a small and divisive sect, which they were in 1681, but in late 1679/early 1680, they were part of a prayer society that formed a crucial node in the militant network. Bo’ness was where important information was exchanged between the militants and key personnel was slipped in and out of Scotland, either to, or from, the militant exile leadership in Rotterdam. As Patrick Walker, who lived nearby, noted, the Bo’ness society was influential, he felt its draw, and the letter from MacWard was spread through the Society people.

Under interrogation, Skene stated that he was in the company of the field preacher Donald Cargill in about May, 1680, i.e., at around the time of the Auchengilloch Fast. Afterwards, he returned, again, to his home in the north and was not present at the Sanquhar Declaration in June, the battle of Airds Moss in July or the Torwood Excommunication of the king in September, although he approved of all of those actions. In his testimony, Skene was scornful of two Presbyterian minsters, as ‘poor backsliders’. They were Archibald Riddell and Alexander Hastie, who rejected the Sanquhar Declaration before the privy council, apparently only a short time before in October, 1680.

After Torwood, Skene returned to the South. On 11 November, he was with Cargill in a house in the Westbow of Edinburgh when, allegedly, treasonable discussions to conduct a gunpowder plot against James, Duke of York, took place. On Friday, 12 November, he was captured at the Mutton Hole with Archibald Stewart, when they were both acting as guards for Cargill.

When taken, Skene was armed with a dirk, in the Highland fashion, and probably a gun, perhaps a pistol. The later appears to have contained, or been associated with, a poisoned ball. When asked ‘why I poisoned my ball’, Skene replied he ‘wished none of them to recover whom I shot’ with it. (CW, 82.)

What a “poisoned” ball was is not clear. A poem from the 1670s does mention the use of ‘venom’d shot’ and ‘case-shot … strong of poison’ by Cromwell’s Army in c.1650. Case shot was a form of canister shot used in cannon. It also mentioned balls ‘chew’d with teeth of some that had a stinking breath’, which sounds like it was used in muskets or pistols:

‘Twas ill for us we had to do
With so dishon’rable a foe:
For though the law of arms doth bar
The use of venom’d shot in war,
Yet by the nauseous smell and noisom
Their case-shot savour strong of poison,
And doubtless have been chew’d with teeth
Of some that had a stinking breath…’ (Samuel Butler, ‘Hudibras’)

There were occasional accusations in the eighteenth century of the use of ‘chewed’ and ‘poisoned’ balls on the battlefield, notably at Bunker Hill in 1775. (See the blog, here, that has pictures of chewed balls and was the source for the poem.)

Whether that was the kind of “poisoned ball” Skene possessed is not known. What is clear is that Skene’s own words indicate that both he and the members of the privy council interrogating him understood that the shot had been tampered with in some way to be described as “poisoned” and that such shots were considered more lethal if the victim survived the initial gunshot.

Advances in the treatment of gunshot wounds took place in the late seventeenth century, see here and here, but there was at that time no scientific knowledge of the dangers posed by bacterial infection. (The first observation of bacteria in water in 1676 was met with scepticism.) Although battlefield surgeons may not have understood the causes of infection, they did grasp the importance of effectively closing a wound and removing debris. If some surgeons understood that, it is possible that those who chose to use “poisoned” balls also grasped that making that task harder reduced the chances of survival.

What is also clear from Skene’s testimony, is that he probably did not have a chance to fire his poisoned ball when he was captured. That probably indicates that they were caught completely by surprise at the Mutton Hole. One member of the party, Mrs Moor, did escape the troops and fled back up the road to warn Cargill.

Skene was interrogated on the following day, 13 November, when he may have declared that it was lawful to kill Charles II. He wrote his remarkable testimony to ‘the professors of the South’ on 19 November. His capture was mentioned in the proclamation against ‘the Fanatical and Bloody Plot’ of 22 November, 1680.

He 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 captured within days of the Mutton Hole incident.

The authorities also were interested in Isobel Alison’s connections to Skene when they interrogated her, but she answered ‘I never saw him’. She was captured in Perth soon after the Mutton Hole incident, where Marion Harvie was taken, and was executed with her in January, 1681. (CW, 118.)

Return to Homepage

Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved. Please feel free 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

James Skene’s Missing Martyrs’ Testimony of 1680 #History #Scotland

•July 24, 2017 • 2 Comments

The martyrs’ testimony of James Skene is truly remarkable for the insight that it gives into the mind set of militant presbyterians at a moment of crisis for them in late 1680. At that time, key figures in the core of the network that was protecting Donald Cargill, the most sought after fugitive in the kingdom, had been captured following an ambush at the Mutton Hole outside of Edinburgh. Among those taken was James Skene, who was executed in Edinburgh.

Many letters and testimonies from him were published over three hundred years ago. Cloud of Witnesses (1714) published Skene’s letter on his interrogation before the Privy Council (CW, 82-86.), two letters from Skene to a fellow prisoner ‘N’ (CW, 90-92.), and his gallows speech/testimony written on 30 November (CW, 92-98.). The other document published by Cloud was his letter to the professors in the shire of Aberdeen, i.e., of the North, of 17 November. (CW, 86-90.)

However, Skene’s letter to the professors of the South of 19 November was not included in Cloud of Witnesses. Whether it was deliberately omitted or not, the content of his letter to the professors of the South was highly contentious. In particular, its naming and shaming of well-known Presbyterian divines highlights how splits had emerged between Cargill’s followers and other ministers.

What Skene meant by ‘professors’ was the community of Presbyterians, i.e., mainly ordinary folk who professed “true” religion (as understood by Skene), rather than those who held elite posts in universities as we would understand that term to mean today.

His testimony to the professors of the South is as follows:

The last testimony to the cause and interest of Christ from Ja[mes]: Skeen, brother to the late Laird of Skeen, being close prisoner in Edinburgh for the same.

To all and sundry professors in the South, especially Mr Ro[ber]t. M’Waird, in Holland, Mr Tho[mas]. Hog, Mr Archibald Riddell, Mr Alexander Hasty, preachers, who now have mad defection by loving their quiet so much, and so complying fully with the stated enemys of Jesus, fearing the offending of them who ar pretended magstrats.

Dear Freinds,—The Lord, in his holy wisdome for trying and purging of a people for himselfe, is as permited the dovill raise the kingdom of Antichrist to a dreadfull hight, so that in these sad trying times many ar impudently bold to deny their master. Of nonconformists ministers, not only these who have taken leicence from the usurpers of our Lord’s croun and so becom indulged ministers, by which means they acknowled a tirrant on the thron to be head of the Church, which properly belongeth to our Lord Jesus Christ, as Psal. 2. 8, Ephes. 1. 22; but also there ar of minister that say a confedaracy with them, that consult to banishe quite our blesed Lord of Scotland, by sheding the blood of the saints and making armed forces presecute and bear doun the Gospell ordinances in the feilds. For after Bothweell [in June, 1679,] many ar gaping for indulgence, and all the whole ministers are content to be ordered by the enemies of Christ and to keep only house conventicles; and, in short, there is not a feild conventicle in all Scotland. Mr Richard Cameron, who now is in glory, being most solitious with Mr [Thomas] Hog and Mr John Dickson to go out to the feilds [in October, 1679], they told they thought too great a hazard. The wrath of the adversary, and the Declaration of Sanquhar [on 22 June, 1680] (by which we declar the usurper Charles Stewart by vertue of perjury, oppresion and tyrrany, to have forfeited his right to the kingdom and croun of Scotland, being him (sic) only on that head that he might maintian the covenant and the reformed religion by Presbetry, discharging Prelacy as on of the daughters of Bablon under which Popry had ever a kindly grouth) mad them cast all freindship of, they being mad tender of keeping up their oun reput of being loyall for the opresor they’r zealous for maintianing their loyallty. Aledgeance they swor to our best Lord Jesus Christ, quher he never brake to them, they ar unconcerned, and will not contend with this generation of his wrath who aserts they will not have him to reign over him (sic).

O how sad is it so many professors hath fallen from that tenderness and zeale for God, they once have been honoured for, to a lukewarmnes and indeference how the Lord’s intrest be promoted, counting it their duty to hide themselves from duty; byt wrath shall not overpass untill it make some of them mourn for their reproaching of the remnant, quhom the Lord hath only honoured to be faithfull and stedfast to his covenant. As Mr Hog, my somtims revernd and dear freind, should so vilifie and reproach Archbald Stewart and William Jack, whom the Lord hath honored with suffering and tendernes beyond many, that they should not die [in] peace: O quhat shall be don? Rather he should said—O these men quhom blesed King Jesus delighteth to honour. I am much afraid his contumulis and reproaches, and Mr Ro[ber]t McWaird in Holland—quho, in a letter to profesors at Borrowstounness, writs he wold for their cause be forced to retrat of that he had writen— shall bring much sorrow and greife to themselves. O quhat a greife may I write it with to these men and others, quho hath been honoured instruments in the Lord’s hands to converts soulls, [and] turn their back on witneseing for their wronged Master. Mr [Archibald] Riddell, willing to oblige under a consent neer to preach in the feilds against; Mr Hasty by his complements and dignites; and never on put the enemies in aprehension he wold do any thing for them; and so, having offered him the Declaration, he confess the Lords vengence that followed on Prelat Sharp to be a murther, and that litle handfull that followed Mr [Donald] Gargils ministery to be rebels. O poor backsliders, quhat will ye do in the end therof, and quher will ye leave your glory without the Lord? Ye shall fall under the prisoners.

How dreadfully did Mr Hog advise a charitable const no wt [? construction] to be had on that bloody trator Duke Hamiltoun, to cause his tenents to deny harboring to the Lord’s people; and he advised to keep a distance from a society of lads, who following ministery of the favours of the justified, he said he doubt much if they had the root of the matter in them. [I] am clear in that matter. And, at my last coming south, within few moneths, I found him clear of that mind, the indulged ministers should not be left, because of a sad tendency it had to a further defection; but he said he had advised to seek the favors of the indulged, but to do it secretly and queitly, and no let any know of it. O how sad and lamentable this is. I had not set it doun in writ; but I think quhen he may converse these severall expresions, he may mourn for them and the Lord may here forgive.

This is another sad evill among profesours, they ar mor for keeping up the credit of men as great preachers, as Mr [John] Welch and Mr [John] Carstairs, etc., quho hath dreadfully encouraged the indulged, than the honor of God, and Christ quho is denyd to be a king for which he was panel’d befor Pontus Pilate. Others of the profesors cannot relish Mr Welch and Mr Carstairs way; but entertian mo favorable thoughts of them than befor; they presse zealously to keep up Mr McWaird’s credit and Mr Hog’s. O, say they, Mr McWaird and Mr Hog is of that mind. Of the numbr of those Messrs Simpson and Messrs Ross, O how do they reproach the poor handfull that ar most tender of the Lord’s honor, by cuting contradictions of their oun coyning, falaciously taken upon a discource, as these reproaches cast on them quho hath been honoured of the Lord to seall the cause with their blood. I verily beleive I shall have reflections quhen I am gon; but I blam not their censures. If my Lord justifie me, how dare they condemne me ? I’le say on word yet, I look on Mr Donald Gargil as the only faithfull minister in the nation.

Further I will take notice of Mr [Robert] McWairds in Holland, quho hath not so daviat as yet to oun the indulged ministers, so as to consent to union with them. He hath-writen to this purpose against Mr [Robert] Flemond, whose clear for ouning the indulged ministry; but yet though Mr Thomas Hog elder and Mr McWairds from this desents, they allow of cleaving to Mr Flemond, Mr [John] Welch, and Mr David Hume, Mr [Archibald] Riddell, Mr [Gabriel] Sempell, Mr [Samuel] Arenet, and Mr [Alexander] Hasty, and others quho are favor[er]s of the indulged party. And therefor that cause they preach not faithfully that this toleration of the tirranous usurper, their idoll king, is a sin, quherby the Lord his royall prerogatives is highly denyecl and provoked, and on this accout we ought to look on them quite such as these quho have, ministered themselvs. O this wofull dreadfull defection in these two emenent men is to be lamented; they are for ouning the ministery of these unfaithfull guids. Among them Mr Castairs elder is the most unsound and untender; and this is the reason, as I said befor, the shaking of their ministry, though they cannot quit go with lenght of acknowledging the indulged, hath a dreadfull tendency. As also Mr McWard and Mr [Thomas?] Hog [elder?] consents so far as to oun the unlawfull powers, making an idol of their oun credit. The word (loyall) being of great consequence to them they cannot disclaim their idoll king, lest lest (sic) they be counted disloyall. O quhat should we care quhat men reckon of us, quhen there is such indignation to the blessed Son of God? So Mr Castairs in publick gave the first vote to my condemnation, of quhom my blood shall be requird among the rest. For an answr for quhat he thought of my testifying against the king and counsell, the great God’s declared enemies, he said at the bar befor the councell, he was greived such principalls were ouned by men called Presbetrians, they seemed rather Jesuiticall or Popish.

Also Mr M’Wairds and Mr Hog ar so far unfaith[f ull] that they allow of obeying these tirrants opresors as to give over feild preachings; as it is too much seeking men quiet, so denys their churches principalles that the ordinances of God may be wher she pleases. If these usurpers should cry doun house mettings, that we may give a testimony for our Lord we ought to keep mettings in houses especially. Withall they reproach the Lord’s followers for Sanquhar Declaration, and the Toorwood excommunication, because it was not a competent duty to so few ether to dispose (sic) that trator on the thron, or et to declare war against him. But seriously consider, though there were ut on or two convinced of the trator’s stated enmity against Jesus Christ, and of his perjury, its duty to disoun him, and to declare to be his enemy; yea, and to put him to death, if the Lord give a convenient tim and place. David said — Do not I hate them that hate thee O Lord? yea I hate them with a perfected hatred, do I not count them my enemies? And the apostle says to his people—This day seperate your selves from that Babell’s brood, and com out from among them, and I will be a father unto you, and I will be your God and ye shall be my people. Thus in breife I have written my genuin thoughts of profesors in the South.

Now for encouragement to my dear brethren quho walk zealously in his wayes. I avere it, I am joyfull to venture my salvation on it that this way now contemned most is the Lord’s holy way. They overcame by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their livs unto the death. Therefor its poor advantag to be diligent, the mor because there ar many backsliders now that hath been further advanced, adord with peity and parts than ever the most pretend to, hath fallen away, being left of the Lord quhom they had not honoured, but had too much eyid the credit of selfe. Finaly, brethren, be stedfast, unmoveable, of on mind, always abounding in the work of the Lord ; and the God of peace, quho gives us all peace and maintians its to his poor people, shall be with you, which is the firme perswasion and assurance of a dying witnes for Christ his cause and intrest. In witness quherof I subscrive it with my hand, in the close prison of Edinburgh, west side, and 2 storie from the hall, the 19 day of November 1680.
James Skeen.’

Covenanters Against The Union: The Call to John MacMillan in 1706 #History #Scotland

•July 2, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Just as the Union Crisis was coming to a head in Scotland in 1706, the “Continuing” United Societies met at Crawfordjohn in Lanarkshire on 2 October and subscribed a call to John MacMillan to become their minister. At first sight, the list of thirty-two names who subscribed the call appears unremarkable. However, when you delve deeper into it, the list becomes far more interesting…

What it reveals is who actually ran the United Societies at the height of the Union Crisis in 1706. In many cases, those people had run the Societies for years, and in few cases, some individuals reach back to the Killing Times of the 1680s. They where the men who decided whether the Societies joined a rising against the Union, or not, between 1706 and 1708. They were the people whose actions a panicky government was afraid of. It is worth knowing who they were, as for a crucial moment, the fate of the Union was partially in their hands. If they had risen, especially alongside the Hebronites, disaffected Presbyterians and possibly, although not necessarily, the Jacobites, it difficult to see how the parliament in Edinburgh that was passing the Union would not have been abandoned and the political momentum of the elite changed. What we know is that those who ran Scotland, or spies like Daniel Defoe, John Ker of Kersland and John Pierce, did everything they could to ensure that the “Continuing” United Societies/MacMillanites, the Hebronites and disaffected presbyterians in the West did not rise.

One question which is rarely asked is, was it wise to issue a call to John MacMillan at that moment, at the very moment, of the Union Crisis? The standard Presbyterian story of MacMillan is that he was an uncompromising minister of the Church of Scotland who left it due to his principles to minister to the Society people. Was he as uncompromising as the legend of him? In truth, the answer is no. MacMillan certainly had principles, but he often tacked towards maintianing his association with the Kirk, i.e., established order. He was later married by a church minister and he later, again, recognised the rule of George I much to the dismay of many in the “Continuing” Societies who left him. There was nothing wrong with compromising, but the “Continuing” Society people had been founded on not compromising with the Erastian state by Robert Hamilton. He had always had a nose for ideological weakness, whether writers at the time believed he was a fruit cake or not. He died several years before MacMillan was issued with a call. If one looks back at the history of the Society people, they had occasionally issued calls to ministers that some in their ranks, including many Hamilton considered to be ideologically suspect, e.g., Alexander Peden, John Hepburn, William Boyd and Thomas Linning, etc. Was John MacMillan any different from that pattern? No. However, an intriguing question remains: why was the call issued at the moment of the Union crisis in late 1706? I will leave that open.

Those who subscribed the call to MacMillan were:

John Currie, elder, who was from Tinwald parish in Nithsdale. He subscribed a personal Covenant at Carse of the Water of Ae in 1681.

William Stewart, elder, from Galloway. A Societies’ delegate in March 1689.

David Jardine in Applegarth parish, Annandale.

James Mundell from Nithsdale.

John Bell from Tinwald, Nithsdale.

John Glover. Perhaps the fugitive in 1684 from Barrshill, Tinwald parish, Nithsdale.

Thomas Brown. Possibly from Nithsdale.

John Robson.

John Bryce.

William Hannah. Probably from Tundergarth parish, Annandale.

John Knox.

Joseph Francis in Irvine, Ayrshire.

Hugh Dickie in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire.

James Currie in Pentland, Lasswade parish, Edinburghshire.

Charles Umpherston in Pentland, Lasswade parish, Edinburghshire.

James Brigton, who was from in, or near, Edinburgh, Edinburghshire.

Duncan Forbes in Bo’ness. Probably the fugitive in 1684 in Queensferry, Dalmeny parish.

John McVey.

William Swanston in Tweeddale.

John Hislop.

John Grieve in Annandale.

James Donaldson in Eskdalemuir parish, Eskdale.

James Cargill.

Francis Graham.

Robert Barrie.

Robert Maxwell from Renfrewshire.

John Muir from Lanarkshire. A delegate for the Netherward of Clydesdale in March 1689.

John Stanley.

John Paterson, perhaps from Kincardine parish, Perthshire. Or perhaps from Pennyvenie?

Thomas Milns.

Mr Robert Smith, preses of the General Meeting, had studied at Glasgow and Groningen. He later withdrew from McMillan over his ‘sinful acknowledgement’ of George I.

Robert Hamilton, clerk of the General Meeting, from Lanarkshire.

H. M. B. Reid is his A Cameronian Apostle (1896) continues:

‘Thirty-two names in all appear above. From Mr. J. H. Thomson’s notes [in the Reformed Presbyterian Magazine of 1869] regarding them, some interesting particulars may be gleaned.

John Currie, whose name heads the list, had been “cast out of house and hold in Tinwald, Dumfriesshire, for not complying with prelacy.” He drew up a curious personal “covenant” with God, which is reprinted in the Reformed Presbytetian Magazine for 1869. It was taken at “Carse of the Water of Ae, Sept. 15, 1681.”

Charles Umpherston had been intended for the ministry, and was one of four young men chosen by the Societies in 1699 to be sent at their expense to Holland, in order to obtain license and ordination. The establishment, however, of full communion between the Dutch Reformed Church and the Church of Scotland rendered this design null, and Umpherston became a “surgeon” in Pentland. He was the most active literary agent of the Societies. His quaint tract on the Wolf in a Sheepskin has already been referred to, and is the sole existing authority on [John] Macmillan’s last days. We shall have occasion ere long to reproduce its very touching record of these closing moments. Umpherston died in 1758, aged 80.

James Currie also lived in Pentland. His name may be read on the Martyrs’ Monument in Greyfriars Churchyard, Edinburgh. “This tomb was erected by James Currie, Merch[an]t. in Pentland, and others.” Both he and his wife, Helen Alexander, left behind them short autobiographies, or “Passages” in their lives, which are extant in a printed form. They had been married by [James] Renwick, and in the wife’s little narrative the following occurs, which Mr. J. H. Thomson quotes : —

“And when Mr. Renwick was execute, I went and saw him in prison. And I said to him, Ye will get the white robes; and he said, And palms in my hands. And when he was execute, I went into the Greyfriars’ Yard, and I took him in my arms till his clothes were taken off, and I helped to wind him before he was put in his coffin.”

Robert Smith, who presided on this memorable occasion, had studied at Glasgow and Groningen, where he took his degree. He transcribed many of Guthrie and [Donald] Cargill’s sermons for the Lochgoin Collection. At a later date he withdrew from Macmillan’s ministry, on the ground of an alleged “sinful acknowledgment” of George I. He and James Mundell, another signatory, are in Calderwood’s Dying Testimonies.’ (Reid, A Cameronian Apostle, 145-6.)