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Covenanter Stories – No.4, Donald Cargill


Another in the series on Covenanting Heroes…


Born about 1610, Cargill attended school in Aberdeen and university at St Andrews, studying philosophy, and later theology after much persuasion by his father, and much prayer. His first charge following his license to preach was at the Barony Church at Glasgow, a long standing vacancy, due to the fact that two compromising ministers on the vacancy committee had refused to issue a call to any of the Godly men chosen by the congregation. Cargill found that the congregation consisted of people who were light and rebellious against God, and would have resigned from his charge, had it not been for the persuasion of some other Godly ministers. He remained at Glasgow until the time of the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, when he publicly opined against the King in a sermon. The authorities were outraged at this and Cargill had to flee from his manse, dwelling among the congregation, but never neglecting his duties of visiting, preaching and teaching. In 1662, under the Middleton Act, a party of troops were dispatched to Glasgow to arrest Cargill, but narrowly missed him, Cargill having just left as they arrived. An Act of Council banished him to regions north of the River Tay, under penalty of imprisonment if arrested.
Still, Cargill remained at Glasgow, and preached throughout the city and in the surrounding fields. He became so broken by privations and by anguish at the state of the church, that he almost lost his voice; yet the Lord strengthened him and he continued to preach; so much so that John Blackader, preaching at Glasgow urged the people to make good use of the mercy that God had given them in the person of Mr Cargill. Cargill had many narrow escapes, until on 23rd November 1668 he was apprehended on the charge of a breach of his confinement, a charge which came to nothing, as Cargill was released after appeals made by many on his behalf.

It is said that when Cargill held a conventicle at Glasgow, he would do so no more than a quarter of a mile from the city centre, and that the noise of the psalm singing could be heard from the main streets; yet the authorities continually failed to locate the meetings.

Cargill was wounded and fell as if for dead at the Battle of Bothwell Bridge. Two soldiers came to where he lay, with shocking head wounds, and asked him whom he was. When he told them that he was Cargill, and that he was a minister, they let him go. Around 1680 Cargill was at the Firth of Forth, and was involved in a battle at Queensferry at that time. He later met and preached with Richard Cameron until Cameron died at Ayres Moss.

After three months spent preaching in England, Cargill returned to Scotland in April1681. On the 10th July he was asleep in bed near Covington Mill, when he along with Walter Smith and James Boig were discovered and arrested by one Irving of Bonshaw and his troop. They were taken to Lanark goal, where they were placed on horseback, tied very tightly and brought to Edinburgh. On 26th July he was sentenced to die the following day. During the trail and sentence, Rothes was very vicious with Cargill, threatening terrible tortures and violent death. Cargill simply told him that no matter what death he might prescribe for him; he would never see it, for Rothes himself would die before Cargill. So it was. That very night Rothes took ill and died, having first sent his wife to seek a minister of the Covenant, so that he could attempt at that late hour to rid his soul of years of persecution and oppression of God’s people.

Cargill died by hanging the following day, mounting the scaffold with hand upraised in prayer and thanksgiving unto the Lord and declaring, “The Lord knows I go up this ladder with less fear, confusion or perturbation of mind than I ever entered a pulpit to preach.” Walter Smith, James Boig, William Cuthill and William Thompson all died on that day, along with Cargill. All their heads and hands were hacked off with an axe by the hangman, and were put on public display.

A young man was standing in the crowd watching the execution of Cargill, and listening to his final words, the youth determined that he too would raise the banner for Christ and His Covenant. That young man was James Renwick and the dying testimony of Cargill had a profound influence on his future life.

From → Covenanters

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