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Significant Scots
Cargill, Donald


CARGILL, DONALD, an eminent preacher of the more uncompromising order of presbyterians in the reign of Charles II., was the son of respectable parents in the parish of Rattray, in Perthshire, where he was born, about the year 1610. We find the following account of the state of his mind in early life, amongst the memoranda of Mr. Wodrow, who appears to have written down every tradition of the fathers of the church, which came to his ears. "Mr. Donald Cargill," says the pious historian, "for some twenty or thirty years before his death, was never under doubts as to his interest, and the reason was made known to him in ane extraordinary way, and the way was this, as Mr. C. told my father. When he was in his youth, he was naturally hasty and fiery, and he fell under deep soul exercise, and that in a very high degree, and for a long time after all means used, public and private, and the trouble still increasing, he at length came to a positive resolution to make away with himself; and accordingly went out more than once to drown himself in a water, but he was still scarred by people coming by, or somewhat or other. At length, after several essays, he takes on a resolution to take a time or place where nothing should stop, and goes out early one morning by break of day to a coal pit, and when he comes to it, and none at all about, he comes to the brink of it to throw himself in, and just as he was going to jump in he heard ane audible voice from heaven, ‘Son, be of cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee,' and that stopped him, and he said to ------, that he never got leave to doubt of his interest. But, blessed be God, we have a more sure word of prophecy to lean to, though I believe where such extraordinary revelations are, there is ane inward testimony of the spirit cleaving marks of grace to the soul too."

We learn from other sources that Mr. Cargill, having studied at Aberdeen, and, being persuaded by his father to enter the church, became minister of the Barony Parish in Glasgow, sometime after the division among the clergy, in 1650. He continued to exercise the duties of this situation in a very pious and exemplary manner, until the restoration of the episcopal church, when his refusing to accept collation from the archbishop, or celebrate the king's birthday, drew upon him the attention of the authorities, and he was banished, by act of council to the country, beyond the Tay. To this edict, he appears to have paid little attention; yet he did not awake the jealousy of the government till 1668, when he was ca11ed before the council, and commanded peremptorily to observe their former act. In September, 1669, upon his petition to the council, he was permitted to come to Edinburgh upon some legal business, but not to reside in the city, or to approach Glasgow.

For some years after this period, he led the life of a field preacher, subject to the constant vigilance of the emissaries of the government, from whom he made many remarkable escapes. So far from accepting the indulgence offered to the presbyterian clergy, he was one of that small body who thought it their duty to denounce openly all who did so. In 1679, he appeared amongst the unfortunate band which stood forward at Bothwell bridge in vain resistance to an overpowering tyranny. On this occasion, he was wounded, but had the good fortune to make his escape. Subsequent to this period, he took refuge for a short while in Holland. In the months of May and June, 1680, he was again under hiding in Scotland, and seems to have been concerned in drawing up some very strong papers against the government. He, and a distinguished lay member of the same sect, named Henry Hall, of Haughhead; lurked for some time about the shores of the Firth of Forth above Queensferry, till at length the episcopal minister of Carriden gave notice of them to the governor of Blackness, who, June 3d, set out in search of them. This officer having traced them to a public house in Queensferry, went in, and pretending a great deal of respect for Mr. Cargill, begged to drink a glass of wine with him. He had, in the meantime, sent off his servant for a party of soldiers. The two fugitives had no suspicion of this man's purpose, till, not choosing to wait any longer for the arrival of his assistants, he attempted to take them prisoners. Hall made a stout resistance, but was mortally wounded with the dog-head of a carabine by one George, a waiter. Cargill, escaping in the struggle, though not without wounds, was received and concealed by a neighbouring farmer. He even fled to the south, and next Sunday, notwithstanding his wounds, he preached at Cairn-hill, near Loudoun.

A paper of a very violent nature was found on the person of the deceased Mr. Hall, and is generally understood to have proceeded from the pen of Mr. Cargill. It is known in history by the title of the QUEENSFERRY COVENANT, from the place where it was found. Mr. Cargill also appears to have been concerned with his friend Richard Cameron, in publishing the equally violent declaration at Sanquhar, on the 22nd of June. In the following September, this zealous divine proceeded to a still more violent measure against the existing powers. Having collected a large congregation in the Torwood, between Falkirk and Stirling, he preached from 1 Corinthians, verse 13; and then, without having previously consulted a single brother in the ministry, or any other individual of his party, he gave out the usual form of excommunication against the king, the duke of York, the dukes of Monmouth, Lauderdale, and Rothes, Sir George Mackenzie, and Sir Thomas Dalzell, of Binns. His general reasons were their exertions against the supremacy of the pure church of Scotland. The privy council felt that this assumption of ecclesiastical authority was not only calculated to bring contempt upon the eminent persons named, but tended to mark them out as proper objects for the vengeance of the ignorant multitude; and they accordingly took very severe measures against the offender. He was intercommuned, and a reward of 5000 merks offered for his apprehension.

For several months, he continued to exercise his functions as a minister when he could find a convenient opportunity; and many stories are told of hair-breadth escapes which he made on those occasions from the soldiers, and others sent in search of him. At length, in May, 1681, he was seized at Covington in Lanarkshire, by a person named Irving of Bonshaw, who carried him to Lanark on horseback, with his feet tied under the animal's belly. Soon after he was conducted to Glasgow, and thence to Edinburgh, where, on the 26th of July, he was tried and condemned to suffer death for high treason. He was next day hanged and beheaded, his last expressions being suitable in their piety to the tenor of his whole life. Cargill is thus described by Wodrow, who by no means concurred with him in all his sentiments: "He was a person of a very deep and sharp exercise in his youth, and had a very extraordinary out-gate from it. Afterwards he lived a most pious and religious life, and was a zealous and useful minister, and of an easy sweet natural temper. And I am of opinion, the singular steps he took towards the end of his course were as much to be attributed unto his regard to the sentiments of others, for whom he had a value, as to his own inclinations."


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