The First Indulgence was granted in 1669. The expelled ministers were offered pardon, and permission to return to their churches on certain conditions stipulated by the king. Forty-two accepted the Indulgence, and by that very act conceded the king's right to expel, and to recall, the ministers of Christ, at his own pleasure. The great principles for which they had suffered were thereby sacrificed—the supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ over His Church, and the Church's independence under Christ.
What were the conditions upon which these ministers returned? We give them in substance:
1. They must attend the meetings of the Prelatic ministers.
2. They must permit none of the people from other parishes to attend their services.
3. They must refrain from speaking or preaching against the king's supremacy.
4. They must not criticize the king or his government.
The Indulgence, with such conditions, was accepted by forty-two ministers. Are we surprised? Do we wonder that so many relaxed under the strain of persecution, and returned to their own vine and fig tree? Let not censure, from her bowers of ease, be too severe. The hardships of these men were great, the sufferings excessive, the outlook dark. They were worn and sickly; they were filled with pain by exposure to storms, living in caves, and sleeping on the ground. Their lives were in jeopardy every hour. Yet it must be said that these ministers sacrificed much for which they had long and nobly battled; they capitulated on terms dictated by the enemy, surrendered their rights as the ambassadors of Christ, and accepted conditions that made them bond servants of King Charles. They were caught in the snare.
The Second Indulgence was issued in 1672. Eighty ministers were selected by the king for this bait, and most of them swallowed it. Yet among the eighty some inflexible men were found on whom the deceitful offer had no effect. They knew how to endure hardness as good soldiers. One of them on receiving the legal notice at the hand of an official said, "I cannot be so uncivil as to refuse this paper offered me by your lordship." Then letting it fall to the ground, he added, "But I can receive no instructions from you, regulating my ministry; for then I would be your ambassador, not Christ's." He was immediately thrust into prison, and continued there till death. The Third Indulgence was another snare, equally deceitful and injurious.
The other three were offered by King James VII., and all were of the same nature, only each being more lenient, seductive, and Satanic, than the one preceding. The Indulgence was a dragnet, drawing large hauls of hungry fish, and leaving them to squirm on the shores of sinful compromises.
The Covenanters who remained faithful were greatly diminished. The ministers were decimated until few were left. Yet as the banner of the Covenant fell from the hand of one, it was snatched up by another, and defiantly given to the breeze. At no moment did the battle cease for lack of heroes.
The Indulgence did what sword, pillage, prison, torture, exile, gibbet—all could not do; it shattered the Covenanted forces and wasted their power. The fiercest fires of persecution only fused the elements, and consolidated the mass of metal. But the fruit of Indulgence was debate, dissension, distraction, division, and decimation. The tree is known by its fruit; the fruit was bad, very bad. The non-Indulged charged their brethren with betrayal of Christ and His cause. The Indulged retorted, that the king's offer opened the way back to the churches, and refusal to accept protracted the evil times. Thus the host of God was divided against itself; Judah against Israel, and Israel against Judah. Archbishop Sharp had boasted, that by the Indulgence he would throw a "bone of contention" among the Presbyterians. He judged rightly.
The cause of Christ still demands self-sacrifice. Fidelity to Jesus Christ is hard on the flesh; it always has been and always will be. The friendship of this world is enmity against God, and against all who sincerely love God. To make terms with the world is to forfeit God's love. The Church has lost much of the heroic heart, the militant power, the iron nerve, and the fire of the Holy Spirit, by reason of ease, indulgence, compromise, and inordinate desire for the friendship of the world. "If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He also will deny us."
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POINTS FOR THE CLASS.
1. Why were the Covenanters styled rebels?
2. How did the king try to suppress them?
3. On what points did they refuse to obey the king?
4. Were they justifiable? On what grounds?
5. How did the persecuted people increase?
6. What new attempt to divide and destroy them?
7. How many Indulgences were offered?
8. On what terms were ministers permitted to return home?
9. What effect had the Indulgences on the Covenanters?
10. What present danger along the line of Indulgence?
THE FIELD MEETINGS UNDER FIRE.—A.D. 1679.
The king's Indulgence did double work on the persecuted ministers. The Indulgence was a surgical knife that removed the spinal nerve of the Indulged; and it was a sharp sword launched at the heart of those who refused the Indulgence. The proclamation that offered pardon announced desperate measures against all who declined the offer. The persecution thereby grew fiercer and the sufferings more insufferable.
The Indulgence thinned the Covenanted ranks; many ministers withdrew from the Old Blue Banner with its golden motto: "FOR CHRIST'S CROWN AND COVENANT." Home! sweet, sweet home had charmed the heart. The Indulged were no more worthy of being called Covenanters. They had lost zeal, courage, place, and name among the worthies. Some however repented and returned to the solitudes. Their home, as they had crossed the threshold, was to them no more like home, but a gloomy prison, a dreary waste, an intolerable place, because the heart condemned them, and God was greater than the heart. These went back to their brethren, to endure hardness as good soldiers for Christ's sake. Persecution with all its hardships, in comparison with the Indulgence, was a paradise while the love of Jesus Christ enamored the soul.
The ministers who remained loyal to the Lord and the Covenant were pursued by men who drove like Jehu. The Conventicles, however, continued. The Covenanters swarmed on the grounds where the preaching was appointed. They refused to hear the curates of the Episcopal Church, and likewise the ministers who had returned through the king's Indulgence. The latter had forfeited their confidence and respect. The people, forsaking the parish churches, traveled to the moors and mountains for their preaching. There they found their own ministers, the unconquerable ambassadors of Christ, the uncompromising messengers of God.
A price was placed upon the heads of these ministers, by the government of King Charles. They were hunted like partridges upon the mountains. Let them be brought in, dead or alive, and the prize will range in value from $500 to $2,000. The people were commanded to refuse them bread, lodging, fellowship, all kindness and support, that they might perish without a helping hand or a consoling word. To attend their preaching was accounted a crime to be punished by the judges, an act of rebellion worthy of imprisonment or death.
The ministers were not overawed, nor were the people intimidated. Field-preaching characterized the times. Conventicles were more numerous and the attendance larger than hitherto. It was estimated that, on a certain Sabbath, an aggregate of 16,000 attended three meetings held in one county. Men, women, and children traveled miles and miles to these sequestered spots among the hills and on the moors, in defiance of all threats and in face of all clangers. There they stayed through the long Sabbath hours, listening to the rich, sweet Gospel of Christ, while the ministers spoke with earnestness as from the very portals of eternity.
The Conventicles flourished in spite of every effort to suppress them. The king and his counselors became alarmed and sent the "Highland host," a vicious army of 10,000 strong, to extinguish these hated Field-meetings. The Covenanters suffered at their hands, as by a foreign invasion. The military atrocities, horrible before, were now barbarous in the extreme. "Fire, and blood, and vapors of smoke" marked the path of these brutal men as they raided the country. Yet the Conventicles were not extinguished.
To meet the conditions of increasing terror, the Covenanters came to the Field-meetings armed and ready for self-defence. Sentries were stationed on the hills that towered above the worshipers, and the discharge of a gun was the signal of danger. At the approach of soldiers, the people quietly dispersed, if escape were possible; if not, then the armed men drew out and lined up for battle. Many a time the worship of God was suddenly turned into the clash of arms.
The Lomond-hills formed good places for these meetings. On one occasion, a large concourse of people had assembled amidst these sheltering heights. Rev. John Wellwood, a young minister whom the soldiers could not catch, was feasting these hungry souls with the Word of life. Some of his sermons are still extant. They are rich in nourishment, nervous with earnestness, and flashing with fiery eloquence, he lived in the dark days, but died exclaiming, "Now, eternal light! no more night, nor darkness to me." While the people this day were feasting on his words, the signal announced the approach of the dragoons. The people quietly moved up the "brae." The soldiers rode up and delivered five volleys into the crowd. The balls whizzed among the men, women, and children, but none were hurt. A ledge of rock prevented an attack. The captain commanded them to dismiss. "We will," they replied, "when the service is over, if you promise us no harm." The promise was given, yet the treacherous troops dashed upon the hindmost and captured eighteen.
An attack was made also on a Conventicle held at Lillies-leaf moor. A large number of people had assembled. The famous John Blackader was preaching. The alarm shot was fired when the minister was in the middle of the afternoon sermon. He at once closed the service with a few words to allay fear. The people stood in their places, showing no excitement. The troopers came up at full gallop and formed in battle line in front of the Covenanters. The soldiers were astonished at the calmness of the people. A sullen pause followed; not a word, not a movement. The officer broke the silence, shouting, "In the name of the king, I charge you to dismiss." The reply was immediate: "We are here in the name of the King of heaven, to hear the Gospel, and to harm no man." Such unexpected calmness and fortitude wilted the officer. Another painful pause. What next? No one knew. The suspense was suddenly broken by a woman who stepped forth from the midst of the Covenanters. She was alone; her movements showed decision; her eyes were flashing; her face was flushed with indignation. She went straight for the officer, seized the bridle close to the horse's mouth, and wheeled him about, vociferating, "Fye on ye, man; rye on ye; the vengeance of God will overtake you for marring so good a work." The officer was dazed as by an exploding shell. The woman was his own sister. He was crest-fallen, and withdrew the dragoons, while the people went home unharmed.
One of these armed Field-meetings was held at Drumclog. It was a sweet summer Sabbath, June 1, 1679. The Covenanters had come in large numbers They covered the green sward, sitting among clumps of moss and heather. They were far from the abode of man; nothing there to break the solemn stillness of the Lord's day, except the notes of the heather-cock and the plover. Loudon-hill stood near like a mighty champion. The air breathed softly across the field, and the sky bent silently over the worshipers; the hearts of the people were lifted up in sweet Psalms that echoed over the hills, and a serene joy filled all The Holy Spirit came mightily upon the people; the Lord was among them. Thomas Douglas was the minister. He was one of the three mighties, who afterward issued the Sanquhar Declaration disowning King Charles II. as a tyrant. The sermon was half finished when a signal shot was heard. Mr. Douglas immediately closed the Bible, saying, "You have the theory; now for the practice." 250 resolute men hastily sprang to their feet, lined up, and marched off to meet Claverhouse who was coming with 240 dragoons. The Covenanters halted on an elevation to await the attack. While waiting they sang the 76th Psalm to the tune of "Martyrs." The Psalm was very appropriate; well fitted to arouse the military spirit:
"In Judah's land God is well known, His name's in Israel great; In Salem is His tabernacle, In Zion is His seat."
The troops galloped forward and fired. Their fire drew a vigorous response. The Covenanters aimed with deadly precision; the fighting was desperate; hand-to-hand encounters were frequent. The troops broke and fled, leaving 20 dead on the field. The Covenanters had 1 killed and 5 mortally wounded. Hamilton, Hackston, Paton, Balfour, Cleeland, and Hall were the noble captains that won the day in the name of the Lord of hosts.
These fighting Covenanters, who could fight as well as pray, have won for their posterity the privilege of worshiping God in peace. There is nothing now to hurt or annoy in God's mountain. How punctual, diligent, and appreciative ought we to be in the service of our Lord Jesus Christ!
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POINTS FOR THE CLASS.
1. What was the double effect of the Indulgence?
2. What new effort to suppress the Conventicles?
3. Give the character of the Highland host.
4. How did the Covenanters prepare for self-defense?
5. Describe the Conventicle at the Lomond-hills; Lillies-leaf moor; Drumclog.
6. Who were the Covenanted captains at Drumclog?
7. How should we appreciate peaceful worship?
A MASSACRE.—A.D. 1679.
The victory at Drumclog was followed up by the Covenanters with vigor. Claverhouse, with his broken ranks, was hotly pursued. He fled from the field on a wounded horse; nor did he halt till he reached Glasgow, 25 miles away. The pursuers followed him half the distance. He began that Sabbath with the beat of drums, and ended it with defeat and shame.
Next morning these Covenanters had doubled their number; 500 men stood harnessed for war, determined to overtake the foe, renew the fight, and win other victories. That forenoon, with Hamilton in command, they boldly dashed into Glasgow to strike the broken forces of Claverhouse; but they were repulsed. They retired to an encampment much dispirited. As was usual with the Covenanters, they began to enquire into the moral cause of this reverse. They felt that God for some reason was displeased. The investigation revealed the fact, that Thomas Weir, who had joined them with 140 horsemen, had been a dragoon in Dalziel's ranks at Rullion Green, where the Covenanters were defeated.
A committee was appointed to wait on Weir and investigate his case. They were roughly received. He gave no satisfaction for having been on the enemy's side on the former occasion. The Covenanters were quick to reach Bible conclusions and at once classed him with Achan who in the days of Joshua brought defeat upon Israel. Weir with his detachment was summarily dismissed. A resolution was then adopted that none, who had forsaken the Covenant or were guilty of the sins of the times, be admitted into the army. This was a heroic step, a return to the solid basis, the old Covenant grounds that had been abandoned in 1650, when the "Act of Classes" was rescinded, and the doors opened to admit unfaithful men into places of public trust. Sir Robert Hamilton, at the head of half a regiment of Covenanters, thus nobly attempted to rebuild the walls of Zion and set up the gates, even in troublous times. These were men of God who knew the Lord of hosts, in whose eyes fidelity is everything and numbers are nothing. They were afraid of nothing but sin.
The martial spirit of the Covenanters rapidly spread during the week; they flocked to the standard that was again lifted up for CHRIST'S CROWN AND COVENANT.
Beneath the waving folds of the Blue Banner 5,000 men had rallied when Saturday's sun was sinking in the west. They had unbounded confidence in the cause for which they adventured their lives; a holy enthusiasm knit them together. They were ready for battle "with hand strokes," as they said to Hackston, one of their noble captains. They had accepted the responsibility of war and were determined to win or die. The Sabbath was approaching. They planned to enter into its sweet rest and offer the appointed worship; then on Monday morning, march upon the enemy and strike for freedom. But, alas, how quickly fairest prospects may be covered with darkness! The sun set that evening behind an ugly cloud.
Hamilton had held a council of war on Thursday. He had the benefit of the wisdom and advice of Donald Cargill, Thomas Douglas, John King, and John Kidd, ministers eminent among the Covenanters. That Council adopted a public Declaration, stating their reasons for taking up arms. This statement embodied:
1. Their purpose to defend the true Reformed religion;
2. Their adherence to the Solemn League and Covenant;
3. An acknowledgment of public sins and duties;
4. A denunciation of Popery, Prelacy, and Erastianism.
The Declaration was proclaimed to the army and published to the world. On these impregnable grounds the little army was consolidated; they felt themselves strong in the Lord, and able in His name to fight His battles.
On Saturday night, when quietness had fallen upon the camp, John Welch arrived with an additional force of 440 men. This should have been an inspiration, but it was the very opposite. Welch was a prominent Conventicle minister; "a diligent, fervent, successful, unwearied preacher." He was a fearless man; a price equal to $2,000 had been set upon his head by the government. Such a man should not be disparaged. Yet, he it was who introduced the confusion of tongues that resulted in the utter dissipation of the army, and the consequent defeat of the Covenanters at Bothwell Bridge.
Welch was dissatisfied with the Declaration. It was too forceful for him. He would tone it down, that it might soothe the king, placate the Duke of Monmouth, condone the Indulged ministers, and restore Weir to the ranks. He presented a new Declaration as a substitute for the one already in force. For two weeks, even till the enemy was lining up for battle, he agitated the question. The majority was always against him. At last Hamilton, the commander, contrary to his convictions, yielded for the sake of peace. He hoped by this means to save his distracted army, that with solid ranks he might meet the foe and win the fight. But he sadly mistook policy for wisdom. The battle of Bothwell Bridge was lost that moment. The battle was lost before a shot was fired. Hamilton surrendered before he met Monmouth. He had displaced the truth for the sake of harmony. His flag is already furled, there will be no fighting now except by the heroes of the van-guard. The Divine favor that gives victories has been withdrawn. The martial spirit has fled from the leader and his men are weak as women.
On Sabbath morning, June 22, 1679, the king's army, 15,000 strong, was massed on the north bank of the Clyde; on the south side, the Covenanters numbering 5,000 confronted them. The narrow bridge lay between them. Hackston, Paton, and Balfour, with 300 Covenanters stood at its south end. The rest of the army was behind them on the moor with gunshot, standing in eleven solid squares; six banners waved proudly over them. They had one cannon, two detachments of cavalry, and a body of skirmishers.
Monmouth orders his troops across the bridge. A solid column pushes forward broad as the bridge is wide; step follows step in that dread procession, when lo, a spreading puff of smoke rises on the bank in front, and a cannon ball is hurled among them, while muskets pour forth volleys of death. The bridge is strewn with bleeding men and the broken ranks fall back. The Duke orders another charge. A second column moves hurriedly over the gory path of their fallen comrades to meet the same fate. Again and again, the attack and the repulse. They attempt to ford the river, but Balfour with his sharpshooters hurls them back, while many a brave man lies down in the cool stream to rise no more. The bridge drips with blood; the Clyde is crimsoned. After three hours the Covenanters' ammunition fails, and Monmouth rushes the bridge. The Covenanters meet them with swords, but are overpowered; they fall back upon the main body and find it unfit for action.
The royal army was soon across. They line up for the general engagement, but hesitate to give battle; they have tested the courage of the Covenanters, and have a dread of results. Hamilton is awaiting his opportunity. His intention is to rush the enemy into the river. He orders a forward movement, but the order fails. Wherefore does his army hesitate? Ah, many of the officers have disappeared. Terror is creeping over the masses like a death chill. Welch and his friends have left; Weir with his 140 horsemen takes fright and flees; Hamilton loses his head and his cavalry stampedes; the army is thrown into confusion; all is lost. In the fight only 15 were killed; in the flight 400 were slaughtered.
Monmouth, seeing the panic, ordered a pursuit which resulted in a running butchery, a horrid massacre. A body of 1,200 surrendered; these were compelled to lie flat on the ground all night. If in their wounds or achings they moved head or hand, an admonition was delivered from a musket. A change of posture, then a sharp crack, a whizzing bullet, a bleeding victim, a death struggle, a pallid corpse.
That was a sad Sabbath for the Covenanters. Defeat, dishonor, and distress turned the day into a painful memory. The calamity, doubtless, arose out of the compromise of Covenanted principles. Welch's wisdom proved to be foolishness; Weir's strength, weakness; Hamilton's compliance, defeat.
The sacrifice of truth can never be productive of good. Loss, sorrow, defeat, and death are in the train of any policy that buries principle.
POINTS FOR THE CLASS.
1. How did the Covenanters follow up their victory at Drumclog?
2 What reverse did they suffer?
3 How did they account for it?
4. What was the growth of their army?
6. Who introduced confusion into their ranks?
7. What was the subject of debate?
8. How did it terminate?
9. Describe the forces at the battle of Bothwell Bridge.
10. Describe the battle and its issue.
11. What lesson may we learn from this defeat?
THE COVENANTERS' PRISONS.—A.D. 1680.
"They who profess Christ in this generation must suffer much or sin much," exclaimed one of the Scottish martyrs. The enemy was in power and every means was employed to compel the Covenanters to abandon their Covenant with God, break relation with Jesus Christ, and thus destroy their testimony. To accomplish this, the king and his courtiers subjected these inoffensive people to cruelties most shocking. While they remained steadfast in their Covenant, the violence increased; when any of them relaxed, one step of defection necessitated another, till they stood in the enemy's camp. The same process is ever true.
The massacre at Bothwell Bridge brought upon the Covenanters extreme distress. Their sufferings hitherto had been as a continual dropping on a very rainy day, with fitful gusts striking here and there; now a hurricane sweeps the country, bringing ruin and desolation in its broad path. Every available force was put in operation for the utter annihilation of the Covenanters. Their ardor for Christ and His royal rights must be quenched in their blood, and their testimony to the truth must be silenced. The king, the courts, the army, the bishops—all were combined for the overthrow of the Presbyterian system of faith and the Covenant of God. Upon the ruins of the temple of liberty, erected by the Reformers, King Charles had determined to build his castle of absolute despotism. He knew that the glory of Christ's supremacy would never fade out of the skies of Scotland, while Covenanters preached, prayed, and sang Psalms; nor would his despotism flourish while there were Covenanters to challenge his impious claim of authority over the Church, and iniquitous attempt to rule man's conscience. Hence the desperate attempt to overawe and suppress them.
After the battle of Bothwell Bridge, the first stroke of excessive cruelty fell upon the 1,200 prisoners who had surrendered on the field. They lay all night upon the cold ground huddled together like sheep, surrounded by a strong guard. It was a night of horror. The sentinels watched every motion, and shot at any hand or head that dared to stir. In the morning they were marched from their mossy bivouac, leaving the green field dotted with crimson pools, and strewn with the dead who had received fatal shots; there they lay in garments rolled in blood.
The prisoners were tied together, two and two, and driven to Edinburgh, as cattle to the slaughter. The journey was dreary, during which they suffered from hunger, weariness, cruel mockings, and barbarous treatment. In the Greyfriars' churchyard, there yet remains the small enclosure, into which these prisoners were driven like so many dumb animals. Here they were kept to await their sentence. Twelve hundred men, with scarcely comfortable standing room, without decent clothing, without sanitary accommodations, without proper food, without shelter, detained for months within these stone walls under a merciless guard—who can conceive of their sufferings? They had been stripped, all but naked; the hard ground was their bed; the sky was their roof; they were exposed to the heat of day, and the chill of night; the rains of July drenched them; the snows of November blanketed them.
During these wearisome months the number of prisoners constantly grew less, and mostly by melancholy means. Some of them subscribed a bond confessing themselves to be rebels and promising unconditional obedience to the king. The hardships of their condition, the threats against their lives, and the entreaties of relatives overpowered conscience. They were released only to be reproached, distressed, tormented, and pillaged at home, by the soldiers who overran the country. Their unholy bond sacrificed their peace with God, and brought no protection from man. Such is the effect of every compromise of God's people with the world.
Disease also reduced the number. Sickness arising from exposure, neglect, and ill fare, wrought havoc with their lives. The living watched carefully over their dying companions, as they lay on the cold hard ground, destitute of every earthly cordial and comfort. But the Balm of Gilead they had in plenty; the consolations of God were abundant; the promises distilled sweetness upon their lips; prayers filled the place with incense; the Psalms were as the music of heaven in their ears; the gates of glory opened wide for the dying; pain, sorrow, and darkness vanished from the soul, as it went forth from the earthly tabernacle to enter into the Eternal City.
Quite a few were condemned to death and executed on the scaffold. Prominent among these, were John Kid and John King, two ministers of Christ. They received their sentence with serenity and went hand in hand, to the place of execution. Their conversation was cheerful. Their outlook was far beyond the scaffold, and the city towers, and the high hills outlined on the sky, and even beyond the glowing sun that was then smiling in the west. What magnificent scenery their eyes must have rested upon, as they now had come to Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the innumerable company of angels, the spirits of just men made perfect! Already in triumphant faith they were walking the golden streets, with palms in their hands crowns on their heads, and songs in their hearts. Kid was a witty man, usually overflowing with innocent mirth; even in sight of the gallows his humor was insuppressible. Looking into King's face he made a pun on their own names, saying, "I have often heard and read of a kid sacrificed, but I seldom or never heard of a king made a sacrifice."
Four hundred of these Covenanters remained unmoved by threats, promises, sufferings, or protracted hardships. The painful weeks and months might wear them out, but they continued firm in the faith and testimony, resolved to honor their Lord and His Covenant while they had breath. They remembered the promise, "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." They were of the unbending type.
The king's council, hopeless in attempting to bring them to terms, resolved to finish the irksome task by shipping all to distant lands. They placed 243 on a small sail-ship, which was tossed on the Atlantic ocean until engulfed amidst the waves. The remainder were never transported.
Many Covenanters were confined in places even more intolerable than this. Dunnottar Castle became one of these notable spots. The castle stands on a rock that projects into the sea. Here still exists a deep dark room, called the "Whigs' Vault," where 167 Covenanters were crowded together. Forty-five of these were women. The room is 56 feet long, 16 wide, and 12 high, having two small windows. This outrageous disregard for sex, decency, health, and every natural right, aroused even the indignation of the governor's wife, at whose request the women, after some days, were removed to another vault. The prisoners suffered the horrors of these dark foul pits three months. But the Lord Jesus Christ did not forsake them; they were sustained by His abundant grace. He heard their mournful cries and upheld their faith. Some breathed out their lives on the hard stone floor, with no pillow on which to rest their aching heads. Blessed termination of the horrid cruelty! Even there the "pearl gate" opened wide, and the ransomed soul arose in power, and walked forth into the marvelous light of the world above. They who survived death were offered liberty on condition of taking the king's oath, and acknowledging his supremacy over Church and conscience. They persistently refused to do this. How great the loyalty of these men and women to the Lord Jesus Christ! Imprisonment with all its bitterness was sweeter to them than liberty with a defiled conscience.
The Bass Rock, too, was a penitentiary for the Covenanters. This is a lofty green rock arising boldly out of the sea near Edinburgh, having steep rugged sides, being accessible only at one point. Thither they brought, in the latter years of the persecution, the overflow of prisoners after the inland jails had been crowded. The rock is very desolate. This was the Covenanters' Patmos. Here Alexander Peden, John Blackader, and many others spent months and years, walking round and round over the storm-battered cliffs, or sitting on the ledges looking landward thinking of the desolated home, the broken family, the wasted Church, and the guilty land. When the waves dashed against the rock, and the breakers leaped high; when storms darkened the land, and billows whitened the sea; when nothing was heard but the noise of the waters, the roar of the tempest, and the scream of the sea-fowl, even then was the Holy Spirit there to illuminate these prisoners of hope. They held communion with God; visions of glory lighted up their dreary home; they moved amidst the scenery of heaven; the Bass rock was peopled with angels. Blackader has left on record some rich experiences he there enjoyed.
We are free to worship God according to conscience and the Word. But let us not forget that our liberty is the blossom, and our privileges the fruit, of the rough black root of persecution suffered by our forefathers. Had they not been faithful, we would have had to fight the battles they fought, and suffer as they suffered, or have perished in darkness. Will not we, for the sake of coming generations, be likewise faithful? The Lord Jesus grant us strength and success.
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POINTS FOR THE CLASS.
1. What was done with, the prisoners taken at Bothwell Bridge?
2. How did they suffer in Edinburgh?
3. Describe their prison, and their hardships.
4. What two of their ministers were executed?
5. Describe Dunnottar Castle.
7. Describe the Bass Rock.
8. For what was it used in those times?
9. How may we meet the obligations descending from the fathers?
DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE.—A.D. 1680.
The persecution of the Covenanters under King Charles II. had now continued twenty years. These were years of slaughter, and the horrors were still deepening.
The battle of Bothwell Bridge was followed by a climax of suffering and sacrifice. The wrath of the king, vented through the dragoons, fell upon every district where the Covenanters were located and followed them into their hiding-places. They were required to take the oath of loyalty, or suffer the direful consequence. Some were haled to the judges to be sentenced, others were shot like game where they were found. Like a fire that breaks out in a city and mercilessly devours while the flames find fuel, so this fire seemed destined to spread and devour till the last drop of Covenanted blood would sizzle on the coals.
The persecutors were in degree successful. Four hundred ministers, in 1662, had refused to receive orders from the king for the exercise of their ministry; they gave up home and all its comforts, rather than admit the king's claim of supremacy over the Church of Christ. These were now reduced to less than one hundred. Some were martyred, some were banished, some had died of old age and some of exposure; but many, if not most, had been constrained to accept the Indulgence and were gone back home. Their first love had been chilled by the wintry blasts. Their zeal for the Lord Jesus and His testimony abated as the hardships increased. Worn with suffering, emaciated with hunger, exposed to danger, grey with sorrows, and the darkness deepening with no relief in prospect, they weakened and accepted the terms of a false peace. But let them not be judged with harshness. Our Lord has said of such, "The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak." The struggle lasted eight more years, during which time there were sixty ministers standing by their Covenant instead of four hundred, and even these sixty, almost to a man, counted it expedient to suspend their testimony and keep silence.
The real Covenanters however were not conquered. Death had slain thousands, and defection tens of thousands, yet the faithful had not lost heart. There was still a vigorous force of loyal men and women, earnest quiet people, who stood fearlessly by the Covenant and Testimony of Jesus Christ. They were called, "The remnant." With these the Holy Spirit was pleased to clothe Himself, for the good fight of faith which they continued with unabated ardor. They stepped into the firing line where the shock of war was heaviest, and became the aggressive party, demanding from the king their Covenanted rights. The Lord was ever with them; they heard Him saying, "Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." Their zeal and energy were but the crested waves of Omnipotence, the Lord's own strength surging along the strand of time, and dashing against the rocks of wickedness and misrule—waves of Divine energy that must yet overflow every land, overcome the whole world, and cover the earth with glory, as the waters cover the sea.
These strong-spirited, unbending Covenanters believed that the time had now come for a forward movement, and they accepted the task as from the Lord. They were not merely unconquerable; they were determined to conquer. At the beginning of the persecution they were passive, meekly submitting to reproach, spoilation, imprisonment, and death, for Christ's sake. This continued till patience was exhausted.
Their second attitude was that of self-defence. Oppression maketh a wise man mad. The people came armed to the Conventicles, and with swords and muskets met the troops that attacked the meetings. These acts of self-defence developed into two distinct efforts to raise an army for the redress of grievances. All this time the Covenanters recognized Charles II. as their king.
The third attitude was that of revolution. They now had reached this point. They challenge the king's right to reign. They resolve to take the crown from his head, and place it upon the brow of a man worthy of the honor, one who "feared God, and hated covetousness." What a daring task! what courage exhibited by these men! what unbounded confidence in the righteousness of their cause as they against all odds, all earthly advantages, and all human wisdom, proclaim the king's forfeiture of the throne, and face the consequences of that proclamation!
This was a forlorn battle. The distant outlook was hopeful and the final success was assured; but the present struggle must be sanguinary and the sacrifice of life dreadful. Every man that enlists in the army at this stage must expect to die on the field. This bold position of the Covenanters will surely be met by all the powers of darkness that can be massed against them. They now unfurl the Banner for Christ's Crown and Covenant on the very highest grounds; the persecution will therefore be waged, if possible, with tenfold greater fierceness. The king with all his engines of destruction will fight them most desperately; Satan with all his hosts will assail them ferociously. How can the noble band escape annihilation?
But who will lead the Covenanters in such a struggle? Who will command these "little flocks of kids," when the hosts of Syria fill all the country round about? Where are the ministers now, when the trumpet blast proclaims a revolutionary war against the king? While the dread notes echo from mountain to mountain, the most of them are in caves, hidden—like Obadiah's prophets. Three, only three, step forward. These lions of the Covenant are Cameron, Cargill, and Douglass. They grasp the old battle-banner, and carrying it to the new position call upon the Covenanted sons of freedom to rally under its floating folds. The "remnant" gave a noble response.
This self-sacrificing band was merely the advance guard of a great army that was now mustering in the providence of God for the restoration of civil and religious liberty. Little did they expect to win under existing conditions, but they could hold the hordes of darkness back, till the Lord Jesus would bring up His mighty forces for the decisive battle. They could throw themselves upon the enemy, and with the impact stay their progress. They laid down principles and began action that eight years later resulted in the Revolution under the Prince of Orange. Cameron, Cargill, and Douglass began the Revolution, and William, Prince of Orange, finished it.
The Covenanters engaged in this forward movement were henceforth called Cameronians. Richard Cameron was the leader. On the first anniversary of the battle of Bothwell Bridge, June 22, 1680, he with 21 mounted men rode into the quiet town of Sanquhar. They came in a martial spirit; each horse carried a Christian swordsman; they were armed for war. Reaching the heart of the town, they dismounted and reverently offered prayer. They then read aloud a Declaration of War against King Charles. This they nailed to the post at the crossroads. What a heroic celebration of the first anniversary of their greatest defeat! The paper carried this declaration:
"We do disown Charles Stuart as having any right, title to, or interest in, the crown of Scotland for government.
"We, being under the Standard of our Lord Jesus Christ, do declare a war with such a tyrant and usurper, and all the men of his practices as enemies to our Lord Jesus Christ and His cause and Covenants."
The men then quietly rode away, while the people read the Declaration with mingled joy and terror. The lions roared on the hills of Sanquhar, and the king's throne trembled; within a few years the monarch and his dynasty had disappeared from the earth.
These Covenanters prepared also another declaration which was called the Queensferry Paper. It contained the following statement of the principles, for which they contended:
"The avowal of the Scriptures as the only rule of faith and action;
"The promotion of the Kingdom of God by every possible and lawful method;
"Adherence to the Covenanted Reformation of the Presbyterian Church;
"The disowning of all authority which opposes the Word of God!"
With deathless bravery, they added the following:
"We bind and oblige ourselves to defend ourselves and one another, in the worship of God and in our natural, civil, and divine rights, till we shall overcome, or send them down under debate to prosperity, that they may begin where we end."
The fathers have finished their work. They nobly sustained the cause in their day; they gave their blood freely for its success; but they were not permitted to see the ultimate victory. The Covenant principles for which they contended are the hope of the world. The Covenant holds forth the highest standard for the Church and the nation. This standard must be reached, or prophecy must fail. The struggle has descended upon us in "debate." Will we be true to the task laid on us by the fathers, who unfalteringly carried the Banner of the Covenant amid fiercest battles? Will we be a strong link, or will we be a broken link, connecting the worthy past with the golden future? Which?
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POINTS FOR THE CLASS.
1. How did the true Covenanters become diminished?
2. With what spirit did the "remnant" sustain their trials?
3. What successive attitudes toward the king did they assume?
4. When did they proclaim a revolutionary war against the king?
5. Who were their leaders?
6. Where was the declaration of war issued?
7. What was the nature of the Queensferry declaration?
8. Under what obligations were future generations placed?
10. What task here has fallen to us?
Ayrsmoss is a household word among Covenanters. Here is one of the numerous spots where temporary defeat has been transformed into permanent glory. A granite monument with suitable inscription marks the place and honors the fallen heroes. This is the field where Richard Cameron with a hardy group of Covenanters met the foe, and fought the first fight of Scotland's Revolutionary war against King Charles II.
Ayrsmoss lies in the heart of a wide solitude. The eye takes in a wild, broken surface in all directions. Loneliness broods in the very air. The heart grows heavy and the eyes dreamy, while we sit on a tuft of rushes and gaze at the monument that bears the names of the worthy dead. Reverie readily rehabilitates the landscape, and, in vision, the field is covered again with the horrors of the engagement. The horsemen are dashing upon each other, the air is shattered with the discharge of guns, swords are flashing in the evening sunlight, men are falling, blood is flowing, the Covenanters are fleeing, and—Cameron lies on the field dead.
Richard Cameron had sounded the keynote of freedom, that reverberated all over Scotland, and down into England, and over into Holland, and at length struck the ears of William, Prince of Orange. Cameron and his Covenanted associates, having disowned the authority of King Charles, disputed by force of arms his right to reign. They had preferred three charges against him. These were:
(1) Perjury; (2) Usurpation; (3) Tyranny.
The king had grossly violated the Covenant to which he had given his oath. The Covenant was the Scottish Constitution of government, and the wilful subversion of it was treason.
He had usurped authority over the Church, posing in the prerogatives of the Lord Jesus Christ and trampling on the people's rights in the worship of God.
He had impoverished, imprisoned, exiled, and even slaughtered his subjects in great numbers, without other fault than their refusal to submit conscience to his tyrannic will.
Therefore, as perjurer, usurper, and tyrant, he must face the arbitrament of war. The proclamation has been published; the dauntless sons of the Covenant have forced the issue. In the name of the Lord of hosts they have unfurled the Banner for Christ's Crown and Covenant. It may often be torn with bullets and stained with blood, but it will never be folded till the cause of Christ and freedom prevail. These Covenanters have resolved "to continue the struggle till they overcome, or hand it down to posterity, that each generation may begin where the last ended." Such was the solemn bond that bound these Covenanters by their own voluntary action one to another, and all to God and freedom in the worship of God through Jesus Christ. It also joined all coming generations into an indivisible and invincible solidarity for the defence of liberty, the triumph of righteousness, and the glory of Christ in His Church.
The Declaration of war had been proclaimed in Sanquhar. There Cameron with his band of twenty-one men appealed to the God of battles and grasped the sword. They stood a few moments gazing solemnly at their Declaration, now nailed to a post and speaking to the nation. Holding their horses by the bridle, they tarried long enough to sing a Psalm to the God of nations, then mounted. Ere the tramp of their steeds had died away on the streets of Sanquhar, the news of the daring deed was spreading over the hills. The royal army, more than 10,000 strong, was quickly on the track of these daring revolutionists.
Cameron quailed not at the consequences of that day's work. His soul was on fire for the honor of the Lord Jesus Christ. He had expressed a desire to die fighting against the avowed enemies of his Lord. He never doubted the final issue; victory was sure in the end, whatever might be the reverses at the beginning and the losses by the way. "LET CHRIST REIGN," he exclaimed with prophetic fire; "LET CHRIST REIGN, is a standard that shall yet overthrow all the thrones of Europe;" and he spoke as if his flashing eyes saw the thrones reel, and his quick ears heard the crash of their fall.
One brief month lay between Sanquhar and Ayrsmoss. Cameron and his little company moved cautiously over the desolate places. They roamed across the dreary moorlands, slept amidst the flowering heather, and pillowed their weary heads on the moss. The cold ground was their mattress; the chilling mist was their covering; the arching sky was their roof; the silent stars were their sentinels; the Lord God Almighty was their keeper. Thus they awaited the day of battle. Cameron betimes enjoyed the hospitality of friends who risked their lives in receiving him under their roof.
July 22, 1680, was the eventful day. The little band had strolled into the heart of this waste moor. Here were threescore valiant men, of the valiant of Israel. "They all held swords, being expert in war: every man had his sword upon his thigh, because of fear in the night." The actual number was sixty-three, twenty-three men were mounted. They hung about Cameron who never wearied in preaching Christ to their hungry souls. This day his voice was unusually solemn. He had an inward assurance that the sun, which was now flooding the landscape with glory and taking the chill of the night out of his veins, would glance its setting rays upon his blood and theirs, poured out upon that field. It was now 4 o'clock; the men were resting on the little knolls that studded the moor; their horses were grazing by their side; all eyes were often scanning the horizon; any minute danger might loom up.
"They come!" cried one who saw a troop verging on the moor. In a moment the sixty-three were on their feet; the horses were mounted and every man drew his weapon. Captain Hackston, a veteran in the Covenanted cause, took command. Cameron offered a prayer; his recorded prayer was not a plea for safety nor for victory, but that God would "spare the green and take the ripe." They chose their ground, and waited the coming of Captain Bruce with 120 troopers. With grim determination they watched the dragoons cover the ground. Every man was ready, every nerve was steady. The Covenanters had the courage of conscience; they knew they were in the right; their hearts sustained them; their Covenant reinforced them; they were assured of ultimate success. They will certainly achieve all that is best for this time, and for this occasion. Even a crushing defeat will be a moral victory. The outcome will be according to the will of God, and a necessary event in the progress of Christ's kingdom.
These men were sent forward, to stand on the firing line, and show the spirit, the courage, and the faith of the soldiers of Christ; behind them the spiritual world was filled with the armies of God. His twenty-thousand chariots and thousands of angels, were coming up for the successive engagements, that will yet fill the world with righteousness and the heavens with praise.
Bruce and his troop were received with a deadly volley; many of their saddles were emptied. Hackston led his horsemen in a desperate charge; he almost split the enemy's force in two; but his men being few, the dragoons enveloped him. His horse bogged; he dismounted, and used his sword with fearful effect. At last he fell, bleeding from many wounds. The Covenanters were overwhelmed and driven from the field. Nine lay dead, among whom was Richard Cameron. Twenty-six were killed on the other side, so steady the nerve and deliberate the aim of the Covenanters in the face of crushing odds. The war for freedom was now on; the first blood was shed and had consecrated Ayrsmoss. But the prize of liberty was of high value; other fields must yet be crimsoned with streams flowing from many a heart.
Our enjoyment of civil and religious liberty is so constant and ordinary that we scarcely wait a moment to think of the original cost. What pangs of sorrow, what years of hardships, what streams of blood our fathers paid for the inheritance of truth and freedom they have left their children! Let us be careful to appreciate the blood-bought blessings lest they flee away.
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POINTS FOR THE CLASS.
1. What monument has been erected at Ayrsmoss?
2. What previous proclamation occasioned this battle?
3. What charges did the Covenanters prefer against the king?
4. How long after the declaration till this fight occurred?
5. How did Cameron and his associates employ their time?
6. Who appeared in search of them?
7. How many men were on each side?
8. Who won the battle?
9. How account for God's people suffering defeat?
10. What was the cost of the liberty we enjoy?
11. How should we guard it for other generations?
THE CAMERONIANS.—A.D. 1681.
Richard Cameron had fallen in the battle at Ayrsmoss; but the cause had not failed, nor would he be forgotten. "The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance." His years were brief, but his work was great. He was fresh and hearty, in the very prime of his life when he met death. The sun had only reached the meridian of his sky. While his powers were glowing with divine energy, and his ministry was making the deepest impression, the Lord called him home to glory. The translation from earth to heaven was sudden and sublime. One of the poets has painted his own conception of the event in a brilliant poem, entitled, "The Cameronian's Dream." That noble life, so full of zeal, action, and power, left a lasting imprint on the Church of the Covenanters. So mighty was his influence that the people who stood strictly to the Covenant were henceforth called Cameronians.
The field of Ayrsmoss presented a sad sight that evening. The departing day may have flung over it a glowing sunset, but nothing could relieve the gloom. The light was fading as the dragoons left, taking with them Captain Hackston and a few other bleeding prisoners. Night settled softly upon the moorland; the shout of the captains had given place to the stillness of death. Nine noble defenders of the Covenant lay pulseless in the dewy grass. The friends, soon as safety permitted, came and, gathering the bodies together, solemnly and sadly buried them in one broad grave. The present monument marks the spot where the precious dust awaits the resurrection.
The head and hands of Cameron were cut off and carried in ignoble triumph through the streets of Edinburgh. The head was elevated on the point of a spear and borne in front of the prisoners to the city jail. Cameron's father was a prisoner there at that time. The head and hands were presented to him, with the sneering question, "Do you know them?" The aweful shock quickly gave place to a gush of fatherly affection. The blood, the pallor, even the stare of the lifeless face, seemed to disappear in the heart-kindlings of the aged parent; to him the countenance was sweet as ever, the eyes were beaming, the lips were vocal, the brow was wreathed with holy dignity. A thousand tender scenes of the past must have rushed in upon the soul of the agitated father. He took up the cold pieces, dearer to him than his own flesh and, while tears flowed plentifully, kissed them, saying, "I know them; they are my son's; my own dear son's: the Lord can harm neither me nor mine; good is the will of the Lord."
Cameron lived in the most critical period of the Covenanted cause. His life of service and sacrifice arose into gigantic strength just when the Covenanted Reformation seemed to be ready for burial. The floodtide of Indulgence had almost submerged the testimony of the Covenanters. Many of the ministers had been caught in that Satanic snare. The remainder were overawed, or disabled with disease and old age. Yet there was a host of brave men and honorable women, thousands in number, who without a leader faced the increasing' fierceness of the persecution, and continued their testimony for Christ in defiance of the king's wrath. These were called the Society People, and Cameron during his public ministry was their standard-bearer.
Cameron and the Society People, afterward known as the Cameronians, have been severely criticised for their exclusiveness. They refused to hold fellowship with the Indulged ministers who had assented to the king's supremacy over the Church, and likewise with the Field-ministers, who had become mute on the Covenanted testimony. They are often represented as having been stern, censorious, and uncharitable in the extreme. A glance at Cameron's commission will show how baseless is the charge.
Richard Cameron received ordination in Holland, four months after the battle of Bothwell Bridge. The ordination service was very solemn and touching. The presbytery felt that they were commissioning a servant of God to do a work that would cost his life. While the ministers rented their hands on Cameron's head in the act of ordination, he was told by one of them, that the head whereon their hands were laid would one day be severed from his body and set up before the sun and moon for public view. Such was the vision of blood that moved before his eyes during the eight months of his ministry. At that same time he received also the exhortation: "Go, Richard; the public Standard of the Gospel is fallen in Scotland; go home and lift the fallen Standard, and display it publicly before the world. But before you put your hand to it, go to as many of the Field-ministers as you can find, and give them your hearty invitation to go with you."
True to his commission Cameron went. He sought out the Field-ministers. They now numbered about sixty. These were keeping close to their hiding-places; their voices scarcely went beyond the mouth of their caves; they counted their blood more valuable than their testimony for Christ and His Covenant. Twenty years of unabating hardships had unnerved them; the late avalanche of the king's wrath had overwhelmed them; they were mostly mute in witnessing for Christ, as the rocks behind which they were hiding.
Of the sixty ministers Cameron found only two who were willing to stand with him and hold up the Banner of the Covenant before the eyes of the nation. One of these, Thomas Douglas, quickly disappeared leaving Cameron and Cargill alone to lead the Covenanted people of God in the fight that was growing harder every day. These two dauntless ministers of Christ accepted the responsibility, knowing too well the price to be paid was their own blood. And they have been censured for their exclusiveness.
Twenty years previous, the Covenanted ministers numbered one thousand. More than half of these had violated the Covenant by a resolution in 1650, to open the offices of public trust to men without moral qualification. Will the minority be censured for not following them? In 1662, the ministerial brotherhood was again rent in twain by the king's decree requiring them to submit, or quit the manse. Four hundred refused to comply. Will they be censured for withdrawing from their brethren who remained? In later years the Indulgences followed, one after another, capturing all except sixty. Will the sixty be censured for not following the others in submitting to the king's supremacy over the Church? And now all but two suspend the public testimony for Christ's crown. Will the two be censured for separating from the sixty, and holding forth the Banner of Christ?
Cameron and Cargill, with the Society people, stood on a basis separated from their brethren who had stepped off the basis, and had left them to struggle alone against mighty odds and fierce enemies, for the Covenanted Reformation to which all were bound by a solemn oath. These men, with the Society people at their back, stood by their Covenant and the oath of God, the others had departed. Censure the Cameronians for exclusiveness? Rather, be sincere and censure them for not slipping, and stumbling, and falling away, like their brethren from Covenant attainments. These worthies stood on the heights from which the others had departed, and waving the old battle-worn colors of the Covenant appealed unto them to come up and occupy the ground where they had formerly stood.
The Cameronians maintained a high position; but it was not chimerical or theoretical; it was practical and Scriptural; here was solid ground, a rock-foundation. On it were no sidings, no off-sets, no bogs. The truths they held were clear, clean-cut, adamantine, foundational, and unchangeable. Their oath bound them to defend the sovereignty of Christ, the kingdom of God, and the Reformed religion.
The banner still floats up there in the care of a few successors. Under the Lord of hosts, the Captain of the Covenant, they continue to this day without a thought of retreating, and trailing their colors in the dust. They are confident that Churches and nations will yet reach the heights of Covenant doctrine and fidelity under Jesus Christ. The bane of the Churches to-day is the slanting ground, adown which an evil influence is steadily drawing the people lower and lower. But in the last days the Holy Spirit will be poured out upon all flesh; then shall the world have a spiritual resurrection, and a glorious ascension to Covenant grounds, through the Lord Jesus Christ, "to whom be dominion and majesty for ever and ever." "The mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains; and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it."
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POINTS FOR THE CLASS.
1. Describe Ayrsmoss on the night after the battle?
2. What did the enemy do with Cameron's body?
3. How did Cameron's life and death impress the Covenanters?
4. Why were the Cameronians called extremists?
5. Were they justifiable in separating from others?
6. Who joined Cameron in carrying out his commission?
7. What is the true position of Covenanters?
8. What is their mission in the world?
THE LONE STAR.—A.D. 1681.
Donald Cargill was at this time the only minister of the Society people. He was the Lone Star appearing in the firmament of the Covenanted Church. The night was very cloudy. The storm of persecution had darkened the land; the defection of the Church had deepened the darkness; the wrath of the Lord, against the persecuting nation and the Covenant-breaking Church, had covered Scotland with a woeful night. The stars had disappeared till one alone, a solitary orb, had power sufficient to pierce the deadly gloom with its lustrous rays.
Donald Cargill was the Elijah of his day, the solitary standard-bearer of the Covenant after the death of Cameron. Doubtless there were seven thousand, yea, seven thousand twice told, who had not bowed the knee to Baal; but they were hidden in caves and in holes of the rocks, waiting for some terrible display of the power and glory of the Lord. There were many stars, but the night was too dark for them to shine; also they had become almost nebulous. Even Alexander Peden, Scotland's fiery prophet, who never weakened in the Covenant nor waned in his brilliant career—even he did not identify with the Cameronians in the declaration of war against King Charles and the demand for his abdication. Cargill was the lone leader of the dreadless Covenanters in their new and aggressive movement.
The last years of Cargill were his best, and his last services were his greatest. He grew like the cedar, increasing in strength, usefulness, and dignity till cut down by death. His zeal leaped into flames with the adverse winds: he did his noblest works when he was most sorely pressed. He conducted divine services even when wounded and bleeding; he carried the gashes of the sword into the pulpit and the scars of battle down to the grave. A glance at his wonderful career should be inspiring.
Even in childhood Cargill was noted for prayer. He grew up on a beautiful farm where the fields dip into the shady valley and ascend the lofty hills. Rugged nature taught the opening child-life to take on much beauty, grandeur, and dignity. He loitered often on the confines of the higher world in his meditations and in prayer. But especially the altar of worship, the family Bible, the fireside catechising, the stern discipline, and the solemn Sabbaths moulded the boy and awakened the powers that distinguished the man. Family religion, which was strict, solemn, and awe-inspiring made heroes of the men of the Covenant. Without family religion the children may be expected to become moral imbeciles and spiritual ciphers.
When Cargill was yet a youth, he was known to spend whole nights in prayer. What those nights must have been to that young heart! What unfoldings of the Gospel and of the love of God! What revelations of the beauties of Christ, the preciousness of His blood, and the treasures of His Covenant! What insight into the value of the soul and its commission from God! What views of stewardship, accountability, rewards, punishments, destiny, eternity! What visions of the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, His royal rights, His glory and majesty, His jealousy over the Church, His indignation against evil, His vindication of right! What those nights of prayer must have been to that boyish heart! The Holy Spirit came down upon the tender suppliant; the glory of the Lord shone round about him; the heavens bent and burst with blessings above his head; he made many an incursion into the upper world. What a wonderful life we may expect to arise out of a beginning like this! Look out for the boy that spends whole nights in prayer, or even whole hours talking with God! Assuredly the outcome will be amazing.
Courage was prominent among the qualities that brought Cargill to the front and made him one of Scotland's many mighties. He was afraid of nothing except God's displeasure. His towering intellect, polished with education, instructed in the Bible, and irradiant with the Holy Spirit, gave him a wide horizon. He made the throne of the Lord Jesus Christ his viewpoint, and therefore saw things in their true relation. He had a strong, spiritual grasp of the truths of Christ and His universal dominion. He saw Jesus crowned with many crowns; the Church united to Christ in marriage; and all the universe subject to Christ for the Church's sake. Cargill's clear and comprehensive view of Christ and His universal dominion enabled him to take the right side in the great struggle that was then shaking Scotland's foundations. He wisely chose the strong side. He cast his lot in with the poor "remnant," who were hunted, captured, and executed as fast as the bloodhounds of King Charles could do their cruel work. Most men called this the weak side, but Cargill's eyes took in the spiritual world. He gazed upon the infinite power of God, the omnipotence of truth, the armies of heaven. He knew that all the forces of righteousness were moving forward in matchless harmony in support of the "remnant" who kept faith with the Lord Jesus Christ. In the consciousness of this almighty strength, which was at his back, how could he be afraid?
Cargill accepted the office of the Gospel ministry with a deep sense of unworthiness. When urged to enter the ministry he hesitated and spent a day in fasting and prayer to discover the mind of the Lord. God spoke to him by sending into his heart the irresistible command: "Son of man, eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel." He took this to be the answer, as these words rang in his ears day and night. He hesitated no longer; from that time he was consecrated to the work of the Gospel, and his zeal made him a bright target for the foe.
His regular service on one occasion fell on the anniversary of the king's restoration to the throne. The house was crowded; the country was rejoicing with the king, though he had already launched upon the crimson tide of persecution. Casting a glance over the audience and judging that many had come to do the king honor, his soul flamed into indignation, and his eyes flashed with scorn for the crowned murderer. "We are not here," said he, "to keep this day as others keep it. We thought once to bless the day when the king came home again, but now we have reason to curse it. If any of you have come to solemnize this day, we desire you to remove." Then arising into passionate vehemence, he cried, "Woe, woe, woe unto the king! His name shall be a stench while the world stands, for treachery, tyranny, and lechery." From that day they sought his life to take it away; yet he lived and preached twenty more years.
Cargill's life was tossed about on roughest waves. He made many narrow escapes. Near his early home lies a deep valley, adown which a mountain stream rushes within a rock-rimmed channel, churning itself into milky whiteness. On one occasion he was pursued by soldiers all the way from Dundee, nine miles distant. He fled down the steep cliff and leaped the chasm. The soldiers following him came to the spot but dared not to jump. Cargill walked up the opposite embankment and escaped. Being reminded one day that he had made a good leap he humorously replied, "Yes, but I had a good run before the leap."
At another time he saw a group of soldiers approaching in search of him. He coolly walked forward and, taking a square look at them, went on. They not knowing him personally never once thought that a man of such an airy countenance could be the one for whom they were searching. At Queensferry the house still stands where he and Captain Hall were arrested. The brave Captain threw himself between Cargill and the officer. The struggle was a tough one; Hall was mortally wounded; Cargill, too, was much hurt but escaped. But this did not prevent him from keeping his engagement at a Conventicle; he preached in his wounds. Nothing but death seemed able to check this man of God in the work of the Gospel. His greatest service however is yet to be related.
Have we incorporated the element of Divine strength into our lives? Do we make the throne of Jesus our viewpoint, from whence we see all things related to Him, and through Him to each other? Do we stand for the right, however weak that side may seem, knowing that all the powers that be of God are on that side? The times call for heroic lives, men who will not flinch under reproach, nor apologize for their convictions; men who will support the truth at any cost, and denounce sin at every hazard. Can the Church now furnish such men?
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POINTS FOR THE CLASS.
1. Who succeeded Cameron as leader of the Society people?
2. Tell something about Cargill's early life.
3. How was he influenced to become a minister?
4. What objection had he to the king's anniversary?
5. What dangers did he meet?
6. How did he persist in the work of the Gospel?
7. Describe the strong side of every good cause.
AN EXTRAORDINARY SERVICE.—A.D. 1681.
The severity of the persecution had now driven the Conventicles into the most solitary places. Very few ministers at this period ventured, under any circumstances, to preach at the Field-meetings. Cargill survived Cameron a little more than one year. They had been accustomed to attend these meetings together; their fellowship in the ministry of Christ was a mutual joy. They were equally yoked and made a strong team. Where the two preached the people had a great feast. But death had separated them; Cargill keenly felt the bereavement. He was thereafter like a dove mourning the loss of its mate. He preached a touching sermon on the Sabbath after Cameron's death, taking his text from King David's elegy over the death of Abner: "There is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel."
Cargill was now seventy years old; grey, worn, and weakened with the terrible experiences that had crowded into his persecuted life. His last year was a fitting climax, the best of all his years in the Lord's service. The notes of his trumpet were always vigorous and decisive; one blast, however, was especially loud, long, and clear, the like of which the world had never heard.
This preacher of righteousness denounced sin with unsparing keenness. He was no respecter of persons; the king got his share of reproof and admonition, equally with the lowliest in the land. He was very jealous for the Lord God of hosts, and could brook no indignity to Christ.
King Charles had done dishonor of the darkest kind to the Lord Jesus. He had grasped at the Crown of Christ, had broken the holy Covenant, had crushed the Church, and had shed the blood of the saints. The sight of such horrible wickedness made Cargill's blood boil, and his sermons arose betimes in passionate eloquence against the guilty king. On one occasion he poured out upon the royal head a triple woe. This could never be pardoned by the crowned murderer of God's people. The king pursued him with vengeful wrath. A price equal to $1,200 was offered for his head, alive or dead. Twenty years and more the bloodhounds of persecution were on his track. Twenty years, with the sword hanging over the head, makes a solemn life. Twenty years, amidst the hardships and horrors of persecution, gives a rich experience. Twenty years, in the furnace heated seven times more than it is wont, makes a pure soul. Twenty years, hiding under the shadow of the Most High, makes a powerful preacher. It was said of him, as of his Master, though in a lesser sense, "Never man spake like this man." His voice reached wide circles, resounded across broad glades, and echoed from rugged mountain sides. Thousands were melted by his tender words, and many were swung into line with the Covenant by his forceful logic. He spoke out of deep experience, pleading as a man who stood in the glare of Christ's judgment seat. While he preached, the eternal world seemed irradiant about him. Some of his discourses have been preserved by the press.
Cargill's sermons and prayers were usually short. He once received a gentle reproof for his brevity. He was holding a Conventicle; the people had come a long distance for the preaching; they hungered and thirsted for God and His Word. The great congregation was feasting on the rich abundance of the Gospel, and hanging on the lips of the minister, when he suddenly stopped. He had finished. One of the hearers, who felt that only a slice of bread was given, when a loaf was needed, approached him and said, "Oh, sir, 'tis long betwixt meals, and we are in a starving condition, and it is sweet and good and wholesome which ye deliver; but why do ye straiten us so much for shortness?" Cargill replied, "Ever since I bowed the knee in good earnest to pray, I never durst pray or preach with my gifts; and when my heart is not affected, and comes not up with my mouth, I always thought it time for me to quit. What comes not from my heart, I have little hope that it will go to the heart of others." He was able to distinguish between the product of his own gifts and that of the Holy Spirit. The one is like bubbles on the water for hungry souls; the other like the grapes of Eschol.
The most notable event in the career of Cargill was the excommunication of the king, and six of his accomplices, from the Covenanted Church. These seven men were the chief persecutors at that time. Formerly they had been Covenanters, but had abandoned the Covenant, and had fallen into excessive wickedness. The Church had never dealt with their cases; she had lost the power. The Church courts were controlled by the king. But shall discipline, therefore, fail? Can the Church no more sustain her laws, and administer her censures? Is she incapacitated? Extraordinary conditions justify extraordinary methods. Cargill conceived the bold purpose of issuing these cases, and inflicting the censures, solitary and alone, as a minister of Christ Jesus. Not in the spirit of revenge, nor as a vain anathema, but by the authority of God, in the name of Christ, and with profound sense of responsibility did he mete out the spiritual penalty unto these blood-stained and impenitent transgressors. The indestructible vitality of the Church thus reappeared in that dread act.
This action was taken at a Conventicle held at Torwood early in the autumn of 1680. The attendance was large. The people knew not what was coming. Cargill was much animated. After a powerful sermon, he proceeded with the act of excommunication. The form was this:
"I, being a minister of Jesus Christ, and having authority from Him, do, in His name, and by His Spirit, excommunicate, cast out of the true Church, and deliver up to Satan, Charles II., upon these grounds: (1) His mocking of God; (2) His great perjury; (3) His rescinding all laws for establishing the Reformation; (4) His commanding armies to destroy the Lord's people; (5) His being an enemy to true Protestants; (6) His granting remission and pardon to murderers; (7) His adulteries."
Cargill knew that he would be adversely judged, by future generations, for what he had done; many would regard the excommunication as unreasonable and unwarrantable. He, therefore, adventured his reputation and authority on a prophecy, which he uttered in his sermon on the next Sabbath: "If these men die the ordinary death of men, then God hath not spoken by me." King Charles was poisoned; the Duke of York died raving under the sentence; McKenzie died with blood flowing from many parts of his body; the Duke of Monmouth was executed; Dalziel died while drinking, without a moment of warning; Lauderdale sank into dotage through excessive indulgence; the Duke of Rothes passed into eternity in despair. The prophecy had its terrible fulfilment, to the last man. "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
Not much now remained for Cargill to do. A few more Conventicles, the acknowledgment of Christ's supremacy before the judges, a public testimony on the scaffold; then the blood can flow, and seal the truth, which he loved so well to preach. His pursuers at length discovered him. Great was the rejoicing of his enemies when he was found, and bound, and hastened to prison. His trial was swift, issuing in the death sentence. His execution quickly followed. When he came to the gibbet, he placed his back against the ladder, and addressed the throng that had gathered to witness his last struggle. The venerable face beamed with happiness. That morning he had written some of his flowing thoughts. Here is one of them: "This is the most joyful day I ever saw; my joy is now begun never to be interrupted." His soul was stirring with divine raptures; the glory of heaven was breaking around him. The thrill of youthful life again quickened his pulse; he wheeled about and mounted the scaffold, saying, "The Lord knows I go up this ladder with less fear and perturbation of mind than ever I entered the pulpit to preach." Having reached the platform, where the rope was waiting for his neck, he bade adieu to earth, and welcome to heaven. "Farewell," he exclaimed; "Farewell, all relations and friends in Christ; farewell acquaintances and all earthly enjoyments; farewell reading and preaching, praying and believing, wanderings and reproaches and sufferings. Welcome joy unspeakable and full of glory. Welcome Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! into Thy hands I commit my spirit." What was death to a man like that but the beginning of glory! The black scaffold was lighted up with the radiance that streamed through the pearl gates.
How much does the spirit of zeal, courage, witness-bearing, and discipline, stir the descendants of the martyred Covenanters in the present day?
* * * * *
POINTS FOR THE CLASS.
1. What may be said of Cargill's last years of service?
2. How many years of persecution did he suffer?
3. What aroused him against the king?
4. What official act did he perform on the king and six others?
5. What was the nature of this excommunication?
6. How did he protect himself against wrong criticism?
7. Was his prophecy fulfilled?
8. How did Cargill die?
9. What service is much neglected in the Church in our day?
THE SOCIETIES.—A.D. 1682.
After the death of Cameron, the Covenanters of the Cameronian type formed themselves into societies for the worship of God, for their own spiritual edification, and for the defence of the Covenant. Half a dozen families or more, having the same faith, spirit, and purpose, met together on the Sabbath day, to engage in social worship. This was called a society.
Those were days of woeful declension. Defection had swept the great body of Covenanters from their basis. Under the strain of persecution and the snare of the royal Indulgence, many ministers and people had abandoned wholly, or in degree, Reformation grounds. The Society People alone refused to make concessions by which truth would be suppressed, conscience defiled, or any divine principle surrendered. They stood by the Covenant, and accepted the consequences, including hardest service and greatest sufferings.
The Society People have been censured for exclusiveness; they refused to associate with others in the worship of God, and would hear no ministers except their own. But why? Consider their reason, then let them be judged. These people stood alone simply because they had been left alone; these soldiers of Christ had been deserted while holding the ground won by their fathers at the cost of much blood. They stood where the Lord Jesus Christ had placed them, giving them a solemn charge to keep the oath, and defend His royal rights. Should they then be reprimanded, for not joining in the general stampede? What saith the Lord? "If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him."
From the fortress of the Covenant these veterans of Christ heroically waved the Blue Banner, declaring to their brethren, and to the world, that by the grace of God they would never surrender. They were the real Covenanters, the true blue, the old stock. They were not a faction; they were the remnant. They stood on the original ground; the others had broken the Covenant and had departed. These were the core, the center, the substance, the personnel, the integral force, the organized body, the visible form, of the Covenanted Church in those days. The Societies were the continuity of the Church that had flourished in the days of Knox, and took on later and greater glory in the times of Henderson. They were the same Church, holding the same faith, the same Covenant, and the same services.
The Society People were not the branch; they were, the trunk from which the branches had fallen. The branches were strewn around; but the trunk, though broken and disfigured, was still deeply rooted in Covenant soil, and full of life.
The persecutors more than ever concentrated their fire upon these people. They were pursued and shot like game. Liberal rewards were offered for their leaders. Yet they stood by their Covenant; they would not yield an hairbreadth. Fidelity to Christ swallowed up every other consideration; it was the burning passion of their lives.
These societies were numerous, extending over a wide area. They were held together by delegations which met quarterly. By this means harmony of spirit, purpose, and action was preserved. They stood like a square of veterans, facing the enemy on every side. They even took aggressive steps, delivering in the most public manner their testimony against the tyranny of the king and the defection of the Church. The minutes of these General Meetings have been preserved; they furnish interesting reading.
After the death of Cargill these people had no minister. A few ministers, like Alexander Peden, were still untainted, but they would not join these strong-headed Covenanters in their war against the king. They regarded the Society People as extremists and fanatics. The societies suffered more seriously from reproach and misrepresentation by the brethren than from persecution, though that was growing fiercer every day. But these were men who reckoned with conscience and with God; not with consequences nor with man. Fidelity to Christ was their first and only choice.
These immovable Covenanters were now undergoing the severest trial of faith. They were hunted, seized, tortured, shot, hanged, destroyed, in the most infernal manner. They were shown neither mercy nor justice. But the most crushing distress was the reproach heaped upon them by retrograde Covenanters. By these they were defamed as dangerous men, disloyal to their country and a disgrace to religion. All the ministers, through fear or with scorn, had forsaken them. This was harder to endure than fire, gibbet, and sword combined. They issued a pathetic call to the pastors to come back and tend this flock of God. The call was like the wail of lost children crying for a father's care and pity. It contained these assuring words: