After the death of Richard Cameron, Donald Cargill was the only field preacher left in Scotland. Cargill was born in 1627. He went to university in St Andrews where he read and re-read the books of John Knox and Andrew Melville. However the biggest influence on his life was his tutor, Samuel Rutherford. In 1655 he became minister of the Barony Church in Glasgow.
Two years after the Restoration of Charles II Cargill got into trouble for preaching against the king and had to go into hiding. He had to go into hiding, but kept preaching in the fields. After the Covenanters’ victory at Drumclog, Cargill rushed to join those preparing to fight at Bothwell Bridge. Cargill was badly wounded in the battle and left for dead. However, he survived, went to Holland for a while, and then came back to join Richard Cameron in preaching in the fields throughout Scotland.
Cargill preached Cameron’s funeral service, and then held a massive meeting at Torwood where in the name of Jesus Christ he excommunicated the king, Charles II – the highest punishment of the church.
The government now became more determined to catch Cargill than ever, and offered a large amount of money to anyone who would catch him, dead or alive. He was finally captured in July 1681, found guilty of treason and hanged in Edinburgh.
Just before he died, Cargill wrote: “This is the most joyful day that I ever saw in my pilgrimage on earth. My joy is now begun, which I see shall never be interrupted.” He had complete confidence that all his sins had been forgiven by Christ, and so he was not afraid to die. His calmness when facing death had a big impact on those who were watching, especially 18 year-old James Renwick.
Maurice Grant, No King but Christ: the story of Donald Cargill (Darlington, 1988).
Patrick, Six saints of the Covenant, ed. D. H. Fleming (2 vols, London, 1901)
John Howie, ‘Donald Cargill’ in The Scots Worthies (Edinburgh, 2001 ), pp 439-53.
A Cloud of Witnesses for the Royal Prerogatives of Jesus Christ; being the last speeches and testimonies of those who have suffered for the truth in Scotland, since the year 1680 ed. J. H. Thomson (Edinburgh and London, 1871? ), pp
DSCHT: Cargill, Donald; Torwood Declaration
John Callow, ‘Cargill, Donald (c.1627–1681)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004