TIMES OF PERSECUTION IN SCOTLAND,
SUFFERERS FOR THE ROYAL PREROGATIVES OF JESUS CHRIST.
Sermons & Lectures by Richard Cameron.
FALKLAND, in Fifeshire, was the birthplace of Richard Cameron. The passer-by may still see the house where he was born. His father, who was a merchant in the burgh, appears to have been very eager to secure for his son the benefit of a good education. Recently, it has been discovered that he borrowed a sum of money on the house for the purpose of sending Richard to the University. However sanguine the father's hopes may have been, he probably little dreamt of the prominent part his son was destined to take in the affairs of both Church and Nation. Neither could he have anticipated that touching scene in the prison at Edinburgh when the head and hands of his son Richard were handed to him, having been carried from Ayrsmoss, where he fell:"I know, I know them," said the aged father as he kissed them; "they are my son's, my own dear son's; it is the Lord: good is the will of the Lord, who cannot wrong me nor mine, but has made goodness and mercy to follow us all our days."
Richard was born an Episcopalian, and for many years remained in connection with that Church. He was for a time schoolmaster and precentor to the curate of Falkland, and attended the ministrations of the indulged. He was induced, however, to hear one of the intercommuned at a field-preaching. The sermon was blessed to the awakening of his soul and the quickening of his intellect. He was drawn "with cords of a man, with bands of love." By the Spirit of truth, his mind was enlightened to perceive the evils of Prelacy and the scriptural character of the cause of the persecuted. His soul was set on fire to witness against the king's unrighteous claims, and for the royal rights of the Lord's Anointed. What things were gain to him, he counted loss for Christ. On account of the treatment to which he was subjected by the time-serving party and their dupes, Cameron was constrained to leave his native parishleft it, never to return.
After some incidents of a similar persecuting nature, but of less importance, Cameron found his way to the south of Scotland, where he was introduced to John Welsh, the minister of Irongray. At that time, in consequence of their opposition to an order of the Crown, which they considered unjust, Welsh and several other ministers at Dumfries had been laid under the necessity of giving up their charges. They continued, however, to hold conventicles, and it was in connection with these that a lasting bond of friendship was formed between Welsh and Cameron. Judging Cameron well qualified to do good service as an ambassador for Christ, Welsh pressed him to take license. Repeated pressure and the resolving of many objections were required before Cameron yielded. At Haughhead, in Teviotdale, Welsh and Semple, with solemnities all the more solemn by reason of the troublous times, set apart Richard Cameron to the work of preaching the glorious gospel. It evinced no little heroism to accept licence then from the ousted ministers, and openly become a prominent maintainer of the persecuted cause. But Cameron well knew that his Master sent none a warfare upon their own charges.
When he began to preach, Cameron embraced frequent opportunities of lifting his voice against indulgences and other sinful compromises of the times. For this he was summoned to several meetings of the indulged, and was entreated to forbear his offensive mode of preaching. After frequent remonstrances and threats, Cameron's boldness was overborne. He was prevailed upon to promise to be silent on these matters, and not to denounce those who accepted the indulgences. That was an evil moment for Richard Cameron. Many a sigh did he heave, many a tear did he shed because of it. Cranmer would often look at the hand with which he signed his recantation, and say, "That unworthy hand;" and, when he came to the fire, he thrust forth into the flame "that unworthy hand." Similarly did remorse, with terrible intensity, seize upon Cameron after he made this unworthy promise. Years afterwards, when he was asked why he was so melancholy, he replied, "That weary promise I gave to these ministers has lain heavy upon me, and for this cause my carcass shall dung the wilderness, and that ere it be long."
Ill at ease, and waiting till the time his promise was to continue should elapse, Cameron went over to Holland. There he met with and had the comforting and strengthening fellowship of a number of ministers who had been banished, prominent among whom was M'Ward. Cameron's conversation and bearing, and his abilities as a preacher, secured for him many attached friends. He cherished a strong desire to return to his native land, and to contend for Christ's royal prerogatives the more zealously because of his sinful compliance. He was determined to retrieve if possible the disaster he had brought upon the cause he loved, nevertheless, with all his heartthe cause of everlasting righteousness. On one occasion, M'Ward said to him:"Richard, the public standard is now fallen in Scotland; and, if I know anything of the mind of the Lord, you are called to undergo your trials before us, and go home and lift the fallen standard, and display it publicly before the world; but before you put your hand to it, you shall go to as many of the field ministers as you can find, and give them your hearty invitation to go with you; and if they will not go, go alone, and the Lord will be with you." He was, accordingly, ordained, and when the hands were lifted from his head, M'Ward is reported to have said:"Behold, all ye beholders, here is the head of a faithful minister and servant of Jesus Christ, who shall lose the same for his Master's interest, and it shall be set up before sun and moon in the view of the world."
In the spring of 1680, Cameron returned to Scotland. The fires of persecution were blazing. The issues, though diverse, of Drumclog and Bothwell Bridge, supplied much fuel for the flame
Cameron sought to join to himself all the "field" ministers. With two of them only was he successfulDonald Cargill and Thomas Douglas. After serious and lengthened deliberation, they resolved to prepare and publish a statement and declaration renouncing allegiance to Charles II., and declaring that by his perjury and tyranny he had forfeited the crown. On the 22nd of June, Richard Cameron and his brother Michael, with a small band of armed men, appeared in the streets of Sanquhar and nailed their declaration to the Sanquhar Cross:"We do by these presents," so ran the document, "disown Charles Stewart, that has been reigning, or rather tyrannizing, on the throne of Britain these three years bygone, as having any right, title to, or interest in the Crown of Scotland for Government.... We do declare a war with such a tyrant and usurper and all the men of his practices." Some eight years afterwards the principles of this declaration were embraced by the nation at large; the Stuart house was driven from the throne, and William III. was crowned king. "Claverse and his bloody band
Were raging rav'nously o'er the land."
No less than 1000 merks were now offered for the apprehension of Richard Cameron. He went hither and thither throughout the country for safety. During calms between the storms of Prelatic fury, and seizing every opportunity within his reach, he preached the Gospel and dispensed sealing ordinances. Immediately after his appearance at Sanquhar he betook himself to New Monk-land, and there preached on that appropriate text"A man shall be an hiding place from the wind and a covert from the tempest." Again he preached from "Ye will not come unto Me, that ye might have life;" in the midst of which, under the heart-affecting words of the preacher, the people "fell into a state of calm weeping." Again he preached from "Saw ye Him whom my soul loveth?" And again from "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself, but in Me is thine help." The last sermon he preached was near Drumclog, at Avondale. The text was from the Psalms: "Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth." In the course of that sermon he uttered these words: "Let Christ reign; that is a standard that shall overthrow the throne of Britain and all the thrones of Europe that will not kiss the Son." Cargill was present at this sermon, and he and Cameron agreed to meet together on the second Sabbath thereafter at Darmead. Ere that day came, Cameron had been summoned to a happier meeting; and Cargill, sorely bereaved, preached from the words: "Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel?"
Cameron spent the last night of his life at Meadowhead on the Water of Ayr. In the morning, when he had washed his hands, he looked upon them and said, "This is their last washing; I had need to wash them clean, for there are many to see them." And to one present who began to weep, he said, "Weep not for me, but for yourself and yours, and for the sins of a sinful land, for ye have many melancholy, sorrowful, and weary days before you."
That day was the 22nd of July, 1680, one month after the event of Sanquhar. Bruce of Earlshall, with a number of troopers, in all about one hundred and twenty, was in the neighbourhood, having heard that Cameron was in the district. With Cameron there were about sixty companions, many of them ill prepared for fighting. But flight was impossible: the enemy must be met. Cameron gathered his band around him, and thrice he prayed, "Lord, spare the green and take the ripe." Thereafter he said to his brother, "Come, let us fight it out to the last; for this is the day that I have longed for, and the day that I have prayed for, to die fighting against our Lord's avowed enemies; this is the day that we will get the crown." Cameron's heroes stood their ground firmly, refusing to shrink before the superior numbers by whom they were at length overpowered. When the slaughter was over, Cameron's body was found upon the ground. The head and hands had been cut off, and by the retiring troopers borne away. They were taken to Edinburgh and there presented to the Council by one who, though an enemy, said, "There are the head and hands of a man who lived praying and preaching, and died praying and fighting."
Richard Cameron was strong in his convictions and sincere in his purposes. When he became convinced of the evil of Prelacy, and the rightness of the Covenanted cause, he straightway forsook the one and boldly allied himself with the other. His reluctance to take license when strongly pressed to do so, arose in part from his conviction that he would bring more trouble upon those already prescribed, as he could not but denounce indulgences with all righteous indignation. Even his sinful compromise with the indulged offered an occasion for a marked display of the force of his convictions and the sincerity of his heart. Anything approaching to Pharisaism was hateful to Cameron's noble soul. As a preacher he was impassioned in style and powerful in persuasion. "I am sure," said John Malcolm, a martyr who often heard Cameron, "the gospel preached by Mr. Richard Cameron especially was backed with the power and presence of Christ. As much of Christ and heaven was found as finite creatures on earth were able to hold; yea, and more than they could hold." As a patriot, Cameron was loyal and fearless. He was ready to hazard all for the interest of his beloved landa land in covenant with his God. For the sake of God and his country, he openly renounced at Sanquhar the authority of his sovereign, and at Ayrsmoss fought and fell. Deservedly does he stand in the front rank of that noble army of martyrs who "overcame by the blood of the Lamb, and by the Word of their testimony, and loved not their lives unto the death."