The substance of this study relating to the early years of the life
of Donald Cargill, seventeenth century Covenanter, represents an attempt
to trace the multifarious influences--family, school, university and
general—that determined the course of his singular career as parish
minister, field conventicler and martyr.
Several of these principal formative factors, hitherto obscure,
have been brought to light by this investigation. First, it reveals
that Cargill was fundamentally a product of the turbulent era into which
he was born when "the battledore and shuttlecock vicissitudes of Presby¬
terian and Episcopal supremacy" were at their height. It reveals that
those closest to him—his near relations and teachers alike—typified
these hostile factions that were striving for the mastery in the con¬
flict being waged in the nation at large where ranks were divided by
politico-religious antipathies and opposing allegiances. It indicates
an intimate and extended acquaintance on his part with Aberdeen during a
period unique in its history—the time of "the trubles"—when it not
only reflected more sharply than any other city the conflict of the hour
but lent support to the very cause to which its long tradition and civic
temperament had been warmly opposed. It discloses, furthermore, that he
studied at St. Andrews in one of the most colourful and eventful decades
of its post-Reformation history when the University was enjoying "a con¬
dition of prosperity...never before or afterwards exceeded" and when the
burgh itself had risen to a new eminence on the national scene as touch¬
ing the affairs of church and state. It also reveals the predominant
Royalist and Erastian influence that was brought to bear upon him at St.
Salvator's College and, conversely, the predominant Presbyterian and
Covenanting influence that confronted him at St. Mary's. It shows the University to have been, in fact-,- a veritable academic crucible where
a student's traditional or newly formed religious and ecclesiastical
attachments, his moral courage and fidelity to principle, were tried
to the very core—a setting which, by its very nature, brought Cargill
to the point of facing the two supreme, spiritual crises of his life.
Finally, it points to Samuel Rutherfurd as the person who, apart from
Cargill's own parents, exerted the most puissant theological and
ecclesiastical influence in the moulding of his thought and churchmanship;
and it characterises Cargill (to use the metaphor of McWard) as
one of Rutherfurd's choice "Cedars" which were hewn from the "Lebanon"
he created at St. Mary's for the building of the house of the Lord in
In these factors, then, are to be found the principal background
forces that gave both form and content to the ministry that began at the Glasgow Barony and ended so abruptly in the Grassmarket of Edinburgh.