He had been not only highly instrumental in turning many souls unto God, but also in lifting up a faithful standard for his royal Lord and Master, against all His enemies, and the defections and sinful compliances of that time.
Richard Cameron was born in Falkland in the shire of Fife, his father being a merchant there. He was of the Episcopal persuasion at first; as, after he had passed his course of learning, he was for some time school-master and precentor to the curate of Falkland. He sometimes attended the sermons of the Indulged, as he had opportunity; but at last it pleased the Lord to incline him to go out and hear the persecuted gospel in the fields; which, when the curates understood, they set upon him, partly by flattery and partly by threats, and at last by more direct persecution, to make him forbear attending these meetings. But such was the wonderful working of the Lord by His powerful Spirit upon him, that having got a lively discovery of the sin and hazard of Prelacy, he deserted the curates altogether; and no sooner was he enlightened anent the evil of it, than he began more narrowly to search, that he might know what was his proper and necessary duty. The Lord was pleased to discover to him the sinfulness of the Indulgence, as flowing from the ecclesiastical supremacy usurped by the King; and, being zealously affected for the honour of Christ, wronged by that Erastian acknowledgment of the magistrate’s usurped power over the church, he longed for an opportunity to give a testimony against it.
This made him leave Falkland, and go to Sir Walter Scott of Harden, who attended the Indulged meetings. Here he took the opportunity, notwithstanding many strong temptations to the contrary, to witness against the Indulged, particularly on Sabbath; for when called to attend the lady to church, he returned from the entry, refusing to go that day, and spent it in his chamber, where he met with much of the Lord’s presence, as he himself afterwards testified, and got very evident discoveries of the nature of these temptations and suggestions of Satan, which were likely to prevail with him before. Upon Monday, giving a reason to the said Sir Walter and his lady why he went not to church with them, he took occasion to be plain and express in testifying against the Indulgence in the original rise, spring, and complex nature thereof; and finding his service would be no longer acceptable to them, he went to the south, where he met with John Welch, minister of Irongray. He stayed some time in his company, who, finding him a man every way qualified for the ministry, pressed him to accept a license to preach, which he for some time refused, chiefly upon the account that, having such clear discoveries of the sinfulness of the Indulgence, he could not but testify against it explicitly as soon as he should have an opportunity to preach the gospel in public. But the force of his objections being answered by Mr Welch’s serious solicitations, he was prevailed on to accept of a license from the outed ministers, who were then preaching in the fields, and had not complied with the Indulgence. Accordingly, he was licensed by Mr Welch and Mr Semple, at Haughhead in Teviotdale, at the house of Henry Hall. Here he told them, he should be a bone of contention among them; for if he preached against a national sin among them, it should be against the Indulgences, and for the duty of separation from the Indulged.
After he was licensed, they sent him at first to preach in Annandale. He said, how could he go there? He knew not what sort of people they were. But Mr Welch said, “Go your way, Ritchie, and set the fire of hell to their tail.” He went, and the first day he preached upon the text Jer. 3:19, “How shall I put thee among the children?” In the application he said, “Put you amongst the children! the offspring of robbers and thieves.” Many have heard of Annandale thieves. Some of them got a merciful cast that day, and told afterwards, that it was the first field-meeting ever they attended; and that they went out of curiosity to see how a minister could preach in a tent, and people sit on the ground. After this, he preached several times with Mr Welch, Mr Semple, and others, until the year 1679, when he and Mr Welwood were called before that Erastian meeting at Edinburgh, in order to be deposed for their freedom and faithfulness in preaching against the sinful compliance of that time.
After this he preached at Maybole, where many thousands of people were assembled together, it being the first time that the sacrament of the Lord’s supper was then dispensed in the open fields. At this time he used yet more freedom in testifying against the sinfulness of the Indulgence, for which he was also called before another meeting of the indulged in Galloway; and a little after that, he was again called before a presbytery of them, at Sundewall, in Dunscore, in Nithsdale. This was the third time they had designed to take his license from him. Here it was that Robert Gray, a Northumberland man (who suffered afterwards in the Grassmarket in the year 1682), Robert Nelson, and others, protested against them for such conduct. At this meeting they prevailed with him to give his promise, that for some short time he should forbear such an explicit way of preaching against the Indulgence, and separation from them who were indulged. This promise lay heavy on him afterwards, as will appear in its own proper place.
After the giving of this promise, finding himself by virtue thereof bound up from declaring the whole counsel of God, he turned a little melancholy; and, to get the definite time of that unhappy promise exhausted, he went over to Holland, in the end of the year 1678, not knowing what work the Lord had for him there; where he conversed with Mr M‘Ward and others of our banished Worthies. In his private conversation and exercise in families, but especially by his public sermon in the Scots Kirk at Rotterdam, he was most refreshing unto many souls. He dwelt mostly upon conversion work, from that text, Matt. 11:28, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest;” which was most satisfying and agreeable to Mr M‘Ward, Mr Brown, and others, who had been informed by the Indulged, and those of their persuasion, that he could preach nothing but babble against the Indulgence, cess-paying, etc. Here he touched upon none of these things, except in prayer, when lamenting over the deplorable case of Scotland by means of defection and tyranny.
About this time Mr 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, ye are called to undergo your trials before us, to go home, and lift the fallen standard, and display it publicly before the world. But before ye put your hand to it, ye shall go to as many of the field ministers as ye can find, and give them your hearty invitation to go with you; and if they will not go, go alone, and the Lord will go with you.”
Accordingly he was ordained by Mr M‘Ward, Mr Brown, and Roleman, a famous Dutch divine. When their hands were lifted up from his head, Mr M‘Ward continued his still, and cried out, “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 beginning of the year 1680, he returned to Scotland, where he spent some time in going from minister to minister, of those who formerly kept up the public standard of the gospel in the fields. But all in vain: for the persecution after Bothwell Bridge being then so hot against all who had not accepted the Indulgence and Indemnity, none of them would adventure upon that hazard, except Donald Cargill and Thomas Douglas, who came together, and kept a public fast-day in Darmeid Muir, betwixt Clydesdale and Lothian; one of the chief causes of which was the reception of the Duke of York, that sworn vassal of antichrist, in Scotland, after he had been excluded from England and several other places. After several meetings among themselves, for forming the declaration and testimony which they were about to publish to the world, at last they agreed upon one, which they published at the market-cross of Sanquhar, June 22, 1680, from which place it is commonly called the Sanquhar Declaration. After this they were obliged, for some time, to separate one from another, and go to different corners of the land; and that not only upon account of the urgent call and necessity of the people, who were then in a most starving condition with respect to the free and faithfully preached gospel, but also on account of the indefatigable scrutiny of the enemy, who, for their better encouragement, had, by proclamation, offered 5000 merks for apprehending Cameron, 3000 for Cargill and Douglas, and 100 for each of the rest who were concerned in the publication of the foresaid declaration.
After parting, Richard Cameron went to Swine Knowe, in New Monkland, where he had a most confirming and comforting day upon that soul-refreshing text, Isaiah 32:2, “And a man shall be as an hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest.” In his preface that day, he said he was fully assured that the Lord, in mercy unto this church and nation, would sweep the throne of Britain of that unhappy race of the name of Stuart, for their treachery, tyranny and lechery, but especially their usurping the royal prerogatives of Christ, and this he was as sure of as his hands were upon that cloth, yea, and more sure, for he had that by sense, but the other by faith. Mr H. E. (probably Henry Erskine), who suffered much by imprisonment and otherwise in this period, and who, although otherwise a worthy good man, was so misled, that he had one time premeditated a sermon, wherein he intended to speak somewhat against Mr Cameron and Mr Cargill (so far was he from taking part with them), heard on the Saturday night an audible voice, which said twice unto him, Audi (hear)! He answered, Audio (I hear)! The voice spoke again, and said, “Beware of calling Cameron’s words vain.” This stopped him from his intended purpose; which he told himself unto an old reverend minister, who afterwards related the matter as above stated.
When Richard Cameron came to preach in and about Cumnock, he was much opposed by the lairds of Logan and Horsecleugh, who represented him as a Jesuit, and a vile, naughty person. But yet some of the Lord’s people, who had retained their former faithfulness, gave him a call to preach in that parish. When he began, he exhorted the people to mind that they were in the sight and presence of a holy God, and that all of them were hastening to an endless state of either weal or woe. Andrew Dalziel, a debauchee (a cocker or fowler), who was in the house, it being a stormy day, cried out, “Sir, we neither know you nor your God.” Mr Cameron, musing a little, said, “You, and all who do not know my God in mercy, shall know Him in His judgments, which shall be sudden and surprising in a few days upon you; and I, as a sent servant of Jesus Christ, whose commission I bear, and whose badge I wear upon my breast, give you warning, and leave you to the justice of God.” Accordingly, in a few days after, the said Andrew, being in perfect health, took his breakfast plentifully, but before he rose he fell a-vomiting, and died in a most frightful manner. This admonishing passage, together with the power and presence of the Lord going along with the gospel, as dispensed by him during the little time he was there, made the foresaid two lairds desire a conference with him, to which he readily assented; after which they were obliged to acknowledge that they had been in the wrong, and desired his forgiveness. He said, from his heart he forgave them what wrongs they had done to him; but for what wrongs they had done to the interest of Christ, it was not his part to forgive them; but he was persuaded that they would be remarkably punished for it. To the laird of Logan he said, that he should be written childless; and to Horsecleugh, that he should suffer by burning: both of which afterwards came to pass.
Upon the 4th of July following, being eighteen days before his death, he preached at the Grass Waterside near Cumnock. In his preface that day, he said, “There are three or four things I have to tell you this day which I must not omit, because I will be but a breakfast or four-hours to the enemy, some day or other shortly; and then my work and my time will both be finished. And the first is this: As for the King who is now upon the throne of Britain, after him there shall not be a crowned King of the name of Stuart in Scotland. Secondly, There shall not be an old Covenanter’s head above ground, that swore these Covenants with uplifted hands, ere ye get a right Reformation set up in Scotland. Thirdly, A man shall ride a day’s journey in the shires of Galloway, Ayr, and Clydesdale, and not see a reeking house nor hear a cock crow, ere ye get a right Reformation; and several other shires shall be little better. And fourthly, The rod that the Lord will make instrumental in this, will be the French and other foreigners, together with a party in this land joining them; but ye, that stand to the testimony in that day, be not discouraged at the fewness of your number; for when Christ comes to raise up His own work in Scotland, He will not want men enough to work for him.”
In the week following, he preached in the parish of Carluke, upon these words, Isa. 49:24, “Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered?” The Sabbath following, at Hind Bottom, near Crawfordjohn, he preached on these words, John 5:40, “And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” In the time of this sermon he fell a-weeping, and the greater part of the multitude also, so that few dry cheeks were to be seen among them. After this, to the day of his death, he mostly kept his chamber door shut until night; for the mistress of the house where he stayed, having been several times at the door, got no access. At last she forced it up, and finding him very melancholy, earnestly desired to know how it was with him. He said, “That weary promise I gave to these ministers has lain heavy upon me, and for it my carcass shall dung the wilderness, and that ere it be long.” Being now near his end, he had such a large earnest of the Spirit, and such a longing desire for full possession of the heavenly inheritance, that he seldom prayed in a family, asked a blessing, or gave thanks, but he prayed for patience to wait until the Lord’s appointed time came.
The last Sabbath he preached was with Donald Cargill in Clydesdale, on Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.” That day he said he was sure that the Lord would lift up a standard against antichrist which would go to the gates of Rome, and burn it with fire, and that “blood” should be their sign and “no quarter” their word; and earnestly he wished that it might begin in Scotland. At their parting, they concluded to meet the second Sabbath after this at Craigmead, but he was killed on the Thursday thereafter. The Sabbath following, Cargill preached in the parish of Shotts, upon that text, 2 Sam. 3:38, “Know ye not that there is a prince and great man fallen this day in Israel?”
The last night of his life, he was in the house of William Mitchell of Meadowhead, at the Water of Ayr, where about twenty-three horse and forty foot had continued with him that week. That morning a woman gave him water to wash his face and hands; and having washed and dried them with a towel, he looked to his hands, and laid them on his face, saying, “This is their last washing. I have need to make them clean, for there are many to see them.” At this the woman’s mother wept, but 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.”
The people who remained with him were in some hesitation whether they should abide together for their own defence, or disperse and shift for themselves. But that day, being the 22nd of July, they were surprised by Bruce of Earlshall; who, having got command of Airley’s troop and Strachan’s dragoons, upon notice given him by Sir John Cochrane of Ochiltree, came furiously upon them, about four o’clock in the afternoon, when lying on the east end of Airsmoss. When they saw the enemy approaching, and no possibility of escaping, they all gathered round Cameron, while he prayed a short word; wherein he repeated this expression thrice over, “Lord, spare the green, and take the ripe.” When ended, he said to his brother, with great intrepidity, “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!” And to the rest he said, “Be encouraged all of you to fight it out valiantly; for all of you that shall fall this day, I see heaven’s gates open to receive you.” But the enemy approaching, they immediately drew up; eight horse with Cameron on the right, the rest with valiant Hackston on the left, and the foot in the middle; where they all behaved with much bravery, until overpowered by a superior number. At last Hackston was taken a prisoner, as will afterwards be more fully narrated; Cameron was killed on the spot, and his head and hands cut off, and taken to Edinburgh.
His father being in prison for the same cause, they carried them to him, to add grief unto his former sorrow, and inquired at him if he knew them. Taking his son’s head and hands, which were very fair - being a man of a fair complexion like himself - he kissed them, and said, “I know - I know 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 hath made goodness and mercy to follow us all our days.” After which, by order of the Council, his head was fixed upon the Netherbow Port, and his hands beside it, with the fingers upward.
Thus this valiant soldier and minister of Jesus Christ came to his end, after he had been not only highly instrumental in turning many souls unto God, but also in lifting up a faithful standard for his royal Lord and Master, against all His enemies, and the defections and sinful compliances of that time. One of his and Christ’s declared enemies, when he looked at his head at Edinburgh, gave him this testimony, saying, “There’s the head and hands of a man who lived praying and preaching, and died praying and fighting.” And wherever the faithful contendings of the Covenanted Church of Scotland are made mention of, this, to his honour, shall be recorded of him.
When he was slain, there was found upon him a short paper, or bond of mutual defence, which the reader will find inserted in Wodrow’s History, and in the Appendix to the “Cloud of Witnesses.” There are a few of his Letters now published along with Mr Renwick’s Collection of Letters. But the only sermon of his that appeared in print formerly, is that preached at Carluke, entitled, “Good news to Scotland,” published in 1733. He wrote also a defence of the Sanquhar Declaration, but we can give no account of its ever being published. Some more of his sermons were lately published.
AN ACROSTIC ON HIS NAME.
Most noble Cameron of renown,
A fame of thee shall ne’er go down;
Since truth with zeal thou didst pursue,
To Zion’s King loyal and true.
Ev’n when the dragon spu’d his flood,
Resist thou didst unto the blood;
Ran swiftly, in thy Christian race,
In faith and patience, to that place
Christ did prepare for such as thee
He knew would not his standard flee;
A pattern of valour and zeal,
Rather to suffer than to fail,
Didst show thyself with might and main,
Counting that dross others thought gain;
A faithful witness ’gainst all those,
Men of all sorts did truth oppose;
Even thou with Moses didst esteem
Reproaches for the God of Heaven;
On Him alone thou didst rely,
Not sparing for His cause to die.
This article on Richard Cameron is from John Howie’s Scots Worthies, first published 1775, revised and enlarged 1781. Revised from the author’s original edition, by Rev W H Carslaw, (Edinburgh: Johnstone, Hunter and Company, 1870), pp 421-429.
Editorial notes in square brackets were inserted by Rev W H Carslaw, who stated in his preface:
“Nothing new has been inserted without being carefully marked; and even these insertions have been made as few and brief as possible, their principle object being to supply important historical links for the reader’s information and guidance. A few of Howie’s notes have also been put into the text where this could easily be done, and several verbal corrections have been made.”
SCOTTISH REFORMATION SOCIETY
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