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Book of Scottish Story
Wat the Prophet


About sixty years ago there departed this life an old man, who, for sixty years previous to that, was known only by the name of Wat the Prophet. I am even uncertain what his real surname was, though he was familiarly known to the most of my relatives of that day, and I was intimately acquainted with his nephew and heir, whose name was Paterson, yet I hardly think that it was the prophet’s surname, but that the man I knew was a maternal nephew. So far, I am shortcoming at the very outset of my tale, for in truth I never heard him distinguished by any other name than Wat the Prophet.

He must have been a very singular person in every respect, In his youth he was so much more clever and acute than his fellows, that he was viewed as a sort of phenomenon, or rather "a kind of being that had mair airt than his ain.” It was no matter what Wat tried, for either at mental or manual exertion he excelled; and his gifts were so miscellaneous, that it was no wonder his most intimate acquaintances rather stood in awe of him. At the sports of the field, at the exposition of any part of Scripture, at prayer, and at mathematics, he was altogether unequalled. By this, I mean in the sphere of his acquaintance in the circle in which he moved, for he was the son of a respectable farmer who had a small property. In the last-mentioned art his comprehension is said to have been truly wonderful. He seemed to have an intuitive knowledge of the science of figures from beginning to end, and needed but a glance at the rules to outgo his masters.

But this was not all. In all the labours of the field his progress was equally unaccountable. He could with perfect ease have mown as much hay as two of the best men, sown as much, reaped as much, shorn as many sheep, and smeared as many, and with a little extra exertion could have equalled the efforts of three ordinary men at any time. As for ploughing, or any work with horses, he would never put a hand to it, for he then said he had not the power of the labour himself. How ever unaccountable all this may be, it is no fabrication; I have myself heard several men tell, who were wont to shear and smear sheep with him, when he was a much older man than they, that even though he would have been engaged in some fervent demonstration. in spite of all they could do,"he was aye popping off twa sheep, or maybe three, for their ane."

I could multiply anecdotes of this kind without number, but these were mere atoms of the prophet’s character a sort of excrescences, which were nevertheless in keeping with the rest, being matchless of their kind. He was in tended by his parents for the Church that is the Church of the Covenant, to which they belonged. I know not if Wat had consented thereto, but his education tended that way. However, as he said himself, he was born for a higher destiny, which was to reveal the future will of God to mankind for ever and ever. I have been told that he committed many of his prophecies to writing; and I believe it, for he was a scholar, and a man of rather supernatural abilities; but I have never been able to find any of them. I have often heard fragments of them, but they were recited by ignorant country people, who, never having understood them themselves, could not make them comprehensible to others. But the history of his call to the prophecy I have so often heard, that I think I can state the particulars, although a little confused in my recollection of them.

This event occurred about this time one hundred years, on an evening in spring, as Wat was going down a wild glen, which I know full well."I was in a contemplative mood, he said (for he told it to any that asked him), and was meditating on the mysteries of redemption, and doubting, grievously doubting, the merits of an atonement by blood; when, to my astonishment in such a place, there was one spoke to me close behind, saying, in the Greek language, ‘Is it indeed so? Is thy faith no better rooted?’

"I looked behind me, but, perceiving no one, my hair stood all on end, for I thought it was a voice from heaven; and, after gazing into the firmament, and all around me, I said fear fully, in the same language, ‘Who art thou that speakest?’ And the voice answered me again,‘ I am one who laid down my life, witnessing for the glorious salvation which thou art about to deny; turn, and behold me!’

"And I turned about, for the voice seemed still behind me, turn as I would, and at length I perceived dimly the figure of an old man, of singular aspect and dimensions, close by me. His form was exceedingly large and broad, and his face shone with benignity; his beard hung down to his girdle, and he had sandals on his feet, which covered his ankles. His right arm and his breast were bare, but he had a crimson mantle over his right shoulder, part of which covered his head, and came round his waist. Having never seen such a figure or dress, or countenance before, I took him for an angel, sent from above to rebuke me; so I fell at his feet to worship him, or rather to entreat forgiveness for a sin which I had not power to withstand. But he answered me in these words: ‘Rise up, and bow not to me, for I am thy fellow-servant, and a messenger from Him whom thou hast in thy heart denied. Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve. Come, I am commissioned to take thee into the presence of thy Maker and Redeemer.’

"And I said, ‘Sir, how speakest thou in this wise? God is in heaven, and we are upon the earth; and it is not given to mortal man to scale the heavenly regions, or come into the presence of the Almighty. And he said, ‘Have thy learning and thy knowledge carried thee no higher than this? Knowest thou not that God is present in this wild glen, the same as in the palaces of light and glory that His presence surrounds us at this moment and that He sees all our actions, hears our words, and knows the inmost thoughts of our hearts?’

"And I said, ‘Yes, I know it.’

"‘Then, are you ready and willing at this moment,’ said he,‘to step into His presence, and avow the sentiments which you have of late been cherishing?’

"And I said, ‘I would rather have time to think the matter over again.’

"‘Alack! poor man!’ said he, ‘so you have never been considering that you have all this while been in His immediate presence, and have even been uttering thy blasphemous sentiments aloud to His face, when there was none to hear but He and thyself.’

"And I said, ‘Sir, a man cannot force his belief.’

"And he said, ‘Thou sayest truly; but I will endeavour to convince thee.’

Here a long colloquy ensued about the external and internal evidences of the Christian religion, which took Wat nearly half a day to relate; but he still maintained his point. He asked his visitant twice who he was, but he declined telling him, saying he wanted his reason convinced, and not to take his word for anything.

Their conversation ended by this mysterious sage leading Wat away by a path which he did not know, which was all covered with a cloud of exceeding brightness. At length they came to a house like a common pavilion, which they entered, but all was solemn silence, and they heard nobody moving in it, and Wat asked his guide where they were now.

"This is the place where heavenly gifts are distributed to humanity," said the reverend apostle; "but they are now no more required, being of no repute. No one asks for them, nor will they accept of them when offered, for worldly wisdom is all in all with the men of this age. Their preaching is a mere farce—an ostentatious parade, to show off great and shining qualifications, one third of the professors not believing one word of what they assert. The gift of prophecy is denied and laughed at; and all revelation made to man by dreams or visions utterly disclaimed, as if the almighty’s power of communicating with his creatures were not only shortened, but cut off for ever. This fountain of inspiration, once so crowded, now, you see, a dreary solitude.”

"It was, in truth, a dismal looking place, for in every chamber, as we pass along, there were benches and seats judgment, but none to occupy them; the green grass was peeping through the seams of the flooring and chinks of the wall, and never was there a more appalling picture of desolation.

"At length, in the very innermost chamber, we came to three men sitting a row, the middle one elevated above the others; but they were all sleeping their posts, and looked as if they had slept there for a thousand years, for their garments were mouldy, and their faces ghastly and withered.

"I did not know what to do or say, for I looked at my guide, and he seemed overcome with sorrow; but thinking it as ill-manners for an intruder not to speak, I said, ‘Sirs, I think you are drowsily inclined?’ but none of them moved. At length my guide said; in a loud voice, ‘Awake, ye servants of the Most High! Or is your sleep to be everlasting?’

"On that they all opened their eyes once, and stared at me, but their eyes were like the eyes of dead men, and no one of them moved a muscle, save the middlemost, who pointed with pale haggard hand to three small books, or scrolls, that lay on the bench before them.

"Then my guide said, ‘Put forth thine hand and choose one from these. They are all divine gifts, and in these latter days rarely granted to any of the human race.’ One was red as blood, the other pale, and the third green; the latter was farthest from me, and my guide said, ‘Ponder well before you take your choice. It is a sacred mystery, and from the choice you make, our destiny is fixed through time and eternity.’ I then stretched out my hand, and took the one farthest from me, and he said, ‘It is the will of the Lord; so let it be! That which you have chosen is the gift of the spirit of prophecy. From henceforth you must live a life of sufferance and tribulation, but your life shall be given you for a proof, in order that you may reveal to mankind all that is to befall them in the latter days. And I opened the book, and it was all written in mystic characters, which I could not decipher nor comprehend; and he said, ‘Put up the book in thy bosom, and preserve it as thou wouldst do the heart within thy breast; for as long as thou keepest that book, shall thy natural life remain, and the spirit of God remain with thee, and whatsoever thou sayest in the spirit, shall come to pass. But beware that thou deceive not thyself; for, if thou endeavour to pass off studied speeches, and words of the flesh for those of the spirit, woe be unto thee! It had been better for thee that thou never hadst been born. Put up the hook; thou canst not understand it now, but it shall be given thee to understand it, for it is an oracle of the most high God, and its words and signs fail not. Go thy ways, and return to the house of thy fathers and thy kinsfolk.’

"And I said, ‘Sir, I know not where to go, for I cannot tell by what path you brought me hither.’ And he took me by the hand, and led me out by a back-door of the pavilion; and we entered a great valley, which was all in utter darkness, and I could perceive through the gloom that many people were passing the same way with ourselves; and I said, ‘Sir, this is dreadful! What place is this?’ And he said, ‘This is the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Many of those you see will grope on here for ever, and never get over, for they know not whether they go, or what is before them. But seest thou nothing beside?

"And I said, ‘I see a bright and shining light beyond, whose rays reach even to this place.’

‘That,’ said he, ‘is the light of the everlasting Gospel; and to those to whom it is given to perceive that beacon of divine love, the passage over this valley is easy. I have shown it to you; but if you keep that intrusted to your care, you shall never enter this valley again, but live and reveal the will of God to man till mortality shall no more remain. You shall renew your age like the eagles, and be refreshed with the dews of renovation from the presence of the Lord. Sleep on now, and take your rest, for I must leave you again in this world of sin and sorrow. Be you strong, and overcome it, for men will hold you up to reproach and ridicule, and speak all manner of evil of you; but see that you join them not in their voluptuousness and iniquity, and the Lord be with you!’”

There is no doubt that this is a confused account of the prophet’s sublime vision, it being from second hands that I had it; and, for one thing, I know that one-half of his relation is not contained in it. For the consequences I can avouch. From that time forth he announced his mission, and began prophesying to such families as he was sent to. But I forgot to mention a very extraordinary fact, that this vision of his actually lasted nine days and nine nights, and at the end of hat time he found himself on the very ‘individual spot in the glen where the voice first spoke to him, and so much were his looks changed, that, when he went in, none of the family knew him.

He mixed no more with the men of the world, but wandered about in wilds and solitudes, and when in the spirit, he prophesied with a sublimity and grandeur never equalled. He had plenty of money, and some property to boot, which his father left him; but these he never regarded, but held on his course of severe abstemiousness, often subsisting on bread and water, and sometimes for days on water alone, from some motive known only to himself. He had a small black pony on which he rode many years, and which he kept always plump and fat. 'This little animal waited upon him in all his fastings and prayings with unwearied patience and affection. There is a well, situated on the south side of a burn, called the Earny Cleuch, on the very boundary between the shires of Dumfries and Selkirk. It is situated in a most sequestered and lonely place, and is called to this day the Prophet`s Well, from the many pilgrimages that he made to it; for it had been revealed to him in one of his visions that this water had some divine virtue, partaking of the nature of the Water of Life. At one time he lay beside this well for nine days and nights, the pony feeding beside him all that time, and though there is little doubt that he had some food with him, no body knew of any that he had; and it was believed that he fasted all that time, or at least subsisted, on the water of that divine well.

Some men with whom he was familiar - for indeed he was respected and liked by everybody, the whole tenor of his life having been so inoffensive;- some of his friends, I say, tried to reason him into a belief of his mortality, and that he would taste of death like other men; but that he treated as altogether chimerical, and not worth answering; when he did answer, it was by assuring them, that as long as he kept his mystic scroll, and could drink of his well, his body was proof against all the thousand shafts of death. His unearthly monitor appeared to him very frequently, and revealed many secrets to him, and at length disclosed to him that he was STEPHEN, the first martyr for the Gospel of Christ. Our prophet, in the course of time, grew so familiar with him, that he called him by the friendly name of Auld Steenie, and told his friends when he had seen him, and part of what he had told him, but never the whole. When not in his visionary and prophetic moods, he sometimes indulged in a little relaxation, such as draught playing and fishing; but in these, like other things, he quite excelled all compeers. He was particularly noted for killing salmon, by throwing the spear at a great distance. He gave all his fish away to poor people, or such as he favoured that were nearest to him at the time; so that, either for his prophetic gifts, or natural bounty, the prophet was always a welcome guest, whether to poor or rich.

He prophesied for the space of forty years, foretelling many things that came to pass in his lifetime, and many which have come to pass since his death. I have heard of a parable of his, to which I can do no justice, of a certain woman who had four sons, three of whom were legitimate, and the other not. The latter being rather uncultivated in his manners, and not so well educated as his brethren, his mother took for him ample possessions at a great distance from the rest of the family. The young blade succeeded in his farming speculations amazingly, and was grateful to his parent, and friendly with his brethren in all their interchanges of visits. But when the mother perceived his success, she sent and demanded a tenth from him of all he possessed. This rather astounded the young man, and he hesitated about compliance in parting with so much, at any rate. But the parent insisted on her right to demand that or any sum which she chose, and the teind she would have. The lad, not wishing to break with his parent and benefactor, bade her say no more about it, and he would give her the full value of that she demanded as of his own accord; but she would have it in no other way than as her own proper right. On this the headstrong and powerful knave took the law on his mother; won, and ruined her; so that she and her three remaining sons were reduced to beggary. Wat then continued—-"And now it is to yourselves I speak this, ye children of my people, for this evil is nigh you, even at your doors. There are some here who will not see it, but there are seven here who will see the end of it, and then they shall know that there has been a prophet among them.

"It having been in a private family where this prophecy was delivered, they looked always forward with fear for some contention breaking out among them. But after the American war and its consequences, the whole of Wat’s parable was attributed thereto, and the good people relieved from the horrors of their impending and ruinous law-suit.

One day he was prophesying about the judgment, when a young gentleman said to him, "O, sir, I wish you could tell us when the judgment will be." "Alas! my man," returned he, "that is what I cannot do; for of that day and of that hour knoweth no man; no, not the angels which are in heaven, but the Almighty Father alone. But there will be many judgments before the great and general one. In seven years there will be a judgment on Scotland. In seven times seven there will be a great and heavy judgment on all the nations of Europe; and in other seven times seven there will be a greater one on all the nations of the world; but whether or not that is to be the last judgment, God only knoweth."

These are dangerous and difficult sayings of our prophet. I wonder what the Rev. Edward Irving would say about them, or if they approach in any degree to his calculations. Not knowing the year when this prophecy was delivered, it is impossible to reason on its fulfilment, but it is evident that both the first eras must be overpast. He always predicted ruin on the cause of Prince Charles Stuart, even when the plauses of his bravery and conquests. Our prophet detested the politics of that house, and announced ruin and desolation not only on the whole house, but on all who supported it. The only prophecy which I have yet seen in writing relates to that brave but unfortunate adventurer, and is contained in a letter to a Mrs Johnston, Moffat, dated October 1st, 1745, which must have been very shortly after the battle of Prestonpans. After some religious consolation, he says, "As for that man, Charles Stuart, let no spirit be cast down because of him, for he is only a meteor predicting a sudden storm, which is destined to quench his baleful light for ever. He is a broken pot; a vessel wherein God hath no pleasure. His boasting shall be turned into dread, and his pride of heart into astonishment. Terror shall make him afraid on every side; he shall look on his right hand, and there shall be none to know him; and on his left hand, and lo! destruction shall be ready at his side—even the first-born of death shall open his jaws to devour him. His confidence shall pass away for ever, even until the king of terrors arrive and scatter brimstone upon his habitation. His roots shall be dried up beneath, and the foliage of his boughs stripped off above, until his remembrance shall perish from the face of the earth. He shall be thrown into the deep waters, and the billows of God’s wrath shall pass over him. He shall fly to the mountains, but they shall not hide him; and to the islands, but they shall cast him out. Then shall he be driven from light into darkness, and chased out of the land.

"Knowest thou not this of old time, that the triumph of the wicked is of short duration, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment? Though his excellency mount up into the heavens, and his pride reach the stars, yet shall he perish for ever, like a shadow that passeth away and is no more. They who have seen him in the pride of his might shall say, Where is he? Where now is the man that made the nations to tremble? Is he indeed passed away as a dream, and chased away as a vision of the night? Yea, the Lord, who sent him as a scourge on the wicked of the land, shall ordain the hand of the wicked to scourge him till his Flesh and his soul shall depart, and his name be blotted out of the world. Therefore, my friend in the Lord, let none despond because of this man, but lay these things up in thy heart, and ponder on them, and when they are fulfilled, then shalt thou believe that the Lord sent me."

From the tenor of this prophecy, it would appear that he has borrowed, largely from some of the most sublime passages of Scripture, which could not fail of giving a tincture of sublimity to many of his sayings, so much admired by the country people. It strikes me there are some of these expressions literally from the Book of Job; but, notwithstanding, it must be acknowledged that some parts of it are peculiarly applicable to the after-fate of Charles Edward.

When old age began to steal on him, and his beloved friends to drop out of the world, one after another, he became extremely heavy-hearted at being obliged to continue for ever in the flesh. He never had any trouble; but he felt a great change take place in his constitution, which he did not expect, and it was then he became greatly concerned at being obliged to bear a body of fading flesh about until the end of time, often saying, that the flesh of man was never made to be immortal. In this dejected state he continued about two years, often entreating the Lord to resume that which He had given him, and leave him to the mercy of his Redeemer, like other men. Accordingly, his heavenly monitor appeared to him once more, and demanded the scroll of the spirit of prophecy, which was delivered up to him at the well in the wilderness; and then, with a holy admonition, he left him for ever on earth. Wat lived three years after this, cheerful and happy, and died in peace, old, and full of days, leaving a good worldly substance behind him.


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