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The Scottish Nation

PEDEN, ALEXANDER, famed for his piety and zeal, and supposed powers of prophecy, was born in the parish of Sorn, Ayrshire, in 1626. After having obtained a regular university education, he was for some time employed as schoolmaster, precentor, and session-clerk, in the parish of Tarbolton. According to Wodrow, he was also at one period precentor at Fenwick. Shortly before the Restoration, he was settled minister of New-Luce, in Galloway, where, however, he only continued three years, having been, in 1662, ejected from his charge, with the majority of the Scots Presbyterian clergy. On quitting his parish, he preached a farewell sermon to his people, who, during its delivery, were deeply affected, especially when he told them that they should never see his face again in that pulpit. On the conclusion of the service, which lasted till night, he closed the pulpit door and knocked three times on it with his Bible, saying as often, “I arrest thee in my Master’s name, that none ever enter thee but such as come in by the door as I have done.” It so happened, that none of the Indulged or Episcopal ministers ever officiated in the pulpit of New-Luce church, which was not again opened till the Revolution restored it to the Presbyterians. This remarkable circumstance, with several striking coincidences of a similar kind, procured for Peden the credit of possessing, in a high degree, the gift of foreseeing and foretelling future events, relating to himself and the oppressed Church of Scotland.

After his ejection he lurked in various retired parts of the country, and had frequent narrow escapes from his persecutors. In 1666 a proclamation was issued against him and several of the ejected ministers, for having, contrary to law, continued to exercise their ministerial functions; and as Peden disregarded a summons to appear before the privy council, he was declared a rebel, and forfeited in both life and fortune. For greater safety, he occasionally passed some time in Ireland. At length, in 1673, he was apprehended by Major Cockburn, in the house of Hugh Ferguson of Knockdow, in Carrick, who was fined 1,000 merks for harbouring him. Being carried prisoner to Edinburgh, Peden was, after examination, sent to the Bass, where he was kept in close confinement till 1678. In December of that year he was, with sixty others, removed to Edinburgh, and condemned to be transported to Virginia, not to return to Scotland under pain of death. After this sentence was passed, Peden frequently exclaimed, “That the ship was not yet built which should take him and his fellow-prisoners to America!” They were sent by sea to London, and on their arrival there, the captain of the vessel that was engaged to convey them to Virginia, finding that they were pious Christians, who were banished for their Presbyterian principles, and not thieves and robbers, as he had been given to understand, indignantly refused to be the instrument of carrying their iniquitous sentence into execution, and they were in consequence soon set at liberty. Peden spent some time in London and other places in England, and ventured to return to Scotland in 1679, but during the remainder of his life was forced to lurk, as before, in different places of concealment. He sometimes found a retreat in Ireland, sometimes in Scotland, till, at length, worn out with his prolonged toils and sufferings, he returned to Sorn, and lived chiefly in an artificial cave in the immediate vicinity of the garrison posted in Sorn castle, uniformly protected, as he had been in a hundred places before, from the peering searches of the bloodthirsty soldiery. He was visited on his deathbed by the celebrated James Renwick, and after he had been vainly searched for in his brother’s house, he died there January 1686, in his sixtieth year. He was interred in the churchyard of Auchinleck; but forty days afterwards his body was lifted by a troop of dragoons, who carried it two miles to the village of Old Cumnock, with the view of hanging it, as a mark of ignominy, on a gallows there, but they eventually buried it at the gallows foot. “The place,” says Mr. M’Gavin, “is now the common burying-ground for Cumnock parish.” What are styled ‘The Prophecies of Alexander Peden.’ Fathered upon him after his death, were collected into a small tract, which long formed one of the publications most highly prized by the peasantry of Scotland.

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