Covenanter Prophet-Fugitive


Alexander Peden (1626-86) alone seemed
to bear a charmed life. He is the Prophet of the
Covenant, and, in some respects, its most romantic
figure. Ejected in 1663 from his Galloway parish,
outlawed for his complicity in the Pentland Rising,
imprisoned on tho Bass Rock (1673-7), banished to
Virginia, and conveyed on the outward voyage to
London, where he was for some unknown reason
liberated, he spent his remaining years in Ireland or
Scotland, "going," as he says, "from the one bloody
land to the other bloody land." Dogged by spies, and
hunted by dragoons, he yet died in his bed. A man
of great personal strength and activity, his escapes
were so hairbreadth as to seem miraculous. Peden
himself would have been at no loss for an explanation.
So long as God had work for him, no harm could
befall him. Dogs snuffed at the entrance of the cave
in which he was hiding, and still he was not discovered.
Soldiers stabbed the beds or heaps of unthreshed corn
under which he lay concealed ; yet they touched him
not. Through bogs, in which his pursuers were
drowned, he knew and found the path of safety.
Once, as he lay under a bank, a dragoon's horse
grazed his head with his hoof, pinning his bonnet deep
into the clay, and leaving him uninjured. In his mind
the words,
" Snow and vapours, wind and storm, fulfilling
His word" (Ps. cxlviii., verse 8), were ever
present ; and, again and again, the Lord heard his
prayer, and answered him in the day of his distress.
Escaping to Scotland from Carrickfergus with a
number of fellow-sufferers, his boat was becalmed and
in danger of capture.
"
Waving his hand to the west,
from whence he desired the wind, he said,
* Lord, give
us a loof-full of wind ; fill the sails, Lord, and give us
a fresh gale, and let us have a swift and safe passage
over to the bloody land, come of us what will."
Before he ended his prayer, the flapping sails filled
like blown bladders, and he and his comrades were
saved. More than once a mist, gathering at his
prayer, hid him from pursuit. On one occasion, horse
and foot chased him so closely that escape seemed
hopeless. If God saved them not, he and his companions
were dead men. " Then he began and said,
' Lord, it is Thy enemies' day, hour, and power ; twine
them about the hill. Lord, and cast the lap of Thy
cloak o'er old Sandy and thir (these) poor things, and
save us this one time ; and we'll keep it in remembrance,
and tell it to the commendation of Thy goodness,
pity, and compassion, what Thou didst for us at
such a time.'" And, as he prayed, the mist covered
the hills and the fugitives.
In all his wanderings and escapes, the Psalms were
to him a perennial source of strength. Patrick Walker
relates that he had "preached in a shield or sheephouse
in a desert place," upon a Sabbath night.
" When ended, he and those that were with him lay
down in the sheep-house, and got some sleep : he rose
early, and went up to the burn-side and stayed long :
when he came in to them, he did sing the 32nd Psalm,
from the 7th verse to the end ; when ended, he
repeated the 8th verse :
' Thou art my hiding-place, thou shalt
From trouble keep me free ;
Thou with songs of deliverance
About shalt compass me '

(Taken from The Psalms in Human Life by Rowland Prothero, 1903)

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