Sandy Peden, Prophet of the Covenant

Worship 'Neath the Skies
As, one by one, his companions were killed or captured, 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 the 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 remain- ing 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 un- threshed 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 un- injured. 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-fall 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 sheep-house 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 ':

 'These and the following are sweet lines, which I got at the burn-side this morning, and we'll get mo to-morrow, and so we'll get daily provision: He was never behind with any that put their trust in Him, and He will not be in our common, nor none who needily depends on Him; and so we will go on in His strength, making mention of His righteousness and of His only.' "

A deep vein of melancholy traversed Peden's mind. Yet his sympathy, tenderness, and racy humour light up, like glints of sunshine, the gloom of his forebodings of judgment. His pithy sayings bear his own hall-mark; his keen insight into human nature made his nicknames stick like burrs. His intense realisation of God's abiding presence and fatherly care bred in him a filial familiarity; yet never, in its simplest or homeliest expressions, does his language lose a natural dignity. Men so constituted by nature, so moulded by. the circumstances of their times, so fashioned by their own manner of life, have not only the temperament, but the training of the seer. The visions of Peden's fervent faith, painted with all the force of his picture-making imagination, were received with awe by his hearers, who trembled at the strange verifica- tion of his predictions.

Two specimens of his preaching, both given by Walker, may be quoted. In both, the text is taken from the Psalms. The first illustration is from the year 1682, when Peden " was in Kyle, and preaching upon that text, ' The plowers plowed upon my back, and drew long their furrows' (Ps. cxxix., verse 3); where he said, ' Would you know who first yoked this plough ? It was cursed Cain, when he drew his furrows so long and so deep, that he let out the heart-blood of his brother Abel . . . and that plough has and will gang summer and winter, frost and fresh-weather, till the world's end; and at the sound of the last trumpet, when all are in a flame, their theats (traces) will bum, and their swingle-trees will fall to the ground ; the plow-men will lose their grips of the plough, and the gade-men will throw away their gades ; and then, 0 the yelling and skreeching that will be among all his cursed seed, clapping their hands, and crying to hills and mountains to cover them from the face of the Lamb and of Him that sits upon the throne, for their hatred of Him and malice at His people!'"

The second illustration belongs to the year 1685, when he was " preaching in the night-time, in a barn at Carrack, upon that text, Psalm Ixviii., i, 2, 'Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered; let them also that hate Him flee before Him. As smoke is driven, so drive thou them'; so insisting how the enemies and haters of God and godliness were tossed and driven as smoke or chaff, by the wind of God's vengeance while on earth, and that wind would blow and drive them all to hell in the end; stooping down, there being chaff among his feet, he took a handful of it, and said, (The Duke of York, the Duke of York, and now King of Britain, a known enemy of God and godliness; it was by the vengeance of God that he ever got that name; but as ye see me throw away that chaff, so that the wind of vengeance shall blow and drive him off that throne; and he, nor no other of that name shall ever come on it again.' "

Throughout the last few years of Peden's life the severity of the Government towards the Cameronians increased, till it culminated in the "Killing Times" of 1684-5. Their bold repudiation of the king's authority, coupled with their declara- tion that his throne was forfeited, was a political danger which could not be ignored. Revolution was in the air. A popular party was forming both in England and Scotland, and the Government, making the Rye House Plot their plea, struck hard against its leaders, as well as against the Cameronians.

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

Note: I once sent a sketch of this robust Scot to Mel Gibson's movie production people. To me there was a wonderful story here strangely crossing the message of the Passion of the Christ with the message of Braveheart. They did not share my enthusiasm.

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