‘DEATH and DESTRUCTION’ Shall be Written on the Lord’s Standard: Prophet Peden’s Apocalyptic Letter.
The letter from Alexander Peden given below is both undated and sent to unidentified ‘friends’….
Peden’s reference to the ‘weak wind in former trials’ in comparison to ‘the strong wind’ of the ‘present trial’ suggests that he was referring to the Killing Times in the first half of 1685. Like his letter, a number of his sermons and sayings from that period also portray a forthcoming apocalyptic struggle on Christ’s return.
The ‘Friends’ to which the letter was addressed are not identified. However, ‘friends’ was a term commonly used in letters sent to the Society people.
The letter begins with a recommendation that the ‘friends’ choose suffering, rather than the sin of compliance with the oaths of the authorities. Why? Because in Peden’s view God was ‘giving his saints a little trial, somewhat sharper than ordinary, that they may come out of the furnace like a refined lump, that they may run and be ready at tuck of drum. It is honourable to serve and be a footman in Christ’s company’.
The letter is also notable for the violence of its imagery: ‘The day is near, when BLOOD shall be the sign of Christ’s soldiers and, NO QUARTERS shall be their word; DEATH and DESTRUCTION shall be written with broad letters on our Lord’s standard.’
The content suggests that Peden composed the letter soon after he returned to Scotland in March, 1685, and before the defeat of the Argyll Rising in June.
Letter from Alexander Peden to Some Friends.
I long to hear how you spend your time, and how the grace of God groweth in your hearts. I know you and some other of the people of God, by reason of the present trial, have got up a fashion of complaining on Christ; but I defy you all to say any ill of him, except you wrong him: speak as ye can, and spare not; only I request you, let your expressions of Christ be suitable to your experiences of him; and if ye think Christ’s house to be bare and ill provided, and harder than ye looked for, I assure you Christ’s mind is only to diet you, and not to hunger you: Our Steward knows well when to spare, and when to spend: Christ knows whether heaping or straiking agrees best with our narrow vessels, for both are alike to him; spariug will never enrich [>250.] him, and spending will never impoverish him: he thinks it ill won which is holden off his people. Grace and glory comes out of Christ’s lucky hand: our gifts are but feckless gifts; his fulness is most straitened when it wants a vent: ’tis sweet and easy to Christ when he is holden busy in dividing the fulness of his Father’s house to his poor friends: he desires not to keep mercy over night; every new day brings new mercies to the people of God. Christ is the best mercy that ever the people of God yoked with: if ye please the wares, and what of his grace makes for you, he and you will sort about the price; he will sell good cheap that ye may speer for his shop again, and draw all the sale to himself. I counsel to go no further than Christ: and now when it seems to be come to your door, either to sin or suffer, I counsel you to lay your account for suffering; for an outgate coming from any other airth will be prejudicial to your souls interest. For your encouragement, remember he sends none a warfare upon their own expences: and blessed be the man who gives Christ all his money; for ye will be forced to block with him at last, when ye have no handmoney, and thou hast no heart to suffer; and so it is best for you to keep in with your old acquaintance, for new acquaintance with strange lords is a ready way to make a wound in grace’s side, that will not heal in haste; yea, your eyes may close before your wounds dry up; for grace is a tender piece, and is very easily distempered in the backslidings of our times; and if the wheels of it be once broken with sin, all the moyen in the world will not make them go about again, until they be once through Christ’s hands. [>251.]
I hope I have said more upon the subject than needed; for I have seen the marks of tenderness deeply drawn upon your carriages: but the temper of our declining and backsliding times invites you to double your diligence in seeking God; for I think God has a mind to search Jerusalem with lighted candles, and to go thro’ the whole house to visit all your chambers, and there shall not be one pin within all your gates, but God shall know whether it be crooked or even. He will never rest till he be at the bottom of mens hearts: he has turned out some folks hearts already, and slitted others; it seems he has a mind to make the inside the outside. There was but a weak wind in former trials, and therefore much chaff was flickered and hid amongst corn; but God now has raised a strong wind, and yet Christ’s own cannot be driven away; he will not lose one hair of his peoples heads, he knows them all by head-mark; O! if our hearts and love were blazing after him, we would rather choose to die believing, than to sin by compliance.
I defy the world to steal a lamb out of Christ’s fold unmissed. What is wanting on the last day of judgment. Christ must make them all up. That storm will not ly long, when the people of God have the worst of it; when the wind is both on their face and on their back, a great fire in God’s furnace will soon divide the gold from the dross. God’s mill hath been grinding fast, and it will not stand for want of water. If the people of God would but hold out of the gate, and give enemies a redd field, that God may be full of his enemies flesh: why, may he not give enemies a stroke over his peoples heads? [>252.] God is giving his saints a little trial, somewhat sharper than ordinary, that they may come out of the furnace like a refined lump, that they may run and be ready at tuck of drum. It is honourable to serve and be a footman in Christ’s company. The weakest of God’s people to run at Christ’s foot from morn to even, he will not tyre, to gang and ride time about; he will take his friends on behind him, when they begin to weary, and dow not hold foot, Christ will wait on. O how sweet will it be to see Christ marching up in a full body, and all the trumpets sounding the triumph of the Lamb’s victory, when the sword shall be red with the blood of enemies; when all the Heathen shall be rounding amongst themselves, that he hath done great things for them. Verily I fear the followers of the Lamb shall be forced to tread upon the dead bodies of the wicked ere all be done: the whole land shall have enough to do to shool them in the earth, ere all the play be play’d. Christ will kill faster with his own hand, than all the hands of the kingdom shall be able to bury, Many shall be buried unstreight; and moals shall be the winding sheet of many that look life-like the day. The blood of God’s foes shall preach strange things to his people, and we shall rejoice with trembling. They that will not serve God, to themselves be it said. The day is near, when BLOOD shall be the sign of Christ’s soldiers and, NO QUARTERS shall be their word; DEATH and DESTRUCTION shall be written with broad letters on our Lord’s standard. A look of him shall be a dead stroke to any that runs in his gate. It is best for you to keep within the shadow of God’s wings, to [>253.] cast Christ’s cloak over your heads, until you hear him say, The brunt of the battle is over, and the shower is slacked. And I am confident the fairest way to cheap [i.e., keep] the way, is to speal out of God’s gate, and keep within the doors until the violence of the storm be gone, and begin to ebb, which is not full tide as yet. Christ deals tenderly with young plants, and waters them oft, least they go back. Be painful, and lose not life for the seeking.
I recommend this to you, to be read as an extract of God’s love, that in crosses, and out of crosses, ye may rejoice.
Alexander Pedan.’ (John McMillan (ed.), A Collection of Letters, 249-53.)
For more about Peden, see here.
Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.