Alexander Peden: Prophecy, Ploughmen and Preaching in 1682
Alexander Peden’s activities in Scotland in 1682 tell us a lot about his relations with the Society people when they were formed.
‘15. In the Year 1682, he was in Kyle [in Ayrshire], and preaching upon that Text, The Plowers plowed upon my Back, and drew long their Furrows;’ (Walker, BP, I, 51.)
The text Peden preached on was Psalms 129.3. The text of the psalm is as follows:
‘Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth, may Israel now say:
Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth: yet they have not prevailed against me.
 The plowers plowed upon my back: they made long their furrows.
The Lord is righteous: he hath cut asunder the cords of the wicked.
Let them all be confounded and turned back that hate Zion.
Let them be as the grass upon the housetops, which withereth afore it groweth up:
Wherewith the mower filleth not his hand; nor he that bindeth sheaves his bosom.
Neither do they which go by say, The blessing of the Lord be upon you: we bless you in the name of the Lord.’
‘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 all his cursed Seed has, and will design, desire, and endeavour to follow his cursed Example: And that Plough has, and will gang Summer and Winter, Frost and Freshweather, till the World’s End; and at the Sound of the last Trumpet, when all are in a Flame, their Theats will burn, 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, O 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!’ (Walker, BP, I, 51.)
Walker also maintains that Peden conducted a marriage after the sermon.
‘After Sermon, when marrying a Pair of Folk, when the Man had the Woman by the Hand, he said, Indeed, Man, you have a bonny Bride by the Hand, I see a covetous Devil in her, she is both a Thief and a Whore, let her go, let her go, you will be ashamed of her; the Man kept fast her Hand; he said, You will not take my Advice, but it will tend to thy Disgrace:’ (Walker, BP, I, 51-2.)
And that after the marriage, he prayed:
‘After Marriage, when praying, he said, Good Lord, many a Plough hath been yoked upon the Back of thy Church in Scotland, Pagans yoked their’s, Antichrist yoked his, and Prelacy her’s, and now the plagued Erastian Indulged they have yoked their’s, and ill it became them: Good Lord, cut their Theats, that their Swingle-trees may fall to the Ground.’ (Walker, BP, I, 52.)
Walker’s witness to the sermon and marriage was John Kirkland:
‘Ensign John Kirkland was Witness to this Sermon and Marriage; he was my very dear Acquaintance, who told me several Times of this, and more of that Sermon.’ (Walker, BP, I, 52.)
According to Walker, in 1682, Peden had also married Kirkland to Janet Lindsay, the widow of Thomas Weir in Cumberhead who was mortally wounded at Drumclog. (Walker, BP, I, 108.)
Kirkland’s marriage may have taken place near Cumberhead in Lesmahagow parish, which lies close to Priesthill in Muirkirk parish where Peden conducted the marriage of Brown:
‘18. In the Year 1682, he married John Brown in Kyle, at his own House in Priesthall, that singular Christian, upon Isabel Weir; after Marriage he said to the Bride, Isabel, you have got a good Man to be your Husband, but you will not enjoy him long; prize his Company, and keep Linen by you to be his Windingsheet, for you will need it when ye are not looking for it, and it will be a bloody one; this came sadly to pass, in the Begining of May 1685, as afterwards shall be made appear.’ (Walker, BP. I, 53.)
John Brown was summarily executed by a firing squad under the command of John Graham of Claverhouse on 1 May, 1685.
Walker also records a further marriage by Peden, probably in 1682:
‘16. About the same Time, he was marrying two Pair of Folk; he said to the one, Stand by, I will not marry you this Day; the Bridegroom was anxious to know his Reason, after Marriage inquired privately; he said, You will thank me for this afterwards, and think your self well quit of her, for she is with Child to another Wife’s Husband, which was Matter of Fact, as Time afterwards discovered.’ (Walker, BP, I, 52.)
Why are the marriages significant?
The marriages Peden conducted place him in the same location as where the United Societies were formed at the beginning of 1682. The Societies’ first convention was held at Logan House, which is close to Cumberhead, and their second convention was held at Brown’s home at Priesthill. Both Muirkirk parish and Lesmahagow parish were strongholds of the Society people. At that time, the Society people did not have a preacher in their ranks to conduct baptisms and marriages. Clearly, a backlog of baptisms and marriages had built up among militant presbyterians since Donald Cargill’s execution in July, 1681. The Societies would not obtain a minister until James Renwick returned home in late 1683.
That tells us that Peden was prepared to conduct his ministry among the Society people when they began, a position which broke ranks with the rest of the Presbyterian ministers in Scotland. At some point in about mid 1682, the Societies’s convention began to debate whether it was acceptable to either hear Peden, or receive marriage or baptism from his hands. At the same time, Peden returned to Ireland. In early 1683, Peden rejected a formal call to become the Societies minister and in April of that year James Renwick named Peden as a minister the Society people were to withdraw from. However, Peden retained the support of important contacts in the Societies, which would return to haunt Renwick in mid 1685.
Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved. Please link to or retweet this post, but do not reblog without the express permission of the author @drmarkjardine