In virtue of an act of the general assembly 1642, appointing a list of six able men for the planting of vacant churches, Mr. Moncrief was pitched upon for the church of Skunie in Fife; and upon Sept.26.1643, was received there with great contentment.
After which he had an active hand in carrying on the work of reformation at that time; and was nominated in the commission for the affairs of the kirk. In the years 1650 and 1651, he made no small appearance among these called protestors; and had a particular hand in the western remonstrance, and the causes of God's wrath, which were drawn up about that time.
During Cromwel's usurpation, he suffered much on account of his loyalty, in praying for the king. Upon account of which his house was often searched, and rifled by the English, and he obliged to hide himself. Upon the Sabbath he had spies set upon him, and was closely watched where he went after preaching. He was frequently pursued, and one time a party of horse came after him, yet by a special providence (though attacked once and again by them) he got clear of them. Yet a little after he was seized by them in a neighbouring congregation and imprisoned some time.
After he was liberated, he was pitched upon as a person of great courage and magnanimity to present the protestation and testimony against the toleration, and the errors and sectaries that then prevailed in church and state, given in Oct.1658, to general Monk, drawn up and signed by himself, Messrs. Rutherford, James Guthrie and many others. This he did with the greatest firmness, for which he was exposed unto new extremities, but what return he had for all his faithfulness and loyalty to the king comes immediately to be discovered.
For no sooner was the king restored and settled in his dominions, than this worthy and good man was involved in a new series of sufferings. For, being assembled at Edinburgh, with Mr. James Guthrie and eight others of his brethren in Aug.1660, where they drew up that humble supplication and address to the king, commonly called, The paper of the 23d of August, they were all imprisoned in the castle of Edinburgh, except Mr. Hay of Craignethen, who escaped.
He continued under confinement until July 12.1661, that he had his indictment and charge, much about the same time with Mr. James Guthrie, which runs upon his having a share in the remonstrance, and in forming the causes of God's wrath. Refusing to retract any thing in them, he was brought before the parliament several times, and their prosecution for his life was so hot, that the earl of Athol, and others in parliament particularly interested and concerned in this good man and his wife, being importuned by her to appear for him in parliament, dealt with her to endeavour to prevail with him to recede from some of his principles, otherwise, they told her, it was impossible to save his life. This excellent woman answered, |That they all knew she was happy in a good husband, and she had a great affection for him, and many children; yet she knew him to be so stedfast to his principles, where his conscience was concerned, that nobody needed deal with him on that head; for her part, before the world contribute any thing that would break his peace with his Master, she would rather chuse to receive his head at the cross.| About the same time, two ladies of the first quality were pleased so far to concern themselves in his case, as to provide a compliment in plate (which was not unusual at that time), and send it to the advocate's lady. Afterward they went and visited her on his behalf, but were told by her it was impossible to save his life, and the compliment was again returned.
Yet it was so over-ruled in providence, that Mr. Moncrief being much respected, and his hardships almost universally regreted, upon account of his eminent piety, integrity and uprightness, severals of all ranks, and different persuasions, and unknown to him, began to make application, and interpose for him, so that the spirit of some of his most violent persecutors began to abate, his process lingred, till, after a tedious imprisonment, he fell sick and obtained the favour of confinement in Edinburgh. -- -- The parliament passed this sentence upon him, |That he, the said Mr. Alexander Moncrief, be for ever incapable of exercising any public trust, civil or ecclesiastic, within the kingdom, until, in the next session of parliament, further orders be taken concerning him, and discharge him in the mean time to go to his parish.| And all this for owning before them his accession to the remonstrance and causes of God's wrath.
After this sentence, when living peaceably some eight or nine miles from his own parish, people began to resort to him, and hear him preach, whereupon, under a most severe storm in the middle of winter, by virtue of an act made against him, he was charged to remove twenty miles from his house and charge, and seven or eight from a bishop's seat or royal burgh; and was with his family forced from his house, and obliged to wander in that great storm; and yet when he had removed to a place at a competent distance, even then he got a second charge to remove further, till he was obliged to go to a remote place in the Highlands, where his God who had all along countenanced and supported him wonderfully in his troubles, honoured him to be instrumental in the conversion of many.
The persecution somewhat abating, he brought his family to Perth, for the education of his children, where he continued preaching the gospel. A few at first, but afterwards a great many, attended his ministry. Being again informed against, a party of the horse-guards were sent to apprehend him, but he escaped, though his house was narrowly searched. This forced him from his family, and he was obliged to lurk a good while after this.
At length he came with his family to Edinburgh, where he preached the gospel many years under a series of persecution. He was intercommuned in the year 1675, and his house, and many other places in and about the city, were narrowly searched for him, yet he was always marvelously hid, of which many instances might be given. When he went to the country, many a time parties of the guard were sent in quest of him, and sometimes he would meet them in his return, and pass through the midst of them unknown. When he was one time lodged in a remote part of the suburbs of Edinburgh, a captain, with a party, searched every house and chamber of the closs, but never entered into the house he was in, though the door was open.
Again, when he was lurking in a private family without the walls of Edinburgh, a party was sent to apprehend him. Providentially he had gone out to walk by the house; the party, observing him by his gravity to be a minister, said one to another, That may be the man we are seeking. -- -- Nay, said another, he would not be walking there. Again, when he was advertised that the soldiers were coming to search for him in his own house, he lingered till another minister came to him, and said, Sir, you must surely have a protection from heaven, that you are so secure here, when the town is in such disorder, and a general search to be made. Immediately he went off, and in a little after Mr. Moncrief went out; and was not well down stairs before the guard came up and searched his house. He took a short turn in the street, and came back just as the guard went off.
But the persecution growing still worse, he was obliged to disperse his family for some time. He was solicited, when in these circumstances, to leave the kingdom, and had an ample call to Londonderry in Ireland, yet he always declined to leave his native country, and, in his pleasant way, used to say, He would suffer where he had sinned, and essay to keep possession of his Master's house, till he should come again. He had a sore sickness about the beginning of June 1680. In which time he uttered many heavenly expressions. But he recovered and continued in this the house of his pilgrimage until harvest 1688, when he died, and got above all sin and sorrow, after he had endured a great fight of affliction to obtain a crown of eternal life.
He was mighty in prayer, and had some very remarkable and strange returns thereof. His memory was savoury a long time after his death. Many could bear witness, that God was with him of a truth. He left many seals of his ministry in Fife, and was a most faithful and painful minister. His sufferings are a little hinted at in the fulfilling of the scripture, though neither he nor his persecutors are mentioned there. The relation runs thus:
|The first relates to a considerable family in this country, who made it their business to trouble and persecute the minister of that parish, an eminently holy and faithful man, yea, upon account of his faithfulness, the old laird of that house did pursue him, out of malice, with a false libel before the synod, either to get him broken and put out of the parish, or at least to crush his spirit and weaken him in the exercise of his ministry, but did there meet with a disappointment the Lord clearing the innocence of his servant, and the malice of the other. At which time that gentleman, while he went to the stable where his horses were, being then at the synod on that account, was in the place stricken with sickness, forced to hasten home, and take his bed; and there seized with horror of conscience, which made him often cry, intreating most earnestly for his minister, whom he had thus persecuted, and often said, Oh! to see his face; and told his friends, that if he would not come to him, they should carry him to his house. But his lady did out of malice, in a most rude and violent way, hinder the minister's access to him, and thus that poor gentleman in great horror and anguish died.
|After his death his lady still pursued the quarrel with no less malice, until she also fell sick, and had much terror upon her conscience, crying out for the minister, who was providentially absent, so that she was denied in that which she kept back from her husband; but he came to her before her death, and she confessed, with much bitterness, her wrong to him. After this, a young man, who had been their chaplain, and engaged by them to appear as a witness against that godly man, was so terrified in his conscience, that he could get no rest till he went to the next synod, to acknowledge that horrid sin, in bearing false witness against his minister; but being by some kept from a public appearance, he went to another part of the country, where it is reported he died distracted.
|Last of all the young laird, who succeeded in that estate, would needs pursue the quarrel, and finding more access through the change of the times, did so endeavour with some who were in power, that an order was passed for banishing him out of that parish; and although he was then otherwise accused upon account of the public cause, yet it was known, the violent persecution of that gentleman was the main cause of that sentence, as those who had a hand in passing it did confess; for he had solemnly sworn, that if he lived there, that minister should not be in that place. Returning to his house a few days after, and boasting how he had kept his word, and got his minister cast out of his parish, he was suddenly struck by the Lord with a high fever, which plucked him away in the very strength of his years.| Fulfilling of the scriptures, page 428.