Mr. Angus MacBean was born about the year 1656. After he had spent some time at the grammar-school with good proficiency, he went to the university of Aberdeen; where he began to distinguish himself, no less for his great regard to practical religion (altho' he was yet of the episcopal persuasion), than for his extraordinary parts and abilities in learning.
About this time the bishops, having found their mistake in sending men of little learning and less religion to the south and west parts of Scotland, where the people were much disaffected to them, applied to the professors of divinity to name some of the greatest abilities to be sent to these parts. Accordingly professor Minzies singled out Mr. MacBean from amongst all his students, to be sent to the town of Ayr; but he did not continue long there, having got a call to be minister of Inverness, which he accepted of, and was there admitted Dec.29, 1683; and here he proved a very pathetic and zealous preacher, and one of the most esteemed of that way. He usually once a-week lectured on a large portion of scripture, which was not the custom then in that apostate and degenerate age.
But notwithstanding of his being in the highest esteem among the prevailing party, the constancy shewn by the sufferers for the cause of truth, and the cruelty used toward them, made such deep impressions on his mind, as could never afterward be rooted out or effaced. As a native consequence of the toleration granted by the duke of York, the mass was openly set up in the castle of Inverness, against which Mr. MacBean preached publicly, and warned the people of the imminent danger the nation was then in. At which the priest was so incensed, that he sent Mr. MacBean a letter, challenging him to a public dispute. This letter he received in a crowd on the weekly market, where he usually walked with some constables to prevent common swearing. He went to a shop, and there wrote such an answer to the priest, as determined him to send him no more challenges. The report of this having spread, some of king James's officers (being there) entered into a resolution to go to church next Lord's day, and to take him out of the pulpit in case he uttered ought against that way. Of this he was informed late on Saturday, and by some friends was importuned to abstain from saying any thing that might exasperate them. But he preached next day on Col. i.18. and proved, that Christ was the sole King and Head of his church, in opposition to the usurpation of both popery and Erastianism; whereupon the officers got all up to execute their design, which the good man did not observe till he turned himself about (for they sat in a loft on the left side of the pulpit). Then he said with an authority that put them out of countenance, For these things I am become the song of drunkards. On which they all sat down, for it was when drinking, that they had formed that wicked design. From the popish controversy, he was led to a more serious inquiry into the merits of what was then the real controversy; and after serious wrestling with God, and earnest prayer for light and direction from him, in which he spent several nights in his garden, he at length determined fully to declare for the truth, whatever might be the consequence: And accordingly in June 1687, he declined to sit in the presbytery, but continued to preach. In August, the presbytery were informed not only that he absented wilfully, but that he disowned the government of the church by arch-bishops, bishops, &c. and appointed a committee to converse with him. Who, having done so, at a subsequent diet, reported that Mr. MacBean declared plainly to them that he had no freedom to meet with them in their judicatories any more; that it was over the belly of convictions that he had entered into the ministry under bishops; and that these convictions were returning with greater force upon his conscience, so that he could not overcome them; that he was convinced presbytery was the only government God owned in these nations; that he was fully determined to make all the satisfaction he could to the presbyterians; to preach for them and in their favours; and that though he should be dispensed with by bishop and presbytery from keeping their meetings, he could not promise that, in his preaching, he would not give ground of misconstruction to those that owned prelacy. At the same time his colleague Mr. Gilbert Marshal farther reported, That Mr. MacBean, both in his public lectures and sermons, did so reflect upon the government of the church, as was like to make a schism at Inverness; and therefore he had caused cite him to that meeting, to answer for his reproachful doctrine that could not be endured. Mr. MacBean did not appear before them, nevertheless the magistrates prevailed with the presbytery to desist from proceeding against him at that time. But shortly thereafter the presbytery referred him to the synod of Murray, who appointed a committee to join with the presbytery of Inverness to deal with him.
In the mean time Mr. MacBean went to church without his cannonical habit, publicly renounced prelacy, declared himself a presbyterian, and as he found not freedom in the exercise of his charge in that place, he demitted it. He preached his farewel sermon on Job xxxiv.31, 32. The scriptures he advanced and insisted on, as warrants for his conduct, were Isaiah viii.11,-14. Jerem. xv.18,-21.2 Cor. vi.16, 18. and to prove that Christ was sole Head of the church, Eph. v.23. Col. i.18.1 Pet. ii.7. Next Lord's day he went to Ross, and there, in Mr. MacGiligen's meeting-house, preached the truths he formerly opposed; and some times thereafter he preached at Inverness, till he was, by order of the council, called to Edinburgh before them.
On this surprizing change and alteration, a great opposition among the prevailing party soon appeared against him; which was the less to be wondered at, as he embraced every opportunity of declaring for the cause of truth, which they were most violent against; and therefore the presbytery of Inverness sent one of their number to inform the bishop of Murray, then at Glasgow, of the whole affair. But the bishop dying at that time, the arch-bishop of St. Andrews took the affair into his cognizance, and procured an order from the council to bring him to Edinburgh. In consequence of which he was carried south in Jan.1688. in very tempestuous weather, and was called before the council, where he made a bold and noble stand in defence of the truths he had so solemnly professed. One of the questions asked at him, was, If he thought the king's power was limited? To which he answered, He knew no power, but the Almighty's, unlimited. And though the council could not find then wherewith to attack him, anent the state, yet, to please the bishops, he must be imprisoned: And upon the 27th of Feb. thereafter, the arch-bishop of St. Andrews conveened him before him and the bishop of Murray, and five doctors and ministers in Edinburgh, where (in the virtue of his metropolitan capacity) he deposed him from the exercise of any part of his pastoral office, and deprived him of all benefits that might accrue to him thereby, since the time of his wilful desertion; with certification, if he should transgress therein, the sentence of excommunication should pass against him. He was thereupon remanded back to prison; and though the town of Inverness wrote, earnestly soliciting him to make some compliance, that they might be favoured with his return, yet he valiantly withstood their intreaties, and by his answer dated July 1688. He dissuaded them from insisting on his return, as what he assured them would never happen, and condemns himself in the strongest manner for his adherence to prelacy, declaring against it in the most express way, as anti-scriptural as well as tyrannical. His confinement and the fatigue of his journey, having given such a shock to his constitution, as his life was in danger, Sir Robert Gordon of Gordonstoun, and Dun. Forbes of Culloden offered a bail bond for 10,000 merks to the earl of Perth, then chancellor, that they would present him when called upon, providing he was set at liberty; but he utterly refused to set him at liberty, though he was in a very languishing condition in the tolbooth; where he remained till Perth run away, and that the Edinburgh mob set the prisoners at liberty. After this he continued in the suburbs of Edinburgh, till in the month of Feb.1689. he joyfully finished his course in the Lord, being in the 33d year of his age. Some days before, news came that the parliament of England had settled the crown on king William, who put an end to those bloody times, and that tyrannical government.
Mr. MacBean without all doubt was a man, both pious and learned, although at first brought up in the prelatical persuasion, and when near his death frequently compared himself in this particular to Moses, who from mount Pisgah saw the land of promise, but for his sinful compliance, as he always called it, would not be allowed to enter therein, having some time before his death, a firm belief of the amazing deliverance which the church and nation soon met with, and left his mortal life rejoicing in hope of the glory of God.