Mr. John M'Clelland having gone through several branches of useful learning, kept a school for some time at Newton in Ireland, where he became instrumental in training up several hopeful young men for the university. Afterwards he was tried and approven of by the honest ministers in the county of Down, and being licensed, he preached in their churches, until (among others) for faithfulness, he was deposed and excommunicated by the bishops.
He was also engaged with the rest of his faithful brethren in their intended voyage to New England in the year 1636, but that enterprise proving abortive (by reason of a storm which forced them to return back to Ireland), he preached for some time through the counties of Down, Tyron and Dunnegal in private meetings, till being pursued by the bishop's official, he was obliged to come over in disguise to Scotland, where about the year 1638, he was admitted minister at Kirkcudbright, in which place he continued until the day of his death.
It would appear that he was married to one of Mr. Livingston's wife's sisters, and the strictest friendship subsisted betwixt these two worthy men, both while in Ireland, and after their return to Scotland. While he was minister at Kirkcudbright, he discovered more than ordinary diligence, not only in testifying against the corruptions of the time, but also for his own singular walk and conversation, being one who was set for the advancement of all the practical parts of religion, and that as well in private duties as in public. -- -- For instance, When Mr. Henry Guthrie then minister at Stirling (but afterwards bishop of Dunkeld), thought to have brought in a complaint to the general assembly 1639, against private society meetings (which were then become numerous through the land), yet some of the leading members, knowing that Mr. Guthrie did it partly out of resentment against the laird of Leckie (who was a great practiser and defender of these meetings), thought proper, rather than it should come to the assembly, to yield that Mr. Guthrie should preach up the duty of religious exercise in families, and that Messrs. M'Clelland, Blair and Livingston should preach against night-meetings (for they were so called then because mostly kept in the night) and other abuses, but these brethren endeavoured by conference to gain such as had offended by excess in this matter, but by no means could be prevailed with to preach against them, which so offended Mr. Guthrie, that he gave in a charge or complaint to the general assembly 1640, wherein he alledged these three ministers were the only encouragers of these meetings, Mr. M'Clelland roundly took him up, and craved that a committee might be appointed to try these disorders, and to censure the offenders, whether those complained of or the complainers, which so nettled Mr. Guthrie, the earl of Seaforth and others of their fraternity, that nothing was heard in the assembly for sometime for confusion and noise stirred up by them.
Mr. M'Clelland was also one who was endued with the Spirit of discerning what should afterwards come to pass, as is evident from some of his prophetical expressions, particularly that letter which he wrote to John Lord of Kirkcudbright dated February 20th, 1649, a little before his death, an abstract of which may not be improper, and is as follows,
|My noble Lord,
|I have received yours, and do acknowledge my obligation to your lordship is redoubled. I long much to hear what decision followed on that debate concerning patronages. Upon the most exact trial they will be found a great plague to the kirk, an obstruction to the propagation of religion. I have reason to hope that such a wise and well-constitute parliament will be lothe to lay such a yoke upon the churches, of so little advantage to any man, and so prejudicial to the work of God as hath been many times represented. Certainly the removing it were the stopping the way of simony, except we will apprehend that whole presbyteries will be bribed for patronage. I can say no more but what Christ said to the Pharisees. It was not so from the beginning, the primitive church knew nothing of it.
|But as for their pernicious disposition to a rupture among sectaries, I can say nothing to them, only this, I conclude their judgment sleeps not: Shall they escape, shall they break the covenant, and be delivered? &c. Ezek. xvii.16, &c. which I dare apply to England, I hope, without wresting of scripture, And therefore thus saith the Lord God, as I live, surely mine oath that he hath despised, and my covenant that he hath broken, even it will I recompense on his own head, &c. This covenant was made with Nebuchadnezzar, the matter was civil, but the tie was religious, wherefore the Lord owns it as his covenant, because God's name was invoked and interponed in it, and he calls England to witness. England's covenant was not made with Scotland only, but with the high and mighty God, principally for the reformation of his house, and it was received in the most solemn manner that I have heard, so that they may call it God's covenant both formally and materially; and the Lord did second the making of it with more than ordinary success to that nation. Now it is manifestly despised and broken in the sight of all nations, therefore it remains that the Lord avenge the quarrel of his covenant. -- -- England hath had to do with the Scots, French, Danes, Picts, Normans and Romans, but they never had such a party to deal with as the Lord of armies, pleading for the violation of his covenant, &c. Englishmen shall be made spectacles to all nations for a broken covenant, when the living God swears, As I live, even the covenant that he hath despised, and the oath that he hath broken will I recompense upon his own head. There is no place left for doubting. Hath the Lord said it, hath the Lord sworn it? and will he not do it? His assertion is a ground for faith, his oath a ground of full assurance of faith, if all England were as one man united in judgment and affection, and if it had a wall round about it reaching to the sun, and if it had as many armies as it has men, and every soldier had the strength of Goliah, and if their navies could cover the ocean, and if there were none to peep out or move the tongue against them, yet I dare not doubt of their destruction, when the Lord hath sworn by his life, that he will avenge the breach of covenant. When, and by whom, and in what manner, he will do it, I do profess ignorance, and leave it to his glorious majesty, his own latitude, and will commit it him, &c.
|My lord, I live and will die, and if I be called home before that time, I am in the assured hopes of the ruin of all God's enemies in the land, so I commit your lordship and your lady to the grace of God.
A very little after he wrote this letter, in one of his sermons he exprest himself much to the same purpose, thus, |The judgments of England shall be so great, that a man shall ride fifty miles through the best plenished parts of England, before they hear a cock crow, a dog bark, or see a man's face.| Also he further asserted, |That if he had the best land of all England, he would make sale of it for two shillings the acre, and think he had come to a good market.| And although this may not have had its full accomplishment as yet, yet there is ground to believe that it will be fulfilled, for the Lord will not alter the word that is gone out of his mouth.
Mr. M'Clelland continued near twelve years at Kirkcudbright. About the year 1650, he was called home to his Father's house, to the full fruition of that which he had before seen in vision.
He was a man most strict and zealous in his life, and knew not what it was to be afraid of any man in the cause of God, being one who was most nearly acquainted with him, and knew much of his Master's will. Surely the Lord doth nothing but what he revealeth to his servants the prophets.
A little before his death he made the following epitaph on himself.
Come, stingless death, have o'er, lo! here's my pass, In blood character'd, by his hand who was
And is and shall be. Jordan cut thy stream,
Make channels dry. I bear my Father's name
Stampt on my brow. I'm ravish'd with my crown.
I shine so bright, down with all glory, down,
That world can give. I see the peerless port,
The golden street, the blessed soul's resort,
The tree of life, floods gushing from the throne
Call me to joys. Begone, short woes, begone,
I lived to die, but now I die to live,
I do enjoy more than I did believe.
The promise me unto possession sends,
Faith in fruition, hope, in having, ends.