This item is extracted from The Scots Worthies, Containing a Brief Historical Account of the Most Eminent Noblemen, Gentlemen, Noblemen & Others, who testified or suffered for the cause of the Reformation in Scotland from the beginning of the Sixteenth Century to the year 1688, by John Howie of Lochgoin, and published in 1853.


The earliest notice we have of this strenuous supporter of Presbytery, and faithful servant of Christ, is, when he was employed as school master at a place called Newton, in Ireland. No account, either of his parentage, birth, or early education, seems to be on record. That his scholastic attainments, however, were of a respectable order, may be presumed from the circumstance of his having educated several young men for the university, who are said to have been very hopeful students. After having been engaged for some time in this humble occupation, he was taken upon trial for the ministry, by the presbytery of Down, and having been found duly qualified, was licensed to preach the everlasting gospel. It does not appear that he had ever been set apart to any particular charge in Ireland; but spent his time in itinerating within the bounds of the presbytery, until, his fidelity and zeal in the service of his Master having reached the ear of the bishops, he was by them deposed and excommunicated.

He was one of the few faithful brethren in that country, who, after their deposition and ejection from their livings, meditated a plan of emigration to New England, in 1636; but proving abortive in consequence of a storm which forced them to put back to Ireland, preached for some time through the counties of Down, Tyrone and Donegal, in private meetings; until, hunted and persecuted by episcopal tyranny, he was compelled in disguise to seek refuge in Scotland. About the year 1638, he was ordained minister of Kirkcudbright, where he continued to labour with great assiduity till the day of his death. During the whole of his incumbency in that parish, he discovered more than ordinary zeal, not only in testifying against the corruptions of the times; but by an unimpeachable walk and conversation, as one bent upon the advancement of all the interests of religion, in private as well as in public.

But even the peaceful demeanor and godly life of McClelland did not screen him from persecution ; and from a quarter, too, from which other things might have been expected. Guthrie, then minister at Stirling, and afterwards bishop of Dunkeld, having heard of his extraordinary diligence in promoting personal and family religion, by encouraging fellowship-meetings, threatened to lay a complaint against him before the General Assembly of 1639 ; out of resentment, it was said, against the laird of Leckie, who was a strenuous supporter of such meetings. These private assemblages were at that time becoming very general throughout Scotland; and the leading members, sensible of the great good they had effected in the cause of Presbytery, and in cementing a union among the brethren - rather than that the matter should proceed any further — proposed that McClelland should, in his public ministrations, enforce the duty and necessity of family religion, and that he, Blair, and Livingstone, should preach against such meetings, and other abuses. Not one of these men, however, could be persuaded to comply; and therefore Guthrie made good his threat, by actually tabling an accusation against all the three, before the Assembly of 1640, alleging that they were the sole supporters of the conventicles complained of. McClelland entered upon his defence with Christian heroism, and craved that a committee might be appointed to investigate the matter, and that the offenders might be censured, whether it should turn out to be the persons libelled, or their accusers. At this, Guthrie, the Earl of Seaforth, and others of the coalition, were so much irritated, that for a time nothing could be heard in the Assembly, on account of the tumult and commotion which the libel had excited. The farther prosecution of the charge, however, seems to have dropped here.

McClelland is said to have been occasionally endued with a prophetic spirit, — and this assertion seems to have been gathered from some expressions he had at one time employed in one of his sermons, — viz., — "That the judgments of England should be so great, that a man might ride fifty miles through the best plenished parts of England, without hearing a cock crow, a dog bark, or seeing a man's face ;" — and, "that if he had the best land in all England, he would sell it for two shillings an acre, and think he had come to a good market."

Little more is known of this good man that may with certainty be relied on. After having faithfully discharged his duties as minister of Kirkcudbright, for nearly twelve years, and borne unwavering testimony against the unscriptural introduction and exercise of patronage, and for the perpetual obligation of the Solemn League and Covenant in these lands, he was called home to his Father's house, about the year 1650, to the full fruition of what he had before been gratified with only in vision. He was a man of a truly apostolic life, not knowing what it was to be afraid of any one in the cause of Christ; and he was admitted to nearer and more intimate communion with his divine Lord and Master, than generally falls to the lot even of the most sincere Christians. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him ; and he will show them his covenant." His gracious and fatherly providence is ever towards them, working for, and taking care of them.

A little before his death he composed the following verses, breathing the most confident assurances of eternal life, through the righteousness that is in Christ Jesus:

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
Stamped on my brow. I'm ravished 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 live to die, — but now I die to live —
I now enjoy more than I could believe.
The promise me unto possession sends,
Faith in fruition; hope in vision ends.