TIMES OF PERSECUTION IN SCOTLAND,
SUFFERERS FOR THE ROYAL PREROGATIVES OF JESUS CHRIST.
Sermons & Lectures by Alexander Shields.
ALEXANDER SHIELDS was born at Haughead, Merse, about the year 1660. At Edinburgh and in Holland, where he pursued his education, he was a very distinguished student. At London he was prevailed upon to become a minister. The Oath of Allegiance was then and there a prominent question, some ministers taking it and others refusing. Shields was among the latter. Informations were lodged against him, and while he and others were at worship in a retired part of the city, they were fallen upon and apprehended. Being taken to Scotland and examined before the Council, he was sent to prison. He was eventually prevailed upon to enter into a compromise, and sign a declaration by which he surrendered his position and abandoned a full testimony for Christ. It is, however, satisfactory to learn that he was soon thereafter filled with remorse because of what he had done.
In consequence of a letter, in which he had expressed bitter regret at his compromise, falling into the hands of the authorities, Shields was again arrested. After various examinations and many remonstrances from prelates and others, he was sent to the Bass as a prisoner. Thence he made his escape, and at once allied himself with James Renwick and the suffering remnant around him. In public he made a full confession of his sinful compliance, and expressed his fullest concurrence in the down-trodden testimony of the martyrs, with reference to which Renwiek said, "I think none could have done it unless they had known the terrors of the Lord."
In company with the other faithful followers of Cargill, Cameron, and Renwick, Shields was much dissatisfied with the Revolution Settlement, and especially with the submission of the Church to the Erastian claims of the State. He and others presented a Paper to the first General Assembly, stating the grounds on account of which they felt called upon to stand aloof, and desiring that the Church take up the whole testimony for the rights of Christ that had been displayed at the time of the Second Reformation, and contended for during the period of persecution. This paper being thrust out, its authors prepared another of a much less faithful nature, and, indeed, put themselves wholly into the hands of the Assembly to be dealt with by them at pleasure, eventually joining the Church against which they had so boldly and justly protested. This compromise, like the former, caused Shields much self-reproach and many a sorrowful day. A gloom settled upon his spirit which does not seem ever to have passed away. In June, 1700, he died of fever at Port Royal, Jamaica.
In "The Hind Let Loose," and other treatises, Shields left behind him the marks of his varied acquirements, ability, zeal, and public-spiritedness. His special weakness appears to have been vacillation of purpose. The state of the times in which his life was cast was such as to require heroism of the most unshrinking type in the cause of Christ. It required "men of whom the world was not worthy." Over Shields' disposition to compromise let there be cast the mantle of charity; and "let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."