Astonishing Alexander Cruden Was Half Mad but Spiritually Based
THROUGHOUT CHURCH HISTORY, God has used unlikely instruments to further his work. One was Alexander Cruden, who was born in Aberdeen, Scotland on this day, 31 May 1700.
While it appears Cruden had a normal childhood and did relatively well in college, mental instability manifested itself when he attempted to win over a young woman who rejected him. Whether she rejected him because he showed signs of madness or whether her rejection precipitated his madness is not known. At any rate, he pursued her feverishly until he was shocked to learn she had become pregnant through an incestuous relationship.
His behaviors soon became compulsive and fanatical. He would pursue women for marriage, threatening them with God’s wrath if they turned him down. He walked through London, sponging off dirty or blasphemous graffiti. He especially removed “No. 45” wherever it was chalked on walls. Issue No. 45 of the North Briton magazine was a slanderous attack on the king and had become the rallying symbol for popular opposition to the monarch. His one recorded act of violence was whacking a man with the flat of a shovel for blaspheming God in his presence. For this, he was locked up in a mental ward.
Nicknaming himself “Alexander the Corrector,” he wrote a book about his adventures. So sure was he that God had raised him up to correct the behavior of England, he petitioned Parliament to make him Corrector of Morals. He also petitioned the king to knight him so he would have social standing to carry on his campaign against wrongdoing. He even stood for Parliament, convinced God would work a miracle to elect him.
Although committed to asylums three times, Cruden also lived a useful and productive life for fifty years, correcting proofs and selling books. Full of compassion, he gave half his income to charity. The one reform he actually inspired followed his publication of an account of his mistreatment in mental wards. Sympathetic readers used his evidence to improve conditions.
Cruden’s noblest obsession was the Bible. He compiled a new Bible concordance—a dictionary of words that appear in the Bible, showing in what verses they can be found. The best English version in existence at that point was the work of five hundred scholars, and it merely cited chapters and verses. Working alone for eighteen months, Cruden prepared one that quoted a bit of context around each citation. King George recognized its worth and awarded Cruden £100 for dedicating the second edition to him, which was why the “Corrector” was so loyal to the monarchy.
His obsessive behavior, though perplexing, was not entirely without merit. It once saved the life of a simple-minded sailor, Richard Potter. Convinced that Potter had been unjustly condemned to death, having been “set up” by other sailors, who took advantage of his low intelligence, Cruden rushed from official to official for two days, pleading for Potter’s life, stopping only long enough to pray for his soul. Hours before Potter was to hang, Lord Halifax issued a rare reprieve. Cruden nursed the sailor back to health and wrote an appeal for prison reform.
Although Cruden openly reproved sin, he genuinely cared about people. When he scolded a streetwalker for practicing her trade, she protested it was her only way to earn a living. Cruden tried to find someone to employ her as a maid, and when all his acquaintances refused, hired her himself. She served him faithfully for years and wept piteously when he was found dead beside his bed with a Bible open before him. He was seventy-one.
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Discovering the Bible is a good place to begin to learn more about the Bible, its history, organization, and content.