Billeder på siden
[ocr errors]

families ; 1 they had received a superior education; and they excelled as instructive and impressive preachers. Their enlightened zeal soon produced a wonderful change in those parts of the country where they laboured ; and one of the most remarkable awakenings recorded in the annals of the Church now occurred in the north-eastern portion of the island. “At Oldstone,” 2 says a contemporary, "God made


use of [the minister] to awaken the consciences of a lewd and secure people thereabouts. ... The hearers finding themselves condemned by the mouth of God speaking in his Word, fell into such anxiety and terror of conscience that they looked on themselves as altogether lost and damned ; and this work appeared not in one single person or two, but multitudes were brought to understand their way and to cry out, Men and brethren, what shall we do to be saved ? I have seen them myself stricken into a swoon with the word ; yea, a dozen in one day carried out of doors as dead, so marvellous was the power of God smiting their hearts for sin, condemning and killing. And of these were none of the weaker sex or spirit, but indeed some of the boldest spirits, who formerly feared not with their swords to put a whole market-town in a fray; yet, in defence of their stubbornness, cared not to lie in prison and in the stocks; and, being incorrigible, were as ready to do the like next day. I have heard one of them, then a mighty strong man, now a mighty Christian, say, that his end in coming to church was to consult with his companions how to work some mischief. And yet, at one of these sermons, was he so catched that he was fully subdued. But why do I speak of him? We knew, and yet know multitudes of such men who sinned and still gloried in it, because they feared not man, yet are now patterns of society, searing to sin because they fear God. And this spread through the country to admiration, especially about that river, commonly called the Six Mile Water, for there this work began at first."3


1 Josias Welsh of Templepatrick was the great-grandson of Lord Ochiltree ; James Hamilton of Killinchy was nephew to the first Lord Clandehoy; and John Livingston of Killinchy was great-grandson of Alexander, fisth Lord Livingston.

? At a short distance from the town of Anirii. 3 Stewart's Hi tori, as quoted hy Reid, i. 107, 108. The Six Mile Water runs

This movement excited general attention. Episcopalians and Romanists, as well as others, were awakened ; and were thus added to the Presbyterian congregations. The ministers agreed to hold a meeting on the first Friday of every month in the town of Antrim-where the parish church was at their service, and where they enjoyed the sympathy and support of the landlord, Sir John Clotworthy. “ The day was spent in fasting and prayer and public preaching,” says Livingston, one of the officiating pastors. Commonly two preached every forenoon, and two in the afternoon. We used to come together the Thursday night before, and stayed the Friday night after, and consulted much about such things as concerned the carrying on of the work of God. . . . Such as laid religion to heart used to convene to these meetings, especially out of the Six Mile Water valley, which was nearest hand, and where was the greatest number of religious people; and frequently on the Sabbath after the Friday's meeting, the communion was celebrated in one or other of our parishes." "This blessed work of conversion, which was of several years' continuance, spread,” says Blair, one of the ministers, “beyond the bounds of Antrim and Down to the skirts of neighbouring counties. ... Preaching and praying were so pleasant in those days, and hearers so eager and greedy, that no day was long enough, nor any room great enough, to answer their strong desires and large expectations."?

It was not to be expected that a work of this nature could proceed without interruption. It astonished well-meaning Romanists, for they saw that it produced a great moral reformation in those brought under its influence: it shook their confidence in their own system: and their clergy became alarmed. Two friars, trained at Salamanca—who seem to have valued themselves on their controversial ability-accordingly challenged Blair and Welsh, two of the Presbyterian past Ballynure, Ballyclare, and Templepatrick, and falls into Lough Neagh at Antrim.

* About this time several of the native Irish, who were afterwards noted as con. nected with the Presbyterian Church, became Protestants. Among these may be mentioned Owen O'Connolly, who saved Dublin Castle at the coinmencement of the Rebellion of 1641 ; and Jeremiah O'Quin, who became a Presbyterian minister. • Reid, i. 127.

ministers, to a public discussion. The invitation was willingly accepted; and the terms of the disputation were arranged; but, when the day of trial arrived, the monks failed to make their appearance. Various episcopal clergymen also seemed desirous to engage in controversy ; but the ministers would gladly have avoided a collision with the officials of the Church as by law established, at a time when they themselves enjoyed a rather precarious toleration. At length, however, Mr. Blair was obliged to enter the lists with one of these opponents, named Freeman. The disputation took place in Antrim Castle; and the question selected by the assailant was the doctrine of reprobation. A more modest divine might have chosen for debate a topic less awful and mysterious : but Arminianism was then the great theme of theological investigation; and Freeman—who had read some of the books of the Dutch Remonstrants—vainly imagined that he had mastered all difficulties. He soon, however, discovered his mistake. Blair—who was an accomplished scholar - had carefully studied the subject; and he was a ready speaker, as well as a powerful reasoner.

In the hands of such an adversary the rash impugner of Calvinism could make only a feeble struggle. He quickly became embarrassed ; and was compelled to admit his discomfiture.?

Trials of a more formidable character awaited the Presbyterian ministers. Of late, high church principles had been rapidly making way in England; and, in consequence, the Puritans were exposed to new troubles for nonconformity. Irish Protestantism was doomed to suffer from the same blighting influence. The Primate of Armagh listened with interest to the reports of the great revival in Down and Antrim; but the Bishop of London, the future Primate of Canterbury, heard of it with far different feelings—for it showed that the Head of the Church was putting special honour on such ministers as he was disposed to disown and persecute. Ussher invited Blair, the most eminent of the Presbyterian pastors, to his house at Drogheda ;3 treated

3 Ibid. p. 30.

1 Adair's Narrative, p. 27.

3 The Archbishop of Armagh had a residence in Palace Street, Drogheda, and another at Termonfechan, a few miles distant, from which many of his letters were

him, during his visit, with marked kindness ; obtained from him a minute account of his theological sentiments; and was gratified to find that his guest held identically his own views of the articles of the Christian faith. When Blair even proceeded to urge his objections to the English ritual, the archbishop, instead of being offended by his freedom, candidly admitted that his statements were unanswerable. “I perceive,” said his Grace, " you'll never be satisfied therein, for still you inquire what ought to be done? I confess all things you except against might-yea, ought to be removed-but that cannot be done.”? The Primate at the same time gave intimation to his visitor of mischief nieditated against himself and his Presbyterian brethren. He expressed his fears, as Blair himself informs us, that their “disaffection” to the ceremonies of the established Church would "mar" their labours; he stated that "he had been importuned to stretch forth his hand against them :" he declared that, “though he would not for the world do that, he was afraid instruments would be found" to undertake it: and he added that "it would break his heart if their successful ministry in the North were interrupted."2 It soon appeared that the Primate had too good grounds for giving these notes of alarm.

Laud-appointed about this time to the See of London-had already acquired great political influence. Though “to win souls was no part of his knowledge,” 3 he acted as if the chief end of a bishop was to extinguish nonconformity. “ His bigotry,” says a well-informed writer of his own Church, “was shown in an uncompromising and rigid adherence to the ceremonial parts of religion; and this quality, joined with a total want of courtesy, ...

rendered his piety suspected.”4

written. The house at Termonfechan was destroyed in the Rebellion of 1641, and never afterwards rebuilt. The palace in Drogheda was repaired after the Restoration, and continued to be the residence of the Primate until the appointment of Archbishop Boulier. It was then suffered to go to ruin, and there is now difficulty in tracing its site. Elrington's Life of Ussher, pp. 74, 75, note.

| Adair's Narrative, p. 25.
2 Blair quoted by Reid, i. 137.
3 Carwithen, ii. 73-4.

4 These are the words of a learned episcopalian. See Carwithen's History of the Church of England, ii. 74. Second edition. Oxford, 1849.

Instead of rejoicing at the success which attended the labours of the Presbyterian ministers in the North of Ireland, he was filled with indignation ; for he could not comprehend how there could be any true religion which did not flow through the channel of episcopacy. Echlin, Bishop of Down and Connor, in whose diocese the Scottish preachers were labouring, soon received a hint from head-quarters that he must permit no irregularities within the bounds of his jurisdiction. In June 1630, Blair and Livingston, then in Scotland, were present at the celebrated revival connected with the dispensation of the Lord's Supper at the Kirk of Shotts; and their proceedings on that occasion gave new offence to the abettors of ritualism. Charges were accordingly preferred against them by some of the Scottish prelatists; and in consequence, in September 1631, these two preachers were suspended from the ministry by Echlin.” 1

The parties thus placed under the ban of episcopal discipline appealed to Ussher; and the Primate immediately required the Bishop of Down and Connor to withdraw his sentence. But the matter did not end here. The accusers carried their complaint before the King ; and Charles, now completely under the guidance of Laud, sent instructions to the authorities in Ireland to renew the prosecution. Echlin was aware that he had been already blamed ligence; and he was not the man to refuse to accommodate himself to the will of his royal master. He accordingly issued citations, not only to the two ministers already condemned, but also to two others noted for their zeal and pastoral ability; and, when they refused to pledge themselves to conformity, he pronounced on them all a sentence of deposition. They long sought redress in vain. After much solicitation they obtained a brief period of indulgence; but soon afterwards the spirit of intolerance prevailed, and the door of the Church was completely closed against nonconformity.

The injury inflicted on the best interests of religion in Ireland by these high-handed proceedings cannot well be

for neg

1 Reid, i. 135.

Ibid. i. 138.

« ForrigeFortsæt »