Billeder på siden

individuals, declare that they do most firmly hold and believe the doctrine concerning the nature of God contained in these words of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, namely, 'There are three persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory."" This motion led to a very animated debate-during which the Reverend Henry Montgomery of Dunmurry,' the acknowledged leader of the Arian party, delivered a speech of surpassing brilliancy. Mr. Montgomery was a man of majestic presence, as well as of great tact and subtlety; and a voice of singular excellence, which he managed with consummate skill, imparted a wonderful charm to his flowing and impassioned eloquence. But, in point of dialectic power and theological learning, he was far inferior to some of those opposed to him. So long as he continued to speak, the audience were fascinated by his genius; but when he sat down, the spell was broken : and men of cool and clear intellect could not well tell why they had listened with such great admiration. It appeared, at the close of the debate, that the speech had made but little substantial impression. It was arranged that, on this critical occasion, the members should stand up, as they gave their votes. One hundred and seventeen ministers and eighteen elders stood up, and avowed their belief in the doctrine of the Trinity; two ministers opposed it: and eight others declined voting.

At this Synod Mr. Cooke had announced his conviction that there should be a separation between the Arians and the orthodox ; and the course of events was evidently tending in that direction. Many, however, were not yet prepared for so decisive a movement; and renewed anxiety was felt as the

1 Dunmurry is a village in the neighbourhood of Belfast. The Rev. H. Montgomery (afterwards LL.D.) was long head-master of the English school connected with the Belfast Academical Institution. He was subsequently one of the theological professors of the non-subscribers ; but he remained till his death Unitarian minister of Dunmurry. Notwithstanding his great popularity as a speaker and his acknowledged talent, his congregation did not increase. Though in a populous and flourishing neighbourhood, it was, at the time of his death, in a languishing condition. He died in December, 1865.

? His Lije, in two volumes, is in course of preparation by his son-in-law, the Rev. John A. Crozier, A.B. One volume has already appeared.

annual meeting of 1828 drew near.

When it assembled, there was considerable diversity of sentiment as to the line of policy to be pursued; but Mr. Cooke at length moved a series of resolutions, which quickly led to the termination of the controversy. He proposed that a committee be appointed to examine candidates for licence and ordination, with a view to exclude from the sacred office all who either denied the doctrines of the Trinity, Original sin, Justification by faith, and Regeneration by the Holy Spirit; or who appeared to be destitute of vital godliness. After a debate of two days' duration in which the Rev. Robert Stewart of Broughshane displayed extraordinary powers of reasoning—Mr. Cooke's motion passed by a great majority, in the largest meeting of Synod ever yet known in Ulster. A committee-consisting exclusively of decided Trinitarians-was appointed to carry out the decision.

Arianism had now received its deathblow in the Irish Presbyterian Church. The door was effectually shut against its candidates for licence and ordination; and, if any of those who entered the ministry under an evangelical profession, ever afterwards avowed different principles, they were forthwith to forfeit their position. The Arians were thus publicly branded as unfit for the pastoral office; and those of them already in the Synod were placed in a most uncomfortable predicament. If they remained in it, they might be suffered to die out undisturbed ; but they had no security that they would be permitted to enjoy even that rather equivocal privilege. Another vote might exclude them from ecclesiastical fellowship. They therefore resolved to make a last effort to induce the Synod to reverse its decision ; and, at a public meeting held in Belfast, in October, 1828, they adopted a Remonstrance, in which they set forth their alleged grievances; and announced that, if they could not obtain a repeal of the recent Act, they would form themselves into a separate association. When the Synod met in Lurgan in June, 1829, their prospects were not improved ; and accordingly, in September of the same year, seventeen ministers withdrew; and assumed the designation of Remonstrants. In May, 1830, they assembled again in Belfast; and were organized as a


distinct body under the name of “The Remonstrant Synod of Ulster."1

Though the General Synod now required, from all its candidates for the ministry, adherence to the doctrines of the Westminster Confession, it permitted those, who hesitated to endorse all the phraseology of that symbol, to give in written statements explanatory of their scruples. In a few years the practice was found to be useless, as well as inconvenient; for much time was often occupied in the consideration of frivolous objections. In 1835, at a meeting held in Cookstown, the Synod accordingly adopted the principle of absolute subscription. It was thus prepared, shortly afterwards, for entering into closer connection with various other Presbyterian churches.

The withdrawal of the Arians-now known as Unitarians -was like life from the dead to the Synod of Ulster. The Arian ministers were permitted to retain their Regium Donum ; but most of the laity withdrew from them, and were formed into new congregations under orthodox pastors. The controversy which ushered in the separation had been carried on with unusual ability; and had attracted notice all over the empire. Many in Ulster were led by it to search the Scriptures for themselves, to ascertain their testimony on the subject of the Godhead ; and, in this way, a general knowledge of the doctrines of the gospel was promoted and extended. The Arian ministers—though few in numberincluded several individuals of much activity and address. Their influence had long operated prejudicially in ecclesiastical courts-as by them all evangelical efforts had been discouraged or opposed. When delivered from this incumbrance, the Church moved forward with surprising elasticity. A spirit of revival appeared throughout all its borders ; prayer meetings were generally established; missions were supported with fresh zeal; and Presbyterianism planted its standard in many districts where it had been before unknown. In ten years the General Synod erected no less than eighty new congregations.

i The Unitarians have at present about forty small congregations in Ireland. According to the census of 1871, they amounted in all to 9,373 individuals. See Census of Ireland, 1871. Summary Tables, p. 82. Deblin, 1875.

2 That is from 1830 to 1840,

In the same period contributions, amounting to upwards of £100,000, were expended in building and repairing its places of worship.

All classes of Presbyterians in Ireland took the deepest interest in the Arian controversy.

The Covenanters, or Reformed Presbyterians-so noted for their stern orthodoxy -rejoiced greatly in the triumph of the evangelical cause; and one of their ministers—the Rev. John Paul of Carrickfergus, a writer of first-rate polemic power—rendered good service to Mr. Cooke and his friends during the course of the discussion. The Seceders—a still more numerous bodywere also cheered by the result. The Secession Synod-now consisting of upwards of 130 congregations—had recently been taking up a more prominent position in the country; and one of its ministers—the Rev. John Edgar of Belfast, its Professor of Theology—had added no little to its reputation. Endowed with much eloquence, as well as with great energy, benevolence, and good sense, he had already signalized himself in connection with various public movements. In the autumn of 1829 he inaugurated the Temperance Reformation. Temperance Societies had, some time before, been established in America; but Professor Edgar was the first individual in the Old World to stand forward as their advocate. He travelled through many parts of Ireland, England, and Scotland, to organize the movement; addressed immense audiences in not a few of the large towns; pleaded the cause from the pulpit as well as from the platform; originated Temperance periodicals; and issued tracts, letters, and larger publications written in a popular style, with amazing industry. His gigantic efforts were crowned with no common success. The Temperance Reformation soon spread throughout Great Britain ; extended to the Continent; and at length reached the colonies of the empire. The tone of public sentiment was changed; many drinking customs were abolished ; the sale of ardent spirits decreased; and thousands and tens of thousands had reason to rejoice in the happy revolution.

1 That is from 1827 to 1837. See History of Presb. Church in Ireland, iii., chap. xxxi.

2 Afterwards D.D. He died in 1848 aged seventy-one years. He wrote an able treatise against Arianism, containing a reply to a volume of sermons by Dr. Bruce, of Belfast. Dr. Bruce's volume was the first publication in which Arian sentiments were avowed by any Irish Presbyterian minister since the time of Emlyn. In 1840 a disruption, caused by diversity of sentiment relative to the power of the civil magistrate, took place in the Irish Covenanting Synod. Dr. Paul was the leader of what was called the more liberal party; and Dr. Houston, of Knockbracken, near Belfast, of the more strict Covenanters.

The passing of the Act admitting Romanists to Parliament, the separation of the Arians from the Synod of Ulster, and the commencement of the Temperance Reformation, all occurred during the year 1829. The same year brought about a change of some importance connected with the discipline of the Irish Roman Catholic Church. The way in which the members of the Episcopal order were chosen had long created much dissatisfaction; the wishes of the parish priests had been disregarded ; appointments had been often secured by intrigue or political manœuvring; and the bishops had of late evinced a desire to appropriate the right of nomination. If the letters of Columbanus produced no other effect, they at least made some impression on the parochial clergy; and stirred them up to assert their privileges. An arrangement, now concluded, placed them in a better position than they had heretofore occupied. According to a decree issued in the course of this year by the Propaganda at Rome, it was ruled that, when a bishopric becomes vacant, the metropolitan must take steps for assembling all the parish priests and canons of the diocese, that they may recommend to the Supreme Pontiff three candidates for the see. The bishops of the Province are then to place on record their judgment as to the merits of these three clerics, and transmit it to Italy. Should the bishops consider all of them unqualified, the Pope, in the plenitude of his power, may fill up the vacancy. The individuals recommended must be natives of Ireland. Should the bishops sanction the nomination of the parish priests, the Pope may then make his selection; but

1 This decree may be found appended to the Diocesan Statules of the Roman Catholic Bishops of the Province of Leinster, by R. T. McGhee, pp. 103 107. London, 1837

« ForrigeFortsæt »