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Christ, of whom I did receive it, than to live with an evil conscience, and without free liberty in my calling.” “At these words, most of them who were present declared the grief of their hearts by their sad countenance; and divers burst out into weeping, not being able to contain themselves.” “I confess,” replied the Bishop, " that your life and doctrine have both been good; but the Church hath no need of those who know not how to obey." Having thus spoken, he suddenly left the assembly; and as weeping friends pressed around the noble martyrs, every one felt, that whilst victory was on the side of unjust power, all the glory was on the side of suffering virtue.
This summary deposition of five eminent Ministers, (one of them nephew to Lord Claneboy,) added to the previous suspension of Blair, Dunbar, and Livingston, had the desired effect. Conscience after conscience broke down under the appalling prospect of ruin and destitution; and the entire Diocese had one Creed and one discipline, amidst every variety of opinion on subjects of doctrine and church government! Whilst we deeply venerate the memory of those eight Christian heroes, who made such noble sacrifices in the cause of truth and freedom, we naturally mourn over their fellow Presbyterians whose purpose was more infirm, and whose integrity was less exalted. And, yet, human sympathy and Christian charity may find some palliation for the weakness of husbands and fathers who, although they might have brooked the miseries of a homeless world for themselves, could not endure the thought of exposing those who were dearer to them than life, to all its heartlessness and all its desolation! But what shall we say of those who made martyrs of the upright, and hypocrites of the timid—of those bold, bad men who pretended to be labouring for the honor of Protestantism, whilst they were practically belying its principles and disgracing its name? Language has no terms sufficient to reprobate as it deserves their infamous crusade against liberty and conscience. The meanest of their victims was like an angel of light, when compared with the petty and selfish tyrants, who, “dressed in a little brief authority," dared to make new Enactments in the Kingdom of the Redeemer, and to seduce or terrify his subjects from the updivided allegiance, which they owed to their sole Lawgiver and Prince. And yet, after the lapse of two hundred years, we have seen the degenerate Sons of those very persecuted Presbyterians, in equal forgetfulness of history and the original principles of their Church, seizing the rusty weapons of a dark and tyrannical age, and using them with disastrous power, against the rights, and liberties, and consciences of the members of their own Communion! But, I must not anticipate my Narrative; and therefore I return to those admirable men who, although they perhaps manifested some trifling want of discretion and forbearance in the
calm days of their early prosperity, unquestionably rose in moral dignity with the increasing difficulties of their position, and never appeared so excellent as when they were most oppressed.
Mr. Brice of Ballycarry, died almost immediately after his deposition: Hamilton, Cunningham, and others, fled to Scotland, where they obtained congregations; and Blair and Livingston, determirred to join the persecuted English Puritans who had formed a Colony in New-England, North America. In this enterprize, they were joined by several laymen of considerable rank and property, who built a vessel, of one hundred and fifty tons burthen, at Groomsport, near Bangor. In this vessel, named the Eagle-wing, one hundred and forty persons sailed from Carrickfergus Bay on the 9th day of September, 1636. Livingston gives an account of their voyage; a few portions of which may not be uninteresting, “For some space, we had a fair wind, until we were between three and four hundred leagues from Ireland, and not far from the banks of Newfoundland. But, if ever the Lord spake by his winds and other dispensations, it was evident it was not his will that we should go to New-England. We met with a mighty heavy rain and wind out of the north-west, which did break our rudder, (which we got mended by the skill and courage of Captain Andrew Agnew, a godly passenger,) with much of our gallon-head, and fore-cross-trees, and tore our fore-sail, and broke a great beam under the gunnerroom door.
Seas came over the deck, we sprung a leak, and the Master and company told us it was impossible to hold out any longer. After prayer and much anxious consultation, we all agreed to return; and at last, on the 3d of November, we cast anchor in Loch-Fergus. Our outward means were much impaired by this calamity; but what grieved us most was, that we were like to be a mocking to the wicked. On the contrary, however, the prelates were much dismayed at our return; although neither they nor we knew that, within a year, the Lord would root the Bishop out of Scotland, and soon after, out of England and Ireland also."
Blair and Livingston resumed their private preaching—the former near Belfast, and the latter at his old residence, in Malone; but they were soon compelled to flee to Scotland, one Frank Hill of Castlereagh, (an ancestor, I presume of the Marquis of Downshire,) having informed the Lord Deputy of their proceedings.
In the mean time, Wentworth was plundering and oppressing all parties in Ireland, with a remarkable impartiality. He confiscated estates, cast their grumbling overseers into prison, levied taxes as he pleased, established monopolies for his favourites, destroyed the woollen manufacture, encouraged the linen trade, and, in all things, manifested the caprice and tyranny of an irresponsible despot, with all the talents of a great statesman-little dreaming, that by such
acts, in addition to his other offences, he was preparing his neck for the block! Whilst his Deputy was thus alienating the Irish, Charles himself, at the instigation of Laud, drove Scotland into open rebellion, by enforcing, or rather attempting to enforce, the reading of the English Service-Book, in all the churches of that kingdom. This attempt was made in July, 1637; and, in Edinburgh, the bishops barely escaped with their lives. The nobles put themselves at the head of the people, the National Covenant for the abolition of “ Popery and Prelacy" was solemnly renewed, a synod of the kirk was assembled in Glasgow, and Presbyterianism re-established as the national religion. These events revived the hopes of the Scottish laity in Ulster; and great multitudes of them went over to Scotland, to have their children baptized, and to receive the Sacrament from the venerated hands of their former pastors. On one occasion, five hundred persons
from Down and Antrim, sat at the Sacramental Tables in Stranraer, of which parish, Mr. Livingston had become the Minister. There, and elsewhere, many of them subscribed to the National Covenant; and, returning with an increased hatred of prelacy, they put most of their countrymen in Ulster, under the same obligation. This roused the indignation of Bishop Leslie, who wrote a querulous letter to Wentworth, dated “Lisnagarvie, (Lisburn,) 22nd Septr. 1638.” In this communication, he says amongst other things—" The Puritans of my Diocese are all confident that the arms raised against the king, in Scotland, will procure them a liberty to set up their own discipline here, insomuch that
whom I had brought to some degree of conformity have lately revolted. If I call them in question, they scorn my process ; and if I excommunicate them, they know they will not be apprehended, in regard of the liberty their Lords have, of excluding all Sheriffs. In particular, there is one Robert Adaire, a justice of the peace in the county of Antrim, of £500-lands a year, who having some estate in Scotland, joined himself to the faction there, signed the Covenant, and was appointed to watch the king's castle, at Edinburgh, that no provision should be carried in to the troops." Wentworth immediately replied
“ As to Robert Adaire, I now send for him ; but your Lordship will keep the occasion to yourself, until after his arrival here." But Mr. Adair was not to be so easily caught: he knew Wentworth and his High Commission Court too well, to come within their grasp ; and retired to Scotland. His estate, however, was confiscated, for the time, but subsequently restored. This Robert Adair was the ancestor of the present owner of the Ballymena Estate, Sir Robert Shafto Adair, Baronet ; and all who are acquainted with this Gentleman and his eldest son, Mr. Shafto Adair, will readily admit, that the ardent Love of Civil and Religious Liberty which animated their distinguished Progenitor, in times of much peril, has neither become extinct nor diminished in his descendants.
To neutralize the signing of the National Covenant by the Ulster Scotch, Wentworth, or as some aver, Charles himself, devised a plan at once most odious and tyrannical. All persons, male and female, above sixteen years of age, were to be compelled to swear, “that they would never oppose any of the King's commands, and that they abjured all covenants and oaths contrary to this engagement." This abominable, unconditional oath, was called the Black Oath, both from its own intrinsic hatefulness, and its deplorable consequences. The nobility, as usual, readily acquiesced in this degradation, at the command of arbitrary power, but the mass of the people, more faithful to principle, refused to take an obligation binding them over, under all circumstances, "to non-resistance and passive obedience.” “On such individuals," says Dr. Reid, "the highest penalties of the law, short of death, were unsparingly inflicted. Pregnant women were forced to travel considerable distances, to the places appointed by the Commissioners for taking the oath; and, if they hesitated to attend or scrupled to swear, they were treated in a manner so barbarous, that crowds of defenceless females fled to the woods and concealed themselves in caves, to escape their merciless persecutors. Respectable persons were bound together with chains, and cast into dungeons. Several were dragged to Dublin, and fined in exhorbitant sums; whilst multitudes fled to Scotland, leaving their property to certain ruin. So many of the labouring population left the country, that hands were not found sufficient to gather in the harvest."
These sufferers for conscience’ sake were either Scotch by birth or by extraction; and when we consider that their Ministers had been previously banished, and that they had no leaders to guide or encourage them, it is not possible to estimate too highly their unbending integrity and heroic fortitude. The Lords Chichester, Claneboy, and Montgomery of Ards, to whom they naturally looked for shelter and protection, became the base instruments of unjust power-Claneboy, in particular, lending his zealous aid towards coercing and oppressing the people of Killileagh and Killinchy, who had settled under his auspices. He even sent Mr. Bole, the old and blind Minister of Killileagh, a prisoner to Dublin, because he scrupled to take the iniquitous oath himself, or to encourage his people to sin against conscience. It is recorded in an old Manuscript, “that even greater sufferings befel those of the Scottish nation, in the counties of Tyrone and Londonderry, as few of them, at first, had fled to Scotland. On refusing the oath, they had their names returned to Dublin, whence officers were sent to apprehend them. In this way, multitudes suffered imprisonment and ruin; amongst whom was a worthy Lady, named Mrs. Pont, who was confined as a prisoner for three years. Another case still more striking was that of Henry Stewart, a gentleman of property, who was dragged, with his wife, his two daughters, and his man-servant, before the High Commission Court of Star Chamber, in Dublin. Wentworth told him, at his mock trial, that he would drive him and all his kind, root and branch out of the kingdom; and then pronounced what he termed a most lenient sentence, namely, a Fine of £5,000, upon Stewart, £5,000, upon his wife, £2,000 upon each of his daughters, and £2,000, upon his servant. To this infamous sentence, Wentworth added the farther enormity of confining them to prison, at their own cost, until these fines should be paid!”
But, it would be inconsistent with my limited plan, to enter into farther details, in relation to this atrocious persecution which would fill a moderate volume-a persecution which compelled the timid to violate conscience, drove thousands from their peaceful homes, and exposed multitudes of the noblest and purest Christians of Ulster, to cruel imprisonment and worldly ruin. Yet, as a reward for such acts, added to his political oppressions, Wentworth was created Earl of Strafford; and appeared to have attained a height of influence and power from which nothing could remove him. Never was there a case, however, in which was more distinctly evidenced the glorious and consolatory truth, “that God maketh the wrath of man to praise him.” Presbyterianism, nominally suppressed was only the more fondly cherished in the hearts and homes of the people; whilst the fortitude and sufferings of its bolder advocates cast a lustre over their faith, and manifested its vital and sustaining power. On the other hand, the victims of prelatical persecution, only the more intensely loathed a system which produced such evil fruits ; whilst the moderate and conscientious adherents of episcopacy felt the degradation of belonging to a Church which attempted to extend its principles and authority, by means so disgraceful and unchristian. Under the Providence of God, the temporary suppression of liberty and truth is not their annihilation; for, as the sun, after his obscuration by clouds, shines forth with augmented cheerfulness and splendour, so does every good cause acquire, in the end, additional lustre from the foul attempts which are made to destroy it.
As to Strafford, himself, he now stood upon the pinnacle of power, whence he looked haughtily down upon abject Nobles, a servile Parliament, and a prostrate people. The State and the Church were equally subjected to his despotic authority; but he little dreamed, whilst erecting this lofty fabric of human despotism, that like Haman of old, he was only raising a scaffold for his own execution.
(To be continued.)