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Our Presbyterian ancestors were wiser in these respects than their descendants are. They employed their recovered liberty and privileges, for the advancement of practicable objects within their own proper sphere of action. Immediately after the institution of the first Presbytery, the chaplains of the several regiments, in Carrickfergus, made excursions into various places where Presbyterian Societies had previously existed. There, they preached, administered ordinances, ordained elders, and arranged plans for the conducting of religious worship by pious laymen, until regular Ministers could be procured. Congregations were thus organized at Antrim, Ballymena, Cairncastle, Templepatrick, Larne, Belfast, Ballywalter, Portaferry, Bangor, Holywood, Comber, Killileagh, Killinchy, Newtownards, Donaghadee, and, probably, several other places. Lord Claneboy, and Lord Montgomery of Ards, both of whom had been persecutors, at the bidding of Strafford, applied to the Presbytery of Carrickfergus to ordain the chaplains of their respective Regiments; and with this request, it was deemed prudent to comply, both on account of the weight which the cause of Presbyterianism would acquire by the adhesion of noblemen so powerful, and on account of the additional labourers who would be thereby introduced into the vineyard of Christ. Several of the Ministers of Scottish origin, also, who had conformed to Episcopacy during Strafford's reign of terror, made public acknowledgment of their sinful apostacy, and were, after due admonition and probation, re-admitted to the sacred office. So great, indeed, was the ascendancy of Presbyterianism, under the influence of the Scotch Regiments and popular enthusiasm, that some episcopal ministers, who had always belonged to the prelatical church, gave in their solemn adhesion to the Presbytery: and thus several churches and parishes became regularly Presbyterian, yet continued to enjoy all the emoluments previously attached to them, whilst in connexion with the established church.
The supply of Pastors thus obtained, however, was far from being adequate to the wants of the people, owing to the number of Ministers who had been compelled to retire to Scotland, during Strafford's persecution, and the still greater number who had fied or who had been put to death, during the recent rebellion. It was therefore deemed expedient to solicit countenance, aid, and supplies, from the parent Church, in Scotland ; and a Memorial to the Scottish General Assembly was accordingly drawn up, under the sanction of the Presbytery. This document was signed by some hundreds of the principal inhabitants of the counties of Down and Antrim, as also by others from the Parishes of Bangor and Ballywalter, requesting the Assembly to restore Robert Blair and James Hamilton to their former charges. These Petitions were presented to the General Assembly, at St. Andrews, on the 30th of July, 1642, by Mr. John Gordon and Mr. Hugh Campbell. Some historians suppose these gentlemen to have been Ministers ; but the latter, at least, was assuredly a Layman. Hugh Campbell was a Scotch Gentleman who had settled near to Oldstone, in the neiglıbourhood of Antrim, and was eminently instrumental, through his zeal, intelligence, and social influence, in laying the foundations of Irish Presbyterianism. Nearly fifty years ago, I heard one of his lineal descendants, (who was also my own maternal relation,) boast of the distinguished part acted by his ancestor, and especially of his wonderful courage and dexterity in foiling the myrmidons of Strafford, and refusing to take " the black oath.” I well remember four patriarchal Brothers, named Campbell, descended from this worthy man, who in comparatively unenlightened times, were all remarkable for intelligence, integrity, general information, Scriptural knowledge, and an ardent attachment to the principles of civil and religious liberty. That their mantle has not fallen upon degenerate shoulders, I could easily prove, by pointing to several living men of their name and race, who inherit all the virtues of an honourable ancestry, conjoined with the advantages of superior personal education-men distinguished, without a single exception, as the liberal and unswerving supporters of truth, freedom, and charity.
The answer carried back from the General Assembly, by John Gordon and Hugh Campbell was consolatory, if not quite satisfactory. The wants of Scotland did not permit them to send an immediate supply of permanent Ministers ; but they appointed six of the most eminent members of the Assembly to proceed to Ireland, in succession, during the year—two of them at the same time, and to remain for four months. As the highest proof of their affectionate interest in the prosperity of the Irish Church, the first deputies were Robert Blair and James Hamilton, the old and established favourites of the Ulster Presbyterians, who arrived in the beginning of September. Their chief duty was to organize congregations, to explain and defend the principles and discipline of the Presbyterian Church, to administer the Lord's Supper, to encourage the Presbytery, and to strengthen the hands of the few and feeble Pastors already ordained. A few extracts from Mr. Blair's narrative of his proceedings may not be uninteresting. “I generally preached,” he says, "once every day, and twice on the Sabbath-frequently in the fields, the auditors being so many that no house could hold them. Because many of the people had taken the Black Oath, and abjured the National Covenant, I deeply rebuked them, called upon them to confess their siu, and only admitted them to the communion as sincere penitents." All
who attended or countenanced prelatical worship were strictly excluded from ordinances, as well as all who led scandalous and unholy lives ; and thus “the pleasure of the Lord prospered in our hands."
After ordaining Ministers in Ballywalter and Portaferry, and establishing Presbyterian order over the Counties of Down and Antrim, Blair and Hamilton returned to their Parishes in Scotland, amidst the blessings and prayers of a grateful people, and were succeeded in their mission by the celebrated John Livingston, formerly of Killinchy, and a Mr. James Blair of Portpatrick. These worthy men walked zealously in the steps of their predecessors ; and some additional Scotch Regiments having come to Ireland, several of the Chaplains became parish ministers; and thus the fixed and regular Pastors of the Church were gradually increased—although many were still constrained to do duty in several places. Another Petition was therefore presented to the General Assembly, in Edinburgh, on the first Wednesday of August, 1643. The Deputies on this occasion were Sir Robert Adair, of Ballymena, (already mentioned with due respect,) and William M.Kenna, Merchant, of Belfast. At the same meeting, the Presbyterians of Derry applied for a Minister; and Commissioners from the English Parliament being present, their influence was promised to secure to the Presbyterians of Ulster privileges equal to those enjoyed by members of the Episcopal Church. Indeed, there was no difficulty in obtaining this promise ; for the Bishops were hated by the great body of the English people, and on the verge of being expelled from the House of Lords, as the natural prelude to the total overthrow of Episcopacy in that Kingdom, as it had been already overthrown in Scotland. Thus encouraged, the Assembly engaged " to send over such expectants or probationers as, upon trial, they might find qualified to discharge the arduous duties of the ministry in a desolate land.” In the mean time, eminent Ministers, as in the former year, were appointed to visit Ulster, "and there to instruct, comfort, and encourage the scattered flocks of Christ.” By these means, Presbyterianism not only revived but prospered in Ulster—the unfortunate and misguided King being in no condition to aid the Bishops, and Catholics and Presbyterians being equally indisposed to recognize their ecclesiastical assumptions. The Presbyterian Ministers, therefore, as in earlier times, occupied the churches and enjoyed the tithes in those localities where they preponderated in numbers, with every prospect of becoming the established Denomination of Ulster, at least, if not of all Ireland.
During this condition of affairs, events occurred in England and
Scotland, which, although not directly connected with Irish Presbyterianism, eventually bore so much upon its interests, as to demand a passing notice.
It has been already seen that Charles I. was in political conflict with the English Parliament, from the year 1639. In that contest, he was strenuously supported by Archbishop Laud, and the other Prelates of the Church ; and it was no more than natural, that sentiments of political hostility should be transferred to the religion of opponents. The Prelatists were the advocates of kingly and aristocratical privileges : the Puritans and Presbyterians were the friends of popular rights and rational reforms. Now, it is quite clear, that in such a state of affairs, power and prerogative must have gradually lost ground, whilst, in the same proportion, popular sentiment must have acquired strength. The religion of the Church, therefore, being arrayed against popular rights, necessarily became the object of popular odium ; and, as a natural result, the kingly and episcopal authority were soon involved in one common contempt and abhorrence. The Commons, animated by the enthusiasm of the people, in the year 1641, passed resolutions condemnatory of the Legislative authority of the Bishops, and against the employment of Clergymen, of any rank, in civil affairs; but although the blow was warded off for a season by the Ilouse of Lords, it only fell with the more determined and deadly force, two years later. In the mean time, Charles took up arms to assert his own prerogatives and to defend the Church. For this event the Parliament had made quiet preparations, by placing their own friends in the principal strong-holds of the Kingdom; so that in the Campaign of 1642, no decided advantage was gained on either side.
During the following year, the Royal cause wore a more favourable aspect; and yet, the Commons, so far from abating any of their demands, renewed their Resolutions against the Bishops, and so intimidated the House of Lords, that they concurred in expelling them from Parliament. This measure was urged forward, in order to secure the co-operation of the Scotch who had already succeeded in throwing off the yoke of Prelacy; and with a farther view to effect the same object, the Parliament agreed to convene an Assembly of learned Divines and others in Westminster, to settle the Doctrine and Government of the Church of England, on principles consistent with those of the Church of Scotland. As the deliberations of this celebrated Assembly resulted in the composition of “ The Westminster Confession of Faith,” which has exercised so disastrous an influence in many Presbyterian Churches, and to which reference is so frequently made in speeches and writings, it will be interesting to many readers to peruse the Resolution of Parliament constituting the Assembly
“ An Ordinance of the Lords and Commons assembled in Parliament, for the
calling of an Assembly of learned and godly Divines, and others to be consulted with by the Parliament, for the settling of the government and liturgy of the Church of England ; and for vindicating and clearing of the doctrine of the said Church from false aspersions and interpretations. June 12,
WHEREAS, amongst the infinite blessings of Almighty God upon this nation, none is nor can be more dear unto us than the purity of our religion ; and for that, as yet, many things remain in the liturgy, discipline, and government of the Church, which do necessarily require a further and more perfect reformation than as yet hath been attained ; and whereas it hath been declared and resolved by the Lords and Commons assembled in Parliament, that the present Church-government by archbishops, their chancellors, commissars, deans, deans and chapters, archdeacons, and other ecclesiastical officers depending upon the hierarchy, is evil, and justly offensive and burdensome to the kingdom, a great impediment to reformation and growth of religion, and very prejudicial to the state and government of this kingdom; and therefore they are resolved that the same shall be taken away, and that such a government shall be settled in the Church as may be most agreeable to God's holy word, and most apt to procure and preserve the peace of the Church at home, and nearer agreement with the Church of Scotland, and other Reformed Churches abroad; and for the better effecting hereof, and for the vindicating and clearing of the doctrine of the Church of England from all false calumnies and aspersions, it is thought fit and necessary to call an Assembly of learned, godly, and judicious Divines, who, together with some members of both the Houses of Parliament, are to consult and advise of such matters and things, touching the premises, as shall be proposed unto them by both or either of the Houses of Parliament, and to give their advice and counsel therein to both or either of the said Houses, when, and as often as they shall be thereunto required : Be it therefore ordained, by the Lords and Commons in this present Parliament assembled, That all and every the persons hereafter in this present ordinance named, and such other person or persons as shall be nominated and appointed by both Houses of Parliament, or so many of them as shall not be letted by sickness, or other necessary impediment, shall meet and assemble, and are hereby required and enjoined, to meet and assemble themselves at Westminster, in the Chapel called King Henry the VII.'s Chapel, on the first day of July, in the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and forty-three; and after the first meeting, being at least the number of forty, shall from time to time sit, and be removed from place to place : and also that the said Assembly shall be dissolved in such manner as by both Houses of Parliament shall be directed : and the said persons, or so many of them as shall be so assembled, or sit, shall have power and authority, and are hereby likewise enjoined from time to time, during this present Parliament, or until further order be taken by both the said Houses, to confer or treat among themselves of such matters and things, touching and concerning the liturgy, discipline, and government of the Church of England, for the vindicating and clearing of the doctrine of the same from all false aspersions and misconstructions, as shall be proposed unto them by both or either of the said Houses of Parliament, and no other ; and deliver their opinion, advices of, or touching the matters aforesaid, as shall be most agreeable to the word of God, to both or either of the Houses,