Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

had fled from famine and persecution; and, on the whole, they experienced more présent comfort, and more hope of future security, than they had enjoyed for many years. Their prospects were farther brightened, at this juncture, by the return of the Revd. Patrick Adair, of Cairncastle, the Revd. John Abernethy, of Moneymore, and Colonel Arthur Upton, of Templepatrick, who had been deputed to wait upon King William III. in London, to congratulate him on his elevation to the Throne, and to assure him of their faithful attachment to his person and government. The King had received them most graciously, not merely on account of their political adhesion, but also on account of his sympathy with their religious opinions; and on their leaving London, he gave them a letter to Duke Schomberg, couched in the following complimentary terms" To our right trusty and right entirely beloved cousin and counsellor, Frederick

Duke of Schomberg, General of our land forces.

WILLIAM R. “Right trusty and right entirely beloved cousin and counsellor, we greet you well. Whereas, some ministers of the Presbyterian persuasion have humbly besought us in behalf of themselves, their brethren, and their congregation's in the province of Ulster, in our kingdom of Ireland, that we would take them under our gracious protection, and, as an assurance thereof, that we would please to recommend them to you or other our Chief Governor or Chief Governors of the said kingdom for the time being. And we being entirely satisfied of the loyalty and fidelity of our said subjects, and commiserating the sufferings and calamities they have of late lain under, which we are desirous to put an end to, as far as we can contribute towards it, we have thought fit to grant their request. And accordingly we do hereby recommend to you in a particular manner the said ministers and their congregations, requiring you to give them that protection and support that their affection to our service does deserve, and to show them all fitting countenance, that they may live in tranquillity, and unmolested, under our Government; and so we bid you, very heartily, farewell. Given at our Court at Whitehall, the 9th day of November, 1689, in the first year of our reign.”

This letter was delivered to the Duke, in Lisburn, “where he received the Deputies with great kindness, and assured them of his sincere desire to afford them countenance and protection, not merely out of respect to the King's Majesty's command, but likewise on account of their own loyalty and approved good conduct.” Early in the following June, (1690,) William, himself, arrived in Ireland, accompanied by several of his courtiers and a considerable body of troops. He landed at Kilroot Point, about a milę northward of Carrickfergus-slept one night at the foot of the Cave-Hill, in a place which, from that circumstance, is still called “ The Throne"-remained some time in Belfast—and, on his route southward, spent one night under a venerable tree, about two miles from Belfast, in what is now the demesne of Mrs. Templeton, of Malone. On his arrival in Belfast, he had been waited upon by a Deputation of Presbyterian Ministers and Elders, whom he received most graciously; and the result of that interview is shown in the following document:

WILLIAM R. “Whereas, upon our arrival in this kingdom, at Belfast, we received a loyal and dutiful address from our trusty and well-beloved subjects, Patrick Adair, Archibald Hamilton, William Adair, and others, in the name of themselves and the rest of the Presbyterian ministers of their persuasion in these Northern parts of our kingdom; and calling to mind how early they also were in their address unto us, upon our arrival unto England, and the promises we then made them of a pension of eight hundred pounds per annum, for their subsistence, which, by reason of several impediments, bath not as yet been made effectual unto them; and being assured of the peaceable and dutiful temper of our said subjects, and sensible of the losses they have sustained, and their constant labour to unite the hearts of others in zeal and loyalty towards us, we do hereby, out of our Royal bounty, give and grant unto them the sum of twelve hundred pounds per annum, to be paid by quarterly payments—the first payment of three hundred pounds sterling to begin upon the 24th day of this instant June, and so forward; and our will and pleasure is, that you, or the Collector of our Customs at Belfast, for the time being, do make due payments of the said pension into the hands of Mr. Patrick Adair, Alexander Hutcheson, Archibald Hamilton, Robert Craighead, Hugh Wilson, Robert Henry, and William Adair, or to the person which they or any five of them shall appoint, to be by them distributed among the rest. And the Commissioners of our Revenue for this kingdom are hereby required to allow, upon your accounts, all such sum or sums of money as shall appear by you, or any other Collector of Belfast, to have been paid in virtue of this our grant; and for so doing this shall be your warrant. Given at our Court at Hillsborough, the 19th day of June, 1690, in the second year of our reign. “To our trusty and well-beloved Christopher Carleton, Esq. Collector of

our Port of Belfast.” The King's munificence, however, was much more extensive than the Revenues of Belfast, which, at that period, only reached the sum of £600 per annum; so that “trusty and well-beloved Christopher Carleton” was compelled to draw upon the Treasury, in Dublin, for an equal amount, to pay the annual Royal Bounty to the Presbyterian Ministers of Ulster! Few things could more strikingly illustrate the remarkable progress of population, commerce, and general improvement, in this country, during the course of one hundred and fifty years, than the gratifying fact, that the annual Revenue of the Port of Belfast has now risen to upwards of £400,000.

The countenance and support of the State, so conspicuously manifested, conferred a stability and importance upon Presbyterianism, which it had not enjoyed, in this country, at any previous period of its history. It had long comprehended the great majority of the Protestant population of Ulster ; and its ranks were now speedily augmented by the accession of large numbers of ministers and people from Scotland, who eagerly sought a soil and climate more genial than their own, in a land where they could enjoy perfect freedom of faith and worship. The ordinances of religion were duly celebrated, Church discipline was revived, Presbyteries were held in several counties, and, in the year 1692, the First General Synod of Ulster was convened. There is no official record, indeed, of any Meeting of that Body, previously to the year 1694 ; but credible tradition has assigned

the date first mentioned, although the Minutes of the primary As. sembly have been lost.

The General Synod appears, after its institution, to have met for twelve successive years, in Antrim; and, for a considerable time afterwards, the meetings alternated between Antrim and Belfast. Subsequently, Armagh, Coleraine, Derry, Dungannon, and Lurgan were occasionally the places of meeting ; and it is pleasant to look back upon the innocent occupations of “the venerable Fathers and Brethren” in the earlier Assemblies. Escaped from persecution and established in comfort, they passed five years in the exercise of mutual forbearance and good-will. No harsh and ambitious spirit had yet appeared, to recommend the forging of fetters for the mind of his brethren. They were literally an Assembly of freemen: or, if they did interfere with others at all, it was by small and ludicrous legislation on trifling subjects, which abundantly proved that their hearts were not inflamed by bigotry and intolerance. The following is a sample of their grave sumptuary enactments :

“ Overtured 1st.—That there are some Ministers, their wives, and children, who are too gaudy and vain in their apparel, and some too sordid : therefore, that it be recommended to the several Presbyteries, to reform these faults in themselves and theirs ; and to study decency and gravity in their apparel and wigs, avoiding powderings, vain cravats, half-shirts, and the like:

"Overtured 2d.—That sumptuous dinners, like feasts, be forborne in Ministers' houses, on Mondays after communions; and, also, that sumptuous, prodigal dinners at ordinations be forborne ; and that Presbyteries inquire into these things!"

Unhappily, however, such harmless follies did not long occupy the time of the grave Assembly. Instead of sagely regulating the labours of the milliner, the tailor, the hair-dresser, and the cook, as the skilful arbiters of fashion and of feasts, they speedily discovered a less ludicrous but infinitely more absurd and more mischievous occupation. They betook themselves to the clipping, and dressing, and fashioning of consciences, and to the regulation of the food of minds. Forgetting that they had themselves just escaped from the fangs of “Popery and Prelacy," against whose tyranny and persecutions they had filled the world with their complaints, the miserable and inconsistent creatures began to inflict upon others, even of their own communion, the very oppressions under which they themselves had suffered, and against which they had so loudly and so justly declaimed. Yet, like all men who know that they are about to act unworthily and disgracefully, the General Synod of 1697 set about their work of tyranny, with a sneaking and dastardly spirit. They did not dare to tell the people boldly and plainly, that after all their clamour about rights and liberties, they had formed a scheme for making them and their children the mere bond-slaves of the clergy! No: for that would have produced a universal cry of shame! shame! which would

have been followed by desertion or rebellion. The project was, consequently, to be introduced under the sanction of venerable names and pious pretences, that the spirit of liberty might be gradually crushed in the hearts of the people. The Synod, therefore, “appointed a Member to look over the Acts of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and consider and draw out, what may be applicable to us in this Church.” The Member discovered, of course, what he was appointed to find, viz. that for the last fifty years, the Licentiates and Ministers of the Church of Scotland, had been compelled to subscribe “ The Westminster Confession of Faith :" and here was a precedent, in the venerated Parent Church, for submitting to human dictation, in religious concerns. Now, why did they seek, or why did they require, a precedent? When men feel that they are doing right, they never hesitate to incur the entire responsibility of their own actions ; but, when conscience tells them that their purposes are mean, wrong, and selfish, they cover themselves with the cloak of antiquity, and screen themselves behind venerable names, that their real deformity may not be discovered. And, yet, the General Synod, even with the sanction of the Church of Scotland, did not dare, at once, to attempt the execution of all their designs; but, in the spirit of true cowards, they valiantly assailed the defenceless and the weak. At the Meeting of June 1st, 1698, they unanimously resolved—“That young men before being licensed to preach, be obliged to subscribe the Confession of Faith, in all the articles thereof, as the confession of their faith.” The poor young men, whose entrance into the Church and support in life entirely depended upon the will of their superiors, dared not to rebel : the laity, not being themselves concerned, saw no great harm in adopting a law of the Church of Scotland, respecting Licentiates: and the ordained Clergy, not being called upon to subscribe, were too cautious to awaken a suspicion of their own orthodoxy, by expressing any dangerous sympathy with unfriended students! And thus did the first sad act of the drama of Intolerance, in the Synod of Ulster, pass off, if not with applause, at least without condemnation. The second act was not performed until the 5th of June, 1705_seven full years having been required to prepare the public mind for its exhibition. No one will be surprised at this delay, who is aware of the general impression amongst the early and free Presbyterians of Ireland, that Ministers ought to be ordained “to preach the Gospel," and the Gospel alone. They were slow to comprehend that binding a Minister, at his ordination, "to teach for doctrines the commandments of men," is a good beginning for teaching, afterwards, the commandments of God. But, this submission to human authority, they appear to have learned in 1705, when the Synod resolved unanimously—“That those who have been licensed without

[ocr errors]

subscription, be obliged to subscribe, before their ordination." And, thus, at the end of nearly one hundred years from their first settlement in Ireland, did the descendants of those illustrious and honest men who nobly sacrificed their fortunes and lives, for the maintenance of Christian liberty against earthly dictation, submit their degenerate necks to the yoke of human bondage : and thus was laid the foundation of those contentions which, in 1726 and 1829, rent the Presbyterian Church in twain ; and which will, from time to time, continue to rend it, until it shall return to “its first love,” and again stand before the world as the champion of Truth and Liberty!

This melancholy history, however, is full of various instruction, and specially proves that the principal allegations put forth by the Calvinists, some years ago, in order to defeat The Dissenters’ Chapels Bill, were, what I at the time showed them to be, entirely without foundation.

They alleged, first—That the Irish Calvinistic Synod was an affiliated Branch of the Established Church of Scotland. Now, it never was connected with the Church of Scotland, in any respect whatsoeverin doctrine, discipline, or jurisdiction. Scotch ministers, no doubt, settled in Ireland ; but so did English Puritans : and these, mutually, laid the foundation of the Presbyterian Church, which was modelled, to a considerable extent, on the plan of the Church of Scotland. But, the Scotch Assembly never exercised any authority in this countrya fact abundantly manifested by the appointment, as already mentioned, of a Member of the General Synod, in the year 1697, “to look into the Acts of the General Assembly, and to consider what may be applicable to this Church.” Why, had the General Synod been “a Branch,” every Act would have been not only applicable but binding ; and, consequently, our proud Irish General Assembly is but a Dissenting Church, after all!

The Calvinists alleged, secondlyThat the Westminster Confession was subscribed by all the Irish Presbyterian Ministers, from its adoption in Scotland, in the year 1649. Now, I have proved by an extract from their own Minutes, that it was not subscribed even by Licentiates, until the year 1698, and not subscribed at ordination, until the year 1705. The Remonstrants, therefore, only stated a literal fact to the Irish Government, in the year 1843, when they averred that "the original Presbyterian Church of Ireland was a perfectly free and independent Church, bound together by no Creed but the Bible ; and that it had so continued for nearly one hundred years." This important fact, which Divines and Newspapers had the hardihood to deny, I have now established by public records ; and thereby demonstrated, that the Non-subscribing Presbyterians of Ireland are the only true and proper representatives of the honest and

[ocr errors]
« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »