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Sketches of North Carolina
Chapter VI - State of Religion in Ireland from the time of the Emigration from Scotland to the first effort to emigrate to America, 1631


The state of Religion among the emigrants was peculiar, though not strange or unexpected, in the circumstances. Many of the large landholders, and also the proprietors of smaller sections, were gentlemen in the Scotch acceptation of the word, men of good birth, of good manners, of some education and property. Some of them appear to have been truly religious. Among the tenantry and sub-tenantry, were also many of sound principles and correct lives,—and some were truly pious. But the circumstances of the emigration were such as to hold out greater inducements to the restless than to the sedate, to those who were more anxious about temporal, than to those who were most engaged about spiritual concerns; and consequently the province was occupied by settlers, who were willing enough to receive and respect ministers, who were sent to them, but were not characterized by any great desire to obtain either faithful ministers, who would warn them of their sins, or careless ones who would be content with their tithes. Of the latter class they had enough in Ireland, as the whole country had been divided into parishes, which were expected to support a minister of the Established Church of England. The former class were a terror unto them, as they always are to those not fully intent upon their own salvation. Stewart draws a dark picture of the people soon after their emigration; it is probably over colored, as the author was not conversant with the settling of colonies; the only other one of which he had much knowledge, time Puritans that removed first to Holland, and then to New England, being a solitary example of excellence. "Most of the people were all void of godliness, who seemed rather to flee from God in their enterprise, than to follow their own mercy. Yet God followed them when they fled from him. Albeit, at first, it must be remembered, that, as they cared little for any church, so God seemed to care as little for them. For these strangers were no better entertained (i. e., by the clergy they found in Ireland, or that part of it where they were) than by the relics of popery, served up in a ceremonia] service of God under a sort of antichristian hierarchy, and committed to the care of careless men, who were only zealous to call for their gain from their quarter. Thus, on all hands, atheism increased, and disregard of God, iniquity abounded with contention, fighting, murder, adultery, &c., as among a people who, as they had nothing within them to overawe them, so their ministers' example (i. e., those they found in Ireland) was worse than nothing. And verily, at this time the whole body of this people seemed ripe for the manifestation either of God's judgment, or God's mercy."

The situation of the emigrants, in matters pertaining to religion, was so different from the condition of the congregations in Scotland, that with the more grave and religious in the mother country, it became a matter of abhorrence;—so much so, that "going to Ireland" was looked upon as a thing to be deplored, as going away from the privileges and enjoyments of religion. It became a proverb expressive of disdain, "Ireland will be your latter end." Mr. Blair said of their condition in religious things=" Although amongst those whom divine providence did send to Ireland, there were several persons eminent for birth, education and parts, yet the most part was such as either poverty, scandalous lives, or at the best, adventurous seeking of better accommodation had forced thither; so that the security and thriving of religion was little seen to by these adventurers, and the preachers were generally of the same complexion with the people." This condition of the emigrants became at length a matter of deep sympathy and Christian benevolence—and faithful ministers of time gospel were encouraged to take their abode in Ireland, and expend their strength in labors which received a rich blessing from on high. Between the years 1613 and 1626, seven preachers went over to Ireland, whose exertions for the advancement of religion were blessed to such an eminent degree, that others were excited to follow them; and in a few years the church in Ireland became as famous for a spirit of revival, as the emigration had been for indifference to all religious concerns.

The first, in point of time, was EDWARD BRICK, M.A., who, on account of his strenuous opposition to all efforts to introduce Episcopacy into Scotland, was compelled to leave his parish, Drymen in Stirlingshire; turning his attention to Ireland, he directed his steps to Broad Island in County Antrim, where an old acquaintance had settled in 1609. He began to exercise his ministry there in 1613. "In all his preaching," says Livingston, "he installed most on the life of Christ in the heart, and the light of His spirit and word on the mind; that being his own continual exercise." The wrath of man, in his troubles at home in Scotland, was overruled of God to bring him to preach Christ to the desolate; his being driven from his parish, was the leading of others to the Kingdom of God. He died in 1636, aged 67 years.

The second was JOHN RIDGE, a native of England. He had been admitted to the order of Deacon by the Bishop of Oxford; but feeling no freedom to exercise his ministry in England, on account of the requisitions made of the clergy, he removed to Ireland, and on presentation of Lord Chichester, was admitted to the vicarage of Antrim in July, 1619. Blair styles him—"the judicious and gracious Minister of Antrim." Livingston says of him: " he used not to have many points in his sermon; but he so enlarged those he had, that it was scarcely possible for any hearer to forget his preaching. He was a great urger of charitable works, and a very humble man." After having witnessed the power of religion in an uncommon degree in Antrim, as will be noticed more particularly in another place, when the treat revival comes up for narration, he died about the year 1637.

The third was MR. HUBBARD, a Puritan minister from England. He was Episcopally ordained; but having forsaken the communion of time Established Church, and taken charge of a non-conforming congregation, at Southwark, London, he was greatly oppressed by the intolerant measures of the times, and with his people resolved on removing to Ireland, in hopes of greater freedom in religion. Lord Chichester being informed of their intention, invited them to Carrickfergus; they were peaceably settled there about the year 1621. Blair speaks of him as "an able and gracious man." He soon died; but his congregation shared largely in the divine blessing that so unexpectedly was poured upon Ulster county.

The fourth was JAMES GLENDENNING, whose labors were peculiarly blessed, a native of Scotland, educated at St. Andrews, and early in life removing to Scotland, he succeeded Mr. Hubbard at Carrickfergus. The theatre of his greatest usefulness was Old-stone, near Antrim, where commenced, under his preaching, THE REVIVAL that spread over the province, and laid the foundation of the Irish Presbyterian Church. Mr. Glendenning was not esteemed as a man of much ability or learning; but his preaching being full of life and earnestness was much admired, and greatly blessed of God. He left Ireland in a few years.

The fifth was ROBERT CUNNINGHAM. Having been chaplain to the Earl of Buccleugh, in Holland, on the return of the troops to Scotland he went to Ireland, and became curate of HoIywood and Craigavad in County Down. His name does not appear upon the roll as curate till 1622, though he was in Ireland some years previous to that time. Livingston says of him : " To my discerning he was the one man who most resembled the meekness of Jesus Christ, in all his carriage, that ever I saw, and was so far reverenced, even by the wicked, that he was often troubled- with that scripture—' woe to you when all men speak well of you.' " He died in Scotland, March 29th, 1637, having witnessed, in an extraordinary manner, the power of the gospel.

The sixth was ROBERT BLAIR,. He had been professor in the College of Glasgow, but was induced to leave the situation on account of the measures used by Dr. Cameron to introduce Prelacy; being invited by Lord Claneboy (James Hamilton), he went to Ireland in May, 1623, and was settled in Bangor, in County Down. On his first landing in Ireland, his prejudices against the country were greatly increased by what he saw. Lord Claneboy interested himself very much in removing his difficulties, and Cllr. Gibson, the first Protestant Dean of Down, then sick, invited him to preach in Bangor, and afterwards united with the congregation in urging him to make that his abode. Mr. Blair, in his narrative, says: Mr. Gibson "condemned Episcopacy more strongly than I durst to; he charged me in the name of Christ, as I expected a blessing on my ministry, not to leave that good way wherein I had begun to walk; and then drawing my head towards his bosom, with both arms, he laid his hands on my head, and blessed me."

On his first interview he frankly told Bishop Echlin his objections to Prelacy. Echlin promised to impose no conditions on him, but said he must ordain him, or they could not answer the laws of the land. Blair objected to the performance of the ordination by him alone. The bishop finally agreed to associate Mr. Cunningham and the neighboring ministers with him in the ordination: and the service was performed July 10th," 1623. "Whatever you account of Episcopacy, yet I know you account a presbytery to have a divine warrant," said the bishop to him. "Will you not receive ordination from Mr. Cunningham and the adjacent brethren, and let me come in among them in no other relation than a presbyter?"

Livingston says of Blair,—"he was a man of a notable constitution both of body and mind; of a majestic, awful, yet affable and amiable countenance and carriage, learned, of strong parts, deep inventions, and solid judgment. He seldom ever wanted assurance of his salvation. He spent many days and nights in prayer alone, and with others, and was vouchsafed great intimacy with God."

The seventh was JAMES HAMILTON, nephew to Lord Clancboy (James Hamilton, who obtained a part of O'Neill's estate), whom Mr. Blair found in the employ of his uncle, as steward, or agent. Perceiving his piety, and knowing his education, he invited him to enter the ministry. ''I invited him," says Mr. Blair, "to preach in my pulpit, in his uncle's hearing, who till then knew nothing of this matter. We were afraid the viscount would not part with so faithful a servant. But he, having once heard his nephew, did put more respect on him than before." Mr. Hamilton was ordained by Bishop Echlin in the year 1625.

These seven brethren labored with the spirit of missionaries of the cross, and triumphing over all difficulties, were favored with an extraordinary measure of success. Their influence was first seen in a reformation of manners and a devout attention to religion and led, under the blessing of God, to a revival of religion, which spread over a large part of the counties of Down and Antrim, and is one of the most signal on record in the Protestant Church. This revival first appeared under the preaching of the weakest of the brethren, Mr. Glendenning. Mr. Stewart, in his narrative, thus relates the matter: "Mr. Blair, coming over from Bangor to Carrickfergus on some business, and occasionally hearing Mr. Glendenning preach, perceived some sparkles of good inclination in him, yet found him not solid but weak, and not fitted for a public place, and among the English. On which Mr. Blair did call him, and using freedom with him, advised him to go to some place in the country among his countrymen; whereupon he went to Oldstone (near the town of Antrim), and was there placed. He was a man who could, never have been chosen by a wise assembly of ministers, nor sent to begin a reformation in this land. For he was little better than distracted,—yea afterwards did actually become so."

"At Oldstone God made use of him to awaken the consciences of a lewd people thereabouts. For seeing the great lewdness and ungodly sinfulness of the people, he preached nothing to them but law, wrath, and the terrors of God for sin. And indeed for nothing else was he fitted, for hardly could he preach any other thing." But behold the success! For the hearers finding themselves condemned by the mouth of God speaking in his work, 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 hate seen them myself stricken into a swoon with a 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 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;—yea, 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, no' 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 those 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 no man, yet are now patterns of sobriety, fearing 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. At this time of the people's gathering to Christ, it pleased the Lord to visit mercifully the honorable family in Antrim, so as Sir John Clotworthy, and my Lady his mother, and his own precious Lady, did shine in an eminent manner in receiving the gospel and offering themselves to the Lord, whose example instantly other gentlemen followed, such as Captain Norton and others, of whom the gospel made a clear and cleanly conquest."

This religious excitement spreading wide, continued for a considerable length of time; the demand for the pure word of the gospel was unceasing; and the labors of the ministers unremitting. The mercy of the gospel was welcomed by the hearts wounded for sin and by sin; and great numbers were hopefully awakened and converted to God. Among other things that followed this revival was the Monthly Meeting at Antrim, the effects of which were great and happy. Its origin is thus described by Stewart and Blair :—

"There was a man in the parish of Oldstone, called Hugh Campbell, who had fled from Scotland; God caught him in Ireland, and made him an eminent and exemplary Christian until this day. He was a gentleman of the house of Duckethall. After this man was healed of the wound given to his soul by the Almighty, he became very refreshful to others who had less learning and judgment than himself. He therefore invited some of his honest neighbors, who fought the same fight of faith, to meet him at his house on the last Friday of every month; where and when, beginning with a few, they spent their time in prayer, mutual edification, and conference, on what they found within them: nothing like the superficial superfluous meetings of some cold-hearted professors, who afterwards made this work a snare to many. But these new beginners were inure filled with heart exercises than head notions, and with fervent prayer rather than conceity notions to fill the Bead. As these truly increased, so did this meeting for private edification increase too; and still at Hugh Campbell's house, on the last Friday of the month. At last they grew so numerous that the ministers who had begotten them again to Christ, thought fit that some of them should be still with them, to prevent what hurt might follow." This took place in the year 1626. Here Mr. Stewart's narrative ends abruptly. Mr. Blair says: "Mr. John Riche, the judicious and gracious minister of Antrim, perceiving many people, both sides of time Six Mile Water, awakened out of their security, made an overture that a monthly meeting might be set up at Antrim, which was within a mile of Oldstone, and lay centrical for the awakened persons to resort to, and he invited Mr. Cunningham, Mr. Hamilton, and myself, to take part in that work, who were all glad of the motion, and heartily embraced it."

As the revival progressed, the news of it reached Scotland, and called the attention of the whole Christian community to Ireland; and in consequence, some very able ministers went over to take part in the work, and were blessed of God in being extensively useful in laying the foundation of time Irish Presbyterian Church. In addition to the seven who went previous to the revival, the following six, who entered the field during the great excitement, are worthy of particular notice.

The first, JOSIAS WELCH, son of John Welch, of Ayr, and grandson of John Knox, the Reformer, by his third daughter, Elizabeth. Having finished his education at Geneva, he filled a Professor's chair in Glasgow, till the movements of Dr. Cameron for prelacy, which drove Mr. Blair from college, induced him also to surrender his office. At Mr. Blair's earnest instigation he went to Ireland in 1626, and like that good man, found that persecution, as in the days of the death of Stephen, sometimes drives men into that part of the Lord's vineyard where they reap the richest harvest for eternal life. He preached for a time at Oldstone, ,here the excitement began; and having been ordained by his kinsman Knox, Bishop of Raphoe, in Donegal, was soon after settled at Temple Patrick, and, Livingston says, had many seals to his ministry. He died on Monday, June 23d, 1634.

The second that came was ANDREW STEWART, who was settled as minister of Donegore, adjoining Temple Patrick and Antrim. Blair styles him "a learned gentleman, and fervent in spirit, and a very successful minister of the word of God." He died in July, 1634.

The third was GEORGE DUNBAR. He had been minister of Ayr, and was twice ejected on account of his nonconformity, and for a time confined in Blackness, and then banished. On the arrival of the news of his second ejectment, he turned to his wife and said "Wife, get the creels ready again;" that is, the osier baskets in which he had carried his children in his first remove. He was driven to Ireland to be blessed in the Lord's vineyard. Being settled at Larna, county Antrim, his congregation participated in the great revival; and among the subjects was the singular case of a deaf and dumb person, Andrew Brown, who, by his reformed life and expressions of piety, prevailed on the ministers, who met at Antrim, in their monthly meetings, to admit him to the Lord's table. A singular, and almost solitary, case of a mute professing spiritual religion, previous to the recent successful efforts at giving them instruction.

The fourth was HENRY COLWORT, a native of England, ordained by Knox, Bishop of Raphoe, on the 4th of May, 1629, and settled at Oldstone, June, 1630. Blair says, "this able minister was a blessing to that people;" and Livingston speaks of him as one ''who very pertinently cited much Scripture in his sermons, and frequently urged fasting and prayer."

The fifth was JOHN LIVINGSTON. Being silenced by Spotiswood, Archbishop of St. Andrews, in the year 1627, and being prevented by the bishops from obtaining a settlement, though invitations came to him from various quarters, he at length yielded to the storm, and following the hand of the Lord, went to Ireland, August, 1630, and was settled in Killinchy, in county Down. He received ordination from Knox, in the same manner Blair had done, some years previously. In the month of June preceding his removal to Ireland, he had, in company with Mr. Robert Blair, assisted at the famous meeting in the Kirk of Shotts, which resulted in the hopeful conversion of so large a company. Under his sermon on Monday, which he delivered after hours of meditation and private prayer, the whole audience seemed under the convicting power of the word, and as many as five hundred, of those that day impressed, afterwards professed faith in Christ. Some say that, reckoning up all that from that day's preaching became hopefully religious, the number would be swelled to seven hundred; as the audience was collected from a great distance, as usual on Scotch communion days, many of the hopeful converts were from distant congregations, and some who dated their religious impressions from that day, did not profess religion for a ,length of time.

The great excitement produced at this meeting rendered Mr. Blair and :Mr. Livingston more obnoxious than ever to the Prelates, who, under pretence of their having transgressed the order of the Church and the government, prevailed on Bishop Echlin, in Ireland, in September, 1631, to suspend both these men from their ministerial functions. No service done to God, in the conversion of men, could satisfy these Prelates for nonconformity to their established rules of Church government.

Two others were extensively useful, though not settled in congregations. One was JOHN MCCLELLAND, of whom Livingston says,---"he was first school-master at Newton-Ards in Ireland, where he bred several hopeful youths for the college. Being first tried and approved by the honest ministers in the county of Down, he often preached in their churches. He was a most straight and zealous man; he knew not what it was to be afraid of man in the cause of God; and was early acquainted with God and his ways."

The other was JOHN SEMPLE. According to the mode of commencing public worship, he, as clerk or precentor, was, as customary, singing a psalm before the minister carne in that was to preach. Thinking the minister tarried long, he felt an impulse to speak something to the psalm he was singing; and, as he said, he was carried out with treat liberty." The ministers, looking upon his case as peculiar, made private trials of his capability to teach, and gave him license "to exercise his gifts in private houses and families." With this liberty he went through the country with great acceptance; the 'people flocked to hear him, filling dwelling-houses and barns; and to very many he was the happy instrument of God in their conversion.

These ministers were powerful auxiliaries in extending the revival in Ulster. The churches gathered by them multiplied and extended, and became a large body; and from them were the emigrants whose descendants are found in Pennsylvania, western Virginia, North and South Carolina, in large bodies, and also in smaller companies scattered over the southern and western portions of the United States.

The monthly meeting set up at Oldstone by Mr. Campbell, being altogether in the hands of the inexperienced, was likely to lead to the evils that result from zeal without knowledge. By the prudent exertions of Mr. Ridge of Antrim, a monthly meeting of ministers was formed, which took the place of the other, prevented the dreaded evils, and became instrumental of great good to the community. The exercises of those meetings were very similar to the services performed at the communion seasons in Scotland, and to the communion seasons and four day meetings held by the Presbyterians in Virginia and the Carolinas, and indeed in the whole South and West. People flocked to them in crowds, and embraced the opportunity of conversation with their minister, and each other, on the great subjects of Religion; and the minister took the opportunity of communicating instructions on important subjects, and for the exercise of necessary discipline, in which unity of purpose and action was required.

Mr. Brice of Broad Island, and Mr. Dunbar, who was for a time his assistant, and afterwards settled at Oldstone, were called to the exercise of prudence and judgment in another way. In Broad Island and the adjacent parish of Oldstone, there were several persons violently affected during public worship with hard breathings and convulsions of the body. These new and strange exercises they considered as evidences of the work of the Spirit. Messrs. Brice and Dunbar examined them carefully on this matter, and on conferring with them about their state of mind and heart, could not find that these bodily exercises either produced or accompanied any discovery of their sinfulness before God, nor any clear views of Christ, or desires after him. They therefore considered the exercises to be either an imposition or a delusion. The ministerial brethren were called together upon the matter and after a patient examination they decided against the opinion that the exercises were either a work of the Spirit or any evidence of its presence. Mr. Blair says—"When we came and conferred with them, we perceived it to be a mere delusion and cheat of the destroyer, to slander and disgrace the work of God." The putting down these irregularities did not hinder the progress of the good work, but rather gave confidence both to preachers and people. Instead of permitting the passions and feelings of their hearers to lead the pastors, or the heat of excitement to blind their eyes, they submitted all things in religion to the test of Scripture, and by its authority they chose to abide. This was their rule in church government, ordination and doctrine : and more than two centuries in Europe, and more than a century in America, has tested and proved the prudence and propriety of their decisions.

The monthly meeting at Antrim, besides being a source of rich encouragement and high enjoyment to the people, became to the ministers a source of great consolation. In them they took counsel and gave advice, and comforted and exhorted each other; and, until presbyteries were formed, it was their grand council. It must be borne in mind, that the whole country was under the Established Church of England; and in the space occupied by these laborers were some twenty ministers of the Established Church, who took no interest in the revival, but rather set themselves against it, and were opposed to these ministers preaching in their parish bounds. Bishop Echlin, at first favorable to these ministers, soon became their bitter enemy: while Knox of Raphoe continued their friend to the last. Mr. Livingston says that the brethren that formed this meeting lived in the greatest harmony, each preferring the other in love.


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