June 23: The Pioneer of Irish Presbyterianism

By Rev. David T. Myers

Josiah Welsh had cried out at the moment he entered glory, “O victory, victory, forevermore,” on June 23, 1634. He was only thirty-six years of age.  But what he had accomplished for Christ in those short thirty-six years was remarkable.

Born in 1598 in Scotland, he was of good Presbyterian stock! How could this not be said when we acknowledge that his mother was one of John Knox’s—yes, that John Knox—daughters. Elizabeth was the third daughter of the great Reformer from his second wife. So that made our topic of today’s post the grandson of John Knox. In addition, his own father John Welsh was a Presbyterian minister as well.

Josiah studied first at Geneva, Switzerland, much as his grandfather had done.  Then he returned to Scotland to study at St. Andrews. He even taught some at the University of Glasgow. He evidently moved to Northern Ireland, or Ulster, due to his opposition to papacy. Yet God moved in two men as the helps of that move.

Humphrey Norton was an English Puritan layman who first employed Joshua Welsh as the chaplain for his household. This was followed by the Rev. Robert Blair, the first Presbyterian preacher in Ulster, who had come over himself from Scotland to Ireland.

It was said that Josiah Welsh had “outstanding spiritual qualities” which enabled him to settle down as the pastor of Templepartrick, Ireland in 1626. While many of his fellow Scottish Presbyterians under-shepherds who moved to Ireland accepted Church of England parishes under the bishops of that land, Josiah Welsh did not and labored without the benefit of membership in an organized presbytery.

It was said of Josiah Welsh that he possessed an ability to preach directly to the consciences of his people in the pew. He was a fervent preacher of the Word which was backed up by a godly lifestyle. One of three famous revivals in Ulster, called the Six Mile Water Revival, occurred under benefit of his preaching to the Irish populace.

Words to Live By: There is an old saying which states “Only one life will soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.” Certainly this was true in the life and ministry of John Welsh. Question? Is it true in your life, dear reader? Talk to your pastor to see what biblical counsel he might impart to you on how it might be your life testimony as well.

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