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A Complaint by an Irish Presbytery
by Rev. David T. Myers

The facts are very sketchy on the Rev. John Wilson back in 1730.

What we do know is that he came to the middle colonies of America from Ireland sometime in the early seventeen hundreds from the Presbytery of Armagh in Ireland. Presenting his credentials as a minister of the Presbyterian convictions, he was immediately received by the presbytery. Without a call to a particular church, he began to preach at Lower Octorara in eastern Pennsylvania with much acceptance by the members of the congregation. As Richard Webster says in his History of the Presbyterian Church, he made “a strong party in his favor.”

It was then that the Presbytery of New Castle received a letter from the Irish Armagh Presbytery on January 17, 1730 regarding the Rev. Mr. Wilson. What was transmitted in that letter is lost to history, but it must have been unfavorable to Rev. Wilson as they resolved not to employ him in the visible church.

The written record of Richard Webster states that a misunderstanding arose between the congregation and the Presbytery. A local Judge of the New Castle County Court, the Honorable Robert Gordon, wrote to the Synod to interpose between the two units of Presbyterianism. They did, but to what results we are not informed.

However it must have been not too favorable to Rev. Wilson, as he moved to Boston, Massachusetts.

The only other record of him is that at the age of 66, Rev. Wilson died on this day, January 6, 1733, just three years after the original complaint came from the Irish Presbytery to the infant Presbyterian church in the colonies.

Words to Live By:
As this author said at the beginning of this post, there is much left unsaid in the written record. And whenever we hear of an issue between a Presbytery and a local church, or a Presbytery and a members of that lower court, it is a day of sadness over the lack of unity in the work of the Lord. Let us resolve to pray when we find ourselves in such a situation, or hear of others of God’s people when they find themselves in the midst of such conflict. Let us pray for clarity of vision for all sides, love for the brethren, and that the purity of Christ’s church would be preserved in the ongoing dispute.

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Christian Home Training
by Rev. David T. Myers

TennentG_02Today in Presbyterian History we celebrate the birth of Gilbert Tennent. Subscribers to our posts will remember his name and history as the celebrated pastor-evangelist of the First Great Awakening in the American colonies. His name will always be remembered as the one who preached about the dangers of unconverted ministers. He both began and ended the New Side wing of the American Presbyterian church in the mid-seventeen hundreds. And he was born on this day, February 5, in County Armagh, Ireland, in the year 1703.

He was to stay with his father and mother, William and Catherine Tennent, in Ireland for the first fourteen years, before the entire family emigrated to the American colonies, and specifically Pennsylvania, due to connections of a close family member of his mother.

We read very little of his early life with the exception of the one great spiritual experience which brought him to Christ around the age of fourteen. He had a serious concern about his salvation around that time. Indeed his mind and heart was in a great agony of spirit. Finally, it pleased the Lord to give him the light of the knowledge of saving grace.

It is clear that what led up to this saving knowledge was the godly training he received in his home schooling by his parents. Both of his parents, beside being Christians, were Christians of the Presbyterian faith. It is true that his father, William, was then a deacon in the Anglican church, albeit Presbyterian in theology and government. When the latter emigrated to America, he immediately sought acceptance in the Presbyterian Church. Further, Gilbert’s mother, Catherine nee Kennedy, was a daughter of a Presbyterian minister.

We could only guess, but it would be an educated one, that the home schooling that Gilbert, his three brothers (all of whom became Presbyterian ministers in America), and his sister all received came from a solid foundation in the great Calvinistic truths of the Reformation.

Solomon in Proverbs 22:6 wrote a general promise which reads, “Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.” The background of the first phrase of “train up” comes from a beautiful picture which means “across the roof of.” The picture is that of a new born infant, who has the experience of some grape juice spread across the roof of the mount. As he or she tries to get that pleasant tasting juice off the roof of the mouth, he or she is then placed at the mother’s breast to crave the life-giving milk. The verb came to mean “to create a desire.”

Now granted, only the Holy Spirit can accomplish that creation of spiritual desire. But we can co-operate with that Spirit to create that spiritual desire in our children. There was no doubt that the home training of the Tennent family in its early days was instrumental in accomplishing much spiritual training in Gilbert Tennent.

Words to Live By:
Speaking to the parents who read This Day in Presbyterian History, are you taking spiritually and seriously the command of Proverbs 22:6 to train your children in the fear and admonition of the Lord? Pray and continue to work much in this vital home training.

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Sinners Were Converted and Saints Were Edified Under His Ministry

Like his brother Samuel, John Blair was also born in Ireland.  Coming to the American colonies, he was ordained in 1742 as the pastor of two Presbyterian churches filled with Scot-Irish Presbyterians in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. During his ministry here, he made two evangelistic tours to Virginia where he preached with great power. Presbyterian congregations were organized as a result.

In 1748, despite organized armed resistance against marauding Indians, he was forced for the safety of his family to depart back to the eastern section of Pennsylvania.  While there, he received a call as the second pastor of Faggs Manor Presbyterian Church in Cochranville, Pennsylvania, where his brother Samuel had both ministered and organized a classical Christian school.

When John Witherspoon hesitated to take the president’s office of the College of New Jersey, John Blair was appointed a Professor of Divinity and Moral Philosophy in 1767.  Indeed, as the Office of the President continued to be vacant, he stepped in as President of the college. But upon Witherspoon’s agreement to come to America and take the leadership of the College of New Jersey, Blair graciously stepped down.  Moving to New York, he died on December 8, 1771.

It was said of John Blair that as a result of his zealousness in the gospel, sinners were converted and the family of God edified. What more of a testimony could a Christian and a Christian minister desire than this?

Words to live by:
It is frequently the case when you have a theologian, there is a lack of experiential witness to the world at large. His ministry is in his study or in the classroom, not out on the highways and byways of life. Or, by contrast, you might have an individual who is absolutely powerful in persuasion of the hearts and minds of those outside of Christ, but who would never get into the deep things of theology. John Blair had both abilities in his life and ministry.  As a theologian, he was not inferior to any of his day.  As a pastor, he addressed souls with that warmth and power which left a witness to the truth of the gospel. Each Christian is to seek his or her calling so as to be a witness in whatever place the Holy Spirit sends them.  And if it is to the intellectual as well as to common people, so much the more is God glorified.

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A Warm Hearted Generous Irishman
by David T. Myers

Our famous person today is James McKinney. Besides being described as our title puts it, he was the founder, under God, of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in the United States, as Rev. Carlisle puts it in an article, The Life and Times of Rev. James McKinney. Certainly, both Rev. Glasgow and Rev. William Sprague testify that for scholarship and eloquence, he was not only the greatest man in the Covenanter church, but also he was a great man among men of that age. All of these accolades should cause us to want to know more about this servant of God.

Born on this day, November 16, 1759 in County Tyrone, Ireland, the son of Robert McKinney, James studied in the preparatory schools of his upbringing. Entering the University of Glasgow, Scotland, he spent four years before graduating in 1778. He stayed on in the area to study both theology and medicine. Licensed by the Reformed Presbytery of Ireland in 1783, and ordained by the same church court, he was installed in two congregations in County Antrim, Ireland. One year later, he married Mary Mitchell, from which union came five children.

He was faithful in administering the Word and Sacraments for ten years in these two Irish congregations. Known as a bold and fearless advocate of the rights of God and man, a sermon on the “Rights of God” made him a marked man by the British government. Indicted for treason by the latter, he escaped to America in 1793, with his family joining him later. From Vermont to the Carolinas, he ministered to Irish societies tirelessly, forming some of them into congregations. In 1797, his family joined him in the new land.

In 1798, in a new location in Philadelphia, he organized, with Rev. Gibson, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of America. He himself took charge of two congregations, one of which was Duanesburgh, New York. His broader ministry took him to other locations, as he and another minister visited the southern areas of this new land, to, and this is interesting, to seek to convince the churches of the land to abolish slavery from their thinking and actions.

In 1802, he resigned his pulpit at Duanesburgh, New York to accept the call of Rocky Creek, South Carolina. Soon after that, however, he died on September 16th, 1802.

Words to Live By:
A warm hearted generous Irishman! We may not be identified as Irish, but every reader is to be warm hearted and generous in our relations to our congregation and the neighbors in which we live and move as Christians. Too often we are anything but warm hearted and generous! Try instead Ephesians 5:31, 32 “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

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Princeton [i.e., the College of New Jersey] graduates its first class

The history of early Presbyterian education is substantially the history of Princeton College. When Mr. Tennent died in 1745 his school was closed. Yet such had been its usefulness that the Synod of New York immediately, in 1746, took steps to perpetuate that institution of learning. It was located first at Elizabethtown, New Jersey, and Jonathan Dickinson was its first president. The students, except those of the village, boarded in the family of the president. Dr. Dickinson died shortly, and the school was removed to Newark in order to be placed under the care of Rev. Aaron Burr, so that he might accept the presidency without resigning his pastorate. The first class of six young men graduated November 9, 1748.

In 1753 Rev. Gilbert Tennent and Rev. Samuel Davies were appointed by Synod to visit England and solicit aid for the college. In the face of very great prejudices against them and the theology which they represented, after a year’s canvass in England, Scotland and Ireland, they had secured widespread sympathy and public endorsement of the enterprise. They succeeded, financially, far beyond their expectation. The total sum raised must have approached, if it did not pass beyond, twenty-five thousand dollars.


Words To Live by:

Presbyterians have always sought and promoted an educated, thoroughly trained pastorate. The challenges presented by the world, the flesh and the devil require that much. Moreover, the Gospel ministry is not to be entered into lightly, and deserves our best efforts. And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.—Deut. 6:5. If this command is true for believers, how much more so for those who would shepherd the Lord’s people?

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The Assembly Subscribes the Solemn League & Covenant [1643]

Dr. Will Barker, former president of Covenant Theological Seminary and professor of church history at the Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, has written of “The Men and the Parties” that comprised the Westminster Assembly of Divines. The full text of this article can be found here: http://www.graceonlinelibrary.org/creeds-confessions/the-men-and-the-parties-by-william-s-barker/, but our post today focuses on the first portion of that article, where Dr. Barker provides a very helpful overview of the five groups which played a role in the history of this great Assembly.

I.  The Parties

Discussions of the Assembly tend to focus on the different parties, often to the neglect of the great unity that existed among the members.  It must never be forgotten that their first concern was for the gospel of Christ and for the unity of all who truly belong to him.  One of the most beautiful chapters in the Confession, “Of the Communion of Saints”, begins: “All saints that are united to Jesus Christ their head by His Spirit and by faith have fellowship with Him…: (WCF XXVI/1).  Further, as teachers they were all Calvinists in theology and could all be called Puritans, depending on the definition of that controversial term.  The main controversy among them was church government and the related matter of church discipline, including the role of the state.  The parties, therefore, are perceived along the lines of church polity:  episcopalian, presbyterian, or congregationalist, with two additional categories being relevant – the Erastians and the Scottish delegation.

Episcopalians

All of the Westminster divines appointed by the Long Parliament in 1643 were ordained ministers in the Church of England, although many had refused to conform to some Anglican practices and some had temporarily gone into exile in the Netherlands.  This means that they had entered the ministry in an episcopal system, and many still favored a moderate episcopacy.  Men such as James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh in Ireland, did not attend the Assembly because it did not have the approval of King Charles I.  Others dropped out in the early stages.  But all were opposed to prelacy, that is, the functioning of bishops like secular princes rather than as the teaching and preaching ministers of the New Testament.  Some who favored a moderate episcopacy remained in the Assembly and were gradually persuaded to prefer the presbyterian position.

Presbyterians

The Presbyterians, who favored a system with parity of the clergy, but with a graded system of church courts so that local congregations were bonded together and in submission to a regional presbytery, and presbyteries were in submission to a national general assembly, were in the majority in the Assembly.  They were of two persuasions, however:  those who believed in presbyterianism by divine right – i.e., that it is the only system prescribed by the New Testament – and those who believed presbyterianism was simply the system most consistent with the principles of church government taught in the New Testament.  The latter was the prevailing view among the English divines at Westminster.

Congregationalists or Independents

Those who favored congregational church government were led by a very able and vocal group that became known as “the five dissenting brethren.”  These five had all gone into exile in the Netherlands in the 1630’s and had close relations with the congregationalists in New England.  These were non-separating Puritans who wanted local church autonomy while still maintaining an association among churches and with the state.  Although the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay enforced the New England congregational way through the civil magistrate, the English congregationalists were led by circumstances to prefer toleration.

Erastians

The Erastians, whose name is derived from a 16th-century Swiss theologian, were not in favor of any particular church polity – episcopal, presbyterian, or congregational – by divine right, but were mainly concerned that church discipline be finally carried out only with the approval of the state.  This view was upheld in the Assembly by a small but learned group and was supported by many in Parliament, which had called the Assembly and whose approval was necessary for the implementation of the Assembly’s decisions.

The Scottish Delegation

As a result of the Solemn League and Covenant, approved by the Scottish Parliament on August 17, 1643 and subscribed by the English Parliament and the members of the Westminster Assembly on September 25, four Scottish ministers joined the Assembly in September of 1643.  These were not voting members but had the right to speak.  In exchange for the assistance of the Scottish army to the Parliamentary forces in the Civil War against the King, the Solemn League and Covenant sought to bring the churches of England and Ireland into conformity to the Reformed religion in Scotland in doctrine, worship, discipline, and government.  The Scottish commissioners, with almost a century of presbyterian history behind them, favored presbyterianism by divine right.

Such were the parties that emerged as church government proved to be the most controversial issue in the Assembly.  Again we should remember that all of the Westminster divines were Calvinists.  As we look back to the Assembly with gratitude primarily for the setting forth of the Reformed faith in the Confession and Catechisms, we should celebrate the doctrinal unity which it had.  Where there was diversity, there was also a spirit of accommodation on the part of many.  Richard Baxter, a contemporary Puritan but not a member of the Assembly, had immense appreciation of its members and its accomplishments.  He later commented that if all Episcopalians had been as Archbishop Ussher, all Presbyterians as Stephen Marshall (the great preacher of the Assembly), and Independents as Jeremiah Burroughs, the divisions of the church might soon have been healed.

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Today we come to Chapter VIII of PRESBYTERIANISM FOR THE PEOPLE. In this chapter our author, Rev. Robert P. Kerr, gives us a glimpse of a late nineteenth century ecumenical effort among Presbyterians world-wide. How the ecclesiastical landscape has changed in the intervening years! Today, the World Reformed Fellowship and the International Conference of Reformed Churches are the two global ecumenical works formed by conservative Presbyterian and Reformed denominations. 

CHAPTER VIII.

THE GENERAL COUNCIL.

This assembly is composed of delegates from the various Presbyterian or Reformed churches throughout the world. It held its first regular meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland, in July, 1877, and will meet triennially in different countries. It has no authority over the churches belonging to it, but can only advise. It is intended to show the world that the various branches of the Presbyterian family are one, to bring their united influence to bear against sin, to help and encourage feeble churches, and to arrange for the formation of native churches among the heathen, gathering into them the converts of the missions of the various Presbyterian churches.

The formation of this body was earnestly desired by the Reformers of the sixteenth century, but was not effected until quite recent times. Much good has already come from the alliance of very many of the divisions of the Presbyterian body, and still greater results are confidently expected.

The following is a catalogue of the organizations holding the Presbyterian faith and order represented by this council:

CONTINENT OF EUROPE.

AUSTRIA.
Evangelical Reformed Church of Hungary.
Reformed Church of Moravia.
Reformed and Evangelical Church of Bohemia.

BELGIUM.
Union of Evangelical Congregations.

FRANCE.
Synod of the Union of Evangelical Congregations.
National Reformed Church.

ITALY.
Waldensian Church.
Free Church of Italy.

GERMANY.
Free Reformed Church of Germany.
Old Reformed Church of East Friesland.

NETHERLANDS.
Reformed Church of the Netherlands.
Christian Reformed Church of the Netherlands.

SPAIN.
Spanish Christian Church.

SWITZERLAND.
Berne French Church.
Evangelical Church of Neuchatel.
Reformed Church of Canton de Vaud.
Free Church of Canton de Vaud.
Reformed Church of Geneva.

UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND.

ENGLAND.
Presbyterian Church of England.

IRELAND.
Presbyterian Church of Ireland.
Reformed Church of Ireland.

SCOTLAND.
Established Church of Scotland.
Free Church of Scotland.
United Presbyterian Church
Reformed Presbyterian Church.
Original Secession Church.

WALES.
Calvinistic Methodist (Presbyterian) Church.

BRITISH COLONIES AND DEPENDENCIES.

CANADA.
Presbyterian Church in Canada.

CAPE OF GOOD HOPE.
Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa.

CEYLON.
Presbytery of Ceylon.

EASTERN AUSTRALIA.
Synod of Eastern Australia.

NATAL.
Dutch Reformed Church.

Presbytery of Natal.
Christian Reformed Church of South Africa.

NEW HEBRIDES.
Mission Synod of New Hebrides.

NEW SOUTH WALES.
Presbyterian Church of New South Wales.

NEW ZEALAND.
Presbyterian Church of New Zealand.

ORANGE FREE STATE.
Dutch Reformed Church of Orange Free State.

OTAGO AND SOUTHLAND.
Presbyterian Church of Queensland.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA.
Presbyterian Church of South Australia.

TASMANIA.
Presbyterian Church of Tasmania.

VICTORIA.
Presbyterian Church of Victoria.

UNITED STATES.
Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. (Northern).
Presbyterian Church in the United States (Southern).
Reformed (Dutch) Church in America.
Reformed (German) Church in the United States.
Associate Reformed Synod of the South.
General Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church.
Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in America.
United Presbyterian Church of North America.
Welsh Calvinistic Methodist (or Presbyterian) Church in America.

These Presbyterian bodies scattered all over the globe, including above forty millions of people, have at last, in “The General Alliance of Reformed or Presbyterian Churches,” found a tie which binds them together. It is proposed thus to combine our forces, to magnify our grand institutions of government and theology, and to remove the stigma of discord which has so often been affixed to the Presbyterian name.

But there is a higher name than Presbyterian. It is CHRISTIAN. Under that name all the followers of Christ at last shall be ONE.

Next Saturday, with Chapter IX, we will come to the topic of Deacons.

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A Strange Name Merits our Attention

He was a tent-maker church planter in the latter part of the sixteen hundreds in what is now Virginia.  Born in Ireland, this unmarried  Presbyterian pastor came over to our shores to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ to the lost souls of the colonies. He found countless Scotch – Irish immigrants who valued his ministry as they were sheep without a shepherd. The earliest record we have of him is June 22, 1692 in the county records of what later became Norfolk, Virginia.  Who was he?

If you answered Josias Mackie, you would be right on target.  What is interesting about him is that he was not a member of the Presbytery of Philadelphia, which began in 1706.  His name is not listed on any Presbytery back in Ireland.  But we have a reference to his request that he be allowed to preach at three houses in the Norfolk, Virginia area, namely,  the houses of Thomas Ivey, Richard Phillpot, John Roberts, and adding a fourth in 1696, the house of John Dickson.  Eventually these four house churches were brought together into a small congregation.  He was to proclaim God’s Word to these hardy Scotch-Irish Presbyterians for two plus decades.

We know from his will, which was left to his three sisters in Ireland, that he owned both land and horses.  We know that he was a planter and a merchant. Somewhere around 1716, there is a mention by the Philadelphia Presbytery of “melancholy circumstances” in his life, to which they gave their sympathy.  The overall conclusion of later Presbyterians was that he was “a good man, a true Presbyterian, bold, active, and laborious.”

What stands out about his life and ministry is the prayer he prayed upon his death bed.  He said on that occasion, “Being heartily sorry for my sins past, and most humbly desiring forgiveness of the same, I commit my soul to Almighty God, trusting to receive full pardon, and free justification, through the merits of Jesus Christ.” In these words, we have a strong hint of his spiritual life and public preaching, all of which we can emulate to the glory of God and the good of His people.

Words to Live By: There are countless in the history of the church who are totally unknown to the members of that same church. By this, I mean, how many of you knew the name of Josais Mackie before this historical devotional?  And yet, laboring in difficult circumstances in the earliest days of this country, he was faithful to his calling. Let us pray for all those laborers in God’s kingdom of grace, who are unrecognized by God’s people, but still persevere  in the work of the gospel.

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The First Attempt to Cross the Atlantic Ocean Failed

It was an ambitious plan to move four Presbyterian pastors and another 140 church members to the new world for religious freedom on a new ship specially built for crossing the Atlantic Ocean. That was the blessed hope and prayer of Scottish Presbyterians living in Ulster, yet under great difficulty from the Church of England. The four ministers—Robert Blair, John Livingston, James Hamilton, and John McClellan—were the spiritual leaders of the expedition. Their life and work in their congregations was being made more and more difficult. So through a letter to the Rev. Cotton Mather in New England asking whether Presbyterians could exist in that colony, and being assured that it could, plans were made.

For a ship to cross the ocean, a ship was built named Eagle Wing, based on Exodus 14;4, “Ye have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagle’s wings and brought you unto myself.” Finished at the small village of Groomsport, Ireland, it was barely large enough for the passengers to board it. With no trial run to see how it would do through rough seas, the ship and its passengers boarded it and left Carrickfergus, Ulster on September 9, 1636. Pastor Livingston commented that “there was much toil in our preparation, many hindrances in our setting out, and both sad and glad hearts in taking leave of our friends.”

Off the coast of Newfoundland, the ship was hit with a mighty hurricane featuring “mountains of water.” Springing a leak, which was fixed, the rudder next broke. A brave passenger went over the side with a rope tied to him so he could be extracted. He fixed the rudder. After a discussion among the whole body, Pastor Livingston suggested that they should wait a day to see if God would give them smooth sailing. However when that delay didn’t accomplish their wishes, they turned around and sailed back to Ulster with smooth sailing.

The first attempt to cross the ocean for Scot-Irish Presbyterians met with failure. But was it a failure? It is true, they did not get to their new place of ministry. But their presence back in Scotland strengthened the cause of Christianity. They became leaders in the new National Covenant of 1638. In Scotland and Ireland, they laid the spiritual foundation of that church which could justly claim to be the mother of the American Presbyterian Church. And after the lapse of a century or less, swarms of Scots-Irish sailed again and again to the shores of this new land, filling the colonies of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and the Carolinas, and beyond, with godly Presbyterian families.

Words to Live By:
There have been occasions in all of our spiritual lives where dreams of life and ministry were frustrated by what many have called “dark providences.”  We thought that this was where God wanted us to be, or what God wanted us to do. But instead, God’s sovereign will lovingly spoke by means of a closed door. God had other plans for us, not unlike that which was spoken to the Jewish church in Babylon, where there were “plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give us a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11.) Learn the spiritual lessons behind the Eagle Wing, dear readers. As Solomon writes in Proverbs 16:9, “The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.”

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Deposed by Man, but Not By God

They called them “precopalians,” which strange as it may sound (and spell!), was  defined as Scottish Presbyterians who were leading Anglican congregations in northern Island, or Ulster.  At one time, in the seventeenth century, there were 27 Presbyterian ministers in churches in Ulster, all there to pastor the large number of Ulster Scottish families in the area.

Our post today deals with the Rev. James Hamilton, who traveled before he was ordained to Ulster.  Even after graduation from the University of Glasgow, he went to Ireland where his uncle had vast acreage in the northern part of Ireland. In time, our young man was noticed by a Presbyterian minister by the name of Robert Blair, who encouraged James to enter the ministry. It was on March 3, 1626 that James Hamilton was ordained as a minister in the Church of Ireland by the Irish bishop Robert Echlin. Hamilton began his pastorate in the Ballywalter Church and stayed there for a decade. The church later on became a Presbyterian Church, perhaps by the solid doctrinal preaching of Pastor Hamilton, as he is listed at their first pastor.

The presence of so many Presbyterians in the Irish churches brought the inevitable clash between who was the head of the church—the king of England or the Lord Jesus. When the Church of Ireland sought to bring subservience to the former and urged that the Presbyterian ministers deny the National Covenant of 1638, which had just been signed, James Hamilton resigned. He offered, along with two other ministers, to debate the matter, but the bishop simply deposed him from the ministry. He was ordered to be arrested, but escaped from their hands.

Around this time, Hamilton with three other Presbyterian ministers and 140 Ulster Scots commissioned a sailing vessel known as the Eagle Wing to sail to America. However due to storms, a broken rudder, and other calamities, the ship had to return to Ireland. Hamilton traveled on to Scotland and became involved with the Covenanters. He eventually became the minister of the Presbyterian Church of Dumfrees, Scotland.

It is interesting that he returned to Ireland for various purposes, once even to administer the Solemn League and Covenant in Ulster. Why he was not arrested, we don’t know, other than the providential care of God watching over him. On one of his trips to Northern Ireland, his ship was captured by forces not conducive to his faith. He served 10 months in prison but was set free in 1645. Returning to Scotland, he was appointed by the General Assembly to be a chaplain to King Charles II, but wound up with another prison sentence in the Tower of London.  Oliver Cromwell eventually gave him his freedom.  He eventually retired in Edinburgh.

James Hamilton died this day, May 10, 1666.

Words to Live By: A learned and diligent pastor, his life and ministry was certainly filled with hardship and difficulty. Even in his married live to wife Elizabeth Watson, this union would produce 15 children, with only one living to adulthood and the rest dying in infancy. God’s servants have often lived in hardship and difficulty. Think of Paul’s description of his ministry in 2 Corinthians 6:4 – 10 and 11:23 – 27. James Hamilton was deposed from his office by man, but supported by God’s Spirit in his life and ministry, always faithful to live and work in God’s will.  Let us, dear readers, keep busy serving our God and King, leaving the results of that service  in the hands of the Lord.  Romans 8:28 reads, “And we know that God causes all things (i.e. the sufferings of this present time) to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (NAS)

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