Thursday 11 April 2013

First Lisburn and Sloan Street Presbyterian Churches


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 Edited by JAMES CARSON. 
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The ninth minister was

James Morgan,

second son of Thomas Morgan, merchant, Cookstown. He was born on 15th June, 1799, educated at Glasgow University (1814-15), and the old Belfast College, where he graduated (G.C. 1817), licensed by Tyrone Presbytery in 1820, and, after a ministry of four years (1820-4) in Carlow, was installed here as assistant and successor to Mr. Craig on 23rd June, 1824. After an earnest ministry of four years he accepted a call (1828) to be the first minister of Fisherwick Place, Belfast, where he proved himself a model pastor of what soon came to be a model congregation. He was a leader in every good work. Immediately after his installation in "Fisherwick" he established a day and a Sabbath school in connection with his congregation -- the first of the kind in Belfast. He aided in establishing the first Temperance Society, in Europe, and preached the second temperance sermon ever delivered in Belfast, the first having been delivered by Rev. John Edgar.

When the Foreign Mission was inaugurated after the union of the two Synods in 1840, Mr. Morgan was appointed its first convener, and for 33 years he discharged the duties of that convenership with rare devotion and signal success. By his missionary zeal, pastoral fidelity, saintly life, and works of practical piety, he contributed more to raise the spiritual tone of the Church daring his ministry than any other man.

He was Moderator of the Synod of Ulster 1831-2, and of the General Assembly 1846-7. Dr. Morgan (for Glasgow University conferred on him the honorary degree of D.D. in 1847) retired from the active duties of the ministry in 1870, and died on 5th August, 1873.

The tenth minister was

Alexander Henderson,

a native of Belfast and member of a family long identified with the Press. His brother (James Henderson, Newry) was proprietor of the "Newry Telegraph." Another brother (Rev. Henry Henderson, Holywood) contributed letters for many years to the "Belfast Weekly News" under the signature of "Ulster Scot." His nephew (James Alexander Henderson, Norwood Tower, Belfast) was proprietor of the "Belfast News-Letter." Another nephew (Rev. Wm. Henderson) was proprietor and editor of "The Monthly Messenger," 1856-67. He himself was intended for the Press, but at the age of 17 he decided to enter the ministry. He studied at the Old Belfast College, where he graduated (G.C. 1826), during which time he acted as librarian of the Linen Hall Library (1823-9) and interested himself deeply in Sabbath schools and missions to the poor of Belfast. He was licensed by the Belfast Presbytery (1828), and ordained here on 29th June, 1829. After ministering with much diligence and acceptance for about 26 years he accepted a military chaplaincy, and became the first Irish Presbyterian chaplain appointed to the British Army. He died at Warley in Essex on 23rd July, 1868, and was buried, as he himself requested, "in a plain grave and without any monument."

"Mr. Henderson was always distinguished by his great beneficence, exercised mostly in the most private and unostentatious manner. He was a singularly modest and worthy man, and most catholic in his sympathies."

The eleventh minister was

William Breakey,

son of John Breakey, farmer, Drumskelt, Ballybay. He was born about 1819, educated at the Old Belfast College, where he graduated (G.C. 1838), and Free Church College, Edinburgh, licensed by the Belfast Presbytery in 1840, and after a ministry of over 14 years in Loughbrickland, installed here on 3rd September, 1856. He died of consumption on 6th April, 1872, and was buried in Loughbrickland.

"Mr. Breakey had very considerable gifts as a popular preacher, and having been well instructed in the great saving truths of the Gospel, he proclaimed the Gospel in all its fulness and freeness to those committed to his care, and took an active interest in the religious culture of the young and rising generation. Whilst firmly attached to the distinctive principles of his own Church, Mr. Breakey cultivated and maintained the most friendly intercourse with the ministers and members of other communions, and preferred the statement of evangelical truth to the exposition of polemical theology. He did not take an active and prominent part in the business of the Church Courts, but rather he devoted his time and attention to the pastoral work of his own congregation."

The twelfth minister was

John Laurence Rentoul,

son of Rev. John Laurence Rentoul (G.C. 1829), Ballymoney (1837-69), grandson of Rev. JAmes Rentoul, Ray (now 2nd) (1791-1839), great grandson of Rev. Robert Reid, Ray (now 2nd) (1752-88). He was born about 1851, educated at Magee College, Derry, where he graduated (G.C. 1871), and Assembly's College, Belfast, licensed by Route Presbytery in 1872, ordained here on 17th October, 1872.

Soon afterwards (1873) the church building, which had undergone no change since 1768, was enlarged and remodelled to provide accommodation for the membership, which greatly increased. Mr. Rentoul, who was endowed with great oratorical power and popular gifts, received a call to a U.P. congregation in Perth, which he intended to accept, and was released from his congregation on 12th June, 1876, but, on reconsideration, he accepted a call back to Lisburn, where he was installed on 20th December, 1876, and where he remained for ten more years. In 1886 he became minister of St. George's, Sunderland, and afterwards (1893) of the Parish of Cambusnethan, Lanarkshire, where he died on 13th July, 1900.

The thirteenth minister is

J. J. Carlyle Breakey,

son of James Breakey, principal of Ballinasloe Academy. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, where he graduated (B.A. 1878), and Assembly's College, Belfast, where he was awarded the first Magill Bursary for Pulpit Eloquence (1886), licensed by Athlone Presbytery, 1886, and ordained here on 11th November, 1886. Under his able, earnest, and devoted ministry the congregation continues to prosper. The church building has recently been renovated and beautified, and a handsome pipe organ, the gift of Mr. Henry Musgrave, whose family has for long been identified with the congregation, has been introduced.

The following elders represented the congregation at the annual meetings of the General Synod prior to the Union of 1840:--

Edward Adamson, 1691; Edward M'Comphy, 1692; John Clark, 1694; Matthew Rosbotham, 1697; John Smith 1703; John Martin, 1705; Robert Charters, 1706; Thomas Bryson, 1707; Samuel Herron, 1708; Daniel Kinly, 1710; Alexr. Taylor, 1718; Jo. M'Clure, 1719; Wm. Townsend, 1720; Thos. Small, 1721; Richard Colston, 1721; Jas Fulton 1737; Wm. Mitchell, 1738; Wm. Carlile, 1739; Richard Coldstone, 1744; Matt. M'Creery, 1750; John Carlile, 1753; Alexr. Cuthbert, 1754; John Henan, 1755; Jas. M'Kye, 1756; Robt. Nicol, 1757; Jas. Fulton, 1764; Fras. Patten, 1766; Wm. Stitt, 1768; -- Macoghtry, 1769; Alexr. Mercer, 1770; John Dobbin, 1783; Jas. Porter, 1786; Geo. Tandy, 1787; Thos. Potts, 1796; Robt. Smyth, 1797; Jas. Fulton, 1798, Jas. Fulton, 1805; Jas. Ward, 1815; Wm. Wightman, 1816; Henderson Wightman, 1818; -- Thompson, M.D., 1835; Hamilton M'Cay, 1837; Jas. Ward, 1840.

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This congregation had its origin the religious awakening known as the Revival of 1859. About the year 1860, the late Rev. John Powell, who had come from Carlow to take charge of a classical school in Lisburn, carried on Evangelistic services in his spare time, chiefly amongst the non-churchgoers. The result was, that a band of earnest working people gathered around him, and expressed the desire to be formed into a congregation with him as their minister. After  encountering many difficulties, and much discouragement, and after being considerably weakened by the withdrawal of some of their number of the recently-formed congregation of Second Lisburn, the party that adhered to Mr. Powell were at length organised into a congregation, with him as minister, by one of the presbyteries of the Secession Synod. A house of worship then became necessary. Here again great difficulties presented themselves. The then landlord of the Lisburn Estate was an absentee, and sites for additional churches were hard to be got. The best, and indeed the only site that could be procured was a building in Sloan Street, that had been erected for a carpenter's shop, and which was held under a temporary lease. But for the influence of the late Mr. John Sloan, Plantation House, and the active interest he took in the matter, even this modest building could not have been obtained. Funds were raised for the purchasing of the carpenter's shop, and for converting it into a house of worship for One who had Himself been called "The Carpenter's Son."

On the resignation, through failing health, of Mr. Powell, the Rev. J. W. Gamble, the present minister, was called to take charge of the congregation. Mr. Gamble declined to accept the call, but being urged by his Presbytery, he at length consented to give the place a trial. While the congregation improved considerably under Mr. Gamble's ministry, it soon became clear that important changes would have to be made if the Church was to be of any permanent advantage to the district. Accordingly, the important step was taken of transferring the congregation from the Secession Synod to the jurisdiction of the General Assembly. Minister and people were cordially received, and placed under the care of the Presbytery of Dromore. Mr. Gamble handed over to the Trustees of the General Assembly, for the permanent endowment of the congregation of Sloan Street, a sum of about £800 of his commutation capital. As the old house of worship was small and obscure, expansion was out of the question. With the consent of the Presbytery, a new site was procured, and a new sanctuary erected, at a cost, including the purchase of the site, of nearly £3,000.

On the 31st July, 1899, the memorial stones in the new church were laid by Mrs. J. D. Barbour, Conway House; Miss Sloan, Plantation House; Sir James Musgrave, Bart; and Rev. D. A. Taylor, M.A. Moderator of the General Assembly. The building was opened for public worship in October, 1900, by the Rev. Dr. Hamilton, of Dublin, the Moderator of Assembly that year. Other services connected with the occasion, were conducted by the Rev. Andrew Benvie, B.D., Edinburgh; Rev. Dr. Lynd, Belfast; and Rev. Dr. Anderson, West Calder. The Rev. Mr. Gamble celebrated his semi-jubilee, as minister of this church in 1905.

Session 1906:-- Rev. J. W. Gamble, B.A.; H. Thompson, R. Diamond, John Coulter, Wm. Erskine, D. Greenfield, Thomas Leinster, John Campbell. Committee:-- James Alister, Samuel Blakley, Constable Bains, Thos. Campbell, Samuel Carson, Isaac Creighton, senr.; Isaac Creighton, jun.; John Cargin, W. A. Gamble, Samuel Giffen, J. D. Gamble, Thomas Hayes, Andrew Kennedy, M. B. MacKenzie, M.D., J.P.; Alex. M'Clure, Wm. M'Master, H. M'Callum, John Small.

(To be continued.)

(This article was originally published in the Lisburn Standard on 11 April 1919 as part of a series which ran in that paper each week for several years. The text along with other extracts can be found on my website Eddies Extracts.)

1 comment:

  1. Presbyterian church is a Protestant denomination which developed from the doctrines of Calvinist Churches of Switzerland and France. Presbyterianism itself was founded by John Knox in Scotland in 1557 and the standard expression of doctrines and faith can be found in the Westminster Confession of Faith. This was drawn up by a group of 151 laymen, clergy and scholars who were appointed to the task by the English Parliament in 1643.