Friday 5 April 2013

First Lisburn (Market Sq.) Presbyterian Church


-- -- -- --
 Edited by JAMES CARSON. 
-- -- -- --


-- -- -- --



This congregation was in existence prior to the Revolution of 1688, and was connected with the Antrim Presbytery, or "Meeting," till 1697, when it was placed under the care of the newly-formed Presbytery of Belfast. In 1725 the Presbytery of Belfast was dissolved, and the congregation became connected with the newly-formed Presbytery of Banger. In 1733 the congregation is said to have lost its confidence in the Presbytery of Bangor, and it was transferred to the care of the Presbytery of Templepatrick. Its confidence seems to have been restored in 1745, when it again became connected with the Presbytery of Bangor. It remained connected with that Presbytery till 1834, when a rearrangement of the Presbyteries was made, and it was placed under the care of the Presbytery of Belfast, which had been reorganised in 1774. In 1877 it was transferred to the care of the Presbytery of Dromore, with which it has since been connected.

The first minister was

Alexander M'Cracken.

He is said to have been a native of Scotland, but more probably he was an Irishman. He was educated at Edinburgh University, where he graduated M.A. in 1673, licensed by the Antrim Presbytery in August, 1684, and ordained here on 3rd July, 1688. He warmly espoused the cause of William Prince of Orange, and attended, with eight other Presbyterian ministers, the General Council, or Consult as it was sometimes called, at Hillsborough on 14th March, 1689, to advise the Protestant leaders "as they valued their lives and liberties not to put confidence in Lord Tyrconnell or any of his promises, but, if they possibly could, to defend themselves to the utmost. Soon afterwards he retired to Glasgow, and officiated there till May, 1690, when he returned to his church in Lisburn. The church, which was a humble thatched structure in the south end of the town, and in which King William is said to have worshipped when on his way to the Boyne, was reduced to ashes in the great fire which broke out on Sunday, 20th April, 1707, and totally destroyed the town. The records of the church, which date from about 1688, and which have recently been restored and rebound through the kindness of Sir Theodore Cracraft Hope, K.C.S.I, London, evidently escaped the conflagration, and are of great historical value. The church was rebuilt (1707) on the present site (Market Square), the congregation being aided in defraying the cost (£400) by a general collection ordered by the Synod of Ulster, and by contributions from Scotland.

About this time an Act was passed requiring all persons holding civil, military, or ecclesiastical office to swear an oath that the son of James II., or the Pretender as he was called, had no right or title to the Crown, and towards the close of the reign of Queen Anne the Act was vigorously put in force. This Abjuration Oath Mr. M'Cracken refused to take, not because he was in favour of the Pretender and opposed to Queen Anne, but because he thought that the oath committed him to a declaration that the Pretender was not the son of James II. A warrant was issued for his arrest by two Episcopalian magistrates, and Mr. M'Cracken was obliged to flee for safety to Scotland. On his return he was arrested, sentenced to a fine of £500, and six months' imprisonment, and at the end of his imprisonment he was still held bound to take the oath. He still refused, and was in consequence kept in prison for two and a half years (1713-16). After his release he continued his ministry in Lisburn till his death (14th November, 1730), and published a work (1726) entitled "The Confession of Faith Reduced to Question and Answer." "He was," says Wodrow, the well-known Scottish ecclesiastical historian, "my father's friend, and I had the advantage of his letters more than twenty years. He was a firm, honest Scots Presbyterian, and though he has served his God and his generation long, it's really a loss when such are removed."

The second minister was

Gilbert Kennedy,

son of Rev. Gilbert Kennedy, M.A. (Edin. 1697), Tullylish (1703-45), grandson of Rev. Gilbert Kennedy, M.A. (Glasgow, 1647), Girvan (1651-62), and Dundonald (1670-88), and Rev. George Lang, M.A. (Glasgow, 1656), Newry, (1665-1702). He was born at Tullylish in 1706, educated at Glasgow University, where he graduated (M.A., 1724), licensed by Armagh Presbytery in 1728, and ordained here on 7th June, 1732. His ministry in Lisburn was brief, as he accepted a call in 1733 to Killyleagh, where he ministered for eleven years. He became minister of 2nd (now All Souls') Belfast in 1744, where he remained till his death on 12th March, 1773. He was Moderator of the General Synod of Ulster, 1763-4. His sermon as outgoing Moderator and other sermons of his have been published, and we may infer from them that bis religious views were what were known as "New Light." Certainly they were very different from those held by his father, who was an enthusiastic advocate of Subscription, and by his paternal grandfather, who was ejected from his church in Girvan and compelled to flee from Scotland because of his Puritanism. His wife was a daughter of Rev. Robert Trail, rector of Killinchy, and a granddaughter of his was wife of the Primate of All Ireland (Right Rev. George Beresford).

The third minister was

William Patten,

a native of Ireland, a graduate (M.A., 1708) of Glasgow University, and a licentiate of Dalkeith Presbytery of the Church of Scotland, who had joined the General Synod of Ulster (Route Presbytery) in 1718, and been minister of Ervey and Carrickmacklin, Co. Cavan, for fifteen years (1721-36). He was installed here after considerable opposition owing to his "New Light" principles, on 7th July, 1736. About 280 heads of families in the congregation then memorialised the Associate Presbytery in Scotland, praying "that one might be sent them who would preach the Gospel not in the wisdom of men's words, but in the purity and simplicity thereof."

The prayer of this memorial was not granted, owing to the circumstances of the Associate Presbytery, but it contributed in no small degree to the introduction soon afterwards of the original Secession Church of Scotland into Ireland. Mr. Patton, after a ministry of about nine years, during which the opposition continued, accepted a call (1745) to Plunket Street, Dublin. He was Moderator of the General Synod of Ulster, 1751-2, and died on 22nd April, 1759, leaving two sons -- one a physician in Dublin, and the other Rev. J. Patton, Clonmel. His will was proved in the Irish Prerogative Court, 1759.

The fourth minister was

Patrick Buchanan,

a native of Co. Tyrone, a graduate (M.A., 1736) of Edinburgh University, and a licentiate of Strabane Presbytery (1745). He was ordained here on 29th July, 1745, and ministered till his death on 1st November, 1763. Little is known of his history, but it is probable that he held "New Light" principles.

The fifth minister was

James Bryson,

son of John Bryson, Holywood, and cousin of Rev. Wm. Bryson, Antrim, U.S. (1764-1815). He was born about 1730, educated, probably, at one of the Scottish universities, licensed by Armagh Presbyter in 1762, and ordained here on 6th June, [--?--] (at this point it was obvious a piece of tape had been placed on the original and when removed had taken the text below it away.) During his ministry of nine years the membership of the congregation [--?--] considerably, and the church [--?--?--] enlarged (1768) at a [--?--?--] £120 of which was subs[--?--] [--?--]iers of the Episcopal Church [--?--]

Mr. Bryson accepted [--?--?--] 2nd (now All Souls') Belfast [--?--] [--?--]nistered till 1791, when a [--?--] [--?--] his congregation affecting [--?--] [--?--]ich led to his resignation a[--?--] [--?--]ion of a new congregation [--?--] [--?--] (now Cliftonville), Belfast, of which he became pastor, and where he officiated till his death on 3rd October, 1796.

(Ed. A section of the text in the above paras was obliterated by what looked like a piece of tape.)

He was Moderator of the General Synod of Ulster, 1778-9, and held "New Light" principles. A volume of his sermons was published in 1788, and twelve manuscript volumes of his sermons are in the library of the Belfast Queen's University. He was twice married, and was father of Surgeon Samuel Bryson, High Street, Belfast, and Rev. Andrew Bryson, M.A. (Glasgow, 1783), Dundalk (1786-97), who was an authority on the Irish language.

The sixth minister was,

George Kennedy,

eldest son of Rev. Andrew Kennedy, Mourne (1741-81), and grandson by his mother of Rev. Gilbert Kennedy, M.A. (Edin. 1697), Tullylish (1703-45). He was born at Mourne in 1750, educated at Glasgow University 1767, licensed by Armagh Presbytery in March, 1773, and ordained here on 15th February, 1775. He died, after a brief ministry of little over four years, on 5th April, 1779, at the age of 28. His funeral sermon, which was published at the desire of the congregation, was preached by Rev. James Stouppe, M.A. (Glasgow, 1767), Dunmurry (1772-80), and his principles were probably "New Light."

The seventh minister was

William Bruce,

second son of Rev. Samuel Bruce, M.A. (Glasgow, 1740), Wood Street, and Strand, Street, Dublin (1747-67), grandson of Rev. Michael Bruce, Holywood (1711-35), great grandson of Rev. James Bruce, M.A. (Edin. 1678), Killyleagh (1685-1730), and great great grandson of Rev. Michael Bruce, M.A. (Edin. 1654), Killinchy (1657-89). He was born in Dublin on 30th July, 1757, educated at Trinity College, Dublin, where he graduated (B.A.) in 1776, and Warrington Theological Academy, licensed by the Dublin Presbytery of the Southern Association, and ordained here on 4th November, 1779. After a ministry of about three years he accepted a call to Strand Street (now Stephen's Green), Dublin, where he officiated till 1790, when he became minister of 1st Belfast N.S. He received the honorary degree of D.D. from Glasgow University in 1786. During his ministry in Belfast he was Principal of the Academy (1790-1822), President of the Linenhall Library (1798-1817) and of the Belfast Literary Society, and took a leading part in all the benevolent institutions of the town. He retired from the active duties of the ministry owing to blindness in 1831, and died at Dublin on 27th February, 1841. Although his principles, which were Arian, and which were openly avowed and defended by him in several publications, were not at all popular, he was throughout a lengthened ministry universally respected.

The eighth minister was

Andrew Craig,

son of Andrew Craig, farmer, Dehomed, Drumgooland. He was born on 4th March, 1754, educated at Glasgow University, 1771, licensed by Dromore Presbytery in September, 1777, and, after a ministry of four years (1778-82) in Moira, was installed here in June, 1782. His ministry was a lengthened one, and his principles, like those of his predecessors, were "New Light." He retired from active duty in 1824, subscribed the Remonstrance presented to the Synod in 1829, died on 9th June, 1833, and was interred in Kilrush.

His assistant and successor (James Morgan) writes:-- "Mr. Craig was a most agreeable man. It was said he held some opinions not the same as mine, but, if so, he did not express them. He was silent on the subject of religious doctrines. He was a man of the old school -- a thorough gentleman, well informed, meditative, reasonable, kind. In many ways he was highly useful to me. He was the best reader I ever heard, except James Sheridan Knowles. He told me he never read a chapter in the pulpit without first studying it, and preparing himself to read it as it ought to be read. When he noticed anything wrong in my reading, or speaking, or pronunciation, he took me aside in the vestry, and taught me how to speak. When he approved of my public appearance he commended me. He never spoke to me about any of my doctrines, on which he might differ, holding that I was free to preach what I believed to be true."

(To be Continued.)

(This article was originally published in the Lisburn Standard on 4 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.)

No comments:

Post a Comment