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to that in England. By the discontents of the people the majority of the ministers was influenced to subscribe the Westminster confession, as containing the articles of their faith. The new lights, which was the name given in Ireland to the Arians and Socipians, inveighed against all human impositions and the authority of men in matters of religion. Mr. Abernethy, trusting to the powers of his eloquence, published an able pamphlet in order to compose the storm by influenciog the brethren to cease from their debates, and allow every minister to follow his own judgmenta. Some of the most eminent of the pastors in Dublin wrote a preface and a postscript to Mr. Abernethy's publication, strongly recommending the adoption of the principles which it contained; and they attended at the general synod, at Belfast, in 1721, in order to press the same measures. Mr. Master. loun, a zealous subscriber, suspecting or rather believing the heterodoxy of the nonsubscribers, of which the Dublin ministers, if we may judge from their strain of writing, do not appear to have been aware, wrote with great ardour against them, and excited still greater alarm in the minds of the people, A defence of the former pamphlet appeared from Abernethy's pen ; and several others entered the field, but no effects in removing or even lessening the jealousies were produced by all their efforts. The controversy continued to rage till 1726, when, in the synod of Dungannon, the nonsubscribers were not allowed to continue in the communion of the presbyterian synod of Ulster. In consequence of this act
a It is entitled “ Seasonable Advice to the protestant Dissenters in the North of Ireland,” • Nathaniel Wild, Joseph Boyse, and R, Choppin. VOL. III.
all the other ministers of the presbytery of Antrim, having joined with Mr. Abernethy in refusing to subscribe, were separated from the general body'. From that time arianism, which had before lain concealed in the parlour and in the study, was seen publicly to ascend the pulpit, and cause its voice to be heard by the congregation.
Some years after this controversy had ceased, and the minds of the Irish presbyterians had returned to a more tranquil frame, they directed their attention to that degradation which they were suffering as a body by the operation of the test act. An application to parliament for relief was deemed expedient; and to prepare the public mind for a favourable reception, some of the ministers pleaded their cause from the press. A pamphlet by Mr. Abernethy, in 1731, “ On the Unreasonableness, Injustice, and Impolicy of the Test Act,” met with distinguished approbation, and perhaps heightened their hopes of success. The encouragement given by some persons of distinction, and by many meinbers of parliament, had still greater influence on their minds; and in 1733, it was deter. mined to bring the business before the House of Commons. In the department of argument, dean Swift entered the lists against them, and with all that acrimony of spirit in which he was pre-eminent above every other man, and which never overflowed more copiously than when he was contending with whigs and especially presbyterians, opposed their claims. The feelings of the dignitaries of the church were in unison with the wrath of their champion ; and by their superior influence with the rulers of the land,
e Narrative of the seven synods in the north of Ireland,
the application of the dissenters was rendered abortivé ; so that they were constrained to sit down again in their chains rivetted on them anew by superior force.
The impolicy of the refusal might astonish those who consider that the presbyterians amounted to at least one half of the protestants of Ireland, and that the protestants were far inferior in numbers to the Roman catholics, whom it was the constant endeavour of each administration to discourage and depress. But such as are acquainted with the history of Ireland will be compelled to acknowledge with grief, that the measures of its government were in too many instances dictated by other principles than reason and justice, or even policy. Here, however, there was a peculiar obstacle in the way-a privilege which the established church conceived to belong to her favoured sons. When has an established church parted with one atom of power or privilege which it was able to retain; or which the spirit of the times, or the irresistible authority of the civil rulers did not compel it to relinquish?
Arianism, during this period, was advancing, but perhaps with slower steps than in England, to sow the seeds of error among the Irish dissenters, to banish the spirit of pure and undefiled religion, and to drag after it the torpedo of lukewarmness and indifference, which has never failed to accompany it in its progress through Great Britain. The fire of controversy has been seen in her hands, blazing abroad and giving heat enough: but in how few instances has she been found kindling in the breasts of her votaries, the flame of zeal for the salvation of mankind! It has
frequently been observed, in surveying the annals of the church, that when any religious body has declined in purity of doctrine and fervour of zeal, it has pleased God to raise up others either to reclaim them, or to occupy their place. Such was the merciful dispensation of heaven in the present instance. About the, year 1746, a minister of the seceding communion came over from Scotland, and planted the standard of the cross in Ulster; and he was afterwards followed by others of his brethren both burghers and antiburghers. Wherever the new lights were introduced, the friends of the Gospel, justly disdaining to have their own and their children's ears polluted by the sound of heresy, forsook their old connections, and joined themselves to the congregations of the seceders. In consequence of this, there has been a continual increase of their numbers to the present day. Whatever may be thought of the peculiar sentiments of these men as to church government, they deserved to be highly esteemed for their faithful preaching of the glorious Gospel of Christ, and for the sanctity of their lives. Every Christian naturally prefers his own denoinination to all others, because he believes it to be most consonant to the sacred Scriptures; but he has the spirit of Christianity yet to learn who does not wish prosperity and success to the denomination by which the Gospel is purely preached, and who does not give it the preference to his own when the pulpit is contaminated with dangerous errors.
Towards the close of this period, the methodists both calvinistic and arminian extended their labours to Ireland: and the latter formed societies in the principal cities. d Rogers's speech before the associated synod at Cookstown, 1809.
STATE OF RELIGION IN AMERICA,
THE religion as well as the soil of America, has frequently displayed an almost miraculous transition from the barrenness of a polar winter, to the delights of Paradise. One of these astonishing revivals in the church will form the principal subject of this section. It was preceded by the peculiar darkness and chill which are the harbingers of day-break: but before the morning dawned, the day-star appeared. As early as the year 1718, the church at Northampton enjoyed a considerable revival, under the ministry of Mr. Stoddard, who, though the chief promoter of the pernicious scheme which tended to confound the church and the world, yet laboured in the Gospel
e Dr. Increase Mather, who prefaced his testimony by observing, “ l am now in my eighty-third year, and have been sixty-five years a preacher of the Gospel, and had converse with the first planters of this country,” says in the year 1721, “ I cannot but be affected as the old men who saw the foundation of the second temple, and wept at the yast inferiority of it to the former, Too many are given to change, and leave the order of the Gospel, which was the very design of these colonies. The grand interest of New England is changed from a religious to a worldly object.” That this was uot the querulous moaning of an old man, who could see no glory but in the scenes of former days, is proved by the universal concurrence of writers in every perio? of life and denomination of Christians, who lamented, that, with many excellent ministers there was a very general suspension of those divine influences, which had formerly transformed the transatlantic wilderness into a fruitful field. Such facts also are adduced, as painfully manifest that truth drew the picture over which religion wept.