Boyd, William (d.1772) (DNB00)

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BOYD, WILLIAM (d. 1772), Irish presbyterian minister, was ordained minister of Macosquin, co. Derry,by the Coleraine presbytery, on 31 Jan. 1710. He is memorable as the bearer of a commission to Colonel Samuel Suitte, governor of New England, embodying a proposal for an extensive emigration from co. Derry to that colony. The commission is dated 26 March 1718, is signed by nine presbyterian ministers and 208 members of their flocks, who declare their 'sincere and hearty inclination to transport ourselves to that very excellent and renowned Plantation, upon our obtaining from His Excellency suitable encouragement.' Witherow reprints the document, with the signatures in full, from Edward Lutwyche Parker's 'History of Londonderry, New Hampshire,' Boston, 1851. Boyd fulfilled his mission in 1718. How he was received is not known ; the intended emigration did not, however, take place. But in the same year, without awaiting the issue of Boyd's negotiation, James McGregor (minister of Aghadowey, co. Derry, from 1701 to 1718), who had not signed the document, emigrated to New Hampshire with some of his people, and there founded a town to which was given the name of Londonderry. In the non-subscription controversy Boyd took a warm part. When the general synod of Ulster in 1721 permitted those of its members to subscribe the Westminster Confession who thought fit, Boyd was one of the signatories He was on the committee of six appointed in 1724 to draw up articles against Thomas Nevin, M.A. (minister of Downpatrick from 1711 to 1744; accused of impugning the deity of Christ), and probably drafted the document. Next year Boyd moved from Macosquin to a congregation nearer Londonderry, anciently known as Taughboyne, subsequently as Monreagh, where he was installed by Deny presbytery on 25 April 1725. The stipend promised was 50l. The congregation had been vacant since the removal of William Gray to Usher's Quay, Dublin, in 1721. In 1727 Gray, without ecclesiastical sanction, came back to Taughboyne and set up an opposition meeting in a disused corn-kiln at St. Johnston, within the bounds of his old congregation. Hence arose defections, recriminations, and the diminution of Boyd's stipend to 40l. The general synod elected him moderator at Dungannon in 1730. The sermon with which he concluded his term of office in the following year at Antrim proves his orthodoxy as a subscriber to the Westminster Confession, and perhaps also proves that the influence of a non-subscribing publication, above ten years old, was by no means spent. It is directed specially against a famous discourse by the non-subscribing minister of the town in which it was delivered, John Abernethy, M.A., whose 'Religious Obedience founded on Personal Persuasion' was preached at Belfast on 9 Dec. 1719, and printed in 1720 [see Abernethy, 1680-1740]. Boyd decides that 'conscience is not the supreme lawgiver,' and that it has no judicial authority except in so far as it administers 'the law of God,' an expression which with him is synonymous with the interpretation of Scripture accepted by his church. In 1734 Boyd was an unsuccessful candidate for the clerkship of the general synod. His zeal for the faith was again shown in 1739, when he took the lead against Richard Aprichard, a probationer of the Armagh presbytery, who had scruples about some points of the Confession, and ultimately withdrew from the synod's jurisdiction. He was one of the ten divines appointed by the synod at Magherafelt on 16 June 1747 to draw up a 'Serious Warning' to be read from the pulpits against dangerous errors 'creeping into our bounds.' These errors were in reference to such doctrines as original sin, the 'satisfaction of Christ,' the Trinity, and the authority of Scripture. The synod, in spite of its 'Serious Warning,' would not entertain a proposal to forbid the growing practice of intercommunion with the non-subscribers. We hear nothing more of Boyd till his death, which occurred at an advanced age on 2 May 1772. He published only 'A Good Conscience a Necessary Qualification of a Gospel Minister. A Sermon (Heb. xiii. 18) preached at Antrim June 15th 1731, at a General Synod of the Protestants of the Presbyterian Persuasion in the North of Ireland,' Derry. 1731, 18mo.

[Witherow's Hist. and Lit. Mem. of Presb. in Ireland, 2nd ser. 1880, p. 1; Armstrong's Appendix to Ordination Service, James Martineau, 1829, p. 102; Manuscript Extracts from Minutes of General Synod.]

A. G.