Ridge, John (DNB00)

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RIDGE, JOHN (1590?–1637?), puritan divine, was born at Oxford about 1590. He matriculated at St. John's College, Oxford, on 16 June 1610, at the age of twenty, and graduated B.A. on 23 May 1612, having already been ordained deacon by John Bridges, bishop of Oxford. His nonconforming puritanism stood in his way, and he went over to Ireland, where he was probably ordained presbyter by Robert Echlin [q. v.], bishop of Down and Connor. On 7 July 1619 Echlin admitted him to the vicarage of Antrim, on the presentation of Arthur Chichester, lord Chichester of Belfast [q. v.] He rebuilt or completed his church (founded 1596), and gained the repute of a telling preacher and 'a great urger of charitable works.' He has been described as a presbyterian, but this is an error. About 1626 Hugh Campbell, a layman from Ayrshire, established a kind of revival meeting on the last Friday of each month at his house in Oldstone, two miles from Antrim. Great crowds of people attended, and fanatical excesses were fostered by James Glendinning, the eccentric vicar of Carnmoney, co. Antrim. To allay the excitement, Ridge began a meeting for preaching and conference on the first Friday of each month at Antrim, and called in the aid of Robert Blair (1593-1666) [q. v.], Robert Cunningham (d. 29 March 1637) of Holywood, co. Down, and James Hamilton (d. 1666) [q.v.]

Thus originated the Antrim meeting, a clerical conference described and commended by John Livingstone [q. v.], who says its deliberations were 'sometimes as profitable as either presbyteries or synods.' This meeting, an advisory body claiming no jurisdiction, furnished the model of the Worcestershire agreement framed by Richard Baxter in 1652, and adopted in numerous English counties in place of the parliamentary presbyterianism. Also, through John Howe (16301705) [q. v.], who was a member of the Antrim meeting (1671-5), it became the parent of the county unions formed among English dissenters after the passing of the Toleration Act of 1689. The fame of the meeting brought to Antrim, about 1628, a company of English separatists (Reid thinks they were baptists) and an Arminian, John Freeman, but neither party was successful in making proselytes.

Ridge was one of the five beneficed clergy [see Brice, Edward] who, at the primary visitation of Henry Leslie [q. v.] at Lisburn in July 1636, refused to subscribe to the new canons, assimilating the doctrine and ceremonies of the Irish church to those of England. The private conference which followed has not been recorded; in the public disputation with Leslie at Belfast (on 11 Aug.) Ridge took no part, but when called up for sentence on 12 Aug. he admitted that Leslie had given the five non-subscribers a fair, though not a full, hearing. Leslie thought his scruples arose from his being 'a melancholian ' in temperament. He condemned him to 'perpetual silence within his diocese.' Hitherto there had been no actual presbyterianism in Ireland; even by theoretical presbyterians the question of the form of church government had not been seriously raised. It was Leslie's action, prompted by Bramhall, that laid the foundation of a fierce revolt against episcopal authority. As was expected, the silenced clergymen, with the exception of Brice, retired to Scotland. They were received at Irvine, Ayrshire, by David Dickson (1583?-1663) [q. v.]

Here Ridge is believed to have died in 1637, but there is no record of his death or burial. He was married, and left daughters, one of whom, Susannah (d. 19 April 1693), was married on 30 Sept. 1643 to Samuel Heathcote of Derby, and had ten children; the descendants of her eldest son, Samuel, are numerous. His portrait in oils, and an autograph manuscript, 'Advice to his Daughters,' are in the possession of a descendant.

[Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1891, iii. 1257; Adair's Narrative, 1866, pp. 16, 27, 53, 320; Lives of Blair and Livingstone (Wodrow Soc.); Reid's Hist. Presb. Church in Ireland (Killen), 1867, i. 100 sq. 201 sq. 521 sq.; Killen's Hist. Cong. Presb. Church in Ireland, 1886, p. 15; information from C. D. Heathcote, esq., Exeter.]

A. G.