Nevin, Thomas (DNB00)

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NEVIN, THOMAS (1686?–1744), Irish presbyterian minister, was born at Kilwinning, Ayrshire, about 1686. His grandfather, Hugh Nevin, was vicar of Donaghadee, co. Down, in 1634. He was educated at Glasgow College, where he matriculated on 25 Feb. 1703, describing himself as ‘Scoto-Hibernus.’ He writes himself M.A. in a publication of 1725 (the records of Glasgow graduates are non-existent from April 1695 to 22 March 1707). On 20 Nov. 1711 he was ordained minister of Downpatrick by Down presbytery. The existing presbyterian meeting-house in Stream Street, Downpatrick, was built for him. When the non-subscription controversy broke out (1720) in the general synod of Ulster [see Haliday, Samuel], Nevin was a non-subscriber, but made strong profession, at the synod of 1721, of his belief in the deity of Christ. In April 1722 he went to London to confer with Calamy and others on the prospects of the non-subscribers, especially in reference to the regium donum.

Early in 1724 Charles Echlin, a layman of the episcopal church at Bangor, co. Down, charged Nevin with Arianism. Nevin brought an action for defamation against Echlin. To support Echlin's contention, an affidavit was sworn (27 May 1724) by Captain William Hannyngton of Moneyrea, co. Down, and two others, to the effect that, in the previous December, Nevin had affirmed in conversation that ‘it is no blasphemy to say Christ is not God.’ Nevin, in a published letter (11 June 1724), explained that the conversation was on the duties of the civil magistrate; he had affirmed that, for Jews to say Christ is not God, though a sin, is not such blasphemy as to call for civil punishment.

The matter was brought before the general synod, which met at Dungannon on 16 June 1724, by Samuel Henry, minister of Sligo. A trial followed, which lasted ten days. The synod required him to make an immediate declaration of belief in the deity of Christ. On his refusal he was cut off (26 June) from ministerial fellowship. The sentence was peculiar, for he was neither deposed, excommunicated, nor removed from his congregation.

In July 1724 Nevin's action against Echlin came on at the Downpatrick assizes. The judge called for a definition of Arianism, which was supplied by John Mears [q. v.] On hearing the evidence, he pronounced Echlin's charge ‘unmeaning, senseless, and undefined.’ Whether Nevin got damages is not known. When the Down presbytery met in August, Mears, who was clerk, called Nevin's name as usual. Nevin's friends insisted that his case should be reheard, whereupon the subscribing members withdrew. At the September meeting, Mears was removed from the clerkship, and Nevin's name struck off the roll. On the exclusion (1726) of the non-subscribing presbytery of Antrim from the synod, Nevin was admitted a member of it. He died in March 1744, and was succeeded at Downpatrick in 1746 by his son, William Nevin (d. 13 Nov. 1780), whose second son, also William Nevin, was minister at Downpatrick 1785–9, and afterwards became M.D. Thomas Nevin's wife was a daughter of James Fleming, minister of Lurgan.

Nevin published: 1. ‘A Letter to the Reverend Mr. William Smith,’ &c., Belfast, 1724, 8vo. 2. ‘The Trial of Thomas Nevin, M.A.’, &c., Belfast, 1725, 8vo. 3. ‘A Review of Mr. Nevin's Trial,’ &c., Belfast, 1728, 8vo: in reply to Robert McBride's ‘Overtures’ [see under McBride, John, 1651?–1718].

[Nevin's Trial, 1725; Christian Moderator, July 1827, p. 112; Calamy's Own Life, 1830, ii. 479 sq.; Reid's Hist. Presb. Church in Ireland (Killen), 1867, iii. 165, 176 sq.; Witherow's Hist. and Lit. Memorials of Presbyterianism in Ireland, 1879 i. 286 sq., 1880 ii. 332; article by Rev. S. C. Nelson in Down Recorder Household Almanac, 1884; Killen's Hist. Congr. Presb. Church in Ireland, 1886, pp. 119 sq.; Records of General Synod, 1890, i. 234; Latimer's Hist. of Irish Presbyterians [1893], pp. 150 sq.; extracts from manuscript Minutes of General Synod; manuscript Sketches of the Hist. of Presbyterianism in Ireland [1803], by William Campbell, D.D. [q. v.]; information from W. I. Addison, esq., assistant clerk of senate, Glasgow.]

A. G.