Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/304

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290
PRESBYTERIANISM

have been imported principally from Scotland. To English people, therefore, the Presbyterian is still the “Scotch Church,” and they are as a whole slow to connect themselves with it. Efforts have been made to counteract this feeling by making the Church more distinctly English. The danger in this direction is that when Presbyterianism has been modified far enough to suit the English taste it may be found less acceptable to its more stalwart supporters from beyond the Tweed. Following the lead of the Independents. who set up Mansfield College at Oxford, the Presbyterian Church has founded Westminster College at Cambridge as a substitute for its Theological Hall in London. It was opened in 1899 with the view of securing a home-bred ministry more conversant with English academic life and thought. In common with the general Presbyterianism of the British Isles, the Presbyterian Church of England has in recent years been readjusting its relation to the Westminster Confession of Faith. without setting aside the Confession as the church's standard, twenty-four “Articles of the Faith” have been adopted. In these no change, it is alleged, has been made in regard to the substance of the Westminster doctrine, but there is an alteration of emphasis and proportion.

There are in England fourteen congregations in connexion with the Church of Scotland, six of them in London and the remainder in Berwick, Northumberland, Carlisle and Lancashire.

Many Unitarians in England still call themselves Presbyterians. This, except historically, is a misnomer, for, though descended from the old English Presbyterians, they retain nothing of their distinctive doctrine or polity—nothing of Presbyterianism, indeed, but the name.

Ireland.

Presbyterianism in Ireland, in modern times at least, dates from the plantation of Ulster in the reign of James I. The infusion of a considerable Scottish element into the population necessitated the formation of a congenial church. The immigrants from England took with them, in like manner, their attachment to the Episcopal Church. But these two sections of Protestantism, in their common exile and in presence of the preponderating Roman Catholicism of the country, seemed at first inclined to draw closer together than had been thought possible in Great Britain. A confession of faith, drawn up by Archbishop Usher at the convocation of 1615, implicitly admitted the validity of Presbyterian ordination, and denied the distinction between bishop and presbyter. Within the Episcopal Church and supported by its endowments, Robert Blair, John Livingstone and other ministers maintained a Scottish Presbyterian communion.

From 1625 to 1638 the history of Irish Presbyterians is one of bare existence. Their ministers, silenced by Wentworth, after an ineffectual attempt to reach New England, fled to Scotland, and there took a leading part in the great movement of 1638. After the Irish rebellion of 1641 the Protestant interest for a time was ruined. A majority of the Ulster Protestants were Presbyterians, and in a great religious revival which took place the ministers of the Scottish regiments stationed in Ireland took a leading part. Kirk-sessions were formed in four regiments, and the first regular The First
Presbytery.
presbytery was held at Carrickfergus on the 10th of June 1642, attended by five ministers and by ruling elders from the regimental sessions. This presbytery supplied ministers to as many congregations as possible; and for the remainder ministers were sent from Scotland. By the end of 1643 the Ulster Church was fairly established. Notwithstanding intervening reverses there were by 1647 nearly thirty ordained ministers in fixed charges in Ulster besides the chaplains of the Scottish regiments.

At the Restoration, in which they heartily co-operated, there were in Ulster seventy ministers in fixed charges, with nearly eighty parishes or congregations containing one hundred thousand persons. There were five presbyteries holding monthly meetings and annual visitations of all the congregations within their bounds, and coming together in general synod four times a year. Entire conformity with the Scottish Church was maintained, and strict discipline was enforced by pastoral visitations, kirk-sessions and presbyteries.

After the Restoration the determination of the government to put down Presbyterianism was speedily felt in Ireland. In 1661 the lords justices forbade all unlawful assemblies, and in these they included meetings of presbytery as exercising ecclesiastical jurisdiction not warranted by the law. Bishop Jeremy Taylor was forward in this work of persecution. The ministers refused to take the Oath of Supremacy without the qualification suggested by Usher. Their parishes were declared vacant, and episcopal clergy appointed to them. The ejected ministers were forbidden to preach or administer the sacraments. In Ulster sixty-one ministers were ejected. Of seventy only seven conformed. Under Ormonde, in 1665, ministers were again permitted to revive Presbyterian worship and discipline, and for several years the Church prospered not only in Ulster but also in the south and west. In 1672 she received a yearly grant from Charles II. of £600 (regium donum), and under William III. the amount was considerably increased. It was continued till 1869.

In 1679 the rising in Scotland which ended in the battle of Bothwell Bridge brought trouble on the Irish Presbyterians in spite of their loyal addresses disowning it. It was not, however, till 1682 that they again lost the privilege of public ministry, and suffered severe oppression. They were opposed to James II., though they had benefited by his Declaration of Indulgence, and they were the first to congratulate the Prince of Orange on his arrival in England. The heroic defence of Londonderry owed much to them, as they were a majority of the population, and some of their ministers rendered conspicuous service. There were then in Ireland about a hundred congregations, seventy-five with settled ministers, under five presbyteries. Their preponderance in Ulster and their consciousness of their great service to England led them first of all to hope that Presbyterianism might be substituted for Episcopacy in Ulster, and afterwards, that it might be placed on an equal footing with the latter.

During the 18th century Irish Presbyterianism became infected with Arianism. Under the leadership of Dr Henry Cooke, a minister of rare ability and eloquence, the evangelical party triumphed in the church courts, and the Unitarians seceded and became a separate denomination. In 1840 the Synod of Ulster and the Secession Synod united to form the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland is the most conservative of the great Presbyterian churches in the United Kingdom. Her attitude is one of sturdy adherence to the old paths of evangelical doctrine and Presbyterian polity. She has been a zealous supporter of Irish national education, which is theoretically “united secular and separate religious instruction.” The Church Act of 1869 which disestablished and disendowed the Irish Episcopal Church took away the Presbyterian regium donum. The ministers with all but absolute unanimity decided to commute their life-interest and form therewith a great fund for the support of the Church. The commutation fund thus formed is a permanent memorial of a generous and disinterested act on the part of her ministry. It amounted in 1902 to £588,028. The interest accruing from it is added to the yearly sustentation contributions, and forms a central fund for ministerial support. Since the state endowment ceased the average income of ministers from their congregations has considerably increased.

The Irish Presbyterian Church has set an example to all her sister churches by her forwardness to care for the poor. Her “Presbyterian Orphan Society” undertakes the support of every poor orphan child throughout the Church. No Presbyterian orphan child now needs to seek workhouse relief. The orphans are boarded in the homes of respectable poor people, who thus also benefit by the society. A scheme of pensions for her aged poor has been instituted.

Three small communities of Presbyterians maintain a separate autonomy in Ireland, viz. the Reformed Presbyterian Church, with thirty-six; the Eastern Reformed, with six; and the Secession Church, with ten congregations.

Wales.

The Presbyterian Church of Wales, commonly known as the “Calvinistic Methodist,” had its origin in the great evangelical revival of the 18th century. Its polity has been of gradual growth, and still retains some features peculiar to itself. In 1811 its preachers were first presbyterially ordained and authorized to administer the sacraments. In 1823 a Confession of Faith was adopted. In 1864 the two associations or synods of North and South Wales were united in a general assembly. Great attention is given to the education of the ministry, a considerable number of whom, in recent years, have taken arts degrees at Oxford and Cambridge. As far as the difference in language will permit, there is cordial fellowship and co-operation with the Presbyterian Church of England. The appetite of the Welsh people for sermons is enormous, and the preachers are characterized by an exceptionally high order of pulpit power.  (W. Y.) 

United States.

Presbyterianism in the United States is a reproduction and further development of Presbyterianism in Europe. The history of the American Presbyterian churches, excluding the two “Reformed” Churches (see Reformed Church in the United States for the German body, and Reformed Church in America for the Dutch body), may be divided into three periods.