« PreviousContinue »
the Solemn League and Covenant to the army. This was accordingly done. The ministers who had charge of regiments as their Congregations, did administer it to these regiments; and the regiments who had no ministers received it from the ministers come from Scotland, who all entered into that oath with great appearance of desire and affection; some really, others went along. I have heard none refused it but Major Dalzell in the major-general's regiment, who then and all his days thereafter proved an atheist, and an open enemy to the work of God. But though the army-ministers had no Commission except for the army, yet in those places where the Covenant was administred to the army, the whole country about came and willingly joined themselves in the Covenant; a very few excepted, who were either some old conformist ministers, or known profane or ungodly persons: so that there were more of the country become swearers, than were men in the army. Yet because the black oath had been generally pressed, and taken by many in the country a few years be fore, these who had taken the black oath were not admitted to the Covenant till they at first publickly declared their repentance for it. It was reported by the worthy Mr. Weir who administred the Covenant at Carrickfergus, where least was expected, that there were four hundred who had renounced the black oath publicly and taken the Covenant, and fourteen hundred of the army and town and places about, besides women, who had not taken the same and now entered into the Covenant. And there were in other places large equal proportions, and more people running into it where it was administered, as in Belfast, Comber, Newton, Bangor, also in Broadisland, Isle-Magee, and other places in the county of Antrim, not only where soldiers were quartered, but where they were not quartered; the ministers from Scotland on their own invitation did visit them, and administered the Covenant unto them.
"The Covenant was taken in all places with great affec tion; partly sorrow for former judgments, and sins and miseries; partly joy under present consolation, in the hopes of laying a foundation for the work of God in the land, and overthrowing popery and prelacy, which had been the bane and ruin of that poor Church: sighs and tears were joined together, and it is much to be observed, both the way ministers used toward the people for clear. ing their consciences, in order to the Covenant, in explain.
ing it before they proposed it to the people, and from Scripture and solid consequences from it clearing every article of it; and thereafter offered it only to those whose consciences stirred them up to it. Indeed they were assisted with more than the ordinary presence of God in that work, in every place they went to; so that all the hearers did bear them witness that God was with them. And the sensible presence and appearance of God with them in these exercises, did overcome many of those who otherwise were not inclined that way, so that very few were found to resist the call of God. The solemnity and spirituality of carrying on this work was like the cloud filling the temple, there being a new tabernacle erecting in the land. And those who had not seen these things before, nor were well acquainted with them, said (as the people in Christ's time) we have seen strange things to day.' Yea, even the malignants who were against the Covenant durst not appear on the contrary; for the people generally held these ministers as servants of God, and coming with a blessed message and errand to them. Only at Belfast there was no liberty granted to offer the Covenant; only, with difficulty, it was granted them to preach; and that text was insisted on, Isaiah lvi. 5, 6, 7, where many people who had been at Holywood the day before were present, and divers well-wishers in Belfast itself, though the generality of people in it had no such affection. It is observable of that place [Belfast] that though there was long much opposition to the work of Christ in it, yet, by degrees, the Lord did wear out the opposers, and made them and their posterity altogether insignificant in the place, and brought in a new people from divers places, who do entertain the Gospel, and own Christ's interest with equal affection as others.
"Thus the ministers having gone about that work in all places in Down, and several places in Antrim, where the Scotch army were quartered, they resolved to go to Coleraine and the Route; also for that purpose, and according as they had clearness, to go farther towards Derry. Mr. Adair and Mr. Weir visited first Antrim, and after that Ballymena, then a small garrison. In both places God was signally present with the ministers and people, the Lord assisting the ministers in the work of preaching and explaining the Covenant, and the people with much affection to receive it. The ministers were directed to in
sist on sweet and suitable subjects thereon, Ezra, viii. 20. and Psalms, cii. 13.
From Ballymena they went with a guard of horse toward Coleraine, by one Mr. Hume of general Leslie's re giment. They went the next day (being Thursday) to the Church; and, few being present except the soldiers of the garrison, they explained the Covenant to them, and left it to their serious thoughts till the next Sabbath [April 21,] being also Easter day. On this Lord's day, the convention was very great from town and country; they expounded more fully the Covenant, and among other things told the people that their miseries had come from those sorts of people who were there sworn against, though specially from the papists; that the righteous hand of God had afflicted them for going so near the papists in their former worship and government in the Church; that, whereas the episcopal party endeavoured peaceableness with the papists by symbolizing with them in much of their superstition, the sovereign holy Lord had turned their policy to the contrary effect for their conformity with idolaters, or going on in a course which had a tendency at least that way. The first who publickly entered into Covenant was the preacher in that town, Master Vessey, who did solemnly acknowledge the sin of the black oath, and the cursed course of conformity with the former times. Such was the day of God's power on men's consciences. For this man proved not sound or stedfast thereafter, nor ever joined with the Presbytery, and upon the restoration of bishops did again conform to episcopacy, and died archbishop of Tuam.
"Next, the whole people of the country present did solemnly acknowledge the oath, and by lifting up hands to God, entered into the Solemn League and Covenant, with which were mixed prayers and singing of psalms after the ordinary exercise of preaching was over. There were few of the townsmen who entered into the Covenant the first day; but they gave the ministers knowledge that their purpose was on Monday to enter into it. The ministers, first commending them for their deliberate way of doing such a thing, observed the Monday, and received them into Covenant, both the Mayor and others of the town, they desiring to do it themselves; but so that, in their entering into the Covenant, they did abjure their former corruptions, and renounce them. So did the ministers and people of
Route, who all of them convened in two places, Billy and Dunluce; in the one was Mr. Adair, and in the other was Mr. Weir, where the former ministers followed the same way with others before them, and the people also. Mr. Adair and Mr. Weir took occasion, from the ministers' repentance, to show the people in public how dangerous it was to credit ministers without ground from Scripture.
"But as this work had little or no resistance hitherto appearing, so now some were stirred up against it. Colonel Mervyn began occasionally coming to Coleraine and reflecting upon the people taking the Covenant, and had almost discouraged and dissuaded some who were upon the way of taking it. Then one Mr. Philips about Ballycastle [at Newton limavady] set himself against it, and did endeavour to dissuade the garrison thereabout from it. And Sir Robert Stewart, with Mr. Humphrey Galbraith, were using the same endeavours about Derry, having heard that the ministers, upon invitation from some people, were coming there.
"But a greater opposition met them from Derry. For coming the length of the Muff, they received a message and letter from the mayor of Derry, one Thornton, and from Colonel Mervyn, prohibiting their coming there upon their peril. Yet they, considering they had invitation from a well affected people to go there, and that God had sig. nally appeared for them in carrying on that work in all places they had been in, went forward, not intimating to their company their discouragements. Whereupon their convoy leaving them, they went on, and being met by captain Lawson, (one of those who had invited them,) they were brought over the ferry to his house, which was without the wall, not knowing how to enter the town. But Providence appeared for them; for Sir Frederick Hamilton, a bold man, and one of great interest in that country, then occasionally being in Derry, came to the wall and sent for them, and brought them unto the gates to his own house, much encouraging them, and commending their resolution in coming forward, notwithstanding the threatenings they received. As they went toward his lodging through the streets, there seemed to be a commotion among the people, some by their countenance and carriage declaring their indignation, some their affection. Others were surprised at the so sudden coming of these worthy men; for Providence ordered it that they came before they could be ex
pected, and it was then told them by Sir Frederick, that he heard there were ways used for laying wait for them by the way, and using violence to them. Sir Frederick did commend them for their policy, in preventing the time they knew they might be expected; but they referred it wholly to divine conduct, for they neither imagined nor knew any such thing; and so he, after they had supped with him in another house near his lodging, left them. They were much encouraged and refreshed by the experience of God's leading them that day.
"Next day, the mayor and alderman, who were also town-captains, came to their lodging, reminding them that he bad written to them the day before not to come there, lest they bred division in the garrison and town. They told him [Thornton] they came for a happy union in that division, and they were so far on their way before they received his letter, that they could not with any conveniency return. He questioned them, by what authority they came there with the Covenant? They answered, first, upon a petition from the British in the North of Ireland for ministers to come and visit them from the Assembly of Scotland; secondly, that the Assembly had given them Commission to give the Covenant to the Scotch army, and others who willingly should receive it; thirdly, that upon a petition from the British of Ulster to the States of Scotland, desiring help in divers things, particularly in victualling and ammunition for Derry, which they desired earnestly, and, above all, also the Solemn League and Covenant to be sent over to them. Unto which as the States of Scot. land had respect, according to their capacity, to the rest of their desires, so particularly unto this in these words:
And the Committee of estates do embrace their desire to enter into the Covenant, and will take care to send the same to general-major Monro, to be presented both to the Scotch army and the British, as a firm ground of their union in this cause.'
"The ministers did return to the mayor copy of this order, subscribed by the clerk's hand. He answered, that was no legal warrant for them to take the Covenant. They replied, these things put together, there was a sufficient ground for them to offer it, though they would press it upon none, and 'volenti non fit injuria,' since themselves by pe tition had sought it, and there were also letters from the parliament of England to the same purpose. It could not