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being apprehended and imprisoned; and at a Council of War, held at Carrickfergus, in March, 1651, which was attended by Sir Charles Coote, with Colonels Venables, Chidley, Coote, and Robert Barrow, a formal act of banishment from the kingdom was passed against them. The engagement was also pressed on all classes throughout the country. Commissioners visited almost every parish, and the inhabitants, upon summons, were required to appear before them, and take this obnoxious oath. And though the Council of War had not yet decided what course to pursue with respect to the numbers who refused to swear, due notice was, in the meantime, taken of them, and threats of heavy penalties were freely denounced against them.
At this gloomy period of the history of the Church, died one of her most zealous and upright office-bearers, Major Edmond Ellis. He was among the first elders who were ordained by the Rev. Anthony Kennedy, after his settlement at Templepatrick, in the end of the year 1646; and was one of that rare class of Christian soldiers, of whom many had been employed in Ireland. After reluctantly surrendering Carrickfergus to the Royalists under Lord Montgomery, in 1649, he appears to have retired to Templepatrick, where he died in the midst of his family, bewailed by his friends, and deeply lamented by the Church, on Wednesday, the 11th of June; the day after the engagement, to which he was strongly opposed, had been tendered at Antrim to the adjoining parishes. Through all the difficulties and vicissitudes of those trying times, he was a consistent Presbyterian, and a truly eminent Christian. Several of his devout sayings on his death-bed, which have been preserved, are worthy of being recorded, as affording a specimen of the religious sentiments and feelings of the Presbyterian eldership at this period.
In consequence of the strictness with which the engagement was pressed, and the rigorous proceedings of the Council of War against the ministers, many of them were compelled to abandon the country. A few, unwilling to leave their people at this perplexing crisis, ventured to remain, notwithstanding the serious privations to which they were exposed. "Those that staid in the country, though they could not exercise their ministry orderly as formerly, and though their stipends were sequestered, yet they, changing their apparel to the habit of countrymen, travelled in their own parishes frequently, and sometimes in other places, taking what opportunities they could to preach in the fields, or in barns and glens
and were seldom in their own houses. They persuaded the people to constancy in the received doctrines, in opposition to the wild heresies which were then spreading, and reminding them of their duty to their lawful magistrates, the King and Parliament, in opposition to the usurpation of the times; and in their public prayers always mentioning the lawful magis
"This continued throughout the summer of 1651; at which time there was diligent search made anew for them. Some were again taken, others fled; and those who were taken were imprisoned first, for a time, in Carrickfergus, in lodgings where they quartered; and thereafter, Colonel Venables not gaining any ground upon them, they were sent to Scotland, where all of them were invited to parishes, and exercised their ministry for about three years, in divers places of Scotland, and were admitted as members of the Presbyteries where their congregations were: and withal they reserved a liberty to return to their places in Ireland, if ever God should open a door. Those remaining in the country and not apprehended, being only about six or seven, were Messrs. Thomas Peebles, James Gordon, and Gilbert Ramsay, in the County of Down; and Messrs. Anthony Kennedy, Robert Cunningham, and Patrick Adair, in the County of Antrim. These were now put to greater difficulties than before, being more earnestly searched after than in their houses; yet they continued preaching in remote or private places, where the people willingly met them. They had frequent meetings among themselves, in order to strengthening one another, and consulting of their present carriage; and they drew up causes of fasts and humiliations to be kept among the people in a private way, in several little societies, as the times per: mitted. Sometimes the minister would in his parish call them all together a part of the day, and preach and pray with them; and thereafter the people would repair to their several societies for prayer the rest of the day, the minister always joining with one of these little societies after another. This continued for another year; at which time the people were discouraged through want of the public ordinances. The ministers also wearied, and ceased their manner of living and preaching: and, indeed, it appeared that these small endeavours of an oppressed people and remnant of the ministry were not in vain; for, after this, matters began to grow more encouraging. For it was a holy Providence thus ordered it.
"It was before recorded, that two of the Presbytery had
been suspended about three years before, for their declining to read the Presbytery's Representation against the sectarian party. And they continuing obstinate in their opinion against the Presbytery, when that party commanded in the country, these brethren were much encouraged by them, and not only had the liberty of their ministry, but considerable salaries. They met along with some ministers belonging to the army, whereof Timothy Taylor, an Independent, was the chief, both for power, parts, learning, and gravity. They had also meeting. with them some old curates who had now fallen in with Mr. Taylor, and some others, who were rather of Anabaptistical principles. These two brethren, together with another, Mr. Thomas Vesey, who now followed their way, and was minister of Coleraine, remembering the sweet society they sometimes had had with their own brethren of their principles, and now beginning to discern that party better, and having compassion on their brethren, whose bodies and spirits were much spent with tossings in the country, they made a motion to Mr. Taylor to desire a conference with these few brethren in the country, in order to a right understanding between him and them; which he and the rest with him accorded unto.
"They, therefore, wrote a letter to the brethren of the Presbytery [in December,] in which, after fair and brotherly language, they invite the brethren to appoint a time and place of meeting with them; when they should spend one day in fasting and prayer, in order to a right understanding among them in matters of controversy, relating both to the commonwealth and other matters; and, thereafter, that they should immediately fall upon an amicable brotherly conference upon these matters, to give or receive satisfaction: and the commissioners of the revenue who then governed the country, whereof Colonel Venables was one, being made acquainted with this proposal, they promised a safe conduct, that if there were no agreement, these ministers should be in statu quo prius." This letter was sent by Mr. Jeremiah O'Quin, to be delivered to Mr. Anthony Kennedy, of Templepatrick, and he was commissioned to confer with him anent the time and place of their meeting. But Mr. Jeremy could not find any one in Templepatrick, though the place where he was bred, where he before had been in great reputation, and had much acquaintance, to tell him where he might find Mr. Kennedy; wherefore he was forced to leave the letter to its venture. It came, however, to the brethren's hands, upon which they met together; and after consultation, with prayer to God,
they resolved they would not nor could not meet these brethren 'primo instante' in the exercise of fasting and prayer, till they knew them better: Some of them they had never seen, and were of principles professedly contrary, others of them, being under censure of the Presbytery yet untaken off, they would not countenance at all. However, they wrote a letter back, declaring they were willing to meet with Mr. Taylor and Mr. Weeks, two ministers of the army, and confer with them. They named the day and place,-at Antrim, in March, 1652, which was near four months after the date of their letter.
"These ministers having received the letter, which intimated the day and place, they gathered together all they could persuade who were inclining toward their way of Independency or Anabaptism, in the whole County of Antrim; and the brethren who had fallen from the Presbytery came along with them. Though Thursday was the day appointed, they met there on Tuesday, and kept Wednesday wholly in public preaching in the Church. On Thursday morning there was preaching also, and a very throng congregation. The seven brethren of the Presbytery, being near Antrim on Wednesday at night, came into the town on Thursday morning; and finding there was preaching in the Church, they also went in among the crowd. It was Mr. Weeks that was preaching. This gentleman perceiving these ministers coming in, he im mediately, in discourse to the people, did indirectly reflect on them as troublers of the country, and dividers of God's people; but there he did profess they would be forced to stop, alleging to the people Rev. iii. 9. This was the first entertainment these ministers got, instead of their brotherly conference. But immediately after ending the sermon and prayer they had another 'salve,' which was somewhat affronting and very surprising to them. The people were warned, by the same Mr. Weeks, to be present in the hall at the Castle, immediately after dinner, to hear a dispute between these gentlemen (as he called the ministers present and now in the eye of the people) and us, meaning Mr. Taylor and himself. At this time neither himself nor Mr. Taylor had ever seen these ministers, nor they them; nor had ever any intercourse but that one letter before mentioned. But Mr. Taylor hearing these were young men, and knowing himself to be of a considerable standing, and not unlearned; and long before this having put forth a book in print in vindication of Independency, he thought to surprise the country young men,
and affront them before the people, as not able to defend their cause; and bring the Independent way into credit in the country, in opposition to Presbytery. Mr. Weeks concurred with him thus far; but, being an Anabaptist, he had a further design than Mr. Taylor, but was much more unable to follow it, being void of human learning, never educated that way, but a tradesman and imprudent.
"After the summons to a public dispute before the people, unexpected by the ministers, coming out of the Church they met Mr. Taylor and Mr. Weeks at the door, and saluted each other without more words; but they refused to take by the hand those brethren who had fallen from the Presbytery, and were now joined with the sectaries. Instead of going to dinner, however, they went together to a room in a private house, with some few of their friends who had been present at that sermon, to consider what to do, and they resolved not to dispute. After the two brethren [Taylor and Weeks] had dined in the Castle, they sent one of the ministers to desire them to come to the dispute. The people were now gathered; and, indeed, the people, having such public warning upon such an unusual occasion, did readily throng into the place. The brethren returned an answer they could not dispute, but were willing to discourse with Mr. Taylor and Mr. Weeks, according to their own proposal, in private. They replied, there must be a dispute, since the people were advertised; otherwise they would publicly declare to the people that the ministers would not defend their own cause.
"However the ministers went down to the Castle, and had first a meeting with the two brethren in a chamber, and discoursed with them of the unreasonableness and unfairness of their carriage, thus to take advantage and bring men to a dispute, not only without any previous warning of any such thing, but who knew not so much as what should be the subject-matter of their dispute. They desired only that they might agree upon the points in debate, and let them be now formed into theses, and they were willing to debate with them to-morrow morning. But nothing would do save a present dispute, as the people were gathered, and would, without that, be disappointed. They would dispute on nothing but what they commonly taught and owned. And so they went down stairs to the common hall, where the people were gathered very throng, and where were a long table and forms set for the ministers, and a chair at the upper end of it. There Masters Taylor and Weeks sat down, and cheerfully looked at one another. They spake to the people, saying,