Thinking Like a Presbyterian in 1690s Ireland

  • Robert Armstrong
Part of the Christianities in the Trans-Atlantic World, 1500–1800 book series (CTAW)


These sentiments, expressed in 1697, might have been articulated by any number of Protestant ministers, in any number of settings across the seventeenth century and, as in this case, with particular force in the years after the Revolution of 1688–9, interpreted readily in terms of the nefarious schemes of ‘popery’ as well as ‘arbitrary government’. In this instance, they were voiced by an Irish-born Presbyterian—but not in Ireland. These Truths in a True Light … Vindicating the Non-conformists were addressed to the ‘Reformed Protestants’ of Barbados by Francis Makemie, whom later generations would nominate the ‘father of American Presbyterianism’. Alongside its well-worn anti-Romanism, Makemie was addressing the profound changes which had swept across the Protestant world of the Stuart kingdoms in 1689–90. If he spoke directly of the legalisation of a form of toleration in England, arguably greater break came with the re-establishment of Presbyterianism in Scotland and with it the recognition that Scotland and England would have legally established, but very distinctly ordered, Protestant churches.2 The implications would colour Makemie’s whole career, and bear directly upon the experience of the community from whom he received his religious formation, the Presbyterians of Ireland.3


Seventeenth Century Late Book Protestant Church Literary Memorial Late Discourse 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Francis Makemie, Truths in a True Light or, a Pastoral Letter to the Reformed Protestants in Barbados… (Edinburgh, 1699), in The Life and Writings of Francis Makemie, Boyd S. Schlenther (ed.) (Philadelphia, 1971), pp. 111–34 (p. 111). The text offers a date of 28 December 1697.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Patrick Griffin, ‘Defining the Limits of Britishness: The “new” British History and the Meaning of the Revolution Settlement in Ireland for Ulster’s Presbyterians’, Journal of British Studies 39 (2000), pp. 263–87, locates that community’s experience into the eighteenth century in terms of the ‘Revolution’s unrevolutionary nature’ in terms of their legal standing, whilst affording them a ‘language with which they could respond to their problems’ (p. 266).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 4.
    Suggestions that the English ‘toleration’ act of 1689 might be extended to Ireland by been quickly entangled with the idea of also extended the test, duplicating both sides of the English arrangement. In fact a legal toleration would not be enacted in Ireland until 1719. For clarity of discussion of the legal situation across the century after the Revolution, see J. C. Beckett, Protestant Dissent in Ireland, 1687–1780 (London, 1954).Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Kathleen M. Middleton, ‘Religious Revolution and Social Crisis in Southwest Scotland and Ulster, 1687–1714’ (unpublished PhD. dissertation Trinity College Dublin, 2010), especially chapter four.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Graeme Kirkham, ‘Ulster emigration to North America: 1680–1260’, in H. Tyler Blethen and Curtis W. Wood, Jr (eds), Ulster and North America: Transatlantic Perspectives on the Scotch-Irish (Tuscaloosa, 1997), pp. 76–117.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    Patrick Griffin, ‘The People with No Name: Ulster’s Migrants and Identity Formation in Eighteenth-Century Pennsylvania’, William and Mary Quarterly (2001) 587–614.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    Marilyn J. Westerkamp, Triumph of the Laity: Scots-Irish Piety and the Great Awakening, 1625–1760 (New York, 1988), pp. 137–8.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    Still valuable as a guide to printed (and some manuscript) works produced by Presbyterians in Ireland is Thomas Witherow, Historical and Literary Memorials of Presbyterianism in Ireland, 1623–1731 (Belfast, 1879).Google Scholar
  9. 11.
    For the contours of the debate see Phil Kilroy, Protestant Dissent and Controversy in Ireland 1660–1714 (Cork, 1994), pp. 173–87.Google Scholar
  10. For a detailed discussion of the episode, with particular emphasis upon ‘the mechanics of debate in a world of a rapidly developing print culture’ (p. 233), see Raymond Gillespie, ‘Irish print and Protestant identity: William King’s pamphlet wars, 1687–1697’, in Vincent P. Carey and Ute Lotz-Heumann (eds), Taking sides? Colonial and Confessional Mentalités in Early Modern Ireland (Dublin, 2003), pp. 231–50.Google Scholar
  11. 12.
    William King, A Second Admonition to the Dissenting Inhabitants of the Diocess of Derry, Concerning Mr J. Boyse his Vindication (Dublin, 1695).Google Scholar
  12. 13.
    [Robert Craghead,] A Modest Apology Occasioned by the Importunitie of the Bishop of Derrie (Glasgow, 1696), ‘To the Christian Reader’.Google Scholar
  13. 16.
    Quoted in Sandra Hynes, ‘Mapping friendship and dissent: The letters from Joseph Boyse to Ralph Thoresby, 1680–1710’, in Ariel Hessayon and David Finnegan (eds), Varieties of Seventeenth-and Early Eighteenth-century English Radicalism (Farnham, 2011), p. 214.Google Scholar
  14. For Boyse, see also A. W. Godfrey Brown, The Great Mr Boyse: A Study of the Reverend Joseph Boyse Minister of Wood Street Church, Dublin 1683–1728 (Belfast, 1988).Google Scholar
  15. 17.
    Joseph Boyse, Remarks on a Late Discourse of William Lord Bishop of Derry: Concerning the Inventions of Men in the Worship of God (1694), pp. 84–5.Google Scholar
  16. 18.
    [Tobias Pullen,] An Answer to a Paper Entitled the Case of the Protestant Dissenters of Ireland, in Reference to a Bill of Indulgence, Represented and Argued ([Dublin, 1695]), p. 4. Pullen was briefly bishop of Cloyne (1694–5) and then bishop of Dromore, from 1695 until his death in 1713.Google Scholar
  17. 19.
    As they had done in the 1650s; Kathleen Middleton, ‘Exploiting Jurisdictions: Perceptions of Political Boundaries in Southwest Scotland and Ulster, 1688–1715’, Journal of Irish and Scottish Studies 3:1 (2009), p. 202.Google Scholar
  18. 20.
    The ‘Necessary Representation’ issued by the Presbytery in February 1649, printed in J. S. Reid, History of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (Belfast, 1876), ii. 88–95.Google Scholar
  19. 21.
    This welcome recognition is especially apparent in Kilroy, Protestant Dissent and Controversy and Richard L. Greaves, God’s other Children: Protestant Nonconformists and the Emergence of Denominational Churches in Ireland 1660–1700 (Stanford, CA, 1997).Google Scholar
  20. 23.
    [Joseph Boyse,] The Case of the Protestant Dissenters of Ireland, in Reference to a Bill of Indulgence, Vindicated from the Exceptions Alledg’d against it in a Late Answer ([Dublin, 1695]), p. 9.Google Scholar
  21. 26.
    William King, A Discourse Concerning the Inventions of Men in the Worship of God (Dublin, 1694), p. 178.Google Scholar
  22. 27.
    Ian McBride, ‘Ulster Presbyterians and the Confessional State, c. 1688–1733’, in D. George Boyce, Robert Eccleshall, and Vincent Geoghegan (eds), Political Discourse in Seventeenth-and Eighteenth-century Ireland (Basingstoke, 2001), pp. 169–92 (pp. 175–7); Griffin, ‘Defining the Limits of Britishness’, pp. 268–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 28.
    [Tobias Pullen,] A Defence of the Answer to a Paper Entitled the Case of the Protestant Dissenters of Ireland, in Reference to a Bill of Indulgence, from the Exceptions Lately made against it (Dublin, 1695), pp. 9, 22.Google Scholar
  24. 29.
    John McCafferty, ‘When Reformations Collide’, in Allan I. Macinnes and Jane H. Ohlmeyer (eds), The Stuart Kingdoms in the Seventeenth Century (Dublin, 2002), pp. 186–203.Google Scholar
  25. 30.
    Alasdair Raffe, The Culture of Controversy: Religious Arguments in Scotland 1660–1714 (Woodbridge, 2012), p. 95.Google Scholar
  26. 31.
    [Pullen,] A Defence of the Answer, pp. 14–20, 22–4; [John McBride,] Animadversions on the Defence of the Answer to a Paper, Intituled, the Case of the Dissenting Protestants of Ireland … with an Answer to a Peaceable and Friendly Address to the Non-conformists (Belfast 1697), especially pp. 37–43, 80–2.Google Scholar
  27. 32.
    Joseph Boyse and Nathaniel Weld, Two Sermons Preach’t on a Day of Fasting & Humiliation, kept by the Protestant Dissenters in Dublin, on the Sad Occasion of the Death of Our Late Gracious Queen (Dublin, 1695), pp. 19–20.Google Scholar
  28. 33.
    Ibid., pp. 22, 26; Boyse, Remarks on a Late Discourse, pp. 184–5. For the drive for moral reformation in 1690s Ireland, in which Boyse — and King — took an active part, see T. C. Barnard, ‘Reforming Irish Manners: The Religious Societies in Dublin in the 1690s’, Historical Journal 35 (1992), pp. 805–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 34.
    Mark Goldie, Roger Morrice and the Puritan Whigs, The Entring Book of Roger Morrice, 1677–1691, Mark Goldie et al. (eds), 6 vols (Woodbridge, 2007), i. 244.Google Scholar
  30. 35.
    Goldie, Roger Morrice, p. 245. For a valuable assessment of such schemes to 1697, see Henry Horwitz, ‘Comprehension in the Later Seventeenth Century: A Postscript’, Church History 34 (1965), pp. 342–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 36.
    Richard Baxter, Of National Churches (1691), p. 60.Google Scholar
  32. 37.
    Baxter, Of national churches, p. 1. The essential treatment of this theme is William Lamont, ‘The two “National Churches” of 1691 and 1829’, in Anthony Fletcher and Peter Roberts (eds), Religion, Culture and Society in Early Modern Britain (Cambridge, 1994), pp. 335–52. Baxter’s definition is more or less quoted, and defended, in Boyse, Remarks on a Late Discourse, p. 150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 38.
    William M. Lamont, Richard Baxter and the Millennium (London, 1979), pp. 63–4, 263–5.Google Scholar
  34. 39.
    [Joseph Boyse,] Vindiciae Calvinisticae: or, Some Impartial Reflections on the Dean of Londondereys Considerations that Obliged him to Come Over to the Communion of the Church of Rome, and Mr. Chancellor King’s Answer Thereto (Dublin, 1688), pp. 4, 22. Though attributed to ‘W.B.’ on the title page, Boyse’s authorship has been generally accepted, and the text (an earlier version of which probably appeared in 1687) was included in his 1728 Works.Google Scholar
  35. 41.
    Robert Craghead, An Answer to a Late Book, Intitled, a Discourse Concerning the Inventions of Men in the Worship of GOD (Edinburgh, 1694), pp. 147–8.Google Scholar
  36. 47.
    Michael R. Watts, The Dissenters: From the Reformation to the French Revolution (Oxford, 1978), pp. 289–87.Google Scholar
  37. 55.
    John McBride, A Sample of Jet-black Pr—tic Calumny… or the Christian Loyalty of Presbyterians in Britain and Ireland (Glasgow, 1713).Google Scholar
  38. James Kirkpatrick, An Historical Essay upon the Loyalty of Presbyterians in Great-Britain and Ireland from the Reformation to this Present Year 1713 (Belfast, 1713).Google Scholar
  39. 69.
    William King, An Admonition to the Dissenting Inhabitants of Derry: Concerning a Book Lately Published by Mr J. Boyse (London, 1694), p. 35.Google Scholar
  40. 85.
    Arnold Hunt, The Art of Hearing: English Preachers and their Audiences, 1590–1640 (Cambridge, 2010), chapter two (quotations at pp. 38, 42). Tellingly, though, Hunt goes on to argue that changing conditions, not least the upsurge in availability of printed sermons saw growing dissatisfaction with a ‘reading/preaching distinction’ (in England) as the century progressed: ibid., pp. 54, 393.Google Scholar
  41. 87.
    Robert Craghead, Advice to Communicants for Necessary Preparation, and Profitable Improvement of the Great and Comfortable Ordinance of the Lord’s Supper (1695), ‘To the Christian Reader’.Google Scholar
  42. 89.
    See, for example, M. Charles Bell, Calvin and Scottish Theology: The Doctrine of Assurance (Edinburgh, 1985).Google Scholar
  43. 90.
    Robert Craghead, Warning and Advice both unto the Secure and Doubting Christian for more Diligence to be Sure of Salvation (Edinburgh, 1701), pp. 7–11.Google Scholar
  44. 94.
    John Mac-Bride [McBride], A Sermon before the Provincial Synod of Antrim, Preached June 1, 1698 (1698), p. 10.Google Scholar
  45. 105.
    Andrew Holmes, ‘Tradition and Enlightenment: Conversion and Assurance of Salvation in Ulster Presbyterianism, 1700–1859’, in Michael Brown, Charles Ivar McGrath and Thomas P. Power (eds), Converts and Conversion in Ireland, 1650–1850 (Dublin, 2005), pp. 129–56 (quoted at pp. 132, 155).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Robert Armstrong 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Armstrong

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations