A Short History of the Presbyterian Churches of Ballymoney, County Antrim.

Chapter IV.


small image IN 1733, several of the ablest and most Godly ministers of the Church of Scotland were driven out of the Established Church because they dared to assert the rights of the people to elect their own pastors and maintain the doctrines of Grace. They formed themselves into a separate body known as "The Associate Presbytery." Their decision in the eyes of some was foolish, but in giving up emoluments and position, and facing poverty and hardship for conscience sake, they proved their sincerity. Their heroic act was a seed of good. In a few years Secession Congregations became numerous in North Britain. Though the Presbyterians in Ireland were not vexed by the evils of patronage or harassed by law courts settling ministers the people did not choose, yet they were not in a healthy condition spiritually. Laxity in morals was the consequence in many places in Ireland of laxity in doctrine. Seceding Congregations sprang up in many localities in the North of Ireland. The success of the seceders in regard to the number of adherents gained to their cause was considerable, but their success morally was far greater, for they not only introduced a healthier spiritual life, but their presence roused the better spirits of the Synod of Ulster to fight for the doctrines of Grace. They were assailed bitterly in many quarters but they were the salt of Presbyterianism in Ireland. Their weakness lay in their tendency to make things of no vital importance matters of principle and conscience. In Scotland those who had left the Established Church were confronted with the question whether they could with propriety take an oath administered to the burgesses in several of the borough towns. The oath pledged those adjured to support "the true religion presently professed within the realm and authorized by the laws thereof." The meaning of the oath was hotly disputed. Those who thought it was lawful to take it were called Burghers, those who refused were called Anti-Burghers. This controversy spread to Ireland and divided the seceders here into two hostile, camps. Carnaboy (second Ballyrashane) and Roseyards were the first seceding congregations in this locality, and the first seceding Minister was the Reverend John Tennent, who having received a call signed by 221 people belonging to Ballyrashane, Roseyards and Derrykeighan, was ordained in Roseyards on the 16th of May, 1751. This was an Anti-Burgher Congregation. Mr. Tennent ministered in Roseyards for 57 years. He died in 1808. Three years before Mr. Tennent's settlement in Roseyards, Societies in connection with the Anti-Burgher section of the Seceders were formed in Magheraboy (now second Kilraughts), Aghadoey, Dunboe and Ballymoney. The society formed here in 1748 which met regularly in Charlotte Street, developed into the Church which is now called Second Ballymoney. Though the Society was formed by the Anti-Burghers, several of its members thought that, however important the controversy between the two sections might be for Scotchmen, Irish seceders had nothing to do with it. They inclined toward the Burgher section. The number of adherents increased and early in this century they sought organization as a congregation in connection with the Burghers. On the 21st day of March, 1815, the Reverend R Loughhead was ordained here by the Presbytery of Derry. The number of families for a Secession congregation was considerable. Mr. Loughhead was an educated and able man and gathered round him a flourishing congregation but unfortunately circumstances arose which necessitated his resignation of the charge of the congregation in 1835. This led to a serious cleavage in the Church as many thought him hardly dealt with, and those who took this view of the unfortunate circumstances withdrew. Mr. Loughhead some years afterwards came into some property in Garryduff, through his wife, and organized a congregation there in connection with the Synod of Ulster, becoming pastor of the Church in Garryduff which was built through his labours. A licentiate called Gwynne took charge for a time of what remained of the former congregation in Ballymoney and expected to be called as pastor, but as there were doubts about his orthodoxy he was set aside and the Reverend John Lawrence Rentoul, who had been ordained some years previous at Millisle, was called and installed in the year 1836. Mr. Rentoul's role was not an easy one, and as his stipend for the first year only amounted to 11, it is clear the congregation was neither large nor wealthy. The old church (which ran east and west parallel with the Newal road, the present road to Ballymena was not made then) was behind a clachan of houses which fringed the burn, and had been an old Malt Kiln. Mr. Rentoul's first work was to build a new church, a difficult task under any circumstances, but specially hard in the forties. While the church was abuilding the congregation worshipped in the old Town Hall. He succeeded in erecting what was considered a neat structure in those days, and he built Landhead School House, and when he was compelled to leave his farm and cottage at Brookvale he had the present Manse erected in 1854 -- the first Manse in the whole locality. As his predecessor had taken part in the Union between the Burghers and Anti-Burghers who merged in 1818 into "The Presbyterian Synod


image: Second Presbyterian Church, Ballymoney.

of Ireland, distinguished by the name of Seceders," so Mr. Rentoul took part in the Union in 1840, of "The Seceders" with "The Synod of Ulster," under the name of "The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland." The Congregation of Ballymoney which had belonged to the Presbytery of Derry, then to Antrim, then to Coleraine was transferred with the title Second Ballymoney to the Presbytery of Route, of which Presbytery Mr. Rentoul was clerk in succession to the Reverend Hugh Hamill, of Bushmills. Mr. Rentoul did a hard, honest, effective day's work. He died on the 19th of August, 1869. The present minister (the Reverend James Brown Armour, M.A.), was called on the 12th and ordained on the 19th of July, 1869. The foundation stone of the New Church was laid on the 17th of June, 1884, and the Church was opened for worship on the 11th September, 1885, by the Reverend John Hall, of New York. The church cost about 3,500. The Lecture Hall, which cost about 750, was built in 1895. The debt remaining on the Church and Manse amounts to about 410. The income of the Congregation from all sources amounted last year to 342. The present elders are: David Wilson, Thomas McElderry, John Tweed, Andrew Todd, John McElderry, John Hanna and John Brown.






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