Historic Memorials of the First Presbyterian Church Belfast


1636. 11th August. -- Conference in Belfast Church between Henry Leslie, Bishop of Down (assisted by Bramhall, Bishop of Derry), and five Presbyterian ministers, on the points at issue between the prelates and the nonconforming clergy.
1642. June. -- Army eldership erected in Belfast. Subsequently, Rev. John Baird appointed to preach there every third Sabbath (Adair's Narr., pp. 96, 100).
1644. July. -- Supplication presented from "many in Belfast" for erecting a session, and Patrick Adair appointed to perform that duty (Chr. Moderator, 1826, p. 353).
Thomas Theaker, sovereign, states (18th July) that all the free commoners of Belfast, "except a very few," had taken the covenant, and that there was a session of about 20 elders and 4 deacons (Benn, i. 110).
1646. September. -- Anthony Shaw ordained at Belfast (Scott's Fasti).
1649. Lieut. -- Colonel Wallace, elder, appointed governor of Belfast (Adair, p. 168). .
John Milton stigmatises the Presbyterians, who protested (15th Feb.) against the execution of Charles I., as "that unchristian synagogue of Belfast."
Anthony Shaw upbraids Montgomery (June) before his officers for betraying the cause of the covenant, by supplanting Wallace, in virtue of a commission from Charles II. (Adair, p. 169).
Shaw removes to Colmonell, Ayshire; he is said to have been succeeded by Read.
1650-60. During these years there is no trace of Presbyterian church government in Belfast; from 1650 to 1656 the church was turned into a fort. In September, 1657, Rev. William Dix, who in 1654 had been appointed by the Cromwellian Government to preach in Belfast, was forcibly pulled out of the pulpit by Rev. Henry Livingston, of Drumbo, acting under the authority of the Presbytery (Benn, i. 136, 139-141, 398).
1660. Rev. William Keyes settles in Belfast, the first of an unbroken line of ministers.
1668. Keyes began to preach at Carrickfergus every other Lord's Day, after the removal of Rev. Timothy Taylor (Independent) to Dublin.
In this year, says Adair, Presbyterians "began in divers places to build preaching houses, and there met publicly."
1671. December. -- Carrickfergus congregation applied to the Antrim Meeting to settle Keyes exclusively with them.
1672. 19th February. -- Keyes was ordered by the Antrim Meeting to go and live in Belfast, which he did, on a promised stipend of 60 a-year.
July. -- Keyes was sent by the Antrim Meeting, at the request of Dublin Presbytery, to supply Bull Alley Congregation, Dublin, and remained there till December. [The date, "December, 1673," on p. 53, should be "December, 1672."]
1673. January. --William Muir, Michael Briggart, and John Briggart appeared at the Antrim Meeting as commissioners from Belfast, to oppose the removal of Keyes to Dublin.
1673. April. -- The Committee of all the Meetings (at this time there was no General Synod) confirmed the removal of Keyes to Dublin. Messrs, Anderson and Chalmers, commissioners from Belfast, appealed to the Antrim Meeting against this decision, but in vain. (Extract from Minutes of Antrim Meeting.)
7th May. -- Keyes expressed to the Antrim Meeting his unwillingness to remove to Dublin, and intimated the dissatisfaction of Lady Donegall in the matter of his transportation. The Meeting allowed him to stay a few days longer in Belfast, and directed Patrick Adair to communicate with Lady Donegal!, through Samuel Bryan, her chaplain.
1674. 6th January. -- The Antrim Meeting appointed Revs. Thomas Hall, of Larne, and R Cunningham, of Ballycarry, "to wait upon my Lord and Lady Donegall upon advertisement from the people of Belfast, and to represent to those noble persons the sad condition of that place by want of a settled minister, and deal with them for the people's liberty -- to choose whom they pleased, with the Meeting's consent, according to principles owned by us, which, if they refuse to grant, the brethren aforesaid are to leave the obstruction of the planting of that place at their door."
3rd February. -- Nothing seems to have been done, and the Belfast people are advised to make the first application, through Bryan.
3rd March. -- John Adam, merchant, appeared as commissioner from Belfast, and said the people had made application. Hall and Cunningham were appointed "to repair to Belfast, and then, after conference with the most judicious of the elders, to make address unto my Lord and Lady Donegall -- (1) proposing to them the desire of the people of Belfast to have a minister settled among them; and that as the brethren are ready to concur with them for their supply upon their unanimous call, so they humbly hope their honours will be pleased in that affair to let that people have their liberty as other people have, as to their free choice, according to principles owned among us; (2) and if, after conference with the elders and mature consideration, it be found expedient to move anent the House of Worship, they shall humbly represent to them what weighty reasons make for the people having their liberty as other congregations have, without irritation, so far as possible." [This is the earliest known reference to a Presbyterian Meeting-house in Belfast; it seems to imply that such a building was in existence, but under the control of the Earl of Donegall]
1674. 7th April. -- Hall and Cunningham reported that they had fulfilled their commission, and that the Countess of Donegall "promised that she should be no hindrance of the settling of a godly minister in Belfast; but she advised the brethren to forbear making any address to my Lord at this time, but to leave it upon the people of Belfast to make application to his Lordship." [Probably, this last reference is to the question of the free use of the Meeting-house.]
21st April. -- Two commissioners (not named) from Belfast reported that "they have a favourable answer" from Lord Donegall; "and further, they represent unto the Meeting that the representatives of that congregation have fixed their eyes upon Mr. Patrick Adair, and that they were appointed by the said representatives to come to the meeting for advice." The Meeting deferred consideration of the matter, after laying before the commissioners "the difficulties that appear."
On 26th May, William Moore and Alexander Arthur appeared as commissioners from Belfast, and reported "that although they have not as yet a call in readiness for Mr. Adair, yet they have not laid that business aside."
7th July. -- "Several persons commissioned" brought a call from Belfast to Patrick Adair. The consideration was deferred till next meeting. Adair declared himself"unclear to be loosed from Cairncastle."
1674. 4th August. -- The decision was referred to "the advice of the rest of the Meetings."
1st September. -- Rev. R Henry, of Carrickfergus, clerk of the Meeting, reports that Down Meeting was for, and Route Meeting against, the removal of Adair.
13th October. --The clerk reports that Laggan and Tyrone Meetings are for the removal. The Antrim Meeting accordingly "did at length proceed to a vote, which is, that in consideration of the greater good of the Church in the North of Ireland, and the considerable unanimity of the rest of the meetings for said transportation, they judge Mr. P. Adair now called by the providence of God to serve in the ministry at Belfast." They placed the call in his hands, enjoining "him and his family with the first convenience to repair to Belfast." (Extracts from Minutes of Antrim Meeting; compare Benn, i. 400-1; Christian Unitarian, 1865, pp. 153-4,)
1689. 12th January. -- Adair was appointed one of two "commissioners from the Presbyterian ministers of the North to wait on the Prince of Orange before he was proclaimed king, to congratulate him on his safe arrival, and encourage him in the great enterprise he had in view." (Christian Moderator, 1826, p. 354.)
1691. 30th September. -- At Coleraine was held the earliest meeting of General Synod of which there are minutes (probably the second meeting). Adair was present, being the senior member of the Presbytery of Antrim; there was no elder from Belfast.
1693. James Stewart presented a silver communion cup "to the Meeting-house of Belfast"
1694. Early in the year Patrick Adair died, being nearly 70 years of age.
William Crawford, sovereign of Belfast, induced the two printers, Patrick Neill and his brother-in-law, James Blow, to settle in Belfast, and entered into partnership with them. All three were members of this congregation. (Benn, i. pp. 425 sq. 735; Kirkpatrick, p. 421.) Crawford had been elected burgess on 24th March, 1686; he was elected M.P. for Belfast in 1703 and 1707.
1694. 5th June. -- Meeting of General Synod at Antrim. As commissioners from Belfast appeared William Crawford, sovereign, David Smith, burgess, with others, desiring "that the Synod would countenance their call for the transportation of Mr. John M'Bride from Clare to them." The Synod referred the whole business to the Presbytery of Down. (Extracts from Min. General Synod.)
3rd October. -- John M'Bride was installed at Belfast, by Rev. William Adair. (Christian Moderator, 1826, p. 309.)
1695. About this time a Meeting-house was built for M'Bride on a new site, in Rosemary Lane.
1697. 2nd June. -- M'Bride was chosen moderator of the General Synod at Antrim by plurality of votes out of a list of six. At this Synod the Antrim Presbytery was dissolved, and Belfast was placed in the new Presbytery of Belfast. The Presbyteries of Down, Belfast, and Tyrone were formed into a Sub-synod, to meet twice a-year, on the first Tuesday of November and May. William Adair was allowed forty shillings out of the regium donum "for defraying what expenses he has been at to an amanuensis" in copying out "his father's collection, containing a history of this Church from the year 1625 to the year 1670." [This was Patrick Adair's True Narrative, first published by Dr. W. D. Killen, 1866.] "In case a bill from England be sent to this kingdom in favour of our legal liberty, that then Messrs. William Adair and John MccBride attend the Parliament of Dublin, in case one sit, to agent our affairs." (Ex. Min. Gen. Syn.)
This year M'Bride published Animadversions, &c., being a defence of toleration for Nonconformists without a sacramental test.
1698. Thomas Craford presented a silver communion cup to the Presbyterian congregation of Belfast.
10th Oct. -- M'Bride was examined at Dublin Castle on the subject of his synodical sermon, preached 1st June at Antrim, and published. A point raised was that he was described in the title-page as "minister of Belfast." He was dismissed without censure, and with an advice to "carry rectably towards the Established Church." (Killen's Reid, ii. 476 sq.)
1700. During the illness of Fairfoul, curate to Rev. James Echlin, vicar of Belfast, M'Bride and his elders made up a sum of 5, which was presented to Fairfoul by M'Bride. (Kirkpatrick, p. 442.)
1702. 3rd June. -- The General Synod at Antrim revised the arrangement of Sub-synods, placing the Presbyteries of Down, Belfast, and Antrim in a new Sub-synod, "to be designed the Synod of Belfast." (Ex. Min. Gen. Syn.)
This year M'Bride published, anonymously, A Vinaication of Marriage, as solemnised by Presbyttrians, &c.
1703. 1st June. -- At an interloquitur of the General Synod at Antrim, "Mr. John McBride was required his reason why he, with advice of Belfast Presbytery, advised this Synod to meet here at this time, the former Synod having appointed the second Tuesday of July; to which he answered, that the Parliament of England and the Government here having enjoined an oath which reaches us, and the time appointed for taking said oath being the first of August at farthest, and this Synod not to meet till July, to which time it referred their meeting, there had not been sufficient time for a due concerting so momentous a matter; therefore he, with Belfast Presbytery, judged it advisable that the Synod should meet now; which reasons, being now considered, were by this interloquitur sustained as relevant." This oath was the Abjuration Oath, which M'Bride and five other Irish Presbyterian ministers declined to take for two reasons: (1) it required them to swear that the Pretender was not the son of James II.; and (2) it bound them to support the Established Church. (Ex. Min. Gen. Syn., Kirkpatrick, p. 528.)
19th October. -- A committee of the Irish House of Commons recommended that M'Bride and another be deprived of regium donum for refusing the oath; but this was not done. (Killen's Reid, ii. 500)
1705. David Smith presented "to Belfast Meetinghouse" a copy, bound in tortoiseshell and silver, of Patrick Neill's edition of the Psalms in metre, 1700. David Smith, who is mentioned above (1694), was elected a burgess of Belfast on 26th May, 1690; he was sovereign in 1698 and 1699. (Kirkpatrick, p. 421; Benn, i. 726.)
This year the General Synod passed a law requiring, for the future, subscription to the Westminster Confession.
The meeting for theological discussion, afterwards known as the Belfast Society, was founded by Rev. John Abernethy; among the original members was Rev. James Kirkpatrick.
At the end of the year, information was sworn against M'Bride as a non-abjuror, before Rev. John Winder, a magistrate residing at Carmoney. M'Bride retired to Scotland, preached for some time at Glasgow, and as Moderator of Glasgow Presbytery was the first to sign the Presbytery's address to the Queen (1708), expressing abhorrence of the designs of the Pretender. (Killen's Reid, ii. 520; Kirkpatrick, p. 538.)
1706. Early in the year a call from Belfast was given to Rev. James Kirkpatrick, of Templepatrick, as assistant and successor to M'Bride. The Synod at first refused, its sanction, and granted supplies to Belfast.
18th June. --M'Bride wrote from Stranraer that if there be 3,000 persons in Belfast congregation, there must be two meetinghouses and two distinct congregations.
24th Sept. -- Kirkpatrick was released from Templepatrick, and settled in, Belfast. (Disciple, June 1882, p. 175.)
1707. A second Meeting-house and a Manse were set on foot.
1708. 2nd March. --The session of Belfast petitioned the Belfast Presbytery "that Mr. James Kirkpatrick might be ascertained to the new Meeting-house now built, and that Mr. M'Bride might be ascertained to the old Meeting-house and the Dwelling-house built for him." This was granted.
1708. 3rd March. -- Messrs. Edward Brice, Isaac M'Cartney, and R Lennox, on the one part, and Messrs. William Crawford and Ferguson on the other, subscribed an agreement that the stipend, 160, "should be equally divided between the two ministers, and the dwelling-house now built should be reserved from [?for] Mr. M'Bride."
12th April. --The session presented a further petition to the Presbytery "for erecting a new congregation in Belfast, to meet and be under the particular pastoral charge of Mr. James Kirkpatrick." This was also granted., Both petitions were signed by Hugh Cunningham, clerk to the session of Belfast.
1st May. -- M'Bride wrote to the Presbytery complaining of their dividing the congregation before the meeting of General Synod.
1st June. --The General Synod met at Antrim, when the following commissioners from the old congregation, Messrs. Andrew Maxwell, Henry Chads, and John Black, elders, Edward Brice, Esq., Dr. Peacock, Messrs. Isaac M'Cartney, R Lennox, Richard Ashmore, Samuel Smith, John M'Munn, Gilbert Moore, and some others presented an appeal against the action of the Presbytery, which was heard at great length, and many personal matters were brought in. The Synod administered a rebuke to the Presbytery for precipitancy; but ultimately carried out their arrangement, and ordered "that a kind letter be written to Mr. M'Bride, inviting and requiring him to come over as soon as he can." One John Johnson, barber in Belfast, who had been brought forward to prove that Kirkpatrick had been heard to speak disrespeclful!y of M'Bride, was ordered to be rebuked, but he "could not be found." (Ex. Min. Gen. Syn.)
Samuel Smith, merchant, was sent to M'Bride, at Glasgow, to invite his return, and was successful in this mission.
M'Bride, on his return, "appeared before the judges of assize at Carrickfergus, and was discharged without a trial." (Killen's Reid, iii. 2.)
1711. August. -- Warrant issued by Westenra Waring, of Belfast, and Brent Spencer, of Trumra, for the apprehension of M'Bride and others as non-abjurors. M'Bride fled to Scotland, but returned next year.
Probably in this year Rev. Thomas Milling became M'Bride's assistant. (Chr. Mod., 1826, p. 309.) He is said to have held the office five years.
1712. At the spring assizes, M'Bride and others were presented by the Grand Jury of County Antrim as disloyal men. M'Bride again returned to Scotland at the beginning of May.
10th June. -- Funeral Register begins.
27th Aug. -- Three silver cups brought from Dublin. (Funeral Register.)
1713. May -- M'Bride published, anonymously, at Glasgow, A Sample of Jet-black Pr--------tic Calumny, &c., in reply to A Sample of True-blue Presbyterian Loyalty, by Dr. Tisdal, vicar of Belfast. .
8th June. -- M'Bride again arrived in Belfast. (Killen's Reid, iii. 45.)
1714. 15th June. --The General Synod at Belfast considered in interloquitur the case of Samuel Smith, junior, and Joseph Kyle, both of Belfast, who had been excommunicated and prosecuted for being married by the Presbyterian form. They had been "told that if they will re-marry they are promised that their penance shall be easy." The Synod "are unanimously of opinion that they should not re-marry, and do advise that they never do it." (Ex. Min. Gen. Syn.)
1718. Rev. John Abernethy, of Antrim, was called to be assistant and successor to M'Bride, but the Synod did not sanction the removal.
21st July. --John M'Bride died, aet. 68. Of M'Bride's humour two stories are preserved. When taxed with his non-abjuration he said, "Once upon a time there was a bairn that would not be persuaded to bann the Deil, because he did not know but he might soon come into his clutches" (Kirkpatrick, p. 529). It is said that John Clugstone, Sovereign of Belfast (but he was not Sovereign till 1727), sat in the gallery of M'Bride's Meeting-house, and accidentally pulled out a pack of cards with his handkerchief, scattering them on the people below. "Hech, Sir," said M'Bride, "but your psalm-book is ill-bund." (Chr. Mod., 1826, p. 428.)
1718. 29 Dec. -- "Cash lead out for sweping the Streats at Two sever Sacrements, 10d." (Funeral Register.)
1719. Rev. James Fleming of Lurgan was called to be successor to M'Bride, but the Synod did not sanction the removal.
2nd Nov. -- The Irish Toleration Act received the Royal assent.
1720. Early in the year the congregation gave a call to Rev. Samuel Haliday, at that time chaplain to Colonel Anstruther's regiment of foot.
The term "New Light" was first applied to the principles held by members of the Belfast Society in a polemical tract -- Some Friendly Reflections, by Rev. John Malcolm, of Dunmurry. (Killen's Reid, iii. 119.)
21st June. -- The General Synod met in Belfast. Haliday appeared and complained of reports circulated about him, especially by Rev. Samuel Dunlop of Athlone. The matter was gone into at great length, and the Synod unanimously resolved: "That the Reverend Mr. Samuel Haliday has sufficiently cleared his innocency, and fully vindicated himself from the aspersions of Arianism and militating against all church government, to the great satisfaction of this Synod." Dunlop was rebuked. This Synod passed the Pacific Act, confirming subscription to the Confession, but also sanctioning the practice of Presbrteries which permitted those who scrupled at particular phrases to substitute approved language of their own. (Ex. Min. Gen. Syn.)
27th July. -- Haliday drew up the confession of his faith in the following words:-- "I sincerely believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be the only rule of revealed religion, a sufficient test of orthodoxy or soundness in the faith, and to settle all the terms of ministerial and Christian communion, to which nothing may be added by any synod, assembly, or council whatsoever: And I find all the essential articles of the Christian doctrine to be contained in the Westminster Confession of Faith; which articles I receive upon the sole authority of the Holy Scriptures." (Killen's Reid, iii. 130.)
1720. 28th July. -- Haliday was installed by Belfast Presbytery on the strength of the above confession.
7th Dec. -- The Belfast Society, of which Haliday had become a member, issued a circular vindicating its principles.
1721. Jan. -- The Sub-synod of Belfast found Haliday's installation irregular, and publicly rebuked the installers. Haliday was then in England.
At the next meeting of Presbytery after his return, he was called upon by some members to subscribe the Confession, but the meeting was adjourned till after the General Synod.
20th June. -- The General Synod met in Belfast. Among the documents produced was "a certificate from both congregations of Belfast, bearing testimony to the soundness of both their ministers' faiths, subscribed by a great number of hands of both congregations." The moderator was directed to ask Haliday whether he adhered to his assent to the Westminster Confession, given when licensed at Rotterdam. Haliday replied: "My refusal to declare my adherence to the assent I gave to the Westminster Confession of Faith when I was licensed, does not proceed from my disbelief of the important truths contained in it. But my scruples are against the submitting to human tests of divine truths (especially in a great number of extra-essential points, without the knowledge and belief of which men may be entitled to the favour of God and the hopes of eternal life, and, according to the laws of the Gospel, to Christian and ministerial communion in the Church) when imposed as a necessary term of such communion." Ultimately the matter was dropped, nem. con. The Synod then, by a large majority, carried a resolution to "allow" such members as were willing to subscribe the Confession of Faith. Those who did not subscribe accordingly,. were henceforth known as NON-SUBSCRIBERS, a term already used, in a somewhat similar sense, at the Salters' Hall Conference in London, 1719, and occasionally found, at a much earlier date, as a synonym for Nonconformist. Petitions for the erection of a new congregation in Belfast were laid before the Synod by minorities of both the existing congregations. John Young, Wm. Simm, and others presented the petition from dissatisfied members of Haliday's flock. The Synod left it to the Presbytery to take action.
1721. August. -- The Presbytery erected a third congregation in Belfast. The erection was confirmed by the Committee of Synod at Dungannon in October, and by the General Synod at Derry in June, 1722. Among the most active laymen in promoting the erection was Samuel Smith, who visited Scotland in September, 1722, to obtain pecuniary help, setting forth the need of a third Meetinghouse in so populous a town.
1722. Feb. -- Kirkpatrick and Haliday publish at Edinburgh a Letter (dated 8th October, 1722) to a Friend at Glasgow, with relation to the New Meeting-house in Belfast. -- (Killen's Reid, iii. 161.)
1724. Feb. -- Haliday published his Reasons against the Imposition of Subscription.
Feb. -- The first communion was held in the Third Meeting-house. Haliday and Kirkpatrick wrote to Rev. Charles Mastertown, the minister, expressing their wish that they and their congregations should be admitted to communicate. This was readily granted as regards the congregations, but the ministers were requested not to "attempt to disturb the solemn work" by attending.
16th June. -- The General Synod met at Dungannon. At this Synod the Subscribers and Nonsubscribers, at the request of the former, held meetings apart, with a view to find some settlement of their differences.
1725. Feb. -- Haliday published his Letter to Gilbert Kennedy.
15th June. -- The General Synod met at Dungannon. By this Synod the Presbyteries were remodelled, and all the Nonsubscribers were transferred to a newly erected Presbytery of Antrim.
1726. 21st June. -- The General Synod met at Dungannon. On the 22nd June the Nonsubscribers presented their Six Propositions (drawn up in January) as Expedients for Peace: they were received as a declaration of war. After long debates, on Saturday, 25th June, the Antrim Presbytery was excluded from the Synod. The majority for the exclusion was large; yet of the ministers in attendance only 35 or 36 voted for it, 34 voted against, 2 voted non liquet, and 6 did not vote at all. Though excluded from the Synod, the Nonsubscribers were not shut out from ministerial or sacramental fellowship, nor deprived of the regium donum.
6th July. -- Haliday and Kirkpatrick convened "the whole town" of Belfast, "to relate to them the great injuries done to the Nonsubscribers, which causeth a great ferment in the place."
12th July. -- Dublin Presbytery unanimously resolved to hold communion with Antrim Presbytery.
21st July. -- Munster Presbytery unanimously came to a similar resolution.
A week-evening lecture was established in the First Congregation. Rev. Michael Bruce, of Holywood, whose income had been reduced by the secession of the subscribing portion of his congregation, was appointed lecturer, at a salary of 20.
Dec. -- Haliday published his Letter to Francis Iredell.
1727. 29th June. -- Antrim Presbytery (Haliday, moderator) authorise the publication of A Narrative of the Proceedings of Seven General Synods, &c., which was issued in August.
1735 Haliday published a funeral sermon for Rev. Michael Bruce, preached 7th Dec.
1736. Rev. Thos. Drennan installed as Haliday's assistant and successor.
19th Oct. -- Last entry in Funeral Register.
1739. 5th March. -- Haliday died, in the 54th year of his age. (Belfast News-Letter, Tuesday, March 6, 1738, i.e., 1739, present style. The following character-portrait of Haliday, drawn early in his career, is less flattering than his funeral eulogy. It is taken from a manuscript in Rev. T. Drennan's hand, containing sketches of the members of the Belfast Society :-- "The second is a gentleman of genteel education and polite manners; a fine scholar and of a generous spirit. He is not capable of a mean or dishonest thing. His temper warm, and not enough patient of contradiction. He is fixed, and not to be shaken in the opinions he has received, and cannot appear to be what he is not. His genius abhors perplexity, and all his performances are easy, clear, and correct. His mind is rather great than equal, and his passions appear excusable rather than well commanded. He is formed for enjoying prosperity handsomely rather than bearing distress. In his anger quick, but not surly; tender in his friendship, but too apt to resent." (Chr. Mod., 1826, p. 432.)
1746. Some time before this, Rev. Andrew Millar became assistant (unordained) to Drennan.
1749. Millar removed to Summerhill, Co. Meath, and was succeeded by Rev. Clotworthy Brown, from Ballynure.
1750. 19th June. -- The General Synod at Dungannon invited the Antrim Presbytery to join in the scheme for a Widows' Fund, projected by William Bruce, a nonsubscribing layman of Dublin.
1751. 18th June. -- The General Synod at Antrim was attended by commissioners from Antrim Presbytery, including Clotworthy Brown.
1755. 26th May. -- Clotworthy Brown died. (Belfast News-Letter, Tuesday, 27th May, 1755.)
1756. Rev. James Mackay, from Clonmel, was installed as assistant and successor to Drennan.
1757. 22nd July. -- Earliest extant entry in Baptismal Register.
1760. 3rd Sept. -- Earliest extant Minute Book of the congregation begins. A standing Committee, to act with the Session, was for the first time appointed. A Chairman and Secretary were to be chosen annually. The seats in the Meeting-house were numbered, and seat-rents charged. At this date an income was still derived from "Cloak and Pall-money."
1762. 21st September. -- A boys' day school is mentioned as maintained by the congregation. Reading, writing, and singing were taught, and boys, in number varying from 14 to 19, were clothed, the expenses being met by a charity sermon on a Sunday in August or September, at five o'clock, to admit of the attendance of members of other denominations. The boys formed a choir in the Meeting-house, under the tuition of the singing clerk.
1767. 31st August. -- Lease of the site of Meeting-house and Manse granted by the Earl of Donegall.
1768. 14th Feb. -- Rev. Thomas Drennan died.
15th June. -- Resolved that the Session (which since 1760 had been reduced to seven) consist of 24 members.
Rev. John Beatty, of Holywood, was made temporary assistant to Mackay, pending the choice of a colleague.
1769. 16th Dec. -- Rev. James Crombie chosen as colleague to Mackay, at a stipend of 80 sterling, with the Manse or 10 in lieu of it.
1770. 20th Oct. -- Crombie writes [rom Belfast to Elgin Presbytery, saying that he had accepted the call to Belfast. He was demitted from Lhanbryd on 4th Dec.
1771. 3rd March. -- "Resolved, that all the waste seats in the Meeting-house have immediately locks put on them, and the kays of these seats be kept in the vestry-from thence to be given to any person who may incline to take a seat."
2nd June. -- Crawford, the schoolmaster, having removed to America, his wife was continued in his place. The school was maintained under Mrs. Crawford till the reception of children by the Old Charitable Society rendered it unnecessary.
1772. 5th Jan. -- Deputation appointed to wait on Rev. James Saurin (Vicar of Bdfast), and make him an offer of the Meeting-house to perform divine service in. This was in view of the removal of the old Parish Church, St. Patrick's (on the site of the present St. George's). The building was not taken down till 7th May, 1774, when for two years and a-half the Episcopalian congregation worshipped in one of the Presbyterian Meeting-houses.
1772. 2nd Aug. -- The Committee declined to grant to any members leases of their seats.
1777. Feb. -- Crombie's Essay on Church Consecration (anonymous) published in Dublin. (Disciple, April, 1883, p. 97.)
1778. 19th July. -- Crombie's first sermon to Volunteers (afterwards published).
1779. 1st Aug. -- Crombie's second Volunteer sermon (afterwards published).
1781. 22nd January. -- Rev. James Mackay died. He was born in 1709.
18th Feb. -- Resolution taken to build a new Meeting-house.
4th March. -- Crombie's third Volunteer sermon, in which he advocates drilling on Sunday (afterwards published).
April. -- Old Meeting-house taken down.
12th May. -- Building Committee decided on the elliptical shape for the new house.
1st June. -- Foundation-stone laid.
1783. 1st June. -- Present Meeting-house opened for worship.
1785. 9th Sept. -- Crombie (now D.D.) issued proposals for the establishment of the Belfast Academy. It was opened in February, 1786.
1789. 8th June (Monday). -- John Wesley, in his 86th year, preached in the Meeting-house, and describes it as "the completest place of worship I have ever seen," and "beautiful in the highest degree." He would have preached again next day, but "the sexton sent me word it must not be, for the crowds had damaged the house, and some of them had broke off and carried away the silver which was on the bible in the pulpit."
1790. 1st March. -- Crombie died, in his 60th year.
11th March. -- Call given to Rev. William Bruce, D.D. (52 signatures). He entered on his duties on 1st May.
25th July. -- Number of the Committee fixed at seven; fine of one shilling for non-attendance.
1792. 4th Nov. -- Singing clerk empowered to select as singers not more than 10 of the children in the Old Charitable Society, the congregation providing them with shoes and stockings.
1794. 9th Nov. -- Rev. W. Bristow (Vicar of Belfast) acted as one of the collectors at the charity sermon.
1798. 25th June. -- Address from the congregation to the Lord Lieutenant (Cornwallis) declaring abhorrence of "the present atrocious insurrection ."
1801. 3rd May. -- Dr. Bruce authorised to make "a new selection of Psalms for the use of this congregation" (edition of 1,000 copies published same year), under the superintendence of Henry Joy and John Holmes Houston; price in calf, best paper, 3s. 9 1/2d. ; in boards, inferior paper, 2s. 8 1/2d. "A very liberal proposal from Mr. Edward Bunting, of Belfast, respecting the purchase of an organ," was communicated.
1803. 27th Feb. -- Proposal made to heat the Meeting-house with stoves, but curtains were ordered instead.
1st May. -- Reported that John Mathers had left the reversion of a profit rent of 11 18s. 2d. for the use of the poor of the congregation, and also 50, to be invested until the capital doubled, and then the interest applied to the improvement of the psalmody.
In this year Dr. Bruce obtained from Government a recognition of the right of the congregation to a share of regium donum, in case of the appointment of a colleague.
1806. 3rd Aug. -- Proposal to alter the hours of worship (eleven and one), "partly in consequence of the erection of an organ in the Second Congregation, which it is conceived may disturb worship in this house." No change was made.
1811. 7th July. -- On application by Rev. Edward May (Vicar of Belfast) the use of the Meeting house was granted, at half-past twelve on Sundays, to the Episcopalian Congregation, during the repairs of the Parish Church.
1812. 19th Jan. -- Call given to Rev. William Bruce, A.B., as colleague.
3rd March. -- Rev. William Bruce ordained.
7th J une. -- First printed list of constituents issued.
1812. 19th July. -- Resolution to enlarge the galleries adopted.
1814. 17th July. --Use of the Meeting-house again granted to Rev. E. May, during repairs of the Parish Church.
1816. 5th May. -- First appointment of Music Committee, and introduction of part-singing.
27th Oct. -- Renewed proposal for a stove. After a year's consideration, additional curtains were put up.
1817. 1st June. -- First appointment of a secretary to the congregation.
1818. 4th Jan. --Reported that Mrs. Mary Hodgens had bequeathed 50 to the congregation.
6th June. -- First report from the Committee to the annual meeting.
1st August. -- New edition (1 ,000 copies) of the Psalm-book issued. It was edited by Dr. Bruce, and revised by Rev. W. D. H. M'Ewen of the Second Congregation. The paper, in two qualities, was specially made by Messrs. Blow, Ward, and Greenfield. The prices of the bound volume were 3s. 9d. and 3s. 4d. The book continued in use till 28th November, 1886.
1st Nov. -- Reported that Miss M'Ilwrath had bequeathed 50 to the congregation.
1821. 26th Aug -- Resolved that "it is inexpedient" to put the pulpit in mourning in consequence of the decease of Queen Caroline. This was usually done on Royal deaths.
1824. This year Dr. Bruce published his Sermons on the Study of the Bible and the Doctrines of Christianity; preface dated 17th March.
4th July. -- Congregation agreed to the erection of a stove, but nothing done in the matter.
Rev. W. Bruce began evening lectures at six o'clock.
5th Dec. -- First mention of a Ladies' Clothing Society.
1827. 30th Dec. -- Charity sermon for House of Industry preached by Rev. H. Montgomery; the Marquis of Donegall was one of the collectors; 210 13s. 11d. collected.
1830. 25th May. -- First meeting of Remonstrant Synod held in the Meeting-house.
1831. 1st May. -- Dr. Bruce resigned his active charge of the congregation, retaining the position of senior minister.
1831. 17th June. -- Service of plate presented by the congregation to Dr. Bruce.
11th Sept. -- Call (89 signatures) to Rev. John Scott Porter as colleague to Rev. W. Bruce.
1832. 22nd Jan. -- Rules as to order of proceedings in Committee agreed upon.
2nd Feb. -- Rev. J. S. Porter installed.
October. -- Meeting-house closed for repairs and improvements.
1833. 10th March. --Meeting-house re-opened, after rebuilding of frontage, introduction of hotwater apparatus, &c., at a cost of 681 3s.
23rd June. -- Reported that premises in Skipper Street have been bequeathed to the First and Second Congregations by William Tennent.
1834. 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th Apri1. -- Public discussion in the Meeting-house on the Unitarian Controversy, between Rev. Daniel Bagot and Rev. J. S. Porter.
1835. 1st May. -- Application of Sunday collections as poor's money discontinued.
9th Aug. -- Dr. Bruce resigned regium donum in favour of Rev. J. S. Porter.
8th Nov. -- Resolved to light the house with gas. [Carried out early in the following year.]
1838. 28th January. -- Sunday-school begun; first superintendent, George M'Adam.
6th May. -- Congregational Library opened; first librarian, William Hartley. Engraved portrait of Dr. Bruce presented to the congregation by John Hodgson.
11th July. -- First record of a Visitation of the congregation by the Presbytery of Antrim.
1839. 29th January. -- Evening school for boys opened.
1840. June. -- School in Fountain Street opened.
1841. 24th Feb. -- Resolution requesting Rev. J. S. Porter to publish his evening lectures on Unitarianism. [Several similar resolutions in subsequent years.]
27th Feb. -- Dr. Bruce died. He bequeathed to the congregation 50, and his executor (on 16th April) presented the oil-painting of Rev, John M'Bride, and portraits of Revs. Dr. Kirkpatrick, Dr. Abernethy, Dr. Crombie, and William Bryson.
1842. 21st Aug. -- Meeting-house re-opened after erection of monument to Rev. Dr. Bruce.
1844. 19th July. -- Royal assent given to Dissenters' Chapels Act. In recognition of their services in assisting to obtain this Act, the congregation presented to the editor of the Northern Whig (Mr. Simms) a salver and tea-service, to the proprietor of the Northern Whig (Mr. Finlay) a salver and dinner-service, to Mr. W. J. C. Allen a salver, and to Rev. John Porter (Second Congregation) a purse of 25 guineas.
1845. 14th Apri1. -- Meeting-house registered for celebration of marriages, under 7 and 8 Vict., cap. 81.
1851. 9th September. -- Mr. R Montgomery, Treasurer, died. He bequeathed a legacy of 50 to the congregation.
1852. 8th March -- Donation of 100 by the Misses M'Kedy to the congregation.
1853. 27th Feb. -- Opening of organ, purchased from Mr. T. A. Barnes.
1854. 27th July. -- Freehold of the congregational properties in Rosemary Street purchased.
1855. 28th Oct. -- New organ erected by Messrs Gray & Davison.
1856. 18th Oct. -- Communion linen presented by Mr. Michael Andrews.
1859. 10th April. -- Bequest of 50 by Miss Jane Whitla reported.
1861. 6th Oct. -- Reported that the congregation had become entitled to legacies of 100 (for investment) under will of Elizabeth M'Kedy, dated 29th October, 1836; 50 each under wills of Cathtrine and Mary M'Kedy, dated 17th August, 1854.
10th November. -- Hours of Sunday services changed to 11-30 a.m.; and 7 p.m. for lectures in the winter season.
1862. 19th January. -- Congregation withdrew from ecclesiastical connection with Antrim Presbytery.
23rd Feb. -- Congregation united with four other congregations to form Northern Presbytery of Antrim.
5th October. -- Meeting-house re-opened after erection of memorial windows behind the pulpit, in commemoration of the completion of fifty years of the ministry of Rev. W. Bruce. On removal of the pulpit canopy, the following memorandum was found;"This Meeting-house was erected by the inhabitants of Belfast under the care and inspection of Mr. Roger Mulholland, who executed the same, both external and internal parts thereof, on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord 1783 -- eighty-three, and this piece executed by Patrick Smyth."
1862. 25th Dec. -- Presentation of plate to Rev. W. Bruce.
1867. 21st Apri1. -- Rev. W. Bruce retired from active duty, after a ministry of 55 years.
5th May. -- Present order of worship adopted.
1868. 25th Oct. -- Rev. William Bruce died.
8th Dec. -- Collection of books forming the "Ministerial Library" presented by Mrs. Bruce.
1871. 14th March. -- Rev. J. S. Porter commuted his life interest in the regium donum for the benefit of the congregation.
1872. 6th Oct. -- Bequest of 100 by Mr. John Galt Smith, to be invested for the Music Fund, reported to Committee.
1873. 12th April. -- Portrait of Rev. J. Scott Porter presented to him by members of the congregregation (replica placed in vestry).
5th October. -- Meeting-house re-opened after erection of new pews and four memorial windows -- Andrews, Hincks, Martin, Smith.
19th October. -- Present order of communion service adopted.
1814. 19th April. --Six new flagons introduced at communion.
1877. 18th Feb. -- Call (272 signatures) to Rev. A. Gordon as colleague with Rev. J. Scott Porter.
5th June. -- Installation of Rev. A. Gordon by Northern Presbytery of Antrim.
1878. 6th Jan. -- Regular evening services begun.
29th April. -- First soiree in connection with Annual Meeting.
Oct. -- Institute of Faith and Science begun.
1879. 6th Apri1. -- Bequest of 100 by William Campbell reported.
1879. 24th August. -- Addresses presented by Rev. A. Gordon to the General Synod of the Unitarian Church of Hungary at Székély Keresztúr, on occasion of the ter-centennial of the death of Bishop Francis David.
1880. 29th Feb. -- Collection in aid of the erection of the Channing Memorial Church at Newport, Rhode Island.
22nd May. -- Portrait of Mr. G. K. Smith presented to him by members of the congregation, in recognition of his services as Secretary for 41 years.
5th July. -- Rev. J. Scott Porter died.
1881. 9th Oct. --Meeting-house re-opened after erection of memorial tablets to Revs. W. Bruce and J. Scott Porter. Address of condolence offered by the congregation to Mrs. Garfield, widow of the late President of the United States of America.
23rd Oct. -- First Harvest Festival Service.
1882. 29th Sept. -- Donation of 50 from Miss Curell, in memory of her sister Mary.
1883. 20th June. -- Centennial Meeting in Ulster Hall.
1884. 25th Feb. -- Bequest of 100 by Mr. W. J. C. Allen, for investment, reported.
22nd Nov. -- Portraits of James and David Dunn presented to the congregation by Mr. Thomas M'Tear.
1885. 6th June. -- Portrait of Mr. John Hodgson presented to the congregation by Mr. James Magill.
1886. 14th Jan. -- Formal opening of Central Hall, erected in commemoration of the Centennial of the Meeting-house.
25th July. -- Death of Mr. G. K. Smith, Secretary from 1st September, 1839. By will he left 200 to be invested for the Music Fund.
5th Dec. -- New hymn-book brought into use.



[Originally called Grand Treasurer, as there was a separate Treasurer for the Poor's Money.]

1717. JOHN M'MUNN.
* * * * * * * * *
bef. 1760. JOHN ROSS.
1781. R GORDON.
* * * * * * * * *
bef. 1802. JOHN HOLMES.
1881. J. W RUSSELL


* * * * * * * * *
bef. 1763. R HARPER
1791. JOHN SCOTT (Assistant till 1793).
1833. GEO. FERGUSON (Assistant till 1852).
1849. MRS. HAINEY.
1850. MRS. M'QUOID.
1853. JOHN M'CORD.


* * * * * * * * *
bef. 1760. ------ VINCENT.
1801. JOHN M'VITY.


* * * * * * * * *
1771. R GORDON.
* * * * * * * * *
[The above were Secretaries of the Committee; after Dr. Crombie's death no appointment of secretary was made, minutes being taken by various hands. The following were Secretaries of the Congregation.]
1817. JOHN WARD.





John Campbell, Lennoxvale, 150} Thomas Ritchie, 5 0 0
In memory of the late Wm. Campbell, 100} 250 0 0 Mrs. Rowland, and in memory of Miss Maxwell, 5 0 0
Sir E. J. Harland, Bart., J.P., Mayor of Belfast, 200 0 0 E. J. M'Ervel, 5 0 0
George K. Smith, 100 0 0 James M'Ervel, 5 0 0
J. R. Musgrave, D.L., J.P., 100 0 0 Thomas M'Ervel, 5 0 0
John Rogers, 100 0 0 James P. Orr, 5 0 0
W. Riddel, J. P., and S. Riddel, 100 0 0 Mrs. M'Caw, 5 0 0
James Bruce, D.L., J.P., 100 0 0 John J. Dugan, 5 0 0
R. G. Dunville, D.L., J.P., 100 0 0 J. S. M'Tear, and Misses M. & F. M. M'Tear, 5 0 0
F. D. Ward, J.P., M.R.I.A., 100 0 0 Mrs. Gamble, 2 10 0}
A. M. Kirker, 50 0 0 Miss Arthur, 2 100} 5 0 0
Misses Bruce, 50 0 0 H. F. Thomas, 5 0 0
Misses Campbell, 50 0 0 J. W. Russell, 5 0 0
William Spackman, 20 0 0 Mrs. Charnock, 5 0 0
Frederick Li ttle, 20 0 0 W. H. Kennedy, 5 0 0
James Carr, 20 0 0 Misses Smyth, 5 0 0
W. H. Patterson, M.R.I.A., and } W. J. Luke, 5 0 0
R. Lloyd Patterson, J.P., F.L.S.,} 20 0 0 W. H. M'Fadden, 5 0 0
Nicholas Oakman, 20 0 0 N. A. Campbell, 5 0 0
Mrs. Greer, and in memory of Mrs. Gray, 20 0 0 Mercer Rice, 5 0 0
Representatives of R Boyd, 10 0 0 Charles Bowles, 5 0 0
W. Sinclair Boyd, 10 0 0 Marcus J. Ward, 300}
W. T. Hamilton, 10 0 0 George G. Ward, 100} 4 0 0
Thomas L'Estrange, 10 0 0 Mrs. Armstrong, 3 0 0
Bowman Malcolm, C. E., 10 0 0 Henry Murray, 3 0 0
Dr. Brice Smyth, 10 0 0 Mrs. Ledlie, 3 0 0
Mrs. Andrews, 10 0 0 Alex. M'Cann, 2 10 0
George Andrews, 10 0 0 John Dickson, 2 2 0
Mrs. Macrory, 700 } John Johnston, 2 2 0
Miss Macrory, 300 } 10 0 0 Mrs. Hartley, 2 2 0
Henry Bruce, 10 0 0 Mrs. Malcolm, 2 0 0
R Tennent, Rushpark, 10 0 0 George M'Caw, 2 0 0
Gawin Orr, M.D., Ballylesson, 10 0 0 Miss Stewart, 2 0 0
Miss Benn, 10 0 0 Miss Carruthers, 2 0 0
Marshall Laird, 8 10 10 Miss T. Carruthers, 2 0 0
Mrs. Home and Mrs. A. G. Malcolm, 5 0 0 Miss Graham, 1 1 0
Mrs. Orr, 5 0 0 James Moore, 1 1 0
Mrs. L. Hutton, Dublin, 5 0 0 Edmund B. Roche, 1 0 0
John Hunter, 5 0 0 Henry Ferguson, 1 0 0
William M'Ninch, 5 0 0 The Misses Ferguson 1 0 0
Mrs. Blackley, 5 0 0 Miss Williamson, 1 0 0
R Murray, 5 0 0 A. H. Manderson, 1 0 0



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