Friday, January 18, 2008

Samuel Rutherford, the Covenant and the "Eagle Wing"

Samuel Rutherford(1600 - 1661) was one of the great "minds" of the Covenanters. I bought a book of his letters yesterday, in the Evangelical Bookshop in Belfast (the wee one beside Church House), in the second hand section at the back. (in my student days that was a weekly forage for me!)

I was delighted to see that Rutherford corresponded with Rev Robert Cunningham of Holywood, and was obviously aware of the plans of Blair, Livingstone, Hamilton and McClelland to sail to America on "Eagle Wing" - they sailed from Groomsport in County Down on 9th September 1636 with 136 other Ulster-Scots Presbyterians in what was the first attempt to emigrate from Ulster to America.

Just a few months after Jenny Geddes hurled a stool at the Dean in St Giles' in Edinburgh, Rutherford was ousted from his ministry at Anwoth by the Bishop of Galloway on 27th July 1636 and was banished to Aberdeen in the north of Scotland. A week later, on 4th August 1636, he wrote (from Aberdeen) to Cunningham in Holywood. Rutherford said:

"...I know not, my dear brother, if our worthy brethren be gone to sea or not. They are on my heart and in my prayers. If they be yet with you, salute my dear friend, John Stuart, my well-beloved brethren in the Lord, Mr Blair, Mr Hamilton, Mr Livingstone and Mr McClelland, and acquaint them with my troubles, and entreat them to pray for the poor afflicted prisoner of Christ. They are dear to my soul. I seek your prayers and theirs for my flock; their remembrance breaketh my heart..."

What is significant is that the Ulster ministers were not some maverick rump doing their own thing - they were deeply interconnected with their fellow ministers in Scotland. For someone of Rutherfords standing to be aware of their plans to sail to America also opens other questions - was "Eagle Wing" the advance party, and had it succeeded how many others would have followed them to the New World?


Colin Maxwell said...

Ah - the wee back room in the Evangelical Bookshop. I reckon that I've furnished around 25-50% o' my library frae there! The maist I e'er paid was £80.00 (back in 1986!) fir a set o' John Gill's commentaries. I still geta buzz goin' in - only about 5-6 times a year now, but like yerself, when I worked in belfast city centre, I was in quite a bit.

Fair fa' ye!