Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Robert Blair of Bangor

Robert Blair is probably the most important of all of the early Ulster Presbyterian ministers. He arrived in Ulster, somewhat reluctantly, after a career in both teaching and ministering in Scotland. That's his signature above, taken from his autobiography. There's a ropey digitised version of it available here on Google Books to download free as a PDF.

The Presbyterian Historical Society will be reprinting it later in the year, and next week they're launching a reprint of "Adair's Narrative". It'll be on sale for £20, but they've only printed 250 copies with Tentmaker Publications, so my advice is to get one quick. It's a magnificent source of information about the early Scots settlement in Ulster, and has a lot of details about the early ministers, Eagle Wing, the Sixmilewater Revival and the later persecutions. Absolutely essential reading.

Here's a bit about Blair. He was obviously getting on well in Scotland, and was considering going to France to preach among the Huguenots. However, much like Abraham and Jonah, he felt the call of God. The Lord said to Blair - "as if one standing by had audibly said" -

"Thou fool art taking the disposal of thyself, not submitting to me. Thou must either preach the Gospel in Ireland or nowhere at all" Being thus rebuked, he found himself bound in spirit to set his face towards Ireland; and yet, for all this, was not persuaded to settle there, loathing that country, and hankering still after France. Yet, the Sovereign Lord thrust him over into Ireland wholly against his inclination.

So, coming over, and landing at Glenarm, he goes towards Carrickfergus; and, having come within a mile of the town, upon the top of the hill Bangor in these parts appeared to him; at sight of which the Lord did unexpectedly fill his heart with such a sweet peace and extraordinary joy that he could scarcely contain himself, but was forced to lie down upon the grass to rejoice in the Lord, who was the same in Ireland that he was in Scotland..."

Seeing Bangor doesn't usually have that affect on people! Blair had been invited to Bangor by Sir James Hamilton, who I refer to as one of the Founding Fathers of the Ulster Scots. A great booklet of Blair's life is available from the Presbyterian Historical Society for £2.00

I recently bought a reprint copy of “Scottish Martyrs and Covenanters” by Daniel Defoe and Others. Defoe wrote the classic Robinson Crusoe. It has a short chapter entitled “Blair, Rutherford, Dickson and Douglas”, where Blair is described as having a “mild and amiable temper”, and of being “a sweet, majestick-looking man, and he showed me the majesty of God”.