Reverend Henry Montgomery

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Montgomery, Henry, Rev., LL.D., the champion of the non-subscribing Presbyterians in Ireland, was born at Killead, County of Antrim, 20th January 1788. He was educated at Crumlin Academy, and at the University of Glasgow. Soon after receiving licence to preach from the presbytery of Templepatrick, he declined a call to Donegore, because it involved subscription to the Westminster Confession, and accepted one to Dunmurry, in the County of Antrim, with which place his name was for the rest of his life intimately and honourably associated. In 1817 he took a professorship in the Belfast Academical Institution, where he taught a considerable number of the Protestant middle-class youth of Ireland. He soon rose to distinction as a preacher, and at an unusually early age was elected Moderator of the General Synod of Ulster.

His friend the Rev. C. J. McAlester writes of his after life: "Some years after, the controversy broke out in the General Synod, which ultimately resulted in the withdrawal of those ministers and congregations that would not submit to the terms of subscription which the majority required. In this controversy Henry Montgomery bore a conspicuous part: he threw himself with his whole heart into the liberal cause; and by his commanding eloquence and his ability in debate, he soon became the acknowledged leader of the small but noble band that resisted the imposition of what they believed to be an unscriptural creed, and withdrew from the church of their fathers, rather than violate their conscience, or abandon their liberty.

At this period, and earlier, Mr. Montgomery was prominent in all efforts to advance the cause of civil and religious liberty. In the great question of Catholic Emancipation he took a conspicuous part; and it is not too much to say that his eloquent appeals contributed to the ultimate triumph of the Catholic cause, and helped to wrest from an un willing Government rights which had been so long and so unjustly withheld." As a recognition of his superior abilities and acquirements, he received the degree of LL.D. from Glasgow College. Above every other claim to eminence was that of being the champion of the non-subscribing Presbyterians, or Unitarians, of Ireland, as Dr. Cooke (see p. 90) was of the subscribers or orthodox section of the same body. It was largely owing to his exertions that a share of Presbyterian Church property and of the Regium Donum was preserved to his section of the Church.

Dr. Montgomery was of a commanding presence, his voice was rich, clear, and sonorous, and he spoke with remarkable fluency. His natural gifts he had cultivated to the utmost, and he wielded great influence, not only among his co-religionists, but in the north of Ireland generally, and with the Government. He was made welcome in the highest circles; but nowhere was he happier than in intercourse with the members of his own flock at Dunmurry. He died of a long and agonizing disease, borne without a murmur, 18th December 1865, in the 78th year of his age, and the 56th of his ministry, and was buried at Dunmurry.

Sources

243a. Montgomery, Rev. Henry, Sermons on death of: Rev. C. J. Macalester; Belfast, 1866. Christian Unitarian, January, 1866. (Pamphlets.)

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