November 3: The Eagle Wing: A Postscript

This postscript on the Covenanter Sailing Ship “Eagle Wing” comes as an aftermath post to September 9, 1636. This author treated on that day the sad story of the 140 plus passengers who attempted the very first crossing of Irish-Scottish members of the Presbyterian church to the American colonies. It was a valiant but vain effort however, as terrible storms forced the ship to turn back to Ireland, where they arrived on This Day in Presbyterian History, November 3, 1636. Further information on that effort comes from an American author named William Henry Foote, who wrote Sketches of North Carolina, a history covering the period between 1794 and 1869. The whole book is on-line for your reading pleasure.

In it, Foote shares how the ship’s inhabitants anchored in Lockfergus, Northern Ireland, the place of their departure after an absence of eight weeks. The passengers were cast down under this providence of God, and anticipating hostility, ridicule, and suffering. They were to receive all three reactions from those who greeted them upon arrival. Indeed, having sold their effects in preparation for the voyage, and invested their monies in provision and stock of merchandize for their eventual landing in the American colonies, they experienced great financial loss in disposing of their cargo. Further, they had hired some to assist them in fishing industries and building of structures. These people now demanded their wages, even though the end result was not reached. They now had to pick up and as the song puts it, “start all over again.”

It would seem to be on the surface “a big bust,” but God had other plans for these hardy pioneers. The influence which they exhibited first on Ireland, then in Scotland, and finally in America, cannot be estimated for the power of their principled and godly lives. The Lord had brought them back to do His work in His timing, not theirs. When circumstances became too “hot” in Uster for the four Presbyterian ministers on the Eagle Wing, they simply sailed to Scotland and settled into Presbyterian churches there. They kept up their continued fellowship with members of their parishes back in Ulster, even as many of their Ulster members continued to enjoy their ministries, by making trips to Scotland for participation in the Lord’s Supper or for baptism of their covenant children.

Their presence back in Scotland brought renewed strength to the covenants of that land. In time, after the lapse of fifty plus years, boatloads after boatloads of Scot-Irish began to seek the American shores. Countless descendants of these hardy Presbyterians settled in Pennsylvania, Virginia, the Carolinas and elsewhere.

Words to Live By:
Our timing may not be God’s timing. That has been evidenced in this example as well as countless other instances. It would be a worthy discussion of God’s people to prayerfully discuss among themselves or within the church itself how to discern God’s timing for some action. But what is more important than that is how best to submit to God’s timing for their lives. That will bring the most satisfaction in the long run of seeking to live by God’s will for His glory.

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