A Sweet Majestic Man Showed me the Majesty of God
Our title was a description of the preaching of the Rev. Robert Blair at St. Andrews in Scotland by an English merchant who heard him on the Lord’s Day one time. It spoke volumes about our post’s figure on this day. But it doesn’t do him full justice, as he ministered also effectively in Northern Ireland.
Robert Blair was born in 1593 to John and Beatrix Blair, the youngest child of six children. His father, a man of prayer, would die of tuberculosis when he was but five. He was able in God’s providence to go to the University of Glasgow in 1608. Becoming a school teacher in the same city, he has the oversight of 150 pupils. In 1616, after becoming acquainted with the principles of the university, he began to teach on the college level in Philosophy and Greek. It was during this time that he was encouraged to preach the Word and prepare of his life calling. A change of administrators at the school to Episcopalian brought an end to his association with that university. After considering a number of possibilities, an invitation to Ulster was made and accepted.
His arrival in Bangor, Ulster, or Northern Ireland, brought him to the same issue from which he left Scotland. The official church in Ulster was the Church of Ireland and Episcopalian in government and practice. Blair was a convinced Presbyterian. So the present Anglican bishops, with the encouragement of Archbishop Ussher, proposed and carried out his ordination by the laying on of hands of Presbyterian ministers in the land. That took place on July 10, 1623.
Blair’s first pastorate was large, with over 1200 members. He began to proclaim the Word of God four times a week with home visitation for the purpose of helping his educational backward people understand the Scriptures. It was said of him that he was the greatest instruments for preaching the gospel in the North of Ireland! Certainly, he was an outstanding Reformed minister just as that time who shaped the Scot-Irish in the land in Presbyterianism.
About eight years later, his ministry was brought to a sharp end with the bishops of the Irish Anglican church seeking to gain control. From that time in 1631 to 1638, he was to be suspended from the gospel ministry by the Anglican authorities, then reinstated, then suspended again by the bishops. Finally he, and three other Presbyterian ministers sought to flee to America with a hundred lay people. Tragically, that trip was not successful and they were forced to return to Ireland. Finally, he went back to Scotland, where he preached for 23 years as a pastor to the church of St. Andrews. It was there that the merchant of our title spoke of him. At last, he answered his Lord’s call, laying down his labors and entering upon his eternal rest in 1666. He died at Aberdour on 27 August 1666, and was buried in the parish churchyard.
Words to Live By:
The circumstances may be different, but today’s under shepherds of Christ’s flock have many trying times in their calling. This is why this author, who was a pastor for thirty-five years himself in Canada and the United States, frequently speaks of the importance of lay people to pray for their pastors. Scripture is clear. Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13 states, “But we request of you . . . that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give your instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another.” (NASB)
For Further Study:
The Life of Mr. Robert Blair, minister of St. Andrews, containing his autobiography, from 1593-1636 : with supplement of his life and continuation of the history of the times, to 1680