The date is 17th February 1688. The place is the Grassmarket in Edinburgh. A vast crowd of people are gathered round a scaffold. Mounting the scaffold is a young man of twenty-six. He sings Psalm 103 and reads from Revelation 19 before his execution. James Renwick is his name, the last of the Covenanters to be executed during the twenty five years of persecution prior to the revolution.
The Covenanters maintained that Jesus Christ was King over all and that he should be acknowledged as such by both Church and State. Yet they believed that the church and the state were two separate institutions and that the king had no right to interfere with the government and worship of the church.
They held to the principles of the National Covenant of Scotland of 1638 and the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643, hence the name Covenanters. These principles were the exact opposite of the doctrine of the “Divine right of Kings” held to by the Stuart monarchs and the Covenanters paid the price of faithfulness. Over eighteen thousand Scottish Christians were either executed, banished or suffered the utmost hardships rather than compromise their Christian principles.
The Covenanters in Scotland and Ireland later adopted the name “Reformed Presbyterian.” The first Reformed Presbyterian minister to be ordained in Ireland was Rev. William Martin, a native of Ballyspallan, near Limavady. His ordination service was held in the open air on the 2nd July, 1757 at the Vow a townland on the road from Ballymoney to Rasharkin.
By the 1st May 1811, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland was in a position to hold its first meeting of synod. One of the congregation listed under this synod was Drummillar, near Scarva.
In Loughbrickland a congregation of the Original Secession Church existed with a meeting house dating from 1817. The Reformed Presbyterians of Drummillar joined with this congregation in Loughbrickland when the latter joined the Reformed Presbyterian Church and in 1839, the Rev. Samuel Sims was ordained and installed as the first Reformed Presbyterian minister of Loughbrickland. He retired in 1871 and his remains are buried behind the meeting house on the hill in Loughbrickland which is still used today.