John Abernethy (minister)
He was born at Coleraine, County Londonderry, where his father was a Nonconformist minister. In his thirteenth year he entered the University of Glasgow, and on concluding his course there went on to Edinburgh, where his he soon moved in the most cultured circles. Returning home, he was licensed to preach from his Presbytery before he was twenty-one. In 1701 he was called to accept charge of an important congregation in Antrim; after an interval of two years, mostly spent in further study in Dublin, he was ordained there on 8 August 1703. He became a noted debater in the synods and assemblies of his church and a leading evangelist. 
In 1712, he was devastated by the loss of his wife (Susannah Jordan). Five years later, he was invited to the congregation of Usher's Quay, Dublin, and also to what was called the Old Congregation of Belfast. The synod assigned him to Dublin. After careful consideration he refused, and remained at Antrim. This refusal aroused disapproval; and a controversy followed, Abernethy standing firm for religious freedom and repudiating the ecclesiastical courts. The controversy and quarrel bears the name of the two camps in the conflict, the "Subscribers" and the "Non-subscribers." Abernethy and his associates sowed the seeds of the struggle (1821–1840) in which, under the leadership of Dr Henry Cooke, the Arian and Socinian elements of the Irish Presbyterian Church were thrown out. 
Much of what he contended for, and which the "Subscribers" opposed bitterly, was silently granted in the lapse of time. In 1726, the "Non-subscribers" were cut off, with due ban and solemnity, from the Irish Presbyterian Church. In 1730, although a "Non-subscriber," he moved to Wood Street, Dublin. In 1731 came the greatest controversy in which Abernethy was involved. It was nominally about the Test Act, but actually on the entire question of tests and disabilities. His stand was:
against all laws that, upon account of mere differences of religious opinions and forms of worship, excluded men of integrity and ability from serving their country.
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Abernethy, John (priest)". Encyclopædia Britannica 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.; Endnotes:
- James Duchal's Life, prefixed to Sermons (1762);
- Diary in Ms., 6 vols.;
- Reid's Presbyterian Church in Ireland, iii. 234.