Glendinning’s failure, God’s mercy

By Ian Hugh Clary

In 1625 the Scottish Presbyterian Robert Blair was in Carrickfergus in the province of Ulster and happened upon the preaching of a man named James Glendinning. After hearing Glendinning rage against sin and preach ferociously about the wrath of God, Blair was nonplussed. Glendinning had an odd style, and Blair was concerned that the sub-par and intellectually-challenged sermons would do more harm than good. Blair advised Glendinning to return home to work on his preaching, advice that Glendinning took.

In Oldstone, near Antrim, Glendinning again began to preach his hell-fire sermons, only this time to a different effect: the people who heard him were deeply convicted of their sin, and cried out for mercy. The problem for Glendinning—and for the people under his ministry—was that he did not know how to preach the gospel. Sinners were thus being left in their misery. Thankfully ministers in the area heard of what was happening and set up evangelistic meetings to preach the gospel to the soul-burdened populace. It was not long before hundreds, and eventually thousands, were coming to the meetings to hear the gospel, to pray, and to receive the Lord’s Supper. This was the beginning of what is known as the Six-Mile-Water Revival in Ulster.

In Romans 10 the apostle Paul asks, “How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” It is sad that James Glendinning could not preach the gospel, and is a mark of grace that God provided ministers to bring the healing balm of Christ’s atoning sacrifice to those troubled Irish souls. May this serve as a reminder to us, as we evangelise or preach the gospel from our pulpits, to preach sin—yes—but to also preach the gospel. Revival came to Ireland with the preaching of the gospel—and it can come to our lands too, if only we are faithful.


Ian Hugh Clary is finishing doctoral studies under Adriaan Neele at Universiteit van die Vrystaat (Blomfontein), where he is writing a dissertation on the evangelical historiography of Arnold Dallimore. He has co-authored two local church histories with Michael Haykin and contributed articles to numerous scholarly journals. Ian serves as a pastor of BridgeWay Covenant Church in Toronto where he lives with his wife and two children.