Mastertown, Charles (DNB00)
MASTERTOWN, CHARLES (1679–1750), presbyterian divine, born in Scotland, probably in Linlithgowshire. on 23 March 1679, was educated at Edinburgh University, where he graduated M.A. as 'Carolus Masterton' on 28 June 1697, the same day as Ebenezer Erskine [q. v.] On 1 June 1703 he presented himself to the general synod of Ulster at Antrim, with his license from Linlithgow presbytery, and was 'allow'd to preach within the bounds' of the synod. Accepting a call from the congregation of Connor, co. Antrim, he was ordained there by Antrim presbytery on 17 May 1704. For nearly nineteen years he ministered at Connor with increasing repute as an able preacher and sound divine. It is remarkable that in 1718 he headed a protest against the general synod's resolution removing John Abernethy (1680-1740) [q. v.], the non-subscribing leader, to Dublin, a resolution which Abernethy disobeyed.
The irregular installation of Samuel Haliday [q. v.] at First Belfast in 1720, alienated several members of both presbyterian congregations in that town. On 4 July 1721 a subscription for building a third meeting-house was begun, and by help from Scotland (two pews in the gallery were set apart for 'Scottish strangers') the new structure, on the next plot of ground to the two others [see MacBride, John], was completed in 1722. Mastertown was called to the pastorate in October 1722, and installed at Third Belfast on 20 Feb. 1723 by Belfast presbytery. His successor at Connor was not ordained till 18 March 1724, the congregation insisting that Mastertown, and not a non-subscriber, should preside. On 18 June 1723 he was elected moderator of the general synod at Dungannon. His position was a difficult one. The non-subscription controversy was now in active progress. His immediate neighbours, Haliday and James Kirkpatrick [q. v.], had unwisely used every effort to restrain the flow of Scottish aid to the new congregation. Yet they announced their intention of presenting themselves at his communion on 30 Feb. 1724. The proposal was treated by Mastertown's session as an 'attempt to disturb,' and this was resented by Haliday and Kirkpatrick as a formal exclusion. The general synod's action removed the first and second congregations in 1725 into another presbytery (Antrim), and that presbytery was excluded from the synod's jurisdiction in 1726. The two ministers thus excluded 'convened the whole town,' causing 'a dreadful ferment.' Mastertown pursued his course calmly and with firmness, and built up a congregation which for over a hundred years stood alone in Belfast as the representative of orthodoxy in connection with the general synod. He attended the general synod in 1745, but by next year was incapacitated from preaching. William Laird was appointed his assistant and successor on 16 Sept. 1747. Mastertown died on 15 July 1750. His only child, Susan, married John Poaug in 1725; her descendants are numerous and influential. Mastertown wrote and printed his name thus; in the synodical records it appears as 'Masterton,' a form adopted by Reid and Killen.
His polemical publications show great ability. His brief catechetical treatise on the doctrine of the Trinity originated in lectures at Connor, repeated at Belfast, and presents the pith of much reading and thought in a form remarkably lucid and compact. On vexed points he usually follows Edmund Calamy, D.D. [q. v.]; he chiefly controverts Samuel Clarke (1675-1729) [q. v.]; but the treatise is more expository than polemic, and has hardly been excelled in its own line.
Mastertown published: 1. 'An Apology for the Northern Presbyterians in Ireland . . . requiring Subscription to the Westminster Confession ... in Answer to the Seasonable Advice [by Abernethy],' &c., Glasgow, 1723, 4to (preface by Samuel Hemphill [q. v.]). 2. 'Christian Liberty founded on Gospel Truth,' &c., Belfast, 1725, 12mo (against Abernethy ; reprinted 1753 with No. 6). 3. 'A Short Reply to the Postscript to Mr. Abernethy 's Defence ... by the three Dublin Minister's,' &c., Dublin, 1726, 8vo (against Nathaniel Weld, Joseph Boyse [q.v.], and Richard Choppin). 4. 'The Doctrine of the Holy Trinity explained and asserted from the Holy Scriptures,' &c., Belfast [November, 1728], 12mo (for date, cf. Reid, p. 220); reprinted, Edinburgh, 1729; 4th edit. London, 1734 (preface and Greek notes by Abraham Taylor, D.D., of Deptford); another 4th edit. Belfast, 1745, 12mo; Northampton, 1776 (preface by John Ryland); London, 1827, 12mo (with 'The Catholic Doctrine of the Trinity,' by William Jones, of Nayland [q. v.]); Edinburgh, 1880. 16mo (with 'Me moir’ by Mastertown's great-grandson, the Rev. Hope Masterton Waddell of Dublin). 5. ‘The great importance of the Scripture Doctrine of the ever-blessed Trinity,’ &c., Belfast, 1745, 8vo.
[Waddell's Memoir, 1880; Cat. of Edinburgh Graduates, 1858, p. 158; Reid's Hist. Presb. Church in Ireland (Killen), 1867, iii. 158 sq.; Benn's Hist. of Belfast, 1877, i. 410 sq.; Witherow's Hist. and Lit. Memorials of Presbyterianism in Ireland, 1879, i. 256 sq.; Killen's Hist. Congr. Presb. Church in Ireland, 1886, pp. 86, 100; Ramsey's Early Hist. of Belfast, 1889, p. 33; Records of General Synod of Ulster, 1890, i. 71, 82, 471; Anderson's Early Belfast Printed Books, 1890.]