McBride exerted himself at Dublin in September 1695 to obtain a legal toleration; in his own phrase, his efforts were ‘drowned with court holy water.’ He came out as an author in 1697, defending a plea for toleration by Joseph Boyse [q. v.] In the same year he was moderator of the general synod of Ulster. His sermon on retiring from the chair on 1 June 1698 was printed without his concurrence; the title-page styled him ‘minister of Belfast;’ on 10 Oct. he appeared on summons before the lords justices in Dublin, at the instance of five bishops, to answer for this and other enormities. The lords justices dismissed the case, ‘with an advice to him and his brethren to carry rectably towards the established church, and to them [the bishops] to carry moderately.’ The renewed patent for the ‘regium donum’ was lodged in his hands in 1699. A few years later he published (1702) a spirited defence of the validity of presbyterian marriages.
McBride was a strong advocate of the Hanoverian succession, but scrupled at the oath of abjuration (declaring the Pretender to be no son of James II) imposed in 1703. By advice of the Belfast presbytery he summoned the general synod to meet at Antrim on 1 June 1703, six weeks before the appointed time, in order to consider the oath, which was to be taken by 1 Aug. Several leading presbyterians were non-abjurors; McBride avoided the oath by retiring to Glasgow, where in 1704 he made a gift of books to the university library. (The oath was not imposed in Scotland till 1712.) On 19 Oct. a committee of the Irish House of Commons recommended that he be deprived of ‘regium donum;’ but this was not done. He was back in Belfast before the synod of June 1704. In the winter of 1705 an information was sworn against him as a non-abjuror before the Rev. John Winder, J.P., at Carnmoney, co. Antrim. He escaped in disguise, and proceeded to Glasgow by way of Donaghadee. McBride was three years in Glasgow, exercising his ministry there, but retaining his charge in Belfast, and refusing a divinity chair in Glasgow University. On 4 June 1706 the synod gave order for the appointment of James Kirkpatrick [q. v.] as his assistant and successor. The whole available stipend was 160l. Irish, or 147l. 13s. 10¼d. sterling. McBride wrote from Stranraer on 18 June to his Belfast flock, advising that as there were ‘three thousand persons’ in the congregation, there should be two meeting-houses as well as two ministers. Kirkpatrick was appointed on 24 Sept., and by June 1708 a second meeting-house was erected, in the rear of the first, and on the same plot of ground. The synod of 1708, after long debates at the ordinary and a special meeting, agreed to divide the congregation, assigning the first meeting-house, with the manse, to McBride, and sending him ‘a kind affectionate letter,’ inviting and requiring him ‘to come home so soon as he can.’ Samuel Smith, one of his elders, went to Glasgow for him. As moderator of the Glasgow presbytery he had signed in March an address to the queen, expressing abhorrence of the attempt of the French fleet upon the Scottish coast in the Pretender's interest. Returning to Ireland, he appeared before the justices at Carrickfergus, and was discharged without trial. In August 1711 a warrant was issued by Westenra Waring, high sheriff of county Antrim, and another justice for the arrest of McBride and other ministers as non-abjurors. At the spring assizes 1712, they were presented by the grand jury of county Antrim as disloyal men. McBride crossed over to Scotland at the beginning of May. According to William Bruce (1757–1841) [q. v.], Thomas Milling had been appointed his colleague in 1711; there is no trace of this name in the synod records. The general synod which met at Belfast in June resolved, in reference to the oath, that all ministers ‘who've not taken the same be advis'd (if they have clearness to do it) to take it as soon and in as private a way as they can.’ The same meeting renewed an appointment previously made, authorising McBride to compile ‘an history of this church,’ and desiring Kirkpatrick to assist him. McBride's next and last publication had an historical bearing; more was done by Kirkpatrick.
On 8 June 1713 McBride returned to Belfast for the last time; he was not again seriously molested, for though the high sheriff gave orders for his apprehension, the sub-sheriff, Jeremy Phillips, took care not to find him. He was evidently a popular man, and manuscript reports of his discourses, still preserved, show him to have been an able preacher. Bruce's statement that he ‘prepared students for the ministry,’ if correct, refers probably to work done in Glasgow. His portrait bears out Kirkpatrick's account of him as ‘of a pleasant temper,’ and one who ‘can't baulk his jest.’ For the truth of one of the stories of his humour we have his own authority. Asked by a clergyman of Down why he would not abjure the Pretender, he replied ‘that once upon a time there was a bearn, that cou'd not be persuaded to bann the de'el, because he did not know but he might soon come into his clutches.’ During the winter of 1713–14 he complained to his friend Robert Wodrow, ‘that lordly prelate, gout,