I first heard of James Ussher in 2003 when Dr. Haykin gave me a copy of Crawford Gribben’s The Irish Puritans: James Ussher and the Reformation of the Church. Dr. Haykin and I have a shared interest in things Irish, so it was a welcomed gift. I remember travelling to Grand Rapids with Dr. Haykin in the winter of ’03 and we stayed at Joel Beeke’s in-laws, where I read The Irish Puritans before bed. I also took advantage of Dr. Beeke’s library and read through some of Ussher’s Works at the old PRTS library. As well, a PRTS student named Terry Klaver had also read Crawford’s book and we had some good discussions. Afterwards, Terry sent me a PDF of Ussher’s Body of Divinity in the mail (now published by SGCB). If memory serves, Dr. Haykin and I also spent some time at the Calvin Seminary library where I read up on Irish church history.
In the late spring of 2004 I had the joy of going with Dr. Haykin to Britain. While in Ireland, I got to meet Crawford and his wife Pauline. Crawford was nothing but encouraging in the hopes of recruiting another Ussher fan. I was thrilled and this sealed the deal for me in terms of developing an interest in Ussher. I think touring Trinity College, Dublin with Crawford solidified things. Later he and I met up again where he gave me a DVD containing PDF’s of Ussher’s Works. I feel like so much has been handed to me. God is faithful.
In the summer of 2004, as a bachelor-party gift, Greg McManus gave me a copy of R. Buick Knox’s biography of Ussher entitled James Ussher: Archbishop of Armagh. Greg and I had for a few years shared a strong interest in things Puritan. Greg has maintained and developed his interest in John Owen. Early on I waffled between who to study. For a while, after being kicked in the ecclesial pants by The Reformed Pastor, I thought of Baxter. Afterwards, largely due to Greg’s interest in Owen, I thought of studying Thomas Goodwin. It wasn’t until reading Crawford’s book that Ussher became a serious topic.
After dialoging with Dr. Haykin about my future, and his strong suggestion that I don’t neglect the Fathers, I came into contact with Alan Ford through email. He teaches at Nottingham and is the author of the recent definitive biography of Ussher called James Ussher: Theology, History, and Politics in Early-Modern Ireland and England. Prof. Ford suggested looking at Ussher’s debates that he had with some Jesuits in Ireland over the early church Pelagian controversy. This then set me on a journey to study Augustine and Pelagianism, which I did my master of divinity thesis on. Dr. Haykin supervised and also had me read on Ignatius of Antioch, due to Ussher’s research on the authenticity of the Ignatian corpus.
This past year I began a master of theology in Puritan history. Having written papers on the English Reformation and Puritanism, I am now officially starting Ussher studies. It is 2009 and my interests in Ussher were started in 2003. It’s been six years before I could finally do some serious study on him!! But I’m thankful to finally get here. I just polished off Crawford’s biography for the second time – I appreciate it all the more now that I’ve read it after years of study. I am currently in the middle of Knox’s biography. After this I’ll turn to Ford, though I am currently reading his book The Protestant Reformation in Ireland 1590-1641.
This summer I will go through Ussher’s Works with an eye to his writings in ecclesiastical history, particularly patristics. My thesis, due in September, will be on Ussher as a patristic historian. This will hopefully get me prepared for a doctoral thesis on Ussher and the Pelagian controversy. All of this, of course, is in the Lord’s good timing.