After Mr. Robert Cunningham had received a good education, he became chaplain to the duke of Buccleugh's regiment in Holland, and was afterward settled minister at Holywood in Ireland, sometime before Mr. Blair was settled at Bangor, and with whom Mr. Blair, after his settlement in that place, contracted such an acquaintance as was comfortable to them both.
He applied himself close unto the work of the ministry, which no doubt to him was the most desireable of all employments, being in the pulpit in his own element, like a fish in the water, or bird in the air, always judging that therein a Christian might enjoy much fellowship with Christ and have an opportunity of doing him the best of services, considering what Christ said to Peter, John xxi.15. &c. Lovest thou me more than these -- -- feed my lambs -- -- feed my sheep.
Here he continued to exercise his office as a faithful pastor over the flock to whom he was appointed overseer, until the time that several of his faithful brethren were deposed and ejected by the bishops, at which time the bishop of Down threatening Mr. Blair with a prosecution against him, Mr. Cunningham and some others; to whom Mr. Blair said, |Ye may do with me and some others as you please, but if ever ye meddle with Mr. Cunningham your cup will be full,| and indeed he was longer spared than any of the rest, which was a great benefit to their flocks, for when they were deposed, he preached every week in one or other of their kirks. So with great pains both at home and abroad he wore out his body which before was not very strong.
When Mr. Blair and Mr. Livingston were summoned before the bishop to be deposed, they went the night before their appearance, to take their leave of Mr. Cunningham, but the next day as they were going to the church of Parphilips, he came up to them, whereat being surprised they asked, Why he came thither? To which he answered, |All night I have been troubled with that place, at my first answer no man stood with me, therefore I am come to stand by you.| But being the eye-sore of the devil and the prelatical clergy in that part of the country, he could not be suffered long to exercise his ministry, and in August 1636, he, with other of his faithful brethren, was thrust out and deposed. He continued mostly after this with the rest of his suffering brethren, until after the defeat of their enterprise to New-England, that they were obliged to leave Ireland and come over to Scotland, and not long after he took his last sickness in Irvine, whereof he soon after died.
During his sickness, besides many other gracious expressions, he said, |I see Christ standing over death's head, saying, Deal warily with my servant, loose thou this pin, then that pin, for his tabernacle must be set up again.|
The day before his death, the members of the presbytery of Irvine made him a visit, whom he exhorted to be faithful to Christ and his cause, and to oppose the service-book (then pressed upon the church). |The bishop,| said he, |hath taken my ministry from me, and I may say, my life also, for my ministry is dearer to me than my life.| A little before his departure, his wife sitting by his bed-side with his hand in hers, he did by prayer recommend the whole church of Ireland, the parish of Holywood, his suffering brethren in the ministry, and his children to God, and withal added, |Lord, I recommend this gentlewoman to thee, who is no more my wife:| -- and with that he softly loosed his hand from hers, and thrust it a little from him, at which she and several of the company fell a-weeping, he endeavoured to comfort them with several gracious expressions, and with the Lord's servant of old, mentioned, Acts xiii.36. Having served his own generation by the will of God, he fell on sleep, March 27.1637.
Mr. Cunningham was a man mostly under deep exercises of mind, and although in public preaching he was to his own sense sometimes not so assisted as ordinarily, yet even then the matter he treated of was edifying and refreshful, being still carried through with a full gale, using more piercing expressions than many others. For meekness he was Moses-like, and in patience another Job, -- |to my discerning (says one of our Scots worthies) he was the man, who most resembled the meekness of Jesus Christ in all his carriage, that ever I saw, and was so far reverenced of all, even by the wicked, that he was often troubled with that scripture, Wo to you when all men speak well of you.|