McBride, John (1651?–1718), presbyterian minister, was born in Ireland, probably in 1651, and possibly son of John McBryd, merchant in Holywood, Co. Down. He entered Glasgow University in 1666 and graduated in 1673; he was a schoolmaster in Killyleagh in 1679, and in 1680 he was ordained in Clare, Co. Armagh. In 1688 he moved to Borgue, Kircudbrightshire, Scotland, but in 1694 was called to Belfast to succeed Patrick Adair (qv). The earl of Donegall thought highly of him, and granted a site for a new meeting house at Rosemary Lane, Belfast; it was built c.1695. In that year McBride was chosen to attend on a sitting of the Irish parliament, to support an attempt to gain legal toleration of the presbyterian church; this failed, as had been expected, because of the opposition of supporters of the established church. The controversy produced a number of pamphlets from both sides, including Animadversions . . ., published anonymously (1697) by McBride. Elected moderator of the general synod in 1697, McBride, as was usual, delivered a sermon at the opening session. It was well received, and without his knowledge friends had it printed. The bishop of Down and Connor, Edward Walkington (qv), was incensed by the novel audacity of publishing any sermon delivered before what was to him the obnoxious synod of dissenters, as well as by the subject matter and the title page, which identified McBride as ‘minister of Belfast’. He sent a copy to the lords justices, who questioned McBride in Dublin on 10 October 1698 and released him after advising the adversaries to deal ‘rectably’ and ‘moderately’ with each other – wasted breath, to such opponents.
Presbyterians were frequently prosecuted in ecclesiastical courts for infringements of the regulations of the established church, and the question of the validity of marriages performed by their ministers excited much animosity; McBride's pamphlet A vindication of marriage as solemnized by presbyterians in the north of Ireland (1702), applauded by his own side, called forth indignant replies from Ralph Lambert and Edward Synge (qv). McBride did not continue the debate, as he had been overtaken by the consequences of his refusal to take the oath of abjuration. This oath was applied in Ireland by an act of the English parliament in 1703 after the threat of invasion by James Stuart, the ‘Old Pretender’. It was refused by McBride and five other ministers; all other presbyterian ‘teachers’ as they were called, took the oath. The non-abjurors, though almost certainly loyal to the Hanoverian succession, felt they could not in conscience swear that the former prince of Wales was not the son of his reputed father, as required; their unwillingness to swear to uphold the established church was perhaps not of secondary importance.
Though it was said that Lord Donegall offered to stand surety to the value of his whole estate for McBride, a warrant was issued for his arrest; he fled to Glasgow, where he stayed some months. He returned to Belfast, but in the autumn of 1705 an informer went to John Winder, vicar of Carnmoney, who was a magistrate, and McBride was again sought for; he escaped at night in disguise, and was allowed over the Long Bridge out of Belfast, by a guard who was one of his congregation. An armed official, after searching the manse for him, was so enraged that McBride had escaped, that he ran a rapier through the minister's portrait, slashing it at the neck. The portrait was later sold by mistake, along with some furniture, and only bought back after several years. It now hangs in the vestry of his church. McBride spent the next three years in Glasgow, preaching in Blackfriars church; he refused the chair of divinity in Glasgow University, but was elected moderator of the Glasgow presbytery, and was first to sign an address to Queen Anne in 1708, deploring the threatened French invasion. He returned to Belfast that year. During his absence James Kirkpatrick (qv) (d. 1743) had been called as his assistant; as the congregation exceeded 3,000 members, McBride agreed that it should be divided between the two ministers, and a new meetinghouse was built on the same site. McBride appeared before the assize judges in Carrickfergus, but was discharged without trial. Another warrant was procured in August 1711 by his implacable foes, Westenra Waring and Brent Spencer, and McBride had to flee to Scotland again. While in Glasgow he published A sample of jet-black prelatic calumny . . . (1713), in answer to an attack on dissenters by William Tisdall, vicar of Belfast. After his return to Ireland 8 June 1713, McBride was left in peace by his opponents, though tormented by gout, which he said kept him in Cripplegate. He died in Belfast 21 July 1718 and was buried in the old churchyard.
He married (date unknown) Margaret Fairlie of Tullyveery, Co. Down, who was related to the Hamiltons of Killyleagh castle. The McBrides had at least three sons, one of whom was Robert MacBride, minister at Ballymoney (father of David MacBride (qv) and of John MacBride (d. 1800) and great-great-grandfather of Edgar Allan Poe), and there was at least one daughter.