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ment in Ireland."1 Some time before his death, according to the testimony of a well-informed writer, "he thought proper occasionally to assume the lowliness of an ecclesiastic--when the artful statesman still glared so over every part of his behaviour, as to render it in some measure revolting. He quickly perceived this effect of his newly-adopted manner, and reassumed his old one, in which not the least trace of a churchman was visible."2
When the highest dignitaries of the Church displayed so little of the spirit of the Gospel, it was not extraordinary that infid elity abounded. Those who attended divine service in
. the more fashionable of the Dublin churches, often did not appear to think it necessary to exhibit even outward reverence in the house of God. The Eucharist was shamefully prostituted when the reception of it was made a test of admission to social privileges; and some who partook of it acted with most unbecoming levity at the communion table. “I was much concerned,” said Wesley, when speaking of one of his early visits to the Irish metropolis," to see two gentlemen, who were close to me in St. Patrick's church, fall a-talking together, in the most trifling manner, immediately after they had received the Lord's Supper." The whole tone of society betokened great indifference in reference to the high concerns of eternity. Deism was propagated under various disguises; and the extensive circulation obtained by publications, designed to overthrow the authority of Scripture, revealed a spirit of prevailing scepticism. But the reign of George II. produced some Irish writers who ably supported the claims of Christianity. Among these Dr. John Leland, a Presbyterian minister of Dublin, is entitled to special notice. His treatises on the Deistical controversy may still be studied
1 Mant, ii. 604. Cumberland states that in Ireland at this time the profusion of the tables of the higher classes struck him with surprise, adding :--"Nothing that I had seen in England could rival the Polish magnificence of Primate Stone." See l'ictorial History of England, v. 566.
2 Hardy's Life of Charlemont, p. 105. 3 Wesley's Journal, p. 417.
4 This learned and excellent man was minister of Eustace Street congregation, Dublin. He died in 1766, in the seventy-fifth year of his age. TOL. II.
with advantage. The Rev. Philip Skelton, a worthy minister of the Established Church, also rendered good service by a work entitled “ Deism Revealed.”
Towards the end of the reign of George II. the Romanists began to be treated by Government with greater consideration. Long before this period, they had been deserted by a large proportion of their nobility and gentry, who-yielding to the pressure of the penal laws, and to the influence of the secular advantages presented by the profession of another faith—had passed over into the Established Church.3 But the lower classes of the native Irish, with few exceptions, remained still devoutly attached to Popery. Their povertyaggravated by the exactions of their priests and friars, and by the multitude of holydays which they were required to spend in idleness-often presented a striking contrast to the comparative comfort of their Protestant neighbours. After the disastrous result of the rebellion in support of the Pretender in 1745, they despaired of his success; and they began to think more and more favourably of the reigning
1 He published The Divine Authority of the Old and New Testament Asserte, in two vols. 8vo. ; A View of the Deistical Writers, in two vols. 8vo. ; The Advantage and Necessity of the Christian Revelation shown from the State of Religion in the Ancient Heathen World, in two vols. 4to., and several other works.
? Philip Skelton was born in Derriaghy, near Lisburn, in 1707. He was upwards of twenty years a curate; and was then rector successively of Pettigo, in County Donegal, of Devenislı, near Enniskillen, and of Fintona, in County Tyrone. He died at an advanced age in 1787. He was a most effective preacher, as well as a man of singular benevolence and of superior genius. On one occasion he sold a library of considerable value to enable him to supply the wants of the poor in his neighbourhood. His works fill seven volumes. His Life, written by the Rev. Samuel Burdy, presents a melancholy view of the state of religion in his time. Dr. Watkinson, who had made his acquaintance, says of him :—“His learning is almost universal, and his language uncommonly fluent and vigorous. . . . His powers of description are beyond what I could have conceived; he has a stock of imagination sufficient to set up ten modern tragic poets.”— Philosophical Survey of the South of Ireland, pp. 423, 424.
3 Froude states that “before 1738, a thousand Catholic families of rank and consequence had been received into the Establishment.”—The English in Ireland, i. 368-9. Warner, writing in 1763, says : “ The greatest part of their (the Roman Catholic) gentry, who are distinguished by their fortune or uniorstanding, have within these last threescore years renounced the errors of the Church of Rome.”llis'. of Ireland. Introd., i. 68.
dynasty. In 1757 they were admitted, for the first time since the Revolution, to enlist as soldiers. The Duke of Bedford — who in the autumn of that year was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland gave them to understand that they might reckon on his friendly offices; and immediately afterwards "an exhortation of the Roman Catholic clergy of Dublin" was read from their altars. In this document the rulers of the kingdom are highly eulogized for their “large charities " during a recent scarcity; and are described as "the fathers and saviours of the nation.” “We have not,” said the Dublin priests, "a more effectual method of showing our acknowledgment to our temporal governors than by an humble, peaceable, and obedient behaviour; as hitherto, we earnestly exhort you to continue in the same happy and Christian disposition ; and thus, by degrees, you will entirely efface in their minds those evil impressions which have been conceived so much to your prejudice, and industriously propagated by your enemies. A series of more than sixty years spent, with a pious resignation, under the hardships of very severe penal laws, and with the greatest thankfulness for the lenity and moderation with which they were executed ever since the accession of the present royal family, is certainly a fact which must outweigh, in the minds of all unbiassed persons, any misconceived opinions of the doctrines and tenets of our holy church."2
The spirit of this address is certainly highly creditable to those from whom it emanated. It admonishes the Roman Catholic population to look with the greatest horror on "thefts, frauds, murders, and the like abominable crimes ;” to "abstain from cursing, swearing, and blasphemy;” to be "just in their dealings, sober in their conduct, religious in their practice ; to avoid riots, quarrels, and tumults; and thus to approve themselves good citizens, peaceable subjects, and pious Christians.” It repudiates, as "an infamous calumny," the allegation that, according to their doctrine, they could
1 Fitzgerald and McGregor's History of Limerick, vol. ii. 463.
? This exhortation, which was read from the Roman Catholic altars on the 2nd of October, 1757, may be found in Parnell's History of the Penal Laws, pp. 75-77, Dublin, 1808 ; and in Plowden's Historical Review, i., appendix lx., pp. 260-2.
obtain a dispensation “to take false oaths." The Roman Catholics, say they, have "given the strongest proofs of their abhorrence of those tenets, by refusing to take oaths which, however conducive to their temporal interest, appeared to them entirely repugnant to the principles of their religion.”1 They entreat their co-religionists to offer up most fervent prayers to God that He may direct the counsels of their rulers, and inspire them with sentiments of moderation and compassion towards themselves. “We ought,” they add, "to be more earnest at this juncture in our supplications to Heaven, as some very honourable personages have encouraged us to hope for a mitigation of the penal laws.”
There is something very touching in this appeal. It was evidently drawn up by a skilful hand; it reveals a spirit chastened by adversity; and, as it was soon widely published, it was well fitted to awaken sympathy on behalf of those to whom it was addressed. It appears to singular advantage when placed beside some of those manifestoes which have issued more recently from the Irish Roman Catholic hierarchy. It is certainly not calculated to give us a very high idea of the general character of the Romish population about the middle of the eighteenth century; as, had they been noted for exemplary morals, their spiritual guides, at such a crisis, would have scarcely felt it necessary to warn them against theft, riot, blasphemy, and murder: but, withal, it administers faithful counsel ; and instead of maliciously exaggerating the hardships of the penal laws, it candidly and thankfully acknowledges that, for many years, they had not been rigorously carried into execution. The very severity of these enactments had prevented their enforcement; and about this time, a bill, providing new machinery to secure their execution, was introduced into Parliament; but it was strenu
1 Notwithstanding what is here stated, there were circumstances in which the native Irish had still little respect for the sanctity of an oath. See Warner's Ilistory of Ireland, vol. i. 69. But they refused to take oaths forbidden by the Pope.
2 This bill proposed to vest the nomination of the parish priests in the grand juries--the names of those selected to be submitted to the Lord Lieutenant and Privy Council for approval. See Stuart's Armagh, p. 438.
ously resisted by Primate Stone; and the greater number of his episcopal brethren joined him in the opposition. Though, by a small majority, it passed a third reading in the House of Lords, it did not receive the royal assent; and thus never found its way into the Statute Book.1
At this time a few Irish Roman Catholics formed themselves into a Committee to watch over the political interests of their denomination. The most active members of this association were Mr. Wyse, of Waterford ;Mr. Charles O'Conor, of Belanagare, the well-known Irish scholar and antiquary ;3 and Dr. Curry, the author of the review of the Civil Wars in Ireland. At first the Roman Catholic nobility and clergy regarded the movements of this society with no little uneasiness,-fearing that it might only aggravate the evils of which they had long complained. With a view, however, to obtain a more favourable consideration of their claims, it was at length agreed that they should draw up a
1 The third reading was carried by the proxies of absent peers : and it is alleged that the bill was set aside on the ground that none of the Lords who voted by proxy had been present at any preceding period of the session. Stuart’s Armagh, pp. 439, 440.
9 Mr. Wyse was a merchant in Waterford. 3 Dr. McDermott,, his grandson, gives the following account of this gentleman :" Mr. Charles O'Conor devoted sixty years of his life to the study of Irish history and antiquities. He had the best collection of books, and understood the language better than any man in Ireland. Lest a widower in the twenty-eighth year of his age, possessed of an easy independent property, he had full leisure to indulge his favourite pursuits. ... He made religion a matter of conscience, and abhorred falsehood so much that he would not hear an untruth, even in jest.”—PLOWDEN'S Historical Letter in answer to Columbanus, p. 34. Dublin, 1812. Mr. O'Conor's manuscripts were handed over by his grandson, the Rev. Dr. Charles O'Conorthe editor of the Rerum Hibernicarum Scriptores Veteres, and the author of various important historical works—to the Marquis of Buckingham, and deposited in the Stowe Library. Mr. O'Conor, of Belanagare, died in 1793. Ibid. p. 230.
4 In 1759 Dr. Curry published anonymously Historical Memoirs of the Irish Rebellion in the year 1641 for the purpose of showing that the extent of the massacre had been greatly exaggerated. The work passed through several editions. Dr. Curry was a Dublin physician of considerable eminence. He was the descendant of an ancient Irish family (O'Corra) possessed at one time of considerable property in County Cavan. See Plowden's Hist. Review, i. 322, note. See also Haverty, p. 695, note.
5 Haverty, p. 695. Wyse says that “from the clergy and aristocracy they received nothing but coolness, and sneers, and disappointments.”--Historical Sketch of the Catholic Association, i., p. 49. Dublin, 1829.