Billeder på siden

the new seminaries. But notwithstanding, the evangelical party moved forward with growing determination. In 1822 the

Scripture Readers' Society" was instituted. It contemplated the diffusion of a knowledge of the Word of God among the poor and neglected portion of the population. Towards its foundation Mr. Lefroy-a worthy lawyer of high standing and afterwards Lord Chief Justice-contributed the magnificent sum of £1,000; and Lord Powerscourt, an Irish nobleman deeply interested in the spiritual welfare of his countrymen, added a donation of double that amount.? Most of the charitable and religious agencies, now at work in Ireland, were not identified with the Establishment; and they received very little encouragement from the Protestant hierarchy. Though the Bible Society was based on the most Catholic principles ; though it acknowledged no sectarian distinctions; though it aimed simply at the circulation of the Book of Life ; and though many of the evangelical Episcopal clergy continued to adhere to it; it never was regarded with much favour by the Irish prelates. At length, with one most honourable exception, they withdrew from it altogether. Its very catholicity seems to have rendered it offensive to these Most Reverend and Right Reverend dignitaries. At its public meetings, Protestant ministers of various denominations appeared on

1 In a letter, dated March 31st, 1840, and published in the Family Friend, for December, 1873 (p. 178), the Chief Justice states that, when going on the Munster Circuit in 1822, the appalling extent of crime which he witnessed suggested to him the propriety of establishing this institution. He adds that the Rev. Robert Daly, his uncle Judge Daly, and others, at once raised £4,000. The Rev. Robert Daly was appointed Bishop of Cashel in December, 1842, and died in February, 1872. He was born in County Galway in June, 1783, and was son of the Right Hon. Dennis Daly. Bishop Daly was long prominently connected with the evangelical clergy. His Life has been written by Mrs. H. Maditen. London, 1875.

2 The Scripture Readers' Society for Ireland had in 1873 forty-one readers in its employment, of whom eleven could read or speak Irish.

3 “Some of the bishops went so far in their hostility to the Bible Society as to inhibit any clergyman from preaching in their dioceses who took any part in its proceedings. At a meeting of the Bible Society in the Rotunda, in Dublin, the Rev. Robert Daly (afterwards Bishop of Cashel) compared their opposition

with the conduct of Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Anmonite, and Geshem the Arabian.”Memoir of Bishop Daly, p. 101. "It was now a common saying in the religious world, «Robert Daly against all the bishops, and all the bishops against Robert Daly.'” Ibid.

[ocr errors]

the platform to plead its cause ; among its most active agents were Presbyterians, Methodists, and Independents ; in such company, the rank of the bishops and the position of their church were not, as they thought, duly recognized; and, though they seldom ventured openly to attempt a statement of their objections, they ceased, one after another, to give it their patronage. The good Archbishop of Tuam alone could not be induced to cherish so narrow a spirit. Though not altogether satisfied with some of its arrangements, he continued, to the last, to sustain it by his benefactions.4

There was at this time a prelate of great ability who, for several years, exercised a commanding influence in the Irish Establishment. Dr. William Magee had been a Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin; and had acquired much reputation by a work on the Atonement. In 1819 he was appointed Bishop of Raphoe; and in 1822 he was advanced to the see of Dublin.5 He was a man of wonderful activity, much zeal, and perhaps a little vanity. He had been brought up in narrow circumstances; and when he reached the archiepiscopal throne of the Irish capital, he appears to have been rendered somewhat giddy by the elevation. In his Primary Charge to the Dublin clergy, in October 1822, he unliappily indulged his love of antithesis so far as to give needless offence to all other denominations. “We are hemmed in,” said he to his reverend brethren, "by two opposite descriptions of professing Christians—the one, possessing a Church without what we can call a religion; and the other, a religion without what we can call a Church-the one, so blindly enslaved to a supposed infallible ecclesiastical authority as not to seek in the Word of God a reason for the faith they profess; the other, so confident in the infallibility of their individual judgment, as to the reasons of their faith, that they deem it their duty to resist all authority in matters of religion. We, my brethren, are to keep clear of both extremes; and, holding the Scriptures as our great charter, whilst we maintain the liberty with which Christ has made us free, we are to submit ourselves to the authority to which He has made us subject. From this spirit of tempered freedom and qualified submission, sprung the glorious work of the Reformation, by which the Church of these countries, having thrown off the slough of a slavish superstition, burst forth into the purified form of Christian renovation." 1

1 The Rev. James Carlile, one of the ministers of Mary's Abbey Presbyterian Church, Dublin, was long a secretary of the Society.

2 The Rev. Charles Simeon, of Cambridge, seems to have considered that their antipathy to Evangelical religion had much to do with their opposition. The bugbear in their minds," says he, “is Calvinism, by which they designate all vital religion.”--Memoir of Chief Justice Lefroy, p. 94. Dublin, 1871.

3 Memoir of Lefroy, p. 94 ; Memoir of the last Archbishop of Tuam, p. 461. 4 Memoir of Archbishop of Tuam, p. 502.

6 During the two and a half years he was in Raphoe it was understood that he received £24,000. Dr. Beresford, his immediate predecessor, refused to renew the leases of the tenantry, except on terms which they considered too bigh. Many leases required renewal when Dr. Magee became bishop, and he thus reaped a rich harvest in the way of renewal fines.

6 It is stated in the Life, &c., of Lord Plunket, that Magee's father's family lived at Enniskillen on a pension of £100 per annum, allowed by creditors. Lord Plunket's father resided in the adjoining house. He was a Presbyterian minister. Plunket and Magee often suched the same breast.

As there were only three religious communities of any great importance in the country, the bearing of these observations could not well be misinterpreted. When Dr. Magee spoke "of a religion without what we can call a Church,” he obviously intended to delineate Presbyterianism; and yet such a description of one of the largest denominations in Protestant Christendom was rather more pert than charitable. By the Government which had just appointed him an archbishop, the Church of Scotland was recognized side by side with the Church of England; but the new metropolitan proudly proclaimed that it was no Church at all ! His account of its principles was even worse than a caricature. In the Presbyterian standards, the supreme authority of the Word of God is asserted most emphatically ; whereas, in the congregations over which the archbishop presided, the Apocrypha was read "for example of life and instruction of manners."

Several Presbyterian divines vigorously assailed Dr. Magee's

1 Sce Fitzpatrick, i. 200-1.

Charge;? but the criticism which attracted the largest share of public attention proceeded from another quarter. The new Metropolitan had described Romanism as “a Church without what we can call a religion ;” and whilst thus apparently admitting the validity of its orders, he affirmed that it was something even more degraded than heathenism. The young Prelate of Kildare had been long furbishing his weapons of theological warfare ; and the Protestant archbishop-reputed the most accomplished divine in the Irish Episcopal Church --was the very antagonist he desired. Soon after the appearance of the Charge, he published in the newspapers, under the signature of J. K. L., a voluminous reply; in which, with great subtlety and eloquence, he attacked most of the vulnerable points in the Irish Establishment. Instead of taking his stand on the impregnable foundations of Protestantism, Dr. Magee had planted himself on the essentially popish ground of the so-called apostolical succession ; and he had thus made a mistake of which his adversary knew well low to avail himself. If Protestant ministers once admit that there can be no Church without diocesan bishops who can trace their descent from the apostles, they confess what is historically untrue; and they betray the very citadel of Christianity. If they acknowledge that they derive their title to the pastoral commission from Romish prelates, they virtually surrender their own position. Dr. Doyle maintained that the Protestant bishops were usurpers; and that the apostolic succession could not be transferred to them from the representatives of the Pope. In language of keen irony he reviewed the origin of the Establishment; exposed its intolerance; dilated on its inefficiency; and denounced its pretensions to catholicity. In a new edition of his Charge, Dr. Magee noticed his attack; and J. K. L. promptly responded. The archbishop had staked the credit of Protestantism on a

1 The Rev. Dr. Drummond, a Unitarian minister of Dublin, also published a reply : but, as it was very much a defence of Rationalism, it obtained little circulation beyond the very limited bounds of his own party.

? i.e., James Kildare and Leighlin. These initials were frequently afterwards employed by Dr. Doyle. Under the same signature, he replied in 1827 to another Charge by Archbishop Magee.

salse issue; and the cause of truth was in no way advanced by the discussion.

Meanwhile the promoters of the circulation of the Word of God, and of scriptural education, were not idle. Public meetings were held everywhere for the establishment of branches of the Bible Society, or for the reception of annual reports; and, at such times, the speakers often expatiated with great force on the claims of the inspired records, on the right of all to read the sacred volume, and on the importance of its universal diffusion. These statements were exceedingly grating to the Romish clergy-and to none more than to Bishop Doyle. “I deem,” said he, “the reading of the Scriptures by the weak and ignorant, such as children are, whether with or without comments, an abuse always to be deprecated; but such reading of them in this country, at this time, and in the present circumstances, I consider an abuse filled with danger-not only an evil, but an evil of great magnitude.ı Romanists themselves acknowledge that the

"1 Bible is the Word of Truth ; but the views of Bishop Doyle are so dishonouring to a revelation admittedly from heaven, and so directly opposed to God's own infallible assurances, that they can find currency only among those who are blindly wedded to a system. “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul,” says the King Eternal, testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking

« the

Such are the words of a letter addressed by him to Archbishop Murray, dated 16th September, 1824, in reply to a communication soliciting his advice respecting the Kildare Place system of education. See Fitzpatrick's Doyle, i. 352. In one of his “ Letters on the State of Ireland” Dr. Doyle says :-" I heard of a poor man in the County of Kildare who .. having been favoured by the lady of his master with one of the Society's Bibles, without note or comment, accepted of it with all the reverence which the fear of losing his situation inspired. But, behold, when the night closed, and all danger of detection was removed, he, lest he should be infected with heresy exhaled from the Protestant Bible during his sleep, took it with a tongs, for he would pot defile his touch with it, and buried it in a grave which he had prepared for it in his garden! ...1... do admire the orthodoxy of this Kildare peasant ; nay, I admire it greatly; and should I happen to meet him I shall reward him for his zeal."-Letter, vii. 180, 181. Dublin, 1825. Columbkille or Columbanus would have pronounced a very different verdict on the transaction.

« ForrigeFortsæt »