« ForrigeFortsæt »
adverse to the granting of additional privileges, deemed it prudent to give way. In April, 1829, the Roman Catholic Relief bill became law; and thus, after a fierce and protracted contest, the members of the Church of Rome were placed on a level, as to political advantages, with the rest of their countrymen. They were now qualified to sit in Parliament, to act as judges and privy councillors, and to hold all other posts of emolument and dignity, with the exception of a very few of the highest offices of the State.1
Appended to the Act, were several clauses designed to calm the fears of Protestants, or obviate some difficulties which might arise from its concessions. No Roman Catholic priest was to be qualified to sit in the House of Commons; and no Jesuit, not already in the country, was to be at liberty to enter it without special permission. Every Roman Catholic returned to Parliament was obliged, before admission, to take an oath resembling that imposed by the Act of 17932 on the Roman Catholic freeholder, before he could exercise the elective franchise. The form of this oath, which was embodied in the Act itself, contains among others, the following declarations: “I, A. B. . . . do declare that I do not believe that the Pope of Rome or any other foreign Prince, Prelate, Person, State, or Potentate, hath or ought to have any temporal or civil jurisdiction, power, superiority, or pre-eminence, directly or indirectly, within this realm. . . . And I do hereby disclaim, disavow, and solemnly abjure, any intention to subvert the present Church Establishment as settled by law within this realm ; and I do solemnly swear that I never will exercise any privilege to which I am, or may become, entitled, to disturb or
son of an Irish refugee, was intended for the invision of Ireland had emancipation continued to have been withheld."-Life of Dr. Doyle, ii., p. 5. This organizing of soldiers was an odd employment for one who prosessed to be a Christian bishop.
1 The Act is the roth of George IV., chap. vii. According to the Act, a Roman Catholic cannot be Guardian or Regent of the United Kingdom, or Lord High Chancellor, or Lord Commissioner of the Greal Seal of Great Britain and Ireland, or Lord Lieutenant or Lord Deputy of Ireland, or Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. ? See before, p. 346 of this volume. VOL. II.
weaken the Protestant religion or Protestant government in the United Kingdom."!
A scrupulous Romanist might refuse this oath, and thus exclude himself from Parliament ; but anyone prepared to take it was in no danger whatever, should he immediately afterwards ignore its obligations. The Act laid down no rule by which a breach of the oath could be defined, and annexed no penalty to its violation. As a safeguard to maintain the ascendency of Protestant Episcopacy, the oath was practically useless. Those, who by this door found their way into Parliament, soon discovered how much credit was to be attached to their asseverations, when they “solemnly abjured any intention to subvert the present Church Establishment."
i It is now no longer necessary for R. C. members of Parliament to take this oath. That part of the roth of George IV., chap vii., requiring it was repealed in 1867 by the 30th and 31st of Victoria, chap. lxxv. s. 5.
? In a debate which took place in the House of Commons on the Irish Tithe Bill, on the 16th of April, 1832, when the Irish R. C. members were reminded of this oath, one of them coolly replied :-"You must permit us to be the auditors of our own accounts.” See a full and authentic Report of all the Debates on the Irish Tithe Question in the last Session of Parliament, pp. 123, 124, 125. Dublin, 1833
FROM THE PASSING OF THE ACT ADMITTING ROMAN
CATHOLICS TO PARLIAMENT TO THE ACCESSION OF QUEEN VICTORIA, A.D. 1829 TO A.D. 1837.
WHEN the question of Roman Catholic emancipation was provoking such keen discussion in political circles, Irish Presbyterians were engaged in a controversy of a quite different character, which created intense excitement. In days of spiritual declension, the Synod of Ulster had not been sufficiently careful in requiring from all admitted into the ministry a declaration of adherence to the doctrine of its formularies. Error had thus silently crept into some of its pulpits and congregations. The errorists at length began openly to broach their sentiments, and to insist on maintaining a recognized position. The effort for their expulsion convulsed the whole Presbyterian community.
This controversy originated under somewhat peculiar circumstances. Among the witnesses examined in 1825, before the Parliamentary Committees appointed to inquire into the state of Ireland, was the moderator of the Synod of Ulster. The divine who then happened to fill that office was a remarkable man-the Rev. Henry Cooke of Killileagh, afterwards better known as the minister of May Street Church, Belfast. During the course of his examination he was interrogated on
1 Until 1817 Arians were in danger of incurring certain legal penalties if they ventured openly to proclaim their views. In that year an Act was passed "to relieve persons impugning the doctrine of the Holy Trinity from certain penalties in Ireland.” It is the 57th of George III., chap. lxx.
various subjects relating to the denomination of which he was the representative. He was thus led to give evidence in reference to ministerial education. In the beginning of the century, most of the Irish Presbyterian pastors had been trained at the University of Glasgow : but in 1815 a seminary known as the Belfast Academical Institution—including both a collegiate and a school department—had been opened in the metropolis of Ulster. It had enjoyed a Parliamentary grant; and attendance on its collegiate classes had been sanctioned by the Irish Presbyterian Synods. The professors were selected by a board of managers and visitors, some of whom were Arians; and one or two gentlemen of heterodox sentiments had been recently chosen to fill Academic chairs. Mr. Cooke had in consequence stated publicly that young men, intended to occupy the pulpits of the Synod of Ulster, could not now be safely educated in such an establishment; and this avowal had exposed him to no little obloquy. The parliamentary grant to the institution had been withdrawn soon after it was given, on the ground of the suspected disloyalty of some of the managers and teachers : but vigorous efforts had been made for its recovery ; and, with a view to induce Government to consent to its restoration, the claims of the seminary were brought under the notice of the Parliamentary Commissioners. Mr. Cocke was therefore called on to explain and vindicate his reasons for dissatisfaction. When required, at the same time, to state what were the theological principles of the members of the Synod of Ulster, he announced his conviction that, of two hundred ministers, about thirty-five were Arians. The Rev. William Porter, the Clerk of the Synod, was also summoned to give evidence; and, when examined on the same subject, he acknowledged that he was an Arian himself, and expressed his belief that his sentiments were gaining ground among his brethren.
The Synod of Ulster still professed a Calvinistic creed, the Westminster Confession of Faith but, for many years past, subscription to it had not been rigorously enforced ; and, in a number of presbyteries, had been permitted to fall entirely into abeyance. Lax principles had thus advanced unchallenged; but the heterodox ministers had rarely ventured to declare themselves; as the mass of the people still adhered to the faith of their fathers. It was not strange, therefore, that the evidence before the Parliamentary Committees—when published early in 1827-produced a considerable sensation, Many northern Presbyterians were indignant, when informed that the Clerk of the General Synod of Ulster had avowed himself an Arian. The declaration of the Moderator that, according to his estimate, there were thirty-five Arians in the body, was anything but reassuring. It eventually appeared that he had overrated the numbers of the errorists; and suspicion now rested on some who subsequently avowed their belief in the Divinity of the Saviour. Meanwhile the public mind was much excited ; and the annual meeting of Synod in June, 1827, was awaited with no little anxiety.
1 In 1829 another unsatisfactory appointment was made ; and the Prestyterian Church withdrew its students from the class of the new professor. In 1849 when the Belfast Queen's College came into operation—the Academical Institution ceased to be a collegiate seminary. It is now a high-class school surnished with a board of accomplished teachers.
Mr. Cooke was already recognized among the Presbyterians of the north as the great champion of orthodoxy. In 1821 he had acquired much credit by the promptitude and success with which he replied to the arguments of the Rev. J. Smithurst, a Unitarian Missionary from England; and, for years, he had been known as an evangelical preacher of uncommon popularity. The anomalous condition of the Synod -with a Calvinistic creed and a number of Arian ministers in its communion—had much engaged his thoughts; and though at first he did not well see his way to the solution of the difficulty, he was bent on ecclesiastical reform. Notwithstanding the assertion of Mr. Porter the clerk, he was aware that the number of Arian ministers was diminishing; and, by effectually closing the door against heterodox candidates for licence and ordination, he hoped that the purgation of the body could be gradually accomplished. With a design, however, to test the accuracy of Mr. Porter's cvidence, he moved, at the meeting of Synod in Strabane in 1827, that the members, "for the purpose of affording a public testimony to the truth, as well as of vindicating their religious character as