Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

-2

which gentle usage he was strangely successful, convincing many of them of their errors, and bringing them to the knowledge of the truth.” 1

Had the ministers of the Established Church, as a body, followed the example of Ussher, Protestantism would have soon made great progress all over Ireland. The people in many places had not yet acquired that deep antipathy to the reformed faith which various causes have since contributed to produce; though the priests were zealous and far more numerous than the episcopal clergy, they were rapacious and domineering;2 and, though not so much disgraced by open licentiousness as informer days, their example was still far from edifying. But the pious Primate had few imitators. So loud were the complaints as to inefficiency that in April 1630 the King, by the advice of the Committee of the Privy Council, addressed a letter of remonstrance to the four Irish Archbishops. In this communication he roundly asserts that “the clergy were not so careful, as they ought to be, either of God's service, or of the honour of themselves and their profession, in removing all pretences to scandal in their lives and conversation." “There is,” he adds, “a complaint ... that some bishops there [in Ireland], when livings fall vacant in their gift, do either not dispose of them so soon as they ought, but keep the profits in their own hands 3 to the hindrance of God's service, and great offence of good people; or else they give them to young and mean men, which only

i Parr's Life, p. 39 ; qucted by Elrington, p. 109.

2 Bedell states that, when he became Bishop of Kilmore and Ardagh, every parish had its priest; and some, two or three each. The people had to pay “double tithes,” that is, to both the Protestant and the Romish clergy. The friars, by their importunate begging, impoverished the community. They levied collections "three, four, five or six pounds at a sermon.” See Bedell's letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, dated November 1633, in Burnett’s Life, p. 55, and Mant, i. 436.

3 Clogy states that Thomas Moygne, who was Bishop of Kilmore from 1612 to 1629, and who was the immediate predecessor of Bedell, "had set up such a shop of mundination and merchandise, as if all things spiritual and temporal, belonging to episcopacy, had been ordinarily vendible commodities, as in the Church of Rome . . orders and livings sold to those that could pay the greatest fines."Memoir of the Life and Episcopate of Bulell, pp. 34, 35. London, 1862. Clogy was Bedeli's son-in-law.

[ocr errors]

bear the name, reserving the greatest part of the benefice to themselves."1 Under such caretakers Protestantism could not be expected to flourish. No wonder an Irishman is reported at this time to have remarked sarcastically that "the king's priests were as bad as those of the Pope." 2

But though the general condition of Irish Protestantism was most unsatisfactory, there were a few, like Ussher, who were faithfully endeavouring to promote its improvement. Among these William Bedell is entitled to most honourable notice. This great and good man—who was born in Essex in 1570—had for some time acted as chaplain to the English ambassador at Venice. During his residence in that city he became acquainted with Father Paul, the historian of the Council of Trent-a divine who possessed vast influence among his countrymen, and who was regarded as a kind of oracle in their republic. The prudence, sagacity, and profound scholarship of the English chaplain commended him much to his Italian friend, who was, it seems, at one time half inclined to pass over to Protestantism. When Bedell returned to his native land, he was known as a learned and exemplary clergyman; and, on the occurrence of a vacancy in the Provostship of Dublin College in 1627, he was appointed to the office. Two years afterwards he became bishop of the two Sees of Kilmore and Ardagh. Though he had now

1 See this letter in Elrington's Life of Ussher, pp. 106-8. The most remarkable episcopal offender in the way of pluralities was Michael Boyle, Bishop of Waterford and Lismore from 1619 to 1635, who was cousin to the Earl of Cork, and who is said to have been so avaricious that “he would have done anything, or sold any man, for sixpence profit.”—ELRINGTON, p. 107, note.

2 This statement was made by an Irishman in presence of Bedell on a public occasion.-Burnet's Bedell, p. 59.

3 “He was chosen by all the Fellows that had never seen him ; written to by the famous Doctor Ussher, Primate of all Ireland, that bad heard great things of him ; and required by the King to accept the calling.”—Clogy's Memoir, pp. 28.9. London, 1862. Bedell introduced several changes into the College. He was himself a married man; and before bis time the Fellows were not bound to celibacy ; but he induced his colleagues to dopt a law to ihe effect that “no married man should be admitted to be a scholar or a Fellow.” He also caused a statute to be enacted requiring that "an Irish lecture be read publickly in the hall.” In his time whipping was part of the College discipline. See his Life by Dr. H. J. Monck Mason, pp. 147, 149, 161, 164. Landon, 1843.

;

reached the age of fifty-nine, he addressed himself, with extraordinary zeal and diligence, to the performance of his episcopal duties. He very soon turned his attention to the character of the papal pastors within his dioceses; and, notwithstanding the fierce antipathy to Protestantism which they manifested, he found them very ignorant, and not a few of them wallowing in impurity. But, believing that if the truth of the gospel was to make any considerable progress in Ireland, it must be propagated by those who already had influence with the people, he sought to promote the conversion of the most intelligent of the priests; and he was wonderfully successful in persuading them to embrace the cause of the Reformation. They had never before seen such a specimen of enlightened godliness--for his piety was a commentary on his teaching; and they could not well resist the combined influence of his life and doctrine. Some of the Protestants were exceedingly dissatisfied when he bestowed Church livings on a number of the converts—as they could not believe them sincere; but subsequent events proved that he had not misplaced his confidence. When rebellion broke out, and when powerful inducements were presented to them to return to Popery, all, with a single exception, remained steadfast in their attachment to Protestantism.2

1 “By his lenity and moderation many priests and friars that were still brought in [to his episcopal court] for fornication or adultery, were prevailed with to renounce their uncleanness, and to have good thoughts of the reformed religion, that had appointed unto mankind an antidote against all filthiness of flesh and spirit, by holy and honourable marriage, as the bishop often told them in court; and several of them were converted from Popery and did marry.”--Clogy's Memoir, p. 86. Though the Irish priests had been gradually improving since the time of the R-formation, an intelligent and pious contemporary speaks of them at this time as “generally ignorant dolts living in whoredom and drunkenvess.”-ADAIR'S Narrative, p. 27.

• Burnet's Bedell, pp. 90, 91. “There was a learned friar, called Daniel O'Creane, on whom the bishop had bestowed a good living, there not being one Protestant in the whole parish ; he married the daughter of Captain Perkins, and did much good, and did turn many away from Popish iniquity, and did not fall away upon the Rebellion, as many hypocrites and false converts did ; but stood man'ully against all violence and spoil and terror, and escaped to Dublin at length, naked and bare ; and the first money that God sent him he laid out for an English Bible, as I did see - when he had no place where to lay his head,

Bedell assumed no airs of superiority in his intercourse with his clergy. He was wont to address them as his brethren and his fellow-presbyters; he examined candidates for the ministry in their presence; and, without their approbation, he would not proceed to ordination. Finding that the interests of religion had been grievously damaged by pluralities, he endeavoured to inaugurate a reform; and he commenced the work by voluntarily resigning the See of Ardagh.2 By thus deliberately surrendering a considerable portion of his own revenues, he demonstrated his consistency and self-denial; and made such an impression on the minds of his clergy that they followed his example. Each of them was henceforth satisfied with a single parish. Bedell preached constantly twice every Lord's day in his cathedral, and always catechised in the afternoon before sermon. “His voice," says his biographer, "was low and mournful; but, as his matter was excellent, so there was a gravity in his looks that struck his auditors." 5

The New Testament had already appeared in the vernacular tongue : 8 but the Bishop was most desirous to provide the people with the whole Bible in Irish. He engaged one of the best native scholars in the country to undertake the work; and so deeply was he interested in its execution, that, at the age of sixty, he commenced to learn the language himselfhoping to be able to render some assistance in the way of revision. “Always after dinner or supper he read over a chapter; and, as he compared the Irish translation with the English, so he compared the English with the Hebrew and the seventy (Greek] interpreters, or with Diodati's Italian version—which he valued highly.” He was not, however, permitted to proceed without disturbance in this noble undertaking. Romanists, of course, looked on it with aversion; but, strange to say, some of his own brethren stirred up opposition. Archbishop Laud, then in the zenith of his power, regarded it with dissavour; and prevailed on the Irish Viceroy to concur with him in his views. The translator, on frivolous grounds, was subjected to annoyance and persecution; and the work, when finished, remained long in manuscript.3 About half a century afterwards it appeared in print—the pious and patriotic Robert Boyle having then undertaken the expense of its publication.

nor relief for his body, but eleemosynary.”—Clogy's Memoir, p. 97. The only clerical apostate was a wretch named Brady, who himself perished in the Rebellion.-Ibid. p. 98.

1 Burnet's Belell, pp. 38, 56. Clogy adds :-“ He observed not .... bow. ing at the word or name of Jesus, bowing to the communion-table . and towards the east and such like, all founded on ignorance and superstition.

He desired no instrumental music in his cathedral—as organs or the like-no more than in other parochial churches, but vocal and spiritual singing.”Memoir, pp. 139, 140.

? He obtained, as his successor in Ardagh, John Richardson, a man of kindred spirit. “He (Richardson) was peculiar for a very grave countenance and his being extraordinary Textuary." He left Ireland on the eve of the Rebellion, and died at London in 1654. He published Observations and Explanations on the Old Testament, by way of Addition to the Annotations of the Assembly of Divines. Cotton's Fasti, iii. 184.

3 Burnet's Bedell, p. 39.

4 Ibid. p. 113.

6 lbił.

For an

6 See before, vol. i., p. 406. Bedell published an Irish Ca:echism. account of it see Cotton's Fasti, iii. 162.

When Ussher and Bedell were labouring, in the spirit of true evangelists, to disseminate a knowledge of the gospel in Ireland, others in the northern province were employed with equal assiduity and success in the same service. Colonists from Scotland had now taken possession of a large portion of the waste lands in Down and Antrim, and had happily been placed under the care of pastors of eminent ability. These Presbyterian ministers were men of a very different class from the mass of the episcopal clergy around them : most of them were gentlemen by birth; some of them were scions of noble

i Burnet's Bedell, p. 93. The native Irishman, employed to make the Irish version, tran-lated from the English Bible ; and hence it was that Bedell was obliged to revise his translation as described in the text.

o Burnet's Bedell, pp. 101, 102.

3 Bedeli is said to have committed his version to the care of Sheridan, a converted priest, who became a Protestant minister in his diocese. The manuscript was handed over by Sheridan to Dr. Henry Jones, Protestant Bishop of Meath, who communicated the fact to Mr. Boyle, and sugges'ed its publication. Brief Sketch of Various Attempts 10 Diffuse a Knowledge of the Scriptures through the Medium of the Irish Language, p. 21. Dublin, 1818.

4 Mr. Boyle expended £700 on this object. See Clogy's Memoir, p. 125, note.

5 Edward Brice was brother to the Laird of Airth; Robert Blair and others were also gentlemen by birth. See Burke's Landed Gentry. Art. Bruce of Scoutbush and Kilroot."

« ForrigeFortsæt »