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that short time, to nearly an hundred.* Is this fact denied ? The evidence of it is indisputable ; is such as would shake the natural but ill-expressed scepticism of Dr. Curtis ; and if questioned by a Shiel or an O'Connell
, would compel even these practised deniers to blush for their temerity.
We would call the attention of our readers to the Cavan expedition of the Roman Catholic Prelate and his suffragans. great deal depended, and it was a species of experimentum crucis as to the sincerity of the conversions and the power of the Church. We looked to it with apprehension; and the Roman Catholics with hope and confidence. We knew what a halo the habits of the religion of the people cast round their clergy; and when every parish priest is invested with a species of divinity, of which neither oppression, nor ignorance, nor immorality, can deprive him, we feared the influence which ancient prejudices, awakened and confirmed by the imposing ceremonies and the awful language of sanctified authority, might have upon minds new to the exercise of freedom of thought, and fresh from absolute submission to the Church of Rome. We were aware, too, that the Roman Catholic Prelates felt the responsibility of their situation—they knew that the eyes of Protestant and Roman Catholic Ireland were upon them that their expedition was regarded as the criterion of Papal stability—and that on its success or failure depended the estimation which the system would in future be found to possess. The solemnity of the mission corresponded with its importance; it was announced with pomp; a complete developement of the mystery of iniquity was promised ; deliberation on the subject suspended in the Association until the result was known; and when the expectations of all were excited, and the hopes of all were roused, the Primate and his attendant Bishops proceeded to Cavan. Now we blame not the Roman Catholic Prelates ; we think they acted but as men placed by accident or circumstances in an embarrassing situation would and ought to have done; they felt the house falling about them, and they looked to the place whence the noise and tumult arose ; they heard the rushing of the waters that were to sink their ecclesiastical galley, and they naturally hastened to discover the leak. We do not blame them as men, for seeking to confirm the power which, in virtue of their church, they possess—but we do blame them for not knowing the signs of the times; for so identifying themselves with the assumptions of a church, against which reason and revelation, the interests of society and the word of God equally exclaim, that, with amazing obliquity of understanding, they mistake the sandy foundation of ignorance for the rock on which the Church is truly founded; and though that bank is slipping gradually from beneath their feet, still fancy it firm and stable. We blame them for that perversion of intellect which would seek to
* While this sheet was passing through the press, we have learned that about fifty in another county have simultaneously, in consequence of a public discussion, deserted the Church of Rome.
exclude the peasantry of Ireland, in 1827, from the free perusal of the book of God in any language in which they can procure it; and to keep the barren sceptre in their own hands, would make common cause with infidelity itself against the Scriptures. For this do we blame the Roman Catholic Prelates and Clergy; and in blaming we must express our astonishment, for assuredly the failure at Cavan might have taught them better. We repeat it, the failure at Cavan! and we appeal to any, whether Roman Catholic or Protestant, whether it was not the most complete failure that ever was witnessed in the annals of ecclesiastical diplomacy. The Roman Catholic Bishops and their Primate went to Cavan, remained there for many days, examined with almost the solemnity of an oath some persons whom they have themselves declared to be low, profligate, and immoral; they performed High Mass; witnessed in their very presence the fruits of Bible-reading, in the conforming of forty-nine persons to the reformed faith ; and then compiled a document which, while it stamps the character of incompetency on the mission, has assuredly no equal for palpable inconsistency, unfounded statement, and unchristian virulence. Such was the result of their mission; they discovered nothing that they could not have resolved on finding in Dr. Murray's back-parlour in Dublin ; they effected nothing which they could not have effected though Dr. Curtis had remained in Drogheda ;-but they proved a great deal ; they proved that they did not understand and could not check the progress of the reformation ;-that by their own shewing, their flocks had so little respect for them, that they were kept out of their own chapel by a crowd assembled to hear a Methodist Preacher ; that even their ingenuity could find no excuse for the astonishing facts better than a system of bribery, which Eldorado itself could not support; and that in the evident perplexity in which they were while drawing up that document, which is only kept by its absurdity from the Limbo* where things forgotten on earth are found, they have suffered themselves to be imposed on by forged names and forged statements, to an extreme to which nothing but an anxious desire to discover facts could have led persons certainly respectable, and probably prudent. But we are not surprised; when there are no facts, and yet that a case must be made out, even honest men find some perplexity; and when we look to the letter to the Protestant Archbishop, said to have been indited by Dr. Curtis on a former occasion, we can trace the same feelings as in the document from Cavan.
But it may be replied to our enthusiastic anticipations, that at the rate of conversions which has taken place, the reformation of Ireland will occupy a period probably not less than the interval to
• In that same “ Limbo large and broad,” if Milton is to be credited, the Prelates' declaration would have found good store of company
“ Cowls, hoods, and habits, with their wearers tost,
Paradise Lost, iii.
the Millennium; and we have heard many grave saws uttered on the occasion, and many sarcastic calculations, emanating from that source of political wisdom, the Roman Catholic Association. Such computations may produce a smile ; but it is a smile at the shallowness of the head and the hardness of the heart that could give them birth or currency.—that could seek to construct an arithmetical formula for the progress of truth, or subject the influence of God's word to the rule-of-three ! such calculators were the High Priests and Pharisees at the period when the ‘Acts of the Apostles? commences, and they, from the 120 who acknowledged the Messiahship of Jesus after three years' preaching, might, with less mathematics than even O'Connell
many years during which their power would remain. The truth is, that there is no more possibility of assigning the progress of conviction, than of calculating that of infection. Besides, it appears to us that the objection is founded upon a wrong estimate of the mode in which God works. The kingdom of heaven is pictured in the Scriptures as seed which is cast into a field, and which, while men sleep, grow they know not how. The progress of vegetation, from first to last, is unknown to them until they see it appearing in its tender green above the surface of the earth. So it is in God's dealings with his kingdom : the seed of the word is scattered abroad; it remains hidden even from the curious eye of the anxious husbandman -but the
process goes forward; the fermentation goes on; the plant takes root downward, and produces fruit upward, and an harvest of believers is produced without human observation. So was it in the Roman empire, when, without attracting human observation, it found itself Christian, and without a struggle the whole train of fabled deities yielded to the purity of the Christian faith. So was it in Germany and England at the time of the Reformation—the work went on, and went on for years, without attracting notice, except where zeal occasionally called down persecution, until the ruling powers found they could no longer prevent the reformation which they feared. So was it more recently in the Islands of the South Seas, where the Missionaries repeatedly, in despair, were on the point of relinquishing their apparently hopeless station, and retiring from their work—when, as it were on a sudden, the fields became white, and Taheite became Christian-and so will it be, we trust, in Ireland The influence is radiating from Protestantism into Popery; it is extending through her dark domains ; the Scriptures are being placed in every man's hand; and in the very numbers that have come over, additional motives will be found for others to follow their example; and the Priest will either be compelled to follow his flock, or he will find himself and his Mass-house deserted by them.* It is not by the numbers that in a given time have
* The historians of the Reformation have remarked the beneficial effects of that great event on the Roman Catholics themselves, both in an amended morality and a greater care in explaining or concealing their dogmas. Something similar has already taken place in Ireland : to say nothing of the pretence of education, if our information may be relied on, a Roman Catholic Clergyman
read their recantation, that we are to estimate the progress of the reformation : Providence has been pleased to give such intimations of its gracious designs, to excite to redoubled vigour and exertion; but they are only symptomatic of these designs : it is to the strengta of the principle, and its capability of reception, and not to the few who have nurtured that principle into the boldness of avowed secession that we are to look with hope ; and if the word of God be indeed “quick and powerful,” and if the Irish peasant has, or will have received it, that word will not return void, but will execute the thing for which it has been sent.
And now, if the view we have given be a just one and that it is an enspiriting one cannot be questioned-if it be a just one, what a distinct, yet what an important line of duty is marked out for all who feel interested in the cause of their fellow-countrymen, whether as to their temporal or spiritual advantage. In this instance, as in all others, they are identified;
;-a degraded faith never fails to produce a lax and anti-social morality, and the natural and necessary produce of that morality is distrust, idleness, and misery. If it be admitted, as it must be by all, that a large-we wonld say the largest portion of the evil felt by the inhabitants of Ireland arises from the pale which a divided religion has erected in our country, and that the best thing, by the confession of all parties, would be an union-a thorough union of Protestant and Roman Catholic in one common worship; and if Protestants can entertain no hesitation as to the form and the faith that should be adopted, to produce and perpetuate morals and peace; if, on casting his eye over Europe, and seeing that the progress of arts, and industry, and liberty has uniformly been commensurate with the progress of Reformation* can a well-wisher of Ireland, hesitate as to the importance of assisting that reformation at home by every fair and honest means in
We say by every fair and honest means—for dearly as we wish to see Ireland Protestant, we would denounce with as much warmth as the veriest brawler at the Association any attempt to influence an individual, except by motives derived from reason and Scripture. To the Church of Rome in the 19th century do we leave persecution ; and would to God that the Church
of rank warned his flock that the end of all things was drawing nigh, and that they should give themselves up much to prayer, and those who possessed the Scriptures to reading. On another occasion, we have heard, the Priest told his flock there was a great change apprehended, and that there was to be no more worshipping of the Virgin, no more invocation of Saints. And the Roman Catholic Primate and his Suffragans were compelled to promise the Roman Catholic inhabitants of Cavan, that they would send down some Clergymen to preach from the Scriptures. Whence had their sermons been previously taken? We rejoice at this : it is a confession of error which cannot fail of doing good ; and if the people read and pray, we can venture to promise they will not be long satisfied with Latin prayers and a denial of private judgment. We have heard that on one occasion a Bible reader, on receiving the wafer, demanded the wine, and so took his pastor by surprise, that he actually gave it to him before the congregation. We would like to know if this statement be accurate.
The line between Protestantism and Popery in Germany is, according to Madame de Staël, most marked.
of Rome deserted it too.* We would say to the landlords, resident or not resident, to all who have property in the country, and more especially to those who have manifested an interest on the subject of the religion or education of Ireland, we would say, assist the cause of the reformation. Let the bold confessors of a purer creed than that of Rome have from you and your's at least that protection which is the right of every British subject, whatever be his faith, but which the ws in this case are unable to afford ; let not the vulgar contempt which is frequently poured upon the conscientious convert, have any support
let it be known that you are a Protestant not in name merely, but in practice; that you rejoice to find any of God's creatures coming out from that unchangeable religion from which your ancestors withdrew: and while
you shrink from contributing by any indirect means even to the reformation—by means derived from worldly motives—still refuse not your countenance, your support, your favour, to the conscientious peasant, who sacrifices his interest, and still more his feelings, for his Redeemer. If convinced of his sincerity, ‘Tres Tyriusve fuit, nullo discrimine habetur,' should be your rule of action : and if you can assist him against the obliquity and persecution of an ignorant populace, and an angry priesthood, you but perform an action of charity as a man-an act of duty as a Protestant. Let the Scriptural school, the active minister, the humble reader—let them have your patronage, your support, your influence; and dispensing even-handed justice in your relation to society, seek to be disenthralled from the shackles of party, unentrammeled by prejudice, and superior to the influence of a factious clamour, from whatever side it may arise. You cannot but feel that while your tenantry and those over whom you should have legitimate influence continue Roman Catholics, that influence is necessarily contracted, and your property but half your own—that through the denunciation of a priest, their affections may be withdrawn, their possessions destroyed, and all your schemes for their prosperity defeated and rendered abortive. Join, then, in sincerity with the üdvocates of the reformation ; and while every individual's conscience should be sacred, and every individual's person protected, be assured that whoever assists the work of religious regeneration that is now proceeding in Ireland, is the best and steadiest friend to the interests of his country.
* The late events in Spain, the re-establishment of the Inquisition, and the persecutions in Piedmont and Hungary, speak trumpet-tongued on this subject : but we have facts nearer home. The refusal of confession to those who during the elections voted against the party of the priests, the denouncing from the altar all who attended Protestant meetings or received the Protestant Scriptures, the practical excommunication which has attended the conversions, and the open violence in some places offered to the converts, declare the opinions of the Church.-See a letter from Michael Quinlan, published in the Limerick Chronicle, in which the writer, who signs his name, declares himself to be a Protestant from conviction, but compelled, by persecution, to return to the Church of Rome. We know not the degree of Christian firmness that is required to undergo the bodily and mental persecution to which the poor are subject on such occasions.