Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

for mortuary masses. Doctrines are frequently advanced on these occasions prompted by cupidity—not very consonant to reason or the Scriptures; and the congregation is led into error in order to replenish the coffers of the priest. The love of filthy lucre has done much mischief of this kind in the church. Is not the present dependent state of the priesthood in question, a stimulus to these extravagancies and abuses ?

“Other bad consequences regarding the clergy themselves, arise out of the present system of church support. Many among them are constantly endeavouring to overreach and undermine one another. Every man of this description looks to his own private emolument, regardless of all covenants or agreements expressed or implied. The curate does not make a fair return to the parish priest; nor the parish priest, perhaps, to the curate; nor the curates, where a number is associated, to one another. Every man gets in what he can; and seems to think that he would be justified in appropriating the entire to himself. But this he cannot do; for he must make some return of his receipts; and this he does—but it is an arbitrary return, maimed, docked, curtailed. There is no lack of refined casuistry in this matter. The curate says he labours more than the parish priest; and therefore that he is entitled to more than his allotted proportion of the dues. The parish priest, perhaps, will say that the curate is too well paid, and that he himself should have a larger dividend; and where there are several curates together, one will say that he is the senior, and that he should not be placed on a level with the others. Sometimes they assign a sweeping reason for this clandestine abstraction of the common revenue-namely, that the dues being in themselves indeterminate and a sort of arbitrary exaction, they are at liberty to make an arbitrary return. The consequence of all this is, that church revenue has become a mere scramble-every man striving to seize upon a larger share, and deciding for himself in the appropriation. This is a bad state of things ; it is a shameful state of clerical demoralization. Common honesty is out of the question. Nothing but lies, schemes, duplicity, false returns ; so that the simple and the honest become the prey of the cunning and the crafty. Does not this system of clerical dishonesty strike at the root of public morals ? The morals of the pastor must have an influence on the morals of the flock. Will a priest who has no regard to the sacred rites of property, be earnest in exhorting the people to the practice of justice and fair-dealing? Or will not the contagion of his example stimulate the evil propensities of human nature, and spread infection among the whole flock? Away then with a system, which leads to all these destructive consequences -a system which degrades religion, and tends directly to demoralise both the pastor and the congregation."*

Such a system is indeed fraught with mischief, and every friend of the country must wish its speedy termination. Hence the desire of our statesmen to see the priests in the pay of the nation. This the Roman Catholic prelates have declined to accept. Some with vast simplicity suppose that their resolutions are like the laws of the Medes and Persians, unalterable. But it is no such thing. Let the reader be assured, that the flexible and elastic qualities of consciences guided by the infallibility of Rome, are prodigious.

Forty-five years ago it was admitted by the Irish prelates, “ That a

* Rev. D. O. Croly's Essay on Ecclesiastical Finance, as regards the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland. 12mo. Cork, 1834.

[blocks in formation]

provision for the Roman Catholic clergy of this kingdom, competent and secured, ought to be thankfully accepted." The necessity of such a provision has fearfully augmented since then, as the following intelligible extract from Mr. Croly's Essay, himself a parish priest, will show :

" It is a question, whether, notwithstanding the increase of church dues, the amount of church revenues be more than what is reasonable. The fact is, that even the priest who exacts most has not an extraordinary income. Scarcely any parish yields four hundred per annum; and many a parish does not yield one-third of that sum. In general, priests are in debt, for two very substantial reasons—the scantiness of their incomes, and the necessary expenses of their establishments. In former times, the Catholic clergy lived in the most homely style. In their dress, their manners, their dwellings, their tables, they stood little higher than the common farmers. With a few exceptions they had no idea whatever of high life; of being clothed in purple and fine linen, and faring sumptuously every day. They needed not, therefore, such an amount of revenue as is necessary for the more consequential and more expensive clergy of the present times. The state of Catholic society and of the Catholic church of Ireland is considerably altered. The humility or the obscurity of former times, has entirely disappeared, and is forgotten. The country priest now copes with the country squire, keeps sporting dogs, controls elections, presides at political clubs, and sits' cheek by jowl' at public dinners and public assemblies, with peers of the land and members of parliament. Would the former humble standard of church revenues be adequate to the expenditure of men of this aspiring and consequential description ? The extraordinary exactions, therefore, that are so much complained of, are the necessary consequence of the extraordinary change of circumstances; and if the people, in their savage obstinacy, refuse compliance, what follows, but that the present system of finance being unsuited to the times, yet still espoused by the inconsiderate multitude, the matter should be taken entirely out of their hands, and a new system substituted, which would be fully adapted to meet the alteration that has taken place in the religious and political world? It may be right to observe, that in the present defective state of things, the rich catholics contribute in general but little to the support of their clergy. They pay nothing in proportion to their rank and means. They are extremely deficient in this respect; so that the whole burden of the priesthood, as to their support, rests, it may be said, on the shoulders of the poor industrious, labouring classes. There might be some honourable exceptions ; but the general proposition is true. In fact the great folk among the Irish Catholics, keep aloof from the priests, and seem to care very little whether they are in comfortable circumstances or otherwise--whether it is that they do not believe in the religion they profess, or that, in the excess of their foppishness, they imagine it is administered by very contemptible personages. However this may be, their refusal or their negligence in the matter of church contribution, is a very serious omission, and affords a powerful argument for a change in the present preposterous system of church finance."

With these facts in view, nothing, we conceive, can lead these gentlemen to decline parliamentary grants, but the hope that the church lands may be eventually restored to them; an acquisition they doubtless think worth waiting for.

Mr. O'Connell himself, with all his love of the voluntary system, is reported to have said at a repeal meeting, held at the Crown and Anchor Tavern, London, Friday, May 14, 1841,—“He would be satisfied for the present, if the English reformers would give them (the Roman Catholics) what they gave the Protestants of England. The Episcopalians had the temporalities in England, because they were the majority. The Presbyterians of Scotland bad the temporalities of Scotland, for the same reason ; and why should not the Roman Catholics have them in Ireland ?”* Popery established in Ireland ! What Protestant can think of it without horror? yet the course of events too plainly indicates that that consummation will be attained, unless the Protestants of the empire speedily consent to have no church establishment at all.

There is, indeed, a noble band of true-hearted ministers of Christ in the church of Ireland, whom we greatly love for the truth's sake. But they are in a false position-shut up by episcopal authority in their own desolate parishes, and loathed by the Irish peasantry around them, in spite of their abounding self-denial and liberality, as the heretical hirelings of a parliamentary church.

These are the exceptions.—What the real state of that church is, Archdeacon Glover, confessedly an unexceptionable witness, will tell :

“The established church of Ireland is an anomaly to which the whole Christian world supplies no parallel ; unions of eight or ten, or even more parishes consolidated to make up one rich living, that living without either church or manse, or Protestant congregation, its incumbent enjoying, through a tithe-agent, its large emoluments, and those emoluments wrung from a population who never behold the face of their minister, or hear from his lips one word of exhortation. In every other part of his dominions his majesty accepts and acknowledges as the established faith that form of worship which is most agreeable to the consciences of the great majority of his subjects. He accepts and acknowledges Presbyterianism in Scotland and Catholicism in Canada, and exercises the greatest caution in interfering with even the debasing and cruel superstitions of the Mahomedan or Hindoo in India. But in Ireland we are not content to force upon her an establishment which is the hereditary aversion of six-sevenths of her inhabitants, but we persevere in presenting this establishment to her view under the most forbidding and repulsive form.

“ If conversion be our object, can any means more unlikely be adopted; can any project be marked by a more signal failure? Has not the present system been pursued long enough to answer every purpose of experiment? It has gone on for about three hundred years; and that wretched country, so far from becoming more Protestant or more reconciled to their yoke of spiritual bondage, has gone on in one unvaried course discontent, rebellion, and bloodshed—a burden instead of a benefit to Great Britain ; and that Gospel which should have been the harbinger of peace, has been used as the source and watchword of the most savage barbarities and the most relentless discord. If the experiment of controlling the conscience by brute force, or overawing it by a splendid and gorgeous hierarchy, although in support of truth, could be justified by any testimony of its utility, it might then be some reason why we should not abandon it as hopeless ; but the very contrary, not

* Globe, Saturday, May 15th, 1841.

to repeat what I have urged already, is the notorious and admitted fact; and why then invite me to co-operate in urging on this course still further ?"*

Is it then wise to stand by such an establishment as this, and to continue to uphold churches and parsonages at the expense of the nation, when they and their endowments may be transferred by one of the first votes of the Irish parliament to the occupancy of their parish priests? On the invasion of Russia the legions of Napoleon pushed on towards Moscow in the hope of finding winter quarters there ;

but venerable as was their ancient capital, and sacred as were many of its associations, yet the Russians nobly devoted it to the flames, rather than permit their most inveterate foes to find within its walls, a shelter and a defence. We entreat our brethren who are anxious to maintain the framework of a Protestant establishment in Ireland, to take heed lest they preserve it to become the citadel of popery in the British empire. Oppressed as we have seen they are, by their own greedy priests, the zeal of the poor Irish Catholics contributed in 1841 more than £8000 for “the propagation of the faith ;" and the annual amount has much increased since then. They have also recently set up “the Catholic Missionary College of All Hallows, Drumcondra," within half a mile of the city of Dublin, which is capable of accommodating between two and three hundred students. If under the heavy pressure of a system of priestly exactions such as we have described they do so much, what will they not attempt when by parliamentary grants of money, or by the transfer of church property, they are relieved from the support of their clergy? The ghostly terrors that now extort such amounts, would be still used to obtain support for popish missions to all parts of the British empire. Then we shall be

“ Smother'd in the stench and fog
Of Tiber's marshes and the papal bog.
Their priests with bulls, and briefs, and shaven crowns,
And griping fists and unrelenting frowns,
Legates and delegates, and powers from hell,
Though heavenly in pretence, will fleece us well.

[blocks in formation]

That our country may escape from such a plague, is our hope and prayer. But the union of all sincere Protestants is essential to its safety. As Congregational Christians, our principles alike forbid the use of state power to repress the advocates of a false religion, and the employment of state property to advance the true. We cannot, therefore, be parties to oppression or wrong even against those whose principles and polity we most abbor. Let our Episcopalian, Presbyterian, and Wesleyan brethren, then, cease to advocate Protestant ascendency in Ireland, which in our consciences we believe to be Protestant tyranny and oppression. Let them trust alone to weapons of celestial temper, brought from the armoury of heavenly truth : these "are not carnal, but spiritual, and mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.” Let them, we say, only use these, and our churches will join in the holy war against papal error and vice, and though under another banner, will fight side by side with them, till the real triumph of the Protestant Reformation shall be achieved. But if they still cling to an arm of flesh, let them remember who hath said, “All they that take the sword, shall perish by the sword.”

* Letter to Dr. Pellew, Dean of Norwich, 1835.

TIME AND TRUTH; OR HINTS FOR THE NEW YEAR.

ANOTHER year hath come, and with it have come privileges, responsibilities, cares, and mercies without number. The flight of time is rapid and continuous, but the departure of months and of moments, is instructive. Lessons are inculcated by the shifting seasons, which all wise men learn and practise ; and the laws of God in the natural world, as they evolve, present those views of human life which confirm the truth of Divine revelation, and teach us the importance of “ living by the faith of the Son of God, who loved us, and gave himself for us." The Bible throws light on every object which it is desirable we should contemplate; and he who would walk safely and in peace, must guide his course by the warnings and admonitions of the statute-book of the great King. Neither the heavens, with their wonders, nor the earth, with its fruits, can teach the creature the true knowledge of the Creator and of the Saviour. The world by wisdom knew not God ;" so that to be wise unto salvation, we must learn of those holy men whose writings are acknowledged to be inspired-for “they spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost ;” we must be enlightened with the light of life ; our reason must be consecrated and sanctified at the altar of revelation; and we must be instructed by Him who, though “ Lord of all,” was “meek and lowly in heart.” The elements of scriptural knowledge are attained only by the humble and the docile ; but when the mind and heart are imbued with the sentiments and spirit of saving truth, these elements become principles of faith and of action ; which principles, again, result in habits of hope and obedience. Blessed is the man whom God teaches out of his law !

« AnteriorContinuar »