« PoprzedniaDalej »
many pounds are extracted from that province to feed the rapacity or prodigality of absentees as elsewhere; the land is subjected to subdivision there as minute as in other parts of the land, and the people are of course, as unable to do the soil full justice, as in the most fertile and most neglected parts of Ireland ; in short, we know not any of the causes, population included, that have borne the blame of Ireland's evits and Ireland's degradation, that is not apparently as effective to do mischief there as elsewhere in the country; but there the strength of these evils is paralysed, their magnitude is diminished, and the opposing energy of religion, though it cannot altogether neutralise their evil tendencies, or convert them into good, has stripped them of much that is deliterious, much that is mischievous. The real distinction between the different parts of Ireland must be, is too obvious to require disclosure—it is religion ; the one portion is Protestant, the other is Popish; and with Protestantism, there is a pervading intelligence and feeling, an intellectual energy and power, that derives strength even from difficulties, and will not submit to be mastered by the restraints that would seem to limit improvement. Enquiry is the peculiarity of one party, as submission is of the other, and the effects arising from enquiry, the stimulus given to the mental and physical faculties, the honest ambition and desire of progress, are as conspicuous in the industry, decency, general sobriety and good conduct, that mark the small farmer and small manufacturer in the North, as is the contented acquiescence in dirt and poverty, in the mud-cabin, and the miserable fare, that distinguishes the votary of Rome in the South.Let it not be said that manufactories are the source of the dissimi. larity, for they are the effect not the cause; let it not be said that national character has the blame, for if there be a diversity it is in favour, we would say, of the Southern both in acuteness and energy, and the advantageous part of this character, is itself the result of the very system of religion we would recommend :-oh, there is no passage of sacred writ more certainly fulfilled in all its fullness, or more energetic in all its sanctions, than that which attaches to true religion, “the promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come.
But let us see how this same system, from whose influence we would rescue our countrymen, operates to produce the social and civil evils, which after all send forth the voice that calls for redress. It requires a spiritual mind to appreciate spiritual evils, and a people, if prosperous in their external circumstances, would be suffered to go on "perishing for lack of knowledge,” however deeply sunk in ignorance and
superstition, without one remedy being applied to meet their spiritual and intellectual evils. But providence in mercy, has almost uniformly connected religious and moral error with social and civil degradation, and that which is imperceptible to the vulgar sense of vulgar legislation becomes palpable, when it shews itself in insubordination, idleness and poverty. To go over the catalogue of consequences directly deducible from the errors of Popery, would be to involve our readers in a most awful and gloomy detail, but we cannot spare them a few specimens of the immediate connexion between sound morals and just principles of religion. What a fertile source of evil is the situation claimed and maintained by the Roman Catholic priest!-Not merely the minister but the agent and substitute of God, the infallible interpreter of his word, and the sacred promulgator of his will.--When the peasant hears his fiat, he hears the immutable decree of the Church, and that Church incapable of error. However schoolmen and divines may dispute, as to the nature and essence of the Church, or the portion of it that can claim infallibility, the peasant knows that Church but in his priest, and her decrees but in his dicta, and her infallibility but in his assumption ; his priest is to him Pope, and Council, and Church, yea beyond all, his priest is to him as his God. And what is the result? the most slavish submission joined to the most pertinacious turbulence, and the timidity that feels and shrinks from spiritual despotism, associated with the most systematic evasion, whenever evasion can be employed. Let man interfere between God and his fellow-man, let the honour and submission due to him who knoweth the thoughts of the heart be transferred to one who possesses not the preroga. tive of omniscience, and the votary is at once handed over to all the artifices by which submission is evaded, and despotism despoiled of some of its power. It is a sad confession to make, but we fear it is a true one, that the Irish peasantry does not possess the virtue of truth, and we own that we ascribe it entirely to the noxious influence of that priestcraft under which they live, producing the same effect here that Braminical despotism does in India, and altering the very character of the individuals who are its votaries and victims. Nor is this all ; taught to regard the priest as the depository and agent of God, and re. verencing him who can at will “ create God and hold him between his fingers,'
,'** who can admit into the Church and exclude from it, and who holds the keys of heaven and hell, and what the peasant dreads still more, of Purgatory ; when he sees certain offences invariably marked out as heinous, while others are passed over unnoticed ; that the denial of the dues, the refusal to pay Catholic rent, the reception of the Bible, or the frequenting Bible sehools, call down priestly indignation, and through that agency the wrath of God,f while the profligacy that spends the weeks earnings in the public-house, the insubordination that listens to the oath of rebellion, the party spirit that mingles the midnight foray, or the noon-day broil; these things are never visited by the curse or the excommunication, or the denial of the sacraments: while the sagacious and acute peasant sees and feels these things, is he not prepared to regard them as crimes only, because they are discovered, and to engage in their perpetration with a dis
* The blasphemous language of the Clare Priests. + It is an awful fact, that during the late calamitous fever in Powerscourt parish, the Roman Catholic curate rode about exulting, and declaring that it was a visitation of God upon the people, because they sent their children to Bible schools.
regard to their real character. To this awful result too, how fatally do the recognised 'doctrines of the Romish Church lead ;--when the very nature of sin itself is subject to the scrutiny of the priest, and the distinction of sins into mortal and venial, prepares the ignorant peasant for mischief of every kind. Sin he is not taught is in its own essence hateful to God, or “the abominable thing that he detests;" for there are sins that cannot break charity between man and man, and therefore not between man and God, and therefore these things, in which trifling thefts, and angry words, and acts of intoxication are included, may be practised, because not displeasing to God; and the unhappy victim of crime, begins by such delusion, becomes habituated and hardened in guilt, and finds there is but a step from the venial sin which he may commit, to the mortal sin from which he may be absolved, and he takes that step and perishes, and his death and ruin, temporal and eternal, lie at the door of that Church, which first taught him that sin was not an offence in the sight of God. Can we wonder that with babits thus commenced under the sanction of the Church, with the principle of truth stiffed in the very birth, and the hope of atoning for sin, even mortal sin, by abstinence and heartless repetition of prayers, with a fear only of breaking the commandments of the Church, and an ignorance or a neglect of the commandments of God, and an indifference to their violation, because a similar indifference is manifested by his spiritual director, can we wonder that the peasant is remarkable for indolence and insubordination, for evasion and falsehood, for a neglect of the laws of God, and an audacious contempt for those of the land ? and are we wrong in saying that these results are the almost necessary consequences of the influence of a system, from which he is not allowed to disengage himself, and which uses the terrors of the next world as the cementing principle of its power in this.
Nor need we wonder that the effect of this system and its acts extends beyond the lower orders, and that the causes to which so much of its baleful power is owing, should receive permanence and stability at its hands. How can a landlord live in Ireland, when he must hold his comfort and his influence from the hands of the priest, when to him he must look for the enjoyment of his property, and the power of benefiting his tenantry. The landlord come to the possession of his estate, returns from an English University, or Continental travel, with a mind enlarged by experience, but not trained into submission, and with perhaps an anxious and zealous desire of improving the condition of his dependants. He returns with his imagination full of benevolent schemes, and his only solicitude perhaps to abridge the time necessary for reducing his plans to practice. He soon finds that his means of doing good are limited by the influence of the priest, that if hesurrenders up to him all his ability and power of usefulness, he may be permitted under his direction to assist the wants of his tenantry, and have the popularity absorbed by the ecclesiastic, but if he presume to think or act as a free agent, he is met by repulsion and opposition, and is counteracted in all his plans. While the priest is his almoner, and his
bounty runs in the channels pleasing to the Church, then it is permitted to visit the people : but if the landlord happen to read his Bible and wish to give the people a knowledge of its contents, he must brave the indignation of the clergy, if he or his wife establish a scriptural school, he must be prepared to endure the consequences of a denunciation from the altar.
Thus the landlord is controled by his parish priest, contrary to the dictates of his conscience, and the peace of his family is absolutely at the mercy of the lawless ruffian incendiary. The confessional of the priest is higher than the tribunal of ihe judge, or the sovereign's throne ; and while no denunciations from that dreaded seat strike the illegal combination or the murderous violence, no resident can be supposed to be safe whose protection is not guaranteed by ecclesiastical support. Nay, let but an individual peasant be irritated, and what is to prevent bim terrifying a family by affixing an ill-written scrawl to his landlord's gate, signed by the dreaded name of Captain Rock, and threatening mischief to the inhabitants except they retire from the soil ? In truth, a love for the peasantry, and an anxiety to do them good, must be much stronger than we fear it is in most minds, if it can resist the natural disinclination to submit to the vulgar and designing despotism of a man, who wields but for the interest of a party the power he is accidentally possessed of, and whose objects are opposed to the principles and conscience of his superiors. To
oppose without effect such power, or to witness in silence the influence of spiritual despotism over a degraded people-to see every bond of affection snapped, every tie of gratitude loosened, every exertion to do good counteracted, to feel the influence of the priest acting as a spy in family secrets, and a controuler of family operations,-all this becomes, to a benevolent and acute mind, intolerable; and when ingratitude is added to indifference, and the peasant is led away from his natural protector to serve the political purpose of a party, we cannot wonder that the irritated landlord finds his patriotism weaker than his indignation, and, banished by the priest and people, adds one more to the list of absentees.
Is not this the master evil, and what merely human plans can provide a remedy?-legislative enactments are powerless-individual influence unavailing; nor do we see any thing likely to produce permanent good, till the mercy of God brings home the blessings of his word with power to the hearts of the Papists. In education and the circulation of the Scriptures, we see the only mode of ameliorating the condition of Ireland, and while we rejoice that the temporal distresses of the people are attracting the attention of the benevolent, and that the capabilities of our country are being employed for the advantage of its population, we are yet convinced, that so long as that population are a prey to ecclesiastical despotism, and are made the instrument which the demagogue and the priest wield against the government-so long as they are in ignorance, and consequent immorality and insubordination, no substantially beneficial effect can be produced on even the temporal
condition of the people. Let it not be thought that we would advo. cate the interference of the legislature. We ask but for toleration, we ask but to be protected in the attempts to enlighten the Roman Catholic, and to commend to him the Scriptures of God; let the executive save the country from the convulsion of faction, and we can venture to say, that by the blessing of God, the schoolmaster and the Bible, will prove too powerful for the priest. In other countries, where Popery alone is dominant, she is stripped of some of her evils, but here, these evils are aggravated by fears for her tottering dominion, and whatever can separate* the Protestant from the Roman Catholic is unsparingly adhered to; let the true friend to Ireland endeavour to counteract this separation, endeavour to conciliate affection by kindness, and divesting himself so far as possible of a political character to recommend religion by bis love and charity ; let him co-operate with every exertion in order to advance the beneficial good of Ireland, remembering that the great evil of this country is the dominion of the man of sin, and the true weapon to overturn his power is the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
THE ANGEL IN THE BUSH.- Exod. iii, 2.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE CHRISTIAN EXAMINER. Moses was considerably alarmed when he beheld the burning bush and saw that it was not consumed, and heard the voice of the angel of the covenant, the incomprehensible Jehovah, speaking to him from the midst of it, “ And Moses hid his face, for be was afraid to look upon God!" He was afraid of the greatness and majesty of Jehovah, for he felt that he was only vile dust and ashes ! But it is not upon this part of the subject that I wish to speak; it is on the burning bush itself, and the angel who was in the midst of it—a lively and beautiful picture of the afflicted believer, suffering in the furnace of fiery trials, yet still preserved, his Lord with him still, so that he shall not be consumed. That man is born to trouble has been said so often, and is so universally experienced, that there is no occasion to repeat it here. From the
* So great is the fear of contact with Protestants entertained by Roman Catholic priests, that we have known when the Scriptural school has been deserted through the influence of the priest, that Protestant benevolence has established work-schools for the poor girls of the parish, in order to give some useful employment for their leisure, and yet because thay were patronised by Protestants they were denounced.