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number of emissaries of the Church of Rome disguised in England : who can tell what harvest a Clergy so numerous, so subtle, and so well furnished with arguments to work on vulgar and uneducated minds, may be able to make in a country despoiled of all religion, and feeling the want of it? Who can tell whether the spirit of free-thinking ending with the opposition, and the vanity with the distinction, when the whole nation are alike infidels,—who can tell, I say, whether in such a juncture the men of genius themselves may not affect a new distinction, and be the first converts to Popery?" Lys. “ And suppose they should ...Between friends it would be no great matter. These are our maxims: in the first place we hold it would be best to have no religion at all : secondly, we hold that all religions are indifferent. If therefore, upon trial, we find the country cannot do without a religion, why not Popery as well as another? I know several ingenious men of our sect who, if we had a Popish Prince on the throne, would turn Papists to-morrow. This is a paradox. but I shall explain it. A Prince whom we compliment with our religion must be grateful.” Euph. “ I understand you. But what becomes of free-thinking all the while ?” Lys. “Oh! we should have more than ever of that, for we should keep it all to ourselves. As for the amusement of retailing it, the want of this would be largely compensated by solid advantages of another kind.” EUPH. “ It seems then, by this account, the tendency you observed in the nation towards something great and new, proves a tendency towards Popery and Slavery." Lys. “ Mistake us not, good Euphranor. The thing first in our intention is consummate liberty. But if this will not do, and there must after all be such things tolerated as religion and government, we are wisely willing to make the best of both.” Cri. “ This puts me in mind of a thought I have often had. The Minute Philosophers are dupes of the Jesuits." —Berkeley's Alciphron, vol. i. p. 147.
Bishop Bedell.--p. 271. The following extract from Burnett's Life of this excellent man, has a peculiar value at this time.
“ He observed with much regret that the English had all along neglected the Irish, as a nation not only conquered but undisciplineable, and that the clergy had scarce considered them as a part of their charge, but had left them wholly into the hands of their own priests, without taking any other care of them but the making them pay their tithes. And indeed their priests were a strange sort of people, that knew generally nothing but the reading their offices, which were not so‘much as understood by many of them; and they taught the people nothing but the saying their Paters and Aves in Latin : so that the state both of the clergy and laity was such that it could not hut raise great compassion in a man that had so tender a sense of the value of those souls that Christ had purchased with his blood; therefore he resolved to set about that Apostolical work of converting the natives with the zeal and care that so great an undertaking required. He knew the gaining on some of the more knowing of their priests was like to be the quickest way, for by their means he hoped to spread the knowledge of the reformed religion among the natives, or rather of the Christian religion, to speak more strictly. For they had no sort of notion of Christianity, but only knew that they were to depend upon their priests, and were to confess such of their actions as they call sins to them, and were to pay them tithes. The Bishop prevailed on several priests to change, and he was so well satisfied with the truth of their conversion, that he provided some of them ecclesiastical benefices, which was thought a strange thing, and was ‘censured by many, as contrary to the interest of the English nation. For it now was believed that all those Irish converts
were still papists at heart, and might be so much the more dangerous than otherwise by that disguise which they had put on. But he on the other hand considered chiefly the duty of a Christian Bishop; he also thought the true interest of England was to gain the Irish to the knowledge of religion, and to bring them by the means of that, which only turns the heart, to love the English nation. And so he judged the wisdom of that course was apparent, as well as the piety of it. Since such as changed their religion would become thereby so odious to their own clergy, that this would provoke them to further degrees of zeal in gaining others to come over after them. And he took great care to work in those whom he trusted with the care of souls, a full conviction of the truth of religion, and a deep sense of the importance of it. And in this he was so happy, that of all the converts that he had raised to benefices, there was but one only that fell back when the rebellion broke out; and he not only. apostatized, but both plundered and killed the English among the first. But no wonder if one murderer was among our Bishop's converts, since there was a traitor among the twelve that followed our Saviour. There was a convent of friars very near him, on whom he took much pains, with very good success. That he might furnish his converts with the means of instructing others, he made a short catechism to be printed in one sheet, being English on the one page, and Irish on the other ; which contained the elements and most necessary things of the Christian religion, together with some forms of prayer, and some of the most instructing and edifying passages of Scripture. This he sent about all over his diocese, and it was received with great joy by many of the Irish, who seemed to be hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and received this beginning of knowledge so well, that it gave a good encouragement to hope well upon further endeavours. The Bishop did also set himself to learn the Irish tongue; and though it was too late
for a man of his years to learn to speak it, yet he came to understand it to such a degree as to compose a compleat grammar of it, (which was the first that ever was made, as I have been told,) and to be a critick in it: he also had common Prayer read in Irish every Sunday in his cathedral for the benefit of the converts he had made, and was always present at it himself; and he engaged all his clergy to set up schools in their parishes; for there were so very few bred to read or write, that this obstructed the conversion of the nation very much. The New Testament and the Book of Common Prayer were already put in the Irish tongue; but he resolved to have the whole Bible, the Old Testament, as well as the New, put also into the hands of the Irish; and therefore he laboured much to find out one that understood the language so well that he might be employed in so sacred a work. And by the advice of the Primate, and several other eminent persons, he pitched on one King, that had been converted many years before, and was believed to be the elegantest writer of the Irish tongue then alive, both for prose and poetry. He was then about seventy; but notwithstanding his age and the disadvantages of his education, yet the Bishop thought him not only capable of this employment, but qualified for an higher character; therefore he put him in orders, and gave him a benefice in his diocese, and set him to work, in order to the translating the Bible, which he was to do from the English translation, since there were none of the nation to be found that knew any thing of the originals. The Bishop set himself so much to the revising of this work, that 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 interpreters, or with Diodati's Italian translation, which he valued highly; and he corrected the Irish where he found the English translation had failed. He thought the use of the Scriptures was the only way to let the knowledge of religion in among the Irish, as it had first let the Reformation into the other parts of Europe. And he used to tell a passage of a sermon that he heard Fulgentio preach at Venice, with which he was much pleased. It was on these words of Christ: Have ye not read? and so he took occasion to tell the auditory, that if Christ were now to ask this question, Have ye not read? all the answer they could make to it was, No: for they were not suffered to do it. Upon which he taxed with great zeal the restraint put on the use of the Scriptures by the See of Rome. This was not unlike what the same person delivered in another sermon, preaching upon Pilate's question, What is Truth? He told them, at last, after many searches, he had found it out, and held out a New Testament, and said, There it was in his hand; but then he put it in his pocket, and said coldly, But the book is prohibited; which was so suited to the Italian genius, that it took mightily with the auditory. The Bishop had observed, that in the primitive times, as soon as nations, how barbarous soever they were, began to receive the Christian religion, they had the Scriptures translated into their vulgar tongues; and that all people were exhorted to study them; therefore he not only undertook and began this work, but followed it with so much industry, that in a very few years he finished the translation and resolved to set about the printing of it, for the bargain was made with one that engaged to perform it. And as he had been at the great trouble of examining the translation, so he resolved to run the venture of the impression, and took that expense upon himself.