« НазадПродовжити »
ranee, which made them unfit, as well as unwilling, to enter upon a discussion of the great points in controversy. Considerable numbers of the priests, attached to their church, abandoned their wretched cures rather than forsake it; and they taught the people to believe that the attempt to change their religion was a fresh cause for hating the English government; reminded them how venerable popery had become by its antiquity, and fenced it round by extreme maledictions against innovation and heresy.
Unhappily, no such zeal was manifested by the professors of a purer faith. "Hard it is," said a chancellor of Ireland, in the reign of Edward the Sixth, "that men should know their duties to God and to the king, when they shall not hear teaching or preaching throughout the year." It seems probable that the only protestant clergy who could speak the language of the country were those who had conformed to the protestant doctrine for the sake of retaining their benefices, who readily returned to popery in the reign of Mary, and as easily made one more change in their profession on the accession of Elizabeth. In such hands, and even they were few, the cause of the truth was not likely to prosper; and the persons of English or Scottish descent, who were afterwards ordained, could not converse with the people in the mother-tongue. The total number of the protestant clergy was quite inadequate to afford ministers even for half the livings in the island; and Leland, and others, represent their moral character and mental attainments in no very favourable light. The difficulty of printing the Irish language, and the paucity of those who could read it, presented a further obstacle to the diffusion of divine truth; and the benefices were miserably impoverished, the glebe-houses falling to decay, and the churches themselves too often in ruins. Well might sir Henry Sydney write to Queen Elizabeth, " Your majesty may believe it, that, upon the face of the earth where Christ is professed, there is not a church in so miserable a case; the misery of which consisteth in these three particulars;—the ruin of the very temples themselves ; the want of good ministers to serve in them, when they shall be re-edified; and competent living for the ministers, being well chosen."
All who had the interest of religion at heart mourned over this desolate state of the protestant church, and longed for the means of shedding warmth and light upon this moral wilderness. Their efforts, however, were only partially successful; in the following reigns these evils were mitigated but not removed. The complaints of Bishop Bedell, in the reign of Charles the First, describe the general state of the Irish church. "I have been about my dioceses," he says, "and can set down, out of my knowledge and view, what I shall relate; and shortly, to speak much ill matter in a few words, it is very miserable. The cathedral church of Ardagh, one of the most ancient in Ireland, and said to be built by St. Patrick, together with the Bishop's house there, down to the ground. The church here built, but without bell or steeple, font or chalice. The parish churches all in a manner ruined, unroofed, and unrepaired. The people, saving a few British planters here and there, (which are not the tenth part of the remnant), obstinate recusants. A popish clergy, more numerous by far than we, and in full exercise of all jurisdiction ecclesiastical, by their
vicar-generals and officials For our own, there are
seven or eight ministers in each diocese, of good sufficiency; and (which is no small cause of the continuance of the people in popery still) English, which have not the
tongue of the people, nor can perform any divine offices or converse with them; and which hold, many of them, two or three, four, or more vicarages a-piece." He says, in another letter, written in the same year (1630), that in his diocese of Kilmore and Ardagh, there were sixty-six popish priests, including their bishop, while the ministers and curates of the church were only thirty-two; and laments that this great superiority in point of numbers should be given to those who already possessed immense advantages in a knowledge of the language, the prejudices of the people, and the countenance of the nobility and gentry.
Whatever improvement had taken place may be attributed in part to the establishment of the university of Dublin, and in part to the introduction of men of piety, zeal, and learning, from England and Scotland; and it so happened that both of these measures were at the same time the means of diffusing throughout the Irish Church a strong bias towards the religious views of the puritans.
"From the first beginnings of the Reformation," says Leland, " the difficulties of finding pastors, the negligence of governors in affairs of religion, and the opposition given to every attempt to provide for the instruction of the people and the real establishment of the reformed faith and worship, gradually reduced the church of Ireland to a state of desolation;" and the obvious means of remedying this dreadful evil appeared to be to qualify the inhabitants to become ministers of the gospel. Hence the establishment of Trinity College in Dublin, in the year 1591; and Neal states that, when the University was opened about two years afterwards, it was " furnished with learned professors from Cambridge, of the calvinistic persuasion." The other method of advancing the protestant cause was recommended, so early as the year 1576, by sir Henry Sydney, in the letter already quoted. "In choice of ministers for the remote places," he writes, "where the English tongue is not understood, it is most necessary that such be chosen as can speak Irish, for which search would be made first and speedily in your own Universities ; .... if there be no such there, or not enough (for I wish ten or twelve at the least) to be sent, who might be placed in offices of dignity in the church in the remote places of this realm, then I do wish that you would write to the Regent of Scotland, where, as I learn, there are many of the reformed church that are of this language, that he would prefer to your highness so many as shall seem good to you to demand, of honest, zealous, and learned men, and that could speak this language. The great desire that I have to have such from thence is, for that I hope to find them not only grave in judgment, but void of affection [partiality]."
In the reign of King James, efforts were made on a larger scale to induce some of the English clergy to settle in Ireland; but there was much to deter those who had a comfortable home to enjoy from engaging in so hazardous an enterprise, when ignorance of the language debarred them from the hope of extensive usefulness: and it is probable that few went over, excepting such puritans as, being persecuted in England, were tempted to accept the benefices offered to them in Ireland, and some Scotch ministers, who accompanied colonies of their countrymen into the northern parts of the island.
From these circumstances it is manifest that the tenets of Calvin had many adherents in the church of Ireland; and, as they did not consider that the English articles spoke their opinions, they resolved to have a distinct confession of faith, and fixed upon Dr. Usher, then Professor of Divinity in the University, to draw them up. When finished, they " passed both houses of Convocation, and Parliament," says Neal, "with great unanimity." The same writer reasonably considers, that they were contrived to compromise the difference between the church and the puritans, and says that they had that effect till they were set aside in the year 1634.
But this formulary contained many opinions which were unwelcome to the English court, and attempts were made to prejudice the king against the compiler of them. It was reported to king James that Dr. Usher was a puritan; and as that was a designation which conveyed to this jealous monarch's mind the idea of a disturber of the public peace and an enemy to his kingly power, the way to Dr. Usher's promotion seemed for the present to be closed. But in 1619 the lord deputy of Ireland and his council desired him to bear a letter to the privy council of England, in which they express their desire to "set him right with his majesty," who has been informed, they hear, "that he is somewhat transported with singularities and unaptness to be conformable to the rules and orders of the church." They then proceed to bear the following high testimony to his character and merits:— "We are so far from suspecting him in that kind, that we may boldly recommend him to your lordships, as a man orthodox and worthy to govern in the church, when occasion shall be presented. And his majesty may be pleased to advance him, he being a man who has given himself over to his profession; an excellent and painful preacher; a modest man abounding in goodness, and his life and doctrine so agreeable, as those who agree not with him are yet constrained to love and admire him!"
Soon after the delivery of this letter, the king took an opportunity of conversing with him, and was so well pleased with that interview, that he nominated him to