« PreviousContinue »
shrouded in the mantle of religious mystery, with the temple for its sanctuary, and the pontiff for its sentinel, the vulgar eye might shrink and the vulgar spiritshudder. But now it has come forth, visible and tangible for the inspection of the laity; and I solemnly protest, dressed as it has been in the double haberdashery of the English minister and the Italian prelate, I know not whether to laugh at its appearance, or to loathe its pretensions-to shudder at the deformity of its original creation, or smile at the grotesqueness of its foreign decorations. Only just admire this far-famed security bill, this motley compound of oaths and penalties, which, under the name of emancipation, would drag your prelates with a halter about their necks to the vulgar scrutiny of every village tyrant, in order to enrich a few political traders, and distil through some state alembic the miserable rinsings of an ignorant, a decaying, and degenerate aristocracy! Only just admire it! Originally engendered by our friends the opposition, with a cuckoo insidiousness they swindled it into the nest of the treasury ravens, and when it had been fairly hatched with the beak of the one, and the nakedness of the other, they sent it for its feathers to MONSEIGNEUR QUARANTOTTI, who has obliging!y transmitted it with the hunger of its parent, the rapacity of its nurse, and the coxcombry of its plumassier, to be baptized by the bishops, and received æquo gratoque animo by the people of Ireland !! Oh, thou sublimely ridiculous Quarantotti! Oh, thou superlative coxcomb of the conclave! what an estimate hast thou formed of the mind of Ireland! Yet why should I blame this wretched scribe of the Propaganda! He had every right to speculate as he did; all the chances of the calculation were in his favour. Uncommon must be the people, over whom centuries of oppression have revolved in vain! Strange must be the mind, which is not subdued by suffering! Sublime the spirit which is not debased by servitude! God, I give thee thanks !—he knew not IRELAND. Bent-broken-manacled as she had been, she will not bow to the mandate of an Italian slave, transmitted through an English vicar. For my own part, as an Irish Protestant. I trample to the earth this audacious and desperate experiment of authority; and for you, as Catholics, the time is come to give that calumny the lie, which represents you as sul). servient to a foreign influence. That influence, indeerl, seems
not quite so unbending as it suited the purposes of bigotry to reppresent it, and appears now not to have conceded more, only because more was not demanded. The theology of the question is not for me to argue, it cannot be in better hands than in those of your bishops; and I can have no doubt that when they bring their rank, their learning, their talents, their piety, and their patriotism to this sublime deliberation, they will consult the dignity of that venerable fabric which has stood for ages, splendid and immutable; which time could not crumble, nor persecutions shake, nor revolutions change; which has stood amongst us, like some stupendous and majestic Appenine, the earth rocking at its feet, and the heavens roaring round its head, firmly balanced on the base of its eternity; the relic of what was; the solemn and sublime memento of what MUST BE !
Is this my opinion as a professed member of the church of England? Undoubtedly it is. As an Irishman, I feel my liberties interwoven, and the best affections of my heart as it were enfibred with those of my Catholic countrymen; and as a Protestant, convinced of the purity of my own faith, would I not debase it by postponing the powers of reason to the suspicious instrumentality of this world's conversion ? No; surrendering as I do, with a proud contempt, all the degrading advantages with which an ecclesiastical usurpation would invest me; so I will not interfere with a blasphemous intrusion between any man and his Maker. I hold it a criminal and accursed sacrilege, to rob even a beggar of a single motive for his devotion: and I hold it an equal insult to my own faith, to offer me any boon for its profession. This pretended emancipation-bill passing into a law, would, in my mind, strike not a blow at this sect or that sect, but at the very vitality of Christianity itself. I am thoroughly convinced that the antichristian connection between church and state, which it was suited to increase, has done more mischief to the Gospel interest, than all the ravings of infidelity since the crucifixion. The sublime Creator of our blessed creed never meant it to be the channel of a courtly influence, or the source of a corrupt ascendancy. He sent it amongst us to heal, not to irritate ; to associate, not to seclude ; to collect together, like the baptismal Jove, every creed and clime and colour in the universe, beneath the spotless wing of its protection. The union of church and
and state only converts good Christians into bad statesmen, and political knaves into pretended Christians. It is at best but a foul and adulterous connection, polluting the purity of heaven with the abomination of earth, and hanging the tatters of a political piety upon the cross of an insulted Saviour. Religion, Holy Religion, ought not, in the words of its Founder, to be “ led into temptation.” The hand that holds her chalice should be pure, and the priests of her temple should be spotless as the vestments of their ministry. Rank only degrades, wealth only impoverishes, ornaments but disfigure her. I would have her pure, unpensioned, unstipendary; she should rob the earth of nothing but its sorrows: a divine arch of promise, her extremities should rest on the horizon, and her span embrace the universe; but her only sustenance should be the tears that were exhaled and embellished by the sun-beam. Such is my idea of what religion ought to be. What would this bill make it? A mendicant of the Castle, a menial at the levee, its manual the red book, its liturgy the pension list, its gospel the will of the minister! Methinks I see the stalled and fatted victim of its creation, cringing with a brute suppliancy through the venal mob of ministerial flatterers, crouching to the ephemeral idol of the day; and, like the devoted sacrifice of ancient heathenism, glorying in the garland that only decorates him for death! I will read to you the opinions of a celebrated Irishman, on the suggestion in his day, of a bill similar to that now proposed for our oppression. He was a man who added to the pride not merely of his country, but of his species-a
man who robed the very soul of inspiration in the splendours of a pure and overpowering eloquence. I allude to Mr. Burke—an authority at least to which the sticklers for establishments can offer no objection. “Before I had written thus far,” says he, in his letter on the penal laws, “ I heard of a scheme for giving the Castle the patronage of the presiding members of the Catholic clergy. At first I could scarcely credit it; for I believe it is the first time that the presentation to other people's alms has been desired in any country. Never were the members of one religious sect fit to appoint the pastors to another. It is a great deal to suppose that the present Castle would nominate bishops for the Roman church in Ireland, with a religious regard for its welfare. Perhaps they cannot, perlaps they dare not do it. But suppose them to be as well inclined, as I know that I am, to do the Catholics all kinds of justice, I declare I would not, if it were in my power, take that patronage on myself. I know I ought not to do it. I belong to another community; and it would be an intolerable usurpation in me, where I conferred no benefit, or even if I did confer temporal advantages. How can the Lord Lieutenant form the least judgment on their merits, so as to decide which of the popish priests is fit to be a bishop? It cannot be. The idea is ridiculous. He will hand them over to Lords-Lieutenant of counties, justices of the peace, and others, who, for the purpose of vexing and turning into derision this miserable people, will pick out the worst and most obnoxious they can find amongst the clergy to govern the rest. Whoever is complained against by his brother, will be considered as persecuted ; whoever is censured by his superior, will be looked upon as oppressed; whoever is careless in his opinions, loose in his morals, will be called a liberal man, and will be supposed to have incurred hatred because he was not a bigot. Informers, tale-bearers, perverse and obstinate men, flatterers, who turn their back upon their flock, and court the Protestant gentlemen of their country, will be the objects of preferment; and then I run no risk in foretelling, that whatever order, quiet, and morality you have in the country, will be lost.” Now, let me ask you, is it to such characters as those described by Burke, that you would delegate the influence imputed to your priesthood ? Believe me, you would soon see them transferring their devotion from the Cross to the CASTLE ; wearing their sacred vestments but as a masquerade appendage, and, under the degraded passport of the Almighty's name, sharing the pleasures of the court, and the spoils of the people. When I say this I am bound to add, and I do so from many proud and pleasing recollections, that I think the impression on the Catholic clergy of the present day would be late, and would be delible. But it is human nature. Rare are the instances in which a contact with the court has not been the beginning of corruption. The man of God is peculiarly disconnected with it. It directly violates his special mandate, who took his birth from the mangerand his disciples from the fishing-boat. JUDAS was the first who received the money of power, and it ended in the disgrace of his creed and the death of his master. If I was a Catholic, I would peculiarly deprecate any interference with my priesthood. Indeed, I do not think, in any one respect in which we should wish to view the delegates of the Almighty, that, making fair allowances for human infirmity, they could be amended. The catholic clergy of Ireland are rare examples of the doctrines they inculcate. Pious in their habits, almost primitive in their manners they have no care but their flock-no study but their Gospel. It is not in the gaudy ring of courtly dissipation that you will find the MURRAYS, the CORPINGERS, and the Movlands of the present day-not at the levee, or the lounge, or the election-riot. No; you will find them wherever good is to be done, or evil to be corrected—rearing their mitres in the van of misery, consoling the captive, reforming the convict, enriching the orphan; ornaments of this world, and emblems of a better: preaching their God through the practice of every virtue; monitors at the coniessional, apostles in the pulpit, saints at the death-bed, holding the sacred water to the lip of sin, or pouring the redeeming unction on the agonies of despair. Oh, I would hold him little better than the Promethean robber, who would turn the fire of their eternal altar into the impure and perishable mass of this world's preferment, Better by far that the days of ancient barbarism should revive-better that your religion should again take refuge among the fastnesses of the mountain, and the solitude of the cavern—better that the rack of a murderous bigotry should again terminate the miseries of your priesthood, and that the gate of freedom should be only open to them through the gate of martyrdom, than they should gild their missals with the wages of a court, and expect their ecclesiastical promotion, not from their superior piety, but their comparative prostitution. But why this interference with your principles of conscience? Why is it that they will not erect your liberties save on the ruin of your temples ? Why is it that in the day of peace they demand securities from a people who in the day of danger constituted their strength ? When were they denied every security that was reasonable ? Was it in 1776, when a cloud of enemies, hovering on our coast, saw every heart a shield, and every hill a fortress ? Did they want securities in Catholic Spain ? Were they denied securities in Catholic Portugal ? What is their security to-day in Catholic Canada ? Return-return to us our own glorious WELLINGTON, and tell incredulous England what was her security amid the lines of Torres Vedras, or on the summit of Barrossa! Rise, libelled martyrs of the Peninsula rise from your “gory bed," and give