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soldiers and policemen who guard your houses, the great mass of your population, who are as an army of spies encamped in a hostile country, and ready at a single nod from a foreign power to fall upon and overpower you, and make the country their own, or rather the dominion of that same foreign power, as soon as some foreign convulsion or internal weakness, give hopes that the attack may be successful. This is the condition of Ireland. And unless you can break up that banded force, and extirpate from your shores that foreign power, or so weaken it that it dare not venture on rebellion, sooner or later you must perish. And it may be that England will perish with you; she brought upon you the curse. It may be that the awful retribution will come back on her from yourself also.”
“ Yes,” said M., kindling, as his noble and generous nature always kindled when the sufferings or wrongs of his country touched his thought; “ it was you - it was England who brought Popery into Ireland to pander to your unhallowed lust of conquest; and by the Popery of Ireland you have been cursed already, and will be cursed still more hereafter. It was the Popery of Ireland which opened the floodgates of democracy, by the extravagances of the Reform Bill. It was the Popery of Ireland which converted a rightful toleration in religion into a fanatical latitudinarianism, by the effect of the so-called emancipation. It was, the Popery of Ireland, which during the last twenty years has compelled weak and vacillating ministries to make inroads on the constitution. It was the Popery of Ireland which has erected in all your colonies strongholds of unbelief, and seminaries of rebellion. It is the Popery of Ireland which holds you in check, when you would raise your voice to witness to truth, or your arm to do justice in the world. It is the Popery of Ireland which has tempted you to endeavour to destroy that which no man can destroy, we know, without being destroyed himself, the Church of Christ, by plundering its property, and suppressing its bishoprics. And it is the Popery of Ireland which has brought you virtually to the last deadly unforgiven sin of Christians, apostacy from the faith, by your so-called National Education. Surely if we looked for vengeance, it is here, and upon you.”
“ It is,” I replied, “ too truly; and only one hope remains that the curse may still be removed from us,-if the judicial blindness which now hangs over nearly the whole British empire, governed as well as governor, as to the future designs and power and end of Popery be withdrawn, and we can once more rally against it a sound and hearty system of true patriotism and real religion. Without this I see no hope of victory. And in the first and great conflict we must look to you, the landlords and the clergy of Ireland; you are in the van, and unless you defend your post we can do nothing.”
“And yet,” said M., “how are we to defend it? How are we to make head against the subtleties and manæuvres, and still more against the open violence of the Romanist army in this country? It is hard to maintain our ground, while they are daily advancing upon us; how much harder to make head against them, and drive them back upon themselves.”
“ You have your schools,” I said, with a painful smile, to see how he would receive the thought.
“Yes,” he said, “ we have our schools, and have had them for many years, and by far the largest part of the rural Romish population of Ireland has been taught in them, trained in what we are accustomed to call sound Scriptural education. But when I look to the enormous multiplication and number of chapels, to the increased political violence and power of the Romish priests, to the triumphant tone which Popery is assuming, and to the humbled and precarious position of our own church, I ask, where are the effects ? Our Scriptural education hitherto has done little for us in leading the people of Ireland to one faith and one fold, under one Shepherd; and yet, without this, what must Ireland remain ?”
“It has done little," I answered; “rather, it has done nothing. It has been, I use the words of a most distinguished advocate of its principles, and a thoughtful devotional spirit, who has little or no sympathy with what are called the new moral of Choice Principles : it has been a signal failure. Whatever shape it has taken, however it has been modified, it has left the children of this country Romanists as it found them; and but one change has been perceptible from its influence, that while externally the slaves of the system as before, internally they have lost the only part of its spirit which made that system tolerable, or themselves worth attempts to convert them,-the spirit of docility and obedience. You have taught them to despise their priests without learning to love the church. Is this a blessing, or a curse ?”.
M. “Not a blessing," he said, “ assuredly.”
“No," I replied, “any thing but a blessing. It is a fearful responsibility to undertake, unless we are expressly commanded to adopt a course fraught with such an issue.”
“And yet,” said M., after a pause, “ though I allow the fact that such has been the altered character of the Romish peasantry in Ireland, that they have become during late years far less religious, without being more favourably disposed to receive the teaching of the church, are you sure that this is connected with the system of education hitherto pursued ? May it not be the growth of many other causes, of political agitation, of the lowered moral tone of the Romish clergy, of an improvement in so-called habits of civilization, and of a change in the general tone of society? Are we justified in laying the alteration wholly to the charge of a wrong education ?”
“ These causes," I replied, “ have undoubtedly contributed much to the same unhappy results. But our education, I think, has done much, and for our education we are responsible.”
M. walked on rapidly with his arms folded, and I could see by the workings of his brow, that he was much agitated. “And you would urge me, then,” he said at last, “ to abandon all attempts to educate the Roman Catholics?"
“No," I replied, “far, very far from it. It is your chief duty and your only safety to educate them. But our question has only regarded the form and means of doing this. And even in touching upon this, I am
not urging you to do any thing. As a young man, as a layman, your wisdom and duty may be to stand still. You find yourself inheriting a system carried on for many years by men, of whom, however we may lament their neglect of episcopal discipline and church authority, no one who knows their zeal and piety may dare to speak or think without the deepest respect. It has been in some degree at least recognised and sanctioned by the Board of Bishops. They have indeed refused, and refused most justly and most nobly, to lend themselves to the full development of the principle of united education in the National Board. But they have never repudiated the plan of receiving Romanists and Dissenters into the schools of the church; and I do confess myself, that I know not where to stop between these two points. Admit one, and I cannot see on what sure ground to rest in refusing the other. Therefore it must be wise and right in use to distrust our own judgment, and to hesitate long before we embrace opinions which may place us in opposition, or at least prevent our co-operation with the proper heads of our church.”
"And yet,” said M., “if the view which we opened the other day is correct, and the principle of united education leads, as we thought it must lead, to a suppression of an article of the creed, and therefore to a virtual abandonment or apostacy from the faith, can I conscientiously abstain from protesting against, and withdrawing from it, even though it is sanctioned by my ecclesiastical superiors.”
“Remember," I said, “there is a wide difference between openly sanctioning an act of apostacy as such, and sanctioning a system which, to some individuals, whose judgment we may be justified in distrusting, may seem to involve an apostacy. In the former case, we should be compelled to refuse obedience even to our Bishops; in the latter, we should weigh well the authority which considers a system to involve guilt, and that which pronounces it to be innocent. The Bishops of Ireland, probably by far the largest part of the whole Church of England and Ireland, perhaps even a considerable part of the ancient church, would think our fears and opinions unreasonable. They do and would protest against the melancholy extravagance of the principle of united education, of which the national system is guilty ; but they would not refuse to admit into their church schools the children of Dissenters. To erect an opinion either of right or expediency against such an authority; still more to act upon it hastily and in the light of our own eyes, would be in the highest degree presumptuous : and you are not the person to be guilty of persecution.”
“I trust not,” he said. “But if so, what remains but to acquiesce in our present system ?"
“ It remains," I answered, “ to think over and examine it carefully ; to probe its principles ; to see where they legitimately and logically lead us ; to assist in the inquiry, which others like ourselves are now making; and to assist in it gently and humbly, as inquirers rather than teachers. This we may do, and are bound to do, when doubts on such a momentuous subject have been forced upon us; and no evil can come from the discussion, if conducted in such a spirit—the spirit of unity and peace.”
“And do you think me bound, then,” said M., “ circumstanced as I am, to express what I think on this subject publicly ? ”.
“I do think you bound," I answered. “I think every one in a position of influence, whose voice and character can command any degree of attention, bound to join in unravelling the greatest problem, and in clearing up the most important question of the present, or of any age. How this is to be done, whether by words or actions, is another question; and I am not your confessor to take the responsibility of advising, on it.”
“Let us sit down,” said M., as we rested by the side of a gigantic elm which had been levelled during a recent storm, and lay with its roots extended, “let us sit down and put upon paper the whole train of argument which we ran over yesterday, and by which we seemed to be forced upon the conclusion, that no plan of united education, however modified, can be adopted without most serious evil, evil more than sufficient to balance any good which may be hoped from it. Have you a pencil ?”
“ Begin,” I said, “from the beginning. Lay it down as the first principle to be carefully examined, that there can be safe divorcement of instruction from education.” “Secondly,” he continued, “that there can be no education apart from religion. Thirdly, no religion without a creed ; and no Christian education without the creed of the church. All this is clear.”
“Then add,” I said, " that no creed of the church can be mutilated of any one of its articles ; and that the doctrine of the Holy Catholic Church is an article in them all; and, therefore, no good system of education can be framed, in which the peculiar doctrine of the church touching its unity, and authority, and polity, are suppressed or made light of.”
®" And this, you think,” said M., “must be the case in any attempt at united education.”
“ No," I replied, “not necessarily; because it may be taught prominently and dogmatically in the most mixed school; but our doubt, if you remember, related to the nature and effect of such a dogmatic teaching. It seemed to us, that even to teach the doctrines of the church in a mixed school was pregnant with such mischief, under every conceivable combination of circumstances, that we ought not to attempt it. And this is the point which, as being most contrary to received opinions, would demand the most impartial and careful examination.”
“ And, if we confirm it,” said M., “ what then is left to Ireland, but to abandon our poor peasantry to their fate, and give up the empire to ruin.”
“ There remains still,” I said, “to inquire if there be not other ways, besides education in mixed schools, of bringing the truth before the members of the Romish schism, and of once more uniting us all in the bonds of peace and love; whether there are ways far more efficacious in the end, though they appear slow, and circuitous, and difficult; ways in which we cannot reproach ourselves with error, even though we fail of success. And those who doubt if our present conduct be correct or safe, and yet acknowledge the duty of endeavouring to win over the Romanist population of the country, and the dissent and heresy of all countries to the bosom of a true church, ought to be able to show what conduct may be adopted in its place. We have ourselves, remember, thought much, and fancied that we have seen our way in some degree, on this the most practical difficulty in the question.”
“And shall we go then through all these points carefully and honestly,” said M., “ and see what can be said for thein ?”
“ If I go through them with you,” I said, “ I am not afraid lest we should do so dishonestly. It is a great blessing and privilege to speak with you on this, and on any question; for, like a true and genuine Irishman, you will not allow even an oppressed argument to be illtreated, but will try to put it on its legs, and to see that justice is done it. And you are an Irish landlord.”
M. sighed deeply.
“Why,” said I, “ why sigh so sadly, that you are placed in a post of responsibility and difficulty, however fearful, if it be at the same time a post of duty, and of high honour. A forlorn hope does not sigh when they are about to mount the breach. They think of their duty, and that is enough to fill them with animation, and even joy.”
“And you think us the forlorn hope,” said M.
“I do," I replied. «The battle of the world at this day is between truth and falsehood, law and anarchy, as it always has been. On the one side is the spirit of democracy in politics, and of indifference in religion; and with this, by a natural affinity, most true, though at first sight not obvious, Popery has banded itself for a time. Against both is placed the church, and under the wing of the church the monarchies of the world. Of these England is the chief and centre. And the right hand of England is paralized by the presence of Popery in Ireland. And the Popery of Ireland can only be resisted by a combined power of the clergy and the landlords, that is, by the spiritual and lay powers of the church, heartily and effectively united, and working each in its own sphere. But the clergy have been weakened and impoverished, and, humanly speaking, without a miracle they cannot make head against the temporal arm of Popery. Without the landlords they can do little. And against the landlords, therefore, all that deep craft, which characterizes all the operations of Popery, the whole force of that fearful system, is now directed. Is it not so ?”
“ Assuredly it is so.”
“ Upon you then,” I said, “rests an awful responsibility—a responsibility sufficient to dignify any suffering, and to invigorate and support any exertion. Is it not a noble position, if nobly defended, even though it be in the providence of God that you be driven from it?”
M. passed his hand across his eyes, and, as we turned the corner of the shrubbery, we came upon his child with the nurse, and this broke off the conversation.