TOPICS OF THE DAY.
THE CHURCH IN IRELAND.
As the appointed time for the meeting of Parliament approaches, public expectation in regard to the extent and nature of those mea- sures for the reform of our Ecclesiastical institutions which the Mi- nistry are supposed to have formed, becomes naturally more intense. The state of Ireland is such as to render an immediate application of searching remedies absolutely necessary. Ireland labours under many grievous afflictions, which are curable by no legislative nos- trums. We cannot by any process of lawmaking work miracles on the national character,—convert suspicion into confidence, or wipe away the inevitable consequences of centuries of tyranny by a sin- le act of grace. They who expected that Ireland would have been pacified and satisfied by the Catholic Relief Bill, accompanied as it was by harsh measures ofcoercion and disfranchisement, in- stead of additional proofs of a practical conversion on the part of her English rulers to a milder and more equitable policy,—such men displayed the most lamentable ignorance, not only of the cha- racter of the Irish nation, but of human nature itself, as it exists all the world over. Grievous as the mistake was, successive Ad- ministrations have acted upon it. They have continued to govern Ireland by means of corrupt Grand Juries, cs Lord Lieu- tenants, and a standing army of 35,000 men. They have enforced the collection of tithes by means of an armed police, in the midst of murder and conflagration. It seems to have been the express object and intent of Reforming and self-styled Liberal Adminis- trations, to prove to the full the truth of those Tory predictions which declared that the removal of the Catholic disabilities would leave Ireland in a worse condition than before.
At length Government has been forced to search deeper into the causes of Irish wretchedness ; and to lay, we trust, a heavy hand upon that grand cerse of the country, the Church Establishment. In Ireland, as die Times most truly remarks, there is " too much Church." We believe that the records of mankind may be searched in vain for another instance of a religious establishment being forced upon a people, the great majority of whom were op- posed to and disbelieved the tenets which it professed to inculcate. If there were no other cause of discontent in Ireland but this,— if the gentry were resident, the laws equally administered, and the people educated,—still there would be a constant current of dis- loyalty and heartburning supplied from this hateful and polluted source.
The advocates of the Irish Church Establishment, as it at pre- sent exists, are aware of the untenable nature of their position, owing to their religion being that of only a small minority of the people in Ireland; and therefore they endeavour to connect the Church of England with it; and thus to make a show of having a majority in the United Kingdom belonging to the Protestant Establishment. This mode of argument is adopted by the Standard, in the following passage- " When it is said that Ireland has 'too much Church,' the pretence, indeed, is that Ireland and England are already distinct kingdoms : but since the Union, the reasonable way of considering the question would be—have England and Ireland, together, too much Church? Is the United Church Establishment too great (see- ing that it costs the public nothing) for nine millions of English and two millions of Irish Churchmen? To make any divided circulation upon the subject, is to as- sume that Mr. O'Connell's Repeal has been effected, or ought to be effected. The real state of the question is this. The landed property of England, and the landed property of Ireland, both belong to the members of the United Church— that Church, whether as partner or incumbrancer (we need not, for the pur- poses of the present argument, agitate that question)—the United Church is supported, in both kingdoms' by the landed property, that is, by the property of Church or Churchmen in both ; and the complaint of Dissenters here, so far as the main support of the Church is concerned, is, not that they are robbed, but that they are not permitted to rob others; and exactly parallel is the com- plaint of Irish Papists."
The plain answer to this statement is, that the facts are the re- verse of those which it contains. Not one acre of the landed property of England, not one sixpence of the rent which it yields, goes to support the Church in Ireland. Neither does Ireland con- tribute any thing to defray the expenses of our Establishment. For all practical purposes, they are disunited; and if the Irish Church, with all her sinecure dignitaries and congregrationless divines, were swept into the Atlantic Ocean to-morrow, the English Church would remain precisely where she is,—with the advantage of being free from all imputed connexion with an establishment which plunders and oppresses, instead of blessing and comforting, seven millions of human beings. Every true and discreet friend to the Church of England will endeavour to keep her as distinct as possible from that of Ireland. She has sins of her own to answer for; but it would be a base calumny to confound her peaceful course with the bloodstained and retrograde movements of her Irish sister.
It will be observed, that the Standard, in the above quotation, calculates the English Churchmen at nine millions. The way in which this number is arrived at, is by allowing those only to be Dissenters who go to chapel, and assuming all the remainder of the population to be Churchmen. The fair mode would be to consider those only who go to Church as Churchmen, and the remainder as Dissenters of some or no religious persuasion. The result of such a calculation would be far different. But the advocates of the present system of Ecclesiastical tyranny in Ireland are driven to such extremities to defend it, that we are not surpriEed at their most palpable violation of the rules of sound induction and gross perversion of matters of fact. In order to arrive at something like a correct estimate of tho feelings which the Irish Catholics must entertain towards the Protestant Establishment in their country, suppose we imagine ourselves to be placed in a somewhat similar position with regard to religious matters. Suppose that the sect of Independents were to lay hold of all our Church property, and compel us to pay tithes to them by means of a large standing army of Germans who levied them at the point of the bayonet. Is there an Englishman in our fair island whose blood would not boil over at the very idea of such atrocious tyranny? Should we not hunt, slay, burn, and root out of the country, those pests to our pros- perity, as if they were wild tigers ? Yet we expect the Irish to bear peaceably what would almost drive Englishmen mad.
- To us it appears as clear as daylight, that in a very short time the Church of Ireland must be brought low. "Not being of God, it cannot stand." The only safe rule for a government to follow, is to do justice, full and absolute ' justice, to the governed. The day is gone by when half measures could be of the slightest use. The Times well observes, that "a simple reform of the Church of Ireland, in the same sense in which the term is applied to that of England, will fall far short of its intended purpose." Of this there can be no doubt. How far the Government is disposed to go in measures for reforming the Irish Church, we cannot pretend to tell; but we are quite certain, that the only way to afford her the least chance of a permanent existence, is to abolish tithes en- tirely, and to cut down her other emoluments very low indeed,— that is to say, to reduce them until they amount to no more than a fair equivalent for the services which she can render in return for them.