TOPICS OF TIIE DAY.
THE PRINCIPLE OF IRISH CHURCH REFORM.
LORD JOHN RUSSELL warned the Tories, in his speech on the Irish Tithe Bill, that the People of England wete beginning to
understand and reflect upon questions of Irish policy ; and that the consequence of this understanding and this reflection would be a conviction fatal to the abuses of the Church Establishment, to which the Tories cling. Lord JOHN might have gone fur- ther—he might have truly said, that the very existence of the State Church in Ireland depended upon the ignorance of the
British People. Hitherto very vague notions have prevailed as to -the right of the Church to the position it iolds, its influence on -the condition of the people, and the cost to England of supporting
it. But now, thanks to the men who with suicidal obstieacy re- sist every attempt to apply one farthing of its revenues to the religions and moral improvement of the bulk of the nation,—who annually provoke protracted discussioes in Pediment, and have 'kept up during the last two years a constant excitement on the
subject throughout the country, by means of their reviews, news-
papers, after-dinner orations, and missions of sinecure parsons to Preach against Popery,—the attention of the British public has 'been at length thoroughly roused, and the enormity of the Eccle- siastical system of Ireland is beginning to be viewed, as it ought to be by Englishmen, with shame, repentance, and disgust.
The "broad fact" is, as Mr. Btmetee remarked, that the State provides religious instruction for only 852,000 out of eight millions of the population. Lord JOHN RUSSELL laid down the statesman- like plinciple, that a Church should be "established" not for the propagation of a doctrine, but for the instruction of a people: but the Church of Ireland fulfils neither of these purposes. Pro- testantism is not propagated by it; and so far from insruct- ing people, it has t-been an instrument in brutalizing the masses. What is the conclusion that must be drawn from these facts? Why, that the Church of Ireland ought not to be supported by the State. Sir JAMES GRAHAM—quoting, as Mr. .SHEIL says, "an Atheist and a Tory in support of the Church and the Constitution"—pretends to agree with Bole NGEROKE, I hat the Church is the basis on which the State rests. But, as regards Ireland at least, the idea is preposterous. The State is shaken to its foundation in the attempt to shore up the Church. So it ap- pears, that neither for the spread of Protestantism, the instruction of the People, nor the security of the Government, is the Church of any value, but on the contrary, detrimental. We come again then to the question, why force it upon the Irish millions ?
But these remarks rdfer to the Church in its present slate—to the existing mode of applying its revenues; and it is proposed to introduce change and reformation. True, but to what extent ? We learn from Lord MO'N.PETH'S speech, that the Ministerial MI1 will give to the Irish clergy a larger average income than is enjoyed by the English clergy; and that, instead of being liable to the trouble of collection, uncertainty of the time of payment, and bad debts, the Irish clergyman will receive his stipend at the Bank of Ireland on certain fixed days. It is also to be added, that the cost of living in Ireland is fully one-third less than in England. The 295/. per annum which on the average each Irish clergyman will receive, is, all the circumstances considered, equal to 400/. a year in England. The average annual income of an English clergyman is only 285/.
The total revenues of the Irish Church are, in round numbers, 550,000/. a year, after making all the proposed reductions; and of this sum, under the reformed system, it is intended that 850,000 Protestants, possessing, according to the Quarterly Review, nine- teen-twentieths of all landed property in Ireland, and a propor- tional superiority in mental cultivation and the practice of virtue, shall receive 500,0001.; and the seven millions of Catholics and Dissenters, the "odd money," or 50,0001.! Well might Lord MORPETH say that this measure would not entirely allay discon- tent, or give lasting satisfaction in Ireland. Other internal re- forms are provided for by the bill ; but as regards the main ques- tion, the transfer of 50,000/. from the Church to the People is all eee'.at will be obtained.
It is manifest that, even with the reform proposed, the Irish Church will not fulfil the functions %%Well Lord JOHN RUSSELL declares the State has a right to expect, and is therefore bound to exact, from the religious Establishment with which it allies itself. The Church will not convey instruction to the People. We again, therefore, arrive at the conclusion, that its union with the State ought to be dissolved, and its revenues applied to the legitimate purpose of instructing the people, and especially the poor.
It is not denied, (at least not by Lord MORPETH,) that the prin- oiples on which this modicum of reform is justified, lead directly to much larger results,—in ether words, to the overthrow of the Church. There is no doubt of it; and we must not forget, that should the Ministerial Bill be carried, only a fraction of the mass of ecclesiastical abuse and oppression will have been taken off the backs of the Irish. They will, they must, continue to agitate and exert themselves, until this, until every other grievance arising from misgovernment and the principle of Protestant Ascendancy—the dominion of the minority—be entirely demo- lished. The Legislature is therefore merely nibbling at this question. The Ministerial measure is paltry, partial, and inef- ficient, looking to its practical results : its value consists in the principle it establishes; we hope it will prove to be the wedge to open the way for something broad and substantial in the shape of reform.
Let us not be understood as blaming the Ministry. They find it necessary to strain their force to the utmost to earry even the present bill through the House of Commons. Until the People of England speak out on this subject, the Ministers Mist move like cripples: but the days of besotted ignorance are passing away, and the enormous injustice and inconceivable folly of wasting blood and treasure for the support of such a nuisance as the Irish Church Establishment, must soon become evident to the masses. When they have been thoroughly enlightened on this point,—a4 Lord Jon N Russuen says they are beginning to understand it,— then farewell to the worship of the Irish Moloch.