Church of Ireland. Diocese of Armagh. Bishop (1822.

A charge delivered at his annual visitation, 1845 (Volume Talbot Collection of British Pamphlets) online

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ST. maetin's lane,



My Eeverend Brethren,

The Established Church in this country,
as you are well aware, is exposed at the present
period to the combined attacks of opponents
who, however they may differ from each other
in religion and in the ulterior objects which
they have in view, are agreed together in exert-
ing their utmost efforts to accomplish its over-
throw. On the part of its friends, therefore,
there is need of the greatest energy and unani-
mity in its defence.

AVlien the British Grovernment, at the close of
the last century, Avith a view to the strengthen-
ing of the empire by means of its consolidation,
proposed and brought about, not without reluct-
ance on the part of Ireland, the union of the
two Kingdoms, it was urged, as a prevailing plea



to induce the Irish Church to surrender its inde-
pendence, and to place the guardianship of its
interests in the hands of a Legislature to be
chiefly composed of Englishmen, that the certain
result of uniting it into one Church with that of
England would be to add to its stability and
secure its permanence. It was felt, that the
strongest link by which the connexion of the two
countries could be maintained, was that of the
common faith which binds the Protestants of
Ireland to their English brethren. The union of
the Churches, accordingly, cemented the union
of the Idngdoms. Hence, it is, that the demo-
cratic party, who now aim at effecting a sever-
ance of the two countries, labour most strenu-
ously for the subversion of the Church Establish-
ment; and call upon their adherents to regard it
as their "first duty" to exert themselves to
obtain its ^' total abolition." Such is their bold
avowal, although, when the first steps were
taken to remove their civil disabilities, they were
forward to declare, in their public documents,
that they " acquiesced with satisfaction in the
establishment of the l^ational Church, neither
repining at its possessions, nor envying its dig-
nities." And on their actual admission to legis-


lative power, they stil] "disclaim, disavow, and
solemnly abjure any intention to subvert the
present Church Establishment as settled by law
within this realm*."

Whether the severe enactments of the penal
code, with which we are upbraided, are to be
justified or not by the daring attempts made to
destroy both the Protestant Religion and the
Protestant Government, it is not now the time
to inquire. Those enactments are no longer in
force. I lament the necessity of such measures.

* The Petition of the Roman Catholics of Ireland, which
was presented to the Irish House of Commons on the 23rd of
January, 1792, (the year preceding that in which the elective
franchise was conferred upon them,) contained the following
declaration : — " With satisfaction we acquiesce in the Esta-
blishment of the National Church ; we neither repine at its
possessions, nor envy its dignities ; we are ready, upon this
point, to give every assurance that is binding upon man."

The oath which Roman Catholic Members of Parliament
take has the following clauses in it : — " I do swear, that I
will defend to the utmost of my power, the settlement of pro-
perty within this realm, as established by the laws ; and I do
hereby disclaim, disavow, and solemnly abjure any intention
to subvert the present Church Establishment, as settled by law
within this realm ; and I do solemnly swear that I never will
exercise any privilege to which I am or may become entitled,
to disturb or weaken the Protestant Religion or Protestant
Got'ernment, in the United Kingdom."

B 2


if the necessity on the part of the civil govern-
ment existed. And it is matter of the deepest
regret to me, as it is to every Churchman, if the
severity of them originated in whole or in part
in an exclusive spirit, as contrary to the mild
precepts of Christianity, as to the general char-
acter of British legislation. But the question
between us and our opponents, when fairly
stated, is not whether the United Church shall
be maintained to the oppression of all other
bodies of Christians. Toleration the most ample,
protection the most complete, is accorded to the
professors of every creed. The question regards
not the diminution of the income of the Church,
or any salutary improvements in its discipline.
Large pecuniary sacrifices have been cheerfully
made, in order to effect a change in the mode of
collecting its revenues, whereby the payment is
rendered more easy to the people, and irritation
of feelings and collision are avoided: and useful
reforms, of whatever kind, where not already
effected, are courted, instead of being repudiated,
by its ecclesiastical governors. The true ques-
tion is now reduced to this, whether the Esta-
blished Church shall continue to enjoy the pre-
eminence to whicli she has been raised by the


purity of her doctrine, the moderation of ner
principles, and the hold she still retains over the
affections of the enlightened part of the com-
munity; or whether she shall no longer exhibit
a correct standard of religious faith, under the
fostering protection of the Government, amidst
a population in the greatest need of her spiritual
direction; and whether, as a consequence, her
endowments, given her for this very purpose,
shall be taken away from her ?

In the assault which is made upon the Irish
branch of the Church, the Roman Catholics are
now aided by the Dissenters of England, who
employ denunciations as vehement, with regard
to our Establishment, as ever proceeded from
the lips of the political agitators of this country.
A formal announcement indeed has been made
by them, that they are "ready to contend by the
side of the Roman Catholics" in the war against
the Church in Ireland*, and they have "pledged
themselves never to remit their efforts" to over-
turn it. The ultimate object of the Dissenters,

* See the "Address to the Roman Catholics of Ireland,
from the Conference of Protestant Dissenters, held in Crosby
Hall, London, on May the 20th and 21st, 1845."


which they have set before themselves as worthy
of every exertion in their power, is to put an end
to the connexion of Church and State in Great
Britain, and to substitute the voluntary system
in the place of the national endowment of reli-
gion. On the attempt to achieve this object,
they seem determined to concentrate all their
strength; and, in comparison with it, their for-
mer controversies, respecting Episcopacy, and
our Liturgy, and doctrines, and discipline, are
regarded as minor points. It is because they
think a way will be thus opened to them for
making a more successful attack on the Esta-
blished Church in England, that they now lend
their aid in the movement against the branch of
that Church in this country. They appear to
care but little to inquire what would be the con-
sequence to Protestantism in Ireland, were it
left to the voluntary system alone, and were the
sheltering influence of our Church Establish-
ment withdrawn. They ask not what prospect
there would be of supi)lying, by means of that
system, the ministrations of religion to thou-
sands of poor families in remote districts, who
would be unable to defray for themselves the
expense of a settled ministry; and whose reli-


gion, when deprived of such ministrations,
would gradually melt away, until it was lost in
the superstition and ignorance that surrounded
it. All such considerations the Dissenters of
England seem to have put aside, in their zeal to
make a practicable breach in the establishment
of religion in the empire; and so they make
common cause with the E-omanists in the assault
upon the Protestant Establishment in Ireland.

With the Roman Catholics and Dissenters are
also found united in assailing the Irish Church,
the revolutionary party, of whatever religion,
who seek its subversion from a love of change
and dislike of the ancient institutions of the
country. And, supported by such a combination
of parties, all of them resolute in their hostility,
a distinct proposal for the demolition of the
Irish Church is annually submitted to the con-
sideration of Parliament*.

Connected with these hostile attacks, and by

* Another political party, whose organ is the Oxford
and Cambridge Review, must also, I find, be included among
the assailants of the Established Church of Ireland. Since I
delivered this Charge, I have seen the number of that peri-
odical for the month of August, 1845, which contains an
article upon Ireland, full of misrepresentation, and bitter
hostility against the Protestant Church.


wsij of furnishing some foundation for them,
misrepresentations the most gross have been put
forth respecting the condition of our Church.
And unhappily there exists in England such a
degree of unacquaintedness with its affairs, that
these misrepresentations readily pass current.
The public ear has been so accustomed to hear
assertions made regarding our Establishment,
which are either wholly false or greatly exagge-
rated, that, from their constant reiteration, they
are supposed to be true*. And, perhaps, suffi-
cient pains have not been taken on our part to
remove the misapprehensions to which they have
given rise. I will allude to some of them.

And, first, I would refer to the revenues of
the Church, which are still spoken of as being
"enormous." The "immense riches," the "lav-
ish endowment " of the Irish Church, occupy a
prominent place in every speech and pamphlet
on this subject. In the last of these publications

* When the late Earl Spencer, then Chancellor of the
Exchequer, was introducing the Church Temporalities Act
into the House of Commons, in the year 1833, he observed,
with reference to the revenues of the Irish Church, — " I will
venture to say, that greater exaggerations exist upon this
point than upon any other political topic that has ever come
under my consideration." — Mirror of Parliament, Feb. 12,1833.


that I have seen*, the attempt is made to lead
the British public to believe that tithe, meaning
thereby, as it is specifically asserted, a tenth part
of the produce of the land, is still paid to the
clergy by the cultivators of the soil. Although,
even when what was called tithe was formerly
paid, it was not a tenth, but a thirtieth part that
was received by them. And since that which
was denominated tithe has been commuted into
a rent charge, paid by the landlord, it has been
diminished by one fourth; and it is, in reality,
but a fortieth that is paid to the clergy of the
Established Church. In other words they re-
ceive a fourth part of the tithe f. And, were the

* The Catholic Claims. A Letter to the Lord Bishop of
Cashel, hy Baptist W. Noel, M.A.

t The evidence given before the Select Committee of the
House of Commons, on tithes in Ireland, in the year 1832, by
Mr. Griffith, the Commissioner of Valuation for Ireland, fully
established the fact, that the proportion which the tithe com-
position bore to the gross value of the whole produce or in-
crease of the land was less than a sixtieth part ; the present
tithe rent charge is, therefore, less than the eightieth. As it
was the custom, however, to exempt some kinds of produce
from the payment of tithes, I have in view those only which
were usually tithed, when I state, that the proportion paid
was a thirtieth and not a tenth, and that the rent charge is
but a fortieth.


income derived from this source, and from minis-
ters' money, to be divided equally amongst the
beneficed clergy, it would yield them (after
paying the salaries of their assistant curates)
about 230/. a-year each. Were it equally shared
amongst all the clergy, incumbents and curates, it
would not give to each of them an income of
I70Z. If the value of the glebe lands be also
taken into account, the whole property of the
parochial clergy, were it divided in equal shares
amongst them all, would not produce for each
of them 200Z. a-year. To call this endow-
ment " lavish " — to denominate this income
"immense riches," and "enormous wealth," —
is absurd and ridiculous. The fact which I have
stated needs only to be known, to make apparent
the exaggeration of those figures of speech which
have been employed on this subject. The phan-
tom of the Church's wealth, which seems to haunt
perpetually, and to disturb the quiet of so many
of its reformers, requires only to have the light
of truth let in upon it, and it instantly dis-

It may be thought, indeed, by some, that a
more nearly equal distribution of the property
of the Church would be desirable. But this, it


will be observed, is quite a different question
from that of the aggregate revenues of the whole
body being an exhaustless mine of riches. And
it will be perceived from what I have mentioned,
that those persons who are forward to express
commiseration for the ill-paid curates of the
Established Church, and who speak feelingly of
the plain justice it would be to provide each of
that laborious class of ministers with an income
of at least 2007. a-year, would certainly not find
means to carry this generous design into effect
by any process of arithmetic that could be
applied to the property of the incumbents, except
by making the two parties change places in the
scale of their incomes. I am, indeed, fully per-
suaded that to introduce perfect equality in the
incomes of the clergy, would be far from advan-
tageous to the interests of the Church. But I
would at the same time observe, that so far as a
sound objection lies against a too great disparity,
means have been in effective operation for some
years past which will remove that objection. I
allude to the dissolution of unions of parishes,
and the subdivision of those which are of too
large extent, and the augmentation of the in-
comes of the smaller benefices. It may not.


perhaps, be generally known that, since the
passing of the Church Temporalities Act, in
1833, upwards of 4000?. a-year have been applied
to augment poorly endowed parishes.

The rumours put into circulation as to the
revenues of the bishops, have been even more
exaggerated than these in reference to the
incomes of the parochial clergy. But when the
facts are fairly inquired into, instead of the
prelates having, as a body, eagerly grasped at
gain, and sought to aggrandize themselves out
of the property belonging to them, it will be
found that their long settled practice has been
to claim and to receive, in addition to the small
head rent of the estates assigned to them, a
renewal fine of only one-fifth of the value, after
deducting that rent; the remaining four-fifths
being enjoyed by the numerous and respectable
class of landholders to whom they have been
leased for many generations. Is there any
other property in the kingdom, I would ask, out
of Avliich so small a benefit is claimed by its pro-
prietors ? ^Vlien the provisions of the Church
Temporalities Acts shall have come into full
operation, (and it is in this light that our
ecclesiastical establishment must be viewed, by


all who really wish to ascertain the condition in
which it will be in future,) the revenues of the
episcopal body will be reduced by the payment
of a heavy tax, so that their average net amount
will but little exceed that of the judges of the
courts of law. And when it is considered that
the prelates form a portion of the peerage of
the country, one of the highest estates of the
realm, — a privilege of their order as ancient as
the House of Peers itself, and handed doAvn to
the bishops of the Irish Church by a succession
which has suffered no interruption, — a succession
reaching further back than does the title of any
temporal peer of Ireland ; and when the income
assigned them out of their properties is com-
pared with that of even the poorest of the noble
order, of which from time immemorial they form
a part, it will appear to be not excessive in its

The cathedral establishments of the Irish
Church constitute another topic upon which
much misapprehension has prevailed, — misappre-
hension into which, indeed, the people of Eng-
land are naturally liable to fall, inasmuch as
they judge of our Church by what they know of
their own, — hearing, as they do, tlic same titles


given to the dignitaries and officers connected
with the cathedrals in the two countries, while,
in point of fact, as regards most of them, nothing
can be more dissimilar. Instead of a stately
and venerable pile, in which the full choral
service of the Church is performed with due
solemnity from day to day, by a choir skilled in
ecclesiastical music ; in this country, the build-
ings denominated cathedrals, are, in more than
two-thirds of the dioceses, mere parish churches,
and these of the humblest and simplest kind, in
which the means do not exist that would enable
an attempt to be made to perform the choral
service. And the dignitaries and prebendaries
connected with them are, with but a very few
exceptions, merely parochial clergymen, engaged
like others in the duties of their respective
parishes, and deriving all their income from their
benefices. The rank, the title, the office, indeed,
of dignitary or of prebendary is conferred on
them; but rarely is any emolument connected
with it ; and still more rarely is any residentiary
house appropriated for the use of the persons
who hold those offices. There are, in truth, but
eight dignitaries in Ireland, out of the list of
139, who have houses assigned to them as such.


And of the prebendaries, 178 in number, not
one has a residence in right of his prebend*.

Let me not, however, be mismiderstood on
this subject, as if I thought it an advantage to
our Church to be thus circumstanced. Far from
it. I am merely stating what is a fact. Had it
been otherAvise, — ^liad all, or the greater number
of our cathedrals been possessed of adequate
endowments, and resembled those of England
in more than in name, benefits in many ways
would have resulted to a country circumstanced
as Ireland has been. And among a people of
strong religious feelings, and with a national
fondness for music and susceptibility of its
power, the solemn performance . of our choral
service might have proved no ineffectual means
of recommending our sublime and impressive
Liturgy to their warm affections.

* The Tithe Commutation Act and the Church Tempo-
ralities Act have, by their combined operation, reduced the
amount of property formerly belonging to the dignitaries and
prebendaries, by at least one-third j and still further reduc-
tions are rapidly taking place, by the suspension of dignities
and the disappropriation of their emoluments. Of the 178
prebends, 105 never possessed any income whatever, except
that arising from the benefices with care of souls which the
prebendaries held, and in which they officiated as parochial


Another subject in regard to which also there
has been much misconception, is the union of
parishes. This has been a fruitful topic of invec-
tive against the Church. And it has been main-
tained that the abuses of the Establishment will
not be at an end until every union is severed,
and every parish has its own appointed minister
living within its bounds, and devoting himself to
its care. And, truly, if a parish in Ireland were
always what the designation Avould lead men to
suppose it to be, this might be a just view of the
case. The term parish being generally under-
stood to signify a district sufficient in extent
and population to require the attention of a
clergyman, and affording an income adequate to
his maintenance. This, however, is by no means
the case. Come of what are called parishes in
Ireland are merely the sites of old religious
houses, the names of which they continue to
bear. And to complain of their being united
together, would be to complain that there is
a union of streets in a town under one pastor,
or a union of fields in a rural district under a
single minister. A remarkable instance of this
occurs in the city of Cork, where, in the union
of which the chancellor of the diocese is the


incumbent, one of the parishes (when I presided
over that see) was a distillery, and another was
a sugar-house. So much may people be misled
b}^ mere lists of names of parishes, without
inquiring what in reality those names designate,
A fair examination into the causes Avhich
have generally led to the joining together of
parishes under one incumbent, would remove
much of the obloquy which has been thrown
upon the Church on that account; perhaps,
would transfer the censure to very different
parties from those on whom it is now made to
fall. I say, the causes which have generally led
to the uniting of parishes — for, with a very few
exceptions, it will be found that the occasion of
the formation of unions has been the utter
inadequacy of a single parish to afford the
means of support to a minister for the perform-
ance of the spiritual duties of it. This inade-
quacy has chiefly arisen from two causes. One
of them, the resolution which was passed by the
Irish House of Commons, in the 3'ear 1735, to
resist the payment of the tithe of agistment,
which produced such a diminution of the incomes
of the clergy in most parts of Ireland, then
greatly devoted to pasturage, that several pa-


rishes had to be joined togetlier to make out a
sufficient subsistence for a minister. And it is
only of late years that, in consequence of the
great extension of tillage, the value of benefices
has been so considerably increased, that a sepa-
ration of united parishes into distinct benefices
could be adopted to any extent. The other
cause, and one for which no remedy has been
found, is the impropriation of the whole, or
nearly the whole, of the ecclesiastical reA^enues
in a great number of parishes, without any pro-
vision being made by the impropriator, or a
totally insufficient one, for the support of a
clergyman to attend in each of them to the
spiritual wants of the parishioners. For instance,
in the portion of this diocese which is situated in
the county of Louth, there are seven parishes
Avholly destitute of income; and four other
parishes in the same county have incomes of less
than 21 Z. a-year each. How is it possible that
the spiritual duties of such districts can be
attended to, unless they are annexed to parishes
which aff'ord means of support to a minister?

It is worthy of being borne in mind by those
whose inclination leads them to attack the
Church, and by those also who sincerely desire


its improvement, that a Royal Commission was
appointed, fifteen years ago, to inquire into the
unions of' parishes, and to report on the fitness
and practicability of dissolving them. A majo-
rity of the commissioners were laymen of high
character and station. The result of their in-
quiries (which proceeded only as far as the
province of Armagh) was, that in regard to the
unions in that portion of Ireland, 110 in number,
there were 48 which it would be either imprac-
ticable or unadvisable to sever. Such a state-
ment, proceeding from such a quarter, ought to
lead people to pause before they condemn in a
sweeping and indiscriminate manner, the exist-
ence of any unions whatever of parishes. But, I
would also add, that so far as it is desirable that
a dissolution of these unions should take place,
an opportunity is provided for severing them as
vacancies occur. And within the last eleven
years 53 have been dissolved.

It is unnecessary for me to make any remark
upon the subject of pluralities of benefices, one
which has afforded occasion for reproach against
our Church, for that occasion is now altogether
cut off. The power of granting a dispensation
for holding a plurality of benefices is vested in

C 2


me as Primate, and, having gradually reduced
the number of applications, by arrangements
which I made, I, sixteen years ago, witli the full
concurrence of my episcopal brethren, and of
the Government of the day, put a complete stop
to the issuing of any dispensations for that pur-

So far with regard to the revenues of the
Church, and the alleged abuses with reference

1 3

Online LibraryChurch of Ireland. Diocese of Armagh. Bishop (1822A charge delivered at his annual visitation, 1845 (Volume Talbot Collection of British Pamphlets) → online text (page 1 of 3)