Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

in the pulpit and from the press; and we should in an especial manner instil carefully into the minds of the young, the true principles of Protestantism. But, on the other hand, admitting the facts, as repre'sented, to be true, if it appears that the schools and mass houses so much complained of, are only frequented by persons of the Roman Catholic persuasion; if the priests and their congregations take the prescribed oath; if no undue endeavours are used to make proselytes, and no doctrines are taught hostile to the government of the country; I do not see how, on the principles of Toleration or of Christianity, any other opposition can be made to them, but that of argument and persuasion, and increased activity and zeal on our part in guarding those intrusted to our care against the superstitions and errors of the Church of Rome."

This surely is precisely the language as well of sound reason as of true religion: but it was not that which answered the views of the Protestant Association. Men under the influence of passion and prejudice are not easily repressed; and therefore, though against the concurrent opinion of the Bishops and the whole body of the English Clergy, they determined, as they expressed themselves, in the most prudent and respectful manner—in other words, at the head of 150,000 people—to present their petition to Parliament. The consequences, as is well known, were the riots of 1780, when a scene of desperate outrage was exhibited in this Metropolis, than which nothing could be more disgraceful to the national character, of more injurious to the credit of the Established Faith.

Early in 1731, the returns to an

inquiry, inquiry, which the House of Lords had ordered to be made, into the number of Papists in England and Wales, were laid upon the table: when Earl Ferrers, who had moved for that inquiry, observed, that it appeared evidently from these returns, that there had been a very considerable increase of Papists in this kingdom, and particularly in the Diocese of Chester. "In that Diocese," he said, "the number in 1717, was 10,308; in 1767, it was 25,139; and at this time the number given in to the House amounts to 27,228. He therefore submitted to their Lordships, whether it would not be highly expedient to lay such restrictions upon the Catholics, as might, consistently with the true principles of liberality and candour, prevent their further increase. He was no friend to persecution; but he believed the spirit of Popery wast not

[graphic]

changed; changed: and if it was allowed to spread in the minds of the multitude without control, the worst consequences at a future period might be justly apprehended."

This proposition, as the facts on which it rested referred principally to his own Diocese, made it necessary for the Bishop to reply; and he has left the following abstract, as the substance of his speech on that occasion. "As the discussion of this subject appeared to me exceedingly dangerous, and as I well knew that there was no just ground for dreading any increase of Popery, I thought it right to say something in answer to Lord Ferrers; and undertook to prove, that his statement of the number of Catholics in the Diocese of Chester in the year 1717, was extremely erroneous, having been taken only from very inaccurate curate returns to Bishop Gaskell's visitatorial inquiries, and not from any parliamentary survey, which alone could be depended upon: that two such surveys had been lately taken of the> number of Papists in England and Wales, one in 1767, the other in 1780; that the number returned at the former period was 67,916, at the latter, 69,376; that the increase therefore, in these thirteen years, throughout the whole kingdom, was only 1,460, and that this was owing entirely, not to the increase of Popery, but to the increase of population: that I had in my own possession, in consequence of inquiries made upon the subject, very convincing proofs, that in the diocese of Chester alone there had been within the last sixty years an increase of more than 250,000 souls, and that this would more than account for the progress which F . Popeiy

[graphic]
« FöregåendeFortsätt »