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Social Progress (continued) page 4


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Passing over to Ireland, we find that religion has there made astonishing progress since the reign of George III., though, in consequence of the constant current of emigration, we have not the same means of measuring it statistically as in this country. The agitation in favour of Catholic Emancipation, and the action of the Catholic Association, had the effect of rousing the Protestants from their apathy, and kindling a sort of polemical war between the parties, which was provoked by Dr. Doyle, O'Connell, and a number of the lay agitators. Contemporaneous with this was the diffusion of a missionary spirit among Church people, owing to the exertions of the Irish Evangelical Society, the London Hibernian Society, and other English agencies. At the same time Dr. Singer, one of the Fellows of Trinity College, and professor of divinity, the Rev. Mr. Caesar Otway, and a few other ministers, began to gather around them a number of young clergymen and divinity students, who formed the nucleus of the evangelical party, which has since spread so as to become almost commensurate with the Irish Church. The following is a very brief sketch of the leading men who - either by labour in the pulpit, or on the platform, or in the committees of religious societies, or by their property and influence - were mainly instrumental in awakening the spirit of revival, and directing the currents of religious progress in Ireland since the reign of George III. The first of these is the Rev. B. W. Mathias, minister of the Bethesdan proprietary church in Dublin, in which " the gospel" was first regularly preached, in the evangelical sense of the term. Mr. Mathias was the first secretary of the Hibernian Bible Society. As a preacher he was eloquent, with a style distinguished by simplicity and pathos. The Rev. Peter Roe, of Kilkenny, was another of the pioneers of evangelism, who exerted great influence in his day. As a speaker he was weighty, instructive, and impressive. The Rev. R. Daly, afterwards Bishop of Cashel, influential from his position as rector of Powerscourt, was energetic, active, and a clever controversialist. The most effective of this small band was Dr. Singer, afterwards the bishop of Meat h, who brought learning, taste, and eloquence to the defence of the gospel and the promotion of the evangelical cause. The Rev. J. Carlile, D.D., one of the ministers of the Scotch Church, laboured indefatigably, as secretary to the Bible Society and otherwise, in furtherance of Protestant views, and contributed more to its success by his clear head and business habits than others by their oratory. Another Presbyterian minister, of more varied accomplishments, the Rev. David Stuart, D.D., distinguished as a Hebrew scholar, a Biblical critic, and an accomplished divine, was also an eloquent preacher, and was perhaps the most successful man of his day in Dublin, both as a platform speaker and a man of business on committees.

With these were associated three men of mark belonging to the Independent denomination - the two Coopers, father and son, and Dr. Urwick. The Rev. William Cooper was an Englishman, of great eloquence and vast controversial powers, who was settled in Dublin as minister of Plunket Street congregation, and who delivered powerful lectures against Romanism. His son, the Rev. W. Ha weis Cooper, was one of the most eloquent and accomplished preachers of his day, and was also an excellent scholar. He was always ready and effective as a platform speaker. Besides being the pastor of a congregation, he presided for many years over the Manor Street Academy, for the education of young men for the ministry, in connection with the Independent body. Dr. Urwick had been sent over to Ireland by the Irish Evangelical Society; and being stationed in Sligo he won great fame by a controversy with two Romish priests in Easkey Chapel. Soon after he was invited to Dublin, and became minister of York Street Chapel, where he laboured for many years. Dr. Urwick maintained a very high character for learning and ability. He had a very great command of language, an impressive delivery, and a voice whose extraordinary power excited astonishment from the fact that he was remarkably small in stature; but people felt in this case that mind was the measure of the man; for no minister of his time, however commanding his personal appearance, was distinguished by greater dignity of bearing, or was more respected. He was associated with Mr. W. H. Cooper as Professor of Theology in the Independent College, and was the author of several able works.

These were the men on whom chiefly devolved the responsibility of working the various religious societies, which held their " April Meetings" in the Rotunda, the Exeter Hall of Dublin. They were assisted by a number of pious and benevolent laymen, amongst whom may be mentioned Mr. P. AEmelius Singer, Mr. Arthur Guinness, Mr. W. C. Hogan, Mr. Thomas Parnell, and Mr. Lefroy, afterwards chief justice of the Queen's Bench. Among the clergy who came from the provinces to speak at the anniversaries were the Rev. Mr. Pope, the great controversialist, and one of the most eloquent men of his time, Archdeacon Pakenham, the Rev. George Hamilton, and the Rev. Henry Irwin, subsequently minister of Sandford Church and archdeacon of Emly, a man of great earnestness of character, deep piety, and heart-stirring eloquence. Among the prelates, Dr. Trench, the Archbishop of Tuam, patronised some of the societies by taking the chair at their meetings. Viscount Lorton and the Earl of Roden also frequently presided, and contributed to make religion fashionable. The late Mr. James Digges La Touche, the banker, acted as treasurer, and was liberal in his support. The late Archbishop Magee was not unfriendly, though he took no part in the meetings. His successor, Archbishop Whately, was for a number of years not on the best terms with his clergy generally, who were nearly all tories, were very hot in their antagonism to Popery, and had a great aversion to the liberalism of their new diocesan, who patronised the system of mixed education, and advocated reform in Church and State. His having become one of the Commissioners of National Education, of which he was the ablest defender, did not tend to conciliate his clergy. There is no doubt, however, that his charges and other productions, uniformly distinguished by close reasoning and apt illustration, contributed largely to the advancement of what are termed liberal opinions in that country; for he was unquestionably one of the greatest thinkers of the age, and of transcendent intellectual powers.

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