Part 1: Introduction:
We have looked at the period 1660-1690 and the life of the Church of Ireland from the restoration of Charles II to the Battle of the Boyne. This was the Church of the Caroline Divines and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer; the Church of Jeremy Taylor and Narcissus Marsh; a Church whose close political relations with the state produced great problems during the reign of James II; a Church that found itself, in that wonderful description by Ray Gillespie of Maynooth, “caught between a Catholic anvil and a Protestant hammer.”
It was a Church that found itself in an exciting world of new thinking, in theology, philosophy, science, literature and architecture. Continental Europe saw the challenges posed philosophically by Descartes and Pascal, and theologically by Jansenism and Gallicanism.
We can never separate those developments in the Continental Church from what was happening in the Church on this island: if the Popes saw their power and influence declining after the Peace of Westphalia, and declining in the face of the assertions of the French King and the Gallicans, then was it any wonder that – having heard that James II was ending his exile in France, and that with French support he had come to Ireland in the hope of regaining his throne – the Pope should say Mass in Rome giving thanks for the victory of William at the Boyne?
We have seen that many of the bishops of the Church of Ireland had either gone into exile under James II, or had been persecuted. What happened in the Church after the Battle of the Boyne on 1 July and after William III’s arrival in Dublin on 6 July to that solemn service of thanksgiving in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin?
Part 2: The Church of Ireland
Between 1690 and 1714, both Ireland and the Church of Ireland went through a period of change. Dublin was the second city of the Empire and grew at an unprecedented rate after the Williamite Revolution. In 1695, Dublin had a population of 47,000, and 12 parishes, with 78% of the population living south of the River Liffey. By 1715, the population of Dublin had risen to 89,000, of whom two-thirds were Protestants.
Non-resistance and the divine right of kings had become central assumptions in the relations between Church and State for both the Church of Ireland and the Church of England. There were those who had taken an oath of loyalty to the reigning monarch and who – despite the turmoils during the reign of James II – felt bound by their oath.
Those leaders who felt unable to renounce their oath, who refused to take a new oath to William and Mary, and who lost their offices, became known as the Nonjurors. They included: William Sheridan, Bishop of Kilmore and Ardagh, the Archdeacons of Connor (Baynard) and Dublin (John Fitzgerald), the Dean of Lismore (Barzilai Jones), the Chancellor and Treasurer of Connor (Charles Leslie and W. Jones), and Henry Dodwell and George Kelly of Trinity College Dublin.
Although this dissent was hardly as significant as the Nonjuring schism in England, it nevertheless shows that (1) there was dissent within the Church of Ireland on the question the Church/State relations; (2) the Williamite revolution did not have complete support within the Protestant community; (3) the opposition to William within the Church of Ireland came from the core of the clergy rather than from the margins.
Fitzgerald was a brother of Bishop John Fitzgerald of Clonfert, a son of Dean John Fitzgerald of Cork, and a grandson of Archbishop Richard Boyle of Tuam. Sheridan had been Dean of Down and chaplain to Ormond when he was Lord-Lieutenant, and his brother, Patrick Sheridan, was Bishop of Cloyne (1679-1682).
Sheridan and Fitzgerald moved to London, where they lived among the English Nonjurors.
Charles Leslie and Henry Dodwell, with their books and pamphlets, were later recognised as a theologian and an historian of importance within Anglican thought. They set an example of honesty in politics, emphasised the view that there is moral foundation for the State as well as for the Church, and that there is a sacredness of moral obligation in public life.
Apart from losing the Nonjurors, the Church of Ireland had also lost many leaders who had fled during the reign of James II, while others such as Hugh Gore of Waterford had died as a consequence of their suffering. As at the Restoration in 1660, the Church of Ireland once again faced the problem of reorganisation and filling vacant dioceses. In 1691 and 1692, a new archbishop and eight new bishops were appointed: Narcissus Marsh (Cashel), Fitzgerald (Clonfert – a brother of the Nonjuring Archdeacon of Dublin), Digby (Elphin), Tennison (Clogher), Vigors (Ferns and Leighlin), Lloyd (Killala), King (Derry), Foy (Waterford) and Wilson (Limerick).
Archbishop Narcissus Marsh: brought fresh vigour to the office of Archbishop in Cashel, Dublin and Armagh
Archbishop Narcissus Marsh brought a fresh vigour to his roles as Provost of TCD, Bishop of Ferns and Leighlin, and then as Archbishop of Cashel (1691-1694), Dublin (1694-1703) and Armagh (1703-1714). He was regular in visitations, combating the abuses he encountered. He forbade preaching in private houses, ordered every incumbent to preach each Sunday, and to “preach upon the royal supremacy four times a year.” As archbishop, he insisted on visiting his suffragan dioceses, and he also played a part in establishing Marsh’s Library and the Dublin Philosophical Society (now the RIA).
The other key reforming figure in the Church at this time was William King (see below).
The bishops were regarded as tending towards “high church” preferences or leanings, and their political loyalties were tested with the introduction of the oath of abjuration in 1697, which was opposed by all four archbishops and three of the bishops.
But the relations between Church and State were strengthened in the years that followed with an increasing political role for the bishops.
The Lords Lieutenant were largely non-resident, and during their lengthy absences the island was governed by two or three Lords Justices, one of whom was inevitably either the Primate or one of the three other archbishops.
Narcissus Marsh complained that the offices of state occupied too much of his working time, and during the parliamentary recess in 1707, the Council sat no less than eight or ten hours a day, leaving him little time for study or to administer his diocese. King too complained that he was over-burdened by the affairs of state. Many bishops complained that they had to spent much of their time in the House of Lords.
The Irish-born clergy also complained about being overlooked when it came to promotions in the Church: every primate who held office between 1702 and 1800 was of English birth, and a very normal path to promotion to the bench of bishops was to come to Ireland as chaplain to the Lord Lieutenant. Many of these, as Chart describes them, were “political hacks or obsequious intriguing courtiers.”
Among the clergy of the Church of Ireland, there was unease at the failure to call Convocation, which had not met since 1661, and which was not summoned again until 1703. When it was called, the bishops claimed for convocation the right to deal with all Church matters, to make ordinances and decrees that had the force of ecclesiastical canons and constitutions, while the clergy claimed the right to impose their own taxation.
The full convocation met for the first time in the chapter room of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, on 11 January 1704, and met for several months. They pressed for stricter observance of the Lord’s Day, a ruling by the bishops on churchwardens’ rights to punish those who failed to attend church, and debated profane swearing, public drunkenness, travelling on Sundays, the morals and manners of stage plays, and also proposals for theatre censorship.
They drew attention to the dangers of teaching philosophy in school, their worries about the ordination of unqualified men, the abuses of parochial patronage, the scandalous lifestyles of dismissed clergy, and the plight of sick curates.
They wanted at least monthly celebrations of the Holy Communion, a greater role for deans and chapters in examining candidates for ordination, and a more thorough inquiry into the ordinations of men who were received as priests and who were former Roman Catholics.
They also debated the use of First Fruits and Twentieth Part, the division and union of parishes, and raising money for church repairs.
And a major part of the debate was devoted to the conversion of Roman Catholics, and the use of the Irish language in this mission, including the use of Irish Bibles, sermons, hymnbooks and prayer books.
But Convocation also gave the incentive and initiative for a new wave of church building.
At this time, King reported, for example, that in the Diocese of Ferns, containing 131 parishes, only 32 parishes – the poorest parishes, needless to say – were in the hands of the officiating clergy. Neither bishop, nor dean nor archdeacon was resident in the diocese, which was served by only 13 beneficed clergy and nine curates, with incomes at £30 to £100. Pluralism and non-residence were major problems for the Church of Ireland, and reform was proving a very slow process.
However, Alan Acheson judges the calling of convocation a pyrrhic victory for the Church of Ireland, with its meetings exposing the disunity of the Church.
Convocation gradually declined in importance in the closing years of Queen Anne’s reign, leaving the Church of Ireland dependent on the secular power, and therefore on the landed interest.
Primate Marsh died in 1713. Convocation was convened for the last time at the end of that year in December 1713, and it was dissolved with the death of Queen Anne on 1 August 1714.
Church and State were as divided over whether the throne should pass to another member of the House of Stuart or to the German princes of the House of Hanover. With the accession of the Hanoverian monarchy in 1714, Church and State would enter a new phase. The Church of Ireland moved from being in the hands of the heirs of the Caroline tradition to being part of the new latitudinarian age. It would not escape the challenges posed for the wider Church in the decades to come by Rationalism and Deism.
Part 3: The Church in Ireland:
3:1: The Roman Catholics
The Penal Laws have left a legacy of bitterness. Were they inspired by theological antipathies or by fear of the political influence of the Pope? The historian Lecky points out that the Penal Laws were a product of the time, when church and state were inseparable, and claims they were modelled on French laws against the Huguenots.
The argument continues. But we must still be sensitive, even today, to the inherited memory that recalls the Penal Laws as sectarian in their intent and in their impact. This is reinforced by the fact that the bishops of the Church of Ireland were often instrumental in enacting and in enforcing these laws.
A state paper of the time on the state of Roman Catholics on the island lists: 838 secular priests and 389 regular priests, and three bishops (Cork, Galway and Waterford). Several Roman Catholic bishops had been expelled, and those that remained lived a precarious life, depending on the shelter provided by courageous members of their flock.
Archbishop Edward Comerford of Cashel, who was living in Thurles, Co Tipperary, wrote to the Pope, Innocent XII, in 1698: “Several of our brethren have stayed, hiding in cisterns, in mountains, caves and holes. I am sustained by the bread of tribulation and the water of scarcity, but I have not given up my office and will not do so.” He remained in office until his death in 1710.
But the Lord-Lieutenant, the Duke of Portland, knowing that without bishops there could be no priests, argued that if needed Roman Catholic bishops would have to come from the continent to ordain to continue ordinations.
Meanwhile, the tracts and pamphlets of the times, and the sermon preached on 30 January, 29 May, 23 October and 5 November (the new commemorations in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer), teem with references to the enormous evils of the powers claimed by the Pope.
Bishop King of Derry, a later Archbishop of Dublin, argued that the Roman Catholics must be held in subjection because of their religious views. They could not hold any office because they might betray their trust to the Pope. He conceded their rights to personal liberty, but not their political liberty and or any rights to the full benefits of citizenship.
King objected, for example, to a Roman Catholic priest in his diocese who was reported to have taken on himself to marry and divorce people and to dissolve marriages. On King other hand, he severely censured a landlord who took advantage of the Penal Laws to acquire the land of a Roman Catholic tenant for his own benefit.
Some of the bishops of the Church of Ireland advocated extreme measures against the Roman Catholics: Bishop Anthony Dopping, in a sermon in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, urged that there was no moral obligation on the Government to observe the terms conceded to Roman Catholics in the Treaty of Limerick.
On the other hand, on the following Sunday, Bishop Moreton of Kildare was anxious to find some means of accommodation. He urged Roman Catholic priests to accept the authority of William III, and suggested that their bishops could be paid by the state. Even one leading figure in the Church of Ireland, Peter Manby, Dean of Derry, became a Roman Catholic as a consequence of reading Archbishop William King’s Answer to the Considerations.
The Convocation summoned in 1703 devoted much of its time to debating the effectiveness and enforcement of the Penal Laws, including prohibitions on the entry of Roman Catholic priests from abroad, the opening of a register of Roman Catholic priests in Ireland, extending the vote to Roman Catholics only if they took the oaths of abjuration and allegiance, and demanding that holders of Crown offices must first receive Holy Communion according to the usage of the Church of Ireland.
In wrestling with these memories, historians of the Church of Ireland have failed to deal adequately with the real and shameful memories. A disingenuous example is provided by Murray (in Alison Philips) as late as 1933, when he writes: “At such times, however, the priest walked abroad at night and vanished in the early dawn, and when ardent Protestant neighbours came in search of arms they were apt to find pistol and corselet hidden away with pyx and chasuble” (Philips, vol iii, pp 160-161).
And yet, throughout all this time, pilgrimages were thriving – despite the Act banning them in 1702 – and especially at Lough Derg, which was owned by the Leslie family of Glaslough, who had provided generations of bishops and priests to the Church of Ireland.
Did the Penal Laws have any effect on the population? More than 40 years after the Treaty of Limerick, Roman Catholics still outnumbered Protestants in every part of Ireland, except the counties of Antrim, Armagh, Down, Derry and Dublin.
An analysis of population figures calculated by using the register of hearth taxes in the 1730s shows:
Ulster: 62,624 Protestants; 38,459 Catholics; Ratio: 3:2.
Leinster: 25,241 Protestant; 92,434 Catholics; Ratio: 2:7.
Munster: 13,337 Protestants; 106,407 Catholics; Ratio: 1:8.
Connacht: 4,299 Protestants; 44,101 Catholics; Ratio: 1:10.
3.2: The Presbyterians:
Although the Whigs were more amenable towards them, the Presbyterians also suffered under the Penal Laws, and also strongly resented the Sacramental Test Act.
Any legislative efforts to provide relief for the Presbyterians were effectively vetoed in the House of Lords, where the bishops had a working majority. Those who were more favourable towards the Presbyterians and their plight included a Dr Wright, FTCD, who, as a consequence, found his nomination as Bishop of Cork and Ross was blocked. Instead, the vacant see was filled by Peter Brown, who was suspected of Jacobite sympathies, and who wrote a discourse attacking the practice of drinking to the “pious and immortal memory” of William III.
3.3: The Huguenots:
Last week, we asked why the Huguenots had largely been incorporated into the Church of Ireland rather than the Presbyterians. The Convocation of 1704 discussed providing them with space in church buildings and a French version of the Book of Common Prayer, which was published in various editions in Dublin from 1715 to 1817.
The main centres of Huguenot settlement included Lisburn, Portarlington and Dublin, where they were concentrated in the Liberties and had three congregations.
Among the early Huguenot clergy in Ireland were James Hierome and Jacques Abbadie.
Saint Patrick’s Cathedral Dublin: hosted a French-speaking congregation of Huguenots
Hierome was the first French Huguenot minister to come to Ireland. Born in Sedan, he was the Reformed minister at Le Mans and at Fecamp, and then a French minister in London before moving to Dublin. He was a chaplain to Ormond (1662-1666) and then became the minister of the French Church in Saint Patrick’s, Cathedral, Dublin (1662-1667). Hierome was happy to hold office in non-French parishes too, and was something of a pluralist, holding benefices in the Dioceses of Dublin, Meath, Lismore and Waterford at the same time in the 1670s.
Abbadie had been pastor of the French church in Berlin. His lack of fluent English stopped William III appointing him Dean of Saint Patrick’s, Dublin, but he eventually became Dean of Killaloe in 1699. In Portarlington, the French Church was consecrated in French, using the form in the Book of Common Prayer, by Bishop Moreton of Kildare, and the parish records continued to be kept in French until 1807.
Another new influx came with the arrival of the Palatines, German Protestant refugees who began arriving from the Palatinate and Rhine valley from 1709, settling in Limerick, Wexford, Cork and Dublin. By 1720, the Palatines numbered 185 families.
Part 4: The wider church
The reign of Louis XIV came to a close in 1715. Apart from the extravagances of his court, this period had also been marked, in Church affairs, by the debates on Gallicanism and Jansenism, and by the clashes and competition between the French monarch and the Papacy.
No wonder the Pope felt safer when William III was victorious over James II, who had come out of exile in France with the full support of Louis XIV!
But there spiritual movements in France too, such as those led by the quietist, Madame Guyon (1648-1717) and Archbishop Francois Fenelon (1651-1715), with their emphases on pure love and passive prayer. In Germany, Philipp Jakob Spener (1635-1705), author of Pia Desideria, and August Hermann Francke (1663-1727) were the early leaders of Pietism, a movement centred on Halle, and which would later have a marked influence, through the Moravians, on Methodism.
In England, the writings of the Nonjurors were also to have an influence out of proportion to their size. They included Thomas Ken (1637-1711), whose influence survives as a hymn-writer, and, later, William Law (1686-1791), author of spiritual classics.
For the Church of England, the age was also marked not just by increasingly closer and more problematic relations with the State, but also by the founding of the first Anglican missionary societies: the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge (SPCK) in 1698, and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG, now USPG – Anglicans in World Mission) in 1701, both founded by Thomas Bray (1656-1730).
Part 5: Key personalities in the Church of Ireland:
5.1: Archbishop William King (1650-1729) of Dublin
Archbishop William King … found the people of Belfast “very refractory”
One of the key figures in the Church of Ireland throughout this time was William King (1650-1729). While he was, Dean of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin (1688-1691), he was imprisoned on the orders of James II. After the Williamite Revolution, he became Bishop of Derry (1691-1703) and Archbishop of Dublin (1703-1729).
King was the son of James King, a Scottish miller, who had moved to Co Antrim to escape the Solemn League and Covenant in Aberdeen.
King was a “high church” bishop, supported the Penal Code and refused to support the Toleration Bill in the House of Lords. He was particularly strong in his condemnation of Quakers, and had strong words about the people of Belfast who “are very refractory” and who bury their dead without prayers, come to church without removing their hats, break their fasts, and refuse to hand over collections to the churchwardens. [Murray, in Alison Philips, vol iii, pp 165-166.]
He was a reforming bishop in both Derry and Dublin, with conspicuous success. In 1711, with the assistance of Jonathan Swift, Dean of Saint Patrick’s, he obtained the first fruits and the twentieth parts for the Church of Ireland. He was incensed when the best of his clergy were passed over and important bishoprics and other senior Church posts were given to English clergy.
He rebuilt churches, including seven in the Diocese of Derry that had not been used since the Reformation; he publicly admonished sinners; he provided services in the Irish language; and he openly challenged and debated with Dissenters.
In Dublin and Glendalough, he built (or rebuilt) Arklow, Stillorgan, Kilgobbin, Ringsend, Saint Mark’s, Saint James’s, Saint Ann’s, and Saint Luke’s, he provided glebes, and he took special care in his efforts to guard against pluralism and non-residence.
A Whig politically, he failed to receive the expected promotion to the Primacy during the High Tory ascendancy at the end of Queen Anne’s reign, but came into his own after the Hanoverian accession. An important theologian in his time, his De Origione Mali (1702, translated 1731) sought to reconcile the existence of evil with the conception of an omnipotent and beneficent God.
5.2: Reforming bishops
Other reforming bishops at this time included Nathaniel Foy (1638-1707), Bishop of Waterford (1691-1707), who was jailed for strong speeches during the reign of James II, and again in 1695. He rebuilt rebuilt Saint Bride’s Church in Dublin, founded Bishop Foy School in Waterford, endowed schools, but despaired over “our sinking church” which faced the prospect of ruin and needed “a persecution [to] preserve us.”
However, bishops found their voices were not heard when they protested against abuses. Smith of Limerick protested in vain when he was instructed to institute a Dr Richards into two parishes in his diocese, taking his total number of livings to 14. “The Poison breath of the Castle” was blighting the work of “the better sort of clergy,” he protested.
On the other hand, Simon Digby, Bishop of Elphin (1691-1720), was said by King to have left his diocese “in a miserable condition: churches greatly wanting, and those that are, ill supplied … only about 13 clergymen in it.”
King also described the diocese of Killaloe as being “in a miserable condition” too.
5.3: Scandalous bishops and clergy
And there were scandalous bishops too. These included Thomas Hackett, Bishop of Down and Dromore (1671-1694). For the greater part of his 22 years as a bishop, Hackett lived in Hammersmith in London, where he openly sold livings to the highest bidders, including Roman Catholics. He was tried by King and Dopping in 1694, found guilty of simony and other abuses, and deposed.
Other trials followed. Hackett’s archdeacon, Lemuel Mathews of Dromore, was deprived for gross neglect of nine cures and non-residence in any of them; Dean Ward of Connor was deprived for adultery; Prebendary Mylne of Kilroot was punished for adultery and drunkenness; Prebendary Armer of Connor, who was excommunicated for neglect of duty, had long been absent in England – he had committed the parish of Ballymoney to a blind man.
The courts also found that the two cathedrals in Hackett’s dioceses and most of the parish churches were out of repair, and some of the parishes were in the hands of Presbyterians.
Part 6: The Church and the Arts:
The legacy of the Caroline tradition includes the emphasis on the auditory style in church architecture. Architects of the era included Christopher Wren and Inigo Jones in England. Their churches were built as a single room, typically an aisled rectangle, with galleries on three sides.
Examples include Saint Mary’s, Dublin. The three centres of the church were the font, the altar, and the three-deck pulpit.
In music and poetry, the influence of the Church of Ireland would spread through the work of two Irish clergymen, Nicholas Brady (1659-1726), from Bandon, Co Cork, and Nahum Tate (1652-1715), the Dublin-born poet laureate, who collaborated in publishing a new version of metrical psalms in 1696. Tate was the author of one our best-loved Christmas Carols, While shepherds watched their flocks by night (1703?), originally titled Song of the Angels at the Nativity of our Blessed Saviour. He was the author also of also wrote the libretto for Henry Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas (1689).
New libraries attached to cathedrals were founded and endowed. Otway of Ossory, who died in 1693, gave his books to found a library in Kilkenny. Marsh established his library in Dublin. Other famous libraries followed, including the Bolton Library in Cashel, and the library attached to Saint Carthage’s Cathedral, Lismore.
In the wider church, two composers serve to show how rich an age this was: Antonio Lucio Vivaldi (1678-1741) and Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750).
Vivaldi was ordained in Venice in 1703, and served in the Pieta, a church attached to an orphanage where he taught the violin. He was subsequently given a dispensation from having to say Mass because of asthma, before eventually leaving the active priesthood in 1706.
Vivaldi was nicknamed il Prete Rosso (“The Red Priest”), not because of his politics but because of his red hair. A composer, as well as a famous virtuoso violinist, he is best known for The Four Seasons, a series of four violin concertos. Vivaldi is one of the composers who brought Baroque music – with its typical contrast among heavy sonorities – to evolve into a classical style.
At this time too, Johann Sebastian Bach, a child of the German Lutheran Church, was coming to maturity and prospering. He has been described as “the most stupendous miracle in all music.”
Bach was deeply influenced by Vivaldi’s concertos and arias – recalled in his Saint John Passion, his Saint Matthew Passion and in his cantatas. Bach transcribed a number of Vivaldi’s concertos for solo keyboard, along with a number for orchestra, including the famous Concerto for Four Violins and Violoncello, Strings and Continuo (RV 580).
Bach saw himself not as a genius but as one of God’s craftsmen. Music should, he wrote, have no aim other than the glory of God and the “re-creation of the soul … Where this is not kept in mind there is no true music, but only an infernal clamour and ranting.” His scores bear dedicatory abbreviations like “S.D.G.” (Soli Deo Gloria: To God alone be praise) or “J.J.” (Jesu Juva: Help me, Jesus).
Next: (1) the early Georgian Church and the age of Swift and Berkeley; (2) Seminar: the Church and the arts (1660-1800).
Canon Patrick Comerford is Director of Spiritual Formation, The Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This lecture on Thursday 29 January 2009 was part of the Year II B.Th. course in Church History.