Saturday, 22 June 2013



In 1816 Mr. James Haldane spent some weeks at Gilsland, in Cumberland, in the hope of recruiting his wife's drooping health. On that occasion he met a well-known Roman Catholic Archbishop, the late Dr. Everard, titular of Cashel. He was one of the old school of Irish priests, before the well-educated and well-mannered race, trained in France, had been exchanged for the coarser and more turbulent pupils of the College of Maynooth. Dr. Everard was a man of very cultivated mind, who had lived in the families of some of the highest English aristocracy, and had seen much of the world. His character was described in glowing colours by Lord Glenelg, in one of his speeches in favour of what was called Roman Catholic emancipation. At first he appeared at the hotel simply as Mr. Everard; and the only circumstance which created any suspicion, in regard to his rank, was the awe with which he was obviously regarded by a priest, who was also staying at the hotel, and whose reserved conversation and altered habits denoted a restraint, which he had not previously indicated.

On the very first day that they met at table, Dr. Everard singled out Mr. James Haldane from the crowd of visitors, and in the evening made up to him and engaged him in very interesting conversation. Next day his attentions became more marked, and, at dinner, it appeared that the Doctor's servant had received orders to wait on Mr. and Mrs. Haldane as much as on himself. The intimacy increased, and every day hours were spent in the walks or drives around Gilsland, discussing the claims of the Romish Church and the doctrines of the Gospel. Mighty in the Scriptures, and armed in Christian panoply, Mr. James Haldane repelled every argument drawn from the traditions of the Church or the authority of man; and, on the other hand, assured his new acquaintance, that if Romanists refused an appeal "to the law and to the testimony," it must be because there was no light in them. These friendly discussions were carried on with intense earnestness and in a spirit that inspired mutual respect. Dr. Everard confidentially disclosed his rank and position in the Romish Church, but solemnly appealed to heaven, that he sought only the truth, and was indifferent to all secular considerations. The conversations became daily more interesting.

On the Lord's-day Mr. James Haldane preached in the assembly-room. Before the service, Dr. Everard begged the daughter of his Protestant friend to persuade her father to preach in the drawing-room, and tell him how much he himself desired to listen. After the service was over, Dr. Everard asked why his request had not been complied with, and why the sermon had not been preached in the drawing room, "where," he said, "I could have remained and listened without any breach of discipline or canonical law, although, of course, it was impossible to follow you to another place." It was explained that many servants and cottagers would have been excluded from hearing, had he conducted the service in the drawing-room, but he offered to go over all the leading topics of his discourse. This he did, and discussed them with his usual candour.

A few days before he left Gilsland, Dr. Everard confined himself to his room and did not appear in public. He afterwards sought a parting interview with his Protestant friend; it was at once solemn and affecting. The Archbishop told Mr. James Haldane that the conversations he had enjoyed with him, and particularly his appeals to the Bible, had shaken him more than anything he had ever before heard, and that they had made him very uneasy; that he had, therefore, determined, with fasting and prayer, once more to seek counsel of God, in order that his error, if he were in error, might be shown to him. He added, that his meditations, during his hours of fasting, and retirement, had led him to this train of thought: "Here is a man who is certainly mighty in the Scriptures, but who interprets the Bible for himself and depends on his own private judgement. The case is different with myself. If I err, I err with a long line of holy men who have lived and died in the bosom of the Catholic Church." Mr. James Haldane endeavoured to show the danger of trusting to the example or opinions of fallible men, although some of those named, such as Pascal and Fenelon, had been themselves persecuted for their Protestant tendencies; and he contrasted the conclusions based on the shifting sands of human opinion, with the certainty that belongs to the written Word of God, read by the light of God's Holy Spirit shining on its pages. He also said something about "the traditions of the apostles." "What," said Dr. Everard, 'do you speak of traditions? I had thought you discarded them entirely." The reply was, "The traditions of fallible men I reject, but the traditions of the apostles, as recorded by the finger of inspiration, are to be received as every other part of the inspired Word of God." Mr. James Haldane added, "Pardon me, but I must tell you, in faithfulness and love, that it is my firm conviction, that the Church which you so much esteem is no other than the woman which the apostle John beheld in the Apocalypse " drunken with the blood of the saints and martyrs of Jesus.'" Again he said, "Do not think me rude." The Archbishop affectionately pressed his hand, and said, "No, my dear Sir; I know you too well to think so. I am persuaded that you only speak for my good." The necessity of further investigation of the Bible with prayer, was once more urged on the amiable Prelate. A compliance with this request was promised, coupled with an urgent entreaty that his Protestant friend would do the same. Mr. James Haldane replied that his convictions were based upon a rock too solid to be shaken, and one which would admit of being again and again examined with minute attention. But he reminded Dr. Everard, that all the claims of Popery rested on human testimony; on principles that would not bear the light of God's Word, and around which there was, at best, a lurid halo of doubt and uncertainty.

They parted with mutual expressions of regard, and Dr. Everard died a few years afterwards, at Cashel, where there were whispers in the neighbourhood, which intimated that his dying room was carefully watched to prevent the intrusion of those whose presence was not desired, and that the mystery which was kept up, as to his illness, arose from suspicions that he did not continue steadfast in the Romish faith. The deathbed of the celebrated Bishop Doyle, at Carlow, was attended with similar and even darker suspicions, some of which have been since confirmed by the touching narrative published by his amiable wards, who were not suffered to enter his chamber until the lifeless corpse was laid out in state, in his Episcopal robes, attended by monks, with lighted torches, chanting his requiem, amidst all that pompous ceremonial with which Rome strives to make the senses the slaves of the imagination.

Taken from "The lives of Robert and James Haldane" by Alexander Haldane (Banner of Truth Trust: pp 406-409)



No comments:

Post a Comment

All are welcome to comment here provided that the usual principles of Christian comment e.g. politeness etc. are observed.