If such be the general experience of those most highly favoured in external things, what shall we say of such as, like the winter Ivy, stand exposed to the fiercest assaults of blight, and blast, and storm, and external desolation, that the elemerits of earth, directed by the permitted fury of evil spirits, can bring to bear on their unsheltered heads! The condition of those faithful men, who at this moment are doing the work of evangelists in that branch of the Protestant church established in Ireland, will be a matter of history, for future generations to marvel at, when the patient sufferers shall be numbered with the saints in glory everlasting, when every tear shall have been wiped from their faces, and the Lamb be visibly reigning in the midst of them for ever. Yet even these ephemeral pages shall record it too; and while suffering, as indeed I do, continual sorrow and heaviness in my heart for our brethren's sake, I will not refuse the consolations that abound on their behalf, in tracing the beautiful analogy that certainly exists between the natural world, as under the Providential government of its Creator, and the spiritual world of regenerate men, as more richly provided for in the covenant of grace.
If I look upon that which is seen, how sad is the wintry state of my poor Ivy ! Some lofty trees planted near it have cast a goodly shadow upon it, yielding defence, alike from the burning ray, and the rending gale. I have seen them stand long, like appointed guardians, and if the defence of the Ivy had depended on their fidelity to the trust, alas for it in this day of calamity ! The trees have withdrawn their shade—they stand in naked helplessness, themselves driven to and fro, whithersoever the prince of the power of the air is pleased to bend their denuded and dishonoured branches. The pelting hail, the heavy snow-drift, meet no obstruction from them, in their full career against the unprotected Ivy. It stands exposed, and in itself so weak a thing that the operation of a single blustering day would suffice to rend it piecemeal, only for the unseen support enabling it to smile a calm defiance in the face of every assailant. And could any type be more impressively just, as regards the truly militant church of Ireland at this day ? I shall say nothing about the towering trees; they have the advantage over sentient and responsible men, in that they never proffered their patronage in summer days, nor consciously withdrew it, when the wintry tempest began to rage. I reproach not the innocent trees of my garden; but I acknowledge the fitness of their station, and of their mutability, to render the similitude perfect. The Ivy is that wherewith I have to do; the Ivy in its two-fold character of actual weakness, and imparted strength—of stormy persecution applied from without, and indestructible endurance supplied from within.
The real and acknowledged condition of many, and, in the south, a large majority, of the devoted ministers of the Irish church at this day, is such. 27 that I shrink from the picture which I am nevertheless bound to transcribe. They are impoverished beyond the possibility of making such provision as the meanest of our cottagers is accustomed to secure, against the approach of winter. They cannot clothe the shivering limbs of their tender little ones—they cannot supply them with nourishment equivalent to the scantiest allowance of our parochial workhouse—they cannot, in many instances, afford the luxury of a fire, beyond the hour that it is indispensable for cooking their miserable dole of dry potatoes. I have the fact from authority that cannot be questioned, from one who, mercifully provided with the resource of a private income, goes among his brethren to minister to their pressing necessities as far as the claims of his own very large family will allow. I have it from different and distant quarters, from individuals unconnected with each other, and unconscious of the concurrent testimony that they yield. The Ivy on my garden wall is not more destitute of exter nal defence against the biting inclemency of December, than are multitudes of those whose delightful work it has ever been, when they saw the hungry, to feed them, to cover the naked with a garment, and to bring those who were cast out to their own hospitable homes. Their acknowledged right—that, at least, which the government of the country has appointed to them, and, for generations past, guaranteed its due payment—is withheld in vaunting defiance of that government, which, while meekly acquiescing in the sovereign will of rebellious subjects, offers no substitute for what their loyal ministers are defrauded of: but leaves them to famish, literally to starve to death, with their children around them, until the senators of the land shall have enjoyed their accustomed season of repose, and an arrangement shall take place among contending parties, by which the question of tithe may be ultimately adjusted. I venture not on political ground; I have but to state the broad fact that the clergy of Ireland are starving: and that the sole support to which they and their numerous household can look, for the dreary season already set in upon us, is the spontaneous bounty of sympathizing friends in that part of the church which as yet tastes not the cup of external persecution. I know, and I bless God for it, that a stream of Christian liberality is flowing towards their desolated dwellings; but even the extremity of personal want does not end their sufferings. They dwell among those who are confederate against their lives; and who, if the plan of salvation be baffled by our means, may again wet the knife, and aim the bullet, and brandish the heavy stone—weapons that, have each and all, within a short space of time, been crimsoned with the life-blood of Protestant clergymen. These are the storms and the tempests to which my brethren stand exposed in the defence-lessness of individual weakness. Their children cry for food ; and that we may provide for them : they shiver beneath the wintry blast, they shrink from the piercing frost; and we may clothe their limbs and rekindle their fires, from our own comparative abundance—but the parents' heart, though by grace it may be so humbled as not to reject a gift, painful for the educated mind, will yet secretly quake under the anticipated horror of that from which ive cannot interpose to rescue them. The step of the midnight incendiary, of the sworn assassin, blessed to the deed of butchery by her who has so oft been drunk with the blood of the saints, will be fancied in every breeze that rustles among the branches: and the closer we examine the picture, the darker do its shades become—the more appalling those perils, in the midst of which our brethren are set for the defence of the gospel.