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Sunday, August 20, 2017
Date Posted:

Days of Deliverance Part 6: Deliverance After The Irish Massacre Of 1641

Dr Clive Gillis

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 2 Chr. 7:14

The Anniversary of the Irish Rebellion of 23 October 1641 is day a of national deliverance now lost from our Protestant calendar.

Following the initial outrage, the Lord graciously delivered his people who would otherwise have faced a choice between complete annihilation or conversion to Roman Catholicism.

In the year 1662 the Irish Parliament legislated that the 23rd of October, the day the Rebellion came to light, “shall be kept and celebrated as a holy day in this kingdom for ever”.  It was celebrated both in Ireland and on the mainland.

Like the anniversary of the discovery of the Gun Powder treason, the tradition continued well into the nineteenth century.  It was marked by Church Services and public demonstrations.

What Irish children learn

A recent, illustrated booklet by Helen Litton, Irish Rebellions 1798-1916, would appeal to history teachers.  It is of course written from the standpoint of Irish Nationalism.  The booklet describes the Irish Rebellions of 1798, 1803, 1848, 1867 and of course 1916.  The 1641 Rebellion is not covered.  In 1966 the National gallery of Dublin held “Cuimhneachan - 1916 - A Commemorative Exhibition of the Irish Rebellion of 1916”.  Pictures and exhibits illustrating Irish History from medieval times to 1916 were on view in chronological order.  But according to the catalogue the siege of Kinsale 1601 lead straight on to the siege of Derry in 1688.  There was nothing about the events of 1641.

Helen Litton refers to 1641 in her Preface as follows: “The Tudor system of plantations – that is “planting” Protestant settlers from Britain in confiscated areas of Ireland, - continued throughout the seventeenth century.  Any kind of Rebellion simply provided the authorities with more excuses for confiscation, a sort of fig leaf to conceal greed.  The tensions created by placing small groups of vulnerable settlers among large numbers of dispossessed natives often lead to brutal and despairing out breaks … One of these was the Rising of 1641 planned in Ulster by the dispossessed noble Gaelic families … This rising went down in Protestant mythology as an example of what (Roman) Catholics were capable of if they were not strictly controlled or preferably exterminated.”

This is what Irish children and students are being taught, while Protestants fail to defend their heritage.

Was the solemn commemoration of this Day of Deliverance a “fig leaf to conceal greed”?  Was the glorious deliverance mere “Protestant mythology”?  Are the Protestants charlatans?  Let us try to discover what the Protestants who took part thought themselves.  Let us see to what extent they cast the blame at the door of the Church of Rome.  Let us hear what lessons they derived from their experiences to guide them in the future.

Ralph Lambert DD

Some of the Sermons Addresses preached on the 23rd October, thanking God for his delivering mercies in the events following the 1641 Rebellion, have survived.  The sermon was preached by Ralph Lambert DD at the Parish Church of St James Westminster in what is now Piccadilly, London.  This minister would appear to be the Bishop of Meath who is listed in the Gentleman’s Magazine Volume II p 631 as dying in February 1732.  The sermon is addressed to the Protestants of Ireland, “In Commemoration of their Deliverance from the Barbarous Massacre committed by the Irish Papists in the year 1641”.  It was preached on the 20th year following the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and concerned events that took place before nearly all those present were born.

St James Westminster

There was a large community of Irish Protestants in London, swelled by refugees from the events prior to the Williamite war.  St James was a prestigious venue.

Christopher Wren, St James architect, wrote: “I can hardly think it practicable to make a single room so capacious, with pews and galleries, as to hold 2000 persons, and all to hear the service and see the preacher.  I endeavoured to effect this in building the Parish church of St James’, Westminster …”.

On 23rd October 1708 Lambert’s sermon so moved both the stewards of the church and the “Noblemen and Gentlemen” present that besides being printed in Dublin for circulation in Ireland it was at their request reprinted in London to be circulated throughout the land through the bookshops.

Ralph Lambert’s text was Isaiah Chapter 59 verses 7 and 8.  “Their feet run to evil, and they make hast to shed innocent blood: their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting a destruction are in their paths.  The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgement in their goings: they have made them crooked paths: whosoever goeth therein shall knot know peace”.

He begins, “The prophet seems in these words to have chiefly intended a description of some revolting and apostatising Jews, who forsaking the true worship of God have sunk into all the sins and corruptions of the idolatrous nations …”

God’s infinite mercy

He continues, “this prophetic description will fairly reach beyond its first design and describe the practices of all who entertain a False Religion … This day then my brethren, has this scripture been literally fulfilled in your ears; the influences of a false and idolatrous religion have filled that country to which most of us here do belong, with such a scene of blood and cruelty, wasting and destruction as hardly ever appeared in so many shapes of horror … It was owing to God’s infinite mercy alone that a small remnant escaped, whose posterity are now met, to praise the Lord for His goodness, and to continue the Remembrance of so great a Judgement and so miraculous a Deliverance to all generations”.

He then speaks of the purpose of this Day.  “That we may never forget whose feet they were, that then, were so swift to shed the blood of so many and to remember that their thoughts of Iniquity are still full of the same designs of wasting and destruction should the Lord give us into their hands.  They are strangers to the ways of peace and justice.  Since Divine Providence has rescued us and our fathers from destruction, however smooth and fair they may carry it to us (behave towards us) now, while the Laws, the Sword and the Government are on our side, if we suffer ourselves to be hoodwinked or lulled asleep by their false insinuations we shall, perhaps too late, find that whosoever goes into their paths or measures shall never know peace”.

‘Bloodshed, Barbarity, wasting and destruction’

Lambert then announces his main points.  “On the occasion of this solemn meeting I shall enlarge on these four particulars.

I. That a false and idolatrous religion does naturally produce Bloodshed Barbarity Wasting and Destruction. II. I shall describe the effects of it in a few instances of Cruelty committed in the dreadful massacre of this day. III. I shall prove the Doctrine and Practice of the Church of Rome do allow and justify such barbarous massacres and in particular they have justified and applauded that of this day. IV. I shall make some inferences from the whole which may be of good use to us in our present circumstances.”

From this long address let us draw that which these Protestants felt to strengthen and guide.  Lambert’s first point illustrated at length form scripture the parallel between the outworking of the Religion of the people of the one true God in Israel and the contrast with the barbarism and human bloodthirstiness of neighbouring heathen nations.  In his second point he describes the details of the massacre which even if overestimated in extent, by the details he supplies alone was frightful beyond measure in its qualities.  These details were then still fresh in family lore.  Such things are too terrible to repeat here.

His third point, the general persecuting tendency of Rome to provoke terrible massacres of her enemies is familiar to readers.  However the details of Rome’s part in the 1641 Irish Rebellion have been suppressed and are hence less well known.  They will be covered fully DV in the next article.  Lambert states categorically that 1641 “was contrived and perpetrated in Obedience to the Church of Rome” and goes on to prove it.  It had nothing to do with the “greed” of Protestants.  Certainly their wealth creating industriousness, a universal feature of Protestantism, drew forth envy from the Romanists.

Is popery then the same?

Lambert’s fourth point looks to the future as he draws “inferences which may be of good use to us in our present circumstances”.  He cautions, “that we may not be lead astray into their crooked paths, nor wander into those ways, wherein we shall never know peace”.  He asks the burning question again: “Is Popery then the same thing at this Day that it was in Forty One?  Or has it abated of its fury and violence and become mild and tractable?  Has there been no blood drawn since for the advancement of the (Roman) catholic cause, and the extirpation of the Northern Heresy?  Have so many hundred thousand people run away from their houses and livelihoods through panic and groundless fear?  Or did many of us run away from our wits and dwellings at once but to travel?  No! Certainly Popery is still the same.”

“Let them name but one place where Popery prevails and the Roman Church can exert its power and that place is free of persecution of those that differ with it and we shall own them a merciful people.  And if Popery be not changed, how is it that we become every day less apprehensive of it?  If we would secure ourselves and our posterity, we should not always expect that God will work miracles and raise up Deliverers.  We ought to oppose as much as in us lies that spreading of enslaving principles …. (designed) to take away our senses and fit us for Transubstantiation.  They (The Romanists) constantly lie in wait for us as we grow secure.

Fomenting divisions

“Another method in which the Papists have been fatally successful against us is by creating jealousies and fomenting divisions amongst us.  Tis most melancholy to observe how unexpectedly prosperous (successful) they are in (using) this stale artifice against us.  They formerly divided us from the dissenters.  Now they invent a new and odious distinction of High and Low Church trying to divide us.  We must show the distinction groundless.  We ought also to treat the greater part of the Dissenters (It has to be said that sadly the Quakers though their doctrines and pacifist nature had drifted into a most unhealthy alliance with the Romanists) with confidence and affection as they are embarked on the same common cause against the Papists.

“Finally since God has delivered our ancestors from the horrid destruction designed on this day, and preserved us let us give to Him our true Tribute and Praise for this Great Mercy, with hearts truly sensible to so undeserved a blessing.  Let us endeavour to convince our Popish adversaries of the Truth of our Religion, by showing in our lives and actions that its influence is stronger to operate all that is good in us …”.

Such was the sentiment of a Day of Deliverance from our glorious Protestant past now lost.

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