The Society of Friends in Ireland

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter VIII (18) | Start of Chapter

The Society of Friends in Ireland, stand out as they do in other places, distinct. They meddle but little in the politics of the world around them; whatever government they may be under, they sit quietly and let the world rock on. A Yearly Meeting of that denomination is more interesting in Ireland than elsewhere, on one account, because they are entirely free from vain boasting and whining tales of persecution, or the great growth of their denomination, the downfall of error before their preaching, &c. You have solemn silence, or you have something uttered unvarnished with rhetorical flourishes or borrowed extracts from House of Commons or House of Lords. Their extracts are borrowed from the Holy Scriptures, their prayers are addressed to the Majesty of Heaven, and not to men, they speak as if in his presence, and sit as if in his presence, and if you are not particularly edified, you are solemnized, your heart if not melted is softened, and you go away feeling, that for an hour or more you have been shut from a noisy, empty, gabbling world, from a party church which has not stimulated you to kill any priest, or pull down any chapel or convent. You feel to inquire, am I right? Is all well within? Have I the Spirit of Christ? if not, I am none of his. I have never heard that any Roman Catholic has ever turned to that Society in Ireland; but if they had proselyting agents in the field they would have their share, or if they had even that outward show in their meeting-houses, which takes away all reserve from the stranger, and gives him to feel that the place is for all, many would be induced to go in, that now stay away.

When stopping in Cork, great surprise was expressed, even by some dissenters, that I should take such liberties as to go to a place of worship where none were wished to attend but their own; and the Catholics supposed that none could be allowed to enter, but such as have on the "particular dress." The caution of these people in the time of famine, to avoid the appearance of proselyting, was carried to an extent almost unparalleled. It was said that a ministering Friend from England, who had been in the habit of attending or holding a meeting in the west part of Ireland when he visited them, declined doing so, in the year 1847, when in the same place, lest it should be construed as a desire to make converts by the liberality which his Society were showing.