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He so signalized himself at Douay and elsewhere, that a distinguished writer of his day called him “the subtle professor of philosophy, the athlete of Christ, renowned in hischains, strong in defending the faith, and happy in bringing wanderers back to the fold." He came to Ireland and converted hundreds of Protestants in the first year or two, and thus showed great controversial power. In 1599 there were so many entering the true Church, that in one day he received four Englishmen three of whom were men of distinction. He gained many proselytes by his convincing arguments, and triumphed over the few who ventured to oppose him ;* he challenged all the ministers in Ireland to a dispute before the Viceroy, and sent special challenges to Drs. Hanmer, Challoner, and Rider, the chief Protestants of the land. The most learned and eloquent of the Protestants were afraid of him, and he was so eager for the fray that he often said he was like a bear tied to a stake and only wanted some one to bait him. While in prison he converted seven Protestants in one month, one of whom was his head jailer ;e he was esteemed the most able and astute disputant among the Catholics, and was so ready and quick that few or none would undertake to deal with him ;? he had a fluent tongue, a stentorian voice, and in words he was too hard for a hundred.8 No wonder, then, that not one of all the Protestant ministers would dispute with him in public. They would sooner risk their pens than their persons against such an antagonist, and even only one of them ventured to write against him. His enemies themselves were unanimous in praising his eminent talents for controversy and the wonderful facility with which he spoke extempore.
I think such a highly gifted man, highly trained for five years at Oxford, and for five years at Douay, could not be beaten in controversy by a young antiquary of eighteen. He challenged all the most learned Protestant clergymen of the country collectively and individually, and he undertook to accept the Protestant Viceroy and the Protestant Fellows of Trinity College as umpires in the contest, and is it likely that he would be baffled by a young student of eighteen, who most probably had not as much inborn controversial power. 10
It is an outrage on common sense to state it, and perhaps I have outraged common sense by spending so much time in showing the absurdity of the whole story. But it is annoying
1 Vindiciæ Hiberniæ. ° Letter of N. Leinich, 25th Sept., 1598.
8 Rider. 9 Moréri's Dictionnaire.
to find the tale in a Catholic writer, such as D'Arcy M‘Gee, and I am anxious to see it excised from the next edition of the life of our illustrious countryman, James Ussher.
The readiness, the reality, the earnestness and straightforwardness, the indomitable courage and the perseverance, the eloquence and wit of FitzSimon frightened the parsons, who were the slaves of the State, of mammon, and of the flesh. We may gather some idea of his pugnacity and power from the following words of one of his books—“I would fain behold them in the face that would'term St. Austin, St. Gregory, and St. Bernard forgers and impostors
whom if I could but look at in a Christian assembly I would not doubt but their own countenance, how shameless soever, would detect their ethnical impiety and presumption to be worthy of execration." Again, he says, “Mr. Rider, you cannot conceal the confusion you ever had in talking with me, when at every word I disproved and disturbed your conceits. Mr. Tristram Eccleston, Constable of the Castle, Alderman Jans, Luke Shea, Esq., and others can tell the plunge you and Minister Baffe wallowed in at our last meeting:
You felt the brunt of my words at that time, by your own confession, to be irrefragible.'
From all this we must conclude that Ussher's victory over FitzSimon is to be relegated to the realm of myths. Ussher, most probably, never had the same polemical power as FitzSimon, and most assuredly at the age of eighteen he had not the same polemical training-or rather, he was absolutely untrained-his inquisitive mind was “solicitous about very many things,” and as he was a boy of many books, he was not very formidable as a logician or controversialist.
However, how are we to explain Ussher's letter, and reconcile it with FitzSimon's account? The letter puzzles me somewhat; and, all bewildered, I rub my eyes and ask --Did Ussher really write that letter? If he did, did he send it to FitzSimon, and did the Jesuit get it, and leave it without an answer? And lastly, I ask--did the young lad tell the truth?
FitzSimon printed his account ten years after his liberation, and it was never contradicted in his lifetime; the Protestant version appeared forty years afterwards. I suspect some Protestant admirer wrote this letter, and fathered it on Ussher. But if Ussher did write it, then I say his boyish vanity got the better of his veracity. I am sorry to say this, even conditionally, of the Irish Protestant saint. At the same time we must bear in mind that the celebrated Archbishop Talbot, his contemporary, who died a prisoner in the Castle of Dublin, has the
1 On the Masse.
• Replie to Rider, p. 44.
following words about Ussher :—“This is a notorio'is fraud and wilful falsification in a man of erudition and learning. He quotes against his own conscience. . . .. This is an imposture-strange impudence in maintaining a falsehood. . . Here he is convicted of two notorious frauds-of wilfully winking, of calumny, and fraud. .... The Irish saint, Mr. Ussher, to maintain his fraud, is become an abominable impostor. .... What credit do you think such a man deserves in his collection of antiquities? .... Peruse Malone, the Jesuit, and you shall find that, as Ussher was one of the most learned Protestants that ever writ, so was he one of the most cunning and deceitful."1
As Dr. Talbot mentions Malone's book, the reader may as well know that Malone really silenced Ussher, and that some Protestants, among others a Dr. Synge, tried to defend the cause of their Primate. It is curious that the upholders of Ussher against Malone never boasted of Ussher's early success against a greater man than Malone. Ussher had a discussion with a third Jesuit, who was very young, and yet obtained a signal victory over the pseudo-Primate. Francis Slingsby, S.J., was imprisoned in Dublin Castle at the request of his fond father, who brought Ussher to reclaim him from the Society and from Catholicism. The result is told by FitzSimon in a letter which he addressed to F. Gerard in the year 1634. “Francis was twice assaulted by the prime-pretended prelate. In the second time he craved to begin on both sides in these words of prayer—' Be he in this instant damned of both of us who varieth by mouth from his conscience.'
" The debate thereby was interrupted, the said prime man relenting. Nought can be said sufficiently in praise of Mr. Francis. He hath won his mother, brother, and sister. I seconded him as far as I might. Who were not converted were confounded publicly."
According to many other accounts, one of which was written by the Earl of Westmeath to the Holy Father, Ussher became deadly pale, and bounced out of the room, leaving Slingsby's father, Sir Francis Slingsby, and his cruel cousin, Sir Charles Coote, who expected to witness the Primate's triumph, much astonished, but little edified at his discomfiture.
We need not be astonished at the discomfiture of Ussher, who was then in his heart a Catholic, but had not the courage of his convictions. The unfortunate man afterwards asked by a letter to be reconciled to the church, but he was dead when the answer arrived, and thus he affords another ex
1 Dr. Talbot “On Religion and Government,” published 1670. a Memoir of Francis Slingsby, S.J. FitzSimon's Letter of 29th Aug., 1634.
ample of the terrible danger of procrastination. However it would seem that a descendant of his was converted by FitzSimon's controversial works.
Dr. Milner, in his “ Inquiry into certain vulgar opinions concerning the Irish,” says—“The Rev. James Ussher, author of the Free Inquiry,' a most able and learned scholar, was the immediate descendant of Archbishop Ussher, But taking himself to the study of FitzSimon's works, he was so convinced by his arguments, that he became a Catholic. Being a widower, he became a priest, and may be said to have been the first writer who defended the faith in the face of the public, his letters having been published in the ‘Public Ledger,' from which they were extracted and published apart in a work now upon sale, called “A Free examination of the Common Methods employed to prevent the Growth of Popery.' Mr. Ussher left a son, who is still living, and whom I had the pleasure of seeing in one of the Catholic establishments in Ireland. Mr. Ussher also wrote 'Letters on the Outcry against Popery in the year 1767; he was helped in them by my lamented friend, the late worthy, upright, and pious John Walker, author of the 'Pronouncing Dictionary,' and the "Guido d' Arezzo of elocution.'»i
Before we speak of FitzSimon's real controversy with Rider, Dean of St. Patrick's, afterwards bishop of Killaloe, let us listen to what he says on controversy with Protestants, and on the successful method which he followed in dealing with them. He writes to the Irish students of Douay—“Be assured, dear students, that only the younger and blinder sort of Protestants, who are most adventurous, and whose scribendi cacoethes and headlong itch, may never, by rule or reason, be restrained, although the comic poet adviseth them in a serious manner
*Fit ye that write
Your matter to might.' None, I say, but such will impugn the Eternal Sacrifice. Only they, or some one Herostratus of them by surviving infamy rather to be remembered than wholly forgotten, will perhaps give fire to more than the temple of Diana, by blaspheming this pure Host, and what thereto belongeth.
These, by my counsel, you shall not once gratify, not only with an answer but also not with a look, whereof I will give you pregnant reasons, observed by long experience, and by the greatest Fathers prescribed to posterity.
" Disputation with heretics is a thing always desired by Catholics, presupposing that they will stand by any arbitra
1 Dr. Milner's “Inquiry into certain Vulgar Opinions.”
ment, if not of some late bishop, yet of some ancient one, if not of some old writer, yet of some holy primitive Father, or of many Fathers; if not of many ancient Doctors, at least of some general Councils; if not of any or all Christian instruments, at least of God's Holy Word or Sacred Bible, without disdain of the latter, derision of the elder, depraving the Holy Fathers, dispraising holy Councils, disclaiming Holy Scriptures as often as they give verdict against them, which ever happeneth—always making themselves alone the rule of all certainty, and so thinking that to be true that is with them, and all to be false that is against them. But among the whole sort are there manie not such ? Are there anie? I leave your trial to approve, testifying of my own experience, to have had little difficultie with anie that I could bring to be tried by anie settled ground of either Scriptures, traditions, Church Councils, or Fathers, severally or conjointly.
“Neither to anie other industrie may I impute it, next to the effectual and merciful grace of God, to whom alone be all glory thereof, that among hundred others by me reconciled, the ninth English minister in the very writing hereof hath been purchased to the Christian and Catholic religion. I cannot, I say, ascribe it to anie other observation, as that I ever tied them to an irrevocable foundation, from which after, upon any pretence, they should not start or appeal. Others whom you may not entreat to abide at a baile, believe me, you shall find remediless, as all ancient Fathers have delivered. You being daily to enter the lists against the enemies of the Church, must be forewarned, that you do not spend your pains, but where profit may be probably expected. Would you contend with those whom meretricious and affected lying, cauterised hypocrisy and impostures delight; with those who build and relie upon obstinacie and outfaced impudence, and whose principal confidence, according to Luther himself, is in contentions and voluntarie lying. This would not become your ingenuous education.
"I forewarn you of these their drifts, that you may know what arms and weapons you may provide. I forewarn you, as your faithful sentinel, of the designs of your enemies, not by me discovered without pains, patience, and peril."1
What these pains and perils were we shall see in the account which FitzSimon gives of his discussions with Dean Rider.
According to Ware's “ Irish Bishops and Writers," Rider was educated in Oxford, where he took his degree of Master of Arts. Then he became successively parish minister of Bermondsey, rector of the rich church of Winwick, in Lan
i Preface to the “ Treatise on the Mass.”