On Irish Disestablishment, 1869
( Originally Published 1910 )
I DO not know in what country so great a change, so great a transition, has been proposed for the ministers of a religious communion who have enjoyed for many ages the preferred position of an Established Church. I can well understand that to many in the Irish Establishment such a change appears to be nothing less than ruin and destruction ; from the height on which they now stand the future is to them an abyss, and their fears recall the words used in King Lear when Edgar endeavours to persuade Gloster that he has fallen over the cliffs of Dover, and says :
" Ten masts at each make not the altitude Which thou hast perpendicularly fallen : Thy life's a miracle ! "
And yet but a little while after the old man is relieved from his delusion, and finds he has not fallen at all. So I trust that when, instead of the fictitious and adventitious aid on which we have too long taught the Irish Establishment to lean, it shall come to place its trust in its own resources, in its own great mission, in all that it can draw from the energy of its ministers and its members, and the high hopes and promises of the Gospel that it teaches, it will find that it has entered upon a new era of existence —an era bright with hope and potent for good.
From speech by W. E. GLADSTONE.