Title & Purpose

Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble:

for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand, Joel 2:1.

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and why we reject the many perversions of the Scriptures, including those so beloved of many neo-evangelicals at present such as ESV & NKJV.

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Friday, 14 September 2012

The Faith of Lord Carson

This article first appeared in the Ulster Bulwark, the magazine of the Evangelical Protestant Society and kind permission has been granted to re-publish it here.

Edward Carson was born in Dublin on 9 Feb 1854. His father was a Presbyterian of Scots descent and his mother was Church of Ireland and a descendent of the Cromwellian General John Lambert. Carson was brought up in the Church of Ireland. He was taught the truth of the Bible by his mother. In his last major speech in Parliament, in the House of Lords in 1927, he said: ‘religion is a thing that you learn at your Mother’s knee ... Any religion I ever learned was from my Mother, and it is to me one of the most precious possessions’. 

Carson studied law at Trinity College, Dublin, and joined the Orange Order as a student in 1872. A clergyman who was present at his initiation wrote ‘that he can bear witness that he was a decided Christian, and worked as an evangelist amongst students during his stay there’. This was confirmed by his biographer, Ian Colvin, who wrote that ‘as a law student at Trinity College he used to preach at street corners of a Sunday night; his religion was something very deep and very dearly cherished’. His legal career began in 1878 and on 19 December 1879, he married Annette Kirwan at Monkstown Parish Church, Dublin. Ten years later he became a QC. Aged 35. he was the youngest QC in Ireland. On 1 July 1892 he was appointed the Irish Solicitor General, and eight days later he became the Liberal Unionist MP for Trinity College, making his maiden speech in the House of Commons on 2 February 1893. After 1893 he built up a legal practice in England, and in May 1900 he was appointed Solicitor General for England.

Carson accepted the leadership of the Irish Unionists in the House of Commons on 21 February 1910, and led the Unionist opposition to the Third Home Rule Bill. On Ulster Day, 28 September 1912. Carson was the first man to sign the Ulster Covenant in Belfast City Hall. On 19 July 1913 Carson was presented with a Bible at a Unionist rally in Harryville. Ballymena, by John Collis. ex-President of the Apprentice Boys of Deny Club, marked at Romans 8 v 31 ‘If God be for us, who can be against us?” Carson said: ‘This is, indeed, a very unexpected pleasure, for I was not aware till I came here that I was to have this priceless gift handed to me. I need not say that I accept it in all humiliation. In all humiliation, because, whatever may be the efforts of man, it is under Heaven, and under a firm belief and trust in the great Almighty alone, that the future can be assured to any of us. I can only say I shall treasure to my last day that Holy Bible, the gift of the men of Harryville. It will never leave me, I will hand it on to my children, and I will tell them I expect them to do what I hope I am trying to do, namely, regardless of consequences, to act up to their consciences with a firm trust in the Almighty’.

During World War I, Carson served as Attorney General, First Lord of the Admiralty and a member of the war cabinet. In the 1918 General Election he was elected MP for the Belfast constituency of Duncairn. He resigned as the leader of Ulster Unionism in February 1921 and in May he became the Lord of Appeal.

Carson had fought many battles in the Law Courts and in Parliament, and his last Parliamentary battle took place in in 1927 when in the House of Lords, he opposed the proposal to approve the Alternative Prayer Book for use in the Church of England. He viewed this battle as ‘the struggle under very difficult circumstances to maintain the principles of the primitive Faith involved in the successful issue of the Reformation’.

In a speech in the Lords, Carson said that this was the first time that he had felt grateful to Gladstone for disestablishing the Church of Ireland because Parliament could not bind the Church of Ireland to use the proposed new prayer book, and they would be free to continue to use the Book of Common Prayer and ‘go on cherishing the precious heritage of the Reformation’. Carson questioned why practices that were abolished at the Reformation such as sacrificial vestments and the use of the wafer were being reintroduced by the proposed Prayer Book. He said, ‘they want to be able to say that they have the Mass and to call it the Mass, although the Mass is one of the first things repudiated by the Reformation’. Carson was also concerned by the question of the reservation of the Sacrament which he said “is one of those matters which for a long time those people who have set up these illegal practices in the Church have been attempting to foist upon the Protestant Church”.

Carson believed that the Prayer Book would bring division to the Church rather than unity and discipline as some of the Bishops argued. He felt that ‘those of us who believe that the Black Rubric is true, that the bread and wine remain still in their very natural substances and therefore may not be adored, for that were idolatry, to be abhorred by all faithful Christians’, could not worship in the same church as those who believed the opposite. 1 hope I offend nobody when I say that I believe the Black Rubric to be right... do not let us have this chaos in the Church not only of two Prayer Books, which is bad enough, but of two Communion Services, in one of which something is declared to be absolute idolatry while it is legalised in the other. How can a Church stand in those circumstances?’

He ended his speech by saying: ‘I have spoken perhaps strongly, but not more strongly than I feel, because I believe we have arrived at a real crisis, and that after the passing of this Measure nothing but disaster can follow.’ The proposed prayer book was passed by the House of Lords but was defeated in the House of Commons by thirty three votes where opposition had been led by the Evangelical Protestant William Joynson-Hicks.

In the last days of his life Carson was visited by Dr D’Arcy, the Church of Ireland Primate. Carson told him ‘I have seen much to shake my faith, and what remains with me is no more than I learned at my mother’s knee: ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son’. Carson died at his home, Cleve Court, Ramsgate in Kent on 22 October 1935. His state funeral took place in Belfast on 26 October and he was buried in St Anne’s Cathedral. His biographer wrote that ‘Carson’s life, indeed, had always glowed around a core of earnest faith’.

Jack Greenald

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