Page images
PDF
EPUB

The Church,

liable to all the vices which wealth and indolence engender. Hence it happens, when any extraordinary example of turpitude comes to light, it is remarkable a member of the Church establishment is not implicated in the transaction. No one can read the newspapers without being convinced of the fact; the police reports being often filled with details of clerical delinquency. When there is an instance of magisterial oppression, or monstrous unnatural crime, it is surprising if some father in God, some venerable archdeacon, some very reverend dean, or some other reverend and holy. person, be not accused or suspected. In this respect the Established Clergy resemble the clergy of the church of Rome before the reformation; it is known that the catholic priesthood in the fourteenth century exceeded all other classes in the licentiousness of their lives, their oppression, and rapacity; it is known, too, that their vices arose from the immense wealth they enjoyed, and that this wealth was the ultimate cause of their downfal.

To the Church of England, in the abstract, we have no particular objection; we only object to the abuses that exist in its administration. We object to the greatness of its possessions, to which it has no just claim, and which possessions are oppressive to the people, and injurious to the most useful part of the clergy. We object, also, to the abuse of church patronage, to clerical sinecures, and to the unequal manner in which the ecclesiastical revenues are divided. It is these classes of abuse we are going to expose; and, as we have a good deal to say of each, it may be proper to state our arrangement of the subject. First, we shall show that Church property is public property, and available for public objects. Secondly, we shall treat on the various Emoluments of the Clergy, from tithes, church fees, public charities, and other sources. Thirdly, of Church Patronage and its perversion to political and family objects. Fourthly, of Church Discipline. Fifthly, we shall compare the principles and revenues of the Established Church of England with the Established Churches of other countries. Lastly, we shall give an Alphabetical List of all the Pluralists in England and Wales, showing the number of livings and other preferments held by each individual, and the names of their patrons, their family connexions and influence. A full exposition of these topics will hardly leave any thing further to be desired in respect of the Church Establishment. First and foremost then, that

Church Property is Public Property. No one contends now that Tithe is of divine authority; even Bishop BeresFORD has given up the position. There never was a religion, either Jew or

The Church,

[ocr errors]

Gentile,that could legally claim a tenth of the yearly produce of land and labour.

For the clergy to be entitled to a tenth, they ought to form one-tenth of the i population ; but there never was a mode of worship which required one

tenth of the people to be teachers and ministers. The tribe of Levi had a i tenth, because they formed a tenth of the population, and had no other

inheritance; but Aaron and his sons had only a tenth of that tenth, so that the clergy received no more than the hundredth part, the remainder being for other uses, for the rest of the Levites, for the poor, the stranger, the widow, the orphan, and the temple.

Christianity contains less authority for tithe than Judaism. Christ and his Apostles unceasingly taught poverty and humility to their followers, and contempt of worldly goods. Hear their exhortations : “ Carry neither scrip nor shoes; into whatever house ye enter, say, Peace.” “ Take no care what ye shall eat, nor what ye shall drink, nor for your

bodies what

ye

shall put on.” “Beware of covetousness ; seek not what ye shall eat, but seek the kingdom of God.” “Give alms; provide yourselves with bags that wax not old, a treasure in Heaven that faileth not.” Again, “ Distribute unto the poor, and seek treasures in Heaven." And, again,

"Take care that your hearts be not charged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and the cares of this life.”

In all this there is no authority for tithing, and the fathers of the Church were equally hostile to this species of extortion. The council of Antioch,

in the fourth century, allowed the bishops to distribute the goods of the i Church, but to have no part to themselves.

“ Have food and raiment, be therewith content,” says the canon. It was only as real Christianity declined that tithing began. When the simple worship of Christ was corrupted by the adoption of Jewish and Pagan ceremonies; when the Saints and Martyrs were put in the room of the Heathen Deities; when the altars, the bishops, prebends, and other corruptions were introduced; then tithes commenced to support the innovations on the primitive faith. They were first demanded as charity, and held as a trust for the poor. They were introduced into England by murder ; Offa, king of Mercia, granted the tithe of his subjects' goods to expiate the murder of Ethelbert, king of the East Angles. In France, in England, and probably in all Christian countries, they were divided into four portions; one for the bishop, one for the poor, one for the repair of the Church, and one for the priest.

They have heen always considered the property of the State, as well as other branches of ecclesiastical revenue. This position clearly appears froin the proceedings at the reformation of the Church, in the reign of Henry VIII. At that period a commission was appointed to investigate

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

The Church.

the abuses of the Church; a return was made of the value of all monasteries and religious houses, of parochial livings, episcopal and cathedral dignitaries, and every other species of ecclesiastical revenue, and the whole entered in a book called Liber Regalis, or the King's Book. It is the only authentic survey of the revenues of the Church; and the result was an entire new disposition of ecclesiastical property. Large masses of it were given to courtiers and noblemen; a portion of it was retained in the hands of the king; and the remainder appropriated to the maintenance of the reformed religion. It is calculated one-fourth of the tithes and abbeylands passed into the hands of laymen. No claim appears to have been set

up that the property was sacred, and in every succeeding period it has been treated in a similar manner. It has been always considered public property, and the government, for the time being, whether a monarchy under a TUDOR, or a commonwealth under CROMWELL, has always exercised the right of applying it to secular uses, or to the maintenance of whatever form of faith might be in vogue, whether Catholic, Protestant, or Presbyterian.

Down to our own time the same principle has been constantly encouraged by parliament. In the numerous acts of parliament, at the close of the last reign, for regulating the sale and exchange of parsonage-houses and glebe-lands, of mortgages in cases of buildings and repairs, church property is invariably treated as public property, the ownership of which is vested in the State. Were it not so, the legislature could have no more right to interfere in the disposal of the property of the Church than the property of o other persons. The possessor of an estate can sell it to another in his life-fia time, or, after his death, bequeath it to posterity; but the clergy have no such power over their possessions. They have, at most, only a lifeinterest; and even of that they may be disinherited at the pleasure of their diocesan. The tenure of their property is the same as that by which Mr. CANNING holds the office of Secretary of State, or Mr. CROKER the Secretaryship of the Admiralty.

The rights and constitution of the Established Clergy resembles those of the Army; they have their own laws, and may be tried by their own courts. A regular subordination exists from the lowest to the highest ; from the curates, who are privates in the ecclesiastical corps, to the rectors and vicars, who are regimental officers; from thence to the bishops and archbishops, who are generals and field-marshals: there are, also, district generals, inspectors, and quarter-masters, under the names of archdeacons, deans, and prebends. The bishops have their regular staff of commissaries, chaplains, secretaries, and apothecaries. No clergyman can be absent

The Church.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

without leave, and is liable to be broke or cashiered for neglect of duty, The king is the supreme head of the Church and the Army, and appoints to all the principal commissions. Supplies are yoted by the Lower House for both branches of service; either may be augmented or diminished, or entirely discontinued, as circumstances require. Lastly, the military have the same, property in their muskets, barracks, and accoutrements, that the clergy have in their pulpits, tithes, and cathedrals: both, we suspect, may be sold like old stores, when the good of the state requires it.

Such being the tenure of ecclesiastical immunities, what base sophistry it appears in lawyer PLUNKET, just when he had obtained four thousand a year, AND FEES, to contend that the property of the Church is as sacred as any other property. There never was any analogy betwixt the rights of individuals and the rights of the Church. The Church has always held its possessions on the same tenure as the military and other public servants, and this principle has been constantly acted on by the legislatyre. Having established this important point, we shall not enlarge on the grievance of tithes and present disposition of church property; these points will be sufficiently established in the subjects that follow.

[ocr errors]

Opa

[ocr errors]

ve

Emoluments of the Clergy, The enoluments of the Established Clergy are drawn from so many sources that their total amount cannot be estimated. The bulk of ecclesiastical revenue consists in tithe; but, besides tithe, an immense revenue

is drawn from other sources. The Clergy are almost in entire possession lui of the revenue of charitable foundations. They hold, exclusively, the the professorships, fellowships, and tutorships of the universities and public

schools. Immense landed property is attached to the sees, cathedrals, and collegiate churches. The clergy have, also, a very considerable income from glebe-lands, surplice-fees, preacherships in the royal chapels, lectureships, town-assessments, Easter-offerings, and stipends of chapels of ease, chaplainships in the army and navy, chaplainships to embassies, corporate bodies, and commercial companies; besides which, they monopolize nearly all profitable offices in public institutions, as trustees, librarians, secretaries, &c.

Most statements of clerical income which we have seen are limited to a valuation of tithe and the real property of the Church. A parliamentary commission appointed to investigate the number of the clergy, the number of livings, dignitaries, and other emoluments, also, their relationships

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

20

[ocr errors]

The Church.

connexions, possessions, &c. would be of incalculable utility. The bishops, who hold the chief estates of the Church, and to whom the parochical clergy, on obtaining licenses for curates and dispensation for plurality, are required by law to state the yearly value of their benefices, could furnish the chief information. But even this would be insufficient; nothing would throw complete light on ecclesiastical abuses, but every member of the establishment, whether in lay or spiritual capacity, returning a statement of his emoluments and duties. It is a subject well worthy the attention of the member for Aberdeen; but we have no hope that either he or any individual could pursue the inquiry with success under the present system. The same consciousness of hidd rottenness and iniquity, which deter the Legislature from inquiring into the state of the representation, would also deter them from examining the far greater abuses of the Church Establishment. We shall, however, do our duty, and if we cannot furnish complete information, we can, we believe, make such a statement as will show the necessity of inquiry, and a radical reform of the Church. At page

310 of the Black Book, an attempt is made to estimate the incomes of different classes of the clergy; since then we have thought more on the subject, and have seen various statements of the revenues of the Church of England. In the Morning Chronicle, there have appeared, latterly, valuable details on ecclesiastical abuses, with the comments of the editor. A pamphlet, too, on the Consumption of Public Wealth by the Established Clergy, contains interesting facts, not only relative to the English clergy, but the Clergy of every Christian nation. The writer of the work has given the following estimate of church property, which we will insert for the sake of offering a few observations on his statement. Estimates of the Revenues and Property of the Established Church in

England and Wales.
Annual value of the gross produce of the land of
England and Wales.....

£150,000,000
One-third of the land of England and Wales
not subject to tithe for the clergy, being
either tithe-free or lay-impropriations

50,000,000

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »