Obrazy na stronie

all other men. But from whom do such censures come? Generally either from those who have a sordid interest in defrauding them of their dues; or from those who wish there were no clergy, because they wish there were no religion. Uncharitable and ill-disposed minds endeavour to cover their own atheistical disaffection to the service of God with the faults and weaknesses of the clergy, whether real or imaginary. But if such an accusation is brought against the clergy in general, it is not true. The institution and support of charitable societies by the clergy themselves in almost every diocese of this province, for the benefit of their poorer brethren and their posterity, is a sign that they have views beyond their own present advantage.

Consider them at large as an order of men, or profession, and it will be found that they are as little guilty of coveting other men's goods, and making a property of their neighbours, as any order of men whatsoever. For it may justly be said of them, that they expect nothing but what is their own. The tithes or tenths allotted for their support, were freely granted on a religious principle by the crown, with the consent of the Lords and Commons of the realın, in the Saxon times, when the king was proprietor of all the lands in the kingdom; and the charter is still extant in our ancient historians*. They were not purchased by any owner, nor are they paid for by any occupier of the land; if they were, the rents would be at least one seventh part higher than they now are. The tenant only surrenders what the land has been charged with for nine hundred and twenty-seven years; and so little

* See Monast, Angl. Vol. I. p. 100, and Collier's Eccle. Hist. Vol. 1. p. 156, &c.

can be laid to the account of the clergy for exacting it with rigour, that I believe there are few amongst them, who will not readily acquiesce in the terms made for themselves by the neighbouring lay-impropriators. It is hard upon them, that in some instances, where the tenths have been surrendered peaceably to laymen, confederacies have been formed and illegal assemblies convened, to prevent the taking of the tenths in kind by clergymen.

As this evil arises only from the corruption of the times, the reformation of the times would be the natural and the best remedy. To change the tenure of clergymen's property, may be found the worst remedy of all; for their present tenure as owners of tithes is wiser and safer, more agreeable to the laws of God, to the practice of all ages and all religions, Patriarchal, Jewish, Heathen and Christian; and consequently better with all its inconveniences than it could possibly be in any other form, or on any other authority than that of their ancient charter: and for those inconveniences, time may bring forth some remedy which we cannot now foresee.

I am very sensible, the mode of receiving tenths was once more agreeable than at present. There

a time when the people dedicated their tithes with gladness*, and made their offerings on a principle of devotion; as knowing that God is not an indifferent spectator of what passes in his church ; that he could either send a blessing upon their fruits, according to his promise t, or punish their fraud and sacrilege with a temporal curse upon their affairs. This was once the persuasion of the people of England; and then there was a more general good understanding and mutual affection between the minister * Fcclus. xxxv. 9,

+ See Mal, jii. 10.


and his congregation.

Now it is too much the fashion to leave Providence out of the question; and to consider tithes and offerings, merely as dues settled by law, which a man may lessen as much as he can, and oppress his minister with as low and unjust an agreement as possible: by the prevalence of which cruel policy, many of the clergy are struggling to maintain theniselves and their families on less than two thirds of their just profits: and this under the increasing burthen of rates and taxes. If a clergyman thus oppressed, endeavours to do himself justice, a confederacy is formed to distress him : the hearts of his people are alienated ; separate interests take place, where there ought to be but one; his labours are no longer successful; his time and thoughts, which should be dedicated to the good of his flock, are unhappily taken up in maintaining a dispute against them: his peace of inind is destroyed, and his life in some cases rendered so uncomfortable, that many a tender hearted man must have sunk under the trial with vexation and disappointment.

The clergy may have their faults, their errors, and their corruptions, like other classes of men; God grant we may lament and reform them! but here the fault is not in them; because no clergynian can take more than his right: the fault is in those who would compel him to take less. When the law has been

applied to by clergymen for the recovery of their dues, this has rarely happened but when it was absolutely necessary; and it has been reported, that out of seven hundred suits upon record, six hundred of them have been carried by the clergy: which fact is sufficient to shew, that, whatever may be said against individuals, clergymen in general have been neither covetous nor litigious.

There is a sort of oppression long established, under which the clergy have suffered. The reformation, which took from Papists what the Pope had unjustly alienated from parochial rectors, restored little of it to the reformed ministers. It was mostly granted out to those of the laity who were early enough in their applications, and they hold it to this day. Many clergymen have a very scanty maintenance, and in some cases, it is to be feared, a very mean dependence upon lay patrons, who are rectors of parishes, and receive the tithes once due to the ministers. They were taken from those who were said to do little; but the matter surely was not mended, when they were given to those who did nothing

To this grand abuse many others may be added, when we are recounting the hardships of the clergy; such as the establishment of inadequate compensa. tions, the payment of antiquated sums in their nominal value, and such like. In short, too many ad- . vantages, which times and occasions would encourage the powerful and the avaricious to take against the clergy, have been taken against them; and if not with the malice of Julian, who plundered Christians that they might pursue their road to heaven with fewer incumbrances, yet certainly with too great an attention to worldly interest, and too little attention to the honour of God, the success of his gospel and the just rights of his church; which depended upon God before it depended upon men; and cannot be rendered independent of him by all the power and policy of the world.

It is a farther misfortune upon the families of clergymen, that the profits of their office do not bear a proportion like those of other men to the labours of it, The physician who visits more patients raises a fortune sooner than he who visits fewer: the pleader at the bar who does most business comes soonest to wealth and honour. This is not the case with the pleader in the pulpit: his attention to the welfare of men's souls adds nothing to the established profits of his ministry : and in many large and populous parishes, where the minister has most duty, there is nothing but a residuary vicarial revenue to support it ; and that perhaps to be collected by small sums, with trouble and uncertainty: so that the advantage is least where the labour is greatest. And after the discouragements of his life, the clergyman at his death leaves no such profession as can be carried on by a surviving widow for the maintenance of the family; who are left in poverty, with a quick and afflicting sense of their misfortunes, from the advantage (or rather disadvantage) of superior sentiments and a refined education.

All these considerations recommend to your encouragement the charity * of this day; which, we trust, hath the good wishes, and will continue to receive the assistance of those who are here present.

But since no human institution can prosper without the Divine blessing; we who are of the clergy

*To give this charity a better effect, it was found expedient, that a particular attention should be had to the education of the poor orphans of clergymen, till they are of age to be placed out in the world. A charitable society was accordingly formed for this good purpose in the year 1749, the Constitutions of which (being annually printed and distributed) do so fully explain the design, and prove the advantages, of this new Charity, that I must beg leave to recommend the little pamphlet which contains them to the consideration of those who are charitably disposed; under a persuasion, that this state of the case will speak for itself, and induce them to encourage so excellent an institution.

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