Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

bishop.” In 745, Archbishop Boniface couples the tithes with the oblations, and calls them the milk and wool which the flocks yield to the shepherd;" and about forty years later, the papal legates inform Pope Adrian, that they had laboured to promote their payment in the Council of Calcuith. Dr. Lingard adds

“ It would, perhaps, be rash to infer from such data that this imposition was already enforced throughout the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms; and it most vexatiously happens, that after the Council of Calcuith, every vestige of its existence disappears. Not a single notice of tithe is to be found in the history of the next hundred and twenty years, till after the death of Alfred, when it presents itself to us as a national institution long since recognised, sanctioned with pains and penalties, and evaded or resisted by many, when evasion or resistance could be attempted with the prospect of impunity.”-i. 185.

What were the purposes for which this impost was originally designed? The doctrine of the Anglo-Saxon Church was substantially the same as that of the Churches on the Continent; and not a single national document relative to the subject has come down to us, in which the right of the poor to a considerable portion of the tithe is not distinctly recognised. In the compilation which goes under the name of Archbishop Egbert, we meet with the following canon : "Let the mass-priests themselves receive the tithe from the people, and keep a written list of the names of all who have given, and divide, in presence of men fearing God, the tithe according to the authority of the canons, and choose the first portion for the adornment of the Church; and let them distribute humbly and mercifully with their own hands the second portion for the benefit of poor and wayfaring men, and then may they retain the third portion for themselves.” A canon passed in the reign of Edgar, says: “ And right it is that one portion be set apart for the clergy, the second for the need of the Church, and the third for the need of the poor.” In 1013, this distribution was confirmed by the legislature:

“ And respecting tithe, the king and his Witan have chosen and decreed, as is right, that one-third part of the tithe go to the reparation of the Church, and a second part to the servants of God, (the ministers,) and the third to God's poor, and to needy ones in thraldom.”Thorpe, i. 342 ; ii. 98, 256, apud Lingard, i. 188, 189.

Tithes, then, are trust property, subject to the control of Parliament, and they should be taken with the conditions and incumbrances which attached to them from the beginning. They were evidently designed not only to aid in supporting the ministry of the whole people, but to keep all the parish churches in repair, and to maintain the poor of the nation. No ancient or divine right can be pleaded in favour of this property, which does not draw after it these unwelcome consequences.

He ap

In addition to ample endowments in land, altar-offerings, (which chimed in fortunately with national customs,) and tithes, the Anglo-Saxon clergy claimed the first fruits of the harvest, originally, like tithes, a voluntary offering, but, at length, commuted into a compulsory payment. This was called kirk-shot, and was the first of the church dues which obtained the sanction of the legislature. The clergy also got a legal claim to other “dues,” such as “ plough-alms,” to obtain a blessing on the labours of spring; “ leot-shot,” a certain quantity of wax given thrice a year to supply the altar with candles; and “ soul-shot,” a mortuary fee ordered to be paid for the dead while the grave was yet open.

Patronage was always rife in the Anglo-Saxon Church. The consecration of a church and all its resources to religion, did not sever its ownership from the founder. “It was still according to the national jurisprudence, his church.” He disposed of it and its profit to the incumbent as a loan or benefice for life. He pointed to it whenever it became vacant, and negotiated for its sale as he would for that of any secular property." The incumbent thus became the vassal of his lord; and the clerical establishment of which he was the head, was reduced to poverty, and the property itself became subject to litigation in the courts of law.” Moreover, the ownership, according to the laws regulating the transfer of landed property, passed from him to other parties by sale, or gift, or bequest, or inheritance.

“Hence we find churches in the possession of individuals of every rank and profession ; of clergymen who, though they sometimes are, frequently are not the incumbents; of lay-proprietors, both men and women ; of associated bodies, as guilds, burghers, and religious communities. Frequently several churches belong to a single individual, frequently a single church belongs to several. Copartners, who divide the profits among them, according to the number of shares held separately by each. On all occasions these churches are considered private property, in the same manner as the mills, and mines, and fisheries of their owners.”-i. 194.

In vain did the bishops complain of this system in the assemblies of the Witan—in vain did they publish canons, threatening with Divine judgments “the enslavers of churches,” and those who made merchandize of God's houses,” complaining bitterly, that "the churches far and wide were weakly protected, evilly enslaved, and cleanly bereft of their ancient rights, and stripped of in-door decencies.” In every nation of northern origin, laylordship intruded itself into the sanctuary, and ruled there, in return for the privileges granted to the spiritual lords as peers of the realm.

These privileges were certainly very great. The bishop was,

by office, one of the chief advisers of the king—was summoned to the national councils, and was listened to with deference. The archbishop's word, like that of the king, was received in courts of justice, as equivalent to his oath ; and he possessed the right of granting nine days' grace to the offender, whose life was sought by the family of an injured or murdered 'man. In all other respects he was placed on the same footing with the etheling, or princes of the blood. Other bishops ranked as eoldermen above the king's thanes, exercised equal rights, and enjoyed equal emoluments. Even the parish priest was called an altar-thune. The bishop also presided in courts of justice, in company with the eoldermen, and there ecclesiastical pleas were taken before those of the crown.

On this sort of connexion of the Church with the State, Dr. Lingard speaks with candour, as well as good sense :

“The great evil springing out of the influence and consideration which the State attached to the episcopal office was, that it tended to engender and nourish a worldly and dissipated spirit, especially in the possessors of the more opulent sees. The private clerk or monk was suddenly drawn from the retirement of the cloister, and transformed into a secular lord ! He became at once the possessor of extensive estates; his residence was crowded with dependents, wherever he moved he was accompanied by a numerous escort. Thus he found himself placed in a situation most foreign to his previous habits—the management of his property, the necessity of defending the rights of his church against adverse claims, the applications to him for patronage and aid, and the controversies among the principal families in his diocese, involved him in a vortex of secular cares and disputes; nor ought we to be surprised if, in such circumstances, some of these prelates, acting in their twofold capacity as temporal and spiritual lords, adopted the manners of coldermen and thanes, seeking to add to their possessions, multiplying by the “loen or loan” of lands, the number of their military retainers, and employing for the protection of themselves and their friends, secular as well as spiritual arms.

We meet also with numerous instances of the presence of bishops in military expeditions, whether they led their own retainers to the field, or accompanied their quota of armed men furnished from their respective dioceses.”-i. 103-5.

When we consider this amazing metamorphosis of the monk into the secular lord, can we wonder if the Saxon prelates were the most arrogant of mankind. What a trial for poor human nature ! There is nothing to equal it in the annals of upstartism, not even in the elevation of a private soldier to the imperial throne. And this exalted rank, these thrones of demigods, were open to every monk. On this hope cowled Ambition pondered in his cell, and the light thereof illumined and glorified his death’s-head and cross-bones. It made the hair-cloth lie soft

on his flagellated shoulders. Who can tell how much of the grim austerity, and fantastic sanctity, which edify Tractarians in the “ Lives of the Saints,” we owe to the silent but ardent ambition which urged the monk to exchange his cowl for a mitre, his cell for a palace, his beads for a sword, his passive obedience for absolute command, his beggarly poverty for boundless wealth ? How natural, too, to such men must have been the spirit of intolerance and the deeds of persecution! If Satan had held a council in pandemonium to devise a plan by which the human mind could be most dazzled and deranged by the sudden access of arbitrary power, could he possibly have hit upon a better ? And could ascetic virtue have encountered the world's allurements at a more tremendous disadvantage, besieged all at once by luxury, flattery, beauty, example, and impunity ?

The evils of this state of things survived the Conquest, and were in full force at the Reformation. Indeed, the temperament generated in the English hierarchy by the institutions of the middle

ages, may be occasionally discerned in active operation still, in despite of three centuries of Protestantism. Fully to purge out the old leaven will require a revolution far greater than that which was effected by Henry VIII. or Elizabeth.

Dr. Lingard ascribes to the following causes the large endowments, originally private, which Dr. Hook and others claim as the sacred and inalienable property of the Church of England, and on which the Legislature must not presume to lay its profane hands :

“ 1st, Men, engaged themselves by their station and habits of life, in other and distracting pursuits, trusted that they might compensate for their own deficiency by contributing to the support of a class of men, who, relieved from worldly cares, should have for their chief occupation to offer daily the Christian sacrifice, and to chant daily the praises of the Almighty. 2d, With others it was the desire of securing permanent relief for the poor; and these frequently, instead of relying on the doubtful fidelity of their heirs, made donations to the Church, accompanied with the obligation of constantly maintaining a certain number of paupers in a particular district, or of distributing charity to a certain amount on particular days. 3d, On the other hand, there were numbers who had acquired opulence by a course of successful crimes, and had deferred the duty of restitution till the victims of their injustice had disappeared. These men were frequently induced, towards the decline of life, to confer, as a tardy atonement, some part of their property on the Church ; and when they neglected it, their neglect was frequently compensated by the piety of their children and descendants. 4th, To such motives may be added the want of heirs, the hope of obtaining spiritual aid from the prayers of the clergy, gratitude for the protection which the Church always offered to the unfortunate, and a wish to defeat the rapacity of a pow

erful adversary; all of which contributed in a greater or less degree to augment the possessions of religious establishments.”

Such bequests were often accompanied by the words—pro remedio-salute-redemptione animæ meæ et priorum, antecessorum meorum, &c.—and laid duties on the beneficiaries which a Protestant clergy cannot fulfil.

ART. II.-1. A Collection of Old Ballads anterior to the Reign

of Charles I. Edited by J. PAYNE COLLIER, Esq., for the

Percy Society. 1840.
2. A Collection of Songs and Ballads relative to the London

Apprentices and Trades, &c., during the Reigns of Henry VIII.,
Elizabeth, and James I. Edited by CHARLES MACKAY, Esq.,

for the Percy Society. 1841.
3. The Book of Scottish Ballads. By ALEXANDER WHITELAW.

Glasgow, 1845.

“ The names of so many men of learning and character [Dr. Johnson, Warton, Garrick, Farmer, &c.,] the editor hopes will serve as an amulet to guard him from every unfavourable censure for having bestowed any attention on a parcel of old ballads.” Such was the apology of the venerable and learned Bishop of Dromore, for his indulgence in a pursuit which he felt many might think frivolous in itself, and not a few regard as inconsistent with the gravity of his profession. And yet surely this appeal to great names was unnecessary. An old Ballad! There is a singular charm in the very sound of these words. In every point of view the “old ballad” is interesting. It guides us to the manners and customs of an age long passed by: it shows us the popular mind and feelings more surely and vividly than the most elaborate treatise : it occupies a conspicuous place in the history of northern literature, and it stands alone as a species of composition which has been truly said to baffle successful imitation. The general characteristics of the old ballad are scenes of bold adventure, romantic love, or wild superstition, clothed in the simple energetic language of an unlettered people—the events are strongly felt, and therefore forcibly narrated—the images are those which nature suggests, not the combinations of refined art.

In using the expression, "an unlettered people,” we do not

1

4

« PoprzedniaDalej »