« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
old law in execution, but they wanted power of remission. —With whom such power should be lodged, respecting clerical non-refidence, a private man must not presume to advise. Possibly in such distresses as have just now been proposed, a rector might soon get a Licence; yet if his excuse was not one of those specified in lection 19. it would have to pass through the hands of the archbishop's officers; and whether it had or not, it might come too late.
After this view of the Ail, we may proceed to thesubjeU of Residence, considered only in itself. We may suppose the Act never to have been made; and only the question to be, whether Incumbents Jhould be confined by a law to reside upon their benefices. On such a question let us endeavour to find out what reason and utility would dictate.
I think there is a Fallacy which is apt to obtrude itself upon the minds of many worthy persons. Seeing the very great benefits which accrue to a parish from the voluntary Residence of a good pastor, properly appointed, they too hastily conclude, that the same benefits would result from forced Residence. But surely those advantages upon which so high and so just value is set, do not arise mechanically from mere Refdence, but from the disposition of him who resides. Now the disposition of one who conscientiously resides upon his benefice, and makes his chief pleasure to consist in doing|good to those committed to his care, is widely different from that of the man who must be compelled to Residence by law. I pity from my soul the taste of him who can prefer the- frivolous sauntering of Bath, or the uninteresting confusion and perpetual bustle of those who live in London for the sake of amusement, to the solid satisfaction of seeing a set of parishioners continually improving in every virtue; and finding them repay, by sincere respect and attachment, every kind endeavour to instruct, and direct and assist them; but at the same time, if a patron will so far betray his trust as, through indirect motives, to appoint a man to a benefice who has no turn for pastoral duties, no relissi for simplicity, plain fense, useful knowledge, and unassuming benevolence and fidelity, it by no means follows, that I think it advisable for such a one to be fettered in a situation for which he is wholly disqualified; where he would enjoy nothing;; and would do no good, except what might accidentally arise from his spending some money; but where he would do great harm, by his manner of life, and by bis failing ftort of what was reasonably expected from him, by the sensible and worthy part of his parish.
A rector who has been so misplaced as to be named to- a benefice, the duties of which he hates, will do less moral and religious harm by sending a regular and conscientious Curate to reside, than by residing himself. Indeed, whatever evils arise, in such a case, are really chargeable on the Patron; and it seems a species of injustice to punish others for his fault, even though they be blameable. But if such a rector must be tied to Residence, consider what is the kind of life which he may be expected to lead. He has no relish for such intercourse with his parishioners as has a tendency to improve their conduct, or their sentiments and principles of action: if therefore he is social, he will pass his time in convivial entertainments with those chiefly who do not belong to his parish; in idle visitings, and fruitless diversions:—if he is not caressed in society, he will fall into solitary lounging and unprofitable reading; nay, possibly into pernicious indulgencies of various forts. It may be urged, that such a one has leisure to improve himself and others; such as would be highly valued by many men in active life; but it is not leisure that makes men good authors or preachers, if they have not a right spring or energy of mind; which it is very difficult to maintain when nothing presses to be done. With most men leisure should be occasional, to answer any good end; at intervals, and after they have learned its value"by experience. In vulgar minds leisure tends to relaxation or stagnation, if not to peevishness or sottishness. To make the minds of the generality of men active, there should be something animating; some emulation, some applause, &c. with access to good books and good conversation. The rector who studies and enjoys the improvements of his parishioners, is in no danger of wanting employment; whereas, he who lives amongst them without such a turn, will find his leisure of very little service; if not an evil upon the whole.
One might observe generally, that many things are to be desired, which it would be very dangerous to force: and amongst moralists, as I recollect, it is a general principle, not to confine men in things where it would be very desirable that they should confine themselves, lest the evils arising from restraint should in fact prove greater than those arising from abuse of liberty. Thus some laws are lax, or loosely executed, against Fornication, in order not to impell men to offences still more abhorred. Indeed the Divine Governor of the world seems to justify some degree of patience and toleration, by not depriving men of their liberty, eveo
when they abuse it most grossly. Not that we dare build upon such a foundation an exemption from all human laws; but yet it is a measure of divine government which ought never to be forgotten whilst men are imposing restraints upon each other.—It is very desirable that husband and wife should live together; but are they for that reason to be compelled to a perpetual cohabitation? might not liberty to take a voyage to the East Indies, or elsewhere, occasionally, as circumstances should direct at any time, answer better to bath parties upon the whole than much confinement? compulsion might take away all that mutual affection, all that tender interest in the continual interchange of good offices, and the pursuit of common good, which is so truly valuable when the connubial associating is perfectly voluntary. This illustration may have been suggested by the church being called the Spouse of Christ; however that may be, it might be difficult perhaps to allege any thing for a representative of Christ being compelled to reside with his Spouse the Church, which might not be equally applicable to a man's being compelled to live with his wife.
To make Residence what it is supposed to be by those who most favour the enforcing of it, benefices should be so proportioned, as to their value, that the most important should be the most valuable; and that, in every case, the value mould depend upon the importance; that is, upon the number of those whose morals and religion were to be watched^and improved; and upon the effects of having each a good or bad man. As the revenues of our church arise, a man may reside upon a living according to the strictest law, and yet: be very much overpaid for his ecclesiastical work; and another person, who is very industrious in a populous parish, may be very much under paid, even though he does riot reside full nine mouths. Our law supposes every man exactly to earn the profits of his living, however great or small, if he resides nine months upon it: after he has so done, to owe nothing to the church, and to have nothing owing to him from the church. To be on the footing of a servant, who has done his work and received his wages. But this constitution makes the pay of ministers so very disproportioned to their services, that it can only be excused by necessity. Supposing all the revenues of the church in the hands of faithful trustees, they would pay each minister according to the quantity of his work, and the importance of it to the public religion and virtue; that
■ Vol. XIII. Churchm. Afag.for August 1807.
being now impracticable, that is, not practicable without greater evils even than the present inequality produces, it is the duty ot' all parties to come as near to it as possible. Whereas our present law is satisfied with keeping at a very great distance from it. There can at present be no hope that services will be proportioned to emoluments but from the consciences of the more opulent clergy; and it does not appear to me, that laws enjoining Residence, and expressing satisfaction in a certain residence (not to mention facilities of avoiding even that residence) can ever supply the great inequality. I think there would be more chance of the revenues answering their proper end, if more was put upon the conscience; and if men had the duty of proportioning services to emoluments, explained and pressed upon them, on nomination, or institution, to any lucrative benefice. We may wish that things could be nearer perfection than they are; but as change would throw all property into con. fusion, no better way remains than to consider all the revevues of the church as belonging to one common flock, or treasury; and charge it upon the consciences of patrons to give the most valuable benefices to those who will do the most spiritual good, in various ways; and upon the consciences of incumbents to promote moral and religious worth somewhere, in proportion to the sliare which they enjoy of the revenues: this would frequently prevent able men from tying themselves down to the spot from which their emoluments arise; but if it would amend the state of virtue and religion, in our church and nation, upon the whole, it would be the preferable plan. Whether it would really have so good an effect, many would question; but I must own it seems to me, that, though trusting so much to men's consciences would occasion many abuses, yet if the depart* ment of patronage could be brought into tolerable order, the other part, that of the incumbents, would not fail; for after all the laws that can be made, the effectual performance of the incumbent's duties must be owing to conscience. Under the present confinement, many men, fit to exercise authority, must be lost in obscurity; and very important services must be lost to the public, if it be allowed, that every man does all that he is under obligation to do, by residing nine months in the year in a parish, where his principle talents and acquirements are wholly useless.—That every parish should be well taken care of, and have instructions the best calculated to improve it, and make it stedfast in every good principle and act, cannot be doubted; but the instruction* uons of very learned and thinking men are not always the most useful to country parishes. For my own part, well as I wish to country parishes, I feel no regret that bishop Hurd was not obliged to reside nine months in every year "in low Thurcaston's scquester'd bower;" though I would not oppose Hooker's retiring voluntarily into the country to finish his Ecclesiastical Polity, (see end of Mason's third Elegy.)
It would have great influence in determining whether the clergy should or should not be tied to Residence if we could compare two nations, in one of which they were so restrained in the other not; the rest being alike. Yet in the latter, where the clergy had discretionary power, I would conceive them to have encouragements to reside, as much as should seem to them really really right and useful; such as comfortable houses; and some degree of pecuniary advantage. In such a comparison, as far as we can make it, every one must be guided by his own conceptions. I cannot help fancying, that the confined clergy would, in a few ages, become ignorant, narrow-minded, stupid, bigotted, superstitious; some arrogant and brutish; others mild, but insipid; some sottish, others convivial and extravagant. Whereas in that nation where the clergy had more liberty, they would, by associating more with men out of their own line of life, particularly with men of improved minds and vir. tuous characters, versed in business of various sorts, have a good probability of becoming learned, wife, ingenious, candid, rationally pious, active, polished, acute, discreet, cheerful, pleasing, benevolent, modest, humble, temperate, indulgent, frugal: of improved taste and civilized manners;; adorning any station, high or low. • j '■>
Such a comparison seems actually to have taken place between popish monasteries and protestant Colleges; and to. have occasioned very reasonable relaxations, with regard to Residence imposed by popish authority. *
But to retire from such extensive views I will observe,
* Whilst I was writing this paragraph, Dr. Powell's sermon on Heb. xii. l. occurred to my mind. "The sin that doth so easily beset us." I read it, and I thought it excellent; admirable. And I thought that every lawgiver, meaning to confine the clergy, should consider it attentively, and judge now far the observations contained in it on monastic life, were applicable to clergy forcibly fixed in their parsonage houses. Some passages I feel much inclined to quote; but it seems a pity to break the unity of so perfect a whole. N 2