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The Church in Danger from Herself. “Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth.”-Acts xix. 25. We have, on a previous occasion, glanced at the enormous wealth now in the possession of the Church of England. The 'sentiment expressed, in the heading of this article, might be justified by considerations drawn from the bloated fulness of the hierarchy. An old allegory sets forth, that religion, in the days of Constantine, brought forth riches, and the daughter destroyed the mother. In fact, affluence and religion are not the two most compatible things in the world—and affluence possessed by the self-styled ministers of Christ-possessed by a few, to the exclusion of the rest-possessed chiefly in consequence of duties neglected, namely, the maintenance of the poor, and the repair of Churches-affluence held by a special compact, which requires of the holder duties both numerous and important, but which, in nine cases out of ten, are shamefully neglected-affluence which is perverted to serve but too often political purposes, and to support pomp and luxuryaffluence so gotten and held—so abused, has but too much power to convert the self-styled ministers of Christ, into what appears to vulgar eyes, ministers of Mammon. And if such a notion obtains prevalence in a day when the school-master is abroad, the Church must change its constitution, or it will soon be numbered with the things that were. Certain we are, that the Church cannot long bear up under its accumulation of riches. It will perish, as many a machine has done before, by its own weight. Reason assures us of this, and experience confirms the conclusion. Our ecclesiastical rulers ought to remember, that other churches bave been wrecked, and that, too, in consequence chiefly of their being overladen with wealth. The Reformation was mainly belped forward by the exorbitant wealth enjoyed and abused by the clergy. By this the cupidity of Henry the VIII. was excited; and the fears and alarms of bis nobility, when his measures were
in progress, assuaged; and this served as a justification to the people, who could by no means see how so much affluence contributed, in the hands of his ministers, to the glory of God and the welfare of souls. Robertson informs us, it was computed that the wealth of the clergy in Germany, on the commencement of the Reformation, amounted to one-half of the national property; and we have it on the authority of Madame de Stael, that the French clergy, prior to the Revolution, were in possession of one-third of all the property in the kingdom. The consequence of such accumulations, in these instances, all know; and it is strange, that our hierarchy cannot perceive, that, with eight millions per annum in their hands, unequally distributed, and, in many cases, voluptuously spent, they run no small risk of meeting with a fate similar to what the Catholic clergy of France experienced at the hands of a justly indignant and outraged nation.
Signs are, however, now to be seen, of the awakening of at lea some of our clergy from their insensibility. It is no wisdom to sleep on a volcanic mountain, and so, at last, no insignificant part of the Church have come to think. For some considerable time, a number of publications have issued from Churchmen, which speak of the abuses in the Establishment with more or less candour, freedom, and regret. They confirm almost all that Dissenters have charged upon the Church, and are worthy of every attention, since they speak only in consequence of being assured that (to use the words of the heading adopted from one of their publications) the Church is in danger, and chiefly in danger from herself. From authority 80 unquestionable, we now propose to draw a few facts to lay before our readers-begging them to observe, that we shall state nothing which is not asserted by Churchmen themselves. The field over which we might wander, is so wide, that we must limit ourselves to one corner of it. Passing, in consequence, all theoretical questions, we shall confine our view to the actual state of the Establishment. We will suppose, if our readers permit--though the supposition is of somewhat a startling nature-that, in theory, in relation to Scriptural authority, the original institutions of the Church are perfect at all points; still there is a question, What is the actual condition of the Church?
And those who are wont to praise a political system, because, however defective in principle, it is found to work well, can hardly deny, that this question, as to the present condition of the Church, is of some importance: while people, who are accustomed, on all occasions, to require actual usefulness, as well as seemliness of theory, in institutions which meet their approbation (of which sort we hope most of our readers are), will follow us with peculiar interest, while we speak, on the authority of Churchmen, of the inefficiency of the present over-fed and over-pampered Establishment.
In the first place, there is a schism in the Church, and a schism of the most serious nature. There are, as they were once called, “ The Rational,” but as now called, “The Orthodox Clergy,” and “ The Evangelical Clergy.” The first, for the most part, are a set of drones-dividing amongst them the fattest pasturages of the country, and consisting of pluralists-of idle, pursy, snoring, do-nothing rectors—of bishops with princely incomes and princely state--with a whole band of inferiors, filling up the stalls of collegiate churches and cathedral dormitories-many of them doing no duty, as it is called and most of those who do, turning religion into a jest, by their idle, wan. dering manner--their monotonous and snuffling tones their sleepy and careless delivery. In the hands of these, however, are the good things of the Church !--Power, patronage, government influence, all lie on their side. While the Evangelical clergy, who, with many faults, are a most worthy and pains-taking body of men-are neglected, despised, and kept from receiving the due reward of their great and praise-worthy labours. The schism is not merely a difference of discipline, but of doctrine also a difference, involving, as say the Evangelical part, the very essential of Christianity. Now, after this, how can any son of the Church plead, without blushing, in favour of an Establishment, on the ground of its preserving unity of faith? Here, in the very bosom of the Church, with all its circumvallations to keep out heresy, and all its articles, homilies, creeds, and canons, to keep in true doctrine-here is, then, a most serious and extensive schism on the vital points of the Christian religion. The Church is, then, inefficient. Tried by its own statements, and by its own pleas, it is found wanting. But this schism, as every schism, brings in wars and rumours of wars, each party has its army and its battle array, and a conflict is maintained throughout the land. Review meets review magazine conflicts with magazine—stratagem succeeds stratagem--and the tug of war is felt on every side. Thus the energies of the Church are spent by mutual collision: what ought to be devoted to the extirpation of ignorance and sin, is engaged in self-destruction. No wonder, then, the Church is inefficient.
On the Bishops is devolved the important duty of admitting candidates into holy orders. That some scrutiny is necessary in a Church where the people have no choice, is abundantly clear, and equally clear is it, that if the scrutiny of the Bishops be a mere form, the. Church will be crowded with improper men. Now, alas! this is, to a great extent, the case. In many cases, the Bishops are themselves deceived, and the means of doing this are but too easy. The certificates which the candidate brings, to certify the Bishop of his fitness, are obtained with a facility greatly to be deplored, and are of a description to merit very little confidence; and though the powers that be, know this well, and know, in consequence, that often they send idlers and worthless men into the vineyard, they seek, they devise no remedy. Nay, they do not even avail themselves of the means for trying candidates, which the law has put into their hands; and it is a question, whether, if the matter were subjected to a legal investigation, they might not, for some of their omissions, be punished in no very agreeable a manner. In these remarks, we do not allude to a prevalent neglect of the requirement of the canons, that the candidate shall be ascertained to possess “special gifts, or ability to be a preacher.” This omission proves also of serious detriment to the cause of religion. It is a well known fact, that the clergy are far inferior in pulpit talent to dissenting ministers; and this inferiority arises, in good part, from the Bishops babitually failing to do the duty required of them by the institutions of the Church. The vows and promises under which a candidate comes, on entering into the Church, are of the most solemn and affecting nature. But thousands pretend motives they never have—make vows and promises they never intend to fulfil-actually live in open and known violation of them-having thrust themselves into the fold, not to feed, but to be fed, and to enrich themselves on the spoils of the Church-living by the altar they never serve, and by the gospel they never preach_abandoning their flocks, and nothing caring that thousands of them perish in their sins.
Of those who are actually in holy orders, the most zealous, active, laborious, faithful, and devoted (we speak, as everywhere, on the authority of Churchmen), are held up to the public contempt—often frowned upon by Bishopssometimes by them thwarted in their endeavours to advance the highest interests of their people; and even where this is not openly done, yet are singled out as persons on whom they will not, or dare not, show any portion of their favour; while the very opposite characters are held in admiration, or at least suffered to be quiet, and have heaped upon them the highest favours which the State and the Church have to bestow.
If we speak of the provision which the Church, with her eight millions per year, makes for the edification of the people, we learn that the inhabitants of something more than seven-eighths of the parishes of the kingdom, have no more than one weekly opportunity afforded of assembling together in the Church for religious instruction; consequently, more than seven-eighths of the parochial clergy of the kingdom do not afford to their parishioners those religious benefits which the constitution of the Church-their own solemn engagements, and the law of the realm-demand. What a fearful dereliction! And this, too, when they hold their wealth on condition of doing their duty. “And then," says a Churchman, " if we add to this, the deficiency both of the matter and the manner in which these instructions are given, we shall not wonder, that
have left the Establishment and joined the ranks of dissent, but rather that the great bulk have not adopted the same course of conduct, and left, as in many instances, the parish minister to preach to empty pews and mouldy walls." Amidst this general neglect, the richest livings have commonly the smallest service performed. The incumbents of these are generally pluralists and non-residents. The scanty sum they allow to their curates, obliges them to seek for other aid; while, if they procure this, some of these incumbents are so mean as to reduce the miserable pittance they gave, full thirty pounds a-year. But with one service, thousands through the land are unable to attend the religious instruction of the Establishment. This is made infinitely worse, when there is only one service once a-fortnight, or three weeks, and, in some cases, only once a-month. These instances are not so rare as may be supposed. Numbers of such cases might