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DELIVERED TO THE CLERGY OF THE DIOCESE OF CARLISLE, IN THE YEAR 1785, ON THE DISTRIBUTION OF RELIGIOUS TRACTS.
The choice of our venerable Diocesan-dictated, no doubt, by great partiality to me, but not without a hope, I trust, of providing for the care and government of his diocese—having called me to succeed your late excellent chancellor, I approach a station which hath been occupied by abilities so conspicuous under a just conviction of my incapacity to replace, by any qualifications I possess, the loss you have sustained of the talents and services of that valuable person: his consummate professional learning, his unwearied diligence, the reputation of his writings, the accuracy, method, and perspicuity by which they are distin
guished, not only conferred honour upon the office which he held in this diocese, but have rendered his name familiar to every part of these kingdoms.
There is no branch of my duty in which I regret my own deficiency more than on those occasions in which the clergy, especially the younger and less experienced part of them, were wont, upon any doubt or emergency that arose, to resort to my predecessor for counsel and advice. I can only promise, that they shall meet in me with the same attention to their inquiries, the same readiness to communicate the information that is asked for; whilst I lament that they cannot place upon that information a like reliance, or find in it equal satisfaction and security.
The ecclesiastical laws of the realm having undergone no alteration that I am acquainted with during the course of the last year, and being yet too recent in my office to advert with sufficient exactness to any irregularities that may prevail within the cognizance of this jurisdiction, I cannot, I conceive, employ the present opportunity better than in suggesting two recommendations, of different kinds, indeed, and of very different importance, but neither perhaps undeserving of consideration.
The first thing I take the liberty to propose relates to the registering of baptisms. It has been intimated to me, by very high legal authority, that, in the investigation of pedigrees from parish registers, great uncertainty has been found to arise from the want of the family surname of the mother appearing in the
entry. It is well known, that one half of the controversies which occur upon the subject of descents result from the confusion of whole blood and half blood, and the difficulty of tracing back genealogies in the maternal line. Doubts of this kind can seldom be ascertained by the register, in which nothing at present is found but the christian name of the mother; they are rather indeed increased by consulting the register, whenever it appears, as it frequently may happen, that an ancestor has married two wives of the same christian name, and has had children by both. It is evident that this ambiguity may be completely obviated, by so easy an expedient as the addition of the maiden name of the mother to the rest of the record: it is a single question to ask, and a single word to write down. At present the entries stand thus : “ John, the son of Richard Peters," for instance, “ of such a place and profession, and of Mary, his wife.” What I propose is, to add a parenthesis, containing the name which the mother bore before her marriage; so that the whole entry may run in this form: “John, the son of Richard Peters,” particularizing, as before, the father's profession and place of residence, “and of Mary, his wife, late Johnson.” For the better exposition of this plan, though it can hardly, I think, be mistaken, I have caused to be circulated, together with the book of articles, a printed formulary, which, mutatis mutandis, may serve as a direction where any such is wanted. I understand that this alteration has been adopted in the diocese of Norwich, and perhaps in some others, with great approbation; and if it appear likely to promote in any degree the purposes of future peace and justice, I am persuaded the little trouble it may occasion will not be grudged or declined, though the generations are yet unborn which will reap the effects of it.
The next particular to which I am desirous of inviting your attention is the distribution of religious books in our respective parishes. What I before mentioned belongs to the formal or technical part of a clergyman's duty, which, however, cannot be left undone, nor ought at any time to be done negligently; but what I now take the liberty of suggesting, is a matter of higher character and of more serious importance, as appertaining to that which composes the substance and object of the pastoral office—the edification of the people in christian knowledge. I am apprehensive that it is not so generally known amongst us as it ought to be, that there exists in London a society for the propagation of christian knowledge, by the best method, according to my judgement, in which a society can act, by facilitating the circulation of devotional compositions and of popular treatises upon the chief subjects of practical religion. The annual subscription to this society is one guinea; in consideration of which, the subscriber is entitled to receive whatever books he may select out of a very numerous catalogue, at about half the price which the same books would cost in any other way of procuring them. The whole collection is furnished to subscribers for eighteen shillings; which, beside that it supplies a clergyman with no mean library in this species of reading, enables him to select, for the use of his parish, what he may deem best suited to the particular wants and circumstances of his parishioners. In my opinion, this expedient of subscribing to the society, and of procuring books for the use of our poorer parishioners, upon the terms of the society, admits of the strongest argument in its favour, by which any mode of charity can be shown to be preferable to another--that of doing much good at a little expense. But beside its general utility, there are two descriptions of clergy to whom the recommendation I am now urging seems to be peculiarly applicable. It was in old times much the practice, and is at all times, as far as it can be attempted with probability of success, the duty of the parochial clergy to hold personal conferences with their parishioners upon religious subjects; nevertheless, it is very true, that many clergymen of great worth and learning find themselves unapt for this exercise; they find a want of that presence of mind and promptness of thought which enable a man to say at the proper instant what he afterwards discovers ought to have been said, or to discourse freely and persuasively upon subjects of importance, and yet with truth and correctness.