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tion of the mixed ranks of human society. Now the only substitute for religious conversation is religious reading. A clergyman, therefore, who believes some application to the consciences of his parishioners more appropriate and domestic than addresses from the pulpit to be his duty, and that some instruction is wanting more minute and circumstantial than befits the decorum of public discourses, but who finds himself embarrassed by every endeavour to introduce conferences with them upon serious topics, will receive some contentment to his thoughts from being able to supply, in a good degree, the place and effect of such conferences, by putting into the hands of his parishioners plain and affecting treatises upon the subjects to which he wishes to draw their meditations.
The next class of parochial clergy who, I think, may avail themselves of this expedient with singular propriety, is that of nonresident incumbents : it is a mode of instruction in their power, and the only one that is so. By this means, though absent in body, they may in some measure, as the Apostle speaks, be present in spirit; not entirely forgetful of their cure, or so regardless of the charge that hath been committed to them, as to consider themselves under no other relation to their parish than as having an estate in it. It is not my design to examine the legal or conscientious excuses of nonresidents; it is enough for my present purpose to observe, that even where both exist, and under the most justifiable circumstances, something is not done by the minister for
the advantage of his flock, which might be done if he was living amongst them. This deficiency a good man will desire to make up; and, after due care and circumspection in the choice of a curate, I know not by what better method the incumbent of a parish can compensate for his absence than by a judicious distribution of religious books amongst his parishioners.
ON THE OATHS OF CHURCHWARDENS.
I know nothing in which the obligation of an oath is so egregiously trifled with, or rather in which that obligation is so entirely overlooked, as in the office of a Churchwarden ; and in no part of their duty is this inadvertency more observable than in the answers which are returned in the book of articles. It does not seem to occur to the apprehension of Churchwardens that this is a business in which their consciences are at all concerned, or to which their oath extends. I must entreat, therefore, my Reverend Brethren, your concurrence with me in endeavouring to remind your respective Churchwardens of this branch of their office, and your and their attention for a few minutes, whilst I attempt to show how Churchwardens stand obliged by their oath in filling up, as it is called, the book of articles, to deliver careful, well-considered, true, and explicit answers to the questions proposed to them.
The Churchwarden's oath, after some controversy and much deliberation between the best civilians and common lawyers of the age, was settled in its present
form, with a view on the one hand of binding the Churchwarden to every thing that properly belongs to his office, and with due caution on the other not to leave it in the power of the Ordinary to cast upon him what burthens he pleased. The concluding clause of this oath is that by which the Churchwarden swears, “according to the best of his skill and judgement, to present such things and persons as are presentable by the laws ecclesiastical of this realm;" but lest his skill and judgement should not be sufficient to inform him what things are and what things are not presentable by the laws of the realm, a book of articles is put into his hands to supply that information ; so that it is, in truth, a book of instruction to the Churchwarden in the discharge of his duty. A conscientious man, who remembers that he has sworn to present such things as are presentable, will be led in the first place to inquire what things are presentable; and this inquiry the contents of the book of articles satisfy, by enumerating and disposing, under different titles, the matters which are ordinarily presentable, and to which consequently his oath extends. Emergent cases may arise which are not comprehended in the book, but they are few: the plain account of the connexion between the oath and the articles is this the Oath obliges the Churchwarden to present such things as are presentable, the articles let him know what these things are.
There are a few chapels within this district which do not receive books of articles at all. I am sorry there are any such : for since the Chapelof any
wardens of these places swear to present such things as are presentable, unless they can take upon them. selves to judge what things are presentable, and will frame presentments according to that judgement, they ought not to refuse the assistance that is held out to them; it is not consistent with their oath to do so. It was expected, I have no doubt, that they should resort to the mother church, and return their presentments in the general articles of the parish ; but this is neither convenient nor often practised. Suppose, for instance, there being any irrepair in the fabric of the chapel, the fence of the chapel yard, or
of the buildings belonging to its estate, or any insufficiency in any article employed about divine service, such defects are things presentable; yet how is the Chapelwarden to present them, if he neither receive a separate book of articles, nor join in answering the book sent to the parish church, nor return written presentments of his own ? The
The expense of a book of articles is trifling, and what the Chapelwarden is undoubtedly entitled to bring into his accounts.
These instances, however, are not numerous. A subject of much more general complaint is the heedlessness and negligence with which answers are returned ; upon which account I wish to impress upon the minds of Churchwardens this one weighty reflection, that every answer they give is an answer upon oath. I am afraid this is little attended to, or hardly indeed understood to be the case, by reason that the oath is not taken at the same time that the answers