Billeder på siden

influence of the reformed doctrine may become accomplished men of the world and inveterate preferment-hunters.

We gladly allow that many of the features of this description are at present inapplicable to a large portion of the body: but we think it cannot be denied that the Church and State system has tended to produce, and has really produced, the results here hypothetically glanced at. In recent days the clergy themselves, however willing to retain the public money, have become increasingly averse to being regarded as public servants. spite of the theory which is brought out now and then, about the sovereign being head of the church, an opposite feeling has been practically at work, which teaches the church to be independent of the state: and whatever bigotry or fanaticism may result out of the latter view, its very extravagances undoubtedly fight against that grand spiritual evil of the church and state system,—the secularization of the clergy. Let us not then be understood as misrepresenting facts concerning the real state of the clerical order, when we charge secularity' on the state church. We admit, once for all, that other elements are at work to check this tendency: as, for instance, the presence and eyesight of dissenters, and the measure of political power which they possess. But we are not the less justified in imputing that secularity to the established system, as its legitimate fruit; for the counteracting influences can be traced in their effects; and before these influences became powerful, the secularity of the clergy was the rule, with but few exceptions.

The basis of the whole is, perhaps, laid in the system of patronage: of which we must trace both the theory and the practice. Some rich man builds and endows a chapel ; and by a natural right invites whomsoever he pleases to minister in it. The minister, if accepted by those immediately concerned in his ecclesiastical character, is of course duly inducted: and no one can have cause of complaint. The appointment however was for life only; and on the death of the minister the patron can enforce the same right a second time: or, if he also be dead, his heir succeeds of course to the right of patronage, as to a part of the estate. If this be allowed, it inevitably follows, that should the estate be sold, the patronage may be sold along with it; for if it be immaterial whether the first founder or his descendant exercise it, the church cannot object to the transfer. ence of the right, at the pleasure of the holder. If the purchaser may be a wicked man, so may the son or grandson of the founder. Moral or spiritual character cannot be demanded of the patron : for what he gives is earthly good, and he does not forfeit by immorality the right to give it to whom he pleases. Such appears to be the theory of patronage, although we cannot trace back historically the presumed original fact. A modification in the management is this : that the patron, to avoid disappointment, gets a bishop's previous consent to the minister whom he chooses. In other words, he selects out of those who have already been episcopally ordained ; who are thereby become qualified for every benefice without the danger of after-interference from any ecclesiastical authority.

Patronage may be divided into four kinds : that of the Crown; that exercised by Bishops; that which belongs to Corporations, especially Colleges and Chapters; and finally, that which is the property of private persons.

It would need wide information and an impartial judge, to say which of these four is the worst employed. Owing to the increasing strength of public opinion, and the notoriety attending high appointments, we are disposed to believe that on the whole the patronage of the crown is more honourably exercised than that of the other three classes. Whatever improvement there has been, has arisen from a sense of the increasing dangers to the State Church, and not from the natural tendencies of the system from within. For a century and a half together, bishoprics, deaneries, and other such places were habitually and avowedly bestowed for mere political reasons : -to oblige a leading politician—to recompense a successful pamphleteer, — to obtain a crown-advocate in the House of Lords,-to express gratitude to a family-tutor of some nobleman who commands many votes. The check upon such appointments in theory possessed by the Church' is utterly neutralized, by making it a previous one, and obtained once for all. A young man who has but been ordained priest at the age

of twenty-four, although for many years afterwards he may have done nothing but travel on the continent with a nobleman's son, move in diplomatic circles, attend the court at home or abroad, and duly show himself in drawing-rooms,-is fully qualified to be made a bishop at the will of a prime minister. The consent of the church, it seems, was given some sixteen years ago! Let us hear, however, wherein that consent consisted. A youth has passed through college without positive and glaring discredit ; and now offers himself as candidate for holy orders. His external 'title' is perhaps a curacy, to which a friendly rector invites him, with or without the expectation that he will actually serve as curate. It is practically impossible to keep even the intellectual examination which he has to undergo before the bishop's chaplain, so strict as to exclude more than a small portion of those who have friends among the aristocracy; for the bishop, unsupported either by his clergy or by his own order, (neither of whom can be collectively consulted) has not moral weight to encounter the odium which severity would entail. In point of fact, for centuries past the examination for ' holy orders' has superadded but little to the university examinations, which have no reference to the clerical profession : and the youth who has won the literary suffrage of the university may almost be said to have obtained the consent of the church to his ordination. But we are proceeding too fast. Testimonials are needed; and those strongly worded. The officials of his college must declare, in solemn words (which we have not now before us), that they have known him for three years, and verily believe him to be actuated by a godly desire to assume the sacred ministry : :-a declaration which racks the heart and conscience of many an unhappy tutor; because custom will not justify his refusing it in any case but one of flagrant immorality or impiety, while yet in three instances out of four he is unable to conceal from himself that it is quite untrue. Yet more: the consent of a congregation is in many cases needed.

This is not generally known; nor indeed are we able precisely to define when and why it is required. Assuredly, however, when other circumstances hinder the testimonials from being complete, the candidate for holy orders is relieved of his difficulty by a Si quis. A challenge is read aloud in the congregation on three successive Sundays, requiring that. If any one knows cause or just impediment why such or such a person should not be admitted into holy orders, he should declare it. This is sometimes adduced by churchmen, in proof that 'consent of the congregation' is duly provided for in the publicly established system. But they overlook the important circumstance that the ‘Si quis' may be read in any parish in which the individual concerned shall have resided a fortnight; and that the question proposed to the congregation is not, whether they will have such and such a person to be their minister, but whether they know any reasons why a man whose name they now hear, perhaps, for the first and last time, ought not to become a minister at all. The custom was probably well intended, in its original enactment; but in its practical use, it may remind us of the common proverb-cheating the devil :an ingenious, but more than hazardous occupation.

It is evident that the State-Rules provide no moderately good and primd facie security, either that the party selected for receiving patronage shall possess any other qualification for the office than a willingness to subscribe certain creeds, or that there shall be any cordial acceptance of him by those to whom he is to be introduced in a nearer ecclesiastical relation. Nor is this wonderful ; when obviously the main thing aimed at by the State was to secure to the patrons the greatest possible freedom of choice, consistently with an object which policy or bigotry dictated; namely, the exclusion of sincere Roman catholics and sincere puritans. Least of all would the crown submit to be crippled in its choice by any but political considerations. We are not therefore charging any thing upon the system, except that which it deliberately intended.

But if any patronage ought to be well exercised, an inexpe. rienced mind would imagine that it would be that which is committed to the Right Reverend Fathers in God.' (This term, we must, in passing, say, is yet more offensive than that of Lord Bishop;' directly opposed as they both are, alike to the letter and spirit of Matt. xxiii. 9, Luke xxii. 25, 26.) But, unfortunately, married bishops have as strong a temptation to use their church-authority in favour of their sons and sons-in-law, besides nephews and other relatives, as ever had unmarried popes to found principalities for their grandsons. So many ingenious modes of bargaining are open, that if a young son cannot be inducted into this or that high post, it will go hard but the bishop can bring into it some one else, with the understanding that the lucrative place which the latter vacates shall be occupied in turn by the bishopling. The tendency undoubtedly is, to extend a system of trafficking, far beyond the immediate range of the episcopal patronage; and, though rare virtue occasionally resists such temptations, we doubt whether any honest Puseyite, however zealous for the increase of the bishop's power, could lay his hand on his heart and say, that the general use of the episcopal patronage has not been disgraceful.

As for Colleges and Chapters, their patronage is, as a thing of course, directed to enrich themselves. If the holder of a lucrative rectory, in the gift of an Oxford college, dies, his successor is looked for among the Fellows themselves. If any enthusiastic young man among them, whose conscience is not yet seared by the system, should propose to appoint in preference some clergyman eminent in piety, and in the opinion of all most fitted for the situation, but unconnected with the fellowships of the college; the proposal would be regarded as an eccentricity almost amounting to madness. In plain unvarnished terms, the colleges profess, that their livings are intended to furnish comfortable homes for their Fellows. These may be, many of them, highly respectable gentlemen; but whether they are or are not, for them and them only the livings are destined ; and nothing will exclude them, but immorality such as public opinion outside the church would resent, or, in former days, sentiments too decidedly evangelical. Much the same may be said concerning the patronage of Chapters, wherever it is considerable enough to be worth having. But whatever appointments may be too illpaid for a mere hireling to desire, are certainly now and then bestowed, both by colleges and chapters, with sole reference to the supposed spiritual merits of the individual. The patronage exercised by municipal Corporations is so largely influenced by political accident, that it is hard to speak generally concerning it. Before the corporation reform, it was made a private spoil, as a thing of course, by the parties who domineered in the municipal bodies. Upon the first burst of freedom and new-born virtue, in various towns attempts were made, not without success, to bestow the patronage of the corporation according to honourable principle. We fear that with the reflux of the reforming sentiment, much of the old practice has returned; but it cannot any longer be quite so exclusive: and on the whole, patronage of this sort, when exercised under the eyes of the public, has probably received about the same amount of purification as that of the crown.

Private patronage remains : in the bestowal of which there is just the same frank avowal, as in that of the colleges, that the spiritual welfare of the church is not the first thing aimed at. Patrons are no doubt glad to think that they have made a respectable and creditable appointment; but they do not attempt to persuade themselves or others, that they have made the very best possible; for they look on it as their natural and obvious right to serve themselves first and at any rate; and next the church, if they can. They can calmly urge, that if it suits the church to take the endowments over which the patron has a hereditary claim, the church must make the best of the minister whom it pleases the patron to recommend. Nor is it easy to see what reply the church can make.

The broad consequence of the system is, that the cure of souls' is necessarily a marketable affair. It may be bought by any British subject with, or indeed without landed estate, irrespectively of his religious character. A Roman catholic, or other dissenter, an infidel, a scoffer, a vile and flagrantly immoral man, may purchase patronage, and exercise it as much to the detriment of the church as he is able. No doubt the expensiveness of this as an amusement is a practical security against its malignant use : nevertheless, the intense secularity of the system is not the less stamped upon it by the fact. As the State, at the Reformation, assumed the headship of the church, constituted and reconstituted her formularies at will, and took the strongest measures for securing the permanent dominion of the secular over the ecclesiastical element: it would be strange indeed if we did not find everywhere in it a predominance of secular over spiritual interests. And such is the universally pervading fact. For example, if a curate should be guilty of immoral

« ForrigeFortsæt »