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that they have lost or neglected, all the reproaches that they have brought on their function and on the church, for which perhaps they have pretended no ordinary measure of zeal; all these, I say, will come upon them as an armed man, and surround them with the sense of guilt, and the terrors of that consuming fire, that is ready to devour them. Men who have by unlawful methods, and a prevaricating oath, come into a benefice, cannot truly repent of it, but by departing from it. For the unlawful oath will still lie heavy on them, till that is done. This is the indispensable restitution in this case; and unless this is done, they live on and die in the sin unrepented of. God is not mocked, though men are.
I will leave this here, for I
it no higher. As for those who have not prevaricated in the oath, but yet have been guilty of practice and methods to arrive at benefices, I do not lay this of relinquishing their benefices on them : but certainly, if they ever come to right notions of the matter, they will find just ground to be deeply humbled before God for all their practices that way. If they do truly mourn for them, and abstain from the like for the future, and if they apply themselves with so much the more zeal to the labours of their function, and redeem the meanness of their former practices by a stricter course of life, by their studies and their diligence, they may by that conipensate for the too common arts by which they arrived at their posts.
I know these things are so commonly practised, that as few are out of countenance who tread in such beaten paths, so I am afraid they are too little conversarit in just notions to feel the evil of them. It is no wonder if their labours are not blessed, who enter on them by such low and indirect methods : whereas men who are led by an overruling Providence into stations, without any motions or procurement of their own, as they have an unclouded call from God, so they have the foundation of a true firmness in their own minds. They can appeal to God, and so have a just claim to his protection and blessing : every thing is easy to them, because they are always easy within. If their labours are blessed with success, they rejoice in God, and are by that animated to continue in them, and to increase their diligence. If that is denied them, so that they are often forced to cry out, My leanness, my leanness y, I have laboured in vain; they are humbled under it; they examine themselves more carefully, if they can find any thing in their own conduct that may occasion it, which they will study to correct, and still they persist in their labour;, knowing that if they continue doing their duty, whatever other effects that may have, those faithful shepherds, when the chief Shepherd shall appear, shall receive from him a crown of glory that fadeth not away А
u Isaiah xxiv. 16.
To all this I will only add somewhat relating to bonds of resignation. A bond to resign at the pleasure of the patron carries with it a base servitude, and simony in its full extent: and yet because no money is given, some who give those bonds do very ignorantly apprehend that they may, with a good conscience, swear the oath of simony. There is but one way to cure the mischief of this great evil, which can have no effect, if bishops will resolve to accept of no resignation made upon such bonds; since by the common law a clerk is so tied to his bishop and to his cure, that he cannot part with it without the bishop's leave. By this all these bonds may be made ineffectual.
Other bonds are certainly more innocent, by which a clerk only binds himself to that which is otherwise his duty. And since the forms of our courts are dilatory and expensive, and there is not yet a full provision made against many abuses which a good patron would secure a parish from, I see no just exception to this practice, where the abuse is specially certified; so that nothing is reserved in the pratron's breast, by general words, of which he, or his heirs, who perhaps may not inherit his virtues as they do his fortunes, may make an ill use.
It is certain our constitution labours yet under some defects, which were provided against by that noble design brought so near perfection, in that work entitled, Reformatio Legum Ecclesiasticarum, which it is to be hoped will be at some time or other taken up again, and perfected.
The affinity of the former matter leads me to give an account of somewhat relating to myself. When I was first put in the post which I still hold, I found there were many market towns in the diocese very poorly provided. So since there are about fifty dignities and prebends belonging to the cathedral, I considered how by the disposing of these I might mend the condition of the incumbents in the market towns, and secure such a help to their successors. And by the advice of some very eminent divines and canonists, this method was resolved on, that, when I gave a
x 1 Pet. v. 4.
prebend to any such incumbent, he should give a bond, that, if he left that benefice, he should at the same time resign his prebend, that it might go to his successor. This went on for some years with a universal approbation.
But when a humour began to prevail of finding fault, this was cried out upon as a grievance bordering upon simony. I upon that drew up a vindication of my practice, from great authority, out of civilians and canonists. But upon second thoughts I resolved to follow that saying of Solomon's, Leave off contention, before it be meddled with or engaged in y. So to lay the clamour that some seemed resolved to raise, I resolved to drop my design, and so delivered back all the bonds that I had taken.
I will offer nothing either in the way of vindication or resentment, being satisfied to give a true relation of the matter, leaving it to the reader's judgment to approve or censure as he sees cause. And thus I conclude this chapter, which I thought was wanting to complete my design in writing this treatise.
y Prov. xvii. 14.