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But when the peculiar claims upon Church property were felt, this wholesome leaven would spread through the whole community, and the responsibilities attached to property in general would be practically acknowledged. Moreover, when Christians were trained to offer the first-fruits of their substance and of their increase in the service of religion as a positive duty, they would adopt the golden rule of proportioning their alms to their annual gains or receipts, as well as understand the responsibilities attached to their station in society. Things are now left to find their own level; all sense of our social duties has vanished; the tie between master and servant is virtually dissolved; the amount of wages depends entirely upon the scarcity or abundance of labour, not at all upon the profits of the farm, the loom, or the mill. We are so completely immersed in the love of money, and so enamoured with our modern philosophy, that all endeavours to regulate these matters by a religious principle are as if one would substitute ptolemaic for the present system of astronomy, alchymy for chemistry, or expel gunpowder and revive the ancient mode of warfare. But meanwhile symptoms of a just retribution are discoverable. The sacred tribute is regarded as a vexatious impost; but the land is burthened with poor-rates, and the incomes of the Clergy are unfairly assessed, for conscience now levies no alms-tax. Again, on the other hand, trade is paralyzed, the condition of the poor is deteriorated, and crime is
increasing. The whole system is breaking up, from its inherent vices; the watch is stopping because we have been bartering away the mainspring. It is difficult to distinguish between cause and effect; yet the present state of things has obviously a simultaneous existence, and it has also a latent connection, with the imperfect views of those who should pay Tithes, and an inadequate sense of social responsibilities attached to those who should receive them.
But, beyond all these things, seed-time and harvest are failing us, and a murrain afflicts our cattle. Our ancient laws will convict us of scepticism, if we do not look upon these calamities as divine punishments for our pride in our agricultural skill, for our covetousness in grudging the payment of the Sacred Tribute, and for our withholding from the poor their share in the first-fruits of our increase. Independently of any other witnesses, the condition of the Church and the poor, both at home and in our colonies, must, one would think, lead the Clergy to investigate and uphold the sacred principle on which their income should be paid; and from thence to consider whether they have any sufficient grounds to promise the blessings of the Gospel to any, except to those who give the tenth of their income for its support; whether the due operation of this principle be not a divinely-appointed mean for “preaching the Gospel to every creature.” Whether, on the other hand, the patrimony of the Clergy be not also the inheritance of the poor; whether such an acknow
ledgment, in practice, by those who receive Tithes, might not remove prejudices from the minds of those who pay them ; whether under the influence of such a principle, in conjunction with the charitable bequests of our forefathers and the collections prescribed by the Rubric, the Church might not resume her parental duties as the guardian of the poor, and effectually regain the affections of the people by exhibiting this “ note” of her divine origin.
It is hoped, also, that the laity may be convinced, by the following authorities, that the payment of the sacred tribute is an essential part of Christian worSHIP, and that the apparent severity of the duty is more than counterbalanced by the blessing promised to those who discharge it faithfully. May we ob serve the warning signs of the times. May the Tithes be paid cheerfully and spent carefully, that the windows of heaven, now closing upon us, may again be opened. Amidst all discouragements, whether arising from ignorance, prejudice, or apathy, may we look at truth with a stedfast and single eye. May we treasure up every “jot” and every“ tittle” of the sacred deposit as “a pearl of great price,” for which the whole world has no equivalent. May we take for our guide that interpretation of the Scriptures which has been handed down to us by the ancient Fathers, which has been adopted by our standard divines, and which the piety of our ancestors has incorporated into the constitution of our country.
But whatever be the results of the present publication, no statesman who is pledged to maintain the institutions of the country upon their ancient foundation, can sanction any legislative enactment at variance with the authorities here adduced.
The Clergy, if not yet convinced of the unsound principle of all commutation of Tithes, must see their altered position as owners of mere
rentcharges; while statesmen who uphold the ancient relations between Church and state, must soon repent of their temerity, for having consented to sacrifice an ancient institution to a false philosophy and a popular outcry. Happily the circumstances of the country are such as must compel and enable the Clergy to retrace their steps. Long before the expiration of twenty years the Tithe Coinmutation Act will cease to be the law of the land ; or, if this be not the case, the Church must cease to be the established religion of the country.
But it is still more remarkable that the subject has not attracted notice in another quarter. The payment of Tithes for conscience sake was an essential element in THE CHURCH OF THE FATHERS. Why are we then in this matter to “shut up our teachers in a corner ?" In Tithes and alms and offerings we are teaching another gospel than that which we have received, and following another rule than that which the Church has prescribed ; our unhappy divisions therefore may be another curse upon us for thus depriving the poor of their inheritance, for
giving a sanction to imperfect views of duty, and for throwing aside a most effectual instrument for the propagation of the Christian faith. It is then suggested, that a call to union should be made by an appeal to the principles of the ancient Charter', which was based upon the pure Catholic faith; for it was anterior? in date to those innovations, whether papal or puritan”, to which we have so just an abhorrence; and it was dedicated at the altar with the sacred motto, Sempiterno graphio in cruce Christi.
C. M. Harlow VICARAGE,
March 3rd, 1842.
See Part II. of this publication.
? Comber on Tithes.
* Bp. Ken's Will.
*** PART I. containing extracts from Dr. Tillesley's Animadversions on Selden's History of Tithes, is already published.
PART II. will be published in the course of the Summer. Any communications or suggestions relating to the subject will be thankfully received by the Editor.