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maintain the legal establishment of it in this church and nation, as the most sure foundation, not only of preserving peace and order in church and state, but also of preserving and promoting religion, and the practice of it, within the several districts which that establishment has fixed; provided there be no failure, either on the part of the minister, or on the part of the people. And where either of these is the case, the constitution cannot justly be charged, if it fail of attaining the ends of its establishment.
There are three sorts of people among us, who, though of different principles and views, do yet agree in their enmity to the established church : they who disavow all revelation ; they who are against all establishments, as such ; and they who dislike our present establishment. These, all together, are a formidable body of men; ready to join, upon any fair prospect, in an attempt upon the constitution of our church; and therefore ought to be diligently watched and guarded against by all the true lovers of it.
As to the first sort of enemies, they who disavow all revelation; it is not to be wondered, that they contend with so much earnestness for no establishment, because they know how greatly a regularity, order, and uniformity in the public exercise of religion, tends to preserve the honour of it, and to defeat their schemes for promoting infidelity. Of the truth of which we need no other evidence, than the particular zeal which has been shewn by the chief patrons of infidelity, against all religious establishments, under colour of their being destructive of the general liberties of mankind; whereas, in truth, they are destructive of nothing, but of that general licentiousness in principle and practice, to which the schemes and pursuits of these people have so visible a tendency. And they know very well what they do, when they are contending for such a confused and irregular state of things, as not only naturally tends to expose religion to reproach and contempt, but has been found by experience so to do.
And therefore it has sometimes been a matter of wonder with me, that the second sort of enemies, those, I mean, who profess a serious regard to religion, but are yet against any national establishment, should not see that they are doing the work of the common enemy; especially when a nation of gathered and independent congregations, without any fixed parochial districts, is, at first sight, so very big with confusion; and when they cannot but know, what a monstrous degree of profaneness, enthusiasm, and
immorality it produced, when the experiment was made in the days of their forefathers.
As for the third sort; those who are satisfied concerning the expedience, if not necessity, of a national establishment, but are dissatisfied with the present; it is time enough to enter into reasonings with them, when they have agreed among themselves, what the establishment is, which they would introduce in the place of the present. They have, indeed, in many of their writings, raised exceptions against our liturgy, and some other parts of our constitution; (and what human constitution was ever perfect?) but what they have hitherto done in that way has been mainly to justify their separation from the national church, and goes little farther than to the pulling down the present fabric. But, surely, it is most unreasonable in them to expect that any one who is well satisfied with the
present should be willing to part with it, till he has a full and entire view of what is to succeed in its place; i.e. till he is enabled to form a judgment for himself; first, which of the two is most agreeable to the word of God, and the practice of the first and purest ages; and next, which of them is best calculated to answer the ends of peace, order, and unity in the church, and makes the best provision for the instruction and edification of every particular member of it.
VII. Next to a sincere zeal and endeavour to keep up a serious sense of religion among your people, and a reverent regard to our established worship in subservience to that great end, there is another point which also demands your care, namely, the established provision which our constitution has made, to support the clergy with comfort under their pastoral labours; and which, in that respect, is directly subservient to the great end of religion. What I mean is, the patrimony of the church, and the conveying it to the successive incumbents, unhurt and undiminished. A caution, which I know you will not think unseasonable to be repeated 5, when you remember the two attacks that have been made in parliament; the first, commonly called the Tithe Bill; and the second, of a later date, and distinguished by the name of the Quaker's Bill; both of them indeed defeated in the first attempt, but, I doubt, not so as to discourage a second.
You may remember, that the design of the Tithe Bill was to establish exemptions from tithe for ever, if in a
b See Directions, p. 328.
certain number of years no tithe at all had been paid. This, if the bill had succeeded, would, as to exemptions, have made an entire change in the present law of tithes. As the law now stands, the incumbent is entitled at all times to sue for tithe of common right, and the proof of the exemption rests upon the occupant and landholder. But, if such a bill shall ever succeed, the proof will be put upon the incumbent; and he will fail in his suit, unless he can shew, that tithe has been paid within the time limited by the act. And this, a new incumbent may not be able to do; partly, because no tithe may have really been paid within the time, through private agreements or personal indulgences, by one or more of his predecessors, or through a natural inactivity, or an unhappy inability to sue for it; and partly, through the difficulties of making proof of payment of tithe, where it really has been paid within the time; whether through a negligence in keeping accounts by former incumbents, or through the concealment of those accounts by their executors ; or through the fear of the poor to displease the rich, and an unwillingness 'in one neighbour to be witness against another. The manifold and visible inconveniences which such a bill must bring upon the church, if it should pass into a law, make it the duty as well as interest of the whole body of the clergy, not only to do all that is in their power to obstruct it, but in the mean time to be guarding carefully against the consequences of it, if (which God forbid) it should ever succeed; by getting the best information they can of the ground and foundation upon which the claim of exemption rests, and whether it be such as the law will support; and if it be not, to enter into proper measures for overthrowing it, while it is in their power, and before it receives a final establishment from such a law as we are now speaking of; which has been already attempted with great zeal, and may probably be attempted again. And as to moduses also, to take care to vary their
agreements and compositions for tithe; and having, from time to time, made due entries of such variations, to give special direction that the evidences thereof be faithfully transmitted to their successors.
And to induce incumbents the more effectually to provide against all encroachments upon the patrimony of the church, whether by exemptions or moduses, they must always remember, that as they are the proprietors for their own time, and that by as good a title as any other estate is enjoyed, whatever the enemies of the clergy may pre
tend to the contrary; so they are likewise guardians and trustees for God and his church; and, as such, are bound in conscience to use all reasonable care, that the rights of their respective churches be by them transmitted entire to succeeding incumbents.
I need not say much of the other attack that has been made upon the patrimony of the church, I mean, the Quaker's Bill ; both because it is of a later date, and because the mischievous consequences of the bill, while it was depending in parliament, were published to the world, and cannot be so soon forgotten by the clergy, whose more immediate concern it is. It is enough to say in general, that if it had passed into a law, the whole body of the clergy would, in innumerable cases, have been deprived at once of the benefit of the established courts of the realm, ecclesiastical and temporal; that all apprehension from those courts and the exact and regular proceedings therein, which at present do in many cases discourage the Quakers from being so vexatious to the clergy as their principles lead them to be, would then be removed; that, if these restraints were removed, incumbents would be exposed to all the arts, concealments, and vexations, that they have reason to expect from a people, who think the clergy have no right to tithe, and who are so far from owning an obligation to pay, that they think themselves bound in conscience to do all that is in their
to avoid it. These are difficulties which the passing such a bill into a law would bring, more or less, upon the whole body of the clergy; but would fall most heavily upon the poor vicars, whose all would frequently,come within the compass of such an act; and, as it consists of small tithes which are not so easily ascertained, does greatly need the assistance of the established courts for that end. And, God knows, with all the assistance that the laws can give, the clergy find it difficult enough to bear up against the many advantages, which the Quakers, as a kind of body corporate, and that of no small influence and zeal, are known to be in possession of. And how greatly would the difficulty be increased, if the present advantages of the laws should be taken from them!
VIII. To conclude : As the laws of the land are on the side of the church, it is not only her interest, but her duty, on all proper occasions, to take the benefit of them, and to endeavour to defeat all attempts that may be made to deprive her of that benefit. But, at the same time, it must be remembered, that against all manner of attempts, whe
ther upon the constitution, or upon the rights of the church, our best defence and greatest security will always be, the love and esteem of our people, and the only true way to be sure of this is, an exemplary life, a circumspect behaviour, a diligent discharge of the duties of our station, and a visible concern for the good of souls. These, I say, will, in all events, be the best security to our church that human helps can afford, and the most likely means of engaging God to support and defend it : especially, if, together with our own endeavours, we fail not to make our earnest prayer to him, to preserve it both in outward peace and inward purity: for its outward peace, to pray in the words of one of the collects of our church, “ that the “ course of this world may be so peaceably ordered by his
governance, that his church may joyfully serve him “ in all godly quietness :” and for inward purity, in the words of another collect, “ that he will keep his house“ hold the church in continual godliness; and, that it may “ be devoutly given to serve him in good works, to the “glory of his name, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”