Page images

At first the right of patronage was an appendant of the estate in which it was vested ; and was not to be alienated but with it, and then there was still less danger of an ill nomination. For it may be supposed that he who was most concerned in a parish would be to a good degree concerned to have it well served. But a new practice has risen among us, and, for aught I have been able to learn, it is only among us, and is in no other nation or church whatsoever : how long it has been among us, I am not versed enough in our law-books to be able to tell: and that is the separating the advowson from the estate to which it was annexed; and the selling it, or a turn in it, as an estate by itself. This is so far allowed by our law, that no part of such a traffic comes within the statute against simony, unless when the benefice is open. I shall say nothing more on this head, save only that whosoever purchases a turn, or a perpetual advowson, with a design to make the benefice go to a child, or remain in a family, without considering the worth or qualifications of the person to be presented to it, put themselves and their posterity under great temptations. For here is an estate to be conveyed to a person, if he can get but through those slight examinations upon which orders are given, and has negative virtues, that is, he is free from scandalous sin, though he has no good qualities, nor any fixed intentions of living suitably to his profession, of following the studies proper to it, and of dedicating himself to the work of the ministry: on the contrary, he perhaps discovers a great deal of pride, passion, covetousness, and an ungoverned love of pleasure; and is so far from any serious application of mind to the sacred functions, that he has rooted in him an aversion to them.

The ill effects of this are but too visible, and we have great reason to apprehend that persons who come into the service of the church with this disposition of mind will despise the care of souls, as a thing to be turned over to one of a mechanic genius, who can never rise above some low performances; they will be incessantly aspiring higher and higher, and by fawning attendances, and the meanest compliances with such as can contribute to their advancement, they will think no services too much out of their road, that can help to raise them : they will meddle in all intrigues, and will cry up and cry down things in the basest methods, as they hope to find their account in them. I wish, with all my heart, that these things were not too notorious, and that they did not lay stumblingblocks in men's way

which may give advantages to the tribe of profane libertines to harden them in their prejudices against not only the sacred functions, but all revealed religion in general. I shall end this head, leaving it on the consciences of all patrons, and obtesting them by all that is sacred, to reflect seriously on this great trust that the law has put in their hands; and to consider what account they are to give of it in the great day.

But if patrons ought to consider themselves under strict obligations in this matter, how much more ought they to lay the sense of the duties of their function to heart, who have by solemn vows dedicated themselves to the work of the ministry? What notion have they of running without being sent, who tread in those steps? Do not they say, according to what was threatened as a curse on the posterity of Eli, Put me, I pray thee, into one of the priest's offices, that I may eat a piece of bread? Do they not feel these words as a character of what they say within themselves, when they come up to the altar? Can they not trust God, and go on, fitting themselves in the best manner they can for holy functions, waiting for such an interposition of Providence as shall open a clear way to them to some station in the church ; not doubting, but that if God by a motion of his Spirit called them to holy orders, he will raise up instruments to bring that about, and put it in the heart of some one or other to give or to procure to them a post, without their own engaging in that sordid merchandise, or descending to any, though less scandalous methods, which bring with them such a prostitution of mind, that they who run into them cannot hope to raise to themselves the esteem due to the sacred function; which is the foundation of all the good they can do by their labours. If things turn cross to them, in a post to which such endeavours may have brought them, what comfort can they have within them? or what confidence can they have in God ? when their own consciences will reproach them with this, that it is no wonder, if what was so ill acquired should prosper no better. When they come to die, the horror of an oath falsely taken, which they palliated by an equivocating sense, will be a terrible companion to them in their last minutes; when they can no more carry off the matter by evasions or bold denials, but are to appear before that God, to whose eyes all things are naked and opened. Then all the scandal they have given, all the souls

il Sam. ü. 36.

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 can carry 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 compensate 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 conversant 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 ", I have laboured in vain; they are humbled under it;

[ocr errors][merged small]

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 awayx.

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 patron'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 So lomon'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.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »