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Of all these he adds, that "as St. Peter said to Simon, "Thy money perish with thee, so may thy ambition perish "with thee." St. Jeromi says, "We see many reckon "orders as a benefice, and do not seek for persons who "may be as pillars erected in the house of God, and may "be most useful in the service of the church; but they do "prefer those for whom they have a particular affection, 66 or whose obsequiousness has gained their favour, or for "whom some of the great men have interceded; not to " mention the worst of all, those who, by the presents they "make them, purchase that dignity."
A corruption began to creep into the church in the fifth century, of ordaining vagrant clerks, without any peculiar title; of whom we find St. Jerom oft complaining. This was condemned by the council of Chalcedon in a most solemn manner k. "The orders of all who were or"dained presbyters, deacons, or in the inferior degrees, "without a special title either in the city, in some village, "some chapel or monastery, are declared null and void: "and, to the reproach of those who so ordained them, "they are declared incapable of performing any function." But how sacred soever the authority of this council was, it did not cure this great evil, from which many more have sprung.
A practice rose, not long after this, which opened a new scene. Men began to build churches on their own grounds, at their own charges, and to endow these; and they were naturally the masters, and, in the true signification of the Roman word, the patrons of them. All the churches in the first matricula were to be served by persons named to them by the bishop, and were to be maintained by him out of the revenue of the church; but these were put upon another foot, and belonged to the proprietors of the ground, to the builders, and the endowers. They were also to offer to the bishop a clerk to serve in them. It seems they began to think, that the bishop was bound to ordain all such as were named by them: but Justinian m settled this matter by a law; for he provided that the "pa"triarch should not be obliged to ordain such as were no"minated by the patron, unless he judged them fit for it:" the reason given is, that "the holy things of God might "not be profaned n." It seems he had this in his eye,. when by another law he condemns those who received
i In Esai.
I Fundus, ædificatio, et dos.
" Nov. 6. c. 1.
any thing for such a nomination; for so I understand the patrocinium ordinationis.
The elections to most sees lay in many hands; and to keep out not only corruption, but partiality, from having a share in them, he by a special law required, "that all persons, seculars as well as ecclesiastics, who had a vote in "elections, should join an oath to their suffrage, that they "were neither moved to it by any gift, promise, friendship, "or favour, or by any other affection, but that they gave "their vote upon their knowledge of the merits of the "person"." It will easily be imagined that no rule of this kind could be much regarded in corrupt ages.
Gregory the Great is very copious in lamenting these disorders, and puts always the threefold division of simony together, manus, oris, et ministerii P. Hincmar cites the prophet's words, He that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes 9; in the Vulgar it is, from every bribe; applying it to three sorts of simony. And in that letter to Lewis the Third, king of France, he protests, "he knew no kinsman "nor friend; and he only considered the life, learning, and "other good qualities necessary to the sacred ministry." Those ages were very corrupt; so that the great advantages that the popes had, in the disputes concerning the investitures into benefices, were taken from this, that servile obsequiousness and flatteries were the methods used in procuring them. Of which it were easy to bring a great and copious proof, but that it is needless.
I shall only name two provisions made against all these sinistrous practices: one was among us in a council at Exeter, in which this charge is given; "Let all men look "into their own consciences, and examine themselves with "what design they aspire to orders; if it is, that they may "serve God more virtuously and more acceptably; or if it "is for the temporals, and that they may extort benefices "from those who ordain them; for we look on such as si"moniacs." In the council of Basils, in which they attempted the restoring the freedom of elections, as a mean to raise the reputation of the sacred function, they appointed that an oath should be taken by all electors, "That they should not give their voice for any who had, as "they were credibly informed, endeavoured to procure it "to themselves, either by promising or giving any temporal thing for it, or by any prayer or petition, either by
"themselves, or by the interposition of any other; or by "any other way whatsoever, directly or indirectly." This would go as far, as those who took it considered themselves bound by an oath, to secure elections from corruption or practice.
I will go no further to prove, that both fathers and councils, in their provisions against simony, considered the practice of application, importunity, solicitations, and flatteries, as of the same nature with simony: and therefore, though our law considers only simony, as it is a bargain in which money or the equivalent is given or promised, yet the sense of the church went much further on this head, even in the most corrupt ages. The canon law does very often mention simony in its threefold distinction, manus, linguæ, et obsequii; it being still reckoned a duty both in the giver and receiver, that the gift should be free and voluntary.
In the church of Rome a right of patronage is, according to their superstition, a matter of great value; for in every mass the patron is to be remembered by a special collect, so that it saves them a great charge in a daily mass said for them. To us this effect ceases; but still it is a noble piece of property, since a patron has the nomination of him that has a care of souls committed to him. But as it is in itself highly valuable, so a great account is to be given for it, to him who made and purchased those souls, and in whose sight they are of inestimable value, and who will reckon severely with such patrons as do not manage it with a due care.
It is all one what the consideration is on which it is bestowed, if regard is not in the first place had to the worth of the person so nominated; and if he is not judged fit and proper to undertake the cure of souls: for with relation to the account that is to be given to the great Bishop of souls, it is all one whether money, friendship, kindred, or any carnal regard, was the chief motive to the nomination.
I know it may be said, no man but one in holy orders is capable of being possessed of a benefice, and in order to that he is to be examined by the bishop, though already ordained, before he can be possessed of it: but the sin is not the less, because others come in to be partakers of it. Still a patron must answer to God for his share, if he has nominated a person without due care, and without considering whether he thinks him a proper person for undertaking so great a trust.
I will not carry this matter so far as to say, that a patron
is bound to choose the fittest and most deserving persons he can find out that may put him under great scruples; and there being a great diversity in the nature of parishes, and in the several abilities necessary for the proper duties of the pastoral care, it may be too great a load to lay on a man's conscience an obligation to distinguish who may be the fittest person. But this is very evident, that a patron is bound to name no person to so important a care as the charge of souls, of whom he has not at least a probable reason to believe that he has the due qualifications, and will discharge the trust committed to him. Some motives may be baser than others; but even the consideration of a child to be provided for, by a cure of souls, when the main requisites are wanting, is in the sight of God no better than simony. For in the nature of things it is all one, if one sells a benefice, that by the sale he may provide for a child, and if he bestows it on a child, only out of natural affection, without considering his son's fitness to manage so great a trust. Perpetual advowsons, which are kept in families as a provision for a child, who must be put in orders, whatever his aversion to it or unfitness for it may be, bring a prostitution on holy things. And parents, who present their undeserving children, have this aggravation of their guilt, that they are not so apt to be deceived in this case, as they may be when they present a stranger. Concerning these they may be imposed on by the testimony of those whom they do not suspect; but they must be supposed to be better informed as to their own children.
It is also certain, that orders are not given by all bishops with that anxiety of caution that the importance of the matter requires. And if a person is in orders, perhaps qualified for a lower station, yet he may want many qualifications necessary for a greater cure: and the grounds on which a presentation can be denied are so narrow, that a bishop may be under great difficulties, who yet knows he cannot stand the suit, to which he lies open, when he refuses to comply with the patron's nomination.
The sum of all this is, that patrons ought to look on themselves as bound to have a sacred regard to this trust that is vested in them, and to consider very carefully what the nature of the benefice that they give is, and what are the qualifications of the person they present to it; otherwise the souls that may be lost by a bad nomination, whatsoever may have been their motive to it, will be required at their hands.
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