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The Established Church of England-Its Revenues-Its Ecclesiastical
Abuses-Its Sway over Political Parties-Rev. Dr. Phillpotts-
THE Established Church of England is one of the foulest sores on the body politic of the kingdom. I shall examine it mainly in its political bearings.
The King is the “Supreme Head of the Church,” and appoints, through the chapters, the bishops, besides a great number of lesser dignitaries. The bishops license and ordain the inferior clergy. The owners of estates charged with the payment of the salaries of pastors, have the right to nominate or
present” them to the parishes. There are some 12,000 parochial churches under the control of the Establishment Of these the crown presents to 952; the bishops to 1248 ; the deans and chapters to 787; other ecclesiastical dignitaries to 1851 ; the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge to 721 ; the nobility and gentry to 5096 ; and the residue are disposed of by others.
The annual revenue of the whole body of the clergy is moru than $42,000,000; a sum greater than is received by the Established Clergy of all the world besides. The income of the twenty-eight bishops amounts to about $800,000. The Archbishop of Canterbury receives $75,000, and of York $50,000 The Bishop of London $50,000, of Durham $40,000, of Winchester $35,000, and so on. Previous to the act of 1837, the income of the sees mentioned was much larger. Said the late Rowland Hill, himself a clergyman of the Establishment, at a missionary meeting in Exeter Hall, a few years ago : Would, my lord, that I had the bishops of this realm tied up by the heels to that chandelier, and could direct the stewards to hold the plates under their pockets and catch the falling guineas ; what a collection we should raise !" One of the worst features of this institution is the gross inequality in the distribution of its favors. Of its clergy, fifteen hundred receive an average annual income of about $5000 each ; while another fifteen hundred (and they are the working and valuable portion) receive only an average of about $400; and many of these last do not get $200. Sydney Smith has aptly asked, “Why is the Church of England nothing but a collection of beggars and bishops ? the right reverend Dives in the palace, and Lazarus in orders at the gate, doctored by dogs and comforted by crumbs ?"
The revenues of the Establishment are mostly drawn from tithes. But large sums are realized from other sources. And in addition to these, the clergy (whose numbers far exceed those of the parochial churches) hold all the professorships, tutorships, masterships, and fellowships, of the universities and public state schools; all the chaplainships in the embassies, army and navy, and corporate and commercial companies; worm their way into nearly all the profitable offices in educational and charitable institutions, as librarians, secretaries, treasurers, and trustees; are constant waiters upon Divine Providence and the Public Treasury ; standing candidates for all places of light work and heavy pay; and show their zeal for the Crown and the Miter by promptly furnishing recruits for the great army of sinecurists in the realm. *
* A commission instituted some years ago by the House of Commons, to inquire into the abuses of charitable trusts, found a clergyman at the head of a school, with a salary of £900 a year, and one pupil. Another received £500, had not a single scholar, and rented the school-room for a saw-pit.
It is not my purpose to speak particularly of the religious character and influence of the Establishment. But, a few facts in this department may be given to show that Paul the tent-maker, and Peter the fisherman, are not very closely copied by some of their English successors. It is a notorious fact that a large body of the clergy do not compose their own sermons, but purchase them in manuscript at depots in London, and other large towns, as they do their stationery and wines. There is no very serious objection to this, provided the sermons are better than they could write themselves. A good purchased sermon is preferable to a bad home-made one. But, it is equally notorious that they are often written as marketable commodities by grossly irreligious men.
Here is an advertisement from a newspaper, which will serve as a specimen of its class. " MANUSCRIPT SERMONS. To clergymen who, from ill health, or other causes, are prevented from composing their own sermons, the advertiser offers his services on moderate terms. Original sermons composed on any given texts or subjects. N. B. A specimen sent if required. Address L. S. W., Post-Office, Winchester."
The Church “livings” being property, they are, of course, marketable articles. English newspapers frequently contain advertisements offering them for sale. In describing their desirable qualities it is often stated that “the income is large and the duties light," or, that “ the present incumbent is very aged,” or, “in very feeble health ;'' and I have seen them represented as being in the midst of a fine sporting country, surrounded by a most agreeable society of nobility and gentry, &c. I select an advertisement from a number lying before
“ADVOWSON. Perpetual Patronage and Right of Presentation to be disposed of, subject to the life of an incumbent, now sixty-eight years old. The benefice consists of an excellent rectory-house, lately built at a considerable
expense; abounding with conveniencies, and capitally fitted, good outoffices, pleasure-grounds, garden, &c., farm-yard, and forty
acres of glebe. The tithes are commuted. Annual value upward of 6001. per annum, independent of surplice fees, and is well situated in a pleasant and luxuriant country, four miles from a large town, to which there is railway conveyance."
Now, all this simply means, that Lord John Broadacres, being hard pushed by his gambling debts, will sell to anybody, Turk or Mormon, and his heirs forever, the right to quarter a dapper young student from Oxford on this parish, to occupy this comfortable and elegant house and grounds, and collect £600 per annum out of Episcopalians, Baptists, Methodists, Independents, and Quakers, in return for reading to a handful of people fifty or sixty sermons a year, purchased at a bookstall in London.
It needs no Black Book” to tell us, that $40,000,000, extorted annually from the people by such an institution, and to a large extent from those who dissent from its ritual, and never listen to its clergy, is a prolific source of vexation and oppression, and tends powerfully to debauch the morals and corrupt the politics of the kingdom. The Established Church exercises unbounded sway over the politics of the country, holding in vassalage great masses of the Tory and Whig parties. The nobility and gentry find the Establishment a profitable and dignified retreat for such younger branches of their families, as are too dull for the learned secular professions, and too cowardly and puny for cutting their way to promotion in the army and navy. They send to this snug asylum their indolent and imbecile offspring, where they may receive emoluments and pensions without burning the barrister's midnight lamp, or treading the thorny road of politics, or encountering malignant fevers wbile filling civic stations in tropical colonies, or braving death on the deck of a line-of-battle ship in the Mediterranean, or in the spouting breach of a fortress in Hindostan. The owners of advowsons and livings, wielding a capital whose yearly income is $40,000,000, keep constantly under pay, all over the kingdom, 16 000 clergy, who, with many noble exceptions, are the ordained and licensed enemies of political progress and ecclesiastical reform.
I by no means intend to say, that there are not a large number of most worthy, pious, and faithful ministers, in the English Establishment, and especially among the poorer clergy. Nor, that its doctrines are not Biblical, and its service beautifully impressive. But, in its political tendencies, the institution stands arrayed against progress and reform.
Among the most conspicuous champions of the Established Church, and who has recently distinguished himself as the persecutor of Rey. Mr. Shore, is Dr. PHILLPOTTS, THE Bishop of EXETER. Entering the House of Lords, the eye of a stranger is instantly arrested by the bench of bishops, whose white robes and flowing wigs give them such an old-womanish appearance, that he conjectures they must be "peeresses in their own right," and by some one of the convenient fictions of the common law are entitled to seats with the male barons. Sitting gravely among them, with rigid muscle, compressed lip, and knit brow, is Dr. Phillpotts, who conceals under his ample lawn an amount of intellectual acumen and power which are able and ready to grapple with the pamphlet of any schismatic in the diocese of Exeter, or the speech of any lord in the House of Peers. A spectator can hardly believe that those pale, icy features, cover a mental volcano. The tones of his voice give point to words that pierce to the marrow of the subject under discussion, while his cool, crafty, and dexterous style of argument shows that a trained master of debate is on the floor. Delighting equally in exposing the fallacies of his
opponent, and placing him in a false position, bis assaults are to be shunned rather than provoked. One of the most adroit and keen logicians in the House, he is skillful in making nice distinctions, and in setting the arguments of his adversary to devouring each other. The cold suavity with which he flays his victim, and the sweet malignity with which he sugars over his bitterest denunciations, and the apparent candor and sincerity