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Catholics, with respect to whom common decency ought to teach them better behaviour. But, whether I hear in a Churchman or a Dissenter abuse of the Catholics I am equally indignant; when I hear men, no two of whom can agree in any one point of religion, and who are continually dooming each other to perdition ; when I hear them join in endeavouring to shut the Catholic out from political liberty on account of bis religious tenets, which they call idolatrous and damnable, I really cannot feel any compassion for either of them, let what will befal them. There is, too, something so impudent; such cool impudence, in their affected contempt of the understanding of the Catholics, that one cannot endure it with any degree of patience. You hear them all boasting of their ancestors ; you hear them talking of the English Constitution as the pride of the world ; you hear them bragging of the deeds of the Edwards and the Henrys; and of their wise and virtuous and brave forefathers ; and, in the next breath, perhaps, you hear them speak of the Catholics as the vilest and most stupid of creatures, and as wretches doomed to perdition ; when they ought to reflect, that all these wise and virtuous and brave forefathers of theirs were Catholics ; that they lived and died in the Catholic faith ; and that notwithstanding their Catholic faith, they did not neglect whatever was necessary to the freedom and greatness of England.
It is really very stupid as well as very insolent to talk in this way of the Catholics ; to represent them as doomed to perdition, who compose five-sixths of the population of Europe ; to represent as beastly ignorant those amongst whom the brightest geniuses and the most learned men in the world have been, and are to be found; but still, the most shocking part of our conduct is to affect to consider as a sort of out-casts of God as well as man those who have, through all sorts of persecution, adhered to the religion of their and our forefathers. There is something so unnatural, so monstrous, in a line of conduct, in which we say, that our forefathers are all in Hell, that no one but a brutish bigot can hear of it with patience.
Why, if we pretend to talk of toleration, should not the exemptions from military discipline extend to Catholic Christians as well as Protes. tant Christians ? What good reason can be found for the distinction ? None; and, while this distinction exists, and while I hear not the Protestant Dissenters complain of it, I shall feel much less interest in any thing that concerns them. Why do they petition now any more than at any other time? Because they were now the object of attack. They were quiet enough while none but the Catholics were the object of attack; and, indeed, they have not now noticed it at all; they have not even glanced at the hardships on the Catholic, who was expressly shut out from the benefit of the TOLERATION Act. They could, and still can, see him treated in that way, without uttering a word in his behalf. He is in the very state they were petitioning not to be placed in ; and yet they say not one word in his behalf.
Lord Holland is reported to have said, that " every man had a right to preach if he pleased to any body that would hear him.” Agreed, my lord, but, surely, every man ought not to have a right to exempt himself from the mililia service? Yet, this right he has, unless he be a Catholic, a Jew, a Turk, or an Infidel of some sort or other This is what I should have dwelt upon, if I had had a bill to bring in on the subject. I do suppose that the greater part of those who take out licenses actually
go a preaching; but, if they do, is there to be no limit to their number? Is every broad-shouldered, brawny-backed young fellow that chooses to perform what he calls preaching, to be excused from service in the Militia ? Who is there that would not much rather sit and hear a score or two of young women sing at a meeting-house two or three times a week than be liable to be a hearer, much less a performer, at a military circle, though it were but once in a year? It is easy enough to Talk about carrying the Cross and mortifying the flesh; but, when it comes to the pinch, when the hour of performance comes, we find men disposed to act by a figure of rhetoric, rather than to do the thing in their real, proper, natural person.
The Dissenters may, indeed, say, that it is not their fault, that the Militia Laws have been passed, and that so many thousands of men are liable to these laws; and this is very true; but, there are such laws, and, as they have said nothing against them, we may suppose that they approve of them.
We are now, however, to look at the matter in another light. I cannot help thinking, that one of the reasons, if not the great reason of all, for the bill that has made all this noise, is, the great increase of the congregations of the Methodists in particular, and the consequent diminution in the congregations of the Church of England. This has long been a subject of alarm to the Clergy of the Church, who imagine, that, in time, people, from so seldom seeing the inside of a church, will begin to wonder why the tithes should be given to the clergy of that Church; and,
be very sure, that the Dissenting teacher will put himself to no very great pains to prove to his flock, that the tithes are due to the Clergy. This defection from the Established Church bears a strong resemblance to the defection from the parochial Clergy in the second and third century of the Catholic Church of England, when the laziness and neglects of those Clergy and their endless pluralities, had thrown the people into the hands of the itinerant monks and friars, who appear to have been a most active and vigilant description of men, and, indeed, to have borne a strong resemblance in most respects, to the itinerant Methodist preachers of the present day, Such hold did they get by means of their exertions, that, as the benefices fell in, the patrons be. stowed many of them in fee upon the Abbeys and Priories, who thus became the patrons, and who, of course, supplied the churches from their own houses, and took the greater part of the tithes to their own use, but who, having become rich in their turn, became also in their turn lazy and neglectful as the parochial clergy had been ; and hence came that change which we call the ReforMATION, which originated not in any dislike on the part of the people to the tenets or ceremonies of the Catholic Church, but in the laziness, the neglects, and, in some cases, oppressions of the Clergy, aided by a quarrel between the King and the Pope.
Men looked back into the cause of the existence of the tithes and benefices. They inquired into the grounds upon which they stood. They asked why they were granted. They came to a clear understanding as to what was expected and what was due from the Clergy in return for them. And, at every step, they found, that endowment and residence went together. They found, in short, that the parish churches, the parsonage-houses, the glebes, and the tithes, had been originally granted for the purpose of insuring the constant residence of a Priest in each parish, there to teach the people, to give them religious instruction, to feed the poor, and to keep hospitality. These were the express conditions, upon which the grants were made ; and, when, instead of fulfilling these purposes, the livings were given away to Abbeys and Priories and religious communities of various descriptions, who merely kept a sort of journeymen in the parishes called Vicars, to whom they gave the nails and the hair, while they took the carcase home to be spent at the Convent; when this was the case, and when, in another way, the Popes were bestowing living after living upon one and the same person ; when, in short, a very considerable part of all the parishes in the kingdom were thus deprived of nearly all that they had a right to expect in return for their tithes; when this was the case, it was no wonder, that the people were ready to listen to reformers. And, I beg the reader to bear in mind, that these were the real efficient causes of what we call the Refor. mation, and not any fault that the people discovered in the doctrines or ceremonies of the Catholic Church; for, after all, we believe in the Creed of St. ATHANASIUS, and what can any Catholic or Pope want us to believe more? We hold, that a man cannot be saved unless he believes the whole of this Creed ; and will any man believe, then, that the Reformation had a quarrel about doctrine for its cause.
Such being the short but true history of the causes of the Reformation, that is to say, the taking of the tithes from Catholic Priests and giving them to Protestant Priests, keeping back a purt to be given to favourite Lords and Ladies, and which are now called lay impropriations ; such being the history of this grand event, which, after all, was merely a shifting of the Church Property from one set of hands to another, is it not worth while for the present Clergy, that is to say, the present possessors of that property, to consider a little of the state in which they are with regard to their parishioners ? They evidently have considered this, or somebody else has for them. The complaint, on the part of the Church, of the increase of the Methodists, has been made for some years. The evil increases ; and dangers, greater than those of former times, menace; because, if once the church property be touched now, it nerer returns.
But, let us now see how they attend to their parishes. Let us see how vigilant they are in the discharge of their duty. The following list of absentees is copied from a paper laid before Parliament in 1808. None of the same kind has, I believe, been laid before Parliament since that year ; but, that the number of non-residents has not decreased I infer from the fact, that, for the three years of which an account of the non-residents is given, numbers kept increasing.
ABSTRACT of the Returns of the Number of Non-Residents in 1806-7. Want or unfitness of Parsonage-House...
1063 Residence on other Benefices
430 Literary or Ecclesiastical Employment.
396 Offices in Cathedrals
183 in Dioceses
32 in Universities..
113 Chaplaincies in Royal or Noble Families.
27 in the Navy
15 Residence in own or Relatives' Mansion
123 Members in Universities, under 30 Years of Age
12 17 33
5 19 23 21
Now, it is impossible to look at this List, recollecting, at the same time, that there are only about 11,000 livings in the whole, without see. ing a quite sufficient cause for the great increase of Dissenting Congregations. We see here above half the parishes unattended by the persons who have undertaken the care of the people's souls" in those parishes. These are the words : “ Care of their souls.” What can a man say in his defence ; what can he think of himself, to undertake such a charge, and never go near the spot ? And, is it to be wondered at, that the people should go to Meeting-houses, while this is the case? Here we see, that there were nearly a fourth part of all the Rectors and Vicars in England, not only absent from their parsonage-houses and their parishes, but absent without leave or license, and even without condescending to notify their absence to their Bishop, though expressly required so to do by the law, and by a law, too, passed for their ease and indulgence.
The first head, it will be observed, contains the numbers absent from the want, or unfitness, of the Parsonage-house. If not fit, why not made fit? Why not appropriate part of the income of the living to this purpose ?
Some, you see, are absent upon literary pursuits. What! Writing Reviews, or Political Pamphlets, or Paragraphs, or what? But, at any rate, what literary pursuit could be so proper as the writing and study tending to effect the object of the living? What! a man receives an income for life, and he engages at the same time to take upon him the care of the souls of the people of a parish ; and, he, while he keeps the income, leaves the people of the parish to take care of their own souls, because some literary pursuit calls him away elsewhere !
When he takes upon him the office of Minister he declares, in the most solemn manner, that he believes himself to be called by the Holy Ghost to take upon him the ministry of the Gospel and to labour in the saving of souls. When he is inducted into a living, he promises to watch con. stantly over his flock, to aid them with his advice, to comfort them in their troubles and sufferings.
What can be more amiable than such an office! What a blessing it must be where punctually discharged ! But, what is it if the man who takes this office upon him ; who enters into this engagement ; who makes these solemn promises; if he, as soon as he has insured the revenue of the living, as soon as he has just ridden into the parish and taken possession, sets off again, and never more hears of, or asks after his flock
again, except at shearing time, but leaves them, body and soul, to the care of a stipendiary, whom he has never even seen, perhaps, in all his life time?
With this before their eyes, is it any wonder, that the people prefer the itinerant preachers, who, however deficient in other respects, are seldom wanting in zeal ?
I shall be told, perhaps, that, if the incumbent is not resident, his curate is. Sometimes. But, what is that? The curate serves two, perhaps, and sometimes three churches ; and, he has not the pecuniary means, if he has the talents, to do all that might be done by the incumbent.
Indeed, it is notorious, that to the neglect of the Clergy the rise of the Methodists is owing. And, how neglectful, how lazy, must they be to suffer any sect to rise its head only an inch high! When one looks over the country and sees how thickly the churches are scattered; when one considers how complete is the possession of the country by the Clergy; when the force of habit is taken into view; when we consider, that they are the keepers of the records of births and of the bones of ninety-nine hundredths of the dead ; when we behold them and their office having all the large estates, all the family consequence and pride on their side ; when one considers all this, one cannot help being astonished that there should be any such thing as a Meeting-house ; but, when we reflect, that the Clergy have the power of speaking, as long as they please, to the people, in every parish in the kingdom, once a-week at least, and in a place where no one dares to contradict them, or would ever think of such a thing; when we reflect upon this, and calculate the number of hours that the Pitt system would exist, if we Jacobins had the use of the pulpits only for one fortnight, when we consider this, we cannot find words to express our idea of the laziness, the incomprehensible laziness that must prevail amongst the Clergy or the Established Church.
There are, however, some worthy and diligent men amongst them ; and, at any rate, I do by no means believe, that public liberty would gain any thing by exchanging the Clergy for “ The Saints," who have been the most steady abettors of the Pitt system, and who have been full as eager as any of the Clergy in the cry of “ No Popery."
In short, they are Dissenters merely because they bave no tithes, and in that name only do they resemble the Dissenters of the times before the Revolution : they are as much like the Dissenters of old times as a horse-dung is like an apple. Those were fanatics, but they were honest and just men, full of courage and full of talent; they understood well the rights and liberties of Englishmen, and upon the maintenance of them they staked their lives. The mongrel " Saints" of our days are as keen for places, pensions, contracts, and jobs, as the inhabitants of any perjured borough in the kingdom ; and, indeed, if I were :o be put to it to find out the most consummate knaves in all England, I should most assuredly set to work amongst those who are ironically denominated “ Saints.” They were the great corps of scouts in the famous times of No Popery, and did more with that base and hypocritical cry than all others put together. One of the bawling brutes in my neighbourhood told the people, that “the King, Lord bless him ! had saved them all from being burnt by the papishes.” Was it for a service like this that he was to be exempted from Lord Castlereagh's Local Militia ? A con