for the first time - what started it, what its proposed work is. And I shall leave it to you to judge whether it be not entitled to your support; whether it do not bear on the face of it its own recommendation; and establish in your minds, as it certainly does in mine, a just cause for the present appeal to your sympathy, and assistance.

It is called, “ The Oxford Diocesan Spiritual Help Society," and its object is to supply, in some degree, the spiritual deficiency in this diocese, by enabling clergymen whose means are small, when out of health, or overburdened by the size of their parish, to maintain a curate, by part-payment of his stipend. It does not mark this—it does not in any way interfere with the appointment of the curate; it leaves that entirely to the incumbent; but it makes a grant to aid in securing his services.

This, then, is the first, and great object of the Oxford Diocesan Spiritual Help Society. A lesser object it has in view, is, to give temporary

assistance to clergymen, who, either on account of business, or for needful relaxation, are obliged to leave their home for a while; and who, as things are, often find it very difficult to get the help they require at the proper time.

Those are the two main objects of this Society. And of these, the former is far the more important. It is, in other words, a Society for increasing the Church's usefulness in this diocese, by helping to the maintenance of additional clergymen resident within it.

It is, therefore, you will see, a Society whose charity begins at home. These additional clergymen, which its grants will help to supply, are to minister in the towns and villages of this diocese of Oxford alone; viz. in the three counties of Oxfordshire, Berkshire, and Buckinghamshire. The alms given to it, are alms of which the fruit may be gathered by ourselves — may be productive of good to our own several neighbourhoods: they are not bread cast at hazard on the waters: they are a sowing of which we can hardly fail to witness, if not reap, the harvest ourselves.

Having shown you what the object of this Society is, let me next speak of the demand there is for such an institution. It

may be said, “ Are there not already societies established for a similar object; and if so, what is the occasion for another?"

Now, it is true, there are such societies. The Pastoral Aid Society, the Additional Curate's Society; both have in view the increase of clergymen; both give grants in aid of a curate. But, then—and here is the answer to those who ask, “Why create another society ?”— these two societies are bound by their rules to assist, before others,

large parishes with crowded populations. Consequently, their grants go almost exclusively to the manufacturing districts; very little help from them finds its way into the three counties that form the diocese of Oxford.

For ours, as you know, is not a manufacturing district. It is wholly agricultural. We have few large towns, and our population is comparatively small.

But, if our population be small, as compared with that of the western and northern counties, it is scattered over a wide area. Many of our rural parishes—might I not instance our own parish ?-stretch in length for several miles. In many there are heaths, and out-lying spots, where originally there were no inhabitants, but on which, by little and little, cottages have been built, and a population has grown up, at a most inconvenient distance from the church and clergyman.

And hence, brethren, a great hindrance has arisen to our ministry. In such long straggling parishes, the clergyman cannot be as often as he would among his parishioners. His intercourse with them must be less frequent and regular, than in places where the parish is more compact.

And then, too, as regards the inhabitants of these scattered parishes, they, too, are hindered. The distance from the church keeps them at home more than is well. They lose many Sunday services, and miss opportunities of grace, not so much from any fault of theirs, as from living so far from the House of God.

And what is the remedy? What is so likely to improve the religious tone, and advance the spiritual condition of such parishes, as the providing them with a second clergyman, and through him, with more services, and more frequent pastoral intercourse?

In such cases, the wise saying of Solomon has a close application. “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.” (Eccles. iv. 2.)

I am sure, brethren, you will feel the force of these words. You know how it is with your own labour. You know it must often come to a standstill, were it not for timely aid. You know how many works, that task too heavily a single man's strength, are lightened by the help of a second hand. You know in sickness, or in the case of an accident, that your work must go undone, unless a a fellow-labourer be found to fill your place. And you can judge by this, how desirable it is that they who labour in God's vineyard should not stand alone: should not be without a helper when they

“fall:” should, when from sickness, or declining years, they are no longer able to go in and out, and be about their Master's work, have one to occupy their room, and to supply the service they

, themselves can no longer render.

But—and this suggests another question I desire to meet —“Cannot the means for maintaining a curate be found by the clergy themselves? Is not the Church of England a rich Church? and cannot those who hold her livings spare enough out of their income to pay for the assistance they may require ?”

To this I would reply, that the Church of England is by no means that wealthy establishment it is commonly supposed to be. The great body of our clergy derive very small incomes from it-so small, that had they not other means, did they not bring with them into the Church private property, they could barely live—they must be—many of them, I fear, are— steeped to the lips in poverty.

Talk of the wealth of the English Church! Why, brethren, what in this diocese of Oxford are the actual facts? I take the figures from statements recently supplied, and leave them to tell their own tale. There are in the three counties of this diocese, 71 parishes, with a united population of 72,000 - above 1000 to each parish — where the income is less than 150l. per year. There are

« ForrigeFortsett »