[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

imply a sacrifice of patronage on the part of Government; but, I humbly contend, if it does not afford a certainty, it furnishes a reasonable probability, that more care will be taken in the selection of individuals to fill high and responsible stations in the Church. This, after all, is the great object that should be aimed at The patronage of the Church is vested in Government for the benefit of the Church; and the only solicitude of those who have the disposal of it, ought to be, how it may be most righteously administered. The plan which I have the honour to submit, would diminish the temptations to its abuse, and that to a degree that must almost necessitate its appropriation to strictly legitimate objects. I The temptations to its abuse would be diminished in two ways by heightening the responsibility of the patrons, and by increasing their num‐ ber. Their responsibility would be heightened, because they would be regarded by the public as individuals set apart for guarding the purity, and promoting the wellbeing of the Church; and whose first duty it would be to see that, in the promotions which took place, religion, received no detriment. And, in proportion as their numbers were increased, while the interest which they took, collectively and individu ally, in the public weal, remained the same, the private motives which any one of them could have for a departure from the principles by which he should be guided, could seldom be so great as to tempt him to abuse his powers. If there were ten un paid Commissioners, (members of the Church of England, and chosen for their known devotion to it,) appointed to assist by their counsel in the selection of individuals to fill the office of Bishops, supposing them to be actuated by the lowest motives, namely, the desire of appointing some relative or friend, these could only operate with one-tenth of the force which would belong to them, if the nomination rested, as at present, with a single individual, who is, be sides, embarrassed by the multifarious duties of another office, and whose notions of official usefulness might lead him to sacrifice the Church to the State, in his ecclesiastical arrange



[ocr errors]

The Secretary for the Home Department considers that he has friends to gratify and supporters to maintain, and parliamentary antagonists to buy off, or to conciliate. These are his most important duties. When a bishopric is to be disposed of, they are considerations of which, as things stand at present, he cannot lose sight. Those who have supported his measures in the House," would consider themselves very ill used, if their applications at the Home Office were unattended to, and a preference given to others, whose only claims were their work as clergymen, or their merit as theologians. But, if clerical appointments were placed in the hands of commissioners such as I have supposed, whose sole business would be to see that they were properly made, the very men who would be unscrupulous and importunate, while they regarded such patronage as a mere appendage to the office of a Secretary of State, and conferred for the purpose of augmenting his influence, would hesitate to press the claims of those whose interests they were desirous to promote, upon a body of men whose duty it would be most jealously to criticise their professional pretensions, or 1997k

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Your Lordship is aware, that for the proposal which I make, there is something very like precedent. When William the Third came to the throne of these realms, he felt that, as a stranger, he was not qualified to make a proper use of his power of appointing to bishoprics, without the aid of a committee composed of discreet individuals, well affected towards the Church of England, by whom his choice might be guided. Such a committee was accordingly appointed; and, with the exception of their natural prejudices against those who were suspected; of Jacobitism, they were wise and discriminating in their selections, Burnet, Hoadly, and Tillotson, are names which reflect no discredit on those by whom the distinguished individuals who bore them were recommended for the mitres will again vis Now, if such a course was deemed necessary when the Church was fortified against both Dissenters and Papists, it cannot be supposed less expedient at a time when the House of Commons has been thrown open

[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors]

other, as a juror to decide according to evidence, or a judge to adjudicate according to law.

It will be said that such ought to be the case at present; that Bishops should feel themselves under a sa

[ocr errors]

to those who make no secret of their hostility to the established religion, and who may, at any moment, take their seats amongst his Majesty's constitutional advisers! Surely, my Lord, more unlikely things have come to pass in our day, than that Mr Ocred obligation to consider nothing Connell should be a Cabinet Minis- but the interests of religion in their ter, or that the Duke of Norfolk, or appointments; and that if their own the Earl of Shrewsbury, should take consciences do not influence them to a leading part in the formation of a do what is right, it would be vain to new administration! 297(92mont Tub expect that they should be so influBut I do not urge the appointment enced by any such measures as are of Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and proposed. The sacred obligations of a Secretary of State for ecclesiasti- Bishops I do not deny; they have, cal affairs, so much for the purpose however, been hitherto comparativeof guarding against the dangers which ly inoperative, because men have threaten the Church from without, been chosen for that high office who great and imminent as these are, as do not feel them. The proposal which of preventing the abuses which prey I have made would, it is to be hoped, upon it within, and to which, if they greatly increase our chances of good be not obviated, it must speedily Bishops; and the regulations which fall a victim. An end must be put I have suggested are not, it may be to these abuses, or they will put an presumed, ill calculated to keep alive end to the Church. And if we could in the mind of a good man a sense of only ensure the appointment of good his most awful responsibility. These Bishops, the Church would be out of are the two great points at which danger. Your Lordship could scarce- Government should aim, if they are ly conceive how much would be desirous of conferring real benefit done, by any measure affording a upon the Church; and it is most imreasonable prospect of such a re- portant to hold in mind, that all the sult, towards remedying every evil care and all the skill which can be under which the establishment la- employed in the selection of worthy bours! ows & qulebo I woY and meritorious individuals, will not When Parliament once practical- enable Government to dispense with ly recognised the principle, that the any one of the forms or the ceremopatronage at the disposal of Govern- nies by which such individuals may ment should be exclusively appro- have impressed upon them, or repriated for the service of religion, newed within them, a spirit-stirring they might, with consistency, declare conviction of their solemn obligathat the patronage at the disposal of tions: Ficos bobing of bused every Bishop was a sacred trust for the benefit of the Church, and that a court of law, surrounded by the -If a judge, instead of presiding in in the distribution of it favouritism circumstances of official dignity, unand partiality should be excluded. der the necessity of listening to the It should be authoritativelydeclared, pleadings of the parties between that the right of the patron in such whom he arbitrates, and of procases is not so much a right of selec- nouncing his judgment in the p cannot be so truly said to possess the liberty, in his own private apartment, at privilege of choosing who shall as of and with no greater formality than pronouncing who ought to possess that which is customary in the transthe benefice at his disposal. And as

[ocr errors]




[ocr errors]

action of private business, to come to

soon as he decides,i's in fore conscien- a decision respecting the merits or the that a particular individual pos- demerits of particular individuals, sesses the ability and the qualifica- by which decision they might be aftions which render him more likely fected either for good or for evil for than any other to be useful, if put in the rest of their lives, is it probable ment, he should feel himself under would ever pervert his mind, and possession of a particular prefer- that no private or sinister influence that indian obligation to promote that he would in all cases be guided Preference to any in his awards by even-handed jus

individual in

tice? This is a subject concerning which your Lordship is much better able to judge than I am : but indeed it does not require a very extended experience in such matters to be able to say, that, by such a course, much would be done to make the judge forget that he was a public functionary, and to give an undue ascendency to influences which could not be too carefully excluded. Now, the supposed case of the judge is the actual case of the bishop. He decides respecting the merits of the individuals who may be considered as having claims for preferment, without any consciousness of standing in the presence of a public who exercise a kind of censorship over his determinations. He is, on the contrary, surrounded by those whose interest it is to blind him to any discriminating appreciation of real merit, and to practise, by every artifice, upon his weakness, his partiality, or his affection. He is taken out of the atmosphere in which his sense of public duty could not die, and brought into the atmosphere in which more than due encourage ment is given to the selfishness and the corruption of his nature. The latter requires no assistance. Like a rank weed, it flourishes without culture. The former requires all the assistance which can be given to it. And when the very contrary of what would be right and expedient thus takes place; when the corrupting influence of private affection is unnecessarily cherished, and the purify ing influence of a sense of public duty unnaturally repressed or extinguished, is it surprising that clerical appointments are made, in many instances, less with a view to the good of the Church, than to the benefit of the individuals who are promoted?

I ask any candid man, who has ever fairly turned his mind to the subject, whether the first consideration of the generality of those who are invested with patronage in the Church is not, how they may most effectually employ it in the service of their relatives and friends? If they are laymen, it is often sold to the highest bidder. In the case of Government or the Bishops, it is too frequently made subservient to parliamentary interest, or to family con

venience. The very most that can be expected in such cases is, that a negative should be put upon gross disqualification. If the son or the brother of a Bishop was guilty of any offence which would render his pro-a motion in the Church a great scandal, he might perhaps be passed by; so far a deference might be shewn to public opinion. But the generality of patrons, both lay and clerical, would consider it most unreasonable to be expected to give their best preferments to any individuals, however qualified, before they provided for their own near connexions. And, indeed, the public have become so reconciled to this scandalous misappropriation of ecclesiastical property, that, when a Bishop does occasionally depart from the ordinary practice, and prefer some worthy man, from truly Christian motives, praise and admiration is sure to attend him for it, as though he did some extraordinary thing, while, if the matter were truly considered, he would be found to have been simply faithful to his trust, and to have only performed his bounden duty. "Dear me," one says to another, with a countenance expressive of delight and wonder, "such a Bishop has given such a living to such a person, from no other motives than the respect and estimation in which he held him, for his zeal and ability as a parish minister !” In this case it may be truly said, "exceptio probat regulam." The praise of the individual is the censure of the body to which he belongs. For it would be impossible that, in particular cases, such conduct could be entitled to praise, if the general conduct of the Bishops in the disposal of their patronage were not deserving of censure.

And let it not be supposed, my Lord, that I am disposed to be very severe upon the heads of our Church. Undoubtedly I cannot award to them the praise of great disinterestedness. But, truly, such is not to be expect ed; nor can I, when I consider the manner in which they have been chosen, blame them for being influenced by lower motives than such as would be sanctioned by the highest sense of duty. It is the Government by whom, or rather the system according to which, they have been

[ocr errors]

appointed, that must bear the blame
of any neglect of worth, or promo-
tion of inefficiency, with which they
are chargeable. If the Prime Mini-
ster should say to some individual,
only known to him through his par-
liamentary connexions, Sir, will
you accept of a bishopric ?" it is
scarcely to be expected that that in-
dividual, how conscious soever he
may be of his own deficiencies,
should say,
"nolo episcopari." And
surely if he should prove incompe-
tent to the righteous discharge of
his important duties, the Minister by
whom these duties have been so im-
properly imposed upon him, is guil-
tier than he. This would at once be
evident if the charge confided to him
related to the cure of bodies, and not
to the cure of souls. If a person, at
once negligent and incompetent, were
appointed to the care of an hospital,
-appointed without any reference
to his professional qualifications,
and solely because of his parliament
ary interest, what an outcry would
be raised, and how would the Go-
vernment be denounced which could
thus trifle with the lives of his Ma-
jesty's subjects? This is a matter
in which the public would feel a
lively interest, and the promptest
measures would be taken to pre
vent the recurrence of so intolerable
an evil. But, such is the different
estimate which the generality of peo-
ple make of things: temporal and
things eternal, that a system which
would be denounced as an abomi-
nation if it merely related to their
bodies, is regarded with indifference,
if not complacency, because the mis
chief which it is calculated to work
is purely of a spiritual kind, and does
not materially or ostensibly interfere
with their wellbeing in this present


Bishops, I must add that little regard seems to have been paid to any peculiar fitness for the sacred office in such appointments; and accordingly some of those in whose elevation the Government have felt an honest pride, are positively to be reckoned amongst the worst Bishops upon the bench. Their election, though disinterested, was not judicious. They were chosen rather because of their general eminence and ability, than because of the distinct recognition in them of the virtues and the talents which would ensure that the duties of their high office should be well and wisely administered. In fact, the office was conferred upon them as a reward, instead of their being chosen to the office from a conviction that they would fitliest execute its important functions. It was regarded as a kind of "finis laborum." And, however gratified the public may have been at thus seeing merit reap a very rich reward, when such individuals are fairly chargeable with disposing of their preferments more with reference to their family interests than to the good of the Church, the scandal thence arising is greater than it would be if they themselves had not been so disinterestedly promoted.

And with respect to the value of the encouragement thus given to merit, to what does it amount? Does it tend to encourage professional merit,that species of merit which most stands in need of encouragement? I dare say that when Government feel at liberty to make an honest appointment in the Church, professional merit on the part of any individual will be no bar to his advancement. But this is almost the utmost that can be said. For a good commentator upon some anAnd even, my Lord, when Go- cient classic, or an able writer of a vernment intend to do right, such is history of Greece, or an ingenious the pernicious influence of the sys essayist upon political economy, or tem according to which they have an eminent astronomer, or an eruhitherto worked, they are seldom dite antiquarian, is just as likely to They have of late be the object of their choice on such years made some appointments, occasions, as the individual whose clearly with the most disinterested personal and strictly professional views. Men, eminent for their scho- merits should more decidedly entitle Marship, have been raised from pro- him to notice. Their object is gained mitre. But, while I am bound to ad- terested appointment. mit that the Church is thus indebted they are led to imagine, is someto the

able to do so.

[ocr errors]

And that,

by the promotion of some one who possesses no parliamentary interest, and who has attained a considerable share of scientific or literary dis tinction on H



[ocr errors]

its secret enemy, he will strike to
this great lord or commoner: the
bishopric will be disposed of for
the purpose of securing his support,
and his compliance will be remem-

important that he should be able to
command a majority in the House
of Commons. But if he be an ho
nest man, he may say to the borough
proprietor," No, sir; no support
which you can give me shall induce
me to sacrifice the interests of re-
ligion. While I hold the reins of
power, the Church shall never be
desecrated by an unfit appointment."
The Minister who had the courage
and the virtue to use this language,
would, I am persuaded, gain more
than he could lose by it. He might
forego the purchased support of a
few great lords, but he would be
more than compensated for it by the
accession of strength which he would
receive from the people. He would
find that honesty was the best policy;
and the conviction of his rectitude
to which such conduct would give
rise, would cause even
those very
individuals to respect his integrity,
who, if he were a different man,
would have traded upon his corrup-
tion. For we must not suppose, my
Lord, that all those who profit by
the present system, therefore ap
prove of it. No such thing. Many
of them disapprove of it; they dis-
approve, decidedly, of making the
high places in the Church the pur-
chase of parliamentary services:
but they say, "as this is the system,
and as these good things are going,
we may as well take advantage of it
as long as it lasts, and have our share
of them." Only let a conscientious
Minister arise, who is determined
that such an abomination: shall
no longer receive his countenance,
and he will find the very class of
persons who were most ready to
avail themselves of them, as long as
they were available for their use and
benefit, not the least ready to second
him in his most praiseworthy and
high-minded determination.

What, then, can be said for a sys-bered on those occasions when it is tem, the natural tendency of which is to put in the highest places in the Church, individuals whose chief, or perhaps only recommendation is, that they are the friends or the connexions of some powerful family and under the influence of which, even when the Government are anxious to compensate, by one praiseworthy appointment, for the many instances in which professional merit, was altogether neglected, they are betrayed, either from ignorance, or carelessness, into mistakes, which are scarcely less to be deplored than their acts of more deliberate injustice, in which the claims of truly deserving persons are designedly passed by, and the best interests of the Church formally sacrificed to their notions of political expediency? Indeed, my Lord, it must be changed. Nor can I conceive how a change may more fittingly begin than by the division of labour which I have suggested; by means of which, a separation would take place between offices which should never have been united, and no Minister of the Crown would be exposed to the temptation of bartering stations in the Church, which impose upon them an awful spiritual responsibility, for that species of support in Parliament, by which the other business committed to his charge may be transacted with least inconvenience. Much has been said, and much may be said, of the necessity imposed upon practical statesmen to conciliate those great interests, by whose influence the business of the nation must be carried on; and that their wishes must be consulted in the more important clerical arrangements. I, my Lord, never was, and never will be, a believer in any such necessity. A Minister of the Crown is addressed by a great parliament ary lord or commoner, who says to him-“ appoint my son or my brother or" the Minister knows the alternative. If he is a timid man, or a time-serving man, or one who cares nothing for the Church, or who is

to such a bishopric

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


The proposal which I respectfully submit to your Lordship, as far as it has been yet developed, involves no scheme of spoliation; it implies no departure from any one of the prin ciples of our ecclesiastical polity. I believe that polity to be essentially

« ForrigeFortsett »