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THE PERNICIOUS EFFECTS OF AVARICE IN THE CLERGY.
IT may at first sight seem improper to expatiate on the revenues of the Church, before an assembly of Clergymen, whose ecclesiastical incomes are • little more than adequate to their support. The mediocrity which is your lot, exempts you, in your judgment, from the suspicion of misapplying the patrimony consecrated to the service of the Church; you mistake; this mediocrity ought to render every misapplication less common; whereas it often occasions the abuse, and is, in your eyes, a justification of it. The abundance does not produce the fault; it is in the manner of acquiring, and of possessing it when acquired; the danger does not always consist in your revenues being great or small, but in the rapacity and unfeeling manner in which you exact them—in the attachment to, and sordid use you make of them*.
* " A due Measure of Disinterestedness is one Requisite for the Success of a Clergyman's Labours. You will therefore avoid all mean Attention to small Matters. You will be very tender in your Demands upon the Poor, and very equi
It might be hoped, that no rapacity could well be exercised, in collecting the revenues of the Church: but this, unhappily, not being the case, we are to remember what the Apostle exacts, as the very first principle of the Ministers of the Gospel—that they leave no room to suspect they are " given to filthy lucre." Our whole ministry is a ministry of charity, of disinterestedness, of edification: what a character, then, for a Pastor to sell, hardly and rigorously, his services to his children—to be a severe and inexorable extortioner, unconcerned about the ruin or the salvation, of his flock, and solely occupied in the temporal advantages, which he shamefully derives from it I Are the instructions of a Pastor of this character, without fruit? Do they " return unto him void?" —He feels no uneasiness. Is his whole life passed, without having established the principles of Christianity in the heart, and produced the effects of it, in the conduct, of one single hearer ?—His indifference leaves him without apprehension for the event. He does not lament the inutility of his labours: he does not, as he ought, view it with sorrow, and contemplate it with horror; but, let his services not bring him the vile and abject recompense, that he expected for them, his uneasiness is expressed on every occasion; he considers his diligence thrown away, and begins to experience the chagrin, of being an useless workman. The dignity of our ministry, I feel, blushes at such a charge being brought against a labourer in the Lord's vineyard; and, it is not without reluctance, that,, before an assembly so respectable as that which I am now addressing, I introduce so unpleasing a subject. But with whom can I lament over such abuses, but with you, my Brethren, who are not unacquainted with them? Were these concerns, like many others, concealed in the bosom of the sanctuary, we might dissemble them; but by this mercenary rapacity, which is circumscribed by no bounds of decency or moderation, the Pastor becomes odious and contemptible to his flock, and Religion, in the judgment of a gross and ignorant people, a sordid gain, a dishonourable traffic*.
table towards the Rich; though you will conscientiously preserve all the material rights, with which you are entrusted for your successors. If you find room and reason to improve your income, you will prove that no wrong motive induces you to it, by going as far as ever you are able in acts of good natured, and especially of pious, liberality. For nothing gives greater or juster offence, than to see a clergyman intent upon hoarding, or luxurious, or splendid, instead of being charitable."—Abp. Secker.
* T once heard a distinguished Prelate, prove the utility of tythes to the farmer, when paid, not to the Impropriator, (who, however wealthy, is said to be invariably rigorous) but to the Parson. The Rector, in general, does not demand more than half the real value of the tythe :. the landlord, if the land be tythe free, lets his farm at a rent, considerably above what the farmer would pay to the Clergyman, in lieu of tythes; so that the farmer gains the difference, of what he does not pay to the Clergyman, and of what he would pay to the landlord. But this reasoning is upon the supposition, that every Clergyman is very moderate in his demands. That this is a promtnent feature in the character of the British Clergy, almost every farmer, who compounds for-his tythes, proclaims with satisfaction, and acknowledges, with gratitude. But, among so many beneficed Clergyman, it is to be expected, that a few individuals, some compelled by necessity, and others, actuated by avarice, will either claim, nearly the value, or receive their tythes m kind: in which case, not only the advantages, accruing from the payment of tythes, to the farmer, are, during such incumbency, suspended, but quarrels and litigations often ensue, always pernicious to the interests of Religion, and to the stability of the Church. To adopt any mode of compensation, whereby, at once, to satisfy the clamorous, to preserve to the Clergy their legitimate rights, and to render the ministry useful, as it ought to be, has hitherto baffled the wisdom of the wise, and overturned the plans of the speculative.
I well know, that such a want of principle, and such an absence of Religion, pervade many people, that they would deprive you of your just rights: but let me observe, that there are very many Clergyman, who, by their zeal, their piety, their disinterestedness, are, in the estimation of their parish,
It may not be thought improper to add, that where the great Tythes are in the hands of a Layman, and there is a necessity for the services of two Clergymen, arising either from laborious duty—a Chapel attached to the Mother-Church, at the latter of which there is service twice in the day—or from any other cause—that the Impropriator, if he has both the Vicarial and Rectorial Tythes, ought, in justice, to discharge the whole; if only the latter, the half, of the Curate's stipend. The Legislature intended, no doubt,.to do justice to the Curates; but the great Tythes having, originally, belonged to the Church,—if the Legislature felt themselves warranted to alienate a part of the Vicar's pittance—-would it have been other than retributive justice to have bound the Impropriator under the same obligation? This subject will, I trust, soon be illustrated and enforced by abler pens.
most valuable Ministers, and who, far from going to the extent of their claims, know how to abate of their legal demands, and to compassionate the wants of their parishioners, on occasions where charity and humanity demand it of them. There have been instances, however, where some have refused to pay to their Pastor, the rights attached to his office, being first irritated by the rapacity of the Pastor himself, whose claims have been unreasonable, and his demands oppressive. It may indeed, generally, be said, that the altercations which happen in parishes, between the Pastor and his flock, are confined to those Clergymen, who, in their conduct, are neither the most edifying, the most charitable, nor the most exemplary, in the diocese.
Such is the first abuse I had to mention—the rigour in exacting your revenues: the second is, an imposing avarice, which, after having been so strict in the exaction, refuses them towards the support of those who are in distress.
You know, my Brethren, and melancholy experience confirms the observation every day, that the Clergy, the most severe, and the most rapacious, in claiming their rights, often live with the greatest meanness. Were those Pastors, who are so avaricious, charitable to their neighbours, their conduct would, in this, at least, be worthy of our admiration, and entitled to our applause: but a mean and contemptible avarice