« 이전계속 »
peculiar to the Clergy; and let those who only pay rates and taxes according to an ordinary and fair assessment consider how sad their complaints would be, if, in addition to these, they were exposed to that army of oppression which directs its peculiar aim against the country home of the English parson, or rather, against the stability and ecclesiastical freedom itself of the English parish church, so long the happy and proud possession of our country.
In our relation of grievances, we have purposely omitted to give any distinct place to the working of the Commutation Act itself, by which tithes are now regulated. That act was an arrangement between the payers and receivers of tithes, in which both parties were supposed to be consulted, and both had the power of appeal. The bargain was made, and therefore it is too late in the day to complain of its results, still less of the violation of principle which it involves. Considering, also, the political feelings of the time when this act was passed, the Church has much cause of thankfulness that she came off, in pecuniary matters, as well as she did in the struggle-for there were many at the time who apprehended worse things. Yet, although willing to keep strictly to our bargain, we certainly have a right to plead the present working of that measure as a very strong ground for the greatest consideration being shown towards the Church in subsequent legislation. The present value of rent-charge is 10 per cent. below the commutation, which may be accounted for in the very words of a correspondent whom we have before quoted :
• The payment of the Clergy, prior to the operation of that enactment, represented a portion of the value of all the products of the farmer's industry, of corn, of hay, of cattle, sheep, wool, coppice-wood, potatoes, turnips, small seeds, &c.; and where the custom of compounding for tithe was prevalent, the amount of composition rose or fell as rents varied, or (which on an average of years wonld amount to the same thing practically) as the price of the various productions of the land was raised or depressed.
But the commodities being many, had a greater tendency to, and more truly represented, an equilibrium of value than would one or a few. Often it happened that when one fell another rose, and vice versa. But the Tithe Commutation Act fixed the amount of payment henceforth on the price of corn alone; at once creating a new estimate of value of the whole of the vicarial tithe of England and Wales, and sweeping away all consideration of the market value of those very commodities which had been the measure of the Church's dues. Then came the abrogation of the Corn Laws, and with it the fall of the clergyman's income of 10 per cent. ; whereas, if the averages had been taken on the aggregate value of all tbe hitherto titheable property, the fall would have been very inconsiderable on vicarial tithe rent-charge.
The case may be thus briefly stated :—Legislation, in the first place, singled out corn as the standard of clerical income, and then took special measures-right enough in themselves, .
but injurious to this special interest—for the lowering of this standard by the introduction of free trade in corn. In the case of the farmer, the lowered price of corn is amply compensated for by the increased production which high farming of the present day enables him to effect. The clergyman, however, has no longer any interest in the amount of produce; his income is regulated solely by the price, to keep down which is the anxious care of all statesmen who wish well to their country,
Thus far we have considered those drawbacks on a clergyman's income which are compulsory, and which more properly come under the title of fiscal burdens. But there are others which are equally heavy, though of a more voluntary nature; and are the more to be déplored, inasmuch as they are most severely felt by the best men, by those who undertake the pastoral charge with an earnest sense of the responsibility thereby incurred, and with a deep anxiety to fulfil the work entrusted to them.
In the first place, where the parish is of any size, there is the expense of providing the assistance of fellow-labourers. Nor can it be said that curates exact more than is their right, and that this burden ought to be reduced in its amount. We would rather suggest that a system should be adopted by which an incumbent might boldly appeal to the laity of his parish to pay the expense of such assistance, where he feels that he can justly do so, and that he enjoys no larger income himself than is requisite for a man in his position, and for the discharge of his other duties. In many places this is already done, but we think the principle might be more extended. An incumbent might fairly say, on entering a parish, that he can only do a certain amount of work, although more than that is required by the necessities of the parish; that his own income will not allow the expenses; and, therefore, as the good of the parish is their common work, the laity must subscribe in order to enable their pastor to carry out his plans. If this be thought too near an approach to the voluntary system, let the existing societies for the provision of curates be more amply supported than they are, in order that the more urgent cases may meet with prompt and certain redress. Either in a direct form, or through the agency of a society, we think that this special work of providing curates in parishes, where the need is great and the incumbent's income insufficient, is one which requires to be put more directly before the laity than at present, amid the various calls of charity, is generally the case. Let it be understood, that unless funds are forthcoming for the payment of additional labourers, that the clerical service of the parish must necessarily be limited to the work of one man, in cases, that is, where the endowment of the church is not greater than is plainly requisite for his own single support.
Then comes the well-known and still wider diffused burden, as concerns rural parishes, of schools for the poor. We sincerely hope that some arrangements will be made, by which the expense of parochial schools will be more equally borne than at present. It is surely hard that the wages of agricultural labourers should be avowedly too low to admit of any self-supporting system of education for their benefit, and that neither the state nor the voluntary contributions of the great body of parishioners should make up the deficiency. The children must either be brought up as heathens, or the clergyman must, in almost the majority of cases, do all himself, at a very large annual expenditure. We cannot imagine that when the House of Commons is discussing the question of national education, it at all realizes the extent to which the present education of the country rests, for pecuniary support and for personal superintendence, on the Clergy of the Church. If that education is imperfect, yet what it does effect is often at the sole expense of the clergyman. If the Church is usurping a large share of power in the matter of education, and is thereby exciting the jealousy of other religious bodies, it is quite unnecessary to talk of priestcraft; for that power can be accounted for on simpler, and indeed on strict commercial principles. It is paid for to the last farthing by the Church, which receives in return nothing beyond that unavoidable influence, which a pecuniary venture in any undertaking naturally returns to those who lay down their money. If the laity want influence on this subject, let them pay their money, and they will easily get it by a mutual understanding, too gladly entered into by the Clergy as a body. As long, however, as the clergyman has all to pay, it is certainly to be expected that he will claim a large share in the management of his school. For objects such as these the poorer clergy can fairly and reasonably solicit local aid with special boldness; and we fear that a certain shyness in asking for money from immediate neighbours, has led to great mischief in the imperfect discharge of duties undertaken. Where an expense rightly and justly falls on the parishioners generally, they ought constantly to be reminded of it; and although a clergyman may be commended for his patient endurance of a burden not fairly his own, yet we think that much harm has been done by the tendency of individuals to undertake, in a moment of enthusiasm, a greater burden than they find themselves able to endure, when it afterwards assumes the form of an annual deduction from income. There is always more chance of permanency where any charge rests on those who are really most responsible for it. A principle is
princih receive a pec
able influencich receives in paid for to"
darclothing school prizes wholly
thereby established which it is difficult to overthrow; whereas, when an individual is unjustly burdened, even hy his own free, act and deed, we may feel sure that the time will come, sooner or later, when he will rebel against it and throw it overboard. The parochial education is undoubtedly chargeable on the property of a parish in-some form or other; and a clergyman, even if he undertake it, is sure to do it badly for want of funds; while, in his well-meant liberality, he is only affording to others a good pretext for the neglect of an essential duty.
Besides, however, the large annual payments which a clergyman, who is anxious to make his machinery effective, is too, often compelled to submit to without any foreign aid, there are, innumerable expenses which his daily visitation in the parish make him liable to at every point: clothing clubs and societies, of various kinds, lending libraries, children's school prizes, assistance to the sick and distressed (partly but by no means wholly defrayed by the offertory collections), and the general encouragement of every parochial undertaking and subscription in times of special need. Then, also, he must subscribe to diocesan or metropolitan societies, and be ready at the call of bis friends to devote any amount of time, together with many personal expenses, to whatever religious projects may be started around him. All these expenses are trifling to a man of fortune, as are many of our Clergy; but the evil is, that so much is now, expected of the Clergy irrespective of their private means. The poorer clergy are thus excluded from benefices, or are only admitted in order to furnish those lamentable instances of poverty and hard struggling with adverse circumstances, which the Bishop of Oxford, at the recent meeting of the Clergy Provident Society, so touchingly described as having come within his knowledge, through the confidential and sorrowful communications of many an impoverished clergyman opening out his, grief to his spiritual fathers. · But is there no hope of remedy for the unjust amount of taxation or of professional burdens, which at present fall on the Clergy? We eannot augur much from the tone of the House of Commons on matters which at all affect this question. Look to the debate on Church-rates. Sir William Clay has at last succeeded in obtaining a majority in the House of Commons in favour of their abolition. We do not apprehend, indeed, that his bill will at once become law; but it is high time that the working of such a measure should be seen in all its bearings. We are no advocates for the continuance. of Church-rates in London or large towns on their present footing; but, in the rural parish, where they have been willingly paid from time immemorial, we see but one result from their
The poor of the Cleroney, but the evil is to a man of forurte
sudden remission; the farmers would leave all repairs to the clergyman, who must either officiate in a ruin, or pay the expense of keeping up the fabric. There would be almost a legal hold on the clergyman to do this even against his will ; for if the church fell down or became unfit for use, he would be unable to fulfil those duties which are the necessary conditions, on his part, of holding the benefice. His office would become a sinecure, and the revenues would, as a matter of course, be soon appropriated for some other purpose. We trust, therefore, that whatever measures are adopted on this difficult question, it will be foreseen that any plan, even such an one as the Archbishop of Canterbury's, which throws the repair of country churches, so long as the Church is connected with the State, on a voluntary system of rating, will in practice throw a very heavy burden on the income of the incumbent. These voluntary rates will, in a vast number of cases, be withheld on some pretext of this kind, till the incumbent must do all himself, or see his church in ruins. Such would not be the case universally; but there is little doubt that any relaxation of Church-rates would, in small country districts especially, have a very great tendency to increase the burdens on the Clergy, already, as we have shown, far too oppressive.
The popular remedy for the extreme poverty of a large por. tion of the Clergy, is a more equal distribution of Church property, which means a centralized system by which all Church property should be first collected together in a mass, and then l'e-divided on more equal terms than at present. It would be an evil day for the Church when this general ingathering of her property took place; for we doubt whether the distribution would at all answer the expectations of her members. Taking the Church property at its full value, the distribution, even if carried out without any expense in the operation, would not yield 2001. to each beneficed and unbeneficed clergyman. Apart, however, from this small average, it must be remembered that the extreme inequality, as well as the great amount of the various burdens we have enumerated, would be an insuperable barrier against any fair valuation of the Church's available income.
The gross value of ecclesiastical property is, indeed, no guide whatever to the results of any actual amount that could be made available for any system of equalization which might be attempted, since the enormous deductions which so greatly lessen the incomes of the majority of clergymen, entirely alter the whole basis on which any calculation can possibly be formed. Wholesale legislation on Church property, from estimations of its present gross value, without taking into consideration the various and varying burdens which rest on it, would be simple