Page images
PDF
EPUB

Bishop, the other two-thirds being payable to the representatives of the original trustees; and further, that though the income from these rents increased with the increase of building, the portion of his income derivable from fines, was extremely fluctuating. This explanation may shield the honour of the Bishop from impeachment, but if, in the words of Mr. Horsman, it is impossible to doubt the fidelity of an episcopal return, what an idea does it give us of episcopal management !

To the Select Committee on Church Leases, however, we are indebted for much information on this subject. It succeeded in obtaining from some of the bishops and chapters, tolerably correct returns of the annual value of their estates, and of the rents reserved on them. Several of the bishops refused to furnish the required information. A comparison of their annual values, with the incomes returned in 1834, will give some idea of the wastefulness which prevails in the administration of these estates, and will suggest some suspicion as to the accuracy of the earlier returns :

Sees.

Annual Value of Gross Yearly In

the Leased Estates, comes, including

as returned to the Preferments,

ac

Select Committee cording to the re

on Church Leases, turns in 1834.

in 1838-9.*

Archbishops
and Bishops.

Canterbury
York
London
Durham

£22,216
13,798
15,133
21,991

£52,084

42,000
32,564
62,500

Chapters.

Ely
St. Paul's
Rochester
Wells
Winchester

8,651
11,140
7,178
8,378
15,573

26,248
39,025
28,000
23,000
26,240

* The reader should understand that by annual value” is meant what the estates of the bishop or chapter would be worth if unencumbered by the leases, by means of which ecclesiastics have enriched themselves at the expense of their successors. The episcopal and capitular estates are in fact, though not in form, deeply mortgaged.

In the Appendix to the Committee's Report there is a valuable memorandum on the subject of Church Leases, drawn up for the information of Lord John Russell, by Mr. Finlaison, actuary of the National Debt. The annual value of the corporate estates of the Church amounts, according to his calculation, to one million and a half sterling. Had he been furnished with more correct data, the result would have been higher. Whatever be the receipts of its dignitaries, the Church has been endowed to that amount with public property, and must be held responsible for its care during the period of incumbency.

With such facts before us, we cannot be surprised at the revelations of enormous wealth which have occasionally appeared in the obituaries of our venerable prelates.

Those who were raised to the more richly-endowed sees, and who lived long enough to reap the full emoluments of office, have generally amassed large fortunes. The late Archbishop of York died in the possession of immense property. The episcopal residence during his lifetime was distinguished for the splendour and elegance of its appointments; but when the auctioneer's catalogue appeared, the costliness and variety of its contents excited general amazement. In fact, the abode of this successor of some humble apostle (which one it is immaterial to inquire) was a palace worthy of a Sybarite. There his predecessor, Dr. Markham, left real estates to the value of £100,000, besides £47,000 which was to be divided equally among his forty-seven grandchildren. The personal estates of Dr. Howley, late Archbishop of Canterbury, were valued at £120,000, exclusive of freeholds. The stamp duty paid on the probate of his will amounted to £1,500. But of this enormous wealth, acquired during the period of his incumbency, not a single farthing was bequeathed for any charitable purpose.

Now the Scriptures prophesy rather harsh things of men devoted to the acquisition of gain, and it might be supposed that either ignorance or unbelief of their teaching was involved in the conduct of our ecclesiastical dignitaries. The Great Teacher strongly insisted on the impossibility of serving God and Mammon; and in his declaration that it was easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, we have an emphatic caution against the obstructive influence of wealth as regards that character which all must acquire who really submit to his authority. A practical belief of the truth of this doctrine is apparently irreconcilable with the habitual indulgence of the avaricious propensities by which the ecclesiastical character has been distinguished. This inconsistency has been ingeniously accounted for by a political writer of great acuteness. It constitutes in his view the sublimest of ecclesiastical virtues. It is an instance of heroic disinterestedness which has no parallel, and should inspire all in whose favour it is exercised with admiration and gratitude. Our spiritual superiors are well aware, that man is prone to sacrifice godliness to gain-that wealth is an insidious and inveterate enemy to religion; and, with an entire oblivion of self, these noble-minded prelates become absorbents of the poison, in quantities which would swell ten ordinary men up to the point of needle-eye impracticability. They relieve their flocks of burdens which would inevitably have crushed them, or at least hindered their progress, and they voluntarily risk their own safety for the salvation of those entrusted to their care.

- Quid non mortalia pectora cogis Auri sacra fames !”

Our enumeration of the various sources of ecclesiastical revenue would be incomplete without some reference to the public charities. A detailed account of their constitution and management would be incompatible with our present object; we shall, therefore, speak of them briefly and in general terms; but it should be noticed, that their history, faithfully written, would furnish an excellent commentary upon the qualifications and presumptuous claims of the clerical order to superintend and direct the education of the people. The public charities of this country are very numerous, and possess considerable property. Their ample endowments are the offspring of the private and public munificence of earlier times. Most of them were

founded previous to the Reformation, and with the noble design of promoting the general cultivation of philosophy and letters. As national institutions, they were accessible to all, without any distinction of class, and owing their origin partly to the conviction that human knowledge was progressive, all fruitful diligence in scientific research, and boldness of speculation, were duly encouraged and rewarded; they were, therefore, perfectly unsectarian. With a generous appreciation of the intellectual capabilities of the humbler classes, their founders determined that poverty should be no impediment to the pursuit of learning, and assigned in each case a liberal proportion of the funds for the support of

poor students. Such was the general character of these institutions, during the earlier period of their history. But they were soon perverted from their original intention by priestly power, and the pernicious changes introduced by its means were subsequently aggravated or confirmed by aristocratic legislation. For the last three centuries, the public charities have been entirely in the hands of the Church. A bishop's license is necessary for an appointment to the mastership of any grammar-school ; and no candidate can obtain this without subscribing

to the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion in the United Church of England and Ireland, and to the three articles of the thirty-sixth canon of 1603, and to all things contained in them ;” as well as claration of conformity to the United Church of England and Ireland, as is now by law established.” Like subscription is required of every student matriculating at Oxford ; and no one who refuses to attach his signature to propositions which he does not understand or cannot believe, is permitted to take degrees at any of the universities. The sacerdotal character of these institutions is notorious. The number of fellows at Oxford is 657; at Cambridge, 431. All these, within determinate periods after becoming masters of arts, are required to take priest's orders. All posts of emolument in our public charities are occupied by clergy; and it must be acknowledged that, as now administered, schools, colleges, and universities, are

a de

integral parts or subsidiary appendages of our great Ecclesiastical establishment. The annual income of these charities has been computed by Lord Brougham to be about £2,000,000. Full details of the nature, although not of the real value, of their property, are furnished in the reports of the Committee of Inquiry, which was engaged for fifteen years in ascertaining the actual condition of these institutions. If we include the universities, we shall be safe in estimating the annual value of the property appropriated to educational purposes at the sum above mentioned. According to a statement laid before the British Association for the Advancement of Science, by the Rev. H. L. Jones, M.A., Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, the united income of Oxford and Cambridge alone amounts to £741,000, All this, together with the property of 3,898 school charities, has been appropriated by the Church; and in the administration of their affairs, while professing an earnest anxiety to carry out the purposes of the original founders, it has constantly shown an unscrupulous disregard of their liberal and enlightened intentions. It has permitted offices of profitable service to be converted into lucrative sinecures ; thus conniving at the sacrifice of public advantage to private interest.

Our work is ended. We have carefully investigated all the sources of information within our reach, and have not wittingly hazarded any statement which was not warranted by premises. It is our conviction that the actual value of Church property is much more than would

appear from these calculations, which have been founded chiefly upon the returns or reluctant admissions of ecclesiastical persons. A lay commission, we repeat, will be requisite to ascertain its true amount, and this will come when the public mind is so far enlightened as to perceive that inviolability of conscience is essential to individual development; that State religion is incompatible with personal responsibility ; and that the righteousness which exalteth a nation can alone spring from the inward reception of Christian doctrine propagated by Christian means.

« EelmineJätka »