Page images
PDF
EPUB

Tracts of the British Anti-state-church Association.

[blocks in formation]

“Take these things hence ; make not my Father's house
a house of merchandise.”—John iii. 16.

LONDON:

PUBLISHED FOR THE BRITISH ANTI-STATE-CHURCH ASSOCIATION, AT
ITS OFFICES, 4, CRESCENT, BRIDGE-STREET, BLACKFRIARS.

1850.

Price Fourpence.

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

LONDON : MIALL AND COCKSHAW, PRINTERS, HORSE-SHOE-COURT, LUDGATE-HILL,

CHURCH PROPERTY AND REVENUES.

It is the object of the present tract to determine, as nearly as circumstances will allow, the actual amount of the ecclesiastical revenues of this country, and to in. dicate the various sources from which they are derived. Such an attempt is just now both seasonable and necessary. The public mind has been to a large extent influenced by the arguments in favour of religious emancipation, deducible from the nature and spirit of Christianity, as well as from just views of the proper design of civil government; and we now require not so much to persuade men of the desirableness of the object we seek, as to convince them of its practicability, and to point out the mode by which it may be effected. The time has come when we must deal more largely with details. The nature and amount of Church property must be carefully ascertained; that when it is resumed for strictly national purposes, the rights of individuals may be scrupulously respected.

This is nothing more than might have been expected. An establishment is merely a machinery constructed by government for the ostensible purpose of inculcating religious truth. A state endowment is essential to its existence. The funds devoted to its use constitute the motive and regulating power by which it is animated and controlled. The stipendiary allowances, varying in amount and manner of payment, are so many invisible pulleys by which the different agencies employed are brought into action, and all parts of the machine kept stationary or in motion as suits the purposes of those who take charge of its management. This is precisely the point of view in which the Establishment has been regarded by our statesmen. If their pious solicitude be excited by the spiritual destitution of the people, they supply the want by grants of money for the erection of new churches and the endowment of additional ministers. Should gravitating influences sometimes so prevail as to dispose the Church to slothfulness ; should its dignitaries, oppressed with the care of all the churches, like old Jupiter seated on Olympus, occasionally indulge in slumber: these temporary suspensions of spiritual activity are punished, it may be, by some curtailment of episcopal revenue. Should the progress of dissent occasion alarm, and the mediocrity of attainment among the inferior clergy provoke dissatisfaction and comment, the parliamentary remedy for such evils consists in assigning a higher value to the lesser prizes in the ecclesiastical lottery. Thus the hereditary and representative wisdom of the nation has unequivocally declared, that all the objects for which the Establishment has been designed, may be secured by financial arrangements adapted to each class; and to this conviction we are indebted for the multifarious reports on ecclesiastical affairs, which have issued from Parliament within the last twenty years, as well as for the appointment of the several Ecclesiastical Commissions which, at enormous expense, have been sedulously engaged in superintending and re-distributing the whole of the property devoted to religious purposes, as also in the multiplication of new churches and of well-salaried spiritual functionaries, with a view to restore the Establishment to a condition of perfect efficiency, and to remove symptoms of weakness and decay wherever they may have appeared.

It would seem, therefore, that those who maintain the union of Church and State to be unjust and pernicious, propound no novel doctrine as to the nature of the connexion subsisting between them. Assuming the truth of this doctrine, they are under an obvious necessity of entering on the inquiry in which we are now engaged. As wise men, they will calculate the

magnitude of the work which they have undertaken ; and a tolerably correct estimate of the labour before them may be formed from an accurate measurement of the pecuniary resources which have been bestowed on the Church. A prosperous Establishment, that is, a Church which has been endowed with a large portion of national property, commands the means not merely of defence, but of aggression, and they who assail it must count the cost. It will not lightly part with what it has acquired; and religion, rectitude, and enlightened policy, will plead in vain until it is compelled to submit to the justice of their demands.

Now it has been a matter of no slight difficulty to ascertain, with exactness, the total amount of ecclesiastical revenue. The parties in the secret have been, for obvious reasons, the most reluctant to afford any information about it, and the sources of income are so numerous and distinct, that a careful scrutiny of them involves a considerable amount of labour. Undismayed, however, by the obstacles with which all inquiry was beset, many have attempted to gauge the pecuniary capacity of the great ecclesiastical reservoir with such instruments and appliances as were to be had. The calculations, though founded upon independent data, generally led to results closely approximate; and if they were at all chargeable with exaggeration, the Church had itself to thank for the erroneous statements, since by studied concealment it withheld the means of rectify. ing such mistakes as might be unwarily committed.

But if errors of excess were chargeable to one side, the Church was not altogether guiltless of errors of an opposite character. It has shown a wonderful proneness to underrate its resources whenever the imputation of excessive wealth might have proved inconvenient. For example, -About sixty years since, Dr. Watson, Bishop of Llandaff, strenuously insisted upon the poverty of the Church. He thus wrote, in a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury :-" The revenue of the Church of England is not, I think, well understood in general-at least, I have met with a great many sensible men, of all professions and ranks, who did not understand it. They have expressed a surprise, bordering

B

« EelmineJätka »