Page images
PDF
EPUB

cese.

and what they are strictly bound to perform. Thus some livings have no house or glebe, nor any convenient house within the district; whilst others have only a cottage so mean as to afford not any conveniences to the rector or his family. The question is, what is to be done in these cases? The law does not bind to impossibilities; and therefore Lord Coke, in the sixth Report, says that the want of a house is an excuse for non-residence; for impotentia excusat legem. Whether this opinion be law, and how far the reason of it goes, will be considered.

Originally the bishop and his clergy lived together according to the rules laid down in the ancient canons; and in what part soever of the diocese a presbyter was, by order of his bishop, he was, properly speaking, resident on his cure : moreover in those canons the word parish is used to signify a dio

In this case then the relation which the clergy had to their bishop and to the people, did not depend on their having

their flocks. But as Christianity spread and believers multiplied, the old method was found very inconvenient: therefore lords of manors, &c, were encouraged to erect churches on their lands; and the bishop for this purpose yielded part of his right to such founders, permitting them to name the incumbent, but reserving to himself the power of judging of his qualification : this the origin of lay patronage : moreover it appears that a parochial church could not be consecrated until provision was made for a house and glebe.

Now this change in the outward face of the diocese was necessarily followed by a change of discipline; and this again introduced into the law of the church a new notion of residence, that is, of legal residence, which implies living and abiding not only in the parish, but in the very glebe house itself. The reason of this dilated on, showing its utility and equity; since,

houses among

if the founders of churches were obliged to build houses for the ministers, it was but equitable that the latter should keep them in repair; and the surest way to effect this was to oblige them to live in them.

The case of those considered who have no glebe houses, They are certainly appointed by the bishop to take care of their particular parishes, and are in this respect under the same obligation to residence that the clergy anciently were before the division of parishes; except that they are now fixed to one parish, and cannot be removed without their own consent. But this makes no difference in their obligation to residence, which must be as near to their flocks as conveniently can be ; for though the want of a habitation may be a reason for refusing the living, it cannot be an excuse for neglect of the duty, which was undertaken at the same time.

The case of those whose houses are in a mean condition differs much from the above; for here the reason of the law, which requires strict residence, must be considered. The main thing aimed at by it, is the keeping the houses in good repair; and if at present there be many in a mean state, this arises chiefly from neglect of the law: this point enlarged on.

Consideration of the means which may be reasonably attempted towards retrieving this evil. Recommendation to incumbents to comply with the injunctions of Edw. VI. 1547. and of Eliz, 1559. to set aside a portion of their revenue yearly for repairs. If it be asked whether the ordinary can by law compel incumbents to submit to this, it is answered that he cannot; but he may say, if you like the house as it is you must live in it: and this condition, if accepted, will answer all purposes ; though in many cases it would be a greater hardship han the other measure.

It is but too evident that many of the clergy have so poor a maintenance for themselves and families, that they have nothing to spare for this improvement: probably, however, the poorness

of many livings is in a great measure owing to the want of a convenient habitation ; which forces the incumbent to compound for what he can get of his dues.

All incumbents then being obliged to continual residence, the law has provided for some extraordinary cases; but when it has not, they must be left to the general reason of the thing, and the judgment of the ordinary.

But supposing all circumstances to meet that may make it reasonable and proper for him to grant a dispensation, yet there are certain conditions which must be observed.

Every beneficed man licenced not to reside on his benefice, must have a curate: see canons of 1603; and such curate must have sufficient ability to discharge the duty, and sufficient maintenance to support him in it. In both these cases the ordinary is made the judge. Concluding observations on both, A CHARGE

DELIVERED TO THE CLERGY AT A VISITATION HELD FOR

THE DIOCESE OF LONDON, IN THE YEAR 1759.

MY REVEREND BRETHREN, The relation I bear to you makes it necessary for me on this occasion to remind you, (though of yourselves I trust not unmindful,) of the duty incumbent on you as ministers of the gospel of Christ.

To go through the several parts of the pastoral office would require more time than can be allowed for it at present: I shall therefore contine myself to such particulars as seem, in the present circumstances of things, to require our more immediate attention.

The duties of the pastoral office are to be learned from the general rules and directions of the gospel, and the nature of the office as there described ; and in the exercise of these duties we must govern ourselves by the particular laws and constitutions of this Christian church and kingdom, of which we are members. These are the lights by which we must walk : and I shall consider the duties which fall within the compass of my present design, as they flow from the nature of your office, and the precepts of the gospel, and as they are adjusted and inforced by the laws of this church and kingdom.

The first thing and the only one I shall now mention to you, is the obligation you are under to a constant attendance on your several cures : I mention it first, because it is the foundation of all other duties, and it would be absurd to speak of any other without presupposing this.

This duty arises by necessary consequence from the nature of the office which you have undertaken. The ministers of the

6

gospel are' ambassadors of Christ, to exhort and pray

the

people in his stead to be reconciled to God :' they are overseers of the flock,' and bound to · feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood : they are ministers and stewards of the mysteries of God,' and, it is required of them that they be found faithful: they are watchmen for the souls of those committed to their care, and must give account to Him who is ready to judge the quick and dead.

Tell me now which of these duties can be discharged by one who absents himself from his cure ? Can

you

deliver the message of Christ, as his ambassador, to persons to whom you have no access ? Can you oversee the flock, or feed the church, which you have forsaken ? Can you dispense the mysteries of God to those whom you neither see nor speak to ? Or can you watch for their souls, to whose persons, as well as to their spiritual wants, you are a stranger?

Attendance on the flock or people of Christ does so naturally follow from these descriptions of the pastoral office, that there could be no occasion to mention it as a distinct and particular duty. Were you to agree with a pilot to conduct a ship to the East Indies, it would be almost absurd to add, as a particular covenant, that he should reside in the ship during the voyage ; since without it he could not possibly fulfil the essential part of the contract, of conducting the ship to port. The case is the very same in your office : when you accept of a cure, you are as much bound to reside among the people committed to your care, as the pilot is to abide in the ship which he has undertaken to manage and conduct: for this reason the canonists generally hold that residence is jure divino naturali, meaning that it is a duty deducible from the divine law by a natural and necessary consequence.

This duty, with respect to the substance of it, has been invariably the same in all times of the church : the essential part is a personal attendance on the discharge of the pastoral office : so far there has been no change. But the circumstances of the duty have varied according to the different settlements and provisions made for the preachers of the gospel in different times. In early times the clergy lived with their bishop in the city of the diocese, and were sent, as occasion required, to in

« PreviousContinue »