fident minifier, when even cathedrals are almoft defolate, and vifitations themselves conducted in a manner fo truly farcical, one would think them intended only for an exhibition in the Haymarket.

I am not without apprehenfions that this language may provoke fome, who prefer the pomp of a priest to the credit of a Chriftian. But I am under no uneafinefs; and am ready to defend myself under the cover of facts, fhould a fcalping party of Mohawks be fent out to punish me for my temerity.'

It must be acknowledged that the reprefentation here made and farther infifted on in the body of this work, has a tendency to excite refentment in ferious and upright minds, really concerned for the interest and honour of religion, and the welfare of mankind. Whether it be ftrictly fact that religion fuffers as much by the oppreffion of pluralities, under a Protestant, as ever it did, or more than ever it did, under a Popish prelacy,' is a point which we will not undertake to determine; nor does it appear to us that Mr. Pennington has difcufled it with fufficient precifion to establish the affertion, unless we ought to except what is faid concerning prebends and fome other prefer ments diftinguifhed by the name of dignities. However, without entering into this comparative view, it is too evident that there are in our Chriftian and Proteftant Church of England feveral practices of this fort, which loudly call for a reforma tion.

Ecclefiaftical history fhews us, that as the boundaries of the Church were enlarged, it foon degenerated from its primitive purity and excellence. Several perfons whofe ftations afforded. them a degree of power, and furnished them with opportunities of accumulating wealth and grandeur, were not negligent in improving them. As difputes and differences of opinion prevailed among Chriftians, it was thought requifite to appoint fynodical confultations of the fuperiors of different churches, to determine concerning thefe points; than which, generally speaking, nothing has proved more hurtful to the cause of truth, piety, and charity. The deputies who formed thefe affemblies, though no more than reprefentatives of the people, foon began to aflume, fome peculiar honour and authority, and it was judged neceflary alfo to make fome diftinctions of rank among them. This infatuating defire of fuperiority produced reflefs ambition; by which means, as convocations were enlarged, and general councils began to be appointed, eminent and fuper-eminent titles were created, till at length, as this Writer oblerves, that of Patriarch was thought of, in imitation of the Jews; and nothing less than an imaginary divifion of the world, Afia, Africa, or Europe, was fuficient for his Yupreme dignity.' But (it is added) even this extent of jurifdiction was inadequate to the

pride of a Roman Pontiff: he must truly be Bishop cecumenical, prince of Patriarchs, and abfolute fovereign of confederate Churches.'


The Spirit of pluralism, it is juftly remarked, began to fhew itfelf in the third century. Our Author briefly traces the progrefs of corruption in fucceeding times, according to the accounts which are given by F. Paul and Dr. Mofheim, till he comes to the time when benefices were firft inftituted, the precife period of which, he obferves, it is not eafy, perhaps not poffible, to fix: And, fays he, it is no great matter whether we know it exactly or not; being one of the cafes in which, as the celebrated Lord Bolingbroke remarks, I had rather be guilty of all the anachronisms of a Jewish chronologer than have my head filled with the learned Iumber of a modern antiquary.Let it be fuppofed then, without fcruple, that pluralities might have their real origin in the fixth century.'

Difpenfations, commendams, and other expedients of which the Reader may here find a fhort account, were employed by way of palliative for the enormity, and the canonifts were very dextrous at inventing fhifts and pretexts to evade the force of the injunctions that were formed for its fuppreffion. Clement Vil. was the famous Pope, who by the plenitude of his power brought pluralities to their confummation, making his nephew, Hippolito, Cardinal de Medicis, commendatary univerfal; being not afhamed to grant unto him all the vacant benefices in the world, whether fecular, regular, dignities, parfonages, fimple or with cure, for fix months, and appointing him ufufructuary from the first day of his poffeffion.'

Mr. Pennington proceeds to a more direct confideration of the rife and continuance of this evil in our own country. • It does not appear, he fays, at what period, or in what manner, pluralities were firft permitted in the English Church; but it is incontestable that abufes of this kind must have been committed before the council of London affembled by Archbishop Corbel, in which the famous Cardinal John de Crema prefided; for the twelfth canon ordains, That no one perfon fhall have two honours in the Church. By which title, benefices of any denɔmination may be meant, and confequently it is an exprefs prohibition of pluralities.'

Some Readers will ftill be at a lofs to know about what time this practice is fuppofed by our Author to have been introduced into the English Church: he should have obferved that the above council was affembled, as we apprehend to have been the cafe, towards the beginning of the twelfth century, or in the

year 1127.

But, he adds, the prohibition had no effect for the Popes being at this time in the zenith of their power, difpenfations X 3.


might be purchafed and pluralifts enabled to enjoy their acquifitions with full fecurity. And yet, to give the Devil his due, the Popes were extremely ready to cenfure the fimoniacal conduct of the Prelates and Clergy; as if they wanted nobody to be guilty of it but themselves. The truth is, they wanted to put every thing in every place in a way the most conducive to their own good. They were always willing, when properly applied to, that a plurality of benefices fhould be permitted; but they would not fail to take advantage of this very permiffion, when any particular exigency made it expedient for them.'

It is farther remarked that about this period, fome perfons were pluralifts without the requifite qualification, the papal authority; this our Author infers from the fpeech of Walter de Cantilupe, Bishop of Worcefter, which we are told he made in the council convened at London, by the legate Cardinal Otho; when pulling off his mitre, he spoke to this effect— "Holy Father, many perfons of quality and fashion, and like myfelf of noble blood, hold pluralities without difpenfation. Some of whom, having hitherto lived in a manner hospitable and magnificent fuitable to their fortunes, and being now advanced in years, it would be very hard to reduce to indigence by deprivation. Some, indeed, are young, but men of fpirit and bravery, who would run the last rifque rather than be reduced to a fingle benefice. I freely own that I have been my fclf of the fame opinion; and if I muft lofe one benefice, would lofe all. You fee the danger of rigorous difcipline; and let me beg of you to confult his Holiness, our Lord the Pope, before you proceed to extremities."

As the nature of our work will not allow us to follow this Writer regularly through his difquifitions upon this fubject, we fhall only add a few farther extracts; and these we shall take from his account of the ftate of things in England about the beginning of the fifteenth century.

The agents in that fcene of violence which closed the fourteenth century with the depofition and death of Richard the Second, feem to have diffeminated the feed of difcord with fo even a hand, that every part of the nation was really over-run with the briars and thorns of civil war for people of all forts and orders took a perfonal fhare in the public disturbances. The following age may well be diftinguished therefore as the moft bloody period in English hiftory: every conteft, political or religious, being carried on by both fides with the vindictive fpirit of favages. The perfons, who exclaimed against the corruptions in the Church, and went under the ignominious appellation of Lollards, were remarkable for their boldnefs and an invincible refolution; but let ecclefiaftics of equal zeal, and lefs fincerity, blame them; let their warmth be called fanati

cifm, and their courage the ferocity of furies; let them be proved by the cleareft metaphyfical logic the miffionaries of Satan for if ever the Devil did any good, it was when he sent them into the world; as your men of a meek fpirit would never have promoted the reformation with effect. But would it not be a fuppofition far too complaifant to imagine that the clergy of this age must be literally meek, because they inherited the earth? They were certainly as capable of committing cruelties as the Reformers were of enduring them; and if ever they attempted the falvation of Heretics, it was after a manner the moft horridly formidable, it was fo as by fire. Sir John Oldcaftle had the unhappy fortune to become an object of their fpiritual regards, and his malady was found to be irremoveable by the force of any medicine then in vogue. You'll fay, what could they do in fuch a cafe? I'll tell you what they did. They were unwilling to lofe their reputation as phyficians of the foul, and, like real empirics, had recourse to a desperate remedy to be drawn on a hurdle, and executed as a common felon, would have been punishment enough for him as an outlaw; but then his heterodoxy would not have had its due: he was therefore hung up as a traitor, but by the middle, left he fhould die too fooh, and not be burnt alive as a Heretic.'

After taking notice of the pride, avarice, and corruption of the clergy at that time, he thus proceeds: The nation was indeed fo much difcontented with the clergy for their negligence, that the Commons had complained in parliament fometime before, and prefented a petition to the Council of State, defiring that if any man of holy church, having cure of fouls, was abfent from his benefice fix weeks together, the benefice might become void but all the anfwer they could obtain was only this, that the laws in force were fufficient, and the Lords Spiritual had engaged they fhould be duly executed. This was mere evafion.-It muft feem aftonishing that ecclefiaftics durft fo grofly violate the laws, when they law that men of honeft and religious principles were fully determined by their repeated attempts to reform the corrupt difcipline of the Church.When they found their parliamentary petition for a redress of grievances had not the effect they hoped for, they were, fome of them, fo difpaffionately regular in their applications, notwithstanding the exclamations against the clergy daily encreased, that they refolved to try once more what fervice a general council could do them. But here again the fynodical decrees, as ufual, were rendered infignificant by the artifices of the canonifts and the power of the Popes; and corruption ftill continued to prevail, for benefices were ftill granted to perfons who were exempt from refidence, or to fuch as were incapable of performing parochial duties; and therefore, in many places,

X 4


there was no priest, or one not qualified for his office, so that the people wanting inftructors might well fall away to LOLLARDY; no hofpitality being maintained; no facraments duly adminiftered, not even the religious rites at funerals obferved. Such was the unhappy ftate of many a parish in this country during the remainder of the fifteenth century, and to the period of the Reformation. An infelicity evidently occafioned by nonrefidence. The Reformation, adds this Writer, is an epocha of high diftinction. The lovers of manly liberty, and rational religion in Europe, in America, in every region where commerce can make way for a free intercourfe, have the greatest reafon to magnify the mercy of Divine Providence, and efteem it the most fignal bleffing fince the birth of a Saviour. Englishmen in particular have every reafon to be grateful for fo advantageous, fo glorious an event: as no people had been more opprefied by the infolence and extortion of an arbitrary priesthood; nor had any people, at the very juncture, lefs probability of its accomplishment.'

It is well known that, under the direction of Henry VIII. the Commons foon proceeded to confider the ftate of the Church, and that bills were paffed against pluralities, nonrefidence, the farming of lands by churchmen, &c. which it is faid do, to this day, reftrain the pluralities and regulate the non-refidence of the English clergy. It may feem strange, obferves Mr. Pennington, that Pluralifts fhould be fond of an act against pluralities; and yet it is certain the great dignitaries of the Church, and the confiderable among the clergy, have always fhewn, when it was in any danger of a repeal, a moft remarkable predilection for this act of parliament.-At first indeed they dreaded it, like the faxifying face of Medusa, but they had no fooner feen it, than they were fuddenly overcome, as it were, with a fafcinating fmile, and really admired it very much for it was not even half fo terrible as the Vatican thunder its penalties were eafily eluded; and it was every way as harmless as a fynodical decree.

It is very plain from this act, which is faid to be against pluralities, that the grievance itself was never intended to be redrefled. It might indeed be very proper to pretend fo, on feveral accounts: but if there had been any fuch design, it seems very ftrange that fo many conditions fhould be provided as qualifications for evafion.-Many canons and decrees had been made before to restrain the abufe; but this being all their aim, they never answered the purpofe. And the reafon was obvious: difpenfations always prevented them. Why were they then permitted any longer? Does it make any fort of difference whether a bad cuftom is continued under the authority of a King, a Pope, or the Dhala Lama of Tartary? The prohibition of pluralities


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