Whatsoever may be the practice of any among us, and whatsoever may be the force of some Laws that were made in bad times, and perhaps upon bad ends, yet we are sure the Sense of our Church is very different; She intended to raise the obligation of the Pastoral Care higher than it was before: and has laid out this matter more fully and more strictly, than any Church ever did, in any Age; as far at least as my Enquiries can carry me. The truest Indication of the Sense of a Church is to be taken from her Language, in her Public Offices: This is that which she speaks the most frequently, and the most publicly: even the Articles of Doctrine are not so much read and so often heard, as her Liturgies are: and as this way of Reasoning has been of late made use of with great advantage, against the Church of Rome, to make her accountable, for all her Public Offices in their plain and literal meaning; so I will make use of it on this occasion: It is the stronger in our case, whose Offices being in a Tongue understood by the people, the Argument from them does more evidently conclude here.
In general then this is to be observed, that no Church before ours, at the Reformation, took a formal Sponsion at the Altar, from such as were ordained Deacons and Priests. That was indeed always demanded of Bishops, but neither in the Roman nor Greek Pontifical, do we find any such solemn Vows and Promises demanded or made by Priests or Deacons, nor does any print of this appear in the Constitutions, the pretended Areopagite, or the ancient Canons of the Church. Bishops were asked many questions, as appears by the first Canon of the fourth Council of Carthage.
They were required to profess their Faith, and to promise to obey the Canons, which is still observed in the Greek Church. The questions are more express in the Roman Pontifical, and the first of these demands a promise that they will instruct their people in the Christian Doctrine, according to the Holy Scriptures: which was the Foundation upon which our Bishops justified the Reformation; Since the first and chief of all their Vows binding them to this, it was to take place of all others; and if any other parts of those Sponsions, contradicted this, such as their Obedience and Adherence to the See of Rome, they said that these were to be limited by this.
All the account I can give of this general practice of the Church in demanding Promises only of Bishops, and not of the other Orders is this, that they considered the Government of the Priests and Deacons, as a thing that was so entirely in the Bishop, as it was indeed by the first Constitution, that it was not thought necessary to bind them to their Duty by any Public Vows or Promises (though it is very probable that the Bishops might take private engagements of them, before they ordained them) it being in the Bishop's power to Restrain and Censure them in a very Absolute and Summary way. But the case was quite different in Bishops, who were all equal by their Rank and Order: None having any Authority over them, by any Divine Law or the Rules of the Gospel: the power of Primates, and Metropolitans having arisen out of Ecclesiastical and Civil Laws, and not being equally great in all Countries and Provinces: and therefore it was more necessary to proceed with greater caution, and to demand a further security from them.
But the new face of the Constitution of the Church, by which Priests were not under so absolute a subjection to their Bishops, as they had been at first, which was occasioned partly, by the Tyranny of some Bishops, to which bounds were set by Laws and Canons, partly by their having a special Property and Benefice of their own, and so not being maintained by a Dividend out of the common-stock of the Church as at first; had so altered the state of things, that indeed no part of the Episcopacy was left entirely in the Bishop's hands, but the power of Ordination. This is still free and unrestrained: no Writs, nor Prohibitions from Civil Courts; and no Appeals have clogged or fettered this, as they have done all the other parts of their Authority. Therefore our Reformers observing all Office of Ordination, and they made both the Charge that is given, and the Promises that are to be taken, to be very express and solemn, that so both the Ordainers and the Ordained might be rightly instructed in their Duty and struck with the awe and dread, that they ought to be under in so holy and so important a performance: and though all mankind does easily enough agree in this, That Promises ought to be Religiously observed, which men make to one another, how apt soever they may be to break them; yet to make the sense of these Promises go deeper, they are ordered to be made at the Altar, and in the nature of a Stipulation or Covenant, the Church conferring Orders, or indeed rather, Christ by the Ministry of the Officers that he has constituted, conferring them upon those Promises that are first made. The Forms of Ordination in the Greek Church, which we have reason to believe are less changed, and more conform to the Primitive patterns, than those used by the Latins, do plainly import that the Church only declared the Divine Vocation. The Grace of God, that perfects the feeble, and heals the weak, promotes this man to be a Deacon, a Priest or a Bishop: Where nothing is expressed as conferred but only as declared, so our Church by making our Saviour's words, the form of Ordination, must be construed to intend, by that that it is Christ only that sends, and that the Bishops are only his Ministers to pronounce his Mission; otherwise it is not so easy to justify the use of this Form, Receive the Holy Ghost: which as it was not used in the Primitive Church nor by the Roman, till within these five Hundred Years, so in that Church, it is not the Form of Ordination but a Benediction given by the Bishop singly, after the Orders are given by the Bishop and the other Priests joining with him. For this is done by him alone as the final consummation of the Action. But our using this as the form of Ordination shows, that we consider our selves only as the Instruments that speak in Christ's Name and Words: Insinuating thereby that he only Ordains. Pursuant to this in the Ordaining of Priests, the questions are put in the name of God and of his Church. Which makes the answers to them to be of the nature of Vows and Oaths. So that if men do make conscience of any thing, and if it is possible to strike terror into them, the Forms of our Ordinations are the most effectually contrived for that end that could have been framed.
The first question that is put in the Office of Deacons, is, Do you trust that you are inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost to take upon you this Office, to serve God for the promoting of his Glory, and the edifying of his people? To which he is to answer I trust so. This is put only in this Office, and not repeated afterwards: it being justly supposed that where one has had this motion, all the other Orders may be in time conferred pursuant to it; but this is the first step, by which a Man dedicates himself to the Service of God; and therefore it ought not to be made by any, that has not this Divine Vocation. Certainly, the Answer that is made to this, ought to be well considered; for if any says, I trust so, that yet knows nothing of any such motion, and can give no account of it, he lies to the Holy Ghost; and makes his first approach to the Altar, with a lie in his Mouth; and that not to Men, but to God; and how can one expect to be received by God, or be sent and sealed by him, that dares do a thing of so crying a Nature, as to pretend that he trusts he has this motion, who knows that he has it not, who has made no Reflections on it, and when asked, what he means by it, can say nothing concerning it, and yet he dares venture to come and say it to God and his Church: If a Man pretends a Commission from a Prince, or indeed from any Person, and acts in his Name upon it, the Law will fall on him, and punish him, and shall the Great God of Heaven and Earth, be thus vouched, and his motion he pretended to, by those whom he has neither called nor sent? and shall not he reckon with those who dare to run without his Mission, pretending that they trust they have it, when perhaps they understand not the Importance of it, nay, and perhaps some laugh at it, as an Enthusiastical Question, who, yet will go through with the Office? They come to Christ for the Loaves: They hope to live by the Altar, and the Gospel, how little soever they serve at the one, or Preach the other; therefore they will say any thing, that is necessary for qualifying them to this whether true or false. It cannot be denied, but that this Question carries a sound in it, that seems a little too high, and that may rather raise Scruples, as importing somewhat that is not ordinary, and that seems to savour of Enthusiasm; and therefore it was put here, without doubt, to give great caution to such as come to the Service of the Church; many may be able to answer it truly according to the Sense of the Church, who may yet have great doubting in themselves concerning it; but every Man that has it not, must needs know that he has it not.
The true meaning of it must be resolved thus; the Motives that ought to determine a Man, to dedicate himself to the Ministering in the Church, are a Zeal for promoting the Glory of God, for raising the Honour of the Christian Religion, for the making it to be better understood, and more submitted to. He that loves it, and feels the excellency of it in himself, that has a due Sense of God's goodness in it to Mankind, and that is entirely possessed with that, will feel a Zeal within himself, for communicating that to others; that so the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he has sent, may be more universally glorified, and served by his Creatures: And when to this he has added a concern of the Souls for Men, a Tenderness for them, a Zeal to rescue them from endless Misery, and a desire to put them in the way to everlasting Happiness, and from these Motives feels in himself a desire to dedicate his Life and Labours to those ends; and in order to them studies to understand the Scriptures, and more particularly, the New Testament, that from thence he may form a true Notion of this Holy Religion, and so be an able Minister of it; this Man, and only this Man, so moved and so qualified, can in Truth, and with a good Conscience answer, that he trusts he is inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost. And every one that ventures on the saying it, without this, is a Sacrilegious profaner of the Name of God, and of his Holy Spirit. He breaks in upon his Church, not to feed it but to rob it: And it is certain that he who begins with a Lie, may be sent by the Father of Lies, but he cannot be thought to enter in, by the Door, who prevaricates in the first word that he says in order to his Admittance.
But if the Office of Deacons offers no other particular matter of Reflection, the Office of Ordaining Priests, has a great deal; indeed the whole of it, is calculated to the best Notions of the best Times. In the Charge that is given, the Figures of Watchmen, Shepherds, and Stewards, are pursued, and the places of Scripture relating to these are applied to them: They are required to have always printed in their Remembrance; How great a Treasure was committed to their Charge: The Church and Congregation whom you must serve is his Spouse and Body. Then the greatness of the fault of their Negligence, and the horrible Punishment that will follow upon it, is set before them, in case the Church or any Member of it take any hurt or hindrance by reason of it: They are charged never to cease their Labour, Care and Diligence, till they have done all that lieth in them, according to their bounden Duty, towards all such, as are, or shall be committed to their Care, to bring them to a Ripeness and Perfectness of Age in Christ. They are again urged to consider with what care and study, they ought to apply themselves to this; to pray earnestly for Gods Holy Spirit, and to be studious in Reading and Learning of the Scriptures; and to forsake and set aside, as much as they may, all Worldly Cares and Studies. It is hoped that they have clearly determined by Gods Grace, to give themselves wholly to this Vocation: and as much as lieth in them to apply themselves wholly to this one thing; and to draw all their Cares and Studies this way, and to this end; and that by their daily reading and weighing the Scriptures, they will study to wax riper and stronger in their Ministry. These are some of the words of the preparatory Charge given by the Bishop, when he enters upon this Office; before he puts the questions that follow to those, who are to be ordained. What greater force or energy could be put in Words, than is in these? Or where could any be found that are more weighty and more express; to show the entire Dedication of the whole Man, of his Time and Labours, and the separating himself from all other Cares to follow this one thing with all possible Application and Zeal? There is nothing in any Office, Ancient or Modern, that I ever saw which is of this force, so serious and so solemn; and it plainly implies not only the Sense of the Church upon this whole matter, but likewise their design who framed it, to oblige Priests, notwithstanding any Relaxation that the Laws of the Land had still favoured, by the firmest and sacredest bonds possible to attend upon their Flocks; and to do their Duties to them. For a bare Residence, without labouring, is but a mock Residence, since the obligation to it, is in order to a further end; that they may watch over, and feed their Flock, and not enjoy their Benefices only as Farms, or as Livings, according to the gross, but common abuse of our Language, by which the Names of Cures, Parishes, or Benefices, which are the Ecclesiastical Names, are now swallowed up into that of Living, which carries a carnal Idea in the very sound of the word, and I doubt a more carnal effect on the minds of both Clergy and Laity.
What ever we may be, our Church is free of this Reproach: since this Charge carries their Duty as high, and as home, as any thing that can be laid in Words. And it is further to be considered, that this is not of the Nature of a private Exhortation, in which a Man of lively thoughts, and a warm fancy, may be apt to carry a point too high: It is the constant and uniform voice of the Church. Nor is it of the nature of a Charge, which is only the Sense of him that gives it, and to which the Person to whom it is given, is only Passive: He hears it, but cannot be bound by another Man's Thoughts or Words, further than as the Nature of things binds him. But Orders are of the nature of a Covenant between Christ and the Clerks; in which so many Privileges and Powers are granted on the one part, and so many Duties and Offices are promised on the other; and this Charge being the Preface to it, it is stipulatory. It declares the whole Covenant of both sides; and so those who receive Orders upon it, are as much bound by every part of it, and it becomes as much their own Act, as if they had pronounced or promised it all, in the most formal Words that could be, and indeed the Answers and Promises that are afterwards made, are only the Application of this, to the particular Persons, for giving them a plainer and livelier Sense of their Obligation, which yet, in it self, was as entire and strong, whether they had made any promise by Words of their own or not.
But to put the matter out of doubt, let us look a little further into the Office, to the Promises that they make, with relation to their Flock, even to such as are, or shall be committed to their Charge. They promise, That by the Help of the Lord they will give their Faithful Diligence, always so to Minister the Doctrine and Sacraments, and the Discipline of Christ, as the Lord hath commanded, and as this Realm hath received the same, according to the Commandment of God; so that they may teach the People committed to their Care and Charge with all Diligence to keep and observe the same. This does plainly bind to personal Labour, the mention that is made of what this Realm has received, being limited by what follows according to the commandment of God, shows that by this is meant the Reformation of the Doctrine and Worship that was then received, and established by Law; by which these general Words, The Doctrine and Sacraments and Discipline of Christ, to which all Parties pretend, are determined to our Constitution; so that though there were some Disorders among us, not yet provided against by the Laws of the Land; this does not secure a reserve for them. This is so slight a remark, that I should be ashamed to have made it, if it had not been urged to my self, slight as it is, to justify in point of Conscience, the claiming all such Privileges, or Qualifications, as are still allowed by Law. But I go on to the other Promises: The Clerk says he will, by the help of God, be ready with all Faithful Diligence, to banish and drive away all erroneous and strange Doctrines, contrary to God's Word, and to use both public and private Admonitions, and Exhortations, as well to the sick, as to the whole, within his Cure, as need shall require, and as occasion shall be given: This is as plainly personal, and constant, as Words can make any thing. And in this is expressed the so much neglected, but so necessary Duty, which Incumbents owe their Flock, in a private way, visiting, instructing, and admonishing them, which is one of the most useful, and important parts of their Duty, how generally soever it may be disused or forgotten: These being the chief instances and acts of watching over and feeding the Flock, that is committed to their Care. In the next place they promise, That they will be diligent in Prayers, and in reading of the Holy Scriptures, and in such Studies as help to the Knowledge of the same, laying aside, the study of the World and the Flesh: This still carries on that great Notion of the Pastoral Care, which runs through this whole Office; that it is to be a Man's entire Business, and is to possess both his thoughts and his time. They do further promise That they will maintain, and set forward, as much as lieth in them, quietness, peace, and love among all Christian People, and especially among them, that are, or shall be committed to their Charge.
These are the Vows and Promises that Priests make before they can be Ordained: And to complete the Stipulation, the Bishop concludes it, with a Prayer to God who has given them the will to do all these things, to give them also strength, and power to perform the same: that he may accomplish his Work, which he hath begun in them, until the time that he shall come, at the latter day, to judge the quick and the dead. Upon the whole matter either this is all a piece of gross and impudent Pageantry, dressed up in grave and lofty Expressions, to strike upon the weaker part of Mankind, and to furnish the rest with matter to their profane and impious Scorn; or it must be confessed that Priests come under the most formal and express Engagements, to constant and diligent labour, that can be possibly contrived or set forth in Words. It is upon this, that they are Ordained: So their Ordination being the consummation of this compact, it must be acknowledged that according to the nature of all mutual compacts; a total failure on the one side, does also dissolve all the Obligation that lay on the other: And therefore those who do not perform their part, that do not Reside and Labour, they do also in the sight of God, forfeit all the Authority and Privileges that do follow their Orders, as much as a Christian at large, that does not perform his Baptismal Vow, forfeits the Rights and Benefits of his Baptism, in the sight of God; though both in the one, and in the other, it is necessary that for the preventing of disorder and confusion, a Sentence Declaratory of Excommunication, in the one, as of Degradation in the other, pass before the Visible Acts and Rights, pursuant to those Rites, can be denied.
To all this I will add one thing more, which is, that since our Book of Ordination, is a part of our Liturgy, and likewise a part of the Law of the Land, and since constant Attendance, and diligent Labour is made necessary by it, and since this Law is subsequent to the Act of the 21st. of Henry the 8th. that qualifies so many for Pluralities, and Non-Residence, and is in plain Terms contrary to it, this as subsequent does repeal all that it contradicts: It is upon all this, a matter that to me seems plain, that by this Law, the other is Repealed, in so far, as it is inconsistent with it. This Argument is by this Consideration made the stronger, that the Act of King Henry does not enact that such things shall be, but only reserves privileges for such as may be capable of an Exemption from the common and general rules. Now by the Principles of Law, all Privileges or Exemptions of that sort, are odious things; and the Constructions of Law lying hard and heavy against odious Cases, it appears to me according to the general grounds of Law, very probable (I speak within bounds, when I say only probable) that the Act of Uniformity which makes the Offices of Ordination a part of the Law of England, is a Repeal of that part of the Act of King Henry, which qualifies for Pluralities. To conclude, Whatsoever may be the strength of this Plea in Bar to that Act, if our Faith given to God and his Church, in the most express and plainest words possible, does bind, if Promises given at the Altar do oblige, and if a Stipulation, in the consideration of which Orders are given, is sacred and of an indispensable obligation, then, I am sure, this is.
To make the whole matter yet the stronger, this Office is to be completed with a Communion: So that upon this occasion, that is not only a piece of Religious Devotion, accompanying it; but it is the taking the Sacrament upon the Stipulation that has been made, between the Priest and the Church: So that those who have framed this Office, have certainly intended by all the ways that they could think on, and by the weightiest words they could choose, to make the sense of the Priestly Function, and of the Duties belonging to it, give deep and strong impressions to such as are Ordained. I have compared with it, all the Exhortations that are in all the Offices I could find, Ancient and Modern, whether of the Greek or the Latin Church, and this must be said of Ours, without any sort of partiality to our own Forms, that no sort of comparison can be made between Ours and all the others: and that as much as ours is more simple than those as to its Rites and Ceremonies, which swell up other Offices, so much is it more grave and weighty in the Exhortations, Collects and Sponsions that are made in it. In the Roman Pontifical no promises are demanded of Priests, but only that of Obedience: Bishops in a corrupted state of the Church, taking care only of their own Authority, while they neglected more important obligations.
In the Office of Consecrating Bishops; as all the Sponsions made by them, when they were ordained Priests, are to be considered as still binding, since the Inferior Office does still subsist in the Superior; so there are new ones superadded, proportioned to the exaltation of Dignity and Authority that accompanies that Office. In the Roman Pontifical, there are indeed questions put to a Bishop, before he is Consecrated: but of all these the first only is that which has any relation to his Flock: which is in these words: Wilt thou teach the people over whom thou art to be set, both by thy Example and Doctrine: those things that thou learnst out of the Holy Scripture? All the rest are general, and relate only to his Conversation; but not at all to his Labours in his Diocese: Whereas on the contrary, the engagements in our Office do regard not only a Bishop's own Conversation, but chiefly his Duty to his People: he declares that he is determined to instruct the People committed to his Charge, out of the Holy Scriptures: That he will study them, so as to be able by them, to teach and exhort, with wholesome Doctrine; and withstand and convince the Gain-sayers: That he will be ready with all faithful Diligence, to banish and drive away all erroneous and strange Doctrine, contrary to God's word: And both privately and openly to call upon and encourage others to the same: That he will maintain and set forward as much as lies in him; quietness, love, and peace among all Men; and correct and punish such as be unquiet, disobedient, and criminous, within his Diocese: According to such Authority as he has. In particular, He promises to be Faithful in ordaining, sending, or laying Hands upon others: He promises also to show himself to be gentle, and merciful for Christ's sake, to poor and needy People, and to all Strangers destitute of Help. These are the Covenants and Promises under which Bishops are put, which are again reinforced upon them, in the Charge that is given immediately after their Consecration, when the Bible is put in their Hands; Give heed to Reading, Exhortation, and Doctrine: Think upon the things contained in this Book; be diligent in them, that the increase coming thereby may be manifest unto all Men. Take heed unto thy Self, and to Doctrine, and be diligent in doing them, for by doing this thou shalt both save thy self and them that hear thee. Be thou to the Flock of Christ, a Shepherd, not a Wolf; feed them, devour them not: Hold up the weak, heal the sick, bind up the broken, bring again the out-casts, seek the lost: Be so merciful that you be not too remiss: So Minister Discipline that you forget not Mercy: That when the chief Shepherd shall appear, you may receive the never fading Crown of Glory, through Jesus Christ our Lord. In these Words, the great Lines of our Duty are drawn, in very expressive and comprehensive Terms. We have the several Branches of our Function, both as to Preaching and Governing very solemnly laid upon us: And both in this Office as well as in all the other Offices that I have seen, it appears that the constant sense of all Churches, in all Ages, has been that Preaching was the Bishops great Duty, and that he ought to lay himself out in it most particularly.
I shall only add one advice to all this, before I leave this Article of the Sense of our Church in this matter; both to those, who intend to take Orders, and to those who have already taken them. As for such as do intend to dedicate themselves to the service of the Church, they ought to read over these Offices frequently; and to ask themselves solemnly, as in the presence of God, Whether they can with a good Conscience, make those answers which the Book prescribes, or not? and not to venture on offering themselves to Orders, till they know that they dare and may safely do it. Every person who looks that way, ought at least on every Ordination Sunday, after he has once formed the resolution of dedicating himself to this work, to go over the Office seriously with himself, and to consider in what disposition or preparation of mind he is; suitable to what he finds laid down in it. But I should add to this, that for a Year before he comes to be ordained, he should every first Sunday of the Month read over the Office very deliberately; and frame resolutions, conform to the several parts of it, and if he can, receive the Sacrament upon it, with a special set of private Devotions relating to his intentions. As the time of his Ordination draws near, he ought to return the oftener to those exercises. It will be no hard task for him to read these over every Sunday, during the last Quarter before his Ordination; and to do that yet more solemnly, every day of the week in which he is to be ordained: and to join a greater earnestness of fasting and prayer with it on the Fast-days of his Ember Week.
Here is no hard imposition. The performance is as easy in it self, as it will be successful in its effects. If I did not consider, rather what the Age can bear, than what were to be wished for, I would add a great many severe Rules calculated to the Notions of the Primitive times. But if this advice were put in practice, it is to be hoped, that it would set back many who come to be ordained, without considering duly, either what it is that they ask, or what it is that is to be asked of them: which some do with so supine a negligence, that we plainly see that they have not so much as read the Office, or at least that they have done it in so slight a manner, that they have formed no clear Notions upon any part of it, and least of all, upon those parts to which they themselves are to make answers. And as such a method as I have proposed would probably strike some with a due awe of Divine matters, so as to keep them at a distance, till they were in some sort prepared for them; so it would oblige such as came to it, to bring along with them a serious temper of mind, and such a preparation of soul as might make that their Orders should be a blessing to them, as well as they themselves should be a blessing to the Church. It must be the greatest joy of a Bishops life, who truly minds his duty in this weighty trust of sending out Labourers into Gods Vineyard; to Ordain such persons of whom he has just grounds to hope, that they shall do their duty, faithfully, in reaping that Harvest. He reckons these as his Children indeed, who are to be his strength and support, his fellow Labourers and Helpers, his Crown and his Glory. But on the other hand, how heavy a part of his Office must it be to Ordain those against whom, perhaps there lies no just objection, so that according to the Constitution and Rules of the Church, he cannot deny them; and yet he sees nothing in them that gives him courage or cheerfulness. They do not seem to have that love to God, that zeal for Christ, that tenderness for souls, that meekness and humility, that mortification and deadness to the world, that becomes the Character and Profession which they undertake; so that his heart fails him, and his hands tremble when he goes to Ordain them.
My next advice shall be to those, who are already in Orders, that they will at least four times a year, on the Ordination Sundays, read over the Offices of the Degrees of the Church in which they are: and will particularly consider the Charge that was given, and the Answers that were made by them; and then ask themselves as before God, who will Judge them at the Great-day, upon their Religious performance of them, whether they have been true to them or not that so they may humble themselves for their Errors, and Omissions, and may renew their Vows for the future, and so to be going on from Quarter to Quarter, through the whole course of their Ministry observing still what ground they gain, and what progress they make, to such as have a right Sense of their Duty, this will be no hard performance. It will give a vast joy to those that can go through it with some measure of assurance, and find, that though in the midst of many temptations and of much weakness, they are sincerely and seriously going on in their work to the best of their skill, and to the utmost of their power: So that their Consciences say within them, and that without the partialities of self love and flattery, Well done, good and faithful servant. The hearing of this said within, upon true grounds, being the certainest Evidence possible that it shall be publicly said at the Last and Great-day. This exercise will also offer checks to a man that looks for them; and intends both to understand his errors, and to cleanse himself from them. It will upon the whole matter, make Clergy Men go on with their Profession, as the Business and Labour of their Lives.
Having known the very good effect that this Method has had on some, I dare the more confidently recommend it to all others.
Before I conclude this Chapter, I will show what Rules our Reformers had prepared with Relation to Non-Residence, and Pluralities; which though they never passed into Laws, and so have no binding force with them, yet in these we see what was the sense of those that prepared our Offices, and that were the chief Instruments in that blessed Work of our Reformation. The 12th Chapter of the Title, concerning those that were to be admitted to Ecclesiastical Benefices, runs thus. Whereas, when many Benefices are conferred on one Person, every one of these must be served with less order and exactness, and many learned Men, who are not provided, are by that means shut out; therefore, such as examine the Persons who are proposed for Benefices, are to ask every one of them, whether he has at that time another Benefice or not, and if he confesses that he has, then they shall not consent to his obtaining that to which he is presented, or the first Benefice shall be made void, as in case of Death, so that the Patron may present any other Person to it. Chap 13 is against Dispensations, in these Words. No Man shall hereafter be capable of any Privilege, by virtue of which he may hold more Parishes than one. But such as have already obtained any such Dispensations for Pluralities, shall not be deprived of the effects of them, by virtue of this Law. The 14th Chapter relates to Residence, in these Words. If any Man by reason of Age or Sickness, is disabled from discharging his Duty, or if he has any just cause of absence for some time, that shall be approved of by the Bishop, he must take care to place a worthy Person, to serve during his absence. But the Bishops ought to take a special Care, that upon no regard whatsoever, any Person may, upon feigned or pretended Reasons, be suffered to be longer absent from his Parish, than a real necessity shall require.
These are some of the Rules which were then prepared, and happy had it been for our Church, if that whole work of the Reformation of the Ecclesiastical Law, had been then settled among us. Then we might justly have said, that our Reformation was complete, and not have lamented as our Church still does in the Office of Commination that the godly Discipline which was in the Primitive Church is not yet restored, how much, and how long soever it has been wished for. It is more than probable that we should neither have had Schisms, nor Civil Wars, if that great design had not been abortive. If but the 19th and 20th Titles of that work, which treat of the public offices, and Officers in the Church, had became a part of our Law, and been duly executed, we should indeed have had matter of glorying in the World.
In the Canons of the Year 1571 though there was not then strength enough in the Church, to cure so inveterate a Disease, as Non-Residence, yet she expressed her detestation of it, in these Words. The absence of a Pastor from the Lord's Flock; and that supine negligence and abandoning of the Ministry, which we observe in many, is a thing vile in it self, odious to the People, and pernicious to the Church of God; therefore, we exhort all the Pastors of Churches, in our Lord Jesus, that they will as soon as is possible, come to their Churches, and diligently Preach the Gospel, and according to the value of their Livings, that they will keep House, and hospitably relieve the Poor. It is true, all this is much lessened by the last Words of that Article, That every Year they must reside at least Threescore days upon their Benefices. By the Canons made at that time, Pluralities were also limited to 20 miles distance. But this was enlarged to 30 miles, by the Canons in the Year 1597. Yet by these the Pluralist was required to spend a good part of the Year in both his Benefices. And upon this, has the matter rested ever since; but there is no express definition made how far that general word of a good part of the Year is to be understood.
I will not to this add a long invidious History of all the attempts that have been made for the Reforming these abuses, nor the methods that have been made use of to defeat them. They have been but too successful, so that we still groan under our abuses; and do not know when the time shall come in which we shall be freed from them. The defenders of those abuses, who get too much by them, to be willing to part with them, have made great use of this, that it was the Puritan Party, that during Q. Elizabeth, and K. James the 1st's Reign, promoted these Bills, to render the Church odious: Whereas, it seems more probable, that those who set them forward, what invidious Characters soever their Enemies might put them under, were really the Friends of the Church; and that they intended to preserve it, by freeing it from so crying, and so visible an abuse: which gives an offence and scandal, that is not found out by much learning, or great observation; but arises so evidently out of the nature of things, that a small measure of common sense, helps every one to see it, and to be deeply prejudic'd against it. But since our Church has fallen under the evils and mischiefs of Schism, none of those who divide from us, have made any more attempts this way; but seem rather to be not ill pleased, that such Scandals should be still among us, as hoping that this is so great a load upon our Church, that it both weakens our strength, and lessens our Authority. It is certainly the interest of an Enemy to suffer the body to which he opposes himself to lie under as many Prejudices, and to be liable to as much censure, as is possible; whereas every good and wise Friend studies to preserve that body to which he unites himself, by freeing it from every thing that may render it less acceptable, and less useful.
Here I will leave this Argument, having I think said enough, to convince all, that have a true Zeal to our Church, and that think themselves bound in conscience to obey its Rules, and that seem to have a particular jealousy of the Civil Powers, breaking in too far upon the Ecclesiastical Authority, that there can be nothing more plain and express, than that our Church intends to bring all her Priests under the strictest obligations possible, to constant and personal Labour, and that in this she pursues the designs and Canons, not only of the Primitive, and best times, but even of the worst Ages, Since none were ever so corrupt as not to condemn those abuses by Canon, even when they maintained them in practice. She does not only bind them to this, by the Charge she appoints to be given, but also by the Vows and Promises that she demands of such as are Ordained. When all this is laid together, and when there stands nothing on the other side, to balance it, but a Law made in a very bad time, that took away some abuses, but left pretences to cover others; Can any man that weighs these things together, in the sight of God, and that believes he must answer to him for this at the great Day, think, that the one, how strong soever it may be in his favour at an earthly Tribunal, will be of any force in that last and dreadful Judgment. This I leave upon all Men's Consciences; hoping that they will so judge themselves, that they shall not be judged of the Lord.