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A married clergy–in the endeavour to make that hereditary in their own families, which was rightfully hereditary according to Church descent — would probably not only have diminished the enormous wealth of the sacerdotal order—even though counteracted by the monastic spirit, which was constantly bringing large revenues into the Church—but they might have reduced it far too low for the times. Not that this danger has been absolutely prevented by the Hildebrandine Law. Episcopal, and still more Papal, nepotism has preyed in quiet on the wealth of the Church, with almost as much rapacity as could have been feared from parental affection. The great and wealthy houses of Rome, which bear the family name of almost each successive Pope (though many of these Popes were of mean origin), could hardly have been founded except either by direct alienation of the estates of the see, or at least the diversion of its actual revenues for the time from their designed and avowed uses. But to return—that in most countries in Europe the State has been tempted by the vast wealth of the Church, or of ecclesiastical bodies, to abuse its power for plunder and confiscation, is no argument against the proper control of the State. The laws of England, which prevent the alienation of Church or Chapter property to private uses, will hardly deserve the unpopular name of Erastianism. This is at least a more simple and more safe measure than trusting altogether to the superior integrity, or the devotion of an unmarried clergy to the interest of their order, or the good of the Church, over that of a married clergy.
What part of the independence of the clergy, which is salutary either for themselves or for mankind—what part of their legitimate, their beneficial influence-is more conscientiously guarded, more strenuously exercised by an unmarried than by a married ministry ? A married clergy will always (from being an order, especially if an endowed order) have as much of the corporate spirit as is good for them and for the laity. It never has been wanting (its excess has rather been complained of) in the English Church. The double allegiance to the Pope and to the temporal sovereign, we hold, in the present day, to be almost a harmless fiction of ecclesiastical law. In this sense we would speak with our friend Mr. Carlyle, if we may without offence, of that chimæra the Pope.' The ultramontane doctrines of the French clergy are the growth of France, not of Rome; their Jesuitism is, we are satisfied, at bottom more political than religious; it is anti-revolutionary, and anti-revolutionary even to abject absolutism, though at present in opposition to the government, rather than merely papal. It is inclined to repudiate the Gallican liberties because those liberties are asserted by the ruling party in the State. In other parts of Europe the movement is more decidedly religious; but we greatly doubt, though its more powerful and zealous partisans may themselves sternly embrace and rigidly enforce clerical celibacy, whether eventually this question may not become the groundwork of a more formidable schism than has yet divided the Western Church. Appealing, indeed, to later history, we cannot see that the clergy of England, or of Protestant countries in general, have been more subservient to the State (to the Crown as head of the State) than the unmarried courtly prelates of France or Spain. The latter may have obtained greater power, because the priestly character was more awful, and they still maintained something of that intellectual superiority which had belonged to them in the middle ages; but we doubt whether the claims of ten hungry children, or the ambition of a luxurious wife, would have sharpened their contention or subtilized their intrigues for court favour and preferment. The sufferings of the married clergy in England in the days of Cromwell were no doubt greater than they would have been, had they been unmarried; but they were not borne with less meekness and resignation. We do not remember how many of the seven bishops were married, but they all went to the Tower with the same submissive dignity. The direct power of the Crown as to the Church, in the appointment of bishops for instance, may be greater in England than in most Roman Catholic countries; but the actual power has always been as great wherever the
Crown was strong :-witness Austria, witness even France. Had our bishops been unmarried, they would not the less have been appointed, in former days, through parliamentary influence or ministerial caprice. No part of our present ecclesiastical system, which is denounced as Erastian, is affected by this question of discipline-neither the royal or parliamentary supremacy originally recognized, and ratified in the Act of Uniformity-nor the more recent parliamentary measures relating to Church property-nor those for the relief of the Queen’s subjects who are without the pale of the National Church.
Looking, indeed, entirely towards home, we will neither disguise nor deny some incidental advantages which might arise at least from voluntary clerical celibacy. We as little incline to compulsory marriage, compulsory even by the mild influence of persuasion, as to compulsory celibacy : we are not such zealous anti-Malthusians as to wish to weaken the check of forethought. The clergy are not merely as much bound as any other men—they should be more strongly bound by the ordinary rules of prudence than the poorest of the poor, with whom indeed themselves, considering their station, are too often to be numbered : if they marry without provision for the future, they must make up their minds to pay for the luxury of domestic happiness by personal privation, and not by impairing their small means of usefulness. For this reason we look with great apprehension to the temptations held out through the multiplication of very small benefices by the recent ecclesiastical arrangements. If young men, impressed with the wretched state of the lower population in our large towns, shall deny themselves that luxury in order more entirely to devote themselves and their worldly means, to their mission, and shall find that they have strength to adhere to their purpose, who will refuse to admire the beauty and the grandeur of such Christian love? But this, as its sole merit consists in the conscientious conviction and self-denial of individuals--60 it must stand without, and high above, any general rule. All its dignity arises out of its spontaneousness; the self-dedication is its one claim to Christian reverence.
Some transitory folly and vanity may under our present ordinary system beset the path of the clergyman in the opening of his career, which he might escape if he were known to be one to whom the softer sympathies of our nature are interdicted by a stern and irrepealable law. The sensation produced in a village, or even a town, by the appearance of a young, perhaps handsome, undoubtedly eloquent curate, may not be quite purely spiritual: the young ladies are seized with more than usual warmth of devotion—they are even more than ordinarily attentive in the church-they become remarkably active in their visits among the poor—and greatly interested in charitable societies. But this does not last long-except in a very few cases : the comely curate makes his choice, and settles down into the quiet and exemplary husband and father. Still we must not behold our young and moderately-beneficed clergyman in the first blameless enjoyment of domestic happiness only; we must look forward to the pressure of domestic cares and anxieties. The provision for the growing family more and more occupies the thoughts, and withdraws them from the higher calling. The scanty income must be more exclusively devoted to these imperious claims, or eked out by pupils, or some other occupation. This is an evil, undoubtedly, to be set against the enormous amount of good, arising out of the removal of an unnatural restriction—a restriction which, when enforced, has been enforced only by a severe struggle—where attempted to be enforced in a less rigid period of morals, then most fearfully demoralising ; and likewise against the other blessings which a married clergy confer on a Christian community.
On a broad and general view even of this maintenance part of the question, as it works practically among ourselves, there are many incidental advantages which the merest utilitarian must allow to counterbalance the afflicting penury, or at least straitened circumstances, of many among our parochial clergy.
Such inquirers must consider not only how much Church wealth (we mean wealth arising out of the offerings or endowments received by a clergy) is thus to a certain extent withdrawn from church uses strictly so called; but also how much temporal wealth is brought into the Church by the present system, and devoted to what may fairly be called church uses; the better maintenance of the clergy, the charities, and even in some cases the adornment of the sacred edifices. In a word, how many of the English clergy spend far more of their own-first on their professional education, afterwards in the sphere of their professional duty—than they ever receive from it! This arises, no doubt, from the respect in which the profession is held. But how many such valuable men would be repelled if they had to make the further sacrifice of domestic life!
In fine, you may make a sect, you may make a brotherhood, by imposing any test, however above nature or contrary to nature :—and your sect or your brotherhood will rise and fall, as did all the monastic orders, with sudden accesses and gradual paralyses of zeal—but that was immaterial; whether the succession was kept up, or how the succession was kept up, regarded the order alone. But you cannot so make or maintain an order of clergy—an order which must be supplied in cold as well as excited, in rationalising as well as in enthusiastic times. You cannot calculate on a sustained and perpetual effort to subdue and extirpate nature. To recruit a clergy who are to influence every class, cope with every adversary, meet the wants of a vast population in various degrees of intelligence and advancement, you must not look merely to the rare and heroic virtues of which our nature affords specimens. You must disqualify none who might be useful, by unnecessary restrictions ; you must condescend to, rather than haughtily proscribe, human weakness. A clergy all burning zeal, all vehement enthusiasm, all restless activity, would be a questionable blessing to any country: extreme fanaticism, extravagant superstition, alone would raise the more ambitious and enterprising above the high level. But among a sober and practical people like