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DELIVERED

TO THE CLERGY OF THE DIOCESE

OF

BATH AND WELLS,

AT

THE PRIMARY VISITATION OF THAT DIOCESE,

IN

JULY, AUGUST, AND SEPTEMBER, 1825.

BY GEORGE HENRY LAW, D.D. F. R. S. & A.S.

LORD BISHOP OF BATH AND WELLS.

THE SECOND EDITION.

PUBLISHED AT THE REQUEST OF THE CLERGY.

LONDON:-1825.

A CHARGE,

&c.

MY REVEREND BRETHREN,

It is impossible for me to meet and address you for the first time, without your thoughts naturally recurring to that late amiable Prelate, who, for more than twenty years, had the Episcopal superintendence of this Diocese. In mildness and urbanity of manners, in a wish to promote, on all occasions, the interest and comfort of his Clergy, in these points, he yielded to none. Such kindness, I well know, has been duly appreciated by you, and will, I doubt not, long live in your recollection and esteem.

Without, however, indulging further in fond but unavailing remembrances, suffer me now to draw your attention to the immediate and important business of this day's solemnity.

In compliance with the usage of our Church-an usage hallowed by time, and approved from its beneficial results, are we here assembled together. From these meetings we may both derive a mutual advantage, in an interchange of thought, and the communion of counsel between us. You, my Reverend Brethren, from your local knowlege, may impart the most important parochial observations to me; I, on my part, from maturer age or fuller means of information, may offer advice or suggest hints to you. Thus the Bishop becomes known to his Clergy, the Clergy to their Bishop.

At a period when every thing relating to our profession is sure to attract the notice of the public; when groundless and malign objections are unsparingly thrown out against our order and its utility, I do not see how I can more profitably employ the present opportunity, than by pointing out the appropriate duties of the Christian Priesthood in this our day ;-by recommending to you that line of conduct, which, from the circumstances of the times, you are now peculiarly called on to adopt. Aware of the nature and

importance of these sacred obligations, it will, I doubt not, be your desire and endeavor faithfully and zealously to discharge them.

I. The point which first demands our attention is of a local and personal consideration; it is a point however of supreme importance, inasmuch as it involves not merely the credit and interest of that Diocese with which all of us are so closely connected, but also the spiritual welfare of those committed to our charge-their happiness in time and eternity. For this the Christian Ministry was instituted: this should be the great and paramount object of our lives and labor. Now the means by which we are enabled to promote this end, are example and instruction. Residence, then, is the foundation on which every goodly superstructure must be erected the main, if not the only channel through which any spiritual communications can flow. But if the Minister desert the fold, the Parishioners cannot hear his voice; if he live not among them, they cannot see his good works, and thus glorify their Father which is in heaven. It will therefore be my first wish and endeavor, to procure for each Parish in my Diocese, wherever it can justly and fairly be enforced, the personal residence of an Incumbent or Curate. I say justly and fairly, because to this, as almost to every other general rule, there must of necessity be some exceptions. To many of our Livings there are no glebe-houses attached: in some, there are no means by which such glebe-house can be erected: whilst, in not a few parishes, no suitable place of residence can be procured at all. These cases speak for themselves. Nor is this all a considerable number of Benefices have one or more Chapels annexed to them, for the due performance of the duties in which the Incumbents of the Mother Church are, by law, responsible. The mode of relief which I contemplate in this case of exception, is the severance of the Chapel from the Mother Church, by augmentation, through the instrumentality of the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty. By the Statute of Geo. I. cap. x. §. 4, Chapels, when augmented, become Perpetual Cures; and if the population of the Chapelry amount to or exceed five hundred persons, the income of the severed Curacy may be raised to £100 per annum, or more, according to the extent of the population. The advantages which will arise from the adoption of this measure, are many and important. The Incumbent is disburdened of a charge for which he could not properly provide. A distinct Minister is appointed to a separate Cure: the means of both are rendered more adequate, and each Congregation obtains the blessing of a Resident Clergyman. Such being the consequences resulting from this measure, every proposal for the accomplishment of it on your part will always receive the most willing co-operation on mine; and thus shall we obtain the great object I have in view, an increased

residence, and that with a due attention to the income of the officiating Minister.

Concerning one considerable source of non-residence, I feel myself called on to express my most unqualified disapprobation. It has been too much the practice in this Diocese for a Clergyman to undertake, together with his living, a Stipendiary Curacy. Though this custom cannot be interdicted in every case, without any exception, yet I certainly shall not be disposed to allow it, whenever either of the Livings exceeds in value £200 per annum. If the benefices fall below this amount, the situation of an Incumbent is entitled to a fair and liberal indulgence. The Legislature has contemplated and made allowance for the case. Urgent as may be the spiritual wants of the Parishioners, and no one can in every instance be more alive to the sacred call than myself, yet still the necessities of the Incumbent should have their due share of consideration. The expenses which attach to his station in life, can hardly be contracted into so small a compass as that which I have mentioned. The appearance and circumstances of the Minister of the Gospel should not degrade the holiness of his functions. Some little kindnesses, some deeds of charity are always looked for at his hands, and are, for the most part, as generally bestowed. The expenses also of a due preparation for the Ministry are in no case inconsiderable, and often exhaust the little pittance that had been laid by in store. The widow too and orphans of him, who had moved in a sphere of comparative comfort, should not, when bereaved of their stay, be reduced to a state of positive indigence and degradation. They who had known the blessedness of administering bounty, should not be made to feel the pang of asking it. No invariable rule, therefore, can be laid down, which will apply equally to every case. In all, however, it will be my desire and endeavor to adjust impartially the fair claims of the Minister and his Parishioners, and to weigh them-in the balance of the sanctuary.

But though the laborer be in all instances worthy of his hire, and not least of all the laborer in the vineyard of the Gospel, yet am I fully aware, that a pecuniary consideration is not the sole or the main incitement with those I am addressing. Your views are elevated to higher and nobler objects. You well know and feel whose servants you are, and look onward beyond all secular remunerations to those brighter rewards, which this world can neither give nor take away.

Residence then, in every case, where it can properly be required, will be the primary object in my administration of the affairs of this Diocese. I trust that there will be no one instance of palpable delinquency, to disgrace yourselves-or me. A non-resident Minister is little better than no Minister at all. He who would se

cure an interest in the poor man's heart, must enter his cottage. He who would lead him into the right path, must gain his love and esteem. Sunday we allow to be the most important day of the week; but it is only one day out of seven. The lot of the Minister may not be cast on a fair land; but there is a flock of Christ; there are souls destined for immortality, souls of which he has undertaken the care, and of which he must one day render a strict and fearful account. That he may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus, should be, as it was with St. Paul, his hope and crown of rejoicing. But how can he who has abandoned his flock ponder on that memorable declaration of our Lord, "I am the good Shepherd, who know my sheep, and am known of mine?" With what emotions must he even read these awful words, "of those whom thou hast given me, I have lost none ?"

The point to which I would next proceed to draw your attention, is the quantum of duty required to be performed in your respective Churches. And here arises the only question on which I anticipateany difference of sentiment or feeling between us. In very many, must I not say in the larger number of Churches in this Diocese, only single duty is performed in all, with the exceptions already stated, it is my wish and expectation that there should be Two Services, with a Sermon at each.

The reasons on which this requisition is grounded, appear to my mind, as I hope they will do to yours, full and conclusive. Man is a thinking being. It must naturally therefore be his first care to learn, whether he is to sleep for ever in the silent tomb, or whether this mortal is to put on immortality. Having ascertained this point, it will be his next wish to know, what it is that he must believe and do for his soul's health; on what his destiny must depend, through all the endless ages of eternity. He will, therefore, be desirous of entering the doors of the Church, if the Church be open to receive him. There he has just reason to expect, that the word and will of his Creator and Redeemer will be most faithfully explained and enforced. But if the Church be shut, he will repair to any place, and we bame him not, where he hopes that divine knowlege may be imparted to his soul.

What then must be the feelings of that Minister who is conscious to himself, that, from his own lukewarmness or indolence, his people have wandered from their proper fold, and gone away into strange pastures? May these feelings, my Reverend Brethren, never be yours. Let the church-bell be heard twice on each Sabbath-day: let it be the summons to every one to repair to the house of his God; there to bend the knee in thanksgiving and prayer; there to hear the word of life, and turn his thoughts for a few hours at least from things temporal to things eternal.

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