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9. H. Nichols We have often been told that when a young lady takes up a newspaper, the first thing that she fixes her eye upon is the list of Marriages and Deaths. No matter how momentous be the other intelligence which is presented; no matter if wars have broken out between rival kingdoms; no matter if monarchs have been dethroned; no matter if a sudden pestilence have swept away thousands of the human family; no matter if some mighty earthquake have swallowed at once some of the proudest cities of the earth, the curious maiden passes over the eventful narrative of it all, and satiates her tender gaze with nothing but the variegated record of those who have just formed the nuptial tie, and of those who have just paid the debt of nature.
To the imputation of a somewhat similar curiosity about another subject, we fear that we all of late years, clergy and laity, have become obnoxious. Now-a-days, as soon as the religious periodical is taken from the post office, what portion of it first draws the attention of presbyter, deacon, and layman? It is no libel to say it is that part of the column which rejoices in the caption of "Clerical Changes." To this, with inquisitive eyes, we instinctively turn, however rich and copious be the rest of the news that awaits us, just as in some parts of our country it used to be the custom to taste of some spicy beverage before dinner, by way of sharpening the appetite for the abundant repast to come.
In devoting a few pages of our review to an examination of some of the more prominent causes of the frequency of clerical changes, and in pointing out what seems to us at least a partial remedy for the growing evil, we trust that we shall not be wearying the patience of our readers, or entirely wasting our paper. The subject, too, may be somewhat of a relief to the mind, from some of the graver and more solid articles of our present number.
Among the causes, why our clergy are so frequently changing their parochial residence, the foremost, without doubt, is the inadequacy of their support.
In our larger cities handsome salaries are generally offered and are punctually paid. If the clergymen who are so fortunate as to obtain such cures are not able to lay up any thing against a future day, they are at least relieved from present
pecuniary embarrassment. They have enough to clothe themselves and families comfortably with; to keep their houses respectably furnished; and they have sufficient with which to go to market. It is their own fault if they have not always some superfluous funds in their pockets. We know, indeed, that the expense of living in our larger cities is great, and is double what it was a few years since; but still the annual stipend of our city clergy is much higher now than it formerly was, and their perquisites are numerous and valuable. But how is it in the interior towns and villages? The average salary of the country clergy of Connecticut is 500 dollars. Out of this small sum, the minister (for in the whole Diocese there are not more than half a dozen Churches that have Parsonages attached to them) has to hire a house, keep a horse, support himself, wife, and children, and engage, at least for awhile by way of experiment, a domestic. Now we see that while the cost of all the necessaries of life is double and often treble what it was some twenty or thirty years since, the clergyman's means of support are but a very little, if at all, greater than they were at this former period; for as at that time he had generally charge of two or three different cures, his aggregate income from them all, was quite as much as that which he now receives from a single parish. The result of the present state of things is this: Almost every country clergyman who has not private means of his own to draw upon, is in debt. Strive as he will to economize in every reasonable shape, when the close of the year comes round, he finds he is in debt to the merchant, to the butcher, to the shoemaker, and, if he should dare think of wearing any thing but a threadbare and patched-up coat, to the tailor. Now and then some generous parishioner may step in and partially relieve him by some timely donation, but still there is a weight of pecuniary care pressing down upon him, which robs him of his peace, unfits his mind for study and the composition of sermons, and which even mars the holy enjoyments of the Lord's day itself, by forcing on his attention, while praying and preaching in God's house, anxious forethought for the morrow. venture to say, without fear of contradiction, that this is the situation of more than two-thirds of the country clergy in these United States. What wonder is it, then, that if an opportunity is offered for relieving themselves from such a painful condition, they eagerly grasp at it What wonder is it that they feel that if they preach the Gospel they have a right, human and divine, to live by the Gospel, and not to starve by it. What wonder is it that as soon as an invitation is extended
to them to a more eligible parish, they accept it without hesitation, nor even wait to take a ceremonious leave of a people who, while themselves are in the possession of every comfort in the world, are guilty of the unkindness, after having "caught" a clergyman, of compelling him and his poor wife and children to try the experiment of ekeing out existence upon "thin air.”
Another very common reason for the frequency of clerical changes, is the cry for "popular preachers.'
If it were asked of many of our lay brethren, what they mean by the expression, Popular Preacher, we doubt not that they would be puzzled for an answer; though the majority of them would probably tell us that "a popular preacher is one who can draw a crowd, and who can make pews sell well." But tried by this standard very few of the clergy would be found to deserve the name. Out of the whole fifteen hundred of Episcopal ministers in these United States, there are, perhaps, not more than twenty or thirty, who, by the magic of their eloquence alone, could statedly draw multitudes to hear them. Blessed be God, mere pulpit orators are very rare among us, for with a few exceptions they are the least useful men in the Church, and are far from being, in the long run, the brightest ornaments to their profession! We have a scarcity of this order, but we have an abundance of those better men who belong to the true school of the prophets. In every Diocese we are able to count up many who are ripe scholars, sound writers, earnest and effective preachers, and most faithful pastors, and who adorn the doctrine of God their Saviour in all things. We are happy, too, to have it in our power to say that the members of our larger and more important parishes, are usually content with having such men over them in the Lord. They have no morbid craving for a change. They are satisfied with being well off. They have been too thoroughly instructed in the principles of the Church; they have too great respect for the ministerial character and profession, to turn off upon the cold charity of the world an old and faithful servant, merely because there is no novelty in his style of writing or speaking, or because he has no faculty of enchanting by tones, and attitudes, and gestures borrowed from the theatre, certain shallow-brained youths and misses who are the self-constituted judges of sermons, and the complacent awarders of the palm of pulpit eloquence. But of the smaller parishes, (and these, as our readers well know, form by far the largest proportion,) the same cannot be said. Among them a perpetual change of ministers is occurring, and in nine
cases out of ten, the reason is that the people want "a more popular preacher," and it most generally happens that the smaller and more obscure the congregation, and the more scanty the salary which is offered, the more difficult are they to be pleased, and the higher the standard of pulpit talent with which alone they will be satisfied. Among the retired country parishes, especially, our readers can all recall more than one instance of a shameful desertion of a worthy and devo ted pastor, merely because it is at last found out, that he has not the winning gift of oratory to attract multitudes to the Church, and to fill the galleries with admiring crowds. How many cases are there, of ministers who have been liberally educated, and who are possessed of every spiritual and literary qualification for their holy office; who have labored from youth to age for the welfare of their people; who have, Lord's day after Lord's day, for many long years in succession, fed their flocks" with food convenient" for them, and been occupied constantly in the week about their heavenly Father's business, in visiting the sick, burying the dead, and comforting the mourning, men of apostolic zeal, meekness, and purity— of whom the world was not worthy-how many cases have we seen of such men being rudely ejected from their parishes, turned out of house and home, poor, aged and helpless, merely because a new generation of striplings have sprung up, and have insisted upon inviting, as the phrase goes, "a more melting preacher!"
Still another cause for the frequency of clerical changes, is the habit of leaving the control of the affairs of a parish in the hands of a few individuals.
It is surprising even in the very largest congregations, how very few of the whole body take an active part in the management of the concerns of the Church. Most of the male members of every parish, are so engrossed in their own worldly callings, that they have no spare time left to bestow upon the affairs of their own particular congregation. The result is, that the few who have the leisure and the inclination to interest themselves in the concerns of the Church, have the whole field to themselves. Now if this small number were in every case composed of worthy and competent men-men fitted mentally and morally for the duties which they undertake to discharge the peace and prosperity of almost every Church would be preserved. But unfortunately this is not the case. We are telling our readers no new thing when we affirm, that very frequently most undeserving men are elected to the office of vestrymen-men who do not at all represent the character
or the wishes and feelings of the congregation at large. Now, because a man happens to be the prominent lawyer, or doctor, or merchant, or politician in the place, is no sufficient reason why he should be annually elected to the important office of vestryman, and allowed to dictate to the whole congregation and to lay down the law to his clergyman. Nor ought he, because he is the "Jupiter tonans" of the town, the oracle at the village store and the village tavern, to be permitted to exert a controlling influence in ecclesiastical affairs. It needs no argument to show that any parish which is suffering under the tyranny of such influence, cannot retain its clergyman long. No minister of Christ who respects himself or his calling, or who has the good of immortal souls at heart, will so degrade and pollute his office as to pay court in such fashion for the sake of keeping his place. He will sooner move every year, putting his trust in the good providence of God, than tarnish the honor of his holy profession by going out of his way, to win the smile or secure the suffrages of such a patron. Another cause, is the general want of a sound Church feeling among the laity.
The true spirit of the Church is sober, quiet, and conservative. It is opposed to noise, fermentation, and change. And this spirit pervades every congregation which is well-instructed in her doctrines and discipline. But are most of our congregations thus taught? Are they trained in the calm, sedate, peace-loving habits which were the unfailing characteristics of the Episcopalians of old? We say decidedly they are not. We often speak in glowing and triumphant language of the growth of the Church of late years. But we hesitate not to say, that in too many instances, it is not a real growth. It is a growth of numbers, but not of strength. Many have joined our communion merely from taste. Many from mere convenience. Many have come in from the sects around us because they have married Episcopal husbands or Episcopal wives, retaining still all their dissenting notions and prejudices unaltered. Many have joined us because they have quarreled themselves out of their own communion, and come over to us from spite, without leaving behind them their turbulent and belligerent spirit, and which is ready at any moment to break out. The result is, that in many parishes which have grown with astonishing rapidity of late, there is an equally astonishing deficiency of knowledge about the fundamental principles of the Church, and a lamentable inexperience of her sober, steady zeal. But the blame of this is not to be imputed exclusively to the raw recruits who occasionally join our