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MY REVEREND BRETHREN,
I DESIRE it to be distinctly understood, that the delay of the visitation, which, I am sensible, must be attended with inconveniency, both to the Churchwardens who have been detained in their office, and to all who attend here at this advanced season of the year, is occasioned solely by the change that has taken place in the see; which change frustrated the late bishop's intention of visiting the diocese himself in the course of the summer, and suspended my authority to hold any visitation at all.
As it hath been usual upon this occasion to notice any alterations that may have taken place in the laws relating to the church or to religion, I mention what, no doubt, is well known to most of you, that in the last session of parliament an act passed in favour of the Roman catholics, which, upon the condition of their taking an oath therein prescribed, consolidating what may be called the civil part of the several oaths of allegiance, abjuration, and supremacy, places them nearly upon a level with other dissenters from the established church, except in the
capacity of voting for members of parliament, or of sitting in either house of parliament themselves. It repeals the penal laws which passed against them in the reigns of Elizabeth and William and Mary; which laws had been dictated by the fears that were entertained, in one case for the reformation, in the other for the revolution. It authorizes their public worship, and their places of worship, in like manner as the meetings of dissenting congregations, provided the places be what is called licensed; that is, described and recorded in the entries of the quarter sessions. It authorizes, subject, however, to the same condition, their schools and schoolmasters, provided they do not receive into them the children of protestant fathers; but it prohibits any foundation or endowment of such schools. It lays open 縻 to the Roman catholics the profession of the law, in its several descriptions of counsellors, proctors, and attorneys, by substituting the new oath in the place of another, by which they found themselves excluded from these, employments. In the same way, it renders them capable of serving upon juries. But the part of the act which it more immediately concerns me to notify to you is that which puts them in the situation of protestant dissenters in regard to their eligibility to parish offices, and amongst these, to that of churchwarden. It directs that Roman catholics may be appointed to these 1offices in common with the other inhabitants of the parish; and that if they, being so appointed, object
to any thing in the oaths, or the duties belonging to the office, they shall and may substitute a deputy, who is to be approved, admitted, and sworn as the principal would have been. This is all that I think it in any wise material to remark in this act; which, so far as it extends the just principles of toleration, will be received, I hope, both by the clergy and the laity, with approbation.
As I last year laid before the clergy such advice as I was able to give them, and that somewhat more at large than usual, I know not whether I can employ the present opportunity better than in recommending to the consideration of the churchwardens and parishes the situation of many of their parish clerks, and of a certain description of schoolmasters in country villages. The change in the value of fixed payments, which in many cases is felt severely by the clergy, has absolutely ruined the provision that was 'intended for parish clerks. The small payments, arising in most places from houses, in some from communicants, and in some from tenements, and which, when they were fixed, might in a good degree be adequate to the trouble of the office and the station of the person who held it, are become hardly worth collecting; the consequence of which is, that some parishes within this jurisdiction have no parish clerks at all. I am hardly able to judge how the service proceeds without this assistance, where the minister and the congregation are accustomed to the want of it; but I have found, when the clerk has been occa
sionally absent, and his office not supplied, great confusion to arise from the want of the responses and the alternate parts of the liturgy being regularly supported; and I am afraid that some part of this inconveniency is felt where the congregation and their minister are obliged to go on as they can, without the attendance of any parish clerks at all. I am sorry, therefore, to see this defect in any parish; because it is a defect which impairs, in some degree, what we are all concerned to maintain the decorum of public worship. There is reason also to apprehend, that the extreme scantiness of the income, which leaves some parishes without any parish clerk at all, in others obliges the minister, or whoever has the appointment, to take up with insufficient or improper persons. The remedy which I would recommend for this evil, for so I must call it, is, that, in parishes in which the income of the parish clerk is extremely small, an allowance should be made to them by the parish, of an annual stipend, to be paid out of the church rate. I have no doubt that a vestry is authorized to do this. From the earliest times of our legal history, and long anterior to any statutes upon the subject, parishes or their vestries were corporations for the purpose of providing for public worship, and the assigning a competent salary to a parish clerk; like providing books, vestments, furniture for the communion table and church, which the law casts upon parishes in all places. This method, I am very glad to observe, is already
adopted in some parishes in the diocese.5 Iwam now only expressing my wish that it may be extended to others, in which it is equally wanted.97 to The description of schoolmasters to which I refer is that of schools in country villages, endowed with fixed salaries of from ten to twenty pounds a year; in consideration of which they are obliged, or supposed to be obliged, to teach all the children of the parish or township that may be sent to them. The consequence of which is, that the schoolmaster is not maintained as the decency of his character and the importance of his service require that he should be; that his school is crowded with more children than the care of one man can superintend; and that he has no emolument from the number of his scholars, to reward or stimulate his exertions: and thus, upon the whole, these well intended benefactions do more harm than good. Wherever this is the case, and eases of this sort abound in the diocese, I would earnestly recommend, that, in addition to the fixed salary, the scholars should pay half quarterage. J's By this means, with a very moderate charge upon the inhabitants, the income of the schoolmaster will be advanced to something like a provision for his decent support; and he will find, in the profits of his school, what every man ought to find, an advantage proportioned to his abilities and diligence, by an increase of which parents will be amply repaid for the expense that they incur. The endowment will not be thrown away; but, on the contrary, made to