Page images

bishop. Also I may here mention once for all, that if a dean, pre, bendary, or other spiritual person, be made a bishop, all the prefer ments of which he was before possessed are void ; and the crown may present to them in the right of the prerogative royal.

III. An archdeacon has an ecclesiastical jurisdiction, immediately subordinate to the bishop, throughout the whole of his diocese, or in some particular part of it. He is usually appointed by the bishop himself; and has a kind of episcopal authority, originally derived from the bishop, but now independent and distinct from his. He therefore visits the clergy; and has his separate court for punishment of offenders by spiritual censures, and for hearing all other causes of ecclesiastical cognizance.

IV. The rural deans are very ancient officers of the church, but almost grown out of use. They seem to have been deputies of the bishop, the better to inspect the conduct of the parochial clergy, to inquire into and report dilapidations, and to examine the candidates for confirmation, and to have been armed, in minuter matters, with an inferior degree of judicial and coercive authority.

V. The next, and indeed the most numerous, order of men, in the system of ecclesiastical polity, are the parsons and vicars of churches. A parson, persona ecclesice, is one that has full possession of all the rights of a parochial church. He is called parson, persona, because by his person the church, which is an invisible body, is represented : and he is in himself a body corporate, in order to protect and defend the rights of the church by a perpetual succession. A parson has, during his life, the freehold in himself of the parsonage-house, the glebe, the tithes, and other dues. But these are sometimes appropriated; that is to say, the benefice is perpetually annexed to some spiritual corporation, either sole or aggregate, being the patron of the living; a contriyance which seems to have sprung from the policy of the monastic orders, who have never been deficient in subtle inventions for the increase of their own power and emoluments. At the first establishment of parochial clergy, the tithes of of the parish were distributed in a fourfold division; one for the use of the bishop, another for maintaining the fabric of the church, a third for the poor, and the fourth to provide for the incumbent. When the sees of the bishops became otherwise amply endowed, they were prohibited from demanding their usual share of these tithes, and the division was into three parts only. And hence it was inferred by the monasteries, that a small part was sufficient for the officiating priest; and that the remainder might well be applied to the use of their own fraternities (the endowment of which was construed to be a work of the most exalted piety), subject to the burden

of repairing the church, and providing for its constant supply. And therefore they begged and bought, for masses and obits, and sometimes even for money, all the advowsons within their reach, and then appropriated the benefices to the use of their own corporation. The tithes and the glebe they kept in their own hands, without presenting any clerk, they themselves undertaking to provide for the service of the church.

Thus were most, if not all, of the appropriations at present existing originally made ; being annexed to bishoprics, prebends, religious houses, nay, even to nunneries and certain military orders, all of which were spiritual corporations. At the dissolution of the monasteries in the reign of Henry VIII., the appropriations of the several parsonages, which belonged to those respective religious houses, were given to the king. And from this root have sprung all the lay appropriations or secular parsonages which we now see in the kingdom; they having been afterwards granted out from time to time by the crown.

These appropriating corporations, or religious houses, were wont to depute one of their own body to perform diyine service in those parishes of which the society was thus the parson. This officiating minister was in reality no more than a curate, deputy, or vicegerent of the appropriator, and, therefore, called vicarius or vicar. His stipend was at the discretion of the appropriator ; who was compelled from time to time, by various statutes, to make a proper provision for him; which endowment has usually been by a portion of the glebe belonging to the parsonage, and a particular share of the tithes which the appropriator found it most troublesome to collect, and which is therefore generally called privy or small tithes. But no particular rule having been observed, some vicarages are more liberally, and some more scantily, endowed : and hence, the tithes of many things, as wood in particular, are in some parishes rectorial, and in some vicarial rights. The distinction, therefore, of a parson and vicar is this :-the parson has for the most part the whole right to all the ecclesiastical dues in his parish; but a vicar has generally an appropriator over him, entitled to the best part of his profits, to whom he is in effect perpetual curate, with a standing salary.

The method of becoming a parson or vicar is much the same. To both there are four requisites necessary : holy orders, presentation, institution, and induction. The method of conferring the holy orders of deacon and priest is foreign to the purpose of these commentaries, except so far that no person can be admitted a deacon before twenty-three, or a priest before twenty-four years of age, as required by the canons of 1603, which in this point are enforced by the statute 44 Geo. III. c. 43.

When a person has been admitted to holy orders, he may be presented to a parsonage or vicarage; that is, the patron, to whom the advowson belongs, may offer his clerk to the bishop to be instituted. The bishop may refuse him upon many accounts, as, if the patron is excommunicated, and remains in contempt forty days, or if the clerk be unfit: which unfitness is of several kinds. First, with regard to his person; as, if he be under age, or unfit to discharge the pastoral office for want of learning; of which last the bishop is sole judge. If the bishop admits the patron's presentation, the clerk so admitted is next to be instituted by him ; which is a kind of investiture of the spiritual part of the benefice : for by institution the care of the souls of the parish is committed to the charge of the clerk. When the bishop is also the patron, and confers the living, the presentation and institution are one and the same act, and are called a collation to a benefice. And by institution or collation the church is full, so that there can be no fresh presentation till another vacancy. Upon institution, also, the clerk may enter on the parsonage-house and glebe, and take the tithes; but he cannot grant or let them, or bring an action for them, till induction.

Induction is performed by a mandate from the bishop to the archdeacon, and is done by giving the clerk corporal possession of the church, as by holding the ring of the door, tolling a bell, or the like: and is a form required by law, with intent to give all the parishioners due notice, and sufficient certainty of their new minister, to whom their tithes are to be paid. And when a clerk is thus presented, instituted, and inducted into a rectory, he is then, and not before, in full and complete possession, and is called in law persona impersonata, or parson imparsonee.

The rights of a parson or vicar, in his tithes and ecclesiastical dues, fall more properly under the second book of these commentaries : and as to his duties, they are principally of ecclesiastical cognizance; those only excepted which are laid upon him by statute. And those are indeed so numerous, that with the exception of residence, to which it is enough to allude, I must refer to such authors as have compiled treatises expressly upon this subject.

A parson or vicar may cease to be so, 1, by death ; 2, by cession, in taking another benefice; 3, by consecration; for, as was mentioned before, when a clerk is promoted to a bishopric, all his other preferments are void the instant that he is consecrated; 4, by resignation, accepted by the ordinary ; 5, by deprivation, for fit and sufficient causes allowed by the law, which it is unnecessary here to enumerate. • Besides parsons and vicars, properly so called, there are numerous ministers of the church who have many of the rights, and are subject to most of the disabilities, of the beneficed clergy. These are the incumbents of districts, constituted parishes by special acts of parliament, or formed from time to time by virtue of the powers conferred on the Church Building Commissioners, appointed by 58 Geo. III. c. 45, ali of whom are subject to the visitation and correction of the bishop.

VI. A curate is the lowest degree in the church; being in the same state that a vicar was formerly, an officiating temporary minister. There are what are called perpetual curacies, where all the tithes are appropriated, and no vicarage endowed, but instead thereof, such perpetual curate is appointed by the appropriator. And with regard to ordinary curates, they are the objects of several statutes, which ordain, that they shall be paid such stipend as the bishop thinks reasonable, he alone also having authority to grant, and, subject to appeal to the metropolitan, withdraw their licenses.

Thus much of the clergy, properly so called. There are also certain inferior ecclesiastical officers of whom the common law takes notice, viz. :

VII. Churchwardens, who are the guardians of the church, and representatives of the body of the parish, being sometimes appointed by the minister, sometimes by the parish, sometimes by both together, as custom directs. As to the church, churchyard, &c., they have no sort of interest therein; but if any damage is done thereto, the parson only or vicar shall have the action. Lands, however, given for the benefit of the parish, the church wardens and overseers hold in the nature of a body corporate. Their office also is to repair the church, and make rates for that purpose. They are empowered to keep all persons orderly while in church, and formerly, they were to levy a shilling forfeiture on all such as did not repair to church on Sundays and holidays.

VIII. Parish clerks and sextons are also regarded by the common law as persons who have freeholds in their offices; and therefore, though they may be punished, yet they cannot be deprived by ecclesiastical censures.


OF THE CIVIL, MILITARY, AND MARITIME STATES. 1. Civil: Duke-Marquis - Earl - Viscount-Baron - Knight-- Esquire

Gentleman-Yeoman. II. Military : Militia-Army-Articles of War

Yeomanry-Volunteers. III. Maritime: Navy-Articles of the Navy. " The lay part of the community, or such of the people as are not comprehended under the denomination of clergy, may be divided into three distinct states, the civil, the military, and the maritime.

I. The civil state consists of the nobility and the commonalty. Of the nobility, I have before sufficiently spoken: we are here to consider them according to their several titles of honour; and those now in use are dukes, marquises, earls, viscounts, and barons. • A duke, though he be with us, in respect of his title of nobility, inferior in point of antiquity to many others, yet is superior to all of them in rank; his being the first title of dignity after the royal family.

A marquis, marchio, is the next degree of nobility. His office formerly was to guard the frontiers of the kingdom, which were called the marches: such as, in particular, were the marches of Wales and Scotland, while each continued to be an enemy's country; but the title has long been a mere ensign of honour.

An earl is a title of nobility so ancient that its origin cannot clearly be traced out. Among the Saxons they are called ealdormen, signifying senior or senator as among the Romans; and also schiremen, because they had the civil government of a shire. On the irruption of the Danes, they changed the name to eorles, and in Latin were called comites, from being the king's attendants. After the Conquest they were called counts or countees, from the French; but did not long retain that name, though their shires are called counties to this day; and the name has long been a mere title, they having now nothing to do with the government of the county.

The name of vice-comes or viscount was afterwards made use of as an arbitrary title of honour by Henry VI., when he created John Beaumont a peer, by the name of Viscount Beaumont, which was the first instance of the kind.

A baron's is the most general and universal title of nobility; for

« PreviousContinue »