Thomas Espinelle Espin.

Our want of clergy : its causes, and suggestions for its cure : a sermon preached before the University of Oxford, on the second Sunday in Lent, March 1, 1863 (Volume Talbot online

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Online LibraryThomas Espinelle EspinOur want of clergy : its causes, and suggestions for its cure : a sermon preached before the University of Oxford, on the second Sunday in Lent, March 1, 1863 (Volume Talbot → online text (page 1 of 3)
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Ut opebarios fideles in messem Tuam mittere digneris,
Te rogamus audi nos."
Simplex ac Pia Deliberatio Hermanni Archiepisc. Colon. 1545.

#irr Wmxt ai Ckrgg : ^l

ST. LUKE X. 2.
" The harvest truly is great, but the labourers

ARE few."

inEW amongst us will not have cast at least a passing
-*- thought on the solemn scene scarce yet over in our
several cathedrals. There are friends such as one makes
in this place but never elsewhere, companions of every
day, partners in study and amusement, almost twin
brethren of the very thoughts, who have within this
very hour recorded at God's altar the closest of pledges
by which a man can bind himself. On such a day, in
such a place, before so many who have these vows on
them, so many more of whom this self-dedication is ex-
pected, — let me also add, at a crisis like this in the annals
of our Church, — there are grave and urgent reflections
which thrust themselves on those whose work in life is
bound up with the Church's work and the Church's

How shall we explain the fact — which is no new one
to you — that the Church's service draws year by year
fewer recruits from amongst you ? It is unhappily true
that the ministry is altogether less sought after than was
the case twenty years ago ; but even of the dwindled
band of recruits which now an Ember week enrols, we
owe a smaller proportion to our ancient Universities,
a much smaller proportion to this University ^. In old
times our two English Universities were the regular and
' See Appendix A.

2 Our Want of Clergy :

recognised clerical training-schools, and five-sixths of
our clergy had graduated in them ; now a full third are
strangers both to Oxford and Cambridge.

Nor is this all : the men you do send us distribute
themselves very unevenly amongst our dioceses. It is
no uncommon thing for a bishop's ordination-list to
shew not one graduate from the first name to the last.
Li many populous districts, in many large towns, church
after church is served by Literates alone. In many
ruridecanal chapters, out of twenty or thirty members
there will be found scarce one or two to represent this
or the sister University. It is at the very centres of in-
fluence and industry, which absorb an ever-increasing
proportion of the intelligence, the energy, the political
power of the country, that the Church is most feebly
represented. The localities which teem most with a
population naturally shrewd and now well-educated, are
mainly, sometimes almost entirely, in spiritual charge
of those who have received at most a very imperfect
training ; who, so far from guiding the restless and in-
quisitive spirits w^ith which they have to deal, are often
themselves inferior in all advantages of education and
information to those for whom their lips should keep

And yet even of this inferior class of men, — inferior,
let me say, simply as to literary and intellectual qualifi-
cations, not inferior assuredly in diligence, for they work
during their short course of preparation for Holy Orders
as few men do at the University, — not inferior in piety
and devotcdness, for they are for the most part men
who have forsaken other and usually more gainful em-
ployments for this sacred one, — but of these men, such as
they are, the supply is very short. Incumbents in the
mining and maimt'acturing districts have to wait year


its Causes^ and Sugfjestions for its Cure. 3

after year for the help they urgently need : they are
ready with the title ; ready, through the help of the
Societies, with what is called a full stipend, but they
wait in vain. The strength and time of the clergyman
are often in such parishes scarce enough for the public
and occasional offices of the Church : for the manage-
ment of several parish institutions, which must be done
by him or left undone, for visiting here and there a sick
person when the case is extreme, there is, there can
be, but the barest semblance of pastoral oversight, and
that conducted through lay agency. In very deed, vast
masses of people are simply, by the hard necessity of the
case, cut adrift from the Church's care altogether, and
left to Dissent, or rather — for it is not amongst such that
Dissent does much — to godlessness and unbelief. It
needs to see these things to realize them ; it needs not
to stay to prove their existence ; that is clear from the
bare fact that our population doubles every fifty years,
whilst our parochial machinery is scarce enlarged at alP.
Neither is this the worst ; it is only during the last
few years that our ministerial supply has been di-
minished. Previously, indeed, there was an increasing
demand for clergy, with little signs of an increased
supply. But now, as the men of the older generation
are being removed in the course of nature, they are
not replaced by an equal number ". "We are approach-
ing a date when from our scantier force we nuist,
unless speedily and largely recruited, abandon ground
now occupied, though not occupied in strength ; when
helpers in heavy parishes will not only be scarce, as
they now are, but not procurable on any terras ; when
we shall not merely neglect the vast multitudes now
agorregated in swelling; tumours round the heart and


•^ ,See Appendix B. ' See Appendix C.


4 Our Want of Clergy :

the vitals of the nation, but we shall cease, perforce, to
aftbrd even the perfunctory baptism, burial, or marriage
to their countless thousands. The severed branch re-
tains for a time its verdure and beauty, for it draws on
the resources within itself: even so our ministry holds
its own yet for a while ; but it cannot grow, it must even
fade and fail if, as is now the case, its natural wear and
waste be not given back to it from without.

This state of things has brought about a new pheno-
menon in our ecclesiastical system. For a new pheno-
menon it is that there should be institutions, and many
of them, which prepare men exclusively for Ordination,
which qualify them without the aid of the University,
which are recognised by our prelates as the source
whence they must draw a third of their clergy (in some
dioceses more than half their clergy already), whence
soon in those same dioceses nearly all will be drawn.
I speak not now of colleges which supply a professional
training supplcmentarij to the Universities, but of those
which receive non-graduates and present them to the
bishops after a two years' course, not seldom cut short
in individual instances by the bishops themselves to
a half or even a (piarter of that time. Such institutions
have probably but slight regard amongst you. But have
they not grown up from sheer necessity ? May we not
with all respect say that the responsibility of their origin
rolls back in no small measure on yourselves ? Is it
not better that the men who do seek the ministry, be
they schoolmasters, or merchants' clerks, or apprentices,
should be ordained after a period of special preparation
in a college arranged for the purpose, after some little —
though far too little — of contact and collision with other
minds, under tutors of aptitude for this special work,
rather than that they should be taken for the imposition

its Causes^ and Suggestions for its Care. 5

of hands straight from the desk and the counter? The
founders of such colleges assuredly regard them only as
a second best means to an end which must be accom-
plished somehow ; and could not, so far as they see, be
accomplished otherwise. Gladly, I think, would those
who work such institutions see their pupils depart from
them to crowd the colleges and schools of Oxford and
Cambridge. It is granted on all hands that not only
the highest training of the minister is through gradu-
ation here, but that that is the onhj proper and adequate
training — that it ought in a normal state of things to be
indispensable as a condition of Ordination. But no one
who will calmly and candidly consider the state and
prospects of the Church's work will assert that our
rulers ought to enforce any such preliminary, or even
can do so. A bishop who should refuse all but gra-
duates, would in the north have half the most laborious
posts of his diocese void. A bishop who should do so
in more favoured localities, could oidy secure what he
wanted for his own sphere at the expense of the Church
elsewhere. Agam and again has the attempt to raise
the standard of qualification for Ordination been frus-
trated by the necessity of having men, and the impos-
sibility of securing good men. A heavy burden surely
it is which is laid on those who are adjured " to lay
hands suddenly on no man," but find themselves in
a cruel strait, and are constrained to lay hands con-
tinually on those whose attainments are woefully short
of the mark, but must be sent forth in the Church's
name because none other can be found to go.

Is there any hope that changes in your arrangements
would attract a larger number of students to these time-
honoured seats of learning ? A two years' course in
Arts, followed by a Lhird year of special [)roi'essional

6 Our Want of Clerriy :

study, has often been suggested. But it seems doubt-
ful wisdom to throw away a good you have, for another
you only hope for. It is little likely that any such
change would bring into your hands more of our future
clergy ; whilst it would seriously impair the value, and
mar the completeness of the general education which
now you so effectively bestow. Let not our Universi-
ties degrade their ancient standard towards the popular
level. Let them not waste in loading the memory the
precious months now given to discipline of the mind.
Never surely was it more essential that a system of
mental cultivation of the highest order should be upheld
in its integrity, and carried out amongst our upper
ranks to its utmost finish. Such an education must
always be costly. The number who can afford it and
who will prize it must always be limited. That number,
amidst great changes both within the Universities and
without, amidst the introduction and multiplication of
class-lists and prizes, amidst the throwing open of an-
cient foundations and the removal of doctrinal tests,
has remained obstinately immoveable, and assuredly
will do so. It has not increased ; it is cause for thank-
fulness that it has not decreased.

Without nuitilation of our noble University system,
cnn we attract more of those who propose to seek Ordi-
nation to avail themselves of its full benefits? Some-
thing, no doubt, might in this way be done. There are
associations in many places for aiding candidates for the
ministry to graduate '^ These schemes might most ad-
vantageously be taken up, extended, stimulated, perhaps
met half way by assistance from the University itself.
Such assistance indeed the Church may justly claim.
Her loss through University reforms has been in many
'' See Appiudix D.

its Causes^ and Suggestions for its Cure. 7

ways heavy — not least when her Orders, once the con-
dition of so many offices and positions in the Uni-
versity, are now for those purposes so generally dis-
pensed with.

But such plans could do but little ; they might some-
what palliate the evils before us, they could not cure
them. The Church requires, and that quickly, men
in greatly increased numbers ® ; three times, four times
the scanty reinforcements she now draws. Can we hope
to see the scale of clerical remuneration raised ? The
Church is a poorly paid profession ; hence, in part at
least, the reason why it is being less sought after ;
hence the reason why our ablest men decline it. There
are, indeed, many more openings in life than there used
to be, and the relative position of Holy Orders, in
a worldly point of view, has fallen. The income of
a clergyman remains much what it was early in the
century, nay, is on an average lowered, for year by year
new and slenderly endowed churches are added to re-
duce the average. But the country at large is richer
than before, and our habits are more expensive. Rents,
and profits, and stipends are enhanced on every side ;
advantages of social position entail much larger outgo-
ings than heretofore. The pace of life is quickened,
and money more needful for those who would hold their
own in it. Trade turns over larger sums, involves
mightier interests, presents quicker returns to industry
and enterprise, is held in much higher estimation.
Against this feverish bustle and competition, amidst the
successes of this world and the allurements of an ever-
growing luxury, the quieter life and the modest pros-
pects of the ministry shew dull and pale. The tide of
youthful genius and energy sets away from the Church

* See Appeudix E.

8 Our Want of Clergy :

towards Australia and India, towards the mart, and the
court, and the bar. Unless we bestir ourselves, our pul-
j)its will be left to weakness, incapacity, and fanaticism.

There are those in this place whose words are never
in vain ; whose names guarantee and recommend any
movement they take up ; who have easy access to the
centres of influence ; who have tender hearts to feel the
evils of clerical poverty, wise heads to forecast its in-
evitable results ; we may surely add, who have likewise
the zeal and will to devise and to apply the remedies.

Schemes for a general re-distribution of Church pro-
perty are often talked of, but are plainly both revo-
lutionary and hopeless. But much might be done, in
full conformity with the spirit of our present arrange-
ments, to re-adjust our present resources ^ The funds
so procured would prove fruitful indeed if used as means
for eliciting and stimulating voluntary effort. Our peo-
ple have their idea of what a clergyman, his house, his
family, ought to be. It is not to be believed for a mo-
ment that the means to realize such an ideal would be
withholden if the need were plainly and authoritatively
set forth, and due security given for the right use of
them. Let our laity be plainly told that if a clergyman
may not live according to his means, — if, whilst he has
the pay of an operative, he must not wear serge, nor
eke out his narrow income by manual labour, nor tenant
a cottage, — then the only alternative is that they must
provide for him after the measure they expect of him.
It is not low pay only that our best clergy complain
of; many a labourer's cottage is lighted up with con-
tentment and peace of mind ; the hardship and the cru-
elty lie in combining slender incomes with the position
of a parish priest, in plunging a sensitive man into tlie
^ Sec Appendix F.

its Causes^ and Suggestions for its Cure. 9

bitterness of genteel poverty. True, indeed, the ministry
mnst not be sought from mercenary motives ; but it is
true also that '' they that preach the Gospel ought to live
of the Gospel." Let it be observed, too, that we cannot
secure disinterested pastors by withholding the fair re-
muneration of their labour. There are those to whom
the smallest living is a bait, but they will not be the
best even of those with whom secondary motives prevail.
Small livings, where they are a temptation at all, can be
so only to the very needy, and to those who hope for
nothino; better in other walks of life. The effect of in-
adequate stipends is to draw to the ministry the less
able of the poorest classes of the community, and no

There have grown up around us many small theolo-
gical seminaries which qualify for Holy Orders without
the aid of the Universities — which yearly increase in
number — which gain even a firmer hold upon our ec-
clesiastical system, supplying already from a fourth to
a third part of our ministers. Is it well that such in-
stitutions should be multiplied, and should absorb, as
they threaten to do, the largest share in educating our
clergy? Consider the natural and necessary charac-
teristics of them. Diocesan coUeo-es must be small. In
each diocese there are scarcely, on the average, twenty
men annually admitted to Holy Orders, and of these
certiiinly not one quarter are likely as a rule to owe
their introduction to the Church to the local college ^.
Theological colleges unquestionably ought to be under
the conduct of an able Principal of clear and decided
views. But such a man dealing with the class of minds
which come under him cannot but turn out continued
reproductions of his own opinions and peculiarities,
s See Appendix G.

lo Oar Want of Clergij :

Neither can such a college either contain or support
a staff of professors who might give in the general result
breadth and variety of teaching. Must not our able
prelates also — ought they not — does not the diocesan plan
contemplate that they should — mould the working of the
diocesan college ? Shall we not have each college with
its own manuals, ritual, course of doctrinal instruction
modelled after some marked type ? Is there no danger
lest particular districts become the camps of particular
parties, and the country have to be mapped out by its
theological colours? An education, too, which is pro-
fessional merely is ever undesirable. Yet a lawyer or
a physician who has been trained exclusively amongst
persons and things of his profession, need not perhaps
be inferior in his art because he has learned nothing
else. Far different with the parish priest. Theology
is rightly placed as the keystone of the arch which is
built up of the liberal arts. Studied from the first and
alone, it above all sciences narrows the mind and hardens
the heart ; and, like some fallen angel, at once corrupts
and is corrupted. If the only real education a young
man receives is a theological one, he will hardly escape
strongly marked party sympathies, exclusively profes-
sional habits of thought and feeling, — all, in short, which
constitutes a priestly caste. Yet it is through contact —
close and frequent — with the heart and mind of his
people, through a sympathetic and generous tone of
thought and feeling, that success in the sacred calling
can alone be gained. Nor is this all. The appliances
of a thorough theological education, — the chapel, the
library, the lecture-room, — are neither few nor cheap.
Can they be provided effectively for a large number of
colleges up and down the country? How important is
the environment of a young man during his college days!

its Causes^ and Suggestions for its Cure. ii

Would it be well for our clergy to be trained where all
about tliem is little, and mean, and squalid?

Such points can only be glanced at. Their signifi-
cance and gravity will with such an audience find ready
appreciation. Let it be observed that the issue before
us is not now whether the Universities are not the best
schools for our clergy ; that is a point on which there is,
or ought to be, but one opinion. The question, surely
a most momentous question, is quite another. We can-
not obtain clergy enough from the Universities ; the
supply, inadequate before, is not increasing ; nor can it
from this source be greatly increased. As a makeshift,
our dioceses are being rapidly overspread by institutions
exclusively professional, and above all exclusively theolo-
gical, which impart by a hasty process a more or less
efficient preparation for Holy Orders. Shall we stand
by and see the education already of near a third — soon
we shall have to say the majority — of our clergy passing
out of the hands and from under the control of the
Universities ? Surely it is not well for the Church, nor
for the country, nor for the Universities themselves, that
this should be so, unless indeed no better system could
be devised.

That indeed would be no improvement which should
withdraw young men, or any of them, from the full
academic course here off'ered. But without risk of this,
something, even much, might be done by concerted
action starting from our Universities, to forestal the
mischiefs and make good the shortcomings of the pre-
sent state of clerical education, and above all to secure
an increased supply of clergy. Steps might be taken to
bring about an amalgamation and reconstruction of the
many theological colleges under the supervision of the
Universities. Grouped round four or five centres, which

B 4

12 Our Want of Clergy :

should, excepting the Universities, be the only recog-
nised access to Holy Orders, our now scattered re-
sources for theological instruction would go far to sup-
ply all that could possibly be wanted. The larger
institutions might be rendered complete in all their
parts. They could command and retain a tolerably
numerous and efficient body of tutors, who should give
themselves solely to the work. They would be rendered
at least permanent from the first *" through existing en-
dowments, and would gather rapidly round them from
the piety of Churchmen new means of stability and in-
creased usefulness. Their intellectual atmosphere would
be freer, their impress broader, their standard higher.
The temptations of poverty and the evils of competition
amongst a number of little theological schools, each
strusrs:lin2: to hold its o-round, would be avoided. Affi-
Hated to the Universities, they would have a standing
before the Church and the country which otherwise
they could not have. Details might be adjusted in
many ways. The certificate of the theological colleges
might bear the venerable imprimatur of the University ;
the examinations might be held within the precincts of
the University; the University ought also to appoint
the examiners, and have through its Professors a share
in the management. The closer and nearer the tie be-
tween the University and the schools for our clergy the
better. Lastly, it can hardly be doubted that through
such an improved system of clerical education much
might be done to remedy the grievous want of more
clergy. The Church assuredly has a stronger and
a deeper hold on the middle and lower classes than ever.
There are many, many e.g. in the families of the less
wealthy clergy, who would gladly seek Orders had they
** See Appendix H

its CaiiseSy and Suggestions for its Cure. 13

reasonable facilities for doing so. But the Universities
are too expensive. To pass through a theological col-
lege indeed is easy and cheap, but the footing thus
gained in the Church is inferior, the social consideration
and influence less, the professional prospects, never in
the Church brilliant, are to such discouraging indeed".

Through the means suggested I venture to think the
Church would obtain the much-needed recruits for the
ranks of the ministry, and those recruits, too, better
trained and apter for her work than many she now
enrols. But it is to our Universities that she should
still, and always, look for the men to fill the more in-
fluential and responsible posts. It is only by a due
supply of highly educated pastors that she can hope to
hold her own amidst the growing and restless intel-
lectualism of the times. It is only through such that
she can retain or regain the many who now in the way-
wardness and self-sufficiency of half-learning, challenge
on any pretext her faith or deny her authority. We
must hope, therefore, that the causes which have of late
robbed the Church of her wonted help from this place
are but temporary. May I with all deference submit
that the inadequacy, — the increased inadequacy, — of
theological lectures in the colleges is amongst those
causes'^? No doubt there are now, more than ever
before, the ample advantages of professorial lectures
in the various branches of divinity, but there is no
obligation on your pupils to avail themselves of them.
No doubt the curriculum of secular study, enlarged
of late years, makes larger demands on the energy
of both student and tutor. No doubt there is a re-
action and lassitude after the inordinate and unsea-
sonable appetite for theology which the younger part
' See Appendix I. '' See Appendix J.

14 Our Want of Clergy :

of the University manifested twenty years ago. But is
it well and right that the studies subsidiary to Holy

1 3

Online LibraryThomas Espinelle EspinOur want of clergy : its causes, and suggestions for its cure : a sermon preached before the University of Oxford, on the second Sunday in Lent, March 1, 1863 (Volume Talbot → online text (page 1 of 3)