At present, the revenues of the English Clergy are generally very small and insufficient: above a third of the best benefices of England, having been anciently, by the Pope’s grant, appropriated to monasteries, were on their dissolution, made Lay fees; besides what hath been taken by secret and indirect means, through corrupt compositions and compacts and customs in many other parishes. And also many estates being wholly exempt from paying tithes, as the lands that belonged to the Cistercian Monks, and to the Knights Templars and Hospitallers.
And those benefices that are free from these things are yet (besides First Fruits and Tenths to the King, and Procurations to the Bishop) taxed towards the charges of their respective parishes, and towards the public charges of the nation, above and beyond the proportion of the Laity.
The Bishoprics of England have been also since the latter of HENRY VIII.’s reign, to the coming in of King JAMES, most miserably robbed and spoiled of the greatest part of their lands and revenues. So that, at this day , a mean gentleman of L200 from land yearly, will not change his worldly estate and condition with divers Bishops: and an Attorney, a shopkeeper, a common artisan will hardly change theirs, with the ordinary Pastors of the Church.
Some few Bishoprics do yet retain a competency. Amongst which, the Bishopric of Durham is accounted one of the chief: the yearly revenues whereof, before the late troubles [i.e., the Civil Wars] were above L6,000 [= L25,000 now]: of which by the late Act for abolishing Tenures in capite , was lost about L2,000 yearly.
Out of this revenue, a yearly pension of L800 is paid to the Crown, ever since the reign of Queen ELIZABETH; who promised, in lieu thereof, so much in Impropriations: which was never performed.
Above L340 yearly is paid to several officers of the County Palatine of Durham.
The Assizes and Sessions, also, are duly kept in the Bishop’s House, at the sole charges of the Bishop.
Also the several expenses for keeping in repair certain banks of rivers in that Bishopric, and of several Houses belonging to the Bishopric.
Moreover, the yearly Tenths, public taxes, the charges of going to and waiting at Parliament, being deducted; there will remain, in ordinary years, to the Bishop to keep hospitality, which must be great, and to provide for those of his family, but about L1,500 [= L4,500 now] yearly.
The like might be said of some other principal Bishoprics.
The great diminution of the revenues of the Clergy, and the little care of augmenting and defending the patrimony of the Church, is the great reproach and shame of the English Reformation; and will, one day, prove the ruin of Church and State.
“It is the last trick,” saith St. GREGORY, “that the Devil hath in this world. When he cannot bring the Word and Sacraments into disgrace by errors and heresies; he invents this project, to bring the Clergy into contempt and low esteem.”