Mild were his doctrines, and not one discourse
But gained in softness what it lost in force;
Kind his opinions; he would not receive
An ill report, nor evil act believe.
* * * * *
Now rests our vicar.
They who knew him best
Proclaim his life t’ have been entirely—rest.
The rich approved—of them in awe he stood;
The poor admired—they all believed him good;
The old and serious of his habits spoke;
The frank and youthful loved his pleasant joke;
Mothers approved a safe contented guest,
And daughters one who backed each small request;
In him his flock found nothing to condemn;
Him sectaries liked—he never troubled them;
No trifles failed his yielding mind to please,
And all his passions sunk in early ease;
Nor one so old has left this world of sin
More like the being that he entered in.”
A somewhat caustic and sarcastic sketch, and perhaps a little ill-natured, of a somewhat amiable cleric. Dr. Syntax is a good example of an old-world parson, whose biographer thus describes his laborious life:
“Of Church preferment
he had none;
Nay, all his hope of that was gone;
He felt that he content must be
With drudging-in a curacy.
Indeed, on ev’ry Sabbath-day,
Through eight long miles he took his way,
To preach, to grumble, and to pray;
To cheer the good, to warn the sinner,
And if he got it,—eat a dinner:
To bury these, to christen those,
And marry such fond folks as chose
To change the tenor of their life,
And risk the matrimonial strife.
Thus were his weekly journeys made,
’Neath summer suns and wintry shade;
And all his gains, it did appear,
Were only thirty pounds a-year.”
And when the last event of his hard-working life was over—
“The village wept,
the hamlets round
Crowded the consecrated ground;
And waited there to see the end
Of Pastor, Teacher, Father, Friend.”
Who could write a better epitaph?
Doubtless the crying evil of what is called “the dead period” of the Church’s history was pluralism. It was no uncommon thing for a clergyman to hold half a dozen benefices, in one of which he would reside, and appoint curates with slender stipends to the rest, only showing himself “when tithing time draws near.”
When Bishop Stanley became Bishop of Norwich in 1837 there were six hundred non-resident incumbents, a state of things which he did a vast amount of work to remedy. Mr. Clitherow tells me of a friend who was going to be married and who requested a neighbour to take his two services for him during his brief honeymoon. The neighbour at first hesitated, but at last consented, having six other services to take on the one Sunday.