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FACTS ILLUSTRATING- THE HISTORICAL…

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FACTS ILLUSTRATING- THE HISTORICAL PRO- GRESS OF THE TITHE SYSTEM. (From the Nonconformist.) The ministers of the primitive churches, it is admitted on all hands, derived their maintenance from the willing con- tributions of their converts to the Christian faith. Tertullian, in his Apology," chap. 39, indicates, that in his day these offerings- were made monthly, and that the revenue thus o supplied was expended, not merely in the support of reli- gious teachers, but in relieving the poor, children destitute of parents, aged and feeble persons, men wrecked by sea, or condemned to the metal mines, or banished into islands, or cast into prison, professing the true God and the Christian faith. Eusebius declares, and is confirmed in his statement by Tertuliian, Origen, and Cyprian, that this mode of contribu- tion and expenditure continued till about the year A.D. 304. Somewhere about this time lands were first given to the Church, and the income arising from them went to swell the common treasury; but the use to which such funds were mainly devoted was not the maintenance of the clergy, for Origen writes, It becomes us to be faithful in disposing the rents of the Church, that we ourselves devour not those things which belong to the widows and the poor, but be content with simple diet and necessary appai-el"-and Prosper re- marks that 11 a minister able to live of himself ought not to participate of the goods of the Church." About A.D. 340, the council at Antioch decided that bishops might distribute the property of the Church (here- tofore confined to deacons exclusively), but that they should not take any part to themselves," or to the use of the priests and brethren that lived with them, unless neces- sity psdy required it/' and quoted in support of this restric- tion the words of Paul, Having food and raiment, let us otherwise be content." At the commencement of the fifth century, we catch a glimpse of the primary germ of the tithe system, in the Christian Church. Chrysostom, alluding to the liberality of the ancient Jewish people, and Sommending it as all example worthy of being followed by the disciples of Jesus, speaks," he says, not as commanding or forbidding that they should give more, yet as thinking it fit that they should not give less than the tenth part." Jerome exhorts the Church to the same elf ct. Augustin, Bishop of Hippo, waxes bolder. lie has a whole homily on the divine right of tithes—and says, the neglect of the payment of tithe is the cause of sterility and blast- ing." In the same spirit, Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, tells his people that not paying their tithes, they should be found guilty at God's tribunal of the death of all the poor that perish through want in the places where they dwell." Gre- gory brings in the authority of the Mosaic law, and teaches that we are commanded in the law to give the tenth of all things unto God." The question whether tithes ought to be paid, remained quite an open question, and, indeed, was much disputed, as we learn from Agobard, Bishop of Lyons; nor was it till about A.D. 800 that the proportion of his property which a man should place at the disposal of the Church for charitable and religious uses was regarded as a settled point. From the ninth to the eleventh centuries tithes were called "the Lord's goods," the patrimony of the poor," and such like and the Council at Nantes declared that the clergy were not to use them as their-own,, but as committed to their trust." The payment of titho was not made binding by the autho- rity of the Church until it was so ordained by the Council of L-iteran, held under Pope Innocent III., in the year A.D. 1215. After which time, we have abundant evidence that the,clergy very rapidly encroached upon the patrimony of the poor"-and this same Innocent III. cried out against those who gave their tithes and ifrst-fruits to the poor, and not, to the priests, as heinous offenders. By a general council held at Lyons, A.D. 1274, it was decreed, "That it should not thenceforth be lawful for men to give their tithes of their own pleasure, where they would, as it had: been before, but that they should pay all their tithes to the mother Church." In some respects the facts relating to tithes in Great Britain differ in character from those relating to the rest of Catholic Europe. Whilst this island was a province of the Roman empire, the Christian churches planted in it would pmlwIJy b.. gfovarnfir] on the same principles as those on the continent. At the final abandonment of Britain by the llomans, about A.D. 426, there were from thirty to forty bishops, with a due proportion of inferior clergy—but the former were so miserably poor, that Sulpicius Severns remarks of three of them who assisted at the Council of Rimini, that they had no property whatever." The Britons, however; between the sixth and seventh cen- turies, harassed perpetually by the Picts and Scots, sought the aid of the Saxons, who, discontented with their treat- ment, turned, after a time, upon their allies, and drove them into Wales. England was divided into the Heptarchy—and heathenism prevailed from one end of it to the other. About A.D. GOO, Gregory the First, then Pope of Rome, sent Augustin hither as a missionary, by whom Ethelbert, King of Kent, was converted, and, in process of time, other kings, with their subjects-but direction was given to Augustin by Gregory, not to make religion burdensome to the missionary church, but to follow the example of the Apostles in primitive times. Great success, however, gradually removed their delicacy, n and they soon began to preach that tithes ought to be paid. In 786, two legates were sent from Pope Hadrian 1. to Ofl'a, King of M-ercia, and Alfwolfe, King of Northumber- land, and a .decree was obtaine#, in relation to both these kingdoms, commanding the people to pay tithe. Athelstone, A.D. 930, Edmond, A.D. 940, Edgar, A.D. 970, Ethelred, A.D. 1010, Canute, A.D. 1020, Edward the Con- fessor, and other Saxon kings, made several laws for tithes —and the privileges and powers extended by them to the Church, were confirmed by William the Conqueror, Henry I., Henry II., and Stephen. All the preceding laws, canons,, and decrees, of kings, popes, councils, and bishops, to the effect that every man ought to pay the tenth part of his increase, left the indi- vidual to pay them where he pleased, and hence the exorbi- tant wealth of certain favourite abbeys and monasteries. It was not until the decretal epistle of Innocent III. to the Bishop of Canterbury, in the commencement of the thirteenth century, enjoining every man, under threat of ecclesiastical censures for disobedience, to pay his tithes to the clergyman who ministered to him, that the parochial system of payment was established-—" aud," says Coke, because the Pope's decree seemed reasonable, it was admitted and enjoined by the law of the nation, king. aiid. people being then Papists." t, S Parishes being set up, priests appointed, and tithes paid to them, what before was owned as a gift, due," indeed, unto God," was, after forty years' possession, claimed as a deht- prescription was pleaded as a just title—the canon laws gained full force-aitd, lest the clergy should swallow up the whole offerings of the people, Parliament enacted, that a convenient portion of tithe should be set apart for the main- tenance of the poor of the parish for ever. Rich. 11. c., 15, s. 6. Tithes, however, could only be recovered in ecclesiastical courts, and no greater punishment could be inflicted upon recusants, which the labours of Wyclyffe and his followers made exceedingly numerous, than excommunication, until the Act of Henry VIII. 32, c. 7. We oppose these historical facts to vague and unsupported clerical assertions. We have chosen to give them in skele- ton, that every reader may see the bones of our conclusion- that tithes were never considered as endowments made over in perpetuity to the Church by the pious munificence of our ancestors. It is certain, that the clergy have made them their own by converting the common charitable and ecclesi- astical funds of the faithful to their own exclusive use, throw-, ing upon us the burden of maintaining the poor, and of repairing religious edifices, to which, as well as to the sup- port of tlie ministry, tithes were formerly allotted.

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