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Literary Life of the Rev. William Harness
William Harness to Mr. Culling, 1 December 1848

Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Chapter IX.
Chapter X.
Chapter XI.
Chapter XII.
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“Kensington Gore, Dec. 1st, 1848.
“My dear Sir,

“What a strange thing human nature is! and how very strange that two persons who, I sincerely believe, both look for the truth of things, and nothing else, should come to such opposite conclusions as you and I! Why should not the Bishops have carriages and horses, as well as any Christian gentleman of the same income? And why should deep learning, like that of the Bishop of Lincoln, or Lichfield, or Peterborough, or Ely, or of the late and present Archbishops of Canterbury, be denied a rate of income in the Church which it would have commanded at the Bar or in Medicine? I cannot see any reason. And I can see many strong reasons why it should be so rewarded, particularly the reason of old Bishop Jewel, which is (I forget the exact words), ‘that men who dedicate themselves to the Ministry don’t require such inducements, but they are wanting to induce parents to educate their sons for the Ministry.’ Christianity has nothing to do, according to my views of the
Gospel, with the possession of the riches and distinctions of life; but it has to do with the humility, the self-denial, and the grateful temper with which they are held; and I must say that, in my somewhat extended range of intercourse with society, I have oftener met those dispositions among the few residents of palaces, whom it has been my good fortune to be acquainted with, than among the many whom I have daily intercourse with in my own and humbler walks of life. I must think that every class of society, from the highest to the lowest, ought to have the Ministers of the Gospel circulating in habits of intimacy among them; and those of the highest class must be possessed of incomes suitable to the station of the persons whom they have to live among, or they would (till the world is very different in its moral condition from what it is) very soon find themselves excluded from the sphere of their usefulness, in which they are so useful. Voluntary poverty was one of the inventions of Popery, adopted from the Jewish sect of the Essenes; but it never was a part of the Christian religion. Neither is the example of our Blessed Lord to be servilely copied in its actions, but in its principles. In submission to the Divine Will, He did His duty in going about the Holy Land for three years, out of thirty-three, ‘doing good;’ and it is the duty of every ordinary Christian
who would evince an equal submission to the Divine Will, to copy those retired and laborious thirty years of his Saviour’s life which were spent in the home of His parents in Nazareth. A Bishop in his palace, if a Christian, shows us how a Christian nobleman ought to live; as a rector or a curate, if God’s grace be with him, may set an example for humbler disciples of our Lord to follow.

“As to the sale of livings; those only are sold which are private property, and generally the private property of laymen. And whatever notional objections may lie against the practice, I can see none in theory or in expediency; but just the reverse. If a young man, who has spent several thousands of pounds on his education, purchases a living of £180 a year (like that mentioned, in your advertisement), from which he will not derive perhaps above £8 per cent per annum on the purchase money, it is a guarantee that he has an independent income, and that a gentleman is going to reside in, and take the duty of, a remote agricultural parish, who will be employing, and spending money among the population, as well as attending to their spiritual instruction. As a dissenter, you have no notion of the immense amount of private property which is thus brought into the Church and scattered over the country by persons who love their profession and are careless of its emoluments. I had, the day
before yesterday, a gentleman with me who relinquished a practice at the Bar which was producing him between £1,500 and £2,000 a year, to take orders, and go to live on a small cure of £30 a year which he had possessed himself of in Oxfordshire. I don’t like speaking of myself; but, this year, I have disbursed on the schools, the clothing fund, and the sick poor of our district (I confine my relief entirely to the sick) more than three times the amount of my stipend as Minister of the District, which (including Easter offerings) is about £40. All that my experience and reading teach me of the Church and its Ministers is that there is no form of Christianity so pure and apostolic in its doctrines and discipline; and that, in spite of some weak and some wicked members of the flock, I know no such learned, accomplished, and self-denying men out of the Ministry as I am acquainted with in it. And, remember, they make no fuss about it!

“I am ashamed to have bored you with this long letter; but, as the French philosopher says, ‘I have not time to write a short one;’ and I did not like you to remain unanswered.

“We shall, clearly, never agree on these Church matters; but there is one matter on which we are perfectly agreed: Mrs. Barbauld’s prose is, I think, much better than her poetry. But she lived in a good age of prose writers, and at the end of a good,
but not the best, sort of verse writers; and while in the latter, as a clever artist, she was not inferior to many, in the former she was superior to most of her contemporaries.

“Believe me to be, my dear Sir,
“Yours very faithfully,
W. Harness.”