Part 3zc of Chapter 1 of Book 5 of The Wealth of Nations Simplified

The Reformation Icon

August 1, 2021

221 The reformation was strong enough to overturn the church and its state in countries where the government was weak, unpopular, and not firmly established, as in Scotland.

222 The reformation in Europe no general tribunal or an ecumenical council to settle disputes.

Disputes between the followers of the reformation in different countries could never be decided. Many disputes arose among them.

The most interesting were about the government of the church and the right of conferring ecclesiastical benefices.

These gave birth to the Lutheran and Calvinistic sects, the two principal parties of the reformation.

223 The Lutherians and the Church of England:

  • preserved the episcopal government,
  • established subordination among the clergy,
  • gave the sovereign the disposal of all the bishoprics and other consistorial benefices
  • made the sovereign the real head of the church, and
  • admitted the right of presentation in the sovereign and all lay patrons, without depriving the bishop his right of collating the smaller benefices within his diocese.

From the beginning, this system of church government was favourable to peace, order, and submission to the civil sovereign.

The Church of England always valued herself on the unexceptionable loyalty of her principles.

  • Under such a system, the clergy naturally recommend themselves to the sovereign, the court, and the nobility.

They court those patrons:

  • sometimes by vile flattery,
  • frequently by cultivating those arts which gain them the esteem of people of rank and fortune by:
    • their useful and ornamental knowledge,
    • the decent liberality of their manners,
    • the social good humour of their conversation, and
    • their contempt of the hypocritical austerities which fanatics pretend to practise, so that:
      • the clergy will be venerated, and
      • the common people will abhor the men of rank and fortune who do not practise austerities.

Such a clergy tend to neglect their influence and authority over the poor.

224 The Calvinists [followers of Huldrych Zwingli], on the contrary:

  • allowed the people of each parish to elect their own pastor, and
  • established perfect equality among the clergy.

When this was done vigorously, it:

  • caused disorder and confusion, and
  • corrupted the morals of the clergy and the people.

225 As long as the people could elect their own pastors, they were under the influence of the most fanatical clergy.

The clergy became fanatics to preserve their influence in those popular elections.

They encouraged fanaticism among the people and preferred the most fanatical candidate.

A small matter such as the appointment of a parish priest frequently created a violent contest in all neighbouring parishes which joined the quarrel.

When the parish was in a great city, it divided all the people into 2 parties.

When that city was a city-state or a capital of a small republic like Switzerland or Holland, disputes of this kind threatened to create:

  • a new schism in the church, and
  • a new faction in the state.

In those small republics, the magistrate had to present to all vacant benefices in order to preserve the public peace.

Scotland is the largest country where this presbyterian church government was established.

  • The rights of patronage in Scotland were abolished by the act which established presbytery in the beginning of William 3rd’s reign.

This act:

  • allowed certain classes to buy the right of electing their own pastor for a very small price.
  • established a constitution which was allowed for 22 years.

It was abolished by the 10th of queen Anne chapter 12 because of the disorders it created.

However, in an large country as Scotland, a tumult in a remote parish was unlikely to disturb the government.

The 10th of queen Anne restored the rights of patronage.

In Scotland, the benefice is given to the person presented by the patron.

The ‘cure of souls’ is the ecclesiastical jurisdiction in the parish.

  • Sometimes, the church requires a certain concurrence of the people before she confers the cure of souls on the presentee.
  • She sometimes delays the settlement until this concurrence can be procured, to preserve the peace of the parish.

The old fanatical spirit in the clergy or in the Scottish people are perhaps kept up principally by the tampering of the neighbouring clergy to procure or to prevent this concurrence.

226 The equality which the presbyterian form of church government establishes among the clergy, consists in:

  • The equality of authority or ecclesiastical jurisdiction
  • The equality of benefice.

In all presbyterian churches, the equality of authority is perfect, but the equality of benefice is not.

The difference between benefices are seldom so big to tempt the possessor to flatter his patron in order to get a better benefice.

In all the presbyterian churches where the rights of patronage are established, the established clergy try to gain the favour of their superiors by nobler and better arts, through:

  • their learning,
  • their life’s regularity, and
  • the faithful and diligent discharge of their duty.

Their patrons even complain of their independence.

They think the clergy is ungrateful for past favours. But at worst, they are perhaps just indifferent. This naturally arises from the consciousness that no further favours of the kind are ever to be expected.

The presbyterian clergy of Holland, Geneva, Switzerland, and Scotland are perhaps the most learned, decent, independent, and respectable men in Europe.


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