[from Memoirs of Bishop Hildesley]
To Dr. DRUMMOND, Archbishop of York.
On the STATE of the CHURCH, in the Isle and Diocese of MANN, in the PROVINCE of YORK. Presented to his Grace by the Lord Bishop of MANN, in July 1762.
Although I know it is. sometimes said, that a person succeeds with disadvantage to an office, which has been filled by a predecessor of remarkably eminent qualities, I must take leave to think the reverse is nearer the truth ; at least, with respect to the instance I am about to refer to ; Viz. my coming after the great and good Dr. WILSON, to this see of Mann : forasmuch as I find many excellent things ready done and established to my hands, in regard to the government of the church; besides the Example, which, by the traces he has left, his lordship still lives to shew me. This I endeavour, so far as I am able, to follow ; though I am sensible it is, and must be, "non passibus aequis."
Among the sundry good regulations, which my worthy predecessor formed and set forth for the benefit of this church, that was none of the least, which he has noted in a letter respecting the " Constitutions" passed in convocation by himself and clergy in the year 1703 ; which he afterwards got confirmed by a statute law of the land , still in force, and, as nearly as may be, duly observed.
With respect to the Clergy, I am happily enabled to give a different account from what bp. Barrow does of those in his time ; namely, that I have found them, in general, a very sensible, regular, decent set of men, almost without exception.
The parishes, though few in number, viz. only seventeen, are very populous ; the island, though of small dimensions,35 miles long,, and 8 or 9 broad,containing, upon a pretty accurate computation, made since my arrival, very near twenty thousand souls.
The adult natives, to a man, I think I may say, are conformists to the established communion of the church of England ; and so exact and punctual, for the most part, in their attendance on the public offices of divine worship, and especially at the sacrament, (there being no less than six hundred at the communion in a country parish church at Easter,) that there is little or no occasion for presentments on this head : and, so remarkably uniform are they in their behaviour at all parts of the divine service, that it is seldom known or seen, that any person, of whatever age or sex, fails of kneeling, where or whenever the rubrick directs it, though it be of the bare, earthen, dirty floor ; and that often with such inconvenience to themselves and each other, from the scantiness of room, that scarce a month passes throughout the year, without some one or other being carried out sick, or fainting : kneel, however, they will, be it ever so incommodious. Whether this be owing to ancient custom amongst them, (for custom here in all things carries a powerful sanction,) or from the late good bishops attention to this very article, who had. himself, it is well known, a special regard to decency and order,I cannot say ; but so I found it : And it continues to be the practice of the native inhabitants of this isle, to observe a strict uniformity of reverent gesture, in their respective congregations ; notwithstanding, as I before noted, the space for their reception and attendance in them is so narrow and confined, as not to contain, in some parishes, above one half, and in most of the rest, little more than two thirds of the people ; who from principle desire, and from their from their parochial assessments have a right, they think, to be admitted to perform divine service in them .
By some benefactions, from the living and the dead, the people have been enabled to rebuild and enlarge three of their parish churches. And. there we stop, and must stop, till Providence shall be pleased to raise up more friends, to assist us in so desirable and so charitable a work as this, of erecting places moderately convenient for the reception of a well disposed people, to attend the offices of religious worship ; in a country, where there is no law for briefs, for the purpose of rebuilding churches, as in England ; and where, if there were any such method appointed the circumstances of the inhabitants, especially in the country parishes, are far too low, to raise a sum of any significance towards it. This is one of the grievances which the diocese of Mann at present labours under
Another, if possible still worse, is, their having neither printed Bibles, nor Common-Prayer Books, in the native language of the country ;a defect, I believe, which no Protestant church in Christendom feels, where they have established forms, besides the church of MANN : whence the major part of the people are unable to attain any knowledge of the genuine Scriptures, but what they receive from the ofhand translations produced by the minister in the desk, out of the English Bibles : and so,in like manner, of the Common-Prayer ; every portion of which, consequently, must he varied, and more or less exact according to the judgement, the diligence, and abilities of the officiating reader. How very defectively this part of the office must needs sometimes be performed,by the junior clergy, at least, at their first taking orders, just after having been for some years versed in English and the learned languages, under an academick tutor bred in England,any one may readily conceive.
This latter, as well as the former, I cannot but look upon as a melancholy circumstance of the Church of Christ established in this land ; a Church, which has the honour of been sixty nine years older than that of Bangor, in Wales ; Which is said to be the first bishoprick we read of among the Britons, and one hundred and fourteen yrs before Austin, the Monk.
The, Manks people, in general are naturally shrewd, of quick apprehension, and very apt to learn and they would be, I am confident, extremely fond of perusing the Scriptures, if they had them, and were taught to read them, in their own tongue, as they are the English Bible which latter, numbers can do very roundly, whist they scarce understand the meaning of a single sentence ; nay, I might say, I believe, of some, a single word!
The use of a good book, in the Manks tongue, hath been sufficiently and happily experienced in this land, from the publication of the late bishop, Dr. Wilsons excellent " Cathetical Exposition, together with private and Family Prayers," which is now reprinting, at the expence of a lady lately deceased in England 1 . And if the " Christian Monitor," a most useful book, now translating in the island into Manks, were to be printed and dispersed through the country parishes, and one, at least, in each family taught to read it, I am persuaded it would greatly tend to give them a due sense of real religion ; and help them to dispel , the remains of superstition which for the want of more such kind of books still subsists among them. But, how any of these great and good ends are now to be promoted or provided for, God only knows !
May. the great lover of souls inspire the hearts of those of larger abilities, with a disposition to assist me by a portion of their bounty ;in like manner, though it should not be in equal measure, with what my two super-excellent predecessors have experienced : who, in the great good which they were enabled to do for this church and diocese, were in their times rendered happy, by the success which it pleased God to vouchsafe them, in the applications they made to their friends in England !
Something, however, from my superior brethren, the archbishops and bishops, and other dignitaries, I will venture to flatter myself with the hopes of receiving; I would not appear to be an impertinently importunate supplicant; . but cannot help being the more earnest in behalf of the poor people of my charge, as I have nothing of any kind to ask or to with for myself; except it be, to be enabled to answer the ends of my present important trust.
A free boon, be it ever so small, will be gratefully accepted, towards carrying on the good purpose for which it is craved ; and will be faithfully applied by him, who has the honour to subscribe, my lord, your graces most respectful and obedient servant,
MARK SODOR. and MANN.
N.B Any benefactions, of which the PROPOSALS herewith sent shall be thought worthy, may be paid into the hands of Messrs Drummond and Co at Charing Cross ; Sir Francis Gosling Fleet-street ; James Heywood, Esq. in Austin-Friars; or to the present Bishop of Mann, in person, as shall be most agreeable to the several contributors,
* Bp. Hildesley here adds, by way of note, the following curious copy of a churchwarden presentment, from one of the country parishes in the Isle of Mann:
" The wardens present, that the church is not sufficient to contain the one half of the grown people of the parish; so that, by their scarcity of room, they be made uneasy in the time of Divine service ; and do not enjoy the intended benefit of their church-assessments. Therefore we beg the courts assistance, to be redressed in this aggrievance."
1 Mrs. Catharine Halsal.