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[35] movement of usurpers. Convocations were infre-
chap. III.} 1763.
quent, and if laymen were not called to them, it was because the assembly was merely formal. Through parliament the laity amended and regulated the church. It seemed, indeed, as if the bishops were still elected by a chapter of the clergy; but the privilege existed only in appearance; the crown, which gave leave to elect, named also the person to be chosen, and deference to its nomination was enforced by the penalties of a premunire.

The laity, too, had destroyed the convents and monasteries which, under other social forms, had been the schools, the poor-houses, and the hostelries of the land; and all the way from Netley Abbey to the rocky shores of Northumberland, and even to the remote loneliness of Iona, the country was strewn with the broken arches, and ruined towers, and tottering columns of buildings, which once rose in such numbers and such beauty of architecture that they seemed like a concert of voices chanting a perpetual hymn of praise. Moreover, the property of the church, which had been enjoyed by the monasteries that undertook the performance of the parochial offices, had now fallen into the hands of impropriators; so that funds set apart for charity, instruction, and worship, were become the plunder of laymen, who seized the great tithes and left but a pittance to their vicars.

The lustre of spiritual influence was tarnished by this strict subordination to the temporal power. The clergy had never slept so soundly over the traditions of their religion; and the dean and chapter, at their cathedral stalls, seemed like strangers encamped

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