An Appeal for the Clergy

— Some weeks ago, according the to the morning newspapers, a Clergy. metropolitan divine, who had been out of the city for a day’s sport, was arrested on his way home, and taken before a justice, on the charge of an illegal shooting of song-birds. His bag was found to contain thirty odd pieces of such game, and the court, having no discretion under the statute, I suppose, fined him five dollars apiece for them. The situation might easily have been an awkward one ; for the good man, in obedience to the Scripture injunction, had gone out carrying no purse. Fortunately, however, he had taken his checkbook along (there is nothing in the Bible against that), and with a few strokes of the pen his persecutions were ended.

Only two days after reading this story, I happened to be passing through a piece of roadside woods, on my afternoon ramble, when I encountered the village clergyman, dressed in a shooting-jacket and carrying a double-barreled gun. I did not inquire after his luck, nor whether he was loaded for bears or for snowbirds ; this, I thought, was one of the times when silence is the better part of curiosity. But I was impressed with the fact that the country minister has the same needs as his urban brother, and as I posted away I fell to pondering a matter which I am sure must have occurred to many others as well as to myself, but which I do not remember to have seen mentioned anywhere in print. I refer to the desirability of granting to gun-loving clergymen (their number cannot be so very great, relatively considered, I am inclined to think) some special sporting privilege, —to be known, perhaps, as a clerical license or a pastoral permit.

There can be no question that those who have the care of souls stand in peculiar need of recreation. Seeing so much of the sorrow and sin of the world, weighed down as they continually are by the evil doings of the laity, they may fairly claim the right to almost anything in the way of solace and innocent diversion. If it relieves the tension of their overwrought sympathies to go out and shoot a few bluebirds and hermit thrushes, — as the metropolitan pastor before mentioned is said to have done, — why should the law step in to forbid them ? I confess that it might be a shock to my feelings to see them so engaged. I fear, indeed, that for a Sunday or two I should hardly enjoy the ministrations of a man whom I had seen shooting, say, a chickadee or a goldfinch. But probably I am a little odd in my notions, and at best a layman’s taste is no very trustworthy criterion. Statesmen find it for their health to shoot ducks, and it would seem quite in keeping that clergymen, being persons of more refinement, should be refreshed by shooting birds correspondingly more delicate. In so good a cause, at any rate, I would cheerfully lay aside all personal prejudice. So I say, let us give the reverend gentlemen their clerical licenses. If, after a time, tlxe crops should begin to suffer under a visitation of noxious insects, who can doubt that a kind Providence would somehow interpose for our relief? Without question, too, the clergy would relinquish their exceptional privileges, temporarily at least, rather than see the public welfare imperiled. Perhaps they would go back to angling, which used to be accounted, as we may say, a kind of semi-religious amusement. Fishes are less highly organized than birds, and probably suffer less when killed, and so of course it is somewhat less interesting to kill them, but at a pinch they might suffice. Anyhow, it will be time enough to cross the bridge when we come to it. For the present, surely (I speak as a public-spirited citizen and a pewholder), we can afford to do with fewer bluebirds and hermit thrushes, if thereby we can secure better preaching and praying.