Page:The Dioceses of England.djvu/9

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THE DIOCESES OF ENGLAND.


The history of the ecclesiastical divisions of England has some characteristics of its own, which may be profitably compared with those of some other countries. Gaul was mapped out into dioceses in the days of Roman dominion. The see, the bishopstool, was placed in the chief town of the Gaulish tribe and the extent of the diocese was determined by the extent of the jurisdiction of the city. That is, the ecclesiastical divisions followed the civil divisions of the time. And to this day they are the best guide to them. Change has been considerable, but much less than might have been looked for. The ancient and modern divisions still largely coincide. And when change has been made, it has largely taken the shape of simple union and simple division. Against these geography does not kick. Simply to divide a large district or to unite two small ones needs no geographical protest. The main boundaries live on through either process. What geography kicks at is the making a district out of mere scraps of other districts. Then we lose our way.

Thus, to turn to the modern map of Germany, civil or ecclesiastical, one who is accustomed to the old map does lose his way, as he does not either in France or in England. The ecclesiastical map has, according to ancient rule, followed the civil map, and we cannot complain. But the civil map has so changed that the new has no reference to the old. An eminent Presbyterian wept at coming to Mainz and finding only a diocesan Bishop. He did not expect to find an Elector, but he did expect to find an Archbishop of some kind. But on the principle which gave Mainz either Archbishop or Elector, it was most likely right that, when the Elector passed away, the Archbishop should pass away also.

England comes somewhere between the two. The civil divisions have, for the last thousand years, changed wonderfully little. An English shire has become something like a natural object; it goes along with the rivers and mountains. But the ecclesiastical divisions have parted company with the civil much more than elsewhere. They were mapped out, and that