ARE TITHES JUSTIFIED?

Diatribae upon the first part of the late History of Tithes.

London, Felix Kyngston for Matthew Lownes, 1621.

£1,650

FIRST EDITION. 4to., pp. (xii) 579 (i). Roman letter, some Italic and Greek. Woodcut initials, ornaments and head- and tail-pieces. C19 armorial bookplate of Earls of Macclesfield to front pastedown, their armorial blind stamp to first few leaves. A little printer’s ink streaking to one page. A very good, clean copy in contemporary limp vellum, manuscript title to spine, remains of leather ties.

First edition of this lengthy and detailed attack on John Selden’s 1618 ‘History of Tythes,’ by the sometimes controversial cleric and scholar Richard Montague (or Montagu, c. 1575 – 1641). Montague, educated at Eton and Cambridge, became chaplain to James I, to whom the present work is dedicated, Bishop of Chichester in 1628, and of Norwich in 1638. He disliked the extremes of both Calvinism and Romanism, a position which did little to ingratiate him with either group: he became embroiled in a bitter rhetorical exchange with the Catholic theologian Matthew Kellison (c. 1560 – 1642), and his publication of the Immediate Addresse unto God alone (1624) incensed Puritans, who appealed to the House of Commons. Montague was protected by his connections to the King.

Selden had attempted to demonstrate, with his usual wealth of learning, that tithes were a historical development, and not established iure divino. Any attempt to counter Selden’s arguments might have been considered foolhardy, given the great jurist’s formidable reputation as a scholar and historian, but three concerted responses were produced not long after the work’s publication (as recorded by Wood, Athenae Oxon. II, 303). Montague and Richard Tillesley dealt with the legal side, and Stephen Nettles with the Rabbinical or Judaical. Of these, Montague’s is the most scholarly, and the most virulent. Although frequently lauding Selden’s learning, his tone is often sarcastic and scathing, whether goading (“the world was much ammused at the birth of your late History of Tythes”), feigning conciliation (“did you ever reade of any Master-piece of those excellent Artisans of old, published to view without much discourse?”), or offering his advice (“men of your complexion seldome are so disposed to take good counsell being given”).

135 pages of an introductory letter, addressed directly to Selden, precede Chapter 1, which discusses the Biblical origins of the Christian practice of paying tithes, and its history through Classical antiquity. Chapter 2 addresses the practice among the Jews, who, Montague reminds his readers, are as scrupulous payers of tithes as Christians. He further reinforces his point that the paying of tithes is a natural practice, not ordained by particular social or legal constraints, by concentrating in Chapter 3 on those outside the Judaeo-Christian fold, whether ancient pagans or modern tribes of the New World. The work ends, characteristically, with a further rebuke to Selden and a quotation from a Greek poet: “Remember, M. Selden, what I thinke you have reade in the same Theocritus to the purpose, and make use of it.” Selden’s response is not recorded.

STC 18037; Lowndes IV, 1588. Not in Alden. Kress 381. Goldsmiths 504.

L556

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