§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. WALPOLE
, in moving the second reading of the Occasional Forms of Prayer Bill said, he had discovered that there was another day to be added to the list of special occasions to which he had referred in moving the first reading of this Bill; he meant the 23rd of October. In looking over the Acts of Parliament by which people were required to attend church, and to abstain from all work on particular days. An act of Charles II. had been found which provided that this day should be observed, in consequence of its being the day upon which the conspiracy to seize the town of Dublin was supposed to have been discovered, and it was now proposed to repeal this part of the statute by this Bill.
Motion made and Question proposed,
"That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ MR. HADFIELD
said, that considering that these observances were not only offensive to every Christian mind but were regarded by many as impious, it was astonishing that these statutes should have remained in existence for so many years: yet when a noble Lord attempted in "another place" to remove these absurdities, he was told that no change could be allowed, because there was no telling where it might end. He wished to know whether the present proposition had the sanction of the Church? because, if not, when the Bill reached the other House they might find their time and trouble had been thrown away. He asked were the improvements of the Book of Common Prayer to stop there? He believed that the members of the Established Church comprised only about one-third of the population of the United Kingdom. He contended that there was more unity of sentiment out of the Established Church without the Articles than within the Church with the Articles. Was it fair or right that the Established Church should preclude the whole of her 149 clergy from officiating in places of public worship belonging to nonconformist congregations, inasmuch as there was one common object entertained by all religious classes of Her Majesty's subjects, that of inculcating piety and submission to the laws. He wished to know whether all those portions of the Book of Common Prayer which were offensive to other religious sects were to be continued or not? In order to give more ample opportunity for the consideration of the details of the present measure, he moved as an Amendment that the second reading of the Bill be postponed to this day week.
Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "this day week."
Question proposed, "That the word 'now,' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that although he was unwilling to interfere with the proceedings of the Government with reference to the present measure, he should remind the right hon. Gentleman that the Bill had only been placed in the hands of the Members of that House that morning, and therefore there had not been sufficient time given for the consideration of its provisions. As a member of the Established Church, and taking a deep interest in everything relating to the Book of Common Prayer, he was naturally desirous that the Government should give the House ample opportunity for the consideration of a Bill of the present nature, which went to repeal certain Acts appertaining to religious services of the Church. He could not believe that the right hon. Gentleman would overlook any provision that affected the interests of the Church, and the principle of the Bill had been already sanctioned and to a certain extent acted on; nevertheless, he trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would excuse an independent Member for expressing a wish to look into the Acts proposed for repeal before the Bill be proceeded with further.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, he hoped the House would not require seven days to consider whether they should do an act of absolute common sense. Were they to stop now to discuss the propriety of abolishing such services as those for the Execution of Charles I. and the commemoration of the Gunpowder Plot of Guido Fawkes? The question did not require a delay of seven minutes much less seven days. He could not understand at all what his hon. Friend and colleague (Mr. 150 Hadfield) meant. The matters he had referred to concerned only those who were members of the Church of England; but his hon. Friend always prided himself on being a Dissenter. If the Church of England chose to preach twenty-four hours every day it could be nothing to him. He hoped the House would deal with the Bill like men of common sense. The Government had at last come to the conclusion that these services were unnecessary, and he trusted the Bill would be passed without any delay.
§ MR. GREGSON
was understood to suggest some other improvements in the services and discipline of the Church, one of which was that the solemnization of marriages might take place at any hour of the day, instead of being confined, as it now was, to some period before twelve o'clock at noon.
§ MR. WALPOLE
explained that the special services had been established and continued by Royal warrant under the sign manual. By the same authority they were now abolished. All that the present Bill did was to affirm what both Houses of Parliament and the Crown had agreed to, and to remove certain statutory obligations connected with these services. All clergymen were bound to read the Forms of Thanksgiving on certain days, and every person in the country was equally bound by statute to abstain from all kinds of trade and labour, and to attend church on certain days. Two of these statutes, in quantity amounting to two pages of a folio volume, were also appointed to be read in all churches on certain days. These obligations the Bill removed.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question put and agreed to.