HC Deb 14 March 1860 vol 157 cc515-42

Order for Second Reading read.


said, he rose to move the second reading of this Bill, the only objection to which he thought was that it did not go far enough, but he was prepared to move in Committee the insertion of words which would extend its scope. The object of the measure was simply to extend that freedom of religious worship at present enjoyed by the ministers of every other denomination to the clergy of the Established Church. The Nonconformist clergy had, since 1855, been able to preach the Gospel anywhere and in any place; but the clergy of the Established Church were unable to do so. If a clergyman held a religious service in any place not regularly appointed without the permission of the incumbent of the parish, and the licence of the Bishop, he was liable to ecclesiastical censure, and to be proceeded against before a tribunal more to be dreaded than any other Court in the kingdom—the Ecclesiastical Court. Religious worship was admitted by all to be the best mode of preventing crime, and yet in consequence of the present state of the law many places that might be opened for Divine worship were now closed, and multitudes of persons would remain destitute of religious teaching unless the Nonconformists came to their aid. Some localities were a great distance from the parish church, and there were many persons who, from whatever cause it might be, would attend worship in other buildings who would not go to a church; and many clergymen without a cure of souls were willing to perform Divine service in other buildings than churches were they not precluded from doing so. From the evidence of Dr. Hume, of Liverpool, before the Lords' Committee on church rates, it appeared that in Southwark 63 per cent of the population attended no place of worship; in Sheffield, 62 per cent; Oldham, 61½ percent; Brighton, 54; Manchester, 51; Westminster, 50; Coventry, 50; while in 34 of the great towns of England, containing a population of 3,593,467, there were no less than 2,197,388, or 52½ per cent of their whole population, who attended no place of worship whatever. Dr. Hume stated his belief that by the close of the present century 70 per cent of the gross population of the country will be seated in large towns; if the large towns, therefore, were left to themselves, "practical heathenism must inevitably soon outgrow Christianity." Were they, then, to set their faces against these facts, and prevent these multitudes from having the Gospel preached to them? The har- vest was indeed great. So, indeed, were the numbers of the reapers; but they stood in the way of the reapers—indeed, practically forbade them by the present state of the law. Something had been done in the metropolis by preaching in theatres, but as the law stood it was illegal for a clergyman to do it; was it desirable that it should be illegal? The clergy of the Church of England had, at first, a strong prejudice against these services in theatres; but many, seeing the good results of the practice, had now entirely changed their opinion. It was a fact that enormous masses of people would attend a service in the theatre who would not go to any place of worship; and it was an extraordinary fact that the clergymen of the churches in the neighbourhood of these theatres found no decrease in the number of their congregations. That the holding a religious service in a theatre by a clergyman of the Church of England was illegal there could be no doubt. The Church of England Protection Society had submitted the case to Dr. Phillimore for his opinion, and he had stated that such a service could not be legally performed by a clergyman—that in doing so he made himself liable to ecclesiastical censure and penalties. He added that "no proposition of ecclesiastical law was better supported by decisions both of the temporal and ecclesiastical courts." Such was the opinion of Dr. Phillimore, and he felt assured the House would, under those circumstances, sec how desirable it was to secure the object which the Bill proposed to effect. Public opinion was no doubt stronger than ecclesiastical law; but it might happen that in some dioceses an unfortunate clergyman might be proceeded against by his diocesan, and subjected to the penalties of ecclesiastical law unless the state of the law was altered. He might add that he should be prepared in Committee, if the Bill should reach that stage, to introduce into it words by which a clergyman under ecclesiastical censure should be precluded from the advantages which the Bill would confer. He might also state that as he understood some hon. Gentlemen looked upon the probable operation of the measure with alarm, as enabling a clergyman to perform services in any private house, against the will of the proprietor, he should, if it were necessary—which he did not believe was the case—introduce into the Bill words by which that objection would be entirely obviated. The Bill was necessary and desirable, not merely on the ground of expediency, but also on the higher ground that its provisions were in conformity with the express teaching of the New Testament. The command of the Saviour was, "Go into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature," without restriction to place; and in the parable of the Marriage Supper, the invitations were not confined to those who assembled in the temple, but to those in the highways and hedges. The clergy assumed to themselves to be the successors of the Apostles. Let us see what the Apostles did. The Apostles did not require a church in which to preach the Gospel; they not only preached in houses, but broke bread from house to house. Now, contrast what the Apostles actually did, and what our Saviour commanded with the canon of the Church, which says no minister shall preach or administer the Holy Communion in a private house Priestcraft may do a great deal, but it cannot do away with the Divine commands, and set up the canon law in its place. For those reasons he hoped the House would agree to the second reading of his Bill.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."


said, the hon. Gentleman had, in the course of his speech, made several observations, in the justice of which he entirely concurred. He could not at the same time give his assent to the conclusion at which the hon. Gentleman had arrived, inasmuch as he was of opinion that if this Bill were to pass in its present shape it would give satisfaction neither to the members of that Church for which he proposed to legislate, nor, what was of far more importance, conduce to the interests of religion itself. The hon. Gentleman very justly contended that nothing could be more to be regretted than the disproportion between the numbers of the uneducated and uninstructed population of the country, and the means of providing for their spiritual destitution, and he could assure the House that any measure by which that destitution could be met would receive his most cordial and unqualified support. He was sure that the House was anxious to promote that great Christian religion which was common to all; but he believed the large majority of the House was also of opinion that that object could be best promoted by observing, in respect of the Church as well as secular communities, certain regulations for the conduct of their proceedings. The Bill under discussion would not secure that end in a satisfactory manner, but its operation would rather be to produce in every parish throughout the kingdom the utmost confusion. With regard to a minister preaching in a private house against the will of the inhabitants, he saw no reason for any prohibition being introduced into the Bill, because, under its present form, the law gave no such power. The Bill was very short, and its effect would never, therefore, strike the House directly. The Bill was simply a Bill to enable any minister of the Church of England or Ireland to celebrate Divine service according to the rights and ceremonies of the Church in any place, the canons and the law notwithstanding. The first objection to the measure which he would urge was, that unless the hon. Gentleman was prepared to alter by some provision, subsequently to be introduced into it, the canon law of the Church, it would fail to effect its object; for if no such alteration were made, how, he should like to know, could the members of the Established Church, who subscribed to that law, obey an Act of Parliament which merely said that they might do certain things, the canon law notwithstanding? The hon. Gentleman was no doubt taking a most laudable course in desiring to provide for the spiritual destitution of the people. He had quoted Dr. Hume to prove to what an extent that destitution existed, and had described the advantages which had resulted from the fact that permission had been accorded to the ministers of the Church to make use of certain public buildings—as had been recently done in this metropolis—for the purpose of supplying to some extent the spiritual wants of the community. Now, if the description which the hon. Gentleman had given of those advantages was correct, was it not true that the evils of which he complained had been practically half met? That being so, and no disinclination to provide for the existing spiritual destitution on the part of the clergy being observable, a minister of religion, being at liberty to administer the rites of the Church with the consent of the clergyman of the parish in any particular district, and being under present circumstances frequently called upon to afford such assistance,—he could not see that the necessity of altering the law as it stood had been established. So far as his own experience went, he might say that there was hardly a parish in the kingdom in which the clergyman would not invite further spiritual aid to supply the wants of his parishioners. The only difficulty in the matter was to provide a fund by means of which clergymen would be placed in a position to carry their wishes in that respect into execution. But what the hon. Gentleman would effect if his Hill came into operation would be to confer a right on anybody in the Church of England to administer its sacraments and to perform its ceremonies in a manner which might be contrary to the wishes of the inhabitants, and possibly to the disturbance of the peace of the parish in which that right happened to be exercised. That being his opinion, he would appeal to the hon. Gentleman whether it was desirable that, in his eagerness to secure a good object—an object which the Bill would not really accomplish—he should proceed with a measure calculated to produce evils which would more than counterbalance those to which he sought to apply a remedy? Of course, in dealing with the subject, hon. Members could have only one end in view, for they all concurred in the necessity of preaching the Gospel and the expediency of providing, as far as possible, for the spiritual destitution of the people.


said, that while agreeing in most of what had fallen from his right hon. Friend (Mr. Walpole) there was one portion of his speech from which he felt bound to dissent. He alluded to that portion of it in which he had stated that all the Members of the House concurred as to the necessity of preaching the Gospel. That, he should beg to remind his right hon. Friend, was not exactly the case, for there were four hon. Members who did not believe in the necessity of preaching the Gospel, and by those Gentlemen, whom recent legislation had admitted within the walls of the House, such discussions as the present, he contended, must be regarded as an insult. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] He would repeat it, there was no longer and community between the Christian religion and the House of Commons, and all references to Christianity, and all quotations from the Bible, must now be not only out of place, but an insult to those four Gentlemen. So far as the Bill under discussion was concerned, he was of opinion that its operation would be to destroy that authority which a Bishop ought to have it in his power to exercise within his own diocese. He would remind the House that it was the Bishop who had spiritual charge of his diocese, and they had no more right to interfere with a Bishop in his diocese, and to say that whether he liked or not he should have a particular preaching, than they would have to interfere with every clergyman in his particular parish. At present if the clergyman preached he hectical doctrine or otherwise misconduct himself in the performance of his duties within his jurisdiction the Bishop had a power of inhibition; but that power would, after the passing of the Bill, be confined to clergymen who officiated in consecrated places, and would not include these whose services would, after the passing of the measure, be called into existence. To introduce such a state of things as that would be, he maintained to create a revolution in the Church, and a proposition which would have that effect ought not, at all events, to be acceded to in a thin House on a Wednesday morning. Should a Bill of such wide scope and so revolutionary in its tendency pass that House, it was sure to come to an unfortunate end in "another place." This being so, he hoped the hon. Member would not persevere with it, or, that if he did, the House would at once reject it.


said, that had he not been one of the four Gentlemen personally alluded to by the noble Lord, he should not have taken part in this discussion. The noble Lord no doubt was one of those who had been incapable of understanding the motives and principles by which persons of his (Sir F. Goldsmid's) persuasion were actuated before the Bill passed by which they were admitted to Parliament, and who appeared to be equally incapable of understanding them now that it was law. The noble Lord seemed to be totally unable to understand how it was possible for a Member of the Jewish persuasion to combine attachment to his own faith with a wish that persons born in the Christian faith should be instructed in the doctrines of that religion. He could, however, assure the noble Lord that the two things were perfectly compatible, and that any measure which was brought forward with the view of providing increased facilities for those born in the Christian faith should—although he might take no prominent part in its discussion—be looked upon by him, and those whoso religious opinions were the same as his, with favour rather than the contrary. He would go further, and al though he was reluctant to refer to a personal matter, tell the noble Lord that in those places with which they were connected by ties of property members of the Jewish persuasion did not scruple—nay, were as anxious as other landlords were—to facilitate the establishment of houses of religious worship and schools in which instruction was conveyed in the Christian religion to those who had been brought up in that faith. He would say nothing more, but he hoped he had made it intelligible to the House, though probably it was not intelligible to the noble Lord, that any measure which really tended to promote freedom of religious worship could not be regarded by persons of his own religion as an insult to themselves.


said, that speaking from his personal knowledge of a distinguished family who professed the Jewish religion, and to which two of the hon. Members alluded to belonged, he could testify that there were no persons who performed those duties more liberally, to which the hon. Gentleman who last spoke had just referred, and none who showed more regard to the religious feelings of others. With regard now to this Bill, he had strong objections to it. The Bill did not in fact remedy the supposed illegality of the services of the Church of England which had taken place, with good effect, in some large public buildings in London. If Dr. Phillimore's opinion were correct, that any clergyman who performed those services, even with the full consent of his Bishop, might be cited to answer for a breach of the law, it might be worth the consideration of the House, and indeed extremely useful, to prevent that difficulty. But the Bill would not suffice for that purpose as it stood, though it would allow services of the Church of England, whether High Church or Low Church, to be set up by anybody in parishes where, perhaps, the custom and feeling of the Churchmen there were opposed to the method so introduced. He should be glad, therefore, if his hon. Friend would withdraw this Bill, and bring in one more likely to effect the object which he really desired to attain—an object with which the House would sympathize.


I have heard with great regret the observations of the noble Lord the Member for Stamford (Lord Robert Cecil) with regard to gentlemen professing the Jewish religion, and the untenable—indeed, I will say—highly inconvenient doctrine he has laid down as to the effect of their admission here upon the deliberations and duties of this House. It may be the conscientious opinion of the noble Lord that the duties of this House are totally altered by the admission of hon. Gentlemen professing the Jewish religion within its walls; but that is an opinion hardly worthy of his undoubted ability and high intelligence, and one which is very unworthy of the respect which we owe to those who have at length been admitted into the House, whilst it is also one which, if acted on, would essentially impede and cripple this House in the discharge of its duties. In fact, the opinions of the noble Lord, if full effect were given to them, are totally opposed to the admission into this House of any persons professing any religious sentiments other than those held by the Members of the Established Church. Now, without going back to the case of Dissenters, which was of an earlier date, more than thirty years have elapsed since we avowedly recognized the admission into Parliament of persons not professing the Established religion of the country; and I would appeal to any one connected with the Established religion, including those who are in an especial manner responsible for the defence of its interests, to say whether any injury at all to those interests has arisen from the right which has been conceded. On the contrary, as one of those who represent a large portion of the clergy of this country, I must answer that appeal in the negative, and bear my testimony to the fact that nothing can be more remarkable, as a general rule, than the considerate liberality and the high feeling with which hon. Gentlemen not professing the Established religion of the country have refrained from using any privilege or power they had obtained, as Members of this House, to the prejudice of that religion. Now, I cannot help, as to this Bill, joining in the request of my hon. Friend who has just sat down, that the hon. Mover will not press it, in its present form, upon the House, but will choose some other and more carefully considered instrument, to give effect to his views. I listened to the speech of the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole), and I can only take one exception to it. There is a great inconvenience in pressing texts of scripture here into the service of our particular opinions relative to this measure or that. It is a game which two can play at, but which, I think, no one can play at without considerable disparagement to the reverence which we owe to the sacred origin of those words. It would not, perhaps, be difficult for me to show, if it were requisite, by citations from the New Testament, that the ecclesiastical discipline of the early days was exceedingly strict, and that the Apostles of the church inflicted upon offenders, in the matters alluded to, punishments much more severe than any contemplated by, or consonant with the spirit of, modern legislation. But considering the question on general grounds, the object of the hon. Mover is, I presume, comparatively a limited one, and perhaps he is not himself aware of what would be the real scope and effect of his Bill. If he thinks that certain specific enlargements ought to be made of the powers and liberties of clergymen in the performance of divine service, let him make a certain specific proposal limited to the object in view. But this is a Bill the author of which contemplates something quite different to that which it would effect, and I ask him, let us not be put in the painful position of being obliged to vote against a measure which appears to contemplate the extension of the preaching of the gospel, since the object of the measure will probably be judged out of doors by the speech of the hon. Gentleman who has introduced it, and not by what may be shown to be its real consequence. It appears to me that the remark of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walpole) is quite just, that this is a measure which would introduce anarchy and confusion into almost every parish throughout the kingdom. In any single case it might happen that the most exemplary clergyman in England, the best man, the most devoted and orthodox, the most able preacher and amirable pastor, might have, I will not say a minority differing from him on some particular point, but some one parishioner, with a house large enough to assemble a congregation in it, although that parishioner might have no cause of quarrel with him, except a cause creditable to the clergyman himself, as for instance, because the preaching of the clergyman had borne hardly upon his own particular vices, it would then be in the power of such a person, under this Bill, to introduce dissension into the Church by opening in that parish a room, where perhaps some disreputable person in clerical orders might be procured to carry on a rival and. antago- nistic service. This case might occur, strictly within the effect of the Bill. The hon. Gentleman may say that he will amend this part of the Bill in Committee, but he will find that the Bill, as it stands, requires so many Amendments that none of it will remain. It is an extemporised Bill, which has been drawn up, I presume, without any consultation with persons conversant with the law of the Church, whatever be the philanthropic and benevolent purpose of the hon. Gentleman in bringing it forward. He says, indeed, that in order to prevent any disreputable clergyman from being employed to conduct these services, he is ready to introduce words into the Bill which shall provide that no clergyman who is under ecclesiastical censure shall conduct them. I would remind the House, however, that the clergymen who will be placed under that disability are persons who have held some office in the Church, which has brought them within the scope of the censure they have received; but I am sorry to add that in so large a body as the clergy of the Church of England there are many disreputable persons who do not come under ecclesiastical censure, simply because they do not hold any ecclesiastical office or benefice. This Bill would give them, or enable them to have, ecclesiastical employment which they ought not to have, and yet they would be exempted from coming under ecclesiastical censure. I am sure the hon. Gentleman is not aware of the consequences of the Bill as it stands, and I entreat him to present us with a Bill instead of it which will do justice to the benevolent purpose he has in view, and which will be limited to the attainment of that object. It is not for us to go into Committee upon this Bill in order to fish out the measure which would be calculated to answer the purpose intended; but let him try and frame a measure adapted to the case, and bring it before the House. We ought not to commit ourselves on a matter of so much intricacy and difficulty to the second reading of a Bill until we have some idea of what will really be its effect. I had not intended to speak on this matter, but respecting as I do the hon. Gentleman's motives, it would be painful for me to vote against him, which I must nevertheless do if he presses on this Bill in its present state; but I trust he will withdraw it, for the purpose of presenting' to us something better adapted to the attainment of the end in view.


said, that he had listened with regret to what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge as to there being no disinclination on the part of the rectors and incumbents of parishes to admit other clergymen to assist in the performance of the duties which they were called upon to discharge. He did not feel at all satisfied that that statement was correct. He might, for instance, mention the case of the clergyman of a large parish who had gone into the reading-desk in an unbecoming state, as a consequence of which a large majority of the congregation had left the church. A representation on the subject had subsequently been made to the Bishop of the diocese, and a commission had been issued to inquire into the conduct of the clergyman, before which medical evidence had been adduced. The medical man said that the symptoms which had been seen in the reading-desk might have been occasioned by illness; the commissioners gave the incumbent the benefit of the doubt; but the people were convinced that they had come to a wrong decision; their feelings would not allow them to go to the church again; there was not another within four or five miles, and what were they to do? Were they to establish a Nonconformist place of worship, or must they go to the church where the reading-desk and pulpit were so much disgraced by the conduct they had seen? The right hon. Gentleman had said that if this Bill passed, it would compel the clergy to break one of the canons of the Church; but he would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the clergy obeyed the whole canons of the Church? He knew that they did not, nor would it be any difficult matter to point out what those canons were. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had put the case of disreputable clergymen being introduced into a diocese. That was somewhat of a slur upon the Church of England as well as on those who were anxious for the success of this Bill. There was no disposition on the part of the supporters of this measure to introduce any but good clergymen who would faithfully and honestly discharge their duty. They were told the Bill struck at the root of the parochial system. That, however, was not the fact. It might be opposed to the spirit of the ultra-parochialism of the present day, but that was quite different from the parochial system. However ad- mirable the parochial system was when first adopted, times and circumstances had now entirely changed. What were then mere hamlets had now become largo and populous places, and they required in many cases now ecclesiastical arrangements. If the rector refused to admit other clergymen into his parish—and he knew of such cases—what was to be done? Was he to prevent the poor being provided for? The late Sir R. Peel was one of the first to amend the parochial system. He introduced a Bill the effect of which was to subdivide parishes, so that a clergyman could be introduced into a large parish and have a district allotted to him without a church. The Marquess of Blandford further extended this, and pew-rents were allotted towards the payment of the clergyman's stipend. This Bill would have the effect of making the parochial system more efficient than at present, and he hoped his hon. Friend would not be induced to withdraw it. There were two sections in the Church of England—High and Low Church. A parishioner might conscientiously differ from either one or the other; and was he to be debarred from having a chaplain in his own house, who would preach in accordance with the principles he believed to be the purest? He hoped the House would agree to the second reading of the Bill, and that in Committee the objections which had been urged by right hon. Gentlemen would be obviated. Sure he was, by adopting some such measure as this, the advocates of the Church would take a very long step towards retaining the affections of the people of England.


observed, that hon. Gentlemen opposite always talked of the Church of England as being pre-eminently the Church of the poor; but when measures were brought forward the effect of which would make that Church practically so, instead of their authors receiving the assistance they might expect from those who, by position and influence, might be recognized as the guardians of the Church, the right hon. Gentlemen representing the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge met the proposal by showing the knowledge they possessed of the subject in pointing-out difficulties and objections, without, at the same time, being good enough to offer the least counsel how these might be removed. Such conduct served rather to obstruct than facilitate legislation on this difficult subject. He put the theology of the question aside. They must take the Church of England as it was, but not without reference to that other Church from which it might be regarded as having descended. In the Roman Catholic Church a very clear distinction had been always drawn between the administration of the Sacraments or the discharge of functions which were strictly confined to the priesthood and hierarchy and the more simple duty of either offering prayer or preaching the Gospel. The parochial system was essentially based on the administration of the Sacraments—it was the territorial limit of the jurisdiction of the priests; but there were oratories in which, although the Sacraments were not administered, men might pray or preach without the authority of the parish priest. And even when in the reign of Henry VIII. a Parliamentary religion was set up by statute, instead of the spiritual religion of the Catholic Church, praying and preaching in oratories were excepted from those acts of religious worship in which a compulsory uniformity was enjoined by law. It was not until the Uniformity Act of Charles II., passed under the influence of the prejudices and passions of the time, that this extravagant violation of the rights of conscience took place; while Dissenters were quite at liberty to pray and preach where and when they pleased, the Uniformity of Worship Act remained in all its stringency on the Church of England. That Act produced two distinct practical effects. A clergyman could not in any church or chapel lawfully say prayers except in the precise prescribed form, and he was not allowed to say prayers in any place different from that prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer. This Bill would be of great use where the population had outgrown the parish church, and where the spiritual destitution in large towns could not be overtaken by the present ecclesiastical machinery; and he could assure hon. Gentlemen that the Church could only stand by really being made the Church of the poor. It would not suffice to stick the people in what were called poor seats, where the finger of scorn was pointed at them. He was not going to defend the language of the Bill, because he believed it to be imperfect; but if the right hon. Gentlemen who represented the two Universities and the Church were not satisfied with it, let them pledge themselves to bring in a Bill properly drawn and providing for the technical difficulties which surrounded the question; and then, no doubt, his hon. Friend would give way in favour of legislation which would be so much better conducted. But if they would not give that pledge, contenting themselves with merely starting objections, he trusted the Bill of which the principle was admitted would be allowed to go into Committee, where they would endeavour to obviate the difficulties as well as they could.


said, that he rose to join in the appeal which had been made to the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the Bill. Cordially concurring in the object sought to be obtained, he could not, however, vote for the measure in its present shape; but if the hon. Member introduced another in a more perfect form, he would support him. He could assure him that there was no disposition on the part of those that opposed the Bill to interfere with the freedom of the members of the Church of England in the preaching of the Gospel, so that all things were done decently and in order. But it could not be permitted that any parishioner who quarrelled with his clergyman should be at liberty to introduce another clergyman into the parish. Authority must be vested somewhere; and where could it be more properly than in the hands of the Bishop of the diocese? He admitted that in the present state of the law the Bishop had not sufficient power to control divergencies in practice or in doctrine, and he would very gladly see the law in that respect amended. So with regard to the use of private buildings for Divine worship. There, again, he would place the discretion in the hands of the Bishop. Let it not be said, therefore, that the members of the Church of England were opposed to the principle of this Bill. He must advert to one remark of the mover of the Bill. He said that the Apostles went about preaching from house to house, but that their successors, as he called the clergy, did not. Now, he believed that over all England the clergy did visit in their parishes from house to house, and there was certainly nothing in the state of the law to prevent them from doing so. He implored the hon. Member not to put the House into the painful position of voting against a measure which they could not approve as it stood, although they wished to pass something very like it.


said, in his opinion those who opposed this Bill rendered themselves liable to the charge that they were preventing the utility of the Church of England among the poor. If hon. Gentlemen agreed in the principle of the Bill, he was surprised to find that they opposed the second reading. The usual course under such circumstances was to read the Bill a second time and amend it in Committee. For his own part he should vote for the second reading, because he agreed with the principle of the measure and believed it would have a very beneficial effect on the Church of England. The number of cases sought to be relieved by this Bill was unfortunately very great. There were parishes in which were disreputable clergymen, and others in which the parish was divided between High Church and Low Church doctrines, and he thought the parishioners ought not to be left to the mercy of their clergymen in these respects. If it was objected that this Bill put a pressure on the Bishops, he would ask whose fault was it that the Bishops were now in such a position? If the measure were objectionable, why had not the heads of the Church been consulted with the view of applying a more appropriate remedy to the admitted evils of the present system? The opposition of the Bench of Bishops had induced the noble Lord now at the head of the Government to withdraw his Ecclesiastical Discipline Bill. The Irish Bench, however, had acted in a far more conciliatory spirit, and the Earl of Derby had, with their consent, introduced another Bill of the same nature, which passed the House of Lords, and was only prevented becoming law by the dissolution of Parliament. Why should not that measure be again introduced? He trusted the English Prelates would follow the example of their right rev. Brethren, and consent to a measure which would improve the Ecclesiastical discipline, and sweep away the existing abuses. It had been said that this Bill interfered improperly with the parochial system. But it must be remembered that the Church of England inclosed within her pale little more than half the population of the community—and were no changes to be adopted in accordance with the altered facts of the case? He thought that parish ministers were too autocratic in their parishes, and he believed that the opposite of what hon. Gentlemen had anticipated could occur, and that many persons who now attended dissenting places of worship would return to the parish church. Being ready to vote for the second reading, he was also ready to support any necessary Amendments; but he really wished to make the Church of England more of a national Church and to see her influence more widely extended amongst the poorer classes of the community.


said, that in order to bring the matter to a conclusion he would move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months. The question was not one between Churchmen and Dissenters, but one which affected only the internal discipline of the Church of England. The hon. Member for Surrey and the Gentleman who supported him had argued entirely apart from the real purport of the Bill. If great need actually existed for further public ministrations in the Church, and for theatres and other large public buildings being licensed for the performance of religious service according to the rules of the Church, let a measure be brought forward avowedly with that object; and it would no doubt receive the support of many who opposed the present one. His objection to the Bill was that it provided a remedy for an alleged abuse, without regard to the existing discipline and framework of the Church. The Bill provided that clergymen of the Church of England might be at liberty to perform Divine Service in a private house irrespective of the Bishop and the incumbent of the parish. He wished to know what the hon. Member for Surrey meant by the words "in a private house." If he meant a private residence, in the ordinary sense of the term, then all the hon. Member's argument fell to the ground. If, however, he included large public buildings, such as theatres, under the term "private house," the House would do well to examine the whole fabric of the Church before they rashly adopted a proposal that would make confusion worse confounded. The Church of England was in its constitution a Church governed by Bishops, and as the law stood it required that no incumbent or curate should commence his functions in a parish without the permission and sanction of the Bishop; but the effect of this measure would be to remove that restriction and safeguard in the case of one class of clergymen, although enforced in the case of the incumbents and curates. It seemed to be supposed by some hon. Members, that nothing had been done for many years back to provide further ministrations in connection with the Church; but the fact was, that there had been repealed Acts of Parliament passed with the view of securing a great number of parish clergy, of dividing parishes, and of meeting those difficulties which were now started, as if for the first time. Up till now the whole fabric of the Church was founded on the district system; but this Bill would introduce an altogether novel and different principle. The argument of the hon. Member for Pool (Mr. Danby Seymour), that this measure would afford a means of relief to those who disapproved of what were called on high authority, "mummeries" in the performance of Divine worship, cut both ways, because it would at the same time permit those who enjoyed such ceremonies to indulge their tastes in parishes where the incumbent was opposed to them. However, he (Mr. Bouverie) thought it would be a most mischievous thing if a minority in every parish were encouraged at once to secede from the Church, and to open a rival place of worship; thus establishing two pulpits in every parish, from which the ministers might every week assail each other. On the ground that this Bill would introduce more evils than those it attempted to remove, he hoped hon. Members would give their support to his Amendment.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."


said, that after the speeches he had heard, particularly from the right hon. Member for the University of Oxford, he had felt great alarm at the possible provisions of this Bill; but on obtaining a copy, he was surprised to find that nothing could be more simple and unexceptionable than its clauses, and he only wished that every Act of Parliament was framed with equal simplicity. In short, it was the very model of a Bill. It was framed entirely in the interest of the Church of England. To take his own case—he lived two miles from his parish church, and often neither he nor his servants, or neighbours, who were numerous, could get to church. They all knew that they were too ready to find excuses for not going to church. Now he wished to do away with all excuses. It was said that the Bill would allow the Puseyites to set up their forms in their private houses, but he should be very glad if they would keep there. For his own part, he would rather attend an honest Roman Catholic place of worship than a church whore the extravagant practices to which allusion had been made were carried on.


said, that any Bill which was brought forward with an honest bonâ fide intention to advance the interests of religion, ought to be received with attention and careful consideration by the House of Commons. The question, therefore, to be considered was, whether the measure introduced being good in principle as intending an increase of means of worship was such as could be possibly shaped in Committee, so as to carry its intention into effect. His own opinion was that the Bill could not be shaped in Committee for the purpose of carrying out the laudable object in view without being entirely remodelled. In fact, the Bill only presented to the House the wish of the hon. Member who had introduced it, but provided no means of carrying that wish into effect. The House could not legislate in the character of a god, saying, "Let there be light," and expecting light to come. There was nothing in this Bill to direct how it was to be carried out, or how it was to be guarded against the most certain and obvious abuse. He could not agree with the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton) that it was the business of hon. Members to fish for legislation, and throw out preambles to catch classes in the House, but held that they were there to bring forward practical measures to which the collective wisdom of the House may give final shape for the regulation of the country. He believed the Bill had received considerable support, from the fact, that it was supported by the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Horsfall), and that hon. Gentleman had supported it because of a single case that had come under his own observation. It was wonderful how much of the attempted legislation of this House arose from particular cases. The hon. Member said he knew of a clergyman who had entered the reading-desk in a state of intoxication, and the remedy he proposed was to allow Divine service to be performed in private houses. What ought rather to be done to meet such a case would be to give the Bishops greater powers of ousting clergymen who misconducted themselves from the sacred office, and he believed that some larger powers of discipline would have a most beneficial effect. To make this measure quite safe, it was necessary, in his opinion, that it should have the consent of the authorities of the Church; but he thought the best plan by far would be to withdraw this Bill, and re-introduce it in another shape It was impossible to concur in a measure which would create the utmost confusion. He did not want to throw any impediment in the way of increasing the ministrations of the Church of England; but the real question was, whether the Bishops now did not actually possess the power of giving permission to clergymen to perform Divine service in accordance with the ritual in any building, and if the law did vest that power in the hands of the Bishop, he did not see that the present measure was necessary. This measure was said to be necessary in order to escape from the tyranny of some parochial clergymen who were of High Church principles; but they must remember that tyranny was equally possible on the other side, and if this Bill passed it might introduce interference equally disagreeable to those who proposed it, as it intends to inflict on the particular objects of its aim. No doubt Mr. Bryan King is in the mover's eye; but there are other kings as abhorrent of intrusion, and this Bill would only multiply rivals within every ecclesiastical domain, instead of increasing the efficiency of the existing ministrations.


said, that the case to which he alluded did not occur in his parish; but he regretted to say that it was not a solitary instance.


said, he was desirous of entering his personal protest against the doctrines laid down by the noble Lord the Member for Stamford (Lord E. Cecil), in respect to the effect produced in the House by the admission of members of the Jewish persuasion. Political prophecies in general were confined to the time when they were used to prevent the passing of useful and beneficial measures, and it rarely happened that they heard a retrospective effect given to such predictions. But the noble Lord not only repeated the previous prognostication that the admission of Jews would un-Christianise the Legislature, but actually asserted that that effect had already been produced. He could only say that he had observed no disposition on the part of any hon. Member of that persuasion to press his peculiar religious opinions on the attention of the House; and that experience had confirmed the opinion he formerly held—that, in spite of the admission of Jews, this branch of the Legislature had retained its Christi- anity with no sensible diminution, and that it was quite competent to entertain such a Bill as this. He felt bound to support the Motion of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Bouverie), who had expressed dissent from the principles of the Bill. It had been said that the Bill was short and simple, but to his mind it was not characterized by perspicuity or certainty. He must confess that the measure left him in very great doubt what would be its effect if it became law, and also what was the precise grievance for which it was intended as a remedy. With regard to the third clause in particular, the evils which had been pointed to by various Members, including theatres, were totally dissimilar in character. One class of evils was that the Established Church did not provide sufficient accommodation for all the members of that Church who were parishioners, and that it was desirable to furnish them with additional sittings in the church. It was said that the Bill would remedy that defect, but it did not appear to him that it provided a proper mode of meeting the whole case. What was the meaning of the phrase "private house," used in the Bill? The construction generally adopted seemed to be that it meant the private residence of any individual as opposed to a theatre or place of public resort; but he rather thought it was intended to imply any un-consecrated house, whether private or public, including theatres. If he were right, the Bill was very ambiguously and imperfectly expressed. If the object of the Bill was to provide additional accommodation for worshippers of the Established Church, then the proper mode had been pointed out in the course of the discussion, and had been already accomplished to a certain extent by increasing the number of churches and chapels of case. As he understood the Bill, however, it was in truth directed against a different state of evils. He conceived, in point of fact, that "private house" was intended to mean the private residence of any individual who perhaps from some accidental circumstance had had a dispute with the clergyman of the parish on matters of doctrine or otherwise, and who, being able to employ a clegyman to preach in his house, and not satisfied only with the attendance of his household, which would not generally be objected to by the Bishop, or clergyman of the parish, wished to set up a rival church in a private and necessarily unconsecrated house for the attendance of as many of the parishioners as his influence could draw together. It had been said that this was a Bill for the promotion of religious confusion; but, if by religious confusion was meant the free expression of religious opinion, the evil would not perhaps be so much to be deplored. He was afraid, however, that the Bill would do more than lead to religious confusion, on which ground alone he would not vote against it, and that it would tend to produce religious discord and fanaticism. No doubt the Bill would provide an irregular and unsatisfactory remedy for the case of a parish where a High Church Tractarian clergyman attempted to introduce rites and ceremonies offensive to many of the parishioners. But there was a much larger number of parishes in which there were Low Church clergymen; and there would be an opening in those cases for any ardent missionary of the other class to set up a small rival church in a private residence. No consequence followed more necessarily and logically from the very idea of a national Church than that certain districts were to be appointed in which clergymen, ordained by the spiritual authorities of the Church, should have the exclusive care of souls therein. If they were not to have it exclusively, in what sense could they be said to have it at all, for then they would only be so many out of a number of rivals admitted into their districts? He did not think it desirable to give to the incumbent of a parish any power with regard to strangers; but to deprive the Bishop of the power of excluding persons who came into a parish without his licence, was to destroy the very essence and foundation of a national Church. He conceived that under the existing law a Bishop had the power of licensing any clergyman of the Church of England to preach and perform Divine Service in any parish, though, of course, in an unconsecrated building he could not perform the same service as in a consecrated one. It had been said that the Church of Borne, more liberal than the Church of England, provided oratories where any person not a parochial minister could perform Divine Service on behalf of parishioners; but he ventured to affirm that that could not be done against the consent of the Bishop.


explained that he did not say it could be done without the consent of the Bishop.


By this Bill the jurisdiction of the Bishop was directly assailed. Not only the incumbent, but the Bishop was deprived of all control in the matter. For these reasons he should oppose the second reading of the Bill.


said, that he had considered this subject for some years. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had stated that the predictions of those who opposed the admission of the Jews into the House had not been verified. He (Mr. Newdegate) had certainly thought that the change was not calculated to promote a feeling in favour of the Church of England, or to render the House more willing to maintain or to correct the discipline of the Church. If it were so he rejoiced. God grant that he might have been deceived. Although the principles of religious liberty had so far prevailed as to lead to the introduction of hon. Members of the Jewish persuasion into that House the Act which admitted them only at the discretion of the House still affirmed its Christian character. Every one knew that he honoured the Church as much as any one did, and was as desirous as any one to see her services extended, but he was decidedly of opinion that the passing of a measure of this kind would only tend to aggravate the evils which already existed. There was no doubt that the greatest latitude prevailed in the preaching of the clergy at present, some of them verging towards Popery, and others towards extreme Calvinism. The result was that in many cases the parish churches were cleared of their congregations. The Bill before the House made no provision for the poor. The hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Bass) said that he should like to go to church in some of these extemporized chapels; but he had no security that in going to these chapels he was going to church, for in them anything but the doctrines of the Church of England might be taught, whilst no provision was secured for the admission or instruction of the poor within their walls. He thought the first provision necessary was a measure that in the parish church the clergyman officiating should preach nothing but the doctrines of the Church. For the people loved the doctrines of the Church of England when faithfully inculcated. What this Bill did was to give liberty for the establishment of small chapels in any parishes in which the clergyman might not be popular, and thus introduce a very objectionable kind of rivalry. He deprecated, with the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, the introduction of anything into the parishes which would create discord. It was to be remembered that there would not be the slightest security that Church of England doctrines would be preached in the chapels to be authorized under this Bill; and the carrying of such a measure would tend to break up the parochial system. It was very true that evils existed under the present system, and that in case of a clergyman preaching doctrines, or indulging in practices which his parishioners did not conceive to be in accordance with the teaching of the Church, it was almost impossible to obtain legal redress. It was true that the Bishop was the proper person to whom such questions ought to be referred. But under the Church Discipline Act the Bishop might refuse to hear the case. Indeed, he was under a penalty to do so, for the expense of proceeding in the eccesiastical courts in the present state of the law was so great that one or two trials of this nature in a year might absorb the whole of his income. No one could, therefore, be surprised at the Bishop's refusing to proceed, as he had power to do, under the Church Discipline Act. The laity were, in fact, left totally without the power of legal appeal, whatever the annoyances to which they might be subjected. In the Lavington case, where an application had been made to the Court of Queen's Bench for a mandamus to compel the ecclesiastical court to proceed, it was held that the lay court had no power to issue a mandamus. The remedy, it appeared to him (Mr. Newdegate), ought to be the introduction of a Bill empowering the Court of Queen's Bench to issue a mandamus to the Bishop to hear such cases; of course, not compelling him to decide one way or other, but to hear such cases as the Court of Queen's Bench might deem sufficiently founded, the Bill also making due provision for the payment of the necessary costs and expenses either out of the funds in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, or such other funds as the House might appoint, thus indemnifying the Bishop from expense. That appeared to be a practical remedy for the evil, the existence of which had been proved before the Courts of this country. The fact was, that by moving so many of the sources of practice from the Ecclesiastical Courts, and thereby destroying the ecclesiastical Bar, they were destroying the representation of the laity; for the lay Bar of the Ecclesiastical Courts had been, in fact, the jury of the laity. The Ecclesiastical Courts had, therefore, become exclusively clerical, and even to these Courts, thus exclusively clerical, the laity had no actual power of appeal. If, however, the lay Court of Queen's Bench could, by mandamus, compel the Ecclesiastical Court to hear the grievances of the laity, as he suggested, a right of access at least would be granted to the laity which was at present denied to them. The present Bill was based upon an acknowledged evil, the effects of which it would simply aggravate instead of providing a remedy. It would create and aggravate religious discord in the various parishes. He believed that the Government might be confident that the House would support them in a measure for correcting the evils in the Church of England to which he had alluded. Why, then, did they not meet these evils at their centre by introducing some such salutary measure as he had described, which the Bill before the House would simply aggravate. He was confident that the House would aid them in giving the people a proper tribunal for the settlement of those differences which were at present throwing the whole Church into confusion.


said, he should support the Bill, not as a Dissenter, because Dissenters already enjoyed all the privileges which this Bill would confer upon the Church, but he supported it because it would liberate the clergy of the Church from many trammels and restrictions which now bound them, and would give them a freedom of action on behalf of the spiritual interests of the great bulk of the population which at present they did not possess.


said, he hoped that the hon. Gentleman who had introduced this Bill would, after the speeches which had been made in opposition to it, consent to its withdrawal. He would support any measure to extend education and religion, consistently with the rights of the Established Church, which he regarded as the safeguard of our religious institutions and opinions; but he thought that no case of necessity for the present measure had been established. Indeed, the arguments in support of the Bill seemed to rest mainly upon individual instances; but to his mind experience had shown that clergymen would rather extend indulgence to than restrain those who were anxious to teach the truth. Moreover, when he saw clergymen preaching in theatres and places of that description, he did not think that the Bishops could be said to exercise too strict a control over the discretion of the clergy.


said, he thought the measure was wholly unnecessary. Under the present system the clergy enjoyed practically as much liberty in preaching and reading the Scriptures as they ought to possess. As an example, he might mention that only the other day a clergyman appeared in the garden scene of a theatre, perhaps surrounded by forbidden fruit, and no doubt looking very picturesque. Not that he wished to throw discredit on the religious services in theatres; on the contrary, he looked upon that movement as one more conducive to the spiritual welfare of the poorer classes than any which has been undertaken for a long time. His objection to the Bill was simply that while, on the one hand it was unnecessary as a measure of protection, on the other hand the effect of it would be to deprive the Bishop of his legitimate and discretionary authority in his diocese, together with that of the incumbent in his parish, thereby producing a state of things most subversive of ecclesiastical order and discipline. As, therefore, he did not see that there was any case made out in behalf of the Bill, he should give his vote against the second reading.


thought that, having regard to the ignorance of spiritual matters at present existing throughout the country, the House ought not to throw an impediment in the way of such a Bill on any mere technical grounds, and he should give his support to it.


said, it was a mistake to suppose that the clergy of the Church of England did not now seek to reach the poor by preaching and lecturing in places that were not consecrated. The clergy, however, had assented to a certain form of ecclesiastical discipline, and it was unreasonable to ask the House to enable them to dispense with the vows of obedience which they had taken to their superiors at the time of their ordination. He did not believe that the preaching of the doctrines of the Church of England could be extended too widely, but the members of that Church, in pledging themselves to her, had done so not only as to her doctrine, but also as to her discipline. The hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Baines) looked at the Church of England with the view of a Nonconformist, and seemed as if he would set up in the same parish two ministers of the same Church in rivalry with each other, which must inevitably produce religious discord and warfare in the parishes of this kingdom. He did not wish to see the bishops act now in the spirit of their predecessors, who excluded Whitefield and Wesley from the pulpits of the Established Church, and he should not be sorry to see some of the most eminent preachers of that Church sent, under the authority of the Bishops, to preach the doctrines of salvation far and wide, but what he did object to in this Bill was that they were attempting to set free the servants of the Church of England from the obligations they owed to the heads of the Church. He should be glad to see the Ecclesiastical Commissioners employing a considerable part of their funds in sending fresh ministers into populous and overgrown parishes and districts, but he besought the House not to sanction a principle, involved in the second reading of this Bill, which would be fatal to the discipline of the Church of England.


said, he should support the Bill, believing that it was founded on the principle of religious freedom, and that its effect would be to remove restrictions which now hampered the celebration of Divine worship. He expressed his regret that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who in all other matters was so great a stickler for free trade, should, in dealing with a measure calculated to emancipate the Church of England from the trammels by which she was enthralled, have clothed himself in the robes of Protection.


said, he thought much objection might be taken to some parts of the Bill as regarded the wording, and he doubted whether it would be sufficient to carry out the object it had in view. He could not however, in the absence of a more fitting proposal, refuse his assent to go into Committee on it, so that the Bill might be rendered effective for remedying what was an admitted grievance.


said, he should vote for the second reading of the Bill, and agreed very much with the view taken by his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Mellor) who had just preceded him. He agreed that as the Bill was then framed it might lead to great evils; but it might easily be altered in Committee so as to make it a most useful measure. At present there were vast masses of our population who never had the opportunity of hearing the Gospel preached, and that was a growing and much-to-be-deplored state of things. The right hon. Members for the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge had both admitted the evil that existed, but disapproved of the manner of remedying that evil by the Bill now under consideration, and requested the hon. Members who had brought in the Bill to withdraw it, in order that a better Bill, framed in other terms, should be brought in. If the right hon. Members would undertake to apply their distinguished talents to the provision of some remedy for the spiritual destitution now prevailing, he would advise the hon. Members to withdraw their Bill; but without such a pledge, and the House went to a division, he could not conscientiously oppose the second reading of a Bill the main principle and object of which was to provide proper means for the religious education of vast masses of the people in the Christian principles and doctrines taught by the Established Church.


said, he wished to explain that the words "private house" had been introduced into the enacting clause simply because he found them in the canon which the Bill in that respect proposed to overrule. After the temperate manner in which the measure had been debated, he was astonished that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie) should have so stoutly opposed it, until he recollected that the right hon. Gentleman was the other day made an Ecclesiastical Commissioner. As the majority of the House appeared to be in favour of the principle of the Bill, he would recommend that it should be read a second time; that it should then go into Committee pro formâ; and in that case he would endeavour to adapt it to the wishes of hon. Members who had taken exception to its wording. With that view he should go to a division,

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Aves 131; Noes 168: Majority 37.

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, an agreed to.

Bill put off for six months.

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