HC Deb 09 June 1863 vol 171 cc574-657

said, he rose to move the following Resolution:— That, in the opinion of this House, the subscription required from the Clergy to the Thirty-nine Articles, and to the Prayer Book, ought to be relaxed. He had adopted the form of a Resolution instead of bringing forward a Bill, because he thought that it would be much better for him, as a private individual, simply to elicit what he hoped would be the favourable opinion of the House, and that the expression of that opinion might lead to some action on the part of the Government. He felt that it was the Government which ought to deal with the Church, and that all a private Member could hope to do would be to show them that the feeling of the country would justify them in bringing forward a proposal of their own devising. With regard to the Petitions that had been presented against his Motion, he had been informed that strenuous pains had been taken by a certain school to arouse as loud an opposition as possible to the proposal before them. But an immense body of the clergy had not expressed any opinion against it. It had been proposed to him by an eminent clergyman to invite the signatures of the clergy to a Petition in favour of his Motion, and he had little doubt that a large amount of support might in that way be obtained; but, on consideration, it had been thought hardly fair to ask the clergy to sign such a Petition, because of the embarrassment it might cause them to express their disapproval of subscriptions which they had already made, or might again be called upon to make in case of promotion. Not many years ago, however, 3,800 clergymen signed a Petition, in which they stated that certain phrases in the Prayer Book imposed a heavy burden on their consciences, and surely such men must wish for some relaxation at any rate of the declaration of assent to all and everything which that book contained. The Motion was not brought forward in a spirit in any way hostile to the Church of which he was a member. In fact, he only wished the Motion to be tried by this test—would it tend to benefit or to injure the Church of England? If it would tend to injure the Established Church, by all means let it be thrown out. If, on the other hand, it would in reality help to strengthen the Church of England, then he trusted that no mere prejudice would be allowed to stand in its way. It had been a clergyman who first urged him to bring the subject forward, and he had been acting with the advice and co-operation of clergymen, some of them very distinguished men, and who strongly felt, as he did himself, that should the Motion be carried, it would enlarge the boundaries of the Church, and root her more deeply than ever in the affections of the people. The most enlightened of the clergy had begun to perceive that subscriptions were not a benefit, but a burden, to the Established Church. The Bishop of London had lately stated that "after pondering the subject, he had come to the conclusion that the subscription to the Prayer Book was unnecessary, and consequently mischievous." The Bishop of St. Davids also expressed the opinion that the subscription was utterly useless, and that its origin created a very strong, natural, and just prejudice against it. Four bishops had lately voted for doing away with that subscription, while thirteen others refrained from voting at all, only eleven being found to Vote in favour of its maintenance. Dr. Vaughan, who might, if he had chosen, have been a bishop of the Church, had stated that he "should be glad to see these forms reconsidered and revised, in the conviction that those whom they distress or exclude are in many cases among the very worthiest to be employed in the service of the Church." The Rev. Dr. Stanley, one of the most distinguished ornaments of the Church, had lately written a powerful pamphlet on the same side, and numbers of other clergymen had advocated the same view. No one, then, had a right to say that the Motion was intended as an attack upon the Church.

He would further deprecate the idea that the recent stir caused by various theological writers had had anything whatever to do with his proposal, which had been under his consideration for more than two years. Nor, again, was he speaking on behalf of any school or section of the Church. His desire was to relieve the clergy, whatever their specific views might be, from what many of them felt to be a distressing bondage, and, at the same time, to enable many whom those barriers shut out to serve the Church as her ministers. It was however, no mere clerical question. It was the laity who were most really interested. It was rather for the good of the whole body of Churchmen than for that of the ministers of the Church, that it should stand upon the firmest basis and be in perfect harmony with all that was highest in thought and feeling. Now, it must be understood that this Motion did not touch on the revision of the Liturgy or any change in the form of worship; its aim was to get rid of the stringent tests to which every clergyman was now subjected, both when ordained and on every promotion. Those tests were so numerous and so complicated that he should only weary the House by detailing them. They came, however, to this—that in the course of a clergyman's career he might find himself called upon to make seven oaths of allegiance and supremacy, six declarations of assent to the Prayer Book and nine to the Articles. It had been justly said by Lord Ebury that that was indeed swearing with a vengeance.

The upshot of the declarations thus repeatedly exacted was this—First of all, the clergyman had to declare that he would conform to the Liturgy of the Church of England as it was by law established. That promise seemed most reasonable, and he had no wish to touch it. Besides that, the clergyman had to declare that he willingly and from his heart acknowledged all and every of the Thirty-nine Articles to be agreeable to the Word of God, and to declare his unfeigned assent to the same. Thirdly, he had to declare his unfeigned assent and consent to all and everything contained in the Book of Common Prayer, expressly including the Ordination Service and all the other services. His object was to relieve the clergy from making the last two declarations. There was an essential distinction between the subscription he proposed to leave and the two which he sought to abolish. The former was simply a pro-raise of performance; the two latter were declarations of belief, Now, he himself held the principle that it was never wise and never right to require men to declare their belief in a prescribed code of doctrine; but, whether that were a general truth or not, at any rate the objections to so doing in that case were most powerful. They called upon a man to give a solemn declaration of his belief, while at the same time they threatened, that if it fell short in one iota or one tittle from a minute standard, his career in after-life should be cut short, he should not obtain the external advantages that might await him, and should be debarred from the holy work for which his soul thirsted. They at first called upon him to make these declarations in early life, when perhaps his mind might be full of the crude theories which intelligent youths were so fond of framing, and which so often faded away under the growth of good sense; or when perhaps his mind had been little given to such matters, and he was unfit to bind himself down at all. Afterwards they again exacted these declarations from him, when, if he were a man of thought, he must have worked his own way among theological questions, and could scarcely have failed to form opinions bear-the stamp of his own mind. And yet they demanded from him in both these cases that in phrases constructed with careful skill to prevent any possible evasion he should state that he accepted every sentence and every word contained in two large books. No one could admire the sublime piety and beauty of the Prayer Book more than he did; but who could dare to assert that there was neither in that book nor in the Thirty-nine Articles, from one end to the other, the least taint of error? Both of them were human compositions—both were composed in periods of vehement party feeling on religious matters. Let it be remembered, too, that not so much as a shadow of doubt or hesitation was allowed with regard to a single one of the doctrines touched upon, however slightly, in either of these two books. Had they, he would ask, the right, under a threat of rejection, to exact from these men, both at the outset of their career, and afterwards, when promotion was offered them, such an uncompromising, minute, stringent declaration that they from their soul accepted all and everything which those books contained? They all knew what disputes there had been in the Church upon many of the phrases employed in the Prayer Book; as, for instance in the Baptismal, Burial, and Ordination Services, in the Visitation of the Sick, and in the Athanasian Creed, The Thirty-nine Articles caused, perhaps, less perplexity; but even they contained some expressions to which many persons felt the strongest objection; as, for instance, the expression in the Ninth Article, on Original Sin, "that in every person born into this world it deserveth the wrath of God." Was it generous, was it just, to force every clergyman to declare his acceptance of every one of those much disputed phrases? He denied their right thus to bind the clergy. It was a trespass on their natural freedom, and forced upon their necks a yoke which there was no real authority for imposing.

He owned, however, that several objections suggested themselves with regard to his proposal which could not be lightly set aside. It is asked, if those subscriptions were removed, would they have sufficient security that the Church would not be plagued with men of sceptical and heretical opinions? His Low Church friends dreaded lest they should fall a prey to scarcely disguised Roman Catholics. His High Church friends were afraid that Methodists would invade the sacred precincts; and both parties together were alarmed lest the Broad Church should be reinforced. Now, he thought it was only with regard to the leading essential doctrines of the Church that uniformity of belief could either be wished for or attained. With that limitation he gave his unfeigned assent and consent to the principle that the clergy of the Church of England were to be Church of England clergymen—not heretics nor sceptics, nor Dissenters from her principles. To say nothing of those grounds which commended themselves more to the imagination, he took a matter-of-fact view of the point. The Church of England, the clergy, the services, the parish churches, were all meant for the good of the laity, for the edification and comfort of the people themselves; and that those laymen who belonged to and loved the Church of their forefathers, and by their tithes and rates supported the Church, had a right to claim that the rector of their parish should bonâ fide teach the doctrines of that Church, and not propagate strange dogmas, which might disturb and perhaps shock the consciences of his hearers. But it was a mere delusion to suppose that it was by those subscriptions that that necessary security was obtained. Supposing those subscriptions were done away with, there would still remain the promise of conformity. There would still remain the bishop's examination. There would still remain the Ordination Service, which no one could pass through unless he was bonâ fide a believer in the doctrines of the Established Church. But, above all that, the guarantee which was expressly provided to prevent any clergyman from trespassing beyond the boundaries of the Church of England was the law of the land. That law, as the recent judgment of Dr. Lushington in the case of Dr. Williams showed, required him to bound his preaching within the limits prescribed by the Thirty-nine Articles. That was a legitimate guarantee, and they bad no right, because the machinery was costly and hard to move, to substitute for the law of the land a series of tests applied to the conscience of the clergyman. Nothing could be more fair than to say to clergymen, that if they contravened in their preaching the doctrines of the Church as defined by her express exposition of them, they should be removed from their positions. Nothing, on the other hand, could be more unfair than to say, that because it cost a large sum of money so to enforce the law, therefore they would subject them to that shibboleth—a thousand times more severe and stringent than what the law laid down. Let them observe how strange it was to require a man to declare his assent to all the doctrines contained, not in the authentic exposition of the doctrines of the Church like the Thirty-nine Articles—but to those incidentally touched upon in a mere book of devotion like the Prayer Book. They would still then have the securities of the promise to conform, of the bishop's examination, the Ordination Service, and the law of the land. He believed that even without those external securities they would be safe. He was persuaded that few men would dare to occupy the sacred place of a minister of the Established Church while conscious of dissenting from her main doctrines. In such a case it was wise as well as generous to place great faith in men's honesty; and, in fact, were they not honest, no tests would be valid. The direct tendency of such barriers was to shut out the men of the larger thought and the most delicate honour, but to let in anybody who enjoyed the advantages of a blunt mind and a thick-skinned conscience. It was a curious fact that the Church of Geneva was actually persuaded by an English bishops—Bishop Burnet—to give up subscriptions; and the argument he used was that the worthiest men were thus driven away, "while," said he, "others are induced to submit and begin their ministry with mental equivocations."

The next question that arose was, whether his proposal went far enough to be of any use; and it was alleged that the abolition of the tests could do no more for the freedom of the Church than was already done for her, inasmuch as the bishops almost always made a point of assuring candidates that the words of the subscriptions were not to be taken literally, but only expressed a general conformity with the doctrines of the Articles and the Prayer Book. He rejoiced that the bishops were so wise and kindly as to do that. But surely nothing could more utterly condemn the tests than this—that the very bishops of the Church should be driven to inculcate on candidates for ordination some of that equivocation alluded to by Bishop Burnet. But then, it was said, that were these subscriptions done away, the effect would be that men would read the services of the Church all the while disagreeing with things contained in them. He hoped he had already proved that there would still be ample security that only those who agreed with the main fundamental doctrines of the Church would serve at her altars. There would only be scope for difference of opinion on the lesser points of Christian doctrine. Those who used that argument, in the very same breath put forward the other argument, that already the bishops themselves assured the candidates that it was only a general conformity that was exacted from them. The position, therefore, of the clergyman in reading phrases from which he might dissent would be the very same as it was at that time, with the approval of the bishop, and of all sensible men. In fact, it was only common sense that the clergy being human—the Prayer Book, too, being a human compilation—they could not possibly read it without dissent from some parts of it, if their minds had any life in them at all. Nobody was deceived by their doing so; and though he himself should rejoice to see some alterations at least of the Rubrics, that would give them more liberty, he could not think that a man played a false part in reading a prescribed form with which he agreed in the main, though disapproving it here and there. But it was a very different thing, indeed, to require them, before reading it, to declare, in the sight of God and man, that they assented to all and everything which it contained; and he vouched for the fact that many men did feel that to be terrible, whose sense of honour would not be seriously harassed by performing the services which the Church had ordained.

He then came to the last objection. He believed that what mainly influenced those who were most opposed to the reform he proposed was the fear, that if one step were taken towards alteration, no one could say where change might cease. Many wise and good men thought it far better to keep the Church of England exactly as it was, not to touch the least part of its arrangements, even with the lightest finger, lest they should pave the way to more sweeping changes. But he would put it to the good sense of the House, whether, in those days of progress and freedom of thought, it would be, in truth, a far-sighted policy for those who loved the Church of England to shut their ears to all suggestions of improvement, and allow nothing whatever to be done to amend even one single deficiency or fault. If the Church remained always at a stand-still, would she not in the advances of the time be left behind? Had not all experience shown that in human affairs, if they would not have reform, they must have either revolution or decay? As the noble Viscount at the head of the Government had said in one of his late speeches in Scotland, that which was stagnant must become vitiated and corrupt. In the case before the House his proposal was the milder of two alternatives. A very strong feeling had arisen of late years in favour of alterations in the Liturgy; a vast number of clergymen felt themselves hampered by some of its expressions. One remedy was, to cut out those phrases which gave them pain; but the difficulties in the way of that course were great—he need not dwell upon them then—but surely those who shrank from alterations in the Prayer Book and Articles ought to support the far less sweeping alternative which he proposed—namely, without touching those books, to relieve the clergy from declaring their acceptance of all and everything which either of them contained.

He repudiated the idea that he was proposing any revolutionary or radical change. If those tests had been a legacy from the golden days of the Church of England, if they had come from her great statesmen, her great theologians, her noble army of martyrs, then indeed they might be looked at with reverence. That was not, however, the case. They were ugly excrescences stuck upon the Church in evil times. Until the thirteenth year of Queen Elizabeth no subscriptions were enforced upon the clergy. Her first Act of Uniformity did not exact them; and even her second Act of Uniformity, which was still in force, only required subscription to a portion of the Articles, not to the whole of them, or to the Prayer Book. It was not until the twenty-fifth year of Queen Elizabeth's reign, when as one historian said, "her jealous and arbitrary character was assuming its most repulsive aspect," that she allowed Archbishop Whitgift to publish his "Orders to the Church," which required subscription to all the Articles and to the Prayer Book. But he would observe—for it was a point of great importance—that those measures were most earnestly opposed by the great statesmen of that reign. The noble Lord the Member for Stamford (Lord R. Cecil) would no doubt take part in the discussion, and probably would pour out the vials of his wrath upon his (Mr. Buxton's) devoted head. But if the noble Lord wished to be true to the illustrious name he bore, he ought to vote in favour of this Motion, for among those who strongly remonstrated against those orders to the Church—first and foremost stood the name of Cecil, Lord Burleigh. Those orders, however, had become obsolete. It was James I. to whom the next step in stringency was owing—namely, the subscription to the three Articles of the 36th Canon. These bonds were imposed after the Hampton Court Conference, and the spirit by which King James and those who acted with him were actuated, was sufficiently indicated by the threat with which the second day's conference was ended by the King, when he told the Puritan party, that "if they conformed not, he would harry them out of the and, or worse." The next step was taken by Charles I. at the instigation of Arch-bishop Laud; when the Declaration was prefixed to the Thirty-nine Articles, requiring them to be taken in their literal and grammatical sense. That might seem stringency enough; but when the Church of England had been restored under Charles II. after many years of grievous suffering and unparalleled religious bitterness, the violent bigots who, unhappily, at that time sore sway, discovered means of making the portals of the Church even more narrow; and that was done, as the Bishop of London stated in his recent charge, "for the express purpose of driving out of the Church many whom they would nowadays be very glad to see employed as her ministers." The spirit of that shameful time and of the bigots who then bore sway was sufficiently indicated by the Act of Conformity requiring those who did not conform to the Church to abjure the kingdom under pain of death, and by the Five Mile Act and other atrocities. He should think that every loyal Churchman would be glad to rid the Church of these chains wound round her by such base men for such base purposes. At any rate, he (Mr. Buxton) was not seeking to revolutionize, or to innovate, but to restore. He was seeking to restore to the Church the freedom that ennobled her in her most glorious days. The objections then, to his proposal, were serious, but did not seem overwhelming.

Now, let them look at the inducements for making the proposed change. One powerful motive was this, that, as things stood, men were perforce driven to tamper with their own truthfulness. They were driven to make these declarations while inwardly protesting against them. They passed through the anguish of a struggle between their profound love of truth and their earnest desire to serve God and their fellow-man by acting as Ministers of the Church. The bishops, as he had already said, in most cases took infinite pains to soften down the sharp edges of these tests; but, in spite of that, there was many and many a clergyman who could not take these subscriptions without the feeling—the strange and bitter feeling—that in doing so he was not acting with that clear and stainless sincerity which adorned his every other word and deed. He (Mr. Buxton) did not for one moment dream of blaming those who accepted the subscriptions, even with that very mental reservation which the words of them were intended to prevent; but he strongly sympathized with those who felt the task a hateful one, and, at the same time, he could not but perceive that the honour of the Church was in some degree in question. The laity were shrewd enough to observe that it was not possible for 20,000 clergymen really to have conformed in every particular of their belief to one minute and arbitrary standard. They knew that there must have been some sort of evasion, Borne wilful blindness; and many bitter remarks were made by the enemies of the Church to that effect. He would not dwell upon that point, for it was a painful one; but only too much evidence could be adduced of the increasing feeling that some stain, however light, of untruthfulness, rested upon what ought to be the unsullied reputation of the clergy. He was sure that even those who were most opposed to his Motion would allow that it was a most serious evil to force young clergymen at the very outset of their sacred career to be guilty even of the least disloyalty to truth and honour, and that it was also a serious evil that they should present any semblance of insincerity to the eyes of laymen.

But the main motive for some relaxation of those tests still remained. It would not, perhaps, be prudent for the moment for him to touch on that motive, but he should not feel satisfied, nor did he in the long run think it would be wise, to throw any veil over the real principle by which he was actuated in bringing the subject forward. He had already pointed out that strong influences would in any case be at work to withhold the clergy from vexing the ears of their parishioners with teachings alien from the fundamental doctrines of the Church; but within those reasonable bounds it would be well for the clergy, for those who heard them, and for the intellectual and religious life of the nation that its teachers should have scope and latitude to think out their own thoughts. As things stood this was utterly denied them. They had given their positive adhesion to every sentence in the whole Book of Prayer—to every sentence in the Articles. There could scarcely be a single doctrine of theology which was not touched upon in the one or the other. The Articles alone were said to contain more than 600 propositions. Virtually, therefore, every clergyman had tied himself down to a specific conclusion on every question of theology. How could the minds of ministers of the Church work vigorously upon Christian truth while they were forbidden to move one inch beyond the notions that happened to prevail in the days of Charles II.? Any one who was in the habit of thinking would feel how heavy would be the bondage to be hemmed in by such declarations. They well knew that it was a part of human nature developed in clergymen as well as other men to be always looking to promotion. The curate hoped to be a rector, the rector to be an archdeacon, the archdeacon to be a bishop, the bishop to hold sway over Canterbury or York. But unless the subscriptions were mere dead things, of no use to anybody, the clergyman must always feel, that if he dared to think largely, even without for a moment forsaking the main doctrines of the Church, still he might run counter to his former declarations and might disable himself from accepting promotion in days to come. Shakspeare had said— Sure He that made us with such large discourse, Looking before and after, gave us not That capability and force of reason To rust in us unused! But if the clergyman looked before, he saw the subscriptions he had taken already; if he looked after, he saw the one he might some day have to take; and the more he left that force of reason to rust in him unused, the better for him and for his family. Some, however, might think it well that the intellect of the clergy should be curbed. He should he sorry if that was the opinion of those who heard him. If the Church of England was to hold her own, the minds of her ministers must work boldly and with force. They must not merely repeat like parrots the phrases that had come down to them from the days of old. They must work out truth for themselves. It was neither to be wished nor hoped that all the teachers of the Church should cut their views to one precise pattern. If there was to be life among them, there could not be uniformity; but unity of spirit there might be amid ten thousand varieties of form. It was not to be supposed, that while the minds of men were ranging freely over every other region of thought, one great field of truth should be tabooed, and tabooed to those very men who were to be teachers and guides of the people. Why, the clergy ought to lead the religious thought of the age. They ought to be ever widening and deepening the knowledge of the people in Christian truth; but the tendency of those restrictions was to hold them in, and force them to follow with timid steps far behind the public intelligence. That was not the true position in which the Church should stand, and the danger was that it might thus become severed from the intelligence of the country.

That process had begun. No doubt many able and thoughtful men still joined the Church, but the falling-off in the candidates for ordination from the Universities was deplorable. By the recent returns it appeared that in the last twenty years the number of young men from Oxford and Cambridge who wished to take Orders had fallen off from 242 to 120 at Oxford, and from 270 to 178 at Cambridge; while, on the other hand, the literates, who had not received a University education, had increased threefold. The falling-off, if measured by the honours the candidates had taken, was still more remarkable. It might be alleged that that falling-off was owing not to theological but to pecuniary obstacles; but he was assured by University men who ought to know, that that was not the case. He held in his hand a letter from an Oxford man who would have been an ornament to the Church, and who wrote to him that he was but one of a large number who had reluctantly abandoned the intention of taking orders, and that it was the inforcement of these tests which mainly drove men away. The truth was, that of late years, owing to the ecclesiastical causes that had been tried and the judgments that had been delivered, the subscriptions had become far more stringent than formerly. The doctrines of the Church had unhappily grown more precisely definite; and, meanwhile, men's minds had been learning far greater daring in dealing with truth, and uniformity of belief had become every day less possible. Be that good or evil, no folly could be greater than that of trying to stay that stir of mind and tide of thought with such wretched barriers as these. If the Church still required from young men such an abnegation of all mental freedom, the worthiest would be the first to shrink from such a degrading bondage. Surely the friends of the Church must wish her to be in very deed a national Church. Surely they could not wish her to be narrow and sectarian.

He was afraid he had troubled the House too long, but he would only further observe that the cry—the stale and shallow cry—would doubtless be raised of "The Church in danger!" It was wonderful how those who boasted to be the friends of the Church could think so ill of her as to fancy, that were she not fenced in here and shored up there, she would totter to her fall, During our own time it seemed to him she had been growing, and was still growing, more powerful, more beneficent, and more beloved. To her might be applied the words of the poet— Higher yet her star ascends; Traveller, blessedness and light, Peace and truth, her course portends. And yet there was danger to the Church. Two policies were open to her. If she chose to be, not national, but narrow and sectarian; if she drove from her the intellect of the age; if she stubbornly withstood all progress, all reform; if she met the inevitable advance of the human mind, the inevitable growth of religious opinion, the novelties of speculation, the discoveries of science, not with strong and gentle reasoning but with paroxysms of fear and rage; if she displayed that which was of all things the most pitiful, the longing to persecute without the power, then, indeed, the day might come when, alienated from all that was most profound in thought and most generous in feeling, she might find herself forsaken and spurned by the English people. A far other career, he believed, was before her. Let men of the noblest minds feel that with the Church of England they had a welcome and a home; let her open her gates wider and shake off the bonds that cramped her; let her move onward with the age and lead the van of its religious thought; let her deal tenderly with error and grapple boldly with truth; and let her ministers be still foremost in every work of mercy—in short, instead of trusting to outward props, the handiwork of men, let her grow ever more glorious within, more pure, more noble, more profound—then they need not doubt that their children's children would still cleave to the Church which their fathers founded and sealed with their blood in the great days of old. In conclusion he begged to move the Resolution of which he had given notice.


said, he had much pleasure in seconding the motion of his hon. Friend. Religious questions were proverbially difficult and dangerous. Old politicians avoided them as they would avoid snares and pitfalls, but it was time that somebody should speak out the truth about the matter before the House. Looking at the state of most of the countries of Western Europe, it was difficult to resist the conviction that religious questions would occupy a very large space in the history of the next twenty-five years; and if so, he was sure the statesmen of this country, although they would not go out of their way to seek them, would face and settle them, as their predecessors had faced and settled others. The questions of which he spoke would be very different from those which were debated upon the Church Wednesdays, about which so much had been said; and it by no means followed, that if they were to be treated as party questions at all, the lines which divided parties upon the old familiar questions would divide them upon the new ones. The country was unquestionably drifting as fast as it could to a religious revolution, which, whether it was called a reformation or a deformation, would be as great an historical event as that which made the sixteenth century eternally famous in the annals of mankind. The Legislature could neither bring it about nor prevent it, or, if they could, they ought not to do either. They could, however, take order, that when it came, it might be reasonable, peaceful, and not leave behind it furious hatreds like those which dated from the age of the great uprising against Rome. In what character, then, should they approach those questions? Solely and simply as politicians. As individuals they might have theological prepossessions, but in that House they were bound to lay them entirely aside. The times were much changed since the Acts which they wished to be considered passed into law. They were no longer a Church of England assembly. They were not a Protestant assembly. They were not an assembly composed of Christians belonging to one or other of the Churches of the West. They were not, since the legislation of 1858, even a Christian assembly, excepting so far as the doctrine taught by Christ had succeeded in diffusing its Divine spirit into all civilization, whether of Jew or Gentile. He, and many others in that House, had disapproved the existing subscriptions for many years past. But they had never in any way alluded to them there, because the question whether they should stand or fall had not been forced upon their consideration. That was the case no longer. What was the difficulty in the presence of which they found themselves? It was simply this,—that Dr. Lushington's judgment, although it gave a greater latitude to opinion than many believed possible within the Church, nevertheless insisted on a more exact and binding subscription to the Articles and to the Liturgy than that which up to that time had satisfied the consciences of many; and it appeared that great discomfort and anxiety to a large number of the clergy had been the result. The proposal by which his hon. Friend wished to meet that new and alarming exigency was a very moderate one. He did not ask to prevent bishops from prosecuting their clergy, nor even clergymen from prosecuting each other. Henceforward, however, if they agreed to his proposal, one element of malignity would be taken away from ecclesiastical controversy. The religious controversialist, in his differences with a clergyman, would not be able to Bay that he was a perjurer as well as a heretic; and all who knew anything of the amenities of the so-called religious press knew that that would be a great point gained. Experience showed that sensitive, scrupulous men were kept out of the Church far more effectually by tests than by fear of prosecutions. Men who felt some difficulty as to some of the six hundred different theological propositions in the Articles, or of the thousand more theological propositions in the Prayer Book, would risk prosecution. They could not, however, consent to do a thing which jarred against their sense of right; and so they were lost to the profession which suited them, and gained to other professions which often did not suit them. But it might be said that the proper course would be to leave these matters to be dealt with by the bishops, who would certainly not allow a heavier burden to be laid upon the consciences of their clergy than they were able to bear. But the bishops had not the power, even if they had the will, to do what was wanted in this matter; and too many of them were, thanks in no slight degree to the policy of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, sadly wanting in two great requisites for the useful discharge of their duties to the community—he meant learning and a conciliatory temper. The appointments to which he alluded served at least the noble Lord's turn very effectually. Week after week he figured in a certain newspaper as a sort of pendant to Mr. Greatheart in the Pilgrim's Progress. Some of the expressions which were used to glorify him were, indeed, to mere lay and unspiritual ears somewhat blasphemous and shocking. England learnt with surprise that her great Minister—that Minister whom she bad been so long ac-customed to associate with the powerful, but light and airy divinity of classical mythology who Semper ardentes acuit sagittas Cote cruentâ,"— had, no doubt, by the process familiar to all those who had studied the early history of Christianity in southern Europe, developed in his old age into the "man of God." All Ministers, he might be told, would not be quite so reckless in their episcopal appointments as the noble Lord. All of them would not be men of God of the Tiverton type. They might have a better class of bishops. That might be so; but still, as long as Church and State were so closely knit together, there would always be a strong and almost invincible temptation to look first in all such appointments to the interest of the Minister, and only secondly to the interest of religion. In short, it came to this—that Parliament, and Parliament alone, could remedy the existing state of things, and it could apply a remedy safe, simple, and effectual. They asked for no difficult or complicated legislation. They proposed no changes in the Liturgy. They asked for no more than the Comprehension Bill which the House of Lords passed in 1689. They asked for the remedy which Halifax, Tillotson, and Burnet approved, which Nottingham and many of his High Church followers supported, and which was only lost in the House of Commons of that day in consequence of a most exceptional state of political and religious parties. They asked for a measure which so far as it went, would relieve High Churchmen, Low Churchmen, and Broad Churchmen alike, and would greatly tend to the in-crease of charity, the highest of the Christian virtues.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, in the opinion of this House, the subscription required from the Clergy to the Thirty-nine Articles, and to the Prayer Book, ought to be relaxed."—(Mr. Buxton.)


Sir, I regard with so much reverence the subject which my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone has introduced, and with so much admiration the dignified and moderate manner in which he has introduced it, that I should scruple to utter anything with regard to it, did I not believe that this question is so great, and the interest attaching to it so large, that it is only becoming it should be debated in the very fullest manner, and that any objections which may be made to the speech of my hon. Friend should be made in the spirit of a friend rather than in the spirit of an antagonist. I own that at the first blush the question has so much about it that is fair and just, that it strikes every man not only as being in accordance with the spirit of the time, but that some such proposal as his is necessary to bring the legislation of the country into harmony with that spirit. I will not say that the question will not ultimately be settled in some such way, but I do see many decided difficulties in the way of this proposal at present; and I shall be very glad to be assisted by those who agree with my hon. Friend in removing those difficulties. In the first place, taking the Act of Subscription, will the change in any degree largely extend the spirit of toleration? The Articles of the Church of England, arising from fierce and earnest contests long ago, nevertheless bear upon their face the spirit of compromise, and a great desire to include within their sphere many different forms of metaphysical thought, and even various degrees of religious opinion. We know from history how many men have signed those Articles conscientiously, and adhered to them faithfully, yet, nevertheless, have differed so strongly as almost to found different schools of theology. These Articles are the laws of the Church, and the object of this Motion is that persons should be allowed to adminster these laws who have not subscribed a declaration of their agreement with them. Of course, my hon. Friend will reply that we are all subject to the laws of this country, but that we make no subscription to them. But I do not see that by abolishing subscription my hon. Friend can avoid the persecutions, as he would call them, the controversies, and the difficulties which occur in the Church. He can do, he can propose to do, nothing more than solve a certain metaphysical problem which he says would give relief to certain persons in the Church. This in itself would be a very desirable object, if its attainment was not unaccompanied by certain practical objections. Take away subscription to the Articles, and you in a great degree destroy the force of those Articles as a code of law. Destroy them, and you will go far to establish an unwritten law of the Church of England—a law of public opinion. I believe the law of public opinion in religious matters to be far more intolerant, and far less favourable to liberty of thought, than the law of the Church of England. Take, for instance, the controversy which is now agitating many minds as to the disputed or anonymous books of the Old Testament. On that point the Articles give no opinion whatever, and the Court of Arches upheld perfect freedom of opinion; but the public opinion of the Church comes in and says:—"You shall not have freedom of opinion; we will, if we can, suppress persons who hold opinions upon the matter with which we do not agree. My hon. Friend said that the tendency of late times has been to narrow the operation of the Articles. In a certain sense that is true; but that limitation has not arisen from the action of the Church, but from the operation of public opinion. The Arti-ticles of the Church have gradually been interpreted in a more and more liberal sense, although it is perfectly true that the public opinion of this country does not admit of so liberal an interpretation of them as was given by Bishops Burnet, Bull, and Tillotson. That is not the fault of the Articles themselves, but of public opinion. I do not believe that you will in any degree increase the freedom of the Church of England by abolishing or in any degree undermining the authority of the Articles. You have there a large and liberal code of theology fought out long ago in tremendous conflicts by men of very diverse opinions, and you have a legal authority which is to decide as to the meaning of these Articles. I attach immense importance to the maintenance of that system. It is of great value to the freedom of opinion in the Church of England that it should not be submitted to any sacerdotal inquisition. It is not now submitted to any such inquisition. The Articles are codes of law, imperfect as codes of law must be; but they admit of very large interpretation, and they are interpreted by men of judicial minds, who, as far as their influence goes, will not assist persecution, but rather extend toleration in the Church. There appears to me to be another objection, of a totally different nature, to the proposal of my hon. Friend. It is this:—The Church of England is a State Church, and possesses very large revenues, which are objects of interest and, probably, of envy to many other religious communities. If you destroy the authority of the Articles of the Church, if you take away the code of law, where can you safely, where can you fairly say is the right of the Church of England to retain its large property and wealth? If there is to be no difference in matters of opinion between the Church of England and any Dissenting body, what right has the Church of England to hold the property which it now possesses? [Mr. HADFIELD: Hear, hear!] I hear the familiar cheer of the hon, Member for Sheffield. He asserts that the Church of England has no right to that property, and I am sure that be will not be slow to take advantage of every facility which may be afforded to him by the enforcement of his arguments. The right of the Church of England to its property must, in a certain degree, depend upon the preservation of the historical chain. If you make it start afresh, as my hon. Friend would do,—if you make it start anew as one religious communion among many, I, for one, cannot say that I could any longer defend it as a State Church in the possession of the powers and immunities which it now enjoys.

These arguments, however, do not seem to me to apply to the whole of my hon. Friend's Motion. There is one part of it which I think may be made acceptable to the House, and which, I am sure, would be acceptable to the country. The House is aware that among the declarations which are made under certain circumstances by persons accepting advowsons and dignities in the Church of England, they declare their unfeigned assent and consent to every proposition contained in the Liturgy of the Church. That stands out as a special subscription, totally different in spirit from any other which is made by the members of the Church. We all know the unfortunate political circumstances in which that subscription originated. We know that it was enforced for a hard and cruel purpose of which we all alike disapprove. The Book of Common Prayer is an Act of Parliament, and if the legislation as regards that subscription was relaxed by a substitution for it of the declaration of conformity to the provisions of the Prayer Book, and a belief that they contain the Word of God, which is used upon other occasions, such a proposition would, I believe, meet with very general acceptance—I believe I may say with almost universal favour in that branch of the Legislature which may be considered peculiarly suited for discussions of these subjects. The opinions of the heads of the Church have been expressed upon this matter, and several of the most learned and pious of them have declared that they could see no difficulty whatever in the way of this change. I know that it has been asserted with great eloquence that by tampering with this matter at all, that by touching the question of "unfeigned assent and consent" you would in some degree give a sanction to a feigned assent and consent; but I believe that that is an erroneous idea, and that it is one which would never suggest itself to the mind of any man whatever. I believe, that if you accept the Amendment which I propose, and the object of which is to confine the action of the Resolution to the Book of Common Prayer, you will in no degree derogate from the integrity of the Church, or diminish its power or influence, but that you will simply do a political right in expiation of a political wrong. That subscription originated in political motives, and upon political grounds: I ask you to assent to the substitution for it of some declaration which shall be acceptable to the members of the Church. In doing this I am actuated by the same desire as has influenced my hon. Friend to prevent the exclusion from the Church of England of men of growing and increasing intelligence. There is no doubt that the diminution of the intellectual power of the clergy is a most grave and important fact, and one which is likely to tell seriously upon the intellectual and moral condition of the people. Modern legislation, you must recollect, has gone far to pauperize the Church of England as a State institution. You have of late years done a great deal to diminish the temptations to men to enter the Church from secular or professional motives. You have abolished a large number of Church dignities. You have prohibited the holding by any one person of several livings, which might place him in a position of independence and dignity; and you have forced upon your bishops a mode of life incompatible with dignity, with ease, and repose. They are now as continually engaged in railway travelling and as constantly engaged in the discharge of their functions as any professional men in this country. You have done all in your power to destroy the social dignity of the Church. What is left you? Its intellectual and spiritual dignity. Notwithstanding all this, I agree with my hon. Friend that the influence of the Church of England is enormously increasing. Look at the immense number of churches that have been built by private and individual energy. That is all true. The lay portion of the Church is sound; the lay portion of the Church is active and intelligent. Do ail that you possibly can to extend the liberty and increase the energy of the Church; but, at the same time, do not rashly or unadvisedly do anything which may seem to give a momentary relief, but which, when seriously and historically considered, will be found to expose the Church of England to the attacks of popular violence by destroying those large and effective safeguards which were established by our ancestors. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving an Amendment limiting the operation of the Motion to subscription to the Prayer Book.


seconded the Amendment.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the words "Thirty-nine Articles, and to the."—(Mr. Monckton Milnes.)


said, he rose thus early in the debate because he was anxious to state, on the part of the Government, the course which they felt it their duty to take on the important question which had been submitted for the consideration of the House. In doing so he trusted he should be able to imitate the calm and moderate tone which had characterized the speeches of his hon. Friends who had preceded him, who had shown how much they appreciated the importance of the question by the character of the arguments which they had addressed to the House. A consideration of the importance of the question had induced the Government to come to the conclusion that it was inexpedient to affirm either the original Resolution or the Amendment which had been proposed; but, at the same time, they were not prepared, by meeting the Resolution with a direct negative, to say that in their opinion the law as it stood with regard to subscription to the Articles or declaration of conformity to the Liturgy was in a satisfactory state, or that it might not be altered and amended with a due regard to the interests of the Church, and without impairing the security for the maintenance of the doctrine of the Church as contained in the Articles and Liturgy. The hon. Member for Maidstone (Mr. Buxton) proposed a Resolution declaring that the subscription required from the clergy to the Thirty-nine Articles and the Prayer Book ought to be relaxed; but he had not been able to ascertain, either from the speech of the hon. Gentleman himself or that of his hon. Friend who seconded the Motion, to what extent they thought that relaxation ought to be carried—nor indeed the precise object the Resolution had in view. The same observation was applicable to the proposed Amendment; and he thought it would be most inexpedient to place on the records of the House a Resolution that the subscription and declaration required by law ought to be relaxed without specifying the extent to which the relaxation should be carried. The House ought not to condemn the existing law without stating clearly what it proposed to substitute for it. He thought that the hon. Member for Maidstone argued as if he were anxious that all declarations and subscriptions should be abolished, and the seconder of the Resolution certainly made no concealment that such was his opinion; and that with regard to subscription to the Articles, he would have no subscription to them, but would allow the clergy to enter the Church without any recorded avowal of their profession of conformity to them, leaving the clergy liable to the penalties they would incur if, on entering the Church with an implied assent to the Articles, they did not teach the doctrines asserted in them, or did teach doctrines contrary to them, or for acting in nonconformity with the Liturgy of the Church. The hon. Member stated that recent decisions in Ecclesiastical Courts with respect to the doctrines of the Church had tended more accurately to define those doctrines, and had thereby narrowed the door of the Church to clergymen who might feel conscientious difficulties on certain points. But if the hon. Member would leave the Articles and Liturgy unrevised, and yet have every clergyman bound to teach doctrines in conformity with them, he could not understand what possible relief would be afforded by dispensing with the necessity of subscribing to the Articles. With regard to the various declarations required from clergymen, he certainly did not think the law in a satisfactory state, and he was of opinion that a more simple and uniform declaration might be adopted. But his hon. Friend (Mr. Buxton) did not draw a sufficient distinction between the subscription to the Articles and the declaration of conformity to the Liturgy as now required by law. It was difficult, in fact, to ascertain what all those subscriptions were. The law, with regard to the Articles, was as follows:—Every beneficed clergyman must either subscribe or declare his assent to the Articles four times at least—first on ordination, by the 13 Elizabeth, c. 12, s. 5, which declared that none should be admitted to the order of deacon unless he first subscribed to the Articles. Subscription to the Articles, therefore, was a condition of ordination. By a subsequent clause the Act required that every person admitted to a benefice with cure must publicly read the Thirty-nine Articles in the Church at the time of common prayer, with a declaration of his unfeigned assent thereto, within two months after his induction. Again, by the 36th Canon, no person shall be received into the ministry of the Church of England unless he first subscribe to three Articles—the first acknowledging the Queen's supremacy, the second relative to the Book of Common Prayer, and the third acknowledging the Articles agreed upon in the Convocation of 1562 to be agreeable to the Word of God, adding the following declaration:—"I do willingly and ex animo subscribe to these three Articles above-mentioned, and to all things contained therein." The same subscription and declaration was again required by that Canon on admission to any living. Now, it seemed to him (Sir George Grey) perfectly reasonable that the Established Church or any Church, admitting a minister to teach in conformity with its doctrines, ought to have a clear and definite standard in reference to those doctrines, and it was not unreasonable to require from the minister so admitted an express declaration that he believed the Articles to be in conformity with the Holy Scriptures. With regard to the Liturgy the case was different. The Act of Elizabeth said nothing with respect to the Book of Common Prayer, but the second Article of the three required by the 36th Canon to be subscribed to by every clergyman upon ordination or admission to a benefice was this:— That the Book of Common Prayer containeth in it nothing contrary to the Word of God, and that it may be lawfully used, and that he will use the form therein prescribed in public prayer and administration of the sacraments, and none Other. The Act of Uniformity, however, contained a much more stringent declaration—that which his hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Monckton Milnes) wished to see revised. The 8th section of that Act requires that every person in holy orders, possessed of any ecclesiastical dignity or promotion, or curate's place, shall at or before his admission subscribe a declaration comprising these words:—"I will conform to the Liturgy of the Church of England as by law established." That was the only declaration of conformity to the Liturgy which a curate was bound to make; but, if he accepted a benefice, he was brought within the third, fourth, and sixth sections of the Act of Uniformity, by which every person presented to any ecclesiastical benefice or promotion, is required, within two months after possession, publicly on Sunday to read the morning and evening prayers, and after such reading publicly to declare his unfeigned assent and consent to the use of all things therein contained and prescribed in the following words:— I do hereby declare my unfeigned assent and consent to all and everything contained and prescribed in and by the Book of Common Prayer. It will be observed that in this form of declaration the words found in the clause itself, "the use of," are omitted. That was the declaration which his hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. M. Milnes) wished to see removed from the statute-book, and he (Sir George Grey) agreed with him, because in his opinion it imposed unnecessary restrictions on men's consciences. The effect of the existing law was to require four distinct declarations from every beneficed clergyman of assent to the Liturgy, three of those declarations varying in their terms. He thought that these formed an unnecessary burden on men's consciences; that the very variation of the terms of subscription or declaration was liable to raise doubts; and that it would be expedient that a more simple form both of subscription to the Articles and of declaration of conformity to the Liturgy should be taken equally by all the clergy. He quite agreed with the hon. Member for Maidstone (Mr. Buxton) that the object was to obtain on the part of the clergy an honest agreement with the doctrines of the Established Church, and a declaration of conformity to the Book of Common Prayer; and that it was undesirable to go further, and thereby run the risk of narrowing the door of the Church, and excluding men with tender consciences on certain points from entering the Church. He must, however, say that neither the Resolution proposed by the hon. Member for Maidstone, nor the Amendment of the hon. Member for Pontefract, would define to what extent the various declarations he had referred to should be assimilated one to the other, or what should be omitted and what retained, and would consequently create uncertainty, and might lead to unreasonable expectations as to the length which Parliament was prepared to go in the direction of relaxation. He thought the House should be cautious in expressing an opinion in favour of the relaxation of these declarations without the most careful inquiry into these subscriptions, their origin, and cause; and any such inquiry ought to be intrusted to men in whom the Church generally had confidence. He did not see how such an inquiry was then to be instituted, and he therefore thought it inexpedient that the House should, without fuller consideration, and without a more definite object in view as to the nature of the relaxations to be made, especially at a time when the subject derived greater importance from the controversies which were going on within the Church, adopt the Resolution which had been proposed. Under the circumstances of the case the course which the Government had intended to take, had they not been precluded from doing so by the Amendment of the hon. Member for Pontefract, was to move the Previous Question. If his hon. Friend would withdraw his Amendment, he would make that Motion. He had simply to say, in conclusion, that the Government would not be unwilling to take into consideration the question of what relaxations might be made in those subscriptions, bearing in mind the paramount consideration of the necessity of not risking those honest securities which ought to be maintained in the case of men who professed to teach the doctrines of the Church.


said, that after the statement of the right hon. Baronet, he deemed it to be his duty to withdraw his Amendment.


—I object to that course. The Amendment is the property of the House.

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.

Original Question again proposed.


moved the Previous Question.


said, he hoped the House would forgive him if, as a layman of the Church of England who had had personal experience of the protection which the subscription afforded to the laity, he expressed his regret that the Government had not adopted a more decided course. The proposal made by the hon. Member for Maidstone, whilst it might afford some increased liberty to the clergy, would impose upon the laity the necessity of submitting to a latitude of teaching which he, for one, must humbly deprecate. What was the fact? The provisions which restricted the clergy to the faithful preaching of the doctrines of the Church of England were the only security which the lay members of the Church had, that when they attended their place of worship, they would hear the doctrines of the Church faithfully preached. Having himself been placed in the unfortunate position of having for years been compelled to listen to a clergyman, who eventually declared himself a Dissenter, preaching doctrines most painful to his congregation, he hoped the House would forgive him urging the danger of any rash proceeding, and the importance of not allowing an interpretation of the Articles to be the only guide for the clergy. Learned and able as was the decision of Dr. Lushington, in a recent case, he felt himself, as every Churchman must have felt, that that distinguished Judge was in the position of one who was declaring and enforcing statute law without reference to common law. The Articles were an able exposition of the points they touched, and those points had reference to the great doctrines of the Church which were to be found enunciated in the Prayer Book. And this was an illustration of the difficulty in which the Church was placed. So lax were her ecclesiastical tribunals that they seemed to be becoming deficient in that theological learning, and in those theological references which were necessary to insure a due judgment in cases in which a departure from the faithful teachings of the Church had to be tried. He would urge the House, if they contemplated any change in the proposed direction, not to enter rashly upon the matter, but in full view of the difficulties and dangers to which the Church of England was exposed, those difficulties being, on the one hand, an undue latitude which verged towards infidelity; and, on the other hand, an undue stringency of teaching that must render the ministrations of the Church liable to the imputation of bigotry He would again humbly represent to the House that the law as it stood secured to the clergy a freedom of opinion and a latitude of action in their incumbencies which were incident only to an established Church; and whilst he would preserve these to them carefully, he felt it was essential to the safety of the laity and of the congregations that they should not any further relax the security that the incumbents should preach the doctrines of the Church of which they were the appointed ministers. Nothing had been more painful to him, holding the opinions which he did, than the letter addressed by Dr. Stanley to the Bishop of London. It suggested nothing but difficulties, and it proposed no adequate remedy; and it was liable to the observation so justly made by the Home Secretary upon the Motion before the House, that it was disturbance coming from a quarter where they ought to hope for peace and the elements of stability. Dr. Stanley pointed out the difference of the position of the Church of England as an establishment as contrasted with that of Protestant communities abroad, in some few of which no binding declaration of faith was required, but these few were exceptions. Well, what was the position of the Protestants of France? Such was the diversity of opinion, such was the uncertainty of doctrine in the Protestant Church of France, that M. Guizot, one of its most distinguished members, wrote in his work on the Christian Church, only two years since— The Protestant Church of France is too incompletely organized and too imperfectly free for authority to exercise itself in its interior government with an indisputable character and without fear of compromising liberty. There was the point which he wished to mark—if they removed the definitions which restrained the clergy, they increased the absolute power of each clergyman to teach what he pleased, and in granting that discretion the House would trench upon the freedom of the laity. That was the point he wished to press emphatically upon the House. But let him give another illustration of the danger which would be consequent upon the adoption of the Resolution. They had had the position of religion in the United States pointed out to them in former debates as that which was worthy of imitation. They were told that there was complete religious liberty in the United States, and they had been told that the people possessed complete religious liberty without the drawbacks which were attributed to the Church of England He would quote a Roman Catholic authority on the state of religion which had grown up under the lax system of the United States. The quotation was from the Cosmopolitan Almanack, published at Baltimore in 1860, and re-published in the Tablet, of January 21, 1860. The writer concluded by describing the progress of the Roman Catholic Church in these words— There is nothing in the history of the world like the progress of the United States, and there is nothing in the progress of the United States like the progress of the Roman Catholic Church. Built on a profoundly Protestant basis, our foundation stones were not laid without difficulty in the polity of the Pilgrim Fathers. This was the conclusion of the writer's observations, and he was speaking of the Roman Catholic Church— The Church which has such a laity—and its bishops and priests are worthy to lead such a party—need not fear for the future, though the soundings are strange and the landmarks dim in that tumultous tide of fierce democracy. It stands erect amidst the debris of the Protestant heresy, which, loosed from the prop of European State establishments, crash against each other like the pack-ice in a Polar sea. The native American mind goes beyond Protestantism. There it Mormonism at the Great Salt Lake, or the Free Iron Church in the city for the Pagan of the sty. The more philosophic and spiritual Pagan summons the Devil to turn tables and carry messages to the dead. Protestantism proper seems to be constantly galvanized into a sort of unnatural life by the art of hysterical revival. Heresy does not decay there as in the Old World. It is in a state of wholesale disintegration, leading towards a Chaos, of which it will be the Church's work in the course of the next century to make a Cosmos. Those who would change the position of the Established Church in this country, and who would enter rashly upon any experiment that would destroy her stability, should weigh that testimony as to the condition to which religion had come in the United States, where there was no Established Church. In the present state of the diversity of opinions on subjects connected with religion it was not for the interest either of true religion or of toleration that the established order of the Church of England should be shaken, because uncertainty and vague opinions led to violence, ended in bigotry, and destroyed toleration; and it was his firm conviction that the reason why the Church of England had been able to be as tolerant as she was, was that she was established upon a foundation which left in the minds of her members no doubt as to the great truths of Christianity, and the adherence of the Church to those truths. It was advanced against all Protestant establishments, because they almost all had declarations of faith and discipline, that they were propped by law. What was the fact? These legal definitions were essential to freedom in religion, because there must be either definition by law, which they could have only in an Established Church, or a discretionary and therefore arbitrary power must be vested somewhere. Any one who could trace the decay of the Church of Rome, commencing with the Council of Trent, would find that as gradually as her established organizations had been broken up, arbitrary power issuing from a centre had been substituted for legal protection, and that thus the members of the Church had been virtually placed at the discretion of an absolutism which claimed perpetual adherence to a certain course, a course which had been marked by more inconsistency than could be attributed to Protestantism. He had reason to feel the cogency of what he said when he prayed the House, that for the sake of the congregations of the Established Church, and for the sake of the laity of England, they would not remove the protection afforded by the requirement that the clergy, before entering on their office, should avow their intention to teach truly the doctrines which were submitted to their charge.


The House is placed in some embarrassment by the declaration which has been made by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State, on the part of the Government, though not by the course he proposed to take. The Motion of the hon. Member for Maidstone is to do away with the subscriptions now required from the clergy to the Liturgy and the Articles of our creed. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State put in a very few words such a substantial objection to that Motion, that I, for one, should have preferred to have had it negatived. The Secretary of State pointed out to the House one of two alternatives consequent on the Motion of the hon. Member for Maidstone. When the subscription is done away with, either the law must remain the same as at present, or it is to be construed somewhat differently. If the law is to remain unaltered, what is the advantage of doing away with the subscription? If, on the other hand, the law is to be changed, it is the duty of the mover of this Motion, it is the duty of the Government, before they acquiesce in that Motion, to point out clearly to the House the mode in which they think that law should be amended. This is a most important question, and my hon. Friend who spoke last forcibly put it to the House that it is one not affecting the clergy so much as the laity. The subscription, both of the Liturgy and the Articles, was designed as a protection to the laity, who are thus assured that in every parish church throughout the kingdom no doctrine is taught or preached other than that which the Church recognises and allows. If the hon. Member for Maidstone does not intend to alter the law as established for the benefit of the laity, there is no good in his Motion at all. But if my hon. Friend intends to alter the law, or if the Government propose to direct an inquiry so as to point out in what mode the law is to be altered, I entreat the House to consider the very precarious position in which the country is placed by the controversies which are taking place on this very subject.

Three classes of persons have advocated an alteration in the law with regard to subscription, and three works, published within the last few years, will indicate to the House the objects of these three classes. A most able book, in the Nonconformist view, published by Dr. Parker, clearly points to a wish to do away with all subscriptions in order that he may do away with all Establishments, and to make the endowments of the Church of England, as it were, common property, if he would allow any property at all. That is a proposition which I do not think the House, or the country, will ever listen to.

Another book, of which we have all heard something, and to which my hon. Friend adverted, is the Essays and Reviews. What are the alterations advocated by the writers of that book—alterations, too, more or less adopted by some able divines in our own Church? The essayists say, that all tests are obsolete and should be repealed, that Scripture should be the sole basis of the National Church, that all intellectual barriers should be thrown down; and when Scripture has been made the sole basis of the National Church, they maintain "this will unite all—if you adopt the ideal method of interpretation." These are propositions recommended by divines in our own Church, or divines who still claim to be members of our own Church. But propositions like these are propositions which can never be countenanced for a single moment if the laity, that is to say the people of this country, are to have any guarantees, first that no doctrines shall be preached but the doctrines of the Church to which they belong; secondly, that there shall be some security for ecclesiastical order and discipline; and thirdly, that the officiating clergy shall preserve the doctrines of the Church in all their purity and freedom from corruption, and shall deliver them down to others as pure and free as they themselves received them.

The third book to which I referred is a remarkable one, published by Mr. Heaton. It goes into the whole question, much in the same sense as my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone, and advocates the doing away with all subscriptions either to the Liturgy or the Articles; yet proposes that the Liturgy and these Articles shall remain the same. If so, what are our clergy to be bound by? Do you do away with the subscriptions for the purpose of saying that the clergy shall hold inwardly one set of opinions, and be declared outwardly to preach another? Do you mean, that while they hold these opinions, they are to be drawing the emoluments of your Church, and yet not to be advocating those opinions in all their integrity? You can have no guarantee for your clergy preaching the doctrines the Church requires them to preach, except the fact of their having subscribed their adherence to those doctrines. With that declaration, and with the Articles and the Liturgy clear, you then have a guarantee, but otherwise you have none, that those doctrines will be preached, and those prayers used which the Members of the Church of England are attached to and do not desire to see altered. My hon. Friend took exception to this subscription, end it was almost the only passage in his speech which was not as moderate and temperate as the rest—because be said it would exclude all the men of piety, and all the men, I think he added, of pore intelligence, implying that it would admit other persons not possessing those qualifications. [Mr. BUXTON said, he had not referred so much to their ability as to their honour. I am glad to bear my hon. Friend's correction, because his words were so large as to imply that people not of honest purpose had been admitted into the Church of England, instead of men, as I believe, of great sincerity, earnest zeal, and the utmost desire to preach the truth they believe. The truth is, that when you come to look into this question, you find that it is not subscription that keeps away intelligent or thoughtful men. What has diminished the number of candidates for orders is that there is such a race of competition for the things of life, for the professions of the world, that men will go into them at an earlier period, and that they choose those professions in which they are likely to receive a more remunerative reward than in adopting what is called the profession of the Church. The hon. Member for Pontefract has adverted to this, and has said with great truth, "You have altered your law, and done away with the great rewards of the Church, and therefore the inducements to enter the Church are pro tanto diminished." It is not that young men are unwilling to enter the Church on account of the subscriptions, but that young men, who are as Christian in heart and conduct as any clergymen, can discharge their duties as Christians in those professions as much as in the Church, and get a better remuneration in other professions for their ability and virtues than in the Church.

The hon. Member who seconded the Motion said, that the hon. Member for Maidstone was simply doing that which had been attempted by the Comprehension Bill in the reign of William III. How people can go on talking in this manner about the Comprehension Bill is remarkable. It never substituted a Declaration of Conformity to the Church for subscription. It went much further. The great authors of that Bill knew perfectly well that the mere substitution of a Declaration of Conformity for a subscription to Articles could never answer the purpose without altering these Articles and the Liturgy. If you look to the Bill itself, you will see that material alterations were proposed both in one and the other, and that a Commission was issued to inquire into the subject, and to see how these alterations could be made. What was the result of that Commission? Let my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State be very careful if he is going to direct inquiry into this subject. There were some of the best and ablest men of the day on that Commission. They wished to make the boundaries of the Church conterminous with truth and charity. But what was the result? You may read it in the works of the great historian now unhappily no more. He tells us that Burnet and Tillotson congratulated themselves on the escape they had had when they saw the separation to which it would lead by the alienation of as many members of the Church as would have been included if they had introduced certain members of the Dissenting bodies. There is a most remarkable chapter by Lord Macaulay on the subject, in which he comments most strongly on that Bill, and the conclusion he draws is, that the non-passing of the Comprehension Bill secured the civil and religious liberty of the people of England.

Well, but hon. Gentlemen opposite found fault with the subscriptions that are required, and with the Act of Parliament which enforces those subscriptions, on the ground that they are oppressive. Now, before you alter these laws, I think it will be better to consider carefully for what reason they were passed, and under what circumstances they were introduced. There were three periods to which the hon. Gentleman adverted—the reign of Elizabeth, of James I., and the reign of Charles II. And what were the circumstances under which the first subscription was required? The undercurrent of the Reformation had been running hard and strong from the time of Wickliffe until it broke out in the reign of the Tudors. Then you had such a convulsion and variety of religions, from the reign of Henry VIII. to that of Edward VI., and from the reign of Mary to that of Elizabeth, that no one knew or well understood what were the doctrines of the Church of England, or what was the worship in which they were called upon to join. It was under those circumstances that the first subscription was imposed, and it was a subscription that secured for the first time after the Reformation to the people of England a certainty and guarantee that they should have one set of doctrines in which they believed and no other, and one worship established in which they could join, and not an uncertain worship in which they did not know whether they could join or not. Let hon. Gentlemen now turn to the second case, that of James I., when the Articles were framed, as adverted to by the Secretary of State. If you will look at the proclamation made by the King at the time, you will find the strange and discordant state into which religion was running, owing to the various sectaries which claimed to have their religion preached in this or that church. But if you will look to a most remarkable passage in a most remarkable historian, not adverting to this particular subject, but told incidentally—I mean Sir Walter Raleigh—you will find that the various forms of the Church, said to be introduced in various parts of the country, were so numerous that he said that truth itself, which is always one, began to be considered as variable in the minds of the people of this country. Take the other case of the Act of Uniformity of the time of Charles II. It is not true that the Act of Uniformity was passed to exclude any honest Nonconformist from joining the Church. The truth was, that every effort was made to induce them to join it. But if you look at the time before the Act was passed, you will never forget the utter confusion into which this country was thrown in matters of religion by not having an Established Church. You had nominally an Episcopalian Church, but you also had a Presbyterian Church by Parliamentary ordinance, and a body of Independents, supported by Cromwell, establishing here and there a minister who they thought would serve their political rather than their religious purpose. At the same time you had the ministers of the Church of England thrown out of their parishes, ejected one after the other, and even the beautiful prayers of the Liturgy not allowed to be used. Things were in that state that even the Presbyterians of that day, according to Edwards's work, introduced blasphemy and all kinds of inconsistencies and incongruities into religion; and he said, that if these were the results of toleration, it would put an end to all learning and religion. That also was the opinion of Hume in commenting on the state of this country at the time of the Commonwealth. That, too, was the opinion of Lord Macaulay. And it was under these circumstances, when religion itself seemed likely to be driven out of doors, and when no one knew how they were to worship and what they had to depend upon, that the Act of Uniformity was passed for the good of the people. I am not going to defend all that took place in that day. I do not defend the acts of the King, which were contrary to his own declaration. I do not defend the penalties enforced upon Nonconformists or clergymen by subsequent laws, or the religious controversies which took place, and which often led to a persecuting spirit. But what I do defend is this—I defend the establishment of a religion which protected the people from all the errors into which they would otherwise have been thrown. I do defend the law which, however it may be found fault with after it has existed for two hundred years, gave to the people of this country a religion as pure, as tolerant, and as comprehensive as the eternal truth itself.

I now come to the question, how ought we to deal with this subject? If the Government had plainly and clearly told us what they intended to do, then I think they would have taken a better course, and one more worthy of a Government. I believe the course we are asked to take by the Government is right, for it is, as I understand it, simply this: We decline to enter into the question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone until we are more fully informed upon the authority of the Government first whether any alteration shall be made in those laws; and secondly, if there shall, then we are to have pointed out, upon the authority of Government, what these alterations will be. If that be the understanding, I think we shall do well to support the Government in moving the Previous Question. But, if this course is to have any other meaning, if there be an intention of altering without telling us how you are to alter either your Liturgy or your Articles, if the change is to go to the extent of shaking the Established Church in the minds of the people, and leaving them ignorant of what teachings they are to accept, then I think we ought to resist the Motion to the best of our power. Believing, however, that such is not the intention of the Government, but that their intention simply is to negative, in one sense, the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone, while it keeps open the question which so many good men have recently raised, and amongst them some even of our own Prelates, I think we shall do well to leave the Government opportunity and time to consider at leisure whether they are prepared to make any proposition on the subject; and if they are, to state in the face of the House what that proposition is. To nothing else will I consent. I believe, if you do that, you will find that the utmost alteration you will have to make will be to satisfy the scruples of certain persons who think that the words which they use have a fuller meaning than I believe has ever been considered to be attached to them. Believing that, and willing to consider, as the Government also seem to he, whether any relief can be given to such persons, I have no objection to give them my support. But again I say, that if in any substantial particulars you are going to alter your Articles of Religion, which are the code of faith, or your book of Common Prayer, which is the most beautiful embodiment of primitive truth ever composed, I, for one, never will or can consent. I have no fears for the Church of England. My hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone at one time seemed to have fears for it, but I observe that towards the end of his speech he made use of a quotation which appeared to contradict its beginning, and he referred to the Church in these words— Higher yet her star ascends, Peace and truth her course portends. Sir, if truth and peace are in the Church of England, do not imperil the one, and do not disturb the other. That Church, I am confident, say what you please, is strong in the affections of her people, strong in the soundness of her doctrines, strong in the purity and simplicity of her worship. Nay more, she is of all Churches that ever were established the most tolerant in her principles, the most charitable in her instructions, the most comprehensive in her love. On such a Church as that I would not for a moment lay an unhallowed hand. For such a Church as that I think it would be a matter of the utmost regret if you venture to propose anything vague and indefinite which may lead to consequences which you yourselves will shrink from when those consequences are forced upon you. Therefore, for the sake of preserving that Church in all its integrity, but with a willingness to relieve any weak consciences which may object to subscription, if such there be, I say, do not assent to the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone; stand by your Articles, stand by your Liturgy, and only amend them when proved defects may be found to exist.


said, as there was but one narrow gate of subscription by which persons could enter the Church, it was impossible to resist the conviction that there must be more or less of mental reservation on the part of many. There was often a very great conflict of opinion and great scruples of conscience before young men could make up their minds to subscribe. Parliament was now in much the same position as when jurymen refused to carry out the law in cases of forgery, robbery, and other such crimes to which the penalty of death was attached. Public opinion was far in advance of legislation, and it was not until it was found that the interests of justice were most seriously compromised that the law was altered. He could not but think that the common sense of those who subscribed admitted a considerable latitude as to the meaning of what they were required to subscribe to; and therefore he assented to the Motion for making that the law of the land which the clergyman made law for himself. He wished to call the attention of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) to this fact, that the tests for ordination in the Church of England were of greater stringency than the Church of Rome itself required, and all that had been said of the remarkable increase of the Church of Rome in the United States and elsewhere was only an argument to prove how a church could spread in the absence of subscription. The absence of subscription tended to increase rather than diminish the inherent strength of a church, and therefore he contended there was no danger to the Church of England from relaxing the severity of her tests. But even if there were, was there no danger on the other side? He thought there was. They had heard a warning voice raised by the dignitaries of the Church, and echoed by the press, and it agreed with the experience of Oxford and Cambridge men, that the candidates who offered themselves for ordination were not the same as they used to be twenty or thirty years ago. Attempts had been made to explain that, on the ground that young men now sought for openings in commercial life, for a career in India, or elsewhere; but he could not but think that that was not sufficient to account for the falling-off. There was a marked increase of earnestness and self-devotion in all classes, and more especially in that class from which young clergymen were taken. The unfortunate dissensions in the Church of England had turned all men's minds, and among them those of the ministers of the Church, to a consideration of those difficult points which had been referred to in the course of the discussion. He could remember that in his own time the manner in which subscription was enforced at Oxford against one who was second to none in character or ability, excited a perfect storm of indignation amongst the younger men of the University, including not only undergraduates but masters of arts, and that feeling had been growing ever since; for it should be remembered, that when a clergyman signed the Articles and Liturgy, the act bound him for life. An attempt had been made to alter that state of things, but last year the House threw out the Clergy, Relief Bill. It was not to be wondered at, therefore, that young men, at an age when their opinions were not so fixed that they were not likely to undergo a change at any future time, should hesitate to take upon themselves a burden which, no matter what the change in their opinions, they could never throw off. It was true that there was a difficulty in bringing home a charge of bad faith, in respect to the Articles and Liturgy, against any individual without the person making the charge exposing himself to a counter-charge of bad faith on account of some opinion which he might have expressed at some other time. This security for liberty of opinion would be lost if one of the propositions which had been submitted to the House were adopted. A protest ought to be made against anything which would tend to favour one party in the Church as against another. One change in that direction might lead to another, and subsequent changes might be attended with very serious results. There were two opposite extremes against which they had to guard in any legislation on the subject; they must not do anything which would exclude from the ministry of the Church men who laboured among the poor. If they did so, the Church might assume that position towards which the Episcopal Church of America seemed to tend—namely, that of a church for the fashionable classes. The other extreme they had to guard against was that of putting the Church of England in antagonism to the educated clergy, so as to make it, like the Church of France, become the Church of the poor rather than of the more educated classes of the community. The object they ought to have in view was to make the Church of England become more and more the representative of the whole community, and not of any section. No danger could arise from such a proposition as that of the hon. Member for Maidstone, and as a step in the right direction it was deserving of the support of the House.


said, he could not help thinking the House was discussing a very important question under great disadvantages. A most unfortunate amount of haze had been thrown on a subject, in discussing which it was most essential that hon. Members should have their minds clear. There were several reasons why they should endeavour to divest the question of all obscurity. In the first place, the Motion of the hon. Member for Maidstone was not a satisfactory one. He had not had the advantage of hearing the speech of the hon. Member; but considering the immense importance of the subject, anything more unfortunately loose in its terms than the proposition which that hon. Member had placed on the paper could hardly have been devised. Then the Amendment of the hon. Member for Pontefract, which would have changed the character of the Motion, had been withdrawn as soon as made; and they were then discussing whether the Motion of his hon. Friend should be put at all or not. They were discussing that question upon grounds which had been laid down by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State, and which had been so laid down that it was difficult to know what were the views and the policy which the Government supported. It was most unsatisfactory that they should be talking round the subject without knowing the points at issue—without knowing whether they were dealing with a question of great importance or one of slight importance. The hon. Member for Plymouth had said there was no danger in the small modification proposed, but no modification was proposed. The House was only asked to pledge itself to some Resolution which might be brought up at a future time; but in doing so it might be pledging itself to a policy of which they were unable to measure the significance or importance. Before they came to a conclusion on the subject, he thought it but reasonable that those who felt strongly on the question should endeavour to point out what were the dangers which might possibly arise from a course such as the Motion of his hon. Friend might lead to. They must not conceal from themselves that, however temperate the language of his hon. Friend and of other hon. Members might be, this Resolution would give effect to claims made by persons outside that House which appeared to him to be of a must audacious character. Those persons did not claim that Parliament should allow individuals to exercise the form of religion which in their consciences they approved without prosecuting them or depriving them of their civil privileges; but they claimed that they should clothe them with the authority of the Church, and send them out to teach, in the name of the Church, the Church's doctrines, without requiring that they should assent to the doctrines which they were to teach. That being the case, the House must consider what the Motion might come to—namely, that the tests imposed on the clergy should be done away with altogether. It was very well to say that there were persons who might differ from them in small and minute particulars, and that it would be hard to deprive congregations of men whose ministry would be most profitable; but if the House did away with tests, they had no security that clergymen held any particular doctrine, and the absence of such security would be calculated to shake the confidence of the people among whom they exercised their ministry. In his opinion, nothing could be more injurious to the cause of religion in this country than that they should allow the people, who have ministers set over them, to believe that the clergymen who used the prayers in the Liturgy, and who were teaching the word of God in accordance with the Articles of the Church of England, did not concur in the former nor believe in the latter. And if they took off those tests at a moment when persons who were subject to those declarations were claiming to be set free in order that they might have greater latitude in the interpretation of the Scriptures and in the interpretation of some of the most fundamental doctrines of the Church, what must be the inference of the people? Why, that the Church was indifferent to her own Liturgy and Articles, and that those ministers were sent out as advocates of a certain cause, with a brief in their hands which they might or might not believe, just as they thought fit. Anything more calculated to destroy true religion in this country could not possibly be found. He quite believed that persons of really tender consciences were kept out of the ministry of the Church by the tests that were imposed. The loss of the services of such men was to be lamented, but that was a misfortune for which it would be very difficult to find a remedy. Into the particular grievances which these persons might have he was not indisposed to look; and if they were of a small and minute character, and a redress could be found for them which would not shake the fundamental principles of the Church, and would not detract from the sanctity of the tests applied to uphold the Liturgy and Articles, he should be glad to relieve these persons from their difficulties. But he was not prepared, even for the sake of gaining the assistance of men whose character and abilities would, he admitted, be of the greatest value to the Church, to break down that which in his opinion was of the greatest importance—the confidence of the people in the sincerity of their ministers, and the belief of those ministers in the doctrines which they professed to teach.

Further, if the step which they were invited to take were taken, and if tests were dispensed with, he believed it would be utterly impossible to stop there. No relief would be given at all if they merely said, "We do not exact from candidates for holy orders their assent and consent to the Book of Common Prayer, and yet we require them strictly to conform to it." Take any of the causes which now, it was alleged, prevented persons from entering the ministry—the existence of certain clauses in the Athanasian Creed, or the Absolution and Burial Services. If conformity with these parts of the Prayer Book were dispensed with, how could they be used by persons who objected to them, unless with a strain upon conscience far greater than was applied by the use of the present test? At present the position of the Church was perfectly logical and tenable. She said to candidates for her ministry, "You will be obliged to teach certain doctrines and to use certain services. Do not take this office upon yourselves unless you feel that you can conscientiously and heartily agree with these doctrines and use these services. If you say you cannot do so, we are sorry; but you cannot become ministers of the Church." On the other hand, if persons were allowed to come into the Church without conforming to these doctrines, people would think it tyranny if they were compelled to adhere to them, and a constant pressure would be put upon Parliament to relieve such persons. One man would drop one thing and another would drop another; and at last it would be necessary, in order to settle the minds of congregations, to define what tenets were really held essential by the Church, so that congregations might not suppose that men were admitted to the ministry who held as open questions doctrines which were at the foundation of the whole Church system. They would then come to a picking and choosing among the Articles and formularies of the Church, of those which were important, and those which were comparatively unimportant. And how could the Church go on if the House of Commons—a body not co-extensive with the Church, but representing and comprising large numbers of persons who were in no sense members of the Church of England—took upon itself to decide which of her doctrines were important and must be insisted on, and which were unimportant and might be dispensed with? He could not conceive how such a state of things was possible without striking at the connection between Church and State. He did not mean to assert that the House of Commons, as the representatives of the people, should not have a fair voice in the discussion of Church questions; but if every Member of the House of Commons—Dissenter or Roman Catholic—were allowed to get up and say, "I think ministers ought to be ordained if they agree with these, and though they do not agree with those Articles or portions of the Prayer Book," the relations between Church and State would be put upon a new footing, and the existing relations between them utterly destroyed. It might be said that such a step was within the competence of the State; but if that were the proposition, let it be fairly and broadly raised, instead of being merely pointed at in a loose Motion, which the Secretary of State had met with the Previous Question, because he said the subject was one upon which the Government were not yet prepared to express an opinion, and had not yet made up their minds as to the course they would pursue. It was most unfortunate that the matter should be left in that position, and he should have preferred to meet the Motion by a direct negative, to the effect that no case had been made out for the adoption of a Resolution which was indefinite and might do mischief. The rejection of the Resolution would not pledge the House never to do anything hereafter. But they should consider to what a state of things they might come if they did not take care what they were doing. If they dispensed with all tests, and lost sight of the standard which had hitherto been upheld, the Church might gradually slide away from her present position, until at last she came to occupy one wholly different. Nineteen or twenty years ago great discussions took place upon the Dissenters' Chapels Bill. It was found that the tenets of one community of Dissenters, the English Presbyterians, had in the course of two centuries altogether changed for want of definite standards and subscriptions, and it actually became necessary to bring forward a measure in order to ascertain who were entitled by law to the property which had been left to the body two centuries before. Such an example might be cited with advantage; and, applying it to the Church of England, it showed into what a melancholy position she might come. By an Established Church was meant a Church secured in the enjoyment of certain property and of certain rights; and, at the same time, the law defined what that Church should be. But where would the Church be in process of time, if she were allowed to slide away from that definition? Might she not come to be in the same position with the English Presbyterians, so that it would be difficult to say who really constituted the Church of England? As a constitutional question it was most important to consider well, if tests were taken away, what would be the signs of continued union, and how the Church was to be distinguished hereafter. It was, he repeated, a great constitutional question; but in another point of view it was far more important, because he did think that such a measure as this, which was intended to give relief to consciences, and to prevent the straining of consciences or unconscious dishonesty, was just the sort of measure which, if carelessly passed, might tend to shake the faith of numberless congregations in their ministers and unsettle the whole basis upon which the Church of England rested.


Notwithstanding some words which have fallen from my right hon. Friend who has just sat down, in his able speech, I think the course taken by the Government has met with general acquiescence and with general approval. The complaint which he made, indeed, is rather against certain expressions used by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State than against the plan of the Government. I cannot help joining with others who have spoken in addressing a sincere compliment to the hon. Member (Mr. Buxton) for the moderation as well as the ability which he has displayed in bringing forward this Motion. And this is a matter of no small importance, because we know, that when once the waters of bitterness and the poison which they carry are infused into matters of religion, it becomes difficult to expel them; and along with moderation and charity disappears all chance of a mutual understanding. I could not help being pleased at perceiving that my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone had substituted the comparatively mild proposal of a relaxation of the subscription for that other much bolder and more audacious resolution—the revision of the Liturgy. With respect to a proposal of this kind, I am very far from presuming to say that the Common Prayer Book, or the Articles of the Church, are perfect; but I must say, that after observing the course of opinions, the state of society, and the capacity and temper with which men of this age address themselves to matters of religious controversy, I am not one of those who believe that the task of the revision of the Liturgy is likely to be undertaken with the smallest hope of advantage or success. Though considering it very natural that the minds of men, under the circumstances of uneasiness which have lately prevailed, should be addressed to the examination of that subject, yet I cannot help feeling pleased that my hon. Friend has declined to enter into that perhaps seductive, but very painful matter, and has directed himself, on the contrary, to the proposal advanced by writers and divines of the more sober class, such as Dr. Vaughan and my excellent friend Professor Stanley. I was glad, I repeat, that my hon. Friend put aside the revision of the Liturgy, and I was also glad to see, for all our sakes, that my hon. Friend did not join himself to those persons who venture to claim, as I think most unreasonably, what they term liberty of thought, without any restraint or control for the clergy. The liberty of the clergy, in that sense, is the slavery of the laymen. The idea of clergymen, authorized and paid by the State, being allowed to pass through the country, or to settle themselves individually in respective districts, and there to teach to the laity whatever happens to approve itself to the mind of each individual clergyman—such a course of proceeding would be not only a breach of all the laws of the Church, but a violation of all the traditions, a desecration of all the feelings, and a contempt of all the rights of the people. If there is one right accruing to the people more distinctly than another in connection with the existence of a national Church, it is the right that within those fair limits of free opinion which have always been recognised and allowed, they should know what is the teaching addressed to them. I must say, that widely apart as are my opinions from those of the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Hadfield), if it should come to this—which God forbid!—that the question is to be discussed whether the mind of every individual clergyman is to be set free from all legal restraints, and he is to be the sole arbiter of what he shall teach from his pulpit to those whom he calls his people—I say it would be far better, before entertaining that question, that we should break up the venerable fabric of the Church altogether; for the evils attending that course would be less than the moral, social, and religious evils which a licence such as I have just alluded to would not fail to entail.

I think that my hon. Friend must feel that there is great force in the objections taken by the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and by some hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House as to the indeterminate form in which he has submitted his Motion to the House. It certainly does not appear right that the House should commit itself to an abstract declaration in favour of a change in the system of subscription. That system has been of an historic growth; it has grown up with the real bonâ fide necessities of the Church from the Reformation onwards; it grew up by degrees, and arrived at a certain maturity, since which it has lasted for two hundred years. I mention this circumstance as a proof of the extreme gravity of the question; and if we deal with it, we should do so upon definite principles, and in a manner and way which everybody can understand. I think that was the doctrine inculcated by the Secretary of State in his speech.

I must confess that I regarded the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Monckton Milnes), although he supported it by a speech of great ability, as certainly not an improvement on the Motion. If there was anything more characteristic of the course pursued by the hon. Member for Maidstone than its moderation and ability, it was its perfect impartiality. I am far from saying that the hon. Member for Pontefract is capable of evincing any other spirit, but the fact is that his Motion would have the effect of drawing an invidious distinction between subscription to the Prayer Book and subscription to the Articles of the Church of England, which I believe is unknown to our history and alien to the feelings of the great bulk of the members of the Church. What are the arguments by which this Motion is supported? We are told that subscription should be done away with because it has failed to attain its end—unity of opinion. In some sense every human law fails to attain its ends. Laws against crime are supposed to have failed in attaining their end because crime is not abolished and extinguished, and laws for the promotion of unity of sentiment within the limits of the Church are, in the very nature of the case, laws in respect to which you must not cxpeet one perfect and absolute result. The question is not whether some variations of opinion prevail in the Church—it is not even whether some variations of opinion prevail which it is desirable to repress; but whether, on the whole, the system of subscription works well for its purpose, in giving to the Church that degree of unity and vigour in action which enables her to perform her appointed work. I confess, judging by such a test as that, I am not at all prepared to say that there is any reason why we should declare that this is a sore place in the history of the Church. The Church, like other institutions, has merits and faults. It is not necessary to affect to consider that there exist none of the defects of human workmanship so far as regards the vessel in which the Divine treasure is contained. At the same time, the system of subscription is a definite historical system, appoved and loved by the country, through two hundred years of great vicissitudes, and in the midst of changes which have severely tried and strained the efficacy of all laws. That is no reason why the system should not be amended, if possible; but it is a reason why we should be slow to assent to it absolute condemnation on the ground that it has failed to attain its end.

I think that the proposition on which my hon. Friend seemed to lay considerable stress was the proposition that the penal system would better secure unity for the Church than an anticipatory contract or engagement, in the form of a subscription, on entering the ministry. To that proposition I altogether demur. It has been adopted by Professor Stanley, to whose authority I am always inclined to attach much weight; but he has not added much weight to his own authority by adducing in his pamphlet the authority of Burnet. The reason why I make light of Bishop Bur net's authority is because there has been an immense change in circumstances since the time at which he wrote, as regards the practicability of working the law of the Church by means of a penal system, and also because I must frankly own that that eminent and excellent man allowed himself to be governed by passions and animosities in the treatment of historical questions; so that until you know what his prejudices or biases were, you are not in a position to estimate fairly any judgment he passes. But, however that may be, if you are to attempt in good faith to maintain in any adequate manner and degree that unity of belief in the Church of England which, within limits however liberal, is needful, you cannot trust for its maintenance to the judicial system and courts of law. To attempt to do so would in the first place be entirely novel. It might be said that there was a period in the history of the Church when we got on without subscription. I am aware that Queen Mary, who is seldom mentioned without having a vituperative epithet tacked on to her name, never assented to the use of subscription. But when we avail ourselves of that negative precedent, we must take into our view what instruments were used by her, and I doubt whether even a modified return to those instruments would be desirable. But to come later than the time of Queen Mary, let us come to the times of Queen Elizabeth, and even to the times of James and Charles I.; because it must be admitted that the system of subscription, although existing in principle at an early date in the reign of Elizabeth, did never become an effective working principle and security for the doctrines of the Church of England until the Act of Uniformity. My hon. Friend quotes the periods of those Sovereigns as examples to show how easily we might get on by means of judicial system, and dispense with subscription. If that be so, then we must look at the instruments in use at those periods. Even the warm applications that were in fashion in the time of Queen Mary were not entirely disused in the times of three other Sovereigns, although certainly they were not applied to those persons whose differences of opinion related simply to the differences between the English and the Roman Churches. But one part of the judicial system that was maintained is famous, or infamous, in our history as Courts of High Commission. If the faggot was not in fashion, yet certain sharp instruments applicable to various portions of the body were in fashion; and we cannot quote the authority of those periods to prove that unity of doctrine was maintained by courts of justice without subscription, unless we are prepared to face the question how far we mean to assimilate to the practice of the courts then in use. You must not, therefore, rest upon the authority of that period.

It has been well stated, and by none better stated than by my hon. Friend, that nothing could tend more to narrow the Church of England than the frequent provoking of courts of justice to lay down authoritative interpretations of her laws. It is a much better and a far freer system that we enjoy when we stand upon the footing of old traditional historic documents which have root in the minds and feelings of men—the sense of which has been fixed by the opinion and sentiment of the nation through a long series of years—than we should enjoy if we were dependent upon the opinions of this or that Judge sitting in a court of justice, who cannot possibly have all the qualifications that are requisite for the decision of questions like these, and who may, like other men, he influenced by the breath of popular opinion. I quite concur with the hon. Member for Pontefract in that portion of his speech in which he dwelt upon the freedom and the protection of the freedom of individual minds which is inherent in those ancient documents, as compared with the haphazard declarations which to-day or to-morrow you may succeed in obtaining under particular circumstances from any particular single Judge. My belief is, that any attempt to work the Church of England—to maintain unity of doctrine, or even uniformity of procedure among its members, by the substitution of a system of judicial correction and repression for a system of subscription, would be entirely visionary. Such a policy would be so odious to the feelings of mankind, so irritating to all those who came under its operations; there would be such appeals to popular sympathy, such natural compassion would be excited—and sometimes justly excited—on behalf of those whom it was sought to attack, that all attempts, if even made bonâ fide, would soon be abandoned, and we should enter upon the slippery path which has been so ably described by my hon. Friend who spoke last.

It is often said, as a reason for abolishing subscription, that the Prayer Book and the different documents of the Church are not in unison together; and a very great man of the last century, Lord Chatham, very injudiciously, as I think, committed himself to the statement that the Church of England is distinguished by having Calvinistic Articles, a Popish Liturgy, and an Armenian clergy. I believe the saying was founded upon a very shallow sense of what is really contained in the documents of the Church of England. If we are told that there is an apparent tendency to opposition between the Prayer Book and the Articles, we must remember that such apparent opposition is to be found even in the Holy Scriptures. There is no opposition between the Prayer Book and the Articles—no apparent opposition which is nearly as sharp as the apparent opposition between certain declarations of St. Paul and St. James. But does that apparent opposition prevent Christians from recognizing that there is a true, perfect, fundamental harmony and unity between the doctrines of the two saints? Certainly not; and just in the same way as regards the Church of England, I am certain that all her intelligent members have the thorough conviction that the Prayer Book and the Articles are to be taken together, and when taken together and fairly interpreted they form one harmonious whole.

Then comes the statement that young men of ability are not coming forward for holy orders in such numbers as formerly; and I cannot disguise from myself the very serious nature of the evil thus described. The evil is the more striking to me, because about the period when I was an undergraduate, or shortly after, a state of things prevailed of quite an opposite character. It might almost be said that at that time the flower of the youth of England were rushing forward to offer themselves for the service of the Church. It is therefore a very serious change that has taken place. I agree with those who think the change is not to be fully accounted for, or explained by, the fact of other openings having been made—that the career and race of civil life has become more energetic than it was. Then, again, there is another point which is not without its importance, but which is far from solving the whole question, and that is, the very great diminution that has taken place in the average remuneration of Church benefices. It must be recollected that one hundred or fifty years ago we had a Church with 10,000 or 11,000 benefices, a certain number of which were adequately endowed, and some even wealthy. Now, we have added some 4,000 or 5,000 cures of souls, scarcely one of which, except a few in large towns, which are dependent upon pew rents, afford to the incumbents a sufficient, or even decent, income. Still, there are other matters lying deeper, and I frankly admit we must look to moral and religious causes for the reasons. But I do not admit that the change is owing to the system of subscription. If it were so, my opinion is, that it would have been felt at other periods since the reign of Charles II., and especially at a period some twenty or thirty years ago, when there was a remarkable animation and awakening in the Church of England; and yet the difficulties of subscription were little thought of then.

It must be borne in mind that the Church of England has, during the last twenty years, passed through a time of nothing less than convulsion; of convulsion so sharp and searching that it might almost be described in the language of Scripture as dividing one from another, piercing asunder soul and spirit. In the Church of England, and especially at the University of Oxford, to which reference has chiefly been made, not only have great controversies arisen, but there has been an agony of religious controversy. The last twenty or thirty years has seen the rise and growth of eminent men—as eminent and able as ever adorned the history of the Reformed Church of England. It has seen a great body of men, after arriving at mature life, suddenly announcing to their followers that they found they had been wrong in their adherence to the Church of England, and that it was necessary for them for their salvation to make themselves members of an opposite and antagonistic Church. The consequence of that course has been the almost total destruction for a time of the confidence which young men ought to have in those whose age, abilities, learning, and piety they revere. There has been the creation of a violent reaction, and an alienation of popular feeling; and of course with causes such as these the result must be for a time great, heavy, and sore discouragement to all young and tender minds, to all those who, in the purity of their consciences and the spring-tide of their lives, would otherwise have devoted themselves to the service of God. There has happened what my hon. Friend has described. By unauthorized constructions that have been attached to the documents of the Church, subscription has of late years become more stringent than it was before, and no man has more fully recognised that fact than Professor Stanley, who, in his pamphlet, distinctly holds, that if only the liberal method of interpretation—I do not mean dishonest, but that enlightened, liberal method which was in use in the time of Archbishop Howley were still in use, the grievance of subscription would be very light indeed. Another divine, Mr. Mosely, the rector of Shoreham I believe, has published a pamphlet in the shape of a letter to Professor Stanley, showing with great ability what is meant by a liberal interpretation, and what harmony in our religious documents results from a just comparison of their contents.

The hon. Member for Maidstone trusts that the Church of England will not dissociate herself from the advancement of human minds, or dissever herself from the discoveries of human science. I agree in entertaining that hope, and I also believe that hope will be fulfilled. I believe the principle of freedom is so embodied in the character of the people of England and their institutions, in their social, political, and religious life, that if the Church were to dissociate herself from the general movement of the human mind, and to neglect the real achievements of science on behalf of mankind, any institution so acting would soon cease to be the Church of England. But it is quite another matter whether we are to assume, that subscriptions, as they are now to be dealt with, can either cause the evils that we feel, or the evils that we may apprehend. For my own part, I believe it is in the power of wise rulers of the Church, not by tampering with conscience and honesty in the matter of interpretation, but by a really comprehensive liberality of spirit, by a discouragement of all sectarian tendencies, by an honest endeavour to look at the law and spirit of the Church of England as a whole, and by giving encouragement to young men to take a manly, not a morbid, view of these questions, to mitigate, and perhaps, by the blessing of God, do away with the very serious evils to which I have referred.

I will now say one word with regard to the vote we are going to give. We are going to vote on the Previous Question; and the intention of my colleagues and myself is to vote that the Question pro posed to the House by my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone should not he put. My hon. Friend opposite (Sir Stafford Northcote) greatly regrets that we are not going to give to it a direct negative. Well, the distinction between the Previous Question and a direct negative is not always an easy one to draw, because those who vote the direct negative frequently accompany it with a qualification that they do not mean to bind themselves for ever, but only with reference to the circumstances of the present hour and the case actually before them. My hon. Friend himself (Sir Stafford Northcote) made that qualification, for he said, "As matters now stand, I say no case has been made for changing the law." It is sometimes said I am too apt to draw distinctions; but the principle on which my right hon. Friend (Sir George Grey) proceeds is this—and I must confess I concur with him—he did not venture to say that the present condition of our subscription was perfect. I wholly concur with him in that declaration. I think we are bound to take a candid, dispassionate and, if I may say so, historical view of matters of this kind. Whether my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone went 80 far as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University supposed in alluding to the subject of the possible amendment of the Liturgy—my right hon. Friend (Sir George Grey) did say that in his opinion it is conceivable that the present system of subscriptions might be improved—and any one will see that they bear in them the marks of their irregular growth, and consequently something of their superfluity in their multiplicity and variety. It is very difficult to see why distinctions are drawn between the mode of assenting to the Articles and the Liturgy—it is very difficult to see why clauses in the Act of Uniformity should appear first to prescribe a promise to use the Liturgy and afterwards require assent and consent to everything it contains—it is very difficult to see why the forms of assent to the Articles provided by the Act of Uniformity in the 36th Canon might not be a perfectly sufficient assent in substance to the Liturgy Therefore, I think it might be sufficient for my right hon. Friend, representing the Government, to say that the present state of the law is not incapable of improvement. But he went one step further, and said there ought to be no such improvement attempted except on the authority of somebody that should have the power to consider it, and carry with it, in the consideration of the question, the general confidence of the Church, not as against the power of the House to deal with any question of this kind, but as to the wisdom and judgment hon. Members would show if they endeavoured to take on themselves the responsibility of determining what that change should he. My right hon. Friend did not indicate that the Government thought it necessary to make any change in the law, or were prepared to take on themselves the responsibility of such a change; and I will venture to say that nothing could be more unwise in a Government than to open a question of this kind until they were prepared with a distinct and definite plan. And although I strongly agree that any measure of this kind ought not to take its origin in Parliament, but ought first to pass through an ordeal elsewhere; yet, on the other hand, I do submit to my hon. Friend that, viewing the variety and diversity, and perhaps somewhat in the abstract the necessary complexity of the present state of the law with regard to subscriptions, it was allowable, nay, more, justifiable and prudent on the part of the Government not to move a direct negative to assert what we do not believe—namely, the abstract perfection of the present system of subscription, at the same time believing, as every candid man must, that, at any rate, the question may be one for consideration whether some judicious measure for simplifying and clearing them might not be devised. He never said that he was prepared to part with the principle that these subscriptions, whatever they were, ought to contain the bonâ fide assertions of concurrence on the part of her ministers in the doctrines of the Church. The difficulties that beset the question are very great; but do not let us be altogether disheartened when we contemplate them. The function of the Church is to teach the truth made known to mankind by Divine revelation. The function of the Church, on the other hand, considered simply as an Establishment, is to adapt itself to the state and exigencies of the nation. It is not always easy to bring these demands together; but when we look hack on the history of past generations, the vast majority of us are thankful for the degree in which that great work has been accomplished, and for the blessings which have been conferred on the country through the medium of the national Church. I feel deeply the great evils which prevail at this moment and the dangers even with which we are threatened from internal causes; yet I confess, and I trust this House feels with me, that hope preponderates over fear. When we see the marvellous transformation that has taken place in her clergy, the degree of faithfulness, of self-sacrifice and devotion which, as a body, they have attained—when I see the intelligence they show, and the readiness on every occasion they evince to keep themselves in harmony with the institutions of the country and the wants and dispositions of the people—when I take all these things into view, and reflect that the Church of England is now more earnestly than ever setting herself about her spiritual work without forgetting the civil and social duties for which in a secondary degree she exists, I think we may well take good cheer and be comforted, believing that if in her past history she has conferred benefits on the country, still more will she bestow benefits and blessings upon future generations.


said, it was a sorrowful feature in the history of this country, that for a long series of years a portion of the community had been placed under a ban, for no other reason than that there was a desire to impose restrictions upon one class for the benefit of another—and a ban which was at last admitted to have been a mistake. That he declared on the authority of divines of the Church of England herself. Archbishop Sheldon declared that the subscription imposed on the clergy was expressly intended to exclude from the Church the Puritan (now called the Evangelical) section of her ministers; and he even went the length of saying, that if he had known that so many of that class would, nevertheless, have remained within her pale, he would have endeavoured to make the door still narrower. An eminent prelate now living lately acknowledged that these subscriptions had been framed with great stringency, in order to shut out of the Church those whom, under the prevalence of a better spirit, she would now be glad to employ in her service. Hon. Gentlemen spoke of the Established Church, in all debates in that House, as though she absorbed the entire population of the country, and they ignored everybody else. In another place, a noble Lord, on a late occasion, had been more just. He stated that the Church was only one of a great number of denominations, well and highly organized, which maintained their own ministers, not only for the promotion of religious truth at home, but for its diffusion in all parts of the globe. Surely some consideration was due to that large and most pious portion of the community. The fact was, it was time that all these differences and distinctions, which were so ruinous to the Church, should be taken away. The Church was not equal to its duties, and was not in harmony with the spirit of the times in which they lived. Like the patriarch of old, "Her hand was against everybody, and everybody's hand against her." The Episcopal Established Church of England held no religious intercourse with the Presbyterian Established Church of Scotland, nor with any other class or denomination of Christians whatever. That House was every year packed to maintain a paltry church rote. Hon. Members lauded the Established Church highly, but they forgot the horrors which so many of her humbler ministers endured from penury and want. He had the authority of the late and of the present Archbishop of Canterbury to show how great and pitiable were the sufferings of the clergy. Some of them could not provide themselves and families with ordinary necessaries; and the number of clergymen whose incomes were under £100 a year was stated to be no less than 10,000. The reason he mentioned these things was to show that the clergy were left in this state in consequence of the effectual separation which the advocates of the Church had brought about between them and the people. Nonconformist ministers of every denomination were maintained by their people, without State aid or any private endowment of modern times. If it were possible to produce a better understanding between the different denominations, it would be a boon to the country of incalculable value; but while Churchmen persisted in dividing the House of Commons into sections to maintain their so-called predominance, there would be no religious peace in the country. In Ireland, only one-tenth of the people belonged to the Establishment; in Scotland they were all Dissenters from the Episcopal Church of England, and Episcopalians of England became Dissenters when they travelled into Scotland. In this country the Dissenters were producing an effect which could not long be withstood, in support of their claim to be placed upon an equality with the members of the Established Church. Under these circumstances, he should vote for the Motion before the House.


said, he believed that upon the decision of the question before the House rested the essential interests of the Church. He would not yield to any one in his respect and veneration for the Church of England, but there were two ways in which the interests of that institution might be protected. One was by opposing every proposition which might be brought forward from time to time to amend it. The other was by yielding to such arrangements as would obviously give strength to the Establishment and remove any opposition that was urged against it. Friends of the Church might intrench themselves in the position of "no concession." Such was a course of policy which had been adopted on many occasions, but almost invariably with the same result. It was adopted by the Church of Rome at the time of the Council of Trent, and the consequences might be seen in the Established Church of England and the various Protestant communities throughout Europe. It was a policy, moreover, which had been advocated that night with much force, earnestness, and eloquence by many hon. Members on his own side of the House. He could understand the position of those who took that view of the subject, who said, "Don't touch the Church of England, her formularies, and forms of subscription, but oppose every measure which interferes with her." But what he could not understand was the position of those who, like the Home Secretary, said, "There is something wrong in the subscriptions of the Church; they are not abstractedly perfect; on the contrary, they are very imperfect; but, nevertheless, we move the Previous Question." The Motion of the hon. Member for Maidstone merely came to this—that the subscriptions of the Church were abstractedly imperfect; and it was impossible to understand with what consistency, or by what logic, those who supported him in the substance of his Motion could yet arrive at the conclusion to move the Previous Question. It seemed to him that some hon. Members who had opposed the Motion viewed with considerable complacency the danger of the Church at the present crisis. That danger consisted in an unwillingness, on the part of a great number of candidates for holy orders, to take the subscriptions of the Church. The number of candidates who presented themselves in 1862 was only 489, whereas twenty years ago it was 606. During the intervening period the population of the country had enormously increased, and now in all the teeming hives of industry there was a great want of clergymen, pastors, and teachers. That want the Church was rapidly becoming unable to supply. It was not that among; the industrious artisans there was any aversion to the Church; on the contrary, the cry in our large towns was, "Come and teach us;" but the Church was not in a position to respond to the call. There was not only a falling-off in the number of candidates for the Church, but there was reason to believe that the men who presented themselves for holy orders were of a different class to that which sought admission to the Church twenty years ago. He wished to add his testimony to that of the hon. Member for Plymouth (Mr. Morrison), who was almost a contemporary of his at Oxford, that there was a large number of the young men at the University who had grave objections to subscribe to those formularies. As perhaps that Member in the House who had last come from the university, he felt himself bound to give his testimony upon that point. He knew many young men at Oxford who, though intending to take holy orders, felt their consciences sorely tried by the subscription, and were unwilling to enter into the ministry, in consequence of the rigidity of the tests imposed by subscription. So much was that the case, that in many of the sermons preached before the University of Oxford an endeavour was made to soften the rigidity of the subscriptions. Young men were told that subscription did not imply rigid adherence to every jot and tittle of the Articles, but many of them felt, rightly or wrongly, that this was paltering with their consciences. They knew very well that the subscription in its literal meaning did bind them to the acceptance of—he would not say every letter, but at least every paragraph of the Articles and every doctrine enunciated in the Liturgy. Many clergymen of the Church, who had remained within its communion for a length of time, had actually given up lucrative benefices rather than go on professing doctrines to which they had subscribed, but which they did not believe in their rigid and literal interpretation. It might be asked how these scruples had arisen now, after so many years of acquiescence. The fact was, that the Church of England was passing through a crisis in its history. During the last seventeen years there had been five great ecclesiastical trials, and in the course of these proceedings the Articles and the essential doctrines of the Liturgy had been elaborated into a code of law more precise and definite than ever before existed. The consequence had been that the consciences of candidates for ordination and of ministers of the Church had been more directly touched than formerly; and when they saw particular words and doctrines in the liturgy and articles pressed against their brother clergy, they felt that every single doctrine therein contained, might be pressed against themselves, and that in their subscriptions they were required to subscribe ex animo to every word of the doctrines contained in the formularies. Now, what was the subscription? It was the most rigid form of words that man could devise. It was impossible to bind the consciences of men closer than the subscription bound them. He concurred in the opinion that it was perfectly impossible to dispense with all tests and to trust entirely to the laws. Church societies, by their very nature, could not trust entirely to laws. They must have some kind of subscription. It was a question of conscience, and it was necessary that for ecclesiastics there should be certain tests. But the question was, what were the tests that were applied? Were they such as grave men could conscientiously accept in their literal sense? The measure of justice which was asked for was so small, so microscopic, that hon. Members seemed scarcely able to conceive that something more was not involved. They conjured up giants and made mountains of mole-hills, If the measure were carried, it was said, it would bring confusion and chaos into the Church, and men would be found going about preaching all sorts of strange new doctrines. But the party with whom he (Mr. Butler-Johnstone) acted in this matter, did not ask anything of the sort. They admitted that tests must exist. But they demanded that those tests should be plain and intelligible—such as would recommend themselves to the consciences of the clergy. It had been suggested that the formularies should be revised and altered. But the difficulty involved in such a course was clearly pointed out. If they ever opened the gate to innovation in that respect, they would run the risk of rending the Church asunder. His advice was to keep the formularies they had got—they had served for good purposes for three centuries, and in the aggregate they recommended themselves to the consciences of the clergy. If, then, there was great danger in changing the formularies, the only alternative left was to relax the terms of the subscription to those formularies. But, on the other side, it was denied that subscription involved an implicit assent to every letter contained in those formularies. Well, if that were the case, the advocates of the proposed change only asked that this should be plainly stated, instead of being left an open question. The clergymen who preached before the University in favour of giving a limited interpretation to the words of the subscription were only asking for the removal of the burden from the consciences of those young men who were unable to make the subscription in the rigid sense which many of them considered imperative. It had been remarked that during the late controversies the Church had evinced a readiness to anathematize the authors of certain obnoxious and strange doctrines, but she had been slow to bring forward any direct proof of the truth of the doctrines impugned. In his opinion, the Church of England, being founded on truth, had nothing to fear from the most open and complete discussion of the most agitating questions; but if they took away from the service of the Church the educated men of the Universities, if they weaned away those who did honour to the Church, and if not only the quantity of ministers required was diminished but the quality was changed also, would it not be a serious loss to the Church of England if she were unable, upon occasions of importance or urgency, to produce champions able and willing to stand up for her doctrines, and to refute the errors and heresies which might from time to time be brought forward? That was her real danger. If she lost the services of one man unjustly, that one man might have turned out an Archbishop of Canterbury, and have proved the redemption and salvation of the Church. The danger of the Church was of losing her hold upon the educated mind of the country, and upon the hearts and affections of those who wished to devote themselves to her service, but who were restrained from doing so simply because they felt that a heavy weight was placed upon their consciences by the subscription. It was admitted that the subscription was more rigid than was intended. Then, why, in the name of common sense, was it not reformed; why was it not framed to express clearly what was really meant? A declaration to tins effect:—"I approve the doctrines, discipline, and worship of the Church of England, and promise to conform myself thereto," would, in addition to the rigid examination of candidates, he quite sufficient to preserve unity of doctrine in the Church. He believed that the great danger to which he had alluded would be averted by the small and timely concession asked for, and he was certain that that was the opportune moment for such a change being made with advantage. If, however, they refused this concession, he was certain that the danger would go on gradually increasing, and that the consequences might be the refusal of all young men of ability and piety to take holy orders. It had been said that Parliament ought not to interfere, but that steps should be taken somewhere else. But that would be delegating the decision of the matter almost to the Greek Kalends. Unless Parliament interfered and insisted upon a change, no change would take place. But there was something peculiarly appropriate in the House of Commons interfering in the matter. The subscriptions were imposed by Parliament. The assembly which imposed them ought to relax them. They were imposed in times of political passion and sectarian animosity. These times had passed away. There now existed a spirit of kindness, and justice, and moderation. Let hon. Members—and especially those on that (the Opposition) side of the House—as they valued the institution of the Church and her well-being for the future, pause before giving a vote which, by maintaining the whole rigidity of subscription, might go on increasing the evil until it became insuperable and could not be removed.


said, he thought that in these days of doubt and uncertainty in points of doctrine they ought not to encounter the risk of making a change without due deliberation and reflection, He should, therefore, give a cordial vote for the Previous Question.


said, they had heard two extraordinary statements—one by the hon. Member for Plymouth (Mr. Morrison), and the other by the hon. Member for Canter bury (Mr. Butler-Johnstone). One of those hon. Gentlemen took upon himself to say that all persons who took these tests took them with mental reservations. He did not understand how any human being could take upon himself to make such an assertion with regard to others. His hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury, if he would allow him so to call him, made the same statement with regard to the young men generally at the Universities—that they took the tests not in the plain sense which the words bore. Now he (Mr. Henley) lived near the University; and although unfortunately he was not a young man, he did not think what was asserted as to the young men could be general without his having heard something about it. A good deal had been said about the abstinence of young men from taking orders. One material element which bore upon that question had been omitted, and it was one in exactly the same direction in which they were invited to go further—namely, relaxing subscription. Ten years ago the House stripped the Church of that great nursing-mother, the fellowships in the Universities. It was no longer necessary that those who sought fellowships should intend to become members of the Church. The provision which pious men had made for those who entered upon holy orders the impiety of the last Parliament had taken away, and be thought that was some slight reason why there were not quite so many candidates at the University of Oxford. There was another matter, perhaps, not without influence. Within the same period they had had a great deal of what was called the light of reason in that University. How far that light of reason, reflected by some of the most able, the most influential, and the most amiable of men, had unsettled young men's minds, and made them indisposed to believe any thing, he was unable to say, but it was a question which bad not been introduced to the notice of the House. He did not think that the case exactly stopped there. They were told that all that was asked was a little measure. The hon. Gentleman said, "I adhere to the formularies, and I agree that it is dangerous to try to touch them." No person who had spoken was able to lay his finger upon any point of the formularies or the Articles, and to say, "This is what we want not to subscribe to." The hon. Gentleman went a great deal further, and said, "We must have rigid subscription." If the Articles were to remain the same, if the formularies were to remain the same, and if they were to have rigid subscription, where was there room for any change? [Mr. BUTLER-JOHNSTONE: I said rigidly-maintained subscription.] Rigidly-maintained subscription! They would see what that came to. The Chancellor of the Exchequer rather threw out, and the hon. Member for Maidstone took the same line, that there might be a difference between a man pledging himself to conform to a useful thing, and pledging himself to believe in it, That was very near what "rigidly maintained" meant; that was to say that a man pledged himself to conform to a useful thing which he did not believe. If he believed it, what objection was there to say so? If he eon-formed without believing, what sort of morality was it? For a person to profess to subscribe to a doctrine or prayer who did not believe in it, and for him to go into the House of his Maker and use that prayer to the congregation not believing it himself, was a kind of morality which he could not understand, nor did he believe the people of this country would understand it. It was said that the subscriptions had grown up at different times. Was it not possible that there might have been a time when people were in the state to which it was wished to bring them now, ready to promise to use that which they did not believe, and therefore more rigid subscriptions were imposed? He did not see the wisdom of assenting to a Resolution such as that proposed by the hon. Member for Maidstone, who did not indeed propose to cut the cable and let the ship go altogether loose, but who asked the House to agree to do something less than that, when no doubt he and those who supported his views would declare plainly enough what it was they actually required. He thought the hon. Gentleman would have been taking a more straightforward course if he had stated at first what it was he wanted to be done. It should be borne in mind that this country had an Established Church which enjoyed large revenues. If those revenues were larger, they would not have so great a want of persons coming into the Church as at present. But large though they undoubtedly were, they were, he believed, hardly sufficient for the need of those who were dependent upon them. Indeed, the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Hadfield) could never again, in his opinion, fairly complain of the amount of those revenues, inasmuch as he had informed the House, from the pages of some book which be held in his hand, that there were 10,000 clergymen in the Church who had not each £100 a year. If that statement were correct, the resources of the Establishment could hardly be regarded as extravagant. But what, he would ask, would be the case of the Establishment, with revenues whether large or small, if Parliament were not to lay down strict rules as to who was to have them? Was there to be a scramble for them? because that was what it would amount to if a contrary course were pursued. The State had declared that no persons should get a share of the property of the Church unless they entered into an engagement to agree to that form of faith which pious and learned men three hundred years ago had defined to be, as far as human wisdom could define anything, that which was the truth from the beginning. Such was the position in which they stood, and he, for his own part, would have been much better satisfied if the Government had met the Motion of the hon. Member for Maidstone with a direct negative, because, guarded though the course which they took had been by the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, still people would be led from the speech of the Secretary for the Home Department to infer that the Government were of opinion there ought to be an alteration in the direction proposed. He the more regretted that that impression should prevail, because he did not think the Government would enter upon any such alterations, inasmuch as if they were to do so, they would be bringing, as it were, a sort of old house about their ears; and they were, he thought, too prudent and discreet to do anything of that kind. No good could, in his opinion, be effected by opening the question, unless it was proposed to admit parties in the most dishonest and immoral way, by allowing them to profess to use things in which they did not believe. No candidate who got in in that way, though he happened to have intellect, and he might have plenty of it, would confer the same benefits on the Church as an honest, pious man who might not be possessed of such an abundance of intellect.


said, he thought the hon. Member for Maidstone might, from what had taken place in the course of the discussion, argue well for the success of his Motion, if not at that time, at all events in a future year. It was evident that the opinions of the rising generation were favourable to a change, as testified by the hon. Member for Canterbury; nor was it, he contended, the wish of those who took that view to create a scramble for the revenues of the Church, but rather to obviate the conscientious scruples of those who would prefer retiring from the Church to remaining in the ministry in defiance of the just scruples of conscience. The question was a most serious one, because it was clear from the charges of the various bishops in their dioceses that the number of young men who presented themselves for ordination was decreasing, and that the Church no longer got, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer said she once did, the pick of those who went to the Universities. Now, he would say, in reply to that right hon. Gentleman, who spoke in a mysterious manner as to the expediency of any movement on the question commencing out of doors, that it ought to begin in that House and nowhere else. He could infer from the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman that he wished it to be initiated in Convocation; but he (Mr. Henry Seymour) concurred in the opinion of the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Butler-Johnstone) that it would be far more satisfactory to the country if it were to be dealt with in Parliament. Great jealousy was felt of the increasing discussions in Convocation, and there were, he believed, many good Churchmen who would not at all object to see that body altogether abolished. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) alluded to the nature of the tests which were required; but he was not prepared to enter into their history. He might, however, observe that the test of assent and consent to everything in the Prayer Book was, as well as he could recollect, imposed in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. [A laugh.] Well, he did not in the least remember when it was imposed, but he knew the reason of its imposition was that many clergymen at the time said they would give their assent and consent as far as the word of God permitted. Some hon. Gentlemen, however, said, "The Bible is nothing to us. We will oblige you without reference to anything in the Bible to subscribe a dogmatic test which we and our coreligionists hold." But it should be borne in mind that the times when the test was framed were times of violent passion; and that being so, it appeared to him to be only proper that in these days of moderation they should dispense with that which was then, perhaps, properly imposed. Could the Church, he might ask, do without those tests? The Episcopal Church in America was held together by a test exactly the same as that which was mentioned by the lion. Member for Canterbury, conveying a general agreement in the doctrine and liturgy of the Church; nor should it be forgotten that the Episcopal Church in America had had far greater differences to deal with than ever the Church had in this country. It was therefore clear that rigid tests were not necessary in order that the Church should be maintained. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had adverted to the single-mindedness and devotedness of the clergy of the Established Church; but he hoped those qualities would not be exhibited by them in leaving their livings and a Church to which they were attached, because their consciences would not allow them to make certain subscriptions.


said, no inconsiderable portion of the discussion seemed to have turned on the reasons why young men who went to the University would not enter the Church. Many reasons had been suggested to account for that fact, which were somewhat of a prosaic and grovelling character. Some persons seemed to think that the reason was that more was to be got in other professions. Others believed that the falling-off arose from the fact that the Church offered prizes which were infinitely smaller than she did when young men were so anxious to join the ministry; while the most pertinent suggestion of all had been made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire, when he said that fellowships were no longer exclusively appropriated to the Church. But although exceedingly intelligible grounds were thus stated to show why young men should not go into orders at the present day, he could not help feeling that the mere spiritual and religious grounds were much enveloped in mystery. He could not exactly discover from the course of the debate in what the scruples of those young men consisted, or what manner of men they were. As far as he could see, they asked for no change in the formularies. Then it was said that they did not wish to make any dishonest subscription, but to subscribe the Articles precisely in the way in which they were imposed by law. Now, there was no doubt as to that. The law required subscription, in accordance with their plain and grammatical meaning. It appeared that the young men perfectly agreed with the Articles, and were willing to go into the Church and preach them, and maintain them to the end of their lives; but they were afflicted with an inexplicable bashfulness, which forbade them to say so on paper. They believed in the Articles, but they were unable to express that belief; and they further said, that if the requisition that they should profess their belief was removed, they would come into the Church, and earnestly preach the very Articles which they declined to subscribe. It was utterly impossible for him to believe that that was an accurate representation of the state of the minds of the young men at Oxford. He had no doubt that a great intellectual movement was going on, and that there were more men who were unwilling to go into the Church than there used to be; but the cause lay much deeper than the opposition to subscription. The hon. Member for Canterbury had betrayed that. He called this an infinitesimal measure of justice. Such an expression implied, that if more were granted, that would have been justice too, and therefore that he sought for more. The truth was, it was not merely the subscription that was objected to—it was the Articles themselves. [Ironical cheers.] Hon. Members cheered scornfully, as though he were stating some truism; but this had been steadily denied throughout the debate. It had been said that no alteration of the formularies was required, that it was only the subscription which was odious. The truth had been glanced at by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire. An intellectual movement against the truths which these Articles enshrined had been commenced and was going on at Oxford. Owing to the subsidence of the great controversies which had occupied the last thirty years, there was now more unbelief than there had prevailed before within the recollection of the oldest Member of that House; and it was not unbelief upon small points. It was not unbelief upon points with which they might dispense; it was unbelief which went to the foundations of their religion, and with which therefore they could not compromise. The hon. Member for Maidstone did him the honour to refer to him, and to anticipate that, as he was pleased to term it, he should pour out the vials of his wrath upon him. He was sure that nothing so kindly and inoffensive as the speech of the hon. Gentleman could excite wrath in any one; but if he might give him a little counsel, he would recommend him, next time he brought forward this Motion, to ascertain precisely what he himself wanted. He did not think that he had yet made that discovery. The hon. Member for Canterbury said that the reasons why the subscription of the articles was more burdensome now than it had been during the last two hundred years was, that this was an age of ecclesiastical trials. Ecclesiastical trials were not produced by subscriptions, nor would the abolition of subscriptions put an end to such trials. But, no doubt, the hon. Gentleman pointed to the real source of the evil. If they wanted to attract to the Church the young men who now declined it, they must get rid of the law under which these trials were held. The foundations of faith were shaken, and men's minds were casting about for something to believe. It was on that account, as much as on any other, that difficulty had been found in introducing the higher intellects of the day into the service of the Church; and if they wanted to remove that difficulty, they must go much further than the Motion before the House. They must abolish not only subscription, but all the legal penalties for heresy. They must open wide the gates of the Church and let into it every species of believer. They must close the doors to none. The day was past when they could keep out the Unitarian and let in the Calvinist. It was a question of all the deepest and widest elements of their faith; and if they wished to remove the grievances which had arisen, there was nothing left for them but to admit each man to the pulpit to preach, not what his Church maintained, but precisely what he liked, to the congregation. That he apprehended to be the real grievance; that, he believed, was the only remedy. It was said that the forms of subscription were a tyranny. He believed; on the contrary, that they were a safeguard against tyranny. The hon. Member for Maidstone, throughout his speech, appeared to forget, that if they took away the tests which existed by law, the officers of the Church would take immediate measures to protect themselves. The bishops could refuse ordination to any man they liked. They could close the doors of the Church as narrowly as they pleased, if they were challenged so to do. Hitherto they had abstained from taking such course; but as soon as the legal guarantee was gone, and they knew that the necessity for ordination was the only check which prevented the pulpits of the Church being occupied by persons who absolutely disagreed with its doctrines, they would set up checks and tests of their own far more rigid than those which it was proposed to abolish. Professor Stanley, in that eloquent and able pamphlet to which allusion had been made, referred to the cases of other denominations, and stated, with something like triumph, that the Baptists and Independents had no tests, but that they had been able to preserve the purity of their Churches. He had no doubt that that was true; but what really happened was this,—the candidate for orders in those communities was made to profess his faith verbally, and the officer whose duty it was to ordain judged for himself whether he should admit him or not. There was no formal test or subscription, but it was absolutely in the discretion of the ordaining officer whether a man should be admitted to orders or not. Let them imagine the existence of such a state of things in the Church of England. Let them suppose questions such as those which were put by the Bishop of Exeter to Mr. Gorham or others similarly precise in the opposite direction, being asked of candidates in every diocese. Could they imagine a state of things more full of confusion or more damaging to the Church, than that each bishop should prescribe the form of faith for his own diocese, and should supply, by new and minute questions invented by himself to meet the controversies of the day, the place of those tests which they were now with rash hands trying to take away? Such a system could produce nothing but chaos and difference of opinion between one diocese and another. A High Church diocese would produce a High Church clergy; a Low Church diocese a Low Church clergy; there would be Infidelity in one place and Romanism in another. The only passage in his hon. Friend's speech with which he was disposed to find fault was that in which he said that the present system compelled clergymen to tamper with their consciences. That was an imputation against the whole clerical body of the present day, which was not justified by any facts. Nor was it confined to the clergy of the present day. For two hundred years these tests had been constantly and cheerfully subscribed by some six generations of clergymen. All these men, all the great lights of the Church since 1662, were by the sweeping denunciation of his hon. Friend accused without exception of having been compelled to tamper with their consciences. That was an imputation which no one had a right to make. That long experience was the best answer to the statements which had been made. They might depend upon it that an experience of two hundred years was a better guide than the experience of his hon. Friends the Members for Canterbury or Plymouth. Oxford life was but three years in duration, and it was the experience of three years against that of two hundred. Two hundred years furnished a better average of the ordinary tendencies of humanity. There was a great sore at that moment. They felt it, and smarted under its disgrace, and were anxious to find a remedy; but from the fact that for two hundred years the Church had flourished under the system which they desired to abolish, could they not draw the conclusion, that the present melancholy state of things was only transitory? However bad it was, however disgraceful it might seem, however much they might desire to remedy it, there was, it seemed to him, ample comfort in the facts before them. They knew that human nature did not change so much, that the spirit which had reigned before would reign again, and that in future as in past years they would see men of deep piety and fervent devotion able to spend a life of usefulness in the service of the Church, and able to accept these tests without the slightest reluctance, and without the slightest tampering with their consciences, just as they had been able to do through the years which had been the glory and the fame of the Church of England.


It is with reluctance that I rise, Sir, after the very able speech of my noble Friend, who has touched, and touched with so much force, on many of the important topics that we have discussed this evening. But really I cannot reconcile it to myself to pass over in silence the course which the House has resolved, partly, I believe, from accident, to take this evening—a harmless one, no doubt, if followed with a clear understanding on both sides, of the feelings and opinions under which it was adopted. I cannot myself at all agree that moving the Previous Question was a proper mode in which to encounter the Motion of the hon. Member for Maidstone, and I believe that is not an opinion peculiar to myself. From circumstances of a technical and passing nature the House has adopted that course; and my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge having acquiesced in it—I fancied with some reluctance—I do not think it becoming towards one whom I always wish to treat with that deep respect which he deserves, to disturb the arrangement at which the House has arrived. But feeling the importance of this question, and knowing that the vote given and the procedure adopted to-night may be hereafter represented to the disadvantage of those who object to the Motion, I beg to say, that though after the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer the course we are about to adopt is, I am happy to believe, perfectly harmless, and one not altogether devoid of propriety, it is not the one which I myself should have suggested. The hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin said he should give a cordial vote for the Motion of the Previous Question. I have, in the course of my time, voted occasionally for the Previous Question, but I never gave a cordial vote for it; and, of all the Motions made in this House, it is one which I should least expect, and which I have never previously known, to receive the cordial adhesion of any hon. Gentleman. I should never adopt voting for the Previous Question as a testimony of the ardour of my feeling, or of the strength of my conviction.

This important discussion, the result of which will not pass away with the transient debate of to-night, commenced with the Motion of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Maidstone, in which he appeared, as I understood him, to counsel the relaxation of the subscription to the Articles and the Liturgy, in deference to the overwhelming power of public opinion. The hon. Gentleman feels that his case is irresistible, because he is supported and animated by the invincible power of public opinion. The hon. Member for Pontefract, who followed, giving a partial adhesion to the views of the hon. Member for Maidstone, counselled us to take not an identical, but a limited course in the same direction, on a ground totally adverse—namely, that public opinion cannot be trusted, that its deleterious tendencies must be fenced out and guarded against. The House, after hearing the statement of the Minister, agreed not to support either the Original Motion or the Amendment; but it consented to a course which, without explanation, gives an implied assent to the position of the hon. Member for Maidstone, and also to the Gentleman who proposed the Amendment, by admitting that there are grounds entitling the question to the consideration of this House. Now, what are those grounds? Subscription to the Articles and to the Prayer Book is objected to—I am now trying to give a general description of the main arguments we have heard—because they are opposed to that comprehensive character which I suppose all of us are agreed that the Church should assume and maintain. No one is more in favour of the comprehensive character of the Church of England than myself; but I would make this condition—that the comprehensiveness of the Church of England should be based on Church principles. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Maidstone, as others before him have done, pointed out the origin of the Act of Charles II., to which he supposes such injurious effects upon the comprehensive character of the Church may be ascribed. He has shown us how many, who might be included in the pale of the Church, are no longer found in its fold; and he has denounced the ancient legislation, the consequences of which may be found in our present situation. I doubt very much the general justice of this criticism, and I doubt whether it was possible at that time, or at any time, in this country, or perhaps in any country, to prevent in matters of religion what is called Dissent. I look upon Dissent—I am sure the hon. Member for Sheffield will pardon me for saying it—as a weakness incident to humanity. Look at the case of the Roman Catholic religion. I will be bound I could show, if it were necessary, that there has been as much dissent, as much heresy, as much schism, in the Church of Rome as in the Church of England. But the dissent has occasionally been forcibly suppressed, the schism has in some instances been adroitly managed, and the heresy has found a safety valve in the institution sometimes even of monastic orders. You have found this in a religion established on the principle of infallibility, and in countries where that religion has been supported by the Civil Power, assuming, generally, an arbitrary character. What, then, can we expect in a country where, instead of infallibility, religion is founded upon the principle of free inquiry—and where, though that religion has, generally speaking, been supported by the Civil Power, that Civil Power has yet been established on the principle of civil liberty?

It is only as politicians and as statesmen that we may presume to speak in this House upon this subject, and I maintain that in modern times, since that year 1662 which has been just quoted to the House, no English statesman has ever contemplated that the Church of England, though founded on a catholic creed, should at the same time command a catholic communion. For the last two hundred years no Statesman has contemplated that the whole population of England should be within the pale of the national Church. What has been contemplated in these centuries of what I may call the practical working of our Constitution has been this—that there should be a standard of religious truth established by the State in the country; that the religious principle should be recognized as one of the most important and influential in the conduct of Government; that the Government of this country should not be reduced to a mere question of police; but that we should seek to influence the conduct of men by the highest sanction which can be conceived. Sir, I say that object has been successfully accomplished by the Church in its connection with the State in England during the last two centuries. We have to-night a new system commended to our notice, which is to bring about a state of affairs more comprehensive. The first principle of this new system is, that not only the creed of the Church should be catholic, but that the communion should be catholic, and that we should all belong to the same Church—a doctrine not very favourable at the outset to that principle of religious liberty which, I believe, is still much esteemed in this country. When you analyse this doctrine it comes to this:—The comprehensive Church is, in fact, to be a Church founded very much on the same principles as that federal constitution of America, of which in this House we have heard so much and so often, and with regard to which recently we have witnessed such strange and startling experiences. All creeds are to belong to one Church, but all creeds are to retain their own particular opinions. But that experiment has been tried to a great degree on the Continent of Europe. You have had it in Germany; you may see its effects to a certain degree, in France; and you may trace them not only in Europe, but in America. You have what without offence may be called an infidel Church, composed of various sections of the population, some of them often influenced by fanatical impulses. If on the Continent such an experiment has not been over-successful, what are our chances of success in England, where feelings on religious subjects are so deep and enthusiastic? No one can doubt that the consequences would be of a perilous character, perhaps disastrous to the State, and entailing results which none would dare to contemplate, and all must wish to avoid. Therefore, I very much doubt whether this system of comprehension on which the relaxation of these tests is recommended is a sound one. A Church may be so comprehensive that no one may comprehend it.

It is really a question for us to consider, if this Act of Charles II., which has been so much vituperated to-night, had not been passed, what might not have been the historical fortunes of this country. It is perfectly absurd to consider the Act of Uniformity in an abstract sense without reference to the spirit of the time in which it was passed, and without any relation to the events which preceded it. The hon. Member for Poole (Mr. D. Seymour) told us that it was passed in a time of passion. It is very well for us to describe a period as a time of passion; but what we describe as a time of passion was, in fact, a time of feeling. Men thought and felt, and they did something. All the great things done in the history of England were done in a time of passion. If you scrutinize the means and motives by which the great statutes and the great charters of English liberties were obtained, on which were established the deep foundations of the glorious edifice of our social life, you may make as good a case out against them as against Archbishop Sheldon. Take the Grand Remonstrance. It was carried by a casting vote, or something of the sort. You might say who cares for a political document which depends on such a pedigree; and yet I do not suppose any one would be swayed by a criticism of that sort on the great doctrines which were vindicated and upheld by the Grand Remonstrance. The language of those tests has been much criticized tonight. Some hon. Gentlemen have expressed their approbation of them as a whole, but they say there is a word here which does not please them, an expression which might be altered. But is this the tone in which we ought to view the ancient documents of the nation, upon which its most important conditions depend. Take the Bill of Rights. I will be bound to say, that if I were to give notice that on going into Committee of Supply on Friday night, say, I would introduce the Bill of Rights to the notice of the House, and make a Motion upon it, I would make such a case out against the Bill of Rights by criticizing all its articles that I should stand in almost as eminent a position as the hon. Member for Maidstone. I dare say I should have some followers, if not many in this House, at least out of it; and no doubt it would take a position among Parliamentary questions. But I do not think that any sane man, without any reference to the justice of my criticisms, would say that it was a wise thing, or for the welfare of the country, to call the Bill of Rights into question; on the contrary, I am quite sure that any person who took such a course would assume that position in political life to which he was fairly entitled. I would say, therefore, with all respect for the hon. Member for Maidstone, that that part of his case which rests upon the expediency of making the Church comprehensive, and upon the injurious effect which the Act of Uniformity has had on its comprehensive character, is neither sound nor true; and that, in fact, if yon are to indulge in what I would presume to call dilettante criticism, there is scarcely any record of our rights—scarcely anything which was ever done by the great men who preceded us in this and the other House of Parliament which may not be cavilled at, questioned, and improved. But the result would be that the edifice of our rights and liberties—of our political and social life, which has been raised at so much pains and so much risk, would be reduced to nothing—it would be resolved into its original elements—the fabric would crumble into dust.

I admit that there are grave reasons for the hon. Gentleman bringing forward this question, other than the argument that by relaxing the terms of subscription you may render the Church more comprehensive in her character. I have no doubt that there are reasons peculiar to the present time which act with great force, and have great influence on masses of society, more especially on that youthful portion of society to which we must look forward, whether as clergymen to continue the ministration of the offices of our Church or as laymen to be among its ardent supporters. Their existence has been frankly admitted tonight, and especially by recent speakers. I think there is in the times in which we live a circumstance which disturbs the public mind, which has influenced the spirit of youth, and has acted very injuriously on those who would otherwise enter into holy orders. It is quite unwise to conceal it, and it is idle to explain it, as is the fashion even in high places, by statistical arguments. I do not believe that the want of candidates for ordination is to be accounted for by the enormous nuggets which are to be discovered in Australia, or by the large fortunes said to be realized by civil engineers. I believe the youth of England are actuated by more noble and generous feelings. I was myself once young, and committed many follies; but in that time of my life I can most frankly declare that I was not influenced by such considerations, and I believe the generation to which we look forward with hope and confidence is equally free from such degrading ideas and sordid motives. Still, it cannot be concealed that there is much in the theological studies of this country, much in the theological productions of the day, which naturally would influence and disturb the ardent and susceptible mind of youth.

The hon. Gentleman who seconded the Motion informed us, and I agree with him, that it is likely that for many years questions respecting the Church and religion may be brought under the consideration of the British Parliament. I trust, however, that we shall be able to discuss those questions in a manner be coming our position—that we shall remember that we are not a lay synod, but that we are the Reformed Parliament of England. I hope that when those questions come before us we shall not discuss them like those Members of the Long Parliament, who on occasion pulled their thumb Bibles from their waiscoat pockets, and enforced their arguments pro and con. by quoting chapter and verse. On the contrary, I hope that we shall remember the constitutional and social position which we occupy, and meet the difficulty without exciting any feelings but those which are suited to the unimpassioned sphere of the British Parliament. But without entering into any religious controversy, I would venture to say that there is nothing very new, nothing very original, and nothing very alarming in this periodical appearance of a particular branch of literature which is supposed to have affected the opinion of the country and to have rendered it necessary that we should suddenly and precipitately alter the Act of Uniformity. It is important that we should remember this. I would venture to say to those who are young — because, though they have devoted themselves with so much care to the cultivation of their minds, they may be pardoned for not being perfectly aware of what has happened with reference to this subject before—that there is nothing new in these doubts which have been thrown out, and which appear to have recently agitated some portions of the public mind. A century and a half ago, at a time when England was in a state of great civilization, these views were very prevalent in this country—much more prevalent than at present. It was a natural reaction from that immense triumph of Puritanism which had destroyed the institutions of the country, and which apparently had effected an enduring change in the national character. That Puritanic spirit passed away, however, and left behind great latitudinarianism as a consequence, which ended in a general spirit of scepticism. The state of things was far more alarming then than now. The most alarming thing now, it is said, is that an infidel may be made a bishop; but infidels then were actually made bishops. There was at that time a large body of the ablest writers and most eminent men that England ever produced devoted with greater courage, and in a far more unblushing manner than is now the fashion, to the propagation of those ideas which are now circulated with more modesty, and perhaps with a more timid spirit. You had men of high position, Ministers of State, and other distinguished persons among the educated and influential classes of society adopting these opinions in the reign of George I. What happened? A century passed away, and what permanent effect was produced by these opinions, although they produced a literature of their own, which was second to none in acuteness and learning, and although they were sanctioned by persons in high places? What have been the consequences, I will not say to the Church of England, but to the faith accepted by that Church? Why, there never was a period in which the religion of this country, and especially the religion embalmed in the offices of the Church of England, was ever more influential, or more expansive, or flourished more than in the century that has elapsed since that time. And I defy any one to bring me passages impugning the faith of the Scriptures in any works recently published in which these doctrines are urged with more power or more learning than by the writers of that period.

But then it may be said that England is an insular country, and that Englishmen are a peculiar people; that they have an aristocracy, and a Church possessing territorial power; that the middle classes are bigoted, and the aristocratic classes interested in preserving the Church, and that by a combination of circumstances it has happened that a natural result has not been attained. But we have seen the same causes at work on a much larger scale, and at a period more recent, in a neighbouring country—a country that is not insular, that has destroyed its aristocracy, subverted its priesthood, plundered its Church, and left no prizes to be competed for in it. We have heard that the reason why there are less candidates for orders in the Church of England is that so many prizes have been taken away. But what happened in the Church of France when all its property had been taken? The whole institutions of the land, ecclesiastical and otherwise, were erased; yet, as if by magic, parish churches have re appeared in the 30,000 districts of France; and although they have had monarchies, empires, and republics, and may have in the future a combination of Government which no one can anticipate, yet the Christian Church in that country counts at present more powerful and more numerous adherents than ever. Therefore, I say, that it is a great mistake, and an opinion not sanctioned by experience, to suppose that we are encountering a novel and revolutionary phase of opinion, and that in consequence of views which have before this been advanced, have flourished, and then disappeared, the House of Commons is to meet in a panic to revise the great title deeds of the Church of England, and to say in this hasty moment of the introduction of a new philosophy that the measures taken by the great statesmen and Churchmen of the days of the Stuarts at an important crisis were a profound mistake, seeing that they have only secured for England two centuries of tranquillity and repose! Totally repudiating as materials for legislation on such a subject the passing accidents of the hour, which, however, naturally influence the youthful mind of the country, I will make one remark on the character of the subscription, and on the Creeds and Articles which are now brought forward as unsuited to the age in which we live, and which are regarded as so objectionable that a Ministry to whom is intrusted the defence of the institutions of the country are not resolute enough to come forward and oppose the very crude Resolution before the House, but are obliged to meet it with the Previous Question.

I have understood from every Gentleman who has spoken to night, except the can- did Member for Sheffield, that he is in favour of maintaining the Established Church of this country. The advantages which Accrue from the existence of the Church of England have been adverted to by different speakers; and from the hon. Gentleman who introduced the Motion, and the hon. Member for Pontefract, who moved the Amendment—I have not heard from any of the speakers any objection or insinuation against the wisdom of maintaining the Church of this country. Well, but what do you mean by a Church? I say, no Creed, no Church. How can you have a Church without a creed, articles, formularies, and a subscription? If you object to a creed, to formularies, and to articles, tell us so, and then we shall understand the question before us. We will discuss that question, and the nation must decide which side they will adopt. But if you are to have a Church, I maintain you must have symbols of union among those who are in communion with that Church. That I hope is not bigotry, for we must Speak on this subject as politicians, and not intrude bur private religious convictions on any Member of this House, but consider this weighty matter with reference to the happiness of society, and the means of lofty and virtuous Government, by the aid of which we may prevent Government from degenerating into a mere machinery of police. We are agreed, then, that we shall have a Church, and that it shall be maintained. Well, I want to know how are we to have a Church without a symbol of union among those who are in communion with it? No one has told us. If we are to have a Church without articles, creeds, or formularies, we shall have the the most pernicious and the most dangerous institution which ever yet existed in any country, the means of which for evil, under the disposition of able men, are entirely incalculable. We are often favoured by the hon. Member for Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) with bulletins on the progress of Jesuitism. The Jesuits have done great things, and we may hope that they may not rival their past achievements; but, whatever conception the hon. Gentleman may form of the evils which the Jesuits have inflicted or may inflict upon society, they never contemplated or acquired a more fatal influence than that which a Church may possess and must exercise in a country like England, when it is a Church without a creed, without articles or formularies.

I would say one word on the course which the Government have taken and may take on the religious controversies before us. How ought we to act? I think that no case has been made out at present to justify the course taken by the Government. I think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer misunderstood an expression of my hon, Friend the Member for Stamford, when he laid it down that my hon. Friend's words justified the course of the Government. I agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer—every man of temperate mind must agree with him—that neither the articles of the Church nor the Prayer Book are perfect There may be blots in their composition. The Prayer Book may be Divine, but it is also human. But I do not see anything in the present state of affairs that justifies the course taken by the Government. Suppose there were circumstances that justified the course taken by the hon. Member for Maidstone. Is the course taken by the Government that which they ought to take? I do not think it is. If this House be ever of opinion that the title deeds of the Church require to be revised, in however modified a manner, it does appear to me that the inquiry should not originate in either House of Parliament. It has been said in the course of this debate that the Act of Uniformity at present in question is an Act of Parliament, and that as it originated in Parliament, its revision and formal reconstruction ought to take place there. With regard to that, I say the character of Parliament in the reign of Charles II. and of Victoria is decidedly and essentially different. Parliament is no longer a lay synod, and therefore it cannot of right and with propriety assume such a function. No doubt, if a revision were to take place, the opinion of Parliament must ultimately be given on the general merits of the question. But it would not enter into every ecclesiastical detail and religious difference of opinion, if for no other reason, from that innate sense of propriety which always guides it. But, I say, if revision be necessary, it is from the temporal head of our Church that measure should flow, and by the Queen, and by the Queen alone, it should be indicated. A Royal Commission is the proper medium by which any change which may be necessary either in the Articles or Liturgy of the Church could alone be brought under the consideration of authority. What authority? The hon. Member for Poole (Mr. Henry Seymour) says, "Who would trust the discussion of this question to Convocation? I regret that Convocation has ever been culled into existence, and I trust its attributes and functions will soon be terminated." [Cheers from below the gang way on the Government side.] I cannot agree with that opinion; I cannot sympathize with that cheer. It seems to me—and I say it with the greatest courtesy—extremely bigoted and narrow-minded. Why should Convocation be silenced? Convocation is a representative body, and should therefore recommend itself to the Liberal party; it is a body which carries on its affairs by public discussion, and therefore should be regarded, I think, with some respect by those who are devoted to reformed Parliaments. And I must say this of Convocation: I admit that as at present constituted there are elements which render Convocation not altogether a satisfactory tribunal. But it does not follow that Convocation should be therefore altogether abrogated. Let us be just to Convocation It was recalled into existence after a long lapse of time. It was unused to the functions which it was summoned to exercise. It consisted entirely of clergymen, and loud were the predictions that it would fail, and fail ignominiously. But I ask sensible and temperate men on both sides of the House, is it fair to give that character to the labours of Convocation since it has been revived? I Bay myself, revived as it has been after a long desuetude, trammelled as it has been, checked and controlled as it has been in a manner that would have broken the spirit and crushed the energies of any assembly, it has done many things deserving of approval, and, what is more has done that which all predicted it would not do in the brief term it has been permitted to exercise its powers—it has shown an extremely practical character. I would wish its basis were more comprehensive, and I cannot see how any appeal could he made to Convocation on such a question as that which has formed the subject of controversy to-night unless that basis were more comprehensive. You must associate with it the other province and the Church of Ireland, and I myself think you ought to introduce that lay element to which the Church of England has been so much indebted. Nor do I doubt that there are lay members of the Church at the present moment who, from their learning, their knowledge of men, and their high character, might bring to Convocation such ability and reputation as Selden and Chillingworth might have brought in former days. But if it be the opinion of Government that it is necessary to revise the Liturgy and Articles, they ought to proceed, not by moving the Previous Question, but by the initiatory Act of the Crown whom they counsel; and after a Royal Commission had been instituted and had terminated its labours, the result might, with propriety, be submitted to a Convocation constituted on the broad basis I have indicated. It may be said these are difficult questions; but it is the province of Government to cope with difficulties; and whatever the decision arrived at might be, it would be ultimately laid before Parliament, for no one contemplates that any decision upon such subjects would be satisfactory unless Parliament were consulted.

We have heard to-night from the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Monckton Milnes) a warning not to submit to a sacerdotal despotism. I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman that no evil can perhaps be conceived for any country, but at all events none for a country like England, greater than to fall under a sacerdotal despotism, or that we should be at all interfered with in our free life by any priestly power. But it appears to me that the hon. Member for Pontefract has entirely misapprehended the question upon which he proposed an Amendment, and which one would think he did not resolve on until he had given sufficient consideration to the subject. Sir, my idea of a sacerdotal despotism, in the times in which we live, is not that the Inquisition will appear in this country, or that Archbishop Laud, in the form of the mild and benignant Metropolitan of Lambeth, may summon us again to a High Commission Court. But my idea of sacerdotal despotism is this, that a minister of the Church of England, who is appointed to expound doctrine, should deem that he has a right to invent doctrine. That, Sir, is the sacerdotal despotism I fear. And it appears to me, that if the course which has been recommended to our consideration to-night is adopted, in that false guise in which such propositions are sometimes exhibited in this House and out of it, we shall not be secure from arriving at such a goal. I warn the House, however improbable it may appear, from the seemingly innocent form in which these simple and enlightened propositions have been brought before us, that they are propositions in favour of the priesthood, and not of the laity; and the more their consequences are traced, the more plainly that will be found to be the inevitable result. No doubt there are men of genius among the clergy, fine writers, men of learning and imagination, who can easily picture to themselves what would be the consequence of the success of these endeavours. No doubt, the mere clergyman would soon become a prophet. No doubt, you would have many churches, and the abounding eloquence, the exquisite learning, the fine sentiments, and the admirable ingenuity, which pervade many of the publications which are put upon our tables, would produce consequences to the Church of England very different from what have proceeded from this reviled. Act of Uniformity. But what I feel is this—if that course be pursued, I see no security for two hundred years of tranquillity and toleration. I see no security for two hundred years which have resolved as great a problem in spiritual life as you have in political. It is the boast of this country that in politics it has reconciled order with liberty. What in its religious affairs is a greater triumph is this—it has combined orthodoxy with toleration. What security have you for such great results if you pursue the course which is insidiously recommended to you now in so many ways and by so many changes? I prefer to stand upon the ancient ground. I see no, reason whatever, why, if the occasion demands it, the temporal head of our Church should not call our attention to any necessary changes in our Articles and Liturgy, But though I see no reason, if the occasion requires it, why that should not be done, I can most sincerely say that hitherto no satisfactory case has been made out in favour of that course. I prefer to stand as we are—on a Church which lives in the historic conscience of the country, which comes down with the title deeds of its great Liturgy which we all can understand, because our fathers and our forefathers have contributed to its creation. Sir, I regret the course which we have taken to-night, although I trust, after this discussion, it will not be misunderstood, and that the country will feel that it is the determination of Parliament to stand in its spirit by the Church of England.


said, he did not intend to divide the House after the expression of opinion which he had heard that evening, but he was glad to find that the Home Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer acceded to the principle of his Motion. ["No, no!"] Those right hon. Gentlemen had admitted that there was an improvement required in reference to the subscription. He was anxious to say he had not intended to convey to the House that men of sensitive honour and enlightened mind were excluded from the Church by the subscription. All he had said was, that the subscription had such a tendency.


said, he came down to the House intending not only not to vote on the question, but not to intrude himself on the House. He had sat in the House many years, but he had never taken any part in a discussion on the discipline or doctrine of the Church of England, and, while defending his own Church, he had never said a word offensive to any other person's Church or religious belief. On the present occasion he merely intended to refer to some observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire. That right hon. Gentleman had said that a Church must have a creed and must have formularies, and from that he deduced that a Church must have, an Act of Uniformity. But he must say, that if he were now in the Anglican Church, as he once had been, he would not attach any value to an Act of Uniformity. His Church had not an Act of Uniformity, and he hoped it never would have one. Who founded the Church? Was it founded by Act of Parliament, or human authority? It was founded by our Lord, who said to his disciples, "Go and teach all nations, and I will be with you to the end of the world." But what did he mean them to teach? Did he mean them to teach the Act of Uniformity—or the Thirty-nine Articles? Did he tell them to preach a compromise, for a political purpose, for the purpose of comprehending as many different opinions and errors as possible? He had a right to say errors, because where there was diversity there must be error somewhere. He was told that the Church of England was comprehensive; that the object was to comprehend as many as possible who held different opinions; and that the right hon. Gentleman called catholic. His (Sir George Bowyer's) idea of catholic was not the comprehension of every sort of error, but that the Catholic Church was a Church that taught one truth, and said to the people, "If you do not believe in this truth—you are wrong." [Laughter.] Hon. Gentleman laughed; he could understand their laughter, it was because they did not understand the very foundation of the Church. He had derived a great deal of amusement from this debate, because he had heard a great deal said about historical associations and about policy and prudence, and what was desirable, but he had not heard one word about truth. He could understand Members of the Anglican Church saying, "You want to alter the Prayer Book and Articles, but those Articles and the Prayer Book are the truth, and if you alter them, you will be falling into error." He could understand that, though he should not agree with it; but he could not understand their saying, "We want to comprehend as many persons of different opinions as possible, and for reasons of prudence our formularies shall be altered." The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire had said that there were differences and schisms in the Roman Catholic Church. He told the right hon. Gentleman that there were neither in that Church. There were differences of opinion in the Roman Catholic Church with regard to discipline and politics, but not with regard to doctrine. There were differences among Catholics as to the temporal power of the Pope, the celibacy of the clergy, and other questions, but they did not differ upon any question of dogma. As to the monastic orders, there were differences between the Dominicans and Franciscans on certain scholastic points of theology and science, but they were perfectly agreed on all questions appertaining to the Roman Catholic religion. That religion had always been one and undivided, and those who differed from it had always been ejected from it immediately. This was the only honest course—to say, "I preach the truth," and eject those who did not believe with you. But if men put on a false appearance of unity which did not exist, sheltering themselves under ambiguous words and uncertain formularies, that was not honest.

Whereupon Previous Question, "That that Question be now put,"—(Sir George Grey,)—put, and negatived.