HC Deb 13 March 1872 vol 209 cc1904-24

Order for Second Reading read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, he would not take long in explaining its clauses. Last year an Act called the Private Chapels Act was passed, which contained a clause relating specially to chapels attached to private houses. That clause was rejected in the other House. At the same time, it received so large a measure of support in this House and elsewhere that he felt at liberty to re-introduce it this year, if possible, in an amended form. The 1st clause of his Bill provided that— The bishop of the diocese within which any pariah, new parish, or ecclesiastical district was situated, containing more than 2,000 inhabitants, might license a clergyman of the Church of England to perform such offices and services of the Church of England as might be specified in such license, in any school-room, or other suitable building or chapel, whether consecrated or unconsecrated, situated within such parish, new parish, or ecclesiastical district, The 2nd clause provided that— The bishop of the diocese within which any hamlet or place was situated, containing more than 20 inhabitants, and lying more than two miles from the church of the parish, new parish, or ecclesiastical district in which such hamlet or place was situated, might license a clergyman of the Church of England to perform such offices and services of the Church of England as might be specified in such license, in any school-room or suitable building, or chapel, whether consecrated or unconsecrated, situated in such hamlet or place, or within 200 yards from the boundary thereof. The 3rd clause provided that— The bishop of the diocese within which any chapel was situated belonging to a private residence, provided that such residence together with the premises belonging thereto or occupied therewith contained more than 20 inhabitants and was the property of and maintained by the owner of such residence, might license or consecrate such chapel, and such chapel should be a free chapel and independent of the control of the incumbent of the parish in which such residence was situated. And the remaining clauses were more or less limiting clauses, as, for instance, that the solemnization of marriages should not be included under these licences, and that in no chapel or room so licensed should seats or pews be let for hire, so that there might be no unnecessary interference with the incumbent. The 9th clause required that— The bishop should, before granting a license to any clergyman under this Act requiring him to officiate in any parish, new parish, or ecclesiastical district, give notice in writing to the incumbent of such parish, new parish, or ecclesiastical district of his intention to license such clergyman at least one month before such license was issued, in order that such incumbent might have an opportunity of making any observations or objections upon or to the issuing of such license. And the 10th clause provided that— If such incumbent should be desirous of objecting to the issuing of such license he should, within one month after the receipt by him of such notice as last aforesaid, forward to the Bishop a statement in writing that he so objects, and of his reasons for so doing, and if the Bishop should not, within a period of one month after such statement should have been forwarded as aforesaid, comply with such objection or objections, it should be lawful for such incumbent, if he thought fit, at any time within a period of two months after such statement should have been forwarded as aforesaid, to appeal to the archbishop of the province in which such parish, new parish, or ecclesiastical district was situated, and the decision of such archbishop should be final, and after such appeal no such license should be valid unless it should have been allowed by such archbishop, such allowance thereof being signified by the signing thereof by such archbishop. The object of the Bill was simply this—to impart a greater degree of elasticity and freedom to our present ecclesiastical system, and the effect of it would be, that in certain parishes the Bishop would be able to introduce a clergyman who would practically act as a missionary clergyman, and who would often lay the foundations of a new parochial district of Church activity. The Bill would also confer the power of providing clergymen in very populous places. At present, church building and church endowment were confined almost wholly to very rich persons. Those who were possessed of only moderate means had no opportunity of providing independent services, however anxious they might be to do so. The Bill was in no respect aimed at the clergy. He felt too deeply and sincerely how much society was indebted to the labours of the clergy of the Church of England ever to be the conscious instrument of offering them a slight. He might also say that in his own neigh-bourhood the Bill had met with no decided opposition from the clergy, and in many cases had been received with warm approval. In another diocese the Bishop had called the special attention of the clergy to the Bill; but he had failed to elicit any marks of disapprobation from them. He thought that he sufficiently justified the introduction of the measure when he showed that it had met with the substantial approval of the majority of the clergy; because he could not conceive any grounds on which laymen could object to it. He might pile up a heap of grievances to prove the necessity for the measure. He might point to large parishes where the religious instruction of numbers of people was wholly neglected, and to many outlying hamlets where the inhabitants never saw a clergyman, and never went to church. But he would abstain from occupying the further attention of the House, and would say no more than this, that the Bill would do good, ann could do no harm, because wherever the clergyman of a parish was able and willing to do his duty, there was no possibility of the Bill being brought into operation; while in contrary instances its utility was unquestionable. He hoped that the House would sanction the measure, and would thus help to remove the restrictions upon church building and on the extension of Church services which had grown up in the course of time, but which were never intended to exist either by the law of the Church or by the law of the land.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Salt.)


, in rising to move the rejection of the Bill, said: I must own that I have been disappointed in not hearing from my hon. Friend stronger and more direct arguments for its acceptance. No doubt he has stated many things which are admirably true. I do not think he has made a single statement which I have not repeatedly heard in the many sermons one listens to when collections are made for church building, or any such popular object. No doubt vice and ignorance do abound in our populous cities. No doubt the clothes we wear are not the same as the clothes our ancestors wore 200 years ago. No doubt church building is a good thing, and no doubt it ought to be a cheap and not a dear luxury. I grant all this, and still I am as far off as I was a quarter of an hour ago from seeing any reasons for the support of this Bill. I must ask the House to look at the Bill from a somewhat different point of view from that of my hon. Friend. He has brought his project before the House as if it were a very little matter—as if it only involved a slight alteration of the parochial system or some interpretation clause to remove a little hitch. I can assure the House that be it for good or be it for bad it will effect a revolution in the Church of England in the matter of its parochial organization—that parochial organization being, as all know, a main corner stone on which the existing Church is built. Pass this Bill, and you may have a better Church of England, or you may have a worse Church of England than it is now; but at any rate it will be a totally different Church of England from that which at present exists. I appeal to the House to say whether it is treating the Church with proper respect to bring in a Bill of this importance without giving proper notice to all interested parties. Some two or three private friends have been consulted; but the sense of the Church itself has not been adequately, or rather has not been at all tested. My hon. Friend says that he has made some personal inquiries in his own neighbourhood, but in all probability those to whom he addressed himself did not understand his questions. His only conclusion briefly put is that he received no great amount of opposition nor any great amount of approbation; the only direct and tangible opinion to which he refers being that of a Bishop who has condemned the measure in explicit terms. If it had been a question of winding up an insurance company, or of dealing by statute with fraudulent fire-raising, we should have required more explicit evidence. It is, however, a measure relating to one of the most active and important institutions of the land—no less than the Church of England. Is the Church of England incompetent to manage its own affairs on points which concerns its de bene esse? Have there not lately been questions of the utmost interest to the laity as well as to the clergy—questions relating to the conduct of Divine worship—remitted by the Government itself to the Church's chief assembly? And have we not seen that assembly buckling itself to the consideration of these questions and concluding, without distinction of parties, and in the most broad and liberal manner, upon the recommendation of large and comprehensive reforms? And have we not seen equal activity on Church questions among the laity, without whose co-operation the exertions of the clergy would have been comparatively fruitless? I lay great stress upon this, for I am one of those who absolutely repudiate the heresy that the Church is the clergy only. The Church is the clergy, no doubt; but the Church equally includes the laity, and the opinion of the laity ought to be gathered on all controverted ecclesiastical matters. In England at the present day united gatherings of the clergy and the laity are becoming increasingly common. We have in the Recess to live up to meetings in Archdeaconries, and of diocesan conferences harmoniously discussing matters of great interest to the Church; and yet in the face of all this activity we are told to sit down on a sleepy Wednesday afternoon and give our assent to a measure which will absolutely revolutionize the Church of England, without taking any steps to test the opinions of the members of the Church, whether they be clergy or laity, men or women, as to the necessity or the possibility of this amateur Church Reform Bill. If I had no other objection, I would say "No" to the second reading of a Bill which my hon. Friend has not taken steps to bring before the consideration of any assembly of the Church, whether formal or informal. I should oppose it because it deals with a question upon which he has not invited any public opinion, and because it affects interests which he has left buried in the obscure recesses of a vague and uninstructive title. This policy is not to deal fairly with the House; still less is it to deal fairly with the institution, the interests of which he professes, and intends—I am sure most conscientiously—to serve. When I look upon his Bill I find that it bristles with good intentions, but that they are cast in a shape which will make the measure more mischievous in its operation than if it were intended to vex and weaken instead of strengthen the Church.

Now, let us proceed to consider the substance of the Bill. The measure divides itself, roughly speaking, into three main heads. The 1st clause provides that— The bishop of the diocese within which any parish, new parish, or ecclesiastical district is situated, containing more than two thousand inhabitants, may license a clergyman of the Church of England to perform such offices and services of the Church of England as may be specified in such license, in any school-room, or other suitable building or chapel, whether consecrated or unconsecrated, situated within such parish, new parish, or ecclesiastical district. The building so licensed may be situated on the opposite side of the street from the Church, or it may be even next door to the Church, with only a party wall between them; and the clergyman so licensed might be one whose doctrines and method of conducting worship were intentionally, as well as overtly, opposed to those of the incumbent. He might be a Ritualist pitted against an Evangelical, or an Evangelical or a Broad Churchman opposed to a Ritualist. It might, I say, assume either form of oppugnancy, for I am not arguing the question in the interest of any Church party. All such parties represent different phases of opinion in the Church, and all alike are entitled to protection and encouragement within sufficient regulating limits. But then you may say you will have a safeguard against many calamitous outbursts of parochial civil war in the Bishop's licence. I shall speak hereafter of the value of these safeguards; but I take a preliminary objection to the efficacy of Bishops' licences. Bishops are like other men. No doubt they live in the light of rational public opinion, but they live also under the pressure of public turmoil, of political agitation, and sometimes of sectional intimidation. They are subject to the criticism of the public Press; they are subject to the stress of noisy meetings; they are subject to the irritation of unfriendly coteries. On all sides there are dangers—on the right hand and on the left—and the Prelate finds his popularity menaced. Well, when he is striving, as he thinks, to keep things together, some energetic mouthpiece of opinion, lay promoter, or expectant clergyman comes to him to say that he wishes to open a fresh channel for the preaching of the Gospel, or for the performance of the rites of the Church. If he belongs to one party he will phrase his application in one way, if to another party he will adopt the other expression. The Bishop may not be quite strong-minded, he may be susceptible and thin-skinned; afraid of public meetings, afraid of journalists, afraid of the associations with £30,000 at their backs, to persecute as well as to prosecute; and so he will prefer to do the easy, good-natured thing, and give the licence rather than expose himself to the trouble and ill-will of testing, analyzing, and discriminating the merits of the application. For if he refuses the first licence he inevitably exposes himself to the trouble of giving his reasons for granting the next one, and vice versâ, while he will dread the unvarying odium of an impartial and continuous refusal. The Bishop will be pestered with applications from all sides; he will not only have applications from individual clergymen and promoters, but he will have applications from joint-stock companies formed for the purpose of propagating their peculiar opinions within the limits of the Establishment. If he licences on the one side and not on the other he will be pelted by the partizans of the neglected interest; if he licences and refuses alternately he will be pelted by the partizans of both sides; if he deals with each case upon its own merits he will gain no credit for his conscientious trouble, while he will make enemies of all whom he has refused. Take the case of our Bishops generally, and remember that as a rule they are overwhelmed with work. Consider that many of them are advanced in years, and you must own that, with regard to the Bench all round, this safeguard of a Bishop's licence is scarcely worth the paper on which it is printed. The Episcopate would seek safety in the theory that the Act was imperative, and the licence would be granted almost as a matter of course. So, in spite of Bishop and Archbishop, you would have a chapel on the opposite side of the street to the parish church, wherein a clergyman would be set free to preach doctrines of the most opposite character to those of the vicar of the parish. My hon. Friend has dwelt on the desirableness of cheap churches. Let me point out to him that there is some advantage in not over-cheapening the market. At present there is ample machinery provided for the sub-division of parishes, with or without the incumbent's consent. It is a mere question of money, and when the money is provided, let a clergyman be ever so obstinate and ever so unwilling, he finds himself in the end unable to resist the determination of those who insist on having the parish sub-divided. As matters stand now it is, I repeat, only a question of expense. The thing is possible, but it is not too easy. And so, under this state of things, that blessed result called compromise comes in; and in this case compromise means wisdom, compromise means peace, compromise means charity. In the first instance, some one comes forward and proposes to cut up a parish. The clergyman does not see his way to so great a change, and public opinion among the laity of the parish is divided; then other parties intervene, and in the end a new church is got up under conditions intended to do justice to the conflict of opinion. Perhaps the man who was first proposed for it is withdrawn, and another minister is appointed who is not so antagonistic to the incumbent and to his friends, and so the end of further church accommodation is gained, but not at the expense of charity. But if you take the rough-and-ready process of this Bill, there will be no time or place for any compromise; for without any attempt to meet the clergyman half way, without any attempt to ascertain the feelings of the parishioners, without asking the consent, but even the opinion, either of clergymen or of the flock, a licence will be applied for, perhaps, by an outsider, and the chapel started on its career of piracy. These are some of the objections which I take to the Bill under its first head. I come now to the still more extraordinary proposals contained in the 2nd clause. That 2nd clause is— The bishop of the diocese within which any hamlet or place is situated, containing more than twenty inhabitants, and lying more than two miles from the church of the parish, new parish, or ecclesiastical district in which such hamlet or place is situated, may license a clergyman of the Church of England to perform such offices and services of the Church of England as may be specified in such license, in any schoolroom or suitable building or chapel, whether consecrated or unconsecrated, situated in such hamlet or place, or within two hundred yards from the boundary thereof. If this clause has any foundation, it must be the hypothesis that no parish has any neighbours. Does my hon. Friend suppose that this school-house, or other suitable place, will be merely frequented by the inhabitants of the parish in which it stands? If he does not, all his provisions against abuse are practically worthless. The only person who has a right to appeal to the Bishop is the clergyman of the parish in which it stands. But this room is to be situated in an outlying district two miles from the parish church, and, therefore, in all probability, not quite two miles from the boundary of some other parish. Take the case of some man, with a mind of diseased activity, who wishes to disturb a neighbouring clergyman, perhaps, because he is too High or too Low, or, perhaps, because he is neither High or Low enough, but is doing his duty peaceably, quietly, and thoroughly. The clergyman of the next parish is a man of a different stamp—lazy, may be, or careless, or ill-disposed to his brother clergyman, and a bitter partizan. Well, then, will the promoters set up a chapel in any part of the parish of the clergyman whom they desire to annoy, and risk the effect of that clergyman's appeal to the Bishop? They would be very unwise to do so, provided the next parish fulfils the geographical conditions. They will much rather go to its clergyman, and say—"We are not going in opposition to you; the place where we intend to open a chapel is full two miles off from you, and no one will leave your church to go there. But it is only a mile and a-half off from Mr. Jones. Mr. Jones is a person whom neither you nor we like; grant us leave to open a chapel there, and we guarantee that we shall not drain your congregation at all." The bargain is struck; the promoters go to the Bishop; the clergyman makes no objection; the licence is, of course, granted, and by-and-by, Mr. Jones finds that his congregation is drained; that his teaching is treated with contempt; that his charities are starved, and that his parochial organizations are upset. His own staunch followers share in his distress; but of the laity, as a body, the Bill makes no account. They look to the Act to find redress, and they have the consolation of observing that they are deliberately and completely shut out. The 3rd clause is— The bishop of the diocese within which any chapel is situated belonging to a private residence, provided that such residence together with the premises belonging thereto or occupied therewith contains more than twenty inhabitants and is the property of and maintained by the owner of such residence, may license or consecrate such chapel, and such chapel shall be a free chapel and independent of the control of the incumbent of the parish in which such residence is situated. Now, I have myself a house containing more than 20 inhabitants, and in that house I have a chapel; but I should scorn to avail myself of such a permission as this. Why, I ask, are we to give such an exclusive privilege to a rich man that he should be able to withdraw himself from the salutary control of the parish clergyman, and stand apart from his fellow parishioners in the matter of common worship, and all the other works of piety which arise out of the parish? It is said that every Englishman's house is his castle. If you pass this Bill, every rich Englishman's house will become his temple also, where he may wrap himself up in gloomy and proud isolation, and leave his poorer neighbours to tramp to that inferior building, the old parish church.

Now I come to the 6th clause, and this, I confess, fairly staggers me, for such an outburst of sacerdotal tyranny I did not expect at the present day. It provides that the offertory and alms collected at any public service in these new chapels shall be disposed of as the officiating clergyman shall direct, subject to the control of the Ordinary. The House will recollect that under the present law the offertory is subject to the joint disposal of the clergyman and of the parish churchwardens. The churchwardens are put in as representing, and rightly representing, the laity. Practically, it is true, the clergyman in most cases is allowed to dispose of the offertory himself, but he does so because it is known that he will not abuse his privilege; because the churchwardens have confidence in him, and leave the matter in his hands. Let a clergyman abuse this privilege, and the common law right revives, and the churchwardens can, and no doubt do, interfere. But under this clause there is no protection for the lay portion of the congregation whom you have enticed to come into this novel conventicle. The clergyman alone is to dispose of the offertory. He is not called upon to give any account of its disposal; he may entertain the wildest ideas; he may use it to support a scheme for converting the Patagonians by the Chinese missionaries, or for any of those eccentric projects that germinate within diseased imaginations. But then, it is said, that this control is to be subject to an appeal to the Ordinary. But who is to put the Ordinary in motion? Who is to make the appeal? Who is to give information to the Ordinary? Suppose a man were to assert that on a particular Sunday he had given 6d. to the offertory, and were to say—"I have reason to believe it went to the support of the Patagonian Washerwomen's Association,"—how could it be expected that the Bishop would waste his time in the investigation of such a trifle? He would tell the man—"Then why did you go there?" You simply put it in the power of these fillibustering ministers to empty the parish churches and starve out their organizations for any wild and eccentric object. But the clause is not so idle as it might seem at first sight. A subsequent clause throws light upon the subject. The 8th clause—about the only good one in the Bill—says that no seats are to be let on hire, and no fees are to be charged for admission to divine worship. That looks all very well, but when the offertory bag has gone round the gentleman who has provided the chapel, and presented the minister, may have a very clear and curious knowledge of how much goes into it. I think this is a very good reason why the 6th clause has been introduced, and that it must be read with the 8th as its interpreting clause.

The 7th clause provides that these chapels shall not be licensed for marriages. Is the permission, then, to be held to include all the other rites of the Church? Are we to have clandestine baptisms? Are we to have burials with any form, or with no form of service? The exclusion of one particular rite implies the admission of every other, and I point this out to the House to show how dangerous such concessions to these privateering clergymen may become without such clearly drawn and comprehensive limitations as this Bill forgets to provide. I need only call the attention of the House to the manifold evils of a loose system of death registration.

Now we come to another clause, enacting that the Bishop, before granting his licence, must give notice in writing to the clergyman of the parish, who will have one month to object in. But the licence may be applied for when the clergyman is absent from home. The people who work these chapels will be clever enough to apply to him when the clergyman is away from his parish; and as only one month is allowed to object, that clergyman may find at any time that the licence was granted when he was abroad or ill, and that the whole life's objects for which he has been labouring in his parish is passed away from him, owing to a four or five months' necessary absence.

I proceed to the 10th clause, which is entitled the "Appeal to the Archbishop" against the decision of the Bishop, although it also includes the prior appeal to that Bishop. The supporters of the Bill may say that this clause is founded on precedents derived from present Church legislation. But that present legislation rests on something like respect for the pre-existing state of things. This measure is founded upon the general rejection of that parochial system which we have been always taught to believe in and to value. The clergyman of the parish in which the chapel is to be localized may give notice of objection and of appeal to the Bishop, but there is virtually no provision that he shall have, I do not say a fair hearing, but any hearing at all, or even any reply. The Bishop is not to act as a judge; he is simply to be a gentleman to whom the clergyman may send a letter—he has no means of getting at the Bishop, he has no means of stating his case verbally. The Bishop may be a gentleman wishing to act fairly, but he has committed himself beforehand to the licence; he has promised the promoters he will do it; he will then simply tell the clergyman that he has no objection to the chapel, and that he wonders anyone else can have any. Is the Bishop, I repeat, bound by this measure to give the clergyman a hearing? No. Is he bound to give him any answer at all? No. In his abundant courtesy he may send him a halfpenny card—"The Bishop of Islington presents his compliments to Mr. Smith, and acknowledges his communication of the 14th instant." But the licence goes forth, notwithstanding. Then the clergyman flies to the Archbishop. The Archbishop will probably go to the expense of a penny stamp, and will enclose his missive in an envelope, informing him—"The Archbishop has received Mr. Smith's communication, but that, as he has perfect confidence in the wisdom and discretion of the Bishop, he is unable to perceive any necessity for his interference." I say, if you are determined to persecute the clergyman, let him be persecuted in the open daylight. Let him go in person to the Bishop, let him have a hearing in the presence of his antagonists, and let him then plead his cause in a similar manner in his appeal to the Archbishop; otherwise you will fall into that worst form of mal-ad-ministration—a paternal despotism, and paternal despotism is only another name for general discontent. I think, Sir, I have said enough to show that this is a measure for revolutionizing the Church, and that you will have the Church in a flame in six months if you pass this Bill. You will light that flame in those parishes where the licence is granted, you will kindle it in those parishes where it is refused, you will spread the conflagration wherever the clergyman stands up for his rights, and you will leave it smouldering in the hearts of the quiet laity wherever he is weak enough to succumb. Why, then, all this? Simply because you want to pass a measure, and place it on the statute book, which has been languidly considered in the House of Commons on a Wednesday afternoon. I know that the parochial system is capable of reform. I know that more chapels and mission stations are needed. I have always stood up, and I shall always stand up, to plead for such reforms. But it is because I feel the system is in need of development that I call upon you to reject this crude and vague scheme. Let the Church—meeting in Convocation, and meeting in diocesan conference—examine into its own wants, and propose some scheme of its own which shall be satisfactory to the clergy, grateful to the laity, and just to the country at large. Fully believing that the Church is competent to deal with all these questions by itself, I oppose this Bill, and I move that it be read a second time this day six months.


, agreeing with the hon. Member who had just sat down as to the revolutionary nature of the proposed change, wished to second his Amendment. He took exception to almost every clause of the Bill, and looked at it as a forward step towards the disestablishment of the Church. He supposed the measure would obtain the support of the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall); but if disestablishment was desirable he thought that point should be settled first, and that the present measure should be introduced afterwards. Convocation was preparing a measure on the subject which would shortly come before Parliament, and he thought the House should wait for it. In his opinion it was very undesirable that any room should be consecrated as a chapel in a private residence, unless it could be secured for ever for the celebration of Divine worship. The appeal to the Archbishop was a delusion; he never knew a case in which an Archbishop reversed the decision of a Bishop. The Bill was so disastrous to the Church that he hoped the House would refuse to give it a second reading.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Beresford Hope.)


, while sincerely desirous to further parochial sub-division, could not ignore the character and existence of the Church of England. The great body of the Church had been in no way consulted or considered. The clergy of the Church occupied a certain position. They were subject to a certain discipline. It was competent under the existing law for the laity to appeal to tribunals which ought to support that discipline. That was a principle which ought never to be lost sight of in the Church of England. So long as that Church remained an Established Church, its members were privileged as being officers of a corporation which had a discipline. The laity must never give way to individuals amongst them, or give to the clergy or the Bishop the power of dispensing with that discipline, which the law regarded as their security.


, in supporting the second reading of the Bill, said, everyone must be aware of instances in which the clergyman of the parish was always quarrelling with the majority of his parishioners, and this Bill was required to meet such cases. He knew of a case of a parish containing 5,000 inhabitants, in which a lady left £7,000 or £8,000 to rebuild a chapel of ease on an enlarged scale, and the clergyman, who was a very old man, was offended at that bequest, and did all he could to prevent the carrying out of the object. In another case of which he was cognizant the clergyman was opposed to nearly all his parishioners, and they said that if the Bill were passed they would soon be enabled to place matters in a proper position. He did not see any objection to the machinery of the Bill, for it provided that no action should be taken unless with the consent of the parishioners or the Bishop, and the right of appeal was given to the Archbishop. As to the question of expense, he could not understand why, if people were ready to provide for a stipend and other charges, they should not be allowed to do so. He believed that legislation of this kind would do more than anything else to put down the cry for the disestablishment of the Church of England, and believed that, so far from being a revolutionary measure, that it would effect a great improvement in the condition of the Church.


said, that when he saw the name of his hon. Friend (Mr. Salt) on the back of the Bill he felt convinced that he had brought it in with the sincere desire of advancing the interests of the Church. Upon reading the contents of the Bill he viewed the matter differently from the way in which the hon. Member who had just sat down regarded it. If the House looked at the Bill it would see that this was not a question of dividing parishes, but of dividing parishioners; and though it was in many instances a very good thing to divide parishes, it never could be a good thing to divide parishioners within the same church. It was proposed, on the ground that the incumbent of a parish was opposed to what was desired to be done, to set up another incumbent in opposition to him; and that, because a certain portion of parishioners were not satisfied with the ministrations of the clergyman of the parish, a stranger should be brought in to whom they might transfer their allegiance. Within the Established Church a clergyman having the cure of souls over the whole of his parish, and responsible alike to the Bishop of his diocese and to his parishioners for the cure of those souls, was to be brought into collision with his parishioners, and afterwards into collision with his Bishop. No doubt, where there was not sufficient ministration for the whole of a parish, and there were means of dividing the parish itself, that parish ought to be divided; but that was a totally different thing to what was proposed by this measure. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Norwood) had referred to the case of a parish containing 5,000 persons, which was insufficiently provided for, although it had both a parish church and a chapel of ease, and in relief of which a lady had left a large sum of money to rebuild the chapel of ease. But this Bill would not touch such a case as that at all; for the principle of the Bill was based on building, not a chapel of ease, but an opposition church altogether. A chapel of ease would still be under the authorities of the parish; but what was contemplated here was an establishment in opposition to the incumbent. If that were not so, the Bill would not be necessary, because where the incumbent of the parish agreed to what was proposed to be done, there would be no difficulty whatever. No doubt in certain parishes there might be clergymen who would run counter to the wishes of those over whom they were set; but it would not be a wise thing, because such cases happened here and there, to alter the law with respect to the whole Church. The hon. Gentleman who supported this Bill seemed to have an entire belief in Bishops and an entire disbelief in incumbents; but it should be borne in mind that there were Bishops who differed in opinion in all sorts of ways. Would the Bill cast a duty on Bishops or not? If it did not, it was pretty certain that the Bishops would not move in the matter, because the difficulties they would get into if they did would be so great. But if it did cast a duty upon them, they might think themselves bound to exercise it, and so it would be placed in the power of 25 or 26 Bishops to legislate as each might think proper, with an appeal to the Archbishop; but it would be an invidious appeal—an appeal from the diocese to the province; an appeal from local knowledge to no knowledge at all; an appeal which must be disagreeable to the Bishop, and which could not be very agreeable to the Archbishop. Suppose in one of these parishes there was a clergyman considered to be "too High" for some of his congregation, and the Bishop, who might be of "Lower" views, were called upon to put a clergyman of his own opinions in the parish, would not that be an inducement for other Bishops of different opinions in other dioceses to act in the same way with respect to the clergy in their dioceses? It would be much better for the peace and interests of the Church if hon. Members would give up some of their feelings, and remember that, though they might not like the sermons or some of the proceedings of the clergymen of their own parishes, they would find plenty of other parishes where the incumbents were men of their own way of thinking. The passing of such a Bill as this would, he believed, only introduce schism and discord, and have the effect of dividing parishioners into hostile parties, and he therefore hoped that it would be rejected.


remarked that the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Beresford Hope), looking at the Bill from a clerical point of view, picked plenty of holes in it; but there were two sides to the question, and there was the side of the people as well as the side of the clergy. Anyone who considered the spiritual state of the metropolis for the last 70 years must come to the conclusion that such a Bill as this was necessary. At an early period of the present century, it was a common saying at every dinner table that it was easier to get a seat in Parliament than a licence for a place for Church of England worship. At the end of the War, Bishops and clergy stood up for what they called Church extension, and got £1,000,000, but they could not get another halfpenny more. After a time there was instituted the first Bishop of London's Fund, and now there was a second Bishop of London's Fund, and everybody admitted that, notwithstanding the large sums subscribed, the spiritual wants of the people were not overtaken. In a great many places the clergy, to their infinite credit, had been actively working in their vocation, but there were other places where such was not the case, and then a Nonconformist clergyman came in. He could not shut his eyes to these facts, and in voting for the principle of the Bill, all he voted for was that there should be power vested in the Bishop to licence an additional place of worship in any parish where it might be wanted. If some difficulties on ecclesiastical grounds were to be met, they were matters for consideration in Committee. The population of the country was fast outrunning the means of providing for immediate spiritual wants, and from the cumbersome necessity of getting a district formed, before the means could be got of building a church and endowing it, he thought some such Bill as this would be a great advantage, if it could, even in a very humble manner, fill up the great existing want.


, though a strong Churchman, would vote in favour of the second reading of the Bill, in the interests of the Church. He believed, if the measure was properly modified in Committee, it would do infinite good in remedying many abuses which now existed. It had been urged as an objection that it would give power to the laity as against the incumbent; but were the Bishops to have no power? The chief principle was the power of decision given to the Bishop, with an appeal to the Archbishop. Surely the Bishop would never act in opposition to the interests of the incumbent. He could not see that any case had been made out as to the evil working of a Bill, the principle of which was good.


thought that the laity ought to have a voice in these affairs as well as the clergy and the Bishops; and he felt an objection to the Bill, because he found no recognition of the wishes and powers of the laity in any part of it. An incumbent might exercise his power arbitrarily and capriciously, and it was very desirable that it should be balanced. The House had been told to have confidence in the Bishops; but he had more confidence in the power of the congregations to express their wishes on the subject. It was taken for granted that the Bishop would consider the wishes of the parishioners; but there was no machinery in the Bill by which those wishes could be ascertained; and the Bishop, on receiving a memorial, which did not represent the feelings of the parishioners, might appoint an additional incumbent distasteful to them. He agreed that it was desirable that the objects which the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Salt) had in view should be attained; but he feared that the Bill, by failing to give to the parishioners some organization by which their feelings might be made known, would make matters worse rather than better, and inflict an unnecessary blow on the parochial system, which must be mainly relied on for the improvement of the Church.


supported the Bill, because it did not deprive an incumbent of any rights, though it did confer a right on certain members of the laity. In the view of the Church a Bishop was the sole incumbent of a diocese, and he was the person who was spiritually responsible for the souls of all the persons in his diocese. [Laughter.] That, at all events, was what he believed to be the doctrine of the Church upon the subject. This Bill, therefore, simply carried out the doctrine of the Church, by allowing a Bishop to license any person to have a chapel in any part of his diocese. The incumbent of a parish was put in no worse position, because he retained his benefice and all his revenues, nor were any of the parishioners put in a worse position. It should be remembered that the parson was made for the parish, and not the parish for the parson. There were certain clauses that might be amended in Committee; but the principle of the Bill was good, and he should vote for it.


said, there were reasons why the Bill should have been brought before the House for consideration; but he did not think they were sufficient to justify the passing of the Bill in its present form. He could hardly imagine a worse position than that which would be held by a parish into which a clergyman should beforced by then Bishop, contrary to the opinion of the incumbent. The incumbent himself would also be placed in an unpleasant position towards his Bishop, and the clergyman appointed would have no cure of souls. The system would cause inconvenience to the Church, and would be injurious to religion. If the Bill went into Committee, he should ask for the insertion of clauses requiring that the Bishop should only take action at the request of a number of parishioners, and giving greater powers of appeal.


said, he thought that the House should listen with favour to a proposal like the present, brought forward by warm friends of the Church. He admitted that if he were now called on to agree to the third reading of the Bill, he could not vote for it in its present form, for he regarded it as defective in many important respects. It would have been as well if the hon. Gentleman who had charge of it had studied a Bill introduced some eight or nine years ago, as he would then have been able to meet many of the objections now urged against the second reading. That Bill had been introduced for a somewhat similar purpose, to meet the case of a Welsh clergyman who had refused to allow a religious service to be performed in English for the convenience of English people residing at a seaside place in Wales. That Bill was opposed upon grounds similar to those mentioned in the course of the present debate. It provided, however, that an application for the appointment of a clergyman should be made by a certain portion of the parishioners; that the incumbent should be called upon to nominate a clergyman; and that only when he declined to do so should the appointment pass on to the Bishop; and there was more careful provision for appeal to the Archbishop than had been made in this instance. Many of these provisions might be adopted with advantage. Although incumbents generally were anxious to supply the spiritual wants of their parishioners, yet, in some localities, the provision for the purpose was insufficient. He heard, not along ago, of a case in which the circumstances were similar to those for which this Bill was intended to provide. A Prelate, observing that in his diocese there was a clergyman who neglected his duties, after trying various methods to improve the condition of the parish, at last engaged another clergyman to reside and open a school in the parish, and thus by indirect means to supply the religious influence that was wanting in the parish. It would be better to divide parishes, rather than to divide the Church; and it might be useful to provide that, wherever a clergyman was appointed against the wish of the incumbent to a parish with a large population, the Bishop should set apart the district to be under his special charge. In the statute relating to Wales a provision was made that some stipend should be secured to the clergyman; but there was no similar provision in this Bill. He entirely agreed with the right hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley)—that the wants of the parishioners, rather than the wishes of the incumbent, were to be considered, and, provided care was taken to prevent the occurrence of vexatious disputes, he thought the House might safely pass the second reading of the Bill, the principle of which was, in his opinion, sound. At the same time, he gave fair notice that, as far as the Government were concerned, they would not allow it to pass through a third reading without considerable alteration.


said, that the present measure ought to be entitled "a Bill for the Total Destruction of the Parochial System." If words had been inserted in the Bill providing that the proposed facilities for public worship should be given with the consent of the incumbent, no one would have been more ready to vote for it than himself; but, believing that, as the Bill was framed, it would sow division and strife between the incumbent and the parishioners, and between the incumbent and the Bishop, he would cordially vote against it.


said, if the Bill passed the second reading, he should fix the Committee for some day after Easter, so that ample time would be allowed for considering the valuable suggestions made in the debate.

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

The House divided:—Ayes 122; Noes 93: Majority 29.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Tuesday 16th April.