HC Deb 14 May 1873 vol 215 cc1962-81

Order for Second Reading read.


in moving—"That the Bill be now read a second time," said, that it proceeded upon the conviction entertained by many persons, that in the present day, when there was so much energy and activity, and so much desire on the part of many important persons in the Established Church to render that Church more widely useful for the great purpose for which it was established, the best thing that Parliament could do for the Church was to remove restrictions which had been imposed upon its free agency and free activity by the State, and which. were not justified by any considerations of sound policy and were not required by the circumstances of the present time. The particular restriction which the Bill was intended to remove imposed upon the Church a character of exclusiveness not in harmony with the tolerant and liberal spirit which belonged to it, and deprived the congregations of useful teaching. A beneficed clergyman was free to call in the help of any other clergyman of the Established Church, with the consent of the Bishop of the diocese either implied or expressed. Since the year 1840 a beneficed clergyman might also invite a minister of the Episcopal Churches of Scotland and America. But here the limit ended, he was prevented from getting the assistance of a clergyman of the Established Church of Scotland, or the Free Church of Scotland, or anyone who was not a member of the Episcopal Body, and if he wished his congregation to hear any American or German missionaries, who might have been associated with English churchmen in Asia or Africa, he could not do so. On the occasion of the Great International Exhibition of 1851 various foreigners, who were renowned for their gifts of eloquence and knowledge, came to this country with a warm enthusiasm for a land where there was so much religious freedom; but found to their surprise, that the law of the English Church was more exclusive in this respect than that of any other religious community. In the ancient Church men who were not ordained as priests or deacons were allowed by the authority of the Bishop to deliver discourses to the congregation. There were many laymen, among the most famous of whom was Origen, who was so allowed to preach. At the time of the Fourth Council of Carthage the practice of laymen preaching in the congregation had become so well established that it was necessary for the Council to regulate the custom; and in the 12th century, a large number of lay friars who had not received Orders were in the habit of preaching sermons to congregations with the assent of the authorities of the Church. In the Roman Catholic Church there were no restrictions on the right of the authorities of the Church to allow any person who was not a priest to preach in the public assemblies of the Church, and in the Archbishopric of Posen the practice still existed for laymen to preach in public congregations during funeral services. Among Nonconformists in this country and in Scotland the interchange of pulpits was general, and in the Church of England itself, after the Reformation, there were many instances where Nonconformist preachers who had not received Episcopal ordination were allowed by the authority of the Church to deliver sermons; and even since the Act of Uniformity there was the well-known case of Richard Baxter, who, under the sanction of the Bishop's licence, did address congregations assembled in Churches of the Establishment in Hertfordshire. As gifts of eloquence and wisdom, and the power of awaking the consciences and of appreciating the difficulties that trouble the present generation were not restricted to the circle of episcopally ordained clergymen, was there any necessity for shutting the ears of the congregation against all teaching that came through other than professional lips? Ought the State to maintain a restriction which was not imposed by the law of the Church, or by the rules of any other religious community? It might be feared that preachers who had not bound themselves by a professional tie, and by subscription to the Thirty-nine Articles, might disturb the minds of the audience by delivering sentiments different from those which they were accustomed to hear from their pastor; but the understanding on which he would be admitted would be a better guarantee than any number of Articles. Experience had shown that assent to the Thirty-nine Articles and the Book of Prayer was of no avail for producing an unanimity of opinion in a Church containing within its bosom High Church-ism, Low Churchism, and Broad Church-ism, the subscription of the Thirty-nine Articles was no guarantee for the teaching of the Church. The guarantee lay not in the subscription of the Articles, but in the personal examination by the Bishop who ordained the incumbent. Now, that guarantee was not destroyed by the Bill, because the Bishop or his Ordinary was the person who was to exercise his discretion, whether a person should be permitted to preach an occasional sermon or not. Nor could even the Bishop and the incumbent together grant such admission, for under the Bill the churchwardens, as representatives of the congregation, must join the incumbent in applying to the Bishop, and might at their option refuse to do so. As the consent of these authorities was thus required, no one who was objectionable could be admitted under the Bill. The chief advantage which he expected to derive from it was the removal of that exclusiveness which was not in harmony with the spirit of the Church itself, nor with the feelings of the people; but which had been imposed, not intentionally, but by doubtful inferences drawn from the Act of Uniformity. If anyone would take the trouble to visit all the places of worship in London on a Sunday—[Laughter]—well, he believed there were statisticians who would take that trouble, on successive days, if not on a single Sunday, they would find similarity of teaching on practical subjects of daily conduct and on the fundamental doctrines of Christianity, and that important degree of unity between people inside and outside the Church of England ought to be legally recognized, whereas, at present, the law set up a barrier of exclusiveness where no real antagonism existed. The Bill could not contain any definition of the persons to whom it might apply, it merely provided that he might be "anyone not in Holy Orders." The selection of the individual, the duration of the permission, the renewal of the repetition of it, were left to the concurrent discretion of the Bishop, the incumbent, and the representative of the parish or congregation. If this Bill were passed it would probably be used chiefly for the admission of professional preachers. But if a Bishop or the ordinary of a Cathedral wished an audience to hear some distinguished layman gifted with special wisdom or knowledge, some writer reverenced as a teacher on moral and spiritual subjects through books, who might be willing to teach orally doctrines that he wished to bring home to the hearts of men; why should the congregation be deprived of this benefit, and it might be of some advantage to the clergyman himself. Were they real friends of the Church who would drive people to lecture halls and concert rooms, to seek that which might be put before them in the buildings of the national Church on occasions distinct from the ordinary morning and evening services held in theatres and other places, taken part in by men of all denominations, without the utterance of anything sectarian, had shown that there was a wide field of teaching on points on which all Christians were agreed. This united action should not be excluded from the Church of England, which in many respects was more comprehensive and tolerant than any other community. To some minds the different churches and religious demominations appeared as hostile camps or rival forces, intent on seizing every opportunity to assault and weaken their competitors. Incumbents who took that view would never open their pulpits to Nonconformists, and the Nonconformist Ministers who took the same aggressive view would not enter them by invitation. But to other minds the various religious communities appeared as separate regiments in the same army, waging war against the common enemies—infidelity and vice. Though known by different badges and by different watchwords, and armed with various weapons, and using various tactics, they seemed to move as allied forces, working by a common purpose towards the same end, and under the same general orders. Those who took this view, whether within or without the Church, would hail with satisfaction the passing of this Bill. They would see in it a recognition of the fact that the points of attraction binding Christians together are more important than the points of repulsion that separate, and that more co-operation and more tolerance were required for a successful issue to the great campaign in which they were engaged. It was with this object he had introduced the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the second reading.

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


in moving "That the Bill be read a second time that day six months," said, he would not follow the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hants (Mr. Cowper-Temple) into his dissertation about the Council of Carthage, but he would affirm that there never had been a Church at any time which admitted persons into its pulpits who ostensibly belonged to a hostile community. With regard to the Begging Friars, it was notorious that they belonged to the Church which admitted them into its pulpits. Now, before they proceeded to alter the law which existed on the subject, they should inquire whether there was any reasonable number of persons in the country, either Churchmen or Nonconformists, who wished to have a measure of that sort? One would suppose that the right hon. Gentleman imagined that the Church of England was in contradistinction in the practice to other Churches throughout the world. In the Episcopal Church of America, the daughter Church, the very same rule prevailed as that to which the right hon. Gentleman objected; indeed, an American clergyman was once suspended or admonished for breaking it, and he challenged the production of any indication on the part of those self-governed bodies of a wish to open their pulpits to outsiders. In the English Church of South Africa, in the English Church of Australia, in the English Church of New Zealand, and in the English Church: in the West Indies, he had yet to learn that a different rule had been introduced. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of the Episcopal communion in Scotland and America, but he must be perfectly well aware that there was no analogy between admitting anyone to preach and admitting clergymen of sister or daughter Churches, who, though not having precisely the same Prayer-Book, had yet substantially the same creeds and formularies. As to the Scotch Episcopal Church, many of its Bishops and clergy had English Orders, and had held English benefices, so that there was no analogy between its relation to the Church of England and that of Nonconformist communities. He denied that the restriction had been enacted by the State; it was really a restriction of the Church of England itself, and at a recent meeting of the Synod of Salisbury, in which it was the custom for the laity and clergy to vote separately, the laity, who were composed of persons of all politics, had unanimously rejected the proposal in the Bill, although a small minority favoured the Burials Bill. The House was told that the Bill could only be worked with the consent of the churchwardens; but the Church of England was not a Congregational body, and it was not wished that every congregation should do exactly as it liked, irrespective of the larger body to which it belonged. He had a great respect for Bishops, but he did not think it would be sufficient that it should be left to the Bishop to decide upon this question, nor would it be sufficient that the majority in any parish should decide. It was the fashion now-a-days to talk as though the minority had no right to rights; but the laity of the Church of England had by law rights which ought not to be taken from them at the will of a mere majority in any particular parish. The present Bill was one which he believed was not asked for by anybody—either by Churchmen or by Nonconformists. Another point was that there was no proper definition of what was meant by the term "occasional sermon;" and unless there was some restrictive meaning applied to it, the liberty given by the Bill would lead to great abuse. He objected to separate congregations in the Church of England taking an independent course of action, and setting up a little Bethel of their own, in spite probably of the remonstrances of a minority, and to allow a Bishop, acting without concert with his brethren or his clergy, to put the Bill into operation would be inconsistent with the safeguards which existed for the benefit of the laity. Everybody respected clergymen like Mr. Baptist Noel and Dr. Manning, who left the Church from conscientious feelings, but this was no reason for allowing them to occupy Church pulpits, and he believed Dissenting Ministers would think it a degradation to go cap in hand to churchwardens, clergymen, and Bishops for the purpose of preaching on sufferance in a Church from which, on political or doctrinal grounds, they dissented. Were the existing rule relaxed, a Bishop might be induced on the eve of an election to permit a candidate who advocated the rights of the Establishment to address the electors from the pulpit, perhaps, in order to lessen the irreverence, at a different hour from that of Divine service; or the hon. Alderman representing Lambeth might wish to discourse in some deserted City church on the enormities of the Endowed Schools Commissioners. He hoped never to see the day when the affairs of the Church of England should be converted into mere party questions; but it could hardly be maintained that it was a national Church when such a state of things should have been brought about. The House would have no right to legislate in this particular matter in the teeth of the wishes of the members of the Established Church, and surely there were not 5 per cent of Churchmen who desired any such legislation, whilst at the same time the Nonconformists did not ask for it. He would, for those reasons, move the rejection of the Bill.


in seconding the Amendment, said, the time had again come when some protest should be entered against the kind of ecclesiastical legislation with which the House was being perpetually deluged. He had entered a similar protest in 1871 and had then shown that no less than 19 Bills affecting the Church of England were before the House, and he was quite certain that these "Ecclesiastical Wednesdays" were subjects, he would not say of ridicule, but of great surprise to many persons out-of-doors. He felt sure that no such Bill as the present one could for a moment be seriously discussed in any assembly having a moral right to represent the Church of England, and would deny that the clergy were seized with a violent desire to see Nonconformist ministers and laymen occupying their pulpits. Indeed, he believed their feelings were adequately expressed by an eminent Church dignitary who said he wished his pulpit to be as chaste as his wife. Although they had some grievances, which he believed to be well-founded, yet the Nonconformists themselves did not ask for that measure; neither did the congregations of the Established Church. In the discussion on that subject last year, it was said that if people did not like the occasional sermons that would be preached under that Bill, they might go to some other church; but, in the country districts, at least, where the churches were sometimes many miles apart, that argument would not apply. Then with regard to the alleged difficulty as to the practicability of Churchmen hearing celebrated preachers who did not belong to their own communion, there was really none. For instance, he (Mr. J. D. Lewis) recollected himself going one day to hear Mr. Spurgeon, not then in the zenith of his fame, but he could not get in except by the assistance of a friendly policeman, to whom he subsequently gave 5s. Afterwards he had. reason, upon reflection, to think that that was not the best expenditure of 5s. which he had ever made in his life. Upon his leaving the chapel, he saw a long line of carriages with armorial bearings and other devices, which seemed to his mind to show that many members of the Church of England were probably among the congregation. He asked, was the present Bill intended to give eccentric clergymen the opportunity of placing clever Dissenting "stars" in their pulpits? He thought that that was a very dangerous principle for the House to accept, and that if they did they would get into endless difficulties in the matter. If there was such a violent desire on the part of congregations of the Established Church to hear Baptists, Moravians, and other Dissenters, in his opinion, the time for the disestablishment and disendowment of the Established Church had come; because, why should we go on paying a clergyman to do that which we wished others to do? It was not worth while making a revolution in the Church system for so difficult and doubtful an object. There were now two growing parties in the Church—the Ritualists and the Broad Churchmen. The late Bishop of Norwich—Bishop Hinds—carried Broad Church principles to the highest conceivable pitch, and wrote pamphlets which many persons would describe as infidel. Under that Bill, what security would they have that a Bishop of still more advanced views— and there might be such—might not allow Mr. Bradlaugh to occupy a Church pulpit, or, on the other hand, that a Ritualistic Bishop might not give a similar permission to a Jesuit preacher? He supposed it would be said that in such a case Mr. Bradlaugh would soon be prevented from preaching Atheism, and the Jesuit from preaching the doctrines of the Church of Rome. If, indeed, that were not prevented, then his argument against the Bill was all the stronger; but even on the assumption that it would be prevented, the effect of allowing such persons to put in an appearance in the Church's pulpits would be very mischievous. In reading The Spectator newspaper he found that a clergyman of the Church of England—the Rev. J. Josling, a Fellow of Christ's College, Cambridge—expressed a wish to have a downright honest man like Professor Fawcett in his pulpit on Sunday afternoon to instruct people in political economy. That, he supposed, might include a dissertation on Indian finance. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Brighton was united to an amiable and talented lady, who was also in the habit of addressing public audiences; and it was uncertain whether she also would not be admitted to the pulpit under the terms of the Bill. If not, in these days of women's rights agitations, a claim to equality between the sexes in this respect would no doubt soon be set up. The Quakers already had female preachers; and, in fact, one of the most able sermons he (Mr. J. D. Lewis) had ever heard was delivered by a lady, and why, under the measure before them, should not ladies be allowed to preach? Was the House really prepared for that? If they permitted all that, the doctrine and discipline of the Church would soon become—to use a metaphor of the Prime Minister, in what might almost be called an occasional sermon—as unsettled and as floating as the island of Delos. Those who were really opposed to the Church as an Establishment should vote manfully for the proposals of the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall); but they should not seek to impose on the Church, in consequence of her present shackles, legislation which would never be submitted to for an instant by any other religious denomination.

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. Collins.)


said, the adoption of the principle embodied in the Bill would, he had no doubt, lead to a great deal of good. He was sorry to have to complain of the tone of exaggeration indulged in by the hon. Mover of the Amendment, and he maintained that, even if the supporters of the Bill were a minority in the Church, still they were a considerable minority, and as such their opinions and their rights were entitled to respect. The Episcopal Churches in the colonies, referred to by the hon. Member for Boston (Mr. Collins), were narrower in doctrine and discipline than the mother Church in England; and if the latter set them an example by giving more freedom in the use of her pulpits, the daughter Churches would, no doubt, soon do the same. He could not admit the broad assertion of the lion. Member, that such a practice as that proposed by the Bill was totally unknown in the colonial churches. He was inclined to think that lay preachers were allowed in some colonies, but had no positive proof to offer, any more than the hon. Member had for his assertion. Although the Church was never more vigorous and active in doing good than at present, yet the luxury and the materialism rapidly spreading over the country, with the scepticism which always followed in their wake, called for all the efforts, not only of the national Church, but of every other religious community, to keep them down. It was therefore a time for making common cause with all Christian denominations, and not for standing apart. There was no pretence for saying that the Bill would revolutionize the Church, for at that moment the clergy of the Church of England could preach in the pulpits of other denominations. Two years ago the Archbishop of York and the Bishop of Winchester occupied pulpits and took part in services other than those of their own Church, and he honoured those Prelates for setting so good an example. The change, therefore, now asked for was not so very great. It was only giving clergy of other denominations the opportunity, if requested by proper authority, to do what our Prelates had done. He wished to see more of the established clergy acting in the same way, and a reciprocal Christian feeling displayed between different Churches. If, for example, a clergyman of the Church of England had Dr. Livingstone, the African explorer, who was a minister of a Nonconformist community, staying with him on a visit, why should he not be able to give the use of his pulpit to that great and good man, for the edification of his parishioners? He was surprised that anyone could imagine there was any impropriety in the proceeding. The Bishops knew their clergy well, and would not grant that power to men who were not likely to exercise it discreetly. The Nonconformists did not at all seem to appreciate the true position of the Church of England. The hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall) had spoken scornfully of the Established Church as a Department of State, like the Army or Navy. For his own part, he was quite ready to admit that that was true. The Church was much more than a Department of State, but it was also undoubtedly that. For some purposes it was just as much the business of the House to deal with the property and the government of the national Church, and if necessary also with its doctrines and discipline, as with the organization and administration of the Army or the Navy. Some Dissenters seemed to think they had nothing to do with this particular question; but surely they hail as much right to express their opinion upon it as though it belonged to a purely secular matter. He would liken the various religious Bodies of the country to the Army, comparing the Established Church to the Regular Forces and the Dissenting denominations to the Volunteers, contending that as both those great branches of the military service were intended to act harmoniously together against the visible enemies of the State, so the Church of England and the Nonconformist auxiliaries should fight side by side against its invisible enemies—their common foes. He had been asked who desired the Bill, and he might say that it originated with the Church Reform Association, of which he was a member, and which desired to see the national Church re-adapted to the requirements of the present state of society, instead of being confined in the fetters of the Act of Uniformity, which was entirely out of sympathy with modern thought and ideas. That was a task from the performance of which the House and the Government ought not, any more than they had done in the case of the Army, to shrink. As the proposed change was, after all, only a minute one, the House would, he hoped, read the Bill a second time, and thus do something to reorganize the Church of England and adapt her more to the wants of modern society.


Sir, I think it is the first duty of anyone who addresses himself to the consideration of this important, and by no means minute, subject, to acknowledge frankly that there is no exception to be taken to the manner, the motives, or the intentions of my right hon. Friend who has brought forward the present Bill, the Member for South Hants (Mr. Cowper-Temple), or of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Frome (Mr. T. Hughes), by whom it is supported. Of the Church Reform Association I am almost ashamed to confess I have hitherto been in deplorable ignorance. I am unacquainted with its members, its organization, and until to-day did not know even of its existence. I nevertheless fully admit that any proposal made by two hon. Members of this House, like those by whom this measure is submitted to our notice, is in every way entitled to our consideration. Up to this, I have taken no part in the debates on the subject; I advisedly abstained from doing so last Session, for I was desirous to stand by and see what was the view of the House with regard to it; and it is not, I may add, in an official capacity, nor as a Member of the Government, that I venture to interpose in the discussion on the present occasion. I should like to invite the attention of the supporters of the Bill to what occurred last year. No attempt was then made to treat this as a party question. My right hon. Friend then laid before the House, with great force, all the arguments in favour of this proposal, but his Bill was rejected on the second reaching by 177 to 116 votes, the majority not being composed according to the lines of party, but consisting of hon. Members who had freely and conscientiously formed their opinions on the merits of the case. Is it under these circumstances wise—I would almost say is it equitable to the House—that it should from year to year, in obedience to the wishes of the Church Reform Association, be invited to expend some hours of that most rare and precious commodity, its time, in the discussion of this question? My hon. and learned Friend, not content with that, has brought a charge against the House, the justice of which I, for one, cannot admit. He says the House of Commons is most grossly shirking its duty in this matter, that there is a great province of legislation into which it has shown itself unwilling to enter. But surely the fact mentioned by the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. J. D. Lewis) that there are not fewer than 19 Bills dealing with the internal organization of the Church of England now before Parliament, bears unchallengeable testimony against the justice of the view which he takes, and that the House and the Executive Government have in this respect by no means shown themselves neglectful. I cannot help thinking, however, that my hon. and learned Friend is preaching to deaf ears. I so far agree with the hon. Member for Devonport—to the excellence of whose speech I bear my most ready testimony—that, although the Established Church in a country ought not to be held to be entirely beyond the scope of legislation, yet that it is wise for an Assembly like the House of Commons, to restrain its intervention with it to matters within the limits of strict necessity, and not to charge itself with a duty which I venture to say neither the Constitution nor the practice of Parliamentary government imposes upon it. My hon. and learned Friend might have been more humane than to have brought such a charge as that of shirking its duty against an overtaxed and overburdened House, which finds itself unable year after year, notwithstanding that it taxes all its mental and physical energies on the work, and goes through an amount of labour which has never been equalled by any deliberative Assembly in the world, to cope with the enormous mass of business which it has to transact. I do not think, moreover, that it is reasonable to ask this House, which is a mixed body, and which grows more and more mixed from Parliament to Parliament—I hope it will long continue to be a mixed body, because otherwise it would not be a fair representation of the people of this country—to deal with proposals of this kind. I deny that the House of Commons is well adapted by its own internal constitution to interfere beyond the limits of necessary intervention in the details of ecclesiastical legislation. What has been our practice? When important changes affecting the doctrine and discipline and property of the Church have been made, the initiative has always been taken by the Crown. I do not think my hon. and learned Friend will find in the whole range of his constitutional studies a single case—certainly, extremely few cases—where a great ecclesiastical change has been undertaken by this House without that initiative. That is an important fact, not as relating to the power of the House, but as testifying that both it and the country have thought it wise that the initiative of the Crown should be employed in the first instance before those great changes were made. The questions themselves, too, have passed under the consideration of the clergy, and we have generally been content in these cases to allow the legislation with respect to them to be matured in the House of Lords before submitting them to the deliberations of the popular Assembly. In taking that course, I do not believe the House of Commons has displayed any cowardice, but rather a wise abstinence and a forbearance than which nothing in its conduct is more remarkable; for while it is thoroughly adapted to deal with all other departments of legislation it has seen, as it were intuitively, that in the course of a work for which it was less adapted, it would be well to restrict its intervention. I would appeal, then, to my right hon. Friend the Member for South Hants to consider for a moment the reception which his Bill has met with on the present occasion. He has manfully and ably argued in support of it; but I would ask him whether he himself thinks that the opinion of the House is in its favour? Is it not clear that the House shrinks from experimenting in these matters? It is all very well to talk of the rights of a minority; but when men desire to make important changes in the most critical subject-matter in opposition to, and in defiance of, the feelings and convictions of those who are to be affected by those changes, it is not possible, under the plea of rights of a minority, to justify a proposal such as the present; for if those rights are to be respected—and they are to be respected—we must not forget that the majority has rights also. There is such a thing as what is called moral unanimity, and in my opinion, the moral unanimity of the members of the Church of England is opposed to the change which is now proposed. My right hon. Friend has mentioned the case of Origen, to show that there are precedents for addresses from the pulpit from others besides clergymen; but when Origen addressed a congregation as a layman he did so subject to the laws and regulations of the Church, and my right hon. Friend omitted to tell us, that this Bill proposes to introduce solemn addresses for the first time to be made to Christian congregations by persons who are to be under no limitations and under no responsibility whatever as to that which they may say. They are not to be called upon to subscribe to anything beforehand, and if they choose to preach that which they know to be odious to the congregation they are addressing, and opposed at every point to the laws of the Church, they are to undergo no punishment and to be subject to no reproof, while the offence may from day to day be repeated. Compare that with a state of things in which you have an Establishment with regular teachers, who are limited by subscription, and who are liable to be severely censured by an Ecclesiastical Court for misconduct or for any deviation from an established standard, and let me ask, do you think it desirable to set up alongside those men another set of teachers such as I have just described, without the slightest responsibility of any kind, either before or after they have given expression to their sentiments? It has been well said by my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport that as matters now stand, the Bishop is well able to form a judgment with respect to his own clergy, because he knows them; and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Frome contends there will be the same security under the Bill, inasmuch as that when an application is made to the Bishop by one of his clergymen that some one else should take his place in the pulpit, the Bishop will know whether the applicant is a man who is to be trusted or not, and that if he is to be trusted he will grant the application, and otherwise will refuse it. It seems, according to the argument of my hon. and learned Friend, that the Bishop is to divide his clergy into two classes—those who are to be trusted and those who are not, and that to the one class he is to say—"True, I know nothing of the individual whom you recommend to supply your place, but I know you are to be trusted, and therefore he may preach." To the unfortunate clergyman, however, who happened to be in the category of those not to be trusted, a refusal would, as a matter of course, be given. I do not think that is a state of things which the House would like to see established throughout the country. But one of my strongest objections to this Bill is the total absence from it of any protection for the congregation. I venture to say that what is called the liberty of the clergy—the unrestrained liberty of the clergy—is the slavery of the laity. To the introduction of such slavery I, for one, will be no party. The congregations of the Church of England have some right to know what is to be preached from their pulpits. The spirit of the Church of England is tolerant and liberal, but in conjunction with her liberality there is law, and the limits fixed by that law are real limits, and these the Bill of my right hon. Friend would altogether remove. He provides, indeed, as a security that there is to be the demand of the incumbent and two churchwardens, and that the assent of the Bishop and Ordinary to any application under the provisions of the Bill will be required. Now, I would observe that the addition of the Ordinary is a very important addition indeed. I have not been able to lay my hands on a perfect account of the legal meaning of the word "Ordinary" in the ecclesiastical law of this country. I see opposite to me a right hon. and learned Gentleman (Dr. Ball), who has just entered the House, and who, no doubt, would be able to explain the matter. I believe I may safely say that an Ordinary is not always a Bishop, and that a Bishop is not always an Ordinary. A Bishop is a person of great responsibility, of high station and character, whose acts are carefully watched by public opinion. There are, however, many churches in which the Bishop is not the Ordinary. In cathedral and collegiate churches, I apprehend he is not, and Ordinaries are in a great many instances men of whom public opinion knows very little, and over whom it exercises, consequently, scarcely any check. That being so, I object altogether to substitute for the known fixed laws of the Church of England restraints which would depend on their mere arbitrary will. My hon. and learned Friend has told us that the unity which he advocates is actually to be found in St. James's Hall, but let me remind him that those who assemble there go there willingly. They do not go there, because it is their parish church; they do not go there to have inflicted upon them, by what I think would be offensive legislation, teachings which they do not desire to hear from persons whose authority they do not acknowledge. "But," says my hon. and learned Friend, "are we not all merely different regiments of the same Army?" Well, the Bill says nothing about the Nonconformists, or the members of the Established Church of Scotland, and, as was very ably argued by the hon. Member for Boston (Mr. Collins), any person whatever, and not any particular person, may be qualified to preach under its provisions. Every man who has left the Church of England on grounds of conscience, or because he could not accept its doctrines, or because he found himself impelled by irresistible impulse to join some other religious communion, or because he had been dismissed by the lawful authorities of the Church from her fold, may preach, according to the proposal of my right hon. Friend, if he can only find an Ordinary, an incumbent, and two churchwardens to make an application on his behalf. As to the churchwardens, they are, in some cases, not the representatives of the congregation at all. One of them is, as a rule, the representative of the incumbent, and the other of the ratepayers. What security, then, have the congregation against the great wrong which, in my opinion, this Bill threatens to inflict upon them? When we are told that we are all regiments of the same army, I, for one, am fully prepared to respond to the feeling which prompted that observation. Acting within proper limits, nothing can be more amiable and wise than that frame of mind and temper which endeavours to establish bonds of sympathy and cooperation between the members of different religious Bodies. That principle of moral co-operation I hold it to be a high duty to recognize; but to revert to my hon. and learned Friend's illustration, borrowed from the Army, I must say that I do not think it is open to a Volunteer on the march to announce that he is about to leave the ranks and join the Militia; or, on the occasion of the Autumnal Manœuvres to declare it to be his intention to try what he could do with the Regular Army. There is, I may further observe, a fundamental fallacy in the idea that laws are in themselves evil, and that all restraints are to be regarded as mischievous. Of course, laws that are unnecessary, frivolous, and minute beyond the necessities of the case are evils, and ought to be done away with; but laws intended and calculated to secure the necessary condition of order and regularity are vital to the health of the body, and we ought not to allow ourselves to be inveigled, under the name of liberty or any other name, to assent to that destruction of discipline which is the real harbinger of religious chaos. I do full justice to the motives of my right hon. Friend. The promotion of goodwill is the object which he has in view, but if he proceeds, though animated by the best intentions, to force legislation of this class on a body unprepared for it, or I should rather say prepared for it in the sense of being determined to resist it, it is idle for him to suppose that he will succeed in attaining the end at which he aims. A very serious blow will be inflicted upon the very liberty which the Bill professes to achieve; for it is inconsistent to suppose that we can force men peaceably into a state of goodwill by violent legislation of this kind. He begins by sacrificing order for what he imagines will be religious peace, and he will find he has ended by sacrificing religious peace for the sake of what is a real chimera.


said, he thought it would be premature to force legislation of the character contained in the Bill upon the country; and he was satisfied that if it passed, the result would be that the new law would become a dead letter, for the simple reason that the Nonconformists had no desire for legislation under the operation of which they might be smuggled into the pulpits of the Established Church, to preach, as was suggested, on Sunday afternoons, when it was probably supposed the respectable portion of the congregation would be at their homes, and the addresses made would have to be delivered to members of the servant-girl class. He looked upon the Bill as utterly useless, and as likely to be regarded by the Nonconformists rather in the light of an insult than otherwise. He objected to all such tinkering as this measure proposed until the Church was rendered completely independent, and if the hon. and learned Member for Frome (Mr. T. Hughes) really wished to undertake a work that would greatly tend to promote goodwill he would introduce a measure to disestablish the Church.


expressed a wish on behalf of his fellow-countrymen that Parliament would revert to its old views and ancient usage. He held in his hand a work printed by the King's printer in the reign of Charles II., by which it appeared that the Parliament of that time and more than 4,000 ministers of religion agreed in this—that the Churches of God in the three kingdoms should aim at the nearest conjunction and uniformity of religion. They went too far, but Christians of these days had unfortunately determined that we must preserve religious distinctions. Why should there not be an occasional interchange of pulpits to mark that though we were in different regiments we were all marching under the same glorious banner? As a non-Episcopalian Scotchman, he contended that the object of this Bill was not to restrict religious liberty, but to extend it, and to allow the Church of England, through her officers, to do that which other Churches found it both right and expedient to do.


said, he had the greatest sympathy with preaching laymen, but he deprecated the interference of Parliament in this matter, being of opinion that the Church of England ought to be left to settle her own internal affairs.


believed that a large body of Nonconformists were actuated by feelings very different from those of the hon. Member for Knaresborough (Mr. Illingworth). After the appeal which had been made to him by the Primo Minister he would not occupy the time of the House by asking for a division, after the small amount of support that had been given to it.

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

The House divided:—Ayes 53; Noes 199: Majority 146.

Words added.

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

Bill put off for six months.