§ Order for Second Reading road.
§ MR. RUSSELL GURNEY
, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, confessed that he did so with considerable anxiety, not on account of any supposed difficulty either in the principles or details of the measure, but because he could not profess to be ignorant of the amount of angry feeling which had been excited by this measure among many persons for whom he entertained very high respect. At the same time he thought that that feeling was due rather to what had been imagined to be in the Bill than to what was really to be found in it. He trusted that he should be able to show, when he compared the present law with that which the Bill proposed to introduce, that there were no grounds for complaint either on the part of the public or the clergy; for while the Bill would be found to materially facilitate the administration of the law with regard to ecclesiastical offences, it would secure most thoroughly the fair rights of the clergy themselves. His great anxiety, however, was lest he should say or do anything in the slightest degree to intensify the feelings that at present existed upon the subject. It would be necessary for him, in the first instance, to make clear to the House what was the law now in existence. As the House was aware, England was divided into two provinces—those of Canterbury and York. For those provinces there were separate Courts and Judges, and in each province there were a number of Consistory Courts, in which ecclesiastical matters were more or less dealt with. The Dean of Arches was the Judge of the 1356 provincial Court of Canterbury, and the principal official of the Court of Chancery was the Judge of the Court of York. The law with reference to ecclesiastical offences was now to be found in the Church Discipline Act of 1840. Ordinarily, the course was for the Bishop, on a complaint being made, to appoint a Commission consisting of five persons, a certain number of them being officials, to summon witnesses, and inquire into the alleged offence. But he might, if he thought fit, take that step without any complaint being made. On the Commission finding that there was no ground for further inquiry, the complaint would be dismissed. If the report was to the contrary effect, the Bishop would proceed, with the assistance of his Chancellor, another official, and two other persons acting as assessors, to hear the case, and his decision would be pronounced, whether the assessors agreed in it or not. From his decision there was an appeal to the Provincial Court, and from that Court there was an appeal to the Queen in Council. The Bishop had the power to dispense with the preliminary inquiries, and send the case at once to the higher Court. Another provision of the Church Discipline Act was, that the Bishop had power at any time during the proceedings to inhibit the clergyman from the performance of all service in his parish, to appoint another in his place, and to sequestrate the revenues of his living in order to pay the clergyman appointed to succeed him. This was the law which had now been in operation for 34 years, and there had therefore been ample opportunity of judging how far it met the necessities of the case, and how far it gave satisfaction either to the public or to the clergy. Complaints of it had been universal. There had not been an inquiry that had taken place in respect of it the result of which had not been to condemn it in the strongest possible terms. Lord Cran-worth—an unlikely person to use harsh language—described the whole proceedings as "cumbrous, dilatory, and expensive;" and two Committees of Convocation had also condemned it in terms almost as strong. One of them in the Upper House were unanimously of opinion that the law touching the discipline of the clergy was unsatisfactory and needed amendment, and that the great expense and delays attending such 1357 proceedings amounted almost to a denial of justice; and the other had said that instead of being better the process of law now was worse than before the passing of the Church Discipline Act. The Report of the Commission who inquired into this matter before the passing of that Act in 1840, to show how bad the law was at that time, stated that suits sometimes lasted two years, and the expenses of a single suit had been known to amount to as much as £1,500. Since the passing of the Church Discipline Act he found there was one case in which the taxed costs amounted to £11,000; in another they amounted to £3,900; and in another to £2,400. In one case they amounted to only about £1,000, and in another to considerably less. If the law was universally denounced as bad before this Act was passed, because under it the expenses amounted to £1,500, what would be thought of the Act under which litigation cost such considerable sums as those he had mentioned? It was his duty now to explain the provisions of the present Bill. The offences to which it would apply were stated in the 8th clause. They were: Any alteration in or addition to the fabric, ornaments, or furniture of a church, where such alteration or addition had been made, without a faculty from the ordinary authorizing or confirming such alteration or addition, and the introduction of any illegal decoration into the church. The same clause provided against any incumbent permitting any unlawful ornament being used in a church or burial ground, and also provided against the non-observance of the directions contained in the Book of Common Prayer, relating to the performance of services, rites, and ceremonies ordered by that Book. What he wished especially to mention to the House was that nothing in the Bill touched in any way the doctrine of the Church. It dealt only with what was positively unlawful as the law now stood. The next subject to which he would direct attention was as to the persons who were to initiate proceedings. Under the Church Discipline Act, any one whatever might make application; that application went to the Bishop, who of his own accord might direct inquiry. But there was no provision in that Act requiring that the person making the application should be a parishioner; nor 1358 was it by any means certain that the Bishop was obliged to take proceedings immediately on such representation being made to him. The question had been raised, but not decided, whether the Bishop had any option in the matter. By this Bill, however, as it had come down from the House of Lords, it was proposed that the person to make the representation should be the archdeacon, rural dean, churchwarden, or any three parishioners being members of the Church. The form of application as provided by the Act was very simple, and would not be expensive. There was another provision, that it should be accompanied by a statutory declaration attesting to the truth of the representation. That being presented to the Bishop, it was for the Bishop to say what course should be pursued. If he did not think it a fit subject for inquiry, he could put a stop to all further proceedings, stating at the time in writing his reasons for thus exorcising his right of veto. If he did think it fit for inquiry, he might call the parties before him, and ascertain whether they were willing to be bound by his decision; and if they assented to that, the Bishop decided the case. He attached considerable importance to this provision, as he trusted that when this present excitement had passed away the cases would not be few in which the complainant and the accused would be alike willing to be bound by the decision of the Bishop. If the parties were not willing to be bound by his decision, he would forward a representation to the Judge to be appointed under the Bill. That Judge, who was to be appointed by the two Archbishops, would have a salary of £3,000 a-year, to be paid by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. An important provision of the Bill was that, in case of proceedings being improperly instituted, the party who instituted the proceedings would be bound to give security for costs. Consequently, hereafter it would be impossible for anyone who was not able to pay or give security for the payment of costs to prosecute a suit in an Ecclesiastical Court. The next matter to which he would call attention was the punishment which might be inflicted under the proceedings of the Judge. The sentence which he was at liberty to pass was an inhibition—not before the matter had been inquired into, or before 1359 there had been some proof of the guilt of the party accused; but on the sentence of the Judge there might be an inhibition against performing service for a period of three months, and until the person sentenced undertook in future to obey the law. Should he for a period of three years refuse to give this undertaking he would be liable to be deprived of his living. What was wanted was not punishment but prevention, and the present Bill proceeded upon that view. He would call the attention of the House to one or two other improvements which it was proposed to give effect to by this Bill. One great improvement was with regard to the course of procedure. Than the present form of procedure nothing could be more cumbrous or expensive, more particularly with regard to letters of request, citations, articles, and interlocutory motions, which tended greatly to cause both delay and expense. Under this Bill the delay and the expense would be materially diminished. A further improvement related to the appointment of a Judge of weight and authority for both provinces, which must be better than having one Judge for one province and another for another, one deciding in one way and another in a different way. The Bill provided, too, that there should be an end of that system under which heretofore a Bishop was made prosecutor in cases relating to the conduct of Public Worship. A Bishop was the father of his diocese, and it was unseemly that he should occupy the position of a public prosecutor. When the Bishop ceased to be the public prosecutor he would be more likely to be consulted by both parties, especially by the clergy as a friend, and with reverence as a father. Having now pointed out the principal differences between the Church Discipline Act and the present Bill, he ought to call attention to the objections which had been urged against the latter. The first objection which had been insisted on, not so much in Parliament as out-of-doors, was that the Bill had been introduced without first receiving the assent of Convocation. This objection was so utterly contrary to the principles laid down by statesmen and constitutional lawyers that he could not admit that it had any force, and he hardly thought that it would be seriously urged in that House. Out-of-doors, 1360 however, this objection had been urged with great pertinacity. After this Bill came down from the House of Lords, Amendments were placed on the Paper by his hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Dillwyn), and by another hon. Member (Mr. Leatham), to the effect that the Bill should be read a second time on that day three months. Of course, the terms of such Amendments did not indicate the particular objections which would be urged by those hon. Gentlemen. At the same time, entertaining as he did the firm conviction that the Bill would materially strengthen the Church of England, he, remembering the principles supported by those hon. Members in former Sessions, could easily imagine that it would not be received by them with any great favour. However, he hoped there were not a few among his Nonconformist friends who, though they might disapprove of the existence of the Established Church, yet being Englishmen first and Nonconformists afterwards, would believe it to be of no inconsiderable importance that the law should be obeyed by its ministers. The first Amendment which gave any reason at all was that of the hon. Member for the City of Oxford (Mr. Hall). It was in the following terms:—That it is inexpedient to proceed further with a measure for amending the administration of the Law in regard to offences against the Rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer while the revision of such Rubrics has, by the advice of Her Majesty's Government, been remitted to the Houses of Convocation of Canterbury and York.He did not know whether the Convocation of York had yet met. He understood the Convocation of the Province of Canterbury had; but how long, he wanted to know, was Parliament to wait? He found that this matter had already been considered by Convocation. In the year 1871 a Committee of Convocation was appointed to consider the very rubrics on which these questions were likely to arise; but not a single alteration was proposed. [Mr. BERESFORD HOPE dissented.] He was alluding to those rubrics in which special interest was excited with reference to the present Bill. In 1872 Convocation had Letters of Business, another Committee was appointed, and again these rubrics were passed over without a single alteration. At the 1361 present time, he understood Convocation was once more considering the rubrics; but whatever alteration might be agreed to, he did not apprehend that it would afford the least objection to the passing of this Bill. Let him remind the House of the provisions of the Bill as to the Bishop's veto. Suppose a rubric were altered by Convocation, and the alteration were likely to receive the confirmation of Parliament, he did not believe any Bishop on the bench would allow proceedings to be taken for enforcing such rubric. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sandwich (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) had moved an Amendment to that of the hon. Member for Oxford, and proposed as a reason for not legislating that "the Law is in an uncertain condition." For his own part, he did not quite understand why the House should have taken so much trouble a year or two ago about the Judicature Act if the fact of the law being in an uncertain condition afforded a sufficient reason for not improving the tribunals of the country. He had learned in a Committee upstairs that learned Judges differed on the law relating to murder, but this was no reason why legislation should be delayed. Another Amendment, of which Notice had been given by the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Makins), was that "no Bill can be deemed satisfactory which deals only with the two inferior orders of the clergy." Well, there were several Bishops who were also incumbents of livings, and if they were guilty of illegality they might be proceeded against, just like the inferior clergy. Another Amendment proposed by the noble Lord (Lord Francis Hervey) was—That it is inexpedient to proceed further with a measure which does not deal in a comprehensive manner with the Law relating to prosecutions of Clerks in Holy Orders for offences against the Laws Ecclesiastical.Experience taught him to be very thankful for small mercies. It was a very difficult thing to pass a large and comprehensive measure through both Houses of Parliament. A great deal would however be done if they devised a satisfactory mode of procedure which was free from the expense and delay of the existing system, and if at the same time they secured the public against having that which was offensive to their feelings going on contrary to the law. The last 1362 Amendment he should refer to was that of his hon. Friend the Member for West Kent (Mr. J. G. Talbot). He was glad this Amendment was the last, because he thought what he had to say upon it would have very material weight on the general question of the expediency of passing the Bill. The Amendment was—That the proposed appointment of a new Judge for the decision of one branch of ecclesiastical offences is inexpedient, and involves unnecessary charge upon funds already devoted by Parliament to the relief of spiritual destitution in populous places.He entertained every possible respect for the feeling that these funds should be applied as largely as possible to the relief of the poorer livings, but recourse had been had, again and again, to the application now proposed. A great part of these funds were provided out of the estates, which had been given up by the Bishops, and surely it was a fair justification of their proposed application that they would enable the Bishops satisfactorily to discharge their duties. Not many years ago, £8,000 was annually provided out of the same funds for paying the salaries of Archdeacons; and still more recently, a portion of the funds was devoted to the maintenance of the library in Lambeth Palace. The amount of the fees received by the different officers of the Ecclesiastical Courts amounted, according to one calculation, to as much as £70,000 a-year, and according to the lowest calculation they were £40,000 a-year. An Act of Parliament provided that no officer appointed after a certain date should have any vested interest in these fees, and it was expected that shortly a much larger amount would fall in than the £3,000 which was required to pay the Judge who was to be appointed under this Bill. Under the provisions of the Judicature Act, the Judge of the Admiralty Court, who also had ecclesiastical jurisdiction as Dean of Arches, was to be removed to a position in the Supreme Court, and therefore the office of Dean of Arches would become vacant when the Act came into operation. It was, therefore, proposed that the Judge to be appointed under the present Bill should undertake the ecclesiastical duties formerly discharged by the Dean of Arches, and that the section relating to the appointment of the Judge should come in force 1363 on the passing of the present Act, so that the vacancy might be filled as soon as it arose. He had avoided, and had purposely avoided, in the course of his observations, making any reference to the parties existing in the Church, or to the effect which the Bill might have upon such parties. Parties had existed in the Church from the time of the Reformation downwards, and, constituted as men's minds were, parties must, within certain limits, continuo to exist. He was not disposed to contract those limits, but, on the contrary, he would gladly widen the basis upon which, as an establishment, the Church rested. He knew no parties in this matter among those who were willing to obey the law. But he could not shut his eyes and his ears to the fact that there were very great and general complaints made of the lawlessness, or the supposed lawlessness, existing in many parishes. The laity were complaining that their Episcopal rulers were doing nothing to correct this state of things, and, on the other hand, the Bishops, almost as one man, asked Parliament to strengthen their hands by passing the present Bill. The question was—Were they to reject that request? The complaints were not made by one party, but by all parties. Some complained of unlawful omissions, and others of unlawful acts of commission. Both offences would be dealt with under the provisions of the present Bill. He could not doubt that when the law was made generally known, and when the power of enforcing it was also known, it would be generally obeyed. If there should arise in the Church a party who were determined to set the law at defiance, they would not, after the present excitement had passed, either win the sympathy or retain the respect of the people of this country. If he had learnt anything in the course of a not short experience, it was that the people of England would not endure that clergymen enjoying emoluments, secured by the laws of their country, should be allowed to disobey those laws. Englishmen would not recognize a law of the Church as opposed to the law of the land. Mutterings of this kind had been heard elsewhere, but they would find no echo in the House of Commons. They would all be agreed upon this, that whatever they might think of immediate or distant 1364 legislation, they would not endure that any party—still less those whose duty it was to teach and instruct others—should be the persons to claim the right, or at any rate to insist upon the practice of disobeying the law under which they lived. All that he had to ask now was that whatever was done should be done at once. Angry speeches had been made and hasty threats uttered; but he believed they would have but little weight when the excitement of the moment had passed away. Some angry feelings might be excited by the immediate passing of this Bill; but there was a large party whoso voice had not been heard, even in the numberless Petitions which had been presented, but who were resting in the full assurance that the powers asked by our Episcopal rulers, and granted by the other House of Parliament, in which the Church of England was as well represented as in any other assembly, would be cheerfully granted by the House of Commons, in order that the disorders complained of might exist no longer, and that while perfect security was given for the prevention of injustice, the majesty of the law should be upheld.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Russell Gurney.)
§ MR. HALL
, in rising to move the Amendment of which he had given Notice, thanked the right hon. and learned Gentleman tire Recorder for the kindly manner in which he had dealt with a very difficult subject. With regard to the Bill itself the longer it had survived the less like its original self it had become. The reason of this was not to be found in any regard for the party in the Church against whom the Bill was first directed, but in the good old-fashioned English feeling that repression to be of avail must be based upon distinct law, and also upon equity, justice, and common sense. This feeling accounted for the abandonment of the clause which would have allowed a man to be judged pendente lite, and which was declared on the highest authority to be of the very essence of the Bill. A very miserable and un-English essence this was. Notwithstanding the changes, some of which were good, some bad, and others indifferent, the measure was not a satisfactory 1365 one to moderate Churchmen. The proposal to substitute one Judge for the judicial office of the Episcopate was one requiring the gravest consideration. The laws of the Church of England were not like the laws of a strict sect, but, from the time of the Reformation, were meant to be a compromise between the old school and the new; and he could not but regard with dismay a proposal which would give to one man the power to stamp his own opinions upon the whole Church of England at a time when decisions given by different Judges had been declared by the Lord Chancellor to he totally irreconcilable. Another objection to the Bill was that it proposed to constitute a tribunal which would decide upon the enforcement of rubrics now existing, at a time when there was a growing demand for the revision of the rubrics themselves. It was said that the Judge would easily see what the law was, and would have no difficulty in defining it; but if this was the case there could be no need for the revision which was asked for. The Lord Chancellor had himself declared that no man, even though he were a lawyer, could reconcile the differences between decisions which had been given. The Judge, no doubt much against his inclination, would have not only to administer, but to make the law, and therefore pending the alteration of the law, the private opinions of one man would have to rule supreme over the consciences of thousands, although it might be that his conclusions might not commend themselves to some of the greatest intellects in England. Was there, then, no remedy? The best and wisest remedy at the present moment might be expressed in the word "non-intervention." There was no doubt that the stream of ecclesiastical law had become somewhat turbid; but they might reasonably hope that by the help of that rubrical revision the waters might clear a little, and then they might fairly expect that the clergy, like everybody else, would obey the law when it was properly settled. The good sense of the majority would assert itself, and those whose duty it was to teach men obedience would scorn to teach disobedience. But supposing, for the sake of argument, that legislation was necessary and that the recommendation for that legislation had sprung, as it ought to have done, but had not done, from the 1366 Church herself, still there were two ways of approaching Parliament on such a subject. One was to say—"Here are our rubrics, as perfect and intelligible as we can make them; we find they are not obeyed; give power to the Church's officers to enforce them." The other way was that now before them—namely, to say—"Here are rubrics professedly imperfect and unintelligible; we are going to have them revised, and we ask for power for her officers to enforce them before and during such revision." Let those laws first be made intelligible, and then they might talk of giving additional power for enforcing them. Some looked on that Bill as if it were a party flag, and as if those who did not march obediently beneath its folds stood committed to some Continental system of ecclesiasticism. But he subscribed to no such doctrine and sympathizing with neither extreme, but as a loyal Churchman, he said let them dispassionately and thoroughly understand what the law was to be for the breach of which they were asked to impose penalties. Narrow prejudices and jaundiced views did not meet with much encouragement in the bracing atmosphere of that House; and he appealed not only to Conservatism, which was near akin to English justice, but also to Liberalism, which he hoped was near akin to liberality. Casting party, ecclesiastical party—the bitterest of all—to the four winds, let them refuse for the present to have anything to do with that panic-begotten measure which threw an unmerited and disgraceful slur on the fair loyalty of the English clergy, who were as free from allegiance to any foreign Power as the staunchest Protestants in these Realms, but who asked that in a matter affecting their liberties, no hasty proceedings might be taken, and that the voice of the Church might be heard. They were often told that legislation was necessary because of the excesses of individuals; but a candid man could not shut his eyes to the fact that the excesses of individuals did not always take one form—they were not always sins of commission. Sins of omission, faults of irreverence—if they would be just—must be placed in the same category. They caused heart burnings and gave just offence; yet they could best be dealt with within the bosom of the Church herself. And all those faults, whether of excess or defect of 1367 ritual, when the rubrics came to be bettor understood, would gradually die away, provided no attempt was made to stereotype them by prosecutions. But if they set that Bill in motion, if they roused the "aggrieved parishioner," of whatever opinions, to action, they would find that in many a peaceful diocese and parish, the red flag of sectarian discord had been hoisted—that the insane love of litigation, so peculiar to some small minds, had been stimulated. And if, as was not impossible, a war of reprisals should then set in, who could doubt that the end was not very far off, that the venerable Established Church would be shattered into a thousand pieces, and that the old reproach would be revived, with apparent truth—"See how these Christians hate one another?" He had no objection to adopt the words of which the right hon. Member for Sandwich (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) had given Notice, and then his Amendment would read thus:—That it is inexpedient to proceed further with a measure for amending the administration of the Law in regard to the offences against the Rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer while that Law is in an uncertain condition.He begged to move that Amendment.
§ MR. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN
said, that he felt rather in the position of standing as godfather to his own child. He bore testimony to the tone and temper with which the Recorder of London had moved the second reading; and in seconding the Amendment, expressed the pain with which he had heard expressions disrespectful to the most rev. Prelates by whom that Bill was introduced used by some opponents of the measure. If he opposed the Bill himself, it was only from an imperative sense of duty, for he was sure that none were more anxious for the welfare of the Church than those most rev. Prelates. He hold with the hon. Gentleman who had spoken last, that the law should be made clear and definite before persons were asked to obey it. But he had suggested a more general Amendment, inasmuch as many who agreed with that view might not found it upon the special reason, that the revision of rubrics had been referred to Convocation. With regard to the revision of the rubrics by Convocation, there were some who thought Convocation was not a proper 1368 body for that purpose—some who would, indeed, relegate the matter to Convocation, but not to a Convocation from which the lay element was excluded, and some who thought that the law ought to be left vague and indefinite, so as to give as much latitude as possible to the Church. He was not unaware of the responsibility he incurred in opposing a measure introduced by high authority in the Church to which he belonged, and sanctioned by substantial majorities in the other House. But he consoled himself with two reflections—first, that the Bill had been so cut, carved, and hacked about that its original authors were hardly responsible for it in its present shape, and it might therefore be opposed without respect to them; and, next, he believed the House would be anxious to be shown that it might, with propriety, postpone, if it could not altogether avoid, a measure relating to ecclesiastical and semi-religious points, for the discussion of which it was scarcely the most fitting arena. It was only common sense and common justice, when a large body of men were called upon to obey the law, to let them know what the law was before facilitating its application. But he objected to the Bill not only on the score of time but on the score of its matter and the manner in which it had been introduced, so long as the Church and State of England were connected. A measure like this, which dealt with the whole course of ecclesiastical procedure, ought to be introduced on the responsibility of the Ministers of the Crown. He did not blame them for not having undertaken it. But how did the Bill come before the House? As the Bill of an independent Member; and the responsible Ministers of the Crown would probably be found, as in the other House of Parliament, speaking and voting, one on one side, and another on another. But there was something still more unfortunate. The Bill had been introduced, however unintentionally, in a manner which led people to believe that it was aimed especially at one particular class of the clergy. It was brought in with a flourish of trumpets, as if the walls of some ritualistic Jericho were to tumble down at once. He was bound to say, however, that when the Bill passed through the Committee of the other House of Parliament, there was an entire change in the language of 1369 its promoters. It was then called "a little Bill, a harmless Bill—it had been misrepresented and misunderstood in the country," and in the language of one of its chief supporters, "it was impossible it could be productive of injury to the Church." In using this language the promoters of the Bill placed themselves in this dilemma. If it were true, as stated in some hundreds of Petitions which had been presented to the House to-night, that it would cause strife throughout the country, it was ill described as "a little, a harmless Bill." But if it were "a little and a harmless Bill," then, in the first place it was a pity to have introduced it as had been done, and without any previous consultation with the clergy; and, in the next place, those could not be blamed who asked for delay that the law might first be clearly defined. A great many said, indeed, that things had come to such a pass that something must be done; but no legislation could be more mischievous than that which proceeded on the general idea that something must be done, without a well-considered resolution what that something should be. And when his learned Friend asked "How long are we to wait?" he would humbly submit to the House that in the history of a Church or of a State, the delay of one year, of 10 years—nay, of 20 years might be a smaller evil than that which would be caused by doing the wrong "something" hastily upon a question like this. Now, what were the evils against which complaint was made? Certain clergymen had introduced innovations and practices which had scandalized a portion, at least, of public opinion; these men could not be reached without tedious and expensive litigation, and it was desired to reach them. Let him call the attention of the House to the fact that there were two classes of these cases; there was one class with which he had no sympathy—namely when the clergyman introduced new practices against the wishes of his congregation. Such indiscretion and unwisdom had caused much of the present mischief. But take the other and more important class in which the changes met the warm approval of congregations. These cases were usually found in towns and "populous places," where you would see an extreme "High" and an extreme "Low" 1370 Church clergyman, each supported by his congregation—without whose support they could not go on. Now, he (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) might not like a florid and elaborate ritual; on the other hand, he might not like bare white-washed walls, prayers omitted or slurred over, and the sermon made the chief object of the service. But if a number of his fellow-Christians preferred the one or the other, he would rather they found it within the pale of the National Church than that they should be driven to seek it outside. But behind the extreme Ritualists against whom this Bill was aimed were a large body of the most active, zealous, and useful churchmen, who felt and knew that the Bill would not stop short of them. When the sword had once been sharpened it would be used, not only to cut off what he might call the fantastic excrescences of Ritualism, but it would be aimed at things which these men held dear as symbols of doctrines, which had been held by a large party within the Church, ever since her severance from Rome. And, let not the House think that the power which was forcing this Bill on from behind would suffer them to stop where they now proposed. From dealing with the symbols of doctrine it was but a short step to dealing with doctrine itself, and this would be the next duty of this Judge, who was to be paid out of funds hitherto devoted to a nobler purpose. For his part, he protested against having either his doctrines or their symbols decided for him by a barrister of 10 years' standing; and if no one else did so, he should move in Committee to alter the machinery of the Bill in this respect, and to defray its expenses in a less objectionable manner. There were many other parts of the Bill which were, in his opinion, open to grave objection, and he would refer in particular to the 9th clause, which would place the Bishop entirely above all law, inasmuch as it would enable him, if he were of opinion that proceedings under it should not be taken, to stop them at once. Nothing could tend, he thought, more than such a proposal to make a Bishop a Pope in his own diocese. There was another point in the clause to which he wished to call attention, although being no lawyer, he was rather fearful of touching on legal points. In cases where the parties had 1371 both agreed to abide by the decision of the Bishops, it was provided that no question of law should be so decided by the Bishop's judgment, that "it may not be again raised by other parties." It seemed to him that under this proviso A. might proceed against a clergyman, agree to abide by the decision of the Bishop, and be beaten; upon which B. might immediately raise the same point, and require the case to be carried beyond the Bishop, whereby the clergyman would be placed in an unfair and disadvantageous position, as he, having once consented to abide by the Bishops' decision, could do nothing more if that decision were against him. In supporting the Amendment, he might add he was acting in the interests of no party. His belief was that if we were to have a national it must be a comprehensive Church. There were three schools of thought which included all phases of English Christianity. On the one side we had the Nonconformist Bodies, which built themselves on the right of private judgment in matters of religion; and on the other the Church of Borne, which relied mainly on authority. The principles on which those two Bodies were founded the Church of England blended together by taking something from both. By the comprehensiveness of its doctrine and the elasticity of its ritual, it secured that moderation in religion which was suited to the English character, and which afforded a great number of persons differing as to details a common ground of unity. The Church of England could not be a narrow Church, and he had road with great pleasure some observations which had been made by the Prime Minister a few days ago, which seemed to deprecate the idea that the existence of parties within the Church was dangerous to her existence. In a National Church there must be parties, and that there were was but a sign of vitality and active life within. The best friends of the Church, therefore, in his opinion, and of religion generally, were they who, recognizing the necessity of comprehensiveness, treated with equal tenderness and respect the opinions of all the parties, and avoided giving a triumph to any one party over another. But if that were the intention, was it likely, he would ask, to be the effect of the Bill? He believed not. Great complaint 1372 was made that under the present state of things litigation was so expensive. But if, owing to the expense, litigation was diminished, were not many scandals also avoided which might, under other circumstances, have come to light? It had been said that the Bill had been misinterpreted, and so had the opposition to it. If he opposed it, it was because instead of enforcing discipline it would, in his opinion, aggravate dissensions, and bring schism into the Church. The union between Church and State was, he contended, an honourable alliance, and if fairly carried must be of advantage to both. It did not mean, however, that the one was to be the slave of the other; and if the Church was to be narrowed and her elasticity restrained, the sooner disestablishment came, the better, for he was an advocate of the Establishment rather in the interest of the State than of the Church. As long as he (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) had a seat in that House he would oppose, from whatever quarter it might come, anything which seemed to him to have a tendency to restrict the comprehensiveness of the Church of England. In conclusion, he had simply to observe that, believing the Bill was fraught with more danger than could be, outweighed by any benefits which could accrue from it, he must oppose the second reading. He acknowledged the weight of authority against him—there were those in favour of this Bill whoso opinions he highly valued—he differed from them with deferential regret, but he saw danger and evil to Church and State from the measure before the House, and for those dangers and evils he, at least, would not be responsible.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "it is inexpedient to proceed further with a measure for amending' the administration of the Law in regard to offences against the Rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer while that Law is in an uncertain condition,"—(Mr. Hall,)
§ —instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
Sir, considering the thorny character of those paths which we are now invited to tread, I think, 1373 after the three speeches we have just hoard, it must he admitted that thus far we have advanced as well as could be expected. I desire to pay the compliment which it seems to me to deserve to the spirit of all those speeches. I heartily desire to imitate that spirit myself, for I feel that if once in ecclesiastical discussions of this kind we allow ourselves to enter into the region of reciprocal censure and suspicion, all benefit from our labours will become totally hopeless. Of the speeches to which we have just listened, the one was delivered by my right hon. Friend near me (Mr. Knatchbull-Huggessen,) the other by the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Russell Gurney,) both old and experienced Members of this House. But I must say a few words in what appears to me to be a merited tribute with regard to the speech of the hon. Gentleman—I am not sure owing to my slackness of attendance during the present Session, whether this is his first appearance; but, at all events, this early effort of the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hall), whose success as a candidate for that City, I must own, I did not ardently desire, but who appears to me to have performed a very difficult duty this evening in a manly, kindly speech, and with marked ability. Perhaps it may seem somewhat strange that I should desire to interpose thus early in the debate, and I can assure the House that I do not do so because of the avidity to take part in ecclesiastical discussions on which the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli) rallied me very good humouredly the other night. If this were a proper occasion I think I could show that, considering the length of time I have sat in this House, and the number of hours it has been my unhappy fate—or the unhappy fate of the House—to have occupied their attention, if a per centage were taken, the per centage of my ecclesiastical speeches would be extremely small. But I have been dragged from what I should wish at the present moment to be retirement by the urgent call of duty to take part in the discussion of a subject which I feel to be of the greatest difficulty and importance. I have, indeed, never, for more than 40 years, approached the discussion of a public question with a greater sense of embarrassment or perplexity. I envy, I must own, in some degree the rosy view 1374 which the right hon. and learned Gentleman who moved the second reading of this Bill finds himself able to take. It appears to me, however, that the difficulties with which we have to deal are far more formidable than he, as yet, seems to have perceived, and I hope he will not think me disrespectful if I state that the special purpose with which I now rise is to endeavour to point out to the House that there was a fallacy in the argument of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and that the scope and operation of this Bill will not be what he has described. In almost everything he said I agree; but then he has omitted from his speech and from his examination of the Bill what is of far more consequence than anything which he has said, and that it is so I shall endeavour in the course of the remarks which I am about to make, to render intelligible to the House. I have never known a more extraordinary case of ignorance on the part of the public and on the part of the partizans on the one side and on the other than appears to prevail in reference to this Bill. I have received—and I suppose many other hon. Members have received—most impassioned appeals to support or oppose the Bill, as the case might be. But all those appeals convey to me the impression that, from whatever quarter they come, they are written for the most part in profound ignorance of what the operation of the Bill would be and of the dangers which its provisions are calculated to cause. Nor is this strange. Most unhappy have been the circumstances through which the scheme has passed which has taken the shape of the present Bill. It was announced in the first place to the public through the columns of a daily journal; and it was from that source that the clergy of the country were informed in what manner their clearest interests were to be dealt with and how they were to be handled by the judicial tribunal of the country. I cannot blame the editor of the newspaper, who availed himself with readiness and even with avidity, of a most interesting piece of intelligence, of which he had exclusive possession. I do not blame the most rev. Primate, because I am convinced that the most rev. Primate was not the man who chose that method of communicating his views to the profession of which he is the ornament and the head. I blame somebody 1375 in the dark, somebody behind the scenes, some clever fellow, who no doubt, thought he was effecting a great stroke by this ingenious plan of communication, but who took the first step in what I think has been a career of chances and changes most unfortunate, most detrimental, almost fatal to the true comprehension of the matter which is now really before us. One plan having been so announced to the public, the Session opened. The most rev. Primate appeared in his place, and he introduced a plan totally different from that which had been described in the columns of The Times. He carried his plan into Committee, and the charitable contributions of lay Peers mainly contributed to make virtually a third Bill, on this difficult and varying subject. Not only so, but one of the Prelates—a great orator—assured the House that he would meet a great difficulty which all felt, by securing a neutral ground within which the action proposed by the Bill should not be allowed; and he suggested with this object that they should concert a catalogue of observances or non-observances with respect to which the usages actually existing should be defended from interference. Well, I believe there never was a proposal on which there was a greater diversity of opinion. Such a suggestion naturally shocked the members of the legal profession. I find that it was exceedingly unacceptable to the different religious parties throughout the country. There are a great many members of those religious parties who can bear with tolerable patience the omissions or commissions of their adversaries so long as these things do not receive a direct consecration from the law, but who would have opposed violently the ingenious plan of the right rev. Prelate. For my part, I think it not impossible, although it might be far from easy, to solve by the means to which I have referred the greater part of the difficulty with which we have to deal. But what happened? The plan was announced as a means of getting rid of the difficulties of the case. The practical application was postponed till the latest moment in order that there might be the minutest care and circumspection with regard to every point, and when the latest moment came the plan entirely disappeared, and the Bill passed without it. At the last moment, therefore, the 1376 character of the Bill was again totally changed by the withdrawal of a plan on the acceptance or rejection of which it depended whether the measure should be substantially one thing or substantially another. It cannot be a matter of surprise that even the most diligent readers of newspapers—and, for my part, I think it is one of the first duties and highest privileges of a man turned out of office to contract greatly his reading of the journals of the country—were unable to keep themselves aware from week to week and from day to day of the effect of these shifting operations under which a measure proposed for the removal of practical evils was assuming continually a new phase. Under the circumstances, the country seems to have fallen back on the safe and unfailing remedy of general assumption. At the commencement of the controversy we were told that Ritualism was a great evil, and that we must have a Bill to put it down, while at the same time there was no definition of what Ritualism was. I have lived a public life for 40 years, and during every one of those years Ritualism has borne a different meaning. What was Ritualism 40 years ago was not Ritualism 20 years after, and what is Ritualism now was not 20 years ago; so that it is a term which requires to be defined. All over the country it was known that there is something objectionable, and somebody said that something should be done to put it down. There is a vague idea that this Bill is that something against which they go to war without having the least notion of what is in the Bill or what will be its legal or practical operation. In my opinion, we are in a position of great difficulty. We have a Bill not, I think, asked for by the Bishops of the Church. It appears to me that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is under a manifest misapprehension on that point. The Bishops of the Church, very generally, undoubtedly gave their affirmation and assent—rightly or wrongly—to the second reading of the Bill. The Bill has undergone fundamental changes since the second reading, and there has been no renewal of that assent by any subsequent vote. But we know that it is a Bill recommended by the two Primates. Although the Bill was manufactured, not by them, but by independent Members of Parliament, the Bill comes 1377 to us at any rate with this recommendation, that it was proposed by two persons, gentlemen of great eminence, ability, and high character, holding the very highest places in the Church—namely, those ancient historic sees of Canterbury and York, which I trust the Church of England may always be able to fill according to their ancient and almost worldwide renown. I have asked myself, therefore, whether this Bill, proceeding from such a quarter, ought not to be accepted—putting small difficulties out of the way, ought we not to sacrifice a good deal and give our assent to it? I am one of those who believe that it is not possible to deal with ecclesiastical legislation under the conditions of the existence of modern Parliaments, except by the assistance of authority brought to bear on the proposals that are made. I have always looked to the concurrence of the Government and the heads of the Church as the essential condition of a satisfactory solution of ecclesiastical problems. It is no merit of mine that the Administrations to which I have belonged have acted upon that principle. It was under the Government of Lord Palmerston that we were first called upon to observe it, and by a strict and close adhesion to that principle we were enabled to settle harmoniously the difficult and delicate question of Clerical Subscription. But in this ease, unfortunately, it has not been found practicable to adhere to it. There is not the amount of weight and authority attaching to the proposal which I could have desired. Still, there is so much that I would have gladly assented to the Bill if I could have shut my eyes to a part of the case to which it seems to me the right hon. and learned Gentleman has shut his eyes. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has treated it all along as a mere question of procedure. It may be that the measure would be of great practical importance in that respect; but we have to consider it as dealing with something very much higher than procedure. I take my stand upon the broad ground that a certain degree of liberty has been permitted in the congregations of the Church of England; that great diversity exists in different parts of the country and in different congregations; that various customs have grown up in accordance with the feelings and usages of the people; and, whether the prac- 1378 tices that have so grown up are or are not in accordance with the law, I say they ought not to be rashly and rudely rooted out. What does the right hon. and learned Gentleman say upon this subject? He has delivered two utterances, both of which were cheered, and both of which were in flat contradiction—I beg his pardon—as I understand the matter, to one another. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said—"I am not willing to contract the limits of existing liberty," and this was greatly cheered. He afterwards went on to say—"All unlawful omissions and unlawful commissions I wish to have put down," and again he was greatly cheered. Well, now we are coming a little nearer to the point. I want to know whether the House is prepared to adopt the principle that in the Service Book of the Church of England all unlawful omissions and commissions shall be deliberately and advisedly put down? I do not scruple to say that they ought not to be put down, and contend for the liberty of the congregations of the Church of England. I am not to be frightened out of that contention by anything that anybody can tell me about Ritualism, which, after all, is but the smallest part of the question with which we have to deal. The variations introduced by Ritualism are variations which in many cases you ought to prevent; but there are variations totally distinct from those, as I will proceed to show you. The right hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to think he was exercising the greatest moderation when he said—"All I ask of you is that whatever you do, you will do it now." This is, indeed, a most moderate demand to make on this 9th of July, and in reference to a Bill the complexity and difficulty of which, if his speech be an index of his mind, the right hon. and learned Gentleman himself has not yet fathomed. I should be very glad if it were possible to make out of this Bill a safe, effectual, and wholesome measure, but that cannot be done without most important changes in it. Now, having said the most startling things that I have to say, I will proceed to their justification. As to the salary which is proposed to be given to the Judge under this Bill, I must own that I agree entirely with the Amendment of which my hon. Friend the Member for West Kent (Mr. J. G. Talbot) 1379 has given Notice. The explanations which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has given on that point are to me wholly unsatisfactory, and if nobody else shall do so, I myself will take the sense of the House upon the question whether funds which should be applied to the wants of the Church should be applied to the payment of the salary—at the rate of £3,000 a-year—of a Judge to determine questions about the manner of performing public worship in the Church of England. My opinion is that any money which the Church of England may have to spare should be applied, not to the payment of the salary of such a Judge, but to the raising of the income of existing livings, and to the establishment of new cures to meet the crying wants of the population. I shall be much surprised if the right hon. and learned Gentleman persuades the House to give its assent to that proposal of the House of Lords. I do not like to pass a Bill which by silence and implication gives protection to an illegality provided the illegality be committed by a Bishop. That is one of the features of the Bill before the House. Besides the incumbent, there is another person entitled to officiate in every parish church in the country—namely, the Bishop of the diocese. By this Bill the Bishop may go into every church, and commit illegalities as he pleases, but he is borne entirely harmless under the provisions of the Bill. I pledge myself to take the opinion of the Committee—if the Bill goes into Committee—upon the question whether a legal charter to break the law is by an Act of 1874 to be given to Bishops. I desire that what I say should not be interpreted as meaning more than what I have said. I have a reasonable respect for Bishops. For the appointment of some of the present Bishops of the Church of England, I am in a degree responsible, and I am not in any way ashamed of the recommendations which I made as to appointments to bishoprics. But if instead of Bishops they were saints or angels, I would not be a party to pass an Act of Parliament to enable them to break the law without the consequences which follow a breach of the law. If hon. Gentlemen will turn to the 8th clause they will find that it states with perfect impartiality the offences which it is the design of this Bill to deal with. That clause 1380 contains a thin edge for the cutting off of the head of a High Churchman, and another edge for the cutting off of the head of a Broad Churchman. I speak with all duo deference to lawyers in the House when I express my opinion that one of the propositions of this Bill is that in some parishes the rubrics of the Church of England shall in all respects, both as to additions and omissions, be invariably, strictly, and absolutely obeyed. That is exactly the thing that ought not to be done. Law is quite exceptional in its nature. The business of law is to prohibit and to punish crime. Directory law is comparatively rare. Directory statute, entering into a countless multitude of minutiæ, and telling 20,000 clergymen what they are to do every day of their lives—how they are to turn, and stand, and speak, and how every congregation is to behave—this is exceptional law; and even if it were a new law, every rational man would say that it is not literal uniformity, but honest and general obedience that is desirable. If that were true of a rubric cut down and considered in order to meet the newest fashion, much more is it necessary for a rubric framed in 1661. I am accustomed to hear discussions in this House in which the framers of the rubrics of 1661 hardly ever get decent treatment. It is the fashion to say how narrow and intolerant and unwise they were. I do not agree in that abuse. They should be estimated according to the times in which they lived. They framed the rubrics as well as they could in 1661, and it is no paradox to say that it would be a most doubtful measure to insist in 1874 upon a new law for the purpose of giving stringency to these rubrics and obtaining their minute observance throughout the country. Then comes the question, What have we been doing in the interval? Has the law been preserved from 1661 to 1874? Is it only within the last 10 or 20 years that the law has been departed from? On the contrary, and as I say essentially from the nature of the case, the law has been departed from in a number of particulars, varying in different parts of the country. Do not let it be supposed, therefore, that the law is effective. My contention is this—that you ought not to go to these congregations, and say to them—"We will insist upon all of you cutting your coat to the 1381 same measure. We will insist upon every one of you doing exactly the same thing, and leaving undone exactly the same thing as every other does." I will go to head-quarters. I imagine myself marching into Belgravia. I go into, I will say, St. Paul's, Knightsbridge. I find myself surrounded by churches of which I believe some are "High" and some are "Low." When Mr. Fuller was the respected minister of the church in Eaton Square, he good-humouredly said against himself that very unjustly they called his the "Slow" Church. I am told St. Paul's is now the centre of one of the most remarkable and powerful religious agencies at work in London. These churches—St. Paul's, St. Peter's (Eaton Square), Belgrave Chapel, and St. Michael's (Chester Square), and so forth, are all carried on with zeal and with perfect satisfaction to their congregations. All of them are attended by enormous and crowded masses of people, and no two of those churches agree exactly in their usages. I want to know why that should not be so? Why is every one of those churches to be made to conform to the others? Nay, not to the others, but possibly to some three distempered members of one of them, or not members at all, for they may not have entered the church, but who, having a notion or crotchet of their own, may move a suit under this Bill. Therefore, I say that, primâ facie, the object of this clause is not wise—It is not wise to say to the whole of the congregations of the country—some 15,000 in number—and many of them very large—"We will not care one rush for all those local usages and traditions around which your holiest feelings have grown up. We have enacted a law and set it forth, and have established a Judge at £3,000 a-year out of the money that might have gone to the curates of small livings, in order that you may all march, like the Guards, in the same uniform, with the same step, and to the same word of command, repressing all genial, intellectual, and spiritual life, and in a manner which, however it may glorify discipline, is fatal to that which is better than discipline, and that is freedom." The 8th clause is said to be qualified by the 9th clause, by which it is absolutely in the power of the Bishop to stop any movement of the three objecting parishioners. I do not underrate the importance 1382 of the clause; I want to call the attention of the House in the closest manner to its legal operation. The Bishop has the power to stop an action. I have no favour towards Belgravia, nor have I any fear with respect to the general discretion of Bishops. It is easy to satirize them and find fault with them, but they are a most laborious and a most conscientious body of men, and I believe that, on the whole, they are in no ordinary degree a discreet and a wise body of men. But we have 27 or 28 Diocesan Bishops and Archbishops in England. The discretion of these Bishops is not collective, but single. Now, I want to know what security we have that every Bishop shall at all times be discreet, and then I want to investigate the consequences which would arise, and to expose those consequences to the view of the House, and to the view of the right hon. and learned Gentleman if at some period or other there should happen to be one Bishop who is not discreet. I have no individual in my eye; but I am making a general assumption. Even in a Cabinet of 16 Members, one Member may prove to be indiscreet, and it is a very fair allowance if I admit that 26 of the Bishops are certain to be discreet, but that there may be a fear as to the 27th. Even if all the 27 Bishops of the present day are discreet, still there will come some fussy Bishop, or some Bishop who loves power, or some Bishop who is fond of meddling or who does not join to discretion the quality of courage and who dare not say "No" when to say "No" would be unpopular. And therefore my anticipation and assumption is that at some time or other there will be an indiscreet Bishop. What will then happen? Not the archdeacon perhaps, possibly not the churchwarden; but, at any rate, three parishioners from some corner or other, connected, perhaps, with some aggrieved class, or having had a quarrel with the clergyman, or who possibly have been rebuked for offences against higher laws than ours, will move in a case of this kind and point out an illegality in the services of the parish church. The indiscreet Bishop says "Yes," and the suit goes on. It is judged by the official principal of the Archbishop of Canterbury, or the Judge who may be appointed under this Bill, and it is not appealed to the Supreme Court of Appeal we are about to establish 1383 in Westminster Hall. If it is not appealed it becomes absolute law for the time being, and if it is appealed it becomes absolute law after the appeal has been decided. Through the little door opened by the indiscretion of the one indiscreet or timid Bishop, there comes in a judgment which overrides the discretion of the 26 wise Bishops and runs absolutely through the whole Kingdom. Is it desirable, is it right, is it tolerable that should be done? I beg hon. Members to suspend their judgment on that question for a few minutes until I have pointed out to them the nature of the points which the three parishioners and the indiscreet Bishop may together send forward to receive a final judgment. Many persons less well-informed than the Members of this House are not aware of the number of illegal things done and legal things omitted to be done in the Churches of the English Establishment without suspicion, without offence, and without notice. I really do not know how to make my selection. Here I have a sample prepared with some care of the cases of illegality. In these cases, what is palpably illegal is done or what is absolutely obligatory is now omitted. I will not visit the House with the whole 18, and at the same time I do not very well know how to make my selection. I am not speaking offhand nor with judicial authority; but there are points which, I think happily for us, have never been brought under judicial notice, and I hope they never will be. But I am speaking after having endeavoured to inform myself by consultations with persons learned in the law as to what would be in some instances the certain, and in others the almost undeniably certain, effect of the law. I hope many persons here present will be in church next Sunday at the afternoon service. What will they say if they find that in all churches, quite irrespective of their wishes, the children are called in and catechized after the second lesson? Yet the catechizing of children in every church and congregation is an absolute requisition of the present law, and it is almost universally neglected. Even in the churches where it is the most carefully observed, it is not observed according to the letter of the present law, for many clergymen think it unwise to overcharge children with extremely long services, and, therefore, 1384 they assemble and catechize them at appropriate services apart from the adult congregation. I say it would be most unreasonable and outrageous, because we do not want to encourage the excesses of Ritualism, that we should pass a law putting it in the power of an indiscreet Bishop or three parishioners to have catechizing enforced in one of the Sunday services according to the rigid rule. Again, numerous congregations of the Church of England have within the last 30 years taken a very valuable lesson from the Nonconformists and Presbyterians. The Hymnal is made an interesting and a valuable portion of the service, although formerly in my own recollection it was a scandal in 99 out of every 100 churches in the country. But it is unfortunately open to the gravest doubt whether, except at the end of the third Collect, the singing; of any hymn whatever is lawful in the Church. It is not mentioned in the rubric, and all omissions are prescribed in the speech and in the Bill of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. Moreover, there is a dictum of the Judicial Committee of Privy Council delivered in the words of a very high authority as follows:—In the performance of the services, rites, and ceremonies ordered by the Prayer Book, the directions contained in it must he strictly observed. No omissions and no additions can be permitted.Shall we have the hymn in the Church of England brought to risk, and can we not contrive a law a little better than one which will sweep away much that is the most edifying and enlightening in the services of the Church? My references to this matter are quite impartial, and I will not hesitate to mention a subject which I trust will never be controversially discussed in this House—I refer to the case of the Athanasian Creed. There is, I believe, a considerable number of churches in which that creed is never read. Yes; but the rubric prescribes the reading of the Athanasian Creed at least 13 times a-year. I am not here to enter upon and define theology; but I may remark that nineteen-twentieths of the objections against the Athanasian Creed arise from ignorance that theology is a science, and that it therefore has a technical language which is liable to be grossly misunderstood by those who have never made it 1385 the subject of study. Well, there are many churches in which the Athanasian Creed is not read, and we are told that old George III. used to shut up his book when it was read in St. George's Chapel at Windsor. In the minds of many pious Christians the Athanasian Creed excites painful feelings. Yet, under the provisions of this Bill, an indiscreet Bishop, at the instance of three parishioners, might cause the reading of it to be made compulsory in every church in the county. This is a case which does not admit of the smallest doubt whatever. There is no ambiguity. The rubric is positive and absolute, and if that case is brought before a Judge, the Judge will doubtless give his decision honestly; for I reject—as the right hon. and learned Gentleman himself would reject—the idea that somebody is to wink at the Judge, and that the Bishops are to wink at each other, and do as they please. I am sure the right hon. and learned Gentleman would be indignant at being laid open to such an imputation. Although this is the law, and although I would resent any voluntary infraction of the law deliberately committed with an evil object in view, I would not take—and I really do not think this House will take—the responsibility of passing words under which an indiscreet Bishop and three parishioners could compel the reading of the Athanasian Creed in any parish. But this is not all. I must now pass to another clause in the Bill, and before doing so I would say that though there is something disagreeable in talking of these things in a public Assembly, the fault does not rest with those who are dragged into the discussion. There is the much-contested question in practice about the necessity for the single and separate delivery of the consecrated elements in the Holy Communion. There are many clergymen who have said, "Our communicants are so numerous that really we are compelled to administer the consecrated elements to a large number at one time," and there are many others to whom that practice gives the utmost offence. They think it is intended to conceal a certain condition of Calvinistic doctrine, and it therefore creates the greatest offence. However, there is the plea of necessity, or at least of convenience and expediency, in support of this practice—for necessity cannot be urged in face of the fact that 1386 there is a multiplicity of services and communions. I may say, further, that the practice is resorted to in cases where even the pleas of expediency and convenience cannot be made. I have, myself, within the past two years, and within 30 miles of London, seen a church with not more than 13 communicants, in which the clergyman did not deliver the consecrated elements singly to the communicants. I object, however, to interfering violently with the law and putting an end oven to that practice all over the country irrespective of the feelings of the people or of local reasons. I can see no good to be got from the laws so ill-considered and ill-adapted to the purpose for which they are intended, and upon which it does not seem to have been worth while to spend that labour of the brain which all laws require in order that they may be good and work well. Therefore, when the right hon. and learned Gentleman admits that there is great anger in the country and hopes it will soon pass away, I say, on the contrary, that I have stated sufficient grounds for affirming that the country is only in the beginning of its troubles in this respect, and that it will be absolutely necessary, if this House is to retain its reputation for wisdom, as the first deliberative Chamber in the world, that it should carefully examine and scrutinize these ecclesiastical provisions which have come down to us is a state so crude, in order to prevent the monstrous mischief which it might otherwise produce in hundreds of congregations in the Church of England which have never been disturbed by a single ware of the agitation of the past 30 years. I think I have, at any rate, said something to prove that I was not speaking loosely when I said the right hon. and learned Gentleman had not opened to us his whole case. This is a matter so important that I have not scrupled to draw largely upon the patience of the House, and I can hardly think the House wants any more of my 18 instances to show the kind of inconvenience likely to arise from the operation of this Bill. But I would mention one, a minor instance, which is not to be compared with those I have already mentioned, but which is, at the same time, instructive. In every Church of England congregation in the land the prayer for the Church 1387 Militant is by the rubrics ordered to be read. I remember that 30 years ago London was convulsed from end to end by an injudicious attempt to enforce the reading of this prayer in the churches made by a man whom I shall never mention without feelings of veneration—I allude to Bishop Blomfield, one of the greatest of modern Bishops, and certainly one of the most practical Bishops of this century. Some of the clergy resisted outright, others gave a halfhearted obedience, and a most painful state of things ensued, followed by an ignominious retreat. This circumstance illustrates the nature of my ease. Bishop Blomfield did this mischief, but it cannot be said that he was an unfavourable specimen of the English or any other Episcopate. On the contrary, he was the man who first, with a vigorous arm, began to raise the Church of England from the degradation of 40 years ago, which some persons seem to have forgotten when they become impatient as to the troubles we now suffer. I wish every man in this House was as old as I am. ["No, no!"] If my young Friends had allowed me to finish the sentence, I should have said that I wish every man in the House was as old as I am for the purpose of knowing what was the condition of the Church of England 40 or 50 years ago. At that time it was the scandal of Christendom. Its congregations were the most cold, dead, and irreverent; its music was offensive to anyone with a respect for the House of God; its clergy, with exceptions somewhat numerous, chiefly, though not exclusively, belonging to what was then called the Evangelical school, and was then prosecuted as such, but not to the extent of being driven out by Act of Parliament—its clergy with that exception were, in numbers I should not like to mention, worldly-minded men, not conforming by their practice to the standard of their high office, seeking to accumulate preferments with a reckless indifference, and careless of the cure of the souls of the people committed to their charge, and, upon the whole, continually declining in moral influence. This is the state of things from which we have escaped; and when I hear complaints as to the state of things in the present day, I cannot forget the good which has been achieved by the astonishing transformation that has come over 1388 the character of the clergymen of the Church of England. That change makes it now almost a moral certainty that whenever you go into a parish you will find the clergyman a man who, to the best of his ability and with little sparing of his health and strength, is spending morning, noon, and night, upon the work of his calling; teaching the young, visiting the sick, preaching the Word, and conforming as far as he can to the model his Master left for him to follow. Is it not well, then, to have a little pause and deliberate carefully before rushing too wildly into a course which may break up a state of things in which so much good has been done? With regard to what are called the cumbrous processes in the Archbishops' and Diocesan Courts, I cannot speak in detail. All I can say is that I am very willing to have a good system of procedure, but let such procedure be directed to good objects. My contention is broad, clear, and plain. I say it is not a good object, with respect to a law more than 200 years old, and in carrying out which there is a variety of practice, to rush in with a high-handed Act of Parliament and cast aside all regard to what has prevailed through many generations in order to substitute an uniform rule of observance in cases where the proper limits were in the first place fairly fixed. For many reasons I shall not trouble the House at much greater length on the present occasion. One of these is that if this Bill proceeds it will be necessary to raise the whole question involved in it much more largely than it has been by the right hon. and learned Gentleman in charge of the measure. I, for one, will make no objection to any expenditure of time which the House is prepared to make in order to discuss the question; I will not be the man to raise the cry of difficulty or inconvenience; but I shall be the man from stage to stage of the Bill, as far as it may be necessary, to point out the real nature of the work we are doing, to endeavour to assist the House in sifting these proposals to the bottom, and in dissipating and dispelling the gross illusions which possess the country and, to a great extent, as it appears to me, possess the mind of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, with regard to the provisions and probable operation of the Bill. I spoke of Bishop Blomfield as the man who did a great mischief to the 1389 Church in the case of the prayer for the Church Militant, and now it is proposed to force the reading of that prayer upon the Church wherever there may be an indiscreet Bishop. But it is not alone in the case of indiscreet Bishops that this may arise. There may be good and wise Bishops, in other respects, who may make this particular error, and by occasionally treading awry may land the Church in extraordinary and unnecessary difficulty. I think I have shown the House that inconvenience must arise from the very first slip of judgment on the part of a Bishop who may allow an improper suit to proceed. Well, then, the House may say fairly—"Do not you think something ought to be done?" and I think the idea that something ought to be done is what weighs upon the minds of most men. I will tell you what I think ought to be done in principle. The House can do nothing without acknowledging how much we owe to the great mass of the clergy of the Church of England for their zeal and devotion. For 18 years I was a servant of a very largo body of them. My place is now most worthily occupied by another; but I have not forgotten, and never can forget, the many sacrifices that they were always ready to make and the real liberality of mind which upon a thousand occasions they have shown. But even that is a thing totally insignificant in comparison with the work which they are doing. You talk of the observance of the law. Why, Sir, every day and night the clergymen of the Church of England, by the spirit he diffuses around him, by the lessons he imparts, lays the nation under a load of obligation to him. The eccentricities of a handful of men, therefore, can never make me forget the illustrious merit of the services done by the mass of the clergy in an age which is beyond all others luxurious, and, I fear, selfish and worldly. These are the men who hold up to us a banner on which is written the motto of Eternal Life, and of the care for things unseen which must remain the chief hope of man through all the vicissitudes of his mortal life. I do not think the House can be asked to refuse to deal with this matter; but I will point out two classes of difficulties with which we have to contend. The first is in reference to the illegality of proceedings in which there appears to 1390 be a design to sap the established religion of the country. I know well the feeling of this House to be one of honest jealousy of all efforts by means of secret and unobserved processes to alter the religion of England. But beyond that there is another evil which you ought to keep in view. I do not hesitate to say that legality in some cases is an evil—that is to say, that in cases, innocent in themselves, where the habits of congregations are fixed, and where there have been omissions under the ancient rubrics, it would be utter folly to tell every clergyman of every parish, without consulting the wishes of his parishioners and the members of his congregation, to make everything exactly square with this ancient law. Why, most of the excitement which has existed in this country during the last 40 years has arisen from the endeavours of clergymen hastily and precipitately to revert to the practices prescribed by the ancient law of the Church. Take the old controversy about the surplice in the pulpit. The surplice is, no doubt, the legal vestment; but it convulsed the city of Exeter, and might even have led to bloodshed. I would not be responsible for reviving what is now in many instances the dead corpse of legality itself as against expediency and long usage. Apart, therefore, from provisions of legality, I should like to sec provisions against all precipitate and sudden change which might be introduced on the sole will of the clergyman against the general feeling of the people. These are, in my opinion, rational subjects of legislation. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman will so reconstruct his Bill as to give it a bearing on those subjects, I shall be very glad; but I have no evidence that he has, by any means, advanced to that point in his examination of the question. These dangers may seem to him to be visionary; they seem to me to be of the most serious nature, and I. may say that, knowing what is the state of misapprehension in the country, I have come to the conclusion that the safest course I can take is to lay on the Table of the House what appears to me to be the two dividing lines for the conduct of our proceedings on this matter. I will not now attempt to enforce them, even if it were in my power and I were so disposed, for the ground is pro-occupied; nor will I say 1391 anything as to what ought to be done at the present moment. But I have on this subject the feeling that we are treading on the edge of a precipice, and that we may, if we do not take care, rush into the midst of serious evils, compared with which everything that we are suffering is really too insignificant to be thought of for a moment. I hope the House will not deem me presumptuous if I have put into the form of Resolutions what I think are the principles by which legislation on this subject ought to be guided; and in case this Bill proceeds, I would give Notice that, on the Motion that the Speaker do leave the Chair for the House to go into Committee on this Bill, I shall distinctly raise the issue on these grounds—grounds which I admit are of considerable breadth, but which I have endeavoured to explain in the remarks which the House has received so kindly. Perhaps I may be allowed to read the Resolutions, which are six in number, to the House. They are these—1. That in proceeding to consider the provisions of the Bill for the Regulation of Public Worship, this House cannot do otherwise than take into view the lapse of more than two centuries since the enactment of the present Rubrics of the Common Prayer Book of the Church of England; the multitude of particulars embraced in the conduct of Divine Service under their provisions; the doubts occasionally attaching to their interpretation, and the number of points they are thought to leave undecided; the diversities of local custom which under these circumstances have long prevailed; and the unreasonableness of proscribing all varieties of opinion and usage among the many thousands of congregations of the Church distributed throughout the land.2. That this House is therefore reluctant to place in the hands of every single Bishop, on the motion of one or of three persons howsoever defined, greatly increased facilities towards procuring an absolute ruling of many points hitherto left open and reasonably allowing of diversity; and thereby towards the establishment of an inflexible rule of uniformity throughout the land, to the prejudice, in matters indifferent, of the liberty now practically existing.3. That the House willingly acknowledges the great and exemplary devotion of the Clergy in general to their sacred calling, but is not on that account the loss disposed to guard against the indiscretion, or thirst for power, or other fault of individuals.4. That the House is therefore willing to lend its best assistance to any measure recommended by adequate authority, with a view to provide more effectual securities against any neglect of or departure from strict law which may give evidence of a design to alter, without the consent of the nation, the spirit or substance of the Established Religion.13925. That, in the opinion of the House, it is also to be desired that the Members of the Church, having a legitimate interest in her services, should receive ample protection against precipitate and arbitrary changes of established custom by the sole will of the clergyman and against the wishes locally prevalent among them; and that such protection does not appear to be afforded by the provisions of the Bill now before the House.For the right hon. and learned Gentle-man will see that it is a part, and a large part, of my objection that a great number of these rash and precipitate changes will have to be made under the provisions of his Bill as they stand, and my contention is that they should not.6. That the House attaches a high value to the concurrence of Her Majesty's Government with the Ecclesiastical authorities in the initiative of legislation affecting the Established Church.I have pointed out what appears to me extremely broad objections to the present form of the provisions of this Bill. I thought it would hardly be fair on my part towards the right hon. and learned Gentleman if I confined myself to objecting merely. I have therefore laid down as well as I could, in a positive form, my own views upon the matter. I intend to place these Resolutions upon the Table of the House; and I most earnestly hope that whatever may happen to this cause, so vital to the welfare of the country, the blessing of the Almighty upon your labours may conduct them to a happy and prosperous issue.
§ MR. FORSYTH
said, he belonged to no party in the Church, neither high, broad, nor low. He was simply a sincere and devoted member of the Church of England, and if he thought this Bill had the slightest tyrannical or persecuting tendency he would be the first to oppose it. The course he was about to take that night would, he was fully aware, give pain and offence to many whose good opinion he had hitherto enjoyed. He was willing to believe that the High Church clergy had acted according to their consciences in introducing the practices they had done; and he had received letters from various quarters threatening him with the loss of his seat if he voted for the Bill. He would only say that these threats would have no effect whatever upon the vote which he should give. If he thought the Bill was in the least degree intolerant—if it created a new ecclesiastical offence—he would give it his most strenuous opposition. But to 1393 his mind it was simply intended to enforce the existing law in a simple, summary, and inexpensive manner. All this Bill proposed to do was to substitute a speedy and a cheap tribunal for the cumbrous, complicated, and costly machinery by which these offences could now only be dealt with. That was his answer to the right hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), who stood forward as the champion of illegality as regarded the Church and did not want to enable them to vindicate the majesty of the law. He could not conceive how a Bill could be drawn in a fairer or more just spirit than the present. It applied alike to offences which might be committed by the clergymen of the High Church and of the Low Church, and he thought that the impartiality of its scope and its views ought to commend it to the cordial support of the House. The great objection hitherto entertained by the parishioners to the practices with which the Bill proposed to deal was, he believed, that they were contrary to law; but when the law was once made clear, any agitation which might arise would be directed to procure its alteration or to have the rubric set aside. He concurred with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich in objecting to the source from which the salary of the Judge was to come, for he did not wish to see one farthing taken from the fund which was devoted to the aid of poor livings. He also objected to so small a number as three parishoners being allowed to set the machinery of the Bill in motion, and on both of these points he had given Notice of Amendments if the Bill went into Committee. The fact, he might add, that the appointment of the Judge was placed in the hands of the Archbishop, and also the provision with regard to the institution of a suit on which the Bishop might exercise a veto, showed something like consideration for the feelings of the clergy. Indeed, he believed the Bill was opposed very much through misapprehension of the speech which had been made by the Primate in the other House of Parliament, and the changes which it underwent in its passage through that Assembly. But he should like to know how many of the clergy who had signed Petitions against it had read it as it now stood. If they had read it, their views with regard to it would, he thought, be very much modified. Whether the measure 1394 would work ill or well would, he was satisfied, depend very much upon the conduct of the leaders of the Church themselves. If they practised the obedience which they were bound to teach their flocks, all agitation would, he was assured, subside, and the Church would be able to address herself, not to matters of mere posture and ceremony but to the task of fulfilling her noble mission, which was the preaching the Gospel to the poor and the endeavour to evangelize the world. He should vote for the second reading of the Bill.
§ MR. W. GORDON
, as the Representative of a large and important metropolitan constituency (Chelsea), said, he concurred with the views expressed by the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone (Mr. Forsyth). He believed the Bill was one which would tend to advance religion and benefit the people, and he should be deterred by no threats from giving it his support. Did he imagine for a moment that it would lead to persecution, he should be the last man in the world to say a word in its defence. He regarded it, however, as being nothing more than a measure for simplifying procedure and diminishing expense. Indeed, there was not, so far as he could see, one single clause in the Bill which did not place the clergy in a better position than that in which they now stood, for, under the Church Discipline Act of 1840, the same machinery as that which it was now proposed to establish might be set at work at the instance of any individual whatsoever, or even by a stranger to the parish; whereas, under the provisions of the Bill under discussion, action could be taken only on the motion of three parishioners—a number which, perhaps, it would be desirable considerably to increase. It was true, as had been observed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, that the measure had undergone great changes in its passage through the other House; but then it had left that House with the sanction of the highest clerical and legal authority, and surely it deserved, under these circumstances, the greatest respect at the hands of the House of Commons. The right hon. Gentleman had described the Bill before the House as a measure calculated to control the liberty of the congregation. In his opinion, it would not; but it would enable the congrega- 1395 tion to control the licence of a small section of the clergy. A strong feeling had grown up in the country that something should be done to check what had occurred in so many parishes where zealous clergymen have thought it their duty to make unwise changes in the conduct of the services of the Church, giving great offence to the congregation and the people of the parishes generally. That was a course which no clergyman should be allowed to pursue without attention being called to his conduct. There seemed to be great jealousy in the House on the subject of the increase of the power of the Bishop; but what the Bill did was to give the Bishop power to prevent unnecessary litigation. For his part, he would be no party to the measure if he believed it would, or could, be used as an instrument of persecution; but, holding that it was simply a measure to facilitate procedure in cases instituted against clergymen who gave grave cause of offence to their parishioners, he heartily supported the second reading of the Bill.
§ MR. HOLT
said: Mr. Speaker, the House is aware that some weeks ago I obtained leave to bring in a Bill, the object of which is somewhat similar to that now under consideration. My Bill has been postponed from time to time, in the expectation that we should be called on to consider the measure now before us; and under the conviction that the House, knowing the origin of the present measure, would very properly be disposed to give it precedence. I am aware that it would be out of Order to discuss the details of my Ecclesiastical Offences Bill at this time; but I may be permitted to say that it is not to be regarded as a rival, but as an alternative scheme. Though I think the mode of procedure which I am prepared to recommend to the House avoids some of the difficulties inseparable from this measure, and some of the objections raised against it, yet when I see the form it has assumed on its arrival in this House, I am prepared to give it my cordial support. I am not wedded to my own Bill; but I am ready to do what lies in my power to aid, in its passage through this House, any Bill which will effect the object I have in view, that is—which will contribute towards the maintenance in unimpaired vigour in this country of those primitive, scriptural, truly Catholic, and therefore Protestant 1396 principles which regulated the Reformation of the English Church. It is a characteristic common to all measures on important subjects, that they are open to objections from some quarter. We have had sundry objections raised to-night against this Bill. I have heard some of them with surprise. The hon. Member for the City of Oxford (Mr. Hall) complained that under this Bill power would be given to one man—the new Judge—to imprint his own private views and opinions upon the Church. Is it possible that the hon. Member has ever read the Bill? Provision is made for an appeal to the Queen in Council, and it is perfectly absurd to say that any such powers will be given to one man. Again, a right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen), says that we ought to consult the clergy in questions affecting themselves; but he must remember that the Bill before us is simply designed to enforce the law which the clergy have promised to obey; and I cannot admit that Parliament is bound to consult any class as to the manner in which obedience shall be enforced. The hon. Member for the City of Oxford has moved an Amendment to the Motion for the second reading of this Bill. Sir, I regard the Amendment of the hon. Member as nothing else than a pretext for delay. The hon. Member says—"Wait; you admit that the rubrics are capable of amendment; revise and amend them before you attempt to enforce them." His argument is plausible. To some it may appear forcible; especially to those who desire to get rid of the Bill. For my part, I call it a specious attempt to draw the attention of the House away from the question before it. The question before us involves the acceptance or the rejection of a proposal to simplify proceedings in ecclesiastical causes. No one can deny that some reform of our present mode of procedure is necessary, and I submit to the hon. Member for Oxford that no revision of the rubrics will render our present course of procedure less cumbrous or expensive. Whatever may be the rubrics of the future, it can be no disadvantage to have an easy means of enforcing obedience. But how long are we to wait? What is the revision for which we are to wait? What are the rubrics which, in the opinion of the hon. Member for Oxford, it would be inconvenient to en- 1397 force? It will generally be admitted that amongst the most important rubrics which are open to revision are the ornaments rubric and the rubric affecting the position of the minister during the consecration of the sacred elements in the administration of the Holy Communion. Yet these are the rubrics which the Ritual Commissioners loft untouched. The Ritual Commissioners sat for three years, but did not agree upon any alteration of these rubrics. Is it likely that Convocation will speedily effect alterations, acceptable to the clergy and approved by the laity? Moreover, Convocation by no means so accurately represents the clergy that its decisions will be accepted without question. It is evident to me that the hon. Member invites us to enter upon a long, difficult, and tedious business; and that the rejection of the Bill for the reasons assigned by the hon. Member practically means an adjournment of the question sine die. But the hon. Member may ask, why not? I reply, Sir, because the reasons in favour of that course are weak, and the reasons against it are strong and forcible. I submit to the House that the passing of this Bill will not prevent a revision of the Prayer Book, if it be necessary. I have not hitherto been in favour of revision. I do not now speak as an opponent of revision, for I am not prepared to say that we can ultimately avoid it. I do say the necessities of the moment require some such measure as this, as a clear indication of the mind of the Legislature, that law and order must be upheld in all the institutions of the country; that the rubrics, where of doubtful meaning, are to be interpreted by the proper Courts, with an appeal to the Queen, as Head of the Church; and that a revision of the Prayer Book is not to be undertaken rashly by individual clergymen, according to their own fancies; but, after due deliberation, and by competent authority. Sir, I desire to follow the example of previous speakers, and to avoid any expressions which can give just cause of offence; but the course adopted by the hon. Member for Oxford compels me to put what I believe to be the issues at stake plainly before the House. I maintain that the position of affairs is one which will not admit of delay without serious consequences. There has been too much delay already. It has already 1398 been clearly shown that the question immediately before the House is whether the mode of procedure in ecclesiastical cases is to be simplified. But, Sir, there is a larger question than this in the background. The question at issue in the country is whether the work of the Reformation is to be undone. Attempts are being made to undermine the existing order of things. Attempts are being made in defiance of all authority—in defiance of rubrics, and canons, and articles, and homilies, and Bishops, and Courts of Law—to restore what is called "the Anglo-Catholic system of the middle ages." I support the Bill, not because it is perfect, but because by an amendment of legal procedure in ecclesiastical causes, it tends to the protection of existing Ritual—a Ritual which was established at the Reformation, revised at the Restoration—which has been voluntarily accepted by the clergy for 200 years, and is deeply rooted in the affections of the people. Now, when I say that attempts are being made to undo the work of the Reformation, I desire it may be clearly understood that I bring no charge against any of the traditionally recognized parties in the Church. I speak of the action of certain individuals who may be sufficiently numerous to be called a party, but of whom I do not wish to speak as a Church party in the ordinary sense, because I believe they have no locus standi in the Reformed Church of England. I protest against their being confounded with the High Church party. If there be individual members of that party who sympathize with these men, there are other members of the party who do not sympathize with them—who repudiate and condemn them. I maintain that it is most mischievous to confound the lawless party with the High Church party; and in behalf of friends of my own, who claim to be High Churchmen, I protest against it. Sir, I cannot speak of men as a party in the Church whose practices have been condemned by the Courts of the Church, condemned by the Bishops, condemned by Convocation, and condemned by the voice of the majority of Churchmen. And now, Sir, I would offer some proof to substantiate the statements I have made. Churchmen may be expected to accept the authority of the Archbishops on this point. About 12 months ago the Archbishops of Canterbury 1399 and York expressed, in reply to an address presented to them, their deliberate opinion to this effect—There can be no doubt that the danger you apprehend of a considerable minority both of clergy and laity amongst us desiring to subvert the principles of the Reformation, is real.This might be confirmed by the opinions of other Members of the Episcopal Bench; but I prefer to give the House some extracts from the current periodical literature, circulated by those gentlemen, and some utterances of the chief offenders. The Union Review says—The work going on in England is an earnest and carefully organized attempt, on the part of a rapidly increasing body of priests and laymen; to bring the Church and country up to the full standard of Catholic faith and practice.Similarly, The Church Times writes—We are contending, as our adversaries know full well, for the extirpation of Protestant opinions and practices, not merely within the Church itself, but throughout all England.Then let the House note the opinions expressed by some of the leaders in the movement. Take an extract from an essay in the Church and the World, by the Rev. E. L. Blenkinsopp—The whole purpose of the great revival has been to eliminate the dreary Protestantism of the Hanoverian period and restore the glory of Catholic worship. Our churches are restored after the mediæval pattern, and our Ritual must accord with the Catholic standard.Further, the Rev. O. Shipley, in the Four Cardinal Virtues, writes—Consider how much has to be done ere we substitute our Conquest over Protestantism, or still more ere we re-Catholicize the Church of England.… We have to make confession the ordinary custom of the masses.… We have to restore the religious life, to say mass daily, and to practise reservation for the sick.And, once more, the Rev. G. Nugee, in his evidence before the Ritual Commission, in reply to a question, said—Our object and desire is to restore the Church of England, in her beauty and in her Ritual, to what she was before the Reformation.These extracts show that the position of affairs is sufficiently alarming to justify immediate action on the part of this House, and I beg the House to bear in mind that delay is just what these men want. Delay and supineness on the part of the friends of the Reformation will afford them an opportunity to prosecute their designs and to strengthen their position. It is this which makes the situation so grave, and the action of Parliament of such importance. The 1400 House will see that the controversy which renders an immediate reform of ecclesiastical procedure a thing of urgent necessity, is not one of those party struggles about the precise meaning of theological terms with which we are unfortunately familiar, nor a local, temporary disturbance arising from some trifling difference of opinion; but a deliberate endeavour—I think I might call it a conspiracy—to destroy the character imprinted on the Church of England at the Reformation. It is in defence of the Reformation that the assistance of Parliament is invoked. On the platform of the Reformation I would take my stand. I do not seek to narrow the area of that platform; but I desire to see full effect given to the principles and practices then established in the Church. It is as the Reformed Church of England that she occupies the place she holds in the affections of the people. It is because the clergy have accepted the standards set up at the Reformation that they enjoy the position they hold in this country. The people of England ask that to secure the continuance of the principles of the Reformation, the standards then set up shall be maintained; that the reformed Ritual shall be preserved; that ambiguous rubrics, when necessary, shall be interpreted by authority; and that when so interpreted, obedience shall be enforced. The people of England look to the rulers of the Church to see this done. In their turn, the Bishops come to Parliament. They now ask for our assistance. They ask not that a new law may be imposed on the clergy, but that means may be provided to enforce obedience to the law as it now stands; to enforce that respect for law which is essential to the existence of order in any community. We are no strangers to the evils of which complaint is made. We have before us a remedy approved by the Bishops and by the House of Lords. Let us put aside with a firm hand frivolous objections and pleas for delay, and apply ourselves to the consideration of the measure, so as to make it as good as possible, conscious that a grave responsibility will rest on this House, if we refuse to read this Bill a second time.
§ MR. HEYGATE
said, that although he had arrived at the conclusion that he ought to support the second reading of the Bill, he had not done so without considerable hesitation and reluctance. 1401 These feelings, however, did not arise from any doubt as to the necessity or advisability of such a measure; but because he could not fail to perceive that there were great anomalies and uncertainty in the present condition of the law. Great misapprehension existed with respect to the probable effects of the measure. It might be supposed from what had been said that the Bill was tyrannical and unjust, and interfered with the doctrines of the Church; but looking carefully at its provisions, he believed that those fears were founded on misapprehension. One cause of the misapprehension which existed had arisen from the fact that its title was the Public Worship Regulation Bill; whereas its real object was not the regulation of public worship, but the better administration of the law with respect to the regulation of public worship. It had been a subject of general complaint that the Bishops had not exercised their authority in putting down Ritualistic extravagances, and they had been told on all hands, that if the law was not strong enough it was their duty to ask for more stringent powers. So far, therefore, from manifesting undue eagerness, the Bishops had no choice in the matter, and were only asking for powers to do that which they were required by public opinion to perform. It was true that some strong representations against this Bill had come up from the provinces, but they were not altogether on one side. In the diocese of Peterborough, with which he was connected, an annual Diocesan Conference was held, which might fairly claim to represent the Church of England in that diocese, seeing that it was composed of about 300 representatives, both lay and clerical, gathered together from every rural deanery in the three counties. When the Bill was first introduced into the other House, the Bishop of Peterborough asked the Conference to give the measure its consideration, and after considerable discussion, though various Amendments were moved, all of which recognized the necessity of some action, an unanimous resolution was eventually passed that the Conference approved the main principles of the Bill. It might be admitted that Convocation only imperfectly represented the clergy and laity, but many of its deliberations had been conducted with 1402 ability, and he should have been glad if this measure had been founded in a greater degree upon the sentiments expressed in Convocation. It was urged with great truth that the House of Commons was unfit for the discussion of questions of a religious character. The last Parliament would, no doubt, have been fatal to the passing of the present or any other Bill on the same subject; but if there had been a Parliament since the first Reform Bill which might be safely trusted to legislate herein it was the present Parliament. It was a golden opportunity for Churchmen to put their house in order, of which they ought to avail themselves, and he trusted that the good feeling of many Nonconformist Members would lead them to refrain from throwing obstacles in the way of Churchmen who were favourable to the Bill. With respect to the clauses, he had some doubts about the power given to three parishioners. Such a power was not safe unless an absolute veto were placed in the hands of the Bishop of the diocese. The only serious objection which the late Prime Minister had discovered to the Bill was that possibly there might be found one indiscreet Bishop who would have to enforce the law. He believed that the common sense and discretion of the Bishops would prevent any injustice to the incumbents. He thought that the parishioners ought to be residents, and he was anxious that one of them should be a Churchwarden. The sanction of the Bishop was the keystone of the Bill, and it was a question of confidence in the Bishops. He was astonished to find how little confidence certain High Churchmen were disposed to place in the Bishops. They objected to their appointment by the Minister of the day; but no Prime Minister could afford to neglect public opinion. For himself, he preferred that the Bishops should be chosen as at present rather than see them elected as in the Irish Church, and he knew that was the opinion of the majority of Irish Churchmen. If this Bill became law he was prepared to place confidence in the Bishops to carry it into effect. They might not be better than other men, but they lived so completely in glass houses and before the world that they were compelled to be fair and impartial. The appointments of Dr. Hampden and Dr. Temple were the 1403 two appointments most found fault with in modern times; but what had been the result with regard to those right rev. gentlemen? He believed they had acted in a fair and impartial manner in regard to all classes of the clergy. One of the serious objections which he entertained to the Bill as it stood, was that the salary of £3,000 a year was to be abstracted from the funds at the disposal of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. No funds were more usefully expended than the new grants for the endowment of churches in populous places in England, and he feared the abstraction of this sum annually would very much interfere with those objects. He hoped, if the Bill was allowed to proceed, some better mode of defraying the expenses of salaries would be provided. His right hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Russell Gurney) had been a little hazy on the subject of fees; but if these fees were to arise from the administration of this Bill he feared what some of its enemies said of it must be true—that it would lead to a considerble amount of litigation. He asked his Friends who opposed the Bill on that side of the House to consider by whom they were mainly supported on the other side. When he saw that the most formidable Notices against the Bill stood in the names of the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Leatham) and the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn), it was to him an extraordinary thing to find hon. Gentlemen who were friends of the Church coquetting with those Liberationists. The hon. Members for Huddersfield and Swansea had often pointed to the scandals and abuses of the Church, and when a Bill was introduced to remedy those evils they should give their assistance for their removal. He had no wish to limit the comprehensiveness of the Church of England. There had been for some time three distinct classes of religionists within her pale, and he wished that state of things might long continue. It would be unwise to restrict and limit the Church to one particular class of opinion, or the conduct of its services to one particular stereotyped system. Much allowance, too, should be made for the late increase of æsthetic taste throughout the country. Even the Dissenters were taking to stained glass windows and other decorations of their ecclesiastical fabrics. But allowing 1404 every latitude, there must be a line drawn somewhere, and he thought a National Church could not be conducted, as the late Prime Minister suggested in his Resolutions, on Congregational principles. They could not have a Pope in every rectory, nor could they allow every Churchman to be a law unto himself. The Church had a wide and noble field before her. The self-denying-labours of the clergy were never more conspicuous than at present, but the Church had much to do; much ground remained still uncovered by her; and if she was to wage that war it was her duty to wage with the great enemies of civilization—intemperance, indifference, unbelief—with vigour and effect, she must at least be enabled to show to her enemies an united front, and, by a wise reform in the administration of her laws, afford the best evidence of her historical continuity by the union of Evangelical truth with Apostolic order.
§ MR. DILLWYN
said, he was rather surprised that the right hon. and learned Gentleman who moved the second reading of this Bill had not dwelt more on the abuses which the measure proposed to remedy. He fully agreed with his right hon. and learned Friend in condemning the abuses which had been referred to; but he thought more might have been said with regard to some of the prevailing practices—practices that seemed to him to be not only subversive of the Protestantism they all professed, but which tended to sap the independence of free thought throughout the country. They had been told in "another place" that these practices amounted to nothing short of mutinous conduct and treason against the Church, and dishonesty as between man and man. Such charges were not made by members of the Liberation Society, but by the highest dignitaries of the Church of England, and nobody doubted but that they were substantially correct. The Archbishops and Bishops had brought forward the Bill with great reluctance, and too tardily; and if they had required more charges to justify them there were plenty at hand, for they had adduced only illustrative and not isolated eases. Any hon. Member could satisfy himself of the truth of the charges by visiting the churches within two miles of that House on Sunday next. He should be glad to see these abuses remedied, but he was 1405 not quite satisfied with the mode in which it was proposed to remedy them by this Bill. He did not think it would remedy the evils complained of, but if it did, it would lay down principles in our legislation which he could never agree to. He thought the Bill was dangerous in itself; and he should support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hall), because it was likely to delay the Bill, and because delay was likely to involve defeat. He repudiated the idea of consulting Convocation on the subject. He entirely demurred to the definition of a parishioner which was given in the definition clause, because he held that a man might not belong to the Established Church and might yet be a parishioner. For instance, a man with a large family of daughters might have been driven away from the church by the introduction of the Confessional, of priestly absolution, and of fantastical mummeries; but his parents might be buried in the church, he might have been married in it, and he might have other associations with it, and he ought not to be excluded from the rights of a parishioner—if the Church was to be regarded as a National Church—simply because he had protested against objectionable practices. There was so much narrow ecclesiasticism in the Bill that it could not be sufficiently amended in Committee. Assume that three parishioners complained of the invocation of the Virgin or of Saints, or of the Confessional, and that they addressed themselves to a Bishop of Ritualistic proclivities, he would probably ignore their representation, the practices would go on, and there would be no remedy. If practices were contrary to ecclesiastical law there ought to be absolute power, independently of the discretion of the Bishops, of putting the law in force. They were excellent masters, but that was a different thing from being judges in their own case. In nine cases out of ten, persons would agree, in order to save expense, to refer a complaint to the Bishop; and he objected to this reference. He also objected to the Bishops appointing the Judge. Why should the Judge be appointed in a different way from other Judges of the land? This was simply going back to the state of things which existed before the Reformation, and substituting an ecclesiastical for a civil tribunal. It almost seemed as 1406 if it were wished that the Judge should be partial, because he was to be a member of the Church of England. That was objectionable, for as the duty of the Judge was to interpret the law, he ought not to be required to hold any particular set of religious opinions. He could not understand upon what principle the Judge which the Bill proposed to appoint should be required to be a member of the Church of England, while such a rule was not enforced with reference to the Lord Chancellor and the other Judges of the land. It seemed to him that the Bill would not do what it was intended to do by the promoters, and even if it did what the promoters desired—namely, if it acted as a weapon for forcing the Ritualistic clergy out of the Church—he did not think there would be any very great ground for congratulation. They were not the class of men who went out with the Free Kirk people of Scotland, neither were they the class of men who dissented from the English Church; but they were men who had been described as treasonable and dishonourable, and who, if the Bill were to pass, would bow-to the storm, conform outwardly to the decision of the Bishops, and remain in the Church. We should then have in the bosom of the Church a set of men who were as traitorous as ever, but better disguised, and therefore all the more dangerous. Although he was a member of the Church of England he did not believe in the union of the State with the Established Church; and he had been asked by his friends to support the Bill in the belief that it would bring about a separation. His belief was that it was a Bill which was more likely to push back the principles which were established at the time of the Reformation than to advance them; and as he believed it was a weapon placed in the hands of those who ought not to wield it, he should support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Oxford.
§ MR. MOWBRAY
said, considering this was a Bill affecting the Church, it brought together some strange companionships, as that he, for instance, should go into the Lobby with the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn), and against his right hon. and learned Friend the Recorder. He thought that the best course to take would be to postpone the Bill, not indefinitely, nor for so long a period as would please the right hon. 1407 Gentleman the Member for Sandwich (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen), but for 12 months. At the present moment the subject was not ripe for legislation. He had approached the consideration of this matter with every respect for the most rev. Prelates. He entertained that respect for them, as much in regard of their high personal character, as of their exalted position. He was aware that a Bill coming from such a source must have great weight and authority; but he thought it ought to come before the House of Commons with the sanction of the Government as well as of the heads of the Church. He did not blame the Government for the course they had adopted in not dealing with the matter this year; indeed, he thought it would have been impossible for them to have pursued any other policy. The Government ought only to interfere in such matters when the Church itself had arrived at a mature and deliberate judgment. He had not a word to say against such a Bill being introduced into the other House by the leaders of the Church; that might be a very proper arrangment. But what he said was, that when it reached this House it ought not to be left in the hands of a private Member. This was a most important subject, as it was one that touched the great organization of Church and State; and in saying that he thought legislation ought to be postponed, he might add that he was not blind or indifferent to the danger which threatened the Church of England. He regretted the lawlessness which prevailed among a limited number of the clergy, and he could not too strongly deprecate it. He admitted, also, that something must be done; but his argument was that the time had not arrived for it, and that the present moment was inopportune. The first reason which had induced him to come to the conclusion that the Bill should not be proceeded with in the present Session, was one which in all probability would be removed within the course of the next six months. It was well known that a large section of the English clergy had been disappointed with the Purchas Judgment, and when the Supreme Court of Appeal created by the legislation of last year came into existence, an appeal against that judgment would take place, when it was hoped the decision would be reversed. Whether the appeal terminated 1408 successfully or not, he considered that it would not be wise to legislate in the direction contemplated by the Bill until the attempt had been made. The next objection he had to proceeding further with the Bill this year was, that Convocation had not been fully consulted on the subject. He knew that in mentioning Convocation in that House he was touching a delicate question; but he thought that when a question of that kind, affecting 20,000 members of the clergy—affecting the temporal and spiritual interest of the men who were the centres of moral, social, and political influence in every parish in the Kingdom—when a case of this kind came before them it would have been politic and constitutional to have ascertained as nearly as possible what their feelings were upon the matter. It was said that Convocation was not really a representation of the clergy or of the laity at all; but it should be borne in mind that the Crown, which represented the laity, summoned Convocation to assemble, and it was the Crown alone which could give Convocation power to pass canons. Convocation, he said, was really the representative of the clergy. ["No, no!"] It might require reform; but until it was reformed Convocation was the only known legal and constitutional representative of the clergy of the Church of England. It was the "Church of England by representation." They might as well say that whilst Gatton and Old Sarum existed, that House was not the Representative of the people. The faults in the constitution of Convocation were not such as should lead them to object to it on this occasion. The very preponderance of the official element, the presence of so many men of mature years and sound judgment, afforded some guarantee for sober deliberation. He was much surprised to hear the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Recorder say that it would have been contrary to constitutional principles for them to have consulted Convocation. When Parliament sanctioned the Book of Common Prayer, they recited that Convocation had been consulted and had agreed to the same; and two years ago, when they passed the Uniformity Amendment Act, they did the same. They were now about to deal with other recommendations of the Ritual Commission, and they ought to have followed 1409 the old precedents which supported the course which he recommended. When this Commission was appointed they were led to suppose that Convocation would be consulted before legislation took place. He felt satisfied that if the Church was in any danger the clergy would rally round it and stand by it, and he complained that they had not been taken more into their councils. Until they were consulted it was impossible to decide if the subject was ripe for legislation. This very week the House had discussed the Church Patronage Bill for Scotland, and it was recommended upon the ground that it had received the sanction of the General Assembly of the Church. Why was not the plan which was good for the Church of Scotland good also for the Church of England? Had they carried with them the opinions of the clergy, legislation would have become perfectly easy. Was this Bill one which really expressed the ripe judgment and mature opinion of the Archbishops and Bishops of the Church? It had undergone considerable changes, and in its present shape it had never been seen by Convocation. They really did not know whose Bill it was, though some people said that it was the Bill of a noble Earl who was by no means friendly to High Church opinions. With regard to the proposition that a Judge should be appointed, at an annual salary of £3,000, the number of ecclesiastical cases tried by the Court of Arches during the past seven years was 26; or, in other words, not four a year. Was it worth while, then, to appoint a Judge at a salary of £3,000 a-year to try about four cases a-year? And let it be assumed that that Judge would have a great deal of work to do, what would be the result of his doing a great deal of work? The result would be a break-up of the Church of England. If these matters should be dealt with at all, they should be dealt with in a comprehensive way; but if this Bill passed there would be three Courts for the trial of ecclesiastical cases—namely, the old Consistorial Courts, the Courts set up under the Church Discipline Act passed in 1840, and the new Court which would be set up by this Bill. That was not the principle on which the House acted last year, when they passed the Supreme Court of Judicature Bill for the Amalgamation of the Courts of Law and Equity. 1410 As to the salary of £3,000, which the Bill proposed should be given to a Judge to try ecclesiastical cases, he quite agreed with what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) had said against the appropriation of funds which had been devoted to the relief of spiritual destitution to the payment of that Judge's salary. He was surprised to hear the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Recorder say that this was a proper application of that fund, and, in support of this opinion, to to assert that at present Bishops' Chancellor's were paid out of it.
§ MR. RUSSELL GURNEY
admitted that he had made a mistake in this, though, of course, he was not aware of it at the time.
§ MR. MOWBRAY
But the whole argument of the right hon. and learned Gentleman followed from this statement, because this was the precedent from which he argued. It was a delusion to suppose that the fees which would be paid in the proposed new Court would amount to the salary proposed to be paid to the new Judge. The average of the fees received annually in the Court of Arches during the last seven years was only £7. It was to be hoped that the measure would be delayed, at all events, till public opinion on the subject was more matured. Instead of producing order and harmony, it would, in his opinion, cause disunion and disruption.
§ MR. STEPHEN CAVE
said, that this was a question on which everyone must take leave to form his own opinion, even at the risk, as his right hon. Friend (Mr. Mowbray) had said, of finding himself in the Lobby in unusual company. He wished, therefore, to explain in a few words his reasons for giving a hearty support to this Bill. He did so not as belonging to any party in the Church. He had no sympathy with either extreme; he had the greatest dislike to the very terms "high" and "low" Church; and while he stood aloof, though for different reasons, from the Movers of each Amendment, he would be glad to enlarge the basis of the National Church to the greatest extent compatible with the preservation of order and defined doctrine. This was a question of degree. But it was because there seemed to him to be no adequate guarantee for the maintenance of either doctrine or order, nothing to save them from being at the 1411 mercy of the careless and negligent, as well as of the most daring innovators, that he was anxious for a measure by means of which the law which governed these matters might be enforced. Much had been said about alteration of rubrics, about disregard of conscientious scruples, and such like; but these arguments were wholly irrelevant, and, after the Lord Chancellor's conclusive exposition of the effect of the Bill, it was marvellous that they should be constantly reproduced, as they were to this hour, in the correspondence with which he had, in common, no doubt, with all other hon. Members been favoured, not to say flooded, on this subject. True it was, that nothing was a greater proof of the subservience and miserable condition of a people than the multiplication of new offences in the Statute Book; but he had never heard of the law-abiding portion of a community feeling agrieved at enactments such as many which had been passed during the present century, for simplifying and and cheapening the administration of the law. And he need hardly say that the present Bill did no more. ["No."] It might be questioned whether it did this effectually, or in the best way; but it certainly did no more. It gave no more power to parishioners to worry the clergymen, nor to the Judge to settle abstruse questions of doctrine than they at present possessed. His own belief was that it would be a great protection to a moderate incumbent against that terror of the clergy—the ignorant, conceited, and litigious parishioner. In the present state of the law, that extremely unattractive individual had the business and amusement of a lifetime before him. He became an eminent man; the head of the anti-parson party as long as he pleased. But when questions which arose between the incumbent and his parishioners, or a portion of them, could be expeditiously and cheaply decided, he believed that both parties would generally—for there would, no doubt, be exceptions—be satisfied, and that peace would be restored to the parish. More than this, he believed that when the inhabitants of a parish were sure of their position—when they knew that variations in ritual could not go with impunity beyond a certain point, inasmuch as the remedy had been made easy, they would be far less likely to start at unimportant innovations, which they now regarded with alarm, as 1412 precursors only of what might give offence, and as indicative of unsound doctrine. In this way a voluntary uniformity might be brought about, and extremes meet. He had heard moderate clergymen of what was called the Low Church say, that they would be glad to introduce changes of which themselves and most of their congregation approved, but that as long as these were considered badges of party, the thin end of the wedge, and a step towards Popery, they were obliged for the sake of peace to content themselves with the barest and most unattractive of services, lest in their endeavour to add to their congregations, they should lose them altogether, and empty their churches. And could any one say that some better security was not needed? Not only was it the fact that no man could tell whether at the next avoidance of a living, or on changing his abode from one parish to another, he might not suddenly pass from a service scarcely to be distinguished from that of the Dissenting chapel, to a service which would lead him to suppose that he was present at the celebration of Mass. But more than this. The patron of a living had no security against a change of practice in the same person; no security that a clergyman appointed on account of the moderation of his views might not modify those views, and adapt his practice to his newly-formed opinions. Hon. Members knew that this was not a mere hypothetical case. When a Member of Parliament altered his opinions on vital questions, it was considered a point of honour that he should place his resignation in the hands of his constituents, and even if he did not think it necessary, the law would give his former supporters an early remedy. When the Scottish ministers left their manses and parishes, the whole country honoured their consistency. But that did not seem the case here. We were threatened, indeed, with wholesale secession if this Bill passed, but there had been very few individual instances of it. And what had been the consequence? Why, that in many country parishes, where the congregations had not the same remedy that they had in Belgravia, which had been instanced by the late Prime Minister, the grievance had become intolerable, causing a feeling of exasperation which had displayed itself in proposals to make appointments to 1413 livings subject to periodical review—to turn, in fact, the freehold into a leasehold, in Bills to enable rival churches to be set up in the same parish, and other expedients, against which the objections were more or less obvious, and which he mentioned merely as indications of the attempts of largo numbers of people to free themselves from a burden which was too heavy for them to bear. It had been said, first make your laws, alter your rubrics, and then contrive the machinery for carrying them out. About alteration of rubrics, and, as had been said, making some of them optional, necessary as that might be, he would not say a word, except that he should be sorry to intrust such a task to a lay legal tribunal, and he did not suppose such a proposal would be entertained for a moment. But there was no question here about alteration. The object of the Bill was to enforce existing law, and he could not imagine any one more fitted than a trained Judge to declare the precise meaning of words as they stood. There might, of course, as had been said, be indiscreet Bishops and indiscreet Judges. He did not see how this difficulty could be got over, as he did not expect infallibility in this world. He had no wish to bring the law to bear upon one party more than another, but there was a difference between omission and commission; and it would be absurd to affect ignorance of the probable effect of the Bill. The people of this country were strongly Protestant, and were traditionally apprehensive—perhaps, too apprehensive—of any tendency towards the party from which they had separated at the Reformation, and, perhaps, too careless how far they went in the opposite direction. It must, indeed, be confessed that if a path lay near the edge of a precipice, although a deviation either way was equally a deviation, yet practically, the consequences were very dissimilar. Being, as he believed they were, on the whole, sincere Protestants, and, on the whole, a law-abiding people, it could not fail to irritate them to hear the open, almost ostentatious way in which some ministers of the Established Church offended their convictions, expressed contempt for Acts of Uniformity, and boasted of infringements of the law. He did not, however, wish to press this argument. He had no desire to import polemical or party considerations into 1414 the discussion of a Bill in itself so wholly impartial. But when it was said that such a measure as this would lead to the disestablishment of the Church, that certainly seemed to him the strangest of all arguments. If lawlessness was the inseparable condition of establishment, then he was afraid the establishment must go, and law be maintained. But he did not suppose that in the history of the world would be found another instance of an establishment being dissolved through being furnished with facilities for the maintenance of law and order. And he might adduce, in conclusion, as another example of the hopeless confusion of thought which seemed to pervade this question, the circumstance that those who supported this Bill should be stigmatized as disloyal Churchmen, because they gave their adherence to a measure brought in by the recognized heads of the Church, and approved by a majority of her Bishops—a measure which, as far as his experience went, notwithstanding what had been said to the contrary, was welcomed by a great proportion of the clergy, and the rejection of which would, he felt sure, cause intense disappointment to an overwhelming majority of the laity throughout the length and breadth of the land.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, he was very happy to hear from the Treasury Bench that this was a subject on which everyone was at liberty to express his individual opinion. They who sat on a Bench which was not a Treasury Bench could not, therefore, be taunted, however good humouredly, with difference of opinion, inasmuch as no Act of Uniformity had been passed applicable to those Benches. It was a consoling thought that on the Bench opposite, as well as upon the Bench behind him, there was no particular rubric to which they were obliged to conform. They had heard the opinions of one right hon. Gentleman representing the University of Oxford (Mr. Mowbray), and he had no doubt before this debate closed they should hear the opinions of the other Representative of that University, who filled so distinguished a place in Her Majesty's Government. That right hon. Gentleman would probably address the House before they finally heard from the First Minister of the Crown his opinion on the Bill, which they all must deplore was not a Bill under the conduct of the Government 1415 of the Queen. He could not help thinking that a Bill of this kind affecting the Church of England, of which Her Majesty was, by the Constitution of the country, the Supreme Head, ought to have been introduced by the responsible Ministers of the Crown. However, if upon this question Gentlemen opposite were divided in opinion, he hoped the same liberty of thought would be permitted to those on that (the Opposition) side, and that if this was not to be regarded as a Government measure, so the opinions which might have been expressed earlier in the evening might not be regarded as representing an Opposition policy. They had all been under the wand of the great enchanter tonight, and had listened with rapt attention as he poured forth the wealth of his incomparable eloquence. But as he listened with that admiration which they all shared to that magnificent oration, he asked himself in the progress of it—how the principles so enunciated could be reconciled with the principles upon which a National Church was founded? The speech of his right hon. Friend was an eloquent and powerful plea against the principle of uniformity. But he could not help recollecting that the Church of England was founded on successive Acts of Uniformity. As he listened to his right hon. Friend when he spoke of the advantages of variety of practice in different parts of the Kingdom, and even in different parts of parishes in this Metropolis—when he told the House that in different parts of Belgravia different practices prevailed—his mind went back to that ancient document the Preface to the Liturgy of the Church of England, which, in the various changes the Liturgy had undergone, appeared in them all. That Preface was drawn up by the great author of the Reformation—he believed it came from the pen of Archbishop Cranmer—and he would ask leave to read a passage from it, a passage known to most, familiar to them from youth, and which seemed to contain in itself a complete and satisfactory answer to the eloquent argument they had heard to-night. It was this:—And whereas heretofore there hath been great diversity in saying and singing in churches within this realm, some following Salisbury use, some Hereford use, and some the use of Bangor, some of York, and some of Lincoln; now, from henceforth all the whole realm shall have but one use.1416 That seemed to him the answer to the argument in favour of what he could only call universal Nonconformity. His right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich invoked the name of Liberty—liberty for the clergy to do what seemed fit in their own eyes. But the answer to that plea, raised in that sacred name which we all reverenced, was given by the greatest of all Nonconformists when he said, "Licence they mean when they cry liberty." He was in favour of freedom and comprehensiveness in the doctrine and the practice of the National Church; but that freedom and that comprehensiveness were to be sought and obtained in the breadth of her formularies and in the tolerance of her Creed, and not in the individual judgment and personal licence of particular priests. A National Church, as he understood it, was a Church founded upon the will of the nation; and the will of the nation was expressed in a definite form, in the form of that law which was established by the consent of the Queen and of the Parliament, for it was to be found no-whore else. Now, as he understood this Bill, it was intended to give a cheaper, a better, and an easier effect to that law which expressed the national will upon which the National Church was founded. As he understood—though he did not follow, perhaps, quite accurately that part of the argument—his right hon. Friend seemed to think that each clergyman, with the consent of his congregation—though he was bound to say a great many did it without—was to be at liberty to pursue whatever practices he pleased. But that was altogether inconsistent with the principle of a National Church. It did not belong to the priest, it did not belong to any member or any number of members of the congregation, to determine what should be either the doctrines or the practices of the Church. If he had followed the arguments and the Resolutions of his right hon. Friend aright they would come to this—that if a majority of the congregation desired the clergyman either to commit or to omit something, however inconsistent with the law, that was not merely a venial but a laudable thing to be done. He ventured to affirm, as a lawyer, as a politician, and as a Churchman, that every man who was a member of the National Church, even though he stood alone in the congregation, had a right to 1417 have the observances of the Church practised according to law. The only objection which he found to this Bill was that a part of it seemed not altogether consistent with its principle—he referred to the discretion given to the Bishop to determine whether the law should be enforced or not. That would give the Bishop a sort of dispensing power, to which there were very grave constitutional objections. He had observed that on many occasions the priest did things, not with the consent, but against the consent of the congregation. That was a power which his position in a National Church gave him, and it was because he had that power that it was neccessary for Parliament, if occasion arose, to interfere by statute. In a Free Church, if the minister went against the wishes of the congregation, they had a very summary remedy—they could cut off the supplies, just as the House of Commons could do if offended with a particular Ministry. But in a National Church that could not be done; the incumbent was in possession of a freehold, and he could defy the congregation. But the only justification for that state of things was that he held under a legal tenure, and under instruments which defined at once his powers and his duties. Therefore, unless Parliament guaranteed to every member of the National Church that his rights should be respected, it would grant to the incumbent a discretion which might be exercised by the minister of a Free Church, but which violated the essential principles upon which a National Church was and could alone be founded. He ventured to repeat what he had already stated, that the Church of England was founded upon the principle of Uniformity, that it rested upon Acts of Uniformity, and that to raise an argument against the principle of Uniformity was to raise an argument fatal to the existence of a National Church. What was the principle laid clown in the Resolutions read to the House to-night? Not the principle of Uniformity, but of optional Nonconformity. But that was not the principle of the Church of England, it was not the principle of a National Church, it was the principle at best of what was called Congregationalism. He was bound to say that his hon. Friend and Colleague (Mr. Hall), with his supporter who spoke from that side of the House, took other ground. They put in what the lawyers 1418 call a dilatory plea. They did not say that the thing ought not to be done, but they said that it ought not to be done now. His hon. Friend and Colleague who had been so deservedly complimented by his right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich had, owing, doubtless, to his inexperience as a Member of that House, been so imprudent as to put down in his Resolution exactly what he meant. He had, however followed the advice of the right hon. Member for Sandwich (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen), and, while at first, he said that they ought to do nothing until Convocation had dealt with the matter, he had at last adopted the more general words, "while the law is in an uncertain condition." He need not add anything to what his right hon. and learned Friend the Recorder had said upon that point. To say that they were not to improve their Judicature until their law was reformed was a most illogical proposition. What was really meant was this, that it was a party in the Church, or rather among the clergy, and not the Queen and Parliament, who were to pronounce upon this matter. He ventured to say that if the Sovereign and Parliament of England had been content to wait for the action of Convocation there never would have boon a Reformation of religion in this country. The Reformation of religion in this country rested upon the great historical fact that the Sovereign and Parliament had refused to wait for the action or to obey the wishes of the Convocation. The Prime Minister the other evening deplored in a humorous manner that ignorance of history, which he hinted, was a characteristic of the present day. It was, he supposed, presuming upon that ignorance of history that he saw it constantly assorted that the clergy were the people who reformed the Church. Those who affirmed or assented to that proposition had read very little of history. The Crown and Parliament very early took the reformation of religion out of the hands of Convocation, and dealt with it upon their own authority. It was quite true that the first Prayer Book of Edward VI. had some kind of assent from Convocation, but when it was necessary to take action in the latter years of Edward VI., Parliament and the Crown altogether disregarded the action of Convocation. What said Thomas 1419 Fuller on this subject in his Church History?—Now, the true reason why the King could not intrust the diffusive body of Convocation with power to meddle in matters of religion was a just jealousy which he had of the ill-intention of the major part thereof, who under the fair rind of Protestant profession hid the rotten core of Romish superstition. It was, therefore, conceived safer for the King to rely on the ability and fidelity of some selected confidants cordial to the cause of religion than to adventure the same to be discussed and decided by a suspicious Convocation.That was the history of the second Prayer Book of Edward VI., which was practically the Liturgy of the Church of England. It was not by the clergy that the Reformation was established in the reign of Elizabeth. The first thing done by Convocation in the first year of the reign of Elizabeth was to remonstrate against the great measures which were the Charter of religious liberty in this country. After asserting the doctrines of transubstantiation and of the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome, they went on to say—That the authority of handling and defining concerning the things belonging to the faith, sacraments, and discipline of ecclesiastics hath ever belonged and ought to belong only to the pastors of the Church whom the Holy Ghost for this purpose hath set in the Church and not to laymen.The first Act of Uniformity was opposed by all the Bishops of England, then 14 in number, and, as Gilson said, was stated to be the Act of the Lords Temporal and Commons, because all the Lords Spiritual voted against it. It was as well that the House of Commons should remember the true history of the Reformation. The Reformation was not established by the clergy, but was forced upon the clergy. The revised Prayer Book of Elizabeth was not the work of the clergy, but was the work of William Cecil—the heir of whoso genius—he wished he could say the inheritors of whose opinions—was still among them—and Nicholas Bacon, and those who in Cecil's house were supplied by him with fuel and drink—there was nothing said about meat—and aided him in the task. They selected not the Popish Liturgy of the early part of Edward VI., but the Protestant Liturgy of the latter part of his reign, which had never received the assent of Convocation. But it was said there was another epoch that of the reign of Charles II.—when Parliament waited upon the will of 1420 Convocation. For his part he declined to go for ecclesiastical precedents to a period which was as much distinguished for the laxity of its public principles as for the corruption of its private manners. It was not in the time of Charles II. that the Reformation was established in England. Then came the time of the Revolution, and the Protestant Settlement of the Crown. Convocation had its advocates in those days, and principal among them the eminent Tory divine, Bishop Atterbury. They were for Church and King, but the Church was the Church of Archbishop Laud, and the King was of the House of Stuart. It was necessary to find a remedy for the state of things that then existed, and, as the Convocation was adverse to the Protestant Settlement of the Crown, the sittings of Convocation were brought to an end. Some years ago it was thought fit, he thought most unwisely, to revive the sittings of Convocation, but he was not aware that either the State or the Church had derived any great advantage from their deliberations. His right hon. and learned Friend the Recorder had mentioned to-night that they had received Letters of Business, but he was not aware that they had transacted any business which was productive of fruitful results. Indeed, The Times stated that the Letters of Business which authorized Convocation to revise the rubrics were received by that body yesterday with great amusement. He did not wonder at it. Everybody admitted that something must be done. The House of Commons could not deny that something must be done because the nation demanded that something should be done. In his opinion, that something would not come from Convocation. If it were to be of any use it must come from the Crown and Parliament of England. What was required by the nation, and what Parliament had to do, was to re-assert the unalterable attachment of the English people to the principles of the English Reformation. It was necessary to show that the National Church of England was in reality what it ought to be—the Church of a Protestant nation. If our law were defective, if our rubrics were obsolete, why, let them be reformed and enforced; but we must not set up the dangerous doctrine of optional conformity, which would allow any 1421 priest to do what he pleased and to set at defiance those principles of the Reformation which for three centuries had been established by the law of England. If, as his hon. Friend and Colleague contended, the law required settling, let it be settled as Cecil and the elder Bacon settled it. Let the Government, which possessed the confidence of the country, have the courage of the situation. Let them not reduce the House of Commons to an impotence almost equal to that of Convocation itself. Let them come forward with a definite proposal and say either that the law was what it ought to be, or, if not, that they would make it what it ought to be. Then, Parliament would give them the power of enforcing it. Men like Cecil and Bacon experienced no difficulty, and why should not the right hon. Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government find a Sir Thomas Smith who with a company of divines, would reform the rubrics, and then come forward with an Act of Uniformity which he could recommend to the acceptance of Parliament? He trusted the House would not be stopped in dealing with such a question by the trivial objections which in many quarters had been urged tonight. If Parliament did not want children to be catechized after the Second Lesson, let the rubric be altered; and in like manner, if it were thought that the reading of the Athanasian Creed ought not to be compulsory, let Parliament say so. The same remark applied to the singing of hymns. These were matters with which the Parliament of England was equal to deal, or else it was very unworthy of the Parliaments from which it was descended. We were in the presence of a great evil, and it was high time to apply to it an adequate remedy. That remedy was the one to which the English people in their difficulties had always had recourse—namely, the enforcement of obedience to the law. When the law was plainly declared, he believed people would cheerfully obey it. Although it might not be agreeable to the sympathies or prejudices of some individuals, the English people were so constituted that they would submit to law properly declared in a spirit very different from that in which they would submit to the law as interpreted at the will of any individual priest. He confessed that the objections taken to this 1422 measure seemed to him to be the most unintelligible in the world. The Bill did not alter the law, but merely made it more available, cheaper, and more effective. Lord Selborne, whose words would carry with them the highest authority, said—How therefore any part of the substance of the Church or the discipline and rights of the clergy can be affected by the proposed legislation is not to me intelligible, unless it is contended that the clergy have a vested interest in the continuance of technical and formal impediments to the execution of the law of the Church.As to the objection respecting the salary of the Judge, he would not enter into so trivial a question at this moment or at this stage of the Bill. They had larger matters to consider. What he maintained was that the law ought to be declared by a secular tribunal, and this proposition was unanimously affirmed by the House of Commons last year when they transferred the jurisdiction of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council to the new Court of Appeal. This was done with the assent, and, he believed, at the suggestion, of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War. Lord Clarendon, in his history of the Rebellion, related how a clergyman told him he would much rather depend on the judgment of the Common Law than on the judgment of the Ecclesiastical Courts, and the experience of three centuries had confirmed the correctness of this view. This Bill was said not to be directed against any party in the Church, but in his opinion it was directed against that party which professed its determination to disregard the law. His right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich had talked of the possibility of the existence of indiscreet Bishops. Well, his right hon. Friend had a large experience in Bishops; he had made a great many of them, and ought to understand them well. The right hon. Gentleman fixed the probable percentage of indiscreet Bishops at one in 26, or about 4 per cent. Allowing that percentage to the body of the clergy who were probably not less indiscreet than the Bishops—forA saint in crape is twice a saint in lawnthere would be a considerable number of indiscreet clergymen. He knew of no remedy for that but forcing them to conform to the law. Before he sat down, 1423 he would appeal to the Government, as this question had been raised, to treat it in a manner conformable to its seriousness. Many questions having been raised in debate might be adjourned and put off, but this was not one of them. This was a question of which it might be emphatically said that either it ought never to have been raised or it ought to be settled. How could we have a debate on a question which touched our whole Constitution in Church and State and get rid of it by adjournments or by including it in the "Massacre of the Innocents?" This Bill was not an "Innocent," and it must not be massacred. The Government had found a day for the discussion of this Bill, and they must see it through to the end. This measure was proposed for the purpose of delivering this nation from a condition of ecclesiastical anarchy, and he believed that it had the approval of the people of this country. The House of Lords had done their duty by this Bill, and he believed that in passing it they had expressed the will of the people. He hoped the House of Commons would not be behind the House of Lords in giving effect to the voice of public opinion. For his part, he supported it because he believed it to be conformable to the spirit of the Constitution of this country alike in Church and in State—because it was founded upon that principle of the supremacy of the law—which was the only guarantee of the liberty of the clergy and of the rights of the people.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
said, the vigorous and eloquent speech they had just heard from his hon. and learned Friend had been directed to many points connected with Church and State, but had been little directed to the Bill before the House. ["Oh!" and cheers.] He was quite aware that there was a feeling in the House with respect to this Bill different from that which he entertained; but he expected the House, having heard those who had spoken in its favour, would listen to those who might speak against it. If, in the course he was about to take, he saw any infringement of the principles of the English Reformation, he should be the last man to defend it; but he hoped he had given guarantees in his political and private life sufficient to prove that his feelings had always been so strongly in favour 1424 of the English Reformation, that what he might say on this occasion would not be supposed to be dictated by any feeling of regard for those excesses which, in the language of the right hon. Gentleman who had spoken that night indicated a determination to destroy the true principles of the Church of England. He should address himself to this question not as setting up one party in the Church against another, but he should look at this Bill as one affecting the whole interests of the Church, and ask whether it treated them in such a manner as to deserve the support of the House of Commons. His hon. and learned Friend who had last spoken had gone back into history. He had no fault to find with that early part of the history of which his hon. and learned Friend had spoken; but when he said the present Prayer Book was established under the reign of a Monarch whom some despised, and of whom none spoke well, he must remind him that the divines consulted on that occasion were second to none who had done their duty to the Church of England. He recollected the names which those men bore at the time, and had ever since borne, and he felt that to throw discredit upon them would be to throw discredit upon the Church of England itself. It was supposed that we were living in times when something had happened which was entirety different from what had happened early in the history of the Church; but the truth was that the same difficulties happened in the time of Bishop Sanderson. Bishop Sanderson relied on his own personal influence rather than on force as a means of removing the difficulties which occurred in his time. His hon. and learned Friend proposed—and he (Mr. G. Hardy) thought it a proposition which the House would not receive with much favour—that the rubrics of the Church of England should be discussed in Parliament—that they should be discussed one by one, that the House should form its opinion on them, that if it was desired to enforce the Athanasian Creed an Act of Parliament should be passed for that purpose, and that the same thing should be done to enforce the Catechism. When the House of Parliament was consulted in the days to which he had referred, none but members of the English Church sat in it. Everything was directed according to the interests of 1425 the Church of England, and neither Ireland nor Scotland were represented in this House. Now, the House was composed of men of all kinds of religions, and included the representatives of countries that had no interest in the Church of England; and he asked whether in its own interests and the interests of the country, it would endure for one moment that such a task should be thrust upon it. His hon. and learned Friend spoke of the Arches Court with great contempt, yet the Judge to be set up by this Bill would become a Judge of that Court; and while the hon. and learned Gentleman told them that they were setting up a secular Court, he was so ignorant of the contents of the Bill that he did not know that the Judge was to be the Judge of an Ecclesiastical Court. His right hon. and learned Friend the Recorder, in his admirable and captivating, but somewhat reserved speech as to the facts relating to this Bill, told them of all the evils connected with the Clergy Discipline Act, but he forgot to tell them that the Bill did not remedy one of those evils. The Act remained in full force, and remained the only remedy for that which was the worst evil in the Church of England. He should not justify some of the excesses that had been committed, or say there were not instances of a Romanizing tendency. Nay, he would go further and say there were some, but very few, who spoke more in favour of any Church associated with the mediæval Church than of their own. He was not there to defend such persons, but to speak in favour of the liberties of the clergy of the Church of England. And while he would protect the laity against excesses on the part of the clergy, in due course of law, he said do not let their shaft be aimed at those who were not guilty of those excesses; do not bring them within the meshes of their net; do not while trying to put down excesses do what he thought was the most fatal effect of this Bill, and drive into the ranks of the extreme Ritualistic party those excellent, moderate, judicious, and most valuable members of their Church who had been put in the front of those men by the course that had been adopted in reference to this Bill. It was said by the hon. and learned Gentleman who had last spoken that the Government ought 1426 to have taken up this Bill. What Bill ought the Government to have taken up? Were they to take up the Bill that was shadowed forth in a leading journal, but which never saw the light; were they to take up that originally introduced, which was given up by its authors, or were they to adopt this Bill that never went through a first or second reading, but which was formed entirely in Committee, and had never undergone the examination to which a Bill dealing with the Church of England ought to be subjected? He could not expect that there would be that absolute uniformity that his hon. and learned Friend had advocated. He read from the preface to the Prayer Book with reference to the Hereford use, and said its effect would be to put down those various uses, but they were now going to set up various diocesan uses. ["No, no!"] Was it a fact or not that the Bishop under this Bill was to be entitled to say what should be prosecuted and what should not? As was mentioned by the right hon. Member for Greenwich, if each could not control his own diocese a decision for one must be enforced in all, and so they would bring about what, in another subject, Robert Hall described as "a dead and sickening uniformity." He admitted that the proposal here was to deal, not with omission, but with commission; but when that weapon was found of use, when wielded against commission, it would soon be applied in sweeping off omission, and thus disastrous results would be produced. They would find throughout the churches in the country different usages, which were never sanctioned or spoken of by the rubrics, but which it would cause the greatest offence to put down. He would say a very few words upon the subject of Convocation. He did not hesitate to say that Convocation was the author of the rubrics contained in the first Book of Common Prayer. No one could look with pride upon the period in our history when Convocation was suppressed, and when it was charged with having done so little since it had been revived; what else might fairly be expected when it had no duties to perform? It was charged with being a mere debating society, when it was precluded from addressing itself to business by not giving it Letters of Business. It was said that Convocation required to be reformed; but 1427 as long as it was not reformed it must be taken to represent the clergy, and, as the clergy were not represented in that House, and as the inferior clergy were not represented in the other, they had a right to be heard somewhere, and their opinions ought to influence, if not to control, the decision of that House. He had never proposed that Convocation should pronounce or make a law; but Convocation might well suggest or advise, and might lay down such opinions as it could agree upon. It was, then, for Parliament to say whether it would reject or adopt its Amendments. The Bill was one for making, for the first time in the history of this country, a Judge to try three single offences. That Judge would be unable to try anything else until he became Dean of the Court of Arches, and then he would have two jurisdictions, one under the Bill, and the other his ordinary jurisdiction under the old slow process, which was said to be so injurious to the Church. At the present moment causes of great importance were pending on the Ritualistic question. The present Bill, as avowed and proclaimed by many of its advocates out-of-doors, and as might be gathered from the cheers of its supporters in that House, was aimed at Ritualistic development. If these causes came on for decision, they must be decided one way or another—for one party or the other. Suppose the decision was in favour of the use of these vestments. Looking at the present feeling of the Archbishops and Bishops, it might be that they would be obliged to apply for one purpose the Bill they had brought in for another. He was told that it was by no means clear which way the decision would be in these Ritualistic matters, and if it were adverse to the promoters of this Bill, Parliament would be putting into the hands of the Archbishops and Bishops a weapon which it would be most painful for them to use, because it would compel them to turn the sword against the Low Church party instead of against the Ritualists. The Bill laid down the law with regard to the fabric of the Church. The clergyman was not the person solely and absolutely responsible for the fabric of the Church; the churchwardens were also responsible for the fabric; and yet by this Bill the clergyman 1428 was alone punishable. Suppose the case of a gentleman who had taken a great interest in Church matters, and who had subscribed large sums for Church purposes in a particular parish. Suppose also that he found the clergyman preaching a denial of the Divinity of our Saviour. He would go to the Bishop, and might be told that it was impossible to prosecute, because the expense under the Discipline Act would be so great. In the next parish was, perhaps, a clergyman who turned to the East when he celebrated the Holy Communion. If a parishioner called upon the Bishop to prosecute in that case there would be no difficulty; it would be easy to prosecute for the posture, and by no means easy to prosecute for the doctrine. Was it not a monstrous proposition that when unsound doctrine was preached they must proceed by the old, slow, and cumbrous Ecclesiastical law, and that there should be a rapid process for prosecutions for gestures? With regard to the eastern posture they would under this Bill fight the battle with the clergyman who celebrated the Communion, but there might be other clergymen present within the rails, and they might all turn to the East, and they could not touch them. Many of the practices which were said to render this Bill necessary were not, he would admit, to his taste; they tended very often to annoyance rather than to edification. But the question was whether the Bill should be directed against one party in the Church and not against another? A simplification of Ecclesiastical law was emphatically required, but why legislate against gestures and leave doctrines untouched? Instead of the selection of offences by this Bill, the simplification of the whole process of ecclesiastical law might have been carried out with the assent of the clergy. The House was told the other day in the debate on the Scotch Church Patronage Bill that Members ought to put themselves in the position of a Presbyterian who was interested in that Church. In the same way they ought to put themselves in the position of a clergyman who was affected by this Bill. Perhaps no hon. Member of that House had received so many communications as himself upon this measure. They were not from persons holding extreme views, but were in the main from those of extremely moderate 1429 opinions, and among these Churchmen he had found great distaste and dissatisfaction with the Bill. It was said that the Bishop in the 9th clause would appear in a "fatherly character." But before he thus came in as a father he must practically have pronounced that some offence had been committed which ought to be proceeded against. Thus the power of the Bishop as an arbitrator would never exist until he had pronounced and sanctioned the prosecution. The Bill appointed a Judge ad hoc for the specific purpose of trying specific offences. A clergyman was to be summoned before a Bishop to answer upon some charge. If the Bishop thought he ought to be prosecuted the case would come before the Judge appointed under the Bill. The Judge would no doubt do his duty; but what would be the feelings of those who were brought before a Judge specially appointed to try three several offences? Of course, if his decision were adverse to them there would be great dissatisfaction. The hon. and learned Gentleman had referred to the Court of Appeal, and said that it was at his instance that clergymen were eliminated from the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. He had tried to make the Court absolutely independent, and that no one should be appointed ad hoc, or for the trial of any special case. On the other hand, this Judge was appointed for a specific purpose, well known to those who appeared before him, and he need not suggest what would be the feelings of those who obtained from him an adverse decision. He quite agreed with the right hon. Member for Greenwich in thinking that if there was to be absolute uniformity, the Bishops and the higher order of the clergy—deans or abbots, by whatever other name they might be called—should also be brought under the Bill. What the clergy complained of was that a Bill brought in by the Bishops and passed by themselves should exempt them and some of the higher order of clergy connected with cathedrals from its operation. In what suits which the Bishops desired to undertake had they been thwarted? What suits had they been prevented from undertaking? Why should these special cases be picked out? It was said there had been decisions in the former Court which had not been obeyed. No doubt, but the highest legal authorities had spoken of these 1430 decisions as not to be relied upon; but if they got decisions firmly laid down on authority that could be trusted they would be obeyed. He would not say there were no exceptions; but he spoke of the general body of the clergy in such cases. Swiftness and cheapness in the administration of the law were admirable things if applied impartially, but disastrous if applied partially; and if they had a Judge for these special offences alone—if they had a Judge most improperly paid, and, at least, he ought to be paid as the other Judges were—he would not be satisfactorily put in motion. The laity, individually and collectively, had their rights in the Church of England, but they should exercise them consistently with the rights of others; and why should the "three parishioners," some of whom might belong to another Church in the parish, unjustly attack that Church to which they did not belong, merely because of some omission or commission in the course of the service? In the heat of men's minds at this moment, for they were very hot—the clergy generally were in a state of great ferment—he must say they had a right to ask for some time to consider this Bill. He spoke, of course, for himself alone, and he had stated how it was impossible for the Government to act on this question, for they had never heard of such a Bill till they saw the statement in The Times—which he presumed was written by those who contemplated such a measure. He would be no party to oppose the efficient exercise of the law as against wilful disobedience of the law, but he did not wish a hurried and vexatious tribunal to be suddenly sot up in this country. He believed it was not for the interest of the Church of England that she should attack those who, not being extreme men, had thrown themselves in front of those extreme men, defending them against what they considered an injustice. They complained that they had not had time really to consider the Bill before the House. He could not help saying, also, that when he considered the circumstances of this debate, and the statement especially of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich—and no one had a better right to bring forward anything connected with the Church of England than he had—when he considered that if this Bill went forward, that right hon. Gentleman in- 1431 tended to bring forward Resolutions, the discussion of which could not be compatible with an early termination of the Session, he thought the best course would be to defer the Bill till men's minds had cooled, and when a measure might be brought forward embracing the whole ecclesiastical law and procedure, by which alone justice would be clone to the best interests of the Church.
§ MR. LEATHAM
Perhaps, Sir, it may excite surprise that anyone who desires to see the separation of Church and State should hesitate to support a measure which, if some of the ablest representatives of High Church and Low Church opinion are to be believed, has a direct and inevitable tendency to precipitate that event. But, Sir, I am not one of those who are anxious to arrive at an end, however desirable in itself, by crooked means; and therefore in discussing this Bill I must begin by eliminating from my regard any consideration of its probable consequences in that direction. Now, what is the scope and object of this Bill? In the words of its promoters, it is to afford a cheap and ready means of repressing that freedom of practice and ritual which is characterized as rebellion and insurrection by those whom it offends. But, Sir, when we are dealing with matters of conscience, I have a wholesome distrust of cheap and speedy processes, and I distrust them utterly when they are based upon no higher or more definite principle than that "something must be done." And do not let it be supposed that those of us who take this view have any lurking sympathy for the practices against which this measure is avowedly designed. On the contrary, so far as I feel myself competent to enter upon such controversies—for life appears to me to be really too short for theology, such as it has become—my judgment and my prejudices are all the other way; but what I have, I hope, a warm sympathy for, is common justice, and it is because this Bill appears to me to be in flagrant violation of this, that I venture to ask the House to reject it. For what, Sir, are the fatal admissions of those who plead for the Bill? A right rev. Prelate is represented to have said in "another place"—I frankly admit there is something anomalous and even, perhaps, dangerous, in cheapening and sharpening the processes of ecclesiastical 1432 procedure, when the law itself is in any respect doubtful, ambiguous, and uncertain. The natural and logical course of proceeding would he in the first place to let people know what the law is which they are expected to observe; and then, if the law were found to be defective, to amend and simplify it, and then to take strenuous measures for its enforcement."—[3 Hansard, ccxix. 26–7.]Precisely; but let me observe that this is not only "the natural and logical course," not only is any other course "anomalous and dangerous," but it is the only course consistent with justice, and it is because I never will believe that this House will be a party to cheap and ready injustice that I appeal to it with some confidence to-night. And what, Sir, is the insurrection and rebellion which this Bill is meant to crush? I find it to be this—that these rebellious clergymen have actually been guilty of saying, when they receive an admonition from their Bishop—"That they will send it to their lawyer; "in other words, that they will take their stand upon their common rights as Englishmen, and avail themselves of that common shelter of the law of England from which I have yet to learn that even such poor creatures as clergymen are excluded. Now, Sir, I think that we ought to be very careful of the rights of all Her Majesty's subjects, but especially of those of persons who are shut out, by virtue of their office, from seats in this House, while their antagonists, the Bishops, possess, as some people are rash enough to think, far too many scats in the other. And if it be true that the law is not only in an uncertain and ambiguous state, but if it be further true that a portion of it is absolutely obsolete and that it would be madness to enforce it, we cannot be too careful how we cheapen and sharpen the means of enforcing it. And that it is obsolete and that it would be madness to enforce it, I am in a position to prove from the lips of the fathers of the Church themselves. The same right rev. Prelate is reported to have, said in "another place"—To enforce the rubrics on everyone equally all round is an impossibility, and the Bishop would be simply mad if he tried to do it."—[Ibid. 30.]And the right rev. Prelate spoke of the instances in which the law was broken, "by the wise connivance of the Bishop." But what says a noble Marquess, who is 1433 at least as high an authority on the subject as any Bishop?—It must he borne in mind, too, that in dealing with the rubrics you are dealing with a code of laws which not only is not, but cannot be observed.And he goes on to say—The fact is, you cannot sharpen your law so as to make the whole of this obsolete code observed, and in trying to do so you will strike High Church, Low Church, and Broad Church alike."—[Ibid. 53.]Now, if this code be obsolete, if it be madness to enforce it, if to enforce it be to strike High Church, Low Church, and Broad Church alike, why, in the name of all which is rational and just, are we asked to enforce it? For that we are asked to enforce it is plain, because a Judge has no option but to enforce the law when it is once set in motion, and it is to the jurisdiction of a Judge that in the vast majority of instances these cases will be remitted. Let the House consider for a moment the alarming state of things which must arise. Here is the law declared to be ambiguous and obsolete; here is the Judge bound to enforce that law to the letter; and here is the clergyman absolutely at the mercy of the law and of the Judge, and of any three parishioners who may be able to raise £100 among them, and who may choose—and what in certain frames of mind will parishioners not choose?—to set this obsolete but crushing code in motion against him. And the Bill which enacts all this is called mild and conciliatory, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman who moved the second reading recommended it to the House on the ground that it was a positive mitigation and relaxation of the statutes already in force. No doubt, it virtually supersedes the Church Discipline Act. But the Church Discipline Act has repealed itself. The expense and delay attendant upon the working of that Act have practically, except in the grossest cases, made it a dead letter. This expense and delay have been the shelter of the clergy ever since that Act was passed from constant molestation, and it is because this Bill sweeps away that shelter that we are asked to extol the benignity of the intentions of those who promote it! Sir, these matters in dispute are not matters of opinion, they are matters of conscience. Who, then, if this Bill should pass, will dare to be a clergy- 1434 man, and who but a rogue would desire to be one? Now, Sir, it was no doubt with the view of mitigating this intolerable state of things that the Bill, as it originally stood, was very differently framed. It gave an immense discretion to the Bishop. The Bishop was to be public prosecutor; he was to be foreman of the grand jury; chairman of quarter sessions; he was to be the jury itself; and he was to be the executioner. No doubt, the most rev. Prelates thought that the Bishop, being clothed from head to foot in a new suit of discretion for each one of the various characters which in rapid succession he was called upon to assume, would have ample opportunity of softening the severity and obviating the oppression which, but for the wide and wise exercise of that discretion must perpetually arise. But, Sir, the discussion had not proceeded far before the discovery must have dawned upon the right rev. Bench, that Bishops, as they are regarded by other people, are very different beings from Bishops as they are regarded by themselves. The Bishops had hold up the rebellious priest as an object of dread, but it soon became apparent that it was the Bishop, not the priest, whom everybody was afraid of; it was the Bishop whom everybody distrusted, and it was the Bishops who must at all hazards be kicked out of their own Bill. If there be one drop of comfort in the cup handed to that section of the Church against whom the Bill is aimed, it is to be found in the spectacle of these right reverend engineers hoisted by their own petard. For, Sir, a noble Earl clapped a Judge upon the Bishop's back, and thus reduced that pious functionary from the position of an infallible autocrat to that of "a machine." But, Sir, when this had happened, it might have been said of the Bill, as Scott said of the Palmer—Poor wretch! the mother that him bare,If she had been in presence there,In his wan face and sunburnt hair,She had not known her child.Yet strange to say, the Archbishop, with more than maternal instinct, still recognizes his offspring, and as he sends it forth from the parental roof positively lavishes his tenderness upon it. But was there no escape from this desperate state of things—an unamended but obsolete code—a Judge bound to enforce that code—cheap and speedy processes, backed by all kinds of sectarian enthu- 1435 siasm among parishioners? Yes, Sir, in the nick of time an invention came from Peterborough, which was to set everything straight. Let us declare a neutral area—a kind of Leicester Square, upon the surface of which anybody may indulge in any antics or erect any nuisances he pleases. Let us take almost everything which this Bill was brought in to suppress, and say—"All these are matters of supreme indifference!" A noble Earl stated that—It was necessary to prevent a clergyman appearing in his great coat, which would be as great an offence against the common sense of the parishioners as putting on no ornaments at all."—[3 Hansard, ccxix. 1125.]I did not hear that it was proposed to include the great coat question in the neutral area; but what was to be included was a practice intended to symbolize the Doctrine of the Peal Presence. Now, I have read of other Bishops and an Archbishop who made a certain area in Smithfield hallowed ground, because there they flung down their lives rather than recognize a doctrine which, whatever else it is, is certainly not Protestant. But our Bishops and Archbishops have improved upon all this. They are willing, so far as gesture and posture go, to neutralize ground consecrated for the Church of England, as no other ground was ever yet consecrated by any rite or incantation of man. But, Sir, the idea of a neutral area was no sooner broached than everybody was ready with a contribution. Even the creeds of the Church were to be thrown into it. We were to escape from litigation by sacrificing everything which it was worth while to litigate about. And, then, Sir, the discovery was made that the Peterborough Panacea, instead of being a universal soother, was a virulent blister, and no one dared to apply it. "The main effect of this Amendment," says an able writer in the leading journal,which will remain, is formally to point out to the contending parties the practices in respect to which they are expected by a Bishop to make war upon one another.Now, Sir, if there is anything which has come out of this discussion damaged and battered, it is episcopal discretion; but the only thing which now remains between this obsolete code and the clergy, is what is left of episcopal discretion under this Bill. The Bishop can refuse 1436 to send forward a case to the Judge. Yes, but he must state his reasons in writing. It can only, therefore, be in the most trivial cases that this discretion can be exercised. But, put the opposite case—suppose the veto a reality—you will have High Church Bishops stopping one class of cases and Low Church Bishops stopping another. Is it possible to conceive of more disastrous confusion? It would be bad enough even if the beatific vision of a noble Earl were realized, and we were to have nothing but Low Church Bishops to the end of time; but what if we have Bishops like those described by Lord Falkland—So absolutely, directly, and cordially Papist, that it is all that £1,500 a-year can do to keep them from confessing it?And now, Sir, what was the last new expedient to get us out of our tremendous difficulty? I do not mean the Bishop of London's Bill. Like the other episcopal handiwork, that was ephemeral. I mean the Letters of Business. After gazing so long and so patiently at the cart, it is a comfort to get a glimpse of the horse, even although it may appear in that relative position which is proverbially absurd. For what proof have we that these Letters will lead to the initiation of reforms? The proposal to declare a neutral area raised a storm. The project of leaving that area to be scrambled for in a place where scrambling appears to be the order of the day, will raise a hurricane. How does Convocation represent the Church? Where are the laity and where are the clergy? You must first reform Convocation, and when reformed, what prospect is there that it will undertake this gigantic task? For that task is no less—and these are the words of a Bishop—than to "remake the compromise made at the Reformation;" remake the "compromise which is written all over the face of the Prayer Book;" and remake the compromise by virtue of which the Church enjoys all her temporalities. Now, Sir, let me ask the House to believe that in anything which I have said to-night with reference to the Church, in anything which I have ever said, I have been actuated by no feeling of hostility to the Church, except as a political institution. I regret as much as any hon. Gentleman opposite can regret, that abject but essential condition of her existence which compels her, before she can move one inch along the 1437 path of reform, before she can touch one of her internal controversies, to take this House into her confidence—a House composed not of adherents of the Church merely, but in a large measure of every possible grade of Dissent. I deplore, as much as any hon. Gentleman opposite can deplore, everything which tends to lessen her legitimate influence as a great Christian and Christianizing community; and I shall vote against this Bill, not only because I regard it as impolitic, irrational, and unjust, but because I can conceive of nothing which will more surely impair and destroy that higher influence of the Church, than this prospect of universal litigation based upon a code which no man living can justify, and yet which no man living can amend.
MR. HUBBARD (London)
denied the statements of the hon. and learned Member (Sir William Harcourt), to the effect that the Crown and Parliament made the Church of England, its doctrines, and its discipline. No clergyman who knew the meaning of his profession, and no Churchman who had road the history of his country, could admit such a statement for a moment. This Bill was suffering for the sins of its birth; but it was something more than a mere machine to expedite and render more easy and economical legal processes in clerical suits. He desired to see the Church strengthened by greater uniformity of action, for while he would allow as much liberty as possible to every man, yet a certain amount of uniformity must be observed to give strength to the ecclesiastical system of the Church. It was, however, impossible that a measure of this importance affecting the Church could be carried without the concurrence of the great body of English clergy who were concerned. He had heard a good deal said about clergymen receiving the pay of the State and yet disobeying the law; but it was due to the clergy to remember that they spent at least twice as much as they received, as the consideration of their official duties. The concurrence of the clergy could not be given heartily and willingly, except the measure had at least the concurrence of Convocation, which by law and by custom was the representative of the Church of England. But this measure was one in which the Government ought to take the lead; and in this Session the position of public affairs rendered it impossible for 1438 them to deal with it this Session. He strongly submitted to the Government, and to the Recorder, that this measure should be withdrawn, in order that at a fitting opportunity it might be brought forward by the Government.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Childers.)
§ MR. DISRAELI
Motions for the adjournment of debates at this period of the Session are very responsible proceedings. I am aware that there is great interest felt on both sides of the House in reference to this measure; but I should not be doing my duty to the House if I held out to them any certain prospect of this debate being resumed. It is necessary that I should place this clearly before the House, so that the House may consider whether it is not possible, by continuing the debate to a late hour, or rather to a very early one, to come to some decision on the matter. I should be glad if this proposal were accepted; but I have sufficient experience to know that the chance of its being accepted is not considerable. But I will say this to the House in the present state of affairs—this is a Bill of very great interest and importance, but it is to be deplored that it should have been sent down to the House of Commons so late in the Session. I will consider the state of Public Business again, and, if possible, more anxiously and more minutely than I have already done; and on Monday I will state to the House the results which I have arrived at and the counsels on the subject which I should recommend them to adopt. If that is agreeable to the House, I will consent at once to an adjournment till Monday, and I shall then be prepared to give my advice.
§ MR. RUSSELL GURNEY
said, he hoped the House would not adjourn the debate, at any rate for the present, but would continue it for some little time, so as to shorten the proceedings on the next occasion.
§ LORD HENRY SCOTT
said, he thought the proposals of the Government most reasonable, but, at the same time, he trusted the fact that this debate excited great interest, and that there were many Gentlemen desirous to speak could not be 1439 forgotten. He trusted that the House would adopt the proposal of the Prime Minister, in order that they might have a chance of expressing their opinions upon this through the medium of an adjournment.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he thought it was clear, from the feeling of the House and the intense interest taken in regard to that Bill, that it was impossible to settle the matter that night. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, though lamenting that fact, concurred in that opinion himself, and promised on Monday to state the course which the Government intended to take with respect to that Bill—information which would certainly be received with very great gratitude by the House. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would feel the importance of giving them an early day for resuming that debate.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, that what had fallen from him had been, he was sure unintentionally, misrepresented by the right hon. Member for Bradford. He had not stated that on Monday he would intimate the course which the Government would take with respect to that Bill, although if it came on again, of course, the Government would not shrink from expressing their opinion on the measure. What he had said was that on Monday he would communicate to the House the course they would recommend as to pursuing that debate, after minutely examining the matter with due regard to the convenience of the House and the progress of Public Business generally.
§ MR. GREENE
said, he was not willing to let that matter pass with an uncertain promise of another day for continuing the discussion. That was not a subject merely of to-day, nor one about which there was only a cuckoo cry, as had been said by the hon. Member for Oxford. He and those who thought with him did not wish to persecute those who differed from them; but as long as they had a National Church they wanted to know what were its opinions and whether they could belong to it or not. He would call for a division unless they had a distinct promise that a day would be set apart for resuming the debate.
§ MR. PELL
concurred in the remarks of the last speaker, and would join with 1440 those who divided on the question of adjournment, in order to facilitate their obtaining a clear vote on the principle of the Bill. It seemed highly improbable that the measure would become law this Session, especially after the Notice given as to his Resolutions by the right hon. Member for Greenwich. But it was important that the country should know whether or not the Members of that House were desirous of doing something with respect to a question which deeply grieved many of the laity.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 114; Noes 275: Majority 161.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Pemberton.)
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, he thought that after the division they had had, they ought to be willing to go on with the discussion. Nobody could reasonably object at this late period of the Session to sit on such an occasion as this till 4 in the morning. Any unwillingness to do so was simply owing to the effeminate habits which came over some people at this season of the year. He hoped they would continue the debate two or three hours longer, if necessary, and take a division. Considering the state of public business, he would on Monday communicate to the House what prospects he could offer them as to how that business might be carried on; but to his mind the discussion of this Bill ought to be proceeded with at once.
§ MR. CHILDERS
supported the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman. He had moved the adjournment, not from any selfish feeling, but at the urgent request of many hon. Members of both sides of the House. The division, however, distinctly conveyed the opinion of the vast majority that the debate should close that evening.
§ MR. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN
said, he thought that as there had been a most important speech delivered that evening by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, who had probably placed the Bill before the eyes of a great many people in an entirely new light and shown how little its real 1441 scope and effect had hitherto been understood; it was desirable the feeling of the country should be ascertained upon that speech before they came to a division. He was surprised to see the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) vote against the adjournment which he had supported in the full belief that it was the wish of the Government to adjourn until Monday in order to decide upon the course to be taken.
§ MR. W. M. TORRENS
was somewhat surprised at the suggestion of the last speaker. Asking the House to adjourn in order that the speech of one of its Members might be considered by the country, seemed trifling with their own responsibility. As the matter stood at present there was no escape from the House deciding "aye" or "no" on the principle of the Bill, and he thought that the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister would best consult the dignity of the House, by appointing an early opportunity, if it could not be done that night, for ascertaining the opinion of hon. Members on the Bill.
§ LORD HENRY SCOTT
said, he thought the Government had not acted fairly towards those hon. Members who wished to speak. He should support the proposal for adjournment.
§ MR. PEMBERTON
said, he did not feel justified in pressing his Motion for the adjournment of the House.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 61; Noes 304: Majority 243.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ COLONEL MAKINS
moved the adjournment of the debate. It was a most important question, and one affecting the interests of great numbers of people in the country, and it would not be doing them justice to go on with it at that late hour.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned." (Colonel Makins.)
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that the hon. Members who were thus delaying the Business did not understand the feeling of the House or the country. The real question was whether or not the Bill was to be smothered. In insisting upon deciding this question the House was in reality affirming its com- 1442 petency in dealing with the subject-matter contained in the Bill.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
denied that the question was one of smothering the Bill. The Government had given up a night to the discussion of this subject, and the question really was, whether, that being so, they would so arrange the conduct of Public Business as to afford an opportunity of bringing the debate to a legitimate termination?
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
put it to the House whether on a question of such importance the debate should not be adjourned. They had had two nights, and with justice, to debate Home Rule; and the Scotch Patronage Bill, after a night's debate, was adjourned to Monday next; and yet on a question so deeply affecting the Church of England they were to have but one night.
MR. OSBORNE MORGAN
suggested that this Bill should take the place of the Land Transfer and Titles Bill, which could not possibly pass this Session.
§ MR. HORSMAN
felt sure that the House would be content with an assurance that an opportunity would be afforded for arriving at a decision on the main question. If the right hon. Gentleman would give that assurance the House would no doubt assent to the Motion for adjournment.
§ MR. J. G. TALBOT
said, he thought he was entitled to be heard on a subject which so vitally interested him.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, one solution of the difficulty had occurred to him, and every solution should be indulgently accepted at this period of the Session. He thought they could resume the debate on Wednesday.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
pointed out that Wednesday would be a most undesirable day to proceed with the discussion, as a fluent orator like the hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Beresford Hope) might talk until 6 o'clock, and thus prevent the House from coming to a decision.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 112; Noes 188: Majority 76.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
said: Sir, I rise on a point of Order. The 1443 late division was challenged by the hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. Dodds), who cried "aye" when the Question was put, but subsequently voted with the noes.
§ MR. MONK
also rose on a point of Order, and complained that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the London University (Mr. Lowe) had been in the House just before the division, and had been talking to the Speaker while the division was going on, but had not recorded his vote. He (Mr. Monk) had mentioned the circumstance to both the Tellers, and he wished to know whether it was a proper course for any Member to adopt.
The reply of Mr. SPEAKER was inaudible in the gallery.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, that the points of Order had been disposed of, and the hon. Member was consequently in possession of the House.
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
Let me begin by assuring the hon. and learned Member for the City of Oxford (Sir William Harcourt) that, throughout my speech, I shall certainly avoid following his example by entering into the early history of the reformed Church of England. I would merely point out to him that his argument was based on a fallacy when he quoted the Preface to the Prayer Book, referring to the various uses of the unreformed Church. What were those uses? Different forms of words. But the question now is, not of different forms of words, but the different methods of employing that one form of words in the performance of Divine Service which our Prayer Book contains. I can well understand that he could not quite take in nor sympathize with the view of the work of the Church of England as it was eloquently described by the right hon. Member for Greenwich. The late Prime Minister had somehow the weakness to consider that the Church of England was a spiritual body, and to look upon its liturgies and forms of worship as something that had 1444 to do with the soul's health of the worshippers. Any such mean consideration would not, of course, content the hon. Member for the City of Oxford. What were rubrics to him but means providentially placed in lawyers' hands of spiritual prosecution? Accordingly, he rises with a merciless appeal to absolute uniformity; and, speaking from his high Liberal standpoint, from his pedestal of constitutional lawyer, he preaches peace to the Church by advocating a system of rude, unmitigated, and impartial persecution, and by insisting upon the demand of the evenly weighed pound of flesh from the breast of every vicar and curate in the land. I congratulate him on so very liberal a view, though I cannot say that his "Liberalism" is that which, as we heard earlier in the evening, was somewhat akin to "liberality." But the hon. and learned Member has made his speech, and, having done so, he cannot believe that the position he took up is one that ever will be practically adopted in England. He does not really believe that it will ever give peace to the Church. He calls on this House, and this House alone, to alter the rubrics, and to manipulate the services. The right hon. Member for Greenwich says a clergyman may be prosecuted for not catechizing the children after the Second Lesson; but the hon. and learned Member says this House has only to sweep away the Second Lesson, and then the Catechism will go with it. But really this is trifling with the question. The Church of England is a spiritual body. Its concerns are those most interesting to the human soul. If we deal with them in this House either in the way proposed by the present Bill, or in the way I would venture to recommend—a broader, larger, more tolerant, more complete way of dealing with the whole question—we cannot deal with it in total disregard of all human and personal feeling, in total disregard of the comfort—I was going to say of the very condition of existence—of the some 15,000 or 20,000 men, of whom if there is one thing that every one is agreed about, it is that they are men of exemplary self-sacrifice, who subordinate as a class the comforts and interests of life to their sacred calling, to the demands of charity, and to all that work which is very often repulsive in its outward aspect to men of refinement, dangerous to health, and 1445 destructive of self-contentment—they are men, I say, whose work in life is to devote themselves to the welfare of the bodies as well as of the souls of those committed to their charge, irrespective of self. This is the corpus vile on whom you propose to try the experiment of your Bill. But all of us, I am sure, have had shoals of letters pouring in on us, and what is the upshot of those letters? That the men who feel the iron entering into their souls, who feel that this Bill is a cruel Bill, are not that small number of ultra-Ritualists against whom this measure is aimed, but the broad mass of moderate-thinking Churchmen—men devoted to the Reformation, men imbued with the principles of the Reformation, men ready and earnestly prepared to give up their life for the reformed Church of England, whether against the excesses of Popery on the one side or of infidelity on the other. These are the men for whom I plead, and, for my own part, I may claim that there is no one in this House who tries more to conform himself to the doctrines and to the principles of the Reformation, as embodied in the Church of England, than I do myself. It is on the principles of the Reformation that I stand, and call on this House not to narrow that broad toleration, that broad acceptance of various schools of thought of all parties in the Church, which has hitherto been the boast and the strength of the Church of England. As to this Bill, my right hon. and learned Friend the Recorder (Mr. Russell Gurney) said there was no party object in it; that it was a Bill intended impartially to enforce discipline and to reform procedure. I am sure that in his mind it was so, or he would not have said it. My hon. and learned Friend the Judge Advocate General (Mr. S. Cave) said the same, and I am sure that, in his mind also, the same feeling was predominant. But what am I to think when the hon. Member for North East Lancashire (Mr. Holt), the author of the competing Bill, from one end to the other of his speech advocated this Bill as a short and sharp weapon against the Ritualistic party? And the hon. Member for the City of Oxford did the same. Accordingly, this Bill stands self-convicted from the mouth of its advocates in this House of having come before us with an ambiguous and double aspect—a perfect Janus of a Bill, 1446 one face mild, beneficent, fair; the other, scowling at one proscribed section of men in the Church. It is impossible to reconcile these two views of the Bill—the view given by the Recorder, and the view given by the hon. Member for North East Lancashire. I do not ask which of these is right. It is enough for me to know that the Bill can be represented in two such discrepant aspects, to show that it is not the well-reasoned measure that ought to be produced before Parliament in regard to interests so delicate and so important as those of the whole Church of England, its clergy and laity. On the word "laity" I must say something. It is a stock argument with those who wish to have a short and sharp method with that party in the Church with which they do not themselves agree, to represent it as a clerical conspiracy against the feelings and tastes of the laity. That position I most emphatically deny. There are three schools of worship in the Church of England—the High, the Low, and the Broad. Their respective systems of worship I grant are far from agreeable to each other. On that point I go with the hon. Member for North East Lancashire. But the point on which I join issue with him is, that any particular school is a school of clergy, and another school is a school of laity. The fact is, that each one of these parties is backed up and sustained by an extensive body of laymen behind. The High Church party may or may not be greater or less in numbers than the other two parties. I believe the moderate High Church party is a very large one, if not the largest of the parties in the Church. The extreme High Church party is comparatively small; but that is a statistical consideration. I do not belong to that section. I am myself an old-fashioned High Churchman. But, looking at the extreme wing of the High Church party, I agree that it is not very large. Still, I contend that it is a party which has its lay, just as much as it has its clerical votaries. I can say more. I believe the lay so-called Ritualists are very often the active, energetic persons, and so far from the so-called Ritualistic clergyman being, generally speaking, a man who suddenly flaunts before his congregation a system of worship which is repulsive to them, he is frequently led, or rather driven on, by the enthusiastic flock behind him. Those persons 1447 may be very unwise. There may be breach of law; but the breach of law is on the part of the congregation exciting their minister, as much as on the part of the minister in the action which he takes before his flock. Of course, if you take up the position of the hon. and learned Member for the City of Oxford, and go in for uniformity, for the absolute sake of uniformity, you must disregard such considerations; but if you accept the Church of England as a broad fact, you must follow the congregational system as the only method of sustaining Christianity according to the forms of the Church of England in the great towns of the land. If you accept the congregational system in our great towns, then the question is not how you shall put down this or any other party utterly, but what are the tolerable final limits of that authoritative interpretation of the rubrics which shall allow its respective amount of fair play to the extreme Low Church, to the extreme Broad Church, and also to the extreme High Church? There is a point at which each one of these extreme parties has crossed the line of allowance. It is a question of degree. I contend, as much as any man, that law is law, and must be respected; but the interpretation of the law is another matter. The question is, at which point of the extreme tension of the rubrics on the part of these three parties is the law transgressed? If this Bill seemed to be a fair solution of existing difficulties, I should not oppose it; but the very fact that a Bill like the present one does meet with the strongest opposition, not on the part of those whom it is supposed to hit, and whom it is intended to hit, but from the great body of the moderate men behind, is a proof that the House ought at least to pause. And why do I ask it to pause? Is it in order to smother or stifle the reform of ecclesiastical procedure? Precisely the contrary. The evil of this Bill is that it is one-sided and incomplete. It deals with one fragmentary class of offences, and leaves the broader offences against morality, and of neglect of duty altogether unpunished. Are you surprised at clergymen feeling that a cruel wrong may be done to them, when what every man must hold to be higher moral offences are left untouched, and the comparatively trifling offence of perhaps rather sharp dealing with antiquated 1448 rubrics is visited in so summary a manner? But then you say—"Popular feeling has risen to that point that you must do something, and do that something quickly." Do something, then; but, in Heaven's name, let it be sensible and fitting. We are in view of the end of the Session, and I think every man in this House, whether he supports the Bill or not, when he heard the Resolutions of the right hon. Member for Greenwich read, felt that any possibility of passing this Bill into law had departed from this Session. Why, then, give one party or the other this barren victory of a formal division? On this side of the House we are, I suppose, chiefly Churchmen. Next Tuesday we shall be united on a question which very much affects us, and with respect to which I see ominous signs of war on the opposite benches. What is the use of dividing Churchmen by provoking feelings in them which must be the very reverse of what is agreeable, just on the eve of an occasion when our united forces are needed to support what we believe to be a just and necessary measure? I throw that out as an argument for these benches, and not for those across the House. But you ask me what my objections to this Bill are? In the first place, I object to the concentration of the whole ecclesiastical jurisdiction in a single Judge. I ask, what is the necessity for uniting the two Appellate Courts of Canterbury and York under one Judge? "Cheap justice, easy justice," has hitherto been the cry. Every year something is sliced off the Courts at Westminster and transferred to the County Courts. They now exercise jurisdiction in equity and in fifty things that would have astonished the promoters of the County Court Act when it was first brought in. And yet, in the face of these precedents, you adopt a directly contrary course with regard to our ecclesiastical judicature. You sweep away the Diocesan Courts, and not only sweep them away, but combine the two Provincial Courts into one Court. Now, for my part, I see considerable advantage in the possibility of there being two Appellate Judges, men of experience and local weight, who could keep each other in control, while neither of them could stamp his own idiosyncrasies on the practices of the Church, Both Judges, 1449 the Judge of Canterbury and the Judge of York, would he responsible to and harmonized by the new Court of Final Appeal; and is not that enough? But not only do you set up this one Judge, but you make him an itinerant Judge. Fancy what a disturbance he will cause. Some clergyman differs from his three parishioners or his Rural Dean about the colour of his dress, or the place where he stands, or whether he sings or does not sing a hymn. The case goes for trial, and down comes this grand Judge, sweeping and splashing like a porpoise, into the village, with his apparitors and barristers and everything else behind him; the whole village being turned loose to gossip and jeer, and the county papers pouncing down like harpies on their prey. Thus the whole moral influence of the vicar will be utterly destroyed, because you will have this neither cheap nor dignified, but new and fussy system of some great Panjandrum coming round on his circuit, and holding his obtrusive Court in some petty village on the chalk downs. If that is reform of the law I make you a present of it. And then to lead to that, the Bishop is to be deprived of any regular judicial functions. The Bishop has two rather eccentric and incongruous duties given to him in this Bill. The first is, whether he will or will not send the cause to a hearing. We have been reminded that there are 28 Bishops in England. I do not go into the question of their discretion or indiscretion. That has been pretty well threshed out in the early part of the evening. But I say it would be little short of a miracle to find 28 men, whether Bishops or not, all possessed of the same identical degree of courage. It is impossible. Yet the question of whether the Bishop will hear the case, or will dismiss a case, or will send it for trial, is emphatically a question of moral courage. I do not suppose that many of these Bishops are such violent partizans, or so much inflamed with clerical prejudices, as that they will dismiss one case and hold to another, because it helps on or does not help on the party to which they respectively belong in the Church. The question is one of moral courage, and, no doubt, in a year or two, the length and breadth of this moral courage of these Prelates will be accurately gauged. I think there are societies in London whose 1450 office will be to feel the moral pulse of these spiritual leaders; and I leave it to the House in its calmer moments to consider the amount of confusion that will be created in the Church if a different rule exists in every diocese. Now, this leads to what has always seemed to me to be the great evil of the Bill. Persons in "another place," distinguished jurists, have argued that the Bill only reforms procedure. My right hon. and learned Friend the Recorder contrasted the procedure under this Bill with that under the Church Discipline Act. He forgets that the evil will not reside so much in the cases that go to trial as in the cases, perhaps not tried, but brought forward, and with which the Bishop is pestered by the new class of special informers which the Bill creates. You will say, perhaps, that a man may lay an information now under the Church Discipline Act. That is an old document. Probably few people have ever read it except some of the clergy, a certain number of attorneys, several barristers, and perhaps one or two of ourselves, who have done so in anticipation of this debate. But if this Bill once becomes law, it will appear in all the newspapers of the land. There will, probably, be a cheap edition published at a penny; and I dare say the Church Association will bring out a cheaper one at a halfpenny, with discount for a bundle of 100. It will go all round the country. And suppose the Act passed in the shape it is in now—which I think very doubtful from its preceding history—it would pass with a nice little schedule at the end of some six lines long, neatly giving the lesson to the "aggrieved parishioner" that he is not to put the poor parson under the pump, for that is what it comes to—Public Worship Regulation Act.—To the Right Rev. Father in God, A.B.—We, C, D, and E, all three parishioners of your Lordship's diocese, do hereby represent that F. G., incumbent, &c.Is not that an invitation to every man in the land who has had any difference with his clergyman, the drunkard who has been reprimanded for indecent conduct in the street, the lad who may have committed some offence against morality, to take his revenge? Will not this Bill, sown broadcast over the land, with that small schedule at the end, be an invitation to every mischief-maker to trump up some charge against 1451 his parson? The declaration will cost nothing—only the paper it is written on, and a penny to put it in the post. The Bishop gets up in the morning, and finds that he has 300 or 400 papers, charges probably against half the clergymen in the diocese. Of course, if he is a man of any sense—and Bishops are men of sense—he rejects 99 out of 100. But he has by the Bill to state his reasons for the rejection in writing, and just imagine, considering how overburdened our Bishops are now, what a nice amount of toil you will give him if he has to answer some 800 or 900 charges within the first fortnight of this measure becoming law. And there is no punishment against the repetition of the same charge. If a person acts merely from malice, the same charge may be sent in again, with this addition—"We know your Lordship did not entertain it last week; but the incumbent, instead of profiting by your fatherly indulgence, is hardened in iniquity, and has repeated the offence." And so will the lives of our Bishops be wasted away in this petty warfare, provoked by Act of Parliament, and incited, I must say, by the right rev. Bench themselves in not opposing the Bill—incited by the Lords and by this House, if, unhappily, you pass this Bill. I come now to the next point—the stage of the Bishop admitting the charge. How will it stand? He is to sue the parties to submit to his judgment without appeal. But the peculiarity of the matter is that if they submit to his judgment without appeal, the decision is not to rule any subsequent case. The clergyman in this ease, I may suppose, has done something monstrous. He submits; he is admonished. The next week somebody in the next parish may do the same thing in his church; but that clergyman will not be bound by the former judgment. Do you call this workable law? But if the offender in the first case will not submit, the case is to go to the magnificent personage who is Dean of Arches, Master of Faculties, and four or five more Judges rolled into one, and he is to come down and trouble the whole village by inquiring into some twopenny-ha'penny matter, which will but produce ill-will and demoralize the place. And all this is invoked in the way of easy and cheap law. But you say—"Let us put down Ritualistic 1452 practices." What are Ritualistic practices? As I said before, I am no advocate for extreme Ritualism. There is a great deal that has been adopted in many of our churches which I deeply regret, and against which I have written and spoken very sharply, and received very sharp knocks in return from its votaries. I suppose no man has been better abused in his time by ultra-Ritualists than I have been. But then matters of ultra-Ritualism are not those which occur in country parishes. I believe Ritualism so called—certain ceremonies which I could recapitulate, and of which I have a distinct catalogue in my head, but with which I will not enlighten the House, for I do not wish to stimulate persecution—the usages which I believe are against the law and and spirit of the rubric, occur in very few instances in our country parishes; and, as one of the non-metropolitan Bishops said to me—"The great town dioceses overshadow us. The country Bishops do not want the Bill; it is the great dioceses that oppress us." There may be irritating disputes in the country, but they are not those which provoked this Bill. A few years ago, we had the newspapers going mad over such things as a choral service, or surpliced choirs, when these were set up in our churches; now they are quite a common thing. Such services may still be very unwise things in some parishes, but they do not now excite jealousy, suspicion, and dread of Popery as they once did. Now, I believe the difficulty and trouble in our country parishes, generally speaking, only arise about these little matters, which the Bishop at present under the existing jurisdiction is well able to adjust, but which he will not be able to adjust after the passing of this Bill. Such usages as the place the minister takes at the prayer of consecration, may be questions that at one time would have come within the scope of this Bill as it was thought; but since Lord Cairns in "another place" has, in very unequivocal language, stated that it would be very difficult for any layman, or even lawyer, to reconcile a certain former judgment—from which it could reasonably be inferred that the practice was sanctioned—with a later and undefended one, in which a contrary opinion was given, I do not think any Bishop would dare to put the penal 1453 clauses of this Bill in operation with regard to that practice. And so, again, with another practice not so common—the dress of the Minister at the Holy Communion. That is a different question now from what it was some time ago, as several of our Bishops have adopted that very practice themselves under certain conditions in their cathedrals, and some of them have publicly called for a legalized toleration. This question is now before the Courts, and it has by this process been removed from the category of questions which any reasonable man would treat as implying Popery. Whether it be wise or unwise for a clergyman to adopt a change of dress, it is not a thing which could now be justifiably thrown in the teeth of any clergyman as indicating a wish to give up the Reformed Church or slight the reformed rubric. His may be a right or a wrong reading of the rubric; but, at any rate, it is an honest one, and has much to say for itself. There is one other point which, even at this late hour, I must point out. Suppose a clergyman has gone on in a course of self-will, and is ultimately deprived of his living: there is a provision in the Bill that after he has been deprived he cannot be re-appointed to the same cure of souls. I must contend that this is hard measure. The man will have been very severely punished; he may be a very good earnest man, who is popular in his parish, and has done good and holy work there, although he had erred in this particular; and to deprive him of the locus pœnitentiœ and not allow him to be restored, is, I say, unjust. So much for the Bill; as to the general question, I may be asked—"What do you propose?" What I propose is, a complete revision of our old ecclesiastical procedure on the old lines of the existing Courts. I hold in my hands a paper of objections to this Bill by a clergyman of distinction in the Church, of high clerical rank, an Archdeacon of long standing, a representative of the sensible, wise old Churchmen of the older generation—of the old Churchmen who existed before the thing called Ritualism was known. I mean the Archdeacon of Rochester—Dr. Grant—a name which must be received with favour by all who know that most respected gentleman. This gentleman thinks that this Bill, as it abolishes the Consistorial Courts, and creates new 1454 tribunals, with new ecclesiastical forms, presses hardly and unjustly upon the clergy. One point which he takes is, that it will check any improvement in our churches. This is a matter on which I must appeal to the generosity of hon. Members. We have heard a great deal of the evil of these innovations, and of the necessity of stopping them. It is said that things have gone so far that they must be stopped. That may be very true in the case of excesses; but these are only the vicious efflorescence of that for which, to their immortal credit, the country and town gentlemen of England have distinguished themselves during the living generation. I speak of what has been done in restoring and decorating our churches. Let me remind you of our light open seats replacing the old heavy pews; of our windows, with graceful tracery, and with painted glass—memorials, perhaps, of those most dear to us—substituted for broken panes and dingy casements; decent chancel-stalls instead of a worm-eaten desk and a ruinous clerk's tub; of the comely covering for the Lord's Table, instead of the old dirty piece of torn and draggled baize; of all that great spirit of church restoration and revival of services on week-days and on the holy days which our Reformation has preserved for us; and the growing feeling that God's house should be opened not merely on Sundays. I say these Ritualistic excesses are a vicious development of that great spirit of Church revival and church restoration in which the country gentlemen of England have taken a conspicuous share, which is an honour and a glory to our generation. But when you throw out hard words about "growing evil" and "scandal," unless you qualify your words and explain to what they refer, unwittingly to yourselves you deal a blow at these very good things of which you yourselves have been promoters, and in regard to which you have shown your zeal for the glory of God, and in which you have done your duty to God and man. And therefore it is that I tell this House, under very deep feeling, that I do look with intense dread upon this Bill, on the ground that I am afraid that it will excite an ignorant and inflamed feeling in the country among those who have very little love for God and His house, who have very 1455 little care for public worship, and regard all moral restraint as an impediment to their ill-used liberty. This is the risk you choose to run, and if my fears come true, you will but destroy God's work in this country. I do not say that you will do it on purpose—God forbid that I should say so; but I must point to the result. There has been in our life-time a great upheaving of spiritual life in the Church of England. There was a great upheaving of spiritual life in the individual soul in the great Evangelical movement of the past generation. That has been succeeded by a similar upheaving, not merely in the individual soul, but in the corporate Church of which those individual souls are the several members. It has developed itself in good works, in women abandoning the pleasures of life to become nurses in hospitals, and to their sick poor brothers and sisters. It has developed itself in missions to the ends of the earth; it has developed itself in our churches being made more comely, our services more frequent and attractive, the walls and pillars bright with flowers at Easter, Whitsuntide, and Christmas; God's psalms and hymns sung by the cheerful voices of youthful choirs, and not drawled out by the lazy clerk—all these things, and many more like blessings, we have won in our generation. Raise the mad-dog cry of "Ritualism," and do not say what that Ritualism is, and you will bring down the world, the flesh, and the devil—you will bring down all those evil powers which are rife in the world, and wreck God's great work of revival in His Church of England. On these grounds I object to the Bill, brought in as it is. I will not go on reading Archdeacon Grant's reasons, but state very shortly what my remedy is. It is the remedy which the Convocation of Canterbury has recommended. And why not that Convocation? It, no doubt, requires reform. What is that reform? A larger representation of the parochial clergy. And what will be the effect of a larger representation of them? Why, the power of the Bishops and of the Prime Minister in Convocation will be diminished. An unreformed Convocation is more under the thumb of Parliament than a reformed Convocation can be. A reformed Convocation 1456 is one in which the elected element shall be in greater proportion to the official element than it is at present. But the official element is that which is appointed either by the Prime Minister, who is the nominee of Parliament, or by the Bishops, who are made by the Prime Minister, and are, therefore, Parliamentary nominees in the second degree. The senior Member for the City of Oxford urged a reform of Convocation; but while we grant that an unreformed Convocation may not be a good Church Parliament, it is an admirable committee of eminent and learned men, brought together in various ways—some by election, some by the Prime Minister, and others by the Bishops—but altogether making an able and weighty representation of the different parties in the Church. The Convocation of Canterbury says, "Reform the old system, but keep the old names." The country clergy wish them kept—it may be respect for constitutional forms, or it may be a sentimental feeling—but is it not something if you can create a Court which will carry willing and not unwilling obedience? The clergy simply say, and Convocation says, "Sweep away old and cumbrous machinery, but work on the old lines. Keep the Bishop's Consistory Court, but let it be an easy and cheap Court, in which men can find justice without citation and all those other forms which cost so much money. Then reform your Provincial Court, and have your appeal to the Supreme Court." This the Church asks for, and adds, "Do not brand any form of worship by making a fragmentary Court for only ritual offences; let it be general." This will be a simple thing. If the Home Secretary or the Premier would bring in such a Bill next year, the Bishops would not oppose it and it would pass with the evident approbation of the clergy. No man would think himself aggrieved or branded, while it would give as much reasonable power to put down all ceremonial offences as the measure before us. What would be lost? The few months difference of this Bill coming into operation next spring, and a bettor Bill later on in the year. But what would be gained? That you would not, as you are now doing, be causing bad blood throughout the institution which it is most your interest to keep in health—the Church of England. Propose a 1457 broad reform of all ecclesiastical procedure, and you will master the situation.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till Monday next.