§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ *MR. CHARLES McARTHUR (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
In rising to move the (Second Reading of this Bill I should like to say at the outset that it is not my intention to give any detailed statement of offences which have been committed against the law of the Church. On former occasions when Bills of this character have been moved it has been necessary to produce some evidence in order to found a case for the Bill, and the more particularly as at that time it was fashionable for those who opposed legislation to minimise the character of the evil that existed and to say that it was confined to a very few clergy in a very few churches. That fond delusion has been altogether dispelled by the Report of the Royal Commission on Ecclesiastical Disorder which has justified the attitude of those who have been endeavouring for so many years to bring the subject, before Parliament and has proved beyond the shadow of a doubt the existence of a revolutionary movement in the Church of England, the object of which, shortly stated, is to undo the work of the Reformation, to deprive the Church of all its characteristic Protestant features, and to restore her to the condition she was in before the Reformation, and to do that in defiance of all law and authority whether judicial or Parliamentary. The House of Commons has on two occasions affirmed the necessity for some such legislation as this. The Church Discipline Bill was first placed before the House by me nine years ago, and it was met by an Amendment by Sir Richard Webster, the Attorney-General, speaking on behalf of the Government in the following terms—That this House, while not prepared to accept a measure which creates fresh offences and ignores the authority of the bishops in maintaining the discipline of the Church, is of opinion that if the efforts now being made by the archbishop and bishops to secure the due obedience of the clergy are not speedily effectual further legislation will be required to maintain the observance of the existing law of the Church of the Realm.That Amendment was carried by a majority of 154. Now I call the attention of the House to the word "speedily "in that Amendment. Nine years have passed away since then and no one will pretend that the efforts of the bishops and 304 archbishops have been effectual in subduing the disorder. Therefore we are justified in again asking the House to consider the question of legislation. In this Bill we have endeavoured to avoid two defects which the House of Commons pointed out in the Bill which we first introduced. We have created no fresh offences and we have not ignored but on the contrary have recognised the authority of the bishops. In 1903 another Church Discipline Bill somewhat different from its predecessor was produced by the hon. Member for the East Toxteth Division, and he was more successful than I was, for he carried the Second Reading by a majority of fifty-one. There we have a distinct authority by the House for the principle of all these Bills. After that the ballot gave us no chance for a number of years, but in 1906 a Bill to all intents and purposes the same as the Church Discipline Bill, though differing somewhat in machinery, was introduced, read a first time, and printed. The same thing was done in 1907 and in 1908 we have at last the long sought for opportunity of presenting the Bill again. I ask the House to have some sympathy with the position of private members. Private members have to deal with the question, for the good reason that the Government, neither on one side nor the other, is disposed to deal with it. It is apparent on the face of it what great difficulties there are in dealing with the matter from the party point of view. Therefore I deal with it from the nonparty point of view. I am here to-day not as a member of one party or of the other, but as a member of a party which places Protestantism above party; and it is a matter of indifference to me from which side of the House the Bill is introduced. But as this is of necessity the work of private Members, I think we are entitled to ask the protection of the House in respect to the few liberties which still remain to us as private Members, if, as seems possible from the state of the Order Paper, though I hope it may not prove to be so, the Bill is going to be smothered with hostile Amendments, what chance have we of bringing the subject before the House? The country is waiting and is looking forward to the result of the debate with anxiety. I hope such an answer will be given as will show the country that Parliament, to which they have appealed, and in which 305 they have confidence, will not fail them in this matter. I have omitted one very important item from the calendar of events, and that is that in 1904 the Royal Commission on Ecclesiastical Discipline was appointed by the late Government, and in June, 1906, that Commission reported. I should like to say a word as to the constitution of that Commission. Rightly or wrongly, several of us objected to its constitution on two grounds. In the first place, we thought it was unfair that there should be three bishops on the Commission when the charges that were made included the bishops as well as the clergy, and thus made the bishops virtually judges in their own case. In the second place, we thought it unfair that no member of the Church Protestant party was placed upon that Commission. I speak of every member of that Commission with the utmost respect; I say nothing against them but this—that there was no Member of the Commission who bad our confidence or represented our views. We, whose agitation had brought about the appointment of the Commission, were studiously left outside. I daresay we deserved it. It is the fate of all men of decided opinions to be treated with indifference, to be tabooed. I sometimes think that if some great question of public morals were before the House, and if a Royal Commission were appointed to deal with it, the statesmanlike view would be that all rogues and honest men should alike be loft off the Commission, and that the consideration of the matter should be entrusted to men of moderate honesty and of elastic virtue. I wish, however, to bear testimony to the fact that the Royal Commission, so far as regards the compiling of evidence, performed that duty with the utmost impartiality. It could not have been done better; but when we come to the summarising of that evidence, and still more to the recommendations, I seem to see traces of some dominant ecclesiastical influence. I ask the House to bear with me a few moments while I tell them in a few words what was done. The Commission took evidence regarding 687 services in 559 churches, and in these churches they found the following illegal practices. Mass vestments were used in 491 churches; the Confiteor and Last Gospel were used in 142 churches; the chalice was ceremonially mixed in 439 306 churches; wafers were ostensibly used in 279 churches; the manual acts were hidden in 438 churches; the sanctus bell was used in 212 churches; incense was ceremonially used in 99 churches; portable lights were carried in 79 churches; the Holy Communion was celebrated without any communicants besides the celebrant at 114 services, and without the minimum number of communicants required by the rubrics at many other services; the Canon of the Mass was used in more than 100 churches; and the Sacrament was reserved in 13 churches. I have to remind the House that each one of these practices has been expressly condemned by the Ecclesiastical Courts. The findings of the Commission only referred to portions out of a largo number of churches in England and Wales, for, of course, the Commission could only deal with a portion of the case; but on referring to their Report the House will find that although they only found mass vestments in use in 491 churches, they admitted that the practice existed in over 1,500 churches in England and Wales, and that although incense was only reported as having been used in ninety-nine churches, they were satisfied that it existed in 393 churches. But that is not the whole case. The Commissioners found that a large amount of literature was published with the object of promoting sacerdotal and illegal views with regard to the doctrine and ritual of the Church of England, and that, particularly in connection with children's eucharist, manuals were circulated teaching the doctrine of transubstantiation, and containing services of communion which approximated more or less closely to the services of the Roman Catholic mass, and all this with the object of disseminating sacerdotal views in the minds of the rising generation. Further than that, the Commissioners said that although they did not consider it came within the direct purview of their inquiry, they were satisfied that the practice of auricular confession was increasing to a very large extent. Indeed, we have the case of St. Peter's, London Docks, in regard to which there is evidence that in 1906 there were no less than 690 confessions. If that be true, is there any wonder that the Commission pronounced such a state of things as an offence against public order, a scandal to religion, and a cause 307 of weakness in the Church of England? It may be said that some of the practices are of a very trivial character. But all these things taken together show a concerted endeavour to reintroduce the Mass into the Church of England. When I use the word Mass I wish it to be understood that I cast no disparagement upon the Mass itself, or as used in the Roman Catholic Church. We have no quarrel with the Roman Catholic Church, and we do not wish to say a word that might be considered slighting as to its services or offensive to any of its members. We object to these things in the Church of England, not in the Church of Rome, just as much, for instance, as if Liberal opinions were found on the Unionist side of the House. They would be all right in their place, but they would be wrong if found on these benches. The late Bishop of London said the object of the Church of England at the Reformation was to turn the Mass into the Communion. The object of the ritualistic party is to turn the Communion into the Mass. The great object of this movement is to reintroduce the Mass and the confessional into the Church of England. That is why, in my judgment, no compromise on this question is possible. A great many amiable people were always wanting to compromise things; but in this case there is such a contradiction, such an antagonism of opinion, that the thing cannot be done. The very things that the ritualists want at any price we will not have at any cost. The result is that we shall have to fight the matter out, and the sooner we are allowed to fight it out the better. We shall only get a false peace by trying to get concessions and compromises. They would only postpone the evil day. I maybe asked, has there been any improvement since the Report of the Royal Commission was issued? So far as I am able to judge, and so far as I am advised, there has been no material improvement; there has been no disposition on the part of the bishops to put the law into force, although the first recommendation of the Commission was that before the bishops did anything else they should, by the exercise of their authority, and by initiating law suits if necessary, compel obedience to the law in matters of great significance. The bishops have not done that, but they had done something else. Hardly was the ink dry on the signatures to this 308 Commission when the Archbishop of Canterbury went to the Prime Minister and got letters of business for submitting these matters to Convocation. Then his: Grace went to Convocation and made a speech in which he showed a very strong disinclination to let the matter come before this House, and a Committee of Bishops was appointed to go into the question of vestments. Now, every member of that Committee of Bishops had committed himself, and was known to be in favour of the legalising of these vestments. [" No, no".] Is it surprising that the report of Convocation should be in that direction But I submit that Convocation is altogether an unsuitable body to which to refer matters of Church reform. Convocation is an archaic institution it has no representation of the laity whatever; it has a very imperfect representation of the clergy; it has no representation at all of the un-beneficed clergy; and a most irregular representation of the beneficed clergy. It has far too much of the official element, and is entirely unfit to deal with this question, and I cannot understand what led the Royal Commission in their wisdom to suggest that this matter should be referred to Convocation. It may be said there are the Houses of Laymen, but what are the Houses of Laymen? Is it supposed that the Houses of Laymen are representative of the laity of the Church? They are nothing of the kind. The laity com-posing the Houses of Laymen are gentle men connected with the Church of England, but they are not elected on any proper elective basis. They are selected in most dioceses by a comparatively, small ecclesiastical coterie. I am a member of the York House of Laymen, and I am perhaps very ungrateful, but that is my experience, and it is idle to suppose that the Houses of Laymen can express the view of the laity of England and Wales. If we are not to look to Convocation, where are we to look? Are we to look to the bishops? I always feel very great difficulty in speaking of the bishops—I have a great respect for their authority, but my regard for the truth must rise superior to all other considerations, and I am bound to say—although I acknowledge that the bishops have made many efforts to restore order in the Church, although some bishops, like the Bishop of Newcastle, have made 309 a noble stand for obedience to the law, and other bishops, such as the Bishop of Hereford and the Bishop of Carlisle, not to speak of others, have shown that they are not at all in sympathy with the illegal practices, but on the contrary are in sympathy with the law and with the cause of the Reformation—yet at the same time the predominant party on the episcopal bench have shown themselves on the side of rather than against the ritualistic movement of the Church of England. The net result of their influence on both sides is to show that it largely predominates in favour of the ritualistic party. Laymen in the North of England, at any rate, regard the bishops without confidence in this matter. What did the Royal Commission say about, their inaction? Thirty years ago what are called eucharistic or mass vestments were unknown in the Church of England. In 1902 they were used in over 1,500 churches. Will the House credit the fact mentioned in the Commission's Report that not one bishop now on the bench has made any general order, or any general remonstrance, against the use of these vestments? They have sat still and allowed the evil to grow up without any effort to chock it. With regard to the veto, I would remind the House that out of twenty-three complaints which were brought under the Public Worship Regulations Act seventeen were vetoed by the bishops, and that the Royal Commission said regarding that—In some cases the veto was unwisely and erroneously used, and defiance and lawlessness allowed to go unchecked.As a result of this wholesome use of the veto, people feel it is useless to go to law, and the thing has fallen into disuse. The bishops have since supported disloyal clergy by their patronage and by their example. Take the case of the Bishop of London. He has taken upon himself to compromise the churches with regard to the use of incense and with regard to reservation, although the law distinctly condemns these practices. The Bishop of London says, "I am above the law; I will make any compromise I like, and if I go to one church, and can't get them to accept my compromise, I will go to another church." If we are not to go to the bishops, are we to go back to litigation? That is useless. It has been 310 found by experience that litigation is too expensive. The costs in three celebrated ecclesiastical suits amounted respectively to £7,761, £11,015, and £17,485. It took three suits and sixteen years to deprive one clergyman. The law is utterly useless in this matter because it is too costly and expensive. No doubt at one time we did think that by abolishing the bishop's veto and simplifying procedure we might utilise the Courts of law. But that time has gone past. The evil has grown to such an extent that we cannot deal with it by the Courts of law. The clergy repudiate the Courts of law. What are we to do? Are we to bring a separate suit in every case? The thing is impossible. It would take a hundred years or more to deal with the questions in the Courts of law. Therefore, we come to Parliament as the final Court of Appeal, the grand inquest of the nation. Now I come to the Bill of which I have the honour to move the Second Reading. This Bill has a precedent in what took place at the Reformation in the second year of Elizabeth. At that time, although the Act of Uniformity had been passed legalising the present Prayer Book, it was found impossible to carry that by mere process of law, and, accordingly, Commissioners were appointed to visit the various churches throughout the country, and to restrain the clergy from illegal practices, and a later precedent is found in the Act of 1877. Under Clause 4 of this Bill a Commission of five persons of judicial experience is to be appointed to hold office for ten years only. They are to have purely administrative functions. By Clause 5 the bishop of the diocese is to be at liberty to associate himself with the Commissioners as an unpaid Commissioner in respect of any church that may be complained against in his diocese. With regard to the scope of the Commission, it has not to deal with all questions at issue, but only those scheduled in the Act. You will find in the schedule of the Bill illegal practices and a number of illegal ornaments which have been condemned by the ecclesiastical Courts. As to procedure, the Commission are to address inquiries to the churchwardens and incumbent of every church which is the subject of complaint before the Commissioners. An answer is to be given within thirty days, and if the answer is 311 that no illegal practices exist, that ends the matter. But if the answer is unsatisfactory, or no answer is sent, or if illegal practices or illegal ornaments are admitted, then the Commissioners are empowered to hold a local inquiry, and they are to have power to obtain evidence and ascertain the facts of the case. Then, when they have reported to the Commission, another effort is to be made to deal with the matter by the ecclesiastical authorities. Three months will be given for this purpose, and if within three months the clergy implicated would give an undertaking in writing not to continue the illegal practices, the matter is to be at an end. If not, the Commission is to be empowered to suspend the incumbents for three months, and after a further three months, if the incumbents are still refractory, they are to be deprived. The advantages of the Bill are that it does not interfere with the episcopal function, it is inexpensive, and it is effective, because it is able in a large number of cases to deal with the matter in a very short time. I submit it is the best way of dealing with the subject if we are really in earnest in the endeavour to root out this evil. From whatever point of view we look at it, I think the course proposed is preferable to any other. You may look at the matter from the Churchman's point of view. The Amendment proposed, and which I understand is to be taken, offers as an alternative, disestablishment. I ask Churchmen, Do they prefer disestablishment to the remedy afforded by this Bill? Are they willing that our National Church, with all its great traditions and with all its historical associations, with all its great possibilities, and with all its influence, shall be sacrificed at the bidding of the party of lawless clerics, who, because they cannot get their own way, want to pull down the Church about their heads? The Church of England docs not belong to them; it belongs to us. What are they? They are merely Ritualistic Nonconformists. Whether we are broad, or high, or low, it does not matter if we are Churchmen and within the law, the Church belongs to us, and I refuse to allow my Church to be taken away because a certain number of lawless men will not be restrained by the Courts or by Parliament. With regard to Nonconformists I would ask: Are you satisfied with the remedy? 312 Are you satisfied that disestablishment is within the range of practical politics? It seems to have hung fire in regard to the Church in Wales, and with regard to the Church of England it cannot come for many years. Are you going to allow the Church of England to continue, with all its endowments, without any restraint by the law, in order to follow the bent of what is now the dominating ecclesiastical section of the present day, and go on sacerdotalising the nation? In my humble opinion one of the greatest dangers of the present day is the growing disregard for all law and authority. I think when we come down to this House we have many evidences of that, and I, for one, honestly believe that it is to some extent due to the lawlessness in our churches. If you have lawlessness in the pulpit, you will have lawlessness in the pew. I recollect reading a letter which a noble Lord who used to be an ornament of this House wrote to The Times justifying some great passive resistance movement if the last Education Bill had become law, and he actually referred to the success of the clergy in defying the law. In view of all this, I ask the House of Commons to accept this Bill. I do not commit myself to the machinery. We leave that entirely to the judgment or the House in Committee. It may be improved upon, and no Member by voting for the Bill will pledge himself to the machinery. All that we ask the House to do in voting for the Second Reading, is to assent to the simple principle that the law of the land, and the law of the Church as declared by the Courts having jurisdiction in ecclesiastical affairs, must be obeyed by clergymen and laymen alike. I beg to move.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed,. "That this Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Charles McArthur.)
§ MR. MASTERMAN (West Ham, N.)
moved an Amendment declaring that no Bill would provide an effective remedy for ecclesiastical disorders in the Church of England which did not make provision for the separation of the Church from the State, and confer upon the Church, thus liberated from State control, the power to regulate its own affairs. He said he had very little complaint to make of the tone or temper of the speech of 313 the hon. Member for the Kirkdale division. The House must recognise that, although the hon. Member said things which must of necessity offend, he did so from what was transparent sincerity of motive. The mover of the Bill felt strongly on this matter, and had a right to feel strongly, and he had put his case before those who most disagreed with him in a way as satisfactory as possible under the circumstances. He had only one criticism to make, and that had reference to the allusion the hon. Member had made, he supposed to himself, when he appealed in the name of a private Member and deprecated a measure of this kind on a Second Reading being smothered with hostile Amendments. No one felt more than himself the powerless condition of the private Member in this House, and no one would be more reluctant to meet the open debate of Motions or Bills of private Members by any kind of cunning or clever turning of the question by Amendments which were not sincere, to a point not at issue. This was a perfectly sincere Amendment; it was sincere to himself, although that was not of importance to the House, but he thought he could ask the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone to testify that it was not only in connection with Bills dealing with ecclesiastical disorders that he had advocated with some enthusiasm the separation of Church and State. It was sincere to the country. The hon. Member for the Kirkdale division had said that his proposal was practical politics, and that disestablishment was not within the region of practical politics. He could assure the hon. Member that disestablishment was far more within the region of practical politics than the preposterous scheme contained in his Bill. It was sincere to those who were Members of the House, because it was perfectly impossible in discussing such a large measure as this, and endeavouring to turn forces which were at present static, into forces which would be dynamic, not to follow up those forces to their ultimate issue. He had no intention or inclination to take up the time of the House in discussing the existence of ecclesiastical disorder, or the nature, significance, or extent of the disorder, because that was outside the scope of his Amendment, which acknowledged the existence of ecclesiastical disorder. There were things in existence in the Church to-day which 314 were emphatically unjustifiable, which he deplored as much as the hon. Member for the Kirkdale division did. He only wished he could think that the most serious kinds of ecclesiastical disorders were those the hon. Member had laid before the House. If the question were raised at all, the House would have to decide sooner or later, and perhaps sooner rather than later, how it was going to deal with the whole question of the slow and steady drift of the English people away from the dogmatic position of the Church of England as by law established. If once they began to legislate on these lines by commission and schedule, they would be making legislation which would throw the whole of the English Church into a condition of chaos and confusion. Having taken their precedent of the Elizabethan settlement, they would be compelled to carry out that precedent, and construct a new church as an Established Church, whether warped back to what they happened to think was the Reformation standard, or adjusted to the theology of the twentieth century, he could not realise. On the other hand, so long as they realised what had been the affirmation of this House, that the separation of the Church from the State was not only a remedy for ecclesiastical disorder, but a desirable result in itself for many other reasons, then they must agree that, so far from the question being impossible of solution, it only waited for courage on the part of some Government to take it up and push it to its logical and desirable conclusion. He asked the House to agree that his remedy was a perfectly satisfactory one, and that of the hon. Member for the Kirkdale division an unsatisfactory one. The hon. Member had given them an outline of his Bill, but he had not done full justice to its inquisitorial and persecuting character. To say that in voting for the Second Reading they would not be voting for the machinery of the Bill was really absurd. It was like voting for the Second Reading of an Education Bill under a general idea that it was desirable to have popular control of the schools. The Bill set up a Commission and employed barristers of not less than ten years standing, with substantial emoluments. He generally noticed that when something particularly indefensible was suggested, it was left to the work of barristers of not loss than 315 ten years standing, with substantial emoluments. They were the means of making the machinery move more smoothly. The Commission was to proceed by an investigation of what was continuing in the churches at the present time, under the guidance of a third schedule carefully compiled by the promoters of the Bill, but under what conditions of exclusion or inclusion it passed his wit, or the wit of anyone else, to comprehend. There were a number of words in the schedule which he himself was a sufficiently poor ritualist not to know the meaning of, and whether they referred to attitudes or to garments he could not say. They were words that looked forbidding until one could find the interpretation of them. The mover of the Bill had rather scared him by mentioning "genuflexion," until he realised that it was a clumsy Latin synonym for kneeling at prayer, which, however reprehensible it might be, was not criminal. The spectacle of a barrister waiting in the background to see if the clergyman knelt at prayer was one not likely to create enthusiasm in the public mind.
§ *MR. CHARLES McARTHUR
In the technical sense of the word genuflexion has been condemned by the Court as illegal.
§ MR. MASTERMAN
said there were many of these so-called illegal practices which had been declared legal, even by a Court which the advocates of lawfulness recognised as the ultimate Court of Appeal—the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. There were others with regard to which the decisions were contradictory. Others still, even the hon. Member would agree in saying, if they were challenged once more in the Courts, would probably be declared legal instead of illegal. So much was this the case that the head of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, the Lord Chancellor, declared in 1902 that the rule of finality applicable to decisions of the Privy Council in reference to rights of property was never binding as regards decisions relating to ritual and ecclesiastical practice which depended to some extent upon historical investigation. That meant in effect that these questions were declared to be still open. So much was the mover of the Bill afflicted with the possibility of this, and so little prepared 316 to accept a legal decision if it was against the particular results which he desired, that he proposed the most preposterous of all these preposterous clauses—No. 17. That clause sought not only to challenge the law, but to make the law—to decide that those things which he disliked should be regarded as illegal, quite apart from the Privy Council or the Ecclesiastical Commission. He deplored as much as did the hon. Member the introduction into the English Church from foreign sources of such apparatus as confessional boxes in churches, or vessels for the provision of holy water in English churches, but they were told by the large and aggressive organisation which was supporting the hon. Member that at least 7,000 or 8,000 of the 20,000 clergy of the Church of England were involved in these illegalities which the Bill sought to remedy. That meant a campaign, not for a return to the Reformation settlement, but for the tearing up of the Reformation compromise, which had been deliberately adopted in order to provide for the two parties in the Church, generally known as Protestant and Catholic, living in some kind of harmony in the future. It was not a campaign, so far as he could see, for which there was any special reason in 1908. Such campaigns had been tried before, and with disastrous results. But, granted that these men were all disloyal, and that they could take quite possibly a short-cut line between legality and illegality on this matter—which he thought impossible—did the promoters of the Bill think they could make their machinery for ecclesiastical disorder stop at scheduling just that particular kind of disorder which was repugnant to themselves? That schedule would receive considerable modification as it passed through Committee of that House, and also outside. He had no authority to do it; he would hate to do it if he had the authority. He was not suggesting that there should be reprisals by one party against another party if this machinery became law; but one could not read the dolorous story of ecclesiastical controversy, even in recent times, without realising that when once this kind of thing was started there was no keeping back the inflammatory feelings which were immediately aroused. The Commissioners and the barristers were 317 required to deal with very large questions of ecclesiastical disorder. They were going to endeavour to adjust the faith and doctrine, practice and ornaments, of the Church with a settlement of Elizabethan time, and when they had expelled every Low Church clergyman who did not believe in baptismal regeneration, every Broad Church clergyman who could not repeat with some enthusiasm the damnatory clauses of the Athanasian Creed, and every High Church clergyman who violated their most exiguous standards of ritual, what would they have left of the Church? They would have made not a solitude, but a ruin, and they might call it "peace" if they liked. There might be reasons for proceeding along those lines; there might he people who would be glad to see the overthrow of the great moral and spiritual forces in the Church which existed in the past and might operate in the future. It might be even that the hon. Member for Kirkdale, if he was not misinterpreting him, had deliberately decided that it would be better to take the risk of this, if he could get his adjustment of ritual and ornament, however desirable that might be, than to adopt the alternative system which the Amendment proposed. But until he had rather more evidence of a more general feeling on that matter in the House than he had received so far, he would refuse to believe that. He would refuse to believe that even those who had no kind of sympathy with the Church of England as by law established had any kind of desire through such methods as these to turn the whole energies and ideals of their Church from methods of social regeneration and work for the welfare of the people into these squalid and impossible arguments in the Courts of law concerning details of ritual. The hon. Member for Kirkdale had told them what was perfectly true—he would not deny it—that this was the Supreme High Court of Parliament, and that what it did must have the force of law; and that what Parliament decided must be obeyed. It was true that force was their ultimate weapon; it would be used as it had been used before. But if there was one lesson that was written over the dismal pages 318 of ecclesiastical controversy, it was that in matters of conscientious conviction force was no remedy. There was another Court of Appeal, the inexplicably strong sentiment among the people which time and again had determined that what had been decided in Parliament should not continue. They had seen that in connection with the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill. Mr. Gladstone was almost alone on that Bill in making this protest—Here, once and for all, I enter my most solemn, earnest, and deliberate protest against all attempts to meet the spiritual dangers of the Church by temporal legislation of a penal character.The Ecclesiastical Titles Bill became utterly a dead letter, and it did not reflect much credit on our Parliamentary history. And so it was with the Public Worship Regulation Act, which was definitely designed to put down ritualism. The result was that the people who were formerly fanatics became martyrs, but all the moderate men were thrown into friendly alliance with the advanced men whose action they had deplored, and for seven years there was a miserable fight in putting unfortunate clergymen into gaol, and not knowing how on earth to get them out again. Finally it was abandoned, it being decided that whatever other methods should be adopted that was not the kind which it was desirable to pursue. A more recent example of conscientious conviction breaking down the law was passive resistance. In that law which had much to justify it had to be amended because large numbers of ordinarily moral and law-abiding men and women preferred to be haled to gaol sooner than carry out its provisions. It was perfectly true that the present Bill sought to avoid imprisonment by deprivation. Technically the ritualists were not sent to prison because as ritualists they had broken the Public Worship Regulation Act, but for contempt of Court. So it was also with the passive registers. But everyone knew what the real facts were, and that we had here the question, whether the deliberate moral affirmation of large numbers, supported by others who did not take these extreme views, was sufficient to break down a law which 319 might readily become an instrument of persecution. The hon. Member for Kirkdale said that the law must be obeyed. There was not one man who was not a lawyer who believed that this particular controversy of 300 years could be settled in that way by such a Bill. The court which exercised supreme authority in matters of ritual had been condemned by two Royal Commissions. It was not a spiritual court, and its authority in these spiritual matters—not in temporal matters—had been repudiated by large numbers of men who could not be written down offhand as either criminals or lunatics. Yet it proposed to deal with them as if they were both. However foolish these quarrels about trivial matters like ritual might seem to be, and however divergent they might be from the far more important questions of doctrine which were independent of them—and not in the least degree met by the Bill—[An HON. MEMBER: No.]—he was one of those who put emphasis on these things, and quite honestly believed that they were carrying out the law of the church in the plain words of the ornaments rubric, and declared honestly that if some spiritual authority were established which would represent the spiritual mind of the church in the matter, they were entirely willing to sacrifice all these comparatively unimportant matters in accordance with its decision. That was why he hoped that the measure of disestablishment, of which the House had approved already by a large majority, might be found to result in a friendly, satisfactory, and harmonious reconciliation even of those parties in the church who now glared so angrily at each other in the pages of newspaper controversy. It was said by some that this would result in the Church being shattered and destroyed, and by others that it would be the triumph of the ritualistic faction. He believed it would result in neither. He believed that toleration was as much as loyalty the legitimate child of freedom: and that freedom would mean a new era of toleration, a new realisation of how much those who were the members of this spiritual society had in common when dealing with the fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith. He was sure that the moderate men would be 320 found to restrain the extremists, instead of, as by this Bill, forcing the controversy into even more bitter channels. It was quite possible that some extremists on both sides will have to go; that their proper place was not in that spiritual society which represented the historic Church of England. He would say, let them go, and if they could find a spiritual home elsewhere, let them find it. But he believed there would be a great advance in religious sincerity as against the hypocricy of the present conditions; there would be the removal of a profound grievance anions those who were not members of the Church of England and the pouring out of a new spirit of enthusiasm among those who were. He believed this was the just, peaceful, and only remedy for disorder in the Church. If he had said anything to offend any sincere religious conviction in the heat of debate, he asked forgiveness, for nothing was further from his intention. He had been told that he was impelled to this Amendment by the fact that he was in the jargon of the day, a ritualist and a Romaniser. He never considered it worth while to answer such imputations. He was astonished at the attention and enthusaism which were given to those questions of ornament, ceremonial, and decoration. They were essentially irrevelant to the larger questions that had to be faced, and to the very questions which afflicted the hon. Member for Kirkdale. Every one of the practices which the hon. Member had mentioned could be carried on in whitewashed churches with movable Communion tables and with clergymen in black gowns. In the same way the most elaborate pomp and ceremonial were perfectly compatible with the simple preaching of the Protestant faith. It was not because he was in sympathy with any particular ritual that he asked the House to accept the peaceable instead of the persecuting method of settling this question. He might be prejudiced by the fact that that particular party in the Church against which this weapon of persecution was to be forged numbered amongst it most of the Liberal and all the Socialist clergy and great congregations, who were doing to-day what he was longing to see done by every religious community in the 321 country. Search where they would in the heart of populous cities, where the struggle was most desperate against social disease, poverty, and social confusion, there they had the work of these men, many of whose variations from the accepted standards he deplored, with no aggrieved parishoners, only asking to be left alone—men of good temper, good will, and humility, inspired with a passionate devotion for the welfare of the common people. He made no appeal for toleration of lawlessness on the ground of social service. These men themselves made no such plea. He Would join with alacrity in any crusade for their inhibition, for their deprivation, for their harassing, for their imprisonment, if they could show him any compensating advantage to be obtained in the welfare of the Church or the advancement of true religion and virtue. No such compensating advantage had been shown here, and he would respectfully suggest to those who disliked the spread, by these means, of the doctrines which they deplored, whether they could not find a more fruitful means of checking it than the contribution of large financial subscriptions to agressive political organisations or the ingenuity which devised such fantastic measures as this, in similar rivalry and honourable service for the welfare of those sections of our people who had fallen into ruin and decay. There were forces on the horizon which might be destined to make, which were already making, all this noisy controversy concerning ritual a very small thing. In the face of changes which might well shake this Christian civilisation of ours to its very base, he entreated those who were promoting this Bill to turn their minds and direct their energies to a more heroic, a more Christian crusade. He begged to move.
§ *MR. RAMSAY MACDONALD (Leicester)
said he felt perfectly certain that the House would sympathise most keenly with the remarkably able speech to which they had just listened. It was absolutely impossible, for anyone taking further part in the debate, on that side of the question, to adduce further argument in favour of the Amendment which he had the honour to 322 second. Although he had not agreed with everything which his hon. friend had said, he was sure that there was not a single Member of the House but must have been impressed by the speech to which they had just listened, with the extraordinary complexity of the question which had been introduced on that occasion. The Bill before them asked them to embark upon waters, very shallow, very stormy, and very difficult to navigate. History was absolutely against any hope that such legislation would be effective. The history of the ecclesiastical legislation in the Church of England and the history of the ecclesiastical legislation in the Church of Scotland, equally stood confronting the House that afternoon, telling it, however strong its opinions against lawlessness might be, nevertheless, danger, difficulty, and failure faced it, if it proposed to meet that situation of lawlessness by such methods as had been suggested by the hon. Member for Kirkdale. He spoke for himself, he did not rise to address the House as the representative of a party. This matter was purely a personal matter between Member and Member in this House. Nor did he venture to address the House as, in any sense whatever, a member of the Church of England. He never was a member of the Church of England; he did not believe he ever would be a member of it. He had no sympathy with what had been described there as lawlessness. He was not even attracted spiritually by those manifestations and exercises, which although not lawless, might be on the border of lawlessness. He was not concerned to defend from the inside anything that was going on in the Church. He ventured to address the House that afternoon simply as a Member of Parliament, simply as a citizen, simply remembering that there was the thing of flesh which the House could deal with, but there was the liberty of the spirit which it could never touch. Therefore when they turned to consider what the problem was, they had as men of common sense and good judgment to remember that it had arisen because there were two parties in the Church who did not agree on matters of historical interpretation. The simple question was what was the interpretation 323 of the Order of the Church of England? One section said one thing and another section said another, and in order to settle that internal controversy in the Church, in which spiritual liberty was essentially involved, one section or another came to this secular House and asked them, Nonconformists, Baptists, Agnostics—men belonging to all the churches and men belonging to no church—to vote in the division lobbies that afternoon and declare that in their opinion, such and such, and such and such, were the historical practices of this church, with which perhaps they had no sympathy and to which at any rate they did not belong. [An HON. MEMBER: It is the Established Church.] His hon. friend had just taken the words out of his mouth. The point which was made and the justification of those who promoted this Bill was that the Church with which they were asked to deal was the Established Church. Precisely; the Established Church had therefore got; into a condition which compelled her as a spiritual organisation to come to them as a secular force, to settle by their secular authority the spiritual problems that she had to face. Was there a loyal member of the Church of England,: was there a man who honoured his Church, or as a loyal member hoped to honour his church, a man who could look behind, across the rich history of this organisation, and look before at the magnificent opportunities which the future of this country seemed to offer to his Church, if she would only raise her hand and head guided by spiritual enthusiasm, who would tell them that an appeal to them and from that point of view was an honour to the Church, and was in keeping with the dignity of the Church, of which he professed to be a good member? Some members of the Church might square such a position with a loyal adherence to that Church; all he could say was that were he such a member it would be absolutely impossible for him to do it. What he, standing there that afternoon as a mere outsider, but as a Member of Parliament and a citizen, told these two sections of the Church was: "Go and settle your differences in a spiritual court, and not in a secular court." This undoubtedly was 324 the highest court in the land, but hon. Members must always remember to qualify that by saying it was the highest secular court, not the highest spiritual court in the land. The moment the Church of England, as an Established Church, could not settle her spiritual and historical differences within herself and her own courts, her appeal to this House must not be to settle them for her, but to cut the connection between the State and the Church, and endow the Church with that spiritual freedom and sense of spiritual independence which were necessary in order that she should herself solve those difficulties. He spoke with some feeling in this matter because, although not a Churchman, all his ecclesiastical knowledge and his ecclesiastical prejudices were imparted to him by men who drank deep of those wells of spiritual freedom which bubbled up in the glorious days of 1843 in Scotland, when the Free Church came out from the Establishment, because this High Court, the highest court in the land, ventured to dictate to the Established Church of Scotland in regard to matters which were germane to her spiritual being. It was not long since that an appeal to the secular court by a mere handful of men, who stood loyal to the letter of the law, deprived the Free Church of Scotland of her property, because she had moved with the times, and because she had refused to allow the dead hand of tradition to numb her, so that her spiritual activities might be limited. The decision was given in favour of this small handful of people to whom he had referred, and what happened? It might have been very good law, but it was exceptionally bad ecclesiastical politics, and this House upset the secular law and went behind it and held that it could not be applied to a spiritual organisation. They held that the Church was not a limited liability company, and that the liberty of the Church could not be "cribbed, cabined, and confined" within a certain declaration known as a confession of faith or the Apostles' Creed, or anything of the kind. They declared that the Church was a living organisation; that she must interpret and re-interpret her position; that she must search history for her sanctions and her practices, and that no secular court had the least 325 power to interfere with her spiritual development. After having declared that the law was the law, this House proclaimed that there was something greater than it, that this was the living part of the Scottish Free Church, and they restored to her the property which had been taken away from her by the legal decision. And now to-day certain hon. Members wanted them to make the same mistake with regard to the Church of England that the Courts made with regard to the Free Church of Scotland. He did not believe for a single moment that a majority of the Members of the House was going to take any such step. He said, and this was the Nonconformist position, that they did not want to interfere with the liberty of the Church of England or in her disputes. They simply wanted to say that the old mediæval notion of organic connection between the Church and State had been proved by recent events that had happened inside the Church of England to be no longer a practical policy. As to the lawlessness, with which he had no sympathy whatever, and the other practices which did not touch him at all, and never had appealed to him in any sense or to any degree, if they were to be carried on, let them be carried on by a Church independent and responsible to herself. They in that secular Court, the House of Commons, declared that the time had come—and they asked the Ministry to take notice of the declaration—and events inside the Church had hastened it and made it critical, when the Church should go free from the State, and the State should decline to recognise the Establishment any longer. For that reason he had the very greatest pleasure and much honour in seconding the Amendment.
To leave out from the word 'That,' to the end of the Question, and add the words, 'No Bill will provide an effective remedy for ecclesiastical disorders in the Church of England which does not make provision for the separation of the Church from the State, and confer upon the Church, thus liberated from State control, the power to regulate its own affairs.' "—(Mr. Masterman.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."326
§ SIR G. KEKEWICH (Exeter)
hoped the House would be under no misapprehension as to the true meaning, character, and intention of this Amendment. It was not really an Amendment in favour of disestablishment. They had not long ago discussed disestablishment, and there was no reason whatever why they should discuss it a second time. The Amendment was an attempt to side-track the Bill. It was purely a ritualistic Amendment and an attempt to strangle the Bill and to allow the ritualistic clergy, who had broken the law with impunity, to go on breaking it. He would not oppose the Amendment because he was opposed to disestablishment. On the contrary he was a strong supporter of disestablishment, and the sooner it came the better he would feel. He believed that if the Bill were passed it would not have the effect of retarding disestablishment, but would actually accelerate it, but this Amendment, if carried, would not bring disestablishment one day nearer. Disestablishment was bound to come in the long run, but was probably twenty or thirty years off or more. What the Amendment wanted was to give the law-breaking clergy a free hand during those twenty or thirty years to finish their work of converting the Church of England into a pseudo Catholic Church—a Church which was partly spurious Roman Catholic. If the work done by the ritualists during the last fifty years was supplemented by the work of another twenty years there would not be much left at the end of that time of the Protestant influence in the English Church. It was not the laity who supported or would support the law-breaking clergy. He believed they were mainly Protestant and evangelical, but in twenty years more it was impossible to say what they would be, and by that time there would be very few clergy in the Church who were not ritualistic. The present output of clergy came mainly from theological colleges which were ritualistic. The fact was that the places of the evangelical clergy were being taken day by day by these young men. They were appointed to curacies and incumbencies, and as soon as a man was ordained, he apparently thought he had a right to break the vows that he took at his ordination. When at the end of twenty years disestablishment came, 327 what would be the position of the Nonconformist Churches? They were the offspring of the Reformation, like the Anglican Church, and they would be face to face with a homogeneous Anglo-Catholic Church—a Church which would be much closer to the Roman Catholic than to any Protestant Church. Possibly Nonconformists would by that time have been reinforced by Protestants driven out from the Church of England, but surely Protestant Churches did not desire to wreck the Protestantism of a kindred Church. The Bill was not-directed against any law-abiding section of the Church. There was plenty of room for High and Broad Church, but there was no room for the law-breaking section. The Bill was directed simply against the men who broke the law as laid down by the courts. There was not a single offence scheduled in the Bill which had not been condemned by the Courts or might not be dealt with under the present law, but the procedure under the present law was impracticable. Each offender required a suit to himself carried on before the Judicial Committee at considerable cost. The hon. Member for West Ham had spoken of the proceedings under the Bill as inquisitorial and tyrannical—the hon. Member had not spared his epithets in any part of his speech.
§ SIR G. KEKEWICH
said it was certainly not tyranny and it was not persecution. Under the existing law, when a suit was taken to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, if the defendant was recalcitrant he could be condemned to imprisonment for contempt of court. But under this Bill he could not be committed to prison. He merely suffered deprivation because he had broken his contract. He held his living on certain conditions, one of which was that he should profess and teach the doctrines of the Church of England, and if he did not carry out his side of the contract there was no reason why he should be allowed to benefit by the other side. He had no doubt that when disestablishment came within practical politics he would hear it 328 called tyrannical by the very same people who now condemned this procedure a tyrannical. He did not think it possible that Parliament could stand aside and see the law continually broken without pro viding some sort of remedy. The Bill had been three times introduced into the House, and the real question before them, as it seemed to them, was not whether disestablishment was desirable, but whether the fact that it was desirable should prevent other steps being taken to check illegalities, and as he believed the matter was urgent and admitted of no delay he would vote against the Amendment, and, consequently, in favour of the Second Reading.
§ *MR. ILLINGWORTH (Yorkshire, W. R., Shipley)
said the pleasant silence of two years of one's first Parliament was not to be lightly broken; and in so doing he would throw himself on the generous consideration of the House, which ever since his entry had impressed him as one of its most chivalrous characteristics. In supporting the Amendment of his hon. friend, whose sound and fearless principles were adorned by the power and eloquence with which he was able to present them to the House, he would use such moderation as a Nonconformist might use in approaching a principle for which they had been fighting for years and for which they would fight until they prevailed. The somewhat alarming title, the Ecclesiastical Disorders Bill, seemed to picture to their minds in the light of their recent discussions, a conspiracy of exasperated shepherds scattering their flocks along the highways and byways, yet in reality it raised grave and vital issues of the relationship of Church and State, of the freedom or bondage of that Church, and of the position of equality or inequality of all other religious denominations. The position they had to face was that there was a Church by law established, a Church which received special protection and patronage from the State and in return submitted to a large, if not complete, measure of public control; and by the very fact that it was attempted to make it the Church of the nation, they condemned all other religious bodies to a less dignified and less favoured position, and created in their minds, unfortunately, 329 a sense of grievous injustice. That practices went merrily forward, wholly at variance with the Book of Common Prayer, could not and indeed was not attempted to be denied; and were hon. Members in doubt, they would be convinced by the floods of post cards and coloured pictures which looked like mediæval fashion plates, with which they had been inundated, embarrassing to members, but refreshing to the heart of the Postmaster-General. Nor was it denied that the bishops already possessed the necessary powers, did they wish to enforce them, which would amply meet the situation. But they did not; and it was there at the first time of asking, in its most elementary form, that Parliamentary control broke down, for the bishops, appointed by Parliament presumably for spiritual reasons, could not or dared not enforce spiritual laws, which were their own special grievance, while at all times showing a sinister zeal in interfering in another place with the temporal laws or Bills of this House. With no desire to embitter discussion, he would content himself by saying that this incursion of bishops into temporal matters was one of the most deplorable and melancholy incidents of a vicious system. How a clergyman, in the performance of these practices, could break his most solemn ordination oaths, must be left to him to reconcile with his own conscience, which should be the sole judge; and how far he was fitted, after committing an act which, as a mere lay witness, would bring him within the clutch of the law, to stand up as a teacher of truth and justice, was a matter which must be left to the discretion and judgment of his congregation. The remedy for this was not penal repression, but by disestablishment to create a Free Church where lay opinion could make itself felt, and where religious life could grow and expand to satisfy the religious hopes and aspirations of her members. This Bill asked the House to retrace the steps of centuries, to set up an inquisition on a small scale, to deny the accumulated experience of the ages, and to fall back on methods of repression in matters of religious opinion which had failed, and rightly failed, in all generations and in all countries. And how was this task to be undertaken? The Bill proposed to fight this unequal battle with the aid of five 330 gentlemen, seduced from an honourable profession by a bait of £8,000 a year. If he knew anything of his countrymen, it would be better before they began operations to ascertain from the War Office the number of troops that could be put at their disposal. He ventured to suggest to the House to look with a jealous eye on coercive methods, when the true and natural development of civil and religious institutions was on the lines of freedom. Much of the trouble in this world was caused by the vigorous administration of wrong principles and, perhaps, more by the fear of carrying a just principle to its proper conclusion. Test and Corporation Acts stimulated Nonconformity, and the barbarous laws against Catholics made a whole nation cling yet more closely to their faith. There was still in force an Act to compel attendance at church on Sunday on penalty of 1s. fine, and, human nature being what it is, they had only to actively enforce it to empty every church in the land. The argument he wished to present to the House was this: The State, as such, had no sort or kind of control or concern with matters of religion, which were affairs of the conscience; and those who held these views could in no way support a Bill which had for its object, though it would certainly fail, the perpetuation of the existing relationship of Church and State. He would plead not for less, but for more freedom. Nor could there be peace in this land until they completely severed the connection of Church and State, leaving religious affairs to the individual, and temporal affairs only to the State. A great number of members of the Established Church were smarting under the indignity of Parliamentary control, and a vast number of other religious communities were smarting under the knowledge of the privileged position which flowed from State patronage. He believed that by the law of the land every British subject in the United Kingdom was a member of the Established Church, and yet that was so far disregarded in practice that a Nonconformist was refused burial in a churchyard for fear his very dust should contaminate the true members. Yet it was to this House, composed of scores of Nonconformists, of Catholics, of members of all accepted and unaccepted forms of 331 belief, that the Church must turn for any alteration of her service and ritual; it was this House which ultimately directed her belief and controlled her destiny. To men of sincere conviction and sensitive temper, he could imagine no servitude more degrading, no condition more galling; nor did he think that this humiliation would have been tolerated for a moment, were it not that disendowment was an essential feature of disestablishment. He asked the House in the generosity of its spirit to free the Church from every vestige of State interference and control, and to let her develop according to the wishes of her members. In doing that, not only would they be still following a precedent crowned with the proved value of experience, but at the same time, by removing the inequality and injustice felt by Nonconformists, they would have travelled a long way on the road to Protestant unity. In that earnest spirit he commended the Amendment to the House.
§ *COLONEL R. WILLIAMS (Dorsetshire, W.)
said he desired in the first place to congratulate the hon. Member who had just spoken on his very successful first speech—a speech in which he had championed the cause which his father championed before him with great success during the time he represented Bradford. But he would like to correct one mistake into which the hon. Member had fallen when speaking of the regulation as to the burial of Nonconformists in churchyards. He believed the prohibition was entirely done away with by the Act of 1870. They had listened to two very remarkable speeches that afternoon dealing with very different sides of this question—speeches by the hon. Members for West Ham and for Leicester, but before he dealt with them or with the Bill before the House he would like as a strong Churchman, on what was called the evangelical side, who might be thought to be in hearty accord with the Bill, to explain his position. Although he realised quite as much as the mover of the Bill the extreme danger of the views which were openly preached and spoken, and of the doctrines inculcated and of the practices followed by certain sections of the Church of England, he thought the hon. Gentleman had fallen into the mistake of 332 confounding the views of the extremists with those of the immense mass of Churchmen who were loyal to the Reformation settlement. He had for many years made it a quarrel with his moderate High Church friends that they had not long ago taken steps to free themselves from connection with the extreme section, and that they had not made it quite clear that those extreme doctrines were not widely or largely held and were not viewed by them with favour. That was the platform on which he stood when he spoke against the Bill, which seemed to him to violate all the canons which ought to prevail when formulating legislation of that sort. The mover of the Bill went back to the Reformation times for the framework of his measure, to the 1 Eliz., cap. 1, and to the Court of High Commission. Originally the Commissions were addressed to archbishops, bishops, doctors in the law and other persons of learning; they were always addressed to men of standing and position very different from those who were to constitute the new Courts and who were to be required to be of much the same status as County Court Judges appointed by the Lord Chancellor. Those who carried their researches back would find that this Court of High Commission set up by Elizabeth was abolished by the Long Parliament, as also was the Star Chamber, for the reason that in each Court, in degrees more or less oppressive, the Judge's discretion was the law—a discretion which Lord Clarendon, writing at the time, said "hath been the quicksand swallowing up their property and their liberty." This Bill entirely ignored the power of the bishops in the last instance and for the first time it conferred upon lay Judges the right of inhibition and of deprivation; the practice under the present law, when an appeal was heard in the Law Courts from a decision of the Ecclesiastical Court being for the Court not itself to inhibit or deprive but to remit the case back to the Archbishops' or Bishops' Court with a direction to that Court to do so. Therefore the Bill infringed what had always been recognised as a spiritual function of the bishop or archbishop with regard to these matters. It was said that the offences enumerated in the third schedule had been made 333 illegal by the Courts. Did not the hon. Gentleman remember that the greatest difficulty in all these matters was that those Courts themselves were not accepted by a large body of the clergy? Whether they were right or wrong in that it was not his purpose to argue, but it was due to the feeling that the fountain of the King's justice in matters ecclesiastical should flow through channels ecclesiastical, and not simply through channels purely and wholly secular. If it was said that whatever the law was it ought to be obeyed, that came with an ill grace from Gentlemen opposite who were already proposing to alter the education laws to meet one set of consciences and were agitating to repeal altogether the vaccination laws to meet another set of consciences, and who also in Ireland were saying that if people did not choose to obey the ordinary Courts the ordinary Courts would not very much trouble themselves and they would not use any fresh powers to put them into effect. But they must not lose sight of the fact that there was this conscientious objection to these Courts, and that one of the very recommendations of the Commission to which reference had been made was that there should be an earnest attempt made to devise a Court which should administer the King's justice both on its ecclesiastical and on its secular side,—a Court which ought to be accepted by those who were now objecting to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and the Courts as at present established for these ecclesiastical cases. But having entirely ignored that feature, the Bill proceeded to enumerate a very long list of ornaments, etc., which it declared to be illegal. Reference had been made by the mover to the inaction of the bishops and of the Church. He would like to correct one statement made by the hon. Member for Leicester that the Church came to Parliament to ask for this Bill. That was not the case. No official exponent of the Church's views had ever asked for this Bill or anything like it. It was said that the Church and the bishops had done nothing. He held it would be found on the contrary that since this Commission reported the bishops had clone a very great deal, and if they searched through the land 334 for the churches where the things that had been mentioned were being carried on in defiance of the bishop's wishes, the House would be astonished at the smallness of the number that there were. They all had reason to know many cases in which the bishops I had taken quiet action, and in which these practices had been dropped. He had known personally friends of his own who had themselves dropped what they held very dear. He knew one church where the children's communion was entirely dropped at the request of the bishop not without a great deal of difficulty of conscience on the part of the incumbent. One of the recommendations of the Ritual Commissioners was that letters of business should be asked for to enable the Church in Convocation to examine into these matters. He fully agreed with what had been said as to Convocation not being as representative as it ought to be and the House of Laymen not being an integral part of the governing body of the Church itself as it ought to be and it must be in a very few years. There again he would like to correct a misstatement made by the mover of the Bill that the House of Laymen was elected on a very limited franchise. On the contrary, one of the very first things which the Representative Church Council did was to frame a very wide basis for the election to the House of Laymen. It was not possible to hold in every parish a contested election, each member having a parish or group of parishes as his constituency, but every member of the House of Laymen had been first sent up by his own diocesan body on a broad and comprehensive basis, and then by that body to the House of Laymen. He would like a broader basis still, but the basis was already broad. The Prime Minister felt himself obliged by precedent to grant those letters of business, and therefore the party to which he (the Prime Minister) belonged was pledged to waif I till the report of Convocation. These things in the third schedule were held up as part of Romish teaching. There; was no doubt that some of the clergy used them as a part of Romish teaching and with the deliberate intention of getting as near the Church of Rome as 335 they could—a practice to be deprecated as strongly as possible and one to be removed as soon as possible. It was part of the irony of fate that within a few days of this Bill being brought forward the first result of the letters of business should have appeared. A Committee of the Upper House of the Convocation of Canterbury had drawn up a historical sketch of the vestments by prelates of acknowledged learning who were perhaps the most able on the whole bench of bishops to give such a historical sketch, who could none of them be accused of being ultra Protestant, and who told them with one voice that there was no doctrinal signification in any one of these things. There was simply a development of the ordinary civil dress of the time, even to the handkerchief which we should put in our pockets but which they used to carry over their arm. The symbolism attached to the dress dated from about the year 700, some of it as late as 1000 or 1200. This showed the unhistorical faculty and the disloyalty to the Church of England of those who said there was doctrinal signification. It showed the narrowness with which the Bill had been conceived, and it showed want of thought too, because the Commissioners under the Bill had no choice but to order the whole of those things to be removed. One of the most venerated spots in England was Westminister Abbey, but this Bill would have the holy table, which was of stone, removed from it. In Portland not very long ago in altering and enlarging the prison the Government built a new chapel and the holy table was made of stone. The chapel was built by the prisoners, the stone was the production of the island, and he thought the idea a good one, though, no doubt, strictly speaking it was illegal, and under this Bill it would have to be removed. But what were they to say about a further provision of the Bill in regard to costs? He complained of the source from which the money was to come. There was nothing said in olden days about paying costs when prosecutions could not be undertaken without the bishops. Those who wanted to put their hands into the pockets of the Commissioners had never offered to guarantee the bishops their costs if they would put the law into 336 motion, and it was notorious that many prosecutions could have been taken under the old Act, but the bishop could not afford it. If hon. Members wanted these prosecutions they had better have put their hands in their pockets first of all. But he believed there were only two cases in which laymen had offered to guarantee the expenses of their bishop for a prosecution. They had already been told in the debate of cases costing £7,000, £11,000, £17,000. But let the House think what the revenues of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners were and of the boon they had conferred on the Church within the last few months of being able to raise to something like a living wage the remuneration of a body of men working on almost starvation wages among a large population. This Bill proposed to take away their power of doing that, and to spend the money upon these prosecutions for offences which, though bad in themselves, were yet very few. There was a story of a great Bishop of London who refused to allow a clergyman to have some particular practice or something in his Church. The clergyman said: "Mr. So-and-so has one." The answer was "He works." They must have some sort of sympathy with that. They might not agree with all the methods of the Salvation Army, of ranters, of Nonconformist Free Churchmen, or with these ritualists, but in these days of secularism, when carelessness was growing all over the Church, it seemed a pitiful thing to bring forward a Bill to prosecute men who were doing this good work, and who, though they were preaching disloyal things, were still more preaching and living the same Gospel which hon. Members opposite themselves believed. This had been used as an argument for disestablishment, but the Bill was no argument for disestablishment. The hon. Member for Leicester had spoken of the House being the head of the secular part of the law, and having nothing to do with the ecclesiastical law. While the Church was established, he would remind Members, whatever might be their private opinion, whatever might be the particular form of religion in which they worshipped God, they had come into that House with the responsibility of managing to some extent the 337 Church of England. That House was the ultimate Court in all these matters and therefore, Nonconformists though they might be, Secularists, Roman Catholics or Jews, one of the responsibilities they had assumed was that of helping forward the Church of England legislation as the Church of England desired. It was quite true that many of them wanted to be free from that responsibility and that there was a strong feeling in favour of disestablishment among a great many Nonconformists, though not all, because a great number knew perfectly well that with all her difficulties the Church of England was the real stay of sound doctrine in this country. Disestablishment would be the greatest blow at the maintenance of true doctrine that the land could ever have. He knew a good many hon. Members would say, "No" to that, but he knew some Members, and a great many Nonconformists outside, who would not. They had not said a word in that debate except as regarded disestablishment. They had said something as regarded the Church and disestablishment, but nothing as regarded the country and disestablishment. Of course, he was quite aware that the Amendment did not deal with the question of disendowment, but the hon. Member for Shipley had made it quite clear that if he voted for disestablishment he would vote for disendowment as well. Not a word had been said as yet upon the other side of the question. It had not been said that after all this nation had adopted a form of religion as its manifestation to the world that it was a religious nation with a religious basis for its laws. Nothing had been said about the loss which would accrue to the nation if it deliberately gave away the profession which it had made, and which was the reason for the adoption of disestablishment. Nothing had been said of the loss to religion if that form of compliance with that association with religion was given up by the State, or as to the moral loss to the State if it took away revenues which were not the State's and never had been, which were given not only for Church purposes, but in many instances for individual parochial purposes, which whatever their origin were at all events given for the maintenance of religion and the worship of God. He 338 hoped he had made it abundantly clear why a great many of them who were loyal and evangelical members of the Church could not possibly vote for this Bill, and why on the other hand they could no more vote, for the sake of the Church or the State, for the Motion for disestablishment. He should not vote at all, and he thought some hon. Members opposite would be in the same position.
§ *SIR FRANCIS EDWARDS (Radnor)
said the hon. Gentleman had reminded the House that nearly every hon. Member on the Ministerial side had been returned pledged to deal with the Established Church. That was the reason why he wanted to support this Amendment. He wished things so arranged that the House would have nothing to do with the management of the Church of England at all. That morning he had received an intimation that if he voted for this Amendment he would be voting for the Mass. He might retort that every vote given for the Bill was a vote given for the principle of an Established Church, and he was against that. The principle itself was the management of the Church of England by this House, and he was in favour of disestablishment which would allow the Church to manage its own affairs in the way it thought best. It had been said that the time was not ripe for disestablishment, but he supported this Amendment not merely as a politician who objected to a connection between Church and State, and not merely as a Nonconformist who justly resented the unfair privilege which was inherent in an Established Church. He represented a Welsh county, the majority of his constituents being Nonconformists, and he deeply sympathised with the grievance they had against the unfair privileges enjoyed by the Church of England. He himself was not a Nonconformist. He was a Churchman, and he wished to address himself to this Bill entirely from the standpoint of a Churchman who wanted to set the Church free from the crippling bonds of the State. From his own experience he was convinced that the power for good of the Church of England in Wales could never be properly and efficiently exercised until the Church ceased her 339 connection with the State, and then the suspicions and prejudices created by that connection would be removed. He desired to see the Church free for the very purposes for which this Bill had been brought in, viz., to put down disorder. By disestablishing the Church they would do the best thing for putting down disorder and regulating the discipline of the Church. In that way they would produce a gradual co-operation between the laity of the Church and the clergy which would be more satisfactory than at present. As a Churchman he asked what benefit was the Establishment to the Church? The Church was a great instrument for spiritual good. Did the Establishment help or hinder the spiritual work of the Church? The introduction of this Bill was a sufficient answer to that question. Churchmen might differ as to what was good or bad for Church discipline, but in the words of the hon. Member for West Ham it was injurious to true religion that Church doctrine and Church dicipline should depend upon the caprice of men who were entirely outside the Church to which they professed to belong. This protest by Churchmen against the ritual was only the culmination of the attitude taken by the defenders of the Establishment, because the main reason for the Establishment was that the Church and the nation were co-extensive. They contended that the Parliamentary control of a National Church was just and reasonable, but many Churchmen resented that control. The fact that so many men were outside the Church showed that the Church of England had lost its title to be considered a National Church. Would disestablishment help or hinder the spiritual work of this country? The connection between Church and State was nowhere more apparent than in country places, and the vicar of a small country parish always owed more to the Church and the Establishment than the vicar of a parish in a large town. It was clear that the Church was more prosperous in large parishes than in country places. Why was this? Because in large towns the Church of England was practically as self-dependent as any of the free Churches. The Establishment 340 hindered the true work of the Church If this were true as a general proposition it was more essentially true of the Church in Wales. What was the position of the Church in the Principality to-day? Nobody would deny that the majority of the people of Wales were outside the Established Church. The majority in Wales had expressed their view constitutionally in the unprecedented fact that Wales sent up to this House a solid band of representatives every one of them pledged to the disestablishment and disendowment of the Church of England. In the seventeenth and eighteenth century Wales was thoroughly Jacobite and Anglican, whereas to-day it was Radical and Nonconformist. That was largely due to the Establishment and its evil consequences. The history of the Church in Wales was the history of a Church whose life had been crushed out by the dead weight of the Establishment. As a Welshman he was rather pleased to read the remarks made by the Bishop of Norwich in his address at the Church Congress at Yarmouth in which he said—It would not be justifiable if possible to bolster up the Church as an Establishment against the convictions and wishes of the people of England.If they substituted in that quotation "Wales "for "England" then the Bishop had stated the case for Wales. He had great pleasure in supporting the Amendment.
§ MR. TALBOT (Oxford university)
The speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down was a very satisfactory contribution to our debate, for he has stated his case in a thoroughly temperate manner, and in a way which will go straight to the hearts of many of his friends and fellow-countrymen. I will not, however, follow the hon. Member into the mazes of Welsh disestablishment, but when the time comes for discussing that subject we shall be ready to meet his arguments. There are, of course, two sides to the question of the Church in Wales. There is such a thing as a minority in Wales, and unless my information is fallacious the strength of that minority is increasing and will some day reach a figure which 341 will require to be dealt with. We cannot settle great and important constitutional questions in this way. With regard to the question of disestablishment it has been raised in the middle of a discussion on an entirely different matter. I contend that it is possible to find a middle course on the one hand. Some say: "We do not like the interference with the Church by the State." On the other hand, others say: "I want the State to regulate the affairs of the Church." Is it not possible that the Church may have a larger measure of self-regulation conceded to it and at the same time retain the ultimate control of the State? Is that not a conceivable solution of a very great and important matter? I would commend that to the consideration of the House, and I hope hon. Gentlemen will give it their attention. But turning to this Bill it seems to me to contain a lamentable amount of impatience and intolerance. I know the question has attained a very considerable position now in advance of what it obtained in former times. As a member of the Royal Commission which investigated this question, perhaps the House will allow me to recall a few of the important facts bearing upon it, because I think they ought to be borne in mind before the House comes to a conclusion. They have already been referred to, but perhaps the House will allow me to emphasise one or two points in connection with the Report of that Commission. I heard the hon. Member opposite cast some slur on the composition of that Commission. Of course it is not for me as a member of that Commission to discuss that point, but I may state that I have heard a similar complaint made by the ritualistic party. The truth is that the Commission was intended to be a body composed of reasonable men occupying no extreme position and advocating no extreme views. I will venture to say that a very remarkable amount of learning was possessed by many members of that Commission, and their Report ought to be a very valuable factor in arriving at any conclusion. With regard to the extent of the evils complained of, I would like to make a quotation from 342 page 76 of the Report of that Commission, where it says—The complaints made to us relate to a small proportion of the 14,242 churches in England and Wales and they vary greatly in their character and gravity. To preclude an impression which would, we believe, be unjust to the body of the clergy, we desire to place on record our conviction that the evidence gives no justification for any doubt that in the large majority of parishes the work of the Church of England is being quietly and diligently performed by clergy who are entirely loyal to the principles of the English Reformation as expressed in the Book of Common Prayer.That throws a considerable light upon the discussion of this Bill. In the face of that is it worth while, even if it is admitted that a small minority are guilty of the practices complained of, to pass a Bill to put down what is admitted to be an excess of zeal in a small number of parishes? To accomplish that, is it worth while to disturb the whole peace of the Church? In a great majority of the parishes of which complaint was made to the Royal Commission, the complainants were not residents in the parish. The complaints did not come from the parishioners, but from persons who were sent to those parishes to investigate and report. It is worth observing that one of the difficulties of regulating what are called ritualistic excesses is that you have not to deal with the clergy alone, but also with the laity and the congregations. I heard of a case the other day in which a clergyman who was unwilling to be brought into line had behind him in that attitude a large body of laity and a very enthuisastic congregation who showed their enthusiasm by contributing to the Church expenses, and who were very unwilling that any change should be made to regulate the excesses complained of. That is another thing worth mentioning as showing that the difficulties in all these cases are very great. It is easy in this House and outside of it to draw a lurid picture of the excessive ceremonial which is going on and the attempt to adopt Romish doctrines and Romish ornaments, but when you come to deal with the thing in individual parishes you are met by these local personal obstacles. Therefore, it is a great mistake to suppose that all this is being done by the clergy in the 343 teeth of the laity, because there is undoubtedly a certain amount of lay Church opinion which is in favour of the practices of which this Bill complains. Now let me pass to the recommendations which the Royal Commission have made. The Report says:—Letters of business should be issued to the Convocations with instructions (a) to consider the preparation of a new rubric regulating the ornaments (that is the vesture) of the ministers of the Church at the time of their ministrations with a view to its enactment by Parliament; and (b) to frame with a view to their enactment by Parliament, such modifications in the existing law relating to the conduct of Divine Service and to the Ornaments and fittings of the Church as may tend to secure greater elasticity which a reasonable recognition of the comprehensiveness of the Church of England and of its present needs seems to demand.It has been held here that all departures from the law of the Church of England are on one side, and that there has been no such thing as departure by defect, carelessness, or indifference. I would remind the House that on all these lines there is a departure from the practice of the Church, and justice demands that there should be some equal treatment all round. The Commissioners to be appointed under this Bill are to go round the country and investigate every church to see whether the laws of the Church of England are being absolutely obeyed, and where they are not being observed. They are to go round to these places on their own motion, and wherever they find an excess or negligence of the laws of the Church they are to come down upon that church, and bring the clergymen before the authorities, and if he does not obey the laws of the Church he is to be deprived of his living. The whole thing is so much beyond all reason that I apologise to the House for dwelling upon it. There was another recommendation of the Royal Commission which says—The recommendation of the Ecclesiastical Courts Commission in 1883 as to the constitution of the Diocesan and Provincial Courts and of the Court of Final Appeal should be carried into effect with one modification.I am not going into the thorny question of the Ecclesiastical Courts. I know that the Supreme Court of Appeal does not commend itself to the judgment of the clergy of the Church, and they say it was forced upon the Church by the State without the Church being consulted in 344 the matter, and for that reason they decline to accept its authority. So long as there is a large number of persons in the Church who take that view, so long will it be impossible to enforce the law on the Church. Until you can satisfactorily reconstitute the final Court of Appeal it will never commend itself to the consciences of Churchmen, and you will never get that obedience to the laws of the Church which we all desire. With regard to one of these recommendations something was said this afternoon. I do not wish to make any charge against the Government; what I have to say is entirely in their favour. They have granted the letters of business which the Royal Commission recommended, and so long as these letters of business are running, and so long as these matters are under their consideration, it seems to me idle for the House of Commons to step in and interfere and to say what will not be the law of the Church. The Convocation must have this respect paid to them, that so long as they are the existing body recognised by the State and the Government, so long, I say, we must wait until these letters of business are acted upon, and you will not be paying proper respect to the gentlemen appointed, unless you wait to see what they say. I do not stand hero to minimise or to ignore in any way the evils or irregularities which have been pointed out in debate. I have never apologised for, nor have I sanctioned any of the what are called illegal practices. I have always taken the line of saying. "Till you can show that the things complained of are strictly within the law of the Church it is much better not to practice them." No one who listened to the speech of the hon. Member for West Ham could have failed to be struck not only with the ability, but the very lofty tone in which that speech was expressed. His attitude towards the Church of England was one of respect, and he paid absolute respect to the opinions of those who differed from him. But the hon. Gentleman seemed to me to make a long step in advance when he indicated that rather than have these matters of discipline discussed in the secular atmosphere, which was painful to him and his friends, he would prefer to cut the knot, and at once sever the connection between Church 345 and State. I know that I differ in that respect from the majority of the House of Commons, but personally I should intensely regret the severance of the Church of England from the State. The connection between Church and State in England is one of the most ancient parts of the British Constitution; it is more ancient even than the House of Commons. I think the people of England would be very unwilling to consent to a severance of that connection—a severance which would weaken the forces that make for better Government and better moral and social well-being of the people. But I go beyond this, because I believe it is matter of common knowledge that disestablishment of the Church involves also disendowment. Those who would vote for disendowment would be doing a grievous wrong, and a grievous wrong especially to the poorest classes. The revenues of the Church of England are in the aggregate large, but when you take the sums paid to individual holders of offices, it cannot be said that they are unduly large. I think the endowments of the Church of England do more good to the whole community than almost any other form of expenditure that we could devise. Through the means of these endowments it has been provided that there shall be one, often more than one, to whom the deepest interests of the most needy members of the community are committed. I know that there are sometimes painful exceptions. I know that in former times the Church often failed to carry out its duties. But I think the improvement and progress we have seen in the character and standard of the Church deserve always to be recognised. At the present time we can see that in the vast majority of parishes the endowments of the Church of England provide someone to minister not only to; the highest but to the lowest, to the needs of the poorest and most needy. If I am right in that, I cannot be a party to doing anything to diminish those resources that minister to the poor, or to do a grievous wrong to the most needy in the land. To the supporters of this Bill I wish to say that there is something much better than compulsion. Compulsion, no doubt, is necessary when you are dealing with 346 evil-doers, persons who are absolutely determined to break the law and prey upon the community. When you come upon a class of that kind you are bound to exercise the rigours of the law with a view to saving society. But the men who are really at the bar this afternoon are not evil-doers, but men who think that by straining ecclesiastical law they will make more attractive the doctrine and discipline of the Church. They may be wrong. Very likely they are wrong. They may have acted foolishly, but are they to be compelled by Act of Parliament, or by Commissioners appointed under Act of Parliament? Are you going to arrive at a conclusion by means of that sort? Surely we can do something better than that. We can strengthen the hands of the rulers of the Church and try to persuade rather than compel. If Parliament and the country would set themselves to that work, and and if they would try to persuade rather than coerce, and try to use the forces that make for peace rather than those which make for destruction and division, I am sure it would be a much stronger step for the settlement of the difficulties of the Church of England, and a much nobler step for the advancement of the spiritual welfare of the country than the passing of such a Bill as this.
§ *MR. MASSIE (Wiltshire, Cricklade)
said he agreed with the Amendment in its general and practical issue. But as in the Amendment which appeared on the Paper in his name, he desired to emphasise certain concurrent issues to which prominence had not been given. He had some reason to believe that the opinion of the mover of the Amendment in favour of the liberation of the Church from the State involved as a consequence partial disendowment. But he had not said so in his Amendment, and he did not say so in his speech. The hon. Member admitted that the existence of ecclesiastical disorders was weakening the Church, and, therefore, he presumed was hampering the Church in the discharge of the spiritual functions devolving upon it. But the hon. Member had not admitted them in bulk as lawlessness, and at any rate he had not said this in his Amendment. On behalf of himself and those 347 who agreed with him, he desired to make these two issues clear. While he did so, he agreed heartily with the Member for West Ham that no machinery for coercion by the State in matters of conscience could be made effective. Such machinery would only aggravate disloyalty into rebellion, and would only add largely to the contingent of sympathisers. Acts having the same end in view had in the past entirely failed. They had done worse; they had fostered that which they were designed to kill, from the Act of Uniformity in 1662 down to the Public Worship Regulation Act of 1874. The Act of Uniformity turned the Church of England into a sect, and made Nonconformity, which, whatever might be said against it, was so strong in these days that it now comprised something like half the religious population of the country. The Public Worship Regulation Act of 1874 was designed to put down ritualism. What had been its concrete effect? During the thirty years after it was passed, five disobedient clergymen retired from their livings. Two of these went over to Rome, but the other three obtained clerical positions in other dioceses. From three curates licences were withdrawn, and these instantly found clerical occupation elsewhere. The imprisonment of Mr. Green and Mr. Enraght made these two gentlemen martyrs, and made recruiting in their cause much easier. These gentlemen went to prison because they would not plead before the Court of Arches whose jurisdiction they did not recognise. Was it at all likely that a Commission of ex-judges, and of barristers of not less than ten years standing would secure more acceptableness? These clergymen were arraigned because of illegalities in ceremonies, vestments, emblems, and teaching. Was it in the least likely that the scheduling in this Bill of the materials for similar illegalities was likely to secure fuller obedience? The organ of the High Party, The Church Times, assured any man who believed that a Commission or Court similar to such as had previously existed would secure allegiance that he was entirely mistaken. If the estimate was correct there was something like 3,000 churches throughout England and Wales implicated in these illegalities. He did not wish the 348 House to suppose that he was in sympathy in the least with these transgressors. The clergy of the Church of England held positions of prestige and emolument under State Church conditions, and they could not properly fling away the conditions and retain the positions and emoluments. They could not pick and choose the laws they would observe or the Courts they would obey. Let them surrender their positions and emoluments, and then let them have freedom, either in the Church of Rome, so far as that Church would permit it, or finding support outside of both these Churches, so far as social order allowed. Common sense was entirely against the idea that a man might enjoy special favour of the State, and at the same time flout the State's legal and judicial representatives, whether spiritual or temporal. He had not to go far for a specimen of this paradoxical situation. Almost within bow "hot of his own house there was a parish which a lawless priest had turned upside down, as was well known to the bishop, and to the chancellor of the diocese, who was a distinguished Member of this House. Originally a chaplain in an Anglican convent in the South, some eight years ago he was presented to the living by the lady who held the advowson, under promise that he would not interfere with the services as they had been previously conducted, with which services the parish had been perfectly satisfied. But after two years of possession, when he was more or less firmly in the saddle, he began a series of progressive changes which attained the dimensions of a revolution, and the effect of a parochial explosion. He was guilty of illegalities as to ceremonies, vestments, emblems and teaching which had been classed by the Royal Commission among serious illegalities, and which the same Commission described as intended to assimilate the services of the Church of England to those of the Church of Rome. But he still retained the position and emoluments which ought to depend upon obedience. That was a curious study in ritualistic casuistry. But there was another side; it was a curious study also in ethics. The bishop instituted a suit against this clergyman, but the suit was abandoned on account of promises 349 which the clergyman made. These promises, as appeared from the evidence before the Royal Commission, were afterwards broken. The chancellor of the diocese in the Consistory Court ordered him to take down the pictures at the Stations of the Cross, but, within a year after the pictures were taken down there were fourteen texts substituted for the pictures, and the processions went on just the same; and the clergyman sought opportunity to hold what might be called snatch services, when he thought he would not be watched. He was ordered by the same Court to give up the use of incense in the parish church, but the apparatus for the incense remained and the smell of incense was afterwards detected for a time after the services had commenced. It was intended by the use of incense about ten minutes before the service began to let people see when they came into church that incense was used. But there was something worse. What had been the result of all this upon the parish? The clergyman's congregation had practically left him. The congregation numbered about a score and at a crowded vestry meeting he could only secure eighteen supporters. The bishop at his own expense had found a chaplain to conduct services at a chapel of ease, which was always full. There was no church work going on in the parish—no visiting of homes or of schools. There were no district visitors and there were no clubs or societies. He was bound to think that it was this clergyman's conscience which drove him to expel his congregation and to neglect his parish, but it was a conscience which he did not profess to understand, because it was not ethical, it was only ceremonial. A Bill like that now before the House might act very well in this particular case by deprivation, because the clergyman's following in the parish was so small; and deprivation would be absolutely just. But he feared, judging from past circumstances, that he would ingeniously slip out of one illegality into another and back again, a ritualistic Proteus manque. He did not believe that this clergyman would be regarded as a martyr. It was the congregation that had been the martyr; and in his view it would be far better to leave the congregation to 350 deal with him. But there were clergymen belonging to the same school, absolutely devoted and hard working, so warmly beloved by their parishioners that they had a free hand in regard to ceremonies and the use of emblems and vestments. In fact they had leave to do what they liked. If there were deprivation in cases like these there would be something like civil war in these parishes; and if he were a Machiavelli in his advocacy of disestablishment this would be exactly the Bill that he would like to see passed. Such devoted, earnest ritualists with large and equally devoted congregations behind them would break the back of the most just law; and it was the effectiveness of the law and not its justice that they had to consider that afternoon. What, then, would have to be done? As Englishmen and as citizens of a Protestant country, they could not allow the State to be dragged after such men on their way to Rome—the State giving them and continuing to them their prestige and their emoluments to speed them on their way to Rome and to help them to take their people with them. Yet, differing though he did, almost by a whole heaven from some of these men as to the genius of Christianity and the genius of Christian worship, he maintained that there must be room for them, but certainly not in a State Church. Separate the Church from the State, and then the State was no more responsible for that Church or for the divisions and sections of that Church than it was for any other ecclesiastical organisation. There had been attempts recently made in certain ecclesiastical organs to prove that the dissenting bodies were as much established by law as the Church of England. Well, commonsense and facts would have no truck with such a quasi-legal sophistication. Permission to live, protection by the law, by the police, and by the regulations of social order, freedom to believe and to act according to one's belief at one's own expense, and freedom even to hold Church property were all very different things from establishment by law; and any contention to the opposite must be regarded by ordinary men as mere futility. He and those who agreed with him said, "Let the Church be set absolutely free." But if the Church were to be free, the 351 Church must pay the price of freedom. It must give up the patronage and support of the State. They could not cut the painter and carry off the cargo along with them. The precedent of the disestablishment of the Church in Ireland—though that Church was not disendowed enough—not of the Church of Scotland, must be followed. The Church of Scotland had practically become a sect with power to manage its own affairs; and he knew that Mr. Gladstone had entirely dissented from that arrangement. The Church of England in the case of disestablishment should not take with it such property as could be proved to be national property. Not only jurists but bishops had admitted that a large portion of the property now possessed by the Church of England was national. Such national property as had been appropriated to her or by her as a portion only of the nation should be taken for purposes of general charity or beneficence about which there was little or no difference of opinion. And they must persistently remember that the tithe was an arrangement not only for the clergy but also for the poor. Let such property be used to assuage poverty, to dispel ignorance; and anyone who called that the secularising of the property of a religious body both misunderstood the nature and tenure of such property and failed to distinguish between secular and sacred, holy and profane. Such disendowment as was involved in disestablishment need inflict no injury upon any Church. After the disestablishment of the Church in Ireland bishops and archbishops and devoted church laymen united to say that the gain far outweighed the loss. One right hon. Gentleman, whose name was remembered with affection and reverence in this House even by those who differed from him and fought him on political questions—he referred to the late Colonel Saunderson—said in a speech delivered in Dublin on 7th October, 1898—The Irish Church received, as we thought, a very sad blow twenty-three years ago, when it was disestablished and disendowed. Although I voted against that measure at the time, yet if I could I would now undo that vote, for I believe that the Irish Church is stronger and more spiritual than ever it was before.Let them get rid of the notion that the Church and the clergy were identical. 352 Give the laity power in their own Church. The laity in the main had learned toleration by practice. They knew by daily experience what it was to work for the common good with those who differed from them. The laity, if given the power which they ought to have, would find a way by which there would be room for the preferences of different sections, and they would know how to restrain the eccentricities of individual clergymen by the practical method of stopping supplies. He did not say that there would be perfect peace. Unfortunately, in ecclesiastical regions that could not be; but there would be more peace. There would be no domination of parishes by individual clergymen. There would be no benefices absolute freeholds. The bishops of the disestablished and disendowed Church owing their honourable position to their own people would rule with the people behind them. The clergy obtaining their position and emoluments and holding them by the goodwill of those whom they served would continue in their honourable position by virtue of high character and spiritual efficiency. The Church would no longer vex the State and the State would no longer vex the Church, as each unimpeded by the other would fulfil the duties of the station to which it had been called.
§ *MR. AUSTIN TAYLOR (Liverpool, East Toxteth)
said it was one of the vicissitudes of their debates that, owing to the procedure of the House, when one set of Members introduced one subject another set of Members could compel them to discuss another subject in which the first set were not interested. However, he made no complaint of that; all was fair in religion and politics. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had, towards the close of his speech, wandered off into disestablishment, and had pursued with curious vision the destiny and fortunes of the Church which he was so anxious to disestablish. He gave them a forecast of its future position when disestablished, so detailed, so precise, and so alluring, that he was sure members of the Church of England owed the hon. Gentleman a deep debt of gratitude. He had listened to the mover and seconder of the Amendment with great interest 353 and he desired to join in the compliment paid to them for the terms and spirit in which the Amendment was moved. He could not help envying the position intellectually in which they stood. They got rid, or thought they got rid, of all thorny topics, and they provided a solution of this question so symmetrical, so logical, so fair, and, above all, so remote that they felt at liberty to discuss it in general terms without any danger of galvanising it into one of the practical living problems of the hour. It was quite hopeless on their part to endeavour to induce the House to take up the position of Gallio who drove the contentious Jews from his judgment seat. He had always thought the attitude of Gallio, even if adopted by the House, was singularly unfortunate as a historical precedent, because Gallio, whilst declaring as a Roman that he cared for none of these miserable theological disputes, and drove the Jews away, did not get rid at all of the disturbance, because the Jews returned, and they brought with them the ruler of the Synagogue and beat him, and created a great deal more disturbance for Gallio than he had to contend with in the first instance. Therefore he did not think that his hon. friends were well advised in assuring the House that by entering gaily upon a measure for disestablishment and disendowment of the Church of England they were going to get rid for all time of theological controversy. His hon. friend the Member for West Ham said he only suggested it, and he quoted Mr. Gladstone, but Mr. Gladstone also said that the fortunes of Church and State in this country were so linked together that if he were called upon to disunite them he would not know where to begin, and that in the event of the total separation of Church and State he conceived that nothing would be left but a lacerated and bleeding mass. Therefore, he thought it was impossible for his hon. friends—his hon. friend the Member for West Ham, who approached the question as a Churchman, and his hon. friend the Member for Leicester whom he would only recognise as having no interest whatever in the Church of England from the personal point of view—he did not conceive that either of these two hon. Gentlemen was 354 going to lead the House into a paradise of peace and freedom by inducing to embark upon the long and storm; controversy which would be aroused by the disestablishment of the Church of England. He asked the House to consider what was the position in this country as between Church and State with which they were confronted. The Member for Oxford University had referred to the historical partnership between Church and State which had so long existed. The right hon. Gentleman was perfectly justified in dwelling upon its importance historically, but he did not lay sufficient stress upon the fact that since the Reformation the terms of that partnership had been embodied in written documents, the Prayer Book, and the Articles of the Church. These documents had been solemnly registered, and had had the adherence of both Parliament and the Houses of Convocation. They constituted—as far as between a secular and a spiritual society a partnership could be constituted—the terms of the partnership which established the Church in this country, and the position which the Royal Commission had emphatically pronounced to be beyond dispute was that in many instances in a spirit of defiant lawlessness the terms of that partnership had been repudiated by clergy holding their benefices and their emoluments by a Parliamentary title. The Royal Commission reported that in a large number of the services of Holy Communion vestments, illegal lights, incense, wafers, and other practices had united to change the outward character from that of the traditional service of the Reformed English Church to that of the traditional service of the Church of Rome.
§ *MR. AUSTIN TAYLOR
read the remainder of the passage, which stated that a large number of members of the Church of England claimed that many of these things took their rise before the introduction of the Roman abuses, and honestly believed them to be in accordance with the teaching of the 355 Prayer Book and the law of the Church of England, as in their view it ought to be declared. Reference had been made to the report of the bishops just issued to Convocation, to the effect that vestments had no doctrinal significance whatever—and he did not at all impugn the statements of many of the clergy that they were sincerely convinced that this was so—but if these practices had no doctrinal significance, why was there this eager desire to introduce them? They were unknown after the Reformation for nearly 300 years, and it was only within the last sixty years that anything like even a partial adoption of these practices had taken place in the Church of England. And when they had been adopted, as the Royal Commission truly said, by an organised combination of large, bodies of clergy and laity, whose aim had been expressed by their leader, Lord Halifax, in no doubtful terms, no unsophisticated mind could doubt that they had for their object the assimilation of the practices and discipline of the Church of England to that of the Church of Rome. Any Bill on this subject must necessarily lay itself open to criticism in detail, but the promoters of this Bill asserted in the teeth of the Amendment that the time had arrived when the House should define its position. If the Amendment were carried, the House would be thrown back upon an academic expression of opinion in favour of disestablishment, which it registered last session, and which would gain nothing by being again registered that afternoon. He submitted to those who opposed the Bill that as between the Church and State, whether they approved the machinery of the Bill or not, the State was within its right in formulating the terms on which it might continue the Establishment. The essence of this Bill, to his mind, was not its machinery for enforcing the law; it was the schedule which, taking certain practices as symbolical and typical of the shifting of the centre of gravity in the National Church in a direction which was never contemplated by the Reformation, challenged the Church of England in its corporate capacity to say whether or not it intended to remain a Protestant foundation or to revert again; to the mediæval usage before the Reformation. The machinery of the Bill was 356 a matter for Committee, and, whatever opinions were held on that subject, he urged that Parliament, as the trustee for a Protestant State, confronted with a Church reeling back into mediævalism, should place a plain issue before the Houses of Convocation. Whatever might have been the attitude of the Prime Minister, or the Crown as advised by him, the House was within its rights in not leaving Convocation to wait for a Parliament more favourably disposed to high Anglican contentions, but in laying down the terms on which the Establishment was to stand or fall whilst there was a Parliament which, as he believed, faithfully reflected the Protestant sentiment of the country. The hon. Member for Leicester had taunted members of the Church of England for coming there to a secular body in respect to theological opinions and for a remedy for their grievances, but he owned himself that he knew nothing about the Church of England. What did he know about it? Why he came from Scotland and was a member of the Free Church, and of all the unhappy instances of freedom he could not have instanced one worse than that Free Church which possessed spiritual freedom and yet had to come to this House to receive a Parliamentary endowment of its property, of which it had been despoiled by the secular arm. But the Free Church of Scotland had powers of self-government, and the laity were fully equipped with spiritual jurisdiction. What, therefore, did the hon. Member know of a Church in which every clergyman had a freehold and in which the layman was a nullity? Most of the practices mentioned in the schedule grouped themselves round the most solemn rite of the Christian religion. They were connected with the service of the Holy Communion and he, with many others, in the Church of England, felt it a burning hardship that at the autocratic caprice of a clergyman, they should be deprived or threatened to be deprived, of having the most sacred rite of their religion administered to them with that plainness and that simplicity to which for generations before them their Church had been accustomed. If the promoters had another remedy they would not trouble this House; but it was useless for their opponents to meet 357 the promoters with an academic Motion in favour of disestablishment. Whether the House liked it or not, it was the joint trustee for the Church of England, and while that Church remained established Parliament had to discharge its duty in seeing that the terms of the compact upon which that establishment was based were faithfully and loyally adhered to.
§ *MR. STUART WORTLEY (Sheffield, Hallam)
I rise to refer to a point which was not mentioned by my hon. friend the Member for the Kirkdale division in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, but which, nevertheless, is a point of more importance, to my mind, than a question of mere machinery. I refer to Clause 13 which charges the expenses, which I am afraid must be looked forward to as very heavy, for the administration of this Bill upon the funds in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. I want to know whether that clause is machinery, and whether if it is not mere machinery we can look for it that the promoters of this Bill will consent to its being dropped in Committee. For, without some security of that kind, I must say with a great many other Members, I cannot support this Bill. Perhaps I may be permitted to give the House some few figures which show the result of the clause. There are now 1,491 benefices in the Church of England with incomes of less than £100 a year, the average net value being £67 a year. Supposing we sought to raise these benefices to the bare living wage of £150 a year, we should require an annual sum of £123,000 to be provided. This House may have read lately of the recent proposals of Ecclesiastical Commissioners who promised to deal by exceptional grants with a great many of these poor livings, but even after these amounts have been exhausted, and everything that can be given is given in that direction, they will be able to provide for only one-half, and there will, I am informed, remain a deficit of at least £60,000 a year which must be raised, before a large number of livings with these wretched stipends receive any assistance whatever. Coming to the expenses for the working of the Bill, there is a sum of £8,000 a year to be spent in salaries alone, and when we hear 358 the figures which the hon. Member for Kirkdale read in his speech in proposing the Second Reading, it is not unreasonable to suppose that the figures may at a moderate estimate rise to £20,000 a year. What is the purpose at present defined by Statute for the allocation of the funds in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners? It is to give assistance for the cure of souls in parishes where such assistance is most required. I am afraid that to me that purpose still remains a great deal more sacred than most others, and I want to know whether we are to be told to-day by the promoters of this Bill that by an unflinching attitude on this question, they prefer those poor parishes to go altogether without spiritual care and assistance, rather than allow a single parish to remain with a disloyal clergyman in it. If they do so, I cannot follow them in that attitude, and I have no doubt the very wealthy persons who are promoting this Bill will be able to provide funds for the working of it. At any rate, I submit to the House that if it undertakes the duty of walking the police authority up the aisle of a church, for the purpose of restoring the order it wishes to see reign there, the State itself ought to provide the funds, and not provide them at the expense of the Church. I hope my hon. friend will not remain silent on this point.
§ *MR. CHARLES McARTHUR
In reply to the question of my right hon. friend, I think the view of the promoters of the Bill is that Clause 13 is a matter of detail to be dealt with in Committee, though I would say it is a very necessary detail, because the Bill cannot be carried into effect without money; but whether the money is to be found by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners out of their funds, or by the State, or in some other way, of course, it is impossible to say.
§ MR. HUGH LAW (Donegal, W.)
hoped it would not be considered out of place if he intervened in the debate, because, unlike many hon. Members in that portion of the House he was an Anglican, and he was not, moreover, ashamed to call himself a ritualist. Unfortunately, he did not hear part of the speech of the hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill, but he gathered, from what he did hear of that speech and from addresses by other supporters of the Bill, that they were curiously shy of talking about it. Therefore, perhaps, before he went on to general considerations he might be permitted to direct the attention of the House to one or two clauses of the Bill. He would like to point out, in the first place, that while the promoters of the Bill in the Memorandum told them that it was directed merely against certain practices, all of which had been adjudicated upon and declared to be illegal by the Courts, they found it necessary in Clause 17 to declare that these acts and practices should be illegal, which seemed to show at the least that they had somewhere or another a consciousness that there might be something to be said in history or in law on the other side. The Bill proposed to set up a Commission the terms of which were known to the House. It was provided: further—and he merely mentioned this as showing the animus with which the measure was drafted—that the bishop might associate himself, if he chose, with the Commission in all cases within his own diocese. But there was this curious other provision—and in referring to this he had nothing to say against the noble profession of which he was a mere hanger on—that these Commissioners should be qualified by being persons who held or had held judicial appointments, or who were barristers-at-law who had been in actual practice for at least ten years. A barrister of ten years' standing, however, was not necessarily a great genius, nor did it follow that he knew much about ecclesiastical law, but although he might be chairman, according to the Second Schedule, a bishop must not be. He wondered why He might ask with Browning whether a bishop was a knave or fool, because unless the promoters of this measure were of opinion that all bishops were either knaves or fools, there did not seem much reason for 360 securing their exclusion from the Chair. The ancillary powers given by Clause 10 to this Commission were of the widest possible character. They had summary powers of visitation, inspection, inhibition, suspension, deprivation and ejectment of clergymen, in respect of matters dealt with by the Act, and under the cowardly and mean provision of a later sub-section the costs of the proceedings were to be paid by the person who was prosecuted, and power of sequestration of the living to meet the costs was given to the Commissioners. By Clause 7 any person who had been deprived, suspended, or inhibited by the Commissioners was to be made, under a penalty, incapable of holding any office in the Church, or curacy in any other place in England, until he had undertaken to abstain from a repetition of the practices for which he should be deprived or inhibited. He called the special attention of the House to this, having regard to Clause 9, which seemed to be the keynote of the Bill. They used to hear a good deal about the aggrieved parishioner. He wondered if hon. Gentlemen had noted that the aggrieved parishioner had almost entirely disappeared from the measure. On this subject they used to have their feelings harrowed by vivid pictures of whole parishes—they had had only one that afternoon—being ill a state of revolt against their clergy, wildly indignant with them, mad to get rid of them, but unable to do so. Yet it seemed rather curious that so little faith did the promoters of the Bill have in the parishioners that they actually went outside them and provided that any person, whether a parishioner or not was to be given this power of espionage and relation. The Commission was to be set up to judge of a man's conduct, and he asked who were the men by whom this curious system of relation and coercion was to be put in force. Undoubtedly many of the clergy, who were the especial objects of suspicion were among the most devoted workers in the parishes of this country among the poor. Let the promoters of the Bill go into the slums of London in the East End, near the docks, or in the vicinity of Holborn, or even within a few yards of that House, and they would find men who, under this Bill, it would 361 be in the power of any informer to rout out of his parish, whether his parishioners desired it or not: A more infamous proposal was never made to the House. It must be remembered, too, that these were not the comfortably beneficed clergy, and much as they might think of the true spiritual power which the establishment gave to the Church, they were the last to cling to the endowments which did not aid the spiritual work of the Church. It was said they could give up these practices or go out of the Church, and the hon. Member for West Ham spoke as if symbols were matters of indifference. He did not think so, and he thought the real cruelty of the propositions made in the Bill was to ask men either to give up their whole life's work or to give up practices, usages, customs and symbols which were the natural and necessary expressions of a certain great and ancient rite. These clergy might be right or wrong in holding these views, but they could not treat this as a matter settled and done with. It was said that they had a further-remedy, and if they could neither conform nor go out at least they could go over to Rome. That was not a choice which ought to be put to any man. There were many like himself, who had the deepest reverence and affection and love for that Church, but because in certain matters they held that it was identical or almost identical with the Church of England, it did not follow at all that they would be able to accept other of its doctrines. What they were asked to do was to be hypocrites, in either one direction or the other. He thought that that was a choice which no man ought to be asked to make. The last word he had to say to Parliament was that this was in his view, largely a matter of liberty of conscience, and he was glad to observe that the hon. Member for Leicester and other Nonconformist Members upheld liberty of conscience. There was one of his ancestors to whom he was particularly grateful and of whom he was particularly proud. He was grateful because if it had not been for him he would not have been an Irishman: he was proud of him because he, choosing the weaker side, gave up land, family, and country and went into exile for the sake of that liberty of conscience which he 362 believed to be one of the best things that God gave to man. He liked to believe that the spirits of those who were gone from us were conscious of what happened in this life, and he would fain hope that the old Covenanter would not altogether despise his descendant because, although his ancestor stood for the Covenant and he stood for ritualism, they joined together in the assertion of the great principle that neither king, nor Parliament, nor any individual or body of men with less than Divine authority, had any jurisdiction whatsoever over the realms of men's consciences.
§ *MR. BENNETT (Oxfordshire, Woodstock)
, said he wished to support the Amendment moved by his hon. friend the Member for West Ham. The series of Bills dealing with this question which had made their appearance in the House, and the whole agitation engineered by the Church Association and kindred bodies, had ended in almost complete failure, because they rested on the assumption that by Parliamentary legislation thousands of clergymen could be compelled to abandon certain practices and ritual observances connected with their religious services. This was really an impossible contention. He had been the innocent means of training scores of clergymen at Oxford, and he was bound to say he frequently found their faith and zeal far more robust than their intellect. That was just the point. It was impossible to coerce faith and zeal. The whole course of English history demonstrated this. Even Queen Elizabeth's Court of High Commission succeeded in ousting only some 200 vicars and rectors from their livings. Many in that House would remember the passing of the Public Worship Regulation Act, and the sound and fury of the agitation which followed. What was the nett result in the way of deprivation? Five disobedient parsons were incarcerated. If they wanted another example on similar lines the House might remember the utter failure of successive Governments to repress the conscientious objector to vaccination. Almost in spite of themselves Governments had been compelled to give way upon vaccination because it was found impossible to coerce the conscientious objections of those who were opposed to the practice.
363 The fact was that nine-tenths of the clergy flatly refused to recognise or accept the judgments of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. They maintained that the establishment of that court was a direct violation of the Reformation settlement, and regarded its judgments as ipso facto discredited. It might be urged that these judgments were the law of the land. But any fair-minded man who investigated the rather dismal records of ecclesiastical litigation in modern times must admit that a very small percentage of lawyers had studied ecclesiastical law, and that some of the judgments of the court alluded to not only contradicted admitted history, but contradicted each other. In fact a bewildered layman might well ask what is the law in this connection? But leaving the legal question on one side, and granting that the law of the land was definitely and wholly on the side of the Church Association Protestant Alliance et hoc genus omne, it was nevertheless quite clear that the clergy would not yield. The Protestant supporters of this Bill and others had frequently alluded in a spirit of contempt and ridicule to what was called the High Church party. Thus they described Eucharistic vestments as "ritualistic millinery" and genuflection as "posturing and antics." But he would ask those gentlemen to remember that these observances, however trivial they might appear to others, had a very real and deep significance to those who adopted them. And in any case, it was surely foreign to the whole character of such a collection of human beings as themselves to be seriously discussing a Bill like this, involving matters of devotional and spiritual significance. Some Members doubtless were religious partisans, in the best sense of the word, but others might be more aptly described as "honorary members of all religious systems." The words "abysmal ignorance" used yesterday, would accurately describe the ordinary mental position of hon. Members with respect to ecclesiastical traditions and usages. He would like to see the answers sent up by the Members of that House to an examination paper asking what was a tunicle, a chasuble, a sacring bell, and a stoup. One hon. Member speaking to him on the previous night on this question spoke in such a way as to convince him that he believed that a rubric was a garment worn by a priest. 364 The majority of them, he thought, "trusted the larger hope" in a kindly spirit of toleration, and already believed or were beginning to believe that the State ought not to have any control over or real connection with matters theological. That was the old Nonconformist spirit, and had Nonconformists been true to it in recent years we might have had by this time a sound, complete and satisfactory secular system of national education throughout the country. He trusted that his friends would not infer that he was a ritualist posing as a Radical. That was far from being the case. He confessed on the rare occasions on which he had attended advanced ritualistic services he had been somewhat bewildered, and that one of the few incidents by which he realised he was attending a Church of England service was the collection at the end. But if the promoters of this Bill were successful, and the Bill were passed into law had they seriously or adequately realised what the results would be? The Church Association maintained that something like 5,000 to 7,000 clergymen in rural and urban parishes were either breaking the law or in direct sympathy with those who were, and a recent circular of a pictorial character that came to hon. Members of that House last night, informed them that 2,800 clergymen of the Church of England were committing flagrant violations of the law by wearing tunicles, amices, chasubles, and other vestments described in the pamphlet. A considerable percentage of the 5,000 would, of course, be unbeneficed clergymen, but still liable to inhibition. A certain number might possibly be scared into the paths of acquiescence and submission by the threatened penalties of deprivation, but the number would be small. But even if they halved the 5,000—did any sane man in that House really maintain that any Government could deprive 2,500 vicars and rectors of their livings in England in the 20th century? Was it really within the sphere of practical politics at all, and, if not, why were they discussing it that afternoon? Many of the most advanced ritualists were men whoso lives were one long devotion to the cause of practical Christianity amid the deep poverty and wretchedness of our crowded cities. He might add in passing that many of them were men of really progressive views, 365 who never cast a vote for Toryism and never would, although some recent appointments would seem to indicate that the more reactionary and more Tory a clergyman was the better was his chance of promotion under a Liberal Government. These men could not be deprived of their livings. What law that could ever be passed would be strong enough to turn a man like Father Dolling out of his living? It was a practicable impossibility. Talk about aggrieved parishioners! They would find not only aggrieved parishioners, but aggressive parishioners who would rally round such a man, if he resisted sentence of deprivation. In short, if any attempt were made to enforce the provisions of such an Act, they would arouse in England such a frenzy of religious strife and bitterness as had never been seen since the Act of Uniformity in 1662. No doubt Protestant Churchmen had grievances—grievances from England quite as substantial as those from Ireland, which helped so much to fill the wastepaper baskets in that House. The laity had by no means an adequate voice in Church matters or in the selection of their clergy; they had no discipline in the Established Church comparable to that which was in vogue amongst Presbyterians or Wesleyans. Theological irritation got deep hold on a man whose devotions were rendered impossible because a clergyman were a particular garment, and whoso religious feelings were deeply wounded if prayers were offered for the dead. But as long as they persisted in maintaining the establishment they must, he was afraid, put up with their lot. The Low Church clergy were comparatively a small minority, and, as a philosophic Nonconformist had told the House, minorities must suffer. Of all the young clergy sent out from the University of Oxford he did not think that more than one in seven was a Low Churchman. It had been stated that in 1834 there were only two clergymen who violated the law, and according to the Church Association the law-breakers now ran 366 into thousands. Low Churchmen had admitted and undoubted grievances, but they had invested their spiritual capital so to speak in the Establishment and they must take it with its risks and penalties. He held no brief for the clergy as such. With rare exceptions they were the opponents, often bitter opponents, of all those political ideals which were dear to him; their selfish obstinacy had hindered the work of educational reform, and by their disgraceful alliance with wealthy brewers, they had helped to put a stumbling block in the path of our young citizens, the sin which the Founder of our religion most sternly denounced. Speaking of the licensed victuallers and the Church he might say that recently at Hull a special service was held at the parish Church and the two hymns sung on that occasion were "Oh God, our help in ages past," and "The Church's one foundation." He appealed therefore for support to the Amendment, not because he was anti-Protestant or pro-Ritualist, but because, firstly, the Bill was utterly impracticable, and more especially because if carried, it would delay the great object of all true progressives, the disestablishment of the Church. He noticed with pleasure the Amendment of his hon. friend the Member for the Cricklade division, and the admirable maiden speech of another staunch Nonconformist, the hon. Member for the Shipley division, and he wished all Nonconformists would see eye to eye with them in this matter. He read the other day a remarkably able letter from the Rev. John Lee, a well known Congregational minister at Newcastle, with reference to the deplorable state of things in that diocese, for which the present Government was directly responsible, and he described the campaign against the local High Churchmen as a "senseless crusade of Protestant bigots." He would himself hesitate to use such strong language in public as regards the promoters of this Bill. But he begged the Members of the House not to be led away by the petty and futile side issues 367 raised by the present Bill, but to concentrate their efforts on freeing the Church from her connection with the State and thus allowing her the privilege accorded to all other denominations of settling her religious differences in her own way.
§ *MR. WALSH (Lancashire, Ince)
said he had never heard a debate in the House maintained at such a high level. He had listened with the greatest possible pleasure to the masterly speech of the hon. Member for West Ham. It was a most eloquent and moving speech, but he really wondered where it all led to. It seemed to him to be in the nature of a beautiful balloon, away up in the clouds, far from all practical realities of the situation, rather than a speech that had for its object the furtherance of any definite purpose. The hon. Gentleman who had just sac down asked, Is the Bill practical politics? Well, was the Amendment practical politics? He felt quite certain that the motive of the hon. Member for West Ham was a perfectly high and sincere one, but he was equally certain that the object set out in the Amendment was not within half a century of practical politics. So far as one who was acquainted with the minds of labouring people was concerned, he said distinctly that, considering the mass of social reform that both great parties in the State had set themselves to deal with, it could not be thought for one moment that this vast problem of the disendowment and disestablishment of the Church of England—a Church which had so deeply rooted itself in the national life—was practical politics. The Liberal Party had undertaken many campaigns resolutely, but they would never undertake a more stubborn or protracted campaign than one for the disestablishment of the Church of England. One fact in the Amendment was admitted—that the disorder in the Church of England had increased, and was increasing [Cries of "No "]. All sides admitted that it ought to be diminished. The hon. Member for 368 East Toxteth suggested that the mind of the Member for West Ham had gone back to mediæval times. But the hon. Member had gone back a great deal further. He had gone back to the remote ages of antiquity referred to by Charles Lamb, when it was thought necessary by He Ti and Bo Bo to burn clown a house to roast a pig-It was said to be impossible for a Labour Member to lift his mind to any question above that affecting his daily bread. If that were true it was not a very serious matter; but he knew there was a vast number of people in South West Lancashire who were deeply moved by this question of Church disorder. Hundreds and thousands of Churchmen, having found no redress, had had to sever their connection with the Church. But he did not believe really that it was necessary to destroy the whole fabric of the Church of England in order to put this disorder right, and it was altogether too late in the day to set up the claim that the Church of England was purely a spiritual entity or organisation. Of course, in many respects she was that, but at the same time she built upon a physical basis, however high her spiritual aspiration. It was altogether too late in the day to demur to the interference of the State. The State had been interfering for at least 370 years. In a matter which centred itself so deeply in the mind of the nation the House had an absolute and unquestioned right to say that, so long as the connection was maintained between Church and State, they would in every possible way lesson the disorder and unrest which made for great social disorder. It was on these lines that he besought the support of Members for the Bill. The Amendment was not practical politics. The purpose of the general supporters of the Amendment was to side-track and deaden the issue. The issue was a real one, and ought to be grappled with now, and in the same sense that that debate had been carried on, he thought it would be admitted by every one, from a lofty standpoint, the House ought to set itself to deal with the question.
§ MR. HAWORTH (Manchester, S.)
said he would not have intervened for a moment had it not been for an appeal, if he might call it so, on the part of its mover, to Nonconformists to support the Amendment in favour of the disestablishment of the Church of England. As one who was strongly in favour of disestablishment, and as a Nonconformist, he was sorry he could not yield to that appeal. He would, on the contrary, quite unofficially, of course, and as an individual Member, appeal to his fellow-Nonconformists, who were strongly and ardently in favour of disestablishment as a principle, to vote—anomalous though it might seem on the face of it—against the Amendment. They were there not only as Nonconformists, but as citizens, as upholders of the law of the land, and if he might be allowed to describe himself, he would say he was an Erastian Nonconformist. As long as the Church was established by law, it seemed to him plain that the Church ought to be compelled to obey that law, just as any citizen ought to be compelled to obey the law as laid down in that House. One could not help being carried away with intense admiration and sympathy as the mover of the Amendment was speaking, not only because of his innate eloquence, but because of his manifest sincerity. One felt entirely in agreement with him when he appealed to them on behalf of those members of the Church who did so much good in the poorer quarters of the cities especially, who were so earnest and intent upon trying to do good and to effect social amelioration by means of that Church, and by any other means to their hands; but when he appealed to him, amongst others, as a Nonconformist, to vote for disestablishment upon this issue, he must frankly say that, sincere though they all knew the hon. Member to be, that was not the issue before the House. The House last year passed, by a very large majority, a Resolution in favour of disestablishment, and they were now asked originally to uphold the law as it 370 was in the Church. With that they must all, apart from any ideas of Church practices, be in favour, but he would remind the hon. Member who moved the Amendment that the remedy, after all, was in his own hands. He had studied deeply ecclesiastical history, and he could not altogether have overlooked the history of Nonconformity. He had spoken of the revolution, the secession from the Church of Rome, and he was not ignorant of the other secession from the Church of England, and if he wished for particular forms of religious exercise, or observance, or church governance, the door which was open to Nonconformist ancestors hundreds of years ago was open to the hon. Member to-day. He might come out of the Church, he might maintain with his friends any form of worship that he desired, and he might strive to do good according to his own way or the dictates of his own conscience.
§ MR. MASTERMAN
May I interrupt? I wish no kind of special religious worship except that of the law of the Church.
§ MR. HAWORTH,
continuing, said he understood the Amendment to appeal for disestablishment, that was to say for freedom, and what he would point out was that the door was open to the hon. Member to-day to obtain that freedom which the Nonconformists obtained for themselves some hundreds of years ago. It was for that reason, feeling that the door was open to him, that they were there to uphold the law, and that he as a Nonconformist must take up the apparently anomalous position of opposing what seemed to be on the face of it a disestablishment resolution.
§ LORD R. CECIL
said that of the many remarkable features of that debate he did not think anything could have boon more remarkable than two of the observations made by the last two speakers. The hon. Member who had just addressed the House described 371 himself as an Erastian Nonconformist. He felt inclined to think that if that observation were addressed to him by anyone else he would regard it as actionable under the law of libel. The hon. Member had proceeded to make an eloquent appeal to the House to enforce the law, whatever the law was, and under all circumstances. The hon. Member thoroughly disapproved of a passive resistance movement, he presumed, and was prepared to send his fellow Nonconformists to prison with the lightest of light hearts. But his statement, interesting and valuable as it was, did not appear to be quite so interesting as one of the observations made by the hon. Member for Southwest Lancashire. He, speaking as a member of the working classes, said he regarded the disestablishment of the Church of England—and he presumed also the disendowment—as outside the range of practical politics. That was a very interesting observation and one which would give him, he admitted, greater comfort had it not been for the promotion of this extraordinary Bill, which appeared to him to lead straight towards disestablishment. The procedure of the House of Commons was surprising in itself in many respects, and there was nothing more surprising than the extraordinary variety of ways in which they spent their Friday afternoons. He doubted whether the historian of the future would believe it possible that a highly-civilised State allowed it to be settled entirely by lot and merely by the chances of the ballot, whether they should discuss the details of the registration of voters in London, or Woman Suffrage, or the Daylight Saving Bill, or a measure for instituting such vast changes as that which was then before the House. Owing to the extreme coyness of those who had advocated this measure, he doubted whether the House realised what a tremendous revolution was proposed by the provisions of the Bill. The mere statement with which the Memorandum began, 372 that the precedent for the Bill must be sought in the times of the Reformation, when by general consent this country was governed by a form of government as near tyranny as had ever flourished in this country—that alone, he would have thought, would have given hon. Members some pause in considering the Bill; but when they came to look at what was proposed in the Bill, when they realised that they were to appoint those High Commissioners, that they were to have power to issue penal inquiries directed to the person to be accused, that those inquiries were not even to be entrusted to the High Commissioners alone but to any assistant Commissioner that they might choose to appoint, that the complaints that they were to hear were to originate from anyone at all, so long as he chose to assert that he was a member of the Church of England, that if he was a convict just out of prison they were bound to hear any complaint made against the most saintly clergyman in the land, that they were compelled to consider those very complaints which were brought before the Royal Commission by evidence which was characterised in a manner which it was unnecessary for him to read to the House and that the Bill, in the form of declaratory legislation, which was a very dangerous sort of legislation, proceeded to carry out a series of very searching changes in the present law and lumped together in a schedule a large number of offences, some of them important and some of them trivial, for the infringement of any one of which the Commission was given absolute power first to suspend the clergyman and then to deprive him—that was, to destroy the whole work of his life and send him and his family into ruin and beggary—that seemed to him a very large order for a Friday afternoon. The hon. Member for North West Ham thought that the only alternative to that revolution was disestablishment. He was not going to discuss on that occasion 373 at any length that question, but it was certainly a very striking thing that in four or five hours they were really expected to discuss not only the provisions of the Bill itself but the proposal for the disestablishment and disendowment of the Church of England. He would only remind the House what disestablishment meant. It meant, of course, a reversal of the policy of this country which had existed, not as an hon. Member had said, for three or four hundred years, but for more than a thousand years at any rate; it meant a definite division between the State and all forms of Christianity, because it was not proposed to establish any other form of Christianity; it meant the definite abandonment of the union between the State and the Church which, in his judgment and in the judgment of many other Members, had done far more for the State than it had ever done for the Church; and of course it meant, at any rate in the minds of hon. Members opposite, the disendowment of the Church as well. He would not go fully, either, into the question of disendowment, but he thought the speech of the hon. Member for the Cricklade Divison must have shown to the House what a vast change, in his judgment, would be brought about by the disestablishment and disendowment of the Church of England; he pictured the Church, as he put it, sot free from all the trammels of the State and deprived of all its means of existence. He understood the hon. Member to say that the Church of Ireland received far too favourable terms, and he presumed the hon. Member proposed to mete out to the Church of England even less favourable terms.
§ LORD E. CECIL,
continuing, said he did not know exactly until he saw the hon. Member's Bill what that meant, but he certainly said that the effect of the disendowment would be that they would have each congregation if necessary setting up for itself, and he contemplated that as a means by which the unruly clergyman would be kept in order, the congregation disapproving of his actions being able to cut off his stipend, and he thought the effect would undoubtedly be to weaken and probably to split up the Church of England. But apart from all those ecclesiastical aspects of the case, looking at it only as a matter of property, there had never been so great a displacement of property, so great a transference from one set of people to another, as would occur in the case of disendowment. He understood the view of those who thought that a great corporate body which held great funds and might have failed in its duty to carry out the purposes for which those funds were entrusted to it, might be deprived of those funds, and the funds given to those who were more nearly doing that which they were entrusted to do; but would the hon. Member for the Cricklade division say that the Church of England was not now discharging, and discharging splendidly, the duties which were originally entrusted to it, whether by the State or in any other way? No one would say at that moment that, taking the Church as a whole, she was failing in her duty towards the State; and therefore to ask the House on a Friday afternoon to assent to a Motion for disestablishment and disendowment as the only alternative to a Bill which was in some ways even worse, appeared to him to be a striking comment on the procedure of the House. He wanted to 375 impress upon members of the Church of England and on those who had promoted the Bill, who were, he doubted not, as loyal members of the Church as anyone present, the effect which the mere production of their Bill had had on the House. The mere production of the Bill had given a great impulse to the cause of disestablishment. He asked them to consider whether, being opposed as he believed they were, to any such policy, they were wise in promoting time after time those violent and tyrannical measures, for that was what they were, the only direct effect of which was to encourage those who disapproved altogether of the connection between the Church and State. He recognised that the objects of the promoters were very important. The hon. Member for the Cricklade division had suggested that if he was a Machiavelli, which none of them accused him of being, he would be disposed to support the Bill, because he thought it would lead straight to disestablishment. He did not at all disagree with him, and he sometimes wondered whether the people who supported the Bill were really moved by that object themselves. There was no doubt that if they merely wished to bring confusion into the Church, to make it more difficult for the Church to carry on its duty, to make the connection between the Church and State absolutely intolerable, they were going on in the proper way to do it if they promoted a measure of this description. He did not in the least attribute to the hon. Member who moved the Bill, and the hon. Members who had supported it, any such elaborate or deceptive policy. They appeared to have two great motives at the back of their minds. First, they were much oppressed by the lawlessness of the 376 Church, and they proposed by the Bill to suppress that disorder. The machinery was certainly rather curious. The list of things they proposed to suppress in the Third Schedule, appeared to be one of the most fantastic lists he had ever read. They set out in the beginning a list of certain ecclesiastical vestments. He fully admitted that he had a very vague idea of what a tunicle, or an alb, or a chasuble might be, but he-observed that they had left out certain other vestments which were more commonly worn and were, so far as he knew, in the same position in reference to legality as the ones they had included. He did not know why they had not included even stoles, which were in precisely the same position. If their object was really to enforce upon the Church that view of the law which they themselves held, there was no reason why they should not include them. But a much more serious objection to the Schedule was that hon. Members who had read the Report of the Royal Commission would remember that that Commission divided the illegalities into those which had significance, and those which had no-significance, and it was a very remarkable fact that almost all of those which the Royal Commission said had significance were omitted from the list. It was very disagreeable to have to mention these things, but none of the practices or ornaments in connection with the Virgin Mary were included in the list, and yet a large number of provisions about lighting candles on the altar and stone communion tables, and a variety of things which it required a well-read ecclesiastical antiquarian to understand, were included in the list, and the ones of real importance were excluded altogether. He failed to understand the 377 principle on which that list had been compiled.
§ *MR. McARTHUR
The principle on which the schedule is compiled is that the vestments and ornaments scheduled are confined to those expressly condemned by a legal decision in the Courts.
§ LORD R. CECIL,
proceeding, said the hon. Member did not appreciate the point. Stoles, for instance, stood in precisely the same position as chasubles, and there was no reason in the world for repudiating the one and omitting the other, He could give instances of omission, of a much more serious character the only principle apparently being that things really of very little importance had been included, and things of vital importance, representing a serious and dangerous departure from the doctrines of the Church of England, had been omitted. He understood that the object which impressed so strongly the mover and supporters of the Bill was this. It was said, "Here is a large corporation with a large number of paid servants all over the country. They are paid upon the condition that they carry out the laws of the land in respect to their duty, and if they fail to carry out the laws of the land then they ought to be deprived of the remuneration which is given to them upon that condition." That was the dilemma. They were to obey the law or give up their duty. The whole difficulty had arisen because those clergy were not conscious of intentional law-breaking. The mass of them believed as strongly as anyone could that they had been carrying out the laws incumbent upon them. They were law-breakers because they took a different view of a 378 very difficult question indeed, viz: what was the law with reference to this subject; and the difficulty was much increased by the fact that the Courts which had had to interpret and declare the law were, not unjustly, the objects of profound suspicion to the clergy. It was not only that they were in fact destitute of all spiritual authority, but no one who had studied the history of the decisions given by the Privy Council could have failed to observe that the Privy Council had constantly been swayed, or apparently swayed, by motives which ought never to form part of a judicial decision at all. No one could really believe that a tribunal of that eminence could have arrived at precisely contrary conclusions as to the law of the land unless they had allowed to enter into their judgment a variety of considerations which were not proper for them to consider as Judges at all. Therefore until they had really secured the existence of a tribunal which would command the respect of those clergy who were subject to its jurisdiction, there was very little hope indeed that they would really deal with the essential source of the lawlessness, which he, for one, thoroughly agreed was very much to be deplored. All this talk of lawlessness was not the real question. The real question was not lawlessness—and it had appeared abundantly from the speech of the hon. Member for Liverpool—but the fear that the Church of England was being carried by unscrupulous priests in the direction of Rome. That was the real fundamental difficulty. He thought a good deal of that was founded on a total misapprehension of the ritualist movement, with which he had personally very little sympathy indeed, but which undoubtedly existed and had a very important effect 379 upon the history of the Church of England. The ritualist movement was not mainly Roman. It was mainly towards mediævalism, but not towards Rome. Nor was it in the least true to say that not only had it increased but that it was increasing. He did not in the least believe that the ritualist movement in the Church was increasing at the present day. Twenty years ago all the energetic and vigorous clergy of the Church of England cared more for the restoration of services to what they conceived to be the true ideal for a branch of the Catholic Church and less for its other duties, but at the present day that was altogether changed. The interests of the clergy, if they were High Church, tended towards missionary work or towards social reform; if they were not so High Church—
§ MR. MCARTHUR
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put;" but Mr. SPEAKER with held his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ LORD E. CECIL,
continuing amid interruptions, said that whatever might have been true twenty years ago, it was no longer true to say that the clergy of the Church of England were moved solely by their ritualist, still less by their Romanising, inclinations. Unquestionably it must be conceded that the plan proposed to be adopted by the hon. Member for the Cricklade Division would fail.
§ MR. AUSTIN TAYLOR
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put;" but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ And, it being Five of the Clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed upon Monday next.