rose to call the attention of the House to a case in which the rights of the rectors of the church of England were directly involved, and which also affected the rights of the great body of the clergy. He held in his hand the petition of the rev. Henry William Neville, rector of Blatherwick, a gentleman who had had recourse to this mode of seeking redress with great reluctance, and who would not have brought his complaint before their lordships if he could have obtained redress in any other manner. The petitioner held two livings in the diocese of Peterborough, to, one of which it was necessary he should present a curate. The rev. John Green was accordingly presented. He came forward with proper testimonials of character and ability. He had already signed the 39 articles, and was ready to be examined and to subscribe them again. This, however, was not sufficient to satisfy the right rev. prelate opposite (the bishop of Peterborough), who insisted upon answers to 87 questions previously framed and printed, and on refusal to answer them, signified his 1167 determination to exclude the applicant from the curacy. This determination the petitioner remonstrated against; but the reverend prelate peremptorily refused to relinquish his demand. He then appealed to the archbishop of Canterbury, to whom he wrote on the 19th of June, but received no answer until the 7th of August, having in the interval written a second time to request a prompt decision. The archbishop, in his letter, after apologizing for the delay in replying, by stating that he had been more than usually occupied, observed that there was no doubt of the right of examination belonging to the bishop of the diocese, and that that right was so obvious, that he supposed the applicant must have since complied with what the bishop required of him. This, he (lord King) observed, was by no means a proper answer, as no grounds for the opinion given were stated. As the right rev. prelate acted as a judge, it certainly would have been more satisfactory had he stated the reason on which his decision was founded. It was contended, he knew, that the bishop of the diocese possessed a complete discretionary power. It might be so; for he confessed that he did not well understand the canon law on the subject, and could only reason from analogy. He was told that it was very difficult to ascertain what the limits of the ecclesiastical powers were; but with regard to the question of examination, he must suppose that a right rev. prelate, in giving judgment on it, must consider himself to be deciding in the character of a judge. He must be bound by some rules and principles, otherwise the decision was arbitrary. If a judge in Westminster-hall committed error, or was guilty of abuse, his conduct could be brought under the consideration of that House by a writ of error; and surely there must be some remedy in the case of misconduct by an episcopal judge. He thought that the power of examination was very properly given to the reverend bench opposite, with the view of ascertaining the qualification of the persons who were candidates for holy orders, or for institution; but the 87 questions of the right rev. prelate opposite, which were printed, sent by post, and answers desired to be returned in the same manner, could have no reference to ability; they were a test and nothing else. The noble lord read some of the questions, and argued that from their leading nature it was im- 1168 possible to regard them as any thing else than a test; and if the right rev. prelate meant them as a test, his objection then was, that the law had provided a much better one, and that neither the right rev. prelate nor the whole of the rev. bench opposite,' had any right to impose another. The 39 articles were intended by the law to draw a line, to a certain extent, about the church, and no other authority was entitled to alter that boundary. This was creating quite a new power. The existing law said to candidates, "You shall not enter the church unless you subscribe the 39 articles;" but in addition to this, the right rev. prelate said, unless you take another test of my framing, I will not institute you." The answer which the right rev. prelate had given to the petitioner's letter admitted that he had established a new standard for himself; for in it he observed, that with a knowledge of his standard, the government had appointed him to one bishoprick and translated him to another. As this was the case, he should be glad to know whether the 87 questions of the right rev. prelate had been adopted as a test by ministry or not. But why bring forward this argument of the new standard having been adopted by the right rev. prelate's patrons? If he had had any convincing argument, it would have been better to have used it, than to have overwhelmed the unfortunate petitioner with the opinion of his patron. This was telling him that the most powerful persons in the country, and those who might have ultimately to decide on his case, were secured against him. He was informed that he might seek what remedy he pleased: but it was made known to him beforehand that his application would be of no avail. This new standard might most seriously affect the prospects in life of persons educated for the church, with a view to settling within a particular diocese. He had heard this new standard of doctrine described as cobwebs for catching Calvinists, and that it could give pain to nobody but Calvinists. The comparison did not appear perfectly correct; for flies sometimes escaped from a spider even after being entangled in his toils, but with this cobweb the unfortunate Calvinist must unavoidably fall under the fangs of his powerful antagonist. He regretted that such a practice had been adopted, for nothing was more likely to create a schism in the church. Another prelate might 1169 choose to put a different construction on the 39 articles from that given to them by the right rev. prelate opposite; and thus a spirit of dissension would be excited. It was therefore most important that the 39 articles, which might justly be called articles of peace, should be the only standard of doctrine. He referred their lordships to the history of the 39 articles, and observed, that there was reason to believe that they had been drawn up in a Calvinistic sense. Upon the whole, he thought that a prelate of the church of England might be content with the articles of religion as they had been drawn up by the reformers of the church. But the conduct of the right rev. prelate was not only calculated to disturb the peace of the church, but that of a great part of the community. He had not only framed these 87 questions for clergymen, but had addressed a set of questions, of a very extraordinary nature, to the churchwardens of his diocese. Among other things it was asked, "Does your minister lead a sober and exemplary life? This might be put to a farmer not much inclined to speak well of the clergyman of the parish, or the answer might depend upon the churchwarden's notions on the subject of evangelical doctrine. There were also questions put as to adulterers and fornicators, and whether there were common swearers in the parish. This was a most extraordinary kind of inquiry. Evil-speaking, lying, and slandering were condemned by Scripture; but here the churchwardens of a whole diocese were invited to speak all the ill they could of their neighbours. The putting of such questions might, for aught he knew, be very legal; but what he complained of was the imprudence of circulating them. The invitation to men to pry into and condemn the conduct of their neighbours could not fail to give excitement to bad passions. When there was a general outcry of danger to religion and the church, he should have expected that every one would have seen the impropriety of such a proceeding; and certainly he never could have supposed that the right rev. prelate, who he was told was the greatest polemical writer of the age, would have been guilty of the imprudence of endeavouring to force on the clergy of the country a new standard of doctrine.
The Bishop of Peterborough
said:—* Dr. Herbert Marsh. From the original edition printed for Rivingtons.1170 My lords; As the petitioner has already excited a prejudice in his favour by printing his case for distribution more than two months ago, I have the stronger claim on your lordships for a patient hearing, while I am pleading my cause in your lordships' House. From the recital of the petition, it appears, that in the summer of 1820, the petitioner, as rector of Blatherwick, in the county of Northampton, nominated a person to that curacy, who consequently applied for my licence; that the licence was refused him, because he refused to be examined, as required by the 48th canon; that the petitioner then appealed to the archbishop, who decided for the right of examination, which had been contested, first by the petitioner's intended curate, and then by the petitioner himself. Here the petitioner stops short in his recital. But your lordships should be informed of what was done, on the receipt of his grace's answer. The petitioner nominated another person to the curacy of Blatherwick, this second nomination bearing date the 20th of Sept., 1820. The person then nominated submitted without hesitation to the examination required, which, as I expected from his readiness to be examined, proved very satisfactory. And as the testimony to his moral character was no less satisfactory, than the proof which he had given of his sound doctrine, he was licensed to the curacy of Blatherwick. He is still the licensed curate there; I have never heard any complaint of him; and I have reason, to believe, that the parishioners have no desire to change him. Your lordships therefore may judge of my surprise, when on the 29th of March, 1821, more than six months after the last nomination, I received a letter from the petitioner, informing me, that he intended to bring my refusal to license his first nominated curate by petition before the legislature. But from a comparison of this petition with the letters which the petitioner wrote to the archbishop, and which he himself has printed, I now perceive that the object, for which he then contended, is at present entirely abandoned. The right of examination for a curate's licence, which he then contested, is now unequivocally admitted. He says in this petition, that a bishop's right to examine a curate, which had been the subject of a former correspondence, "is not intended to be denied." He now objects only to the mode of examination, or, as he calls it 1171 in his petition, "the nature of that peculiar mode." Now, my lords, my mode of examination is a very common mode; an examination by question and answer. I propose certain questions, as well to curates, as to candidates for holy orders, that from the answers to those questions, I may learn the religious opinions of the former before I license them; and the religious opinions of the latter, before I ordain them. And, my lords, it is very necessary that a bishop should obtain this knowledge. But then the questions—the questions, which I employ for this purpose, whether they are too searching for those who dislike them, or whatever else may be the cause, are questions, which, according to the petitioner, ought not to be endured. He prays your lordships to take them into your "grave consideration," and to afford such relief to those who are affected by them, as to your lordships' wisdom may seem good.
The case therefore now submitted to your lordships is a case of pure theology. For the questions, which the petitioner submits to your grave consideration, relate entirely to the doctrines contained in the Liturgy and Articles. Now, my lords an inquiry into subjects of this description, is an inquiry, which I believe your lordships' House has never instituted on any former occasion. The Liturgy and Articles derive indeed their authority, as standards of faith, from acts of parliament, which require subscription to them. But if it were deemed expedient to revise the Liturgy and Articles, the revision would be referred either to the convocation, or to commissioners specially appointed by the Crown. For an inquiry into the truth or falsehood of religious doctrines is not the proper business of either House of Parliament; though it would be presumptuous to say, what they shall, or shall not do. Let us suppose then, that the said theological inquiry were instituted in your lordships' House, and let us farther suppose, that the inquiry ended in this result, that it would be very desirable to make an alteration in regard to the said questions, I apprehend, my lords, even in this case, that your lordships House could not, consistently with the constitution of the Established Church, Interfere for the purpose of correcting them and if not for the purpose of correcting them, Much less for the entire removal of them. My lords, I will state the grounds of this opinion. The 1172 48th canon, which requires an examination of curates before they are licensed, has prescribed no mode of examination whatever. It has left therefore the mode o examination to the discretion of the b hop: and, my lords, it has wisely done so For in every diocese, the bishop is most likely to be acquainted with the peculiar wants of his diocese; most likely to understand, and best able to judge of irregularities either in doctrine or in discipline, to which his diocese may be exposed; best able therefore to determine what kind of examinations will most effectually check them. The examination required for a curate's licence, is required for the purpose of ascertaining, whether his doctrine is sound doctrine;" the expression used in acurate's licence. Now the mode of examination, which is best adapted to such a purpose, is unquestionably that, which is best calculated to detect deviations from sound doctrine. And this is the object of my examination questions. These questions; my lords are well adapted to the present wants of my diocese: they operate as a check on some partially prevailing irregularities and in the use of these questions I exercise, I believe very usefully exercise, the discretion entrusted to me by the 48th canon. But let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that these questions are objectionable. My lords, I make this supposition merely for the sake of argument. For the very same questions, which I now use, I have used almost ever since I have been a bishop: and though they have been well considered by very sound divines, I have never heard any objection to them, till a clamour was excited against them about ten months ago, by a few persons in the diocese of Peterborough. But even on the supposition, that they are objectionable (which however I confidently deny), I again ask your lordships, whether it would be consistent with the constitution of the Established Church to grant the prayer of this petition. The canons are laws for the bishops and clergy, which having passed the two Houses of Convocation were ratified by the royal assent. If therefore the 48th canon shall be so altered, as to remove the discretionary power which it now leaves to the bishops the alteration must be made by the same authority, which made the canon itself And surely, my lords, as that canon remains in force, you will riot 1173 endeavour to deprive a bishop of that discretionary power, which he exercises by virtue of that canon., But, my lords, the prayer of this petition is not confined to examinations for a curate's licence. It goes much farther. The petitioner prays also the interference of your lordships in the examination of candidates for holy orders. The words "candidates for holy orders" are the words, with which the prayer of this petition is concluded. Now, my lords, I believe that since the Church has existed, no temporal authority, either before or, since the Reformation, has ever interfered with the bishops of this country, as to their made of examination for holy orders. Since then I have already shown, that, consistently with the constitution of the Established Church, your lordships could not interfere even with an examination for a curate's licence, it follows à fortiori that the prayer of the petition cannot be granted, as it equally affects the examinations for holy orders. I can come therefore to no other conclusion, than that this petition ought not to be received, let the allegations of it be what they may. But if it be thought unfair to dispose of a petition without any regard to its allegations, I am ready, my lords, to put the issue of it on the allegations alone. These allegations are directed against my examination questions; and as those questions are perhaps not generally, known to your lordships, I beg permission to say a few words on the nature and use of them. I have already observed, that they are proposed, as well to curates, as to candidates for holy orders, that from the answers to those questions, I may learn the religious opinions of the former before I license them, and the religious opinions of the latter, before I ordain them. The questions are constructed on the following plan. They are arranged under nine heads or chapters, most of which have the same titles, with the articles of faith, to which the chapters correspond. With the exception of the eighth chapter, which refers to the Collect for Christmas Day, they relate as well to the Articles as to the Liturgy. Every chapter, without exception, contains an express reference, either to the Liturgy or to the Articles. Nor do the questions themselves relate to any other doctrines, than the doctrines of the Liturgy and the Articles. My lords under such circumstances there is only one possible motive, which; I can have, in, the proposal of these 1174 questions, namely, to ascertain from the answers to them, whether the religious opinions of the person examined; accord with the doctrines of the Established, Church. But even if the thing did not speak for itself, no doubt ought to been—tertained, after the explanation, which, I have repeatedly given, unless I must lose the privilege which is claimed by all men the privilege of explaining my own meaning. Nor can the petitioner pretend, that the explanation, which I have given, has never come to his own knowledge. He has printed the explanation. I gave, it in a letter written to the person, whose refusal to be examined gave rise to the petitioner's complaint, and which the petitioner himself has printed in a pamphlet, intituled "Official Correspondence." At page 5 is the following passage, relating to the standard of doctrine set forth, by the authority of the Church." I sent you a set of questions, to which I required your answers, that I might, learn from those answers, whether you kept to that standard, or not; and with the intent of granting you a licence, if you did keep to that standard, but with the intent, of refusing a licence, if you did not keep to that standard." Since then the petitioner has printed this explanation, he must know the use and intent of these examination questions. He must know that they refer to the standard set forth by the authority of the Church; and that the answers to them are tried by that standard alone. Yet the petitioner, with this knowledge of my real purpose, has, ventured to assure your lordships, that I have set up a" new standard," a "private standard," an" arbitrary standard;" and that in consequence of this new, this private, this arbitrary standard, the Liturgy, Articles, and Homilies are superseded. That I may not misrepresent his meaning by taking words out of their connexion, I will quote the whole of the sentence to which I allude. "Hence it is, that the legal securities for sound, doctrine, which refer not to any private Standard, but to the Liturgy, Articles, and Homilies, are superseded." If therefore I have set up a new, or a private standard, by which the legal securities for sound doctrine are superseded, and those legal securities for sound doctrine consist in the Liturgy, Articles, and Homilies, I must have introduced a new standard, by which the old standard is superseded, Nor is this the whole of the mischief which, 1175 according to the petitioner, arises from these questions. I have not only introduced a new standard, a private standard, an arbitrary standard, but a standard to which I require subscription. His own words are "the acknowledgment of this new standard is the hinge, on which alone the curate's acceptance or rejection is made to turn: "and he adds, that "subscription to the entire document must be made." Such, my lords, are the allegations on which the prayer of this petition is founded. And if they contained one particle of truth, it would be the duty, not of your lordships, but of the convocation to interfere. It would be the duty of the convocation to compel a bishop, who could be so regardless of his most solemn obligations, to return to the standard, which he had thus disgracefully forsaken. But, my lords, I have not forsaken the standard of the Established Church. My offence consists in my unwearied endeavours to prevent its being forsaken. Those endeavours have been successful: or your lordships would never have heard of this petition. But, my lords, I must not merely deny the charges: I must confute them. And first, my lords, I will reply to the charge of requiring subscription, "subscription" (as the petitioner says) "to the entire document," which document, as he further Says, contains a new standard of faith. Now the document, as he calls it, consists of a string of questions; and subscription to questions would be so absurd, that no man in his sober senses could require it. The name of the person examined can be affixed only to his answers. If therefore the signing of his name to his own answers is a subscription to a new standard of faith, it is at the utmost only a subscription to his own standard of faith. But, my lords, the signature to those answers is required for a very different, a very obvious, and a very common purpose. It is required merely as an acknowledgment on the part of the person examined, that the answers, which are sent to me, are really his answers. And this signature, which neither is, nor can be, required for any other purpose, than merely to authenticate the answers, is represented by the petitioner, as subscription to a document setting forth a new standard of faith. Really, my lords, I could not have supposed, that so gross a perversion of the truth could ever have found its way into a petition to the House of Lords.
1176 I will, now consider what proof the petitioner can bring, that my standard of doctrine really is a new, a private, and an arbitrary standard. He bestows indeed these titles, and very liberally bestows them, on my examination questions: but the calling of a thing either by this or by that name does not; determine its real character, unless it be rightly so called. And; my lords, I am really at a loss to comprehend, how a string of questions can be considered as a standard at all. They afford indeed a test of doctrine, inasmuch as the answers to them are tried, but tried by no other standard, than the standard set forth by the authority of the Church. It is such a perversion of terms to give the name of standard to mere questions, that the charge preferred by the petitioner, if it can be established at all, can be established only by a consideration of the answers. Even if the questions lead to the answers, nay, my lords, if it be true that the questions imply the answers, it will still be the answers, and not the questions, which must be made the subjects of trial. After all then the matter at issue comes simply to this. Do I try the answers to my questions by the old and established standard, the Liturgy and Articles: or do I try them by some new some private, some arbitrary standard? My lords, if no credit is to be given to my own solemn declaration, that I acknowledge no other standard of faith, than the standard of the Established Church, a standard which I acknowledge, because it accords with Holy Scripture; and if that solemn declaration derives no support from the express references to the Liturgy and Articles, contained in every chapter, under which those questions are arranged, it was incumbent on the petitioner to produce some example, in which the answers to my questions really had been tried by some new, some private, some arbitrary standard. If such examples exist, they are very easily found. My examination questions are not answered in a corner. I do not give them to be answered in my presence, and then pocket the paper, without giving the person examined an opportunity of making a transcript. No, my lords; the questions are always sent to the persons to be examined who give the answers at their leisure. If, on the receipt of the answers, I find any which are at variance with, the doctrines of the 1177 Church, I never reject; without previous remonstrance. I show in what manner the answer differs from the doctrine, of the Liturgy and Articles: I have sometimes succeeded in recalling persons, to the standard, which they had unadvisedly forsaken: and those only have beep finally rejected, who have persevered in answers, which were irreconcilable with the doctrines of the Church as explained in its Liturgy and. Articles, according, to their literal and grammatical meaning. My conduct therefore towards the persons examined has always been so open and undisguised, that if the charge preferred by the petitioner were true, a proof of it might easily be given. No proof has been given and under such, circumstances the absence of proof shows the impossibility of proof. I will not retort on the petitioner and say, that by his endeavours to excite suspicion as to my standard of doctrine, he has only excited suspicion in regard to his own but this, my lords, I will confidently say, that I have never in a single instance departed from the standard of the Established Church. And if I have never employed any other standard, than that which is set forth by the authority of the Church, the remaining charge, that I have set up a standard which supersedes the Liturgy and Articles falls of itself to the ground. My lords, I have now shown, that the three principal allegations, the allegations on which the prayer of the petition depends, namely, that I employ a new standard of faith, that I require subscription to this new standard of faith, and that this new standard supersedes the Liturgy and Articles, are allegations utterly devoid of truth.
Having now refuted the chief allegations of this petition, the allegations on which the prayer of it depends, I will not detain your lordships with many observations on those which are of minor importance. But, as the petitioner lays some stress on the interpretation of the Liturgy and Articles, which in the present age are by different persons very differently explained, and very differently applied, it is necessary that I should take some notice of his objections. When I interpret the Liturgy and Articles, the petitioner observes, that such interpretation is the result only of private opinion; and that private opinions, though the opinions of a bishop are not "authoritative," the term used in his petition. Now, my lords, it is perfectly true, that whether the rector of 1178 Blatherwick, or, the bishop of diocese interprets the Liturgy and Article, their interpretations are equally, excluded from the claim to be authoritative. But does the petitioner therefore imagine, that there are no rules of interpretation. whether the Liturgy and Articles are explained according to the plain, literal, and grammatial meaning of the words, or whether meaning of the words, or whether meanings are ascribed to the words which they were never intended to convey. My lords, m rules of interpretation are well-known to the public from my Lectures on Interpretation. And the principles maintained in those Lectures must afford convincing; proof, that no one who. is examined by my questions, can have any thing to apprehend from, his answers to them, unless he himself departs from the just rules of interpretation, and ascribes meanings to words, which they were never, intended to bear. But if the petitioner, by his objections to private interpretation, would exclude examination in the Liturgy and Articles; if he means, that bishops should be satisfied with subscription to the. Liturgy and Articles, and never venture to ask any questions about the meaning of them, he argues in opposition to the right, which he had previously admitted. He forgets also, that the canons require both subscription and examination. And, my lords, if candidates for holy orders are not examined, and closely examined, as to their religious opinions, if amidst the prevailing irregularity of doctrine, subscription to the Liturgy and Articles is made the sole criterion, by which a bishop shall judge of sound doctrine, a similar, though not the same effect, will be produced in this country, which has been already produced in some parts of Switzerland, where there are clergy, who subscribe to the creed of Calvin, and preach the doctrines, of Socinus.
My lords, I can find nothing else in this petition that merits the least attention. For as to the comparison of my Examination Questions with the Lambeth Articles, to which they have no resemblance either in matter, or in manner; or as to the irrelevant epithets of "uncanonical" and" unconstitutional," which the, petitioner, bestows on these questions; or as to the complaint, that they are useless, as a test of ability, when they are intended as a, test of doctrine, and form only a preliminary exami- 1179 nation for holy orders; or that they are connected questions, as if they had better be desultory; or that they are put in such a manner as to indicate ray own opinion, as if it were a hardship on candidates for holy orders to know what answers were likely to be approved, they are either frivolous in themselves, or have no bearing on the prayer of the petition. But as this prayer is concluded in so solemn a manner, as might induce your lordships to conclude, that by the granting of this prayer, the whole body of clergy in my diocese, as well as candidates for holy ordei-s, would be relieved from a grievous burden, I will briefly state to your lordships the amount of the evil (if it be an evil), which has been hitherto produced by these questions. During the whole time that I have used these questions, the number of persons, who have been refused ordination in consequence of their answers to them, amounts to one. The number of curates, who have been refused a licence in consequence of their answers to these questions, amounts to one also. The number of curates, who have been refused a licence, because they refused to answer at all, amounts to two; namely, the intended curate of Blatherwick, and a person who came into my diocese about the same time, for the purpose of becoming curate of Burton Latimer. But as the right of examination, which these two persons contested, is now acknowledged by the petitioner himself, the refusal to license them can no longer be considered as a grievance. There remains then one curate and one candidate for orders. And this is the mighty grievance for which the House of Lords is to be set in motion. It is true that these questions may, in one respect, have tended to the exclusion of more. They may have prevented applications, as well for ordination, as for licences; because wherever an irregularity of doctrine exists, these questions seldom fail to detect it. But herein lies their utility; a utility, which is proved by the very clamour, that has been raised against them. For though they are disliked by the petitioner, and by others who think like himself, I can confidently assert, that they are approved by the great body of toy clergy are approved, my lords, because they are a check on fanaticism, from which the church, in this country, has more to apprehend, than from any danger, that now besets it. My lords, will conclude by advert- 1180 ing to the two principal points, on which I have shown, that the fate of this petition must rest. I have shown in the first place, that the prayer of it could not be granted by your lordships, consistently with the constitution of the Established Church, whatever were the allegations on which it were founded. And I have shown in the second place, that even if the issue of its be put on the allegations, the allegations, on' which the prayer of the petition entirely depends, are entirely destitute of truth. And now, my lords, having said what; was necessary for my own defence, I leave; it to your lordships to determine, whether the petition shall be received, or not.
The Archbishop of Canterbury
stated, that the application made by the petitioner to him, was not in the form of an appeal, but merely a letter inquiring whether the bishop could be justified is the conduct he pursued or not? Some unavoidable delay had taken place in giving an answer; and when given, the answer was, that the 48th canon empowered and directed the bishop to examine all applicants for admission into his diocese.
respected the character and talents of the right rev. prelate; but was of opinion, that the conduct be had pursued was calculated to disturb the peace of the Church, and to endanger the ascendancy of the Protestant Establishment, by the revival of controversial points.
§ The Earl of Harrowby
did not see any practical object which could be gained by the reception of the present petition. It was inconsistent with the charity of Christians to suppose that the church intended do exclude Calvinists; but he did not see how parliament could now be appealed to.
The Marquis of Lansdown
admitted the expediency of empowering the right reverend bench to examine persons applying for admission in their dioceses. But though he admitted the right, be must my it might be abused, and for the purpose of asserting the right of the House to interfere, he would vote in favour of the motion, that the Petition be laid upon the table.
§ The motion was then put, and negatived.