§ Earl Fortescue
, in presenting the petitions (relating to the Revision of the Rubric), of which notice had been given on his behalf, said:—I trust, in justice to those who have signed these petitions, your Lordships will allow me to state shortly the proceedings which led to their adoption; because, although those proceedings are in themselves of a local nature, and confined to a particular locality, they are yet, when taken in connexion with opinions which have been expressed, and with events which have occurred both before and afterwards in other places, entitled, I think, to an attention which I should not venture to claim for them if they stood abstractedly and by themselves. On the 19th of last November, the right rev. Prelate who presides over the diocese of Exeter, and whom I am happy to see in his place on the present occasion, addressed a pastoral letter to the clergy of his diocese, in which, after enjoining a more strict and literal conformity with the general directions of the Rubric, he concluded by an authoritative direction for the use of the surplice on all occasions when a sermon was preached, as being part of the Communion Service. Whether the right rev. Prelate was correct or not in his construction of the law on this subject, I will not take upon myself to say; but, be that as it may, I think that, from the discussions which took place in the chapter 4 of Exeter, the right rev. Prelate must have been prepared for considerable opposition and difficulty in carrying those directions into effect, although I believe he was quite unprepared for the amount of resistance which he experienced. On the promulgation of that letter, which was, I believe, addressed to the whole clergy of the diocese of Exeter, through the rural deans, a considerable number of clergymen felt a great objection to depart from the course they had hitherto pursued; and certain it is that the letter produced a ferment and opposition on the part of the lay members of their congregations, accompanied with an amount of excitement which I have rarely seen exceeded even in the heat of election contests; and with this material difference, moreover, that the excitement on this occasion was without the slightest reference to political or party feeling. In fact, the question was most eagerly taken up by the most thinking, religious, and moral portion of the community; and it was, I must likewise state, almost entirely confined, if not entirely, to the members of the Established Church. Requisitions were sent to churchwardens, meetings were convened, and resolutions were passed strongly deprecating the steps taken by the right rev. Prelate—some of them, in my opinion, couched in very unbecoming language. Great irritation of feeling existed among many congregations at the change in the accustomed mode of performing the service of the Church, indicating, as those congregations considered that change to do, a tendency to depart from the generally established practices of our Protestant Church, and to approximate to the usages of the Church of Rome. I beg to be understood as not stating this as my own view of the case; but I am fully borne out in stating it as the feeling entertained by a very large proportion of the congregations in the diocese of Exeter. After this ferment had prevailed for, I think, about three or four weeks, the right rev. Prelate, properly and prudently in my opinion, wrote a second letter, cancelling the directions he had given in the first, and desiring that things should revert to their former course. But, easy as the right rev. Prelate found it to excite the storm, he discovered it to be much more difficult to bring back matters to the state in which they stood before he issued his first letter. I know that in various places where the surplice had been worn by the preacher during the sermon, 5 without the slightest opposition or objection, on former occasions, great dissatisfaction was expressed at the continuance of that practice, after the right rev. Prelate's letter. I may allude to one case which is familiar to the right rev. Prelate—that of a parish in Exeter in which the present minister had for two years worn the surplice, and in which his predecessors had also always worn it while preaching; yet, after these occurrences, so great a storm of discontent arose among his parishioners at his continuing to wear it in the pulpit, that he found himself compelled, under the sanction and advice of the right rev. Prelate, to abandon its use. In this state of things, the parties whose petitions I shall have the honour to present, thought it their duty to apply to this House. The first petition is one from the city of Exeter, which was unanimously agreed to at a large meeting convened by the Mayor, and composed of persons of all parties; but I believe the majority present consisted of those whose politics are opposed to my own. This petition is signed by upwards of 3,200 adult members of the Church. The petitioners state, that they approach your right hon. House— "Deeply impressed with the great privileges and blessings we have enjoyed as members of the Established Church.
"That certain ancient and conflicting laws and regulations of the Church exist, which, being incompatible with the condition and Protestant feelings of the people, had, with the tacit consent of bishops, clergy, and laity, long fallen into disuse.
"That the attempted revival of these obsolete laws and regulations by some of the clergy has destroyed uniformity in our public worship, rendered the practice of one diocese at variance with that of another, created disunion and discord between the clergy and laity, done violence to the deeply-rooted and cherished feelings of Your Majesty's faithful Protestant subjects,—and thus endangered the peace, union, and stability of the Established Church.
"That while impressed with these general and increasing evils, Your Majesty's petitioners have seen with deep regret and alarm recent directions of the Lord Bishop of this diocese to his clergy, urging them 'to return to a full observance of the Rubric, falling short of their prescribed part in nothing,' and that the attempt to carry into effect such directions has further disturbed the peace and unity of the Church in the public worship of Almighty God, and will, as they believe, further tend to alienate the love and respect, and endanger the adherence of her members.
"That, as set forth in the preface of the Book of Common Prayer, 'upon weighty and 6 important considerations, according to the various exigencies of times and occasions, such changes and alterations should be made in the rites and ceremonies of divine worship as those who are in place of authority should from time to time deem either necessary or expedient,' and, as declared by the Articles, 'every particular or national Church hath authority to ordain, change, and abolish ceremonies or rites of the Church ordained only by man's authority, so that all things be done to edifying.'
"Your petitioners, therefore, most humbly and earnestly pray that your right hon. House may be graciously pleased to cause such a revision and alteration of the Rubric, Canons, and Laws of the Church, as shall establish uniformity adapted to the present times."
Such is the petition unanimously adopted by a very large meeting of the members of the Church of England in the city of Exeter; and sentiments similar to those which are expressed in this petition are entertained, I am persuaded, by a large portion both of the clergy and the laity in the county with which I am connected, if not in the whole diocese of Exeter. But the excitement and alarm produced in the minds both of the clergy and laity is not the only mischief which has proceeded from this—I must, with all respect, say—most unfortunate proceeding of the right rev. Prelate. Men's minds having been turned to this strict enforcement of the Rubric, in opposition to their own habits and opinions, they have been led to inquire whether all the requirements of the Rubric have been fully carried out by the body of Bishops themselves: and it appears, as I understand—and I shall be very happy to be corrected by any of the right rev. Prelates if I am wrong—that the Rubric with respect to the conferring of Ordination and to Confirmation has been, and in the latter case must be of necessity, in the present state of our population, constantly violated by the right rev. Prelates. The Rubric, with respect to Confirmation, requires the Bishop to lay his hands separately on every child to be confirmed, and to repeat the prayer separately as he lays his hands on each. It would obviously be absurd, in the present state of our population, to insist upon this being observed to the letter. But allow me to say, that many persons are of opinion that the Rubric which requires a white gown in the pulpit instead of a black one, is not more necessary to the promulgation of sound doctrine, or to the real essence of Church discipline, than the other Rubric to which I have 7 referred: these persons, therefore, naturally infer that if the one Rubric may be violated with impunity, there is no sense in insisting on the other, or in applying the penalties for non-observance of the Rubrics in the one case, and not in the other. The penalties to which a breach of these regulations of the Rubrics, subjects those who neglect to comply with them, are, however, of a serious kind; not matters merely of ecclesiastical jurisdiction or censure. The penalty for the breach of the Rubrics by the Bishops or clergy is, on conviction before a jury at the assizes, for the first offence, the forfeiture for one year of the profits of all spiritual benefices and imprisonment for six months:—for the second offence, the deprivation of all spiritual promotions, and imprisonment for one year;—and for the third offence, imprisonment for life. I believe, that as the Rubric stands, the Bishops in performing the ceremony of Confirmation, if they neglect to lay their hands upon each separate child to be confirmed, if they do not insist that each child shall be presented by a godfather or godmother, and if they do not say the prayer for each child separately, will subject themselves to these pains and penalties. I cannot, therefore abstain from asking whether it is fitting and right to allow the Statute Book or the Rubrics to continue as they are when they contain provisions so impossible to be obeyed. I trust I may be allowed to say for myself, that I am the last man to approve of fanatical appeals to the passions and prejudices of the people. I would not for the attainment of any object, however desirable, lend myself to the use of weapons of that kind; and in the humble and insignificant part I have taken on this subject, I assure your Lordships that I have, both in public and in private, uniformly deprecated the expression of angry feeling, or the use of vituperative language. The only meeting which I have attended was in the town in the immediate vicinity of my own residence, in a place where I have a large property; and the petition adopted; upon my suggestion, was substituted for Resolutions of a much more violent and condemnatory character. But I do feel with these petitioners that the usages and ceremonies which, by the common consent both of the laity and of the heads of the Church, have been disused for a considerable time, ought not to be revived at the dictation of any individual, however high may be his station, and however conscientious the motives by which he may be actuated; and I do feel that the 8 Legislature ought to interpose if not for the purpose of establishing perfect uniformity in the worship of the Church throughout all parts of England, at least for expunging by legislative enactment such parts of the Rubric as cannot conveniently be carried into practice; and that the Legislature should point out, if not absolutely what is to be observed in every case, at least what it may or may not be expedient to enforce. Before I sit down, I may mention that I have this morning met accidentally with a pamphlet which expresses so well my views on this subject, that I beg permission to read to your Lordships a short passage from it. It is written by the Master of the Temple, the Rev. Mr. Benson, a gentleman whom I have heard with admiration in the pulpit, as I believe have many of your Lordships, and whose character for piety as well as for orthodoxy stands as high as that of any individual in the Church of which he is so great an ornament. After stating that the precise and punctual observance of the Rubrics is binding upon the entire body of the clergy, both by conscience and by law, and further adding that— "There are some Rubrics and some Canons which are, and for several generations have been, systematically disregarded by the whole body of Clergy, Bishops, Priests, and Deacons;"
h go es on to inquire, "What, then, is to be done, and by whom? The question is serious and important, and the answer to it ought to be well considered, definite and plain. It is in vain to put off the settlement of the existing divisions to some indeterminate hereafter, and in the meantime to recommend mutual forbearance to the contending parties. The struggle has been allowed to go on too long and too far for that. Besides, it is in its own nature one which both parties feel to be of too much consequence to be willing to give up without a distinct understanding what the future course of conduct in the Church is to be. It is not a mere dispute about forms, and rites, and dresses, and decorations of a perfectly indifferent kind; but about such as are looked upon as the first steps towards the establishment of principles and practices for the introduction of which their advocates hope thereby to open, and their opponents are resolved, if possible, to stop the way. The warfare between Popish tendencies, clothing themselves with the name of Catholic, on the one hand, and Protestant tendencies, aiming to carry out the Reformation to its full extent, on the other."
And he concludes by saying that, "Something must speedily and decisively 9 be done to settle the disputes in the Church; and that this may best be done by a revision of the Rubrics and Canons—a revision undertaken by Parliament itself."
It is for that the petitioners pray, and it is in the hope that the subject will be brought under the consideration of Her Majesty's Government that I cordially support the prayer of the petition I have the honour to present. My Lords, I have another petition differently worded, but to a similar effect also, agreed to unanimously at a very respectable meeting of the members of the Church of England at South Molton, and signed by a large number of persons. The petition is as follows:—
"To the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled,
"The humble Petition of the undersigned Members of the Church of England, in the borough of South Molton, unanimously adopted at a public meeting convened by the church warden,
"Sheweth,—That your petitioners are sincerely attached to the Protestant Church by law established in these realms, and earnestly desire to maintain the purity of its worship, and to extend as far as possible the sphere of its usefulness.
"That, impressed with these feelings, we view with much apprehension and regret the exertion made by high authority throughout this diocese, to revive ceremonies and usages which, under the sanction of the heads of the Church, and with the general consent of its members, had fallen into disuse, and the revival of which has, we fear, already alienated many persons from the services of our Church, and has introduced new elements of contention and discord where nothing ought to prevail but harmony and peace.
"We, therefore, humbly pray your Lordships to take the subject into your serious consideration, and to adopt such measures as to your wisdom may seem fit, for remedying the grievances of which we complain, and for healing those differences which in these times unhappily prevail to so great an extent among those who profess to hold the same faith, and to belong to the same national Church.
"And your petitioners, as in duty bound, shall ever pray."
There is another, from the members of the Church of England, in the parish Alphington, in the immediate neighbour-of Exeter; and lastly, one from a friend of mine, a most respected clergyman, the Rev. Dr. Carwithen, as follows:—
"Sheweth,—That your petitioner is no less by inclination than by duty sincerely attached to the Protestant Church of England and Ireland by law established, and therefore views 10 with pain and regret the excited state of the diocese of Exeter, in consequence of several of the parochial ministers attempting a strict compliance with the Rubrics contained in the Book of Common Prayer, to the observance of which their attention has been specially called by the high authority of their Bishop.
"That your petitioner and his clerical brethren are bound, not only by their ordination vows, and by canon, to 'reverently obey their ordinary in all things lawful and honest, but are also liable to be indicted at the assizes held before my Lady the Queen's Justices in the county where the offence is committed, by any layman or other person whatsoever, for not complying with the Rubrics in the Book of Common Prayer in every particular, even to the minutest point, under the Statutes of 2 and 3 Edward VI. c. 1, and 1 Elizabeth, c. 2, and if convicted thereof 'by verdict of twelve men according to the laws of this realm or according to their own confession, or by the notorious evidence of the fact,' will have to suffer heavy fine and imprisonment, and for the third offence deprivation of all ecclesiastical promotion, and imprisonment for life; and the archbishops and bishops are equally liable to the same indictments and penalties as their clergy.
"That your petitioner is, and always has been, very desirous to perform his clerical ministration in such manner and form as the Rubrics require and custom has sanctioned; but in the present very excited state of the diocese of Exeter, and in consequence of three pastoral letters of the Bishop of that See, as it appears to your petitioner of very uncertain and different import, your petitioner is at a loss how to act with safety to himself and satisfaction to his parishioners in his official ministry, and that moreover it appears to your petitioner that the difficulty can only be gotten rid of by legislative enactments, as under the existing laws neither the archbishops nor bishops, individually or collectively, can alter or dispense with a single provision contained in the Rubric.
"That in the opinion of your petitioner the Book of Common Prayer and its Rubrics are nearly in a state similar to that on the return of King Charles II. to this kingdom, when, being found defective and unsuited to the times, a royal letter was addressed to the convocation, commanding a review of the Book of Common Prayer, when the Convocation entrusted the business to a Committee, who made alterations and additions, which were submitted and approved by Parliament, and confirmed by 13 and 14 Charles II., c. 4.
"Your petitioner also, with all due deference, ventures to remark that Parliament has, without the consent of Convocation, altered a Rubric, namely, as to the publication of banns of marriage, by passing the 26 George II., c. 33.
"Your petitioner therefore humbly prays your right honourable House to take the subject 11 into your gracious and serious consideration, to cause the Statutes of 2 and 3 Edward VI., c. 1, and 1 Elizabeth, c. 2., to be repealed, and to adopt such measures as to your wisdom may seem fit, to procure a calm, moderate, and temperate review of the Book of Common Prayer, Rubrics, and Canons of the United Church of England and Ireland, as may have the effect of settling those differences of opinion and practice which now exist among those who have all subscribed before their respective bishops, and published to their parochial congregations the declaration, 'that they will conform to the Liturgy of the Church of England and Ireland as by law established.'
"And your petitioner will, as in duty bound, ever pray.
(Signed) "W. CARWITHEN, D.D."
I would only add, that no clergyman is more firmly attached to the doctrine and discipline of the Church, and no parochial minister can discharge his duties more conscientiously or with greater benefit to his parishioners, than the petitioner. I beg to present the petitions, and, considering the importance of the subject to which they refer, I hope I am not out of order in moving that they should be printed.
The Bishop of Exeter
I hope, my Lords, that I may be permitted to occupy your attention for a few minutes whilst I attempt to answer the speech of the noble Earl, of which I make no complaint; for, in truth, while it was marked by firmness in the assertion of the noble Earl's own principles, it did not contain a single syllable of which I can fairly complain. My Lords, in requesting your attention for a short time, I must say, in the outset, that I am not about to enter into any defence before you. On any fit occasion, if my conduct were called in question, I should most readily, most gladly, avail myself of the high privilege, and feel it a very high honour, to defend myself here in my place.—I should say, if I may choose my tribunal, "Let me have the House of Lords." Let me vindicate myself in that the very sanctuary of justice and of honour. But, my Lords, on the present occasion, I must frankly say, I cannot permit myself to ask your Lordships to hear my defence. My Lords, I am a spiritual person; I am charged with the spiritual care of my diocese. I am an officer of the Church of Christ, and I am responsible for my conduct in that character only to that Church upon earth. I, therefore, feel it my duty to that Church, and, permit me to say, to 12 your Lordships, to refuse to enter upon a defence of my conduct on this occasion. But, although I will not enter into my defence, I have no objection to state to your Lordships what that conduct was, because the noble Lord who has presented these petitions, and who has made a statement which he no doubt intended to be a fair account of what has occurred, either has not been aware of, or has omitted to state, all the particulars of these differences. I will state to your Lordships what really was the case with respect to these occurrences so far as I was concerned. The occasion for interference was not sought by me; it was forced upon me by circumstances. My right rev. Friends around me know full well that one effect of the excitement which has prevailed throughout England on ecclesiastical subjects has been to induce many of the clergy to feel it to be their bounden duty, in compliance with the stringent—the very stringent vow which they made on their ordination, and afterwards when they were admitted to the cure of souls, to follow out the Law and the Rubrics of the Church in the performance of Divine Service. Several of these individuals have applied to me to know whether I would permit them to perform these vows. I gave the only answer which it became a Bishop to give to such an enquiry: I said, "Understanding that you wish to act up to your vows, and to obey the Rubric, which you have solemnly promised to obey, my course is plain. I am bound not only to permit you to do what you ask, but to honour and applaud the conscientious feeling which prompts you to make the demand." The matter, however, did not rest there. If the matter had rested there, I would still have forborne from taking any further steps; but complaints were made against individuals — against more than one or two, which complaints I was bound, as an ecclesiastical judge, to hear and determine according to the Law of the Church. Then, my Lords, I was told it was impossible to leave the diocese in this state. If at Helston, and Falmouth, and Teignmouth, the clergy acted in this way—and if the clergy in those places did their duty, it was said that it was impossible to maintain that the duty was properly performed elsewhere. My Lords, I felt the force of this demand; I could not but feel it, for it was manifestly reasonable and just. What then was I to do? I had recourse to that Council which the Constitution of the Church has provided for a Bishop, in cases 13 of grave doubt, and serious responsibility. I called for the Council of my Chapter. I asked their assistance and advice. Of the members of that body who gave me their counsel, nineteen in number, more than two thirds, assured me of their firm conviction that any order to obey the Law of the Church—in other words, to carry out the directions of the Rubric, if that order was issued from Authority, would be met as it always had been met, by the ready concurrence not only of the clergy, but also of the laity. Now, my Lords, the men who gave me this advice, were among the most experienced and judicious of the resident incumbents of parishes in my diocese. All the members of the Chapter, who were in this description, all, except one, had at one or other of two meetings, given me this advice. I hesitated not to act upon it. I put forth that letter to my clergy, to which the noble Lord has referred; and the unfavourable reception of it, I may be permitted to say, was a great disappointment to myself and to the clergy. There was a vast excitement: I will not now go into the history of that excitement; extraordinary occurrences preceded and raised that excitement. I will not now refer more fully to them.
The noble Earl has spoken expressly of the use of the surplice. What was the fact with respect to it? I found that the surplice was worn by several of the clergy in preaching, and not by others; that, in short, a diversity existed, which was ascribed to party feeling. The noble Earl has this night called the surplice the badge of party. I resolved, that it should be so no longer. The use of the surplice in preaching, though not expressly enjoined, is virtually required by the Rubrics. The gown I could not order; I ordered, therefore, that the surplice should be worn by all; that there should be no longer a diversity—that it should thus cease to be what the noble Earl calls it, a party badge. I was informed that this order did unfortunately raise a great clamour among the population: it was called Popery, and I know not what. I withdrew the order as soon as I found it was against the feeling of the laity in the large towns, though I do not think the same feelings prevailed in the country parishes; but I deemed that on a matter which was indifferent, the practice should be in accordance with the feelings of the people. Many of the clergy of the towns had acted in obedience to the order; and I told them now, that if they did not deem the use of the 14 surplice binding on their consciences, it might be disused; and I therefore withdrew the order for wearing the surplice. I did not then withdraw the order about the Rubrics, nor, I frankly say, was it my intention to withdraw it; but when the most rev. Metropolitan wrote his paternal, as well as pastoral letter, recommending that everything should be left as it was, until the return of peace and quiet should enable the Church to take up the matter seriously and efficiently, I acted upon that suggestion, and withdrew the order, as respected the Rubric.
I must be permitted to say that there was another very important consideration, which induced me to take the course which I did. Unhappily, the Book of Common Prayer, much as it is venerated by the great body of English Churchmen, much as I know it is venerated by your Lordships—is not regarded universally with the same favour. My Lords, there are parties in this country who wish to make most important changes in the Prayer Book. These wishes are not confined to lay members of the Church, but there are several of the clergy, I am glad to say they are a small minority in the Church — but still there are several of the clergy, active, pious and good men, who object to parts of the liturgy, as being opposed to the doctrines which they hold. I do not speak lightly on this subject, because, as Bishop of Exeter, I have had to proceed against more than one or two individuals who have omitted portions of the Common Prayer, in their performance of Divine Service, or have made alterations in it; and it is notorious that, in many parishes—I hope there are not many in my own diocese—but I believe there are still some, although I will not allude to any in particular, and have no distinct knowledge of the fact—in which prayers of the Church are garbled, tampered with, and set at nought, as being too closely allied to Popery, or for some other reason, I know not what, except always, as being contrary to the doctrines held by these ministers themselves. I have been obliged to proceed against more than one individual for such proceedings. It might, then, well be said—"How is it possible for you to proceed against clergymen for leaving out parts of the baptismal or burial services, when every time you go to Church you find prayers left out, and the Liturgy set at nought?" I have always felt that there is something in this plea—that it is at least a specious ground, on which the really 15 peccant and malicious impugners of the Liturgy might rest their case. I resolved to deprive them of this ground. An additional reason was, that I wished to bring all the clergy to uniformity, as far as I could do so by law.
The noble Earl said that I was bringing into practice ancient usages which have long fallen into disuse; and the people of South Molton, with the noble Earl at their head, at a meeting—I do not say it invidiously—called in a very particular way, consisting of what they called "the congregation worshipping at the parish church of South Molton"—at a meeting so called and assembled, agreed to certain resolutions containing the usual anti-Popery declarations. The noble Earl certainly does not belong to the class invited to that meeting; he was, however, present at the meeting, and said that, though uninvited, he trusted that his presence was not deemed an intrusion. Of course, it was not. The presence of a noble Lord, the Lord Lieutenant and the Custos Rotulorum of the county, would be anything but unwelcome at such a meeting; he was received with joy and thankfulness. The parties threw their own resolutions into the fire, or what else they had done with them I do not know, and they adopted the petition suggested by the noble Earl. I make no complaint of this—the only parties who had a right to complain of this proceeding were the meeting themselves, and they adopted the noble Earl himself, and they adopted also his petition. Let me only say, that it proves that the sentiments expressed in the petition, are the sentiments of the noble Earl, rather than of the parties whose signature it bears. The petitioners state that they are impressed with feelings of regret and apprehension at the endeavours which have been made to revive throughout the diocese in which they reside disused forms and obsolete usages connected with the Rubric of Common Prayer. Now, my Lords, I have the advantage, and I feel it to be a very great one, of standing in this place face to face with the noble Earl. Your Lordships will not be surprised at my saying that, after the attacks to which I have lately been subjected, it is quite refreshing to find myself before a candid, generous, noble opponent like the noble Earl—to meet him here in his place in Parliament, and to have the opportunity of asking him what this is all about. I hope now to hear the noble Earl himself, and to learn from his own lips what these forms 16 and obsolete usages are to which the petitioners refer. [Earl Fortescue: The use of the surplice—for instance.] The noble Earl will have an opportunity of answering me when I have concluded; and I hope he will then be prepared to state to your Lordships what the usages to which the petitioners refer consist in.
But, my Lords, we are not altogether limited to the consideration of this petition upon this subject, from the inhabitants of South Molton. We have had laid before us another petition from Exeter—a petition proceeding from a very respectable meeting, which was presided over by a most intelligent and respectable person, the Mayor, namely, of that city — who, I am bound to say, conducted himself on that occasion with equal dignity and propriety. I have, my Lords, only permitted myself to read one speech which was delivered on the occasion of this meeting. During the last three months my reading of the newspapers has not been very regular—[A Laugh]—and I have therefore trusted to those with whom I am in the habit of intercourse, to inform me of such matters contained in them as required any notice on my part; and I must say, that they informed me that the speeches in general were characterized by very remarkable ignorance of the matter which the speakers were discussing. [A Laugh.] But, my Lords, in the speech that I am about to refer to, I have not relied upon the information of friends. I read the speech in question, because it proceeded from a learned Judge, not a Judge of one of the Courts of Westminster Hall, but a Judge in the Court of Bankruptcy, who, I believe, was appointed to his post by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. That learned Judge is one of the highly-gifted class comprised within the denomination of barristers of five years' standing. I believe he is of much longer date; but this is of no moment. He certainly did not take the line that was adopted by the petitioners who have addressed your Lordships from Exeter. Their petition was adopted in consequence of the example set them by the inhabitants of South Molton, at the instance of the noble Earl; but the course of argument of the learned Gentleman to whom I have referred was directly opposed to a petition to Parliament. In truth, this petition was no part of the original purpose at Exeter; that original purpose was to address themselves to the Queen in Council on the subject 17 of their grievances. [Earl Fortescue; They have done so.] It is very true, my Lords, that they have done so; and at first, they meant to do nothing more; but on hearing what was done at South Molton they thought the example of the Lord Lieutenant and Custos Rotulorum of their county was too high, and too authoritative for them not to imitate it. Therefore, they resolved to petition your Lordships. The petition is before us; and the noble Earl must forgive me, when I say, that it is a much better petition than his own from South Molton.
But, my Lords, I must say, that the petition to the Queen was a more constitutional course than that adopted after the example of their Lord Lieutenant; for it is much more constitutional to seek redress for a supposed grievance of such a nature from the Crown than from Parliament; for this reason, that the Crown, if so advised, can take steps in accordance with constitutional principles on the subject, and with the laws both of the Church and the State. The learned Barrister to whom I have referred made a long, and I have no doubt, a very able speech at that meeting; for I read that it was received with enthusiastic cheering. And yet, my Lords, I cannot help thinking, that it was in some degree characterized by that quality which I have said my informants have so largely ascribed to the speeches in general. I will give your Lordships a sample of it. The learned Gentleman argued, that the Queen could at once, of her own will and authority, put an end to all the existing disputes. That is, I presume, that the Queen could, of Her own authority, by virtue of the Royal Supremacy, repeal or abolish the Act of Uniformity; for without disposing of the Act of Uniformity, the Rubric must remain in full legal force. This power, it seems, the learned Gentleman claimed for the Crown, because all the authority formerly exercised in this country by the Pope, was, he said, transferred by the Statute of Henry VIII. to the Crown; and inasmuch as the Supremacy once exercised by the Pope extended to all matters of the Church, even those which were purely spiritual; therefore, the Royal Supremacy has the same extent. Now, my Lords, this, I must say, is altogether a new doctrine to me. I have always thought that the power claimed and restored to the Crown by the Statute of Henry VIII. was no other than the ancient constitutional authority inherent in the Crown of England. I say it 18 boldly, in the presence of all the great lawyers whom I see around me, that no new powers or jurisdiction was given by that Statute to the King. The illegal power which was taken from the Pope, was taken from him because it was illegal—because it was usurpation. A part of that power, usurped by the Pope, was purely spiritual; and our ancestors, at the Reformation, were too wise, too cautious, too faithful, to give to the Crown any power which is purely spiritual. The only power recognized by the Act of the Legislature to which I have adverted is a temporal power, which, I repeat, was only restored to its ancient possessor, the Crown, when the Pope was deprived of it. And how do I apply these observations to the matter before us? I apply them, my Lords, in the full sense, that the Clergy alone are the holders of the purely spiritual power in the Church of England, and they hold this power as the divinely commissioned pastors and spiritual guides of the people. And moreover, although the Pope, by virtue of the Spiritual Supremacy which he had usurped, might claim, whilst he held that Supremacy, the power of dictating the forms and usages of the Liturgy, it never was and it never could have been pretended that any such right existed in the Crown, or that the supremacy admitted to be the prerogative of the Soveregn, extended to that degree, or gave the Monarch any power to impose a Liturgy upon the Church. But the learned Gentleman to whose speech I have already referred at the meeting at Exeter, from which the petition presented by the noble Earl proceeded, states, in addition to what I have mentioned, that the Queen acted alone, and with reference to her ecclesiastical powers, upon her sole authority in the Privy Council, but that Her Majesty was assisted and advised in so doing by the Archbishops and the Bishops, all of whom, he states, are Members of the Privy Council. And when the learned Gentleman was attacked, subsequently to this, for having made this assertion, he defended himself by stating that the Members of the Episcopal Bench were styled Right Reverend because they were Members the Privy Council. Such, I pledge myself to your Lordships, was the purport, if not the exact terms of the speech of the learned Gentleman to whom I refer; his observations were stated to have been received by those to whom they were addressed with much cheering; and the fruits of his learning and information 19 are to be witnessed in the Petition that has been laid upon your Lordships' Table. It will be presently the task of the noble Earl who presented it, to tell us what are the obsolete usages and forms in disuse which have been revived.
Meanwhile, let me say of the learned Gentleman whose speech was the great speech of the meeting, received with unbounded applause, that he is a highly respectable person, possessed of handsome property in the county, which he administers to the advantage of all around him. No doubt, too, he is an excellent Judge in the Court of Bankruptcy; and if he has exhibited any ignorance in other branches of the Law, especially in Constitutional Law, it may be taken as strong presumptive evidence that he has devoted his whole time to the Law of Bankruptcy. I have done with the meeting at Exeter.
I now come, my Lords, to a consideration of the Petition presented on the part of Dr. Carwithen, which refers to an entirely different subject from those already referred to; and which proceeds from a gentleman, who is apparently in a state of high nervous excitement. My Lords, the rev. Petitioner, under that excitement, does not appear to know what to do under the circumstances described by him. He States, that he has always been a strict observer of the Rubric, and I believe such to be exactly the truth—but that, being most anxious to perform his clerical functions in the manner and form prescribed by the Rubric, he could not do so with safety to himself, and satisfaction to his parishioners; for if he departed from the Rubric, even in the slightest degree, he was liable to heavy penalties for every such deviation. Now, my Lords, I am not aware of any single Rubric which cannot be carried out fully and according to the fair letter of the Law; and, perhaps, the petition to which I am now referring will afford the noble Earl some assistance in pointing out what the grievances are of which the former petitions complain with reference to the Rubrics. What I want to know from the noble Earl is, if the petitioner, Dr. Carwithen, has, as he states, carried out fully and completely the Rubrics of the Common Prayer Book—Rubrics which are stated by the other petitioners to be obsolete—what those Rubrics are which have thus fallen into disuse and become obsolete? For it cannot but be obvious that the two classes of petitioners are at variance as to the hardships which 20 press upon them in respect to the Rubrics. The injunction of full observance of the Rubrics, is the grievance of the other petitioners; but the Statutes on which the noble Earl has expatiated are the grievance of Dr. Carwithen. He is under the deepest apprehension of being visited with the tremendous penalties enacted by the 2nd and 3rd of Edward VI. and the 1st of Elizabeth, if he deviates in the slightest degree from the observance of those Rubrics which the noble Earl's other set of petitioners affirm to have fallen into desuetude, and to have become obsolete. Now with respect to the penalties referred to by the petitioner, I shall at once state that I have not the smallest objection to strike them altogether out of the Statutes to which they are appended. Such a matter forms a very legitimate ground of petition to your Lordships; and if the noble Earl will bring in a bill for the purpose of striking out those portions of the Statutes of Edward and Elizabeth to which the petitioner, Dr. Carwithen, refers—but not a word more of those Statutes than what refers to the penalties—I will very readily assent to such a measure, and give my best assistance towards perfecting it. But yet I must say, my Lords, that I believe both the noble Earl and the rev. petitioner are under a misapprehension as to the application of these penalties. I do not speak lightly upon this point; for, having seen a statement of the presentation of a petition from Dr. Carwithen in another place, and thinking it very probable a similar petition would be addressed to your Lordships, I took occasion to look at the particular clauses of the Statutes in question, with a view to ascertain the exact applicability of the penalties therein enacted to persons in the position described by the petitioner. I fully appreciate, my Lords, the force of that proverb which tells us that the man who is his own lawyer has a fool for his client. I therefore would not trust to my own interpretation of the Statutes in question. I had recourse to two most eminent and learned individuals, whose opinions and advice your Lordships are sometimes in the practice of referring to in cases of difficulty (their names, I am sure, I shall be excused for refraining to mention), and I found that they confirmed the view which I had already taken of the Statutes. The opinion of those two most learned individuals is, that the penalties do not apply unless in cases where there is exhibited an obstinate determination and a manifest refusal 21 to obey the Rubrics. The clause in which the penalties are enacted runs thus:—And albeit, that the same be so godly and good, that they give occasion to every honest and comfortable man most willingly to embrace them; yet, lest any obstinate person who willingly would disturb so godly order and quiet should not go unpunished; that it may be also ordained and enacted, &c., that if any parson, &c., shall after, &c., refuse to use the said common prayers, &c., in such order and form, &c., or shall use, wilfully and obstinately standing in the same, any other rite, &c.What call is there, then, my Lords, on the noble Earl for his extreme anxiety in behalf of those of the clergy; especially of those Bishops, who may, in the honest and faithful discharge of their duties, fall short in some minute particular, of the exact observance of a Rubric? Those who act with good faith, those who, if they offend, offend not wilfully, in a spirit of contempt, and defiance of the Church and its Liturgy, fall not within the provision of the Statute. The penalties of which the Rev. Dr. Carwithen expresses so strong, and I am bound to believe so sincere an apprehension, do not apply to persons in his situation at all; and I do not state this upon my own authority, but upon the much higher authority of two most learned persons, to whose advice and judgment your Lordships are in the habit of deferring, when they have the honour of stating to you the Law from these Woolsacks. At the same time I am ready to admit that there have in former times occurred instances of indictments having been preferred against individuals who had violated this Statute without any direct proof of wilfulness or obstinacy. This was in the time of James I., when the Rubrics were recent, when full conformity to them was enforced, and when every departure from them implied, therefore, the intention of disobedience. This is not now the case, and I repeat, my Lords, that I have the high authority to which I have referred, for saying that such a construction of the Statute would not now be listened to. On this ground therefore, the rev. petitioner and the noble Earl may dismiss their apprehensions.
But this is not the only particular to which this petitioner claims our attention. He urges your Lordships to review the Rubrics, and he triumphantly quotes an instance, in which he says Parliament has thus interposed of its own mere notion. The noble Earl supports his rev. friend's argument, and calls on Parliament to interpose. My 22 Lords, the rev. petitioner and the noble Earl tell us, that the Marriage Act, 26 George II., c. 33, made an alteration in the Rubric, and thus established a precedent, which they call on us now to follow. My Lords, here again, with all respect for the noble Earl, I must demur to his authority, I must deny his precedent. The Marriage Act made no alteration in any Rubric; it cautiously abstained from doing so. The clause had reference to the case of parishes in which there is no service in the morning, and in which therefore bans of matrimony could not be published in that part of the Service which is prescribed in the Rubric. I will beg leave to read the clause, it is worded thus:—That from and after the 25th day of March, 1754, all bans of matrimony shall be published in an audible manner in the Parish church, or in some public chapel in which bans of matrimony have been usually published, of or belonging to such parish or chapelry wherein the persons to be married shall dwell, according to the form of words prescribed by the Rubric prefixed to the office of matrimony in the Book of Common Prayer, upon three Sundays preceding the solemnization of marriage, during the time of morning service, or of evening service, if there be no morning service in such church, immediately after the second lesson.Your Lordships will here see that the Marriage Act provides for the publication of bans in the evening service where there is none in the morning. Is this the repeal of any Rubric? True it is, that a change has been made in the Rubric as it is now printed in respect of the time of publishing bans of marriage, even in the morning service. But by whom, and by what authority, has this change been made? Not by the Marriage Act, my Lords, nor by any authority properly derived from it. For many years after the passing of that Act, no such change was made. It was made, as I am assured by a learned Friend, who has inquired minutely into it, since the commencement of the present century,—it was first made by the curators of the press at Oxford, without authority, I repeat, and I must think very improperly. Two eminent individuals, of the highest character, whose names I need not mention, (for they are dead,) did venture to make that alteration, to which we are now referred as to a precedent for interference with the Rubric by Parliament. My Lords, I repeat, the framers of the Marriage Act were cautious not to make any such precedent. They knew the danger of making any change in 23 the Liturgy by Parliament, and they took a course which interfered not with any direction of any Rubric. The Marriage Act, it is true, authorized the publication of bans in the evening, after the second lesson; but this was not inconsistent with the Rubric, which directed the time of publication in the morning. Besides, the Rubric fully recognizes the right of the Crown to enjoin anything to be published in Church, which can be lawfully published. Therefore under this Rubric, the King could, in virtue even of his Supremacy, surely therefore in his High Court of Parliament, authorize this publication of bans.
My Lords, I fear that I ought to apologise for addressing you at so great length. But I am confident that for much of what I have said your Lordships will grant me indulgence, in consideration of the personal interest I must feel in the matter. But, my Lords, I am anxious to say yet a few words on a subject of much higher moment than anything which concerns me.
My Lords, the noble Earl has expressed himself as anxious for some legislative interference to put an end to the inconveniences and evils of which the various petitioners complain. Now, my Lords, I most earnestly—I will not say beseech you, for no entreaty of mine could have any right to prevail—still less will I presume to advise; for I am one of the last persons who are entitled to advise your Lordships—but I will venture to suggest the prudence of hesitating long before you engage in the course recommended by the noble Earl. My Lords, that course is not now recommended for the first time. Remember when it was, that it was first recommended to this House to interfere with the Book of Common Prayer; and remember, too, what were the consequences. It is now just 200 years ago—in the year 1641—in compliance with petitions then presented, your ancestors, my Lords, resolved themselves into a Committee of Religion. In that year the Lords who then sat in this House were as firmly attached to the Church, and as fervent supporters of the Liturgy, as are any of your Lordships who now sit here. I do not by this mean it to be inferred that the House of Lords in 1641 was superior to your Lordships in its attachment to the religious institutions of the realm; but what I do say is, that I in no degree offer any disparagement to your Lordships in drawing a comparison between the two periods. My Lords, this House, at that 24 day, was so attached to the Liturgy in its then existing form, that it actually resolved that all should be severely punished who in any way interfered with the strict performance of Divine Service, according to the prescribed form. This was two months after it had formed its Committee of Religion and all then looked like zealous adherence to the Church and its formularies. But interference had begun—a Committee of Religion sate—the small edge of the wedge had penetrated, and the big end was not very long in following. Yet it took some time—for it required time to subdue the spirits and overmaster the principles of such men—it took some time—about three years from the commencement of their interference—and then this House agreed with a Vote of the other House to abolish the Liturgy, and with it to proscribe the Church of England. My Lords, when the work of abolition begins, it is not always easy to say where it shall stop. After some time—about the same period—after three years more, this House was abolished, and with it the Monarchy.
Now, my Lords, do not let me be misunderstood. I do not say that the consequences of your acting on the noble Earl's advice will be now as fatal as those of a similar course 200 years ago; but, my Lords, I will say, that wise men like your Lordships will hesitate long before they venture—aye, my Lords, and without absolute necessity they will not venture—to enter again on a course which has once before led to so fatal results.
My Lords, with great deference, I must add something further. With great deference I submit to your Lordships, that it is contrary to the constitutional duty of either House of Parliament to initiate such a proceeding. True, my Lords, no Liturgy is binding on the nation, unless it be bound by Parliament. The Liturgy, when prepared by Convocation, even though it have the assent of the Crown, has not the established force of law, without the concurrence of Parliament. My Lords, the course always hitherto pursued—except in the instance of which I have been speaking—an instance which I am sure your Lordships will with me consider, not as a precedent, but as a warning—with that one exception, the course always hitherto pursued has been, when alterations of the Liturgy are contemplated, for the Sovereign to issue a Commission of Divines, in order to be advised what alterations, if any, should be made. When the Report of such a Commission 25 has been received, the Crown lays the matter before the Convocation; and, after the Convocation has deliberated and decided, then, and not till then, Parliament has been invited to sanction that decision, and give to it the force of law. But, my Lords, it has hitherto been the wisdom—and, I must not be afraid to add, the duty—of Parliament, to leave to the spiritual instructors of the Church—not to the lay members—but to them whom the Divine Head of the Church has constituted its pastors and teachers, to devise and propose a form of Divine worship, to which the lay members, speaking through Parliament, have, indeed, the right, and the duty, to signify their assent or dissent; and so to give or to refuse to it the sanction of national law.
My Lords, I do hope, that if at any time proceedings of this kind shall be deemed necessary, they will originate from the Crown, in the constitutional mode proposed by the meeting at Exeter, before they were persuaded by the noble Earl to come to your Lordships in the form of the petition now presented to the House. But, my Lords, let me be understood. I do not think that the present case calls for interposition. I think that, at present, it is more desirable, considering the excitement which has existed—and no one can lament it more than myself—I say, my Lords, I think it most desirable that this excitement may be allayed, before any further proceedings are adopted in the matter by any authority. If at any time such proceedings shall be thought necessary, I predict that your Lordships will never again repeat the fatal experiment made in 1641, which was followed by such fearful consequences. I am sorry to have trespassed so long upon the attention of your Lordships, and I wait to hear what shall fall from the noble Earl, if he is prepared to state anything specially, in explanation of his own petition.
only rose to state that he could not agree with the right rev. Prelate in all the points of what was certainly a fair, manly, and candid statement of his case. He differed from the right rev. Prelate in one point. He held the high and paramount authority of Parliament in all matters which could be the subject of discussion, and he utterly protested against the doctrine—against acting on the opinion—that there was anything spiritual or temporal, from which the jurisdiction of Parliament was excluded. But he 26 entirely agreed with the right rev. Prelate, although not for the reasons urged by the right rev. Prelate, in the conclusion to which he had come. He entirely agreed with him in deprecating, as he did most heartily, all Parliamentary interference with the present contest. Entertaining these feelings, as he did, he must be allowed to add, that it could not but be a subject of great and hearty congratulation that there now existed no more important matters to divide the Church—that there were no graver matters of doctrine or of discipline, or of polity to divide the Church, than the mere question of whether a sermon should be delivered in a surplice or in a black gown. But the fact appeared to be, that many people had conscientious scruples, and it was not for him—God forbid!—it was not for him or for anybody to say, in a matter exciting conscientious scruples, that there was anything more or less trifling or important in that matter, because it was enough that it should be said that men did entertain scruples of conscience for him to be inclined to treat those scruples with the most profound respect. But it was a fact, he repeated, that differences of opinion did exist. It was a feet, that certain things laid down 170 years ago, and more, things which were then deemed fit and proper to be exacted from the clergy—matters of pure form and ceremony, and that society having since adopted other habits and other views, these things were no longer reckoned matters of moment, and were no longer generally used. Well, then, was it not common sense to endeavour to allow matters to go on as they were now naturally proceeding, and not to ask us to go back to practices, be they trifling or important, the revival of which only gave rise to scandal, difference, and dissension among flocks, and to scandal, and difference, and dissension, between flocks and pastors; a state of things the most heartily to be deprecated, and the most carefully to be avoided? He cordially agreed in the right rev. Prelate's recommendation to his spiritual brethren, or rather to his spiritual children of the Church. He agreed with the wisdom, as well as the charity and the humanity of his advice to them; but it was not for us laymen to say what in this matter was right and what wrong; it was only for them to say on no account whatever let the dispute in question be brought at present under the consideration of Parliament. It might not be easy to find the best way out 27 of the difficulty—to chalk out the preferable course to be adopted; but the Worst course was clear—it was that of Parliament interfering in the matter. Wishing well, as a son of the Church, to the peace of the Church—to that peace which the right rev. Prelate, as a father of the Church, was charged with superintending — he agreed with him—they both of them agreed, and he hoped that their Lordships would all agree in trusting that that peace never would be injured by the attempt to revive customs gradually—in the lapse of ages fallen into disuse and desuetude.
The Bishop of Exeter
did not believe that one single custom in question had in his diocese fallen into the condition alluded to. [Lord Brougham: They have fallen not into total, but into general disuse.] He reiterated the expression of his belief that there was not a single one of these rubrical observances in his diocese had fallen into disuse. There were some churches in which some of them were observed, and other churches in which others were retained. It was quite incorrect to suppose that there were ceremonies and usages which had fallen into desuetude in the sense in which that expression must be taken, were any judicial decision upon the subject to be called for. His object had merely been to cause some of these ceremonies, which were used in one parish, and others in another, to be used alike in all.
§ Earl Fortescue
The right rev. Prelate has called upon me to state what usages and ceremonies have been revived in the diocese of Exeter, which I consider to have fallen into disuse. I beg to say, in answer, that, so far as my experience goes, in most, if not all, of the churches with which I have been acquainted, the use of the surplice in the pulpit has fallen into desuetude, as well as reading the sentences of the offertory, and the collection after service. This last practice fell into desuetude from having become perfectly useless; and, so far as I can learn, since its revival no money has been collected, and therefore it was an absurd and wanton waste of the time of the congregation. But I was glad to hear the right rev. Prelate, in the former part of his speech (though he, not quite consistently, deprecated, in the latter part, all interference by Parliament with the law as it stands)—I was glad, I say, to hear from him that if I or any other lay Member of the House would bring in a Bill to repeal the Statutes of Edward VI. and Elizabeth, he would support it. The penalties to 28 which the Bishops and clergy are liable rest upon those Statutes; and why should such absurd and inoperative laws remain on our Statute Book? I hope some Member of the House, better qualified than I am for the task, will bring in a Bill for their repeal; and I hope, meanwhile, that the right rev. Prelate will follow the advice given by my noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham), who, whilst he said he agreed in what had fallen from the right rev. Prelate, impressed upon him strongly the expediency of leaving well alone. There never was a period, I believe, when, in the diocese of Exeter, the duties of the Church were generally better performed, more conscientiously or more zealously, than they are at the present time; and if the right rev. Prelate had been induced to leave things as they were before he issued his pastoral letter, not one of the petitions I have presented would have been before the House. He has, however, made the best amends he could for his error, by withdrawing the obnoxious order; and if he will only give permission to his clergy to return to the state in which they were before the issue of his pastoral letter, and not revive angry feelings, I hope that the effect of these disputes will gradually settle down, and that the tranquillity of the diocese may be restored.
The Bishop of Exeter
My Lords, I am sorry to be obliged to address your Lordships again, but the noble Earl has introduced new matter. Your Lordships have heard what the noble Earl has said with regard to my pastoral letter. Now, I ask your Lordships to hear a passage of that letter, and to say whether any objection can be more unreasonable. I observe in that letter,—If process of time have introduced some relaxations in practice, issuing in the great evils we now deplore, it is a convincing proof that the true remedy for those evils must be sought in returning to a faithful observance of the Act of Uniformity. To this duty we pledged ourselves in our ordination vows. To the strict fulfilment of it, therefore, no faithful minister will think it a hardship that his bishop should now recall him; he will rather gladly recognize the fitness of recurring to it at a time of general doubt and difficulty, as the one, the only rule, by which our practice in public prayer can be honestly or safely regulated; and, while a willing and hearty obedience is thus confidently anticipated from the clergy, can we apprehend less ready acquiescence in the same course on the part of the laity? Assuredly not; provided" (and to this part I request the attention of your Lordships, 29 as showing the animus with which it was expressed)—"that we previously instruct them in the nature of the changes introduced, not from love of change, but to prevent change, to enable us, at length, to find a rest for ourselves, amidst the fluctuation of usages around us, and to find it in strict obedience to the law.That was the advice I gave, and I do not shrink from saying that it was not given in error, and I am ready to justify it in any place where I may be fitly called upon to do so. The noble Earl says I am inconsistent, because I do not recognise the right of Parliament to relieve the clergy from an ecclesiastical law, whilst I offer to support a Bill to relieve them from a penal Statute. But, my Lords, there is no inconsistency in thinking that Parliament has no right to initiate any ecclesiastical changes, though it may remove the penalties imposed by the Acts of Edward VI. and Elizabeth. The noble Earl has specified the use of the surplice, the sentences of the offertory, and the collection, as the matters that have given offence. With respect to the collection, I told my clergy in my original letter, "Do not use the collection unless the people wish it." [Lord Stanley made a remark to the right rev. Prelate.] The noble Baron has just reminded me that the collection is made in almost every church in Ireland. [Earl Fortescue: But there was no Poor Law in that country at that time.] Does the noble Earl mean to say that a Poor Law supersedes the duty of Christian charity? At the very meeting at which the noble Earl attended, a declaration was made by a gentleman, not particularly my friend, that in that very parish, the late incumbent who died but a few years ago, preached in his surplice, read sentences of the offertory, and the Prayer for the Church Militant every Sunday.
The Bishop of Norwich
had been urged not to enter into this discussion. It was a question somewhat of a personal nature, and one more particularly referring to a particular diocese. He should, not, therefore, enter fully into the question; but, in reference to the general feeling in the country, and the feeling which he knew existed in his own diocese—knowing the increasing disposition, on the part of the clergy, to adhere to Protestant usages, and to attempt to oppose, as far as possible, any innovation, or any recurrence of any custom approximating, either in reality or imagination, to Roman Catholicism—knowing all this, he did rejoice that these petitions had 30 been presented. He rejoiced to see the laity alive to what was going forward; and he trusted that what had taken place in the diocese of Exeter, in which 3,000 individuals in one town had come forward, and stated their sentiments upon the subject in a temperate, a calm, and a dispassionate address—he trusted that this would produce its effects—that the same feeling would animate England throughout, and that they would never return to any of those antiquated Rubrical Forms, which he believed it was, in the present state of society, quite impracticable to introduce. The right rev. Prelate had said, that as members of the Church, they were under a stringent order to obey the Rubrics of the Church. A stringent order to obey the Rubrics (continued the right rev. Prelate)! why, none of us do obey them—none of us ever have—because none of us ever can obey them. Why, they are in opposition one to the other; and if we lack of a stringent order to obey the Rubrics, I do not see what right we have to say, in one case, this particular part of the service I will order; in another, that particular part I will dispense with. Not that there are wanting those who contend for all the Rubrics, who cry—"We will have the Rubrics, the whole Rubrics, and nothing but the Rubrics." But this is impracticable; and I, for one, shall rejoice when some calm and legitimate attempt is made to remove some of those difficulties now so grievously pressing upon tender consciences.
The Bishop of London
could not let this matter pass without saying one or two words, if it were only to put the right rev. Prelate in mind of the possible consequences of such advice as he had just given—advice amounting to this—that none of them were bound by the Rubrics, because they could not observe them all. This seemed to him to be the fair inference from the observations of his right rev. Friend. Did he mean to say that because some portions of the Rubrics could not be obeyed, they were, therefore, not bound by any portion of it? This was an extraordinary doctrine to urge—that because there were some parts of a law impossible to be obeyed, that those portions which could, should not be obeyed. And yet such was the point to which the argument of his right rev. Friend tended. Let it not be inferred from his not saying more than he meant to say, that he acquiesced in any of the views taken by his right rev. Friend; but, in fact, it appeared to him that the course of argument 31 used by his right rev. Friend carried with it its own refutation.
The Bishop of Norwich
There were parts of the Rubric which they could obey, and yet did not obey. What he contended for was, that they had no right to make choice of different portions of it, to be used or disused.
§ Petitions read, and ordered to lie on the Table.