HL Deb 08 February 1858 vol 148 cc854-60

Order for the Second Reading read.


said, it was with great satisfaction that he heard the former part of the noble Earl's speech, and with equal regret that he heard the strong condemnation which his noble Friend expressed of the Bill of which he now moved the second reading. He felt sure, however, that the noble Earl had formed a mistaken opinion of it, and that on mature consideration he would find that it carried out the same object which he himself had at heart, though in a manner more consistent with ecclesiastical rule and order. The difference consisted in this, that before the special services were commenced the d'ocesan's permission was required, instead of their being inhibited by the diocesan after having been once required. The process would be, that when it appeared to the diocesan, from his own knowledge, or from representations made to him, either by the incumbent or by others, that such services were desirable in parishes of a certain population, he would communicate with the incumbent, and, unless the incumbent saw reason for objecting, he would issue his permission accordingly. It was quite possible that there might be local objections of which the Bishop might not have been aware; and it was right that the incumbent should have the opportunity of representing them, and right that the diocesan should have the opportunity of considering them. If after due investigation a difference of opinion should unhappily remain, an appeal to the Archbishop of the province was allowed, whose decision was to be summary and final. This provision was in accordance with the regular discipline of the Church, and with recent precedents; and if he might judge in this case by his experience in others of a like nature, the right of appeal would work in the most desirable manner by seldom coming into operation at all. This was the object of the measure which he and his right rev. Brethren now offered to their Lordships for acceptance, and these were its provisions. It would simply enable the incumbent and Bishop to supply, in some degree, the spiritual wants of large and populous districts, which they had a right to expect from the Established Church, but which the existing parochial system at present prevents them from enjoying. As he stated two nights ago, nothing would be so gratifying to his right rev. Brethren or to himself as to find that it met the views of the noble Earl who had the merit of first drawing their Lordships' attention to the change required in the present ecclesiastical discipline. He and his right rev. Brethren sincerely hoped that it might answer the purpose which the noble Earl was anxious to attain, laudably conversant as he had made himself with the condition and habits of the working classes, and earnestly desirous, as he was, to promote their best interests, both temporal and eternal.

Moved, that the Bill be now read 2a.


said that, having entertained very strong objections to the Bill introduced by the noble Earl, (the Earl of Shaftesbury) he must express his sincere gratification that he had been induced to withdraw it; for, had that measure become law, the lines of demarcation between the Church and Dissent would have been swept away, the whole parochial system would have been uprooted, and the seeds of dissension and schism would have been spread in the very bosom of the Church. Although he could not give his assent to all the provisions of the Bill introduced by the most rev. Primate, he thought it was in so far preferable to that of the noble Earl as it would prevent clergymen from being obtruded upon parishes for the performance of special services without a fair opportunity being afforded to the parochial incumbents of objecting to such a proceeding. He thought, therefore, that in regard to this measure he ought not to offer any opposition to the second reading.


said, he felt he ought not to allow the matter to drop without saying a few words respecting it. He supported the Bill of the most rev. Primate, because he believed it would accomplish everything which the Bill of the noble Earl proposed. He thought that the noble Earl, upon more fully considering the Bill of the most rev. Primate, would see that it really did carry out all the objects he himself had in view. The only difference he (the Bishop of London) could see between the two Bills was this—that whereas, in the one case, the Bishop was to step in in a few days, he was, by the Bill of the most rev. Primate, to step in in the first instance. The fact was, that the Bill of the most rev. Primate exactly made law that which did lake place in the ease of the Exeter Hall services. A representation might be made to the Bishop of the diocese by any set of persons who felt interested in the spiritual welfare of the district, and the Bishop, by a simple writing, might give permission for the proposed services. The only alteration from what actually took place last summer was that provision was made whereby, in the case of an injudicious permission being given, the matter might be brought before the Archbishop by the clergyman of the district. He would, if the noble Earl had not left the House, most earnestly beg of him to reconsider his statement, that in his opinion the Bill of the most rev. Primate would be of no value. He thought that when the noble Earl made that statement he must have been speaking of a certain draft of a Bill which had been placed in his hands a few days ago, and which had since received important Amendments, which would bring the Bill exceedingly near to that which the noble Earl himself had proposed. In his (the Bishop of London's) opinion, the Bill now before their Lordships would, in a simple manner, effect all which the noble Earl was anxious to effect. It was a remarkable sign of the times that all the Prelates of the Church of England should agree that such special services were necessary, and should agree that any body of laymen residing in a diocese might come forward and ask for such services. It was remarkable that not only all the Bishops should agree in this, but that they should be joined in that opinion by the noble Viscount opposite (Viscount Dungannon), and he could not but think that it would be very injudicious of any one anxious for these services to put any impediment in the way of this Bill. Twenty-three Bishops, and those who took the same view of the matter as the noble Viscount, agreed that the Exeter Hall services were wanted.


did not say that the Exeter Hall services were wanted.


The noble Viscount, he apprehended, at least agreed that services such as those provided by the Bill were required. This unanimity showed that the Church of England was prepared to do what was required of her; and that if the working classes, as they were called, were anxious to be taught, the Bishops and clergy were anxious to teach them without violating Church rules. There was now service for the working people in one of the great cathedrals of the metropolis, and he hoped that there would soon be the same in the other. There were similar services in many of the churches, and he trusted that within the next few weeks they would again have service in Exeter Hall.


said, that in giving his assent to this Bill he merely bowed to the unanimous decision of the Bishops. He did not retract one opinion to which he had given utterance last Session, and did not wish to be understood as expressing an opinion in favour of the Exeter Hall services.


while agreeing in the principle of the Bill, did not wish to be bound by all the conclusions drawn from the unanimity of the Bishops by the right rev. Prelate who had just spoken. He (the Bishop of Exeter) supported this Bill in contradistinction to that of the noble Earl (the Earl of Shaftesbury), because it proposed to supply these special services without violating the rules of the Church.


thought that the Bill of the most rev. Primate would effect all that was desirable. A clergyman who had taken part in the services at Exeter Hall, and was one of the most strenuous advocates of special services, not only objected to the details of the noble Earl's (the Earl of Shaftesbury's). Bill, but felt so strongly in respect to the manner in which that Bill proposed to deal with the parochial clergy, that he had published a letter to the noble Earl protesting against the form of the Bill, and suggesting a mode in which the noble Earl's object could be accomplished in another manner. Now that very suggestion was embodied in the Bill of the Archbishop of Canterbury. He (the Bishop of St. David's) was at a loss to conceive how any one could speak of the one Bill as being perfectly safe, and of the other as being dangerous.


It is certainly, my Lords, very satisfactory to find such unanimity amongst the right rev. Prelates, in respect of the objects which this Bill proposes to effect; and I am sure it is also a matter of satisfaction to your Lordships that after what has taken place the noble Earl (the Earl of Shaftesbury) has consented to withdraw his Bill for the purpose of enabling due consideration to be given to the very important subject with which you are proposing to deal. I am gratified to find that the Bill of the most rev. Primate is one which is meant to apply not to particular parishes but to districts. The Bill of the noble Earl laid down an abstract rule, permitting those services in any parishes. Now, it is quite clear that such a Bill would embrace many parishes in which there would be no ground whatever for introducing these services. The test of population in a parish would be a most fallacious one. There may be parishes in which the population amounts to 2000, 3000, 5000, or even 10,000, and yet in which the spiritual wants of the parishioners are amply provided for, while there may be parishes with less than 2000 inhabitants in which those wants are provided for in a very imperfect manner. The Bill of the most rev. Primate does not interfere with the parochial system at all, or with the jurisdiction of the incumbent, but applies to exceptional cases—to those cases in which every one must admit there is a want of spiritual provision, and which occur throughout districts of a large town. The clergyman who is to conduct the special service is not to be introduced as a rival to the incumbent, or as exercising any authority within the parish. It is universally acknowledged that there is a necessity in this and other great towns for the introduction of these special services, to meet the shortcomings of the parochial system; but, wherever they be introduced, I beg that your Lordships will not consider them as anything but what I am sure the most rev. Primate and his right rev. Brethren intend them to be—namely, as merely subsidiary and ancillary to the local services. I hope, my Lords, that very great benefit may result from the services at Exeter Hall; but the attendances in Westminster Abbey, and in the other churches in which special services have been held, prove this—that there is no difficulty in inducing the people to attend the churches. The little church of St. Margaret's has been opened to receive the overflowings of Westminster Abbey, and it, too, has had its overflowing congregations. I look upon this as an experiment to ascertain what can be done in the way of bringing the masses to receive regular religious instruction; and I trust that even after the first gloss and the novelty have passed away, it will produce its lasting effects. But again I would beg of your Lordships never to consider these services as anything but subsidiary to the local services. In this great metropolis it would be impossible so to subdivide the parishes that every one should have his sphere of work, and this Bill of the right rev. Primate affords a means of supplying in a regular manner, and under episcopal sanction, additional religious instruction in those districts in which it is required. The Bill provides for an appeal from the Bishop to the Archbishop, so that I do not think any difficulty can arise as regards its operation in respect of the power given to the right rev. Prelates. It must be expected that in a Church constituted as the Church of England is, Bishops may entertain different views on certain matters; but I do sincerely hope that the Bishops will feel it their duty to impress on the clergy, that, in respect of these services, their duty is to call in the wandering, the guilty, and the ignorant within the Christian fold, and that they have nothing whatever to do with questions which, however important in other respects, would in their application be utterly inconsistent with the purposes for which these special services are designed. I support this Bill because I think it will effect the views which the noble Earl (the Earl of Shaftesbury) proposes in his Bill, and do so in a manner much less opposed to the system of the Church.


supported the Bill, but was understood to give notice of his intention to move some proposition in Committee.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the whole House on Tuesday the 16th instant.

House adjourned at a quarter past Nine o'clock, till To-morrow, half-past Four o'clock.