HL Deb 06 May 1858 vol 150 cc148-77

*My Lords, I think myself fortunate in being able, through Her Majesty's gracious favour, to bring forward this Motion in your Lordships' House rather than in the House of Commons, where I first gave notice of my intention of dealing with this question; because, although doubtless it would be possible on most questions to obtain in that House a more accurate estimate of public opinion, yet I cannot but recollect that I am now addressing an Assembly composed, proportionably, of a much larger number of members of the Established Church, and that not only Lords Temporal, but Lords Spiritual, form part of this Assembly, who are so specially qualified to take part in a discussion of this nature, and whose opinions will unquestionably exercise on this matter so great an influence on your Lordships' decision. I feel that I am more in facie ecclesiœ. But if this is a satisfactory reflection, it is the only one of that nature in which I can at this moment indulge. Your Lordships will readily believe that I rise under feelings of deep embarrassment. So recently a Member of this Assembly, I find myself confronted with all the learning, the ability, the experience, and the oratorical talent for which your Lordships' House is so remarkable. I am about to bring forward a question, the gravity and importance of which it is impossible to exaggerate; and in addition, it is one to which Parliament is so unaccustomed that it has, with few and incidental exceptions, almost lain dormant for a century and a half. As if that were not enough, I fear (though I hope to be able effectually to dissipate it) that I labour under a prejudice on the part of some of your Lordships for venturing to bring forward this Motion, in the teeth, as it were, of an opinion supposed to have been pronounced by right rev. Prelates at a recent Session in the Upper House of Convocation. Your Lordships will easily understand that it is not the timidity of youth which oppresses we, but a keen sense of the responsibilities of maturer years, and of the imperfections which I bring to the performance of an arduous duty. I desire to speak as little as possible of myself, but I have been so sharply rebuked for my presumption in making this Motion, that I am anxious to explain the motives which have influenced me in so doing. No one can justly impute to me that I am a lukewarm member of the Church to which I belong, and I appeal with confidence to the right rev. Bench, in whose presence I now stand, whether, in the humble efforts I have endeavoured to make to promote the great cause of our common Master, I have ever failed to seek episcopal authority, or to act otherwise than by the means and through the system of that Church of which I am a member. Those who know me best know that for many years the subject has occupied my anxious attention; but it was only when I found such very high episcopal sanction for this course of proceeding, and a preponderating concurrence of suffrage in regard to an alteration of our liturgy, provided it could be done with safety, that I thought I might, without incurring the reproach at your Lordships' hands of undue haste, rashness, or precipitancy, venture to ask for a discussion on so grave and serious a question. So great has been the length of time since this subject has been in debate before Parliament that, in order to do any justice to it, I fear I shall be compelled to trespass at greater length upon your patience than can be agreeable either to the House or to myself; but I trust that, considering the extreme importance of a right decision, and the difficulties under which I labour, your Lordships will overlook the defects of which I am painfully conscious, and extend to me that courteous indulgence for which this House is so eminently distinguished.

My Lords, I desire in the outset to declare that, in making the present Motion, I am acting entirely independently of any party in the Church. The word "party," indeed, as it is understood in a Christian community, grates sadly on my ear. I am happy in enjoying the friendship, and, I hope, the good opinion, of many of the clergy holding very opposite opinions; and I believe they give me credit—which I heartily reciprocate—of being sincere, and of having but one object in view—namely, the advancement of the work which it is equally the duty both of the clergy and laity to promote to the utmost of their power. Allow me to give your Lordships a brief outline of the position of this question. At the period of the Reformation such modifications of the Romish liturgy as were thought desirable were variously adopted in different dioceses. So the matter remained till the reign of Edward VI., when a Royal Commission was appointed, of which Cranmer was the head, to collect the most popular liturgies of the day, which were those of York, Hereford, Bangor, and Salisbury, then called "Uses." From these the First Book of Edward VI. was compiled, and, having been sanctioned by Convocation and Parliament, became the law. Two years afterwards a revision was considered necessary, and accordingly took place by the same means. Thus the Second Book of Edward VI., and the Second Act of Uniformity, were substituted for the first. All was again confusion during the reign of Queen Mary, though, singularly enough, it does not appear that the Act of Parliament was repealed. On the accession of Elizabeth another Royal Commission was issued, and the Third Act of Uniformity passed; and at a subsequent period of Elizabeth's reign another alteration of the liturgy was made by the Royal Will, upon the report of a Commission, but without the sanction of Convocation or Parliament. In the commencement of the reign of James I. took place the celebrated Hampton Court Conferences, which resulted in another alteration, carried into effect in a similar manner. Soon after the Restoration, the Savoy Conference was held, and a further alteration was made in the Prayer Book, and the Fourth Act of Uniformity was passed. That was, in fact, the last alteration made. In 1689 a Royal Commission recommended several changes in the Liturgy, but they failed to obtain the assent of Convocation, and were not carried into effect. Having given this brief sketch of the history of the Prayer Book, let me proceed to say that, in order to induce the House to assent to my Motion, I think I am bound to demonstrate three positions:— 1. That a Revision of the Liturgy is desired. 2. That it is desirable. 3. That the method by which I propose to effect it is both constitutional and expedient.

In regard to the first point, that alteration is desired, I can honestly say that, in the whole of my conversations and correspondence on this subject, extensive as they have been, although many have not approved the discussion of the question, I have not met with a single person, lay or clerical, who has not desired some alterations of the Liturgy. I am now going to try and do that which I just now stated I hoped to be able to do, namely, dispel a prejudice which might exist against me, as being in supposed antagonism to the right rev. Prelates recently assembled in Convocation. Those of your Lordships who merely consult the ordinary sources of information, the daily papers, may reasonably have come to that conclusion; but as it was my duty to ascertain exactly what passed in that right rev. Conclave, I wrote to the editor of the Guardian, a paper conducted with ability and fairness, and which concerns itself in these matters, for assistance, and I received from him a report which he assured me I might with confidence rely upon; and I am happy to have it in my power to say, that I shall be able to draw from the addresses of every one of the speakers upon that occasion some of the strongest evidence in favour of the proposition I am now endeavouring to establish. The first who spoke was a right rev. Friend of mine, who presides over the diocese of Lincoln. He said that though he would make no alteration on the Sunday, he desired to "curtail the daily service by at least two-thirds." Then came another right rev. Friend of mine, the Bishop of Winchester, who said that "he should greatly rejoice if special services could be added to those we already have, composed of prayers already in our Liturgy and sanctioned by authority." Next followed the right rev. Prelate who presides over the diocese of St. David's, who said that "improvements of considerable value might be effected in our services by little changes, which would remove a number of not very important, but still well founded objections." Another right rev. Friend, the Bishop of London, desired "greater flexibility in the performance of our services," an opinion in which the Bishop of Hereford concurred. The right rev. Prelate of Llandaff declared that "he must conscientiously think that, when the Holy Communion is administered, shortening the service would be of great advantage." The most rev. the Primate, of whom I never can speak without at the same time declaring the great reverence and respect with which I regard him, whose opinions expressed on other occasions I shall have occasion to lay before your Lordships somewhat later, thought "the Lord's Prayer was too frequently repeated in the morning service," My right rev. Friend the Bishop of Oxford was so intent upon the special alteration he desired, namely, that of dispensing with the Prayer Book altogether in certain cases, and having preaching only, that he had consulted all the legal authorities he could get at upon the subject, in order to enable him to burst the fetters of the Act of Uniformity. Among others he had invited the opinion of a learned Judge of the Court of Queen's Bench, whose opinion was so characteristic that it deserves to be presented to your Lordships. It was to the effect, that "upon consideration he took a favourable view of the case presented, but that it would not be safe to hazard an opinion until he knew what effect an argument upon the opposite side might have upon his mind." I now hope that I have shown your Lordships that, although we may differ as to the best means of obtaining them, there is no difference between the right rev. Bench and myself as to a desire for some alterations. But I hope still further to strengthen my proposition, by reading to your Lordships a Report made by a Committee of its members appointed by Convocation upon this very subject. That Report is as follows:— 1. That some modification of the Church rules is needful to enable her adequately to minister to the spiritual necessities of the people of this land. 2. That the length of the morning service upon Sundays and holidays, especially when the Holy Communion is administered to a large body of the people, renders it desirable to allow of its being divided into different services and used at various hours. 3. That where there are both afternoon and evening services, then, that for one of the two, either different proper lessons or an occasional service be authorized. 4. That in the present state of our population, the Church would be better able to minister to their wants if some well considered relaxations of the absolute strictness of her services, as prescribed by the Aet of Uniformity, were admitted by authority. 5. That a shorter order for daily prayer be compiled from the Book of Common Prayer, with a prescribed lesson or lessons of Holy Scripture, which might be used instead of the present order of Daily Morning and Evening Prayer. When I add to the foregoing, that between three and four thousand of our clergy have petitioned for a specified alteration in our Burial Service, and that there exist Associations for procuring a revision of our liturgies, composed of clergy and laity, in eleven of the great towns of this country, I think your Lordships will concur that the desire for some alteration in our Li- turgy is almost universal. And let me ask, is it surprising that such should be the case in reference to liturgies and services compiled and arranged for a totally different state of society, since which our manners and customs, our hours, our mode of living, even the expression of our ideas, and the amount and locality and spiritual wants of our people, have entirely changed? Is it probable that just at the termination of a bloody civil war, in which religion had at least been as much in question as politics, when the old dominant party was just returned to power, a fair adjustment of differences should have been made in a manner never again to require a review? I will now, with the permission of the House, proceed to the second part of my case—namely, to endeavour to show that alteration is not only desired, but that it is also desirable. In order to do this, I must be allowed to define a little my position, and ask your Lordships to consider what a liturgy is. A liturgy is a form of prayer, and should be a form of sound words. Our Prayer Book is made up of various forms of prayer, and I am sure any one who examines it with a candid and impartial mind will say that as a whole it fulfils those conditions. It has stood the test of hostile criticism for centuries, and has extorted praises from quarters whence they could have been least expected. It is so beautiful and at the same time so copious that I believe there is not a liturgical reformer in the land who desires anything but a very few omissions, substitutions of expression, and re-arrangements. No one—no one, at least, whom I have heard of—desires to make any addition to it. We must, however, by no means omit from our consideration that a form of prayer is not devotion, it is merely a help to it; and any one compiling a liturgy ought surely to keep in view that sentence from the writings of Lactantius, a quotation on which I stumbled the other day—"Nihil est tam voluntarium quam religio, in quâsi animus sacrificantis absit, jam sublata, jam nulls, est." Bearing that in mind, he would naturally frame it as simply and with as few repetitions as possible.

But how stands the case with us? By these ancient arrangements we have four or five services crammed into one; the result of which is, wearied congregations, jaded attention, compulsory absence, and, instead of proving a help to devotion, it is the means of producing a great amount of that very formality which is the danger of all forms of prayer, and against which our blessed Lord himself directed some of his sternest rebukes. Nor is this all, for this state of things may be indefinitely prolonged, according to the peculiar ideas or physical temperament of the officiating Minister. At one end of the scale we have the man who laboriously emphasizes every syllable, and seems to think the efficacy of the service dependent upon the length of time he can dwell upon it; in the middle we have the individual who has been so well described by the Right Rev. Prelate of Lincoln as the "monotonous mumbler;" and at the opposite end there is the chanting intoner, who often makes a painful exhibition, and always greatly prolongs the service. Let me here read to your Lordships a letter which I received last year from an hon. Baronet, a friend of mine, which gives a graphic account of what probably at some time or other has happened to all of us. My Friend writes— July 12, 1857. I have just returned from our church. The clergyman was for sixteen years a missionary or the Church of England in British Guiana, known and loved by many of the best of the clergy. With a broken constitution he has come to take the work of this comparatively easy district. But yesterday the services lasted from eleven to 20 minutes past 2:—1. The morning service; 2. The Litany; 3. The ante-communion service; 4. The sermon; 5. The Communion; besides giving out hymns to the congregation. This is enought to kill even a strong man. And cuibono? The people are wearied to death by the repetitions, and I can conceive no party whatever gaining by it except Dissenters, whose shorter services commend themselves to many persons. I will now read to your Lordships a list of the repetitions in the morning service, from which the evening service too, combined as it so often is with baptisms and churchings (from which I hope it never will be disjoined), is by no means free. When there is a full service and sermon, with the administration of the Lord's Supper (which is the case now in several of our town churches every Lord's Day), there are—Two creeds (with almost every article of belief forming part of the Te Deum and Litany); two general exhortations; two general confessions; two absolutions; three final benedictions. The Sovereign is prayed for three times; the Clergy three times; the Civil Ministers twice; this House twice; the Magistracy twice; and, finally, we have the Lord's Prayer six times. I will make no comment upon such a state of things, except to remark that, in my belief, if we had no liturgy, and any one were to propose such a scheme, it would be instantaneously rejected. As to the occasional services, I have already told your Lordships that in regard to the Burial-service nearly four thousand of the clergy have petitioned for alteration, and that there are changes asked for in others besides, which, though small, are of great importance, inasmuch as many of the clergy feel their consciences burdened by expressions which are used; and, though a latitude of interpretation is permitted, they are considered too dogmatic, and to some minds not susceptible of such expanded meaning. As to what are called the four Order-in-Council Services, because they were first annexed to the Prayer Book by an order in Council at the commencement of the reign of George III., I know it is the fashion to say that they are not a part of the Prayer Book, and therefore might be dispensed with, if not approved, by the same means which attached them to the Book of Common Prayer. Such, however, is by no means the case. Every one of those services is founded upon statutory enactments quite as binding as the Act of Uniformity, and can only be got rid of by the repeal of those Acts. I find in Burns' "Ecclesiastical Law," under the head of "Holy Days," that the services of the 5th of November, the 30th of January, and the 29th of May, are solemnly enjoined by Act of Parliament; and people refusing compliance with those Acts are liable to be indicted, fined, and imprisoned for contempt. The office for the 5th of November was twice revised by Convocation—in 1662 and 1688. The House of Lords altered the title by the Act of the 5th of November, 1664. The service for the accession was enforced by a canon in 1664. In 1721, before those services were attached to the Prayer Book, a Kentish clergyman named Johnson, who refused to perform one of them, was compelled to submit. Had I not already trespassed at so much length upon your Lordships, I should be tempted to offer you in some detail an account of a dilemma into which the other House of Parliament was brought by one of the services in question. As it is, I will merely give the outline. On the 29th of January, 1772, Parliament was sitting, and the House of Commons adjourned over the following day to attend divine service, and listen to the discourse of the Rev. Dr. Nowell, who was appointed to preach on the occasion. Subsequently, when the House met again, a vote of thanks was passed to the Doctor for his excellent discourse, nemine contradicente, with a request that it might be printed. When, however, after a while it appeared in print, it was found to contain matter so extremely offensive to the prevailing notions of civil and religious liberty, that on the 2nd of March it was moved by Mr. Boyle Walsingham, and seconded by General Irwin, that "the vote of thanks should be expunged," and it was carried without a division. Unquestionably the Reverend but somewhat indiscreet Doctor was right, and the House was wrong, because the Rubric directs the minister either to read the homily on Obedience, or to preach in conformity with the tenor of the service. It will, however, serve as an illustration of the inconvenience, not to use a stronger term, of leaving these statutes unrepealed. I will now proceed to lay before your Lordships the documentary evidence with which I hope to prove my case. It is so extremely voluminous that I can only make a small selection, and I have thought it better not to go back to former times, and cite the opinions of the great luminaries of our Church, but merely to confine myself to the speeches and writings of those now living, or who have only recently passed away from us. The first to which I desire to call your Lordships' attention is from a very able man, the late Bishop Coplestone, of Llandaff, whose testimony is the more valuable, inasmuch as he is a very cautious and somewhat unwilling witness:— Lapse of time has rendered some phrases obsolete, strange, or improper. Condemnation of heretical opinions may have been expressed in stronger terms than are necessary or convenient. The selection of lessons might certainly be improved, and better adapted to the customary times of attendance on public worship. Above all, it would seem to be productive of many advantages if the limits of that discretion already given to the officiating minister in certain parts of the service were extended, subject only to the interference of canonical advice and authority whenever it might be thought expedient to check too great a latitude. The next opinion I will quote is from a charge of the Bishop of London (Bishop Blomfield), delivered in 1834. It is as follows— If I were asked what my opinion is as to the expediency of attempting an alteration of the Liturgy, I should be deficient in candour if I did not acknowledge that I think the Liturgy capable of improvement. It would be little short of a miracle were it not so; and I know not why I should be ashamed or reluctant to avow an opinion which was entertained by Sancroft, and Stilling-fleet, and Tenison, and Wake, and Secker, and Porteous. I heartily pray that a season may come when the question may be looked at with calmness and fairness. My next extract will be from a speech of the Archbishop of Dublin, delivered in this House in the year 1840. His Grace said— He was for remedying those changes of that great innovator Time, who, as it was said by Lord Bacon, was insinuating imperceptibly many alterations, and was changing things for the worse if they were not changed for the better; and he would ask whether, in the alterations made by the first Reformers, they intended that their amendments should never be changed—whether they were like the laws of the Medes arid Persians, unalterable—and whether it were their intention that the door should be locked and the key buried and lost for ever? My next extract is from a work of the present Bishop of St. Asaph, published in 1836. In his History of the Church that right rev. Prelate says— There were many things in 1689, there are some things which do now, offend the true friends of the Church of England, who willingly comply with the Liturgy and services because they esteem the Common Prayer Book, as a whole, a most excellent composition, but who nevertheless regard it as a human composition, requiring from time to time verbal alteration; and the quiet friend of reform cannot but feel sorry that this attempt was dropped in' 89, and has never since been carried into effect. And, if there be faults but too visible in the Establishment, let us pray God that it may be reformed by the steady hand of legal authority; and that neither the dilatoriness nor half measures of its real friends may transfer the task of reformation to those who are hostile to its interests. In 1845 the present Lord Bishop of St. David's delivered in his charge the following opinion, which in substance he repeated last year— We are not bound to shut our eyes to the need that exists for a revision of the Liturgy; we may well maintain that it is excellent in its parts, and good even as a whole; that it is better suited than any other we know of to the purpose of public devotion, and affords no ground or fair excuse for separation, and yet believe it capable of some important improvements, and earnestly desire that it should receive them. Within a very recent period—namely, on the 1st of February, 1854—the present Archbishop of Canterbury spoke as follows— Alterations might be advisable in many things connected with the Church. There might be improvements in some parts of our excellent Liturgy, and he had lamented the existing divisions, because they tended to place improvement and the amendment of inconsistencies and imperfections at a greater distance; but the whole constitution must be changed before the Church would have of itself the power of settling and determining these things. The matter must be decided by Parliament. The Act of Uniformity could only be regulated by Parliament; and his own impression was that a smaller body than Convocation—a Commission selected by Her Majesty of ten or twenty persons, clergymen and laymen—might well consider the matters requiring attention. I shall conclude these quotations with a passage from the charge of the Lord Bishop of Limerick, delivered in the course only of last year— Such, then, are my reasons for considering that the time has now arrived when increased knowledge, increased intelligence, and, in consequence, increased spirit of inquiry, have rendered such a revision necessary, seeing it may fairly be hoped that discussion may now be conducted with calmness and forbearance, which, if discontents be allowed to gather, might end in a disruption of that amity of spirit which alone can impart vitality in the connection between our Church and its Blessed Head, with Him who will in vain have broken down the wall of partition between his followers if our own discussions and divisions were to rear them up again. When to all this I add that those who ought to set us the highest and most scrupulous example of obedience to the laws are compelled to break the Act of Uniformity—that there is not a single right rev. Prelate sitting upon the bench who has not broken that Act of Parliament hundreds of times, and will not be compelled to break it for the rest of his life, I think your Lordships cannot but be of opinion that I have established the second part of my argument—namely, that a revision is not only desired, but desirable. I now come to the third and last point—namely, that the measure which I propose is both constitutional and expedient. That it is constitutional no one will deny, for, although alterations have been made in our Prayer Book, sometimes without the intervention of Parliament, sometimes without the intervention of Convocation, they have invariably been preceded by a Royal Commission. As to its expediency there can be as little doubt either, because before submitting a measure to a deliberative assembly it is the invariable practice, recommended not only by precedent but by common sense, and as indeed I have shown you, recommended by the Primate himself, that, where a matter is new, and involves a great collection of opinions and variety of details to be arranged, it should be referred to some smaller body of persons whose previous attention has been specially directed to the subject in question, and whose character commands the repect and confidence of the public. Having now stated why I think revision desirable, and how great a weight of authority I have upon my side, I will proceed to notice some of the objections which have been raised against it. They really are, however, of so general and intangible a nature that I hardly know how to express them. It is said by some that if once we commence alterations there is no saying where they will stop. That is an objection your Lordships will hardly require me to reply to. But do those who say so really believe that our Liturgy is made of such perilous stuff, that it is a wall daubed with such untempered mortar, that at the slightest touch it will fall to pieces so that we shall be buried beneath its ruins? I, my Lords, hold no such opinion of it; I believe that it has struck its roots deep into a heavenly soil; that it is founded upon a rock; but that, being merely a human work, it partakes of human infirmities, and from time to time requires careful revision. If your Lordships will not believe me, perhaps you will not refuse your assent to what is found in the very forefront of the Prayer Book itself, like a beacon warning us against fatal delays, where it is said, "There never was anything by the wit of man so well devised or so surely established, which in continuance of time hath not been corrupted." But I think I may fairly define the principal objections by saying that they consist in this—that the present formularies being a sort of standing ground where parties holding different opinions may meet, if we alter them, they may, by narrowing the ground, become more exclusive, and so cause a disruption of the Church; that the present moment is not propitious; and that the appointment of a commission would rekindle the flame of religious discord. It is difficult at all times to prove a negative, but is there any reason to apprehend that a commission of inquiry, composed as it is sure to be, is likely to recommend such alterations? In the second place, are we certain that by standing still we shall avoid the supposed danger? As, however, one example is better than an hundred arguments, let me call your Lordships' attention to some historical facts which bear directly upon the point at issue. We have the experience of two great branches of the Church of Christ, one of which is an established church within our own knowledge, both of which desired alteration. In the Church of Scotland great differences arose, and your Lordships will remember how the Government of Lord Melbourne was importuned over and over again to interfere and endeavour to effect a compromise between the contending parties; that Government as constantly refused; nothing was done; and yet that Church was "rent in twain from the top to the bottom. The other was a branch of our own Church—the Episcopal Church of the United States of America, receiving orders from ourselves. The Members of that Church desired a revision of the Liturgy. They made several very important alterations, most of which are, in my opinion, improvements, and not only no disruption took place, but—what is much more to the purpose—the American Church contains within her fold at the present moment men differing quite as much in opinion as any in our own communion. But when we are talking of disruption, do allow me to call your Lordships' attention to the history of another much more important Church, which we must not by any means omit from consideration. Two centuries ago it pleased the Legislature to pass an Act, called 'The Act of Uniformity,' in the preamble of which its paramount object was declared to be "to promote an universal agreement throughout the country in the worship of Almighty God." One hundred and eighty-eight years after it occurred to us to take a census of religious worship, and it was then discovered that, although the vast majority differed with us neither in the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures nor the Divinity of our Saviour, nor in the triune nature of Jehovah, nor in justification by faith and sanctification by the Holy Spirit, nor in the general necessity of the two sacraments to salvation—we yet found that, out of ten million worshippers, five millions no longer belonged to our communion. What claim then has the Act of Uniformity to such a title? How does it not point out the utter inefficiency of Acts of Parliament or human devices, to bind the consciences of men! Talk of disruption! why, my Lords, was ever disruption more complete? I confess that it does appear to me not a little extraordinary that those who talk with so much earnestness of the apprehension of some future remote contingent disruption, should appear so utterly to ignore the fearful separation which has already taken place, and omit altogether the expression of desire for the healing of some of those deadly breaches which I am sure we all deplore. My Lords, I am aware that the statistics of religious worship to which I have drawn your Lordships' attention have been controverted. Upon the merits of the controversy I am unable to offer an opinion; but I think the public generally consider that, upon the whole, they are sufficiently accurate. But whatever may be the case in reference to those numbers in the religious census, the fact is unquestionable that, notwithstanding the vast State endowments and the prodigious private wealth of the members of our communion, to our shame be it spoken, the Nonconformists of England have as large sums contributed and as extensive agency employed as we have for spreading the knowledge of a Saviour in the benightened and heathen regions of the world. Have we then parted company for ever? Are Euodia and Syntyche never to be reconciled? Are no attempts ever to be made in that direction? Is a closer unity a thing not worth contending for? My Lords, I do not assert that it is certain that by alterations in our Liturgy this will be effected; but I say that many whose opinions are well worthy of attention expect it. It cannot have escaped your Lordships' observation how great an approximation has been made of late years between Churchmen and Nonconformists—that there is among the latter a growing desire for a liturgy. Your Lordships will, then, I think, agree with me that, though we might not meet with success, the object is, at least, worth the attempt. I desire, my Lords, to abstain altogether from invidious comparisons, but I must say that among our Nonconformist brethren are to be found men of as great piety, ability, learning, self-denial, high-mindedness, and loyalty as are to be found among any class in the empire: and I am quite certain that there is not one of your Lordships who does me the honour to listen to me, who would not rejoice if, by the omission or alteration of some phrases of doubtful import in our Prayer Book, we should be able to include in our communion a Livingstone and a Havelock. But it is said by some that the moment is not propitious. My Lords, if we are to wait until all our differences are stilled, we had better abandon the idea of revision as hopeless. But it is added that if this Commission were granted it would greatly inflame religious differences. If such be the effect, all I can say is, it will be contrary to all history and all experience. I have just finished thirty-six years of Parliamentary life; and though my humble abilities have not enabled me to take any prominent part in public affairs, I have not been an inattentive observer; and I can most sincerely declare that I have never known a single instance where the granting of inquiry by a fair tribunal, has done otherwise than mitigate the mutual asperity of those whose difference of opinion caused the investigation to be set on foot. But is there, in truth, any real danger? Surely there are interposed more than sufficient cheeks to prevent the possibility of any crude or hasty legislation upon the subject? Let us look at the ordeal through which any propositions of the Commissioners must pass. In the first place, they will be submitted to Convocation, then to the two Houses of Parliament, and then to the Sovereign for confirmation. I know that some persons have an objection to Convocation. Some think that it has too great a leaning in one direction, others look back with dissatisfaction to the history of its proceedings on former occasions of a like nature; but, my Lords, we are living in different times and differing circumstances, and I am sure your Lordships will agree with me in thinking that any attempt to force alterations upon the clergy of the Established Church which are distasteful, I will not say to the majority, but even to any considerable minority of them, would be as foolish as it would be fruitless. Rightly or wrongly, the bulk of the clergy look to Convocation as their representative and guide, and will never willingly consent to anything which has not their previous sanction. I have now, then, I trust, shown that revision is both desired and desirable, and that the method by which I propose to accomplish it is both constitutional and expedient. I have the fullest confidence that, if your Lordships shall be pleased to adopt this proposal, my expectations would not be disappointed, because I am convinced that no sooner shall this commission commence its sittings than the united prayers of the whole Church of Christ in this country will be offered up for a blessing upon its deliberations; and if that be so, it would be infidelity to doubt that a gracious answer would be vouchsafed. My Lords, at the outset of my address I said that I thought this question, to be one the gravity and importance of which could not be exaggerated. I said so because I believe that, just in proportion as the Church has the means of delivering the Gospel message with fidelity, will be the safety of the institutions under which we live, and the welfare and happiness of every individual among us.

I conclude by moving— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty for a Commission to consider whether the Liturgy of the Church of England be not capable of such Alterations as may render it more profiable than it now is for the Religious Instruction and Edification of the People.


My Lords, it is with great reluctance that I rise in opposition to the Motion which the noble Lord has submitted to your consideration. That reluctance, however, does not arise from any doubt of the duty which I owe to the Church on this occasion. It solely arises from the conviction which I feel that my noble Friend is acting in the full belief that he is consulting the interests of religion, and promoting the efficiency of that Church of which he is a conscientious member. Holding, my Lords, a very different opinion, in concurrence, I believe, with my right rev. Brethren, I shall briefly state the grounds of my opposition, and in so doing shall endeavour to imitate that spirit of candour and moderation of which the noble Mover has sot so eminent an example in the speech which he has made. My Lords, my noble Friend has entered upon a very wide field, proving the interest which he feels upon the subject and the pains which he has employed to make himself acquainted with its various bearings. Into that field it is not my intention to follow him, or to discuss particularly the several alterations, some of a verbal and others of a doctrinal nature, which he desires to see made in our Book of Common Prayer. I shall not enter upon these details, because my opposition is directed against the object itself which the Motion has in view. My objection is to the introduction of a measure which would agitate the minds of Churchmen from one end of the kingdom to the other. The noble Lord proposes that Her Majesty shall be requested to issue a Royal Commission to consider what alteration shall be made in our Liturgy. I will not stop to inquire whether a Royal Commission is the most proper method of instituting such an inquiry or no; but is the noble Lord aware that this would be the first apple of discord which his Motion would cast into the Church? I will not inquire whether a Royal Commission is the proper body from which alterations in the Liturgy should emanate, if alterations were to be made; it appears that I have already expressed an opinion to that effect. But I am aware at the same time that in the opinion of a large section of the Church it is not the proper body, and that any recommendations which they might agree to make would derive no advantage from the quarter in which they originated. But, to leave this question, the noble Lord passed very lightly over the fact that the most trifling alterations in our established formularies can only be authorized by an Act of the Legislature, and, from whatever quarter they come, must be submitted to Parliament for its sanction. My Lords, the objections to subjecting our devotional formularies to Parliamentary discussion are so obvious that it would be superfluous to specify them. The noble Lord has treated the various subjects which he has brought forward with the prudence and moderation which were to be expected from his character. But can he guarantee the same discretion, the same forbearance, on the part of the members of a popular assembly? The doctrines involved in our formularies are doctrines on which there is a great difference of opinion; on which men think strongly and speak warmly; and the introduction of such topics into a Parliamentary debate would be likely to lead to a theological controversy of which it would be more easy to foresee the beginning than the end, but of which we might certainly foresee that it would be most unsuited to the place and the occasion. The necessity ought to be great indeed before we venture to encounter so obvious a danger. At the same time, my Lords, while I deprecate the proposed revision of the Liturgy, I do not take upon myself to say that if we were in the circumstances in which the compilers of our Liturgy were placed three centuries ago—if, unhappily (for I think it would be a serious misfortune), we were forced to frame a Liturgy de novo—I do not affirm that it would be, word for word, and sentence for sentence, the same as our ancestors have bequeathed to us. But, my Lords, we are not so placed; we possess a form of prayer sanctioned by the usage of 300 years and venerated by our people, who would be slow to understand the reasons of a change and apprehensive of what further changes might succeed. The necessity should be far greater than it is before we depart from this vantage-ground or surrender the position which we now occupy. Two conditions at least, my Lords, should be established before the attempt were made. The advantage to be gained should be so clear and manifest as to overbalance the danger and the risk; and there should be a general agreement upon the subject among the Members of the Church. My Lords, I contend that neither of these conditions is fulfilled at present. My noble Friend insists that certain alterations and omissions in our present Liturgy, are both desired and desirable. But he has abstain- ed from saying what alterations are generally and expressly desired, and would find, if brought to the experiment, that there would be as many objectors as advocates with regard to every amendment he might propose. The noble Lord has laid great stress upon the advantages which he expects from shortening the Morning Service. But without altering the whole framework of the service the amount of gain would not, exceed five or at most ten minutes. In the course of my ministerial experience, I have heard many excuses from time to time for non-attendance at public worship, but I confess that 1 never remember that the length of the service has been alleged amongst them. Something, however, has been already done in that direction. The use of the litany alone, on special occasions, has been already approved by the Bishops, and has proved a valuable suggestion. The noble Lord, perhaps, is scarcely aware how many of the alterations and omissions which appear to himself evidently desirable would be vehemently opposed by others. Many things which he treats as blemishes others consider beauties, and even the repetitions which he objects to as imperfections, others defend as constituting the perfection of the whole; so that, instead of that general agreement which alone would justify the risk of change, the proposal of the noble Lord would be the signal of controversy throughout the land. My Lords, we have a bond of union now which it would be more easy to forfeit than to regain. All who officiate in our churches have declared their assent and consent to our Liturgy as it stands. I might defy the noble Lord to obtain the same assent and consent to any alterations which he would propose; and therefore I prefer retaining the good we have to risking evils which we know not of, and earnestly hope that your Lordships will see fit to negative the Motion of the noble Lord.


said, that as no other Prelate had risen, their Lordships would perhaps allow him to express the sentiments which he felt with respect to the Motion of the noble Lord. He must confess that he had come down to the House with considerable curiosity to learn the grounds on which the noble Lord would rest his Motion. He knew, from various sources, the grounds on which many persons in the country approved it; but he had no idea of those which the noble Lord had to urge in support of it. He also came down without the slightest feeling of prejudice on the subject, and, in fact, with a prepossession rather favourable to its general object. The noble Lord had done him the honour of referring to an opinion which he (the Bishop of St, David's) had expressed on a former occasion, to the effect that the Liturgy as a whole was not on absolutely perfect Work; and that it was susceptible of improvement. He did not deny having so expressed self—it was not an inspired work, and therefore might well be capable of amendment: but when he was asked to agree to a Motion for a Royal Commission, it did not appear to bins to be sufficient to consider simply whether the subject was one in which some improvement might be effected through the medium of such an agency, but whether there was any probability, or possibility even, of such an improvement resulting as would warrant so important a measure as the issuing of a Royal Commission. In his opinion, the noble Lord had not done justice to one part of his subject, while he had greatly exaggerated the force of another part. The noble Lord proposed to prove that some alteration in the Liturgy was desirable, and in support of that view he referred to a large mass of correspondence from various persons who expressed themselves strongly in favour of some alteration. It appeared to him that the noble Lord might very much have strengthened that part of his case; because there could be no doubt that there were large classes of men to whom the noble Lord had not in the slightest degree adverted, who must, be strongly in favour of an alteration. In the first place, of course, there was that numerous body of persons who conscientiously dissented from the doctrine and discipline, of the Church, and whom it would be impossible to reconcile to the Church without very material changes in the Liturgy. There was another very large consisting of those who, though not dissenting from the Church in matters of doctrine or even discipline, had an aversion to any form of prayer and to any Liturgy whatever; it being more conformable to their feelings and habits to enjoy that kind of intellectual excitement which proceeded from a perpetual novelty in the prayers offered up in places of public worship. That was a class also whom it would unfortunately be hopeless to attempt to conciliate by any such change as the noble Lord could possibly have in view. Then, again, there was within the Church itself a considerable difference of opinion upon this point; and there were those who would prefer to give a preponderance to that part of the service which at present occupied the smallest portion of time—the preaching of the Word of God; whereas, according to the system and whole theory of the Church of England, it was an unquestionable fact that the liturgical element had always preponderated over the other. This difference of opinion was not peculiar to the Church of England. It prevailed in the Lutheran communion abroad, and precisely the same contrast existed between the Lutherans in the western provinces of Prussia and those in the eastern. That, again, was a difference of opinion which never could be removed by any such change as the noble Lord appeared to contemplate. Therefore, although it was perfectly true that an alteration was desired by a much larger class of persons than the noble Lord had adverted to, it was for their Lordships to consider whether, by any change of which they could encourage the remotest hope, any of those classes could be conciliated or brought nearer to the doctrine and discipline of the Church. With respect to the desirableness of the measure proposed, he thought that the noble Lord had as much exaggerated that part of his subject as he had failed to do justice to the other. When they were told that a measure was desirable, it was necessary that they should be informed for what purpose it was desirable. On that head he had experienced great difficulty in understanding the precise nature of the noble Lord's views, and he must say that the only clear, plain, and palpable reason which the noble Lord had assigned for thinking an alteration desirable appeared to be very slight and insufficient for a measure of such importance. Although there were other reasons to which the noble Lord had slightly alluded, and, indeed, had rather indicated than distinctly expressed, the only objection which he had clearly enunciated appeared to resolve itself into this, that on certain occasions the service of the Church occupied an amount of time which was perhaps wearisome both to the minister and the congregation. He (the Bishop of St. David's) did not deny that, and he was sure that there were numerous clergymen who experienced very considerable inconvenience from that cause. The instance on which the noble Lord rested the whole case was one in which the service lasted, on a Sunday when the Holy Communion was administered, from eleven o'clock to nearly half past two. He admitted that that was an inconvenient length, and that there were few who would not feel some degree of fatigue at the end of a service so prolonged; but the noble Lord had entirely overlooked the question as to the amount of relief which would be afforded in such cases by the alterations that he had suggested. The noble Lord had recommended the retrenchment of some repetitions in the existing service; but even if two out of the three services which were usually performed together were on some occasions to be omitted, he believed that the time saved would not exceed half an hour, for that was in ordinary eases about the length of the Wednesday and Friday services. This must very much abate the interest which persons might be inclined to feel in the question; because, if that inconvenience, which was the greatest that the noble Lord had distinctly pointed out, was of such a nature that it really did not admit of a remedy, what was there remaining of such importance as to call for the extraordinary step of a Royal Commission? If it could be proved that the restrictions of the Act of Uniformity were of so unbending a nature that they entirely excluded any exertions on the part of the Church for the benefit of those classes of the community who could not be expected to give their time and attention to the full services of the Church, or that there were in the existing regulations of the Church any obstruction to those special services which had been recently established for the especial benefit of the working classes, he should have admitted that the noble Lord might have made out a very strong case for a Royal Commission; but, so far as he could see, the only result which could be reasonably anticipated from such a measure under existing circumstances was one which would not in the slightest degree affect the spiritual interests of the great mass of the community, and would to the smallest possible extent affect the convenience of a very small portion of ministers and congregations, and those only on certain rare occasions. Then, if such were the case, what could be the result of the issue of such a Commission as was proposed? The excitement of hopes which were certain to be disappointed, and the creation of dissensions which it was better for the Church and for religion itself should not be raised. He did not recede in the slightest degree from any opinion which he had ever expressed upon this subject; and, so far as inquiry was concerned, he should be quite favourable to any measure which held out a prospect of really ascertaining the feelings and wishes of the great body both of the clergy and the laity with respect to it. He doubted very much, however, whether such would be the effect of a Royal Commission, for he thought it would be a delusion which would disappoint the hopes of those who expected that it would be attended with any satisfactory result, It would, therefore, leave us, in the main, precisely where we now are—a position in which there were large parties to whom you could give neither complete satisfaction, nor hold out reasonable hopes.


said, that beyond doubt this was a subject in which a deep and general interest was taken, and was one of great public importance. He certainly concurred in many of the observations of his noble Friend who had brought this subject before their Lordships, and was decidedly of opinion that the Liturgy might be revised in such a manner as to render it much more acceptable than it was at present to the general body of the people. He would, however, earnestly press his noble Friend (Lord Ebury) not to ask the House to come to a vote upon this question. He did not make this request because he differed from his noble Friend either as to the propriety of inquiry or as to the mode of inquiry which he suggested, but simply on the ground that, in the present state of opinion in the country and in the Church upon this subject, he did not think there would be the general assent anticipated by his noble Friend to the course which he recommended, and which was necessary to the attainment of any useful result. The most rev. Prelate (the Archbishop of Canterbury) had very justly said that any alteration in the Liturgy, although it might be of great importance in itself, was not desirable if it did not carry with it the assent of even the great body of the Church, and that the dissent of any considerable minority would destroy the value of the concession. He believed there was much truth in what he understood the moat rev. Prelate to assert—that those alterations which some persons might deem moat desirable would be regarded by others as highly objectionable. He (Earl Grey) was aware that some alterations for which he was himself most anxious would meet with the most strenuous opposition. As, in such a state of things, there seemed to be no prospect of arriving at any agreement upon the subject, he thought it would be most prudent to postpone any action upon a matter of so much importance to a period when it was likely to be attended with more success than could be anticipated at the present moment. He could not refrain from adding, however, that it seemed to him a great reflection upon the members of the Church, that with reference to a subject of this kind, when seine improvement was admitted to be urgently required in order to secure the increased efficiency of that Church, men could not agree to give up their own individual and peculiar opinions so far as to arrive at some general arrangement. He certainly thought it a reproach to the Church that its members were unable, by mutual concessions, to arrive at some common understanding, which would doubtless render the services of that Church more acceptable to the great body of the people. He trusted the time would come when—if the Church was to stand—the necessity of securing for it a stronger hold upon the attachment of the people would induce its members to waive those points of difference which there was now so much disinclination to abandon. It was unquestionably of extreme importance that some such improvement as that to which his noble Friend had adverted should be effected; he must, however, again express a hope that his noble Friend would not on the present occasion press his Motion to a division.


said, he agreed with the noble Lord who brought forward the Motion, that the Liturgy, as a human institution, was not unsusceptible of improvement. Since the Act of Uniformity was adopted, however, and since the changes in the Liturgy were adopted in 1662, the Churches of England and Ireland had been united, and while he admitted that improvements might be effected the question arose, "By whom shall such an Amendment be made?" The noble Lord had stated that Convocation was the legal and proper authority for effecting the improvements required; but no Convocation now existed which was qualified to legislate for the whole United Church of England and Ireland. The Address to Her Majesty ought to be framed in such terms as to request Her Majesty to devise means by which a Convocation which would really represent the United Church of England and Ireland might be assembled, and such a body might properly be intrusted with the task of sanctioning the improvements considered desirable. It must be remembered, however, that all changes were not improvements; and, if Convocation were empowered to consider what alterations were necessary, some members of that body might desire to render the services of the Church more conformable to those of the Roman Catholic Church, while others might think that the services of the Churches of England and Ireland in their present form approached too nearly the ritual of the Roman Catholic Church. An eloquent historian of the present day (Lord Macaulay) referred in these terms to the changes which were proposed in 1698:— The English Liturgy, indeed, gains by being compared even with those fine ancient Liturgies from which it is, to a great extent, takes. The essential qualities of devotional elequence, conciseness, majestic sympathy, pathetic earnestness, of supplication, sobered by a profound reverence, are common between the translations and the originals; but in the subordinate graces of diction the originals must be allowed to be far inferior to the translations. And the reason is obvious. The technical phraseology of Christianity did not become a part of the Latin language till that language had passed the age of maturity and was sinking into barbarism. But the technical phraseology of Christianity was found in the Anglo Saxon and the Norman French, long before the union of those two dialects had produced a third dialect superior to either. The Latin of the Roman Catholic services, therefore, is Latin in the last stage of decay. The English of our services is English in all the vigour and suppleness of early youth. To the great Latin writers, to Terence and Lucretius, to Cicero and Cæsar, to Tacitus and Quintilian, the noblest compositions of Ambrose and Gregory would have seemed to be not merely bad writing, but senseless gibberish. The diction of our Book of Common Prayer, on the other hand, has directly or indirectly contributed to form the diction of almost every great English writer, and has extorted the admiration of the most accomplished Infidels and of the most accomplished Nonconformists—such men as David Hume and Robert Hall. The style of the Liturgy, however, did not satisfy the Doctors of the Jerusalem Chamber. They voted the Collects too short and too dry; and Patrick was intrusted with the duty of expanding and ornamenting them. In one respect, at least, the choice seems to have been unexceptionable; for, if we judge by the way in which Patrick paraphrased the most sublime Hebrew poetry, we shall probably be of opinion that, whether he was or was not qualified to make the Collects better, no man that ever lived was more competent to make them longer. As he had before said, all changes were not improvements, and he might mention that the Presbyterians and other Dissenting bodies found it a matter of difficulty to correct the evils which some of them believed to exist in the forms of their respective services. There was no such thing to be found as anything that pleased everybody. In reference to the Liturgy of the Church of England he would read a quotation from an article in the British and Foreign Evangelical Review:The Prayer Book of the Church of England is nothing else than the old service of the Church reformed. The Church of England did not need a Liturgy, nor was the man living that could have composed a Liturgy that would have been received. Her Liturgy had been the growth of centuries; it was rooted in the affections of her people, its words were as music in their ears, its varied festivals and fasts had hallowed the whole Christian year. With the reformation of religion there was, of course, a revision of the Church's Liturgy, but that revision was conducted on the principle of retaining all, in substance and in form, that could be retained. This, which was the great offence in the eyes of the Puritans, was the special excellence and glory of the English Reformation. The Mercersburg Reviewer is astonished at the immeasurable superiority of the Prayer Book to the Liturgies of Calvin, Knox, and Baxter; and the Edinburgh Review is forced to say that 'the Liturgy of the Church of England, notwithstanding some faults, is, perhaps, the most perfect of existing Liturgies.' This Prayer Book of the Church of England, after all the changes that it underwent through a long period of revision, gave still to her sons and daughters the old creeds, the old psalms and hymns and spiritual songs that their souls loved; they still heard the voice to which they had been accustomed to yield glad submission, and hence while the Liturgies of the Reformation, as the Edinburgh Review declares, are probably less known to the Christians of England and America than the Liturgies of Antioch and Cæsarea, and many persons know not that such Liturgies were ever used, the Prayer Book of the Church of England has lost nothing of its hold on the affectionate reverence of the millions who now find its ancient and time-hallowed forms a fit expression of their most profound religious feelings. He said he would not detain their Lordships any longer by citing other very striking testimonies from Presbyterians and others, who, seeking reform and improvement in their own services, admitted that there was no Liturgy like the Liturgy of the Church of England. It was not asserted that no reform, no improvement was required; but the desideratum was, that any necessary alteration should be effected by a body that was legally and properly qualified to do it, such as a Convocation of the Church of England and Ireland. They did not object to any improvement; they did not want length in lieu of brevity; semi-Popery instead of pure episcopality and unadulterated Protestantism; they did not want the Socinian to give them less of Christ, or the worldling to give them less of spirituality of feeling; but what they wanted was, the retention of all the excellencies, and, above all, the evangelical truths of our beautiful Liturgy, removing its blemishes and retaining its sublimities and truths.


Your Lordships, who know as well as I do the character and ability of the noble Lord who has brought this Motion before you, who are acquainted with the sincerity of his religious belief and his anxiety for the welfare of the Established Church, will not for a single moment doubt the good motives and objects be has in view, in bringing this matter before your Lordships' consideration. My Lords, I feel that I could not be altogether silent on this subject, and undoubtedly from the position which I have the honour to occupy, I consider that it is almost my duty to take up a few moments of your time. At the same time, my Lords, I feel that all I can say on the subject has been already so fully stated before by the noble Lord and the most rev. and right rev. Prelates who have addressed you, and whose observations I think, appear to have received the general sanction and approval of your Lordships' House. At the same time, my Lords, while I confess on the one hand—what it is impossible to deny—that in the beautiful Liturgy of our Church,—and a more perfect Liturgy I believe never was devised—that in our beautiful Liturgy there are undoubtedly here and there imperfections and blemishes; that there are casual and not perhaps carefully considered expressions, which are not exactly suited to the greater refinement of modern times; that there are ideas expressed here and there with a carelessness and coarseness repugnant in some degree to our more modern feelings of refinement; that occasionally there are superfluous and therefore injurious repetitions; that some of the lessons for the day, or of the week-day service, are not, perhaps, precisely so orthodox in expression as they might be, and different from that which the present times require:—yet, the question which we have to consider is, not whether in a work like our great liturgical work of the Church of England—a work of the utmost possible importance, and of the greatest beauty and perfection—there are some slight de- fects and some slight blemishes which we would fain see altered or removed; but the question, my Lords, is whether, for the purpose of removing these blemishes and defects, it is desirable to take a step so authoritative and extensive, and in my mind so hazardous, as that which is proposed by the noble Lord in proposing that a Royal Commission be appointed to ascertain what alterations should be made in the Liturgy. My Lords, in the first place, I beg to say that a Commission of this kind would, in my opinion, greatly prejudice the confidence of the public mind as to the opinion which the Legislation and the country entertain of the general merits of the Liturgy; and I think, moreover, that the public mind would be slow to discriminate between the objects which my noble Friend has, I know, so sincerely in view—namely, the removal or erasure here and there of casual and insignificant blemishes—and the far wider construction that would be put upon your Lordships' vote—namely, that you were issuing a Commission for the purpose of inquiring generally into the merits of demerits of the Liturgy. My Lords, if such a misapprehension should arise in the public mind it would, in my judgment, be a most serious injury, and have the worst possible effect. But, my Lords, my noble Friend founded a portion of his argument in favour of this Commission on the fact that a very considerable portion of the population of this country at present absent themselves from the services of the Church on account of their dissent from seine of the formulæ of the Liturgy. Now, I ask my noble Friend whether he really thinks that any such alterations as he may devise—that any such alterations as he may recommend—although they might possibly satisfy the desire and wishes of some of the anxious friends of the Church—I would ask him whether he really contemplates that the Commission he recommends should enter on such a course of amendment and revision as would satisfy the conscientious scruples of those Dissenters and Nonconformists who differ from the doctrines of the Church. If the proposition of the noble Lord has reference only to the removal of slighter blemishes and defects, then I think the work would be a hazardous one. I believe it is not the intention of the noble Lord to advocate a wholesale or concentrated revision of our Liturgy; but the noble Lord would find that if this Commission were appointed it would not confine itself to the consideration of mere casual or inconsistent expressions and repetitions, or to a mere chance superfluous expression here and there, and matters de minimis, but that in all probability it would be the doctrines and principles of the Liturgy that would be made a subject of discussion by the Commission; and if the noble Lord seeks to bring back to our flock those who dissent from the Church of England, he would have to go to a length that he does not intend in proposing to employ the Commission to inquire only into casual expressions, or into the greater or lesser length of the services. Nor indeed might the consideration of the Commission on the question be confined to the combination of the different services into one, but they might also examine whether in the Liturgy there were expressions used which confirmed and strengthened certain doctrinal opinions, and which would constitute points for consideration, and be anxiously contended for by one party, and as anxiously repudiated and opposed by the other. And the result of this would be to embarrass the proceedings of the Commission itself. In the present state of the Church, I do not see how it would be possible, in view of the different religious denominations that exist, that differences of opinion should not arise, not only amongst them, but amongst the members of the Commission itself; but I am sure that the result of it would be, that every person, nominally in the Church or not, who sought to dissent from the doctrines of the Church, would come forward with propositions for changing some particular prayer or some specific expression in some particular sentence in the Liturgy, which in their opinion it was very inconvenient to retain and inconsistent with the doctrines and unorthodox with respect to the views which they were desirous to have expressed. Therefore, my Lords, if in the appointment of this Commission you mean to deal with the suggestions and ideas of those who differ and dissent from some of the forms and doctrines of the Church, and if you wish to satisfy their scruples, depend upon it their scruples will not be satisfied by the mere changing of terms and technicalities of expression, but that they will stipulate for a change in doctrinal truths and matters, some of which would be found to be among the most fundamental doctrines of the Church of England. My Lords, I think the professed object to be attained by my noble Friend in proposing this Commission is not adequate to the risk, inconvenience, and embarrassment it would occasion; because, instead of having a tendency to remove differences of opinion on doctrinal truths, it would only have a tendency materially to increase them, as well as to embitter denominational differences among those who might possibly be of opinion that it did not tend to a revision of doctrine. The Commission would lead to no useful results and subserve no useful purpose; and if, on the other hand, it did tend to a revision of doctrine, it would be found perhaps to shake the confidence of the people in the Liturgy as a whole. It is, my Lords, because I entertain these opinions that I earnestly hope my noble Friend—now that he has had an opportunity of bringing forward and giving publicity to the proposition that he has made, and which he has submitted with great moderation, temper, and clearness, for the consideration of your Lordships' House—will not press his Motion to a division on a question which is opposed to the opinion not only of the whole of the episcopal Bench—a not unimportant consideration on a question of this nature—but to the feeling of a great majority of your Lordships, and I believe, if the whole question were put before them, of all sincere and reflecting friends of the Church.


said, he must be permitted to join in complimenting the noble Lord who had moved the Address on the admirable manner and sincere tone in which he had brought forward his proposition. It appeared to him that a large part of the noble Lord's arguments had not been answered. The noble Lord had shown conclusively that there was nothing in the Liturgy in itself that showed it should not be altered. He had shown that it had undergone various alterations, and that some of the most eminent men and divines had concurred in making them, and that since the last alterations many eminent divines had expressed their desire to make further changes. However much we might admire our liturgical service, it was impossible not to see the defects pointed out by the noble Lord. The real difficulty in the matter was, that neither the noble Lord nor the right rev. Prelates had been enabled to lay before the House any plan or proposition as to the mode in which these alterations should be made, or as to the nature of those alterations, He (Earl Granville) had no doubt that the dis- cussion that had taken place would produce a beneficial effect on the public mind; but the subject was one that ought to be carefully considered before any positive step was taken. After the declaration of the noble Earl at the head of the Government, he thought the noble Lord would not persist in or have a chance of carrying his Motion, and that it had better be withdrawn, leaving the discussion to have its due weight on the minds of the public at large.


thought that identified as the personal habits of the people and the constitution of this country were with the Liturgy, it was a difficult and delicate subject to deal with; but in his communications with some of the clergy, he found that they were in favour of a change. They did not advocate any change in the doctrines of the Liturgy, but what they did desire was a shortening of the services; and he had heard that in consequence of the long readings, hoarseness and sore throat were not uncommon among the clergy.


said, that after the opinions expressed by the two noble Earls who led the two different parties in the House, and the opposition of the spiritual Peers, he should not persevere with his Motion. He would adopt the suggestion of the noble Earl, and not put their Lordships to the trouble of dividing.

Motion (by Leave of the House) withdrawn,