§ LORD EBURY
* My Lords, if I do not commence the address which I am now about to make to this House by a lengthened appeal for a patient hearing, it is not because I am insensible either of the magnitude of the question with which I have to deal, or of my own want of ability; but it is because I think that the best return I can make for the indulgent attention with which your Lordships were pleased to favour me upon a former occasion, will be, as far as in me lies, to curtail every superfluous word, and to go at once to the discussion of that question which I have undertaken to lay before you. Indeed, my Lords, I do not underrate the difficulties with which I am surrounded; and when I think of the blessings which may arise from a right decision in this matter, and the disasters which may flow from an unwise one, I am ready to shrink from the responsibility which I am incurring, and am oppressed, with a sense of my own insufficiency. Your Lordships will, I am sure, take these circumstances into your consideration, and not scrutinize with undue severity the imperfections which I bring to the discharge of a most arduous duty. My object, then, is to induce the House to address the Crown for a Royal Commission to Revise the Book of Common Prayer and Canons of the Church, with the object of recommending such alterations as shall to them seem desirable.
Should this Commission be appointed, it will have no power to alter a single word contained in the documents referred to it: all it can do is simply to make recommendations. When the Commissioners have made their Report, it will, no doubt, be submitted to Convocation, and if approved by that body, then to the Imperial Parliament. Unquestionably it would be competent for Her Majesty to omit Convocation altogether; but I sincerely trust 837 that, for reasons which I gave on a former occasion, such a policy will not be recommended. Those, therefore, who vote for my proposition will simply he voting for an Inquiry. No one, however, I presume, will do so, unless he shall think that alterations are really required, and believe that there is fair prospect of an adequate remedy being suggested, should a Commission issue.
As far as argument goes, I should be content to sit down at once, and to rest the issue of this Motion upon the speech which I addressed to your Lordships in the month of May, 1858. I have in no way altered the opinions to which I then gave utterance, and to this day that address remains unanswered. If I turn for an explanation of this to the conjecture that the subject was not of sufficient importance, I am met by the fact, that, for the last twelvemonths and more, pamphlets without number have issued from the press in reference to a Revision of the Liturgy and Canons, meetings have been held in different parts of the country to debate the subject, the various papers taking cognizance of ecclesiastical matters have been filled with articles and letters regarding it, and even the daily press has taken part in the discussion. If I turn, to what I should naturally turn to, for a solution of the difficulty—namely, the insignificance of the individual who enunciated these opinions, I am again baffled by the fact that both that speech and the humble individual who has now the honour to address you have been the subject of a manifesto almost unparalleled, which has obtained the signature of nearly ten thousand of the clergy. To this declaration it will be my business later to call your Lordships' particular attention; I will therefore leave it for the present.
As, however, in all probability, many of your Lordships now present, neither heard nor read my former statement, as most will have but an imperfect recollection of it, and as, moreover, many circumstances have happened since which have a material bearing upon this case, I fear it will be absolutely necessary for me again to trespass upon your patience, in order to a due understanding of the question at issue. The circumstances to which I allude are these: your Lordships will recollect that when I brought forward this Motion originally, the question had for so many years been in abeyance, or been merely incidentally alluded to at rare and 838 distant intervals, that it had almost become a new one, and may be said to have rusted in the archives of Parliament: so much so, indeed, and so little understood did I find it, that I willingly consented at that time not to ask for a decision from this House; and in that conclusion I am sure your Lordships will think that I was guided by a wise discretion. Much, however, has happened since that time. You will recollect that one of the parts of the Liturgy which I thought called for revision, was that containing what are generally called the State Services. Not long after I had brought my Motion before the House, a noble Earl directed the attention of the House to that particular portion of the Prayer Book, and succeeded in inducing the House to address the Crown for the purpose of removing them. They were accordingly removed. History will undoubtedly, and justly, award the merit, whatever it may be, of this change in our Liturgy to him; but, my Lords, perhaps I may be allowed to pick up some of the crumbs which fall from my noble Friend's table; because, although it is by no means certain, it is just possible that had I never given notice of my Motion, the noble Earl might have waited a little before success had crowned his well-directed efforts. I must, however, be permitted to say that I infinitely prefer my own method of dealing with these matters to that adopted by this House on the recommendation of my noble Friend. I proposed revision; my noble Friend's measure was one of excision: and so much did I feel this, that when a noble Duke proposed to interpose a short delay to check this precipitate action, and to see whether some memorial might not be allowed to remain in our Service Book of these events—some traces of these great landmarks of our national history—I expressed myself in favour of such a proposition; and there cannot be a doubt, as the event has proved, that the prejudices—if you like so to call them—of many old-fashioned people were unnecessarily shocked by this over-hasty mode of action.
But this is not all that has happened: that which some persons picture to themselves as too fearful an ordeal for church matters, the House of Commons, had to be appealed to for a confirmation of our act. Well, my Lords, and was there any opposition there? Yes, undoubtedly there was; but from whom did it proceed? From some envious Nonconformist? No! but 839 from that champion of orthodoxy—and I am glad to acknowledge him as such—the Member for North Warwickshire. He proposed that the Bill should be postponed for seven days, which elicited from Mr. Roebuck the remark that it ought not to be delayed seven minutes. Thus, my Lords, you see that a part of my Motion, though it was not acceded to on my proposition, requiring the assent of the Imperial Parliament, has been carried, almost without a dissentient voice.
With regard to the Church Establishment, the Imperial Parliament will, I am certain, second with all its power any attempts which the rulers of our Church may make for the purpose of relaxing those restrictions which cripple the energies of our Church, and would be likely to enable her to adapt herself to the difficult circumstances in which she is placed in consequence of past neglects. It is most reasonable to require that, before new laws or regulations are made binding upon us, the sanction of Parliament should be asked. Because it is not to be supposed that we can avail ourselves of all the privileges and advantages of an Establishment, and at the same time enjoy the immunities of Dissent.
I think, then, you will agree with me, that the aspect of the question has undergone a material alteration; and it affords me no small encouragement. The next event, however, to which I wish to direct your Lordships' attention, is not of so encouraging a nature. Your Lordships naturally look with the respect and interest that I do, at any indications of opinion afforded us by the Right Rev. Bench. Now I find that in 1855, by a paper which was presented to Parliament, the Canterbury House of Convocation addressed to the Queen the following petition:—We, your Majesty's faithful subjects, the Archbishops, Bishops, and Clergy of the Province of Canterbury, assembled in Convocation, humbly represent to your Majesty,—That Committees of Convocation have sat, and, after careful consideration, have reported to Convocation on various subjects deeply concerning the spiritual welfare of this realm—namely, on the measures needful for enforcing discipline amongst her Clergy, the extension of the Church, the modification of her Services, and the reform of the representation of the Clergy in the Provincial Synod of Canterbury.We are convinced that the full consideration of these subjects is of great moment to the well-being of the Church.(Signed) J. B. CANTUAR.Two years later they appointed a Com- 840 mittee to consider what was best to be done. This Committee, the following year, made a report to that House which I cited on a former occasion, and which was favourably received, recommending, amongst other things, several alterations and additions to the Church Services, none of which could have been carried into effect without the sanction of Parliament. These things, together with the speeches made in that Clerical Parliament, were, I can assure this House, my great encouragements to persevere. Your Lordships will, then, I am sure, share my surprise, if not my disappointment, when I tell you that last year the Upper House of Convocation of the Province of Canterbury came to a determination that they would not countenance any alteration whatever in the Liturgy. I cannot say how much I regret this; most of all, I must say, in reference to the right rev. Prelates themselves. In the first place, it wears the appearance of vacillation, and would seem to justify the caustic remark of a very rev. Dean, "that the children were come to the birth, but there was no strength to bring forth." In the second, it puts them in a position of antagonism to all reform in this matter—a position which can no more be maintained than an attempt to check the ebb and flow of the river, on the banks of which we are now assembled. Well; but, my Lords, there are other means of ascertaining the opinions of great men in the Church, besides learning what passes in the Upper House of the Canterbury Convocation. I am not sure whether or not the Lower House is a distinct body, or an integral portion of the other; but at all events it is composed of great office-bearers of our Church; and a very significant circumstance took place there a very short time ago. They were invited by one of their members to express their approval of the resolution of the Upper House against revision. They received the proposal very respectfully, and they debated the question with great ability in very courteous terms towards each other; but if any of your Lordships desire a specimen of the suaviter in modo and fortiter in re, you cannot do better than procure a report of that interesting debate. As to the proposal of concurrence with the Upper House, so unequivocally was the feeling expressed against it, that the proposer did not venture to divide. There, at all events, in the matter of Revision, we have a house divided against itself, the end of which it 841 not very difficult to foresee. But there is again another manifestation of clerical opinion, which may guide us in our decision. It is that declaration to which I have already alluded, and to which I now beg to invite your Lordships' attention.
If any one had told me previously that I should have been the object of an address signed by ten thousand of our clergy, I should have suspected his sanity; nevertheless, such has actually come to pass, and as it begins with Lord Ebury, ends with Lord Ebury, and is an anticipatory inculpation of my conduct, I hope the framers will not be offended if I comment upon it with perfect frankness. All I fear is that, in the course of my remarks upon it, I may seem to appear somewhat ungrateful to those who have placed me on so lofty a pedestal. The declaration, with its preface, my Lords, has two capital defects: it is feeble, and apparently disingenuous. There is nothing that candid men so much condemn as taking a sentence out of a man's writings, and attempting to give it a signification which, when taken with the context, it will not bear. As to this quotation from my speech, it is unnecessary that I should read or even refer you to my speech, from which it is an extract; it is so unskilful that it carries its own condemnation with it. And how my respected friend, the Dean of Westminster, himself the author of an able treatise on the Revision of the Bible, could have suffered himself to stand godfather to such a production, I am at a loss to conceive. So much for the preface; now for the declaration itself. I should have thought that when so solemn a proceeding was had recourse to as that of demanding an expression of the opinion of the clerical body of England and Ireland, it would have been asked upon some definite alternative. But what does this tell us? You will recollect that this is based upon my speech of 1858, in which I laid down three points—that Revision was desired, that it was desirable, and that the method by which I proposed to effect it was both constitutional and expedient. Does this declaration deny any one of those propositions? Does it deny that our canons and formularies require revision? Not at all? All it says is, that any attempt to revise at this time would be dangerous. We old political stagers know full well the meaning of meeting a question, hitherto encountered by a direct negative with the previous question, i.e., that 842 it is not the right time; it is simply a prelude to a final surrender. This manifesto, therefore, may justly be called the Retreat of the Ten Thousand. And, my Lords, considering that this address pledges its signers to nothing—that it was issued not long after the declaration of distinguished prelates of Canterbury Convocation against Revision—that sea and land were compassed to obtain signatures, for it was sent not only to every clergyman in England, but also to those in Ireland—and that even to this milk-and-water document nothing like half the clergy have appended their names—I am entitled to say that the majority of the clergy have no foregone conclusions on this head, but that they are willing to give a candid and impartial consideration to any proposition for improving the Canons and Prayer Book of our Church. But, say these gentlemen, "it is not the time." Not the time! but, my Lords, when is the good time to come? Will you listen to these words? "Ornatior quidem, accuratior, plenior, brevior, potest ea et debet fieri, sed tranquillis hominum animis, non inter media dissidia mutuasque suspiciones. By whom, and at what time, do your Lordships think these words were spoken? They are taken from a sermon of Archbishop Secker, delivered just one hundred years ago; and, if things are to proceed in this way, it is possible that some hon. Member or noble Lord may make a Motion similar to mine in 1960, and say, "These words were quoted by a Peer one hundred years ago, moving for a Royal Commission, as used by an Archbishop one hundred years before that."
I do not think it would have been very difficult to give an answer to this declaration, even had it merely said, "We object to Revision at this time;" though it might not have been very clear with what arguments it was necessary to grapple. Fortunately, however, reasons are here assigned for the objection. "It will endanger," say they, "the peace and unity of the Church." Peace and unity of the Church, my Lords? Why, where has this sacred cohort been living? Peace and unity of the Church! It will be my melancholy task, to show not only that there is no peace or unity to disturb, and that this state of things is owing, not to any agitation for a Revision of the Liturgy, but that it is in consequence of that Revision not having taken place one hundred years ago, and there not having been a complete modification of that Act of Uniformity, 843 which has so miserably failed to promote that peace and harmony to which its title makes such a high-sounding and pompous pretension.
That there have been times, and those almost within the recollection of my own contemporaries, when there was peace in the Church, cannot be denied:—it was a peace much resembling what a man expects to find in a cemetery. But, during the last thirty years or more, there has been a religious revival, which, happily, has continued in an increasing ratio ever since. Somewhere about that time the Church fairly awoke from her protracted slumbers, and suddenly found herself face to face with evils of enormous magnitude. So entirely had the population outgrown her ministrations that, in all our great centres of industry, she was a mission in the midst of heathen. Our parochial system, admirable when it can really be carried out, was, in many places, an absolute hindrance; for some so-called pastors of thirty, forty, or fifty thousand inhabitants, actually objected to permit other clergymen to do anything, within their boundaries, to assuage the utter spiritual destitution which prevailed. The inadequacy of our Church system to cope with these evils became manifest; and the fetters, forged by the Act of 1662, were so acutely felt by earnest men, that every attempt was made to break them. All this was symptomatic of a healthy feeling. Unfortunately, our arch-enemy never allows a field to be sowed with goodly wheat without casting in a large admixture of tares, and he was not idle upon this occasion. When search was made amongst her archives to see what our Church really might do, a class of men whose peculiar bent of mind and of reading led them in that direction, thought they had discovered that our Church was wrongly denominated a Protestant Church, that it was scarcely a matter of doubt that we had been guilty of schism in departing from the Church of Home, and that the nearer we could approximate to that Church the bettor it would be for us; and they appealed confidently—and, in my opinion, not altogether unsuccessfully—to the Book of Common Prayer in confirmation of the doctrines they put forward. This state of things led to the famous Tracts for the Times; and we have been in perpetual hot water ever since, till at last those heats have culminated in the riots at St. George's-in-the-East, where, however much the sacri- 844 legious proceedings of the rioters may be condemned, it is clear that public sympathy is with the cause they are supposed to represent.
Here I should ill discharge my duty if I did not offer a tribute of gratitude to the Most Rev. the Primate for his conduct at this critical time. No sooner did this mischief appear on the horizon than, whilst others in high station were dallying with, if not actually encouraging it, he denounced it in successive addresses to his clergy, and, with a prophetic hand, traced out all those evils as likely to flow from it, of which we have lived to see the unhappy realization.
I will now proceed to demonstrate what the state of the Church has been over since, and I will leave it to you to determine how far that can be called a state of peace, of which, I am told, I shall be the disturber. I moved, two months ago, for a return of all the suits in courts of law relating to the Church that had taken place during the last twenty years. I have been unable to obtain this return, and therefore can only avail myself of such information as I have been able otherwise to get at, with great trouble, but which is necessarily incomplete. The following is a list of eases:—1842. Escott v. Mastin.—As to Baptism and Burial Services. (The Gedney Case.) In the Consistory, Arches, and Privy Council.1843. Saunders v. Head.—Conflict between Bishop of Exeter and the Hector of Feniton as to Baptism and Confirmation. In Arches Court.1844. Inre Rev. Walter Blunt.—As to Rubrical Observances. (The Helston Case.) By Commission in the Diocese of Exeter.1845. Rev. W. Ward's Case.—Condemned for Want of Good Faith in subscribing the Articles. By Convocation, Oxford.—Causing great excitement.1845. Faulkner v. Litchfield and Stearne.—As to the erection of a Stone Altar in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, at Cambridge. (The Stone Altar Case.) In Diocesan Court, Ely, and (on Appeal) in Arches.1846. Barnes v. Shore.—As to Indelibility of Holy Orders. (The Totness Case.) In Arches and Court of Queen's Bench.1847. The Queen v. the Archbishop of Canterbury.—As to the Order of Procedure on the Consecration of a Bishop by an Archbishop. (Dr. Hampden's Case.) Argued for three Days by ten Counsel in Court of Queen's Bench, and on judgment the Court equally divided—2 and 2.1848. Regina v. Latimer.—Prosecution for Libel on the Bishop of Exeter in the Western Times. Verdict for the Defendant, followed by great agitation throughout the Diocese. Spring Assizes, Exter.1849. Gorham v. Exeter.—Main question as to Doctrine of Baptism.845Proceeding by Duplex Querela in the Arches, 1st on Preliminaries.Proceeding by Duplex Querela in the Arches, 2nd on the Main Question.Appeal to Judicial Committee of Privy Council.Motion to stay proceedings in Queen's Bench.Motion to stay proceedings in Common Pleas.Motion to stay proceedings in Exchequer.A Bishop renounces communion with his Metropolitan.1850. The Queen v. Rev. Mr. James.—Indictment for Refusing to Marry. Spring Assizes, Lancaster, 1850.1851. Riots at St. Barnabas, Pimilico.—Proceedings at Police Courts, &c. Involved Resignation of Rev. Mr. Bennett.1851. Manifesto of Archbishops and Bishops to Clergy of Church of England.—On Ritual Observances.1854 to 1859. Ditcher v. Denison.—Involving the Doctrines of the Church of England respecting Baptism and the Eucharist. Representation to Archbishop: Reference to Bishop: Consideration and Admonition by Bishop: Application to a Second Bishop: Proceeding by Archbishop: Proceeding (1st) in Court of Queen's Bench: Mandamus of Archbishop: Proceeding (2nd) in Court of Queen's Bench: Commission. Judgment (still unreversed): Appeal to Arches: Proceeding by Mandamus—Court of Queen's Bench: Further proceeding in Arches: Appeal to Privy Council.1857. Westerton v. Liddell, and Liddell v. Beal.—As to Decoration of Churches. Arches and Privy Council. Now again in Arches (1860).1858. Rev. Temple West.—Confession and Absolution. (Boyn Hill Case.) Proceeding by Commission in Diocese of Oxford.1859. Rev. A. Poole's Case.—Confession and Absolution. Proceeding before Bishop of London: Appeal to Archbishop: Mandamus from Court of Queen's Bench: Hearing before Archbishop's Assessor: Archbishop's Judgment: Appeal to Privy Council (now pending).1860. St. George's-in-the-East and Mr. Rosier's Case.—Involving proceedings in Police Courts and Courts of Arches, and Questions as to Ritual Observances, Ceremonials, Doctrine and Teaching, Decorations, Brawling.Other proceedings have agitated the Church, such as—Rev. Dr. Pusey—Suspended for a Sermon: Archdeacon Wilberforce's Secession.—Threatened with Law Proceedings: Debate in the House of Commons, carried to a second day, on the induction of Mr. Bennett to Frome; The Madeira (Mr. Lowe's) Case:—A Bishop and Dean Excommunicated: The Jerusalem Bishopric Case: Golightly v. the Bishop of Chichester: The Lewes Burial Case, with Riots: Rev. Mr. Bricknell's Case.—Cautioned: Bishop of Winchester v. Heath: Cross Suits between Vicar of Enfield and his Churchwarden.—Two Suits now pending.These are some, though by no means all, the cases which have so painfully occupied public attention. It must be borne in mind that, after all this litigation, with the exception of the Stone Altar Case, scarcely anything is settled; and, at this very moment, the suits of Westerton v. Liddell, 846 and Poole v. Archbishop of Canterbury, are again before the Courts. It has been conjectured that the total amount of money spent in these unseemly contentions would be sufficient, as far as money can do so, to provide the means of coping with all the spiritual destitution of the Metropolis. The peaceful state of our Church is also described by the Right Rev. Prelate who presides over the diocese of Carlise, in a letter recently addressed to his clergy, in the following terms:—In dealing, however, with Revision of the Liturgy, we must look to the state of the National Church at large. What are we compelled to witness? Not the calm and simple method of carrying on Divine Worship in the Sanctuary which characterized our Church Service in the days of our youth—a calmness and simplicity which was as compatible with fervent devotion as it was agreeable to the Protestant tone of the Liturgy of our Reformed Church. If it were not so, I would still say it is wise and right 'quieta non movere.' But I find the people irritated by the introduction of customs which, if legal, were at any rate obsolete; I find the Bishop of the diocese unable to control the use or the abuse of forms and ceremonies; and I am persuaded that such scenes within the sacred buildings, such weakness on the part of the Heads of the Church (the law at present gives them no power to interfere), and such bitterness of language used on all sides, are together undermining the affections of the Laity towards the Church.Listen also to the language of another Right Rev. Prelate:—Again, the disgraceful and dishonest proceedings of several of our own body during the last few years; the deliberate efforts of some to deny the Protestant principles of the Church of England, and to palliate the most flagrant errors of the Church of Rome; the obstinacy of a few weak-minded persons in forcing upon unwilling congregations frivolous changes of dress and unauthorized novelties in ornaments and ceremonies; and, above all, the open desertion of our Church by many distinguished for zeal and ability, and their unblushing acknowledgments, in some instances, that they held all Romish doctrine whilst they ministered in our churches.…. These, amongst other causes, may be sufficient to account for the estrangement between our clergy and a large mass of our population."—(Charge of the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol, 1857.)Probably there is scarcely one of your Lordships who has not witnessed the disastrous effects of this system in your own neighbourhoods. I can give you a case within my own cognizance, of a large and important country parish. It had long been neglected—at length the incumbent died. The parishioners received the new rector with open arms, ready to give him all the aid in their power. Not six weeks 847 had elapsed before, in consequence of some of the innovations which he chose to introduce, the church rate was lost, and the parish embroiled in contest from one end to the other.
If this is a state of peace, I am quite unable to understand the meaning of the term. And let it be remembered that, in every one of these cases, it was the undevised Prayer Book and canons that were appealed to in the disputes, and the construction of which ruled the decision; also that many of the passages relied upon might fairly have been the subject of alteration or explanation had revision been resorted to in proper time. Let us, also, not forget that, until the last three years, there has been no agitation for Liturgical Revision, and that it originated in the bosom of Convocation itself. So far, then, from a state of peace, the condition of the Church may be summed up in a Sapphic stanza from the pen of one of our most popular poets, whose elegant Latinity was only surpassed by the beauty of his English lyrics—I mean the poet Gray:—Splendidas ædes aditure mecumQuas eris semper fovet inquietaLis ubi late sonat et togatum Æstuat agmen.So much, then, for the peace of the Church. The citations I have already made will give a pretty fair index of its unity; but if any one wishes to convince himself of the perfect harmony which exists, I commend him to the pages of The Union, The Guardian, The Record, The English Churchman, The Clerical Journal, and one or two more, which I should think would convince the most sceptical that no such blessing is ours at present. When to that I add that two out of every five persons you meet, according to the most favourable computation to ourselves, are Nonconformists, I think I shall have completed the picture of a happy and united family. All this, evil as it is—aye, and even more than this—is to be accounted for by the continuance in our statute-book of that fatal Act of Uniformity, 14th of Charles the Second. Do let me beg your Lordships' attention to the words of a man who filled a high station in our Church—alas! for too brief a space—whose genius, attainments, accomplishments, and, above all, whose devoted attachment to the National Church have never been questioned—the late Archdeacon Julius Hare. He is speaking of the Act of Uniformity:— 848A strange voice passed through England—a voice which spake of unity. But it was soon stifled by the tumultuous cries of opposite parties clamouring in rivalry for uniformity. And ere long all hope was blasted by that second most disastrous, most tyrannical, and schismatical Act of Uniformity, the authors of which, it is plain, were not seeking unity, but division.The excuses which may be urged for the first Act have no place here, and though it is often pleaded in palliation of political parties that their measures have been taken under the exasperation of suffering and the intoxication of victory, this would be a sorry apology for the conduct of an Ecclesiastical Government. Yet it was required that every minister—not only such as might be ordained thenceforward, but all who at that time had any benefice or promotion—should solemnly declare their 'unfeigned assent and consent to all and everything contained and prescribed in and by the Book of Common Prayer.' The previous Canonical declaration, that the Prayer Book contains nothing 'contrary to the Word of God,' was hardly more than was implied in the engagement to make use of the Prayer Book in public worship. But this strait-waistcoat for men's consciences could scarcely have been devised, except by persons themselves of seared consciences and hard hearts—by persons ready to gulp down any oath without scruple about more or less. Verily, when I think of that calamitous and unprincipled Act, of the men by whom it was enacted,—Charles II. and the aristocracy and gentry of his reign,—of the holy men against whom it was enacted, it seems almost like a prologue to the profligacy and infidelity which followed closely upon it. But what were its direct effects with regard to the unity of the Church? It bore the name of Uniformity on its forehead. Can there have been any who persuaded themselves that a uniformity so enforced could be a means of unity? The only unity which could have ensued from it would have been that of a dead level; and full of woe as have been the consequences of this Act in its failure, they would have been still more terrible had it succeeded. Therefore, even we, who love and revere our National Church above every earthly institution, may bless God that it did not succeed. Yet how grievous was the wound to the Church at the time! How grievous is it still at this day in its enduring effects! Some two thousand ministers, comprising the chief part, it seems scarcely questionable, of the most faithful and zealous in the land, were silenced in one day, were severed in one day from their flocks, were cast in one day out of our Church for the sake of maintaining uniformity. On that, our English Bartholomew's-day, the eye wandered over England, and in every fifth parish saw the people scattered abroad as sheep that had no shepherd. From that day do we date the origin of that constituted dissent and schism which is the peculiar opprobrium and calamity of our Church, by which, in almost every parish, we find ourselves grievously crippled in our efforts to build up our people into a holy temple, acceptable to the Lord.I will follow up this account of the Act of Uniformity by another description. It is from a different pen. An eminent living historian says:—Clarendon followed up this blow by the Act of 849 Uniformity, which, on St. Bartholomew's Day following, ejected 2,000 ministers from their livings,—which, if rigidly enforced (as it was intended to be), would have established a system of persecution unparalled in any Protestant country,—and which, notwithstanding the succeeding Act of Toleration, Annual Indemnity Acts, and other relaxations, has deprived the Church of England of the support of those who now form the Wesleyan and other powerful and pious persuasions, and has considerably impaired her influence and usefulness."—(Lives of Chancellors, by LORD CAMPBELL, vol. iv., p. 85.)That, my Lords, is the description of this Act given by the Lord Chancellor, now seated on the Woolsack.
Well, the Act was passed—the old dominant party triumphed. Then came the Five Mile Act, the Test and Corporation Act, and so on. And in our Litany, and so it remains to this day, we invoked the Divine blessing upon that, which, if we are permitted to know anything of the counsels of the Most High, is one of the most hateful things in the sight of the Supreme Being, namely, the use of the sword of the civil magistrate for the propagation of religious truth. But we were not satisfied with praying; we prosecuted the hapless Nonconformists from city to city, from town to town, from village to village, haling men and women, and committing them to prison and to death. But how wonderfully do we see Divine Providence overruling all things to some good! But for this persecution, humanly speaking, we should never have possessed a book which, with the single exception of I Holy Writ, has done more good, and gone through more editions, than any other work that ever was written—I mean, the incomparable allegory of The Pilgrim's Progress. And so hot was our persecution against our Nonconformist brethren, that we actually drove them into the arms of the Papists, and they together, by a strange conjuncture, obtained the Act of Toleration, one of the great charters of our liberty, from the hands of a Popish monarch. I will not go over the dreary history of our Church in the eighteenth century, during which the trumpet blown by Wesley and Whitefield scarcely interfered with our slumbers; but it is well worthy of remark, that no abundant blessing seems to have been vouchsafed to us, so long as one of these persecuting Acts remained upon our Statute-book. I myself sat six or seven years in Parliament before the Test and Corporation Act, and the Roman Catholic Disabilities Act, were repealed; and from that era we may date that re- 850 markable revival of genuine religion which I have described in an earlier part of my address.
I am now compelled to ask your Lordships' attention to some very serious dangers, to which we are exposed, if we continue any longer as we are, and neglect to attempt that comprehension which I believe can certainly be effected, and to which the last clause of the prefatory part of my Motion points. My Lords, my right Rev. Diocesan has very correctly defined the theory of an Established Church. He said, during the debate on the Services in Theatres, that his only idea of a National Church was one rooted in the affections of the people. I am sure you will concur in the propriety of that definition. But, my Lords, can anybody, seeing what is passing around us, bring himself to assert that such, or anything like such, is the case with our Establishment? It is a very painful subject to speak upon; but it is much better to speak out. That, as a body, the ministers of our Church are highly respected, we have ample testimony; and if I could only persuade your Lordships to adopt this Motion, there is just ground for hoping that the Church would realize the definition of my right Rev. Friend. But can we shut our eyes to this fact? The pastors of at least four millions of the inhabitants of this country are content, for conscience' sake, to forego all participation in a revenue of £4,000,000 a year, all hopes of attaining one of some thirty life peerages, many other great positions of dignity, usefulness, and affluence, together with a high social status amongst the aristocracy of the country. And when to this we add the consideration of the deep attachment of the great portion of this vast multitude to their pastors, is it possible to say of our Church that she is rooted and grounded in the affections of the people? Does it not, on the contrary, suggest that we are in circumstances calculated to excite alarm, and show the absolute necessity of attempting a remedy for these unquestionable evils? I grieve to say, my Lords, that I could mention other indications of a similar nature; but I refrain from doing so, because it is a painful subject, and because I have already so greatly trespassed on the attention of the House.
Supposing there was no such thing as Dissent, I should desire a Revision of the Liturgy and Canons for the good of our own communion; but with a state of Non- 851 conformity to the extent of that which is staring us in the face, a man must be dead to all sense of the magnitude of the evils of disunion, the vantage-ground it gives to our common enemy, the hindrance to success in our common object—one in comparison to which all other earthly objects sink into insignificance—if he be not ready to strain every nerve to put an end to it. The basis of the National Church ought to be as broad as possible.
But it is said, however this may be, all attempts at conciliation and concession will do nothing; you will drive some of your attached Churchmen away—you will gain nothing from the ranks of Dissent. These are assertions wholly unsupported by practical proof. As to losing attached Churchmen, were it proposed to exact some new test, or to narrow the platform of our National Establishment, I could understand such a consequence. But that, because a latitude, always allowed in some non-essentials, should be conveyed in language less ambiguous than heretofore, men warranted in retaining and propagating all the doctrines of our Church should, notwithstanding, leave our ranks, I can only consider as a libel upon the heads and hearts of those of whom such a course is predicted. And, again, as to not conciliating our Nonconformist brethren, no doubt the difficulties will be considerable. A wall of separation which we have been carefully building up for 300 years, cannot be pulled down in a day. Certainly, if no comprehension is attempted, none will take place; but it is contrary to all history, all experience, and to present appearances, to suppose, that an advance on our part will not be met by a corresponding approach from the other side. Many eminent men do not think that an attempt at comprehension will fail. Listen, in regard to this point, once more to the words of Archdeacon Hare:—Much, too, were it to be wished that certain double forms of prayer might be introduced here and there for the relief of scrupulous consciences, painfully wounded by having to read offices which pre-suppose a totally different state of discipline in the Church. But of these things there is little hope. The spirit of Catholic comprehension has seldom found a home in more than a very few hearts within our Church; the majority have mostly cared for little except maintaining their own position in whatsoever manner and however numerous the multitudes they might exclude from it. I do not mean that the removal of hindrances and obstructions would of itself bring back our brethren who have separated from us out of the pale of the Church. Though we retrace our steps, we cannot 852 regain our former position; for the world meanwhile has been rolling onward. Nor can the manifold feelings of bitterness, and animosity, and pride, and self-will, which are generated and fostered by habitual schism, be stifled or eradicated in a moment. If our Dissenting brethren are to be reclaimed, it must be the work of time, and can only be accomplished by the preaching of the Gospel of truth and peace, and by proving that the Spirit does indeed dwell in the Church, manifesting himself by works of holiness and love. But the taking down of the fences which have hitherto kept them out, so far as this may be done without injury to truth and order, is a requisite preparative for this work."—Preface to his Sermon upon Unity, pp. 12, 13.I have, also, a letter from a Layman well acquainted with the feelings of the Nonconformist body in the Northern district:—From what I have said you will see that I do not think the 'Religious Dissenters,' the office-bearers amongst them, would be likely to join the Church, because these are the very men most affected by the practical conditions of Lay-Church life referred to. But I have no doubt that a great number of persons would take the opportunity for which various discontents and distastes had long prepared them, and I am bound to admit that all Dissenters that I have spoken to agree in thinking that there would be a large secession. Your strong point, I think, is in the likelihood that the better sources of the ministry would be, for a time, lost to Dissent.I have many others bearing upon this question, all in the same sense. I commend strongly to those who are interested in this question, a published correspondence between the Bishop of Adelaide and Mr. Binney, a distinguished Nonconformist minister, in a volume called "Church Life in Australia," in which this subject is elaborately treated; and although they cannot hit upon any definite plan of union, it is impossible to rise from a perusal of that correspondence without being convinced that the day is not far distant when this most devoutedly-to-be-wished-for consummation will be achieved—at all events, in our Australian colonies.
Well, my Lords, but perhaps you will ask me what it is that I desire this Commission to do. Now, I think I have shown you a state of disorder in our ecclesiastical system, as now constituted, calling so loudly for remedies, that, if a Commission were appointed, common sense would direct them at once to take into consideration the numerous specific demands that have been made for improvement, rejecting what to them appears objectionable, recommending what seems the most practicable, just as did the American Convention of our sister 853 Church, taking evidence, either written or oral, upon points of doubt and difficulty, and circulating queries when they desire further information. But as I have been so often asked the question what my own views are, I am perfectly willing, so far as I can, to answer it, though of course it can only be in general terms:—
The Commission would, I presume, be composed of Ecclesiastics, with the admixture of a few Laymen; at all events, of some civilians to assist in the review of our Canons and Constitutions. It would be animated, doubtless, by the spirit which is so well set forth in the letter of the American Episcopal Convention to the Anglican Bishops (1786), namely, "not to depart from any doctrine of our Church, but carefully to consider the alteration of such things as are calculated to remove objections, which it would appear to be more conducive to union and general content to obviate than to dispute."
As to the Canons, in regard to the validity and operation of which the greatest variety of opinion prevails—and which, if allowed to remain as they now are, it is possible may become the source of oven more vexatious litigation than ever they have been previously—I presume those that are deemed obsolete will be expunged; whilst any that it is considered useful to retain, will be couched in comprehensible language, and placed in harmony with existing use. Although, in old phraseology, in their entirety, they are called the Book of Canons, yet there is in fact no Book. They are of two sorts—the old black-letter Canons framed before the Reformation, and sanctioned by Act of Parliament 25th Henry VIII., so far as they be not contrary to custom, statute, or Royal prerogative; the others, of 1603, which were never confirmed by Parliament, and which are supposed to be binding on the clergy alone, though doubts have been frequently expressed whether, in fact, they are binding on any one; and, in truth, they are almost universally disregarded. The historian of the early Puritans says of them—The disgrace of these barbarous Canons belongs to the Convocation in which they passed; but prejudice, fomented from time to time by some of her assailants, still lays it to the Church of England; and it must be allowed that some degree of censure fairly belongs to her for permitting the Canons to remain so long without revision, for the Canons in their present state are discreditable to the Church, unsuited to the age, and urgently wanting revision.With regard to the Prayer Book, the 854 changes most generally desired seem to be these:—First and foremost, and that without which other alterations would scarcely be considered a boon, stands the abolition of the Terms of Subscription enforced by the Act of the 14th of Charles II. They were not considered essential in the Church of Jewel and Hooker during the stormiest periods of our Church History. They are a disgrace to our Statute-book in the year 1860. Then, the abbreviation of the Morning Service and Daily Service, the objections to which may be summed up in the language of Archdeacon Berens:—Our Morning Services last too long, both in a moral and physical point of view—too long for keeping up a proper degree of attention and devoted feeling—too long physically, inasmuch as to the very old and very young, and to those who labour under a want of health, it often occasions a painful weariness.On a former occasion I gave a detailed specification of the repetitions and anomalies contained in the Morning Service. I presume it is not necessary that I should repeat them now; I will, therefore, merely remark in passing, that the repetitions are generally considered even greater hindrances to devotion than the length.
Then, as an attempt at rigid uniformity is as useless as it is inexpedient, the officiating minister should be at liberty to make selections for Services within certain limits, when he considered them better adapted to the circumstances of his congregation than those prescribed.
Next, the remodelling of the Calendars and Rubrics: a want almost universally admitted: specially substituting the inspired Word of God for the Apocryphal Lessons.
I think it is also desired that the Psalms should be arranged for three Services, with optional selections, as in the American Book of Prayers.
As to the Athanasian Creed, it has been proposed either that the damnatory clauses should be expunged, or that the Rubric should be so far altered as not to make the reading of it compulsory; in fact, in most Churches it is very seldom read, and in some not at all. Both in this case—the saying of Daily Prayer and the Services for the Saints' Days—the Act of Uniformity and Terms of Subscription are perpetually violated; and it were much to be wished that the ordering of these should be so altered as not to make their use absolutely imperative.
The Occasional Services—for Burial, Visitation of the Sick, Baptism, Marriage, 855 Catechism, and Ordination—should also come under review, in order, as I mentioned in my previous Address to this House, to see whether certain expressions contained in them might not be so modified as to give a more unequivocal latitude to permitted difference of opinion than they do at present, and where unity is indispensable, more clearly to define our Church's teaching in matters which have within the last few years, and which are still, giving rise to the most lamentable and violent contests before our Courts of Law.
The Burial Service, as it now is required to be performed, has been declared to be a scandal by four thousand clergymen, of various shades of opinion.
It is in the knowlege of your Lordships that the Marriage Service is habitually mutilated.
Lastly, I see no reason why we should continue to pray in bad grammar, false concords, and obsolete terms; and it is, therefore much wished that more suitable terms should be substituted for them, especially such as would not easily be misunderstood by the poorer classes.
I have now brought this long statement to a close; all that remains for me is once again to point the attention of the House to the object of this Motion. It is that, after a lapse of two hundred years, the only means known to our Constitution should be resorted to, in order to inquire whether changes cannot be made which will render the Services of our Church more edifying than they now are to the public at large—our Canons more in accordance with the enlightened Christianity of our times. I have dwelt at considerable length upon the discords in our Church, for the purpose of demonstrating that they are greatly owing to this—that the work of revision was not undertaken and carried out a century ago. I have pointed out the formidable aspect presented to us by the vast and increasing extent of Nonconformity: no one whom I have now the honour to address can have forgotten the astonishment and alarm produced by the publication of the Religious Census two years ago. We are now upon the eve of another: will any one venture to predict what its results will disclose?
Unhappily, I must not forget to add, that there is a growing discontent amongst our people with the Rulers of the Church; many think that they are unwilling honestly to grapple with, and effectually to 856 put down that spirit of Romanism within our pale, which has of late years, as I have shown, so largely infected it. So that even in this diocese, where we have the advantage of the comprehensive and liberal administration of our Right Reverend Diocesan, the formation of a Free Episcopal Church, with a revised Prayer Book, has been openly discussed.
Tour Lordships will, I hope, have remarked that throughout the whole of this statement I have endeavoured to fortify my case with the opinions of men eminent in the Church to which we belong, and who, at various times, have commanded its respect and reverence. I am fully aware how much more powerful such language must be than any which I could possibly utter. Let me, then, pray your attention yet once again to some extracts I am about to read, and with them I will conclude.
The following is from a discourse of Professor Stanley, recently published:—Why is it that the number of gifted minds and loftier characters—those who from their knowledge, their power, their love of truth, are most fitted, and would most naturally be attracted to the study of theology, or to the ranks of the clergy of our Church—are in this sphere, so few, so very few within the last ten years, compared with what they were in former days?The fact as regards the present time, and this place (Oxford) is, I fear, undoubted.Dr. Vaughan, in his "Memorials of Harrow Sundays," has much to the same effect. He says—I fear it cannot be denied that there is a great and extensive shaking of men's minds at this time as to the truth and authority of the Christian doctrine. We see it with great sorrow. It is indicated in many ways. To think only of our own class of society, it is intimated not obscurely by a great and growing indisposition, on the part of young men otherwise admirably qualified for it, to the profession of a clergyman. How many of those whose character, whose gifts, whose education, and we are sure, also (in some cases), whose inclination destined them for that useful and honourable service, are seen to turn away from it when the time comes! Anything rather than that; no obscurity, no drudgery, no want of attractiveness, and no want of direct usefulness, is enough to deter them from any other calling, so they may escape the necessity of declaring themselves to believe all the articles of the Christian faith, or to assent with all their hearts to the prescribed order of our Church's worship.One additional quotation, taken from the Remonstrance of Dean Prideaux on the Rejection of the Revision of 1689," may fairly sum up the case which I have submitted to you:—Must we always be necessitated to pronounce all damned that do not believe every tittle of the 857 Athanasian Creed, which so few do understand; and, on the contrary, to declare every man saved at his burial, how wicked sever he lived all his life before? And must we always be bound to many other grievances and defects of this nature, which I could tell you of, and still deny ourselves all redress under the burden of them, by refusing all those improvements and alterations, which it is now in our power to effect, because some of our brethren are obstinately bent upon doing nothing for the satisfaction of those who dissent from us? In sum, it cannot be denied that there are many things in our Liturgy which may be amended and improved, many defects in our discipline and constitution which may be supplied, and abundance of other particulars in our Church which may receive a great advance for the better, enabling us to promote religion and piety, and to suppress sin and iniquity amongst us.I have now only one more duty to discharge, and that is to offer your Lordships my heartfelt thanks for the patience with which you have been pleased to listen to me. I am fully conscious of my own insufficiency; I wish that consistently with my duty I could have curtailed the address; but you will see how vast the subject really is, and how impossible it was for me to do justice to it, and to the hundreds of thousands of clients out of this House, who are awaiting with deep anxiety the result of this night's debate, without, to the best of my ability bringing the whole case before you. And however inefficiently I may have performed my task, I shall sit down with at least so much of comfort that I have spared no pains which I could possibly devote to it, to master a question involving the most important interests and the highest destinies of our beloved country. The noble Lord concluded by moving to resolve—That it is the Opinion of this House, that whereas the particular Forms of Divine Worship and the Mites and Ceremonies appointed to be used therein, being Things in their own Nature indifferent and alterable, and so acknowledged, it is but reasonable that upon weighty and important Considerations, according to the various Exigency of Times and Occasions, such Changes and Alterations should be made therein as to those that are in Place of Authority should from Time to Time seem either necessary or expedient:And whereas the Book of Canons is fit to be reviewed and made more suitable to the State of the Church:And whereas it is desirable, as far as may be, to remove all unnecessary Barriers to a Union of the People in the matter of Public Worship:That a humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty to be pleased to appoint a Commission to prepare such Alterations and Amendments in the Canons and Book of Common Prayer as to them may appear desirable, and to consider of such other matters as in their Judgment may most conduce to the ends above mentioned.
THE ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords—It is always difficult to reply to a speech so long considered, and embracing so many topics as that which has just been delivered by the noble Lord; and the manner in which he has spoken of himself and of the object which he has in view makes it not only appear difficult but ungracious to oppose him; but I have no alternative, being convinced that the course which the noble Lord proposes to your Lordships, instead of promoting the welfare of the Church which be desires to benefit, would inflict upon it very serious injury. The long consideration which the noble Lord has given to the subject which he has brought forward, and the many suggestions which he has received from various quarters, have led him into a very wide and extensive field of discussion. I trust that he will not deem it any want of respect on my part, or think that his speech has received no reply, if I decline to answer him point by point, or to follow him through all the excursions of a somewhat desultory speech, but take up the subject on general grounds. Indeed, it was only towards the latter end of the noble Lord's speech that I became aware of the real object of his Motion, and to that portion alone of his speech will I address myself. It appears to me that the revision of the Liturgy may be considered under two principal heads, which are distinct and may be separately treated. There is, first, such a revision as should alter some of the Rubrics, correct obsolete words or phrases, retrench some of the prayers, and omit certain repetitions; chiefly with a view of shortening the services, in deference to a popular objection. Probably there are few persons who do not think our Liturgy capable of receiving some degree of improvement of this kind. The noble Lord on a former occasion introduced to our notice several opinions to this effect, and among them I found myself honoured by being cited as an authority. I do not retract my opinion, casually given. I still think there are some matters in which amendment might be made; though I confess when it has come to the point I have never found anything like unanimity as to the changes desired. What have appeared blemishes to some have been beauties in the eyes of others. But whether those changes are in themselves desirable or not is not the question—many things are desirable in themselves, which, nevertheless, it might not be desirable to 859 undertake. It is only common prudence to compare the advantage to be gained with the cost at which it is to be procured, and to be sure that if alterations be attempted they may not give rise to greater evils than they are intended to remove. So, my Lords, in regard to a revision of the Liturgy; suppose that you agree with the Resolutions of the noble Mover, and address Her Majesty? Suppose Her Majesty to accede to the Address, and a Royal Commission to be appointed; suppose a majority of the Commissioners to agree, recommending certain changes to be made. Those recommendations must be submitted to the Upper House of Convocation, to the Lower House of Convocation, to both Houses of Parliament, first to one and then the other, before they are ultimately laid before Her Majesty for her approval. Would it be worth while to subject the Liturgy to all the discussions, all the different opinions, all the controversies, not to say the dissensions, and not to anticipate the cavils which it must be expected to undergo in the course of its tedious progress through these mixed and various assemblies? Could the possible advantage overbalance the certain risk? Yet such is the process which former legislation has rendered necessary before a single iota of our Common Prayer could be authoritatively changed. I do not here include the Canons, which are under different provisions, and may be separately considered. These, doubtless, are the reasons which have influenced the great body of the clergy and induced them to deprecate the proposed revision. They are rather disposed to remain content with what they have than to risk a change—a change in that which, with all its supposed faults, is familiar to the public mind, and consecrated by the usage of three centuries. On these grounds I oppose that species of revision which is confined to certain retrenchments and omissions, and leaves untouched whatever has reference to doctrine. But the noble Lord has not stopped here; neither do those stop here with whom he is associated, and who look up to him as their advocate. These would think a verbal revision of little value unless it were also a doctrinal revision. Here again I will venture to be candid, not to say imprudent. I have no objection to say that if we were framing Services for the first time, services to which the whole body of the clergy had not declared their adhesion, I should be inclined to modify certain sentences and forms 860 of expression which admit of different interpretations—which are, in fact, differently interpreted by the clergy themselves, and often become occasion of divisions. I should not be ashamed to borrow some hints from our brethren in America, if our circumstances were the same as theirs eighty years ago, and we had as they had then to begin the world anew. Our case is very different. Our clergy, the whole body of them, have given their assent to our liturgy as it is, and as it has come down to them from our Reformers. They have interpreted it according to their view of its general tenour, they have based their teaching on that interpretation, and have adhered to the doctrine which they believe it to inculcate. Could there be a more manifest injustice than to impose upon them a Liturgy which should be framed in a different spirit, and adopt another tone of doctrine? Could they reasonably be expected to assent to changes which, if they effected anything, must neutralize their former teaching, and contradict the sentiments which they conscientiously maintain? This injustice was so strongly felt by a valued friend of mine—one of the ablest advocates of revision—that he proposed to place the alterations between brackets, and to leave an alternative to the clergyman to read whichever sentence he approved. I leave it for your Lordships to judge whether such a scheme would be calculated to produce harmony either among the clergy or their congregations. The very proposal proves the difficulties with which the subject is surrounded. After all, those questions of theology of which the noble Lord has spoken, and which he wishes to see more closely defined, are not questions which can be settled by a Liturgy. A Liturgy did not originate them, and a Liturgy cannot determine them. They are questions on which differences will exist in the Church as long as the Church itself exists—that is, to the end of time. It was not through the influence of a Liturgy that Cyprian laid the foundation of a system, which, however erroneous I believe it to be, extended for ten centuries throughout the whole of Christendom. Our Liturgy, as it exists, stands on this vantage ground,—all who administer it have solemnly declared assent to it. Could we expect the same assent to any change? Could we propose any change to which all parties will agree? Would any be inclined to approve a revision which did not favour 861 their own opinions? I have thus briefly stated the principles on which, with the concurrence of my right rev. Brethren, I feel it my duty to resist the Motion of the noble Lord. We are not actuated by a bigoted attachment to things as they are, or by a pusillanimous apprehension of innovation, but we think that whatever objections may be advanced against our Liturgy as it is, there are greater objections to attempting its revision. We think that a verbal revision would not be worth its cost; we think that a doctrinal revision would throw the Church into confusion. Such an effect would be lamented by no man more than by the noble Lord himself, who, we are assured, has no other object at heart than to promote the welfare and increase the efficiency of the Church, of which he is an attached and conscientious member.
§ LORD LYTTELTON
I wish to say a few words on this question, because, though I cannot vote with my noble Friend, I should be sorry he should suppose that I differ altogether with him. Some years ago, on a Motion of my noble Friend (Lord Redesdale) about Convocation, I said, what I would now repeat, that I cannot hold, on this or any similar question, the doctrine of finality, simply and abstractedly. I conceive that any organized body, such as the Church of England, ought not to be deprived of the liberty that properly belongs to it, of adjusting from time to time its standards and formularies, being matters of human origin and composition. And as to the time, I think it is no great arrogance on behalf of the Churchmen of this day to believe that they are as well qualified to deal with such subjects as those of the times, whether troubled, apathetic, or corrupt, of the Reformation, the Hampton Court Conference, or the Savoy Conference. But as soon as we leave this general view, we are met by the two important points—first, the division of this particular subject into matters relating to theological doctrine and those not so relating; and next, the exact manner in which any changes should be carried into effect. Now, questions of doctrine are, of course, infinitely more important, and men look at them with very much more sensitiveness than the others. And I am ready to say that if my noble Friend had limited his view to the former class, and had distinctly provided, as he has not done in his Motion, though he has in his speeches, that any alterations should 862 be submitted to Convocation as well as to Parliament, I should not have objected to it. I apprehend that, admitting that there were cases of exception in worse times, and such as should not be drawn into precedents, the ancient rule in all such matters, in the English, as in the primitive and ancient Church, was this, that the consent of the Bishops as a body, of the Clergy as a body, and of the Laity as a body, should be essential. This view has of late years received remarkable confirmation in the case of many of our Colonial Churches, which, after a very vain attempt on the part of some, both in this country and in the colonies, to keep them in a state in which they had all the disadvantages, and none of the advantages, of an Establishment, have attained freedom within certain limits, to regulate their own affairs; and in every case have done so on the principle I have mentioned. And I apprehend that in former times in this country it was considered that this principle was sufficiently maintained by the operation of Convocation and of Parliament. I am disposed to think that it would still be so, sufficiently for practical purposes to command the confidence of the Church, in matters not touching doctrine; for I cannot think that such a measure, if I unobjectionable in itself, should be objected to on account of apprehensions of possible ulterior consequences against which we should have sufficient confidence in the protection of Providence and the strength of the Church, to trust that we should be able to guard. But when we come to questions of doctrine, the matter is very different. Convocation of late years has attained a certain power of action. But if it were proposed to confer upon it a real enacting power, I am confident that there are not ten of the clergy of England who would admit that as at present constituted it was a sufficient representative body of the clergy to which it was proper that questions of doctrine should be intrusted. So with regard to Parliament—at least, to the House of Commons. The inevitable progress of legislation has brought about such changes in the Constitution in this respect, that in the opinion of no one—not certainly in its own—can it be looked on as a representation of the laity of the English Church. For want, therefore, of a proper authority to deal with them, I should object to questions of doctrine being at present brought forward. No doubt it would be difficult to adapt to our actual 863 political system, and to provide for the working of a reformed representation of the Church in all its parts; but I believe it might be done, and that that is a previous question to be disposed of before the other one can be treated. But I must add, that even were all these points provided for, I should object to an inquiry such as my noble Friend now proposes, from the animus with which it has been done, which it is impossible to overlook in estimating the expediency and probable effects of such a proceeding. My noble Friend intends comprehension; but it is comprehension all in one direction. He professes to wish to retain the general status quo of the Church; what he aims at would destroy that status quo. There is a famous saying of Lord Chatham, that in our Church we have Calvinistic Articles, a Popish Liturgy, and an Arminian Clergy. So expressed, no doubt, this is a rhetorical sarcasm; but it points to an undoubted fact, that in the historical result of the constitution of the English Church there was a certain amount of compromise between extreme parties and views. I have been elsewhere taken to task for asserting this, and it has been denied that there was any such intentional compromise. I believe it might be shown that there was; but that is quite a distinct question. The important fact is that there stands the Prayer Book as it is. Some may think it the result of providential care, others may attribute it to unworthy human motives, others to accident. But these, though they may be interesting points of historical research, are not of present practical importance. The question is, what is the feeling in the matter of the members of the actual English Church? Now, I beg not to be understood as referring to my own opinion on any of these points, which is of no consequence; but I state it as an undeniable fact that the points referred to by my noble Friend and his supporters are viewed by very large numbers of Churchmen—not only extreme, but reasonable and moderate men—as of essential importance; and that therefore, assuming as we do that the general character of the Church is to be maintained, those alterations should not be made. The only answer that has ever been offered to this is, that those who hold such views will be still at liberty to do so, though all reference to them be expunged from the Liturgy. The obvious fallacy of such a reply has been pointed out; it can be tested 864 in a moment by substituting some of the great doctrines on which all are agreed, such as the Trinity or the Atonement. No one would be satisfied, or deny that the character of the Church was lost in that respect, if all mention of such doctrines were omitted on the plea that men were still free to hold them. Agreeing, then, that were the other difficulties in the way removed, a Royal Commission of Inquiry, whatever might be its scope, would be in itself quite unexceptionable, for the reasons I have stated I must concur in the recommendation of the most rev. Primate.
THE BISHOP OF LONDON
said, that it was an evil incident to discussions of this kind that they brought into agitation questions on which those who were bound by their position to take part in them were liable to be misunderstood and misrepresented. It was of the utmost importance that those who represented the Church in that House should be distinctly understood as to the grounds upon which they opposed the Motion of the noble Lord, but that Motion embraced a variety of subjects on which it was most difficult to avoid being misunderstood, either in advocating or opposing it. His right rev. Brethren were not of the number of those who were afraid of touching the old house, lest it should tumble about their ears. On the contrary, they believed that the Church of England stood upon the firmest foundations, and that it never stood more firmly or more securely than, by God's blessing, it did at the present moment; he was, therefore, sorry that the noble Lord should, in some degree, represent them as afraid to touch a single stone, lest the whole fabric should tumble down. He—and he believed that a majority of those who took an interest in the Church of England would agree with him—must protest against such a misrepresentation of their views. The noble Lord had spoken of a Resolution which he said had been proposed in the Upper House of Convocation, in which that body had expressed its determination to resist every alteration in the Prayer Book under any circumstances, and therefore he presumed every alteration in the Rubrics. He (the Bishop of London) was not aware that he had ever been a party to such a Resolution; still less was he so much aware of the secrets of the Lower House as to know what the Noble Lord had stated that when such a Resolution was proposed to them it fell to the ground for want of a supporter. His belief 865 was, that the only thing to which the Bishops agreed to on that occasion was the same as that as to which they were now agreed—namely, that they would resist the Motion of the noble Lord. What was the practical grievance of which the noble Lord complained, and what was the practical good which he sought to effect? The noble Lord had complained that the Rubrics gave rise to dissensions. He did not believe that those dissensions arose from the Rubrics but that they were in part the result of that variety of opinion as to doctrine which the noble Lord had said that he did not desire to touch, and in part the consequence of an excess of zeal in persons who were much excited by religious questions. A clergyman might set a parish in a blaze without touching the question of the Rubrics. It would be possible for a man of strong opinions to manifest them without infringing the letter of the law, let them make the law as stringent as they please; and he believed that any attempt to put an end to such dissensions as had been referred to by means of the revision of the Prayer Book would be utterly futile. There was a way of putting an end to these dissensions; but it was one about which it did not become him to say much. Let them arm with proper authority those to whom authority belonged, and many of these dissensions would disappear. Again, the noble Lord had referred to the question of the Burial Service, which he said was a great cause of dissatisfaction. Now there seemed to be much misunderstanding in respect of the Burial Service, and it might be as well for him (the Bishop of London) to state the view which he entertained upon that subject. He held that no clergyman could be prosecuted for omitting to read, or for slightly altering the Burial Service, unless the Bishop of the diocese was a party to the prosecution. If, therefore, a clergyman, who had any doubt as to the course which he ought to pursue, wrote to the Bishop before he took any motion in the matter, the Bishop would inform him whether he was determined to stand by him and prevent his being exposed to any prosecution, or whether, in his opinion, it was right that the Burial Service should be read; and no prosecution could be instituted against the clergyman if he thus acted on the advice of the Bishop. The noble Lord surely could not desire that every freshly ordained curate should in every instance be the judge as to 866 whether or not it was right that the Burial Service should be read over the bodies of those who had been brought into the churchyard. It must be a very serious case, indeed, which justified a departure from the use of the ordinary service, and he undertook to say that even now, and still more when the matter was thoroughly ventilated, those serious cases could be perfectly well dealt with by the power of the Ordinary without any alteration of the Burial Service. Then with regard to shortening the services, he did not know that all the world agreed with the noble Lord. There were occasions when they all felt the services to be very long; but had they considered sufficiently what power already existed for abbreviating them? He might illustrate this by what lately took place in respect to the Consecration Service. It had been supposed that it was a matter of necessity to have the whole Morning Service immediately preceding the Consecration Service; and then, with a great number of communicants, the Services were so lengthened out as to weary many. That occurred on the consecration of the present Bishop of Calcutta, when the Service in Westminster Abbey lasted, he believed, from eleven to four. But it was suggested to the most rev. Prelate that it was not necessary to have the whole of the Services together; and accordingly, on the next occasion of a Consecration at Westminster Abbey they were divided—the Morning Service took place at eight o'clock and the Consecration at eleven o'clock—and the inconvenience was removed. That only exemplified the degree of liberty which belonged to them under the present law, when they came to examine into it. The noble Lord had spoken rather harshly of the 10,000 clergymen who did not like his proposal, and would not pledge themselves as a whole to the changes he had suggested in the Rubrics, the canons, and the Prayer Book. The noble Lord had spoken much of those clergy; but he had observed an unexpected silence as to the opinions of certain other persons to whom he had directly appealed. Unless he had been misinformed the noble Lord had written a circular to the churchwardens, requesting that he might know whether the Service was not found a great deal too long; and it would certainly be interesting—he was very curious to know what answer he received—what the views of those persons were upon this matter. There was no proof of any real or strong 867 feeling on the part of the middle-class laity in favour of the abridgment of the Service. His own experience was that such was the inherent conservatism of that body that, if a clergyman ventured to make the changes which even the existing law or his Bishop sanctioned, he would be in great danger of giving offence. Certainly he did not believe the laity were earnestly desirous of the alterations which the noble Lord wished to introduce, even in respect to the Morning Service, except in the way now allowed by law. He confessed he had been a little staggered at first by the phrase in the noble Lord's Resolution, "the Book of Canons." It appeared, however, that the noble Lord had taken the words from the Commission issued by William III.; it was difficult to say to what the phrase referred, unless to the Canons of 1603. Now, as a general rule, those Canons had never been regarded as binding the laity; although some of them certainly bound the clergy in matters ecclesiastical. They had never been sanctioned by Parliament, but rested on the authority of Convocation and the Sovereign. Convocation had lately taken the step of petitioning Her Majesty in favour of the alteration of one of those Canons; and if the answer of Her Majesty was in the affirmative, the alteration might be effected. What, then, would be the use of throwing open the whole questions of the Rubrics, the Canons, and the Prayer Book, when the rival Parliament over the way was already perfectly competent to do what was requisite, in the matter, provided only they had the assent of the Sovereign? With, regard to the Athanasian Creed, one suggestion that had been made was that, if the words "shall be read" were changed to "may be read," all the difficulty it occasioned to tender consciences would disappear. Others again had proposed—and among them an eminent theologian, a late Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford—that this creed should be placed among the Thirty-nine Articles, and not used as part of the regular Services. He could not, however, think that it was desirable to accept the noble Lord's Motion in order to obtain this change. The question now raised on this point was, as their Lordships were aware, by no means new. He could say from his own experience that the difficulties involved in it had been before the minds of the clergy for the last twenty-five years, and now gave no trouble to their 868 consciences. It was not felt that there was anything dishonest or inconsistent with the most perfect fair dealing in its being understood by every one that there were various senses in which various minds took the different propositions which occurred in parts of that Creed. It was not pretended before the world that they were all perfectly agreed upon questions which went beyond the limited sphere of man's intellect; but they were agreed to use certain old and venerable forms, amongst which was this creed; which forms they were loth to touch, because they thought to tamper with them might be to destroy that harmony which, in spite of all the noble Lord had said, they at present enjoyed. Perhaps the men of very tender consciences were really deserving of more attention than many of the noble Lord's other correspondents; it was impossible, for example, to see an old, respected, and most useful member of our Church retiring from it in consequence of the difficulties which pressed on his conscience without feeling sympathy for him and others in the same circumstances. But the noble Lord had only mentioned that part of the case incidentally, in connection with the subject of subscription; whereas, in his estimation, it was the strongest part of his case. All kindly regard ought to be paid in the matter of subscription to these scrupulous consciences. It was, however, quite another thing, on account of scruples which pressed upon a few, to open up the whole of the most difficult and delicate questions on which the noble Lord wished them to embark. It was greatly to be regretted if young men of promise were excluded, as was alleged, from the Ministry, by reason of their scruples on these points. But, on the other hand, it must be remembered that men of very scrupulous consciences, if they did not find a difficulty in one thing, would be almost sure to find it in another. He might illustrate this matter by an incident connected with a debate which occurred in that House some twenty years ago on the kindred question how subscriptions should be arranged so as not to do violence to tender consciences. A petition was drawn up to their Lordships' House on the subject, and an intimate and dear friend of his was requested to sign it. On reading the petition, however, the whole force of which, be it remarked, was directed to the impropriety of not accommodating subscriptions to the feelings of the most tender consciences, he said there was some- 869 thing in it to which he could not agree. The answer he received was:—"We must have a general form of petition, and you must really sign it, and, in fact, get over your scruples the best way you can." That showed how difficult it was to draw up any form of words whatever, which would command the assent of every mind. A certain degree of liberty in interpreting subscription must be allowed if men were to agree in such cases. He believed the noble Lord's intentions were excellent. It was only fair, as the noble Lord occupied a somewhat invidious position, and was exposed to some obloquy, that he should bear testimony to the continual assistance he had derived from him in every good work since he had had his diocese committed to his charge. But in the present proposal he could not see the least hope of attaining the objects the noble Lord had in view. They were asked so to shape their Services that there should be nothing in them to grate upon one man's feelings; and yet, if they omitted anything of importance, that very omission would grate upon the feelings of some. It had been well said to him lately by a most rev. Prelate, now unfortunately absent, but who took a prominent part in the former discussion of this subject twenty years ago, that "they could not have any excision without leaving some scar." So it would be impossible to strike parts out of the Prayer Book without continually bringing to the minds of those who used it that there was something gone on which they would fondly dwell. He considered it almost a providential circumstance that the Church of England at this moment, to an extent found, he believed, in no other Church, united men of the greatest variety of sentiment, who yet felt that they could act together in the cause of their one Master. The noble Lord had spoken of secessions from the Church caused by the introduction of our present formularies and the subscriptions to them. He hoped to win seceders back by his Motion. But when men had once seceded, and still more when their dissent had become hereditary, it was very difficult to win them back. With the highest respect for those who dissented from the Church of England—giving them full credit for the sincerity of their motives and their perfect conscientiousness, he believed that whatever might have been the reasons for their original secession, it would be very difficult to remove dissent by the alterations which 870 had been suggested by the noble Lord. Believing that it was most desirable that the Prayer Book should express the universal sentiments of all, and that on the whole, as it now stood, it did so better than any other existing form of words; believing it to be most desirable to bring Dissenters back within her pale, but also believing that there would be more danger in making alterations with that view of alienating those who remain than hope of bringing back those who had left our communion; and believing that unfortunate quarrels, to which the noble Lord had alluded, would soon pass away—at all events, that they would not be healed by the proposition of the noble Lord, but would require a totally different mode of treatment from what he had recommended, he felt compelled to refuse his assent to this Motion.
§ EARL STANHOPE
said, he felt himself called upon to make a few observations on this subject in consequence of the part he took two years ago, when he moved an Address to the Crown for the removal of certain State Services from the Prayer Book. That Motion, he maintained, formed no ground or precedent for the proposition of the noble Lord. He asserted then, and he asserted now, that the success of that Motion deprived the noble Lord of one of his strongest arguments. What he (Earl Stanhope) proposed to omit formed no essential part of the Prayer Book; it was no part of its original constitution; it grew out of political occurrences, embittered by party spirit. The noble Lord, on the other hand, proposed that they should deal with the entire Prayer Book, casting it at once on the vast sea of experiment, and taking the chance of what the tide might give them in return. The two Motions, then, were entirely dissimilar. The House was left wholly in doubt as to the extent to which alteration would be carried, the objects the noble Lord had in view not having been clearly and distinctly stated. Then, again, they did not know by whom the Inquiry was to be conducted. He could not, therefore, assent to an inquiry so wide and indefinite. There was one consideration of great importance in a question of this kind, that if they contemplated any change in the Formularies or Rubrics of the Church, they should have the assent and concurrence of the great majority of the Ministers of the Church itself. He held that any change in the sacred volume, or in any of the Rubrics 871 of the Church, even though recommended I apparently by reason and argument, would be most injurious if forced on by a minority and imposed on the larger numbers who were unwilling to receive it. For himself, he must say he did not proceed with his Motion till he found that a very large majority of the right rev. Bench, and, so far as he could ascertain, a great majority of the clergy, were disposed to concur with him. In the present instance, not one single Member of that right rev. Bench seemed willing to support the Motion of the noble Lord, while it appeared from the documents read that at least 10,000 of the clergy disapproved it. He could not help thinking that the dangers of any change in the Prayer Book, in such a state of opinion as he had just described, were greater than any advantage that could be expected to be derived from revision. He thought it would be found on examination that any difficulties which had arisen originated, not so much in the regular Services, but rather in the Services or the prayers which were appointed to be used occasionally; and he thought it might be desirable, not to remove or alter a single prayer, but to consider whether some parts of the Rubric, which directed the order, distribution, and arrangement of the Services, might not, with the concurrence of the heads, clergy, and friends of the Church, be altered. These were points to deal with which the authority of the right rev. Prelates might perhaps suffice, without any appeal to that or the other House of Parliament, and on which he hoped they might be able to make some recommendation, which no doubt would be received with general assent. The only course then which he should deem desirable would be a consideration of the subject by the right rev. Bench. There might be an Address of that House to the Crown praying Her Majesty to refer to the consideration of the Bishops, not the prayers or the Services themselves, but only the Rubric or directions for their use on certain occasions, and as to whether these directions should, as now, be obligatory or only in some cases permissive. If such an Address, when moved, had the assent of the Bishops, and if the inquiry when granted were conducted by the Bishops themselves it would certainly be free from any danger, and might be productive of great advantage. But on the other hand, the proposal which the noble Lord now made was, he felt assured, one which was not calculated to re- 872 ceive the assent of their Lordships' House. The arguments against its adoption had been urged with great force by the right rev. Prelate who had just spoken; and, believing that it would tend to unsettle the existing state of things, without effecting any adequate countervailing improvement, he should, while he entertained for the noble Lord great personal respect, and thoroughly appreciated the motives by which he was actuated, offer to the Motion every opposition in his power.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
said, he felt some delicacy in addressing the House upon this subject, but he would observe that, although their Lordships appeared to be almost all opposed to the proposition of the noble Lord, he had not heard a single extreme opinion expressed. But as the noble Lord might consider it somewhat disrespectful towards him if the Members of the Government remained silent, he was reluctantly compelled to declare that they could not support the proposition of the noble Lord. He was of opinion that if that proposition were carried, it would create a considerable amount of evil without any chance of good arising from it. He therefore ventured to appeal to the noble Lord whether it would not be more desirable, having stated so fully and so candidly his views on the matter, that he should withdraw his Motion rather than press it to a division.
THE BISHOP OF OXFORD
said, if he were not fully convinced that the noble Lord, in submitting his proposition to the notice of the House, had no other object in view than to promote the welfare of the Church, of which he was a worthy member, he should not at that period of the debate have troubled their Lordships with a single remark; but, knowing and believing that the noble Lord was actuated by the purest and most benevolent sentiments, he appealed to him on behalf of the peace of the Church, which he protested he was sincerely anxious to maintain, not to abstain from dividing the House, for he trusted the noble Lord would do so; because he trusted, that if their Lordships divided upon the Motion, they would express their opinion in a manner so unmistakeable, that the noble Lord would be induced to abstain from endangering the peace of the Church, by over and over again stirring a question, the mere discussion of which was by no means so harmless a proceeding as he might perhaps imagine. The more he stirred up a ques- 873 tion of this kind, the more he would find the danger and difficulty arising from so doing. Although his noble Friend had spoken at considerable length, although he travelled a great deal through what he called the dreary history of the Church; dreary he (the Bishop of Oxford) admitted it was; but not from the dreariness of the subject itself—although travelling over such a dreary waste, his noble Friend left an impression of absolute uncertainty as to whether he meant to touch the doctrinal status of the Church, or only intended to curtail certain prayers, which he thought, perhaps, too long either for himself or his fatuity, and which he therefore sought to abbreviate for the benefit of the whole community. Now, he thought that it was of the greatest moment that any person who proposed to deal with a question of this gravity, should state distinctly what he really meant by such an inquiry as was moved, and whether it was really his intention to alter the doctrinal status of the Church, or to leave that status wholly untouched. The uncertainty upon that point ran through the whole speech of his noble Friend. His noble Friend had described the Church of England as having had no vitality, and as having obtained greater freedom of action from the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts. He (the Bishop of Oxford) rejoiced at the repeal of those Acts; but he did not quite concur with the noble Lord as to the effects produced upon the Church by that measure. There was, however, a remarkable uncertainty as to his real intentions throughout the noble Lord's speech. In order, then, to ascertain what his noble Friend's real intentions were, they were left to judge of them by a reference to opinions of those who had put him forward. They might often obtain a better notion of a Motion by looking at the tail that directed, than at the head which declared. They would be enabled to judge of the noble Lord's real meaning, by observing the petitions that he had presented. Now there was hardly a distinctive doctrine which marked the Church of England as a doctrinal body, separated from those around her, at which his noble Friend himself had not glanced, and which the petitioners did not embody in their petitions. That was a matter he hoped his noble Friend would well consider before he again brought forward this question. His noble Friend desired to see such alterations made in the Liturgy as would have the effect of bring- 874 ing the body of Dissenters within the pale of the Established Church. Now, the noble Lord could not be a whit more anxious or more earnestly desirous of bringing them back into the community of the Church than he himself was. He believed that such an event would be one of the proudest days of England's glory and welfare. But he believed that nothing would tend more to prevent so blessed a consummation as the existence of any wretched differences amongst themselves (the members of the Church) on those momentous subjects. But while he was of that opinion, he was far from saying that all the blame of separation rested with the Separatists. He believed, on the contrary, much of the blame rested with themselves. He was far from saying that all the piety remained with the members of the Church. He believed that a vast amount of piety and sincerity existed amongst the Dissenters. But the more earnestly he desired the return of their Dissenting brethren to the arms of the Church of England, the more deeply did he feel how essential it was that the Church should maintain her own. Apostolic faith untarnished. Instead of believing that that object would be promoted by such an inquiry as the noble Lord proposed, he was convinced that the alteration of one jot or one tittle of our Services would have the opposite effect; that it would tend to the lowering of the truth of the Church, which truth had been handed down to us from the primitive Church to be preserved with the most precious care. Such changes, then, in his opinion, would inflict the most deadly injury upon their Dissenting brethren as well as upon the Church itself. It was, in his opinion, by virtue of the particular tenets and the common Christianity which those who had separated from the Church professed, that they maintained that religious vitality they professed, and which would be imperilled by any trifling with them. It was said by a great man in the sister country, after a long discussion—he meant the late Dr. Challoner;—I believe that the connection, through the Establishment, of the Scotch Establishment with your great Church of England has been the means, with God's blessing, of keeping us from the most serious errors.That was the emanation of a philosophical and a great mind. It was easy to see the way through which error entered. The first thing to observe was an indifference as to whether the whole truth was held 875 or not. The next was the putting away of the truth. Once that was done the downward progress was commenced; and, looking at the Protestant communities throughout the Continent at that moment, they could see how quickly and how surely the declension ensued. While he believed that his noble Friend only desired to maintain the truth among them, he could not help thinking that he failed to appreciate the greatness or gravity of the subject. His noble Friend did not treat the subject with that solemnity with which it ought to be observed. He seemed to look upon it as an indifferent matter to change a word or alter a form of phraseology, and that it did not touch the vitality of doctrine. But their Lordships should remember that it was the addition of a single word to the creed of Christendom that divided the East and the West—that that little word "filioque" crept in, supposed to express the feelings of all, and which, nevertheless, introduced into the Church of Christ that rent and mighty chasm that not even centuries had sufficed to close or bridge over. In these matters of national religious belief, involving all the intricacies of dogma and doctrine—all the peculiarities of theological disputation—all the sacredness of those ecclesiastical considerations and religious feelings so dear to the Christian community, it was a most perilious thing for any man, even from the best of motives, to stretch forth any uncommanded, any unauthorized hand, to alter the sacred inscripta in the tabernacle of God. He entreated the noble Lord to consider before he dealt with the subject, to consider it deliberately in its various bearings; for, depend upon it, if he attempted to alter the creeds of our ancient Church of England, to omit or prune a prayer, or alter any of the forms of phraseology, it would lead to unavoidable difficulties. It was the pure and simple devotion of those prayers, incorporating the great and vital truths of Scripture, that for the most part sank the deepest into the minds and habits of the people; and it was not so much by the declarations contained in creeds as by the repetition of these devotional phrases that rendered the services so impressive and beneficial. The alteration of a few words here to meet a difficulty, and a few words there to meet an objection might, without any intention or even any observance, have a tendency to strike at the root of the very belief of the great mass of the people of England. When he regarded calmly that which the 876 noble Lord was wishing them to do he felt that the subject required much greater and graver handling than as yet it had received. They must not forget that they were dealing with the Prayer Book. In the greater part of that Book we had the worship of the primitive Church recorded for our example and our guidance. We had those good and great gifts of God combined in it. We had the primitive element handed down to us from the first ages of Christianity; and furthermore, through the medium of that same singular goodness, it was the work of men whom he had prepared, by the most marvellous training and divine indoctrination, for sweeping off the corrupt accretions that during the Middle Ages had crept round that primitive worship. We had their words stamped on the pages of its primitive truth, and we had the results of these habits of mind displayed and handed down in the primitive Christianity of the old Catholic Church, and in the luminous works and labours of those mighty giants whom God raised up to promote his purpose, and who swept away the corruptions of mediaeval Christianity. Having such men to form the prayers and principles of that Book, it would in his judgment be a highly rash and unadvised thing, without the gravest considerations, to lay their hands on it to alter it. It had been said in the course of the debate that the Prayer Book was a compromise, or to some extent a compromise. He should be sorry it should go forth to their Lordships in that bald and unsatisfactory way. In the sense of a compromise being an ambiguous statement of the truth, framed so that two parties can subscribe or use it, the one meaning one thing and the other another,—in that sense he ventured to declare, on behalf of the Reformers of the Church of England, that the Prayer Book of the Church of England was not, and that it never was intended to be, a compromise. He was no great lover of compromise himself of anything—least of all of truth, and least of all of Divine truth—because Divine truth was so one and indivisible that if once they began to add or to subtract from it they made the one indivisible truth of God man's lie by virtually mangling God's truth. Therefore he could not allow the Church of England Prayer Book to be in any sense a compromise. But he believed what was meant was not compromise but comprehension, and the ideas were essentially distinct. The truth of God's reve- 877 lation to man conveyed to us separate propositions, each equally true, and neither contradicting the other; and yet in many cases they were virtually so vast that human intellect could not say how they were to be distinctly reconciled. Take the master truth of all, that God was the Sovereign of the universe, and that he created man as a free agent, and as a responsible creature. These were two great cardinal truths, rising like two great mountain peaks out of the same common basement, both equally bold and incontestibly true, rising equally to Heaven, and sustained by the same eternity of truth. Fallible man stood between the two; and, looking at them separately, the one altogether filled the eye and there appeared to be an insuperable disagreement and discord, and hostility between the two, which they could not reconcile, and then came some loftier and mightier spirit—some farseeing philosopher—who endeavoured to unite the two, which was just as vain and futile; as if by man's feeble mechanism the two great peaks were sought to be brought together in the same mighty mountain chain. The truth of God came in and combined them both; the roots and bases of both struck down deep into the bosom of the infinite and eternal wisdom, and there they found their harmony and reconcilement. Man was to receive both, and each in its completeness, each as that which God had revealed, he followed God's word, as it was developed in its goodness and its fulness, and the love of God as it was apparent in its wisdom, and he must leave it to God to reconcile all that appeared to him to differ. The essence of our national Prayer Book was such that it must not be dealt with or viewed one-sidedly, but such each of those who took the one view or the other view on these great matters could, with a clear conscience, unite in it alike. This was to be done by stating these truths in their integrity and completeness, and not by attempting the puny reason of man in their reconciliation. This was what they had in the Common Prayer Book from the primitive Church, expressive as it was of true Christian aspirations and belief—without pandering, on the one side or the other, to the feelings of the misguided or of the fanatic, who would try to pull down one mountain peak and substitute another of their own, and combining within itself the multifarious truths of God, and so providing for the multifarious wants of human 878 kind. To ask their Lordships to join in an Address—why they knew not, by what machinery they knew not—to effect alterations not clearly specified, but which might perchance diminish the value and advantage of the great inheritance they had received this way was, he thought, a proposition that the House would shrink from. His noble Friend could not entertain the slightest expectation that he would carry such a proposition, when he knew that so many thousands of the clergy, the whole bench of Bishops, and their Lordships' House deprecated any such attempt. He beseeched him, when he knew how easily doubts and difficulties were raised, and how hard it was to overcome and to allay them, that on these sacred grounds he would not enter on so rash an innovation. He had told them at the beginning of his speech that he was justified in bringing forward the proposition because this was not a time of peace; and at the close of it he told them that he was justified in proposing to alter the terms of subscription because they were not now living in the stormy days of the Church. He had no doubt the noble Lord was able to reconcile the two reasons; but the only reason he had for saying that we were not in a time of peace was, that there were a few petty difficulties referred to the decision of the Courts of the land. It appeared to him (the Bishop of Oxford) that this was a proof that the time was one of quietness not of revolution, for the surest mark of quietness was when differences were taken for settlement before the appointed tribunals and men abided by their decision. It resembled an alarm of fire when there was only smoke. The length of the Services had been complained of; but that was merely a bugbear. The fact was that the Morning Prayer performed on Sundays in our churches took forty minutes, and the sermon thirty more, so that what was described as an enormous long service occupied about one hour and a half. In his own diocese, where, acting under the new licences, the parishioners had been asked if they would have the services shortened, the determination was in the negative; and in two or three cases, where the service had been shortened, they wished it altered again, and said they had been accustomed to hear the Litany and the service seemed strange without it. If it was argued that the people were dissatisfied or unsettled on the subject. So it always would be amongst thousands of 879 people, and there was always sure to be some little grasshopper grinding its monotonous note on the green bough, while the flocks and all else below were at peace in the green pastures. Allusion had been made to the clergy and the Burial Service. He did not think it was their wish that that service should be altered; but they complained of lack of discipline in the Church on the subject, and the abuse of the coroner's system, as subjecting them to that which was a grievance to their conscience, and for that for which they were not responsible. He would suggest for the consideration of the noble Lord, how a burial service could be constructed for Christians which they could read with propriety over one who had no hope of resurrection. Was the service to be so altered as to express no hope that the man they were burying had entered into the rest of Christ? That difficulty must either arise, or they must lower down the note of the Church in her Burial Service, until it might be rendered suitable to one dying in open rebellion to the law of God. He believed, however, that the difficulty was greatly exaggerated, and he believed, that a due regard to the law, as it at present stood, by compelling the coroner's juries to find a proper verdict in case of suicide would remove the real difficulty of the case. For himself, he felt no difficulty whatever; the law had imposed upon the coroner's jury the duty upon oath of hearing the evidence and declare whether the unhappy man was or was not sane at the time he committed the fatal act, and when they had given their verdict, he would not scruple to assume that the verdict settled the question, and would give him charitably the benefit of it. He did not believe that a clergyman ought to feel any doubt in the matter; he was not made a judge of the facts, which were to be investigated by the jury. The noble Lord, in speaking of the question whether the clergy ought to subscribe their belief, introduced it inadvertently and as a matter that was quite "by the by." He knew his noble Friend would pardon him for speaking with plain earnestness respecting his Motion. He was quite sure he meant good to the Church of England, and that his efforts were directed to the good of souls; but if he would only realize the ultimate consequences of the course on which he had entered, and if he saw that their Lordships had determined not to give their sanction to his proposal, he thought his 880 noble Friend would do well, and would best consult the peace of that Church which he loved, by abstaining from renewing this Motion in any future year.
THE BISHOP OF CASHEL
, on the part of the clergy of the Established Church in Ireland, expressed his concurrence in the arguments which had been urged in opposition to the Motion. He saw one grave objection to the issuing of any such Commission, which was, that after all the inquiries had been concluded, and recommendations based on these had been put forward, there was no competent authority by whom they could be carried out. There was no such thing as a Convocation representing the United Church of England and Ireland, and changes introduced by any minor authority would not be binding.
§ LORD LYTTELTON
explained, that in using the word "compromise," he had not intended that there should be any compromise of truth.
§ LORD EBURY
, in reply, said, he must confess that he had not received much encouragement from the House, but he had been induced to make the Motion principally from the speeches and writings of Bishops and high Dignitaries, and if his opinions were erroneous, he had the satisfaction of knowing that they were those of many of the most distinguished ornaments of our Church. He had done his best to bring the whole question before their Lordships, and nothing he had heard during the discussion had altered the opinions which he entertained.
§ On Question, Resolved in the Negative.
§ House adjourned at a quarter past Nine o'clock, to Thursday next, half-past Ten o'clock.