HL Deb 01 June 1863 vol 171 cc151-74

(in moving, according to notice, an Address to Her Majesty for the issuing of a Royal Commission to consider what steps should be taken to obviate the evils complained of as arising from the present compulsory and indiscriminate use of the burial service of the Church of England) said, that if the Motion which he brought forward on the 19th of last month was not of a very attractive description the question he now desired to bring under their Lordships' notice was not more so. Three years ago he made a proposition to the House to address Her Majesty for a Royal Commission, for the purpose of Considering the grievances and anomalies which were alleged to have arisen, in consequence of the Liturgy, the formularies, the canons of the national Church, and the statutes appertaining thereto, having remained during two centuries almost entirely unaltered. He had called their Lordships attention to the subject two; years previously; but it was not until the year 1860 that he submitted a definite Motion to the House, and the Motion was in, the very words which had obtained unanimous acceptance in this House; in the first Parliament of William and Mary. To this appeal their Lordships made no response. He did not attribute this to any want of liberality on the part of the House, still less to any failure of interest in that great national institution our Established church; but he believed the difference to have been owing to the circumstance that the public mind at the period of the Revolution was so completely pre-occupied by the enormous evils which had resulted from the Statute of Uniformity and the violence and persecution which had naturally flowed from it, that they were proportionably anxious to mitigate without delay the misfortunes which that generation had witnessed; whereas in 1860 persecution had so entirely died out, that the question presented itself under a totally different aspect. Unfortunately, as he ventured to think, with most of the ablest divines of our Church, the reforms then proposed under such encouraging auspices were destined to end in entire failure, so that the acts of the evil period of the Restoration in regard to Church legislation had come down to us with but little change, and had been bequeathed, to us as a fatal legacy. It was true that subsequently persecution was stilled, but only to be succeeded by an age of apathy, indifference, and, irreligion, such as our Church history fortunately afforded no parallel; and now the danger to our National Church, though much less apparent, was, he firmly believed, not a whit the less real. The inference he drew from the debates of 1860 was, that the question was not really understood. Had it appeared that it was the opinion of the House that no alteration in these matters were necessary or expedient, he should have hesitated long before he again presumed to bring this subject before their Lordships. Such, however, was very far from being the case. The late Archbishop of Canterbury candidly avowed, that to many of the alterations suggested, had he only himself to please, he should not have objected; while the right rev, Prelate who presided over the diocese of London specified two or three which he was willing to consider; and a noble Lord (Lord Lyttelton), protested against the idea of finality in regard to legislation of this character: Thus, then, after taking counsel with those who had assisted him in, this, undertaking, it was decided that it would be better if, instead of asking for a discussion upon the various and complicated questions involved in his original notice, he submitted them one by one to their Lordships' House and obtained for them a separate consideration, commencing, however, with that without which, he ventured to tell their Lordships on a former occasion, all other concessions would be comparatively valueless—he meant a modification of the terms of subscription. The result had shown the wisdom of this course. Instead of having a hostile memorial with 10,000 clerical signatures to encounter on the 19th of last month, he had not a single adverse Petition—instead of finding the right rev. Bench united against his Motion, four Bishops supported it, while of the remaining twenty-four only eleven appeared to vote against it. It was under these circumstances that he now presented himself to their Lordships to beg their concurrence in an Address to the Queen in the terms which stood upon the Order Book—that Her Majesty would be pleased to appoint a Royal Commission to consider the evils which are now complained of as the result of the present compulsory and indiscriminate use of the Burial Service of the Established Church. Their Lordships were probably aware that no one took exception to the Burial Service when used, as it was intended to be by its framers, over the remains of one who had died in the full assurance of faith, and in full communion with the Church to which they nominally belonged. But the law might be said to enforce its indiscriminate use. The law directed that it should be used over every one who was not excommunicate or who had not wilfully murdered himself; and as it considered those only excommunicate against whom the censures of the Church had been pronounced, and coroners' juries generally acquitted the others, it might be said that practically the use of it was compulsory and indiscriminate, and that it must by law be read over every body that was presented for burial. If he had stood upon firm ground on the former occasion, he stood upon still firmer now. Not only was there no adverse memorial of the ten thousand, no adverse Petition, but he was able to appeal to a powerful and vigorous remonstrance presented to the Archbishop and Bishops against the continuance of the law as it now stood, not signed by obscure individuals, but by some 4,000 clergymen, giving the deliberate, well-weighed opinions of some of the highest names among the ministers of the Established Church. It was absolutely necessary for a right understanding of this case that their Lordships should be accurately informed of the circumstances which gave rise to this manifestation of opinion. It appeared that in the month of December 1848 a notorious evil-liver was turned out of a tavern in Cambridge at a late hour at night in a state of such intoxication that, falling into a ditch, he was suffocated. These facts were bruited throughout the town. Mr. Dodd, the clergyman upon whom the duty of burying the corpse would have devolved, very naturally felt that he could not read the Burial Service over him without creating a public scandal; for the words he would have had to use were— Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God of his great mercy to take unto himself the soul of our dear brother here departed…We give thee hearty thanks that it hath pleased thee, O God, to deliver this our brother out of the miseries of this sinful world.… We beseech thee, O Father, that when we shall depart this life we may rest in Christ as our hope is this our brother doth. Without going further into the circumstances of this case, which showed that Mr. Dodd acted throughout with great forbearance and propriety, it seemed that he declined to read the service, and in consequence was cited before the Court of Arches, and eventually—for, as was usual in those wretched courts, judgment was not pronounced till sixteen months afterwards—he was sentenced to suspension for six months, and to pay the costs of the suit. Their Lordships would not be surprised that this created a great deal of attention in the town and University of Cambridge. Bearing these circumstances in mind, their Lordships would be fully able to comprehend the force of the memorial and remonstrance which was circulated for signature by seventeen distinguished residents of the university. The remonstrance was addressed to the right rev. Bench. After the usual preface, it went on to say— We beg to express our conviction that the almost indiscriminate use of the Order for the Burial of the Dead, as practically enforced by the existing state of the law, imposes a heavy burden upon the consciences of clergymen, and is the occasion of a grievous scandal to many Christian people. We, therefore, most humbly pray that your Lordships will be pleased to give the subject now brought under your consideration such attention as the magnitude of these evils appears to require, with a view to the devising of some effectual remedy This memorial, expressing the deliberate opinion of some of the ablest and most conscientious clergymen of the Established Church, was circulated, and was signed by seven persons who had since been promoted to the episcopal office, either here or in the Colonies (among others by the Prelate who presided over the diocese of Lincoln) and by a host of deans, archdeacons, rural deans, professors, and canons—in all, 3,814 clergymen signed it, of all parties. No one that he ever heard of objected to the service itself being used, as it was intended, only for those who died in full assurance of the faith and in full communion with the Church whose minister had to commit the body to the ground; but the law compelled the reading of it over every one, almost without exception. That memorial was presented to the right rev. Bench in 1853. He now proceeded to approach a part of this subject with feelings of extreme pain. Their Lordships were apparently pleased the other day to acquiesce in the gratifying opinion expressed by the most rev. the Primate, that he (Lord Ebury) had conducted the discussion of these difficult and delicate subjects, so far as he was concerned, with propriety. It was his earnest desire to maintain his character in that respect; but it was not easy to speak with moderation of the document to which he was then about to call their attention—he meant the response made to this memorial by the right rev. Bench. Not that it excited feelings at all akin to anger, but feelings of humiliation that our national Church was in such a state of utter and complete helplessness. On February the 8th, 1852, the Archbishop of Canterbury wrote to the Secretary of the Committee to say that he had submitted the memorial to a large assembly of Bishops, and added— The Bishops generally sympathize with the memorialists in the difficulties to which they sometimes find themselves exposed with reference to the terms of the Burial Service; but I am sorry to report further, that the obstacles in the way of remedying these difficulties appear to them, as at present advised, to be insuperable. The only ray of hope he saw in that answer was in the words "as at present advised." Ten years had passed since that time was present, and he trusted that the year 1863 would bring counsel and advice very different from that which unfortunately prevailed in 1852, and that no opposition would be given to granting complete relief to the clergy, who were liable to be placed in the painful dilemma either of disobeying a law to which they had given their unfeigned assent and consent in the most solemn form, and rendering themselves liable to heavy penalties, or else to utter words in the presence of the Almighty which, in fact, they knew to be untrue. He did not wish to weary the House, still less to harrow up their Lordships' feelings with a recital of other cases similar to that at Cambridge—some of the most revolting description, which were known to him in great numbers—but he must refer to two instances within his knowledge, where the clergymen, feeling the pressure of this grievance, and having appealed to their superiors, and being unable to obtain relief, quitted the ministry altogether. What, then, was the course he proposed to the House to pursue? It was the nomination and appointment of a Commission by the temporal head of our Church to consider the subject with a view to making such changes as would obviate the existing evils, and give the clergy permanent relief. If it could be demonstrated that no satisfactory change could be suggested, and that this difficulty was incapable of solution, blank as indeed would be the prospect, he could not expect their Lordships to vote with him; happily, however, no such proposition could be established. Indeed, to talk of insuperable obstacles now could only provoke a smile. Did the alteration of this service involve any disputed doctrine, such as the vexed question of regeneration in the Baptismal Service; were it a dispute as to whether prayers should or should not be offered up for the dead—one might imagine a difficulty—but in a case which simply concerned words to be said over a dead body, in reference to which Protestants thought nothing said or done could make the smallest difference, the idea of insuperable difficulty was simply chimerical. The obvious course was, preserving all the sublime portions of the service and all those expressions so consolatory to the sincere Christians who were present as mourners, to remove those two or three sentences which pronounced an opinion as to the spiritual state of the deceased at the time of his death. And, as if to cry shame upon their procrastinations and scruples in this respect, this service was ready made to their hands in the form of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States. It was so like our own that any of their Lordships who were to read it, not having previously examined their own, would scarcely be able to detect the difference. It had been in use now about eighty years, and he believed he was stating the exact truth when he said that it had given universal satisfaction. This, then, was his case. He had demonstrated to their Lordships the existence of a most serious grievance. He had shown the deep and settled feeling of discontent which it had engendered. He had pointed out the course to pursue in order to remedy this evil, which was not only constitutional, but it was the only means known to the constitution to effect the object in view; for, from the time of the Reformation to the present hour, no alteration whatever had ever been made in the Book of Common Prayer without the appointment and deliberation of a Royal Commission. He did not ask them to declare what the alteration should be, but only to inquire into the practicability of alteration; and he had shown, that so far from there being any serious obstacle in the way of change, they had actually in their hands the means of putting an end for ever to this painful, dis- tressing, and scandalous evil. Before he concluded he begged their Lordships' attention—and particularly that of the right rev. Bench—to one fact. When the question of these reforms and alterations was agitated at the period of the Revolution, to which he had alluded, their Church might without exaggeration have been called the only constituted Christian community in the land. Since that time a gradual, silent, but complete change had supervened; true it was that our Church was still dominant, that it retained all the honours, all the emoluments, all the prerogatives, all the advantages which temporal powers could bestow; but in this year 1863, so far from being the only Christian community in this country, it was but one of several large, wealthy, influential, thoroughly organized Christian denominations, which not only had a recognised status in this country, but which sent out intrepid missionaries to carry the Gospel message to the remotest corners of the globe. The reasons of this remarkable change it was not his intention now to discuss. He merely commended it to the thoughtful consideration of their Lordships, and especially of his right rev. Friends; but of this he was certain, that if these respectful remonstrances and petitions for redress were met, not by convincing reasoning, but by worn-out arguments against all change, or by confessions of hopeless inability, the day was not far distant when, as far as the national Church was concerned, the sky would be charged with clouds and darkness, and the danger, which was now at a distance, would be upon us, and even at our doors. He begged to move— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying for the Appointment of a Commission to consider what Steps should be taken to obviate the Evils complained of as arising from the present compulsory and indiscriminate Use of the Burial Service of the Church of England.


said, he rose to protest against the discussion of the subject in their Lordships' House at all. How ever august an assembly that House might be, it was composed principally of laymen. Such a question should originate in an ecclesiastical assembly, who could best take cognizance of any grievance that was alleged to exist, and give every consideration to it, and then, if necessary, their Lordships and the other House of Parliament might legislate upon it. He was not about to enter into the merits of the question. He only asked their Lordships to defer the further consideration of the Motion to that day six months.


said, that in approaching this question he desired to assure their Lordships that he had some difficulty in ascertaining in the first instance what was the precise nature of his noble Friend's proposal, and it was only since he came into the House that his noble Friend had put a paper into his hand, giving him some notion of the direction which his remarks would take. There was this difficulty in the Motion, that it seemed to open the very wide, grave, and extensive question of a revision of the Liturgy. For that, he thought, they were scarcely prepared at the present moment. However, he was very glad to hear his noble Friend say that there was no objection to the Burial Service in itself, and he (the Archbishop of Canterbury) could not conceive that any form of Christian burial would be proposed that did not contain the expression of hope that the person whose body was committed to the dust had that forgiveness of his sins which was expressed concerning him; but no doubt considerable difficulty was felt on the part of many of the clergy in pronouncing these words in some cases; he entirely and fully acknowledged that. He had been consulted frequently by clergymen on the subject, and he had said this, that if a person died in the commission of known sin, or in the open avowal of unbelief, or having recently declared that living in wilful sin he was determined not to abandon it, nothing would induce him to pronounce these words over him. He would stand the risk of all the penalties of the law rather than do so. Now, undoubtedly, he acknowledged that was a state of things which seemed to require some alteration. He was prepared to admit as much as that; but, at the same time, he should be very sorry to give his consent to this Motion at the present moment, not having thoroughly ascertained what its precise object was. He had therefore to request, on his own behalf, and on behalf of his right rev. Brethren, that some further time would be given to consider the course they should pursue. He trusted, under these circumstances, that his noble Friend would not press the Motion to a division, in the hope that the matter would be considered by those who, he agreed with the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Desart), were the persona most competent to deal with it.


said, he felt bound to protest against the doctrine laid down by the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Desart) that that House was to be debarred from considering a question relating to the Church Establishment. That Establishment was one in which they all had a deep interest, and it certainly concerned the laity as much as the clergy. His noble Friend who opened the debate (Lord Ebury) had made a very clear case in regard to some of the words used in the Burial Service, showing how entirely circumstances had altered since the time when that service was first promulgated, the inconvenience of some of the words used in it, and the repugnance of feeling which many of the clergy felt to read them over the body of a person who had died reprobate. He must say that his noble Friend's argument had been very much strengthened by what had fallen from the most rev. Primate as to the position in which a conscientious clergyman might be placed. After the expression of the most rev. Primate, it was obvious that this had become a very grave matter. But he did not think it desirable that the Crown should be recommended to issue a Commission to deal with this very small portion of the question of a revision of the Liturgy. He hardly knew whether, in regard to this particular service, there was enough to be done or considered to make it essential to have a Commission. The point appeared to him to lie in a very small compass. But, at the same time, if they were once to engage in a revision of the Liturgy, they would open up a very wide field of discussion. The question was one of the greatest possible importance, and no Government would be justified in entering into it upon a mere incidental issue. It would have to be considered not only with reference to what was right or politic, but with a due regard to the feelings of the great majority of the laity and clergy of the country. Upon these considerations, he was certainly not prepared that evening to vote for a Commission, even if that were the most expedient mode of dealing with the subject. So far, however, from thinking that the noble Lord deserved reproof for raising that discussion, he thought the noble Lord had done wisely in bringing it forward. Such questions were better discussed than stifled—they would engage the attention of the public; and he knew of no place where they could be discussed with more propriety than in their Lordships' House. He, how- ever, concurred in the suggestion of the most rev. Primate that it would be more expedient, with regard to the opinions which the noble Lord himself entertained, if he would withdraw his present Motion.


said, he desired to address a few observations to the House, as the noble Lord who brought forward the Motion might have created the impression on their minds that the question was one which might be easily dealt with, whereas there were most serious difficulties involved in it. There were three possible views which might be taken of the Burial Service. First, the words of hope might be used over every deceased person; secondly, they might be omitted altogether; and thirdly, they might be used in some cases and not in others, at the discretion of the minister. These words were now used for all. The use of them was not the pronouncing any sentence, but the simple expression of a hope. That hope might be in some cases extremely small; but he believed that the experience of most ministers was, that though there were some difficult cases, there were very few indeed in which they would be willing to omit the words altogether, and thereby convey the impression that there was no hope. The words of hope might be omitted in all cases; but he must confess that the Burial Service would he discharged of its meaning if that were so. What Christian man, on the death of one who had lived and died in the fear of Almighty God, would abstain from expressing over his grave, for the comfort of his friends, a hope and trust that he had pass in to a state of happiness? Without that, the Funeral Service would be almost devoid of meaning. But take the third supposition, that the minister was invested with a discretion to omit the words of hope in certain cases. By so doing they would create 12,000 or 14,000 judges—and judges of what?—judges of the eternal salvation of the man committed to the grave. Moreover, the words were addressed not to the deceased but to the suffering and sorrowing relatives, who were then enduring the weight of the Almighty hand, and surely no man would wish at such a time to add to their sorrow. It was said that there was a solution of the question found by the American Church, and he would make it his business to examine that solution at a future time. As to the case of Mr. Dodd, the suggestion was that words of general hope might have been used, because Mr. Dodd could not possibly express any hope. Would that have been a remedy? In his (the Archbishop of York's) opinion it would be better to omit all service than to use words of general hope over one who they thought had departed in a hopeless state. The late Archbishop of Canterbury had stated that the difficulties in the way of a satisfactory solution were insuperable; he the (Archbishop of York) hoped that this expression might be too strong; and certainly he was not disposed to recommend that this question should be altogether stifled; and, indeed, he would not desire to retain his seat in that House if he were to be compelled to sit still and say "No" upon all questions relating to the Church. He, however, very much doubted whether a Royal Commission was the best way of dealing with the question. He entirely admitted, that so long as the Church was a State Church, that House had a perfect right to take cognizance of these questions. That was the price—if it was a price—which they paid for State countenance and support. But he contended that the difficulty involved in this question was not one requiring fresh evidence or fresh facts for its elucidation, and he doubted whether a Royal Commission was the best mode of dealing with it. The whole matter lay in a very small compass, but within that compass it was extremely hard. He did not wish to dictate to the House; but as the question was one which ran back into canon law at every step, he thought it might be as well—if anything were left to be originated in his part of the House—that those whose special duty imposed on them the task of considering these words might have the opportunity of seeing whether something could not be suggested for solving this difficulty. He trusted that the noble Lord would not press his Motion to a division.


begged to add his request to the noble Lord not to press his Motion to a division. The noble Lord must see, from what had been stated by the most rev. Prelates, that this question was not likely to drop; and he would be sorry indeed if the Episcopal Bench were to be placed in a position merely of opposition to all Church reforms. They knew that the strength of the Church of England consisted, not in maintaining any untenable outwork, but in a firm adherence to all such doctrines as could stand the fullest investigation, and thus enabling the Church to defend itself against every attack. But this particular question was not yet ripe, and certainly could not receive a satisfactory solution from the present proposal. It was indeed a question of very great difficulty. The noble Lord had said that the whole difficulty had been settled by the American Prayer book. He examined the American Burial Service that morning, and did not think it met all the necessities of the case. He did not think that the omission of a word here and a word there would alter the hopeful character of the Service; and the American Service, like every other Service, rested on a hopeful and charitable hypothesis, and therefore would not meet a case like that of Mr. Dodd. As to the case of Mr. Dodd, he thought it important that it should be known that no one could proceed against a clergyman for not reading the Burial Service except with the concurrence of his own bishop. He understood it was now settled by the Church Discipline Act that all such proceedings must originate with the bishop; and it was inconceivable that a case was likely to arise in which any member of that bench would proceed against a clergyman under such circumstances as bad been supposed. This view of the matter was strengthened by a decision given a few years ago by the Court of Queen's Bench, when a mandamus was sought to be obtained to compel one of the present bishops to issue a commission under the Church Discipline Act, when the Judges ruled, as he (the Bishop of London) understood, that it was in the discretion of the bishop whether he should or should not issue a commission to try the case. Suppose, then, a case like that of Mr. Dodd occurred. This was not an improbable thing, for only last Saturday one of his own clergy told him that a difficulty of this kind had occurred to him; and he (the Bishop of London) stated to him, that if the matter had been laid before him, he would have advised the clergyman either to act exactly as he had done or in a similar way, and that then he, as bishop, would have been ready to take upon himself any difficulties arising out of the matter. It was for that Bench to relieve the clergy from any such conscientious difficulty; and if, in such cases as had been alluded to, there were to be a prosecution, he felt confident it would be against the bishop, not the clergy, under the present state of things. He thought they were indebted to the noble Lord for having brought this question under their notice. Discussion on the subject was very much wanted, and he believed would lead, in course of time, to satisfactory results. Only a few years had elapsed since it was supposed to be something like laying hands on the sacred ark to touch the Fifth of November Service, but that service no longer existed, and he was not aware that anybody regretted its abolition. So with the matter now before their lordships. When the proper time had come, when sufficient discussion had taken place, he had no doubt it would be effectually dealt with by Parliament.


agreed with the noble Lord who had introduced this subject, that it was one of a simple character, capable of an easy remedy, and he therefore regretted that so complex a plan should have been proposed as that of a Royal Commission to deal with a few sentences in the Burial Service which pressed upon the conscience of the clergy. He hoped the noble Lord would see fit to act upon the advice which had been tendered to him from all sides, and not ask their Lordships to divide upon his Motion. There was another, and he believed a better mode of dealing with the subject than that which the noble Lord had recommended. Convocation was a body lawfully constituted; it had the sanction of antiquity; it had the power and the ability to deal with all questions of this kind, and he could not help thinking that the propriety of an alteration in the Burial Service would more fitly be considered by an ancient and responsible assembly like Convocation than by a body of Commissioners appointed pro hâc vice. The time allotted to Convocation for its deliberations was very limited; but that time, short though it was, had been made good use of, and the discussions of Convocation were of the most practical nature. He was glad to see that steps had already been taken to obtain the co-operation of the sister Province of York, and he trusted they would be attended with success. When this subject was again brought before the House, he trusted it would be to press upon the responsible advisers of the Crown to recommend that Convocation should be deputed to consider it; and he thought it would be conceded that to no other body could more appropriately be referred all those questions which the noble Lord was in the habit of bringing under the notice of their Lordships.


joined in the wish which had been expressed by every preceding speaker, that the noble Lord would consent to postpone the consideration of this subject. The noble Lord had suggested, as the object of a Royal Commission, that it should consider what steps should be taken to obviate the evils arising from the compulsory and indiscriminate use of the Burial Service of the Church. Admitting the existence of the evil—and he thought the noble Lord had made out his case in that respect—there were obviously two modes of dealing with it. The evil might be remedied, either by giving a larger discretion to the clergy, who complained of the compulsory and indiscriminate use of the Burial Service or by altering the language of which they complained so as to adapt it to every case. It appeared from his own statement, that the noble Lord had never contemplated the first of these courses; and, in point of fact, he wanted a Royal Commission simply for the purpose of considering what change should be made in the language of the Burial Service. It was for that single object that the noble Lord proposed to give to a limited number of persons the power of dealing with difficulties which, as he believed, were insuperable. For his own part, he (the Bishop of St. David's) did not believe any Commission would be found to agree upon any recommendation whatever; while he was perfectly sure that whatever alteration they did agree upon would not satisfy the Church, because the body so selected could not be clothed with the necessary authority for the purpose. He concurred with the noble Duke who spoke last, in thinking that Convocation, however imperfect its constitution might be, was infinitely better adapted for such a purpose than a Royal Commission. He trusted that Convocation would take this subject into its serious consideration, and that the issue of its deliberations would be something calculated to remedy the evil and satisfy the wishes of the clergy.


protested against the language of the noble Earl below him (the Earl of Desart), who, in a very summary manner, and without giving any reason for his opinion, had objected to any discussion in that House on Church questions. He thought their Lordships would stand up in defence of their privileges; and he further thought that a House which comprised within it the heads of the Church was one in which Church questions might be discussed with great propriety as well as great advantage There could be no doubt there was a grievance to be redressed in connection with the burial service, for cases must frequently arise in which the language of the Liturgy was inapplicable and ought not to be used. But what he desired to call attention to was, that the most rev. Prelate (the Archbishop of Canterbury) himself had said, that he would in certain cases advise his clergy to encounter the heaviest penalties rather than read the full service which the law enjoined. It therefore appeared that the law of the Church of England ordered one thing, and they had heard from the lips of the most rev. Prelate another. Now, if the Liturgy bade clergymen to read the service in all cases, and the bishops told the clergy on no account to read it in certain instances, that was a state of things which could not be tolerated or endured, and it ought to be altered as soon as possible. He entertained considerable doubt whether the appeal recommended by the noble Duke, to Convocation, would be altogether satisfactory. In the first place, the Irish branch of the United Church was not represented in Convocation at all: in the next place, practically, the Convocation of York had up to this time been debarred from any part in ecclesiastical questions; so that the entire decision would be the decision of the Convocation of Canterbury. It seemed to him that the best course would be, on deliberation and in concert with the heads of the Church, to address the Crown, entreating Her Majesty to refer it to the Bishops of the Church to consider whether any and what changes in the service might profitably be made. That course would not commit Parliament to their decision. It would do no more than ask the right rev. Prelates to consider the subject; and if they agreed to a Report, to lay that Report before their Lordships' House for consideration. He thought that this was the best means of meeting an evil which could no longer he denied. He trusted that the noble Lord who brought forward this Motion would accede to the almost unanimous wish of the House and withdraw it. For himself, he was of opinion that legislation in such matters should take place in full concert with the right rev. Prelates. It was with their concurrence and assistance that he had been successful in removing from the Prayer-book the political services which deformed and defaced the Liturgy of the Church of England. It was by the same system—by yielding what was indefensible and by correcting what was plainly seen and felt to be amiss—it was by this system only that the Church would be always, as he desired to see it, firmly fixed in the affections and confidence of the people.


said, that the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of London) was not correct in supposing that proceedings against clergymen for not performing the Burial Service could only take place at the instance of the bishop. If that were the case, it would obviate many of the difficulties by which the case was surrounded. The Church Discipline Act, on which the right rev. Prelate relied, was passed in 1840, whereas the proceedings alluded to did not take place until the year 1848, and the office of the Judge, as it was called, was promoted, not by the bishop, but by an individual, and the son of the deceased party refused to take any part in the proceedings.


said, he had taken particular pains to make himself master of the facts of the case referred to, and with this view be had written to Cambridge. He was informed that the Bishop of Ely was the promoter in the case, although it was true that he acted at the solicitation of another; and he could not doubt but that if the noble and learned Lord considered the matter carefully, and especially if he referred to the case of Golightly v. the Bishop of Chichester, he would find that the matter stood as he (the Bishop of London) had stated.


said, he thought his noble Friend (Lord Ebury) would do quite right to comply with what appeared to be the general wish of the House and withdraw his Motion; but, at the same time, he thought that there ought to be some understanding in that House as to the manner in which the question was to be left. The most rev. Primate had said, that in a certain case he would advise a clergyman not to read the whole of the Burial Service; but the noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Chelmsford) gave it as his opinion, that if the clergyman acted on that advice, he was liable to penal-ties in a court of law. It was perfectly obvious that that was a state of the law which ought not to remain unchanged. With regard to the discretion of the clergy, he was much struck by the observation of the most rev. Prelate (the Archbishop of York) who pointed out the dangers of giving the power of discrimination and discretion to the clergy, and how great would be the pain to the surviving relatives, where the clergyman in a manner excommunicated the deceased by refusing to read the Burial Service over him. He hoped, therefore, that the remedy adopted would not be such as to give a discretion to the clergy in general. Nor was he disposed even to grant the clergy a discretion under the control of the bishops, because that would be a source of embarrassment to the right rev. Prelates, and might still lead to very painful scenes. He had been told that in the Roman Catholic Church it was held that there was no one, no matter what might be his sins, of whom it could be said that he died in such a state as to preclude all hope, because at the very last moment there might be such a change as would entitle him to entertain some hope of salvation. That was at all events a charitable doctrine; and he should be sorry to see the service altered in such a way as would not be consistent with Christian faith and charity. The mode in which the matter could best be remedied was, in his opinion, that the right rev. Bench should consider what alteration should be made in the Service. After all, it might not be such an alteration as would require discussion in Convocation. All that was wanted was a prudent and well-considered form of words, varying as little as possible from the present; and no men were so well qualified for suggesting what change should be made as the right rev. Prelates. At the same time, it must be remembered that this was a question which could not escape being discussed in Parliament; for any recommendation of the right rev. Prelates could only be carried into effect by legislation. He did not doubt that the subject would be discussed with the gravity and fairness to which its importance entitled it; and he believed that a previous consideration of it by the Bishops would enable their Lordships to approach it in a more satisfactory manner.


said, he hoped the noble Lord would yield to the wish generally expressed, and withdraw his Motion; but if he were resolved to press it to a division, he (the Bishop of Llandaff) was prepared to support it, seeing that it was not open to the objections which he felt bound to offer to the more comprehensive Motion which the noble Lord brought forward three years ago. When his noble Friend then brought forward his Motion for an Address to the Crown, it was expressed in very vague and comprehensive terms, and upon that very ground the late Arch-bishop of Canterbury proposed an Amendment to defer the question to that day six months. Another objection taken to the Motion was, that considering the circumstances under which Convocation then existed, it was not likely, if a Report of a Commission had then been remitted to that body, that even the judgment of Convocation would have been satisfactory to the Church at large; and a third objection was, that very great danger would be incurred if Convocation approved or modified the Report of the Commission in submitting a Report embracing such a variety of topics as were referred to in the Motion to the consideration of Parliament. These motives chiefly influenced him in voting against the Motion for an Address, But the present Motion did not appear to be open to any one of those objections. Instead of referring to the whole subject of the Liturgy and the Canons, it was confined to one specific object—the Burial Service. With regard to Convocation, the noble Earl opposite (Earl Stanhope) was under a misapprehension. The circumstances of the Church were no longer the same as they were in 1860. The Convocation of the Province of York actually met for the despatch of business under the presidency of its most rev. Prelate; and though it was true that the Irish Church did not enjoy the same privilege, still the hope might be entertained, if the suggested Commission were issued, that the same indulgence might be extended to the Irish branch of the Church as had been granted to the Church in this country. So that if Convocation were to meet for the consideration of any Report of a Commission of their Lordships, they would possibly have the advantage of the united opinion of the whole Church of England and Ireland on the subject. Moreover, though he should object to the indiscriminate submission to Parliament of the whole question of Liturgical revision, as proposed in 1860, he should feel no difficulty in asking Parliament to accede to any Resolution proposed in the first instance by a Royal Commission, and afterwards recommended by Convocation, in reference to this one particular subject. The question, then, was whether an evil existed, whether any practical remedy could be suggested, or whether the objections to framing a remedy were insuperable. It was impossible to deny that an evil existed, when 3,840 clergymen declared that their consciences were aggrieved by the step they had to take in conformity with the law, and when Bishops and Archbishops, on being appealed to, though sympathizing with those clergymen in the distress they felt, could not suggest any means of relief. Just about the time when he entered the University a roost fearful instance of the operation of the law occurred. The driver of one of the coaches from London to Cambridge was known, on account of his dreadful profaneness, by a certain name; and that unhappy person having been accidentally killed, a great number of persons assembled to witness the burial and to ascertain whether the burial service would be read over the body of a man who had been notorious for his profaneness. It was read, and he believed it was read amidst the execrations of the people. About eighteen years ago, in London, a burglar, in attempting to break into a house, fell through a skylight, and was killed on the spot. The unhappy man was buried in the Churchyard of St. Clement Danes, and he recollected the extreme indignation which was manifested and the tumult which occurred when the burial service was read over the malefactor. In South Wales there were 297 Baptist chapels, and their Lordships might therefore easily believe that there were a great number of Baptists. From the very principles of those persons it must happen that a great number of that community died unbaptized. Many were brought to the churchyards to be buried, and the course of wisdom on the part of the clergy in such cases was not to make any inquiry; but, unfortunately, officious persons would some times force on them the knowledge that the person they were asked to bury had died unbaptized. A case of the kind occurred in one of the largest parishes in his diocese, where the clergyman was informed at the house where the dead body of a girl lay that the girl had never been baptized. Under these circumstances the clergyman declined to perform the burial service, and the result was that the dissenting minister of the place accompanied the funeral profession to the churchyard, prayed over the body in the street, and a riot occurred. When such cases could be quoted, it must be admitted that an evil existed. But did any remedy exist at the present moment? The only remedy which he had heard suggested was, that the clergyman should brave the law, take on himself to disobey it, and subject himself to the penalties which that course would entail. The right rev. Prelate who presided over the diocese of London had stated, that by the Church Discipline Act it was in the breast of the diocesan to determine whether proceedings should be taken against a clergyman in this matter; while, on the other hand, a noble and learned Lord (Lord Chelmsford) had intimated that such was not the law. If, however, it were law, it was a most anomalous state of affairs that the bishop should not be the enforcer of the law, but the defender of a person who braved it. This would be quite a sufficient reason for altering the present condition of things; and he asked, was there any insuperable objection to altering the law? In 1860 it was stated that the clergymen who signed the memorial did not mean to petition for a change in the service itself, but for a change in the law. Now, inasmuch as the noble Lord did not, in his present Motion, speak of any change in the service, but only asked that the evil complained of might be remedied, he should feel bound—in accordance even with the opinion of those clergymen—to vote for the Motion, as the recommendations of the Commission might lead to the terms, not of the service, but of the law being altered. He would never consent to any alteration of the Baptismal Service, but the Burial Service was in a different position, as it did not necessarily imply doctrine. The right hon. and rev. Prelate had said that there were only three modes of doing it, but he (the Bishop of Llandaff) thought there was a fourth; and he did not think, that if the terms were slightly altered, we should lose any very important part of the service. But the object in view might be effected without any alteration of the words. At the end of the Communion Service there was an explanatory Appendix stating that certain expressions do not mean the corporal presence of our blessed Lord; and in the same way, at the end of the Burial Service an explanatory Appendix might be added, stilting that by the use of certain expressions in the service we did not mean to imply any judgment on the particular case of the departed, but merely the hope we entertained in respect of those who died in the faith of Christ, Though he concurred in thinking it was advisable for the noble Lord not to press his Motion, he should feel conscientiously bound to sup- port him if his proposition was pressed to a division.


said, he thought his noble Friend had better not press his Motion; for it was fitting that their Lordships, and particularly the right rev. Bench, should have more opportunity of considering this subject before they were called on to pronounce an opinion on it. But, on the other hand, he must say it would not be satisfactory to him if this Motion was got rid of by being simply withdrawn or negatived. He thought, that after the discussion their Lordships had heard, they must all feel that there was a grievance which urgently required a remedy. Having listened attentively to the discussion which had taken place, it appeared to him that the course proposed by his noble Friend would eventually be found to be the best, if not the only one for arriving at a solution of the difficulty. He did not know any mode of dealing with it that was so little open to objection as a Royal Commission. He owned, that looking at what was the actual constitution of Convocation, and looking also, be was grieved to say, at the general tone of the proceedings of that body, be was not of opinion that the discussion of the question by Convocation would lead to any settlement that would be satisfactory to the mind of the nation at large. Then as to the suggestion that the question should be referred by the Crown to the Bench of Bishops, he did not think that could be acted on. Was the Crown authorized by law to give to the Bench of Bishops a sort of corporate existence apart from Convocation? He very much doubted that Her Majesty's servants would think themselves justified in advising the Crown to do anything of that kind. He knew there were occasions when the Crown consulted their Lordships in an informal manner; but that was quite a different thing from the reference suggested in this case. He hoped, that if a Royal Commission was appointed, the laity would be represented in it; and the course he now ventured to suggest was, that the debate should be adjourned until such time as would afford the Government and their Lordships opportunity for a fuller consideration of the question. He would suggest that the further discussion should be adjourned to that day four weeks, when their Lordships would be better prepared to come to some conclusion either for or against the Motion of his noble Friend.


said, that what he had heard in the course of the discussion had strengthened his inclination in favou of the Motion of his noble Friend. At the same time, he did not dissent from the opinion that the Motion should be withdrawn or adjourned. If the debate was adjourned, he hoped it would be adjourned in the hope that the Bench of Bishops would take the question into their consideration. Certainly the subject was ripe for inquiry; for it was ten years since it was admitted from the Episcopal Bench that the grievance existed; and it was very rare that their Lordships refused inquiry into a grievance that was admitted to exist on the part of a great number of the community. He was too much impressed with the vitality of the Church of England to suppose that it was like a house of cards, and that if one were touched, the whole fabric would fall down. For his own part, he Would refer this question to Convocation—not to be settled, but inquired into, believing, in opposition to the noble Earl who had just spoken (Earl Grey), that considerable confidence would be felt by the clergy and the country in the result of such an inquiry. Questions of doctrine ought not to be dealt with in the first instance by Parliament, but this was not a question of doctrine; and, as an undoubted grievance existed, some remedy ought to be applied to it.


said, that the first thing necessary was to constitute a body representing the United Churches of England and Ireland, which would be provided with the authority, and, from its composition, would be qualified to enter upon this important inquiry.


said, that the observations that had fallen from the most rev. Primates and the right rev. Prelate who presided over London had given to this question a momentous importance, and had rendered it impossible that this subject should be left without some moral assurance that the right rev. Bench would submit some proposition on this subject that was likely to be satisfactory to the general body of the clergy. To the right rev. Bench the clergy were bound to pay obedience. The most rev. Primate had that evening declared, that if the body of a man who had committed great crimes were brought to be buried in a parish in his diocese, he would advise the clergyman to incur all the penalties of the law rather than read the burial service over that body. To that the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of London added—though he (the Lord Chancellor) thought he was mistaken—that a clergyman might do this with impunity, because his Bishop would sanction him in it by declining to put the law in force against him. Now, those were momentous declarations; and if they passed to the clergy of the land—unless they were qualified, and unless they were accompanied with a promise of action on the part of the episcopal bench—they would find hundreds of instances giving rise to great difficulty and great indecency, if the clergy of the land, acting on the advice of their illustrious guides and monitors, should refuse to comply with the law. Now, he would beg the right rev. Prelate to observe what would be the position of a clergyman in his own diocese who should refuse to obey the law Some individual would come to him as Bishop of the diocese, and call on him to enforce the law. The clergyman would say, "I have acted on the sanction and approbation of my diocesan;" and in that case the right rev. Prelate, to be consistent, should himself be compelled to incur all the penalties of the law rather than enforce that law which the clergyman was bound to obey. And this, more than anything else, led the House to believe that the matter could not rest where it was now—the avowal from the heads of the Church that the Church would rather be martyrs to the law than obey the law. But this was a matter not to be lightly dealt with, because if they altered, the law they must alter it in a manner satisfactory to those who desired the change. He had found in all those ecclesiastical matters it was easy enough to arrive at the conviction that there was a well-founded complaint, but it was far from being easy to discover what to do when they took that complaint into consideration. He thought it incumbent on the right rev. Bench to come forward with something like a unanimous opinion, and a unanimous representation of what they desired to see substituted for the present service, and what they could assure the House would be satisfactory to the clergy in their dioceses. He would not press the matter further; but, in the language of that service to which they were referring, he was sure their Lordships would agree with him, that if they postponed the consideration of this question, they would only bury it for a time "in the sure and certain hope" that the right rev. Bench would provide the means of re-considering it in a manner satisfactory to their consciences and to the members of the Church of England.


, in reply, thanked his most rev. Friend for the frank and candid manner in which he had met this question. In reference to what had fallen from the most rev. Prelate to the effect that he had not given him sufficient notice, he begged to state, that in order that the subject might be thoroughly understood, he had placed his Motion on the paper the first night of the Session, and had consulted his most rev. Friend as to the day on which it would be most convenient to submit it to the House. As to the form in which he had introduced the question, not only did common sense point out that a Royal Commission was the best mode of preliminary inquiry in those cases, but, from the time of the Reformation, in every question which affected the Book of Common Prayer all legislative action had been preceded by a Royal Commission. After what had taken place, he was willing to withdraw his Motion, upon the solemn assurance that as early as possible—and if possible, this Session—a measure would emanate from the right rev. Bench on the subject.


said, his right rev. Brethren and himself were prepared to give their serious attention to this important subject, and they were resolved to ascertain, as soon as possible, the views and feelings of the Church. They would also undertake, as speedily as they could, to devise some means of remedying an admitted grievance, but they could not pledge themselves to do so within a given number of weeks, and he doubted whether it would he practicable to do so during the present Session.

Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn.

House adjourned at a quarter before Eight o'clock, till To-morrow, half past Ten o'Clook.