HL Deb 19 May 1863 vol 170 cc1924-46

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


rose to move the second reading of this Bill, and (having presented several Petitions in its favour) said, that their Lordships would probably remember that when he made a similar motion to this last year, he did not press it to a division. He had pursued that course, not on account of any hostility to the measure expressed by those of their Lordships who took part in the debate, but because the right rev. Prelate who presided over the diocese of London appealed to him to do so, in order that time might be given to himself and others who were inclined to take a favourable view of the question for consideration before they gave a decided opinion in regard to it. He responded to that appeal, and had the gratification of knowing, from the charge delivered by the right rev. Prelate last autumn, that further reflection had strengthened his conviction that the time had now arrived when the consideration and settlement of that question could no longer be postponed. It was therefore with some confidence that he now asked their Lordships to give a second reading to this Bill. He believed he might say that he brought forward this Motion with the consent, if not, of a majority of the clergy of the Church of England, certainly with the consent of a vast number of that body. They did not like to put themselves forward in this matter, for reasons sufficiently obvious; but he would observe that not a single Petition had been presented against the second reading of this Bill, and their Lordships would recollect that three years ago 10,000 of the clergy signed a petition against any alteration of the Prayer- book. The absence of Petitions, therefore, on this occasion, was significant. Upon the former occasion he went so fully into the history of the Acts of Uniformity, Subscription, and Declaration, that he would not go very largely into them on this occasion, but would confine himself to as brief an outline as would suffice to recall the circumstances to their Lordships' recollection—though, in truth, so numerous, complicated, and multiplied were they, that it was not easy to be brief and at the same time intelligible. He thought he could not better describe the system which he desired to modify, than to trace a candidate for orders at the University of Oxford through his career of oaths, affirmations, and subscriptions, from his taking his Master's degree, to the end of his life. He thought that expression would provoke a smile; but their Lordships would in a short time see, that though he survived the age of Methuselah and lived in the strongest odour of sanctity, the law would not allow him to stir a step, without again compelling him to give fresh bonds and securities that he would not wander from the orthodox fold. Upon taking his Master's degree he must subscribe the Thirty-nine Articles, according to the enactments of the 13th of Elizabeth, together with the Three Articles of the 36th Canon—the first of which is the oath of allegiance and supremacy; the second, a declaration that the Prayer-book does not contain anything contrary to the Word of God; the third, that every one of the Thirty-nine Articles are agreeable to the Word of God. Having complied with these forms, he became, if otherwise eligible, a Master of Arts, and proceeded to the Bishop for ordination as deacon possibly, only a few days after, and he was then compelled to make the whole of these declarations over again, with the addition of another—the oath of supremacy and allegiance, required by the 1st of Elizabeth. By this time they might have supposed that this candidate for the ministry might be entitled to be considered a safe man. Not so, however; for so jealously did the Church guard the portals of its ministry from the possibility of all, even the slightest, entrance of error, that when, probably in the following year, he asked for priest's orders, the whole of these declarations and subscriptions had again to be gone through before he could obtain his wishes; and not content with this, lest any slippery heterodox fish should escape through the meshes of this orthodox net, should he obtain a benefice, again must the whole ceremony he performed, with two additional declarations enjoined by the Act of Charles II.—one, that he will conform to the Liturgy of the Church of England, the other that he gives his unfeigned assent to all and everything contained in and prescribed by the Book of Common Prayer; and whenever during the remainder of his life he moved from one living to another, the same series of oaths, declarations, and subscriptions must be renewed; so that, however faithfully he might have delivered the Gospel message, nothing but the grim hand of death itself could free him from the requirements of the law. He remembered now, however, that so far from having overstated the case he had understated it, for he had omitted two oaths, one of canonical obedience to the Bishop, the other against simony; which must be added to this intricate list, not to mention a string of queries, involving subjects of a like nature, put by the Bishop to the candidate and responded to in terms prescribed by authority. Thus, then, the sum total of the declarations and subscriptions a clergyman had to make was, that he had six times to declare his assent to the Articles of the Church, seven times to take the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, and nine times to declare his adherence to the Prayer-book. This was swearing with a vengeance, exacted of those who were the élite of morality and religion in the community. He did not know whether their Lordships would agree with him in considering such a system as this almost degrading to the clergy and trifling with solemn things, but he was sure it was one which could not receive their approbation. The true cause of this and many such anomalies which he could name was to be sought and found in this—that while everything else had been moving on in the spirit and direction of beneficial change, the Church had, for more than two centuries, remained absolutely and dangerously stationary. They were not left in doubt as to the object of all this complicated machinery; for the enactments by which it was erecte speak plainly in regard to it. They tell us that it was "for the avoiding of difference of opinion in matters of religion, and maintaining the true faith in the unity of spirit, in the bond of peace." Now, had it succeeded in so doing, it would be an overwhelming argument in favour of the maintenance of the existing status. But had it done so? Any one of their Lordships was quite as capable as he was of deciding that point. He did not know, however, that he could give a better idea of what the public response would be than by quoting passages from the speeches of two statesmen, not latitudinarian Liberals, but high in the Conservative councils of this country, not hastily expressed, but forming part of well-considered orations. The one was Mr. Disraeli, who, in a speech delivered at King's Lynn, in the month of November 1861, said he believed that "the disunion which is found in the Church of England is the result of perplexity, distrust, and discontent." The other, Lord Stanley, made use of words to this effect— I believe that the balance of power now subsisting between the Establishment and the great Nonconformist bodies is likely to last some time; and if only the parties within the Church, who, if one is to judge from the manner in which they write and speak of each other, have not much mutual love to spare, can only be kept from open war, I do not see any external power which is likely to interfere with the Establishment in the enjoyment of its rights. And certainly, if their Lordships looked around and saw what was passing in the courts of law, the pulpit, the press, the Universities, and Convocations, they would see enough to convince them that these enactments, these rigid subscriptions, had not been quite so successful in avoiding difference of opinion in religious matters, and "maintaining the true faith in the unity of the spirit, in the bond of peace," as their framers seemed to have anticipated. Such, then, being the state of things in this respect, their Lordships might ask why he did not move for a Commission to take the whole question into consideration, with a view of amending it, rather than propose the abrogation of one particular legislative requirement. If their Lordships would give him any encouragement to do so, he should be very happy to take advantage of it. But he confessed he would very much rather see the question taken up by the members of the right reverend Bench. If the most rev. the Primate would make such a proposal, he thought it would not fail to obtain their Lordships' concurrence. His most rev. Friend had recently, with much public assent, been raised to his present eminence; and should he undertake the settlement of this great and perplexing question in a true Catholic spirit, he was certain of success, and would hand down a name to posterity with claims upon the gratitude of his country than which few of his predecessors could produce greater. But should he unfortunately continue the time-honoured maxim of Non possumus to every the smallest amelioration that could be proposed in the complicated and mischievous position into which circumstances had driven us—and this was no time for trifling with or postponing settlements—then he feared he would only add to the embarrassments and evils with which the Church was menaced. The reasons, then, that had induced him to confine his efforts to the repeal of this single clause in the Act of Uniformity were these:—In the first place, it was that one statutable requirement which had been singled out for special and almost universal reprobation. History told us that it was the suggestion of intolerance and persecution, and that it was the prime producer of that organized system of dissent which had obtained gigantic proportions, and was one of the most serious hindrances to the propogation of our common Christianity. He believed that the subscription had been the means of preventing many hundreds of young men from entering the ranks of the ministry of the Church of England; and it had been admitted by Prelate after Prelate, and by the preachers in the Universities, that the number of candidates for holy orders was continually decreasing. Again, it was in that House that that clause was inserted, for it was neither in the original draft of the Act of Uniformity nor in the Bill as sent up from the other House. It was introduced into the Bill in their Lordships' House; with their Lordships it had originated, and with them it ought to terminate. Sheldon and his friends were doubtless to blame for the spirit which they showed in procuring its introduction; but before we commenced throwing stones at them, we should recollect that there was much to be pleaded in extenuation of their fault, on account of the times in which they lived. But though some excuse might be made for them in the year 1662, what excuse could be made for their Lordships if, after witnessing two centuries of its disastrous career, they still persevered in retaining it upon their statute books? It was there that the injury was inflicted; it was there that the reparation should be made. Another reason was this:—There were two sources of authority which dealt with the question of subscription and declaration, the statutes and the canons. Now, although, no doubt, Parliament had the power, if it chose to exercise it, of repealing canons, or making them null and void, he was not aware that such a proceeding had ever been adopted; and he therefore did not propose to meddle with the canons. They were not enacted by their Lordships' predecessors, and their Lordships were not responsible for them. If, then, Parliament should assent to this Bill, and repeal the obnoxious clause of the Act of 1662, which required the unfeigned assent and consent of the candidate to everything contained in the Book of Common Prayer, there would remain, required by legislative enactment, the oaths of supremacy and allegiance, a subscription to the Articles in the terms of the 13th Elizabeth, which were unobjectionable, and a declaration of conformity to the Liturgy required by the Act of Charles II.; and he thought if these subscriptions and declarations were made once in a clergyman's life—say, when he obtained priest's orders—all would be performed which the most timid and exacting need require. His own opinion was, that if a man desired to enter the ministry of the Church of England, he was bound to ascertain what her doctrines and discipline were; it was the province of the Bishop, before he admitted him, to see that he had done so. The candidate ought publicly to declare that he would conform to that discipline and those doctrines; and if after that he became an unfaithful teacher, no amount of oaths and asseverations, however stringent, however frequently repeated, would prevent his falling away. If the present system of subscription had only been redundant, and useless, he would not have troubled their Lordships with his present proposition; but it was far otherwise; not only had they rent the Church in pieces in this realm, but they were at this moment steadily undermining her foundations. He recollected that when last year he gave their Lordships the opinions of authorities upon which he thought he thought he could rely, that many young men eminently fitted for the ministry of our Church were deterred from offering themselves by the unnecessary stringency and multiplication of our subscriptions, especially that of the Act of 1662, the right reverend Prelate who presided over the diocese of Oxford was so incredulous that he could not help throwing some ridicule upon the bare idea of such a thing. Shortly after, the son of a noble Lord below him (Earl Russell), then just gone to Cambridge, expressed his astonishment that a Prelate of so much experience should be so little acquainted with what was going on; for that young men were thus kept away from the ministry was a received opinion there, and he knew one case in his own very short experience. And now there had appeared a published statement, for the accuracy of which he happened to be able to vouch, that it was within the knowledge of another undergraduate, that not one, but nineteen young men, who had come to the university with the intention of entering the ministry, were deterred from doing so by the stringency of the subscription required. Was it to be wondered at, then, that Bishop after Bishop in their charges, and preacher after preacher at the universities, echoing these sentiments, should proclaim to the country, with lamentation, the steady and continuous decrease in the numbers of young men educated at our universities applying for ordination? And at last, in a sermon recently preached before the University of Oxford, the preacher startled his hearers by informing them, upon statistical information which had not been gainsaid, that, not of University men only, but of all classes, the total number of candidates for ordination during the last two years, in the face of the advancing tide of population and its pastoral requirements, had not been more than sufficient to fill up the gaps made by natural causes among the body of our clergy. The author of this sermon, though he did not assert that our requirements in regard to subscription were the only cause of this evil, yet distinctly pointed to them as one of the main causes, and suggested their modification. This gentleman, the Rev. Thomas Espin, Theological Tutor of Queen's College, Birmingham, he should add, was well qualified to give an opinion, inasmuch as he was himself engaged in the work of training candidates for the ministry. Upon that subject he did not believe, among those who had impartially considered it, there were two opinions. It had been said, that in advocating this step he was the advocate of one party in the Church. He disclaimed any such imputation—his object was expansion not contraction, and he would never consent to advocate anything that would give one party in the Church an advantage at the expense of another. Here he would willingly conclude his address to their Lordships, but he was compelled to say a word in regard to two objections which were, in default of argument, incessantly urged against any such alteration ns that which he proposed; indeed, he might say, against any change whatever. One was, that this was not the time. Now, it was a sufficient answer to say, that the same objection was made to a proposal of the same nature made by Archbishop Seeker a hundred years ago; and that nothing had been done since. The other, that this proposal would take away one of the safeguards of our Established Church. In regard to the first, he had an extract from the writings of Archbishop Whateley so extremely appropriate, that if their Lordships would do him the favour to listen to it, he was certain they would be gratified— It is far from being sufficient, as seems to be the notion of some persons, to show that the present is not the fittest conceivable occasion for taking a certain step. Besides this, it is requisite to show, not merely that a better occasion may be imagined, or that a better occasion is past, but that a more suitable occasion is likely to arise hereafter; and also that the mischief which may be going on during the interval will be more than compensated by the superior suitableness of that future occasion—in short, that it will have been worth waiting for. And, in addition to all this, it is requisite to show also the probability that when this golden opportunity shall arise, men will be more disposed to take advantage of it than they have heretofore appeared to be; that they will not again fall into apathetic security and fondness for indefinite procrastination. This last point is as needful to be established as any, for it is remarkable that those who deprecate taking any step just now, in these times of extraordinary excitement, did not, on those former occasions, come forward to propose taking advantage of a comparatively calmer state of things. They neither made any call nor responded to the call of others. And indeed all experience seems to show, comparing the apathy on the subject which was so general at those periods with the altered state of feeling now existing, that a great and pressing emergency, and nothing else, will induce men to take any stop in this matter, and that a period of discussion and perplexing difficulty is, though not in itself the most suitable occasion for such a step, yet, constituted as human nature is, the best, because the only occasion on which one can hope that it will be taken. Who can say that a large proportion of those who are now irrecoverably alienated from the Church might not have been at this moment sound members of it had timely steps been taken? With regard to the other objection put forward by the opponents of his proposal—that the abolition of the terms of subscription would remove one of the safeguards of our religion—how any one cognizant of what was passing around him could entertain a belief that these stringent terms were safeguards he was at a loss to conceive, more especially when the Judges refused to admit the Book of Common Prayer as evidence of doctrine, except collaterally, and as its statements might agree with the standards and Articles of the Church. Why, the subscription had alienated thousands of accomplished men who would otherwise have attached themselves to the Church. They were the cause of hundreds of thousands of orthodox Nonconformists standing aloof from the Church altogether, because their ministers could not honestly give their unfeigned assent and consent to some hundreds of theological propositions, some of which were not easy to understand, and others appeared absolutely contradictory. It was manifest that it had not prevented the most serious differences of opinion within the Church itself. The country was scandalized at the sight of men all making the same solemn asseverations, yet preaching antagonistic doctrines, and mutually casting imputations of dishonesty upon one another; while not from without, but from within the Church, and from the very highest quarter within the Church, attacks were made upon the very foundations of our faith. Seeing, then, that it was beyond dispute not only that these stringent terms had utterly failed in effecting the object they had in view, but that they had produced—as, indeed, any one with a knowledge of human nature would have predicted of them—neither peace, nor unity, nor even a barren uniformity; and having shown, that in the opinion of many well qualified to judge, they threatened the very existence of our national Church, he begged to move the second reading of this Bill.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.


said, in rising to address their Lordships upon the Motion which had just been made by his noble Friend, he hoped he might be allowed to express his great gratification at the tone of moderation which had pervaded the whole of his noble Friend's address. He earnestly trusted that no word would drop from his lips, or from those of any one who might take part in that discussion, which could cause irritation or provoke any angry feeling. His noble Friend, in the earlier portion of his speech, discussed at large the multiplicity of declarations required from clergymen. But that did not really touch the question before thorn. The Bill was confined simply to one declaration which it was proposed to expunge, while another would stand in its place. Now, as regarded the multiplicity of declarations, he was quite prepared to acknowledge that they might be simplified; but he should say that the question then before them was really a question of clerical subscription or no clerical subscription; and he did not suppose that their Lordships were prepared to accept such an alternative, or to adopt a proposal that would have the effect of allowing clergymen to enter the pulpits of this country without having promised to adhere to the doctrines of the Church of England. In the first place, let them consider what was the real meaning of the subscription which his noble Friend wished to abrogate. It required a clergyman to state his unfeigned assent and consent to everything contained in the Book of Common Prayer. But he thought that in interpreting the Act of Uniformity they would see very great reason for acknowledging the truth of that which many learned and distinguished divines had maintained—namely, that that subscription had reference merely to the use of the Liturgy. If they looked at the Act of Uniformity they would see that in the enacting part it stated, that inasmuch as it was desirable that a uniform public worship should prevail, it was enacted that every clergyman should, in the church in which he officiated, declare his unfeigned assent and consent to the use of everything contained in the Prayer Book. The real meaning of that declaration was, that the clergyman pledged himself to use the Prayer Book as it stood. It was quite true that no one could with a safe conscience use the language of the Prayer Book unless he believed in it. And that brought him to another point. He could not conceive that a change from one declaration to another would give any real relief to a well-informed conscience. A clergyman declared that he would conform to the Liturgy; and what was the meaning of that word "conform"? It was, of course, not only that he would read it, but that he believed it to be Divine truth, He could not promise conformity in any other sense, unless he was prepared to say that he would read that which he did not believe, and that he would conform to that to which he did not consent. His first objection, therefore, to the Bill was that it would give no real relief to the clergy. He would next proceed to consider whether it would give any relief in the case of the candidate for holy orders. Now, he had to observe, that if that declaration operated in the way of preventing young men from taking holy orders, it had been in operation for two hundred years, and one would naturally suppose that during that period it would have produced a deficiency of candidates for the service of the Church. But that deficiency had only been remarked within the last ten or twelve years, and they had many other means of accounting for its existence. It should, for instance, be acknowledged that the relative value—if he might use the expression—in a worldly sense of the Church and of other professions had materially altered of late years. The system of competitive examinations had opened to intelligent and distinguished young men from the Universities careers which promised large honours and emoluments. Then, with regard to time, his noble Friend had pointed out some objections, and one was that this was not the time when such a change should be made. He was not at all inclined to dwell upon that objection, because if the change was desirable, it ought to be made as soon as possible. But on one ground he did not think this was the time for introducing a change—namely, the present state of men's minds. He had only that day seen that a clergyman—he hoped it was a solitary case—had expressed in print his earnest desire that he should be at liberty to preach the Gospel without the Bible. He had confined himself to those two points. He held that there was no necessity for the alteration. He had endeavoured to show that it would give no relief to well-informed persons, and that there were other causes in operation which were quite sufficient to account for the deficiency of ministerial candidates. He did not know that he needed to trespass any longer upon their Lordships' attention. He was satisfied that no real benefit would be derived from this Bill, and he would therefore move that it be read a second time that day six months.

Amendment moved, to leave out ("now") and insert ("this Day Six Months").


said, he had been so pointedly referred to by his noble Friend, that he should be wanting in common honesty if he did not express his sentiments on this question. It was one thing to moot a question for the sake of ventilating it until public opinion is matured for action, and another thing to propose a measure before public opinion was quite matured upon the subject. He was bound to say that his noble Friend had given a correct statement of what occurred last year, when he (the Bishop of London) made the request to him to defer his proposal so that the matter might be further considered. He thought that public opinion on the subject was not mature, and he was desirous himself of having more time for deliberating on the subject, in common with others interested in it. During the interval, he had carefully and anxiously pondered the question; and it was only common honesty to avow that this consideration had brought him to this conclusion—that the declaration which the noble Lord wished to expunge was unnecessary, and being unnecessary was more or less mischievous. It gave him considerable pain to differ in a matter of this kind from the most rev. Primate who had just spoken, and from others of his right rev. Brethren. But upon such questions there was no difference of principle. They were all equallly anxious to maintain that eternal truth of which the Bible was the depository; they were all equally anxious to maintain that form of sound words in which that eternal truth had been handed down by the Church, while they all equally rejoiced in the words of faith and piety through which in the Liturgy of the Church they were encouraged to draw near to God. But it was inevitable for persons of different ages, and moving in different circumstances, that to some more than to others were different forms of opinion and feeling presented; and if it had been his lot to be thrown more in the way of those who felt the difficulties to which the noble Lord had addressed himself than his right rev. Brethren, he thought himself bound, for the information of public opinion and for the information of their Lordships, to state what was the result of his own observation in this matter. He said he was forced to the conclusion that the declaration to which the noble Lord had alluded was unnecessary. He conceived that it was proved to be unnecessary by the fact that it was, as explained by the most rev. Primate, an echo of declarations which had previously been made; and, for his own part, in explaining the declaration when appealed to by his clergy, he would gladly adopt the explanation which had been given by the most rev. Primate, and impress upon them that what was really required, was that they should be able conscientiously and heartily to use the Liturgy of the Church. But then it was an unfortunate thing that certain words had slipped into that declaration, which to men of scrupulous conscience did present the appearance of meaning something more than this. He said, on a former occasion, that it seemed to him of the utmost importance that all declarations and oaths should be expressed in such explicit and unmistakable language that no man should have any doubt as to what was their meaning; and this appeared to him to be doubly necessary when it was the clergy who had to make these declarations and oaths. If, therefore, in this simple declaration of a hearty desire to conform to the Liturgy of the Church of England there had unfortunately intruded themselves words which seemed to imply that that Liturgy was exalted to a place for which it was never intended, then it apappeared to him desirable that words which were liable to be so misconstrued should be removed from the declaration. The Act of Charles II. was originally proposed with the intention that the declaration should merely prescribe the conscientious use of the Book of Common Prayer; but certain persons whom he would not hesitate to designate as mischievous, did insert into the Act, whilst passing through Parliament, words which were deliberately intended to go beyond the simple declaration of a willingness to use the Book of Common Prayer. These words were inserted for the express purpose of catching the consciences of men whom two hundred years ago it was wished to turn from the Church. Now-a-days, when we could look at these matters calmly and when these rancorous passions and animosities had passed away, we could regard the words in a different light. But seeing the real purpose for which they were inserted, he could not but feel that it would be much better if these words were erased. But this declaration was also proved to be unnecessary, for another reason. A person might attain the highest eminence in the Church of England, and command the most influential position, without being called upon to make this declaration. He had himself held five different positions in the Church of England—as a curate of a parish, as a tutor of an influential college, as head master of a great school, as dean, and now as a bishop; and in only one of these capacities—the cathedral office, which had the least influence as far as regarded direct teaching in the Church—had he been called upon to make this declaration. There was therefore something capricious in the way in which this decla- ration was required, and this capriciousness was a relic of that vile persecuting spirit which caused this declaration to be originally inserted. Therefore, he would not he sorry to see them rid themselves of this remnant of the spirit which put these words into the Act of Uniformity. His own case was not a singular one, for besides himself there were other right rev. Prelates, occupying most influential sees, who had passed through important positions in the Church without making this declaration. He had received a letter from a clergyman of the Church of England, the author of several highly esteemed works, who was beloved and honoured in a large sphere. That gentleman told him, that when he was appointed to a small living in the diocese of York, being a person of scrupulous conscience, he was made uneasy by some of the words in the declaration. He applied for advice to the Archbishop Vernon Harcourt, who gave him the same wise explanation that the most rev. Primate had given to-night as to the meaning of the declaration, and removed his difficulties. Again, a few years afterwards, the clergyman was appointed to another living; again the same difficulties occurred, and again he referred for advice to his diocesan, from whom he received the same answer as his former diocesan had given. Nevertheless, the man's mind had been rendered more or less uneasy, and for no purpose whatever. If such was the case in reference to those whose time was devoted to the study of these matters; if experience showed that these instances were not solitary; and if it was true that some valuable persons had left the ministry of the Church on account of scruples in connection with this subject, it became a serious consideration whether this declaration should be retained. There was no doubt that with respect to clergymen of mature years these words caused scruples and uneasiness of mind; and then with regard to young men who had to minister in holy things, they ought to be very cautious how they trifled with their consciences. He knew that there was an unwillingness on the part of young men of the highest ability to bind themselves more than was absolutely necessary. This might not be a healthy state of things, but therefore it was desirable to tell them exactly what was required from them, and the form of words should be such as to stand in no need of casuistry to explain their meaning. Of course, the great mass were not troubled with any such scruples; but earnest men were often the most troubled about these things, and if any such persons were prevented from approaching or remaining in the Ministry of the Church, or were made, after ordination, to look back as if they made some mistake in using the words which the noble Lord proposed to abrogate, that itself constituted a strong argument for their removal. Allusion had been made to Archbishop Seeker. He was glad to think that in such a matter as this they were able to quote the authority of Burnet, and his great master, Leighton—that by expunging these words they would be acting in the spirit of Tillotson, Seeker, and Porteous. These were men of calm minds, who entered very considerately into other people's scruples and feelings; and he believed, the longer we lived, the more we should become sensible that the Church of England owed a great debt of gratitude to the moderation and piety with which these men presided over its counsels. No one could be more convinced than he that the Church of England was bound to be the guardian of eternal truth committed to its keeping—that we were bound to contend for the faith, and also for the form of sound words handed down to us; but to this he would add his deep and solemn conviction, that the Church of England, if it was to live in the affections of this great country, and hold the place which it ought to hold in Christendom, should ever be distinguished by that spirit of comprehensive love which enabled it to be really the National Church, and to secure the esteem even of those who were separated from its pale.


said, he entirely concurred in what had been stated by the right rev. Prelate who had just addressed the House, with respect to the unhappy spirit in which the declaration was inserted; but, having been inserted, it might, after the lapse of a long time, be viewed in what he considered its true light, as an object so minute, microscopic, and infinitesimally small as not deserving to become the object of legislative interference. It was only the fact that it had been brought under their Lordships' notice at all, that had attached any importance to it. It must be evident that the declaration which it was proposed to abrogate was really identical in sense with that which was to be substituted for it, and that the real obvious interpretation of the clause proposed to be expunged was, that it was simply a declaration on the part of the persons who made it, that they found in the Prayer Book nothing to prevent them from conscientiously conforming thereto. That had been the view he had always taken of the subject, and therefore he must say that one objection he felt to the Motion was the exaggerated and undue importance it attached to the declaration in question. At the same time, he entirely agreed with his right rev. Brother who had just spoken, that the clause was utterly useless, and on that account it would be to him a matter of indifference whether it was abrogated or retained; but he must say that its origin did create a very strong, natural, and just prejudice against it. In addition to this, it gave rise to scruples in the minds of some among the clergy, and in some cases—probably very few—had proved a hindrance to young men who otherwise might have entered into the ministry of the Church. However trifling he might think the importance of such instances, still the view he took of the utter insignificance of the declaration in regard to the substantial interests of the Church was sufficient to overpower any objection he might feel to the present measure; and if the noble Lord should meet with sufficient encouragement to induce him to divide the House, he should feel it his duty, small as was the importance attached to the matter, and much as he desired that the question should never have been raised, to go into the same division lobby with the noble Lord.


said, that if his noble Friend had thought proper to move in general terms for an inquiry into this subject, he thought he could have voted with him. But the great objection which he felt to the present proposition of his noble Friend arose not so much from the removal of the declaration, but from the question as to what would remain after it was removed. Looking at the present state of things, and to what had recently taken place in the Church, the question was, whether this was a safe position for the Church of England to be left in? He had previously pointed out, that some time ago clergymen of the Church of England were prepared to declare their conformity to the Liturgy, whilst they were at the same time prepared to go any lengths they might think fit in the direction of the Church of Rome. And what had taken place since? Why, that the clergy were prepared to go great lengths in favour of liberty of opinion, and it was needless to say in what direction that liberty had tended. He would mention no names whatever; but they had been told of proceedings being instituted against more than one reverend person of the Church of England, for declaring opinions which were alleged to be contrary to the Church of England; and though not from themselves, yet they had heard from their friends by means of letters in the newspapers, that it was maintained to be little less than persecution that any legal proceedings should be instituted against any clergyman of the Church of England for having given expression to any opinions, whatever they might be, about the doctrines of the Church. It was not, of course, maintained that any amount of difference of opinion was admissable, but that the institution of any legal proceedings for the expression of any opinions whatever was persecution; and even that any obligation to adhere to the words of Scripture itself was more than should be required and enforced by law from the clergy of the Church. He, however, must say, that so far from it appearing to him to be persecution to attempt to restrain the expression of opinion on the part of the clergy by law, the members of the Church had cause to be alarmed at the absolutely unbounded liberty of opinion which was exercised by the clergy of this day. His noble Friend had said very little as to the historical argument on the subject. The question what might have been the views of those who had preceded us by some two hundred years might seem to be of little practical importance to us now, and he admitted that that argument was often pressed too far. But so great was the diversity of opinions and feelings at the date of the Savoy Conference, that he much doubted whether the opposing parties could have been by any means brought together. No doubt, many points there discussed were of comparatively trifling importance, and whilst he was far from approving the severity of judgment displayed by Archbishop Sheldon and his friends, he believed that even if they had given up a large portion of their views, they would have found it impossible to retain their opponents within the pale of the Church. That, however, was not now the question; the question now was what we purposed by a revision of the Liturgy, to what extent that revision was claimed, and what were the actual sense and views of the Church upon this question. He thought that after the experience they had had of the latitude of opinion claimed on behalf of clergymen of the Church of England, it would not be safe to leave them to a simple declaration that they conformed to the Liturgy; for it was known that to a certain extent they did conform, at the same time that they held opinions at variance with the Liturgy. It was quite true that his noble Friend used that fact for a directly opposite purpose, and said that the declaration was not effective. But the answer to that was surely conclusive—that as long as declarations were reasonably exacted from men, those, at all events, who sought to be emancipated from them, laid themselves open to scandal and observation, and did that which might lead to some regular course of process to bring the question to issue. For these reasons, feeling that the question was substantially the same as that of last year, and that the events which had occurred since had seemed to bear in a direction opposite to that of change, he felt he must oppose the Bill.


said, he should have been content to remain silent if their Lordships had gone to a division after the most rev. Primate had addressed them; but after the course which the debate had taken, he was anxious to say in the fewest words why he felt it to be his duty to agree with his most rev. Brother, and to oppose the Motion of the noble Lord. On one ground he was glad of having an opportunity of addressing their Lordships, if it were only to add his humble assent to the testimony which had been borne by his most rev. Friend to the suavity, mildness, and moderation with which his noble Friend had introduced the subject, and which must no doubt have recommended his Motion to the attention of the House. His reasons for dissenting from the proposition now before them lay in the smallest compass. The question which their Lordships had to consider was not what would be the security for the Church of England if she had only the declaration which would remain if this particular declaration were removed; but further, what would be the legitimate interpretation to be put upon that remaining declaration from the fact that they had made the proposed alteration. It was not at all the same thing as if it were the question whether we should now superadd these words. If to the declaration from which it was proposed to take away it were proposed to superadd this, he should oppose it. But when he was asked to take one away and leave the other re- maining, he was hound to ask what was the distinctive difference between the two. The distinctive difference between the two declarations, it was commonly understood, was only this—that the one implied an intellectual, moral, and believing assent to the formularies, while the other undertook that the man should use them. If their Lordships were to say that liberty of conscience required at this day that they should take away the declaration that the man meant what he said—if they were told, as they had been, by the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of St. David's) that the thing was in itself so microscopic and insignificant that it was of no consequence—why remove it, unless in that removal there was some distinct moral action? And what could the moral action mean but that a man should henceforth satisfy those in the Church if he undertook to conform to its outward ritual when in his heart he was at liberty to deny its truth? He believed no danger was comparable to that. He did not think this declaration kept out of the Church any persons of tender conscience. The situation of his see, which brought him into relation with so many young men who were preparing at the University for the Church, gave him peculiar facilities for forming a correct judgment on that point, and he might add that there were very few of his right rev. Brethren who were addressed by so many young men who were going to take Holy Orders. He had also consulted several of his right rev. Friends; and they all agreed with him in opinion, that though they had known many persons who had refrained from entering the Church from various scruples, they had never met with one real practical instance of a young man who was excluded from the Church because he had to make this declaration. He believed that the main reason of the paucity of University men entering the Church, which had been so often commented on by the public press, was, that there were now so many new paths open to them to which their parents directed their attention. The immense activity of the country in commerce and in other directions sufficiently explained how it happened that the number of young men going into the Universities was not increased, and also accounted for the fact that a smaller number of those who went to the Universities prepared themselves for holy orders. If there were a danger threatening the Church, it was that the notion should get abroad that men might safely and honourably un- dertake the responsibility of remaining in her communion, that they might minister in her congregations and read her Liturgy and Psalms while they disbelieved her doctrines; and the tendency of the proposed alteration was in that direction, and in no other. While, therefore, he thought that all subscriptions were in themselves a great misfortune, and while, if they were now to be enacted de novo, he would not frame them in the manner of those now existing, yet when he was asked to make this particular alteration, because the tendency of this declaration was to keep conscientious men out of the Church, he must express his conviction that its removal would not add one conscientious man to the ministry of the Church, but that, on the contrary, it would leave many others, unconscientious men, to believe themselves free no longer to believe with their hearts what they spoke with their tongues. No Member of their Lordships' House believed more firmly than himself that the strength of the Church of England was in her great liberty; that she had nothing to dread from educating to the highest point the intellect of her children, and that her faith would only stand the firmer by being interrogated most minutely and having to answer for itself; yet he should, on the other hand, deprecate a change which seemed to imply that the Church would be contented with an external conformity that was mocked by an inward unbelief.


feared, that if their Lordships adopted the Amendment, it would be thought that they were not inclined to make any concession to those feelings and scruples which existed in very many minds, and that such a result was one which was very much to be deplored. With these feelings, he should be glad if some middle course could he adopted which would lie between the Motion of the noble Lord and the Amendment of the most rev. Primate. The 36th canon had some words which seemed to some extent to the same effect as the declaration. The canon said— Persons who subscribe declare that the Book of Common Prayer contains in it nothing contrary to the Word of God, and that it may lawfully be used, and that they will use the same in public prayer and in the administration of the sacraments, and no other. He repeated that it would be a great satisfaction to him if some middle course could be taken which would satisfy their Lordships, that while on the one hand the sacredness of subscription was preserved, on the other that a perfectly sincere and due regard was had for the scruples of those who objected to declare their unfeigned assent and consent to everything that was contained in the Book of Common Prayer, and thus prevent a mere nominal conformity.


thought that the noble Lord who had brought in this Bill, commenced at the wrong end, and that if alteration were needed, he should have altered, first, the Articles and the formularies of the Church. What the Church wanted was a representative body, with power to alter anything which might require change, and introduce anything that might seem desirable. There was no such body The Convocations of Canterbury, York, Armagh, and Dublin, only represented the Church in their particular provinces; but what was wanted was a Convocation which should represent the United Church of England and Ireland. In such a body the Church would have confidence, and would receive without suspicion any desirable changes from its hands. He must vote against the Motion of the noble Lord, not because he thought that no change was necessary, but because he thought that at the present time there was no body which was authorized or competent to make it.


said, that the speech of the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Oxford) proved conclusively to his mind that their Lordships were bound to give this Bill a second reading. That right rev. Prelate saw great objection to the declaration as it now stood, and would by no means enact it de novo if now proposed for the first time. Well, the noble Lord's Bill was entitled "A Bill to amend the Acts of Uniformity," and that was all to which their Lordships were pledged if they gave the Bill a second reading. When the Bill went into Committee, it would be open to the right rev. Prelate, and those who shared his opinions, to propose such Amendments as they should deem desirable. He could not but express the extreme pleasure with which he had listened to the speech of the right rev. Prelate who spoke early in the debate (the Bishop of London), who had left nothing to be added on his side of the question; yet he would also say that even the able and eloquent speech of the right rev. Prelate did less to convince him of the absolute necessity for some alteration than the speech of the right rev. Prelate who followed him. It was most dangerous to teach young men to take a declaration of which the words conveyed their unfeigned assent and consent to everything that was contained in the Book of Common Prayer, including the damnatory clauses, and to tell them that the words did not mean what they appeared to convey, but meant something else. He thought the mere fact that Prelates of the Church, when consulted by young men as to whether they might take the declaration, sought to remove their scruples by such assurances, was of itself a proof that some such measure as this was required. He could conceive nothing more corrupting or demoralizing than to teach young men that they could safely make a declaration of so much importance and of so solemn a character, by construing its terms in a non-natural sense.


, in reply, said, he was not so wedded to the form of the declaration proposed in the Bill as to insist on it, if one could be framed that would be more clear and definite for its object. He had hoped that the Bill would be assented to without a division.

On Question, That ("now") stand part of the Motion? their Lordships divided:—Contents 50; Not-Contents 90: Majority 40.

Resolved in the Negative; and Bill to be read 2a on this Day Six Months.

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