HL Deb 07 August 1866 vol 184 cc2128-33

THE MARQUESS OF WESTMEATII, who had given notice— To inquire whether the Lord Bishop of London, having delivered an address on the 17th of February last alleging that certain persons had taken upon themselves to alter the whole appearance of the Lord's Supper, beginning with one indication and ending with another, which, if it meant anything, spoke of the idolatrous worship of the consecrated elements, and that it was not to be denied that some are engaged in a conspiracy to bring back our Church to the state in which it was before the Reformation, any proceedings are to be taken during the recess to test that conspiracy, and to bring the authors of it to justice, said, that the proceedings of the Tractarian party had been already discussed in that House, but no steps having been taken to provide a remedy, he felt it his duty to give the notice which was on their Lordships' Minutes. His attention had been called to a remarkable document in the shape of a reply by the Bishop of London to an address presented to him by sixteen rural deans and 220 clergymen of the arch-deaconry of Middlesex, on the 17th of February last, in which he said that— Certain persons have taken upon themselves so to alter the whole external appearance of the celebration of the Lord's Supper as to make it scarcely distinguishable from the Roman Mass, and they endeavour on all occasions to introduce into the other services some change of vestment or ornament quite alien to the established English usage of 300 years. The object of this was to make the transition easy, the step downward from the Church of England to the Church of Rome. The Lord Bishop further said— I fear it cannot be denied that a few are engaged in a conspiracy to bring back our Church to the state in which it was before the Reformation. This was a serious charge, and, coming from one in the Bishop of London's high position, there could be no doubt that he had strong grounds for the accusation, and it should certainly be followed by action to preserve the people from the conspirators. He would ask their Lordships to consider the manner in which the working of this conspiracy was laid down by the Bishop, who used these words— Beginning with the use of lighted candles during the daylight at the administration of the Holy Communion, some men have gone on to incense, and the distinctive Roman habits and prostrations which, if they mean anything, speak of an idolatrous worship of the consecrated elements. It surely was a reproach that this idolatrous worship should be allowed in the Reformed Church of England; but when the introducers of it were clergymen who were solemnly pledged to drive away all strange and erroneous doctrine, then the conspiracy became one of an alarming character, and all due means should have been taken for its repression. The sentiments contained in this reply of the Lord Bishop were soon afterwards reiterated in an address delivered by his Lordship in Convocation in the presence of several other Prelates. And here he could assure their Lordships that he felt it necessary to use the most precise and particular language when speaking of any one holding such a high office in the Church, and more especially in his absence, for he regretted that the Bishop was not in his place to give any explanations on the subject. That, however, was not his (the Marquess of Westmeath's) fault. He had given notice of the Question, and the Bishop was not present to supply their Lordships with information as to the conspiracy which he admitted was in existence. In the address delivered by the Bishop in Convocation, he said— I have heard of a distinguished divine of very calm mind being present at one of the churches where these practices were resorted to with a view of satisfying himself as to what was going on, being so shocked that he felt he could not, without a compromise of all that was dear to him, partake of the Lord's Supper at the hands of the persons who were officiating, so like was it to the Roman fashion. Here, then, was another convincing token that the scheme to draw away the people to Roman Catholic rites was nothing less than a conspiracy. In another passage the Bishop pointed out the injurious consequences to the laity in these words— If our attention is to be directed to such matters of dispute as we have now been considering, I fear our influence will be undermined, and that the laity will feel that they cannot worship in our parish churches without compromising their consciences. This was a peril so great that when matters had come to such a pass that the laity were in danger of alienation from the Church, the subject was well worthy their Lordships' attention. The Bishop further, addressing his brother Prelates, intimated that the proceedings carried on by the Puseyite clergy were so bad, that none of them dare be present at the Puseyite celebrations. These were his Lordship's words— There is not one of your Lordships who would venture to take part in the administration in some of the churches where this extreme ritualism prevails. A clergyman in this position is estranged from his Bishop. He knows that he is doing that behind his Bishop's back which he could not do in his presence. From these remarks of the Bishop, who, doubtless, had good reasons for making them, it was plain that there was a mutiny in the camp; but instead of the chief officers in the Church putting the conspiracy down, they turned away, and allowed all the mischief to be done behind their backs. He would submit to their Lordships that if any excuse were required for referring to this most important subject, the words of the Bishop on the same occasion would be sufficient. The right rev. Prelate said— But if I were a layman who felt my liberty infringed in this matter, I certainly should desire that ambiguous expressions in the present law should as soon as possible be rendered into intelligible language. That the law should be put in force against the conspirators was plainly the duty of some one, and the laity were waiting anxiously to see it done. It might be proper that he should submit to their Lordships some evidences that "the idolatrous worship of the consecrated elements," referred to by the Bishop, was openly taught in his Lordship's own diocese. He held in his hand a copy of a sermon by the Hon. and Rev. R. Liddell, Incumbent of St. Paul's, Knightsbridge, and preached in that church, and he would read one passage— I will remind you "(said Mr. Liddell) " that the awful solemnity of the Christian churches culminating act of worship, in the celebration of the blessed Eucharist, consists in this, that we offer upon the Church's altars on earth the very counterpart of what Christ offers in the courts of heaven—that is, Himself. We believe that by consecration at the hands of His authorized priesthood, who in this act represent Him, the elements become in a mystery, yet not less really, what He pronounced them to be after his His own consecration—His own blessed body and blood. This was the doctrine preached publicly in London churches, and it was the doctrine of the Church of Rome, not of the Church of England; but nothing was done to call the preacher to account. He would now give their Lordships a later instance. He would quote from a sermon preached on the 5th of last month by the Rev. Warwick Wroth, Incumbent of St. Phillip's, Clerkenwell, and only just published, in which he says— The great act we do, the Eucharistic oblation of the body and blood of Christ, is called our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. Their Lordships would observe the phrase, "oblation of the body and blood of Christ;" but there was no such oblation possible or recognized by the Church of England, and there were no altars or sacrificing priests. There was but one priest, and that the Great High Priest, who in the courts above made intercession for sinners. Therefore, all this was but a pretence to enable those Puseyite clergymen to pervert their flocks. He would now call attention to the language employed by Mr. Wroth with reference to "the Real Presence," the teaching of which doctrine was preliminary to the use of sacrificial vestments, which were presented and "offered on the altar" the following Sunday after the preaching of this sermon— And it is on this account, dearly beloved, that now this congregation has been plainly taught the true Catholic faith regarding the Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist and the Eucharistic sacrifice, and I trust have all come to believe it, I think it right to comply with the request of many among you, and adopt on Sunday next those vestments which are ordered in the Rubric at the beginning of the Book of Common Prayer. I have exercised caution and waited long before adopting these vestments, though I believed them to be strictly legal, because until the true faith regarding the Holy Eucharist was believed, the meaning of vestments would not have been realized, and might have caused offence to many. Such was the ordinary language employed by several clergymen in the Bishop of London's own diocese, and the cases he had cited were proofs of a conspiracy to restore the doctrines of the Romish Mass. As Parliament was on the eve of adjourning he felt it his duty to inquire whether any, and what, steps were being taken to put down this treason in the Church of England?


agreed that as a notice of this kind had been given it might have been expected that the Bishop of London would have been present to explain the language which he had used. He was sure, however, that the noble Marquess would not expect him to follow him into the proceedings which had been referred to, and which were, if they answered the description given of them by the noble Marquess, certainly inconsistent with the simplicity of Protestant worship. At the same time, it must be recollected that great difficulty was felt by the Bishops in keeping the clergy within the bounds of moderation and discretion. He regretted the practices which had been alluded to, and which he believed were productive of a good deal of mischief; they alienated a great many from the Church, and gave rise to a great amount of dissension. The last time the matter was brought before their Lordships the Bishop of London, speaking for the right rev. Bench, stated that they had conferred upon the matter, and found that although some of these practices may be within the limits of the law there were others decidedly illegal, which could be put a stop to by legal process. They had made an intimation of that circumstance to the clergy, and informed them that it was their intention to call in the assistance of the law to enable them to put down the practices complained of; stating at the same time that they relied on the good sense and moderation of their subordinate clergy to relieve them from that responsibility. In the present case, he saw no reason for interference on the part of Her Majesty's Government unless some representation was made by the spiritual authorities that the case was one which absolutely called for intervention. He could not say more respecting the Question put by the noble Marquess, not expecting that he would be the person called upon to give an explanation on the subject.


observed, that having ascertained that it would not be regular to address the question personally to the Bishop of London, he gave the notice in the terms entered on their Lordships' books; but as the right rev. Prelate had not thought fit to give the information required, he felt it his duty, previous to the adjournment of Parliament, to ascertain if any steps were to be taken to put down an admitted conspiracy, which was got up for no other purpose than to overthrow the Protestant religion. For his part, he considered that it was a case not to be dragged wearily through antiquated Ecclesiastical Courts, but settled by a proceeding at common law, which would submit the question to the decision of twelve honest jurymen. It was plain that something ought to be done, and it was from a sense of duty he brought the matter before their Lordships' House, and now the responsibility would rest on others.

House adjourned at a quarter past Six o'clock, till To-morrow, a quarter before Five o'clock.