HL Deb 11 June 1866 vol 184 cc95-112

in rising to move that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty for the appointment of a Commission to revise the Lectionary of the Established Church, and also to consider what steps should be taken to obviate the evils complained of as arising from the compulsory and almost indiscriminate use of the Burial Service, said:—The Motion which I am about to submit to your Lordships' notice for a Royal Commission embraces two objects—one, the revision of the Calendar of Lessons, which is called the Lectionary; the other, the amendment of the law with reference to the reading of the Burial Service. As to the first I need say but little, inasmuch as this has been the spontaneous proposition of my most rev. Friend who presides over the archdiocese of Canterbury, who not satisfied with stating his willingness to concur in this object has already applied to the Home Office for the issue of a Commission, and my object would already have been effected but for a notion on the part of the Secretary of State, as I understood him, that it would be better not to appoint a Royal Commission for what appeared to him, unfortunately, as I think, too small a matter to be made by itself the subject of a Commission, but that it would be better to wait until other subjects of a cognate nature could be included with it. I presume, therefore, that to this part of my proposal there will be no objection; and 1 do not know why I should anticipate any objection to the remainder, and for this reason—that the present state of the law of burial has been twice discussed in your Lordships' House and condemned on all sides—Government, Opposition, cross - bench, and right rev. Bench—with a very remarkable unanimity; so much so that I thought at one time the best thing I could do to save your Lordships' time would be to make this statement and sit down. I think, however, that I should best perform the task I have undertaken by simply recalling to the recollection of the House the history of the question since it has more prominently occupied the attention of Parliament. Some fourteen or fifteen years ago, in the town of Cambridge, a notorious evil liver, turned drunk out of a tavern, fell into a gutter and died. The clergyman, Mr. Dodd, who was called upon to read the service at the deceased's funeral, and who behaved throughout the whole transaction with great good sense and moderation, feeling what a scandal it would create, very properly declined to do so. It is well your Lordships should be made aware of the exact words which he would have had to read— Forasmuch as it has pleased Almighty God of His great mercy to take unto Himself the soul of our dear brother here departed, we therefore commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life. Again— We give Thee hearty thanks for that it hath pleased Thee to deliver this our brother out of the miseries of this sinful world. Again— We meekly beseech Thee, O Father, to raise us from the death of sin unto the life of righteousness; that when we shall depart this life, we may rest in Him, as our hope is this our brother doth. Well, my Lords, for declining to read these words Mr. Dodd was prosecuted, condemned to pay the costs of the suit, and suspended for six months. These circumstances excited a very strong feeling of sorrow and anger in the University and the town, the result of which was a memorial to the right rev. Bench, signed by about 4,000 clergy of all ranks and shades of opinions, many of very high standing and eminence, which contained the following clauses:— 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 your Lordships will be pleased to give the subject such attention as the magnitude of these evils appears to require, with a view of devising some effectual remedy. The reply of the Archbishop on behalf of his brethren was, I venture to think, most unfortunate. It stated— 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. When I brought this case before Parliament in 1863 by a Motion much the same as the present, your Lordships, one and all, took the same view of the case as those reverend petitioners. Every Lord who addressed the House, whether spiritual or temporal, admitted that the grievance was intolerable and absolutely required a remedy; and the most rev. Primate undertook to consult the clergy generally as to the best means of finding a solution to the difficulty. I believe every one of your Lordships then present felt as I did, that the question was upon the eve of a satisfactory adjustment. Unfortunately, however, this attempt failed, and the most rev. Primate announced in the next Session that he was unable to propose anything, as the great majority of the clergy, so far as as he could ascertain, had declared against any change of any description. He did not say what their reasons were, but he stated that, such being the fact, he could not proceed. This House, then, was thus unfortunately brought into collision with the majority of the clergy, this House declaring that the present state of the law urgently required alteration, the clergy declaring that in their opinion no alteration was requisite. I waited for some time, hoping that this feeling would subside, and that, as so little was really required to set the matter straight, some plan of reconciliation might have been devised by the clerical element in the country. Now, your Lordships will bear me witness that in all these matters I have done my best to put these questions out of my own hands, and to place them in those of the Spiritualty of our Church, so that they might appear to come from that quarter. After waiting, however, nearly two Sessions, towards the close of last Session I renewed my previous Motion but in the most conciliatory form I could devise—namely, that the subject was one which required the attention of Parliament. I showed the Motion to the most rev. Primate who presides over the Northern province before I introduced it, and was happy to find that he approved it. I only regret that he was unable to be present on that evening. On that occasion I could have cited dozens of instances of the continuance of those scandals arising out of the state of the law; but I contented myself with one of recent occurrence, where a clergyman in Devonshire had, under circumstances which, in my opinion, fully justified him in so doing, refused to read the Burial Service, and was accordingly prosecuted and fined. I am very happy to say, my Lords, that my Motion was not opposed upon its merits, but merely upon the ground of the lateness of the time at which it was brought forward, near the end of the Session, and on the eve of a dissolution. Although I did not consider this a good reason, I accepted it because it seemed to suggest a hope that we might arrive at a satisfactory solution of our difficulties. I now bring it forward again at a moment when of course no such objection will be taken, and I earnestly entreat your Lordships not to negative a Motion which has for its object the most practical method of dealing with an admitted evil. But whatever you do, my Lords, one thing I think I have a right to ask—namely, that you will settle this question now one way or the other. It is not fair to those I represent—it is not fair to myself—it is injurious to the Church of which we are members, to delay your decision. Either say that the grievance is imaginary and requires no remedy, or if you admit the grievance say you intend to deal with it. If you are of opinion that some overpowering and strange necessity exists which prevents your dealing with an admitted grievance—which prevents your even attempting the alteration of a law which is said by some of the best of our Ministers to impose a heavy burden upon their consciences, and to cause grievous scandal to many Christian men, then, my Lords, you will reject my proposal; but if you are of a contrary opinion—namely, that no such overpowering difficulty stands in your way—then you will vote for a Royal Commission; and I will venture to say that if Her Majesty should be advised to nominate one similar in its composition to that which had to consider the oaths and declarations made by the clergy, not ten days of sitting, which it cost us to arrange the new terms of subscription, not ten hours, I had almost said not ten minutes, would elapse before a satisfactory basis would be agreed upon for the settlement of this question, and your Lordships would hear of it no more. I beg to conclude by making the Motion of which I have given notice.

Moved, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty for the Appointment of a Commission to revise the Lectionary of the Established Church, and also to consider what Steps should be taken to obviate the Evils complained of as arising from the compulsory and almost indiscriminate Use of the Burial Service.—(The Lord Ebury.)


said, he felt himself compelled to object to the Motion of his noble Friend. Before entering into his reasons against the proposition contained in that Motion, he might be permitted to make a remark personal to himself, and to state that he was no determined opponent to all reforms in the Church. He was the first to propose a reform in the Statutes of the University of Oxford, by which the forms for conferring degrees in the House of Convocation were much simplified, and many unnecessary oaths abolished. In 1854 he did not hesitate to become a Member of the Oxford University Commission, whose labours had resulted in a considerable change being made in those statutes, and very large reforms in the government of that University. Again, two years since, he had not objected to become a Member of the Commission appointed to inquire into the subject of clerical subscription. In all those instances he foresaw that successful results would be obtained, but he could not consent to take part in a Commission where he foresaw that the inquiry was likely to have no practical or useful result. His noble Friend was of opinion that if a Commission were appointed to sit upon this question, similar to those that had been appointed to consider the questions to which he had referred, a satisfactory result would be immediately arrived at. He (the Archbishop of Canterbury), however, was of a totally different opinion, for he believed that great differences of opinion would arise, and the Report of the Commissioners would be such that no Government would venture to act upon it. He was therefore decidedly not prepared to take part in a Commission whose investigations must result in such an unsatisfactory termination. The noble Lord's Motion was divided into two parts, one having reference to the Lectionary of the Church of England, and the other relating to the Burial Service. He certainly should object to a Royal Commission being appointed to take the former subject into consideration at the present time, when there was a good deal of anxious discussion going on with regard to the ritualistic question, and therefore they ought not to deal with it at present, while at the same time he had no objection whatever that the subject should be discussed at a proper season. He, however, did not think it right that the two questions, very different in themselves, should be mixed up in the same Motion. It was a serious question to touch the main body of the Liturgy, and he hoped that their Lordships would not hastily consent to that being done. The noble Lord said that forty-seven petitions had been presented upon this subject, signed by 7,000 persons. Now, some months ago, he (the Archbishop of Canterbury) had received a memorial signed by 37,000 lay communicants, and another signed by 4,000 of the clergy, against any alteration in the Prayer Book being made, and therefore he felt convinced that there could be no chance whatever for a general revision of the Liturgy if a Commission were appointed as proposed by the noble Lord. Either matters would remain just as they were, or one party in the Church would gain a great victory at the expense of the other, which was most undesirable. Therefore he earnestly deprecated this part of the noble Lord's Motion. The noble Lord had adverted to the great scandals which sometimes arose with reference to the Burial Service. But suppose that in order to prevent such scandals arising, they were completely to remove from the Burial Service the objectionable expressions—did their Lordships imagine that they would get rid of all the difficulties which were raised? The language of the Burial Service was entirely consistent with the spirit of the Christian religion, and he should be sorry to see removed from it all expression of a hope in a resurrection to eternal life. It was better to be charitable than the opposite, and he thought an over-scrupulousness was sometimes shown, and that there were very few cases indeed in which a clergyman need scruple to employ that language. Some cases, indeed, there were, such as that of a person dying in the avowal of utter and resolute unbelief in which these scruples were justified, for if such a man after death could express an opinion he would be indignant at the Burial Service being read over him. Again, there was another case which had actually occurred, of a person living in gross and avowed sin, and dying in the act of declaring that she was resolved not to forsake it. A clergyman was fully at liberty to refuse to use the expressions in question in cases like these. But where a clergyman could not undertake to say that there was no hope whatever of a person's salvation, charity ought to induce him to employ the language of the Burial Service. Various attempts had been made to settle the difficulty, but all had failed; and the obstacles being such that he could see no prospect of a satisfactory solution, he could not accede to the proposal of his noble Friend. The noble Lord had spoken of his desire for conciliation; but he (the Archbishop of Canterbury) was certain that more persons would be alienated than would be conciliated by the changes he proposed. The Protestant Episcopal Church in America had made some slight alterations in the Liturgy, but he could quote the opinion of one of the bishops of that Church that though larger concessions had been made than the early Nonconformists demanded, the effect had not answered the reasonable hopes that were entertained; and he had heard from another source that it was the stability and fixedness of the formularies of that Church which led so many members of Dissenting bodies to join it. He had now touched upon the principal points raised by his noble Friend, and would again repeat his objections to his Motion.


said, he was sorry to differ on a subject of this kind from his most rev. Friend, and in some respects also with his noble Friend (Lord Ebury) who had made the Motion. If he at all differed from the noble Lord it was not because he did not admit the existence of a grievance which it was the duty of Parliament and of the heads of the Church to deal with as far as they were able, but because he thought any Commission that might be appointed should be empowered to take a wider view of the subject, and not be confined to the few and comparatively small points mentioned by his noble Friend. The most rev. Prelate, in urging the danger of a revision of the Liturgy, assumed that that revision would result in some great change, which might alienate a larger number than it would conciliate. He (the Earl of Chichester), however, was not prepared to suggest any extensive change. Having considered the question for many years, he was quite aware that it was involved in some difficulties, but he did not believe that those difficulties were insurmountable, and that being so, it was the duty of the Legislature, and a Christian duty rested upon them to solve them. Indeed, his belief was that if the whole subject was referred to a competent Commission—a Commission composed of men of learning and piety, and whose names would inspire confidence in the country generally—their inquiries would lead to important and useful results, and the circulation of the report which they might agree to would give a great deal of useful instruction to the clergy, and would prepare men's minds for a moderate reform. Let their Lordships consider the circumstances under which the Liturgy was framed. The great Fathers of the Reformed Church were men who had been brought up in the Roman Catholic Church, they were nurtured in principles of superstition and intolerance; it would not therefore have been surprising had those worthy men been imbued with many prejudices, and had they been somewhat exclusive and dogmatical, and indisposed to make the Church as comprehensive as it ought to be. On looking, however, into the history of those times, we found that so far from such being the case, they were influenced by a feeling of Christian charity, and that they not only endeavoured to conciliate the members of the old communion by altering the formularies as little as necessity required, but that they also endeavoured to effect and maintain Christian communion with the reformers of other Churches on the Continent; and we could not be too grateful for the fact that the Liturgy, which was the result of these different efforts during the 16th century, was so comprehensive and so free from fault as we found it. Subsequently to the time of Elizabeth, and down to the period of the Great Rebellion, a more exclusive feeling no doubt crept into the Church; arbitrary attempts were made to enforce conformity, and all moderate reforms were refused. The consequence was what he considered to be a bane and reproach to the Church of England—that for nearly 300 years she had never made a single honest attempt to rectify acknowledged and repeatedly alleged grievances in her system, and thus to become more comprehensive, and, in fact, a national Church. He said no honest attempt had been made, for he thought no man who had fairly studied the history of the Hampton Court and Savoy Conferences, or the still more futile attempts made at the Revolution of 1688, would for a moment maintain that the Church of England had ever honestly attempted to meet the views of Nonconformists. It was represented, indeed, by some Church historians that those efforts were really marred by the unreasonableness of the Nonconformists; and no doubt the Nonconformists on two of those occasions were not so moderate or reasonable in their demands as they might have been. More conciliation and Christian charity might, doubtless, have been manifested on both sides. One very remarkable fact connected with the history of those transactions was that during the whole of that period they found from time to time that some of the most learned and pious defenders of the Church had acknowledged those evils, and were advocates for their removal. Another fact was that there appeared to be a very great accordance of opinion as to the alterations required and the smallness of their amount, and that few and unimportant as these alterations were they would have conciliated a great number of the Nonconformists. The fact that the very alterations now urged were urged then partly by members of the Church and partly by Nonconformists surely went a long way to prove that there was something to be said in their favour. He was not disposed to discuss point by point these proposed alterations, which seemed to him not only desirable, but practicable. He, for one, particularly disliked discussions of that sort in their Lordships' House. It was quite sufficient if he could convince the House and the right rev. Bench, that an inquiry into this subject must some day or other take place, and that the sooner it began the more likely it was to lead to a favourable issue. It was a paramount duty on the part of those to whom were intrusted the government and well-being of the Church to endeavour from time to time to remove every cause of offence to the weaker brethren, to make the Church as comprehensive as possible, and promote, as their fathers had done, that intercommunion between the Churches of different countries who believed substantially the same great truths—and the greater the intercommunion of Church with Church—the more comprehensive the more Protestant would each Church become. These were among the reasons which induced him to think that some such inquiry was desirable; but whether it was wise or prudent to issue a Commission on the two points raised by his noble Friend he would not undertake to decide.


said, that when his noble Friend (Lord Ebury) brought the same question before their Lordships last summer, he had thought, upon the whole, the most prudent course for him (the Bishop of London) to take was not to vote at all; and he felt very much inclined to follow the same course on the present occasion. What had been stated by the noble Earl who had just addressed their Lordships (the Earl of Chichester) somewhat strengthened him in that inclination. He did not think the arguments of the noble Earl went much in favour of the proposition of his noble Friend (Lord Ebury); and his observations took a much wider range. The noble Earl had spoken of such a revision of the Liturgy as would conciliate foreign churches. He (the Bishop of London) did not believe that our brethren in America or those who belonged to Protestant bodies elsewhere would be deterred from uniting with the Church of England, either by the length or the character of its Lectionary, or the use of the Burial Service. The noble Lord (Lord Ebury) had said that while the evil had been admitted he had always been met by the objection that the time had not arrived for remedying the evils complained of. He (the Bishop of London) thought he might honestly say that this was not exactly the right time, and that the matter was not of such paramount importance to the Church as to require that it should be taken into consideration at the present moment. The noble Earl had spoken of the refusal of the Church for many years to make any changes in its system. Certainly, if he (the Bishop of London) were convinced that the question at issue was between allowing all things to continue as they were, whether suited to the present time or no, and voting for the Motion of his noble Friend, he should vote with the noble Lord. But he thought his noble Friend must have observed during the many years he had been a Member of that House, that the Church of England had not been altogether stationary. He did not think the Church was liable to the imputation of a senile adherence to things as they were, and an unwillingness to make any change even when her forms had altogether ceased to influence the generation in which they lived. The noble Lord himself had been the principal instrument in inducing the Government to issue the Commission to which the most rev. Prelate had alluded; a Commission which had remedied an abuse of very long standing, which had conciliated many persons who long had stumbled at the mode of subscription to Articles of the Church, and which had conferred, as he (the Bishop of London) knew from his own experience, a great boon upon the Church. The matter taken in hand was a difficult one, and occupied a great deal of time. They had to deal with subscriptions which many thought to be absolutely essential for the preservation of the unity of faith in the Church. They had on the one hand to guard against the notion that a man denying the truths which the Church taught might become one of her ministers; and on the other hand, they had to conciliate men of tender consciences, who were truly attached to the doctrines of the Church, and yet were not disposed to make a public declaration that they agreed with every iota of its forms. With great difficulty and after many discussions the matter was settled. A most remarkable change was thus introduced into the system of the Church, reaching even to the alteration of a most solemn service of the Church—the service for the Ordination of Priests and Deacons, and even, he believed, for the Consecration of Bishops. That alteration had been sanctioned by both Houses of Parliament, and by the Convocation of the Province of Canterbury. Consequently it could not be said that the Church of England had been altogether idle, or indisposed to adopt any change simply from an unworthy love of things as they are. Again, it was but a short time since a noble Earl now present (Earl Stanhope) had induced their Lordships to concur in removing from the Prayer Book those services which were called State Services, which were binding not indeed by an Act of Uniformity, but still by an authority recognized throughout the kingdom. This was a most important concession, which he believed had done great good, and had removed a great objection which had been felt in cathedral and collegiate churches against the retention of forms which had ceased to be anything but forms. There was, however, one of these State services which had been preserved—it was that in which thanks were returned for the commencement of Her Majesty's reign and blessings were prayed for on the reigning Sovereign. The reason that service had been retained was that it was felt that its spirit had not departed from it. He therefore said that the Church did not hold to forms when the spirit had left them; but where they were capable of being made instinct with more spirit, the Church in retaining would seek to breathe into them the new life required. Furthermore, there was at the present moment a Bill in the other House of Parliament which contemplated an alteration of the service for the consecration of Colonial Bishops. All this he felt was a sufficient proof that the Church had not been dead or torpid, but was anxious to adapt the services, where this could be done to the changed circumstances of the age in which we live. Great changes had also taken places even under the existing law. They could all remember how different in former times were the somewhat slovenly performances of public worship in many parish churches from the present practice—certainly it could not be laid to the charge of the young clergy of the present day that they adhered too much to things as they are. Many thought that they were too much inclined to violent change. One of the reasons why he could not assent to the proposition of the noble Lord was that there were at the present moment more important questions than those brought forward by the noble Lord demanding consideration, and he thought that the Bishops should apply themselves to the pressing matters before them, rather than turn aside to the discussion of those questions which the noble Lord believed to be most important. Every man was liable to have—he would not say his own crotchets—but his own favourite ideas, and the noble Lord appeared to attach greater importance to the questions of the Burial Service and the Lectionary than in his (the Bishop of London's) eyes they really possessed. He granted that there was a grievance in regard to the Burial Service, and that it was very awkward when the law said one thing and the clergy did another. Though he desired to see a remedy applied to these matters as speedily as possible he did not know that this evil was very pressing. He had had few cases in his own diocese, and in the one or two instances in which he had been asked beforehand what ought to be done, he had given the best advice he could, and no legal prosecution had followed in any case in his diocese when the law had been slightly departed from. He did not think that the fear of legal prosecutions was so great as the noble Lord seemed to imagine, and he believed that by an arrangement such as was now entered into in some dioceses the evils and scandals of such cases as had occurred might be obviated. As he should not have an opportunity of addressing their Lordships to-morrow evening on the subject of ritualism, when it was proposed by a noble Marquess to subject himself and other Prelates to a catechetical examination, he would say that the Bishops had for some time been occupied in considering the difficulties which the petitions presented that evening set before their Lordships. It had been assumed by ardent spirits that they were too slow; but they desired before acting to ascertain what the law was. Instead, therefore, of rushing at once into a Court of Law and putting forth what authority it gave them, they thought it best to ascertain with the utmost accuracy what was the real state of the law upon the subject. There being different rulings upon the subject, a case had within the last three months been carefully prepared and laid before the Attorney General and Sir Hugh Cairns. The questions submitted to those eminent lawyers embraced all the particular matters which had excited confusion in the Church during the last few years, and the answer given by those learned gentlemen was to the effect that there would be no difficulty in proceeding against the persons who had disturbed the Church in those matters. Having obtained those opinions, it must be obvious to their Lordships that the Bishops could hardly stand inactive; they were bound to go further after having gone so far; and he was sure, therefore, that their time would be sufficiently occupied without entering at present on the points that had been raised by the noble Lord. There was another difficulty which was also likely to occupy their time—he referred to that which arose as to the discretion which existed in certain cases referred to in the Preface of the Prayer Book, and he feared it might be necessary to ask the Legislature to give Bishops a greater discretionary power in dealing with matters which endangered the church. He said "endangered the Church," because he believed that those things did greatly stir the feelings of a vast number of Protestants, and tended to shake the influence of the Church of England which had always been recognized as the greatest Protestant Church in the world.


expressed his regret to hear the liberal and enlightened Prelate who had just sat down intimate that it was the intention of himself and other Prelates to apply to the law of this country on the subject of ritualism. He looked forward with dread to such an appeal. He really believed that that matter might be left to the good sense and Christian feeling of the people of this country, which was deeply rooted in Protestantism, and which had on a previous occasion put aside a far more serious Tractarian movement than that which at present existed. He could not, he thought, put the question before their Lordships in a more practical way than by stating that it had now become the habit of almost the entire of the middle and lower classes of this country to attend the afternoon and evening rather than the morning service of the Church, and that the result was that they, in the present state of the Lectionary, never heard read there one chapter of the historical Books of the Old Testament. That was a condition of things which caused considerable annoyance, and which he contended ought not to be suffered to continue. As to the latter portion of the Motion of his noble Friend, he must say that, while ignorant as to what interpretation the right rev. Bench as a body placed on the Burial Service, his own interpretation of the English language and the documents of the Church was that the words "sure and certain hope of eternal life" expressed the doctrine of the Church, while it was left to the feeling of the clergyman ministering whether he referred that doctrine to the individual destiny of the person interred. There was in our Church a large freedom which distinguished it from the administration of other Churches, and its services breathed the spirit of prayer and benevolence much more than that of exclusive doctrine. He did not wish to oppose the wishes of the right rev. Bench, but he had simply to observe. that the right rev. Bench would, in his opinion, do well to assent to the appointment of a Commission on the Lectionary, which would spread itself over a considerable time while it would deal with a practical necessity.


said, he did not think it expedient, as at present advised, that the Crown should interfere in the matters which had been introduced by his noble Friend to their Lordships' notice in the manner proposed. Any steps that might be taken in the matter ought to be taken by the right rev. Prelates themselves. With respect to the Burial Service, he must say that ho looked upon it as a great misfortune that a clergyman should feel himself bound by a conscientious feeling to do, under any circumstances, that which was contrary to law; and he wished the right rev. Bench would take upon themselves to provide a form of words by means of which the law on the subject might be made more satisfactory. But the right rev. Prelate who had just spoken (the Bishop of London) thought that the difficulties in the way of this course were insuperable. His noble Friend behind him (the Earl of Chichester) had spoken in reference to the very wide question of the general revision of the services; and he (Earl Russell) did not think that the adoption of the proposition to issue a Commission would tend to the peace of the Church. His (Earl Russell's) opinion was that the revision proposed was not one in which each party would have an equal chance; and it was a change which one school of opinion very much desired, whilst another school of opinion vehemently opposed it. He was, therefore, afraid that if they were to issue a Commission upon the matter, instead of producing greater harmony and peace in the Church, they would give rise to very angry controversy, and this without any chance of settling the matter. He could not, therefore, be a party to the issuing of such a Commission.


said, the noble Lord who made the Motion seemed to think that the whole question of the revision of the Burial Service might be settled by a Commission in ten minutes. Now if that were possible, it could not take more than two or three minutes to tell them how it was to be done, and he should very much like to hear from the noble Lord how so good a thing could be done in so short a time.


said, the discussion had wandered far from the simple Motion he had made. He would not go into the general question of the revision of the Liturgy, but would content himself with quoting a passage from The Times to the effect that no amount of controversy which the revision of the Liturgy would be likely to excite could be half so bad as that 4,000,000 Christians would have nothing to do with it as it stood. In reply to the question which had been just put to him, he thought that an alteration which had been suggested in the work of a clergyman, which he held in his hand, would meet the requirements of the case. The words of the Burial Service in the first Collect, as it now stood, were as follow:— Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God of His great mercy to take unto Himself the soul of our dear brother here departed, we therefore commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body that it may be like unto His glorious body, according to the mighty working whereby He is able to subdue all things to Himself. The words which he proposed to substitute were— Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God to take out of this sinful world the soul of our brother here departed, we therefore commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; looking for the general Resurrection in the last day, and the life of the world to come, through our Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the quick and dead at His appearing and kingdom, and change the vile bodies of His saints, that they may be like unto His glorious body, according to the mighty working whereby He is able to subdue all things unto Himself. If the service were thus altered a heavy burden would, he thought, be removed from the consciences of the clergy, and there would be no further difficulty on the subject. He was not sorry that he had made this Motion, seeing the declarations it had been the means of eliciting from those who had taken part in the discussion. But when the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of London) said the Episcopal bench were not actuated by an unreasoning desire to adhere to things as they are, he must remark that some ten years ago the right rev. Prelates themselves had actually advocated a revision of the Liturgy, or, what was substantially the same thing, a modification of the Church Services. Since then, however, a change appeared to have come over their minds. Having referred to a speech delivered in Convocation, the noble Lord said the right rev. Bench were certainly acting in a very extraordinary way if they really desired to redress the grievances of the Church. A large body of the clergy felt the present state of things to impose a heavy burden on their consciences, and to cause a grievous scandal to Christian men; and he maintained that, as those evils resulted from the law of the land, it was perfectly competent for Parliament to deal with them. Was there, he asked, some kind of cabalistic virtue in every word and letter of these formularies, that it was impossible to retrench or alter a syllable of them in order to remove these scandals? He trusted that on that occasion he should be supported by such a number of their Lordships as would show that some action ought to be taken in this matter.


said, the noble Lord who had just sat down (Lord Ebury) had spoken as if certain members of the Episcopal bench had been inconsistent in approving some modification in the services of the Church some years ago, and in now being against a revision of the Liturgy. The noble Lord seemed to think that in approving a modification of the services of the Church they had committed themselves to a revision of the Liturgy. That, however, was not the case. They simply approved a shortening of the services—as, for example, by turning the Litany into a separate service—and not of any revision of the Liturgy itself. But he had risen more especially to refer to some observations of his right rev. Brother (the Bishop of London), which had been partially misunderstood by the noble Lord who followed him in the present discussion. His right rev. Brother had stated that, in their anxiety to ascertain what was the right course for the bishops to pursue with regard to those ritualistic practices the introduction of which had occasioned so much uneasiness among the best friends of the Church, the members of the Episcopal bench had resolved to obtain the best legal opinion they could as to the exact law of the Church in respect to those practices. They had accordingly done so, and the opinion they had obtained was altogether against the introduction of those ritualistic practices which had been the subject of complaint. In this, in his opinion, the Bishops had adopted a wise course. The only proper course for the Bishops to pursue in the first instance was to ascertain what the law of the Church really was, in order that they might know what were the right steps to take to put down those practices if they were illegal. But the remarks of his right rev. Brother on that point had been partly misunderstood by the noble Lord who followed him, who appeared to take it for granted that, having obtained the legal opinion that these practices were contrary to the law of the Church, they should immediately endeavour to put the law into action; and by pursuing the question into the Courts proceed by the force and authority of the law to repress these practices. That was not their intention. Their intention was having ascertained what the law of the Church was in the first instance, to trust that the good sense of those who were, perhaps unconsciously, violating the law would induce them to retrace their steps, and bring their practice into conformity with the law. He earnestly hoped that such would be the case, and that those who now found that they had been transgressing the law of the Church would have the good sense to desist from doing so without obliging the Bishops to resort to legal process to compel the observance of what the law of the Church required. If, on the other hand, that expectation should be disappointed, then he apprehended they would have but one course before them as Bishops of the Church—namely, to maintain and uphold the law of the Church by the authority of the law, if they could not do it in any other way. Should it unfortunately happen that they had to pursue these cases in the Courts of Law, the responsibility for that would not lie on the Bishops, but on those who had not the good sense, when they saw they were in the wrong, to retrace their steps, and make their practice conform to the law.

On Question? their Lordships divided:—contents 20; Not-Contents 66; Majority 46:—Resolved in the Negative.

Westmeath, M. Belper, L.
Westminster, M. Blantyre, L.
Charlemont, L. (E. Charlemont.)
Cowper, E.
Fortescue, E. Churchill, L.
Grey, E. Ebury, L. [Teller.]
Minto, E. Foley, L.
Zetland, E. Gage, L. (V. Gage.)
Harris, L.
Clancarty, V. (E. Clancarty.) Hunsdon, L. (V. Falkland.) [Teller.]
Leinster, V. (D. Leinster.) Monson, L.
Mostyn, L.
Canterbury, Archp. Sydney, V.
Cranworth,L. (L. Chancellor.) Bangor, Bp.
Cashel, &c., Bp.
Derry and Raphoe, Bp.
Cleveland, D. Gloucester and Bristol, Bp.
Grafton, D.
Somerset, D. Lichfield, Bp.
Ripon, Bp.
Bath, M. [Teller.]
Abinger, L.
Bantry, E. Aveland, L.
Beauchamp, E. Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.)
Belmore, E.
Cadogan, E. Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)
Carnarvon, E.
Cawdor, E. Chelmsford, L.
Dartmouth, E. Clandeboye, L. (L. Dufferin and Claneboye. )
De Grey, E.
Derby, E.
Devon, E. Colville of Culross, L.
Effingham, E. Crofton, L.
Granville, E. Delamere, L.
Hardwicke, E. Digby, L.
Harrowby, E. Hatherton, L.
Huntingdon, E, Heytesbury, L.
Leven and Melville, E. Houghton, L. [Teller.]
Lucan, E. Kilmaine, L.
Malmesbury, E. Lyttelton, L.
Orkney, E. Lyveden, L.
Romney, E. Oxenfoord, L. (E. Stair)
Russell, E. Polwarth, L.
Stanhope, E. Redesdale, L.
Verulam, E. Saltoun, L.
Wilton, E. Silchester, L.(E. Longford.)
De Vesci, V. Sondes, L.
Halifax, V. Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)
Hawarden, V.
Stratford de Redeliffe, V. Talbot de Malahide, L.
Walsingham, L.