HL Deb 09 April 1867 vol 186 cc1328-31

presented five Petitions of Women of the United Kingdom against any Innovation in the customary Ceremonial of the Church of England. The noble Marquess said, that one of these petitions had 17,188 signatures. One of these petitions stated that in the event of a Royal Commission being appointed to inquire into Ritualistic Inno- vations in the Church of England, there could be no confidence in the proceedings of such a Commission if right rev. Prelates were appointed thereto who were themselves compromised by the introduction of usages and practices which were rejected at the Reformation. The petitioners mentioned the cases of the Lord Bishop of the diocese of Oxford, who had conducted a novel, unauthorized, and superstitious service for the "Dedication of a Bell" in Bampton Church; the Lord Bishop of Salisbury, who used a similar unauthorized and superstitious ceremonial for a bell in Sherborne Church; the Lord Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol, who inaugurated by a special service a new order of Church ministers other than those authorized in the Prayer Book; and the Lord Bishop of Chichester, who, in addition to novel proceedings in a private chapel, attended a special service in Chichester Cathedral in connection with "the presentation of a pastoral staff," having profane Popish emblems engraved thereon, and also held a highly-objectionable service for the consecration of a Lady Warden of a Tractarian sisterhood; and prayed the House to adopt an Address to Her Majesty on the subject. Having read the petition at length, the noble Marquess was understood to urge in support of it that whilst he admitted that it was entirely in the province of the Crown, on issuing a Royal Commission, not only to nominate who should compose it, but also to lay down the Instructions under which it was to act, he was, nevertheless, justified in presenting this petition, and in briefly supporting the prayer of it. At the same time, he disclaimed any intention to speak offensively of Bishops in proceeding to substantiate the allegation which rendered it inexpedient that they should be members of such a Commission as that referred to. He denied that there was the slightest authority for the Bishop of Chichester carrying a pastoral staff in procession, or to justify the dedication of a bell by a religious ceremony, which was the more objectionable in the English Church because it was common in the Church of Rome.


said, he did not rise for the purpose of addressing their Lordships on the general Question on which the noble Marquess had spoken at such length, but simply with the view of saying a few words on behalf of his right rev. Friend the Bishop of Oxford, who was unable to be present, and who was anxious that the charge which had been brought against him by the noble Marquess should not be left in the position in which he had placed it, but that the House should be put in possession of the real facts of the case. He (the Duke of Marlborough) felt himself to a certain extent justified in making a statement on what was a personal matter, inasmuch as, although he could not say that he was actually of his own knowledge acquainted with the facts as they occurred, yet he was thoroughly well acquainted with the clergyman of the Church in which the circumstances relating to the dedication of the bell in question took place; and that gentleman was, he could assure their Lordships, one of the most estimable, worthy, and moderate men in the diocese of Oxford, and a man, too, who was as little likely to promote or encourage anything of what was popularly termed a Tractarian character as any Churchman whom he knew. The Bishop of Oxford complained, and he thought not without reason, that the noble Marquess should bring so serious a charge against him as that of having violated the Act of Uniformity without having given him any notice whatever that it was his intention to do so, and should have thought fit to bring it forward, too, at a time when the right rev. Prelate, in common with many of his right rev. Brethren, was necessarily absent in the performance of his duties during the period of Lent. But, without entering further into that point, he would leave their Lordships to form their own opinions as to the propriety of the way in which the subject had been introduced to their notice, and would content himself with reading what he believed to be an authentic account of what was called the dedication of the bell at Bampton Church. That account was as follows:— A new bell, by great exertions of the parishioners, was provided for Bampton; and the vicar wrote to the Bishop stating the great wish of the parish that some religious service should accompany its erection. The Bishop consented to attend; they had in the Church the regular service of the day, and the Bishop preached a sermon, explaining the impiety and superstition of the Church of Rome in baptizing bells, and the piety of asking God's blessing, as they were going to do, on this addition to His house of prayer. After the regular service in the Church, the congregation adjourned into the churchyard, and while the bell was raised, sang a hymn and said some prayers like those commonly used at laying a foundation stone—praying that the bell might call men to God's house, might remind them to hallow joy by prayer, and, as it tolled, to think of death in life. That statement came from a private source; but their Lordships might, he thought, form some idea of the fairness with which the subject had been treated by the noble Marquess when he read an extract from a report of the proceedings on the occasion which had been published in a local paper, which report the noble Marquess had in his hand while he spoke, but from which he omitted to quote the passage to which he alluded. That passage was as follows:— The Bishop's sermon, taken from the Prophet Jeremiah, was one of the most striking and deeply spiritual discourses we have ever heard his Lordship deliver. In one part of it he gave an account of the first introduction of bells into the early churches, and described the gradual growth of those gross and baneful superstitions which formerly attended their erection, forcibly dwelling on the contrast between them and the offering up of our prayers that God would accept the work of our hands for His glory and for the benefit of His people. He would only, in conclusion, bear his testimony to what the right rev. Prelate had accomplished, to his own knowledge, in the diocese of Oxford. He would state, from his own knowledge of the diocese of Oxford, that he knew nobody who was so happy in uniting moderate men of all shades of opinion and impressing them with the religious character and fervour of his work than his right rev. Friend who presided over that diocese.


said, he had not given the right rev. Prelate notice simply because he thought there was no time to be lost in drawing attention to the subject before the appointment of the Royal Commission, of which the Bishop of Oxford, who seemed desirous of having a hand in everything, might wish to be a member—a position for holding which he (the Marquess of Westmeath) held he was incapacitated by what had taken place. He had no passage of anything relating to this subject in his hand which he had purposely omitted, and he did not understand the charge the noble Duke had made against him; but if there had been anything omitted which was pertinent to the case, it must have been that he was averse to overlay the subject with too many quotations.

Petitions to lie on the table.