HL Deb 20 April 1874 vol 218 cc786-808

, in rising to call the attention of the House to the present state of the laws regulating Divine Service in the Church, said: My Lords, I have been requested by my right rev. Brethren to bring under your Lordships' notice a subject which creates great interest in the country at the present time; and I have also been requested to close the remarks which I shall make to your Lordships by laying on your Lordships' Table the draft of a Bill which I hope may obtain acceptance. This measure is entitled "An Act for the better administration of the Laws respecting the regulation of Public Worship." I must ask your Lordships' attention to the wording of this title. It is not our intention to propose to your Lordships any change in the laws ecclesiastical, as if we thought the time had come when there was to be some great unsettlement of the arrangements made at the Reformation. On the contrary, it is our desire that the laws of this Reformed Church of England should be observed, and therefore what we request of your Lordships is to give us greater facilities in the administration of those laws. The laws which regulate public worship in the Church of England are to be found in the Act of Uniformity and in the Canons as interpreted by the various decisions of Courts when doubtful matters in the Act of Uniformity, or the Canons, were brought before those Courts. What we ask your Lordships to do is to remove certain difficulties in the way of the administration of those laws when clearly declared. My Lords, it has been said that we cannot touch this subject except in a one-sided manner—that the very touching of this matter has in itself a party aspect. I assure you it is the desire of the right rev. Bench to approach this subject as free from party bias as possible; and I am sure your Lordships will be as anxious as we are that those who neglect to act up to laws, as was not uncommon in past times, should be obliged to obey those laws. I can remember when, in remote parishes, you might have found a very unseemly state of things—the Minister scarcely attired as he should have been, the Holy Table used for singers, and the whole air and arrangements of the Church unbecoming a place devoted to the worship of God. I am willing to believe that in the Church generally those irregularities have passed away; but if there be such things still, we are anxious that a remedy should be applied, and that the Bill which I shall lay upon the Table should enforce a due and reverent celebration of the worship of God by those who have erred in a slovenly and imperfect mode of performing Divine Service. But it is in vain to conceal, either from your Lordships or from ourselves, that the necessity for this Bill comes from another quarter. The very cry which has been raised that legislation on this subject must be one-sided, seems to show a consciousness on the part of those persons who utter it that they are not obeying the laws of the Church. Why otherwise should those persons say that those who are only anxious to have the laws of the Church obeyed must be taking a party view? I believe that those persons who raise this cry have raised it unwisely, even from their own point of view, and that persons who encourage them in the general course of their proceedings, feel doubtful as to what they are doing in this case on the ground that the cry they have raised shows a weakness in the position they have taken up. I have great difficulty in expressing in detail what is the character of those violations of the laws to which I allude, because if I brought forward particular instances I might be supposed to point invidiously to individuals—and far be it from me to hold up to the blame of your Lordships' House any one who, acting however mistakenly, is still acting conscientiously. But I am relieved from the difficulty under which I should otherwise labour by referring to a volume reporting cases in which the Privy Council and Judge of the Court of Arches have felt it necessary to express condemnation of these practices. I find in Part I. Vol. IV. of the Law Reports, 1872, some very strange things which came before the Privy Council in certain appeal cases. There are certain things which, by the laws of the Church, are specified as not to be done; but I am sorry to be obliged to state to your Lordships that the very specification of the things which the law forbids may be taken as a specification of the things which, despite the law, have been done and continue to be done. In bringing these things under the notice of the House, I must apologize to all of your Lordships who are not members of the Church of England, but of another Church which regards many of the things complained of as most sacred. I adduce them as illustrations of the things which are done in defiance of the law, and despite monitions, and which it is in the power of your Lordships to help us to put an end to within our own Church. In the case of "Hebbert v. Purchas," which came before the Privy Council, the defendant was required to abstain from certain things. In the case against him he was pronounced to have offended— In having caused yourself to be censed when at the Communion Table previous to the commencement of the Communion Service, during the reading of which the lighted candles were extinguished, and which were again lighted during the reading of the Gospel; and in having sprinkled or caused to be sprinkled with water and blessed or caused to be blessed palm branches, and distributed the same to those present, and caused to be formed a procession round the interior of the church; and in having caused persons called acolytes and a crucifer bearing a crucifix to stand or kneel around you, and in having taken from the holy table a vessel filled with black powder and blessed the same, and rubbed a portion thereof on the foreheads of certain persons: and in having censed and sprinkled, or caused to be sprinkled, with water previously blessed a number of candles. Again, the defendant was pronounced to have offended in causing a new acolyte— To kneel before the holy table, and, reading some words out of a book and making the sign of a cross over him and successively putting into his hands a candlestick and decanters; and in having censed, or permitted to be censed, a crucifix placed on the holy table during Divine Service. Further, he was charged with— Having placed, or caused to be placed, on the holy table a large metal crucifix and covered and uncovered the same, and bowed down and done reverence thereto; and in having placed in the said church a modelled figure of the Infant Saviour, with two lilies on either side, and a figure or stuffed skin of a dove. The defendant was farther found to have caused or sanctioned a clergyman to kiss the Look from which he read the Gospel, But I shall not weary your Lordships further; you can find all this in the Privy Council Reports. The things done by the defendant were condemned as dangerous innovations in the worship of the Church of England. These things in other communions have a sacred and solemn meaning, and when we find persons in the communion of the Church of England introducing them into our worship we must come to the conclusion that it is because those persons hold the doctrines, more or less, which make such things sacred and solemn. There is one matter of detail, my Lords, which I ought not to pass over. A statement has been placed in my hands to this effect—that in certain churches it is thought extremely desirable that confessional boxes should be erected. Your Lordships will know that these are boxes used in Roman Catholic churches for the purpose of auricular confession. This extract shows what are the views of those who advocate Confession-boxes,— One thing is now necessary—the erection of the confessional box or boxes in our churches. Other plans are more or less failures, and are attended with sundry disadvantages; that of hearing confessions at the altar rails may be all way well, but the sight of priest and penitent in that prominent part of the church must be rather distracting to persons who desire to say their prayers before the high altar. The objections to the use of the sacristy are too obvious to require enumeration. Mr. Bennett's 'little chapels' are far more desirable, but there are drawbacks to this plan also. The 'box' would remove all difficulties, would take away all mystery, and yet give quietness and insure freedom from molestation; while the fact that the priest is to be found at certain hours in a certain place would remove many difficulties which now stand in the way of priests and penitents in the discharging of their respective duties. Now, my Lords, it may be said that this is mere; speculation as to the advantages which would follow if a certain thing were done; but, unless I am misinformed, direct attempts have been made in churches not very far from the place in which we are assembled—at least, within this great City—to introduce the confessional by means of partitions and curtains, if not by a regularly-constructed box and so do the very thing which the writer of that extract says is so very desirable. I call your Lordships' attention to the fact that he seems to feel great anxiety lest the system which he, and, I ant sorry to say others, advocate, could not be generally and satisfactorily adopted without such material arrangements in the Church as he has suggested. Now, I admit that many of those things may not at first sight appear very important; but their importance will appear when viewed by the light of others. Allow me to mention to your Lordships the introduction of what are called "altar cards"—cards placed on the Holy Table and containing instructions as to the best mode of celebrating Holy Communion. I am told by a clergyman in whose veracity I have complete confidence that while on one of those cards there is one prayer in accordance with the ritual of the Church of England, there are several others which imply invocations to the Virgin Mary and the Twelve Apostles, and that there are certain which are to be said in a low tone during the celebration of Holy Communion. I only refer to those cards to show that some of the things we have to deal with are of a very grave character. I can scarcely conceive that any clergyman of the Church of England, at the holiest moment of the service, should do in secret what he dare not do in the face of his congregation—should recite, in a low tone, prayers which he knows they would condemn, and the whole Church would condemn if he dared to recite them aloud. I call upon all those who glory in the name of members of the Church of England, who have no fellow-feeling for Puritanism in any form, but who have often fought the battles of the Church of England against the Church of Rome on the one hand, and against Puritanism on the other, who style themselves specially "Anglicans"—I call upon them to come forward and declare themselves manfully against such a desecration of the Holy Communion as all Churchmen ought to unite in condemning. My Lords, we may treat our Roman Catholic brethren with that liberality and courtesy which this country extends to all denominations; but as to the people of this great nation ever again submitting to the yoke of Rome, of that I have no more fear than I have of the restoration of the Heptarchy or the overthrow of the Constitution of England. I am not even afraid that any great number of our people will be induced to go over to the Roman faith, or that those whose practices we wish to put an end to will be able to substitute in any large number of parishes a spurious Romanism for the doctrines of the Church of England. I believe, too, that the English people are sensible of the blessings conferred on the country by that Established Church which I am sure your Lordships wish to preserve; but if straightforward, honest Englishmen should see that a small number of persons, whose names it is difficult to discover and who have no real weight in the country, are allowed to continue practices which the laws of the Church condemn, I believe that their confidence in the clergy of the Church of England would be shaken, and that a serious blow will have been dealt against that establishment, which is one of the most valuable of our English institutions. I hold in my hand a speech delivered by a man for whom personally I have a great respect, but whose opinions I deplore and reprobate. This speaker at a public meeting—whose name I will not mention—is reported to have spoken this sentence— Nothing is so fatal to us as this Establishment; and if, by the blessing of Almighty God, the suspension of Mr. Mackonochic overturns that rook's nest, so much the better. I am glad when I find a gentleman who holds such opinions speak plainly. It is well we should know what are the views of those who follow practices such as those condemned in the ease of "Hebbert v. Purchas." I have before me a long list of memorials addressed to right rev. Prelates against those customs; and a further proof that the feeling of the laity is against them was recently given in the diocese of Durham. The Bishop thought it right to take severe measures against a few clergymen who indulged in those practices. At first we thought that he was going beyond the mark; but the laity rose in a body, expressed approval of the action of the Bishop, and stated their willingness to support him in any further measures which he might think it right to adopt. If it be true also that the time of the Bishops is very much occupied with complaints on this subject, that is another reason why your Lordships should come to our assistance. It may be asked why, if the dangers are so great as I have described, should there be any difficulty in administering the law? There is no difficulty in knowing what the laws and the intentions of the Church of England are in these matters. And again I ask your Lordships to remember that what we are asking is not in any respect to alter the laws of the Church, but merely to help us in their due administration. Every clergyman at the time of his ordination declares that he will listen to the admonitions of those who may be set over him; and when he is licensed to any curacy or any place of preferment, he again makes a declaration of obedience to the Ordinary in all things lawful and honest. Now, my Lords, I wish to judge no man's conscience, but I should think it strange if, when a Bishop called on a man who made this promise to obey the law, he should reply, "I will not obey your admonition when you call on me to obey the law, because your admonition is neither lawful nor honest; "and yet, my Lords, I do not know in what other way those of whom I complain can excuse themselves. It is laid down in the Canons that if there be any doubt about the dress of the clergyman, the matter is to be referred to the Ordinary, and he is to decide it. Again, it is laid down in the Canons that if there be a question between parties as to the meaning of any passage in the Book of Common Prayer, they are to come before the Bishop, and if not satisfied with his decision, before the Archbishop. Again, it is provided that nothing shall be put up in any Church without a faculty out of the Bishop's Court. All this shows what the intention of the Church is. Certainly, it is not her intention that any young and inexperienced man, fresh from college, who goes to a parish should upset everything that has been going on there satisfactorily for perhaps 50 years before—but it is her intention that if he wishes to introduce changes which in his opinion will make the celebration of Divine worship approximate more nearly to be what it ought to be, he should apply to the Ordinary. And on what other principle ought a clergyman to proceed? My Lords, in asking for a better administration of the law we are asking that the distinct ordinances of the Church shall be carried out. But it may be said—"If the directions in the Prayer Book fail to command obedience, there are still the Ecclesiastical Courts, and where, therefore, is the necessity for further legislation?" My Lords, I do not mean to make any charge against the Ecclesiastical Courts. Certainly I wish that the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Shaftesbury) had succeeded in reforming them, and if he again attempts to bring about such a reformation, I shall be happy to lend him my assistance. I do not, then, make any charge when I say that, at all events, they are not more exempt from delay than the other Courts, and in matters which the Bishops have often to deal with it is the delay which constitutes the danger. Such is the delay at present that pending the settlement of a debated point, a parish may be thrown into confusion, and the parties to the dispute may be dead before the question is decided. If we had a summary process, much of this evil might be avoided. I am satisfied that in many cases there would be no dispute at all if the parishioners believed that the clergyman had authority for what he was doing. In many eases the belief that he has no such authority gives rise to the dispute, and the delay in settling the question thus raised proves fatal to the peace of the parish. Frankly, I will say that I think the delay is greater in the Ecclesiastical Courts than in the other Courts of the country. The noble Earl the Secretary for the Colonies (the Earl of Carnarvon) moved for a Return to show the length of time and the expense in each case tried in the Court of Arches. I do not know that there is any great reason to complain of the time taken to dispose of a case, considering the gravity of many of them, and the present legal mode of procedure; but a case hangs there so long that in some instances a year has expired from the commencement of proceedings to the time when the decision is pronounced, and if the case is brought to the Privy Council I need not say that there would be further delay; for the Court of Arches is only one of the three or four stages through which a case may pass. No one can say that this is a speedy process. I do not say the time expended is more than under present forms the gravity of cases may require, but it must be admitted that the proceedings are tedious, and we want to remedy that. I now, my Lords, wish to call your attention to the expense of these proceedings, which is a much more serious matter. My excellent friend the Registrar of the Court of Arches has made a return of the expenses as well as of the time occupied; but I must say I was surprised when I read the paper to find that on the face of it those expenses did not appear to be very great. The Judge, who is paid by a system which I hope to see soon exploded, has only a fee of £1 10s., or £1, or, in some instances, 10s. on a case; but the fees of the Registrar, who seems to have the best of it, range in this return from £13 to £27. That is the end of the fees paid to the officials of the Court; but we find that the real fees only commence after the payment of these sums. My excellent friend states in a foot-note—I fear not without some sarcasm— The undersigned is unable to make a it-turn of the fees paid to counsel and solicitors in respect of the foregoing cases, but from his long professional experience he is enabled to state that the fees to counsel generally form the largest item. What the amounts paid in fees are your Lordships will be able to form some idea of from a summary of costs in the case of "Shepherd v. Bennett." In that case the total amount of taxed costs was £11,015 10s. 6d. Of these were—for "the fees paid to counsel," £4,200—a very sufficient sum; "solicitors' costs, disbursements, &c.," £5,727 15s. 2d.; Proctors' costs. £1,088 15s. 4d. Now, such costs as these are a very serious matter when there is occasion to try the question whether a clergyman has committed any irregularity in the performance of Divine Worship; yet you are obliged to tell churchwardens in remote parishes complaining of irregularities in the performance of Divine Worship, that the "Courts are open to them." In the cases of "Hebbert v. Purchas," and "Elphinstone v. Purchas," the amount of taxed costs was £7,661 18s. 7d., and the approximate calculation of fees paid to counsel was £2,572. It may be said that there is no obligation to employ counsel in an ecclesiastical case. My Lords, it is the privilege of every Englishman to pay as much as he likes for counsel, and you would deprive churchwardens of one of the rights of an Englishman if you did not allow them to employ counsel; and certainly, when a man's freehold is concerned, I do not think we can prevent him from having the benefit of counsel. It is therefore that an alteration has been made in the original draft of this Bill, which will enable those who desire it to have the benefit of counsel; but certainly we shall give no encouragement to the appearance of counsel. Your Lordships will recollect the anecdote of the man who told an eminent lawyer that he wished to plead his own cause, and the reply was that if he did he would be hanged, upon which he changed his intention, and rejoined, he would be hanged if he did. Well, we shall not exclude counsel; but I think the simplification of the procedure will render their appearance unnecessary in most cases. My Lords, as early as the year 1867 the attention of Her Majesty's Government was directed to the subject we are now considering. In consequence of the alarming state of things which then seemed to have arisen, a Commission was appointed to consider and report as to a mode of settling the difficulties to which I have been referring. I will not weary your Lordships by reading all the details of the recommendations of that Commission, but with a view of establishing a simple and inexpensive process, the Commissioners stated— With regard, then, to lights and incense, as well as vestments, we think that a speedy and inexpensive remedy would be provided for parishioners aggrieved by their introduction, and the remedy which we recommend is the following:—First, that whensoever it shall be found necessary that order be taken concerning the same, the usage of the Church of England and Ireland as above stated to have prevailed for the last 300 years shall be deemed to be the rule of the Church, in respect of vestments, lights, and incense; and secondly, that parishioners may make formal application to the Bishop in camerâ, and the Bishop on such application shall be bound to inquire into the matter of the complaint, and if it shall thereby appear that there has been a variation from established usage, by the introduction of vestments, lights, or incense in the public services of the Church, he shall take order forthwith for the discontinuance of such variation, and be enabled to enforce the same summarily. We also think that the determination of the Bishop on such application should be, subject to appeal to the Archbishop of the Province in camerâ, whose decision thereon shall be final. Provided always, that if it should appear to either party that the decision of the Bishop or Archbishop is open to question on any legal ground, a case may be stated by the party dissatisfied, to be certified by the Bishop or Archbishop as correct, and then submitted by the said party for the decision of the Court of the Archbishop without pleading or evidence, with a right of appeal to your Majesty in Council, and with power for the Court, if the statement of the case should appear to be in any way defective, to refer hack such case to the Bishop or Archbishop for amendment. My Lords, it was while following the plan sketched out by the Ritual Commission that I at first thought it would be possible to dispose of those matters in camerâ; but on further consideration the right rev. Bench and myself are of opinion that where the freehold of a clergyman may be interfered with, he should have a more formal hearing. I also thought it desirable that there should be an admixture of the laity in the Court that gave a decision in these cases, such as could only be brought about by forming a somewhat novel tribunal. I therefore at first proposed that two laymen, or four laymen, and two or four clergymen should be associated with the Bishop; but we found that great difficulties would have to be encountered in the appointment of such a tribunal. Accordingly we have come to the conclusion of adopting the tribunal provided in the Church Discipline Act of 1841. We propose that the Bishop with three assessors should sit in judgment on those cases. I trust that the hearing will be in the neighbourhood where the case itself has arisen and not in London, and as the nature of the Court will not be very formal or formidable, I hope the cases will be disposed of in a summary way and with little expense. We proposed at first that the Archbishop's decision should be final; but that proposal depended on the hearing being in camerâ. Where the hearing by the Archbishop is in camerâ the appeal to him by constitutional usage is final. That was decided by the Privy Council in a case which as Bishop of London, I heard in camerâ, and in which subsequently an appeal was heard by the Archbishop of Canterbury also in camerâ. I say so much to show that our original proposal for having the appeal to the Archbishop final was not any interference with the Royal prerogative; but on consideration we now propose that the appeal to the Archbishop shall not be heard in carnerâ, our object being that he shall be able to send it immediately, if he should be so advised, to the new Court of Appeal. The course, in brief, which will be fol- lowed under this Bill will be that any parishioner, or the rural dean, or the archdeacon, shall have a right to go before the Bishop and say there is a grievance. If the Bishop should think that the matter is one which ought to be inquired into—for we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that very frivolous complaints are made to Bishops, and there must be some authority to judge as to whether complaints are frivolous—he shall have the complaint drawn up on paper. The Bishop will then—following the provisions of the Church Discipline Act—call his assessors together and hear the case and pronounce judgment upon it as speedily as possible. Should that judgment forbid the thing complained of the Bishop shall issue his monition under seal forbidding it to be done. "We further propose—and here is a matter almost essential—that the monition shall take effect pendente lite, and that the clergyman shall not do the tiling forbidden by the monition until he has obtained a judgment in the highest Court of Appeal, deciding that he may do it. I think these enactments will put an end to many vexatious proceedings, and whatever other changes you may make in the Bill, I hope you will not make any change in that last provision. My Lords, there are many advantages that will be derived from this measure, but not the least important of them will be, I trust, the speedy extinction of those needless and wearisome complaints, which are so easily preferred, and which cause so much irritation—complaints which reach us by almost every post representing that the Bishop ought to do or not to do this or that, and remonstrating still more that they do nothing. This I trust will speedily be at an end, through the substitution of summary process for the present system of protracted litigation. At present it is impossible to enter parishes in which questions such as I allude to are pending without seeing the amount of irritation they cause. I also think there will be a great advantage in having cases heard on the spot instead of in London, as this latter system causes the keeping of witnesses in London besides being a source of considerable expense. We consider that another advantage will arise from the fact that the Court of Appeal will not be encumbered with articles which require to be corrected and re-corrected, and that there will be an end of the system of appeals and counter-appeals on minor matters in the articles of charge. We propose to give an appeal from the Archbishop only to the man whoso freehold is interfered with. Only he will have a right to go to the Archbishop with the view of having his case brought before the new Court of Appeal. My Lords, it has been said that we were coming to your Lordships' House to propose what would be a revolution in the Church of England. If it be a revolution to say that the law ought to be obeyed—if it be a revolution to enable parishioners to obtain their just rights without squandering their money in needless costs—if it be a revolution to quietly and speedily put a stop to the heart-burnings now complained of, then we must plead guilty to our plan being one of revolution. The revolution we propose to bring about is one of those peaceable revolutions for which England is famous among nations—revolutions which have quietly removed proved abuses and have saved many a venerable institution which would otherwise have been destroyed, not from any evil inherent in its nature, but from abuses which have gathered round it through its very antiquity. The most rev. Prelate then presented the Bill, and moved that it be read 1a.

A Bill for the better administration of the Law respecting the regulation of Public Worship presented by the Lord Archbishop of CANTERBURY.


said, during four consecutive years he had brought in Bills for the reform of the Ecclesiastical Courts; and he thought most of their Lordships would now agree with the most rev. Prelate that without an improvement in the form of procedure it was impossible to deal with the cases to which he had been referring; but he wished to ask him whether the Bishop's assessors were to be laymen or clerical?


I think that under the terms adopted from the Church Discipline Act of 1840 they may all be laymen. That Act states that the Bishop shall have three assessors, one of whom shall be the Dean or Archdeacon of his diocese or his Chancellor, another a barrister of a certain number of years standing, and the third anyone selected by the Bishop. We hope that the Chancellor will be in most cases a layman.


said, that at present a large proportion of the Chancellors were not laymen; and within the last six months two clergymen had been appointed by their respective Bishops, Chancellors in the Dioceses of Chester and Lichfield.


My Lords, there cannot be two opinions as to the manner in which the most rev. Prelate has introduced the subject to your Lordships' notice, and I think there will not be much difference in your Lordships' House as to the necessity of legislation in respect to these matters. How advocates of Church authority, who are supposed to be actuated by what are called High Church principles, can imagine for a moment that the cause they profess to hare at heart is advanced by the setting aside of all authority—whether the authority of the Crown or episcopal authority—is a problem which I cannot undertake to solve. It is one I have always contemplated with astonishment. But of one thing I am satisfied—that no institution can stand which in matters of form and ceremony has not within itself sufficient power to procure obedience to laws necessary to retain the confidence of the people and to prevent innovations dangerous in their tendencies, if not dangerous in themselves. I accept the appeal made by the most rev. Prelate, as one who from his earliest days has felt a deep attachment to the Church of England, and has been desirous to see her kept alike from Romanism and from Puritanism. There are, perhaps, some inevitable defects incident to the establishment of the Church in connection with the State; but it secures to the country invaluable blessings, and no more deplorable calamity could befall us than that it should be destroyed. On this occasion I shall say no more on the general subject; but with respect to the particular proposal of the most rev. Prelate, there are one or two observations which I should like to make. I think there is an absence of any due provision for the expenses to which the Bishops are liable to be put in the execution of the ecclesiastical law. Formerly the Bishops were in possession of very large estates, many of them yielding exceedingly large reve- nues. But by the process of legislation, fixed incomes have been substituted for the maintenance of the Bishoprics, and the surplus revenues have been brought into a common fund, with the view of their being better distributed for the general service of the Church. Of the principle of that measure no man can more cordially approve than myself; but then I think it is a serious matter if those funds are now entirely devoted to other things, without relieving the Bishops from the expenses of which I am speaking. The most rev. Prelate told us of one suit in which the expenses were £11,000, and of another in which the costs, on one side only, amounted to £7,000. It is impossible not to see that this amounts to the practical prohibition of any effective execution of the ecclesiastical law in cases in which the duty of enforcing it lies on the Bishop. How can he, with an income of £4,000 or £5,000 a-year, on which there are already so many and such heavy demands, bear that additional burden? It is plain that it is neither legally nor morally right to expect that he should do so; and unless those funds which formerly existed for the purpose, amongst other things, of meeting such necessary expenses may in some manner, under due regulations, be charged with those expenses, I do not see how it is possible that ecclesiastical law can be administered. I certainly hope that something may be done in any measure introduced on the subject to check the growth of those enormous expenses to which the most rev. Prelate has alluded. It is a scandal and a disgrace that it should be possible that there should be such an amount of costs. Means should, at all events, be provided to prevent those who do not voluntarily incur those costs from being called upon to defray so heavy a charge. There should be funds behind thorn devoted to the general purposes of ecclesiastical prosecutions. The other point to which I wish to refer is this. The most rev. Prelate provides for cases brought at the instance of certain persons before the Bishop in camerâ, to be there determined, with a certain right of appeal. He did not, however, mention any provision for a class of eases which I fain hope may also exist, and which may be very advantageously pro" vided for. I have reason to believe that there are those in this country who, while they take no part in the extravagancies to which the most rev. Prelate has alluded, yet are anxious—perhaps rather punctiliously anxious—to conduct Divine service in the manner which, rightly or wrongly, they have persuaded themselves is proper, and authorized, according to their true construction by the laws of the Church. They do not feel that in such matters they are called upon to give up what in their estimation is obedience to law, even in obedience to the opinions of their Bishops. I believe, however, that many such men would be only too glad that the law should provide some summary method by which questions of that kind, in respect to which they differed from their Bishops, might be quickly and inexpensively, as well as amicably, decided. If for instance, in a ease in which the Bishop ordered a certain thing to be done, and a clergyman, in a proper and respectful manner, stated that he thought it to be against the law, the matter was by common consent referred to a Court of Ecclesiastical Appeal, no small number of clergymen might in that way, it appears to me, be perfectly willing to change their practice if after fair and full argument, the law so determined. I may add, in connection with that subject, that I deeply regret that some questions of real importance in which differences of opinion of that nature have existed should have been decided by the highest Court of Appeal, unavoidably in the absence of proper argument. If that were done in any civil case involving an ordinary question of the law of the land, and the matter were afterwards brought before the same tribunal, it might, not impossibly, be found that the points raised could not be finally and conclusively settled without the benefit of argument on both sides. I cannot help thinking, therefore, that if it should appear to the most rev. Prelate advisable to introduce clauses into this measure for taking the highest judicial opinion by consent, but after argument, on questions on which bonâ fide differences of opinion may be entertained, without complaint or litigation, we should find in such a mode of proceeding the best and most satisfactory solution of some of the greatest difficulties with which we have to deal at the present moment. I need only add that I am sure the proposal which has just been submitted to us will receive from your Lordships that respectful attention to which everything that proceeds from the most rev. Prelate is entitled.


complained that the most rev. Prelate, while referring to very extreme practices, certainly carried out by very few, should not have called their Lordships' attention to the great extent to which, in a less way, the law was broken at the present time. The right rev. Prelate, as it seemed to him, had laid too much stress on extreme cases, and took no sufficient cognizance of the great number of cases of much minor moment by which the law was broken at the present time. Now, what was really wanted was to get those who disobeyed the law from conscientious scruples, and from no wish to alter the practice of the Church, separated from those who would go the extreme lengths of which the most rev. Prelate had spoken. Unless that could be done all the efforts of the Legislature would be fruitless, because otherwise a large body of mistaken but still true clergy of the Church of England would feel themselves obliged, though reluctantly, to take part with the extreme men. We never had such a state of lawlessness as existed at the present moment until after the Purchas judgment. With regard to the history of the Parchas Case, the extreme practices carried on by Mr. Purchas—who was supposed by many people to be rather touched in his head—had the sympathy of hardly anybody. That was the reason why the case was undefended in the higher Court of Appeal; and the very fact that the judgment in an undefended suit in which people were not interested a bit was to be the rule that should govern all future cases, overruling the judgment of the same Court in a previous case, had the effect of greatly unsettling the minds of the clergy, who could not see how a judgment in so special a case could be of universal application. He would mention two cases which seemed to justify him in this lenient view of the mass of the clergy who disregarded the Purchas judgment. The lamented Bishop Wilberforce, as was well known, had clearly intimated to the clergy of his diocese that he would not proceed against them if they complied with the law as enunciated by the Court of Arches. Now, that judgment had been overruled by the higher Court, whose decision was to all intents and purposes the law, as being the last authoritative interpretation of it. Yet Bishop Wilberforce was obliged to make the concession to the conscientious scruples of his clergy. That was a proof that there was some reason in the dissatisfaction which existed as to the Purchas judgment as the latest interpretation of the state of the law. Another Prelate, in lately taking action to induce the clergy to obey, made the judgment of the lower tribunal, the Court of Arches, the basis of his proceeding. How could a Bishop expect to enforce the law if he felt himself compelled to take as his standing ground a judgment which was not the final judgment of the Courts of this country? Those upon whom he wished to enforce the law might, of course, turn round and say that he had not based his action on the judgment of the highest Court of Appeal, and that they therefore had equal liberty to choose what judgment they might prefer as their rule also. The difficulties in the case were therefore much greater than if they had to deal only with extreme men who were few in number and pushed things to such extremes that everyone perceived they were wrong. There were a vast number of conscientious clergymen—men as loyal to the Church of England as any of their Lordships or of the right rev. Prelates themselves—who were panting for a clearer definition of the law of the land. He did not agree with them, for he had always advised them that they should accept the law as it had been laid down by the highest Court, and then they might do what they could to get the law settled as in their conscience they desired. The first step towards removing the lawlessness which existed was, in his opinion, to start an amicable suit and have ail those matters ably and fully argued on both sides, and a clear decision upon them obtained from the new Court of Final Appeal. That decision, he believed, as soon as it was given, would be a salve to the consciences of men who were forced, as they felt, to be lawless, because they could not understand how the judgment in the Purchas Case was really binding on them. He himself wished they could see that it was binding on them; but if they did not, and if they were not wilfully breaking the law, their Lordships' House ought to weigh carefully their case, and give them a chance of having a decided reiteration of the judgment, even if it were exactly word for word the same, which they would then accept as a clear interpretation of the law of the Church. As this was a question of very great moment, touching the consciences of all, it was a great pity it should be brought forward—especially at that time—by means of a Bill to be laid on their Lordships' Table. Both Houses of Convocation of the Province of Canterbury were to meet on the 28th—the very day, according to a rumour which had reached him, that was to be fixed for the second reading of this Bill. The measure ought not to be pressed till the representatives of the clergy had an opportunity of considering a matter affecting them deeply. He confessed it appeared to him a gratuitous slight to the Church of England not to allow that body that specially represented it the slightest voice in such a measure.


confessed he thought it would be a grave matter if it could be said of the Prelates of the Church of England that they preferred to deal with things which concerned the temporal and spiritual interests of the clergy rather in their character as Peers of Parliament than as Bathers of the Church of England. He was obliged to the noble Earl (Earl Nelson) for reminding the House that the Convocation of the Province of Canterbury was to meet to-morrow week:—he most respectfully entreated the most rev. Prelate to postpone the second reading of the Bill until after the deliberations of that general Synod of which he was the President. Then each of them, as Bishops of the Church, would have an opportunity, after invocation of the Holy Spirit to direct their councils, of expressing their opinions on that matter. He feared there might be a schism between the Upper and the Lower House of Convocation if this measure were pushed forward with anything like intemperate and indecent haste. If by any mischance the spirit of discord was introduced into the Synod of that Province he trembled for its results more than he did even for the results of the lawlessness which had been spoken of—although these last he deplored as much as anyone could do. Let him be allowed to remind their Lordships of what occurred in the earlier part of the last century. A feud arose between the Bishops in the Upper House of Convocation and the clergy in the Lower, and the disastrous consequences of this feud were seen in the silencing of Convocation for a century and a-half, and in the estrangement of the clergy from the Bishops. Their Lordships' debates would be read to-morrow by the clergy with the deepest interest; and it was very desirable they should see that some one had come forward to remind their Lordships that the clergy had important interests to maintain. The present measure affected the spiritual and temporal condition of each of the 20,000 clergy of the Church of England, and they ought to have an opportunity of expressing their opinions upon the Bill. He therefore asked their Lordships to give some attention to the feelings and to respect the conscientious scruples of men who might be deluded but were not disloyal, and not to condemn them unheard. He had listened with pleasure to the noble and learned Lord (Lord Selborne), than whom no one represented with greater fidelity the Anglican Church, and he said there was a strong spirit of loyalty in the heart of that Church, and if they could separate that spirit of loyalty from the extravagance of some and from the intemperance of others they might render the greatest service to the Church. He thought that if Convocation were allowed to consider the measure proposed, it might prove as oil poured upon the waters of strife; and the Church might be able to recover from these unhappy divisions which distracted and weakened her and to devote all her energies to her proper missionary work at home and abroad, and of maintaining apostolic order and evangelical truth.


I think the noble Earl who spoke a few moments ago (Earl Nelson), and my right rev. Brother have forgotten that it is a Rule of the House that before a Bill has been read the first time the day for its second reading cannot be fixed. The second reading of this measure has not yet been fixed for any particular day, and there is nothing to prevent the most rev. Prelate from consulting the convenience of all parties—There is nothing to prevent my most rev. Friend from consulting the convenience of Convocation, or of any other persons who take an interest in the subject. The right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Lincoln) spoke, if he will allow me to say so, in extravagant terms, and somewhat misdescribed the measure. This is not a Bill to alter the spiritual and temporal status of every clergyman. It is simply a new legal process in addition to the existing processes, by which the law, when once clearly ascertained, may be put in force. It would be unfortunate if the clergy, who do not all sit in the Lower House of Convocation, should think that their status, spiritual and temporal, is about to come before your Lordships. It is a principle in this country that, sooner or later, the law, when once ascertained, must be observed by all of us. It binds the Queen on the Throne and the right rev. Bench, and it ought to bind the clergy. When I hear from the noble Earl (Earl Nelson) that there are among the clergy some moderate men who feel bound to disobey the law, he seems to forget that the clergy, on entering upon office, take a solemn declaration that a certain book is according to the Word of God, and that they will use the same unless it shall be otherwise ordered by lawful authority. From the very office of ordination—from the very threshold of their professional career, they profess to be bound by the laws of the Church of England; and, while I admit that it would be with great misgiving I should put my hand to any fundamental alteration of the law of the Church, a process for enforcing upon all of us the law, when once fully ascertained, does not seem to me tyrannical or objectionable. A friendship of a quarter of a century makes me view with profound respect any suggestion from the noble and learned Lord (Lord Selborne); but I cannot accept his suggestion that the Bishops' costs are to be paid in any case out of the funds of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. I have had one of these cases myself. Compared with the leviathans which have been disporting themselves before your Lordships it is a small minnow. The costs on my side were only £2,300; but, whether such charges are convenient or inconvenient, I will not be a party to any Resolution which asks for a single farthing of the funds devoted to the augmentation of file poorer livings throughout the country. It is because the costs are enormous that we come here with this Bill. We do not want the costs to be taken off our shoulders, but we wish this utterly foolish and senseless prolongation of suits to be remedied. In my own Court last week a case was brought up form the diocese of Chester on the admission of the articles, which is the first of two long stages, and the question raised was whether a clergyman is responsible for the acts of his curate. I believe that was determined in the Mackonochie Case. However that may be, it would have been quite possible to send up that with the rest of the case; but counsel refused, wishing it to go up on the admission of the articles, which will take about a twelve-month. It will then come to the Provincial Court to be argued on the merits; and then will find its way again before the highest tribunal, when the Lords who heard it will have forgotten it, or when the tribunal will have been somewhat changed; and will come back for another tedious hearing—four or five years thus elapsing. It is only necessary to describe these things to have them condemned; and but for party considerations no clergyman or layman but would wish all these things, which have no use in them, to come as speedily as possible to an end. I would be no party to abridging the reasonable latitude now existing in the Church of England. I have seen it stated in the public papers by an eminent person that we seem to wish to get rid of this part of the clergy or that. I believe there is no such feeling in the mind of a single Bishop. I think it the greatest good fortune that there is a variety of opinions in the Church of England. I am thankful for it within certain limits. I believe the discussion even of these highest topics, carried on in a reverent manner, is good for us all; but, let the law be as wide as you will, there must be a limit somewhere, and we wish to carry out that law and limit. I am persuaded the time has come when we must do so, or else see the Church of England, which has been so active in the past, and has never been more active and useful than it now is, deposed from her high position and the national trust withdrawn from her, simply because it is impossible to determine who or what she is.


My Lords, it is not my intention to follow the noble Earl (Earl Nelson) into the merits of the Purchas Case or what happened on that occasion, because it is wholly irrelevant to the present issue and would be embarking upon a discussion which might be exceedingly long and might not bear much fruit. I did not gather from the remarks of the most rev. Prelate that he has any desire of pressing on the Bill with any of the intemperate and indecent haste apprehended by the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Lincoln). The statement with which the most rev. Prelate introduced his measure was very lucid and very temperate. It is a matter of very considerable difficulty, and yet in his statement he was able to avoid anything which might give offence to any party or individual in the Church. We must all regret that anything should have occurred to induce the most rev. Prelate to propose legislation on this intricate subject; but we must admit, from circumstances within our knowledge, and from the facts and arguments adduced by the most rev. Prelate, that it is necessary to do something to put an end to the differences which unhappily exist in the Church. I entertain the highest respect for all parties in the Church who are endeavouring, according to their consciences, to carry out the duties of their sacred calling; but I cannot help thinking that many of the differences which have arisen have been caused by the attempt of some over-zealous persons to introduce practices and ceremonials wholly repugnant to the feelings of the great mass of the people of this country. Any measure which, while commending itself to the clergy and laity, puts an end to the cumbrous and expensive machinery which exists in all ecclesiastical cases, would be a great and lasting benefit. I offer no opinion on the necessarily intricate details of the Bill, which can be considered only when they are printed; but I may assure the most rev. Prelate on the part of the Government that they acknowledge the importance of the subject, and will give it their earnest consideration, and that their decision, after due deliberation, will be, I hope, commensurate with the gravity of the matter.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 1a; to be printed; and to be read 2a on Thursday the 30th instant. (No. 30.)