HL Deb 16 July 1900 vol 86 cc10-36

My Lords, in rising to call attention to the continued lawlessness in the Church of England, and to ask the Prime Minister if he is prepared to give effect to the Resolution of the House of Commons of Wednesday, 10th May, 1899†, I shall confine my remarks to those particular cases in which the clergy have not only revolted against the lawful authority of the highest Court, but against the opinions of the two Archbishops and the moral authority of their ecclesiastical superiors. I do not think that it would be desirable that I should occupy your Lordships' time by entering at any length into the cases outside these—they are indeed very numerous—in which the spirit of the Reformation, and the spirit of the Protestant settlement is continuously and sedulously broken by these offending clergymen. I will confine myself, as I have said, to cases of definite contempt of the law of the land and of episcopal authority. I come first to the question of incense and processional lights. The use of incense was condemned as illegal as long ago as 1868 in the case † The Resolution is quoted by Lord Salisbury later in this debate. It was moved as an Amendment to the motion for the Second Reading of the Church Discipline Bill, introduced by Mr. McArthur. For the discussion, see The Parliamentary Debates [Fourth Series], Vol. lxxi., page 231. of Martin v. Machonochie, and again in the case of Elphinstone v. Purchas. Processional lights were declared illegal in the Purchas case, but their use is still continued. About a year or eighteen months ago I called attention in this House to the proceedings that were taking place at a particular church in North Kensington in respect to the ceremonial use of incense and processional lights, and the answer I then received was that those matters had been relegated by mutual consent to the decision of the two Archbishops.* I will read to your Lordships what the opinion of the two Archbishops was. They said— We are obliged to come to the conclusion that the use of incense in the public worship and as a part of that worship is not at present enjoined nor permitted by the law of the Church of England, and it is our duty to request the clergy who so use it to discontinue that use. If used at all it must be used (in George Herbert's language) to sweeten the church and outside the worship altogether. It is obvious at once that precisely the same line of reasoning is applicable to the case of processions carrying lights as we have applied to the case of incense. There is no authority for such processions, and they are therefore neither enjoined nor permitted. After this opinion of the two Archbishops we were treated to a very remarkable lay protest. A deputation waited upon the most rev. Prelate the Archhishop of Canterbury, and the language they used in the memorial they presented was most significant as showing contempt, not only for the law of the land, but for their ecclesiastical superiors. In the memorial which they presented to the most rev. Prelate they made use of these words— We as Catholic lay people will resist to the utmost a precedent which may lead us into a position differing but little from that against which the Church rightly protested 300 years ago. We protest against your Grace's attempt to foist upon the Church a penal Act of Parliament passed in days of regal autocracy, and we are the more aggrieved because we were led to suppose that your Grace had intended to investigate the question upon the principles of Catholic law, and not upon the construction of the alleged law of the State. I wish to express the greatest possible deference and respect to the most rev. Prelate, but I do not think that he was justified in receiving a deputation that chose to employ such language towards him. Whatever our opinion may be as to the views or the policy that may have been taken by the most rev. Prelate, I do not * See The Parliamentary Debates [Fourth Series], Vol. lxix., page 96. think there is any Member of your Lordships' House who doubts that whatever faults people may suppose to belong to him he is certainly a man of strict justice. If the most rev. Prelate's self-respect did not forbid his officially recognising those who charged him with animus and partiality—for that is the meaning of the words "your Grace's attempt to foist upon the Church"—he should remember that he holds an office of the greatest dignity and subject to the conditions of an Established Church and therefore to the law of the land, and that so long as he enjoys the advantages of his position he is also bound by its limitations and bound to recognise no law other than the actual law which is the law of the State. I do not think it is necessary that I should occupy your Lordships' time by dwelling at any length upon the elaborate reply which the most rev. Prelate addressed to that deputation. The pith of the whole matter is contained in these words, which form part of the reply. Speaking of the opinion of the two Archbishops, which we understood was set up to meet the views of those who declined to recognise the authority of the Privy Council, the most rev. Prelate said that— Although the Archbishop has addressed these words to the whole Province, certainly I am not going to admit that the Archbishop has not a right to address every clergyman in his Province—certainly he has not implied that | this opinion of his is to be taken as a command to obey unless their Bishops enforce it. ft is left for the Bishops to call upon the clergy to take this opinion but if they do not choose to act in this way that of course would set the clergy in that diocese perfectly free from obedience to that opinion. The clergy may very fairly say in that case 'my bishop does not call upon me to obey this opinion, therefore I am not bound by it. Now, my Lords, what does that mean? It means that, instead of the opinions of the two Archbishops being taken and recognised as binding morally upon the clergy, the words are practically only a phrase and simply carry with them moral authority where and when a particular Bishop in a particular diocese chooses to enforce it. I venture to say that that entirely and absolutely gives away the whole case and the whole reason for this tribunal; it is not a legal tribunal, but it was supposed to have some moral authority. The opinion of the two Archbishops, was supposed to be, not their individual opinion as Archbishops, but their opinion as the ecclesiastical superiors in the Church of England. I, perhaps, have spoken somewhat strongly upon this point, but I have not spoken one word more strongly than did the late Archbishop Benson. No doubt many of your Lordships have read that very interesting life which has been published of him by his son, and in that book you will find Bishop Westcott's recollections of Archbishop Benson (Vol. xi., p. 697). Speaking of the opinion of Archbishop Benson, Bishop Westcott says— He thought the Bishop* were becoming ministers of a diocese and not of a church. 'Diocesanism,' he said,' is a new form of dissent, as virulent as Congregationalism, and more.' While I deplore the language of the most rev. Prelate I still more deplore the consequences which it has produced. The Archbishops' advice has been gratefully accepted by the sacerdotal Bishops. It was not likely that the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Lincoln would have cared, even if such words had not been spoken, to obey this opinion, for, within a fortnight of a unanimous decision of the Lambeth Conference forbidding the use of incense and processional lights he preached at what was advertised as High Mass at St. Mary Magdalen, Paddington. The Daily News, speaking of that service, said— It may be remarked without prejudice that anyone who had witnessed High Mass in a Roman Catholic Church might well—what with the wearing of eucharistic vestments by the officiating clergy, the proceedings at the altar, the bell at consecration, the elevation of the host, the lights and the ceremonial use of incense—have imagined that he was in a Roman place of worship but for the employment of the English tongue instead of the Latin. Since the opinion of the Archbishops was published what has happened? Why, incense is used in the different dioceses throughout England just as it was before. In London to-day it is used in twenty-five churches. At Perivale a clergyman says he is permitted to use it before and after service with the Bishop's permission and "non-ceremonial use" during the service. In the diocese of Chester—I am quoting from the Church Times of 13th October, 1899—a vicar, acting in accordance with the Bishop's advice, proposes in future to use incense during the singing of the hymn immediately preceding the service of Holy Communion; and in the Exeter Diocese the vicar of St. John, Sutton, informed the Bishop that he would confine the use of incense to High Mass. I have touched as cursorily as I could upon these various matters. But, as Mr. Balfour said in the other House, in his speech on the Church Discipline Bill, "What we object to, after all, is not solely or mainly aberrations of ritual." "I think," he said, "that every member of the English Church has a right to have a service in harmony with the spirit of the Prayer-book." I should like to know if any one of the Bishops that I see opposite me this evening has called effectively upon his clergy to give up reservation. I do not believe there is one. I now come to a point which to my mind is one of principle. The questions of incense and processional lights are not in themselves important ones. They are only important as proving what I allude to in my notice as the continued lawlessness in the Church of England. I now come to a very much more serious matter—one which strikes at the root of the real difference between the English Church and the Church of Rome—I mean Holy Communion taking place in cases in which no one communicates except the priest. On this point the rubric says— And there shall be no celebration of the Lord's Supper except there be a convenient number to communicate with the priest, and, if there be not above twenty persons in the parish of discretion to receive the communion, yet there shall be no communion except four, or three at least, communicate with the priest. The rubric is definite, distinct, and absolute on the point. You will find exactly the same teaching running through the other rubrics— The priest shall then place on the table so much bread and wine as he shall think sufficient. At the time of the celebration of the communion, the communicants being conveniently placed for the receiving of the Holy Sacrament. And again— Then the priest shall say to them that come to receive the Holy Communion. And again— Then shall this general confession be made in the name of all them that are minded to receive the Holy Communion. In view of the manner in which some of the earlier Prayer-books have been quoted as more particularly representing the true and proper foundation of the Catholic faith, it is curious to remember that in the first Prayer-book of Edward VI. we find the direction— Then so many as shall be partakers of the Holy Communion shall tarry still in the quire; all other that mind not to receive the said Holy Communion shall depart out of the quire. The second Prayer-book of Edward VI. omitted this, perhaps because the congregation was no longer invited to come into the choir to deposit alms in the box which used to stand near the altar, or perhaps because a rubric was then first introduced directing that the table at the time of the communion should stand in the body of the church. Be that as it may the following words were added to the form of exhortation to be said "at certain times "— As whereas ye offend God so sore in refusing this Holy Banquet I admonish, exhort, and beseech you that ye will not add any more, which thing ye shall do if ye stand by as gazers and' lookers on them that do communicate, and be no partakers of the same yourselves. For what thing can this be accounted else than a further contempt and unkindness towards God? With regard to the present Prayer-book the Lord Bishop of London, in a charge delivered at St. Paul's Cathedral on 21st February of this year, said— The point I wish to emphasise is that the object of the Church of England at the Reformation was to turn the Mass into a Communion. If there are to be no communicants at mid-day, then it is difficult to avoid something which looks perilously like 'turning the Communion into Mass.' He also said — It is this which creates suspicion and puts a hindrance in the way of many who are honestly trying to adapt the services of the Church to the changed circumstances of modern life. How are those views carried out in the right rev. Prelate's own diocese? Between 31st March and 7th May there were in the diocese of London fifty churches that disobeyed the Rubric, twenty-five having midday Communions without any communicants except the priest, fifteen with only one communicant, and ton with only two communicants. One cannot be too careful in these matters to be able as one goes along to verify every fact. Of these fifty churches that disobey the Rubric six were visited yesterday, and in those six churches—St. Clement's, City Road; St. Michael's, Shoreditch; St. Augustine's, Stepney; St. Cuthbert's, Philbeach Gardens; St. John the Baptist, Holland Road; and St. Alban's, Holborn—there were Communions, but there was not one single communicant except the priest. A very curious thing happened at St. Augustine's, Stepney. At that church the clergyman took his sermon from the apocryphal book Ecclesiasticus, chapter 50, verse 10, and said that as God's representative he could perform the holy Mass, that he alone could make Christ really present in the elements, that he alone could give absolution for sin, and declared confession to be necessary. I think the instances I have quoted are indicative of a very serious condition of affairs. But before I leave this point I cannot omit to notice a resolution which was passed unanimously by the members of the English Church Union, in which they, in precise, clear, and definite words, pronounce their devotion and adherence to the doctrine of transubstantiation. The resolution was as follows— We, the members of the English Church Union, holding fast to the faith and teaching of the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church —that in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper the bread and wine, through the operation of the Holy Ghost, become, in and by consecration, according to our Lord's institution, verily and indeed the body and blood of Christ, and that Christ our Lord, present in the same most Holy Sacrament of the altar under the form of bread and wine, is to be worshipped and adored—desire, in view of present circumstances, to reaffirm, in accordance with the teaching of the Church, our belief in this verity of the Christian faith, and to declare that we shall abide by all such teaching and practice as follow from this doctrine of the whole Catholic Church of Christ. There can be no doubt from those words that a certain body of self-constituted persons in the Church of England distinctly claim the right to define the doctrines and the teaching of the Church of England. I do not speak for any one section of the Church; but it is obvious that if any one section of the Church or body are permitted with impunity to make their own special declaration of what these doctrines are, and to give effect to them by particular services, the condition of the Church of England must be anarchical, and that the existence of the established position of the Church of England must cease. I have confined myself only to those points in which the offending clergy have disobeyed both the law of the land and the moral authority of the Archbishops, and of their ecclesiastical superiors. I hope, my Lords, that I have treated sacred matters—for indeed they are sacred matters —with the reverent reserve they should command. But I cannot understand the frame of mind which induces men to claim respect for their position and to retain office when they repudiate all lawful and moral authority. I do not fail to appreciate the devoted lives and noble self-denial of these men—their devoted lives speak with special force to many, for the tendency is, perhaps, to make too little of personal religion and to make the Church of primary instead of secondary importance—but, when all is said, the Church is not a club or an association of Christian gentlemen for moral and social improvement. The whole basis of the Church of England as an established Church depends upon law, and the clergyman, unlike those of any other Church, holds his living as a freehold. If a Roman. Catholic priest refuses to submit to lawful authority he can practically be unfrocked, because he can be forbidden to say Mass. If a minister of one of the Free Churches refuses to carry out the conditions under which his chapel is held he is liable for a breach of trust, and also to the legal penalties of the Court of Chancery. I wish to treat the Roman Catholic doctrines and faith with all the respect they deserve. But Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, without Roman Catholic discipline, and under the prestige and protection of a Protestant Established Church, is, I maintain, incapable of either respect or of apology. Those who wish to see the law maintained do not ask from the clergy of the Established Church any ideal standard; they only ask that they shall be prevented from retaining office the conditions attached to which they refuse to obey. Those conditions are not narrow or restricted. The English Prayer-book is not inquisitorial. It does not seek to define the spirit or the sense in which the communicants receive Holy Communion. It only stipulates that the service shall be performed in a prescribed way. It is a liberal and a comprehensive compromise. The Prayer-book, interpreted by the highest tribunal of the realm, must be and can be the only basis of authority in the Established Church, and those who decline to accept that compromise ought to make up their minds, or have their minds made up for them by others, to go elsewhere. The resolution of 10th May, 1899, which was moved by my noble and learned friend the Master of the Rolls (Lord Alverstone) admitted that if the efforts of the Bishops were not speedily effectual further legislation would be required "to maintain the observance of the existing laws of Church and Realm." Since the passing of that resolution the Bishops have failed, as indeed, my Lords, if their hearts had been in it, they would have been bound to fail. It is all very well to talk about fatherly advice, hut what is the use of fatherly advice without parental control? During the progress of the Church Patronage Bill in this House the noble Marquess suggested that a fund should be applicable to proceedings against clergy in cases of gross disobedience to the law. The most rev. Prelate said he never could agree to that, because the funds were applicable to the poorer clergy and he referred to the straitened circumstances of those clergy. What is the position of the Bishops in this matter? The Bishops are not rich men; they are not in receipt of incomes which, considering the enormous claims upon them, leave any margin. They cannot institute costly legal proceedings, and these clergymen know that under the existing state of the law the Bishops have no coercive power. They, therefore, carry on their practices with impunity. But since the passing of the resolution in the House of Commons the Protestant laity have grown into an organised and determined party, with just that touch of fanaticism which is so conducive, judging by experience, to political results; although the war may have absorbed the attention of the London press and of certain classes, the middle classes and the working men in the north and in all the great towns feel very deeply upon this subject, and are not prepared to allow their patriotic zeal in supporting Her Majesty's Government against the enemies of this country abroad to be utilised, if I may so express it, as a political expedient for cheating them out of promised legislation. Knowing as I do these organisations in the north, I should regret it if this matter is allowed to pass out of the hands of a responsible Government. I hope, therefore, that the noble Marquess will be able to give some assurance that a practical measure will be introduced and carried through this House with the sole object of making the clergy obey the law.


My Lords, it is, no doubt, perfectly true that the opinions of the Archbishops, communicated through the Bishops to the clergy, have not been so speedily obeyed as might have been expected before those opinions were given; but, at the same time, I must remind the House that this is not the first time that I have prayed your Lordships to remember the difficulties of dealing with such matters as these, whore men's consciences are so very much strained, where men feel so very strongly, and where it is exceedingly difficult for men to change the course that they had previously pursued, and very difficult indeed for them to dissever themselves from those with whom they have previously acted. And I have urged before, as I must urge again, that in such matters it is really necessary, unless you would do most serious injustice, to be patient in dealing with offenders of this kind, who are perplexed by the position in which they find themselves, who very largely indeed really desire to obey the voice of authority, but who, at the same time, are held back by very natural feelings and by the belief that practices which they have pursued are really within the law of the Church. The Archbishops gave an opinion on the question of the use of incense. I do not suppose that any of the Bishops, or the Archbishops themselves, at all expected that in every single instance the clergymen would immediately obey. I do not suppose, indeed, that the Bishops expected that there would be such an approach to obedience as has been actually made. I confess, and I said it before anything of this sort occurred, that I expected that there would be some who would stand out against everything that we could say upon the matter; and I urged that we ought to allow time for what was said to operate on their minds, and that I believed that if patience were practised in this way we might save the Church of England from the great disaster of the disruption of the whole body. I repeat, that the opinions expressed in regard to incense have been very largely followed. It is not the case that those opinions of the Archbishops have been disregarded by the clergy altogether. It is not the case that they have been disregarded even by a majority of those who previously continued in this practice. The great majority have already conformed to what the Bishops have urged upon them, and this is exactly what we hoped. I have no doubt at all that in the course of time we shall succeed in bringing all these clergymen to understand that what we are asking them to do is to submit to the law of the Church to which they belong, and that we are not asking them to give up anything that is permitted by that law. The opinions on the question of reservation have not yet had time to take possession of men's minds in the same degree. There are, I have no doubt, still a great many who practise what, in our judgment, we pronounced to be outside the law; but we receive expressions of opinion on all hands, even from those who are really disturbed in mind upon the matter, which indicate that by giving a little more time we shall succeed in very largely altering these practices also; and I do not think it would be well for the Church if any violent means were used at the present time to compel obedience, instead of winning it by quiet and steady perseverance. It is true, of course, that there are great diversities of opinion in the Church. It is true that there are men whose opinions on the subject of Holy Communion go very far in the direction of the Roman Catholic doctrine. But even those who signed the declaration which was published the other day would, as far as I believe, with but very few exceptions, repudiate altogether the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, and would declare that they do not mean that and do not intend to teach it. And, my Lords, it must always be borne in mind that these questions are very often very difficult to handle, and that it is quite possible to mistake men's meaning when you are dealing with the words which they use. The quotations which the noble Earl has given us seem very near to the Roman doctrine—and yet those who know the subject well can see a, distinction, and the distinction is real and deep—and it is quite certain that the body of the clergy of the Church of England do not hold, and are not prepared to hold, and will not hold the Roman doctrine in this matter. Further, it must be remembered that in regard to the administration of the rubrics, it is very often very difficult now to do what would have been comparatively easy two hundred years ago, when it was the practice for no one to come to the Holy Communion without previously giving notice to the priests in accordance to the rubric. It was very easy for the priest to pass over the occasion when he found there was not a sufficient number to communicate with him. But that practice has quite passed out of use, and it constantly happens that the priest, expecting to find a number of communicants ready to receive with him, finds that, by accident, they are not there. I do not mean to deny that there are those who disregard the rubric entirely. The case has not, as your Lordships know, come before me for an opinion. I have not heard it argued. I have no doubt at all that the Church of England does not allow solitary communion by the priest, and wherever I have had an opportunity to know of it I have always interfered to put a stop to it. Whenever I have had occasion to interfere in this way I have always been obeyed hitherto. I think I may fairly ask your Lordships to pause a little in the handling of so serious, delicate, and difficult a matter. The Bishops, I can assure you, are quite in earnest, but they are bound—the Church at large would hold them to be bound, I am quite sure every one of your Lordships on reflection would hold thorn to be bound— to do their very utmost in the way of conciliation before recourse is had to any legislation on the subject. I, for my part, am quite ready, in my own diocese, to allow of the prosecution of any clergyman who disregards the opinions which I have expressed in reference to the matters which have been argued before me, and let it go to the furthest limit that it can go. But the noble Earl has himself pointed out that it is not the business of the Bishops to prosecute. It is the business of the Bishops to do all they can as Fathers in God to win their clergy over to the path marked out for them by the formularies of the Church. Nor am I prepared to question that, in many eases, those who keep within the formularies of the Church, as interpreted by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, still would be held by the great majority of the adherents of the noble Earl as altogether offending against the Church's law. It must not be forgotten that the great question as to the character of the Holy Communion, which was argued in the case of Mr. Bennett, of Frome, was decided in favour of refusing to condemn language of a strong nature which spoke of believing, and teaching others to believe, that the Lord was Himself present in the consecrated elements of the Holy Communion.


I did not refer to that case. The case I referred to was that of Mr. Ridsdale, tried by Lord Penzance.


I was careful to note that fact. I did not say that the noble Earl referred to that case. I particularly remarked that he did not refer to it, which I thought rather indicated that he was a little afraid of referring to it, because the effect of that case has been really to give the impression that a great deal is authorised in the Church of England which has not been really authorised, although the inference is so exceedingly natural. In that case the Privy Council went to the utmost length of giving liberty to the teaching of doctrine which they themselves acknowledge was not the teaching that was naturally to be drawn from the formularies of the Church, but which they said they could not condemn because the Church had nowhere forbidden the holding or teaching of it. My Lords, I certainly believe that of all things Parliament could do there is hardly anything which would be more disastrous to the Church than to legislate upon the doctrine of the Church, and set aside such a decision as that given by the authority which the noble Earl has again and again declared to be the highest authority for deciding what the doctrine of the Church really is. My Lords, I maintain that whatever we are to do we ought at any rate to take care that we do not narrow the Church of England. She rests upon the right and the duty of private judgment which requires that men shall conscientiously accept her teaching. It is based upon the supposition that men shall think for themselves. You cannot have a Church where the basis is of this character, and, at the same time, say that divergence of opinion is not to be allowed. The one inevitably follows from the other. There must be a wide divergence of opinion if the Church of England is to hold her place. The great decisions in the Gorham case long ago, and in the Bennett case at a later date, marked the character of the supreme tribunal to which these matters have been referred, and in both cases the supreme tribunal has pronounced in favour of the very widest liberty; and to say, after those decisions, that men are not to accept the liberty thus opened before them is altogether inconsistent with the position which any party in the Church of England has a right to claim. I believe that, if you will leave this matter in the hands of the Bishops, in course of time we shall be able so to deal with it as to keep the Church of England one Church, and at the same time quietly to get rid of any of those irregularities of which so much complaint is made. In the decisions I have had to give I do not think anyone can say that there has been any unwillingness on my part to pronounce decidedly where a decided pronouncement seemed to be my duty; nor shall I hesitate if any similar cases come before me. But I am acting under the authority of the Prayer-book, which distinctly imposes upon the Archbishop the duty of deciding on these points of ritual, and, in accordance with that declaration in the Prayer-book, I have undertaken to hear such cases and decide them to the best of my ability. I know the Prayer-book gives me no power to coerce. I know perfectly well that the Prayer-book does not constitute the Archbishop or the two Archbishops a court with power to punish. I know all I can do is simply to declare what, in my opinion, having been entrusted by the Book of Common Prayer with the duty of forming an opinion—what, in my opinion, is within the Church's law or outside it; and you may depend upon it that the Bishops will not shrink from their duty in this matter. The noble Earl complained that I spoke to a deputation that waited upon me as if I had not the power to give directions to clergy outside my own diocese. I did so because it is the law. The clergy outside my diocese are responsible to their own Bishops, and it certainly would not be within the limits of the jurisdiction of an Archbishop to step in between a Bishop and his clergy and to give orders which they are to obey, whether the Bishop required it or not. I have carefully kept within the law. It may be that, in my desire to conciliate, some may think I did wrong. The noble Earl thinks I did wrong in listening to the deputation at all, inasmuch as they used language which, perhaps, was hardly consistent with their position and with my position. But, my Lords, whatever I might think of the language they used, I thought that to receive them and explain to them anything that wanted explaining was part of that conciliation which I believe it to be my duty to practise. I will only add to all this that I am confident that if Parliament will allow us to deal with this matter as Bishops of the Church we shall be able to do, quietly but perhaps not so rapidly as many would desire, all that it is really necessary should be done. With this assurance to your Lordships, I can but hope that the noble Marquess will not hold out anything which will make it more difficult than it is at present to deal with those who are good men, conscientious men, and devoted men, and, although they are mistaken men, yet deserve that kind of handling which ought to be given to men of such high religious character and of such devoted service.


My Lords, may I be permitted, as a loyal and obedient son of the Church, who is not a member of any association, union, or league, to say a few words on this question? Last year I took the opportunity of joining in an address to the Bishops begging them to use their fatherly counsel with a view to bringing to an end the difficulties which had arisen in the Church, and I have to thank the two Archbishops for the care, diligence, and skill with which they discharged the duty which the Prayer-book imposes upon them in this connection. No one, I think, can doubt that the conclusions at which they have arrived are correct in accordance with the teaching of the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer. It is very easy when people are trying patiently to undo a knot, and are doing it with a view to the saving and continuance, so to speak, of the string, to rush in and say— "Take my knife, cut this knot, and bring this thing to an end." We have had experience from the Public Worship Act and from other Acts that you do not so easily and so speedily cut the knot as you suppose. For my part I am quite ready to hand over to the Bishops that for which they are responsible. These societies of which the noble Earl has spoken do not represent the great body of the laity of the Church of England. The Church of England is doing a great work, and a work which no one who is not well acquainted with it can imagine. It was shown in the official year-book of the Church of England that last year over £7,000,000 was raised for the purposes of the Church; and while all this is going on an attempt is being made to prove that there is a great crisis in the Church. The Church Missionary Society has done magnificent work the world over, and one cannot but regret that this debate is taking place at a time when we hear of most inhuman proceedings in China in which missionaries of the Church of England have suffered. I am sure my noble friends who are members of the Roman Catholic Church will not feel that I am saying anything against them or their creed when I say that the religion of the Church of England is, after all, a reformed Catholic religion; and the attempt—if anyone is making the attempt —absolutely to reconcile the two is wholly impossible of success. Although Archbishop Tait was largely instrumental in carrying the Public Worship Act, how did he proceed in his later years? Was he so desirous of rushing into litigation, or of letting those under him rush into litigation? We know that in order to see the work that was being carried on he visited one parish where very extreme views were adopted. He found that the people were calling the priest "Father," and were living in accordance with the principles he had enjoined upon them, and he would not allow a prosecution. Can it be wondered at that when the Bishops see the enormous good that is being done in many of these cases they endeavour to conciliate rather than rush into court? I pray your Lordships not to listen to any idea of bringing about fresh complications by new courts and new proceedings, or of the introduction of Bills which will create confusion, difficulties, and complications, the extent of which it is hardly possible to imagine. Let us leave the matter to those whom we have put in authority. Let us all, and especially the clergy, bind ourselves to submit to the law we have undertaken to support.


My Lords, I should not have ventured to intervene in this debate if the noble Lord had not put my name in his question. It appeal's to me that the reference which he has made is one of a very unusual and inconvenient character. The resolution to which he refers was passed by the House of Commons, and he asks us whether we are going to put it into effect. I have no doubt that the House of Commons will be very much obliged to the noble Earl for the lifting hand which he has given to it, but I think the House of Commons is quite capable of looking after its own affairs. If this resolution is, as he thinks, a pledge for future legislation, he may be quite certain that in that House men will be found who will press, that necessity. The resolution is as follows— That this House, while not prepared to accept a measure which creates fresh offences and ignores the authority of the Bishops in maintaining discipline in the Church, is of opinion that if the efforts now being made by the Archbishops and Bishops to secure due discipline are not speedily effectual further legislation will be required to obtain the observance of the existing law of the Church and Realm. I understand the noble Earl to contend that the contingency foreseen by the resolution has occurred, and that the measures of the Archbishops and Bishops to secure the obedience of the clergy are not effectual. It all depends upon the definition of that word "speedily." This resolution was passed in the May of last year. The time has been occupied since then by the Archbishops in determining two or three of the most burning questions which separate members of the Church; and it is physically impossible that the alteration of practices which the authors of this resolution had in view should have taken place at so early a date. I have gladly asked the Archbishop to take the first place in the debate, because I not only demur to the particular form which the noble Earl has selected, but also because I do not admit that the secular and political authority is the kind of authority which deals most fitly with such a matter as this. We have heard the most eloquent and the most instructive language of the most rev. Prelate, and it is upon him that the responsibility falls of inducing his clergy to obey what he conceives to be the law of the Church of England. It is certainly not a matter of political jurisdiction, and I should very much deplore the day on which our separations in political matters should be in any degree reflected in our manner of proceeding in reference to matters of conflict in the Church. I cannot imagine anything that would be more injurious to our politics or more corrupting to our religion. That being the case, how are we to determine the meaning of this word "speedily"? How are we to determine whether the efforts of the Archbishops and Bishops have or have not been effectual during the twelve or thirteen months in which they have been applied? The first consideration that suggests itself to me is that their testimony is a most essential point. Do they tell us that their efforts have not been effectual? You have listened to the most rev. Prelate. He tells you that on the first question raised he has had a large and an increasing measure of success; and he does not doubt that on the other questions, which have been considered at a later date, he shall be quite as successful in his endeavour to induce the clergy to accept his persuasive ruling. It is of no use concealing from yourselves this fact, that either you must provide machinery and agents which can persuade the clergy to obey, or you must undertake the effort of forcing them by all the mechanism that litigation can place at your command. It is needless to point out to you how much bitterness, how much danger to the Church of England any undue encouragement of litigation would cause. But it is not only that. It is an ineffectual process. The noble Earl denounced with great effectiveness the protest made by the English Church Union. I am not here to praise or to blame that utterance. In fact, I am afraid I have not read it. But be it good or be it bad your legislation would be utterly powerless in the matter. Any number of gentlemen may gather together and call themselves the English Church Union, and may pass resolutions on any subject, human or divine, and there is nothing in our law or Constitution to hinder them. So it is with many other matters. I hear a great denunciation of the Confessional—I have expressed my opinion on more than one occasion in this House upon that question —but you cannot stop it by legislation. If A tells his secrets to B, nothing you can put in the Statute-book would give the slightest hope of preventing him from doing it. If you trust to litigation you have a very poor prospect before you. It will lead to a very stormy time. Many evil passions will be aroused; many good works will be stopped, and much combined effort for the advancement of the community in morality and religion will be arrested. If you depend on this litigation, that must be the fate you will meet, and therefore it is that I am in favour not of giving to the adverb "speedily" an interpretation which is absurdly violent, as the noble Earl has done. I should rather strain the matter in the opposite direction, and exercise the utmost possible patience, in order that by persuasion, and by all arts other than those which depend upon litigation, the Bishops might gradually induce those of the clergy who have shown themselves unreasonable or recalcitrant to conform to the general spirit and the general formularies of the Church of England. I have no doubt that they will succeed. On the other-hand, I have no doubt that that success will be seriously marred if you attempt, by the rough processes of litigation, to interfere with their action. It would be undoing their work. But if you accept the belief, which is sustained by all that they tell us of the consequences of the action which they are taking, I think everything in our past history and present experiences points to the fact that we shall reach without danger and without any formidable disturbance a period of calm and progressive utility in the work of the Church of England.


My Lords, I have no desire to prolong the discussion, but after what has been said I do not think I ought to be altogether silent. It would be wasting your Lordships' time to comment in any detail on the different statements made by the noble Earl who is responsible for this discussion. It is easy to make such statements if you assume all the questions in dispute. Everyone is agreed that the law ought to be obeyed; the difficulty arises when there is grave doubt what the law is. The noble Earl used at one time to have some acquaintance with one who was then amongst the most distinguished clergymen in the Church of England. No man could insist more strongly than Canon Liddon on the duty of obedience to the legitimate exercise of ecclesiastical authority, but the noble Earl knows, as well as I do, that Canon Liddon, as, indeed, he showed by his own conduct, would have rejected decisively the assumptions and the conclusions founded on those assumptions which make up the greater part of the noble Earl's speech. It is not difficult to profess an ideal regard for law in the case of others which is by no means so apparent in ourselves. But I think it is always a shock to discover that those who are so rigorous on precept and severe on chastisement are themselves lamentably deficient in practice. I would ask the noble Earl whether it accords with any very genuine regard for law and religion to be associated with robbers of churches, and those who are responsible for the mutilation of the monuments of the dead and the disturbance of divine service. For myself, I think I should distrust a cause which numbers persons of that description amongst its supporters. These, however, are personal matters. The question is, what is the real value of the assertions of lawlessness or disregard of Episcopal authority that have been made in the course of this discussion? Sweeping statements as to general disobedience and lawlessness save a great deal of trouble, but they do not do much to promote an equitable judgment. I would invite your Lordships to come to particulars. As some of your Lordships may, perhaps, be aware, I have recently been engaged in an attempt to get representatives of various opinions in the Church to meet together in order to see if the differences which divide them are really as great as they seem, and whether a great deal might not be done by mutual explanation to mitigate these differences, if not to remove them. I made a similar attempt in 1874, when we had another of these periodical crises in ecclesiastical affairs, which make a stir at the time, but which leave so little trace behind them. It was at the time when the Public Worship Regulation Act was being passed by the somewhat numerous combination, if you come to think of it, of Lord Beaconsfield and Sir William Harcourt, Archbishop Tait and the Earl of Shaftesbury. It was a combination of very distinguished and remarkable men, but it was also one which shows that distinguished and remarkable men may sometimes make mistakes. That Act, like the Bills which have recently emanated from Liverpool, and like the motion of the noble Earl, was ostensibly brought forward only for the purpose of enforcing what was assumed to be the of the Church. It was pointed out that this was by no means a complete account of the measure, that it was in reality a measure directed against the representatives of the entire Oxford Movement, and that if it passed it would either be practically inoperative, or productive of very serious mischief. Those remonstrances were not listened to, the Bill was passed, and the alleged illegalities of Canon Liddon and others were adduced as a reason for declining all the proposals for a conference in the interest of peace and a better understanding. What was the result? Several clergymen were sent to prison— one was shut up in Lancaster Castle for nearly two years—at the instigation not of any aggrieved parishioner, but of outsiders; in one case of outsiders of notoriously bad character. Eventually the very court, disregard of whose decisions had constituted the offence for which these clergymen were imprisoned, discovered that the matters for which they had been sent to prison were almost all of them not offences at all, but matters covered by and in harmony with the directions of the Prayer-book. Is there no lesson very applicable to present circumstances here? Practices which were said to make the Public Worship Regulation Act necessary and a conference impossible have turned out to be justified by the Prayer-book after all. Is it not extremely probable that the practices which the noble Earl alleges as a reason for his motion, and for the agitation which he thinks it his duty to promote, may also eventually be found to be in harmony with the Prayer-book and the teaching of the Church of England? Sir John Kennaway, whom I am proud to call a friend of mine, evidently thinks so, and his opinion is entitled to consideration. Only last year, in a discussion in the House of Commons on this very subject, he pointed out what difficulties the authors of the Liverpool Bills might be preparing for themselves by their proposed legislation. But, my Lords, the noble Karl will perhaps say that he has not been talking about courts, but about Bishops, that it is not disobedience to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council that he complains of, but disregard to the injunctions and opinions of the Episcopate. Now, my Lords, whatever may be the force of this appeal in itself, it is one which in the mouth of the noble Earl and his friends is strangely out of place. To begin with it is not to the Bishops as such that the noble Earl and his friends proclaim the duty of obedience. It is to Bishops only so long as they enforce particular decisions of particular courts to whom, according to the noble Earl and his friends, any obedience is due. You have only to read the organs in the Press which support the noble Earl, and the policy which is becoming associated with his name, to see the amount of respect which he and his friends really have for the Episcopate. I was present not long ago at one of those large meetings in the Albert Hall, largely made up of members of different Nonconformist societies, over which the noble Earl is in the habit of presiding, and if I heard a great deal of fault found with myself, I was able to console myself with the reflection that a great deal more fault was found with the bishops. Only last Friday the chief organ of the party represented by the noble Earl, and which always gives every prominence to anything which either he or Mr. Kensit may say or do, stated that no good could be done till Parliament had purged the present Episcopal Bench of half of its present occupants. We have heard of the application of Colonel Pride's purge to the House of Commons. Now it appears we are to have a similar purge, only associated with the noble Earl's name, applied to a section of your Lordships' House. Advocates of such measures can hardly claim to be ardent supporters of the Episcopate, but though I find it impossible to take the noble Earl seriously when he professes a scrupulous regard for Episcopal and Ecclesiastical authority, there are others who have recently been speaking of the obedience due to Bishops whose utterances on the subject of obedience to Episcopal authority are entitled to every respect. For example, the Dean of Windsor, whom to know is to respect, the other day, in his place in Convocation, seemed to proclaim the duty of absolute obedience to the Episcopate under all circumstances and without any qualification. "Those," he said, "who had promised to obey their spiritual rulers could not be absolved from that promise by any view they might take as to what was the Catholic Faith." Now, my Lords, I think statements of this sort require examination. I think their adoption would have landed us in not inconsiderable difficulties in the past, and would land us in no inconsiderable difficulties in the present and future. To begin with, it is quite obvious that if they had been always accepted they would have made the Reformation in England impossible. In the next place, what would they have led to in our own experience? Not so very long ago a Bishop—and a very distinguished Bishop too, both as a scholar and a schoolmaster—threatened to suspend the licence of any curate who preached in a surplice. The Bishop of Winchester of the day for sixteen years refused to ordain Mr. Keble's curate for teaching, in regard to the Eucharist, what I should doubt if a single Bishop on the bench would venture to dispute now. My Lords, there is no authority in the world, even the most spiritual, which is not limited, and to talk of the absolute duty of obedience to Bishops or to anyone else, without any regard to the nature of the commands given, appears to me to be opposed to all the principles of right reason, sound theology, and altogether contrary to that spirit of rightful liberty and independence which characterises Englishmen. In another communion the assertion is sometimes attempted that no one is to criticise anything any Bishop may say on any question touching faith or morals, but it is a principle I certainly do not wish to see adopted amongst ourselves; and yet, my Lords, we hear things said about Episcopal authority which show that there is some danger of it. Only the other day I was told by a most distinguished member of the London press—a great Radical, by the bye—that the real object of the Bishops' seats in the House of Lords was that they should be able to tell your Lordships what were the moral aspects of such a war as that now being waged in South Africa, and to direct us to right conclusions on the subject. Again, only last week a distinguished member of the Canterbury Convocation declared—I do not remember his exact words, but this was the effect of them— that it was an indecency for a combination of laity and clergy to state in regard to existing controversies what they had always been taught, and what they believe. I can only say that I cannot agree with such opinions. I think the lay members of your Lordships' House are quite as well qualified as the Archbishop of Canterbury himself to judge of the moral aspects of this or any other war, and I also think it a strange way of encouraging an intelligent interest in Church matters amongst the laity, which is said to be so desirable, to tell them that they are on no account to presume to express an opinion as to their faith. Though it is quite true that the Bishops and the synods of the Church are indeed the guardians of the faith and practice of the Church, I do not know that their spiritual office gives them any special qualification for the interpretation of Acts of Parliament, even if those Acts be Acts of uniformity. Upon such subjects we are all entitled to our own opinions. This brings me to the question of the recent declaration on Eucharistic doctrine, which, amongst other things, is, I am aware, responsible for much that has been said to-day. Now, my Lords, that declaration is theologically identical with the statements drawn up by Dr. Pusey for Mr. Bennett when the latter was prosecuted by the party which is represented by the noble Karl who introduced this discussion. As your Lordships are aware, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council did not venture to say that that statement was inconsistent with the formularies of the Church of England. Does the noble Earl accept that decision of the Judicial Committee or does he not? If he does, how does he justify all that he and his friends go about the country saying of the disloyalty and faithlessness to solemn obligations of such as myself and others? If he does not, how does he differ, on his own showing, from those who, like myself, are unable to recognise the competency of a court like the Judicial Committee to declare the doctrine and the ritual of the Church of England? So far as the noble Earl is concerned I might stop here, but I have no wish to shelter myself under any technicalities. The Bishops and the synods are the real guardians of the faith of the Church. Will the Archbishops and the Bishops collectively say that the Declaration, for the issuing of which I am, no doubt, to some extent responsible, is inconsistent with that Catholic belief which we profess every time we recite the Creeds? If they will say so clearly and unmistakably, and with all due formality, they will certainly relieve themselves from any future trouble at the hands of the so-called Ritualists. As far as they are concerned there will then be peace. 'Whether it will be that sort of peace of which it was said, Solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant, I will not stop to inquire. But if the archbishops and bishops decline to make any such statements, if they know, as they do, that such a statement cannot be made, then, my Lords, lot us at least hear no more of these charges of disobedience, false doctrine, and disloyalty to the Church that give their only point to the speeches we have hoard to-night. There is one other matter in connection with these accusations of lawlessness with which I must trouble your Lordships. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, the other day, compared the conduct of those who thought it their duty to allege an impediment at the solemnisation of the marriage of divorced persons in church with that of those who rendered themselves liable to imprisonment for robbing churches and defacing monuments. I think the noble and learned Lord said that the one class of persons wore as much guilty of illegal brawling and indecent conduct as the other. It would be the height of presumption in a layman unlearned in the law to differ on a legal matter with the Lord Chancellor of England, but what is such a layman to do when great legal luminaries themselves disagree? Your Lordships have recently welcomed into this House the very distinguished lawyer who is now Master of the Rolls. Lord Alverstone, when Sir Richard Webster, was formally consulted some time ago on the point in question, and gave his formal opinion—the opinion is dated 27th May, 1895—as follows— We are of opinion that it is lawful for any person present in church.… to allege in response to the invitation of the priest any fact which he … believes, and has reasonable ground for believing to be a just cause or impediment to the marriage either by God's law or by the law of the Realm. I will say no more on this subject, except that if Lord Alverstone's opinion cannot be contradicted there is all the difference in the world between an act which is not illegal, which is not a statutable offence, and which is provided for by the rubrics, and one which, as the Lord Chancellor told your Lordships the other day, subjects the perpetrators of it to imprisonment for three months. My Lords, I will only say, in conclusion, that the policy advocated by the noble Earl who has provoked the discussion is a policy which, on the showing of those responsible for it, cannot rely on a sufficient support of members of the Church, but has to depend on the support of the Nonconformist bodies who are already making it a condition of their political support that the disestablishment of the Church shall be an open question. It is the policy of a party which seems incapable of ever learning anything by experience, which cannot rise above the most antiquated prejudices and the most-illiberal opinions. It is the policy of the party who opposed Roman Catholic emancipation as long as it was possible to do so. It is the policy of those who now are unwilling to do justice to Roman Catholic claims in Ireland in regard to university education, who have always opposed, and who oppose now the repeal of those antiquated and illiberal religious disabilities imposed on the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and the Lord Chancellor of England, which in the press laments over the number of Roman Catholic officers serving in South Africa, and which the other day ventured to find fault with Her Majesty the Queen for visiting Roman Catholic convents and charitable institutions in Ireland. It is the party whose members in Liverpool are known as those who abuse the Pope and do not go to church. It is the party of religious exclusion and persecution. It is the party which has not the wit to see that religious belief, and the practices which flow from religious belief, can never be put down by coercion, and that as things are, whether we like it or not, the choice lies between a wise and a large toleration, honestly accepted in the hope that at some future time it may lead, as a generous toleration always does, to a greater measure of agreement, or such drastic measures as are either bound to fail, or, if they should succeed, must necessarily destroy the great and unrivalled opportunities for good opening out before the Church of England, and inevitably lead to disruption and disaster.


My Lords, I do not rise to make a speech, nor should I intervene with a single word but for two things; first, the statement of the Prime Minister that he desired to be guided to some extent by the statistical and other facts which the Bishops could give as to what is being done, and secondly, the fact that the noble Earl, Lord Portsmouth, is a resident in the diocese of Winchester. The significance of the second I fact is this: the noble Earl has stated to-night in a positive and sweeping way that the Bishops' efforts, if made at all, have been futile, and (to quote what I think is his phrase) that "things go on exactly as they did before." Now I want to ask the noble Earl, instead of ranging so far afield for his instances, to take simply the diocese to which he belongs, and with which, presumably, he is best acquainted. It is because it is his own diocese that I call his attention to it as an example of what is really happening. Here then are the bare facts. About a year and a half ago I sent to every incumbent in the diocese of Winchester—566 in number—a circular letter, specifying certain points—I think they were twelve or thirteen in all—on which difficulty might arise in regard to ritual observance. I asked that where any difficulty was felt in following what seemed to me the law, incumbents should consult me about it without delay. I received 176 replies, and have reason to know that these replies covered all the churches at which such difficulties or doubt did arise. To these I replied severally, stating where in my opinion it was necessary that some change should be effected, and this answer was sufficient to satisfy all but fifteen incumbents. With those fifteen I have since been in communication by correspondence or interviews, and to the best of my belief there is not now a church in the diocese which is defying the authority I have endeavoured to exert. I am not prepared to say that in every church the services are exactly what I desire to see, or, still less, what the noble Earl would desire to see, but what I mean is that there is not, to the best of my belief, at this moment a single incumbent within the diocese who is deliberately disobeying the directions I have given about ritual observance.