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ceeded as follows: My Lords, the ques- made in our Prayer Book by the Protestant tion I am about to raise is one of consi- Episcopal Church of the United States. derable importance, and the state of the The right rev. Prelate the Bishop of House proves that the public regard its London went further, and said, that had I solution with interest. Under these cir- confined myself to the terms of subscripcumstances I regret that the subject has tion, and the rubrics, he thought the not fallen into abler hands; but it is not result of the Motion would have been differmy fault I have endeavoured to induce ent. The noble Lord (Lord Lyttleton), who others, whose opinions would have been takes a great and most intelligent interest received with more consideration, especially in these subjects, strongly repudiated the members of the Episcopal Bench, to take notion of finality. Such being the case, I it up, but quite in vain. All that remains thought myself justified in taking further for me, therefore, is to endeavour to per- counsel on this matter; and, deferring to form the task to the best of my ability, the views of those distinguished persons, I and, at the outset, to beg at your Lord-prepared my measures accordingly. Of two Bills which I have laid before your Lordships this Session, the object of one is to give the officiating minister, in certain defined cases, a discretion in the performance of Divine warship which the rubric at present prevents his exercising. On that Bill (the Public Worship Bill) I shall not offer any observations, as it is for the present virtually withdrawn ; but I will proceed as briefly as I can to endeavour to persuade your Lordships favourably to receive the measure which stands for second reading this evening, being a Bill for the relaxation of the terms of subscription imposed by the Act of 1662.
ships' hands a patient and indulgent consideration. Having alluded to the right rev. Bench, I think I ought to say, that whilst I feel sure that the opinions of that right rev. body will weigh much with your Lordships, yet, in truth, this question is rather a lay question than a clerical one; for, as the right rev. Prelate who presides over this diocese truly observed in a recent speech
I cannot satisfactorily perform the duty I have undertaken without entering a little into the history of that well-known, but often not-very-well-understood Act. It is neither the first, nor the second, nor the third Act of Uniformity which has been passed by Parliament, nor it the only one now in force; that enacted a hundred years previously (1st Elizabeth) being in full vigour, with all those tremendous penalties with which the Legislature of those days was wont to enforce its provisions. Even should my present Bill fail, it would be as well that these two Acts of Uniformity should be reviewed, with the object of making them somewhat more intelligible than they are at present, and bringing them into harmony with the more temperate legislation of the present times. Two Acts of Uniformity succeeded each other within two years in the reign of Edward They were repealed by Mary. Then came the Act of Elizabeth, to which I have alluded; and, lastly, that of Charles II., which it is the object of the present measure to amend. It is quite true that all these Acts pass equally under the name of Acts of Uniformity. They all declare that a particular Book of Common
"The ecclesiastical authorities are not to blame for the provisions of the Act of 1662; it was simply and solely the work of Parliament, and
Parliament alone is responsible for it."
I will commence by explaining why it is
Prayer, and no other, should be uniformly used in public worship; and with such portion of the Act of 1662 the Bill your Lordships are now asked to consider in no way interferes; but the essential differ. ence between the Act of 1662 and all its predecessors is this:-Not satisfied with enjoining the use of the altered Prayer Book, it makes that book a "test," and prescribes two different forms of subscription-one of a general nature, the other a form of absolute and unconditional assent, not to the use only, but to everything contained in and prescribed by the Prayer Book,-in short, to every line and letter which belongs to it. Even after all the allowances the most ample that can be made for the temper of those times-it is difficult to understand the state of public opinion which could have witnessed-I will not say with complacency, but absolutely with applause, the insertion of such provisions. That the tide should have set strongly against the regicides, against the Independents, against the violent sectaries of Cromwell's army, was natural enough; but that all this vengeance should have been discharged upon the Puritans, who were strongly attached to the Established Church, who had always belonged to it, who had remonstrated bravely against the trial and condemnation of the King, who had resisted the imposition of the Covenant, and, above all, who had been foremost in promoting the restoration of the exiled dynasty, does appear difficult to account for. We must not, however, be too hasty in casting indiscriminate censure upon those who framed this Act of Uniformity. It is easy enough to judge their conduct by the light we have now to guide
It is not so easy to put ourselves in their places, and to feel quite certain we should have acted differently. At that time, it is to be recollected, the true principles of religious liberty had scarcely dawned, even upon Protestant communities; and when we find traces of this intolerant spirit still upon the statute-book, -above all, when we see that this most disastrous enactment still remains unrepealed, we should feel thankful that our lot has been cast in happier times, and should endeavour, as far we can, to undo some of those mischiefs which past legislation has entailed upon us. The effect of the Act of Uniformity was quite as severe upon Puritan ministers as the authors of it could have desired; but it had another effect, which in their blindness they could
not foresee, and which fearfully verifies the Roman poet's maxim,
"Nec lex hâc justior ulla est, Quam necis artifices arte perire suâ." It dealt so deadly a blow to the Church, that for a century and a half her arm was literally palsied, and to this hour she has not recovered from it. The injury inflicted on their nonconforming brethren was a mere nothing to that inflicted on their Church and country. To use the language of Archdeacon Hare
"So terribly is the sin of our forefathers, who framed the Act of Uniformity, visited upon Eng. land to this day; nor can any human foresight discern how or when those evils are likely to terminate. From that day we date the origin of that constituted dissent and schism, which is the peculiar opprobrium and calamity of our Church.” And then he concludes with this curious observation—
"The age which enacted this rigid ecclesiastical uniformity was addicted, as might be imagined, to the practice of uniformalizing all things. It tried to uniformalize men's heads by dressing them out in full-bottomed wigs; it tried to uniformalize trees, by cutting them into regular shapes. It could not bear the free growth and luxuriance of nature. Yet even trees, if they have life, disregard their Act of Uniformity, and put forth leaves and branches according to their kinds, so that the shears have constant work to clip their excrescences. None submit quietly except the dead.”
Even the Episcopal Bench was unable to escape from the rage for uniformity thus described by the venerable Archdeacon. Formerly they wore a kind of cap, with which the portraits of Jeremy Taylor and other worthies of that age have made us familiar; and those who have the misfortune to be as old as myself will recollect that curious headpiece, the episcopal wig, which formerly made it so difficult to distinguish one right rev. Prelate from another, but which the innovations of the present age have so far affected, that, however uniform may be the votes of the Bench this evening, there is no visible uniformity in their heads. It is not very easy to discover what can be said in favour of the continuance of such an enactment at the present day. I have made search in histories, biographies, annals, charges, tracts, to find-I will not say a eulogy, but any vindication of this Act; but all in vain. Nothing is to be met with but one universal condemnation. In most cases the propounder of a measure, however confident in the superiority of his own arguments, is obliged to arm himself beforehand to meet well-known objections, which may be urged against him; but here it is next to
impossible to anticipate a reply, whilst the arguments in disparagement of the Act of Uniformity, drawn from all sources-history, philosophy, and the genius of our religion are so overwhelming, that it is difficult to make a selection. Although the present proposal was made by me on the first night of this Session, I find but one petition against it, whilst there are many in its favour. If I consult the press, I find that the organs of the two great parties in the Church-the Record and the Guardian-which do not often agree, have both spoken more or less favourably of my proposal. In truth, this matter exactly resembles the case of the passport system, of which, when it was abolished, The Times newspaper justly ob
"That we never know the folly of a bad habit until we get rid of it, and find how easily we can get on without it. It was the peculiarity of the passport system, that whilst it wrought an infinity of mischief, which was never contemplated, it proved utterly useless for the object it was presumed to have in view."
order to justify these subscriptions, which, were they introduced into the transactions of private life, would put an end to all confidence between man and man.
What, then, are the arguments which are to be brought forward to induce your Lordships to reject this Bill? What is it that has inflamed the zeal of my noble Friend the noble Viscount opposite to such a pitch, as to have brought him to the conviction, even before I had opened my mouth in defence of it, that the Bill I propose should be cast out at once? With some industry I have collected that, in the opinion of some persons, the National Church is in such a state of weakness and peril, that these subjects ought not even to be broached at all in Parliament; whilst others, not sharing this opinion, have yet conjured up some phantom of danger likely to happen, should this test, after existing a couple of centuries, be withdrawn. "We would be no parties," they say, "to its enactment; but we dread the effect of abandoning it ;" and, lastly, there are some who think that this test is the only security a layman has for the orthodoxy of his minister. I will apply myself to these objections in the order in which I have stated them. First, I am sure that your Lordships will agree with me that our National Church, so far from being in a state of weakness and peril, was never in a greater state of activity and vigour; and that all she wants is to be freed from some of those trammels which alone prevent her being, in reality, what she is in namethe Church of the Nation. Then, as to the danger to be apprehended if we abandon, as an evil practice, this ecclesiastical passport system. What, then, do those fear who cannot bring themselves to get rid of an evil, because of its having been in existence a couple of centuries? for they admit that it is an evil, saying that they would not have consented to it. Are such persons apprehensive that an alteration would let in a flood of heretical teachers— Socinians, Universalists, Essayists, Brownists, and God knows what? I pray them to calm their fears. This Bill in no way alters, nor does it interfere in the smallest degree with, the standards of our Church. Should any minister, after this Bill passes, teach false doctrines, he must be tried by the same rules, and judged by the same tribunals, as before. Besides that, if any one places any confidence in the value of these subscriptions, there are enough left to satisfy the most exacting and timorous
And so with the Act of Uniformity. We know that this test was intended to make a schism in the Church of Christ in this country, and that it was eminently successful. We know that it was intended to drive out of the Church hundreds of men who would have been its pride and ornament; and that it did drive them out. We know, also, by lamentable experience, that it has kept out thousands of pious men of a like stamp ever since. We know that it has created a permanent Nonconformist institution, which is taking gigantic proportions. But where are we to discover any advantages which the Act of Uniformity has conferred upon us ? Has it even within our own restricted pale secured unity or orthodoxy, or even uniformity? Has it in any way contributed to the piety, the wisdom, the learning, the usefulness of the clergy, or the extension of our own Church system? I listen in vain for an answer in the affirmative. This, however, we know it has done: It has exposed our clergy to an imputation not only, or chiefly, from Nonconformists, but principally from their own brethren, of making a solemn declaration before God and the congregation in a non-natural sense, and with mental reservation; and I must say more-that, in reference to the whole of our subscription, glosses have been put forth, modes of interpretation resorted to, by men of every party in the Church, in Lord Ebury
mind. Independent of tests of character in the records of your Lordships' House, and examination at or previous to taking but is an improvement even on thatorders, every one before ordination must declare his assent to the Thirty-nine Articles in the terms of the 13th Elizabeth, and must then subscribe to the three articles of the Thirty-sixth Canon: the first of which is the Oath of Supremacy; the second, an affirmation that the Book of Common Prayer containeth nothing contrary to the Word of God, that it may be lawfully used, and that he will use the same and none other in his public ministrations; and the third, another subscription to the Thirty-nine Articles. Then, on being admitted to a benefice, he has again to declare his conformity to the Liturgy, and his assent, for the third time, to the Thirty-nine Articles. Surely in all these subscriptions there is sufficient (if such defences are of any real value) to keep out everything except a wolf in sheep's clothing, against which, as Dr. Vaughan truly observes, nothing will avail. And these facts I would also recommend to the third class of objectors-those who are of opinion that without this stringent subscription the laity would not have sufficient security. To these I may further observe, that a great many livings are solely intrusted to curates, and that some remain curates all their lives. No one ever heard that these rev. gentlemen are particularly heterodox, and yet they do not make this declaration at all. Happily, we are not without a very valuable example, which may safely guide us in this matter, and which I hope will entirely allay any alarms which may be felt on the subject. In a Church which received orders from us, which uses our Prayer Book (only sensibly revised, as I had the happiness to think in unison with the most rev. the Primate), which is in full communion with us, and one of whose Bishops is at this moment doing episcopal duty in Paris for the Bishop of London-I refer to the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States, where no such subscription as that I seek to abolish is to be found. When our North American colonies separated from Great Britain, and their Church had to reconsider its whole position, after very much deliberation and careful consideration they did away with the whole of their former code of subscriptions, and substituted in lieu of them this very simple and sensible form; it is very like a form proposed by Lord Nottingham and Tillotson at the end of the seventeenth century, which is to be found
"I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation; and and worship of the Protestant Episcopal Church I do sincerely engage to conform to the doctrines in the United States."
I hope your Lordships will consider that I have established my position, that there is nothing to fear from the abrogation of this test, whilst there is much of good to be hoped for from it; and that the Church of England is far too strong to fear any such discussions as these.
I am unwilling to trespass on your time unnecessarily; but, at the same time, I must not leave my case in any part incomplete. Some persons have imagined, doubtless from not having the facts brought specially to their notice, that this test has not been productive of so much evil as has been said. I do not like to trouble the House with too much documentary evidence, but I can assure your Lordships I have in my possession numerous letters from clergymen, giving very touching accounts of their having been compelled to give up their cures, where they were otherwise happy and useful, on account of the stringency of these terms of subscription. They have told me of others who, within their knowledge, have gone through the same ordeal of many who, on the same account, were compelled to abandon their cherished desire of dedicating themselves to the service of the ministry-of still more, who are Dissenters, who long to join the Establishment, having no essential differences with her. Of such documents I have selected the following, which I thought were worthy of your Lordships' attention:
Extract of a letter from a Dissenting minister
"I am a Dissenting minister, much against my wish. My forefathers were ejected in 1662, and I remain excluded for the same reasons for which they resigned large livings. Formerly I was connected (as I was bred) with the Unitarian body, but was obliged to relinquish the pulpit of one of the old Presbyterian chapels founded by the compeers of my forefathers, because I could not preach the peculiar negative doctrines of the sect Willingly would I have rejoined the Church to that has got possession of many of those places. which all my sympathies inclined me, and from which I have no doctrinal difference, but I could not 'assent to all and everything,' as required."
Extract from a charge of the Venerable Archdeacon of Northampton, delivered May 5th, 1862—
"What may be the effects of an alteration in the terms of subscription it is not given me to foresee. For myself, I would, not unwillingly, admit any good man into the ministry who would subscribe to the Thirty-nine Articles, and declare that he approved of the Liturgy more than of any other book of public prayers, and that he would consent to use it, and no other, in the public
services of the Church. Nor would evil follow
in these times, I think, if the declaration we are now required to make, I will conform to the Liturgy of the Church of England and Ireland,' were the only one; we should not then have to regret the departure of so many good men from
the Church. . To this class, that of poli
tical Dissenters, the really conscientious Nonconformists do not belong; and of these there is a very considerable body who do not disapprove of the doctrines of our Church, and who have been
deterred from joining our communion only by some stringent portions the Act of Unifor
Extract from speech of Mr. E. Ball, M.P., in the House of Commons, on Mr. Bouverie's Clergy Relief Bill, April 9th, 1862
"Though not himself a member of the Established Church, he recognised its great importance, and would be the last man to impair its stability. He hoped that the Select Committee would inquire, not only how clergymen were to be permitted to leave the Church, but how the obstacles which now prevented many valuable young men from entering its service could best be removed. The latter of these questions was much more important than the former. Hundreds, and even thousands, of young men were excluded from the ministry of the Established Church because the oath and the other requirements were so stringent that they could not conscientiously subscribe them."
Will you maintain in all its deformities an Act which has no defender; or will you expunge from your statute-book a provision, the suggestion of intolerance and persecution, and the offspring of the worst period of our Parliamentary history? My voice may fail to persuade your Lordships, but you will not, I hope, turn a deaf ear to one of our greatest philosophers and orators, who, although he has passed away, yet lives and speaks amongst us by the imperishable works of his genius.
I have now brought my case to a close. I have endeavoured not to leave out any thing essential to it, and at the same time to avoid overlaying it with extraneous matter. I am, however, painfully conscious how imperfect has been the performance of my task. Would that I had the abilities and the influence of many I see before and around me! Then I could not have failed to impress upon the House the immense importance of the decision they are about to arrive at. The vote they are about to give will decide whether your Lordships will promote that best of all things-religious unity, or whether you will continue to foment that worst of all evils, and greatest of hinderances to the spread of the Gospelreligious discord. Whether you will assist in enlarging the bounds, in lengthening the cords, and strengthening the stakes, of our National Church-or, whether you will continue to wall her up with in the narrow limits to which, by ill-starred legislation, she has been hitherto confined? Lord Ebury
"Et si mihi non datis arma, Huic date."
"I would respect all conscience-all conscience that is really such, and which, perhaps, its very tenderness proves to be sincere. I wish to see the established Church of England great and powerful; I wish to see her foundations laid low and deep, that she may crush the giant powers of rebellious darkness. I would have her head raised up to that heaven to which she conducts us; I would have her open wide her hospitable gates by a noble and liberal comprehension; I would have her give a lesson of peace to mankind, that a vexed and wandering generation might be taught to seek for repose and toleration in the maternal bosom of Christianity, and not in the harlot lap of infidelity and indifference. Nothing has driven people more into that house of seduction, than the mutual hatred of Christian congregations. The hon. Gentleman would have us fight this confederacy of the powers of darkness with the single arm of the Church of England,-would have us fight, not time, with all other denominations except our only against infidelity, but fight, at the same own. In the moment we make a front against the common enemy we have to combat with all those who are the natural friends of our this. The cause of the Church of England is cause. Strong as we are, we are not equal to included in that of religion, not that of religion in the Church of England."
kindness and patience, I beg now to move With a grateful sense of your Lordships' the second reading of the Bill.
Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a. VISCOUNT DUNGANNON said, he appealed to the House not to agree to the second reading of this Bill on two grounds; first, on account of the encouragement it afforded to latitudinarianism; and secondly, because he was convinced that it would open the way to other and still greater innovations. By the law as it now stood it was required that every clergyman should subscribe to the Articles of the Church, and that he should sign a declaration that he assented to the Form of