Page images

what the law actually is. Cuique credendum in arte sua.

The above qualities ought to be found equally in the Judicial Committee. If at any time, in disputed Church questions, such qualities are weakened in them by fear of consequences or other disturbing forces, it should be considered whether it would not at such times be impossible to constitute any tribunal wholly exempt from such influences.

On the general principle, then, I concur with Mr. Joyce. The question of the constitution of the body of referees, or experts, while it is highly important, is one of detail. But I am inclined to differ with Mr. Joyce, and rather to agree with many other good authorities, that on the whole the Bench of Bishops would be the best body, and better than any new one that could be constructed, or any more numerous body, such as Convocation. We are speaking of strict doctrine ; and I conceive that it is more according to ancient precedent, and more expedient in itself, that the Bishops should declare it, than that any one else should.

In the next place, the form of procedure is very material. I think it should, for the sake of convenience and expediency, follow the excellent example of the Judicial Committee itself-viz., that the judgment of the Bishops should be transmitted in writing, and as a whole, no notice being taken of the opinions of individual Bishops, but the majority determining it. This is not done in any other of the superior Courts ; but it has always been done, or with very rare exceptions; in the Judicial Committee, and, I know, is held to work extremely well.

Diverse opinions among the Bishops might, no doubt, transpire in other ways; but, for the judicial object, the voice of the Bishops would be taken in their one and collective voice.

It seems to me that this plan, while good and sound in itself, would have a great advantage in the present state of the Church—that that statement of the Bishops would valere quantum valere debet. It avoids two extremes : on the one hand informing a lay Court better and with more authority than it can do for itself; and on the other, not giving the formal and plenary judgment of the Church on doctrinal points.

It seems to me that this latter point is a good one, in days of discord, fear of disruption, and suspension of the self-regulating powers of the Church. Whenever we have such powers-proper Synodical action in the Church, in its proper sense of laity and clergy–we may devise some system of dealing with pure doctrine in a way that shall really convey the binding judgment of the Church,-binding, I mean, in foro spiritualimand which we may trust to do so. But this is a serious power, and one with which the Church, I think, may be content for the present to dispense. The proposed system would not import such a binding force in foro spirituali ; it would be an incident of the general judicial machinery of the country, and with this advantage, which is inseparable from the operation of such machinery, that a decision more or less erroneous, at any given time, may be retouched and amended in subsequent times.

Practical imperfections and errors, it seems to me, should be borne with (while we attempt to amend them), as inevitable incidents of a Church in contact and alliance with the State,—an alliance which must have its evils as some deductions from the good which we believe, on the whole, greatly to preponderate in it.

I am not adverting to any recent circumstances in particular, and I wish only to touch upon the main principles. I do not say that we ought to be content to wait indefinitely for the concession of more freedom to the Church in dealing with her own doctrines than she now possesses ; but, considering the actual state of the Church, and that the whole movement in these matters (in particular the deliberative action of Convocation) is of quite recent date, it seems to me clear that no attempt should be made to precipitate that movement.

I need not say that the above is not my view : I mean not of my devising. It has been advocated for several years, and that both by strong Churchmen and by unbiassed politicians.

Read at the Bristol Church Congress, 1864.

This subject is one which it is not altogether easy or pleasant to deal with, on account of the strong feelings which it is apt to excite. I am not so much referring to those who stand up stoutly and angrily for their exclusive right to particular places in church. Such feelings are very intelligible, but they are not praiseworthy, and are not likely to meet with sympathy in this audience.

I am speaking of those on the other side, who not only seem to expect every kind of good result from entire non-appropriation of seats in all churches, but also insist on describing every sort of appropriation or assignment as not only inexpedient and the worse system, but as sinful and wicked.

I cannot but deprecate such language, especially holding as I do, and as I hope to show, that the question is simply one of a choice of difficulties, and of the least possible inconvenience in a state of things necessarily imperfect.

I would, however, qualify this by an explanation, which will, at the same time, show the limitations under which I propose to consider this subject.

I am not about to speak of churches in new districts ; nor again in districts where the population is for the most part homogeneous ; nor again where it is for the most part migratory, unsettled, and its classes and members not familiarly known to each other. I have in view the old settled parochial churches of the country, mainly, indeed, those of the rural districts, where the population is heterogeneous, strongly marked out into distinct classes, on the whole a settled population, and where the several classes are acquainted with, and bound by mutual relations to each other.

Now, let me ask, as to this parish church in such a case, what would be the ideal state of things ?

Plainly one in which the words of St. James * would have no applicability_in which there were no bad places at all absolutely, nor even relatively in any material sense ; and in which there was complete room, not only for as many people as practically did come at any one time, but for the whole population of church-going age.

Suppose, then, in this state of things, the whole area of this building to be absolutely free, what would be the result? Would it be that the rich and the poor would be mingled together?—that few or none would habitually resort to the same seats day after day?—that no custom or prescription would grow up ?

I am not speaking of what we might wish, but of what is probable; and I apprehend it would be the reverse of all this. Families would go together; as a whole, the rich would go together, and the poor together

-and that from the feelings and predilections of both classes, but assuredly full as much those of the poor as of the rich ; not only the several classes, but the several households and individuals would from habit resort regularly to the same seats; and in course of time these habits would inevitably harden into usage and prescrip

* II. 2, 3.

« PreviousContinue »