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On the particular questions which disquiet the public mind, I think it unadvisable to pronounce an opinion. Upon careful examination, I have found reason to think that some of these questions are more difficult of solution than is commonly imagined, and that the meaning which occurs at first sight is not always the most correct
. And the general question, in respect to what should be conceded to usage in controlling or modifying the written law, seems to me to be open to much doubt. But, if I were ever so fully persuaded in my own mind, I should be unwilling, for reasons already assigned, to pronounce a judgment which, not having legal authority, might be accepted by some and disregarded by others, and might thus increase the confusion which it was designed to remedy. For similar reasons I have not thought it expedient to call the bishops of my province together at this time, though it will be my desire, as well as my duty, to seek their advice and assistance when a fit opportunity presents itself. I am, however, fully assured of their general concurrence in deprecating the continuance of discussions, which will undoubtedly multiply strife and contention, but which, in the present posture of things, can lead to no beneficial result.
In order to guard aga misapprehension, I think it proper to state that all I have here said is strictly confined to the rubrical questions which have occasioned the present agitation. All change in the performance of the service affecting the doctrine of the church by alteration, addition, or omission, I regard with unqualified disapprobation.' I may further remark, that the danger to the church would be great, if clergymen, not having due respect either to episcopal authority or established usage, should interpret the rubric for themselves, should introduce or curtail ceremonies at pleasure, or make divine service in any way the means of expressing their own theological opinions or party views. In respect to the ritual, the preface to the Book of Common Prayer directs all persons having doubts, or diversely taking anything in the performance of the church service, to resort to the bishop of the diocese for the resolution of such doubts, and the appeasing of diversities. Had due attention been paid from the first to this salutary rule, the church might perhaps have been saved from much of the dissension which at various times has divided her members, and grieved and perplexed her rulers, and which, if not speedily checked, may again cause a serious disturbance of her peace. Considering the course I have suggested as offering the only immediate means of averting such a calamity, and at the same time preparing the way for a final arrangement at a convenient season, I earnestly recommend its adoption, in the hope that, through the blessing of God, it may lay the foundation of lasting peace; "and to this end"-(1 borrow the words of a learned and pious ritualist)—“to this end may the God of peace give us all meek hearts, quiet spirits, and devout affections, and free us from all prejudice, that we may have full churches, frequent prayers, and fervent charity; that, uniting in our prayers here, we may'all join in his praises hereafter, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord.'' Amen. Lambeth Palace, Jan. 11th, 1845.
ON THE OBSERVANCE OF THE RUBRIC. Letter to the Clergy of the Diocese of Exeter on Observance of the Rubric in the Book of Common Prayer. By Henry, Lord Bishop of Exeter. (FROM THE TIMES.)
Bishopstowe, Nov. 19. Rev. And Dear BRETHREN,—I address you on a subject of very deep interest to us all the diversity of practice in the worship of Almighty Godwhich in concurrence with other unhappy causes, has threatened to involve us in a state of painful, I had almost said perilous, disunion.
That the mischief has not been felt so strongly in this diocese as in some others, while it calls for our especial thankfulness to Almighty God, may, we hope, be ascribed in no small measure to warm and steady attachment to the church on the part of the laity, and not less, I rejoice in thinking, to the general soberness and discretion of you, the clergy.
But even here we are very far from being exempt from the common evil. There are parishes in Devonshire, and still more in Cornwall, in which grave misunderstandings have arisen between the minister and the people, from causes for which neither he nor they have been primarily responsible.
Discussions on important principles in other parts of the church, though they found among us no vehement partisans on either side, have led, in several instances, to very painful results. While they have excited in many of the clergy a livelier sense of the responsibility imposed on them by their engagements to the church, and have made them solicitous to follow out its requisitions to their full extent; they have at the same time indisposed the laity to the reception of any change, by exhibiting too many instances of the fatal consequences of change, introduced, as it has elsewhere been, by private individuals, whether from simple desire of novelty, or as part of a systematic attempt to bring back our church nearer to the corrupt usages from which it was reformed.
It was therefore actual experience of great, and pressing, and growing evils which recently induced me to have recourse to the unusual, but strictly canonical expedient of seeking the advice of those whose office and standing, and I may truly add, whose high personal qualifications, pre-eminently fit them to form the council of their bishop.
Sixteen members of the general chapter of the cathedral of Exeter, together with the Archdeacons of Totnes and Barnstaple (the Archdeacon of Cornwall being unfortunately absent through illness) met in the chapter room, and gave to me the benefit of their united deliberations. Another distinguished preben. dary (reluctantly detained by sickness) sent to us his judgment, founded on long experience in one of the most populous and important districts in Cornwall.
“ They were unanimous in deploring existing evils, and in apprehending greater, if some timely check be not applied. And, if they were not unanimous in advising what that check should be, this very want of unanimity gave to me the advantage of more fully hearing all that could be urged by able and experienced men on either side. After a discussion of three hours, more than two-thirds of the whole number agreed in advising me, that the only proper, and, under God, the only effectual remedy, appeared to be, at once to restrain all undue change, and to look to the law as our sole guide. Of that law, the law of the whole church of England, including under that comprehensive term not the pastors and teachers alone, but the people also-that is, the state-of that law, one main and leading object, since the Reformation, has ever been to establish "uniformity of public prayers, and administration of sacraments and other rites and ceremonies."
This object, good in itself, becomes inestimable when we look to the evils which it alone can prevent. But uniformity, it is manifest, can only be secured by laying down one rule. This the law has done. And, if process of time have introduced some relaxations in practice, issuing in the great evils we now deplore, it is a convincing proof that the true remedy for those evils must be sought in returning to a faithful observance of the Act of Uniformity.
That act has, in truth, every claim a law can have, on the dutiful and cordial obedience of churchmen. Based on the soundest principles, recognising and declaring the liturgy itself to be purely spiritual in its origin, and applying temporal sanctions only to enforce the use of it, this illustrious statute bears on it the character of a solemn compact ; by which the church, having provided for the nation a pure form of Christian worship, received for that
form the assured protection and support of the crown, and all the estates of the realm ; a statute which, for this very reason, is holden to be “ essential and fundamental,” and is so declared to be in the great constitutional act, the act of union between the realms of England and Scotland.
Now, I do not say that every departure from any minute direction of the Book of Common Prayer, enshrined as it is in this fundamental law, deserves to be stigmatized as a violation of the national compact; but I say that the duty of strict obedience to it cannot be too strongly felt by any, least of all by ihe clergy. To this duty we pledged ourselves in our ordination vows. We renewed that pledge as often as we undertook the cure of souls, or were otherwise admitted to serve in any office in the house of God. To the strict fulfilment, therefore, of that duty no faithful minister of God's word will think it a hardship that his bishop should now recal him. He will, rather, gladly recognise the fitness of recurring to it, at a time of general doubt and difficulty, as the one, the only rule, by which our practice in public prayer can be honestly or safely regulated.
And, while a willing and hearty obedience is thus confidently anticipated from the clergy, can we apprehend less ready acquiescence in the same course on the part of the laity? Assuredly not; provided that we previously instruct them in the nature of the changes introduced, and of the reason for which they are introduced ; not from love of change, but to prevent change; to enable us at length to find a rest for ourselves amidst the fluctuation of usages around us, and to find it in strict obedience to the law.
Need I add that this very purpose of ensuring stability, as well as uni. formity in our public worship, is the very end and object of the statute, as thus declared in its preamble, “In regard that nothing conduceth more to the settling of the peace of this nation, (which is desired of all good men,) nor to the honour of our religion and the propagation thereof, than an universal agreement in the public worship of Almighty God; and to the intent that every person within this realm may certainly know the rule to which he is to conform in public worship, and administration of the sacraments, and other rites and ceremonies of the church of England.'
For these reasons I scruple not to address you all in the language of most earnest entreaty–entreaty which I thankfully acknowledge after the experience of fourteen years, you have never yet disregarded, but which I now put forth with far greater anxiety than I ever before testified-that you will all concur with me in discountenancing every attempt to divide us into parties, by rendering a steady, uniform, and peaceful obedience to the laws of the church, especially in all that relates to the public worship of Almighty God, as enjoined in the rubric of the Book of Common Prayer. If to this my earnest entreaty I add, as I am bound to add, the language of authority and order, you will, I am sure, see in it only the fuller sanction and support of your own desire to act in conformity with your own deep feeling of your duty.
I abstain at present from entering into details. Let me, however, say that I advise a very cautious and forbearing tone in all that respects the duty of the laity, as laid down in the rubric. For instance, you are bound to read at least one sentence of the offertory whenever the communion service shall be read. But it is left to your discretion whether you should read more; in other words, whether you should enforce a collection.
Now, in every church in which the congregation in general is prepared to regard the collection as the exercise of a high Christian privilege-the privilege of offering to God-of giving to him of his owo—there I advise that a collection be always made. But wherever the pervading tone and feeling is not yet of this high order, be patient; strive, but strive gently, and with prayer to God to raise your people to a better mind; and till they have attained to it, shock not their prejudices, irritate not their selfishness, it may
be their worldly-mindedness. Only let them not deceive themselves; let them see and feel that you“ seek not theirs, but them.” Tell them the truth in love, and leave the rest to God.
One further caution I would add, though I hope it is almost needless.'
While I urge you to return to a full observance of the rubric, falling short of your prescribed part in nothing, beware of exceeding it. The peculiar dangers of the times as well as the prevailing tone of public opinion, call upon you most powerfully, as you would avoid being in the number of “them through whom offences come,” to forbear all unnecessary innovation, especially, as I have recently had occasion to urge, that worst kind of innovation—the revival of obsolete usages not required by law, which are associated in the minds of the people with the superstitions and corruptions of Rome.
“ This letter will reach you through your deans rural; and I advise you to communicate together in your several deaneries ; thus of yourselves you will on most points come to an accordance. Should doubts arise, the preface to the Book of Common Prayer, “ concerning the service of the church," tells you how to act. You are to have recourse to your bishop, who, if he be in doubt himself, is “ to send to the archbishop for the resolution thereof."
I also advise that you make no deviation from the mode in which you may be now severally in the habit of performing divine service, until there shall have been an opportunity of collating the different practices and propositions of the different deaneries.
We may too, perhaps, be thus enabled to profit by the construction put on the rubrics in other dioceses, if any similar consideration of the matter meanwhile be had elsewhere.
One great advantage must arise from this delay, that it will enable us to make all the change which shall be found necessary at once, and thus to avoid further change.
A very few months at the utmost will more than suffice to enable you to bring all questions to a decision. Should it be necessary for me to explain the grounds of the resolution of any of the doubts submitted to me, an opportunity will soon be afforded, if it please God that I have health and strength to hold my visitation in the next year, which it is my present intention to cominence immediately after my ordination on Trinity Sunday.
There is one“ diversity,” for the quieting and appeasing of which I will now " take order.". This I feel myself called upon to do, because, unhappily, the “ diversity” to which I refer is regarded by many people as exhibiting the badges of party, on one side at least, if not on both. It cannot, therefore, too soon be settled.
I refer to the use of the surplice in preaching, a matter so inconsiderable that it could not of itself excite any strong feeling in any reasonable man. But the more unimportant it is in itself, the more manifest is the necessity of stripping it of that factitious importance which is given to it by its being made the symbol of disunion. This can be done only by requiring that there be no longer any " diversity,” that all either use or disuse the surplice when they preach.
If there were no law, one way or the other, there might be difficulty in deciding which to require. But the law, on due investigation, is clear ; however complicated may be the inquiry which is necessary to ascertain it.
That law, beyond all question which can now arise, requires that the surplice be always used in the sermon, which is part of the communion service; and as to all other times, whenever a sermon is part of the ministration of the parochial clergy, there is so little reason for question, that I resolve the doubt by requiring, (as it was required in the diocese in which my own ministerial life was passed, the diocese of Durham, and there, by the order of one of its most distinguished prelates, and of our most eminent ritualists— Bishop Cosin) that the surplice be always used.
There remains one matter on which there is no rubrical direction, as it was not contemplated when the Book of Common Prayer was compiled; I mean the sermon at the time of evening prayer. The power of the bishop to order it rests on a modern statute, which does not control his discretion in ordering how it is to be introduced. I therefore direct (and I do so with the express sanction of his grace the archbishop,) that where there is a sermon in the evening, it be delivered after evening prayer, in the accustomed manner —that is, preceded by a collect, (unless the bidding prayer be used,) and the Lord's Prayer, and followed by the blessing. I hope it is unnecessary for me to add, that there must be no prayer of your own composing either before or after the sermon.
I conclude with entreating you to join with me in fervent prayer to Him “who is the author of peace and lover of concord," that he will accept and bless this our humble endeavour to promote peace and concord among us within his own house, and in his own immediate service. I am, rev. and dear brethren, your affectionate friend and brother,
H. EXETER. P.S.-I avail myself of this opportunity to suggest a different subject to you, that you apprise me, some time before my visitation, of any matters of moment in your several parishes which may require special consideration when we meet.
CIRCULAR OF THE BISHOP OF MADRAS TO HIS CLERGY.
Bishopstoke, 12th July, 1844. REVEREND AND DEAR BRETHREN, 1. In consequence of a complaint-I am thankful to say a most unfounded one-having been brought before government by the Right Rev. Dr. Fennelly, against a reverend chaplain of this diocese, accusing him of uncharitably and unwarrantably attacking the peculiar opinions of the Roman-catholic patients then in the hospital under his peculiar charge, I pledged myself to the Most Noble the Governor in Council, by whom the case was referred to me to use my utmost endeavours to prevent an hospital from being made the arena of polemical controversies; a resolution, in the propriety of which I am persuaded that you will most fully coincide.
2. A similar complaint has been now preferred a second time, by the same right reverend gentleman, against the same reverend chaplain, by whom it has been again repelled to my complete satisfaction.
I avail myself, however, of the circumstance, to address to you a few general remarks on the subject of your hospital ministrations, both because a clear enunciation of my views on that subject may be of service or of comfort to you, if exposed henceforth to similar charges or imputations, and because I am desirous that on this, as on every point, I should be fully understood by my reverend brethren.
3. No one can be more strongly opposed than myself to the indulgence of that, I hesitate not to call it, anti-Christian spirit, not indeed peculiar to these days, but unquestionably characteristic of them, which harshly condemns the erring, instead of seeking to convince them of their errors; and I am thoroughly persuaded that the objects of such uncharitable attacks are thereby the more confirmed in their adherence to them. We are taught in Holy Scripture that he that winneth souls is wise ; and the compulsion, enjoined upon those servants who were ordered to go into the highways and hedges, that the king's table might be full, is evidently a compulsion of persuasion and love.
4. But while I deprecate “bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking,” in our dealings with our misguided fellow-Christians, do I therefore recommend the soul-destroying practice of speaking to the Romanists