« PreviousContinue »
nized as being “erga Deum religio; ut parentibus et patria pareamus." * If my Propositus will school himself in this spirit, I have little fear as to his deriving untainted advantage from the advice which I have been bringing together respecting “Studies that help for the Bar.”
E. S. Creasy.
III.—THE PUBLIC WORSHIP FACILITIES BÍLL. VARIOUS attempts have been made within the last few
years towards what are called “Facilities of Public Worship,” and, as might be expected, many fanciful proposals, and many wild schemes even, have been put forth. The subject has been much before Parliament; it seems not unlikely that some more effectual effort may be made in the next Session; and a calm consideration of it previously will not be unacceptable. We must set out on the principle that the facilities sought are according to the doctrines and discipline of the Church of England ; and any improvement which may be judged practicable must be in that direction ; in fact it is the extension of Church-of-England teaching which is endeavoured after. It is impossible it should be otherwise: Parliament cannot deal in any such respect in the interest of Dissenters. Our Church, from its connection with the State, has a right to claim from it facilities, and is also bound to assist in the carrying of them out. Thus there is a mutual obligation. The Parochial System has been established with this view. That System comprises all the means for Public Worship, and other religious services under
* Pomponius as cited, ibid. i. i. 2.
7 “A Bill to provide Additional Facilities for the performance of Divine Worship according to the Rites and Ceremonies of the Church of England, 1876."
responsible care in individual districts, and thus both Minister and Church are confined to its use : the use of the Church and the services of its Minister are the property of each one, that is, so long as they conform to the legal directions under which they are established. Thus is each one entitled to equal care and advantage. But now comes the difficulty. It must have been evident to those who had foresight that the time would arrive when, from the increase of population, some change must be made in this state of things: the Church would become insufficient, and the labour would be too great for the Minister; and this has in fact happened. So far as has been practicable, remedies have been applied. New Districts have been formed by the division and sub-division of Parishes ; 'new Churches have been built and additional Ministers have been appointed. All this has been well, but has not entirely, or even so far as it has gone, met the case satisfactorily: it has still left cause for just complaint, and not quieted the cry for what may not be so justly claimed. To take the first of these points. It is impossible, casting our eyes over the country, not to see the necessity if we would maintain for ourselves the name and character of a Christian Community, of doing something, indeed a great deal, towards making an effectual provision for Public Worship, and Personal Ministrations, in what may be called the out-lying parts and places. Notwithstanding all that has been done, and we acknowledge a great deal, spiritual destitution prevails to a vast extent. The Parochial System, originally sufficient and well adapted, now fails, if we may use the expression, in laying hold of every one. A Parish, without being of any great size, may now be ill supplied by its own Church, in which case there is really as much reason for forming a fresh scheme, as for that under which we are now living. The Law regulating all this was sound; had it, however, contemplated our present condition, it would, undoubtedly, have laid down some prospective rules, and have set out some remedy or
resource. It would have made it a matter of course that for increasing wants increasing means should have been provided. We do not purpose to enter into one part of the question which has been raised, and which is as difficult as it may be by some considered important, viz., what method should be adopted for the satisfaction of any who may have differences with either the doctrines or the rules of the Established Church ; so differing, they are free to apply means agreeable to their own consciences so long as they do not offend against public order, but they can claim nothing from an Establish ment to which they give no submission—that is clear enough ; such persons must be left to themselves. While, however, we say this, there ought to be neither endeavour nor wish to raise stumbling blocks in the way of any, or to interfere with that liberty of conscience which is the right of every Christian man. Let it not be supposed that any laxity of principle is contended for, or that any opening is sought for the encouragement of internal dissensions, or any approach to disunion. Our Establishment, indeed, is sufficiently wide, more so, perhaps, than may seem desirable to many. Thus, there is the less occasion for offensive action. It will be seen that all that is now intended, is to advocate the duty of the State, seeing it has thought fit to form an union with Religion, and to create what is called an Establishment, to present every one desirous of it with the means and opportunity of partaking in its advantages. It is the right, we insist, of every one, to claim the performance of the duty. The question is, How is this to be carried out ? And that is what is now to be enquired into. It is, we must repeat, the undoubted right of every one professing to be a Member of our Church Establishment to assert his claim to be admitted to the benefits that have been provided for it; this is true generally, as to the Establishment itself; and it is true, also, we argue, as to its particular appliances. For the full and proper working of the Church, the Parochial System has been
formed; it gave a Church, to which all within each Parish were entitled to resort; it gave a Form of Service with it, to which, it might be reasonably concluded, all could give their assent; and it set up a Minister, or Ministers, within each, to whose services, applicable. not only in public performance, but in personal and private use, they could on all occasions apply ; in all those ministrations, and in everything connected therewith, everyone, without difference, was designed to participate. We may suppose that for a while these provisions answered all requirements; the population being gathered within reach of the Church, the Church itself and its ministerial arrangements were adequate to the necessities of the day; but now comes the difficulty, the population increased, the Churches became inadequate to the demand upon them, not only from the very circumstance of that increase, but likewise from settlements in distant portions of the parish. It is true that Chapels of Ease were frequently built in order to meet this want; but, from the isolated position of many of them, and the inadequacy of the means for the support of the Minister, and from the unfitness which it must be confessed existed both as to the Minister, and the arrangement itself, spiritual wants still greatly prevailed. It is, moreover, to be admitted, that from time to time new Churches have sprung up, and even new Districts have been formed, and thus vast and most beneficial effects have been produced. Still the want prevails. Still Church room is called for, still additional Ministers are required ; and although much facility is given in these two respects, a great evil exists, there are numbers and numbers whom the Church and its Ministers cannot reach ; and it is said, with great truth and earnestness of complaint, “why are not further and more effectual means set in motion by which we may enjoy equal privileges with our fellow Churchmen?” Now we come to the point. The Parochial System has not supplied all that it proposed, we mean ecclesiastically of course, we need hardly say, and it is at
least in accordance with the principles of reason and of right that some re-consideration should be taken. We do not wish to disturb proper rights; but, in all public matters, where the public benefit and the public necessities cannot be met without some dealing with them, no resistance ought to be offered, while, on the other hand, no harsh or injurious interference ought to be practised. We have said that Churches have been built, and districts have been formed in large numbers to meet existing exigencies, but we, nevertheless, insist that exigencies do still exist to a large extent, and that obstacles do stand in the way of them which cannot be removed but by legislative authority : it is to such our purpose applies, and to the pointing out of a method by which they may be met.
In order to a more intelligent consideration it will be well to refer to the evidence given before a Committee of the House of Commons in the Session of 1875. A measure for additional facilities was introduced into that House, and referred to a select Committee. This Committe is remarkable for the length of time it sat, for the great variety of evidence it received, and for the patience with which it conducted its investigations; and it is not a little noteworthy that it arrived at no real conclusion. We think it wisely aimed at none. We may even go further and say it could hardly have arrived at any. We may also venture to say that the Evidence was such as, offering no definite proposal, and confined to no tangible grievance, could hardly do otherwise than create bewilderment. All sorts of cases were sought out, and opinions of the wildest kind were propounded; it was not so much the want of Church Provision, as a provision for satisfying their peculiar opinions, which was the object with many of the witnesses. If the Committee had, or could have, confined itself to the one question of Church Accommodation in connection with the Parochial System, and in aid of the intention of that System, some reasonable and advantageous plan might have been adopted. To go,