Page images
PDF

objected to the assumption, and, after devoting three days to its discussion, determined it could only be accepted with the limiting condition “ quantum per Christi legem licet.”' The statute 26 Henry VIII., c. I, secured the title to Henry, while unfairly suppressing the limiting condition. This Act vested in the Crown rights and functions formerly usurped by the Roman Pontiff ; it obliged churchmen to acknowledge the final decision of domestic courts, and gave the Crown control over the assembling of Convocation.

From Bishop Tonstal’s letter to Cardinal Pole, quoted by Burnet (part iii. Records, No. 52), we can glean that by the assumption of the Royal Supremacy, Henry had no inclination or wish to interfere in strictly spiritual matters, but only to maintain his sovereignty over his subjects. The object of his policy was to draw men’s minds away entirely from Rome, to assure the King that the English clergy were (to quote his own expressive phrase) more than “half his subjects,” and to establish the competency of domestic judicatures alike in spiritual and temporal matters.

Bishop \Vordsworth remarks on this matter (“ Theoph. Anglic.,” p. 275), that the declaration in the Oath of

Supremacy was a defensive protest against papal usurpations.

Edward VI. and Mary both used the title. Parliament, in the reign of the latter Sovereign, was anxious that the Queen should not be deprived of that supremacy which both her father and brother had enjoyed, but it was afterwards laid aside by her.

Elizabeth substituted for “ Supreme Head” “ Supreme Governor ” of the Church, being persuaded, so Burnet says, by Mr. Lever, a reforming divine, that the earlier form was not suitable. This title was secured to her by Act of Parliament (1 Elizabeth, c. I, AD. 1559;; but public opinion must have changed, for this Act was only carried, after severe oppositiori, and by the Queen’s tact in explaining

I Hardwick‘s “ Reformation,” p. :76. ED. 1874.

what the term meant. In her Injunctions of 1559, she declared she did not “challenge any more authority than

‘ under God to have the sovereignty and will over all manner

[ocr errors]

of persons born within these her realms.’ This was further explained in Article xxxvii., as modified in I562.

Ross (Reciprocal obligatz'ons of the Chu-rchrmd Civil Power) says that both the reforming and u_nreforming English prelates, in acknowledging the Royal Supremacy, had in mind not matters purely spiritual, but “those which the laws of the kingdom annexed to the episcopal office—viz., the civil institution of Ecclesiastical Courts; the privileges attached to the episcopal character as Lords of Parliament ; the civil penalties which followed excommunication, legal protection to their ordinations, and other episcopal Acts.”

Bramhall (Schism guarded, part 2, Disc.'4, Ox. I842) says, “Whatever power our laws did divest the Pope of they did invest the King with, but they did never invest the King with any spiritual power and jurisdiction, as witness the Injunctions of Elizabeth; witness the profession of King James; witness all our statutes; witness the public Articles of the Church; but of them all there is not one that concerneth jurisdiction purely spiritual, or which is an essential power of the Keys; they are all branches of the external government of the Church.”

VVilberforce (Principles of Church Authority, p. 174) says, in speaking of ancient appeals to the Emperor Constantine in the case of the Donatists, that “the Emperor only confirmed that which had been decided by the Church.”

It is in view of these remarks on the Royal Supremacy that we have to read the 37th Article, drawn up in I562 with the assent of both Houses of Convocation, which states that “the Queen’s Majesty hath the chief power in this realm of England, and other .her dominions unto whom the chief government of all estates of the realm, whether they be ecclesiastical or civil, in all causes doth appertain, and is not, nor ought to be, subject to any foreign jurisdiction."

It must be conceded, in the words of Chief Justice Hale, that “ the supremacy of the Crown of England in matters ecclesiastical is a most indubitable right of the Crown, as appeareth by records of unquestionable truth and authority”—(r H. H., 75). g

The Crown has been constitutionally empowered to establish Ecclesiastical Courts for the adjudication of ecclesiastical causes, and in virtue of this right has established the Court of Final Appeal and Lord Penzance’s Court. No law-loving Churchman will or can object to the right of the Crown to establish such courts.

The Lower House of Convocation has endorsed this view in a resolution passed on the 26th and 27th June, 1879, which is as follows :--“ That this House, having regard to the History of the Church of England, and the recognition by the Convocations of the Royal Supremacy over all persons in all causes as well ecclesiastical as temporal, is of opinion that the Crown constitutionally receives appeals in all causes from the Ecclesiastical Courts to be heard in the Queen’s Court of Final Appeal.”

Objections, however, may be justly urged to the constitution of such courts, inasmuch as under present circumstances there is no guarantee that the judges appointed to adjudicate on ecclesiastical causes are, or will be, bond fide members of the Church of England. The remedy, therefore, lies in such remonstrance by Convocation, as the representatives of the clergy, as shall secure by constitutional means the adjudication of Church matters, whether of ritual or otherwise, by an authority that would secure the respect of Churchmen, and quiet the present discontent. _

The Lower House of Convocation, in a resolution passed 26th and 27th Iune, 1879, proposed that the judges in the Court of Final Appeal should possess the qualifications laid down for certain ecclesiastical Judges in the 127th Canon. This Canon requires that the Judges of Ecclesiastical Courts should be “ well affected and zealously bent to religion, and touching whose life and manners no evil example is had.”

The question here opened will, no doubt, receive careful discussion at the coming Church Congress at Newcastle-onTyne, of which it is announced as one of the agenda. That several different solutions will be proposed may be regarded as certain. That any one of those solutions, or even, perhaps, any compromise between them, will be accepted heartily by all parties, may well be doubted. The-causes of difference are deep-seated, and they are not of , yesterday’s date. They go back a considerable distance in the history of this Church and Realm. ‘

Rather more than thirty years ago, a leading member of the English Bench of Bishops, the late Dr. Blomfield, then Bishop of London, brought into the Upper House a Bill practically designed to transfer the decision on questions of Doctrine to the Bench of Bishops. It was intituled an “ Act to amend the Law with reference to the Administration of Justice in Her Majesty’s Privy Council on Appeal from the Ecclesiastical Courts," and was a short Bill, consisting only of eight clauses. It had, according to the statements made by lay Lords, in the course of the debate, the assent of the majority of the Episcopate of the day. But it lies in that limbo of obscurity to which so many Bills are condemned. It never became law, and it is, perhaps, less likely to become law in 1881 than in 1850. It had the curious defect, ecclesiastically speaking, of proposing that the questions of doctrine to be submitted by the Judicial Committee to the Court formed by the Archbishops and Bishops should be decided “ according to the opinion of the majority of the Archbishops and Bishops present.” This was certainly not providing for the “ consensus moraliter unanimis,” so vigorously maintained against the decrees of the Vatican Council by the minority in that professedly Gicumenical Synod, and by their Anglican sympathisers. Bishop Biomfield’s measure, therefore, would seem likely, unless materially altered, to create rather than to assuage difficulties. Moreover, Ecclesiastics are liable to be influenced by the “ odium theologicum ” and other considerations, and therefore it is undesirable. that matters affecting the Church should be adjudicated on by them exclusively. The infusion of a lay element, experienced in dealing with the laws of evidence and in the interpretation of written documents, is a safeguard anda necessary counterpoise: while the assistance, as Judges, of those who, as Bishops of the Church, may be naturally supposed to have the welfare and interest of the Church at heart, would give additional assurance that justice, which all Englishmen love and bow to, will be secured. Many dangers to the Church will, it is believed, be avoided by appointing such a mixed tribunal as the Court of Final Appeal. The grievances which are felt by many who are not party men in regard to the mode of appointment of the Judge under the Public Worship Regulation Act, and the procedure in his Court, are clearly pressing for a remedy. It is far from likely that the remedy applied will please all sides, but it may at least remove some just causes of complaint against, and dissatisfaction with, the present system. Against the Judges of the land, as a whole, no complaints of a serious character have ever been brought since they shook themselves free of Court influence. And even in the days when they were most subservient to the nod of Royalty or its favourites, there were always some to be found worthy of the best traditions of the English Bench. It is obvious, however, from whatever causes, and whether justly or unjustly, that this confidence has -not been universally

« PreviousContinue »