Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

desired to keep up; and that it was regarded as such we learn from the very quotations which are supplied to us by our opponents. The Committee of the House of Lords in 1641 consider - whether the rubric should not be mended, where all the vestments, in time of divine service, are now commanded, which were used in the second year of Edward the Sixth. Well, they mend the rubric accordingly; but how? Why, by taking very good care to recite in the forefront of their ordinance that ‘no copes, surplices, or superstitious vestments,' were to be any more used in any church or chapel within the realm. The matter is now transparently clear; the cope and the surplice were the links which connected the time then present with the second year of Edward the Sixth-the cope as expressly being stated to be ritually alternative with the vestment, the surplice as being inferentially so in reference to the alb ?—these our present rubric took care to allude to as to be retained and to be in use in the Church of England. Having done so, it left the advertisements and the canons ecclesiastical, which rest upon and appeal to them, to settle who the individuals were to be who were to illustrate and to exemplify the retention. And that retention is in force and, to some extent, in actual operation to this very hour. The cope is retained, though not always actually in use, in cathedrals; the surplice is certainly retained and in use in our parish churches.

This is our case, and it seems to us fairly unanswerable. It certainly removes all non-naturalness from the estimate of the

of the ornaments rubric of 1662, and places before us the revisers exactly doing what we should have expected them to do, and what we should probably have done ourselves if we had been in their places. They went to a plain Act of Parliament; they took from it a perfectly intelligible form of words; they omitted the portion that referred to other order' that was to be taken, because that other order had notoriously been taken ; they conserved, as they desired, cope and surplice; they kept an historical epoch well noted on the early pages of their Prayer Book, and, if they could now rise out of their graves, would be the first to express their unbounded surprise at the interpretation that sane persons have put upon their rubric, and the deep designs that have been most unfairly attributed to a very simple and reasonable proceeding.

scope

When we add to all that has been here said the two comments in

. We have already shown that no very sharp distinction was drawn between surplice and alb. We observe that a recent writer somewhat triumphantly refers to the reception of Bishop Walton in 1661 by the cathedral clergy 'habited in their albes. All the remark that has to be made is, that this is a quotation from a .correspondent of a newspapera source to which we should hardly go for niceties of ecclesiastical language. If Johnson and Richardson know no great difference

etween an alb and a surplice, this local writer was probably not better informed. That this loose expression of our own correspondent'should have been accepted as evidence by an intelligent weekly journal is a little surprising,

the judgment on the changes of wording in the present rubric (especially the omission of the words at the time of the Communion'), it does seem to us that never was a stronger case made out, and that, if we may borrow a word from an eminent judge, who used it in a converse direction, the evidence that the ornaments rubric does not authorise every parochial clergyman to vest himself in chasuble and alb, or even cope and surplice, is simply-irresistible.

If it has now finally to be asked, 'If this be so, how can the prevailing mispersuasion in reference to the judgment be in any way accounted for ?’ the answer is not far to seek. The non-natural character of the decision that has been so freely imputed to the judgment is due to the unwearied perversity with which all its opponents will persist in considering and speaking of the present ornaments rubric as if it were a rubrical direction to

every

minister. Even in quarters where a more intelligent judgment might have been expected, there is the same ceaseless cuckoo-cry that the rubric was designed “to challenge the immediate and primary attention of a ministering ecclesiastic;' and that it takes the clergyman by the hand and tells him what the dress is in which he is to perform the service. All we can reply is, that the rubric does nothing of the kind, and that no torturing of plain words can make it do so. Not only is there no trace of any individualising reference, but on the contrary, as we have distinctly shown, every reason, from the very change of form that has been introduced, for the contrary supposition. If anything can be considered plain, it must be that our present ornaments rubric, both in its form and its rough grouping of the ornaments of the ministers' with the ornaments of the church,' is as far removed from being a direction to each individual minister, and a direction too that cancelled every other that went before it, as any legal imagination can possibly conceive. It is our opponents who are guilty of the non-natural interpretation of the rubric, not the judges on whom they are trying to fasten the charge.

We sincerely wish all this had emerged more clearly from the judgment.

But after all it matters but little. The judgment is indisputably right, and the more it is criticised the more it will be gradually felt to be so by all unbiased readers. Still it would have been well if what we have here specified with a very unprofessional

had been set out in the judgment, and with all that force and lucidity which mark every page of this remarkable document. It would then have been not only wise and conciliatory, but it would also have been-convincing.

We may now close this necessarily somewhat technical article by a few considerations which at once seem to suggest themselves, both as to the past and the future.

In the first place we see how utterly unjust has been the abusive

pen

criticism that has been lavished on the Purchas judgment. In reference, at any rate, to the vestments, that earlier judgment, framed as it was without any hearing of legal arguments on the side of the respondent, has come out of a severe ordeal with considerable credit to the eminent men who were connected with it. As far as we have observed, in reference to the vestment question, only one blot has been hit-a statement that, taken apart from the context, might seem to imply that the Judicial Committee believed that the early destruction of vestments in the reign of Queen Elizabeth had been later than the promulgation of the advertisements. Their own context, however, shows that they certainly knew to the contrary, and that their error is one of expression rather than of forgetfulness. In the matter of the position of the celebrant and the use of wafer bread, their decision has certainly been modified, but in neither case to such an extent as to afford the slightest retrospective justification for the reckless language in which the Purchas judgment has been spoken of, or for the prompt disobedience with which it was received by the Ritualistic party throughout the kingdom. That strong manifestation of contempt and disobedience has done its evil work, and is still casting its shadow forward on the present and the future. If we were to be asked to name the one document that we believe to have done the greatest injury to the Church of England in recent times, we should unhesitatingly answer—the memorial, got up, we believe, in the first instance, by a few London clergymen, and afterwards largely signed, in which the archbishops and bishops were asked not to act upon the Purchas judgment, and, in fact, to pass a tacit vote of censure upon it, by allowing it to become a dead letter. Some at least of those who were connected with this mischievous document have, we hope, seen the extremely mistaken nature of their act, and have come at length to feel that no body of men under authority can possibly be justified in urging those who are set over them to disregard the final exposition of the law. To the action that was then unhappily taken we unhesitatingly refer the greater part of the difficulties and exacerbations of the present time.

In the next place we cannot now fail to see how utterly unwise were the tactics of the Ritualistic party, and how completely they missed a fair and natural opportunity. Suppose that instead of talking nonsense about sacrificial vestments, and so forth, they had intelligently taken up the broad position that the principle of a distinctive vesture for the Holy Communion was a principle fully recognised by the Church of England; and suppose that they had temperately urged that the time had now fairly come when the rule of cathedral churches might be, subject to the guidance and approval of the diocesan, extended to the larger and more ornately conducted churches in our towns and elsewhere. Suppose that this point had been calmly and steadily pressed, and a larger measure of liberty

in reference to the use, or rather the area of the use, of a “honorific' vesture at the Eucharist soberly but earnestly asked for, we can scarcely doubt that it would have been conceded by this time. Now it is utterly hopeless. The distinctive vesture has been inseparably associated with doctrine; the purpose of its introduction has been ostentatiously avowed ; and the whole aspect of the matter is irrevocably changed. The toleration which once might have been shown to the spread of the usage, when it seemed a matter of paying greater honour to our blessed Lord, would now be promptly checked and repressed by the great body of the laity as being a most questionable dallying with what many would consider to be unquestionably false doctrine.

We cannot for one moment affect to regret that the vestment party have received this enduring reverse. Their tactics were not only bad in themselves, but designing and sinister. They rested on the ecclesiastical philosophy propounded by one of the less prescient friends of the party, which, if we remember right, was substantially of this strain : "The ordinary Englishman soon gets accustomed to things ; he makes a fuss at first, but soon drops into apathy; push quietly on, and in a few years it will be with the vestment as it has been with the surplice; push on. And they did push on, though not by any means as quietly as the advice suggested; and the results have followed which any intelligent person could have foreseen. The ordinary Englishman is very tolerant, especially in religious matters, and towards the clergyman who ministers to him. But if there be this general acquiescence on the one hand, there is, on the other, that inexpugnable Protestantism, as it has been called, which, when difficulties arise, is always a factor and element that exerts a predominant influence. It may be remembered that many of those who affect to guide intellectual opinion would persist in telling us that the Public Worship Regulation Act never could or would pass, just as there are good people who tell us now that ere long it must be and shall be repealed. All such persons simply fail to take into consideration the important element, often latent and quiescent, that is always to be recognised in the national religious life of the country. Their plans and their prophecies are alike demolished or disproved whenever anything stirs this Protestant element and sets its powers in motion. A distinctive vesture at the Eucharist, which once might have crept into our larger churches, in the form of a cope, is now, owing to the antagonistic and wilful manner in which vestments have been introduced, among those things which will hardly hold their own even in the form and in the places where they are legally enjoined. The Protestantism of the country has been aroused; the law has been invoked; and Eucharistic vestments, after a few outbursts of defiance, will silently be dropped, church by church, until the places in which, from peculiar circumstances, they may still for a time be retained, will only serve to show by their fewness and utterly exceptional character the silently clean sweep that will ultimately have been made by the Ridsdale judgment.

This will certainly be the first and general result; but it will not be arrived at without considerable anxiety and disquietude. We already see that the general policy of the extreme party is to refuse obedience to the judgment, and to hold steadily on to their present practices. Nay, such is the folly and perversity of party spirit, that extreme practices have in some places become still more antagonistically extreme. If we can trust those religious newspapers which appear lately to have moved the righteous indignation and vexed the honest soul of no less a person than Mr. John Bright-if we can trust these papers, we learn that in several places the great festival dedicated to the honour of Him whose fruit is ó love, joy, peace,' was desecrated by an increased outrageousness of ritual; and we may expect such discreditable practices for a while to continue. More than this, it is by no means improbable that all sorts of foolish memorials will be put into circulation, in which this judgment will be roundly denounced, and our ecclesiastical rulers implored not to allow any legal proceedings in connection with it, and so not to aid and abet intolerance and persecution. We shall be entreated to wait till Convocation settles the matter, and the living voice of the Church 10—whatever that may be-promulgates the ultimate adjustment.

We must prepare ourselves for all these silly manifestations, and take them as good-humouredly as we can. They will ultimately do no barm whatever. If our good friends think that they will be able to memorialise down this judgment, as they did to a certain extent succeed in doing in the case of the Purchas judgment, they will find themselves utterly mistaken. There is all the difference in the world between the two cases. The court in the Ridsdale case was much stronger; and, what is still more important, arguments were heard on both sides, and a decision arrived at, which, whatever else may be said of it, shows most clearly that the eminent persons who framed it are completely persuaded in their own minds of its rightfulness and justice.

We have, then, no fears as to the ultimate issue; but, just for the present, we have trouble before us. A certain party will stand at bay. But they will find that confidence in their loyalty as well

10 It is scarcely worth while arguing with those who use this language, but it still may be as well to remind them that the living voice of the Church has been heard in the matter, and that Convocation has spoken. And what the Southern Synod, with the accordant voice of both Houses and the practical concurrence of the Northern Synod, did say was this—That no alteration from long-established and usual ritual ought to be made in our churches until the sanction of the bishop of the diocese has been obtained thereto.' This is the living voice of the Church @f England deliberately uttered only a few years since.

« AnteriorContinua »