Imatges de pÓgina

to the subversion of ecclesiastical order. He charges the right reverend prelate who took the chair at the meeting, with invading the province of his venerable brother, and thrusting his sickle into another man's harvest. He pointedly intimates, that the Society assumed a title to which it had no right. He expresses his conviction, that the formation of the proposed association at Bath would be pernicious, and would render that city a hot-bed of heresy and schism. As Archdeacon, therefore, of Bath, in the name of his diocesan, in his own name, in the names of the rectors of Bath, and in the names of nineteen-twentieths of the clergy of his jurisdiction, the reverend speaker protested against the formation of the proposed Society.

The tendency of this language, as well as of the whole Address delivered by the Archdeacon, was, to represent the formation of the Bath Missionary Association as an irregular, unauthorized, and uncanonical act—as an act so irregular, that it became at once his right and duty to interpose; and, by a personal and solemn Protest, to effect either the suppression of the design, or at least the secession of all its clerical promoters.

The question, then, is, in what respect was this meeting irregular or uncanonical? What were the circumstances, and what the laws applicable to those circumstances, that warranted

the Archdeacon in a measure of interference, which, if not justified on the grounds claimed for it, he himself must allow to have been an outrage on the rights of private judgment, and a flagrant departure from the decorum ordinarily observed in civilized society.

1. The Archdeacon appears to found his claim of jurisdiction over the meeting, on the circumstance of our Missionary Society being a Church of England Society. He will not, indeed, allow, what he states to be its pretensions to the title; but he obviously assumes his right of interference on that ground. Now it is manifest, that the Society never affected or pretended to represent the Church of England; still less to act by any commission or delegation from that veuerable authority. It neither is, nor ever assumed to be, any other than a voJuntary institution, supported by the free contributions of individuals, in conformity with the doctrine and discipline of the church. No mistake could arise, on this head, to any one at all acquainted with its design, principles, or proceedings. All misapprehension was effectually precluded, by the publicity with which the Society has uniformly acted. The title, The Church Missionary Society, never meant-it was never intended to mean-a Society supported by the collective authority of the Church of England; but simply, a society conducted by members of that church, and by members of that church only. It merely imports that the individuals who compose the Society are attached, not to the Lutheran, or Calvinistic, or Presbyterian, or Baptist, or Moravian, or Methodist religious communities, but to the English Establishment; and that it is the Christian religion, as taught by that Establishment, which they wish to diffuse among mankind. For many years, the title was, “ The Society for Missions to Africa and the East, conducted by Members of the Established Church.” When the rise and progress of other missionary institutions, and the extending labours of its own, made a shorter and more definite name desirable, The Church Missionary Society for Africa and the East, was gradually, and almost imperceptibly substituted. Thus the familiar title, The Bartlett's Buildings' Society, is sometimes used for the longer and less convenient appellation, The Society for promoting Christian Knowledge, meeting in Bartlett's Buildings. In short, the Church Missionary Society is a voluntary association, formed for a lawful object, but not pretending to be established by law-conducted with a due respect to constituted authorities, but preferring no claims, as of right, to their countenance or patronage. In all points which fall within the province of ecclesiastical enactment, its meinbers conscien


tiously submit to the canons and usages of the church: in matters, like those of voluntary charity, which the wisdom of the church has left, with a thousand others, to the decision of private conscience and feeling, they claim, as Britons and as Protestants, the right of being guided by their own. In effect, every voluntary society conducted by members of our church, rests, in these respects, precisely on the same grounds. No institution of this nature possesses, or can claim, any ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Such a jurisdiction could be conferred on it only by a direct grant from the Legislature, which no existing Society in our church, however highly respectable, and whether incorporated by charter or not, has received.

Such being the nature of the Church Missionary Society, and such the object of the meeting, it is not very easy to discover in what manner the Archdeacon had acquired the ju. risdiction which he claimed over it, or what was that official title by which he felt himself warranted to reprove and inveigh against its proceedings. The lawful jurisdiction of an Archdeacon of the church; the visitatorial authority by which he is empowered to inspect the state of the churches, and “ the sufficiency and ability” of the parochial clergy; the judicial functions by which he takes cognizance of scandalous or notorious immorality-in which re

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-all these rights and powers he possesses without dispute. But it is not apparent how any of these, or all of them together, should entitle him “ officiallyto force his denunciations on such an assembly as has been described-an assembly pretending to no ecclesiastical commission or character—not a meeting of the clergy in visitation, nor a chapter of the canons of a cathedral, nor, strictly speaking, a religious meeting of any kind-but simply a voluntary association of benevolent persons met to form a charitable institution, under the protection of the laws of the land. If this meeting acted irregularly, it was amenable, not to the Archdeacon of Bath, but to the civil power.

The peculiarity of the case, however, is, that the meeting was held under the sanction of the civil power; the Guildhall having been expressly granted for the purpose by the mayor of the city: and yet it was under such circumstances that the Archdeacon of Bath entered, with the avowed purpose of compelling the assembly to hear his vehement censures; thus claiming, without even a plausible argument, and exercising in a manner which in fact bordered on a breach of the peace, a right which, had it been peremptorily resisted, he would certainly have had no legal means of enforcing.

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