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ALLEGED EVANGELICAL RITUALISTIC IRREGULARITIES. The elderly clergy can well recollect the reproaches which used to be cast on Evangelical men for violating their canonical obedience. The neglect of daily prayers, the non-observance of saints' days, the use of other hymns than those printed in the Book of Common Prayer, and Evening Services ;-these were the irregularities alleged against the Evangelical clergy in our early days. Even public meetings of the Bible and Missionary Societies were denounced as contrary to canon law. Then, as now, some timidly crouched under the charge; others, taking a larger view of the rules and spirit of the Church, saw in them a sufficient justification of the course they pursued, and waited till time should vindicate its propriety. About thirty years ago the tide began decidedly to turn in favour of some of these Evangelical practices. Modern collections of Hymns and Evening Services were freely introduced into churches of the strictest type, and public meetings for religious societies have become the order of the day among all sections of the Church.
Within the last few years, the cry of reproach against the Evangelical clergy for alleged canonical disobedience has been again raised; but, such is the strange revolution of things, that, whereas formerly it was raised by cold and quiet formalists, who kept within the limits of the supposed rubrical requirements, now it is raised by Ritualists as a justification of themselves in going beyond the Rubric. Thus, according to a hackneyed form of expression, defect of rubrical exactness by the Evangelicals is made the excuse, if not the justification, of rubrical excess on the part of the Ritualists.
Vol. 68.- No. 375.
Suddenly the decision of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council condemns some of the excesses of the Ritualists. Their indignation finds relief in the cry that Evangelical irregularities must be done away by the stroke which has fallen upon themselves. Hasty and unlearned interpretations of the Judgment have furnished the disappointed Ritualists with this salve for their own wounds. But let not Evangelical men crouch before such hasty conclusions. The results of this famous Judgment, when drawn out by men skilled, in law, will probably be very different from those which appeared in. evitable, at the first blush, to partisans on both sides. In the meantime we beg to offer a few considerations which may re-assure some of our timid Evangelical brethren, and prove to them that their predecessors did not adopt the practices now objected to, without careful consideration of their legal bearing and responsibilities, or without the sanction of their ecclesiastical superiors.
I. One of the most common reproaches against the Evan. gelical clergy is that of violating a Rubric which requires daily prayers, morning and evening, in all churches and chapels. It is, however, most unfair to speak of this omission as one peculiarly belonging to the Evangelical body. For three hundred years the omission has been the general practice of the Church under the sanction of ecclesiastical authorities.
Let us revert to the facts. An order in the midst of the Preface requires,-"All Priests and Deacons are to say daily the morning and evening prayer, either privately or openly, not being let by sickness or some other urgent cause. And the Curate that ministereth in any parish church or chapel being at home, and not being otherwise reasonably hindered, shall say the same in the parish church or chapel where he ministereth, and shall cause a bell to be tolled thereunto, in convenient time before he begin, that the people may come to hear God's word and to pray with him." This direction was in conformity with the practice of reading the Breviary, common among the Romish Priests before and since the Reformation, In the early years of the Reformation, when the learning of the clergy was miserably low, the daily recital of the Liturgy, including the Lessons and Psalms, was a salutary exercise to insure their scriptural knowledge and correct reading. But in the more learned times of Elizabeth, the use of daily prayers ceased in churches generally, and even in some of the cathedrals. As a proof that this change of practice was sanctioned by the authorities, we refer to the fact that the Bishops were in the habit of issuing, at the time of their visitations, Injunctions or Articles of Visitation, which were intended to instruct the clergy and churchwardens in their canonical duties with the utmost particularity. In the very earliest of these Episcopal Directions, daily prayers in public and in private are enjoined; bat in those of Archbishop Parker (1571) only services on the Lord's-day and Holy-days, and the Litany on Wednesdays and Fridays, were required.
But a still more authoritative relaxation of the Rubric is found in the Canons and Constitutions Ecclesiastical drawn up by Convocation, and sanctioned by the King in 1604. Of these the 14th and 15th Canons enjoin only the Common Prayer to be used on Sundays and Holy-days, and their eves, and the Litany on Wednesdays and Fridays. Such precedents fully justify a clergyman, at the present day, taking into consideration the circumstances of his parish, the altered state of society during the last two centuries, and his own personal concerns, when he interprets the words "being otherwise reasonably hindered," as dispensing with the observance of Saints' days, and the Litany on Wednesday and Friday. It must be borne in mind that the law which imposes the duty of daily prayers upon the clergyman under certain conditions of exemption, leaves with that clergyman the responsibility of judging of the “reasonableness of the hindrance. The Bishop has no power of overruling this responsibility. To meet this difficulty, the Scotch Prayer-book (1637) inserted the provision, “All Presbyters and Deacons shall be bound to say daily the Morning and Evening prayer, either privately or openly, except they be let or hindered by some urgent cause. Of which cause, if it be frequently pretended, they are to make the Bishop of the Diocese, or the Archbishop of the Province, the Judge and Allower.” Without such a proviso, à court of law alone can control the exercise of the discretion of the clergyman.
II. Another alleged rubrical irregularity is the conclusion of the service after the sermon, without the offertory and prayer for the Church Militant. But here again this should not be charged upon the Evangelical clergy alone. It was the usual practice before the Evangelical clergy arose. It seems to have sprung up after the poor-rates were established, and the provision of the “poor man's box" was not so urgently required. It is, however, contrary to the express letter of the Rubric which says after the sermon, “ Then shall the Priest return to the Lord's table, and begin the offertory, &c.” On this ground Bishop Blomfield justified his injunction to his clergy to use the offertory. His injunction was, however, resisted by the clergy of all classes, and his conduct was condemned by other Bishops on the ground that the contrary practice had become & custom, and that where a custom has sprung up either withont rubrical sanction, or even in opposition to it, the custom is to be the guide of individuals, whether bishops or clergy, until the matter is otherwise ordered by a court of law, or by
the general consent of the Church. So strenuously was this principle urged, that Bishop Blomfield's injunctions were virtually withdrawn.
III. Another charge of deficiency is the reading of only one sentence in the Exhortation to receive the Lord's Supper, instead of the whole. But there is a curious mistake in this matter. The Exhortation beginning “Dearly beloved, on — next I purpose through God's assistance" &c., is, by the Rubric preceding it, required to be read “after the Sermon or Homily ended." The omission of this Exhortation after the sermon ended, is an universal custom in violation of an express Rubric. In the first Rubric after the Nicene Creed, it is stated,-" Then (viz. before the Sermon), if occasion be, shall notice be given of the Communion.” Here no form is prescribed for giving such notice. Every clergyman is at liberty to adopt his own form. But it was very natural and proper, when the Exhortation after the Sermon was given up, to take the first sentence as an appropriate form of notice. There is, therefore, no irregularity in the matter, except the universal omission of the reading of the Exhortation after the Sermon.
IV. The charge of deficiency of rubrical obedience which is alleged with most confidence against the Evangelical clergy, is, in the administration of the Holy Communion, the delivery of the elements to two or more, or sometimes to a whole railful, whilst only saying the words once. The Rubric is here said to be precise, “ When he delivereth the bread to any one he shall say." And it is further alleged that, at the last review (1662), the words were made more precise than before, as they had previously been, “When he delivereth the bread he shall say.”
The charge is, that the Evangelical clergy adhere to a practice which, in all common honesty, contradicts the Rubric.
But the justification of this practice will appear upon further consideration to be more obvious and complete than is generally supposed. In the case of a few communicants, the question of saying the words to each individual, or to a group, would be of no importance; but when the communicants amount to several hundreds, the solemnity and edification of the service is apt to be seriously impaired by the repetition of the words to each individual, while the time occupied is too great a demand upon the strength of ordinary clergymen, as well as of many of the communicants of delicate constitution. In such a case, doubts necessarily arise whether the Rubric requires the repetition of the words to each individual; and if so, how is the duty of administering the Holy Communion to be performed, consistently with “ The procuring of reverence and exciting of piety and devotion in the public worship of God ?” (Preface of Prayer
book.) Here the Preface directs the clergyman who so doubts “shall resort to the bishop of the diocese, who by his discretion shall take order for the quieting or appeasing of the same.” This has been the course pursued by the body of the Evangelical clergy, as our own knowledge can testify.
The case arose nearly fifty years ago with the Evangelical clergy in Clifton near Bristol. Bishop Mansel objected to saying the words to more than one person at a time; but upon the representation to him of “the doubts” of the clergy, he gare orders that they should calculate the time which the Communion would occupy, and the distance of the afternoon service, and then repeat the words to two, or three, or more, as the time might reasonably allow. Few clerical heads could make the calculation at such a moment, and therefore they regarded his order as leaving the matter to the discretion of each clergy. man; and every succeeding bishop has countenanced this liberty of action.
We may cite another instance. In St. Peter's church, in the city of Hereford, of which the Dean of Hereford was formerly Ordinary, the Dean in 1836 directed the custom of administering to a group to be discontinued. The Vicar took the opinion of one of the ablest advocates of the day, Dr. Nicholl, upon the case. Dr. Nicholl admitted that the Rubric was ambiguous, that it might be complied with by drawling over the words while the bread was distributed and the cup delivered to two or more; but he thought it the right course in such a case to abide by “the discretion" of the Ordinary, and at least to make the trial of the course he enjoined. The Vicar of St. Peter's complied with the advice, and for several years the words were repeated to each individual; but so great was the inconvenience and hindrance of edification both to ministers and people, that upon the death of the Ordinary, when the jurisdiction passed to Dr. Musgrave as Bishop of Hereford, the Bishop authorised a return to the delivery of the elements to a railful upon one repetition of the words, and came himself to assist at such administration of the Lord's Supper.
One further instance we will add to illustrate the practice of the Evangelical clergy in this particular. For a short time the parish of Blackheath was within the diocese of London, during which time the following correspondence took place between Bishop Blomfield and the Rev. Joseph Fenn, an incumbent of one of the churches of the parish :
“Fulham, December 16, 1851. “My dear Sir,–It has been stated to me that you have recently changed your mode of administering the Holy Communion from the former and more regular practice of individual administration, to that of addressing the words to a whole railful of communicants at