FRANCIS & JOHN RIVINGTON,
ST. PAUL'S CHURCH YARD, AND WATERLOO PLACE;
AND THOMPSON, BEDFORD.
THE Lord Bishop of Montreal having sent a Copy of the following Letter to a friend in England, with permission to make use of it as he might think fit, it is deemed right to give it to the public.
TO THE CLERGY OF THE DIOCESE OF QUEBEC.
Quebec, March 27, 1845.
REVEREND AND DEAR BRETHREN,
I HAVE been only waiting for the close of those additional duties which occur in the seasons of Lent, Passion-week, and the festival days of Easter, to give my attention to the subject of our meeting this year in triennial Visitation at the See, and to notify you of the arrangements to be made in that behalf. I have been anxious that you should have early intimation of my purpose, not only because I found, three years ago, that in the case of Clergy who are stationed in the district of the Gaspe, the space of time remaining after their reception of my Circulars, was insufficient to enable them to undertake the voyage from that quarter, but also because I wish [5/6] you to come prepared to the Visitation; first, with a full statement of what you may have been enabled to effect, in your respective Cures, in the cause of the CHURCH SOCIETY, with which, I believe, that you are all united, and which is vitally interwoven with the present and future interests of the Church within the Diocese; and, secondly, with detailed information arranged under the proper heads in a tabular form, respecting the state of your Parishes or Missions; the condition of your Churches or Chapels and their appurtenances, within and without; the number of your services during the year; the number of places at which you officiate, and the distance of each place from your residence; the number of square miles over which your charge is considered to extend; the number of persons who compose your Congregations; the number of baptisms, marriages, and burials in those Congregations in 1844; the number of your communicants; the number of persons whom you presented for confirmation at my last visit; the number and description of schools which the children belonging to your Cures attend, together with an account of the Sunday Schools which are under your authority. In all the Missions of the Diocese, this information must be prepared in such a manner as to be fitted for transmission to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel.
As the Anniversary Meeting of the Church Society will, with the Divine permission, be held this year at Quebec, on Wednesday, the 2nd of July, I have fixed [6/7] upon the forenoon of the same day for the delivery of my charge;--for which purpose Divine Service will be held in the Cathedral Church, at ten o'clock, a.m. You will appear, on both these occasions, robed in your proper habits. It may, perhaps, be necessary, both for myself and for some others of our number to leave Quebec in the afternoon of the following day, in order to attend the periodical meeting of the Central Board of the Church Society, on Friday, the 4th, at Montreal. You will take care, therefore, if you please, to furnish me with the information mentioned above, at the very latest, on the morning of Thursday, the 3rd.
And here, but for a particular occurrence, I might close this communication, reserving, (which had been my intention,) for the solemn occasion of our meeting, such recommendations upon certain points agitated at this moment in the Church, as I may venture, after all the special examination bestowed upon them of which my scanty leisure and moderate resources render me capable, to press upon your attention: such also as I have led you (in my Circular of the 26th April, 1844,) to expect from me. The occurrence to which I advert, is the agitation of these very questions, which have been under my deliberation for your benefit, coupled with very free animadversions upon my Circular just mentioned, by a writer professing to be a Presbyter of the Diocese, and assuming very summarily to dispose of points, in which certainly his Bishop has had much more [7/8] difficulty in coming to a conclusion. It cannot be supposed that I shall enter into a newspaper discussion with that writer, and as he appears in disguise, I can address no expostulation personally to him. But his proceeding being in itself of a nature tending most needlessly to disturb the peace of the Diocese, and his representations such as may, in some instances, infuse unpleasant doubts, and, possibly, create distressing difficulties in the minds of his brethren, I shall here address myself to the task, so far as it may be permitted to me, of obviating these effects,--thus anticipating, to a certain extent, the portion of my charge in which it will be my endeavour to assist your judgments in matters of the nature here in question. And in order the more fully and freely to discuss them, I shall not rigorously observe the constraints of a formal and official style.
I must begin by pointing out, because it. carries a caution to the Clergy of some importance, in all similar cases, the great impropriety and imprudence of the course taken by this writer (although I attribute to him no improper intentions), presuming him to be, what he declares himself, a Presbyter of the Diocese.
I must premise that my present observations will be confined to the single point of the surplice question; and if I succeed in affording you any satisfaction upon this point, I will entreat you to suspend your opinion upon others which are brought into question till we meet.
 In the first place, then, it is at a time when the Bishop, within whose immediate jurisdiction he exercises his functions, has intimated to his Clergy that he has these very points under his deliberation, with the purpose of communicating to them the result of his researches, and before it could possibly be known whether the decisions to be rendered might not be actually in accordance with the views of the Presbyter himself, that, not content to wait for the issue, and passing by the obvious expedient of at least laying his doubts and objections in the first instance privately before his Bishop, and submitting to the consideration of the Bishop the reasons which render it painful to him to comply with the recommendations which had been issued, he must drag the Bishop and the Church in this hitherto discreet and quiet Diocese, into the arena of public and popular disputation, before the eyes of the "mixed multitude" who surround us, and bring the cause to the bar of the PRESS--acquiescing, apparently, in that principle which is described, with a very different estimate of its propriety, in a recent publication, by the Bishop of Vermont [This result, with reference, in particular, to the practice of preaching in the surplice, was, as I have been assured, anticipated by some of the Clergy in Montreal, from the manner in which they regarded the expressions of my circular.]
"Meanwhile, the irresponsible autocracy of the Press takes hold of the opportunity. Error and novelty gain ground. The clergy and the people choose their editorial leaders; and when, [9/10] at last, the sentiments of the Bishops are declared, they are merely used as the complements of parties already formed, and are praised or blamed, just as the prejudice of the party may dictate. The Bishops, in theory, are, indeed, the governors of the Church. In practical effect, however, on the minds of the majority, the editorial chair stands far above them; and as the inconsistency, however gross, belongs to the spirit of the age, I doubt much whether it admits of any effectual remedy." [The Novelties which disturb our Peace. See also, p. 48, et seqq. of the fourth letter in the same work.]
In the second place, the opportunity seized upon by the Presbyter for thus putting himself forward, is precisely when the extraordinary disturbance of public feeling created by the injunction laid by a highly distinguished prelate at home upon his Clergy, to preach in the surplice, had induced him to withdraw his order--a manifest proof that, even in the eyes of those who most decidedly maintain the pro.. priety of the practice, it is not a practice binding upon the consciences of the Clergy, as constituting part of the obligations contracted at their ordination,--for, if it were so, could the order to adopt it be recalled?
In the third place, this inopportune sally is made at the very moment when we have been reached by an earnest and affectionate address from our own Metropolitan, the Venerable Archbishop of Canterbury, in which he charges it upon us all to forbear [10/11] from insisting vehemently on either side, upon the points of this nature which divide the Church, and to await a proper adjustment of them collectively, by authority--pointing out at the same time, in a general way, that there are justificatory reasons to which both parties (when not running into extravagant deviations either way) may appeal in support of their respective practice. [It is possible that it might not have reached the Presbyter; but it was abroad in this Diocese before he appeared in print, and is dated exactly two months earlier.] My brethren of the Clergy in this Diocese will not only feel the deep respect with which, upon every possible ground, we ought to receive this exhortation, but must be all aware that it is an exhortation addressed directly to themselves--the See of Quebec being comprehended in the province of Canterbury, and its Bishop (according to the language of the Letters Patent of Erection) being made subject and subordinate to the Archiepiscopal see and the Primate who may be in occupation of it, in the same manner as any Bishop of any see within the province of Canterbury, in the kingdom of England. [It is possible that it might not have reached the Presbyter; but it was abroad in this Diocese before he appeared in print, and is dated exactly two months earlier.]
Such is the conjuncture chosen by the Presbyter for attacking the authority set over him, and thus it is that he has risked the ignition of a raging controversy upon points in which his own Metropolitan and his own Bishop had moved in a manner which might have been expected to stay his hand. Under any circumstances, I venture to point out to you that the course which he took would have been clearly wrong. There is no plea more sacred than the plea of conscience: but there is none in the use [11/12] of which, and especially in the case of repugnancy to the directions of the living authority set over them, men should more severely examine their own proceeding. None will either more readily offer or more insinuatingly suggest itself to cover a lurking spirit of opposition, an adherence to party, a precipitate adoption of any reigning novelties, or a fond maintenance of favourite prepossessions of the mind. Let me beg you (and I include the Presbyter himself) to examine the plea of conscience in the case before us. Here is a question relating to an article of dress, upon which much zeal has been expended which might have been reserved for higher thingsbut, let that pass,--it is a question which agitates a portion of the Church, and which is not decided:--(if the Presbyter considered that he was dealing with a settled point, he should have remembered that every man, and particularly in the attitude of resistance to authoritative recommendations, should have perfectly mastered his part, before adventuring himself as a Coryphseus upon the stage--for adhuc sub judice lis est.) Now what is the course which in such circumstances a clergyman is to take?--He has not far to go for his answer. Look at the prefatory matter of the Prayer-book, and there you find it distinctly rendered:--
"And, forasmuch as nothing can be so plainly set forth, but doubts may arise in the use and practice of the same; to appease all such diversity (if any arise), and for resolution of all doubts, concerning the manner how to understand, do, and execute the [12/13] things contained in this book, the parties that so doubt, or diversely take any thing, shall alway resort to the Bishop of the Diocese, who by his discretion shall take order for the quieting and appeasing of the same; so that the same order be not contrary to any thing contained in this book. And if the Bishop of the Diocese be in doubt, then he may send for the resolution to the Archbishop."
What then, when rightly informed, does conscience prompt in the case before us?--Conscience, you observe, as guided (for that is insisted upon) by the language of the Prayer-book and the vows of Ordination,--to which we must add the obligations contracted upon receiving Licence or Institution to a Cure.
The matter is taken diversely, and the intention of the Rubric is subject of doubt.
The Prayer-book directs the Clergyman, in such a case, to abide by the directions of the Bishop.
The decision of the Bishop has been given by anticipation: for be has already recommended it to the Clergy to forbear, at present, from introducing any marked change in this doubtful point.
The inference does not require to be pointed out.
Again, the Clergyman, in his ordination vows, promises that he will reverently obey his Ordinary.
And in his admission to any Cure of Souls, he swears an oath that he will pay true and canonical obedience to his Bishop, in all things lawful and honest.
Compliance with the formal and official signification of the episcopal wishes, with reference to the practice here considered,--the question being [13/14] previously an open one, cannot be regarded otberwise than as a thing lawful and honest.
What is the result?--It may be put into the form of a syllogism.
The Clergyman has vowed and sworn to obey his Bishop in all things lawful and honest.
Continuing to preach, at least ad interim, in the gown, (there being no ascertained law of the Church against it, no violation of decency and decorum involved in it, and received custom being all in its favour,) is a thing lawful and honest.
Therefore, the Clergyman is bound by his ordination vows and his oath to continue preaching, ad interim, in the gown, if he has received the formal and official signification of the episcopal wishes to this effect.
Nothing can possibly be here further from my intention (and I am 'anxious to be distinctly understood upon this point), than to charge those with a deliberate violation of vows and oaths who, notwithstanding my sufficiently pointed recommendation, may have since adopted the practice of preaching in the surplice. [I cannot, however, avoid mentioning with commendation, the proceeding of a Clergyman who, after the reception of my circular, would not continue to preach in the surplice (although his own leanings were probably in favour of the practice), even at one of his stations where he was at a loss for any convenient means of taking his gown, till he had first procured my express sanction for doing so.] But as your consciences have been [14/15] appealed to, from another quarter, I wish now to assist you in judging how they should be guided to a right conclusion. If there are any among you who, with the whole case set before you as it is here done, wish to take benefit of the distinction between a very decided recommendation, with reasons for it assigned, and a positive order, and so to say that obedience is due to an order, but obedience is not due to such a recommendation, this is an escape which is certainly open. [The Presbyter is mistaken in saying, with reference to any point of my recommendations, that there was no adequate or other reason assigned for them. Whether they were adequate or not, there were very plain reasons assigned, applying to the whole.] For my own part, without declining, as you perceive, to afford help by my opinion to any who are perplexed, I shall now leave the matter without any sort of authoritative direction to your consciences and your judgments: for my own conscience, according to my ideas of conscientious obligation, obliges me to do so. I have professed upon oath, in the solemnity of my consecration, all due reverence and obedience to my Metropolitan. And he has issued the recommendation to which I have already had occasion to advert.
I now proceed to the examination of the question itself. And I must premise, that so far from affecting to pronounce in a dogmatical and peremptory manner upon a question in which a view differing from my own has been taken by persons of much [15/16] higher qualifications than I possess, and much more extended opportunities than those which I enjoy, I speak entirely under correction; and entering upon the subject as one confessedly encumbered with doubt, shall be quite prepared to surrender my judgment upon the case whenever my interpretation of the precedents and authorities which I produce may be shown to be wrong, or other authorities, to which I have no access, may be brought forward to silence them. If there should be a final decision in the Church in favour of preaching in the surplice, in that decision I shall most cheerfully acquiesce. The recommendation which I made to you some time ago was prompted, not by any passion for the practice of preaching in a gown, (although I do prefer it,) but by a desire that in doubtful matters we should not be disturbed by any sudden changes or deviations from long-established custom, breaking out here and there, unconcerted among the Clergy, and unauthorized by the governing authority of the Diocese.
In reasoning upon the subject a priori, and according to the general analogy of usages indifferent in themselves, which have been passed on to our own and (although more sparingly) to other Protestant communities from times preceding the Reformation, I should be led to infer that the act of preaching was not originally intended to be performed in our Church in the surplice. In cases of the nature here under review, the absence of special and explicit direction would seem to carry the tacit [16/17] authorization of continuing the practice which before subsisted. This would be understood and assumed as a matter of course. Now I believe it will be found that it is the practice of the Romish Clergy (and I presume that they have received this practice down from some former ages) to divest themselves of the distinguishing robes in which they officiate at the altar, when they pass to the act of preaching; and although they generally, I think, do preach in the surplice, yet the principle which appears in their change of attire is directly adverse to the arguments which are mainly urged in favour of the surplice in our pulpits. [Not invariably, for I have reason to believe, that at least upon some occasions, and in some parts of the world, they preach in a black dress. See, inter alia, a letter which has appeared lately in me of the papers from a clergyman is Plymouth, to the churchwarden of a neighbouring parish.]
In fact, the duty of preaching, where performed at all, was at one period so very generally in other hands than those of the officiating clergyman, that this circumstance itself would tend to associate the act with a feeling of something separate and distinct in its nature; and I am under the impression (although I do not speak confidently) that friars and others who went about preaching, preached in their ordinary monkish habit. The sermons also at Paul's Cross and in other places in the open air, as for example in the stone pulpit (if I remember right) at Magdalen College, in Oxford, were evidently [17/18] something in a manner disunited from the usual liturgical services of the sanctuary.
It is a practice, I believe, to be seen in cathedrals at home, that although the cathedral Clergy themselves preach in the surplice, a stranger who preaches for any of them, performs that duty in a gown. [I do not remember to have witnessed this; but I have seen it stated, I think, in the Church newspaper of the diocese of Toronto, about three years ago.] And this would seem to imply that the use of the surplice in preaching was understood to be a peculiar distinction reserved to the members of cathedral establishments or those of collegiate churches. It appears, however, to involve a departure, in whatever way and at whatever time commenced, from the Advertisements of 1564 (hereinafter quoted). In the university church at Cambridge, in my own day, and in the different college chapels, when sermons upon particular occasions were preached within them, the preacher (unless my memory, looking back between thirty and forty years, has in this point quite misled me) discharged his duty in a gown. [Since I wrote this letter, I have partially examined the Article in vol. 72, of the Quarterly Review, on the Rubrics and Ritual of the Church of England, and I find it there stated that in the college chapels, the preachers (as even the under-graduates who ire on the foundation) wear the surplice on what are called surplice-days, but on other occasions, simply the gown.]
It is well known that till very lately the use of the gown for preaching, in parish churches and chapels of an ordinary kind, had been, at least for a vast [18/19] length of time, universal, and that so the practice passed to the Colonies, and was received in the Episcopal Church of the United States. And it would have been happy, I can have no hesitation in saying, if it had been left undisturbed; for even assuming the preaching in the surplice to be preferable, the difference is not worth the noise and ferment and party feeling which has been engendered by the question; nor would I have bestowed the pains upon it which I have done, were I not called upon to show that the authority upon whose guidance you must wish to rely, has not been so erroneously and unadvisedly exercised as you have been told. And I cannot pass without notice the unfair mistake often made of imputing to puritanical leanings a preference for the use of the gown in preaching, and confounding the abstinence from using the surplice in the pulpit with an absurd and fanatical objection to the surplice itself. How many thousands of Clergymen and Laymen who prefer the gown in the pulpit, are as perfectly free as their opponents in this point, from any scruple against the surplice or any dislike to it; and would, on the contrary, be most decidedly offended by any attack upon it, or desire to dispense with it. And the Clergy would seem to be farther removed from those precisians, as they were wont to be called, who accuse our worship of form and parade, where they appear in a different garb for different portions of the service, than where they restrict themselves to one.
 Let us now examine some authorities.
The writers on Ecclesiastical Law, whom I have had the means of consulting, such as Gibson, Burns, and Grey, although they all treat, of course, of clerical habits, and Burns sometimes descends to details, speaking, for example, of bands, as an irregularity in his judgment, to be referred for its origin to the times of puritanical sway,--afford no light, that I can find, upon the present question. [This was pointed out to me by a friend.] Their mention of the surplice does not touch the point of preaching or not preaching in it.
The historians, annalists, and biographers who treat of the affairs of the Church of England, such as Fuller, Collier, and Strype, all of whom furnish a mass of information and many minute particulars respecting the puritanical objections to the prescribed habits, and the proceedings of authority in relation to the difficulties thence created, supply nothing, so far as I believe from having searched those portions of their works which seemed most to my purpose, which can help to determine the question, unless it be found in the Advertisements drawn up by Archbishop Parker, given by the last of these three writers, and issued in 1564, from which an extract is here subjoined:
"Item.--In the mynystracion of the Communyon in Cathedral and Collegiate Churches, the Executor, with Pietoler and Gospeller, mynyster the same in coopee; and at all other praiers to [20/21] be said at the communyon-table, to have no coopes, but surpleases.
"Item.--That the Dean and Prebendaries weare a surples with a silke hoode in the quier, and when theye preache in the Cathedral Church, to weare theire hoode.
"Item.--That everie Mynyster, saying any publique prayers, or a mynystrynge the sacramentes, or other rites of the Churche, shall weare a comelye surples, with sleves, to be provided at the chargis of the parishe. And that theye provide a decent table, standinge on a fraime, for the communyon-table."
[These Advertisements are given as below, in modern spelling, in Neale's History of the Puritans:--In the ministration of the Communion in cathedrals and collegiate churches, the principal ministers shall wear a cope, with Gospeller and Epistoler agreeably; but at all other prayers to be said at the communion-table, they shall wear no copes, but surplices only: deans and prebendaries shall wear a surplice with a silk hood in the choir; and when they preach a hood. Every minister saying the public prayers, or administering the sacraments, &c., shall wear a surplice with sleeves; and the parish shall provide a decent table standing on a frame for the communion-table.]
I think it is the plain and natural inference from the direction that the cathedral dignitaries are to wear a surples with a hood, in the quier, and when they preache to wear their hood; that the hood in this latter case, is understood to be worn without the surplice. And I farther think that when a direction immediately follows that every minister saying any public prayers, or ministering the sacraments, or other rites of the Church, shall wear a surplice, this ministering of rites cannot be understood to include preaching; [21/22] which act, if it had been in contemplation here, would have been mentioned nominatim, as in the article immediately preceding. Preaching, as is well known, was far from being any standing concomitant in those days of the public services, nor was it an act which the Clergy at large were qualified to perform. The Advertisements and the 58th Canon seem to me to throw light upon each other.
I am much confirmed in these impressions by a document in a detached form which is in my own possession, to which I am unable to affix a precise date, but which appears evidently to belong to the time of the Stuarts, and which I regard as curious and valuable, because, while it will be seen to contain a POSITIVE INJUNCTION from the Royal authority, to be carried into effect through the Bishops, to PREACH IN THE GOWN, it affords most convincing evidence, at the same time, how little (as I have above pointed out) the maintenance of this practice ought to be confounded with puritanical leanings,the whole of the Instructions (for so they are called), to which I here refer, which are of a stringent character, being manifestly levelled against those very tendencies; and whereas we now hear the gown in the pulpit stigmatized by the prefix of Geneva, it is here the gown for preaching, not the surplice, which is set in opposition to the Geneva cloak. I have been unable, thus far, to find these instructions in any book. [I have given away the original; but I have a fac-simile.] [22/23] They are in black letter, and contain what here. follows:
"2. That every Bishop ordaine in his Diocesse, that every Lecturer doe read Divine Service according to the Liturgie, printed by Authority, in his Surplis and Hood before the Lectures.
"3. That where a Lecture is set up in a Market Towne, it may be read by a company of grave and orthodox Divines neere adjoining, and in the same Diocesse, and that they preach in Gownes, and not is Clokes, as too many doe use."
Among the authors who have explained and defended the whole system, ceremonies, and usages of the Church of England, the great Hooker treats in his fifth book of Attire belonging to the Service of God, and Nichols has a chapter on the surplice and other ecclesiastical habits; but I can trace nothing which indicates the garb used in preaching.
The same remark may be made upon the works on the English Ritual which I have consulted, namely, those of Sparrow, Wheatley, Comber, Mont, Shepherd, Palmer, and Jebb, with the exception of the last. [The work of Dean Comber is hardly of a nature to afford information upon a point like this.] This writer, by whose beautiful work on the Choral Service of the Church of England, published in 1843, I hope that this Diocese, as well as others, may derive profit, and whose recommendations I have already in some instances [23/24] of a slighter kind adopted in my own practice,--stands opposed to the use of' the gown in preaching. I am little desirous of breaking a lance with so accomplished a champion, but after exhibiting his sentiments upon the question, I shall show also some reasons in addition to those which have been already adduced, for inclining strongly to the opinion that he is mistaken.
Respecting the vestment and cope which the officiating minister is directed to put on when he [24/25] passes to the administration of the Communion, he speaks thus:
"l must honestly confess that I can find no argument to justify the disuse of these ancient vestments, so expressly enjoined by authorities to which all Clergymen profess obedience, except that rule of charity which, as Bishop Beveridge expressed it, is above rubrics; that loving regard for the edification of the people, to which every rite and ceremony should tend."
[Wheatley treats the vestment and cope as the same thing under different names. The difference between them, however, is shown in Palmer's Origins Liturgics. The Canons of 1604 mention only the cope, and, differing in this from the regulations prescribed by 2 Edw. VI., (which also give the option between them,) limit the use of the cope to cathedral and collegiate churches. I should, for my own part, feel no sort of objection to see them again generally in use, if ever the snbsideace of prejudices should make it expedient. The mistake of the Presbyter in supposing that the practice in cathedrals must be a pattern for pariah churches, will appear from a comparison of the 24th and 25th Canons, with the 58th. It is important to this whole argument to observe the distinction made between the two cases. The cathedral practice would naturally enough obtain in the Chapel Royal at Edinburgh, where it is stated by Mr. Jebb that the Dean was ordered by Charles I. to preach in the surplice. I would hazard a conjecture, that the practice of preaching in the surplice in cathedrals. which does not appear to agree with the Advertisements of 1564, may possibly be traced to the 25th of these Canons of 1603, although the direction there given by no means necessarily includes the preacher himself.]
The use of the gown in the pulpit, he notices thus
"A few words must be added, upon the use of the gown, which most improperly has come to be considered as an official vesture of Divine service, instead of what it really is, nothing more than the private dress of the Clergy, which they used formerly, and at no very distant time, to wear on all common occasions, just as the resident members do at the universities, but the use of which has been gradually more and more curtailed. At least, it is now only the full dress of the Clergy. It is, however, now commonly regarded as the preaching robe: and thus, while the change of dress, prescribed by the Church, when parsing from the Matins or Liturgy to the Communion, is altogether neglected, this absurd practice is considered as regular and legitimate. It has been alleged, indeed, that while preaching, the minister is teaching in his private capacity, and therefore, that he ought to wear a less official dress. But it ought to be remembered, that though permitted a discretion in the sermon not allowed in the prayers, of using his own words, this is a public official act, just as much prescribed as any part of the office, and that (except in colleges, where there is a special exemption by the Act of Uniformity) it is as great an irregularity to omit the Sermon on the mornings of Sundays and Holidays, as any part of the Liturgy. Now, in cathedrals and colleges the surplice is always worn when preaching. Why should it be different in parish churches? * * * * * [25/26] Archdeacon Sharpe, in one of his well-known Charges, vindicates the custom of preaching in the surplice, then common within his jurisdiction, on the ground that it is the privilege of the Clergy; the surplice being, of course, a garment of superior dignity to the gown. * * * * * The use of the gown, however, it is most likely, had its origin in a puritanical dislike to the surplice."
Now the first observation which it here occurs to make in the application of these extracts to the remarks of the Presbyter, is that if the Clergy are bound in conscience to wear the surplice in preaching upon the principle of obedience to rubrical authority, the same principle will more distinctly bind them to the adoption of the alb and cope in administering the Holy Communion, the intention of the rubric being much less questionable in this instance than in the other. [It is, however, questioned, I think rather feebly, by Grey on Ecclesiastical Law, and by Sharpe on the Rubric.] And if the salvo of Bishop Beveridge can supply an exemption from the use of those obsolete vestments, the recent occurrences in England, in relation to the use of the surplice in the pulpit, show that it would be equally available in this case as a dispensation, even if the arguments were much stronger than I consider them to be in favour of the rubrical authority for the practice.
I would also observe, that whereas a change of dress made during the service is much insisted upon in certain quarters, as an objection to preaching in the gown,--it will be seen here that upon the very [26/27] principle of following, at all hazards, the letter of the rubric, another change of dress is found to be imposed, and the omission of it is mentioned in the foregoing extracts as a neglect. [I. e. Since the services have been blended in one, which were originally distinct.] Now if the change be proper in passing from one portion of what may more properly be called the sacerdotal acts of the Clergy. to another (although one indeed of a higher order), it would seem, a fortiori, to be admissible in the transition to a performance which is the minister's own, interposed between different parts of the prescribed forms. I conceive, in opposition to the view taken by the Presbyter, that preaching in itself is very obviously distinguishable from a rite, properly so called. [The Presbyter appears to doubt whether it be not a PART of the SACRAMENT of the Holy Communion. If it can be proved to be that, I shall certainly concede that it is a rite.] A rite is described, indeed, in one of the definitions of Johnson, of which the correctness, as far as it goes, cannot be disputed, as a solemn act of Religion. But although every rite is a solemn act of Religion, every solemn act of Religion is not a rite. The Latin ritus and the French rit, from whence the word rite comes to us, would not, I think, be accurately used in an application simply to the act of preaching, although they might be applied to its prescribed circumstantials.
In the consecration of Bishops, both according to [27/28] the rubric and received practice, a change of dress is made during the services.
I have only two works at my command written exclusively upon the Rubric. One of these is the collection of Charges by Archdeacon Sharpe, to which the reference is made by the Rev. Prebendary Jebb: the other is a work published in 1841, under the title of An Appeal to the Rubric, by the Rev. S. Rowe, vicar of Crediton, and is designed practically to enforce a greater rubrical exactness. [This work comprehends notice also of the Canons as they affect the Parochial Clergy.]
Mr. Jebb, I apprehend, must have spoken only from recollection, and that slight and imperfect, when he represented Archdeacon Sharpe as vindicating the custom of preaching in the surplice. The Archdeacon, it will be seen, so far vindicates it, as to use his endeavours for reconciling the Clergy to the practice, within his particular jurisdiction, where it had, at that time, prevailed from having been formerly introduced by a higher authority; but his own judgment is very decidedly and strongly on the other side. He speaks as follows:--
"I cannot dismiss this article. without giving you another remarkable instance of the prevalence of custom in these sort of usages, under the approbation of the Ordinary; and the rather, because it is an instance that falls within the subject of the present Canon [the 58th]. and is also of peculiar consideration to us of this diocese; in which alone it is to be met with--it is the [28/29] constant use of the surplice by all preachers in their pulpits; and it is said to have taken rise from an opinion of Bishop Cosine, that as surplices were to be worn at all times of the ministration, and preaching was properly the ministration of the word of God, therefore surplices were to be worn in the pulpit as well as in the desk, or on other occasions of the ministry.
"One cannot speak otherwise than with reverence and due respect to the authority of so great a ritualist as Bishop Cosine was--yet it is manifest there is nothing in our Rubrics that doth directly authorize this usage, or in the Canons that doth countenance it; nay, there is something in both which would discourage, if not forbid, such a practice. The Canons limit the use of the surplice to the public prayers, and ministering the sacraments, and other rites of the Church; eo doth our Rubric concerning habits, if it be strictly interpreted of King Edward's order in the second year of his reign; for there the surplice is only used at mattens, evensong, in baptising and burying in parish churches. And then there immediately follows this permission, that in all other places every minister shall be at liberty to use any surplice or no; and also a recommendation to such as are Graduates, that, when they preach, they should use such hoods as pertained to their several degrees. Here then is sufficient warrant for using a hood without a surplice, as is done to this day at the universities, but no appearance of authority for the use of surplices in the pulpit. If it be said that a custom has prevailed over they kingdom for Bishops to wear their habits of ministration whensoever they preach, whether they officiate in other respects or not, and that the inferior Clergy cannot follow a better example; it may be answered, that what the Bishops do in this respect is founded on ancient Constitutions. By the Canon law they were obliged to wear rochets, as their distinguishing habit, whenever they appeared in public; though since the Reformation they have not used to wear them any where in public but in the Church and in the House of Lords. And it is more proper they should continue the use of their public habit, whensoever they preach, for the better distinction of their characters on that occasion [29/30] from those of the inferior pastors: seeing there is no sufficient distinction preserved in their ordinary habits.
"All, then, that I would observe upon this custom of preaching in surplices, is, that none of us are obliged to it; though at the same time I intend no censure of the practice--for it is certainly decent, and with us without exception, though it be no where authorised, otherwise than by a prescription within this diocese."
In the work of Mr. Rowe, the following remark appears, in the form of a note:--
"There appears great propriety in the custom followed by some Clergymen of wearing the surplice on the three great festivals of Easter, Whitsuntide, and Christmas, is the pulpit at well as is the reading-pew and at the Communion."
I am by no means prepared to subscribe to the opinion here expressed; but that is not the question: what I wish you to observe is, that this writer on the Rubric manifestly regards the occasions to which he refers as exceptions, and therefore approves upon all other occasions of the use of the gown in the pulpit.
And here I close my authorities, which have been pressed forward more hurriedly, and therefore with less advantage than I could have desired: but they may be sufficient to satisfy you, that in recommending to you a year ago, that you should not hastily, and upon your individual responsibility, introduce in the matter here under consideration, what was a marked novelty in this diocese, I was not recommending what was calculated to do violence to your consciences, or painfully to place you between conflicting claims upon your obedience. I was not [30/31] acting in a manner to warrant the venting up and down through the province for discussion in taverns and steam-boats, the statement of a Clergyman, that if he and his brethren take the authorized directions of the Church for their guide, they will be acting contrary to the recommendation (farther on called the unhappy recommendation) of the Bishop, although he too is bound by the same directions, and therefore they must obey the orders of the Church, however much it may pain them to neglect a recommendation from so high a quarter: and, again, that it is most unfortunate that our venerated Diocesan should have committed himself so fully in opposition to the plainest directions that could be penned, &c.: and once more, that deeply, and even with tears must tt be lamented, that our beloved Chief Shepherd should have issued any recommendation like this, &c.
It is very obvious that all these strictures, whether just or otherwise, will apply to the Letter of our Metropolitan, as well as to my own Circular. To him, however, I doubt not that the Presbyter would apply, with all the heightened meaning which is due, the terms of affection and respect serving to qualify the censure which he has undertaken to pass upon his Bishop. For these I am obliged to him. But coupled as they are with that censure, conveyed in such expressions as are quoted above, I hope that I shall not be making an ungracious return, if I say that he may find some cause for weeping nearer home than in the proceedings of the authority set [31/32] over him; some reason, but not hinc, that illae lacrymae should flow. I speak this in no unfriendly spirit towards my unknown assailant. His best friends, I believe, would wish such a conviction to be wrought within his mind.
If the lot of the Presbyter had been cast in a diocese where the fences of order and unity had been thrown open, observances depreciated, or solemnity of effect in the ministrations of Religion disregarded by its governing authority,--there might have been more colourable plea for his proceeding. But I may appeal, I think, with some confidence to my brethren, to show that no such plea as this can be advanced. No example has ever been set by the Bishops of this diocese, of laxity in Church principle, or accommodation in religious proceedings to latitudinarian and pseudo-liberal views. And long before any movement was made in the Church to carry us along with it in the correction of neglect and irregularity in the points just above stated, your present Bishop, being then your Archdeacon, addressed you thus:
"Lastly--I now come to a subject which falls within my particular province--we must be faithful in the correct and reverent performance of the ordinary and prescribed duties of our office. An obligation which is indeed closely connected with the tenor of the last preceding observations: for the beautiful forms and offices of the Church, purged as they are from the gorgeous pageantry of superstition, yet clothed with a reverential solemnity of exterior, and strictly edifying and evangelical in their matter, will often be found to recommend themselves and [32/33] procure respect, even in quarters where there is a predisposition to condemn them, if her ministers in their manner of officiating, and the regard which they have to accessory circumstances, preserve the wise spirit in which they were framed. I do not speak only of our performance of public worship. T maintain that in admitting infants by baptism into the covenant of Christ,--uniting man and woman as one flesh in the Lord with the form of prayer and benediction--consigning the dead back again to the dust from which they sprang--or administering, in cases where it is right to do so, the comfort of the Lord's Supper to the sick and dying--our feelings of seriousness and devotion, instead of prompting us to treat externals with contempt, should teach us to prevent all offensive contrast between the sacredness of the occasion, and the circumstantial of the performance. Let us avoid, therefore, every appearance of haste, of irreverence, of slovenliness,--every tendency towards the disuse of grave and decent formalities and distinctions in dress or otherwise, which were prescribed by the Master-builders of our Zion; and not be too ready to construe any incommodious circumstances of a local character as furnishing a dispensation to depart from rule; nor suffer precedents to creep in which may produce undesirable alteration in the received usages of the Church.
"I will take one example only. to come more closely to the point and distinctly to illustrate what I mean: I will suppose a baptism to be performed--one of the infants whom our Redeemer would have folded in his arms.--to be presented to his minister that it may be marked for his own:--eome trifling inconvenience is alleged. (I would yield the point if it were severe,) as an objection to bringing it to the Church: this sacrament is therefore administered perhaps in a tavern--some vessel is produced which is in daffy use for household purposes--the Clergyman is in a hurry, and he appears without any distinction to mark his office:--I ask whether the associations which attach to the ordinance are likely to be as serious, as if the rite were administered within the consecrated walls of the House of God, the water received in a decent font, the Clergyman marked to the eye of the [33/34] beholder, as one who is appointed to minister in holy things?"--Visitation Sermon preached before the late Bishop, 1832.
Again, quite independently of any action of a party, or echo of a strain raised in other quarters, but simply and purely as the result of reflections of very long standing in my own mind, and of my own sense of duty, I spoke thus to you in my primary Episcopal Charge:--
"In seeking to recommend the Church, according to our bounden duty, in the eyes of our own people or of others, and to give the fullest effect to the beautiful offices of ber Liturgy, there is a principle to be observed of which I have taken notice upon former occasions in addressing my brethren in a different capacity. but which I am prompted briefly to touch upon, because it is in danger from local circumstances of partially falling into disregard--I mean the principle of rendering the services of the Church more impressive by the manner of performing them, and by the exterior reverence and decorum with which they are clothed. The preface to the Common Prayer-book, the Canons and the Rubrics, more particularly in the Communion-office, afford sufficient evidence of the care which was wisely taken by our holy Reformers, while they purged away from our worship the cumbrous pageantry of superstition, to preserve the utmost gravity, solemnity, and order in the public ministrations of the Church; and to shed over them a venerable air fitted to remind men of the awe with which they should approach the things of God. The forms and ceremonies of the Church, the prescribed postures of worship, the habits of those who officiate, the vessels of the sanctuary, the several appendages and distinctions of our National Churches, are all designed to aid in this effect; and, as servants of the Church, we ought to act in the spirit, and, whenever we can, according to the letter of her regulations. The disuse upon the ordinary occasions of life of a distinguishing ecclesiastical dress, is a departure from wise and venerable rules, from which [34/35] our Clergy ought never to take license to depart farther than, according to the now received usage, they are obliged to do. They should never betray a disposition to secularize the character and office which they hold. Aad in the actual performance of any ecclesiastical function, no deviation can be justified for which the plea of necessity cannot be advanced. No needless irregularity should be suffered to creep into our performance of official duty, which may settle by degrees into a precedent."--Charge, 1838.
I might refer to passages in an Ordination-sermon preached last year, and published by desire, in the Church Newspaper of the 13th of September (vol. viii. No. 10). But I have already brought forward more than enough, perhaps, to appease any uneasy suspicions of episcopal remissness in this diocese, in matters of exterior or distinctive principles and usages of the Church. And the Presbyter, if he is one who held a charge in the diocese in 1843, can hardly have forgotten the Questions, in a numbered series, proposed to the Clergy individually in my last Visitation, part of which related to their conformity to rule in certain forms and observances belonging to their ministrations.
Whether, however, it is either possible, or, if possible, matter of expediency or of duty, at all hazards, and in all cases to adhere to the letter of the Rubrics; or, whether in an ill-considered and imperfectly examined endeavour to do so, we may not be liabje to be betrayed into some signal mistakes respecting the spirit of the Liturgy itself as a whole, and the plain intentions of its compilers,--are questions upon [35/36] which I shall not here enter. And willingly, indeed, do I leave the chief subject of this letter, and gladly, after the letter of his Grace of Canterbury, would I have passed it untouched, but for the reasons which have been already stated, and of which I think the force must be apparent to you, and must be regarded as sufficient to justify my taking, perhaps, rather an unusual course in bestowing all this notice upon an anonymous publication in a religious newspaper. I have felt that we are here upon so small a scale, compared with the proceedings at home, that every man is reached by every thing said or done by his neighbour, and that a corrective must be administered from which, for many reasons, I would much rather have forborne. I am ashamed that we should make the exhibition before the world, of a Church distracted by questions about the ministering habits of her Clergy, and wanting (for so it would seem) a governing authority sufficient to procure the acquiescence of her ministers in its direction upon disputed points of such a nature. I would to God that all who hear of our affairs could know nothing but that we stand fast in one spirit, with one mind STRIVING TOGETHER FOR THE FAITH OF THE GOSPEL, and against each other, striving in nothing,--much lees about matters which, although they may have their own importance, are indeed immeasurably inferior to this.
I am thankful, however, that to a very great extent, this may, I trust, be said of us; and as upon [36/37] the point which I have specially considered in this letter, or the other points noticed in my Circular of April 26, 1844, I have never had one complaint or remonstrance addressed to me from any of the more than seventy Clergymen who now officiate in the diocese, I may conclude that uniformity of practice upon those points does very generally prevail, and therefore that this confessedly desirable object of uniformity will manifestly be destroyed instead of promoted by endeavours (so far as they may take effect) to impugn my recommendations. [It will be remembered that one of the reasons pointed out for the ad interim recommendations contained in my Circular was, that the opposite proceeding would have the effect of breaking the uniformity of observance is the Church, and bewildering the minds of the people respecting her rules. It is precisely by a departure from those recommendations that the Presbyter aims to gain the object of uniformity.] In fact, I do not believe that there is a diocese, either at home or in the colonies, where, upon the whole, a greater approach to unanimity has been seen, than in this bumble diocese of Quebec. I have been permitted to be the instrument of raising the number of our Clergy to its present level from something above thirty names, since I assumed the charge of the diocese in the end of 1836; and with the blessing of God and the help of my brethren, points of some importance have been gained among us for the Church since that time, and things put in train, which I trust will hereafter bring forth no meagre [37/38] fruit. In all my anxieties and difficulties, with the care of the Churches lying, upon me, and many peculiar circumstances of discouragement attaching to the Colonial branch of the Establishment,--next to the help of Him whose strength is made perfect in our weakness, my hands have been strengthened, and my spirit has been solaced by the kindness and cordial co-operation of my Clergy, who, I trust, have never had, and never will have occasion to suspect me of putting forth any exorbitant claims of authority, or arrogating any thing to my office from personal motives. I rely still upon the same comforting aids, not excepting any of my brethren merely because they may have been led to embrace what I think a wrong view, in some subordinate points, of my duty and of their own--and, in the deepest sense of personal insufficiency, I look still to their prayers for me to God through his Son Jesus Christ, to whose blessing, and the guidance of whose Holy Spirit, I commend them now and always, in mine.
I am, Rev. and dear brethren,
Your affectionate friend and brother,
G. J. MONTREAL.
P. S.--I wish it to be particularly kept in view, that although I have felt it necessary to justify,my own proceeding to you, which has been called in question professedly by one of your body; and to satisfy you, generally, that things are not loosely, [38/39] hastily, and unwarily done in this diocese, I abide strictly by the recommendations of the Archbishop; and one of them is this:--
"In Churches where alterations have been introduced with general acquiescence, let things remain as they are."