Project Canterbury

Correspondence and Other Documents relating to
the Position of the Celebrant in Holy Communion.

(Reprinted by Permission)

London: The English Church Union Office, 1871.


The letters and papers contained in this Pamphlet are the result of that portion of the Judgment of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the case of 'Hebbert v. Purchas' which deals with the position of the Priest during the Prayer of Consecration, and of subsequent occurrences referrible to that Judgment.

They are now collected and reprinted, not in any spirit of party warfare, but in the earnest hope, and with the hearty prayer, that they may, if candidly studied, conduce to the glory of Almighty God, and the peace and prosperity of His Church. The Editors are certain that the cause of truth and godliness can but be advanced by the free, but reverent, discussion of a question which lies very near to the consciences of so many devout members, clerical and lay, of the Church of England.

November, 1871.

I. The Place of the Priest at the Prayer of Consecration, by A. J. B. Beresford Hope, Esq., M.P. for the University of Cambridge.

II. The Purchas Judgment and the Laity, by the same.

III. The Bishop of Oxford and three Churchwardens of Buckingham.

IV. Strictures on the foregoing Correspondence, by John Gellebrand Hubbard, Esq., of Addington Manor.

V. The Bishop Metropolitan of Calcutta on the position of the Celebrant (from the Preface to his Charge delivered March, 1871)

VI. The Bishop of Carlisle on the Purchas Judgment.

VII. Case and Counsel's Opinion on the Purchas Judgment.


By A. J. B. Hope Beresford, Esq., M.P.

Sir,--I desire to bespeak your attention to the portion of the judgment of the Judicial Committee in 'Hebbert v. Purchas,' which refers to the position of the Priest at the Prayer of Consecration. The prelates and judges who sat on that Committee must be well aware, from the lifelong interest which they have taken in the affairs of our Church, that the practice of the Priest standing during the Prayer of Consecration in front of the Holy Table is no part of that series of ceremonies which has come into such prominence and created so much disturbance during these late years under the ill-chosen appellation of 'Ritualism.' It is a practice which can be shown to have existed all through the Reformed Church of England, while its more general and continually spreading adoption dates from the earliest days of that Church revival which already numbers nearly forty years. Those who adhere to it, both clergy and laity (for it is as dear to laymen as to [7/8] priests), act from the conviction fortified by study that the position of the Priest in front of the Holy Table is the natural interpretation of the rubric, continuously witnessed to in the Reformed Church of England, and as they believe recognised by the Privy Council in 'Martin v. Mackonochie.' But they attach a peculiar value to the position, because they feel that it most completely realises the Christian idea of the minister of our Lord and Saviour standing forward as the praeses of the congregation to offer up their devotions before the Holy Table at the supreme moment of the highest act of worship. Ecclesiastical history from first to last proves to them that this position is emphatically and alone the one consistent with the uniform tradition of the Catholic Church--undivided and divided--from the earliest ages till now, and that it is, and ever has been, the usage both of the separatist bodies of the East and of those Protestant communities of the Continent which preserve a liturgical framework of worship. With every desire, therefore, on their part to treat with respect a Judgment of the Privy Council, they cannot but feel that the formal prohibition of this position--which has gone on so long unrebuked by many of our Bishops, and encouraged by some of them--would be a fresh breach of Christian unity and a fresh obstacle to any truthful reunion. The only variation in the ancient position of the celebrant of which they had a trace in Church history is that in the early basilicae the priest would stand on the far side of the altar, facing the people. But in that use, as in the practice of later ages, the central position of the celebrant was invariably observed.

I feel that I am not violating the confidence of the living or of the dead if I mention an incident which occurred during the sittings of the Ritual Commission. The question had arisen there of some alteration in the rubric intended to embody the views which have now been enunciated in the recent judgment. Thereupon the chairman, Archbishop Longley, rose, and after premising that his own practice and feelings were adverse to [8/9] the central position of the Priest, emphatically stated that it was adopted by so many of the clergy that any attempt to limit it would produce 'exasperation.' This was a strong word from one so mild and courteous as Archbishop Longley, and I noted it at the time. It produced its effect in the Commission, and the question was not again raised. In the spirit of the Archbishop's warning, I contend that it is the duty of all who love our Church, and who desire to live and die in her service, to see that this exasperation shall not break out.

I recognise but one way to check it; and that is, that the rulers of the Church, while leaving to Mr. Hebbert and his friends their triumph over Mr. Purchas, should not make any attempt to give vitality to this prohibition in the case of other churches. If they should, unhappily, embark on such a campaign, they will inevitably light the flame of lamentable discord through the land. It is not in human nature that the numerous clergymen who observe, and the more numerous laity who cherish, the observance as the practice in all times of the Universal Church, as in their deliberate judgment most conformable to the rubric, and as recently established by the Privy Council, should at once turn the whole current of their convictions and alter their procedure in a matter intimately bound up with their most sacred devotional feelings. The hardship will be greater, because they have never thought of enforcing their practice on others. All they have ever desired has been to be left in peace to observe the highest ordinance of religion in what they consider the way most agreeable to the doctrine of Christ.

A. J. B. Beresford-Hope.


By A. J. B. Beresford-Hope, Esq., M.P.

Sir,--I addressed you shortly after the Judicial Committee had reported upon the case of 'Hebbert v. Purchas,' upon the grave consequences with which that document was fraught. Everything that has since occurred has proved that I was not an alarmist, and that I did not exaggerate. At the present stage of the excitement, after the Remonstrance of nearly 5000 clergy has been presented, and after the prayer of Mr. Purchas for a rehearing has been rejected, I must trouble you with some reflections upon a side of the question which has been too much overlooked in the many letters which the discussion has produced. The interest of the laity in the subject is a matter which must be faced and answered before the clergy can properly decide upon their future conduct. The party among the laity which values the realities of Sacramental Worship is as compact and as well defined as the corresponding one among the clergy; and it would be little less than immoral for the latter to commit themselves to any definite action without considering the feelings of the lay worshippers. That term comprises persons of every station in life and of every variety of means, professions, intellect, and taste; but in the main it divides itself into two great divisions--those of middle age and above, and those below. The former division are persons who have passed in years of consciousness from the less to the more complete type of worship, and who accept it after trial of both kinds; but the younger generation is to a great extent composed of those to whom the higher type is the natural and regular one, whose earliest recollections of childhood are mixed up with it, and to whom any sudden and vital alteration would be the severest moral shock. I am the more careful to make [10/11] this distinction because the Bench of Bishops being, like the Judicial Committee, men of middle or later life, may be apt to overlook a circumstance of great practical value in determining the right course under present circumstances. I speak of higher and lower, of more or less complete, type of worship, for I decline to accept the plausible pretext that, with that much larger portion of High Churchmen to whom the use of vestments is unknown, the only practical difference growing out of the late decision will be the position of the Priest during the Prayer of Consecration. I heartily recognise the fact that the validity of the Sacrament is not affected by the Priest's position--as little would it be affected by the Priest wearing a shooting-jacket instead of a surplice. The Speaker might preside in the House of Commons in a wideawake and an Ulster. But in this world of matter as well as mind, externals have an importance wholly independent of their intrinsic value. In this particular case I fully believe that the prevalence of the northend position has been for generations a great popular drawback to the due appreciation of the Holy Mysteries. The persons who have managed the recent prosecutions had no idea of staking time and money upon so narrow an issue as a mere question between north and west; and the judgment of the Court, from the unhappy technical and unsympathetic form which it assumed, would, if silently accepted, have had results far wider and more calamitous. I do not hesitate to affirm that these results would have been the practical discouragement of the great truth of Sacramental Worship, for which so many of the laity as well as of the clergy have through long years been contending, as the mainstay of their devotional life. They have learned to sum up and concentrate their devotions in the 'perpetual memory' of Christ's 'one oblation of Himself once offered,' as the crowning act of their public worship, to which common prayer and praise, reading of Lessons, Litanies, and sermons, all tend. In this great act of worship they are naturally jealous that all things should be done 'decently and in order.' In particular [11/12] they have learned to appreciate how congruous with Christian antiquity, and with the circumstances of the action itself, it is that the Priest, when he makes and blesses the Great Oblation standing before them as their representative, and before the Lord's Table as God's minister, should do so in the one position and posture in which he can represent both characters. They have also, by an impartial investigation of our present rubrics, attained the conviction that the one rubric on which the question has since 1662 turned can only have any other interpretation by a very forced construction; and their study of English ecclesiastical history has proved to them that,--whereas the position of the Priest at this part of the service was a subject of contest during the century and more of fermentation through which the Reformed Church of England had to pass before it settled down--this very rubric was at the last settlement framed by the very man who stands out in history as the defender of the position to which they cling. Such were the feelings with which High Churchmen waited to hear how the Judicial Committee would handle that portion of the Dean of Arches' judgment which pronounced that, in accordance with the ruling of the Committee in a former case, Mr. Purchas acted in conformity with the rubrics when he consecrated before the Holy Table. If the Committee had confirmed the Judgment of the Court below, no one of the persons whom that decision would have comforted would have dreamed of forcing compliance on any one to whom the practice was distasteful. But the Committee might have been unable to accept the ruling of the Dean of Arches, and it might have taken a course which we have now learned from their own months, when they rejected the application for the rehearing, that even they can recognise. They might, as Sir John Taylor Coleridge has pointed out in his pamphlet, have considered what was 'expedient,' and, under what seemed to them the difficulties of the case, have abstained from pronouncing any opinion. This result would have quite contented High Churchmen, and left the locus standi of the other side unaffected. But [12/13] even if the Judicial Committee bad felt themselves constrained to look, not to expediency, but to the summum jus, and had accompanied their decision with some words of sympathy for that large array of some of the most devoted members of the Church whom they must have known that they were wounding in the tenderest place, there would have been a basis for those friendly explanations winch mitigate even where they cannot cure. Instead, we found what, with the highest personal respect for the members of that Committee, I must designate as a condemnation of what certainly is the general practice of the universal Church, hard and unsympathetic in tone, incomplete and perfunctory in its treatment of the broad historical bearings of the questions, and yet finding time, as if in irony, to stop and play with a fanciful analogy from the Jewish altar, casually discovered in some recent pamphlet, and ending with Mr. Purchas's penal condemnation in costs.

I have now very earnestly to petition the clergy, in what they may hereafter do, to be very considerate for their flocks. 'The law is the law, and must be obeyed,' is what we shall probably hear; and as an abstract proposition it meets with my absolute assent. I should be unworthy of my position of a law-maker if I did not uphold it. But latet dolus in generalibus. The law is the Statute Law of the land, and has to be obeyed in all the fulness of every minute provision of every Act of Parliament. So in matters ritual, 'the law' means the Act of Charles II., of which the Prayer-book is a schedule. The late decision of the Privy Council neither professes nor has any power to make any new law, but only to explain one portion of that schedule. The 'law is to be obeyed' in the regulation of worship, just as much or as little now as it had to be obeyed six months ago. I therefore demand from every man, prelate, dignitary, priest, or layman, who has since the Purchas Judgment suddenly woken to a sense of the stringency of the law, to relax no efforts to secure that 'all Priests and Deacons are to say daily the Morning and Evening Prayers either privately [13/14] or openly, not being let by sickness or some other urgent cause;' to enforce recognition both 'of all the Feasts that are to be observed in the Church of England throughout the year,' and of the 'vigils, fasts, and days of abstinence to be observed in the year;' and by remonstrance, and, if unsuccessful, by recourse to the lawful authorities, to provide that at the time of Communion the Priest shall say the words of delivery to each communicant, and in general to carry out in their completeness all the directions contained in the Prayer-book. Those who wish to stamp out that venerable usage of the Priest's position--on which it is possible, without disrespect, to believe that Cosin was as likely to have been right as the Judicial Committee--will have justified their claim to enforce passive obedience by appealing to the moral stringency of law, when they show an equal zeal on behalf of other provisions of the Church's ritual system, which are as plain as the point involved in the late decision is, from their point of view, uncertain. Until they do so, they stand liable to a charge of partisanship which it will be difficult for them to rebut, while the question of the Priest's position inevitably takes its place in that long list of varying usages, at which the wise toleration of our age is contented to connive. This connivance is the price of maintaining the establishment of the Church in its material amplitude; but it has also a religions value as a concession to devotional prepossessions, which may, without danger to the common faith, be allowed to indulge in varying manifestations in accordance with the feeling-s of individual sympathisers.

The demand upon any clergyman's conscience to alter his practice in deference to the distinct majesty of law is in the present case the slightest which can be conceived. The danger of distressing and disturbing those lay-worshippers who seek their souls' constant food at the table of the Lord is the greatest.

A. J. B. Beresford-Hope.


1. The Three Churchwardens to the Bishop.

To the Right Reverend Father in God the Lord Bishop of Oxford.

The humble Memorial of the undersigned Churchwardens of the parish of Buckingham in the county of Buckingham,--

Showeth that the parish church of Buckingham, in the county of Buckingham and within the diocese of your lordship, has been duly consecrated and dedicated to the purpose of divine worship, and the Rev. William Foxley Norris of Buckingham is the Vicar of the said parish.

Your memorialists are parishioners and inhabitants of the said parish and personally resident therein, and they severally are in the habit of attending divine service in the said church.

That the Reverend William Foxley Norris has been and is in the habit in his said church during the prayer of consecration in the order of the administration of the Holy Communion of standing during the whole of the prayer of consecration on that side of the communion-table which, if the said table stood at the east end of the said church, would be the west side of such table in such wise that he stands between the people and the said table, so that the people cannot see him break the bread or take the cup into his hand.

That the said Reverend William Foxley Norris is in the habit of standing in front of the communion-table with his back to the people during the communion service in the church when directed by the rubric to stand at the north side of such table.

That the said Reverend William Foxley Norris, in the said church on Good Friday last, when there was no administration of the Holy Communion, caused or permitted the communion-table [15/16] to be and remain during divine service bare and without any covering.

That the several acts, practices, and ceremonies above mentioned are Unlawful additions to and variations from the form and order prescribed by the Acts of Uniformity and the Book of Common Prayer, and the constitutions and canons ecclesiastical, and have respectively been decided to be illegal in and by the judgments of the ecclesiastical courts made and pronounced in that behalf.

That complaints have been made to the Reverend William Foxley Norris of the above-mentioned practices, and he has been reminded of their illegality and requested to discontinue them, but notwithstanding, he still continues to carry on and exercise the acts and practices above complained of, and in consequence thereof some of the inhabitants and parishioners of the said parish are precluded by conscientious motives from attending divine service and from partaking of the Holy Communion, and many others who continue to attend divine service find their consciences much vexed, and the spiritual profit and advantage to their souls lessened and impaired by reason of such acts and practices.

Your memorialists believe that very many of the parishioners and inhabitants of the said parish object upon conscientious grounds to the acts and practices above mentioned.

Your memorialists therefore humbly pray your lordship that the Reverend William Foxley Norris, his curates, and all other clerks or persons assisting in the performance of divine service in the said church, may be monished and ordered to discontinue the practices, acts, and ceremonies above mentioned; and that your lordship will be pleased make such further order in the matter for enforcing the discontinuance of such practices, acts, and ceremonies as your lordship shall think fit.

And your memorialists will ever pray, &c,


2. The Bishop's Reply.

Cuddesdon Palace, Wheatley, July 31, 1871.

Dear Sir,--I have given my best attention to the memorial which you have sent me, praying me to issue a monition to the Vicar of Buckingham, in respect of certain variations from the order of divine service prescribed by the Act of Uniformity. It has been necessary for me to consider it in connexion with other complaints which I have received. Immediately after the publication of the Judgment in the case of 'Hebbert v. Purchas,' I was requested to monish a clergyman of the diocese in respect of additions to, and variations from, the order of the rubrics in the Book of Common Prayer, especially of the introduction in the Communion Service of an unauthorised vestment--the academical gown. I declined, after careful consideration of that complaint, to interfere.

It appeared to me to be inexpedient to enforce, or attempt to enforce, rubrical conformity in isolated cases, of which complaint happened to be made, unless I had been prepared to require throughout the diocese virtual uniformity in all respects. The result of endeavours to enforce uniformity in former times did not encourage me to make this attempt; nor could I have made it without doing some violence to principles of toleration which have long: been familiar to me. I must at least have been assured that the general feeling and opinion of Churchmen approved such a course, before I could persuade myself to adopt it. These are general considerations; the case you have brought before me has further difficulties peculiar to itself. The present Vicar of Buckingham is a clergyman of high character, moderate opinions, and strict fidelity in the discharge of his spiritual functions. I know few clergymen, even in this diocese, more conciliatory in conduct and more generally esteemed. It would be repugnant to all my notions of a Bishop's duty to single out such a clergyman for censure, while [17/18] the negligent and careless, for such unhappily are to be found, provoke no observation, and incur no attack.

I have thought it due to your office as the churchwarden of an important parish to enter into some of the reasons which prevent me from acceding to the prayer of your memorial. Had I come to a different conclusion, I should have desired some expression of opinion from the other churchwardens and from the principal parishioners before I complied with its request.--I am, dear Sir, yours very faithfully,

H. Small, Esq.


3. Mr. Small to the Bishop.

Buckingham, 2nd August, 1871.

My Lord,--I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your lordship's letter of the 31st ultimo in reply to the memorial signed by myself and two other of the churchwardens of this parish, which I propose to publish with the correspondence.

If your lordship, in the instance cited in your letter, refers to the use of the academical gown as a preaching vestment, I can quite understand your lordship refusing to monish one of your clergy to abstain from such use, as it has never been decided to be illegal; but I entirely fail to see the bearing of this upon the present case, as your lordship will have noticed that all the acts complained of in the memorial have been declared to be illegal, one by the Court of Arches and the others by the highest Court of Appeal in Ecclesiastical Causes in this realm.

One of the clergy of your diocese sets the law at defiance, and your lordship refuses to interfere. Could the most bitter opponents of our Church desire it otherwise?--I have the honour to be, my Lord, your lordship's obedient servant,


To the Lord Bishop of Oxford.

[19] 4. The Bishop's Reply.

Cuddesdon Palace, August 4th, 1871.

Dear Sir,--I write, in reply to your letter, to say that I shall not object to the publication of our correspondence, if it is published entire.

Whether the use of the academical gown would be pronounced illegal, I must decline, in view of the remarkable conflict of recent judgments in such matters, to pronounce. I feel less difficulty in saying that the introduction of a vestment, unknown to the rubrics, in the middle of a service, is a variation from and addition to the order of that service, in the plain meaning of the words. Whether any number of legal decisions will secure absolute uniformity in these things, as I have already said, I greatly doubt. That the treatment which such questions receive in the arena of a law court is unfavourable to Christian charity, and to the growth of spiritual religion, I have no doubt at all.--I remain, dear sir, yours very faithfully,



With reference to the foregoing Correspondence, Mr. Hubbard addressed the following Letter to the Editor of the 'Buckingham Express ':--

Addington Manor, 16th August, 1871.

Sir,--I regret to see by your two last numbers, not only that some inhabitants of the town of Buckingham are dissatisfied upon a few points connected with divine service at the parish church, but that letters have been published representing the [19/20] Vicar of the parish as one 'who sets the law at defiance,' and exciting public disapprobation against the Bishop of the diocese 'for refusing to interefere.'

In our free country it is futile to expect that men differently trained, and differing in mind and disposition, should not differ in opinion even where unanimity is most to be desired, as touching the public service of God. An enlarged experience, and, above all, Christian charity, will, however, teach men that where the law is silent or dubious, and they cannot agree, they may 'bear and forbear,' while each retains his own opinion of what is best.

Into a mere conflict of opinions I should not desire to enter; but it is possible that your correspondents have considered the subject on which they address you from one side only, and that reasons may exist which, if duly weighed, might induce them to qualify the conclusions they have expressed.

To call any man a 'law-breaker,' a 'defiant of the law,' is to apply to him a term of reproach: yet the gravity of the reproach depends upon the position of the maker of that law. The Law of God is supreme, and its infraction admits of no extenuation. The knowledge of God's Law is given to us by the Church, and the Church's law ought to be, and as Churchmen believe--in all essentials--is, in harmony with the law of God. The law of the State--a power ordained by God--ought to harmonise with the laws of God and of His Church, and it binds the consciences of its subjects, unless it contravenes the supreme authority of the Divine Law. When this happens, the subject of the State, however loyal, if he be a Christian, has no option but to become a 'law-breaker,' and it has been as lawbreakers of this character that God's people in all ages have vindicated by constancy and suffering, even unto death, their fidelity to Him who is Lord of all.

Plainly, therefore, if the Legislature or any judicial Court in England, by the enactment or interpretation of a statute, were to impose on clergyman or layman obligations irreconcilable with [20/21] his faith in or his duty to God, he would be bound to defy the law--to be a 'law-breaker.'

But no such conflict of secular and spiritual authority confuses the question raised by your correspondents touching the position of the celebrant at the Communion Service during the Consecration Prayer.

Mr. Purchas's practice was to say the Consecration Prayer 'standing before the table,' and looking eastward. A complaint of his eastward position was carried by appeal from the Arches Court to the Privy Council, and by them declared to be illegal.

But Mr. Purchas had no counsel and made no defence in either court, and the decision thus given by the Privy Council, although valid as against Mr. Purchas, is powerless as a declaration of the law in any other case. The reason for both these consequences is obvious. Mr. Purchas, or any other clergyman similarly accused, could not be allowed to escape a conviction by refusing to defend himself. Other clergymen subjected to the same charge could with no justice be convicted upon the precedent of a decision given at the close of a trial in which evidence and argument were lavishly supplied,--but upon one side only. Eminent counsel consulted upon the force of the decision in the undefended case of Mr. Purchas have given as their opinion, 'that the decision may be questioned and that the decision will not be considered conclusive in a new case.'

Learned jurists, moreover, declare that the Purchas decision is not only not law, but is directly at variance with the Mackonochie decision, which is law. In that earlier case the Privy Council, after a trial elaborately argued upon both sides, decided that 'Mr. Mackonochie had violated the rubric by kneeling instead of standing during a part of the Consecration Prayer,' and they grounded their decision upon the words--'When the priest standing before the table;' which, they say, apply to the whole sentence. The Priest, therefore, 'for the ordering of the elements' taking the posture 'standing,' and [21/22] the position 'before the table,' can change neither posture nor position until the conclusion of the Consecration Prayer.

The Committee of the Privy Council who tried Mr. Purchas allege that in the Mackonochie case, the 'posture' and not the 'position' was in question: that is quite true, but the rejoinder is, that the construction of the rubric, which fixes the celebrant in a, 'standing' posture, and so precludes his 'kneeling,' equally precludes his 'walking.' Once let the minister 'stand before the table' looking east (as he is in some churches assumed legally to do by Mr. Purchas's judges), and it becomes impossible for him consistently with the rubric, as interpreted in the Mackonochie case, to leave that side of the table, until he releases himself by completing the Consecration.

Law cannot contradict itself, and as the decision in the Mackonochie case was law, the utterly contrarient decision in the Purchas case is not law.

Your correspondents have drawn invidious comparisons between the course pursued by the Bishop of Oxford and that taken by the Bishop of London and by the Primate. The Bishop of London's subsequent utterances were naturally in agreement with the judicial decision, to which he was a party; a decision which we are bound to believe was arrived at most conscientiously, but which may be fairly questioned, seeing that Wheatley and Nicholls, neither of them great authorities, and differing widely in their views of Eucharistic ritual, are cited as the main supporters of the conclusions of the court, and seeing that the present state of the law is gummed up in words written by Archdeacon Cosin in 1627--when the rubric upon which the whole controversy turns was not in existence.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is quoted as saying, 'that every person in a responsible position is bound to see that the law is obeyed:' But does this refer to the recent judgment as law? If so, it is quite consistent with the respect and deference due to the office and persons both of the Primate and of the Bishop of London to believe that they had not appreciated [22/23] the legal contradictions and practical confusion which would result from an attempt to apply generally the monition issued against Mr. Purchas personally.

Another case may arise in which the question of the position of the celebrant at Holy Communion may be thoroughly argued on both sides, and may receive a solution, fortified not only by all legal requisites, but by the fulness and fairness of treatment which will command intellectual approval. I am far from undervaluing the blessing of uniformity in public worship. The strength of the Church depends not only on her members sharing in the same faith, but on their being able heartily to unite in the celebration of divine worship in any of her consecrated buildings. The irreverence and neglect of former years, and the arrogance and self-will of recent times, have between them wrought lamentable divisions in the Church, and startling discrepancies in her public services; and one cannot but wish that, so far as the enforcement of the Church's laws can avail, their action should be invoked in the cause of uniformity. But to do this successfully requires consummate wisdom and perfect impartiality.

We may all help the desired result if, while we strive fop unity, we keep the path of charity; and as regards the special object of this letter, we shall, I trust, all rejoice to feel that there is positively, in no sense, any cause for regarding the Vicar of Buckingham as a 'law-breaker,' or the Bishop of Oxford as an abettor of lawlessness.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,


V. PREFACE TO 'A CHARGE DELIVERED TO THE CLERGY OF THE DIOCESE OF CALCUTTA AT THE VISITATION IN MARCH 1871.' By Robert Milman, D.D., Bishop of Calcutta, Metropolitan in India and Ceylon.

Dear Brethren in Christ,--I must apologise for the delay in the transmission of my Charge delivered in March last. There was one important return which I had hoped to obtain before I printed it; but as this is not likely to be ready for some time, I have thought it better to make no further delay. I feel, indeed, that the hurry of events has already outrun much that I had said. Nevertheless, I have concluded to print the Charge exactly as I delivered it, as I understand that there has been some doubt as to one or two of my expressions. The judgment against Mr. Voysey has been given, and on his refusal to retract Deprivation has followed. His conduct since seems thoroughly to have confirmed the necessity of the sentence.

The Judgment against Mr. Purchas has also been delivered since I spoke to you in the Cathedral. The defendant unfortunately had no counsel. Yet a re-hearing of the case has been refused. Whether the same decision would be again arrived at on the last point,--the position of the Clergyman in celebrating the Holy Communion--I am not sure. It seems to me that the ruling on this point is contrary to the plain meaning of the rubric. I mean with relation to the word 'before.' I should hardly think it possible that it can be enforced in another case, and I cannot come to the conclusion that this particular decision will be a permanent precedent. I do not wish unnecessarily to enter into the question further. It does not appear to me a matter of great importance, except as to the treatment of a rubric apparently of the plainest meaning. I [24/25] am, of course, aware of the contrary arguments, and I have read the Judgment twice carefully; but while they would produce considerable uncertainty, and prevent imposing the direction as a necessary rule, they seem to me inconclusive against such a definite rubric as that of which I am speaking.

May God in His mercy deliver us from all strife and party spirit, and hasten on the day of His grace and the reunion of all His people in Christ Jesus.


The Bishop to Chancellor Burton.

Rose Castle, May 31, 1871.

Dear Mr. Chancellor,--I have lately received from the Dean of Chichester a copy of a document entitled 'A Remonstrance addressed to the Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of England on occasion of the Report of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in re Hebbert v. Purchas.' As I observe that your name is amongst the signatures to this important document, and as the presence of your name must of necessity add much to the weight of the Remonstrance both to my mind and throughout the diocese of Carlisle, I think it right, and I am quite sure you will not object, that I should address to yourself the remarks which I may deem it necessary to make.

In the first place, let me say that I regard the presence of your name amongst the signatures as a sufficient proof that there is no intention on the part of the remonstrants of exhorting the Bishops to set law at defiance. You would be the last person to approve of so improper a course: and although such [25/26] an interpretation has in some quarters been put upon the Remonstrance, and although I am constrained to grant that some of the language used might be interpreted so as to carry such a meaning, still I am convinced that this is not what is intended, and that if this had been the intention, you, at least, would never have given the sanction of your name to a proceeding so entirely contrary to all sound principles of Church government.

I will explain what I understand to be the meaning of the Remonstrance.

I perceive that the remonstrants confine themselves entirely to one point--namely, 'the position of the minister during the Prayer of Consecration at the Holy Communion.' With regard to this one point the remonstrants trust that the Bishops will abstain from acting upon the decision of the Judicial Committee of Privy Council. By their language I conceive that a prayer is conveyed to the Bishops, not to. take any active part in enforcing conformity to the law as now declared: I conceive that the remonstrants desire that, inasmuch as many rubrics which are plain in their meaning are nevertheless broken, and yet no notice is taken by the Bishop unless his interference is specially invoked, so the rubric concerning the position of the minister during the Prayer of Consecration should be deemed one of those which may be regarded as not requiring a hard and iron conformity.

To this general view of the case I am quite disposed to assent; indeed, I should have considered the course which I have now indicated as the only, wise and practicable course, even if it had not been pressed upon me by the remonstrants. Supposing a complaint brought before me by persons entitled to make the complaint, I must deal with it upon its merits; but I am certainly not disposed to adopt any extraordinary proceedings for the purpose of enforcing the rubric in question in a manner which I do not think it right to adopt with regard to other rubrics which are clear in their meaning.

[27] I am the more disposed to take this course for the following reason. It is very difficult, in a question which concerns position or posture, to be quite sure that a rubric has been broken. The highest Court of Appeal has decided that Mr. Purchas has, by his conduct, broken the rubric; but it would have to be shown that any clergyman against whom a complaint was made had done what Mr. Purchas has done, in order to make Mr. Purchas's condemnation apply to him: and I think I am not wrong in saying that this demonstration would not always be quite easy; and it is conceivable that the whole course of prosecution and trial which has been gone through in the case of Mr. Purchas might be necessary in the case of another clergyman against whom the same kind of complaint was made.

If we compare that portion of the late judgment which refers to the position of the minister with that which refers to the vesture to be worn by him, we shall perhaps see this point still more clearly. The question of the legality of the vestments ordered in the First Prayer-book of King Edward VI., upon which legal authorities were much divided, has now been definitively settled, and it is ruled that those vestments may not be worn. It appears to me that there can be no question as to what is the duty of the clergy in this matter, and no doubt whether in any given case the law has been infringed or not: the assuming the Edwardian vestments, or those which are supposed correctly to represent them, is an act of a clear overt character which can scarcely admit of two opinions. This, however, is not quite the case with regard to position: for example, suppose that there are two clergymen at the Lord's Table, is it unlawful for the clergyman on the south side to take any part of the service? The Epistle is almost always read from the south side, and not unfrequently the Prayer for the Church Militant, and several other portions of the service; yet no standing on the south side of the Lord's Table is recognised, either by the Prayer-book or by the judgment.

[28] In truth, there seems to me to be almost an impossibility involved in the attempt to make written rules which shall hold in all cases, without the help afforded by the interpretation of custom; and I confess that I regret exceedingly that in the recent prosecution and judgment the case of the vestments, which was really doubtful, and concerning which many persons were in great uncertainty, was mixed up with the question of the position of the minister during the Prayer of Consecration. I could have wished that this smaller matter had been left to local taste or local tradition.

So far as the diocese of Carlisle is concerned I need not tell you, Mr. Chancellor, that the judgment does not very nearly affect us. Whatever may be our faults and breaches of rubric, they are not greatly in the direction indicated by the practices of Mr. Purchas, which have been now condemned. Nevertheless fifty clergymen of the diocese, if my reckoning be correct, have signed the Remonstrance; and it is due to them, perhaps also to the more numerous body who have not signed, that I should explain what my views on this subject are, and what my conduct is likely to be.

On the whole, my desire is to interfere as little as possible. Where unrubrical practices have crept in, I would trust to the clergy, now that attention has been pointedly called to the subject, to reform their practice in accordance with the directions of the Prayer-book, bearing in mind, however, that charity is greater than rubrics, and that one of the first considerations in every parish is to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. Above all, I would take this opportunity of expressing my most earnest hope that the clergy will not be led by the excitement of the times to give to these rubrical matters an importance which does not belong to them: I do not deny that innovations may be mischievous, and that they may even be undertaken with the purpose of bringing about ends which most of us would consider deplorable; but after all we must remember that we owe much of our improved decorum and decency of [28/29] worship to innovators who were strongly condemned some years ago, and that in the nature of things forms and ceremonies are not, and ought not to be, matters of the very highest moment.

To me the great question is, whether a clergyman preaches the Gospel in his Church, and acts out the Gospel in his parish: and if he does these things I do not think it is wise to examine too carefully the spot which he occupies, and the direction in which he looks, when he celebrates the mysteries of our faith.--I am, dear Mr. Chancellor, yours faithfully,

Harvey Carlisle.

To the Worshipful Chancellor Burton.


(Referred to in Mr. Hubbard's Letter, p. 21.)

The following appeared in the leading journals:--


Sir,--We are desired to forward to you herewith a copy of a case recently submitted by us to the Solicitor-General, Mr. Manisty, and Mr. Bowen, in reference to the late decision of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the case of Hebbert v. Purchas, together with a copy of the opinion thereon.

We also send an extract from the shorthand writer's minutes of what took place at the late unsuccessful attempt to secure a re-hearing of this case on the 26th ult., which will be found to corroborate the views entertained by those eminent counsel. We are, Sir, your obedient servants.

Few and Co.

2 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden,
16, 1871.

[30] CASE.

With this Counsel will receive a copy of the Judgment of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the case of Hebbert v. Purchas.

It will be seen that the Judgment prohibits certain proceedings in the public Services of the Church of England as against the Prayer Book and Canons, and the Act of Uniformity; and that it orders monitions to be addressed to the defendant prohibiting him from repeating the acts so alleged to be in breach of the laws of the Church.

A considerable difference of opinion is entertained as to whether the decision of the Court is in personam, or in rem, and whether the merits of the judgment can be questioned and the self-same points re-discussed in a fresh case if brought before the Court in the instance of another clergyman performing all or any of the acts recently observed by Mr. Purchas, and condemned by the judgment in question, such as the vestments and the position of the celebrant at the Prayer of Consecration in the Service of Holy Communion.

We content ourselves with presenting the bare question for the consideration of counsel, without attempting to refer them to the great cases on the point, as it is necessary to ascertain the law on the point with the least avoidable delay.

Counsel will therefore please consider the foregoing proposition and advise thereon in consultation.


We are of opinion that the decision in the case of 'Hebbert v. Purchas' may be questioned; and that the same points which were involved in, and decided by it, may be reconsidered in the case of any other clergyman against whom proceedings may [30/31] hereafter be taken. At the same time it cannot be doubted but that the decision is an authority which every Committee of the Privy Council will respect, though they may not consider themselves absolutely bound by it.

Having regard to the peculiar circumstances under which the decision in 'Hebbert v. Purchas' was arrived at, and the nature and character, as well as importance, of the questions involved in it, we think it may reasonably be expected that the decision will not be considered conclusive in a new case.


Extract from Shorthand Writer's Notes.

The Solicitor-General: All I propose to do is to draw your lordships' attention to what I venture to call the direct verbal contradictions between the utterances of the Supreme Court of Appeal, and to point out to your lordships that the Supreme Court of Appeal has now the means of reconciling them. I do not mean to say that the Supreme Court of Appeal cannot or may not reconcile them; all I say is, that there stand apparent contradictions; and as long as those contradictions stand apparent it is surely a ground upon which the Church at large may claim to be heard, and have a right to put in a claim that there should be some more distinct examination of how it is that these judgments of equal authority, and pronounced, as I venture to think, in one sense at least, upon exactly the same points, are to be followed by persons desirous of obeying that which has been laid down by the highest tribunal as the law.

Lord Cairns: That question might be raised in another case.

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