COLLINGS, BATH; AND ALL BOOKSELLERS.
MUCH agitation of the public mind having been excited by the measures in contemplation concerning our National and Apostolic Church, and much fear not unreasonably expressed of the consequences to be apprehended from rash and ill-advised measures toward it, I hope to be excused if I venture to suggest two courses to the consideration of those who may be most immediately concerned in them. I do so, in the hope that they would do much toward disarming censure and ill-will against our Cathedral Establishments, in those cases wherein censure is grounded really on principle, and not on the too common thirst for change, nor on determined hostility.
I beg leave then, in the first place, with all deference to entreat the attention of the Bishops, the Fathers of our Church, to the consideration of a measure which must rest altogether with themselves. The clamour now raised is very greatly directed against the alleged uselessness of Canons, or Prebendaries (as the case may be), meaning thereby the Residentiaries in Cathedrals, under [3/4] whichever name they are described. And as matters now stand, it may not, perhaps, be easy to maintain that there is not, in some instances, sufficient ground for the complaint. It rests, as I humbly conceive, with our Right Reverend Fathers to take away this scandal, simply by reviving the ancient usage of the Church. Let the Chapter of the Cathedral (together with the Archdeacons of the Diocese, since these last have the fullest knowledge of the state of the Clergy and of their parishes) be really and effectively employed as the Council of the Diocesan, whenever any matter of importance shall arise; as, for instance, before an Ordination or Confirmation, or any weighty thing in which sober discussion and practical knowledge may be especially required. To lay such matters before his Council would be no manner of reproach to the judgment or ability of the Diocesan. We know where it is written, "In the multitude of Counsellors there is safety;" and after hearing the counsel of all the decision would still rest with the Bishop. [Proverbs xi., 14. ] But this would greatly tend to disarm the attacks of enemies to Our Church; and it would render a class of Clergymen, who are now commonly reproached by many as being nearly useless, unquestionably good and efficient to the purpose of their original institution. [See the published Memorials, &c., to the Commissioners to Cathedral and Collegiate Churches, from Bristol and from Norwich, pages 19 and 49.]
 The second point which I beg leave to propose, is with a view to rendering manifestly unnecessary the dismemberment of Cathedrals; a thing much to be deprecated in these days especially, when the prevailing lust for change is so fearful an indication of a morbid state of the public mind. The reduction of the number of Canons and Prebendaries seemed to me, at one time, as it did to others also, a desirable measure. But on more mature consideration, added to consultation of the "Memorials and Communications," made by different Chapters to "His late Majesty's Commissioners of Inquiry into the State of the Established Church," &c., I have seen reason for altering that opinion. Where, then, those bodies are too numerous for useful purposes, (and I must own that many of them do appear so to be,) the safer and more advisable mode of rendering them efficient as they ought to be, seems to be the annexation for ever of such as are superfluous in the due decency of the Cathedral service, to populous and ill-endowed benefices, which are in the patronage of the same Chapter, or of some member of it as such. [See the published Memorials, &c. pp. 13, 30, and 58, from Canterbury, Durham and Rochester.] By this course, all reasonable ground of offence will be taken away, and yet no violent change will be made in the constitution of the Cathedrals, nor any thing done which shall savour [5/6] of the wild spirit of mistaken reform now so much on foot.
These are the two points on which much seems to depend, and which are within the present lawful powers of Bishops and Chapters to effect. It rests with them severally to set such example, and to bind themselves by solemn agreement to maintain the order so taken; and then would each one have done what he could, to preserve the Dignity and the Beauty of Holiness in our highest Churches, unrent and unsullied.
The matter here first mentioned, however, namely, the making the Cathedral Chapter again a permanent and efficient Council for the Diocesan, would go far to stop the mouth of the gainsayer, and to "take away the reproach from" our "Israel." It rests with the Diocesans severally to do this. Be it remembered, that it is no innovation. The example of such a rule established, and such a practice observed, without any delay, would prove, beyond all question, their righteous and vise zeal to amend all which is really amiss in the state and condition of our Church Establishment; and to do this, as St. Paul says, "decently and in order." Such Councils holden again regularly now, as they were holden in the early days of the Church, might ease the Diocesan of much labour, and convey to him much most useful information.
The postponement, as is expected, till after Easter, of a most awfully important enactment on [6/7] the subject of the Church, will, it is hoped, be accepted as a sufficient excuse for these suggestions. Let the example of a real and effective Capitular Council, after the old Church rule and order, but once be set, and its salutary effects could not but be generally perceived and acknowledged.
If but one Chapter were to be so taken into habitual council by the Diocesan, it might be the mean of shewing that the restoration of the salutary usages of primitive times, so far as they may be now practicable, is already in progress. It might, by the mercy of the Most High, arrest the hand of dangerous innovation, and turn away the danger, which, in the opinion of many, threatens to work very nearly to the destruction of much which is venerable and holy. Such a measure would have in it the principle of godliness, and of true usefulness. It needs only the conscientious and wise exertion of a power which now lawfully exists, though it has been too long dormant) to do that, which, by the blessing of the Almighty, may blunt the weapons of destruction, and renew in increased stability, energy, and godliness, our Ancient, National, and Apostolic Church.