XXXI.—THE JUDGMENT OF THE PRIVY COUNCIL IN THE CASE OF THE KNIGHTSBRIDGE CHURCHES.
The things complained of were nine in number :—
1. An altar, or holy table, of stone.
2. A credence table.
3. An altar-cross.
4. A cross on chancel-screen.
6. Frontals of various colours.
7. Linen cloths edged with lace.
8. A chancel-screen and gates.
9. Decalogue not inscribed on east wall.
The Judgment of Dr. Lushington, confirmed by Sir John Dodson, only permitted Nos. 5 and 8, viz., altar lights and chancel-screen and gates.
The Judgment of the Privy Council permitted Nos. 2, 4, 6, 3, viz., the credence table; the cross on chancel-screen, and the unrestricted use of the cross as a symbol; frontals of various colours; and the altar-cross so it be not fixed.
The Judgment forbad No. 7, i.e., the altar must not be a structure of stone, and the fair white linen cloth which covers the mensa at celebrations must not be edged with lace or embroidery.
As regards the stone altar the Court of Appeal has done nothing more than re-affirm Sir H. Jenner Fust’s Judgment in the S. Sepulchre’s case, while as regards the altar-cross what is condemned is a fixed stone or metal cross, not as a cross, but as part of the structure of the altar. What is not condemned, is e.g., a cross of metal, stone, or wood, standing on the super-altar.
The Judgment has authorized the following important principles:—
a. In the chancel and screen, the principle of choral worship and the separation of orders in the congregation.
b. In the credence, the doctrine of an "Oblation in the Eucharist."
c. In the cross on the altar and on the chancel-screen, the principle of symbolical allusion, and adherence of the Church of England to historical antiquity.
d. In the use of frontals of various colours, the sacredness of the Christian year, and the ritual commemoration of saints and martyrs.
e. In the altar-lights, not only a symbolical allusion of especial propriety, but what is far greater, a relative dignity as due to the place and time of the special Christian mystery, and a denaturalizing influence.
N.B.—The following comment* from the pen of an eminent Barrister, the Recorder of Salisbury, deserves a careful attention:—
“To the Editor of the ‘Union.’
“SIR,—As I have been requested by various persons to state in your columns the legal effect and bearing of the late ‘Judgment’ in the case of ‘Westerton v. Liddell,’ for the guidance of clergymen and churchwardens, I proceed to do so as shortly as I can. It will be convenient to divide the subjects into three classes: first—the things directed to be removed or altered; secondly—those directed to be retained; thirdly—those which remain yet in dispute; or about which the Court said nothing.
“First, then, as to the things which the judgment orders to be removed or altered.
“1. The ‘fair white linen cloth’ upon the table at the time of the celebration seems designated in the judgment by the terms, ‘The embroidered linen and lace used ON the communion table.’ This then must be wholly white, and without any lace, embroidery, or other ornament; but, as the Court distinctly stated that they were ‘not disposed in any case to restrict within narrower limits than the law has imposed the discretion which within those limits is justly allowed to congregations,’
I conceive that fringes, borders, and interwoven patterns, may be used of the finest and most beautiful and delicate variety, so long as they are not attached or worked by hand, but are textile; only a part or a mere prolongation of the tissue of the linen cloth itself, and not additions thereto. Whether the ‘fair linen cloth,’ for covering over the remains of the Sacrament after use, and not directed to be white, is included in this prohibition, will be presently considered.
“2. Next, as to the altar itself. Every stone altar or table, constructed of stone or of any other material but wood, of whatever shape it may be, is unauthorised; and may be removed, if already erected, by due course of law. It must be a structure of wood— ‘a table in the ordinary sense of the word, at which, or around which, the communicants might be placed in order to partake,’ and moveable. I see no reason, however, why a small slab of stone may not be let into the surface at the place of consecration. There are no directions that the table shall be wholly of wood; and this small piece would not affect its moveability, or deprive it of the character of a table of wood.
“3. As to the removal of stone altars already in existence, the Injunctions of Elizabeth declare that none are to be taken down except by authority. For the removal or alteration of any part of the church, it is well known that a faculty is required: hence it would be illegal for any incumbent or churchwarden to remove or change any stone altar without such faculty; nor has the Archdeacon any right to order the removal without such a faculty.
“4. All ornaments used for Divine Service, other than those prescribed by the First Prayer Book of Edward VI. are unlawful; therefore the use of crosses in the service is excluded by the Book of Common Prayer: consequently, held the Council, crosses affixed to communion tables are unlawful [the conclusion is not supported by the premises]. Another reason given for the removal was, that such a cross was not consistent with the letter or spirit of the direction that the whole table be covered with the linen cloth, or that the table should be flat and moveable. How far moveable crosses placed on the table, or above it, are allowed, shall be presently considered.
“Next with regard to those things which the Court refused to disturb or change, and which it therefore especially authorised as legal.
“1. ‘A rood-screen of carved wood separating the chancel from the nave.’
“2. ‘Two brasen gates attached to the rood-screen at the only point of communication with the chancel, which are ordinarily kept closed or locked, but open during Divine Service.’
“3. All ‘crosses and other articles set up in churches being ornaments in the sense of decorations’ and not used in the services. ‘All crosses, not crucifixes, used as mere emblems of the Christian faith, and not as objects of superstitious reverence, may be lawfully erected as architectural decorations;’ and, in particular, a wooden cross of large size set up on the middle of the chancel-screen is lawful. Under these words, I think that a moveable or fixed cross of metal, or any other material, set up on a super-altar or bracket or ledge, which is separate from and unconnected with the altar, although behind it—such cross being a reasonable distance above the altar so as not to appear used as a ‘part of the service—is lawful and unobjectionable.
“4. ‘Two massive metal candlesticks of elaborate patterns upon the said altar, with candles therein, lighted only when required for the purpose of giving necessary light.’ But this is a decision only of the Consistory Court, not of the Privy Council, for there was no appeal; and from the language of the Court above, as to the ornaments for worship, it is somewhat doubtful whether they would have been allowed to remain on the altar.
“5. A credence or side-table of wood or marble of any kind, without restriction of material or situation, as being ‘consistent with, and subsidiary to, the service,’ and ‘properly an adjunct of the communion-table,’ on the ground that—
“6. ‘It is the true meaning of the rubric that, at a certain point of the Communion Service, the minister shall place the bread and wine on the communion table; but where it is to be placed before is nowhere stated. In practice they are usually placed on the communion table before the
commencement of the service; but this is not according to the order prescribed;’ so that the usual careless practice is expressly declared to be unlawful.
“7. Altar cloths of any colour, shape, variety, and material, with or without work or embroidery or gilding, subject to the discretion of the Ordinary. Those used at S. Barnabas’ were all exhibited to the Privy Council; and, therefore, have express and the highest approval and sanction of the Supreme Ordinary of the kingdom. They were of white, red, violet, dark violet, and green; they were embroidered and highly decorated; were in several pieces with side-hangings, frontals, &c. They were used in a peculiar order of succession, which was expressly forbidden by Dr. Lushington; but, his decision being reversed, as expressly permitted by the Privy Council—viz., white, from Christmas Eve to the Octave of the Epiphany (except S. Stephen and Holy Innocents); from Easter Eve to Vigil of Pentecost, on Trinity Sunday, and the Feasts relating to our Lady; Conversion of S. Paul, S. John Baptist, S. Michael, S. Luke, All Saints. Red, on the Vigil of Pentecost to the next Saturday; and on all other Feasts. Violet, during Lent and Advent, Ember-week in September. Dark violet, on Good Friday and funerals. Green, on all other days. On principle, however, any other colours, and any other succession of colours—as, for instance, the ancient English use of Sarum—is permissible; which, as I think, is more desirable and according to precedent and authority.
“Next, as to those points which the judgment left unsettled.
“1. The shape of the Altar. The Consistory Court left that at S. Paul’s, which is in the shape of an altar tomb, untouched, and therefore sanctioned it. There was no appeal from this decision: consequently, the Privy Council pronounced no decision nor intimated any opinion on the point, except the general direction that it must be a table, in the ordinary sense of the word, flat and moveable, and capable of being covered with a cloth. The east end or chancel was recognized as the proper place.
“2. The super-altar was sanctioned at S. Paul’s by Dr. Lushington; and although no direct decision was, or could be, made upon this point by the Privy Council, as there was no appeal, yet I think it is clear the opinion of their lordships was that it ought not to be placed on the table itself, ‘which must be flat, capable of being covered with a cloth, at or around which the communicants may be placed.’ Besides the cross being affixed to the super-altar at S. Barnabas’ was one of the reasons why it was to be removed. I therefore recommend that the super-altar should be a stone or marble ledge, supported on a solid plinth unconnected with the table; but placed immediately behind it, and reaching a reasonable height above it.
“3. The cross and candles may be placed on this ledge; and the cross may, I conceive, be moveable or fixed at pleasure; but fixed would be preferable, in order that it may assume the character of an architectural decoration.
“4. As to the ‘fair linen cloth’ to cover the remains of the Sacrament and the chalice, but not by the rubric directed to be white, and the chalice veils—complaint was made against ‘the other articles of linen used at the time of the celebration;’ but Dr. Lushington took no notice of this point, and his order (which is that now confirmed) entirely omits all reference to them (see pp. 22, 68, of printed case); and applies to coverings of the communion table only. This order is in these words, ‘To take away all cloths at present used in the church for covering the structure as a communion table, and to substitute one only covering for such purpose of silk or other decent fluff; and, further, to remove any cover used at the time of the ministration of the Sacrament, worked or embroidered with lace, or otherwise ornamented; and to substitute a fair white linen cloth without lace or embroidery, or other ornament, to cover the communion table at the time of ministration.’ Since this order clearly refers to coverings of the table only, and does not notice the others, I think that the ‘fair linen cloth’ may have lace or embroidery and colour as before, as well as the chalice veils.
“5. The Privy Council expressly laid down that the rubric in the First Book of Edward was the rule for ornaments and ‘dresses’ of the ministers; and since that directs that, ‘at the time of the Holy Communion, the Priest that shall execute the holy ministry shall put upon him the vesture appointed for that ministration—that is to say, a white alb plain, with a vestment or cope’—and the assistant Priests and Deacons ‘shall likewise have upon them the vestures appointed for their ministry—that is to say, albs with tunicles;’ since also the present rubric directs ‘that such ornaments of the ministers at all times of their ministration shall be retained and be in use,’ I have no hesitation in affirming that the use of a vestment or cope for the ministering Priest, and of albs with tunicles for the assistant Priests and Deacons at the celebration of Holy Communion, is obligatory on all Priests and Deacons of the Church of England. That a ‘vestment’ means a chasuble is evident from the inventories, which use the words indifferently; and because the only two vestments named are chasubles and copes.
“6. Lastly, with regard to lights. As to these there would be no difficulty, but that the Privy Council have, most culpably, refused to decide the point as to the parliamentary authority of the ancient Ecclesiastical Constitutions, Canons, and Common Law, which expressly required ‘candles to be lighted while the solemnities of the Mass were being performed.’
“Omitting, however, all reference to this question, I think it plain that lights at the celebration of Holy Communion are lawful, though not obligatory, for, amongst many others, the following reasons:—
“1. The cross was retained as a decoration, by the Privy Council, because ‘an emblem of the Christian faith,’ ‘held in great repute and used by the early Christians,’ ‘used from the earliest period of Christianity,’ ‘not necessarily superstitious,’ ‘a memorial of the most momentous event of Christianity.’ Now, Prudentius, in the fourth century, tells us that ‘throughout all the churches in the East, at the Gospel, lights were brought forth at noon day,’ under the type of corporal light to indicate that light— ‘Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light to my paths.’ The fourth Canon of the Apostles mentions ‘lamps at the Holy Offering.’ Isidore of Seville speaks of the same thing — ‘This light signifies the light we read of in the Gospel.’ Lyndewode also, commenting on Reynolds’ Constitutions, says— ‘The candles so burning signify CHRIST Himself, Who is the brightness of the Eternal Light.’ The lights before the Sacrament—(i.e., the celebrated., not the reserved, Sacrament, as may be easily proved)—of Edward’s Injunctions, were ‘for the signification that CHRIST is the true Light of the world.’ Hence these lights were, like the cross, primitive; and had no relation to superstitions, and are used as ‘emblems of the Christian faith.’
“2. Because candlesticks appear as part of the furniture of very numerous churches in the inventories, up to the end of Edward VIth’s reign.
“3. Because the parliamentary authority of the Injunctions of Edward VI., requiring these lights ‘to remain still,’ was recognized by both the Superior Courts as in force in the second year of Edward VI. and has never been repealed.
“4. The express statement of Cosin that, by virtue of this rubric and those Injunctions,lights were in very general use during the reigns of Elizabeth and James I., and the statement of Fuller to the same effect, is strong historical evidence.
“5. Because the ‘lights’ are quite ‘consistent with the present service,’ like the credence; and with the idea of a feast and a table.
“6. Because other Protestant bodies use them, as the Lutherans do, and Luther did.
“7. Because, even regarding the ‘high altar’ as abolished, the place WHERE they are to be put is immaterial: they are adjuncts of ‘the Sacrament’—not of the Altar.
“8. Because the declaration of the Court, that crosses are to be excluded from the service because | not mentioned in Edward’s First Book, cannot apply to ‘lights,’ which are in force by virtue of another and independent authority of Parliament co-existing in that second year, and not repealed by that book.
“9. That ‘lights’ are ‘decorations,’ not ‘ornaments,’ as interpreted by the Privy Council; and are not forbidden to be used at any time or any place.
“10. For reasons formerly given, and to avoid raising some of these questions, I should recommend these ‘lights’ which may issue from candles or be of gas, should be placed on the ledge or super-altar now to be raised behind the table, and be some distance above it, or be in the shape of standards before the table.
“I am, Sir, yours faithfully,
“JOHN DAVID CHAMBERS
“Lincoln’s-Inn, April 2, 1857."
To the Editor of the “Union”
“SIR,—I wish to make the following additions to my opinion on the ‘Legal Effect of the Judgment in the Westerton Case.’
“1. The statute 1 Mary, c. 3, still in force, subjects to imprisonment for three months ‘any person who, of his own power or authority, pulls down or defaces any altar or altars, cross or crucifix, that now is, or hereafter may be, in any church or churchyard.’ By Moone’s case (1 Sir T. Jones, 159), it was decided this statute applied to the present office and services; and a similar decision was given 1 Glover v. Hynde, 1 Mod. 168.
“2. By this statute, coupled with the declarations of the Court of Privy Council, churchyard crosses are legalized and protected.
“3. With respect to ‘Lights before the Sacrament,’ an additional argument in their favour arises from the fact that the Injunctions of Edward are referred to as being law in a rubric at the end of the Communion Office of Edward’s First Book.
am, Sir, yours,
“J. D. CHAMBERS.
“Lincoln’s Inn, April 15, 1857."
N.B.—In mediaeval times the altar stood some way from the east wall, in front of a retable or small reredos, which was a wall built from the ground, between which and the east wall was generally the baldachin for reliquary and suspension of ciborium. This retable or reredos served as the super-altar of the present day, and on it were placed the candlesticks, and crucifix or cross.
The editor has seen this arrangement adopted, and it is very effective; but the super-altar is to be preferred for the cross and lights.
* Reprinted by permission of the author.