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Transcribed by John D Lewis
Murdoch University, Western Australia
14 April 2001


    NOW I am afraid that I must draw the questions to a close. I should like, first, to thank heartily the Bishop of Oxford for his address. Whether we agree with all that he has said or not, we have to recognize that the Bishop of Oxford is one of the great forces in English life to-day, and we are very glad to have heard what he has had to say to us.

    I want you to realize, my brethren, that although I have called you together on the question of Reservation I am not forgetful that there are other matters equally important. For instance, I view very seriously the laxity with regard to [91] the Holy Communion in very many parishes. I regard it as incumbent upon all clergy to really put the Holy Communion in the place in which I think our Lord and our Church intended it to be, and therefore I want you to grasp the fact that I am approaching this question as one who places the Holy Communion on a very high plane with regard to all that concern the Christian life. Nor am I insensible of the mutilation of the Office as appointed in the Prayer Book by serious omissions or additions on the part of individual clergy without any lawful authority. Then, further, I am not indifferent to those to whom the Bishop of Oxford referred, who attack the creed that they are ordained to teach, and I am heartily at one with him on that point. But to-day we are met together to consider this one particular question, namely, is it helpful that we should have the Holy Communion [92] reserved, not merely that it may be received by the sick, but reserved in our open churches? It may be said that it is, and for the moment I am not going to contradict it, but I do ask those who argue from the standpoint that because something "helps" it is admissible and advisable in our Church "Where are we going to stop?" People who are communicants of the Church of England are telling me and writing to me saying that they are finding tremendous comfort in Spiritualism at the present time. They say that it is a great comfort to hold converse with "husband" and with "son." They say that they find that they can even go to their Communion better on the following Sunday as the result. But, because some people say that they find it helpful, am I necessarily bound to tack on, say, Spiritualism to the Church? I am only putting it in this way, not that I would for one moment compare [93] the Reserved Sacrament with Spiritualism. I am only trying to make the argument clear that we must beware of simply accepting a thing because certain people say that it is helpful. We must get behind that and consider whether it is true. We must remember that, in the long run nothing can be really helpful to the soul that is not absolutely and without any controversy built upon the truth; and therefore I want my brethren to examine their position with regard to this matter from that standpoint. Are we certain that because fifty people are found in a church praying before the Sacrament that they are more men and women of prayer than the members of other churches without Reservation? Is Family Prayer so frequent? Is there a Prayer Meeting in that parish? Can any one say there is more real prayer in, for instance, All Saints’, Margaret Street, parish than in St. Paul’s, Onslow Square?


    Then, again, we want to remember, after all, that we are part of the great Catholic Church. I must make a brief comment upon the book of Dr. Darwell Stone which I know has been so widely read. I would not, of course minimize his scholarship nor his ability to present his opinions in a very popular form, but I would ask those who have read that book and are apt to say that they take it as their guide, whether there are not other authorities who take a different view, like, for instance, Mr. Freestone of the Community of the Resurrection, whose book the Bishop has already referred to (who left that as his last legacy to the Church before giving up his life in Mesopotamia when ministering to the Forces). I think that if you compare that book with Dr. Darwell Stone’s book you will see at once that there is scholarship, that there is grasp and width of outlook quite as great as, if [95] not greater than, that which Dr. Darwell Stone brings to bear upon the question. Take again the Bishop of Winchester, Dr. Talbot. Take again, if you will, the Archbishop of York, the Bishop of Ely, the Bishop of Gloucester, Canon Scott Holland, and I could continue mentioning scholar after scholar all of whom may be said to be connected directly with the Catholic school of thought in this country, who take a diametrically opposed view to that of Dr. Darwell Stone. So I want you, my brothers, to be careful to look all round the whole question and do not simply be led aside, either on one side or the other, by the glamour of some popular article that you may read. You want always to remember that the primitive practice of Reservation has had since those days a history and a history of extraordinary type, and we cannot view Reservation to-day as our brethren did in [96] the first, second and third centuries. That is a point which is frequently forgotten. You may read many things that were said in the first four or five centuries, but in reading them, you should remember that the writers had not before them what we have before us—the mediaeval ideas connected with Reservation. We have to remember that fact, and also that we are face to face with Romanists in our very midst who practise and teach many things with which the Primitive Church had not to contend. The situation to-day is very different from that of the first century. Practices which might be quite harmless and even helpful in those days may be full of danger to-day owing to their associations and history. That, again, is a point that I want our brethren to remember.

    Then there is the question of finality. Where are we to stop? That is a point [97] which I should like you seriously to consider. To put it quite bluntly, if anybody eight or nine or ten years ago had told me that the Bishop of Oxford would be regarded by any body of Catholics. in this country as a "back number," I should not have believed it, and yet there are men to-day who say, shall I say, straight out, that the Bishop of Oxford is a Protestant and too Protestant for them. Some even say that Keble and Pusey are out of date and did not go far enough. The early Tractarians, rightly or wrongly, held that all they asked for was to be found within the Prayer Book, but is not that position openly abandoned by large numbers of clergy to-day? Now, when this is the case I ask my brethren where are we going to stop? What is the final stage? This is a serious position. We want to remember that the difficulty, in my opinion, has arisen because certain of our brethren [98] concentrate, shall I say, too much upon one aspect of the truth, which is always a danger. Take, for instance, our Baptist friends. Why are they called "Baptists"? Because they have exaggerated a Sacrament which we in the Church of England hold and hold tenaciously. Are we not in danger ourselves—and I say it with all reverence—of going to the other extreme and spending all our thought and all our attention upon the other Sacrament, great as it is? Go, if you will, into Roman Catholic countries. Some years ago I stayed in a village outside Rome with a friend who lived there. He and I went about the countryside, and he conversed with the villagers, and then translated for my benefit. He talked on the spot to many of the villagers who went to Roman Catholic churches. We could not find among those people any sort of idea of the Bible. The Bible to them was practically [99] an unknown book. None of them seemed to have a copy of it in their houses. None of them read it. We tried to get into conversation with them respecting the Holy Spirit, but you might just as well have said to those people "Have you so much as heard that there is the Holy Ghost?" Again, we spoke to them about the Divine presence of our Lord in their hearts; as to whether He was with them by day and by night; and again they seemed absolutely ignorant of the whole thing; and then when you went into the church you found large numbers of people kneeling before the Reserved Sacrament. When I paid that visit I never thought for one moment that I should occupy the position that I do to-day, but it set me thinking. We, in the English Church, pride ourselves—at least I think we do—that one of the great glories of the position of English Catholics is that we try to get things [100] in their right perspective; and that is a point that we must ever remember, and we must be careful about anything that would take us either to the right hand or to the left. Is it not true that the presence of Christ in His Church is always stated to be through the Holy Spirit? We must get things in the right perspective. I do not want to-day to enlarge upon that point.

    We have been asked whether we could give any instance of the prohibition of the Church with regard to "Access" to the Holy Communion. I think that the answer to that is very clear, because the Eastern Church has never had to face this problem, and the Primitive Church never had to face this problem; neither of them advocated "Reservation for Adoration." It is only the Roman Church that really has had to face it, and those that are in direct communion with [101] her. Therefore there never has been the necessity to refuse access. The Roman Church, we know, has not refused it. It still keeps it, but our branch of the Western Church did surely do so, as the Bishop of Oxford pointed out, at the Reformation. The Primitive Church and the Eastern Church, have never been called upon to forbid Access to the Holy Communion for Devotion, because it has never been practised; it has never been part of their creed, never part of their teaching.

    One more point. Before we place the Reserved Sacrament in our churches as an aid to worship, ought we not to be convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt, that it was our Lord’s intention that it should be used for such a purpose? To take anything which our Blessed Lord gave us for one purpose and to apply it to another, however laudable in itself, without His definite and clear [102] authority, is surely unthinkable. Therefore, is it sufficient to say that this or that was done with the Reserved Sacrament in such and such a century or by this Church or that? This is peculiarly our Lord’s own Service, ordained under the shadow of the Cross. The Bread was broken, the Cup was blessed. The Sacred Bread was received and eaten, the Cup partaken of. Read the account of that first Celebration. Read Pliny and Jerome and any other references to those early days, and ask with the light which they throw upon our Lord’s intention, whether Benediction, Exposition, or even "Access" comes within that Divine Intention so far as can be ascertained by us.

    I have put these thoughts purposely in forms of queries. We want to think these questions out and face the correct answers whatever they are. If the Blessed Sacrament was ordained for one [103] "Use" only, let us keep to that "Use," but if, on the other hand, the Institution or the Teaching of the Apostles permit any secondary Use, then by all means let us not only tolerate but advocate that Use. But let us be clear on either course before we act. Will it suffice to say that ultimately the Sacrament will be used for our Lord’s own purpose, but in the meantime we can put it to any other use which is said to be helpful to some?

    Is such a course permissible with regard to the Sacraments ordained by our Lord?

    Now, when I come to my own position may I say that naturally, as you would expect, I have had all kinds of letters addressed to me during the last few days or weeks, which I have been very glad to get, but if my brothers would only take the trouble to read what I write I think it would save their writing to me, [104] and if they would only notice the letter that I addressed to them in calling this meeting they would see that I asked that this morning there should be a service and that requests should be made in prayer for guidance, rather than that any special policy should prevail. Then I go on to say, "May I ask you to pray for an open mind." Now, that your Bishop should ask everybody to come to this meeting with an open mind excepting himself would not, I think, have been right. You would not for one moment expect, after I had written those words, that I should come here and stand definitely upon this platform and say straight out what my policy is going to be. I have been here, like yourselves, to sit at the feet of Dr. Gore. I have been here to listen to the questions that you have asked and also to hear the answers that have been given. I now ask that every clergyman who is [105] here to-day who has Reservation in any shape or form in his church, or in his parish, to write to me within the next two or three days and tell me quite frankly whether he has Reservation, and, if he has, where the Reserved Sacrament is kept and under what conditions. I want also to say that I shall be very glad to hear what any of my brothers have to say; only I must ask that this matter should not be hung up indefinitely, because I want to get on with other work. Therefore if any of you have anything to say to me I shall be very thankful to hear it. But when I have heard it and when I have gathered all your opinions together, what then? I shall have naturally to deal with this question, and I am going to put it to you, my brothers, seriously: after I have carefully thought it out and looked all round I have to give a decision. What is going to be the result of that [106] decision? Are we going to be in chaos? If there is one thing that I dread more than another it is chaos with all the tremendous problems that are before us,—the gigantic problems. The world is in the melting-pot. Who would have dreamed a few years ago that Russia would be a Republic? Who would have dreamed that China would be a Republic? A thousand things are possible in England to-day. Now, are we, in the midst of all this, to have a controversy waged in the Church far more violent than anything that has ever gone before? Is it worth the price? I am going to appeal to you. For three years I have been your Bishop. I know how unworthy I am to fill that office, but I ask you here, my brethren, have I tried to be fair? ("You have.") Have I tried since I became Bishop to put aside my own personal views and have I tried so far as I could, mistakenly [107] it may have been at times, to really grasp what the exact feeling of the Church of England was, in its comprehensive spirit; and, having done that, have I tried, so far as I could, not to thwart men but to meet men? Have I not tried to conciliate, rather than to obstruct?

    Now, having said that, may I add, that whatever action I take I cannot possibly please everybody. There are men here to-day who do not like Reservation at all; there are men here to-day who want it in the open church; there are men who have written to me quite frankly and said that they believe in Benediction,—that they believe in Exposition and that they would like to have both. Now what am I to do? You must remember that, whatever I do, I shall not do simply as—who shall I say?—John Edwin Watts-Ditchfield, but as a Bishop of the whole Church, as the embodiment of the whole body; and therefore [108] whatever I do has to be done paying full regard to that fact. I want you to realize, my brothers, that my position is no easy one. It is a very, very difficult one indeed. I want to do right. I have thrown myself upon your prayers. I want your prayers, and I want your sympathy. I appeal to every man here, whether he is what you may call an ultra-Protestant, or an Advanced Churchman, or whether he belongs to what you may call the Central body of Churchmen, I appeal to all alike, do not wreck the work of the Church in this diocese. Do not wreck my episcopate. I hesitated as to coming to be your Bishop. I have lost much in coming; I have lost that personal touch that was the glory and the life and the joy of my own heart, though I have had some counterbalancing helps. I have had the kindness and the generosity and the love and the sympathy of large bodies of the clergy [109] in this diocese, and that is no light matter. But I ask you to go away and realize that, whatever my decision may be, it will be made only after the most profound thought, the most concentrated prayer, and also after consultation with those whom I hold dear and respect in the Church at large. I am not going to act entirely off my own bat; I am going to try, so far as in me lies, to gather up the opinions of different kinds of men, and then humbly lay myself at the foot of the Cross and pray "Lord, what wouldst Thou have me to do?" and when I come to my decision, brothers, whatever it is, it will hurt me beyond all if any of my clergy think that I have made that decision arrogantly or as a man who is going to enforce the law. Whatever decision I come to will be made as your "Father-in-God," and therefore I do ask you, my brethren, to go away and wait in prayer for my decision. Do not hastily [110] be led this way or that. Do not form yourselves into groups simply to magnify the particular opinions that you hold. I think that doing so has done an enormous amount of harm in the past. Men have just formed themselves into a group, have formed themselves into a society, to advance one particular aim, and they have got it consequently out of its true perspective. Try to just get at the foot of the Cross and seek for guidance.

    I will close by saying that I started my work amongst you as Bishop at my Enthronement by saying that I have one motto, "Essex for Christ." That is still my motto; but if Essex is to be won there must be a united Church; there must be a Church living in close communion with her Lord; there must be a Church constantly feeding upon the Bread of Life; and there must be a Church filled with the Holy Spirit of God; and as your Bishop, therefore, I [111] appeal to you to-day and ask you to throw yourselves more and more into the arms of the eternal Son of God. Will you just quietly stand? Let us have a moment in silence.

    I will ask the Bishop of Oxford to give us the Blessing.

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After about 700 the Agnus Dei was introduced at this point, before the commixture and the kiss of peace.


In many parts of Europe it is this no longer.


And it must be added in our mouths not in our hearts.


I am saying nothing here of the withdrawal of the chalice from all but the celebrant.


We have had two books lately, one Dr. Stone’s book on The Reserved Sacrament, and the other Fr. Freestone’s book, the twenty-first issue of the Alcuin Club Collection, called The Sacrament Reserved (Mowbray). Now, I must frankly say that I think Fr. Freestone’s book is the completer and more trustworthy.


The New Testament constantly suggests that the union with the Heavenly Christ, by the Holy Spirit, of which the sacraments are the instruments, is the better substitute for the external relationship to Christ which the disciples had in the days of His flesh. Yet this external relationship involved much which has no counterpart in visits to the Blessed Sacrament—the hearing His Words, the seeing His Works, the looking up into His Eyes.


"The virtue of the gift and His quickening grace are permanent in it."—See Gore, The Body of Christ (John Murray), p. 300.