Project Canterbury










The Cathedral Church of St. Mary,

On APRIL 19, 1888


Bishop of Edinburgh.






Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2012



MY REVEREND BRETHREN,—In the history of our Church generally, during the last twelve months, the most important event is, doubtless, the recent removal from among us by death, after a long life of faithful service continued to the very end, of our venerable brother, the Bishop of Glasgow. It is not for me to speak of the affectionate regard in which the Bishop was held in his own diocese, and, more particularly, by those who knew him best—his own clergy. But his loss to the Church will long be felt. To the Episcopal Synods and the conferences of the College of Bishops his departure involves not only the loss of one sagacious and prudent in counsel, but the loss of one who possessed an unrivalled knowledge of the minuter and unwritten history of the Church for a space of over sixty years; while he leaves behind him no successor to his thorough acquaintance with the law of our Church, in itself, and as interpreted by usage.

Turning to our own diocese, the changes are not numerous within the year. Two incumbents have resigned—the Rev. John Ashley Broad, of St. Ann's, Dunbar (whose place has been filled by the Rev. Dugald Maccoll), and the Rev. Thomas Knox Talon, of St. Vincent Church, Edinburgh. The Private Chapel at Alloa House has been recently closed, with the result, as I hope, of considerably strengthening the Church of St. John in the town. The Rev. James Overend has been, I regret to say, compelled through ill health to resign the post of Diocesan Chaplain; and I have nominated the Rev. Geoffry Hill in his place. Thirteen licences have been issued to clergy since the last Synod. Of these eleven were altogether new, and the remaining two were granted to clergy already serving in [3/4] the diocese on their having undertaken new duties. I may mention that, with one exception, the newly licensed clergymen are University graduates in Arts—viz., Cambridge 5, Aberdeen 3, Oxford 2, Glasgow 1, and Durham 1.


Since my consecration I have ordained five Deacons and four Priests (one of the latter by Letters Dimissory from the Bishop of Brechin). Of these all are graduates, who are divided between the Universities of Glasgow, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Oxford, and Cambridge.

It seems to me of very great importance that we should have for, at least, the main body of our clergy men that have obtained such general educational culture as that of which a University degree is certainly a presumptive indication, and also the special and (so to speak) "professional" instruction and training to be had best in a theological college. It is true that I may possibly find, after experience, that I am pitching my standard too high for practice. But my desire is that none but graduates who have passed "the Oxford and Cambridge Preliminary Examination in Theology" should be admitted to Holy Orders in this diocese. And it may be convenient for incumbents to know that it is my purpose, under all ordinary circumstances, to refuse to entertain the application of non-graduate candidates for Orders who have not attended a theological college and passed the Universities' "Preliminary Examination." And with a view to avoid (what is not an imaginary danger) the obtaining Holy Orders in other dioceses and then receiving a nomination to a curacy here, I shall be careful in making inquiries and shall not scruple, if it seems to me desirable, to exercise my right of refusing to grant a licence. But these remarks do not apply to those old students of our own Theological College, who were granted the Testamur in the days before the College adopted the passing of the Oxford and Cambridge examination as one of the conditions of obtaining the Testamur. I beg, however, to say that I look with the strongest favour on graduates who, after taking their degree, carry through a [4/5] regular course of theological study at the Theological College. Private study, I have reason to know, inadequately supplies the place of a regular theological training under such guidance as may be had from our present Principal.


The statistics of the Confirmations of a diocese afford some valuable materials, by help of which after due precautions a bishop may, with a fair measure of accuracy, estimate the progress of the Church generally, and also (after due allowance for the peculiar circumstances of particular congregations) the faithfulness and energy of the clergy in their respective posts of duty. Of course he will not fail to perceive that a small settled congregation in the country is not afforded the same scope for expansion as may be found in a mission church, planted in a populous and neglected district of a great city. Again, he will readily acknowledge that in an undermanned city charge, where all the varied labours of the pastorate, visiting the sick, attending the schools, superintending guilds and classes, preparing for the pulpit, and a score of other duties, equally diverse, fall to be discharged by one priest, it is inevitable that the seeking out the candidates of due age for Confirmation, and their careful preparation when found, must sadly suffer. A bishop may, in such cases, deplore a state of things which he may be unable to censure. Yet, after all due allowance for peculiar circumstances in particular cases, he will, I think, be justified in believing that a want of interest in his Confirmation classes may be taken as a sufficient indication of a careless priest. Certainly no part of a clergyman's duty can, if carried out with prayer and with care, be made more fruitful of lasting spiritual good.

I would venture to say here that it may be worth their while if the clergy would consider whether Lent with, in most churches, its more frequent services and increase of other labours, and of mental and physical strain, is the best time for undertaking the main part of the work of special classes for candidates for Confirmation.

[6] Up to the 30th of June, 1887, (the 30th of June being the date at which our statistical year will henceforth close) 898 persons (329 males and 569 females) were confirmed by me within the diocese. Of these, as appears from the new form of returns, a large proportion, varying much in different congregations, consisted of candidates who had not received baptism at the hands of the clergy of the Church. The total of these for the whole diocese during the last statistical year I am unable to give with accuracy, through the deficiencies in a few returns, which it is hoped will not occur again, and which may be owing to a want of explicitness in my own directions rather than to any other cause. But I may give a few instances from the current year illustrating the fact to which I refer. At the Cathedral in this second year of my episcopate, at the Advent and Lent Confirmations, there were confirmed (mainly from the Cathedral and its mission, but with a few from other churches) 137; of these, 68 had been baptised in the Episcopal Church, and 69 outside the Episcopal Church. At St. Paul's, York Place, 165 were confirmed (mainly from St. Paul's and its missions, but with a few from other churches); 84 had been baptised by clergy of the Episcopal Church, and 81 by others. At St. James's, Leith, 81 were confirmed; of these, 46 had been baptised by the hands of clergy of the Church, and 35 by others. Of the 41 All Saints' candidates there were 16 who had been baptised by clergy of the Church, and 25 by others. At Stirling, of 42 candidates, 25 had been baptised by our clergy, and 17 by others. Of the 35 confirmed at St. Andrew's Edinburgh, 24 had been baptised by Episcopal clergy, and 11 by others; of almost the same number confirmed at St. Martin's, 10 had been baptised by our clergy, and 26 by others. Of the 39 confirmed at St. John's, Edinburgh, 24 had been baptised by clergy of the Church, and 15 by others. In one instance only, that of Falkirk, were all the candidates 19 in number, returned as having been baptised in the Church.

From what is now stated it is plain that the natural growth of the Church, from among the young brought up within her [6/7] fold, is greatly augmented by accessions from other religious communities. In a word, it is plain that the Church, as she comes to be better known, is commending herself to a large number of our fellow countrymen. But it will be recognised by those who know Scotland that the numbers shown by the Confirmation returns suggest the presence among us of a yet larger number of persons of the class that in some religious bodies would be called 'adherents.' I mean the very many who attend our churches and like our services, but have not, from various causes, made up their minds, or been sufficiently in earnest, or possessed the moral courage required to offer themselves as candidates for Confirmation. This rite ("bishoping," it is still sometimes called)—is felt by many to demand the taking of an irrevocable step. It openly acknowledges Episcopacy in one of the official acts specially restricted to bishops. It gives offence to relations and friends in a degree much greater than a mere attendance however regular at our churches. It is a cutting loose from old associations. It is a violation of old prejudices. It is, like all similar decisive actions, not without moral and spiritual danger, in making, as it does, a bold breach with the past. But, on the other hand, it is obvious that the effort needed to overcome these obstacles may, in many an instance, be spiritually helpful, and that the crisis, when reached, may be the starting point of a life of stricter discipline and greater nearness to God. May the special grace of Confirmation—the spirit of courage and ghostly strength—be poured out abundantly upon all who have not refused to do hard things for Christ.

In estimating the progress of the Church in Scotland, it is our duty not to confine our views to a side of the picture that may, when regarded exclusively, only elate us with a foolish and empty vanity. We must recognise the fact of our losses as well as of our gains; and it is unfortunate that we have not the means of measuring the former as accurately as the latter. But the leakage, inevitable, I suppose, in the case of a small community surrounded on all sides by greatly preponderating numbers, is not, I should hope, very considerable. In very few instances, exclusively, I should suppose, [7/8] among the land-owners, a sense of danger in the air to the Scottish Establishment has drawn some, whose political are stronger than their ecclesiastical instincts, into a foolish show of what I may call "occasional conformity" with Presbyterian worship. But in the future, as in the past, it is probable that among the stoutest supporters of the maintenance of the present endowed and State-recognised "Church of Scotland" will be found many who have never entered within the walls of a Presbyterian Church for the purposes of worship; but who, not the less, believe that the Presbyterian Establishment is doing a good work for Scotland, which the voluntary Churches of the country are not at present in a position to undertake.

In some few other instances, as it would seem, what I may call the aesthetic and ritual movement in the Presbyterian Churches, which has now in various ways, and in various degrees, affected the forms of Presbyterian worship, has at length come to supply enough to satisfy the not very exacting demands of certain, whose predilection for the Church was founded on no better than aesthetic and ritual grounds.

But, the losses which all sincere and religious men in every Christian community must most deeply deplore, are losses in the direction of carelessness, irreligion, and unbelief. These, alas are not unknown among us; and these are the griefs that weigh heaviest upon the heart of the faithful pastor. Those of you, my Reverend Brethren, who are labouring in the more populous parts of the city, are week after week, made cognisant of the absolute necessity of the shepherd's untiring, unflagging, and never-sleeping watchfulness, if the flock committed to his charge is not to suffer loss. Vice and intemperance are ever ready for their prey; and recklessness to consequences that is so commonly associated with squalor, misery, and physical degradation, in many instances opens the door of the fold.


Passing on to another fact brought out by the Confirmation returns, I may observe that the ages of the candidates who [8/9] have not from the first belonged to the Church are generally much higher than the ages of those born and bred Episcopalians. Indeed, these candidates are nearly all men or women of full age; while there is no large Confirmation at which some elderly, or even aged, person is not presented. These facts are not without their significance.


It would appear that I have not made it sufficiently plain that I require the schedule of inquiries to be in each case filled in and sent to me not less than a full week before the date fixed for the Confirmation. The clergy should each year apply to the Registrar of the diocese for as many copies of the schedule as may be needed. The intimation of what is required could not, I presume, be made in a more public or formal manner than, as it is now made, in the Bishop's address to the clergy in Synod assembled. And accordingly I now make known in this formal manner to all the clergy of the diocese, that for the future when they desire to present candidates for Confirmation it will be requisite that they should fill up the schedule of inquiries, which may be had on application from the Diocesan Registrar, and send it to me not less than one week before the date fixed for the Confirmation. And I would here add that to the rule now laid down it is my wish to make no exceptions whatsoever. It is obvious that inattention to this regulation on the part of any of the clergy may cause inconvenience and unpleasantness, for which, after this timely and public notice, the Bishop cannot be held accountable either by the candidates, or those who have been engaged in preparing them.

The clause of Canon XXXVI., under which these inquiries are made, runs as follows—"At the time of Confirmation, or prior to it, if the Bishop so require, the clergyman shall give to the Bishop a list of the persons to be presented for Confirmation, and shall answer any question that may be put by the Bishop respecting their ages and qualifications." The questions to which I ask replies in the printed form or [9/10] schedule are these—What are the names and ages of the candidates? and When, where, and by whom were they baptised? The primary object of the latter questions is to help to secure that those presented to me for Confirmation have been baptised. It has been stated by some in responsible positions, and who have had opportunities for forming an opinion on the subject, that the proportion of unbaptised persons in Scotland, to the total number of the population, is large. And certainly there is nothing to surprise us in the statement when we remember the condition of the neglected masses in our great cities, and the disciplinary principles upon which baptism is administered in the Presbyterian bodies. In view, then, of this consideration, taken together with the fact that large numbers are every year added to the Scottish Episcopal Church from outside her own communion, it seems well that our clergy should be very careful not to assume the fact of the baptism of any candidate for Confirmation without careful inquiry. Nor must it be supposed that the candidate's impression, or belief, on the subject is in itself any adequate security. As stated in each printed copy of the schedule, the Bishop desires to have distinct assurance that each candidate presented to him for Confirmation has been baptised, with water, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. And it is with a view to this end that the question "By whom was the candidate baptised?" is inserted. I could have hoped that it would not be imagined by any that if the baptism was administered with the element of water and with the divinely appointed form of words any further question bearing on the validity of the sacrament could be raised. But I find questions are raised; and I purpose saying something on the law of the Church on baptism administered by those not duly ordained.

In this connection I shall say nothing as to Presbyterian ordinations. For the purposes I have to-day in hand, it is obviously the simpler course to assume for the baptisms conferred by Presbyterian ministers no higher claim than may be made for baptisms administered by lay-men. And any [10/11] obiter dicta of mine in the course of this address I beg to be understood in this sense, and not as intended to express any judgment, one way or the other, on the views of any of our number, who may possibly hold theoretical beliefs as to the validity of Presbyterian ordinations different from those of the majority.


The Episcopal Church in Scotland is absolutely at one with the Churches of England and Ireland and with all the other historic Churches of Western Christendom in recognising the validity of baptism duly administered with the proper matter and the proper form by any man or woman. [See Appendix. Notes A. and B.]

The deliberate and well-considered practice of the Episcopate of any Church may, in the first instance, be taken as a strong presumption in determining what the Church's doctrinal standpoint actually is. But it is right to consider independently the Church's formularies of faith and devotion in their bearing on this matter.

Now previous to this investigation it may be worth observing that the Christian Church in Scotland did not originate in the sixteenth century, nor even (if I may be permitted to say so) in the beginning of the eighteenth with the "Usage-party" of the Jacobite clergy.

The general body of doctrine held by our Scottish Church to-day is the general body of doctrine held by the ancient Scottish Church, except in so far as certain definite particulars of the doctrine held in the pre-reformation Church have been explicitly disowned. Similarly in England (and there happily the conservative character of the Reformation has not tended, like the anarchical movements here, to obscure this truth) the doctrine of the Church to-day, is the doctrine of the pre-reformation Church, except in so far as certain particulars had been disowned. There is no question, there can be no question, as to the doctrine of the pre-reformation [11/12] Churches of Scotland and England on this subject. They both fully recognised the validity of baptism by laics. This was as much a part of the Church's well-known, recognised, doctrine, as any article of the body of dogma. Now while our Church has in express terms rejected certain doctrines, for example, "the Romish doctrines concerning purgatory, pardons, (de indulgentiis) worshipping and adoration of images as of reliques, and also invocation of saints," while she rejects "transubstantiation," while she declares the "sacrifices of Masses," to be "blasphemous fables and dangerous deceits,"—she has not so much as uttered one word to even hint at a doubt about the validity of lay-baptism. [See Appendix. Note C.]

After the great religious upheaval of the sixteenth century, which we call the Reformation, a desire showed itself in some quarters to restrain, even further than restraint had been exercised in the pre-reformation Churches, the practice of laics administering baptism. [Many ecclesiastical ordinances were promulgated in the ancient Church of England forbidding laymen and even deacons baptising under ordinary circumstances.] And this dislike of lay baptism, both in England and Scotland, was manifested more especially in reference to baptism administered by women. [See Book of Common Order (Sprotts edit. p. 135.)] But neither in Scotland nor in England was the baptism administered by laics regarded as invalid; nor, further, (and this is of much importance) did the Church of England ever express the slightest doubt as to its validity.

The opinions held by the followers of John Knox possess, at least, an historical interest for us, and it is worth remarking (I quote the words of Professor Lindsay, of the Free Church College, Glasgow), that "The Scotch Reformed Church prohibited private baptism by lay persons, but ordained that when any had been thus baptised the rite was not to be repeated." [One of the entries in the proceedings of the General Assembly under date Dec. 28, 1565 (The Booke of the Universal Kirke of Scotland) is worth looking at. The Presbyterian bodies of the present time seem to accept this principle. (See Hodges Systematic Theology, vol. iii. P. 525.)] Here was recognised the principle to [12/13] which I shall have occasion again to refer:—Fieri non debet, factum valet.

Now the Puritan party in the Church of England in Elizabeth's reign sought similarly to effect a prohibition of lay baptism, but the more moderate never attempted, nor apparently desired, to deny its validity. In 1575-6 the Puritan Archbishop Grindal carried through the Convocation of Canterbury a body of fifteen articles. The twelfth of these expressly prohibited lay baptism under any circumstances. This Canon was (for reasons as to which we possess no certain knowledge) never promulgated, and accordingly never possessed force as an ecclesiastical law. But what I request you to observe is this:—even if this Canon had been promulgated it would not have cast the slightest shadow of suspicion upon the validity of lay baptism. It might indeed have been used to show that the Church of England had altered its mind in regard to the reality, or the extent and character, of the loss sustained by infants dying unbaptised, but it does not so much as hint the invalidity of the act which it would have rendered illegal. [In the masterly discussion of the subject of lay-baptism in Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity, he makes no reference to the abortive Canon of 1575; but I suspect he was thinking of it when he wrote (V. lxii. 13.) "Suppose that . . . the law did utterly prohibit baptism to be administered by any other than persons thereunto solemnly consecrated, what necessity soever happen. Are not many things firm, being done, although in part done otherwise than positive rigour and strictness did require?"] However, as I have said, the Canon was never promulgated, and the rubrics of the Prayer Book with their permission of lay-baptism continued, as is well-known, unaltered up to 1604.

The result of the Hampton Court Conference was to bring the Prayer-Book, substantially, to its present condition in respect to the question before us. No public recognition was any longer given to the lawfulness of lay-baptism, but in the service itself there are suggestions that point in the direction that the Church, as hitherto, regarded as the essentials of baptism, the element of water and the proper formula of words, and, outside the service, the practice of [13/14] the Church was unaltered in regarding lay-baptism as valid.

It is well known that during the greater part of the last century, and the earlier years of this century, the prevailing belief among the small body of Scottish non-juring clergy was that baptism administered by one not episcopally ordained was null and void. The non-jurors in England for the most part concurred with their Scottish brethren in this view; and there were some of the clergy of the Church of England, "as by law established," who, for various reasons, adopted the same opinion.

But the formal, synodical, adoption by our Church at the General Synod of 1863 of "the English Book of Common Prayer, as now authorised, according to the Sealed Books," as "the Service Book of this Church," and the canonical restriction prohibiting the clergy from departing from it in the administration of the sacraments "except so far as the circumstances of this Church require, and as specified in the Canons," has placed our Church, as regards her doctrinal formularies, in a totally different position from the Episcopal Church in Scotland in the last century. What the teaching of the Church of England might be on questions of doctrine was a matter that would have been regarded by, perhaps, many of the Scottish non-juring clergy of the last century as of entire indifference, or, at least, of very slight importance. The Church of England was for them "the schismatical Church of England," and they were in communion with another body—those worthy and conscientious, if not always very wise or reasonable, men who styled themselves "the Catholic remainder of the British Church" and who had framed for themselves a new Prayer Book—or, later on, with one or other of the two communities into which the handful of English non-jurors were further subdivided. [ Indeed on this very question the services for baptism in the English Prayer Book were justly considered by the non-jurors to lend themselves so much to the recognition of lay-baptism, that in the well known non-juring Collection of Offices compiled by Bishop Deacon, we find the English office for the ministration of private baptism, &c., thus altered significantly. After the interrogatories "By whom was this child baptised? Who was present when this child was baptised?" The words "Because some things essential I demand further of [14/15] you" are deleted. And the final rubric becomes "But if they who bring the infant to the Church do make such uncertain answers to the Priest's questions as that it cannot appear that a lawful Priest or Deacon did baptise the child with water in the Name, &c." Compleat Collection of Devotions, both Public and Private, 1734, pp. 144, 151.]

But the views or practices of any of the non-jurors, or of those brought up in their way of thinking, are of no force in determining the faith or the duty of the living Church.

The admission of the "English Chapels" (as they were called), to our communion was, it seems to me, as great a gain to the body that received them as to them who were received. They were relieved from an anomalous position,—from a position technically, if not morally, schismatical,—and obtained the benefit of episcopal rites and of episcopal supervision; we at once felt the breath of larger airs, and the intellectual and moral gains that come from closer contact with good and capable men who look at the problems of life and of religion from a standpoint different from our own. It is in the close and hot-house atmosphere of a small and exclusive coterie that strange growths put forth most readily, and assume their most fantastic shapes. [The most learned of all the non-jurors was probably Henry Dodwell. He pushed his views on lay-baptism to the extent of confining the immortality of the soul to those who received baptism from Bishops, or those ordained by them. The learned Rattray held that the Divine Spirit was first imparted to the human soul in Confirmation. The validity of the consecration of the Eucharist according to the English Prayer-Book was doubted by some, and denied by others. Exaggeration, and a fondness for extremes is a characteristic of most of the non-juring Theology.] From the date of the acceptance by our Church of the English Book of Common Prayer and the English Articles of Religion as formularies of doctrine and of devotion, we have placed ourselves upon the broader basis of the great Anglo-Catholic communion. [Many of the present clergy of the Episcopal Church must feel thankful that the prevailing non-juring view of the nature of the Presence in the Eucharist (which the late Bishop Forbes of Brechin, regarded as "the doctrine of the Real Absence"), was not imposed upon the Scottish Church. I ought perhaps to add that I do not myself concur with Bishop Forbes's criticism; but I am indeed thankful that our liberty is the liberty of the Church of England.]


[16] The doubts which have been expressed from time to time by some (an infinitesimally small proportion) of the clergy of the Church of England on the Church's doctrine as to the validity of lay, or schismatical, baptism, have, I am satisfied, mainly arisen from a want of familiarity with the principle known to all students of law, civil or ecclesiastical, that many things may be illegal, may be authoritatively forbidden to be done, which, when done, are nevertheless perfectly valid,—the principle expressed in the maxim, Multa fieri non debent, sed facta valent.

The maxim referred to has constant illustrations in both civil and ecclesiastical law. A legal injunction directing a thing to be done by a particular person, or in a particular manner, does not of itself render void an act that is not so done. To cite an instance or two illustrative of what I say:—In England marriages were formerly required to be celebrated by a priest in the Church. The priest who celebrated a clandestine marriage was punishable, and the parties present were ipso facto excommunicated, yet the marriage itself was in all respects valid and binding. Again, the principle of which I speak will be readily understood by those who will recall that it is very generally maintained that the absolutely uncanonical and illegal offence of one bishop taking on himself, apart from any of his brethren, to consecrate another bishop, is yet not necessarily an invalid act.

When the maxim fieri non debet, factum valet has been rightly apprehended, the student of the Baptismal services of our Church will readily understand that the rubrical directions ordering "the minister of the parish," or other "lawful minister" to baptise in the case of private baptism, though they may perhaps render the action of any layman presuming to take upon him this office irregular and censurable, yet do not of themselves render void or invalid the act of a layman when once performed. The act may be valid though the agent may be in the highest degree. blame-worthy. [16/17] Now is there any light thrown on this subject by the text of the services as they at present stand in our Prayer-book? There are two passages in the service entitled, "The Ministration of Private Baptism of children in Houses," which bear upon the question. In the first of these, "the minister of the Parish where the child was born or christened," before certifying the congregation of "the true form of baptism," is to put four questions to "those who bring the child to the Church":—

"By whom was this child baptised?"
"Who was present when this child was baptised?"
"With what matter was this child baptised?"
" With what words was this child baptised?"

But the point to be observed is this,—that after asking the first two questions, and before proceeding to ask the last two, the minister is directed to say, "Because some things essential to this Sacrament may happen to be omitted through fear, or haste, in such times of extremity; therefore I demand further of you," and then he adds the last two questions:—

With what matter was this child baptised?"
"With what words was this child baptised?"

What is the natural inference? I think it is that the last two refer to essentials, and not the first two. If a duly ordained priest or deacon were among the "some things essential," the minister's observation would have preceded the question, "By whom?" [See Appendix. Note D.]

It is rightly pointed out that, as the rubric stands, the above questions are directed to be asked when the child has been baptised by some other "lawful minister." And I think it may be fairly argued (though I express no opinion on the point), that this certification of an orderly baptism was not intended for those who have been irregularly baptised by lay persons. My contention is that the essentials of baptism as they are regarded by the Church of England (and accordingly by our Church), are pointed at by the deliberate declaration of the officiating minister intercalated [17/18] between the first two and the last two questions. I am not here contending that this public service of reception into the Church is intended to be used in the case of those irregularly baptised. Of course, as we know, this public reception adds nothing to the characteristic grace of baptism, and the denial of the public reception, if such denial were intended since 1604, might perhaps be regarded as serving the purpose of censure on those who may have lightly intruded on what is rightly regarded as the proper office of the priest, just as the spiritual validity of an irregular marriage is never questioned, though a priest may refuse, by way of censure, to give it his benediction coram populo. But some of the ablest judgments on the subject maintain that though with a view to discourage, and condemn as irregular and disorderly the practice of lay-baptism, the Prayer-book (which would be in the hands of all the people), omitted in 1604 all mention of lay-baptism, and assumed that none but a "lawful minister" would baptise, yet that in the event of an infant irregularly baptised being brought for reception, the service was not to be refused. And it will be admitted, I should suppose, that the reference to fear and haste possibly causing the omission of either the essential matter, or the essential words, points rather to the case of the Sacrament being administered, as would be natural in an emergency, by some one of the household in the sick-room of the mother, and not by the parish priest or other lawful minister familiar with his office through its constant exercise.

But whichever view as to the use of the public service of reception be accepted, the pointed distinction made between the question as to the person administering, and the questions as to the "some things essential" to the Sacrament cannot fail to impress the inquirer, and prepare him for the still clearer statement, which appears in the final notice of the same service. There we read—"If they which bring the infant to the Church do make such uncertain answers to the Priest's questions as that it cannot appear that the child was baptised with water in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost (which are essential parts of Baptism), [18/19] then let the Priest, &c" You observe that the direction does not say one word about uncertain or unsatisfactory answers in reply to the question "By whom was this child baptised?"

It has been observed that the rubric does not say that the proper matter and form are "the essential parts" but only "essential parts of baptism," and that a "lawful minister;" is presupposed. And I have already stated my opinion that it is possible that no public certification of an orderly baptism, nor any reception, was after 1604 intended for those who had received lay-baptism. But even if it could be demonstrated that this service was not intended for the reception of those baptised by laics, that would not bring us one step nearer the denial of the validity of lay-baptism. In considering however whether the service should or should not be used for the reception of those who have received lay-baptism, it will be worth considering in how many parts of the Prayer Book the title of the ordinary minister is written, when it does not seem intended that others should be excluded. It is not pretended, I suppose, that a Deacon should not say any parts of Morning and Evening Prayer or of the Litany which the rubric assigns to the "Priest." Again, as regards the intentions of those who gave us the Prayer Book in its present shape, we may observe that they changed the title of the service, as it had been altered in 1604, viz., "Of them that are to be baptised in private houses in time of necessity by the minister of the parish or other lawful minister that can be procured" into its present form, omitting all reference to the minister of the parish or other lawful minister. But, I repeat it, whatever view is taken, nothing in the service so much as suggests the invalidity or doubtfulness of lay-baptism.


Article XXIII. (of the XXXIX. Articles) has been supposed by some to bear upon this question. But it is obvious that a recognition of the maxim, Multa fieri non debent sed facta valent, evacuates the argument of all force. For even if the [19/20] Article declares the unlawfulness of a layman's administering the sacrament of baptism, it says nothing of the invalidity of the act when done. The words of the article however seem rather to refer to public than to any private ministrations; and the student will do well to look at the Article in its Latin as well as in its English form. [Non licet cuiquam sumere sibi munus publice praedicandi aut administrandi sacramenta in ecclesia, &c.]

What is most worthy of observation is that this Article was promulgated in 1553, when the Prayer Book distinctly and formally recognised the validity of lay-baptism. This fact may be regarded as absolutely decisive of its proper interpretation.


No demonstration of the mind of any Church, based upon the legal construction of documents, can be more cogent than that supplied by the continuous, undeviating, and universal practice of the Church itself. In the Church of England the disciplinary rules and regulations, determining who might, and might not, legally minister the Sacrament of Baptism, may have varied from time to time. But we have no evidence to show that the practice of the Church of England as affected by the question of the essentials of the Sacrament has, in the slightest degree, varied from the days of St. Augustine of Canterbury down to the days of the present occupant of the primatial chair. Thirteen centuries of unbroken tradition are now all but complete. It is true that a few—a very few—individuals among the laity and clergy of the Church of England (some of them persons of piety and attainments) have in modern times expressed, as their private opinions, views hostile to, or dubious of, the validity of lay-baptism. But the practice of that great Church,—the true exponent of her faith,—has been unvarying. Those who have received lay-baptism and (we may add) schismatical baptism are presented for the rite of confirmation, and bishops, knowing the fact, confirm them. Persons who have [20/21] received lay and schismatical baptism have been advanced to the Diaconate, to the Priesthood, to the Episcopate. Exactly one hundred years intervened between two Archbishops of Canterbury, neither of whom, as is alleged, probably with accuracy, had received any but lay-baptism.

But most striking of all the illustrations of the Church of England's recognition of lay-baptism is the habitual use everywhere of the Anglican burial-service at the burial of persons who are known to have received lay or schismatical baptism. It is of much interest for those who think that the doctrine of the Church of England was changed at the Hampton Court Conference, in 1604, because the Prayer-Book, which had, up to that date, explicitly sanctioned lay-baptism, thenceforward makes no mention of any person as conferring the Sacrament of Baptism but "the Parish minister" or "other lawful minister;" I say it is of much interest that those who so think should observe that the burial service (proceeding in its entire structure on the supposition that the burial is that of a member of the Christian Church) was, so far as we have any evidence, used just as before. While the adding to the rubric, in 1661, at the last revision, of the express restriction of the use of the service to the baptised made no difference whatsoever in the usage. And it was not till 1809—that is, not till over 200 years from the date of the Hampton Court Conference—not till close upon 150 years from the date of the last revision, that a legal proceeding was instituted (in the case of Kemp v. Wickes) to determine whether a clergyman could refuse burial to one baptised by a person other than a lawful minister. The decision, as is well known, confirmed the belief that the doctrine of the Church of England had never altered; and the further decisions, in the case of Mastin v. Escott, (1841), both in the Arches Court of Canterbury, and in the Privy Council, have been practically accepted by the few who might be inclined to take a different view. I am not laying stress upon the decisions of the Courts, as decisions. But I lay stress upon the general submission to them by the whole body of the Anglican clergy. The Church of [21/22] England has no lack of men who are willing to defy the ecclesiastical courts, and take the consequences, if they believe that the courts are not justly constituted, or that Catholic doctrine has been paltered with. And I confess I should not have been at all surprised if some out of the great body of the 19,000 or 20,000 clergy of the Church of England had believed in the invalidity of lay-baptism, and had sacrificed themselves to their conscientious maintenance of what they believed to be true, or had refused to act as if they were certain, while, in reality, they were dubious. But close on half a century has gone by, and the judgment in Mastin v. Escott has been accepted. I have said I do not lay stress on the judgments of the courts, as judgments; they are not legal decisions which bind us in Scotland. But I would express my warm admiration of the masterly discussion of the subject contained in the Judgment of Sir Herbert Jenner. Indeed the pleadings and the judgment in that case may be said, substantially, to exhaust the subject, and I consider that any one with doubts as to the mind of the Church of England on this question, could not do better than make a careful study of the published report. [ A full Report of the case of Mastin in v. Escott, Clerk, for refusing to bury an infant baptised by a Wesleyan minister, by W. C. Curteis, LL.D. London 1841.] Certainly, if to this be added (I speak especially to the younger clergy) chapter ix. of Mr. Maskell's work on Holy Baptism, nothing more need be read upon the doctrine of the Church of England as to the validity of lay and schismatical baptism.


Lastly—a few words have to be said on our Scottish Canons. Let us suppose for a moment that our Church considered lay-baptism as of dubious validity, or, to speak more correctly, was in any measure dubious as to its validity, and suppose that the Church thought fit to frame and promulgate a canon, or ecclesiastical enactment, to meet our requirements, could that Canon, I ask, be framed to any other intent than, substantially, as follows:—"When a person applies to be admitted [22/23] into the communion of this Church, the clergyman to whom the application is made shall inquire diligently whether the person had been baptised by a bishop, a priest, or a deacon duly ordained, and if on inquiry he finds that the person applying for admission had not been baptised by such duly ordained bishop, priest, or deacon, he shall baptise the person so applying in the form of words prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer in cases of doubt—'If thou art not already baptised, &c.'?" I repeat the question—Is it possible to conceive a Canon framed with other intent than this, if our Church were dubious as to the validity of lay-baptism? But with this imaginary Canon contrast our actual Canon as it now binds us:—"When a person who applies to be admitted into the communion of this Church shall express a doubt as to the validity of the baptism which he has received the clergyman to whom the application is made may baptise the person in the form of words prescribed by the Book of Common Prayer in cases of doubt—'If thou are not already baptised, &c.'"

Now, I beg you to observe that the permission (I say the permission, for, as I shall presently show, it is not an injunction) to use hypothetical baptism is made dependent by the Canon on the subjective impressions and belief of the applicant. And such we may, I think, consider a charitable decision towards the applicant, when we reflect upon the spiritually paralysing effect of unremoved doubts. Indeed I regard the section of the Canon, upon which I am commenting, as, historically considered, a very fitting act of reparation to meet the case of doubts which had been inspired by what we know to have been the prevailing teaching of the Scottish non-jurors of the last century, and of some in this century brought up under their influence.

But though we may consider this section of the Canon as a charitable concession to the weak and misled, it would, beyond question, be culpable and shameless negligence in any Church that was herself doubtful as to the validity of lay-baptism to provide no further guidance for those who [23/24] minister her sacraments than the scruples of those that desire to join her communion.

I spoke a few moments ago of the permission, not the injunction, in the case referred to, to baptise sub conditione. "The clergyman to whom the application is made may baptise the person," &c. Now, I would not have laid stress upon the use of the word "may" in this sentence if it were not that the word was actually substituted in the Code of 1863 for "shall," which had stood in this place in the earlier Codes. The change must possess some significance. Possibly it may have been made to meet the objections of clergymen who might scruple to use even the hypothetical form in a case where they themselves had satisfactory evidence that both the matter and form of the Sacrament had been duly observed. Such hypothetical baptism might be regarded as casting a doubt where, in their view, no ground for doubt existed. However this may be, no clergyman under our present law is required to administer even hypothetical baptism in the case supposed. Though I shall not say that he may not be justified in doing so, if he fails, after imparting proper instruction on the subject, to satisfy the scruples—even the entirely baseless scruples—of the applicant. But most certainly hypothetical baptism should never be lightly resorted to by any clergyman. While no conscientious priest will baptise hypothetically from a desire to escape the trouble of making careful inquiries. [There is a commendable warning on this subject in Blunts Annotated Book of Common Prayer, p. 423 (Revised edition).] It would obviously be no charity, but the height of presumption, to admit to Confirmation and the Eucharist, those of whom it was at best uncertain whether they had received the initial grace of baptism, when that uncertainty could be removed by requiring in all such cases as we have in view hypothetical baptism. But no such requirement exists; and the inference seems to me plain.

The teaching of our Church when rightly studied is unmistakeable. She condemns designed intrusion into the [24/25] priestly office (even a deacon may baptise only in the absence of the priest), but the baptism of any Christian man or woman is valid. And, as there are no degrees in validity, the special grace of baptism is conveyed by the hands of a layman with as absolute certainty as though the baptism had been celebrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury, or the Pope of Rome, or the Patriarch of Jerusalem.




[26] In the above Address I purposely avoided the consideration of the subject from the side of scientific Theology. And a short note can do no more than point in the direction in which I would have the student to move.

(a) The substantial and continuous consensus of Christendom must ever remain a strong presumption in favour of the guidance of the Divine Spirit.

(b) In any community long continued and general recognition by the responsible authorities of the exercise of certain powers becomes a testimony to, and a confirmation of, the practical delegation of those powers, if they are not inherent in those by whom they are exercised. It is true in the Family. It is true in the State. It is true in the Church.

(c) S. Jerome, (Dial ad Lucif. c. 9.) who assumes, as an admitted truth, that lay-baptism was valid, after urging that the Episcopate is a protection from schism, writes—"Inde venit ut sine Episcopi jussione neque Presbyter neque Diaconus jus habeant baptizandi." One may infer that the rights of Presbyter, Deacon, and Laic, in this matter are all by delegation,—the first two by express, the last by implicit, delegation, and, as regards orderliness, with restrictions not imposed on the first. May not this line be the true line of thought on this subject?

To whom was the commission to baptise originally given?—(Matt. xxviii. 16.) But, as regards the particular question in hand, it is not of any consequence should we accept the view more commonly held by Roman Theologians that Presbyters as well as Bishops possess in themselves the right to baptise. See Perrone Proelectiones Theologicae. (Tract. de Bapt.)

(d) Recognition of lay-baptism by the responsible authorities of the Church Catholic on earth is ratified in heaven. "What things soever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and what things soever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."—(Matt. xviii. 18.)

(e) Hooker's (E. P. v lxii. 20, vol. ii. p. 300, Keble's edition,) illustration drawn from a comparison of the mystery of generation with the mystery of regeneration is full of interest. Holy marriage [26/27] is the only divinely ordained means for the propagation of physical life, but physical life comes into being not less certainly, not less fully, not less perfectly, though the divinely ordained order be violated.



The consensus of Christian Churches is indeed even more striking than it is represented in the text of the above Address. The Holy Eastern Church accepts the validity of lay-baptism. The Orthodox Confession of the Faith of the Catholic and Apostolic Eastern Church (which stands in the front rank of the Church's authoritative documents) is very express. "Baptism according to due order"—I translate from the modern Greek text—"ought not to be administered by any other than the lawful priest; but on the occasion of any necessity a lay person, whether man or woman, may baptise, employing the right matter, (simple and natural water), and uttering the words, In the Name, &c., and using trine immersion." (Schaff's Creeds of the Greek and Latin churches, p. 377). This (except that such stress is not laid on immersion) is the doctrine of the Russian Church: see Prokopowicz's Christiana Orthodoxa Theologia, tom iii. p. 530. And it is maintained that the baptism conferred by a heretic retaining the substantials of baptism is not to be questioned, p. 549. See also Dr. J. M. Neale's History of the Holy Eastern Church. General Introduction, p. 949. Several of the smaller heretical sects of the farther East and some of the Syrian Orthodox appear not to recognise lay-baptism.

The Lutheran bodies accept lay-baptism.



The following will suffice to show the doctrine of the Scottish Church in pre-reformation days:

"Forma autem baptizandi haec est Ego baptizo te in nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti Amen. In Romano vero et etiam Anglico ydiomate sub eadem forma doceant sacerdotes frequenter laicos et posse et debere baptizare pueros in necessitate," &c. Statuta Ecclesiae Scoticanoe. (Joseph Robertson's edition) tom. ii. p. 30. Again "Diaconi baptizare et penitentiam dare non possunt nec Eucharistiam ministrare presumant. In mortis periculo diaconus etiam et laicus poterunt baptizare. De hiis parochiani in ecclesiis debent edoceri et quomodo sit baptizandus sub hiis verbis Ego baptizo, &c. Id. P. 57. Both these are Provincial Statutes of the 13th century.

[28] The following from the Catechisme set furth be the maist reverend father in God Johne Archbishop of Sanct Androus, Legatnait and Primat of the Kirk of Scotland in his provincial counsale (1551) with the advise and counsale of the bischoippis, &c., states the doctrine of the Church with admirable clearness:—"Certainly Baptyme may be gevin be thame quhilk ar out with the kirk as ar all heretikis scismatykis," &c., (p. 172, T. G. Law's edition) "Quhensaevir the tyme of neide chancis that the barne can nocht be brocht conveniently to a preist and the barne be feirit to be in peril of dede, than all men and women may be ministeris of Baptyme, swa that quhen thai lay wattir apon the barne with that thai pronunce the wordis of Baptyme intendand to minister that sacrament as the kirk intendis." (p. 193).



I can only express my amazement that any one writing deliberately on this subject could found an argument for the invalidity or doubtfulness of lay-baptism on the existence of the question "By whom was this child baptised?" when the most elementary knowledge of the history of the Prayer Book shows the question to have stood, just where it now stands, in the two Prayer Books of Edward VI. and in Elizabeth's Prayer Book. I hope I may not be considered harsh if I apply to this mode of discussion the words of Richard Hooker:—"Such are their fumbling shifts to enclose the minister's vocation within the compass of some essential part of the Sacrament." It would be just as reasonable to make witnesses essential to the validity of the baptism because the question is asked—"Who was present when this child was baptised?"



If the Revisers had in their minds, as I think the context shows they had, the opposition between "essential parts" and "nonessential parts," the phrase "essential parts" does not differ in sense in the slightest degree from the phrase "the essential parts."

But when further we know that the prevailing doctrine throughout Christendom was that water and the proper form of words were the only essentials, it is impossible to acquit the Revisers of 1661 of extraordinary stupidity if they really wished to teach that an ordained minister was another essential. But the Revisers of 1661 were not stupid men.

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