AFTER recapitulating the various events which had occurred in the Diocese during the year, and pressing upon the Clergy increased attention to the Schools attached to their Charges, the Bishop went on to say--
MY REVEREND BRETHREN,
The only event of importance which has occurred in the Diocese since our last Annual Synod is the convening the Special Synod held in June last, for the purpose of enabling you to choose a Delegate to represent you in the General Synod then approaching. You will, I think, feel that you have every reason to be satisfied with the choice which you then made. Both Mr FERGUSON, whom you elected, and the DEAN, who attended in virtue of his office, devoted themselves unremittingly to the important and responsible work which was entrusted to them on that occasion.
At that Special Synod I was enabled to lay before you the Report of the Committee appointed by the Bishops on the 9th of November 1859, to consider what amendments, amplifications, or additions might be made in our present Code of Canons. There were certain features in that Report which attracted your special attention, and it was upon these that you were desirous of ascertaining each other's opinions, before you determined to whom you would entrust the responsibility [3/4] of representing you in the General Synod. You could not be otherwise than anxious when you found in that Report a proposal to introduce a new element into our Synods by admit ting Lay Representation, and some of you were more than anxious when you read the various suggestions offered in reference to the Scotch Communion Office. The discussions which arose upon these important questions sufficed to draw forth such expressions of opinion upon them as to influence you in the choice of your Delegate, while they served to convey to your Representative a knowledge of the feelings and wishes of his brethren in tins Diocese. At that Synod I was myself more desirous of ascertaining your opinions than of expressing my own. Your opinions, my Reverend Brethren, as counsellors of your Bishop, demanded his respectful attention; the free, calm, and able manner in which those opinions were expressed by you added greatly to their weight, and a knowledge of them was of service to him when those import ant questions came on for discussion in the General Synod. You are now aware of the specific form which those questions have assumed--the form which has commended itself to the majority of both Chambers in the Synod, and thus deserving your respectful attention. Floating opinions have now assumed shape. It is no longer doubtful how a majority of the Representatives of the Church is disposed to treat those questions, or how those questions will be finally determined, if the Diocesan Synods shall be found to concur in all that has thus far been determined concerning them. Dissatisfaction was expressed by some at the course which the Bishops resolved upon in the conduct of the General Synod. But I think that the Clergy will be now disposed to take a more favourable view of this course. Had not this first session of the Synod been held, in which the object was to give shape and substance to the materials collected by the Revising Committee, the Clergy generally could have formed no accurate opinion of the collective mind of the Church upon the questions on which they felt the most deeply. The instructions to each Delegate would have represented the views [4/5] of the majority of each Diocese; but, in mutual ignorance of what those instructions were, a very vague opinion only could have been formed as to what would be the result. But now the result is before you, and that not of necessity a final one. It is one which invites your consideration. It is one which demands your consideration. It is now before you in a tangible shape, upon which you are at liberty to speak your minds and give your votes, as freely and unreservedly as if it came before you now for the first time. And this additional advantage is afforded you by your thus learning the direction of opinion in the General Synod. before that opinion becomes law. You have the opportunity of weighing it--of considering the arguments .upon which it is based, not only of approving or disapproving, but of stating your reasons for such approval or disapproval--and of thus influencing the General Synod when it shall again meet.
Although I shall now have the opportunity of going through the adjusted Canons with you in Synod, and of discussing them with you in detail, yet are there one or two points upon which I think you would naturally expect to learn my opinions beforehand, and upon winch I am myself anxious to say a few words, as explanatory of the course which I have felt it my duty to pursue, in reference to the questions in which I know you to be the most deeply interested.
You will observe that in Canon XXVI of the proposed New Code, the Book of Common Prayer of the United Church of England and Ireland is to be declared to be the only authorised Service Book of our own Church, subject to such exceptions as may be specified in other Canons of the Church. Practically, and for all ordinary ecclesiastical purposes, the English Prayer-Book has been our Service Book for many years. But it has never been adopted by our Church canonically as a whole. Until our present Canons were framed in the year 1838, the use of the English Communion Office itself had never been canonically sanctioned. Permission to use it had been given by the Bishops, but such permission was never ratified by the Church until 1838. Possessing an [5/6] Office of our own, whose orthodoxy was unimpeachable, and which was very precious in the eyes of many of the Clergy and Laity of the Church, it was only to be expected that when the Scottish Church, out of tenderness and charity towards certain of her members, was conceding the use of the English Communion Office in some of her congregations, she should at the same time declare that her own was nevertheless to be held as of 'primary authority' in this Church. Such is its position at the present moment, and to very many of the Clergy and Laity of this Church is it still very precious; and therefore was it necessary, in proposing to adopt the English Prayer-Book as our authorised Service Book, a proposal in which I most entirely concur, that we should adopt it only subject to certain specified exceptions; and amongst these exceptions, and I should plead for several, must stand out prominently the general adoption of the English Communion Office. In the Twenty-seventh of the proposed New Canons you will see how it is proposed to deal with this question of the Eucharistic Office, How you may view it, my Reverend Brethren, I do not know; but for myself I confess that the Canon as it stands at present is far from satisfactory, and upon this point I shall feel very glad to take counsel with you ; and when we enter upon the discussion of the question of the exceptions, subject to which alone we accept the English Book of Common Prayer, we must approach it, my Brethren, as Scottish Churchmen, entering upon that discussion with every feeling of profound respect for the venerable compilers of that admirable book, and with the same charitable desire which they evinced, not to offend unnecessarily those who might differ from them, not to reject rites and ceremonies innocent in themselves, and with which the people were familiar by tradition, but at the same time with the consciousness that we are an ancient and independent Church, with our own traditions, and with our own Communion Office, in communion with, but into way subject to, the more powerful Church of England; and when we are adopting as our own the Prayer-Book which she framed for English Churchmen, we must carefully examine for ourselves whether it [6/7] is in all respects, or in what respect, equally suited for Scottish Churchmen. We are not bound by the Act of Uniformity. We are at perfect liberty to avail ourselves of the lessons of experience taught us by the past history of the Church of England, and should be unwise if we lost the opportunity now presented to us, of profiting by what we see going on in the Church of England at this moment. When we consider the difficulties with which the original compilers of the English Prayer-Book were surrounded, the distracting controversies which were agitating England and Europe at the time, the violent reac tion of popular feeling, tending to the opposite extreme of that theological teaching from which the Church in England was extricating itself; and when we reflect further upon the influence of learned foreign Protestants which was brought to bear upon these venerable men, we can readily understand and believe that much that was done was the best that could then be done, but not therefore the best that they would have done, had they been more free to act--free, I may say, as we now are. To say that the Prayer-Book of the Church of England is perfect, is to say much more than its compilers or greatest admirers would think of saying for it To say that the language of its dogmatic teaching was in no way framed in the spirit of compromise, would be to forget and ignore the discussions and proceedings in the several conferences from which the Prayer-Book emanated in its present form. In the present divided state of religious opinion in England, I can fully appreciate the extreme difficulty, almost the fin- possibility, of opening the door of change without the certain risk of danger. It is wiser to endure defects and blemishes in a beautiful structure than to risk their removal by ignorant or hostile hands. But, although existing circumstances may prevent the Church of England from admitting any variation in her prescribed forms, the same circumstances do not apply to us. We may accept and gratefully avail ourselves of the inestimable treasure of the English Prayer-Book, without feeling ourselves bound to accept at the same time what even English Churchmen will recognise as blemishes, or to [7/8] suppose that there is nothing in the religious mind of Scottish Churchmen which may lead them to hesitate to accept that book pur et simple.
My object in these observations, my Reverend Brethren, is to induce you to come to the consideration of this very important question of the adoption of the English Prayer-Book, with the full understanding that it is proposed for adoption only subject to exceptions to be specified--that it would, in my opinion, be neither wise nor expedient, considering the different traditions, tone, and habits of thought of Church men in England and Scotland, to adopt it without exceptions--that the fact that it might be dangerous for the Church of England to admit changes in her Prayer-Book at this time, does not apply to you who are about to accept that book for the first time--and that while in the exercise of that freedom of thought and expression which you enjoy, you will suggest what you believe will be best for the Church, you will treat with due regard and veneration that precious inheritance of the Church of England.
You will, I trust, my Reverend Brethren, approach the consideration of the Canon which treats of the Holy Communion with the reverence which is due to the subject, and with a mutual desire to meet each others views, feelings, and even prejudices, with tenderness and charity. In the General Synod held in 1838, so much respect and regard was shewn towards those who preferred the use of the English Communion Office, their wish being conceded by the Scottish Church, and per mission to use it being ratified by Canon, that the English Clergymen (then officiating in Scotland) to whom the framing of the Canon upon the subject was entrusted, of their own free will, and with the view of shewing their appreciation of, and gratitude for, the boon then granted by the Scottish Church to those who desired to use the English Office, inserted the words that 'the Scotch Communion Office should continue to be held 'of primary authority in this Church.' In this way they marked their respect for the authorised Office of the Church at whose altars they had come to minister. It would, I fear, be in vain [8/9] to ask now even Scottish Churchmen in the present day, and under the feelings which have been generated against our Office by ignorance and prejudice, to mark their respect for this valuable Liturgy in the terms adopted by those English Clergymen. But I think that even those who are opposed to the use of the Scottish Office, from a belief that its continuance operates to the disadvantage and against the progress of our Church, cannot be pleased at seeing it discarded in the summary and disrespectM manner in which it is treated in the proposed Twenty-seventh Canon. I know that the objections of many would have been satisfied by the simple removal of the claim of 'primary authority,' which they, in ignorance of the reason for the insertion of those words, regarded as a claim on the part of the Scottish Church of the superiority of their own Office over that of the Church of England. These words indeed were not inserted for any such reason; but I presume that the Scottish Church is at liberty, if she pleases, to prefer the Eastern to the Western Rite without giving offence; and that it was because she thought that the Eastern Rite bore stronger testimony against the doctrine of Transubstantiation that she selected the one which is now to be repudiated, rather than that of the Church of England. Unreasonable and unsound as I believe the objections to be which have been made to our Scottish Office, I admit that we have been overcome by the force of prejudice, and by that alone. If the Office is to fall from its high state of primary authority in our Church, there are very many reasons why her faithful children should not suffer it to be dealt with as degraded, and amongst those reasons we may mention, in the words of our present Twenty-first Canon, 'respect for the authority which originally sanctioned the Scotch Liturgy'--regard, too, to the long-cherished prepossessions of many brother Churchmen--and the necessity of avoiding giving offence, which may produce division, or at the best create a soreness, which will rankle in men's hearts for many a long day. All this may be avoided; and we will take counsel together, my Reverend Brethren, with the view of considering what [9/10] suggestions may be offered touching this proposed Canon, so as to obtain for our present Office the respect which is due to it; and, if we cannot retain it in its present position, to procure at least canonical sanction for its continued preservation amongst us, and for the use of such as may desire it.
There has been imported most unfairly into this question of our Scottish Communion Office an element totally and absolutely foreign to it. If the English Bishops had desired, which we are sure they did not, to present a bar to the Scottish ordained Clergy coming to Parliament for the redress of their grievances, they could not have done it more effectually than by implying, as they did last year, that they might take our wrongs into consideration, if the Scottish Church would accede to terms which, I believe, would not have been pro posed to any other branch of the Reformed Church, viz., that we should consent to give up our Liturgy. More than two years before any such proposal had been suggested, the Bishops of Scotland had taken steps towards obtaining a revision of our Code of Canons. At the very moment when the Committee, which we had so long before appointed for the purpose of examining and reporting upon our existing Canons, presented their report, information reached us of the speeches which had been delivered in the Upper House of the English Convocation. It was well known amongst our selves that attempts would be made, on the revision of our Canons, to get rid of our Scotch Office, not with the view of obtaining relief from our disabilities, but because those who desired to get rid of it honestly believed that its surrender, and the adoption of the English Office, would tend to the peace and progress of our Church. There were those who were only too ready to injure us, who, ignorant or unmindful of the steps which the Bishops had taken two years before for the revision of the Canons, took upon themselves to connect the alterations proposed in our Twenty-first Canon with the suggestions thrown out a few days before in the English Convocation. The members of the Revising Committee could testify that their discussions upon the proposed changes with regard to the Scotch Office had taken place long be fore any question had arisen in Convocation touching our disabilities. It was the peace and wellbeing of our Church which occupied them in their discussions, and not the temporal advantages which might result to a few of our Clergy by the removal of our disabilities. But now that the English Bishops have, as I think, most ungenerously and unfairly connected the removal of our disabilities with the removal of the Scotch Office, and when now, but for totally different reasons, that Office appears but too likely in a few years to be removed, is there not a moral bar raised to our going to Parliament now to ask for the removal of our disabilities? I at least, under such circumstances, cannot.
There is yet one other subject of no little interest, which, as forming the substance of a proposed new Canon, must come under your revision, and upon which I would desire beforehand to offer a few observations to you. I allude to the subject of Lay Representation,' treated of in Canon XL of the proposed New Code. You are aware, my Brethren, that from my earliest connection with the Scottish Church, I have been desirous of seeing the Laity of our Church occupying a position to which I think they are entitled as constituent members of the Christian Church. There can be no doubt, indeed it is admitted on all hands, that from the earliest days they had some voice in the election of their Bishops. Whether it were by a vote with the Clergy, or by a veto upon the choice of the Clergy, the Laity certainly possessed and exercised the power of preventing a Bishop from being thrust upon them against their will. This power we now propose to invite our Laity to exercise. But I am myself quite disposed to confer upon them the further privilege of taking part in our Synodical proceedings. I am aware that by many such a concession is held to be fraught with danger, and opposed to primitive custom, and that those who most readily concur in the propriety of their being allowed a voice in the election of Bishops, are con strained to oppose the admission of Laymen into our Synods. [11/12] I have no time now to discuss this question. I can only say that I have not been convinced by the arguments of those who oppose their admission. With, as I believe, the testimony of Holy Scripture in favour of their presence, and of their concurrent voice in the proceedings of the first Synod ever held, and which has been regarded as the model of all future councils of the Church; and with, as I further believe, nothing in the proceedings of future Synods to contradict this testimony, but rather the contrary, I adhere to the opinions which I expressed in our Episcopal Synod in the year 1852, when this subject was under discussion in the Synod. ' It pleased the Apostles and Elders, with the 'whole Church, sun olh th Ekklhsia' to adopt measures for making known the decrees which they had just passed in the council; and if I accept the kai oi, in the 23d verse of the 15th of Acts, with the translators of the Bible, as the true reading, the argument from Scripture I believe to be irresistible; and with this argument, supported by the language and practice of St Cyprian in after days, and with the known presence of Laymen in former councils of the Church, I feel that the admission of Laymen into the councils of our Church is neither contrary to Scripture nor inconsistent with the practice of the early Church. I conceive, therefore, that it would be only following in the steps of the Apostles for the Bishops, as their successors, to invite the brethren of the Laity to take part in their Synodical discussions, that the results of those discussions might go forth as from 'the Apostles and Elders' and representatives of 'the whole Church.' I think, therefore, that the adjusted Canon on this subject should be carefully reconsidered.
I do not think it necessary to occupy your attention at this moment with several other matters of interest of which I should like to speak, seeing that they may be discussed, perhaps to better advantage, when we are engaged upon the Canons to which they relate. I have but briefly touched upon those points on which I know you feel the most keenly, and I have done so at all only because I think you have a [12/13] right to know the mind of your Bishop concerning them. In approaching this review of the proposed Canons, let me remind you that this is the only opportunity which you will have of expressing your opinions upon them before they be come law. I will ask you to go through them with me, one by one, carefully and thoughtfully. This is not business which can be hurried over. Each one of you has an interest in the laws by which you are in future to be governed, and to a certain extent you have a voice in framing them. Prove yourselves worthy of this trust, by bringing to the consideration of these proposed laws a calm mind, a sound judgment, and the exercise of real Christian charity; and let us then hope and pray that our counsels may be directed and guided by the Holy Spirit, for the benefit of our ancient Church, and to the glory of its one and only Head, our Divine Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. Amen.