THE DIOCESAN SYNOD OF THE UNITED DIOCESES OF
MORAY, ROSS, AND CAITHNESS.
BISHOP OF THE DIOCESE, AND PRIMUS.
PRINTED AT THE COURIER OFFICE.
My Reverend Brethren and Brethren of the Laity,
The principal events which have occurred since we last met, affecting the general interests of the Church, are, the General Synod, and the first meeting of the Representative Church Council. Upon each of these incidents I desire to offer a few remarks, as they are illustrative of that gradual development of the Organisation of our Church which has been slowly progressing, under more or less adverse circumstances, since the Rulers of our Church began to recover themselves from the rude shock which it received, when, in 1689, the legally-established Episcopacy of Scotland was set aside. In looking back to the history of our Church during the first fifty years which followed its disestablishment, or, at its condition in the year 1792, when the penal statutes which had crushed it were repealed, and comparing its position at either of those periods with that which it now occupies in the country, we cannot but feel deeply thankful for that kind and wonderful Providence which has watched over and guided our fortunes; which has over-ruled our mistakes; which has led us through periods of cloud and gloom, in which there was little of concert, method, or arrangement had reconciled our differences, and [3/4] brought us out of almost a chaos of confusion into our present state of satisfactory, even if not complete, organisation. With such a history before us we may well thank God, and take courage. "The Lord hath done great things for us already, whereof we rejoice;" "In a little wrath He hid His face from us for a moment;" we were "persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed." Such a past justifies hope for the future, such as may stimulate our energies, and strengthen our confidence in the wisdom of the course we have been pursuing.
The removal by death of several of the Bishops after the disestablishment, forced upon the survivors the necessity of taking the necessary steps for preserving the Episcopal Succession. This they did; but in so doing, under the influence of the exiled Prince and his Ministers, they were led to adopt an anomalous and irregular system. They consecrated bishops at large, contrary to the Canons and practice of the Church, with the view of leaving it to the exiled Prince to allot to them hereafter their respective dioceses, and they thus endeavoured to govern the whole Church by a College of Bishops, which itself derived its power of jurisdiction from the absent Prince. The necessity of having some recognised head or president when the bishops met, as they did, in Synod, led--on the death of Rose, Bishop of Edinburgh, who, as Vicar General of St Andrews, had practically exercised the rights and powers of Metropolitan since the death of the Archbishop of St Andrews--to the bishops choosing one of their own number, with the title of Primus, to preside over them, but carefully guarding against his assuming any metropolitical authority. The anomaly and irregularity of governing the Church by a college, rather than by Diocesan Bishops, had, however, from the first, been op posed by a minority of the bishops, who were desirous of reviving Diocesan Episcopacy under a Metropolitan, and in the year 1727, [4/5] at an Episcopal Synod held in Edinburgh, a few Canons were agreed to, which mark the first attempt to establish a formal ecclesiastical system, and which Dr Grub characterises as "the ground-work of the code by which the Scottish Episcopal Church is now governed." By the first of these Canons the powers of the Metropolitan were revived in these terms--"Seeing that there can be no order or unity in any national or provincial Church without a Metropolitan, that all bishops and clergy do own the Metropolitical powers to be lodged in the Bishop of Edinburgh during the vacancy of the see of St Andrews, as being Vicar-General thereof." The third forbad the consecration of any presbyter into the Order of Bishops, but such as had been regularly elected to a particular diocese or district by a majority of the Presbyters of that diocese or district; and directed that these consecrations were to be performed by the Metropolitan, or his order, with the consent of the local bishops of the province. The fourth appointed the mode in which the votes of the presbyters were to be taken. The fifth prohibited the performance of any Episcopal function within the diocese of another bishop without his consent. The sixth, and last, required that the bishop elect should subscribe these Canons before his confirmation or consecration. These Canons were not, however, approved of by the College Bishops, as they were called. But a few years after, viz., in the year 1731, a Concordat was drawn up, entitled, "Articles of Agreement amongst the Bishops of the Church of Scotland." The first three articles of this Concordat were signed by all the bishops; the others by all except Bishop Lumsden, Bishop of Edinburgh, who declined to consent to the abolition of the office of Metropolitan, which had been declared to be essential to the preservation of unity and order. By these articles, the right of the presbyters to elect their own bishop was confirmed, on their receiving a mandate from the [5/6] Primus to proceed to a: election; the office of Metropolitan was practically abolished, or, at least, held to be in abeyance, and the Primus was to be chosen by a majority of his brethren, "for convocating and presiding only." By the sixth article, the bishops proceeded to distribute and allot all the dioceses to their respective bishops (defining, in several instances, their territorial limits), except the diocese of St Andrews--as there seems to have been a secret understanding with the absent Prince, that the bishops should not fill up the Metropolitan sees of St Andrews and Glasgow--reserving to himself the appointment to these sees in the event of his restoration.
This recovery of Diocesan Episcopacy, although the rights and prerogatives of the Metropolitan sees were placed in abeyance, was an important step n the re-organisation of the Church. It was the first infusion of anything like corporate life into the Church, and soon made itself felt. The increase of energy and activity which was caused by this important change was accompanied by the conscious need of some specific laws for its due regulation. No Code of Canons had as yet been framed for the government of the Church, and there was no duly constituted legislative body which had authority to frame them. This deficiency had long been felt, and the bishops, as the proper rulers of the Church, resolved to supply it to the best of their ability. Accordingly, at an Episcopal Synod held in Edinburgh in 1743, several Canons, which had been prepared by the late Primus, Bishop Rattray of Dunkeld, were submitted to the Synod, and with some additional regulations were approved of, and received the unanimous sanction of the Bishops, as a code of Canons for the government of the Church. The preamble to this code ran to this effect, "The bishops of the Church of Scotland, being now, by the good Providence of God, perfectly united in one and the [6/7] same mind . . . . have unanimously agreed to establish the following Canons for the future regulation of the government of the Church." These Canons, sixteen only in number, were sufficiently suited to meet the necessities of the Church at that time. Their promulgation was accompanied by strong recommendations to the clergy to use the Scottish liturgy in the administration of the Holy Communion, which, Bishop Keith informs us, was in such universal use at that time, that there were not five presbyters in the whole Church, exclusive of the diocese of Edinburgh, who ministered by the English liturgy; and not above three, even in the diocese of Edinburgh, who ministered in it without addition or transposition. They also recommended to the clergy to administer baptism, and to solemnise matrimony, according to the forms in the liturgy; to take all pains to persuade their people to have the banns publicly proclaimed before marriage; and to admit no persons to the communion until confirmed by the bishop, or showing their desire for confirmation where it could not be had. Although enacted and promulgated by the sole authority of the bishops, these Canons appear to have been generally received by the clergy and laity in all the dioceses over which bishops presided. But the see of Edinburgh was at this time vacant, and the clergy of that diocese declined to accept the Canons on various grounds; but mainly upon the ground that they had been framed by the bishops alone without the advice and concurrence of the clergy; that they, the Presbyters, had not been invited to take that place which belonged to them in Synods and Assemblies of the Church; that laws and constitutions framed by a legislature which was not complete, were not binding upon the clergy; that, contrary to the declaration formerly made by the bishops themselves in regard to the necessity of a Metropolitan for the preservation of unity and order, the third of these Canons [6/7] took away from the Primus all Metropolitan and Vicarial powers; and that this was intended to injure the rights of the see of Edinburgh--the Bishop and Presbyters of that diocese considering themselves, by prescriptive right, to be the guardians of the Vicarial powers during a vacancy in the Primatial See of St Andrews. Whether justified or not in asserting this claim, it is evident that the Presbyters were not cognisant of and certainly were not parties to, the secret understanding between the bishops and the exiled Prince, that the powers of the Metropolitan should be placed in abeyance. They therefore prayed the bishops to recall and cancel the Canons. The controversy upon this subject had not ceased when the civil war broke out in 1745, which caused all ecclesiastical controversies to be forgotten, and which resulted in bringing our Church to the very brink of annihilation.
On the repeal of the penal statutes in the year 1792, everything was to be begun again, (save and except that throughout this period of extreme depression and persecution the Episcopal succession had been carefully preserved), as all had been reduced to a state of complete disorganisation. Our services had been prohibited except in the Clergymen's houses; our Churches had been destroyed; our Bishops reduced in number to five; our clergy to under fifty; and we had no schools in which the children of Churchmen could be trained. The only existing code of Canons was that of I 743, against which the Edinburgh clergy had protested, and which once only had been acted upon--viz., when the bishops convened a Synod in the year 1788, at which, in consequence of the death of Prince Charles, it was resolved that, from that time, prayers for King George and all the Royal Family should be introduced into the public services in every Episcopalian congregation.
It was not, however, till the year 1811 that steps were again taken towards forming an ecclesiastical constitution for the now [8/9] tolerated Church. The bishops in that year convened a General Synod, to which they invited the Presbyters to send representatives. Canons were then framed for regulating the business of Ecclesiastical Synods, and for admitting the presbyters to a canonical share in the power of legislation. At this period the English Prayer Book had not been canonically authorised as the Service Book of our Church--so at this Synod the Ordinal of the Church of Eng land was ordered to be used at all consecrations of bishops, and ordinations of priests and deacons. Subscription to the 39 Articles of the Church of England was made obligatory at all ordinations, together with a promise of obedience to the Canons. Canons were enacted relating to the studies and qualifications of the candidates for Holy Orders; and for securing the primary authority of the Scottish Communion Office; for requiring the Holy Sacrament to be celebrated sufficiently often in the year--to allow every one to communicate at least three times--of which Easter or Pentecost was to be one. Other Canons laid down rules in regard to the solemnisation of matrimony, of the visitation of the sick, and the burial of the dead, allowing a discretionary use of the forms in the Prayer Book. Canons such as these point to the difficulties and irregularities which existed, and tend to show the value and necessity for General Synods invested with legislative powers, that all things should be done "decently and in order."
Some years after this a general supineness and indifference prevailed among all classes in the Church, from which they seem to have been awakened by an earnest appeal, in the year 1824, by that distinguished presbyter, the Rev. John Skinner, of Forfar, son of the former Primus, addressed to the bishops and clergy, in which he urged the convening of another General Synod, for the purpose of effecting various ecclesiastical reforms, and, amongst others, for the admission of the laity to a voice on certain [9/10] questions. No doubt the tendency to Congregationalism, to which Mr Skinner adverts, had led to much of the supineness and indifference which prevailed, and he was anxious that some measures should be adopted which might give the laity a greater interest in the work of the Church, and which might secure their powerful co-operation. Although written fifty years ago, and exhibiting the condition of the Church at that time, there is so much in that remarkable address, which is, to a certain extent, applicable to the Church of today, that I think you will be interested in hearing a short extract from it.--
"Ever since," he remarked, "the interesting General Synod of 1811, a period now of nearly thirteen years, the Church, as a corporate body, has been in a state of total inaction, while eveiy other denomination of Christians in Scotland has been assiduously busy in schemes of self-enlargement, and of individual concern. The Seceder, the Baptist, the Methodist has been each devoting his time and talents either to the future increase of his sect, or to its more perfect discipline and unity. The Churchman alone has been doing nothing beyond the precincts of his diocese, if a bishop, or, if a presbyter, beyond the weekly routine of pastoral duty. I fear that many of us regard this as the 'one thing needful,' in fact the only thing that ought to be done. For my own part, with all due respect for the zeal and assiduity with which I am willing to believe that every bishop, as well as every Scottish presbyter, discharges the duties of the sanctuary, and every other part of his pastoral office, I cannot permit myself to consider this as the 'unum necessarium,' the only duty which he is required to per form, the only interest which he is bound to take in matters spiritual and ecclesiastical."
"As things are now constituted," he continued, "we have [10/11] nothing to interest our laity or excite their powerful co-operation. At present they are left in ignorance of everything but the right and wrong discipline of their immediate pastor's duty. I am aware that, as I here tread on very tender ground, I must be cautious how I advance. Indeed, did I not, as far as I mean to proceed, see my way by the light which our present constitution affords me, I would arrest my pen, and retract the step which I have just taken. That lay interference in matters purely spiritual is alike contrary to Scripture and to primitive usage, every sound Churchman must admit; and sooner would the writer of this address lay down his life than in any one respect sacrifice or lay down the rights of the Christian priesthood. Yet, as in all matters of secular interest, an unestablished Church cannot exist, far less prosper, without the co-operation and support of the laity (whether expressed by Canon, or as a thing too well understood to be matter of enactment), the more that any Church can interest the laity, and attract them to the conscientious discharge of their duty, so much more will that Church be respectable and respected. We have a Canon empowering the people to elect their own clergyman, and confirming to the managers or vestrymen of each congregation the entire management and disposal of its funds. What, then, should hinder a lay delegate or delegates to be associated with the clergy in ordinary Diocesan Synods, to sit with them in general Conventions, and to be allowed a voice, not only in all matters of temporal concern, but in framing rules of lay discipline! In fact, no power would be conceded to the people beyond that which they now either enjoy, or in some measure assume; while being canonically brought into regular intercourse with the bishops and clergy, in general Convention, as well as with their own bishop and his presbyters in regular Diocesan Synod, the laity would have accurate and correct knowledge of the state of the Church, which, [11/12] I hesitate not to say, would be much benefited, in matters purely secular, by their co-operation, advice, and habits of business."
Although at the time the changes thus proposed met with little encouragement, yet the letter paved the way for a further step in the direction of improved organisation. Four years after, in the year 1828, a General Synod was convened at Laurencekirk, the bishops admitting that the change of circumstances during the 17 years which had elapsed since the meeting of the former Synod, necessitated a revisal of the code of 1811. Most of the Canons enacted in this Synod were substantially the same as those of the former code, but the most important change was contained in the i6th Canon, and embodied some of the suggestions offered in Mr Skinner's circular. It enacted that General and Diocesan Synods should henceforth form part of the canonical discipline of the Church; that Diocesan Synods should be held annually, and a General Synod every fifth year, for regulating the proceedings of which several new directions were laid down; it determined that no law or Canon should be enacted or abrogated until it had been submitted to the Diocesan Synods; and it authorised and regulated the hearing and determining of appeals by the bishops in Synod, from either clergy or laity, against any sentence of their own immediate ecclesiastical superiors, by which they might consider themselves aggrieved. As new congregations were springing up in the different dioceses, a new Canon was framed prescribing rules in regard to their establishment, and several of the new Canons gave evidence of the gradual expansion of the Church.
It would appear that the enactment requiring the holding a General Synod every fifth year did not meet with the general approval of the Church, for it was not until the year 1838 that another General Synod was held, ten years after the meeting of [12/13] the former one, and at that Synod it was, in reference to this matter, decreed, that "Whereas the assembling of a General Synod can only be necessary when any important business requires it, the times for holding such Synod shall be left to the determination of a numerical majority of the bishops," a decree which was re-affirmed in the Synod of last year. At this Synod of 1838 a new Canon was framed regulating the appointment of coadjutor bishops. Most of the Canons of the former Synod were inserted in the new code, but others were passed, enjoining, for instance, that Episcopal Synods, as well as Diocesan, should be held annually, that the Scottish Office should be used, not only at the Consecration of Bishops, but at the opening of all General Synods; that the surplice should be used in publicly reading prayers and administering the sacraments as the proper sacerdotal vestment; and two Canons were passed prescribing the rules in regard to accusations against bishops, presbyters, or deacons, showing the increasing number and importance of the subjects which were now brought before the bishops for decision. Some fresh important changes were enacted for regulating General Synods. And the last Canon of this code constituted the "Scottish Episcopal Church Society." You all know the history of this Society, and to how great an extent the Church has been benefited and advanced by its exertions during the last 40 years. Whether designedly or not, it was the first step taken towards carrying out one of Mr Skinner's suggestions for giving the laity an interest in the affairs of the Church. Some association of this kind was absolutely necessary to provide for the wants of the poorer districts of the Church, which had hitherto been much neglected by the Scottish laity not immediately connected with them. We may certainly regard this Society as the germ from which has developed the Representative Church Council, revealing to us, as it did, in its operation, [13/14] the growing interest on the part of the laity in the affairs of the Church; while every year's experience made it only the more evident that, not a Society, but the Church herself by Representation, was the true and rightful organ for carrying out efficiently the important objects entrusted to that Society.
Twenty-four years elapsed before another General Synod was held. All the ancient sees were now filled, with the excepti9fl of Orkney and Caithness, while at the request of the bishops, Bishop Torry had assumed the territorial title of the Primatial See of St Andrews. During these twenty-four years much quiet progress had been made. A higher and more earnest tone pervaded the Church generally, both amongst the clergy and laity. Greater attention was paid to the mode of conducting the services of the Church, and if we did not altogether escape from feeling the effects of some of those burning questions which were then agitating the Church of England, we caught much of the spirit of that revived life which was animating that Church. It had become evident that Canons which suited the condition of the Church nearly a quarter of a century before, were not calculated to meet the requirements of the Church under its greatly altered circum stances. Various cases of difficulty had arisen, especially respecting judicial processes, for which the existing Canons contained no adequate provisions and regulations. It was therefore deemed necessary and expedient, for this and other purposes, that the whole code should be submitted to a careful revision, amendment, and extension. A Committee was consequently appointed by the bishops in the year 1859, composed of an equal number of clergy and laity, who were requested "to consider the state of the existing code of Canons, and to draw up a report, pointing out the particulars therein which would appear to them to require amendment, and specifying such amplifications and additions as they should [14/15] think desirable." At the end of two years this Committee reported, that, in no other way could they satisfactorily fulfil the task entrusted to them than by remodelling the whole of the existing legislation, and they accordingly presented to the bishops a new entire code. A draft of this new code having been submitted for the consideration and opinions of the clergy in the Diocesan Synods, a General Synod was convened, which met in the month of July 1862, and was continued by adjournments until the month of February 1863, when the revised and amended code was passed, and thereafter duly promulgated.
In framing this new code, the Synod proceeded in the same wise course which had guided preceding Synods. The great body of the Canons remained unaltered. No changes were made except such as were absolutely required by the altered circumstances of the Church. The additions and amplifications were all in the direction of a more perfect organisation of the constitution of the Church. At this Synod a most important Canon was enacted, which, for the first time, gave the laity a right to vote in the election of their bishop, which rendered a change necessary in the Canon for the election of bishops. Forms of deeds were framed for the Confirmation of the election of a bishop, and for his Collation to his diocese. Canons were enacted for the appointment of Chancellors, Diocesan Registrars, and Auditors; for the admission of Lay readers and Catechists; for regulating the proceedings incident to accusations against bishops, presbyters, or deacons and defining the judicial sentences competent to be pronounced by a bishop, or the Episcopal Synod, for offences under the Canons. But amongst the most important Canons passed by this Synod were the 29th which adopted and sanctioned the book of Common Prayer of the Church of England as the Service Book of our Church (but only as that book is now authorised according to the sealed books); and [15/16] the 30th which treated of "Holy Communion," and which, to the regret of many members of the Church, deprived "the Scotch Communion Office" of its position of "primary authority" in the Church. But having adopted the English Prayer Book in its entirety, it wisely left to the choice of each congregation the use of whichever office it might prefer. By another Canon it ruled that "the vestments now ordinarily in use in this Church should be held to be the proper clerical vestments for priests and deacons in performing the offices of the Church." And by its last Canon it declared that if any question should arise as to the interpretation of this code of Canons, the general principles of Canon Law should be alone deemed applicable thereto.
Thus, at intervals of 17, 10, and 24 years, three General Synods had been held since the Synod of 1811, when they had been canonically constituted--a period of o years. Was the possession of the power to convene such Synods an advantage or a disadvantage to the Church? I was much struck some years ago when, at the time that the bill was passing through Parliament for the removal of our remaining disabilities, an objection was raised by some of the English bishops, with whom I was brought into communication, that as our Church possessed the power of making changes in its Canons, there was a risk of our making changes affecting the purity and vital principles of the Church. In fact, that the power of ecclesiastical legislation, uncontrolled by Parliament, was a dangerous power in our hands. The impression was forced upon me at the time, how very little many of the English prelates knew of the past history, or the present circumstances and position of our Church! Certainly a knowledge of its past history would have assured them that we did not require the support of the secular arm to insure our watchful care of the sacred deposit entrusted to us, whether of doctrine or discipline. But what they did not seem [16/17] to me to realise, was the position and circumstances of a Church so different from their own, which should, of necessity, require legislation from time to time. The Canons of the Church of England had remained unchanged for 200 years. But, from its being an Established Church, although its legislative Synod had been in abeyance for 130 years, it had been able to go on without any changes, and practically without the power of making any. But our lot had been very different. We had been disestablished and disendowed, and in consequence greatly disorganised. Before we could recover ourselves from the first shock of disestablishment, political convulsions again led to almost annihilation, and to complete disorganisation. When once again legally tolerated, we had to reconstitute, as circumstances would allow us, our whole ecclesiastical organisation, and that could be effected only gradually, and through the instrumentality of a properly organised ecclesiastical legislative body. This our necessity led in time to our constituting a Provincial General Synod, which could enact laws for the government of the Church. And, bearing in mind that the supreme aim of all ecclesiastical councils is the promotion of the well-being of the Church through the mutual consultation of its pastors, the constant aim, in the legislation of our General Synods, has been so to improve and enlarge the representation in those Synods as to make more effective this mutual consultation. It may, indeed, be a question whether it has been to the advantage of the Church of England that its Canons should have remained so long without change. But, certainly, in an unestablished Church like ours, not to possess the power of legislation for ourselves would land us in anarchy and speedy dissolution. Canons of discipline must always be subject to modification in the course of time, and in consequence of the ever-changing circum stances of the Church in its conflict with the world. The [17/18] frequency or infrequency of General Synods must depend upon these circumstances. Our Church has judged it best not to fix any stated times for their meeting, but has preferred to leave it in the discretion of the bishops to convene them when the circumstances of the Church may seem to them to require it. It was in the exercise of this discretion (though I can truly say for us all, "nolumus leges ecclesiae mutari") that we convened the Synod last year, fifteen years after the former one. The work of that Synod is fresh in the memories of you all. The good and necessary work which it accomplished I need not now recount. But I have every reason to hope and believe that the future well-being of the Church will have been greatly promoted by that Synod---that, as a result of some of the Canons enacted by it, not only will the status of our clergy be raised, but that we shall have secured the growth of learning, and (which is of great importance in our day) of a higher culture, among the teachers of our Church.
The history of our General Synods is in fact the history of the gradual reorganisation of our Church. Five or six Canons, framed at first by the Bishops only, have expanded into forty-seven, enacted by our duly constituted Provincial Synod. The form of government of our Church is immutably fixed by the first Canon of our code, which has remained the same under all changes. It is en titled, "Of Preserving the Episcopal Succession and the Three fold Ministry," and runs thus, "Whereas the Episcopal Church in Scotland, as a branch of the one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ, inviolably retains in the sacred ministry the three orders of bishops, priests, and deacons, as of Divine institution, it is enacted that, according to the Apostolic Canon, a bishop be consecrated by two or three bishops--by not fewer than three in all ordinary cases, and that priests and deacons be ordained by one bishop--the right of consecration and ordination belonging to [18/19] the order of bishops only." We have endeavoured so to frame our Canons of discipline that they shall not contravene any of the Canons of the primitive Church. Our bishops are now elected by the concurrent suffrages of the clergy and laity, and no bishop of one diocese is permitted to perform any Episcopal function in the diocese of another without the sanction of the bishop thereof. The presbyters are admitted to a full share in the power of legislation. All our ancient sees are now filled, as, in consequence of the extension of our Church into those districts, the bishops some years ago collated the Bishop of Aberdeen and myself to the sees of Orkney and Caithness respectively. Nothing now remains for completing the ancient Episcopal organisation of our Church, but the calling out of abeyance the office and powers of the Metropolitan, which are now practically, but rather anomalously, vested in the Episcopal Synod. [We have seen when, and under what influences, the office and powers of the Metropolitan were suppressed by the "College Bishops." We have seen that it was not with the consent and concurrence of the Presbyters. No such influences as those which swayed our Episcopal predecessors can possibly exist now. Whether the Presbyters of to-day are of the same mind with their predecessors in the diocese of Edinburgh I cannot say, but my own conviction is, that the time has now come when there should be no longer delay in calling out of abeyance the office and powers of the Metropolitan, for the perfecting of our ancient Episcopal organisation; and which, in view of the growth and progress of our Church, will be found, I believe, to be essential to the preservation of order and unity. Such difficulties as may present themselves are not insuperable, but may be overcome by mutual consultation. At all events they are not such as should prevent our at once endeavouring to meet them. With her legislative power in a state of activity the Church will be able to determine how, under her altered circumstances, she may give her sanction to the appointment to the Primatial See; and to regulate, and, if considered necessary, to surround with safeguards, the exercise of the revived powers of the Metropolitan.]
There is a tendency, my reverend brethren, to being discouraged at the prospects of the Church by some of the passing [19/20] events of the day, to magnify difficulties as we meet with them on our way, and to regard, as obstacles, events which, if we will but have patience, we should find God, in His own good time, overruling for the purifying and the progress of His Church. I have, therefore, thought it might serve to strengthen and encourage you in your work, by contrasting the disorganised condition of our Church at the close of the last century with the present state of organisation, at which, through the labours and trials of those who have gone before us, we have now arrived, that you may resolve, with the help of God, to take your part also, in faith and patience, in any measures which may yet be proposed for its more perfect completion.
Had I not already detained you too long, I had intended to press upon you, at some length, the importance of throwing yourselves, vigorously and actively, into what I believe to be one of the most important steps which the Church has for many years taken towards extending its influence, and providing, in the right way, for some of its most pressing needs. I refer to the establishment of the Representative Church Council. Much of what Mr Skinner wrote of the state of the Church in his day would have been only too applicable to its state in our own, previously to the establishment of the Representative Church Council. Congregationalism was paralyzing the Corporate action of the Church. The formation of a Board of Foreign Missions, and the consecration of a Missionary Bishop had helped to lead the thoughts of members of the Church to the consideration of duties which reached beyond those connected with their own immediate congregations. The Church had recognised the obligation imposed upon her by the great Head of the Church, and had sent forth her bishop and priests to carry the good tidings of the Gospel to those who, far away from us, were lying in darkness and in the shadow of death [20/21] But she lacked the means of exercising her power and stimulating her energies as a CORPORATE BODY. This has now been provided for. The Representative Church Council, which has been recognised by Canon as the Church's financial organ for gathering the means for Church extension, for Church education, for building churches and parsonages, for the improvement of the incomes of the bishops and clergy, and other objects, is, as nearly as possible, according to its constitution, THE CHURCH BY REPRESENTATION; it has supplied what we have long needed, a centre towards which the laity have been attracted, by confiding to them a position and powers which they can use and exercise for the benefit of their Church, and which secures their powerful co operation in forwarding and promoting her spiritual and temporal interests. In that Council every congregation has its representatives, lay and clerical, and each member of every congregation is now called upon, as a member of the Church, not merely as a member of his own congregation, to contribute regularly and to the best of his ability, towards accomplishing the important objects which the Council undertakes to promote. An effective machinery has been framed, which only requires to be properly and perseveringly worked, by which every Churchman in every diocese will be led to see that he is expected to take his share in doing the Church's work, and that the weakest member is considered to be as necessary towards the perfecting the body of Christ, which is His Church, as the most powerful. In the success of the Church Council is wrapped up the prosperity of each separate congregation, and the future well-being of our beloved Church. Each member of the body is useful, only when it per forms rightly the special functions allotted to it in the system. If even one be paralysed, it affects, in its degree, the healthy and [21/22] vigorous action of the whole. Let us then, my Reverend Brethren, be up and doing, faithfully and energetically, the portion of work allotted to each of us. The Church expects that every man will do his duty, for thus, and thus only, will success, through God's blessing, be achieved.