THE EPISCOPAL VICTORY.
GREAT as the victory of the Bishops in Convocation looked last week, it looks greater still now. They have not only subdued the representatives of the Clergy—that, con- sidering how small the number of actual Ritualists in the Lower House is, might., perhaps, have been expected—but they have subdued the Ritualists themselves. Convocation has, in the opinion of most plain men, abolished the OrnamentsRubric, And the Ritualists declare themselves content. Archdeacon Denison, indeed, sees the real drift of what has been done, but his is only a voice in the wilderness. Mr. Charles Wood, from his position as Chairman of the English Church Union, has a better title to speak in the name of the party, because if the English Church Union submits, any further resistance will be only a dropping fire ; and Mr. Charles Wood accepts the new Rubric as a "healing measure." That it will heal the dissensions which have lately existed in the Church of England may be true, Surrenders commonly do have that effect. The pity is that this excellent re- sult should have been so long delayed. At any moment, the Ritualists might have applied the remedy, without waiting for the Bishops. They had nothing to do but to discontinue the ncie of vestments, and peace would have been restored. Though they have apparently persuaded themselves that there is some subtle difference between the discontinuance of vestments and the present " compromise,"—as, with a humour not often met with in clergymen, both sides
have agreed to call it—they will ultimately find that the two things are identical.
In the first place, the Church of England, as represented in Convocation, plainly wishes to get rid of vestments. They have been declared illegal by the highest Ecclesiastical Court and the Legislature of the Church, having this interpretation of the Ornaments Rubic in view, declines to say that the decree of the highest Ecclesiastical Court is wrong. So long as Convocation left the rubric alone, it might be contended that the legislature of the Church was silent. But now that Convocation has taken the rubric in hand, there is no longer any room for this view. The legislature of the Church has settled the question. How' Plainly, as it seems to us, by accepting the decision of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. On the Ritualist theory, the effect of that decision was to foist upon the Church a repudiation of vestments which was altogether contrary to her real mind. She had intended to say one thing, and she had been made to say another. The revision of the Rubrics did much more than give the Church an opportunity of making her meaning clear ; it imposed upon her a positive duty to make her meaning clear. So far as we can see, this duty has been honourably performed. Let us assume for a moment that the Ornaments Rubric has been simply re-enacted. To re-enact a law is to re-enact it in the sense in which it has been interpreted by the Courts. It does not matter that the jurisdiction of these Courts has been disputed. That only makes it more incumbent upon the Church to repudiate decisions coming from men who, claiming to speak in her name, have said what she does not wish to say. Consequently, the re- enactment of the Ornaments Rubric without note or com- ment would have been its re-enactment with those notes and comments which have been added to it by the Judges. The Ridsdale judgment would have been the judgment not merely of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, but of the Convocation of Canterbury. This will be seen more clearly, if we suppose that the Church of England had really been in the temper which the Ritualists attribute to her. Convo- cation would then have at once proceeded to bring out the true sense of the Ornaments Rubric. Instead of preserving the ambiguous reference to the second year of King Edward VI., which has given occasion to so much confusion, Con- vocation would have specified the ornaments of the ministers which it held the rubric to refer to, and so made all doubt impossible for the future. This course would have been quite compatible with making full provision for the temporary suspension of the rubric, in cases where the feeling of con- gregations was opposed to the use of vestments. It would only have been necessary, after specifying the vestments to be worn by the priest at the celebration of the Eucharist, to say that as these vestments had fallen into disuse, and as their immediate and compulsory restoration would not tend to edification, they should not, until further order should be taken, be used contrary to the monition of the Bishop of the diocese. Convocation might even have gone further, and declared that they should in no case be brought into use without the monition of the Bishop of the diocese. From the Ritualist point of view, it is not the use of vestments that is the important thing ; it is the formal recognition of vest- ments by the Church. If that had been secured, the victory would have been theirs, no matter what temporary restrictions had been placed on their use. As it is, instead of a formal recognition of vestments, we have a formal re-enactment of the disputed rubric, without any intimation that the sense put on it by the Courts of Law is a wrong sense. According to every prin- ciple of interpretation, this is tantamount to a re-enactment of the disputed rubric, in the sense in which the Courts of Law have taken it.
But the Ornaments Rubric has not beer. simply re-enacted. A new Rubric has been substituted for it. This new Rubric says, first of all :—" Such ornaments of the Church and of the ministers thereof, at all times of their ministration, shall be re- tained and be in use, as were in this Church of England by the authority of Parliament in the second year of the reign of King Edward VI., until further order be taken by law- ful authority." And then it immediately adds :—" In saying public prayers or ministering the Sacraments or other rites of the Church, every priest and deacon shall wear a surplice, with a stole or scarf, and the hood of his degree and no other ornament shall at any time of his ministration be used by him contrai'y to the monition of the Bishop of the diocese." We believe that every man who has no interest in explaining it differently, will take this latter clause as constituting an amplification and interpretation of the former clause. The first half of the rubric says that the orna- ments which wore in the Church of England in a certain year shall be retained, and be in use. The second half defines what these ornaments are. Otherwise, the two halves of the rubric are in direct contradiction to one another. It cannot be obliga- tory to wear a chasuble and alb, and also obligatory to wear a surplice and no other ornament. It would be as rational to order an officer to wear a cocked hat, and in the same breath to order him to wear a wide-awake, and no other kind of head-gear. If it is asked what, on this assumption, becomes of the clause that no other ornament shall be used contrary to the moni- tion of the Bishop, we answer that it plainly relates to pro- cedure. There has been a difficulty about the obedience due to the Ecclesiastical Courts, or rather about the true character of certain Courts claiming to be Ecclesiastical. Convocation very wisely puts an end to this difficulty, by substituting for the tribunal whose authority is challenged, a tribunal whose authority no Churchman can dispute. The Bishop of the diocese is now invested by the Church with absolute authority to put a stop to any disobedience to the now Rubric. He has nothing to do but to issue his monition, and the controversy is at an end.
The Ritualist contention appears to be that this new provision is in the nature of a compromise or "under- standing," guarding, on the one hand, against the introduc- tion of vestments against the wishes of the congregation, and on the other, against their prohibition by the bishop when the congregation wish them used. Even if this were the fact, it would make all the difference, one would think, to a Ritualist, whether such a compromise allowed the occasional disuse of vestments prescribed by the Rubric, or the occasional use of vestments not prescribed by the Rubric. The one saves the principle, the other abandons it. The one treats vestments as a serious thing, not to be imposed on con- gregations against their will ; the other treats them as an innocent toy, not to be forbidden to congregations, if they happen to have a fancy for it. Putting this aside, however, let us see how the so-called compromise will work. The Ritualists appear to believe that the existing use in any church will not be touched. They believe that the bishops have conceded this, and, what is more wonderful, they seem to believe that the bishop will be able to abide by their concession. It must not be forgotten, however, that this " existing use" has been declared illegal by the Courts of Law ; and that Convocation and Parliament will have abstained from nicking that legal which has been declared illegal. Consequently, in eases where a judgment has been already obtained against a clergyman for wearing vestments— as in the St. Alban's case and the Prestbury case—the law must take its course. It is easy to imagine the pressure which will be brought to bear upon the Bishop of the diocese to make things straight, by issuing a monition which the clergyman in question would be in conscience bound to obey. Supposing that Mr. Mackonochie had gone to prison for refusing to conform to Lord Penzance's decree of suspen- sion, and that peace could at once be restored by the exercise, on the part of the Bishop of London, of the power expressly given him by the now Rubric, is it conceivable that Dr. Jack- son would refrain from using that power ? Again, however eager the majority of a congregation may be for vestments, there is usually a minority opposed to them. This minority will come to the Bishop of the diocese, and say, 'It is true, we are a minority, but we are a minority with the law on our side, and we claim to be protected against illegal observances.' Will it be easy for the Bishop—having, be it remembered, the power to legally forbid the use of any ornament, except the surplice, stole, and scarf—to refuse to exercise this power ? We should say that in every new ease he would undoubtedly exercise it, and that though in existing cases he might refrain, he would do so by way of exception, and in the hope that the next vacancy in the incumbency would probably witness a change. When an Anglican Bishop has the legal right to do what is certain to be popular with the majority of his countrymen, it will be strange if he abstains from using it.