LETTERS TO THE EDITOR.
PROPERTY IN RELIGIOUS RITES.
[TO THE EDTTOR OF THE "SPECTATOR.']
SI11,—As I do not think that either of your correspondents of last week has made the best defence possible for those Churchmen who oppose the Burials' Bill, I venture to trouble you with a few lines on the subject.
The question has two sides. There is the Dissenter's point of view, and the Churchman's point of view. Has not the discussion too generally hitherto taken up the former alone, because Church- men have been content with answering the Nonconformist objec- tions to the present state of things, without pressing the fact that if the proposed alterations take place, they will involve very serious grievances to themselves as Churchmen ?
Nonconformists urge that in many cases (I concede the many for the present), members of their communion or communions are -obliged against their will to bury their dead with rites to which they have a conscientious objection, they having no other burying. grounds to which they can resort but the churchyard.
This is no doubt a grievance—whether it is at all a widespread one or not, whether it is an important one or not, is comparatively an insignificant question—we admit, pro tan to, the existence of a ground of complaint.
But change all this, admit the right of a layman (Dissenter or -not does not matter to the argument) to perform burial rites in our churchyards, and we assert that you inflict upon us Churchmen, sOr rather upon the Church to which we belong, a blow which menaces its very existence as a Church, and you establish a -grievance tenfold more intolerable than any which at present "exists. For you offer us one of two alternatives, either to have our whole organisation disintegrated and subjected to the most -violent change which can possibly come upon it ; or to abandon the consecrated grounds at present in our hands, and to seek others where (at least for a century or two) we may be left unmolested to observe the laws of our body.
For in the existing organisation of the Church, this surely forms -an essential part, that there are certain grounds and buildings (and the churchyard, it must be remembered, is no whit on a different footing from the church,—both are parts of the same " templum," -set apart with like formalities), in which, by the laws of the Church, certain rites can only be conducted by certain recognised and duly created functionaries of the Church. Give any one else the right of burying in the churchyard or of preaching or bolding service in -the church (I repeat again that there is no possible logical distinc- tion between the two), and you utterly upset the whole edifice of our ecclesiastical constitution ; you dislocate violently the most vital parts of our organisation. This is no fanciful grievance. "Take away the present restrictions, and we have absolutely no .safeguard that our churches and churchyards shall not be used for the propagation (direct or indirect) of principles directly in antagonism to the whole teaching of our Charch,—as a Church we are absolutely deprived either of our lands and edifices or of our .raison d'etre. Little as I, from any Broad-Church point of view, -care for elaborate and anathematising creeds, I do see a necessity for some form of creed as a nucleus for a Church, if a Church is to .mean anything at all.
But (you may say) this is a very uncatholic view of the neces- sity for and nature of a Church ; and it is with this want of -catholicity (if I have not misunderstood you) that you practically Charge us in your article of the 22nd of March. I agree with you that it is absolutely necessary for a Church to be catholic in the true sense of the word,— that is to say, as comprehensive as pos- sible; and that the Catholicity of a church is not to be measured by the authority or the so-called orthodoxy of its creeds. But I -assert that the Church of England has already pushed its compre- hensiveness to the farthest limit of safety. It exacts no profes- eion of faith from its lay members. It admits to holy orders men -differing as widely as Mr. Jowett, Dr. Pusey, and Professor Birks. When it has done this, it has done all it can do. To ask it to allow anyone, whether qualified or not, to perform rites or to teach congregations within its consecrated precincts, is not to make it more catholic, but, as I have said before, to disintegrate its organisation.
I might press (though I do-not think it worth while, for it only
slightly strengthens my position) the argument already heard On all sides, and undoubtedly true in the main, that there is no cry for reform in the matter in those rural districts which are chiefly affected by the Bill. But I notice this because I wish to point out that the tendency of our modern legislation is to satisfy the grievances, noisily expressed, of a comparatively small minority, to the entire ignoring of the fact that in so doing we often run the risk of creating new grievances more serious and more wide- spread. We hear every day of the scruples and the wrongs of Nonconformists. Is it not possible for a Churchman to possess a conscience or to be the victim of an unequal law ?
But one word more. To my whole argument it may be replied, "We were aware of the injury this Bill would do to the Church of England, but we look upon its disintegration or banishment from church and churchyard as no undesirable result." Be it so ; but if so, then make this Bill, what it really is, only part of a scheme for the total disestablishment of the Church. Do not sever it from that to which it logically belongs. Do not let us have any hand-to-mouth legislation, based on no principle, or on a principle which we carefully keep out of sight. Do not win votes in the House of Commons by false pretences or a concealment of your real policy. Whatever we are, let us be logical, for logic in politics generally means honesty."—I am, Sir, &c.,
Marlborough College. HERBERT A. JAMES. he grievance our correspondent imagines would exist only if lay-burials were authorised by members of the Church of England. That is not the effect of the Bill. Nor does it threaten the church as distinct from the churchyard. It applies only to Dissenting bodies with registered places of worship, but such bodies having already registered places of worship of their own,—they have not graveyards of their own,—cannot claim the church to worship in it.—En. Spectator.]