Episcopal Church in Scotland. Diocese of Glasgow a.

A pastoral letter to the clergy of the Diocese of Glasgow and Galloway : in reference to I. The declaration signed by Scottish bishops at the time of their consecration. II. Ritual and rubrics in Scot online

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Online LibraryEpiscopal Church in Scotland. Diocese of Glasgow aA pastoral letter to the clergy of the Diocese of Glasgow and Galloway : in reference to I. The declaration signed by Scottish bishops at the time of their consecration. II. Ritual and rubrics in Scot → online text (page 1 of 4)
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or 1 LLl NOIS














ST. Paul's church yard, awd waterlog place.


ST. John's square.


My Reverend Brethren,

In the Pastoral Letter which I addressed to
you last summer, I adverted to the circumstance,
that in England the necessity of a frequent address
on the part of the Bishop to the Clergy is in some
degree removed or lessened by the annual Archi-
diaconal Visitations. Our better system of Diocesan
Synods, by which the Bishop and Clergy have the
mutual privilege of annually meeting and consulting
together in regularly constituted ecclesiastical assem-
blies, seems to me an occasion and opportunity for a
word of fatherly exhortation and counsel on the part
of the Chief Pastor, which it is not well to lose.
The visitation spoken of in the Canons is rather a
personal circuit, from time to time, of the churches
in the diocese by the Ordinary, than a triennial
address to the assembled Clergy ; and in the times
of religious excitement in which our lot is cast, it

A 2

can rarely happen that the occasion of an annual
Synod can return without suggesting to its several
members many occurrences of the year that has
elapsed since its last meeting, on which the Clergy
must wish to be guided by the opinion, or at least
to know the judgment of their Bishop, and on which
the Bishop must desire to address to his Clergy a
word of warning or explanation, of advice or obser-
vation. As it is our rule to receive together on this
solemn occasion the Holy Communion, and the busi-
ness of the Synod occupies necessarily a large portion
of the day, I have felt (both now and last year) that
I shall consult your convenience, and also be enabled
to go somewhat more into detail than would other-
wise be the case on one or two important subjects, by
addressing you in the form of a Pastoral Letter, rather
than in a Charge orally delivered. I need hardly
assure you that I neither wish to weary you, my Reve-
rend Brethren, nor to increase my own responsibility,
by needless expression of opinion ; still less, I trust,
is it necessary for me to renew the declaration of my
deep sense of personal insufficiency in questions upon
which the most wise and holy not only differ, but
differ so widely as to perplex many well-disposed and
sober-minded Christians, who wish anxiously to be
guided aright in the way of life. I can truly say
that I am fully alive to such considerations as these ;
but still the responsibility which God has laid upon
me is one which I dare not shrink from ; and (in
reliance on His gracious aid) I had rather incur the


charge of over-anxiety, and of giving unnecessary
advice, than lose an opportunity of saying some word,
that by God's blessing may tend to the comfort and
stability, the abstinence from extreme courses and
violent opinions, or the greater zeal and deeper
sense of responsibility of one reverend brother, or
(I may say) of one member of the Church of God.

The first subject to which I will call your atten-
tion is the official collection of several documents
which have from time to time issued from the Epis-
copal Synod ; and especially the publication of an
important Declaration which has been signed by
every Bishop at the time of consecration since the
days of Bishop Rattray. The Bishops (I may ven-
ture to say, although still almost the junior member
of the Episcopal College) are well aware that no
document is binding on the Church which has not
the sanction of a General Synod ; and any interpre-
tation of the Canons of the Church by the Episcopal
Synod may be completely superseded by the supreme
authority of the next General Synod that may be
called. In the intervals, however, between the meet-
ings of General Synods (especially in such times as
these) many cases must occur which require an
immediate and {jwo tempore, to a certain degree) an
authoritative interpretation of the Canons or other
documents of the Church. The Canons evidently
contemplate the meeting of a General Synod as a
rare event; and where questions arise which thus
require an immediate declaration, on the part of the


authorities in the Churcli, of the meaning of formu-
laries, a kind of instinct (or, let me say, the very
principle of Episcopacy) leads members of the Church
to address the Episcopal Synod for some expression
of opinion, which, though not formally binding, may
be for the time sufficient in respect of weight and
authority. This has already been the case in several
instances even within my own short Episcopate.
I may mention the addresses which gave occasion to
the declaration of the Bishops from Dundee on the
subject of the two offices of administration of Holy
Communion ; and the request of our own Diocesan
Synod, in the early part of last year, for some decla-
ration on the doctrine of Holy Baptism on the part
of the Episcopal Synod. The replies or declarations
which those addresses elicited (so far as I have been
able to observe) have, by God's blessing, much tended
to i3eace and unity; nor can I forbear from repeating
(what was, indeed, expressed in my Pastoral Letter
last year) my thankfulness to Almighty God, that on
the deeply important subject of Holy Baptism, the
Bishops were unanimous, and their declaration con-
ceived in terms both firm and temperate. I must
also take occasion to add the expression of a convic-
tion with which you will doubtless fully concur and
sympathize, that the privilege of this free syuodical
action, and the power of adjudging in questions of
doctrine and discipline, pro re natd, by a competent
ecclesiastical authority, is an advantage so great and
precious, that no temporal endowments could ever

compensate any Church for the loss of it. For that
Declaration on the doctrine of Holy Baptism the
Episcopal Synod received an address of thanks from
upwards of three thousand members of the Church
of England ; and I am thankful to believe (what is
indeed the opinion also of some far more competent
than myself to judge), that the Declaration of the
Bishops was ecclesiastically sufficient for the occa-
sion. My present object, however, in calling your
attention to the documents issued by the Episco-
pal College is (in the first place) to disclaim any
idea of ascribing undue authority to those Episcopal
writings. Whatever authority they possess is simply
interpretative. The various interpretations embodied
in them might be reversed by the next General
Synod. To those who are duly impressed with the
paternal character of the Episcopal office, ^and the
weight which the Church has ever allowed to the
acts of Bishops canonically sitting in Synod, their
authority will be considerable ; and I purpose pre-
sently to call your attention to some passages on the
subject of Ritual.

I have specially referred to the Declaration '
signed by all Bishops since Bishop Rattray at the
time of consecration ; and it is to me a source of
much satisfaction that the Bishops have seen fit to
publish that important document; the subscription
to which is of course as binding and conclusive on
those who subscribe, as subscription to the Canons or
' See Appendix, No. I.

any other document. This Church has great reason
to be thankful for the excellent code of Canons
which it possesses, and the unanimity with which
those Canons were adopted. They are, on the whole,
very admirably suited to the government of an unes-
tablished Church like our own : although, from the
circumstances of their history, it is not to be expected
that they should be as complete as could be wished,
or that their provisions can meet every case and ques-
tion that can occur. The Declaration (only recently
published, but adopted, signed, and acted upon by
every Bishop and by the whole Episcopal Synod for
about one hundred years) seems to meet one de-
ficiency of the Canons of considerable moment ; I
mean, the want of some sufficient provision to
secure a virtual and sufficient uniformity of ritual in
the several dioceses of the Church ; and to prevent
the introduction into one or more dioceses of any
practices in conformity (it may be) with the taste
or opinion of an existing Bishop, but different
(whether in the way of excess or defect) from those
which are generally received. It is true, indeed, as
we have recently been reminded by the Bishop of
Exeter, that every diocese is in itself a complete
Church ; and many occasions may be conceived on
which a diocese should assert this claim, which is
inherent in its constitution, to complete organi-
zation, and even to independent action. But the
practice of the Catholic Church from the beginning
has been to connect, by metropolical comprehension


or rule, and by identity of Canon and synodical
action, and by uniformity of practice and ritual, the
several dioceses geographically included within the
limits of provinces and nations. It appears, indeed,
that local usages, when not inconsistent with sound-
ness of doctrine and soberness of practice, have at
all times been more or less tolerated and borne
with ; although it has been increasingly felt that
uniformity is a badge of unity, and a very important
means of producing it ; and that local usages have
not unfrequently been abused to the promotion of a
superstitious and pharisaic spirit, and even to un-
soundness or extravagance of religious faith. It is
obviously most desirable that members of such
dioceses, as, according to Catholic usage from the
beginning, have been comprehended and united into
a Provincial or National Church, should find in any
diocese to which they may be providentially re-
moved, the same ritual as well as the same Apostolic
order, and the same Evangelic truth which they
learnt to love and hold in the diocese which they are
called to leave. And the desirableness of such
uniformity will of course increase, in proportion as
on the one hand, from increased facility of inter-
course, such changes of residence may become more
frequent ; or, on the other, from the many aberra-
tions of persons calling themselves Christians, any
novelties or differences of ritual may be regarded
with increasing suspicion or dislike. With re-
ference to the circumstances of our own Communion


— a Communion numerically small, but the mem-
bers of which are widely scattered over the whole
of Scotland, — I believe that nothing would be more
fatal, both to the edification of individuals, and also
to the diffusion of what we believe to be the truth,
than any thing that should tend to weaken the tie of
coherence by which our dioceses are happily united ;
and split them into seven independent Churches.
There are peculiarities in our ecclesiastical system
which, however well suited to our unendowed and
disestablished status, and also to the closeness of
our connexion with the sister Church of England,
should always make us watchful against any
symptoms of this tendency : I mean the absence of
any such oath of canonical obedience from Bishops
to an Archbishop or Metropolitan, as is required
in almost every other duly constituted branch of the
Catholic Church ; and also the sanction by our
Church of two Offices for the administration of the
Holy Communion. I do not allude to these pecu-
liarities, as objecting to either of them. They have
been solemnly embodied in our Canons; and with
respect to the latter and more important of them,
while I hold to the principles embodied in the
Declaration of the Bishops at Dundee, to which I
have already alluded, I would never be a con-
senting party to an alteration of the canonical
relation in which those Offices stand with respect
to each other; but it does appear to me that
both these peculiarities of our system should make


US watchful against any disposition to increase
the difference of usage and practice between one
diocese and another; or between this Church and
the united Church of England and Ireland. Any
badges of distinction (if not required by principle)
are an evil rather than a good. Let us hold to the
solemn settlement of a difficult and delicate ques-
tion embodied in our Canons ; let us prize (as we
have reason to prize with thankfulness and meek-
ness) the independence and freedom of our Church ;
but let us remember, as to any badges of distinction
not adopted by our Canons, that uniformity of
ritual (as a type and means of unity) is of far greater
value than the indulgence of private taste for some
venerable practice not generally received. I would
earnestly exhort any person who thinks it a glory to
their Church in some measure to recognize unes-
sential usages which have not been retained by the
sister Church of England, to remember what dis-
putes and dissensions have been occasioned by mat-
ters of this kind ; and that it is a far greater glory to
a Church to give up preferences of taste or feeling
for the sake of love and unity, than with rigid and
pharisaic tenacity to aim at any distinctive badge
which is not required by principle^.

If usages unobjectionable in themselves, and

^ I may, perhaps, be allowed to remind those whom I am
addressing of the disastrous effects of questions of ritual and
usage on the coherence and union of the English nonjuring body,
especially in the later part of its history.


though not adopted by canonical sanction, yet vene-
rable from their origin and the custom of the Church,
are found to exist in certain districts or places, it
would seem to me unwise to engage in a crusade
against them ; or with the rude hand of authority,
to sweep away what has hold on the attachment of
the people, and what seems to bear no evil fruit of
superstition or bigotry. But it would seem to me
equally unwise for those who are attached to such
local usages, to cling to them as if they were essen-
tial, or introduce them where they are unknown ;
and not only unwise but also highly reprehensible,
to endeavour by any irregular means to attach a
canonical authority and to ascribe the character
which is due only to synodical enactment, to what
at most can plead only local usage (more or less
general) and the connivance of the ecclesiastical
authority. That our system exposes us to the
danger of attempts of this kind, and thereby to
greater recognized difference of usage in different
dioceses, than can well consist with their coherence
into one provincial Church, our recent experience
has too plainly shown ; and if our Canons do not at
present contain any complete provision against this
danger, it is of great importance that the Church
should be aware of a considerable security against
it, which has been in existence for about one hun-
dred years, by the wisdom of the Episcopal Synod.
In the Declaration which has been subscribed by
every Bishop during that period, before or at the


time of consecration, every Bishop has bound him-
self " never, on any consideration, to assist in the
consecration of any person in order to be a Bishop of
this Church, without the consent of the majority of
such persons as shall have been received into the
Episcopal order, and shall have adhered to this
agreement, declaration, and promise, by their sub-
scriptions at the foot thereof." And, " Item, (the
Declaration proceeds) We declare that in all
matters relating to the Church, worship and dis-
cipline thereof, we shall be determined by the same
majority as in the former article." In this Decla-
ration there is a great security and guarantee that
neither any number of the Bishops, nor the Church
at large, can by the act of any single Bishop be
involved in responsibility. It is a guarantee and
security alike to each, and from each ; and it was
well observed by the last Bishop who subscribed it,
that it may be regarded (so far as its authority is
admitted) as our Act of Uniformity. I say, so far as
its authority is admitted ; because I do not mean to
claim for it any weight which it does not legiti-
mately possess. By those, however, who feel the
authority of ancient, though unwritten usages, a
document which records mid embodies the usage of
the whole Scottish Episcopate (at the time of con-
secration, and with respect to a due security for
avoidance of irregularities in all matters relating
to the Church, its worship arid its discipline) for a
period of one hundred years, will be regarded as


liaving no little claim to veneration and authority.
And it is impossible to see how any one who has
voluntarily attached his signature to the two clauses
of this Declaration can evade the obligation of either
of them.

There is not, I believe, any measure more to be
desired for the peace and prosperity of our Church,
than that at the next General Synod (whenever
such a Synod shall be summoned) some provision
similar in effect to the document to which I have
called your attention shall be adopted by canonical
authority. In the mean time, but indeed at all
times, we should bear in mind, as an axiom in the
case of a voluntary and unendowed Church, that
the principle of coherence in such a Church is far
weaker than in a body sustained by all the props of
legal enactment; and that we should throw our
whole weight into the scale of whatever tends to
lessen the chance of divergence, and promotes unity
and harmony of action.

II. These remarks naturally lead the way to another
subject which has of late occasioned much very pain-
ful controversy and collision in our own Church as
well as in England : I mean the tendency to increased
ritual observance among many very zealous and well-
meaning members of our Church. It is a subject
which very specially calls for mutual forbearance and
fair construction of motives and intentions : and in
confessing myself a decided advocate (especially as a
Scottish Bishop) for as simple a ritual as is consistent


with a decent solemn and characteristic observance of
our public offices, I neither wish to speak harshly of
those who promote a more elaborate ceremonial, and
(as they think) a stricter observance of rubrics than
has been usual ; nor would I refuse a legitimate vent
for the disposition and tendency in question, so long
as the received rules of our Church are the basis on
which any practice is avowedly rested. I would bear
in mind that the Wesleyan schism might probably
have been avoided, had a legitimate vent been found
by the ecclesiastical authorities of the day for that
outburst of a sincere, though in the end it became
an irregular and misdirected zeal. It is the part of
Christian charity and wisdom to guide and attemper
rather than crush what has an element of love and
faith, though (as appears to me) overladen with much
that is earthly and dangerous. In the public worship
of God, I freely admit, or rather earnestly contend,
that there should be nothing mean or unseemly.
They who grudge no expenditure for the decoration
and characterof public buildings for civil purposes or of
their own private homes ; and who would be ashamed
of any thing that betrayed a regard for cheapness in
what concerns their personal habits and comfort, must
surely be considered to convict themselves of very
painful irreverence if the churches in which they are
content to worship, betoken the feeling that cheaj)-
ness is the great object ; and that while they would
associate whatever is costly and beautiful with the
maintenance of political institutions, or with the


liabits of private life, they would connect the cele-
bration of religious offices only with what is mean
and cheap — repulsive to a pure and cultivated taste,
and suggestive of thoughts that can neither purify
nor elevate. It seems to me quite natural and be-
coming, that reverential love should express itself in
beautifying the houses of God with whatever may
suitably imply a sense of the sacred purposes to
which they are dedicated ; and that their very form
and character should call away the mind from common
thoughts and associations to what is high and holy.
But, on the other hand, the reaction that has taken
place from the culpable irreverence and neglect of
the last century is hurrying men into the opposite
extreme, and is leading to a style of decoration, not
only open to the charge of gaudiness and tawdriness
(and of being such as to suggest a resemblance to the
tinsel ornaments and meretricious tastes of Romish
churches), but also such as is too likely to detain the
minds of worshippers in what is outward and formal,
instead of assisting them to rise to heavenly and spi-
ritual thoughts. This is indeed the great danger of
an elaborate ritual and excess of decoration. Its
tendency, with the (jreat vnajority of minds and in the
long run, is to induce the habit of formal worship ;
and to obscure the great truth that as God is a
Spirit, so He requires those who worship Him to
worship Him in spirit and in truth. My conviction
is, that the same danger exists with respect to sacred
music. I have rarely been present at services dis-

tinguislied by large and elaborate introductions of
sacred music, without having a painful impression that,
in order to achieve a successful performance of such
music, there has been such an amount of artificial and
formal preparation as must be very prejudicial to the
spiritual character of worship in those who take part
in it; and even in the very performance of Divine wor-
ship thus conducted there is too much of the character
of a musical exercise ; and the attention is withdrawn
from the great object of worship to the skill and suc-
cess of those on whom its effectiveness depends,
whether vocally or instrumentally. I have often
been struck with, the degree in which this lamentable
fact is evinced by the conversation that afterwards
takes place on the success or failure of the several
performers ; and by the pains too evidently taken to
produce effect, rather than to worship God. The re-
sult of this kind of worship is not fairly judged of
by its effect on the imaginative or excited minds of
those who, having recently taken up a certain theory,
are eager in carrying it out, and lend themselves
enthusiastically to its successful development, per-
suading themselves, in a far greater degree than by-
standers are persuaded, of its beneficial effects on
themselves : but the system should be judged of by
its practical result, after a long series of years ; and
I must say that having long observed that result in
England, where the system has much more to favour
it than can probably ever be the case among our-
selves, I have the deepest possible conviction that it


is not, on the whole and in tlie long run, favourable
to pure devotion and spiritual worship. Too often,
on the long run, the music is performed in a manner
painfully irreverent and slovenly, and repels rather
than attracts any congregation ; and where this is
not the case the anthem is found to acquire an un-
natural and unbecoming prominence. Crowds will
attend it as a musical exercise, and leave the cathe-
dral or the college chapel as soon as the attraction is
over. Where this system indeed has been immemo-
rially established in buildings specially adapted for
musical or choral services, the part of Christian
wisdom would probably be, to aim at giving due
effect to whatever claims it may have as an aid of
devotion ; and to guard, as far as possible, against
any abuse or any evil result, rather than to endeavour
to abolish what exists ; but in a country where, from
circumstances, this choral service has not been in-
troduced at all till recently, and as yet only in a very
few instances, I feel myself bound to use any influence
which I legitimately possess as a Bishop of this
Church, decidedly against the introduction of this
mode of conducting the worship of Almighty God.
The practice of metrical Psalmody came in with that
great recurrence to a pure and simple worship, which
(though its general phase in Scotland be not indeed
as bright and primitive as in England) I trust we
shall never cease to designate as the Blessed Reforma-
tion. It has associated itself with the feelings and sym-
pathies of the people in a degree that will never, even

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Online LibraryEpiscopal Church in Scotland. Diocese of Glasgow aA pastoral letter to the clergy of the Diocese of Glasgow and Galloway : in reference to I. The declaration signed by Scottish bishops at the time of their consecration. II. Ritual and rubrics in Scot → online text (page 1 of 4)