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tiously submit to the canons and usages of the church: in matters, like those of voluntary charity, which the wisdom of the church has left, with a thousand others, to the decision of private conscience and feeling, they claim, as Britons and as Protestants, the right of being guided by their own. In effect, every voluntary society conducted by members of our church, rests, in these respects, precisely on the same grounds. No institution of this nature possesses, or can claim, any ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Such a jurisdiction could be conferred on it only by a direct grant from the Legislature, which no existing Society in our church, however highly respectable, and whether incorporated by charter or not, has received.
Such being the nature of the Church Missionary Society, and such the object of the meeting, it is not very easy to discover in what manner the Archdeacon had acquired the jus risdiction which he claimed over it, or what was that official title by which he felt himself warranted to reprove and inveigh against its proceedings. The lawful jurisdiction of an Archdeacon of the church; the visitatorial authority by which he is empowered to inspect the state of the churches, and “the sufficiency and ability” of the parochial clergy; the judicial functions by which he takes cognizance of scandalous or notorious immorality in which respects he is figuratively called the Bishop's Eye -all these rights and powers he possesses without dispute. But it is not apparent how any
of these, or all of them together, should entitle him “ officially" to force his denunciations on such an assembly as has been described-an assembly pretending to no ecclesiastical commission or character-not a meeting of the clergy in visitation, nor a chapter of the canons of a cathedral, nor, strictly speaking, a religious meeting of any kind—but simply a voluntary association of benevolent persons met to form a charitable institution, under the protection of the laws of the land. If this meeting acted irregularly, it was amenable, not to the Archdeacon of Bath, but to the civil power.
The peculiarity of the case, however, is, that the meeting was held under the sanction of the civil power; the Guildhall having been expressly granted for the purpose by the mayor of the city: and yet it was under such circumstances that the Archdeacon of Bath entered, with the avowed purpose of compelling the assembly to hear his vehement censures; thus claiming, without even a plausible argument, and exercising in a manner which in fact hordered on a breach of the peace, a right which, had it been peremptorily resisted, he would certainly have had no legal means of enforcing.
2. If the reverend speaker thus mistakes the nature of his authority as Archdeacon, it is natural that his other assumptions should be equally erroneous.
The opinion which he seems to entertain, that the proposal of a Missionary Association at Bath went to impose the measure on the clergy, is altogether destitute of foundation. No such intention was ever entertained. The design was, to give an opportunity to such persons to attend, as might be disposed to aid the Society with their subscriptions. The idea of there being any thing irregular in the establishment of such an Association, because the majority of the clergy of the neighbourhood did not happen to be present, is wholly untenable. The Society appeared as a supplicant; not to claim or impose, but to explain, petition, and entreat. No voluntary society ever received universal support. The friends of the proposed measure never expected to unite every suffrage in its favour, until its spirit and proceedings had become known, and it had outgrown the uncertainty and suspicions which naturally attach to an infant undertaking. All other societies in our Church, however. ancient they may now be, were formed at first by a few individuals, and had, like our own, to pass through a season of doubt, and difficulty, and objection.
3. The Archdeacon equally mistakes, when
he confounds the circumstance of the clergy declining or omitting, from whatever cause, to join the proposed Institution, and their actually disclaiming and protesting against it. He ventured, indeed, to issue his Protest, not only in his own name, but in that of his diocesan, the Bishop of Bath and Wells; but by what authority does not appear. Certain it is, that the Bishop of Bath and Wells, in a Letter to which his respectable name is affixed by his own hand, and addressed to the Provisional Secretary of the intended Association, though he declines the particular office of Patron, which had been offered to him, does so in terms of courtesy and respects. His Lordship fulminates no Protest against the Society, nor does he even hint the slightest disapprobation of it; though he would naturally have done so, if he had thought and felt with the Archdeacon of Bath. Nor does it appear that the reverend gentleman had any better title to include in his Protest the names of the clergy of his jurisdiction, than that of his diocesan. He expressly says, that he had neither directly nor indirectly communicated to any of them his intention of appearing at the meeting. If this disavowal be really what, in fairness, it ought to be, it must imply that he had not communicated to the clergy even his intention of entering an official Protest against the Society. With what propriety, then, could he afterward enter, as he does, this very Protest in their names? Mr. Archdeacon Thomas is unquestionably called upon, by this apparent inconsistency, to produce his authority for employing the names of his venerable diocesan and of the vast majority of the clergy. If he received such authority, he can, of course, prove the fact; and, till he does so, the assumption which he makes must be considered as utterly unwarrantable.
s See his Lordship's Letter in an Address from the Bath Committee, printed in Appendix 1.
4. But the most extraordinary, and really indecorous part of the Archdeacon's denunciations, is that which he ventures to make against the Honourable and Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of Gloucester, who took the chair at the meeting
What interference there could be with ecclesiastical jurisdiction, in simply being the chairman at a voluntary meeting of a benevolent society, does not immediately appear, and is unfortunately not explained by the reverend Protester. Surely it never could occur, to any unbiassed mind, that the yielding to the wish of the friends of the proposed Association, to direct the proceedings of their meeting, was any invasion of episcopal authority. Any other nobleman or gentleman might have been invited