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able number of the communicants, whenever matters should have arisen on which he might desire their counsel and assistance.”
The latter proposition is one which might be carried out with the most beneficial results, and would be a revival, in a Christian form, of that too often most un-Christian and selfish assembly, the parish vestry. But what is to hinder any Clergyman from already taking this excellent course, we are at a loss to see. If the advocates of lay co-operation really desire the advice of the laity, let them seek it where they will readily find it—in their own parishes. It will, at the least, be well to try whether such simple and unpretending machinery will answer the purpose, before resorting to any of the more complicated, novel, and un-ecclesiastical propositions, which have lately grown up so abundantly among us. It will also be of some advantage to show the world that they are not seeking a retreat from actual responsibilities towards the laity, in the cry for a more general, but more impracticable scheme. It is a weakness of human nature to bave a clear view of distant and un. tangible responsibilities, but to be purblind with respect to those which lie at our feet. Let the advocates of lay co-operation make their flocks quite sure they are not victims of this weakness, by working that machinery which already lies in their power.
Having considered the call for lay co-operation hitherto chiefly in its relation to their admission into synodical assemblies, let us go back a little, now, to the general question. We have already acknowledged that it is one of great importance, because it may be, as many among us are often asserting, that the greatest difficulties in the way of the Church’s due fulfilment of her mission arise out of the alleged exclusion of laymen from their proper share in the regulation and practical conduct of her affairs. But how great a difference of opinion there is as to the exact direction in which this exclusion is to be looked for may be well shown by the following summary of opinions respecting “ the lay element.
“ Things very different are, indeed, intended by what has already received a sort of proper name—the lay element. Some contemplate a lay body, allowed by Parliament in some sort and degree to occupy its place, as to questions affecting the Church, and so performing civil functions, which Parliament, as it is and must be constituted for civil purposes, is no longer calculated to discharge with reference to the Church. Others look upon the ‘lay element,' as a means of ascertaining the minds of the laity, and securing harmony between them and their pastors; so that, at least, no change in what might anywhere be the existing state of things, or any restoration, should be made without the concurrence of the laity. Some look upon the introduction of the laity as a mere check on an excessive ritualism or formalism, which they think a portion of the Clergy would, if left to themselves, be unwise enough to introduce. Others look upon this assent on the part of the laity as an inherent right of the faithful,-i.e., the communicants of
the Church. Some appeal to the Church in the United States as our model ; and so would concede that the province of this new lay body should be co-extensive with that of the Bishops. Others, on the contrary, would limit the concurrence of laymen to certain outward subjects, reserving to the Bishops questions of doctrine and discipline, and the right of deciding what are questions of doctrine and discipline. The more part, probably, of those who advocate its introduction, have no definite idea on the subject. Some professedly refer the question of the admission of the laity to Convocation itself, when it shall be assembled (as it is hoped) hereafter; others advocate the present recognition of the lay element in the abstract, deferring all limitations of its nature, objects, powers, on the very ground that the civil power, or rather politicians who advise the Sovereign, will never allow Convocation to meet, except on the understanding that the laity are to form an integral part of it. Others assume that the introduction of the laity is as certain as anything future can be, and so are anxious for the speedy settlement of the question, for fear that bad precedents should be set. But almost all these parties, however they may differ among themselves, concur in this one point, viz., to urge on the adoption of that, in the meaning and object of which they disagree—the lay element.' "-P. 8.
All this shows a confusion of ideas upon the subject which may well make us doubtful whether there is not much want of that attentive consideration of the existing state of things which alone can qualify persons for originating plans of reformation. gather from it all that two main ideas must be current among
the pleaders for a lay element. It must be their opinion either—first, that it is desirable to give the laity more power in ecclesiastical affairs than they already possess; or, secondly, that the power at present held is so inefficient for good, and there is so little hope of making it efficient, that it has become desirable to control or counterbalance it by the creation of another.
Let us pause for a moment to remember some of the ways in which the laity already do possess power in and over the Church.
1. One or more lay persons bave the sole appointment of Bishops, the voice of the Clergy not being heard at all in the matter, or any attention paid, in general, to their wishes or predilections.
2. Legislation for the Church is almost exclusively the work of laymen, some slight control being exercised over it by the Bishops, as members of one House of Parliament. The Clergy, as a body, have no veto upon such legislation, however much it may affect them even in their civil position; and laws may be, and are made, contrary to the advice of a majority of their number.
3. No synod of the Clergy can enact canons for the guidance of their own body, or the Church at large, without the consent of the Sovereign,—which really amounts to the consent of the lay legislature of the realm.
4. Laymen form the practical majority in the final court of appeal on Church matters.
5. Laymen exercise the discipline of the Church over the Clergy in the ecclesiastical courts.
6. Laymen administer, to a great extent, the revenues left to the Church at large for the maintenance of the Clergy, and for charitable purposes.
7. Laymen exercise considerable influence over the Church as rectors of churches, and patrons of benefices.
8. There are at least two laymen in every parish holding an office of considerable power; the whole number being from 25,000 to 30,000.
9. As acting officers of the Bishops, laymen have, practically, much personal influence over the diocese for which they act.
Perhaps it would be thought hardly fair, by some, to add the press as another organ of great power over the Church, since Clergymen are supposed to be quite capable of using it as well as laymen. It is, however, well known that the opinions of Clergymen on Church matters are by no means a “paying article” in the newspaper world; and that more influence in reality attaches to those organs of the press which oppose clerical views and interests, than to those which support them. But omitting this, we really feel at a loss, after such a catalogue--and our readers will probably add to it-to find what sort of influence and power laymen as laymen can have in the Church, and yet have not. And after all, we have left uncatalogued that vast amount of indirect influence by which the laity exercise much control over Church as well as State in England. Our friends who call loudly for lay representation in Church councils, and lay co-operation in clerical labours, would do well to bear in mind how important a feature this indirect influence is in such a constitutional system as ours is in England : and how much of the virtue of that system springs out of it. There have been politicians of a mechanical sort of school, whose highest ambition was to reduce government and obedience to a code, but who when trying to condense the floating vapour of indirect influence into the more visible and palpable form of law, have found to their great astonishment that the condensation was co-ordinate with loss of power. Let the advocates of a visible form of " lay element” take warning: indirect influence may, and probably does give the laity a far more real power than they would have by the direct influence accorded them in the schemes and proposals made on their account at the present time. But surely, when, in all but her absolutely sacred ministrations the Church of England is as much under the influence of the laity as of the Clergy; when the actual lay officials of the Establishment probably exceed threefold the number of ordained ministers of the Church ; when by direct and indirect power the estates of the Clergy and almost their very persons are bound down in the hands of the laity, it is very like a captive asking to have more chains fettered round him, for the Clergy to seek a larger extent of power over themselves and the Church for their lay brethren.
But again, it may be said that more influence of a good kind must be created to counteract the already too much of an evil kind which exists. This appears to us exceedingly dangerous ground to tread. If indeed it was said merely with regard to the restoration of an established machinery which from one cause and another had fallen into disuse, we could sympathize with the proposition ; since the practical question would then be simply this, how to rouse the laity to do their duty in those offices which are properly theirs by the laws and customs of the Church. But there are many who use this language, and mean by it something of the same kind which Mr. Dickinson does when he says that while the Church has been right in principle, it has misapprehended men, has been antiquated, and its administration tainted with glaring abuses ; that we need the knowledge of the man of the world and the views of the statesman to temper the zeal of the ecclesiastic, and so forth. Such persons stigmatize the revival of the Church's ancient machinery as mere worn out mediævalism, but fall instantly into any novel scheme. The Church has a spiritual arm and an arm of flesh, and they feel more practical reliance on the latter than they do on the hand of the LORD. Thé venerable organizations of elder days, which are in sorne sort stamped with the Divine seal, as being recognized and approved of for ages by the Church, these have but little attraction to such as are intent upon the perfections of America and the nineteenth century. Not that we would, for a moment, deprecate the principle of withstanding the evils of lay usurpation by a good system of wholesome lay influence : all we protest against is, the idea that this latter can be better elaborated from an entirely novel and untried system than it can from the ancient though abused and neglected system known to us already.
We believe that a most happy result would follow, if both the Clergy and the laity who advocate the increase of lay influence were for a time to lend their energies to the very practical object of restoring the churchwarden's office to a condition somewhat more nearly approaching its theoretical position in the Church than that in which it is most commonly found in these days. Such an object may seem trifling at first to those who have been building up airy castles in which national convocations of Clergy and laity were to deliberate on the affairs of the Church of England in a mass, and by one or two giant sweeps of the new synodical besom expurgate the whole ecclesiastical hierarchy of the dust which has been accumulating on it for ages. But we believe it to be of far more importance than at first sight appears, and as it is evident that large plans have attractions in the eyes of our friends, we ask them, Is it not really a great and noble object to strive after, that a body of lay-officials amounting in number to some five-and-twenty thousand, who have the fabric of the Church material in their hands, and in no small degree the discipline of the Church spiritual, should be awakened to a sense of their important duties and urged to a more honest and real fulfilment of them ?
“ The use of the lay element is simply to strengthen, at every point, the hands of a wise, earnest, and judicious Clergy," writes the layman to whom we have before ventured to refer. How thankful would a wise, earnest, and judicious Clergy be to have their hands strengthened by the counsel and practical aid, officially and nonofficially, of two really Christian and Church-like Churchwardens in every parish of England : and what a nucleus would this be for gathering together in each parish a band of men who truly desired to see the Church prosper; and who from their more practical connection with it, in some cases perhaps as former occupants of the Churchwarden's office, would know something of its real work, ing, and be above the selfish vulgarities and absurd errors with which the Church is too often associated in the minds and conduct of many among those classes from whom such officers are generally elected.
The office of Churchwarden is far from being insignificant in its power of good for the Church, and far from being one of slight responsibility. The following is the declaration, equivalent to an oath, to be made by every Churchwarden on his entry into office; and though such declarations are taken too much as a mere matter of routine, there is really no reason why our lay brethren should not take them as they are meant to be taken, with a solemn intention of honestly acting up to their promise
“I declare that I will faithfully and diligently perform the duties of the office of Churchwarden within the parish of -, for the present year, to the best of my skill and understanding. And that I will present such persons and things as to my knowledge are presentable by the Laws Ecclesiastical of this realm.'
And the following questions show the character of these duties as set forth in the “ Articles of Inquiry” which Churchwardens are required “upon their solemn declaration " to reply to:
“1. Is your minister of sober life and conversation ?
“2. Does he use such decency and distinction of habit as becomes his sacred profession ?
“3. At what hours does he celebrate Divine Service in your parish church?
“4. Does he read Divine Service, properly habited, reverently, distinctly, and audibly, as prescribed by the Book of Common Prayer, without additions, diminutions, or alterations ?
“5. Is the Sacrament of Baptism administered in your church (except in cases of necessity) and during the time of Divine Service ?