Occasional Papers eBook

Richard William Church
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 447 pages of information about Occasional Papers.
3.  Is the Royal Supremacy, according to the Constitution, any bar to the adjustment of the appellate jurisdiction in such a manner as that it shall convey the sense of the Church in questions of doctrine?
All these questions I humbly propose to answer in the negative, and so to answer them in conformity with what I understand to be the principles of our history and law.  My endeavour will be to show that the powers of the State so determined, in regard to the legislative office of the Church (setting aside for the moment any question as to the right of assent in the laity), are powers of restraint; that the jurisdictions united and annexed to the Crown are corrective jurisdictions; and that their exercise is subject to the general maxim, that the laws ecclesiastical are to be administered by ecclesiastical judges.

Mr. Gladstone first goes into the question—­What was done, and what was the understanding at the Reformation?  All agree that this was a time of great changes, and that in the settlement resulting from them the State took, and the Church yielded, a great deal.  And on the strength of this broad general fact, the details of the settlement have been treated with an a priori boldness, not deficient often in that kind of precision which can be gained by totally putting aside inconvenient or perplexing elements, and having both its intellectual and moral recommendations to many minds; but highly undesirable where a great issue has been raised for the religion of millions, and the political constitution of a great nation.  Men who are not lawyers seem to have thought that, by taking a lawyer’s view, or what they considered such, of the Reformation Acts, they had disposed of the question for ever.  It was, indeed, time for a statesman to step in, and protest, if only in the name of constitutional and political philosophy, against so narrow and unreal an abuse of law-texts—­documents of the highest importance in right hands, and in their proper place, but capable, as all must know, of leading to inconceivable absurdity in speculation, and not impossibly fatal confusion in fact.

The bulk of this pamphlet is devoted to the consideration of the language and effect, legal and constitutional, of those famous statutes with the titles of which recent controversy has made us so familiar.  Mr. Gladstone makes it clear that it does not at all follow that because the Church conceded a great deal, she conceded, or even was expected to concede, indefinitely, whatever might be claimed.  She conceded, but she conceded by compact;—­a compact which supposed her power to concede, and secured to her untouched whatever was not conceded.  And she did not concede, nor was asked for, her highest power, her legislative power.  She did not concede, nor was asked to concede, that any but her own ministers—­by the avowal of all drawing their spiritual authority from a source which nothing human could touch—­should

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