Occasional Papers eBook

Richard William Church
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 447 pages of information about Occasional Papers.

The claim maintained by the Archbishop in his Judgment, by virtue of his metropolitical authority and by that alone, to cite, try, and sentence one of his suffragans, is undoubtedly what is called in slang language “a large order.”  Even by those who may have thought it inevitable, after the Watson case had been so distinctly accepted by the books as a precedent, it is yet felt as a surprise, in the sense in which a thing is often a surprise when, after being only talked about it becomes a reality.  We can imagine some people getting up in the morning on last Saturday with one set of feelings, and going to bed with another.  Bishops, then, who in spite of the alleged anarchy, are still looked upon with great reverence, as almost irresponsible in what they say and do officially, are, it seems, as much at the mercy of the law as the presbyters and deacons whom they have occasionally sent before the Courts.  They, too, at the will of chance accusers who are accountable to no one, are liable to the humiliation, worry, and crushing law-bills of an ecclesiastical suit.  Whatever may be thought of this now, it would have seemed extravagant and incredible to the older race of Bishops that their actions should be so called in question.  They would have thought their dignity gravely assailed, if besides having to incur heavy expense in prosecuting offending clergymen, they had also to incur it in protecting themselves from the charge of being themselves offenders against Church law.

The growth of law is always a mysterious thing; and an outsider and layman is disposed to ask where this great jurisdiction sprung up and grew into shape and power.  In the Archbishop’s elaborate and able Judgment it is indeed treated as something which had always been; but he was more successful in breaking down the force of alleged authorities, and inferences from them, on the opposite side, than he was in establishing clearly and convincingly his own contention.  Considering the dignity and importance of the jurisdiction claimed, it is curious that so little is heard about it till the beginning of the eighteenth century.  It is curious that in its two most conspicuous instances it should have been called into activity by those not naturally friendly to large ecclesiastical claims—­by Low Churchmen of the Revolution against an offending Jacobite, and by a Puritan association against a High Churchman.  There is no such clear and strong case as Bishop Watson’s till we come to Bishop Watson.  In his argument the Archbishop rested his claim definitely and forcibly on the precedent of Bishop Watson’s case, and one or two cases which more or less followed it.  That possibly is sufficient for his purpose; but it may still be asked—­What did the Watson case itself grow out of? what were the precedents—­not merely the analogies and supposed legal necessities, but the precedents—­on which this exercise of metropolitical jurisdiction, distinct from the legatine power, rested?  For it seems as if a formidable

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