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THE Manuscripts from which the following pages have been extracted were furnished to me by the kindness of a Reverend friend and neighbour, to whom they have been handed down from his great grandfather the Rev. W. Robinson (Rector of Hamerton in the County of Huntingdon in the year 1743), and Mr Robinson testifies that these papers were faithfully transcribed from Dr Thomas Brett's Manuscripts by him.
Some of the works contained in these Manuscripts have already been brought before the public, viz. "The Life of Nicholas Ferrar, communicated by John Cotton, Esq., from Dr Jebb," published by Mr J. E. B. Mayor, Cambridge, 1855. And "Narrative of the circumstances connected with the negotiation for a concordat betwixt the Orthodox and Catholic remnant of the British Churches and the Catholic and Apostolic Oriental Church," (introduced by Mr Lathbury into his history of the Non-jurors) in which negotiation Dr Thomas Brett bore a conspicuous part.
I am not aware however that the following portions of the Manuscripts have as yet been published; and since attention has lately been directed both to the increase of the Episcopate, and the restoration of their proper functions to the Rural Deans, I conceive that the suggestions of so
eminent a man as Dr Brett will be deemed worthy of consideration by those who are interested in promoting the effective working of the Church.
Whatever arguments in favour of these propositions could be alleged at the time when Dr Brett wrote will operate with additional force in the present day, when the vast increase of population and the active zeal of the opponents of the Church demand a corresponding increase of supervision, and a more ample development of the Church's inherent powers.
Nor do I think that the Church has any reason to congratulate itself for having disregarded the advice tendered to it by Dr Brett in 1711, for it is possible that if these suggestions had been listened to at the time, much of the torpor which pervaded the Church in the 18th century (especially after the suspension of the active functions of Convocation) and the consequent rapid growth of schism and indifference to Church principles might under God's blessing have been prevented.
The suggestions relating to the Restoration of Suffragan Bishops have much to recommend them to the serious notice of the Church.
In the first place, the machinery is ready to our hands, and their lordships the Bishops can, if they please, immediately set it in motion, without calling in the aid of any extraneous power. The Act 26 Hen. VIII. c. 14, is still in force, and under the provisions of that Act any Bishop can nominate and present to her Majesty two honest and discreet spiritual persons for election to the office of a Suffragan Bishop; and Her Majesty is empowered to give to one of those persons so presented the style and title of a Bishop of one of those towns named in the Act as the sees
of Suffragan Bishops. I cannot believe that in case any Bishop were disposed to exercise the power granted to him by this Act, that her Majesty would be advised to refuse her sanction to the appointment of Suffragan Bishops; nor, if she were disposed to decline acting, do I believe that she could constitutionally or legally refuse to appoint according to the provisions of the Act: for when an Act of Parliament defines a certain process for carrying into effect its purposes, none of the agents by whose means the intentions of the Legislature are to be effected, can, I conceive, refuse to perform those duties which the Legislature imposes upon them, and, I presume, that this obligation extends to the highest functionary in the State. In the present instance however I do not imagine that any such difficulty would arise; for I am persuaded that Her Gracious Majesty would readily concur in an application made by their lordships the Bishops with the view of benefitting the Church.
A second advantage connected with this plan is, that it does not interfere with the present division of Dioceses, and would therefore not require the intervention of the Legislature to readjust the geographical boundaries, or to apportion the jurisdiction of the several sees.
Thirdly, as these Suffragans could in no wise claim seats in the House of Lords, the objection which is felt by many persons against increasing the number of spiritual peers would be obviated.
Fourthly, these appointments might be regarded as of an experimental nature. On the one hand in case it was found that they did not properly subserve the purposes for which they were made, they might be laid aside. without deranging the order of the Dioceses; whilst, on
the other hand, should they be productive of spiritual good, they might without difficulty be extended.
Fifthly, by sending these Suffragan Bishops among our rural population, the people would become familiarized with Church organization and Episcopal government, of which at present, owing to the paucity of the Episcopal order, and the want of intercourse with the higher functionaries of the Church, they are totally ignorant.
Sixthly, another advantage which will recommend itself most forcibly to this commercial age, where the value of every thing (even to a Bishop) is estimated by a money standard, is, that the plan can be adopted without any great pecuniary outlay. For, I conceive, in every Diocese the Bishop would have no difficulty in selecting two honest and discreet spiritual persons, holding lucrative and honorary preferment in the Church, who would be willing to undertake the duties imposed on Suffragan Bishops, without any great additional remuneration, on account of the honour and dignity attached to the office; and the small sums required for defraying the necessary incidental expenses, might be provided by the Diocesan Bishops out of the revenues of the see, in consideration of their spiritual burdens being lightened by the aid of these Suffragans.
I have heard two objections raised to the adoption of Suffragan Bishops, which do not appear to me of any great weight.
The first is, that a jealousy would arise in those parts of a Diocese which were handed over to a Suffragan Bishop, as being placed under the jurisdiction of an inferior officer, and therefore less favoured than those parts of the Diocese which were under the supervision of the Diocesan Bishop. But this objection is founded upon a mis