Page images


those who in any case had laid violent hands on them- . selves ---A person some years ago killed himself, the body was brought for interment, and I told the rector, whoin I then served, that I thought the party ought not to be buried in the usual way. The rector maintained that he ought, The matter was warmly contested between

The late Mr. Bulkley Bower, Archdeacon of Richmond, and some time fellow of Brazen-nose College, was umpire: he was then on a visit to the rector; and he gave judginent on my side. But the rector appealed to the late Dr. Pearce, of Lambeth; who gave no decided opinion on the subject. The rector then peremptorily, and authoritatively interposed. I buried the corpse;having first, at the grave-side, protested against the propriety of what I was about to do, and averring, that I executed the imperative order of the rector, against my own judgment.

The burial of this suicide, and the discussion to which it gave rise, led me to examine the matter more minutely than I could do on the spur of the occasion : and the result was, that I found myself induced to give up the severer interpretation of the rubric in question, and to continue it more mildly,

1. Let us look how another provision of this rubric is to be received. The burial-office is not to be used for any that die excommunicate. The expression here is general. No distinction is made between an ipso facto excoinmus nication, and the greater excommunication pronounced by an ecelesiastical court, after due process. Neverthe: less, on reading the 68th canon, it is manifest, that no minister can safely refuse to bury" ;according to the form of the book of common-prayer, except the party deceased were denounced excommunicated majore ercoinmunicatione, for some grievous and notorious crimne, and no man able to testify of his repentance." The rubric and the canons are not to be taken exclusively of each other; and in this case, the latter materially soften the spirit, and limit the operation of the former. If a inan should even die under complete sentence of ercommu.cation, it will certainly bear a question, at least, whetner this capon will not allow him to be buried in the usual form; provided the sentence had not been incurred for some grievous and not orious crime; and even so, it seems to perinit him the rite of burial, if some credible character should be able to testify of his repentance. Now if one


part of this rubric may be thus moderated, why may nos another? And if iu one instance it may be interpreted by a canon, why nray it not in another instance?: viz. that of persons laying violent hands on themselves, admit of a modification of construction, from the operation of the common law of the land, which, I take it, has here a concurrent authority. For,

2. The .coroner and his inquest are to determine as to the way in which violent death is inflicted; where they find any one felo de se the body is not delivered ; but where they determine otherwise, the body is uniformly given up to the friends of the deceased for interment; and a warrant issues, addressed to the minister and church-wardens of the parish where the corpse lies, certifying that they may LAWFULLY permit the body to be buried, and WARRANTING, with the sanction of the law of the land, the performance of the funeral service. Now, surely, it were arguing strangely, to set up one branch of the law of England against another, the municipal against the ecclesiastical, or' vice versae ; for under such circumstances, who is to decide ? so agitated a question like that before us, involving matters of decency and order, and , heavily oppressing the feelings of innocent survivors, must be kept afloat for ever; at least, much beyond the time which propriety prescribes: for in å case like this, there must be prompt decision. As the Jaw now stands, I do not think the minister has an option; I conclude that he is bound to bury, or to incur, for his refusal, the sentence of suspension for three months, annexed to a breach of the 68th cảñon.

3. On what ground would he refuse? Would he contravene every principle of law, by ascribing criminality to one adjudged non compos vientis by the proper tribunal appointed by the law of his countrypa Would be deny that the person asserted, on the oaths of twelve jurors, to he insane, was not so when he laid violent hands on himself? Were not this most indefensible presumption ? . Is the surmise of an individual to set aside the judicial act of a jury duly summoned, and solemnly sworn to determine according to evidence? Is he who has examined no witnesses, to supersede by his own arbitrary decision, the recorded verdict of persons who have gravely weighed testimony delivered on oath before them? I say gruvely weighed; for I have several times been present at the sitting of a coroner's inquest, in the parish where I am


curate ; and I can testify, that I have always found ja. rors to be a set of very respectable men, who know perfectly well the nature of an oath, and whom I believe to be as much above the taking of a bribe, as they are incapable of committing the sin, or being guilty of the crime of perjury. I knew perfectly well the late Mr. Walter, and I have sufficient knowledge of Mr. Unwin, his successor in the office of one of the coroners for the county of Middlesex, to assert, that men of greater integrity never filled the office. I believe Mr. Walter would have died, sooner than have taken a bribe ; and I am much mistaken, if Mr. Unwin would not soon make that man who should go about it, repent of any attempt to tamper with him. Wheatly's language about“ a coroner's prostituting his oath,” is not to be defended. In this case, the zeal of that excellent ritualist, got the better of his good sense, not to say of his candour, and his charity.

I have to regret, however, that the coroner's warrant does not always specify how the party to be buried came by his death ; and that it does not contain his age. For this reason, my register is not always complete. Where a person dies a natural death, the searchers give me both those particulars; but these searchers do not view the bodies of those who die by violence or accident. Two of the columns of my register-book, therefore, for the most part, are vacant, when I have only the return of the coroner's warrant. I spoke on this subject to my friend Mr. Walter, but he rarely, if ever, furnished these particulars. I have talked about it to Mr. Unwin too, and he sometimes, but I think not always, places the age in the margin; but neither he, nor his predecessor, has been uniform in drawing up of warrants. I here give copies of those in, struments, in cases of lunacy and of accidental death : To the Minister and Churchæardens of ****, or whom it

may concern. Middleser to wit.-I do hereby certify, that I have, with my Inquest, vieved the body of Robert Ingate, and they have returned me their verdict, that he being lunatic and distracted, hung himself. Given under my hand, this 24th day of Aug. 1809.

EDWARD WALTER, Coroner. In this Warrant mention is made that the deceased was lunutic: in the following nothing is asserted.


[ocr errors]

To the Minister and Churchwardens of the Parish of ****, in the County of Middleser, and to all others whom these may concern.

Middleser to wit.-Whereas I, with my Inquest, the day and year hereunder-written, have taken a view of the body of John Jones, who now.lies dead in your parish, and have proceeded therein aceording to law. These are therefore to certify, that you may lawfully permit the body of the said John Joves to be buried'; and for so doing this shall be your warrant. Given under my hand and seal, the 29th day of May, in the year of our Lord, 1804.

JORN WRIGHT UNWIN, Coroner. To the Minister and Churchwardens of the Parish of

****, in the County of Middleser, and to all others whom these may concern.

Middleser to wit. Whereas I with my inquest, the day and year hereunder written, have taken a view of the body of John Hawes, 25 years of age, who now lies dead in your parish, and have proceeded therein aceording to law. These are therefore to certify, that you may lawfully permit the body of the said John Hawes to be buried; and for so doing this shall be your warrant.--Given under my hand and seal, the 21st day of June, in the year of our Lord, 1804.

John WRIGHT UNWIN, Coroner. This was a case of accidental death, of the nature of which, however, nothing is said; the age is placed in the margin. On the very day on which it bears date, and in the room where the jury sat, I conversed with the Coroner, on the propriety of supplying such documents. -"The next warrant specifies the nature of the accident, and gives, in the inargin, the age. To the Minister and Churchwardens of the Parish of

****, in the County of Middlesex, and to all others whom these

may concern.. Middleser to wit.-Whereas I, with my inquest, the day and year hereunder-written, have taken a view of the body of Susanna Bruce, aged 78, who died in consequence of her clothes having caught fire; who now lies dead in your parish, and have proceeded therein according to law. These are therefore to certify, that you may lawfully permit the body of the said deceased io be bu

ried; and for so doing this shall be your warrant.Given under

my hand and seal, the 31st day of October, in the year of our Lord, 1804.

John Wright UNWIN, Coroner.
I remain,

Yours, &c.
Jan. 10, 1805.

A LONDON Curate, P.S. Now I am upon the subject of juries, give me leave to say a word to ORTHODOXUs. (Mag. for Dec. p. 440.) I would by no means stifle the verdict of your readers respecting the point at issue between Mr. Turner and myself. ORTHODOXUS, instead of a juror, exercises the functions of an advocate. The venerable retormer of our Church were certainly right in rejecting the fire Romish Sacraments. They were not ordained by CHRIST himself; and, moreover, although each of them has a visible sigo, it neither expresses so determinately as it should, the inward and spiritual gráce asserted by the Romanists to reside in those ordinances; nor is it the means whereby that grace is received, nor yet a pledge, on the part of CHRIST, to assure us thereof. What other

questions may grow out of that before us, I cannot say ; but that between Mr.T. and myself lies in a nutshell.

To Merviniensis I would say, (Nov. p. 330) that it does not seem to be necessary to the validity of baptism to use any words beyond those prescribed by our Saviour ; but inasmuch as the Church prefixes to the words of bapt sin certain collects, I cannot but reprobate the conduct of those slovenly, irreverend, and idle men, who omit the prayer of consecration. I never yet, though I have baptized some thousands privately, met with an instance in which the urgèncy of the case would not allow me to use it. This yery day (Jan. 10,) I have administered private baptism to four children, two of them twins, and in one of these last, life was hardly perceptible.

ERRATA. Mag, for Nov. page 338, line 21, for perish, read finish. Mag. for Dec. p. 470, 1. 15, for renton Ows, read reneris ows. But should it not rather stand thus, as in the Septuagint,

Tumontw ows, nas sytyto ows ?". I know that in Longinus, sect ix. wé read, “Taroow Qws, xai YENITO ;" whọnce, by the way, it apo pears, that Longinus had not seen the LXX.


« PreviousContinue »