100 years ago: Incense — a dusty answer

01 July 2009

July 2nd, 1909.

THE loud cheers which greeted Mr Asquith’s statement in the House of Commons on Wednesday that he intended to take no action in regard to the Bishop of London’s permission of the use of incense [100 Years Ago, 5 June and 19 June] are a welcome evidence of an unwillingness in Parliament to meddle with the Church. This statement was a reply to Mr McArthur’s inquiry whether the Prime Minister was aware of what had been done at All Saints’, Margaret-street, and elsewhere. Mr McArthur is one of those old-fashioned people who cherish the fond hope that Parliament is able to retain that grip upon the Church which careless Churchmen once allowed it to secure. But the times are changed, and it is useless for those belated people to talk as though things were now as once they were. In reference to the Bishop of London’s sweet rea­son­ableness in this matter, there is one thing which, we think, ought to be said. And it is this, that there ought to be reciprocity. By which we mean that the use of incense should not be promiscuously introduced without reference to local circumstances. In those churches where the Bishop has sanctioned its use the desire to have it had been clearly manifested. But it would be the height of folly, to say nothing of unreasonableness, to embarrass the Bishop with complaints from parishioners, the result of which would necessarily be prohibition in, perhaps, a large number of instances. For some amazing reason there exists an inveterate prejudice against this exceedingly innocent practice, and, if it is to be revived, we must be content to go slowly.

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