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DEFENCE OF HIMSELF,
FOR REFUSING TO USE THE
OFFICE FOR THE BURIAL OF THE DEAD
OVER ONE WHO DESTROYED HIMSELF,
CORONER'S VERDICT OF MENTAL DERANGEMENT.
HON. & REV. A. P. PERCEVAL,
RECTOR OF EAST HORSLEY, SURREY,
As we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the Gospel, so we speak, not
ST. PAUL'S CHURCH YARD,
AND WATERLOO PLACE, PALL MALL.
THE Clergyman, in this case, having attended the Coroner's Inquest, and heard all the evidence, and being satisfied in his own mind that there was no ground for believing the wretched man, who was of drunken and blasphemous habits, to have been out of his mind ' at the time of committing the fatal act, refused to perform the funeral service; he offered to attend the body as chief mourner, and see it quietly interred; but he considered that the truth of religion, and the reverence due to sacred things, and the safety of others, and the clearing of his own conscience, forbade him, in this instance, to depart from the rule which the Church has laid down in such cases, and to which he had repeatedly promised obedience.
His view of the state of the man's mind was corroborated by some of the jury, who, being asked, in the course of conversation, whether, upon the same evidence, they could have acquitted him of the murder of another man, acknowledged that they could not. In fact, they were not aware what the law requires to justify a verdict of non compos. See note at the end.
It will be seen that a decision, on such a question, will affect, in some degree at least, the very existence of the Divine commission in the Church of England, the spiritual authority and responsibility of the Clergy
In order to obtain sentence against him, it must be maintained, that a clergyman both may, and must, surrender to an attorney and twelve laymen, (of whom it is uncertain that they will be all Christians, improbable that they will be all churchmen, and, as things are, hardly possible that they will all be communicants), and exercise, at their direction, the declaratory power of forgiving and retaining sins, according to
1 As the awful form in which this power is entrusted to the Clergy at Ordination, and upon which no heart can think without trembling, is not generally known, it is subjoined for the meditation of those who are inclined to pass sentence against the clergyman.
“ Receive the Holy Ghost for the Office and Work of a Priest in the Church of God, now committed unto thee by the Imposition of our hands. Whose sins thou dost forgive they are forgiven, and whose sins thou dost retain they are retained. And be thou a faithful dispenser of the Word of God, and of His Holy Sacraments, in the
the laws of God and of the Church, which God has committed to him, and for the exercise of which his soul must give account at the day of judgment; for unless the man is considered absolved from the guilt of self-murder in the sight of God, it is admitted on all hands, that it is unlawful to give him Christian burial.