The Times/1929/Obituary/Philip Vernon Smith

Obituary: Chancellor P. V. Smith (1929)
1500234Obituary: Chancellor P. V. Smith1929

Chancellor P. V. Smith
a learned and devoted churchman.

Chancellor P. V. Smith, whose death is announced on another page, occupied for most if hist long life a remarkable position among the older generation of Evangelical laymen; he did seek ordination until he was 75. He was a learned ecclesiastical lawyer, and an authority also on Church history. On these subjects especially he wrote some valuable books and was a frequent and valued correspondent of The Times. His last letter. on the Prayer-book, was written during one of the critical stages of his illness, which, serious as it was, did not affect his intellectual powers or his keen interest in current affairs, He was Chancellor of four dioceses, an original member of the Canterbury House of Laymen, a lay reader in London for many years, and an active supporter of the Church Missionary society.

Philip Vernon Smith was born on January 14, 1845, the eldest son of Mr. G. J. P. Smith, a Master of the Supreme Court. He went to Eton in 1858, to the Rev. Richard Day's house, but was after elected to college. He played in College Wall for two years, and in Mixed Wall in 1861, when he was in the "select" for the Newcastle scholarship. In 1862 he was Newcastle medallist, and was elected to King's. At Cambridge he distinguished himself, winning the Carus prize for Greek Testament in 1863 and the Members; prize for a Latin essay in 1865. In 1866 he was Senior Classic, first Chancellor's medallist, and 37th wrangler, and in 1867 he won the Members' prize for graduates, being also elected a fellow of his college, retaining his Fellowship till his marriage in 1878 to Edith Frances, only daughter of Admiral James Stoddart.

Having been called to the Bar by the Inner Temple in 1869, he practised as a conveyancer and in the Chancery and Ecclesiastical Courts. He took the degree of LL.M. in 1887, and that of LL.D. in 1894. He was assistant editor of "The Revised Statutes" and a contributor to the chronological tables and index of statutes. Of more general importance were his "History of the English Institutions," "The Law of Churchwardens and Sidesmen in the 20th Century," "The Legal Position of the Clergy," and "The Church Handbook." For "The Churchman's Penny Library" he wrote a lucid popular account of Church property and revenues, which proved a valuable contribution to the cause of Church defence in the days of the Disestablishment agitation. Mention must also be made of a little book for the S.P.C.K., "The Fourth Gospel: its Historical Importance,"in which, influence no doubt, by Dr. Burney's "The Aramaic Origin of the Fourth Gospel," he seemed inclined to accept the view of Delff that the beloved disciple was not identical with the Apostle John, but was a young priest of Jerusalem who was not included in the Twelve. But his main object was to determine the historical value of the Gospel; this he placed high, preferring it to the synoptists in those points where they conflict.

In Church administration of various kinds Mr. Smith was constantly engaged. He was appointed Chancellor of the dioceses of Manchester in 1894, Durham in 1903, Ripon in 1912, and Blackburn in 1927. A member of the Canterbury House of Laymen on its formation in 1887, he was vice-chairman from 1910 to 1920, and he was licensed as a lay reader in the diocese of London in 1891. For many years he conducted a Greek Testament Study Circle which was attended by a band of diligent students. He had long been a vie-president of the Church Missionary Society, and visited a number of the Indian stations in 1908. At the Advent ordination in 1920 Chancellor Smith, being then nearly 76, was ordained deacon by the Bishop of Gloucester, Dr. E. C. S. Gibson, and licensed as diocesan chaplain. He did proceed to priest's orders, but he assisted regularly in the services of the village of Edge, in Gloucestershire, where he lived, and his thoughtful discourses were appreciate, in spite of the fact that they were delivered in the toneless voice that often goes with deafness. He was a keen member of the Church Council and a strong upholder of the new system of Church government. His energy was remarkable, It was only at the age of 80 that he at last consented to give up walking to Stroud Station as the prelude to any journey that he was about to take.

The value of Chancellor Smith's life and example is not to be measured merely by the offices which he held. By his sincerity and devotion, even more than by hi intellectual gifts, he won the respect and affection of men of all schools of thought. Though his enthusiasm for representative Church government was keen, and he always seemed to have time and talents to place at its disposal, he never shone in debate. He would make his contribution with emphasis and, of course, with the lucid logic of his highly trained intellect. But he was not one who could lure people into agreement with him. They must accept his argument or go their own way. So his real contribution to the life of the Church, and especially of the clergy, is best seen in the little handbook already referred to, which he wrote for the series edited by the late canon Arthur Robinson, of Canterbury. It is the two great volumes of Phillimore in a nutshell—which, indeed, is a not inapt description of the well-loved figure of P. V. Smith.

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