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    The Statutory Common Prayer (1901)


Statutory Common Prayer

The stated intent of this volume, published in 1901, was to present the 1662 Book of Common Prayer "unsullied" by unauthorized changes which had slipped into it over the years. That is, it is an exact copy of the original 1662 BCP, with only those changes "prescribed by subsequent legislation, or by Royal Orders in Council". Most of these had been introduced, accidentally or otherwise, by the three privileged printers of the Book of common Prayer. A few are mentioned on our page on Variations in the BCP; others are mentioned in the Preface below.

This period was one of controversy in the Church of England between Evangelicals ("low church") and Anglo-Catholics ("high church"), and the Preface makes it clear that this book was to be part of the case for the Evangelical side. One of the authors, J T Tomlinson, was the author of over a dozen tracts for the Church Association (now the Church Society), a prominent Evangelical organization in England.

We have reproduced here only the Preface in HTML; however the entire book is available for download as Adobe Acrobat (PDF) graphics. Note that, while there is text "behind" the graphics, this has not been corrected and undoubtedly contains errors.

Download the Statutory Common Prayer (50MB)



cover, Statutory Common Prayer








Author of "Prayer Book. Articles and Homilies" etc.;

Bampton Lecturer (1878), and Grinfield Lecturer on the LXX. (1893-7).
in the University of Oxford.





IT is a singular fact that, in despite of the enormous pains taken at the last Revision of the Prayer Book to secure an exact preservation of the Authorised Text, not a single copy of that Book can now be obtained which gives the Statutory Text, with only such alterations as have been prescribed by subsequent legislation, or by Royal Orders in Council. Not one such Book has ever yet seen the light, or can now be procured, "either for love or money!" The King's printers have, indeed, provided a very accurately printed copy of "the Book of 1662;" but this does not contain any of the later alterations required by law; and even this was nowhere available until the year 1892. This discreditable state of things is the more inexcusable, because a. photo-lithographic replica of the Original Manuscript, which was "annexed" as a schedule to the last Act of Uniformity, has been provided, so that we are now able to go behind the printed copies to the very Book which alone was subscribed by every member of the "Sacred Synods" of York and Canterbury, December 20th, 1661, and enacted by the King in parliament, May 19th, 1662. Even the "Sealed Books" are inferior in authority, and must be pronounced spurious where they depart (as in one or two instances they do) from this MS. "BOOK ANNEXED."
    The "SEALED BOOKS" were so called because the Great Seal of England was attached to them; and they were further vouched by Royal Commissioners appointed to correct those printed copies with the pen, each of whom had to sign his name to a formal certificate, that it was a "true and perfect copy" of the "Original." These "Sealed Books" were then deposited at each of the Law Courts, at Westminster, the Cathedrals, the Tower, and other leading centres, in order that a handy reference might be forthcoming for the prosecution of Nonconformists, who, at the Restoration, remained in possession of some two thousand benefices in the Established Church. No doubt, for this purpose, these "Sealed Books" were "good and available in the law" as the last Act of Uniformity (13 and 14 Car. II., c. 4) prescribed. But seeing that their being "true and perfect copies" is a question of fact, it would be absurd to affect to believe that where they depart from the "Original" MS. they possess any sort of authority, literary or otherwise.

THE PSALTER. — The most remarkable instance of this failure in accuracy, is the PSALTER taken from the" Great Bible" of Henry VIII., which, though bearing the name of "Cranmer's Bible," was really due to old Myles Coverdale, the deprived Bishop of Exeter, a "consummate master of rhythmical prose." Dr. Dowden, Bishop of Edinburgh, in his "Workmanship of the Prayer Book", says," The Psalter of 1539 is the mellowed product of the whole mediæval period, and there is just enough of the influence of the New Learning perceptible in it to make us aware by what a hairbreadth's escape it stands apart from the ordinary modish type of 16th century English." Bishop Dowden quotes many testimonies as to the unique literary excellence of Coverdale's style, and adds, "Those who were concerned in the issue and correction of these Books were, as guardians of the legal text, certainly blameworthy in not adhering to the text of the MS. Prayer Book attached to the Caroline Act of Uniformity." . The reason why the Prayer Book version of the Psalms differs so much from the "Authorised" is, that it was taken for the most part from the Septuagint (Greek) version, which was current in Our Lord s time. Conscientious pains had been taken by the translators of the "Great Bible' of 1540-41 to discriminate, by a difference in type, the words of the inspired text from the translators' insertions, some of which arose from the use made in that Bible of the Latin Vulgate. Similarly in the Authorised Version of the Bible, the interpolations which have been deemed necessary or desirable by the translators to complete the sense were denoted by being printed in Italics. The extent and importance of those additions in the Psalter will be seen at a glance by the reader, who will notice the square brackets [] by which the translators' insertions are indicated in this volume: yet from 1662 downwards not one single copy (including even the" Sealed Books") recognised in the slightest degree what had cost so much labour and pains to preserve for the English reader! As the Committee appointed by York Convocation reported in 1892, "The Sealed Books at best can only be regarded as the ANNEXED .BOOK at second hand; they ceased to have any importance as soon as access to that authoritative Book became free (i.e.,1891). It may further be noticed, that there is not an absolute agreement between the several copies (some thirty in number) of the Sealed Books." (York Journal of Convocation, 1892. Appenclix, p. xxi.)


PRAYER OF Consecration. — Another instance of the failure of the "Sealed Books" is in the Rubric preceding the PRAYER OF CONSECRATION in the Communion Office. Before the last .revision, the officiating minister, kneeling at the north side of the table, was merely directed by the Rubric in these words:­

"Then the Priest, standing up, shall say as followeth."
The corresponding direction in our present Book runs: —
"He shall say the prayer of Consecration as followeth.":
But in the later version there is added a prefix, which had been rendered necessary by the previous introduction (in 1661) of an entirely new ceremony of preparation. For then the Priest was ordered, for the first time, to "present and place the alms and oblations" of the people upon the Holy Table before reciting the "Prayer for the Church militant here on earth." After that, he was also to place the elements upon the same table; the result being,. in practice, that the celebrant had to reach over. the cushion and Book to get at the bread and wine, which had naturally been placed (like the alms and oblations) in the centre of the table. Where the table was long, or the celebrant short of stature, it is obvious that he could not, "with readiness and decency," perform the newly-introduced Manual Acts, unless provision were made for his previously ordering" — i.e., arranging the bread and wine so as to avoid any unseemly awkwardness, and prevent accidents. For this purpose it was necessary to release him, for the moment, from his prescribed position at the north of the table, and to give him leave to go (if necessary) "before the table," in order to effect these preliminary "orderings," the object being to secure the breaking of the bread "before the people," who were to witness these sacramental actions, like the first disciples at the original institution. Now the marked break in the wording of the new Rubric, as actually framed to meet these new conditions, between the "ordering" at the west side of the table, and the subsequent "saying" the consecration prayer m the customary place ( .... on the "north side"), is marked m the .ANNEXED BOOK, by the use of a semicolon for which the printers have, without any authority, substituted a comma! The successive steps by which the Revisers reached this ultimate form of the Rubric are shown in Tomlinson on the Prayer Book (p. 222), m the chapter on "The breaking: of the .Bread," and its meaning is also fixed by the Visitation Articles of Archdeacon Pory (a leading Reviser), m 1662 and 1669, where he asks:—
    "Have you in the chancel of your Church or Chappel a decent and connivent table for the celebration of the Holy Communion? Is it so set as directed m the Queen's Injunctions, in the place where the altar stood, and so as the Priest at the time of consecration may stand before the table to order the Bread and Wine?"
    Indeed, it was not until that generation had died out that. the notion of standing on the west side of the table, during the prayer of consecration, originated in the reign of Queen Anne. That novel claim was promptly refuted by Wheatly and Nicholls, and by Lewis of Margate, being based merely on theoretical arguments arising solely out of a new verbal construing of the then misprinted Rubric.


For those who aren't familiar with the term, "north side" means the left side of the altar, from the congregation's viewpoint. The priest on the "west side" would have his back to the congregation when facing the altar.

"North side celebrations" of the Eucharist were prescribed by the 1662 BCP, but are exceedingly rare nowadays. They generally were favored by Evangelicals.

In addition to the above errats which are found m the "Sealed Books," there are a number of others which have not even that excuse for their existence. The TABLE OF CONTENTS has been materially altered, and the number prefixed to each item has also been altered, m order to conceal the illegal omissions found in the Books as now printed by the "privileged" presses."
    In that Table the very first item is ".AN ACT FOR THE UNIFORMITY OF COMMON PRAYER" This does not mean the Act of Charles, but the Act of Elizabeth. The Act of Charles was indeed printed along with the Prayer Books of 1662; because the "Sealed Books" were expressly ordered by section 28 of that Act to include the new Act, together with the Prayer Book, of which it formed no part. But the Act of Elizabeth was not only retained in 1661, but was then incorporated into the Revised Book so that it has ever since formed an integral portion of the Prayer Book as much as the Nicene Creed itself. The "Preface," newly written in 1661, refers to it as having been "never yet repealed;" and the two Convocations, after debating some proposed amendments, introduced the words "Prima Elisabethæ" into the title, and expressly adopted this Elizabethan statute as the permanent standard of Ritual to which the so-called "Ornaments Rubric" was merely auxiliary. As such, that Act was subscribed by every member of Convocation; and it is believed that it is the only Act of Parliament which was ever thus completely and formally endorsed by the "Spirituality." Of such unique importance is this statute of Elizabeth, that the two Primates based their published Opinion as to Incense and Lights upon its language (July 31,1899), and all the Ritual prosecution of late years have been determined by its penal requirements. Strange to say, however, the vast majority of the Prayer Books sold m the shops have been printed without this essential ingredient; and comparatively few Churchmen even know where to look in order to see a copy. As if this were not enough, the printers have further altered the wording of the Act itself in the very section which dealt with the Ornaments of the Church (section 25), and which, m 1661, suggested the form of words then adopted into the Revised "Ornaments Rubric." The words "be in use" were merely the passive form of "have in use," which was the customary law term for being held as trust property, viz., by the Churchwardens, who were the custodians who had to "retain," till further orders, the discarded and illegal Ornaments of the first Prayer Book. For the Crown was then (A.D. 1559) about to send round its "Commissioners under the Great Seal for causes Ecclesiastical," by whom the Visitatorial powers of the Crown were to be exercised, and by whom the Albs, Chasubles, Dalmatics, and Tunicles of the first Prayer Book were either destroyed, defaced or removed, or directed to be utilised for any other purpose than the one for which they were originally intended. The Churchwardens were personally liable to make good any deficiencies in their inventories of Church goods unless they could show that the goods had been "converted" to some legitimate Church use, or had been taken to "the King's use," or had been sold by order of the Vestry for any legitimate purpose. Yet the privileged Printers have, without any authority, altered the wording of the Act so as to direct the Ornaments to "be used;" as though their Ritual employment were being prescribed instead of being rendered impossible! Whereas the facts are, that the Rubric of 1552, directing the minister to "have and wear a surplice only," was re-enacted in 1559 under penalties, by the earlier sections of the Act 1 Elizabeth, c. 2, and every incumbent was then required to subscribe to the injunctions of 1559, which directed the dress of the "latter year of Edward VI." (which began January 28th, 1553) to be worn. Not in one single church, nor even in Elizabeth's own private Chapel, were the Ornaments of the First Prayer Book ever used (as directed by the printed but unauthorised Ornaments Rubric of that Book) under the Second Prayer Book of Edward, which, in 1559, was for the second time, the deliberate choice of the nation.
    In this reprint of the Act of Elizabeth the reader's attention is directed by the use of thicker type to the important fact (which has been commonly overlooked), namely, that it was the Second Book of Edward VI. with the Ornaments' Rubric of 1552 (and not that of the First Prayer Book of Edward, 1549) which was enacted under penalties by that Act.

The "Ornaments" refers here to the priest's vestments. The Ornaments rubric was a major source of controversy during this period between Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals. The rubric is vague, so Anglo-Catholics interpreted it liberally so as to be able to wear albs, chasubles, etc., while Evangelicals insisted that such things were not permitted.



(2.) KALENDAR. — "PAPISTS' CONSPIRACY" was made a red-letter day, and a special service was drawn up for it by Bishop Cosin, by order of Convocation, in 1661. This Synodical Service was published in 1838, by the Hon. and Rev. A. P. Perceval, in parallel columns with the service as actually printed in modern Prayer Books. This last-named service had been altered in 1689 by the sole authority of the Crown, so as to include references to the Revolution of 1688, which references were not only distasteful to the Jacobites, but later on, to Dr. Sacheverel, and the"Divine Right" Tories also. On January 17th, 1859, in reply to addresses from both Houses of Parliament, a royal warrant was issued forbidding the services for November 5th, May 29th, and January 30th, to be any longer printed with or annexed to the Book of Common Prayer. This warrant appeared in the London Gazette for January 18th, 1859. There is, however, no authority for omitting the red-letter title of "Papists' Conspiracy" from the Kalendar in its due place on November 5th; and the Canons, which still require every clergyman to preach against popery four times a year, might still be most seasonably complied with on that National anniversary.

(3.) DIVISION OF INTRODUCTORY PORTION OF MORNING AND EVENING PRAYER. — A carefully-marked DOUBLE BLACK LINE separates the merely introductory portion of the Morning and Evening Prayer from the Service proper, which begins (as in 1549) with the Lord's Prayer. If the language of the Exhortation be carefully noted, it will be seen that "confession and absolution" are not regarded in it as the special purpose of our "assembling and meeting together," but only as most suitable preparation for the objects named. Historically, this preparatory introduction (resembling in spirit the washing of the priest's feet in the Levitical Ritual) had a separate origin, and the statutory line of demarcation might fitly, on week-days, indicate an appropriate shortening of the Daily Service. Nevertheless, the "Sealed Books," no less than the modern printers, have suppressed all trace of those interesting landmarks in their "true and perfect" (?) copies.

(4.) "THIS WORD SACRAMENT" IN THE CATECHISM.— A much more grave alteration was the suppression of the comma after the word "grace" in the definition of the meaning of "this word Sacrament" in the Catechism. As now illegally printed, the definition implies that grace is always "given" in every "Sacrament," even to a Simon Magus, or any other unbelieving hypocrite or perjured person! Whereas, as the contemporary Latin version of Dean Durel witnesses, it is the "sign" and not the grace (signum gratiæ quod datur), which is invariably "given" in the due administration of every Sacrament. The very important theological issues involved are fully described in a pamphlet entitled "The Misprinted Catechism," published by the Church Association. But, as showing the absolutely unwarranted nature of this printers' alteration, it might be mentioned that the true text is uniformly found not only in the Annexed Book, and in all the "Sealed Books," but the same reading is found in every Prayer Book which has the slightest pretension to an official character, as in the earliest text, viz., the Letters Patent of King James, as given in both editions of Rymer's "Foedera;" the two editions of 1603 (O.S.), which were the earliest printed containing this part of the Catechism' in "the Durham Book" of 1619, now in Bishop Cosin's Library. marked "D. iii. 5;" in "Sancroft's Prayer Book." now in the Bodleian (dated 1634). which was used by the Committee for preparing the Revision of 1661; also in the Black Letter Book of 1636 (photo-zincographed by Government), in which Convocation "marked up " all their alterations in 1661. It is found also in the MS. annexed to the Irish Act of Uniformity (17 and 18 Car. ii. c. 6. Ireland); in the Scotch Liturgy of 1637; and in the Manx translation made by Bishop Phillips in 1610. So that they are without excuse.

(5.) LIST OF CONTENTS. — Closely connected with this last mentioned item is the alteration in the table of "The Contents of this Book." which. in the Statutory MS. reads: "19. The Catechism. with the Order for the Confirmation of children." The Confirmation Service itself begins at the foot of the same page on which "The Catechism" ends with the words."he shall confirm them in manner following."
    Both these arrangements are departed from in all modern Prayer Books. thereby concealing the fact that Confirmation is the intelligent voluntary ratification by the candidate of the promises made in his name at his baptism. Before the Reformation. mere infants in arms were customarily presented for Confirmation; and the Reformed Office differs essentially from the mediæval in its view of both Baptism and Confirmation.

(6.) ALTERATIONS IN PUNCTUATION OF EPISTLES AND GOSPELS. — In the Good Friday "Epistle." Heb. x. 12 is incorrectly punctuated."after He had offered one sacrifice for sins, for ever sat down," instead of "for sins for ever,
sat down;" and in the Epistle for Trinity Sunday "they are and were created." is wrongly substituted for the statutory punctuation of Rev. iv. 11... they are, and were created."
    In the Gospel appointed to be read at the Consecration of Bishops. the words of St. John xx. 23." Whose soever" sins ye remit. are twice printed as one word, which is not only unwarranted by the Authorised Version of both Bible and Prayer Book, but tends to conceal the fact that the original Greek has the plural (.....). and that it is to classes of men, not individual men that this ministerial remission of sins by the Holy Ghost is pledged. This has an important bearing on the doctrine of Auricular Confession. The Ordinal too (which had a separate history) had a separate title page, which the privileged printers have suppressed.
    In all the above instances, it may be disputed whether the doctrine involved be true or false; but that makes it only the more important that the Statutory Prayer Book, which is the title-deed of both parties, should not be tampered with and. garbled, either by printers or ecclesiastics. Many minute variations are purposely passed over as they are exceedingly numerous as well as trivial, and many would appear to be mere survivals of archaic spelling, or of a punctuation systematic, no doubt, but belonging to a system which has ceased to be familiar. It is in no spirit of pedantry that the instances selected and enumerated above have now been restored to the form which "this Church and Realm hath received" by its official organs, but of which the bad faith of the "privileged" custodians has hitherto robbed both Church and State.
    On the other hand. the wording of the ANNEXED BOOK has been departed from in such matters as .the Rubrics relating to the publication of banns, and the administration of oaths during the Ordination Service; both of which changes were necessitated by later legislation, though not formally embodied (as they should have been) by any corresponding official alteration of the text. Nor. where the MS. itself contains clerical errors, as in the substitution of "depriving" for "depraving." in section 9 of the 1 Elizabeth, c. 2, or the omission of "is" in the words "for thus it written," in the Gospel for the Epiphany. have we reproduced such manifest errors. Our object has been. not a mere slavish reproduction,
but to rectify certain unwarranted departures. from the Authorised Text, which have been relied upon for inculcating doctrines and practices foreign to the Spirit of the Church of England.
    Square brackets have been used throughout to indicate additions made to the Statutory or Authorised Text.


"Papists' Conpiracy" is Guy Fawkes Day, Nov. 5, when a group of Roman Catholics attempted to blow up Parliament.


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