The Book of Common Prayer
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    The Proposed Book of Common Prayer (1689)


“The Liturgy of Comprehension”

After the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, and the new Prayer Book in 1662, there arose two schools of thought, or parties, in the Anglican Church, regarding what to do with those who would not conform to the Church of England. One, that of Comprehension, sought to make accommodations in the Church so that non-Anglicans (Nonconformists, or Dissenters) could comprehend, or accept and be reconciled with the Anglican Church. The other, that of Toleration, sought to simply allow the Dissenters to practice their own beliefs without interference. (Of course, there were also a large number who did not share either of these views). The idea of toleration was quite new at that time, it being commonly accepted for centuries that the peace and stability of the kingdom required that everyone have a common religion.




“all was digested into one entire correction of every thing that seemed liable to any just objection. But this great and good work miscarried at that time”
-from the Preface to the Proposed (1786) U. S. Book of Common Prayer

The kings immediately following the Restoration, Charles II and James II, either had Catholic leanings (Charles), or openly gave allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church (James). Therefore, while they ruled, the idea of toleration was impractical as it would have had to include Catholics, and neither the Church of England nor the Nonconforming Protestants wanted that. So the idea of comprehension gained strength, and several clerics in the Church of England proposed that revisions be made to the Book of Common Prayer acceptable to the Protestant Nonconformists, or at least a significant number of them. Accordingly in 1688 a committee was set up to revise the Prayer Book, which led to a Convocation of the Church in 1689 and the appointing of a formal Commission for that revision. Prominent among the Commission members, and to whom this book may be largely attributed, were Bishop William Lloyd, and Deans Edward Stillingfleet, Symon Patrick, and John Tillotson (pictured at right). However, by the time the Commission had finished, the Glorious Revolution had taken place, overthrowing King James and bringing the firmly Protestant King William and Queen Mary to the throne. This gave new strength to the Nonconformists, who, more so now, desired no part of the Church of England, and just wanted toleration. And now toleration could safely exclude Catholics. So this revision was never submitted to Convocation, much less to Parliament, and was simply dropped. In fact, it was dropped so thoroughly that the very existence of any text of the revision was only a rumor until Parliament finally ordered it printed in 1854 - meaning the details of the revision were unknown to all but the participants until then.

The resulting 1854 text as ordered by the House of Commons is online thanks to the Internet Archive and Google Books, and appears in David Grifftihs' Bibliography of the Book of Common Prayer as 1854/1). We also have online the text as ordered by the House of Lords, which appears to be identical except for the title page. These books only show the changes made in 1689, and not the entire text.

As one might expect, this revision of the Prayer Book moved the liturgy in a decidedly Protestant direction. There were no wholesale changes, but quite a few significant ones. Some of the changes included:

  • 'Priest' was changed to 'Minister' wherever in appears , and 'Sunday' to 'Lord's Day'.
  • All lessons from the Apocrypha were eliminated
  • Clergy were allowed to not wear the surplice, if their conscience would not permit it.
  • The Doxology ("For thine is the kingdom...") is added to the Lord's Prayer wherever it appears.
  • Psalm 148 was substituted for the Benedicite in Morning Prayer; and in Evening Prayer, Psalm 8 was added and Psalm 134 substituted for the Nunc dimittis.
  • A number of elements were added to the Litany, having the effect of making more of a service on its own, and bringing it in line with the common usage of the day.
  • The collects were almost completely rewritten, with the new ones generally being considerably longer than the old, and typically featuring phrases from the associated scripture.
  • In the Communion service, it was permitted to substitute the Beatitudes for the Ten Commandments, and a number of the former collects were added at the end. An addition to the "Black Rubric" permitted receiving communion without kneeling.
  • Parents were allowed to be sponsors in Baptism, and the minister was not forced to make the sign of the cross, if his conscience would not permit it.
  • A number of responses were added to the Catechism, and a long exhortation to the Confirmation service.
  • In Matrimony, the ring is "used only as a civil ceremony and pledge", and some of the more earthy language altered.
  • The Commination was renamed "A Proper Office for Ash-Wednesday", and lengthened considerably.
  • The Ordinal addressed the sticky question of what to do about Nonconformist clergy who had not been ordained by Church of England Bishops. It was proposed that such current clergy be 'grandfathered' and not be reordained. A number of other changes were also made in response to the issue of Nonconformist clergy.


John Tillotson, one of the authors of the revision.


Title page from a contemporary (1666) Book of Common Prayer

The main source used here was a copy of the 1689 book published by Samuel Bagster in 1855 (Griffiths 1855/29) shortly after Parliament ordered the text released. This book is interleaved with the (then-current) 1662 BCP, and for the 1689 text it prints only the differences from 1662. This book is also available from Google Books. The book The Liturgy of Comprehension 1689, by Timothy J. Fawcett (Alcuin Club, 1973; Griffiths 1973/1), was also consulted extensively. The 1662 text used (for where the 1689 did not differ from the 1662) came from text files from the Reformed Episcopal Church, and from a contemporary copy (illustrated above) printed in 1666.

This Book was never a completely finished product (and, as noted above, only a single copy survived), so there are areas where the intent of the authors is not completely clear, and others where a final decision was to be left up to Convocation. These are indicated in the text. Notes in the original text are in black type; my own or those from the Bagster reprint are in grey.

To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time this book has been printed out in full, including those portions where it did not differ from the 1662 BCP.

Finally, it should also be noted that the opinion expressed in the initial quote above is by no means universal.



The Contents of this Book

1. The Act for the Uniformity of Common Prayer.
2. The Preface.
3. Concerning the Service of the Church.
4. Concerning Ceremonies.
5. The Order how the Psalter is appointed to be read.
6. The Order how the rest of the holy Scripture is appointed to be read.
7. A Table of Proper Lessons and Psalms.
8. Tables and Rules for the Feasts and Fasts throughout the whole year..
9. The Kalendar, with the Tables of Lessons.
10. The Order for Morning Prayer.
11. The Order for Evening Prayer.
12. The Creed of S. Athanasius.
13. The Litany.
14. Prayers and Thanksgivings upon several occasions.
15. The Collects, Epistles, and Gospels, to be used at the Ministration of the holy Communion throughout the year.
16. The Order of the Ministration of the holy Communion.
17. The Order of Baptism, both publick and private.
18. The Order of Baptism of such as are of riper years.
19. The Catechism, with the Order for Confirmation of children.
20. The Form of Solemnization of Matrimony.
21. The Visitation of the Sick, and Communion of the Sick.
22. The Order for the Burial of the Dead.
23. Thanksgiving for Women after Child-bearing.
24. The proper Office for Ashwednesday (formerly the Commination).
25. The Psalter. [unchanged]
26. The Order of Prayer to be used at Sea. [unchanged]
27. The Form and Manner of Making, Ordaining, and Consecrating of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons.
28. A Form of Prayer for the fifth day of NOVEMBER.
29. A Form of Prayer for the thirtieth day of JANUARY.
30. A Form of Prayer for the nine and twentieth day of MAY.
33. Articles of Religion. [unchanged]


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