THE

BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER

ITS ORIGIN AND GROWTH 

BY

J. H. BENTON, LL.D.

leaf.gif (898 bytes)
 

 

"AS THE LIGHT OF THE SUN
IS TO THE EYE OF THE BODY
SO IS PRAIER TO THE SOUL"
 
 

BOSTON
PRIVATELY PRINTED
1910



 


THE BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER

 


T HE gradual collection of Books of Common Prayer and other books related thereto has been one of the avocations of a busy professional life. I am sometimes asked: "But why collect Prayer-Books?" This sketch is my answer to that question.

The English Book of Common Prayer is one of the most interesting and instructive subjects of devotional and historical study. It is the first book, comprising all the offices of the Church and also forms of private devotion, which was established as a complete liturgy by the ad of the state. All previous forms of worship had been promulgated by ecclesiastical authority alone, and had no binding force in the law of the state; but this book was enacted as the only legal form of public worship by a Parliament of the Commons and Lords Spiritual and Temporal and the Crown. Although it was first prepared by the clergy, it was necessarily so framed as to stand the test of legislative debate and meet the approval of the people by their representatives in Parliament; and the legal validity of its use rests solely upon the authority of the act of Parliament. It was also the first complete book of devotions for the clergy and the worshippers in the language of the people, so that it might "be understanded by the people." It was a compromise between conflicting opinions as to religious doctrine and as to forms of worship. This was its strength; for this made it a liturgy established by the consent and authority of the people, for the use of the people, in the common language of the people. It has been twice proscribed by law, all copies of it ordered to be destroyed, and its use in public or private devotions made a crime. But it has, with few substantial alterations, remained unchanged in its original form for three hundred and fifty years.

The act of Parliament establishing the Book of Common Prayer was passed January 21, 1549. The book was at once printed, and its use began in the following June. The act was entitled "An Act for Uniformity of Service and Administration of the Sacraments throughout the Realm." It recited the diversity of forms of worship then existing. It stated that a book entitled "The Book of Common Prayer, and Administration of the Sacraments, and other rites and ceremonies of the Church, after the Use of the Church of England," had been prepared by the Archbishop of Canterbury and certain of the most learned and discreet bishops, and other learned men of the realm, and declared that all the ministers in the King's dominions should "after the Feast of Pentecost next coming [June 9,1 549], be bounden to say and use the Mattens, Evensong, Celebration of the Lord's Supper, commonly called the Mass, and administration of each of the Sacraments, and all their common and open Prayer in such order and form as is mentioned in the same book, and none other or otherwise."

A great priest of the Church has said of it: "As the earth's shadow has kept sweeping slowly round the globe, under the two advancing lines of twilight and dawn, wherever the English tongue is spoken, the daily sacrifice of our morning and evening prayer has ‘bowed down successive crowds of worshippers upon their knees;' so that, perhaps, there has not been an hour of day or night, since that month, in the second year of Edward's reign, when, from some high temple, or lowly chapel, or family group, or chamber of sickness, or dying bed, or closet whose door was shut, these immortal confessions and supplications and praises have not been ascending!"

The history of the Book of Common Prayer has been the study of the most acute and vigorous minds, not only of ecclesiastics, but of lawyers, statesmen and scholars. A body of literature has been created as to its sources, meaning and purposes which for learning, reasoning and style is unsurpassed. Those who know it best love it most, and the very earnestness of their discussions as to its origin and meaning attests their devotion to it. It has profoundly influenced not only the moral, but also the intellectual and political life of England and of the world. The arbitrary reforms and the vacillating but effective rule of Henry VIII; the weak government and widespread insurrections of the reign of Edward VI; the cruel persecutions under Mary and the persistent oppression of those who adhered to the Roman faith under Elizabeth; the childish and ineffective rule of James I ;the civil wars in the time of Charles I, his execution and the able but arbitrary rule of Cromwell; the riotous reign of the dissolute Charles II, and all the subsequent political history of England are a part of the story of the Book of Common Prayer. It has affected English and Continental diplomacy and statesmanship, and it is not too much to say that its existence and use have caused wars to be waged and colonies to be established beyond the seas. It has not only gone where the English language has gone, but it has been translated into nearly all the written languages of the world. Its history is a part of the warp and woof of the history of the English people and nation which no one can fully understand who does not know its story.

Of course, such a book was not an accident or a new creation. It was an adaptation of rites, of ceremonies and of forms of devotion which had their origin in the earliest times, and came down gradually modified by use in different parts of the Christian world for more than fifteen centuries. There was always in England an independent Church, called, in distinction from the Church of Rome, in the statutes, records and rolls of Parliament, the "Church of England "or "Holy Church of England." The entire separation of that Church from the Roman See by the Act of Supremacy in 1534, which made the King the "only Supreme Head in earth of the Church of England," necessarily resulted in a separate form of liturgical worship in England. Immediately thereafter the Bible was ordered by the King to be set up for convenient use in every church, and all curates and heads of congregations were required to read the Epistle and Gospel of every holy-day out of the English Bible, plainly and distinctly. This was probably to be done after the Latin version had been read, as was the custom at that time in Germany, and is said to have been the custom in the primitive Church, when in Rome the Gospel and Epistle were read aloud both in Greek and in Latin.

On February 21, 1543, Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, informed the Convocation that it was the wish of his majesty that all service-books in the Church of England should be "newly examined, corrected, reformed, and castigated, from all manner of mention of the Bishop of Rome's name, from all apocryphas, feigned legends, superstitions, orations, collects, versicles, and responses; that the names and memories of all saints which be not mentioned in the Scripture or authentic doctors should be abolished, and put out of the same books and calendars, and that the service should be made out of the Scripture and other authentic doctors."

In 1544 the King directed Cranmer to prepare a general supplication "in our native English tongue,'' to be "continually from henceforth said and sung in all churches of our realm with such reverence and devotion as appertaineth," etc. Upon this instruction Cranmer prepared the first Litany in English which was put forth by order of the King.. This was the first authoritative act introducing the English tongue into the public services of the Church. This Litany, which was included in the King's Primer of 1545, left out the petitions to various saints, all mentioned by name, which were in the Latin service-books, but retained clauses calling for the prayers of the Blessed Virgin, of the angels, and of the patriarchs, prophets and apostles. There remained, it will be seen, but little, except to frame the Eucharistic Office, in order to have complete materials for the compilation of a Book of Common Prayer. This Office was supplied by the "Order of the Communion," which was prepared and passed Convocation* and received the civil sanction of Parliament requiring its use March 8, 1548.

The origin and establishment of the first Book of Common Prayer, and the manner in which it has been from time to time revised, are now to be stated and explained in as simple and concise a manner as is practicable.

* The term "Convocation" as here used is an assembly of bishops and clergy summoned by command of the Crown to act only in such civil matters as the Crown directs in its summons, but with no power to change the law of the land. The directions to Convocation are called "Letters of business."

 

II

 CHRISTIANITY arose in the East. Its earliest forms of worship are Oriental, and though their intellectual purpose may be said to be Greek, and their administrative development Roman, Oriental influences gave them a colour and a beauty which have in no small degree contributed to their permanent influence upon the minds of men. The origin of all the liturgies of the Christian Church is uncertain, traditional and obscured by the mists of a profound antiquity. But they may perhaps be divided into four principal or primary groups, named according to their supposed sources, as follows: The Liturgy of St. James, in Syria and Jerusalem, sometimes called the Clementine Liturgy; the Liturgy of St. Mark, in Egypt, Alexandria and Abyssinia, including the Greek, Coptic and Ethiopic forms; the Liturgy of St. Peter, or the Roman Liturgy, supposed to be the form of worship of the first Christians at Rome, although as they were Greek their Liturgy was doubtless in that tongue, and was perhaps derived from the primitive Liturgy of St. James ;* and lastly, the Liturgy of St. John, in Spain, France and northern Italy, sometimes called the Ephesine Liturgy, from Ephesus, as the residence of St. John. This last group included the Mozarabic, or national Liturgy of Spain, until the close of the eleventh century, when it was superseded by the Roman Liturgy; the Gallican or ancient Liturgy of France until the close of the ninth century, when it was also superseded by the Roman Liturgy; the Liturgy of Milan, sometimes called the Ambrosian Liturgy, and which is, perhaps, but a branch of the Roman Liturgy; and finally, the Celtic Liturgy, which was in use in the British Islands before the Anglo-Saxon Conquest, and in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Cornwall for varying periods of time thereafter. The forms of these liturgies were, however, to a large degree common, indicating clearly that they all had their origin in one primitive liturgy of the early Christian Church.

The history of the Book of Common Prayer is, of course, most directly concerned with the Christian liturgies which preceded it in the British Islands. The first of these was the Celtic, but all the Christian churches, with their books of worship, were destroyed by the Anglo-Saxon conquerors prior to 600 A. D., and the Celtic forms of Christian devotion remained only in the outskirts of England and in Scotland, Ireland and Wales. After this and before the Norman Conquest, the liturgy of the Celtic Church was gradually restored in some parts of England, but the use of the Liturgy of Rome was so far introduced and extended by the Roman mission aries that the Anglo-Saxon Liturgy, so called, -- that is, the liturgy generally prevailing in England before the Norman Conquest, -- may properly be termed the Roman Liturgy. After the Norman Conquest, how ever, this liturgy itself was modified by Norman influences, so that the English Liturgy assumed a distinct character of its own. In 1085 A.D. this was embodied in a service-book called "The Missal according to the use of Sarum," which, with certain variations of form in the different dioceses, such as Hereford, York, Bangor, London and others, practically became the English Liturgy. The liturgical books in which the forms or uses of worship in the different dioceses were contained were, however, for the use of the priests alone, and not for the use of the people, either in public or in private devotions. They were, of course, in manuscript, as printing was not introduced into England until as late as 1474 A.D., when Caxton printed his first book in London from movable types. They were also all in the Latin language, as all books of Christian worship had always been in the west of Europe and in England. Indeed, English, as a language common to the entire English people, hardly existed at that time. It was not until after the complete fusion of the English with the Danes and the Normans had blended into one common language the different dialects which had previously prevailed in England that an English language was created capable of being used in an accurate literary form.

A desire arose, however, among the people in the west of Europe, and especially in England, for some book by the use of which they could themselves take part in the public services of the Church; and hence there came to be produced what was first called "The Book of Hours," and later "The Prymer," or, as it has been well termed, "The Lay Folks Prayer Book." This book, like the missals and breviaries, and other service-books used by the priests, varied in form in the different dioceses, and was called "The Prymer after the use of Salisbury," or of York, or Bangor, etc., according to the diocese in which it was prepared and used. In comparatively early times these prymers were written in English, or in English and in Latin. They contained invariably certain forms, -- the office of the Blessed Virgin, the seven penitential Psalms, the gradual Psalms (said to have been so called because it is supposed they were sung on the steps of the Temple), the Litany and the commendations or devotions of Psalm 119. Numerous prymers were printed, some by authority of the Church and others without it, prior to 1545, when a book called "The King's Primer" was issued under the authority of Henry VIII, and ordered to be used throughout all his dominions. This primer was printed in English and in Latin in parallel columns, and, although it did not contain the Communion Office, was the nearest approach to a Book of Common Prayer which had then been reached in England.

Upon this foundation of the primitive liturgies of the Christian Church and the Roman service-books, being those used by the priests, and also the Prymers, or Lay Folks Prayer-Book, of different uses or forms in the different dioceses of England, the Book of Common Prayer was formed and framed. So far as the forms of "the common prayer and administration of the sacraments and other rites and ceremonies of the Church" were concerned, the Prayer-Book was compiled and formed from these sources. As to its doctrine it was necessarily made to conform to the faith of the English Church as then understood and established, with only a few slight alterations which were adopted to meet the views of those reformers who had separated from the Church of Rome. This faith or doctrine of the English Church was expressed in articles and formularies which had been from time to time established and put forth by the King, as the head of the Church, on the advice of the Convocation or assembly of the bishops and clergy.

* The first seven General Councils of the Church conducted their debates and wrote their decrees in Greek. "The early Roman Church was but a colony of Greek Christians or Grecised Jews. The early fathers of the Roman Church wrote in Greek and the early Popes were not Italians, but Greeks. Pope is not Latin, but Greek, and is now the title of every pastor in the Eastern Church." Stanley's Eastern Church, p. 14 et seq.

 

III

WHEN the supremacy of the Roman See in matters of faith was destroyed in England, and the supremacy of the King established in such matters, it became necessary that articles of Christian belief should be promulgated by the head of the English Church. Such articles were drawn up and adopted by the Convocation in July, 1536. They were then established by royal proclamation as "Articles devised to stablish Christian quietness and unity among us and to avoid contentious opinions." They were entitled "The Articles of our Faith," and being ten in number were commonly known as the "Ten Articles." These were followed by royal injunctions promulgated by the King without action by the Convocation, requiring the bishops and the clergy to teach the doctrines of the articles to the people, and also to cause them to learn the Creed, the Lord's Prayer and the Ten Commandments in English. In 1539 the "Six Articles," so-called, were enacted. These required belief in the real presence in the Eucharist, declared against communion in both kinds, prohibited the marriage of the clergy, and commended private masses and auricular confession. Failure to conform to these articles was made an offence punishable by fines, imprisonment and death. In 1543 the rigour of these articles was relaxed by "A Necessary Doctrine and Erudition for any Christian Man." This was a revision of "The Institution of a Christian Man," published by royal authority in 1537 and known as "The Bishops' Book. "This revision, mainly prepared by Cranmer, was set forth by the King "with the advice of his clergy," and was known as the "King's Book." The doctrine of the English Church remained as set forth in the Ten Articles, the Six Articles and in the King's Book until 1552, when it was embodied in the Forty-Two Articles of Edward VI. These were also mainly prepared by Cranmer, were approved by Convocation and by the King in Council, and were published in English and in Latin. All these were suppressed during the reign of Mary; but after Elizabeth came to the throne articles were framed in 1559 called the Eleven Articles. In 1562 a revision of the Forty-Two Articles was made by Convocation and approved by the Queen in Council. This revision superseded the Eleven Articles and reduced the number to thirty-nine. They have since been called the Thirty-Nine Articles, and have remained unchanged in England, Scotland and Ireland. These Articles of Faith are no part of the Prayer-Book and are not printed in the early editions.

While Henry VIII lived and reigned, it was impossible to frame a communion office essentially different from that of the Roman ritual, for though he was determined to free England from the supremacy of Rome, all his predilections were in favour of its liturgy. While for political purposes he was willing to hear the views of the reformers, and to consider their arguments in favour of radical changes in the Roman system of Church government and in its forms of worship, such as communion in both kinds, the marriage of the clergy, and the disuse of private propitiatory masses, he yielded to none of them. During his reign, however, the Church of England had become a distinct body, with no allegiance to Rome; the Bible had been given to the people in English and declared to be "the only touchstone of true learning ;" the Litany and other parts of the public service, with many forms of private prayer, had been put forth by royal authority in English as well as in Latin, and commanded to be taught to all children in English. In short, the reform of the Church service had gradually gone on in spite of the conservatism of the King, and at his death the people were ready for a new and complete liturgy.

Henry died January 28, 1547, and on January 31 his son, Edward, then eight years old, became king as Edward VI, and fell immediately, so far as matters concerning the Church were concerned, under the influence of Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury. At the first Parliament of Edward an act was passed which had been approved by Convocation, requiring the public administration of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper under both kinds and in the English language. It was entitled "An Act against such as shall unreverentlie speake against the Sacrament of the bodie and bloude of Christe commonlie called the Sacrament of the Altar, and for the receiving thereof in both kyndes," and was passed in December, 1547 [Statutes at Large (London, 1758), vol. ii. p. 192.]. By this act the cup as well as the bread in communion was for the first time legally given to the people in England. On March 8, 1548, the order of the communion service under the act was issued, which supplied the proper service-book for the Sacrament.

In the following year the King "appointed the Archbishop of Canterbury [Cranmer], with other learned and discreet bishops and divines, to draw an order of divine worship, having respect to the pure religion of Christ taught in the Scripture and to the practice of the primitive Church." In the meantime the ordinary services of the Church were continued according to the old use of Salisbury, and in the Latin tongue. This commission prepared a Book of Common Prayer which was submitted to Convocation, and there debated, revised, approved and laid before Parliament on the 9th of December, 1548. There it was debated at length both in the House of Lords and in the Commons, and finally the act establishing it was passed on the List of January, 1549. It was entitled "An Act for Uniformity of Service and Administration of the Sacraments throughout the Realm." [Statutes at Large, vol. ii. p. 212.]

Those who, in spite of the ads of supremacy, still adhered to the Church of Rome, and desired to use its ancient forms of worship, were bitterly opposed to the new Book of Common Prayer, and it was even more obnoxious to those who desired to do away with all the ancient forms and to have new forms of worship, and not merely a revision of old ones. Like most good work, the Prayer-Book was condemned because it did too much, and also because it did not do enough. The calling in by royal command of all the old service-books to be destroyed in 1550, also came at a time when the people were in great distress from a depreciated currency, high prices and lack of employment, and was one of the causes of widespread insurrections against the government. These were finally suppressed, but persistent attacks continued to be made upon the new form of worship, especially upon the Communion Office, by those who felt that by it the Roman mass had really not been abolished.

It became evident that a revision of the Book of Common Prayer was necessary for the peace of the realm. Commissioners were accordingly appointed by the Crown and instructed to make such alterations in the Book as they might consider desirable. They completed their work before the end of the year 1551, and the revised Book was laid before Parliament, where it was under consideration and debate from March 19 to April 14, 1552, when a second act was passed, establishing it as the only lawful form of worship [Statutes at Large, vol. ii. p. 240]. This was entitled "An Act for the Uniformity of Service and Administration of Sacraments throughout the Realm." It referred to the first Book of Common Prayer "as a very Godly order set forth by authority of Parliament for Common Prayer and administration of the Sacraments to be used in the mother tongue within this Church of England agreeable to the Word of God, and the primitive Church, very comfortable to all good people," and declared that the revision was "because there hath risen in the use and exercise of the aforesaid Common Service in the Church, heretofore set forth, divers doubts for the fashion and manner of the ministration of the same, rather by the curiosity of the Minister and mistakers, than of any other worthy cause." Wherefore the act declared that Parliament "hath caused the aforesaid order of Common Service, entitled ‘The Book of Common Prayer,' to be faithfully and godly perused, explained, and made fully perfect." The act then declared that if after November 1,1552, any person should " willingly and wittingly hear and be present at any other manner or form of Common Prayer, or Administration of the Sacraments, of making of Ministers in the Churches, or of any other rites contained in the book" he should for the first offence be imprisoned for six months, for the second for one year, and for the third offence for life. In this revision the Ordinal or form for making bishops, priests and deacons was first made part of the Prayer-Book. This was prepared and published early in 1550 as a companion to the Book of Common Prayer of 1549, and is therefore sometimes spoken of as the "Ordinal of 1549." It was, however, no part of the first Prayer-Book, but the Act of Uniformity of 1552 specifically added to the Book of Common Prayer, to be of like force and authority," A forme and maner of making and consecrating of Archebisshops, Bisshops, Priestes and Deacons."

An interesting matter connected with the second Prayer-Book of Edward VI is that relating to the "Black Rubric," so-called. This rubric was not contained in the Prayer-Book which was adopted by Parliament by the Act of Uniformity of April 15, 1552, and therefore never had the sanction of Parliament. But on October 27, only four days before the Book was required by the act to be generally used, an order was passed by the King in Council requiring the rubric to be added to the Communion Office. It was printed in black, and, after a preamble stating the propriety of kneeling in the Communion, declared that "it is not meant thereby that any adoration is done or ought to be done either unto the sacramental bread and wine there bodily received, or unto any real and essential presence there being of Christ's natural flesh and blood. For as concerning the sacramental bread and wine, they remain still in their very natural substances, and therefore may not be adored; for that were idolatry to be abhorred of all faithful Christians; and as concerning the natural body and blood of our Saviour Christ, they are in heaven and not here; for it is against the truth of Christ's true natural body to be in more places than in one at one time." This rubric was omitted from the Prayer-Book as established by the Act of Uniformity of Elizabeth in 1559, because it was no part of the Prayer-Book of 1552 as enacted by Parliament. It was included in the present Prayer-Book as established by the Act of 1662, but in a slightly modified form.

Edward died July 6, 1553, and this revision of the Prayer-Book was in force only eight months, and therefore did not come into general use throughout the realm. The liturgy of the Church as comprised in the two books of Edward was the one admirable thing which his unhappy reign produced.

The first Parliament in the reign of Mary assembled on October 24, and was dissolved on December 6, 1553. The ads of the previous reign for communion in both kinds and establishing the Book of Common Prayer were repealed, and it was provided that after December 20, 1553, there should be no other kind of service nor administration of sacraments except such as were "most commonly used in England in the last year of Henry VIII." At the next Parliament, between November 12, 1554, and January 16, of the next year, an act was passed "repealing all Articles and Provisions made against the See Apostolic of Rome since the 20th year of King Henry VIII." The result of these ads was to restore the supremacy of Rome and the Roman mass, to take the cup from the laity, and to proscribe the use of the Book of Common Prayer.

The reign of Mary lasted until November 17,1558, when Elizabeth came to the throne. She proceeded with great caution in matters of religion. She first caused a Litany to be prepared for use in the Chapel Royal, substantially the same as that found in the Prayer-Book of Edward VI, and by proclamation on December 27, 1558, forbade any preaching or teaching other than that of the Gospels and Epistles and the Ten Commandments in the English tongue, or the use of any manner of public prayer, rite or ceremony in the Church but that which was already used, and by law received, or the common litany used in her own chapel, and the Lord's Prayer, and the Creed in English, until further action by Parliament.

The first Parliament of Elizabeth was opened on January 23, 1559, and closed May 8, 1559. On March 18 an act was passed "to restore to the Crown the ancient jurisdiction over the estate ecclesiastical and spiritual, and abolishing all foreign powers repugnant to the same." On April 28 Parliament passed "An Act for the Uniformity of Common Prayer, and Service in the Church, and Administration of the Sacraments," [Statutes at Large, vol. ii. p. 317] which had not, for obvious reasons, been submitted to the Convocation, and against which all the Bishops present in the Lords voted. This act recited that at the death of Edward "there remained one uniform order of common service and prayer, and of the administration of Sacraments, Rites and Ceremonies in the Church of England, which was set forth in one book, entitled :The Book of Common Prayer, etc., authorized by an Act of Parliament, entitled An Act for the Uniformity of Common Prayer, and administration of the Sacraments, the which was repealed, and taken away by Act of Parliament, in the first year of the reign of Queen Mary, to the great decay of the due honour of God, and discomfort to the professors of the truth of Christ's religion." The act then provided that the repealing act of the reign of Mary should be void "from and after the Feast of the Nativity of S. John Baptist" (June 24, 1559), and that the said Book of Common Prayer, "with the alterations and additions therein added and appointed by this statute shall stand and be in full force and effect" after said day. The act further required that after that time the service in all churches or other places in the Queen's dominions should be according to the Prayer-Book of Edward VI with said alterations. The only important alteration in the Book of Common Prayer made by this act was that with regard to the ornaments of the church and of the ministers. The second Prayer-Book of Edward VI forbade the use of Albe, Vestment or Cope, but the Elizabethan Prayer-Book provided that "such ornaments of the church and of the minister thereof shall be retained, and be used as was in this Church of England, by authority of Parliament, in the second year of the reign of King Edward VI until other order shall be therein taken by the authority of the Queen's Majesty."

This act, however, contained a new and important provision that "If there shall happen any contempt or irreverence, to be used in the Ceremonies or Rites of the Church, by the misusing of the Orders appointed in this book, the Queen's Majesty may, by the like advice of the said Commissioners or Metropolitan, ordain and publish such further ceremonies or rites as may be most for the advancement of God's glory, the Edifying of his Church, and due reverence of Christ's Holy Mysteries and Sacraments." Under this authority, as well as in the exercise of the power of the Sovereign as the Supreme Head of the Church, the Queen issued the so-called "Injunctions " and "Advertisements,"prescribing many things with regard to public worship which were not specifically provided for by the Book of Common Prayer.

After Parliament in 1534 declared that the English Sovereign was the only Supreme Head of the Church in England in matters spiritual as well as temporal, it became the practice for the sovereign to issue commands as to church services and other ecclesiastical matters. These were sometimes issued by the advice of Convocation or of commissioners of the clergy appointed by the Crown, but they were frequently issued independent of such advice and in the usual form, that is, by advice of the Council. As early as 1536 the King issued instructions abolishing holy-days during the harvest season solely upon his own authority. These instructions were usually called injunctions, sometimes advertisements. Henry VIII issued injunctions at various times. Edward VI in 1547 issued injunctions which recited the injunctions of Henry VIII, reaffirmed them and added other injunctions to them, by advice of the King's Council. In 1559 Elizabeth issued injunctions commanding many things with regard to church service and the conduct of the clergy. In 1564 she issued what are called" advertisements" as to matters of clerical vestments, church ornaments, etc.

The supremacy of Rome which had been destroyed in the reign of Henry VIII, and restored in the reign of Mary, was again effectively destroyed, and all the power of the Church of Rome in England overthrown by Parliament in 1559. Speaking of this settlement of religious matters, Elizabeth wrote to the Catholic princes of Europe: "No new religion has been set up in England but that which was commanded by Our Saviour, practiced by the primitive Church, and approved by the fathers of the best antiquity." The Roman Church, however, did not quietly submit to this. The Pope issued a bull of excommunication against Elizabeth, reciting that she was "an heretic, a pretended Queen of England abandoned to all wickedness,"who had "wickedly usurped to herself the supremacy over the whole Church of England," and "strictly prohibited the exercise of the true religion (which Mary, the lawful Queen of famous memory, had by the assistance of this see restored after it has been lately suppressed by Henry VIII, an apostate therefrom);" that she had "abolished the sacrifice of the mass and the rites of the Catholic Church, and commanded books containing in them downright heresies to be published throughout the realm, and ordered impious rites and ceremonies to be observed by her subjects." Wherefore, the bull of excommunication declared Elizabeth to be deprived of her pretended title as Queen, and absolved all her subjects, and others who had taken an oath to her as Queen, from such oaths, and commanded them not to presume to obey her or her laws, and declared that those who should do so would be subject to like excommunication.

Later another bull of excommunication of like effect was issued against the Queen, and finally, when the great Armada was about to be sent by Spain to conquer England, a final bull of excommunication was issued. This recited the previous bulls, stated that the Pope had "used great diligence with divers princes and especially with the mighty and Catholic King of Spain, to use force, that that woman may be dejected from her degree and that the evil men and hurtful to mankind which adhere to her may be punished, and that kingdom be reduced to certain reformation and quietness." Then the bull set forth at great length the wicked conduct of Elizabeth in abolishing the true Catholic religion and introducing heretical forms of worship, and again declared Elizabeth illegitimate and a true usurper of the kingdom of England, and absolved all her subjects from all duty of fidelity and obedience to her, and threatened them with excommunication if they continued to obey her. The Spanish Armada was specially described in this bull, and all persons who took part in the invasion of England were granted plenary indulgence for anything they might do in carrying on the war against England.*

But the time had gone by when the thunders of the Vatican could shake the throne of England. Burleigh and Bacon were prudent and wise upon the land, Hawkins and Drake resistless upon the sea, and Elizabeth herself was more than a match for all the diplomats of Europe. The great Armada failed of its purpose, and when it was driven, shattered and broken, around the headlands of Scotland and Ireland, the last real danger of a foreign invasion of England passed away. The sturdy English people continued to serve the Queen according to the laws of the realm, and to worship God according to the use of the Book of Common Prayer, during the long and able reign of Elizabeth, until her death in 1603.

* The papal bulls promulgated by the Bishop of Rome against Henry VIII and against Queen Elizabeth were as follows:

Bull of damnation and excommunication, promulgated by Pope Paul III against Henry VIII and his partisans, dated at Rome, August 30, 1535. Latin text published in .Bullariam privilegiorum ac diplomatum Romanorum pontificum, tom. iv. pars 1 pp. 125-130 (Romae, 1745). Then follows (ibid., pp. 130-132) the executory bull, by the same pope, dated December 17, 1539.

Bull of damnation and excommunication, promulgated by Pope Pius V against Queen Elizabeth and her followers, dated at Rome, February 25, 1569 [i.e. 1570]. An English translation of this is to be found in Camden's History, vol. 2, part 4, p. 417 (London, 1706). Latin text published in Bullarium privilegiorum ac diplomatum Romanorum pontificum, tom. iv. pars 3, pp. 98, 99 (Romae, 1746). This bull was renewed by Pope Gregory XIII (1572-1585) in his general bull, In nomine sanctae et individuae Trinitatis (In the name of the sacred and undivided Trinity), ) a bull against heretics, dated Rome, March 19, 1571; and, again, in 1577. Pope Sixtus V renewed the same bull of excommunication in 1588. An English translation of this is to be found in Purchas His Pilgrimes, vol. iv. p. 1895 (London, 1615).

As a matter of fact an excommunicatory bull holds good until removed by a bull of absolution. A pope cannot excommunicate a person a second time, unless that person has been absolved by another bull. He can, however, affirm his predecessor's bull. This was done by Popes Gregory XIII and Sixtus V.

 

IV

JAMES I, son of the fickle Mary, Queen of Scots, and the imbecile Darnley, became king March 24 of that year. James was cautious, mean, loquacious and cowardly, but he had a low cunning and shrewdness which made him the wisest fool in Christendom. The reign of James continued from March 24, 1603, to March 22, 1625. No revision of the Prayer-Book was made by Parliament during that time. James, however, in 1604, called a conference of representatives of the bishops and clergy of the Church and of the Puritans to consider whether changes should be made in the Book of Common Prayer. This was called the "Hampton Court Conference," and the King with Scotch shrewdness himself presided at it, took part in its discussions, and shaped its conclusions. As the result of the Conference the King issued a proclamation on March 5, 1604, for the authorizing and Uniformity of the Book of Common Prayer, to be used throughout the Realm," and another proclamation on July 16, of the same year, for the same purpose. These proclamations recited the result of the Hampton Court Conference, declared that it appeared to the King and his Council "that there was no cause why any change should be made neither in the doctrine nor in the forms and rites of the Book of Common Prayer," but that "some small things might rather be explained than changed, not that the same might not very well have been borne with by men who would have made a reasonable construction of them." The proclamation then stated that for the purpose of making such explanation a commission had been issued to the Archbishop of Canterbury and others, "according to the Form which the Laws of this Realm in like case prescribe to be used, to make the said Explanation and to cause the whole Book of Common Prayer, with the same Explanations, to be newly printed." This being done, the proclamation proceeds "to require and enjoin all men, as well Ecclesiastical as Temporal, to conform themselves unto it, and to the practice thereof, as the only public form of serving God, established and allowed to be in this Realm."

The action of the King in this matter was objected to by the Puritans upon the ground that no alteration could be made in the Book of Common Prayer except by Parliament. But it is evident by the terms of the King's proclamation that he assumed to make these slight alterations under authority of the act of Parliament which established the Prayer-Book in the time of Elizabeth. James claimed that the authority given by this act to the Queen to establish further rites and ceremonies was given to the Crown and inherited by him as the successor of Elizabeth. The most important result of the Hampton Court Conference was an order by the King in response to the request of the Puritans for a uniform translation of the Bible. This was completed in 1611, and is commonly called the "King James Bible."

Charles I became king March 27, 1625, and no revision of the Prayer-Book, nor any change in its language, except what is usual in all the reprints of books at that time, was made during his reign. In 1637, however, a Prayer-Book was drawn up for use in Scotland, which was put in force by a royal proclamation December 20, 1636. This book was based upon the English Book of Common Prayer, but differed from it in many respects. It was commonly called "Laud's Book" because it was said to have been prepared at the instance of Archbishop Laud. It was rejected by the clergy and the people of Scotland.

The Book of Common Prayer continued to be the lawful form of worship until January 3, 1644, when Parliament passed an ordinance "for the taking away of the Book of Common Prayer, and for the establishing and putting in execution of the Directory for the publique Worship of God." * This ordinance recited that "The Lords and Commons assembled in Parliament, taking into serious consideration the manifold inconveniences that have arisen by the Book of Common Prayer in this kingdom and resolving according to their Covenant, to reform religion according to the Word of God, and the example of the best reformed Churches; have consulted with the reverend, pious and learned Divines, called together for that purpose; and do judge it necessary that the said Book of Common Prayer be abolished, and the Directory for the Public Worship of God hereafter mentioned be established and observed, in all the Churches within this kingdom."

It was therefore ordained that the statutes of uniformity of Edward and Elizabeth establishing the Book of Common Prayer be repealed, and the Directory used in all exercises of the Public Worship of God. In August of the same year it was ordered that all Common Prayer Books remaining in parish churches and chapels should be within one month taken away to be destroyed, and that if any person should at any time cause the Book of Common Prayer to be used in any church, chapel or place of worship, or in any private place or family within the kingdom of England, he should for the first offence pay a fine of 5, for the second a fine of 10, and for the third offence be imprisoned one whole year.

The Directory was not a Prayer-Book at all. It consisted of prohibitions of liturgical worship and of directions to the conduct of such services as might be deemed discreet and expedient. Of its eighty-six small printed pages, eight are taken up with a preface; three contain directions as to the "Assembling of the Congregation," two as to the "Public Reading of the Holy Scriptures;" thirteen and a half are given to directions as to "Prayer before the Sermon," nine to the "Preaching of the Word," and three to the "Prayer after the Sermon." In the directions as to the Administration of the Sacraments nine pages are devoted to Baptism, eight to the Lord's Supper, two to the Sanctification of the Lord's Day, seven to Marriage, eight to the Visitation of the Sick, one and a half to the Burial of the Dead, five and a half to Public Fasting, three and a half to Days of Public Thanksgiving, one to Singing of Psalms, and two to an Appendix touching Days and Places of Public Worship. Its character is indicated by its provision concerning the burial of the dead which was " When any person departeth this life, let the dead body, upon the day of Buriall, be decently attended from the house to the place appointed for publique Buriall, and there immediately interred without any Ceremony. And because the customes of kneeling down, and praying by, or towards the dead Corps, and other such usages, in the place where it lies, before it be carried to Buriall, are Superstitious: and for that, praying, reading, and singing both in going to, and at the Grave, have been grosly abused, are no way beneficiall to the dead, and have proved many wayes hurtfull to the living, therefore let all such things be laid aside. Howbeit, we judge it very convenient, that the Christian friends which accompany the dead body to the place appointed for publique Buriall, doe apply themselves to meditations, and conferences suitable to the occasion: and, that the Minister, as upon other occasions, so at this time, if he be present, may put them in remembrance of their Duty. That this shall not extend to deny any civill respects or differences at the Buriall, suitable to the ranke and condition of the party deceased whiles he was living."

Charles II came to the throne May 29, 1660, the use of the Directory ceased, and the Book of Common Prayer, as it had been before established, was used from that time without change until it was revised by a commission of twelve bishops and twelve Presbyterian divines, with nine assistants on each side as substitutes for the principals when they should be absent, known as the "Savoy Conference." This commission was called by a royal warrant on March 25, 1661. It opened on April 15,1661, at the Bishop of London's lodgings in the Savoy, and closed on July 25, 1661. On June 29, 1661, a bill for the "Uniformity of Public Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments" was read for the first time in the House of Commons. The proceedings in the Commons showed the desire of the people to restore the old Book of Common Prayer without delay and substantially unchanged. While the conference was sitting, the Commons appointed "a Committee to view the several laws for confirming the Liturgy of the Church of England, and to make search whether the original book of the Liturgy, annexed to the act passed in the fifth and sixth years of King Edward the Sixth, be yet extant; and to bring in a compendious bill to supply any defect in the former laws, and to provide for an effectual conformity to the Liturgy of the Church for the time to come.

On July 3, 1661, the Bill for Uniformity was read the second time, and together with the printed Book of Common Prayer, then brought in, referred to a committee. It is interesting to note that no original Prayer-Book of Edward VI could then be found, and therefore the book actually used by Parliament was one printed in 1604. On July 9 the Bill for Uniformity, with the Prayer-Book annexed, was passed by the Commons. On the next day the bill went to the House of Lords, which laid it aside, and soon after Parliament was prorogued until November 30.

On October 10, 1661, the King directed the Canterbury Convocation to make a review of the Book of Common Prayer, and present to him such alterations as they should see fit, and on November 22 the same direction was given to the York Convocation. They proceeded with their work, but not as rapidly as Parliament desired, for it appears that on December 16 a message went from the Commons to the Lords to remind them of the Bill for Uniformity, and that on January 28, 1662, the Commons sent another message to the Lords requesting despatch for the Bill of Uniformity. The Lords were unable to proceed in the matter because they were waiting for the amended Prayer-Book from the Convocations. Finally on the 25th of February, 1662, the amended book was brought into the House of Lords by the Lord Chancellor with the King's ratification. It was there considered on March 13, 14, 15, 17, and 18, and then accepted by the Lords, and an Act for Uniformity, with the Book as amended annexed, was passed and sent to the Commons. There the Bill and the Book as amended were considered and debated at great length until the Act of Uniformity was passed on May 19, requiring the amended Book of Common Prayer to be used in all the churches of England on August 24 following [Statutes at Large, vol. ii. p. 696.]. It was entitled "An Act for the Uniformity of Publick Prayers, and Administration of Sacraments, and other Rites and Ceremonies: And for establishing the Form of Making, Ordaining and Consecrating Bishops, Priests and Deacons in the Church of England."

* The legislation with regard to the preparation and adoption of this extraordinary book will be found in the Journals of the House of Lords and of the House of Commons, as follows: Journals of the House of Lords, 1644, page 119; pages 121, 122, page 125; page 271; 1645, pages 551- 552. Journals of the House of Commons, 1644, page 6; pages 9, 10; page 10; pages 11, 12; page 77; 1645, page 114; 1745, page 251.

 

V

THE Book of Common Prayer was first printed and used in Ireland in 1551 in compliance with an injunction of Edward VI sent to the Lord Deputy in February of that year, but without any action of the Irish Parliament. The second Book of 1552 was never used in Ireland. No act was passed in Ireland to prohibit the use of the Prayer-Book during the reign of Mary, but it ceased to be openly used there after the death of Edward VI until the accession of Elizabeth, when its use was resumed. In 1560 the Irish Parliament passed an act of uniformity establishing the Book of Common Prayer as it was then established in England. The act, however, provided that in every church or place where the common minister or priest had not the use or knowledge of the English tongue, he might say and use all the common and open prayer in the Latin tongue in the order and form mentioned and set forth in the Book established by the act. This provision seems to have assumed that priests who could not read English could translate it into Latin which they could read. The want of a Latin version was, however, supplied by a translation of the English Book into Latin for use in the chapels of colleges, made by authority of Queen Elizabeth in 1560. As prepared for this use this translation did not contain all the occasional offices, but these were added in Latin, and the Book as thus completed was sufficient for use in places in Ireland where the priest could read Latin, but not English. The Book was not printed in the Irish language until 1608. [It was printed in French in 1553 and in Welsh in 1567.] In 1666, the Irish Parliament passed an act of uniformity establishing the English Book of Common Prayer of 1662 as the service of the Church of Ireland, with the addition of a prayer for the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. The Prayer-Book thus established was entitled "The Book of Common Prayer, and Administration of the Sacraments and other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church, According to the Use of the Church of Ireland." This continued to be the title of the Book until the union of England and Ireland under the act of union of August 1, 1800, which took effect January 1, 1801. In 1800 the Churches of the two countries were united as "The United Church of England and Ireland." The title of the Book then became ''The Book of Common Prayer,'' etc., "According to the Use of the United Church of England and Ireland," and so continued until the disestablishment of the Church in Ireland by act of Parliament in 1869. The Prayer-Book was then revised and changed in some respects by a Synod of the bishops and clergy in 1875, and printed in 1878 under the title of ''The Book of Common Prayer,'' etc.," According to the Use of the Church of Ireland."

The Book of Common Prayer was never established by law as the form of the church service in Scotland. James I, and afterwards Charles I, attempted to merge the Scottish and English Churches and to establish the English Liturgy in Scotland. The attempt of Charles to force the use of the Book of Common Prayer in the form prepared by Archbishop Laud and others in 1637 led to the "great covenant," which was signed throughout Scotland, binding the subscribers to support the reformed Church of Scotland. Finally in 1689 and 1690 the Church of Scotland was established by two statutes "Ratifying the Confession of Faith and settleing Presbyterian Church Government." Later, in 1707, an act was passed "for securing the Protestant Religion and Presbyterian Church Government." This was ratified in the English act "for an Union of the Two Kingdoms of England and Scotland" passed in 1707.

 

VI

THE doctrine and ritual of the Church of England are established by Acts of Parliament and can only be changed by Parliament. Any question with regard to either of them is a question as to the meaning of the statute law and can only be decided by the courts of law. In such cases the courts have no right to consider what the doctrine or the ritual ought to be, but only what the statute says it is. Any distinction between what is important and what appears to be trivial is precluded by the fact that the one is established by the statute as much as the other. The doctrine of the Church is declared in the Thirty-Nine Articles established by statute in 1571. The ritual is fixed by the Act of Uniformity of 1662, establishing the present Book of Common Prayer. Church ornaments are prescribed by the Act of Uniformity of 1549, and clerical vestments by the Royal Advertisements of 1566, issued under the provisions of the Act of Uniformity of 1559, and which so far as authorized by that statute have the force of an Act of Parliament. The only changes in any of these matters since 1662 by Acts of Parliament have been in 1871, 1872 and 1880, authorizing the use of a different table of lessons, of some shortened services, and a slight departure in some cases from the burial-service of the Prayer-Book.

It must not, however, be assumed that absolute conformity to these rigid standards of doctrine and ritual, and of vestments and ornaments, has been always enforced. Much departure from them was allowed during the long reign of Elizabeth, and this continued to some extent during the reign of James I. An attempt was made by Archbishop Laud to enforce absolute conformity under Charles I, but with disastrous results. More or less departure from the established forms has ever since been allowed if not permitted by authority. Elasticity in forms of worship has thus been gained, and the Book of Common Prayer preserved from revision. This has been done by permitting much latitude of individual construction of the ornaments and vestments rubrics, and also by adding to the services of the Prayer-Book from time to time occasional forms of prayer and service promulgated in a few cases by Act of Parliament, but generally by Royal Proclamation under the authority assumed to have been given the Crown by the Twenty-sixth Section of the Act of Uniformity of 1559, or under the authority of the Sovereign as the Supreme Head of the Church. More than three hundred of these forms have been used, and, when the reason which required them in each case has ceased, have been generally discontinued. A complete collection of them probably does not now exist, though nearly three hundred are preserved in the British Museum. I refer to a few by way of illustration.

In 1563, at the time of the great plague, a form was "set forth by the Queenes Maiesties speciall commaundement. . . to be used in Common prayer twyse aweke, and also an order of publique fast, to be used every Wednesday in the weeke, during this tyme of mortalitie, and other afflictions, wherwith the Realme at this present is visited."

In 1626, during the great Thirty Years' War, "A Forme of Prayer, Necessary to bee used in these dangerous times, of Warre and Pestilence, for the safety and preservation of his Majesty and his Realmes," was promulgated by Charles I.

In 1665, "A Form of Common Prayer, with Thanksgiving, for the Late Victory by his Majesties Naval Forces" was set forth. This was during the war with the Dutch, and the victory was the defeat of the Dutch in the North Sea, June 3, 1665.

At the time of the great fire in London, in 1666, "A Form of Common Prayer, To be used on Wednesday the Tenth day of October next, throughout the whole Kingdom of England ,and Dominion of Wales, being appointed by His Majesty a Day of Fasting and Humiliation, in Consideration of the late dreadful Fire, which wasted the greater part of the city of London," was "set forth by His Majesties special Command."

In 1784, after the acknowledgment of the independence of the United States, there was issued "A Form of Prayer, and Thanksgiving to Almighty God; to be used in all Churches and Chapels through out England, . . . , on Thursday, the Twenty-ninth of July, being the Day appointed by Proclamation for a General Thanksgiving to Almighty God, for put ting an End to the late bloody, extended, and expensive War in which we were engaged."

In 1789, "A form of Prayer and Thanksgiving" for the recovery of George III "from the severe illness with which he hath been afflicted" was "set forth by his Majesty's special command."

In 1798, A Form of Prayer and Thanksgiving was promulgated by royal proclamation "for the late glorious Victory obtained by His Majesty's Ships of War, under the Command of Rear Admiral Lord Nelson of the Nile, over the French Fleet."

"A Form of Prayer and Thanksgiving to Almighty God; for the Glorious Victory obtained over the French on Sunday the Eighteenth Day of June, at Waterloo by the Allied Armies under the Command of. . . the . . . Duke of Wellington and Prince Blucher. To be used . . . after the General Thanksgiving throughout the Cities of London and Westminster... on Sunday the Second Day of July 5; and in all Churches and Chapels throughout England and Wales on the Sunday after the Ministers thereof shall have received the same."

In 1847, "A Form of Prayer to Almighty God; for relief from the dearth and scarcity now existing in parts of the United Kingdom, owing to the failure of some of the crops of the present year.

In 1856, several forms of Prayer and Thanksgiving for success in the war against Russia. One was "Especially for the Capture of the Town of Sebastopol ;" another," A Form... for a General Thanksgiving to Almighty God; for His great Goodness in putting an End to the War in which we were engaged against Russia."

In 1859," A Form of Prayer and Thanksgiving to Almighty God; for the Success granted to our Arms in suppressing the Rebellion and restoring Tranquility in Her Majesty's Indian Dominions."

In 1866," A Special Form of Prayer to Almighty God; to be read on Sunday the Twelfth Day of August, 1866, and whenever Divine Service is celebrated, during the prevalence of the Cholera, and of Cattle Plague, in this Country."

In 1887, "A Form of Thanksgiving and Prayer to Almighty God, upon the completion of fifty years of Her Majesty's reign."

In addition to these general forms of prayer and special service to be used throughout the country, many forms have been locally issued in different dioceses, not only in England but in the colonies. In Colombo a form was used "for receiving Romanists into the Communion of the English Church," and similar forms were used in South Africa.

Numerous forms for the consecrating of churches, chapels and church-yards have been prepared and used under authority of bishops of various dioceses. In some cases forms of service have been promulgated for the dedication of bells, for the opening of new bells and of new clocks, or for the opening of a new organ in a particular church or cathedral. In 1872 "A Special Form of Service" was authorized to be used in the diocese of London for "an increased supply of missionaries." In 1898 a "Memorial Service for them that are fallen asleep in Christ" was approved by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Special forms have also been authorized for the reopening of restored churches, and for blessing upon the fields and fisheries and mines.

Three special prayers were inserted in the Prayer-Book of 1662 which have since been discontinued. One was for the 30th of January, the anniversary of the execution of Charles I; one for the 29th of May, the anniversary of the restoration of Charles II; and the other for the 5th of November, commemorating the deliverance from the Gunpowder Plot. These were all in use until 1859, when they were removed by a royal warrant, being considered undesirable from a political point of view.

 

VII

THE English of the Prayer-Book is from various sources. The scriptural portions are from the first printed English translation of the Bible by Coverdale in 1535, revised and published in England in 1539, and popularly called, because of its folio size, the "Great Bible." This was followed by a revised version published under the approval of the bishops in 1568, and hence called "The Bishops' Bible," and in 1611 by the King James Version.

The portions which were translated from the Latin breviary and the forms of the early Church were probably the production of Cranmer, who was perhaps the most effective master of English style in his time. The result was that not the least interesting feature of this wonderful Book is its fine literary style. It is written in the best English, as the Roman service-books are written in the worst Latin. Shakespeare and Hooker wrote in the English of the Prayer-Book, but no great Latin writer ever wrote in the Latin of the Roman breviary and missal. The reason is obvious. The Latin language was not adopted for the services of the Christian Church until it was in its last stage of decay. But the Prayer-Book is of "English in all the vigour and suppleness of youth."A great scholar has said: "To the great Latin writers the noblest compositions of Ambrose and Gregory would have seemed to be not only bad writing, but senseless gibberish. The diction of the Book of Common Prayer, on the other hand, has directly or indirectly contributed to form the diction of almost every great English writer."

Not the least of the benefits from the establishment of the Book of Common Prayer by authority of Parliament has been the protection against revision which the acts of uniformity have given the language of the Book and of the Psalter. As the language of the Book of Common Prayer and of the Psalter could be changed only by Act of Parliament, the archaic but effective and stately diction of the Coverdale translation of the Bible as contained in the Psalter, the beautiful style of the offices of the Prayer-Book, and the accuracy of the King James Version in the scriptural parts of the Book have been happily preserved. If one desires to see how valuable this protection has been to the Psalter and to the Prayer-Book, he has only to turn to the various special forms of prayer which from time to time have been put forth to be used in connection with the services required by the Prayer-Book. Many of these are not only verbose, repetitious and inaccurate in style, but differ very little from those extemporaneous prayers in which full information is given to the Deity as to the condition of affairs which He is asked to remedy.

Music, either vocal or instrumental, is recognized by the Prayer-Book only in the canticles at morning and evening prayer which form fixed parts of the services in the Prayer-Books of Edward VI and of Elizabeth, and by the direction in the present Prayer-Book of 1662 for an anthem "in choirs and places where they sing." But singing was a part of the worship of the Church prior to the First Prayer-Book of 1549. There was also in that Book this direction in the order for matins: "And (to thende the people may the better heare) in such places where they doe syng, there shall the lessons be songe in a playne tune after the maner of distincte readyng: and lykewyse the Epistle and Gospell." This direction was retained in the successive revisions of the Prayer-Book until 1662, when it was omitted and provision made for the use of anthems. This was probably because the practice of singing the lessons had been long before discontinued, and the use of anthems had become common. The Injunctions of Queen Elizabeth issued in 1559, covering many matters of worship not specifically provided for in the Prayer-Book, also permitted the continuance of singing as follows: "Because in divers Collegiate, and also some Parish-Churches heretofore, there have been Livings appointed for the maintenance of men and children to use singing in the Church, by means whereof the laudable service of Musick hath been had in estimation, and preserved in knowledge: the Queens Majesty neither meaning in any wise the decay of any thing that might conveniently tend to the use and continuance of the said science, neither to have the same in any part so abused in the Church, that thereby the Common-prayer should be the worse understanded of the hearers, willeth and commandeth, that first no alterations be made of such assignments of Living, as heretofore hath been appointed to the use of singing or Musick in the Church, but that the same so remain. And that there be a modest and distinct song so used in all parts of the Common-prayers in the Church, that the same may be as plainly understanded, as if it were read without singing, and yet nevertheless for the comforting of such that delight in Musick, it may be permitted, that in the beginning, or in the end of the Common-prayers, either at Morning or Evening, there may be sung an Hymn, or such like song to the praise of Almighty God in the best sort of melody and Musick that may be conveniently devised, having respect that the sentence of Hymn may be understanded and perceived." This quaint injunction has never been withdrawn, and to it we owe the use of hymns, of metrical versions of the psalms and the modern anthem in church service.

Metrical versions of the psalms, to be sung in the churches and elsewhere, were prepared and published and bound up with various editions of the Prayer-Book of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The first was prepared by Thomas Sternholde, John Hopkins and others in 1562, and was known as the Sternholde and Hopkins Psalms. Another metrical version was prepared in 1696, by Nicholas Tate and Nahum Brady, and was known as the "New Version" or as Tate and Brady's Psalms. The use of this version in church service was allowed by an order of the King in Council, December 3, 1696. Aside from this order and from the injunctions of Elizabeth, which have been claimed to allow it, the use of these metrical versions in church service had no civil or ecclesiastical authority, and it gradually ceased in connection with the use of the Book of Common Prayer. The last edition of the Prayer-Book that I have found in which the metrical psalms were bound up is one of 1828. Much of the singing now used in the service of the English Church is without any authority in the Book of Common Prayer, but the use of hymns has had judicial sanction, and music, both vocal and instrumental, as a part of the church service has been practised and accepted as lawful to such an extent that no court or other authority would now declare it illegal.

The Psalter used in connection with the Prayer-Book was from the revised Coverdale translation of probably from an edition published in 1548 by Grafton, the King's printer, entitled "The Psalter or Psalms of David, after the translation of the Great Bible, pointed as it should be sung in Churches." This edition contained besides the psalms several canticles and the Litany, and the psalms differed in some slight respects from those in the Great Bible. In 1662 most of the scriptural parts of the Book of Common Prayer were revised to conform to the revision of 1611 ; but the Psalter, which was then for the first time made an authorized part of the Book of Common Prayer, was not thus revised, and was adopted in the form in which it was originally prepared from the Coverdale translation in 1548. The first Prayer-Book of Edward VI,and each succeeding Prayer-Book, contained "a table for the order of the Psalms to be said at matins and evensong," and an order "how the Psalter is bound to be read." But the Psalter was no part of the Prayer-Book as established by Parliament in the various ads of uniformity until 1662.

The original editions of the Book of 1549 have no Psalter bound up with them. The first edition of the Book of Common Prayer in which the Psalter was printed and bound up with the Prayer-Book was the quarto edition of the second Book of Edward VI, printed by Whitchurch in November, 1552,and there it is found with a separate title-page following the Book of Common Prayer itself. In Merbecke's" Book of Common Prayer Noted," printed in 1550, the Psalter is not included. In the French translation of the Book of Common Prayer, made in 1553, the Psalter is not included. In the Latin translation of the Book of Common Prayer by Aless, made by direction of Cranmer, and printed in Leipsic in 1551, the Psalter is not included. The first Prayer-Book of Elizabeth of 1559 did not contain the Psalter, nor was the same bound up with the first edition of the Book. But there is found bound with this edition the Ordinal or form and manner of making and consecrating bishops, priests and deacons. The King James Prayer-Book, so-called, does not comprise, nor is there bound up with it in the first editions, either the Psalter or the Ordinal. The Prayer-Book prepared for the use of the Church of Scotland in 1637, under the reign of Charles I, commonly known as "Laud's Book," does not comprise, nor is there bound up with the first edition of it, either the Psalter or the Ordinal.

The Book of Common Prayer, as established by the Act of Uniformity of Charles II, in 1662, first included the Psalter as a part of the authorized Book. It was entitled in the act "The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church according to the use of the Church of England; together with the Psalter or Psalms of David, Pointed as they are to be sung or said in Churches; and the Form and manner of Making, Ordaining and Consecrating of Bishops, Priests and Deacons." In this Book, as has been stated, the scriptural parts of the Prayer-Book were made to conform to the King James Version of 1611 But the Psalter was the same as that which was prepared from the Great Bible in 1548 and came into use with the Prayer-Book of 1549. The Coverdale Psalter was thus used in connection with the Book of Common Prayer, without its being made a part of the Book by authority of Parliament from 1549 to 1662. It was adopted as a part of the Book by the Act of Uniformity of 1662 and was also adopted as a part of the American Book of Common Prayer, in 1790, notwithstanding the various revisions of the psalms by other translators, and especially the King James revision in 1611. This shows that this form of the psalms must have had some peculiar quality which adapted it for use in church service, or which caused the people to be attached to it, so that they would not permit it to be changed. I am told by those competent to know that the reason this ancient form of the psalms has been retained in church worship is because it is better adapted to be sung or chanted than the subsequent versions. There may, however, I think, be still another reason in the fact that this version was better adapted to be committed to memory and repeated by those who could not read. The Psalter was in use before the Prayer-Book was made, and at that time and for many years after, most of the people who used the psalms were probably unable to read them, and therefore learned them by rote so that they could sing or repeat them in service. What proportion of the people who worshipped in the English Church during the reign of Elizabeth could read, it is, of course, impossible to tell, but it was probably small. However, whatever may be the reason, the interesting fact remains that this original translation of the psalms by Coverdale has held its place against all revision for more than three hundred and fifty years, wherever the service of the Book of Common Prayer has been used.

 

VIII

 ONE reason for making a Book of Common Prayer which should comprise all the devotional services of the Church was the large expense then required of each parish to provide a complete set of the books used in worship according to the Roman ritual. The service-books of the Church before the Prayer-Book were not only in Latin, but were numerous. The different services were contained in different books. These books contained not only the language of the service to be used by the priest, which was written or printed in black, but also minute directions for the ceremonies according to which the words were to be used. These directions were known as rubrics, as they were originally written or printed in red. There were also service-books for different saints' days, which were very numerous, and each of which had its own psalms, lessons, etc. The fully equipped parish church required for all the services according to the Roman ritual a small library of service-books.

The most important of them were the Missal, or Mass-book, being the Communion Office, the Breviary, for the ordinary daily service of matins, lauds, evensong, etc., and also in many cases the service known as the "Hours of the Dead," "Hours of the Blessed Virgin," etc. Then there was the Manual, containing the occasional offices, such as those for baptism, visitation of the sick, marriage, burial of the dead, benedictions of water, candles, etc., extreme unction, and in some cases portions of the mass for special occasions. There was also a book called the Gradual, for use at the mass, containing the musical part of the Communion service. The Psalterium was another book, which contained the psalms. The Legenda was a book containing readings from the lives of the Saints and from the Fathers, as well as from the Scripture. The Antiphonarium was a book containing the musical notation for antiphons sung at the services of the hours and for mass, invitatory psalms, responses, etc. There were other books for the Gospels and Epistles at mass, and an Ordinale or "Pie," said to have been so called from the spotted appearance of its tables, to enable one to find the proper office appointed for any particular day. Then there was the Pontificale, containing offices that could be performed only by a bishop, such as those of ordination, consecration, etc.; and then the Processionale, containing directions for the ordering of processions, etc. The service-books had become so numerous, and the manner of their use so complicated, that, as the preface of the Prayer-Book states, "many times there was more business to find out what should be done, than to read it when it was found out."

The preface to the first Prayer-Book also said: "Curates shall need no other books for their public service but this book and the Bible, by the means whereof the people shall not be at so great charge for books as in time past they have been." To ensure this it was commanded by royal proclamation that no person should sell the book of 1549 above the price of two shillings and twopence, and if bound not above the price of four shillings apiece. The price of the book of 1552 was fixed in the same way at two shillings sixpence unbound, bound in parchment at three shillings and fourpence, and bound in leather at four shillings. But it was provided that if the printer, after the first impression, left out the form of making and consecrating archbishops, bishops, priests and deacons, he should sell the book unbound for two shillings, bound for two shillings eightpence, and bound in leather for three shillings and four- pence, and "not above." There does not appear, however, to have been any proclamation regulating the price of the Prayer-Books of Elizabeth and of Charles II.

The Book of Common Prayer as prepared and presented to Parliament in 1549 was of course in manuscript, for it was drawn up as an original work. But the subsequent ads of uniformity establishing the successive revisions of the Prayer-Book all annexed the Book which was revised. The Act of 1552 speaks of "forme of prayer and other rites contained in the Book annexed to this Act." The Act of 1559 refers to the Book of 1552 as altered and added to, and it is known that a copy of it was a schedule of the act. The "Directory for the Publick Worship of God in the Three Kingdoms," of 1645, was annexed to the Ordinance for taking away the Book of Common Prayer and establishing the Directory. The Act of 1662 speaks of the "Book annexed hereto." The original book used in the preparation of the Prayer-Book of 1662 was a black-letter edition of 1636, upon the margin of which the changes were written, and from the text of which those portions omitted were struck out. From this Book thus revised a manuscript book was written out and signed by Convocation, December 20, 1661, and annexed to the Act of Uniformity of 1662. This book was for many years supposed to be lost, but was finally discovered in 1867 in a disused closet in the library of the House of Lords, and with it was found the printed book of 1636, the existence of which up to that time was unknown. A facsimile copy of the printed book, with an introduction by Dean Stanley of Westminster, was made in 1871, and a facsimile of the manuscript book in 1899, both by authority of the government.

Repeated attempts have been made to revise the Book of Common Prayer since 1662. In 1668 a revision was recommended by Charles II in a speech the throne, but the Commons would have none of it. In 1673 and 1675 further attempts were made to that effect. In 1681 the Bishop of Worcester proposed changes to allow greater freedom in the matter of vestments and in the Communion and other offices, but without effect. In 1689 Parliament requested the King to summon a Convocation "to be advised with in ecclesiastical matters." He accordingly appointed a commission of ten bishops and twenty clerics to prepare alterations of the liturgy and canons, and the commissioners made an elaborate series of alterations in the Book of Common Prayer. The opposition of Convocation to these alterations was so obvious, however, that they were never submitted to it. In 1879 changes with regard to ornaments and vestments were drawn up by Convocation and presented to the Queen with a draft bill, but no further action was taken thereunder. In 1904 a royal commission was appointed by Edward VII to inquire into the conduct of divine service in the Church of England and as to the ornaments and fittings of churches, and make recommendations. This commission made an elaborate report in 906, recommending that letters of business should be issued to the Convocations to consider the preparation of a new rubric relating to ornaments, "with a view to the enactment by Parliament of such modifications in the existing law relating to the conduct of divine service and to the ornaments and fittings of churches as may tend to secure the greater elasticity which a reasonable recognition of the comprehensiveness of the Church of England, and of its present needs, seems to demand." Upon this report no action has been taken.

Indeed, a revision of the Book of Common Prayer, even if desirable, ) which may well be doubted, ) seems almost impossible. It can be altered only by an act of Parliament. Parliament would probably not act without previous action by Convocation. The differences between the different parties within the Church itself are such that it is quite improbable Convocation would agree upon any material alteration. But if it did, the alterations would still have to be passed by the Commons, the members of which are of all religious views, and some of them with no special religious views. It would then have to pass the Lords, where, in respect to alterations of the liturgy, the Lords Spiritual would probably have effective if not constructive influence.

 

IX

ALL the English colonies were assumed to be a part of the Diocese of London. The Bishop of that Diocese administered the affairs of the Church in the colonies by Commissaries,* who supplied to some extent the office of a bishop, although they could not administer the rite of confirmation, or ordain or depose priests or deacons. No person could be confirmed in the Anglican or Episcopal Church in America until after the consecration of Bishop Seabury in 1784. If a person desired confirmation, or if the ordination of a priest or deacon was required, it could be accomplished only by crossing the ocean to a bishop in England. This caused many of the clergy to omit that part of the baptismal service which required the sponsors to take the baptized child to the Bishop for confirmation at a suitable age.

Prior to the Revolution the English Book of Common Prayer was used in the Episcopal churches in the colonies, as it was used in the English churches in England. Only one edition of it in English is known to have been published in America, and that was printed by William Bradford in 1710 under the auspices of Trinity Church, New York. Five years later a portion of the Prayer-Book, containing Morning and Evening Prayer, the Litany, Church Catechism, etc., was translated into the Mohawk language, published in New York, and known as the First Mohawk Prayer-Book. Following this there were several adaptations of portions of the Prayer-Book to devotional purposes, notably an Abridgement of the Book of Common Prayer, by Benjamin Franklin and Sir Francis Dashwood, printed in 1773; a Communion Office prepared by Samuel Seabury, Bishop of Connecticut, in 1786; a manual reproduced from the Scottish Liturgy of 1764; and the A, B, C, Church of England Catechism and Prayers, published in Philadelphia by the Academy of the Protestant Episcopal Church. The "Seabury Communion Office," so-called, was prepared from the Scottish Communion Office, being in fact almost identical with that of the Office of 1764, with certain private devotions added to it. It was prepared by Bishop Seabury in pursuance of an understanding which he had with the Scotch Bishops when he was consecrated that he would endeavour to introduce the Scottish Communion Office into the services of the Church in America.

Worship according to the Book of Common Prayer was very objectionable to most of the first settlers of New England. Many of the early New England ministers had been driven out of England because they were unwilling to accept the use of the Prayer-Book when Archbishop Laud sought to compel universal conformity in matters of public worship. In New York, Maryland, Virginia, and other colonies to the south, a different feeling prevailed, and as persons were punished by law in New England for worshipping according to the Book of Common Prayer, so they were punished in Virginia for worshipping in any other way. The use of that form of worship, however, had gained ground even in the northern colonies, and at the time of the Revolution there were churches worshipping according to the Book of Common Prayer in all the colonies. After the Declaration of Independence, however, it was impossible for the priests to use the prayers for the King and the Royal family with loyalty to the new government, or even with safety to themselves. Such prayers were, therefore, omitted in most churches, and the use of the Prayer-Book made to conform to the new conditions as well as might be. When the independence of the colonies was acknowledged by England it became necessary to have the Book of Common Prayer modified to suit the new order of things, and it also became necessary to have bishops chosen and consecrated for an Episcopal Church in the United States. To preserve the apostolic succession it was thought by many that these bishops should be consecrated by the English bishops, but this could not be done without an act of Parliament permitting such bishops to be consecrated without taking the oath of allegiance to the English Crown. The Scotch bishops, however, had no such difficulty in their way, and the Reverend Samuel Seabury, having been re commended by the clergy of Connecticut, was consecrated as bishop by three Scotch bishops in Aberdeen, November 14, 1784.

In October of the following year a convention of sixteen clergymen and twenty-six lay deputies met in Philadelphia and prepared a Book of Common Prayer to be proposed for adoption by the Episcopal Church in the United States. Hence this book was known as "The Proposed Book." The book made many important changes in the established Book of Common Prayer. It omitted the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds entirely, and also omitted from the Apostles' Creed the words "He descended into hell," etc. It contained a special form of prayer and thanksgiving to be used on the Fourth of July. This form was so framed that it could have been used but by few of the clergy without subjecting them to ridicule and censure, for most of them had opposed the Declaration of Independence and adhered to the Crown during the Revolution.

The Proposed Book was not well received, and was used in only a few places and for a short time. It was never, I think, used in New England. It was not even used as the basis of the Book of Common Prayer which was subsequently adopted by the Church in the United States. It is now very rare and only important as an incident in the history of the American Church. The Proposed Book was reprinted in England, and submitted to the English bishops for their examination in connection with the proceedings then on foot for the consecration of bishops in the United States. They disapproved the book because it omitted the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds, changed the Apostles' Creed, and contained a form of service to be used on the Fourth of July, and for other reasons.

In the meantime Parliament had passed an Act authorizing the English bishops to consecrate "persons being subjects or citizens of countries outside of his Majesty's dominions bishops" without their taking the oath of allegiance, and on Sunday the fourth day of February, 1787, in the chapel of Lambeth Palace, London, the Reverend William White was consecrated as Bishop of Pennsylvania, and the Reverend Samuel Provoost as Bishop of New York. Each of them had been "elected to the office of a bishop" by a convention in the state for which he was consecrated as bishop, and the certificates of their consecration expressly state this fact. The consecration was by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York, the Bishops of Bath and Wells and of Peterborough assisting.

On July 28, 1789, a new convention of the Episcopal Church met at Philadelphia to endeavour to prepare a new Prayer-Book. The result of their work was a Book which was a revision of the Book of Common Prayer of 1662, and was published in 1790, to be in use from and after October 1st of that year. It was printed in Philadelphia by Hall and Sellers, and its title was "The Book of Common Prayer, and Administration of the Sacraments, and other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church, according to the Use of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America: Together with the Psalter or Psalms of David." There was also printed and bound up with it the "Tate and Brady" metrical version of the Psalms and thirty-seven hymns, which were required to be used before and after Morning and Evening Prayer, and before and after sermons at the discretion of the minister. The whole of this metrical version of the Psalms was printed with the Book of Common Prayer in its successive revisions from 1790 to 1835. From 1835 to 1871 only selections were thus printed, and in 1871 the General Convention authorized the new Hymnal; and the "selections from the Psalms of David" ceased to be printed with the Prayer-Book.

This American Book of Common Prayer had no civil sanction like the English Book, but was wholly the work of the clergy and the laity in convention. It has ever since been and is now subject to alteration to any extent by the action of both the clergy and the laity in two successive General Conventions of the Church in the United States. During the first century of its existence it has been revised seven times. These various revisions are called "Standard Prayer-Books." The Book of 1789 is the first Standard. The second Standard was made in 1793; the third in 1822; the fourth in 1832; the fifth in 1838; the sixth in 1845 and the seventh in 1871. The eighth, which is the present Standard Book, was authorized by the General Convention in October, 1892, after the report of a committee appointed by it in 1880, who worked upon the matter for twelve years.

No General Convention of the Church meets without some proposal to revise and improve the Book of Common Prayer. It is needless to say that no book subject to such perpetual attack and such constant, although perhaps in the main unimportant, alterations is likely to gain such a permanent hold upon the Church as a book which is practically unrevisable, like the English Book of Common Prayer. It is an interesting fact, however, that the various changes which have been made in the American Book of Common Prayer as first framed have, on the whole, caused it to conform more and more to the Prayer-Book of Edward VI. For illustration, in the Morning Prayer the final verses of the Benedictus, which were left out of the first American Prayer-Book, have been restored. In the Evening Prayer the Magnificat and the Nunc Dimittis have been restored and the full number of versicles placed after the Creed. In the Communion Office permission has been given to omit the Decalogue except once on Sunday, which is an approximation to the First Book of Edward VI, which did not have the Decalogue at all. The provisions which have been adopted for shortening Morning and Evening Prayer are also a partial return to these services as set forth in the First Prayer)Book.

I feel that I cannot better conclude this brief sketch of the history of the Book of Common Prayer than by quoting the words of Stanley, Dean of Westminster: "The Prayer-book as it stands is a long gallery of Ecclesiastical History, which, to be understood and enjoyed thoroughly, absolutely compels a knowledge of the greatest events and names of all periods of the Christian Church. To Ambrose we owe the present form of our Te Deum; Charlemagne breaks the silence of our Ordination prayers by the Veni Creator Spiritus. The Persecutions have given us one creed, and the Empire another. The name of the first great Patriarch of the Byzantine Church closes our daily service; the Litany is the bequest of the first great Patriarch of the Latin Church, amidst the terrors of the Roman pestilence. Our collects are the joint productions of the Fathers, the Popes, and the Reformers. Our Communion Service bears the traces of every fluctuation of the Reformation, through the two extremes of the reign of Edward to the conciliating policy of Elizabeth, and the reactionary zeal of the Restoration. The more comprehensive, the more free, the more impartial, is our study of any or every branch of Ecclesiastical History, the more will it be in accordance with the spirit and with the letter of the Church of England."

* The first Commissary appointed in the United States was James Blair of Virginia, who was appointed in 1689, and served for fifty-three years. Hawkes's Contributions, p. 73.


 
CHRONOLOGICAL TABLE

1085 The Missal of the Use of Sarum
1534 Act of Supremacy of Henry VIII
1536 The Ten Articles of our Faith
1539 The Six Articles
1540 The "Great Bible" set up in churches as the "authorized version"
1543 Committee of Convocation commissioned to revise service-books
1543 "A Necessary Doctrine and Erudition for any Christian Man," published
1544 First English Litany prepared by Cranmer and ordered for use in churches
1545 Primer of Henry the Eighth
1547 Jan. 31. Accession of King Edward VI
1548 March 8. English Order of the Communion added to the Latin Mass
1549 Jan. 21. The Book of Common Prayer: First Book of Edward VI adopted
1550 The English Ordinal prepared and published
1552 April 15. The Book of Common Prayer: Second Book of Edward VI receives royal assent
1552 The Forty-Two Articles of Edward VI
1558 Nov. 17. Accession of Queen Elizabeth
1558 Act of Supremacy of Queen Elizabeth
1559 The Eleven Articles
1559 April 28. Elizabethan Book of Common Prayer receives royal assent
1562 The Thirty-Nine Articles
1603 May 7. Accession of James I
1604 The Hampton Court Conference
1637 The Scottish Service-book
1644 The Directory for the public worship of God replaces the Book of Common Prayer
1660 The use of the Book of Common Prayer revived
1662 May 19. Act of Uniformity for the present English Book of Common Prayer
1666 The Irish Act of Uniformity
1786 The "Proposed Book" of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America
1789 The first of the eight Standard Editions of the Book of Common Prayer according to the Use of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America

 
 

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Last updated: 30 October 1998