|The Book of Common Prayer|
OLD TREASURES RESTORED
REV. A. S. DUNCAN-JONES, M.A.
Vicar of St. Mary's, Primrose Hill, N.W.
PROFESSOR BARRY has dealt with the gains from modern thought that find a place in the new Prayer Book. These gains are real and important. May I direct attention now to certain ways in which the Book has also recovered for us old treasures of the Church that dropped out of use during the controversial period of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries? The bitter prejudices of a time of violent change made it impossible to see in their true proportion some customs and practices that had become associated with abuses and perversions with which they had no inherent or necessary connexion. Now that the smoke of those battles has, in large measure, passed away, we are able to view the landscape afresh, and there opens before us the possibility of reconstruction. We shall not merely imitate the buildings that stood there before, but we can strive to make what we do erect fit the surrounding country as well as those others did, and we shall find that we can incorporate for our modern uses much of the old material. It is worth noting that in thus acting we shall, after all, be debtors to modern thought; since it is modern scholarship and learning that enable us to discriminate between what is primitive and what is of later date, between what is primary and what is secondary, between the great central tradition of Catholicism and the various lesser growths that have twined themselves round that strong trunk.
The Reformation, it cannot be too often repeated, was a critical movement. In England this critical element showed itself most acute and discriminating in the sphere of public worship. The Prayer Book is the fruit of that criticism. It represents the effort of many minds trained alike in study and in prayer, working over a long period, to recover for the people of England an order of prayer consistent with truth, faithful to the whole Catholic Church of Christ, calculated to excite piety and devotion, and tending to preserve the unity and peace of the Church. Nothing could show more clearly that the English liturgy is the fruit of a critical spirit than the fact that during one hundred and thirteen years it was revised four times; for we must regard the First Prayer Book, that of 1549, as itself a revision rather than the origination of an entirely new plan of worship. The fact that it has never been revised since 1662 is deceptive. It tends to endow that revision with a delusive finality. Our present Prayer Book has remained unchanged more owing to historical accidents than by reason of its inherent perfection. This is especially true of the service for Holy Communion. The main object of my lecture is to maintain that the new form represents a recovery for the Church of old beauties, and that it will immeasurably strengthen and deepen true devotion in relation to that Sacrament. In order to prove this we must follow an historical argument.
In 1549 Cranmer attempted to retain in an English dress as much as possible of the old order that had been used in Western Europe for a thousand years. But it is important to notice that 80 far as the actual consecration was concerned, he greatly improved on his model. In place of a series of disjointed prayers, without logical sequence, he produced a noble eucharistic prayer moving in orderly progression from the Sursum Corda, through Preface, Sanctus, Benedictus, the Intercession for the living and the dead, an Invocation of the Spirit, the Words of Institution, the Memorial before God, the offering of praise, and a prayer that the supplications of the Church may be accepted in Heaven, to a full close in the Lord's Prayer. This order was broken in 1552, and has never been restored in England. It is urged that it would be reactionary and retrograde to go back to the book of 1549. I agree - for one reason, which will appear presently. But the most significant fact about this great prayer is that it has always remained as an inspiration in the Anglican Communion. It is by no means true, as has been said, that there never has been any demand to restore the fuller Canon in place of our present mutilated version. In the first half of the seventeenth century a movement began with that object in view. In 1637 there was published for use in Scotland a Prayer Book based on the 1549 Book, which is generally known as "Laud's Liturgy," though it was really drawn up by two Scottish Bishops, Maxwell of Ross and Wedderburn of Dunblane. But Laud's opinion of it is worth recalling (cf. Laud, p. 191). Though "Laud's Liturgy" failed to establish itself, it was not forgotten, and when the Episcopalians in Scotland desired to have a liturgy of their own, they took this as a basis, But they made one very significant change. Cranmer had introduced into his Consecration Prayer an Invocation of the Holy Spirit, probably for two reasons. Such an invocation occurs in the earliest account of the Eucharist that he knew (that of Justin Martyr), and is also to be found in the Eastern liturgies. But he introduced it at a point unlike that at which it occurs in any ancient liturgy. He placed it before the Words of Institution, perhaps because he wished to introduce an Eastern feature without disturbing too greatly the later Western tradition, which had strangely come to connect consecration with the words with which our Lord administered the gifts to the Apostles. As"Laud's Liturgy" came to be used, the impropriety of this arrangement became plain, and there sprang up a demand for what was rightly called "The Natural Order." Thus, when in 1764 an official liturgy was at last published by the Scottish Bishops, this natural order, was introduced; the Invocation of the Holy Spirit came, as it does in the Creed, after the recital of our Lord's redeeming work, and was not interjected into the middle of it as it is in the First Prayer Book. The presence of this manifest blot in Cranmer's prayer is one main reason for regarding the proposal simply to restore the Communion Service of 1549 as reactionary and retrograde.
But now it is important to notice how great throughout the Anglican Communion has been the influence of the liturgy of 1549, and how provincial is the view that imagines that the form in the Prayer Book of 1662 has found universal satisfaction. The Anglican Communion has grown to its present proportions and become a world-wide influence of great potential importance in Christendom. But it has done so, it must be confessed, in spite of the narrow and hide-bound conceptions that have often dominated the Church of England, strictly so-called, the Church of the two provinces of Canterbury and York. In 1784 an event occurred that was destined to exercise a profound influence on the history of worship in the Anglican Communion. In that year, after many vain appeals to the English Bishops, Dr. Samuel Seabury was consecrated by Scottish Bishops in Aberdeen as the Bishop of Connecticut, the first Bishop of the American Church. At his consecration he entered into a solemn contract to model the American liturgy on that of Scotland. This in the main lines he did, and ever since, that great Church has had a Communion service that is in fact an improved edition of the First Prayer Book of King Edward VI. When to-day we hear it said that the new Prayer Book represents a breakaway from the Anglican tradition, we must remember that such a statement can only be made by people who have forgotten half Anglican history. In Scotland there has existed for more than two hundred years a liturgy much more like the new Prayer Book than the old, and in the United States there is a Church with over a hundred diocesan Bishops of which the same may practically be said. It may be remarked in passing that though the same differences of emphasis exist in that Church as in ours, this noble form of consecration is used by all alike, High and Low, Conservative and Modernist.
But the whole tale is not told. Other Churches in the Anglican Communion have felt the same desire to substitute an improved version of 1549 for our present abrupt Prayer of Consecration. The Church in South Africa has revised its liturgy in a similar fashion. Substantially the form is the same as that of the American Church and of the new Prayer Book. India is still tied legally to the Act of Uniformity, but it cannot be doubted that when it gets its freedom an effort will be made to revise the liturgy so as to make it more suitable for use by Indian worshippers. The lines on which such a development might come have been indicated in a most interesting book called The Eucharist in India. The authors of that book draw attention to the fact that in all Eastern rites the broad outline of the Anaphora is the same, and they proceed: "There is much contained in it which might with advantage be adopted, not only in India, but in the West also. To take but one instance, the Epiklesis, or Invocation of the Holy Spirit upon the offered Gifts — which the compilers of the Scottish and American liturgies have wisely incorporated — is regarded in the East as the culminating moment of the Consecration . . . The association of the Act of Consecration only with the priest's repetition of our Lord's Words of Institution, as in the Anglican rite, almost inevitably conveys the suggestion of a magic formula, whereas the prayer to the Holy Spirit to sanctify the Gifts to our use is free from this suggestion." Thus it will be seen that there is a widespread feeling in many churches in communion with Canterbury, that just such a revision of the Communion Service as has been made by the Bishops of England, is desirable.
Now it is worth while to draw attention to a factor that has greatly strengthened this demand. The scientific study of liturgy is a modern growth. It is only during the last hundred years that the historical criticism of the ancient forms that have come down to us has been possible. Some clear but surprising results have followed. It was natural at one time to regard the Latin Canon of the Mass as the true type of all liturgies. It is obviously ancient, and some parts of it are very primitive indeed; but the theory that it could be taken as a perfect model has received hard blows at the hands of learned and sagacious Roman writers. It is recognized, for example, that it is difficult to fit the official doctrine of the Roman Church into the embarrassing simplicity of the ancient prayer. Mr. Edmund Bishop, one of the greatest liturgists of modern times, for example, speaks of the "want of technical exactness in suggestion found in details of that document; a matter which did not escape those acute and eminently able, and most interesting, writers, the great Anglican Divines of the seventeenth century." He goes on to say that "the difficulties raised by those writers are not wholly to be attributed to the controversial spirit that may have animated them, but must have basis of reality in the text itself. I gather from the emphatic statement of the eminently capable and resourceful Father L. Billot, now for some years an oracle in the Gregorian University in Rome, that unless a certain method of interpretation advocated by him be adopted, these difficulties are as good as insoluble."
It may be said that the fact that it is hard to fit the doctrine of transubstantiation into the Roman Canon, and that unless the voice of authority had said that the words Hoc est Corpus Meum were the moment of consecration, nobody would have dreamed of putting it there, constitute a good argument for taking this very primitive and evangelical eucharistic prayer as a model. But that will not do, for close examination shows that it is more dislocated than our present English form. It is a string of unconnected prayers, in which the grammar is even at fault. Thus Dr. Adrian Fortescue, in a standard book on the Mass, says of the phrase "communicantes et memoriam venerantes": "Why these participles? No finite verb follows. They must be taken as finite verbs." In another place Dr. Fortescue puts it quite clearly: "It seems clear to anyone who examines our Canon that its order has somehow been dislocated. . . . The Canon indeed is full of difficulties." In another place Dr. Fortescue indicates what he thinks most at fault: "The chief peculiarities and the greatest difficulties are the absence of any invocation of the Holy Ghost to consecrate the oblation and the order of the various elements of the Canon." These frank criticisms — which could be matched by other quotations from eminent Roman Catholic scholars — do high credit to the scientific spirit of their authors; but they make it abundantly clear that we must look elsewhere for a model on which to revise our Communion Service.
Such a model the labours of scholars have given to us. It is seen in its simplest form in the Latin fragment of the Ethiopian Church Order, published by a learned German, Hauler. When we compare this with other documents, it becomes highly probable that the sequence of the Eucharistic prayer, if we are to follow primitive practice, would be something like this. An act of praise to God the Father recalls the blessings of Creation and Redemption. In the course of this there comes the narrative of the Institution as part of the story, as it were, and it is followed by mention of the Resurrection and Ascension, which culminates in a definite showing forth before God on the part of priest and people of the memorial made. This leads on naturally to an invocation of the Holy Spirit to bless the gifts and those who offer them, and a prayer that what is done may be accepted by the Holy Trinity.
It is important to stress this point, because it is being said by those who have not closely studied the new form that the Bishops have made a compromise. The evidence does not suggest that view. Cranmer did make a compromise, when he attempted to combine East and West by putting an Epiklesis before the Words of Institution. Our Bishops to-day have followed the best traditions of the English Church. They have not tried - so it would seem - to please this or that party; they have tried to listen to the voice of sound learning, and to use increased knowledge of what is truly primitive and Catholic. In nothing is this so clearly seen as in the avoidance by the new prayer of any moment of consecration. They have not substituted an Eastern for a Western form, as may be seen, if the Invocation of the Holy Spirit in the new prayer be compared with Eastern liturgies. They have avoided the too close following of Oriental ideas, which is found even in the Scottish Office. They do not make the celebrant pray that the bread and wine may become the Body and Blood of Thy most dearly beloved Son"; they put instead "that they may be unto us the Body and Blood of Thy Son." The Bishops have got behind East and West to that profoundly Christian state of mind, which looked on the whole action as consecratory. and did not think of pinning it down to a formula. It is sometimes said that we cannot make Easterns of Westerns. The new prayer does not attempt this impossible and unnecessary task. It endeavours to recapture the larger and truer ideas of an age that had not surrendered to the demands of an irrelevant logic. It is true that, in a sense, there must be a moment of consecration. But — may it not be said with all respect? — there is a difference between a moment and a click. Was not the old idea that the moment extended from the Sursum Corda to the Lord's Prayer, that the whole action was intensely solemn and awful, the true one? And, if it is true, need we despair of persuading English people to accept it? May we not, indeed, be confident that it is an idea which, if faithfully taught, will find a ready echo in their consciences and hearts?
There are many other ancient riches of the Church which the Book restores to us, some of which we may briefly note, viz. : fuller recognition of the Communion of Saints, the renewed emphasis on the unity of all souls, living and departed in Christ, the enriched Prefaces, the restoration of what is, perhaps, the most ancient practice connected with the Eucharist, the reservation of the elements for the sick (though we may rightly regret that at present it is not to be for the whole as well), the permission to sing the Passion in Holy Week, the noble form of blessing of the water in Baptism, and the more clearly articulated structure of the services. But there is one revivification of ancient ways that were well-nigh gone, for which special gratitude is demanded. It now becomes possible once more to restore the splendid ideal of morning worship in the Church of England, and to restore the satisfying sequence of Matins, Litany and Eucharist without making too great demands on the time of those whose lot is cast in a hurrying age.
A PLEA FOR ORDERED LIBERTY
REV. CANON V. F. STORR, M.A.
Canon of Westminster.
Author: The Development of English Theology; Christianity and Immortality; The Problem of the Cross; etc.
IT is as a Liberal Evangelical that I write, and what I have to say about the Revision of the Book of Common Prayer will be said from the point of view of Liberal Evangelicalism. That is all the preface which this lecture requires, and I can plunge at once into the subject.
Now it is essential, if the Revision proposals are to receive fair consideration, that they should be taken as a whole and in connexion with the movement of Church life and religious thought in the last hundred years. It is only when we see them against that background that we can hope to appreciate them or do them justice. I say the "movement" of Church life and religious thought, because our natural, and in many respects healthy, conservatism in matters religious sometimes blinds us to the fact that religion is subject to the law of change just as much as politics, or science, or any other department of human activity. Change is always going on. The temper of one age is not the temper of the succeeding age. New needs make themselves felt, and have to be met by new methods. Take two obvious illustrations, which bear closely on our subject. A century ago individualism was in the air. It dominated religion, politics, economics. What is called an atomistic view of society was in the ascendant. But to-day our talk is all of fellowship, of the group and the group spirit, of the fact that we are "members one of another." There has been a real change in outlook and in sympathy. Again, the last half-century has witnessed a remarkable growth in the masses of our people of æsthetic appreciation. We trace it in the widespread love of music, in the desire for travel, and the longing to see the beauties of Nature or the masterpieces of Art. I am sure that the social historian of the present century will note this as one of the characteristic features of our time. Now you cannot isolate religion from the movements and changes which are taking place. You may try to do so; but the result, if you succeed, will be that your religion will grow dead. It will become fossilized. Religion is not something for a compartment of life. It is meant to cover the whole of life, and so, if it would preserve its vitality, must take account of contemporary changes.
Let me now remind you of a remarkable prophecy, whose connexion with what I have just been saying will be at once clear. Thomas Sikes, of Guilsborough, was a Northamptonshire clergyman who died in 1834, one year after the Oxford Movement had its official beginning. He was one of the pioneers of that Movement, though he did not come prominently to the front. But his advice was frequently sought by, and carried great weight with, many of the Church leaders of the day. Now Sikes laid great emphasis upon the Article in the Creed, which speaks of "the Holy Catholic Church," and his prophecy is concerned with that Article. This is his prophecy in his own words: "Our confusion nowadays is chiefly owing to the want of asserting this one Article of the Creed; and there will be yet more confusion attending its revival, when it is thrust on minds unprepared, and on an uncatechized Church." By an "uncatechized " Church he meant a Church which had not been instructed in the meaning of that Article. Sikes made this prophecy at a time when the great Evangelical Movement was beginning to decline, partly because of its own defects, partly because a new movement was just showing itself. Never Jet us forget what the Church owes to that Evangelical Movement; how it brought new life into English religion; how it embraced with enthusiasm the missionary cause; how it was the parent of many of the great Church Societies, without which the Church to-day could not do its work. But Evangelicalism was on the decline, and the Oxford Movement was beginning. The very centre of that Movement was this Article, "the Holy, Catholic Church," of which Sikes spoke. In place of the individualism of the Evangelical (and it is true on the whole that the Evangelicals were not strong in their sense of churchmanship), there was coming to the front the idea of a Divine Society, with the conception of fellowship which that implies. There began to arise (not, of course, for the first time in the history of the Church) the idea of Church authority, of an ordered ministry stretching down from Apostolic times, of the Sacraments as essential and vital means of grace, divinely appointed. The whole of this cycle of ideas grew out of reflection upon the meaning of those words "the Holy, Catholic Church."
As this conception of the Church became familiar there arose a demand for a more dignified and beautiful worship. Art and music were drawn into the service of the Church. There was a marked change of outlook, feeling, atmosphere. For a century this Catholic conception of the Church has been growing. The movement which is to-day generally called by the name "Anglo-Catholicism" has in some directions advanced far beyond what was in the minds of the leaders of the Oxford Movement. They were far more interested in questions of order, authority and the place of the Sacraments than they were in questions of ritual and ceremonial; but my point is that what they did was bound to have its effect sooner or later in the sphere of worship.
Here, then, is one of the big changes which has come into our English religion. Some do not like the change; but we do not get rid of a fact by disliking it. And one of the reasons why the revision of the Prayer. Book was undertaken was because this change had made itself felt. The new outlook in the matter of the meaning of the Church, the new feeling in the matter of worship, necessitated some modification in the traditional public worship of the Anglican Church and in the regulations governing such worship. This was distinctly stated in the Report of the Royal Commission on Ecclesiastical Discipline published in 1906. The Commissioners there say that they have reached this conclusion: "The law of public worship in the Church of England is too narrow for the religious life of the present generation. It needlessly condemns much which a great section of Church people, including many of her most devoted members, value; and modern thought and feeling are characterized by a care for ceremonial, a sense of dignity in worship, and an appreciation of the continuity of the Church which were not similarly felt when the law took its present shape." The Commissioners go on to recommend that a revision of the Prayer Book and its rubrics shall be made, so as "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."
The case for revision is surely clear; and as a Liberal Evangelical I am, I hope, sensible enough to recognize that not all can be expected either to think alike in theological matters, or to worship in precisely the same way. Taking the Report of the Commission still as our guide we may approach the revision from a different angle. Behind the revision, when it was first begun, lay the growing need for the restoration of order and discipline in the Church. We all know how it has been impossible to enforce the regulations, which have governed the life of the Church for some centuries. We were rapidly approaching a state of affairs in which each incumbent became a law to himself. The Commissioners in their Report state quite clearly that "the machinery for discipline has broken down. The means of enforcing the law in the Ecclesiastical Courts, even in matters which touch the Church's faith and teaching, are defective and in some respects unsuitable. They have been tried and have often failed; and probably on that account they have been too much neglected. Although attempts to deal administratively with ritual irregularity have been made, they have been unsuccessful, in some cases on account of the lack of firmness of those who made them, but also largely because, in regard to the rites and ceremonies of public worship, the law gives no right or power to discriminate between small and great matters." One of the recommendations of the Commissioners is that a new supreme Ecclesiastical Court shall be constituted. The details of this recommendation do not, however, now concern us. But it is important to realize that a revision of the Prayer Book affords the only hope of a restoration of ordered liberty in our Church.
It is well at this point to ask ourselves this question: What is the alternative to the present proposals? If you reject the proposals and leave the Prayer Book untouched, you have done nothing to restore order, or to meet the demand for wider variety in worship, which has shown itself to be so insistent. Our present chaos will grow worse, and the Church is likely before long to split into fragments. There can surely be few who wish to see the Church of England disintegrated, when they remember what a part it has played in the nation's life in the past. It is capable still of immense service to the people of this land, and, indeed, of other lands, if its divisions can be healed.
But, it will be said by many Evangelical opponents of revision, "The new Book throws over the Reformation Settlement and changes the doctrine of the Church. It sacrifices these vital principles for which the Reformers fought, and which have been the glory of English religion for centuries." Let us examine this criticism. It is important to do so, for here we pass from questions of policy to questions of principle; though I feel bound to add that they are not mere questions of policy. Liberalism in religion, for example, is a principle, and I have already said that as a Liberal I am prepared to concede to others the liberty which I claim for myself.
Let us take the Reformation Settlement first. Can any period of history be set up as providing a standard for all time? The Evangelical rightly condemns those who would put the clock of history back and make some particular epoch of the past the unalterable norm for the future; but he must beware lest he himself does not fall into the same error by canonizing the Reformation. And what does he mean by the Reformation? It is some-times forgotten that the Reformation did not end with the sixteenth century. It went on into the seventeenth century, and there took what may be called a distinctly High Church direction. It is also not always remembered that the Reformers were not innovating. They were merely reforming. They took as their standard the doctrine and practices of the undivided Church of the first four or five centuries. In other words, the Church of England is a Reformed branch of the Catholic Church. Both words, "Reformed" and "Catholic," require to be emphasized.
This leads me to the concluding portion of my lecture, and to some discussion of the question whether the doctrine of the Church of England has been altered by the new proposals. One thing is clear. The Bishops have no intention of altering the doctrine of the Church, and they are of opinion that no alteration has been made. You have, before you say that doctrine has been altered, to determine what the doctrine of the Church is; and to do that is less easy than some people sup-pose, because within the comprehensiveness of the Anglican Church diversity of doctrinal view has always existed. It may be true that the new proposals give more emphasis to Anglo-Catholic doctrine; but then the whole point of the Revision was to recognize the plain and obvious fact of the growth of the Anglo-Catholic Movement. The task set to the Bishops was to see how far the comprehensiveness of the Church of England could be stretched without any fundamental change of doctrine. I do not believe that the doctrine has been altered. I go further, and say that Evangelicals in perfect honesty ought to be able to use the new Book. After all, the old Book is variously interpreted. As things are now the Evangelical and the High Churchman each gives his own meaning to the words" The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ which was given for thee." If variety of interpretation is permissible under the old Book, is it not permissible under the new one? I need not discuss most of the proposed changes. We all agree with them. I will confine myself to the alternative Communion Service, and to the permission given to reserve the elements for the purpose of communicating the sick.
Now the alternative Canon in the Communion Service may be briefly dealt with under two heads. (a) First, what is known as the Epiklesis, or Invocation of the Holy Spirit, has been introduced. This is a new thing, yet a very ancient thing. In introducing it the Bishops have merely borrowed a feature common to a large number of ancient liturgies. And those who dread the introduction of Roman doctrine into our Church may take heart; because the Epiklesis is Eastern, not Roman; and because the position which it occupies in the proposed new canon cuts at the very root of the Roman theory of consecration. It is put after, and not before, the words of consecration.
What does this mean? It means that, instead of emphasizing one particular moment in the service, instead of putting the whole weight upon the words of consecration as that which converts the Bread and Wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, this new prayer spreads out the act of consecration over its entire length. Our old consecration prayer is based on a Roman model, and lends itself to a Roman interpretation. The new prayer is quite un-Roman, and as such ought to be welcomed by the Evangelical.
(b) But, it will be said, an Invocation of the Spirit is asked upon material gifts. Here are the words to which objection is taken: "Hear us, O merciful Father, we most humbly beseech thee, and with thy holy and life-giving Spirit vouchsafe to bless and sanctify both us and these thy gifts of Bread and Wine. that they may be unto us the Body and Blood of thy Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ, to the end that we, receiving the same, may be strengthened and refreshed both in body and soul."
If those words are Popish, why did the Protestant Cranmer propose to put them in our Prayer Book and defend their use? You will note that the words do not constitute a prayer that the elements may be made absolutely the Body and Blood; but only that they may "be unto us" the Body and Blood. Take the words in connexion with the purpose of communion as defined at the end of the prayer, that we may be . . . strengthened and refreshed both in body and soul," and surely no Evangelical can object to them. Do we not use the grace, "Bless, O Lord, these thy gifts," before a meal? Does not St. Paul say that our food is "Sanctified through the word of God and prayer" (1 Tim. iv. 5)? In the Coronation Service the Archbishop at Holy Communion offers this prayer: "Bless, O Lord, we beseech thee, these thy gifts, and sanctify them unto this holy use."
By refusing to use the new Communion Office Evangelicals are doing a foolish thing for their own cause. They are stamping it as definitely Anglo-Catholic. If they would use it, interpreting it in their own way, they would let it be seen that it is patient of an Evangelical significance.
The permission given in the new Book for Reservation for purposes of communicating the sick has aroused opposition. But need an Evangelical object to it? It is a very ancient custom of the Church, dating from the second century. It has been a practice of the Scotch Episcopal Church for centuries. There is surely very little difference between taking the elements to an invalid in a bath-chair at the end of the church, and taking them to an invalid in a neighbouring street. And in hospitals, or when sudden emergencies are likely to arise, or where at a great festival the parish priest has to administer the Sacrament privately to many invalids, it is convenient to be able to use the Reserved Elements. On the other hand, I think that the demand for Reservation is often over-stated. Experienced priests have said that they have never found the need for it, even in large parishes. The demand is made at least as much in the interests of the priest as of the sick man. When the elements are reserved there is no necessity for the priest to break his fast. He can communicate the sick man without himself partaking of the elements. As an Evangelical I do not share the feeling about fasting communion; but I am prepared to respect the conscience of others. The Bishops have carefully safeguarded Reservation by rubrics. It is to be for the sick only, and no service or ceremony is to be allowed in connexion with the reserved elements. Many people are naturally anxious at the growth of the practice of devotions before the reserved elements, a practice which is neither Scriptural, primitive, nor Catholic, but purely Roman in origin.
But the Book excludes all such public devotions; and if the Bishops see that the regulations are obeyed, Evangelicals, in my judgment, ought not to object.
My last word is this. The new proposals provide, I believe, a real chance of restoring order in our Church. They give that ordered liberty which is dear to the heart of Englishmen. They represent the results of twenty years of careful thought and prayer. If they are accepted with good will on all sides, I believe that the whole level of our Church life will be raised. Old controversies will die, and we shall move forward, with our divisions greatly healed, to a new period of fruitful service.
LIVING WORSHIP AND THE NEW BOOK
REV. CANON E. S. WOODS, M.A., Hon. C.F.
Vicar of Croydon.
I AM not going to concern myself in this lecture, save indirectly, with the Doctrinal, Historical and Ecclesiastical aspects of Prayer Book religion.
About those things enough has been said during the last few months to last Church and nation for a very long time. I propose to concern myself with a side of the matter which might well receive more attention than it seems to secure. I can summarize what I want to say in a proposition and a question. My proposition is this: That a living Church must be able to nourish and express its corporate contact with God in forms of worship that are living and real. And my question follows, obviously, inevitably: Does the new Prayer Book help or hinder the Church in attaining this reality of worship? My own answer to that question is an unhesitating affirmative, for reasons which I hope to set forth in this lecture.
Let us first disentangle ourselves from any hampering inability to see the wood for the trees, and remind ourselves what public worship really is and what it seeks to do. All true religion, according to Jesus Christ, involves personal and corporate contact with God, together with a way of living, also personal and corporate, governed by that contact. Public worship in a building set apart for that purpose represents the attempt of a local group, acting of course in fellowship and in conformity with the whole Christian society of which it is a part, to offer its common life to God and to receive from Him its needed spiritual strength and sustenance. When people thus work with God together it is obviously necessary, for the sake of order and seemliness, to arrange and organize their united acts of worship and frame suitable forms of words to express their joint devotions. On occasion this worship may well be conducted by a spiritual leader possessed of prophetic power and insight, without any set form of words at all. It is, for instance, quite thinkable that you might have a perfectly valid, or spiritually effective Communion Service in this way, and without any of the paraphernalia to which we all happen to be accustomed, provided only that the intention of Christ be fulfilled and that he who presides at that Sacred Meal is duly authorized to do so by the fellowship for whom he acts. I say this because we seem so easily to hypnotize ourselves into thinking that this and that form of words, invested with all the authority of immemorial age, is necessary to our corporate approach to God. But once we begin to think of any particular verbal vehicles of worship as being, not just venerable and authoritative, helpful and beautiful, but essential, then we are in danger of leaving the fresh air and glad sunshine of Christ's religion to move down towards the subterranean religions of hocus-pocus and mumbo-jumbo. I dare to think that warning is not unnecessary whenever the Church is deeply absorbed in questions that concern the instruments of its worship.
However, having made that protest on behalf of spiritual freedom and spontaneity, I hasten to go on to admit that, under all normal circumstances, it is, of course, patent that the Christian society should and must have agreed and authoritative forms of words both for all the acts of its public worship, and for all those moments and occasions in their lives when the Society invokes God's help and blessing for its members — baptism, confirmation, marriage, sickness and the like. And such forms of words should, it goes without saying, be as good as the Society can make them: good, that is, in the sense of being suitable, seemly and beautiful, due regard being had both to continuity on the one hand and freshness on the other.
The attempts of the Christian Society in the early centuries to provide these worship-forms have left an extraordinarily rich liturgical deposit on which later generations have freely drawn; and we, in the Church of England, when we re-modelled our services in the Middle Ages, were peculiarly fortunate in throwing up men like Archbishop Cranmer with a genius for liturgical expression. The result is our incomparable Book of Common Prayer, on which the nation has nourished its soul for close on four hundred years. But, however beautiful the old Prayer Book, and however well it has served the needs of Church and nation, it, and any ancient Book of Common Prayer, suffers, in the very nature of the case, from limitations on two sides.
(a) On the one hand, no form of worship-words can, however good, do for all time. Worship is, after all, a living thing, and it must needs express itself in living language. Words that are rigid, fixed, immutable are bound, in time, to have a narrowing, imprisoning effect on thought, which is, or ought to be, moving. All life changes and grows, and its inward spiritual "Grace" or quality, of necessity involves change or growth in its outward and visible forms. How can we expect that forms of worship which were found suitable and satisfactory in the sixteenth century to be suitable and satisfactory in the twentieth century? In 1549, when the main lines of our Book of Common Prayer were settled, Edward VI had just come to the throne. English life in that day was strangely different from what it is now. It is safe to say that if we could be transported back into that age we should find it in some ways perhaps more beautiful, more interesting, more alive, but in many other ways inconvenient, uncomfortable, unsafe, and indeed intolerable! Very few could read, most were uneducated, there was no Press, next to no travel, no science, no hygiene, no democratic government (in our modern sense of the word). In the Church there were practically no schools, no church councils, no religious books for general reading, no foreign missions, and an abysmal ignorance of the real meaning of the Bible and of Christian theology. No wonder that a Prayer Book reflecting that age was pronounced by the Royal Commission fifty years ago to be "now too narrow for the religious life of the nation." For since the sixteenth century, as the Preface to the 1927 Prayer Book aptly points out—
"There has been change almost beyond belief in the facts and modes of English life. Far and wide the country has yielded place to the town, and the growth of knowledge has given to millions instead of thousands new means of earning their daily bread. Old barriers are broken down as by sea and land and air men are brought ever closer together. The England of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries has become the Mother of a Great Commonwealth of peoples still linked together in a common loyalty. With the rise of numbers has come also a shifting of power from the few to the many. Not less strange to the men of the age of Elizabeth or of Charles II would have seemed a model of government in Church and State, which guards instead of mistrusting liberty of thought and speech, and would set no narrower bounds to freedom than those which belonged to brotherhood and fellowship. In religion, as in all else , truth is not prized less highly because it is no longer fenced on any side.
"We are living in a new world. . . . New knowledge and new ways of life bring with them new customs and forms of speech unknown before. As men think upon God's wonderful works unveiled 'before them and are quickened afresh by the power 'of His spirit, their hearts and minds frame for themselves new prayers and thanksgivings and seek new occasions of worship. It is the duty, no less than the right of those who bear the burden of a great trust to see that plain needs are plainly met, and that the Book is still in our day, as of old, understanded of the people."
(b) But the need for revising the Book does not rest only upon the changed circumstances and wider horizons of life to-day. A yet deeper necessity arises from the progress made, slowly but surely, towards truer , that is more Christian, thinking about God — for the first condition of worship is a worthy conception of God; and from the profound desire in this generation, a desire which has seen a remarkable quickening during the last few years, to worship God in truer and more adequate fashion. One of the most hopeful signs in Church life to-day is this widespread desire to learn how to pray better. I have myself seen evidences of it on all sides. Numbers of Christian men and women in our day are escaping from the old departmentalism which set religion apart as a separate and Sunday affair, and are beginning to see, with surprise and delight, its profound connection with all the rich and wide variety of human living. It is this growing sense of the eternal element in human affairs, this deepening conviction that God in Christ is really concerned with industry and politics, with art and education, with health and housing, that is forcing men to deepen and widen their ideas of worship. There are thousands of Church people to-day who genuinely want more of God and want to know Him better, and are really eager, not merely to pray better in their private lives, but to find the best and the most beautiful and most helpful ways in which to approach Him together in public worship.
Now it is clear that a good deal of this fresh desire for what we might call group-experience of God is expressing itself, as it is bound to do, in free and untrammelled fashion at special prayer gatherings and the like, quite outside the regular round of Church Services. But — and this is one of the points I am most anxious to make — it would, in my judgment, mean spiritual loss for the Church unless a good deal of this new movement after a more satisfying corporate worship can find expression and satisfaction within the normal, statutory public Services of the Church of England. This is, I think, the main reason why I, for one, welcome with all my heart the New Prayer Book. I do not say that I am personally wholly satisfied with every detail — I doubt if you could find any Churchman that is, seeing that we are all independent Englishmen! But I am clear that a large and substantial half-loaf is very much better than nothing at all. And I am confident that, as I have said, the new Book will really make for better worship. I hope I try my best to exercise Christian charity towards the ex-Bishops and others, who are trying their utmost to "torpedo" the new Book; but I own I must confess defeat in the attempt to understand the religious mentality of those who maintain that a book of prayer which has hardly been touched for three hundred and seventy-eight years is a perfectly adequate spiritual instrument for the fresh and surging religious life of to-day and in the entirely new circumstances of a drastically altered world.
I have been saying, so far, that the chief reason for Prayer Book revision lies in the right and proper desire of Christian people for reality in their public worship, and I have claimed that the new Book does go a long way to meet this desire. I want now to try to substantiate that claim by giving instances from the Book itself. Owing to inevitable limitations of time I can only pick out a few.
To begin with Morning and Evening Prayer. The alternative introductions undoubtedly make for reality. It is no longer necessary to begin every service with "When the wicked man," or one of the old, and perhaps too familiar texts. Instead may be said such obviously suitable sentences as "God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." Or, "O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: let the whole earth stand in awe of Him," and with other Scripture sentences appropriate at the different seasons, at Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, etc. Other variations include this pointed and beautiful exhortation: "Beloved, we are come together in the presence of Almighty God and of the whole company of heaven to offer unto Him through our Lord Jesus Christ our worship and praise and thanksgiving; to make confession of our sins; to pray, as well for others as for ourselves, that we may know more truly the greatness of God's love and show forth in our lives the fruits of His grace; and to ask on behalf of all men such things as their well-being doth require.
"Wherefore let us kneel in silence, and remember God's presence with us now."
After the third collect the new Prayer Book provides a rich collection of biddings and prayers framed to be suitable to thirty-two different needs and occasions, such as Prayers for the King, Parliament, Empire, Church, Clergy, Missions, Unity, Industry, Schools, Peace, League of Nations, and so on. And, recognizing that no list of prayers can possibly meet every occasion that might arise, and realizing the importance of leaving due space for a certain freedom and spontaneity in prayer, the Bishops have, as I think most wisely, inserted a Rubric at the end of Morning and Evening Prayer to say that, "Subject to any direction which the Bishop may give, the minister may, at his discretion, offer prayers in his own words."
With regard to the Holy Communion, I do not propose to argue the doctrinal question. In my judgment the new service entirely bears out the contention of the Archbishop and the Bishops that there is no change of doctrine involved; and it seems to me that a close study of the new prayer of consecration justifies the view, widely held by men well qualified to judge, that through this prayer the great central act of Christian worship is enriched and ennobled and set on an even firmer spiritual basis. Nor need we, in my opinion, be troubled as to any supposed loss of uniformity. It is somewhat late in the day to press for one uniform rite when, not counting the new Prayer Book, there are already in existence in the Anglican Communion five alternative uses, namely, the Scotch, American, South African, the authorized experiment in the Diocese of Bombay, and that in the old Book of Common Prayer. But not only, as I see the matter, are alternative uses legitimate; they are definitely evidences of spiritual health and strength. Indeed I could wish-to express a purely personal view-that it were possible to use variants successively in one church and parish. I sometimes think there must be many others, priests and lay worshippers, who feel as I do, that the unvarying use of our unchanging set of words breeds a familiarity which can easily become a terrible stumbling-block to mental alertness and spiritual freshness.
Moreover, this particular alternative prayer of consecration as drawn up in the new Book does, in my judgment, make quite definitely for real and living worship. The old prayer is built round one thing only, namely, the historic happening of the Last Supper and the original words of Institution. The new prayer covers, so to say, a wider spiritual area. It calls to mind not only the Lord's death, but also His incarnation, His resurrection, His ascension, and the giving of the Spirit, thus re-enacting, as it were, the whole drama of redemption. I cannot but feel that these additions do constitute a real enrichment of the prayer, and provide precisely that stimulus to worship, for mind and spirit, which all worshippers need as they take their place at the great Brotherhood Meal.
When we come to what are called the "Occasional Offices," those services for the great moments in life — Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage and Burial — the instances where the new book makes for reality, beauty and intelligibility are so many that it is not easy, in the short time left us, to pick and choose. The Baptism Service no longer begins with the old, forbidding and generally misunderstood statement: "Seeing that all men are conceived and born in sin," and the whole Service is simplified; a suitable prayer for the home is added at the end. The Confirmation Service has a new and clearer introduction at the beginning, and at the end strikes just the right note in providing that the Bishop shall, so to say, commission them and send them forth: "Then shall the Bishop bless them, saying thus: Go forth into the world in peace; be of good courage; hold fast that which is good; render to no man evil for evil; strengthen the fainthearted; support the weak; help the afflicted; honour all men; love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.'
"'And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, be upon you, and remain with you for ever. Amen.'"
The Marriage Service, in its new introduction, equal vows, and fresh prayers, does to some extent give shape to the newer, and as many of us believe, the more Christian ideals of sex relationships and wedded love. And the new Burial Services, for an adult and for a child, do represent an attempt, which is largely successful, to escape from the almost pagan gloom of parts of the old Service, and to express more adequately the Church's belief in the Communion of Saints, in God as the God of love, and in the riches of His strength and comfort for those who mourn.
I have been trying in this lecture to show that the new Book does really make for living worship. I have only one or two things to add as I conclude. One is that a Church which is in any sense alive ought to be able to re-state its formularies and to revise its mode of worship, and the fact that the Church to-day, acting through its accredited leaders, is both desirous and able to produce, with general approval, such a book as this new Prayer Book, looks to me like evidence that God's Spirit is guiding the Church. After all, if the Church had to admit its complete and utter dependence on forms of words devised centuries ago, and its unwillingness and inability to alter these ancient words, it would be tantamount to a confession of spiritual bankruptcy. From some of the arguments used against the new Book it would almost seem that God's guidance of the Church in matters of doctrine and worship came to an abrupt end at the Reformation. That cannot be. The Christ we serve is a contemporary Christ; the Spirit is as present now to guide and direct as He was with the Church of the first or sixteenth or any other past century.
Our new post-war freedom to govern ourselves in the Church is assuredly a great response to the Spirit's leading; and now that the first really big test has come of our new temper of unity and our new machinery, the Spirit's guidance will surely not be lacking if we are willing to receive it. After all, it cannot be said that in this matter of Prayer Book revision we have gone ahead without waiting for guidance. For twenty-one years — for it was in 1906 that the "King's Letters of Business" were issued — for twenty-one years the Church has deliberated and worked and prayed, and for the first time in history our Bishops have spent weeks at a time thinking together and praying together. At least we have given God's Spirit time to direct us. And it is worth noting in that connexion for those who seem to think that every thing mediaeval is well-nigh perfect, that at the last revision in 1662 the time taken between the issue of "The Letters of Business" and Convocation's final approval was just one month.
AN ANGLO-CATHOLIC VIEW
REV. FRANCIS UNDERHILL, M.A.
Warden of Liddon House.
I MUST confess that when I was asked to give a lecture on the Revised Prayer Book, I hesitated for a considerable time before consenting to do so. It is not that I do not think the Revisers have acted as generously as they could towards Anglo-Catholics; nor because I am not convinced that a document coming to us with such authority as this will have if it is solemnly promulgated by the Bishops of the Church in England ought not to be accepted by persons holding Catholic views. I do not see on what possible grounds disobedience in such circumstances could be defended. But I hesitated to write publicly about the Book, because I see so clearly the sacrifice which acceptance will call for from many priests and congregations with whom I greatly sympathize.
I. ANGLO-CATHOLIC SACRIFICE.
For it will mean much sacrifice for many Anglo-Catholics. I think this fact ought to be understood by our fellow-members of the Church of England who do not sympathize much with what they call "extreme practices." When clergy and congregations, with the noblest intentions of serving the Kingdom of God as they understand it, have pushed forward in a certain direction for many years, it is a difficult matter to cry to them, not merely "Halt," but "Come back! Abandon the positions you have won; give up the practices and the services you have learned to love; the majority of your fellow-Churchmen demand this of you."
And if, when they demur for a moment, the Church says to them, "Why did you go forward at all? Why have you taken up a position, and adopted forms of service and methods of work which are disapproved by the majority?" then I think they may well reply that the Church of England herself is in great part to blame. It is admitted that for nearly one hundred years there has been an almost complete failure of discipline; so that in effect, at least in many dioceses, there has been a tolerated liberty — often more than a tolerated liberty — in the very directions which are now about to be blocked by the rubrics of the new Book. And here we would with all our hearts beg the authorities of the Church of England and Anglicans generally to consider a vital fact in connexion with the controversy which is now at its height; it has not, I think, been given its full weight so far. It is. too often assumed that certain Anglo-Catholics do the things they do from "mere spikery " — that is the phrase too commonly used. Let me take a crucial instance. The great spread of the Service called Adoration, or extra-liturgical devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, came about, as I very well know, in response to a profound longing for strong intercession during the war. It is very far indeed from being "mere spikery." Whatever we may think of these forms of worship, they have behind them a passion of prayer which is in the hearts of the laity as well as of the clergy. This is a fact which must be reckoned with.
It is, therefore, a great sacrifice which is asked of those congregations which have grown to love the Service of Adoration. But this is not the only fear which besets many Anglo-Catholics at the present moment. They are greatly troubled also about the power given under the Revised Prayer Book to the individual Bishop in the regulation of the Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament. They believe that in most cases — perhaps in a growing number of cases, perhaps not — a wise generosity will be shown by the Bishop. But they see the possibility, both in town and country, that it may sometimes be difficult if not impossible owing to episcopal regulation to give the Holy Communion immediately to the sick and dying, as well as to those who by reason of their work cannot be present at the Celebration. Experienced and level-headed priests are apprehensive of danger here.
A less serious fear which is felt by many congregations, and is indeed inevitable, is that of a change in the form of service to which priest and laity have been long accustomed. But this will be particularly felt where enrichments which people have grown to value have to be given up. Englishmen are most conservative in regard to their forms of worship; but it is less difficult, I think, to accept additions to which we have not been accustomed than to abandon those we love.
2. THE PEACE OF THE CHURCH.
I have written frankly about the sacrifices to which many Anglo-Catholics will be called to make if the Revised Prayer Book comes into force. Yet I am altogether out of sympathy with the policy of finally opposing the acceptance of the Book, because, keenly as I realize the painful renunciations we are asked to make, I have come to recognize a loyalty which I believe to be more truly Catholic than the refusal to accept what is now offered. For nearly a century the Church of England has been torn by internal strife. The whole of my own priestly life, and the priestly lives of thousands of others, has been darkened and crippled through controversy. Energy and scholarship which should have been used for the extension of the Kingdom of God have been employed instead for the purposes of theological warfare. We want an end of this. However deep may be our love for the whole Catholic Church of Christ - and none love it, I think, more than Anglo-Catholics - however much we may rightly admire aspects of the life of other Communions than our own, we arc, after all, members of the Church of England. Our work is done in and for her. In her we live and pray. It is easy to be contemptuous of the Church of England; to speak of her as a City of Confusion, and to say all the other clever things we do say about her. Yet I often think that the Holy Spirit may be able to do a special work with us, just because we have retained a certain freedom which it is easy and shallow to call licence.
But it is imperatively necessary that the Church of England should have peace , and that not only for her own sake. It may not always be deep conviction which leads men and women to say to us, " We will have nothing to do with you until you have settled your internal differences." I am well aware that many who talk in that way are persons with little use for a vigorous religion. But there is a great multitude genuinely held back from the sacramental fellowship and worship of the Church by our most unhappy divisions. For the sake of England we must try to reach some settlement of our disputes.
I am not, indeed, so sanguine as to expect that the general acceptance of the Revised Prayer Book will automatically bring about a state of complete concord within the Church of England. The almost eternal problem of Catholicism and Protestantism — of religion of authority on the one hand, and of private judgment on the other — will not so lightly be solved. Nor can we be satisfied with having permanently inside the same branch of the Church two manners of celebrating the Holy Communion. Yet it seems as though we could now reach a very considerable measure of unity without uniformity, which is very greatly to be desired for the sake of our Church and nation.
If this is to be so, then it would seem that the line taken by the Revisers of the Prayer Book is the only way out of the difficulty at the moment. I do not see how it can be permanent, but it is the step which can now be taken, and which I am sure we may thankfully take. There will still be stirs and movements within the Church; they cannot be avoided. Indeed, health and progress would be impossible without them. Even in the parts of the Church which are most strongly authoritarian there are continua! differences, though they are for the most part hidden from view. You can never dragoon the Church of God or any part of it into complete uniformity. So that those who talk of the Revised Prayer Book as a "permanent settlement " seem to me to be attempting to restrain the movement of the Spirit of God.
Yet the acceptance of the Book will help us who are Anglo-Catholics powerfully in many ways. It gives us much for which we have long been asking. It will also remove from us for ever that imputation of illegality — of disloyalty — which we believe to be so unjust, and yet which has dogged and impeded our work right through the Catholic Revival. Freed from that we shall be able to give our whole efforts to the work of converting souls to God in His Church. The effect of this alone on the atmosphere in which we live will be immeasurably for good. If we are called to sacrifice, we are at the same time relieved of a most painful disability. It is admitted that most of what we have striven for was rightly claimed and may properly be held.
3. THE QUESTION OF PRINCIPLE.
It is sometimes said, however, "This is all very well; but where are your principles? Are you going to accept because it is advantageous to accept it as a settlement which is un-Catholic and which will hold back your cause for generations — perhaps for ever?" Certainly not; if that were so I should be the first to refuse absolutely and finally any such settlement as were offered. For I hold that the principles of what is known as historic Catholicism are vital to the conversion of our country. It is therefore necessary for those of us who at the moment hold what is confessedly a difficult position to say what we think on this very important point. That is why I am thankful for the opportunity offered by this lecture.
I am sure — and here I believe I speak for the great majority of Anglo-Catholics —I am sure that the acceptance of the Revised Prayer Book involves the abandonment of no Catholic principles whatever. It does not give all that Anglo-Catholics desire; it does not register the high-water mark of Anglo-Catholic achievement. It leaves, as we think, dangerous doors open at the moment. But I do not think any sane Catholic will assert that it does not safeguard that for which essentially we have striven. If the Book is finally accepted by the Church of England, Catholic principle will, I believe, call for our obedience. And here I would venture to plead with my fellow-Catholics. Let us maintain sympathy among ourselves. It is tempting for moderate men to say hard things about "Extremists" ; it is easy for those who think they have been forsaken by their friends to mutter darkly the word "Traitor." Let us believe in one another's good faith . It has been a hard thing for some of us — certainly for myself — to find ourselves in momentary disagreement with old and tried friends. I believe this is only momentary, for we are united on the ground of the principles of the Catholic Faith.
And let us look for a moment in another direction. Let us remember what it must be costing many Evangelicals to accept the revision of the Prayer Book as it stands. Here, too, sacrifice has been called for, and is being made by those who are prepared to accept much which to them is very repugnant, as part and parcel of the position of the Church to which they belong. We already know enough to make us deeply grateful to those on the other side who have recognized that if we are to hold together there must be unselfishness at both ends.
4. THE FUTURE.
Finally, let us dare for a moment to look forward. Suppose the revised Book "goes through"; suppose it is accepted by the Church Assembly and passed by Parliament, and promulgated by the Bishops of the Church of England; and suppose, further, that we agree loyally to accept and use the Book, regulating our worship by the limitations imposed by it. Does that prevent anybody on either side from pressing by all means lawful and honest for further revision? Surely not. The history of the Church from the earliest times to the present day negatives any such unholy immobility. Those who are convinced that further revision is necessary will not be prevented from making their voices heard. There are many ways of approach for clergy and laity. There are Ruridecanal and Diocesan Conferences; there are the Convocations and the Assembly; there will soon be, we hope, Synods in every diocese. Let those who think they must do so use unwearied efforts to gain what they believe to be right. No one can blame them for doing so, provided they are obedient to lawful authority while they do it.
The Will of God must come to pass. If it be His Will that Catholics within the Church of England should gain the fuller liberty they desire, and which is not given by the Revised Prayer Book, no human power can prevent their gaining it. Only let us be sure as we can be that what we ask is the Will of the Spirit. If that is so, the day will come when what is asked for will be given not grudgingly or of necessity, but gladly and thankfully, with both hands, by the Church which is the Mother of us all.
WORSHIP AND THOUGHT
REV. PROFESSOR W. R. MATTHEWS, M.A., D. D.
Dean of King's College, London, Chaplain to the King.
THE new Prayer Book ought to be a subject of interest to every reflective man. Even if he is not a Churchman he must recognize that in the Revised Prayer Book he has before him a document which will probably influence the religious thought and practice of multitudes of men and women for an indefinite period. It would be difficult to estimate the effect of the old Prayer Book on the tone and temper of the English race, but it has certainly been one of the chief formative influences. Nor has its sphere of effectiveness been limited to the Anglican communion. Without definite recognition it has unconsciously stood as a norm of devotion and meditation. When men have prayed in English their language has been insensibly affected by the cadences of Cranmer, and their attitude to religion and life has been affected by the system which the Book of Common Prayer embodies. We may readily grant that Nonconformists have some right to express an opinion on the revision of this Book, for they have been in some degree partakers of this national heritage.
But though every intelligent man must needs be interested in the new Prayer Book, it does not follow that every intelligent man has something valuable to contribute to its discussion. Naturally we desire to hear what the liturgiologist, the ecclesiastical historian, the Biblical theologian, the statesman who shares in the direction of the Church, have to say, but it is not obvious that a student of the philosophy of religion can usefully join in the debate. At any rate, he would make himself ridiculous if he attempted to range beyond his own province and pronounce on questions which can only properly be judged by experts. His safest course will be to confine himself as far as possible to general principles, and hope that his incompetence in the realm of fact and practice may be forgiven if he can suggest some line of reflection on the wider problems which lie behind the revision. I propose, then, to say a few words on the subject of Worship and Thought, with special reference to the reform of the Prayer Book.
We may all agree that worship and thinking are not one and the same activity. It is doubtless true that they have one and the same root, for philosophy, we are told on high authority, begins in wonder, and that emotion is a principal ingredient in the experience of the worshipping soul. But nevertheless the two activities diverge, as anyone who has had experience of both will be able to testify. Our attitudes of mind in worship and in thinking are widely different. When we are thinking in the strict and intellectual sense of that word, seeking to know and to understand, we set the object of our reflection over against our-selves, we regard it with a critical and speculative eye, and our aim is in some sense to master it, to make it ours, to grasp it with our minds. The attitude in worship is almost the opposite of this. Then the soul is abased before the Object of its devotion. The specifically religious sentiment is founded upon this emotion, as most investigators recognize. "Negative self-feeling" say the psychologists in their peculiar jargon, "creature feeling" says Professor Otto; but they mean much the same thing. In the activity of thinking and knowing we strive to master the object, in worship we fall down before it.
Of course it is only the most rudimentary kind of worship which does not go beyond this mere abasement. The higher religions have woven into the religious sentiment "admiration, hope and love," and have found in God the Supreme Object not only of awe but of love and aspiration. But the element of abasement remains fundamental. When I worship I seek not to possess God but to be possessed by Him. We must not push this opposition between worship and thought too far. There is a kind of reflective thinking which is throughout religious in inspiration and hastens to lose itself, like that of Sir Thomas Browne, in an "O altitude!" Nor must we forget that the greatest intellectualist of ail, Spinoza, found the culmination of the effort of thought in the "intellectual love of God." Thought and worship at their highest converge: as at the root they are one, so also we may believe they are in the end. But in their middle ranges where most of us dwell they are distinct and even opposite; they imply two different states of mind.
If this is true we can understand something of the psychological source of much opposition to revision. A good deal of it springs from a cause which is worthy of high regard. It does not really come from theological opinion but from a deeper mental level, from more instinctive origins. The familiar words have been associated with the experience of worship. Now we are called upon to criticize them, to reflect about them, to alter them; and we feel that we cannot place them in this new relation without danger to their religious value Whatever may be the case in politics, in religion conservatism is always respectable - but that does not mean that it is always right.
Theology, in its proper signification, means knowledge about God. When we have said that, it becomes evident at once that theology occupies a peculiar position by its very nature. It is neither philosophy on the one hand nor religion on the other. In it two streams run together. The theologian is primarily a thinker, but he has some data to think about, and the data are supplied by religious experience, by the worship and prayer of the Universal Church. We are often reminded that pectus facit theologum, the heart makes the theologian. The maxim is true, but it is perhaps equally necessary in these days to insist that the theologian must have a head. The business of theology is essentially reflection, but not reflection in vacuo, rather thought about the experience of God which comes not only to the individual theologian but to the worshipping community. Clearly its task is difficult and delicate. Theology will be inadequate, and more than inadequate, if it allows either side of its problem to absorb the other. It may become the tame acceptor of all the aberrations of devotion and find itself the obedient handmaid of superstition. I hesitate to express an historical judgment, but it seems to me that something like this has occasionally happened in the Roman Church, and that theologians have sometimes followed popular piety, discovering after the event reasons to justify the instinctive religious cults of partly pagan populations. On the other hand, theology cut off from the warm life of the religious fellowship, out of touch with the hearts of praying people, is of no use to anyone. It becomes an arid and timid philosophy, a collection of abstract ideas. It is an interesting but entirely idle speculation to wonder which Prayer Book would be the more intolerable, one composed by Mr. Billy Sunday or one drawn up by a committee of the Aristotelian Society.
We have now approached our particular subject. The revision of the Prayer Book has been, I suppose, occasioned by the need to achieve some greater measure of order in the Church; but the real reasons are, of course, deeper than administrative necessities. The demand for revision, as I see it, has come from the two activities which we have been considering — it arises out of the life ò of worship and out of the life of thought.
Probably the strongest pressure has come from the side of devotion. It would indeed be surprising if a book settled in the sixteenth century had proved itself adequate for the religious life of the twentieth. Religious experience is not static any more than other aspects of experience. It may know growth and development and degeneration and decay. The changing circumstances of life and society, moreover, produce different habits of thought and action. The Reformers again, most justifiably, restricted some manifestations of the religious consciousness which had been adulterated by superstition, but which now may be permitted without fear of perversion. We have also learnt more clearly than our predecessors to recognize the legitimate place of temperament in religion, and to admit that here as in other departments of life personality has its rights which must not be infringed by a rigid insistence on uniformity. Perhaps, too, we have grasped more firmly the saying of the Lord, "By their fruits ye shall know them," and have recognized the spirit of Jesus in men and women whose lives are nourished by devotions which are not within the four corners of the old Prayer Book. I do not see how we can doubt that the spiritual life of the Church of England has grown in power and variety, in richness and depth. If the Church is a living organism it must find expression in its common worship for the growing experience of its members. But this new expression must be connected with the previous history of the Christian community. Plainly, one of the chief elements of value in liturgical forms is that they link up the life and worship of many generations. Through the settled words and the accustomed order we realize the .continuity of the life of the Spirit within the Church, and are made conscious of our fellowship in prayer with Christians of every age. From the standpoint of religious psychology it is, perhaps, one of the happiest features of the new Prayer Book that it has met modern devotional needs not by a sacrifice of the continuity with older forms, but rather with added links to the worship of the ancient Church.
The demands of worship and the devotional life are rightly given preponderating weight in the work of revision. But, as we have already seen, the claims of thought can be neglected only at the greatest peril. Not everything which fervent souls desire or find uplifting can rightly be allowed. The reason must be heard with its demand for coherence. In this matter the coherence which the reason must insist upon is twofold: coherence with the knowledge and thought of the day so far as that is possible, and coherence with the normative experience of the New Testament which is the test and touchstone of Christian piety. We must insist upon this restraining and directing function of rational thought. We must resist the tendency to apply a purely "pragmatic" criterion to forms of worship and devotion. It is supposed in some quarters to be a sufficient justification for them if it can be said that "they work," they attract congregations and fill churches. We must withstand such a standard of judgment in the name of the sober and reverent genius of the Church of England. There are many things which are effective in this sense which no rational man could approve, and many which would "work" from the point of view of popular appeal which are far from the mind of Christ. The "fruits" by which we may know both men and methods are the fruits of the Spirit, not the rewards of demagogy.
The demand for revision has come also from the standpoint of thought. It needs no argument to show that the modern view of the world has brought with it changes in our conception of the nature of God and of His relation with His creatures. This point has been admirably dealt with in other lectures of this series. I think it may be open to doubt whether there is properly any such thing as a "modern mind," but we can scarcely question the existence of a "modern mentality." We need not adopt an attitude of superstitious reverence towards the intellectual fashions of the day, but we shall be foolish indeed if we persist in associating the Christian faith and worship with conceptions which are outworn or even unintelligible. The use of phrases which have ceased to represent living realities has a twofold danger: it repels those who are without and lends an air of unreality to our own religious life. I confess that in my opinion the new Prayer Book is excessively cautious in this respect. It is not that we should seek for a new theology in the Prayer Book, but for less theology. The old Prayer Book took its shape in a ferment of religious discussion, and the age of controversial theology has left its marks. Even in the solemn moment of consecration in the Eucharist we are haunted by such words as "satisfaction," which had a definite meaning for the men of the Reformation period, but which have little clear significance for us.
Is not this one of the most important changes which have come upon us in the course of time? We know better than our forefathers that our highest thoughts of God in worship must be symbols which suggest the deep things of the Spirit to the imagination rather than concepts which stand out with geometrical clarity before the understanding. I know a little boy who is sometimes taken to church but is generally found to be weeping silently before the service has gone very far. When asked the reason for his grief he replies, "There are so many words I don't understand." Most of us have ceased to feel its poignancy, but we are still in the same situation. There are so many words we don't understand, if by understanding we mean the ability to give a clear definition which would stand the criticism of philosophy. But often those words are understood in the sphere of religious experience and emotion, for they may be pregnant symbols, significant images of a Reality which is beyond our understanding. I would conclude, therefore, that the demand for revision of forms of worship from the standpoint of thought would be grievously mistaken if it were supposed to require the expunging of all expressions which go beyond the limits of reflective reason, all sensuous imagery every symbolical utterance. The office of the critical intellect in this matter is to refine the symbols, not to destroy them; its task is not to rule out poetry from devotion, but to ensure that it is the highest poetry and not the play of an arbitrary fancy. For the language of adoration is poetry not theology, and every worshipper is, at the moment of his worship, a poet.
These brief remarks upon a great subject have given some idea of the grounds on which I should defend the Revised Prayer Book. It is probably tree that it satisfies no one, for it is certain that each one of us would have made a different Book had we been given the opportunity. But if we will be content with nothing which does not embody all our private wishes and points of view, we are probably out of place in the Church of England, and should be happier as ministers of a conventicle where we might be free to pray and worship as the Spirit moved us or as our mood dictated. We are men under authority, not the unfettered and irresponsible authority of an ecclesiastical despot who lords it over the Church of God, but the authority of the general life of the Christian community speaking through the voice of the Bishops as accredited leaders and interpreters. In this instance they have, I believe, rightly judged the needs and the mind of the worshipping Church. They have removed some things which had grown old, they have restored some things which had been lost, they have brought the services of the Church into more direct relation with the life of the time and its requirements, they have shown the way to the restoration of order and unity. We have our criticisms and our objections, but unless ò these relate to the very fundamentals of the Christian faith, I conceive that it is our duty to accept with thankfulness this sign of the continued vitality of our Church.
In conclusion, I may be permitted to make a remark upon a subject which is closely connected with the problem before us. It has been said that there is no change in the theology of the new Prayer Book. The statement was made in connexion .with the Eucharist, and in that reference it is undoubtedly true; but I should be sorry to think that it was true in general. The new order of worship does, in truth, reflect at least a changed theological outlook, and in that fact many of us find its greatest recommendation. We have got rid of many phrases which implied a mechanical and outworn view of inspiration. The new Book can be used without qualms by those who have learnt from modern scholarship the great liberating truth of progressive revelation. The conception of God as a transcendent and arbitrary Despot, which is not far from the thought of some prayers in the old Book, has given place to nobler ideas of Deity. The theology has changed. It is good that it should have changed, for the conceptions of God and Revelation which lie behind the Revised Book are truer and higher than the old.
The last word shall be a prayer for the peace of Jerusalem. Experience at King's College has taught me that it is possible for Anglicans of every school of thought to study and live and pray together not only with tolerance but with fruitful co-operation. The same thing is possible in the larger field of the Church as a whole. It may be hoped that the new Book, by defining the limits of comprehension, by regularizing variety and legalizing a wide inclusiveness, will bring to an end the lamentable recriminations of parties, so that the essential unity of the Church may find expression. There are signs that the long-expected spiritual revival is beginning. We must be ready for it. Let us get internal controversy out of the way.
Return to The New Prayer Book
|Web author: Charles Wohlers||U. S. England Scotland Ireland Wales Canada World|