The New American Prayer Book
Its History and Contents
by E. Clowes Chorley, D.D.
Historiographer of the Protestant Episcopal Church
Macmillan Company, 1929
I. The Antecedents of the American Prayer Book
II. Blazing the Trail
III. The “Proposed Book” of 1785
IV. The Prayer Book of 1789
V. Additions and Amendments to the Prayer Book of 1789
VI. The Prayer Book of 1892
VII. The New Prayer Book: Revision
VIII. The New Prayer Book: Enrichment
Index (omitted for web)
The Book of Common Prayer is the common heritage of all the churches in the English speaking world. The issue of a new Book therefore is of more than passing interest.
The purpose of this little volume is to outline the evolution of the American Prayer Book by sketching its origins and development through the years. For in truth it is the heir of the ages. Parts of it are drawn from the devotions of the faithful in the early days of Christianity; parts of it are the product of that great religious upheaval known as the Reformation, and parts from modern and even contemporary sources. Its successive changes and additions mirror the changing thoughts of the times. Its history is here sketched because today is only intelligible in the light of yesterday.
The large story is of necessity severely compressed and many things of surpassing interest have been omitted. It is hoped, however, that this outline will stimulate interest in the field of liturgics.
“Who faulteth not, liveth not,” but pains have been taken to ensure accuracy, and on doctrinal matters the author has striven to be fair and impartial. His one aim has been to provide a help to an intelligent understanding of the new American Prayer Book.
Chapter I – The Antecedents of the
American Prayer Book
The first American Book of Common Prayer of 1789 was not a new book. Its history goes back to the earliest Liturgies and its immediate sources are to be found in the successive Prayer Books of the mother Church of England.
When “in the course of Divine Providence, these American States became independent with respect to civil government, their ecclesiastical independence was necessarily included. At that time the jurisdiction of the English Church ceased in the American colonies. That ecclesiastical independence involved changes in the Prayer Book in use in the colonies by reason of a change in government. The State prayers had to be revised and adapted to the new political order. While advantage was taken of this opportunity to make some changes in the English book affecting doctrine, discipline, and worship, they were kept down to a minimum. The General Convention of 1789 which put forth the first American Prayer Book was careful to affirm that “this Church is far from intending to depart from the Church of England in any essential point of doctrine, discipline or worship; or further than local circumstances require.” [Preface to Prayer Book of 1789, p. vi.] The framers of the constitution of the church and the compilers of her Prayer Book were alike determined to preserve a continuity with the reformed Church of England. It is significant that some of the most important changes in the new American Standard Prayer Book of 1928 are taken from the First Prayer Book of Edward VI published in 1549. It is therefore to the Prayer Book of the Church of England and to the preceding Liturgies that we must turn for the antecedents of the American Book.
Tennyson once wrote, “We are part of all that we know.” That is as true of Liturgies as it is of life. The first English Book of Common Prayer was issued in 1549, but its roots are in the far past. Its sources are to be found in forms of service used in the earliest ages of the Church and especially in the forms of prayer used in the monasteries.
In the main the earliest services were non-liturgical, the earliest form of liturgical use probably being the Lord’s Prayer, and there are indications of doxologies in the Epistles of Saint Paul. In the course of time worship gradually crystallized into liturgical form. As far back as the fourth century we have “The Prayers of Serapion,” a Sacramentary, i.e., a collection of prayers used in the administration of the sacraments. By the seventh century there were in use three Liturgies:
The Divine Office, comprising the prayers used in the seven periods of the day, and
The Occasional Services, such as Dedication of Churches, Marriage and the Reconciling of Penitents
These were separate books written by hand, for the day of printing was not yet. In the course of time it became convenient to combine the different parts of the services in books. They numbered four:
The Missal, or Mass Book, containing the administration of the Sacrament, including the Epistles and Gospels
The Breviary, with the lessons, the Psalter, the collects, prayers for the stated hours and the music books
The Manual, containing the occasional offices including Baptism, Marriage and Burial
The Pontifical, with the offices to be said only by the Bishop, including ordinations and consecrations
These are the main sources of all the Liturgies of the Church. The Missal has been transformed into the Order for the Administration of the Holy Communion. The “Pontifical” is now known as the “Ordinal.” Our present Morning and Evening Prayer is drawn from the Breviary. The monastic hours of prayer were seven:
At Cockcrow............. Matins
Sunrise ................. Lauds and Prime
9 A.M................... Terce
Noon ................... Sext
3 P.M................... None
Sunset.................. Vespers or Evensong
Bedtime ............... Compline
In these various services lessons from Holy Scripture were read; the Psalter was said through each week. There were versicles and responses; the singing of chants like the “Te Deum” and the “Nunc Dimittis” together with prayers and hymns. It was a short step to combine these offices into Morning and Evening Prayer.
In the middle ages the Breviary became overladen with additions in the shape of legends, “some true, some doubtful, some vain and superstitious,” and the services were multiplied by such offices as the “Little Service of our Lady” and the “Service of the Dead” together with numerous other commemorations. They became so long that irreverence crept in and so wearisome that the monks at Exeter whiled away the time in the service by dropping wax from their candles on the shaven crowns of their brethren sitting in the lower stalls. The corruptions in the Breviary were a large factor in the desire for a reformed service.
The other factor was the growing demand for the rendering of the services in what was called the “vulgar tongue.” Prior to 1559 the Mass and other offices were said in Latin; the Scripture lessons also. Then came the great moment when the Bible was translated into English. Coverdale’s translation appeared in 1535, fourteen years before the First Prayer Book of Edward VI. Three years later there was set up in every English church a “Bible of the largest volume in English where it might be read without exposition or disputation.” How eagerly the multitudes flocked to hear the reading is vividly described in John Richard Green’s History o f the English People. Then followed an order to teach the people in English the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed and the Ten Commandments. In 1554 the curate of every parish was directed to read “openly one chapter of the New Testament in English without exposition; and when the New Testament was read over, then to begin the Old.” This paved the way for the eventual substitution of English for Latin in the public services of the church.
The same year it was found that the people had become slack in attendance on the Rogations and this was partly attributed to the fact “that they understood no part of such prayers as were then sung and said.” Consequently, as the quaint record runs, there were “set forth certain godly prayers and suffrages in our native English tongue.” These godly prayers and suffrages, issued on June 11, 1554, constituted what we know as the Litany which was compiled by Archbishop Cranmer and remains today substantially as it was in the reign of King Henry VIII. So the Litany was the first part of the Prayer Book to be said or sung in English. It was a long step toward an English order of divine service. Other steps followed in rapid succession. It was ordered that at High Mass the Epistle and Gospel should be said in English. Under Edward VI a Book of Homilies appeared and on March 8, 1548, came the “Order of Communion.” In this was printed in English the Invitation, Confession, Absolution, Comfortable words and the Prayer of Humble access; the rest remained still in Latin. Prior to this it had been ordered that the Holy Communion should be administered to the laity in both kinds. The Order of Communion provided that water should be mixed with the wine. The next step was the removal of all images from the churches. In May at St. Paul’s Cathedral Matins, Mass and Evensong were sung in English. Westminster Abbey followed suit and administered Communion in both kinds. Such radical changes as these prepared the way for a new Book of Common Prayer.
The first English Book of Common Prayer, commonly known as the First Prayer Book of Edward VI, received the assent of Parliament on January 21, 1549, and was published under the title page of:
THE BOOKE OF COMMON PRAYER AND
ADMINISTRATION OF THE SACRAMENTS
AND OTHER RITES AND CEREMONIES OF THE
CHURCHE: AFTER THE USE OF THE
CHURCH OF ENGLAND
Its use was enforced by the Act of Uniformity which made the use of any other liturgical forms illegal in England.
The Preface points out that in time past the “godly and decent” order of reading Holy Scripture had been marred by the interposition of stories and legends; that there had been great variations in the order of service – the Hereford, York and Sarum use; that the service had been read in Latin so that the people were not edified. The justification for a new Book was its design to restore the integrity of the reading of Holy Scripture; to have the prayers read in a language understood by the people and a uniform divine service. Another section dealt with the abolition of certain ceremonies, begun with “godly intent, but often falling into undiscreet devotion.” A further section dealt with vestments. At Holy Communion the bishop was directed “to have upon him, besides his Rochette, a surplice or Albe, and a Cope or Vestment; also his pastoral Staff, either in his hand, or holden by his chaplain.” And, it went on to say: “As touching kneeling, crossing, holding up of hands, knocking on the breast, and other gestures, they may be used or left, as every man’s devotion serveth, without blame.”
The Book began with an Order for Matins daily throughout the Year. It differs, from the American Book in that it begins with the Lord’s Prayer and ends with the present third Collect. The “Venite” was followed by the Psalter, and between the Lessons the “Te Deum” or the “Benedcite.” The rest was as in the present book save that there was no Benediction. Evening Prayer was much as it is now. A rubric provided for the saying of the Athanasian Creed on six specified Sundays in the year. Introits were inserted to be sung before the Epistles and Gospels.
The doctrinal crux of the Book is in the Office of Holy Communion. The title is significant:
THE SUPPER OF THE LORDE
THE HOLY COMMUNION,
COMMONLY CALLED THE MASS
The retention of the word “Mass” was a concession to long established tradition. The priest’s vestments at this service were to be “a white Albe plain, with a Vestment or Cope,” and assisting ministers’ “the vestures appointed for their ministry, that is to say, Albes with Tunacles.” This too was traditional. The Prayer for Christ’s Church, now a separate prayer, was then linked with the prayer of the Consecration of the elements. It had a significant clause of thanksgiving for the “wonderful grace and virtue declared in all thy saints from the beginning of the world,” and added, “and chiefly in the glorious and most blessed Virgin Mary, mother of thy sonne Jesus Christ our Lorde and God, and in the holy Patriarchs, Prophetes, Apostles and Martyrs.” It included also a prayer for “all other thy servants, which are departed hence from us, with the signe of faith, and do now rest in the slepe of peace.” Direction was given to make the sign of the cross in the Prayer of Consecration. The Prayer of Consecration in the American Book is, in the main, taken from this Book of Edward VI. Communion was to be in both kinds.
The appended rubrics guarded against solitary masses. “There shall be no celebration of the Lord’s Supper, except there be some to communicate with the Priest.” The Bread for the Communion was to be uniform throughout the realm – “unleavened and round ... but without all manner of print, and something more larger and thicker than it was, so that it may be aptly divided in two pieces at the least, or more, by the discretion of the minister.” The last rubric is of great importance. In quaint language it reads:
And although it be read in ancient writers that the people many years past received at the Priest’s hands the Sacrament of the Body of Christ in their own hands, and no commandment of Christ to the contrary; yet forasmuch as they many times conveyed the same secretly away, kept it with them, and diversely abused it to superstition and wickedness: lest any such thing hereafter should be attempted, and that an uniformity might be used throughout the whole Realm, it is thought convenient the people commonly receive the Sacrament of Christ’s Body in their mouths, at the Priest’s hand.
In the Office of Baptism provision was made for exorcising the evil spirit from a child; the giving of a white vesture or Crisome and anointing as a symbol of the unction of the Holy Spirit. The child was to be dipped in the water three times: first the right side; second the left and third with the face toward the Font with the instruction that it “be discreetly and warily done.” In Confirmation the bishop crossed the candidates in the forehead. At the giving of the ring in marriage the man said, “With this ring I thee wed, etc. This gold and silver I give thee; with all my worldly goods I thee endow; with my body I thee worship.” A Collect, Epistle and Gospel were provided for the Holy Communion at a marriage.
The Office for the Visitation of the Sick made provision for private confession and a form of anointing; permission was also given for reservation of the Blessed Sacrament for the sick person “and so many as shall communicate with him.” The Burial Office definitely provided prayers for the dead; also for a requiem Mass. The service for the First Day of Lent, commonly called Ash Wednesday, called for the grim recital of a series of curses leveled against those who removed the mark of a neighbor’s land; caused the blind to go out of his way; smote a neighbor secretly and against fornicators, adulterers, worshipers of images, slanderers and drunkards.
In the Prayer Book of 1549 there. was no service for: ordinations of deacons and priests or the consecration of bishops. This was added in 1550 when the Ordinal was authorized by Act of Parliament. It recognized only three Orders in the Ministry. The oath of Supremacy called for a repudiation of the Bishop of Rome and went on, “And I from henceforth will accept, repute, and take the King’s Majesty to be the only supreme head in earth, of the Church of England: So help me God and the holy Evangelist.”
Such, in broad outline, was the First Prayer Book of the reformed Church of England. We have described it in some detail because though it was subsequently changed, it yet provided the basic foundation on which future Liturgies were built. It was frankly a compromise between the old and the new learning; an endeavor to preserve all that was of proven value in the old and to embrace and embody the new ideas and aspirations. On the one hand certain rites and ceremonies were abolished; orders in the ministry were simplified; solitary Masses were forbidden as was also the use of Latin in the public services and such offices as the Service of the Dead and the Commemorations. On the other hand, private confession, anointing of the Sick, the sign of the Cross in Communion, Baptism and Marriage, Prayers for the Dead, the use of the word “Mass” and eucharistic vestments were retained. The Prayer Book of Edward VI in 1549 is an illustration of liturgical reform; not liturgical revolution.
The Book remained in use for a little over three years and then it was superseded by the Second Prayer Book of 1552. From the beginning it met with determined opposition. There were not a few in the church, notably a group of bishops led by Bonner of London, who had no desire for a reformed Liturgy and evaded its use when they could. Traditional English conservatism inflamed the masses of the people against reform, and the west of England was in open revolt against the Book. Radical reformers like Hooper, Bishop of Gloucester and Ridley, who succeeded Bonner in London, were displeased at the sacramental doctrine of the Book. Hooper complained bitterly of the frequency of the sacraments, vestments and candles and asserted that “the mass priests, although they were compelled to discontinue the use of the Latin language, yet most carefully observed the same tone and manner of chanting to which they were heretofore accustomed in the papacy.” A little later he described the Book as “very defective and of doubtful construction, and, in some respects, indeed, manifestly impious.” Opposition too arose from an important group of foreign Reformers who had found refuge in England and some of whom became divinity professors at Oxford and Cambridge. John Calvin intervened in a strong letter of protest against, the Crisome and Unction and prayers for the dead and urged that “rites, which savor at all of superstition, be utterly abolished.” Archbishop Cranmer fell more and more under the domination of these men and in 1550 publicly repudiated the doctrine of transubstantiation. Ridley removed the high altar from St. Paul’s Cathedral and “set up God’s Board after the form of an honest table decently covered.” The extremists were in the saddle. The old Prayer Book was doomed.
Into the details of the making of the new Book we cannot enter; indeed, little is known of its compilation. But on April 14, 1552, the assent of parliament was given to the Second Prayer Book of Edward VI, and it was ordered to be used on All Saints’ Day.
In this Book, as compared with the First, appear for the first time the familiar Opening Sentences; the Exhortation beginning, “Dearly beloved brethren,” etc.; the General Confession and the Absolution. The changes in the Communion Service amounted to a doctrinal revolution. It was here that the radical reformers had their fling. Everything of the nature of priestly sacerdotalism was swept aside. Eucharistic Vestments were forbidden. The word “altar” was eliminated, also the subtitle, “Commonly called the Mass.” Introits were deleted and the Ten Commandments added. The reference to the Virgin Mary and the patriarchs and prophets in the Prayer for Christ’s Church were removed; also the clause praying for the dead. The sign of the cross in the Consecration Prayer was omitted and the Prayer itself mutilated. The words at the distribution of the bread and wine were changed to avoid the mention of taking the Body and Blood of Christ. Unleavened bread required in the First Book was no longer mandatory, and there was to be no Communion except three or four were present with the minister. The Second Book continued the rule for kneeling at the reception of the elements – a practice to which John Knox and the like violently objected. To placate such men the famous “Black Rubric” was hurriedly inserted three days before the Book was issued. Referring to kneeling it says:
We do declare that it is not meant thereby, that any adoration is done, or ought to be done, either to the Sacramental bread and wine there bodily received, or to any real or 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 natural body, to be in more places than one, at one time.
Behind this ponderous language lies the deliberate repudiation of the doctrine of the Real Presence in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood and the prohibition of Adoration. At one fell stroke the Second Book broke with the earlier Liturgies of the Church as well as with the Book of 1549. For the time being the Church of England ceased to be Catholic in her sacramental doctrine and became Presbyterian.
The same ruthless hands mutilated the Office of Baptism by the omission of Exorcism and the giving of the white vesture. Anointing was omitted from the Office for the Visitation of the Sick, as was also the provision for the reservation of the Sacrament. The Nuptial Mass was left out of the Marriage service and the Requiem Mass from the Burial Office; also the prayers for the dead. And so the sad and sorry story runs. It only remains to be added that this Second Book never received the sanction of the Church. It was the work of the state. Convocation was never consulted.
Eight months later the young king died and with him the second Prayer Book which bore his name. When Mary came to the throne the Mass was again sung in St. Paul’s Cathedral and the bishops who had been deprived of their sees by the reformers were restored. The foreign protestants fled the country and Cranmer, Ridley, Hooper and others went to the stake. Parliament was opened with the Mass of the Holy Ghost and England returned to allegiance to Rome.
Mary died in 1558 and Elizabeth came to the throne. By slow and cautious steps the way was paved for a new Book of Common Prayer. At the beginning of 1559 it was intimated that laws would be enacted “for the uniting of these people of the realm into a uniform order of religion and that nothing should be done which would continue any kind of idolatry or superstition.” The revision was the work of a commission of ten divines, and in April, 1559, the Third Prayer Book was adopted by Parliament, nine bishops voting against it. Again Convocation was not consulted. The changes were comparatively few, but important. The petition in the Litany to be delivered “from the tyranny of the bishop of Rome, and all his detestable enormities” was removed. The famous “Black Rubric” was omitted and what came to be known as the “Ornaments Rubric” ordered the minister to “use such ornaments in the church as were in use by authority of parliament in the second year of the reign of king Edward VI.” In 1561 the Kalendar of Lessons and the list of the black-letter saints were revised and the following year the number of the Articles of Religion was reduced from forty-two to the present number of thirty-nine. This Prayer Book of Elizabeth was not to the liking of the Puritans, whose influence was steadily growing. A proposal in Convocation to abolish all festivals, organs, the signs of the cross in Baptism, all vestments other than the surplice and compulsory kneeling at Communion was lost by only one vote. In the First Admonition to Parliament issued by the Puritans the Prayer Book was described as “an unperfect Boke, culled and picked out of that Popish dunghill, the Portuise (Breviary) and Mass-book, full of all abominations.” A well-known Puritan preacher boasted that he had “made eight sermons in London against surplices, rochets, tippets, and caps, counting them not to be perfect that do wear them.” As time passed it became evident that nothing short of a new Prayer Book would satisfy the Puritans. Pending this some met for worship secretly in private houses, using a “Book of Prayers framed at Geneva for the use of the English exiles there.” Waxing bolder, they presented for approval of Parliament A Booke of the Forme of Common Prayers, Administration of Sacraments &c based entirely upon the Knox Service Book of Geneva.
So matters remained until the accession of James I in .March, 1603. Within less than a month the Puritans drew up and presented to the king the “Millenary Petition” setting forth their grievances and praying for redress. As touching the Prayer Book they petitioned that the cross in baptism, the questions addressed to infants in that service and the Confirmation office be eliminated from the Book entirely; that some other words be used for “Priest” and “Absolution”; that the services be shortened; the giving of a ring in marriage abolished and the observance of Holy Days be not so strictly enforced. They asked for uniformity of doctrine; “no popish opinion to be any more taught or defended; no ministers charged to teach their people to bow at the name of Jesus: that the canonical Scriptures only be read in the church.” These and other abuses, they said, “we are able to show not to be agreeable to the Scriptures,” and asked for an opportunity to prove their case. Their request was granted and in January, 1604, King James presided over a conference of bishops and other divines and representative Puritan ministers. Certain changes in the Prayer Book were agreed upon. A new section was added to the Catechism dealing with the Sacraments. A prayer for the royal family together with thanksgiving for rain, fair weather, plenty, peace and victory were also added. A concession was made to the Puritans who desired to abolish the public reading of the Apocrypha by omitting certain parts of it, and private baptism was restricted to a “lawful minister.” The rite of Confirmation was explained by adding to the title the words, “or laying on of hands upon children baptized, and able to render an account of their faith, according to the Catechism following.” To the title “Absolution” was added the explanatory words “or Remission of sins.” With these changes the new Prayer Book was ordered into use on March 5, 1604.
It survived until the establishment of the Protectorate under Oliver Cromwell and then met with short shrift. On January 3, 1645, the Long Parliament abolished the King James Prayer Book and substituted for it The Directory for the Public Worship of God in the Three Kingdoms. One week later Archbishop Laud was executed. An Ordinance of August 23 forbade the use of the Book of Common Prayer “in any public place of worship or in any private place or family” under a penalty of five pounds for the first offense; ten pounds for the second and for the third one whole year’s imprisonment. The same Ordinance provided that to say anything “in opposition, derogation or depraving” concerning The Directory could be punished by a fine of five or fifty pounds “at the discretion of the magistrate.”
The Restoration of the monarchy carried with it the restoration of the English Prayer Book. When Charles II was proclaimed at Durham an entry in a parish register reads: “On which day I, Stephen Hogg, began to use again the Book of Common Prayer.” The king’s first Sunday was spent at Canterbury, the Prayer Book being used in the Cathedral, and within one month its use was authorized in all the churches. On the return of the king the Puritans petitioned that the Prayer Book might be conformed to the liturgies of the reformed churches, to which the bishops replied that “the nearer both their forms and ours come to the Liturgy of the ancient Greek and Latin Churches, the less are they liable to the objections of the common enemy.” Charles responded by summoning the Savoy Conference which convened April 15, 1661, and consisted of twelve bishops and an equal number of Presbyterian divines, including Richard Baxter, the immortal author of The Saints’ Rest.
The Presbyterians put forth many demands to be incorporated in a new Prayer Book. Among them that bowing at the name of Jesus be abolished together with “erecting altars, bowing towards them and such like.” They objected to the observance of Lent as a religious fast; likewise the observance of Saint’s Days; also to the use of the words “Priest,” “Curate” and “Sunday,” and saw no necessity for godparents in Baptism. The surplice, the sign of the cross in Baptism and kneeling to receive the Sacrament they objected to as “fountains of evil,” and they likewise protested against Confirmation as a prerequisite for the reception of Holy Communion. The bishops were, for the most part, adamant and they had the people behind them. The Conference came to naught and it was reported to the king that “the Churche’s welfare, that unity and peace, and his Majesty’s satisfaction were ends at which they all agreed, but as to the means, they could not come to any harmony.”
The next step was taken by Convocation and on December 20, 1661, the revised Book was approved by the Convocations of Canterbury and York. It was then submitted to Parliament and the new Act of Uniformity received the royal assent on May 19, 1662. So the Fifth English Book of Common Prayer was issued by the joint authority of Church and State.
In analyzing this Book it at once becomes evident that the large demands made by the Presbyterians were rejected. This was done on the ground that “they were either of dangerous consequence ... or else of no consequence at all, but utterly frivolous and vain.” Vestments, kneeling at Communion, the sign of the cross in Baptism, the absolution for the Sick – to all of which they had strenuously objected – were retained in the Book of 1662.
There were some six hundred changes. A new Prefix to the old Preface declares that the Church of England in her Public Liturgy had ever striven “to keep the mean between the two extremes, of too much stiffness in refusing, and of too much easiness in admitting any variation from it.” This was the aim of the new Liturgy. The Epistles and Gospels were taken from the new King James’ Version, but the Psalter from the Great Bible of 1540. Many occasional prayers and thanksgivings were added, notably the beautiful Prayer for all Sorts and Conditions of Men written by Gunning, afterwards Bishop of Ely, and the General Thanksgiving. Two collects were added for the Ember Days and new ones for the third Sunday in Advent and Saint Stephen’s Day; also an entirely new one for Easter Eve. There were also added for the first time Forms of Prayer to be Used at Sea; Services for January 30, The Martyrdom of the Blessed King Charles I; May 29, the Restoration; and the old service for the Fifth of November, the Gunpowder Plot, was revised. In the Prayer for Christ’s Church Militant in the Communion Office there were inserted the words, “We also bless thy holy Name for all thy servants departed this life in thy faith and fear.” New rubrics directed the presentation of the Alms and the placing of the bread and wine on the holy table; provision was made for consecrating more bread and wine when needed; for covering what remained with “a fair linen cloth” and a direction to consume any remaining consecrated elements with the specific direction that “it shall not be carried out of the Church.” Reservation thus became unlawful. The “Black Rubric” was retained with a change of the words “real and essential Presence” to “Corporal Presence.”
The spread of the Church of England to the American colonies and plantations and to the West Indies was recognized by the provision of a new Office of Baptism for Adults to meet the need “of the baptizing of natives in our plantations, and others converted to the faith.” The Catechism was separated from the Confirmation Office and in the latter the familiar question, “Do ye here ... renew the solemn promise” ... was inserted. Generally speaking “priest” was substituted for “minister”; “priests” for “pastors” and in some cases “church” for “congregation.” Another rubric provided for anthems “in quires and places where they sing.” A clear distinction between the office and work of a bishop as compared with that of a priest was made in the Ordinal. In the Marriage service provision was made for the first time for the publication of the Bans of Marriage and the old provision for a Celebration of the Holy Communion was omitted. In the older Prayer Book Communion was mandatory. In the Book of 1662 the rubric reads: “It is convenient that the new-married persons should receive the holy Communion at the time of their Marriage, or at the first opportunity after their Marriage.” A significant rubric was added to the Burial Office reading, “Here it is to be noted, that the Office ensuing is not to be used for any that die unbaptized, or excommunicate, or have laid violent hands upon themselves,” and the mention of the name of the departed at the grave was omitted.
Such, in the main, were the changes made in the Fifth Book of Common Prayer, the Book in use in the American colonies at the time of the War of the Revolution and the Book which formed the basis of the First Prayer Book of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. It is interesting, however, to note that the revision which has resulted in the new American Prayer Book has proceeded in point of time side by side with the revision of the Prayer Book of the Church of England which has not, as yet, received the assent of the High Court of Parliament.
Chapter II – Blazing the Trail
Thirteen years elapsed after the Declaration of Independence before the American Church had her own Prayer Book. When the War of the Revolution broke out the Book of Common Prayer of the reformed Church of England was in use in all the parishes of the American colonies. After July 4, 1776, its use was continued, but with certain alterations in what were known as the State prayers. It was no longer possible to pray for the king, the royal family, and the High Court of Parliament. Here and there a few implacable loyalist clergy tried the experiment, but their action was deeply resented. It usually resulted in the closing of their churches.
At the outset the necessary changes were made by individual ministers in the various parishes. There was no concerted action. On July 4, 1776, the Vestry of the United Churches in Philadelphia met and passed the following resolution:
Whereas, the Hon’ble Continental Congress have resolved to declare the Am. Colonies to be free and Independent States, in consequence of wh. it will be proper to omit those Petitions in the Liturgy wherein the King of Great Britain is prayed for as inconsistent with the said Declaration; Therefore, Resolved, That it appears to this Vestry to be necessary for the peace and well-being of the Churches to omit the said Petitions, and the Rector and Assistant Ministers of the United Churches are requested, in the name of the Vestry, to omit such Petition as above mentioned.
The day following the convention of Virginia “altered the Book of Common Prayer to accommodate it to the change of affairs.” All references to English rule were omitted and the enactment concluded by directing that “every other sentence of the Litany be retained, without any other alteration, except the above sentences recited.”
On July 18 the Reverend Samuel Parker, rector of Trinity Church, Boston, reported to his Vestry that on the previous Sunday he had been publicly interrupted when reading the prayers for the king and that he could not with safety continue them. On deliberation the Vestry concluded that “the temper and spirit of the People in this town was such that they would not suffer any prayers for the king to be publickly used in Divine service, and that there was no other alternative but either to shut up the church and have no public worship, or to omit that part of the Liturgy wherein the king is prayed for.” Faced with such an alternative, the Vestry requested the rector to omit those prayers “which related to the king.” The congregation concurred and the prayers were omitted with the result that Trinity Church was the only Episcopal church to remain open in Boston during the years of the Revolution.
Between 1776 and 1783 each parish was a liturgical law unto itself. But with the signing of the treaty of Peace a strong desire for concerted agreement and action asserted itself. It found its earliest expression at a convention of the clergy in the State of Maryland where the church had been by law established. A petition to the General Assembly was drawn up praying that the clergy “might have leave to consult, prepare and draft a Bill” which would enable them “to make such alterations in the liturgy and service as might adapt the same to the Revolution, and for other purposes of uniformity, concord and subordination to the State.” The petition was granted. At a later meeting there was drawn up “A Declaration of Certain Fundamental Rights and Liberties of the Protestant Episcopal Church of Maryland.”
In that Declaration was included:
the right and duty to revise the liturgy and forms of prayer in order to adapt the same to the late Revolution, and other local circumstances of America; which, it is humbly conceived, may and will be done without any other or farther departure from the venerable order and beautiful forms of worship of the Church from whence we sprung, than may be found expedient in the change of our situation from a daughter to a sister church.
On October 6 and 7, 1784, a meeting of clergy and laity from the States of New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts was held in New York. Connecticut sent no lay representative, its clergy feeling themselves “fully adequate to the business of representing the Episcopal Church in their State.” After drafting the outline of a constitution, a committee was appointed “to frame and propose to the Convention, a proper substitute for the State Prayers in the Liturgy, to be used for the sake of uniformity, till a further review shall be undertaken by general authority and consent of the Church.” From this revision Connecticut held aloof until such time as a bishop was obtained.
The recommendations of this committee were not printed in the minutes of the Convention, but there is in possession of the writer a faded paper endorsed:
PART OF MINS. OF GENI. CONVENTION*
IN NEW YORK
October 7, 1784
[*Technically this was not a “General Convention,” but an informal meeting of clergy and laity which agreed to summon a General Convention to meet in 1785.]
It runs as follows:
The Comtee appointed to propose an Alteration in the State Prayers in the Liturgy to be recommended to the Clergy in the Several States for the sake of maintaining Uniformity in that part of divine Worship report the following Alterations —
That in the Responses following the Lords Prayer in the Morng & Evening Service the words “O Lord save the King,” be thus read: “O Lord save our Rulers.” That the Prayer for the Kings Majesty in the Same Services be:
O Lord our heavenly Father, high & mighty, King of Kings & Lord of Lords, who dost from thy throne behold all the Dwellers upon Earth; Most heartily we beseech thee with thy favour to behold the Govnor (or President) of this State (or Commonwealth) & so replenish him with the Grace of thy holy Spirit that he may alway incline to thy will & walk in thy way. Endue him plenteously with heavenly Gifts, prosper him with all happiness & finally after this Life grant that he may attain everlasting joy & felicity, thro Jesus Christ our Lord.
That the Prayer for the Royal Family be wholly omitted. That the Petition in the Litany “That it may please thee to bless & keep the Magistrates &c,” be thus read: “That it may please thee to bless & keep all Rulers & Magistrates, giving them Grace to execute justice & maintain Truth &c”: and that all the Petitions respecting the King, royal Family & Lords of the Council be entirely omitted. That the Prayer for the high Court of Parliament be used mutatis mutandis for the delegates in Congress. That the Prayers for the King in the Communion Service be wholly omitted. That the clause in the Prayer for the church militant respecting the King be thus read: “We beseech thee also to save & defend all christian Kings, Princes, & Civil Rulers, especially the Governor (or President) of this State (or Commonwealth) & grant that they may truly & impartially administer Justice &c.
On the reverse side of this manuscript there appears – without comment – the following which is evidently an alternative prayer for the Civil authority:
Almighty & Everlasting God, we are taught in thy holy Word that the hearts of all in Authority are in thy Rule & Governance & that thou dost dispose & turn them as seemeth best to thy godly Wisdom, We humbly beseech thee so to dispose & govern the hearts of the Rulers & Magistrates of this State (or Commonwealth) that in all their thoughts, words & works they may ever seek thy honour & glory & study to preserve the People committed to their Charge in Peace & Godliness. Grant this, O merciful Father, for thy dear Son’s Sake, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The committee of the New York Convention confined itself strictly to alterations in the State prayers. Although there was a growing desire in the American church to make other changes in the offices of the English Prayer Book, Bishop White records the fact that “it was thought in New York that such an enterprise could not be undertaken until the Church should be consolidated and organized.”
Both these difficulties were gradually overcome. The church in the States of Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York and others organized themselves into dioceses in 1783, 1784 and 1785. Five weeks after the adjournment of the gathering in New York, Samuel Seabury was consecrated in Scotland as Bishop of Connecticut and the first bishop of the Church in the United States of America. Connecticut therefore was free to embark on a revision of the English Book so far as her own clergy and parishes were concerned.
On August 2, 1785, Bishop Seabury met his clergy for the first time in convention assembled. Before the close of the proceedings the Reverends Abraham Jar- [(sic)] and John Bowden of Connecticut, the Reverend Samuel Parker, rector of Trinity Church, Boston, together with Bishop Seabury, were formed into a committee to suggest changes in the Prayer Book. The action of that committee is set forth in an unpublished document endorsed:
ALTERATIONS PROPOSED BY THE BISHOP AND COMTEE
OF CLERGY IN CONNECTICUT.
August 5th, 1785
Mr. Parker carried this report back to Boston and about one month later a convention of delegates from the States of Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New Hampshire met in Boston. The revision in Connecticut was the work of the clergy; laymen were not consulted. They were, however, admitted to the Boston convention. In the three New England States there were but four clergymen and eighteen or twenty parishes. It was deemed absolutely necessary that the vacant parishes should be represented by the church wardens or other lay delegates. Thus constituted, the convention proceeded to “take into consideration the revisal of the Liturgy and offices of the Church as contained in the Book of Common Prayer, and make such alterations as may be necessary.” Inasmuch as the conclusions arrived at in Connecticut were taken as a basis, the threads of the two gatherings may be woven together here.
Both began with the State prayers. The suffrage “O Lord save the King” was changed to “O Lord save the Church.” The petitions for the king and royal family were adapted to a prayer for the “governor or ruler of this State or Commonwealth.” The answer in the Catechism “to honor and obey the king” was made to read “to honor and obey my civil authority.”
The Boston convention provided the following collect to be used during every session of the General Court:
Most Gracious God, we humbly beseech thee, as for this Commonwealth in general, so especially for the General Court at this time assembled, that thou would’st be pleased to direct and prosper all their consultations to the advancement of thy glory, the good of thy Church, the safety, honor and welfare of thy people, that all things may be so ordered and settled by their endeavors, upon the best and surest foundations, that peace and happiness, truth and justice, religion and piety, may be established among us for all generations. These, and all other necessaries, for them, for us and thy whole Church, we humbly beg in the name and mediation, O Jesus Christ, our most blessed Lord and Saviour. Amen.
After thus revising the State prayers, the committee in Connecticut and the convention in Boston went on to make important changes in the principal offices of the Prayer Book of the Church of England. Both agreed to modify some of the medieval phraseology which abounded in that Book. “Condemnation” was substituted for “damnation,” and the words in the Exhortation in the Communion office “we eat and drink our own damnation” were eliminated entirely; also the sentence “lest after the taking of that holy Sacrament, the devil enter into you, as he entered into Judas, and fill you full of all iniquities, and bring you to destruction both of body and soul.” The curses in the Commination service were also omitted. The Creeds did not escape revision. The Article “he descended into hell” was changed to “he went into the place of departed Spirits,” and Connecticut suggested as an alternative “he went into the invisible world.” Seabury’s committee left open the question as to whether the Creed of St. Athanasius “be read only on Trinity Sunday, or entirely omitted.” Boston recommended that “it be wholly disused”; also that it be left “discretionary with the minister, wardens and vestry of each particular church or congregation, to omit or use the Nicene Creed as they shall severally chuse.”
It was agreed to omit the words “all men are conceived and born in sin” from the office of Baptism, and Massachusetts provided that the sign of the cross in Baptism might be dispensed with “if particularly desired by the sponsors.” From that source came also the omission of the reasons for matrimony in the Marriage service of the English Book, and also of the words at the giving of the ring “with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow.” Many other minor changes were suggested.
The Boston convention concluded its labors by directing that the several churches in the three States should immediately adopt the alterations and omissions in the State prayers. Notice of the other changes were sent to the parishes with a request for an expression of their opinion to be considered at an adjourned meeting. Some of the replies have recently come to light. With one exception, the changes were approved. The exception was Christ Church, Braintree. The congregation of that parish ‘pronounced the proceedings at Boston unconstitutional and intrenching “upon the Episcopal authority in matters ecclesiastical, which in the purest ages of the Church was ever adjudged an high misdemeanor,” and it voted to reject the proposals “as not only subversive of the constitution and peace, but injurious to the faith and devotion of our excellent church.”
Bishop Seabury disapproved some of the changes made at Boston, especially the omission of the sign of the cross in Baptism and the elimination of the Nicene Creed. Others in the church at large were taking fright at the idea of tampering with the Prayer Book. It is on record that “the church people in Connecticut were much alarmed at the thought of any considerable alteration being made.” This appears to have had its influence on the adjourned Boston convention which met July 20, 1785. It was there determined that in view of the fact that there were no bishops and the church was not yet organized, the adoption of the changes – save in the State prayers – be left to the discretion of the individual clergy pending proper organization of the Church.
Chapter III – The “Proposed Book” of 1785
The first General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America met in Christ Church, in the City of Philadelphia, from September 27 to October 7, 1785.
The Reverend Doctor William White, afterwards first Bishop of Pennsylvania, was chosen as chairman. There were in attendance clerical and lay deputies from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and South Carolina. It was not a convention of the whole church. The absence of Bishop Samuel Seabury, then the only bishop in America, and any clerical and lay deputies from Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, was deliberate and had a marked influence on the fortunes of the Prayer Book recommended by this convention.
On September 28 it was resolved
That a committee be appointed, consisting of one Clerical and one Lay-Deputy from the church in each state, to consider of and report such alterations in the Liturgy, as shall render it consistent with the American revolution and the constitutions of the respective states: And such further alterations in the Liturgy, as it may be advisable for this Convention to recommend to the consideration of the Church here represented.
To this committee was also entrusted the duty of drafting an ecclesiastical constitution and to prepare and report a plan for obtaining the consecration of Bishops for the United States. Dr. White took the leading part in the formation of the constitution and Dr. William Smith of Maryland in the compilation of a Prayer Book.
The first part of the report, presented on the fifth day, comprised the alterations suggested in the prayers for the civil authority. They followed in the main the recommendations agreed upon previously in Boston and Connecticut. The prayer in the English Book for the royal family was omitted; likewise the petitions in the Litany for the King. That for “the King’s Majesty” was transformed into one for “all in authority, legislative, executive and judicial in these United States.” The prayer for the High Court of Parliament was changed to one for “their delegates in Congress.” The special services for “the happy deliverance” from the Gunpowder Treason; the “Martyrdom of the Blessed King Charles I”; the “Thanksgiving for the End of the Great Rebellion,” together with the office of thanksgiving for the beginning of the King’s Reign, were eliminated entirely. A service was provided for the Fourth of July to be observed as a day of thanksgiving “for the inestimable blessings of civil and religious liberty vouchsafed to the United States of America.” It included this Collect:
Almighty God, who hast in all ages showed forth thy power and mercy in the wonderful preservation of thy church, and in the protection of every nation and people professing thy holy and eternal truth, and putting their trust in thee; we yield thee our unfeigned thanks and praise for all thy public mercies, and more especially for that signal and wonderful manifestation of thy providence which we commemorate this day; wherefore not unto us, but unto thy Name be ascribed all honour and glory, in all churches of the Saints, from generation to generation, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The service thus adopted was directed “to be used in this Church for ever.” It called forth, however, sharp difference of opinion in the convention and was not retained in the Prayer Book of 1789. After due consideration of this report it was resolved “that the Liturgy shall be used in this Church as accommodated to the revolution, agreeably to the alterations now approved of and ratified by this Convention.”
The second part of the Report dealt with the suggested alterations in that part of the Liturgy embracing the administration of the Sacraments and other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church. Prior to the convention there had developed a strong conviction that the time had arrived to proceed to a thorough review of the Liturgy. This found expression in a letter addressed to the Reverend Doctor Samuel Parker of Boston by the Reverend Charles Henry Wharton of Delaware, who wrote:
I think the simplyfying of the Liturgy should be among the first objects of the Convention. Whatever was left with a view of reconciling parties at the period of the Reformation, or retained as suitable to Cathedral Service may safely be omitted by the American Church. Perhaps such an opportunity never occurred since the days of the Apostles of settling a rational, unexceptionable mode of worship. God grant we may improve it with unanimity and wisdom.
In drafting the changes in the “Proposed Book,” the committee was greatly influenced by the suggestions set forth by the English Commission appointed in 1689 to make such changes in that Book of Common Prayer which would tend to reconcile the Dissenters from the Church of England. Dr. William Smith’s Preface to the Book of 1785 indicates this when he writes: “It will appear that most of the amendments or alterations which had the sanction of the great divines of 1689, have been adopted, with such others as are thought reasonable and expedient.”
It is not possible to set forth in detail all the changes suggested by the committee. The more important ones are as follows: In the “Te Deum” the words “thou didst not abhor the Virgin’s womb” were changed to read “thou didst humble thyself to be born of a Virgin,” and the “Benedicite” was eliminated from morning prayer. The article in the Apostles’ Creed, “He descended into Hell,” was omitted and the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds were eliminated entirely. A special prayer was substituted for the Office of the Churching of Women and a brief service took the place of the Commination Service for Ash Wednesday. In the Marriage service the words, “I plight thee my troth,” and “With my body I thee worship,” were left out. Large changes were made in the Baptismal Office. Parents were admitted as sponsors and permission was given to omit the sign of the cross “if particularly desired by the sponsors or parents.” For the Apostles’ Creed there was substituted the question, “Dost thou believe all the Articles of the Christian Faith as contained in the Apostles’ Creed; and wilt thou endeavour to have this child instructed accordingly?” The word “regenerate” was left out; also the words, “the, devil and all his works” and “vulgar tongue.” In the office of Confirmation after requiring a profession of the Articles of the Christian Faith, a new question was added: “Do ye now, in your own Persons, promise to live in this Faith, and in obedience to God’s holy Will and Commandments?”
Considerable liberties were taken with the Psalter. What are known as the “imprecatory” verses were omitted in their entirety and new Psalms were made up out of selected verses from different Psalms. This, said Bishop Seabury, was without precedent in the history of the Christian Church, and he described it as “an unwarrantable liberty.” In the Communion Office the word “damnation” was changed to “condemnation,” and such sentences as “the devil enter into you, as he entered into Judas, and fill you full of all iniquities, and bring you to destruction of body and soul” were omitted as was also the sentence, “that by the ministry of God’s holy Word, he may receive the benefit of absolution.” The sentences in the longer Exhortation speaking of “eating and drinking our own damnation”; the kindling of the wrath of God and provoking him to “plague us with divers diseases, and sundry kinds of death” were eliminated. The Thirty-nine Articles of Religion as contained in the English Book were ruthlessly edited. Their number was reduced to twenty, partly by bodily omissions and partly by combination. All references to the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds were eliminated. Among those rejected entirely were the Articles entitled “Of Purgatory”, “Of the Marriage of Priests” and “Of Excommunicate Persons.”
Notable additions were made to the offices of the Church in the “Proposed Book.” Some additional Prayers and Thanksgiving were added, all taken from Jeremy Taylor. Also an Office for “The Visitation of Prisoners” which was first adopted at a Synod held at Dublin in 1711 and commonly found in Prayer Books printed in Ireland. Then followed “A Form of Prayer and Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the Fruits of the Earth” which was appointed to be used on the first Thursday in November, or on another day appointed by the Civil Authority. Finally there came “Forms of Prayer to be used in Families” adapted from a compilation by Gibson, a former Bishop of London.
On October 5 the Book was approved and Doctors White, Smith, and Wharton were appointed a committee to publish the same together with “a proper Preface or Address” and with power to make “verbal and grammatical corrections.” Dr. Smith wrote the Preface and the Table of Lessons was prepared by Dr. William White. These details completed, the convention resolved: “that the said alterations be proposed and recommended to the Protestant Episcopal Church, in the states from which there are deputies to this Convention.” The words “proposed” and “recommended” are vital. The changes adopted in the State Prayers were compulsory. The alterations in the Offices of the Liturgy were simply proposed. There was no compulsion to use them. Hence the name, “The Proposed Book.” On the closing day of the Convention a sermon was preached by the Reverend Doctor Smith and the new Prayer Book as amended was used for the first time at this service.
After many delays the Book was published in April, 1786, with the following title-page:
And Administration of the
RITES AND CEREMONIES
As revised and proposed to the Use
THE PROTESTANT EPISCOPAL CHURCH
At a Convention of the said Church
in the States of
NEW YORK MARYLAND
NEW JERSEY VIRGINIA
DELAWARE SOUTH CAROLINA
Held in Philadelphia from September 27th
to October 7th, 1785.
PRINTED BY HALL AND SELLERS;
And sold for the Benefit of Sundry Corporations and
Societies, instituted for the Support of the Widows and
Children of deceased Clergymen. MDCCLXXXVI.
As soon as the “Proposed Book” was circulated it encountered a storm of opposition from every part of the church. It quickly became evident, in the words of Doctor White, that “the labours of the Convention had not reached their object.” There arose an uneasy feeling that many of the changes in the Offices indicated a weakening of faith in such doctrines as baptismal regeneration and the power of priestly absolution. Even so warm a friend of the Book as Dr. Samuel Provoost writing from New York shortly after its publication said:
Such a strong party has been raised against the alterations that I am afraid we should not be able to adopt the book at present without danger of a schism – the ostensible object(ion) is that they were made without the sanction of a Bishop, but the Thanksgiving for the Fourth of July in all probability is one principal cause of the opposition. The sale of the books has been very dull – only thirteen have been disposed of.
When the Book was brought before the various diocesan conventions they would have none of it. Maryland desired to restore the Nicene Creed as an alternative to the Apostles’ Creed and to enrich the prayer of consecration in Holy Communion by an invocation of the Holy Spirit to sanctify the elements of bread and wine. Pennsylvania agreed with Maryland. The convention of Delaware did not take the trouble to meet. Virginia strongly objected to the power bestowed upon the ministry to repel notorious evil livers from the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. New Jersey, while it did not disapprove of some of the changes, yet had “to recognize the unseasonableness and irregularity of them.” The convention of the diocese of New York resolved “that (out of respect to the English Bishops and because the minds of the people are not yet sufficiently informed), the consideration of the Book of Common Prayer, with the proposed alterations, be deferred to another day.”
Connecticut, indeed New England generally, was up in arms against the Book. The bishop of that diocese had not been consulted in its compilation, and it is on record that the church in Connecticut “took alarm at the proceedings of the Philadelphia Convention,” and refused to accede to any changes save in the State Prayers. Writing at a later period Bishop Seabury said, “I never thought there was any heterodoxy in the Southern Prayer Book; but I do think the true doctrine is left too unguarded, and that the offices are, some of them lowered to such a degree, that they will in great measure, lose their influence.” In a convention of his clergy held at Derby, Connecticut, September 22, 1786, he said:
A number of the Clergy and Laity in the southern States, have undertaken to revise and alter the Liturgy, and Offices, and Government of the Church; and have exhibited a Prayer Book to the public. The time will not permit me to say anything of the merit of the alterations in the Liturgy: But, I am persuaded, by an unprejudiced mind, some of them will be thought for the worse, most of them not for the better.
He impugned the authority of the convention to make any changes in the Prayer Book as contrary to the tradition of the Church which was government by bishops, and added, “This government they have degraded, by lodging the chief authority in a Convention of clerical and lay Delegates – making their Church Episcopal in its orders, but Presbyterian in its government.” In addition to all this Seabury objected in particular to the editing of the Psalter, the omission of the sign of the cross in Baptism, and declared that “the excluding of the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds has alarmed the steady friends of the Church, lest the doctrine of Christ’s divinity should go out with them.”
These manifold objections alone would have sealed the fate of the “Proposed Book,” but the attitude of the leaders of the mother Church of England put that fate beyond question.
The General Convention of this year, 1785, after adopting the draft of a constitution and compiling a Prayer Book, addressed a petition to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York asking them “to confer the Episcopal character on such persons as shall be recommended by this Church in the several States here represented.” Under date of February 24, 1786, a sympathetic reply was received, accompanied by fundamental reservations. The English bishops had not at that time received a copy of the “Proposed Book” which had miscarried in the mail. But disturbing rumors of the character of the changes had reached them through “private channels.” They therefore expressed their willingness to forward the plan for American bishops, but added, “We cannot but be extremely cautious, lest we should be instruments of establishing an Ecclesiastical system which will be called a branch of the Church of England, but afterwards may possibly appear to have departed from it essentially, either in doctrine or discipline.”
This reply came before the General Convention of 1786. Great care was taken in the drafting of a reply which was to reassure the Archbishops. As finally adopted it ran:
We are unanimous and explicit in assuring your Lordships that we have neither departed nor propose to depart from the doctrines of your Church. We have retained the same discipline and forms of worship, as far as was consistent with our civil constitutions; and we have made no alterations or omissions in the Book of Common Prayer, but such as were calculated to remove objections, which appeared to us more conducive to union and general content to obviate, than to dispute. It is well known that many great and pious men of the Church of England have long wished for a revision of the Liturgy, which it was deemed imprudent to hazard, lest it might become a precedent for repeated and improper alterations. This is with us the proper season for such a revision. We are now settling and ordering the affairs of our Church, and if wisely done, we shall have reason to promise ourselves all the advantages that can result from stability and union.
Meanwhile, events in England were moving rapidly. The passage of an Act of Parliament empowered the consecration of bishops who were citizens or subjects of “Countries out of His Majesty’s Dominions.” In America, in anticipation of this event, William White had been chosen Bishop of Pennsylvania; David Griffith, Bishop of Virginia, and Samuel Provoost, Bishop of New York, and formal applications had been made for their consecration in England. The General Convention adjourned pending a reply. When it met at Wilmington, Delaware, in October, the answer of the English bench of bishops was received and read. In effect it stated that they were willing to consecrate, but it was now incumbent on the American Church to remove the only remaining stumbling blocks which were certain clauses in the proposed constitution and some of the alterations in the Prayer Book of 1785. They “earnestly exhorted” the Convention. to restore the integrity of the Apostles’ Creed by reinstating the words “he descended into Hell,” and went on, “nor can we help adding, that we hope you will think it but a decent proof of the attachment which you profess to the services of your Liturgy, to give to the two other Creeds a place in your Book of Common Prayer, even though the use of them should be left discretional.”
The minutes of the proceedings are extremely interesting. The first vote was taken on the matter of restoring the words, “He descended into Hell” in the Apostles’ Creed. It was decided so to do by a divided vote. The Nicene Creed was restored by a unanimous vote. On the question, “Shall the Creed commonly called the Athanasian Creed, be admitted in the Liturgy of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America?” the clerical and lay deputies from New York, Pennsylvania and South Carolina voted in the negative; New Jersey and Delaware were divided, and so, as the Journal runs, “it was determined in the negative.”
The result of these deliberations was conveyed in an official letter to the English Archbishops. The last paragraph reads:
We have taken into our most serious and deliberate consideration, the several matters so affectionately recommended to us in those communications, and whatever could be done towards a compliance with your fatherly wishes and advice, consistently with our local circumstances, and the peace and unity of our Church, hath been done.
These concessions satisfied the Archbishops who were much too wise to make the Athanasian Creed an issue, and on February 4, 1787, in the Chapel of Lambeth Palace, London, William White was consecrated Bishop of Pennsylvania and Samuel Provoost, Bishop of New York.
Chapter IV – The Prayer Book of 1789
The General Convention of 1786 adjourned without the official adoption of a Book of Common Prayer. It had acceded to the suggestions of the English bench of bishops by reinstating the Nicene Creed and restoring the clause, “He descended into Hell,” in the Apostles’ Creed, and that was all. The Book of 1785 was still the “Proposed Book.” The clergy were free to use it or not. A few here and there did so, but for the most part the English Book, with alterations in the State prayers, was in common use.
The delay in issuing an authorized Prayer Book for the American Church led to two interesting developments; the one in Boston, the other in Connecticut. The wave of Unitarianism which was sweeping over New England profoundly affected the congregation of King’s Chapel, Boston, the oldest Episcopal church in that city. When in 1782 Mr. James Freeman was called to be minister of the Chapel, he was content to use the English Book with the changes in use in Trinity Church, Boston. Owing, however, to a marked change in his theological views, Mr. Freeman proposed an amended Form of Prayer for public use at the Chapel. On June 19, 1785, the Prayer Book as amended was adopted for use by the congregation. It was published under the title page of:
Collected Principally From The
BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER,
For The Use Of The
FIRST EPISCOPAL CHURCH
Together With The
PSALTER Or PSALMS
Continually Pray To God The Father, By The
Mediation Of Our Only Saviour Jesus Christ,
For The Heavenly Assistance of the Holy Ghost.
Off. for Ord. of Priests.
PRINTED BY PETER EDES, IN STATE STREET.
The Preface states that “great assistance hath been derived from the Judicious corrections of the Reverend Mr. Lindsey, who hath reformed the Book of Common Prayer according to the plan of the truly pious and justly celebrated Doctor Samuel Clarke.” It is noted in the History of King’s Chapel that the alterations “for the most part were such as involved the omission of the doctrine of the Trinity.” The ascription, “Glory be to the Father, and the Son and the Holy Ghost” was left out as were also the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds. The Preface adds,
The Liturgy, contained in this volume, is such, that no Christian, it is supposed, can take offence at, or find his conscience wounded in repeating. The Trinitarian, the Unitarian, the Calvinist, the Arminian will read nothing in it which can give him any reasonable umbrage. GOD is the sole object of worship in these prayers; and as no man can come to GOD, but by the one Mediator, JESUS CHRIST, every petition is here offered in his name, and in obedience to his positive command.
Shortly afterwards Mr. Freeman applied for episcopal ordination. Failing to obtain this he was ordained in King’s Chapel by the senior warden who laid hands upon him and then “blessed him in the name of the Lord, and the whole assembly, as one man, spontaneously and emphatically pronounced, Amen!” This ended the association of King’s Chapel with the Episcopal Church, but the Prayer Book with sundry amendments remains in use to this day.
Under date of August 12, 1785, Bishop Seabury issued an injunction to his clergy prefaced thus:
SAMUEL, by divine permission, Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the State of Connecticut, ... Greeting.
Stating that “It having pleased Almighty GOD, that the late British Colony of Connecticut should become a free, sovereign and independent State,” he directed alterations in the State Prayers; the discontinuance of the “observation” of the fifth of November, the thirtieth of January, the twenty-ninth of May, and the twenty-fifth of October, and added a new prayer to be used “during every session of the Great and General Court, or Assembly.”
The following year he compiled an office for the Holy Communion which was issued under the title:
THE COMMUNION OFFICE
For The Administration
SUPPER Of The LORD
Recommended to the Episcopal Congregations
By the Right Reverend
PRINTED BY T. GREEN, M,DCC,LXXXVI.
The prayer of consecration in this issue followed that of the Scotch Prayer Book. On his consecration in Scotland Seabury undertook to endeavor to introduce it to the American Church “without the compulsion of authority on the one side, or the prejudice of former custom on the other.” The use of this service was not made compulsory in Connecticut, but it was generally adopted in the diocese and later incorporated in the American Prayer Book. At the same convention Seabury introduced a new petition in the Litany reading:
That it may please Thee to bless and protect the United States of America in Congress assembled; and to direct and prosper all their consultations to the advancement of the public welfare and the promotion of thy true religion and virtue.
Where the Litany was not said this Collect was to be used:
Almighty God, the fountain of all goodness, we humbly beseech Thee to bless the United States of America in Congress assembled, together with the Governor and Rulers of this State; endue them with thy Holy Spirit; enrich them with thy heavenly grace; prosper them with all happiness; and grant that under their wise and just government, we may lead godly and quiet lives in this world, and by thy mercy obtain everlasting happiness in the world to come, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The General Convention of 1789 met at Philadelphia on July 8, with the States of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, Maryland, and South Carolina represented by clerical and lay deputies. For the first time in the history of the American Church a bishop – William White of Pennsylvania – was present at a General Convention. Bishop Seabury, smarting under some question as to the validity of his consecration by Scotch bishops, was absent, as was also Provoost, Bishop of New York “detained by indisposition.” There was no representation from the dioceses of New England. By this time the need for the unity of the church was pressing and the convention was adjourned till September “for the purpose of settling articles of union, discipline, uniformity of worship, and general government among all the churches in the United States.”
When the adjourned Convention met, Bishop Seabury was present together with deputies from Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, this being the first time the New England churches were represented in General Convention. Certain modifications were made in the Constitution to meet the views of New England, and on October 2 it was finally adopted. The Convention then separated into two houses – the House of Bishops and the House of Clerical and Lay Deputies.
The way was now open to proceed to the adoption of a Book of Common Prayer for the American Church. Immediately a difference of opinion manifested itself. The Bishops held that the English Prayer Book was still the Liturgy of the American Church and that “it should be taken as the book in which some alterations were contemplated.” On the other hand, the Deputies took the position “that there were no forms of prayer, no offices and no rubrics until they should be formed by the Convention now assembled.” Hence they appointed committees to “prepare” the various offices.
The revision covered a period of thirteen days. On some matters, notably the Creeds, the two Houses disagreed. Out of deference to the wishes of Connecticut where it was said that the omission of the Athanasian Creed “would hazard the reception of the new Book,” the Bishops adopted an amendment to retain that Creed for use where it was so desired. The Deputies would have none of it. When the matter came to a conference between the two Houses the Deputies “would now [(sic)] allow of the Creed in any shape; which was thought intolerant by the gentlemen from New England, who with Bishop Seabury, gave it up with great reluctance.”
Changed political conditions were recognized by the omission of all references to the king, royal family and the High Court of Parliament wherever found in the English Book. In their place two new prayers were inserted – one for the President of the United States; the other for Congress.
A Prayer for the President of the United States, and all in civil authority
O Lord, our heavenly Father, the high and mighty Ruler of the universe, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers upon earth; most heartily we beseech thee, with thy favour, to behold and bless thy servant, the President of the United States, and all others in authority; and so replenish them with the grace of thy holy Spirit, that they may always incline to thy will, and walk in thy way: Endue them plenteously with heavenly gifts; grant them in health and prosperity long to live; and finally, after this life to attain everlasting joy and felicity, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
A Prayer for Congress to be used during their session
Most gracious God, we humbly beseech thee, as for the People of these United States in general, so especially for their Senate and Representatives in Congress assembled; that thou wouldest be pleased to direct and prosper all their consultations, to the advancement of thy Glory, the good of thy Church, the safety, honour, and welfare of thy people; that all things may be so ordered and settled by their endeavours, upon the best and surest foundations, that peace and happiness, truth and justice, religion and piety, may be established among us for all generations. These, and all other necessaries for them, for us, and thy whole Church, we humbly beg in the Name and mediation of Jesus Christ, our most blessed Lord and Saviour. Amen.
The following special offices in the English Book were omitted:
A FORM OF PRAYER WITH THANKSGIVING, to be used yearly upon the Fifth Day of November, for the happy Deliverance of King JAMES I, and the Three estates of England, from the most traiterous and bloody-intended Massacre by Gunpowder: And also for the happy Arrival of His Majesty King William on this Day, for the Deliverance of our Church and Nation.
A FORM OF PRAYER WITH FASTING, to be used yearly on the Thirtieth of January, being the day of the Martyrdom of the Blessed King CHARLES the First; to implore the mercy of God, that neither the Guilt of that sacred and innocent Blood, nor those other sins, by which God was provoked to deliver up both us and our King into the hands of cruel and unreasonable men, may at any time hereafter be visited upon us or our posterity.
A FORM OF PRAYER WITH THANKSGIVING to Almighty God, for having put an end to the Great Rebellion, by the Restitution of the King and Royal Family, and the Restoration of the Government after many Years interruption; which unspeakable Mercies were wonderfully completed upon the Twenty-ninth of May, in the Year 1660. And in memory thereof that Day in every Year is by Act of Parliament appointed to be for ever kept holy.
A FORM OF PRAYER WITH THANKSGIVING to Almighty God; to be used in all Churches and Chapels within this Realm, every year, upon the Twenty-fifth day of October, being the day on which his Majesty began his happy Reign.
So far as the regular offices of the church were concerned there was a general desire to depart from the Prayer Book of the Church of England as little as was possible. Three new opening sentences to Morning and Evening Prayers were added, and minor changes were made in the chants. In the “Te Deum” the words “thou didst humble thyself to be born of a Virgin” were substituted for “thou didst not abhor the Virgin’s womb.” The rubric governing the use of the Apostles’ Creed gave permission to omit the words, “He descended into Hell,” or to substitute for them, “He went into the place of departed Spirits,” which, the rubric explains, “are to be considered as words of the same meaning as in the Creed.” In morning and evening service the Nicene Creed might be used instead of the Apostles’ Creed. Where persons present so desired the sign of the cross in Baptism might be omitted. In the marriage service the causes for which matrimony was ordained and set forth with unblushing plainness in the English Book, were left out; also at the giving of the ring the words “with my body I thee worship.” The lengthy exhortation was also eliminated. The personal absolution in the Office for the Visitation of the Sick was left out and three new prayers added thereto. The English Commination Service, with its attendant series of curses, found no place in the new book, but a brief service for Ash Wednesday took its place. The Thirty-nine Articles of Religion were omitted entirely.
Some notable additions were made. In the service of Holy Communion, after the recital of the Ten Commandments, permission was given to add:
Hear also what our Lord Jesus Christ Saith.
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind; This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
This was added, as Bishop White wrote, “to give to the weight of Moses, the greater authority of our Saviour.” An even more notable addition was made to the Prayer of Consecration in the shape of the invocation of the Holy Spirit. This was taken from the Scotch Book of Common Prayer which went back to the form contained in the First Prayer Book of Edward VI. The rubric in the English Book requiring the consumption of any consecrated bread and wine left over from the service and forbidding it being carried out of church was retained. But those requiring parishioners to communicate at least three times in the year and also the one forbidding a celebration of the Lord’s Supper “except there be a convenient number to communicate with the Priest,” were left out. Other additions were the “Gloria in Excelsis” as an alternative to the “Gloria Patria” in morning prayer; prayers for Sick Persons; Those in Affliction; Persons going to Sea and for Malefactors after Condemnation, all of which were taken from Bishop Jeremy Taylor; also some new Thanksgivings from the same source. A selection of Psalms to be said instead of the Psalter was assented to very reluctantly by the bishops.
Three entirely new Offices were added. The first, “A Form of Prayer for the Visitation of Prisoners.” This had appeared in the “Proposed Book” and had its origin at a Synod held at Dublin in 1711, and is commonly found in the Prayer Books printed in Ireland. The second was a “Form of Prayer and Thanksgiving to Almighty God, for the Fruits of the Earth, and all the other Blessings of his merciful Providence.” This also was in the “Proposed Book” and is believed to have been compiled by the Reverend Doctor William Smith of Maryland. The last addition was an Office entitled “Forms of Prayer to be used in Families.” In the main these were taken from a compilation by Gibson, Bishop of London, who in turn was indebted to Archbishop Tillottson.
On Friday, October 16, the long work of revision and enrichment was completed. For the first time in her history the American Church had an authorized Book of Common Prayer which, with a few additions, was destined to be her book of worship for more than a century. The Preface states that it is the general aim of the Church “in these different reviews and alterations ... to do that which, according to her best understanding, might most tend to the preservation of peace and unity in the church; the procuring of reverence, and the exciting of piety and devotion in the worship of God; and the cutting off occasion, from them that seek occasion, of cavil or quarrel against her liturgy.” Preceding the Preface is:
BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER,
By the Bishops, the Clergy, and the Laity of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America in Convention, this Sixteenth Day of October, in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Eighty-nine:
This Convention, having in their present Session set forth “A BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER, AND ADMINISTRATION OF THE SACRAMENTS, AND OTHER RITES AND CEREMONIES OF THE CHURCH,” do hereby establish the said Book: and require, that it be received as such by all the Members of the same: And this Book shall be in use from and after the First Day of October, in the Year of our Lord, One Thousand Seven Hundred and Ninety.
It was accordingly published with the title-page:
The BOOK of
And Administration of the
RITES and CEREMONIES of the CHURCH,
According To The Use Of
The Protestant Episcopal Church
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:
Together With The
PSALMS of DAVID.
Chapter V – Additions and Amendments to
The Prayer Book of 1789
The Prayer Book of 1789, with sundry additions and amendments, remained the Standard Book until 1892.
The most important additions were a revised Ordinal and the revision of the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion. Prior to 1792 the American bishops used the English Ordinal omitting the political references. At the General Convention of that year the House of Bishops revised the three services for the ordering of deacons, the ordination of priests and the consecration of bishops.
The first change was the omission of the Oath of the King's Sovereignty which read: –
I A.B., do swear that I do from my heart abhor, detest, and abjure, as impious and heretical, that damnable Doctrine and Position, that Princes excommunicated or deprived by the Pope, or any authority of the See of Rome, may be deposed or murdered by their Subjects, or any other whatsoever. And I do declare, that no foreign Prince, Person, Prelate, State, or Potentate, hath or ought to have, any jurisdiction, Power, Superiority, Preeminence, or Authority, Ecclesiastical or Spiritual, within this Realm. So help me God.
In the ordination of priests there was provided an alternate form of commission which has not the significant words, “Whosesoever sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whosesoever sins thou dost retain, they are retained.” In this alternate form the words, “Take thou authority to execute the office of a Priest” are substituted for “Receive the Holy Ghost for the office and work of a Priest.” The new form was not adopted without difference of opinion in the Upper House. It is on record that Bishop Seabury consented to the alteration with “great reluctance,” but it was finally inserted. In the Form for the Consecration of Bishops a pledge to render “all due reverence and obedience to the Archbishop” was changed to a promise of “conformity and obedience to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Protestant “Episcopal Church in the United States of America.” The further promise to “correct and punish all such as be unquiet, disobedient and criminous within your diocese” was changed to “diligently exercise such discipline, as by the authority of God’s word, and by the order of this Church, is committed to you.” With these changes the Ordinal was bound up with the Book of Common Prayer.
The next addition to the Prayer Book was the Articles of Religion. As far back as 1790 the convention of the diocese of New York had expressed its conviction that “many respectable members of our Church are alarmed at the Articles of Religion not being included in our new Book of Common Prayer.” In the “Proposed Book” the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England had been cut down to twenty. In the Book of 1789 they were left out altogether. The question of their reinstatement proved to be troublesome. An informal discussion at the convention of 1792 revealed the fact that the bishops themselves were divided in opinion. Bishop White by no means approved of the language of some of the Articles, but felt that without them every minister of the church would be his own judge of orthodoxy and his judgment might well be affected by his particular prejudices. To the general surprise Bishop Seabury doubted the expediency of any Articles at all, believing as he did very strongly that the doctrines of the Church “should be comprehended in the Liturgy.” This conviction, however, was counterbalanced by his sense of the necessity for some definite and authorized declaration of the faith. Bishop Claggett was decidedly in favor of their insertion; Bishops Provoost and Madison were in favor of dropping them entirely.
This difference of view, which was reflected in the House of Clerical and Lay Deputies, led to a postponement of the subject in two or three General Conventions. At the convention of 1799 a committee of the House of Deputies reported,
That the articles of our faith and religion, as founded on the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testament, are sufficiently declared in our creeds and liturgy, as set forth in the book of common prayer established for the use of this church; and that further articles do not appear to be necessary.
A vote being taken on a resolution “that the Convention now proceed to the framing of articles of religion for this church” was carried by five to three in the clerical order, and three to one in the lay order. A day or two later the committee charged with the duty of framing the articles brought in its report and recommended the adoption of seventeen Articles as compared with the thirty-nine of the English Prayer Book. The revision was ruthless. Among the Articles eliminated were those on “Christ the Son of God”; “The Descent into Hell”; “Sin after Baptism”; “Traditions of the Church,” etc. Fundamental Articles on such subjects as “The Church”; “The Sacraments”; “The Lord’s Supper” and “Predestination” were changed beyond recognition. When the proposals were presented to the House of Deputies it was resolved “that on account of the advanced period of the present session, and the thinness of the Convention” the consideration be postponed, but the secretary was directed to transcribe the report of the committee in the Journal. In his Memoirs of the Church Bishop White is careful to state that the House of Bishops was not consulted in the matter at all. The bishops never saw the proposals till they appeared in the journal; neither were they adopted by the House of Deputies. They stood merely as the expression of the views of a small committee.
Final action was taken at the General Convention of 1801. Neither the bishops nor the deputies were satisfied with the language of many of the Articles as they stood in the English Book. At the same time the extreme difficulty of framing new Articles became more and more evident. It came to be felt that the old ones were more likely to prove acceptable than any new ones which might be drafted. The diocese of New York instructed its deputies to vote for them as they stood with the necessary political changes. At the Convention of 1801 the Thirty-nine Articles were finally adopted and set forth under the title:
Articles of Religion, as established by the Bishops, Clergy and Laity of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, in Convention, on the 12th day of September, in the year of our Lord, 1801.
As compared with the English Book there were a few alterations. In the eighth Article the inclusion of the Athanasian as one of the three creeds to “be thoroughly received and believed” was eliminated. Article Twenty-one, “Of the Authority of General Councils” was omitted entirely, largely because of its assertion that “General Councils may not be gathered together without the commandment and will of Princes.” The twenty-fourth, “On Homilies” was retained with a note recognizing the Homilies as “an explication of Christian doctrine, and instructive in piety and morals,” but its order that they should be read in the churches was suspended “until a revision of them may be conveniently made.” Article Thirty-six, “Of the Consecration of Bishops and Ministers” substituted the Ordinal of the Prayer Book of 1792 for that of the Prayer Book of Edward VI. The thirty-seventh Article, “Of the power of Civil Magistrates” was omitted and a new one provided. They may be set side by side for comparison.
The Queen’s Majesty hath the chief power in this Realm of England, and other her dominions, unto whom the chief Government of all Estates of this Realm, whether they be ecclesiastical or civil, in all causes doth appertain, and is not, nor ought to be, subject to any foreign jurisdiction.
Where we attribute to the Queen’s Majesty the chief government, by which titles we understand the minds of some slanderous folks to be offended; we give not to our Princes the ministering either of God’s Word, or of the Sacraments, the which thing the Injunctions also lately set forth by Elizabeth our Queen do most plainly testify; but that only prerogative, which we see to have been given always to all godly Princes in holy Scriptures by God himself; that is, that they should rule all states and degrees committed to their charge by God, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Temporal, and restrain with the civil sword the stubborn and evil doers.
The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England.
The laws of the Realm may punish Christian men with death, for heinous and grievous offences.
It is lawful for Christian men, at the commandment of the Magistrates, to wear weapons, and serve in the wars.
The power of the civil magistrates extendeth to all men, as well Clergy as Laity, in all things temporal, but hath no authority in things purely spiritual. And we hold it to be the duty of all men who are professors of the gospel, to pay respectful obedience to the civil authority, regularly and legitimately constituted.
With these alterations the Thirty-nine Articles Religion have been unchanged in the American Prayer Book for one hundred and twenty-eight years. At the General Convention of 1925 it was voted to remove them from their place at the end of the Book of Common Prayer. Inasmuch, however, as they are part of the Constitution of the Church, this action had to be confirmed at the Convention of 1928. That confirmation was withheld, and the Articles stand at the end of the new Standard Book.
In 1799 there was added to the Prayer Book “A Form of Consecration of a Church or Chapel” which appears to have been an adaptation of the Office generally used in the Church of England. Bishop White states that “it is substantially the same with a service composed by Bishop Andrews in the reign of James I.” At the same time there was also added “A Prayer for Convention,” reading:
ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who, by thy holy spirit, didst preside in the council of the blessed Apostles, and hast promised, through thy son Jesus Christ, to be with thy church to the end of the world; we beseech thee to be present with the council of thy church here assembled in thy name and presence. Save them from all error, ignorance, pride and prejudice; and of thy great mercy vouchsafe we beseech thee, so to direct, sanctify, and govern us in our present work, by the mighty power of the Holy Ghost, that the comfortable gospel of Christ may be truly preached, truly received, and truly followed, in all places, to the breaking down the kingdom of sin, satan, and death; till at length the whole of thy dispersed sheep, being gathered into one fold, shall become partakers of everlasting life through the merits and death of Jesus Christ our Saivour. Amen.
In the early days of the colonial church it was the almost invariable rule to induct ministers into the charge of parishes, thus giving them legal possession. In 1799 the convention of the diocese of Connecticut moved to revive this practice by voting “that Dr. Smith [The Reverend Doctor William Smith, of Norwalk, Connecticut. He is not to be confounded with Dr. William Smith, of Maryland, who played so large a part in the compilation of “The Proposed Book” of 1785.] be desired to prepare an office for induction and recognizing clergymen into vacant parishes.” This was done and in 1802 the diocese of New York adopted the same office with some verbal alterations and made its use obligatory by canon. Two years later Connecticut formally adopted it. The General Convention of 1804 added to the 1789 Prayer Book “An Office of Induction of Ministers into Parishes.” Its use was made obligatory. In 1808, to avoid conflict with some state laws, the use was made optional and the title was changed to “An Office of Institution.”
Save for verbal alterations and corrections in punctuation, the Prayer Book of 1789, with the foregoing additions, remained the Standard Book for the American Church until the first revisions of 1886 culminating in the Standard Book of 1892. In 1811, however, it was determined that no alterations in the Book should hereafter be made until proposed in one convention, made known to all the dioceses, and adopted at the subsequent convention. In 1820 it was ordered that the Book of Common Prayer be distinguished from the Psalter, the Ordinal, The Office of Institution, the Articles of Religion together with the Form of Consecration of Churches and Chapels and the prayer for meetings of Convention. These were declared to be of “equal authority with the Book of Common Prayer; but, when bound up with it, ought not to appear as parts thereof.” The General Convention of 1835 moved the prayer for Conventions to a place among the occasional prayers and both Houses concurred in the expression of an opinion “that the Confessions, the Creeds, and the Lord’s Prayer in the Liturgy of our Church, should be the joint acts of minister and people, and be confirmed by their united declaration of assent in the word ‘Amen’.” In 1844 the words “Associated Rector” and “State” wherever they occur in the Office of Institution were eliminated.
In 1863 there appeared in the South the Confederate Book of Common Prayer of which there seem to have been at least three editions. The best known has the title page:
The Book of
And Administration of
RITES AND CEREMONIES OF THE CHURCH
According to the Use of The
Protestant Episcopal Church
CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA:
Together with the
PSALTER, OR PSALMS OF DAVID.
It bears the imprint of
J. W. RANDOLPH.
The confederate books were printed in London and ran the blockade to reach their destination. They differ from the American Book only in the substitution of the words, “Confederate States of America,” for “United States of America” on the title page and in the prayers for the President and Congress. In addition to these there were also published for the use of the Confederate army and navy a selection of prayers for private devotion and public services. When the American Church was reunited at the close of the War the Confederate Prayer Book passed into disuse.
Chapter VI – The Prayer Book of 1892
The Book of Common Prayer as set forth in 1789, with sundry amendments and additions, remained in use in the American Church for the long period of one hundred and three years. With the passage of time there came a deepening sense of its inadequacy as an expression of the devotional life of the church. It had been adopted at a time when the church was small in numbers and largely lacking in religious fervor. She was then content to be “respectable,” ministering to privileged people and with little or no care for them that were without. Her years from 1785 to 1811 were aptly described as a period of “suspended animation.” The Prayer Book of 1789 represented the thought and life of the church at her lowest ebb.
Great movements followed in rapid succession. The blazing of the westward trail gave birth to missionary expansion and in 1820 the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society was formed. The consecration of Bishop Alexander Veits Griswold and Bishop John Henry Hobart in 1811 was as the sound of the wind in the tops of the mulberry trees. The dry bones stirred into a new life. The American Church was born again. Griswold was the leader of the Evangelical Movement which swept the country like a flame of fire. Hobart was the ardent and aggressive apostle of “Evangelical truth and Apostolic order” and by his burning zeal created a new ideal for the Episcopate in America. Then came the Oxford or Tractarian Movement with its quickening sense of the value of Christian tradition and its recovery of the inspiring vision of the glories of the Catholic Church. Out of that sprang the large enrichment of the ritual of worship which once again made beauty the handmaid of religion. Then followed the inevitable reaction against Evangelicalism on the one hand and Tractarianism on the other. This found eloquent expression in the literature of the middle of the nineteenth century – in Herbert Spencer’s Social Statics; in George Eliot’s works and in Matthew Arnold’s poems of fine despair. The publication of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species in 1859 ushered in the long conflict between science and revealed religion which was accentuated by Huxley’s unrivaled powers of popular exposition. All this created what John Morley described as “a vague disquiet.” The Broad Church Movement was an effort to restate the Christian faith in the light of modern knowledge. Its leaders in the American Church were John Cotton Smith, Phillips Brooks, and Edward A. Washburn.
In a world seething with the new learning and new ideals, the Liturgy remained static. Its language was antiquated; much of its theology was medieval; its services were as long and wearisome as the corrupted Breviaries of the thirteenth century. A Prayer Book of the eighteenth century was woefully inadequate to express the thought and devotion of the nineteenth century.
Hence, at a comparatively early date efforts were made for its revision and enrichment. They were originated by Bishop John Henry Hobart, who was almost a fanatical devotee of the Liturgy, in 1826. “Chiefly for the purpose of removing the objections so generally made to the length of our morning service” Hobart introduced into the House of Bishops proposals to shorten the same in respect to the Psalter and the Lessons. A rubric provided for the reading of a psalm or psalms instead of the psalter for the day and also instead of the appointed lessons, to read a portion thereof consisting of not less than fifteen verses. The rubric at the end of the Communion Office was to be so changed as to make clear the obligation of the clergy to read the Ante-Communion service down to the end of the Gospel and in all cases to conclude the service with the Blessing. In the Confirmation Office an alternate Preface was suggested, and, “in order to correct the injurious misapprehension, as to the meaning of certain terms,” a new collect was set forth in that service to be used at the discretion of the bishop.
Simple as were these changes, they appear to have excited the alarm of the Low Churchmen. They were approved by the House of Deputies by a vote of 39 to 19 and went down to the dioceses for their consideration. Agitation resulted. The Low Churchmen objected to the lack of uniformity in the services of the church which would result from the liberty in the choice of psalms and lessons. They were in favor of a revision of the Prayer Book, but, like Bishop Griswold, contended that it should be done thoroughly or not at all. The opposition proved so formidable that in 1829 on the motion of Hobart himself the proposals were “dismissed from the consideration of the Convention.”
Though Hobart’s modest proposals were withdrawn the question of revision would not down and in 1853 it became acute. Moved by the isolation of the Episcopal Church and her evident failure to meet the needs of the time a group of men under the leadership of the Reverend Doctor William A. Muhlenberg of New York prepared and presented to the House of Bishops the now famous “Memorial.” Moved by the “divided and distracted state of American Protestant Christianity; new and subtle forms of unbelief,” the memorialists questioned the ability of the Episcopal Church, bound by “fixed and invariable modes of public worship, and her traditional customs and usages” to adequately meet the situation, and pleaded for a broader and more comprehensive ecclesiastical system. As an essential part of that broader system they put in the front larger liberty in the use of the Book of Common Prayer and urged that the edification of the people was more important than uniformity of modes of public worship. The Memorial was referred to a committee of bishops who reported at the General Convention of 1856. They recommended the discretionary use of Morning Prayer, the Litany and the Ante-Communion as separate services; also the Holy Communion with a sermon. That, at other than the stated morning and evening prayer, ministers might use such parts of the Prayer Book and lessons as would “tend most to edification.” The report further provided that diocesan bishops might set forth “such special services as, in their judgment, shall be required by the peculiar spiritual necessities of any class or portion of the population within said dioceses.” In response to a request of the House of Clerical and Lay Deputies made in 1853 for a form of prayer for the Increase of the Ministry, the committee recommended the adoption of the following new prayers:
A Prayer for Unity
A Prayer for the Increase of the Ministry
A Prayer for Missions and Missionaries
A Prayer for the Young
A Prayer for a Person about to be exposed to special danger
A Prayer in time of public calamities, dangers, or difficulties
A Thanksgiving for deliverance of a person from any peril
A Prayer for deliverance from public calamities and dangers
A Thanksgiving for the recovery of a sick child
Outside these proposed additions the Prayer Book was left untouched so far as actual legislation was concerned, though the committee concurred in the view “that in adjusting the length of our public services, more regard should be had to the physical ability of both minister and people.” To this end the House of Bishops expressed the opinion that the three Offices of Morning Prayer, Litany and Holy Communion might be used separately; that on special occasions the clergy might have discretion in the use of the Prayer Book and the choice of lessons and that the bishops might put forth special services to meet peculiar necessities, with the proviso that such should not supersede the Prayer Book “in congregations capable of its use.”
The Church at large was not satisfied with the treatment of the Memorial and especially with the failure to embrace the opportunity to revise the Prayer Book. In 1859 the House of Deputies declared that the action of the bishops “had disturbed the minds of many in our Church,” and asked them “to reconsider their resolutions and to throw the subject matter into such shape as will admit of the joint action of both Houses of Convention.” This the bishops refused to do and defeated a motion in their own House to refer the whole matter of the Memorial and Prayer Book revision to a Joint Commission.
At the Convention of 1862 the House of Deputies resolved that the Litany be amended to include the new suffrage: “That it may please thee to send forth labourers into thy harvest.” Strange as it may seem, the House of Bishops declared that such an addition was “inexpedient.”
About this time there arose a demand for drastic Prayer Book revision emanating from a small but active group of radical low churchmen. Their views found expression in a pamphlet first published in 1858 entitled, Are There Romanizing Germs in the Prayer Book? Although anonymous, the writer of the pamphlet was the Reverend Franklin S. Rising, then secretary of the American Church Missionary Society. He defined “romanizing germs” as “certain seminal doctrines, which, being implanted and taking root, in due time spring up and bear Romanism as their fruit.” Such germs he found in the Book of Common Prayer in its teaching on the rule of faith, its doctrine of the ministry and in the two Sacraments, especially that of Baptism. The Catechism he found also to be a “fruitful source of Romanizing doctrines.” Later sundry presbyters presented to the General Convention a memorial setting forth their objections to some of the language of the Prayer Book and asking for latitude in its use, especially that they should not be compelled to say in Baptism, “It hath pleased thee to regenerate this infant with thy Holy Spirit.” The issue was joined on the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. In 1869 nine bishops joined in the plea for authority to use an alternative phrase. The controversy came to a head with the deposition from the ministry of the Reverend Dr. Cheney of Chicago who had refused to read that sentence in administering baptism. To allay the feeling this action aroused, the bishops, acting as individuals and not as a House, issued a statement expressing their opinion that the word “regeneration is not there so used as to determine that a moral change in the subject of Baptism is wrought in the sacrament.” The concession came too late. The malcontents went out and formed the Reformed Episcopal Church. One of its first acts was to issue its own Prayer Book which, in the main, was based upon the “Proposed Book” of 1785.
Throughout this agitation the demand for shorter Prayer Book services was insistent. All sorts of expedients were proposed – the amendment of canons and the constitution and the creation of new rubrics, all without success. The utmost that could be gained was an agreement on the appointment of a “Joint Committee on the matter of providing shortened Services.”
So matters stood until the General Convention of 1880. The Reverend Doctor William Reed Huntington, then a clerical deputy from the diocese of Massachusetts, had long cherished the hope of “a careful, loving, fair-minded” revision of the Liturgy in order that “the Church may cease to wear the dimensions of a sect, and become the chosen home of a great people.” He saw that the moment had come, and in 1880 offered the following resolution in the House of Clerical and Lay Deputies:
Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That a Joint Committee, to consist of seven Bishops, seven Presbyters and seven Laymen, be appointed to consider, and report to the next General Convention, whether, in view of the fact that this Church is soon to enter upon the second century of its organized existence in this country, the changed conditions of national life do not demand certain alterations in the Book of Common Prayer in the direction of liturgical enrichment and increased flexibility of use.
The resolution was adopted by a divided vote in the House of Deputies and concurred in by the House of Bishops.
John Williams, Bishop of Connecticut, was elected chairman of the Joint Committee, and Dr. Huntington, secretary. It is not too much to say that Dr. Huntington was the leading spirit in the preparation of the new Prayer Book. The spirit which governed his work is set forth in a letter to Bishop Williams in which he wrote:
I cannot tell how it looks to you, but it does seem to me that never since the days of White and Seabury has such an opportunity been vouchsafed to the Church. We certainly do not want to Americanize the Prayer Book in any vulgar sense, but at the same time we cannot forget that it is in America we live, and to Americans that we minister. To bring the worship of the Church closer home to the hearts of “this great and understanding people” by making it more attractive to their imaginations and more adaptable to their needs is a work to which we may well thank God for having called us.
At the outset the committee agreed on two fundamental principles. First, that it would report no alterations affecting the doctrine of the Book; second, that the revision should be guided by the accepted principles of liturgical construction and ritual, “which have guided the compilation and amendments of the Book of Common Prayer, and have made it what it is.” The revision covered a period of twelve years.
The first report was presented to the General Convention of 1883 and embraced one hundred and ninety-six changes. They were embodied in what was called “The Book Annexed” the amendments being inserted in their proper place in the Prayer Book. The committee drew upon the rich heritage of the devotions of the Catholic Church and in later times from Bright’s Ancient Collects; Hutton’s The Daily Service, and Huntington’s Materia Ritualis. It is quite impossible, within the compass of this book, to recite in detail the history of the reception of the report in the Conventions of 1883, 1886, 1889 and 1892. Its fortunes varied. The Convention of 1883 was enthusiastic in its acceptance of many of the recommendations. But it had to run the gauntlet in 1886 when they came up for final confirmation. There was an inevitable reaction and in many influential quarters there was severe, if not unjust, criticism. Some of the bishops were markedly hostile, one remarking that “a fly-leaf would contain the desirable portions of the whole attempted revision; another asserted that it was “unsatisfactory, liturgically, historically, doctrinally and in diction and phraseology.” It is not therefore surprising that the whole matter was remitted to a new committee for review and report. The successive story of the rejections makes melancholy reading, tempered only by the fact that so many of the items then rejected have found their way into the new Standard Prayer Book of 1928 – an act of tardy justice.
Among the more important recommendations which were set aside were:
An alternative Confession and Absolution in Evening Prayer.
The Office of the Beatitudes.
An enlarged Service for Thanksgiving Day, otherwise “named Harvest Home” and containing new prayers for “A Blessing on the Families of the Land,” “For the Country” and “For all Poor, Homeless and Neglected Folk.”
A Short Office of Prayer for sundry Occasions.
A Rubric requiring “Every Communicant to receive the Communion at the least, three times a year, of which Easter is to be one.”
The saying of “Thanks be to thee, O Lord” after the Gospel.
A Service for the Burial of Infants or young Children.
A proposal to add to Family Prayers on Sundays when the Holy Communion was to be celebrated, these words:
And grant that those of us who, this day, are to receive the blessed Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, may come to those holy mysteries with faith, charity and true repentance, and being filled with thy grace and heavenly benediction, may to their great and endless comfort receive remission of their sins and all other benefits of his Passion
Those Conventions manifested a marked unwillingness to the enrichment of the Liturgy. Among the twenty new prayers rejected were those:
For all who are dependent on the Public Care
Young Persons preparing for Confirmation
For the Spirit of Prayer
For Grace to Speak the Truth in Love
For the Light of God’s Truth
and a like fate was meted out to
An Intercession for those who err from the Faith
An Intercession for these who live in Sin
A general Intercession
and new prayers for morning and evening.
So strong and widespread was the objection to continuing this work of revision that a minority report was presented to the General Convention of 1889 characterizing the work as calculated to “excite uneasiness, shake the feeling of confidence and security with which devout people have rested upon the precious formularies of the Prayer Book, and impair the unquestioning loyalty which is the very foundation of the Christian character.” The minority therefore proposed “that the revision of the Prayer Book be brought to an end at the present session of the General Convention.” In the House of Bishops this resolution was only lost by a vote of twenty-eight to twenty. The vote was even closer in the House of Deputies. In the clerical order twenty-one dioceses voted for it, twenty-four against it; in the lay order nineteen dioceses voted for the resolution, twenty-three against it. The danger point was passed and at the General Convention of 1892 the new Prayer Book was ratified for use in the churches.
For the most part the phraseology was left unchanged and there was no attempt at restatement of doctrine. Here and there it was made possible to shorten the services. The first long step toward enrichment of the Liturgy which culminated in the Book of 1928, was taken in 1892. New sentences were added to morning and evening prayer and the ancient chants, “The Magnificat” and the “Nunc Dimittis” were added to evening prayer; also additional versicles and responses. In the same service there was substituted a new prayer for the President of the United States, reading:
Almighty God, whose kingdom is everlasting and power infinite, Have mercy upon this whole land; and so rule the hearts of thy servants THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, THE GOVERNOR OF THIS STATE, and all others in authority, that they, knowing whose ministers they are, may above all things seek thine honour and glory; and that we and all the People, duly considering whose authority they bear, may faithfully and obediently honour them, in thee, and for thee, according to thy blessed word and ordinance; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the Holy Ghost liveth and reigneth, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
The following suffrage was added to the Litany: “That it may please thee to send forth labourers into thy harvest.” The occasional prayers were enriched by the addition of three new ones: “For Unity”; “For Missions”; and two for “Fruitful Seasons” and there was added “A Thanksgiving for the Recovery of a Child.” The prayer for Unity read:
O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Saviour, the Prince of Peace; Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions. Take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatsoever else may hinder us from godly union and concord: that as there is but one Body and one Spirit, and one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
After the occasional Prayers and Thanksgivings there was inserted “A Penitential Office” for Ash-Wednesday; an adaptation of the old English Commination Service minus its crudities and curses. New Collects, Epistles and Gospels were added for the first Communions at Christmas and Easter Day as in the First Prayer Book of Edward VI. One Feast was added to the Calendar: “The Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ,” the Collect for which read:
O God, who on the mount didst reveal to chosen witnesses thine only-begotten Son wonderfully transfigured, in raiment white and glistening, mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may be permitted to behold the King in his beauty, who with thee, O Father, and thee, O Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth, one God, world without end. Amen.
It is worthy of note that this example has been followed in the new Prayer Book of the Church of England. New sentences were provided for the Offertory in the Celebration of the Holy Communion; also a significant addition to the rubric: “And sufficient opportunity shall be given to those present to communicate.” In the Confirmation Office provision was made for the presentation of the candidates to the bishop; also for a Gospel, and rubric reading, “The Minister shall not omit earnestly to move the Persons confirmed to come to the Lord’s Supper,” was added. No change was made in the Marriage service save the insertion of one sentence in the Exhortation describing marriage as “an honorable estate, instituted of God,” etc. In the Commendatory Prayer used in the Visitation of the Sick the ominous words, “And teach us who survive, in this, and other like daily spectacles of mortality, to see how frail and uncertain our own condition is” were omitted. Three Prayers were added to the Burial Office. A New Rubric was inserted in the Office For the Visitation of Prisoners stating that “it is judged best that the criminal should not make any public profession or declaration.” The Collect was changed so as to remove the emphasis from the thought of deserved punishment to the divine forgiveness. In the Communion of the Sick permission was given to shorten the service in cases of contagious disease or extreme weakness; also to use the service for aged or bed-ridden people with the substitution of the Collect, Gospel and Epistle for the day. These ended the changes and additions in the Prayer Book proper. Some changes were made in the directions for the reading of the Psalter in public services. The old set of the “Selection of Psalms” and the Table of “Proper Psalms” for the great Feasts and Fasts in the Prayer Book of 1789 were omitted and new ones substituted. The Nicene Creed was inserted in the ordination of priests and the consecration of bishops. The words “Assistant Minister” were omitted from the Office of Institution of Ministers and, finally, the Articles of Religion were put at the end of the Prayer Book and given a distinct title-page.
With these, and other minor changes, the new Prayer Book was sent forth as the Standard Book of 1892.
Chapter VII – The New Prayer Book: Revision
The Prayer Book of 1892 lasted thirty-six years. It was never satisfactory. The Convention which adopted it was not only conservative, but timid. It hesitated to embark on a liturgical adventure. Revision was reduced to a minimum. Archaic expressions were retained and much of its theology savored of the middle ages. For the most part the painstaking labor of twelve long years was embalmed in the “Book Annexed” which remains a melancholy movement of what might have been done to make a living Liturgy. The consequence was the Church outgrew her own Prayer Book. More and more the clergy turned to outside sources for the enrichment of the devotional life of their people. Less and less respect was paid to the rubrics. Parts of the Psalter were never read in the public services; the table of Lessons was largely ignored. The Baptism office was mutilated, parts of it being an affront to ordinary intelligence, and other Offices like that of the Visitation of the Sick fell into complete disuse.
Obviously something had to be done to repair the integrity of the Book of Common Prayer. Hence the General Convention of 1913, spurred by memorials from two important dioceses, determined on the appointment of a Joint Commission, consisting of seven bishops and an equal number of presbyters and laymen, “to consider and report such revision and enrichment of the Prayer Book as will adapt it to present conditions, if, in their judgment, such revision be necessary.” The resolution appointing the Commission, however, expressly stipulated “that no proposition involving the Faith and Doctrine of the Church shall be considered or reported.” It also expressly excluded “any proposal to change the title-page of the Prayer Book” and the suggestion of any change in the “Name of the Church.” The former instruction proved to be impracticable; the latter was scrupulously observed.
The Right Reverend Cortlandt Whitehead, Bishop of Pittsburgh, was chairman of the Commission until his death, when he was succeeded by the Right Reverend Charles Lewis Slattery, Bishop of Massachusetts. In the later stages of the work the Reverend Doctor John W. Suter of Boston served as secretary. The revision which began in 1913 is embodied in five triennial reports. It was completed and adopted at the General Convention of 1928 held at Washington, D. C., and was then formally authorized for use in the churches. The intervening time was spent in the careful editing and preparation of the Book for the printers and, by general consent, it will come into use on Advent Sunday, 1929.
For a complete analysis of both revision and enrichment the reader must be referred to the Book itself. Here they can be only outlined. As compared with the two previous American Prayer Books the new Book has two outstanding characteristics – it is much more flexible in its use and there is a marked tendency to shorten the regular services; especially those of Morning and Evening Prayer. It is no longer compulsory every Sunday to recite the Exhortation beginning, “Dearly beloved brethren” which was in danger of losing its force by constant repetition. For it may be substituted the shorter invitation, “Let us humbly confess our sins to Almighty God.” A much shorter chant, The “Benedictus es” may be used instead of the longer “Te Deum.” The revision of the Lectionary has provided shorter and more profitable Scripture Lessons and large liberty is allowed in the selection of the Psalms. A new short Absolution is inserted in Evening Prayer and permission given to read one lesson instead of the traditional two. When the Litany is said Morning Prayer ends with the Collect for Grace. The Prayer Book of 1892 required the recital of the Ten Commandments in full once on each Sunday; the new Book limits this requirement to “at least one Sunday in each month.” Not only are the services shortened, but rigid uniformity in the services is no longer insisted upon. After the third Collect in Morning and Evening Prayer the minister may either end the service with the “Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,” or by the use of a prayer or prayers from any part of the Book, thus giving a much greater variety of liturgical use. The section “Concerning the Service of the Church,” which follows the Preface to the Book, is a striking illustration of the unprecedented breadth of the liturgical liberty of the new Prayer Book. It sets forth that the Order for Holy Communion, for Morning and Evening Prayer, and the Litany, are the services regularly authorized for use “in this Church,” but with the far-reaching proviso that, subject to the direction of the bishop, in addition there may be used other devotions “set forth by lawful authority.” Nor is this all. Under carefully defined conditions, “when the edification of the Congregation so requires,” these other devotions may be used instead of the regular Morning and Evening Prayer.
The revision of the 1892 Book is far-reaching, and in some instances radical. It extends not only to language, but also to theological statement. All passages of Holy Scripture are now taken from the Revised Version and in some cases the marginal rendering has been adopted. There is an entirely new translation of the Psalter correcting many obvious errors. In Psalm XIV these verses are deleted:
5 Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues have they deceived: the poison of asps is under their lips.
6 Their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: their feet are swift to shed blood.
7 Destruction and unhappiness is in their ways, and the way of peace have they not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes.
In the judgment of the best Hebrew scholars these verses are a late interpolation and are foreign to the thought of the Psalm. The relaxation of the requirement to read the Psalter for the day obviates the necessity of reciting in the public services those Psalms or parts of Psalms which call down the curses of heaven upon enemies – the “imprecatory” Psalms. No longer will a congregation of Christian people be compelled to say of a fellow man: –
Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.
Let his children be vagabonds, and beg their bread....
Let there be no man to pity him, nor to have compassion upon his fatherless children.
Let his posterity be destroyed; and in the next generation let his name be clean put out.
The opening sentences of the Litany have been revised as indicated:
The New Book
O God the Father Heaven; have mercy upon miserable sinners.
O God the Father Heaven; have mercy upon miserable sinners.
O God, the Son, Redeemer of the world; have mercy upon us miserable sinners.
O God the Son, Redeemer of the world: have mercy upon us miserable sinners.
O God the Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son have mercy upon us Miserable sinners.
O God the Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son; have mercy upon us miserable sinners.
O holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, three Persons and one God; have mercy upon us miserable sinners.
O holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, three Persons and one God; have mercy upon us miserable sinners.
O God the Father, Creator of heaven and earth; Have mercy upon us.
O God the Son, Redeemer of the world;
Have mercy on us.
O God the Holy Ghost, Sanctifier of the faithful;
Have mercy upon us.
O holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, one God;
Have mercy upon us.
The omission of the fourfold repetition of “miserable sinners” goes back to the earlier Latin forms of the Litany.
The revision of the Penitential Office illustrates one marked feature of the new Prayer Book – the elimination of exaggerated and therefore, to that extent, unreal expressions of penitence for sin. The medieval idea of the utter worthlessness of man was far from the conception that “thou hast made him a little lower than the angels.” In the older Liturgies and in the later English and American Prayer Books man is represented as utterly depraved, cringing in his approach to God; hoping to gain his favor by a confession of abject unworthiness. This note was dominant in the Penitential Office in the Book of 1892 and its predecessor of 1789. These words were put into the mouth of the penitent: “Enter not into judgement with thy servants, who are vile earth, and miserable sinners but so turn thine anger from us, who meekly acknowledge our vileness, and truly repent us of our faults &c.” In the revision the pagan idea of the “anger” of God is entirely eliminated. The words, “vile earth and miserable sinners” are deleted, and instead of “who meekly acknowledge our vileness,” the prayer reads, “who meekly acknowledge our transgressions.” In the appointed fifty-first Psalm the last two verses, which are a priestly addition to the original, are left out so that it ends on the note of Christian hope.
In the new Prayer Book the Order for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper or the Holy Communion is placed before the Collects, Epistles and Gospels. An entirely new rubric permits a deacon, in the absence of a priest, to say that part of the service ending with the Gospel. The proposal to require members of the Church to communicate at least three times a year, Easter being one, was not approved by the Convention.
The growing conviction that the Ten Commandments have no proper place in the service of Holy Communion finds expressions in a significant permission to modify their recital by the omission of the reasons for their observance; reasons which have lost their point and force in modern times. The part of Decalogue affected is now thus printed:
Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth; thou shalt not bow down to them, nor worship them;
for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, and visit the sins of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and show mercy unto thousands in them that love me and keep my commandments.
Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.
Thou shalt not take the Name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless, that taketh his Name in vain.
Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.
Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath-day.
Six days shalt thou labour, and do all that thou hast to do; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD thy God. In it thou shalt do no manner of work; thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, thy man-servant, and thy maid-servant, thy cattle, and the stranger that is within thy gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it.
Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.
Honour thy father and thy mother;
that thy days may be long in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.
Thou shalt not covet
thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his servant, nor his maid, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is his.
Lord, have mercy upon us, and write all these thy laws in our hearts, we beseech thee.
The parts inset may be omitted. The proposal of the Commission to follow the summary of the Law by the words, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” did not meet with approval.
New Offertory sentences are added. The word “Militant” has been deleted from the invitation, “Let us pray for the whole state of Christ’s Church,” thus reverting to its original form in the First Prayer Book of Edward VI in 1549. In this same prayer there has been inserted a clause definitely praying for the dead:
And we also bless thy holy name for all thy servants departed this life in thy faith and fear: beseeching thee to grant them continual growth in thy love and service.
This also goes back to the English Book of 1549, but it is the first time in the history of the American Prayer Books that prayers for the departed have been recognized. Others appear in the new Burial Office where their use is permissive. In this prayer it is mandatory and as such was vigorously opposed in the General Convention by a group of Low Churchmen. Some of the Proper Prefaces have been revised, notably the one for Whitsuntide which now leaves out the description of the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost as “a sudden great sound, as it had been a mighty wind, in the likeness of fiery tongues.” The abstruse opening of the Preface for Trinity Sunday has been changed by the omission of the words, “Who art one God, one Lord; not only Person, but three Persons in one Substance,” and substituting this clause: “Who, with thine only-begotten Son, and the Holy Ghost, art one God, one Lord, in Trinity of Persons and in Unity of Substance.” For the benefit of those to whom the foregoing is inexplicable – and they are many in number – a simpler alternative Preface has been provided for the Day. New Prefaces are added for the Epiphany, All Saints’ Day and one to be used at the Feasts of the Purification; the Annunciation of the Transfiguration. The Prayer of Humble Access now stands after the consecration of the Elements, and before the Lord’s Prayer is now said, “And now, as our Saviour Christ hath taught us, we are bold to say ‘Our Father which art in heaven.’” The Joint Commission sought to amend the rubric directing that any remaining portion of the consecrated bread and wine should be reverently consumed and not carried out of church, by a provision that, when allowed by the bishop, there might be reserved so much as might be required that day for the communion of the sick. The recommendation was not adopted.
There are many important changes in the Collects, Epistles and Gospels used in the service of Holy Communion. Most of the titles of the Saints’ Days are amended on the descriptive side: “St. Stephen, Deacon and Martyr”; “St. John, Apostle and Evangelist”; “Septuagesima, or the Third Sunday before Lent”; “The Sunday next before Easter, commonly called Palm Sunday,” and the fixed dates of the feasts and festivals are added. The old well-nigh unintelligible Epistle for the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ gives place to a noble passage from the Epistle to the Philippians. An alternative Gospel is provided for Maundy Thursday; new Epistles for St. Thomas’ Day and for S.S. Simon and Jude and a new Collect for St. Luke’s Day. The Parable of the Prodigal Son is now the appointed Gospel for the ninth Sunday after Trinity, and the unedifying repetition of the sealing of the twelve tribes of Israel in the Epistle for All Saints’ Day is omitted. There is an important change in the third Collect for Good Friday, a clause of which reads:
Have mercy upon all Jews, Turks, infidels and heretics; and take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of thy Word; and so fetch them home, blessed Lord, to thy flock, that they may be saved among the remnant of the true Israelites, and be made one fold under one shepherd,” etc.
This unwarranted slur on the Hebrew race comes down from the First Prayer Book of Edward VI. It is now changed to read: “Have mercy upon all who know thee not as thou art revealed in the Gospel of thy Son.” The plea that “they may be saved among the remnant of the true Israelites” is omitted, and the new vision of Christian unity, not as embraced in one fold, but as members of one flock finds expression in this revised prayer.
The opening sentence of the exhortation in the Office of Baptism, reading, “forasmuch as all men are conceived and born in sin,” has long been deeply resented, so much so that many of the clergy refused to read it. It has happily been deleted in the new Book as having no warrant in Holy Scripture; the old prayer quoting the saving of Noah and the passage of Israel through the Red Sea as figuring Baptism is now omitted, as also the phrase that the infant may “be delivered from thy wrath.” The unhappy prayer, “grant that the old Adam in this child may be so buried, that the new man may be raised up in him,” is changed to read, “grant that like as Christ died and rose again, so this child may die to sin and rise to newness of life.” In the Prayer Book of 1892 the making of the sign of the cross in Baptism was permissive; in the new Book it is mandatory as in the Prayer Book of 1549. In the service of Baptism for adults two new questions are added:
Minister. Dost thou believe in Jesus the Christ, the Son of the Living God?
Answer. I do.
Minister. Dost thou accept him, and desire to follow him as thy Saviour and Lord?
Answer. I do.
An entirely new Office of Instruction takes the place of the old Catechism which is now relegated to the end of the Prayer Book with the Articles of Religion. The new Office takes the form of a service with suitable prayers, versicles and responses. The catechizing is governed by sound pedagogical principles. The old Catechism, where retained, is modernized, and in addition instruction is given in the nature of the Church as “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic”; the duties of membership therein; Confirmation; the Sacraments; and the three Orders in the Ministry. In the service of Confirmation the old preface is omitted, and this new question is asked by the bishop:
Do ye promise to follow Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour?
And every one shall answer,
The changes in what the Prayer Book quaintly calls “The Form of Solemnization of Matrimony” have been widely heralded. The provision for the publication of the Bans of marriage are retained, though more honored in the breach than the observance. In the Exhortation the words “in the time of man’s innocency” are deleted. The most significant change is that the vows and promises of the man and the woman are made exactly alike by the omission of the word “obey.” They both undertake precisely the same obligation. In the giving of the ring the bridegroom is no longer called upon to say, “with all my worldly goods I thee endow.” Provision is made for the blessing of the Ring in the words: “Bless, O Lord, this Ring, that he who gives it and she who wears it may abide in thy peace, and continue in thy favour, unto their life’s end; through Jesus Christ our Lord: Amen.” Isaac and Rebecca are no longer held up as shining examples of matrimonial felicity. Two new prayers are added to the service. One for the gift of children, reading:
O Almighty God, Creator of mankind, who only art the well-spring of life; Bestow upon these thy servants, if it be thy will, the gift and heritage of children; and grant that they may see their children brought up in thy faith and fear, to the honour and glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The other is for the Home:
O God, who hast so consecrated the state of Matrimony that in it is represented the spiritual marriage and unity betwixt Christ and his Church; Look mercifully upon these thy servants, that they may love, honour, and cherish each other, and so live together in faithfulness and patience, in wisdom and true godliness, that their home may be a haven of blessing and of peace; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.
The Office for the Visitation of the Sick has been so changed as to be hardly recognizable in its new form. As it appeared in the old Prayer Book it was so gloomy, so medieval in its theology and so utterly lacking in any understanding of the psychological approach to sick persons, that it had almost ceased to be used in the church. Its basic assumption was that not only is all sickness sent by God, but it is sent as a just punishment for some wrong done. The minister was directed to say to the sick person, “Wherefore, whatsoever your sickness be, know you certainly that it is God’s visitation ... it be sent unto you to correct and amend in you whatsoever doth offend the eyes of your heavenly Father.” This Exhortation, as unhappy as it is untrue, is omitted in the new Book. Also the words, “Sanctify, we beseech thee, this thy fatherly correction to him. All through the old service ran the suggestion of non-recovery. There was the prayer for recovery “if it shall be thy good pleasure”; then came the ominous “or else.” “Or else ... after this painful life ended,” etc.
In the new Book the whole tone of the service has been revolutionized. Hope supplants doubt and fear. Jubilant Psalms are added. A new Collect 'reading reads: "Accept, we beseech thee, merciful Lord, the devout praise of thy humble servant, and grant him an abiding sense of thy loving-kindness, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” In addition there is a new prayer for the Despondent:
A Prayer for the Despondent
Comfort, we beseech thee, most gracious God, this thy servant, cast down and faint of heart amidst the sorrows and difficulties of the world; and grant that, by the power of thy Holy Spirit, he may be enabled to go upon his way rejoicing, and give thee continual thanks for thy sustaining providence; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Also a new prayer for Recovery minus the reservations which marred the old.
The unspeakably unfortunate “Prayer for Persons troubled in Mind or Conscience,” saying of Almighty God, “Thou writest bitter things against him, and makest him to possess his former iniquities; thy wrath lieth hard upon him,” etc., is deservedly banished from the new Book. The old Collect in the Communion of the Sick with the note: “who dost correct those whom thou dost love, and chastise every one whom thou dost receive,” gives place to one with the note of “loving-kindness,” and the Epistle speaking of “the chastening of the Lord” is displaced by one more hopeful in tone. There is also a new and shorter Confession and Absolution.
The harshness of the old first rubric in the Burial Office prohibiting its use “for any unbaptized adults, any who die excommunicate, or who have laid violent hands upon themselves” is softened in the new Book by noting that the Office is “appropriate to be used only for the faithful departed in Christ,” but giving the minister discretion, in the former cases, to use such devotions from the service or from other parts of the Book “as may be fitting.” The words in the sentence from the Book of Job, “and though after my skin worms destroy this body,” are left out, there being substituted, “though this body be destroyed”; and instead of the words, “and mine eyes shall behold, and not another,” the new translation is, “and mine eyes shall behold, and not as a stranger.” New Psalms are added; and two new short lessons, one beginning, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” In the familiar lesson from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Corinthians the section beginning,
Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead? and why stand we in jeopardy every hour? I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die. Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God I speak this to your shame.
is omitted. Instead of “Man, that is born of a woman, hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery,” may be read, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Perhaps the most notable addition to the Burial Office is the provision of two prayers for the dead, one of which reads:
Remember thy servant, O Lord, according to the favour which thou bearest unto thy people, and grant that, increasing in knowledge and love of thee, he may go from strength to strength, in the life of perfect service, in thy heavenly kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.
The changes in the Ordination services for deacons and priests are few, but significant. This is especially so in the change in the form of the question put to the deacon concerning the Bible. The old question was,
The Bishop: Do you unfeignedly believe all the Canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testament?
Answer. I do.
The new question avoids the necessity of asserting a blanket belief. It reads:
The Bishop: Are you persuaded that the Holy Scriptures contain all Doctrine required as necessary for eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ?
Answer. I am so persuaded.
A much shorter Litany has been provided for Ordination services. In the Form of the Consecration of a Church or Chapel the supplication concerning the baptized has been so changed as to omit the words “delivered from thy wrath and everlasting death” and a new Collect has been substituted for the one in the Book of 1892; also a new Epistle.
Three services found in the previous Prayer Book are omitted entirely from the new – The “Forms of Prayer To Be Used at Sea”; The “Form of Prayer for the Visitation of Prisoners” and “A Form of Prayer and Thanksgiving to Almighty God” used at the service on Thanksgiving Day. While the latter disappears as a separate service its component parts are found elsewhere in the new Prayer Book. The two former are omitted because they have long ago fallen into disuse.
The “Forms of Prayer To Be Used in Families” are not technically part of the Book of Common Prayer and they have now been placed between the Catechism and the Articles of Religion. Some changes occur in the structure of the prayers fitting them more perfectly to modern conditions of life and such phrases as “make us ever mindful of the time when we shall lie down in the dust” have been omitted. A shorter form of Family Prayer both for morning and evening has been provided consisting of the Lord’s Prayer, a Collect and the Benediction.
Chapter VIII – The New Prayer Book: Enrichment
Important as is the revision in the New Prayer Book, its large enrichment is even more so. The comparatively short life of the 1892 Book was mainly due to the reluctance of the General Convention to enrich the public service of the Church. The older devotions failed to express changed and changing ideas and conditions. Large spheres of modern life were, as far as the Prayer Book was concerned, excluded. A living Liturgy must express in its forms of devotion the thoughts of the time. New occasions not only “teach new duties,” but they call for new devotions.
The careful user of the new Book will move in a larger world of prayer. Every phase of life finds recognition. The individual; the family; children; education; the administration of justice; legislators; the naval and military services; the ministry to the sick; international relations; labor, and poverty as represented by all poor, homeless and neglected folk. Nor is fidelity in the stewardship of wealth forgotten. Nothing human is alien to the new Prayer Book.
First comes a larger recognition of the life of the Nation. The Form of Prayer “for the inestimable Blessings of Religious and Civil Liberty, to be used yearly on the Fourth of July,” which was printed in the “Proposed Book” of 1785, was never incorporated in the official Prayer Book of the American Church. In the new Book there is provided a Collect, Epistle and Gospel for “Independence Day,” the Collect reading:
O Eternal God, through whose mighty power our fathers won their liberties of old; Grant, we beseech thee, that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain these liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
In the Litany there is the following new suffrage: “That it may please thee so to rule the heart of thy servant, the President of the United States, that he may above all things seek thy honour and glory.” There has also been added, as an alternative, in the service of Morning Prayer a second supplication for “the President of the United States, and all in Civil Authority.” It puts the nation first and emphasizes the responsibility of elective office: “Grant ... to them wisdom and strength to know and to do thy will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness; and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve this people in thy fear.” Among the new occasional prayers place has been given to a finely comprehensive petition For Our Country, reading:
Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage; We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favour and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honourable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogancy, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
It would be difficult to find, in so small a compass, a more accurate conception of the complex problems of modern American life; a keener sense of its perils and a saner sense of its needs than is set forth in this prayer. The later new Prayer for the Family of Nations is a significant recognition of the new Internationalism.
The inescapable responsibility of the Christian Church for the welfare of the people at large and for the reign of social justice is reflected in the pages of the new Prayer Book. There is now a prayer “For Every Man in his Work”; “For Prisoners”; “For Faithfulness in the Use of this World’s Goods”; “For all Poor, Homeless and Neglected Folk”; “For Those in Mental Darkness”; “For the Families of the Land,” and this prayer “For Social Justice”:
For Social Justice
Almighty God, who hast created man in thine own image; Grant us grace fearlessly to contend against evil, and to make no peace with oppression; and, that we may reverently use our freedom, help us to employ it in the maintenance of justice among men and nations, to the glory of thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
For the first time in the American Prayer Book there is inserted a prayer “For The Army” and one “For The Navy.” The blessed and enduring memory of those who have made the supreme sacrifice for love of country is enshrined in this thanksgiving and supplication to be used on “Memorial Days”:
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, in whose hands are the living and the dead; We give thee thanks for all those thy servants who have laid down their lives in the service of our country. Grant to them thy mercy and the light of thy presence, that the good work which thou hast begun in them may be perfected; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord. Amen.
And, lest any need should have been forgotten, there is provided this beautiful and all-embracing General Intercession:
O God, at whose word man goeth forth to his work and to his labour until the evening; Be merciful to all whose duties are difficult or burdensome, and comfort them concerning their toil. Shield from bodily accident and harm the workmen at their work. Protect the efforts of sober and honest industry, and suffer not the hire of the labourers to be kept back by fraud. Incline the heart of employers and of those whom they employ to mutual forbearance, fairness, and good-will. Give the spirit of governance and of a sound mind to all in places of authority. Bless all those who labour in works of mercy or in schools of good learning. Care for all aged persons, and all little children, the sick and the afflicted, and those who travel by land or by sea. Remember all who by reason of weakness are overtasked, or because of poverty are forgotten. Let the sorrowful sighing of the prisoners come before thee; and according to the greatness of thy power, preserve thou those that are appointed to die. Give ear unto our prayer, O merciful and gracious Father, for the love of thy dear Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
On the more intimate side of the life of the Church as a family there is definite enrichment in the shape of new Prayers for
The Increase of the Ministry
Those about to be Confirmed
A Sick Child.
The Church herself is remembered in a new prayer for “that peace and unity which is according to thy will,” and a place has been found for the noble prayer written by Archbishop Laud:
O Gracious Father, we humbly beseech thee for thy holy Catholic Church; that thou wouldest be pleased to fill it with all truth, in all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, establish it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of him who died and rose again, and ever liveth to make intercession for us, Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord. Amen.
For the first time a form of the ancient “Bidding Prayer” appears in the American Liturgy. It goes back to pre-Reformation days when it was known as the “Bidding of the Bedes.” The people were bidden to pray as the preacher named the subjects of their devotion. Its use was continued after the Reformation with the omission of the name of the Pope and the substitution therefor of the King as the “Supreme Head of the Church of England.” The fifty-fifth section of the “Constitutions and Canons Ecclesiastical,” .adopted in 1603 and printed in the old English Prayer Books, is headed, “The Form of a Prayer to be used by all Preachers before their Sermons.” The first part of it reads:
Before all Sermons, Lectures, and Homilies, the Preachers and Ministers shall move the people to join with them in Prayer in this Form, or to this Effect, as briefly as conveniently they may: Ye shall pray for Christ’s holy Catholick Church, that is, for the whole Congregation of Christian People dispersed throughout the whole World, etc.
The form of the Bidding Prayer in the new American Book includes the President, the Governor and all in authority “that all, and every one of them, may truly serve in their several callings to the glory of God, and the edifying and well-governing of the people, remembering the account they shall be called upon to give at the last great day.” It further bids prayers for schools and colleges; the people of these United States; all travelers; prisoners and captives; that thanks be given for “rain and sunshine; for the products of all honest industry; for all temporal and spiritual gifts and for the saints who have been lights of the world in their several generations,” and sums up all the petitions in the words of the Lord’s Prayer.
A new and shorter alternative Absolution is added to Evening Prayer reading:
The Almighty and merciful Lord grant you Absolution and Remission of all your sins, true repentance, amendment of life, and the grace and consolation of his Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Collects, Epistles and Gospels are not only revised where necessary, but greatly enriched. Entirely new Collects are provided for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before Easter – the commemoration of the last week of our Lord’s life before the crucifixion; also for Maundy Thursday with its institution of the Blessed Sacrament in the night in which he was betrayed. They shadow forth the pain of the sorrowful way as in Monday’s Collect which reads:
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified; Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
There is added a new Collect, Epistle and Gospel for the first Communion on Whitsunday, thus conforming that festival to Christmas and Easter, likewise for Monday and Tuesday in Whitsun week. Provision is made, with the necessary liturgy, for celebrations of the Holy Communion for the Feast of the “Dedication of a Church”; the “Ember and Rogation Days,” the subjects respectively being the Ministry of Christ’s Church and prayers for a blessing on the labors of the husbandman.
A rubric in the First Prayer Book of Edward VI required that the “new married persons (the same day of their marriage) must receive the holy Communion.” The intent of that rubric is carried out in the new American Book by the provision of a Collect, Epistle and Gospel for the Solemnization of Matrimony, or what was known before the Reformation as a Nuptial Mass. Another reversion to an ancient Catholic practice is also in the new Book – with its Communion service : at the Burial of the Dead, the Collect for which reads:
O Eternal Lord God, who boldest all souls in life; Vouchsafe, we beseech thee, to thy whole Church in paradise and on earth, thy light and thy peace; and grant that we, following the good examples of those who have served thee here and are now at rest, may at the last enter with them into thine unending joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayers for the departed are now enshrined in the Prayer for Christ’s Church; the Burial Office and what was known in earlier days as the Requiem Mass. The old objection to these particular services that they were Roman in character has been worn down in later years. The Church is glad to take devotions of proved value from whatever source they come. The last of the additions to the Collects, Epistles and Gospels is for “A Saint's Day” which can be used for the commemoration of any Saint not named in the Calendar of Saint’s Days.
To the suffrage in the Litany for deliverance from “lightning and tempest” has been added “from earthquake, fire and flood,” and the words “or by air” have been inserted in the suffrage for those who “travel by land or by water.”
There is an entirely new and beautiful service of the “Burial of a Child,” one of the opening sentences being the familiar words, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God”; also the twenty-third Psalm, beginning, “The Lord is my shepherd.” For the brief lesson there is chosen the story of our Lord setting a child in the midst of the ambitious disciples and commanding them to become as little children. The whole office breathes the note of Christian hope, the keynote being found in this Prayer:
O Merciful Father, whose face the angels of thy little ones do always behold in heaven; Grant us stedfastly to believe that this thy child hath been taken into the safe keeping of thine eternal love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The enrichment of the new Book is very marked in the office for the Visitation of the Sick, the whole tone of which has been transformed. It is evident that its compilers have studied with great care the newer psychological method of dealing with sickness. A suggestion of cheer runs through the whole service and the hope of recovery is prominent. There is no suggestion, as in the old service, of imminent death, and the five new Psalms incorporated in the Office are such as to inspire confident hope. This is also embodied in a “Prayer for Recovery” and in a “Thanksgiving for the Beginning of a Recovery.” A new “Prayer for Healing” bears witness to the wistful desire to recover the ministry of healing in the Church, and there is added a new “Prayer for the Despondent.” Most striking of all is the permission granted for the Unction of the Sick and the Laying on of Hands, both of which find ample authority in the apostolic times, but were engulfed in the wave of the Protestant Reformation, although Unction found a place in the First Prayer Book of 1549. In this new Book the rubric provides that “when any sick person shall in humble faith desire the ministry of healing through Anointing or Laying on of Hands,” the minister may proceed so to do, using the following prayer:
O Blessed Redeemer, relieve, we beseech thee, by thy indwelling power, the distress of this thy servant; release him from sin, and drive away all pain of soul and body, that being restored to soundness of health, he may offer thee praise and thanksgiving; who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.
In administering Unction he may say:
I anoint thee with oil (or I lay my hand upon thee), In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; beseeching the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all thy pain and sickness of body being put to flight, the blessing of health may be restored unto thee. Amen.
An integral and entirely new part of this Office is that concerned with the ministration of the Church to those appointed to die. A simple and short Litany for the Dying is provided, beginning,
O God the Father;
Have mercy upon the soul of thy servant.
From all evil, from all sin, from all tribulation;
Good Lord, deliver him.
By thy holy Incarnation, by thy Cross and Passion, by thy precious Death and Burial;
Good Lord, deliver him.
By thy glorious Resurrection and Ascension, and by the coming of the Holy Ghost;
Good Lord, deliver him.
We sinners do beseech thee to hear us, O Lord God; That it may please thee to deliver the soul of thy servant from the power of the evil one, and from eternal death;
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee mercifully to pardon all his sins.
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to grant him a place of refreshment and everlasting blessedness;
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to give him joy and gladness in thy kingdom, with thy saints in light;
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
O Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world;
Have mercy upon him.
O Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world;
Have mercy upon him.
O Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world;
Grant him thy peace.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
As the spirit passes into the unseen and larger world through the sunset gate this “Commendation” may be said:
Depart, O Christian Soul, out of this world,
In the Name of God the Father Almighty who created thee.
In the Name of Jesus Christ who redeemed thee.
In the Name of the Holy Ghost who sanctifieth thee,
May thy rest be this day in peace, and thy dwelling place in the Paradise of God.
Immediately after death provision is made for a Prayer reading:
Into thy hands, O merciful Saviour, we commend the soul of thy servant, now departed from the body. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech thee, a sheep of thine own fold, a lamb of thine own flock, a sinner of thine own redeeming. Receive him into the arms of thy mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen.
This new Prayer Book is more than a directory of public worship. Great pains have been taken to provide a brief form of Family Prayer for use morning and evening in households. Nor is this all. Many new prayers are added for intimate and personal use. These include a petition “For the Spirit of Prayer”; “For Guidance”; “For Quiet Confidence”; “For the Absent”; “For Those We Love”; “For One about to Undergo an Operation” and others. Cardinal Newman’s beautiful prayer beginning, “O Lord, support us all the day long, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes,” etc., finds a place, and there is added this prayer “For a Blessing on the Families of the Land”:
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who settest the solitary in families; We commend to thy continual care the homes in which thy people dwell. Put far from them, we beseech thee, every root of bitterness, the desire of vain-glory, and the pride of life. Fill them with faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness. Knit together in constant affection those who, in holy wedlock, have been made one flesh; turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers; and so enkindle fervent charity among us all, that we be evermore kindly affectioned with brotherly love, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Many more or less minute details both of revision and enrichment have been passed over in this review of the changes in the Book. The rejection, by the General Conventions, of some of the recommendations of the Joint Commission is a matter for regret. The new Book is not perfect. But it is a large advance on the Books of 1789 and 1892. It is more human; more comprehensive; more truly devotional; more modern. Above all, it is more real. For these things the whole Christian world, which has always turned to the Book of Common Prayer for inspirational devotion, may be devoutly thankful.
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