Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

times, but the circumstance of that of St. James having had great authority in the Church of Jerusalem, in St. Cyril's time, who wrote a comment upon it, still extant, they think a thing of very considerable weight, to prove the existence of liturgies in the Apostolical Churches.* The friends of extempore prayers consider the existence of the fabulous and fictitious gospels, and epistles which were early circulated as the compositions of the Apostles, as a fact which takes off the whole force of this argument.

THE ORIGINAL BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER,

AND THE ALTERATIONS MADE IN IT.

Prior to the Reformation, the Liturgy consisted partly of a collection of some ancient forms of prayer, which had been used in the second and third centuries of the Christian Era, and partly of those forms which had arisen out of the superstitions which, for a series of ages, bad gradually crept into the Western Church. To the common people, the former were entirely useless, as the prayers were offered in Latin, a language unknown to those who had not the benefit of a learned education. Io the Church of Rome it has been, and it still continues to be, a maxim, “ that ignorance is the parent of devotion,” consequently, that religion is not a reasonable service, and that

See, on this subject, Mr. Wheatly's Introductory Discourse to his Rational Illustration of the Book of Common Prayer, of the Church of England.

VOL. II.

[ocr errors]

a man prays with most sincerity, when he knows not for what he prays.

One would have thought that the absurdity of a man's saying Amen to supplications, with the nature of which he was completely unacquainted, and which, for any thing he knew, might have been invocations of the Divine vengeance on his own head, would have forcibly struck every reflecting mind. But in those unhappy times, when the scriptures were deposited in cloisters, to be the food of worms; the minds of men, as the body of Gulliver was by the Liliputians, were pinioned to the earth, by an innumerable quantity of almost invisible ligaments, which, though individually small, were yet collectively able to chain their faculties. The fact is worthy of our attention, that to this day the votaries of the Church of Rome continue bound with the same fetters, and offer up their prayers in a language they do not generally understand. Many of their forms of prayer were not only useless, but mischievous ; as the superstitious acts with which they were mingled, the invocation of saints, and the adoration of the host and of images, involved the worshippers in the crime of idolatry.

In the reign of Henry the Eighth, though a breach had taken place between him and the Pope, little was done to correct the cumbrous system of superstition and folly. Provision was indeed made against continuing the absurdity of religious services in an unknown language. The prayers for the processions and the litanies were translated into English, and brought into public use. In the first year of Edward the Sixth, the Convocation declared their opinion, that the Communion ought to be administered to all persons, in both kinds. In consequence of this, by an act of Parliament it was appointed to be so administered ; and a Committee of Bishops and other learned Divines was appointed, to compose an uniform order of Communion, according to the rules of Scripture, and the use of the Primitive Church. The Committee retired to Windsor Castle, and, within a few days, drew up that form which is printed in Bishop Sparrow's Collection; and which, in the following year, was brought into use. The same Committee was, by a new commission, invested with power to draw up public offices of religion, not only for Sundays and holidays ; but also for baptism, confirmation, matrimony, the burial of the dead, and other special occasions. The office for the Communion was added, with several alterations and amendments. By them the whole Liturgy was completed. At the head of the Committee who composed the Liturgy, was Archbishop Cranmer, to whose piety, learning, and zeal, the Church of England, and indeed every Protestant Church, owes much. His conduct, in the high office which he filled, was a combination of prudence with the fervour of devotion, in harmony with discriminating wisdom; and of integrity, in unison with conciliating manners. If, in one scene of his life, he, like Peter, exhibited a deplorable instance of human weakness, like Peter he also showed in the last and most awful scene of it, a noble example of triumph over every object of human fear, over death clad with all his supernumerary terrors. Though the trial of his faith was even literally taken with fire, it was found unto praise, honour, and glory. During the life of that capricious tyrant, Henry the Eighth, he had to walk with caution, for he walked over fires treacherously covered with deceitful ashes, and like the Apostle St. Paul, was in death often. In the reign of Edward, he stood forth the champion, the apologist, the guardian, and the active conductor of the Reformation ; and these excellencies marked him out in the reign of Mary, as one of the first victims destined to bleed at the altar of Superstition. Ridley, at that time Bishop of Rochester, and afterwards of London, was also a member of the Committee by which the Liturgy was framed, a man of fine parts, distinguished equally by his piety, by his literature, and by his penetration and solidity of judgment; and who also, in Mary's reign, was condemned to the flames, and like another Elijah ascended to heaven in a fiery chariot. Five other Bishops, and six other eminent Divines, constituted the Committee by whom the Liturgy of the Church of England was compiled.

« Thus,” says an excellent writer, “was our excellent Liturgy compiled by martyrs, and confessors, together with divers other learned Bishops and Divines, and being revised and approved by the Archbishops, Bishops, and Clergy of both the provinces of Canterbury and York, was then confirmed by the King, and the three Estates in Parliament, A.D. 1548, who gave it this just encomium, viz. which at this time, by the aid of the Holy Ghost, with uniform agreement is of them concluded, set forth, &c."'*

Several objections having been made to the Liturgy, as too indulgent to superstition, Archbishop Cranmer, in the year 1551, proposed to have it reviewed, and, for that purpose called in the assistance of Martin Bucer, and Peter Martyr, two foreigners, whom he invited over to England. Some alterations were made in the service, and some additions were also made to it. Of the latter kind are the sentences, exhortation, confession, and absolution, at the beginning of the Morning and Evening Ser

• Mr. Wheatly's Appendix to the Introductory Discourse, &c.

vices, which in the first Prayer Book began with the Lord's Prayer. The alterations consisted principally in retrenching several ceremonies, such as the use of oil in Baptism, the anointing of the sick, and prayers for the dead, which had been used both in the Communion Office, and in that for the Burial of the dead. The convocation of the Holy Ghost, in the consecration of the Eucharist, and the prayer

of oblation which followed it, were laid aside. The Habits for the ministers of religion, which had been enjoined by the former Rubrick, were by this order to be discontinued, and at the end of the Communion service a Rubrick was added, to explain the reason of kneeling at the sacrament. With these additions and alterations, the Liturgy was again confirmed by Parliament. In the first year of Mary, both tbis and the for. mer act made in 1548, were repealed, as a preparatory step to the restoration of the mass, and all the superstitions of Popery.

The accession of Elizabeth was soon followed by an act to reverse the repeal of the first year of Queen Mary, and another review was appointed to be taken of King Edward's Liturgies. For this service ten eminent Divines were selected, at the head of whom was Dr. Parker, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury. Mr. Grindall, afterwards Bishop of London, and finally promoted to the see of Canterbury, formed one of the number. These Di. vines proposed the second book of King Edward, which was established by the three branches of the Legislature, with very few alterations. The last deprecation in the Litany in both the books of Edward, “ From the tyranny of the Bishop of Rome and all his detestable enormities, &c.” was left out. To the first petition for the Queen these words were added strengthen in the true wor

« AnteriorContinuar »