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ANY truly great and learned men, of the
Church of England, as well divines as laymen, have earnestly wished to see their Liturgy reformed; but hitherto all attempts to reform it have proved ineffectual. The late happy revolution here hath forever separated all the Episcopal Societies in the United States of America from the Church of England, of which the King of that country is the supreme head, to whom all Archbishops, Bishops, Priests, and Deacons of that Church are obliged to take an oath of allegiance and supremacy, at the time of their consecration or ordination. Being torn from that King and Church, the Society for whose use this Liturgy is published, think themselves at liberty, and well justified even by the declarations of the Church of England, in making such alterations as “the exigency of the times and occasions hath rendered expedient,” and in expunging everything which gave, or might be suspected to give, offence to tender consciences; guiding themselves, however, by “the holy Scriptures, which,” they heartily agree with the Church
of England,"contain all things necessary to salvation,” and that “whatsoever is not read therein, nor can be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.”
In the thirty-fourth of the Articles of the Church of England, it is declared, That “it is not necessary that traditions and ceremonies be in all places one, or utterly like; for at all times they have been diverse, and may be changed according to the diversity of countries, times, and men's manners, so that nothing be ordained against God's word.” And by the twentieth of those Articles it is declared, that “the Church hath power to decree rites and ceremonies, and authority in controversies of faith.” What is there meant by the word Church, will appear from the nineteenth of those Articles, which declares, “ The visible Church of Christ is a Congregation of faithful men, in which the pure word of God is preached, and the sacraments be duly ministered, according to Christ's ordinance, in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same. As the Church of Hierusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch have erred, so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in living, and manner of ceremonies, but also in matters of faith.” At the Reformation, when the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England was compiled, the Committee appointed to execute that business were obliged to proceed very tenderly and with great delicacy, for fear of offending the whole body of the people, just torn from the idolatrous Church of Rome; and many things were then retained, which have, in later times, given great offence to many truly pious Christians.
The Liturgy, contained in this volume, is such as 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, in obedience to his positive command.* The Gloria Patri, made and introduced into the Liturgy of the Church of Rome by the decree of Pope Damasus, towards the latter part of the fourth century, and adopted into the Book of Common Prayer, is not in this Liturgy. Instead of that doxology, doxologies from the pure word of God are introduced. It is not our wish to make proselytes to any particular system of opinions of any particular sect of Christians. Our earnest desire is to live in brotherly love and peace with all men, and especially with those who call themselves the disciples of JESUS CHRIST.
In compiling this Liturgy 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. Several of Mr. Lindsey's amendments are adopted entire. The alterations which are taken from him, and the others which are made, excepting the prayers for Congress and the General Court, are none of them novelties; for they have been proposed and justified by some of the first divines of the Church of England.
* In the original preface a large number of texts were quoted in support of this position, which it was not thought necessary to insert at present. This first edition was published in the year 1785.