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THE change introduced in the edition of 1785,
and described in the foregoing Preface by Dr. Freeman, was of a kind which can never be looked back upon by those who use this Liturgy, otherwise than with feelings of grateful satisfaction. In the then existing state of the Theological world, it required, on the part of Dr. Freeman and his associates, a fidelity to their convictions, a sincere and simple reverence for what they believed to be the truth of God, a disregard for all secondary and personal considerations, which will cause their names to be held in honor so long as the Church shall stand. It was an auspicious revolution which emancipated the forms of worship from the unwarranted restrictions of creeds framed by men, and restored the worshipper to the freedom of the Gospel.
In the successive editions published since 1785, the changes which appear consist principally of additions. They were made for the most part under the direction of Dr. Greenwood, whose pure taste and fervent piety eminently qualified him for the task. Since the first edition the Psalter has been abridged; and, wherever the sense or the diction appeared to require it, instead of the old translation, the version of the common English Bible, or some other approved translation, has been adopted. Several Occasional Services, a second Evening Service, Services for the annual Fast and Thanksgiving, Prayers for Families, Services for Sunday Schools, and Collects for particular occasions, have been added. Except in these particulars, the book remains in every important respect as it was.
All change, not obviously necessary, has been avoided. Experience has abundantly shown that it is difficult to improve these simple and venerable forms of worship, through which originally the most profound sentiments of devotion found utterance, and which still, better than any other human compositions, give expression to the religious wants and aspirations of the human heart. The substance of the Morning and of the Evening Service is derived from those early formularies of the primitive Church, from which the Lutheran and the English, the Greek and the Roman Churches, drew their respective modes of worship. The words which guide our devotional meditations have, in large part, been used for centuries, and are still used for the same purpose, by the great body of believers throughout Christendom. Many of the sentences are found in the earliest records of Christian devotion. The very phrases of invitation and benediction which we repeat, were repeated in secret chambers and torch-lighted catacombs, by those who
commemorated Christ by night, at the peril of martyrdom on the morrow. The same words of blessing, “Peace be with you,” “The Lord be with you,” reminded men then, as now, of their common dependence on God. While theological speculations tend to separate Christians, our devotional forms have an opposite tendency to counteract this influence, by putting each worshipper into conscious relations with the whole Christian Church. Besides this, the associations which gradually collect around a Book of Common Prayer not only add to its interest and value, but in time constitute an essential part of the work itself. The child reads the same page which his parents read, and his devotions are warmed and hallowed by his remembrance of the affection and the faith of those, who may have been called from the worship of an earthly temple to a holier worship in Heaven. For such reasons as these, while additions have been made as circumstances required, it has been thought important to abstain carefully from all needless alterations.
TN the present edition a few Collects from ancient
liturgies, and Prayers for special occasions, have been added. The Confirmation Service, at page 249, is taken from the “Common Prayer for Christian Worship” of Dr. Sadler and Rev. James Martineau. It is not inserted as an obligatory service, but as enriching the devotional treasures of this Liturgy, and to meet the desire, sometimes felt in the early freshness of religious experience, for an open form of Christian profession.
The only other changes from the previous edition have been conformed to the principles laid down in the foregoing preface, and are confined to some verbal alterations in the Psalter, and in the Occasional Services.