THE OCCASIONAL FORM OF PRAYER, FOR
LONDON: WHITTAKER AND CO.
TO THE REV. W. F. HOOK, D. D.,
Vicar of Leeds.
IS INSCRIBED AS AN OFFERING OF AFFECTION
HUGH B. SMYTH, A.M.
I HAVE been so often called upon to explain the differences of opinion and diversities of practice which exist in the Church, with regard to the four Occasional Services, that I have been induced to state at some length my own reasons for their observance.
It will be remarked that I have considered them rather as a Declaration of Principles than a Commemoration of Events.
And in this I think their main utility consists. No commemorations however accurately observed can keep alive public interest, in events which are constantly fading into greater distance.
The interest which surrounds the execution of Charles I., the Restoration of Charles II., the landing of William III., have diminished and will diminish in each succeeding generation, unless some coincidence in passing events invests them with temporary importance.But the principles of which these Anniversaries are the exponent—our horror of Revolutionary License and Bloodshed—our attachment to that Constitution of which an Hereditary Monarchy is the keystone, our maintenance of a Reformed and Protestant Church——these principles, thank God, remain as fresh as ever among us.
“Our Will and Pleasure is, That these four forms of Prayer and Service made for the Fifth of November, The Thirtieth of January, The Twenty-Ninth of May, and the Twentieth of June, be forthwith printed and published and annexed to the Book of Common Prayer and Liturgy of the United Church of England and Ireland, to be used yearly on the said Days in all . . . . . Parish Churches and Chapels, within those parts of our United Kingdom called England and Wales.
“Given at our Court at Kensington, the Twenty Fourth Day of June, 1837, in the first year of our reign.”
“Deliver me from blood guiltiness, O God, thou that art the God of our Salvation, and our tongue shall sing of thy righteousness.”—PSALM li. 14.
IT may perhaps be a subject of surprise to you when I say it is my intention this day to address you in support of the claims on your observance, of that Special Service which has been commended by the Civil Power, to the adoption of the Clergy of our Church, on the Thirtieth of January, being the anniversary of “The Day of the Martyrdom of the blessed King Charles the First.”
It has become, I am well aware, almost the rule amongst those who are most distinguished for their obedience to the rubrical directions of the church, to neglect all those services which are connected with our National History, and to refuse to interrupt our spiritual services by any purely Secular commemorations.
Now, whilst deprecating this practice, I am ready at once to admit that it may be defended by much cogent and plausible reasoning.
It is objected in the first place, that though these services were doubtless compiled originally by those high in authority in the church, yet they have never (at [8/9] least in their present form) received her legislative consideration or been submitted for her formal and legal sanction, that they come to us simply as the will of the civil power. [And yet it is remarkable that both these acts, together with the act for the Thirtieth of January, appoint those several days to be solemnly observed and both suppose and enact that proper prayers shall be used on those days: and yet not one of them provides for or establishes any office for the use of either one or the other of these said days: Nor have our Kings, by whose order and direction alone these several offices are printed and annexed to the Book of Common Prayer, and appointed to be used on their respective days, any power or authority invested in them by King Charles II’s Act of Uniformity to establish or enjoin any other form than that which is provided in the Book of Common Prayer, or to do anything else in connection with that book, than to alter from time to time the names of the King, Queen, and Royal Progeny. So that it might be very well questioned whether these or any other occasional offices put forth by the same order could safely be used, were it not for the general concurrence.”—Wheatly’s Illustration of the Book of Common Prayer.]
I admit at once the apparent force of this objection; I do most heartily agree with all that can be said in favour of maintaining the spiritual independence of the church. Opposite dangers threaten communities at different periods of their history. There was a time no doubt, when the authority of the Church of England was so undisputed, when her prerogatives were so large when all liberty of conscience, and Freedom of Discussion on Doctrinal Points, and all Diversity of rule in Religious Practices were so completely suppressed, that there was an imminent danger lest trusting mainly to the arbitrary power with which the laws invested her, the Church should seek to hold in unwilling bondage, those whom it is her proper province to conciliate by her gentleness and love and forbearance, whilst she guides them by an authority founded rather on her divine commission than on legal enactments.
 But the Customs, and Laws, and Mind of the People of England, and the Church of England have changed since those days.
To protest against Spiritual Power in these days, to arm against Spiritual Oppression, to fear the machinations of Priestcraft as connected with the Church of England at least, is simply a delusion; it is to fight against the phantoms of the past, and to disregard the living danger which surrounds us—The danger I mean lest the church, influenced as she always has been and must be by popular feeling, and conforming herself to popular opinion, should become irregular in her practice, indistinct and confused in her teaching, and should thus ultimately weaken that authority and respect without which her divine commission can never with effect be exercised.
I repeat then, that I heartily concur in the feeling which declares itself jealous to maintain the spiritual independance of the Church. But I think that this feeling is exaggerated into what I should, for want of a more applicable term, describes as Pedantry, when it leads to the repudiation of those services which are connected with events in our national history.
I may go further than this and say that I think the desire for their performance comes to us with peculiar propriety from the civil power. It appears to me that with regard to this Thirtieth of January, the nation may reasonably come to a National Church, and say: “Here we recognize a grevious [11/2] blot in our National History, we desire to efface it,— here is a grievous National Sin, it is a burden upon the national conscience. Revelation teaches us that the sins of the Fathers, by an Almighty Edict, shall descend on the children in their consequences; proclaim a fast, call a solemn assembly, that the nation may annually humble itself, and efface its crime by that penitence which through the merits and atonement of the eternal Mediator washeth away national not less than individual sins—here is a point in our national history where we committed a great and grevious error, we call upon you still as its anniversary returns, to proclaim the warning it conveys.”
I think, I repeat, the nation has a right to make this demand on its church as regards this anniversary, just as it has a right on the other anniversaries to say:
“Here at this epoch we recognize the restoration of civil order, and social rights, and true religion; we desire solemnly to record our gratitude for it.” [The Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, commemorated by the observance of the Twenty-ninth of May.]
“Here again the nation had a most merciful deliverance from most utter ruin, we would praise the God who preserved us, we would never forget his benefits.” [When King James I. and the three Estates of England were delivered from the most traitorous Massacre by Gunpowder, on the Fifth of November, and King William III. arrived for the deliverance of our Church and Nation.]
“Here on the Anniversary of the accession of our [12/13] Sovereign in the proper exercise of her Hereditary Right, we call on you to give us the opportunity, most solemnly, in the presence of our God, of testifying our attachment to that principle of Hereditary Succession in which we recognize the great bulwark of our Social Order, and our Constitutional Rights, and of expressing our boundless gratitude for the boon He has bestowed on us as a people, by giving to us in a bloodless and peaceful course of social amelioration, those privileges of Civil and Religious Liberty which other nations have in vain by long and bloody strife laboured to acquire, or having acquired have lost apparently from utter inability to enjoy them.” [Service for the Twentieth of June, being the day on which Her Majesty began her happy reign.]
Such national demands as these, are surely entirely compatible with the most perfect spiritual independance of the Church, and they seem to me, to demand not a reluctant but most willing compliance.
For what are they but so many tokens, that in this native land of ours, the True Church, the Church which we recognize as the Church of Christ, is also the Church of the Nation.
It is true there are many who deprecate this title of a National Church, who maintain that the Church would gain immeasurably in purity of life, and power of discipline if the multitude of nominal members who now defile her by their sin, disgrace her by their ignorance, despise her teaching, and neglect her ordinances were separated from her body.
 I admit that the Church by such separation might be the gainer as far as the Spiritual Life of her members is concerned, it is true that though a far smaller, she would be a far more perfect body; but my brethren, can there be any man in whose breast one shade of patriotism exists, who does not shrink in horror from the national misery which must follow?
With all the appliances and resources of a National Church, with all the claims legal and moral which the bulk of the population have on the Ministrations of a National Church, and the labours of a National Clergy, we know (and mourn over it bitterly) that there are thousands around us who are born into the Nation but never brought into the Church, whose neglected youth no church teaching guides, whose manhood of care and toil and strife no church ordinances support, whose decaying and dying life no church consolations hollow, who are born, and live, and die, Heathens in a Christian Land.
And if these appliances and resources which it is vain to hope any missionary zeal could permanently replace, if these claims of the population which I fear no other sanction could so adequately support, if these were removed, as far as human foresight can penetrate the future, what a deluge of spiritual darkness and hopeless infidelity, and unchecked sin would desolate our land, sweeping away with it not only all religious observances, and spiritual faith, but all social rights, and all social order!
 No, my brethren, let this be our pride, and not our shame, let us thank our God constantly for this, that we have a National Church, and let it be the aim of the Church to guard indeed with jealous care the purity of her doctrines and the authority of her discipline, but let her be careful also not to reject the national sympathy or be reluctant to identify herself with the national life, who knows how much by hearty sympathy and ready co-operation she may disarm state jealousy and conciliate to herself national love, and national confidence.
But again, it is urged as an objection, that by this service, Church is identifying herself too closely with a political party, that this service is connected with the support of arbitrary power, and the most extravagant doctrines of the Divine Right of Kings.
I confess I do not see the connection—none can more strongly deprecate than I do the exclusive adhesion of the Church to any one political party, to carry out completely the idea of a National Church, it is clear that as a Church she must abjure politics what ever course her ministers in the individual exercise of their rights as citizens may adopt. I think it the most cheering sign of the healthier tone of the English Church, of her more promising prospects, to watch how in each successive Administration we observe love and devotion to the Church avowedly influencing many of its leading members. But I do not see of necessity why this service should be connected with political feeling.
 It appears to me that not merely the most advanced Liberal but the most hearty and decided Republican might join in this national service, or at least respect this national feeling.
For in these days not only all Church teaching, but all philosophical observation of history, deprecates regicide not only as a great national sin, but an enormous mistake even in revolutionary policy. [Thus Lamartine, the spirit of the French Revolution of 1848, condemns the execution of Louis XVI. in these words: “Who then had a right to condemn the King and say with justice “Thou shalt die”? A Legal Trial was but hypocrisy, the axe alone was logical. But the use of the axe after the combat when exercised on an unarmed man, in the name of his enemies, what is that termed in every language? A cold blooded and inexcusable murder. The death of Louis XVI. alienated from the cause (of the Revolution) that immense part of the population who only judge of human events by their hearts. Human nature is pathetic and the republic forgetting this gave to Royalty an appearance of martyrdom, to liberty an appearance of vengeance. It thus prepared a reaction against the republican cause, and ranged on the side of royalty the sensibility, the interest and the tears of part of the people. The republicans are most bound to deplore this blood, for it is on their cause that it has fallen: it is this blood that has lost them the Republic. (History of the Girondists.)]
When the Regicides signed the death-warrant of Charles the First, with a brutal jest, they thought and this has been made the groundwork of their most able apology, that the respect which had hedged in the monarchy was for ever broken down, that when men saw in their King a criminal brought to an ignominious execution, the dignity of the kingly office would be for ever gone. [Cromwell himself gay, noisy daring as ever, gave way to his usual coarse buffoonery, after having signed himself, he was the third to do so he smeared with ink Henry Martyn’s face who sat near him, who immediately did the same to him.”—Guizot’s History of the French Revolution.]
 Vain thought! God never permits those feelings which for the preservation of social order and social happiness, he has made inherent in the heart of man to be uprooted by means so violent and lawless. [Surely there is more than a mere coincidence in the similarity of the effect produced on the public mind, by the executions of Charles I. and Louis XVI. The former is thus described by Hume: “It is impossible to describe the grief, indignation and astonishment which took place not only among the spectators but throughout the whole nation, as soon as the report of the fatal execution was conveyed to them. On weaker minds the effect of these complicated feelings was prodigious—women are said to have cast forth the untimely fruit of their womb: others fell into convulsions, or sunk into such a melancholy as attended them to their graves: nay some unmindful of themselves as though they could not, or would not survive their beloved Prince, it is reported suddenly fell dead.” Lamartine thus describes the immediate result of the execution of Louis XVI. on the public mind: “The death of Louis XVI, the astonishment, profanation and grief produced such an agitation of feeling throughout the empire, that all who did not participate in the stoicism of the Judges were overcome with horror and consternation. It appeared to men that such a sacrilege must bring down upon the nation who had committed or allowed it, one of those vengeances in which heaven demands for the blood of one just man the blood of a whole people—Men died of grief on learning the completion of the sacrifice, and others lost their senses—Women flung themselves from the roofs of houses on to the pavement beneath, and from the bridges of Paris into the Seine, &c.,”—History of the Girondists, Lib. xxxvi.]
It was a bitter irony upon the foresight of these political fanatics that the very purpose they were most confident the execution of their King would serve, was most completely and utterly frustrated by it, even around the scaffold there arose a cry of popular weeping which testified that the revulsion of public feeling had begun, [17/18] a reaction which remained unchecked, not only until the despised institution was restored but until it had invested with respect almost fanatical and rights almost divine, one of the most profligate and contemptible of men. [“In no long time it became evident that these political and religious zealots had committed not only a crime but an error. They had given to a prince hitherto chiefly known to his people by his faults, an opportunity of displaying as on a great theatre before the eyes of all nations and all ages, some qualities which irresistibly call forth the admiration and love of mankind, the high spirit of a gallant gentleman, the patience and meekness of a penitent christian—nay they so contrived their revenge that the very man whose whole life had been a series of attacks on the liberties of England, seemed to die a MARTYR in the cause of those very liberties.—No Demagogue ever produced on the public mind such an impression as the captive King, who retaining in that extremity all his regal dignity, and confronting death with dauntless courage, gave utterance to the feelings of his oppressed people. * * His long misgovernment * * was forgotten,—His memory was in the mind of his people associated with those free institutions which he had laboured to destroy. * * From that time began a reaction in favour of monarchy and of the exiled house, a reaction which never ceased till the throne had again been set up in all its old dignity.—Macauley’s History of England, vol. i. page 128.]
Yes my brethren, God will teach men that no such lawless outrage can abrogate that social order which He has appointed; and indeed the lesson has been learnt, the principle is admitted in practice if not in theory. The Revolutionists of France in the last century inaugurated their social convulsion with a regicide but the Revolutionists of the present century have learnt wisdom by experience, and claim at least this merit, that they have abjured the idea of sealing a revolution with the blood of a King. [The thought which had been impressed the evening before by Lamartine, could not fail at such an hour to rise to their lips. * * Louis Blanc proceeded to give expression to it, “I was, Gentlemen,” said he, “forcibly struck with the idea of M. de Lamartine, * * the idea of disarming the people of that punishment of death which saddens hearts, envenoms opinions, and imbrues the conquests and even virtues of the people in blood. I demand therefore that we deliberate anew upon the proposition of M. de Lamartine, and that we grant to humanity this gift as a joyous welcome to democracy.” The deliberation was a short interchange of assent and reciprocal congratulations * * Lamartine was intrusted with this appeal to the heart of the people * * A slight hesitation of astonishment was manifested among some groups. A murmur might destroy all, but it did not burst forth. The decree was received as the message of good tidings of humanity.”—Lamartine’s History of the French Revolution of 1848, Lib. viii.]
One other objection to this service remains, one most of all calculated to command our respect, since it [18/19] springs from a jealousy not merely for the honour which is due to our’ Church, but the honour which is due to the only begotten Son of God, the Head of the Church.
It is said that the parallel which is drawn through out the service between the Death of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah, and this weak mortal man our Monarch Charles I., approaches nearly to blasphemy.
But here too, I think, the objection (increased no doubt by a carelessness which has mistaken the second lesson of the day for a second lesson appointed for the anniversary) is founded on an utterly erroneous idea of the intention with which the parallel has been drawn. [“As for the Second Lesson, it is no other than that appointed by the Church in ordinary course to be read on the Thirtieth of January, for by a signal Providence the bloody rebels chose that day for murdering the King, on which the history of our Saviour’s sufferings was appointed to be read in ordinary course: And therefore when Bishop Juxton (who read the morning service immediately before his martyrdom) named this chapter, the good Prince asked him if he had singled it out as fit for the occasion, and when he was informed it was the lesson for the day, could not without singular complacency and joy admire how singularly it concurred with his circumstances.”— Wheatley’s Rational Illustration of the Book of Common Prayer.]
My brethren, we one and all of us profess to be earnestly following the steps of Jesus of Nazareth, God and [19/20] man, it is our greatest consolation if we can find that by constant discipline and earnest prayer we accomplish something of this following, it is the aim of our Church’s ordinances, it is the aim of our Church’s teaching to assimilate the life and death of her members to the life and death of her Head. We set him before you always as the perfect Type of manhood. And if in times past one of the members of the Church, one who was her Temporal Head, so gloriously learned this lesson, so fully imbued his heart with this teaching, that when the hour of greatest trial came, he could refuse to purchase life and liberty by the surrender of a sacred trust, becoming thereby a Martyr, in the name of God, why should we not commemorate his Martyrdom? [“The Church of England can boast of the only Royal Martyr, our glorious Martyr King Charles I., having been dethroned by the Presbyterians was murdered by the Independents.”—Hook’s Church Dictionary, art. “Martyr,” p. 392. “His rebellious subjects having got him into their power, demanded of him to consent to the selling and alienating the revenues of the Church, and to the abolishing and laying aside the government of it by Bishops according to the institution of Christ and his Apostles and if he would not consent to the destruction of the Church according to those propositions, he could expect no other but to be destroyed himself—A sad dilemma! But the good King bore up against it, as one who would rather sacrifice his life than his conscience. “I will never (saith he in his private meditations on the subject) consent to more than justice, honour, and religion persuade me to be for God’s glory, the Church’s good, my people’s welfare, and my own peace.” A most christian resolution which he kept, and strictly performed to the last.”—Beveridge’s Sermons on Particular occasions, Sermon 10.]
If when called upon like his Great Master to meet death in the shape of a public and ignominious execution, he could cause all men to draw a parallel between the meekness and love and resignation of the Master, [20/21] and the Servant, why should not we commemorate and glory in the likeness? If at his trial our blessed Lord like a sheep before her shearers is dumb so opened not his mouth, and our Martyred Monarch remembering this spake no word of bitter reviling, why should we not commemorate this perfect following of Him? If our Blessed Lord prayed for his enemies with his dying breath “Father forgive them for they know not what they do,” and His royal follower in meek forgiveness prayed for those who had poisoned the happiness of his life and successfully resisted his authority, and now with aggravated cruelty were hounding him to death; why, I ask, should we not glory in this triumph of the Redeemed over the Natural Man?
I am not here to pronounce a panegyric on the character of Charles I., I do not conceal his encroachments on the rights and liberties of his subjects, I am not here to defend the weakness and wavering of his Administration I need not strive to do so, because the less strong he was in prosperous and active life, the greater the glory of that faith which so nobly sustained him in death.
And now my brethren I must conclude, I have had a small space for so large a subject, but if I have said anything to harmonize in your minds the claims of the nation and the rights of the Church, to implant or confirm in your hearts that love and respect for social order, and social justice, the existence of which is the glory of Englishmen, and the happiness of England, the want of which has been the fruitful source of the misery and [21/22] degredation of less favoured nations, then if I have done this, not in vain for this one occasion have I left the Spiritual to speak of the Temporal, not in vain have I dwelt on the History of Man rather than on that which is ever our chiefest and most glorious theme the power of the Eternal Godhead, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, to whom Father, Son and Holy Ghost be now and ever ascribed all Might, Majesty and Dominion.
He nothing common did, or mean,
Upon that memorable scene,
But with his keener eye,
The axe’s edge did try,
Nor called on God with vulgar spite
To vindicate his helpless right;
But bowed his comely head
Down as upon a bed.