Project Canterbury

The Parson’s Handbook

By the Rev. Percy Dearmer, M.A.

London: Grant Richards, 1899



The object of this Handbook is to help, in however humble a way, towards remedying the lamentable confusion, lawlessness, and vulgarity which are conspicuous in the Church at this time.

1. The confusion is due to the want of liturgical knowledge among the clergy, and of consistent example among those in authority. Some years ago it was natural and inevitable; but at the present day it has no right to exist. For a number of diligent scholars and liturgical experts have settled the main points beyond reasonable dispute. All that is wanted is for that knowledge to be disseminated; and it is with this object that the present Handbook is put forth, by one whose only claim to consideration is that he has attempted to popularise the conclusions of those far more conversant with the matter than himself.

2. The lawlessness is due to more complex causes. It is not confined, as is popularly supposed, to the ‘advanced’ clergy. Indeed it is even greater among those who are called ‘moderate’ and among those who dislike all ceremonial. Among all classes its ultimate cause is that congregationalist spirit which has been the inevitable outcome of a period of transition and confusion. Among those who dislike [2] ceremonial, the lawlessness is due to a conservatism which prefers late Hanoverian traditions to the plain words of the Prayer Book,-—an unfortunate position, both because those traditions belong to a period of exceptional sloth and worldliness, and also because the date of the Prayer Book makes it impossible for us to read it aright if we try to do so through Hanoverian spectacles. Wesley and the Oxford Methodists, who started the noble Evangelical revival, did not fall into this error; and, indeed, the very name of ‘Methodist’ (which meant what ‘Ritualist’ in its popular sense now means) was given to them because of their care in following the fasts and other observances of the Church.

The lawlessness of those at the other extreme, who are commonly called Ritualists (would that they always deserved the name!), was brought about by the troubles of the days of litigation. Their object at first was the very reverse of lawlessness: they wished only to obey the Prayer Book in all its rubrics. But, unfortunately, the prelates of those days were not conversant with the subject, and were not prepared to obey the Prayer Book. They allowed their clergy to be prosecuted by unconstitutional courts that did not scruple to insert the word ‘not’ into the Ornaments Rubric; they contented themselves with inveighing against such things as the use of the surplice in the pulpit, an essentially unimportant custom, which had been largely practised in the days of Queen Anne, and has now been eagerly adopted by the Evangelical clergy. Consequently the ‘ritualistic’ clergy were forced, in the interests of obedience to the Prayer Book, to disobey the Bishops. From that grew up unconsciously a spirit of confirmed lawlessness; and many of those who began by taking their stand on the Ornaments Rubric, ended by denying it in favour of the customs of a very hostile foreign Church; till they seemed [3] almost to agree with their former opponents that such ornaments as were in this Church of England in the second year of Edward VI. should not be in use to-day; and some of them seemed to prefer to the liturgical forms ‘in the said Book prescribed’ those forms which the Book had rather proscribed.

The lawlessness of those in the middle or ‘moderate ‘section has been due to that excellent spirit of compromise, which, however, if it be not rightly used, ends in a mere combination of the errors of both extremes. As it is not generally understood that in ‘moderate’ churches the Prayer Book is largely disobeyed, one instance may here be given. The sermon is ordered in the Prayer Book to be preached at the Communion Service; and yet in churches of this description it is preached at Mattins, and thus the service which we get from the Bible is pushed on one side in favour of the service which we get from the monks. In the case of the Bishops and Cathedral dignitaries this lawlessness is aggravated by the fact that our own Canons order them specially to use the cope and the proper vestments for gospeller and epistler.

Recently, however, there has been a general move towards a more legitimate position. On the one hand, many of the Bishops have begun to accept the directions of the Prayer Book and Canons. On the other hand, many of the clergy have come to realise, with something of a shock, the untenable position into which they had drifted; and on all hands there is an openly-expressed readiness to obey lawful authority. This renewal of the spirit of Catholic obedience is of the happiest augury for the Church of England. It is in the hope that this Handbook may be able to assist in its practice that I am putting it forward at this time.

3. The vulgarity in the Church is due to less serious causes; but is none the less serious in its [4] effects. One who has spent much of his life among those who earn their living by writing and drawing may be allowed to assert that the alienation of these, perhaps the most influential classes in modern society, is one of the most startling facts that are before us. What it has already led to in France is obvious to every enquirer. How far it has already gone in England the tone of our newspapers shows. I have pointed out elsewhere that, did the Guild of St. Luke consist of that other profession of which the Saint is patron, there would not be a dozen men present at the annual service in St. Paul’s, instead of the immense crowd of medical men who now assemble there. It is not now science but art that is out of touch with religion. The doctors would not be there if the clergy had for the last fifty years steadily supported quackery, and refused to recognise the great advances made in medical science. This is exactly what has happened in the case of art. The clergy have worked on purely commercial lines; they are mostly even now content with decoration that is the ridicule of competent artists, or is ignored by them as not being even amusing; and the Church has almost entirely failed to call to her service the great artists and craftsmen of which the last generation produced so large a number. Her place as patroness of art has been taken by the merchants of Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool.

I acknowledge that the failure to retain these classes of brain-workers has been also due to other causes which are outside the province of this book-to our sermons, for instance. Yet it must be remembered that our Church is still the most learned Church in Christendom; and also that a want of grip of modern thought is as much shown in art as in anything else. In the case of music, which is in a more fortunate position than the other arts, it is recognised that those churches where the music is [5] bad drive away people with sensitive ears. It is not recognised that people with sensitive eyes are driven away by the excruciating faults from which very few indeed of our churches are free. And there is another class of persons concerned, the largest of all, the working class. For vulgarity in the long-run always means cheapness, and cheapness means the tyranny of the sweater. It has been pointed out that a modern preacher often stands in a sweated pulpit, wearing a sweated surplice over a suit of clothes that were not produced under fair conditions, and, holding a sweated book in one hand, with the other he points to the machine-made cross at the jerry-built altar, and appeals to the sacred principles of mutual sacrifice and love.

This vulgarity is due to much the same causes as the confusion and lawlessness of which I have already spoken. It is due to a failure to recognise the principle of authority; and authority is as necessary in art as it is in religion. Every one does what is right in his own eyes, because we have failed to recognise the first principles of the matter, the necessity of wholesome tradition on the one hand and of due deference to the artist’s judgment on the other. We do not listen to the artist when he tells us about art, and we are surprised that he does not listen to us when we tell him about religion. It is partly in the hope that this Handbook may help in restoring the ancient spirit of beauty in our churches that I venture to put it forward.

Fortunately our Church, in its wise persistent conservatism, refers us for our standard to a definite period of twelve months, in the loyal adoption of which standard both confusion and vulgarity would be as impossible as lawlessness. Much of the tawdry stupidity of our churches is due to the decline of art subsequent to that date, and to the senseless imitation of those meretricious ornaments, both of the [6] Church and its Ministers, with which ignorant and indiscreet persons have ruined the ancient beauty of Roman Catholic churches. We who loyally obey the Prayer Book are mercifully saved from the possibility of that barbarous degradation, which educated Frenchmen and Italians despise and regret not less than ourselves.


The cure, therefore, for all our troubles and deficiencies is to practise that loyal obedience to lawful authority which the clergy have sworn to do in the solemn declaration of the amended Canon 36:—

‘ I A. B. do solemnly make the following declaration: I assent to the thirty-nine Articles of Religion, and to the Book of Common Prayer, and of the Ordering of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. I believe the doctrine of the Church of England, as therein set forth, to be agreeable to the Word of God; and in public prayer and administration of the Sacraments I will use the Form in the said Book prescribed, and none other, except so far as shall be ordered by lawful authority.’

The Archbishop of Canterbury, in a recent charge at Maidstone, has pointed out that, though the Church of England wisely allows a certain amount of doctrinal latitude to her clergy, she is very strict as to ceremonial. The Declaration supports this statement; nothing more enthusiastic than ‘assent’ is required to the Articles, but the undertaking as to the forms of public prayer admits of no compromise.

Is there then any excuse for laxity in the conduct of public prayer and the administration of the Sacraments? Clearly not. Yet the popular idea is that the English Church is ‘comprehensive,’ and that its services can with equal loyalty be conducted in an infinite variety of ways; they can be ‘low,’ or ‘of a cathedral type,’ or ‘high,’ or even, strange as it may seem, ‘Roman.’ But this the Archbishop has [7] shown to be, like so many other popular ideas, a fallacy. The Church is comprehensive, but only on the doctrinal side. ‘It is the unity of ceremonial that makes the toleration of diversity of opinion possible. The ceremonial stands before us as the order of the Church. The teaching is, and must be to a very large extent, the voice of the individual. The ceremonial is for all alike.’

Yet, no doubt, the Archbishop himself would allow a certain toleration of disobedience, even in ceremonial; for we live in a time of transition when the rigid use of authority would be disastrous, and even unjust. Those who disobey, for instance, the Ornaments Rubric, or those Canons upon which the Archbishop based his claim for obedience, he would yet, I imagine, allow to continue in their laxity, both for the sake of peace and a true far-reaching justice, and because, when an acknowledged duty has been in abeyance for centuries, the revival of its claim must necessarily be gradual and tender. The obedience, therefore, with which we are concerned at the present time is a voluntary obedience. We are impelled, not by a Star Chamber but by Conscience, to obey. We are put upon our honour to conform to the Prayer Book as completely as we can; and even school-boys know that obedience under these conditions is that which must be most thoroughly, most loyally, and most honourably given.

The Church of England, then, is not that flaccid thing which some seem to suppose. She ‘has a mind of her own; a mind, and therewith a character, a temperament, a complexion; and of this mind the Prayer Book is the main and representative expression.’[1]

How are we to discover that mind, how are we to carry out that unity of ceremonial which stands [8] before us as the order of the Church? It is not, I think, difficult if we go straight to the Prayer Book.

1. ‘The Church,’ says our Twentieth Article, ‘hath power to decree rites or ceremonies,’ but not ‘to ordain anything that is contrary to God’s Word written,’ nor ‘to decree anything against the same.’[2] As a preliminary, then, the mind of the Church is to be sought in the Bible upon which it is based.

Now it is certain that the worship described both in the Old and New Testaments is what is called ‘ritualistic.’ The minute directions as to the ornaments and vestments of the ministers are familiar to every reader of the Pentateuch; and these directions go even into such detail as the proper ingredients of incense[3] Nor is there any hint that this ritualism was to be dropped under the New Covenant, as is sometimes gratuitously assumed. Our Lord attended the ritualistic services of the Temple; nay, He was careful to be present at those great feasts when the ceremonial was most elaborate. Yet no word of censure ever escaped His lips. This was the more remarkable, because He was evidently far from ignoring the subject. No one ever appreciated the danger of formalism so keenly as He: He did condemn most strongly the vain private ceremonies of the Pharisees. Also, on two occasions He cleansed the Temple, driving out, not those who adorned it with ceremonial, but those who dishonoured it with commercialism. That is to say, His only interference with the ritualistic worship of the Temple was to secure it against profane interruption.

The use of incense is a good test as to the continuance of ceremonial under the New Covenant; because it is now regarded, even by some Bishops, as a mark of extreme ritualism. Its use is mentioned in the last prophetic book of the Old Testament[4] as [9] one of the signs of the New Covenant. The birth of the Fore-runner was announced to his father when ‘his lot was to burn incense,’[5] a singularly inopportune moment from the Puritan point of view. One of the three significant gifts offered to our Lord at His birth was incense.[6] In the Revelation an account is given of the ideal worship of the redeemed, by one who, more than any other man, had opportunities of knowing our Lord’s mind upon the subject. Now the worship he describes is again ritualistic; and the use of no less than twenty-eight ‘bowls’ of incense is mentioned.[7] It is mentioned again three chapters further on[8] in a manner that is significant; for it is then used ceremonially at the altar. The angel stands ‘at (or over) the altar, having a golden censer,’ he is given ‘much incense,’ to ‘add it unto the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar.’ ‘And the smoke of the incense, with (or for) the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand.’ The Sarum Missal itself hardly gives a more complete description of the ceremonial use of incense.

2. The next step towards arriving at the mind of the English Church is to read the Title-page of the Prayer Book, where, if anywhere, one might expect to find a succinct description of its contents. As a matter of fact we do find such a description:—

The Book of
Common Prayer
and administration of
The Sacraments
and other
Rites and Ceremonies of the Church
According to the Use of
The Church of England.

[10] It is no new manual, then, of Protestant devotions, to be carried out in some new-fangled way, but it contains the ordinary services of the Catholic Church, of which the Church of England is a part. In accordance with the ancient right of each national Church—even of each diocese—to frame its own ‘use’ of these Catholic rites and ceremonies, the Prayer Book hereby establishes the English Use.

3. This takes us one step farther, to the prefaces of the Prayer Book. The first of these, ‘The Preface,’ is the latest in point of time, having been written in 1661; and it is the least important, being mainly taken up with a refutation of Puritan objections. It gives excellent reasons for the last revision,[9] mentioning among other improvements those made ‘for the better direction’ of the clergy, ‘in the Calendars and Rubricks,’ which improvements, it is well known, all emphasised the Catholic character of our services. Referring to some of the Puritan proposals it incidentally repeats the claim we have already noticed in the title-page; these proposals it accuses of ‘secretly striking at some established doctrine, or laudable practice of the Church of England, or indeed of the whole Catholick Church of Christ.’

Far more important are the next two prefaces, which are taken from the First Prayer Book of 1549. The first, ‘Concerning the Service of the Church,’ is an adaptation of that to the reformed Breviary of Cardinal Quignon, which it follows in all essentials. This model, which the English Church thought the best for that of the introduction to its Book of [11] Common Prayer, was published by authority of Pope Clement VII. in 1535. Nothing could more clearly show the Catholic idea which the compilers of our Prayer Book had of the meaning of the word ‘reformed.’ The words of the preface make this point still clearer. It is not concerned with sacraments or ceremonial, but throughout only with the practical question of restoring the lectionary and psalter to its ancient thoroughness and simplicity in accordance with the ‘godly and decent order of the ancient Fathers.’ Four times in this short preface is the authority of these ‘ancient Fathers’ invoked. In accordance with their example the language is to be that which is understood; untrue, uncertain, and superstitious readings are to be dropped, and nothing to be read that is not in Scripture, or ‘agreeable to the same.’ This is the most important of our prefaces, because it stood alone at the head of the First Prayer Book, and it has been with us ever since. If Cranmer meant that Book to lead to Protestant practices, he certainly concealed his purpose remarkably well.[10]

This preface concludes with a reference to the Bishop, which it is important to notice at the present time. The Bishop of the diocese (and, failing him, the Archbishop) is to ‘take order for the quieting and appeasing of any ‘doubts’ that may arise, but only ‘so that the same order be not contrary to anything contained in this Book.’ He is the servant of the Church, not its master, the administrator of its ritual, not its maker. The same principle appears in the 74th Canon, of Decency of Apparel,—’We therefore, following their [“the ancient and flourishing Churches of Christ”] grave judgment, and the ancient custom [12] of the Church of England, and hoping that in time newfangledness in apparel[11] in some factious persons will die of itself, do constitute and appoint, that the Archbishops and Bishops shall not intermit to use the accustomed apparel of their degrees.’

The third preface, ‘Of Ceremonies, why some be retained, and some abolished,’ is also probably by Cranmer. In the First Book it was placed at the end,[12] and was followed by ‘certain notes’ which ordered the use of certain vestments to be mentioned later, and, after the example of the old Missals, allowed of the omission of the Gloria, Creed, etc. on some occasions. The ceremonies it speaks of as abolished could not, at least, be the use of those vestments, nor such things as Unction and Mass for the dead, which were ordered in that Book; nor those which were allowed in that Book,[13] ‘kneeling, crossing, holding up of the hands, knocking upon the breast, and other gestures.’

What ceremonies, then, were abolished? Clearly, it could be only those which were abolished by the authority of the Church. Mr. Perry long ago pointed out that those characteristic acts of Tudor tyranny, the Injunctions of Henry, Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth, ‘were grounded on the ecclesiastical supremacy of the Crown, a prerogative which did not in reality confer upon the sovereign a right to make laws for the Church, and which was not even by authority of Parliament.’ As to what ceremonies were abolished the preface is studiously vague. There is no hint of any revolutionary change in ritual, though there is a wholesome reminder of the fact that ‘Christ’s Gospel is not a ceremonial law.’ It is assumed throughout that only those ceremonies have been changed which the rubrics of the Book explicitly claim to have changed.

[13] And it was not ritualism, nor beauty, nor symbolism, that was abolished, but certain ceremonies, some of which, indeed, at the first were of godly intent and purpose devised, ‘but had at length turned to vanity and superstition.’ It is precisely, by the way, for these reasons that practices have been over and over again abolished in the Roman Church itself, where yet indiscreet devotion’ still works such havoc. Some, by ‘the great excess and multitude of them,’ had become an intolerable burden; but the ‘most weighty cause of the abolishment of certain ceremonies was that they had been so far abused’ by the ‘superstitious blindness’ of the ignorant and the ‘unsatiable avarice’ of those who traded on it, ‘that the abuses could not well be taken away, the thing remaining still.’ So, then, even those ceremonies which have been abolished were of godly intent originally, or at the worst due to undiscreet devotion and a zeal without knowledge, and were not removed for their own sake, but because of certain abuses which had fastened inseparably upon them.

This does not look much like a destruction of ritualism. Yet even this is further safeguarded in the next paragraph, by a cutting reply to those who wanted ‘innovations and newfangledness’—’surely when the old may be well used, then they cannot reasonably reprove the old only for their age, without bewraying of their own folly.’ Indeed so conservative is this preface that it does not hesitate to declare that innovations (‘ as much as may be with true setting forth of Christ’s religion’) are ‘always to be eschewed.’

After a happy apology for the retained ceremonies that they are ‘neither dark nor dumb,’ the preface concludes with the significant declaration that, while we claim our right to an English use, ‘we condemn no other nations,’ a remark which shows how far the spirit of the Prayer Book is removed from [14] the censorious Protestantism with which we are familiar.[14]

4. From the prefaces the Prayer Book takes us to the Calendar, where we find, as we should expect, a simplification indeed, but a simplification which contains all the main features of the old,—the great feasts, and the seasons, the saints’ days (which are broadly classified into two divisions only). Hidden away under the ‘Lessons proper for Holy-Days,’ as if specially to secure them against Puritan attacks, we find the old phrase the ‘Annunciation of our Lady,’ and the old names for the services of ‘Mattins’ and ‘Evensong.’ Passing through the Calendar, with its careful provision for a continuous reading of the Holy Bible, we come upon a list of the ‘Vigils, Fasts and Days of Abstinence’ which are ‘to be observed,’[15] as of old time.

From this we come to the rubric as to the ‘accustomed place’ in which Morning and Evening Prayer are to be said, a rubric that was revised in 1559 by the significant omission of the provision of the Second [15] Book, that the place shall be such, and the Minister shall so turn himself, ‘as the people may best hear.’ The concluding sentence, however, of the rubric in the Second Book—its one conservative provision— was carefully retained through all revisions—’And the Chancels shall remain as they have done in times past.’ No alteration of the pre-Reformation chancel was ordered in the First Book; the former arrangement was ordered to be continued in the Second Book, and each succeeding revision has repeated it verbatim. Yet a century ago in vast numbers of churches the chancels, instead of their remaining as in times past, were looked upon as a kind of lumber-room, to be cleared out once a quarter for the administration of the Holy Communion, or else as a place for the erection of select pews for those in goodly apparel to whom (on payment of a consideration) could be said, ‘Sit thou here in a good place.’[16] This alone would suffice to show how utterly different were the practices of our grandfathers from the mind of the Church of England.

So far, then, by a plain consideration of the introduction to the Prayer Book we have seen that its ‘mind’’ is steeped in the old ceremonial traditions of the Bible, of the ‘ancient Fathers,’ and of that which was old in the sense of being the medieval practice up to 1549; that it forbids any ceremonial principles contrary to those of the New Testament; that it refuses to condemn (though it does not sanction) the practices of any other nation; that it claims in the same spirit the old Catholic right to set forward an English use for its own people: that it declares its changes to be mainly necessitated by the use of a dead language, and by the existence of those abuses of avarice and ignorant superstition, which forced the Church to abolish certain ceremonies that in themselves were of godly intent; that it declares its preference, wherever it is [16] possible, for the old as against new-fangled innovations; that it is, in a word, a simplification of that which is primitive and medieval, and not in any sense a creation of a new Protestant ceremonial.

We have seen, further, how it retained the old arrangement of the Church’s year, with its fasts and festivals, and the old arrangement of the chancels. That it retained also all that was essential of the old Catholic services was admitted even in the eighteenth century. Indeed the Catholic nature of our ‘Popish Liturgy,’ as those call it who confuse what is Popish with what is Catholic, has been consistently urged against it by the Puritans, from the days of Thomas Cartwright[17] to the present time.

We have now only to consider the most important point of all, the Ornaments Rubric. This will show us how much of the old ceremonial is to be retained.

5. Some of our documents are studiously vague in their wording. But from such vagueness the Ornaments Rubric is conspicuously free:—

‘And here it is to be noted, That such Ornaments of the Church, and of the Ministers thereof, at all times of their Ministration, shall be retained, and be in use, as were in this Church of England, by the authority of Parliament, in the second year of the reign of King Edward the Sixth.’

This is the only direction we have as to what the priest is to wear,[18] and almost the only one as to what he is to use, in the services of the Church. It is our sole authority for the use of organs and lecterns, just as much as for that of censers and roods. We are nowhere else told to wear the surplice any more than the chasuble; for those Canons of 1603 that deal with vestments have been superseded by the re-enactment of this Rubric in 1662, and are only in [17] force because the vestments they order are included in the Rubric.[19] The only reason why the surplice was retained and the chasuble for so long in abeyance is that bishops thought well to enforce obedience to the law in one respect and not in the other. The Ornaments Rubric is in fact the ‘interpretation clause of the Prayer Book.’ It covers all the rubrics which are to follow. Through it alone can they be obeyed. The only point of difficulty about the Rubric is that it refers back to a certain period, instead of giving a detailed list of the ornaments and vestments to be used. Would it not have been clearer and more unmistakable, it may be objected, had such a list been given? But a very slight knowledge of English history shows that a list of this kind was not possible at any of the three occasions when the rubric was enacted. Until after the last Revision at the Restoration the idea of dissent was unknown. The Puritans were merely non-conforming churchmen, who continued to communicate at their parish churches, and were as much opposed to the idea of schism as the high churchmen themselves. Therefore every effort had to be made to allow them latitude until the fury should be over-past. The bishops found their hands full with trying to enforce the use of the surplice alone, at a time when a large number of the clergy insisted on wearing a cloak, sleeveless jacket, or horseman’s coat. So the first two publications of the Rubric (1559 and 1603-4) make a less specific declaration as to vestments than as to ornaments; and the Canons of the latter date were content with requiring copes in cathedral and collegiate churches only, their enforcement being hopelessly impossible in most parish churches. Therefore anything like a list of ornaments would have destroyed the very object for which the Rubric was inserted. Its supporters had to be content to wait for better times.

[18] That they deliberately intended it to mean at least the ornaments used under the First Prayer Book is clear from the character of those who secured its insertion at each revision. In 1559, shortly after Elizabeth’s accession, she secured its insertion, ‘until other order shall therein be taken,’ which order was never taken. She was notoriously in favour of keeping up the old ceremonial, though she was also anxious to avoid offence, and to rally round her the whole people, many of whom had been strongly moved in the Protestant direction by Mary’s persecutions.[20] All the alterations, too, of this third Prayer Book were of a markedly Catholic character. In 1604 the Rubric was again inserted. That the exposition of the Sacraments was added to the Catechism at this time, and the Canons issued which enforced the use of copes in cathedrals (in spite of the growing strength of Puritanism and the opposition at the Hampton Court Conference), shows that this second insertion also was deliberately made. In 1662 the Ornaments Rubric was again inserted for the third and last time, with the significant alteration that it was made explicitly to cover the vestments as well as the ornaments of the Church. Its reinsertion was thus very deliberately made, and was accompanied at this [19] time also with changes in the services themselves of a strongly Catholic character. So far from its being inserted carelessly, or from a mere regard for its antiquity, the Puritans formally objected to it at the Savoy Conference—

‘Forasmuch as this Rubric seemeth to bring back the Cope, Albe, etc., and other vestments forbidden by the Common Prayer Book, 5 and 6 Edw. vi. [that of 1552, which was cancelled in 1553], and so our reasons alleged against ceremonies under our eighteenth general exception, we desire that it may be wholly left out.’[21]

To this the Bishops replied, ‘We think it fit that the Rubric continue as it is.’[22] And they issued it most conspicuously with a page to itself, an arrangement which the printers have tampered with.

Thus, then, the fact that the ornaments had not in fact been ‘retained’ (for the churches had been spoiled, and the remnants of their ornaments abolished during the Commonwealth[23]) was not regarded as in the least preventing them being revived so that they should be ‘in use.’ Yet it has been sometimes urged, with more ingenuity than ingenuousness, that we ought not now to use those of the ornaments which became obsolete, because obsolete things cannot be retained. The Revisers deliberately referred back to the year 1548, because they considered that by that year enough had been abolished, and that those ornaments which remained were not incongruous with the reformed service. They must, too, have known that the times were not yet ripe for this complete restoration, for they did not try to enforce more than the former minimum of decency required. They therefore insisted on inserting the Rubric, because they felt the importance of preserving to the Church her ancient heritage of beauty and splendour, and [20] believed that the time would arrive when reason would prevail, and churchmen would come to value their inheritance.

It is almost superfluous to point out the meaning of the various clauses of the Rubric. It was made at the last revision explicitly to order the old vestments as well as ornaments, by the insertion of the words ‘and of the Ministers thereof.’ Its position before the first prayers in the Book was chosen to give it prominence, and not to confine it to Morning and Evening Prayer; for the ornaments are to be used ‘at all times of their Ministration.’ These ornaments are not to be retained in the negative sense in which the cope is now retained at Durham or Westminster, but are to ‘be in use.’ The ornaments to be thus used are not to be affected by any arbitrary acts of Tudor despotism, or of Calvinistic bishops; but are those that were used ‘by the authority of Parliament.’[24] And, finally, they are to be those not of modern Rome, nor of medieval Salisbury, nor of the primitive Church, but of ‘the second year of King Edward the Sixth.’

The only serious attempt ever made to lessen the effect of this Rubric has been the confining of its meaning to those Ornaments which were mentioned in the First Prayer Book of King Edward vi.; and in support of this it is alleged that Cosin himself (who had a large share in the revision of 1662) interpreted the Rubric in this sense,[25] as did the eighteenth century authorities.

[21] But the very definite wording of the Rubric is fatal to this interpretation.

1. In the first place it says nothing about the First Prayer Book; and its careful wording throughout makes it unlikely that it should say one thing when it meant another. This part of the Rubric was composed, not by Cosin, but in 1559; ten years only after the publication of the First Prayer Book. Elizabeth must have known the date of her brother’s accession, and of the First Prayer Book. What so simple as to refer to it?[26]

2. That First Prayer Book was not in use during any part whatever of the second year of Edward vi., and therefore the Ornaments of that Book could not possibly have been the ornaments used by authority [22] of Parliament in that year. The second year of Edward vi. was, beyond any doubt, from Jan. 28, 1548 to Jan. 27, 1549.[27] The First Prayer Book received the authority of Parliament in the last week of that year, Jan. 21, 1549;[28] but the Act itself fixes the day on which it is to come in use as the Whitsunday following, June 9, 1549, or if it might be had sooner, then three weeks after a copy had been procured. So that the First Prayer Book could not possibly have been anywhere in use until some weeks (at the very earliest) after the third year of Edward vi. had begun; as a matter of fact the earliest edition bears the date ‘the viii daye of March, in the third yere of the reigne of our Sovereigne Lorde Kynge Edward the vi.’[29]

Furthermore, the First Prayer Book makes no attempt to fix the limit as to ornaments and vestments to be used. If the Rubric refers to this Book it could not take a more uncertain standard. At the end of the Book[30] occurs the dissertation, ‘Of Ceremonies, why some be abolished and some retained’; immediately after this dissertation comes the following heading, ‘Certain notes for the more plain explication and decent ministration of things contained in this book,’ after which come the notes as to the use of the surplice and other vestments, as to kneeling, crossing, and other gestures, as to the omission of the Litany, and of the Creed, Gloria and Homily on certain occasions. Nothing could look less like limiting the use of the old ornaments than this form of expression, ‘certain notes.’ Indeed we know from abundant evidence that the old ornaments were largely used under the First Prayer Book.[31]

[23] Thus, even if the Rubric could be shown to refer to the ornaments used under the book, it cannot be honestly limited to those ornaments that are mentioned in that book; for many that were used are not mentioned (as altar-lights), some even that were indispensable are not mentioned (as the linen altar cloth). And in these omissions it follows the missals of Sarum, Bangor, York, and Hereford.[32]

Nor, indeed, does this reference of the Rubric to the First Prayer Book give much help to those who oppose ceremonial. For, besides allowing such gestures as crossing and knocking upon the breast, the Book orders the albe with vestment or cope, and tunicles[33] for ‘the Supper of the Lord and the Holy Communion, commonly called the Mass,’ the rochet, cope or vestment and pastoral staff for the bishop,[34] the chrisom-cloth,[35] the corporas cloth,[36] and wafer-bread.[37] It implies the use of further ornaments in giving directions for unction,[38] reservation for the sick,[39] and the burial of and Mass for the dead.[40] It is not, therefore, surprising that Bonner used the book, and that Gardiner expressed his approval of it.[41]

But, as a matter of plain fact, the Ornaments Rubric does refer behind even the First Prayer Book to the ‘second year’ of Edward vi, before that book had come into use, before one single ornament could have been abrogated by that book.

[24] What then had the ‘authority of Parliament’ done by the second year in the matter of ornaments? Late in the first year (1547) an Act had been passed ordering the restoration of the primitive rule of Communion in both kinds,[42] and on the 8th of March in the next year the Order of Communion was issued.[43] This Order referred only to the communicating of the people, and was to be inserted in the old Latin service ‘without varying of any other rite or ceremony of the Mass.’ So then, we know that the old service and ceremonies, with this addition, continued in use throughout the second year, and until after the third year had begun. The only modifications as to ornaments were those effected by the Injunctions[44] of the Privy Council, issued in 1547, which ordered the removal of all shrines, and everything connected with them, of those images which had been abused by offerings and other superstitious observances, and of those pictures which represented feigned miracles.

The ornaments, therefore, ordered by our Church, are those of 1548, unless their use has been taken away by a rubric of the Book of Common Prayer.

The Ornaments Rubric is part of an Act of Parliament as well as of the Prayer Book; it was passed not only by Convocation but also by Parliament in 1661-2. It is therefore just as statutably binding on us as the Canons of 1603 (indeed in many points it supersedes those Canons), or the latest Act of Parliament; and, what is of far more serious importance, it is just as ecclesiastically binding upon us as the [25] rubrics which order the use of Morning and Evening Prayer or the reading of the Bible.

The only excuse for disobeying it in part (for no one neglects all its provisions) is the long disuse into which so many of those provisions have fallen. This disuse exempts those who disobey the Rubric from any legal or episcopal penalties,[45] it also gives the clergy a perfectly valid excuse for restoring the legal ornaments slowly, nay, in some cases it makes slow progress an absolute duty for them; but it does not alter the fact that all disobedience to the Rubric is lawlessness, and is against the mind of the Church of England.

In this connection one more aspect of the Ornaments Rubric has to be considered. It has often been assumed that it had been since its first enactment obsolete, until it was revived by a party of ritualists in the present reign.

This is not true. The neglect of the Ornaments Rubric was very gradual, and at the worst times of Hanoverian sloth it was still obeyed in many particulars. For instance, it was the sole authority for the use of any distinctive dress by the clergy at the times of their ministration. There are no other directions in our Prayer Book, and those of the Canons[46] were superseded by the re-enactment of the Rubric in 1662 with its special clause as to vestments. Again, certain ornaments which were constantly set up even in the reign of George III. are not elsewhere sanctioned in the Prayer Book; such are organs, stained glass, and pictures, all of which were strongly [26] opposed by the Puritans. Again, the use of altar-candles was never entirely dropped in the English Church.[47]

I have shown in various places of this Handbook how gradual and unauthorised was the neglect of the Ornaments Rubric. A few more instances here may be useful, since want of knowledge on this subject is very widespread.

To take first the crucial case of incense. It may be a surprise to some to hear that incense was recommended by Herbert, used by Cosin and Andrewes, and many other seventeenth century divines, and also in the royal chapel at least in the reigns of Elizabeth and Charles I.; that a form for the consecration of censers was used by Andrewes, Laud, and Sancroft, which brings the use down to 1685; and that when our modern ritualists revived it there were men living who might have seen it burnt in Ely Cathedral.[48]

The use of vestments was still more authoritative and widespread. To begin with the time of Elizabeth. Here is an inventory of the Church of St. Bartholomew, Smithfield, in 1574, fifteen years after the Ornaments Rubric had been issued:—

‘Certayne things appertaining to ye Churche as followthe:—
Imprimis a communion cloth of redd silke and goulde.
Itm a communion coppe [cup] of silver withe a cover.
Itm a beriall cloth of redd velvet and a pulpitte clothe of ye same.
Itm two greene velvet quishins [cushions].
Itm a blewe velvet cope.
[27] Itm a blewe silke cope.
Itm a white lynnen abe [albe] and a hedd cloth [amice] to the same.
Itm a vestment of tawney velvet. Itm a vestment of redd rought velvet.
Itm a vestment of greene silke with a crosse garde of redd velvet.
Itm a crosse bannor of redd tafata gilded.
Itm two stoles of redd velvet.
Itm two white surplices.
Itm two comunion table clothers.
Itm two comunion towels.’

The Canons of 1603, which were issued before the ritualistic revival of the Laudian prelates, and at a time when those in authority were hard put to it to enforce the minimum of decency, show us what was the minimum that was then thought tolerable. Canon 58 orders the surplice, hood, and tippet for parish churches. Canon 24 orders the cope for the celebrant, and the proper vestments for the gospeller and epistler in cathedrals.[49]

It is hardly necessary to repeat here that the cope was so used not only in cathedrals, but in some parish churches also in Charles I.’s reign. This vestment, which is now considered too ritualistic even in some churches where the eucharistic vestments are worn, was in constant use at Durham till nearly a century ago,[50] and has been retained till to-day at Westminster to do honour to the earthly king on state occasions. Indeed the Ornaments Rubric was frankly recognised in the eighteenth century, down [28] to our own time, as ‘still in force at this day.’[51] It was left to certain forensic casuists of the nineteenth to declare that it was not.


It is clear, then, if history, logic, and the English language have any meaning at all, that the duty of all loyal sons of the Church of England is to use the old ornaments.

How should they be used?

1. With tolerance. Because those who inserted the Rubric left its practice to the growth of voluntary obedience; because those who now disobey it can claim the protection of long prescription; and because, with the rapid decay of unreasoning prejudice, the general human instinct for ceremonial worship is reasserting itself among all parties with quite sufficient celerity.

2. With moderation. Because the old order to which we are referred was as a matter of fact very moderate, and singularly different in its real beauty to the fussy excess of Roman Catholic churches, and of those English churches which try (with indifferent success) to copy them. The rich ornaments of a great cathedral like St. Paul’s or Salisbury were much modified in a small parish church; indeed one of the Sarum rubrics actually provides for those churches which had not even a proper font.[52] The full complement of ornaments is not to be expected of a small parish church; and the medieval altar was as simple as that of the more decent parish [29] churches in the time of Queen Anne. On the other hand it must be remembered that even small churches, simple though they were, had many remarkably rich and beautiful ornaments.[53] This combination of richness with simplicity was a note of medieval times, when vulgarity as we have it was unknown, and the simplest domestic utensils were beautiful and refined. Vulgarity is due to a want of the sense of proportion.

3. With loyal exactness, so far as it is possible. Not on the principles of private judgment, which are so prevalent to-day, though they are condemned in this very connection by the 34th Article,[54] by the preface On Ceremonies,[55] and indeed by every Catholic authority. The ‘publick and common order’ belongs of right to the whole body of the faithful, and if it is tampered with by individual fancies must, in the nature of things, be gradually and inevitably degraded.

Not, either, by referring to the court of Rome, which has no authority in this country, and can only be followed here by a violent exercise of that private judgment which is essentially Protestant, under whatever name it may mask itself; which indeed cannot be copied with any remote approach to correctness while any part of our Prayer Book is used. Our Church has declared again and again her right to order her own ceremonies; and in this she has all Catholic precedent on her side. She has furthermore declared her intensely strong adherence to antiquity; and therefore distinctively Roman [30] practices, which are almost entirely of seventeenth, eighteenth, or nineteenth century growth, are doubly opposed to the standard which she sets up. Our solemn vows make any rejection of our own traditional practices in favour of those from abroad utterly impossible for us.

Not, even, by the following of medieval Salisbury; for in many respects the rules of this particular cathedral were altered by the generations that came between their enactment and the second year of Edward vi., and also by the rubrics of our Prayer Book, which book expressly declares that as regards saying and singing (upon which depends a good deal of our ceremonial) there should be not the use of Sarum, or of any other diocese, but our national English use. This does not lessen the immense value of the Sarum books in interpreting our own rubrics; but it must never be forgotten that all the ceremonies of a magnificent cathedral cannot be applicable to a parish church; and, indeed, we know that they were never so applied. A great deal of harm has been done by the thoughtless use of the word ‘Sarum,’ when the statements of the Prayer Book should have led us to the only exact word ‘English.’ This has been especially the case in the matter of colours, which are dealt with in a section of this Handbook. It is not to the Rome or Paris of the nineteenth century, nor is it to the Salisbury of the fourteenth, that the Ornaments Rubric refers us, but to the England of 1548. And, if we break the Rubric in favour of Rome, we must not be surprised if others break it in favour of Geneva.

4. The ornaments must be used within the Prayer Book. There are a few who interpret this to mean that, where there are no services in the Prayer Book for certain ornaments the old services should be revived. But most hold that the rubric only ‘directs [31] that the ornaments required for the due execution of the rites contained in the Book of Common Prayer shall be those which were used for the like purpose at the date assigned.’[56] Without attempting to pronounce upon the subject, which would be beyond our province, it is clear that for the practical ends of such a Handbook as this the latter view is the more convenient to follow. Yet there cannot but be some exceptions to this rule; for the growing and irresistible need for additional services has caused some of the old offices to be revived, and that with due permission. Which permission has been wisely given, lest worse things should befall, and is my excuse for suggesting in certain cases, with all due deference, the traditional method of carrying them out. It must also be remembered, though with caution, that the continuous use of the Gloria Tibi before the Gospel is a witness that an old form of words is not necessarily unlawful because it has been omitted from the Prayer Book.

5. Lastly, the ornaments must be used in the traditional way. The Prayer Book is generally regarded with a strong Hanoverian bias; and those ceremonies are looked upon as natural which have come to us from the worst period of lawlessness, sloth, and worldliness. Consequently, those who really try to get at the mind of the English Church are popularly regarded as lawless.

But a moment’s thought will make it clear that the Prayer Book really requires of us a bias in exactly the opposite direction. We are to interpret it, not from the point of view of an Elizabethan Calvinist, or of a Georgian pluralist, or even of a Caroline ritualist, or of any ‘private man,’ but from that of Scripture, Tradition, and the Fathers. Nay, [32] the command of the book is unmistakable: we are to interpret it in the spirit of a parson of the year 1548, who was conversant with the old ceremonial.

There is a wise saying of Thomas a Kempis, which, had it been remembered, would have averted many a disastrous misunderstanding of Holy Scripture,— that the Bible must be read in the same spirit in which it was written. May we not say that the same canon of interpretation, applied to the Prayer Book, would have averted both the former falling away and the latter chaos of ill-directed revival? The Prayer Book was written partly by primitive and medieval Christians, partly by those who translated and compiled it, skilled ritualists like Cranmer in one age and Cosin in another, who used many of the old ornaments,[57] and had a profound reverence for Catholic tradition. And, lest there should be any mistake, its users are all referred to the year when almost all the old ornaments were in daily, lawful, and universal use.

Just as the ornaments were for years after the compiling of our Liturgy used in the traditional way and with the usual ceremonies, so must we, subject to any later rubrics, use them. It would be clearly absurd, for instance, and against the mind of the Church, to put the verger into a chasuble, or to place a processional cross in the hands of the [33] celebrant; it would be only a shade less absurd for a server to hold a banner unaccompanied by any procession; and, I venture to say, it would be almost as indefensible to use the censer in any novel or unauthorised manner. Our 34th Article is clear that no individual, however highly placed, may change the traditions or ceremonies of the Church. Any such attempt on the part of a bishop would lead to lamentable reprisals on that of his clergy; and, indeed, has so led during the past fifty years. The only possible principle of interpretation is that no ceremony is abolished for which the ornament is directed to be used, unless there is authority of the Church for abolishing it.

Indeed the Prayer Book does not pretend to be a complete ritual directory. That idea is a Romish one, and has only been attempted in the Church of Rome in modern times. Like the medieval missals, our Book is meagre in its ceremonial directions, leaving much to ‘ancient custom,’[58] as Cosin himself said at the last Revision. It can be proved both in the Prayer Book and in the Sarum Missal that certain things have to be done for which there is no direction given.[59] Furthermore, the Prayer Book is a paroissien rather than a directory; and there were [34] good reasons why its ceremonial should be quietly-left to tradition, as it was; for a too complete array of rubrics would have led to schism, and schism was more dreaded than disobedience in those days. Before 1662, the Puritans, as we have seen, were non-conformists in the strict and only correct meaning of that word, in the meaning which they themselves gave to it. Since then, non-conformity was still allowed among those Englishmen who remained in communion with the Church; the proper way of interpreting the rubrics was not followed, because for the sake of peace and comprehension the neglect of the ‘interpretation rubric’ was allowed. Thus it was that non-conformity became a tradition in the Church; and, curiously enough, those very churchmen who are popularly considered to be specially Anglican and law-abiding are to-day non-conformists in exactly the same sense as were the Puritans of the Elizabethan and Jacobean era.

This comprehensive tolerance of non-conformity to the Church’s rubrics was wise and just. The history, indeed, of the eighteenth century shows that it was carried too far; the history of the seventeenth century shows that it was not able to avert the schism which it was designed to prevent. But it saved the Church from being swamped by Puritanism in those hard times, it kept the bulk of the nation in communion with the Catholic Church; and the history of our own century shows that this non-conformity was bound gradually to disappear as soon as the old prejudices began to die a natural death. This curious lax administration, through three centuries, of perfectly definite laws is a monument of our national indifference to logic; but it is also a monument of that profound and practical common-sense which is the peculiar characteristic of our race.


There can be no doubt that the only satisfactory [35] settlement of the questions of ceremonial will be through the constitution of an authoritative committee of experts, such as is recommended by the present Archbishop of York. Such a committee, deciding all the questions brought before it with strict impartiality and with exact knowledge, will secure the support of all loyal churchmen, and will gradually establish throughout the land a type of service such as the Prayer Book contemplates, a service unequalled in Christendom for dignity, beauty, and reverence.

But meanwhile something must be done, both to satisfy the consciences of those who cannot be content with mere non-conformity, and to establish the ceremonial of the future on a sound foundation. No individual, or unauthorised committee of individuals, has any right to dictate in such a matter. But yet much may be done in the way of suggestion; for in the great majority of cases it is now certain on what lines a committee of experts would decide. Some things that are now common will no doubt have to be altered; but, as these grew up during the infancy of liturgical science in this country, and are due either to ignorance or to a rather wanton exercise of private judgment, it is far better that they should be altered at once. I can only say that in this Handbook I have tried to follow the most reliable acknowledged authorities, and to avoid giving my own private opinion (except in small practical matters not dependent upon ceremonial). I have tried to make it clear when it seemed necessary to give my own opinion. I have tried to be entirely faithful to the principles that are stated in the Introduction to this book.

But in matters of art I have dogmatised, because it is impossible to do otherwise. I have given my own opinions for what they are worth; but I think I can without peril say that such are the opinions also of the great body of artistic experts in this country. [36] This book being practical, I make no apology for freely recommending those shops which in my opinion are the best for the parson to go to for certain things; for experience has taught me that without some guide of this kind it is impossible for any of us to furnish our churches aright.

Every one who writes about ceremonial is certain to be subject to one of two forms of criticism; either that his directions are too minute, or that they are not minute enough.

The answer to the first objection is plain in a practical book of this kind. No one is bound to follow them: it is safer, therefore, to give too many directions than too few. Half an hour with a blue pencil will reduce the ceremonial to the required simplicity; but faults of omission would take much longer to rectify.

Furthermore, there is undoubtedly a right and a wrong way of doing everything, and therefore it is just as well to do things in the right way; for unless one has an unusually large share of instinctive grace and tact, one will otherwise be in danger of making oneself, and also the service one is conducting (which is more important), appear uncouth, or queer, or ridiculous.

Ceremonial directions often appear at first sight to be over-minute. But all the manners of our everyday life are governed by rules quite as elaborate; only, being instructed in them from our earliest childhood, we do not notice them. Let any one write out a paper of directions for the conduct of a South Sea Islander at a London dinner-party, and he will find that the most meticulous ceremonies ever held in a church are far out-distanced. And yet a person who simplifies the ceremonial of the dinner-table over much becomes obviously disgusting in his behaviour.

The ancient traditions are not extravagant: they [37] are really restraints upon private extravagance. They are, like those of society, the result of the accumulated experience of many centuries; and they were chosen because they were found to make the service run without hitch or possibility of accident, and to give a measure of grace and dignity even to those who are naturally awkward. How much of the old Catholic ceremonial has been retained, even among those who are most opposed to ceremonies, will be clear to any one who compares the worship of the barest church with that of a place of worship which has no such traditions, say of a mosque or a Chinese temple.

One has not to go far to notice how many of the clergy and other Church officials do as a matter of fact stand in very great need of a few elementary lessons in deportment. Such lessons are needed in all civilised society, not to make one stiff or ceremonious, but to prevent one being stiff, to make one natural and unaffected. Indeed the doings of some of the ‘ritualistic’ clergy that cause offence are really their own private ideas of what is reverent and seemly, and not those of Church tradition, which is essentially moderate and subdued. On the other hand, what would be thought of a state function, if those who took part in it behaved like an average cathedral choir? Yet one might expect as much trouble to be given to the service of the Church as to that of the State.

To those at the opposite extreme, who may urge that my suggestions are not minute enough, I would reply that my object has simply been to carry through the services of our Church, as they stand, with the ornaments that are ordered; and that, therefore, such ceremonies, for instance, as were used in some parts of the old Canon of the Mass are outside my province.

It is clear from the tenor of the Prayer Book [38] that a simplification of ceremonial was intended; and therefore it is not necessary in a book of this sort to work in every old ceremony whether there is a place for it or not. Furthermore, it must be remembered that much of the ceremonial that we see is not taken from our own traditions, but from foreign sources. If even the old ‘ceremonies’ are convicted by our Prayer Book of ‘great excess and multitude,’ much more must those of later continental ritualists be out of the question for us. The mind of the Prayer Book indubitably is to simplify rites and ceremonies without detracting either from their grace, significance, or richness. The Prayer Book wisely considers that our people have not the same way of expressing themselves as the Southern races; and so, while we ‘condemn no other nations,’ we have no right to impose upon ourselves or upon others that bondage to fresh minutiae of ceremonial which other races, rightly or wrongly, consider needful.

At the same time, it may be urged against me that I have omitted one or two matters for which there is much to be said. My reply is that I do so, as the lawyers say, without prejudice, and simply on the ground that, as they are hardly used at all, their treatment at the present time would but encumber a volume that is only a handbook for the parson of an ordinary parish, and pretends to be merely practical.

With regard to the whole of the foregoing argument, it must be remembered that, were it possible to disprove every point of it, nearly all the ornaments of the Rubric (including the censer, the two lights— or one at the least,—the chasuble, dalmatic, cope, etc.) would still be statutably binding upon us.[60] For they are ordered by the unrepealed parts of the ancient [39] canon law. The seventh clause of 25 Hen. VIII. ‘continues in its former force the whole of the canon law which is not repugnant to the laws, statutes, and customs of the realm, nor to the damage and hurt of the royal prerogative.’


It seems certain that the present increase in beauty of worship, which is noticeable among ail parties in the English Church, and indeed outside it as well, will continue to grow, till Mohammedanism is left as the only religion that discards the almost universal human instinct for richness of ceremonial worship. Yet it appears to be not less certain that freedom will be a mark also of the future, rather than strict ceremonial uniformity. We need not regret this tendency; for such uniformity never did obtain in the time when the Church was at peace. Its attempted enforcement, in Rome or elsewhere, is a sign that the Church Catholic is divided.

This book must not, therefore, be taken as the attempt of an unauthorised person to dictate to his brethren. Whether they conform little or much is a matter for themselves to decide. I have only tried to show what it is that our Church requires. Those requirements leave many degrees of ceremonial open to us, even within the limits of strict conformity; and the tolerance of non-conformity in the Church allows in practice an even greater freedom. But, whether the ceremonial used is little or much, the services of our Church should at least be conducted on the legitimate lines, if only that they may be freed from what is anomalous, irreverent, tawdry, or grotesque.


1 Bishop of Rochester’s Address to his Diocesan Conference in October 1898.

2 ‘Although the Law given from God by Moses, as touching ceremonies and rites, do not bind Christian men.’—7th Article.

3 Ex. xxx. 34.

4 Mal. i. 11.

5 S. Luke i. 9, and also 11.

6 S. Matt. ii. 11.

7 Rev. v. 8, R.V.

8 Rev, viii. 3, 4, A.V. and R.V.

9 It should be noticed that the first words of this Preface are generally misunderstood. ‘The phrase,’ says Bishop Barry, ‘ascribing to the Church of England “the middle way between two extremes” has become celebrated, being supposed to be a description of her general principle and policy. A glance at the context will, however, show that it refers simply to the policy adopted in the revisions of the Prayer Book,’ that is, between too much stiffness in refusing or too much readiness in admitting variations. Teacher’s Prayer Book (in loc.).

10 ‘We do the Anglican reformers a certain ‘injustice,’ says Canon Daniel, commenting on this Preface, ‘in designating them by the negative name of Protestants. . . . The best name is that which they themselves rejoiced in—the name of Catholics.’ (Daniel on the P. B. 26.

11 The reference here is to out-door apparel.

12 First P. B. 71.

13 Ibid.

14 This is made still clearer by the 30th Canon touching the very same point of the abuse of ceremonies. ‘But the abuse of a thing doth not take away the lawful use of it. Nay, so far was it from the purpose of the Church of England to forsake and reject the Churches of Italy, France, Spain, Germany, or any such like Churches, in all things which they held and practised, that, as the Apology of the Church of England confesseth, it doth with reverence retain those ceremonies, which doth neither endamage the Church of God, nor offend the minds of sober men; and only departed from them in those particular points, wherein they were fallen both from themselves in their ancient integrity, and from the Apostolical Churches, which were their first founders.’ Here the intense conservative reverence of the English Church for the old ceremonies, and its desire to destroy nothing that could be defended on the ground of antiquity, is made even clearer. But it must be confessed that those who try to read in the broad tolerance of this Canon a sanction for the imitation of modern Roman Catholic customs, are hard pressed for an excuse.

15 And so indeed they were: e.g. an entry in the register in Darsham Church—‘A license granted to Mr. Thomas Southwell to eat meat in Lent, aged 82, and sickly, by John Eachard [Vicar], for which he paid 6s. 8d. for the use of the poor in Darsham, according to the statute, March 4, 1638.’

16 James ii. 2, 3.

17 See e.g. Cartwright’s Second Admonition to Parliament.

18 The bishop’s rochet is the only vestment mentioned in our Prayer Book; and it is merely a part of his out-door dress.

19 See pp. 24 and 25.

20 That this Prayer Book was not regarded as abolishing the old religion is shown by the fact that, of 9400 Marian clergy, only about 200 refused to take the oath of supremacy and accept the new Prayer Book. Elizabeth indignantly refused to send a representative to the Council of Trent because England was summoned as a Protestant, and not as a Catholic, country. She said, in her letter to the Roman Catholic princes, ‘that there was no new faith propagated in England; no new religion set up but that which was commanded by our Saviour, practised by the primitive Church, and approved by the Fathers of the best antiquity.’

Of Elizabeth’s first and favourite Archbishop, Parker, so dispassionate a historian as Mr. Gardiner says:—’ He fully grasped the principle that the Church of England was to test its doctrines and practices by those of the Church of the first six hundred years of Christianity, and he, therefore, claimed for it catholicity, which he denied to the Church of Rome; whilst he had all Cranmer’s feeling for the maintenance of external rites which did not directly imply the existence of beliefs repudiated by the Church of England.’—Students History, 430.

21 Cardwell, Hist. of Conferences, 314

22 Ibid. 351.

23 Not copes and surplices only, but altars, frontals, cloths, cushions and hangings, fonts, organs, candlesticks, basons, crosses and altar- plate had been abolished by the House of Commons, 1640-3 (Perry, Purchas J., 228-9).

24 These words are not necessarily Erastian; they merely safeguard the rubric from any doubts that could arise through the unconstitutional action of individuals, which was so rife in the time of Edward.

25 But Cosin’s well-known Notes on the Ornaments Rubric (vol. v. 232, 438) make it clear that he understood the Rubric as covering all the ornaments that were used under the First Prayer Book, and much more than were mentioned in it:—‘As were in use, etc. Among other ornaments of the Church that were then in use, the setting of two lights upon the communion-table or altar was one, appointed by the King’s Injunctions (set forth about that time [1547, the first year], and mentioned or ratified by the Act of Parliament here named) … that two lights only should be placed upon the altar to signify the joy and splendour we receive from the light of Christ’s blessed Gospel. Bene B. Lutherus in formula missae sive Communionis, quam Witten-burgensi Ecclesiae anno superioris seculi vicesimo tertio praescripsit, Nee candelas (inquit) nec thurificationem prohibimus, sed nec exigimus; esto hoc liberum.

‘The particulars of these ornaments … are referred not to the fifth year of Ed. vi … for in that fifth year were all ornaments taken away (but a surplice only) … but to the second year of that king when his Service-book and Injunctions were in force by authority of parliament. And in those books many other ornaments are appointed; as, two lights to be set upon the altar or communion-table, a cope or vestment for the priest … and those ornaments of the Church, which by former laws, not then abrogated, were in use, by virtue of the statute 25 Henry VIII. [1533-4], and for them the provincial constitutions are to be consulted, such as have not been repealed.’

Thus Cosin refers the Rubric, not to the First Book only, but also to the statute of 1533, and to the Injunctions of the first year of Edward vi., 1547. Even the latter expressly forbade ‘the varying of any other rite or ceremony in the Mass (until other order shall be provided),’ which order was provided by the First Prayer Book, published in 1549. That Prayer Book, however, abolished very little (see p. 23). The mistake that people make in this connection is to confuse the ornaments mentioned by the First Book with those in use under the First Book; it is clearly the latter that Cosin means.

26 Indeed Archbishop Sandys (then Bishop of Winchester) wrote at the time, ‘The Parliament draweth towards an end; the last Book of Service is gone through with a Proviso to retain the Ornaments which were used in the First and Second years of Ed. vi.’ Sandys himself disliked the ornaments and continued, ‘One gloss upon the text is that we shall not be forced to use them.’ It did not occur to him to gloss the text by a reference to the First Prayer Book.

27 See e.g. the table of the regnal years in the Dictionary of English History, 651. Edward came to the throne Jan. 28, 1547.

28 It could not have received the royal assent till March 14, 1549.

29 The various imprints are:—Mense Martii (4), Mense Maii, Mense Junii, and Mense Julii, all 1549.

30 P. 168.

31 E.g. the inventory of Beckenham Parish Church in the sixth year of Edward vi. describes (in addition to two copes, nine vestments, two vestments for deaon and sub-deacon, and patens, two chalices, four corporax clothes, four steeple bells, the Bible and Paraphrases of Erasmus) the following ornaments not mentioned in the First Book, – one pax, one crosse, one pix, two sacring bells, sixteen alter-clothes, six towels, two hand towels, six corporax cases, three little pillows standing on the altar, a case clothe of red solke, two blake palls, eight olde banner clothes for the crosse, two sepulchre clothes, and other hangings (Record Office, Q. R. Church Goods 3/43).

32 The evidence for lights is elsewhere.

33 First Prayer Book, 65-6.

34 Ibid. 171.

35 Ibid. 106, 159.

36 Ibid. 75.

37 Ibid. 90.

38 Ibid. 106, 140.

39 Ibid. 142, 144.

40 Ibid. 146-157.

41 Gasquet, Ed. VI, and B.C.P. 281-5.

42 1st Edw. vi. cap. 1.

43 It was approved by Convocation of the Province of Canterbury, and was held to receive parliamentary authority from 31 Hen. VIII. cap. 8, which gave the authority of Parliament, under certain restrictions, to royal Proclamations.

44 Their parliamentary authority is disputable, its only basis being the unconstitutional Act of Hen. VIII. above referred to. See Perry, Lawful Church Ornaments, 26, 28; Collier, ii. 213-225.

45 But—‘By the Law of England no statute can fall into desuetude … if once a Court is called upon to carry it into execution, it must do so.’—Lushington, Liddell Judgement, 35.

46 E.g. Archdeacon Sharp in 1746,—‘Upon the 58 Canon … I need say the less because it is superseded by the Rubric before the Common Prayer, in 1661, which is statute-law.’ (Quoted in Perry, Purchas J., 114.)

47 Cf. Lincoln Judgement, in loc.

48 ‘It was the constant practice at Ely to burn incense at the altar in the Cathedral, till Dr. Thos. Green, one of the Prebendaries, and now (1779) Dean of Salisbury, a finical man, who is always taking snuff up his nose, objected to it, under the pretence that it made his head to ache.’ Cf. Walcott, Customs of Cathedrals, 160.

49 It was a few years after this date, when Andrewes was Bishop of Ely (1605-9), that he used in his chapel ‘two candlesticks with tapers, the daily furniture for the altar, a cushion for the service-book, silver and gilt canisters for the wafers,’ and also among other things ‘a little boate out of which the frankincense is poured, a tricanale for the water of mixture.’—Prynne, Canterburie’s Doome.

50 Warburton threw his off in a pet, because it disturbed his wig, and the use of copes at Durham ‘does not seem to have been totally discontinued until 1784.’—Abbey and Overton, ii. 467.

51 Nicholls in his preface to Cosin’s annotated Prayer Book (1710). Also Bishop Gibson, the author of the Codex Juris Ecclesiastici (1711). Perry (Purchas J.) gives a catena of legal and ecclesiastical authorities who admitted this fact, down to 1845.

52 In this falling below our own 81st Canon. the rubric orders the parish priest to have a ‘fontem, lapideum, integrum et honestum.’ if he can; but if not, ‘habeat vas conveniens ad baptismum quod aliis usibus nullatanus deputetur, nec extra ecclesiam deportetur.’

53 See Dr. Jessop’s two most valuable articles on England before the Great Pillage, in the Nineteenth Century for 1897.

54 ‘Whosoever through his private judgment, willingly and purposely, doth openly break the traditions and ceremonies of the Church,’ etc.

55 ‘The appointment of which order pertaineth not to private men; therefore no man ought to take in hand, nor presume to appoint or alter any publick or common order in Christ’s Church,’ etc.

56 See the influentially signed ‘Knightsbridge Memorandum’ of May 2nd, 1898.

57 This is not altered by the fact that Cranmer changed his views more than once. In 1536 he could say:—‘As vestments in God’s service; sprinkling holy water; giving holy bread; bearing candles on Candlemas Day; giving of ashes on Ash Wednesday; bearing of palms on Palm Sunday; creeping to the Cross, and kissing it, and offering unto Christ before the same on Good Friday; setting up the sepulchre of Christ; hallowing of the font, and other like exorcisms and benedictions, and laudable customs: that these are not to be contemned and cast away, but continued to put us in remembrance of spiritual things.’ But in Edward vi.’s time, he tried to put a stop to the use of ashes, palms, and the Candlemas lights, in 1547, though the ‘holy bread’ and sprinkling with holy water are still enjoined in 1548 (Strype i. 62; Cardwell, 38, 56).

58 See an interesting passage in Mr. Wakeman’s History of the Church of England (280):—‘If the New Zealander, made famous by Macaulay, should chance to find a copy of the present Prayer Book while he is visiting the ruins of St. Paul’s ... he would be sorely puzzled to extract from the rubrics anything like a complete order of service.’ Of the First Book he says:—‘The fact is, the book is unintelligible except on the theory that it presupposed the existence of a well-known system, and only gave such directions as were necessary to carry out and explain the changes which had been made.’ Some directions that had been in the First Book were omitted simply in order to make the rubrics as terse as possible, the revisers evidently relying upon custom: e.g. the omission of ‘or Deacon’ in the rubric for the reading of the Gospel.

59 The priest for instance must return the child after he has baptized it, and it is a difficult question whether this should be before or after the signing with the cross. The Sarum Missal provides the priest with neither surplice nor albe.

60 Blunt and Phillimore, Book of Church Law, p. 23. The whole matter is dealt with in chap. ii. of that book. See also a recent article in the Law Times, quoted by Dean Luckock, The Ritual Crisis, p. 54.


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