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THERE was once a man who wanted to escape from a certain prison: he tried to loosen the window-bars, he tried to work out the stones of the wall, he tried the chimney, and he tried the floor. Then suddenly a happy thought struck him. He opened the door and walked out.
I think the historian of the future will say: There was once a Church that wanted to escape from a great mess. Somehow or other this Church had failed to retain her hold upon her members: the people of the country had for centuries been drifting away from her; half the religious folk had formed themselves into other denominations; the great majority of the people somehow had given up going to church at all; those who remained faithful were, in spite of a great Revival, still in singular ignorance as to the principles of their own religion: as a consequence, many of these were so sluggish as to be a source of weakness rather than strength; others were zealous, but their zeal was a source of division rather than of the unity which maketh force. So her enemies raged against her; her own children rushed hither and thither and were not satisfied; while the nation, through its Parliamentary representatives, became insolent, and proposed to refurbish the rusty weapons of religious persecution for the disciplining of her clergy.
 This Church was, in fact, in a mess. She had tried so many ways of escape! She had tried Geneva; she had tried Rome; she had essayed a mixture of the two in varying proportions, which was called Moderate; she had tried laissez faire, by which each man did what he found easy and thought nice; she had even tried (heroic and marvellous as it may seem) to establish a Cathedral type of Service in every village church. The one thing that she had never tried to do was to carry out her own laws, and to apply her own principles.
Then one day she had a happy thought. She would be true to her own self, to her own laws. She opened the door, and walked out.
We do not realize the extent of our failure. With everything human in our favour--learning, position, wealth, lofty traditions, the possession of the church buildings, the schools, the universities--we have gradually let our people slip away from us. Goodly was our heritage: if we had but kept what our forefathers had won for us, the whole Anglo-Saxon race would to-day be united in one Church, devotedly attached to it, and most diligent in worship as our ancestors were 1,000 years ago, as they were 400 years ago, as, indeed, a great majority still were, in spite of many losses, 200 years ago.
1. But how has the Church lost her children? First of all, by not praying for them. Twice a day, in every church in the land, the Parish Priest should have called the people together for common prayer and praise. Those were his orders; and he shut the parish church [4/5] up for six days out of the seven. I do not see how a Church can expect to have GOD'S blessing, when His laws are so flagrantly set at nought. This is the first essential step in loyalty to the Prayer Book. It is the very rudiments of loyalty; nothing can make up for its loss. We clergy have undertaken to do it. May I add, we are paid to do it? We are set in our parishes primarily to conduct the daily prayers, to minister the Sacraments, and to tend and teach the people: all our manifold secular activities are of secondary importance, and must not stand in the way of our first duty as Christian Priests. And nothing is more of the essence of the Prayer Book than this; its very title is The Book of Common Prayer, and Common Prayer is the daily use of the Divine Service, nothing less. There is never a word about Sunday. The preface, Concerning the Service of the Church, sets down plainly this daily use of the Psalter and the rest of the Bible as the reason why the Prayer Book was published--why, in fact, there was any Reformation at all. That "this godly and decent Order of the ancient Fathers" might be restored, that "the Clergy, and especially such as were Ministers in the Congregation, should (by often reading, and meditation in God's Word) be stirred up to godliness themselves," "and further, that the people (by daily hearing of holy Scripture read in the Church) might continually profit more and more in the knowledge of God, and be the more inflamed with the love of his true Religion."
The exact opposite to this happened: the clergy did not use the daily Services, and the people became less and less inflamed with the love of true religion.
 In spite of a special rubric, in spite of the very title of the Services (The Order for Morning Prayer daily throughout the Year, The Order for Evening Prayer daily, throughout the Year), in spite of the daily Psalter and the daily Lectionary, the Prayer Book was made inoperative six days out of the seven. Is it wonderful that, as this stream of intercession failed, the founts of religion also were dried up? Is it wonderful that the miraculous Church revival of the last fifty years has been bound up from beginning to end with the revival of daily prayer?
2. The Church lost her children because she did not tend them. Pastoral care was shamefully neglected before the Revival, as was to be expected in an age when people were only reminded of religion once a week. I need say no more about this, except that the clergy failed in loyalty to that part of the Prayer Book which contains their own Ordination Vows.
It is, however, well to remember that the clergy does not mean the priesthood only. The work of house to house visiting is intended by the Prayer Book for the diaconate ("to search for the sick, poor, and impotent people of the parish: to intimate their estates, Names, and places where they dwell, unto the Curate"--The Ordering of Deacons); while for the priesthood is reserved the more spiritual work ("to use both public and private monitions and exhortations, as well to the sick as to the whole, within your Cures"--The Ordering of Priests). In nothing have the authorities of the Church done her greater harm than in refusing to establish a genuine, that is, a permanent diaconate. Devoted women have done their best to supply the want, but without much [6/7] real success; for amateurs and lay folk cannot do such delicate and difficult work, though they can help in visiting in many ways. The Church rightly demands properly-ordained ministers (there is, doubtless, a place for Deaconesses as well as for Deacons), and gives to such Deacons their proper work about the altar and in the church. It is impossible to read the Form for the Ordering of Deacons without admitting that it is men of the excellent type of the Wolverhampton or the Church Army Evangelists that the Church has in view. If the Bishops had remembered this, instead of refusing to admit the existence of vocation outside a small and privileged class, the Church would still be the Church of the people. The refusal to recognise the working of the Holy Spirit in the mass of the English people has driven the more earnest into Dissent, and the rest into indifference.
3. The Church lost her children because she did not teach them. As each generation grew up, it was lost to the Church, because the children had not been taught the Christian faith and practice. Things are better than they were: yet, I wonder, in how many parishes are the children really taught to know and love the Faith? The statistics as to communicants prove that, with all our efforts over the Schools and Sunday Schools, we still fail somehow to teach the one thing needful. We have enormous numbers of children entrusted to us. We lose them as they grow up. If we only kept ten per cent, of them, our town churches would be crowded to suffocation. Now, to say that we lose them is to say that we have failed to teach them.
Should we fail if we kept loyally to the Prayer Book? [7/8] We are given there very definite instructions, based on a thousand years of successful Church teaching; and these instructions we ignore. Let me recall the Prayer Book system of religious education. Soon after a child is born, he is brought to church upon a Sunday or Holy-day (when the church is full of people), and in the middle of Divine Service is baptized: thus the whole congregation is made to feel its responsibility for him, and is also reminded of its own profession. All this vivid education we lose by our system of semi-private Baptism. But this is only the first step. The child has three sponsors, all of whom are required by Canon 29 to be communicants. Observe the educational effect of this, not only upon the child's future (for how can a non-communicant Godparent influence a child to become a communicant?) but also upon the whole body of adults--the working folk who have come to think that Communion is not meant for them.
The sponsors are told to see to three things [* Exhortation in the Administration of Public Baptism]: (1) That the child shall be taught to be present at Holy Communion, for he has to "hear sermons," which, according to the Prayer Book, are only preached between the Nicene Creed and the Offertory. (2) That the child shall be instructed in the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the Sacraments--not in the Old Testament and the Kings of Israel, and Huppim and Muppim, but in that body of necessary Christian doctrine and practice which is so admirably presented in the Catechism. In practice as well as doctrine. If the English Church has failed to respond to the highest ethical and social needs of the people, so that [8/9] it has been found necessary to create a Christian Social Union to remind her members of their duty to their neighbour, is not this also due to a failure in teaching the Catechism, which contains, as members of that Union are always saying, all that is needed to remove our social evils, with their attendant greed, immorality, misery, and irreligion? I think those of you who have endeavoured to teach, really to teach this theology--really to make it part of a child's mind will agree with me that there is little time for anything else but the Catechism, if it is to be properly explained and, of course, illustrated from the Bible. But how is it to be taught? Is this most difficult of all subjects to be relegated to people who are necessarily unskilled, for the most part, in teaching, and unversed in theology--the Sunday School teachers? While every other subject is taught by experts, is this one alone to be left to amateurs? No! "The Curate of every Parish shall diligently upon Sundays and Holy-days...openly in the Church instruct, and examine." [* First Rubric of the Catechism] That is the Church's method. The Parish Priest is to do it, and not on Sundays only, but on some thirty-five other days as well. Once more, this is his solemn duty. He is appointed to do this, and not to let other things crowd it out.
I have tried it for some years past, and I find that the Prayer Book is right; that by this regular catechising one can make the children not mere nominal Christians, drifting to nothing as they grow up, but conscious, keen, devout Churchmen and communicants. I have found, too, that the catechising on Holy-days supplies [9/10] just what is wanted in making the young realize the Christian year, the full story of the New Testament, and the lessons of the Saints; while, incidentally, it has drawn the adults to Evensong (for they love to hear the catechising, and learn much from it), and has made our Holy-days to be far better observed.
But this is not all. The sponsors are given a third instruction. (3) They are to present the child for Confirmation while he is still a child, not waiting for that dangerous age when so often Confirmation is too late; but to bring him "so soon as" he knows his Catechism. The point is again enforced in the third rubric of the Catechism; and it is certain historically that the "competent age" of this rubric is much nearer ten than fifteen. As the Prayer Book says, more than once, it is "children," and not youths, who are confirmed. [* Last Rubric of the Catechism] The boy, that is, when he goes to work or to a public school, is already a communicant: he faces the great change of his life, strengthened by Confirmation, fed by Communion, and with the habits of the Christian life engrained in his being. Of such a child, so brought up and so fortified, it will not be true, as it so often now is, that his first Communion is his last, or that he never gets so far as Communion at all.
Yet the Church provides one further safeguard, most culpably ignored by us. This same third rubric of the Catechism says that "everyone shall have a Godfather, or a Godmother, as a Witness of their Confirmation;" and we know from the old rubric which this continues, that the Confirmation sponsor should not be one of the Baptismal sponsors. Just consider what an [10/11] opportunity this provides us with. One of the men in your Communicants Guild is told off to look after a boy who is being prepared for Confirmation--and, mark you, this provides just that incentive to active responsibility which our adults need so much. The boy goes to his Confirmation accompanied by this sponsor, who acts as a father to him; and we know the enormous influence upon a boy's imitative nature of a grown up man, we know how essential it is that he should feel that he is taking a step in manliness. After the Confirmation, this new Godfather's duty is to pray for the boy, to keep an eye on him, and have him round to tea and keep friends with him (an easy thing to do), and to see that he makes his Communions.
This brings me to another rubric, which is often brought up as a crushing evidence of the impracticability of the Prayer Book. I mean the rubric which says that intending communicants must "signify their names to the Curate, at least some time the day before." Now, the Curate has no power to repel fit communicants, and therefore the rubric does not lay an impossible duty upon him. His duty is simply to ask for the names of communicants. Can he not do this? Can he not gradually restore this custom, first at Easter (as is already done in very many churches), then at Whitsun day and Christmas? and, I would suggest also, on Dedication Sunday (the first Sunday in October), or at Michaelmas. In this way, at least he has the names of communicants four times in the year. On the Sunday before these four occasions he fulfils another forgotten bit of the Prayer Book by reading the long Warning from the Communion Service. He will have already told his children [11/12] at their Confirmation that they are to make their Communions at least on these four occasions. (Nay, he will have made them solemnly promise, before presenting them to the Bishop at all, saying, "I could not present you for Confirmation unless I felt sure you meant to be communicants.") Later on he will encourage them to increase the frequency of their Communions.
Now, they are reminded by this Warning, their Confirmation sponsors are reminded too. (Incidentally, the whole congregation is reminded by the reading of this Exhortation, that there is such a thing as private Confession in the Church of England, and that this Confession is not compulsory, but is laid solemnly upon the conscience of every Churchman to decide for himself whether he need it or not. Half the prejudices of the Church "crisis" are due to the fact that most Churchmen never hear the Warning read.) To resume. As the names come in, they are written on slips of paper and put into a box at the end of the church: thus the parson finds out if any have dropped off; and he goes at once to stir up the laggards. As years pass by, and his children grow up, this custom of giving notice becomes more and more valuable. It can easily be made weekly, by regular monthly and weekly communicants giving notice every year once for all. In any case, it enables him to keep in view the spiritual life of an ever-increasing number of full Church members. Should we lose our communicants as we do, would the proportion of communicants be an infinitesimal proportion of the population, as it is,--if we carried out these plain directions of the Prayer Book? My Lord, I venture to think that we fancy these directions to be impracticable, only [12/13] because we have not yet fully recovered from the terribly low standard of pastoral care which our fathers have bequeathed to us.
This brings me to the fourth cause of failure. I have spoken of our neglect to carry out the Prayer Book, in praying for our people, in tending them, and in teaching them.
4. We have not fed them. Of the past three centuries it is too true that the hungry sheep looked up and were not fed. If the world had fed their bodies as niggardly as the Church has fed their souls, the physical results would have been as bad as the spiritual results now are. Ah! but, you say, the days when the Holy Communion was celebrated once a quarter are passed. Yes, they are. But the days when the Holy Communion is made the principal Service of the Lord's Day are yet to come. And I do not see how we can expect the fulness of GOD'S blessing while we neglect the honour due to the act which He told us to do.
The Prayer Book is quite clear about this. And our divergence from the Prayer Book is equally clear. There is (the 45th Canon tells us) to be one sermon a Sunday; this sermon, the rubric says, is to be preached in the Communion Service. [* Second Rubric after the Nicene Creed] The Reformers were anxious to restore preaching: they, therefore, to ensure a good congregation, ordered that a sermon should be preached every week, at the time when (as they fondly hoped) the whole parish would be gathered together. They also ordered the notices to be given out at this time, and the Banns of Matrimony published, which last order has been, by an act of flagrant lawlessness, expunged by [13/14] the printers from the Communion Service. Now, to disregard these rubrics is to turn the whole system of public worship upside down. It is not a small matter, touching some ceremonial detail: it is a large matter, affecting the very essence of Christian worship. Would our people be so unsacramental, so weak in worship as they are, if this plain order had been obeyed? And, remember, it is amply safeguarded. The Priest has no right to leave off at the Prayer for the Church Militant unless there is a dearth of communicants, and there will be no dearth if the people have been taught the inestimable privilege of partaking of the Lord's Supper; nor has he any power to interpolate a blessing, so as to allow non-communicants to go out. The rubrics before and after Ye that do truly suppose the presence of non-communicants; the Baptismal Service orders the presence of children; two Canons (the 18th and the 90th) [* Code of 1603] forbid people to leave during the Service; and the rubric before the Blessing states clearly that it is only then, at the end of the Service, that the Priest or Bishop is to "let them depart."
The ideal of the Prayer Book, then, is plain. On Sunday morning, people are to come to church for the Holy Communion, and to hear the sermon. Preparatory to this Service is the Litany, which is the Anglican preparation for Holy Communion, and ought not to be misused: to shift it to the afternoon or evening is to do a grievous wrong to the meaning and order of Divine Service. Some time before the Litany, Mattins is to be said or sung.
Now, I know, of course, that in thus summarising the [14/15] Prayer Book ideal as to the Eucharist I have raised a host of difficulties in many minds. In country parishes we have a bad un-church-like tradition inherited from slothful times, and it is useless to give our people the full meat of the Prayer Book all at once. But what I want to suggest is that while it is our duty to educate our people gradually up to the Prayer Book standard, and not in country places to try for the ideal all at once, at the same time, in this gradual process one should be careful to stick ever closer to the rubrics, and to keep the ideal clear before ourselves and our people. We suffer much from arousing a suspicion that we have some private, mysterious, and illicit end in view. We should make it quite clear what our ideal is--what we know we ought to do--and at the same time make it clear that we would not disturb good people who have been brought up in other ways. In restoring the observance of the Prayer Book, our whole strength, and our certainty of success, lies in our showing all men that we do desire to carry out the orders of our Church,--not allowing any private fads (even in small matters) to obscure our devotion to principle. The people of England will rally to the call of duty. It is not their fault that they have not heard it before. Loyalty and duty have been the strength and glory of our public life, of our soldiers and sailors, our judges and doctors. The appeal to duty stirs all that is best in the nation. It will not fail in the Church. Let it only be tried.
I do not minimise the difficulties. They will need much wisdom and patience. But they will be lessened if the clergy will stick to principle, and not estrange their people by meaningless trivialities. A real enthusiasm [15/16] for the Prayer Book standard will steadily reduce all obstacles. In many town parishes it is possible at once to place the Eucharist and sermon at 10 or 11, and to precede it by Mattins and Litany. And this has been done with success in some country parishes. In some places local feeling would make this impracticable; but, where this is so, I do not think a regular 8 o'clock Eucharist, with Mattins and sermon at 11, is a wise plan: it stereotypes the existing evil. When the Priest is single-handed, it is better to have an early Eucharist once a month only, and to have a sung Eucharist every Sunday at a later hour, say 9:30. The devout communicants will come to this, and a generation of young people can be brought up to the same practice: it thus becomes possible, as the parish is educated, to transfer the sermon to its proper place in the Eucharist, and after a while to place Mattins and the Litany before it. But all changes should be frankly explained beforehand, and the reason (loyalty to the Prayer Book) clearly given; while at the same time everything strange in the manner of celebrating (such as private prayers and gestures which the people cannot follow) should be rigorously eschewed. Such things do not help to raise the Eucharist in the eyes of the people. They lower it.
The Bishop of Salisbury has suggested that Mattins should be at 9, followed by Litany and Holy Communion. This is ideal, and in several parishes it has been already successfully realised. In some such gradual way as I have ventured to suggest it should be ultimately possible everywhere, especially if the Bishops help the [16/17] clergy by charges such as those of the Bishop of Salisbury. It would be ideal to have the Services thus early, for it would get over the difficulty of fasting Communion, and, at the same time, it would secure the High Celebration as a Service of the Communion of the people. For, let us always keep in mind that non-communicating attendance, though lawful, and for small children necessary, is not the ideal either of the Primitive Church or of the Prayer Book. The weekly attendance at Communion of adult communicants is not the ideal, though it can be a valuable stepping-stone towards the ideal, which is that every adult communicant shall receive the Holy Sacrament on every Sunday and Holy-day.
Surely, it is of paramount importance to restore the almost atrophied virtue of worship. The curse both of our religious and our secular life is that we do not worship Almighty God, that we are so largely hearers and not doers of the word,--hearers of sermons, hearers of ornate music; and consequently sluggish, without initiative, without devotion, without the fire of intimate love. It is, I venture to think, obvious that, to restore the genius of worship (once an instinct of our people), we must stick to the Bible and the Prayer Book, and thus restore the Eucharist--the great Evangelical Service--to its lawful place. But in so restoring it, we must restore also that clothing of lawful ceremonial, which is so expressive, so essentially popular, because so intelligible in its dramatic simplicity. Who can deny that, by the neglect of this ceremonial during the past two or three centuries, we have failed to make the Lord's own Service understanded by the people? If [17/18] they had understood it, they would never have ceased to love and frequent it. Even the great gain of having the Service in our mother tongue has proved useless, because our fathers forgot the other means of making it intelligible. Who can deny, galling as the admission may be, that it was better understood in Latin, with an expressive ceremonial, than in English with a blank one? We have a Liturgy which for sheer beauty of language is unsurpassed in Christendom. Yet this splendid opportunity, which the Reformers gave, has been wasted.
Well, it may be said, but we have altered all that. See how bright our Services are! My Lord, I know this "brightness," and I very much doubt if it has made the Prayer Book more understanded of the people. I see everywhere a "bright" Mattins, intoned by Priests wearing the same vestments as those in which they celebrate, and culminating in the Eucharistic sermon, the Eucharistic offering of alms upon the Altar, and the Eucharistic blessing, in churches where the Eucharist has been celebrated--without any brightness--early in the morning for some half-dozen worshippers. And I do not see in this any approximation to the Prayer Book order; on the contrary, I see in it an attempt, if an unconscious attempt, to make the people contented with the preface instead of the thing itself, to satisfy them with that which is not bread. I see the Sunday Evensong rendered with the same Eucharistic accessories, made unpalatable to the average man by ornate and unsingable music, and also brightened by the same sacramental stole, but never brightened by Holy Baptism as the rubric directs, never relieved after the Second [18/19] Lesson [* The Prayer Book, true to the principles of psychology, always places the sermon, instruction, or address, soon after the lessons and before the principal prayers. This will be noticed, not only in the Eucharist and at Evensong, but also in the Occasional Services, as, e.g., in the Commination, in the Visitation, and also in Confirmation, which begins with a short address, and sends the children quietly away after the last prayers without any anticlimax in the way of preaching. The Marriage Service ends with a homily (or sermon), and abruptly, because the Holy Communion ought to follow, if possible, "at the time of their Marriage." In the Baptismal Offices the Gospel is followed by an Exhortation "upon the words of the Gospel," though another Exhortation is added at the end for the special reason that the initiatory rites are not complete.] by the catechising which another rubric orders, which would release the country Priest from the impossible task of preaching two good sermons a day, and which, believe me, can be made as delightful and instructive to the adults who listen as to the young people who answer. In towns, this catechising at Sunday Evensong might be devoted to the elder boys and girls (who at present are allowed to forget the little they ever learnt), the Children's Catechism being taken at an earlier hour. [*This Sunday evening catechising after the Second Lesson is of especial use in the country; but it can, I believe, be done with great success in towns also. A large number of nominal Churchmen, especially amongst the working classes, go to church in the evening; and the opportunity of giving them definite teaching--not, of course, childish teaching--is invaluable. The effect upon the clergy, too, in having to read theology for this purpose would be excellent.]
Let us by all means have bright Services, if by that we mean singing in which everyone can join, if we avoid the temptation to make our Services dull and without significance, through perpetual monotoning, if we secure real brightness by clear and stirring reading of the Lessons "distinctly with an audible voice"--and by short and [19/20] vigorous sermons, and by interesting instructions; and if we remember to make the highest Service the brightest of all. Let us, in fact, bring out the real brightness of our Services by doing them proper justice.
And, if we are to have ceremonial, let us remember that it becomes worse than useless when we rob it of its meaning. I can only account for the still common practice of wearing coloured stoles upon every conceivable occasion, by supposing that the clergy have not yet sat down to consider why they do these things. Certainly there is no justification for it in the Ornaments Rubric, which strictly limits the stole to the Sacraments; certainly not in the First Prayer Book of Edward VI., which mentions the surplice, cope, and vestment, but does not mention the stole at all. [* Many Priests imagine that the use of the surplice and black stole proclaims them to be "moderate'' and loyal, having, apparently, an idea that this is the use of the Canons of 1603. The truth is that the stole is not mentioned in the Canons at all, though the cope is. In the first Prayer Book it is implied as part of the Eucharistic "vestment," but not otherwise. The use of the stole with the surplice (and then only for Sacraments) requires that literal interpretation of the Ornaments Rubric, which restores all the ornaments of the early years of Edward VI.] The essence of the matter is that the Priest should wear a special dress for the Holy Communion, in order to show how different this Service is from the others. Our grandfathers forgot that: they wore a perfectly correct choir habit, which had come down to them from the Middle Ages--a long surplice, a hood, and a black scarf: their mistake was that they did not change this dress before they went to the Altar. We shall make a great error if we give up this choir habit of surplice, scarf, and hood, which is a valuable witness to [20/21] the continuity of the English Church. We shall make the Services of the Church less meaningless, if (obeying the Ornaments Rubric) we do not put on a stole until we go down from the chancel to take a Baptism; and if for the Holy Communion we wear that special vestment which is clearly ordered, even by the lowest interpretation of the Ornaments Rubric.
"But," it may be said, "these things have brought trouble upon the Church." My Lord, it is not faithfulness to Prayer Book directions that has brought trouble upon the Church; it is unfaithfulness. In every case of what are called "ritual disputes" that I have known, there have been violations of the Prayer Book, there have been acts of private judgment, and too often there has been deliberate copying of the Church of Rome in defiance of our rubrics.
No doubt it is possible that a man might carry out the letter of the Prayer Book, and yet, by want of tact, by unsympathetic haste, or by want of pastoral diligence and friendliness, might fail; or through the un-Christian crankiness of some exceptional squire might be hampered. But one can only speak for sensible men; and them I would remind that the old-fashioned lawful choir habit reassures people considerably, and that the legal vestment for Holy Communion can be made of plain white silk and need not necessarily be decorated even with orphreys; nor, may I add, be of that debased shape which makes the wearer resemble a sandwich man. It is not the thing itself that offends: it is the manner of the thing.
People have taken such a strange delight for fifty years past in accentuating party divisions by "high" or "low" eccentricities of ceremonial, that we are apt to [21/22] forget how unnecessary all this is. A Service may perfectly well be at once Catholic and Evangelical by conformity to the Prayer Book; and there are many degrees of elaboration which may be conscientiously adopted. For instance, a Celebration of the Lord's Supper may be made "advanced" and "very high" (if I may be allowed the popular nomenclature) by the use of coloured vestments for the Priest and his assistants (including the Clerk), of copes, of frankincense, and so on. Or it may be "moderate," the Priest wearing, let us say, a white silk chasuble, and having only a Deacon or a Clerk to assist, while there are fewer lights, no incense, and not much ceremonial. Or it may be "low," without a cross on the altar and no lights on it, so long as there is one lighted candle somewhere near; and the chasuble may be the simplest linen thing imaginable, and there may be no intoning, and the preacher may wear his black gown (though this is rather sacerdotal) if he likes. All these variations would still be within the Ornaments Rubric, and faithful to Catholic tradition; for they would be variations of style, not of principle. And in many parishes something of the plainer sort is really needed, especially when the Eucharist is first put into its proper place as the principal Service. I feel assured that in the near future all sensible men of whatever party will in this way approximate more and more to the Prayer Book standard, and will find that by so doing they have drawn closer to one another than used to be thought possible.
Above all, we have to make it clear that, whatever we do, we honestly do it because we want to be loyal to our Mother Church. People will respond to that. And [22/23] we have to make it clear that we are not trying to Romanise, even in little things. We talk of these things as little, but how often is it some quite unimportant and meaningless trifle that causes our brother to offend? And, as regards the integrity of our position, do we sufficiently remember that one practice, or ornament, which we have imported from another Communion on no authority but that of our own fancies, deprives us of all right to say, "I do this because I am a man under authority, and my duty is to obey the law?" If we claim the Ornaments Rubric for what we do, we must be clear that this claim is honestly made: the use for instance, of the cotta--a small matter, indeed quite literally a small matter--is important for this reason, that it can only be defended by an appeal to private judgment, an appeal which can be used with disastrous results by the opponents of all Catholic principles. We must be clear, too, that we are equally conscientious in other matters; that we, for instance, celebrate the Eucharist according to the prescript form, and not according to our own private fancies as to what would be a nice Service.
May I briefly mention another instance? We are told by the Prayer Book that the chancels shall remain as in times past. The clergy are the guardians of many chancels of priceless beauty; it is for them to see that they keep them as the Prayer Book directs. A flight of steps behind the altar, with a row of candles, is not only fatal to the beauty of an old Gothic church, (because such churches, being designed for an altar without gradines and with a different arrangement of lights, are always spoilt by an attempt to fit them up in the Italian fashion), [23/24] but it is also a standing witness to anybody who may come into the church that our ornaments are not those prescribed by the Book of Common Prayer.
These are surely not matters to be made light of, though they are on a plane of importance far beneath that of the daily Services or the position of the Eucharist; for plain men do judge us very much by the concrete evidence of our ornaments, and the strength of a chain is in its weakest link. There is, of course, a danger here of pedantry and antiquarianism: to say this is only to say that there is a need of scholarship and of the historical spirit, here as necessarily in all matters of liturgiology, or, for that matter, of theology or politics or art. For the scholar may be small-minded and lapse into pedantry; the historian may shut his eyes to the broadening lessons of history, and forget in antiquarianism the needs of present times; but it would be foolish indeed to make this an excuse for neglecting sound learning and being blind ourselves. The English Church happens to base herself in a special manner upon history--she appeals to the Scriptures and primitive antiquity for her theology, [* Articles VI., VIII., etc.] to the ancient Fathers for her ritual, [* The Preface Concerning the Service of the Church, Article XXIV., etc.] to Catholic tradition for her ceremonial; [* The Preface Of Ceremonies, Canon 30 (1603), Canon & (1640), etc.] she refers us to the second year of Edward VI for her ornaments, [* The Ornaments Rubric] and to the later middle ages for the arrangement of her chancels. [* "And the chancels shall remain as they have done in times past." (First inserted in 1552.)] [24/25] Her formularies, therefore, cannot be understood without a good deal of historical knowledge. Some people may object to this, and may ask--Why should they be bound by documents that are two or three hundred years old? But the fact remains that they are so bound, whether they like it or not; and that the whole intention of the Reformers, as shown from end to end of the Prayer Book, Articles, and Canons, was to bind them to principles that are nearer two thousand than two hundred years of age. Nor will they be released from this bondage to historic continuity till the same authority that imposed it shall have removed it,--which will not be for a long time to come. The attempts that have been hitherto made at throwing off this light yoke have not been so conspicuously successful in their results as to encourage us to proceed. Therefore I ask Churchmen to renounce those futile experiments of private judgment, and to throw themselves into the task of realising in its entirety that sound Catholic ideal which the defenders of the English Church preserved for us through the most troublous period of her history. I ask them, not only on the ground of authority, but also because experience has shown that the manifold antinomianisms of many generations are, as the Preface says, "either of dangerous consequence (as secretly striking at some established doctrine, or laudable practice of the Church of England, or indeed of the whole Catholic Church of Christ) or else of no consequence at all, but utterly frivolous and vain."
Such, my Lord, are the main reasons why I believe that in loyalty to the Book of Common Prayer lies "the [25/26] solution of the present difficulties of the English Church." I have but touched on a few of the main issues, leaving the details to be taken by my hearers on trust. Yet, before ending, I would briefly guard against three misconceptions.
1. Loyalty to the Prayer Book does not bind us to think it perfect and incapable of improvement. In many ways it might be altered and made even more excellent than it is. But our business is not with that. Our business is to carry it out loyally--to make the very best of what is, in any case, very good. A soldier generally criticises the methods of the campaign in which he is engaged. Nevertheless, he obeys his orders.
2. Loyalty to the Prayer Book implies a sound interpretation of that book: it does not, for instance, exclude the use of hymns, etc., or oblige us to use all the Prayers after the Third Collect every day, or the Prayer for all Conditions more than four times a week, or the Long Exhortation and Warning at every Eucharist.
3. Loyalty to the Prayer Book, like loyalty in every other part of the Church in every period of history, allows the use of additional Services so far as shall be enjoined or allowed by lawful authority. The work that I have been privileged to do in helping to edit a new Altar Book, with additional Collects, Epistles, and Gospels, shows that I am the last to desire any limitation of the possibilities of devotion. The Prayer Book is not exclusive; no Catholic Office Book ever is: additional Services are indeed a mark of a living Church. The Prayer Book was never intended to be exclusive, as is fully proved by the 250 pages of additional public [26/27] prayers and offices reprinted in the Parker Society's volume of "Liturgical Services of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth." [*Liturgies and Occasional Forms of Prayer set forth in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth. Edited by W. K. Clay. Parker Society. 1847. The additional Services and Prayers, which include a Latin Office In Commendationibus Benefactorum, and a Collect, Epistle, and Gospel for a funeral Eucharist (Celebratio Coenoe Domini, in funebribus, si amici et vicini defuncti communicare velint), extend from p. 432 to 695, and cover the years 1560 to 1601, the last being a prayer for the Queen composed by Whitgift the day before her death. In 1603 the Bidding Prayer was revised and made part of the Canons. In 1606 the Service for Nov. 5th was issued. The 2nd Canon of 1640 recognised the Accession Service, which, in one form or another, has been used in every reign since the Reformation. When in 1661 the Prayer Book reached its present form, it was followed (in 1662) by the special offices (with Collects, Epistle, and Gospel) for Gunpowder Treason, King Charles the Martyr, and the Restoration, none of which are in the Book Annexed (i.e., in the Prayer Book), though they are referred to in it. To the Accession Service was added the Prayer for Unity at the Accesion of George I. The first three offices were removed, 1859, by the same authority that had annexed them to the Prayer Book; that for the Accession was finally revised by Convocation in the present reign. Other Services to be found in old Prayer Books are that commemorating the Great Fire (which was not entirely discontinued till 1859), and that for use at the Healing for the King's Evil, which appears in some Prayer Books between the reign of Charles I and the year 1719.]
I set up no fetish. I ask nothing more than the general adoption of the Catholic principle of order. Nor do I ask for this loyalty without having made certain experiments myself. I have found that the Prayer Book works amazingly well, that it has removed many difficulties, and supplied just what was wanting. And why? Not because there is anything miraculous about these formularies; but simply because they [27/28] embody the wisdom of a thousand years, carrying on the results of the whole experience of Christianity in England, from its first conversion; because, though modified in many ways, they retain the essential features of the old Church system, the system that built up the religion of Christendom, whereas other devices have only brought confusion and loss.
One of the shallowest objections to this claim for loyalty is that it is "insular," the idea being, apparently, that to be really Catholic one must pick and choose on one's own authority as the fancy takes one. I need hardly remind you that if loyalty to the prescript order be insular, then insularity is the key-note of the Roman and Eastern Churches. If English Priests had stuck to their formularies as Romans and Easterns have to theirs, then the English Church would to-day be as marked as the Roman or the Eastern Churches are by such practices as frequent Services, fasting, the supremacy of the Eucharist, and the use of distinctive vestments for the Sacraments. Those who still fancy that obedience is insular would do well to consider seriously what alternative they have to propose. They will find that the only alternative is anarchy, under which each parson may set up his own ideas of Church order and worship; and these ideas have persistently differed, not in details only, but in essentials, from the principles of the Church Catholic. By this system; or want of system, you may have a pseudo-Romanism in one parish, a pseudo-Puritanism in another, and a decorated worldliness in another, but in few will you have Catholic worship and order. Nor will you gain the respect or trust of the rest of the Church or of the world at large. The man [28/29] of the world will accuse you, as he does, of doing one thing when you have undertaken to do another: the Papist will say, as he does, that your Church is no Church because it can only attain a mock Catholicism by flaunting the plumes which you have borrowed from him: the Puritan will use the law-breakers on his own side to claim that the English Church is but an unjustly privileged sect; and the law-breakers on the other side, will give him, as they have given him, the opportunity of stirring up the narrowest and bitterest prejudices in the country. But loyalty to the Prayer Book disarms the enemies of the Church, at the same time as it restores the effectiveness of her friends. And if we set--as we should--the fortunes of the Church Universal above those of our own communion, we shall still do well to remember that the weakening of Anglicanism would remove the greatest agency which God in His providence has left in the world for the reunion of Christendom.
My Lord, and brothers, I see everywhere signs of a new spirit of loyalty and devotion. I see a desire to get away from the old party spirit which made a tribal badge of the very cut of a surplice, the very shape of an altar. I see thinking men convinced on all sides that the mimetic methods of the past were suicidal, convinced now against that fatal weakness for copying first Geneva and then Rome, and often both together, which has destroyed our self-respect as well as our pastoral efficiency. We are beginning at last to be proud of our part of the Church, and to live up to its standard. We are beginning to recover that unity of spirit, that enthusiasm of loyalty, which will enable us to regain [29/30] the ground we have lost, and to arise to the vast opportunity which the Anglo-Saxon race has spread before the Anglican Church.
And not our race only, but the whole world, will need in the near future that message which we can deliver. The religious need of all civilised people is coming to be this--a pure Catholicism, reasonable, liberal, orthodox, faithful to the essentials of historic Christianity, beautiful and intelligible in its worship, glorious in a rich simplicity. We have feebly followed too long: it is time that we led. It is time that we showed before the Nonconformists of our own race, and before the Christians--both Catholic and Protestant--of other nations, the ideal of that pure, primitive, and reasonable Catholicism which our Prayer Book Articles and Canons assert to be the ideal of the English Church, and which will be a sore need of the world before the present century has passed.
The English Church is on her trial. It is full time that her children rallied, uniting themselves in a common loyalty to her laws. She has to regain her own lost children: she has to help the cause of Christendom throughout the world, drawing the sundered Churches together, proclaiming the forgotten ideal that once made Christendom strong and one.
And only this is needed: that to herself she should be true.
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