Prayers having been read by the REV. SIR L. T. STAMER, BART.,
THE LORD BISHOP said: My Christian friends, I see by the programme which has been put into my hands that as I have the honour to occupy this chair I am expected to say something to you before we pass to the business of the evening. But, ladies and gentlemen, you have come here not to hear me, but to hear my friend Mr. Beresford Hope. Nevertheless, I cannot but express what I heartily feel--the great pleasure I have in seeing this hall so numerously and so very respectably filled. The only regret I have about meetings of this kind, and particularly in the case of rooms filled as this is, is that they are really too exclusive. I see nothing in the subject of this lecture, from the heading of it, but what is calculated to do good to all classes, and I really do regret very much that the assembly should be all of one class, or something very much like one class. I wish all classes of the people could have been here to-night. Now I said my words should be few, and so they shall. But I cannot help saying to you how very much interested I am on this occasion. We are met here on behalf of a society called the Church of England Young Men's Society. I believe the object of that society to be to band young men together in what I may call, in the best sense of the words--(familiar to us as they are in a very different sense)--a holy alliance--that is to say, an alliance in which young men help each other to become wiser, better, more intellectual, and therefore more Christian, for we have apostolic authority for saying that Christianity is a "reasonable service." Well, I say they are banded together to help each other to become more intelligent and better Christians, and I will take leave to add--(I am sure you will allow me to do so)--better members of the Church of England; because (though I entertain none but kind feelings towards those who separate themselves from the Church,) these young men believe, as I do, the Church of England to be a true representation of Christianity, and therefore they conscientiously and honestly belong to it. Well, ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Hope is going to give us a lecture on the Prayer Book. Now I am not going to speak to you oil the Prayer Book. Time would not allow me; and perhaps you would receive what I should say as the testimony of a somewhat interested, though I hope not a dishonest, witness. Be that as it may, the Prayer Book speaks for itself. The Prayer Book has this recommendation far above all others, that it is grounded, as we believe, upon the truths of Holy Scripture. What is more, it teaches us to pray not only according to the spirit but also in the very language of Holy Scripture.
It has not only the mind, but, if I may so speak, it is the very mouth-piece of Holy Scripture. It is remarkable that some of the strongest testimonies in favour of the Prayer Book have been borne by those who have not belonged to our communion. The late Robert Hall was one of the most eminent Nonconformist Ministers and one of the most eloquent preachers of his day, and his memory is still cherished at Cambridge and elsewhere. I am sorry that I cannot quote the words in which he speaks of the Prayer Book of the Church of England, but I well remember reading them, and I have no hesitation in saying that he speaks of it as a book of public devotion surpassed by none. I am not sure that he does not assign to it a yet higher place. Now my friend Mr. Hope is about to lecture upon its social influence. I will not anticipate what he is going to say to you. I well know I should not be able to say it so ably, so eloquently, and so fully. It appears to me a most interesting subject. Our social relations, our social duties, are some of the most important we have. And if the Prayer Book is, as I firmly believe it is, an incomparable manual of devotion and a true representative of Holy Scripture, it must have a beneficial effect upon our social relations; or, to use its own simple language, upon the discharge of our duty to our neighbour. And if Mr. Hope make this clear to us, as I have no doubt he will, it will be a new recommendation of the Book of Common Prayer to us all. The duty of charity, in the apostolic sense of love, was referred to in the prayer read by Sir Lovelace Stamer. It was the test of Christian discipleship appointed by our Blessed Lord, and its paramount importance is again and again strongly enforced in the writings of his great Apostle, St. Paul. For the discharge then of this great duty of love, we must watch and pray, whatever our creed or profession may be. I know not whether all to whom I am speaking are Churchmen or not, but this I know, that whatever else we may be, we fail of the highest grace of our Christian calling if we fail in brotherly love.
I have now to introduce Mr. Hope to you. And yet I need not introduce him, for he is well known to you all. He is known, indeed, all over England. When I first saw him he was receiving a prize at Harrow, and he has kept up that prize-getting habit of his all his life. He is distinguished as an author, and, what is much better, he is distinguished as a promoter of good works everywhere. He is distinguished as a lecturer, and he is distinguished, I am thankful to say, as a most munificent, benefactor of the church of which ho is a member. He has lately made himself known to you in this neighbourhood, under circumstances of which it would not be proper for me to speak on an occasion like the present. But this I will venture to say--that he conducted an honourable contest here in a way that became an holiest man, a man of truth, and a man of honour.
MR. BERESFORD HOPE said: The subject on which by your kindness I address this society, and not only this society but every one here present, friends and countrymen all--whether fellow-Churchmen or not fellow-Churchmen I do not enquire, for I address you all as friends--that subject, I say, is one which I approach without fear or misgiving. It is a subject which is very near and dear to me, and on which I may say that I have thought much, read considerably, and have very decided opinions. Having these very decided opinions, and having weighed them not only as they affect myself, but as they affect my neighbours also, I make bold to occupy your time this evening with reflections on the Social Influence of the Prayer Book--reflections which you may not all agree with, or which you may not all follow out as I do, but which cannot hurt, cannot irritate, cannot offend any one of you. I am a Churchman--a member of the Established Church of England. I love her Prayer Book, and my lecture to-night is a vindication of that Prayer Book. It is not a vindication of the Prayer Book as a theological document, nor yet as a political safeguard. It-will regard the Church of England as one of the great political institutions of the state, but it will, as I have said, deal with the social influence of the Prayer Book. With this as our starting point, I beg you to accompany me through a course of reflections of which I tell you beforehand the sum total will be, that the Prayer Book, us a book--a literary composition--is an invaluable fact in the social and (speaking in the broad, non-partisan sense of the word,) the political condition of England. Briefly and boldly I aver it to be the social Magna Charta of the land, and I claim that it is so as much to the Nonconformist as to the Churchman. This, in a few words, is the sum total of what I am going to say to-night. I do not throw myself on your kind consideration. There is nothing on account of which I need do so. I stand here to-night to hold and to utter my own opinions. I stand here convinced at the same time that there is nothing in these opinions which could give reasonable offence to any man. I shall say nothing which can give reasonable offence to any member of the Church, of whatever shade of churchmanship--for the Church, like a beautiful landscape, has its various colours and its contrasted lights and shadows. There will be nothing which can offend a Churchman of any shade, nor any person who may be at home in any of those other landscapes, right and left, which make up the great panorama of our good England.
The Prayer Book may be termed the documentary, crystallized Church of England. Be it so. We are all of us very much disposed, if not inclined--I might say compelled--to deal with Church of England questions, but it is a misfortune of our time that many of those Church of England questions which we are driven to handle are questions of a political character. Such are those which deal with certain systems of taxation, having reference to the sustentation of the Church and its worship, and so on. Well and good. We have had had plenty of fighting in and out of Parliament about them. There are things which both sides think very strongly about, and as both are Englishmen, I need not say it is in the nature of things that if they think strongly they will sometimes talk strongly. They very often act strongly too, and this would not be the free country it is if its inhabitants could not both talk and act strongly. But it is as well, and a good deal better and more right, that occasionally people should be able to withdraw themselves from the pugnacious side of the Church, and deal with it in its social, devotional, literary, and personal character. In that character I appeal to you, gentlemen of the Church of England Young Men's Society and others, and ladies who assist this evening, and I ask you to look at the Prayer Book in its social aspect. I invite you to weigh well the whole import of this phrase. I deal with the book not only as it influences those who habitually use it, but as it acts upon those to whom it is only a literary work. As fearlessly do I appeal to those who do not habitually regulate their worship, public and private, by its formularies, when I call upon them to admire and acknowledge its excellences as a book which may be read at home, at their leisure, and may be dwelt upon as a marvellous monument of piety, learning, and eloquence, as I call upon those to whom its daily use is familiar, to make the same confession. Now do not go away with a mistaken notion of what I am telling you, and say "We have had a very comfortable lecture. A man got up and said we might just as well read our Prayer Book at home as go to church." What I am arguing is not that you are as good when you keep at home upon occasions when church calls you, but that anywhere the Prayer Book in itself is good and suitable for the devotions of the many and the meditations of the solitary.
The Prayer Book, more than any book which any other nation ever turned out, is a great national work. Shall I call it a great national epic? Shall I call it a great national song-book, or rather a solemn record of universal feeling, such as none other people ever produced? It may be that this view of the Prayer Book is new to you, but you shall hear the reasons for it. All nations, over and above their hard, dry, political life--over and above that formal constitution written on parchment and bound up with iron clasps, which deals with law, justice, and punishment, and speaks very little of mercy--speaks very little of the imagination--speaks very little of the amenities of life--all nations, more or less, have, I say, another constitution, which deals with their domestic life, deals with their higher relations, that infinite, eternal unseen to which they are driving, that infinite world beyond their ken--with the laws of morality, with the laws of social life, with the laws of progress, with the retrospect of antiquity. Something or other of that world is necessary, more or less, to the social life of any great people. There are nations with whom it is a constitution to life, and there are others to whom it is one unto death. For the tribes of Israel it was visibly written by the finger of God, among the thunders, the darkness, the awfulness of Sinai. The Jews alone found both constitutions written in the same book. Among heathen nations this other constitution varies with the lands and the languages, but is in each a tangled skein of good and base, partly traditionary, partly 'invented. Among the whole great Christian people there are the Holy Scriptures, as among the Jews, making them so far one, yet in its temporal concerns the commonwealth of God is parted, politically and socially, into many peoples. They have been divided, century after century, by wars and rumours of wars, by differences of climate and differences of legal constitution, by difference of language, by differences innumerable and unfathomable. Something rather lower, something indeed much lower, something much smaller, something more circumscribed, something marked with local colouring is requisite, in addition to the Holy Scriptures, for the true national life of every Christian people in its completeness--something or other literary, imaginative, and devotional, besides the dry, legal Magna Charta, is wanted for all. I tell you that is what the Prayer Book has been to the people of England, more than any thing else has been to any other people, and to its influence I attribute much of our greatness. Go back to the earliest antiquity for proofs of my position. In spite all the crimes, public and private, committed by the Greeks, they were preeminently an intellectual and a beauty-loving, though often unprincipled race. What was the great bond of sympathy, what was the great connecting link of that race? What made them more than all a nation, though split into so many governments? I reply, the poems of Homer. I do not prove it to-night: it stands to reason and to fact. Among the Romans there were old rustic ballads--ballads Lord Macaulay attempted to reproduce in his stirring "Lays of Ancient Rome." Those old ballads were very well for the Romans when the love of fighting remained, but when they became luxurious, critical, and fastidious, those old ballads were not enough. They claimed the empire of the world, and then a man of infinite ability if not of genius--(the question is not yet solved whether he had real genius, or only the very highest class of that which yet falls short of genius)--I mean Virgil--was appointed by Augustus, the consolidator of the new system, to write a poem embodying the national life of his countrymen, which the world has ever loved and cherished, but which is not Homer. Coming down to a later period, we have the Sagas of Scandinavia, and the Koran of the Mahometans. But let us take modern European nations, and see what we find. The stately traditionary devotional offices of the undisturbed, un-reformed Latin and Greek churches are written in a language not understood by the people, in a foreign and dead language, and that, without entering into their contents, shuts them out from being what I have foreshadowed. Is there anything to supply their place? Take Italy. There is that poem of Dante, a sacred inheritance, but not a folks-book, not a folks-song, in the sense I mean. Take Germany. Luther's hymns have a great influence on the religious and social relations of North Germany, but they are hymns and not a book. In Spain there is nothing, for the poem of the Cid is no more than an antiquarian relic. Proud France is even worse off than any other people--France has not even a claimant. I think, if we look back with something of an analytical spirit, we shall find that this lack had something to do with the marked instability of the French character and French institutions. If it is not a cause, it is at least an instructive result. The French are a standing puzzle. Taken individually they are eminently a philosophical and political people. In their corporate capacity their philosophy and their politics are at fault. Pick out any average Frenchman, and how much more cleverly for the most part will he talk off-hand than the Englishman in the same position. But look at him and his compeers as they bind up into a people. How little are they able to guide themselves! How helpless they are by the side of Englishmen! Perhaps, as I have hinted, absence of some folks-book of the kind I have referred to may have its share in this difference, partly as cause and partly as result. Holland has nothing of the kind to show, while amongst the Scandinavian nations there are different Protestant prayer books, written in the vernacular, and riot unlike our own in their general structure, but these do not seem to have rooted themselves in the people's affections like our own.
But now let us come back to England, and let us ask, are there not in England books that are, as it were, the Christian Homer of this favoured land? Is there no national and living folks-lore? Is there not some book which is the social, the devotional, the moral Magna Charta of the English people? I say there is, and that book is the Prayer Book, the like of which is to be found nowhere else, and to the influence of which I believe it is not imaginative to attribute very much of that happy condition of things of which we are now so justly proud at home. That Prayer Book, in short, in one word, is unique. It stands by itself. There is no such book among any other Christian people in the world. It fills a solitary place in literature. I take high ground, and I extol our Prayer Book not only as the standard of devotional feeling and the guide of our religious thoughts, but I aver that, viewed in its literary aspect, it is the lodestar which keeps our good English language going in the way it ought to go, and-this, I assert, without excluding other subordinate influences. When I talk of the Prayer Book, of course I include the authorized version of the Holy Scriptures. You may exclaim, ''What strange thing are you saying? Include the Authorized Version in the Prayer Book! Include God's Holy Word in a work of human composition! What do you mean?'' I am prepared to meet the question and to give an explanation. The Prayer Book sets itself out as the method by which Holy Scripture is made useful and easy to the Christians of England. We must never forget that the Authorized Version is a human composition. The Holy Scriptures of God are a Hebrew and Greek book, and the Authorized Version is merely an attempt by good and learned men, writing, I fully believe, under the blessing of Almighty God, but writing as feeble men, to turn the old Hebrew and the old Greek into English, to the best of their learning and their judgment. The Authorized Version of the reign of James I. and the old translation of the Psalms, made in the time of Henry VIII., which is used in the Prayer Book, are the products of the same century during which the Prayer Book grew up. A great deal of the Prayer Book consists of direct extracts from Holy Scripture, included in the Tables of daily, Sunday, and special Lessons, all which, not to mention the Epistles, Gospels, and the Psalter, are an integral portion of the Prayer Book; so that, when I talk of the Authorized Version being included in the Prayer Book, I refer to that arrangement and facilitation of the Holy Scriptures for the study and reading of the English people which the Table of Lessons gives, and which is one of the crowning merits of our national book. If you thought I was talking strangely when I said the Authorized Version of the Holy Scriptures was included in the Prayer Book, this, very shortly, is the sum of what I meant. Taking then this definition of the Prayer Book, I say that as a standard of manly English it stands alone. There are other authorities of the English language, indeed, by its side. Excluding for one instant, merely for the sake of argument, merely and solely for the purposes of argument--excluding, I say, the divine side of the Prayer Book, and looking at it merely as a work of human literature--I claim for it the highest value. Suppose the most secular conceivable subject to come in question. I ask you whether the highest style of speaking and writing could not be founded on the Prayer Book? Any one not ashamed to own the truth, and who understands public matters, will not deny that in writing or speaking on the Polish question, the Corn Laws, or any other thing, however much apart from religion, the man of head who has best studied the language of the Prayer Book will be able to speak or write against the man who has learned in other schools with a force and purity which the many and the few would alike acknowledge. Merely in that sense--merely as a study in English literature--the Prayer Book stands in the first rank; and next to the Prayer Book stands that great, good gift of God--that wonderful revelation of intellect, of poetry, of imagination, and of wisdom--the plays of William Shakespeare. That great, good gift to us, I dare esteem them. We all know his influence--we all feel it. We all accept him, and I am one of those who never could and who never will dig that fathomless gulf between the things of God and the things of the world which some people see yawning before them, as if some of God's works were intrinsically worldly, and nothing but worldly. Of course there are things which are "worldly, sensual, devilish," but every thing which has good in it--every work of art, every picture, every statue, every piece of literature, every thing beautiful and not immoral--is in its degree God's revelation. With this belief, and in looking at the Prayer Book, while losing sight for one instant, and one only, of its divine character, and merely regarding it as a grand production of human wit and human learning, I say that following close upon the Prayer Book is "Shakespeare." I set the divine aspect of the Prayer Book aside in saying this, but I say that next to the Prayer Book, in its human aspect, stand the works of William Shakespeare, our other social and moral Magna Charta. These are the two things which give the tone to English literature, to English feeling, to English magnanimity, to English moderation, in a word, to English politics and to English everything.
I will, in illustration, tell you a story which very much interested me. It is a true story, for I was a party to it. It happened a few years ago, when I represented a county town in the South of England, that there was a festivity in that town in which I took a part, a sort of official part, as people sometimes do. At that dinner the toast of "the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Clergy" was duly proposed and duly acknowledged. After it had been acknowledged a foreigner got up and begged leave to speak. He was a distinguished minister and preacher of New York, not belonging to the Episcopal Church, but a man of eminence in that city, and the guest of a gentleman prominent at the feast. Of course the claim to speak was cheerfully accorded to him. You will wonder what he had to say, and so did every one, the toast being so essentially episcopalian and English. Perhaps the volunteer speaker felt the same. Any how he got up and, with much power and heartiness, announced himself to be, in a degree, a member of the Church of England, for the Church of England had given him that magnificent old translation of the Holy Scriptures which he, in company with other ministers of different Christian bodies, used and prized in America. He looked upon that, so he told us, as a bond of union between the Church of England and himself. I carry this sentiment of Dr. Cuyler's beyond the common possession of the Authorized Version into that admirable arrangement for practical purposes of those Holy Scriptures contained in our Prayer Book, and I say that that Prayer Book stands as a moderator and a beacon to all who speak the English tongue.
How came that Prayer Book where it is? How grew it up? The record of how the Prayer Book grew up is a very curious part of the history of God's holy Church since the days when the Saviour planted that church on earth. This I shall try very briefly, and as clearly as I can, to explain to you. The question is the creation of the actual Book of Common Prayer as a whole, and not of parts of that Prayer Book, which, as I shall explain, have an earlier and a different origin. But the history of the growth of the Prayer Book is a very interesting illustration of that peculiar characteristic of our English people which has kept us so straight among the storms and billows of revolution--the union of liberalism and conservatism, to use the cant political phrases of the day--the desire for change and progress when old things are worn out, joined to the love for the sustentation and retention of what is old where it is well tried, well proved, and useful. I say the history of the Prayer Book is a remarkable illustration of this peculiar temperament of the English people--that equal tenour of well judging minds which so peculiarly and so specifically characterizes our nation.
At the time of the Reformation, old things were worn out, and the Roman yoke had become intolerable. The Roman corruptions cried to heaven, and the people determined to reform their church. Thank Heaven they did so. But they did not attempt to construct a spick-and-span new church. Those who are of opinion that they did so should remember the story of the man who, when a smart fellow asked him where his church was before the Reformation, replied "My friend, where was your face before you washed it this morning?" They wanted to give the face of the church a good scrubbing, for it needed to be well scrubbed. Had they tried to make a new face for it they might have found themselves cobbling at a lifeless mask. Well, they set to work. Learned men, holy men, enterprized to reform the church, and they afterwards sealed their sincerity with their blood at the burning stake. They set to work to make a Prayer Book in English for the Church of England. How did they begin? They took in hand, they abridged, they rearranged and added to the existing prayer books of the Christian Church that were in use at that time, particularly in England. These prayer books, as we know, were deeply overladen, deeply ate into, ingrained, and begrimed with superstitions, bursting with idle legends, and vain repetitions, repulsive to Gospel-seeking, God-loving men. But still, alongside these were passages of Holy Scripture, with hymns and songs of the early Christians, and creeds, and confessions of faith, accepted before these corruptions came up. In fact, these were not new books, concocted in the days of corruption, but old books of Christian worship, altered, changed, written into, underlined, and cut up over and over again, through many long revolving centuries. This was the condition of things with which the men of the Prayer Book had to deal, and we had much better say so plainly. Of course, if we are really sincere members of the Reformed Church of England, and if we do protest against the errors of the unreformed church, Ave had better know what we protest against. We had better have reasonable ground of opposition, or else we shall address our arguments to those who, though they may be wrong in their whole premises, have a certain ground of fact on some of them, and who follow out this conclusion, and so we shall be turned over before we know where we are. There cannot be a better foundation of faith with us, than to know what legs our faith has to stand upon.
In the earliest times of the church, the Christian worship revolved round the celebration of the great memorial of our Lord's Death, the Lord's Supper, which in those days of zeal was then observed more frequently than, mostly speaking, it is with us. Gradually, alongside this grew up other occasions of worship. You will see, if you read the books of the Old Testament, that amongst the Jews the worship of God was repeated, independently of the sacrifices, at different hours of the day. That gave a type to the Christians, and beside the worship connected with the great sacrament of our salvation, grew up another worship at different hours of the day, consisting of prayers and hymns, and the reading of portions of Holy Scripture. Among these hymns, for instance, is the Te Deum, said to have been composed by that great teacher, Ambrose, when he baptized that still greater man, Augustine, whom he turned from heresy, and who became the father, the leader, and the teacher of God's Christian church, from that day onward and for ever. And there were songs borrowed from the Bible,--the song "My soul doth magnify," the "Nunc dimittis," and the holy song of Zacharias, when he revealed the Forerunner. Then there were short appeals for mercy, the "Lord's" own "Prayer," and occasional portions of Scripture, oft-repeated Psalms, collects founded upon texts, heart-rending litanies--all forms of worship which grew up in the early Christian Church. They were all originally written, as was to be expected, and as it was right they should have been written, and should for ever have continued written, in the popular tongue of the people. The popular tongue of the people, when these forms of worship were shaped, was Latin. The same thing went on in Greece; but it would hinder my story to travel into eastern Europe.
The Western books were, I say, written in Latin, which was still the language of Italy. Latin was to the people of Italy what English is to us here; and when barbarian Northern tribes presented themselves one after another as people among whom the missionaries of Christianity might work, as New Zealanders and other savage tribes present themselves in our day, the missionaries went out to them. But in the meantime the Roman Empire had fallen to pieces. It was an age of frightful corruption, of frightful anarchy and disorder. The whole world seemed to be coming to an end, and timid, God-fearing, Christian men hurried into the recesses of forests and to the heights of mountains, and formed religious communities there under the fear of the day of judgment coming at almost any moment. This fear was absolutely at the bottom of their conduct, and we cannot blame them for it, although the event proved that their terrors were exaggerated. Under the influence of this feeling they lived together in common. They cultivated the earth and reclaimed the waste lands, and though there might be much that was artificial in their rules, they kept up the fact of civilization and Christianity in times of horrible anarchy and distress, while the heathen and the savage seemed let loose. The crisis which produced them has long since come to an end, but in those times of trouble they sent missionaries to the Northern nations--good, self-sacrificing men, and often learned scholars, but not often broad-minded, philosophical thinkers, likely to start for themselves a system founded on their novel condition. They did not merely carry with them their Bibles and their prayers, but they also carried with them the language which they had been accustomed to use in Italy, and so they imported, miserably and unhappily, the use of an unknown tongue into barbaric lands. In Italy the language gradually changed, but the language of the Church Service did not change, and superstitious forms and usages, vain legends, vain ideas and dreams, mirages of the plain, spectres of the mountains, hollow sounds of the forests, all crowded round, and blurred, and marred the fair original. So, I say, gradually grew up that great corruption of the Christian Church, and that very elaborate form of worship in an unknown tongue. Modern defenders of an unknown tongue will appeal to a very pretty theory of modern coinage, and say that certain languages bear the especial stamp of sacredness. It is, I say, a pretty theory, and that is all. It is a theory invented and defended ex post facto. This an artificial condition of corruption, mingled with original good, has gradually grown up, so gradually that every step may be distinctly noted. This condition was the system of mediaeval worship. Mediaeval worship, with its missal and its breviary, or book of the canonical hours--that is to say of services for certain fixed hours of the day and night--was a strange mixture of good and evil. The frequent worship of God, the reading of psalms, hymns, and portions of Scripture, was good, but the observance of superstitious forms, the honours paid to the creature above the Creator, and the retention of an unknown tongue, were very bad.
It was a complicated and jumbled system, like many things in this world--a most complicated and inextricable jumble of good and bad. All the countries of Romanist mediaeval Europe agreed on the main features of the system, yet amongst them the old English people were always inclined to take a line of their own. The English were always a positive, determined, self-conscious, independent nation, and though in the Middle Ages these Roman corruptions existed in England, yet alongside the Roman corruption you might find--though not to the same extent as now-a-days--the same kind of English self-assertion in matters of religion as now exists. Among these old books of English worship was one called "The Use of Salisbury," and this was used in the cathedral and parish church worship of Great Britain and Ireland more than any other, though York, Hereford, Bangor, and other places had their own also. There were, I say, at that time several prayer hooks in use in England, hut the Salisbury Prayer Book was the most famous, while all of them were always somewhat different from the Roman form. Excuse my lengthiness, for I want to put you in possession of what was done by those good men, Cranmer, Ridley, and their compeers, who were enjoined in the days of Edward VI. to make up a new Prayer Book in English for the Church of England. I wish to place you on their standing ground. They had to use the materials which lay before them. They had the old prayer books of the Christian church, especially the old Prayer Book of Salisbury, which they had been rising up to that time, and I fully and firmly believe that they took the same view of matters before their time as that which I am telling you now. They had the same1 conviction that the old system was partly good and partly bad, and they had the same conviction that the use of an unknown tongue in divine worship had grown up in the sort of haphazard, irregular way which I have pointed, out, from the corruptions, and the divisions, and the narrowness of mind of many men, in the course of centuries, down to their own day. What did they do? Throw the books into the fire, and each man sit down to write all the finest things he could think of out of his own head? No. They took these old books and they said to themselves, "What is the genius, what the principle, of these books '? What is the addition, and what the corruption? What is Christian and what is Popish? What is the Christian part we keep, and what is Popish we strike out." As I said, the old system had many hours of daily common prayer--seven hours a day. It was a beautiful idea, but it was not practicable for the people at large, nor indeed did the people at large ever think of observing them, so the Reformers reduced the hours to two. They limited the hoTirs of prayer, reckoning and combining the morning-hours as one, and the evening hours as one, and in this way they produced the course of morning and evening prayer. They then took in hand the reading of the lessons, and instead of keeping the quantity of little lessons cut up, which was the old way, they lumped them into first and second lessons. They took a choice of old hymns, some like the Te Deum and the song of thanks in the Communion service, not to be found in the Scriptures--and others contained in Holy Writ--and they used them. They arranged the Psalms so that they could be read through once a month. They took the pious ejaculations, "Lord have mercy on us," and such like, and they reduced and used them in more sober proportion. They took the series of weekly and special collects, and they kept them with due modifications for every Sunday and for those holy days which they retained. They took that most sublime way of invoking Almighty God which is called "litany"--the series of short prayers, each capped by its still shorter answer from the people, and they summed up the litanies of the old time into that great compendium, our own familiar English Litany. They kept the division of Sundays into days like Easter, Whitsunday, and Trinity Sunday, and the lesser Sundays; and for each of them they retained the appropriate Epistle and the Gospel. They found in the old books services of marriage, baptism, confirmation, and so on, and they carried them out, translating in every case, and altering or reducing where it seemed to them good. Withal, they were not too timid to introduce original exhortation and prayers of their own. They felt they were compilers without having abdicated their right as authors, and they had occasions and opportunities for introducing their own original writing. So I say they produced this blessed and holy Book of Common Prayer--and made up a compendium and epitome of the devotions in use throughout the Christian church for fifteen centuries, down to the reign of Edward VI.--while labouring to refine and moderate its spirit, and thus to adapt it to the civilization of those modern ages which had just been revealed to the world. Old as the oldest, and new with the newest, the Prayer Book stood confessed, the popular mind of England embodied in its broadest, its purest, and withal its most practical aspects.
This, briefly speaking, is the history of the way in which our Prayer Book was put together. There have been sundry alterations from that time, and the last alteration was made 200 years ago. Some people, as now, so ever since its publication, have used the Prayer Book and some have not, but even those who have not--even the bitterest Nonconformists--owe a great deal to the Prayer Book, although they may have no idea of it themselves. I believe the Prayer Book is a standard on high--the standard of the Cross floating over the people, keeping the sun from our heads and the wintry storms from our homes, even when some of us do not recognise the shelter above nor the protection at our side. I do not shrink from defining this as the value of the Prayer Book, while I feel that its value is all the greater because it does not admit of scientific demonstration. I express a strong conviction, and if I am called upon to give a definition, I say more emphatically than I said the other evening, that it is the easiest thing in the world to make an assertion or give an illustration, but a most difficult thing to give a definition. I repeat that I cannot give the terms of the argument which make me attach this value to the Prayer Book. I simply say that my instincts show me that the good social influence of the Prayer Book--read by millions of men in millions of copies--is exercised over every one of us, whether he or she use it or not, and though he or she may not be in the least degree conscious of that influence, I speak with confidence, but yet, I trust, with all respect, for I feel that as a layman I have occupied an ambitious place. I have, as it were, been standing on the topmost step of the pulpit, with my hand on the handle of the door, and I hope I shall not be tempted to jump into it. Still allow me to hold the door and to stand upon the topmost step while I carry out my illustrations a little further.
Look at the special events of life. How does the Prayer Book influence the feelings of our people on the occasion of those special events? Take the one which to the great majority of us is the great event of our lives--an event, if it has not taken place with some of us, is one which at some time of our life will probably take place, or not taking place will cause a regretful void. I mean the event of marriage. Marriage, of course is a joyous event, and it is right we should be joyous when we enter on the married state; hut it has its serious and responsible side, and it is that serious and responsible side which I call upon you to face this evening. I take that event of marriage. We know that now, by a wise relaxation of the law within the last few years, all marriages need not be celebrated in the Established Church, under the forms of the Prayer Book. I say it was a wise and Christian relaxation. It was a right relaxation, and I assert at the same time most emphatically that those who honestly and truthfully, in the fear of God and in the respect of their neighbours, marry themselves by whatever form, either at their own place of worship, or by the machinery which the State provides, are truly and godlily married in the sight of God. I assert that roundly and sincerely, but at the same time I say that the existence of the form of wedlock contained in the Prayer Book is a great testimony before God, before man, and before woman, of what the sanctity and meaning of the marriage tie is, and of what this people of ours implies by the rite. It is in a great degree the source of the high morality which we may boast of in contrast with other folk, both on the continent of Europe and amongst our own kin across the Atlantic--a boast which I trust we shall maintain as a truth and not as a pretence. How-ever many may marry who do not use the Prayer Book, but according to other rites which I have no doubt are beautiful--and however many may sign the registrar's book--so long as the form of marriage remains in the Prayer Book, so long will its ideas of marriage be engrained in the mind of the English people as a natural inheritance. What then is the Prayer Book form? It is one which has existed in England since the days of the Saxons, for although, before the Reformation, most of the public devotions of the people were conducted in a language which they did not understand, the plighted troth of marriage was, from the times of the Saxons onward, given in the English language. It was English during the reigns of the Anglo-Saxon kings, it was English under the Normans and under the Plantagenets, it was English under the Tudors, it is English under Victoria, and so we marry those who are married in the Church in the language of more than a thousand years. What, then, is the high ideal of marriage which it holds out when "this man" takes "this woman" to wife?--"To have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto give I thee my troth." And the woman replies in the same words, adding, "and to obey." Now what must the people be in whom, in their own vernacular tongue, such an idea of marriage is engrained? It is the form of marriage with which a pauper is married out of the union, and the very same form of words which will be used when, with all the solemnity of a Parliamentary sanction, with all the solemnity and prodigal munificence of imperial state, and the exuberant joy of an united realm, with the assistance of the representatives of great nations, and the echoes of foreign rejoicings, under the roof of the Royal Chapel of St. George at Windsor, in the presence of the widowed Sovereign, with the banners of the Garter floating on each side, the Heir to the crown of this country will wed the woman of his choice. I said "the woman of his choice," for, thank Heaven, the Prayer Book makes no distinction of rank. Be the bride who she may--a princess in diamonds or a beggar lass in tatters, she is all the same, "a woman"--good English "woman,"--no "lady." In these words, I say, from the highest to the lowest, the man, in the sight of God and the congregation, takes the woman, and the woman takes the man. So be it, to the end of time, however few or however many may marry at the registrar's office, for so long as the good old service lasts--with its ring, and its troth, its "I worship thee," its obedience, its psalms, and its merry peal--so long will the marriage tie, whatever legislation may say, be held sacred in the eyes of the British people.
The couple are married, and they live happily together. Perhaps in time they see young smiling faces round their board, (rod grant they may. God grant it to any couple, to all couples. Simple minds may be disturbed by rumours of new things. They may hear that the consoling faith which their Bible tells them their Lord and Saviour instructed them to find in "Moses and the Prophets" they must abandon, or else offend and affront some apostle to the black men of Africa. If any such event happen, what do they think and say? They look at their little ones round the table, and they remember the time when they walked together the second, third, or fourth time, to the parish church, and walked there in the company of a third person, and of other persons bearing them company, and responding for that third person. And they say to themselves "What was the form with which this dear child was received into the Christian fold? What were the promises held out for him? What were the sacred types and symbols brought forward? Were they ancient fragments of Zulu history, or philosophical disquisitions? What were they?" They remember that when their child was brought to the font, the white-robed minister of the Gospel stood by the font, and his words of accustomed use were these--"Who of thy great mercy didst save Noah and his family in the ark from perishing by water, and also didst safely lead the children of Israel, thy people, through the Red Sea, figuring thereby Thy holy Baptism." I say, they remember those words. Let doctors dispute: we ourselves know how our children were received into God's holy baptism. We believe that this holy baptism was prefigured by His great care that saved Noah and his family from perishing by water. We believe that it was prefigured when God safely led the children of Israel, his people, through the Red Sea, and we are content. We are content, and only pray the prayer that follows hard in the same sendee, that we and they "being made steadfast in faith, joyful through hope, and rooted in charity, may so pass the waves of this troublesome world that finally we may come to the land of everlasting life, there to reign with Thee, world without end."
The waves of this troublesome world are past, and the loved one lies dead. Again the procession winds to the parish church. Again the white-robed minister of God is there. Again the assembly meets, again the psalm is sung, again the lesson is read, and then we hear the words, "Man that is born of woman hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery. He cometh up and is cut down like a flower; he fleeth as it were a shadow, arid never continueth in one stay." A few minutes after, the parable is taken up again, and we hear--"Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life." Mark me: not as some people falsely say, in sure and certain hope that that one person who is buried may himself rise to eternal life, but in sure and certain hope of the resurrection of the people of God to eternal life. So closes the third act--first, wedlock, "till death us do part;" then, baptism, that pilots us over the waves of this troublesome world; lastly, burial, that holds out the sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life. This is the Prayer Book of the Church of England, and this is its influence in the great events of every good man and every good woman's life--in their own baptism, in their marriage, in the baptism of their children, and in the burial of their dead. Such a book as that, what can we say of it? But it is not merely in these great events, these epochs of existence, that the beauty, and value, and eloquence, and wisdom of this book make themselves felt. Take the course of daily life. Take the order of morning and evening service. How beautiful, how appropriate, how varied are they in every respect? Withal, how stable, how self-sustained, and how reliable! Take the seasons of the year. We know that spring succeeds winter, that summer follows spring, and that autumn treads upon the heels of summer. How cold, and naked, and utterly unsatisfying, as far as I can judge, to the human mind and heart must that system of religion be which has no Christian year, which recognizes not the varying seasons--a system in which the Lord's Day of freezing winter, and the Lord's Day of budding spring, the Lord's Day of luxurious summer, and the Lord's Day of dreamy autumn are one and the same epoch for all life's length. That may be a system of worship which approves itself to many people. Let it do so. It is not my place to change them from the position which they occupy. All I can say is, that it is utterly inconceivable to me. I was brought up in another system, and I look upon the variations of the Christian year as a great possession and a great privilege of Christian men.
I take the beginning of the Christian year, and I ask, What is the day which we celebrate with holly leaves in our windows, with joyful festivity, with good cheer upon our tables, with the laugh of children in the parlour, with toy-giving to the infant, and the keepsake to the wife, and the offering of cheerful industry from the young to the old--by dinner to the school and to the poor, and flannel petticoats to the old women? I say, why on earth should the cold 25th of December be celebrated in that way any more than the 23rd, or the 27th, or the 17th of January, or the 10th of April, but because the Christian Church, because the Prayer Book, says Christ the Lord was born on that day? So, because my Lord was born on that day, and because the Lord's birth is celebrated on that day by the joyous service of the Christian Church, we keep the Christmas holiday. Christmas without its reason, and with no church open, would be a senseless revel.
Twelve days after Christmas we rejoice to see our young ones dancing round the Christmas tree, playing tit snap-dragon, passing the merry conundrum from one to the other, and drawing for king and queen. Why do we love to see them thus innocently happy on that day? Why are they drawing for king and queen on this 6th of January? Because our Prayer Book tells us that the 6th of January commemorates the visit of those mighty wise men from the East, whom the pious simplicity of former ages believed to be three Kings, to the cradle at Bethlehem. Therefore when we draw for the king and for the queen we keep up, to the latest generation, the memory of the visit of those great ones who were called kings, and who, whether they wore an earthly crown or not, will assuredly wear the heavenly crown which is laid up for them to all eternity. There again we see the beauty and the influence of the Prayer Book in our familiar Twelfth-day. Yet what would Twelfth-day be with closed churches?
Then conies a day which we celebrated eight days ago--Ash-Wednesday. Is there any man so very good that he does not need to go to church on Ash-Wednesday? Is there any man with a conscience rubbed so thoroughly bright and scrubbed so very white that he does not want one day in which to turn over the offences of the past year? If so, let him get up in this room. For him, Ash-Wednesday had better not exist. Again, take that later period which will come in a few weeks. The awful gloom of the Crucifixion gathers round Good-Friday, and then there follows a day of joy, of festival, and of holiday--of holiday at home and at school, to Parliament, to lawyers, in fact, to every one--joyous, buoyant, sunny Easter. What is Easter without its religious associations? Yet that is a time which we could not have but for the Prayer Book which contains its meaning. I ask you here--Churchmen, Dissenters, everybody--man, woman, and child--what should we be without Christmas and Twelfth-day, Easter and Whitsuntide? What an unjoyful, hard, dry, utilitarian, miserable, grovelling world this would appear with all these seasons rubbed out! Yet, if it were not for the Prayer Book, Christmas, Good-Friday, Easter, Ascension Day, (a period which ought to be more closely observed than it often is,) and Whitsuntide, would fade away from public recollection. I say, therefore, in the name of your Christian festivals, in the name of your Christmas holly and roast beef and plum pudding, in the name of your Easter holidays, I say, do not let go the Prayer Book, or depreciate its social influence. These national seasons do but follow out the rule which all united and affectionate families make, for themselves, and rightly too, for the nation and the Church are themselves equally families. In every happy household there are days of remembrance, special and joyous, birth-days, wedding-days, and so on. Well, then, Christian festivals are the like days to the Christian family and to the nation. But the nation would not long retain its recollection of them if it had not its national Prayer Book to call them to its mind.
But take all the other Sundays in the year. Take them one and all. They are not all, of course, observed in such a solemn, marked manner as Easter Day and Whitsunday, but still all of them belong to their respective seasons. For instance, there are the Sundays in Advent, the Sundays in Lent, the Sundays after Easter, Trinity Sunday, and the Sundays after Trinity.
Is there not something a great deal more instructive, and a great deal more provocative of the imaginative faculty, (which is a part of religion,) in this variety of Sundays than if you were to number your Sundays from one to fifty-two, from one end of the year to the other, and then go back to number one to repeat the same routine? The superior advantage of our way is a matter of common sense, and this difference of Sundays is due to the Prayer Book. We owe this to the Prayer Book, which in that respect derives itself from the better primitive part of that old unreformed Prayer Book to which we also owe the collects, the Epistles, and the Gospels, which are so marked a feature of the varying worship of those several Sundays. In old time the morning sermon was always an exposition of the Gospel or Epistle for the day. This rule no longer exists amongst us, and I must say that I think that the frequent connection of the sermon with the lesson, or with the Epistle or Gospel, is a thing which should not be overlooked by the clergy in the present day.
I cannot give a more material fact in proof of what I have been saying than the marvellous sale of a book which was published thirty-six years ago by a good man still living, loved and honoured by all, in a green old age: I mean "Keble's Christian Year." That book has passed through I know not how many scores of editions, and I know not how many tens and hundreds of thousands of copies have been sold. The object of the book is to express in poetry what I have vaguely attempted to explain in uncultivated prose--the meaning and sequence of the Christian Year as shadowed forth in our Prayer Book.
Now I hope I have said nothing unparliamentary tonight. Some people may argue that this observance of seasons is all very fine for old-fashioned folks, and did very well before the march of intellect began to march, but that the' world has got beyond that sort of thing. Now I will tell you a fact which perhaps you do not know. You will agree with me that if there is a practical and utilitarian body of men in the world it is the House of Commons. No one will accuse the House of Commons of being very sentimental, I hope. Well, now will you believe it that the House of Commons began, for the first time in its existence, to observe and honour Ash-Wednesday and Ascension Day during the administration, and with the assent and consent, of Lord John Russell? It is a fact. The first Parliament to which I belonged was that which brought in and threw out Sir Robert Peel, and sat from 1841 to 1847, and these days were not observed then. The House of Lords always observed Ascension Day, and as they never sit on Wednesday, of course they do not meet on Ash-Wednesday. However, Lord John Russell dissolved Parliament in 1847, and the new Parliament which met in that year was his Parliament. It was early in the session of 1848, and very early in the life of that Parliament, when the House of Commons was reminded that it ought, for decency's sake, and in accordance with the Prayer Book, to observe Ash-Wednesday and Ascension Day. This plea was admitted by the house and the minister, and it was settled that while on all other Wednesdays the House continued to meet at twelve o'clock, it should meet at two o'clock on Ash-Wednesdays, and no committee meet earlier, in order that members might, if they pleased, go to church. On all Thursdays it meets as usual in the evening, but committees have to sit from eleven in the morning. So it was at the same time arranged, for the same reason, that the committees should not meet until two o'clock on Ascension Day. So actually, in our own generation, and in the Parliament of Lord John Russell, the House of Commons cheerfully and unanimously made this acknowledgment of the social influence of the Prayer Book, in setting up the observance of these two days. I have not dwelt much upon that which I might have spoken a good deal about--the Table of Sunday Lessons, which gives in so compendious and clever a manner the leading chapters of the Old Testament; and the Table of Daily Lessons, in which the first lessons, with a sevenfold greater comprehensiveness, sweep the same ground as the Table of Sunday Lessons, while the second lessons offer the New Testament to be read over three times every year. This system is part of the wisdom of the Prayer Book; and all those who wish to make an intelligent study of the Scriptures would do well to study them according to the Prayer Book routine, not forgetting the Psalter. Of course they would do so with the whole Bible before them, and not omit the reading of the extra chapters, or the books like Chronicles or the Revelation, which do not come into the course; but they would find that they could study much more systematically if they made the Prayer Book course their base, than if they followed a plan of their own devising. Then, too, there is that service which stands almost alone--that marvellous poem (which it is)--that intense, continuous ejaculation, that cry of the distressed, yet confiding soul--the Litany. I have told you that the litany is a form of prayer which dates back to the earliest days of Christianity. There were many litanies in the unreformed Church--many that were merely superstitious and idle, and many, too, in which superstition and beauty were strangely blended. Our Beformers, with that mixture of originality and faith, obedience and diffidence, which were the marks of their piety and genius, took the middle course. They wrote not a new litany altogether: they translated not any old litany altogether: but they selected, and arranged the best features of the old litanies in one compendious whole. The result is that stupendous work--a work which, beginning with the highest ejaculations, calls upon the Lord to deliver us from all conceivable evil, all conceivable danger, all conceivable sin--which sums up this prayer for deliverance with the recapitulation of all the great events of the Divine Incarnation, which then makes a beautiful allusion to the powers which be, to those to whom we owe Christian obedience, and then goes on, with the poet's and the philosopher's eye, to recapitulate all the changes and chances of this troublesome world--all sickness, all adversity, all misfortune--all the wiles and temptations of the Evil One--all perils by sea, or on land, or in the field--and repeats, as from all of them it prays deliverance, "We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord." I say this Litany, merely as a literary production, is, in itself, to use a figure of speech I adopted a short time ago, the Magna Charta of the people. There is not one of us, who either himself or in the person of some friend, has not seen on some occasion, or on many occasions, the stricken heart flying to the throne of grace, unable to shape words of its own, but sobbing out its deepest feelings in the words of the Litany.
I hope and trust I have not discussed this subject in a way indecent for a layman, or indecent for a Town Hall, or with more than a hand upon the pulpit door. The society which invited me, the prayer with which this evening began, and the presidency under which we sit, have all led me on. I have tried to speak with all diffidence, but before I sit down I must picture before me, men of Staffordshire, men of the diocese of Lichfield, a great symbol and exemplification of the social influence of the Prayer Book, of which some of us who are here to-night, and your Lordship in particular, were participants a little more than a year ago. There was a great holiday, and from all parts of this county special trains ran all day long. Men put on their holiday dress, and women put on their holiday ribbons. The sun was bright, and the people's heart was joyous. What was all this for? On that day, that pride of our county, that pride of our diocese, that fair rose which blossoms amongst the green meadows of South Staffordshire, with its three "star y-pointing pyramids"--the mother church of Lichfield--was solemnly reopened. I need not recall that day to you. It is engraven upon your hearts. We were there, and you, my Lord, held the first place, as the divine worship went on, thousands of worshippers bending the knee in the building, and hundreds of choristers ranged round the eastern portion of the church. What did that magnificent cathedral,
"While through the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault
The pealing anthem swelled the note of praise,"
or what did that jubilant song of the multitude teach us, except the social influence of the Prayer Book? What but that influence brought the men and women of Staffordshire--streams of people from Ashbourne and the Moorlands, and the populous Potteries, and with them the denizens of South Staffordshire, of the county town and the teeming Black Country, in short, of the wrhole county, by hundreds and thousands, into that cathedral? The worship in the cathedral may have been grander and more musical than in parish churches, but still it was the same worship from the same Prayer Book--more ornamented and more costlily set out; but it was the same worship; the same Prayer Book was used, and there were the same clergymen who week by week use that Prayer Book single-handed in their own smaller parish churches. You felt that day the social influence of the Prayer Book. It came before you with thrilling power. Its usual every day influence may be simpler and more silent. Let it not be weaker. That book is the sheet anchor of our language. That book is the Magna Charta of English sentiment. It is the thing which keeps us going in the right direction, and maintains our social and moral preeminence in the world. It is the Prayer Book of all who use the English language--not merely the Prayer Book of members of the Established Church, but the Prayer Book of every Englishman, be he Conformist or Nonconformist--of every one who uses the English language, who reverences English traditions, and who wishes to keep England as she is. You have got the Prayer Book. I implore you to keep it. I pray Heaven you may never lose it.
The audience acknowledged, by cordial votes of thanks, the service which Mr. Hope had rendered the Society, and also the kindness of the Lord Bishop in taking the chair.