We end our Service with a BLESSING, which is to be pronounced by the Bishop, if he be present. See the Rubrick before the Blessing in the Communion-Service. Then the Priest or Bishop, if present, shall let them depart with this Blessing. This is order'd for the honour of the Bishops authority, Heb. 7. 7. Without contradiction the less is blessed of the greater.
Therefore blessing being an act of Authority, the Bishop ought not to be blest by the Priest, but the Priest by the Bishop.
This blessing of the Bishop or Priest was so highly esteem'd in the Primitive times, that none durst go out of the Church till they had received it, according to the Councils of Agatha Can. 31. in the year 472. and Orleans the third, Can. 22.
And when they received it, they did it kneeling or bowing down their heads. And the Deacon, to prepare them to it, was wont to call out immediately before the time of the Blessing in such words as these, Bow down your selves to the Blessing, Chrys. Liturg. The Jews received it after the same manner, Eccles. c. 50. v. 23. When the Service was finished, the high Priest went down, and lifted up his hands over the Congregation to give the blessing of the Lord with his lips, and they bowed down themselves to worship the Lord, that they might receive the Blessing from the Lord the most high. And doubtless did we consider the efficacy and vertue of this blessing of Priest or Bishop, we could do no less than they did. For it is God from heaven that blesses us by the mouth of his Minister. We have his word for it Numb. 6. 22. And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, On this wise shall ye bless the children of Israel. The Lord bless thee, &c. And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel, and I will bless them. And the same promise of Gods assistance, and ratifying the Priests Blessing, we have in the Gospel, S. Matth. 10. 13. S. Luke 10. 5. where our Saviour charges his Apostles and Disciples that into whatsoever house they enter they should say, not pray; say with authority, Peace be to this house, and (not if your prayers be fervent, or if they in the house joyn in prayer with you, but) if the Son of peace be there; that is, if he that dwells in the house hinders not, nor resists your blessing, if he be a person capable of so much good as your blessing; (for this is signified by this Hebrew phrase, Son of peace) your peace shall rest upon him: but if he be not such a son of peace, your blessing shall return to you again, which it could not be said to do, unless vertue together with the blessing had gone out from them.
The EVENING SERVICE differs little or nothing from the Morning, and therefore what hath been said concerning the Morning office, may be applyed to that.