IN the course of the life which we are following we come to the associations which it had with the liturgical work which engaged the attention of the first House of Bishops. The life of Bishop Seabury can hardly be appreciated without some account of his influence upon that work; and the nature of that influence can hardly be understood without some account of the Book of Common Prayer as it was affected by the reorganization of the Church in this Country after the Revolution. The theme, in its twofold aspect, is as much too large for a chapter as it is for the capacities of the writer: but the effort to treat it has to be made, and it is hoped may contribute something to the better understanding of matters not always clearly apprehended.
The Book of Common Prayer as established in the Church of England was, of course, in use by the members of that Church in the Colonies. When, after the Revolution, those Colonies had become independent States, the members of the Church which had been the Church of England in the Colonies, naturally continued in the use of the same book as part of the privilege of their common inheritance. They were, however, of necessity obliged to seek some alteration of the Book to adapt it to the different circumstances in which they found themselves, owing to the change in their Civil relations; and while this was on all hands acknowledged to be necessary, it was the feeling of some that it would be well that opportunity should be taken to make other changes than those which the civil conditions suggested; and changes of both these kinds were proposed in different quarters, and to some extent acted upon in the period between the recognition of the independence of the States and the authoritative establishment of the Book of Common Prayer under the Ecclesiastical Constitution in 1789. In Connecticut where, as we have seen, there had been since 1784 a complete Church which was not among the number of those which were in process of association under a common Constitution, action was taken by the Bishop upon consultation with his Convocation, both in August 1785, by the enjoining of alterations required by the change in Civil conditions, and in September 1786, by the recommendation to the Congregations of the Church in that State of a Liturgy or Communion Office which differed in important respects from the English Liturgy of that day.
Intermediate between these two promulgations, in October 1785, Article IX of the proposed Constitution of that year provided that, corresponding to the representation of a desire for further alterations of the Liturgy than those made necessary by the Revolution, the English Book as changed in accordance with alterations then proposed and recommended, "shall be used in this Church when the same shall have been ratified by the Conventions which have respectively sent Deputies to this Convention." [Bioren's Journals General Convention, pp. 9, 10.]
Article IX of the proposed Constitution of 1786, professing the same reason for action on the subject, referring to the Book as "revised and proposed" to the use of the Church, provides that this Book "may be used by the Church in such of the States as have adopted or may adopt the same in their particular Conventions, till further provision is made, in this case, by the first General Convention which shall assemble with sufficient power to ratify a Book of Common Prayer for the Church in these States." [Bioren's Journals General Convention, p. 25.]
It thus appears that the Book referred to in these Articles differed from the Book set forth afterwards in 1789 in respect of authority. The power of the Conventions in which alterations in the English Book had been made extending no further than to recommendation, the Book was described by those Conventions as "proposed;" and accordingly the Book has ever since been known as "The Proposed Book." As such it is simply a historical record of an effort made by some, who were influential among the Churches engaged in the plan of association, to introduce certain changes in the English Book which seemed to them desirable; and therefore it never had any authority as the Book of Common Prayer of the Church in this Country. It followed, apparently, the pattern of that proposed revision of the English Book which had been prepared in England by a Commission appointed for the purpose in 1689, composed of Tillotson, Burnet and others, which the Preface to the Proposed Book describes as a "great and good work" which had "miscarried." That is to say, it never went into effect, more than did the American Proposal which was modelled on it. [The Book, with its preface, may be seen in the valuable work of the Rev. Peter Hall entitled Reliquiae Liturgicae, vol. V (Bath, 1847). See an interesting Reference to the Commission of 1689 in Bishop Dowden's Workmanship of the Prayer Book, 134-139.]
But although not authoritative in the proper sense of the word, the Proposed Book was naturally understood as expressive of the sense of the representative body by which it had been recommended; and in that view it excited grave apprehensions in other quarters. Bishop Seabury's general estimate of it may be understood from his letter to Dr. Parker of February 13, 1789; in which he says: "I never thought there was any heterodoxy in the southern Prayer Book: but I do think the true doctrine is left too unguarded, and that the offices are, some of them, lowered to such a degree, that they will, in a great measure, lose their influence." [Beardsley's life of Bp. Seabury, p. 327.] In the letter to Bishop White, above referred to as laid before General Convention, he examines particularly various points in the Book which seem to him objectionable; and shows very strongly his want of sympathy with the disposition to make changes in well founded forms for the mere sake of general acceptability. The experience of the Church of England, he intimates, ought to counteract weakness of this sort. "The concessions she has made in giving up several primitive, and I suppose apostolical usages, to gratify the humors of fault finding men, show the inefficacy of such conduct. She has learned wisdom from her experiences. Why should not we also take a lesson in her school? If the humor be pursued of giving up points on every demand, in fifty years we shall scarce have the name of Christianity left. For God's sake, Sir, let us remember that it is the particular business of the Bishops of Christ's Church to preserve it pure and undefiled, in faith and practice, according to the model left by apostolic practice. And may God give us grace and courage to act accordingly!" [Manuscript Letter Book.] The use of this Book, according to the recommendation of 1786, was to continue until further provision should be made by the first General Convention which should assemble with sufficient power to ratify a Book of Common Prayer for the use of the Church. Such further provision was made in the General Convention of 1789, by the establishment of the Book of Common Prayer, under the authority of Article 8 of the Constitution previously adopted in the same session. The Article was as follows: "A Book of Common Prayer, administration of the Sacraments, and other rites and Ceremonies of the Church, articles of religion, and a form and manner of making, ordaining and consecrating Bishops, Priests and Deacons, when established by this or a future General Convention, shall be used in the Protestant Episcopal Church in those States which have adopted this Constitution." [Cf. "Notes on the Constitution of 1901," by W. J. Seabury, (Thomas Whittaker, New York), pp. 118-125.]
This Article is the charter of General Convention authorising supreme legislative action upon the matters specified therein; whether such action were taken in the session then being held or in future sessions of the same body."
In accordance with the provisions of another Article, that when there should be three or more Bishops in the Churches associated under the Constitution they should form a separate House, that House came now in the October session of 1789 first into existence, consisting of Bishop Seabury, Bishop White and Bishop Provoost; and owing to the absence of Bishop Provoost from that session, the other Bishops, Seabury and White, acted as the quorum of the House. The principal act of the session of the Convention, after the adoption of the Constitution, was the establishment of the Prayer Book; which was practically then completed, although some work was postponed to a future session. "The journal shows," remarks Bishop White, writing many years afterward, "that some parts of it were drawn up by the House of Clerical and Lay Deputies, and other parts of it, by the House of Bishops. In the latter, owing to the smallness of the number and a disposition in both of them to accommodate, business was dispatched with great celerity; as must be seen by any one who attends to the progress of the subjects recorded on the journal; To this day, there are recollected with satisfaction, the hours which were spent with Bishop Seabury on the important subjects which came before them; and especially the Christian temper which he manifested all along. [Bishop White's Memoirs, p. 149.]
It would seem from Bishop White's account, that a different view of the nature of the work in which they were engaged, was taken by the two Houses; the House of Bishops assuming that their duty was to revise the English Book of Common Prayer, as the existing basis to which amendments were to be made, adapting it to the use of the Church in this country; and the House of Clerical and Lay Deputies acting on the assumption that a Liturgy was to be formed, without their being beholden to any existing book, although with liberty to take from any, whatever the Convention should think fit. The latter position, as Bishop White remarks, "was very unreasonable; because the different Congregations of the Church were always understood to be possessed of a liturgy, before the consecration of her bishops or the existence of her conventions." [Ibid., p. 147.] The variance, however, does not appear to have led to any serious, or, at least, lasting complications: and, whether by amendment of the English Book, as in one House; or by process of selection from that, regarded as one among others, as in the other House; the result was the substantial conformity of the American to the English Book, both Houses agreeing in such adaptation as seemed desirable for the American use.
There are, of course, numerous details of variation between the two books, both in the Communion Office and elsewhere; but the consideration of these, though full of liturgical interest, would involve too great a digression in this place. [Dr. Hart's Reprint of Bishop Seabury's Office, and Bishop Dowden's Annotated Scottish Communion Office will be found useful in this connection.] The chief difference between these Books, and the one which especially claims our present attention, as having owed its existence primarily to Bishop Seabury, lies in what is called the Prayer of Consecration in the Eucharistic office. Before endeavouring to explain this difference, however, it will be proper to notice certain other points as to which the influence of Bishop Seabury was not so complete, though in regard to some of them it would seem to have been not altogether without effect: for, quite apart from the question of his influence, it is matter of interest in the present enquiry to observe the principles on which he acted. His views upon these points are freely expressed in his letter to Bishop White before the meeting of the Convention of 1789, and are also with great fairness described by Bishop White in his account of the meeting of the House of Bishops in that year. [Bishop White's Memoirs, pp. 149-153.] The following extract from the letter will serve the present purpose:
"Was it not that it would run this letter to an unreasonable length, I would take the liberty to mention at large the objections that have been here made to the Prayer Book published at Philadelphia. I will confine myself to a few, and even these I should not mention but from a hope they will be obviated by your Convention. The mutilating the Psalms is supposed to be an unwarrantable liberty, and such as was never before taken with Holy Scripture by any Church. It destroys that beautiful chain of Prophecy that runs thro' them, and turns their application from Messiah and the Church, to the temporal state and concerns of individuals. By discarding the word Absolution, and making no mention of Regeneration in Baptism, you appear to give up those points, and to open the door to error and delusion.
The excluding the Nicene and Athanasian Creed has alarmed the steady friends of our Church; lest the doctrine of Christ's divinity should go out with them. If the doctrine of these Creeds be offensive, we are sorry for it, and shall hold ourselves so much the more bound to retain them. If what are called the damnatory clauses in the latter be the objection--cannot those clauses be supported by Holy Scripture? Whether they can, or cannot--why not discard those clauses and retain the doctrinal part of the Creed? The leaving out the descent into Hell from the Apostles Creed seems to be of dangerous consequence. Have we a right to alter the analogy of Faith handed down to us by the Holy Catholic Church? And if we do alter it, how will it appear that we are the same Church which subsisted in primitive times? The article of the descent I suppose was put into the Creed to ascertain Christ's perfect humanity--that he had a human soul--in opposition to those heretics who denied it, and affirmed that his body was actuated by the divinity. For if when he died and his body was laid in the grave, his soul went to the receptacle of departed spirits, then he had a human soul as well as body, and was very and perfect man. The Apostles Creed seems to have been the Creed of the Western Church, the Nicene of the Eastern, and the Athanasian to be designed to ascertain the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity against all op-posers. And it always appeared to me that the design of the Church of England in retaining the three Creeds was, to show that she did retain the analogy of the Catholic Faith in common with the Eastern and Western Church, and in opposition to those who denied the Trinity of persons in the Unity of the Divine essence. Why any departure should be made from this good and pious example I am yet to seek.
There seems in your book a dissonance between the offices of Baptism and Confirmation. In the latter there is a renewal of a vow which in the former does not appear to have been explicitly made. Something of the same discordance appears in the Catechism.
Our regard for primitive practice makes us exceedingly grieved that you have not absolutely retained the sign of the cross in Baptism. When I consider the practice of the ancient Church before Popery had a being, I cannot think the Church of England justifiable in giving up the sign of the Cross where it was retained by the first prayer book of Edward the 6th. Her motive may have been good, but good motives will not justify wrong actions. . . . And in the Burial Office the hope of a future Resurrection to eternal life is too faintly expressed. And the acknowledgment of an intermediate State between death and the resurrection seems to be entirely thrown out, tho' that this was a Catholic, primitive and Apostolical doctrine will be denied by none who attend to the point." [Manuscript Letter Book.]
These strictures upon the Proposed Book are given, as already observed, to show the mind of their author upon the points to which they relate; and not as claiming that his influence was the cause of preserving the Prayer Book of 1789 from the errors in the Proposed Book which were thus indicated. As a matter of fact, however, none of the objections here made appear to be applicable to the American Book, except that of leaving the sign of the cross in Baptism optional, and that of the omission of the Athanasian Creed. The criticism in reference to the Psalter is only in part applicable, since the regular reading of the Psalter was retained as in the English Book, with the permissive substitution of selections to be used at the discretion of the Minister.
The accomplishment of the change in the Prayer of Consecration in the Communion service, to which reference has been made, was a matter which Bishop White says "lay very near to the heart of Bishop Seabury." In the letter to Bishop White which comments upon the departures of the Proposed Book from the English Prayer Book, Bishop Seabury refers to the one particular in which he conceives that the English Book itself ought to be amended, in the following words:
"That the only exceptionable part of the English book is the Communion office may be proved by a number of very respectable names among the Clergy of the last and present century. The grand fault in that office is the deficiency of a more formal oblation of the Elements, and of the invocation of the Holy Ghost to sanctify and bless them. The Consecration is made to consist merely in the Priest's laying his hand on the Elements and pronouncing This is my body etc: which words are not consecratory at all--nor were they addressed by Christ to the Father--but were declarative to the Apostles. This is so exactly symbolizing with the Church of Rome in an error, an error too on which the absurdity of Transubstantiation is built, that nothing but having fallen into the same error themselves could have prevented the enemies of the Church from casting it in her teeth. The efficacy of Baptism, of Confirmation, of Orders, is ascribed to the Holy Ghost, and his energy is implored for that purpose; and why he should not be invoked in the Consecration of the Eucharist, to make the elements the body and blood of Christ in power and effect, especially as all the old Liturgies are full to the point, I cannot conceive. It is much easier to account for the Alterations of the first Liturgy of Edward 6th, than to justify them; and as I have been told there is a vote on the minutes of your Convention--Anno 1786 I believe, for the revision of this matter, I hope it will be taken up, and that God will raise up some able and worthy advocate for this primitive practice; and make you and the Convention the instruments of restoring it to his Church in America. It would do you more honor in the world, and contribute more to the union of the Churches than any other alterations you can make, and would restore the Holy Eucharist to its ancient dignity and efficacy." [Manuscript Letter Book.]
"These sentiments," says Bishop White, speaking of Bishop Seabury's views of the deficiencies of the English prayer, "he had adopted, in his visit to the bishops from whom he received his Episcopacy." "Sufficient evidence has been given in an earlier chapter of these memoirs to show that the sentiments of Bishop Seabury on this subject were the same which he had entertained from the beginning of his ministry. But, of course, the change in his position, and his membership in the House of Bishops, combined with the understanding and agreement which he had had with his Consecrators, gave to his sentiments a more practical turn, and led to the earnest effort to have the principles which he held attain their due recognition in the formularies now being prepared for the use of the Church.
The fifth Article of the Concordate executed, November 15, 1784, by the Scottish Bishops, who had consecrated him on the day previous, and by Bishop Seabury himself, shows the nature of his agreement with them as to the Eucharistic service, and is as follows:
"Art. V. As the Celebration of the Holy Eucharist, or the Administration of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, is the principal Bond of Union among Christians, as well as the most solemn Act of Worship in the Christian Church, the Bishops aforesaid agree in desiring that there may be as little Variance here as possible; and tho' the Scottish Bishops are very far from prescribing to their Brethren in this matter, they cannot help ardently wishing that Bishop Seabury would endeavour all he can, consistently with peace and prudence, to make the Celebration of this venerable Mystery conformable to the most primitive Doctrine and Practice in that respect: Which is the pattern the Church of Scotland has copied after in her Communion Office, and which it has been the Wish of some of the most eminent Divines of the Church of England, that she also had more closely followed than she seems to have done since she gave up her first reformed Liturgy, used in the Reign of King Edward VI., between which, and the form used in the Church of Scotland, there is no Difference in any point, which the primitive Church reckoned essential to the right ministration of the holy Eucharist. In this capital Article therefore of the Eucharistic Service, in which the Scottish Bishops so earnestly wish for as much Unity as possible, Bishop Seabury also agrees to take a serious View of the Communion Office recommended by them, and if found agreeable to the genuine Standards of Antiquity, to give his Sanction to it, and by gentle Methods of Argument and Persuasion, to endeavour, as they have done, to introduce it by degrees into practice, without the Compulsion of Authority on the one side, or the prejudice of former Custom on the other."
The last sentence of the paragraph quoted may seem at first to imply that Bishop Seabury was undertaking to enter upon the consideration of the doctrine involved in the practice recommended, as if it had been previously unfamiliar to him: but upon attention it will appear that it was not the doctrine which he agreed to compare with that of the standards of Antiquity, but the Communion Office of the Scottish Church which he undertook to compare with those standards. It might very well have been that he should be familiar with the doctrine, and yet not entirely so with the Scottish formularies; and indeed an imperfection in such information would not be altogether surprising; for the vicissitudes of the Scottish Church have made its Liturgical, as well as its other history somewhat complicated.
The temporary deprivation of its Episcopate which the Scottish Church suffered, must have greatly impaired the unity of its liturgical traditions: and, in respect of practice, it is probable that (as when there was no King in Israel), every man did that which was right in his own eyes. So that not only was there for a considerable period no liturgical form considered as obligatory, but prayers, and even communions were commonly rendered in extemporary words. [Bishop Dowden's Annotated Scottish Communion Office, pp. 43, 52.] Still it has been said that since the Reformation there had been recognized in Scotland the English Prayer Book of 1552, though this would seem to have been largely displaced by Knox's Book of Common Order, which the Church Assemblies at different times unsuccessfully tried to revise. The first Scottish Prayer Book was that published in 1637, under the direction of Charles I, and commonly attributed to Archbishop Laud, though it was prepared in Scotland; its chief compilers being Bishops Maxwell of Ross, and Wedderburn of Dunblane, and Laud's relation to it appearing to have been only in the way of preliminary suggestion and subsequent revision. The Book was used on one Sunday only, and withdrawn; though the real offence of it, which led to riots in many Churches, seems to have lain not so much in its contents, as in the manner of its imposition, introduced as it had been by royal proclamation at the Market Crosses of Scotland, instead of by the authorized Courts of the Church. [See a Short History of the Church in Scotland by the Rev. Anthony Mitchell, B. D., Principal of the Episcopal Theological College in Edinburgh--p. 77.]
The chief variations of this Book from the English Book which was then in use appear to have been in the closer conformity of its Communion Office to that of the first Prayer Book of Edward VI.: and although the Book was immediately withdrawn, yet its Communion Office served to some extent as the model for subsequent Communion Offices among both the Scottish and English non-jurors. Of these there were several; but the one which was in use in Scotland at the time of the Concordate, and recognized as the Standard Edition, was that which was published in 1764; and this has continued substantially unchanged in the worship of the Scottish Church to the present time, although of late years made an alternate use with the English Office. From this Office of 1764, was taken, with some slight variations, the Communion Office which Bishop Seabury recommended to the Episcopal Congregations in Connecticut in 1786, and which was in general use among them until the adoption of the American Prayer Book in 1789. [See the Rev. Dr. Hart's Facsimile Reprint of Bishop Seabury's Communion Office, with Historical Sketch and Notes (Thomas Whit-taker, New York, 1883), particularly pp. 34, 35, 36, 40, 41, and 54-60. Bishop Dowden, not claiming "synodical sanction" for the office of 1764, says "Its text is rightly regarded as presenting the recognized Scottish Communion Office--substantially the textus receptus ab omnibus."--Annotated Scottish Communion Office, pp. 98, 99.]
This Book of 1789, while it is in the main, with certain amendments, a reproduction of the English Book which had been previously in use in the Colonies, embodies in full the Prayer of Consecration as it stood in Bishop Seabury's Communion Office, making that prayer a substitute for the Prayer in the English Book. The only differences between the Prayer as embodied in the American Liturgy, and the Prayer as it stood in Bishop Seabury's Office, were that the words "lively Sacrifice" in the latter were changed to "living Sacrifice" in the former; and that the words "that they may become the body and blood of thy most dearly beloved Son," used by Bishop Seabury, were omitted, and there were substituted for them the words "that we, receiving them according to thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ's holy institution, in remembrance of his death and passion, may be partakers of his most blessed Body and Blood."
This latter change was probably owing, as Dr. Hart observes, to the influence of the delegation from Maryland: an inference which is based upon an account of proceedings in a Maryland Convention given in 1786 by Dr. William Smith, one of the Representatives of Maryland in the General Convention of 1789. Writing to the Rev. Samuel Parker in Boston, Dr. Smith says that the Maryland Convention, having the "Proposed Book" under consideration, had decided to recommend "an addition to the Consecration Prayer, in the Holy Communion, something analogous to that of the Liturgy of Edward VI, and the Scots' Liturgy, invoking a blessing on the Elements of Bread and Wine," changing the prayer "that they may become the body and blood, etc." to "that we receiving the same, according to Thy Son, Our Saviour Jesus Christ's holy Institution etc." [Hart's Bishop Seabury's Communion Office, pp. 45, 46.]
The Prayer thus adopted in 1789 has continued unchanged in the American use to the present time, except for one alteration made in late years. The Scotch Office, in the latter part of the Consecration Prayer, had the words "Whosoever shall be partakers . . .may be ... made one body with him, that he may dwell in them, and they in him." Bishop Seabury substituted for the word "whosoever," the words "we and all others," a change from the third person to the first person, which ought to have been followed by a similar change in the pronouns at the end of the sentence; so that the words "he may dwell in them, and they in him" should have read he may dwell in us, and we in him. The need of this change was inadvertently overlooked, apparently both by Bishop Seabury and by the Convention of 1789, and was not recognized authoritatively until recently, when the sentence was put into its present form, reading: "We and all others . . . that he may dwell in us, and we in him." [Ibid., p. 56. Dr. Hart's account of the inadvertence, however, has, by a singular mishap, transposed the quotations: attributing the use of the word "whosoever" to Bishop Seabury instead of to the Scottish Office.]
The difference between the Prayer of Consecration which was laid aside in the adoption of the Prayer Book of 1789, and the Prayer which was then substituted for it, may of course be readily seen by comparing the two forms as they respectively appear in the English and American Books. Briefly, perhaps, it can best be described by saying that the English Prayer, after ascribing to the mercy of the Father the gift of His Son to suffer death for our redemption, and desiring of the Father that we receiving the bread and wine according to Christ's institution, in remembrance of His death and passion, may be partakers of His Body and Blood; repeats the words used by Christ at the last Supper, and there concludes: while the American Prayer, ascribing glory to God the Father for the gift of His Son to suffer death for our redemption, and repeating, as in the English Prayer, the words used by Christ at the last Supper, does not there conclude; but goes on to say that, according to the institution of Christ we do celebrate and make before the Father, with the holy gifts which we now offer to Him, the memorial which the Son hath commanded us to make; and adds to this the supplication that the Father will vouchsafe to bless and sanctify with His Word and Holy Spirit the gifts and creatures of bread and wine, that we, receiving them according to Christ's institution, in remembrance of His death and passion may be partakers of His Body and Blood; and then, with the earnest desire that God will accept this Sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, and grant remission of our sins and all other benefits of Christ's passion; with the offering of ourselves as a living sacrifice; and with petitions for ourselves and others for the worthy reception of the Body and Blood of Christ, and for consequent unity with Christ, concludes with the ascription of glory to the Father by and with Jesus Christ in the unity of the Holy Ghost.
In both prayers there are used by the Priest, in connection with the words of our Lord at the Institution of the Sacrament, the acts, also performed by Him at that Institution, of the breaking of the Bread and of the taking of the Cup into the hands: but in respect of the acts of blessing and giving thanks attributed to Christ in the scriptural account of the Institution, and presumably included- in His command to do that which He had done, there is no explicit evidence of obedience in the English Prayer; whereas, in the American Prayer, after the solemn rendering of most hearty thanks for the innumerable benefits procured by the Offering of Christ now commemorated, there is the distinct supplication by the Priest that the elements, used according to Christ's command, may be blessed and sanctified to the end for which that use had been commanded.
Viewed as the expression of the intent of the Church to do, in obedience to Christ's command, that which He had done at the conclusion of the Supper which followed the offering of the Passover then being fulfilled by Him in the solemn Oblation of Himself about to be consummated on the Cross, it would appear that the Prayer of Consecration which we are considering makes, in the use of Christ's words and acts at the Paschal Supper, the solemn oblation of the elements of Bread and Wine both in their natural, or material, capacity, and in their designated, or symbolical, capacity as appointed by Christ to be the means of the Offering of the Body and Blood of His Sacrifice to the Father; that upon these Holy Gifts thus offered to the Father it invokes the blessing of the Word and Holy Spirit, that through the efficacy of that blessing upon them, we may, receiving them as by Christ's institution we were to receive them, be partakers of His Body and Blood.
So understood, it would seem that this Prayer expresses what is conformable to the general character of Sacrifice in the religious usage of the world--wherein that which is solemnly offered to God, is reverently received back from Him as fitted by His benediction for the refreshment of those who offer; and that it is also in close analogy with the most primitive and catholic conception of the Christian Sacrifice. For, in that conception there is presented to the Father, by the offering of the elements of Christ's appointment for that purpose, the Sacrifice of the death of Christ; and that which is thus offered to the Father is by the operation of His Holy Spirit enabled to impart to us the benefit of that Sacrifice: So that, that which in the mystery, or significance of Christ's appointment is offered to the Father, is, by the power of the Spirit, in the same mystery, or significance, returned to us for our refreshment.
The frequent references to the fact that this Prayer is in closer conformity to the Reformed Liturgy in the first Prayer Book of Edward VI. than the subsequent Liturgies of the Church of England have maintained, make it necessary to point out, what has been often overlooked, that there is an important difference between the Prayer as we now have it, and the corresponding Prayer in the first book of Edward. The substance of both as to the main matter is the same, but the order in which the matter is presented is different; and the difference is of great significance, as showing that the later usage, which has been derived into the American Liturgy from the Scotch, is in closer conformity to primitive models, than could be expected to be found in the work of Reformers not yet entirely freed from the confusing Roman tradition which they were trying to correct.
Dr. Hart calls attention to the fact that in the most essential part of the Communion service, the prayer of Consecration. Stephen's second Liturgy, the Non-jurors' Book, the Scotch services since 1755, Bishop Seabury's Office, and the present American book differ from all other Communion Offices in the English language, in placing the words of Institution, the Oblation, and the Invocation of the Holy Ghost, in the order in which they are to be found in all the ancient Liturgies; and he observes that the first reformed Prayer Book, of 1549, followed the order of the Roman Liturgy in placing the words of Institution in an abnormal position, after the Invocation, and before the Oblation: an arrangement which was changed in the revision of 1552 by the entire omission of the Oblation, and of all mention of the Holy Spirit in what corresponded to the Invocation previously used--a form still retained in the English Office. Whereas the Non-jurors book, taking the words of the Clementine Liturgy, took also the primitive order; and the Scotch Bishops, in framing the services from which Bishop Seabury took his Office, to which we are indebted for our American prayer, though they used the words of the book of 1549, changed their order to agree with the primitive custom. [Hart's Reprint of Bishop Seabury's Office, pp. 60-63.]
In speaking of the "Invocation" in the Roman Canon, I understand Dr. Hart to refer, not to the specific Invocation of the Holy Spirit, but to the prayer for the benediction of the Oblation which precedes the words of Institution in that Canon. "The Roman Liturgy," remarks Bishop Dowden, "does not possess in the Canon, an express Invocation of the Holy Spirit;" although, as he further observes, "it does possess in the Canon, what the present English Liturgy does not, an express prayer for God's blessing upon the bread and wine." [Dowden's Annotated Scottish Communion Office, p. 206.] And Bishop Brett, after citing Greek and Eastern Liturgies on the point of the Invocation of the Holy Spirit, makes the following interesting and suggestive comments:
"But the Roman Canon, contrary to all others, does not invocate the descent of the Holy Ghost; however it prays for God's particular blessing upon the elements, and that he would make them the body and blood of Christ, which is much to the same effect; . . . since the spiritual blessings of God are all conferred upon us by the operation of his Holy Spirit. And the Roman Missal prays thus: 'Which Oblation we beseech thee, O God, that thou wilt vouchsafe to make in all respects blessed, firm, valid, reasonable and acceptable, that it may be to us the body and blood of thy most dearly beloved son Jesus Christ.' But the first Liturgy of King Edward VI has added the word Holy Spirit to this invocation, saying, 'And with thy Holy Spirit and Word, vouchsafe to bless and sanctify these thy gifts and creatures of bread and wine, that they may be unto us the body and blood of thy most dearly beloved son Jesus Christ.'
But in this the Roman Canon, and that English Liturgy which was made from it, are singular and particular, in that they place this invocation before the words of institution and the oblation of the elements, which in all other Liturgies follows in the last place: which certainly is the most natural order, the Holy Spirit by his descent completing and perfecting the consecration. It is certainly most natural and agreeable to order, that we should first perform our parts, place our gifts upon the altar, declare that we do this in obedience to Christ's institution, make our oblation of them to God, as what he has appointed to be the sacramental or representative body of his Son, and then desire that the Holy Ghost may come down upon them, to make them that body and blood in power and effect, that by his gracious operation in them and with them, they may convey to us all the blessings purchased for us by Christ." [Brett's Dissertation on Ancient Liturgies, pp. 224-5.]
This arrangement is, as Bishop Brett observes, most natural and agreeable to order: but it is so, only on the presumption that the purpose or object of the Eucharist is the Sacrificial offering, which Christ instituted, and which, accepted by the Father, is returned to us with the benediction of the Holy Spirit for our participation thereof. If, however, the purpose or object of the Eucharist is to promote and afford opportunity for the worship of the Sacrifice itself, then the order of the Roman Canon is the more natural, as conducive to that end. The Sacrifice, offered in the Eucharistic mystery, or significance, as an act of worship to God, accepted by the Father, and blessed by His Holy Spirit to the end of our participation in it, is one thing: the Sacrifice, offered, and assumed to be so changed by the act of God as that it becomes the object of our worship is quite another thing. And it is the latter alternative which both the order of the Roman Canon, and the various rubrical directions accompanying it, professedly, and most studiously and effectively combine to promote; and which those who adopt Roman modes of rendering our own prayer of Consecration, inevitably come under the influence of, and learn to accept and perpetuate.
Hence the wisdom of the return of the American Prayer of Consecration (through Bishop Seabury's office, and the Scotch from which it was derived), to the primitive order, sustained by a general consent, in variance from which the Roman usage is, as Brett remarks, "singular and particular." And hence too, the unwisdom (if so very feeble and inadequate a word may be forgiven) of those who for the sake of promoting the worship of the Sacrifice, as distinguished from the worship of God by and through the Sacrifice, are pleased to symbolize with the Roman error, in preference to the really Catholic usage which antedates it; and thus to promote not only a change in the form of the worship of God, but the very revolution of that worship, by making the Sacrifice, which Christ instituted as a means of worship and of participation in the benefits of that worship, itself the object of worship.
In concluding this Chapter, it may be matter of interest to follow the process of the adoption of the Communion Service in the General Convention of 1789, partly because special consideration has here been given to that particular portion of the Prayer Book, and partly too, as evidence of that "celerity" to which Bishop White has referred. It appears from the Journal of that year that,
October 3. The House of Deputies appointed a Committee to prepare an order for the administration of the Holy Communion.--p. 79.
October 8. The House of Bishops prepared proposals on the order for the administration of the Holy Communion, p. 88.--which presumably were sent to the other House, and referred to its Committee on the subject, appointed October 3.
October 9. The report of this Committee was received by the Deputies, and ordered to lie on the table, p. 80.
October 10. That report was taken up and considered by that House--p. 81.
October 13. The Communion service was ordered to be transcribed and transmitted to the House of Bishops, p. 82.
October 14. The House of Bishops received from the House of Deputies a proposed Communion service, and made amendments, p. 91.
October 14. 4 p. m. A message was received from the Bishops with amendments to the Communion service which they passed as amended by the Deputies. The Deputies considered the Amendments, sent them to the Bishops, as amended; and the service thus amended was returned by the Bishops as assented to. p. 83.
It would seem from this process that the hope expressed by Bishop Seabury, in his letter to Bishop White above cited, that God would raise up some able and worthy advocate of the primitive practice who should make the Convention the instrument of restoring it to His Church in America, was realized. It is noticeable that the House of Clerical and Lay Deputies moves in the matter earlier than the House of Bishops; and that it is the office which that House prepared (with that proposed by the House of Bishops before it) which, upon amendment by the Bishops, is adopted as the act of the Convention.
In giving an account of the proceedings of the General Convention of 1789, in the adoption of the Book of Common Prayer, Bishop White remarks that "In the service for the administration of the holy communion; it may perhaps be expected, that the great change made, in restoring to the consecration prayer the oblatory words and the invocation of the Holy Spirit, left out in King Edward's reign, must have produced an opposition. But no such thing happened to any considerable extent; or at least, the author did not hear of any in the other house, further than a disposition to the effect in a few gentlemen, which was counteracted by some pertinent remarks of the president." [Bishop White's Memoirs, p. 154.]
The president of the lower House was the Revd. Dr. William Smith, the same whose letter from Maryland in 1786 had suggested an approach to the form of the Scots' Liturgy; and who, as a Scotchman by birth (although ordained Deacon and Priest at the same time with Bishop Seabury) may be supposed to have had some early associations with that Liturgy. He it was who had in the previous session drafted and moved the resolutions of invitation to the representatives of Connecticut and other Eastern Churches to meet with the Convention for the purposes of union; who had been in correspondence with Bishop Seabury since 1785, and who received him as his guest in Philadelphia during this session of the Convention. It was natural, under all the circumstances, that his influence in the lower House should be, as it is known that it was, in support of the changes in the Prayer which Bishop White mentions: and the story is that when some in that House showed a disposition to object to the Prayer under consideration, he, for their better information, read the Prayer in the House, and that in so impressive a manner as wholly to disarm the prejudice of the objectors; and the adoption of the Prayer took place without further demur. [Dr. Hart's Reprint of Bishop Seabury's Office, pp. 44, 45.] So that evidently his influence was of great aid to Bishop Seabury in the effort, which he had so long and so earnestly and effectively prosecuted, to restore "the Holy Eucharist to its ancient dignity and efficacy," and "to make the celebration of this venerable mystery conformable to the most primitive doctrine and practice."