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Chapter 2



The Church of England in the seventeenth century in the opinion of one of the most devoted of its sons, Herbert Thorndike, was fighting for the maintenance of two things which it believed necessary to the life of the Church, the episcopate, and the liturgy. [Works, Lib. of A. C. Theol., II, pp. 4, 7.] We are here concerned with the struggle for the latter, fought on two fronts against what Richard Montague called the Scylla and Charybdis of ancient piety, Roman Catholicism, and Puritanism. [Cosin: Correspondence, Surtees Society, Vol. 52, I, p. 21; cf. Cosin: Works, Lib. of A. C. Theol., V, p. 5.] The Roman Catholics attacked the Church of England for substituting a vernacular liturgy in place of the historic Latin rite; the Puritans were opposed to the whole idea of liturgy. Worship to them was a matter of metrical psalms chosen by the minister, extemporary prayer, and above all sermons.

The Puritan dislike of liturgy went to the length under the Protectorate of forbidding the use of the Lord’s Prayer. The lovers of liturgical worship, however, were not always silenced. According to Mrs. Alice Thornton, in one Yorkshire parish the congregation persisted in saying the Lord’s Prayer aloud, in spite of the rebukes of the intruding minister; and when he threatened them with eternal damnation for using such a popish invention, an old lady from the pews replied: ‘They were no more damned than himself, old hacklebacke.’ [Autobiography, Surtees Society, Vol. 55, p. 210.]

But the Cromwellian persecution did not last for ever. At the Restoration Mrs. Alice Thornton records her joy of being able once more to make her communion after, as she puts it, thirsting so long for the ‘waters of life’. [Ibid., p. 205.] But not all the laity were as well instructed as Mrs. Thornton. The breakdown of Anglican parochial life under the Protectorate meant that the majority were ignorant of the meaning of the Prayer Book and badly in need of instruction in the principles of liturgical worship. Mrs. Thornton’s husband, for instance, had been brought up a Presbyterian and had a rooted objection to all ‘read prayers’. At the Restoration the Church services were explained to him by no less a personage than the future Dean Comber, under whose influence he became a devout and regular communicant. [Ibid., pp. 218-19.] Probably Comber’s experience in dealing with Mr. Thornton led him later to write his famous popular exposition of the Prayer Book, the Companion to the Temple. But this is not an isolated production. All through the seventeenth century the Church had to defend the use of a vernacular liturgy and expound the principles of liturgical worship. The need produced in the High Church party a veritable school of liturgists who, at any rate as far as their liturgical studies are concerned, have since their own day lapsed into an oblivion which is quite undeserved. Not only are they invaluable for the light they throw on the meaning of the Prayer Book, but in an age given over to individualism they gave due place to the liturgy in the life of the Church and grasped its implications. The school persisted right through the seventeenth century, and traces of its influence lingered on till the Oxford Movement. Sometimes adherents of the school were found outside High Church circles; one of the last of the school, Basil Woodd, was a leading evangelical.

It is impossible to understand the work of the liturgists without some attempt to appreciate the main features in the theology of the school to which they belonged. The sixteenth-century Anglican reformers, in contrast to their opposite numbers on the continent, were mercifully deficient in ideas and had little taste for speculative theology. Their methods were opportunist and hand to mouth, and they had no logical theory for what they were trying to do. The English Church consequently escaped the fate that befell so many Protestant bodies on the Continent of being saddled with some dominant theological idea which was to prove a mental and spiritual incubus to later generations. But some justification had to be found for the changes made at the Reformation, and the English reformers found such a justification not in the need of emphasizing some particular truth, but in an appeal to antiquity, to the Fathers.

The appeal was not productive of any immediate consequences. The Elizabethan theologians were undistinguished and second rate; as Hallam politely puts it, ‘their writings are neither numerous nor refined’. [Literature of Europe, II, ch. 2.] But at the end of Elizabeth’s reign theology began to live again in the persons of Hooker and Andrewes. Their importance in the history of Anglicanism is immense. They brought into the Church a breadth of culture and an ease with humanism and Renaissance learning, both hitherto conspicuously lacking. Their intellectual achievements and prose style did for the Church of England what thirteenth-century philosophy did for medieval Christianity; they completed its structure and gave it form and shape. [T. S. Eliot: ‘For Lancelot Andrewes’, Selected Essays, 1832 (sic), p. 319.] They are the founders of Anglican High Churchmanship and probably its greatest glory. But down to the beginning of the eighteenth century the High Church school was producing creative theology in the works of Field, Jeremy Taylor, Sanderson, Thorndike, Barrow, Beveridge, Hickes, Bull, and Johnson of Cranbrook. Coleridge much admired the seventeenth-century divines, though he had little sympathy either for their theology or political thought. He declares ‘that they formed a galaxy of learning and talent, and that among them the Church of England finds her stars of the first magnitude’. [Notes on English Divines, I, p. 325.] He told Derwent that Field’s great work Of the Church, thoroughly understood and appropriated, would place him in the highest ranks of Anglican divines. [Ibid., p. 35.] Jeremy Taylor is ‘a great and lovely mind’. The school mainly follows the lines laid down by Hooker and Andrewes; although at the end of the century its writers were largely under the influence of Thorndike. One purpose runs through their works, a purpose of restoration, not of producing something new; nor do they emasculate Christian truth by trying to reconcile it with the spirit of the age. The controversies of the sixteenth century in England as well as abroad had wellnigh destroyed the old theological scheme. The High Church divines of the seventeenth century set out to restore the grandeur of Christian truth, and teach it anew to their countrymen who had largely forgotten it in the turmoil of the Reformation.

It is a theology characterized by a veneration for the Fathers, by a wholeness finding its centre in the Incarnation and a massive learning. Instead of attempting to create a scientific system of theology on the plan of Suarez of Calvin, they take seriously the claim of the English reformers to be returning to antiquity. They turned to the Fathers and there in Dean Church’s words found something ‘to enrich, to enlarge, to invigorate, to give beauty, proportion, and force to their theology’. [Bishop Andrewes, ‘Pascal and Other Sermons’, p. 92.] The patristic basis makes their theology something sui generis, something quite different from Tridentinism of continental Protestantism. It is by no means provincial. Many High Churchmen betray the influence of what the Abbe Brémond called devout humanism. [Janelle: Robert Southwell, the Writer, p. 285.] The school read most of the contemporary works produced on the continent. Bishop Morley’s library, now in Winchester cathedral, contains most of the literature produced in the controversy between Port-Royal and the Jesuits. Jeremy Taylor plundered the case books of Roman moral theologians to illustrate the moral problems which he tries to resolve in Ductor Dubitantium. Bishop Ken’s friends were much shocked to find amongst the books which he left at his death most of the best French writers on prayer. But the seventeenth-century High Churchmen read continental works because they were interested in the same problem which confronted the divines of the Counter-Reformation, the rebuilding of the Christian thought and life after the havoc caused by both the Renaissance and the Reformation. They attack the problem in quite a different way. Counter-Reformation theology drew its strength from the Thomist revival begun in Spain in the sixteenth century; it thinks in the terminology of the Middle Ages and is a continuation of medieval theology. The Anglicans are thinking and working the whole time in terms of patristic thought, more especially that of the Greek Fathers. One finds in them something of the catholicity, the wide-mindedness, the freshness, the suppleness, and sanity of Christian antiquity.

Their veneration for tradition made them suspicious of an overmuch emphasis on one particular aspect of the Christian faith; it made them dislike new conceptions of Christianity, planned in the minds of theologians and possessing no connection with the past. Often too this veneration made them liable to a somewhat static notion of authority; frequently they seem to enthrone the Fathers instead of the Church as the voice of truth. On the other hand from the Fathers they learnt to see the Christian faith as an integral whole, quite naturally finding its centre in the Incarnation. Andrewes in his famous sermons before the court deals with the great central facts of the creed in relation to one another and as forming a whole; there is no over-stressing of one aspect of Christian truth, with the consequent impoverishment of the whole faith. He speaks of Christian truth in its comprehensiveness and variety, with its power to deal with all the sides of man’s nature. The centre of their theology is the Incarnation; to quote Dean Church again, it ends in ‘adoration, self-surrender, and blessing, and in the awe and joy of welcoming the Presence of the Eternal Beauty, the Eternal Sanctity, and the Eternal Love, the Sacrifice, and Reconciliation of the world’. [Ibid., p. 77.]

The learning with which this theology is expounded, made its authors well deserve the title ‘stupor mundi’. Their learning gave them a European reputation, and in the case of Hooker, if we may believe Walton, provoked the enthusiastic admiration of Clement VIII. After having extracts from the first four books of the Ecclesiastical Polity read to him in Latin he remarked: ‘There is no learning that this man has not searched into: nothing to hard for his understanding: this man indeed deserves the name of an author: his books will get reverence by age: for there is in them such seeds of eternity, that if the rest be like this, they shall last till the last fire shall consume all learning.’ Bishop Bull’s works were much admired by French ecclesiastics. In 1700 a few years after the appearance of his Judicium Ecclesiae Catholicae, Bossuet wrote to Robert Nelson, asking him to convey to Bull the congratulations of the General Assembly of the French Church, ‘pour la service qu’il rend à l’Église Catholique, en défendant si bien le jugement qu’elle a porté sur la nécessite de croire à la divinité du Fils de Dieu’. [Robert Nelson, The Life of George Bull, prefixed to the 1846 edition of Bull’s Workes, pp. 327-32.]

It is easy to make fun of their learning with its pompous references, its picturesque conceits and involved style. They wear it often rather self-consciously. On the other hand it enabled them to speak as professionals on their subject. The superficial writer on religious matters could not gain a hearing in the seventeenth century unless his superficialities had been purged away by a knowledge of the Fathers. Unless he had read his Chrysostom, for whom the age had an immense admiration, his opinions would have been ruled out of court. It restored too the dignity of theology, and in the first half of the century theology once more became the Queen of Sciences. Nor did it make them pedants; in contrast with their Roman confrères, who wrote in an atmosphere of the cloister or university, and whose thought reveals a monotonous sameness, they were for the most part parish priests moving in the world, used to dealing with ordinary people and the difficulties of ordinary people. Their theology not only betrays an extraordinary individuality, but it is also couched in a language and presented in a way which the ordinary layman of their day could understand. They made their theology something of concern and interest to the whole Church. The theology of the Tridentine divines is embalmed in scientific treatises; the High Churchmen were content to expound theirs in sermons delivered to ordinary congregations. It was not learning for learning’s sake; it was learning acquired with devotion and self-sacrifice so that they might be enabled to lead their countrymen from the spiritual desert in which they had been left at the Reformation to the pastures of eternal truth. [H. Maynard Smith: Development of Anglican Theology after the Reformation in Report of the Cheltenham Church Congress, 1928, pp. 124-35.]



The theological background of the seventeenth-century High Church divines naturally colours their liturgical writings. In these also they are ponderously learned. Their standard of reference is always the first four or five centuries, which they looked on as a liturgical golden age. Their desire to bring their countrymen to the eternal truth is reflected in their desire that the liturgy should be something in which all can share, that it should be grounded on dogma. The importance they attached to the Incarnation tended to make them find the centre of the liturgy in the Cross; it led them to see that the liturgy must itself witness to the truth that the totality of man’s nature, both as an individual and a social being, is capable of being redeemed and offered to God. The Fathers taught them to think of the Church as an organism, and to see that dogma, prayer, and life are one whole.

The following list contains the most eminent High Church writers on liturgy in the seventeenth century. It shows the extent and importance of the school, and that it was a prominent element in the Church life of the period. The list does not claim to be exhaustive.

  • Richard Hooker (1553-1600): Ecclesiastical Polity. V. 1597.
  • Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626): Notes on the Book of Common Prayer. (These were first published in 1854 in the volume of his Minor Works in the Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology.)
  • John Cosin (1594-1672): Notes on the Book of Common Prayer. (These were first published in 1710 in Dr. Nicholl’s Commentary on the Prayer Book.)
  • Herbert Thorndike (1598-1672): The Service of God at Religious Assemblies. 1642.
  • Jeremy Taylor (1613-67): An Apology for authorized and set forms of Liturgy. 1649.
  • Anthony Sparrow (1612-85): A Rationale upon the Book of Common Prayer. 1657.
  • Hamon L’Estrange (1605-60): The Alliance of the Divine Offices. 1658.
  • John Durel (1625-83): The Liturgy of the Church of England. 1662.
  • Thomas Comber (1645-89): A Companion to the Temple and the Closet. (Published in four parts between 1672 and 1676.)
  • William Beveridge (1637-1708): The excellency and usefulness of the Common Prayer. A sermon preached at the opening of Saint Peter’s, Cornhill, November 27, 1681.
  • The Worthy Communicant. (Sermon CXXX in the Libr. of A. C. Theology edition of his works.)
  • The Great Necessity and Advantage of Public Prayer and Frequent Communion. (Published after his death by his executors in 1710.)
  • William Nicholls (1664-1712): Comment on the Book of Common Prayer and the Administration of the Sacraments. 1710.
  • Charles Wheatly (1686-1742): A Rational Illustration upon the Book of Common Prayer. (First published in 1710, but Wheatly in his own lifetime brought out many new enlarged editions.)

The foundation of the school’s liturgical thought was laid by Hooker, who established the principle underlying the whole work of the school; the principle that the prayer of individual Christians and the corporate prayer of the Church in the liturgy are two distinct things. [Ecclesiastical Polity, V, 24.] On this distinction Hooker’s successors built. The work of Andrewes and Cosin was in the form of notes which are invaluable as a source of information on the spirit in which the first half of the seventeenth century interpreted the Prayer Book. But their contribution to Anglican liturgical thought was in their lives as much as in their writings. In Andrewes’ private chapel at Ely, in Brancepeth church, in the chapel of Peterhouse, in Durham cathedral, all three made fit for divine worship by Cosin, Englishmen of their generation learnt something of the splendour of the liturgy. They caught the spirit of liturgical prayer from Cosin’s own rapt devotion at the public services of the Church, a devotion which led to the accusation that he was a Jesuit in disguise. [Cosin: Correspondence, I, p. 41.] In Cosin’s life and all that he wrote is to be found a deep feeling for the beauty of the liturgy, a sensitiveness to its tones, an appreciation of its movements, which is a rarity outside the Benedictine order; ‘God’s high and holy service’ is a phrase that comes very easily to his lips.

Thorndike’s work, The Service of God, is partly a treatise on early liturgies – in fact he was the first Anglican to explore systematically this branch of sacred learning – and partly a study in the theory of liturgy. He is concerned to attach a meaning to the words uniformity and edification which are so much beloved by Anglicans, and emphasizes the importance of giving due place in liturgical thought to the eucharistic sacrifice. He sees the Eucharist as the climax of the liturgy, and until it becomes the chief Sunday service the ideals of the Reformers will never be realized. The dissatisfaction felt for the present structure of the Eucharist appears prominently in Thorndike’s later works. His knowledge of primitive liturgies led him to be impressed by the long prefaces commemorating the creation and redemption of the world, the epiklesis, and the position of the intercession after the consecration, which he found in the Eighth Book of the Apostolic Constitutions. ‘How can Christians’, he asks, ‘think their prayers so effectual with God, as when they are presented at the commemoration of the sacrifice of Christ crucified; the representation whereof to God in heaven makes His intercession there so acceptable?’ [Works, V, p. 182.] With Overall and Cosin he preferred the position occupied by the Prayer of Oblation in the 1549 Prayer Book. Thorndike exercised a great influence amongst High Churchmen at the end of the seventeenth and the beginning of the eighteenth century; the liturgy of the Non-jurors and the eighteenth-century Scottish Communion Office are the practical outcome of his views. It is noticeable that the differences between the Prayer Book of 1637 and the Scottish Communion Office are on the lines desired by Thorndike.

The works of Jeremy Taylor and Durel are pamphlets on the benefits of a vernacular liturgy. Sparrow’s Rationale views the Anglican rite in detail against the background of the early liturgies and is a first attempt to provide an explanation of the structure and order of its services. Beveridge continues the work of Sparrow in explaining the structure and order of the rite; his church, Saint Peter’s, Cornhill, became the centre in London towards the end of the century where the ideals of the school found expression. Comber’s Companion to the Temple is a pompous baroque work which enjoyed an enormous vogue in his own day; the future Queen Anne once told him that she found it a great help in preparing for her Easter communion. For many years Comber lived in Mrs. Thornton’s house at East Newton, in the parish of Stonegrave near Helmsley. He was Rector of Stonegrave and is buried in the sanctuary of the church. East Newton house is still standing; by the gate is a small two-roomed pavilion in which, tradition says, Comber had a study and wrote the Companion to the Temple. By the kindness of the Rev. W. T. Laverick, the present Rector of Stonegrave, I have had access to a MS. diary of Comber’s, belonging to Stonegrave Church. Under 1672 is an entry to the effect that he read parts of the Companion to the Temple, as it was being written, to his mother on her death-bed ‘to her abundant comfort’. It was intended to provide meditations on the liturgy which the faithful could use in their private devotions in preparation for the public services of the Church. Comber thus anticipates the type of book on the liturgy which is constantly being produced under the influence of the Liturgical Movement. He also gives a minute and detailed explanation of the structure of each service. Some editions are preceded by a short preface on the nature of liturgical worship; both for its English and grasp of the inner meaning of liturgy perhaps the most impressive production of the school. Comber was master of a grandiloquent seventeenth-century prose style.

Wheatly makes no pretensions of being original; his Rational Illustration of the Book of Common Prayer reduces the work of his predecessors to order and coherence. In this he was remarkably successful; he remained for over a century the standard authority on the Prayer Book, and was looked on as a kind of Anglican Durandus of Mende. With the appearance of Wheatly’s book the school of classical liturgists came to an end. The interests of the Non-jurors were on different lines. There concern was with the antiquities more than the underlying principles of liturgy; Brett’s A Collection of the Principal Liturgies, published in 1721, was a really important contribution to the history of Christian worship, and long remained a standard work. In one point the Non-jurors made an important contribution to Anglican liturgical thought; they emphasized and developed the principle that in matters of doubt the Prayer Book is best interpreted by the liturgy of 1549.

There was a revival of interest in liturgiology in the early years of the nineteenth century. In 1810 the Evangelical hymn-writer, Basil Woodd, published a sermon, The Excellence of the Liturgy, of some importance as it reinterpreted the principles of the classical liturgists for the Evangelical party. Scattered through Coleridge’s later works are remarks which show that he understood the idea of liturgy. The Tractarians, owing to the influence of Bishop Lloyd’s lectures on the Prayer Book and Palmer’s Origines Liturgicae, were mainly interested in the origin and history of liturgies, and the correspondence of the Prayer Book with the worship of the Middle Ages and antiquity; they paid little attention to the science and underlying principles of liturgy itself. A misfortune; an acquaintance with the teaching of our classical liturgists would have prevented many of the mistakes of the ritualists.

Two only of the Tractarians can claim to have continued the work of the older school: Keble and Dr. John Jebb, the nephew of the famous bishop of Limerick. Keble’s Tract XIII ostensibly explains the Sunday table of first lessons in the 1662 book; really it is a discussion of the principle of what he calls ‘spontaneous evolution’, a principle which is fundamental to Anglican and indeed all liturgical thought. Jebb’s two great works are his Choral Service, published in 1843, and his sermon, The Ritual Law and Custom of the Church Universal, preached at an English Church Union festival at Ludlow in 1866. They are invaluable, not only for the light they throw on liturgical principles and practices before the fashion for medievalism set in, but also as an exposition of the principles of our classical liturgists.

Deserving of special mention amongst High Church liturgists, though he wrote no formal work on the liturgy, is the famous Jacobite Dean of Durham, Denis Granville, who died in exile in 1703. History has been unkind to him; he is chiefly remembered for the debts which he managed to accumulate in spite of having, as he put it, the best deanery, the best archdeaconry, and the best living in England. But there is another side to his character which comes out in his letters and papers. They are written in an entertaining and vivacious style, and reveal what the liturgy could mean to a seventeenth-century High Churchman. Granville loved the liturgy and had a passionate desire that his countrymen might come to love it too. To him the heart of Christianity lay in worship.



If asked what they meant by the liturgy the High Church writers would probably have replied in Hooker’s phrase that it was ‘the public prayer of the people of God’. [Ecclesiastical Polity, V, 25. Cf. Thorndike: Works, I, p. 211.] They would have gone on to say that this public prayer was not the sum total of the individual prayers of Christians, joining together in worship, but the prayer of an organism, an entity, the Church, the Body of Christ. When a parish priest says his office he is not worshipping God in his own name, but as Cosin puts it, he is offering up on behalf of all Christians the daily prayers of the Church, one of his priestly duties. [Correspondence, I, p. 110.] The end for which this prayer is ordained is the glory of God. [Beveridge: Works, Lib. of A. C. Theol., VIII, p. 514.]

But the Church, being an organism, is subject to the laws of growth and decay like any other organism. A man who does not pray is spiritually dead. Spiritual decay overtakes the Church which has no prayer of its own. This prayer is the liturgy, the prayer of the Church. Comber describes it as ‘the life and soul of religion, the anima mundi, that universal soul which quickens, unites, and moves the whole Christian world’. [Companion to the Temple, ed. 1701, Preface.]

The liturgy is something quite different to private prayer; it has principles and an ethos of its own. Andrewes says we must learn to distinguish ‘the Liturgy and the public service of God in the Church’ from our private devotions. [Sermons, Lib. of A. C. Theol., V, p. 357.] Jeremy Taylor points out that Churches as distinct from individuals have ‘special necessities in a distinct capacity’ [Works, ed. 1849, V, p. 299]; the liturgy of the Church voices these necessities. Comber warns his readers not to expect to find in the liturgy frequent petitions suited to individual and local needs; these should be made privately in the closet; they are out of place in the liturgy, which voices the needs of the whole Church. [Preface, op. cit.] Beveridge says that it is wrong to look on the liturgy as the private possession of any group of churchmen of a single parish; to him the Prayer Book services are ‘the prayers of the whole Church we live in, which are common to the minister and people, to ourselves and all the members of the same Church’. [Works, Lib. of A. C. Theol., VI, p. 373.] To L’Estrange the liturgy is the prayer of the Church, not regarded as a collection of individuals, but as an organism, the mystical body of Christ: ‘the worship publicly performed and in parochial assemblies is not to be reputed the worship peculiar of those congregations, but common to the whole national Church, whereof they are limbs, in which service the spirit of that mystical body, being in her subordinate members (as the soul is in the natural, tota in qualibet parte) is exercised’. [The Alliance of Divine Offices, Lib. of A. C. Theol., p. 30.] Coleridge recognizes the distinction between the liturgy and private prayer. The liturgy is ‘common prayer’, something which all can use; it is meant for a Christian community. [op. cit., I, p. 187; II, pp. 28, 29.]

The seventeenth-century liturgists loved to build churches and replan the interior of old ones, with special reference to the celebration of the liturgy as the act of the whole body of the faithful. The reading-pew for the officiant at the offices was usually at the east end of the nave, opposite the pulpit. At Leighton Bromswold George Herbert had the reading-pew and pulpit of equal height so that prayer and preaching might enjoy an equal honour and estimation. A similar idea inspired Cosin’s arrangement of the reading-pew and pulpit in the chapel at Auckland Castle. It brought the officiant amongst the people and made the office an act of the whole congregation. To lay emphasis on the Eucharist, as the offering of the whole Church and not of the priest alone, chancels were so arranged that the communicants might kneel near the altar; sometimes as at Lyddington in Rutland the altar was in the middle of the sanctuary with the altar rails on all four sides. Presumably here the priest celebrated behind the altar facing west. A Eucharist celebrated under these conditions must have had the corporateness of the early Church. It represents an attempt to put into practice the claim of our divines that they were returning to the ideals of antiquity.

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries High Churchmen usually interpreted the Elizabethan Injunction ordering the altar to be brought down amongst the people for the Eucharist, as a means purely of enabling them to take a greater share in the service. They held that neither the Injunction nor Canon LXXXII applied if there was nothing to hinder the people from taking their part in the service with the altar in its usual place at the east end. [Wheatly: On the Common Prayer, ch. VI.] They justify the practice of celebrating the Eucharist at the ‘north end’ on the ground that it helps the people to take a greater share in the service; Cosin on his trial before the House of Lords is most careful to explain that he only took the eastward position for the consecration prayer when the communicants were so placed that he did not have his back towards them. [The Acts of the Court of High Commission at Durham, Surtees Society, Vol. 34, p. 218.] Beveridge speaks of everything being done at the altar so as to be visible to the communicants. [Works, VI, p. 389.]

Certain seventeenth-century usages witness to the conception of the liturgy as the Prayer of the Church. The Commandments, the Epistle, and the Gospel were read at the chancel or sanctuary gates. [Andrewes: Minor Works, Lib. of A. C. Theol., p. 152.] The priest came down amongst the people for the General confession in the Eucharist. [Ibid., p. 156.] At Evensong it was not uncommon for priest and people to repeat together the third Collect, and probably the same happened at Mattins. [Cosin: Works, V, Lib. of A. C. Theol., pp. 65-6.] These usages tended to emphasize the liturgy as an act of the whole body.

The school are never tired of reiterating how the Prayer Book as a liturgy is far superior to that of Rome because it is one in which all the faithful can take their part. They point particularly to certain features in the Prayer Book which make this possible: the responses to be returned by the people and not by the choir only [L’Estrange, op. cit., p. 110]: the shortness of the prayers: the fact that they usually only contain one thought, which helps the people to make them their own [Durel: The Liturgy of the Church of England asserted, 1662, p. 24. Beveridge: Works, VI, p. 381]: that it is in a language which all can understand. Bishop Bull roundly declares that in the Church of Rome there is no common prayer, ‘the priests say and do all; the people being left to gaze about, or to whisper one to another, or to look upon their private manuals of devotion, according as to their private inclination leads them’. [Works, ed. 1846, II, p. 300; cf. Beveridge Works, VI, pp. 376-7.] Archbishop Benson in the Lincoln Judgment sums up the ideas of the school on this point: ‘The tenor of the Book of Common Prayer is openness. The work of its framers was to recover the worship of the Christian congregation, and specially to replace the Eucharist in its character as the Communion of the whole body of Christ. By the use of the mother-tongue, by the audibleness of every prayer, by the priest’s prayers being made identical with the prayers of the Congregation, by the part of the Clerks being taken by the people, by the removal of the invisible and inaudible ceremonial, the English Church, as one of her special works in the history of the Catholic Church, restored the ancient share and right of the people in Divine Service.’ [E. S. Roscoe: The Bishop of Lincoln’s Case, 1891, p. 144.] Coleridge points out that the Prayer Book enjoys a similar advantage over nonconformist services. ‘Many a proselyte has the Church gained from the Meeting-house through the disgust occasioned by the long-winded, preaching prayers of the dissenting ministers, and the utter exclusion of the congregation from all active share in the public devotion.’ [op. cit., II, p. 33.]



When there is an understanding of the liturgy as the prayer of the Church, there is usually to be found an emphasis on three special points in the Eucharist: the Gospel, the Offertory, and the singing of psalms. [cf. A. G. Hebert: Liturgy and Society, pp. 76, 134, 214-24.] The seventeenth-century liturgists paid particular attention to these things. It was usual to place on the altar specially bound copies of the Bible and Prayer Book with the intention of showing honour to the Gospels. [J. Wickham Legg: Church Ornaments and their Civil Antecedents, p. 17.] The high altar in Winchester cathedral still retains a Bible and Prayer Book given by Charles II. To mark its significance the Gospel was read or sung by one of the ministers at the chancel or sanctuary gates. Until the revision of 1662 the Prayer Book contained a rubric ordering ‘that in such places where they do sing, there shall the lessons be sung in a plain tune, after the manner of distinct reading: and likewise the Epistle and Gospel’. Cosin approved of the rubric on the ground that singing enhanced the dignity of the service and helped the devotion of the congregation; but he makes no reference directly to the practice of singing the Epistle and Gospel. [op. cit., p. 58. A similar expression of approval will be found in the Rationale on Cathedral Worship or Choir Service, 1721, pp. 34, 35, 38, by Dr. Thomas Bisse, a latitudinarian churchman of the eighteenth century.] Before the Gospel often came the solemn singing of ‘Glory be to Thee, O God’, and at the end ‘Thanks be the Thee, O Lord’, though Wheatly declares that there is no authority for this practice in the Prayer Book. [op. cit., ch. VI, 6, 3.] Sparrow approves of kissing the book, both on account of its contents and that others might see that it was preferred before all others. [Rationale, ed. 1722, p. 159.] In 1641 High Churchmen were accused of having Gospel processions on festivals, complete with crucifix, incense, and lights. There is little foundation for this charge; but it is interesting as showing the importance they were popularly held to attach to the Gospel.

Although no directions about the Offertory were given in the Prayer Books of 1552 and of 1559, the High Churchmen made a point of emphasizing it. In the Coronation rite, which owes its present form to the seventeenth century, the king personally offers the elements. Andrewes and other Jacobean bishops started the use of credence or side-tables, as they were then called, to enhance its dignity. [Laud: Works, Lib. of A. C. Theology, IV, p. 210.] In 1627 one John Wood gave a credence table with a locker over it to the church of Chipping Warden in Northamptonshire. [J. Barr: Anglican Church Architecture, 1842, p. 67. The locker is still in existence, but the table disappeared about 1870. For this information I am indebted to the Rector, the Rev. E. V. Rumbold.] The usual practice before 1662, and probably for some while afterwards, was that the bread or wafers were placed on the altar in a canister, and the wine in a flagon before the service began; immediately before the consecration the bread was solemnly placed on the paten, and the wine with a little water in the chalice. [Andrewes, op. cit., pp. 156-7; cf. Wickham Legg: English Orders for Consecrating Churches, Bradshaw Society, 1911, p. 177.] It is probable that there is a reference to this practice in the rubric before the consecration prayer in the 1662 Prayer Book on ordering the elements so that they may be conveniently consecrated. Bishop Bull used to receive the elements from the clerk or churchwarden or take them himself from the side and offer them on the altar before the service began. [Life, op. cit., p. 53.]

It is true that many have denied that there is anything more in the Prayer Book than a monetary offering; and it is almost certain that the revisers of 1662 did not intend the word ‘oblations’ in the Prayer for the Church to refer to the elements. [J. Dowden: Further Studies in the Prayer Book, pp. 176-222.] But as Dr. Brightman pointed out, the offering of money is in part a commutation for the primitive offering by the faithful of bread and wine, and the elements are bought out of this money. The elements therefore are legitimately included in the offering of ‘these our alms and oblations’. [The English Rite, I, p. ccxviii.] According to Wickham Legg it is for this reason that the Prayer Book directs that the elements should not be placed on the altar until the monetary offerings which represent them have been collected and first offered. [ ‘Ancient Liturgical Customs’, in Essays on Ceremonial, p. 47.] In any case the essence of the offertory consists not in the recital of such prayers as the Suscipe, sancte Pater, and the Offerimus tibi, Domine, of the Latin rite, but in the actual placing of the elements on the altar. [Brightman, ibid.; cf. Wickham Legg: Ecclesiological Essays, p. 93.] Divines, however, such as Wheatly and Johnson of Cranbrook were accustomed to refer the word ‘oblations’ to the elements. [Wheatly, op. cit., ch. VI, 10, 3. Johnson: ‘The Unbloody Sacrifice’, Works, Lib. of A. C. Theol., I, pp. 35-42.] In certain churches and college chapels there was something that looks very like an offertory procession; the people brought their alms to the wardens standing at the chancel gates; the clergy presented theirs kneeling before the altar, a practice still continued in Durham Cathedral. [Granville: Remains, II, p. 180, Surtees Society, Vol. 47; Jebb, op. cit., p. 497.] When the Church at Abbey Dore was consecrated on Palm Sunday, 1634, the communicants came up one by one and kneeling on a cushion before the altar made their offerings to the bishop’s chaplain, who placed them on the altar. The order of service calls this action ‘the holy oblation or offering’. [Wickham Legg: English Orders for Consecrating Churches, p. 175.]

Psalms have ever been regarded as peculiarly the voice of Christ in His Church; and the omission from the 1552 and subsequent Prayer Books of all psalmody in the Eucharist was a piece of vandalism which it is hard to forgive. But their omission from the Prayer Book did not mean that psalms ceased to be sung at the Eucharist. In actual fact it resulted in the realization of what is desired by many sections in the Liturgical Movement, the restoration of whole psalms to the Eucharist instead of the truncated psalmody of the Roman rite. It became customary to sing a psalm, either in the Prayer Book or metrical version, as an Introit, and at the Offertory and Communion. Sometimes the Introit was an organ voluntary or the sanctus, more usually a psalm. [Jebb, op. cit, pp. 461-2.] Cranmer provided a table of introit psalms in the 1549 Prayer Book, and Wheatly wished the table had never been omitted since he disliked the unliturgical and individualistic practice of choosing psalms at random. He says of Cranmer’s table ‘that each psalm contains something of the evangelical history used upon each Sunday and Holy Day’ or is ‘in some way or other proper to the day’. [op. cit., ch. V, 8]; according to Samuel Downes, the editor of Sparrow’s Rationale, the psalms bear no relation to the days for which they were appointed. [Lives of the Compilers of the Liturgy, 1722, p. clvii.] This is rather unfair; in a few cases Cranmer’s choices are unsuitable; but as a rule the psalm fits the day admirably. Psalm 98, appointed for the first Mass at Christmas, forms a magnificent opening to the Midnight Mass; and nothing could express better the mind of Our Saviour in His Passion than Psalm 61 appointed for Palm Sunday. On the Sundays after Trinity Psalm 119 is sung, a section a Sunday, an arrangement which has much to commend it on grounds of convenience. The importance attached to introit psalms is shown by the Non-jurors embodying Cranmer’s scheme in their liturgy of 1718, and by Bishop Deacon drawing up a table for his liturgy in some ways superior to Cranmer’s.

We know from Smart’s attack on Cosin that it was usual in Durham cathedral to sing a psalm before and after the sermon at the Eucharist. [The Acts of the Court of High Commission at Durham, pp. 224-5.] In the eighteenth-century form for the consecration of churches Psalm 24 is provided for the Offertory. Andrewes [op. cit., p. 157], Thorndike [Works, I, p. 383], and L’Estrange all mention the practice of singing psalms during the Communion and claim that it is modelled on the primitive practice of singing Psalm 34 at this point in the service. L’Estrange thought the time of communion could not be better employed than in psalms ‘suitable to the subject of those blessed mysteries’. [op. cit., p. 324.] In Jebb’s time the practice had survived in Durham cathedral in the playing of what he calls ‘a soft symphony’ during the Communion. [op. cit., p. 511.]

Attempts were constantly made to remedy the omission from the Eucharist of an ordered table of psalms or hymns. In 1623 George Wither published his Hymns and Songs of the Church with a Communion hymn which reads like an Anglican counterpart to the Corpus Christi sequence Lauda, Sion, salvatorem. As late as 1794 there is Basil Woodd’s Collection of Psalms and Scripture Paraphrases with a few hymns arranged according to the order of the Church of England; in 1827 Heber’s posthumous work Hymns, written and adopted to the Weekly Church Service of the Year, appeared; both these works attempted to provide a hymn or psalm to match the Prayer Book Propers; Holy, Holy, Holy was the hymn in Heber’s book for Trinity Sunday. But most clergy appear to have chosen psalms at random with occasional reference to the 1549 scheme of Introits. In view of the deference paid by our liturgies to the practices of the primitive church it is interesting to notice that there is no trace till the Oxford Movement of any psalm or hymn being sung as a Gradual, the most ancient place in the Eucharist for a psalm. Cosin declared that the Church of England had omitted Graduals as ‘neither needful nor of ancient use’, coming from so great a liturgist a strange remark.



The seventeenth-century liturgists found the centre of the liturgy in the Eucharist. Thorndike calls it ‘the crown of public service, and the most solemn and chief work of Christian assemblies’. It is held to form the distinctive feature of Christian worship, differentiating it from the worship of purely natural religions. Our Lord instituted it as the constant perpetual sacrifice of His Church. In it is to be found the whole content of the Christian religion and far greater lessons than even the best of sermons can provide. Not only is it the centre, the crown of the liturgy; on it the liturgy depends for its true functioning; where the Eucharist is despised, neglected, or misunderstood, the liturgy disintegrates into an individual and impersonal thing. [Thorndike: Works, I, pp. 274-5, 833. Johnson: Canons, Lib. of A. C. Theol., I, p. xxxix.]

This grasp of the function of the Eucharist in the liturgy made Dean Granville spend so much of his life conducting a campaign in favour of weekly communions in cathedrals; it explains why both he and his father-in-law, Cosin, supposed that the rubrics of the Prayer Book intended a daily celebration. It appears, too, in the attitude of the school towards the altar. Laud on his trial voiced that attitude when he magnificently proclaimed that the holy table was ‘the greatest place of God’s residence upon earth’. [Works, Lib. of A. C. Theol., , IV, p. 285.] To Jeremy Taylor the altar is the place where the Christian sacrifices are presented, and where ‘the beloved Body and Blood of the Son of God’ are really present in the sacrament. [Works, V, p. 330.]

The school paid great reverence to the altar, bowing to it when they came into church and when they went up to make their communion. In the bare churches of the period the altar held the central place; and at the Eucharist the eye would have been naturally carried towards it. It was covered with what the age called a carpet, a covering usually of blue or crimson velvet falling in folds at the corners and embroidered on the front with the sacred monogram. On the altar were two candlesticks, in the centre an alms bason embossed with a scene from the gospels, with the usual magnificently bound Bible and Prayer Book on each side. Arranged in front were the flagons, the sacred vessels, and a cushion for the altar book. In the churches which could afford it gold plate was alone considered worthy for the celebration of the Eucharist.

Our age has little use for an alms bason in the middle of the altar; there must be either a cross or a crucifix. But the alms bason has good pre-Reformation precedent. In medieval wills there are bequests of silver basons to churches, to stand on the high altar and to be used in collecting the offerings of the people. [J. T. Micklethwaite: The Ornaments of the Rubric, pp. 34, 41.] In the seventeenth century it was not unusual for a church to possess two basons, one for the alms and one for ‘the other devotions of the people’. A cross or crucifix was rare as an ornament on the altar; the recorded instances are confined to coronations and royal chapels. According to Wickham Legg, the crucifixes which roused the wrath of the Puritans were in stained-glass windows. [English Orders for Consecrating Churches, p. lxi.] Bishop Butler had a cross over the altar in his chapel at Bristol. The best explanation for the absence of a cross or crucifix was given in the last century by the famous Bishop Philpotts of Exeter, one of the last of the old High Churchmen. He maintained that a cross or crucifix is peculiarly unsuitable as an ornament at the Eucharist. The Eucharistic sacrifice is a pleading here on earth of Calvary as an actual, living, triumphant reality; the cross speaks of Calvary as an event, dead and past, and encourages people to think of the Eucharist as ‘nothing more than a bare remembrance of what is past and gone’. [Vide A. J. Stephens: The Book of Common Prayer, pp. 1117-18.] At least the alms bason has a definite and integral part to play in the unfolding of the Eucharistic action.

The age loved to lavish gifts on the altar; in particular magnificent sets of altar plate. The set which Cosin after the Restoration gave to Durham cathedral includes two candlesticks and ‘a fair, large, scolloped paten, silver and gilt’, now known as a ciborium, with a cover ‘of fair embossed work’ surmounted by an orb and cross. According to the ceremonial of the period, the ciborium was used for the bread till immediately before the Prayer of Consecration, when it was transferred to the paten; the ciborium bears this inscription: PANIS QUEM FRANGIMUS COMMUNIO CORPORIS CHRISTI EST. [Cosin: Correspondence, II, pp. xxv, 168, 172. All the plate except the ciborium was recast in 1767; the candlesticks are now on the altar of the Gregory chapel.] Lord Crewe commemorated the fiftieth year of his consecration by a gift of silver altar plate to South Church, Bishop Auckland. Judging from the flagon which has survived, the most magnificent and romantic of all these sets must have been that ordered by James I for the embassy chapel at Madrid when Charles I went to court the Spanish Infanta. James was particularly anxious that the worship of the Church of England should not appear mean in the eyes of the Spaniards. The flagon of silver gilt is embossed on its body with the Virgin and Child on one side and on the other the Virgin with the dead Christ. Round the top of the base are panels representing the Nativity, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, the Ascension, the Virgin crowned with the Child, and Saint Nicholas with children. [The flagon is now in the possession of Saint Columba’s College, Dublin; for the description I am indebted to the Warden.]

Gifts were not confined to altar plate. In 1638 Jeremy Taylor furnished his church at Uppingham with new ornaments which included, besides altar plate, a diaper corporal and fair linen cloth, a cushion of crimson velvet with crimson silk tassels and a carpet of green silk damask for the altar. It is not known whether it was all at his own expense; the Bishop of Peterborough dedicated the ornaments. [For this information I am indebted to the Rev. C. J. Stranks; cf. his article on Jeremy Taylor in the C.Q.R., October 1940.] In 1668 Fuller, the Bishop of Lincoln, wrote to Sancroft, then Dean of Saint Paul’s, asking him to procure in London a carpet for his cathedral altar with panes of cloth of gold and blue damask. The Bishop seems a little afraid that the blue may not tone with the gold, so he adds a proviso that it is not to be too gaudy. He also asks him to order a pair of ‘great and plain double-guilt’ candlesticks, instead of the existing brass ones which he can stomach no longer, lamenting at the same time his inability to afford a more expensive metal. [Granville: Remains, I, p. 218, footnote. Surtees Society, Vol. 37.] Comber notes in his diary in 1690 the gift to York Minster by an unknown donor of a noble crimson velvet altar cloth with rich embroidery and a gold fringe. ‘I hope,’ he adds, ‘God will reward this alms done in secret, very openly, it being a seasonable and liberal gift.’ [MS. diary.]

There is a charming contemporary account of a similar gift made by Queen Mary II to Canterbury. She noticed that the furnishings were dingy, so she sent for the Dean and showed him ‘some pieces of silver stuff and purple-flowered velvets’, which she thought would do. But there was not enough material, and though she took the trouble to send to Holland, she was unable to get any more. However, with the help of a page ‘who understood those things’, she matched it up with a pane of gold stuff. It must have been a very magnificent affair when it was finished, ‘a pane of the figured velvet, and a pane of gold stuff, flowered with silver’. At the same time she renewed the hangings on the Archbishop’s throne. Altogether, they cost her well over £500. [Wickham Legg and Saint John Hope: Inventories of Christ Church, Canterbury, p. 290.] Mrs. Thornton left to Stonegrave Church not only money for the purchase of altar plate, but also two carpets for the altar, one embroidered and one plain purple, a fair linen cloth and two corporals, or napkins as they were then called. [Autobiography, p. 333.]



From their conception of the liturgy as the prayer of the whole Church with its centre in the Eucharist, the seventeenth-century liturgists go on to deduce that the individual Christian if he would be true to his vocation and attain the end of his being must take his part in the liturgy. For it is the Church, as Johnson of Cranbrook puts it, for which Christ died and which He fills with His graces; and the blessings of the Christian religion can only be enjoyed by individual Christians as they live the life of the Church and join in its prayer. [Brett: Life of the late Reverend John Johnson, 1748, p. 160.] Comber accordingly bids his readers ‘to keep their heart close to every petition as they go along’, a delightful seventeenth-century way of telling them to pray the Mass. [op. cit., Preface.] At the end of the period Simeon declared: ‘The finest sight short of heaven would be a whole congregation using the prayers of the liturgy in the true spirit of them.’ [Quoted in C. Smyth: Simeon and Church Order, p. 291.]

They held that liturgy deepens and widens the spiritual life; through it we enter into the devotional riches of the whole Church; for liturgy is not the prayer of any one age or group of Christians. In an important passage at the end of his history of liturgies Comber speaks of liturgical worship as ‘that way of praying, which was used by the saints in the Old Testament, enjoined by Christ in the New, practised by all those holy bishops and devout Christians, who lived ever since the first settling of the Church, and now allowed and observed in all regular Protestant Churches’. In the same passage – it is an appeal to nonconformists to think more charitably of the Prayer Book – he goes on to speak of the liturgy as ‘the voice of the Church’; when we use it our prayers are not stinted to the ‘sudden conceptions of any private person’, but we adore God ‘in the same manner, that the Christian Church has always done and as near as possible in the same words’. [Companion to the Temple, ed. 1702, II, p. 83.] The mere joining in the liturgy with its hallowed associations, the uniting with others in the prayer of the Church, acts as a spur on our own slackness in zeal and devotion.

All the writers of the school have a strong belief based on an interpretation of Our Lord’s words, ‘where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them’ (Matt. 18:20), that liturgical worship, because it is the prayer of the Church, has a far greater spiritual value and is more acceptable with God than private prayer. [Hooker, op. cit., V, 24. Beveridge: Works, VIII, pp. 503-4.] In fact one of the weaknesses of the school was that at times their emphasis on liturgy made them undervalue the place of private prayer in the life of the soul. Jeremy Taylor, Granville, and Ken are almost the only persons touched by the school who betray any knowledge of contemplative prayer; the majority appear content with discursive meditation. Granville used Fr. Baker’s Holy Wisdom; he thought, however, that he should be read with caution and found him very ‘enthusiastical’.

Not only do they think of the liturgy as an essential part of our prayers, but they see in it a visible sign of that inner unity which should mark the life of the Church, and a powerful means of creating that unity. By it we are formed in the mind of the Church; in using it daily we are linked not only with each other but with the Church down the ages; gradually we grow up into the mind and outlook of the Church and lose that individualism which cuts us asunder from our fellow Christians. The meeting of the faithful in the liturgy makes the worship of the Church on earth an analogue of that offered in the heavenly sanctuary where the Church is truly one. [Thorndike: Works, I, pp. 211-12.] George Herbert in his sermons used to liken a Christian congregation, praying ‘with one heart and one voice, and in one reverent posture’, to the beauty of the Jerusalem that is at peace with itself.

With such views on the place of the liturgy in the life of the soul it was natural that the school should lay great emphasis on instructing the laity in its principles and meaning. George Herbert was in the habit of explaining the structure of the Prayer Book to the people of Bemerton; he dealt with the meaning of the prayers, the connection between the collect, epistle, and gospel for the day, and showed the reason for all that was done in the service. The Church of England may well be proud of him; for he originated what is so much advocated by the Liturgical Movement, the liturgical sermon. In Granville’s papers there is mention of him during Lent 1679-80 taking the young people of Easington through the Eucharist in preparation for their Easter Communion. [Remains, II, pp. 43-4.] His nephew is told to use the Prayer Book with the aid of Comber’s Companion to the Temple as a subject matter for his meditations, so that he may be able to enter more into the meaning of the services. [Ibid., pp. 64-5.] His household were made to follow the services with their Prayer Books and Bibles. [Ibid., p. 154.]

In the Granville papers there is a plan for a clerical study circle on the liturgy. It was to be held in Granville’s house in the college at Durham on the first Thursday of each month. Ecclesiastical lawyers were to be invited as well as clergy; and the study circle was to discuss matters of church discipline, and the orders and rules of the Prayer Book. The day was to begin with Mattins in the cathedral, followed by a dinner given by Granville himself. The study circle was to start business at twelve; the subject of the discussion was to be chosen beforehand, and each member was to bring his views in writing. These were to be read by the secretary and to be followed by a discussion till Evensong, each member speaking in turn. It was an excellent plan to mix clergy and lawyers together; many of the difficulties over the law of public worship are due to the fact that they do not understand one another’s point of view. [Ibid., pp. 171-3.]

Throughout the century it was usual in devout households for the family to say the whole of Mattins and Evensong together when it was impossible to attend the daily offices in church. Granville during his travels said the offices with his man-servant, the latter making the responses. [Ibid., p. 32.] Mrs. Thornton had the offices said each day in her house, and it was through constantly saying them there that Comber gained his insight into the Anglican rite and was inspired to write his commentary. [Memoirs of the Life and Writing of Thomas Comber, 1799, p. 66.] L’Estrange thought that the reformers, in compressing the traditional offices into two, intended to make it possible for the laity in their homes to take their part in the liturgy. [op. cit., p. 108.] In George Herbert’s parish those whose work prevented them from attending the daily offices used to pause for a moment when they heard the church bell and offer their devotions to God, thus uniting in intention with the prayer of the Church.



The attitude of the Church to the Prayer book was revolutionized by the understanding of the real nature of liturgy which the school possessed. In spite of having originated in the sixteenth century, the Prayer Book has become inseparably linked with their theological and spiritual teaching. The sixteenth-century reformers gave us a vernacular liturgy, and one adapted to the technique of congregational worship. But the revolutionary nature of their work, the controversies in which they moved, prevented them from realizing the implications of what they had done. The Prayer Book leaves their hands only half understood; even their own supporters were lukewarm in their admiration; it was left for a later age to see its full significance. The liturgists of the seventeenth century longed to worship; they grasped the meaning of liturgy, and to a surprising extent succeeded in making their age liturgically minded. They interpreted the Prayer Book and gave it form and meaning; under their hands a protestant service book was transformed into a catholic liturgy; they discovered its beauties; they loved it and were ready to die for it.

The intention of the compilers of the 1552 Prayer Book had been to set the worship of the Church of England definitely in the tradition of Continental protestantism. The seventeenth-century liturgists took the Prayer Book and interpreted it, not as an Anglican counterpart to the Protestant Church Orders of the Continent, but against the traditional worship of the Catholic Church. [E. C. Ratcliff, art. ‘Christian Worship and Liturgy’, in K. E. Kirk: The Study of Theology, pp. 457, 461.] They emphasize its supposed conformity to the standards of scripture and the primitive church; and they delight in quoting Grotius’s comment that the English liturgy was incomparably better than that of any other reformed Church owing to its nearness to the primitive pattern. To Durel the Prayer Book is the Worship of the universal Church adapted to the manners and genius of the English people [op. cit., p. 16.]

It is to the seventeenth-century liturgists that we owe the best and most painstaking revision of the Prayer Book. They removed anomalies and inconsistencies, and gave it polish and form. To them we owe such familiar things as the names of the prayers in the Eucharist, names expressive of the different parts and movements of the rite, such as the Collect for Purity, the name given to it my Laud [Works, III, p. 73], the Collect of Humble Access, the Prayer of Consecration, the Prayer of Oblation, and the Collect of Thanksgiving; these last four names first appear in the Scottish rite of 1637. It was an age of liturgical creativeness; it produced some of the best prayers in the Prayer Book, the Anglican orders for the consecration of churches, and in the 1637 Prayer Book the most satisfactory Eucharistic rite in the English language. In this period too the crown and glory of the Anglican liturgy, the Coronation rite, achieved its present form.

The devotion felt by the school for the Prayer Book was expressed by the adjective ‘incomparable’. Granville claimed that it deserved to be taken as the universal liturgy for all Christendom. [op. cit., p. 93.] Comber speaks of it as possessing a true and native lustre ‘so lovely and ravishing, that like the purest beauties, it needs no supplement of art and dressing, but conquers by its own attractiveness’. [Companion to the Temple, ed. 1701, Preface.] As an instance of the way in which the Prayer Book conquered by its own intrinsic beauty, the school loved the story of Bishop Bull and the sectary. During the Protectorate Bull was allowed to minister unmolested in the parish of Easton-in-Giordano, close to Bristol. When one of the sectarys in the parish brought his child to be baptized, Bull used the Prayer Book service as if it were an extemporary composition of his own. After the service the sectary commented on the prayers as an example of the superiority of ‘extemporary effusions’ to ‘premeditated forms’; he was only sorry that such excellent prayers had been accompanied by the sign of the cross, ‘that badge of popery’. Whereupon Bull triumphantly showed him the Prayer Book service and how it contained all the prayers which he had admired. The sectary was so impressed that he and his family ever afterwards became regular church-goers. [Life, op. cit., pp. 34-5.] Bull all through his life emphasized the necessity of a reverent, distinct, and leisurely reading, if the full beauty of the rite was to be brought out, and was himself noted for the way in which he read every part of the service with the particular devotion belonging to it. [Works, II, pp. 18-19; Life, p. 46.] The school loved the Prayer Book for its completeness; to Jeremy Taylor ‘there is no ghostly advantage which the most religious can either need or fancy, but the English liturgy in its entire constitution will furnish us withal’. [Works, V, p. 247.] They loved it too because it came to them with the authority of the whole Church; Jeremy Taylor says it was done by king and priest with the advice of the people [Ibid., p. 234]; a rosy view of the Prayer Book’s origin scarcely likely to be echoed by modern historians.

One of the most typical, but least known, panegyrics on the Prayer Book is to be found in a charge delivered to the clergy of the diocese of Canterbury by Sir Leoline Jenkins in the reign of Charles II, ‘I forbear to tell you ...’, he says, ‘how excellent the composition is, how devout and humble the confessions, how grave and divine the absolutions, how pathetic and comprehensive the prayers and supplications, how sweet and exalted the hymns and thanksgivings, how charitable and compassionate the intercessions for all sorts of men; in a word, how excellent the matter, the method, and the decorum of the whole liturgy is. So that neither Rome nor Moscovy, Osburgh nor Amsterdam, have anything in their public services that can enter into comparison with it.’ [William Wynne: The Life of Sir Leoline Jenkins, 1724, I, p. lxxv. Sir Leoline Jenkins, 1624-85, was a High Church, ecclesiastical and admiralty lawyer. He held various high positions: deputy Dean of Arches, Judge of the Court of Admiralty, Judge of the Prerogative Court, and at the end of his life Secretary of State.]

The most revealing passage on what the liturgy could mean to a devout churchman who had caught the spirit of the school is to be found in the Granville papers. It is a fragment of a diary dated at Sedgefield, 5th December 1679. To appreciate the passage to the full it must be remembered that Granville is referring to the lessons for Evensong for that day in the 1662 lectionary. His humility and sincerity make the passage extraordinarily moving; it is the utterance of a man whose spiritual life was nourished on the Prayer Book.

‘At my first return I did mind the voice of the Church in the psalms, the voice of God in the lessons, in particular manner, watching for somewhat suitable to my state, labouring under many fears and much distrust and diffidence, and it pleased God, by the Church’s care, to put into my hands a fit form of devotion, Psalm 27, The Lord is my light and my salvation, etc., fit to inspire courage, and to bring to my ears the eleventh of the Hebrews, concerning the mighty power of faith; of all things most seasonable for my consideration, who am, I fear, notoriously peccant in not exercising and employing my faith. I beseech God to deliver me from all my past guilt, and strengthen my faith so at last that I may remove all those mountains of difficulties which have long discouraged me. Amen.’ [op. cit., pp. 41-2.]

The consideration which the school gave to the nature of liturgy as the prayer of the Church, centring round the Eucharist, led to their laying down and elaborating three principles, to which they maintained all liturgies must conform if they are to fulfil their function as the adoring prayer of the Church, and which they believed to be best exemplified in the Anglican rite. The principles are summed up in three key words, edification, order, uniformity. A liturgy must edify, its structure must reveal a rational order, it must be uniform in every place where it is offered. A Church whose public worship does not manifest these principles cannot be said to have a liturgy; and without a liturgy it is spiritually dead. In the following three chapters we shall examine the meaning which the school gave to these principles.


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