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Chapter 6


A very significant feature about the teaching of the liturgists is their insistence on the people who worship; they approach the liturgy as parish priests. The liturgy edifies because it holds up before man a way of thought and a way of life to which he must conform if he would reach the beatific vision. Liturgical worship demands a correspondence between the vision it upholds and man’s life in the world. Its order witnesses to the fact that it is rooted in Calvary and that its purpose is the bringing of man within the saving act of Calvary. It is uniform, so that it can be the prayer, the action of man as a member of the whole Church, and one worthy of the divine majesty and holiness. But their concern is not so much with man as an individual, as with man as a member of the Church. We cannot therefore penetrate to the full the implications of their teaching unless we examine their views on the Church; what they held it to be, its relationship to the world and man’s ordinary life. Divorced from the life of those who worship, the liturgy becomes an academic or aesthetic thing.



The High Churchmen’s doctrine of the Church is best approached by way of their views on the relationship between Church and State, a relationship which they looked on as continuing within national limits the underlying unity between the two which prevailed over medieval Europe as a whole. The Church is so closely connected with the State that it is wrong to think of the relationship as one between two different entities. It is one society, from one aspect a Church, from another a State. The theory is not Erastian as the latter word is commonly understood. The part played by the King and Parliament in the affairs of the Church is not an interference by representatives of some body other than the Church. They are part of the Church; the king has been anointed and clothed with priestly vestments at his coronation; Parliament is a lay synod. Erastianism means the subordination of the Church as one society of the State, a society other than the Church and alien to it in temper and outlook.

This unity of Church and State which finds its classical expression in the last book of Hooker’s Ecclesiastical Polity, dominates the thinking of the High Church divines on the nature of the Church. The most useful exposition of their views is to be found in Bishop Overall’s Convocation Book. The Convocation Book consists of a number of chapters and canons, treating, as the title page says, of ‘the government of God’s Holy Catholic Church, and the kingdoms of the whole world.’ It is the work of the Convocation of 1606, and became attached to Overall’s name as he was then prolocutor of the Lower House. Its views on kingship annoyed James I, and he refused to let it appear. The MS. was not published till 1689. In the seventeenth century Convocation was predominantly High Church in opinion, and the Convocation Book is representative of the main ideas on Church and State current amongst High Churchmen from Andrewes to Gibson. There are, of course, many more well-known High Church works on the subject; but they are mainly juridical in tone. The Convocation Book approaches it in the light of the Bible and Christian theology.

In the Convocation Book the Church is a community with an organic life of its own. This organism which can be described either as a Church or a State is something of slow growth; it had gradually developed with the passage of time. The church is not something which originated at the Reformation, but has been co-existent with the nation right from its birth, forming with it one society. The changes effected at the Reformation allowed this society to live once more according to its true nature, free from the destructive effects of what are called the papal usurpations, hindrances to the organism’s proper functioning. The Church is not something imposed externally on civil society; the Church is civil society when through the baptism of all its members it has reached the terminus of its potentialities. When Church and State have thus become one, humanity has at last found its home in a social organism for which it has been longing since creation; it is a home which is supernatural, one which embraces every side of man’s life and prepares him for his home in eternity. The Church is the climax of man’s longings as a social being.

The oneness of Church and State is the outcome of a process which has been going on since creation. The primitive civil and religious communities of Genesis are the work of the Second Person of the Trinity; they represent in embryo the form society was to take when in the fullness of time Christianity came. In Genesis the kingly and priestly functions are first in one hand, the patriarchs in succession; the tribe is both a civil and religious group. [Convocation Book, Lib. of A. C. Theol., p. 5.] Later on the Jews appoint special individuals to exercise the priestly function; but the control of the community which is still both a Church and a State is under the king, its lay head. He is no sovereign in the modern sense; king and priest each have their own functions which neither may usurp from the other, and which are determined by a law superior to both.

The Convocation Book lays emphasis on the fact that in biblical society man as a civil and religious being is not organized into one universal community. The Catholic Church has existed in embryo from Adam, but it has only been visible per partes. [Ibid., p. 78.] It is a Church made up of communities, distinct from each other. Believing Gentiles are spoken of as forming particular Churches. Noah’s division of the world into three parts amongst his sons is regarded as a sign of how the Church universal is to be organized when every State by becoming the Church should have reached the terminus of its development.

Their knowledge of the Fathers had made High Churchmen familiar with the conception of history as an ordered process working from creation towards a certain end, the restoration of all things in Christ. The Incarnation is not something new. The Word made Flesh is the same as He who was in the beginning with God, by whom all things were made, the Light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world. Christ came not to destroy but to fulfil the process begun by Him in the primitive civil and religious society of Genesis. As the Convocation Book puts it, the platform of Church government in the New Testament can be lawfully deduced from that laid down in the Old. [Ibid., p. 141.]

When Christ comes, He does not found a new Church; He perfects the Church as it had been in existence since Adam. As soon as Christianity has permeated society, the Church will develop on the lines prefigured by the Logos in the Old Testament. [Ibid., pp. 124-6.] They would have said that the separateness of Church and State in the pre-Constantine era was not normative of the Church’s being. Only as the Church envelops and absorbs civil society and lifts it up into the divine life does it fulfil the historical process marked out for it since creation. For the Church is built up out of humanity, it is not a select group of individuals called out of the world; it is humanity in the mass, toiling, struggling, sweating, with all its efforts to live an ordered social life, which is to form the mystical body of Christ.

From the Old Testament the Hugh Churchmen learnt to believe that society can only achieve its function of leading men to God if it is a society both civil and religious. This belief led them to certain conclusions on the constitution and government of the Church of their own day.

The Church is visible per partes; each group is under a Christian sovereign, the inheritor of Christ’s kingly powers. The sovereign’s power is not absolute; it must be exercised in accordance with Christian truth; the government must be carried on in obedience to the traditional laws of the community. The priestly ministrations are in the hands of the clergy; but in the business of government they are subordinate to the king. The groups or communities correspond to national and racial divisions, because it is on these divisions that God has from creation intended mankind to be organized. But the Catholic Church is not a federation of national churches. The Church is to make men in a very real and deep sense one; but the bonds of unity are not uniformity in government and worship. The Church is one, as Field says ‘in respect of the same faith, hope, profession, means of salvation, and communion and fellowship of saints’. [Of the Church, V, ch. 30.] In the seventeenth century such a sentence is not pure verbiage, but means what it says. The Church makes mankind one through oneness of belief in Christian truth; through the sacraments it knits them together in Christ. But within the one Church embracing all humanity are various rites which allow the component parts or groups to profess their Christianity according to racial and national characteristics.

They rejected ultramontanism because it cut across what they believed to be the divine plan for the Church in the world. The leading ultramontane writers of the Counter-Reformation such as Suarez and S. Robert Bellarmine in defending the papal autocracy adopted a mechanical view both of the life of the Church and the proper relationship between Church and State. The Church is a uniform society, governed by a rigid system of written law and under a centralized bureaucracy at Rome. They look on Church and State as two independent societies whose relationship is a matter of contract; but they reserve to the papacy the right to depose the civil sovereign when spiritual ends demand it. Their thinking on the Church is dominated by the legal concepts of the canonists, with the consequence that the Church never becomes alive; often they make it appear no more than a legal fiction, a corporation invented for the convenience of lawyers and administrators.

Anglican writers such as Andrewes, Field, and Barrow are all alive to the artificiality of the Roman view. To them the idea of the Church under one earthly head and governed on one uniform pattern cuts across the natural groupings of humanity which are themselves the work of the Logos. It means the contradiction of man’s innate social instincts, and the draining of all life from the body to the head. The Church instead of being humanity as a whole becomes the pope and the curia.

The contract theory of the relationship between Church and State they dislike because it makes the Church something external to man’s social life; the Church no longer becomes the crown of man’s longings as a social being but a moral policeman superimposed from outside. The Church, instead of strengthening and supernaturalizing man’s natural loyalties becomes in turn a source of division. The Anglicans’ bÍte-noire in the Roman position is the deposing power of the papacy; in their eyes it stands for all the faults in the Roman theory, bringing in its train the disintegration of society and all the agony of divided loyalties. To them the Catholic Church is something which brings wholeness to society and brotherhood to man; it unifies all his natural loyalties and places them in the supernatural setting of the Church.

They look on the Church as an organic whole, not as a collection of individuals who have been baptized. Their grasp of this fact was in part due to their identification of the Church with the whole national life of the country. They saw it as something which had its roots in the past history of the nation, and which had grown and developed with our national life. Since England is a community with its own life, so the Church embracing this life is a community too. The depth, the mystery of a nation’s life, the veneration which men feel for it, they were able because of this identification to transfer to the Church.

Not only do they think of the Church as an organism in the sense that it is something living and growing, redolent of humanity; to them the Church is also an organism, a body because each part of the Church is necessary to the life of the whole. They thought of the Old Testament Church polity as something in which king, priest, and people each play a part laid down by law; none can transgress the limits of their appointed part. Their devotion to the primitive Church led them to attach a great importance to two of its distinctive constitutional features: synodical government and customary law. In the Church of England there is no sovereign in the sense in which the papacy is sovereign in the Church of ‘Rome; no part of the Church can arrogate to itself the title of speaking for the whole. The only sovereign they recognize is the traditional customary law of the English nation, viewed as a Church, and the name they give it is ecclesiastical common law to distinguish it from temporal common law. [Vide Stillingfleet: Works, op. cit., III, pp. 697-702.] The ecclesiastical common law is the basis of the ecclesiastical polity of England, and regulates the part played in the life of the polity by the various sections, king, clergy, and people. There were of course amongst the High Churchmen ardent upholders of the theory of divine right; but as a whole they tended to think of kingship as a function of the community, and not in terms of the Austinian theory of sovereignty. The theory of divine right was far more popular amongst politicians than ecclesiastics. The King is the pivot on which the life of the Church turns; but he must act with the advice of the bishops and legislate only through provincial and diocesan synods. In both these the priesthood as well as the episcopate have their part. The people share in the life of the Church through Parliament; but the latter is not a supreme legislature for the Church. It gives civil sanction to the Church’s laws and legislates for the better ordering of the Church’s possessions. The transgression by any of these groups of the part assigned to them by the customary law of the community was regarded as a hindrance to the community’s functioning as an organism. The life of the Church could only function when each section confined itself to its proper part. Neither King nor Parliament must attempt to exercise a sovereign jurisdiction in the Church, nor must the clergy exclude the king and Parliament from taking their proper share in its government.

The veneration felt by High Churchmen for the ecclesiastical common law is a counterpart to the veneration professed by the legal profession for the temporal common law in the first half of the seventeenth century, a veneration which led them at times to exalt it above statute law. [Cf. Coke: Bonham’s Case.] The ecclesiastical common law was regarded as the best index available of the will of the whole community as a Church in a way impossible either for royal injunctions, canons of Convocation, or statute law. At the most these only represent the will of the community at one particular moment, and usually only the outlook and interests of one section in the community. The ecclesiastical common law not only expresses the will of the community as it exists in the present; it also expresses the will of the community as it has existed in the past and will continue to exist in the future, irrespective of passing tastes and prejudices. In stressing the superiority of custom to written law, Gibson applies to the ecclesiastical common law the famous remarks of Sir John Davies in the preface to his reports on the greatness of the temporal common law. Davies argues that customary laws are far superior to written ones because the latter are imposed before it has been discovered if they are ‘fit and agreeable to the nature and disposition of the people, or whether they will breed any inconvenience or no. But a custom doth never become a law to bind the people until it hath been tried and approved time out of mind.’ [Gibson, Codex, ed. 1761, p. xxvi; Davies: Reports, Preface Dedicatory. For the best account of the nature of ecclesiastical common law, vide Wilson v. M’Math in 3 Phillimore, 67.] Arguments like these demonstrate the superiority of customary usage to statute law as a means of determining the law of public worship.

High Church divines appear to have realized that it was one thing to hold a theory of the identity of Church and State; but it was quite another thing to make the country function as a Church as well as a State. There were the Independents who would have destroyed the organic nature of the Church by reducing it to a countless number of congregations; there were the Puritans and later the Erastians who wanted to subject the Church to Parliament. There were also enemies in their own camp, High Church divines such as Laud, who threatened to destroy the organic functioning of the Church by an illegitimate extension of the royal authority. From all these sides the Church was threatened with secularization and the evils it brings in its train: a hard and rigid system of law, the division of the body into governors and governed, not only in the relationship between the king and bishops and the Church, but also between each bishop and his diocese. For on the Laudian and parliamentary theory the bishops become merely state officials appointed to rule their dioceses in a purely secular way.

For the nation to preserve its consciousness as a Church the seventeenth-century divines emphasize the necessity of three things. The nation must express itself as a Church, not through the secular organic of government but through provincial and diocesan synods; it must have church courts with their own procedure and staffed by ecclesiastical lawyers, and a legal system separate from temporal law embodying the nation’s will as a Church.

The part played by the provincial Convocations in the seventeenth century is well known; its legislation in the canons of 1603 and 1640. Ecclesiastical lawyers of the period stress the peculiar composition of the Convocations, how the presence in them of proctors of the lower clergy makes these bodies really representative of their respective provinces.

But it seems to have been felt all through the century that the Church side of the nation’s life would never be more than half-conscious unless each diocese had an opportunity of realizing itself through its own synod, and so function as a whole instead of a group divided rigidly into two sections, bishop and clergy. The right of diocesan synods to meet and legislate is recognized by the 1559 Act of Uniformity; and in the case of Bird v. Smith in the reign of James I it was expressly said that not only archbishops and Convocations, but bishops, too, in their own dioceses, can enact canons which are law, provided the regulations laid down in the Act of 1534 on the legislative powers of Convocation are observed. [Moore: Reports, at 783.]

Attempts to hold such synods were sporadic and infrequent; the two most notable are that of Kilmore in 1638 and that of Saint Asaph in 1682. [For others, see Joyce, op. cit., p. 39.] But discussions on the advisability and even necessity of some form of synodical government is common throughout the period; and in the eighteenth century Bishop Wilson in the Isle of Man appears to have worked in close cooperation with his clergy in all matters of major importance. In both the synods of Kilmore and Saint Asaph the clergy gave their consent before the canons were promulgated.

The synod of Kilmore created a considerable stir at the time. William Bedell, the bishop, was a divine of Puritan sympathies, and his theology was Calvinist in tone. He made a determined effort to govern his diocese as a community within the larger organism of the Church by working in conjunction with his clergy. They sat with him in the episcopal courts; he spoke of them as fratres or compresbyteri. [Shuckburgh: Two Biographies of William Bedell, p. 101.] He won the heart of the Scottish presbyterians by describing a priest to whom he had given a licence for four months leave of absence in Scotland as a brother in Christ and synpresbyter. It was said in Scotland: ‘If the king will give us such bishops as this, we will beg them upon our knees of him and receive them with all our hearts.’ [Ibid., p. 162.]

Bedell’s synod was in a line with his whole diocesan policy. Twenty-two canons were unanimously agreed upon by bishop and clergy. He maintained that this was much the better way for a bishop to govern his diocese; it was primitive and catholic, and a far better method of securing uniformity in Church than managing a diocese through ‘arrogant actuaries and their clerks’. [Ibid. P. 348.]

In spite of the criticisms levelled at Bedell by Laud and the court, the general opinion appears to have been that Bedell’s action in reviving synodical government was an important contribution towards the solution of the problems which beset the Church in the middle of the seventeenth century. It was felt by divines of such different views as Ussher, Thorndike, and Stillingfleet that the puritan and presbyterian exceptions to monarchic episcopate were in part justified. It tended to create a papacy in each diocese. In criticizing monarchic episcopate the High Church divines had in mind episcopal powers of jurisdiction; these, they thought, might in some measure be shared by the presbyterate. In their view the bestowal of orders belonged as a matter of faith to the bishop. But giving the presbyterate a share in episcopal jurisdiction was easier said than done. The restoration of diocesan synods as a regular method of government seemed impracticable; as a substitute it was suggested that cathedral chapters, in some sense representative of the diocesan clergy, might form a senate to the bishop. They would advise in government of the diocese and act with him in matters of discipline. At the beginning of the eighteenth century Atterbury made his famous attempt to obtain greater powers for the Lower House of Convocation. He was a brilliant pamphleteer, but a bad historian; and the worthless historical arguments which he used to support his case brought it into disrepute. He temporarily succeeded, however, in making the Lower House more active in the government of the Church.

It was realized in the seventeenth century that the society which was both a Church and a State needed not only to express itself through proper organs as a Church; its existence as a Church depended also on the maintenance of a separate system of ecclesiastical law, dealing with the affairs of the nation as a Church, and differing in its principles and working from temporal and statue law. We have already noticed the emphasis laid in the period on the common law ecclesiastical; it means that the law which governs the life of the people as a Church is primarily a customary law, one that has grown up out of the manners and usages of the Christian community in England. The subject matter of this law, it is needless to say, is not the Christian faith or the Christian moral life; for the later have been laid down by Our Lord, and no Christian community can change them; it is concerned with matters of organization and devotional practice. Because the community in England has from the earliest times been conscious of its oneness with the rest of western Christendom, it has adopted as the groundwork and basis of its ecclesiastical legal system the law of the western Church, whether expressed in the decrees of general and national councils or the papal codes of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. But its authority of this law rests on its age-long observance in England, not on its emanation from some council of from the papacy. Within this customary law are included customs peculiar to the English Church. The ecclesiastical law does not only consist of customary law; it contains a certain amount of written law; but the latter is of small bulk, the constitutions and canons of diocesan and provincial synods, and statute law made by Parliament.

The role of statute law in the country’s ecclesiastical jurisprudence is limited to enforcing with civil sanctions the decisions of the ecclesiastical legislatures, and providing for the maintenance of the property and privileges of the clergy. Direct legislation by Parliament on ecclesiastical matters is only regarded as justifiable in times of crisis when the ecclesiastical legislatures are incapable of functioning. Statue law bearing on ecclesiastical matters must be interpreted according to the rules and maxims, not of the temporal, but the ecclesiastical law, and against the background of the country’s ecclesiastical jurisprudence. Otherwise the ecclesiastical law as a system loses all meaning and coherence; as Gibson says, it can never hope to thrive in the channel of the temporal law. The ecclesiastical law is not to be identified with statute law; it existed long before statute law and is something far wider and greater. It runs in its own channel as a separate legal system with its own rules and maxims which are those, not of the temporal lawyers, but of the traditional jurisprudence of the western Church. [op cit., Preface, p. vi.]

The maintenance of a separate system of ecclesiastical law depended on the existence of proper ecclesiastical courts with trained lawyers to administer it. Coke himself said that the country was best governed ‘when the justices of the temporal courts, and the ecclesiastical judges have kept themselves within their proper jurisdiction without encroaching or usurping one upon another.’ [Institutes, IV, ed. 1817, p. 321.] Coke’s actions belied his words; as Lord Chief Justice he tried to extend the jurisdiction of the temporal courts over matters of a properly ecclesiastical cognisance by the wholesale grant of prohibitions. His efforts were frustrated by Archbishop Bancroft and Lord Ellesmere; and after the Restoration the two jurisdictions worked in harmony and co-operation, each independent in its own sphere. Until 1833 the supreme ecclesiastical court of appeal was the High Court of Delegates set up by Henry VIII in 1534 after he had abolished appeals to Rome. It was usually composed of ecclesiastical lawyers and dealt with cases according to the ecclesiastical law. Common lawyers were among the judges, but as they understood neither the ecclesiastical law nor the procedure of the court, they had to rely on the knowledge of their ecclesiastical co-delegates.

All judges and advocates in the ecclesiastical courts belonged to the College of Doctors of the Law exercent in the Ecclesiastical and Admiralty Courts, usually known as Doctors Commons. This famous body, which dated from 1511, did for the ecclesiastical legal profession what the Inns of Court did for the temporal; it watched over its interests and ensured the continuance of an ecclesiastical legal tradition. To most people Doctors Commons is the ‘mighty snug little party’, as Steerforth called it, immortalized in David Copperfield; but as no less an authority than Sir William Holdsworth has pointed out, Dickens was no lawyer and his account is most unfair; he had no appreciation of the importance of the college either in the life of the Church or the community as a whole.

Since nobody could become a member without a fiat from the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was not compelled to grant it, the Church secured that its lawyers were genuine churchmen. It meant that the ecclesiastical law was administered by men of the calibre of Sir Leoline Jenkins, in Sir William Holdsworth’s judgement the greatest lawyer produced by Doctors Commons in our period and one whose whole life centred in the liturgy. When he was helping Sir William Temple to negotiate the Treaty of Nymwegen, the offices were said daily in his private chapel, and the Eucharist regularly celebrated; in London it was his practice to attend the daily services at St. Benet’s, Paul’s Wharf, the Church of the Doctors. He loved the Church of England, and in his will declared his belief that it was a true and sound member of Christ’s Catholic Church; he added this prayer: ‘Clothe her, O Lord, with a strict and exemplary holiness in her priests and people, and maintain her in her truth, peace, and patrimony till the end of the world.’ [Life: I, pp. lx, lxiii, lxviii.]

The college thus gave the Church a class of professional ecclesiastical lawyers with a sympathetic understanding of its life and ethos, and in learning the equal of the famous post-Tridentine canonists in the Church of Rome. Professional honour made them preserve the ecclesiastical law as a separate and independent system. The absence of regular reporting in the ecclesiastical courts until the end of the eighteenth century enabled the judges to escape the tyranny of binding precedents; from the legal traditions existing in the notebooks and memories of the profession, they were free to expand and develop the Church’s law to meet new needs and conditions. Members of Doctors Commons were not only ecclesiastical lawyers; at the universities they had graduated in Roman Civil Law, necessary for certain branches of their business; and since they staffed the Admiralty Court, they were learned international lawyers. The Prize Law of England was built up by ecclesiastical lawyers; Sir Leoline Jenkins even went so far as to call the Admiralty Court ‘the constant handmaid of the Church of England’. This training gave them a broad European outlook on legal questions, lacking in the common lawyer, and coloured their dealing with ecclesiastical business. They naturally tended to interpret the ecclesiastical law in agreement with the jus commune of the western Church and to treat it as a part of western canonical jurisprudence.

Far more than is ever realized, an independent ecclesiastical judicature and a body of professional ecclesiastical lawyers like Doctors Commons were the corner stones in the High Church conception of the oneness of Church and State; they ensured that the community had a legal system suited to its nature as a Church. The substitution of the Privy Council in 1833 for the High Court of Delegates, as the supreme ecclesiastical court of appeal, meant that a temporal court with temporal judges tried ecclesiastical cases and interpreted the ecclesiastical law according to rules and maxims alien to its ethos. The doctrine of binding precedents, a doctrine alien to the ecclesiastical law, compelled the diocesan and provincial courts to follow the opinions of the Privy Council, and administer a law which was nothing but a secular law attempting to deal with spiritual things. As Gibson points out, whenever temporal judges try to deal with matters belonging to ecclesiastical law, it means that the spiritual affairs of the nation are ‘managed in subservience to temporal ends far more than to the ends of religion and the real benefit of God’s Church’. [op. cit., p., xxii.]

In 1858 Doctors Commons had to be dissolved as the transference of the testamentary and matrimonial business to the secular courts left them with little to do. The Church was deprived of its professional lawyers and has since in its courts been compelled to make use of common lawyers with no training in the principles of ecclesiastical jurisprudence, and who approach it with all the prejudices of the common law mind. Training in a legal system built up to preserve an Englishman’s property and freedom is hardly the best preparation for administering a law whose primary purpose is the due ordering of English society as a spiritual entity towards its end in God.



When the High Church divines speak of the Church in connection with the liturgy, they are thinking, not of a collection of individuals, but of an organic body embracing the whole national life, a Christendom. In the nation regarded as a Church, each section has its own appropriate contribution to make to the life of the whole; king, clergy, laity, all have a part to play. The nation has its means of self-expression as a Church, its courts and a legal system enabling it to function as a Church. As a Church it is ruled by customary law, the best and truest expression of the mind of the Corpus Christi.

Their appreciation of the Church’s organic nature enabled the High Church divines to grasp the inner meaning of the liturgy, to see it as an act of a body, a community, not of a collection of individuals. The presence of a strong liturgical life in these circles which had a sense of the Church’s organic nature is evidence that there is a connection between the two, that the Church, to experience the full meaning of liturgy, must function as an organism, the body of Christ.

The identification of the Church with the nation made it possible for High Churchmen to link worship with the realities of life. Since the Church and nation are one, the liturgy becomes the voice of the nation, the offering of the nation. We have seen that they believed that the liturgy found its centre and completion in the Eucharistic sacrifice; it is by an examination of their views on the sacrifice that we can see how they integrated dogma, liturgy, and life.

The usual idea that their teaching on the Eucharistic sacrifice was hesitating and indefinite, that it played little part in their theology, is untrue. They are well aware of its importance; they value it as something infinitely precious in their religion; they love to speak of the Eucharist as the Christian Sacrifice. Their teaching from Andrewes and Field to Hickes and Johnson of Cranbrook has an impressive unity, though naturally different writers emphasize some aspects more than others. It is clear and consistent, neither Roman nor Calvinist, but built up on the teaching of the Fathers. The best summary of their teaching is to be found in the Answer to the Apostolic Letter of Pope Leo XIII on English Ordinations, XI, the reply of Archbishops Temple and Maclagan in 1897 to the Bull Apostolicae Curae.]

They reject any idea of a repetition of Calvary, of Christ being mystically slain afresh in every Mass. But this is not the only point on which they part company with what they believed to be current Roman teaching. They dislike it because it makes a barrier between priest and people in the offering of the Eucharist. The priest does something in which the people have no share; the sacrifice is external and has no living connection with the life of the community. The thought of the High Churchmen moves round a different idea, that of the community being joined in the Eucharist with Our Lord’s offering, viewed not as something done in the past on Calvary but as an eternal reality.

The idea was introduced into Anglican theology by Cranmer; and it is the main theme of the section on the Eucharistic sacrifice in his Defensio Verae et Catholicae Doctrinae de Sacramentis which appeared in 1550. Cranmer bases his argument on two passages from the New Testament: ‘I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service’ (Rom. 12:1) and ‘By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased’ (Heb. 13:15-16), where the Christian’s offering of his whole life and his thanksgiving in prayer are characterized as a sacrifice. Cranmer calls this type of sacrifice a gratulatory one, and distinguishes it from a propitiatory or expiatory sacrifice which remits sin and bestows eternal life. [Defensio Verae et Catholicae Doctrinae de Sacramentis, V, 3, p. 90, in Writings and Disputations of Thomas Cranmer, ... relative to the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, Parker Society.] The sacrifice on Calvary is of the latter kind and can never be repeated. It is complete and perfect as it is, though Christ is ever pleading it on our behalf as High Priest before the Father’s throne. The Eucharistic sacrifice is of the first kind. It is something offered by us through Christ to God as a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving for what Christ has done. What we offer to God is our own life dedicated and given over to Him with all that is foul and evil crucified with Christ. Cranmer is careful to point out that such an offering is only possible through what Christ has accomplished on Calvary and is made in union with Him. [Ibid., V, 8, p. 93; cf. his Answer to Gardiner in the same volume, pp. 356, 359.]

It is difficult to tie Cranmer down to precise definitions, but he would seem to have in mind the idea much beloved by Saint Augustine that the Church is offered in the Eucharist and on the altar is made one with the victim of Calvary. The altered position of the Prayer of Oblation in the Prayer Book of 1552 looks like an attempt to make this truth more explicit. The Eucharistic action is not something confined to the priest alone; it is the action of the whole Church in which all celebrate the memorial of Christ’s death and offer themselves as it were in sacrifice to God. Sparrow in commenting in his Rationale on the position of the prayer refers his readers to Saint Augustine’s remark in the De Civitate Dei that the Christian sacrifice is the offering of the Church as one body with its Lord. [p. 181.]

Here is the root behind the seventeenth-century High Church views on the Eucharistic sacrifice; it is the offering of the whole mystical body of Christ. But the High Church theologians realized that it was exposed to two grave dangers, Pelagianism and an unreality which threatened to make it theologically worthless and a positive source of evil. Cranmer, in comparison with the emphasis he makes on our offering in the Eucharist, pays far too little attention to the connection between Calvary and the Eucharist. There is a risk that all thought of man’s ever-present need of Calvary will slip into the background, and the sacrifice will become hopelessly pelagianized, a complacent, human act of oblation in memory of Christ’s death. Comber’s description of the main end of the Eucharist as the offering of our souls and bodies is a dangerous phrase unless it is made quite clear that such an offering is done in and through Christ’s offering, regarded not as a past event but as a living, present, actual reality. [op. cit., p. 553.]

In view of this danger High Church divines such as Field [op. cit., III, appendix, ch. 19], Thorndike [Works, I, p. 861: IV, pp. 20, 106-8, 112, 118, 126-35], Bull [Works, II, pp. 251-5], or Johnson [op. cit., I, pp. 145, 170-1, 206, 304-5, 398-401] are careful to state that what is done in the Eucharist can only be called a sacrifice because of its connection with Calvary. The connection is described in terms of commemoration and application. In characterizing the Eucharist as a commemorative sacrifice they mean much more than a memorial of a past event. The word denotes the dependence of the Eucharistic sacrifice on Calvary, that were it not for Calvary the Eucharistic sacrifice would be devoid of all meaning and efficacy. For what is offered at the consecration is not a new sacrifice but a sacrifice which is one with that of Calvary and Our Lord’s heavenly offering. On Calvary the sacrifice was offered in a physical manner. It is ever being continued by Our Lord in heaven. In the Eucharist the sacrifice is offered in a different manner from that of Calvary. It is an unbloody sacrifice, the offering not of Our Lord’s physical but of His sacramental body. It is a spiritual sacrifice because in the power of the Holy Spirit the Church by prayer and through the hands of duly appointed ministers consecrates the elements to be the Body and Blood of Christ. They speak of the offering as a mystical setting forth or representation of Christ’s death. By representation they do not mean a bare signifying of a past event with material actions, but a tendering, an exhibiting, a making present of that which is represented. The principal in the Eucharistic sacrifice is Our Lord Himself; in Johnson’s words ‘He therein exhibits His Body and Blood in mystery; He exhibits them (by the hands of His ministers) as Mediator of the new, everlasting covenant, and therefore first to God and then to men, to the whole Christian Church.’ [Ibid., I, p. 58.] The Eucharist does not take the place of Calvary; it does not commemorate Calvary as a past event. The seventeenth-century High Churchmen love the Eucharistic sacrifice because they love the cross. To them it is the actualization, the renewing, the revival of Calvary, the means of bringing back into the world of space and time all that Calvary means and will continue to mean until the end of the ages. [Cf. Andrewes: Sermons, II, pp. 304-6.]

The Eucharistic sacrifice not only commemorates Calvary in the sense of mystically setting forth and making present Our Lord’s death: it is brought back that it may be offered to God as a propitiatory sacrifice. The seventeenth-century High Churchmen discarded the distinction Cranmer had made between gratulatory and propitiatory; the latter as a description of the Eucharistic sacrifice was far too valuable a word to lose. By propitiation they mean the application of Calvary, now made present in all its power and efficacy. Cosin speaks of it as bringing into act the propitiation made by Christ, and applying it and rendering it beneficial to the living and the dead and all true members of the Catholic Church. [Works, V, pp. 107-8.] In his private devotions while celebrating the Eucharist, Bishop Wilson prays: ‘May I atone unto Thee, O God, by offering to Thee the pure and unbloody sacrifice which Thou hast ordained by Jesus Christ.’ In a prayer before the service he speaks of offering ‘this sacrifice for our own sins and the sins of Thy people’. [Works, Lib. of A. C. Theol. V, pp. 74-5.] The sacrifice is an offering and a pleading not only for sinful humanity but for the souls at rest. Cosin calls attention to the provision in the Latin Prayer Book of Elizabeth, a liturgy authoritative in the Church of England, of a collect, epistle, and gospel for a celebration of the Eucharist at funerals; by offering the sacrifice of the Church the effect of Christ’s sacrifice is applied to the departed soul. [op. cit., pp. 170-1.]

Only when they have stated that the Eucharist brings back and applies Calvary do the seventeenth-century High Churchmen speak of the Church being offered in the sacrifice. Bishop Buckeridge’s funeral oration on Andrewes is the best discussion in the period on this aspect of the sacrifice. He begins in the way that Andrewes had taught his generation by establishing the connection between the Eucharist and Calvary; the Eucharist is described as a representative, commemorative, and participated sacrifice of the Passion of Christ. [ ‘Funeral Sermon on Andrewes’, in Andrewes, Sermons, V, pp. 259-62.] Without such a bringing back of Calvary the offering of the Church is separated from its Lord and becomes something Pelagian and complacent. It is with Calvary as a powerful present and living reality that the Church is now made one and offered in its totality, Head with members, to the Father.

In what Buckeridge calls the sacrifice of the mystical body, the daily sacrifice of the Church (and the language he uses shows that he was steeped in Saint Augustine), the High Church divines found the point of integration linking liturgy and life. The sacrifice of the Church in the Eucharist is not a pious phrase but a real offering of the Church with its Head, an offering of our souls and bodies, as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, our reasonable service. Because the Church is one with the nation, the whole national life, the work, the struggles, the sufferings of the nation are offered to God in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the highest act of the national life; here the nation, become the Church, is offered with Calvary in adoration to God; here Calvary is pleaded for its sins and sufferings. The Eucharist is the corner stone, to use Andrewes’ phrase, the means whereby the Church, which embraces the nation, finds true unity and brotherhood in Christ. ‘First, uniting us to Christ the "Head", whereby we grow into one frame of building, into one body mystical with Him. And again, uniting us also as lively stones, or lively members, omnes in id ipsum, one to another, and all together in one, by natural love and charity.... "He that eateth of this Bread and drinketh of this cup abideth in me and I in him." There is our corner with Him. And again.... "All we that partake of one bread or cup grow into one body mystical." There is our corner, either with the other.’ [Sermons, II, p. 293.]

The Eucharistic sacrifice is not only the highest act of national life; it is the pattern to which the national life must conform. For its very perfection it needs the christianizing of the national life. Buckeridge says, ‘there cannot be a perfect and complete adoration to God in our devotions unless there be also doing good and distributing to our neighbors’. [Andrewes, op. cit., V, p. 267.] The Eucharist has a sociological significance. To Buckeridge the glory of Andrewes’ life lay in the fact that his generosity in prayer, his princely charities, his devotion to theology, made his life a fulfilment of the Eucharistic sacrifice, an actualization of what was done there. ‘He wholly spent himself and his studies and estate in these sacrifices, in prayer and praise of God, and compassion and works of charity, as if he had minded nothing else all his life long but this, to offer himself, his soul and body, a contrite and broken heart, a pitiful and compassionate heart, and a thankful and grateful heart, "a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God by Jesus Christ, which is our reasonable service" of Him.’ [Ibid., p. 288]

To Buckeridge belongs the credit of drawing out the implications of Cranmer’s teaching on the Eucharistic sacrifice, of linking liturgy and men’s social relationships. Admittedly he only sees them in terms of almsgiving and works of mercy; yet it is not the terms in which he sees them that matter, but the fact that he sees human relationships at all in the setting of worship, conditioned by what is done at the altar and finding their norm there. The Eucharistic sacrifice of necessity means that men are to be knit together by actions of justice, charity, and mercy, actions which have their source in the divine goodness and which unite us to God and our neighbour, actions performed ‘that we may cleave to God in a holy society’. [Ibid., pp. 264, 270-1, 280-1.] The national life is to become the Eucharist: ‘Christ there offered Himself once for us; we daily ourselves by Christ, that so the whole mystical body of Christ in due time may be offered to God.’ [Ibid., p. 266.] Here, perhaps, is the inspiration behind the pastoral labours of George Herbert, the social policy of Laud and Charles I. In the Eucharistic sacrifice they saw what the life and work of the nation must become, a redeemed city fit to be offered to God by our great High Priest.


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