We have reviewed rapidly, but not carelessly, the vicissitudes of the book's wonderful career, and we ought to be in a position to draw some sort of instructive inference from it all. Well, one thing taught us is this, the singular power of survival that lives in gracious words. They wondered at the "gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth," and because they wondered at them they treasured them up.
Kind words, says the child's hymn, can never die; neither can kindly words, and kindly in the deepest sense are many, many of the words of the Common Prayer; they touch that which is most catholic in us, that which strongly links us to our kind. There is that in some of the Collects which as it has lasted since the days when Roman emperors were sitting on their thrones, so will it last while man continues what he is, a praying creature.
Another thing taught us by the Prayer Book's history is the duty of being forever on our guard in the religious life against "the falsehood of extremes."
The emancipated thinkers who account all standards of belief to be no better than dungeon walls, scoff at this feature of the Anglican character with much bitterness. "Your Church is a Church of compromises," they say, "and your boasted Via media only a coward's path, the poor refuge of the man who dares not walk in the open." But when we see this Prayer Book condemned for being what it is by Bloody Mary, and then again condemned for being what it is by the Long Parliament, the thought occurs to us that possibly there is enshrined in this much-persecuted volume a truth larger than the Romanist is willing to tolerate, or the Puritan generous enough to apprehend.
A third important lesson is that we are not to confound revision with ruin, or to suppose that because a book is marvellously good it cannot conceivably be bettered. Each accomplished revision of the Book of Common Prayer has been a distinct step in advance. If God in his wise providence suffered an excellent growth of devotion to spring up out of the soil of England in the days of Edward the Sixth, and, after many years, determined that like a vine out of Egypt it should be brought across the sea and given root on these shores, we need not fear that we are about to lose utterly our pleasant plant if we notice that the twigs and leaves are adapting themselves to the climate and the atmosphere of the new dwelling-place. The life within the vine remains what it always was. The growth means health. The power of adaptation is the guarantee of a perpetual youth.
REVISION OF THE AMERICAN COMMON PRAYER.
II. REVISION OF THE AMERICAN COMMON PRAYER.
The revision of long established formularies of public worship is, as it ought to be, a matter compassed about with obstacles many and great. A wise doubtfulness prompts conservative minds to throw every mover for change upon the defensive, when liturgical interests are at stake. So many men are born into the world with a native disposition to tamper with and tinker all settled things, and so many more become persuaded, as time goes on, of a personal "mission" to pull down and remake whatever has been once built up, esteeming life a failure unless they have contrived to build each his own monument upon a clearing, that lovers of the old ways are sometimes compelled in sheer self-defence to put on the appearance of being more obstinately set against change than they really are. It ought not to be absolutely impossible to alter a national hand-book of worship (which is what any manual calling itself a Common Prayer must aspire to become), but it is well that it should be all but impossible to do so. Logically it might seem as if the possession of a power to make involved a continuance of power to remake; and so it does, to a certain extent, but only to a certain extent. Living organisms cannot be remodelled with the same freedom as dead matter. A solemnity hangs about the moment of birth that attaches to no other crisis in a man's life until death comes. Similarly there are certain features which the founders of institutions, the first makers of organic law, imprint lastingly upon their work. We may destroy the living thing so brought to birth; to kill is always possible; but only by very gradual and plastic methods can we hope in any measure to reconstruct the actual embodiment of life once achieved. The men of 1789 had us in their power, even as the men of 1549 had had both them and us. In every creative epoch many things are settled by which unborn generations will be bound.
It may be urged that this is an argument against adopting liturgies in the first instance as vehicles of worship; and such undoubtedly it is in so far forth as immobility ought in such matters to be reckoned a disadvantage. But we are bound to take into account the gain which comes with immobility as well as the drawbacks. We must consider how large a proportion of the reverence which the great institutes of human life exact from us is due to the fixity of the things themselves. Mont Blanc loses nothing of its hold upon our admiration because we always find it in the same place.
Men like to feel that there is something in the world stronger than the individual will, stronger simply because it expresses the settled common-sense of many as to what is fitting and right in contrast with the whim of one. Lawyers, as a class, are almost as conservative as ecclesiastics, and for the very reason that they also are charged with the custody of established forms which it is important that men should reverence. Laws affecting the tenure of property, the binding force of contracts, the stability of the marriage relation, not only cannot be lightly altered, the very phraseology in which they are couched must be carefully handled, for fear lest with the passing away of the form something of the substance go also.
Moreover, the affections of men fasten themselves very tenaciously to such a trellis as a liturgy affords. The love for "the old words and the old tunes" against which all innovators in hymnody, however deserving, have to do battle, asserts itself under the form of love for the old prayers with ten-fold vehemence. An immense fund of latent heat smoulders beneath the maxim, "Let the ancient customs prevail"; and few of the victories achieved by the papacy are so startling as those that have resulted in the displacement of the liturgical uses of local Churches, that of Paris, for example, by the Roman rite.
But true principles, as we are often reminded, become falsehoods when shoved across the line of proper measure. The very cycles of the astronomers have an end, and the clock-work of the most ancient heavens, or at least our reading of it, calls, from time to time, for readjustment. So long as man continues fallible his best intended workmanship will occasionally demand such alteration for the better as, within the limits already pointed out, may be possible.
Many signs of the times suggest that the hour for a fresh review of the Anglican formularies of worship is nigh at hand. Some of these tokens are written on a sky broad enough to cover the whole English-speaking race, others of them are visible chiefly within our own national horizon. With respect to the English book, Cardwell  writing in 1840 and Freeman in 1855, considered revision, however desirable in the abstract, to be a thing utterly out of reach, not within the circle, as the parliamentary phrase now runs, of "practical politics."
But it may be fairly questioned whether these high authorities, were they living to-day, would not concur in the judgment of a more recent writer when he says—in language which, mutatis mutandis, applies to our own case: "The most weighty plea in favor of timely inquiry into the subject is that the process of revision is actually going on piecemeal, and with no very intelligent survey of the bearings as a preliminary to any one instalment. The New Lectionary of 1871, the Shortened Services Act, the debates in the Convocation of Canterbury on rubrical amendments, none of them marked by any sufficient care or knowledge, and all fraught with at least the possibility of serious consequence, are examples of formal and recognized inroads on the Act of Uniformity; while such practical though unauthorized additions to the scanty group of Anglican formularies as the Three Hours' Devotion, Harvest Thanksgivings, Public Institution of Incumbents, Ordination of Readers and Deaconesses, and Children's Services prove incontestably that the narrow limits of the Common Prayer Book are no longer adequate for the spiritual needs of the Church of England . . .
"It is evident, then, that contented acquiescence with the old state of things already belongs to the past, and that a return to it is impossible. We must perforce advance, for good or ill, in the path of revision, and cannot even materially slacken the pace nor defer the crisis. One choice, however, is left in our power, and that is the most important of all, namely, the direction which revision shall take—that of conservative and recuperative addition, or that of further evisceration, ceremonial or devotional." 
A measure looking in the direction towards which this reviewer points was actually passed by the General Convention of our own Church at its late session in October, 1880.
The wording of the Resolution referred to was as follows:
"Resolved: That a Joint Committee, to consist of seven bishops, seven presbyters, and seven laymen be appointed to consider and report to the next General Convention whether, in view of the fact that this Church is soon to enter upon the second century of its organized existence in this country, the changed conditions of the national life do not demand certain alterations in the Book of Common Prayer in the direction of liturgical enrichment and increased flexibility of use."
In the present article the writer proposes to inquire, in connection with this measure:
(1) What motives may fairly be supposed to have actuated the Convention in allowing so important an initiatory step to be taken?
(2) What measure of authority was conferred on and what scope given to the Joint Committee then constituted?
(3) What reasons exist for considering the present a happy moment to attempt liturgical revision, within certain limits, should such a thing be determined upon?
(4) What serious difficulties and obstacles are likely to be encountered in Committee, in Convention, and in the Church at large?
(5) What particular improvements and adjustments of our existing system would be, in point of fact, best worth the effort necessary to secure them?
I. The interpretation of motives, difficult enough in the case of individuals, becomes mere guess-work when the action under analysis is that of a large body of men. Which one of many considerations urged upon the Convention carried with it the supreme weight of persuasion in this particular instance it is impossible to say. Two or three arguments, however, from their frequent reappearance in the debate may fairly be judged to have exercised a controlling influence. One of these was hinted at in the language of the resolution itself, namely, the call for revision that has grown out of "the changed conditions of the national life." Shrewd and far-seeing as were William White and his coadjutors in their forecast of nineteenth century needs made from the standpoint of the Peace of Versailles, they would have been more than human had they succeeded in anticipating all the civil and ecclesiastical consequences destined to flow from that memorable event. Certainly it ought not to be held strange that this "new America" of ours, with its enormously multiplied territory, its conglomerate of races, its novel forms of association, its multiplicity of industries not dreamed of a generation ago, should have demands to make in respect to a better adaptation of ancient formularies to present wants, such as thoughtful people count both reasonable and cogent. That a Prayer Book revised primarily for the use of a half-proscribed Church planted here and there along a sparsely inhabited sea-coast, should serve as amply as it does the purposes of a population now swollen from four millions to fifty, and covering the whole breadth of the continent, is marvel enough; to assert for the book entire adequacy to meet these altered circumstances is a mistake. "New time, new favors, and new joys," so a familiar hymn affirms, "do a new song require." We have conceded the principle so far as psalmody is concerned, why not apply it to the service of prayer as well as to that of praise, and in addition to our new hymns secure also such new intercessions and new thanksgivings as the needs of to-day suggest? The reference in the resolution to the approaching completion of the century has since been playfully characterized as a bit of "sentimentalism." The criticism would be entirely just if the mere recurrence of the centennial anniversary were the point chiefly emphasized. But when a century closes as this one of ours has done with a great social revolution whereby "all estates of men" have been more or less affected, the proposal to signalize entrance upon a fresh stretch of national life by making devotional preparation for it is something better than a pretty conceit; there is a serious reasonableness in it.
Every revision of the Common Prayer of the Church of England, and there have been four of them since Edward's First Book was put in print, has taken place at some important era of transition in the national life: and conversely it may be said that every civil crisis, with a single exception, has left its mark upon the formularies.
To one who argues that because we in this country are evidently entering upon a new phase of the national life we ought similarly to re-enforce and readjust our service-book, it is no sufficient reply to urge the severance effected here between Church and State. The fact that ours is a non-established Church does not make her wholly unresponsive to the shocks of change that touch the civil fabric. In so far as a political renewal alters the social grading of society, bringing in education, for instance, where before it was not, or suddenly developing new forms of industrial activity, the Church, whether established or not, is in duty bound to take cognizance of the fresh field of duty thus suddenly thrust upon her, and to prepare herself accordingly.
In the Preface added to the English Prayer Book at the Restoration, and commonly attributed to Sanderson, "that staid and well weighed man," as Hammond called him, there occurs a sentence which, both on account of its embodying in a few words the whole philosophy of liturgical revision and because of a certain practical bearing presently to be pointed out, it is worth while, in spite of its familiarity, to quote:
"The particular forms of Divine worship, and the rites and ceremonies appointed to be used therein, being things in their own nature indifferent and alterable and so acknowledged, it is but reasonable, that upon weighty and important considerations, according to the various exigency of times and occasions, such changes and alterations should be made therein, as to those that are in place of authority should from time to time seem either necessary or expedient."
Contemporaneously with this utterance there came into the Prayer Book, as a direct consequence of the enormous enlargement of the naval and commercial marine that had taken place under the Commonwealth, the "Forms of Prayer to be used at Sea." Here was a wise and right-minded recognition of a new want that had sprung up with a new time, a want which jealousy of the Puritans who had built up the naval supremacy did not prevent the Caroline bishops from meeting. But the change that passed on England during five years of Cromwell was as nothing compared with the transformation of America under ninety-five years of the federal constitution. Take a single illustration. The year 1789, the date of the Ratification of the American Prayer Book, saw sea-island cotton first planted in the United States, and it was about that time that upland cotton also began to be cultivated for home and foreign use. As the effect of this scarcely noticed experiment there straightway sprang up an industry, North and South, which has been to our country almost what her shipping interest is to Great Britain. Bishop White and his associates were not to blame for failure to provide bread that all this unanticipated multitude of toilers should eat. And yet a failure there has been. No one who has not labored at the task of trying to commend the Church of the Prayer Book to the working class, as it is represented in our large manufacturing towns, can know how lamentable that failure is. We gather in the rich and the poor, but the great middle class that makes the staple and the strength of American society stands aloof.
Nowhere in this country, for instance, has the Church had a better opportunity to show what it could do for American people than in the city of Lowell, where cotton spinning had its first large development. It was a virgin soil: the Episcopal Church, as rarely happens, was earliest on the ground: and not only so, but it enjoyed for some years the friendly protection of the proprietors of the new settlement, almost a religious monopoly—was, in fact, an ecclesiastical preserve. Moreover, this beginning antedated the Irish occupation by many years, at least so far as skilled labor was concerned, for during a considerable period the operatives in the mills were of native New England stock, the best possible material to be made over into churchmen and churchwomen. And yet notwithstanding all this, and notwithstanding the patient and unintermitted toil through more than fifty years of perhaps the most laborious parish priest on the American clergy list, the Episcopal Church has to-day but a comparatively slender hold upon the affections and loyalty of the people of this largest of the manufacturing cities of New England.
A similar failure to "reach the masses" betrays itself in Worcester and Fall River, the two cities of like character that come next in order of population, for in the former of these last named places only about two per cent, of the inhabitants have affiliations of any sort with the Episcopal Church.
It was considerations of this sort, backed perhaps by memories of the ringing appeal sounded three years before at Boston by the Bishop of Connecticut, that moved the Convention to interpret as something better than a bit of sentimentalism the invitation to look the times in the face, and give the new century its infant baptism.
But besides all this there pressed upon the mind of bishops and deputies a cumulative argument of a wholly different sort. The demand for revision seemed to be closing in upon the Church on converging lines. It was plain that, before long, hands of change must necessarily be laid upon certain semi-detached portions of the Prayer Book. There was the New Lectionary, for example, that would presently be knocking for hospitable reception within the covers, and the old Easter Tables, as they now stand, could not, it was observed, last very much longer. A new book, in the publisher's sense of that term, would soon have to be made. The sanctity of stereotype plates must be disturbed. Moreover, here was an admirable opportunity to settle the wrangle, now of nine years' standing, over the best way of bringing to pass shortened services for week-day use. Add to this the fact that the intrinsic weakness of the driblet method of revision had been made so abundantly plain that even its former friends wisely refrained from all attempt to urge it, and our summing up of probable motives becomes approximately complete.
II. As to the measure of authority conferred on, and scope allowed to the Committee of Twenty-one, it is possible to speak with more definiteness.
A precisian might of course, were he so disposed, take up the ground that the report of the Committee when made ought to be monosyllabic, "Yes" or "No." The wording of the resolution admits of such a construction beyond a doubt; the Joint Committee was requested to consider and report whether, etc., etc. But no one who listened to the debate on the resolution could have been left in uncertainty as to the real animus of the measure. The thing intended to be authorized was an experimental review, with implied reference to a limited revision at some time future, in case the fruits of the review should commend themselves to the mind of the Church.
A distinction must be drawn between revision and review. Revision implies review as an antecedent step, but review is by no means necessarily followed by revision. The English book was reviewed and revised in 1662; it was reviewed but not revised in 1689. Review is tentative and advisory; revision is authoritative and final. In the present instance not an atom of power to effect binding change has been conveyed. No authority has been given to anybody to touch a line or a letter of the Prayer Book save in the way of suggestion and recommendation. Responsible action has been held wholly in reserve.
Moreover, even the pathway of review was most scrupulously hedged. Applying to the resolution the legal maxim, expressio unius est exclusio alterius, one sees at a glance that doctrinal change is a matter left wholly on one side. The two points to which the Committee is instructed to bend all its studies are "liturgical enrichment" and "increased flexibility of use." Whatsoever is more than these is irrelevant. Accurate distinguishment between such "enrichments" as have and such as have not a doctrinal bearing is, no doubt, a delicate point, and must be set down among the difficulties to be encountered. As such it will be considered further on. For the present the fact to be noted is that the authorized reviewers are both in honor and in duty bound to keep themselves absolutely clear of controversial bias. The movement is not a movement to alter in any slightest respect the dogmatic teaching of the Church, not a movement to unsettle foundations, not a movement toward disowning or repudiating our past, but simply and only an endeavor to make the Common Prayer, if possible (and we are far from being sure, as yet, that it is possible), a better thing of its kind, more comprehensive, more elastic, more readily responsive to the demands of all occasions and the needs of "all sorts and conditions of men." Some who are deeply persuaded that only by doctrinal revision in one direction or another can the Prayer Book be made thoroughly to commend itself to the heart and mind of the American people will esteem the measure of change above indicated not worth the effort indispensable to the attainment of it. Be it so; other some there are who do think the attempt well advised and who are willing to waive their own pet notions as to possible doctrinal improvements of the book for the sake of securing a consensus upon certain great practical improvements which come within the range of things attainable.
Certain it is that any attempt of a body of reviewers like this to disturb, even by "shadowed hint," the existing doctrinal settlement under which we are living together, would be resented by the whole Church.
There are divines among us who in the interest of a more sharply defined orthodoxy are conscientiously bent upon securing the reintroduction among our formularies of the so-called Athanasian Creed.
There are others who consider that a more damaging blow at the catholicity of our dogmatic position as a Church could scarcely be dealt.
Again, there are theologians who account the Prayer Book to be so thoroughly saturated in all its parts with the sacramental idea, that they would account it not only a piece of far-seeing statesmanship, but also a perfectly safe procedure to allow those who chose to do so to thank God after a child's baptism for the simple fact that he had thereby been "grafted into the body of Christ's Church."
But over against these stand a much larger number who think nothing of the sort, and who would put up with the liturgical shortcomings of the Prayer Book, go without "enrichments" for a thousand years, rather than see the single word "regenerate" dropped out of the post-baptismal office.
Sensible men not a few are to be found who hold that the incoming tide of host-worship with which, as they conceive, our reformed Church is threatened can never be stayed unless some carefully contrived definition inserted in the Prayer Book shall make impossible this subtile and refined species of idolatry. But men no whit less sensible laugh them in the face, pointing to the "black rubric" and its history as evidence that between the admitted doctrine of the real presence and the disallowed tenet of transubstantiation no impervious barrier of words can possibly be run.
These illustrations of probable divergence in opinion, in case the field of doctrine were once entered, might be multiplied. The retranslation of the Nicene Creed and the more accurate punctuation of its sentences; the rendering of the word Sabbath in the Fourth Commandment into its English equivalent of Rest; the abolition of the curious misnomer under which we go on calling XXXVIII Articles XXXIX; the removal from the Catechism, or else the conversion into mother English of that sad crux infantum, the answer to the question, "What desirest thou of God in this prayer?" are a few examples of less importance than those previously cited; and yet, in the case of the least of them, it is most unlikely that the advocates of change would have the show of hands in their favor, so sensitive is the mind of the Church to anything that looks in the least degree like tampering with the standards of weight and measure, the shekels of the sanctuary.
On the other hand, there are certain manifest and palpable instances of inaccuracy and, more rarely, infelicity of diction which the reviewers might very properly take occasion to amend even though such alterations could not be classified by a strict constructionist under either of the two heads "enrichment" and "flexibility." In the masterly Report of the Rev. Dr. T. W. Coit to the Joint Committee appointed by the Convention of 1841 to prepare a Standard Prayer Book, a document of classical rank, there is more than one intimation of the hope that future reviewers would be given a larger liberty in this direction than he had himself enjoyed. He chafed, and naturally enough, under the necessity of reprinting in a "standard" book, evident and acknowledged solecisms and blunders. "We wanted," he says, "to correct one ungrammatical clause in the Consecration Prayer of the Communion Service. It is in the last sentence but one, at its close. It should be, not that he may dwell in them and they in him; but, that he may dwell in us and we in him. The prayer is made up out of two or three others; and anyone who will examine the parts put together will easily see how the thing was overlooked. A much greater error was overlooked elsewhere, showing that our American compilers were not sufficiently aware of the necessity which requires that the Prayer Book should always be consistent with itself. I allude to something in the office for the Private Baptism of Children. Suppose a clergyman to avail himself of the license given in the Rubric after the certification. He will then be made to talk thus: 'As the Holy Gospel doth witness to our comfort, on this wise—Dost thou in the name of this child,'" etc.
Other cases of evident inaccuracy, besides those referred to by this eminent critic, might be cited, even from the latest Standard Prayer Book, that of 1871. It is hard, for instance, to imagine even the veriest martinet in such matters objecting to the redress of a great wrong done on page 36 of the volume mentioned, where the prayer "to be used at the meetings of Convention" is entered under the general heading, "For malefactors after condemnation." Our ecclesiastical legislators have doubtless, like the rest of us, "erred and strayed" more than once, but to deal out to them such harsh measure as this is cruel.
A strange uncertainty would seem from the Rubric to exist with reference to the limits of the Litany. On page 554 of the Standard Prayer Book, the words, "Here endeth the Litany," occur immediately after the prayer, "We humbly beseech thee, O Father," while on page 31 the same statement is placed immediately after the minor benediction.
These are not faults for which it could ever be worth while to revise a Prayer Book, but they are blemishes of which the revisers of a Prayer Book ought to take note.
It is a graver matter to speak of infelicities of diction in a book so justly famous as the Prayer Book for its pure and wholesome English. Wordsworth's curse on
One who would peep and botanize Upon his mother's grave
seems, in the judgment of many, fairly earned by the critic, whoever he may be, who ventures to suggest that in any slightest instance the language of the formularies might have been more happily phrased. But there are spots on the sun. In the prayer already referred to, that for use "at the meetings of Convention," the petition, "We beseech thee to be present with the council of thy Church here assembled in thy name and presence" does seem open to the charge of tautology if nothing worse.
It would be well if wherever the word occurs in the Prayer Book in connection with Deity the anthropomorphic plural "ears" could be replaced by the symbolic singular "ear."
Considering also the great evil of having in a formulary of worship too many things that have to be laboriously explained, it might be well if in the Litany the adjective "sudden," which ever since Hooker's day has given perpetual occasion for cavil, were to yield to "untimely," or some like word more suggestive than "sudden" of the thought clumsily expressed in the "Chapel Liturgy" by the awkward phrase, "death unprepared for."
It must be again remarked that these are not points for the sake of which word-fanciers would be justified in disturbing an existing order of things; they are simply instances of lesser improvements that might very properly accompany larger ones, should larger ones ever be seriously undertaken.
With so many pegs upon which controversies might be hung staring us in the face, can we think of it as at all likely that any considerable number of Churchmen assembled in committee (to say nothing of Convention) will be able to agree upon a common line of action with reference to an amendment of the formularies?
That is the very point at issue, and how it is to be decided only the event can show. Certainly in the roll of the victories of charity, a favorable result, were it achieved, would stand exceeding high.
This reflection naturally leads up to the inquiry whether there is any special reason to consider the present a happy moment to attempt within the limits already defined a revision of the Prayer Book.
III. The argument for timeliness has been, in part, already stated. A revision will be timely, if the times imperatively demand it; and the main reasons for thinking that they do are before the reader. Something, however, is still left to be said in evidence that the movement now begun is opportune—not rudely thrust upon the Church. "To everything," saith the preacher, "there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven," and among the categories that follow this statement we find reckoned what answers to liturgical enrichment, for "there is," he observes, "a time to build up."
Fifty years ago a persuasive argument against attempting to amend the Prayer Book, either in text or rubrics, might have been based upon the lack of hands competent to undertake so delicate a task. Raw material, well adapted to edification, was lying about in blocks, but skilled workmen were scarce. This can hardly be said to-day. Simultaneously with the beginning of the Oxford movement, there naturally sprang up a fresh interest in liturgical studies, an interest which has gone on deepening and widening until in volume and momentum the stream has now probably reached its outer limit. The convincing citation, "There were giants in those days," with which a late bishop of one of the New England dioceses used to enforce his major premise that wisdom died with Cranmer and his colleagues, no longer satisfies. Probably no period of corresponding length in the whole range of English Church history has shown itself so rich in the fruits of liturgical study as the fifty years that have elapsed since the introduction into the English Parliament of the first Reform Bill. This particular historical landmark is mentioned on account of the close connection of cause and effect between it and the remarkable movement set on foot by Newman, Pusey, Keble, and Froude. To be sure, one of the earliest utterances in the Tracts ran in these words: "Attempts are making to get the Liturgy altered. My dear brethren, I beseech you consider with me whether you ought not resist the alteration of even one jot or tittle of it."
And yet, notwithstanding this disclaimer, one of the main impulses that lay behind the whole movement represented by the Tracts was an earnest desire to quicken the life of the Church of England in the region of worship. In the Table of the Tracts, showing their arrangement according to Subjects, the "Liturgical" section comes first.
The present writer acknowledges but a very limited sympathy with the doctrinal motives and aims of either the earlier or the later Tractarians. But let us, above all things, be fair. With whatever prepossessions one looks back upon it, the ground traversed by the Church of England during the past fifty years cannot be otherwise regarded than as a field sown with mingled tares and wheat. Individuals will differ in judgment as to the proportion in which these two products of a common soil have coexisted, but even those who have most stoutly opposed themselves to the Oxford movement, as a whole, are fain to credit it with, at least, this one good result, the rescue of the usages of worship from slovenliness and torpor, and the establishment of a better standard of what is seemly, reverent, and beautiful in the public service of Almighty God. Not that there have not been, even in this respect, grave errors in the direction of excess; the statement ventured is simply this, that, up to a certain point, all Churchmen agree in admitting a genuine and wholesome improvement in the popular estimate of what public worship, as such, ought to be. An immense amount of devout study has been given, during the period mentioned, by many able men to liturgical subjects, and it would be strange indeed if fifty years of searching criticism had not resulted in the detection of some few points in which formularies originally compiled to meet the needs of the sixteenth century might be better adapted to the requirements of the twentieth. Or, to put the same point in another way, has not all this searching into the mines of buried treasure, all this getting together of quarried stone (with possibly a certain surplusage of stubble) been so much labor lost, if there is never to come the recognition of a ripe moment for the Church to avail itself of the results achieved? Are the studious toils of a Palmer, a Maskell, a Neale, a Scudamore, and a Bright to go for nothing except in so far as they have been contributory to our fund of ecclesiological lore? If so, the contempt often expressed for ritual and liturgical studies by students busy with other lines of research would seem to be not wholly undeserved.
A good opportunity is now before the Church to give answer as to whether this form of investigation is or is not anything better than a species of sacred antiquarianism. Liturgiology as an aspirant for recognition among the useful sciences may be said at the present moment to be waiting for the verdict. To be sure, it can be asserted for liturgiology that to those who love it it is a study that proves itself, like poetry, "its own exceeding great reward." It is not worth while to dispute this point. Liturgiology pursued for its own sake may not be the loftiest of studies, but this, at least, can be said for it, that it is a not less respectable object of pursuit than many another specialty the devotees of which look down upon the liturgiologist with self-complacent scorn as a mere chiffonier. The forms which Christian worship has taken on in successive generations and among peoples of various blood are certainly as well worthy of analysis and classification as are the flora and fauna of Patagonia or New Zealand. But while the Patagonian naturalist secures recognition and is decorated, every jaunty man of letters feels at liberty to scoff at the liturgiologist as a laborious trifler.
Moreover, remembering that in favorite studies, as in crops, there rules a principle of rotation, fashion affecting even staid divines with its subtle influence, we may look to see presently a decline of interest in this particular department of inquiry. Especially may serious men be expected to turn their attention in other directions, should it be found that a Non possumus awaits every effort to make the fruits of their labor available for the nourishment of the Church's daily life. So then, instead of deferring action until liturgical knowledge shall have become more widely spread, and available liturgical material more abundant, we shall, if we are wise, perceive that only by moving promptly will it be possible in this case to take the tide at the full. Never again will opportunity be more ripe.
Another evidence of timeliness is supplied by the present pacific condition of the Church. Previous movements toward liturgical revision have been of a more or less partisan and acrimonious temper. Now for the first time we seem to be taking up this subject without the expression of a fear from any quarter that if changes are made this or that party will get the advantage of some other. The peculiar conditions that ensure this unwonted truce of God are not likely to last forever, nor is it perhaps wholly desirable that they should do so; what is desirable, and very desirable, is that we should avail ourselves of the lull to accomplish certain changes for the better, which in ordinary times the prevalent heat of friction makes impossible. The Joint Committee of Twenty-one is confidently believed to contain within itself every shade of color known to belong to the Anglican spectrum; if white light should be found to emerge, three years hence, as a result of the Committee's labors, it will be said, and truly, that never before in our history could such a blending of the rays possibly have taken place.
Still another consideration properly included under the general head of timeliness is said to have been urged with much force in the House of Bishops when the "enrichment" resolution was under discussion.
Up to the present time the Episcopal Church of this country has stood easily at the head in the matter of providing for the people a dignified and beautiful order of divine service. In fact, there has been, until lately, no one to compete. But all this is changing. Ours are no longer the only congregations in which common prayer is to be found. It is true that thus far the attempts at imitation have been rather grotesque than formidable, but such, until recently, have also been, in the judgment of foreign critics, all of our American endeavors after art. We are to consider what apt learners our quick-witted countrymen have shown themselves to be, in so much that even Christmas Day, once the bete noire of Puritan legislators, has come to be accounted almost a national festival, and we shall be convinced that our primacy in the field of liturgies is not an absolutely assured position. This argument is open to the criticism that it seems to lower and cheapen the whole subject by representing Anglican religion in a mendicant attitude bidding for the favor of the great American public, and vexed that others, fellow-suppliants, have stolen a good formula of appeal. Nevertheless there is a certain amount of reasonableness in this way of putting the thing. Certainly with those who reckon the liturgical mode of worship among the notes of the Church, the argument is one that ought to have marked influence; while with those who, not so persuaded, nevertheless view with pleased interest the general spread of a liturgical taste among the people of this country, seeing in it a token of better things to come, a harbinger of larger agreements than we have yet attained to, and of an approaching "consolation of Israel" once not thought possible—even with such the argument ought not to be wholly powerless.
The fact that the Convocations of Canterbury and York have taken in hand and carried through a revision of the rubrics of the Prayer Book will seem to those who hold that our Church ought to advance pari passu with the Church of England, and no faster, another evidence of the timeliness of the American movement. Under the title of The Convocation Prayer Book there has lately appeared in England an edition of the Prayer Book so printed as to show how the book would read were the recommendations of York and Canterbury to go into effect. It is true that the consent of Parliament must be secured before the altered rubrics can have the force of law; but whatever may come of the rubrics recommended, the existence of the book containing them is evidence enough of a wide-spread conviction among the English clergy that change is needed.
Indeed never has this point been more powerfully put in the fewest possible words than by the brilliant, and no less logical than brilliant Bishop of Peterborough in a recent speech in the Upper House of Convocation. "If the Church of England wants absolute peace, she should have definite rubrics."
It is true he goes on to say that in his judgment the dangers of carrying the question of rubrical revision into Parliament are greater than the evil of letting it alone, but it is to be remembered that we in this country are hampered with no Parliamentary entanglements and are free to do of our own motion, and in a quiet, orderly way, that which the Church of England can only do at the risk of something very like revolution.
But this matter of the rubrics and their susceptibility of improvement will come up later on. It seemed proper to refer to it, if no more, under the head of timeliness. If nothing else in the way of change be opportune at the present moment, it is an easy task to show that the rubrics, as they stand, cry aloud for a revision.
IV. The obstacles to be encountered by any Committee undertaking so to carry forward a review of the Prayer Book that revision may eventually result, are of two sorts; there are the inherent difficulties of the work itself, such, for instance, as that of matching the literary style of the sixteenth century writers, and there is the wholesome dread of a change for the worse which is sure to assert itself in many quarters the moment definite propositions shall have reached a point at which the "yeas and nays" are likely to be called.
Beginning, then, with the inherent difficulties, and taking them in the inverse order of arduousness, we see at once how hard it must be to secure unity and self-consistency in the revision of a book so complicated as the Common Prayer. It is like remodelling an old house. We think it a very easy matter, something that can be done in one's head, but the mistake is discovered when the new door designed to give symmetry to this room is found to have spoiled the looks of that, when the enlargement of the library turns out to have overtaxed the heating energy of the fireplace, and the ingenious staircase, instead of ending where it was expected to end, brings up against an intractable brick wall. Just such perils as these will beset anybody who ventures to disturb the adjustments of the "Prayer Book as it is" and to introduce desirable additions. But domestic architecture is not given up on account of the patient carefulness the practice of it demands, neither need Liturgical Revision be despaired of because it requires of the men who undertake it a like wisdom in looking before and after.
The really formidable barrier to revision, so far as what have been called the "inherent difficulties" are concerned, is reached when we touch style. How to handle without harming the sentences in which English religion phrased itself when English language was fresher and more fluent than it can ever be again is a serious question. The hands that seek to "enrich" may well be cautioned to take heed lest they despoil. It is to be remembered, however, in the way of reassurance that the alterations most likely to find favor with the reviewers are such as will enrich by restoring lost excellencies, rather than by introducing forms fashioned on a modern anvil.
The most sensitive critic could not, on the score of taste, find fault with the replacement in the Evening Prayer of the Magnificat and the Nunc dimittis, nor of bringing back a few of the Versicles that in the English book follow the Lord's Prayer, nor yet of our being allowed to say, "Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, Lord," rather than "O Lord, our Heavenly Father, by whose Almighty power we have been preserved this day." Objections to these alterations may be readily imagined, but it would be necessary to base them on other grounds than those of literary fastidiousness. In the case of enrichments like these no one could raise the cry that the faultless English of the Prayer Book had been marred.
But what shall be said of the composition of entirely new services and offices, if it should be judged expedient to give admission to any such? How can we be sure that such modern additions to the edifice would be sufficiently in keeping with the general tone of the elder architecture? It might be held to be an adequate answer to these questions to reply that if the living Church cannot now trust herself to speak out through her formularies in her natural voice as she did venture to do in the seventeenth century and the eighteenth, it must be that she has fallen into that stage of decrepitude where the natural voice is uncertain.
But, really, what ought to be said is this—that if the same canons of style that ruled the sixteenth century writers are studied and obeyed, there is no reason in the world why a result equally satisfactory with the one then attained should not be reached now. There is nothing supernatural about the English of the Prayer Book. Cranmer and his associates were not inspired. The prose style of the nineteenth century may not be as good as that of the sixteenth, but, at its best, it is vastly superior to eighteenth century style, and of this last there are already no inconsiderable specimens in the American Book of Common Prayer. The Office for the Visitation of Prisoners, for example, is so redolent of the times of the Georges, when it was composed, that it might be appropriately enough interleaved with prints out of Hogarth. A bit of Palladian architecture in a Gothic church is not more easily recognized. Many worse things might happen to the Prayer Book than that the nineteenth century should leave its impress upon the pages.
In fact, it is just as possible, if men will only think so, to use our language with effect for any good purpose to-day as it was three hundred years ago. All that is necessary is a willingness to submit to the same restrictions, and those mostly moral, that controlled the old writers; and our work, though not identical with theirs, will have the proper similarity. True, a modern author may not be able to reproduce, without a palpable betrayal of affectation and mannerism, the precise characteristics of a bygone style. Chattertons are not numerous. It is easier to secure for the brass andirons and mahogany dining chairs of our own manufacture the look of those that belonged to our grandfathers than it is to catch the tones of voices long dead; and just as good judgment dictates the wisdom of repeating the honest and thorough workmanship of the old cabinet-makers in place of slavishly imitating their patterns, so it will be well if the compilers of devotional forms for modern use seek to say what they have to say with sixteenth century simplicity rather than in sixteenth century speech. In letters, as in conduct, the supreme charm of style is the absence of self-consciousness. "Say in plain words the thing you mean, and say it as if you meant it," is good advice to any seeker after rhetorical excellence, be he young or old. The Reformers, that is to say, the men who Englished the Prayer Book, in seeking to meet the devotional needs of the people of their own time do not seem to have been at pains to tie themselves to the diction of a previous generation. They dared to "call a spade a spade" whenever and wherever the tool came into use, and they have their reward in the permanence of their work. Sweetnesses and prettinesses they banished altogether. Indeed, in those days it seems not to have occurred to people that such things had anything to do with religion. It was not that they did not know how to talk in the sweet way—never has sentimentalism been more rife in general literature than then, but they would not talk in that way; the stern traditions of Holy Church throughout all the world forbade. Religion was a most serious thing to their minds, and they would speak of it most seriously or not at all.
Never since language began to be used have severity and tenderness been more marvellously blended than in the older portions of the English Prayer Book.
This effect is largely due to an almost entire abstention on the part of the writers from figurative language, or at least from all imagery that is not readily recognized as Scriptural. Bread and beef are what men demand for a steady diet. Sweetmeats are well enough, now and then, but only now and then.
It is the failure to observe this plain canon of style that has made shipwreck of many an attempt to construct liturgies de novo. Ambitious framers of forms of worship seem almost invariably to forget that there may be such a thing as a too exquisite prayer, an altogether too "eloquent address to the throne of grace." The longest and fullest supplicatory portion of the Prayer Book, the Litany, does not contain, from the first sentence to the last, one single figurative expression, it is literally plain English from beginning to end; but could language be framed more intense, more satisfying, more likely to endure?
Scriptural metaphor, whether because it comes to us with the stamp of authority or on account of some subtle intrinsic excellence, it may be difficult to say, does not pall upon the taste. And yet even this is used sparingly in the Prayer Book, some of the most striking exceptions to the general rule being afforded by the collects for the first and third Sundays in Advent, the collects for the Epiphany and Easter Even, and the opening prayer in the Baptismal Office. All these are instances of strictly Scriptural metaphor, and moreover it is to be kept in mind that they are designed for occasional, not constant use. In the orders for daily Morning and Evening Prayer, the "lost sheep" of the General Confession and the "dew" of God's blessing in the Collect for Clergy and People are almost the sole, if not the sole cases of evident metaphor, and these again are Scriptural. When in Jeremy Taylor's prayer, introduced by the American revisers into the Order for the Visitation of the Sick, we come upon the comparison of human life to a "vale of misery" we feel that somehow we have struck a new current in the atmosphere; for the moment it is the rhetorician who speaks, and no longer the earnest seeker after God.
Besides this freedom from figures of speech, we notice in the style of Prayer Book English a careful avoidance of whatever looks like a metaphysical abstraction. The aim is ever to present God and divine things as realities rather than as mere concepts or notions of the mind. So far as the writer remembers, not a single prayer in the whole book begins with that formula so dear to the makers of extemporary forms of devotion, "O Thou." On the contrary, the approach to the Divine Majesty is almost always made with a reference to some attribute or characteristic that links Deity to man and man's affairs; it is "O God, the Protector of all that trust in thee," or "Almighty and everlasting God who of thy tender love toward mankind," or "Lord of all power and might who art the author and giver of all good things."
Cardinal Newman in one of his theological works written before his departure from the Church of England, has a powerful passage bearing upon this point. He is criticising the evangelicals for their one-sided way of setting forth what it must mean to "preach the Gospel." No less a person than Legh Richmond is the object of his strictures.
"A remarkable contrast between our Church's and this false view of religion," he says, "is afforded in the respective modes of treating a death-bed in the Visitation of the Sick, and a popular modern work, the Dairyman's Daughter. The latter runs thus: My dear friend, do you not FEEL that you are supported? The Lord deals very gently with me, she replied. Are not his promises very precious to you? They are all yea and amen in Christ Jesus.. . Do you experience any doubts or temptations on the subject of your eternal safety? No, sir; the Lord deals very gently with me and gives me peace. What are your views of the dark valley of death now that you are passing through it? It is not dark. Now, if it be said that such questions and answers are not only in their place innocent but natural and beautiful, I answer that this is not the point, but this, viz., they are evidently intended, whatever their merits, as a pattern of what death-bed examinations should be. Such is the Visitation of the Sick in the nineteenth century. Now let us listen to the nervous and stern tone of the sixteenth. In the Prayer Book the minister is instructed to say to the person visited: Forasmuch as after this life there is an account to be given to the Righteous Judge . . . I require you to examine yourself and your estate both toward God and man. Therefore I shall rehearse to you the Articles of our Faith, that you may know whether you do believe as a Christian man should or no . . . 'Then shall the minister examine whether he repent him truly of his sins, and be in charity with all the world: exhorting him to forgive from the bottom of his heart all persons who have offended him, and if he hath offended any other to ask their forgiveness, and where he hath done injury or wrong to any man that he make amends to the utmost of his power.' . . . Such is the contrast between the dreamy talk of modern Protestantism, and 'holy fear's stern glow' in the Church Catholic."
In this striking, though perhaps somewhat unnecessarily harsh way, Newman brings out a point which is unquestionably true, namely, that the language of the Prayer Book is of the sort which it is just now the fashion to call realistic, that is, a language conversant with great facts rather than with phases of feeling and moods of mind; which after all is only another way of saying that it is a Book of Common Prayer and not a manual for the furtherance of spiritual introspection.
These, then, are the characteristics of the Prayer Book style: it is simple, straightforward, unmetaphorical, realistic. Seriously it looks almost like a studied insult alike to the scholarship and to the religion of our day, to say that these are excellencies attainable no longer. That revisers venturing upon additions to the Prayer Book would be bound to set the face as a flint against any slightest approach to sentimentality is true. But why assume that the men do not exist who are capable of such a measure of self-control? Grant that there are whole volumes of devotional matter, original and compiled, which one may ransack without finding a single form that is not either prolix, wishy-washy, or superstitious—it does not follow that if the Prayer Book is to be enriched, the enrichments must necessarily come from such sources. Moreover it is to be remembered that there is another vice of style to be shunned in liturgical composition quite as carefully as sentimentality, namely, jejuneness. We cannot escape being sentimental simply by being dull. Feeling must not be denied its place in prayer for fear that it may not prove itself a duly chastened feeling. There ought to be a heart of fire underneath the calm surface of every formulary of worship. Flame and smoke are out of place; but a liturgy should glow throughout. Coldness, pure and simple, has no place in devotion.
Over and above the intrinsic difficulties in the way of revision growing out of the delicate nature of the work itself, obstacles of a different sort are certain to be encountered. In so large a body of men as the Joint Committee of the two Houses, entire and cordial agreement is almost too much to be expected; and then even supposing a unanimous report submitted, what is likely to follow? Why this—if the changes proposed are few, the cry will be raised, It surely is not worth while to alter the Prayer Book for the sake of so insignificant a gain; whereas if the changes proposed are considerable, the counter cry will be sounded, This is revolution.
Then there is the anxious question, How will it look to the English? What will be the effect on the Concordat if we touch the Prayer Book? To be sure, the Concordat does not seem to weigh very heavily on the shoulders of the other party, as indeed there is no reason why it should. Convocation does not much disturb itself as to the view General Convention is likely to take of its sayings and doings, and even disestablishment might proceed without our being called into consultation. And yet the Concordat difficulty will have to be reckoned with; and the dire spectre of a possible disowning of us by our mother the Church of England will have to be laid, before any alterations in the Book of Common Prayer will be accounted by some among us perfectly safe.
But it is scarcely worth while to go on gratuitously suggesting opposition arguments. They will be sure to present themselves unsolicited in due time. For the present it is enough to add that if the movement for liturgical revision has not in it enough toughness of fibre to enable it to survive vigorous attack, it does not deserve success.
V. Under the head of liturgical enrichment ought to be classed whatever alteration would really serve to enhance the beauty, majesty, or fitness, of accepted formularies of worship. Excision may, under conceivable circumstances, be enrichment. James Wyatt undoubtedly imagined that he was improving the English cathedrals when he whitewashed their interiors, added composition pinnacles to the west towers of Durham, and rearranged the ancient monuments of Salisbury; but an important part of the enrichment accomplished by our nineteenth century restorers has lain simply in the undoing of what Wyatt did.
Again, substitution may be enrichment, as in the case where a wooden spire built upon a stone tower is taken down to be replaced by honest work. It would be an enrichment if in St. George's Chapel, the central shrine of British royalty, the sham insignia now overhanging the stalls of the knights of the garter were to give room to genuine armor. Not merely then by addition, but possibly, in some instances, by both subtraction and substitution, we may find the "Prayer-book as it is" open to improvement.
Before, however, entering upon any criticism of the formularies in detail, it is important to draw a distinction between two very different things, namely, the structure of a liturgical office and the contents of it. By structure should be understood the skeleton or frame that makes the groundwork of any given office, by contents the actual liturgical material employed in filling out the office to its proper contour.
The offices of the Roman Breviary, for example, continue, for the most part, identical in structure from day to day, the year through; but they vary in contents. For an illustration nearer home take our own Order for Daily Morning Prayer. The structure of it is as follows: 1. Sentences, 2. Exhortation, 3. Confession, 4. Absolution, 5. Lord's Prayer, 6. Versicles, 7. Invitatory Psalm, 8. The Psalms for the day, 9. Lection, 10. Anthem or Canticle, 11. Lection, 12. Anthem or Canticle, 13. Creed, 14. Versicles, 15. Collect for the day, 16. Stated Collects and Prayers, 17. Benediction.
Now it is evident that without departing by a hair's breadth from the lines of this framework, an indefinite number of services might by a process of substitution be put together, each one of which would in outward appearance differ widely from every other one. The identical skeleton, that is to say, might be so variously clothed upon that no two of its embodiments would be alike. But is it desirable to run very much after variety of such a sort in a book of prayer designed for common use? Most assuredly, No. To jeopard the supreme desideratum in a people's manual of worship, simplicity: to make it any harder than it now is for the average "stranger in the Church" to find the places, would be on the part of revisionists an unpardonable blunder.
There are, however, a few points at which the Morning Prayer might advantageously be enriched, and no risk run. It would surely add nothing to the difficulty of finding the places if for one-half of the present opening sentences there were to be substituted sentences appropriate to special days and seasons of the ecclesiastical year. We should in this way be enabled to give the key-note of the morning's worship at the very outset. Having once departed, as in the case of our first two sentences, from the English precedent of putting only penitential verses of Scripture to this use, there is no reason why we should not carry out still more fully in our selection the principle of appropriateness. The sentences displaced need not be lost, for they might still stand, as now, at the opening of the Evening Prayer.
Passing on to the declarations of absolution there is an opportunity to simplify the arrangement by omitting the alternate form borrowed from the Order for the Administration of the Lord's Supper, where only it properly belongs. This, however, is a change likely to be resisted on doctrinal grounds, and need not be urged.
Coming to the Venite, we find another opportunity to accentuate the Christian Year. It may be said that the rubric, as it is already written, allows for the substitution of special anthems on the greater festivals and fasts. This is true; but by giving the anthem for Easter a place of honor, while relegating anthems for the other great days to an unnoticed spot between the Selections and the Psalter, the American compilers did practically discriminate in favor of Easter and against the rest. The real needs of the case would be more wisely met if the permission to omit Venite now attached to "the nineteenth day of the month" were to be extended to Ash-Wednesday and Good Friday, and special New Testament anthems analagous to the Easter one were to be inserted along with the respective Collects, Epistles, and Gospels, for Christmas-day and Whitsunday.
By this change we should put each of the three great festivals of the year into possession of an invitatory anthem of its own; and we should obviate on the fasting days, by the simple expedient of omission, the futile efforts of choir-master and organist to transform Venite from a cry of joy into a moan of grief.
This brings us to the Psalter. Here we have an opportunity to correct the palpable blunder by which it has come about that the greatest of the penitential psalms, the fifty-first, has no place assigned it among the proper psalms either for Ash-Wednesday or for Good Friday. It would also be well to make optional, if not obligatory, the use of "proper psalms" on days other than those already provided with them; e. g., Advent Sunday, the Epiphany, Easter Even, Trinity Sunday, and All Saints' Day. There would be a still larger gain in the direction of "flexibility of use," as well as a great economy of valuable space, if instead of reprinting some thirty of the Psalms of David under the name of Selections, we were to provide for allowing "select" psalms to be announced by number in the same manner that "proper" psalms are now announced. Instead of only the ten selections we now have, there might then be made available twenty or thirty groups of psalms at absolutely no sacrifice of room. It has been objected to this proposal that the same difficulty which now attaches to the finding of the "proper psalms" on great days would embarrass congregations whenever "select psalms" were given out; but this is fairly met by the counter consideration that if our people were to be educated by the use of select psalms into a more facile handling of the Psalter it would be just so much gained for days when the "proper psalms" must of necessity be found and read. The services, that is to say, would run all the more smoothly on the great days, after congregations had become habituated, on ordinary days, to picking out the psalms by number.
Another step in the line of simplification, and one which it is in order to mention here, would be the removal from the Morning Prayer of Gloria in Excelsis, seeing that it is never, or almost never, sung at the end of the psalms unless at Evening Prayer. As to the expediency of restoring what has been lost of Benedictus after the second lesson, the present writer offers no opinion. There are some who warmly advocate the replacement, and there is, unquestionably, much to be said in favor of it. It is unlikely that any doctrinal motive dictated the abbreviation.
Pausing a moment at the Creeds for the insertion of a better title than "Or this" before the confession of Nicaea, we pass to the versicles that follow.
Here again it would be enrichment to restore the words of the English book, although the task of finding an equally melodious equivalent for O Lord, save the Queen might not be easy.
Happily the other versicles are such as no civil revolution can make obsolete. It will never be amiss to pray,
Endue thy ministers with righteousness.
Answer. And make thy chosen people joyful.
These are all the alterations for which the present Morning Prayer considered as a form of Divine Service for Sundays would seem to call. It will be observed that they are far from being of a radical character, that they affect the structure of the office not at all, and touch the contents of it but slightly.
The case is altered when we come to the Order for Evening Prayer. Here there is a demand, not indeed for any structural change, but for very decided enrichment by substitution. The wording of the office is altogether too exact an echo of what has been said only a few hours before in Morning Prayer. It betokens a poverty of resources that does not really exist, when we allow ourselves thus to exhort, confess, absolve, intercede, and give thanks in the very same phrases at three in the afternoon that were on our lips at eleven in the morning.
Doubtless liturgical worship owes a good measure of its charm to the subtle power of repetition; but the principle is one that must be handled and applied with the most delicate tact, or virtue goes out of it. We must distinguish between similarity and sameness. The ordered recurrence of accents is what makes the rhythm of verse; but for all that, there is a difference between poetry and sing-song, just as there is a difference between melody and monotony. Moreover, the taste of mankind undergoes change as to the sorts of repetition which it is disposed to tolerate. No modern poet of standing would venture, for instance, to employ identical epithets to the extent that Homer does, making Aurora "rosy-fingered" every time she appears upon the scene, and Juno as invariably "ox-eyed." People were pleased with it then, they would not be pleased with it now. It is possible in liturgies so to employ the principle of repetition that no wearying sense of sameness will be conveyed, and again it is possible so to mismanage it as to transform worship into something little better than a "slow mechanic exercise." Mere iteration, as such, is barren of spiritual power; witness the endless sayings over of Kyrie Eleison in the Oriental service-books, a species of vain repetition which a liturgical writer of high intelligence rightly characterizes as "unmeaning, if not profane." Now the common popular criticism upon the Evening Prayer of the Church is that it repeats too slavishly the wording of the Morning Prayer. If this is an unjust criticism we ought not to let ourselves be troubled by it. On the other hand, if it is a just criticism it will be much wiser of us to heed than to stifle the voice that tells us the truth. It might seem to be straining a point were one to venture to explain the present very noticeable disinclination of Churchmen to attend a second service on Sunday, by connecting it with the particular infelicity in question; but that the excuse, We have said all this once to-day; why say it again? may possibly have something, even if not much, to do with the staying at home is certainly a fair conjecture.
Without altering at all the structure of the Evening Prayer, it would be perfectly possible so to refill or reclothe that formulary as to give it the one thing needful which now it lacks—freshness. In such a process the Magnificat and the Nunc dimittis would play an important part; as would also certain "ancient collects" of which we have heard much of late. Failing this, the next best thing (and the thing, it may be added, much more likely to be done, considering what a tough resistant is old usage) would be the provision of an alternate and optional form of Evening Prayer, to be used either in lieu of, or as supplementary to the existing office. In the framing of such a Later Evensong a larger freedom would be possible than in the refilling of a form the main lines of which were already fixed. Still, the first plan would be better, if only it could be brought within the range of things possible.
Next to Evening Prayer in the order of the Table of Contents comes the Litany. Here there is no call for enrichment, though increased flexibility of use might be secured for this venerable form of intercessory prayer by prefixing to it the following rubric abridged from a similar one proposed in The Convocation Prayer Book:
"A General Supplication, to be sung or said on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and on the Rogation Days, after the third collect at Morning or Evening Prayer, or before the Administration of the Holy Communion; or as a separate Service.
"NOTE.—The Litany may be omitted altogether on Christmas Day, Easter Day, and Whitsunday"
In connection with the Morning and Evening Service there is another important question that imperatively demands discussion, namely, a week-day worship. The movement for "shortened services," so-called, has shared the usual fate of all efforts at bettering the life of the Church, in being at the outset of its course widely and seriously misunderstood. The impression has gone abroad, and to-day holds possession of many otherwise well-informed people, that a large and growing party in the Episcopal Church has openly declared itself wearied out with overmuch prayer and praise. Were such indeed the fact, the scandal would be grave; but the real truth about the matter is that the promoters of shortened services, instead of seeking to diminish, are really eager to see multiplied the amount of worship rendered in our churches. "Shortened services" is a phrase of English, not American origin, and has won its way here by dint of euphony rather than of fitness. Readjusted services, though a more clumsy, would be a less misdirecting term. In the matter of Sunday worship, the liberty now generally conceded of using separately the Morning Prayer, the Litany, and the Holy Communion is all that need be asked. Whether these services, or at least two of them, do not in themselves admit of a certain measure of improvement is a point that has already been considered, but there certainly is no need of shortening them, whatever else it may be thought well to do. When what a Boston worthy once termed "a holy alacrity" is observed, on the part of both minister and singers, even the aggregated services of Morning Prayer, Litany, and "Ante-Communion," together with a sermon five-and-twenty minutes long, can easily be brought within the compass of an hour and a half—a measure of time not unreasonably large to be given to the principal occasion of worship on the Lord's Day. As for the Evening Prayer—there certainty ought to be no call for the shortening of that on Sundays; for it would be scarcely decent or proper to devote to such a service anything less than the half hour the existing office demands.
What the advocates of shortened services really desire to see furthered is an increase in the frequency of opportunities for worship during the week, their conviction being that if the Church were to authorize brief services for morning and evening use, such as would not occupy much more time than family prayers ordinarily do, the attendance might be secured of many who, at present, put aside the whole question of going to church on week-days as impracticable. Supposing it could be proved that such a provision would work to the discouragement of family prayer, it would plainly be wrong to advocate it; no priesthood is more sacred than that which comes with fatherhood. But we must face the fact that in our modern American life family prayer, like sundry other wholesome habits, has fallen largely into disuse. If the Church can, in any measure, supplement the deficiencies of the household, and help to supply to individuals a blessing they would gladly enjoy at their own homes, if they might, it is her plain duty to do so. Moreover, many a minister who single-handed cannot now prudently undertake a daily service, as that is commonly understood, would acknowledge himself equal to the less extended requirement.
Not a few careful and friendly observers of the practical working of Anglican religion have been reluctantly led to consider the daily service, as an institution, only meagrely successful. Looking at the matter historically we find no reason to wonder at such a conclusion.
Our existing usage (or more correctly, perhaps, non-user) dates from the Reformation period. The English Church and nation of that day had grown up familiar with the spectacle of a very large body of clerics, secular and regular, whose daily occupation may be said to have been the pursuit of religion. The religion pursued consisted chiefly in the saying of prayers, and very thoroughly, so far at least as the consumption of time was concerned, were the prayers said. What more natural than that, under such circumstances, and with such associations, the compilers of a common Prayer Book for the people should have failed to see any good reason for discriminating between the amount of service proper to the Lord's Day and the amount that might be reasonably expected on other days? Theoretically they were right, all time belongs to God and he is as appropriately worshipped on Tuesdays and Thursdays as on Sundays. And yet as a result of their making no such discrimination, we have the daily service on our hands—a comparative, even if not an utter failure. We may lament the fact, but a fact it is, that In spite of all its improved appliances for securing leisure, the world is busier than ever it was; and there will always be those who will insist that the command to labor on six days is as imperative as the injunction to rest upon the seventh. As a consequence of all this accelerated business, and of the diminution in the number of persons officially set apart for prayer, the unabridged service of the Church fails to command a week-day attendance. We have no "clerks" nowadays to fill the choir. The only clerks known to modern times are busy at their desks.
It may be urged in reply to this that the practical working of the daily service ought to be kept a secondary consideration, and that its main purpose is symbolical, or representative; the priest kneeling in his place, day by day, as a witness that the people, though unable personally to be present, do, in heart and mind, approve of a daily morning and evening sacrifice of prayer. This conception of the daily service as a vicarious thing has a certain mystical beauty about it, but if it is to be adopted as the Church's own let us, at least, clear ourselves of inconsistency by striking out the word "common" from before the word "prayer" in characterizing our book.
What is really needed for daily use in our parishes is a short form of worship specially framed for the purpose. If they could be employed without offence to the Protestant ear (and they are good English Reformation words) Week-Day Matins and Week-Day Evensong would not be ill chosen names for such services. The framework of these Lesser Orders for Morning and Evening Prayer, as they might also be called, were the other titles found obnoxious, ought to be modelled upon the lines of the existing daily offices, though with a careful avoidance of identity in contents. There should be, for instance, as unvarying elements, the reading of the lessons for the day, the use of the collect for the day, and the saying or singing of the psalms for the day. Another constant would be the Lord's Prayer; but aside from these the Lesser Order need have nothing in common with the Order as we have it now. There might be, for example, after the manner of the old service-books, an invitatory opening with versicles and responses, or if the present mode of opening by sentences were preferred, specially chosen sentences, different from those with which the Sunday worship has made us familiar, could be employed. Moreover, the anthems or canticles and the prayers, with the exception of the two just mentioned, ought also to be distinctive, and, in the technical sense of the word, proper to the week-day use.
Again, it would serve very powerfully and appropriately to emphasize the pivot points in the ritual year if this same principle were to be applied to saints' days, and we were to have special Holyday Matins and Holy-day Evensong, there still being required, on the greater festivals and fasts, the normal Morning and Evening Prayer proper to the Lord's Day.
The argument in favor of thus specializing the services for week-days and holydays, in preference to following the only method heretofore thought possible, namely, that of shortening the Lord's Day Order, rests on two grounds. In the first place permissions to skip and omit are of themselves objectionable in a book of devotions. They have an uncomely look. Our American Common Prayer boasts too many disfigurements of this sort already.
Such a rubric as The minister may, at his discretion, omit all that follows to, etc. , puts one in mind of the finger-post pointing out a short cut to weary travellers. It is inopportune thus to hint at exhaustion as the probable concomitant of worship. That each form should have an integrity of its own, should as a separate whole be either said complete or left unsaid, is better liturgical philosophy than any "shortened services act" can show.
In the second place, a certain amount of variety would be secured by the proposed method which under the existing system we miss. There is, of course, such a danger as that of providing too much liturgical variety. Amateur makers of Prayer Books almost invariably fall into this slough. Hymn-books, as is well known, often destroy their own usefulness by including too many hymns; and Prayer Books may do the same by having too many prayers.
To transgress in the compiling of formularies the line of average memory, to provide more material than the mind of an habitual worshipper is likely to assimilate, is to misread human nature. But here, as elsewhere, there is a just mean. Cranmer and his colleagues in the work of revision jumped at one bound from a scheme which provided a distinctive set of services for every day in the year to a scheme that assigned one stereotyped form to all days.
Now nothing could be more unwise than any attempt to restore the methods of the Breviary, with its complicated and artificial forms of devotion; but so far to imitate the Breviary as to provide within limits for a recognition of man's innate love of change would be wisdom. By having a distinctive service for week-days, and a distinctive service for holydays, Ave might add just that little increment to the Church's power of traction that in many instances would avail to change "I cannot go to church this morning" into "I cannot stay away."
It will be urged as a counter-argument to these considerations that the thing is impossible, that such a measure of enrichment is entirely in excess of anything the Church has expressed a wish to have, and that for reviewers to propose a plan so sweeping would be suicide. Doubtless this might be a sufficient answer to anybody who imagined that by a bare majority vote of two successive General Conventions new formularies of daily worship could be forced upon the Church. But suppose such formularies were to be made optional; suppose there were to be given to parishes the choice between these three things, viz.: (a) the normal Morning Prayer; (b) a shortened form of the normal Morning Prayer; and (c) such a special order as has been sketched—what then? Would the Church's liberty be impaired! On the contrary, would not the borders of that liberty have been most wisely and safely widened by the steady hand of law?
This is perhaps the right point at which to call attention to the present state of the "shortened services" controversy, for wearisome as the story has become by frequent repetition, the nexus between it and the subject in hand is too important to be left out of sight.
In the General Convention of 1877, where the topic under its American aspects was for the first time thoroughly discussed, the two Houses came to a deadlock. The deputies on the one hand, almost to a man, voted in favor of giving the desired relief by rubric, thus postponing for three years' time the fruition of their wish; while the bishops with a unanimity understood to have been equally striking insisted that a simple canon, such as could be passed at once, would suffice. And so the subject dropped.
At the late Convention of 1880 an eirenicon was discovered. The quick eye of one of the legal members of the House of Deputies detected on the fourth page of the Prayer Book, just opposite the Preface, a loophole of escape, to wit, The Ratification of the Book of Common Prayer. Here was the very tertium quid whereby the common wish of both parties to the dispute might be effected without injury to the sensibilities of either.
The Ratification certainly did not look like a canon; neither could anybody with his eyes open call it a rubric—why not amend that, and say no more about it? The suggestion prevailed, and by a vote of both Houses, the following extraordinary document is hereafter to stand (the next General Convention consenting) in the very fore-front of the Prayer Book:
THE RATIFICATION OF THE BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER. By the Bishops, the Clergy, and the Laity of the Protestant Episcopal Church in General Convention assembled.
The General Convention of the Church having heretofore, to wit: on the sixteenth day of October in the year A. D. 1789, set forth a Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church, and thereby established the said book, and declared it to be the Liturgy of said Church, and required that it be received as such by all the members of the same and be in use from and after the first day of October in the year of our Lord 1790; the same book is hereby ratified and confirmed, and ordered to be the use of this Church from this time forth.
"But note, however, that on days other than Sundays, Christmas-day, the Epiphany, Ash-Wednesday, Good Friday, and Ascension Day, it shall suffice if the Minister begins Morning or Evening Prayer at the General Confession or the Lord's Prayer preceded by one or more of the Sentences appointed at the beginning of Morning and Evening Prayer, and end after the Collect for Grace or the Collect for Aid against Perils, with 2 Cor. xiii. 14, using so much of the Lessons appointed for the day and so much of the Psalter as he shall judge to be for edification.
"And note also that on any day when Morning and Evening Prayer shall have been duly said or are to be said, and on days other than those first aforementioned, it shall suffice, when need may require, if a sermon or lecture be preceded by at least the Lord's Prayer and one or more Collects found in this book, provided that no prayers not set forth in said book, or otherwise authorized by this Church, shall be used before or after such sermon or lecture.
"And note further also that on any day the Morning Prayer, the Litany, or the Order for the Administration of the Lord's Supper may be used as a separate and independent service, provided that no one of these services shall be disused habitually."
It may seem harsh to characterize this act as the mutilation of a monument; but really it does seem to be little else. The old Ratification of 1789 is an historic landmark; it is the sign-manual of the Church of White's and Seabury's day, and ought never to be disturbed or tampered with while the Prayer Book stands. The year 1889 might very properly see a supplemental Ratification written under it; and testifying to the fact of Revision; but to write into that venerable text special directions as to what may be done on days other than Ash-Wednesday, and what must not be done without 2 Cor. xiii. 14, is very much as if the City Government of Cambridge should cause to be cut upon the stone under the Washington elm which now records the fact that there the commander of the American armies first drew his sword, divers and sundry additional items of information, such as the distance to Watertown, the shortest path across the common, etc., etc.
Why the Convention after having entrusted to a Joint Committee, by a decisive vote, the task of devising means for securing for the Prayer Book "increased flexibility of use," should have thought it necessary subsequently to take up with this compromise of a compromise (for such the proposal to amend the Ratification really is) it is difficult to say. Perhaps it was with the determination to have, at any rate, something to fall back upon in case the larger and more comprehensive measure should come to naught.
The rubric is confessedly the proper place for directions as to how to use the services, and but for the very natural and defensible objection on the part of some to touching the Prayer Book at all, there never would have been any question about it. This objection having been at last waived, a straight path is now open to the end desired, and it ought to be followed even at the cost of three years more of delay.
Returning to the general subject, and still following the order of the Table of Contents, we come to Prayers and Thanksgivings upon several Occasions.
Here it would be well to note more intelligibly than is done by the present rubric the proper places for the introduction of the Prayers and the Thanksgivings, providing for the use of the former before, and of the latter after the General Thanksgiving.
As to the deficiencies in this department let the late Dr. Muhlenberg speak.
"The Prayer Book," he says, "is not undervalued as to its treasures in asserting its wants. The latter cannot be denied. Witness the meagre amount of New Testament prayer and praise for the round of festivals and fasts; the absence of any forms suited to the peculiar circumstances of our own Church and country and to the times we live in; or for our benevolent and educational institutions. There are no prayers for the increase of Ministers, for Missions, or Missionaries, for the Christian teaching of the young; for sponsors on occasions of Baptism; for persons setting out on long journeys by land, quite as perilous as voyages by sea; for the sick desiring the prayers of the Church when there is no prospect of or desire for recovery; for the bereaved at funerals, and many other occasions for which there might as well be provision as for those few for which we already have the occasional prayers."
After the Prayers and Thanksgivings come The Collects, Epistles, and Gospels . Here again there is some room for enrichment. Distinctive collects for the first four days of Holy Week, for Monday and Tuesday in Easter Week, and for Monday and Tuesday in Whitsun Week, would add very materially to our liturgical wealth, while there would seem to be no reason whatever why they should not be had. It would also serve to enhance the symmetry of the Christian Year if the old feast of the Transfiguration (August 6) were to be restored to its place among the recognized holy days of the Church and given its proper collect, epistle, and gospel.
There are some liturgists who desire the restoration of the introits of the First Book of Edward VI. The introit (so called from being the psalm sung when the priest goes within the altar-rails) has been in modern usage replaced by a metrical hymn. A sufficient reason for not printing the introit for each day in full, just before the collect, as was the mode in Edward's Book, is that to do so would involve a costly sacrifice of room. A compromise course would be to insert between the title of each Sunday or holyday and the collect proper to it, a simple numerical reference stating whereabouts in the Psalter the introit for the day is to be found, and adding perhaps the Latin catchwords. Any attempt to make the use of the introit obligatory in our times would meet with deserved failure; the metrical hymn has gained too firm a hold upon the affections of the Church at large ever to be willingly surrendered.
Coming, next, to the orders for the administration of the two sacraments, we find ourselves on delicate ground, where serious change of any sort is out of the question. Permission, under certain circumstances, still further to abbreviate the Office of the Communion of the Sick might, however, be sought without giving reasonable cause of alarm to any, and general consent might perhaps also be had for a provision with respect to the Exhortation, "Dearly beloved in the Lord," that in "Churches where there is frequent Communion it shall suffice to read the Exhortation above written once in a month on the Lord's Day."
There are three liturgical features of the Scottish Communion Office which some have thought might be advantageously transferred to our own service. They are (a) the inserting after Christ's summary of the Law a response, Lord, have mercy upon us and write these thy laws in our hearts, we beseech thee; (b) the repeating by the people, after the reading of the Gospel, of a formula of thanks corresponding to the Glory be to thee, O Lord, that precedes it; and (c) the saying or singing of an Offertory sentence at the presentation of the alms. Upon these suggested enrichments the present writer offers no opinion.
In the Order of Confirmation a substitution for the present preface of a responsive opening, in which the bishop should charge the minister to present none but such as he has found by personal inquiry "apt and meet" for the reception of the rite would be a marked improvement.
The remaining Occasional Offices would seem to demand no change either in structure or contents, although in some, perhaps in all of them, additional rubrics would be helpful to worshippers.
Some addition to the number of Occasional Offices would be a real gain. We need, for instance, a short Office for the Burial of Infants and Young Children; a Daybreak Office for Great Festivals; an Office for Midday Prayer; an Office of Prayer in behalf of Missions and Missionaries; an Office for the Setting apart of a Layman as a Reader, or as a Missionary; a Form of Prayer at the Laying of a Corner-stone; and possibly some others. It is evident that these new formularies might give opportunity for the introduction of hitherto unused collects, anthems, and benedictions of a sort that would greatly enhance the general usefulness of the Prayer Book.
This completes the survey of the field of "liturgical enrichment." A full discussion of the allied topic, "flexibility of use," would involve the examination in detail of all the rubrics of the Prayer Book, and for this there is no room. It is enough to say that unless the rubrics, the hinges and joints of a service-book, are kept well oiled, much creaking is a necessary result. There are turning-points in our public worship where congregations almost invariably betray an awkward embarrassment, simply because there is nothing to tell them whether they are expected to stand or to sit or to kneel. It is easy to sneer at such points as trifles and to make sport of those who call attention to them; but if it is worth our while to have ritual worship at all it is also worth our while to make the directions as to how people are to behave adequate, explicit, plain. A lofty contempt for detail is not the token of good administration either in Church or State. To the list of defective rubrics add those that are confessedly obsolete and such as are palpably contradictory and we have a bill of particulars that would amply justify a rubrical revision of the Prayer Book even if nothing more were to be attempted.
There is another reason. Far more rapidly than many people imagine, we are drifting away from the position of a Church that worships by liturgy to that of a Church worshipping by directory. The multiplicity of "uses" that vexed the Anglican Reformers is in our day multiplied four-fold. To those who honestly consider a directory a better thing than a liturgy this process of relaxation is most welcome, but for others who hold that, until the binding clauses of a Book of Common Prayer have been formally rescinded, they ought to be observed, the spectacle is the reverse of edifying. They would much prefer seeing the channels of liberty opened at the touch of law, and this is one of their chief reasons for advocating revision.
Two questions remain untouched, both of them of great practical importance. Could the Prayer Book be enriched to the extent suggested in this paper without a serious and most undesirable increase in its bulk as a volume?
Even supposing this were possible, is it at all likely that the Church could be persuaded to accept the amended book?
Unless the first of these two eminently proper questions can be met, there is, or ought to be, an end to all talk about revision. The advantage to a Church of being able to keep all its authoritative formularies of worship within the compass of a single volume is inestimable. Even the present enforced severance of the Hymnal from the Prayer Book is a misfortune.
Those were good days when "Bible and Prayer Book" was the Churchman's all sufficient formula so far as volumes were concerned.
Rome boasts a much larger ritual variety than ours, but she secures it by multiplying books. The Missal is in one volume, the Breviary in four, the Pontifical, the Ritual, and the Ceremonial in one each, making eight in all. This is an evil, and one from which we Anglicans have had a happy escape. It was evidently with a great groan of relief that the Church of England shook herself free from the whole host of service-books, and established her one only volume. It behooves us to be watchful how we take a single step towards becoming entangled in the old meshes.
But need the enrichment of the Prayer Book—such enrichment as has been described, necessarily involve an unwieldiness in the volume, or, what would be still worse, an overflow into a supplement? Certainly not; for by judicious management every change advocated in this paper, and more besides, might be accomplished without transgressing by so much as a page or a paragraph the limits of the present standard book. All the space needed could be secured by the simple expedient of omitting matter that has been found by actual experience to be superfluous. Redundancy and unnecessary repetition are to the discredit of a book that enjoys such an unrivalled reputation as the Common Prayer. They are blemishes upon the face of its literary perfectness. Who has not marvelled at the strange duplication of the Litany and the Office of the Holy Communion in the Ordinal, when the special petitions proper to those services when used in that connection might easily have been printed by themselves with a direction that they be inserted in the appointed place?
Scholars, of course, know perfectly well how this came about. The Ordinal does not belong to the Prayer Book proper, but has a separate identity of its own. When printed as a book by itself it is all very well that it should include the Litany and the Holy Communion in full, but why allow these superfluous pages to crowd out others that are really needed?
It has already been explained how the room now occupied by the "Selections" might be economized, and by the same simple device the space engrossed by divers psalms here and there in the Occasional Offices, e. g., Psalm li in the Visitation of Prisoners, and Psalm cxxx in the Visitation of the Sick could be made available for other use.
Again, why continue to devote a quarter of a page of precious space to the "Prayer for imprisoned debtors," seeing that now, for a long time past, there has been no such thing in the United States as imprisonment for debt? By availing ourselves of only a portion of these possible methods of garnering space, all that is desired might be accomplished, without making the Prayer Book bulkier by a single leaf than it is to-day.