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JANUARY 1, 1847.
THE AMERICAN PRAYER-BOOK.
WHEN, in 1783, the “ American states became independent with respect to civil government, their ecclesiastical independence was necessarily included.” (Preface to the Prayer-book.) Accordingly, on September the 25th, 1785, a general convention of episcopalians, consisting of an equal number of lay and clerical members, met together at Philadelphia, for the purpose of forming a plan for the government of their church. The result of this meeting was a revision of our Prayer-book; but one so conducted, that some persons, more liberally inclined than was convenient, for a time were enabled greatly to impair its excellency. The book thus produced, commonly known by the name of the “ Proposed Prayer-book,” corresponded in many respects with the plan laid down by our own ecclesiastical commissioners in 1689 (Cardwell's Hist. Conf., p. 429), and was received very generally by the southern states, though not by the northern. The same convention also made a formal application to the English prelates to consecrate bishops for them. This request, however, they expressed themselves unable to comply with, in consequence of the alterations introduced into the Prayer-book, particularly, by reason of the omission of the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds, and of the descent into hell from the Apostles' Creed. In 1786, the first and third objections were removed, and the Nicene was everywhere put immediately after the Apostles' Creed, with permission to use either : the second, indeed, still remained, nor was ever obviated, except by the notice taken of the Athanasian Creed in their Articles. Nevertheless, the wishes of the American church were at length fulfilled by the consecration of their bishops under the provisions of a special act of parliament.
Vol. XXXI. - January, 1847.
No doubt, by reason of the peculiar circumstances in which the inhabitants of America were then placed, as regarded England, an act did become absolutely necessary. It was passed in 1786, (26 Georgii III. c. 84,) and is entitled, “ An Act to empower the Archbishop of Canterbury, or the Archbishop of York, for the time being, to consecrate to the office of a bishop, persons being subjects or citizens of countries out of his Majesty's dominions.” This act allows them, therefore, to consecrate such persons without the king's licence for the election, or requiring them to take the usual oaths of allegiance, supremacy, and due obedience to the archbishop; but not without the royal permission being first obtained. Nor could the bishops so consecrated exercise the functions of their office in his Majesty's dominions, any more than the clergymen ordained by them.
The triennial convention again met in October, 1789, when “ the Prayer-book was arranged as it now stands, with the exception of a few minor alterations, and the addition of some occasional services." (Caswell's America and the American Church, p. 182.) Among these subsequent and minor alterations, however, is one of a singular nature. For, in 1792, permission was granted to any one either to omit from the Apostles' Creed the article about the descent into hell, or to substitute for it the words, “He went into the place of departed spirits, which are considered as words of the same meaning.” Selections from the Prayer-book version of the Psalms were also at the same time prefixed to the Psalter, with this rubric, “ To be used instead of the Psalms for the Day (even of those for Christmas-day, &c.] at the discretion* of the minister.” Then, too, in manifest imitation, so far, of the Scotch Communion-office of 1765, the Prayer of Oblation and Invocation, copied therefrom, was placed directly after the Prayer of Consecration, which the American authorities took equally from the same Office; but, for the passage, “ that they may become the body and blood of thy most dearly-beloved Son,” the following occurs, “ that we, receiving them according to thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ's holy institution, in remembrance of his Death and Passion, may be partakers of his most blessed Body and Blood. And we earnestly," &c. A form of words was likewise introduced into the
*“ On days of Fasting and Thanksgiving, appointed either by the Civil, or by the Ecclesiastical, Authority, the Minister may appoint such Psalms as he shall think fit in his discretion, unless any shall have been appointed by the Ecclesiastical Authority, in a Service set out for the occasion ; which, in tbat case, shall be used, and no other."
“On Days of Fasting and Thanksgiving, the same Rule (with regard to the Lessons,] is to obtain, as in reading the Psalms.”
“ And the same discretion of choice is allowed on occasions of Ecclesiastical Conventions, and those of Charitable Collections."
Ordinal for the accommodation of such bishops as might dislike the ancient and original expressions, those which “ had been used in the ordination of priests at least since the tenth century.” (Palmer's Origines Liturgicæ, vol. i. p. 305.) Thus, then, for, “ Receive the Holy Ghost .... they are retained,” they might say, “Take thou authority to execute the office of a priest in the Church of God now committed to thee by the interposition of our hands." In 1811, an express ordinance restrained all further changes in the Prayer-book, "except such as should be proposed at one convention, and ratified three years afterwards at the next.” Since that period very few alterations or modifications have taken place, and those chiefly in things of inferior moment; whilst " at present (1839] there is an increasing disposition to keep as close as possible to the Liturgy of the Church of England.” (Caswall, 241.)
The contents, as well as the arrangement, of the American Prayer-book are for the most part the same, as in the Church of England. In the preface the ecclesiastical authorities themselves describe their mode of proceeding to have been such, "as that the main body and essential parts of the same (the English Book], as well in the chiefest materials, as in the frame and order thereof, have still been continued firm and unshaken." As for the differences, the more prominent ones, in addition to those already mentioned, shall now be pointed out from a comparison of the two books :- Proper second Lessons appointed for Sundays: no names of Saints in the Calendar: the Vigils omitted; also the first two rubrics before Morning Prayer: the Absolution styled, “ The Declaration of Absolution," and followed by the Absolution from the Communion Service, which may be substituted for it: the Gloria Patri may be said according to our practice, but must be said when all the Psalms are ended, unless the Gloria in excelsis is then preferred : parts of the Venite and Benedicite left out: “who alone worketh great marvels,” altered to, “ from whom cometh every good and perfect gift:" the 92nd and 103rd Psalms put for the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis: the eighth petition of the Litany begins with, “From all inordinate and sinful affections :” at his discretion, the minister may omit all that intervenes between the second petition to the Lamb of God” and the prayer, “We humbly beseech thee,” &c. : several occasional “Prayers and Thanksgivings” added. In the Communion-service the first Lord's Prayer “ may be omitted, if Morning Prayer hath been said immediately before," and so of the Creed: to the Commandments may be subjoined our Saviour's description of the two great Commandments of the Law: the second of the Collects put by us after the Blessing occupies the place of the two for the queen: