Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Genesis of the American Prayer Book Re-examined

By Robin G. Jordan

In his article “The Genealogy of the American Book of Common Prayer,” published in the September/October 2009 issue of Mandate, the Rev. Charles Flinn sketches a rather broad outline of the genealogy of the American Prayer Book. Unfortunately this outline omits a number of important details related to the genesis of the American Prayer Book.

The first Prayer Book, the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, was a transitional Prayer Book and was, after three years, replaced by a Reformed liturgy, the 1552 Book of Common Prayer. This liturgy represented Archbishop Cranmer’s mature thinking.

The 1552 Book of Common Prayer was short-lived due to the untimely death of the young king Edward VI. Edward’s older sister Mary, the daughter of Henry VIII’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon and a devote Roman Catholic, ascended to the English throne. Mary abolished the Book of Common Prayer and restored the Latin Mass. Mary took other steps to stamp out Protestantism and to reestablish Roman Catholicism and papal authority in her kingdom. Her persecution of English Protestants earned for her the epithet of “bloody.” Mary burned as heretics women and children as well as leading figures of the Edwardian Reformation such as Thomas Cranmer, Nicholas Ridley, and Hugh Latimer.

The 1552 Book of Common Prayer, however, did not perish with Thomas Cranmer in the flames at Oxford. The 1552 Prayer Book was resurrected in the form of the 1559 Prayer Book, which was the 1552 Book with a minimum of changes. The 1552 Prayer Book in its 1559 form would be “the” Prayer Book of the Church of England for almost 100 years.

The 1662 Book of Common Prayer far from represented a defeat for the High Churchmen. The Restoration bishops who compiled the book were High Churchmen. They included John Wren who had helped to compile the 1637 Scottish Prayer Book. They had available to them John Cosin’s The Durham Book containing a number of Laudian proposals for the revision of the Prayer Book at the restoration of the Stuarts to the English throne after the Interregnum. They had the full backing of the new monarch, Charles II.

In his case study of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer Brian Douglas makes the following observations:

"The fact that the 1662 revisers choose to follow the more Reformed model of 1552, 1559 and 1604 in the main, and not to return to the more Catholic model of 1549, may indicate both a satisfaction with the Reformed model and desire for conciliation between the various parties. The proposals of the Laudians, as expressed in The Durham Book, were not, in the main, adopted. The proposals of the Presbyterians in The Exceptions and The Reformation of the Liturgy, were also, in the main, not adopted. The previous prayer book model was substantially maintained with only slight, although important changes to the Eucharist. The changes were suggestive of moderate realism and these have been discussed above."

He goes on to write:

"The eucharistic theology of the 1662 BCP is indicated as much as, if not more than, by what it does not include, as what it does. For example, the omission of sacrificial language at the Offertory, with a specific ‘offering up of the elements’ such as is found in the Scottish Liturgy of 1637 or in The Durham Book, and the failure to include an epiclesis in the Prayer of Consecration, suggest that the revisers, despite the small number of significant changes, were keen to maintain the previous model. The failure of the revisers to include any of the more radical Puritan suggestions (e.g. those found in Baxter’s Savoy Liturgy) also suggests that they were satisfied with the prayer book at it existed."

He further writes:

"If Maltby is correct, then this may help to explain why the bishops were happy to maintain the prayer book in much the same form as it previously existed and why they generally rejected the proposals for change from both the Laudian and Presbyterian parties. In so doing the theology of the eucharist, principally moderate realism, was also maintained, although this was in a milder form than it otherwise may have been. It has been this milder form of moderate realism that has persisted in Anglicanism so strongly (e.g. The Church of England and The Anglican Church of Australia)." [1]

In 1689 Archbishop Sancroft, eight bishops, and 400 priests were ejected from their livings after they refused to take the oath of allegiance to the new king, the Protestant Prince William of Orange. Parliament had invited William to assume the English throne after the deposed Roman Catholic King James II had fled the country. The bishops and clergy in question believed that they were still bound by their oath to James II. For their refusal to swear allegiance to William they were known as the “Non-Jurors.” After Sancroft’s death the Non-Jurors perpetuated their schism by the ordination of new bishops and clergy. The schism would last more than a century.

The Non-Jurors were divided into two groups - the "Usagers," a tiny minority of the Non-Jurors who argued for the addition of an epiclesis and an oblation of the bread and wine in the Prayer of Consecration and the "Non-Usagers," the majority of the Non-Jurors who did not. The first group maintained that without an epiclesis and an oblation of the bread and the wine in the Prayer of Consecration, the eucharist was not a means of grace; the second group, while viewing an epiclesis and an oblation of the bread and the wine in the Prayer of Consecration as desirable, did not considered these liturgical practices necessary or practical. The dispute over these usages became so heated that a majority of the Non-Juror College of Bishops issued a remonstrance against the Usagers for disturbing the peace of the Church.

The Usagers initially used the 1549 Book of Common Prayer instead of the 1662 Prayer Book. They published their own Communion Office in 1718. In addition to incorporating an epiclesis and oblation of the bread and wine in the Prayer of Consecration, they reintroduced the mixed chalice and prayers for the dead in the Communion. They issued a complete Prayer Book in 1734. Other distinctive practices of the Usagers were triple immersion at Baptism, the use of chrism at Confirmation, and the Unction of the Sick.

Two Usager bishops outlived their opponents and produced the 1764 Scottish Non-Juror Communion Office. It eventually became the Communion Office of the Scottish Episcopal Church. For an explanation of the eucharistic doctrine of the 1764 Scottish Non-Juror Communion Office, see the accompanying article, “What’s Wrong with the 1928 Book of Common Prayer?”

Scotland is an early example of a country where two Prayer Book traditions existed side by side. English Evangelicals in Scotland refused to use the Prayer Book of the Scottish Episcopal Church or submit to the oversight of the Scottish bishops. Their rejection of the Scottish Prayer Book was doctrinal; their rejection of the Scottish bishops was both theological and political. Instead they established what became known as the “English Episcopal Chapels,” licensed chapels in which the 1662 Book of Common Prayer was used.

At the urging of Bishop Seabury the 1789 General Convention of the fledgling Protestant Episcopal Church adopted the 1764 Scottish Communion Office with some important changes. The changes that the 1789 General Convention made to the 1764 Scottish Communion Office included the omission of the offering up of the bread and wine at the offertory and the versicle and response, “The Lord be with you” “And also with thy spirit” from the Sursum Corda. Both of these liturgical elements were associated with the doctrines of eucharistic sacrifice and Transubstantiation. The General Convention restored the word "there" in the Scottish Prayer of Consecration to "who made there (by his one oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sinnes of the whole world, and did institute, and in his holy gospel command us to continue a perpetuall memory of that his precious death and sacrifice, untill his coming again." The General Convention omitted the decidedly realist language of the epiclesis with its petition that the bread and the wine might "become" the Body and the Blood of Christ. The Prayer for the Church Militant was restored to the 1552 position between the offertory and invitation to confession; the Lord’s Prayer to the 1552 position after the distribution of the communion; the invitation to confession, the general confession, the absolution, and the comfortable words to the 1552 position immediately before the Sursum Corda; and the Prayer of Humble Access to the 1552 position immediately after the Sanctus. The ending of the Scottish Prayer for the Church Militant was replaced with that of the 1662 Prayer for the Church Militant. The rubric “And when he receiveth himself, or delivereth the sacrament of the body of Christ to others, he shall say…” was changed to “And when he delivereth the Bread he shall say….” The Words of Administration were replaced with those from the 1559 Prayer Book. All these changes were adopted to bring the Communion Office closer to the 1662 Communion Service, as well as to eliminate any further liturgical elements associated with the doctrines of eucharistic sacrifice and Transubstantiation.

The 1928 Book of Common Prayer was the first major revision of the American Prayer Book. It predecessor, the 1892 Prayer Book, differed little in substance from the 1789 Prayer Book. The changes in the 1928 revision of the American Prayer Book, however, were far-reaching and even radical. These changes are detailed in the accompanying article, “What’s Wrong with the 1928 Book of Common Prayer?”

The 1920s marked a watershed in Prayer Book revision. While the new Prayer Books—the 1926 Irish Prayer Book, the 1928 American Prayer Book, the 1928 Proposed English Prayer Book, the 1929 Scottish Prayer Book, the 1929 South African Prayer Book—may have resembled each other superficially, incorporating and adapting forms and rites from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, as well as retaining the use of Tudor English and the second person familiar, their theology differed significantly from that of the 1662 Prayer Book, The exception is the 1926 Irish Prayer Book, which is the closest doctrinally to the 1662.

The addition of material from the Anglican Missal and other manuals to the services of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer alters the theology of the 1928 Prayer Book, moving it even further away from the doctrine of the classical Anglican Prayer Book.

The 1928 Book of Common Prayer goes well beyond being an edition or local adaptation of the 1662 Prayer Book. The 1928 Prayer Book played a major part in the Prayer Book revision of the 1960s and 1970s. It broke new ground, opening the way for more extensive revision of the American Prayer Book. It wetted appetites for further change. The result was the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.

[1] Brian Douglas, “The1662 Book of Common Prayer,” Anglican Eucharistic Theology, electronic article on the Internet at: http://web.mac.com/brian.douglas/Anglican_Eucharistic_Theology/Blog/Entries/2006/4/22_The_1662_Book_of_Common_Prayer.html

What’s Wrong with the 1928 Book of Common Prayer?

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on The Heritage Anglican Network blog on December 18, 2008.

By Robin G. Jordan

In this article I seek to answer from a Reformed perspective the question, "What's wrong with the 1928 Book of Common Prayer?". Classical Anglican Evangelicalism had disappeared from the Protestant Episcopal Church by 1900. The 1928 Prayer Book was adopted at the time the Anglo-Catholic and Broad Church movements were the dominant schools of thought in the Protestant Episcopal Church and the book reflects their doctrinal emphases. At the 1925 General Convention Anglo-Catholics and Broad Churchmen united to remove the Thirty-Nine Articles from the American Prayer Book. They adopted a resolution dropping the Articles from the Prayer Book. However, they were thwarted by the denomination’s Constitution that required an amendment of the Constitution to abolish the Articles. The resolution, which required the ratification of a successive General Convention, was quietly dropped at the 1928 General Convention.

The 1928 Book of Common Prayer was the first major revision of the American Prayer Book. It goes far toward undoing the work that was accomplished for the Anglican Church at the Reformation. Many things rejected by the sixteenth century Reformers because of their inconsistency with biblical and Reformation doctrine, are introduced into the American Prayer Book.

Morning and Evening Prayer:
The 1928 Book of Common Prayer dilutes the American Prayer Book’s doctrine of sin. The ten penitential sentences that had survived the 1892 revision of the American Prayer Book are reduced to three each in Morning and Evening Prayer and placed under the season of Lent. This eliminates an important evangelistic element from Morning and Evening Prayer. Samuel Luenberger draws to our attention:

“The text of our sentences are so compiled that they let one discern for himself the way to overcome sin through repentance. The following texts from the twelve quotations occupy a particularly important position: Ezekiel 18:27; Psalm 51:3.9, and 17; Joe; 2:13, etc.

“The very first quotation from Ezekiel 18 shows the way to prevail over sin:

“When the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive.” [1]

In its use of Sentences for the Seasons the 1928 Book of Common Prayer imitates the 1928 English Revised Book of Common Prayer and the 1929 Scottish Book of Common Prayer, both which are much more Catholic in tone than 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

The Evangelicals in the Church of England and the British Parliament rejected the 1928 English Revised Prayer Book because it modified the doctrine of the Church of England, and replaced the biblical-Reformation theology of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer with unreformed Catholic doctrine. The upper house of Convocation would defy Parliament and authorized its use in Dioceses where the Ordinary consented to its use. The Scottish Episcopal Church has historically been more High Church and Catholic than the Church of England, preserving such customs as the wearing of eucharistic vestments during the Communion Service and the elevation of the consecrated host during the Prayer of Consecration. The 1929 Scottish Prayer of Consecration included an Epiclesis invoking the Holy Spirit upon the bread and the wine so that the eucharistic elements should “become” the Body and Blood of Christ. Like the 1928 Prayer of Consecration, the 1929 Scottish Prayer of Consecration is derived from the 1764 Scottish Non-Juror Prayer of Consecration.

The 1928 Prayer Book permits the substitution of a short Invitation for the Exhortation in Morning and Evening Prayer with its view of man “in a strictly evangelical-Reformation way as one who wishes to disguise his sinfulness and lives with a propensity for avoiding God.” [2]

A short Absolution taken from the medieval Sarum breviary may be used in lieu of Cranmer’s fuller Absolution. This short Absolution, as well as a simplified Confession, is offered as an alternative at both Morning and Evening Prayer in the 1928 English Revised Prayer Book and the 1929 Scottish Prayer Book. As we shall see, the short Absolution is one of number of features that the 1928 Prayer Book shares with these books.

The 1928 Prayer Book permits the omission of the first Lord’s Prayer or the second Lord’s Prayer at Morning Prayer. In the 1552 Prayer Book the first Lord’s Prayer forms a part of a sequence that begins with the penitential sentences. Cranmer’s Absolution does not make sense if the first Lord’s Prayer is omitted. The 1928 Prayer Book permits the omission of the Exhortation, the Confession, the Absolution, and the first Lord’s Prayer at Evening Prayer. This represents a significant departure from the Reformed form of Evening Prayer of the 1552 Prayer Book and a return to the unreformed Catholic form of the medieval Sarum breviary and the 1549 Prayer Book.

Invitatories for optional use in the form of medieval Antiphons are prefixed to the Venite. Cranmer had omitted Invitatories from the 1552 Book of Common Prayer because they were interpolated between the successive verses of the Venite and other passages of Scripture and broke the continual course of the reading of the Scripture. (See The Preface in the 1552 Prayer Book). With the Sentences for the Seasons that replace the penitential sentences, they give further emphasis to the Seasons. In the 1928 Prayer Book observance of the Church Year overshadows repentance at Morning and Evening Prayer. This is just one of a number of ways that the 1928 Prayer Book minimizes the gravity of sin.

The Holy Communion
The revised Order for the Holy Communion includes elements that quite definitely bring it into line with the medieval Roman Mass. Among the changes that 1928 Prayer Book introduced are the following:

1. The opening rubrics of the 1928 Order for Holy Communion direct the priest to stand before the Holy Table, his back turned to the congregation. This is how the priest stood at the medieval Roman Mass. This position, commonly referred to as the “eastward position,” is associated with the unreformed Catholic and Roman doctrinal views that presbyters are a sacrificing priesthood and the Mass is a sacrifice.

2. The rubrics direct the priest to offer the bread and wine and then place them upon the Holy Table at the Offertory. An offering of the bread and wine during the Prayer of Consecration had already been incorporated into the American Prayer Book with the adoption of the Scottish Non-Juror Prayer of Consecration in 1789. The two offerings of the bread and wine, one at the Offertory and the other during the Canon or Prayer of Consecration are taken from the medieval Roman Mass and are associated with the doctrines of the Sacrifice of the Mass and Transubstantiation.

3. The Prayer for the State of Christ’s Church contains a petition for the departed. This is also a feature of the 1928 English Revised Prayer Book and the 1929 Scottish Prayer Book.

4. After the Sursum Corda the rubrics direct the priest to “turn to the Holy Table” with his back turned to the congregation—the eastward position associated with the doctrine of the Sacrifice of the Mass.

5. The 1928 Prayer of Consecration closely follows the pattern of the medieval Roman Canon, except the latter has no Epiclesis.

6. The theology of the 1928 Prayer of Consecration represents a modification of the theology of the 1764 Scottish Non-Juror Prayer of Consecration. 1764 Scottish Non-Juror Communion Office was the work of two elderly Scottish Non-Juror bishops. They were the last of the surviving Usagers, a Scottish Non-Juror church party that taught that the Eucharist is a sacrifice. They believed that Christ had not offered himself as an atoning sacrifice for our redemption on the cross but at the Last Supper. He had only been slain on the cross.

“The Eucharist is both a Sacrament and a Sacrifice. Our Lord instituted the Sacrifice of the Eucharist when He began to offer Himself for the sins of all men, i.e. immediately after eating His Last Passover. He did not offer the Sacrifice upon the Cross; it was slain there but was offered at the Institution of the Eucharist.” [3]

Bishop Thomas Deacon in his Comprehensive View describes a proper celebration of the Eucharist from this standpoint. The priest, he writes

does as Christ did...he next repeats our Saviour’s powerful words “This is my Body,” “This is my Blood” over the Bread and Cup. The effect of the words is that the Bread and Cup are made authoritative Representations or symbols of Christ’s crucified Body and of His Blood shed; and in consequence they are in a capacity of being offered to God as the great Christian Sacrifice....God accepts the Sacrifice and returns it to us again to feast upon, in order that we may be thereby partakers of all the benefits of our Saviour’s Death and Passion. The Bread and Cup become capable of conferring these benefits on the priest praying to God the Father to send the Holy’ Spirit upon them. The Bread and Cup are thereby made the Spiritual, Life-giving Body and Blood of Christ, in Power and Virtue.” [4]

The theology of the 1928 Prayer of Consecration is far removed from the Reformed theology of the 1552 and 1662 Prayers of Consecration or even the theology of the 1549 Canon. In the latter prayer the Epiclesis precedes the Words of Institution and there is no Oblation, or offering of the bread and wine.

6. The 1928 Prayer of Consecration contains an invocation of the Holy Spirit upon the bread and wine that, as both Martin Bucer and Stephen Gardiner drew to Cranmer’s attention, suggest that the bread and wine undergo some kind of change other than a change in use. For this reason and the following reason the invocation of the Holy Spirit was dropped by Cranmer from the 1552 Book of Common Prayer. An invocation of the Holy Spirit upon the bread and wine is a feature of the 1928 English Revised Prayer Book and the 1929 Scottish Prayer Book.

7. Bucer also objected to the invocation of the Holy Spirit upon inanimate objects. There was no warrant for the practice in the Bible. It also represented a departure from Biblical practice. In the Bible the Holy Spirit is invoked only upon people. The Holy Spirit also descends only upon people. Now where do we find in Scripture the invocation of the Holy Spirit upon inanimate objects.

The blessing of Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25, and 1 Corinthians 10:16 refers to the Jewish practice of blessing God over a cup of wine as a form of thanksgiving and not to the blessing of the wine itself. This is clear from Luke 22:17-20:

“And he received a cup, and when he had given thanks, he said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: for I say unto you, I shall not drink from henceforth of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come. And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and gave to them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. And the cup in like manner after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood, even that which is poured out for you.”

And 1 Corinthians 11:23-26:

“For I received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which he was betrayed took bread; and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, This is my body, which is for you: this do in remembrance of me. In like manner also the cup, after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood: this do, as often as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink the cup, ye proclaim the Lord's death till he come.”

It is not an example of Jesus pronouncing God’s blessing upon an inanimate object—a cup of wine.

In the 1552 Communion Service in the prayer, “Almighty God oure heavenly father, whiche of thy tender mecye…,” the priest humbly asks God that those receiving the bread and wine may be partakers of Christ’s Body and Blood. In the 1552 Baptismal Office in the prayer, “Almightie euerliving God, whose most dearely beloued sonne Jesus Christ…,” the priest humbly asks God that all his servants who are to be baptized in the water, may receive the fullness of his grace and ever remain in the number of his faithful and elect children. There is no invocation of the Holy Spirit or God’s blessing upon the bread and wine or the water in the font.

8. Nowhere in Scripture do we read that Jesus commanded the disciples to celebrate and make a memorial before God with the bread and wine or to offer them to God. Jesus instructed the disciples to eat the bread and drink the cup in remembrance of him. He said nothing about celebrating and making a memorial before God as if God needed to be reminded of what he had done. Paul speaks of proclaiming Christ’s death with the bread and the cup until he comes again. But he is not speaking of proclaiming to God but to our fellow men.

9. The 1928 Prayer of Consecration contains the words: “…with these thy gifts, which we now offer unto thee….” It also contains the words: “And though we be unworthy to offer unto Thee any sacrifice, yet we beseech Thee to accept this our bounden duty and service.” The Reformers rejected the doctrine that the priest offers a sacrifice of Christ's Body and Blood. Cranmer therefore removed from the 1552 Prayer Book all expressions that taught a presence of Christ in the consecrated elements, and all expressions that implied the offering of them as a sacrifice. For this reason Cranmer removed the word “Altar,” and all words in the Prayer of Consecration relating to any offering of a sacrifice by the priest. The Reformers also discarded eucharistic vestments such as the chasuble.

10. The rubrical permission to sing a hymn immediately before the distribution of the Communion permits the singing of the Agnes Dei. Coming where it does, it suggests a presence of Christ in the Bread and Wine as a result of the words of Consecration, and for this reason it was removed by Cranmer from the 1552 Prayer Book. This suggestion is further strengthened by the placement of the Lord’s Prayer and the Prayer of Humble Access immediately before the distribution of the Communion. For the same reason they were moved by Cranmer to different positions in the 1552 Prayer Book, the Lord’s Prayer to a position immediately after the distribution of the Communion and the Prayer of Humble Access to a position immediately after the Sanctus.

The 1928 Book of Common Prayer also changes the baptismal theology of the American Prayer Book.

1. The opening sentence of the Exhortation of the Baptismal Office “forasmuch as all men are born and conceived in sin” has been omitted.

2. The 1928 Prayer Book drops the Flood Prayer that had been in the Book of Common Prayer since the 1549 Prayer Book and in the American Prayer Book since 1789. The Flood Prayer teaches that God has “sanctified the element of water to the mystical washing away of sin” through Our Lord’s baptism in the River Jordan. For this reason the form for the private baptism of infants in the 1552, 1559, 1604, and 1662 Prayer Books does not contain a blessing of the water used in baptism.

One cannot make even the slightest alteration in a text without affecting the doctrine of the text. Dropping the Flood Prayer that stresses God’s sanctification of the element of water for the purpose of baptism is as serious an alteration of doctrine in the 1928 Prayer Book as the addition of prayers for the departed.

3. The biblical language of the Prayer for the Baptismal Candidate has been watered down.

4. The 1928 Prayer Book recasts the prayer “Almighty, everliving God, whose most dearly beloved Son, etc…” along the lines of the Prayer of Consecration in the service of Holy Communion. This recasting emphasizes the priestly blessing of the water in the font. This is also a feature of the 1928 English Revised Prayer Book and the 1962 Canadian Prayer Book.

The rubrics of 1928 Prayer Book do permit private baptism even by a baptized layperson in cases of dire emergency without a blessing of the water since its omission would have gone against Catholic tradition but its inclusion does not counterbalance the recasting of “Almighty, everliving God, whose most dearly beloved Son, etc…”.

5. The signing of the newly baptized with the cross upon the forehead, a practice that Evangelicals view as without warrant in the Bible, to which they have long objected, and which was optional in the 1892 Office of Baptism, is made mandatory.

6. The 1928 Book of Common Prayer gives liturgical expression to the unreformed Catholic doctrine that a bishop in a line of succession going back to the apostles, through the imposition of hands, has the power to confer upon an ordinand in turn the power to convert the substance of the eucharistic elements into the substance of the Body and Blood of Christ (Transubstantiation) and to impart to the element of water the power to regenerate the human soul (Baptismal Regeneration).

The Thirty-Nine Articles rejects the doctrine of Transubstantiation. Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics are sharply divided over the doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration. The Privy Council, the highest judicial authority for the Church of England at the time, ruled against Bishop Henry Philpotts and the doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration in the Gorham decision in 1850. The Privy Council ruled that Baptismal Regeneration was not a doctrine of the Church of England and Bishop Philpotts should not have denied a living to George Gorham in the Diocese of Exeter because Gorham did not believe that the grace of regeneration invariably accompanied the act of baptism.

Baptismal Regeneration was one of the latent Catholic doctrines in the 1789 Book of Common Prayer that, with the growth and increased influence of Tractarianism in the then Protestant Episcopal Church, prompted Bishop George David Cummins and conservative Evangelical clergy and laypersons to leave the Protestant Episcopal Church in 1873 and to form the Reformed Episcopal Church.

The Catechism
The 1928 Book of Common Prayer replaces the Prayer Book Catechism with two Offices of Instruction. The Second Office articulates a view of Confirmation, which has no real basis in the Bible and is not found in the Reformed Prayer Book of 1552, the classical Anglican Prayer Book of 1662, or the first two American Prayer Books of 1789 and 1892. It is a sacramental view of Confirmation that differs from the catechetical view of Confirmation that was held by the English Reformers and is given liturgical expression in these four Prayer Books. It is also a view of Confirmation over which Anglicans are sharply divided.

The 1928 Prayer Book omits the preface to the Office of Confirmation that was a feature of the 1662, 1789, and 1892 Offices of Confirmation and which emphasizes the catechetical nature of Confirmation. The presentation of the candidates for Confirmation to the bishop is modeled upon that of the presentation of candidates for ordination. The 1928 Prayer Book includes Acts 8 as an optional reading. This particular reading and what it means is the subject of much heated debate.

Burial of the Dead
The biblical language of the Burial Office has been diluted. The Burial Office includes a number of prayers for the departed.

In the Ordinal there is a significant change in the form of the question put to the deacon concerning the Bible. Instead of being asked, “Do you unfeignedly believe all the Canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments?” the candidate is asked “Are you persuaded that the Holy Scriptures contains all Doctrine required as necessary for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ?” The candidate is no longer required to affirm a blanket belief in the teachings of the Bible.

Consecration of a Church or Chapel
In the Form for the Consecration of a Church or Chapel any reference to God’s anger or wrath has been expunged

From a Reformed perspective the 1928 Book of Common Prayer suffers from a number of serious theological defects. This rules out the use of the 1928 Prayer Book in public worship in an Anglican church that is Reformed in its doctrine. If prayers and liturgical material is used from the 1928 Prayer Book, great care should be taken to see that their doctrine conforms with the biblical-Reformation doctrine of the Thirty-Nine Articles, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and the 1661 Ordinal.

Anglicans have long recognized how we pray reflects and shapes what we believe. What good does it do to preach one thing when the liturgy that we are using and the worship practices that we have adopted teach another? Both our preaching and our liturgy and worship practices need to convey the same message.

[1] Samuel Leuenberger, Archbishop Cranmer’s Immortal Bequest The Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England: An Evangelistic Liturgy, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990) 152.
[2] Leuenberger, 153.
[3]Henry Broxap, The Late Non-Jurors, “Appendix II Non Juror Doctrine and Ceremonies” (Cambridge 1928), 1, appendix on the Internet at: http://anglicanhistory.org/nonjurors/broxapapp2.pdf
[4] Broxap, 1-2.

The Reformed Worship of 1552

By David Philips

By God's grace the accession of Edward VI in 1547 permitted the acceleration of the reformation of the Church of England. Some changes were made almost immediately but it was not until March 1548 that the first new services were issued in the form of an English supplement to the latin mass. Ten months later in January 1549 the First Prayer Book of Edward VI was introduced accompanied by an Act of Uniformity. This book took a momentous step away from the errors of the medieval liturgies and did away with most of the unscriptural practices. However, it left several corners unswept and, more importantly, whilst representing a purge of the past it was not a liturgy that had been shaped by reformed principles.

There followed three significant steps leading up to a truly reformed liturgy. First, the order was made to destroy stone altars and replace them with wooden tables. Secondly, Cranmer issued his Defence of the True and Catholic Doctrine of the Sacrament in which he set out his understanding of the nature of the sacrament and refuted the errors that had grown up contrary to scripture. Thirdly, work progressed on the new Articles of Religion which were finally published in 1553.

So it was that the Second Prayer Book was published and authorised for use from All Saints Day 1552. It was not well received by many and with the death of Edward the following year and the accession of Mary the book itself was in use for only a very short time. With three specific alterations, reportedly at the request of Queen Elizabeth herself, the book was re-instated and authorised for use from May 8 1559. Over the next century the book underwent a number of changes, mostly in the rubrics, and was banned for a while during the commonwealth. Finally the texts of 1552 formed the substance of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. Undoubtedly there were many who had a hand in the production of the 1552 book but the lions share of the credit has always gone to Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. He sought to build his liturgy on sound scriptural principles whilst borrowing from what was good in tradition and contemporary practice.

Good liturgy requires both sound doctrine and the eloquent use of language. More recent attempts at liturgy have failed to combine these too successfully. Whilst some modern liturgy does make effective use of language and some of the texts produced in recent decades have proved memorable, often they have been defective in doctrine. In contrast many evangelical attempts at liturgy, whilst admirable in doctrinal content often seem flat and unmemorable as a piece of liturgy. In the goodness of God the two elements were combined in Cranmer's liturgy. It is intriguing that there are many today who love the language of the Book of Common Prayer whilst rejecting its primary doctrinal foundations, whilst others rejoice in its doctrine but would prefer something less archaic in word and phrase. Cranmer's liturgy has been remarkable in the way that it has shaped the doctrine of the Church of England whilst also influencing the English language.

The original article was published in Cross+Way Autumn Edition 2002 No.86 and is reproduced with the permission of the Church Society.

Anglo-Saxon treasure find throws new light on Dark Ages


[The Australian] 29 Sep 2009--The snaking line of more than 1000 people queuing to enter the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in northern England on Friday illustrated the surge of interest sparked by the announcement - just a day before - of the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon treasure ever discovered.

Among those queuing to see the artefacts was Allison Buckley, 47, from Stafford. "It's almost as exciting as queuing to see the treasures of Tutankhamun," she said, recalling the rush to see the Egyptian boy king's death mask in London in 1972. "What makes this so exciting is it's just been unearthed. There's still soil on the pieces, and you can imagine it in the ground."

The treasures were chanced on in a Staffordshire field by Terry Herbert, a 55-year-old unemployed metal-detection enthusiast. The find - almost 1500 gold and silver items thought to date from the 7th or 8th century - has staggered archeologists.

Experts say it will reshape our understanding of the Dark Ages. So little is known of the period that the artefacts have already led historians to question some of their fundamental beliefs - such as whether Christianity was embraced by the pagan Saxons earlier than previously thought.

But why are historians so animated over the Staffordshire Hoard, as it is being called, and what are the secrets it promises to unlock about Britain's most obscure historical period?

Where Have All the Christians Gone?


[Fox News] 29 Sep 2009--Christianity is plummeting in America, while the number of non-believers is skyrocketing.

A shocking new study of Americans' religious beliefs shows the beginnings of a major realignment in Americans' relationship with God. The American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) reveals that Protestants now represent half of all Americans, down almost 20 percent in the last twenty years. In the coming months, America will become a minority Protestant nation for the first time since the pilgrims.

The number of people who claim no religious affiliation, meanwhile, has doubled since 1990 to fifteen percent, its highest point in history. Non-believers now represent the third-highest group of Americans, after Catholics and Baptists.

Other headlines:

1) The number of Christians has declined 12% since 1990, and is now 76%, the lowest percentage in American history.

2) The growth of non-believers has come largely from men. Twenty percent of men express no religious affiliation; 12% of women.

3) Young people are fleeing faith. Nearly a quarter of Americans in their 20's profess no organized religion.

4) But these non-believers are not particularly atheist. That number hasn't budged and stands at less than 1 percent. (Agnostics are similarly less than 1 percent.) Instead, these individuals have a belief in God but no interest in organized religion, or they believe in a personal God but not in a formal faith tradition.

The implications for American society are profound. Americans' relationship with God, which drove many of the country's great transformations from the pilgrims to the founding fathers, the Civil War to the civil rights movement, is still intact. Eighty-two percent of Americans believe in God or a higher power.

But at the same time, the study offers yet another wake-up call for religious institutions.

Disaffected Lutherans Begin 'Re-visioning' Lutheranism


[The Christian Post] 29 Sep 2009--Conservative Lutherans from congregations throughout the country voted on Saturday to begin deciding on whether to go their separate ways from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Arguing that the ELCA has fallen into heresy, the traditional group has essentially initiated a process that they hope will lead to a reconfiguration of Lutheranism in North America.

"We are forming a churchly community because our prior churchly community has walked away from the faith off the one holy catholic and apostolic Church," said Ryan Schwarz, a member of the Lutheran CORE (Coalition for Reform) steering committee.

Some 1,200 Lutherans gathered in Indianapolis this past weekend to take actions in response to last month's vote by ELCA's chief legislative body to approve a resolution allowing gays and lesbians in "life-long, monogamous, same gender relationships" to be ordained.

"The church is in a confessional crisis," the Rev. Marshall E. Hahn, St. Olaf, told the ELCA News Service. "The decisions that we made at the assembly were done contrary to our own confessional faith."

Responses to the gay-affirming actions were mixed. Some congregations plan to or have already voted to leave the 4.7 million-member denomination while others do not intend to sever ties.

Lutheran CORE, meanwhile, is committed to creating a "viable church body" to support both congregations that quit the ELCA and those that choose to remain and push orthodox Christian values from within, according to Schwarz.

"I believe it is abundantly clear that God is reforming the churches of the Reformation,” said Schwarz. "The question for us is how we will respond to the clear invitation to re-vision Lutheranism."

Roanoke County church votes to break with ELCA


[The Roanoke Times] 29 Sep 2009--One of the largest evangelical Lutheran churches in Western Virginia on Sunday afternoon took the first step to split from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

By a majority of 70 percent, members of St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church, in Southwest Roanoke County, voted to separate from the largest Lutheran church in North America.

The move comes on the heels of the ELCA's decision last month in Minneapolis to allow gays and lesbians in committed relationships to serve as clergy. Previously the ELCA had required gay clergy to remain celibate.

Senior pastor Mark Graham said his church does not "want to be seen as anti-gay or against homosexuals," but the ELCA's statement goes against the church's interpretation of marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

The fact the church even had to consider the issue is troublesome to Elijah Mwitanti, associate pastor at St. John and a native of Zambia in southern Africa.

"This just shows how far off the deep end we in America have gone," Mwitanti said.

He said he has yet to broach the subject with his father, an African Christian, of same-sex couples living together. Mwitanti said he does not want to concern his father.

"This is probably the biggest issue our congregation ever faced," said Roger Kronau, council president at St. John.

Fort Worth to Vote on Southern Cone Ties


[The Living Church] 29 Sep 2009--A member diocese of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) will consider a resolution that maintains the diocese’s ties with the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone.

The resolution is being proposed by the Diocese of Fort Worth’s standing committee. The diocese’s convention will meet on Nov. 6 and 7 in Arlington, Texas. The resolution commits the diocese to continued participation in the ACNA, but also “maintains its status as a member diocese in the Province of the Southern Cone while the formal process of recognition of [ACNA] continues in the Anglican Communion.”

“At this point, the Anglican Church in North America is not yet fully recognized as a province of the Anglican Communion,” the standing committee said in an explanation. “We are working towards that goal, but it is a lengthy process involving the primates, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Anglican Consultative Council.”

The standing committee also says it is important for the diocese to remain within ACNA, in order to “support and encourage an authentic Anglican witness in North America.”

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Excellency of the Liturgy: Sermon II

The following sermon is the second of four sermons on the liturgy of the Church of England, which Charles Simeon preached before Cambridge University in 1811. I am publishing these sermons to celebrate Simeon’s birthday on September 24, 1759.

Sermon II: The Vindication of the Liturgy

They have well said all that they have spoken: O that there were such a heart in them! Deuteronomy 5:28, 29

Wherever the word of God admits of a literal interpretation, its primary sense ought to be clearly stated, before any spiritual or mystical application be made of it: but when its literal meaning is ascertained, we must proceed to investigate its hidden import, which is frequently the more important. This has been done in relation to the passage before us; which primarily expresses an approbation of the request made by the Jews, that God would speak to them by the mediation of Moses, and not any longer by the terrific thunders of Mount Sinai; but covertly it conveyed an intimation, that we should all seek deliverance from the curse of the law through the mediation of that great Prophet, whom God raised up like unto Moses, even his Son Jesus Christ.

The farther use which we propose to make of this passage, is only in a way of accommodation; which however is abundantly sanctioned by the example of the Apostles; who not infrequently adopt the language of the Old Testament to convey their own ideas, even when it has no necessary connexion with their subject. Of course, the Liturgy of our Church was never in the contemplation of the Sacred Historian: yet, as in that we constantly address ourselves to God, and as it is a composition of unrivalled excellence, and needs only the exercise of our devout affections to render it a most acceptable service before God, we may well apply to it the commendation in our text; “They have well said all that they have spoken: O that there were such an heart in 'them !"

As in the course of the month two other occasions of prosecuting our subject will occur, we shall arrange our observations on the Liturgy, so as to vindicate its use--display its excellence--and commend to your attention one particular part, which we conceive to be eminently deserving notice in this place.

In the present Discourse we shall confine ourselves to the vindication of the Liturgy; first, Generally, as a service proper to be used; and then, Particularly, in reference to some objections which are urged against it.

Perhaps there never was any human composition more cavilled [= taken exception (at), carp, find fault] at, or less deserving such treatment, than our Liturgy. Nothing has been deemed too harsh to say of it. In order therefore to a general vindication of it, we propose to shew, that the use of it is lawful in itself--expedient for us--and acceptable to God.

It is lawful in itself.

The use of a form of prayer cannot be in itself wrong, for, if it had been, God would not have prescribed the use of forms to the Jewish nation. But God did prescribe them on several occasions. The words which the priest was to utter in blessing the people of Israel, are thus specified: u Speak unto Aaron, and unto his sons, saying. On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them, The Lord bless thee and keep thee; the Lord make his face to shine upon thee and be gracious unto thee; the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace (Numbers 4: 23- 36)." In like manner, when a man that had been slain was found, inquisition was to be made for his blood; and the elders of the city that was nearest to the body, were to make a solemn affirmation before God that they knew not who the murderer was, and at the same time in a set form of prayer to deprecate the divine displeasure (Deuteronomy 21: 7, 8). At the offering of the first-fruits, both at the beginning and end of the service, there were forms of very considerable length, which every offerer was to utter before the Lord (Deuteronomy 26:3, 5-10, 13-15).

When David brought up the ark from the house of Obed-edom to the tent which he had pitched for it in Jerusalem, he composed a form of prayer and thanksgiving for the occasion, selected out of four different Psalms (Compare 1 Chronicles 16: 7-36 with Psalms 105: 1-15 and 96: 1-13. and 136: 1 and 106: 47, 48.), and put it into the hand of Asaph and his brethren for the use of the whole congregation. In all following ages the Psalms were used as forms of devotion: Hezekiah appointed them for that purpose when he restored the worship of God which had been suspended and superseded in the days of Ahaz (2 Chronicles 29: 30) as did Ezra also at the laying of the foundation of the second temple (Ezra 3: 10, 11). Nay, the Hymn which our blessed Lord sang with his disciples immediately after he had instituted his Supper, as the memorial of his death (Matthew 26: 30), was either taken from the Psalms, from 113th to 118th inclusive, or else was a particular form composed for that occasion. All this sufficiently shews that forms of devotion are not evil in themselves.

But some think, that though they were not evil under the Jewish dispensation, which consisted altogether of rites and carnal ordinances, they are evil under the more spiritual dispensation of the Gospel. This however cannot be; because our blessed Lord taught his disciples a form of prayer, and not only told them to pray after that manner, as one Evangelist mentions, but to use the very words, as another Evangelist declares. Indeed the word οὕτως [pronounced hü'-tōs], by which St. Matthew expresses it, is not of necessity to be confined to manner (Matthew 6: 9); it might be taken as referring to the very words: but, granting that he speaks of the manner only, and prescribes it as a model; yet St. Luke certainly requires us to use it as a form: " Jesus said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven (Luke 11: 2)." Accordingly we find, from the testimonies of some of the earliest and most eminent Fathers of the Church (Tertullian—Cyprian—Cyril—Jerome—Augustine—Chrysostom—Gregory. See Bennet's London Cases, p. 52), that it was constantly regarded and used in the Church as a form from the very times of the Apostles. As for the objection, that we do not read in the New Testament that it was so used, it is of no weight at all; for we are not told that the Apostles ever baptised persons in the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; but can we therefore doubt whether they did use this form of baptism? Assuredly not; and therefore the circumstance of such a use of the Lord's Prayer not being recorded, especially in so short a history as that of the Apostles, is no argument at all that it was not so used.

Nor was this the only form used in the apostolic age. Lucian, speaking of the first Christians, says, " They spend whole nights in singing of Psalms " and Pliny, in his famous Letter to Trajan, which was written not much above ten years after the death of John the Evangelist, says of them, “It is their manner to sing by turns a hymn to Christ as God. This latter, it should seem, was not a Psalm of David, but a hymn composed for the purpose: and it proves indisputably, that even in the apostolic age, forms of devotion were in use. If we come down to the times subsequent to the Apostles, we shall find Liturgies composed for the service of the different churches. The Liturgies of St. Peter, St. Mark, and St. James, though they were corrupted in later ages, are certainly of high antiquity: that of St. James was of great authority in the Church in the days of Cyril, who in his younger years, at the end of the third or beginning of the fourth century, wrote a Comment upon it. And it were easy to trace the use of them from that time even to the present day. Shall it be said then, that the use of a pre-composed form of prayer is not lawful? Would God have given so many forms under the Jewish dispensation; and would our blessed Lord have given a form for the use of his Church and people, if it had not been lawful to use a form? But it is worthy of observation, that those who most loudly decry the use of forms, do themselves use forms, whenever they unite in public worship. What are hymns, but forms of prayer and praise? And if it be lawful to worship God in forms of verse, is it not equally so in forms of prose? We may say therefore, our adversaries themselves being judges, that the use of a form of prayer is lawful.

As for those passages of Scripture which are supposed to hold forth an expectation that under the Gospel we should have ability to pray without a form; for instance, that " God would give us a spirit of grace and of supplication," and that " the Spirit should help our infirmities and teach us what to pray for as we ought;" they do not warrant us to expect, that we shall be enabled to speak by inspiration, as the Apostles did, but that our hearts should be disposed for prayer, and be enabled to enjoy near and intimate communion with God in that holy exercise: but they may be fulfilled to us as much in the use of a pre-composed form, as in any extemporaneous effusions of our own: and it is certain, that persons may be very fluent in the expressions of prayer without the smallest spiritual influence upon their minds; and that they may, on the other hand, be very fervent in prayer, though the expressions be already provided to their hand: and consequently, the promised assistance of the Spirit is perfectly consistent with the use of prayers that have been pre-composed.

But the lawfulness of forms of prayer is in this day pretty generally conceded. Many however still question their expediency. We proceed therefore to shew next, that the use of the Liturgy is expedient for us.

Here let it not be supposed that I am about to condemn those who differ from us in judgment or in practice. The Legislature has liberally conceded to all the subjects of the realm a right of choice; and God forbid that any one should wish to abridge them of it, in a matter of such high concern as the worship of Almighty God. If any think themselves more edified by extempore prayer, we rejoice that their souls are benefited, though it be not precisely in our way; but still we cannot be insensible to the advantages which we enjoy; and much less can we concede to any that the use of a prescribed form of prayer is the smallest disadvantage.

We say then, that the Liturgy was of great use at the time it was made. At the commencement of the Reformation, the most lamentable ignorance prevailed throughout the land: and even those who from their office ought to have been well instructed in the Holy Scriptures, themselves needed to be taught what were the first principles of the oracles of God. If then the pious and venerable Reformers of our Church had not provided a suitable form of prayer, the people would still in many thousands of parishes have remained in utter darkness; but by the diffusion of this sacred light throughout the land, every part of the kingdom became in a good measure irradiate with scriptural knowledge, and with saving truth. The few who were enlightened, might indeed have scattered some partial rays around them; but their light would have been only as a meteor, that passes away and leaves no permanent effect. Moreover, if their zeal and knowledge and piety had been suffered to die with them, we should have in vain sought for compositions of equal excellence from any set of governors from that day to the present hour: but by conveying to posterity the impress of their own piety in stated forms of prayer, they have in them transmitted a measure of their own spirit, which like Elijah's mantle, has descended on multitudes who have succeeded them in their high office. It is not possible to form a correct estimate of the benefit which we at this day derive from having such a standard of piety in our hands; but we do not speak too strongly if we say, that the most enlightened amongst us, of whatever denomination they may be, owe much to the existence of our Liturgy; which has been, as it were, the pillar and ground of the truth in this kingdom, and has served as fuel to perpetuate the flame which the Lord himself, at the time of the Reformation, kindled upon our altars.

But we must go further, and say that the use of the Liturgy is equally expedient still. Of course, we must not be understood as speaking of private prayer in the closet; where though a young and inexperienced person may get help from written forms, it is desirable that every one should learn to express his own wants in his own language; because no written prayer can enter so minutely into his wants and feelings as he himself may do: but in public, we maintain, that the use of such a form as ours is still as expedient as ever. To lead the devotions of a congregation in extempore prayer is a work for which but few are qualified. An extensive knowledge of the Scriptures must be combined with fervent piety, in order to fit a person for such an undertaking; and I greatly mistake if there be found a humble person in the world, who, after engaging often in that arduous work, does not wish at times that he had a suitable form prepared for him. That the constant repetition of the same form does not so forcibly arrest the attention as new sentiments and expressions would do, must he confessed: but, on the other hand, the use of a well-composed form secures us against the dry, dull, tedious repetitions which are but too frequently the fruits of extemporaneous devotions. Only let any person be in a devout frame, and he will be far more likely to have his soul elevated to heaven by the Liturgy of the Established Church, than he will by the generality of prayers which he would hear in other places of worship: and, if any one complain that he cannot enter into the spirit of them, let him only examine his frame of mind when engaged in extemporaneous prayers, whether in public, or in his own family; and he will find, that his formality is not confined to the service of the Church, but is the sad fruit and consequence of his own weakness and corruption.

Here it may not be amiss to rectify the notions which are frequently entertained of spiritual edification. Many, if their imaginations are pleased, and their spirits elevated, are ready to think, that they have been greatly edified: and this error is at the root of that preference which they give to extempore prayer, and the indifference which they manifest towards the prayers of the Established Church. But real edification consists in humility of mind, and in being led to a more holy and consistent walk with God: and one atom of such a spirit is more valuable than all the animal fervour that ever was excited. It is with solid truths, and not with fluent words, that we are to be impressed; and if we can desire from our hearts the things which we pray for in our public-forms, we need never regret, that our fancy was not gratified, or our animal spirits raised by the delusive charms of novelty.

In what we have spoken on this subject it must be remembered, that we have spoken only in a way of vindication: the true, the exalted, and the proper ground for a Member and Minister of the Established Church, we have left for the present untouched, lest we should encroach upon that, which we hope to occupy on a future occasion. But it remains for us yet further to remark, that the use of our Liturgy is acceptable to God.

The words of our text are sufficient to shew us, that God does not look at fine words and fluent expressions, but at the heart. The Israelites had "well said all that they had spoken:" but whilst God acknowledged that, he added, "O that there were such an heart in them!" If there be humility and contrition in our supplications, it will make no difference with God whether they be extemporaneous or pre-composed. Can any one doubt whether, if we were to address our heavenly Father in the words which Christ himself has taught us, we should be accepted of him, provided we uttered the different petitions from our hearts? As little doubt then is there that in the use of the Liturgy also we shall be accepted, if only we draw nigh to God with our hearts as well as with our lips. The prayer of faith, whether with or without a form, shall never go forth in vain. And there are thousands at this day who can attest from their own experience, that they have often found God as present with them in the use of the public services of our Church, as ever they did in their secret chambers.

Thus we have endeavoured to vindicate the use of our Liturgy generally. We now come to vindicate it in reference to some particular objections that have been urged against it.

The objections may be comprised under two heads; namely, That there are exceptionable expressions in the Liturgy; and, That the use of it necessarily generates formality.

To notice all the expressions which captious [= given to carping, seizing on minor weak points, (of arguments)] men have cavilled [= taken exception (at), carp, find fault] at, would be a waste of time. But there are one or two which with tender minds have considerable weight, and have not only prevented many worthy men from entering into the church, but do at this hour press upon the consciences of many, who in all other things approve and admire the public formularies of our church. A great portion of this present assembly are educated with a view to the ministry in the establishment; and, if I may be able in any little measure to satisfy their minds, or to remove a stumbling-block out of their way, I shall think that I have made a good use of the opportunity which is thus afforded me. A more essential service I can scarcely render unto any of my younger brethren, or indeed to the Establishment itself, than by meeting fairly the difficulties which occur to their minds, and which are too often successfully urged by the enemies of our church, to the embarrassing of conscientious minds, and to the drawing away of many, who might have laboured comfortably and successfully in this part of our Lord's vineyard.

There is one circumstance in the formation of our Liturgy which is not sufficiently adverted [= to call attention in the course of speaking or writing: make reference —used with (to)] to. The persons who composed it were men of a truly Apostolic spirit; unhampered by party prejudices, they endeavoured to speak in all things precisely as the Scriptures speak: they did not indulge in speculations and metaphysical reasonings; nor did they presume to be wise above what is written: they laboured to speak the truth, the whole truth, in love: and they cultivated in the highest degree that candour, that simplicity, and that charity, which so eminently characterised all the Apostolic writings. Permit me to call your attention to this particular point, because it will satisfactorily account for those expressions which seem most objectionable; and will shew precisely in what view we may most conscientiously repeat the Ianguage they have used.

In our Burial Service we thank God for delivering our brother out of the miseries of this sinful world, and express a sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life, together with a hope also that our departed brother rests in Christ [1]. Of course, it often happens, that we are called to use these expressions over persons, who, there is reason to fear, have died in their sins; and then the question is, How we can with propriety use them? I answer, that, even according to the letter of the words, the use of them may be justified; because we speak not of his, but of the, resurrection to eternal life; and because, where we do not absolutely know that God has not pardoned a person, we may entertain some measure of hope that he has. But, taking the expressions more according to the spirit of them, they precisely accord with what we continually read in the Epistles of St. Paul. In the First Epistle to the Corinthian church, he says of them, "I thank my God always on your behalf, that in every thing ye are enriched by him in all utterance, and in all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that ye come behind in no gift, waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." Yet, does he instantly begin to condemn the same persons for their divisions and contentions; and afterwards tells them "that they were carnal, and walked, not as saints, but as men,” that is, as unconverted and ungodly men (1 Corinthians 1: 4-7. and 3: 3). In like manner, in his Epistle to the Philippians, after saying, " I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; being confident of this very thing, that he who hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ," he adds, " Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all (Philippians 1: 3-7):" Yet does he afterwards caution these very persons against strife, and vain-glory, and self-love; and tell them that he will send Timothy to them shortly, in order to make inquiries into their state, and to give him information respecting them: and he even mentions two byname, Euodias and Syntyche, whose notorious disagreements he was desirous to heal.

A multitude of other passages might be cited to the same effect; to shew that the Apostles, in a spirit of candour and of love, spoke in terms of commendation respecting all, when in strictness of speech they should have made some particular exceptions. And, if we at this day were called to use the same language under the very same, circumstances, it is probable that many would feel scruples respecting it, and especially, in thanking God for things, which, if pressed to the utmost meaning of the words, might not be strictly true. But surely, if the Apostles in a spirit of love and charity used such language, we may safely and properly do the same: and knowing in what manner, and with what views, they spake, we need not hesitate to deliver ourselves with the same spirit and in the same latitude, as they. [2]

In the baptismal Service we thank God for having regenerated the baptized infant by his Holy Spirit. Now from hence it appears that, in the opinion of our Reformers, regeneration and remission of sins did accompany baptism. But in what sense did they hold this sentiment? Did they maintain that there was no need for the seed then sown in the heart of the baptized person to grow up, and to bring forth fruit; or that he could be saved in any other way than by a progressive renovation of his soul after the Divine image? [3] Had they asserted or countenanced any such doctrine as that, it would have been impossible for any enlightened person to concur with them. But nothing can be conceived more repugnant to their sentiments than such an idea as this: so far from harbouring such a thought, they have, and that too in this very prayer, taught us to look unto God for that total change both of heart and life, which, long since their days, has begun to be expressed by the term, regeneration. After thanking God for regenerating the infant by his Holy Spirit, we are taught to pray, " that he, being dead unto sin and living unto righteousness may crucify the old man, and utterly abolish the whole body of sin:" and then declaring that total change to be the necessary mean of his obtaining salvation, we add, " So that finally, with the residue of thy holy Church, he may be an inheritor of thine everlasting kingdom?" Is there I would ask, any person that can require more than this? Or does God in his word require more? There are two things to be noticed in reference to this subject; the term, Regeneration, and the thing. The term occurs but twice in the Scriptures; in one place it refers to baptism, and is distinguished from the renewing of the Holy Ghost; which however is represented as attendant on it: and in the other place it has a totally distinct meaning unconnected with the subject. Now the term they use, as the Scripture uses it: and the thing they require, as strongly as any person can require it. They do not give us any reason to imagine that an adult person can be saved without experiencing all that modern Divines have included in the term Regeneration: on the contrary they do, both there and throughout the whole Liturgy insist upon the necessity of a radical change both of heart and life. Here then, the only question is, not, whether a baptized person can be saved by that ordinance without sanctification; but whether God does always accompany the sign with the thing signified? Here is certainly room for difference of opinion: but it cannot be positively decided in the negative; because we cannot know, or even judge, respecting it in any instance whatever, except by the fruits that follow: and therefore in all fairness it may be considered only as a doubtful point: and, if we appeal, as we ought to do, to the holy Scriptures, they certainly do in a very remarkable way accord with the expressions in our Liturgy. St. Paul says, “By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit:” and this he says of all the visible members of Christ's body (1 Corinthians 10: 1- 4). Again, speaking of the whole nation of Israel, infants as well as adults, he says, " They were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and did all eat the same spiritual meat, and did all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of that spiritual rock that followed them; and that rock was Christ."

Yet behold, in the very next verse he tells us, that "with many of them God was displeased, and overthrew them in the wilderness (1 Corinthians 12: 13, 27)." In another place he speaks yet more strongly still: "As many of you, says he, as are baptized into Christ, have put on Christ (Galatians 3: 27):" Here we see what is meant by the expression “baptized into Christ;" it is precisely the same expression as that before mentioned, of the Israelites being " baptized unto Moses;" (the preposition εἰς [pronounced ās] is used in both places) it includes all that had been initiated into his religion by the rite of baptism: and of them universally does the apostle say, “They have put on Christ." Now I ask, Have not the persons who scruple the use of that prayer in the baptismal service, equal reason to scruple the use of these different expressions?

Again St Peter says, Repent and be baptized every on of you for the remission of sins; (Acts 2: 38, 39) and in another place, " Baptism doth now save us:" (1 Peter 3: 21) And speaking elsewhere of baptized persons who were unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, he says, " He hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins (2 Pet. 1: 9).” Does not this very strongly countenance the idea which our Reformers entertained, That the remission of our sins, as well as the regeneration of our souls, is an attendant on the baptismal rite? Perhaps it will be said, that the inspired Writers spake of persons who had been baptized at an adult age. But, if they did so in some places, they certainly did not in others; and, where they did not, they must have understood as comprehending all, whether infants or adults: and therefore the language of our Liturgy, which is not a whit stronger than theirs, may be both subscribed and used without any just occasion of offence.

Let me then speak the truth before God: Though I am no Arminian, I do think that the refinements of Calvin have done great harm in the church: they have driven multitudes from the plain, and popular way of speaking used by the inspired writers, and have made them unreasonably and unscripturally squeamish in their modes of expression; and I conceive that, the less addicted any person is to systematic accuracy, the more he will accord with the inspired writers, and the more he will approve of the views of our Reformers. I do not mean however to say, that a slight alteration in two or three instances would not be an improvement; since it would take off a burthen from many minds, and supersede the necessity of laboured explanations: but I do mean to say, that there is no such objection to these expressions as to deter any conscientious person from giving his unfeigned assent and consent to the Liturgy altogether, or from using the particular expressions which we have been endeavouring to explain.

The other objection is, that the use of a Liturgy necessarily generates formality.

We have before acknowledged that the repetition of a form is less likely to arrest the attention than that which is novel: but we by no means concede that it necessarily generates formality; on the contrary we affirm, that, if any person come to the service of the church with a truly spiritual mind, he will find in our Liturgy what is calculated to call forth the devoutest exercises of his mind far more than in any of the extemporaneous prayers which he would hear in other places.

We forbear to enter into a fuller elucidation of this point at present, because we should detain you too long, and we shall have a better opportunity of doing it in our next Discourse. But we would here intreat you all so far to bear this objection in your minds, as to cut off all occasion for it as much as possible, and, by the devout manner of your attendance on the services of the Church, to shew, that though you worship God with a form, you also worship him in spirit and in truth. Dissenters themselves know that the repetition of favourite hymns does not generate formality; and they may from thence learn that the repetition of our excellent Liturgy is not really open to that objection. But they will judge from what they see amongst us: If they see that the prayers are read amongst us without any devotion, and that those who hear them, are inattentive and irreverent during the service, they will not impute these evils to the true and proper cause, but to the Liturgy itself: and it is a fact that they do from this very circumstance derive great advantage for the weakening of men's attachment to the Established Church, and for the augmenting of their own societies, Surely then it becomes us who are annually sending forth so many ministers into every quarter of the land, to pay particular attention to this point. I am well aware that where such multitudes of young men are, it is not possible so to control the inconsiderateness of youth, as to suppress all levity, or to maintain that complete order that might be wished; but I know also that the ingenuousness of youth is open to conviction upon a subject like this, and that even the strictest discipline upon a point so interwoven with the honour of the Establishment and the eternal interests of their own souls, would, in a little time, meet with a more cordial concurrence than is generally imagined: it would commend itself to their consciences, and call forth, not only their present approbation, but their lasting gratitude: and if those who are in authority amongst us would lay this matter to heart, and devise means for the carrying it into full effect, more would be done for the upholding of the Establishment; than by ten thousand discourses in vindication of it: and verily, if but the smallest progress should be made in it, I should think that I had " not laboured in vain, or run in vain."

But let us not so think of the Establishment as to forget our own souls: for after all, the great question for the consideration of us all is, Whether we ourselves are accepted in the use of these prayers? And here, it is not outward reverence and decorum that will suffice; the heart must be engaged, as well as the lips. It will be to little purpose that God say respecting us, "They have well said all that they have spoken," unless he see his own wish also accomplished, " O that there were in them such an heart!" Indeed our prayers will be no more than a solemn mockery, if there be not a correspondence between the words of our lips and the feeling of our own souls: and his answer to us will be, like that to the Jews of old, “Ye hypocrites, in vain do you worship me." Let all of us then bring our devotions to this test, and look well to it, that, with "the form we have also the power of godliness.” We are too apt to rush into the Divine presence without any consciousness of the importance of the work in which we are going to be engaged, or any fear of his Majesty, whom we are going to address. If we would prevent formality in the house of God, we should endeavour to carry thither a devout spirit along with us, and guard against the very first incursion of vain thoughts and foolish imaginations. Let us then labour to attain such a sense of our own necessities and of God's unbounded goodness, as shall produce a fixedness of mind, whenever we draw nigh to God in prayer; and for this end, let us ask of God the gift of his Holy Spirit to help our infirmities: and let us never think that we have used the Liturgy to any good purpose, unless it bring into our bosoms an inward witness of its utility, and a reasonable evidence of our acceptance with God in the use of it.

End Notes:

[1] The Burial Service in the Liturgy of the Protestant Episcopal Church, in the United States America, is altered in the parts here quoted. Instead of offering " thanks that it hath pleased God to deliver our brother out of the miseries of this sinful world;" the collect in the Burial Service of the American Liturgy, stands thus-- " We give the hearty thanks for the good examples of all those thy servants, who, having finished their course in faith do now rest from their labours." And the use of the collect is left at the discretion of the minister. Instead of the words “in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life…” the following are used in the Burial Service of the American church--“looking for the general resurrection at the last day, and the life of the world to come.” [Am. Ed.]

[2] To guard against a misapprehension of his meaning, the Author wishes these words to be distinctly noticed; because they contain the whole drift of his argument. He does not mean to say, that the Apostles ascribed salvation to the opus operatum, the outward act of baptism; or, that they intended to assert distinctly the salvation of every individual who had been baptized; but only that, in reference to these subjects, they did use a language very similar to that
in our Liturgy, and that therefore our Reformers were justified, as we also are, in using the same.

[3] In proof of the correctness of this sentiment, it may be observed that the church evidently distinguishes between regeneration and renovation. She considers regeneration as that change of spiritual state or condition, which takes place in baptism; and renovation, as a change of heart and life, by the influences of the Holy Spirit. This change, Mr. Simeon describes as "a progressive renovation of the soul after the divine image."

The distinction between regeneration and renovation, is expressly noted in the collect for Christmas day: in which the church directs her members to pray, " Grant that we, being regenerated, may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit."

The primitive fathers uniformly preserve this distinction, and call baptism the “laver of regeneration”

The distinction is founded on scripture. The apostle in the epistle to Titus (ch. 3, ver. 5) speaks of " the washing of regeneration," evidently meaning baptism, and “the renewing of the Holy-Ghost.”

Following scripture and primitive authority, the church therefore very properly applies the term regeneration to baptism; in which sacrament" that change takes place in our spiritual state or condition, which the term describes. Thus the baptismal offices, and the office of confirmation speak of every baptised person as "being regenerate." The catechism, in reference to baptism, declares, that "being by nature born in sin, and the children of wrath, we are hereby" (by baptism) " made the children of grace." The baptised person is taught to profess, in the catechism, that in baptism, on the conditions of repentance and faith he was made " a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven." And in the same admirable summary of Christian instruction, he is taught to “thank his heavenly Father who hath called him to this state of salvation.”

But, as Mr. Simeon justly maintains, the church enforces a change of heart and life as essential to securing the privileges of baptism. The baptised person, she teaches, must " die to sin, and rise again unto righteousness;" must crucify the old man and utterly abolish the whole body of sin;" and must “continually mortify all his evil and corrupt affections, and daily proceed in all virtue and Godliness of living;” in other words; he must be renewed by the Holy Spirit.

It is much to be lamented that many divines of the Church of England, have not attended to this distinction between regeneration and renovation; and apply the former term to that change of heart and life,which the reformers of the church, agreeably to Scripture and the primitive Fathers, denoted by the term, renovation. Mr. Simeon very properly observes, that " the total change of heart and life, long since the days of the reformers, began to be expressed by the term regeneration." [Am. Ed.]

The preceding notes were taken from The Excellency of the Liturgy in Four Discourses, published by Eastburn, Kirk and Company in 1813, as was the sermon. The American Prayer Book mentioned in these notes is the First American Prayer Book of 1789. The latter differs from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer in a number of respects, most notably the Prayer of Consecration used in the Communion Office. The theory of baptism described by the the unidentified “Am. Ed.” of The Excellency of the Liturgy in Four Discourses in his commentary on the sermon originated with the “High Church Protestant theologian” Daniel Waterland. This theory established a long-lasting period of détente between Evangelicals and High Churchmen in the eighteenth century. The regeneration language of the Book of Common Prayer, however, became a major cause of controversy in the Church of England and the Protestant Episcopal Church in the nineteenth century. In the United Kingdom this controversy resulted in the famous Gorham judgment and Bishop Philpott’s excommunication of the Church of England and in the United States it led to the formation of the Reformed Episcopal Church. For further discussion of the controversy surrounding the regeneration language of the Book of Common Prayer, including an explanation of Wantland’s theory of baptism, I refer the reader to S. Gregory Jones’ Baxter to Cummins: The Debate Over The Language of Baptismal Regeneration In The Book of Common Prayer, 1662 – 1873 on the Internet at: http://anglicanhistory.org/essays/jones.pdf

The picture shows the font of St. Mary the Virgin, Therfield, Hertfordshire, England in which I was baptized. The Prayer Book used at my baptism was the classic Anglican Prayer Book: The Book of Common Prayer of 1662.

The Eastward Position


[Church Society] 26 Sep 2009--The famous expression which heads this page demands the serious attention of all English Churchmen. It is bound up with a subject which is causing much excitement, and making a great stir in many minds. It is of the utmost importance to have clear views about it.

What does this “Eastward Position” mean? Where is the harm of it? To these two questions it is proposed to supply answers in this paper.

Why Do the Heathen Rage? — International Blasphemy Day


[Albert Mohler' 26Sep 2009--Ready for a day to honor blasphemy? According to press reports, September 30 is set as the observance of the first-ever International Blasphemy Day. This could be interesting.

The choice of September 30 looks back to that date in the year 2005, when the publication of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad's face sparked outcry and protests in the Muslim world and threats toward the West.

Now, as Religion News Service reports, the Center for Inquiry is planning a day of observances to mark the occasion. Ron Lindsay, a lawyer who serves as president of the Council for Inquiry International, said that the day was part of the group's effort to expose religious beliefs to investigation. In the words of the RNS report, the goal is "to expose all religious beliefs to the same level of inquiry, discussion and criticism to which other areas of intellectual interest are subjected."

Here is one feature of the day as planned by CFI:

You've never seen Jesus like this before: dripping red nail polish around the nails in his feet and hands, an irreverent riff on the crucifixion wounds. The provocative title of the painting: "Jesus Does His Nails." Blasphemous? Absolutely. Deliberately provocative? You bet.

Artist Dana Ellyn told RNS that she is an "agnostic atheist" whose purpose is to be provocative. "My point is not to offend, but I realize it can offend, because religion is such a polarizing topic," she said.

Among other things, CFI International also plans a "blasphemy contest," "in which participants are invited to submit phrases, poems, or statements that would be, or have been, considered blasphemous." Winners are to receive a t-shirt and mug.

Bet you can't wait to see those.

More seriously, participants are also to be encouraged to take up the "Blasphemy Challenge" in which individuals register their blasphemy in the face of Mark 3:29. In that verse, Jesus warns, "whoever blasphemes the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin" [ESV]. Those who take up the "Blasphemy Challenge" record video submissions which must include the words, "I deny the Holy Spirit."

The Blasphemy Day events are certain to draw media attention, which is no doubt the whole point of the observance. That is how a group like CFI can gain publicity for itself and its cause.

How should Christians respond?

Lutherans gather to discuss creating new synod


[Milwaukee-Winsconsin Journal-Sentinel] 26 Sep 2009--Dozens of Lutheran pastors and church leaders from around the state, all troubled by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's recent vote to allow gay clergy, are in Indiana this weekend for a national meeting organizers say could "reshape Lutheranism in North America."

With 63 people, Wisconsin represents the fifth-largest contingent of about 1,200 people pre-registered to attend the suburban Indianapolis meeting, where the reform group Lutheran CORE will propose the creation of a new, free-standing synod in line with their views of homosexuality as sin.

Pastor Mark Knappe of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Menomonee Falls, speaking by cell phone en route to the Indianapolis suburb of Fishers, said he wasn't sure what he expects from the meeting.

"We're hoping there's some kind of guidance and structure," said Knappe, who voted against allowing gay clergy at the ELCA's 2009 Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis last month.

"CORE is trying to chart some course in terms of being faithful to the orthodox witness" of the church.

Related article:
Anglican Bishop Minns tells Lutherans to leave - Anglican Mainstream

Conscience Without Sunset


[The Living Church] 26 Sep 2009--Four years ago I wrote an article, “Living With Tares,” responding to an editorial in the evangelical magazine Christianity Today that had described schism as sometimes necessary and offered the Episcopal Church as its primary cautionary tale. I argued that I remain in the Episcopal Church because biblical faithfulness requires me to do so; because Jesus is Lord of the Church, and it’s up to him—and not us—to sort things out in the end.

In light of the actions of the 76th General Convention, I find myself revisiting that article and asking the question again: Why do I stay? Does our Lord have a continuing purpose for people like me, a bridge-building conservative and evangelical Catholic, in the Episcopal Church? If so, what is it? And what are the conditions required for continuing and faithful engagement with the church?

I ask these questions with a heavy heart. The bonds of affection in this church are deep. I minister, and gratefully so, to gay and lesbian parishioners all around my diocese. Many of my most beloved friends are colleague bishops who vote on the opposite side of the issues that divide us. I see Jesus in them, and I pray they see him in me. They are brothers and sisters in Christ.

Yet reality forces hard questions. General Convention took definitive action. Resolutions D025 and C056 answered two questions with clarity. The first has to do with human sexuality. “[S]ame-sex couples living in lifelong committed relationships ... have responded to God’s call and have exercised various ministries in and on behalf of God’s One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. ... God has called and may call such individuals to any ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church” (D025). “[T]he Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music ... [shall] collect and develop theological and liturgical resources”; and, in the meantime, “bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this Church” (C056).

We have made our decision. The restraint called for in B033 of the 75th General Convention has been set aside. Bishops may authorize blessings (that’s the clear implication of the “generous pastoral response”), and liturgies are on their way. Our course has been inexorably determined. The conversation about human sexuality is effectively over.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Excellency of the Liturgy: Sermon I

The following sermon is the first of four sermons on the liturgy of the Church of England, which Charles Simeon preached before Cambridge University in 1811. I am publishing these sermons in honor of Simeon’s birthday on September 24, 1759.

Simeon was a leading English Evangelical in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. He was one of the founders of the Church Missionary Society. He published hundreds of sermons and outlines of sermons, which he called "sermon skeletons,” and which are still in print. His magnum opus was Horae Homileticae, a commentary on the whole Bible. It was designed to help young and inexperienced ministers in their sermon preparation. He also established the Simeon Trust for the purpose of acquiring church patronage to perpetuate Evangelical clergy in Church of England parishes.

Simeon described himself as “moderate Calvinist.” He frequently referred to himself simply as a “Biblical Christian,” He believed that the Bible should speak for itself. A guiding principle for Simeon was to “Be Bible Christians, not systems Christians.” “My endeavor is to bring out of Scripture what is there, and not to thrust in what I think might be there,” he wrote. “I have a great jealousy on this head; never to speak more or less than I believe to be the mind of the Spirit in the passage I am expounding.”

Simeon believed that a sermon should serve three purposes. First, the sermon should humble the sinner. Second, it should exalt the Lord Jesus Christ. And third, it should promote holiness.

Editor’s Note: I have made some alterations in the spelling, Americanizing and modernizing it.

The Excellency of the Liturgy: Sermon I

“They have well said all that they have spoken: that there were such a heart in them.” Deuteronomy 5:28-29

The historical parts of the Old Testament are more worthy of our attention than men generally imagine. A multitude of facts recorded in them are replete with spiritual instruction, being intended by God to serve as emblems of those deep mysteries which were afterwards to be revealed. For instance: What is related of our first parent, his creation, his marriage, his sabbatic rest, was emblematic of that new creation which God will produce in us ; and of that union with Christ whereby it shall be effected,and of the glorious rest to which it shall introduce us, as well in this world as in the world to come. In like manner the promises made to Adam, to Abraham, and to David, whatever reference they might have to (the particular circumstances of those illustrious individuals, had a farther and more important accomplishment in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the second Adam, the Promised Seed, the King of Israel.

The whole of the Mosaic dispensation was altogether figurative, as we see from the Epistle to the Hebrews, in which the figures themselves are illustrated and explained. But there are some facts which appear too willing to afford any instruction of this kind. We might expect indeed that so remarkable a fact as the promulgation of the law from Mount Sinai should have in it something mysterious; but that the fears of the people on that occasion, and the request dictated by those fears, should be intended by God to convey any particular instruction, we should not have readily supposed: yet by these did God intend to shadow forth the whole mystery of redemption. We are sure that there was somewhat remarkable in the people's speech, by the commendation which God himself bestowed upon it: still however, unless we have turned our minds particularly to the subject, we shall scarcely conceive how much is contained in it.

The point for our consideration is the request which the Israelites made in consequence of the terror with which the display of the divine Majesty had inspired them. The explication and improvement of that point is all that properly belongs to the passage before us. But we have a further view in taking this text: we propose, after considering it in its true and proper sense, to take it in an improper and accommodated sense; and, after making some observations upon it in reference to the request which the Israelites then offered, to notice it in reference to the requests which we from time to time make unto God in the Liturgy of our Church.

The former view of the text is that which we propose for our present consideration: the latter will be reserved for future discussion.

The Israelites made an earnest request to God: and God expressed his approbation of it in the words which we have just recited; " They have well said all that they have spoken: O that there were such a heart in them!" From hence we are naturally led to set before you the sentiments and dispositions which God approves; the sentiments; "They have well said all that they have spoken;" the dispositions; O that there were in them such a heart."

1st. The sentiments which he approves.

Here it will be necessary to analyze, as it were, or at least to get a clear and distinct apprehension of, the speech which God commends. It is recorded in the preceding context from the 33d verse. "And it came to pass, when ye heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, (for the mountain did burn with fire,) that ye came near unto me, even all the heads of your tribes, and your elders ; and ye said, "Behold, the Lord our God hath shewed us his glory, and his greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire: we have seen this day, that God doth talk with man and he liveth. Now therefore why should we die? For this great fire will consume us: if we hear the voice of the Lord our God any more, then we shall die. For who is there of all flesh that hath heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived? Go thou near, and hear all that the Lord our God shall say: and speak thou unto us all that the Lord our God shall speak unto thee; and we will hear it and do it." Then it is added, " And the Lord heard the voice of your words when ye spake unto me; and the Lord said unto me, I have heard the voice of the words of this people, which they have spoken unto thee: they have well said all that they have spoken."

In this speech are contained the following things; an acknowledgement that they could not stand before the Divine Majesty; a desire that God would appoint someone to mediate between him and them; and lastly, an engagement to regard every word that should be delivered to them through a Mediator, with the same obediential reverence, as they would if it were spoken to them by God himself. And these are the sentiments, on which the commendation in our text was unreservedly bestowed.

The first thing then to be noticed is their acknowledgment that they could not stand before the Divine Majesty.

Many things had now occurred to produce an extraordinary degree of terror upon their minds. There was a blackness and darkness in the sky, such as they never before beheld. This darkness was rendered more visible by the whole adjacent mountain blazing with fire, and by vivid lightnings flashing all around in quick succession. The roaring peals of thunder added an awful solemnity to the scene. The trumpet sounding with a long and increasingly tremendous blast, accompanied as it was by the mountain shaking to its center, appalled the trembling multitude: and Jehovah's voice, uttering with inconceivable majesty his authoritative commands, caused even Moses himself to say, I exceedingly fear and quake (Compare Exodus 19: 16 -19. with Hebrews 12: 18-31). In consequence of this terrific scene we are told that the people " removed and stood afar off (Exodus 20: 18-19)," lest the fire should consume them, or the voice of God strike them dead upon the spot (Ver. 21 above cited). Now though this was in them a mere slavish fear, and the request founded upon it had respect only to their temporal safety, yet the sentiment itself was good, and worthy of universal adoption. God being hidden from our senses, so that we neither see nor hear him, we are ready to think lightly of him, and even to rush into his more immediate presence without any holy awe upon our minds: but when lie speaks to us in thunder or by an earthquake, the most hardened rebel is made to feel that " with God is terrible majesty," and that " he is to be had in reverence " by all that are round about him." This is a lesson which God has abundantly taught us by his dealings with the Jews. Among the men of Bethshemesh, a great multitude were slain for their irreverent curiosity in looking into the ark; as Uzzah also afterwards was for his well-meant but erroneous zeal in presuming to touch it. The reason of such acts of severity is told us in the history of Nadab and Abihu, who were struck dead for offering strange fire on the altar of their God: they are designed to teach us, "that God will be sanctified in all that come nigh unto him, and before all the people he will be glorified (Leviticus 10:3)."

The next thing to be noticed is their desire to have some person appointed who should act as a mediator between God and them. They probably had respect only to the present occasion; but God interpreted their words as general, and as importing a request that he would send them a permanent Mediator, who should transact all their business, as it were, with God, making known to him their wants, and communicating from him the knowledge of his will. That God did construe their words in this extended sense, we are informed by Moses in a subsequent chapter of this book. In
18th of Deut. and 15th and following verses, this explanation of the matter is given. "The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren like unto me; unto him shall ye hearken, according to all that than desiredst of the Lord thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not. And the Lord said unto me, they have well spoken that which they have spoken.”

“I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren like unto thee, and will put my words in His mouth; and as he shall speak unto them all that I command him: and it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him." Who this Prophet was we are at no loss to declare; for the apostle Peter, endeavoring to convince the Jews from their own Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ, and that Moses himself had required them to believe in him, cites the very words as referring to Christ, and call upon them to regard him as that very Mediator, whom God had sent in answer to the petitions which had been offered by their forefathers at Mount Horeb (Acts 13: 23, 33).

Here it should be remembered that we are speaking not from conjecture, but from infallible authority; and that the construction we are putting on? The text is, not a fanciful interpretation of our own, but God own exposition of his own words.

Behold then the sentiment expressed in our text, and the commendation given to it by God himself; it is a sentiment which is the very sum and substance of the whole gospel; it is a sentiment, which whosoever embraces truly, and acts upon it faithfully, can never perish, but shall have eternal life. The preceding sentiment, that we are incapable of standing before a holy God, is good, as introductory to this; but this is the crown of all; this consciousness that we cannot come to God, and that God will not come to us, but through Christ. This acquiescence in him as the divinely appointed Mediator; this acceptance of him as the Way, the Truth, and the Life;" this sentiment, I say, God did, and will approve, wheresoever it may be found. The Lord grant that we may all embrace this sentiment as we ought ; and that, having tasted its sweetness and felt its efficacy, we may attain by means of it all the blessings which a due reception of it will insure!

The third thing to be noticed is their engagement to yield unqualified obedience to everything that should be spoken to them by the Mediator. This, if viewed only as a general promise of obedience, was good and highly acceptable to God; since the obedience of his creatures is the very end of all his dispensations towards them. It is to bring them to obedience, that he alarms them by the denunciations of his wrath, and encourages them by the promises of his gospel: when once they are brought to love his law, and obey his commandments, all the designs of his love and mercy are accomplished; and nothing remains but that they attain that measure of sanctification, that shall fit them for the glory which he has prepared for them.

But there is far more in this part of our subject than appears at first sight. We will endeavour to enter into it somewhat more minutely, in order to explain what we conceive to be contained in it.

The moral law was never given with a view to men's obtaining salvation by their obedience to it; for it was not possible that they who had transgressed it in any one particular, should afterwards he justified by it. St. Paul says, “If there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law (Galatians 3:21)." But the law could not give life to fallen man: and therefore that way of obtaining righteousness is forever closed. With what view then was the law given?

I answer, to shew the existence of sin, and the lost state of man by reason of sin, and to shut him up to that way of obtaining mercy, which God has revealed in his gospel. I need not multiply passages in proof of this; two will suffice to establish it beyond a doubt: " As many as are under the law, are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." Again, " The law is our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith (Galatians 3: 10-24).” But when the law has answered this end, then it has a further use, namely, to make known to us
the way in which we should walk. In the first instance we are to flee from it as a Covenant, and to seek for mercy through the Mediator: but when we have obtained mercy through the Mediator, then we are to receive the law at his hands as a rule of life, and to render a willing obedience to it.

Now all this was shadowed forth in the history before us. God gave Israel his law immediately from his own mouth: and, so given, it terrified them beyond measure, and caused them to desire a Mediator. At the same time they did not express any wish to be liberated from obedience to it: on the contrary, they engaged, that, whatever God should speak to them by the Mediator, they would listen to it readily, and obey it unreservedly. This was right; and God both approved of it in them, and will approve of it in every child of man.

We are afraid of perplexing the subject, if we dwell any longer on this branch of it because it would divert your attention from the main body of the Discourse: We will therefore content ourselves with citing one passage, wherein the whole is set forth in the precise point of view in which we have endeavored to place it. We have shown that the transactions at Mount Sinai, were intended to shadow forth the nature of the two dispensations, (that of the law and that of the gospel,) in a contrasted view; that the terrific nature of the one made the Israelites desirous to obtain an interest in the other; and that the appointment of Moses to be their Mediator, and to communicate to them the further knowledge of his will with a view to their future obedience, was altogether illustrative of the gospel; which, whilst it teaches us to flee to Christ from the curses of the broken law, requires us afterwards to obey that law: in a word, we have shown, that though, as St. Paul expresses it, we are " without law” (considered as a Covenant) we are nevertheless " not without law to God, but under the law to Christ (1 Corinthians (9:21):” And all this is set forth in the 12th chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, in the following words: “Ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness and darkness and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words; which voice they that heard, intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: (for they could not endure that which was commanded: and so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:) but ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general Assembly and Church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling which speaketh better things than the blood of Abel (Hebrews 12:18-24)."

I would only observe, in order to prevent any misconception of my meaning, that I do not suppose the Israelites to have had a distinct view of these things, such as we have at present; but that they spake like Caiaphas the high-priest, when he said, "It was expedient for one man to die for the people, rather than that the whole nation should perish (John 11:49):" they did not understand the full import of their own words; but God overruled their present feelings so that they spake what was proper to shadow forth the mysteries of his gospel; and he then interpreted their words according to the full and comprehensive sense in which he intended they should be understood.

We could gladly have added somewhat more in confirmation of the sentiments which have been set before you, and particularly as founded on the passage we are considering; but your time forbids it; and therefore we pass on to notice in the second place the dispositions which God approves. These must be noticed with a direct reference to the sentiments already considered; for God having said, " They have well said all that they have spoken,” adds, " O that there were such an heart in them!”

It is but too common for those desires which arise in the mind under some peculiarly alarming circumstances, to prove only transient, and to yield in a very little time to the rooted inclinations of the heart. This, it is feared, was the case with Israel at that time: and God himself intimated, that the seed which thus hastily sprang up, would soon perish for want of a sufficient root. But the information which we derive from hence is wholly independent of them: whether they cultivated these dispositions or not, we see what dispositions God approves. It is his wish to find in all of us a reverential fear of God, a love to Jesus as our Mediator, and an unfeigned delight in his commands.

First he desires to find in us a reverential fear of God. That ease, that indifference, that security which men in general indulge, is most displeasing to him. Behold how he addresses men of this description by the prophet Jeremiah: "Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes and see not; which have ears and hear not: Fear ye not Me, saith the Lord: will ye not tremble at my presence, which have placed the sand for the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it; and though the waves thereof toss themselves, yet can they not prevail; though they roar, yet can they not pass over it? But this people hath a revolting and a rebellious heart; they are revolted and gone: neither say they in their heart, Let us now fear the Lord our God (Jeremiah 5:20- 24).” Hear too what he says by the prophet Zephaniah: "I will search Jerusalem with candles, and will punish the men that are settled on their lees (Zephaniah 1:12)." It is thought by many, that, if they commit no flagrant enormity, they have no cause to fear: but even a heathen, when brought to a right mind, saw the folly and impiety of such a conceit, and issued a decree to all the subjects of his realm, that they should all " tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, who is the living God and steadfast forever (Daniel 6: 26)." Such a state of mind is dreaded, from an idea that it must of necessity be destructive of all happiness. This however is not true: on the contrary, the more of holy fear we have in our hearts, the happier we shall be. If indeed our fear be only of a slavish kind, it will make us unhappy; but, in proportion as it partakes of filial regard, and has respect to God as a Father, it will become a source of unspeakable peace and joy. The testimony of Solomon is, " Happy is the man that feareth always (Proverbs 28: 14)." Nor should we shun even the slavish fear, since it is generally the prelude to that which is truly filial; the spirit of bondage is intended to lead us to a spirit of adoption, whereby we may cry, Abba,Father(Romans 8:15).

Another ground on which men endeavour to put away the fear of God is
that it argues weakness of understanding and meanness of spirit: but we are told on infallible authority, that " the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever (Psalm 3:10)." Permit me then to recommend to you this holy disposition. Learn to " fear that gloriously and fearful name, the LORD thy God (Deuteronomy 28: 58).” Stand in awe of his Divine Majesty: and dread his displeasure more than death itself. Bethink yourselves, how you shall appear before him in the day of judgment? Settle it in your minds, whether you will think as lightly of him when you are standing at his tribunal, with all his terrible Majesty displayed before your eyes, as you are wont to do now that he is hid from your sight. Examine carefully whether you are prepared to meet him, and to receive your final doom at his hands. I well know, that such thoughts are not welcome to the carnal mind: but I know also that they are salutary, yea, and indispensably necessary too for every child of man. I would therefore adopt the language of the Angel, who flew in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to them that dwell on the earth, even to every nation and kindred, and tongue and people; and like him I would say with a loud voice, “Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come (Revelation 14: 6-7).” It is come already in the divine purpose; and it will speedily come to every individual amongst us, and will fix us in an eternity of bliss or woe.

The next disposition which God would have us cultivate is a love to Jesus as our Mediator. In proportion as we fear God, we shall love the Lord Jesus Christ, who has condescended to mediate between God and us. Were it only that he, like Moses, had revealed to us the will of God in a less terrific way, we ought to love him: but he has done infinitely more for us than Moses could possibly do: he has not only stood between God and us, but has placed himself in our stead, and borne the wrath of God for us. He has not only silenced the thunders of Mount Sinai, but " has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being himself made a curse for us (Galatians 3:13)" In a word, he has made reconciliation for us by the blood of his cross; so that we may now come to God as our Father and our Friend; and may expect at his hands all the blessings of Grace and glory. Through him we have access to God, even to his throne; and by faith in him we may even now receive the remission of our sins, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Shall we not then love him? Shall we not honour him? Shall we not employ him in his high office as our Advocate and Mediator? Shall we not glory in him," and cleave unto him with full purpose of heart?" It was said by the prophet Isaiah, “Surely shall one say, In the Lord have I righteousness and strength; even to him shall men come: and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed, In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory (Isaiah 45: 24-25).” O that this prophecy may be fulfilled in us; and that there may henceforth “be in every individual amongst us such a heart!”

Lastly, God would behold in us an unfeigned delight in his commandments. This will be the fruit, and must be the evidence, of our love to Christ " If ye love me, says our Lord, keep my commandments (John 14:15):" and again, “He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me (John 14:21).” Indeed without this, all our sentiments or professions are of no avail: "Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God (1 Corinthians 3:19)."

When persons hear of our being " delivered from the law," and " dead to the law” they feel a jealousy upon the subject of morality, and begin to fear that we open to men the flood-gates of licentiousness: but their fears are both unnecessary and unscriptural; for the very circumstance of our being delivered from the law as a covenant of works, is that which most forcibly constrains us to take it as a rule of life. Hear how St. Paul speaks on this subject: "I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God * (Galatians 2:19):” and again, "My brethren, ye are become dead to the law by the body of Christ, that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God (Romans 7:4)." You perceive then that the liberty to which we are brought by Jesus Christ, has the most friendly aspect imaginable upon the practice of good works, yea rather, that it absolutely secures the performance of them. Whilst therefore we would urge with all possible earnestness a simple affiance in Christ as your Mediator, we would also entreat you to receive the commandments at his hands, and to observe them with your whole hearts. Take our Lord's Sermon on the Mount, for instance; Study with care and diligence the full import of every precept in it. Do not endeavour to bring down those precepts to your practice, or to the practice of the world around you; but rather strive to elevate your practice to the standard which he has given you. In like manner, take all the precepts contained in the Epistles, and all the holy dispositions which were exercised by the Apostles; and endeavour to emulate the examples of the most distinguished saints. You are cautioned not to be righteous over-much; but remember that you have at least equal need of caution to be righteous enough. If only you walk in the steps of our Lord and his Apostles, you need not be afraid of excess; it is an erroneous kind of righteousness, against which Solomon would guard you, and not against an excessive degree of true holiness; for in true holiness there can be no excess. In this we may vie with each other, and strive with all our might. St. Paul, says, " This is a faithful saying; and these things I will that thou affirm constantly; that they who have believed in God might be careful to maintain (or as the word imports) to excel in good works (Titus 3:8)." By these we shall evince the sincerity of our love to Christ; and by these we shall be judged in the last day. I would therefore recommend to every one to ask himself, What is there which I have left undone? What is there which I have done defectively? What is there which I have done amiss? What is there that I may do more earnestly for the honour of God, for the good of mankind, and for the benefit of my own soul? O that such a pious zeal pervaded this whole assembly; and “that there were in all of us such a heart!" To those amongst us in whom any good measure of this grace is found, we would say in the language of St. Paul, " We beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more (1 Thessalonians 4:1).