[No. 3] [Price 1d.]
RESPECTFULLY ADDRESSED TO THE CLERGY
ON ALTERATIONS IN THE LITURGY
ATTEMPTS are making to get the Liturgy altered. My dear Brethren, I beseech you,
consider with me, whether you ought not to resist the alteration of even one jot or tittle
of it. Though you would in your own private judgments wish to have this or that phrase or
arrangement amended, is this a time to concede one tittle?
Why do I say this? because, though most of you would wish some immaterial points
altered, yet not many of you agree in those points, and not many of you agree what is and
what is not immaterial. If all your respective emendations are taken, the alterations in
the Services will be extensive; and though each will gain something he wishes, he will
lose more from those alterations which he did not wish. Tell me, are the present
imperfections (as they seem to each) of such a nature, and so many, that their removal
will compensate for the recasting of much which each thinks to be no imperfection, or
rather an excellence?
There are persons who wish the Marriage Service emended; there are others who would be
indignant at the changes proposed. There are some who wish the Consecration Prayer in the
Holy Sacrament to be what it was in King Edward's first book; there are others who think
this would be an approach to Popery. There are some who wish the imprecatory Psalms
omitted; there are others who would lament this omission as savouring of the shallow and
detestable liberalism of the day. There are some who wish the Services shortened; there
are others who think we should have far more Services, and more frequent attendance at
public worship than we have.
How few would be pleased by any given alterations; and how many pained!
But once begin altering, and there will be no reason or justice in stopping, till the
criticisms of all parties are satisfied. Thus, will not the Liturgy be in the evil case
described in the well-known story, of the picture subjected by the artist to the
observations of passers-by? And, even to speak at present of comparatively immaterial
alterations, I mean such as do not infringe upon the doctrines of the Prayer Book, will
not it even with these be a changed book, and will not that new book be for certain an
inconsistent one, the alterations being made, not on principle, buT upon chance objections
urged from various quarters?
But this is not all. A taste for criticism grows upon the mind. When we begin to
examine and take to pieces, our judgment becomes perplexed, and our feelings unsettled. I
do not know whether others feel this to the same extent, but for myself, I confess there
are few parts of the Service that I could not disturb myself about, and feel fastidious
at, if I allowed my mind in this abuse of reason. First, e.g. I might object to the
opening sentences; "they are not evangelical enough; CHRIST is not mentioned in them;
they are principally from the Old Testament." Then I should criticise the
exhortation, as having too many words, and as antiquated in style. I might find it hard to
speak against the Confession; but "the Absolution," it might be said, "is
not strong enough; it is a mere declaration, not an announcement of pardon to those who
have confessed." And so on.
Now I think this unsettling of the mind a frightful thing; both to ourselves, and more
so to our flocks. They have long regarded the Prayer Book with reverence as the say of
their faith and devotion. The weaker sort it will make sceptical; the better it will
offend and pain. Take, e.g. an alteration which some have offered in the Creed, to omit or
otherwise word the clause, "He descended into hell." Is it no comfort for
mourners to be told that CHRIST Himself has been in that unseen state, or Paradise, which
is the alloted place of sojourn for departed spirits? Is it not very easy to explain the
ambiguous word, is it any great harm if it is misunderstood, and is it not very difficult
to find any substitute for it in harmony with the composition of the Creed? I suspect we
should find the best men in the number of those who would retain it as it is. On the other
hand, will not the unstable learn from us the habit of criticising what they should never
think of but as a divine voice supplied by the Church for their need?
But as regards ourselves, the Clergy, what will be the effect of this temper of
innovation in us? We have the power to bring about changes in the Liturgy; shall we not
exert it? Have we any security, if we once begin, that we shall ever end? Shall not we
pass from non-essentials to essentials? And then, on looking back after the mischief is
done, what excuse shall we be able to make for ourselves for having encouraged such
proceedings at first? Were there grievous errors in the Prayer Book, something might be
said for beginning, but who can point out any? cannot we very well bear things as
they are? does any part of it seriously disquiet us? no--we have before now freely given
our testimony to its accordance with Scripture.
But it may be said that "we must conciliate an outcry which is made; that some
alteration is demanded." By whom? no one can tell who cries, or who can be
conciliated. some of the laity, I suppose. Now consider this carefully. Who are these lay
persons? Are they serious men, and are their consciences involuntarily hurt by the things
they wish altered? Are they not rather the men you meet in company, worldly men, with
little personal religion, of lax conversation and lax professed principles, who sometimes
perhaps come to Church, and then are wearied and disgusted? Is it not so? You have been
dining, perhaps, with a wealthy neighbour, or fall in with this great Statesman, or that
noble Land-holder, who considers the Church two centuries behind the world, and expresses
to you wonder that its enlightened members do nothing to improve it. And then you get
ashamed, and are betrayed into admissions which sober reason disapproves. You consider,
too, that it is a great pity so estimable or so influential a man should be disaffected to
the Church; and you go away with a vague notion that something must be done to conciliate
such persons. Is this to bear about you the solemn office of a GUIDE and TEACHER in
Israel, or to follow a lead?
But consider what are the concessions which would conciliate such men. Would immaterial
alterations? Do you really think they care one jot about the verbal or other changes which
some recommend, and others are disposed to grant? whether "the unseen state" is
substituted for "hell," "condemnation" for "damnation," or
the order of Sunday Lessons is remodelled? No;--they dislike the doctrine of the
Liturgy. These men of the world do not like the anathemas of the Athanasian Creed, and
other such peculiarities of our Services. But even were the alterations, which would
please them, small, are they the persons whom it is of use, whom it is becoming to
conciliate by going out of our way?
I need not go on to speak against doctrinal alterations, because most thinking men are
sufficiently averse to them. But, I earnestly beg you to consider whether we must not come
to them if we once begin. For by altering immaterials, we merely raise without gratifying the desire of correcting; we excite the crav- ing, but withhold the food. And it should be
observed, that the changes called immaterial often contain in themselves the germ of some
principle, of which they are thus the introduction:-- e.g. If we were to leave out the
imprecatory Psalms, we certainly countenance the notion of the day, that love and love
only is in the Gospel the character of ALMIGHTY GOD and the duty of regenerate man;
whereas the Gospel, rightly understood, shows His Infinite Holiness and Justice as well as
His Infinite Love; and it enjoins on men the duties of zeal towards Him, hatred of sin,
and separation from sinners, as well as that of kindness and charity.
To the above observations it may be answered, that changes have formerly been made in
the Services without leading to the issue I am predicting now; and therefore they may be
safely made again. But, waving all other remarks in answer to this argument, is not this
enough, viz. that there is peril? No one will deny that the rage of the day is for
concession. Have we not already granted (political) points, without stopping the course of
innovation? This is a fact. Now, is it worth while even to risk fearful changes
merely to gain petty improvements, allowing those which are proposed to be such?
We know not what is to come upon us; but the writer for one will try so to acquit
himself now, that if any irremediable calamity befalls the Church, he may not have to vex
himself with the recollections of silence on his part and indifference, when he might have
been up and alive. There was a time when he, as well as others, might feel the wish, or
rather the temptation, of steering a middle course between parties; but if so, a more
close attention to passing events has cured his infirmity. In a day like this there are
but two sides, zeal and persecution, the Church and the world; and those who attempt to
occupy the ground between them, at best will lose their labour, but probably will be drawn
back to the latter. Be practical, I respectfully urge you; do not attempt impossibilities;
sail not as if in pleasure boats upon a troubled sea. Not a word falls to the ground, in a
time like this. Speculations about ecclesiastical improvements which might be innocent at
other times, have a strength of mischief now. They are realized before he who utters them
understands that he has committed himself.
Be prepared then for petitioning against any alterations in the Prayer Book which may
be proposed. And, should you see that our Fathers the Bishops seem to countenance them,
petition still. Petition them. They will thank you for such a proceeding. They
do not wish these alterations; but how can they resist them without the support of
their Clergy? They consent to them, (if they do,) partly from the notion that they are
thus pleasing you. Undeceive them. They will be rejoiced to hear that you are as unwilling
to receive them as they are. However, if after all there be persons determined to allow
some alterations, then let them quickly make up their minds how far they will go.
They think it easier to draw the line elsewhere, than as things now exist. Let them point
out the limit of their concessions now; and let them keep to it then; and, (if they can do
this,) I will say that, though they are not as wise as they might have been, they are at
least firm, and have at last come right.
THE BURIAL SERVICE
We hear many complaints about the Burial Service, as unsuitable for the use for which
it was intended. It expresses a hope, that the person departed, over whom it is read, will
be saved; and this is said to be dangerous when expressed about all who are called
Christians, as leading the laity to low views of the spiritual attainments necessary for
salvation; and distressing the Clergy who have to read it.
Now I do not deny, I frankly own, it is sometimes distressing to use the Service; but
this it must ever be in the nature of things; wherever you draw the line. Do you pretend
you can discriminate the wheat from the tares? of course not.
It is often distressing to use this Service, because it is often distressing to think
of the dead at all; not that you are without hope, but because you have fear also.
How many are there whom you know well enough to dare to give any judgment about?
Is a Clergyman only to express a hope where he has grounds for having it? Are not
the feelings of relatives to be considered? And may there not be a difference of
judgments? I may hope more, another less. If each is to use the precise words which suit
his own judgment, then we can have no words at all.
But it may be said, "every thing of a personal nature may be left out from
the service." And do you really wish this? Is this the way in which your flock will
wish their lost friends to be treated? a cold "edification," but no affectionate
valediction to the departed? Why not pursue this course of (supposed) improvement, and
advocate the omission of the Service altogether.
Are we to have no kind and religious thoughts over the good, lest we should include the
But it will be said, that, at least we ought not to read the Service over the
flagrantly wicked; over those who are a scandal to religion. but this is a very different
position. I agree with it entirely. Of course we should not do so, and truly the Church
never meant we should. She never wished we should profess our hope of the salvation of
habitual drunkards and swearers, open sinners, blasphemers, and the like; not as daring to
despair of their salvation, but thinking it unseemly to honour their memory. Though the
Church is not endowed with a power of absolute judgment upon individuals, yet she is
directed to decide according to external indications, in order to hold up the rules of GOD'S governance, and afford a type of it, and an assistance towards the realizing it.
As she denies to the scandalously wicked the LORD'S Supper, so does she deprive them of
her other privileges.
The Church, I say, does not bid us read the Service over open sinners. Hear her own
words introducing the Service. "The office ensuing is not to be used for any that die
unbaptized, or excommunicate, or have laid violent hands upon themselves." There is
no room to doubt whom she meant to be excommunicated, open sinners. Those therefore
who are pained at the general use of the Service, should rather strive to restore the
practice of excommunication, than to alter the words used in the Service. Surely, if we do
not this, we are clearly defrauding the religious, for the sake of keeping close to the
Here we see the common course of things in the world. We omit a duty. In consequence
our services become inconsistent. Instead of retracing our steps we alter the Service.
What is this but, as it were, to sin upon principle? While we keep to our principles, our
sins are inconsistencies; at length, sensitive of the absurdity which inconsistency
involves, we accommodate our professions to our practice. This is ever the way of the
world; but it should not be the way of the church.
I will join heart and hand with any who will struggle for a restoration of that
"godly discipline," the resotration of which our Church publicly professes she
considers desirable; but GOD forbid any one should so depart from her spirit, as to mould
her formularies to fit the case of deliberate sinners! And is not this what we are plainly
doing, if we alter the Burial Service as proposed? we are recognizing the right of men to
receive Christian Burial, about whom we do not like to express a hope. Why should they
have Christian burial at all?
It will be said that the restoration of the practice of Excommunication is
impracticable; and that therefore the other alternative must be taken, as the only one
open to us. Of course it is impossible, if no one attempts to restore it; but if all
willed it, how would it be impossible; and if no one stirs because he thinks no one else
will, he is arguing in a circle.
But, after all, what have we to do with probabilities and prospects in matters of plain
duty? Were a man the only member of the Church who felt it a duty to return to the Ancient
Discipline, yet a duty is a duty, though he be alone. It is one of the great sins of our
times to look to consequences in matters of plain duty. Is not this such a case? If not,
prove that it is not; but do not argue from consequences.
In the mean while I offer the following texts in evidence of the duty.
Matth. xviii. 15-17. Rom. xvi.17. 1 Cor. v. 7-13. 2 Thess. iii. 6,14,15. 2 Tim. iii.5.
Tit. 10,11. 2 John 10,11.
THE PRINCIPLE OF UNITY.
Testimony of St. Clement, the associate of St. Paul, (Phil. iv. 3.) to the Apostolical
The Apostles knew, through our LORD JESUS CHRIST, that strife would arise for the
Episcopate. Wherefore having received an accurate foreknowledge, they appointed the men I
before mentioned, and have given an orderly succession, that on their death other approved
men might receive in turn their office. Ep. i. 44.
Testimony of St. Ignatius, the friend of St. Peter, to the Episcopacy.
Your celebrated Presbytery, worthy of GOD, is closely knit to the Bishop, as the
strings to a harp, and so by means of your unanimity and concordant love JESUS CHRIST is
sung. Eph. 4.
There are those who profess to acknowledge a Bishop, but do every thing without him.
Such men appear to lack a clear conscience. Magn. 4.
He for whom I am bound is my witness that I have not learned this doctrine from
mortal men. The Spirit proclaimed to me these words: "Without the Bishop do
nothing." Phil. 7.
With these and other such strong passages in the Apostolical Fathers, how can we permit
ourselves in our present practical disregard of the Episcopal Authority? Are not we
apt to obey only so far as the law obliges us? Do we support the Bishop, and strive to
move all together with him as our bond of union and head; or is not our every-day conduct
as if, except with respect to certain periodical forms and customs, we were each inde-
pendent in his own parish?
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