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In treating of the liturgy, I would be understood to use the term in that restricted sense which it generally bears in the writings of the ancients; as denoting the service used in the celebration of the eucharist. In the eastern churches, that service (though sometimes known by other appellations) has long borne the title of the “ divine” or “mystical” liturgy. In the west, the eucharistic office has most commonly been called “missa ;" but the term liturgy has also been frequently applied to it.
The study of ancient liturgies is one which, from various circumstances, has made but slow progress. It can hardly be said to have commenced until the sixteenth century, when the liturgies of Basil, Chrysostom, James, Mark, and others of eastern origin, were first printed. Before this time, though some writers commented on the offices of their own churches, they were unable to compare various liturgies together, and thence to elicit the truth. At that period, none of the learned men of Europe, even though profoundly versed in general theology, and in the writings of the Fathers, were able to give any satisfactory information relative to these ancient remains, or to form any just or distinct notion of their merits. It was not until the middle of the seventeenth century, that light was first thrown on the Greek liturgies by Goar, in his edition of the Euchologium ; and although that work is far from perfect, no one has since enlarged the sphere of its information, or corrected its errors. In this century also, Thomasius published the ancient Roman Sacramentary of Gelasius. Pamelius, in the preceding century, had edited that of Gregory, which was now illustrated with learned notes by Menard. In the eighteenth century the Roman Sacramentary of Leo was discovered. And not long before, the writings of Gavanti, Bona, Le Brun, Martene, and Muratori gave much information relative to the Ro, , man liturgy. Towards the end of the seventeenth century, the ancient Gallican liturgy was rescued from oblivion by Bona, Thomasius, and Mabillon. In the early part of the eighteenth, Renaudot first gave to the world much satisfactory information relative to the liturgies of Alexandria and Antioch, which had been hitherto almost entirely unknown. Thus it was not until the eighteenth century, that the materials of knowledge were supplied in such abundance, as to enable the student of liturgies: to take an extended and unprejudiced view of his subject.
Combined with these circumstances were others, which have much impeded the study of liturgies, and have tended to excite unreasonable prejudices against them. The learned writers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, who in their own provinces of literature remain unequalled, were yet generally destitute of that sort of knowledge which would have constituted them sufficient judges of the merit of liturgies; and hence their opinions were most contradictory on this subject. This circumstance alone was sufficient to impede the study of liturgies; for when the most learned men were divided on the merits of those remains, it seemed an endless labour to investigate the truth.
The controversies of the time also involved this subject in obscurity. Some persons deemed their doctrines supported by the ancient liturgies, and hence thought themselves obliged to contend for their genuineness, and the integrity of their text. Others proved that they contained many things more recent than the time of their reputed authors, remarked with triumph the variations of different manuscripts, and concluded that they were perfectly uncertain, if not altogether spurious. From these causes an opinion prevails amongst a large portion of the learned world, that the ancient liturgies are of little or no value. The following pages are intended to shew, that there are some means of ascertaining the substance and order of Christian liturgies during the primitive ages; and to facilitate the study of those venerable monuments, by directing the reader's attention to such remains, and in such a channel, as seem best calculated to merit his notice, and reward his labours.
It seems to have been often assumed by the learned, that there was originally some one apostolic form of liturgy in the Christian church, to which all the monuments of ancient liturgies, and the notices which the Fathers supply, might be reduced. Were this hypothesis supported by facts, it would be very valuable. But the truth is, there are
several different forms of liturgy now in existence, which, as far as we can perceive, have been different from each other from the most remote period. And with regard to the apparent propriety of the Apostles' instituting one liturgy throughout the world, it may be observed, that it is quite sufficient to suppose all liturgies originally agreed, in containing every thing that was necessary for the due celebration of the eucharist; but that they adopted exactly the same order, or received every where the same rites, is a supposition equally unnecessary and groundless.
I have not therefore attempted to reduce all the liturgies, and notices of the Fathers, to one common original; but have rather sought for the original liturgies by a reference to acknowledged facts. The following is the course which I have pursued, in endeavouring to ascertain the nature of the primitive liturgies. Considering that the primitive church was divided into great portions, known by the appellations of Patriarchates, Exarchates“, or
à As I shall frequently have the diocese or rapoukia of each. occasion to make use of these See Bingham's Antiquities, &c. terms in the following work, I book ii. c. 16. The bishop of will now briefly explain them the metropolis of a civil dioto the reader. The primitive cese, which comprised several church was ruled by bishops, provinces, was called archbimetropolitans, and patriarchs. shop, or exarch, and afterwards The bishop of the chief city in patriarch ; and had much the each province was entitled me- same sort of jurisdiction over tropolitan or primate, and af- all the metropolitans of that terwards archbishop, and had diocese, as each of them had a certain jurisdiction over the over the bishops of his own bishops of that province. He province. See Bingham, c. 17. ordained them — received ap- The office of metropolitan is peals from them in ecclesiasti- probably as ancient as the apocal affairs-presided in provin- stolic age ; that of patriarch is cial synods of bishops-visited likewise very ancient, though