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BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER.
Of the Ancient Liturgies, and the liturgical books in use at the time of the Reformation.
HEN Cranmer and his colleagues under
took to frame a new manual of public devotion, they wisely abstained as much as possible from original composition, and preferred to make a compilation from the timehallowed offices of the unreformed Church. Those offices stood greatly in need of revision; for every form of medieval superstition and misbelief had left its impress upon them. But to cast them altogether aside was neither expedient nor desirable; for independently of the claim which long usage had given them, they still contained much that was pure and excellent, the work of venerable Christian fathers
and apostolic men. Not the least among the
recommendations of the Book of Common Prayer is this, that a large portion of its contents is of high antiquity, and that it is thus a
B. C. P.
connecting link between the present and the past. Such being the origin of our excellent liturgy, its structure cannot be fully elucidated, without a frequent reference to the Servicebooks which it superseded. In order to render that reference more intelligible, I propose in the present chapter to give a brief account of the ancient liturgies, and to trace their history from the first ages to the time of the Reformation.
The scanty records of the primitive Church do not enable us to say for certain, that any form of public worship was instituted by the Apostles, or enjoined by them to their disciples. It is indeed expressly stated in the Book of the Acts, that the Church was no sooner established, than it was united and held together Acts ii. 42. by common acts of devotion. They continued stedfastly in the Apostles' doctrine and fellow
1 Cor. xvi.
ship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.' It may also be gathered from some passages in Acts xx. 7. the Acts, and in the Epistles of St Paul, that special meetings of the believers were held on the first day of the week, and that the Lord's supper was celebrated at the time of the com
1 Cor. xi. mon meal. This latter practice led to certain abuses in the Corinthian Church, which were censured by the Apostle. It is not probable
2 Thess. ii.
that the Apostles left the infant Churches without instructions as to the mode of conducting divine worship; they must have set before them an example, or an outline to be observed, even if they did not prescribe any definite form of words: and among the 'traditions' (πapaSóoes) which St Paul gave to his disciples, 1 Cor. xi. 2. there may have been directions, more or less 15. definite on this head. Liturgies are indeed. extant, which bear the venerable names of St James and St Mark: but as they cannot be traced back to the first age, and at no period were universally accredited as the work of apostolic men, we are not justified in assigning to them, or to any part of them, such high antiquity and authority.
Descending to the age which immediately Second succeeded the Apostles, the commencement of the second century, we find reason to believe that fixed forms of public devotion were at that time in use. Justin Martyr, in his First Apology, written about 140 A. D., has given the following description of the Communionservice, as it was celebrated in his time, and in his part of the Church, i. e. in Palestine. After describing the baptism of a catechumen, he thus proceeds:
'We offer up prayers in common for our