Book Of Common Prayer, the formulary of public worship of churches of the Anglican communion. The early British church appears to have adopted, many years previous to the departure of the Romans from Britain, a liturgy almost identical with that of the Gallican churches, and which, like the latter, was derived from the Ephesine liturgy of St. John. To this the remnant of native Christians in the west and southwest, who had escaped the fury of the Saxon invaders, clung with great tenacity, and Augustin upon his arrival in England in 596, on his mission to convert the Saxons, found it in common use wherever Christian worship was tolerated. Being desirous of establishing the Roman ritual, to which the British bishops strongly objected, he applied for instructions to Pope Gregory the Great, who authorized him to choose either the Gallican or the Roman services, or selections from various forms, as he might find most suitable. The result was a species of amalgamation of liturgies. Different dioceses or districts adopted different modifications of the forms of public worship, in all of which, however, the influence of the early English liturgy was more or less perceptible.
After the Norman conquest a vigorous effort was made to secure uniformity in the performance of divine service, and about 1085 Osmond, bishop of Salisbury, compiled the "Sarum Use," or prayer book of the diocese of Salisbury, which eventually became the principal devotional rule of the Anglican church for nearly four centuries and a half. Other local uses, however, prevailed, such as those of Bangor, Hereford, York, and Lincoln; and the Roman system was recognized in most of the monasteries. The service books of the several English uses were in the Latin language; but long before the period of the reformation books of private devotion in the vernacular, called "Prymers," had been introduced, of which three, containing the Lord's prayer, the creed, the ten commandments, and other offices of worship, were put forth between 1535 and 1545. Early in the reign of Henry VIII. amended editions of the Salisbury breviary and missal appeared, and subsequent to 1538 many editions of the Epistles and Gospels in English were published. In 1544 the litany was translated, with the omission of the names of saints which had accumulated in the Latin litanies. These publications were but the preliminary steps toward the introduction of a reformed prayer book.
In 1542 a committee of convocation was appointed, with the sanction of Henry VIII., to consider what revision should be made in the existing service books. The committee sat for several years, and during the life of Henry were compelled to act with extreme caution, as the " statute of six articles," passed through his personal influence, made their labors penal. After his death in 1547 their number was enlarged, and, the obnoxious statute having been repealed, they produced at the close of the year "a form of a certain ordinance for the receiving of the body of our Lord in both kinds, viz., of bread and wine," which was ratified by parliament in March, 1548, and was authorized to be used until the whole of the projected service book should be prepared. In the following December they laid before parliament a reformed book of common prayer, which, together with an "act for uniformity of service," was adopted by that body in January, 1549, and came into general use on Whitsunday, June 9. This book, known as the first service book of Edward VI., was the result of six years of diligent labor on the part of the revisers, who endeavored to reduce the different uses prevalent in England to one, the reformed Salisbury use of 1516 and 1541 forming their basis, and to make their work simple and intelligible.
They translated into English from the existing service books the prayers, psalms, hymns, epistles, and gospels, omitting what appeared to them to have been derived from other sources than Scripture or primitive practice, and expunging, especially from the communion service, the prayers of invocation to the Virgin Mary and the saints. Where new elements of thought are visible, the sources which supplied them were the reformed breviary of Cardinal Quignones, recommended by Pope Paul III., and especially the "Consultation" of Hermann, archbishop of Cologne, compiled in 1543 with the aid of Bucer and Melanchthon. To the latter formulary the baptismal office was largely indebted, and through it to one of Luther's compilations, made as early as 1523. The new book comprised the order for matins and even song, corresponding with morning prayer and evening prayer in the modernized prayer book, and which were a condensation of the "seven hours of prayer" in the breviary; the introits, collects, epistles, and gospels used at the celebration of the holy communion; the office of the communion; the litany; the rite of baptism; confirmation, which included the catechism; matrimony; the visitation and communion of the sick; the burial of the dead; the purification of women; and a form of service for Ash Wednesday. The psalms appointed to be sung at matins and even song were taken from the " Great English Bible" of Cranmer, and this version is used in the "Book of Common Prayer" to the present day in preference to that contained in the authorized version of the Scriptures. This service book did not require absolute uniformity in outward observances, but allowed the practice in minor details of public worship to be guided by individual tastes and preferences.
But a statute passed both houses of parliament in January, 1549, enjoining under the severest penalties that after the feast of Pentecost following, all ministers of the church within the realm of England should be bound to use the form of the said book and no other. In 1550 a "Form for the Ordering of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons" was drawn up, which was subsequently incorporated with the prayer book. - Scarcely had the new book come into use when it encountered opposition from the more radical school of reformers, headed by Hooper, bishop of Gloucester, and several continental Protestants, of whom the most eminent were Peter Martyr, Martin Bucer, and John a Lasco, who had come to England after the accession of Edward VI., and made their way to important posts. Calvin also urged upon the protector Somerset the necessity of pushing the reformation in England further than it had gone. The court yielded to these influences, and the young king declared himself in favor of a more thorough revision of the prayer hook.
Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, one of the framers of the first book, was induced to give his consent to the undertaking, and another committee of divines, who are conjectured to have been the same who prepared the ordinal of 1550, undertook the preparation of a second prayer book, which was duly ratified by parliament, and came into use on All Saints' day, 1552. This is substantially the "Book of Common Prayer" in use at the present day. The difference between this book and that of 1549 consists chiefly in the following particulars: To the offices of matins and even song, which began with the Lord's prayer, were prefixed the sentences, exhortations, confession, and absolution. In the communion service the ten commandments were added, the title of the prayer "for the whole state of Christ's church " was changed to that of a prayer "for the whole state of Christ's church militant here on earth," and the commendation of the departed to divine mercy was omitted. In the prayer of consecration the invocation of the Holy Spirit to sanctify the elements was omitted, and in the administration of the elements a different form of words was used.
In the office of baptism the practices of exorcism, anointing, putting on the chrisome, and trine immersion, prescribed in the first book, were abolished in the second. In the burial service the prayers for the dead were changed into thanksgiving, and the service for Ash Wednesday was entitled "A Commination against Sinners." Certain changes were also made in the vestments of the clergy. A few months after this book came into use Edward VI. died, and the first parliament of his successor, Mary, by an act passed in October, 1553, restored the services to the condition in which they were in the last year of Henry VIII. In November, 1558, Elizabeth succeeded to the throne; and early in April, 1559, the second, book of Edward VI. was restored to use, with certain slight modifications, prominent among which was the omission of the litany clause, "from the tyranny of the bishop of Rome, and all his detestable enormities." The "ornaments " of the church and the ministers which had been in use under the first book of Edward VI., but had been curtailed by the second, were also restored.
The prayer book thus modified, of which a Latin version was also published, was at length acquiesced in by the great body of the English people, and, according to Sir Edward Coke, was even approved by Pope Pius IV., who offered to give it his full sanction " so as her majesty would acknowledge to receive it from the pope, and by his allowance." This statement of Coke's, however, is not accepted as authentic by Catholic authorities. With the exception of a revision of the calendar, no further changes were made in the prayer book until the accession of James I. in 1603. The Puritan or nonconformist party had meanwhile gathered strength, and soon after the arrival of the new sovereign in London they presented to him a petition in favor of a further revision and purification of the liturgy. The result was the so-called Hampton Court conference, participated in by eminent clergy of the established church and of the nonconformist bodies, and which met on Jan. 14, 1604, in presence of the king and the privy council.
The king considered the demands of the Puritans untenable, and broke up the conference on the third day; but under the clause of the act of uniformity by which Elizabeth had authorized a revision of the calendar, he directed a few changes to be made in the prayer book, of which the most important seem to have been the questions and answers concerning the sacraments subjoined to the catechism, and the restriction of the administration of baptism to regularly ordained ministers. With the triumph of parliament in the reign of Charles I. the opponents of the prayer book succeeded in 1645 in getting it entirely suppressed, and for fifteen years it passed almost out of sight. The restoration of the royal family brought it again into favor, and subsequent to July, 1660, as Evelyn records, it was publicly used in the churches. In March, 1661, Charles II. summoned a number of divines, representing equally the established church and the nonconformists, to meet in London and review the "liturgy of the church of England, contained in the Book of Common Prayer, and by law established." This assembly, called from its place of meeting the "Savoy conference," was the last official attempt to reconcile the differences of opinion between the advocates and the opponents of the prayer book.
Its sessions extended from April 15 to July 24, 1661, and were barren of any practical result. A strong reaction had taken place in favor of the church party, and the nonconformists, though represented by such men as Baxter and Calamy, were not sufficiently united in their plan of opposition to accomplish their object. Baxter even drew up a substitute for the prayer book, which failed to meet the approval of his friends. The work of revision was then committed to the convocations of the provinces of Canterbury and York, by which a number of slight changes were made, which seem to have been in the opposite direction from that desired by the nonconformists. A service was also provided for the baptism of those of riper years, and a form of prayer to be used at sea. The prayer book thus revised, together with an act for uniformity of public worship, was approved by parliament in 1662, and went into immediate use.
A further attempt in the reign of William III. to revise it proved unsuccessful, and the prayer book of 1662 remained unaltered till 1872, when a new lectionary or course of lessons from the Scriptures was introduced, which is made optional till 1879. In the new lection-ary many chapters from the Apocrypha are omitted. Previous to 1859 it was customary to include in modern editions of the Book of Common Prayer four services for special days of the year, known as "state services," which, however, properly formed no part of the book. Three of these services, being forms of prayer for the 5th of November, in commemoration of the discovery of the gunpowder plot of 1605; the 30th of January, the anniversary of the execution of Charles I.; and the 29th of May, the birthday of Charles II. and the anniversary of the restoration of the royal family, were in the year above mentioned abolished by act of parliament. The fourth, a form of prayer for the accession of the reigning sovereign, has been retained. - For many years after the reformation no attempt was made to introduce a uniform system of worship in Scotland, although Knox's "Book of Common Order " was very generally used.
In deference to the wishes of James I. the general assembly in 1616 decided in favor of a uniform order of liturgy; but nothing was done in the matter till after the accession of Charles I., who was very desirous of having the English prayer book adopted by the church of Scotland. The Scottish bishops, however, preferred to frame a liturgy of their own, and eventually an episcopal committee was appointed to carry this design into execution. The committee after several years' labor, in which they were aided by suggestions from Archbishop Laud, completed their prayer book in 1636, and in 1637 it was imposed upon the church of Scotland by letters patent and the authority of the bishops, without having been submitted to the general assembly. It was modelled after the English prayer book of the time, with a number of slight variations; but the communion office rather followed the form in the first book of Edward VI. The book encountered vehement opposition, and was almost immediately suppressed. From that time until the close of the 18th century the Scottish Episcopal church and its liturgy remained in comparative obscurity, being for many years under the operation of penal laws.
The prayer book was several times revised, notably in 1765, and is now in most respects identical with that of the church of England. The communion office, however, retains many features peculiar to the first book of Edward VI.; and certain ancient usages, such as the sign of the cross at confirmation, the mixture of water with wine at the eucharist, and the dismissal previous to the consecration of the elements of those' not intending to communicate, are still enjoined by rubric. - Until the disestablishment of the Irish Episcopal church on Jan. 1, 1871, its prayer book was identical with that of the church of England, except that it contained a few additional services, such as a form for the visitation of prisoners, a form of consecration or dedication of churches and chapels, and a prayer for the lord lieutenant. One of the declarations prefixed to the constitution of the disestablished church enjoins the use of the Book of Common Prayer, "subject to such alterations only as may be made therein from time to time by the lawful authority of the church." In the first synod, which met in April, 1871, a number of attempts to alter the liturgy and formularies failed of success, and the subject of revision was referred to the bishops and to a mixed committee of clergy and laymen, who were directed to report in the succeeding year.
The synod of 1872 declared the word priest to be synonymous with presbyter, and authorized the shortening of the services on week days and the dividing of them. It also approved of a recommendation for the omission of the rubric on ornaments. Propositions to remove the damnatory clauses from the Athanasian creed, and to allow deacons to pronounce absolution, were defeated, which was declared to be equivalent to a withdrawal of those subjects from further consideration by the synod. The committee was then reappointed and directed to report in 1873. - Previous to the American war of independence members of the church of England in the British North American colonies were under the episcopal supervision of the bishop of London, and used the English Book of Common Prayer. Immediately upon the acknowledgment by Great Britain of the political independence of the United States, measures were taken to establish an American Episcopal church, and to compile a service book for its use. The initiatory step was taken by Connecticut, where in March, 1783, a convention of Episcopal clergy recommended Dr. Samuel Seabury to the English bishops for consecration to the episcopate.
Owing to certain technical legal difficulties, this could not at once be effected, and Dr. Seabury went by advice to Scotland, where on Nov. 14, 1784, he was consecrated at Aberdeen by the bishops of the Scottish. Episcopal church. Meanwhile a convention, participated in by Episcopalians from various states, had met in New York in October, 1784, and adopted a series of articles, one of which provided "That the said (American) church shall maintain the doctrines of the gospel as now held by the church of England; and shall adhere to the liturgy of the said church, as far as shall be consistent with the American revolution, and the constitutions of the respective states." Pursuant to the recommendations of this body, another convention assembled in Philadelphia in September, 1785, which put forth a volume known as "the proposed book," embodying many important variations from the English Book of Common Prayer. These were of two kinds, political and doctrinal. Under the former head all passages referring to the royal family and government of Great Britain were either entirely omitted or adapted to the new political relations of the country, and the so-called "state services" of the English prayer book were stricken out.
The chief changes under the second head were the rejection of the Nicene and Athanasian creeds, and the omission of the words "He descended into Hell" from the apostles' creed. The convention of 1785 also recommended to the English church for consecration as bishops Dr. William White of Philadelphia and Dr. Samuel Provoost of New York. But before this act was consummated a copy of the "proposed book" reached England, and elicited from the archbishops of Canterbury and York an expression of disapprobation, not only at various verbal alterations that seemed uncalled for, but at the radical changes made in the three ancient confessions of faith which had always been accepted by the church of England. Whether or not in consequence of this remonstrance, the American Episcopal convention which met at Wilmington, Del., in October, 1786, restored to the prayer book the Nicene creed, allowing it to be used as an alternative instead of the apostles' creed both in the communion and daily offices. The clause "He descended into Hell" was also restored to the apostles' creed, with the rubrical provision that "any churches may omit the words, ' He descended into Hell,' or may instead of them use the words, ' He went into the place of departed spirits,' which are considered as words of the same meaning in the creed." No change, however, was made in the resolution of the convention to discontinue the use of the Athanasian creed in divine service.
These concessions having removed the scruples of the English prelates, Drs. White and Provoost were consecrated bishops of Pennsylvania and New York in February, 1787. The general convention which met at Philadelphia in September, 1789, undertook the final revision of the liturgy. A house of bishops was now for the first time organized as a distinct branch of the convention; and although but two of the three members composing it, Bishops Seabury and White, were present, the influence which they exerted prevented any such radical alteration of the prayer book as was desired by a strong party in the house of clerical and lay deputies. The bishops were determined to hold the English prayer book as the basis of their work, and to avoid as far as they could all unnecessary changes; and to their tenacity of purpose and ready cooperation is due the fact that in all their main features the liturgies of the Anglican church in the United States and the mother country are identical. Apart from the changes above noticed, the chief differences between the English and the American Book of Common Prayer, as the latter was settled by this and subsequent conventions, are the following: Many changes of words and phrases have been made with a view to the removal of what was obsolete, or in order to attain greater correctness of expression.
In morning prayer and evening prayer the Lord's prayer is directed to be said but once; in both offices the versicles and responses have been abridged; and from evening prayer the Magnificat or song of the Virgin and the Nunc dimittis have been excluded. The lectionary, or lessons from the Bible, has been in part remodelled, the portions from the Apocrypha being omitted. A "Selection from the Psalms," instead of the portion of the Psalms appointed for the day, is allowed to be used at the discretion of the minister. The Gloria in excelsis, found only in the communion service in the English book, is allowed in morning and evening prayer as an alternative with the Gloria Patri; and the form of absolution peculiar to the communion service is similarly introduced into morning and evening prayer. The communion service, owing to the influence of Bishop Seabury, was borrowed from the Scottish office, although the order of the English office is generally retained; the distinguishing feature consisting in the incorporation into the prayer of consecration in the American book of the oblation and invocation according to the new Scottish office as revised in 1765. In the baptismal office the minister is permitted to dispense with the sign of the cross after sprinkling the candidate.
In the office for the visitation of the sick the rubric directing the minister to advise sick persons to confess their sins, and also the form of absolution, are stricken out. The marriage service is considerably abridged, and the commination service for Ash Wednesday is omitted. From the calendar all names of saints not commemorative of persons and facts of Scripture history have been excluded; and services for the visitation of prisoners, for the consecration of a church or chapel, and for the institution of ministers have been added. Finally, to show their desire to adhere substantially to the English liturgy, the American revisers state in the preface to their Book of Common Prayer that "this (American) church is far from intending to depart from the church of England in any essential point of doctrine, discipline, or worship; or further than local circumstances require." It is customary to include in the English and the American Book of Common Prayer the " Articles of Religion " adopted by the churches of the Anglican communion; also metrical versions of the Psalms and a collection of hymns to be used in divine service.
These, however, are not properly a portion of the book, the standard edition of which ends with "The Psalter or Psalms of David." The American prayer book came into general use on Oct. 1, 1790, and in its essential features has remained unchanged to the present day.