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AN HISTORICAL ACCOUNT

OF THE

AMERICAN BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER.

HE Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England, as revised in 1661, was the liturgy in use in this country at the time of the Revolution. Immediately after the Declaration of Independence in 1776, it was altered by Rectors and vestries here and there, and in Virginia by the State Convention, in order to adapt it to the changed political conditions.1

Maryland Conventions, 1783.

But the first concerted action, looking towards an authoritative revision of the Prayer Book, was taken in a meeting of clergymen at Washington College, Chestertown, Maryland, on the 13th of May, 1783. As the Church in this State was still established by law, a memorial and petition to the General Assembly was drawn up praying "that the said clergy might have leave to consult, prepare, and draft a bill," enabling them "to make such alterations in the liturgy and service as might adapt the same to the revolution, and for other purposes of uniformity, concord, and subordination to the State." The memorial was signed by William Smith and Thomas Gates as a Committee. The petition having been granted, another meeting of the clergy was held at Annapolis, August 13th, 1783, at which there was drawn up A Declaration of Certain Fundamental Rights and Liberties of the Protestant Episcopal Church of Maryland, &c. In this document it was declared, "That as it is the right, so it will be the duty, of the said Church, when duly organized, constituted, and represented in a Synod or Convention of the different orders of her Ministry and people, to revise her liturgy, forms

1 For an account of these alterations, vide Hoffman's Law of the Church, p. 31, and Perry's Hist. Notes and Doc., p. 100, et seq., also his History of the Amer. Epis. Church, II, p. 115.

2 Notices and Journals, &c. of the P. E. Church in the Diocese of Maryland, App. to Journal of 1855. See also Conventions in Maryland, 1780-1783, printed with Journal of 1878.

3 For the history of the use of the title "Protestant Episcopal," vide an article by the Rev. Dr Fred. Gibson in the Amer. Ch. Review, Jan., 1885, p. 5. See also Perry's Hist. of the Amer. Epis. Ch., II, p. 21, and the Report of a Committee of the House of Bishops in the Convention of 1883 (Journal, p. 334).

of prayer, and public worship, in order to adapt the same to the late revolution, and other local circumstances of America; which it is humbly conceived, may and will be done without any other or farther departure from the venerable order and beautiful forms of worship of the Church from whence we sprung, than may be found expedient in the change of our situation from a daughter to a sister church."1

Pennsylvania Convention, 1784.

After the meeting at Annapolis, we next have a Convention of the Church in Pennsylvania, which met at Christ Church, Philadelphia, May 24-25, 1784. There were present five clergymen and twenty-two laymen. "This was the first ecclesiastical assembly in any of the States consisting partly of lay members." Among the fundamental principles proposed as instructions by this Convention to a Committee "Empowered to correspond and confer with representatives from the Episcopal Church in other States or any of them, and to assist in forming an Ecclesiastical Government," the following is the third article: "That the doctrines of the Gospel be maintained as now professed by the Church of England; and uniformity of worship continued, as near as may be, to the liturgy of the said Church."

Convention at Boston, 1784.

A meeting of the clergy of Massachusetts, and Rhode Island was held in Boston, September 8th, 1784, when there were adopted the six fundamental principles set forth by the Pennsylvania Convention. A slight addition was made to two of the articles, but the third touching the doctrine and worship of the Church was accepted word for word as above. A copy of these resolutions was sent to the clergy of Connecticut, New York and Pennsylvania, together with a letter urging the necessity of "adopting some speedy measures to procure an American Episcopate." "We are extremely anxious for the preservation of our Communion and the continuance of an uniformity of doctrine and worship, but we see not how this can be maintained without a common head." That such was also the view of the Connecticut clergy, will appear from the following extract, probably written about this time by the Rev. Mr. Jarvis in their name: "The clergy in Connecticut consider the Church in which they officiate as collected and formed upon the principles on which the Church was at first founded by her great Head. Therefore what they have to deliberate upon and endeavour to carry into effect, in the first place is, that she be settled in the full enjoyment of the spiritual powers and officers essential to her: viz., a Bishop, from whom alone all the other officers in the Ministry derive their commission. And when this is accomplished, and our Church thus completed in her members, then, 2. The clergy of this State will consider it as their duty, as that is ascertained by Scripture and primitive example, to revise the Liturgy and render as perfect, as they may

1 Hist. Notes and Doc., p. 22.

2

So says Bp. White, Memoirs of the Church, 3d. ed., p. 94. But it has since been discovered that a Convention was held in Maryland, Nov. 9th, 1780, at which representatives of the laity were present along with the clergy. It was at this Convention that the title "Protestant Episcopal" was first adopted as the official designation of the Church.

3

Journal of the meetings which led to the institution of a Convention of the P. E. Church in the State of Pennsylvania. Reprint of the Journals of Mass.

4

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be able, whatever shall be found needful for a pure and Scriptural worship for all Christians of her communion."

Convention at New York, 1784.

In accordance with the arrangement made at a meeting held at New Brunswick, New Jersey, May 11th, there assembled in New York, October 6-7, 1784, a Convention of fifteen clergymen and eleven laymen, from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland. The Rev. Mr. Griffith from Virginia was present by permission but not as a delegate, as the Church in that State was not yet free from civil control. Connecticut, consistently with the principles it had thus far acted upon, sent no lay representative. The clergy there "thought themselves fully adequate to the business of representing the Episcopal Church in their State," and "the laity did not expect or wish to be called in as delegates on such an occasion; but would, with full confidence, trust matters purely ecclesiastical to their clergy.'

112

Among the fundamental principles adopted with a view to the future unification of the Church, and proposed to the Church in all the States, the following is the fourth article: "That the said 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 Constitution of the

113

respective States." The declaration of this principle, writes Mr. Parker, is "disgusting to many of our Communion who neither like the doctrines held by the Church of England nor the liturgy as it now stands."4 At this Convention, formal action was taken towards uniting the Church under one legislative body, by inviting the Episcopal Church in each State to send deputies to a General Convention, consisting of clergymen and laity, to be held in Philadelphia the "Tuesday before the feast of Saint Michael and All Angels," 1785.

Concordat of Bishop Seabury with the Scotch Bishops.

At a meeting of ten clergymen in Woodbury, Connecticut, March 25th, 1783, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Seabury had been chosen to go to England to ask for consecration to the Episcopate. Compliance with his request not having been granted by the English Bishops, he proceeded to Scotland, and on the 14th day of November (the xxii Sunday after Trinity) 1784, was consecrated Bishop at Aberdeen by three of the Scotch Bishops. On the following day a Concordat was drawn up between them, of which the following is the fifth article: "As the celebration of the holy Eucharist, or the Administration of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, is the principal Bond of Union among Christians, as well as the most Solemn Act of Worship in the Christian Church, the Bishops aforesaid agree in desiring that there may be as little Variance here as possible. And tho' the Scottish Bishops are very far from prescribing to their Brethren in this matter, they cannot help ardently wishing that Bishop Seabury would endeavour all he can consistently with peace and prudence, to make the Celebration of this vener

1 The Evergreen, Vol. III, p. 173, New Haven, 1846.

P. 12.

2 Letter of the Rev. Abraham Beach to Dr. White, Hist. Notes and Doc., 3 Hist. Notes and Doc., p. 4. Letter to Dr. White, Hist. Notes and Doc., p. 91.

able Mystery conformable to the most primitive Doctrine and practice in that respect: Which is the pattern the Church of Scotland has copied after in her Communion Office, and which it has been the wish of some of the most Eminent Divines of the Church of England, that she also had more closely followed, than she seems to have done since she gave up her first reformed Liturgy used in the Reign of Edward VI., between which and the form used in the Church of Scotland there is no Difference in any point, which the primitive Church reckoned essential to the right Ministration of the holy Eucharist. In this capital Article therefore of the Eucharistic Service, in which the Scottish Bishops so earnestly wish for as much Unity as possible, Bishop Seabury also agreed to take a serious View of the Communion Office recommended by them, and if found agreeable to the Genuine Standards of Antiquity, to give his Sanction to it, and by Gentle Methods of Argument and persuasion, to endeavour, as they have done, to introduce it by degrees into practice without the Compulsion of Authority on the one side, or the prejudice of former custom on the other side."1

Virginia Convention, 1785.

The Church in Virginia having been set free from civil control, a Convention of thirty-six clergymen and upwards of seventy laymen, gathered at Richmond, May 18-23, 1785. It was decided to send deputies to the General Convention, and a letter of instruction "concerning doctrine and worship" was framed for their guidance. In this letter the deputies were told that "from the Holy Scriptures rather than the comments of men, must we learn the terms of salvation. Creeds therefore ought to be simple: And we are not anxious to retain any other than that which is commonly called the Apostles' Creed. Should a change in the Liturgy be proposed, let it be made with caution: And in that case let the alterations be few, and the style of prayer continue as agreeable as may be to the essential characteristics of our persuasion. We will not now decide what ceremonies ought to be retained. We wish, however, that those which exist may be estimated according to their utility; and that such as may appear fit to be laid aside, may no longer be appendages of our Church."? A resolution was also passed directing "that until farther order of the Convention, the liturgy of the Church of England be used in the several churches throughout this Commonwealth with such alterations as the American revolution has rendered necessary."

Convocation at Middletown, 1785.

On the 2d day of August, 1785, the clergy of Connecticut met at Middletown to receive Bishop Seabury but shortly returned from Scotland. Eleven clergymen were present together with the Rev. Mr. Moore of New York, and the Rev. Mr. Parker of Boston. A Convocation was afterwards held on August 4th and 5th, at which a Committee was appointed to act with the Bishop in making "some alterations in the liturgy needful for the present use of the Church." Having the honour," writes Mr. Parker to Bishop Seabury some time

1 Hawks & Perry, Church Documents of Connecticut, Vol. II. "Hawks' Contributions, Vol. I, Journals, p. 6.

3 Ibid.

The Evergreen, New Haven, 1846, Vol. III, p. 152.

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1

afterward, "of being named in that Committee, in conjunction with the
Rev'd Messrs. Jarvis and Bowdoin, you will recollect, sir, that we
spent Friday and Saturday in that week upon this subject, and that
most, if not all the proposed alterations were such as we were under
obligation to you for, or such as you readily agreed to." The changes
in the State prayers were set forth at once in an Injunction dated
August 12th, 1785, but the other alterations were reserved to be
reported at a meeting to be held at New Haven in September. A copy
of them was transmitted "to the Rev'd Dr. Smith of Maryland, to be
communicated to the Convention to be held at Philadelphia, in the
month of October."

Convention at Boston, 1785.

115

They were also laid before a Convention of four clergymen and ten lay deputies from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire, which assembled at Boston, September 7th and 8th of the same year. The substitutes for the State prayers were received and adopted by this Convention with the change of a single word, viz., the word "State," in place of which the word "Commonwealth' was used. The other proposed alterations, with two exceptions, were also agreed to and proposed to the churches in the States represented. "You will see upon perusal of them," says the Rev. Mr. Parker writing to Bishop Seabury, "that those proposed at Middletown are mostly adopted, and some few others proposed. The only material ones we have not agreed to are the omitting of the second Lesson in the Morning Service and the Gospel and Exhortations in the Baptismal Office. The additional alterations in some of the offices are such as were mentioned at Middletown, but which we had not time to enter upon them." The text of the alterations drawn up at Middletown, other than those set forth in Bishop Seabury's Injunction, is unfortunately lost. But that they did not differ in their general character from those proposed at Boston would seem to be clear from a letter of the Rev. Mr. Parker to Bishop Seabury, in which he assumes the substantial identity of both sets of alterations, and expressly speaks of them as "these alterations suggested by yourself and adopted by this [i. e., the Boston] Convention." And writing to Dr. White, he says, "Certain alterations were proposed in the liturgy of the Church by the Bishop of Connecticut and at his request lay before the Convention at Boston for their approbation, and those were made the basis of our proceedings, but when approved were not to be adopted till the other churches had approved of them also, in

1 Hist. Notes and Doc., p. 364.

2 Appendix II, 1.

3 Hist. Notes and Doc., p. 365.

4 Appendix II, 3.

5 Church Documents of Connecticut, Vol. II, p. 284.

"It is to be regretted that, while the records of the early Conventions of the Church in the other States have been preserved and are accessible in print, those of Connecticut, prior to 1790, have not yet been discovered. That they were known to the Rev. Dr. S. F. Jarvis is evident from the fact that in the Memoir of Bp. Jarvis his father, printed in the Evergreen, he quotes them, and refers to them in his Voice from Connecticut. These precious documents belonging to the diocese of Connecticut may still be among the papers of Dr. Jarvis, although a letter of enquiry written by the Editor of the present work to the Rev. S. F. Jarvis, of Brooklyn, Conn. (in whose possession they are said to be), met with no response.

7 Notes and Doc., p. 365.

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