Of Ceremonies, 1559

bcip The 1559 Prayer Book was the most distinctly  Protestant (pro-Calvinist) of prayer books. That being  said, it never fell into the innovation of  Anabaptism/  RPW.  Following Queen Elizabeth  I’s reinstitution of  Common  Prayer,  future book revisions (e.g., 1662)  varied  little. The section “Of  Ceremonies” gives the  rationale for reintroducing Edward’s discipline.  These  same reasons are not unlike the “four precepts”  elaborated by Hooker. “Of  ceremonies” articulates how polity and NPW work together to produce a uniform standard or Canon– hardly worship anarchy (the charge of Regulativists). Though the 1559 Prayer book admits many ‘indifferent rites’ and a ‘freedom of spirit’ in church ceremony, there are indeed “over-arching principles” that qualify and restrain private freedoms, aka., “newfangledness” or “misguided zeal” of rectors, congregants, and even bishops. Below is a summary, “Of Ceremonies”. Notice the echo with Hooker who likely rephrased what Parker elucidates here in the 1559 book:

  1. Good Order: “And forbecause they were winked at in the beginning, they grew daily to more and more abuses, which not only for their unprofitableness but also because athey have much blinded the people and obscured the glory of God are worthy to be cut away and clean rejected. Other there be which although they have been devised by man, yet it is thought good to reserve them still, as well for a decent order in the Church, for the which they were first devised, as because the pertain to edification, whereunto all things done in the Church, as the Apostle teacheth, ought to be referred. And although the keeping or omitting of a ceremony in itself considered is but a small thing, yet the willful and contemptuous transgression and breaking of common order and discipline is no small offense before God”
  2. Canonical “The appointment of the which order pertaineth not to private men, therefore no man ought to take in hand nor presume to appoint or alter any public or common order in Christ’s Church, except he be lawfully called and authorized thereunto”
  3. Edification “…use such ceremonies as they shall think best to the setting forth of God’s honor and glory and to the reducing of the people to a most perfect and goldy living”
  4. Antiquity “..surely where the old may be well used there they cannot reasonably reprove the old only for their age without betraying their own folly. For in such a case they ought rather to have reverence unto them for their antiquity, if they will declare themselves to be moe studious of unity and concord than of innovations and newfangleness, which, as much as may be with the true setting forth of Christ’s religion, is always to be eschewed.”
  5. Economy: “For as those be taken away which were most abused and did burden men’s consciences without any cause, so the other that remain are retained for a discipline and order…are not to be esteemed equal with God’s law…And that they put away other things which from time to time they perceive to be most abused, as in men’s oridnances it often chanceth diversly in diverse countries”.

As said before, RPW seems to create more problems than answers. Especially when the Regulativist party is properly expanded to include Reformed Baptist, we see RPW indeed has a wide range of private opinion, even denying the power of the sacraments themselves. Furthermore, RPW wrongly applies the ‘precisionism’ of the instruments of the temple to all public worship. This is equivalent to reasserting the ceremonial law of Moses over external form where we can have no confidence that our burnt offerings “of a contrite heart’ will be accepted. Though the Church may have “over-arching principles” (which evenly applied provide for good order and true piety), unlike the OT we have no explicit command for various elements of congregational prayer. Much is deduced but deductions are varied resulting in wide opinion.  Nor can we default to ‘circumstance’ where silence may otherwise require cessation since many “circumstances”  indeed have liturgical significance.

Or do we have liberty?

Normativists would say “though the sacraments give no liberty (we cannot change the elements of bread and wine no more than we can change the marks of the church– such has been instituted by Christ), we do have liberty in rites which where no explicit command exists. The 1559 BCP says the same regarding this liberty and its purpose:

“And besides this, Christ’s gospel is not a ceremonial law, as much as Moses’ law was, but it is a religion to serve God, not in bondage of the figure or shadow, but in freedom and of spirit, being content only with those ceremonies which do serve to a decent order and godly discipline, and such as be apt to stir up the dull mind of man to the rememberance of his duty to God by some notable and special signification whereby he might be edified”

Worship is not private. Not even for various parties in the church. Good order is the love of brother and father. The Preface to the 1559 BCP gives procedural guidelines for grievances or disagreements. We see fexibility but within the framework of a “lawful call” and “due authority”:

“for the resolution of all doubts concerning the manner how to understand, do, and execute things contained in this book, the parties that so doubt, or diversely take anything shall always resort to the bishop of the diocese, who by his discretion shall take order for the quieting and appeasing of the same so that the same order be not contrary to anything contianed in this book. And if the bishop of the diocese be in any doubt, then may he send for the resolution thereof unto the archbishop.”

The accompanying Act of Uniformity 1559 says regarding appellations,

“…until other order shall be therein taken by the authority of the Queen’s Majesty, with the advice of her comissioners appointed and authorized under the great seal of England for causes ecclesiastical or of the metropolitan of this realm… the Queen’s Majesty may, by the like advice of the said commissioners or metropolitan, ordain and publish a such farther ceremonies or rites as may be most for the advancement of God’s glory, the edifying of His church, and the due reverence of Christ’s holy mysteries and sacraments”

As with Hooker, where/when discord occurs there is a forum and process to be mindful of.

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