In the mid-1560’s, episcopal visitations tried to slow iconoclasm in the churches. The 1566 Advertisements give example, inquiring into the placement of communion tables, forbidding baptismal fonts relocation from ‘ancient usual places’, mandating kneeling at communion, and minimally wearing a surplice rather than academic gown. By King James’ reign these injunctions tightened, and a campaign to ‘dignify’ externals in worship was launched by Bishops Bancroft, Andrewes, Neile, Laud, Montagu, and Cosin. Beautification might include carpeting chancels, installing organs, purchasing table frontals, or embroidering priestly vestments. It also included bodily reverences during the liturgy, such as bowing upon the Name or toward the Altar. Therefore, an iconodulism antithetical to puritan sensibilities was present within these reforms.
In 1628 the puritan prebendary, Peter Smart, preached and then sued DD. John Cosin for allegedly transgressing ecclesiastical canons during public worship at Durham Cathedral. These consisted of several indictments (based on Smart’s sermon Vanities) — singing the Creed, the communion-table placed altar-wise, erecting a fixed table in the chancel, eastward celebration, illicit vestments, and using two altar candles (pp. xxvi, 159, CC’s John Cosin). It turned out Cosin either was conforming to 1604 canons or possessed licence from the Diocesan Bishop (Niele) for their interpretation. In some cases Smart quoted less relevant ordinances, sic., the 1566 Visitation Articles rather than the 1604 laws. Less frequently, Cosin was indeed breaching church rules. However, most indictments were exaggerated, and given Laud and Neile were largely interpreting the canons of 1604, Smart was fighting a loosing battle. Cosin’s defense, like Smart’s accusations, mainly appealed to common order, episcopal sanction, and cathedral precedent. Some of the arguments sound much like 19th century debates over the Ornament Rubric (justifying certain 1549 instruments). Anyhow, Cosin gave these reasons in 1640 against Smart’s charges before the Commons (the Lords dismissed the case):
- That the Communion-table or altar referred to had been put up in the cathedral many years before he was predendary
- that the copes belongig to the chapter were purchased before he was prebendary, but while his acuser, Mr. Smart, was prebendary, and that noen of them had the figure of the Trinity of of God the Father upon them, his own cope being white satin
- that the ‘image of Christ with a red beard and blue cap’ was a portraiture about ten inches long, thirty feet from the ground, on the top of Bishop Hatfield’s tomb, which had been erected 200 years before Cosin was born;
- that there were no more candles used on Candlemas Day than on any other day in winter, and that these were distributed throughout the whole church, only ‘two fair candles, with a few small sizes near them’, being lit on the communion-table by the vergers to give light;
- that he did not forbid the Psalms to be sung;
- that he had not had an anthem of the kings of Cologne sung, but, on the contrary, had cut one out of the choristers’ hymn books, and destroyed it as soon as he was made prebendary;
- that there was a knife in the vestry used for many things, and among others for cutting the bread, but that it was not consecrated or called consecrated by any except Mr. Smart. (p. 11-12, Religion, Rites, and Ceremony of the Church of England)
For the most part, these were purely canonical debates, as adiaphora should be. Despite sympathy against creeping catholicism in the cathedrals, even the puritan judge, Sir Yelvertone, believed Smart was generally “foul-mouthed and violent”. While Smart won the indictment in with Yelvertone, who warned Cosin he should not to ‘diminish nor add’ (#14, 1604 Canons), this was not good enough to leave alone. Smart protested the mild penalty, and his contumacy landed him in jail after refusing to pay hefty fine. In 1640 the Long Parliament sprung him free whereupon Smart (self-professed ”defender of English canons’) swore obedience to the Scottish covenant (Solemn League), proceeding to testify against his former spiritual father, Archbishop Laud.
One of Smart’s more interesting disagreements was against Cosin’s “abominable cope”. While the 1549 Prayer Book treated the cope as ‘interchangeable’ with chasuble, prior to the Reformation the cope never had sacerdotal associations. It’s origins, like the chasuble, owe to the Roman stately office, indicating rank and order in liturgical celebration. Medieval-use later identified the cope with outdoor processions while the chasuble was connected specifically to the Mass. The 1906 Ornament Rubric Report summed it well,
“It is clear that the use of a special dress for the celebration of Holy Communion does not necessarily involve the acceptance of the Roman doctrine as to the nature of the service. There is no doubt that the Eucharistic vestments were originally the dress of ordinary civil life, and that for four or five centuries the civil and ministerial dress of the clergy was identical, save that at the time of their ministrations, they would have put on a dress that was clean and white. Not till the seventh century have we any certain indications that the chasuble was regarded as a distinctly liturgical garment. From this date onwards, however, a mystical meaning seem to have been attached to it and to other articles of ministerial attire, and the use of colored vestments may be traced. Thus, the eucharistic vestments were adopted some centuries before AD 1215, when the doctrine of transubstantiation was defined. Both before and after the definition of that doctrine the chasuble was associated with the conception of an Eucharistic sacrifice. It is not open to question that the Eucharistic vestments were retained by the Church of England after the repudiation of the Roman doctrine and the substitution of the Prayer Book for the Roman service.” (Chapter IV, Report)
Compared to the second, the third prayer book (1559) assumed a conservative line w/ vestments. Yet the injunctions passed in the same year explicate only non-sacrificial garments, i.e., surplice, hood, and cope for eucharist celebration. Cosin generally continued Elizabeth’s ordinance of surplice and cope but allegedly provoked Puritans by embroidering images and colors to copes. However, this was not unprecedented since Elizabeth and James both gave bishops similar embellished vestments as gifts. Furthermore, Canon 58 (1604) says, “And if any question arise touching the matter, decency, or comeliness thereof, the same shall be decided by the discretion of the Ordinary”. Smart describes Cosin’s use of the cope,
“which copes you use every Sunday and Holy day to say prayers in them at the communion-table, contrary to the express words of the canons…which command only surplices, and not copes, to be used, save only at the administration of Holy Communion…making easily seduced girls believe, that the service, and prayers said at the altar in the east, and in copes, are more holy and effectual then those that are said at the communion-table, or desk in the body of the church” (178, 183, Religion, Rites, and Ceremony of the Church of England)
What’s interesting about Smart’s remarks is that the cope isn’t necessarily the problem but its misuse. In Smart’s eyes, an apparel with otherwise no sacerdotal significance suddenly becomes a “chasuble”, caused by its relation to other ornaments in used in the liturgy. We might wonder if all bibles be removed if it is illicitly incensed? Or, if a chalice is baptized, should the ancient font then be demolished? Even surplices suffered similar scruples by Puritans. England had a range of opinion on the extent images ought to be suppressed. Thus, it was perceived context, not the utensil or image itself that created illegality.
Often quoted by the iconoclasts was Jewel’s Homily on the Peril of Idolatry. While not a RPW treatise (though, some take it as such), the homily warns images in churches are likely dangerous, but Jewel never goes to far to make them necessarily so. As Canon 30 says, “The abuse of a thing does not take away its lawful use”. More optimistic Anglicans believed an idolatrous practice might return to ‘right use’. This was John Overall’s 1605 argument against Anthony Wotton’s non-conformity. What was at stake in most cases was not a biblical warrant so much as pastoral wisdom, ‘sufficient cautions’, and the need to teach against the peril of abuse.
Like the East, Anglicans canonically regulate reverences given to images. In Anglicanism most images are treated naturally, but those canonically organized are few in number. Classical Anglicans did not do as the East or Rome. We do not give candles nor incense to icons of saints. Nor do we bow or cense relics. But for those evangelical images, perhaps Tables or Crosses, we give some reverence. We might consider the Carolines as restoring a peculiar array of iconography based on the distinct history and experience in the national Church. There were more practical purposes. Sacrilizing the altar, crosses, chancel, and vestments were ways Carolinians inhibited powerful tides of iconoclasm. Services for churchyards and buildings had a similar intents, clearing property of private gardens, livestock, and common sports. John Cosin said regarding the Holy Cross,
“Was not the death of the Cross a blessed death to us, whiles it was a cursed and most cruel deat in itself? The words are, ‘christ’s cross and passion’, joined together, as in the Litany; and I hope, what ever becomes of the Cross, the Passion may be called Blessed, for we say no less of the martyrs then their blessed death, or their most happy and blessed martyrdom; not that it was so in itself, but that happiness and blessedness wsa the fruit and effect of it. But for the Cross. In our Calendar it is called the Holy Cross, which in ordinary understanding is asmuch there as Blessed Cdross is here. We say holy ground, and holy Table, and holy Font, and holy Temple and hallowed or blessed the Church-yard, why not blessed Cross as well?” (136)
Smart mocks this sacrilizing of insensible objects, saying if we give honor to one, then we must give the same to all. However, what Smart misses is the canonical organization of these reverences. Perhaps, an unintended consequence of beautification campaigns was a limited iconography based on contested ornaments and architecture, restoring to some degree Gardiner’s Rationale of ceremony. We can review the more explicit side of this iconography starting with the 1604 canons, and I hope to discuss it as I explore appointed reverences in the Church of England. This may likewise help understand our own discriminations and particular differences with the seventh ecumenical council?
Comfortable Words has done a knock-out study on Anglican Vestments . Thanks Nicholas!