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Studies In The Book Of Common Prayer by Herbert Mortimer Luckock


It often happens that many things in a book are intelligible only to those who are familiar with the mind and character of the author. An. expression or phrase, which may ordinarily be passed over as unimportant, becomes instinct with meaning and suggestiveness, when read by one who has the advantage of an intimate acquaintance with the writer by whom it was used. And if this be true in regard to the chief leaders of thought in the present day, it is truer still when the reader and writer find themselves separated from each other by a long distance of time.

Now the realisation of this has often made me feel that a much fuller apprehension of the real teaching of the Book of Common Prayer would be attained, if more light could be thrown upon the views and characters of the different men who compiled and revised it.

Many summaries of the history of the Book have been given to the world at divers times, but the authors have for the most part been satisfied with little more than the bare enumeration of the names of men who were charged with a work unequalled in importance for the influence which it has exercised on the worship of the Church. In a few instances, e.g. Cranmer or Ridley or Cosin, there was no necessity to do anything more, but Day and Thirlby and Morley (to select at haphazard), except to the real student of Ecclesiastical History, have been names, and names only.

Perhaps it would be impossible to illustrate more forcibly the advantages of such a plan as I proposed to myself than by a reference to the Council of Nicæa. Its history has often been written, and the names of the leading Bishops who took part in it have been familiar enough; but what a world of fresh interest aatliered into that Council-chamber by the Bithynian Lake, when Stanley seized the dry bones, and clothed them with flesh and blood, and stampt its own individuality upon every form! However much men may dissent from his conclusions, no one can deny that by the portraits of the disputants which he has drawn, from Constantine and Athanasius to Spiridion and Paphnutius, he has imparted a reality to the scene, as refreshing as it is instructive.

The materials upon which I have drawn for what I have written in the following pages are so scattered and various that anything like a full acknowledgment is impracticable. Much of course has been found in such standard histories as those of Collier, Fuller, Peter Heylin, and Strype in earlier times; or in Hook's Lives of the Archbishops, and Froude's History of England, and Dr. Stoughton's series of works on Ecclesiastical History in later times. Separate Biographies, Diaries, Histories of individual Colleges at the two Universities, Athenoe Oxonienses and Annales Cantabrigienses, have supplied sufficient matter for forming a fair estimate of the opinions of the Bishops and Divines who were most concerned with the growth and development of the Prayer-book.

Dr. Stoughton's Histories have had an especial interest, as putting forth far more ably and attractively than ever before the views of Nonconformists upon those critical times.

But while according him much praise for the general tone, the vivacity and the clearness of his writings, it is impossible not to see that he has failed to recognise the real standpoint of the Church. For instance, he speaks without any reserve in condemnation of the ejection of the ministers in 1662 A.D., and tries to enlist our sympathies with the sufferings which they had to undergo, because they were too conscientious to conform to the Church of the Restoration, ignoring the fact that, twenty years before, their opponents had suffered equally, and that too at the hands of men who had usurped the government. If the Nonconformists had their |black Bartholomew,| the Bishops and the Established clergy had theirs also ; indeed, not a few of the ministers who made such a grievance of being cast out in 1662 A.D. were actually holding benefices from which the orthodox incumbents had been ousted during the Commonwealth.

It only remains for me now to perform the pleasant task of expressing my grateful acknowledgments to those who have aided me in the work which this publication has entailed. These are due especially to the Bishop of the Diocese, for help directly and indirectly given, as well for suggestions before its commencement, as for criticism of the results when the work was concluded. Doubts and perplexities were certain to arise, where the right understanding of a book, second in importance only to the Bible, was the object in view.On such occasions I have found myself not infrequently appealing to his counsel and judgment, and rarely without seeing the prospect cleared, and the difficulties made easier to contend with.

Next I would tender my thanks to the Rev. CANON VENABLES, Precentor of Lincoln, for having kindly examined the printed pages, and suggested some useful alterations. Also I gratefully acknowledge the help in revising and correcting the proof-sheets, which I have received from the Rev. W. B. TREVELYAN, my colleague in the Ely Theological College. And lastly, I may not forget that a fairly exhaustive Index -- that part of a work on which much of its usefulness so frequently depends, but which nevertheless the author is so ready to neglect -- is the acceptable contribution of a member of my own family.

And now in sending forth this humble treatise, I would express an earnest prayer that He, with Whose worship well-nigh every page of it is concerned, will bless its influence for an ever-increasing love, and a more intelligent and reverential use of those Forms of Prayer and Ceremonial observances, for which such brave battle was done in more troublous times.

H. M. L.

The Feast of St Michael and All Angels, 1881, COLLEGE, ELY.

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