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Eikon Basilike: Ch. 16

Upon the Ordinance against the Common-Prayer-Booke.

IT is no news to have all Innovations ushered in with the name of Reformations in Church and State, by those, who seeking to gaine reputation with the Vulgar for their extraordinary parts, and piety, must needs undoe whatever was formerly setled never so well and wisely.

So hardly can the pride of those that study Novelties, allow former times any share or degree of wisdome or godlinesse.

And because matter of prayer and devotion to God justly beares a great part in Religion, (being the Soules more immediate converse with the divine Majesty) nothing could be more plausible to the People than to tel them, they served God amisse in that point.

Hence our publique Liturgy, or Formes of constant Prayers must be (not amended, in what upon free and publique advice might seem to sober men inconvenient for matter or manner, to which I should easily consent, but) wholly cashiered, and abolished, and after many popular contempts offered to the Booke, and those that used it according to their Consciences, and the Lawes in force, it must be crucified by an Ordinance, the better to please either those men, who gloried in their extemporary veyne and fluency: or others, who conscious to their owne formality in the use of it, thought they fully expiated their sin of not using it aright, by laying all the blame upon it, & a totall rejection of it as a dead letter, thereby to excuse the deadnesse of their hearts.

As for the matter contained in the Booke, sober and learned men have sufficiently vindicated it against the cavils and exceptions of those, who thought it a part of piety to make what profane objections they could against it; especially for Popery & Superstition; whereas no doubt the Liturgy was exactly conformed to the doctrineThe set of beliefs upheld by a religion or political party. of the Church of England; and this by all Reformed Churches is confessed to be most sound and Orthodox.

For the manner of using Set and prescribed Formes, there is no doubt but that wholsome words being knowne and fitted to mens understandings, are soonest received into their hearts, and aptest to excite and carry along with them judicious and fervent affections.

Nor doe I see any reason why Christians should be weary of a wel-composed Liturgy (as I hold this to be) more than of all other things, wherein the Constancy abates nothing of the excellency and usefulnesse.

I could never see any Reason, why any Christian should abhorre, or be forbidden to use the same Formes of prayer, since he praies to the same God, believes in the same Saviour, professeth the same Truths, reads the same Scriptures, hath the same duties upon him, and feels the same daily wants for the most part, both inward and outward, which are common to the whole Church.

Sure we may as wel before-hand know what we pray, as to whom we pray; and in what words, as to what sense; when we desire the same things, what hinders we may not use the same words? Our appetite and disgestion too may be good when we use, as we pray for, our daily bread.

Some men, I heare, are so impatient not to use in all their devotions their owne invention, and gifts, that they not onely disuse (as too many) but wholly cast away and contemn the Lord's Prayer; whose great guilt is, that it is the warrant and originall patterne of all set Liturgies, in the Christian Church.

I ever thought that the proud ostentation of mens abilities for invention, and the vaine affectations of variety for expressions, in Publique prayer, or any sacred administrations, merits a greater brand of sin, than that which they call Coldnesse and Barrennesse: nor are men in those novelties lesse subject to formall and superficiall tempers (as to their hearts) than in the use of constant Formes, where not the words, but mens hearts are too blame.

I make no doubt but a man may be very formall in the most extemporary variety; and very fervently devout in the most wonted expressions: nor is God more a God of variety, than of constancy: nor are constant Formes of Prayers more likely to flat, and hinder the Spirit of prayer, and devotion, than unpremeditated and confused variety to distract, and lose it.

Though I am not against a grave, modest, discreet, and humble use of Ministers gifts, even in publique, the better to fit, and excite their owne, and the Peoples affections to the present occasions; yet I know no necessity why private and single abilities should quite justle out, and deprive the Church of the joynt abilities and concurrent gifts of many learned and godly men; such as the Composers of the Service-Booke were; who may in all reason be thought to have more of gifts and graces enabling them to compose with serious deliberation & concurrent advise, such Forms of prayers, as may best fit the Churches common wants, informe the Hearers understanding, and stirre up that fiduciary and fervent application of their spirits (wherein consists the very life and soule of prayer, and that so much pretended Spirit of prayer) than any private man by his solitary abilities can be presumed to have; which, what they are many times (even there, where they make a great noise and shew) the affectations, emptinesse, imper-tinency, rudenesse, confusions, flatnesse, levity, obscurity, vain, and ridiculous repetitions, the senselesse, and oft-times blasphemous expressions; all these burthened with a most tedious and intolerable length, do sufficiently convince all men, but those who glory in that Pharisaick way.

Wherein men must be strangely impudent, & flatterers of themselves, not to have an infinite shame of what they so do and say, in things of so sacred a nature, before God and the Church, after so ridiculous, and indeed, profane a manner.

Nor can it be expected, but that in duties of frequent performance, as Sacramentall administrations, and the like, which are still the same; Ministers must either come to use their own Formes constantly, which are not like to be so sound, or comprehensive of the nature of the duty, as Formes of Publick composure; or else they must every time affect new expressions when the subject is the same; which can hardly be presumed in any mans greatest sufficiencies not to want (many times) much of that compleatnesse, order, and gravity, becomming those duties; which by this means are exposed at every celebration to every Ministers private infirmities, indispositions, errours, disorders, and defects, both for judgment and expression.

A serious sense of which inconvenience in the Church unavoidably following every mans severall manner of officiating, no doubt, first occasioned the wisdome and piety of the Ancient Churches, to remedy those mischiefs, by the use of constant Liturgies of Publick composure.

The want of which I believe this Church will sufficiently feel, when the unhappy fruits of many mens un-governed ignorance, and confident defects, shall be discovered in more errours, schimes, disorders, and uncharitable distractions in Religion, which are already but too many, the more is the pity.

However, if violence must needs bring in, and abett those innovations, (that men may not seeme to have nothing to do) which Law, Reason, and Religion forbids, at least to be so obtruded, as wholly to justle out the publick Liturgie.

Yet nothing can excuse that most unjust and partiall severity of those men, who either lately had subscribed to, used and maintained the Service-book; or refused to use it, cried out of the rigour of Lawes and Bishops, which suffered them not to use the liberty of their Consciences, in not using it.

That these men (I say) should so suddenly change the Lyturgie into a Directory, as if the Spirit needed help for invention, though not for expressions; or as if matter prescribed did not as much stint and obstruct the Spirit, as if it were cloathed in, and confined to, fit words: (so slight and easie is that Legerdemain which will serve to delude the vulgar.)

That further, they should use such severity as not to suffer without penalty, any to use the Common-prayer-Book publickly, although their Consciences bind them to it, as a duty of Piety to God, and Obedience to the Lawes.

Thus I see, no men are prone to be greater Tyrants, and more rigorous exacters upon others to conform to their illegall novelties, then such, whose pride was formerly least disposed to the obedience of lawfull Constitutions; and whose licentious humours most pretended Conscientious liberties, which freedome, with much regret they now allow to Me, and My Chaplains, when they may have leave to serve Me, whose abilities, even in their extemporary way comes not short of the others, but their modesty and learning far exceeds the most of them.

But this matter is of so popular a nature, as some men knew it would not bear learned and sober debates, lest being convinced by the evidence of Reason, as well as Lawes, they should have beene driven either to sin more against their knowledge, by taking away the Liturgie; or to displease some faction of the people by continuing the use of it.

Though I beleeve they have offended more considerable men; not onely for their numbers and estates, but for their weighty and judicious piety, than those are, whose weaknesse or giddinesse they sought to gratifie by taking it away.

One of the greatest faults some men found with the Common-Prayer-Book, I beleeve, was this, that it taught them to pray so oft for Me; to which Petitions they had not Loyaltie enough to say Amen, nor yet Charity enough to forbeare Reproaches, and even Cursings of Me in their owne formes, instead of praying for Me.

I wish their Repentance may be their onely punishment; that seeing the mischiefs which the disuse of publique Liturgies hath already produced, they may restore that credit, use, and reverence to them, which by the ancient Churches were given to Set Formes of sound and wholsome words.

And thou, O Lord, which art the same God, blessed for ever: whose mercies are full of variety, and yet of constancy; Thou deniest us not a new and fresh sense of our old and daily wants; nor despisest renewed affections joyned to constant expressions.

Let us not want the benefit of thy Churches united and wel-advised Devotions.

Let the matters of our prayers be agreeable to thy will, which is alwaies the same, and the fervency of our spirits to the motions of thy holy Spirit in us.

And then we doubt not, but thy spirituall perfections are such, as thou art neither to be pleased with affected Novelties for matter or manner, nor offended with the pious constancy of our petitions in them both.

Whose variety or constancy thou hast no where either forbidden or commanded, but left them to the piety and prudence of thy Church, that both may be used, neither despised.

Keep men in that pious moderation of their judgments in matters of Religion; that their ignorance may not offend others, nor their opinion of their owne abilities tempt them to deprive others of what they may lawfully and devoutly use, to help their infirmities.

And since the advantage of Errour consists in novelty and variety, as Truths in unity and constancy: suffer not thy Church to be pestered with errours, and deformed with undecencies in thy service, under the pretence of variety and novelty. Nor to be deprived of truth, unity, and order, under this fallacy, that constancy is the cause of formality.

Lord keep us from formall Hypocrisie in our owne hearts, and then we know that praying to thee, or praising of thee (with David, and other holy men) in the same formes cannot hurt us.

Give us wisdome to amend what is amisse within us, and there will be lesse to mend without us.

Evermore defend and deliver thy Church from the effects of blind Zeale, and over-bold devotion.