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Modern Movements In Presbyterian Churches Respecting Public Worship





"All who desire to manifest an intelligent appreciation of what is
distinctive in Presbyterian ritual would do well to guard against
attaching undue importance, or adhering too tenaciously, to details of
a past or present usage, as if these constituted the essentials from
which there must never be the smallest deviation, of which there may
never be the slightest modification or adaptation to altered
acquirements and circumstances."--McCRIE.





The earliest indication of any general desire in Scotland for a more
elaborate service than that in general use in the Church at the time of
the Revolution was seen in the proposal to enlarge the Psalmody and to
improve the Service of Praise. As early as 1713 the General Assembly
of the Church of Scotland called the attention of congregations to the
necessity that existed for a more decent performance of the public
praise of God, in a recommendation that was exceedingly desirable and
necessary if the accounts of the service of praise at that time are to
be believed. This was followed, not long afterward, by the
introduction of paraphrases, styled "Songs of Scripture," and later of
hymns, and finally of instrumental music. In this matter of the
improvement of worship in the department of praise, the Secession
Churches in several cases were more forward than the Established
Church, the revived interest in religion and worship which had been in
a measure the cause of their existence lending itself to such measures.
In all sections of the Church the conflict concerning praise in worship
was for a long period prosecuted with an energy that frequently arose
to bitterness. The vexed questions of hymn-singing and the use of
instruments in Churches being settled, there followed, or perhaps it
may be said there arose out of these, the further question of the
elaboration and improvement of other parts of worship.

In 1858 the Assembly of the Church of Scotland recommended to
congregations that were without a minister, the use in worship of a
book prepared by its authority, in which were embodied the prayers of
the Book of Common Order, together with much material from the
Directory of Worship. This action on the part of the Church was
regarded by some as indicating the existence of a spirit which
warranted the formation of "The Church Service Society." This Society
was formed by certain ministers of the Established Church who were
strongly impressed with the desirability of the adoption by the Church
of certain authorized forms of prayer for public worship, and of the
use of prescribed forms in the administration of the Sacraments. By
the publication of its constitution, in which it announced its object
as "The Study of the Liturgies ancient and modern of the Christian
Church, with a view to the preparation and ultimate publication of
certain forms of prayer for public worship, and services for the
administration of the Sacraments, the celebration of Marriage, the
Burial of the Dead," etc., it very early aroused vigorous opposition on
the part of many who saw in its organization an evident intention to
introduce into the Church a liturgical service. Such a purpose the
Society emphatically disavowed, and insisted that there was no desire
on the part of its members to encroach upon the simplicity of

Presbyterian worship, but claimed rather the desire to redeem the same
from lifelessness and lack of a devotional spirit with which they
declared it is so likely to be characterized. So effectively have the
fears of those who first uttered their objections been allayed, that
the Society is said to comprise in its membership, at the present time,
more than one-third of the ordained ministers of the Established
Church. The results of this Society's labors have been published in a
volume which is now in its seventh edition. It is a book of more than
400 pages, and is entitled, "Euchologion--A Book of Common Order." Its
contents seem to harmonize more with the views which were charged
against the originators of the Society at its commencement than with
the defence which was put forward in its behalf at that time. Although
widely used it has no official sanction of the Church, and, therefore,
it is not necessary to enter into any close analysis of its contents.
Briefly, however, it may be said, it is a liturgy much more closely
approximating to the English Book of Common Prayer than to Knox's Book
of Common Order, or to the ritual of any of the Reformed Churches of
the Continent, with which its projectors declare themselves to be more
in sympathy than with the Episcopal Communion of England.

The first part comprises, in addition to prescribed daily Scripture
readings and readings for every Sunday of the year, the Order of Divine
Service for morning and evening for the five several Sundays of the
month; in this Order are contained special forms of prayer, responses
to be used by the congregation, the Lord's Prayer, to be repeated by
minister and congregation together, and the Apostles' Creed, which is
to be either said or sung.

In the second part, which contains "additional materials for daily and
other services," the first place is given to the Litany, which is an
exact transcript of that of the Church of England with the exception of
a change in one petition, rendered necessary by the difference in the
forms of government in the two Churches. A number of "prayers for
special graces," "collects" and "prayers for special seasons" and
"additional forms of service" are added. The "prayers for special
seasons" have regard to "our Lord's advent," "the Incarnation," "Palm
Sunday," "the descent of the Holy Ghost," etc.

The last section of the book provides forms of service for the
administration of the Sacraments, visitation of the sick, marriage,
burial, ordination, etc. In the form for the visitation of the sick a
responsive service is provided, as also in the order for Holy
Communion. On the whole it is probably not too much to assert that
"Euchologion--a Book of Common Order," issued by the Church Service
Society, is decidedly more liturgical in form than was the unfortunate
Laud's Liturgy, which raised against itself and its projectors such a
vigorous protest on the part of the Church of Scotland.

Following the organization of the Society referred to, came one in
connection with the United Presbyterian Church called "The United
Presbyterian Devotional Association," having for its object "to promote
the edifying conduct of the devotional services of the Church." This
Society declares its willingness to profit from the worship of other
Churches besides the Presbyterian, but at the same time asserts its
loyalty to the principles and history of Presbyterianism. The forms
published in its book, "Presbyterian Forms of Service," are not
intended to be used liturgically, but the purpose is that they should
furnish examples and serve as illustrations of the reverent and seemly
conduct of public worship.

The latest book to be issued on these lines is "A New Directory for the
Public Worship of God"; this name is further enlarged by the following
description, which provides a sufficient index to its contents:
"Founded on the Book of Common Order (1560-64) and the Westminster
Directory (1643-45) and prepared by the Public Worship Association in
Connection with the Free Church of Scotland."

This book follows in general the form and method of the Directory,
carefully avoiding the provision of even an optional liturgy. The form
which it has assumed, that of a simple Directory of Worship, was
adopted after long discussion in the "Association" on these four
questions, "The desirableness of an optional liturgy as distinguished
from a Directory of Public Worship;" "The Desirableness of a Responsive
Service," such a service to include the use by the people with the
minister of the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, the Beatitudes, the
Commandments, etc.; "The desirableness of the Collect form of prayer
and of Responses in general," and "The desirableness of the celebration
of the Christian year."

After long and exhaustive debate on the above questions the book has
been issued in its present form as a simple Directory of Worship,
responses and the celebration of the Christian year and even an
optional liturgy having been rejected as undesirable. Orders of
service are suggested, as well for public worship as for the
administration of the Sacraments and for special services, and
suggestions at great length are offered concerning what should find a
place in the prayers of Invocation, Thanksgiving, Confession, Petition,
Intercession and Illumination. A few historic prayers of eminent
saints of God are included as examples, and large quotations are made
for the same purpose from Knox's Book of Common Order and from
Hermann's "Consultation," and from this last source "A Litany for
Special Days of Prayer" is added in an Appendix. If the Euchologion
indicates a strong tendency on the part of the "Church Service Society"
towards the introduction of a responsive and liturgical service into
public worship, the New Directory of Public Worship indicates just as
strongly a tendency within the "Public Worship Association" to avoid
the introduction of even optional forms and to retain the simplicity
that has for three centuries characterized Presbyterian worship.

The attempts to revise the Directory of Worship in order to modify and
adapt it to present-day requirements made recently by the Presbyterian
Church of England, and by the Federated Churches of Australia and
Tasmania, have already been referred to. That these Churches have
confined their efforts to a revision of the Directory, and have in this
asserted their approval of a Directory of Worship rather than of a
liturgy, is in itself an instructive fact.

In the revised Directory of the Presbyterian Church of England some
changes are made in the direction of securing for the people a larger
part in audible worship. The repetition of the Creed is permitted, and
where used is to be repeated by the minister and people together; it is
recommended as seemly that the people after every prayer should audibly
say Amen, and the Lord's Prayer, which should be uniformly used, is to
be said by all.

The work of revision by the Churches of Australia and Tasmania
introduces fewer changes. In the administration of "The Lord's Supper"
it is recommended that at the close of the Consecration Prayer the
minister recite the "Apostles Creed" as a brief summary of Christian
Faith, and when the Lord's Prayer is used, as advised before or after
the prayer of intercession, the people may be invited to join audibly
or to add Amen.

Worthy of more extended notice than the limits of this chapter will
permit is "The Book of Church Order" of the Presbyterian Church in the
United States. As early as 1864 a proposal was made in Assembly to
revise the Westminster Directory of Worship for the purpose not only of
rendering it more suitable to the requirements of the time, but in
order also to so modify and improve it as to increase its
suggestiveness and helpfulness to ministers. The work was undertaken
by a committee appointed in 1879, and in 1894 this committee presented
its formal report, which was adopted, and the revised Directory was
ordered to be published. It contains sixteen chapters, treating of all
the matters treated in the original Directory, and containing in
addition suggestive chapters on "Sabbath Schools," "Prayer Meetings,"
"Secret and Family Worship," and "The Admission of Persons to Sealing
Ordinances."

Respecting the public reading of Holy Scripture the revised Directory
declares it to be "a part of the public worship of God," and that "it
ought to be performed by the minister or some other authorized person."
Of public prayer, after indicating its different parts, and suggesting
the place that it should occupy in the service, the mind of the Church
is thus expressed: "But we think it necessary to observe that, although
we do not approve, as is well known, of confining ministers to set or
fixed forms of prayer for public worship, yet it is the indispensable
duty of every minister, previously to his entering on his office, to
prepare and qualify himself for this part of his duty, as well as for
preaching." In the chapters on the administration of baptism and the
Lord's Supper particular directions are given, and questions suitable
to be asked of the parents of children presented for baptism are
suggested, while in the directions for the admission of persons to
sealing ordinances, an important distinction is drawn between the
reception of baptized children of the Church and that of those who, on
confession of their faith, are at that time first received. To the
Directory there are added optional forms for use at a marriage service
and at a funeral service. The book is not elaborate, and may be
thought by many to be far from comprehensive as a Directory, but it is
suggestive and helpful, and, while true to the principles of
Presbyterian worship, it gives no evidence of disregard for the beauty
and appropriateness that should characterize the public services of the
Church. Among books of Church order it is well worth study by those
who desire in worship to combine simplicity with dignity.

It is evident from these recent and simultaneous movements in so many
branches of the Presbyterian Church, that there exists a feeling on the
part of many that there is need of improvement in the important
department of worship in our public services. It is probable that
there will be found few to deny this, or to confess absolute
satisfaction with the worship of the Church to-day. The question on
which many will hold widely divergent opinions is as to the means to be
adopted for its improvement. Some there are, as in the Church Service
Society, who advocate a prescribed liturgy for at least certain parts
of public worship; others, who desire a liturgy, but who are content to
leave to congregations or to ministers freedom to use it or to
disregard it; still others are loyal to the spirit of the age which
produced the Westminster Directory, while they are at the same time
willing to revise that work, which was found so serviceable to the
Church for so long a period, and so to render it more suitable to the
demands of our own age.

If a judgment may be formed from the movements that have just been
reviewed, it is probable that at least for some time to come, the
Presbyterian Church will continue to walk in the paths that have become
familiar through long usage. The age, it is true, is past when
dictation on this matter, either favoring or condemning a liturgy,
would be suffered; and, therefore, it is to be expected that
congregations will exercise liberty in the matter. Yet, so far as the
general sentiment of the Church is concerned, a sentiment that will
doubtless from time to time find expression in official declarations,
it appears evident that the preponderating feeling is still strongly in
favor of a voluntary worship, unrestricted even by suggested forms.





Next: Conclusion

Previous: Presbyterian Worship Outside Of The Established Church Of Scotland



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