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THE introduction of Ritualistic forms and practices which, in the lengths to which they are now carried, were rarely known in England for over three hundred years; which our ancestral Colonial Church, and our own, never knew, has of course aroused discussion. The general sense of Churchmen appears to be one of condemnation and apprehension. In the Convocation of Canterbury of 1866, the excesses of Ritualism were generally and formally censured. But who is to decide what is an excess, if there is no definite Law to define, or no known authority to determine? In a discriminating and able Article in the 69th Number of the American Quarterly Church Review, the writer considers, that we have no Law on the subject; and invites the action of the General Convention to prescribe one. In the following pages an attempt is made to prove, that we are not destitute of a Law to guide us; that a defect so marked in the harmony of Church Polity, does not exist; while yet it may be true, that the imperfection of our disciplinary system warrants us in calling upon the National Council to exercise its indisputable power, to follow the example of many ages, to define and prescribe, to dissipate obscurities, and to teach us the ancient paths we are bound to tread, and the rules our duty bids us to obey. By embodying and announcing these Laws in Canons, a violation will be made literally an offence, and punishable under our present system.
We too well know the character and worth of many of those who in the city of New York have united in those practices, to question the sincerity of their belief that they will aid the spread of Religion. With deep respect and regard, we beg to point out reasons for believing, that their course is as
[The high source of this Article-being from one of the ablest of modern writers on Canon Law-makes it an important contribution to the discussion of a subject already before the Church; and on which a free and full discussion is desirable.-ED.]
perilous to the Faith and cause of the Church, as it is a breach of its established Law. This last is the proposition we now seek to prove.
In the first place, we assume, that the proposition is now generally, if not fully, received in our Church, that when we have no distinct enactment in regard to Discipline, the Laws and rules of the English Church, as they prevailed during the period of the Colonial Church, and at the establishment of the Prayer Book, in 1789, and were applicable to our situation, are to govern.
The numerous authorities cited in Hoffman's Law of the Church,† from Bishops, eminent divines, and lawyers, are unanswerable. But these are only explanations and vindications of what is laid down in the Preface to the Prayer Book, which furnishes a comprehensive and absolute rule.
"This Church is far from intending to depart from the Church of England, in any essential point of Doctrine, Discipline, or Worship, or further than local circumstances require."
No one can imagine a matter of Ecclesiastical regulation which is not embraced in one or other of these terms. Thus we are led to the enquiry, what was the Law of the Church of England upon this subject, in the year 1789? It is thought that this is the true date to be taken for the solution of all such points, because the Colonial Church was undoubtedly affected by legislation of the English Church, unless inapplicable to its position. The Law of tithes, for example, did not prevail.‡
The question depends mainly, and as some contend, solely, upon the Rubric to the English Prayer Book, as revised and adopted, 13 and 14, Charles II., Cap. 4, (A. D. 1662,) in the Act of Uniformity. It is as follows:
*Used in the sense of the Preface to the Prayer Book, "What cannot be determined to belong to Doctrine, must be referred to Discipline."
+ Page 35, et seq.
[The following pages are chiefly extracted from a work in which the writer is engaged upon the Book of Common Prayer. Much in that work upon the present subject has not been transcribed here, but what is taken, has, it is believed, been so connected, as to ensure consistency and fullness in the reasoning. This explana tion will account for some expressions otherwise unintelligible.]
"And here it is to be noticed, that such ornaments of the Church, and of the Ministers thereof, at all times of their ministration, shall be retained and be in use, as were in this Church of England, by authority of Parliament, in the second year of the reign of King Edward VI."
But the origin of this Rubric is much more ancient. The Statute of 1 Elizabeth, Chap. 2, (1558,) reinstated the Service Book of the 5th and 6th Edward VI., which had been abolished in the reign of Mary. This was the Second Prayer Book of Edward. But the twenty-fifth Section of the same Act provided,
"That such ornaments of the Church, and of the Ministers thereof, shall be retained and be in use, as was in the Church of England, by authority of Parliament, in the second year of the reign of Edward VI., until other order shall be therein taken by authority of the Queen's Majesty, with the advice of her Commissioners, appointed and authorized under the Great Seal of England, for causes Ecclesiastical, or of the metropolitan of this realm."
And the Rubric in the Prayer Book of Elizabeth, adopting the Book of 5 and 6 Edward, slightly amended, was precisely a Copy of this 25th Section of the Statute, down to and including the words, "Edward the Sixth," with the addition of the words, "according to the Act of Parliament, set in the beginning of this Book," not repeating the clause, "until other order, &c.," but undoubtedly recognizing it.*
The Rubric in the Prayer Book of James I., was precisely a Copy of the Rubric in the Book of Elizabeth. It is of fundamental importance to notice, that these Books of Edward, of Elizabeth, and of Charles, including the Rubrics as portions of them, received successively the sanction of Convocation, of King, and Parliament. Thus every thing which an English Churchman of any class can demand for legality, is supplied.
Before proceeding to the consideration of this Statute of 2d Edward VI., referred to in the Rubric, it is of importance to ascertain the meaning of the term "ornaments," thus repeat
* Archdeacon Sharp, on the Rubrics, page 65. Oxford, 1834. Bulley's Variations, 3, 4, 5. Oxford, 1842.
edly used. It was considered in Liddell vs. Westerton,* that the term did not mean things of embellishment, but meant the articles or instruments used in the performance of the Rites and Services of the Church. The passage from the Dictionary of Forcellini, pro quo cunque apparatu, seu instrumento, is cited as a warrant for this, and the enumeration from Lynwood, given by Dr. Burns, is referred to.†
By referring to this Dictionary, it will be seen that the term also designates the triumphal ornaments, Consular, Pretorian, and others; the insignia worn or used by those enjoying a triumph; such as torches, lictors, the curule chair, the toga, &c. It attributes to it also the sense of attire or garb, as of the comic actors, the women, &c. These several meanings are found under the word, "ornamentum." The noun, " ornatus," also rendered ornament, receives definitions equally pertinent. “Est etiam vestitus, cultus,—dress, garb, attire, equipage, furniture. Item instrumentum, supellex, copia rerum earum, sine quibus re aliqua uti, non licet."
There is a more decisive sanction for these several meanings of the phrase, in Constitutions and Canons of the English Church, from an early date. Several of these are hereafter cited at length. A few are now referred to.
In the Capitula of Theodulf, (A. D. 994,) it is directed,
"Let not anything be kept in the Church but what belongs to the ornaments of the Churches, that is, the holy books, the housel vessels, the Mass vestments, and the furniture of the Church, in all its particulars, whether in veils or implements." Another translation of the Saxon is "robes and vessels."
In Reynolds' Constitutions, (1332), it is provided, that the linen cloths, and other ornaments of the Altar be decent.§ And Walter's Constitutions, (1195), direct, that ministrations be performed with ornaments proper for them.||
Ecclesiastical Law, Vol. I, p. 375, 377. Edition, London, 1842.
Johnson's English Canons, Part I, p. 456.
* Ecclesiastical Judgments of the Privy Council, p. 197, &c. London, 1865.. Moore's Reports.
Ibid, Part II, p. 236.
Ibid, p. 278.
[In the work referred to, (ante page 261,) the writer has treated the subject of Books and Vestments, as well as the other topic, at length. The present discussion is limited to the ornaments of the Church, and particularly to the point of Lights on the Altar, giving a key to all the rest.]
It is quite clear, that the Ecclesiastical sense of the term, as used in the Statute and Rubrics, comprised all the Articles employed in the ministration of divine Service. Books, vestments, furniture, vessels, every implement so employed were meant. Vestments were the ornaments of the Minister; all else were of the Church.*
Again, the state of the regulations of the English Church, before the Statute, at different periods, will be of no little use in the construing of the Act, of the Rubrics, and other documents governing the subject, or aiding in its exposition.
The 21st of what are known as Elfric's Canons,† (A. D. 957,) provided,—
"That the priest shall have the furniture of his Ghostly work, before he be ordained; that is, the holy books, the Psalter, and the Epistle Book, Gospel Book, and Mass Book, the Song Book, and Hand Book, the Calendar, the Passional, (Martyrology,) the Penitential, and the Lesson Books."
By the 22d of such Canons,
"The Priest is to have his Mass Vestments, that he may reverently. minister to God; and let not that Vestment be sordid. Let him have his Altar Cloths in good condition. Let his Chalice also be made of pure wood, not subject to rottenness, and also the paten; and let the Corporal be clean, as befits Christ's ministration. He shall be honored of God, who ministers to Him in wisdom and purity."
And by the 23d Canon,
"The Mass priest, on Sundays and Mass days, shall speak the sense of the Gospel to the people, in English, and the Paternoster and the Creed, as often as he can, for the inciting of the people to know their belief, and retaining their Christianity."
*It is difficult to select one satisfactory, comprehensive term. Perhaps implements is the best.
This Elfric is considered by Johnson and other writers, not to be Elfric, Archbishop of York, but Elfric, the Grammarian, and the most learned man of the age. It is supposed that Bishop Wulfric, to whom the Canons were suggested, used them as a Pastoral Charge.