Thursday, 5 February 2015


New Directory for Public Worship (2)

The Preface

The Association by which this Directory for Public Worship has been prepared, was formed at a Conference of Ministers and Elders of the Free Church of Scotland, held at Edinburgh in May 1891. The object of the Association, as stated in its Constitution, is "to promote the ends of edification, order, and reverence in the public services of the Church, in accordance with Scripture principles, and in the light especially of the experience and practice of the Reformed Churches holding the Presbyterian system." The suggestion that such an Association should be formed, and the invitation to the Conference, were contained in a Circular signed by eighteen ministers.

In this Circular, those who signed it said they felt that the subject of the Public Worship of the Church called for special consideration at the present time, and that in connection with it there was room and need for improvement in various directions. Their desire was that all efforts for such improvement " should proceed upon lines in harmony with the past history, and best traditions of the Scottish Church in the matter of worship, and should be — to use the language of the Solemn League and Covenant — ' in accordance with the Word of God, and the example of the best Reformed  Churches,' as represented, for instance, in the General Presbyterian Alliance. In particular, all of us hold strongly that the duty and privilege of free prayer in the public Worship of God should be jealously guarded and maintained, and that nothing in the least approaching to a compulsory Liturgy, as in the Anglican and Roman Communions, should be even proposed.

" In the event of union between our own Church and one or both of the other great branches of Presbyterianism in Scotland, [United Presbyterian Church and the Church of Scotland] which in our opinion is much to be desired, a Revision of the old Scottish Book of Common Order, and of the Westminster Directory for Worship, would probably have to be undertaken by the United Church. In view of such a work in the future, it is of great importance that the mind of the Free Church of Scotland as a whole, and especially of its ministers, should be seriously and prayerfully turned to this question, and that our Church should be in a position to take an intelligent and influential part in the ultimate re-adjustment and improvement of the common standards for worship."

On these lines, the work of the Association has gone forward in a very harmonious and encouraging way for the past seven years. It has sought to call attention, — and has done so, it is believed, with good results — on the one hand, to the danger of hasty and ill-considered action, and of merely imitative movements in the direction of Anglican forms and usages ; and on the other hand, to the need of improvements in various respects in the ordinary Public Worship and in the Special Services of the Church, and to the lines on which such improvements may best be carried out, in accordance with Scriptural and confessional principles, and in the light of the practice and experience of sister Reformed Churches both in Great Britain, America, and the Continent of Europe. Papers have been issued yearly for private circulation among the members of the Association ; but this " Directory for Worship " is its first publication for general use.
The two well-known Service-books of the Scottish Church, on which this little work is based, may be described respectively as an optional Liturgy and a Directory for Worship.

The Book of Common Order arose out of the form of service drawn up by John Knox, Whittingham, and others for the use of the English exiles at Frankfort in 1554. It was first published at Geneva in 1556, and used in the Church there, in which both Knox and Whittingham were ministers. After Knox's return to Scotland in 1559, ''if not earlier, the Book of Geneva began to be used by some of the Reformed Congregations in this country. In the First Book of Discipline, adopted by the Church in 1560, it is said to be 'already used in some of our Churches,' and is spoken of as ' the Book of Our Common Order, called the Order of Geneva.' In 1562 the General Assembly enjoined its uniform use in ' ministration of the Sacraments and solemnisation of marriages and burial of the dead.' It was reprinted in Edinburgh in that year with some additions. Between 1562 and 1564 it was modified and enlarged ; new prayers were added from Continental sources, others, which had been used in Scotland previously, were incorporated with it, and the Psalter was completed. In this form it was printed in Edinburgh in 1564; and the Assembly of that year 'ordained that every Minister, Exhorter, and Reader shall have one of the Psalm books, lately printed in Edinburgh, and use the Order contained therein in Prayers, Marriage, and Ministration of the Sacraments.'

The Book of Geneva, thus remodelled, is known as Knox's Liturgy or Book of Common Order; and it embodied the law of the Church as to worship from 1564 to 1645.

The "Book of Common Order," however, is a better and more accurately descriptive name for the first Service-book of the Scottish Reformed Church than "Liturgy," which is apt to suggest a fixed and compulsory form of ritual. In "The Book of Our Common Order," the place and rights of free prayer are carefully vindicated and guarded, an outline of the order of worship is given, with specimen forms of prayer, confession of sins, thanksgiving, and intercession, which, " or such like," the minister is to use. We have an " Order of Baptism," " The Manner of the Administration of the Lord's Supper," "The Form of Marriage," etc., with examples of suitable exhortations, and prayers ; and the officiating minister is enjoined to use "either the words following, or like in effect." "The minister exhorting the people to pray, saith in this manner, or such like." "The minister prayeth for the assistance of God's Holy Spirit, as the same shall move His heart, and so proceedeth to the sermon." " After sermon he either useth the ' Prayer for all Estates,' or else prayeth as the Spirit of God shall move his heart." 

It is unnecessary to refer here in detail to the contents  of the Westminster Directory, which may be assumed to be in the hands of our ministers generally. We may venture to say, in passing, that it deserves, and will repay, much more careful study on their part than it often receives. It is not indeed of full authority in the Church, and has no direct place in the Ordination vows of her office-bearers; but it contains a great deal that is of very high and permanent value, both in the way of guidance and suggestion in matters of worship.

The Westminster Directory traverses, so far, the same ground as the Book of Common Order, but does not give the same amount of help as regards special services.  It says nothing whatever, for example, of Ordination Services, — a lack which is somewhat inadequately supplied in the reference to the subject in the other Westminster document known as " The Form of Church Government." As regards the ordinary public worship of the Lord's day, however, the Directory furnishes a considerable amount of valuable material and suggestion for Confession, Adoration, Thanksgiving, Petition, and Intercession, so prepared and arranged that they can, with very little difficulty, be turned into direct forms of prayer.

In the Directory for Public Worship now issued, we follow the Book of Common Order in giving specimen forms for certain parts of the ordinary service, e.g. Prayers of Invocation, of Thanksgiving, and " for all Estates," giving also somewhat fuller forms for such special services as Baptism, the Lord's Supper, Ordination of Ministers, Elders, and Deacons, Church Dedication, Marriage, and Burial of the Dead. In accordance with the example of the Westminster Directory, a large amount of space has been devoted to materials and suggestions for Confession, Thanksgiving, Petition, and Intercession. It would, of course, have been comparatively easy to provide set forms of prayer under these various heads. To provide and arrange suitable material, which, while not repressing or hampering free prayer, should serve to guide and stimulate it, was a much more difficult task.

The Committee wish to draw special attention to the Confession of Sins, the Prayer of Thanksgiving, the Litany, and the Marriage Service, taken from "Hermann's Consultation." ^ These have been specially translated from the original Latin for this volume. They have not, so far as the Committee are aware, been brought before the Church since the publication of two English editions — both now extremely rare — of the "Pia Deliberatio " in 1547 and 1548.

The very interesting Reformation Service-book, known as "Hermann's Consultation," was prepared by Bucer and Melanchthon at the request of Hermann, the Protestant Elector and Archbishop of Cologne, in the first half of the sixteenth century. It appeared first in German in 1543, then in Latin in 1545, and in English in 1547 and 1548. A fine copy of the Latin edition is preserved in the Advocates' Library, Edinburgh, dated '' Bonnae, ex officina Laurentii Mylii Typographi, anno MDXXXXV." The translations in this volume are made from that edition, with comparison of the renderings in the two English editions. One copy of each of these (that of the earlier edition being imperfect) exists in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. Both editions are beautifully printed in black letter. The title of the copy of the first edition, and some pages at beginning and end, are gone. The title of the second edition is as follows : — " A simple and religious Consultation of us Herman by the grace of God, Archbishop of Colone and prince Electoure, &c. by what meanes a Christian Reformation and founded on God's Worde of doctrine administration of devine Sacraments, of Ceremonies and the whole cure of soules and other ecclesiastical ministeries may be begon among men committed to our pastorall charge, until the Lord graunte a better to be appointed, &c. Perused by the translator thereof and amended in many places, 1548. Imprinted at London by Jhon Daye and William Seres, dwellynge in Sepulchres paryshe at the singe of the Resurrection a lytle above Holbourne Conduit."

Melanchthon states in one of his letters that the doctrinal part of this Service-book was due to himself, while the prayers and forms of service were prepared by Bucer. He mentions, in particular, that "the Order of Baptism and of the Lord's Supper were composed by him " (Bucer).

The Committee of the Association, on whom the work of preparing this Directory has devolved,^ are conscious of various defects in what they now submit to the Church, and especially to its ministers. They are the more grateful for the large measure of expressed approval with which several parts of their work have already met, mingled with some kindly and candid criticism from individual members of the Association.

The Committee trust they may be forgiven if they add here a few words of counsel especially to the younger ministers of the Church. We do well to prize and hold fast the freedom which we have in the matter of public prayer, and in the lesser details of the Order of Service. Our Scottish Church since the Reformation has shown practically in this field that she "believes in the Holy Ghost, the Lord, and the Giver of Life," and in His perpetual presence wherever God's people meet for worship in the name of Christ. By her plan of worship, alike under the Book of Common Order and the West- minster Directory, our Church has called upon each of her ministers to " stir up the gift of God which is in him " for all the work of the ministry, to which he was solemnly set apart by prayer, " with the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery." She shows that she expects him not only to preach the Gospel, but to cultivate the power of leading the devotions of a congregation in such a way as really to meet and give expression to the spiritual wants and cravings of the earnest and living members of the Church. He is thereby shut up, in a most wholesome way, by the very necessities of the case, to "take heed to himself" and his own spiritual life, and to cast himself very specially on the promise and help of the Holy Spirit. The result has been, with all our defects, a decidedly high average of attainment among the ministers of the Scottish Church, not only in preaching — but in the gift of edifying and acceptable public prayer.

But this liberty ought not to become license — as there is sometimes a tendency for it to do — in the hands of any of our ministers. It was always meant by the Church to be "freedom in the bounds of law,"— "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus," the law which bids us "consider one another in love," and "look not to our own things merely, but the things of others." In the order and manner of public worship, the general historical usages of the Scottish Church ought not to be rashly and needlessly departed from. Even the local traditions and customs of a congregation or district ought to be duly considered, and no hasty changes made, however reasonable in themselves these may appear to a young minister.

Above all, every minister should beware of obtruding his own personal moods and experiences upon the people in prayer, of varying the accustomed Order of Service without special and intelligible reasons, of partial and capricious choice of topics in prayer. Ministers ought, in short, to realise their high position and responsibility as the leaders of public worship, and seek by suitable preparation to fulfil the functions of their position intelligently and sympathetically. In the Westminster Directory, which, under English Puritan influences as to worship, went further in the direction of freedom than the earlier Service-book of the Scottish Church, the importance of general uniformity of order, and of meeting the stated spiritual necessities of the congregation in the prayers of the ordinary Lord's Day Service, were distinctly recognised and provided for. 

"Our meaning is, "the Westminster Divines say in their Directory, "that the general heads, the sense and scope of the prayers, and other parts of public worship being known to all, there may be a consent of all the Churches in those things that contain the substance of the Service and Worship of God; and the ministers may be hereby directed, in their administrations, to keep like soundness in doctrine and prayer, and may, if need be, have some help and furniture; and yet so as they become not hereby slothful or negligent in stirring up the gifts of Christ in them; but that each one, by meditation, by taking heed to himself and the flock of God committed to him, and by wise observing the ways of Divine Providence, may be careful to furnish his heart and tongue with further or other materials of prayer and exhortation, as shall be needful upon all occasions."

In name of the Committee,

D. Douglas Bannerman,

President of the Public Worship Association in connection with the Free Church of Scotland. Edinburgh, April, 1898.