Book of Common Prayer (1892)/The Praeface
Jt hath been the wisdom of the Church of England, ever since the first compiling of her publick Liturgie, to keep the meane between the two extreams ; of too much stiffness in refusing, and of too much easiness in admitting any variation from it. ffor as on the one side common experience sheweth, that where a change hath been made of things advisedly established, no evident necessity so requiring, sundry inconveniences have therevpon ensued, and those many times more, and greater, then the evils that were intended to be remedied by such change : So on the other side, the particular Forms of divine Worship, and the Rites and Ceremonies appointed to be vsed therein, being things in their own nature indifferent, and alterable, and so acknowledged ; it is but reasonable that vpon waighty and important considerations, according to the various exigency of times and occasions, such changes and alterations should be made therein as to those that are in place of Authority, should from time to time seem either necessary or expedient Accordingly we find that in the Reignes of severall Princes of blessed memory since the reformation, the Church vpon iust and weighty considerations her therevnto moving, hath yeilded to make such alterations in some particulars, as in their respective times were thought convenient Yet so as that the main body and essentials of it (as well in the chiefest materials, as in the frame and order thereof) have still continued the same vnto this day; and do yet stand firm and vnshaken, notwithstanding all the vain attempts, and impetuous assaults made against it by such men as are given to change, and have alwayes discovered a greater regard to their own private fancies and interests, then to that duty they ow to the publick.
By what vndue means, and for what mischievous purposes the vse of the Liturgy (though inioyned by the Lawes of the land, and those laws never yet repealed) came, during the late vnhappy confusions to be discontinued, is too well-known to the world, and we are not willing here to remember. But when vpon his Majesties happy restauration, it seemed probable, that amongst other things, the vse of the liturgy also would return of course (the same having never been legally abolished;) vnless some timely means were vsed to prevent it: those men, who vnder the late vsurped powers, had made it a great part of their business, to render the people disaffected therevnto, saw themselves in point of reputation, and interest concerned (vnless they would freely acknowledge themselves to have erred, which such men are very hardly brought to do) with their vtmost endeavors to hinder the restitution thereof. In order wherevnto divers pamphlets were published against the Book of Common-prayer, the old objections mustred vp, with the addition of some new ones, more then formerly had been made, to make the number swell. In fine, great importunities were vsed to his sacred Majesty that the said Book might be revised, and such alterations therein, and additions therevnto made, as should be thought requisite for the ease of tender consciences. Wherevnto his Maiesty out of his pious inclination to give satisfaction (so far as could be reasonably expected) to all his subjects of what perswasion soever, did gratiously condescend.
Jn which review we have endeavored to observe the like moderation as we find to have been vsed in the like case in former times ; And therefore of the sundry alterations proposed vnto vs, we have eiected all such, as were either of dangerous consequence (as secretly striking at some established doctrine, or laudable practise of the church of England, or indeed of the whole Catholick church of Christ ;) or else of no consequence at all, but vtterly frivolous and vain. But such alterations as were tendred to vs (by what persons, under what pretenses, or to what purpose soever so tendred) as seemed to vs in any degree requisite or expedient, we have willingly, and of our own accord assented vnto. Not enforced so to do by any strength of Argument convincing vs of the necessity of making the said alterations : for we are fully perswaded in our iudgements (and we here profess it to the world) that the Book, as it stood before established by Law, doth not contain in it any thing contrary to the word of God, or to sound doctrine, or which a godly man may not with a good conscience vse, and submitt vnto, or which is not fairly defensible against any that shall oppose the same; if it shall be allowed such iust and favourable construction as in common equity ought to be allowed to all humane writings, especially such as are set forth by Authority, and even to the very best translations of the holy scripture it selfe.
Our generall aime therefore in this vndertaking was, not to gratify this or that party in any their vnreasonable demands : but to do that which to our best vnderstandings we conceived might most tend to the preservation of peace and vnity in the Church ; the procuring of reverence, and exciting of piety, and devotion in the publick worship of God; and the cutting off occasion from themthat seek occasion of cavill, or quarell against the Liturgy of the Church. And as to the severall variations from the former Book, whether by alteration, addition, or otherwise : it shall suffice to give this generall account. That most of the alterations were made either ffirst, for the better direction of them that are to officiate in any part of divine service, which is chiefly don in the Kalendars, and Rubricks, or secondly for the more proper expressing of some words or phrases of antient vsage, in terms more suteable to the language of the present times ; and the clearer explanation of some other words and phrases that were either of doubtfull signification, or otherwise liable to misconstruction. Or thirdly, for a more perfect rendring of such portions of holy Scripture, as are inserted into the Liturgy : which in the Epistles and Gospells especially, and in sundry other places are now ordered to be read according to the last lation. And that it was thought convenient that some prayers and thanksgivings fitted to speciall occasions should be added in their due places, particularly for those at Sea, Together with an Office for the baptism of such as are of riper years ; (which although not so necessary when the former Book was compiled, yet by the growth of Anabaptism, through the licentiousness of the late times crept in amongst vs, is now become necessary) and may be alwayes vsefull for the baptizing of Natives in out plantations, and others converted to the Faith.
Jf any man who shall desire a more particular account of the severall alterations in any part of the Liturgie, shall take the pains to compare the present book with the former, : we doubt not, but the reason of the change may easily appear.And having thus indeavored to discharge our duties in this weighty affair, as in the sight of God, and to approve our sincerity therein (so far as lay in vs) to the consciences of all men : Although we know it impossible (in such variety of Apprehensions, humors, and interests as are in the world) to please all ; nor can expect that men of factious, peevish, and perverse spirits should be satisfied with any thing that can be don in this kind, by any other then themselves : Yet we have good hope, that what is here presented, and hath been by the Convocations of both Provinces with great diligence examined and approved; will be also well accepted and approved by all sober, peaceable, and truly conscientious Sons of the Church of England.