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 ci

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


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.