Reformed Churchmen

We are Confessional Calvinists and a Prayer Book Church-people. In 2012, we remembered the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer; also, we remembered the 450th anniversary of John Jewel's sober, scholarly, and Reformed "An Apology of the Church of England." In 2013, we remembered the publication of the "Heidelberg Catechism" and the influence of Reformed theologians in England, including Heinrich Bullinger's Decades. For 2014: Tyndale's NT translation. For 2015, John Roger, Rowland Taylor and Bishop John Hooper's martyrdom, burned at the stakes. Books of the month. December 2014: Alan Jacob's "Book of Common Prayer" at: January 2015: A.F. Pollard's "Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation: 1489-1556" at: February 2015: Jaspar Ridley's "Thomas Cranmer" at:

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Cranmer's Book of Common Prayer: Tractarians Need Not Apply for Positions

More from Alan Jacobs. 

Jacobs, Alan (2013-09-30). The "Book of Common Prayer": A Biography (Lives of Great Religious Books) (p. 38). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

"For anyone accustomed to traditional Catholic practices, these liturgies are most noteworthy for what they lack: the saints, the blessed departed, the whole panoply of ritual and invocation that connects those now alive on earth with those now alive in the presence of God— or suffering the pains of Purgatory. (The damned are eternally and absolutely cut off from the rest of Creation; they cannot be addressed.) This absence is particularly striking in the rite for the sick, because it would ordinarily be at such times that people would call with special urgency on the saints, begging their intercession. We must remember in this context how Cranmer dealt with the dying King Henry: no prayers to the saints, no anointing with oil, no rite of extreme unction, none of the liturgical spectacle that had accompanied generations of Christians through their last moments; rather, just a simple request that the king somehow indicate his trust in Jesus Christ.


Thus the continual invocations of saints in medieval rites and festivals, invocations the Book of Common Prayer largely expunges from its pages and from the common religious life. Cranmer kept certain saints’ days in the Kalendar—and in this respect was considerably more traditionalist than the Continental evangelicals— but wrote prayers for those days that strenuously avoid any implication that the saints could intercede for the living or that they might be prayed to for any reason. In Cranmer’s collects the saints are merely exemplary figures, as dead as the statues and windows that portrayed them.

In the world of the prayer book, then, the individual Christian stands completely naked before God in a paradoxical setting of public intimacy. There are no powerful rites conducted by sacerdotal figures while people stand some distance away fingering prayer beads or gazing on images of saints whose intercession they crave. Instead, people gather in the church to speak to God, and to be spoken to by Him, in soberly straightforward (though often very beautiful) English. Again and again they are reminded that there is but one Mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ. None other matters; so none other is called upon. The one relevant fact is His verdict upon us, and it is by faith in Him alone that we gain mercy at the time of judgment. All who stand in the church are naked before Him together, exposed in public sight. And so they say, using the first-person singular but using it together, O God, make speed to save me; O Lord, make haste to help me.

Jacobs, Alan (2013-09-30). The "Book of Common Prayer": A Biography (Lives of Great Religious Books) (p. 38). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

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