What concerns a section of the church of God is rightly the concern of all Christians. Not that we believe the church of God lends itself to sectional expression. The Scriptures say, “There is one body and one spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling” (Eph. 4:4). And the Apostle Paul sternly rebuked the idea of sectional expression, when he indignantly demanded, “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Cor. 1:13).
Now there are two tendencies today threatening the church of God—Modernism and Ritualism. Oftentimes the advocates of the one are strongly opposed to the advocates of the other. Sometimes they work hand in hand.
It is so seen in the Composite Prayer Book of the Church of England. A brief article on the subject may be helpful.
The Church of England holds within its communion two sections with very decided views—the Evangelicals and the Anglo-Catholics. The former stress conversion, believe in the inspiration of the Scriptures, and are sound on the fundamental doctrines of the Christian Faith. They are seriously alarmed at the prospect of the Composite Prayer Book being authorized by Parliament and by the King, as Head of the Church of England. Many are prepared, to our knowledge, to sever their connection with the Church of England if such a calamity come to pass. To many it will entail great anguish of heart, to others the surrender of stipend and emoluments. All honour to such faithful men and women.
With such the Composite Prayer Book goes far, too far, pandering to Modernism on the one hand, to Rome on the other.
With Anglo-Catholics the book does not suit them, for it does not, from their standpoint, go far enough. It may yet fall between these two stools.
For years, ever since the Oxford Movement began, about a century ago, there has been proceeding the double attack on the church of God of Modernism and Ritualism.
Let us see how the new Prayer Book is helping on all this.
In the Prayer Book the Decalague is given in a shortened form—six out of the ten being so treated. We draw attention to two of the cases only. In the fourth commandment the new Prayer Book omits the verse which speaks of God in six days making heaven and earth and all that in them is. Why this omission? Does it not look as if it is intended to enable evolutionists to attend the church service without being reminded that God is the Creator of all things, according to Genesis 1?
In the fifth commandment the special blessing promised to those who honour father and mother is left out. Is this not a truckling to the spirit of the age, when we are travelling more rapidly than people think to the day when “disobedient to parents without natural affection” (2 Tim. 3:2-3) will become even more alarmingly widespread than it is even today? Is not the shortening of the Ten Commandments calculated to take away the respect for Scripture that should be inculcated?
In the Baptismal Service reference to Noah and the ark and to Moses and the passage of the Red Sea are removed, whilst in the marriage service reference to Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah no longer appear. Why is this? Modernism today frankly disavows the miraculous, whilst marriage is largely treated as a matter of convenience, and old-fashioned ideas of the headship of the husband and the duty of husband and wife to each other are openly derided. Does not the new Prayer Book pander to the spirit of the age, whilst its omission of the reference to Adam and Eve only strengthens what we have said as to evolutionary ideas, making it desirable that God’s story of man’s creation should be suppressed? Is not the Modernistic taint of the new Prayer Book clearly seen?
Then, farther on, sixteen Sundays in the year alternative first lessons may be read from the Apocryphal Books. To put man’s writings on a par, in this way, with God’s word, is a weakening of the authority of Scripture.
Moreover, this brings us to the second part of our allegations, viz., Ritualism which really spells Romanism. It is known that the Church of Rome includes the Apocrypha in the Iouay Bibles which she authorizes, but does not encourage its lay members to read.
Some time ago Christians were made very uneasy on hearing of prominent members of the Church of England meeting prominent men of the Romish church with the approval and knowledge of the Archbishop of Canterbury at Malines, Belgium, to discuss the differences between the Church of England and the Church of Rome, evidently with a desire to find a way to bridge over these differences.
In short, the new Prayer Book will do much to undo the glorious work of the Reformation. We will adduce four examples.
1. It permits a clergyman to use the vestments of the Romish priest offering the sacrifice of the mass.
2. In a short form of devotion which may be used immediately before the service of the Holy Communion, Psalm 43 is mainly quoted. In verse 4 we read, “Then will I go unto the ALTAR of God,” and this is so skilfully quoted that being Scripture how can any right-minded Christian object to its use, and yet it is so placed as to make it easy to introduce the Romish idea of the sacrificing altar of the mass, and, doubtless, it will be so used.
3. In the new book an anthem is introduced to be sung and to be immediately followed by the prayer of consecration in the Holy Communion service. The words of the anthem are, “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord. Hosanna to the Highest.” Again, the service is arranged, so that the Ritualistically-minded clergyman can treat these words as indicating that Christ is about to descend at his bidding to the altar, when the wafer is taught to be changed into the real body of Christ, and it will practically for all purposes make it easy for the introduction of the celebration of the mass, which is idolatry and a denial of the finished work of Christ.
4. Lastly, we draw attention to the Reservation of the Holy Sacrament. Every Roman Catholic knows what this means. In Roman Catholic churches the reserved Host, as they call it, is indicated by a red light burning before the box in which the consecrated wafer is placed, believed by devout Catholics to be the very body of the Lord, and the object of adoration.
Surely, all true Christians will refuse to countenance it. God will support them surely in the stand they may make. May God give them courage and the knowledge that their fellow-believers, who are not members of the Church of England, are in earnest prayer for them in this trying juncture in their lives.