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The Church of Christ hath in all ages had a prescript Form of Common Prayer, or Divine Service ; as appeareth by the ancient Liturgies of the Greek and Latin Churches. This was done, as for other great causes, so likewise for retaining an uniformity in God's worship ; a thing most beseeming them that are of one and the same profession. For by the Form that is kept in the outward worship of God, men commonly judge of Religion. If in that there be a diversity, straight they are apt to conceive the religion to be diverse. Wherefore it were to be wished, that the whole Church of Christ were one as well in form of Public Worship, as in doctrine : and that as it hath but one Lord, and one faith, so it had but one heart, and one mouth. This would prevent many schisms and divisions, and serve much to the preserving of unity. But since that cannot be hoped for in the whole Catholic Christian Church ; yet, at least, in the Churches that are under the protection of one sovereign Prince the same ought to be endeavoured.
It was not the least part of our late Sovereign King James, of blessed memory, his care, to work this uniformity in all his dominions : but, while he was about to do it, it pleased God to translate him to a better kingdom. His Majesty that now reigneth, (and long may he reign over us in all happiness !) not suffering his father's good purpose to fall to the ground, but treading the same path, with the like zeal and pious affection, gave order, soon after his coming to the crown, for the framing of a Book of Common Prayer, like unto that which is received in the Churches of England and Ireland, for the use of this Church. After many lets and hindrances, the same cometh now to be published, to the good (we trust) of all God's people, and the increase of true piety and sincere devotion amongst them.
But as there is nothing, how good and warrantable soever in itself, against which some will not except ; so it may be, that exceptions will be taken against this good and most pious work, and, perhaps, none more pressed than that we have followed the Service-Book of England. But we should desire them that shall take this exception, to consider, that, being (as we are, by God's mercy) of one true profession, and otherwise united by many bonds, it had not been fitting to vary much from theirs, our especially coming forth after theirs ; seeing the disturbers of the Church, both here and there, should by our differences, if they had been great, taken occasion to work more trouble. Therefore did we think meet to adhere
to their Form, even in the Festivals, and some other rites not as yet received nor observed in our Church, rather than, by omitting them, to give the adversary to think that we disliked any part of their Service.
Our first Reformers were of the same mind with
us, as appeareth by the ordinance they made, that in all the parishes of this realm the Common Prayer should be read, weekly, on Sundays, and other Festival Days, with the Lessons of the Old and New Testament, conform to the order of the Book of Common Prayer; (meaning that of England: for it is known that divers years after we had no other order for Common Prayer.) This is recorded to have been the first head concluded in a frequent Council of the Lords and Barons professing Christ Jesus. We keep the words of the History: Reli
• The History gion was not then placed in rites and of the Church
gestures, nor men taken with the fancy of Scotland, p.
of extemporary prayers. Sure, the Public Worship of God in his Church, being the most solemn action of us his poor creatures here below, ought to be performed by a Liturgy advisedly set and framed, and not according to the sudden and various fancies of men. This shall suffice for the present to have said. The God of mercy confirm our hearts in his truth, and preserve us alike from profaneness and superstition! Amen.