Philip Freeman.

The principles of divine service; an enquiry concerning the true manner of understanding and using the order for morning and evening prayer, and for the administration of the Holy Communion in the English Church (Volume 1) online

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that period. This however is far from being the
case. It has been contended with much ability and
learning", that footsteps of such services are to be
found in various early writers. The cause has in-
deed suffered by the attcmj)t which has been made
to prove the primitive existence of the minor Church
Services during the day ; which certainly were of later
introduction as public ofPices. Spurious authorities
have also been alleged, such as the writini^s of l)io-
nysius the Areopagite; while gemiine passages bear-
ing upon the subject have been overlooked. There
is, in reality, no lack of adequate testimony, both
of a general and of a ])nrticular kiiul. Justin Martyr
himself, in another of his works, bears no doubtful

•i Bona Div. Psjilmnd i 2-1.


testimony to the kind of service which his silence
in the Apology has been thought to disprove. We
shall find, in short, in the case of Ordinary Church
worship no less than of Eucharistic, a primitive foun-
tain-head, having its seat in the very bosom of the
Apostolic Church, and thence parted into several
streams for the spiritual nurture of all the nations
of the earth.


""Wliy doth one day excel another, when as all the light of every
day in the year is of the sun ? By the knowledge of the Lord they
were distinguished : and He altered seasons and feasts. Some of them
hath He made high days, and hallowed them, and some of them hath
He made ordinary days."

Nothing can at first sight be much more dissimilar
than the earliest and the latest phases which the ordi-
nary services of the Church at large have assumed ; —
beginning vdth. the simple, and, though doubtless
orderly, yet apparently free and unconfined, devo-
tions of the Upper Chamber at Jerusalem, of which
we obtain glimpses through the Apostolic writings;
and ending with the complex and minutely regu-
lated Offices which have now prevailed for many
hundred years alike in the East and in the West.
And tliese Eastern and Western Offices, again, differ
so materially from each other, that it has been con-
cluded, and that by no mean judges, that there is
absolutely no connection between them ; that " the
Oriental rites" of ordinary service are, as to their
derivation, " perfectly distinct from those of the Latin
Churches^" The truth is, however, first, that the

' Palmer, vol. i. p. 218.


ordinary and non-cucharistic worship of the Ciiurch
was, as it should seem, far more organized, even in
Apostohc days, than we are apt to suppose ; and
secondly, that the Offices of the East and West are
both ahke developments, though on different princi-
ples, and with characteristic variations as to structure
and contents, of the earlier and sim[)ler form of the
Eastern rite.

The changes wrought upon what seem to have
been the primeval Offices, — more especially in their
progress towards the West, — are indeed often very
great ; but the links by which the successive forms
assumed by them cohere are certain and decisive.
It would, indeed, be surprising if it were other-
wise. For it was by no means the temper or dis-
position of the Church of the first few centuries
to originate altogether new Services, but, at the ut-
most, to develope out of the old ; — to retain at least
some large and prominent features, serving to iden-
tify the altered service with that which preceded it.
And the real difference between the courses adopted
by the Eastern and Western Churches in the matter
of their ordinary Offices of Divine Worship would
seem to be this. The Orientals have adhered to the
particular stock or family of Offices originally pos-
sessed by them, and have developed them in strict
accordance with their proper laws and principles, not
admitting any foreign influence to bear upon them.
The consecpience is that, as has been well observed,
" the accounts which we have of the Eastern Offices
in writings of the third, fourth, and fifth centuries all
appear to agree most singularly," as far as they go,
" with the existing Greek Offices"." The Western

• Palmer, ubi sup. p. 225.


Church, on tlie contrary, did, in tlie course of the sixth
century in some Churches, (as, e. g. in the Roman),
— at a later date in others, — admit certain Offices
Qiew to tJiem, to the rejection, or serious modification,
of their older ones ; those Offices being derived from
Eastern sources.

When then we turn our e}es towards Christian
antiquity, to ascertain what the particular aspect or
form of its acts of ordinary worship is likely to have
been, the first point that strikes us is, that as the
Eucharistic Service at the first was certainly noc-
turnal, the Ordinary Service, or the chief occasion of
it however, would not improbably be so too. The
same reasons would to a great degree hold good in
both cases. Partly the fear of persecution, and partly
the habit of nocturnal meeting for the Eucharist*,
would be likely to recommend the hours of the night
for the more ordinary act of Christian worship.

It is in perfect accordance with this conjecture,
that the earliest hints we have of the nature of the
Church's ordinary service points to the existence of
nocturnal or ante-lucan assemblies for that purpose.

The learned Bingham has unfortunately involved
this matter in no small degree of confusion ; and that
in various ways : chiefly by representing certain ser-
vices, used from an early period in particular Churches
on the Wednesday and Friday in each week, to have
been the first steps or rudiments of a secondary kind
of worsliip, which thus by degrees came to be used
daily. Whereas those services were in truth no other
than the Eucharist itself, which in tlie Church of
Africa by about a.d. 200, and by the third or fourth

' See Part II., cliap. ou Primitive Liturgy.


century in some other parts ", had come to be cele-
brated on those days, with the addition, as it seems,
of private devotions of considerable length. In the
Egyptian Chm-ch they had no celebration on these
occasions, but used only the earlier part of the Eucha-
ristic Service ; exactly as was ordered for those same
days in the Eirst Book of Edward Vlth, and is still
permitted on Sundays and festivals in the English
Church. But all this was of the nature of Eiicha-
ristic, or quasi-eucharistic service, with private de-
votion superadded to it. It was a perfectly distinct
thing from the ordmary non-eucharistic worship of
the Church.

Dismissing, then, these erroneous conceptions, let
us inquire what the nature of the early Church's
Ordinary Service really was. Now that there were
in the fourth century certain niglitly services in con-
stant use throughout the Churches of the East, there
is no doubt whatever. It also clearly appears from
writers of that date, that those services were by no
means peculiar to the clergy, but were genuine and
public Church Services. Thus St. Basil (circ. 370.)
says, in a passage of the utmost importance for our
present purpose, — "The customs which now prevail
among us are consonant with those of all the Churches
of God ; for with us the people come early, while it
is yet night, to the house of prayer," &c. St. Chry-
sostom speaks of the poor continuing in the church
"from midnight till morning light." And Cassian,
a writer of the early part of the fifth century, assures
us that " this kind of devotion was most carefully
observed by many secular persons, who, rising early,

" Tcrtullian de Jfjiiii. xiv. ; Bingham, xxi. 3 ; xiii. 0. 2.


before clay, consecrated the first-fruits of all their
actions and labours to God '."

Thus fully did the nocturnal services of that period,
(i. e. in the fourth and fifth centuries) Avhen the Eu-
charist was no longer celebrated by night, but in
open day, answer to the idea of ordinary or daily
Church Services. The only question is, how and
where did they originate? or how far back may we
carry them?

Now, were the opinion tenable that the earliest
ages had celebration of the Eucharist every day, it
would be very natural to conclude that they had been
substituted for that Service when it was transferred
to the daylight hours ; or rather were a sort of re-
siduum which remained when the main stream of the
Church's devotion had been drawn off into another
channel. According to this supposition, then, the
non-eucharistic services of this and the following cen-
turies owed their being to the transference of the
Eucharistic ones at some time in the first three ages,
and had not co-existed with them from the begin-
ning. Such is the view wuth which Mr. Palmer (as-
suming apparently the continual celebration) has sug-
gested ; viz. that " when persecution ceased, although
the Christians were able to celebrate all their rites,
and did administer the Sacrament, in the daytime,
yet a custom which had commenced from necessity
was retained from devotion and choice ; and noc-
turnal assemblies for the worship of God in Psalms
and reading still continued." And again: "As the
nocturnal assemblies were first held for the purpose
of administering the Eucharist, so when that Sacra-
ment was celebrated at another time, the nocturnal

' Vide Bingliam, vol. iv. p. 408.


service still retained the psalmody and readnig of
Scripture, which was always (?) the commencement of
the Liturgy or Eucharist^." But as daily celebration
was certainly not the primitive practice, the ordinary
nocturnal services must be accounted for in some other
way. Bingham, accordingly, while admitting that
the nocturnal Eucharistic assemblies were but weekly,
suggests that " the Church in after ages thought fit
to continue them, transferring them (i. e. the assem-
blies, not the Eucharist,) from the Lord's Day to
nil other days, partly to keep up the spirit of devo-
tion in the ascetics, and partly to give leisure and
opportunity to men of a secular life to observe a
seasonable time of devotion, which they might do
early in the morning without any distraction ^" This
supposition is surely most improbable. No reason
can possibly be assigned why the Church, on being
allowed to hold her Sunday Eucharist in the day-
time, should at that particular juncture institute for
the first time, for every night in the week, a new
service. That the eve or night before the Sunday
or festival should continue to be observed with some
kind of solemnities, as the remains of the old prac-
tice, would V)e perfectly intelligible ; and in point of
fact we find that it was so ; — the days of celebration,
we are told, " were commonly ushered in by per-
noctafions or vigils," which diflered from the ordi-
nary nightly service in being longer and fuller*.

' Orig. Lit., p. 201, 200. Tt is an objection in liminn to this theory,
that the orflinary nortumal OITices of the early Church did not involve
any reading of the Scriptures ; as will be shewn hereafter.

V Bingham, Xill. x. 12.

' Bingiiatn, XIII. ix. ■!■, vol. iv. p. 300. The entire section is full of
interesting illustrations of the nightly service on the eves of tjuiuluys
and festivals.

K 2


But whence, it must still be asked, came this week-
day uoctunial service at all ? And this one thing at
least is clear, that it was perfectly independent of the
transference of the Eucharistic Service to the daylight
hours. It cannot have arisen out of that alteration ;
and it may perfectly well have co- existed from the
first, as the week-night office, side by side with
the ancient nocturnal celebration of the Sunday.
Occupying, as became it, a far humbler position than
that great rite, and aspiring, at the utmost, to run
parallel with it on a far lower level ; conducted too
under many circumstances of inferiority, — by one
or two presbyters, perhaps, instead of by the whole
diocesan body of clergy ; in small detachments, and
with the attendance of but few (as compared with
the Eucharist), even in cities, — it would be likely to
obtain comparatively little mention in the slightly
sketched accounts of early Christianity which have
come down to us.

But though less prominent, and on that account
less frequently alluded to, its existence is neverthe-
less, as was remarked at the end of the preceding
section, abundantly vouched for. It must be borne
in mind, that when once it comes to be distinctly
understood and admitted that the Eucharist was not
administered daily, many passages which have hither-
to been supposed to refer to that ordinance, become
evidence on behalf of service of a more ordinary kind.
As when Ignatius, at the beginning of the second cen-
tury, (a.d. 107,) exhorts the Church of the Ephesians
" to pray without ceasing," and " to give all diligence
to come together frequently," (or " in great numbers,")
to give thanks and praise to God "^ • or bids the Mag-

* J-gQ. iip. ad ±]ph. C. 13. (TirovSd^iTe oiiv trvKVonpov cruyepxfffBai (Is


nesians, " when they met togetlier, to have one prayer
and one supplication^ ;" or the Tralhans'', " to abide
in concord, and in their prayers with each other ;"
or urges Polycarp*^ to see that the Church's assembhes
at Smyrna " were held more frequently," (or " more
fully attended"). These passages are hardly capable
of being referred to the celebration of the Eucharist,
which was both pretty well fixed, as to frequency,
to the Lord's Day, and was doubtless attended as
a matter of course by every Christian. AVhat room
then was there for such exhortations as these, whether
to greater frequency of services, or increase of attend-
ance upon them ? AVhereas the frequency of the ordi-
nary services may well have varied, more especially in
the very earliest times. And in fact we shall see rea-
son hereafter for believing, that though the nocturnal
week-day service was probably all but universal from
the first, there is far less evidence for the early pre-
valence of any other service. And that the attend-
ance on these services, when they came to be fully
established, was not universal, but rather (very much
as with the daily services at the present day, and in-
deed in all ages of the Church) the habit oC the more
devout or leisurely, — we have the clear evidence of
St. Chrysostom and Cassian in passages already re-
ferred to*.

It is to be remarked, again, that inasmuch as the
Eucharistic service, as far back as we can trace it, did

ttX"?''^'''''"' ^f'> f^i h6^av. Id. ad I'olyC. 4. ■KvKfSTfpuv (rvyayuyal
yiviaOuiaav. Pearson uiidcibUinds botli places of " liiller assem-
blies." But sec Jacobsou in he. In Epli. 13, tlie Eueliaiist need
not be meant, probably is not; the context is general: and so
Vet. Interp.

^ Ad Magn. 7. ' Ad Trail. 12.

'' Ubi snp. • Sup., p. W.


not embrace ^, or only in the very smallest proportion,
the singing of Psalms, while the ordinary services, so
soon as we obtain a distinct view of them, consisted
emphatically of Psalms and hymns, it follows that
allusions in early writers to Church psalmody must
as a general rule refer to ordinary services. Thus,
e. g., Ignatius has the credit, whether justly or not,
of having introduced the antiphonal mode of singing
into the Church. This, then, so far as the tradition
may be relied on, may be taken as an early evidence
for ordinary worship.

Philo the Jew, a writer of the first century, in a
well-known and curious passage^, describes the de-
votions of certain persons at Alexandria, whom he
calls Therapeutse, " devotees," in terms very similar
to those which St. Basil, as already quoted, employs
about the ordinary nocturnal services of the Chris-
tians in the fourth century. It was thought by many
ancient writers — Eusebius, Jerome, Epiphanius^ &c.
and has been maintained by learned moderns, as
Goar' and Beveridge'', — that these Alexandrians were
no other than the first Christians, converted by St.
Mark. On the fullest consideration, however, it seems
necessary to conclude, with Valesius and Burton, that
they were not Christians ; — though it is singular that

' The Apostolic Coustitutions indeed prescribe " the Hymns of David
to be sung" among the lessons from Scripture before celebration ; and
IVIr. Palmer speaks of this as a fact. But it has no countenance from
antiquity. There are fragments of Psalms sung at the opening of
St. Basil's Liturgy ; and a single Psalm preceded the epistle in the
Syrian Lit. of St. James and the Arm. (See also St. Augustine, below,
p. 60.) A Psalm after Communion was also used in Lit. Horn. Arm., &c.

« De Vita Contemplativa, ed. Mangey, vol. ii. p. 484.

*• Vide Bingham, I. i. "L. Vales, in Eus. ii. 17. ' Euchol., note, p. 22.

'' Cod. Can. iii. 5. (See Coteler., Patres Ap.) Mr. Neale is content
(Hist, of the East. Church, vol. i. 1.) to follow Eusebius, &c.


Barton should question their being even Jews^ The
chief, and indeed insuperable, difficulty is, that they
combined, with their singing of Psalms and hymns,
a bacchanal kind of dancing, which it is incredible that
any body of Christians can have adopted. This, as
they alleged, was in imitation of the songs and dances
of the Tsraelitish men and women after the passage of
the Red Sea. It seems most probable, on the whole,
that they were a kind of Jewish monks. And there
is strong reason for believing that they furnished in
many respects the type of the subsequent Egyptian
monasticism. For the Egyptian monastic devotions,
as described by Cassian in the fifth century ™, while
differing from the customs of the Church geneiMlIy,
accord in some marked respects with those of Philo's
Therapeutse. Thus they still observed, like Philo's
ascetics, but two daily services, nocturns and ves-
pers, — and these, too, diflPering widely from the com-
mon Eastern type, — when the rest of the Church had
long had from three to seven offices. Philo, again,
dwells much on the ascetics' reading and meditating
on certain ancient books in their places of worship,
as a part of their devotions". And in Cassian's time,
accordingly, the Egyptian monks, alone out of all the
East, had from very ancient times had a lesson of the
Old and another of the New 'JVstanicnt in their daily
Offices; and spent all their time in meditating on
the Scriptures.

Philo, then, cainiot lie cited as a witness to Chris-

' Eccl. Hist., vol. i. p. 22. ■" Sec below, elinp iii.

" lie says they took nothing into their plaees of worshij) {oUrina
atiivtlov, or ixoviarriptov — the Very term alUrwards appjieil to the
Chrititiau ascetics' abodes) ti n^ vdixovt nal Ao-yia OkcrwiaOivTa koI C/i-

VOUS, (i.T.A.


tifin nocturnal worship in the first century. Nor in-
deed do the services described by him bear more tlian
a general resemblance to the Christian services, such
as we find them in St. Basil, &c. The week-day ser-
vices were not strictly nocturnal at all, but took place
after the rising of the sun. And the seventh-day
night-service, as described by him, is hardly com-
patible with the Eucharist, since it seems to have
been a mere series of musical exercises, more espe-
cially of Psalms ; — which is exactly what the Eucha-
ristic service was not.

Nevertheless, as a testimony to early and late daily
services among the more devout sort of Jews, at about
the Christian era, Philo's account is much to our pur-
pose. Still more so is that which Josephus" gives of
the Essenes, — a sect in many respects similar ; viz.,
*' that they used to rise before the sun was up, and
ofier to God certain prayers received from their fore-
fathers." Nothing could be more natural than that
the Jewish Christians (who have indeed by some been
identified with the Essenes p) should take up, as a
part' of their new manner of life, what was thus fa-
miliar to the more devout among their own country-

Our first direct witness therefore to the nightly
services is no other than Justin Martyr, (circ. 150).
He says that the philosophers contended, " that the
Christians' praying as they did through the ichole 7iight,
as well as by day, was inconsistent with their pro-
fessed belief in the Providence of God '^,"

About twenty years later, Lucian, the heathen
satirist, speaks of his coming into a religious as-

• Bell. Jud. ii. 12. p Biiicker, Hist. Philos., and Bui-ton, p. 300.
T Dial. Tryph., init.


sembly, and of the officiating person's beginning his
prayer with "the Father," and ending it with the
" hymn of many names ;" alhiding doubtless to the
Lord's Prayer, which was ended w^ith a repetition, in
the manner of a hymn, of the doxology addressed to
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost '. Now certainly, ac-
cording to the received notion that the Lord's Prayer
did not occm' (as probably it did not by the end of
the second century) in that earlier part of the Eu-
charistic office to which strangers were admitted, this
service could not have been the Eucharist. Reasons
for believing that Prayer to have occurred in the
primitive daily service will be given below.

Thirty years later, again, (circ. 200,) we find Ter-
tnllian using expressions which seem positively to
identify the course of nocturnal and early morning
service in his day with that which prevailed in St.
Basil's time. He says there was a small clique of
persons in the African Church, who would not kneel
on the Saturday. " But we,'* he proceeds, " as we
have received, on the day of the Lord's Resurrection
(i. c. Sunday), and on that alone, abstain from that
posture. But as to other times, who can hesitate to
prostrate himself before God on all days alike {pmni
die) at that first jnni/er with which we enter upon the
lif/ht of daij^?'' meaning doubtless the 51st Psalm,
with which (as we know from St. Basil), the nocturiis
])eing ended, the morning oflice commenced at l)re;ik
of day. Further on, commenting on the [)ractice of
some Churches or persons, of following up tlu; prayers
with the Hallelujah and Psalms of praise, he calls
prayer " the true sacrifice, which Clu'lstians as priests
offer;" adding, "this victim, devoted with the whole

' Lucian, Pbilopatr. Sec tlic form l)clo\v, sect. v. fin. " Do Oral.., c. 215.


heart, fed by faith, crowned with love, we ought to
lead lip to the altar of God amidst Psahns and lii/mns'^y
The whole passage is no doubt rhetorically conceived •
but it has all the appearance of pointing to Church
worship ; — yet not to Eucharistic worship exclusively,
as that was not a service of Psalms and hymns at all.
On the whole, the best account that we can give of
this passage is, that Tertullian had before his eyes in
writing it the entire order of Sunday or festival ser-
vice which prevailed when the Eucharist had been
transferred to the daytime ; a change which had cer-
tainly begun to be made in his time "*. We seem to
have the nocturnal service followed at break of day
by matins, and the whole concluded and crowned with
celebration of the Eucharist ^, He also speaks of the
obligatory morning and evening prayers, said appa-
rently either in the church or at home.

It will not be necessary to pursue these testimonies
much further. It may suffice to say that Hippolytus,
bishop of Portus Romanus soon after Tertullian's
time, (circ. 220,) speaks more than once of psalmody
and singing of hymns, as a customary part of the
Church's services ^ ; — that Origen ^, in the same cen-
tury, in answer to a charge made against the Chris-
tians of using magical books in their services, declares
that, on the contrary, what they used was the ordered
OY prescribed prayers, as became them, day and night
constantly ; thus testifying not to the services only,
but to the books used in them ; — and that St. Cyprian,

' lb., c. 25. The Oxford translation (in tlie index) understands it
of private prayer. But the case seems plain the other way.

° e. g. It -was celebrated on Wednesdays and Fridays, as a part of
the " stationary service." ' lb.

* Hippol. de Consumm. Mundi, &c. Vide Bbigham, vol. iv. p. 211.

'' lb., p. 215. See ib., p. 220, &c., for Cyprian and Arnobius.


Online LibraryPhilip FreemanThe principles of divine service; an enquiry concerning the true manner of understanding and using the order for morning and evening prayer, and for the administration of the Holy Communion in the English Church (Volume 1) → online text (page 5 of 33)