Tuesday, August 2, 2011


CEREMONIES. Gestures or acts preceding, accompanying, or following the utterance of words ; the external acts of worship. Ceremonies entered abundantly into the worship of the ancient Jewish Church, for in the infancy of mankind God dealt largely with His chosen people as with children, teaching them by pictures and primers, so to speak, and suffering them to express their thoughts and feelings of devotion to Him. by outward gestures and acts. But the case is very different with regard to the worship of the Christian dispensation. Whereas in the Jewish Tabernacle or Temple the material predominated greatly over the spiritual, in the Christian Church God has evidently intended the spiritual to predominate over the material. In proof of this we may point to that regular development and advance in point of spirituality in faith and worship which can be traced from the first dawn of revelation to its present full noonday light. Our Lord also surely laid down in the New Testament once and for all the true principle of Christian devotion that it must be spiritual when He said to the woman of Samaria, in connection with this very subject of worship, that “God is a Spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in Truth,” adding that “the Father seeketh such to worship Him” (John iv. 2, 3).

Yet how differently do Rome and her imitators view this matter! By a vast retrogressive movement they have revived with tenfold gorgeousness the “beggarly elements” of a superseded dispensation. The whole tendency of the Romish system is to suffocate the spirit of piety beneath a mass of outward ceremonies, and to encourage the great majority of her worshippers to rest contentedly in these forms as the sufficient and proper expression of true religious service. For each particular Mass alone Rome prescribes no less than 330 external acts or gestures.

In the chastened ritual of the Church of England, when the Prayer Book is rightly interpreted, the spiritual part of divine worship is exalted while the material is relegated to a subordinate place; in fact, use is made of just so much outward form as may foster, and not carnalize, the religious sensibilities, and quicken, without stifling, the spirit of devotion. It has been well said, with regard to the Romish system of worship (and that of the Ritualists may be included also as affected by this statement) that “if, as all experience testifies, every religious ceremony, however calculated in itself to improve the heart, is thus liable to grow into an empty form, what madness, yea, what wickedness it is to make such ceremonies, not merely the accessories, but the prime elements of worship, and by an elaborately constructed ritual to foster the native superstition of the heart into portentous vigour and luxuriance.”

The following ceremonies have been decided by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council or by the Archbishop’s Court to be illegal: kneeling or prostration before the consecrated elements; the use of lighted candles on the Communion Table except when required for the purpose of giving light; the use of incense for the purpose of censing things and persons; standing before the holy table with back to the people while reading the Collects next before the Epistle (See EASTWARD POSITION), or the Collects following the Creed at Evening Prayer; the mixing of water with wine during the administration of the Lord’s Supper; elevating the paten or cup; the using of wafer bread instead of such bread as is usually eaten; the using of crucifixes or images ceremonially as a part of the service. The Archbishops have also recently published an Opinion that the ceremonial use of incense and of processional lights is not ordered or permitted by the law of the Church of England. Also that Reservation of the Sacrament for any purpose is illegal. For a longer list of condemned ceremonies see Miller’s Guide to Eccl. Law. [M. E. W. Johnson.]

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