The Secker Society



The formal religion of the Church of England is defined by a set of documents termed the historic formularies. Generally counted among these are The Articles of Religion of 1571, including by extension The Books of Homilies of 1547 and 1571; The Book of Common Prayer of 1662, including the antecedent The Psalter of 1539 printed within it; and The Ordinal of 1661. To these documents may also be added The Authorized Version of 1611, which historically held a like place of exclusivity of use within the Church of England, despite not being consistently counted as among the formularies.

Though in terms of their original forms all of the formularies belong to the reigns of Henry VIII or Edward VI, 1509-1547 and 1547-1553 respectively, it was in the reign of Elizabeth I, 1558-1603, that they were reconstituted and set forth in a public manner as the fixed religious standards of the Church of England. The two principal public laws giving a formal definition to the framework of what has been termed the English Settlement of Religion were The Act of Uniformity of 1558 and The Act of Subscription of 1571. In the reign of James I, 1603-1625, the Prayer Book and the Authorized Version of the Holy Bible were revised, and the latter would become exclusive in its use. The antecedents to the 1611 revision of the Authorized Version had shared a place with the two tomes of English translations of Erasmus' New Testament paraphrases, 1548 and 1549, in the reign of Edward VI, which were at least continued to be exhibited in churches into the reign of Elizabeth I, though they were not reprinted with public authority in her reign or thereafter. The Prayer Book and Ordinal came into their final form in conjunction with the restoration of Charles II, 1660-1685, to the English throne. The time in which the historic formularies were set forth as a coherent body of documents, as well as revised into their current forms, belongs to what scholars have termed the Classical Period of the Church of England's history.

The Classical Period of English Religion was a time of coherent and legal uniformity in theology and practice throughout public life in England from 1559 to 1687, the opening of which is marked by the passing of The Act of Uniformity of 1558, and the closing, by James II's Declaration of Indulgence of 1687. The formularies themselves would retain their exclusive positions in regards to use within the Church of England until very recent years, the The Act of Uniformity of 1558 being only wholly repealed as recently as 1974. The period following 1687, and the subsequent revolution of 1688, was marked, however, by profound changes in the nature of the public religion of England. From the reign of Mary II and William III forward, participation in the Church of England was no longer mandatory for subjects within the Realm of England; and the Monarchs, while still overseeing the affairs of the Church, largely withdrew from actively modifying its standards or exercising their personal authority to introduce new usages into it. The result is that little substantively changed in terms of the formal authorities within the Church from the end of the reign of Charles II to the beginning of the reign of Elizabeth II.

In addition to the historic formularies, there also exists an additional body of documents that possessed a quantifiable degree of public authority for use within the Church of England during the same Classical Period in which the formularies themselves were produced. This body of documents has been termed the historic tertiaries, that is, the third order of standards (after the Holy Scriptures in the original languages, and the formularies), and may be enumerated as follows: The Apology of the Church of England of 1562, The Metrical Psalter of 1562, The Acts and Monuments of Martyrs of 1563, The Catechism of 1570, God and the King of 1615, and The Primer of 1670. These documents, a number of which also have official abridgements or additions, are unique in that each was set forth with a special authority for public use within the Church of England that has never been rescinded. To these documents a final tertiary is added, The Constitutions and Canons Ecclesiastical of 1604; which, though no longer in force as the active canons of the Church of England, embodies the legal definition of the English Settlement of Religion more than any document outside of those counted as the historic formularies, having possessed at one time an authority of a higher than tertiary nature. Though the framework provided by the legal religious settlement of the 16th and 17th centuries has not been formally withdrawn, it is true that its public status has moved from being one of exclusivity to option. Regardless of the fact that with the exception of the 17th century canons all of the tertiaries might be regarded as still informing the current legal definition of the theology and practice of the Church of England, their unique authority as a body derives from the fact that together with the formularies they constitute the body of publically authoritative, or common, tradition from the Classical Period of 1559-1687.

In their original forms, the last of the tertiaries was produced under James I, during whose reign the ecclesiastical and doctrinal structure set forth by Elizabeth I was to reach a settled and lasting form. A testimony to their long standing authority, all of the tertiaries were being printed and publically used in conjunction with the religious and political restoration in England under Charles II. A number of the tertiaries were also significantly revised during the reign of the Stuarts, and the better part of them continued in common public use through the 18th century. At the present time, unfortunately, and not much unlike the formularies themselves, the historic tertiaries are much neglected.

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The Apology of the Church of England of 1562

The "Apology of the Church of England" first appeared in 1562, written by Bishop John Jewel, who is believed to be the author of many of the formulaic homilies. The Apology contained a positive statement of the formal theology and practice of the Church of England. History records that it was ordered to be chained up for public reading in all parish churches throughout England by Queen Elizabeth, King James, King Charles, and four successive archbishops. Also, the Convocation of the Church in 1578 set forth the requirement that all undergraduates be made to study the Apology at University. Though unlike the formularies themselves, the Apology was never formally acknowledged by act of Parliament, it is cited in its capacity as a public authority in the 30th canon of the Canons Ecclesiastical of 1604, where it is termed "The Apology of the Church of England".

The work was originally published in Latin as "Apologia ecclesiae Anglicanae" and was in the same year printed in an English translation "An Apologie Aunswer or in Defence of the Church of England", which was possibly the work of Archbishop Parker. This translation was, however, superseded by one made by Lady Anne Bacon, sometime lady-in-waiting to Elizabeth I, which appeared in 1564 under the title "An Apologie or Answere in Defence of the Churche of Englande: with a briefe and plaine declaration of the true religion professed and vsed in the same." It was this 1564 translation of Lady Bacon that would be used in the parish churches and by Bishop Jewel in his own responses to his work. Following the publication of the Apology, Bishop Jewel engaged in a debate through print that produced a printed "Reply" to challenges in 1565 and resulted in the publication of the lengthy "A Defence of the Apologie of the Churche of Englande" in 1567. The "Defence of the Apology" contained the text of the original Apology divided into sections along with citations of challenges and corresponding reply or defence by Bishop Jewel, and as such was placed publically in parishes as their chained copy of the Apology, and was reprinted again by James I after the death of Elizabeth I.

In 1609, under the direction of Archbishop Bancroft, what amounted to a full compilation of the works of John Jewel was edited and published by the printer to James I, John Norton, in a single folio volume under the title "The Works of the Very Learned and Reuerend Father in God Iohn Iewell, Not Long Since Bishop of Sarisbvrie. Newly set forth with some amendment of diuers quotations: and a briefe discourse of his life." This volume was intended for public placement in parish churches, as editions of the Apology on its own had been previously, and was variously referred to as "Jewel's Book" or simply as "The Apology of the Church of England" though it contained his other works in addition to the Apology itself. Though all of Bishop John Jewel's writings can't be imagined to carry a public authority equivalent to the Apology itself, the general effort to place the whole of his works among the chained books in every parish in England demonstrates his position as a theologian of unparalleled eminence within the Church of England. The Apology has been widely printed and used since the time of its initial publication.

The Metrical Psalter of 1562

"The Whole Book of Psalmes, Collected into English Metre", written chiefly by Thomas Sternhold and John Hopkins, was first printed by John Day for private use by the authority of Elizabeth I in 1562. The original title also stated that the work was "perused and alowed according to thordre appointed in the Quenes Maiesties iniunctions", and was particularly understood to be consistent with the Queen's 1559 injunction allowing songs to be sung before and after Morning and Evening Prayer in churches. The first printing differed from later editions in that it did not contain a separate rendering of Psalm 95 among the hymns, though the songs themselves were repeatedly printed without substantive alterations from the reigns of Elizabeth I to Charles II, with express public license, frequently styled "Cum Privilegio Regis Regali" or the like. From the year 1567 the license for public use on the title page became more express, reading "set forth, and allowed to be sung in all churches". Though anthems written by the composers of the Cathedrals were generally allowed, and in some moments other versions of the Metrical Psalms as well, it may be justly said that during the Classical Period, use of the "The Whole Book of Psalmes" became universal and exclusive, and that the production and use of other Metrical Psalters was generally suppressed by force of law. The "Whole Book of Psalmes" was the only official English hymnal to be allowed in the Church of England until the reign of Mary II and William III.

In 1696 Nahum Tate and Nicholas Brady would publish their "A New Version of the Psalms of David", dedicated to William III and seeking to replace the position which the Metrical Psalter of Sternhold and Hopkins had held in the Church of England. On the 3rd of December 1696, William III gave his approbation to the New Version, to be "allowed and permitted to be used in all churches, chapels, and congregations as shall think fit to receive the same". Though it might be said that in many respects the New Version was taken to be superior in its choice of words, it was not quickly received in the place of the long standing work of Sternhold and Hopkins, which became known as the Old Version. Among what might be regarded as defects of the New Version was that it was printed without music, whereas the Old Version had been printed with accompanying tunes written in musical notation, and also contained two dozen hymns, largely from the liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer, in addition to the 150 Psalms in metre. The situation was greatly remedied in the year 1700 with the appearance of Tate and Brady's "A Supplement to the New Version of Psalms". The Supplement contained a dozen new hymns as well as musical notation for songs found in both the New Version and Old Version, effectively marrying the New Version and Old Version together into a single collection. The Supplement received the approbation of Queen Anne on the 30th of July 1703, that it also be "allowed and permitted to be used in all churches, chapels, and congregations as shall think fit to receive the same" like the works it was supplementing. Through the 18th century, various changes and alterations were made to both the Old Version and the New Version as commonly printed, with material, including whole songs, being added or subtracted; none of these are known to have had any public authority behind them.

The Acts and Monuments of Martyrs of 1563

A composition of the Rev. John Foxe, the Acts and Monuments first appeared printed in Latin on the Continent in the year 1554. The English version was published by John Day in London in 1563 under the title "Actes and Monuments of These Latter and Perillous Days, Touching Matters of the Church". History records that from the time of its initial publication it had been sanctioned by the bishops and clergy, and set forth and printed by the approval of Elizabeth I, "Cum Privilegio Regie Majestatis" upon the title page. The work was ordered by Queen Elizabeth I to be set out in every parish along with the Authorized Version of the Holy Bible and the Apology of the Church of England, that is, among the chained books. A further order relating to the placement of the Acts and Monuments in the common halls of archbishops, bishops, deans, archdeacons, and the heads of colleges was also to be found in the canons of the Convocation of 1571. Though subscribed to by all the bishops of the Church of England, these canons never received sufficient authority to be in general force throughout the Church; however, it is recorded that this particular point among the canons, regarding this additional placement of the Acts and Monuments, was itself carried out by the authority of Elizabeth I.

The first abridgment of Acts and Monuments, that of Timothy Bright printed in 1589, was licensed. The Company of Stationers retained a monopoly on rights to print the unabridged version of Acts and Monuments during the Classical Period; major official editions appeared in 1610, 1631-1632, and 1641, each of which contracted or expanded the content, with the final 1641 volume being the fullest and bringing the account through to the beginning of the reign of Charles I. The final official printing, which might be regarded as the last authoritative form of the text, appeared in 1684, and in terms of textual content was essentially the same as the 1641 version, not as it were containing an account of the reign of Charles I. An account of the martyrdom of Charles I was printed separately "Cum Privilegio Regiae Majestatis" in the 1662 folio edition of his own collected works, "The Workes of King Charles the Martyr". It is also recorded that when the 1684 folio of Acts and Monuments was published, Charles II had given promise to revive and make general the Elizabethan orders of the 1571 canons, though this had not been accomplished before his death shortly after the start of the following year. At present, unauthorized revisions, abridgements, and expansions of the Acts and Monuments, many produced during the 19th century, are still widely printed and read.

The Catechism of 1570

In addition to the Little Catechism that appeared in the Book of Common Prayer in 1549, a number of other catechisms were set forth with authority during the reign of Edward VI. In 1562, under Elizabeth I, the Convocation desiring that "there should be authorised one perfect Catechism for the bringing up of the youth in godliness, in the schools of the whole realm" received and approved a catechism written in Latin by the Rev. Alexander Nowell (Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral) and revised and corrected under the direction of the bishops, and ordered that it be published for general use. This work, largely of Dean Nowell, was to displace all preceding catechisms, except that of the Prayer Book, and to become the universally used general catechism in the Church of England for the majority of the Classical Period of 1559-1687. It is termed the "Catechism of 1570" as it was not until the year of 1570 that, by the appointment of the archbishops, the book was finally printed, under the title "Catechismus, siue Prima institutio, disciplinaque pietatis Christianae Latine explicata", by the Queen's printer Reginald Wolf.

The catechism also appeared in an abridged form as "Christianae pietatis prima institutio ad vsum scholarum Latine scripta", and also in an even more abridged form as "Catechismus parvus pueris primum Latine qui ediscatur, proponendus in scholis". These official abridgments of the full catechism were prepared by Dean Nowell and printed "Cum Priuilegio Regiae Maiestatis", and though traditionally dated to 1570 and 1572, the earliest dated copies known of these are from 1574 and 1573 respectively. These three versions of the Catechism of 1570 are commonly distinguished by the names of the "Larger Catechism", the "Middle Catechism", and the "Shorter Catechism", or by similar appellations. The official English translation of the Larger Catechism appeared in 1570, as "A Catechisme, or First Instruction and Learning of Christian Religion.", and that of the Middle Catechism, "A Catechisme, or Institution of Christian Religion to Bee Learned of All Youth Next After the Little Catechisme: Appointed in the Booke of Common Prayer" is traditionally dated to the year 1572, though the earliest dated copies are from 1576. The canons of the 1571 Convocation enjoined use of the catechism "which was set forth, in the yeare 1570" in Latin and English; these laws passed into the 79th canon of 1604, which has ever been taken as enjoining the use of the Catechism of 1570 and its various abridgements, the most popular of which in the schools being the Middle Catechism.

The relationship between the "Shorter Catechism" and the "Little Catechism" of the Book of Common Prayer is near enough that it can be said that at one time the former stood as a Latin counterpart to the English of the latter. The "Little Catechism" is known to have been published independently from the Book of Common Prayer as early as 1551, appearing as the "The A. B. C. with the Catechism", a number of graces being subjoined at its end, and was very frequently so published through the 17th and 18th centuries. The author of the Little Catechism that first appeared in the Prayer Book in 1549 is unknown, and a number of parties have contended that it was the work of Dean Nowell, and this largely on account of the fact that the Shorter Catechism which bears his initials is no more than the Little Catechism with additions. This relationship is compounded by the fact that in the year 1604, in a somewhat altered form, the section on the sacraments that comprised a portion of the Shorter and Middle Catechisms was added to the Little Catechism in the Prayer Book, thus eliminating one of the few differences between them. Though a version of the Little Catechism in English is known to have been printed in the 16th century with the original additions of the 1573 catechism, from the early 17th century the "Little Catechism" as found in the Book of Common Prayer has represented a formal joining of the 1549 and 1572 or 1573 texts into a single English version. The Latin of the original Shorter Catechism was formally revived at the Restoration, and the Larger Catechism and the Middle Catechism continued to be published and used in their original English and Latin forms through the Classical Period.

The Constitutions and Canons Ecclesiastical of 1604

In conjunction with the restoration of the Royal Supremacy in the Church of England in the reign of Henry VIII, the Submission of the Clergy Act of 1533 was passed, which affirmed the force of the ancient canons of the Church of England so long as they were not inconsistent with the law of the Realm of England, or the Royal Supremacy, and further provided that new canons were to be made only under royal license. This retention of the general principle of English law, allowing that which has come before to inform the current law so long as it is consistent with it, has carried forward to the present day. Though a number of canons were produced during the 16th century, none of the efforts during that period to create a single comprehensive code of law of the Church of England came to full fruition. It was not until the beginning of the 17th century that such a code was compiled; and although it did not set aside the legal principle affirmed in 1553, it did present a concise and authoritative rule of general discipline for the Church of England. In 1604, under the order of King James I, Bishop Richard Bancroft presented to Convocation a code of one hundred and forty-one canons which he had compiled out of the various articles, injunctions, and synodical acts passed and published in the reigns of Edward VI and Elizabeth I, which was subsequently adopted by both the provinces of Canterbury and York. These canons were printed in English under the title "Constitutions and Canons Ecclesiasticall" in 1604, "published for the due obseruation of them by His Maiesties authoritie vnder the Great Seale of England", and also at the same time in Latin. These canons were of such a general authority that they were ordered in the royal proclamation attached to them to be read publically in every parish once a year.

In 1640, during the reign of Charles I, seventeen additional canons having been passed by Convocation were publically promulgated after the same manner as the one hundred and forty-one canons of 1604. These additional seventeen canons were, however, purposefully excluded from the Restoration under Charles II, and were not included in official printings of the Constitutions and Canons at that time or afterwards. The original 1604 Constitutions and Canons remained in force without alteration through the 18th century, with a number of minor revisions being made in the 19th century. In 1865, canons 36, 37, 38, and 40 were altered, lessening the requirement of subscription by ministers. In 1888, canons 62 and 102 relating to marriage were amended, and in 1892 a 142nd canon was added treating the discipline of clergy. In 1969, in the reign of Elizabeth II, the Constitutions and Canons Ecclesiastical of 1604 were replaced by a new set of active ecclesiastical laws in the Church of England, with the exception that a provision of the 113th canon of 1604 was incorporated into the new body of canons. The process by which canons of the Church of England are currently authorized and amended is fundamentally different than that belonging to the Classical Period of 1559-1687.

God and the King of 1615

The catechism "God and the King", treating in particular the subject of the allegiance and duty owed by Christian men to their sovereign, was produced in the reign of James I. Though the work has been attributed to the Rev. Richard Mocket, its authorship is uncertain, being according to the printed versions compiled by royal command. It was first printed in English in 1615 and again in 1616 "by His Maiesties speciall priuiledge and command", and at these same times also in Latin as "Deus et Rex". The initial publication in 1615 was further accompanied by the printing in the same year of a public proclamation by King James I enjoining its universal use, entitled "A Proclamation for the Confirmation of All Authorized Orders, Tending to the Vniuersall Publishing and Teaching, of a Certaine Religious Treatise, Compiled by Authority, and Intituled by the Name of God, and the King". This catechism, being commanded to be taught in all schools and universities, by all ministers of the Church, and likewise to be purchased by all householders, functioned as a general companion to those composed by Alexander Nowell through much of the Classical Period. A renewal of the injunction for use of God and the King was a component of the Restoration of Charles II, whose own printed public proclamation "A Proclamation for the Re-printing, Publishing, and Using of a Book Intituled God and the King" appeared in 1662 and was followed by an official republication for public use of the English version of God and the King in 1663. Though a number of other printings of this catechism appeared in the 18th century, the 1663 edition may be regarded as the authoritative form being the last set forth with authority for public use.

The Primer of 1670

The term "Primer" was commonly used for Prayer Books printed in English during the early 16th century prior to the restoration of the Royal Supremacy in the Church of England. In 1545, an official Primer in both English and Latin was "set foorth by the Kynges Maiestie and his clergie to be taught lerned, read: and none other to be vsed throughout all his dominions". As is explained in the injunction that accompanied the Primer, it was intended to be the uniform Prayer Book in English for the Church of England, during a period in which the public liturgy of the Church (with the exception of the litany printed in 1544 and also incorporated into the Primer) remained in the Latin language. This Primer continued to be printed and revised into the reign of Edward VI. In the year 1551, a later edition of this Primer was joined with the Little Catechism that had appeared in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, as "The Primer, and Catechisme, set furth by the Kynges Hyghnes and hys clergie", "to be taught, learned and read, of all his louyng subiectes, all other set aparte". This older Primer was, however, set aside in the year 1553 for a new model of Primer based expressly off the Book of Common Prayer, which at that time was the newly revised Prayer Book of 1552. The compilation of this new Primer, like the former of 1545, is a work attributed largely to Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. It is immediately distinct from the earlier Primers in that it is organized around the services of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer rather than prayer by the hours. The Primer of 1553 was entitled "A Prymmer or Boke of Priuate Prayer", and was "set forth agreeable and according to the Book of common prayers". As the liturgy of the Church of England itself had been recently changed to English, and the Primer expressly conformed to the public liturgy, it was particularly necessary to mark out the new work as being a private prayer book in order that it be retained as a volume distinct from the Prayer Book itself. The new edition, following that cited of 1551, also contained the Little Catechism.

The Primer of 1553, with some revisions, continued to be printed in the reign of Elizabeth I, but was also joined by a variety of other primers in both English and Latin, some after the fashion of the 1545 Primer with prayers by the hours. These were the Primer of 1559 following the Primer of Henry VIII, its Latin counterpart the "Orarium" of 1560, and the "Preces Privatae" of 1564 which stood as a Latin counterpart to the 1553 Primer of Edward VI in that it contained Morning and Evening Prayer. The Primer disappeared during the reigns of James I and Charles I, but reappeared in conjunction with the Restoration of Charles II. The new version of the Primer was produced in conjunction with the last revision of the Book of Common Prayer, that of 1662, and though initially printed without a date on the title page, it is believed to have been published around the year 1670. This Primer of 1670 was printed under the name "The Primer, or Catechism: set forth agreeable to the Book of Common Prayer, authorised by the Kings Majesty", and "to be used throughout his realms, and dominions", and was based largely upon revised forms of the 1553 Primer which had been published by public authority during the reign of Elizabeth I; the various other primers that had been set forth earlier in her reign and not published after, being set aside at this time. The last official text of the Primer of 1670 is that of the 1758 edition produced in the reign of George II, which contained a number of notable revisions that were retained in its printings by the Company of the Stationers through the remainder of the 18th century.

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In addition to the tertiaries, there were a variety of other materials put forth with public authority in the Church of England during the Classical Period from 1559 to 1687. Among these were common liturgical forms superseded by later uses; many forms of public prayer and liturgy for particular occasions; a small amount of homiletic material appointed for public reading; and a variety of resources that were authorized for use in particular localities, but not throughout the whole of England. These additional materials, when not very purposefully laid aside or superseded by later revision, while certainly bearing a degree of a public authority (as compared to the personal opinion of a single divine, which does not), do not themselves by reason of their temporary or localized nature constitute an extended part of the traditional standards of the Church of England. The historic tertiaries, by their being set forth with public authority for common ongoing use, stand out as a body clearly distinct from these lesser public resources of the same era. There were also a considerable number of books containing devotions, homilies, and other religious material "perused and allowed", or "seene and allowed" with public authority by Elizabeth I, though only a small number of these were reprinted in the reign of the Stuarts, and none enjoyed a common or continued use similar to the historic tertiaries through the Classical Period.

Though these tertiary standards never held the same authority as the formularies, which themselves were required to be publically read in the services of the churches, they were each of them either required, or allowed as it were, for common religious use in England. The historic tertiaries, while they may be regarded as lesser authorities, are still vital to understanding the formal theology and practice of this Classical Period from 1559 to 1687. The formularies and the tertiaries once functioned together to give a formal shape to the public religious life of England, and as a joined collection of works will continue to constitute the true classics of what we call Anglicanism today, and to provide definition to one of the most enduring traditions within Christendom.

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