Calvinist Influence on Worship in England

Calvin_HeaderTo what extent, if any, should Anglican and Reformed models of worship overlap? As to their differences – first, what are they; and secondly, are they material or formal? And if the differences are real – it seems fairly clear that on something as fundamental as the Regulative Principle of Worship, the two streams diverge – how should we handle influences and reactions?

As the 42nd PCA GA approaches, this question will grow slightly more important as different pockets within the denomination come into contact with each other. Some of these intersections will create snark:

And others will strive to mingle, as noted in this article from a largely appreciative perspective, “Thoughts Concerning the Influence of the Anglican Tradition on Contemporary Reformed Liturgical Practice.

My own opinion is both neophyte and (reactionary) cautious. But regardless what I think, I found this quote in Samuel Miller’s Public Prayer to be a good reminder for all as we discuss these “trends” in divine worship.

Calvin, in giving his opinion of this liturgy to Archbishop Cranmer, with perfect freedom and candor, told him that he thought it contained a number of “tolerabiles ineptias“, i.e., “tolerable fooleries,” which ought to be expunged. This was accordingly done. That is to say, the prayers for the dead – chrism, – extreme unction, and other monuments of Papal superstition with which it abounded, were most of them put out in conformity with his advice. Dr. Heylin, himself a most prejudiced and bitter anti-Calvinist, declares not only that these alterations were made, but that they were made in compliance with Calvin’s wishes. “The former liturgy,” says he, “was discontinued, and the second superinduced upon it, to give satisfaction unto Calvin’s cavils, the curiosities of some, and the mistakes of others, his friends and followers” (History of the Presbyterians, 12.267). The statement of Dr. Nichols is to the same amount. “Four years afterwards,” says he, “the Book of Common Prayer underwent another review, wherein some ceremonies and usages were laid aside, and some new prayers added at the instance of Mr. Calvin, of Geneva, and Bucer, a foreign divine, who was invited to be a professor at Cambridge” (Commentary on the Book of Common Prayer – Preface).

(Miller, Public Prayer p. 84 – 85. Be sure to find more on the great Presbyterian Samuel Miller here.)

For a more definitive comment on this subject, I recommend some of the stimulating articles that have come from The Confessional Presbyterian, especially “The Regulative Principle of Worship: Sixty Years in Reformed Literature” and that series.

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