Arthur Stephen McGrade (ed.), Richard Hooker: Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Vol. 2: Book V

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Of them who allowing a set form of prayer yet allow not ours.

27. Now albeit the Admonitioners did seem at the first to allow no prescript form of prayer at all, but thought it the best that their minister should always be left at liberty to pray as his own discretion did serve, yet because this opinion upon better advice they afterwards retracted, their defender and his associates have since proposed to the world a form such as themselves like, and to show their dislike of ours have taken against it those exceptions, which whosoever does measure by number, must needs be greatly out of love with a thing that has so many faults; whosoever by weight, cannot choose but esteem very highly of that, wherein the wit of so scrupulous adversaries has not hitherto observed any defect which themselves can seriously think to be of moment. Gross errors and manifest impiety they grant we have taken away. Yet pmany things in it they say are amiss, many instances they give of things in our common prayer not pg 80agreeable as they pretend with the word of God. It has in their eye too great affinity with the form of the Church of Rome; it differs too much from that which Churches elsewhere reformed allow and observe; our attire disgraces it; it is not orderly read nor gestured as beseems; it requires nothing to be done which a child may not lawfully do; it has a number of shortcuts or shreddings which may be better called wishes than prayers; it intermingles prayings and readings in such manner as if Supplicants should use in proposing their suits to mortal princes, all the world would judge them mad; it is too long and by that means abridges preaching; it appoints the people to say after the minister; it spends time in singing and in reading the psalms by course from side to side; it uses the Lord's prayer too often; the songs of Magnificat, Benedictus and Nunc dimittis it might very well spare; it has the Litany, the Creed of Athanasius and Gloria patri, which are superfluous; it craves earthly things too much; for deliverance from those evils against which we pray it gives no thanks; some things it asks unseasonably when they need not to be prayed for, as deliverance from thunder and tempest when no danger is near; some in too abject and diffident manner, as that God would give us that which we for our unworthiness dare not ask; some which ought not to be desired, as the deliverance from sudden death, riddance from all adversity, and the extent of saving mercy towards all men. These and such-like are the imperfections, whereby our form of common prayer is thought to swerve from the word of God. A great favourer of that part, but yet (his error that way excepted) a learned, a painful, a right virtuous and a good man did not fear some time to undertake, against popish detractors, the general maintenance and defence of our whole Church service, as having in it nothing repugnant to the word of God. And even they which would file away most from the largeness of that offer, do notwithstanding in more sparing terms acknowledge little less. For when those opposite judgements which never are wont to construe things doubtful to the better, those very tongues which are always prone to aggravate whatsoever has but the least show whereby it may be suspected to savour of or to sound towards any evil, do by their own voluntary sentence clearly free us from gross errors and from manifest impiety herein, who would not judge us to be discharged of all blame, which are confessed to have no great fault even by their very word and testimony, in whose eyes no fault of ours has ever hitherto been accustomed to seem small? | Nevertheless what they seem to offer us with the one hand, the same with the other they pull back again. They grant we err not in palpable manner, we are not openly and notoriously impious. Yet errors we have which the sharp insight of their wisest men do espy, there is hidden impiety which the profounder sort are able enough to disclose. Their skilful ears perceive certain harsh and unpleasant discords in the sound of our common prayer, such as the rules of divine harmony, such as the laws of God cannot bear.

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Editor’s Note
p T.C., Bk 1, p. 131. Afterwards p. 135. Whereas Master Doctor affirms that there can be nothing shown in the whole book which is not agreeable to the word of God: I am very loath etc. Notwithstanding my duty of defending the truth, and love which I have first towards God, and then towards my country, constrains me being thus provoked to speak a few words more particularly of the form of prayer, that when the blemishes thereof do appear it may please the Queen's Majesty and her Honourable Council with those of the Parliament etc.
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