This year will be celebrated in the Anglican world as the 300th anniversary of the Book of Common Prayer. The significance of this famous manual of Christian worship is not to be found by going back just 300 years, however, for the book of 1662 was in all essentials the same as the book of 1552, of which Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, was the main architect. The English Prayer Book is, in short, a document of the Reformation of the sixteenth century, and it must be understood against this background. There is an abundance of evidence to demonstrate that for a long time prior to the sixteenth century the church had been in desperate need of reform. The Gospel had been virtually lost to sight under a mass of unscriptural traditions and ceremonies. Church services were riddled with superstition. The clergy were in general dissolute and irresponsible. Preaching was at a premium. Moreover, the services were conducted in Latin, which the laity did not understand; and the Bible was not available to them in English, so that they were unable to study God’s Word for themselves.
It must be remembered that the Reformation, though complex in its associations, was in its essence a spiritual movement. It was, therefore, in essence a movement from within, not from without. It was a reformation first of human hearts and lives, and then, through these, of the Church. In every case the Reformers, through their rediscovery of the Bible as the dynamic Word of God, experienced an evangelical conversion. Then, as new creatures in Christ Jesus, they applied themselves to the colossal task of reforming the Church. God raised up William Tyndale to give the English people the Bible in their own tongue, Thomas Cranmer to give them worship ...1
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