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Assembly of 1903, hearkening to the desire of many pastors and churches, to appoint a Committee of Ministers and Ruling Elders who should prepare, in harmony with the Directory for Worship, a Book of Simple Forms and Services, proper and helpful for voluntary use in Presbyterian churches, in the celebration of the Sacraments, in Marriages and Funerals, and in the Conduct of Public Worship.” This work has been continued, in faithful obedience, and in humble reliance on the Holy Spirit, through nearly three years of patient labour, and has been submitted, in its progress, to two successive Assemblies. The principles by which the work has been guided were approved, and its completion was ordered. This having been done, so far as God enabled us, in the Book herewith presented, its publication is now “ Authorized by the General Assembly, for Voluntary Use in the Churches.”
This Book of Common Worship is, therefore, not to be taken in any wise as a liturgy imposed by authority. Nor is it a substitute for the Directory for Worship, but rather a supplement to it, wherein the instructions of the Standards are followed on all essential points, and aid is offered, to those who desire it, for the conduct of the Public Services of Religion with reverence and propriety. We have studied earnestly to embody the truths of our Holy Religion in the language of orderly devotion, to the end that by the Sacraments, the stated Ordinances of the Lord's Day, and all the ordinary and occasional offices of the Church, men may be both instructed and confirmed in the faith of Jesus Christ. We have searched the Holy Scriptures, the usage of the Reformed Churches, and the devotional treasures of early Christianity, for the most poble, clear, and moving expressions of the Spirit of Praise and Prayer; and we have added to these ancient and venerable forms and models, such others as might serve, under the guidance of the same Spirit, to give a voice to the present needs, the
urgent desires, and the vital hopes of the Church living in these latter days and in the freedom of this Republic.
Concerning the manner in which the different Services are ordered and arranged, and the best way in which they may be used to edification, a few suggestions are offered in the pages immediately following this Preface ; and throughout the Book, the careful reader will find that the words of guidance which precede the various parts of the services are designed, not only to mark their spiritual significance, but also to enable all the People to join in the Acts of Worship, that all things may be done decently and in order. The longer and more important rubrics are transcribed from the Directory for Worship of this Church, which disapproves alike of “confining Ministers to set or fixed forms of prayer for public Worship,” and of permitting that important service to be disgraced "by mean, irregular, or extravagant effusions.” It is to be remembered, therefore, that the forms here offered are to be used only “if the Minister so please,” as a help in Common Worship, and not without a constant care and diligence, by “acquaintance with the Holy Scriptures, by meditation, by reading the best writers on the subject, and by a life of communion with God in secret, to endeavour to acquire both the spirit and the gift of Prayer.”
In the Treasury of Prayers many things have been gathered together which may be not only useful, from time to time, in the conduct of Public Services, but also profitable for reading and study, for use in private devotion, and in that revival of Family Worship which is greatly needed in all our Churches. It is hoped, therefore, that the whole Book, having been prepared with a sincere wish to advance saving knowledge and true piety, may be received, studied, and used, by earnest members of this Church and by faithful Christians elsewhere, in the spirit of candour, simplicity, and brotherly love; devoutly meditating
upon the real meaning of the Christian faith, and endeavouring to adorn the Gospel of God our Saviour in all things. And to this end we pray that the Holy Spirit will accompany and bless this Book with His ever-present Grace; that wherever it is used the hearts of men may be truly drawn and led to the Throne of the Divine Mercy; and that all the people may find comfort, joy, and strength as they unite in the Common Worship of God who is revealed in Jesus Christ our adorable Redeemer.
THE ASSEMBLY'S COMMITTEE:
HENRY VAN DYKE, Chairman.
NOLAN R. BEST,
John H. CONVERSE,
John E. PARSONS,
ROBERT N. WILLSON, JAMES D. MOFFAT,
Ruling Elders. W. ROBSON NOTMAN, WILLIAM R. RICHARDS, JAMES H. SNOWDEN, WILLIAM R. TAYLOR,
CONCERNING THE USE OF THIS
I None of the Forms of Service in this Book are intended to be in any sense obligatory ; but where a given Order is voluntarily used it will promote unity and the general convenience if the parts are followed as here arranged.
[ In order that all the People should take their part in the Public Worship of God, it is most earnestly recommended that, in those churches which choose to make use of the following Orders and Forms of Service, every member of the Congregation should be supplied with a copy of this Book ; and, also, that the directions which precede each part of the different services should be studied beforehand both by Minister and People, so that confusion or uncertainty in the conduct of Worship may be avoided.
T The playing of a voluntary on the organ while the Congregation are assembling, the singing of a Psalm instead of the responsive reading from the Psalter, or of an Anthem after the Scripture reading, and other like oxservances, are left to the choice and usage of each church. But it should always be remembered that the Organist and the Choir are members of the Congregation, and that their coöperation will be of the greatest help to the Minister in conducting all the parts of Worship.
T To attain the prompt and hearty participation of the People, it is necessary that they should know beforehand what is expected of them. Therefore, when any change is to be made in the order of a Service as given in the Book (as, for example, in the use of The Commandments at the Morning Service, The Beatitudes at the Evening Service, or in the time of making the Offering or of singing the last Hymn), the Minister should be careful that the Congregation are
duly notified. It is also desirable, in places where it is convenient, that the numbers of the Hymns and of the Selection from the Psalter be posted where they can be seen by the Congregation.
T In connection with the General Prayer in the Lord's Day Services it is recommended that the Minister make faithfui preparation of his own heart and mind to lead the People in their Adorations, Thanksgivings, Supplications, and Intercessions. If he should make any use, in thus preparing himself, of those which are given in the TREASURY OF PRAYERS, this should be done with forethought and much care, in order not only to avoid injudicious length, but also that the prayer may be framed to express his own thought and feeling, and may also be suited to the occasion or the special need of the congregation.
| The use of this Book will be profitable only to those who are careful not to make it a means of formal or restricted worship, either public or private ; but who remember always their duty as Christians both to seek and to cherish the gift of Prayer, by which they shall be enabled to frame wise and earnest and reverent petitions, as well for others as for themselves. And in every service of the Church it is fitting that the Minister and every one of the People should pray in silence, at the beginning, for the guidance and help of the Holy Spirit, and at the close of the service, that all who have taken part in it may receive the blessing of God through Jesus Christ.