From The Churchman, 49:4 (October, 1935), pp. 318-319.
THE COMMUNION SERVICE AS IT MIGHT BE. With Introduction and Notes.
By Lord Hugh Cecil. Clarendon Press. 2s. 6d. net.
The distinguished author of this recent effort in the direction of Prayer Book Revision confines himself entirely to the Communion Service, for with that service controversy in regard to the Prayer Book is chiefly concerned. The learning and devotional earnestness which mark the book are what we might naturally expect from so devout and thoughtful a Churchman as Lord Hugh Cecil; and it goes without saying that there is much in it which Evangelical Churchmen, and not they only, cannot but welcome. The emphasis on careful preparation as a preliminary to reception; the provision that the service shall be said throughout in a distinct and audible voice, and that it must not be supplemented by additional prayers; the prohibition of a service with the priest alone communicating and the encouragement of many communicants where the service is well attended; the defence of Good Friday Communion, are to be welcomed.
Lord Hugh has taken great pains to provide a form of service which he thinks ought to commend itself to Evangelicals and to others who do not describe themselves as such, but who are not Anglo-Catholics. But with all this and with much more which might be added, we cannot feel in any way drawn to Lord Hugh's sincerely meant eirenicon. His provision of vestments, of the Eastward Position, of Prayers for the departed, of the Invocation of the Holy Spirit upon the elements of bread and wine; the Agnus Dei; lights on the altar; the oblation of the unconsecrated and, later, of the consecrated elements; the implication in the Notes that incense will be used, and the church bell tolled at the consecration: all these, and there is more that might be enumerated, unite, to use the words of the Royal Commission of 1906, "to change the outward character of the service from that of the traditional service of the Reformed English Church to that of the traditional service of the Church of Rome." And the doctrine underlying this revised service is more in harmony with that of the Church of Rome than with that of the Church of England. The explanations and evasions to which those are driven who hold a doctrine of the presence of Christ in or with the consecrated elements and of the offering of the elements thus consecrated before God, are so many and so subtle that it is impossible to discuss them within the limits of a review, if it would be in place to do so.
Lord Hugh has exerted all his great ability to defend his doctrinal position as being in harmony with that of the Prayer Book and Articles, but his arguments, while they may confirm in their views those who agree with him, are not convincing to those who differ. We may take, for example, his attitude to Article XXIX. He admits that the Article "denies that the unfaithful communicant partakes of Christ," but he adds: "It is notable that it does not deny, though it is sometimes supposed so to do, that the unfaithful communicant partakes of the body of Christ." But this is precisely what the Article does no less explicitly deny. It says of the unfaithful communicants who receive the Sacrament that "in no wise are they partakers of Christ." Lord Hugh does not quote the very emphatic words we have italicised. But we should have thought it impossible to mistake or to attenuate their meaning. The very purpose of the Article was to exclude the idea of any presence of Christ's body and blood in the elements or under their form. But if there is such a presence and the unfaithful partake of it, it cannot be contended, if words have any meaning at all, that they "are in no wise partakers of Christ." Lord Hugh, moreover, does not seem to realise sufficiently that his form of service if it were adopted would be but the starting-point from which further advances would be made. The Prayer Book of 1662, possessing none of the features which we are here invited to add, does exercise to a greater extent than is sometimes admitted a restraining influence. But a service compiled after this model would but be an encouragement, if not an incitement, to the re-introduction of superstitions and extravagances which Lord Hugh Cecil would deplore as much as anyone, but which it would be extremely difficult to resist on the premisses which he has here adopted.
W. G. J.