It is a most invaluable part of that blessed “liberty wherewith Christ
hath made us free,” that in his worship different forms and usages may
without offense be allowed, provided the substance of the Faith be kept
entire; and that, in every Church, what cannot be clearly determined to
belong to Doctrine must be referred to Discipline; and therefore, by
common consent and authority, may be altered, abridged, enlarged,
amended, or otherwise disposed of, as may seem most convenient for the
edification of the people, “according to the various exigency of times and

The Church of England, to which the Protestant Episcopal Church in
these States is indebted, under God, for her first foundation and a long
continuance of nursing care and protection, hath, in the Preface of her
Book of Common Prayer, laid it down as a rule, that “The particular
Forms of Divine Worship, and the Rites and Ceremonies appointed to be
used therein, being things in their own nature indifferent, and alterable,
and so acknowledged; it is but reasonable that upon weighty and
important considerations, according to the various exigency of times and
occasions, such changes and alterations should be made therein, as to
those that are in place of Authority should, from time to time, seem either
necessary or expedient.”

The same Church hath not only in her Preface, but likewise in her Articles
and Homilies, declared the necessity and expediency of occasional
alterations and amendments in her Forms of Public Worship; and we find
accordingly, that, seeking to keep the happy mean between too much
stiffness in refusing, and too much easiness in admitting variations in

Preface    9

things once advisedly established, she hath, in the reign of several Princes,
since the first compiling of her Liturgy in the time of Edward the Sixth,
upon just and weighty considerations her thereunto moving, yielded to
make such alterations in some particulars, as in their respective times
were thought convenient; yet so as that the main body and essential parts
of the same (as well in the chiefest materials, as in the frame and order
thereof) have still been continued firm and unshaken.

Her general aim in these different reviews and alterations hath been, as
she further declares in her said Preface, to do that which, according to her
best understanding, might most tend to the preservation of peace and
unity in the Church; the procuring of reverence, and the exciting of piety
and devotion in the worship of God; and, finally, the cutting off occasion,
from them that seek occasion, of cavil or quarrel against her Liturgy. And
although, according to her judgment, there be not any thing in it contrary
to the Word of God, or to sound doctrine, or which a godly man may not
with a good conscience use and submit unto, or which is not fairly
defensible, if allowed such just and favourable construction as in
common equity ought to be allowed to all human writings; yet upon the
principles already laid down, it cannot but be supposed that further
alterations would be found expedient. Accordingly, a Commission
for a review was issued in the year 1689: but this great and good work
miscarried at that time; and the Civil Authority has not since thought
proper to revive it by any new Commission.

But when in the course of Divine Providence, these American States
became independent with respect to civil government, their ecclesiastical
independence was necessarily included; and the different religious
denominations of Christians in these States were left at full and equal
liberty to model and organize their respective Churches, and forms of
worship, and discipline, in such manner as they might judge most
convenient for their future prosperity; consistently with the constitution
and laws of their country.

The attention of this Church was in the first place drawn to those
alterations in the Liturgy which became necessary in the prayers for our
Civil Rulers, in consequence of the Revolution. And the principal care
herein was to make them conformable to what ought to be the proper
end of all such prayers, namely, that “Rulers may have grace, wisdom,

10    Preface

and understanding to execute justice, and to maintain truth;” and that the
people “may lead quiet and peaceable lives, in all godliness and honesty.”

But while these alterations were in review before the Convention, they
could not but, with gratitude to God, embrace the happy occasion which
was offered to them (uninfluenced and unrestrained by any worldly
authority whatsoever) to take a further review of the Public Service, and
to establish such other alterations and amendments therein as might be
deemed expedient.

It seems unnecessary to enumerate all the different alterations and
amendments. They will appear, and it is to be hoped, the reasons of them
also, upon a comparison of this with the Book of Common Prayer of the
Church of England. In which it will also appear that this Church is far
from intending to depart from the Church of England in any essential
point of doctrine, discipline, or worship; or further than local
circumstances require.

And now, this important work being brought to a conclusion, it is hoped
the whole will be received and examined by every true member of our
Church, and every sincere Christian, with a meek, candid, and charitable
frame of mind; without prejudice or prepossessions; seriously considering
what Christianity is, and what the truths of the Gospel are; and earnestly
beseeching Almighty God to accompany with his blessing every endeavour
for promulgating them to mankind in the clearest, plainest, most affecting
and majestic manner, for the sake of Jesus Christ, our blessed
Lord and Saviour.

Philadelphia, October, 1789

Preface    11

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