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BISHOP SPARROW, MR. L'ESTRANGE, DR. COMBER, DR. NICHOLS,
AND ALL FORMER RITUALISTS, COMMENTATORS,
OR OTHERS, UPON THE SAME SUBJECT.
In a former edition of this book, which was printed in folio, I was at a loss in what manner I was to address the reader; that is, whether I was to bespeak his candour as to an entire new book, or whether only the continuance of it as to a new edition of an old one. I called it indeed the third edition in the titlepage; though I think I had but little other reason for doing so, than my having twice published a treatise upon the same subject before. For scarce a fifth part of what I then offered to the world was printed from either of the former editions; nor had so much of them as I have mentioned been continued entire, had I foreseen how little I should have confined myself to the rest. But when it first went to the press, I had no other design than to have reprinted it exactly from the second edition ; except that I had yielded to the request of the booksellers, who, being encouraged by the quick sale of two large impressions in a smaller volume, were willing to run the hazard of one in a larger size. This was all the alteration I proposed : nor did I think of any other, till the introductory discourse, the whole first chapter, and great part of the second, were worked off from the press ; which therefore, for the most part, stand just as they did before, and not in the method into which I should have thrown them, had I known from the beginning what alterations I should have made. However, the reader will have no reason to complain; since though the form would have been different, the arguments notwithstanding must have been much the same: and they sure will appear to a better advantage by standing entire, and in the light they are set by the authors themselves, from whom I have borrowed them, than if they had been broke into comments and notes, and produced in parcels, as the rubrics would have required; which was the method I afterwards thought fit to pursue. For when I observed at the close of the second chapter (which is upon the general rubric concerning The Order for Morning and Evening Prayer) that I had taken no notice in what part of the church Divine Service should be performed, (the appointment of which was yet the principal design of the first part of that rubric,) I not only found it necessary to add a new section to supply that defect; but taking the hint, to examine how I had managed the rubrics in general, I perceived that I had been equally deficient in most of them; and that consequently, to make the work truly useful, the like additions would be necessary through the whole.
The occasion of this defect in the two first editions was owing to a neglect of those parts of our offices in all who had writ upon the Liturgy before me: for as I never, till the third edition, attempted any further than to give the substance and sum of what others had treated of more at large; it could not be expected, that the epitome, or abridgment, should give more light than the books from whence it was taken supplied. However, as I considered the price of my own book would then be very considerably advanced, I thought it but reasonable to make the purchaser what amends I was able, by putting it into his hands as complete as I could.
To this end I applied myself, in the first place, to the comparing our Liturgy, as it stands at present, with the first Common Prayer Book of King Edward VI. and with all the reviews that have been taken of it since; from whence, together with the history of compiling it, and of the several alterations it has undergone from time to time, I easily foresaw the rubrics would be best illustrated and explained. Nor have I found myself disappointed in the advantage I proposed; for I do not remember that I have met with a difficulty through the whole Common Prayer, but what I have been enabled, by this means, in some measure to remove.
1 I desire that what I have said may be principally understood of the introductory discourse (which is almost verbally transcribed from Dr. Bennet's Brief History of the joint Use of precomposed set Forms of Prayer) and of the three first sections of the second chapter ; for the first of which I am partly obliged to bishop Beveridge's Discourse on The Necessity and Advantage of Public Prayer; for the second to Dr. Cave's Primitive Christianity; and for the third to Mr. Roberts's excellent Sermon at the Primary Visitation of the late Bishop of Exeter at Oakhampton. The two following sections of that chapter are pretty much in the method I afterwards observed, and so for the most part is the whole first chapter ; for the first division of which (concerning the Tables and Rules) I must not forget to repeat the acknowledgments I have more than once made to the learned Dr. Brett.
And whilst I was upon these searches, it came into my mind, from the extravagant prices which the old Common Prayer Books have borne of late, that it would not be unacceptable to the curious reader, to note the differences between them : wherever therefore I met with any variations, I have also been diligent to transcribe them at large, and to give the reason of the several changes: another improvement which I thought would be looked upon to be so much the more useful, as it furnished me with occasions of inquiring into several ancient usages of the church, and of shewing how far we have advanced to, or gone back from, the primitive standard, since our first Reformation.
These are the two principal alterations which I observed : and though these perhaps may seem but slight at first mentioning, yet I can assure the reader, that from my first laying the design, I found that, instead of what I had at first undertaken, which was only the surpervising a few sheets as they were worked off, I had got an entire new work upon my hands, and that I was to prepare for, as well as to correct from, the press. New additions I perceived were necessary to be made almost in every page, and where the old matter was continued, it was to be often transposed, and to be worked up again in different parts of the book. So that neither of my former editions was, from the time above mentioned, of any other use to me in compiling of this, than any of the authors that lay open before me: except that what was scattered in different books, which treat some of them of one thing and some of another, I generally found ready collected in my own, which therefore for the most part saved me the trouble of new weaving the materials which others had supplied. Not that I took any advantage from hence to spare myself the pains of reading over again the several authors themselves; for I do not know that there was a single piece on the subject, how inconsiderable soever, but what I gave a fresh review, and with the utmost care, that not a hint should escape me, which I judged would be any ways worth observation. And yet I dare affirm that the whole that I borrowed from all who have writ professedly upon the Common Prayer, does not