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THE Ritual Formularies of the English Church have been illustrated by so many learned Divines, that the reader may justly claim some explanation of the necessity and the nature of the present work.
The valuable writings of LESTRANGE, Nicholls, WheatlY, SHEPHERD, and Bishop Mant, contain excellent commentaries both practical and doctrinal, on the rubrics and prayers of our Ritual ; and perhaps scarcely any thing can be added to the information which they have conveyed on these points. But the field of historical and antiquarian discussion is more open. In itself more extensive, it has perhaps been less explored ; and its fertility is so great, that had it been consistent with my plan, there would have been no difficulty in very considerably extending these volumes.
Such topics are in fact connected with much that is important; for he who is acquainted with the principles and practice of early times, will best comprehend the purport of our rites. The English Prayer Book was not composed in a few years, nor by a few men: it has descended to us with the improvements and the approbation of many centuries : and they who truly feel the calm and sublime elevation of our hymns and prayers, participate in the spirit of primitive devotion. The great majority of our formularies are actually translated from Latin and Greek rituals, which have been used for at least fourteen or fifteen hundred years in the Christian church; and there is scarcely a portion of our Prayer Book which cannot in some way be traced to ancient offices.
Most of our ritualists have noticed these circumstances ; but with the exception of