February 9, 2016

Sparrow’s Commentary on the Book of Common Prayer, now online

Anthony Sparrow: A Rationale upon the Book of Common Prayer (1655), here the 1684 ed.

The many commentaries published through the centuries exemplify the esteem in which Anglicans hold the ancient Liturgy. Nowhere is this better seen than in Anthony Sparrow’s Rationale upon the Book of Common Prayer, first published in 1655. In that year the Church of England was in exile, as the Great Rebellion was raging through England and many ancient Anglican institutions were discounted as gone. The bishops were exiled or executed, the dioceses were utterly disbanded, and the churches wrecked. The Book of Common Prayer was outlawed, ancient liturgy was forbidden, and any affection for it was cause for arrest and punishment. Sparrow, then a priest in exile, composed this magisterial Commentary as a commentary on the disappearing liturgy, and perhaps also a rallying cry for the forlorn Church in exile.

However to the astonishment of the world, the church returned from the brink of destruction, to a renewed period of flourishing; and in the successive years published the Prayer Book of 1662 as the most famous testament to the longevity of God’s people. In the publication of the 1662 Prayer Book, Sparrow’s Commentary was an object of deep study being one of the most important commentaries yet published up to that point. Shortly thereafter, Sparrow was raised to Episcopacy for his indefatigable efforts, and spent the rest of his life in the careful protection of his Diocese from falsehood and errors, along with revising and greatly enlarging his Commentary, which we present here in the rich 1684 edition.