“That We Might Be Accepted of God, and Never Forsaken of Him”: Early American Dutch Reformed Liturgies, 1628-1814   4 comments

RCA Crest

Above:  The Crest of the Reformed Church in America

A Scan from the Cover of Our Reformed Church, by Howard G. Hageman and Revised by Gregg A. Mast (New York, NY:  Reformed Church Press, 1995)

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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U.S. DUTCH REFORMED LITURGY, PART II

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That we might be accepted of God, and never forsaken of him:  and finally confirmed with his death and shedding of his blood, the new and eternal testament, that covenant of grace and reconciliation, when he said, it is finished.

–The Liturgy of the Lord’s Supper, 1789 and 1814

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I.  PREFACE AND INTRODUCTION

In the previous post I set the stage and wrote of U.S. Dutch Reformed history through the Secession of 1857, which resulted in the formation of the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA or just CRC).  That approach was necessary and proper.  Now, however, to zoom in and explore more details is also necessary and proper.

My purpose in this post is to examine U.S. Dutch Reformed liturgies and their antecedents through 1814, the year that the Reverend John H. Livingston (1746-1825), the Father of the Reformed Church in America, edited The Psalms and Hymns, successor to The Psalms of David (1789), which he had also edited.  Livingston, as a liturgist, stood firmly in his tradition while departing from it in some ways.

II.  EUROPEAN ROOTS

Dutch Reformed liturgies stood in the lineage of Lutheran and Reformed rites of the 1500s.  Of particular relevance was the Palatinate service book, the Kirchenordnung, or Church Order (1563), a companion to the Heidelberg Catechism (1563).  Zacharius Ursinus and Caspar Olevianus wrote them at the behest of Elector Frederick III “the Pious.”  The Palatinate form for Holy Communion borrowed from various Calvinistic forms and drew from the Heidelberg Catechism.  The Palatinate liturgies, being companions to the Heidelberg Catechism, not only contained echoes of it but came with a rubric requiring the minister to identify the questions from that Catechism germane to his Sunday sermon.

The Reverend Peter Datheen (1531-1588), a former Carmelite friar who had converted to Protestantism in 1550, relocated with his congregation from London, England, to Frankental (near Worms), in Germany, in 1562, under the protection of Elector Frederick III.  There Datheen, whose Latinized name was Petrus Dathenus, encountered the Palatinate Communion ritual.  In that setting the sacrament took place once a month in cities, once every other month in villages, and on Easter, Pentecost, and Christmas.  There was a service of preparation on the Saturday before each Communion Sunday.  Only those who had attended the preparation service could partake of the sacrament.

Both the Heidelberg Catechism and the Church Order of 1563 influenced Datheen greatly.  He combined much of the latter with Lutheran and other Reformed forms as well as his Dutch translation of the Psalter to forge a new service book, which he published in 1566.  The volume also contained the Heidelberg Catechism and rituals and prayers.  There one found rituals for Baptism, the Lord’s Supper,funerals,  and marriage, as well as prayers for morning, evening, the sick, and opening and closing church council meetings.  This service book has proven influential in Dutch Reformed circles to this day.

Datheen’s Eucharistic rite incorporated parts of 1 Corinthians 10 and 11.  The ritual featured a prayer, a creed, and an exhortation to lift up hearts to Christ, not to pay attention to earthly bread and wine.  Reformed Eucharistic theology was prominent.

Datheen presided at three influential Synods–Wesel in 1568 and Dordrect (Dort) in 1574 and 1578.  The 1568 Synod recommended the use of Datheen’s Psalter in The Netherlands.  The Synods of 1574 and 1578 required the use of that Psalter and permitted the singing of hymns.  The Synod of Dort (1574) established a pattern for the Sunday service:

  • A scripture reading and the singing of a psalm,
  • The Votum (Psalm 24:8),
  • Prayer;
  • Singing,
  • The sermon,
  • Prayer again,
  • The Creed,
  • Singing again, and
  • The Blessing.

The frequency of the Lord’s Supper was once a month.

The Synod of Dort (1578) established other rules:

  • The Gospel reading would come from a lectio continua (continual reading plan), not a complementary lectionary.
  • Sunday worship would be central.  Thus there would be no weekday evening prayer.
  • There would be only preaching, not singing, at a funeral, so to honor only God.
  • Baptism and Confirmation would occur only in community settings.
  • Congregational leaders would investigate a parishioner’s behavior prior to the monthly observance of the Lord’s Supper.  Only those who passed the test could partake of the sacrament.

The Synod of Dort (1618-1619) was more famous than the preceding Synods held in that city.  The 1618-1619 Synod reversed the earlier, permissive attitude toward hymns, permitting instead only the singing of Psalms.  That gathering also prohibited the use of organs in churches.  This fact explained the great scandal which a Dutch Reformed congregation in New York City caused in 1727 by installing a pipe organ.

The Synod of The Hague (1586) expanded Datheen’s influence.  It required strict adherence to his order of the Lord’s Supper, one which heightened the emphasis on sin, a fixation which was already a major point in the Palatinate liturgy.  Indeed, one could not use Datheen’s rituals without hearing about how one had been born into sin and was therefore incapable of doing anything good.

III.  IN THE NEW WORLD

Colonial Worship Patterns

Datheen’s liturgy, being official, normative, and mandatory in the Dutch Reformed Church in The Netherlands and her colonies, set the pattern for Dutch Reformed worship in the New World for nearly two centuries.  The services were in the Dutch language in the territory of the future United States for a long time, for the first English-language services (using a translation of the Datheen rites) occurred in the 1700s.  There were two Sunday services in the time of New Netherland.  The morning and afternoon services followed the same order or worship.  The afternoon sermon related to the Heidelberg Catechism.

Enter John H. Livingston

The Reverend John H. Livingston (1746-1825) worked from Datheen’s blueprint when editing two service books-hymnals, The Psalms of David (1789) and The Psalms and Hymns (1814), links to which I have provided already in this post.  (I also covered them partially in the first post in this series.   Thus the following content stands beside that section of that post.)  The two Livingston-edited service books-hymnals deviated from Datheen’s model in certain crucial ways and differed from each other.  They were, however, more alike than not.  The two volumes reflected the influence of preceding rites and service books, such as those I have explained in this post.  The past was prologue.

Preparation for the Lord’s Supper

Both the 1789 and 1814 books contained A Compendium of the Christian Religion for Those Who Intend to Approach the Holy Supper of the Lord, a catechism for use in the Saturday preparatory services.

The Liturgy:  Public Prayer

The Liturgy came in six parts.  The first section was Public Prayer, which consisted of the following:

  • The pre-sermon and post-sermon prayers,
  • The prayers for before and after explaining the catechism,
  • A Morning Prayer and an Evening Prayer,
  • Prayers for opening and closing church meetings,
  • Graces before and after meat, and
  • Prayer for Sick and Tempted Persons.

The Liturgy:  The Administration of the Holy Sacraments

The second section of the Liturgy was the Administration of the Holy Sacraments–Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  There were rites for baptizing infants and adults.  The rituals emphasized that all people were

conceived and born in sin

and were therefore children

of wrath by nature, incapable of doing any good, and prone to all evil.

Yet, the language said, there was grace.  The rites challenged the baptized to make

firm resolution always to lead a Christian life.

Livingston, while editing the 1789 and 1814 books, omitted a crucial prayer from the Palatinate and Datheen liturgies.  That prayer had deep roots, for Martin Luther had written the original version, Ulrich Zwingli had revised it, and Zacharius Ursinus and Caspar Olevianus had modified if further at Heidelberg in 1563.  The English translation of that prayer read:

O almighty and eternal God,

who in thy severe judgment didst punish the unbelieving and impenitent world with the Flood,

and didst of thy great mercy save and preserve eight souls to faithful Noah,

who didst didst drown the hard-hearted Pharoah with all his host in the Red Sea,

and didst lead thy people Israel through the same with dry feet,

by which baptism was signified,

we beseech thee, that thou wilt be pleased of thine infinite mercy graciously to look upon these children,

and incorporate them by thy Holy Spirit into thy Son Jesus Christ,

that they may be buried with him into his death,

and be raised with him in newness of life;

that they may daily follow him, joyfully bearing their cross,

and cleave unto him in true faith, firm hope, and ardent love;

that they may with a comfortable sense of thy favor,

leave this life, which is nothing but a continual death,

and at the last day, may appear without terror before the judgment seat of Christ thy Son,

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the Holy Ghost,

one only God, lives and reigns forever.  Amen.

(I changed the formatting to make the text more easily readable.)

The “flood prayer,” which pointed to Baptism as a corporate sign–one sealed one person at a time–was absent from the 1789 and 1814 books.  This absence indicated that the Reformed Church in America was moving into American Evangelicalism, with its excessive individualism, and away from European Calvinistic roots, which took the community more into account.

(P.S.–In 1994 the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America sent to the Classes (the plural form of Classis) a baptismal rite, which they approved the following year.  That ritual contains an abbreviated form of the “flood prayer.”  One can access that rite here.  As I write this sentence there are Provisional Orders on Baptism and Profession and Reaffirmation of Faith which also use a form of that prayer.)

The Eucharistic rites of the 1789 and 1814 remained close to the Datheen model.  The service opened with 1 Corinthians 11:23-30 then continued with an exhortation for those present to examine their consciences.  Next came a congregational prayer for grace, followed by the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’s Creed.  Then came this very Reformed prayer:

That we may now be fed with the true heavenly bread, Christ Jesus,

let us not cleave with our hearts unto the external bread and wine,

but lift them up on high in heaven, where Christ is our advocate, at the right hand of the heavenly Father,

whither all the articles of our faith lead us;

not doubting, but we shall as certainly be fed and refreshed in our souls through the working of the Holy Ghost,

with his body and blood, as we receive the holy bread and wine in remembrance of him.

(I changed the formatting to make the text more easily readable.)

The distribution of the elements followed.  Then prayers of thanksgiving concluded the rite.

The Liturgy:  The Administration of Church Discipline

The Administration of Church Discipline was the third part of the Liturgy.  This part consisted of Excommunication and Readmitting Excommunicated Persons Into the Church of Christ.

The Liturgy:  The Ordination of Church Officers

The fourth section of the Liturgy, the Ordination of Church Officers, contained rites for ordaining ministers, elders, and deacons.

The Liturgy:  Marriage

Section number five of the Liturgy was the Confirmation of a Marriage Before the Church.

The Liturgy:  The Consolation of Sick and Dying Believers

The final section of the Liturgy consisted of verses of scripture For the Consolation of Sick and Dying Believers, arranged topically.  The 1789 book contained the texts, but the 1814 volume just listed the citations.

The Nicene and Athanasian Creeds

Both books ended with the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds.

The Psalter

The Psalter was prominent in the 1789 and 1814 books.  The Psalms of David (1789) did not Christianize the Psalms to the extent The Psalms and Hymns (1814) did.  In 1814 Psalm 21, the Third Part, verse 1, read:

David rejoic’d in God, his strength,

Rais’d to the throne by special grace;

But Christ, the Son appears at length,

Fulfills the triumph and the praise.

The punctuation was slightly different in 1789, as was the use of “f” for “s.”

Then there was the case of Psalm 22.  The 1789 Psalms of David rendered the text mostly in a straight-forward way, without much Christianization.  The 1814 Psalms and Hymns, however, Christianized the text extensively.  Verse 1 of the Second Part read:

Writhing in pain, our Saviour pray’d

With mighty cries and tears:

In that dread hour, his Father heard,

And chas’d away his fears.

The 1814 book, unlike its 1789 predecessor, pegged the Psalms to the Heidelberg Catechism.

The Hymns

The Psalms of David (1789) included 100 hymns, but The Psalms and Hymns (1814) had 270.  The latter volume, however, removed 161 hymn and Psalm texts from the repertoire of the Reformed Church in America.  Both books, however, pegged the hymns to the Heidelberg Catechism.  Some of the new hymns expanded the range of funerary hymns, consistent with Livingston’s 1812 funeral liturgy, which replaced the sermon with the singing of hymns, in a break with Dutch Reformed tradition.

Looking Ahead

The 1789-1814 Liturgy fell into widespread disuse during the first half of the nineteenth century, as the denomination moved away from its roots and toward American Evangelicalism.  This fact concerned certain prominent people in the Reformed Church in America.  Their efforts led to the next period of liturgical revision, 1853-18

That is a story for a subsequent post.

IV.  CONCLUSION

As the Reformed Church in America (RCA) adjusted to changing circumstances it moved away from its European Calvinistic roots and in the direction of informal and more individualistic American Evangelicalism.  The denomination bore the stamp of personal Pietism.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY OF HARDCOPY SOURCES

Brumm, James Hart, ed.  Liturgy Among the Thorns:  Essays on Worship in the Reformed Church in America.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007.  The Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America, No. 57.

Wainwright, Geoffrey, and Karen B. Westerfield Tucker, eds.  The Oxford History of Christian Worship.  New York, NY:  Oxford University Press, 2006.

Worship the Lord:  The Liturgy of the Reformed Church in America.  Reformed Church Press, 2005.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 18, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF MALTBIE DAVENPORT BABCOCK, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ERIK IX OF SWEDEN, KING AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF TAMIHANA TE REUPARAHA, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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