The Directory for the Public Worship of God, composed in
1644-45 by the English Parliamentary commission known as the
Westminster Assembly of Divines, to be the standard of liturgical
uniformity for the national churches of England and Scotland, was
the product of a complex of political factors, traditional
worship usages, and a rigid theological system.
It was the liturgical manifesto of the revolutionary party in
the political-ecclesiastical erruption which took place in both
kingdoms during the reign of Charles I. The worship principles
evolved by the revolutionaries, while informed positively bjr
Calvinistic practice and teaching, were negatively influenced by
the "Catholic" principles represented by the autocratic forces
against which they were in revolt. The Directory thus partook
of the inevitable excesses of a revolutionary ideology.
The influence had upon the Directory by the book's liturgical
predecessors in the two nations and by the usages of the two
churches are probably greater than was realised by its composers
who presumed to be working from first principles with no regard
for traditions. A careful textual study reveals that both the
Genevan-Scottish Book of Common Order and the Anglican Book of
Common Prayer, in differing ways, helped determine the structure
and content of this service book, as did the unwritten traditions
of English Puritanism and, more especially, of Scottish
Presbyterianism. In the main, the influence of the GenevanScottish order can be seen in the general approach to the public
worship taken in the Directory and in its theological.content.
And the influence of the Prayer Book is discernible in certain
structural details. But literal dependence on either book is
A theological position which maintained the verbal
infallibility and exclusive authority of the Bible and the total
depravity of man and his tradition, was the third major contributing
factor in the shaping of the Directory. This largely accounts for
the Word-centred nature and penitential character of its services
and for its express repudiation of the "traditions of men"
The influence of the Directory upon subsequent worship usages
is negligible; the book failed to gain acceptance in England, and
while it had formal sanction in Scotland, was little used over the
following two centuries in which directorial authority in worship
was regarded with indifference or hostility. However, a
movement emerged in the Scottish Church in the mid-nineteenth
century which, in seeking recovery and enrichment of the Beformed
liturgical tradition, looked to the Directory and the old Book of
Common Order as the repositories of Reformed principles and usages
of worship. Consequently, the influence of the Directory can be
traced in the numerous official and semi-official service books
which have been produced by the Scottish Presbyterian Churches over
the past century.
The Directory, while unsuitable for liturgical use in the modern
Reformed Church, remains a valuable repository of the major
historical principles of reformed worship.