Sanctification of the Water in the 1662 BCP

The baptismal liturgy of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer makes an addition that contrasts with the previous theology of Cranmer and Bucer. That addition is the consecration of the baptismal water:

sanctify this Water to the mystical washing away of sin; and grant that this Child, now to be baptized therein, may receive the fulness of thy grace, and ever remain in the number of thy faithful and elect children; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The original Prayer Books had no indication of the Epiclesis in Communion or the setting aside of the water during Baptism, the revision added the sanctification of the water due to the influence of Bishop John Cosin. Cosin seems to have been a high-church Arminian and friend of Laud and Charles I. Cosin was a strong Protestant, while exiled to France he befriended the Hugenots and attended the reformed church at Charenton (see p. 265 of this).  However, he was engaged against the Puritans and Calvinism generally while in England.

The following page from here shows Cosin’s commentary on the BCP at the section on baptism, where he remarks about the water:

Note that Bucer had a problem with this consecration of the water in his review of the BCP to Cranmer [source]:

And here is a historical note on the change:


All of this indicates that this was a change away from a more Reformational understanding of the sacrament of Baptism. I note also that Toon’s blue “An Anglican Prayer Book” maintains this language.



3 thoughts on “Sanctification of the Water in the 1662 BCP”

  1. Hi Joel,
    Benedictions and blessings upon inanimate objects indeed open the door to a lot of questionable practices. But the real danger is re-introducing certain ideas associated with exorcism. Exorcist rites were notorious for casting an epiclesis upon sacramentals for the removal of sin. Objects typically involved were oil, salts, and holy water.The holy water would be used for all sorts of things, not just baptism.

  2. Frank’s distinction might give some leeway for Cosin’s revision. If the epiclesis is restricted to gospel sacraments, xecuted according to rule of “immediate and intended use”, it does no grievous harm and is consistent with ancient use. Let me double check this, but I believe an English Puritan book made use of a reformed epiclesis before the 1637.

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