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For the Honour of God and the Realm's Reform

Matins live from the Temple Church, London. With the Rev Robin Griffith-Jones, Master of the Temple, and the Temple Singers, directed by Roger Sayer.

"For the Honour of God and the Realm's Reform"

Matins live from the Temple Church, London. The Revd Robin Griffith-Jones, Master of the Temple, reflects on the way in which the church, from Magna Carta in the early 13th Century to its place at the heart of today's Inns of Court, has been at the forefront of the debate about how religion and the law are intertwined.

With The Temple Singers
Roger Sayer, music director
Greg Morris, organist
Simon Vivian, producer.

38 minutes

Temple Church 16/02/14

Please note:

This script cannot exactly reflect the transmission, as it was prepared before the service was broadcast. It may include editorial notes prepared by the producer, and minor spelling and other errors that were corrected before the radio broadcast.

It may contain gaps to be filled in at the time so that prayers may reflect the needs of the world, and changes may also be made at the last minute for timing reasons, or to reflect current events.


Radio 4 Opening Announcement:
BBC Radio 4.  It’s 10 past 8 and time for this morning’s Sunday Worship which comes live from the Temple Church in central London.  The service of matins is led by The Revd Robin Griffith-Jones, Master of the Temple, and begins with Gerald Knight’s setting of ‘Christ whose glory fills the skies’.

Choir/Organ: Christ whose glory fills the skies (Gerald Knight)

The Master: Welcome & announcement of hymn

Good morning.  Today we look forward to a great anniversary intimately associated with this place, the roots of which can be traced to a moment 800 years ago yesterday.  On the 15th of February 1214, King John arrived in France for his last and most disastrous campaign.  Its failure led to rebellion and, in 1215, to the sealing of Magna Carta, the great constitutional charter on which all our present rights and freedoms rest.

The Temple was not only the London headquarters of the crusading Knights Templar but was also King John’s London headquarters during the crisis of 1214-15.  [From here the King issued charter after charter; here he and the barons met for pivotal negotiations; here three of the Charter’s protagonists were buried, two with effigies that survive to this day.]

Today, the Temple is at the centre of legal London - the home of the two legal colleges or Inns of Court, Inner and Middle Temple.  And so this morning, in this ancient Temple Church, we will be reflecting upon the fundamental debt all modern law – and so much of our way of life - owes to the principles of Magna Carta and upon the inspiring lives of those who crafted it.

[The Temple Singers are gathered in the mouth of our Round Church.  They sing praises to God this morning where the choirmen and choristers of the Temple Church will have sung to King John and the barons in the constitutional crucible from whose fire emerged the rights, in their earliest form, that now protect from tyranny over two billion people in our world. 

Later, they’ll sing Benjamin Britten’s ‘Te Deum’ and Haydn’s anthem: ‘Achievéd is the glorious work’.

But first they lead us in the hymn: ‘Let all the world in every corner sing, my God and King!’]

And so we begin with The Temple Singers leading us in the hymn: ‘Let all the world in every corner sing, my God and King!’.

HYMN: 1. Let all the world in every corner sing, my God and King!

[Tune: Luckington]

The Master: Dearly beloved,
    the Scripture moveth us in sundry places to acknowledge
        and confess our manifold sins and wickedness;
     [and that we should not dissemble nor cloak them before
         the face of almighty God our heavenly Father;
     but confess them with an humble,
lowly, penitent and obedient heart;
     to the end that we may obtain forgiveness of the same
by his infinite goodness and mercy.
     And although we ought at all times humbly to acknowledge
          our sins before God;
     yet ought we most chiefly so to do,
     when we assemble and meet together
     to render thanks for the great benefits that we have
          received at his hands,
     to set forth his most worthy praise,
     to hear his most holy word,
     and to ask those things which are requisite and necessary,
     as well for the body as the soul.]

Wherefore I pray and beseech you,
     as many as are here present,
    to accompany me with a pure heart, and humble voice,
    unto the throne of the heavenly grace, saying after me:
ALL:   Almighty and most merciful Father,
    we have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep.
    We have followed too much the devices and desires
of our own hearts.
    We have offended against thy holy laws.
    We have left undone those things which we ought to have done;
    and we have done those things which we ought not to have done;
    and there is no health in us.
    But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders.
    Spare thou them, O God, which confess their faults.
    Restore thou them that are penitent;
    according to thy promises declared unto mankind
in Christ Jesu our Lord.
    And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake,
    that we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life,
    to the glory of thy holy name.

The Master: May the Almighty and merciful Lord
grant unto you pardon and remission of all your sins,
time for amendment of life,
and the grace and comfort of the Holy Spirit.
ALL:  Amen.
Choir:  RESPONSES I (Leighton)
Cantor: O Lord, open thou our lips
Choir:  and our mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
Cantor: O God, make speed to save us.
Choir:  O Lord, make haste to help us.
Cantor:  Glory be to the Father, and to the Son,
    and to the Holy Ghost;
Choir:  as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
    world without end. Amen.
Cantor: Praise ye the Lord.
Choir:  The Lord's name be praised.
The Master: The choir sings Psalm 19 verses 1 to 9.


Choir/Organ: Psalm 19 vv1-9
1 The heavens declare the glory of God :
and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
2 One day telleth another :
and one night certifieth another.
3 There is neither speech nor language :
but their voices are heard among them.
4 Their sound is gone out into all lands :
and their words into the ends of the world.
5 In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun :
which cometh forth as a bridegroom out of his chamber,
and rejoiceth as a giant to run his course.
6 It goeth forth from the uttermost part of the heaven,
and runneth about unto the end of it again :
and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.
7 The law of the Lord is an undefiled law, converting the soul :
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
and giveth wisdom unto the simple.
8 The statutes of the Lord are right, and rejoice the heart :
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
and giveth light unto the eyes.
9 The fear of the Lord is clean, and endureth for ever :
the judgements of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.

  Glory be to the Father, and to the Son :
  and to the Holy Ghost;
  as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be :
  world without end. Amen.

Reading:  The Lesson is written in the fifth chapter of the Gospel of St Matthew beginning at the first verse.

Seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:

And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness:
for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers:
for they shall be called the children of God.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake:
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you,
and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven:
for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
Here endeth the lesson.

Choir/Organ: Festival Te Deum (Benjamin Britten)


The Master: In the tradition of the Temple Church, we face east to say together:

ALL:  I believe in God the Father almighty,
    maker of heaven and earth:
  and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord,
    who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
    born of the Virgin Mary,
    suffered under Pontius Pilate,
    was crucified, dead, and buried.
    He descended into hell;
    the third day he rose again from the dead;
    he ascended into heaven,
    and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father almighty;
    from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
    I believe in the Holy Ghost;
    the holy catholic Church;
    the communion of saints;
    the forgiveness of sins;
    the resurrection of the body,
    and the life everlasting.

Choir:  RESPONSES II (Leighton)

   Cantor:  The Lord be with you.
Choir:  And with thy spirit.
    Cantor: Let us pray.
    Choir:  Lord, have mercy upon us.
    Christ, have mercy upon us.
      Lord, have mercy upon us.
Cantor: Our Father
Choir:  which art in heaven,
      hallowed be thy name;
    thy kingdom come;
      thy will be done,
    in earth as it is in heaven.
    Give us this day our daily bread.
    And forgive us our trespasses,
    as we forgive them that trespass against us.
    And lead us not into temptation;
    but deliver us from evil. Amen.
Cantor: O Lord, shew thy mercy upon us.
Choir:  And grant us thy salvation.
    Cantor: O Lord, save the Queen.
Choir:  And mercifully hear us when we call upon thee.
Cantor: Endue thy ministers with righteousness.
Choir:  And make thy chosen people joyful.
Cantor: O Lord, save thy people.
Choir:  And bless thine inheritance.
Cantor: Give peace in our time, O Lord.
Choir:  Because there is none other that fighteth for us,
      but only thou, O God.
    Cantor: O God, make clean our hearts within us.
Choir:  And take not thy Holy Spirit from us.
Cantor: O Lord, we beseech thee favourably to hear the prayers of thy people; that we, who are justly punished for our offences, may be mercifully delivered by thy goodness, for the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.
Choir:  Amen.
     Cantor: O God, who art the author of peace and lover of concord,
    in knowledge of whom standeth our eternal life,
    whose service is perfect freedom;
defend us thy humble servants in all assaults of our enemies; that we, surely trusting in thy defence,
    may not fear the power of any adversaries;
    through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Choir:  Amen.
    Cantor:  O Lord, our heavenly Father,
    almighty and everlasting God,
    who hast safely brought us to the beginning of this day;
    defend us in the same with thy mighty power;
    and grant that this day we fall into no sin,
    neither run into any kind of danger,
    but that all our doings may be ordered by thy governance,
    to do always that is righteous in thy sight;
    through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Choir:  Amen.
The Master: On 15th February 1214 King John arrived at Rochelle in Western France at the head of an army.  He was determined to recover the lands he’d lost to the French king ten years before.  John’s wars were ruinously expensive; he levied ever higher taxes to pay for them.  On 27th July 1214, John lost, disastrously, the Battle of Bouvines.  His French ambitions were at an end. He returned to England, bankrupt of authority and of cash.

Rebellion was in the air.  But its success was not assured.  There was no obvious rival to put on the throne.  In prospect was a desperate, prolonged civil war.  Who could stop it?

One man, vital to the coming months, had returned to England after eight years of exile: Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, chosen by the Pope in 1205 but acknowledged by King John only under threat of French invasion in 1213.  Langton had spent his exile lecturing in theology, in Paris.  He’d developed five principles for the constitution of a nation governed justly under God:

• First: For protection against wicked kings in Israel, God had – according to the Bible – ordered the written codification of laws.

• Secondly: In honour of God, the people have the right to resist a wicked king if he commands a mortal sin.

• Next: The people have a particular right to resist a king who renders a decision without the judgment of his court.

• Fourthly: The Church is the congregation of all the faithful, including the clergy and laity who elect the king.

• And finally: The Archbishop, because of his particular dignity, has the duty to act in the name of all the faithful, both clergy and laity. 

[Langton hadn’t been trained for high office.  His thought might well have remained the work, deep but arcane, of an academic theologian.  But] in July 1213 Langton was recalled to England.  He really was, at last, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Within weeks, at Winchester he made King John swear to abolish evil laws, establish good laws, and judge all his subjects by the just sentences of his courts.  Days later he warned the king: to act against anyone without judgment of his court would violate the Winchester oath.  Then Langton found the Coronation Charter of rights granted by the revered King Henry I, and swore to help the barons secure such a charter from John. 

When the barons met the king here in the Temple, for a disastrous week of negotiations in January 1215, they invoked once more the Winchester oath and Henry’s charter.   It was then, for the first time, that the barons demanded the king’s own allegiance to a charter.  The king himself was to be subject to law.

Langton remained loyal to the beleaguered king.  But he urged the king to meet the barons’ demands for a charter of rights and liberties.  And eventually, at Runnymede on 15 June 1215, the king reluctantly put his seal to ‘the Great Charter’, Magna Carta, ‘for the honour of God and the exaltation of Holy Church and the reform of the king’s realm’.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.  Langton is not above reproach; and it was not just his own insistence which brought John to Runnymede.  But all the authority he had, he used to keep the peace and to generate a just government under God.  Informed by scripture and by years of exile among the king’s enemies, he was ready to be the statesman that England needed.

At the heart of the Charter lie two clauses, still part of English law, that have been embedded in every constitution in the Common Law world and in many beyond; they protect over two billion people in the world today.

‘No free man shall be taken or imprisoned or dispossessed or outlawed or exiled or in any way ruined, nor will we go or send against him except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.  To no one will we sell, to no one will we deny or delay right or justice.’

[And who would check that the King was conforming to the Charter?  The barons were to choose twenty-five of their number to maintain the peace and liberties which the King had granted.  Those Twenty-Five ‘with the commune of all the land’ could seize the king’s castles, lands and possessions, to force him to conform.]

In such checks and balances on the use of power the Charter was reaching out towards principles that were hundreds of years ahead of their time.  Within weeks, the Pope annulled the Charter at the king’s request.  When Langton refused to publish the annulment, he was suspended by the Pope.  The Archbishop was nobody’s man.  Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Neither the Church nor its leaders have now the authority in our nation’s life enjoyed by Langton and his English Church.  It would be foolish to pine for such lost glory or to fantasize about its return.  But Langton stands before us still, an example to all those who lead our Church and to all of us who ask what now should be its role.  In this country, we’re all the heirs of one man who used his authority to maintain peace and generate justice.  And way beyond our shores, billions of people are heirs to the Charter he helped to secure.  We and they have inherited the Charter’s freedoms; and on those freedoms our whole culture of liberal democracy is ultimately built.  [Deep-set beneath the structures of freedom that we can see being built with such labour and courage around the world, there lies the foundation of Magna Carta.  Most of us, most of the time, lead low-key, local and settled lives.]  May we all be worthy of that Archbishop who sought to realize in the Charter, for the whole endangered kingdom, the biblical conditions for just government under God.  His vision, mediation and courage bore fruit that has ever since been a blessing to God’s world.  Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled.


The Master: The anthem, sung this morning by the Temple Singers, is ‘Achievéd is the glorious work’ from Franz Haydn’s oratorio ‘The Creation’.

Choir/Organ: Achieved is the glorious work (Haydn – from ‘Creation’) 

The Master: Let us pray.

We pray for all those in authority within our own Church and in Churches throughout the world, that God’s spirit of wisdom and understanding may illumine and guide them, encourage and unite them.  We give thanks for all those, men and women, who are called to God’s service in the ministry of his Church.

We pray for those afflicted by war and civil strife: for the bereaved and the injured, the homeless, the frightened and the dispossessed.  We hold the people of Syria in our hearts, giving thanks for those who dedicate their lives to the search for justice and for peace in the Middle East and throughout God’s world.

We pray for those in our own land suffering from floods and storm damage, those whose homes, livelihoods and families are threatened.  We give thanks for all those inspired to help their neighbours in this time of need.

A prayer from Archbishop Cranmer’s Exhortation to Prayer, 1544:
O heavenly Father, at whose hand the weak shall take no wrong nor the mighty escape just judgment: Pour thy grace upon thy servants our judges and magistrates, our barristers and all other officers of our courts, that by their true, fruitful and diligent execution of justice and equity to all men equally, thou mayest be glorified, the common wealth daily promoted and increased, and we all live in peace and quietness, godliness and virtue.

These prayers we raise to thee through Jesus Christ our Lord
ALL:   Amen.

The Master: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
    and the love of God,
    and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost,
    be with us all evermore.
ALL:  Amen.

The Master: We sing the hymn, ‘God of freedom, God of justice.’

HYMN: 1. God of freedom, God of justice,
[Tune: Regent Square]

[The Master:May the peace of God, which passeth all understanding,
keep your your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God
and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

And the blessing of God almighty, Father Son and Holy Ghost,
be among you and remain with you always.
ALL:  Amen.]

Organ: Toccata on ‘Hanover’ (Kenneth Leighton)



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