Article XV is entitled, "Of speaking in the congregation in such a tongue as the people understand." The article in full reads as follows: "It is a thing plainly repugnant to the Word of God, and the custom of the Primitive Church, to have public prayer in the Church, or to minister the sacraments in a tongue not understood by the people."
One of the main questions or problems facing the Ecumenical Council of the Roman Catholic Church was that of saying the Mass in the vernacular of the people. One of the accomplishments of the Council was the granting of permission to say the Mass, when desired, in the national language of the people of a given area. This battle has been a long one, but at last Rome has yielded on this part of its ritualistic procedures.
The article was written in its present form by Archbishop Parker in 1563. It agrees with the Word of God in the fourteenth chapter of First Corinthians. It was agreed in the established church of England that public worship should be held in a tongue familiar to those present which was "the custom of the Primitive Church."
We will first consider the article in the light of the Scriptures. The only passage in the Bible which bears directly on the subject is the one already mentioned, I Corinthians 14. Paul states that it is conducive to the edification, comfort, and consolation (v. 3) of those present to hear the service in their own tongue. In v. 19 he definitely charges the man that does speak in tongues to "keep silence in the church if there is no interpreter." Paul states that it is not enough to "pray with the spirit," but to "pray with understanding also" and to "sing with understanding also," as well as to "sing in the spirit."
A congregation cannot join intelligently in worship unless the language is one that is familiar to them. Romes argument has been that the unity of the Church should be expressed by the unity of the language in which her prayers ascend. Paul, however, distinctly states that edification must be the first consideration. We must, then, agree with Bishop Hooper, because it is in accordance with the Scriptures, that "it is a thing plainly repugnant to the Word of God...to have public prayer in the Church or to minister the Sacraments in a tongue not understood of the people."
It might be well, to consider the doctrine, also, in light of the custom of the Primitive Church for the article states, It is also repugnant to, "the custom of the Primitive Church." The ancient Liturgies of the early Fathers as well as incidental statements by them are amply sufficient to prove that the various countries were evangelized in the language commonly used by the people and that the Sacraments were administered in the language familiar to those receiving the same. Liturgies from the days of the Primitive Church still exist in Greek, Syriac, Armenian, and Coptic. It was in this way that Latin was first used or employed in worship. It became the general language in use throughout the West as Greek was used in earlier days throughout the East and Middle Europe.
Originally the Roman Church was a Greek speaking Church and the litany was in Greek. By degrees the Latin language became universal in the West among all classes, so the use of Latin in public worship spread, although it was never adopted in the East and the Eastern Orthodox Church retains the Greek language in much of its liturgy. The retention of Latin throughout the Western Church after the dialects had diverged so greatly as to become different languages like French, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese and then the development of the Teutonic languages was, for a while, a unifying factor throughout the Holy Roman Empire. It formed a common medium of communication vitally necessary to a sense of unity, but as various changes took place it became more of a disadvantage than advantage when an unnatural conservatism held tenaciously to traditionalism at the expense of progress.
This very situation created inconveniences. When complaints were forthcoming, in order to justify the existent practice, arguments were offered in its favour which were clearly after thoughts and if seriously pressed would commit all to go back to the original languages in which the Scriptures were written and the Eucharist, or Lords Supper, instituted.
Because of these absurdities, the article was formulated. The Roman Church in this 20th century has been forced to face
that fact also and changes have been formulated. Already many nations of Africa and Asia are singing the mass and
offering the tokens in the vernacular of the people. The Roman Church, too, has found it repugnant to the Word of God not
to minister the elements in a tongue understood by the people. Once again they, zoo, have been forced into the custom of
the early Church.