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A private Evening Prayer for the Lord’s day.
O holy, holy, holy Lord God of Sabaoth! Suffer me, who am but dust and ashes, to speak unto thy most glorious majesty. I know that thou art a consuming fire; I acknowledge that I am but withered stubble: my sins are in thy sight, and Satan stands at my right hand to accuse me for them. I come not to excuse but to judge 204myself worthy of all those judgments which thy justice might most justly inflict upon me, a wretched creature, for my sins and transgressions. The number of them is so great, the nature of them is so grievous, that they make me seem vile in my own eyes; how much more loathsome in thy sight? I confess they make me so far from being worthy to be called thy son, that I am altogether unworthy to have the name of thy meanest servant; and if thou shouldst but recompense me according to my desert, the earth, as weary of such a sinful burden, should open her mouth and swallow me up, like one of Dathan’s family, into the bottomless pit of hell. For if thou didst not spare the natural branches, those angels of glorious excellency, but didst hurl them down from the heavenly habitations into the pains of hellish darkness, to be kept unto damnation, when they sinned but once against thy Majesty, and didst expel our first parents out of paradise when they did but transgress one of thy laws; alas! what vengeance may I expect, who have not offended in one sin only, heaping daily sin upon sin without any true repentance, drinking iniquity as it were water, ever pouring in but never pouring out any filthiness, and have transgressed not one, but all thy holy laws and commandments? Yea, this present day which thou hast straitly commanded me to keep holy to thy praise and worship, I have not so religiously kept and observed, nor prepared my soul in that holiness and purity of heart, as was fit to meet thy blessed Majesty in the holy assembly of the saints. I have not attended to the preaching of thy word, nor to the administration of thy sacraments, with that humility, reverence, and devotion that I should: for though I was present at those holy exercises in my body, yet, Lord, I was overtaken with much drowsiness; and when I was awake my mind was so distracted and carried away with vain and worldly thoughts, that my soul seemed to be absent and out of the church. I have not so duly, as I should, meditated with myself, nor conferred with my family upon 205those good instructions which we have heard and received out of thy holy word by the public ministry: for default of which, Satan hath stolen the most part of those instructions out of my heart, and I, wretched creature, have forgotten them as though they had never been heard. And my family doth not thrive in knowledge and sanctification under my government, as they should. Though I know where many of my poor brethren live in want and necessity, and some in pain, and comfortless; yet I have not remembered to relieve the one with my alms, nor the other with consolations; but I have feasted myself and satisfied my own lusts. I have spent the most part of the day in idle talk and vain exercises; yea, Lord, I have, &c.—[Here confess whatsoever fault thou hast done that day by omission or commission, and then fetching from thy heart a deep sigh, say]—and for all these my sins, my conscience cries guilty, thy law condemns me, and I am in thy hand to receive the sentence and the curse due to the wilful breach of so holy a commandment. But what if I am by thy law condemned? yet, Lord, thy gospel assures me that thy mercy is above all thy works; that thy grace transcends thy law; and thy goodness delighteth there to reign where sins do most abound. In the multitude of thy mercies, and for the merits of Jesus Christ my Saviour, I beseech thee, O Lord, who despisest not the sighings of a contrite heart, nor desirest the death of a penitent sinner, to pardon and forgive me all those my sins, and all the errors of this day and of my whole life, and free my soul from that curse and judgment which is due unto me for them. Thou that didst justify the contrite publican for four words of confession, and receive the prodigal child, when he had spent all the stock of thy grace, into favour upon his repentance; pardon my sins likewise, O Lord, and suffer me not to perish for my transgressions. O spare me, and receive me into thy favour again. Wilt thou, O Lord, who hast received all publicans, harlots, and sinners, that 206upon repentance sued to thee for grace, reject me? shall I alone be excluded from thy mercy? Far be it from me to think so: for thou art the same God of mercy to me that thou wast to them, and thy compassions never fail. Wherefore, O Lord, deal not with me after my merits, but according to thy great mercy; execute not thy severe justice against me a sinner, but exercise thy long-sufferance in forbearing thy own creature. I have nothing to present unto thee for a satisfaction, but only those bloody wounds, bitter death and passion, which thy blessed Son, my only Saviour, hath suffered for me. Him, in whom only thou art well pleased, I offer unto thee for all my sins wherewith thou art displeased: him, my Mediator, the request of whose blood, speaking better things than that of Abel, thy mercy can never gainsay. Illuminate my understanding and sanctify my heart with thy Holy Spirit, that it may bring to my remembrance all those good and profitable lessons which this day and at other times have been taught me out of thy holy word; that I may remember thy commandments to keep them—thy judgments to avoid them—and thy sweet promises to rely upon them, in time of misery and distress. And now, O Lord, I resign myself to thy most holy will: O receive me into thy favour, and so draw me by thy grace unto thyself, that I may as well be thine by love and imitation as by calling and creation. And give me grace so to keep holy thy Sabbaths in this life, that when this life is ended, I may, with all thy saints and angels, celebrate an eternal Sabbath of joy and praise to the honour of thy most glorious name, in thy heavenly kingdom for evermore. Amen.
And then calling thy family together, shut up the Sabbath with the meditations and prayers before prescribed for thy family. And the Lord will give thee that night a more sweet and quiet rest than ordinary, and prosper thee the better in all the labours of the week following.207
Thus far of the ordinary practice of piety, both in private and public: Now follows the extraordinary practice of piety, whereby God is glorified in our lives.
The extraordinary practice of piety consists, either in Fasting or Feasting.
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