A Commination

against Sinners, with Certain Prayers to Be Used Divers Times in the Year

  [Little Gidding]

[With Poems Added from The Temple 1633.
The poems may be assigned to a narrator, to be called The Poet, or to the Curate, congregation or private worshipper.
The poems may be read by one person, antiphonally or groups.
(Links within the text may be used or omitted. Individual prayers may be done separately with all internal references.)
Editor's Note: In the First Prayerbook of Edward VI (1549), this was the service for "The Firste Daie of Lente Commonly called Ashe-Wednisdaye."]

After Morning Prayer, the people being called together by the ringing of a bell, and assembled in the church, the English Litany shall be said, after the accustomed manner, which ended, the priest shall go into the pulpit and say thus.

The Poet reads/recites Water-course (or Dooms-day) with its warnings, threats (comminations) and prospects.

BRETHREN, in the primitive Church there was a godly discipline, that, at the beginning of Lent, such persons as were notorious sinners were put to open penance and punished in this world, that their souls might be saved in the day of the Lord; and that others admonished by their example might be more afraid to offend. In the stead whereof, until the said discipline may be restored again (which thing is much to be wished) it is thought good, that at this time (in your presence) should be read the general sentences of God's cursing against impenitent sinners, gathered out of the twenty-seventh chapter of Deuteronomy, and other places of Scripture; and that ye should answer to every sentence, Amen. To the intent that you, being admonished of the great indignation of God against sinners, may the rather be called to earnest and true repentance, and may walk more warely in these dangerous days, fleeing from such vices, for the which ye affirm with your own mouths, the curse of God to be due.

The Poet speaks of the human will to Sinne (I), Miserie, Avarice or Vanitie (II).

    Cursed is the man that maketh any carved or molten image, an abomination to the Lord, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and putteth it in a secret place to worship it.

    And the people shall answer and say.


    Minister. Cursed is he that curseth his father and mother.
    Answer. Amen.
    Minister. Cursed is he that removeth away the mark of his neighbour's land.
    Answer. Amen.
    Minister. Cursed is he that maketh the blind to go out of his way.
    Answer. Amen.
    Minister. Cursed is he that letteth in judgment the right of the stranger, of them that be fatherless, and of widows.
    Answer. Amen.
    Minister. Cursed is he that smiteth his neighbour secretly.
    Answer. Amen.
    Minister. Cursed is he that lieth with his neighbour's wife.
   Answer. Amen.
   Minister. Cursed is he that taketh reward to slay the soul of innocent blood.
    Answer. Amen.
    Minister. Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, and taketh man for his defense, and in his heart goeth from the Lord.
    Answer. Amen.
   Minister. Cursed are the unmerciful, the fornicators, and adulterers, and the covetous persons, the worshipers of images, slanderers, drunkards, and extortioners.
   Answer. Amen.

The Poet defines Sinne (II) and reminds everyone that we are all Sinners.

   The Minister.  

[Little Gidding, inside]NOW seeing that all they be accursed (as the Prophet David beareth witness) which do err and go astray from the commandments of God, [Ps. 118  (actually Ps. 119:21)] let us (remembering the dreadful judgment hanging over our heads, and being always at hand) return unto our Lord God, with all contrition and meekness of heart, bewailing and lamenting our sinful life, knowledging and confessing our offenses, and seeking to bring forth worthy fruits of penance. For now is the axe put unto the root of the trees, so that every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewn down and cast into the fire. [Matt. 3; Heb. 10] It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God; he shall pour down rain upon the sinners, snares, fire, and brimstone, storm and tempest; this shall be their portion to drink. [Ps. 10 (actually Ps. 11:6)] For lo, the Lord is come out of his place, to visit the wickedness of such as dwell upon the earth. But who may abide the day of his coming? [Esa. 26] Who shall be able to endure when he appeareth? [Mal. 3] His fan is in his hand, and he will purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the barn, but he will burn the chaff with unquenchable fire. [Matt. 3] The day of the Lord cometh as a thief upon the night, and when men shall say peace, and all things are safe, then shall suddenly destruction come upon them, as sorrow cometh upon a woman travailing with child, and they shall not escape. [1 Thess. 5] Then shall appear the wrath of God in the day of vengeance, which obstinate sinners, through the stubbornness of their heart, [Rom. 2] have heaped unto themself, which despised the goodness, patience, and long sufferance of God, when he called them continually to repentance. Then shall they call upon me, saith the Lord, but I will not hear. They shall seek me early, but they shall not find me. [Prov. 1] And that because they hated knowledge and received not the fear of the Lord, but abhorred my counsel, and despised my correction, then shall it be too late to knock, when the door shall be shut, and too late to cry for mercy, when It is the time of justice. O terrible voice of most just judgment, which shall be pronounced upon them, when it shall be said unto them: Go ye cursed into the fire everlasting, which is prepared for the devil and his angels. [Matt. 25; 2 Cor. 6; John 9] Therefore brethren, take we heed betime, while the day of salvation lasteth, for the night cometh when none can work. But let us while we have the light believe in the light, and walk as the children of the light, [Matt. 25] that we be not cast into the utter darkness where is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Let us not abuse the goodness of God, which calleth us mercifully to amendment, and of his endless pity promiseth us forgiveness of that which is past, if (with a whole mind and true heart) we return unto him. [Esa. 1] For though our sins be red as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow, and though they be like purple, yet shall they be as white as wool. [Ezek. 18] Turn you clean (saith the Lord) from all your wickedness, and your sin shall not be your destruction. Cast away from you all your ungodliness that ye have done, make you new hearts and a new spirit: wherefore will you die, O ye house of Israel? Seeing that I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth (saith the Lord God). Turn you then and you shall live. [1 John 2; Esa. 53] Although we have sinned, yet have we an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he it is that obtaineth grace for our sins, for he was wounded for our offenses, and smitten for our wickedness. Let us therefore return unto him, who is the merciful receiver of all true penitent sinners, assuring ourself that he is ready to receive us, and most willing to pardon us, [Matt. 11] if we come to him with faithful repentance, if we will submit ourselves unto him, and from henceforth walk in his ways; if we will take his easy yoke and light burden upon us, to follow in lowliness, patience, and charity, and be ordered by the governance of his Holy Spirit, seeking always his glory, and serving him duly in our vocation, with thanksgiving. This if we do, Christ will deliver us from the curse of the law, and from the extreme malediction, which shall light upon them that shall be set on the left hand. [Matt. 25] And he will set us on his right hand and give us the blessed benediction of his Father, commanding us to take possession of his glorious kingdom, unto the which he vouchsafe to bring us all, for his infinite mercy. Amen.

The Poet and the People acknowledge their Sinnes round.

Then shall they all kneel upon their knees; and the priests and clerks kneeling (where they are accustomed to say the Litany) shall say this Psalm.


Miserere mei deus. Ps. 51

HAVE mercy upon me (O God) after thy great goodness: according to the multitude of thy mercies, do away mine offenses.
    Wash me throughly from my wickedness: and cleanse me from my sin.
    For I knowledge my faults: and my sin is ever before me.
    Against thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified in thy saying, and clear when thou art judged.
    Behold, I was shapen in wickedness: and in sin hath my mother conceived me.
    But lo, thou requirest truth in inward parts: and shalt make me to understand wisdom secretly.
    Thou shalt purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
    Thou shalt make me hear of joy and gladness: that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. [See last line of Repentance.]
    Turn thy face from my sins: and put out all my misdeeds.
    Make me a clean heart (O God): and renew a right spirit within me.
    Cast me not away from thy presence: and take not thy Holy Spirit from me.
    O give me the comfort of thy help again: and stablish me with thy free spirit.
    Then shall I teach thy ways unto the wicked: and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
    Deliver me from bloodguiltiness (O God) thou that art the God of my health: and my tongue shall sing of thy righteousness.
    Thou shalt open my lips (O Lord): my mouth shall show thy praise.
    For thou desirest no sacrifice, else would I give it thee: but thou delightest not in burnt offering.
    The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit: a broken and a contrite heart (O God) shalt thou not despise.
    O be favorable and gracious unto Sion: build thou the walls of Hierusalem.
    Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifice of righteousness, with the burnt offerings and oblations: then shall they offer young bullocks upon thine altar.
    Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, etc.
    As it was in the beginning, and is now, etc. Amen.

The Poet warns sinners of the Last Judgement.

Lord have mercy upon us.
    Christ have mercy upon us.
Lord have mercy upon us.

OUR Father which art in heaven, etc.

    And lead us not into temptation.
    Answer. But deliver us from evil. Amen.
    Minister. O Lord save thy servants.
    Answer. Which put their trust in thee.
   Minister. Send unto them help from above.
    Answer. And evermore mightily defend them.
   Minister. Help us, O God our savior.
   Answer. And for the glory of thy name's sake deliver us, be merciful unto us sinners, for thy name's sake.
    Minister. Lord hear my prayers.
   Answer. And let my cry come unto thee.

The Poet pleads for mercy: Sighs and Grones.

    Let us pray.

O LORD, we beseech thee mercifully hear our prayers, and spare all those which confess their sins to thee: that they (whose consciences by sin are accused) by thy merciful pardon may be absolved, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

O MOST mighty God and merciful Father, which hast compassion of all men, and hatest nothing that thou hast made, which wouldest not the death of a sinner, but that he should rather turn from sin, and be saved: Mercifully forgive us our trespasses, receive and comfort us, which be grieved and wearied with the burden of our sin. Thy property is to have mercy, to thee only it appertaineth to forgive sins: Spare us therefore, good Lord, spare thy people whom thou hast redeemed. Enter not into judgment with thy servants, which be vile earth, and miserable sinners; but so turn thy ire from us, which meekly knowledge our vileness, and truly repent us of our faults, so make haste to help us in this world, that we may ever live with thee, in the world to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

[The Poet recalls, but does not read aloud, the hope of Heaven. Also consider Dawning for Eastertide. If the reader is old or has white hair, try Forerunners.] The Poet teaches his concluding lesson:  Repentance or Confession. For the Learned, Divinitie. For Ash-Wednedsay, Lent.

Then shall the people say this that followeth, after the minister.

TURN thou us, O good Lord, and so shall we be turned. Be favorable (O Lord) be favorable to thy people, which turn to thee in weeping, fasting, and praying; for thou art a merciful God, full of compassion, long-suffering, and of a great pity. Thou sparest when we deserve punishment, and in thy wrath thinkest upon mercy. Spare thy people, good Lord, spare them and let not thy heritage be brought to confusion. Hear us (O Lord) for thy mercy is great, and after the multitude of thy mercies, look upon us.

[George Herbert at Bemerton]

Editor's Note: This Commination against Sinners for George Herbert edition would take more than one hour to perform. It works as a computer page to show the relationship of some poems to the liturgical expressions and theological ideas of the Elizabethan Age. To actually use this as a service, some liturgy may have to be abbreviated or cut, depending on the purpose of the service and the number of poems used.

Return to George Herbert & The Temple Home Page.

Related Links to Richard Hooker and the Book of Common Prayer.

Book of Common Prayer 1559

To give  thanks and credit to those who created the Elizabethan Book of Common Prayer (1559) for the Internet:

Return to 1559 Book of Common Prayer

Return to Book of Common Prayer Home Page

Web author: Charles Wohlers