The daily Frequenting the Common Prayer.
By Thomas Comber, D.D. and Prebendary of York.
London: Printed for Charles Brome, at
the Gun at the West end of St. PaulÍs Church-yard. 1687.
THERE are two principal ends of the Worship of God, The Glory of him that is Worshipped, and the Benefit of the Worshippers. And these two are so inseparably united, that St. Augustine reduceth both to one, assuring us that all the advantage accrues to us. But whether we look on them single or conjoyned, no part of Divine Worship doth so much express and advance GodÍs glory, nor so directly tend to ManÍs good as Publick Prayer; in which we make the most universal solemn acknowledgements of our Obligations unto, and Dependence upon, the Supreme Lord of all the World; and by which all the servants of God in all times, places and circumstances, do with one heart and voice, by common consent reveal their wants, and obtain supplies for them. So that we may call this the Life and Soul of Religion, the Anima Mundi, that universal Soul which quickens, unites and moves the whole Christian World. Nor is the case of a private man more desperate, when he breaths no more in secret [1/2] Prayer, than the condition of a Church is, where publick Devotions cease. St. Hierome out of Hippolytus puts the cessation of the Liturgy as a principal sign of the coming of Antichrist. And nothing more clearly shews a profane Generation, the very title of wicked men in Scripture being that they call not upon God. ÍTis well if any of us can excuse our selves; but the general neglect of daily Prayers by Ministers (who are both desirous and bound to perform them) doth too sadly testifie they are tired out with the Peoples constant absence, and altogether witnesseth an Universal decay of true Piety. Perhaps the dishonour, that is cast upon God and Religion will not move these disregarders, and neglecters, since they live so that a stranger could not imagine they had any God at all. But I hope they have yet so much Charity for their own Persons, that it may startle them to consider what mischiefs are hereby brought upon their own selves as well as others. Wherefore let them ask the cause of all that Atheism and Profaneness, Luxury and Oppression, Lying and Deceiving, Malice and Bitterness that is broke in upon us, to the torment and disquiet of the whole World. Let them ask why they plague others with their sins, and other requite them again? and it will appear that all this is come upon us because we forget God and Heaven, Death and Judgment, which daily Prayers would mind us of. Our Souls are fixed to the Earth, because we lift them not up to Heaven. We have neither Grace to doe good, nor resist sin, because we never ask it; and we can have as little hopes of Glory as we have signs of Grace, because we do not prepare for it. But if these Evils be too thin and spiritual, let it be enquired whence our national and personal Calamities proceed, Epidemical Diseases, Wars and Pestilences? Whence comes the multiplication of Heresies, the prevalency and pride of the Enemies of the true Religion? The Jews will tell you, JacobÍs Voice in the Synagogue keeps off EsauÍs Hands from the People. We have disrespected and slighted God and his Worship, and he may justly put us out of his Protection: If he meet us not in his House, he may go away displeased; and then we lie open to all evil when our defence is departed from us; and they that provoke him so to doe, are enemies to themselves, and to the Church and State where they live, indeed the worst of Neighbours. But notwithstanding all this; while sober and devout Men lament this Epidemical Iniquity, and groan [2/3] under the sad effects thereof, passionately wishing a speedy remedy; the Offenders grow bold by their numbers, and hardned by this evil outcome, till they now despise a reproof, and deny this Negligence to be a sin, because they have no mind to amend it. But these are of two kinds:
I. Those that make their business their Apology, and suppose it is unreasonable to expect them every day at Common-Prayer, and judge it sufficient to say they cannot come.
2. Those which have learned to despise or hate the Prayers of the Church, and to scorn that which their Fore-fathers (generally better than they) did heartily serve God by; who account it their Vertue to abstain from them, and having sufficiently undervalued these Devotions stampt by publick Authority, imagine they may say innocently enough, they will not come; and if to disparage the Rule did take off our Obligation to walk by it, then these Scorners were the least of sinners. But neither the excuses of the one shall cover his Covetousness and Irreligion, nor the confidence of the other shelter his Pride at the last and dreadfull day. So that I suppose it may be a friendly office, and will be so accepted, to warn all such of the unsafe grounds they relie upon, in their forbearing publick Prayers. And this I shall doe by representing with all Moderation, I. The Reasonableness of our being present at the daily Prayers, to those who say they cannot. 2. The Excellency of the Liturgy, to those who say they will not come. And this I am obliged to doe, to smooth the way to the Temple. For in vain do we shew how men may be devout there, if they excuse or deny coming thither. And we must not so confine our Charity to these within the Walls, as to forget those without. We love the one best, but we must pity the other also, and endeavour to deliver their Souls from living in a constant Sin, which they miscall Innocence. I know I oppose a Torrent; but as long as Men have Reason, I shall hope such as will consider may either be convinced, or rendred more moderate. However this will confirm those that are of the true Church, and it is something with me to serve such.
I. We shall demonstrate the reasonableness of the daily attending on Publick Prayers; and that principally from the universal Reason of all the World, and the concurrent practice and consent of all Mankind, which agrees in this, and wheresoever they own a God true or false, they daily perform some Worship to [3/4] him. The very Heathens, beside their private Requests and Vows, made particular Addresses to their Temples in all their great concerns and yet abstained not from the daily Sacrifices, nor from the frequent Festivals of their numerous Deities; in ¨gypt (as Porphyry relates) they praised their Gods with Hymns three or four times every day. The Turks are called to their Houses of Prayer five times every day, and six times upon the Fridays; and he that notoriously absents himself, is punished with disgrace and hath a Fine set upon him. And if our Saviour think it reasonable we should doe something more, how dare we call it unreasonable, when we are not injoined to doe so much as they? But to go on, who knows not that the Jews had set hours of Prayers, when all devout people (even ChristÍs Apostles) went to the Temple or Synagogues to offer up publick Supplications? And these hours are observed among them exactly to this very day. One instance of their strictness in this Particular we learn from the Talmud; where it appears that because of the distance of the Temple, and the impossibility of attendance on the daily Sacrifice, those who could not come hired certain devout Men who were called [viri stationis] the men of appearance, to present themselves daily there, and put up Petitions for them. And the Pharisees not onely observed the usual hours of Prayer, but doubled them, and zealously kept them all. Now Jesus tells us, our righteousness must exceed theirs, if ever we hope to enter into his Kingdom. Which Precept of his, some of us could almost afford to call an intolerable burden, for we call a smaller matter by a worse name. To pass then to the Christian Church. We have an express Command, to pray without ceasing, that is without omitting the set times which every day return, and ought to be observed.
In obedience hereunto the Church in the Apostles time, met at daily Prayers; and so did the Primitive Christians for many Ages after, who had their Liturgy, Eucharist and Hymns, even in the night when persecution prevented them in the day. And surely their zeal and fervour is a huge reproach to our sloth, who yet call our selves of the same Religion, and are so far from venturing lives and estates to enjoy opportunities of Devotions; that we will not leave our shop nor our company, nay, our very idleness [4/5] half an hour, for a freer and more easie Worship than they could enjoy. Surely we are as unlike them in Practice, as we are like in Name and Profession. Twice a day was not enough for them, wherefore they appointed (in the days of Martyrdom) three set times in every day for Prayer; Nine, Twelve, and Three in the Afternoon, and punctually observed them. Afterwards, in more quiet times, it was wonderfull to behold the orderly performance of Morning and Evening Prayer in huge Assemblies of Men and Women, who failed not of their constant attendance. These are the men and Times whose Principles we are reformed by, but I wish that corrupted Church who forced us to a Separation, do not prove more conformable to the outward part of their Practice in a due observance of publick Prayer, than we who have more Knowledge, better Prayers, fewer Excuses, and yet less Devotion. Wherefore let us no more complain of our own Church for expecting us at daily Prayers. Let us rather challenge all Nations and People for fools, and declare it unreasonable, that we should have any God at all, or let him have any of our time, though he give us all we have. Let us tell the World, we are self-sufficient for the Conduct and Defence of our selves and our Affairs, and then we shall discover our selves what we are: We must not feign our selves too busie; for we do lay aside our business daily, for causes less weighty, and advantages more inconsiderable. If Vanity or Lust, Sathan or his Emissaries call, we can find Leisure; and why not when God calls? unless we think all that time lost which is spent upon his service, or as if we needed not his blessing. In short, If unavoidable business did hinder us and nothing else, many men might come always, and all sometimes, and every day an hundred for one that now comes. Wherefore it is Sloth and Covetousness, or Atheism and Irreligion keeps us away. And if so, what signifie those pretences of praying at home (which ought to be done too?) Verily no more than those of the idle School-boy who seeks a Corner not to learn, but play in without disturbance. And truly it is to be doubted that constant neglecters of Public Prayers, use seldom and slight [5/6] Devotions in Private, for they make the same Objections against them. Finally, Therefore do but remember the reasonableness of this is to be tried at a higher Tribunal, and come as often as God can in reason expect to meet you there, and I shall ask no more.
2. To the reasonableness of the Churches Injunction we may add, the excellency of that Provision which is made for you, which ought to invite you to come, and will be an aggravation of your neglect. But here I must not expatiate into the particular Encomium which every part of the Liturgy deserves. That would make the Porch larger than the House, and may better be seen in the following Discourse: Onely at present we may say this of it in general, that though all Churches in the world have and ever had Forms of Prayer; yet none was ever blessed with so comprehensive, so exact, and so inoffensive a Composure; Which is so judiciously contrived that the wisest may exercise at once their Knowledge and Devotion; and yet so plain, that the most ignorant may pray with Understanding: So full, that nothing is omitted that is fit to be asked in publick; and so particular, that it comprises most things which we would pray for in private; and yet so short, as not to tire any that have true Devotion. Its Doctrine is pure and Primitive; its Ceremonies so few and Innocent, that most of the Christian World agree in them; its Method is exact and natural; its Language is significant and perspicuous, most of the Words and Phrases being taken out of Holy Scripture, and the rest are the expressions of the first and best Ages: so that whoever takes exceptions at these must quarrel with the Language of the Holy Ghost, or fall out with the Church in her greatest Innocence. Indeed, the greatest part of these Prayers are primitive, or a second Edition of the most ancient Liturgies of the Eastern and Western Churches corrected and amended. And in the opinion of the most impartial and excellent Grotius, (who was no Member of, nor had any Obligation to this Church) the English Liturgy comes so near that Pattern, that none of the Reformed Churches can compare with it. And if any thing External be needfull to recommend that which is so glorious within: We may add, That the Composers were all men of great Piety and Learning: [6/7] For they were all either Martyrs or Confessors upon the Restitution of Popery, which, as it declares their Piety, so the Judicious Digesting of these Prayers doth evidence their Learning; for therein a Scholar can discern close Logick, pleasing Rhetorick, pure Divinity, and the very Marrow of all the Ancient Doctrine and Discipline; and yet all made so familiar, that the unlearned may safely say, Amen. Lastly, all these Excellencies have obtained that universal Reputation, which these Prayers enjoy in the World, so that they are deservedly admired by the Eastern Churches, and had in great esteem by the most eminent Protestants beyond the Seas (the most impartial Judges.) In fine, this Liturgy is honoured by all, but the Romanist, whose interest it opposeth, and some Dissenters, whose prejudices will not let them see its lustre; whence it is they call that (which Papists hate because it is Protestant) Superstitious and Popish, and though they count it Roman, condemn it without a hearing. But when we remember, the best things in a bad world have the Enemies (as it doth not lessen its worth, so) it must not abate our esteem, that it hath malitious or misguided Adversaries; who for all this hold the Conclusion, and obstinately resolve they will not come.
How endless and unprofitable it is to dispute with these, the little success of the best arguments managed by the wisest men do too sadly testifie. Wherefore I shall decline that, and attempt to convince the Enemies, by assisting the Friends of our Church Devotions. And by drawing that veil which the ignorance and indevotion of some, and the passion and prejudice of others have cast over them, I shall represent the Liturgy in its true and native lustre, which is so lovely and ravishing, that, like the purest Beauties, it needs to supplement of Art and Dressing, but conquers by its own attractives, and wins the affections of all but those that not not see it clearly. This will be sufficient, I am sure, to shew that whoever desires no more than to worship God with zeal and knowledge, spirit and truth, purity and sincerity, may doe it by these devout Forms; so that I should have concluded here my Preface (when I had given a more particular account of this undertaking) but that I must first examine an Objection or two, which are like a skin over the eyes of some, and, be the Picture never so full of graces, will spoil the Prospect, if they be not removed.
Object I. It is said to be a Form, and therefore a hindrance to zealous praying by the spirit.
Answ. Whoever makes this Objection, and affirms we cannot pray by the Spirit in the words of a Form, must beware his ignorance betray him not into a dangerous uncharitableness, and perhaps blasphemy. For the Saints of the Old Testament prayed by Forms, and so did Christ himself in the New, and he taught his Apostles a Form to pray by, and dare any say they prayed not by the Spirit? Have not all Churches, since the Apostles time to our days had their Forms of Prayer? And did not the devoutest men of all Ages compose and use such? Was ever Extempore Prayer heard of in Publick (till of late) unless on special occasions; and do we think no Church nor no Persons prayed by the Spirit, till now? To come nearer still: Have not France and Geneva their Forms? And did not learned Calvin (and the best reformed Divines) use a Form before their Sermons? And is not an unstudied Prayer a Form to the People, who are confined to pray in the SpeakerÍs words? And will you say these all pray without the Spirit of God? But sure we hug the Phrase of Praying by the Spirit, not attending the Sense. For the meaning doubtless is, to be so assisted by the Holy Ghost, that (our Thoughts being composed, and our Souls calmed, and our Hearts deeply affected with our Wants, and the Divine All-sufficiency) we can pray with a strong Faith, and a fervent Love: When we are so intent upon our Requests that we duly weigh them, and pursue ever Petition with pressing Importunity, ardent Desires, and vigorous Affections, this is the Spirit of Prayer. And thus we may better pray by the Spirit in the words f a Form, than we can do, when our Mind is imployed in inventing new expressions. For having a Form (which custome hath made familiar) we have all things set down to our Hands which we or other want; and we are at leisure to improve the good Motions of the Spirit; having no more to doe but join our Souls and Affections to every Petition, and follow them up to Heaven in most passionate and zealous wishes that God would grant them: Whereas in Extempore Prayer the Petitions expire into Air in a moment, for neither Minister nor People knew them before, nor can remember them afterwards; [8/9] the one being busie in Inventing, the others in expecting a pleasing novelty. And methinks it argues more of the Spirit of God, when we can attend the old Prayers with Zeal and Love, than when we need variety and novel Expressions, to skrew us up into a Devotion too much like Artifice, and seeming rather to be moved by the pleasure of the Fancy, than the actings of Desire. We may judge of the effects of GodÍs Spirit rather by disposing our Hearts to join in a well-composed Form, than by filling our Heads with new Prayers, or opening our Mouths in fluent Expressions; both which may be done without the help of the Spirit, but to be devout without it is most impossible. To which we shall onely add, that many truly good men, and sound Members of our Church, do daily use these Prayers with as much Spirit and Life, with as serious and sincere Devotion, as any in the World can doe. And this they account a demonstration that the Spirit doth assist them in this Form. And so it may assist these mistaken Persons if they will lay down their groundless prejudice, and strive to serve God thus as well as they can. So would the good Spirit assist their Prayers, and make up our differences, giving us one Mind and one Spirit, that with one Heart and one Mouth we might glorifie one God.
Object. 2. But it is farther urged, That these Prayers, though good in themselves, will grow flat and nauseous by daily use, and consequently become an impediment to Devotion.
Answ. We come not to the House of God for Recreation, but for a supply of our wants; and therefore this might be a better reason of an empty Theatre, than a thin Congregation. We come to God in Publick, to petition for the relief of our own general Necessities, and those of the whole Church, viz. for Pardon of Sin, Peace of Conscience and Succours of Divine Grace, and a Deliverance from Sin and Sathan, Death and Hell: as also for Food and Raiment, Health and Strength, Protection and Success in all our concerns; and more generally for the Peace of the Kingdom, the Prosperity of the Church, the Propagation of the Gospel, and the Success of its Ministers. Now these things are always needfull, and always the same, to be prayed for every day alike. Wherefore (unless we be so vain [9/10] as to fansie God is delighted with Variety and Change as well as we) what need is there to alter the Phrase every day, or what efficacy can a new model give to our old Requests? Particular wants and single Cases must be supplied by the Closet-devotions, for the Publick, whether by Form or Extempore, can never reach all those which are so numerous and variable. Wherefore one Form may fit all that ought to be asked in the Church; and why then should we desire a needless and infinite Variety and Alteration? If we do, it is out of Curiosity, not Necessity. The poor man is most healthfull whose Labour procures him both Appetite and Digestion, who seldom changeth his Dish, yet finds a Relish in it, and a new Strength from it every day: And so it is with the sober and industrious Christian, who, busying himself in serving God, gets a new sense of his Wants and consequently a fresh Stomach to these Holy Forms, which are never flat or dull to him, that brings new Affections to them every day. It is the Epicure and luxurious, the crammed lazy Wanton, or the diseased Man that need quelques choses, or Sauces, to make this daily bread desirable. And if this be our Temper, it is a sign of a diseased Soul, and an effect of our surfeiting on Holy Things. In this we resemble those Murmurers (Numb. xi. 6.) who despised the bread of Heaven because they had it daily, and loathed Manna it self, calling it in scorn dry Meat. This was sufficient to sustain their Bodies, and satisfie their Hunger, but they required Meat for their Soul, that is, to feed their Fancies and their Lusts; even as we do, for whom the Church hath provided prayers sufficient to express our needs, but not to satiate our wanton Fancies, nor gratifie the Lust of our Curiosity; and we complain they are insipid; so perhaps they are to such, for the Manna had no taste to the wicked; but it suited it self to the Appetite and Taste of every good Man, as the Jews tell us in their Traditions. Sure I am; it is true here; For if we be curious and proud, or carnal and profane, there is no gust in the Common-Prayers; but a truly pious Man can every day here exercise Repentance and Faith, Love and Desire, and so use them as to obtain fresh Hopes of Mercy, Peace of Conscience, Increase of Grace, and Expectations of Glory, and whoever finds not this, the fault is not in the Prayers, but in the indisposition of his own Heart. [10/11]
If all this will undeceive any, and take away their prejudice, so that they may see clearly what they cannot but love, if they did behold; I shall think my pains well bestowed: If not, it appears they are resolved to believe as they do, and I am resolved also not to imitate them so far, as to abuse my Adversaries with strenuous revilings; because it is more pleasant to me to give a true and lovely Character of my own Devotions, than an odious, though deserved one, of others. Onely let those that delight in making Objections against Forms know, that we can easily recriminate, and charge Extempore Prayers with Novelty, Confusion, Irreverence, Vain-glory, which can scarce be denied, and many other Inconveniences, that will hardly be excused. But this were to perpetuate a Quarrel; and had not been mentioned here, but to teach those to be modest in their Censures who are not free from all Exceptions; nay, liable to infinitely more than can be justly charged upon us.
But having thus cleared the way to all indifferent and disinterested Persons, it is time to speak briefly of the Design of the following Discourse; which is to make it evident that our Excellent Prayers do deserve all possible Love and Esteem, and contain in them a rich Treasury of all that can make our Devotion lively and usefull. And if we be assisted by GodÍs Spirit, and come desirous to pray with Zeal and Sincerity, here is (without calling in any aid but that of Heaven) a curious Order, clear Method, significant Phrases, and strong Arguments to quicken our Affections, and enlarge our Souls in holy and fervent Wishes, Desires and Meditations, which is the Prayer of the Inward Man, the Life and Soul of this Duty. All which we teach men to doe by giving a natural and facil Analysis of the Method, and by making plain and practical Observations on the Parts, together with a literal Paraphrase of the Whole. By which none can imagine I should give a borrowed lustre to the Prayers, which they had not of their own: For I onely prove they had it before, and I find all in them, that I observe from them; which I Hope will be so plain, that all men will see the inference, and be able in their own Devotions to find out much more. Now in this Essay I shall hope to serve three sorts of Persons. [11/12]
I. The Ignorant, who may be instructed hereby to pray with understanding. Not that we suppose these Offices so obscure as to need a Comment (for nothing can be more plainly expressed, nor is it possible to invent words more universally understood) but many that understand the Sense of the Words, have not Art enough to discern the Order, Method and Connexion of the Prayers, nor skill to find out the Arguments that press every Request; or the places of Scripture which furnish these Devotions with significant Phrases, nor Judgment to describe what disposition of Soul doth suit the several parts of them. And if we consider, that the greatest number are such, we shall think it reasonable to help them with a plain and easie Explication. Besides, there are man (in other things) knowing Persons, who, rather for want of Consideration than Judgment, never took note of the natural dependences of these Prayers, nor the true and full import of the Expressions, nor of the Graces to be exercised in the several Parts, because they onely attended the words, but took no care to expatiate into holy Meditations. And if the former need a Master, these want a Monitor, lest they offend in a worse kind: For Negligence is worse than simple Ignorance. But, I hope, though all that is here be obvious, yet something will be found which either was not known or not observed before, and those things also such as may elevate the Affections, and make the Prayers more pleasing and more profitable.
2. The Devout Servants of God, and Obedient Sons of the Church, whose care it is to pray daily in the Publick, and whose Desire and Endeavour is to doe it well. Might I be a Nethenim to hew wood and prepare fuel for the Altars of their Hearts, I should rejoice; and it hath been my Care to suggest not always the most Critical, but the most Practical Sense, which most directly tended to help Devotion, for these Mens sake; who no doubt have in their own Hearts made many of these Observations before, and I hope they will like them no worse, for I shall like them better, in hopes the same Spirit directed me and them. But I hope that what I have done will (besides its present assistence) suggest a way to all devout Souls for making pathetical and pious Enlargements, more and better than are to be found here; that so our daily Offices may be full of Life and Pleasure; and every day court us with new Delights. And I must affirm, I have rather opened the top than searched the bottom of this [12/13] rich Mine. But sure I am we had need to quicken our Devotion all we can, not onely for our own good, but that our flames might thaw the hearts and lighten the eyes of the rest of the Congregation; which scarce ever mind either Words or Sense, but are either sleepy or tired, to the dishonour of God, the discomfort of the Minister and the ruine of their own Souls. How happy should we be, if by my own Endeavours and your Examples, we awaken such into a Sense of their Duty; that these excellent Prayers might every where be said with an excellent Spirit, for the benefit of particulars, and the good of the whole Church?
3. The mistaken Dissenters: Who hereby may be convinced (and perhaps persuaded) that we can pray by this Form with as much Zeal and more Knowledge, with as much Spirit and more Truth, than by any other kind of Prayer. And then it must appear, that this Venerable Liturgy hath been falsly represented by such, who would not have it seen truly, left so much their own Masters, as that they dare to reade the Prayers seriously, and view this little Book with as much Charity as it was written with, I shall hope either for their Company at Prayers, or at least to escape their Censures for going thither. For unless they be foolishly obstinate they must either love them, or cannot hate them. If they would love them, and pray with us, we shall be friends; and if onely the second be obtained, we shall be quiet, and even that is desirable. That these are the designs which began and encouraged this Undertaking, the Authours own Conscience doth testifie; and he hopes even those who approve not the Means, must confess the End of this Work is good. And if it be successful in any of these kinds, he will not repent his pains. If in none, he is n ot the first that hath failed of accomplishing good intentions. However he will have satisfaction in the Peace of a good Conscience and may say with that noble Roman, If the Success answers his Sincerity, it must be a cause of universal Joy; if not, he can rejoyce in his cordial Intentions [13/14] to doe good. For the Censures of furious Zealots, or the Scoffing of profane Ishmaels, he doth not value them, being onely unwilling to offend Authority or true Piety. Wherefore he doth humbly submit these Pages to the Iudicious Correction of the Reverend Fathers of the Church, desiring nothing may be said which dissents from the Doctrine and Discipline now established; for if it do, it is without the Authours Knowledge and against his Judgment. And now Ítis time to conclude this Preface with a two-fold Request.
First, To my Brethren of the Clergy, that they will reade these Prayers so frequently, that such as have leisure may never want opportunity thus to serve God; and so fervently, that those who do attend them, may be brought into an high esteem of them. It was a great end of GodÍs Instituting the PriestÍs Office, and a principal motive to our pious Ancestours in their liberal Provision for it; That there might be an Order of Men in purpose to Pray daily for all Mankind, especially for such as could not daily attend Divine Service: So that if we neglect this daily Sacrifice, we neither answer the Designs of God, nor of our Benefactours: And as we are not excused by, so we ought not to be discouraged at the Peoples slowness in coming to daily Prayers, for their Presence is indeed a Comfort to us, and an Advantage to themselves, but their Absence doth not hinder the Success, nor should it obstruct the Performance of our Prayers. The Promise of Jesus is made to two or three; and since our Petitions are directed to God, we need not regard who is absent, so long as he is present to whom we speak: For he accepts our Requests, not by the Number, but the Sincerity of those that make them: Let our Congregation therefore be great or small, it is our Duty to reade these Prayers daily: And every day to doe it with such Fervency and Reverence, as may declare that our Affections keep pace with our Words, while we are presenting so excellent Requests to so infinite a Majesty, upon so weighty Occasions: And also we must recite them with such Gravity and Deliberation, as may afford sufficient time both for our selves and our People to consider every Petition, and press it with devout Affections, and a holy Importunity, which is the Life of Prayer: and if any use these comprehensive Forms without such pious enlargements, it is not for want of matter in the Offices (as I have [14/15] demonstrated) but for want of Devotion and Zeal in their own Hearts. ÍTis onely such as have no true sense of Piety who say the Liturgy without Affection; and I am very confident the rude and hasty repeating thereof hath contributed more to the making Common-Prayer odious and contemptible, than the Arguments or the Aspersions of its most malitious Enemies: whereas if we our selves would shew that, we are sincerely affected and concerned while we pray by it, we may expect it will be acceptable to God, and of high esteem among all People; so that I wish it may not be said of any of us, as once of EliÍs Sons, Their sin was very great, for they made men abhor the offering of the Lord. I Sam. xi. 17.
Secondly, I shall make it my earnest Request to all the People of this Church, not to judge of these Prayers by the Character that Ignorance and Atheism, Prejudice and evil Interests fasten on them; but to consider them very well, and then they will find the Liturgy to be plainer and more methodical in it self, more comprehensive and more sutable to a publick Congregation than the best Extempore Effusion, which makes more noise and shew, but is emptier, and of far less weight in the esteem of God and all Judicious Men. Let none therefore think it a needless and unprofitable waste of time to go to the House of God onely to hear Common-Prayer; for Prayer is the proper Duty of that place, which is called the House of Prayer; and it is a Duty that is of all others the highest and hardest, and yet the most profitable, if it be devoutly and well performed. So that I cannot but pity and lament the Stupidity of those, who either sleep, or sit by heedless and unconcerned, while so great and so advantageous a Scene of Duty lies before them. And I must (for their own sakes) beseech all that are present at these Devotions; First, to compose their Bodies into those most reverent Postures which the Church hath suited to every part of Duty, Kneeling at the Confession, Absolution and Prayers; Standing at the Gloria Patri, Hymns and Creeds, and Bowing at the Holy Name of Jesus; for a general uniformity in these things doth declare, that there is in us a due sense of the Divine Presence, a great obedience to our Governours, and a sweet harmony between our Bodies and Souls in the Worship be pay to the Creatour of both. Secondly, To make their Responses with a loud and audible voice. The Romanist cannot bear a part in his adored Mass, because it is in [15-16] an unknown Tongue; the Separatist is excluded from all share in this Duty by the novel Device of one tedious Form without variety or intermission; but the Church of England not onely allows this primitive Privilege to her Sons, but commands it; and surely none will forbear to answer out of Laziness, that consider the Honour and Benefit thereof; nor ought any to be silent out of modesty or shame, it being no shame that men should hear us Pray in the House of Prayer, for we came on purpose to Pray, and the only shame is, to be mute and silent. Thirdly, let me intreat them to Ponder the Divine All-sufficiency, and their own great Necessities, before they begin; and to keep their Heart close to every Petition as they go along, and they will find them all so fit to be asked, and so likely to be obtained; so agreeable to their own wants, and to the necessities of all Mankind; that it will be pleasant to ask them, and delightfull to expect a gratious answer to them. And if they daily come and constantly use the Common Prayer in this manner, they will neither be tired with the Length, nor wearied with the frequent Repetition thereof; for it will appear to be the most noble and comfortable exercise that Religion doth afford; it will increase their Graces, multiply their Blessings, and fit them for the never-ceasing Service of the Heavenly Choir. May the God of Peace therefore reconcile us to these Prayers, and to one another, giving us pious and zealous Priests, devout and well-disposed People, that we may have full Churches, frequent Prayers, and fervent Charity; than which nothing more will conduce the publick Happiness of this Nation, and the Salvation of all our Souls; the good Lord grant it therefore, for Jesus sake. Amen.