To the poor Inhabitants within the Diocess of Bath and Wells, THOMAS, their unworthy Bishop, wisheth the knowledge and the love of God.
Dearly beloved in our Lord,
THe Catechism truly teaches all Christians, that they are not able of themselves to do those things they have vow'd in their Baptism to do, namely, To walk in the Commandments of God, and to serve him, without his special Grace, or favorable Assistance, and this they are to learn at all times to call upon God for, by diligent Prayer.
How good and seasonable this advice is, you will all see, if you consider what helpless and needy Creatures the very best of Men are. Alas! our weakness is very great, our wants are very many, our dependance on God for all things, all our lives long, is entire, and absolute, and necessary, and there is no way in the World to gain help and supplies from God, but by Prayer; so that it is as easie, and as possible to preserve a natural Life without daily Bread, as a Christian Life without daily Prayer.
It was for this reason, that our Saviour himself took a particular care, to teach his Disciples to pray, [Luke 11.1.] and it is for the same reason, and in imitation of our Heavenly Master, that I have joyn'd these directions for Prayer to the Catechism.
Sure I am, the Zeal I ought to have for your Salvation, can suggest to me nothing more conducing to the good of your Souls, than to exhort and beseech you all, of either Sex, to learn how to Pray.
This is the first general Request I shall make to you, and I am the more earnest in it, because my own sad experience has taught me, how strangely ignorant common People usually are of this duty; insomuch, that some never Pray at all, pretending they were never taught, or that their memories are bad, or that they are not Book-learn'd, or that they want mony to buy a Book; and by this means they live, and die rather like Beasts than Men; nay, their condition is much worse than that of Beasts, for the misery of a Beast doth end at death, but the misery of a wicked man does then begin, and will endure to all Eternity.
To prevent then as much as lies in me, the damnation of those Souls which God has committed to my care, and to cure that lamentable ignorance and forgetfulness of God, which is the cause of the damnation of so very many, I do not only incessantly pray for you my self, but I beg of you all to pray for your selves, and I beseech you to read the following Instructions; or if you cannot read your selves, to get some honest charitable Neighbors to read them often to you, that you may remember them, and God of his great mercy reward the Charity of such Neighbors.
If any of you, either by your own negligence, or by the negligence of your Parents, or for want of Catechising in your Parish, are wholly ignorant of your duty; though it be a most shameful and dangerous thing, for one who calls himself a Christian, to know nothing of Christ or Christianity, yet if you are willing to learn, and beg pardon of God for your wilful ignorance hitherto, and will sincerely do your endeavor to get saving Knowledge, and heartily pray to God to assist you, you shall find, that the very entrance of Gods word giveth light, that it giveth understanding unto the simple. [Psal. 119.130.]
I must warn you before-hand, that corrupt Nature will be very busie in hindering the learning of your duty, and thoughts will arise in your mind that the task will be too hard and too tedious for you to undertake; but I faithfully promise you, to impose no hard or tedious task on you, but such as you your selves shall confess, to be very complying with your Infirmities; for our most compassionate Saviour teaches me to say no more to you, then you can bear. [John 16.11.]
All I shall exhort you to, is to learn your Catechism, which you may do by degrees: If you learn but a line or two in a day, you will, by Gods blessing, in a very short time learn it all over, and you will rejoice, and thank God, for the sudden and happy progress you have made.
God forbid you should ever think your selves too old to learn to serve God, and to be saved, both which are taught in the Catechism, and therefore the Catechism is of necessity to be learned: For how can you go to Heaven, if you never learn'd the way thither? How can you be sav'd, if you do not know your Saviour?
'Tis a great Error, to think that the Catechism was made for Children only, for all Christians are equally concern'd in those saving Truths which are there taught; and the Doctrine delivered in the Catechism, is as proper for the study and as necessary for the salvation of a great Doctor, as of a weak Christian, or a young Child.
But you will be the more encouraged to learn your Catechism, when you see how excellent a help it will be to Prayer, for it will at the same time further your Knowledge, and your Devotion both together; and the Prayers I intend to commend to you, are chiefly the very Answers in the Catechism, which being daily repeated, will be the better fix'd in your memory, and you cannot imagine any advice for Prayer can be more easie and familiar, than that which directs you to turn your very Catechism into Prayers.
You are by this time I hope satisfied, that the Duty to which I exhort you, is no hard task; and yet I will endeavor, by Gods assistance, to make it more easie, by putting you into an easie method to attain it.
If you are wholly ignorant of your Catechism, let it be your first care to learn such Ejaculations, such short Prayers as these, and say them often, and heartily.
Lord have mercy upon me.
Christ have mercy upon me.
Lord have mercy upon me.
Lord pardon all my wilful ignorance, and gross carelessness of my duty, for the sake of Jesus my Saviour. Amen.
O my God assist me in the learning of my Duty.
Lord help me to know, and to love thee.
Lord pity me, Lord save me, Father forgive me.
Glory be to thee, O Lord, who hast hitherto spared me.
O that I might at last learn to glorifie, and love, and serve thee!
Such short Prayers as these, you may easily get by heart, and the method in which I advise you to proceed, is, that in which Children are commonly taught, in regard I am now to look on you as a Child: For there are two sorts of Children; there are Children in age, and Children in understanding, [1 Cor. 14.20.] and in this latter respect you are Children, and the same method for the most part is proper for you, which is proper for those that are Children in Age.
I must therefore feed you with Milk, before you can be capable of strong Meat, [Heb. 5.13.] and I must look on you as Lambs of my Flock, which I am to use tenderly, and these following Directions which I give to Parents, for the training up their Children in Piety, I do equally design for the training up of you. God of his Infinite Goodness, bless them to you both.
I exhort all you who are Parents, to instil good things into your Children as soon as ever they begin to speak, let the first words they utter, if it be possible, be these, Glory be to God: Accustom them to repeat these words on their knees, as soon as they rise, and when they go to bed, and oft times in the day, and let them not eat or drink, without saying, Glory be to God.
As their speech grows more plain and easie to them, teach them who Made, and Redeem'd and Sanctified them, and for what end, namely to glorifie and to love God; and withal, teach them some of the shortest Ejaculations you can, such as these;
Lord help me. Lord save me.
Lord have mercy upon me.
All love, all glory be to God who first lov'd me.
Lord keep me in thy love.
Within a little time you may teach them the Lords Prayer, and hear them say it every day, morning & evening on their knees, with some one or more of the fore-going Ejaculations; and by degrees as they grow up, they will learn the Creed, and the whole Catechism.
Be sure to teach your Children with all the sweetness and gentleness you can, lest if you should be severe, or should over-task them, Religion should seem to them rather a burden than a Blessing.
As their Knowledge increases, so let their Prayers increase also, and teach them as they go to turn their Catechism into Prayers, after the manner which I shall shew you, and to confirm and improve their knowledge, bring them duly to the Church to be Catechised by the Parish Priest, that by his familiar and devout Explications of the Catechism, they may learn to understand it, and may be capable of reading the Exposition on it, and other Books of Piety.
Take conscientious care to season your Children as early as you can, with the love of God, which is the first and great Commandment, [Matth. 22.38.] and with the fear of God, which is the beginning of Wisdom, [Psal. 111.10.] for the awful love, and the filial fear of God, must always go together.
The same method you observe in teaching your Children, the same you may observe in teaching your Servants, according as you see they want teaching, and you your selves will reap the benefit of it, as well as your Servants; for the more devout servants they are of God, the more faithful Servants will they be to you.
Remember, you must teach both your Children and Servants by your Example, as well as by your Instruction, for they learn best by Example; and if they see you give an example of fraud or lying, of revenge or calumny, of uncleanness or drunkenness, of cursing and swearing, and irreligion; instead of teaching them to obey God, you teach them to provoke him; instead of teaching them to honor God you teach them to blaspheme him; instead of leading them the way to Heaven, you lead them the way to Hell; and you will increase your own damnation, by furthering theirs, which God forbid you should ever do.
Now that you may the better give a good Example to your Family, I will by Gods help give you a method of daily Devotion, taken for the most part out of the Catechism, which will be suitable to all Christians, be they never so well instructed, and which you may by little and little teach your Children; and which those who have been bred up in ignorance, and are Children in understanding, and are yet willing to be taught, may learn to say also, as the capacities of either do increase; for a Christian must never stand at a stay, but must be always growing in Grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, [2 Pet. 3.18.]
As soon as ever you awake, offer your first thoughts and words to God, saying,
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost: Three Persons and one God blessed for evermore: All love, all praise be to thee.
As you are rising, say,
I laid me down and slept, and rose up again, for the Lord sustained me: All love, all glory be to God. [Psal. 3.5.]
As soon as you are drest, kneel down, as our Saviour himself kneel'd, [Luke 22.41.] at his Prayers, and remember you are in Gods presence, and say your Prayers with Reverence and Devotion.
Glory be to thee, O Lord God, for my preservation and refreshment, and for all the Blessings of the night past, for which, All love, All praise be to thee.
Father, forgive me all the evil of the night past, for the merits of Jesus my Saviour. Amen.
O merciful God, keep and protect, and bless me this day, and prosper me in my Calling, and preserve me from sin and danger, for the merit of Jesus my Saviour. Amen.
I believe in God the Father Almighty, &c.
All love, all glory be to thee, O God the Father, who hast made me and all the World.
All love, all glory be to thee, O God the Son, who hast redeemed me and all Man-kind.
All love, all glory be to thee, O God the Holy-Ghost, who doest sanctifie me, and all the elect people of God.
All love, all glory be to thee, O Father of mercy, who in my Baptism didst make me a member of Christ, thy own Child, and an inheritor of the kingdom of Heaven.
O my God, I do this day dedicate my self to thy service, and do renew the promise and vow of my Baptism.
I do from my heart renounce the Devil and all his works, the pomps and vanity of this wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh; from all which, Good Lord deliver me.
I believe all the Articles of the Christian Faith, and I will keep thy holy Will and Commandments, and walk in the same all the days of my life.
All this, O Lord, I am bound to believe and do, and by thy help so I will; and I heartily thank thee, O Heavenly Father, who hast call'd me to this state of salvation, through Jesus Christ my Saviour; and I pray unto thee to give me thy Grace, that I may continue in the same to my lives end.
Lord, hear me, help me, pardon my failings, supply all my wants, and the wants of all faithful People, which I sum up in the words of thy own beloved Son, Our Father which art in Heaven, &c.
After the like manner you may pray at night.
Glory be to thee, O Lord, for my preservation, and for all the Blessings of the day past; for which, all love, all praise be to thee.
Father, forgive me all the sins I have this day committed, either in thought, or word, or deed, either against thee, or against my neighbor, for the sake of Jesus my Saviour. Amen, Amen.
It grieves me, O merciful God, that I should daily offend thee: But I repent, O pitty and pardon me, for the sake of Jesus thy Beloved, Amen, Amen.
O my God, keep and protect, and bless me this night, and preserve me from sin and danger, for the sake of Jesus. Amen, Amen.
Lord, refresh me this night with seasonable sleep, that I may rise the next morning more fit and able to serve thee in my Calling, for the sake of Jesus, thy Beloved. Amen, Amen.
I believe in God the Father, &c.
All love, all glory be to thee, our God the Father, who, &c. as in the Morning.
I desire thee, O Lord God, O Heavenly Father, who art the Giver of all goodness, to send thy Grace unto me, and to my Wife and Children, to my Husband and Children, Father and Mother, Brethren and Sisters, Kindred and Friends, Master and Mistress, [you must name these Relations, according as you stand related] and to all people, that we may worship thee, serve thee, and obey thee, as we ought to do: And I pray unto thee, that thou would'st send us all things that be needful, both for our souls and bodies, and that thou wilt be merciful unto us, and forgive us our sins; and that it will please thee, to save and defend us, in all dangers, ghostly and bodily, and that thou wilt keep us from all sin and wickedness, and from our ghostly enemy, and from everlasting death: And this I trust thou wilt do of thy mercy and goodness, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Lord, so be it.
Lord, hear me, help me, pardon my failings, supply all my wants, and the wants of all for whom I pray, which I sum up in the words of thy own beloved Son,
Our Father which art in Heaven, &c.
As you are going to bed, say,
I will lay me down in peace, and take my rest, for it is thou, Lord, only that makest me dwell in safety,
As you began the day, so end it with glorifying God, and when you are in bed, say,
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, three Persons and one God, blessed for evermore. All praise, all love be to thee.
I earnestly beg of God, to make you sensible your selves, and to give you grace to make your Children and Servants sensible also, how Necessary, and Happy, and Heavenly a Duty Prayer is, and how many exceeding great precious Promises God has made to those that devoutly pray to him; and if you are thus sensible, you will not content your selves with Morning and Evening Prayer onely, but you will be desirous, if you have Opportunity, to retire about Mid-day, for a few Minutes, that you may imitate the Devotion of Holy David, and of Daniel, and pray three times a day, Dan. 6.10. and that you may not want a help for Noon tide Prayer, the Catechism shall supply you.
At evening, and at morning, and at noon-day will I pray, and that instantly, Lord, hear my voice, [Psal. 55.19.]
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.
All love, all glory be to thee, O God the Father, who hast first loved us, and hast given thy beloved Son to die for our Sins, and to rise again for our Iustification.
Have mercy upon me, O God, after thy great goodness, according to the multitude of thy mercies do away mine offences.
Wash me throughly from my wickedness: and cleanse me from my sin.
Make me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right Spirit within me, for the sake of Jesus thy Beloved. Amen.
O Lord God, who seest I am not able of my self to walk in thy Commandments, and to serve thee; be pleased to help and strengthen me by thy special Grace, that I may daily and sincerely perform my duty towards thee, and my duty towards my neighbor, for the sake of Jesus my Saviour. Amen.
O my God, give me grace to believe in thee, and to love thee with all my heart, with all my mind, with all my soul, and with all my strength; to worship thee, to give thee thanks, to put my whole trust in thee, to call upon thee, to honor thy holy Name and thy Word, and to serve thee truly all the days of my life, for the sake of Jesus thy Beloved. Amen.
O my God, give me grace to love my neighbor as my self, to do to all men as I would they should do to me; to love, honor and succor my Father and Mother [this clause must be left out, if your Father and Mother be dead] to honor and obey the King, and all that are put in Authority under him; to submit my self to all my Governors, Teachers, Spiritual Pastors, and Masters; to order my self lowly and reverently to all my betters; to hurt no body by word or deed; to be true and just in all my dealing; to bear no malice nor hatred in my heart; to keep my hands from picking and stealing, and my tongue from evil speaking, lying and slandering; to keep my body in temperance, soberness and chastity, not to covet or desire other mens goods, but to learn and labor truly to get mine own living, and to do my duty in that state of life, unto which it has pleased thee to call me, for the sake of Jesus thy Beloved. Amen.
Lord hear me, help me, pardon my failings, supply all my wants, which I sum up in the words of thy Beloved Son,
Our Father which art in Heaven, &c.
Instead of these two last Prayers, you may sometimes say the Ten Commandments, which you may turn into a very good Prayer, by saying after every one,
Lord have mercy upon me, and incline my heart to keep this Law.
Where you not onely beg pardon for the sins you have committed against each Commandment, but you also beg Grace to keep it.
At the end of them you may say,
Lord have mercy upon me, and write all these thy Laws in my heart, I beseech thee.
And so conclude with the Lords Prayer.
Do not think that this Practice of Prayer will be too hard, or too long for young persons, or for labouring people; for if you cannot say them all, say as much as you can; or if you are at Day Labour, or have not time or convenience to say them, offer up to God two or three hearty Ejaculations in their place: But if you can get time and convenience, say them all, and I dare assure you, that all the three Forms of Prayer which I commend to you, will not in all take up a quarter of an hour; and certainly that Person has very little sense of his Duty, very little concern for his immortal Soul, very little Honour for God, or value for Heaven, who will not spend one quarter of an hour in the space of four and twenty hours, in the Service of God, and the Salvation of his own Soul.
I do by all means exhort you to give your Servants a few Minutes leisure at Noon, to Pray after your Example, and to use your Children to do the same, for they will soon be able to say the Lords Prayer, and two or three Ejaculations, and teach them to say these at Noon, as well as at Morning and at Night, and 'tis incredible to think how much good this Practice will do them, and what great comfort you your selves will reap from the early Devotion of your Children.
To further this Devotion in your Children, instead of Idle Tales and Songs, which pollute their Souls, and when they come to be serious, will cost them great pains to unlearn: You must teach them short Psalms by heart, which will exercise their Memories and Piety both together; and as you teach the Psalms to your Children, I exhort you to learn them your selves.
You cannot imagine the great benefit of learning Psalms by heart; for when you are under any Temptation, or are in any Affliction, or when you lye waking in the Night, or when you are Sick, these Psalms will come into your mind, and the Devout repeating them will yield you most seasonable Consolations.
The very Common People, in the first and purest Ages of the Church, were so sensible of the Spiritual advantages of learning Psalms, that they learn'd the whole Psalter by heart, and sang or said the Psalms in their Shops, and at the Plow, insomuch that St. James makes it the proper expression of Christian mirth, [James 5.13.] If any be merry, let him sing Psalms.
This is the way to store your own and your Childrens minds with Ejaculations, or short Prayers for all Occasions, which I advise both Old and Young to accustom themselves to, because it is the true way of Praying without ceasing, and it is a kind of Prayer most easie, and may be used at any time of the day, or in any place, and is one of the most efficacious means in the World to keep us in Gods favour which is of all things most desirable.
Lord, bless my going out and my coming in, from this time forth for evermore. [Psal. 121.8.]
Lord grant, that whether I eat or drink, or whatever I do, I may do all to thy Glory. [1 Cor. 10.31.]
Prosper thou the work of my hands, O Lord, O prosper thou my handy work. [Psal. 90.17.]
Lord, give me grace to use this World, so as not to abuse it. [1 Cor. 7.31.]
Lord, grant that I may never go beyond, or defraud my brother in any matter, for thou art the Avenger of all such. 1 Thess. 4.6.
O God, make speed to save me: O Lord, make haste to help me.
Wherever I am, whatever I do, Thou Lord seest me: O keep me in thy fear all the day long. [Prov. 23.17.]
Lord, give me grace to keep always a conscience void of offence towards thee, and towards men. [Acts 24.16.]
Lord, teach me so to number my days, that I may apply my heart to Wisdom. [Psal. 90.12.]
O let my mouth be filled with thy Praise, that I may sing of thy Glory and Honor all the day long, [Psal. 71.7.]
All love, all glory be to thee, O God, who didst first love me.
Unto him that lov'd us, and wash'd us from our sins in his own Blood, be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. [Rev. 1.5.]
O blessed Spirit, shed abroad the love of God in my heart.
Praise the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, Praise his holy Name. [Psal. 103.1.]
Praise the Lord, O my soul, while I live will I praise the Lord: yea as long as I have any being, I will sing Praises unto my God. [Psal. 146.1.]
You that have Families, I do further exhort, that besides your private Prayers, you would offer up to God a Morning and Evening Sacrifice in your Families, and that every one of you would take up the Holy Resolution of Joshua, As for me, and my House, we will serve the Lord, [Josh. 24.15.] And the Prayers I advise you to use, are taken out of the Common Prayer, as being most familiar, and of greatest Authority withall.
If any of your Family are gone abroad to their Work before the rest can be ready, call that little Congregation about you that is at home, and you that are present, pray for those that are absent, and by this means those that are absent upon necessary Employments, will share in the blessings for which you pray.
Let the words of our mouths, and the meditations of our hearts, be alway acceptable in thy sight: O Lord, our Strength and our Redeemer.
O God the Father of Heaven, have mercy upon us miserable sinners.
O God the Son, Redeemer of the World, have mercy upon us miserable sinners.
O God the Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, have mercy upon us miserable sinners.
O Holy, Blessed and Glorious Trinity, three Persons and one God, have mercy upon us miserable sinners.
O Lord we beseech thee, mercifully hear our Prayers, and spare all those who confess their sins unto thee, that they whose consciences by sin are accused, by thy merciful pardon may be absolved, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Almighty God, who seest that we have no power of our selves to help our selves, we give thee humble thanks for thy preservation of us this day past [or this night past] and for all the blessings thou daily vouchsafest us; and we beseech thee to keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Almighty God, whose Kingdom is everlasting, and power Infinite, have mercy upon the whole Church, and so rule the heart of thy chosen Servant James our King and Governor, that he (knowing whose Minister he is) may above all things seek thy Honor and Glory; and that we and all his Subjects (duly considering whose Authority he hath) may faithfully serve, honor, and humbly obey him, in thee, and for thee, according to thy blessed Word and Ordinance, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth ever one God, World without end. Amen.
Unto thy gracious mercy and protection, O Lord, do we commit our selves this day [or this night] and all our relations and friends: Lord prosper us in our callings: Lord bless us and keep us: Lord make thy face to shine upon us, and be gracious unto us: Lord lift up thy countenance upon us, and give us Peace, both now and evermore, for the sake of Jesus thy beloved, in whose own blessed Words, we sum up all our wants.
Our Father which art in Heaven, &c.
The same form, changing but one word, is proper for the Night as well as the Morning, to make Family Prayer the more easie to you.
That Prayer which I have set down, wherein you pray for the King, and pray for your selves also, that you may be good Subjects, I exhort you never to omit, because you know that the Countrey wherein you live, was the onely seat of the late Rebellion, and the Tares of Sedition have been Industriously sown among you, and you have the greater reason to pray that you may continue firm in your Allegiance; besides, St. Paul teaches you, that to Pray for Kings, is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, [1 Tim. 2.2, 3.]
To your Family Prayers, you may add, as you see occasion, one of these following.
Almighty and everlasting God, give unto us the increase of Faith, Hope and Charity, and that we may obtain that which thou doest promise, make us to love that which thou doest command, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Lord we beseech thee, Grant thy people grace to withstand the temptations of the World, the Flesh and the Devil, and with pure hearts and minds to follow thee the only God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prevent us, O Lord, in all our doings, with thy most gracious favor, and further us with thy continual help, that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in thee, we may glorifie thy holy Name; and finally, by thy mercy obtain everlasting life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
These and the like short Prayers, may be said alone in the Closet, as well as in the Family, by changing onely the number, and for (we) saying all along (I) and for (us) saying (me.) As for Example, when you read any part of the Holy Scripture, either alone by your selves, or with your Families, both which you should do daily, if you have leisure, but if you have not, see that you do both on the Lord's days, and on Holy days, and before Reading, say this Prayer.
Blessed Lord, who hast caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning, Grant that we [I] may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy Holy Word, we [I] may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
God of his infinite Mercy bless these Instructions to his Glory, and to the furtherance of your Devotions, through Jesus the Beloved. Amen. Amen.