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according to the several state of life whereunto thou, Lord, hast ordained us. And although we are unworthy, O heavenly Father, by means of our former foul life, to crave any thing of thee: yet because thou hast commanded us to pray for all men, we most humbly here upon our knees beseech thee, save and defend thy holy Church, be merciful, O Lord, to all common weals, Countries, Princes, and Magistrates, and especially to this our Realm, and to our most gracious Queen and Governour, Queen Elizabeth. Increase the number of Godly Ministers, endue them with thy grace to be found faithful and prudent in their office. Defend the Queen's Majesty's Council, and all that be in authority under her, or that serve in any place by her commandment for this Realm. We commend also to thy fatherly mercy all those that be in poverty, exile, imprisonment, sickness, or any other kind of adversity, and namely those whom thy hand now hath touched with any contagious and dangerous sickness, which we beseech thee, O Lord, of thy mercy (when thy blessed will is) to remove from us, and in the mean time grant us grace and true repentance, stedfast faith, and constant patience, that whether we live or die, we may always continue thine, and ever praise thy holy name, and be brought to the fruition of thy Godhead. Grant us these, and all other our humble petitions (0 merciful Father) for thy dear Son's sake, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Or else in the stead of the other, this Prayer may be used, and so to use
the one one day, and the other another. O ETERNAL and everliving God, most merciful Father, which of thy great longsuffering and patience hast hitherto suffered and borne with us most miserable offenders, who have so long strayed out of thy way, and broken all thy laws and commandments, and have, neither by thy manifold benefits bestowed upon us unworthy and unthankful sinners, nor by the voice of thy servants and Preachers, by continual threatenings out of thy holy word, hitherto been moved, either as thy children, of love to return unto thee our most gracious Father, either for fear of thy judgments, as humble and lowly servants to turn from our wickedness. And therefore, most righteous Judge, thy patience being (as it were) overcome at the last with our obstinate unrepentance, thou hast most justly executed those thy terrible threats now partly upon us, by plaguing us so (with most dreadful and deadly Note to sickness) (with troubles of wars) (with penury and scarceness anges ahese of food and victual), whereby great multitudes of us are daily touch us. afflicted and consumed. We beseech thee, O most merciful Father, that in thy wrath thou wilt remember thy old great mercies, and to correct us in thy judgments, and not in thy just anger, lest we be all consumed and brought to nought. Look not so much upon us and upon our deservings, O most righteous Judge, to take just vengeance on our sins : but rather remember thy infinite mercies, 0 most merciful Father, promised to us by thy dearly beloved Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, for whose same!, and in whose name, we do earnestly and humbly crave mercy and forgiveness of our sins, and deliverance from this horrible sickness, being thy just punishment and plague for the same. And as thy holy word doth testify, that thy people of all ages, being justly plagued for their sins, and yet in their distress unfeignedly turning unto thee, and suing for thy mercy, obtained the same: So likewise we, most worthily now afflicted with grievous and dreadful plagues for our iniquities, pray thee, O most merciful Father, to grant us thy heavenly grace, that we may likewise both truly and unfeignedly repent, and obtain thy mercy, and deliverance from the same, which we beseech thee, O Father of all mercies, and God of all consolation, to grant us, for the same Jesus Christ's sake, our only Saviour, Mediator and Advocate. Amen.
This Prayer may be said every third day. It had been the best for us, O most righteous Judge, and our most merciful Father, that in our wealths and quietness, and in the midst of thy manifold benefits continually bestowed upon us most unworthy sinners, we had of love hearkened to thy voice, and turned unto thee, our most loving and gracious Father: For in so doing, we had done the parts of good and obedient loving children. It had also been well, if at thy dreadful threats out of thy holy word continually pronounced unto us by thy servants our preachers, we had of fear, as corrigible servants, turned from our wickedness. But, alas! we have shewed hitherto our selves towards thee, neither as loving children (0 most merciful Father) neither
[ A misprint. The York Form has, sake.]
as tolerable servants, O Lord most mighty. Wherefore now we feel thy heavy wrath, O most righteous Judge, justly punishing us with grievous and deadly sickness and plagues'; we do now confess and acknowledge, and to our most just punishment do find in deed, that to be most true, which we have so often heard threatened to us out of thy holy scriptures, the word of thy eternal verity: that thou art the same unchangeable God, of the same justice that thou wilt, and of the same power that thou canst, punish the like wickedness and obstinacy of us impenitent sinners in these days, as thou hast done in all ages heretofore. But the same thy holy Scriptures, the word of thy truth, do also testify, that thy strength is not shortened but that thou canst, neither thy goodness abated but that thou wilt, help those that in their distress do flee unto thy mercies, and that thou art the same God of all, rich in mercy towards all that call upon thy name, and that thou dost not intend to destroy us utterly, but fatherly to correct us; who hast pity upon us, even when thou dost scourge us, as by thy said holy word, thy gracious promises, and the examples of thy saints in thy holy Scriptures expressed for our comfort, thou hast assured us. Grant us, O most merciful Father, that we fall not into the uttermost of all mischiefs, to become worse under thy scourge; but that this thy rod may by thy heavenly grace speedily work in us the fruit and effect of true repentance, unfeigned turning and converting unto thee, and perfect amendment of our whole lives; that, as we through our impenitency do now most worthily feel thy justice punishing us, so by this tby correction we may also feel the sweet comfort of thy mercies, graciously pardoning our sins, and pitifully releasing these grievous punishments and dreadful plagues. This we crave at thy hand, O most merciful Father, for thy dear Son our Saviour Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.
1 A short meditation to be said of such as be touched in affliction.
O FATHER, doubtless our own wickedness do reward us: but do thou, O Lord, according to thy name. transgressions and sins be many. Against thee have we sin
[The composition of the prayer in Knox's Book of Common Order, entitled 'A Prayer in time of Public Affliction,' is evidently to be referred to this same 'noisome and destroying plague.']
ned, yet art thou the comforter and helper of thy humble
ending of Public Prayer.
It is most evident to them that read the Scriptures, that both in the old Church under the law, and in the Primitive Church under the Gospel, the people of God hath always used general Fasting, both in times of common calamities, as War, Famine, Pestilence. &c. and also when any weighty matter, touching the estate of the Church or the common wealth, was begun or intended. And it can not be denied, but that in this our time, wherein many things have been reformed according to the doctrine and examples of God's word, and the Primitive Church, this part for fasting and abstinence, being always in the Scripture, as a necessary companion, joined to fervent prayer, hath been too much neglected.
Wherefore, for® some beginning of redress herein, it hath been thought meet to the Queen's Majesty, that in this contagious time of sickness, and other troubles, and unquietness, according to the examples of the Godly king Josaphat, and the king of Ninive, with others, a general Fast should 2 Par. 20. be joined with general Prayer, throughout her whole Realm, and to be Jonas.3. observed of all her godly Subjects, in manner and form following.
First, it is ordained, that the Wednesday of every week shall be the 1. day appointed for this general Fast.
Secondly, all persons between the age of .xvi. years and .lx. (sick 2. folks, and labourers in harvest or other great labours, only excepted) shall eat but one only competent and moderate meal upon every Wednesday. In which said meal shall be used very sober and spare diet, without variety of kinds of meat, dishes, spices, confections, or wines, but only such as may serve for necessity, comeliness, and health.
[* Grindal, in a letter to Cecil dated August the 21st, assigns the reason for his insertion of these words: “Surely my opinion hath been long, that in no one thing the adversary hath more advantage against us, than in the matter of fast, which we utterly neglect: they have a shadow.” See his Remains, p. 265.]
3. Item, in that meal it shall be indifferent to eat flesh or fish, so that
the quantity be small, and no variety or delicacy be sought. Wherein every man hath to answer to God, if he in such Godly exercises either contemn Public order, or dissemble with God, pretending abstinence, and
doing nothing less. 4. Item, those that be of wealth and ability, ought that day to abate and
diminish the costliness and variety of their fare, and increase therewith their liberality and alms towards the poor, that the same poor, which either in deed lack food, or else that which they have is unseasonable and cause of sickness, may thereby be relieved and charitably succoured,
to be maintained in health. 5. Last of all, this day, being in this manner appointed for a day of
general Prayer and Fasting, ought to be bestowed by them, which may forbear from bodily labour, in prayer, study, reading or hearing of the Scriptures, or good exhortations. &c. And when any dulness or weariness shall arise, then to be occupied in other godly exercises: But no part thereof to be spent in plays, pastimes, or idleness, much less in lewd, wicked, or wanton behaviour.
When there is a Sermon, or other just occasion, one of the Lessons may be omitted, and the shortest of the three prayers appointed in the Litany by this order may be said, and the longest left off.
Forasmuch as divers Homilies, appointed before to be read in this form of Common prayer, are contained in the second Tome of Homilies now lately set forth by the Queen's Majesty's authority: Therefore it is ordered, that the Church wardens of every parish shall provide the same second Tome or book of Homilies with all speed, at the charges of the parish.
[In the Form for 1593 we have the following direction:-6. Admonition is heere lastly to be giuen, that on the fasting day they haue but one Sermon at Morning Prayer, and the same not aboue an houre long, to auoyde the inconuenience that may growe by abuse of fasting: as some make it a faction more then religion, and other, with ouermuch wearines and tediousnesse, keepe the people a whole day together, which in this time of contagion is more dangerous in so thicke and close assemblies of the multitudes.—To the above passage Dr Williams's MS. gives us this note: The Puritans: many of them began the fast about ten in the forenoon, and continued it without intermission till 3 or 4 in the afternoone, which they thought the most edifying course, and most agreeable to the nature of the Ordinance; but this course, it seemes, was offensive, and in this sort prohibited.]