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RIGHT REVEREND FATHER IN GOD,
LORD BISHOP OF CHICHESTER.
I waited with some impatience to see that design accomplished by your accurate pen, which is here attempted now by my weak hand. Ever since you were pleased to acquaint me with your intention to publish something of this nature, it raised my expectation of your obliging the world with
your printed Prayers, as you have done with many of your learned and seasonable Sermons ; but after you had let me know the reason of hold. ing your hand, the same might have stopt mine too; and I should have desisted, had the good Doctor who prevented you, or any of those worthy Authors, that thus bestowed their pains, descended to such particulars, as I thought fit for the use of those whom I desire to serve,
But now that I am engaged, my Lord, your favour shewed to the well-meant performance here, has given me the boldness of this Dedication. And the advancement of such persons to high dignity in our church, as are so well known to deserve it, encourages me also to hope, that a gracious God hath yet a greater blessing for us than our own demerits give us reason to expect.
I beg your fatherly benediction upon me, and my poor endeavours, who am,
To my Neighbours and Acquaintance, particularly to those
in the Parishes committed to my care. MY DEAR FRIENDS,
IT is especially for your sakes, and primarily for your service, that I publish this Manual of Prayers, fitted to the capacities of your minds, to the necessities of your souls, and to the several conditions and occasions of your lives. Notwithstanding all the books of devotion already extant, many of which are very useful and excellent in their kinds, and such as I should recommend to you, without offering any other, did those with which I am best satisfied, reach as far as I have designed here to go, and did not I think the strain of some too high for many of you, and the words and expressions of others that I have seen in your hands, too low and flat, or too obsolete and improper, and which will rather offend than edify such as have their senses better exercised in these matters: I have come to the resolution of adding my contribution to the common stock: yet, not taking upon me so to correct or censure them that have gone before me, as to discourage any from making use of those helps which they find agreeable to their case, and efficacions to quicken their devotion : But leaving every one to consult their own sense, and profit and comfort in choosing and taking what best likes their particular gust, and what most furthers their pious designs; and to make what alterations also they pleast, even in the ensuing offices, for their own service, if they shall think fit to use them at all.
Nor have I such a conceit of any thing that is my own, as to suppose it free from the weakness and defects which I can espy elsewhere; I doubt not but others may find as many faults here: Nay, 1 cannot think any thing of this nature to be so complete, but that the author himself, in tract of time, may see reason to add or subtract, to alter or amend many particulars: Indeed, I shall as soon expect to see a shoe made to fit every foot, as a particular Form of Prayer exactly to suit all the circunstances of every soul.
I cannot undertake that the following Prayers should answer all the occasions which any one may ever find for prayer: But they that have the spirit of supplication, can tell how to fill up what is
wanting : And such as I help in most cases, may help themselves in the rest. I am rather apt to think, that so many as are here set down, will be censured for more than needful; but, it being easy to pare off, the censors may let alone what they count superfluous; leaving it to those that will not disdain its assistance ; and I had rather be under an imputation from some of my neighbours, for busying myself more than I have need, in a work that might have been spared, than bear the recoilings of my own mind for neglecting to impart any thing that I thought might be of use and service to the rest.
If any judge that I might better have left this behind me, not to be seen till I should myself have been no more seen: I was once of the same mind, and had so continued; but that I could not be sure, that many for whom I designed it, might not be taken off before me; whereby this piece of friendship which I had for them, would have been lost to them: And now that I do undertake the thing which is liable to many reflections (whoever be the manager) every one thinking he has a title to judge of that wherein every one is equally concerned; and that judgment passing according to the different principles and sentiments, and the particular genius and humour of each, 'tis not possible here to please every one : But however I shall not fail of my design, if I can be so happy as to profit some. And if so be I take any way peculiar to myself, I shall only alledge, that it is but the same liberty as most writers on this subject have taken. Though I pretend not to set myself on a level with the noted guides of others' devotion, that with good success, and general approbation, have laboured herein, yet when our Lord has only enjoined the thing to be done, without settling the manner of performance; even an ordinary man, that is but conversant in these matters, has room humbly to propose his own experience, as long as he assumes not magisterially to impose it upon his readers; which in this present undertaking, the Judge of all thoughts knows to be far from mine.
I name no morning and evening prayers for particular persons, because here are so many occasional prayers, whereof every one may take their choice from time to time, for private use, according to particular exigencies; and besides, those for families may as fitly serve for the closet, changing but the plural number into the singular. I have not directed to conclude the evening devotions with the Lord's Prayer; not because I count it improper at that time to be used, but because I think we have still a liberty of adding or omitting it; and therefore I have pointed to it for one part of the day, and left it out in the other, but they that are for it, as an appendage to all the prayers used in their houses, may make it so if they please, notwithstanding that I shut up some of the family prayers without it. I make no distinction neither of ordinary days; for I understand not why the prayer that serves for Monday or 'Tuesday, should not be as good and proper for any other day of the week; yet I have offered some variety, that you may take sometimes one form, and sometimes another; or some part of this form and some of that, as you see occasion and shall judge most pertinent.
But I make a great difference of the qualities of persons, and states of the soul, and scenes of the life; according to which I have distributed and suited the offices here proposed. And though it be not needful to adapt a prayer to every man's particular employment in the world; yet no man, whatever be his place and calling, but may find many prayers here fitted to the condition of his soul, and to the great emergencies of his life. Only I would caution any who may need to be so advertised, that I do not intend the particular prayers entitled for such and such persons, of particular ranks and stations, as their excuse to supersede all praying else, as if such persons needed to use no other prayers; but those, over and above, they may sometimes add to the rest: And so prudently choosing agreeable offices, and so taking this my whole performance, with a little of Christian candour, and the allowance for common weakness, I am willing to hope it may not be unacceptable to those in my neighbourhood (for whom I am chiefly concerned) as coming from one of your acquaintance, my brethren, and one not so utterly unacquainted with the practice and the benefit of such exercises of devotion : but that I am able to say somewhat from my own experience, and that of many years, in this way. However small, I must confess, is my proficiency, to what it might have been; yet the several stages that my soul has gone through ; the trials and temptations that I have had; and terrors and perplexities wherewith I have grappled; the conficts and troubles of mind that I have lain under, the many sins that I have fallen into, (grievous to myself, and heinous in the sight of God, though not so scandalous as some others, to the view of the world;) and the escapes that I have made, the preservations and deliverances, the mercies and blessings, the revivings and comforts that I have found ; are so many enticements to me, and so many engagements upon me, to do somewhat according to the ability, which God hath given me, for the direction, the support, and help of others, that may be in the like condition. And may the thing here done be but well taken by any that fear God, the generation of them that seek his face, and are in love with prayer! I shall then little concern myself what's the resentment or censure of any one else ; whether it be the worldly drudge, the sordid earth-worm, that throws prayers out of doors, as his interruption and hindrance; or the dissolute epicure, that takes pleasure in nothing but his mire, and shrinks from drawing night to the Holy God, as his hated task and torment; or the profane droll, that even laughs his Judge Eternal in the face, and mightily applauds himself, for daring to make a scorn of all that is serious and sacred ; or the trifling impertinent, that is for all manner of exercises, but only those of religion ; or lastly, the formal hypocrite, that only now and then passes a slight compliment on the Majesty of Heaven, but still' mortally hates the life and power of godliness. The sense and the satisfaction of one pious experienced Christian, that has known the grace of God in truth, is more to me than the exceptions and the clamours of a thousand such as these.
If this piece fly further abroad than my first intention; and if others, that know nothing of what concerns me, may pick out any thing here to further them in the way heaven-ward, I shall have the more cause then to bless God, for making me such an instrument of his grace. Yea, where I can but do the least good to any poor soul, I shall not think my labour in vain in the Lord.