William Burkitt (1650-1703) on glorifying God in our everyday employments

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William Burkitt (1650-1703) was a Reformed divine of the Church of England. After studying at Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, Burkitt ministered successively at Milden, Suffolk, and Dedham, Essex. His name is primarily associated with his biblical expositions and his devotional book titled The Poor Man’s Help, and Young Man’s Guide. To add to a previous post from Wilhelmus a’ Brakel (1635–1711) on this same topic, Burkitt writes in this latter book about glorifying God in our everyday employments, labour, and callings. The excerpt is taken from the 2nd edition (1694), ch. 5:

Almighty God has sent no man into the world to be idle, but to serve him in the way of an honest and industrious diligence: He that says, Remember the Sabbath-day to keep it holy, says also, Six days shalt thou labour, either with the labour of the mind, or of the body, or with both. Riches and a great estate will excuse none from labouring in some kind or other, in the service of our Maker; for he that receives most wages, surely ought to do some work.

  1. Labour to understand and be thoroughly sensible how much you are beholden to God for the benefit of a calling: Thousands are now blessing God in heaven for the blessing of a calling here on earth, by which multitudes of temptations were prevented; how many sins doth a life of idleness expose unto?

  2. Be diligent and Industrious in the way of thy calling, and that from a principle of obedience to the divine command: He that says, Be fervent in prayer, says also, Be not slothful in business. An idle man has no pattern or precedent either in hell or heaven: Not in hell, for the devils are diligent about their deeds of darkness: Not in heaven, for the angels are continually employed, either in beholding God’s beauty, or in executing God’s commands.

  3. If thou art called to the meanest and most laborious calling, that of an husband-man, murmur not at it, because it is wearisome to the flesh; but eye the command of God, and in obedience thereunto be diligent in thy place, and then thou glorifiest God as truly when digging in thy field, as the minister in his pulpit, or the prince upon his throne.

  4. Be strictly just and exactly righteous in the way of thy calling, and with a generous disdain and resolute contempt abhor the getting of riches by unrighteousness: Cursed gain is no gain. How sad is it to be rich on earth, and to roar in hell for unrighteous riches. He that cheats and over-reaches, he that tricks and defrauds his neighbours, is as sure to go to hell without repentance and restitution, as the profanest swearer or drunkard in a town. Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God? (1 Cor. 6:9).

  5. Be very careful that thy particular calling as a private person, do not encroach upon thy general calling as a Christian: The world is a great devourer of precious time, it robs the soul of many an hour which should be spent in communion with God, and in communing with our own hearts. How many are so taken up with their trade on earth, that they forget to converse with heaven: Verily there is a holy part in every man’s time, which the daily exercises of religion call for, and which it is our daily duty to keep inviolable from the sacrilegious hands of an encroaching world.

  6. Labour after an heavenly frame of spirit in the management of thy earthly business; and take heed that thy worldly employments do not blunt the edge of thy spiritual affections, but endeavour to keep thy heart close with God when thy hand is employed in the labours of thy calling. A faithful and loving husband, when he has been abroad all day in varieties of company, yet when he comes home at night he brings his affections with him as entire to his wife, as when he went forth in the morning from her; yea he is inwardly pleased, that he is got from all other company, to enjoy hers: Thus doth a heavenly-minded Christian, after he has spent some time amidst his worldly business in the labours of his calling; he desires and endeavours to bring his whole heart to God with him, when at night he returns into his presence to wait upon him; yea he strives to keep his heart with God all the day long, by often lifting it up to God, in holy thoughts and pious ejaculations [i.e. utterances], which are an help rather than an hindrance to worldly business.

  7. Eye God in every providence thou meetest with in thy calling. Dost thou meet with any disappointment, see and be sensible of God’s hand in it. All that are diligent are not thriving in this world: There are mysteries of providence as well as mysteries of faith, which we can never fathom. Dost thou meet with a blessing? Own God in all that good success thou findest in thy employment; with holy Jacob, The Lord hath dealt graciously with me, and I have enough (Gen. 33:11). When God at any time sends thee in profit, let it be thy care to send him back praise: For nothing is so acceptable to God as a grateful mind.

  8. Watch daily against the sin of thy calling, as also against the sin of thy constitution; and whatever temptations thou meetest with from either, cry mightily to heaven for power to resist them; knowing that thou never yieldest to a temptation, but the Spirit withdraws in tears, and the devil goes away in triumph.

  9. Having used faithful diligence in thy lawful calling, perplex not thy thoughts about the issue and success of thy endeavours; but labour to compose thy mind in all conditions of life to a quiet and steady dependence on God’s providence, being anxiously careful for nothing. There is a threefold care which the Scripture takes notice of: Namely, a care of the head, a care of the hand, and a care of the heart. A care of the head, and that is a care of providence and prudential forecast, this is commendable. A care of the hand, that is a care of diligence and industry, this is profitable. But then there is the care of the heart, which is a care of diffidence and distrust, a care of anxiety and perturbation of mind, this is culpable, and exceeding sinful (See Matt. 6:31-34).

  10. Resolve it in thy mind to be cheerful and contented with thy portion (little or much) which God as a blessing upon thy endeavours, allots unto thee: Not content because thou canst not have it otherwise, but from an approbation of divine appointment. Necessity was the heathen school-master to teach contentment, but faith must be the Christian’s. I have learnt, says the holy Apostle, (not at the feet of Gamaliel, but in the School of Christ,) both how to be abased and how to abound; how to be full, and how to be empty; yea I know in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content (Phil. 4:11). How are some Christians minds like musical instruments, quite out of tune, with every change of weather. But it is an even composedness of mind in all conditions of life, that glorifies God, and is advantageous to ourselves. Godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Tim. 6:16). Not godliness with an estate, but godliness with contentment.

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Henry Valentine (d. 1643): A Litany of Thanksgiving

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Henry Valentine (d. 1643) studied at Christ’s College, Cambridge, before becoming a lecturer at St Dunstan-in-the-West in Fleet Street (pictured), London, under its vicar John Donne, the famous poet and dean of St Paul’s. Valentine published a devotional book titled Private Devotions, which consists of six litanies, one of which is a beautiful litany of thanksgiving. The first part of the litany is structured according to a Reformed ordo salutis, and later on there is thanksgiving for deliverance from the Spanish Armada and the “Popish (gun)powder treason”:

THE LITANY OF THANKSGIVING

For the grace of Election, by which I was chosen according to the good pleasure of thy will

My soule doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For the grace of Creation, by which I was made after thine image in righteousnesse and holiness,

My soule doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For the grace of Redemption, by which I was recovered from the guilt & dominion of sin, from the power of Satan, and the second death,

My soul doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For the grace of Vocation, wrought in me by the inward working of thy Spirit, & the outward ministry of thy holy Word and Sacraments,

My soul doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For the grace of Justification, whereby I am clothed with the righteousness of Christ Jesus

My soul doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For my measure of Sanctification, by which I am made a new Creature

My soul doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For my formation in the womb, my birth, my baptisme, the illumination of my understanding, the correction of my will, and all the spiritual graces received from thee

My soul doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For the liberty of thy Word and Sacraments, for thy sanctuary and solemne assemblies, and for thy gracious presence with us in them

My soul doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For thy constant providence in supplying my necessities, and defending me from dangers

My soul doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For my good parents, my education, my health liberty, and peace, for the comfort of my friends, for my daily bread, and for all thy temporall blessings

My soul doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For thy prevention of evils, subvention in evils, & deliverance from evil

My soul doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For thy patience in forbearing, for thy mercy in forgiving, for thy bounty in giving, even when I sinned against thee with a high hand

My soul doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For my life, and the season given me for repentance & good works, and for thy holy means of grace and salvation

My soul doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For the checks of mine own conscience, for the instruction of thy word, for the motions of thy good Spirit which have either restrained me from sin, or caused me to repent of it

My soul doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For thy fatherly corrections by some spirituall conflicts with Satan, by diseases, or hurts in my body, by griefs of mind, losse of goods, molestation of injuries, discomforts for, or from those to whom naturall, civil, or Christian acquaintance had indeared me

My soul doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For all the holy Patriarchs and Prophets, for the ever blessed Mother of our Lord, for all the holy Apostles and Evangelists, for all the godly Bishops and Pastors of the Church, for all the noble Army of Martyrs, and Confessors, and for all the faithfull that have lived and died in the Lord

My soul doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For the happy translation of all Saints departed in peace, from this vale of tears to the inheritance of the just

My soul doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For thine holy Angels; and the charge which thou hast given them to minister unto us, to pitch their tents about us, to keep us in all our ways, and to convey our souls into Abrahams bosome,

My soul doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For Jesus Christ the author and finisher of our faith, and the fountain and foundation of all these favours; For his conception & birth; For his circumcision and baptism; For his fasting and temptation; For his doctrine and miracles;  For his agony and bloody sweat; For his cross & passion; For his death & burial; For his victorious descension into hell;  For his glorious resurrection and ascension into heaven;  For his sitting at the right hand of God to make intercession always for us; For his sending the holy Ghost to abide with his Church for ever, and for his being with us to the end of the world

My soul doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For thy blessed Spirit the enlightner of my understanding, the sanctifier of my will, the helper of my infirmities, the comforter of my conscience, the pledge and witness of my adoption, and the seal of my salvation

My soul doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For all my personall & particular deliverances; for the religion, peace, plenty, strength, and honour of the State wherein I live; for saving it all times, especially from the Spanish invasion, and the Popish powder treason

My soul doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For all the secret favours which thou hast done for us, for all the mercies which we have received from thee, and are slipt out of our remembrance, and for all the goodness which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee, and love thy coming

My soul doth magnifie thee O Lord.

What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits towards me?

I will take the cup of salvation and call upon the Name of the Lord (Ps. 116:12).

I will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulnesse to all generations (Ps. 89:1).

Let them that fear the Lord, say alwayes, The Lord be praised.

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. Amen.

And that for Jesus Christ his sake, in whose most blessed name and words we conclude these our imperfect prayers, saying as he himself hath taught us:

Our Father which art in heaven, &c.

– Henry Valentine (d. 1643), Private Devotions, Digested into Six Letanies (sic), (13th edition, 1654), p. 56-70.

William Beveridge (1637-1708): Feeding on Christ in a heavenly and spiritual manner in the Lord’s Supper

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William Beveridge (1637-1708), the bishop of St Asaph and formerly archdeacon of Colchester, wrote about the nature of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper in his posthumously-published Exposition of the XXXIX Articles of the Church of England (1710). After a lengthy refutation of the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, Beveridge arrives at the clause in the Church of England’s Article 28 (Of the Lord’s Supper) which states that:

The body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten in the Supper only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the means whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is faith.

Beveridge’s comments on this clause, quoted below, reflect the clearly Reformed understanding of the Lord’s Supper which the compilers of the Articles intended and articulated. Beveridge was well-known in his day for his wealth of patristic learning, and his discussion is dotted with footnotes extensively citing patristic authorities, which due to their length will not be reproduced below, except where the church father in question is specifically quoted by name in the main text. The excerpt is taken from p. 308-310:

It being so clear a truth, that the bread and wine are not turned into the very body and blood of Christ in the Holy Sacrament, we need not heap up many arguments to prove, that it is only after a spiritual, not after a corporal manner, that the body and blood are received and eaten in the Sacrament. For if the bread be not really changed into the body of Christ, then the body of Christ is not really there present; and if it be not really there present, it is impossible it should be really eaten and received into our bodies as bread is. So that the truth there demonstrated [in the preceding pages, that the elements of bread and wine are not transubstantiated into the actual body and blood of Christ], and the truth here delivered [that the eating and drinking of Christ’s body and blood in the Lord’s Supper is only after a spiritual manner], have so much affinity to one another, that they cannot so well be called two [truths] as one and the same truth. And therefore to the arguments produced in the foregoing discourse, I shall add only these following, and that briefly, to shew that the body and blood of Christ are not eaten after a corporal but a spiritual manner, in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.

First, therefore it is impossible that the body, which was but of the ordinary bulk with ours, should be sufficient, if eaten after a corporal manner, to feed and satisfy so many millions of millions of souls as have already, and may hereafter eat of it. And secondly, suppose it was not impossible, yet it would be unprofitable for us thus to eat of the body of Christ. For our Saviour himself having preached concerning the eating of his flesh, and drinking of his blood, the Jews and Capernaites taking him (as their followers the Papists do) in a carnal sense, cryed out, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? (John 6:52). And his disciples themselves said, This is an hard saying, who can hear it? (v. 60). Whereupon he explained himself, and told them, It is the Spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing: The words that I speak unto you they are Spirit, and they are life (v. 63). As if he should have said, tho’ I do speak of eating my flesh, I would not have you think that my very flesh profiteth anything, or quickeneth; no, It is the Spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing; and the words I speak unto you are not to be understood in a carnal, but spiritual sense, for they are Spirit and life: plainly shewing that the corporal eating of this body is unprofitable, and that whatsoever he said concerning eating his flesh, and drinking his blood, was still to be understood in an heavenly and spiritual sense. Thirdly, upon this supposition, that the body of Christ is corporally eaten in the Sacrament, it follows that it was corporally broken too, and so that Christ did really break his own body, before the Jews broke it for him; yea, and that Christ received his own body into his own body: For that he received the Sacrament himself, as well as administered it to his disciples is plain, not only from the testimony of the Fathers, but from the words of himself, With desire have I desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer (Luke 22:15) and I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom (Matt. 26:29). So that I cannot see how it can possibly be denyed, that Christ ate of the bread whereof he said, This is my body; and if he ate it, and ate it corporally, that is, ate his very body as we eat bread, then he ate himself, and made one body two, and then crowded them into one again, putting his body into his body, even his whole body into part of his body, his stomach; and so he must be thought not only to have two bodies, but two bodies so as to be one within another; yea, so as to be one eaten and devoured by another; the absurdity of which, and the like assertions, he that hath but half an eye may easily discover. So that it must needs be granted to be in a spiritual manner that this Sacrament was then instituted, and by consequence that it is in a spiritual manner that this Sacrament ought now to be received.

And this was the judgment of the Fathers. Macarius saith, (Macar. Aegypt. Hom. 27) “In the Church is offered bread and wine, the antitype of his flesh and blood; and they that partake of the visible bread, do spiritually eat the flesh of Christ.” And St. Augustine (Aug. in Psal. 98. V), “Understand spiritually what I say unto you; you must not eat that body which you see, nor drink that blood which they will shed who crucifie me. I have commended to you a certain Sacrament; being spiritually understood, it will quicken you; though it be necessary it should be celebrated visibly, yet it must be understood invisibly.” For as Elfrick Archbishop of Canterbury saith (Aelfric. epist. ad Wulfsein Episcop. Schyrburniensem), “That bread is Christ’s body, not bodily but spiritually”; and if so, it must needs be eaten spiritually only, not bodily. And it being thus only after a spiritual manner that we receive the body and blood of Christ in the Sacrament, there can be no other means whereby we can receive him but faith. And therefore saith Origen (Origen in Mat. 15) “That food which is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer, as to the material part of it, it goes into the belly, and is cast out into the draught; but as to the prayer which is added to it, it is made profitable by the proportion of faith.” And St. Cyprian (Cyprian. de cena Domini) “Drinking and eating belong to the same reason, whereby as the bodily substance is nourished, and liveth, and remaineth safe, so is the life of the Spirit nourished by this proper food: And what eating is to the flesh, that is faith to the soul; what food is to the body, that is the Word to the spirit, working eternally by a more excellent virtue, what the carnal elements do temporally and finally.” And afterwards (Ibid.), “As oft as we do these things, we do not whet our teeth to bite, but by a sincere faith we break the holy bread and divide it, whilst we distinguish and separate what is divine, and what is human, and joining the things separated together again, we acknowledge one God and one man.”

In St. Augustine we meet with many expressions to this purpose. “How”, saith he, “shall I send up my hand to heaven to lay upon him sitting there? Send thy faith, and thou hast laid hold on him.” (Aug. in Evang. Johan. Tract. 50). And again, “For to believe in him, this is to eat the living Bread; he that believeth in him eateth; he is invisibly fatten’d who is invisibly regenerated.” (Ibid., Tract. 26). And again, “This therefore is to eat the food that doth not perish but endureth to eternal life. Why dost thou prepare thy teeth and belly? Believe and thou hast eaten.”  (Ibid., Tract. 25). So that it is faith whereby we feed upon the body and blood of Christ, and therefore it is not carnally but spiritually that we receive it.

John Edwards (1637-1716) on Christ’s silence before his tribunal

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In a broader discussion on and defence of the doctrine of the imputation of the sins of the elect to Christ on the cross, John Edwards (1637-1716) cites Christ’s behaviour before his tribunal as pointing to and affirming this doctrine, particularly Christ’s silence in the face of the multitude of accusations against him. This excerpt is from his The Doctrin [sic] of Faith and Justification set in a True Light, p. 269-271:

I argue further [for the imputation of our sins to Christ] from Christ’s behaviour, and first from his deportment before his judges: when he was arraign’d and indited, and when the witnesses produced their testimonies against him, he took no notice of their accusations, and never endeavour’d to clear himself of them, but behaved himself like a guilty person.

When he was brought before the Sanhedrin, whereof Caiaphaswas the chief and president, who provoked him to speak for himself, and with a more than ordinary emotion and concernedness, arose from his seat, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? What is it that these witness against thee?(Matt. 26:62). It is expressly recorded that Jesus held his peace(v. 63). And when he was led from Caiaphasto Pontius Pilate, his behaviour was still the same: when he was accused of the chief priests and elders,(who belonged to the Sanhedrin, and had sent in their depositions and accusations which they had taken against Christ, when he appeared before Caiaphas) he answered nothing(Matt. 27:12). And tho’ Pilate(as Caiaphashad done before) blamed him for his silence, and smartly accosted him after this manner, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee?(v. 13), yet he was not in the least moved to make any apology for himself, he answered him to never a word(v. 14). And a third time, that is, when he was brought before Herod, ‘tis particularly recorded, that he answered nothing(Luke 23:9).

The reason that is generally assign’d by divines of this profound silence is that our Saviour knew, that the false witnesses wou’d say what they pleased against him, and therefore it was to no purpose to make his defence: and his enemies were resolved to take away his life: and besides, he was willing to lay it down, for this was the design of his coming into the world. But it may easily be answer’d to this, that tho’ Christ knew that his enemies resolv’d to pursue him to death, and to that purpose would produce witnesses to say and swear any thing against him, and tho’ he came to lay down his life for the elect, yet these things were not inconsistent with his pleading for himself, and asserting his innocence in open court, where his silence might be interpreted to be no other than a confession of his guilt, and a confirmation of the truth of all that the witnesses alledged against him.

Wherefore I conceive there was a higher reason of this our Lord’s behaviour: he acted thus to let us know that he bore our sins, that he took upon him our guilt. It is certain that if he had pleased, he could have confuted and baffled his accusers in the face of the court, he could have struck all his witnesses dumb. And indeed the charge that was brought against him was easie to be repell’d, because of its weakness and improbability, and the apparent malice that was discernable in it. So that he had then a just and fair occasion to baffle the suborned witnesses, and to clear his own innocency in the face of the world, especially when his disciples and all that before shewed respect and kindness to him forsook him, and one of them solemnly denied him. Yet he rather chose to be silent, and to suffer both witnesses and judges to insult him: and he did not shew himself concerned at all to defend his innocence, and to reply to the accusations which were brought against him. Yea, and which is very remarkable, tho’ he was free to answer to any otherquestions that were put to him (as we read in the history of his trial) yet as to the crimes alledg’d against him by his accusers, he was pleas’d to answer nothing.

This strange and wonderful silence at such a time I cannot but attribute to the cause before mentioned [i.e. the weight of guilt that was Christ’s by imputation]. Christ having undertaken to appear in our stead, there was to be a mutual exchange of conditions. He answer’d nothing, because we have nothing to answer for ourselves, when accused by the law of God. Tho’ he had no sin of his own, yet he substituted himself in our room, who were guilty of all sins, and accordingly he appeared as guilty, he stood silent when he was accused. Wonder not at it when you remember that he was to be in the likeness of sinful flesh, and was to assume our transgressions, and to be reckon’d a sinner. This carriage of our Lord was foretold by the evangelical prophet (Isa. 53:7) he opened not his mouth, he stood silent before the tribunal. Which is mention’d again in the same verse, to let us know that it is of great significancy and importance: As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. Which unexpected and extraordinary behaviour of Christ I cannot resolve into any thing but his susception of our sins upon himself, and his designing by this action to convince us that he was a reputed sinner.

John Hall (1633-1710): A prayer for Saturday morning

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A prayer for Saturday morning, by the bishop of Bristol and master of Pembroke College, Oxford, John Hall (1633-1710), to be found in his Jacob’s Ladder: Or, The Devout Soul’s Ascension to Heaven (1676), p. 30-32:

O merciful Father, for Jesus Christ his sake, I beseech thee, forgive me all my known and secret sins, which in thought, word, or deed, I have committed against thy Divine Majesty; and deliver me from all those judgments which are due unto me for them, and sanctifie my heart with thy Holy Spirit, that I may henceforth lead a more godly, and religious life. And here, O Lord, I praise thy Holy Name, for that thou hast refreshed me this night with moderate sleep and rest: And I beseech thee, to defend me this day from all perils, and dangers of body and soul; and to this end I commend myself, and all my actions, unto thy blessed protection and government, beseeching thee, that whether I live or die, I may live and die to thy glory, and the salvation of my poor soul, which thou hast bought with thy precious blood: Blesse me, O Lord, in my going out, and coming in; and grant, that whatsoever I shall think, speak, or take in hand this day, may tend to the glory of thy Name, the good of others, and the comfort of my own conscience, when I shall come to make up my last accounts before thee. O my God, help thy servant, that I do no evil to any man this day; and let it be thy blessed will, not to suffer the Devil, nor any of his wicked angels, nor any of his evil members, to have power to do me any hurt or violence; but let the eye of thy holy providence watch over me for good, and not for evil; and command thy holy angels to pitch their tents round about me, for my defence and safety in my going out, and coming in, as thou hast promised they shall do about them that fear thy name; Grant this O heavenly Father, for Jesus Christ thy son’s sake, in whose blessed name I give thee glory, and beg at thy hands, all other graces which thou seest to be needful, for me this day and ever, in that prayer which Christ himself hath taught me, saying.

Our Father, &c.

John Reading (1587/8-1667): Praying for the supreme end (God’s glory) and the means necessary to it

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John Reading (1587/8-1667) was a Reformed conforming churchman. He studied at Magdalen Hall, Oxford, graduating BA in 1607 and MA in 1610. After his ordination he ministered in Dover, and became a royal chaplain to King Charles I. In the picture above, St Mary’s Church, where Reading ministered, can be seen with Dover Castle in the background on the left, and the white cliffs of Dover on the right. In 1643 and 1644 Reading took the livings of Chartham and Cheriton, Kent, and was chosen as one of 9 divines to write annotations on the New Testament, in what became commonly known as the Westminster Annotations.

While fervently Reformed in his theological convictions, Reading was at the same time a conformist and Royalist, and, despite agreeing doctrinally with the Puritans, did not support the Parliamentarian cause, instead preaching against rebellion and calling for loyalty to the king. His royalist sympathies would cost him his ecclesiastical livings and, after the discovery of a royalist plot to seize Dover Castle in early 1645, Reading ended up imprisoned in Leeds Castle in Kent, where he wrote A Guide to the Holy City (1651). He was released in 1647, and was restored to his Dover living in 1660, shortly before the Restoration. In fact, on 25 May 1660, when Charles II landed at Dover to reclaim the English throne, Reading presented to the king a large bible with gold clasps, in the name of the corporation of Dover, and made a short speech. After the Restoration he retook his former livings of Chartham and Cheriton, and became a prebendary of Canterbury.

At the beginning of his A Guide to the Holy City (p. 3-4) is found a wonderful prayer rounding off a meditation on “the necessity of a Christian’s aiming at a right end in all his actions”. In typically Reformed manner, Reading identifies God’s glory as the supreme end of all things, and the blessedness of the elect in the fruition (i.e. enjoyment) of God as inseparable but subordinate to this. Reading’s prayer follows the same pattern, in which he prays for this end and the means necessary to it:

Most gratious and most holy Lord God, who dwelling in unaccessible light of Majestie and glory, hast yet been pleased to manifest thy infinite power and unsearchable wisdome in all thy creatures, especially those who thou hast created to thine own image, to praise and glorifie thee in their eternall participation of thy divine blessednesse: Give us true wisdome to consider the end for which thou hast made us, make us truely understand that thy glory is incomparably better then all the creatures, and our salvation then all the world: Lord open our eyes that we sleep not in death: let not the transitory dreames of this present life beguile us: let not the malitious temper so prevaile upon our infirmities, as to cause us securely to run on in the easie way to destruction: but gratious Lord, as thou hast appointed the end, our eternall life, so be pleased to dispose the meanes which may lead us thereto: Thou canst as easily make us holy, as command us to be so: Lord therefore make us such as thou hast commanded us to be: make us faithfull to beleeve in thee, and obedient to serve and please thee, as thou hast in thy great and tender mercy given thy holy word to be a light and true guid unto us, so blessed Lord, give us of the same spirit, by which it was endited, which may lead us into all truth and holinesse, and (these daies of sinne being ended) into that holy and blessed inheritance, which thou hast prepared for all those whom thou hast elected to eternall life and salvation, through JESUS CHRIST our onely Saviour and Redeemer, to whom with thee and the holy Ghost be all honour and glory ascribed in heaven and earth henceforth and for ever, AMEN.

Samuel Hieron (bap. 1572-1617): A pastor’s prayer for himself and his ministry

Modbury

 

The following prayer of a pastor for himself and his ministry is attributed to Samuel Hieron (bap. 1572-1617), fellow of King’s College, Cambridge, and afterwards vicar of Modbury, Devon (parish church of St George, Modbury, pictured):

Holy, O Lord, and honourable is that service, to which it hath been thy gracious pleasure to depute me. The matter I am chiefly to be busied in, is thine own counsel; they be thy oracles, and the seals of righteousness, the dispensation whereof thou hast committed to me. Thou hast made me an overseer of a part of that flock, which thou didst purchase with thine own most precious blood; thou hast called me to be a messenger, and an interpreter, to declare unto men thy righteousness, to watch for their souls, among them to declare thy secrets, and to pray them even in Christ’s stead, to be reconciled unto thee.

What man among all the sons of Adam, is worthy of this honour? And who is sufficient for these things? When as, oh most merciful Father, I think upon the weight of that charge which thou hast put upon me, and consider again mine own weakness and insufficiency, who am a man of polluted lips, and even as a child unable to speak the secret of thy Gospel as becometh me; methinks I may well cry out with the prophet, Woe is me, I am even undone; how shall I stand upright under such a burden?

But when I look back into my own conscience, and find there a comfortable witness, that I have not thrust in myself for a pastor, and remember also what is registered in the Word, how thou makest thy power perfect in weakness, and choosest the feeble things of the world for weighty purposes, it is a kind of enlivening to my spirits, and refreshing to my discouraged and drooping thoughts, I am thereby emboldened to press nearer to thy throne of grace.

Oh thou who both callest whom thou pleasest, and makest those able whom thou callest; be merciful unto me (even with the strength and intention of my desires I most humbly pray thee) make my heart a very treasury of saving knowledge, fill it with soundness of judgment and a large measure of spiritual understanding, that my whole drift may be to fulfil that ministry which I have received. Let my lips preserve knowledge, that many may be fed thereby, and give me a door of utterance, that I may open my mouth boldly, as I ought to speak, and both shew thy people their sins, and be able to minister a word in due season to him that is weary.

In my preaching vouchsafe me both diligence and humility. Diligence; that I may still be instant, never fainting in my mind for the small success of my labours, or for those storms which Satan raiseth up against the faithful in dispensing of thy truth: and humility, that I may not seek mine own glory and applause with men, but the bringing in sheaves into thy garner, and the gathering of saints into thy fold. And for this cause teach me to take heed of the affectation of words, and of seeking to abound with the enticing speech of man’s wisdom, choosing rather by the plain evidence of the Spirit to approve myself to men’s consciences in thy sight, than by a vain blast of words to gain an opinion of eloquence and learning before men.

And for the better furtherance of this great work, make me careful to know the state of my flock, and to hearken after their courses, to observe their carriage and opinions, and to find their especial sins, that so my speeches may be as words in season, even like apples of gold in pictures of silver.

Make me wise in judging, skilful in separating the precious from the vile; bold, but yet pitiful and compassionate: in reproving resolute, especially in those things which are fit to be urged; and far from yielding in the smallest things which may strengthen them in evil, and be a stop in their speedy reformation.

Let it be even my whole business to seek that which is lost, and to study how to bring those out of the snares of the Devil which are taken by him at his will.

Make my face strong, and my forehead as the adamant against their faces which shall either scorn or withstand thy truth; let me make ready my back for the smiters, and not hide my face from shame and spitting; no nor to account even of life itself, so that I may finish my course with joy; and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the Gospel of thy grace.

Frame me to diligence and painfulness in my private employments, in reading, in study, in meditation and prayer, that I may be a workman not needing to be ashamed, and that men may see how I go on, and profit in my calling.

Let my life be a pattern of holiness to my flock; let there be no fighting betwixt my behavior and my doctrine, but that my very course and carriage, and ordinary speeches may savour of grace, that so I may give no offence, either to those that depend upon me, or to those who desire to have some occasion and matter of reproach.

Make me circumspect in my family, overseeing the ways of my household, knowing how many eyes are upon me and mine; and how soon by Satan’s teaching men will make the worst of every little trespass. And because, oh Lord, the businesses of this world are a great withdrawment, and the pretence of caring for posterity, doth kill the zeal of many, and lead them into doolish and noisome lusts; therefore, I beseech thee, suppress within me all earthly-mindedness; keep me from entangling myself with the affairs of this world; let it be enough for me that I have a nail in the holy place, and a room among the servitours of thy Church.

As for those which belong unto me, let me neither be without care; for that were worse than infidelity, nor yet so taken up, that I should forget my chiefest business; but let me assure myself, that thou wilt be my God, and the God of my seed, and wilt not leave them destitute of earthly blessings, for whom thou hast provided an eternal inheritance. With this hope make me to go on with cheerfulness; doing that whereto thou hast called me, and leaving thee to provide and care for the rest. Thou oh Lord knowest the desires of my soul, thou best understandest what things are fittest for me, in respect of that great calling to which thou hast ordained me, and what I most stand in need of: Supply me I beseech thee out of thy fulness, and crown my labours in the ministry with the conversion of such souls as are ordained unto life; and that for the Son’s sake, who is the chief Shepherd, to whom let my soul and spirit give honour, glory, and praise, now and forever. Amen.