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THE ORDER FOR
DAILY THROUGHOUT THE YEAR.
At the beginning of Morning Prayer the Minister shall read with a loud voice some one or more of these Sentences of the Scriptures that follow. And then he shall say that which is written after the said Sentences.
* At the beginning of Morning Prayer &c.] Prayer is the lifting up of the soul to converse with God, and a means of obtaining all blessings. It is an high honour to us, and a great advantage: but it is at the same time difficult to be performed, requiring so much attention and serenity of mind, that it can never be well done without some preceding preparation for which reason when the Jews enter into their synagogues to pray, they stand silent for some time, and meditate before whom they stand; and the Christian priests, in the primitive ages, prepared the people's hearts to prayer by a devout preface. In imitation whereof we now use the Sentences of holy Scripture, which are all of them chosen to be admonitions to repentance, since nothing makes us more unfit to pray, or unlikely to be heard, than sin unrepented of, Ps. lxvi. 18; John ix. 31. And being gathered out of the sacred text, the Church hopes we will not dare to disobey them, as coming from the mouth of that God, to whom we address ourselves in our prayers, and who may justly reject our petition, if we hearken not to his commandments.
As for the particular Sentences, the reverend composers of our Liturgy have been curious and exact in the choice of them, selecting divers of the plainest and properest places, to bring all sorts of sinners to repentance. There are variety of dispositions, and the same man is not always in the same temper; wherefore they have collected many, and left it to the discretion of him that ministers, to use such of them every day, as best suit with his own and his people's circumstances.
And from these Sentences those who come, as all ought to do, before prayers begin, may find a meditation fitted for their present frame of spirit.
The first rank may consist of those Sentences, which contain support for the fearful, and are designed to prevent that excessive dread of God's wrath, which hinders the exercise of devotion by too much dejecting the spirits. Such persons may be taught by David and
Jeremiah not to run from the Almighty, but to pray to him more humbly and earnestly. Ps. li. 9; cxliii. 2; Jer. x. 24.
2. Not much unlike is the case of those who doubt of God's favour, and in despair look upon him as irreconcileable. To strengthen their faith in God's mercy the Church provides three sentences for them; the first to shew, how fit they are to ask pardon; the other two to declare how likely God is to grant it on their repentPs. li. 17; Dan. ix. 9; Luke xv. 18, 19.
3. For the information of the ignorant, who know not how to make these penitential addresses, as being sensible neither of their guilt nor of their danger, because they think either that they have no sin, or that a slight repentance will procure pardon for it, the two following sentences are provided, 1 John i. 8, 9; Ezek. xviii. 27.
4. Others there are, who are not ignorant, but negligent; and, though they know they are daily sinning, and cannot be saved without repentance, yet defer this duty from day to day. On these the Church calls in the two following sentences, Ps. li. 3; Matt. iii. 2.
Lastly, those, who by custom grow cold and formal, confessing their sins with external reverence only, without any sincere devotion, are presented by the Church with that direction and reproof, which God gave the hypocritical Jews, Joel ii. 13. Dean Comber.
Thus we see how wisely and effectually the Church prepares the way to the throne of grace for the various descriptions of character, which may be supposed to assemble within her courts for the purposes of devotion. Let us learn to be thankful for these encouragements, admonitions, and instructions; and may it be our earnest desire so to use the ordinances of God's house as not to abuse them; that we may find them our support through life, and as waters of consolation in the day of adversity. Rogers.
Nothing can so effectually awaken us to a pious frame of soul, as the words of God speaking to us. Our ser
I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Psalm li. 3.
Hide thy face from my sins, and
vice therefore begins, as did that of the primitive church, with a preface, to dispose the minds of the congregation to a reverent performance of the duty, on which they are entering according to that precept of the Son of Sirach, "Before thou prayest, prepare thyself," Ecclus. xviii. 23. This preface is composed of Sentences of Scripture, with an Exhortation grounded upon them. The Sentences are very prudently selected. They all relate to repentance and confession of sins, which naturally stands first in the devotions of guilty creatures, as we all are. Till we feel a genuine sorrow for having offended God, and come to intreat earnestly the pardon which is offered us through Christ, he cannot accept us; and when we do, that will qualify us for every other part of his worship.
In these texts we are plainly taught the nature of true penitence that the "wicked must" both "turn away from his wickedness, and do that," which the law enjoins as "right, to save his soul alive:" that we must not only ❝acknowledge our transgressions" with our tongues, but have them "ever before" the eyes of our minds, to keep us humble and cautious: on which we may pray, in faith of being heard, that God will treat us with the same kindness, as if he "hid his face from" seeing "our sins," or "blotted" them "out" from his memory: that he requires from us, neither the fanciful "sacrifices" of superstition, nor the expensive ones of the "Mosaick" dispensation; but that of "a spirit contrite" with filial sorrow, and "broken" to universal obedience: not outward expressions of vehement passion, as "rending the garments," but a "heart" rent and penetrated with a just sense of what we have done amiss: that on such a change within we shall find him, not only "slow to anger" for what is past, and "ready to repent him of the evil" which he was bringing upon us, but bountiful and gracious for the time to come; "though we have" deliberately rebelled against him" heretofore, and still too often inconsiderately neglected to "obey his voice, and walk in his laws:" that we have cause to be willing and even desirous, that he should "correct" us, when he sees it expedient; but to beg he would do it "with" that mild and merciful "judgment," which he exercises towards his children, "not with anger," as his enemies, which would "bring us" to final destruction: that repentance is absolutely and immediately necessary for us; for "the kingdom of heaven is at hand;" the hour, when we shall, each of us, be admitted into it or excluded out of it for ever, draws very near, and how near we know not that therefore we must resolve to "arise and go to our heavenly Father" without delay, and acknowledge our unworthiness "to be called his sons:" that whatever we may be in our own eyes, or the opinion of our fellowcreatures, were we to undergo a human trial only; yet if God "enter into judgment with us, in his sight shall no man living be justified:" that therefore to extenuate our faults, and "say" or imagine, "that we have no sin," or but little, would be a fatal "self-deceit," and a
blot out all mine iniquities. Psalm li. 9.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart,
proof against us, that we know not, or own not, the "truth" of our case: but if we honestly recall to ourselves, and confess to God the errors of our past life, not only his mercy, but his "faithfulness and justice" to his promises will induce him both to "forgive us" the guilt of "our sins," and "to cleanse us from" the defilement, and deliver us from the dominion, of "all unrighteousness."
It is true, but few of the Sentences are usually read at the same time: but it will be very beneficial for such as come soon enough, to meditate on them all before the service begins. Abp. Secker.
The first book of King Edward begins with the Lord's prayer. But, when a review was taken of it afterwards, and alterations were made in it, the beginning was thought too abrupt, and these Sentences were therefore prefixed with the following Exhortation, Confession, and Absolution, as a proper introduction to prepare the congregation for the duty on which they were entering. Wheatly.
As soon as the minister begins these Sentences, it is usual for the congregation to stand up: a very decent and proper custom, if we consider the true meaning and intent of it; which is to shew our reverence for the word of God, now rehearsed to us, in order to awaken us to repentance. Waldo.
b-the minister shall read with a loud voice] is, with a clear, distinct, and audible voice: the word "loud" not signifying that it should be any way strained, or kept up beyond its strength; but that it should be raised and adapted to such an extended elevation, above the ordinary course of reading, as he shall feel to be most agreeable to himself, in order to make it the more edifying to his congregation. Collis.
As it is the duty of the clergy to remember, what a solemn action they are now about to join in with their respective congregations; and accordingly to read these Sentences with a suitable gravity, with a demeanour expressive of their inward devotion, with attention, and deliberation, and such a tone of voice, as may influence their people, and quicken their zeal, and tend to excite in them those heavenly affections, which are requisite in prayer: so also it is the duty of the congregations to consider, that, during the reading of these Sentences and the following Exhortation, they must not think themselves at liberty to be idle, as if they had nothing to regard, whilst the minister is reading. They are certainly obliged to bestow that time after a quite different manner; to give a reverent attention to what the minister reads; to hear the voice of God speaking to them in the Sentences, and the voice of his ambassador speaking to them in the Exhortation; and thereby to fit and prepare their hearts for making their addresses to God himself in the Church's Confession. And to the end that they may not lose an opportunity of so doing, let them come to church in good time, that they may be present at the very beginning of the Office. And when
O God, thou wilt not despise. Psalm li. 17.
Rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord God for he is gracious and your merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. Joel ii. 13.
To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him: neither have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in his laws which he set before us. Daniel ix. 9, 10.
O Lord, correct me, but with judgement; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing. Jer. x. 24. Psalm vi. 1.
Repent ye; for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. St. Matth. iii. 2.
they first come to their respective places, let them by some short prayer beg God's special assistance, that they may discharge their duty as they cught, and offer an acceptable sacrifice to him. Let the intermediate space also, between their short private prayer, and the minister's beginning to read, be spent, not in talking or gazing, but in reading or meditation; that they may bring themselves to a devout frame of mind by the time that the minister begins, and may be the better able to go through the whole office in such a manner as God expects from them. Dr. Bennet.
And then he shall say that which is written after the said Sentences.] The service of the Church of England always begins with one or more sentences of Scripture: the Exhortation, which follows, is but little more than a sort of comment or paraphrase on the several texts which are ordered to be read. Veneer.
Dearly beloved brethren, &c.] To the foregoing Sentences of God's word the Church hath annexed a pertinent Exhortation: which is designed both to apply and set home the preceding Sentences, and to direct us how we ought to perform the following Confession. It collects the necessity of this duty from the word of God; and, when it hath convinced us that we must do it, it instructs us in the right manner, and gives us the reason why we must confess and repent just now; and then it invites us to that necessary duty for which it hath so well prepared us. So that it connects the Sentences and the Confession; making the former so useful in order to the latter, that whoever hears them, and considers the inferences here made, cannot but be properly disposed for a true confession. And, though neither the Roman
I will arise, and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. St. Luke xv. 18, 19.
Enter not into judgement with thy servant, O Lord; for in thy sight shall no man living be justified. Psalm cxliii. 2.
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves; and the truth is not in us but, if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 St. John i. 8, 9.
nor Greek Offices have any such form in this place, yet the pertinency and usefulness thereof will shew, that our prudent and pious Reformers have every where contrived, that the people might perform each part of the Office with the spirit, and with the understanding also. Dean Comber.
This Exhortation demands our most serious attention: though there is reason to fear, that too often it is little, if at all, attended to, but looked upon as a mere matter of form, not deserving our notice. But, if we will only consider the excellent instruction which it contains, we shall surely think otherwise; and both silently and attentively hearken to this useful and scasonable introduction to the service of the Church. Waldo.
The minister begins his admonition with the apostolical salutation, "Dearly beloved brethren," Phil. iy.1. Dean Comber. And it appears from several passages, that this beginning is very agreeable to the style of the New Testament. St. Paul, 2 Cor. vii. 1, expresses himself thus; "having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit," &c. and in the next chapter, ver. 1, he calls the Corinthians his brethren, as he doth the Galatians, Gal. iii. 15; and the Thessalonians, 1 Thess. iv. 1. In short, nothing is more commonly to be met with than these appellations, "Beloved" and "Brethren," throughout St. Paul's, St. James's, St. Peter's, and St. John's Epistles. Veneer.
These first words of the Exhortation express very strongly and properly the good will and tender regard, which the ministers of God's word should have for their people; who should in return receive their admonitions