« PreviousContinue »
those that follow. The four Offices, of which they consist, make a complete course of devotion for the week. Many of the prayers are transcribed out of other books: but, by the method I was engaged in, I found myself frequently obliged to make alterations, or additions in most of them ; which being a liberty that has always been allowed in works of this nature, I hope I may reasonably promise myself an easy pardon for making use of it here. The method I have observed in every one of the Offices, as it is different from that of any other book that I have seen, so I humbly hope that, upon an impartial perusal, it will appear to be very proper, distinct, and useful.
The Daily Office is divided into four sections. The two first contain every day's Morning and Evening private Devotions, together with prayers to be used with a family : all of which being contrived in the usual method of prayers for the like occasions, I shall not trouble the reader with any enlargement about them in this place, only that I have prefixed to the first “ short devotions to be used as soon as we are up," and to the second have subjoined “ a prayer to be used at night before we go into bed."
The former I have thought fit to add, that we may be always sure to begin the day with a devout oblation of ourselves to God, and earnest prayer for the protection and guidance of His Spirit and Providence, lest it should happen that we are not able conveniently to retire so soon as we rise for the performance of the more solemn devotions of the morning, though we may without any difficulty secure to ourselves time enough to use the short prayer which is here appointed for this purpose, and one of the Psalms preceding it. Not that I would be understood to exclude the use of them when no such interruption happens : for even, in this case also, I cannot but believe it highly expedient that some such preparative as this should always precede our more solemn devotions ; nor can I think of a more proper introduction to them than that which I am now recommending. . The latter I have separated from the Service for the Evening, for the sake of some who may be desirous of so dividing their devotion, from a fear of putting off too much of the business of religion, which requires the greatest freedom and fervour of spirit, to those heavy minutes when they may not be well able to keep the eyes of either body or mind from slumbering or sleeping.
The other two sections, viz. the third and the fourth, contain devotions for the intermediate time of the day: the former for noon, the latter for any time in the afternoon, as will best suit with every particular person's convenience. The design of the former is to excite and assist the good Christian to lead his life answerably to his Christian profession: the design of the latter, to persuade and enable him so continually to remember, and to make such daily provision for his latter end, that his death may be holy, comfortable, and blessed. The devotions in each of these sections, are distinguished according to the days of the week; not that those appointed for one day, are so appropriated to that in particular, that they may not as profitably be used upon any other ; but partly because the subject of these Sections, (as it is of a much larger extent, and includes a greater variety of particulars than that of the other four) could not so well be comprised in one form; and since, for this reason, I was induced to multiply the forms, I thought I could not choose a more pro
per standard than this is, to regulate their number and distribution by: and partly, because there is something of a connection and order observed in the devotions allotted to the several days, (at least in those of the third section,) answerable (in some degree) to that of the days themselves.
Thus for instance: the devotions assigned for Monday may be said to be more particularly fitted to that day than any other, (though not absolutely speaking, yet) considering it as immediately following the Lord's Day; which the devout Christian, who makes a conscience of spending every day religiously, will certainly look upon himself more particularly obliged to consecrate, and set apart for the more solemn exercise of the duties of piety and devotion And since one of the principal duties of the Lord's Day is to partake of that holy Sacrament, which our blessed Lord Himself has commanded to be perpetually observed by all Christians in remembrance of His death; and therein to make a new oblation of ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and lively sacrifice unto God; it seems very naturally to follow, that what leisure time we may have for extraordinary devotion on the following day, cannot be more pertinently employed than in serious reflections upon the infinite importance of that sacred action, and the inviolable engagements we thereby brought ourselves under; what a dreadful aggravation it will be of our guilt, if we break our covenant with God after we have renewed it in such a solemn manner; and what unspeakable blessings we are entitled to if we continue stedfast in it. The attentive considerations of such points as these will beget in us a holy fear and zeal; and an earnest solicitous desire to acquaint ourselves more thoroughly with all the particulars of the vow that is upon us; in order to imprint them more deeply upon our hearts, and to enable us to observe them more diligently and punctually, than we have hitherto done. And because this is what we are not able to do of ourselves, the sense of our own insufficiency, and of the absolute necessity of the divine grace, will force us upon our knees, to pour out the desires of our souls before God; and, with ardent supplications, to implore the constant assistances of His Holy Spirit, to preserve and increase in us the good motions we now feel' in our hearts; and to incline and help us to perform them faithfully to our lives end. To assist the devout Christian in these important duties is the design of the devotions appointed for Monday noon.
Those for Tuesday, treat of the infinite excellency and perfections of God; His works of creation and providence ; His eternity, omnipotence, and omnipresence ; His holiness, justice, and faithfulness; His mercy, goodness, and beneficence. These are very powerful and awakening thoughts; and such as, if duly attended to, cannot but leave very happy impressions upon our souls; and-forcibly convince us how much it is our duty, and wisdom, and happiness, to fulfil the obligations of our baptismal vow, (which was the subject of yesterday's devotions) and to make religion the chief study and business of our lives; since all its precepts are the laws and injunctions of so great, so just, and so good a God; so bountiful a rewarder of those who serve Him faithfully, and so dreadful an avenger of all ungodliness and disobedience. And, in order to make our contemplation of the Divine Majesty more immediately subservient to our increase in piety and holiness, I have annexed to each paragraph, some practical inferences, pointing out the particular virtues we are obliged to exers cise, in relation to the several attributes and perfections of God. then to pray, that God would be pleased to give him grace, to make a faithful and blessed use of all those means and helps, whereby he may be enabled to persevere in the faith and obedience of the Gospel : that he may live under a constant awe of God's all-seeing eye; apply himself frequently to the serious consideration of his ways; by often meditating upon those eminent examples of piety and holiness, that are set before us in Scripture, and especially, that of our blessed Master and Saviour Jesus Christ; keep his mind fixed upon that glorious reward promised to those who persevere unto the end; and be constant in his attendance on all the public ordinances of religion.
And that we may be the more effectually moved to persist in our good resolutions, and to devote ourselves entirely to the service of our God; I proceed, in the next place, to shew the excellency and advantages of the Christian religion, and the absolute necessity of living up to our holy profession. The former of these I have explained at large, in the devotions appointed for Wednesday noon, under the following heads ; viz. (1st,) As the Christian religion contains a full and clear revelation of all those truths and doctrines that are necessary to be known and believed by ús, in order to our obtaining everlasting salvation. (2dly,) As it gives us a plain and perfect law, for the direction of our practice, and the government of our lives. (3dly,) As it assures us of the forgiveness of our sins, and our reconciliation to God, through the mediation of His Son our Saviour Jesus Christ. (4thly,) As it affords us sufficient power and ability for the performance of our duty (5thly,) As it gives us the highest assurance of the immortality of our souls, and the judgment of the last day; and of the everlasting rewards and punishments of the world to come.
And having thus reminded the Christian of his peculiar happiness, with respect to the privileges and benefits he enjoys under the Gospel dispensation ; I go øn, in the devotions for Thursday noon, to acquaint him with the peculiar obligations he likewise lies under to holiness of life. And these also are reduced to five particulars ; viz. (1st,) To persuade and oblige us to lead holy and vir tuous lives was the principal design of our Saviour's coming into the world, &c. (2dly,) This is what every one of us solemnly engaged to do at our Baptism. (3dly,) A holy life is essential to the character of a Christian; and is made the condition of salvation in the Gospel-covenant. (4thly,) Without holiness, we shall not be capable of the happiness designed for pious Christians in heaven. (5thly,) Disobedience in a Christian is a crime of a more heinous nature, and will be more severely punished in the day of judgment.
On Friday, the devout Christian is directed to contemplate his blessed Saviour on the cross, meekly submitting to that most painful and ignominious death, in order to restore lost man to the favour of God, and to purchase for us a . title to the everlasting joys of heaven. In this amazing instance of the divine love, God has given us the most convincing proof imaginable of His infinite hatred and detestation of sin, and of His unfeigned and earnest desire of our eternal happiness. The consideration of the one will prevent our too boldly presuining on His mercy; the other forbids to despair upon the account of His justice : that demonstrates the reasonableness and necessity of repentance ; this, the possibility and certainty of salvation, if our repentance be sincere. Each is a very proper and pressing motive to seriousness and diligence in the practice of religion.
And now, supposing that the preceding devotions have had their desired effect, and we are actually engaged in a religious course of life ; the only thing remaining is, that we take due care to persevere in it as long as we live. To persuade and encourage us to which necessary duty, is my design, in the de votions appointed for Suturday noon. Here the devout Christian is directed to
The title of the fourth section speaks its usefulness. He that considers what it is to die; that death is his passage to an unchangeable eternity; and that his future everlasting state will be happy or miserable, according as he improves or neglects the present opportunity of fitting himself for that important hour, need not be told, that, to prepare for his death, ought to be the chief business of every day of his life. The wisest man living cannot foresee what a day may bring forth. And he that now boasts of the strongest constitution, may before to-morrow feel himself bereaved of all his strength, and breathing out his last in the agonies of death. The necessary consequence of this is, that we accustom ourselves to make such daily preparation for our death, that it may never surprise us in an hour when we are not ready. And, for this end, we would do well to set apart a few minutes, at least, every day, for the serious consideration of uur latter end; that so our minds may be inured to the thoughts of death, and we may always live under an habitual and constant sense of our mortality. The devotions I here recommend to the pious Christian's daily use, are designed to assist him in this important work; and are such as, I humbly conceive, he will find to be very proper and useful for this purpose. The chief subjects of them are: the shortness and uncertainty, the vanity, troubles, and afflictions of this life; the certainty of death, and of a resurrection froin the dead, and of a general judgment, and future rewards and punishments : and as the immediate consequence of all these, the necessity of leading such a holy and vira tuous life, as may minister to us peace and comfort, and a well-grounded assurance and joy, in the hour of death, and in the day of judgment, and entitle us to a glorious resurrection, and a blessed immortality.
This is a plain account of what I have endeavoured in the Office of Daily Devotion. As to the other three offices, the method I have observed in them is so natural and obvious, that, in order to form a just and adequate judgment of the design and usefulness of each of them, the reader need but barely inspect the titles of their several sections ; to which therefore I beg leave to refer him.
What has cost me the greatest pains in the compiling of this little book, and which indeed I look upon to be the most valuable and useful part of it, is, the large collections I have made out of the holy Scriptures. In these are comprised all the fundamental doctrines, and the most important duties of the Christian religion; the doctrines we are most concerned to understand and believe ; and the duties we are most indispensably obliged to observe and practise, in order to our eternal happiness. And surely, the frequent attentive reading of such Scriptures as these, must needs be very beneficial to us. 'Tis what we shall find of singular use and service, not only for devotion, but for the conduct of our lives : what will be the best preparative for the one, and most probably will derive a happy influence upon the other. With respect to the former, I have taken particular care that all the texts prefixed to any prayer be pertinent to the subject matter of that prayer: and in order to the latter I have all along confined myself to the choice of such texts as are in themselves the most instructive. And in my distribution of them I have endeavoured to preserve a coherence, and mutual connexion ; that so we may read them with more pleasure, and more easily retain what we read.
Though there are many precepts in Scripture, which make it our indispensable duty to pray often, such as Luke xviii. 1; Rom. xii. 12; 1 Thess. v. 17; yet it being not positively declared how often we are obliged to perform this duty, it must be left to the discretion of every person to decide this question for himself. Those who have the advantage of easy circumstances, and much leisure, are to look upon themselves bound to consecrate a larger share of their time to the immediate service of God. But if the circumstances His Providence has allotted us in this world be such, that we cannot, without prejudice to the necessary business of our lawful callings, retire so often as we would otherwise do; the maxim which the apostle hath laid down in another case, will hold equally true in this: If there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not, 2 Cor. viii. 12. God is not a hard Master. He will not require much of those, to whom He hath given but little. If we are but upright in our intentions, and sincerely desirous to take all opportunities we can, of waiting upon Him; we may securely depend upon a kind reception, and a gracious audience at the throne ef His grace.
I observe this, for the sake of those who may think I have prescribed too frequent returns of devotion in the Daily Office; and that there are some prayers both in that, and in the other, too long. With reference to the generality of persons, I must confess, I incline to the same opinion: but this I must say too, that I am very well assured, there are a great many who have both leisure and inclination, to allow as much time for their devotions, as the use of these offices will require. And since my design in this undertaking was to serve the occasions of the devout, I do not see how I should have answered that end, had I not made provision for those that are most eminently such. I desire only that every one would deal impartially with himself in this case: and they, who, upon good grounds, are persuaded that they cannot conveniently set aside any intermediate part of the day for religious retirement; let them but make a conscience of being constant and regular in their morning and evening devotions, and they may rest assured that God will never lay to their charge such omissions as, with respect to the circumstances His Providence has placed them in, are manifestly unavoidable. But then they ought to remember, that they are indispensably bound to be so much the more careful and punctual in observing these two seasons of solemn prayer to God : these, at least, being of absolute obligation; and the omission of either of these, what bo pretence whatsoever can justify.
As for the exceptions that may be made against the length of some of the