Posted by: Fr. C. | February 27, 2014

Lent 1687/8 and 2014

A Lenten pastoral message from the Bishop of Bath and Wells from back in the day.   Works today, as well, and for clergy and lay people alike.

All Glory be to God.

Reverend Brother,

THE time of Lent now approaching, which has been  anciently and very Christianly set apart, for penitential humiliation of Soul  and Body, for Fasting and Weeping and Praying, all which you know are very  frequently inculcated in Holy Scripture, as the most effectual means we can  use, to avert those Judgments our sins have deserved; I thought it most  agreeable to that Character which, unworthy as I am, I sustain, to call  you and all my Brethren of the Clergy to mourning;  to mourning for your own sins, and  to mourning for the sins of the  Nation.

In making such an address to you as this, I follow the  example of St. Cyprian, that blessed  Bishop and Martyr, who from his retirement wrote an excellent Epistle to his  Clergy, most worthy of your serious perusal, exhorting them, by publick  Prayers and Tears to appease the Anger of God, which they then actually felt,  and which we may justly fear.

Remember that to keep such a Fast as God has chosen, it is not enough for you to afflict  your own soul, but you must also according to your ability, deal  your bread to the Hungry: and the rather, because we have not onely Usual  [1/2] objects of Charity to relieve, but many poor Protestant Strangers are  now fled hither for Sanctuary, whom as Brethren, as members of Christ, we  should take in and Cherish.

That you may perform the office of publick Intercessour  the more assiduously, I beg of you to say daily in your Closet, or in your  Family, or rather in both, all this time of Abstinence, the 51st  Psalm, and the other Prayers which follow it in the Commination. I could wish  also that you would frequently read and meditate on the Lamentations of Jeremy,  which Holy Gregory Nazianzen was wont to doe, and the reading of which melted  him into the like Lamentations, as affected the Prophet himself when he  PenÍd them.

But your greatest Zeal must be spent for the Public  Prayers, in the constant devout use of which, the Publick Safety both of  Church and State is highly concernÍd: be sure then to offer up to God every  day the Morning and Evening Prayer; offer it up in your Family at least, or  rather as far as your circumstances may possibly permit, offer it up in the  Church, especially if you live in a great Town, and say over the Litany every  Morning during the whole Lent. This I might enjoyn    you to doe, on your Canonical Obedience, but for LoveÍs sake I rather  beseech you, and I cannot recommend to you a more devout and comprehensive  Form, of penitent and publick Intercession than that, or more proper for the  Season. [2/3]

Be not discouragÍd if but few come to the Solemn  Assemblies, but go to the House of  Prayer, where God is well known for a sure Refuge: Go, though you go  alone, or but with one besides your self; and there as you are GodÍs Remembrancer,  keep not silence, and give Him no rest, till He establish, till He make  Jerusalem a praise in the earth.

The first sacred Council  of Nice, for which the Christian world has always had a great and just  veneration, ordains a Provincial Synod  to be held before Lent, that all Dissensions being taken away a pure oblation  might be offerÍd up to God, namely of Prayers and Fasting and Alms, and  Tears, which might produce a comfortable Communion at the following Easter:  and that in this Diocese, we may in some degree imitate so Primitive a  practice, I exhort you to endeavour all you can, to reconcile differences, to  reduce those that go astray, to promote universal Charity towards all that  dissent from you, and to put on as the  Elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of  mind, meekness, long-suffering, forbearing one another and forgiving one  another, even as Christ forgave you.

I passionately beseech you to reade over daily your  Ordination Vows, to examine yourself how you observe them; and in the Prayers  that are in that Office, fervently to importune God for the assistance of His  good Spirit, that you may conscientiously perform them. [3/4] Teach  publickly, and from house to house, and warn every one night and day with  Tears; warn them to repent, to fast and to pray, and to give Alms, and  to bring forth fruits meet for repentance, warn them to continue stedfast  in that faith once delivered to the  Saints, in which they were baptizÍd, to  keep the word of GodÍs Patience, that God may keep them in the hour of  Temptation; warn them against  the sins and errours of the age; warn  them to deprecate publick judgments, and to mourn for publick provocations.

No one can reade GodÍs holy Word but he will see, that  the greatest Saints have been the greatest Mourners: David wept  whole Rivers; Jeremy wept sore, and  his Eyes ran down in secret places day and night like a Fountain; Daniel mourned  three full weeks, and did eat no pleasant bread, and sought God by prayer and  supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth and ashes; St. Paul was humbled and  bewailed and wept for the sins of others; and our Lord himself when He beheld  the City wept over it. Learn then of these great Saints, learn of our most  compassionate Saviour, to weep for the publick, and weeping to pray, that we  may know in this our day, the things that belong to our peace, lest they be  hid from our eyes.

To mourn for National Guilt, in which all share, is a  duty incumbent upon all, but especially on Priests, who are particularly  commanded to weep and to say, Spare Thy  people, O Lord, and give not Thine Heritage to reproach, that God may repent  of the evil, and become jealous for His Land, and pity His people. [4/5]

Be assurÍd that none are more tenderly regarded by God  than such Mourners as these; there is a mark set by Him on all  that sigh and cry for the abominations of the Land, the destroying Angel  is forbid to hurt any of them, they  are all GodÍs peculiar care, and shall all have either present deliverance,  or such supports and consolations, as shall abundantly endear their Calamity.

Now the God of all  Grace, who hath called you unto His eternal Glory by Christ Jesus, make you  perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you in the true Catholic and  Apostolick Faith professÍd in the Church of England,  and enable you to adorn that Apostolick Faith with an Apostolick Example and  Zeal, and give all our whole Church that timely repentance, those broken and  contrite hearts, that both Priests and People may all plentifully sow in Tears, and in GodÍs good time may all plentifully reap  in Joy.

From the Palace in Wells,

Febr. 17.  1687.


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