By Lewis Bayly
O eternal God and heavenly Father, if I were not taught and assured by the promises of thy gospel, and the examples of Peter, Mary Magdalene, the publican, the prodigal child, and many other penitent sinners, that thou art so full of compassion, and so ready to forgive the greatest sinners, who are heaviest laden with sin, at what time soever they return unto thee with penitent hearts, lamenting their sins, and imploring thy grace, I should despair for mine own sins, and be utterly discouraged from presuming to come into thy presence; considering the hardness of my heart, the unruliness of my affections, and the uncleanness of my conversation, by means of which I have transgressed all thy laws, and deserved thy curse, which might cause my body to be smitten with some fearful disease, my soul to languish with the death of sin, my good name to be traduced with scandalous reproaches, and make mine estate liable to all manner of crosses and casualties. And I confess, Lord, that thy mercy is the cause that I have not been long ago confounded. But, O my God, as thy mercy only staid thy judgment from falling upon me hitherto, so I humbly beseech thee, in the bowels of the mercy of Jesus Christ, in whom only thou art well pleased, that thou wilt not deal with me according to my deserts, but that thou wouldst freely and fully remit unto me all my sins and transgressions; and that thou wouldst wash them clean from me, with the virtue of that most precious blood, which thy Son Jesus Christ hath shed for me: for he alone is the physician, and his blood only is the medicine that can heal my sickness; and he is the true brazen serpent, that can cure that poison wherewith the fiery serpents of my sins have stung and poisoned my sick and wounded soul; and give me, I beseech thee, thine Holy Spirit, which may assure me of mine adoption, and that may confirm my faith, increase my repentance, enlighten my understanding, purify my heart, rectify my will and affections, and so sanctify me throughout, that my whole body, soul, and spirit may be kept unblameable until the glorious coming of my Lord Jesus Christ. And now, O Lord, I give thee hearty thanks and praise for that thou hast this day preserved me from all harms and perils, notwithstanding all my sins and evil deserts; and I beseech thee likewise, defend me this night from the roaring lion which night and day seeketh to devour me. Watch thou, O Lord, over me this night, to keep me from his temptations and tyranny, and let thy mercy shield me from his unappeasable rage and malice; and to this end, I commend myself into thy hands and protection: beseeching thee, O my Lord and God, not to suffer Satan, nor any of his evil members, to have power to do me any hurt or violence this night. And grant, good Lord, that whether I sleep or wake, live or die, I may sleep, wake, live, and die unto thee, and to the glory of thy name, and the salvation of my soul. Lord, bless and defend all thy chosen people everywhere. Grant our Queen a long and happy reign over us; bless all the royal family, together with all our magistrates and ministers; comfort them who are in misery, need, or sickness; good Lord, give me grace to be one of those wise virgins, which may have my heart prepared like a lamp furnished with the oil of faith, and light of good works, to meet the Lord Jesus, the heavenly bridegroom, at his second and sudden coming in glory. Grant this, good Father, for Christ Jesus' sake, my only Saviour and Mediator, in whose blessed name, and in whose own words, I call upon thee, as he hath taught me:-
"Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name," &c.
Thy grace, O Lord Jesus Christ; thy love, O heavenly Father; thy comfort and consolation, O holy and blessed Spirit, be with me, and dwell in my heart this night and evermore. Amen.
Then rising up in holy reverence, meditate as thou art putting off thy clothes-
1. That the day is coming when thou must be barely unstript of all that thou hast in the world, as thou art now of thy clothes; thou hast, therefore, here but the use of all things, as a steward, for a time, and that upon accounts (Luke xvi. 2;) whilst, therefore, thou art trusted with this stewardship be wise and faithful (Matt. xxiv. 2.)
2. When thou seest thy bed, let it put thee in mind of thy grave (Job. xvii. 13), which is now the bed of Christ: for Christ, by laying his holy body to rest three days and three nights in the grave (Matt. xii. 40), hath sanctified, and, as it were, warmed it for the bodies of his saints to rest and sleep in (1 Thess. iv. 13), till the morning of the resurrection; so that now, unto the faithful, death is but a sweet sleep, and the grave but Christ's bed, where their bodies rest and sleep in peace (Isa. lvii. 2), until the joyful morning of the resurrection day shall dawn unto them (Isa. xxvi. 20.)
Let, therefore, thy bed-clothes represent to thee the mould of the earth that shall cover thee; thy sheets, thy winding-sheet; thy sleep, thy death; thy waking, thy resurrection: and being laid down in thy bed, when thou perceivest sleep to approach, say, "I will lay me down and sleep in peace, for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety." (Psal. iv. 8.)
Thus religiously opening every morning thy heart, and shutting it up again every evening with the word of God and prayer, as it were with a lock and key; and so beginning the day with God's worship, continuing it in his fear, and ending it in his favour, thou shalt be sure to find the blessing of God upon all thy day's labours and good endeavours; and at night thou mayest assure thyself thou shalt sleep safely and sweetly in the arms of thy heavenly Father's providence.
Thus far of the piety which every Christian, in private, ought to practise every day. Now followeth that which he, being a householder, must practise publicly with his family.