By Lewis Bayly
O eternal God and most gracious Father, we thine unworthy servants here assembled, do cast down ourselves at the footstool of thy grace, acknowledging that we have inherited our fathers' corruption, and actually in thought, word, and deed, transgressed all thy holy commandments, so that in us naturally there dwelleth nothing that is good; for our hearts are full of secret pride, anger, impatience, dissembling, lying, lust, vanity, profaneness, distrust, too much love of ourselves and the world, too little love of thee and thy kingdom, but empty and void of faith, love, patience, and every spiritual grace. If thou, therefore, shouldst but enter into judgment with us, and search out our natural corruption, and observe all the cursed fruits and effects that we have derived from thence, Satan might justly challenge us for his own, and we could not expect anything from thy Majesty but thy wrath, and our condemnation, which we have long ago deserved; but, good Father, for Jesus Christ thy dear Son's sake, in whom only thou art well pleased, and for the merits of that bitter death and bloody passion which we believe that he hath suffered for us, have mercy upon us, pardon and forgive us all our sins, and free us from the shame and confusion which are due unto us for them, that they may never seize upon us to our confusion in this life, nor to our condemnation in the world which is to come. And forasmuch as thou hast created us to serve thee, as all other creatures to serve us, so, we beseech thee, inspire thy Holy Spirit into our hearts, that by his illumination and effectual working, we may have the inward sight and feeling of our sins and natural corruptions, and that we may not be blinded in them through custom, as the reprobates are, but that we may more and more loath them, and be heartily grieved for them, endeavouring by the use of all good means to overcome and get out of them. O let us feel the power of Christ's death killing sin in our mortal bodies (Rom. vi. 6; Phil. iii. 10), and the virtue of his resurrection raising up our souls to newness of life: convert our hearts, subdue our affections, regenerate our minds, and purify our nature, and suffer us not to be drowned in the stream of those filthy vices and sinful pleasures of this time, wherewith thousands are carried headlong to eternal destruction; but daily frame us more and more to the likeness of thy Son Jesus Christ (Rom. viii. 29), that in righteousness and true holiness (Eph. iv. 24), we may so serve and glorify thee, that living in thy fear and dying in thy favour, we may in thine appointed time attain to the blessed resurrection of the just unto eternal life. In the meanwhile, O Lord, increase our faith in the sweet promises of the gospel, and our repentance from dead works, the assurance of our hope in the promises, our fear of thy name, the hatred of all our sins, and our love to thy children, especially those whom we shall see to stand in need of our help and comfort; that so by the fruits of piety and a righteous life, We may be assured that thy Holy Spirit dwells in us, and that we are thy children by grace and adoption: and grant us, good Father, the continuance of health, peace, maintenance, and all other outward things, so far as thy divine wisdom shall think meet and necessary for every one of us.
And here, O Lord, according to our bounden duty, we confess that thou hast been exceeding merciful unto us all in things of this life, but infinitely more merciful in the things of a better life; and therefore we do here from our very souls render unto thee all humble and hearty thanks for all thy blessings and benefits bestowed upon our souls and bodies, acknowledging thee to be that Father of lights from whom we have received all those good and perfect gifts; and unto thee alone for them we ascribe to be due all glory, honour, and praise, both now and evermore; but more especially we praise thy divine Majesty for that thou hast defended us this day from all perils and dangers, so that none of those judgments, which our sins have deserved, have fallen upon us. Good Lord, forgive us the sins which this day we have committed against thy divine Majesty and our brethren, and for Christ's sake be reconciled unto us for them; and we beseech thee likewise of thine infinite goodness and mercy, to defend and protect us, and all that belong to us, this night from all dangers of fire, robbery, terrors of evil angels, or any other fear or peril, which for our sins might justly fall upon us; and that we may be safe under the shadow of thy wings, we here commend our bodies and souls, and all that we have, unto thine almighty protection. Lord bless and defend both us and them from all evil; and whilst we sleep, do thou, O Father, who never slumberest nor sleepest, watch over thy children, and give a charge to thy holy angels to pitch their tents round about our house and dwelling, to guard us from all dangers, that sleeping with thee, we may in the next morning be awakened by thee, and so being refreshed with moderate sleep, we may be the fitter to set forth thy glory in the conscionable duties of our callings.
And we beseech thee, O Lord, to be merciful likewise to thy whole church, and to continue the tranquillity of these kingdoms wherein we live, turning from us those plagues which the crying sins of this nation do cry for.
Preserve our Queen, with the rest of the royal family; all our magistrates and ministers; all that fear thee, and call upon thy name; all our Christian brethren and sisters, that suffer sicknes6, or any other affliction or misery, especially those who anywhere suffer persecution for the testimony of the holy gospel: grant them patience to bear thy cross, and deliverance when and which way it shall seem best to thy divine wisdom. And, Lord, suffer us never to forget our last end, and those reckonings which then we must render unto thee. In health and prosperity make us mindful of sickness, and of the evil day that is behind, that these things may not overtake us as a snare, but that we may in good measure, like wise virgins, be found prepared for the coming of Christ, the sweet bridegroom of our souls. And now, O Lord most holy and just, we confess that there is no cause why thou, who art so much displeased with sin, shouldst hear the prayer of sinners, but for his sake only who suffered for sin, and sinned not. In the only mediation, therefore, of thine eternal Son Jesus our Lord and Saviour, we humbly beg these, and all other graces which thou knowest to be needful for us, shutting up these our imperfect requests in that most holy prayer which Christ himself has taught us to say unto thee:-
"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 us, and remain with us, this night and evermore. Amen.
Then saluting one another, as becometh Christians who are the vessels of grace, and temples of the Holy Ghost, let them in the fear of God depart every one to his rest: using some of the former private meditations for evening.
Thus far of the householder's public practice of piety with his family every day: Now follows his practice of piety with the Church on the Sabbath-day.