By Lewis Bayly
O God and heavenly Father, when I consider the goodness which thou hast ever shewed unto me, and the wickedness which I have committed against Heaven and against thee, I am ashamed of myself, and confusion seems to cover my face as a veil; for which of thy commandments have I not transgressed? O Lord, I stand here guilty of the breach of all thy holy laws. For the love of my heart hath not so entirely cleaved unto thy majesty as to vain and earthly things. I have not feared thy judgments, to deter me from sins, nor trusted to thy promises, to keep me from doubting of my temporal, or from despairing of mine eternal state. I have made the rule of thy divine worship to be what my mind thought fit, not what thy word prescribed; finding my heart more prone to remember my blessed Saviour in a painted picture of man's device, rather than to behold him crucified in his word and sacraments after his own ordinance. Where I should never use thy name (whereat all knees do bow) but with religious reverence, nor any part of thy worship without due preparation and zeal, I have blasphemously abused thy holy name by rash and customary oaths; yea, I have used oaths by thy sacred name, as false covers of my filthy sins; and I have been present at thy service oft-times more for ceremony than conscience, and to please men more than to please thee, my gracious God.
Where I should sanctify thy Sabbath-day, by being present at the public exercises of the church, and by meditating privately on the word and works of God, by visiting the sick, and relieving my poor brethren; alas! I have thought those holy exercises a burden, because they hindered my vain sports; yea, I have spent many of thy Sabbaths in my own profane pleasures, without being present at any of'thy divine worship.
Where I should have given all due reverence to my natural, ecclesiastical, and politic parents, I have not shewed that measure of duty and affection to my parents which their care and kindness hath deserved. I have not had thy ministers in such singular love for their work's sake, as I ought; but I have taunted at their zeal, and hated them because they reproved me justly: and I have carried myself contemptuously against thy magistrates and ministers, though I knew that it is thine ordinance that I should be obedient unto them.
Where I should be slow to wrath, and ready to forgive offences, and not suffer the sun to go down upon my wrath, but to do good for evil, loving my very enemies for thy sake, I, alas! for one sorry word, have burst out into open rage; and harbouring thoughts of mischief in my heart, I have preferred to feed on mine own malice, rather than to eat of thy holy supper.
Where I should keep my mind from all filthy lusts, and my body from all uncleanness, O Lord, I have defiled both, and made my heart a cage of all impure thoughts, and my mind a very sty of the unclean spirit.
Where I should have lived in uprightness, giving every man his due, being contented with mine own estate, and living conscionably in my lawful calling; should be ready, according to my ability, to lend and give unto the poor, O Lord, I have, by oppression, extortion, bribes, cavillation, and other indirect dealings, under pretence of my calling and office, robbed and purloined from my fellow-Christians; yea, I have deceived and suffered Christ, where was trusted, many a time, in his poor members, to stand hungry, cold, and naked, at my door, and hungry, cold, and naked, to go away succourless, as he came; and when the leanness of his cheeks pleaded pity, the hardness of my heart would shew no compassion.
Where I should have made conscience to speak the truth in simplicity, without any falsehood, prudently judging aright, and charitably construing all things in the best part, and should have defended the good name and credit of my neighbour; alas! vile wretch that I am! I have belied and slandered my fellow-brother; and as soon as I heard an ill report, I made my tongue the instrument of the devil, to blazon that abroad to others, before I knew the truth of it myself. I was so far from speaking a good word in defence of his good name, that it tickled my heart in secret to hear one that I envied to be taxed with such a blemish, though I knew that otherwise the graces of God shined in him in abundant measure. I made jests of officious, and advantage of pernicious lies; herein shewing myself a right Cretian, rather than an upright Christian.
And lastly, O Lord, where I should have rested fully contented with that portion which thy majesty thought meetest to bestow upon me in this pilgrimage, and rejoiced in another's good as in mine own; alas! my life hath been nothing else but a greedy lusting after this neighbour's house, and that neighbour's land; yea, secretly wishing such a man dead, that I might have his living or office; coveting those things which thou hast bestowed on another, rather than being thankful for that which thou hast given unto myself. Thus I, O Lord, who am a carnal sinner, and sold under sin, have transgressed all thy holy and spiritual commandments, from the first to the last, from the greatest to the least; and here I stand guilty before thy judgment-seat, of all the breaches of all thy laws, and therefore liable to thy curse, and to all the miseries that justice can pour forth upon so cursed a creature. And whither shall I go for deliverance from this misery? Angels blush at my rebellion, and will not help me: men are guilty of the like transgression, and cannot help themselves. Shall I, then, despair with Cain, or make away myself with Judas? No, Lord; for that were but to end the miseries of this life, and to begin the endless torments of hell. I will rather appeal to thy throne of grace, where mercy reigns to pardon abounding sins; and out of the depth of my miseries, I will cry, with David, for the depth of thy mercies. Though thou shouldst kill me with afflictions, yet will I, like Job, put my trust in thee. Though thou shouldst drown me in the sea of thy displeasure, with Jonas, yet will I catch such hold on thy mercy, that I will be taken up dead, clasping her with both my hands. And though thou shouldst cast me into the bowels of hell, as Jonas into the belly of the whale, yet from thence would I cry unto thee, "O God, the Father of heaven, O Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the world, O Holy Ghost, my sanctifier, three persons, and one eternal God, have mercy upon me, a miserable sinner!" And seeing the goodness of thine own nature first moved thee to send thine only-begotten Son to die for my sins, that by his death I might be reconciled to thy majesty, O reject not now my penitent soul, who being displeased with herself for sin, desireth to return, serve, and please thee in newness of life; and reach from heaven thy helping hand to save me, thy poor servant, who am, like Peter, ready to sink in the sea of my sins and misery. Wash away the multitude of my sins with the merits of that blood which I believe that thou hast so abundantly shed for penitent sinners.
And now that I am to receive this day the blessed sacrament of thy precious body and blood, O Lord, I beseech thee, let thy Holy Spirit, by thy sacrament, seal unto my soul, that by the merits of thy death and passion, all my sins are so freely and fully remitted and forgiven, that the curses and judgments which my sins have deserved, may never have power either to confound me in this life, or to condemn me in the world which is to come. For my steadfast faith is, that thou hast died for my sins, and risen again for my justification (Rom. iv. 25.) This I believe; O Lord, help my unbelief. Work in me likewise, I beseech thee, an unfeigned repentance, that I may heartily bewail my former sins, and loath them, and serve thee henceforth in newness of life, and greater measure of holy devotion; and let my soul never forget the infinite love of so sweet a Saviour, that hath laid down his life to redeem so vile a sinner. And grant, Lord, that having received these seals and pledges of my communion with thee, thou mayest henceforth so dwell by thy Spirit in me, and I so live by faith in thee, that I may carefully walk all the days of my life in godliness and piety towards thee, and in Christian love and charity towards all my neighbours: that living in thy fear, I may die in thy favour, and after death be made partaker of eternal life, through Jesus Christ, my Lord and only Saviour. Amen.