By Lewis Bayly
What hadst thou done, O my sweet Saviour, and ever-blessed Redeemer, that thou wast thus betrayed of Judas, sold of the Jews, apprehended as a malefactor, and led bound as a lamb to the slaughter? What evil hadst thou committed, that thou shouldst be thus openly arraigned, accused falsely, and unjustly condemned before Annas and Caiaphas, the Jewish priests, at the judgment-seat of Pilate, the Roman president? What was thine offence? or to whom didst thou ever wrong? that thou shouldst be thus pitifully scourged with whips, crowned with thorns, scoffed with flouts, reviled with words, buffeted with fists, and beaten with staves? O Lord, what didst thou deserve to have thy blessed face spit upon, and covered as it were with shame? to have thy garments parted, thy hands and feet nailed to the cross? to be lifted upon the cursed tree, to be crucified among thieves, and made to taste gall and vinegar; and in thy deadly extremity, to endure such a sea of God's wrath, that made thee to cry out, as if thou hadst been forsaken of God thy Father; yea, to have thy innocent heart pierced with a cruel spear, and thy precious blood to be spilt before thy blessed mother's eyes? Sweet Saviour, how much wast thou tormented to endure all this, seeing I am so much amazed to think upon it! I inquire for thy offence, but I can find none in thee; no, nor so much as guile to have been found in thy mouth. Thy enemies are challenged, and none of them dare rebuke thee of sin; thy accusers, that are suborned, agree not in their witness; the judge that condemns thee, openly cleareth thy innocency; his wife sends him word she was warned in a dream that thou wast a just man, and therefore should take heed of doing injustice unto thee. The centurion that executed thee, confessed thee of a truth to be both a just man, and the very Son of God.
The thief that hanged with thee justifieth thee, that thou hast done nothing amiss. What is the cause, then, O Lord, of this thy cruel ignominy, passion, and death? I, O Lord, I am the cause of these thy sorrows; my sins wrought thy shame, my iniquities are the occasion of thy injuries. I have committed the fault, and thou art plagued for the offence; I am guilty, and thou art arraigned; I committed the sin, and thou sufferedst the death; I have done the crime, and thou hangest on the cross. Oh the deepness of God's love! Oh the wonderful disposition of heavenly grace! O the unmeasurable measure of divine mercy! The wicked transgresseth, and the just is punished; the guilty let escape, and the innocent is arraigned; the malefactor is acquitted, and the harmless condemned; what the evil man deserveth, the good man suffereth; the servant doeth the fault, the master endures the strokes. What shall I say? Man sinneth, and God dieth. O Son of God! who can sufficiently express thy love, or commend thy pity, or ex-fot thy praise? I was proud, and thou art humble; I was disobedient, and thou becamest obedient; I did eat the forbidden fruit, and thou didst hang on the cursed tree; I played the glutton, and thou didst fast; evil concupiscence drew me to eat the pleasant apple, and perfect charity led thee to drink of the bitter cup; I essayed the sweetness of the fruit, and thou didst taste the bitterness of the gall.
Foolish Eve smiled when I laughed, but blessed Mary wept when thy heart bled and died. O my God here I see thy goodness and my badness, thy justice and my injustice, the impiety of my flesh, and the piety of thy nature. And now, O blessed Lord, thow hast endured all this for my sake, what shall I render unto thee for all thy benefits bestowed upon me a sinful soul? Indeed, Lord, I acknowledge that I owe thee already, for my creation, more than I am able to pay; for I am in that respect bound with all my powers and affections to love and adore thee. If I owed myself unto thee for giving me myself in my creation, what shall I now render thee for giving thyself for me to so cruel a death, to procure my redemption? Great was the benefit that thou wouldst create me of nothing; but what tongue can express the greatness of this grace, that thou didst redeem me with so dear a price, when I was worse than nothing? Surely, Lord, if I cannot pay the thanks I owe thee (and who can pay thee, who bestowest thy graces without respect of merit or regard of measure?) it is the abundance of thy blessings that makes me such a bankrupt, that I am so far unable to pay the principal, that I cannot possibly pay so much as the interest of thy love.
But, O my Lord, thou knowest that since the loss of thy image, by the fall of my unhappy parents, I cannot love thee with all my might and mind, as I should; therefore as thou didst first cast thy love upon me when. I was a child of wrath and a lump of the lost and condemned world, so now, I beseech thee, shed abroad thy love by thy Spirit through all my faculties and affections, that though I can never pay thee in that measure of love which thou hast deserved, yet I may endeavour to repay thee in such a manner as thou vouchsafest to accept in mercy; that I may in truth of heart love my neighbour for thy sake, and love thee above ail for thine own sake. Let nothing be pleasant unto me, but that which is pleasing unto thee. And, sweet Saviour, suffer me never to be lost or cast away, whom thou hast bought so dearly with thine own most precious blood. O Lord, let me never forget thine infinite love, and this unspeakable benefit of my redemption; without which, it had been better for me never to have been, than to have any being.
And seeing that thou hast vouchsafed me the assistance of thy Holy Spirit, suffer me, O heavenly Father, Who art the Father of spirits, in the mediation of thy Son, to speak a few words in the ears of my Lord: if thou, O Father, despisest me for my iniquities, as I have deserved, yet be merciful unto me for the merits of thy Son, who so much for me hath suffered. What if thou seest nothing in me but misery, which might move anger and passion; yet behold the merits of thy Son, and thou shalt see enough to move thee to mercy and compassion; behold the mystery of his incarnation, and remit the misery of my transgression. And as oft as the Wounds of thy Son appear in thy sight, O let the woes, of my sins be hid from thy presence; as oft as the redness of his blood glitters in thy eyes, O let the guiltiness of my sins be blotted out of thy book. The wantonness of my flesh provokes thee to wrath, O let the purity of his flesh persuade thee to mercy; that as my flesh seduced me to sin, so his flesh may reduce me into thy favour. My disobedience hath deserved a great revenge, but his obedience merits a greater weight of mercy; for what can man deserve to suffer, which God, made man, cannot merit to have forgiven? When I consider the greatness of thy passion, then do I see the trueness of that saying, That Christ came into the world to save the chiefest sinners. Darest thou, O Cain, say that thy sins are greater than may be forgiven? thou liest like a murderer; the mercies of one Christ are able to forgive a world of Cains, if they will believe and repent. "The sins of all sinners are finite, the mercies of God are infinite.
Therefore, O Father, for the death and passion's sake which thy Son Jesus Christ has suffered for me, and I have now remembered to thee, pardon and forgive thou unto me all my sins, and deliver me from the curse and vengeance which they have justly deserved, and through his merits, make me, O Lord, a partaker of thy mercy. It is thy mercy that I so earnestly knock for; neither shall my importunity cease to call and knock, with the man that would borrow the loaves, until thou arise and open unto me thy gates of grace; and if thou wilt not bestow on me thy loaves, yet, O Lord, deny me not the crumbs of thy mercy, and those shall suffice thy hungry handmaid. And seeing thou requirest nothing for thy benefits, but that I love thee in the truth of my inward heart, whereof a new creature is the truest outward testimony, and that it is as easy for thee to make me a new creature, as to bid me to be such; create in me, O Christ, a new heart, and renew in me a right spirit, and then thou shalt see how, mortifying old Adam and his corrupt lusts, I will serve thee as thy new creature, in a new life, after a new way, with a new tongue,, and new manners, with new words, and new works, to the glory of thy name, and the winning other sinful souls to thy faith, by my devout example. Keep me for ever, O my Saviour, from the torments of hell, and tyranny of the devil; and when I am to depart this life, send thy holy angels to carry me, as they did the soul of Lazarus, into thy kingdom; receive me into that joyful paradise, which thou didst promise to the penitent thief, who at his last gasp upon the cross so devoutly begged thy mercy, and admission into thy kingdom. Grant this, O Christ, for thy own name's sake, to whom, as is most due, I ascribe all glory, and honour, praise, and dominion, both now and for ever."