The Form of Prayers and Ministration of the Sacraments, &c., used in the English Congregation at Geneva: and approved, by the famous and godly learned man, John Calvin.
Imprinted at Edinburgh, by Robert Lekprewik and are to be should at his house at the neither bow. Cum priuilegio.
THE CONTENTS OF THE BOOK.
To our Brethren in England, and elsewhere, which love Jesus Christ unfeignedly, mercy and Peace.
It is more evident and known to all men, than well considered and thankfully received of many, with what great mercies, and especial graces God endued our country of England in these latter days; when from Idolatry he called us to the knowledge of his Gospel, and of no people made us his people, a holy people, the people of God; sending us a King most godly, learned, zealous, wise, and such one as never sate in that royal chair before. God’s Word universally spread over all the land, repentance preached, Christ’s kingdom offered, sin rebuked; so that none could excuse himself, either that he had not heard, or else was not taught God’s holy Gospel; yet it came to pass, and this day that is verified on us, which the Lord reproved Israel for, saying, “I have stretched forth my hands all the day long unto a people that believeth not, but rebelleth against me, and walk after their own imaginations.” For whose ways were not corrupt? even from the highest to the lowest, from top to toe there was no part sound. Such contempt of God’s Word, as well on their behalf to whom charge of preaching was committed, as on the other side, negligence to hear, and learn to frame their lives according thereunto; that if the Lord had not hastened his plague and prevented, it would certainly have come to pass, which those wicked men of Anathoth said to the prophet Jeremiah: “Speak no more to us in this name of the Lord.” the which unkindness and contempt, would God we could as earnestly repent as we now feel the lack of these accustomed mercies. For now the day of our visitation is come, and the Lord hath brought the plagues upon us, whereof before we were admonished, and most justly menaced. For the false prophets are sent forth with lies in their mouths to deceive England; and the scarcity of God’s Word is so great, that although they seek it from one sea coast to another, yet they cannot find it, but as men famished devour the pestiferous dung of Papistry, to the poisoning of their own souls.
Let us therefore, Brethren, turn wholly to the Lord by repentance, fasting, and prayer, earnestly beseeching him to receive us once again to his favor, who willeth not the death of a sinner; but his amendment, offering himself to all them that in their necessity seek unto him, and like a most merciful Father proveth all remedies for our betterment; not cruelly punishing to destroy us, but gently chastising to save us.
Beware then ye harden not your hearts against this merciful Lord, and tempt him as the stubborn Jews did, whom he therefore delivered up into their enemies’ hands, to perish with the sword, hunger, and pestilence. For God will not be mocked, but like a consuming fire will destroy as well the wicked condemners of his Word as the crafty dissemblers, which go about to measure God by their fantasies; not considering that they heap damnation against themselves in the day of his anger, which now already is kindled, and began to flame, to the condemnation of their souls and bodies, who knowing Jesus Christ to have once fully satisfied for our sins, cease not daily, either in heart, mouth, or outward consent to blaspheme his precious death, and (as much as in them lies) crucify him a new. Do you not remember that idolaters have no portion in the kingdom of God, but are thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where their worm shall never die? Can not the examples of God’s fearful judgements move you, who spared not his very Angels when they trespassed, but hitherto reserveth them in hell chains, to be tormented in the day of the Lord? and will he then favor idolaters, dissemblers, blasphemers, mockers, condemners? and not rather in this life verify that which the Holy Ghost pronounceth against the children of God’s wrath, who because they do not receive the truth for their salvation, are led by lies to their endless condemnation? At the least, let God’s forewarnings somewhat move you to pity your own state, who for your instructions suffereth your own brethren amongst you to die so terribly, some in despair, others to kill themselves, and many uttering most horrible blasphemies, even to their last breath. the which things are so fearful for us to hear, that we tremble in thinking thereupon.
If you will therefore be counted in the number of God’s people, and be so in deed; look not backward from the plough, return not to your vomit, bow not your knee to Baal, pollute not the temple of the Holy Ghost, in presenting yourselves [to that most wicked and blasphemous Mass, with such like] idols; but either stand in the truth, and so rather obey God than man; or else follow God’s calling, who hath so mercifully provided for you, moving the hearts of all godly rulers and magistrates to pity your state, and do you good, so that at Emden, Wesell, Frankfurt, and in this City, he hath appointed godly churches, wherein you may learn to fear him, repent your sins, amend your lives, and recover again his favor and mercy.
And because there is no way more ready or sure to come to him, then by framing ourselves altogether to his blessed will, revealed unto us in his Word; we, to whom though God hath given more liberty, yet no less lamenting your bondage than rejoicing in our own deliverance from that Babylonian slavery and antichristian yoke, have earnestly endeavored, among other things which might bring us to the worthy consideration of God’s Word, to frame our lives, and reform our state of religion in such sort, that neither doubt of the certainty thereof should make us fear, nor yet man’s judgment discourage us, and cause us shrink from this enterprise most acceptable to God, comfortable to his Church, and necessarily appertaining to every Christian man’s duty.
We, therefore, not as the greatest clerks of all, but as the lest able of many, do present unto you which desire the increase of God’s glory, and the pure simplicity of his Word, a form and order of a reformed church, limited within the compass of God’s Word, which our Savior hath left unto us as only sufficient to govern all our actions by; so that what so ever is added to this Word by man’s device, seem it never so good, holy, or beautiful, yet before our God, which is jealous and cannot admit any companion or counselor, it is evil, wicked, and abominable. For he that is the wisdom of the Father, the brightness of his glory, the true light, the word of life, yea truth and life itself, can he give unto his Church (for the which he paid the ransom of his blood) that which should not be a sufficient assurance for the same? Can the word of truth deceive us? the way of life misguide us? the word of salvation damn us? God keep us from such blasphemies, and so directed our hearts with his Holy Spirit, that we may not only content ourselves with his wisdom, but so rejoice in the same, that we may abhor all things which are contrary.
The which considerations, dear Brethren, when we weighed with reverent fear and humbleness; and also knowing, that negligence in reforming that Religion which was bygone in England, was not the least cause of God’s rods light upon us, having now obtained by the merciful providence of our heavenly Father a free Church for all our nation in this most worthy city of Geneva, we presented to the judgment of the famous man John Calvin, and others learned in these parties, the Order which we minded to use in our Church: who approving it, as sufficient for a Christian congregation, we put the same in execution, nothing doubting but all godly men shall be much edified thereby. And as for the Papists, or malicious men and ungodly, we have not labored to satisfy them, because we knew no sovereign medicine for their cankered sore, except it may please God, by our prayers, to be merciful to them, and call them home, if they be not already forsaken.
But yet, for as much as there are some, which through continuance in their evil, rather delighting in custom than knowledge, can not suffer that men should once open their mouths against certain old and received ceremonies, we thought good in this place somewhat to touch that scrupulosity. For as ceremonies grounded upon God’s Word, and approved in the New Testament, are commendable (as the circumstance thereof doth support), so those that man hath invented, though he had never so good occasion thereunto, if they be once abused, import a necessity, hinder God’s Word, or be drawn into a superstition, without respect ought to be abolished.
For if Hezekiah was commended by the Holy Ghost for breaking in pieces the brazen serpent, which Moses had erected by God’s commandment, and now had continued above 800 years, which thing of itself was not evil, but rather put men in remembrance of God’s benefit; yet because it began to minister occasion to the people to commit idolatry, was not to be born nevertheless: how much more ought we to take heed, that through our occasion men commit not idolatry with their own imaginations and phantasies? It was not without great cause, commanded by Almighty God, that the places, and other appurtenances, which had served to idolatry should be utterly consumed, lest babes and children, through occasion remembering the same, should fail into like inconvenience. And think you that we ought to be wiser? and not rather take heed, that those things which the Papists and other idolaters have invented, or else observe as invented by man, may not enter in to Christ’s church, as well to the end that the weak may not be confirmed in their error, as that we may altogether separate ourselves from that idolatrous Babylon and temple of Belial, wherewith Christ hath no concord nor agreement?
There was no one ceremony more ancient, nor yet of better authority, than the washing of the Disciples’ feet, which was observed a long time in the church, and institute by Christ himself; yet when some were persuaded that it was a portion of the Lord’s Supper, and others thought it served instead of Baptism, the godly churches in S. Augustine’s time, thought it better to leave that which was ordained for a good use, than by retaining the same, confirm an error or superstition. the Corinthians, for the relief of the poor, and to increase brotherly amity together, did institute a feast, immediately after the Lord’s Supper. But how sharply S. Paul did reprehend the same, condemning in comparison, that men should add anything to the Lord’s institution, it appeareth by that he saith, “I have received of the Lord that which I gave you.”
We read also, that Hezekiah and his nephew Josiah restored the use of the Passover, which had been a very long time discontinued; but in the ministration thereof, they observed no other ceremonies than God had left to Moses from the beginning. Circumcision, likewise a sacrament, was evermore after one sort ministered, even as the Lord commanded it. But such is the nature of flesh, it will be wise, and have a stake in God’s doings; yea, and how willfully it causeth man to maintain his own phantasies, it is manifest to them which have perused the ancient records of the Church. For beginning at Jerusalem, and so coming to the rest of the churches, as Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome, he shall see plainly, that their greatest disturbance and overthrow, chanced through ceremonies. What conflict was at all times betwixt the Latin and Greek Churches for the same, no Christian can consider without tears. And was there anything more objected against S. Paul, both of the Galatians and also of others, then that he would not observe the ceremonies as the chief Apostles did? and yet he kept them whiles any hope was to gain the weak brethren, and therefore circumcised Timothy; but when he perceived that men would retain them as necessary things in the church, he called that which before he made indifferent, wicked and impious, saying, that who so ever was circumcised, Christ could nothing profit them. Fearing also, lest he had taken pains amongst them in vain, which joined Christ with beggarly ceremonies. Therefore, dear Brethren, being hereby persuaded, and with many moo reasons confirmed, (which opportunity permitteth not here to writ) we have contented ourselves with that wisdom which we have learned in God’s book, where we be taught to preach the Word of God purely, minister the Sacraments sincerely, and use prayers and other orders thereby approved, to the increase of God’s glory, and edification of his holy people. As touching preaching, for as much as it is allowed of all godly men, we may at this time leave the probation thereof; and also for the ministration of the two sacraments, our book giveth sufficient proof.
But because prayers are after two manner of sorts, that is, either in words only, or else with song joined thereunto; and this latter part, as well for lack of the true use thereof, as due consideration of the same, is called by many into doubt, whether it may be used in a reformed church; it is expedient that we note briefly a few things pertaining thereunto. S. Paul giving a rule how men should singe, first saith, “I will sing in voice, and I will sing with understanding.” And in another place, shewing what songs should be song, exhorteth the Ephesians to “edify one another with psalms, songs of praise, and such as are spiritual, singing in their hearts to the Lord with thanks giving.” As if the Holy Ghost would say, that the song did inflame the heart to call upon God, and praise him with a more fervent and lively zeal. And as music or singing is natural unto us, and therefore every man delighteth therein; so our merciful God setteth before our eyes, how we may rejoice and singe to the glory of his name, recreation of our spirits, and profit of ourselves.
But as there is no gift of God so precious or excellent, that Satan hath not after a sort drawn to himself and corrupt, so hath he most impudently abused this notable gift of singing, chiefly by the Papists his ministers, in disfiguring it, partly by strange language, that cannot edify, and partly by a curious wanton sort, hiring men to tickle the ears and flatter the phantasies, not esteeming it as a gift approved by the Word of God, profitable for the Church, and confirmed by all Antiquity. As, besides other places, is most manifest by the words of Pliny, called the younger, who, when he was depute in Asia unto the Emperor Trajan, and had received charge to enquire out the Christians to put them to death, writ among other things, touching the Christians, “That their manners were to singe verses or psalms early in the morning to Christ their God.” If any, perhaps, would doubt, when, or by whom these churches or assemblies were institute, it is likewise evident, that S. John the Apostle, who, although in Domitian’s time he was banished in the Isle Patmos; yet when Nerva his successor, and next before Trajan reigned, returned to Ephesus, and so planted the churches, as the stories report. Seeing therefore God’s Word doth approve it, antiquity beareth witness thereof, and best reformed Churches have received the same, no man can reprove it, except he will condemn God’s Word, despise Antiquity, and utterly condemn the godly reformed Churches.
And there are no songs more appropriate than the Psalms of the Prophet David, which the Holy Ghost hath framed to the same use, and commended to the Church, as containing the effect of the whole Scriptures, that hereby our hearts might be more lively touched, as appeareth by Moses, Hezekiah, Judith, Debora, Mary, Zechariah, and others, who by songs and metre, rather than in their commune speech and prose, gave thanks to God for such comfort as he sent them.
Here it were to long to entreat of the metre; but for as much as the learned doubt not thereof, and it is plainly proven that the Psalms are not only metre, and contain just Caesuras, but also have grace and majesty in the verse more than any other places of the Scriptures, we need not to enter into any probation. For they that are skillful in the Hebrew tongue, [Read Moses Chabib, in his books called, מרפא לשון דרכי נרעם] by comparing the Psalms with the rest of the Scriptures, easily may perceive the metre. And to whom is it not known, how the Holy Ghost by all means sought to help our memory, when he factioned many Psalms according to the letters of the alphabet; so that every verse beginneth with the letters thereof in order. Sometimes A. beginneth the half verse, and B. the other half; and in another place, three verses, yea and eight verses with one letter, even the Psalm throughout; as if all men should be inflamed with the love thereof, both for variety of matter, and also briefness, easiness, and delectation.
Now, to make you privy also why we altered the rhyme in certain places of him, whom for the gifts that God had given him, we esteemed and reverenced, this may suffice: that in this enterprise, we did only set God before our eyes, and therefore weighed the words and sense of the Prophet, rather considering the meaning thereof than what any man had write. And chiefly being in this place, whereas most perfect and godly judgment did assure us, and exhortations to the same encourage us, we thought it better to frame the rhyme to the Hebrew sense, than to bind that sense to the English meter: and so either altered for the better, in such places as he had not attained unto, or else where he had escaped part of the verse, or sometimes the whole, we added the same, not as men desirous to find faults, but only as such which covet to hide them, as the learned can judge.
It remaineth last of all that you understand the reasons which moved us to choose out and follow this Catechism of Geneva rather than any other; for considering that the true use of a Catechism is to instruct a Christian fully in all points of belief and Christian religion; and wherein this is most easily, orderly, and perfectly taught, that to be the best; we could find none in so great a number which either for the facility is equal, or else for the perfection to be compared. Moreover, the dangers which hang over Christ’s Church in these dais moved us very much; for as men may see present signs of certain barbarousness, and puddles of errors which are like to chance in the Church of God, so there is no better preservation against the same, than if all godly Churches would agree in one kind of doctrine and confession of faith, which in all points were agreeable to God’s holy Word, that our posterity might be confirmed, by the universal example of Christ’s Church against all heresies, persecutions, and other dangers; perceiving that it is not only the doctrine of one man, but the consent of the whole Christian Church, and that wherein all youth hath been brought up and trained in. the which thing, seeing none hath so far performed, nor yet is in such aptness to the same as this Catechism is, being for the worthiness thereof already translated into Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, and English, we could do no less but willingly and gladly embrace the same.
Wherefore we being now under the same cross of affliction that you our dear Brethren are, and yet altogether the children of God our merciful Father through Jesus Christ, desire you, in his name, with judgment to read our doings, trying them only by the touchstone of his Word, that either if they be found faulty, they may be rejected, or else if they be profitable, God may be glorified, his Church edified, and the malicious confounded. Farewell, dear Brethren, and let us all pray to our loving God, that he would be merciful unto us, restore his holy Word, comfort and strengthen his children, and finally confound Satan, Antichrist, and all his enemies. At Geneva, the 10. of February, Anno 1556.
THE CONFESSION OF OUR FAITH, WHICH ARE ASSEMBLED IN THE ENGLISH CONGREGATION AT GENEVA.
[I believe in god the father almighty, maker of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ his only son, our lord; which was conceived by the holy ghost, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from death; he ascended into heaven; and sits at the right hand of god the father almighty, from thence shall he come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the holy ghost; the holy catholic church; the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.]
I believe and confess my Lord God eternal, infinite, unmeasurable, incomprehensible, and invisible, one in substance, and three in person, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, who, by his almighty power and wisdom, hath not only of nothing created heaven, earth, and all things therein contained, and man after his own image, that he might in him be glorified; but also by his fatherly providence, governeth, maintains, and preserveth the same, according to the purpose of his will.
I believe also and confess Jesus Christ the only Savior and Messiah, who being equal with God, made himself of no reputation, but took on him the shape of a servant, and became man in all things like unto us (sin except) to assure us of mercy and forgiveness. For when through our father Adam’s transgression we were become children of perdition, there was no means to bring us from that yoke of sin and damnation, but only Jesus Christ our Lord: who giving us that by grace, which was his by nature, made us (through faith) the children of God: who when the fullness of time was come, was conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary (according to the flesh), and preached in earth the gospel of salvation, until at length, by tyranny of the priests, he was guiltless condemned under Pontius Pilate, then president of Jury, and most slanderously hanged on the cross betwixt two thieves as a notorious trespasser, where taking upon him the punishment of our sins, he delivered us from the curse of the Law.
And forasmuch as he, being only God, could not feel death, neither, being only man, could overcome death, he joined both together, and suffered his humanity to be punished with most cruel death: feeling in himself the anger and severe judgment of God, even as if he had been in the extreme torments of hell, and therefore cried with a loud voice, “My God, my God, why haste thou forsaken me?” Thus of his free mercy, without compulsion, he offered up himself as the only sacrifice to purge the sins of all the world, so that all other sacrifices for sin are blasphemous and derogate from the sufficiency hereof. the which death, albeit it did sufficiently reconcile us to God; yet the Scriptures commonly do attribute our regeneration to his resurrection; for as by rising again from the grave the third day, he conquered death; even so the victory of our faith standeth in his resurrection, and therefore without the one, we cannot feel the benefit of the other: For as by death, sin was taken away, so our righteousness was restored by his resurrection.
And because he would accomplish all things, and take possession for us in his kingdom, he ascended into heaven, to enlarge that same kingdom by the abundant power of his Spirit, by whom we are most assured of his continual intercession towards God the Father for us. And although he be in heaven, as touching his corporal presence, where the Father hath now set him on his right hand, committing unto him the administration of all things, as well in heaven above as in the earth beneath; yet is he present with us his members, even to the end of the world, in preserving and governing us with his effectual power and grace, who (when all things are fulfilled which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his prophets since the world began) will come in the same visible form in the which he ascended, with an unspeakable majesty, power, and company, to separate the lambs from the goats, the elect from the reprobate, so that none, whether he be alive then or dead before, shall escape his judgment.
Moreover, I believe and confess the Holy Ghost, God equal with the Father and the Son, who regenerates and sanctifieth us, ruleth and guideth us into all truth, persuading most assuredly in our consciences that we be the children of God, brethren to Jesus Christ, and fellow heirs with him of life everlasting. Yet notwithstanding it is not sufficient to believe that God is omnipotent and merciful; that Christ hath made satisfaction; or, that the Holy Ghost hath this power and effect, except we do apply the same benefits to ourselves which are God’s elect.
I believe therefore and confess one holy Church, which (as members of Jesus Christ, the only head thereof) consent in faith, hope, and charity, using the gifts of God, whether they be temporal or spiritual, to the profit and furtherance of the same. Which Church is not seen to man’s eye, but only known to God, who of the lost sons of Adam, hath ordained some, as vessels of wrath, to damnation, and hath chosen others, as vessels of his mercy, to be saved; the which also, in due time, he calls to integrity of life and godly conversation, to make them a glorious church to himself.
But that Church which is visible, and seen to the eye, hath three tokens, or marks, whereby it may be discerned. First, the Word of God contained in the Old and New Testament, which as it is above the authority of the same church, and only sufficient to instruct us in all things concerning salvation, so is it left for all degrees of men to read and understand. For without this Word, neither church, council, or decree can establish any point touching salvation.
The second is the holy Sacraments, to wit, of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper; which Sacraments Christ hath left unto us as holy signs and seals of God’s promises. For as by Baptism once received, is signified that we (as well infants as others of age and discretion) being strangers from God by original sin, are received into his family and congregation, with full assurance, that although this root of sin lie hidden in us, yet to the elect it shall not be imputed. So the Supper declareth, that God, as a most provident Father, doth not only feed our bodies, but also spiritually nourisheth our souls with the graces and benefits of Jesus Christ (which the Scripture calleth eating of his flesh and drinking of his blood); neither must we, in the administration of these sacraments, follow man’s fantasy, but as Christ himself hath ordained so must they be ministered, and by such as by ordinary vocation are thereunto called. Therefore, whoever reserveth and worships these sacraments, or contrariwise condemneth them in time and place, procureth to himself damnation.
The third mark of this Church is Ecclesiastical discipline, which standeth in admonition and correction of faults. the final end whereof is excommunication, by the consent of the Church determined, if the offender be obstinate. And besides this Ecclesiastical censure, I acknowledge to belong to this church a political Magistrate, who ministers to every man justice, defending the good and punishing the evil; to whom we must render honor and obedience in all things, which are not contrary to the Word of God.
And as Moses, Hezekiah, Josiah, and other godly rulers purged the Church of God from superstition and idolatry, so the defense of Christ’s Church pertains to the Christian Magistrates, against all idolaters and heretics, as Papists, Anabaptists, with such like limbs of Antichrist, to root out all doctrine of devils and men, as the Mass, Purgatory, Limbus Patrum, prayer to Saints, and for the Dead; freewill, distinction of meats, apparel, and days; vows of single life, presence at idol service, man’s merits, with suchlike, which draw us from the society of Christ’s Church, wherein standeth only remission of sins, purchased by Christ’s blood to all them that believe, whether they be Jews or Gentiles, and lead us to vain confidence in creatures, and trust in our own imaginations. the punishment whereof, although God often times differeth in this life, yet after the general resurrection, when our souls and bodies shall rise again to immortality, they shall be damned to unquenchable fire; and then we which have forsaken all man’s wisdom to cleave unto Christ, shall hear that joyful voice, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit ye the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world,” and so shall go triumphing with him in body and soul, to remain everlasting in glory, where we shall see God face to face, and shall no more need one to instruct another; for we shall all know him, from the highest to the lowest: to whom, with the Son and the Holy Ghost, be all praise, honor, and glory, now and ever. So be it.
OF THE MINISTERS AND THEIR ELECTION.
what Things Are Chiefly Required in the Pastors And ministers.
First, let the Church diligently consider that the Minister which is to be chosen be not found culpable of any such faults which Saint Paul reprehends in a man of that vocation, but contrariwise endowed with such virtues, that he may be able to undertake his charge, and diligently execute the same. Secondly, that he distribute faithfully the Word of God, and minister the sacraments sincerely, ever careful not only to teach his flock publicly, but also privately to admonish them; remembering always, that if anything perish through his default, the Lord will require it at his hands.
of Their Office And Duty.
Because the charge of the Word of God is of greater importance than that any man is able to dispense therewith; and Saint Paul exhorteth to esteem them as ministers of Christ, and disposers of God’s mysteries; not lords or rulers, as S. Peter saith, over the flock. Therefore, the pastor’s or minister’s chief office standeth in preaching the Word of God, and ministering the sacraments. So that in consultations, judgments, elections, and other political affairs, his counsel, rather than authority, taketh place.
And if so be the Congregation, upon just cause, agreeth to excommunicate, then it belongeth to the minister, according to their general determination, to pronounce the sentence, to the end that all things may be done orderly, and without confusion.
the Manner of Electing the Pastors And Ministers.
The Ministers and Elders at such time as there wanteth a Minister, assemble the whole Congregation, exhorting them to advise and consider who may best serve in that room and office. And if there by choice, the Church appoint two or three, upon some certain day, to be examined by the Ministers and Elders.
First, as touching their doctrine, whether he that should be minister have good and sound knowledge in the Holy Scriptures, and fit and apt gifts to communicate the same to the edification of the people. For the trial whereof, they propose him a theme or text to be treated privately, whereby his ability may the more manifestly appear unto them.
Secondly, they enquire of his life and conversation, if he have in times past lived without slander, and governed himself in such sort, as the Word of God hath not heard evil, or been slandered through his occasion. Which being severely done, they signify unto the Congregation, whose gifts they find most excellent and profitable for that ministry. Appointing by a general consent, eight days at the least, that every man may diligently inquire of his life and manners.
At the which time also, the minister exhorteth them to humble themselves to God by fasting and prayer, that both their election may be agreeable to his will, and also profitable to the Church. And if in the mean season anything be brought against him whereby he may be found unworthy by lawful probations, then is he dismissed and some other presented. If nothing be alleged upon some certain day, one of the ministers, at the morning sermon, presenteth him again to the Church, framing his sermon, or some part thereof, to the setting forth of his duty.
Then at after noon, the sermon ended, the minister exhorts them to the election, with the invocation of God’s name, directing his prayer as God shall move his heart. in like manner, after the election, the Minister giveth thanks to God, with request of such things as shall be necessary for his office.
After that he is appointed Minister, the people sing a psalm and depart.
OF THE ELDERS, AND AS TOUCHING THEIR OFFICE AND ELECTION.
The Elders must be men of good life and godly conversation, without blame and all suspicion; careful for the flock, wise, and, above all things, fearing God. Whose office standeth in governing with the rest of the ministers, in consulting, admonishing, correcting, and ordering all things appertaining to the state of the congregation. And they differ from the ministers, in that they preach not the Word, nor minister the Sacraments. in assembling the people, neither they without the ministers, nor the ministers without them, may attempt anything. And if any of the just number want, the minister, by the consent of the rest, warneth the people thereof, and finally admonishes them to observe the same order which was used in choosing the Ministers.
OF THE DEACONS, AND THEIR OFFICE AND ELECTION.
The Deacons must be men of good estimation and report, discrete, of good conscience; charitable, wise, and finally adorned with such virtues as S. Paul requireth in them. Their office is to gather the alms diligently, and faithfully to distribute it, with the consent of the Ministers and Elders. Also to provide for the sick and impotent persons. Having ever a diligent care, that the charity of godly men be not wasted upon loiterers and idle vagabonds. Their election is, as hath been before rehearsed in the Ministers and Elders.
We are not ignorant that the Scriptures make mention of a fourth kind of Ministers left to the Church of Christ, which also are very profitable, where time and place doth permit. But for lack of opportunity, in this our dispersion and exile, we can not well have the use thereof; and would to God it were not neglected where better occasion serveth.
These Ministers are called Teachers or Doctors, whose office is to instruct and teach the faithful in sound doctrine, providing with all diligence that the purity of the Gospel be not corrupt, either through ignorance, or evil opinions. Notwithstanding, considering the present state of things, we comprehend under this title such means as God hath in his Church, that it should not be left desolate, nor yet his doctrine decay for default of ministers thereof.
Therefore to term it by a word more usual in these our days, we may call it the Order of Schools, wherein the highest degree, and most annexed to the ministry and government of the Church, is the exposition of God’s Word, which is contained in the Old and New Testaments.
But because men cannot so well profit in that knowledge, except they be first instructed in the tongues and human sciences, (for now God worketh not commonly by miracles,) it is necessary that seed be sown for the time to come, to the intent that the Church be not left barren and waste to our posterity; and that Schools also be erected, and Colleges maintained, with just and sufficient stipends, wherein youth may be trained in the knowledge and fear of God, that in their ripe age they may prove worthy members of our Lord Jesus Christ, whether it be to rule in Civil policy, or to serve in the Spiritual ministry, or else to live in godly reverence and subjection.
THE WEEKLY ASSEMBLY OF THE MINISTERS, [ELDERS, AND DEACONS.]
To the intent that the ministry of God’s Word may be had in reverence, and not brought to contempt through the evil conversation of such as are called thereunto, and also that faults and vices may not by long sufferance grow at length to extreme inconveniences; it is ordained that every Thursday the ministers and elders, in their assembly or Consistory, diligently examine all such faults and suspicions as may be espied, not only amongst others, but chiefly amongst themselves, lest they seem to be culpable of that which our Savior Christ reproved in the Pharisees, who could espy a mote in another man’s eye, and could not see a beam in their own.
And because the eye ought to be more clear than the rest of the body, the minister may not be spotted with any vice, but to the great slander of God’s Word, whose message he beareth: Therefore, it is to be understood that there be certain faults, which if they be apprehended in a minister, he ought to be deposed; as heresy, papistry, schism, blasphemy, perjury, fornication, theft, drunkenness, usury, fighting, unlawful games, with such like.
Others are more tolerable, if so be that after brotherly admonition he amends his fault: as strange and unprofitable fashion in preaching the Scriptures; curiosity in seeking vain questions; negligence, as well in his sermons, and in studying the Scriptures, as in all other things concerning his vocation; scurrility, flattering, lying, backbiting, wanton words, deceit, covetousness, taunting, dissolution in apparel, gesture, and other his doings; which vices, as they be odious in all men, so in him that ought to be as an example to others of perfection, in no wise are to be suffered; especially, if so be that, according to God’s rule, being brotherly advertised, he acknowledge not his fault and amend.
INTERPRETATION OF THE SCRIPTURES.
Every week once, the Congregation assemble to hear some place of the Scriptures orderly expounded. At which time, it is lawful for every man to speak or enquire, as God shall move his heart, and the text minister occasion; so it be without pertinacity or disdain, as one that rather seeketh to profit than to contend. And if so be any contention rise, then such as are appointed moderators, either satisfy the party, or else if he seem to cavil, exhort him to keep silence, referring the judgment thereof to the ministers and elders, to be determined in their assembly or Consistory before mentioned.
When the Congregation is assembled at the hour appointed, the Minister useth one of these two Confessions, or like in effect, exhorting the people diligently to examine themselves, following in their hearts the tenor of his words.
A CONFESSION OF OUR SINS, FRAMED TO OUR TIME, OUT OF THE NINTH. CHAPTER OF DANIEL.
O Lord God, which art mighty and dreadful, thou that keepest covenant, and shows mercy to them that love thee and do thy commandments. We have sinned, we have offended, we have wickedly and stubbornly gone back from thy laws and precepts. We would never obey thy servants the Prophets that spake in thy name, to our kings and princes, to our forefathers, and to all the people of our land. O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, unto us pertaineth nothing but open shame, as it is come to pass this day unto our miserable country of England; yea unto all our nations whether they be far or near, through all lands, wherein they are scattered for the offenses that they and we have committed against thee, so that the curses and punishments which are written in thy law are now poured upon us; and thou hast performed those words where with thou didst menace us and our rulers that governed us, in bringing the same plagues upon us which before were threatened. And yet notwithstanding, both they and we proceed in our iniquity, and cease not to heap sin upon sin. For they which once were well instructed in the doctrine of thy gospel, are now gone back from the obedience of thy truth, and are turned again to that most abominable idolatry, from the which they were once called by the lively preaching of thy Word. And we, alas! to this day, do not earnestly repent us of our former wickedness, neither do we rightly consider the heaviness of thy displeasure. Such is thy just judgment, O Lord, that thou punishes sin by sin, and man by his own inventions, so that there can be no end of iniquity, except thou prevent us with thy undeserved grace. Therefore, convert us, O Lord, and we shall be converted; for we do not offer up our prayers trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold mercies. And although thou haste once of thy especial grace delivered us from the miserable thralldom of error and blindness, and called us many times to the sweet liberty of thy gospel, which we notwithstanding have most shamefully abused, in obeying rather our own lusts and affections, then the admonitions of thy Prophets; yet we beseech thee once again, for thy name’s sake, to power some comfortable drop of thy accustomed mercies upon us; incline thine ears, and open thine eyes, to behold the grievous plagues of our country, the continual sorrows of our afflicted brethren, and our woeful banishment. And let our afflictions and just punishment be an admonition and warning to other nations amongst whom we are scattered, that with all reverence they may obey thy holy gospel; lest for like condemn, in the end, like or worse plagues fall upon them. Wherefore, O Lord, hear us! O Lord, forgive us! O Lord, consider and tarry not over long! but for thy dear Son Jesus Christ sake, be merciful unto us, and deliver us. So shall it be known to all the world, that thou only art the selfsame God, that ever showeth mercy to all such as call upon thy holy name.
AN OTHER CONFESSION FOR ALL STATES AND TIMES.
O eternal God and most merciful Father, we confess and acknowledge here, before thy divine majesty, that we are miserable sinners, conceived and born in sin and iniquity, so that in us there is no goodness. For the flesh evermore rebelleth against the spirit, whereby we continually transgress thy holy precepts and commandments, and so purchase to ourselves, through thy just judgment, death and damnation.
Notwithstanding, O heavenly Father, forasmuch as we are displeased with ourselves for the sins that we have committed against thee, and do unfeignedly repent us of the same, we most humbly beseech thee, for Jesus Christ’s sake, to show thy mercy upon us, to forgive us all our sins, and to increase thy Holy Spirit in us. That we acknowledging from the bottom of our hearts our own unrighteousness, may from henceforth not only mortify our sinful lusts and affections, but also bring forth such fruits as may be agreeable to thy most blessed will; not for the worthiness thereof, but for the merits of thy dearly beloved Son Jesus Christ, our only Savior, whom thou hast already given an oblation and offering for our sins, and for whose sake we are certainly persuaded that thou wilt deny us nothing that we shall ask in his name, according to thy will. For thy Spirit doth assure our consciences that thou art our merciful Father, and so lovest us thy children through him, that nothing is able to remove thy heavenly grace and favor from us. to thee, therefore, O Father, with the Son and the Holy Ghost, be all honor and glory, world without end. So be it.
This done, the people singe a Psalm all together, in a plain tune; which ended, the Minister prayeth for the assistance of God’s Holy Spirit, as the same shall move his heart, and so proceedeth to the Sermon. Using after the Sermon this Prayer following, or such like.
A PRAYER FOR THE WHOLE ESTATE OF CHRIST’S CHURCH.
Almighty God and most merciful Father, we humbly submit ourselves, and fall down before thy Majesty, beseeching thee from the bottom of our hearts, that this seed of thy word, now sown amongst us, may take such deep root, that neither the burning heat of persecution cause it to wither, neither the thorny cares of this life do choke it, but that as seed sown in good ground, it may bring forth thirty, sixty, and an hundred fold, as thy heavenly wisdom hath appointed. And because we have need continually to crave many things at thy hands, we humbly beseech thee, O heavenly Father, to grant us thy Holy Spirit to direct our petitions, that they may proceed from such a fervent mind as may be agreeable to thy most blessed will.
And seeing that our infirmity is able to do nothing without thy help, and that thou art not ignorant with how many and great temptations, we poor wretches are on every side enclosed and compassed, let thy strength, O Lord, sustain our weakness, that we being defended with the force of thy grace, may be safely preserved against all assaults of Satan, who goeth about continually like a roaring lion, seeking to devour us. Increase our faith, O merciful Father, that we do not swerve at any time from thy heavenly word, but augment in us hope and love, with a careful keeping of all thy commandments, that no hardness of heart, no hypocrisy, no concupiscence of the eyes, nor enticements of the world, do draw us away from thy obedience. And seeing we live now in these most perilous times, let thy Fatherly providence defend us against the violence of all our enemies, which do everywhere pursue us; but chiefly against the wicked rage and furious uproars of that Roman idol, enemy to thy Christ.
Furthermore, forasmuch as by thy holy Apostle we be taught to make our prayers and supplications for all men, we pray not only for ourselves here present, but beseech thee also, to reduce all such as be yet ignorant, from the miserable captivity of blindness and error, to the pure understanding and knowledge of thy heavenly truth, that we all, with one consent and unity of minds, may worship thee our only God and Savior. And that all pastors, shepherds, and ministers, to whom thou hast committed the dispensation of thy holy Word, and charge of thy chosen people, may both in their life and doctrine be found faithful, setting only before their eyes thy glory; and that by them, all poor sheep which wander and go astray, may be gathered and brought home to thy fold.
Moreover, because the hearts of rulers are in thy hands, we beseech thee to direct and govern the hearts of all kings, princes, and magistrates to whom thou haste committed the sword; especially, O Lord, according to our bound duty, we beseech thee to maintain and increase the honorable estate of this city, into whose defense we are received, the magistrates, the counsel, and all the whole body of this common wealth: Let thy Fatherly favor so preserve them, and thy Holy Spirit so govern their hearts, that they may in such sort execute their office, that thy religion may be purely maintained, manners reformed, and sin punished according to the precise rule of thy holy Word.
And for that we be all members of the mystical body of Christ Jesus, we make our requests unto thee, O heavenly Father, for all such as are afflicted with any kind of cross or tribulation, as war, plague, famine, sickness, poverty, imprisonment, persecution, banishment, or any other kind of thy rods, whether it be calamity of body, or vexation of mind, that it would please thee to give them patience and constancy, until thou sent them full deliverance of all their troubles. And as we be bound to love and honor our parents, kinsfolk, friends, and country, so we most humbly beseech thee to show thy pity upon our miserable country of England, which once, through thy mercy, was called to liberty, and now for their and our sins, is brought unto most vile slavery and Babylonian bondage.
Root out from thence, O Lord, all ravening wolves, which to fill their bellies destroy thy flock. And show thy great mercies upon those our brethren which are persecuted, cast in prison, and daily condemned to death for the testimony of thy truth. And though they be utterly destitute of all man’s aid, yet let thy sweet comfort never depart from them, but so inflame their hearts with thy Holy Spirit, that they may boldly and cheerfully abide such trial as thy godly wisdom shall appoint. So that at length, as well by their death as by their life, the kingdom of thy dear Son Jesus Christ may increase and shine through all the world. in whose name we make our humble petitions unto thee, as he hath taught us.
Our Father which art in heaven, &c.
Almighty and ever living God, vouchsafe, we beseech thee, to grant us perfect continuance in thy lively faith, augmenting the same in us daily, until we grow to the full measure of our perfection in Christ, whereof we make our confession, saying, I believe in God, &c.
Then the people singe a Psalm, which ended, the Minister pronounceth one of these blessings, and so the Congregation departeth.
The Lord bless you and save you; the Lord make his face shine upon you, and be merciful unto you; the Lord turn his countenance towards you, and grant you his peace.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. So be it.
It shall not be necessary for the Minister daily to repeat all these things before mentioned, but beginning with some manner of Confession, to proceed to the Sermon; which ended, he either useth the prayer for all Estates before mentioned, or else prayeth, as the Spirit of God shall move his heart, framing the same according to the time and matter which he hath entreated of. And if there shall be at any time any present plague, famine, pestilence, war, or such like, which be evident tokens of God’s wrath; as it is our part to acknowledge our sins to be the occasion thereof, so are we appointed by the Scriptures to give ourselves to mourning, fasting, and prayer, as the means to turn away God’s heavy displeasure. Therefore, it shall be convenient that the Minister at such time do not only admonish the people thereof, but also use some form of prayer, according as the present necessity requireth, to the which he may appoint, by a common consent, some several day after the sermon, weekly to be observed.
THE ORDER OF BAPTISM.
First note, that for as much as it is not permitted by God’s Word, that Women should preach or minister the Sacraments: And it is evident, that the Sacraments are not ordained of God to be used in private corners as charms or sorceries, but left to the Congregation, and necessarily annexed to God’s Word as seals of the same: Therefore the infant which is to be baptized, shall be brought to the church, on the day appointed to
common prayer and preaching, accompanied with the father and godfather. So that after the Sermon, the child being presented to the Minister, he demands this question:
Do you present this child to be baptized, earnestly desiring that he may be engrafted in the mystical body of Jesus Christ?
The Answer.—Yes, we require the same.
the Minister Proceedeth.
Then let us consider, dearly beloved, how Almighty God hath not only made us his children by adoption, and received us into the fellowship of his Church; but also hath promised that he will be our God, and the God of our children, unto the thousand generation. Which thing, as he confirmed to his people of the Old Testament by the sacrament of Circumcision, so hath he also renewed the same to us in his New Testament by the sacrament of Baptism; doing us thereby to wit, that our infants appertain to him by covenant, and therefore ought not to be defrauded of those holy signs and badges whereby his children are known from Infidels and Pagans.
Neither is it requisite, that all those that receive this Sacrament have the use of understanding and faith; but chiefly that they be contained under the name of God’s people: So that remission of sins in the blood of Christ Jesus, doth pertain to them by God’s promise. Which thing is most evident by Saint Paul, who pronounceth the children begotten and born, either of the parents being faithful, to be clean and holy. Also our Savior Christ admits children to his presence, embracing and blessing them. Which testimonies of the Holy Ghost assure us, that infants be of the number of God’s people; and that remission of sins doth also appertain to them in Christ. Therefore, without injury, they cannot be debarred from the common sign of God’s children. Neither yet is this outward action of such necessity, that the lack thereof should be prejudicial to their salvation, if that prevented by death, they may not conveniently be presented to the church. But we (having respect to that obedience which Christians owe to the voice and ordinance of Christ Jesus, who commanded to preach and baptize all without exception,) do judge them only unworthy of any fellowship with him, who contemptuously refuse such ordinary means as his wisdom hath appointed to the instruction of our dull senses.
Furthermore, it is evident that Baptism was ordained to be ministered in the element of water, to teach us, that like as water outwardly doth wash away the filth of the body, so inwardly doth the virtue of Christ’s blood purge our souls from that corruption and deadly poison wherewith by nature we were infected. Whose venomous dregs, although they continue in this our flesh, yet by the merits of his death are not imputed unto us, by cause the justice of Jesus Christ is made ours by baptism. Not that we think any such virtue or power to be included in the visible water or outward action, (for many have been baptized, and yet never inwardly purged,) but that our Savior Christ, who commanded baptism to be ministered, will, by the power of his Holy Spirit, effectually work in the hearts of his elect (in time convenient) all that is meant and signified by the same. And this the Scripture calleth our regeneration, which standeth chiefly in these two points, in mortification, that is to say, a resisting of the rebellious lusts of the flesh, and in newness of life, whereby we continually strive to walk in that pureness and perfection wherewith we are clad in Baptism.
And although we in the journey of this life be encumbered with many enemies, which in the way assail us, yet fight we not without fruit. For this continual battle which we fight against sin, death, and hell, is a most infallible argument, that God the Father, mindful of his promise made unto us in Christ Jesus, doth not only give us motions and courage to resist them, but also assurance to overcome and obtain victory.
Wherefore, dearly beloved, it is not only of necessity that we be once baptized, but also it much profiteth often to be present at the ministration thereof; that we being put in mind of the league and covenant made between God and us, that he will be our God, and we his people, he our Father, and we his children, may have occasion as well to try our lives past as our present conversation, and to prove ourselves, whether we stand fast in the faith of God’s elect, or contrariwise have strayed from him through incredulity and ungodly living; whereof if our consciences do accuse us, yet by hearing the loving promises of our heavenly Father, (who calleth all men to mercy by repentance,) we may from henceforth walk more warily in our vocation.
Moreover, ye that be fathers and mothers may take hereby most singular comfort, to see your children thus received in to the bosom of Christ’s congregation, whereby you are daily admonished that ye nourish and bring up the children of God’s favor and mercy, over whom his fatherly providence watcheth continually. Which thing, as it ought greatly to rejoice you, (knowing that nothing can chance unto them without his good pleasure,) so ought it to make you diligent and careful to nurture and instruct them in the true knowledge and fear of God. Wherein if you be negligent, ye do not only injury to your own children, hiding from them the good will and pleasure of Almighty God their Father, but also heap damnation upon yourselves, in suffering his children, bought with the blood of his dear Son, so traitorously (for lack of knowledge) to turn back from him. Therefore it is your duty, with all diligence, to provide that your children, in time convenient, be instructed in all doctrine necessary for a true Christian, chiefly that they be taught to rest upon the justice of Christ Jesus alone, and to abhor and flee all superstition, Papistry, and idolatry. Finally, to the intent that we may be assured, that you the father and the surety consent to the performance hereof, declare here before God and the face of his congregation, the some of that faith wherein you believe, and will instruct this child.
Then the Father, or in his absence the God-father, shall rehearse the Articles of his faith; which done, the Minister exhorting the people to pray, saith in this manner, or such like, keeling:
Almighty and everlasting God, which of thy infinite mercy and goodness hast promised unto us that thou wilt not only be our God, but also the God and Father of our children: we beseech thee, that as thou hast vouchsafed to call us to be partakers of this thy great mercy in the fellowship of faith, so it may please thee to sanctify with thy Spirit, and to receive in to the number of thy children this infant, whom we shall baptize according to thy Word, to the end that he coming to perfect age, may confess thee only the true God, and whom thou hast sent Jesus Christ, and so serve him, and be profitable unto his church in the whole course of his life; that after this life be ended, he may be brought as a lively member of his body unto the full fruition of thy joys in the heavens, where thy Son our Christ reigneth, world without end. in whose name we pray as he hath taught us:
Our Father, &c.
When they have prayed in this sort, the Minister requireth the child’s name, which known, he saith:
N., I baptize thee in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
And as he speaketh these words, he taketh water in his hand and lays it upon the child’s forehead: which done, he giveth thanks as followeth:
Forasmuch, most holy and merciful Father, as thou dost not only beautify and bless us with common benefits, like unto the rest of mankind, but also heaps upon us most abundantly rare and wonderful gifts; of duty we lift up our eyes and minds unto thee, and give thee most humble thanks for thy infinite goodness, which haste not only numbered us among thy saints, but also of thy free mercy dost call our children unto thee, marking them with this Sacrament as a singular token and badge of thy love. Wherefore most loving Father, though we be not able to deserve this so great a benefit, (yea, if thou wouldest handle us according to our merits, we should suffer the punishment of eternal death and damnation,) yet for Christ’s sake we beseech thee, that thou wilt confirm this thy favor more and more towards us, and take this infant into thy tuition and defense, whom we offer and present unto thee with common supplications, and never suffer him to fall to such unkindnesses, whereby he should lose the force of this baptism, but that he may perceive thee continually to be his merciful Father, through thy Holy Spirit working in his heart, by whose divine power he may so prevail against Satan, that in the end, obtaining the victory, he may be exalted into the liberty of thy kingdom.
THE MANNER OF THE LORD’S SUPPER.
The day when the Lord’s Supper is ministered, which commonly is used once a month, or so often as the Congregation shall think expedient, the Minister useth to say as followeth:
Let us mark, dear Brethren, and consider how Jesus Christ did ordain unto us his Holy Supper, according as S. Paul maketh rehearsal in the eleventh. chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians:
“I have, saith he, “received of the Lord that which I have delivered unto you, (to wit,) that the Lord Jesus, the same night he was betrayed, toke bread, and when he had given thanks, he brake it, saying, Take ye, eat ye, this is my body which is broken for you; do you this in remembrance of me. Likewise after supper, he toke the cup, saying. This cup is the new Testament or covenant in my blood, do ye this so often as ye shall drink thereof, in remembrance of me. For so often as you shall eat this bread and drink of this cup, ye shall declare the Lord’s death until his coming. Therefore, whoever shall eat this bread, and drink the cup of the Lord unworthily, he shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. Then see that every man prove and try himself, and so let him eat of this bread and drink of this cup; for whoever eateth or drinketh unworthily, he eateth and drinketh his own damnation, for not having due regard and consideration of the Lord’s body.”
This done, the Minister proceedeth to the exhortation.
Dearly beloved in the Lord, forsasmuch as we be now assembled to celebrate the holy Communion of the body and blood of our Savior Christ, let us consider these words of S. Paul, how he exhorteth all persons diligently to try and examine themselves before they presume to eat of that bread and drink of that cup. For as the benefit is great, if with a truly penitent heart and lively faith we receive that holy sacrament, (for then we spiritually eat the flesh of Christ and drink his blood, then we dwell in Christ and Christ in us, we be one with Christ and Christ with us,) so is the danger great if we receive the same unworthily, for then we be guilty of the body and blood of Christ our Savior, we eat and drink our own damnation, not considering the Lord’s body; we kindle God’s wrath against us, and provoke him to plague us with diverse diseases and sundry kinds of death.
Therefore, if any of you be a blasphemer of God, an hinderer or slanderer of his Word, an adulterer, or be in malice or envy, or in any other grievous crime, bewail your sins, and come not to this holy Table, lest after the taking of this holy sacrament, the Devil entre into you as he entered into Judas, and fill you full of all iniquities, and bring you to destruction both of body and soul.
Judge therefore yourselves, Brethren, that ye be not judged of the Lord; repent you truly for your sins paste, and have a lively and steadfast faith in Christ our Savior, seeking only your salvation in the merits of his death and passion, from henceforth refusing and forgetting all malice and debate, with full purpose to live in brotherly amity and godly conversation all the dais of your life.
And albeit we feel in ourselves much frailty and wretchedness, as that we have not our faith so perfect and constant as we ought, being many times ready to distrust God’s goodness through our corrupt nature, and also that we are not so thoroughly given to serve God, neither have so fervent a zeal to set forth his glory as our duty requireth, feeling still such rebellion in ourselves, that we have need daily to fight against the lusts of our flesh; yet, nevertheless, seeing that our Lord hath dealt thus mercifully with us, that he hath printed his Gospel in our hearts, so that we are preserved from falling into desperation and misbelief; and seeing also he hath endued us with a will and desire to renounce and withstand our own affections, with a longing for his righteousness and the keeping of his commandments, we may be now right well assured, that those defaults and manifold imperfections in us, shall be no hinderance at all against us, to cause him not to accept and impute us as worthy to come to his spiritual Table. For the end of our coming thither is not to make protestation that we are upright and just in our lives, but contrariwise, we come to seek our life and perfection in Jesus Christ, acknowledging in the meantime, that we of ourselves be the children of wrath and damnation.
Let us consider, then, that this Sacrament is a singular medicine for all poor sick creatures, a comfortable help to weak souls, and that our Lord requireth no other worthiness on our part, but that we unfeignedly acknowledge our naughtiness and imperfection. Then to the end that we may be worthy partakers of his merits and most comfortable benefits, (which is the true eating of his flesh, and drinking of his blood,) let us not suffer our minds to wander about the consideration of these earthly and corruptible things (which we see present to our eyes, and feel with our hands,) to seek Christ bodily present in them, as if he were enclosed in the bread or wine, or as if these elements were turned and changed into the substance of his flesh and blood. For the only way to dispose our souls to receive nourishment, relief, and quickening of his substance, is to lift up our minds by faith above all things worldly and sensible, and thereby to enter into heaven, that we may find and receive Christ, where he dwelleth undoubtedly very God and very man, in the incomprehensible glory of his Father, to whom be all praise, honor, and glory, now and ever. Amen.
The Exhortation ended, the Minister cometh down from the pulpit, and sitteth at the Table, every man and woman in likewise taking their place as occasion best serveth: then he taketh bread, and giveth thanks, either in these words following, or like in effect:
O Father of mercy, and God of all consolation, seeing all creatures do knowledge and confess thee as Governor and Lord, it becometh us, the workmanship of thine own hands, at all times to reverence and magnify thy Godly Majesty: first, for that thou haste created us to thine own image and similitude; but chiefly that thou haste delivered us from that everlasting death and damnation, into the which Satan drew mankind by the mean of sin, from the bondage whereof, neither man nor angel was able to make us free; but thou, O Lord, rich in mercy and infinite in goodness, haste provided our redemption to stand in thy only and well-beloved Son, whom of very love thou didst give to be made man, like unto us in all things, (sin except) that in his body he might receive the punishments of our transgression, by his death to make satisfaction to thy justice, and by his resurrection to destroy him that was author of death; and so to reduce and bring again life to the world, from which the whole offspring of Adam most justly was exiled.
O Lord, we acknowledge that no creature is able to comprehend the length and breadth, the depth and height, of that thy most excellent love, which moved thee to show mercy where none was deserved; to promise and give life where death had gotten victory; to receive us into thy grace when we could do nothing but rebel against thy justice. O Lord, the blind dullness of our corrupt nature will not suffer us sufficiently to way these thy most ample benefits; yet, nevertheless, at the commandment of Jesus Christ our Lord, we present ourselves to this his Table, (which he hath left to be used in remembrance of his death until his coming again,) to declare and witness before the world that by him alone we have received liberty and life; that by him alone thou dost acknowledge us thy children and heirs; that by him alone we have entrance to the throne of thy grace; that by him alone we are possessed in our spiritual kingdom, to eat and drink at his Table; with whom we have our conversation presently in heaven; and by whom our bodies shall be raised up again from the dust, and shall be placed with him in that endless joy, which thou, O Father of mercy, hast prepared for thine elect, before the foundation of the world was laid. And these most inestimable benefits, we acknowledge and confess to have received of thy free mercy and grace, by thy only beloved Son Jesus Christ: for the which therefore, we thy Congregation, moved by thy Holy Spirit, render thee all thanks, praise, and glory, for ever and ever.
This done, the Minister breaketh the bread, and delivereth it to the people, who distribute and divide the same amongst themselves, according to our Savior Christ’s commandment, and in likewise giveth the cup. During the which time, some place of the Scriptures is read, which doth lively set forth the death of Christ, to the intent that our eyes and senses may not only be occupied in these outward signs of bread and wine, which are called the visible word; but that our hearts and minds also may be fully fixed in the contemplation of the Lord’s death, which is by this holy Sacrament represented. And after the action is done, he giveth thanks, saying:
MOST merciful Father, we render to thee all praise, thanks, and glory, for that thou hast vouchsafed to grant unto us miserable sinners so excellent a gift and treasure, as to receive us into the fellowship and company of thy dear Son Jesus Christ our Lord; whom thou delivered to death for us, and haste given him unto us as a necessary food and nourishment unto everlasting life.
And now we beseech thee also, O heavenly Father, to grant us this request; that thou never suffer us to become so unkind as to forget so worthy benefits; but rather imprint and fasten them sure in our hearts, that we may grow and increase daily more and more in true faith, which continually is exercised in all manner of good works; and so much the rather, O Lord, confirm us in these perilous days and rages of Satan, that we may constantly stand and continue in the confession of the same to the advancement of thy glory, which art God over all things blessed for ever. So be it.
The action thus ended, the people singe the 103 Psalm, “My soul, give laud,” &c., or some other of thanks giving: which ended, one of the blessings before mentioned is recited, and so they rise from the Table, and depart.
TO THE READER.
IF perchance any would marvel why we follow rather this Order than any other in the administration of this Sacrament, let him diligently consider, that, first of all, we utterly renounce the error of the Papists; secondly, we restore unto the sacraments their own substance, and to Christ his proper place. And as for the words of the Lord’s Supper, we rehearse them not because they should change the substance of the bread or wine, or that the repetition thereof, with the intent of the sacrificer, should make the Sacrament (as the Papists falsely believe, but they are read and pronounced, to teach us how to behave ourselves in this action, and that Christ might witness unto our faith, as it were with his own mouth, that he hath ordained these signs for our spiritual use and comfort. We do first, therefore, examine ourselves, according to Saint Paul’s rule, and prepare our minds that we may be worthy partakers of so high mysteries. Then taking bread, we give thanks, break, and distribute it, as Christ our Savior hath taught us. Finally, the ministration ended, we give thanks again, according to his example. So that without his word and warrant, there is nothing in this holy action attempted.
THE FORM OF MARRIAGE.
After the banes or contract hath been published three several days in the Congregation, (to the intent that if any person have interest or title to either of the parties, they may have sufficient time to make their challenge,) the parties assemble at the beginning of the sermon, and the Minister, at time convenient, says as followeth:
Dearly beloved Brethren, we are here gathered together in the sight of God, and in the face of his Congregation, to knit and join these parties together in the honorable estate of Matrimony, which was instituted and authorized by God himself in Paradise, man being then in the state of innocence. For what time God made heaven and earth, and all that is in them, and had created and fashioned man also after his own similitude and likeness, unto whom he gave rule and lordship over all the beasts of the earth, fishes of the sea, and fowls of the air; he said, It is not good that man live alone; let us make him an helper like unto himself. And God brought a fast sleep upon him, and toke one of his ribs and shaped Eva thereof; doing us thereby to understand, that man and wife are one body, one flesh, and one blood. Signifying also unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church; for the which cause man leaveth his father and mother and taketh him to his wife, to keep company with her; the which also he ought to love, even as our Savior loveth his Church, that is to say, his elect and faithful congregation, for the which he gave his life.
And similarly also, it is the wives duty to study to please and obey her husband, serving him in all things that be godly and honest; for she is in subjection, and under the governance of her husband, so long as they continue both alive. And this holy marriage, being a thing most honorable, is of such virtue and force, that thereby the husband hath no more right or power over his own body, but the wife; and likewise the wife hath no power over her own body, but the husband; forasmuch as God hath so knit them together in this mutual society to the procreation of children, that they should bring them up in the fear of the Lord, and to the increase of Christ’s kingdom.
Wherefore, they that be thus coupled together by God, cannot be severed or put a part, unless it be for a season, with the assent of both parties, to the end to give themselves the more fervently to fasting and prayer; giving diligent heed, in the meantime, that their long being apart be not a snare to bring them into the danger of Satan through incontinency. And therefore to avoid fornication, every man ought to have his own wife, and every woman her own husband: so that so many as cannot live chaste, are bound by the commandment of God to marry, that thereby the holy temple of God, which is our bodies, may be kept pure and undefiled. For since our bodies are now become the very members of Jesus Christ, how horrible and detestable a thing is it to make them the members of an harlot! Every one ought therefore to keep his vessel in all pureness and holiness; for whoever pollutes and defileth the temple of God, him will God destroy.
Here the Minister speaketh to the parties that shall be married, in this wise:
I require and charge you, as you will answer at the day of judgment, when the secretes of all hearts shall be disclosed, that if either of you do know any impediment why ye may not be lawfully joined together in matrimony, that ye confess it; for be ye well assured, that so many as be coupled otherwise than God’s Word doth allow, are not joined together by God; neither is their matrimony lawful.
If no impediment be known, then the Minister saith:
I take you to witness that be here present, beseeching you all to have good remembrance hereof; and moreover, if there be any of you which knoweth that either of these parties be contracted to any other, or knoweth any other lawful impediment, let them now make declaration thereof.
If no cause be alleged, the Minister proceeds, saying:
Forasmuch as no man speaketh against this thing, you, N., shall protest here before God and his holy congregation, that you have taken, and are now contented to have N., here present, for your lawful wife and spouse; promising to keep her, to love and entreat her in all things according to the duty of a faithful husband, forsaking all other during her life; and briefly, to live in a holy conversation with her, keeping faith and truth in all points, according as the Word of God and his holy Gospel doth command.
Even so I take her before God, and in presence of this his Congregation.
The Minister to the Spouse also says:
You, N., shall protest here before the face of God, in the presence of this holy congregation, that ye have taken, and are now contented to have, N., here present, for your lawful husband; promising to him subjection and obedience, forsaking all other during his life; and finally, to live in a holy conversation with him, keeping faith and truth in all points, as God’s Word doth prescribe.
Even so I take him before God, and in the presence of this his congregation.
[The Minister then saith:]
Give diligent care to the [words of the] Gospel, that ye may understand how our Lord would have this holy contract kept and observed; and how sure and fast a knot it is, which may in no wise be loosed, according as we be taught in the 19. chapter of S. Matthew’s Gospel:—
“The Pharisees came unto Christ to tempt him and to grope his mind, saying, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every light cause? He answered, saying, Have ye not read, that He which created man at the beginning, made them male and female? sayings, For this thing shall man leave father and mother, and cleave unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh; so that they are no more two, but are one flesh. Let no man therefore put asunder that which God hath coupled together.;
If ye believe assuredly these words which our Lord and Savior did speak, (according as ye have heard them now rehearsed out of the holy Gospel,) then may you be certain, that God hath even so knit you together in this holy state of wedlock. Wherefore apply yourselves to live a chaste and holy life together, in godly love, in Christian peace, and good example; ever holding fast the band of charity without any breach, keeping faith and truth the one to the other, even as God’s Word doth appoint.
Then the Minister commendeth them to God, in this or such like sort:
The Lord sanctify and bless you; the Lord power the riches of his grace upon you, that ye may please him, and live together in holy love to your lives’ end. So be it.
Then is song the 128 Psalm, “Blessed are they that fear the Lord,” &c., or some other, appertaining to the same purpose.
THE VISITATION OF THE SICK.
Because the Visitation of the Sick is a thing very necessary, and yet notwithstanding, it is heard to prescribe all rules appertaining thereunto, we refer it to the discretion of the godly and prudent Minister; who, according as he seethe the patient affected, either may lift him up with the sweet promises of God’s merry through Christ, if he perceive him much afraid of God’s threatenings; or contrary wise, if he be not touched with the feeling of his sins, may beat him down with God’s justice. Evermore like a skillful physician, framing his medicine according as the disease requireth; and if he perceive him to want any necessities, he not only relieveth him according to his ability, but also provideth by others that he may be furnished sufficiently. Moreover, the party that is visited, may, at all times, for his comfort, send for the Minister; who doth not only make prayers for him there presently, but also, if it so require, commendeth him in the public prayers to the Congregation.
THE corps is reverently brought to the grave, accompanied with the Congregation, without any further ceremonies; which being buried, the minister goeth to the church, if it be not far off, and maketh some comfortable exhortation to the people, touching death and resurrection.
THE ORDER OF THE ECCLESIASTICAL DISCIPLINE.
As no City, Town, house, or family can maintain their estate and prosper without policy and governance, so the Church of God, which requireth more purely to be governed than any city or family, cannot without spiritual Policy and ecclesiastical Discipline continue, increase, and flourish.
And as the Word of God is the life and soul of this Church, so this godly order and discipline is as it were sinews in the body, which knit and join the members together with decent order and comeliness. It is a bridle to stay the wicked from their mischiefs. It is a spur to prick forward such as be slow and negligent; yea, and for all men it is the Father’s rod ever in a readiness to chastise gently the faults committed, and to cause them afterward to live in more godly fear and reverence. Finally, it is an order left by God unto his Church, whereby men learn to frame their wills, and doings, according to the law of God, by instructing and admonishing one another, yea, and by correcting and punishing all obstinate rebels, and condemners of the same.
There are three causes chiefly which move the Church of God to the executing of Discipline. First, that men of evil conversation be not numbered amongst God’s children to their Father’s reproach, as if the Church of God were a sanctuary for naughty and vile persons. the second respect is, that the good be not infected with accompanying the evil; which thing S. Paul foresaw when he commanded the Corinthians to banish from amongst them the incestuous adulterer, saying, “A little leaven maketh sour the whole lump of dough.” the third cause is, that a man thus corrected, or excommunicated, might be ashamed of his fault, and so through repentance come to amendment; the which thing the Apostle calleth, “delivering to Satan, that his soul may be saved in the day of the Lord;” meaning that he might be punished with excommunication, to the intent his soul should not perish forever.
First, therefore, it is to be noted, that this censure, correction, or Discipline, is either private or public; private, as if a man commit either in manners or doctrine against thee, to admonish him brotherly betwixt him and thee. If perchance he stubbornly resist thy charitable advertisements, or else by continuance in his fault declare that he amends not; then, after he hath been the second time warned in presence of two or three witnesses, and continueth obstinately in his error, he ought, as our Savior Christ commandeth, to be disclosed and uttered to the Church, so that according to public Discipline, he either may be received through repentance, or else be punished as his fault requireth.
And here, as touching private Discipline, three things are to be noted. First, that our admonitions proceed of a godly zeal and conscience, rather seeking to win our brother than to slander him. Next, that we be assured that his fault be reprovable by God’s Word. And finally, that we use such modesty and wisdom, that if we somewhat doubt of the matter whereof we admonish him, yet with godly exhortations he may be brought to the knowledge of his fault. Or if the fault appertain to many, or be known of diverse, that our admonition be done in presence of them.
Briefly, if it concern the whole Church, in such sort that the concealing thereof might procure some danger to the same, that then it be uttered to the Ministers and Seniors, to whom the policy of the church doth appertain.
Also in public Discipline, it is to be observed that the Ministry pretermit nothing at any time unchastised with one kind of punishment or other. If they perceive anything in the Congregation, either evil in example, slanderous in manners, or not beseeming their profession; as if there be any covetous person, any adulterer, or fornicator, foresworn, thief, briber, false witness-bearer, blasphemer, drunkard, slanderer, usurer; any person disobedient, seditious, or dissolute; any heresy or sect, as Papistical, Anabaptistical, and such like: briefly, what so ever it be that might spot the Christian congregation, yea, rather what so ever is not to edification, ought not to escape either admonition or punishment.
And because it happeneth sometime in the Church of Christ, that when other remedies assayed profit nothing, they must proceed to the Apostolic rod and correction as unto Excommunication, (which is the greatest and last punishment belonging to the spiritual Ministry); it is ordained, that nothing be attempted in that behalf without the determination of the whole Church: wherein also they must be were and take good heed, that they seem not more ready to expel from the Congregation than to receive again those in whom they perceive worthy fruits of repentance to appear. Neither yet to forbid him the hearing of sermons, which is excluded from the sacraments, and other duties of the Church, that he may have liberty and occasion to repent. Finally, that all punishments, corrections, censures, and admonitions, stretch no further than God’s Word, with mercy, may lawfully bear.
They worship me in vain, teaching doctrine which is men’s traditions.
Come forth of Babylon my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, nor receive of her plagues, for her sins are gone up to heaven, and God hath remembered her wickedness.
A FORM OF PRAYERS TO BE USED IN PRIVATE HOUSES, EVERY MORNING AND EVENING.
Almighty God and most merciful Father, we do not present ourselves here before thy Majesty trusting in our own merits or worthiness, but in thy manifold mercies, which hast promised to hear our Prayers, and grant our requests which we shall make to thee in the name of thy beloved Son Jesus Christ our Lord: who hath also commanded us to assemble ourselves together in his name, with full assurance that he will not only be amongst us, but also be our mediator and advocate towards thy Majesty, that we may obtain all things which shall seem expedient to thy blessed will for our necessities. Therefore, we beseech thee, most merciful Father, to turn thy loving countenance towards us, and impute not unto us our manifold sins and offenses, whereby we justly deserve thy wrath and sharp punishment, but rather receive us to thy mercy for Jesus Christ’s sake, accepting his death and Passion as a just recompense for all our offenses, in whom only thou art pleased, and through whom thou canst not be offended with us. And seeing that of thy great mercies we have quietly passed this night, grant, O heavenly Father, that we may spend and bestow this day wholly in thy service, so that all our thoughts, words, and deeds may redound to the glory of thy name, and good ensample to all men, who seeing our good works may glorify thee our heavenly Father And forasmuch as of thy mere benevolence and love thou haste not only created us to thine own similitude and likeness, but also haste chosen us to be heirs with thy dear Son Jesus Christ of that immortal kingdom which thou preparest for us before the beginning of world. We beseech thee to increase our faith and knowledge, and to lighten our hearts with thy Holy Spirit, that we may in the meantime live in godly conversation and integrity of life; knowing that idolaters, adulterers, covetous men, contentious persons, drunkards, gluttons, and such like, shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
(*) And because thou haste commanded us to pray one for another, we do not only make request, O Lord, for ourselves and them that thou hast already called to the true understanding of thy heavenly will, but for all people and nations of the World, who as they know by thy wonderful works that thou art God over all, so they may be instructed by thy Holy Spirit to believe in thee their only Savior and Redeemer. But forasmuch as they cannot believe except they hear, nor cannot hear but by preaching, and none can preach except they be sent; therefore, O Lord, raise up faithful distributors of thy mysteries, who setting a part all worldly respects, may both in their life and doctrine only seek thy glory. Contrarily confound Satan, Antichrist, with all hirelings and Papists, whom thou hast already cast off into a reprobate sense, that they may not by sects, schisms, heresies, and errors, disquiet thy little flock.
And because, O Lord, we be fallen into the latter days and dangerous times, wherein ignorance hath got the upper hand, and Satan with his ministers seek by all means to quench the light of thy Gospel, we beseech thee to maintain thy cause against those ravening wolves, and strengthen all thy servants, whom they keep in prison and bondage. Let not thy long suffering be an occasion either to increase their tyranny or to discourage thy children; neither yet let our sins and wickedness be a hindrance to thy mercies, but with speed, O Lord, consider these great miseries; and chiefly the afflictions of our Country, which once flourished through thy mercies, and now for contempt of thy Word is plagued according to thy judgment. Alas, Lord, mayest thou not be entreated? Shall we thus be left in despair? Shall all the world laugh at our shame forever? Truth it is, Lord, that we were more than sufficiently warned of this thy vengeance to come, both by thy Word and examples of others. For thy people Israel many times by their sins provoked thine anger, and thou punished them by thy just judgment; yet though their sins were never so grievous, if they once returned from their iniquity, thou received them to mercy. We therefore, most wretched sinners, bewail our manifold sins, and earnestly repent us for our former wickedness and ungodly behavior towards thee; and whereas we cannot of ourselves purchase thy pardon, yet we humbly beseech thee, for Jesus Christ sake, to show thy mercies upon us, and restore us again to thy favor. Grant us, dear Father, these our requests, and all other things necessary for us, and thy whole Church, according to thy promise in Jesus Christ our Lord: in whose name we beseech thee as he hath taught us, saying:
Our Father, &c.
a Prayer to Be Said Before Meals.
All things depend upon thy providence, O Lord, to receive at thy hands due sustenance in time convenient. Thou gives to them, and they gather it; thou openest thy hand, and they are satisfied with all good things.
O heavenly Father, which art the fountain and full treasure of all goodness, we beseech thee to show thy mercies upon us thy children, and sanctify these gifts which we receive of thy merciful liberality, granting us grace to use them soberly and purely according to thy blessed will; so that hereby we may acknowledge thee to be the Author and Giver of all good things; and above all, that we may remember continually to seek the spiritual food of thy Word, wherewith our souls may be nourished everlastingly through our Savior Christ; who is the TRUE bread of life which came down from heaven, of whom whoever eateth shall live forever, and reign with him in glory, world without end. So be it.
a Thanksgiving After Meals.
LET all nations magnify the Lord; let all people rejoice in praising and extolling his great mercies. For his fatherly kindness is plentifully showed forth upon us, and the truth of his promise endureth forever.
We render thanks unto thee, O Lord God, for the manifold benefits which we continually receive at thy bountiful hand, not only for that it hath pleased thee to feed us in this present life, giving unto us all things necessary for the same, but especially because thou haste of thy free mercies fashioned us anew into an assured hope of a far better life, the which thou hast declared unto us by thy holy Gospel. Therefore, we humbly beseech thee, O heavenly Father, that thou wilt not suffer our affections to be so entangled or rooted in these earthly and corruptible things, but that we may always have our minds directed to thee on high, continually watching for the coming of our Lord and Savior Christ, what time he shall appear for our full redemption: to whom, with thee, and the Holy Ghost, be all honor and glory, for ever and ever. So be it.
O Lord God, Father everlasting and full of pity, we acknowledge and confess that we be not worthy to lift up our eyes to heaven, much less to present ourselves before thy Majesty with confidence that thou wilt hear our prayers and grant our requests, if we consider our own deservings; for our consciences do accuse us, and our sins witness against us, and we know that thou art an upright judge, which dost not justify the sinners and wicked men, but punishes the faults of all such as transgress thy commandments. Yet most merciful Father, since it hath pleased thee to command us to call on thee in all our troubles and adversities, promising even then to help us, when we feel ourselves, as it were, swallowed up of death and desperation, we utterly renounce all worldly confidence, and flee to thy sovereign bounty as our only stay and refuge; beseeching thee not to call to remembrance our manifold sins and wickedness, whereby we continually provoke thy wrath and indignation against us; neither our negligence and unkindness, which have neither worthily esteemed, nor in our lives sufficiently expressed the sweet comfort of thy Gospel revealed unto us; but rather to accept the obedience and death of thy Son Jesus Christ, who by offering up his body in sacrifice once for all, hath made a sufficient recompense for all our sins. Have mercy therefore upon us, O Lord, and forgive us our offenses. Teach us by thy Holy Spirit that we may rightly way them, and earnestly repent for the same. And so much the rather, O Lord, because that the reprobate, and such as thou hast forsaken, cannot praise thee, nor call upon thy name, but the repenting heart, the sorrowful mind, the conscience oppressed, hungering and thirsting for thy grace, shall ever set forth thy praise and glory. And albeit we be but worms and dust, yet thou art our Creator, and we be the work of thy hands; yea, thou art our Father and we thy children; thou art our Shepherd and we thy flock; thou art our Redeemer and we the people whom thou haste bought; thou art our God and we thine inheritance: Correct us not therefore in thine anger, O Lord; neither according to our desserts punish us, but mercifully chastise us with a fatherly affection, that all the world may know that at what time so ever a sinner doth repent him of his sin from the bottom of his heart, thou wilt put away his wickedness out of thy remembrance, as thou haste promised by thy holy Prophet.
Finally, forasmuch as it hath pleased thee to make the night for man to rest in, as thou haste ordained him the day to travel, grant, O dear Father, that we may so take our bodily rest, that our souls may continually watch for the time that our Lord Jesus Christ shall appear for our deliverance out of this mortal life; and in the mean season, that we, not overcome by any temptations, fantasies, dreams, or illusions, may fully set our minds upon thee, love thee, fear thee, and rest in thee. Furthermore, that our sleep be not excessive or overmuch, after the insatiable desires of our flesh, but only sufficient to content our weak nature, that we may be better disposed to live in all godly conversation, to the glory of thy holy name and profit of our brethren. So be it.
A PRAYER MADE AT THE FIRST ASSEMBLY OF THE CONGREGATION, WHEN THE CONFESSION OF OUR FAITH, AND WHOLE ORDERS OF THE CHURCH, WAS THERE READ AND APPROVED.
O Lord God Almighty, and Father most merciful, there is none like thee in heaven nor in earth, which works all things for the glory of thy name and the comfort of thine elect. Thou did once make man ruler over all thy creatures, and placed him in the garden of all pleasures; but how soon, alas, did he in his felicity forget thy goodness? Thy people Israel, also, in their wealth did evermore run astray, abusing thy manifold mercies; like as all flesh continually rageth when it hath gotten liberty and external prosperity. But such is thy wisdom adjoined to thy mercies, dear Father, that thou seekest all means possible to bring thy children to the sure sense and lively feeling of thy fatherly favor. And therefore when prosperity will not serve, then sendest thou adversity, graciously correcting all thy children whom thou receives into thy household. Wherefore we, wretched and miserable sinners, render unto thee most humble and hearty thanks, that it hath pleased thee to call us home to thy fold by thy Fatherly correction at this present, whereas in our prosperity and liberty we did neglect thy graces offered unto us. For the which negligence, and many other grievous sins whereof we now accuse ourselves before thee, thou mightest most justly have given us up to reprobate minds and induration of our hearts, as thou haste done others. But such is thy goodness, O Lord, that thou seems to forget all our offenses, and haste called us of thy good pleasure from all idolatries into this City [i.e., Geneva] most Christianly reformed, to profess thy name, and to suffer some cross amongst thy people for thy truth and Gospel’s sake; and so to be thy witness with thy Prophets and Apostles, yea, with thy dearly beloved Son Jesus Christ our head, to whom thou dost begin here to fashion us like, that in his glory we may also be like him when he shall appear. O Lord God, what are we upon whom thou shouldst show this great mercy? O most loving Lord, forgive us our unthankfulness, and all our sins for Jesus Christ’s sake. O heavenly Father, increase thy Holy Spirit in us; to teach our hearts to cry Abba, dear Father! to assure us of our eternal election in Christ; to reveal thy will more and more towards us; to confirm us so in thy truth, that we may live and die therein; and that by the power of the same Spirit, we may boldly give an account of our faith to all men with humbleness and meekness, that where as they backbite and slander us as evil doers, they may be ashamed and once stop their mouths, seeing our good conversation in Christ Jesus, for whose sake we beseech thee, O Lord God, to guide, govern, and prosper this our enterprise in assembling our Brethren to praise thy holy name. And not only to be here present with us thy children according to thy promise, but also mercifully to assist thy like persecuted people, our Brethren, gathered in all other places, that they and we, consenting together in one spirit and truth, may (all worldly respects set apart) seek thy only honor and glory in all our and their Assemblies. So be it.