A Prayer Upon a Solemn Occasion
by Robert Bolton
—• A Prayer Upon a Solemn Occasion.
Oh eternal God, most holy and most glorious, who dwells in the highest heavens, and with righteousness and truth sways the scepter of the whole world, … You are unto the wicked and rebellious wretches a terrible Judge and a consuming fire, but to the humble and repentant sinners a strong tower of defense, and their exceeding great reward. We [are] the most miserable and wretched of all Your creatures, though the most noble by creation, for they in their kinds and several conditions do You honor and service, but we whom You have placed in this world for a more singular and extraordinary glorifying of You have not only made ourselves more vile then the basest creatures, and more senseless in Your service then the beasts that perish; but have even combined with Satan, with hell and with all the powers of darkness, to blaspheme and dishonor Your great Name, to profane Your Sabbaths, to break all Your holy laws and commandments. Oh Lord, we thus sinful and unworthy, are here ashamed and confounded in Your presence; for our iniquities are increased over our heads, and our trespasses are grown up unto the heavens, so that if now in Your just judgment, You should come against us, as we have many times, and do daily most justly provoke You, it had been far better for us we had never been born.
Satan would challenge us for his; we should never see Your face again, nor the heavens, nor the earth, nor all the goodness which You have prepared for man. From the foul pollution of original sin, which has universally infected and possessed all the powers and parts both of our souls and bodies as from a filthy puddle, have issued all kinds of impurities, many works of darkness and fearful transgressions, both in our thoughts, words and actions. Much profaneness and hardness of heart [abounds], pride and hypocrisy, contempt of the power of godliness and godly men, a senseless neglect of Your Word and judgments, of the way to heaven and the salvation of our own souls. Even the best of us before our calling wearied ourselves in the vain pleasures and sinful fashions of this wretched world, being detained by the policies of hell, either in notorious sinfulness, or only formal hypocrisy.
We walked with boldness in the way of darkness and of death, after the devices and desires of our own wicked hearts, in much bitterness and malice against Your children and their sincerity. No, and since it has pleased You to enlighten our understandings with saving knowledge, and to pull us by the power of Your good Spirit out of the slavery of sin and Satan into the glorious liberty of Your children, our best actions and Your good graces in us, have been foully stained by privy pride and secret hypocrisy; we many times stay Your blessings from us by our dullness and untowardness at religious exercises, and by reason we do not faithfully those good things which we know, we have the knowledge of many evil things kept from us which we unadvisedly commit.
And whereas heretofore in our new birth, the sins of our unregeneration have woefully vexed and disquieted our consciences; yet such is the wretchedness of our corrupted nature, that we have sometimes looked back upon them even with delight, if we have escaped relapse and backsliding, we do not with that thankfulness and cheerfulness, as we ought, embrace in this happy time of grace and peace, those good means which You have ordained for our comfort and salvation; so that indeed we walk not worthy of that blessed vocation whereunto we are called, but by our many slips, imperfections and carelessness, we bring much discomfort upon our souls, disgrace to our Christian profession, dishonor to Your Majesty, and offense to our brethren.
Oh Lord, we beseech You for Your holy Name's sake, and for Your rich mercies in Christ Jesus to pardon us all these our offenses, and to forgive us all our sins known and unknown, howsoever, or whensoever committed, since or before our calling, and to bury them in the death and passion of our blessed Savior, and to hide them in His righteousness for evermore. There is no comfort to be expected to our conscience wounded with the terror of sin, either in heaven or in earth, in angel, saint, or mortal man, but only in the spotless justice of Your dear Son. Persuade therefore, we beseech You, upon a good ground, with plentiful assurance every one of our souls, that His precious blood was shed for our sins in particular, that we may sensibly feel the forgiveness of our sins and rejoice in the hope of eternal life.
And for the time to come we humbly entreat You to mortify in us all sinful affections, unruly lusts, and unlawful desires, to subdue in us the power of sin, and every corruption whereby Satan keeps us any way in his slavery, or at any time gets the dominion over us. Save us, we beseech You from idleness, worldliness, profaneness, security and all occasions whereby Your good Spirit is grieved in us, our graces weakened, and Your great Name dishonored. Vouchsafe us the spirit of judgment, that we may discern between the short span of this wretched life, and the length and breadth of immortality, that we never prefer the pleasures of sin for a moment, and a little glory and preferment in this world, before the testimony of a good conscience, and that excellent weight of glory laid up in heaven for all Your children.
Make us faithful and conscionable in our callings, zealous and sincere in all religious duties and services, and wisely resolute to stand for Your honor and truth against all opposition either by devils or wicked men. And so direct, we beseech You, and sanctify all our courses, that for a few and evil days in this vale of tears, we may so store ourselves with spiritual comfort, with a sound heart, with a strong faith and a good conscience, that we may stand firm and sure at the day of our visitation, and when upon our deathbeds we shall be set upon, by the weakness of our own flesh, the terrors of death, the fearfulness of the grave, and the fieriest darts of Satan, we may comfortably pass through them all, in the Name and power of Your Son, and be received with joyfulness and triumph into those sacred mansions, which He has already made ready in heaven for all those who truly love and fear You.
In His blessed name we pour out our souls in thankfulness, for all those many blessings and comforts which You have vouchsafed us, both upon our souls and bodies, both for this life and a better; for our health, wealth and liberty, our peace, plenty and prosperity, our food, apparel and preservation from our infancy to this very hour, and for all the good means of all these; for the free passage of Your glorious gospel now so many years amongst us. But amongst all other temporal blessings of our times, let us never forget, nor we, nor all our posterity forever, how it pleased You in our days miraculously to magnify the glory of Your mercy in our wonderful deliverance from the most secret, bloody, and fiery plot of the gun-powder treason, that great astonishment of men and angels.
All these outward comforts both public and particular are excellent and precious; yet they are such as we have common with the reprobates and those who shall never see Your face with comfort, but after a short time spent in the miserable pleasures of this vain world, shall be turned to hell and everlasting fire. We therefore more especially magnify Your great name for the more special pledges and tokens of Your infinite love, for that it has pleased You to confirm and seal unto us by our effectual calling, and the earnest of Your good Spirit, our election to eternal life from all eternity, our particular redemption from the powers of hell by the death of Your Son, and an undoubted assurance of the joys of heaven in the world to come. Increase in us good Lord, we beseech You, daily more and more this blessed assurance, which we infinitely esteem more dear then ten thousand worlds, by making us to grow in repentance and faith, and spiritual wisdom, and framing us to the obedience of Your Son in all knowledge, love and obedience.
Furthermore gracious Father, we humbly entreat You, with the bowels of Your tenderest compassions to be merciful unto Your whole church and every member thereof. Fence it mightily, we pray to You, with the Spirit of truth, knowledge, and zeal and constancy, that in these worst and last days it may make a strong resistance against the great main floods of popery, schism, profaneness and atheism.
Be gracious unto this sinful kingdom, and enter not into judgment with the horrible and crying sins, and the many fearful provocations thereof.
In the same look down with the special eye of providence and protection upon our dread sovereign James, by Your grace king of Great Britain, France and Ireland, defender of the truly catholic faith, and in all causes, and over all persons, next and immediately under Your Son Christ Jesus in all his dominions supreme governor. Oh Lord, as You have enlarged his royal heart even as the sand which is on the seashore for understanding, learning and wisdom, so we beseech You to continue unto him a proportionate measure of holiness, zeal and sanctification for the execution of that great place wherein You have set him, and the enlargement of Your Kingdom here on earth. Settle his crown fast upon his head, that he may long and religiously reign over us in despite of all his enemies both at home and abroad. Vouchsafe all the graces of Your good Spirit unto his gracious queen. Plant the true fear of Your great Name in the princely heart of his son, and let Your watchful providence and Your loving mercies forever rest upon all that royal family. Inspire his honorable privy counsel, his nobility, gentry, and magistracy with spiritual wisdom and heavenly understanding. Lead them all into Your sanctuary, and teach them out of Your holy Word, first and chiefly those things which concern Your honor and glory, the good of the people which depend upon them, and lastly the comfort of their own souls at the dreadful day of judgment, when they shall give an account of their stewardships.
Enrich, we pray to You, with Your best graces all the reverend bishops and ministers of this land. Endue them plentifully with knowledge, zeal, sincerity and discretion, that by their faithfulness and conscionable discharge of their duties, the many multitudes in this land that lie in darkness, ignorance, profaneness, popery and schism may be brought to the knowledge of Your truth, into a holy obedience to Your heavenly gospel to their own everlasting salvation.
Bless and be merciful to both our universities, Oxford and Cambridge. Comfort all Your distressed children wheresoever, or howsoever afflicted, whither with pestilence, war, famine, banishment, sickness, poverty, imprisonment, disquietness of mind, vexation of conscience, want of spiritual comfort, or whatsoever other cross or calamity it pleases You to exercise them with. Give them in the meantime a sure faith in Your promises, and inward comfort in Your blessed Spirit, and in Your good time a happy deliverance, whether by life or death, as it shall be best for Your glory and the good of their own souls.
Lastly, gracious Father for this sacred business we have now in hand, we humbly beseech You to bless and sanctify unto us at this time the preaching and hearing of Your holy Word, it is the ordinance of Your own infinite wisdom, it is the glorious instrument which You have appointed for the conversion and salvation of the souls of men. But unto us miserable wretches it has been many times through the barrenness of our hearts, the secret and deceitful corruptions of our nature, much sleepiness and drowsiness, but as water spilled on the ground, and even the breath of Your ministers scattered in the air. Forgive us, dear Father, all our former untowardness, irreverence and unprofitableness in these holy exercises; and now at length before we go down into our graves, into black and cruel habitations, from where we must never return to praise You upon earth; let us feel Your divine finger working in us effectually at the preaching of Your Word. Let us have the sense of Your omnipotency in conquering our corruptions and temptations, that we being thoroughly sanctified both in our souls and bodies, forsaking all our known sins, and laboring with sincerity to please You in all things, may have our fruit in holiness, and the end everlasting life. Hear us, etc.