LITANY signifies an humble, an earnest Supplication. These Forms of prayers call'd Litanies, (wherein the people are more exercised than in any other part of the Service, by continual joyning in every passage of it,) are thought by some to have been brought into the Church about four hundred years after Christ, in times of great calamity, for the appeasing of Gods wrath. True it is, that they are very seasonable prayers in such times, and therefore were by Gregory and others used in their Processions, for the averting of Gods wrath in publick calamities, but it is as true, that they were long before that time, even in the first Services that we find in the Church, used at the Communion-Service, and other Offices, as Ordination of Priests, and the like: witness Clem. Const. l. 8. c. 5, 6, 10. where we find the Deacon ministring to the people, and directing them from point to point what to pray for, as it is in our Litany, and the people are appointed to answer to every Petition, Domine miserere, Lord have mercy. And in all Liturgies extant, (as Mr. Thorndyke hath well observed in his Book of Religious Assemblies,) the same Allocutions or προσφωνήσεις, which are indeed Litanies, may be seen. And S. Aug. Ep. 119. c.18: tells us of the Common-prayers, which were indited or denounced by the voice of the Deacon. All which make it probable, that the practice of Litanies is derived from the Apostles, and the custom of their time. And S. Chrys. in Rom. c. 8. seems to assert the same: For upon that verse, We know not what we should pray for as ne ought, but the Spirit helps our infirmities, he saies thus; In those daies amongst other miraculous gifts of the Spirit, this was one, Donum precum, the gift of making prayers for the Church, to help the ignorance of the people that knew not what to pray for as they ought; he that had this gift, stood up, and prayed for the whole Congregation, and taught them what to pray for: whose Office now the Deacon performs: viz. by directing them from point to point, what to pray for. To every of which Petitions, sayes Clem. above cited, the people were to answer, Domine Miserere. This continual joyning of the people in every passage of it, tends much both to the improving and evidencing that fervour and intention, which is most necessary in prayers. Hence was it that these Forms of prayers, (where the peoples devotion is so often excited, quickned, and exercised by continual Suffrages, such as Good Lord deliver us, We beseech thee to hear us good Lord,) were called ἐκτενεῖς δεήσεις, earnest or intense Petitions. In which, if they were relished aright, the earnest and vehement devotion of Primitive times, still breaths; and in these prayers, if ever we pray with the Spirit.
Concerning the Litany of our Church, we may boldly say, and easily maintain it, that there is not extant any where; 1. A more particular excellent enumeration of all the Christians either private or common wants; Nor 2. A more innocent, blameless form, against which there lies no just exception; Nor 3. A more Artificial Composure for the raising of our devotion, and keeping it up throughout, than this part of our Liturgy.
The Litany is not one long continued prayer, but broken into many short and pithy Ejaculations: that the intention and devotion which is most necessary in prayer, may not be dull'd and vanish, as in a long prayer it is apt to do; but be quickned and intended, by so many new and quick petitions; and the nearer to the end, the shorter and livelier it is, strengthening our devotions by raising in us an apprehension of our misery and distress, ready, as it were to sink and perish; and therefore crying out as the Disciples did, Master, save us, we perish: O Lamb of God hear us, O Christ hear us, Lord have mercy upon us. Such as these are the active, lively spirited prayers, ἐνεργούμεναι, which S. James mentions and tells us, avail much. S. Iames 5. 16.
In the former part of the Litany, the Priest hath not a part so proper but that it may be said by a Deacon, or other, and it useth to be sung by such in Cathedral and Collegiate Churches and Chappels, and both it and all other our alternate Supplications, which are as it were the Lesser Litanies, do much resemble the ancient Prayers indicted by the Deacons, as we have said; but in the latter part of the Litany, from the Lords prayer, to the end, the Priest hath a part more peculiar, by reason of the eminency of that prayer, and other Collects follow, wherein the Priest doth recommend again the petitions of the people to God (as in that prayer, We humbly beseech thee O Lord mercifully to look upon our infirmities, &c.) and Solemnly offers them up to God in the behalf of the people, to which the people answer, Amen: and therefore these Collects after the Litany, though the matter of them hath been prayed for before particularly in the Supplications foregoing, may be said, without the charge of needless tautology, for here the Priest does by vertue of his sacred Office, solemnly offer up and present to God these petitions of the people, as it was usually done in ancient Liturgies; Praying God to accept the peoples Prayers as he doth more than once in S. Chrys. Liturgy, particularly in that Prayer which we have out of it in our Litany. For when the Deacon hath (as we have observed) ministred to the People several Petitions, to which they answer, Lord have mercy, Litany-wise, then the Priest Collect-wise makes a Prayer to God to accept the peoples petitions, the Deacon in the mean time proceeding to dictate to the people more Supplications, which the Priest in another Collect offers up to God Solemnly, but secretly, so that though in some of those Collects the Priest at the Latter end, spake out so that the people might hear and answer, Amen, or Glory be to the Father, or the like, (which they might well do, for though the Prayer were said by the Priest secretly, yet it was prescribed, and such as the people knew before hand) yet some of them were said throughout secretly by the Priest, to which the people were not required to make any Answer.
The reason of these Secreta, secret prayers said by the Priest, may be partly for variety to refresh the people, but chiefly, as I conceive, that by this course the people might be taught to understand and reverence the office of the Priest, which is to make an atonement for the people, and to present their prayers to God, by that very offering of them up, making them more acceptable to God. All which depends not upon the peoples consent or confirmation of his office, but upon Gods alone appointment and institution; who hath set him apart to these offices of offering gifts and Sacrifices for the people, Heb. 5. 1. And therefore as it was appointed by God, that when Aaron by his Priestly office was to offer for the people and make an atonement for them, none of the people were to be present, Lev. 16. 17. So the Church ordered that at some times, when the Priest was making an atonement for the people, and offering up for them and the acceptation of their prayers, the Merits and Passion of Christ, none should seem actually to assist, but the Priest should say it μυστικῶς, secretly and mystically. Yet lest the people should be unsatisfied, and suspicious that the Priest had neglected this his office, which they could not be assured that he had performed, because it was done secretly; therefore the Church appointed that the Priest should at the end of the Service come down from the Altar, and standing behind the Pulpit in the midst of the people say a loud prayer, (call'd εὐχὴ ὁπισθάμβωνος Goar. p. 154.) which was a sum or Compendium of all that the people had before petition'd for, which he then solemnly offered up to God.
The Litany is appointed in the Rubricks to be read Wednesdays and Fridays, the dayes kept in the Greek Church for more solemn Fasts, because the Bridegroom was then taken from us, being sold by Iudas on Wednesday, and murdered on Friday, Epiphan. adv. Aerium. And though our Church in imitation of the Western hath chang'd the Wednesday-Fast to Saturday, yet in memory of the Eastern custom, she still appoints the Litany to be used upon Wednesday.
Friday was both in Greek Church and Latin a Litany or Humiliation-day, and so is kept in ours. And whosoever loves to feast on that day rather than another, in that holds not communion with the ancient Catholick Church, but with the Turks, who in contumely of Christ crucified, Feast that day. Chemnit, in 3. praec.
E. The Litany.] Our sacred addresses and applications to God are quadripartite, fourfold, all comprehended in one verse of the Apostle, 1 Tim. ii. 1, where first there is δέησις, “ supplication,” deprecation, a praying to be delivered from dangers ghostly and bodily, such as is the litany. Secondly, προσευχὴ, petition, apprecation, an invocation of ‘divine blessings and benefits upon ourselves. Thirdly, ἔντευξις, “ intercession,” an importuning the throne of grace in the behalf of others. Lastly, εὐχαριστία, thanksgiving for blessings received either by ourselves or others. Did not this sufficiently warrant sacred litanies, we might derive authority from the last petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “ Deliver us from evil.” To which pattern of our Saviour, and precept of His Apostle, the primitive Church began early to conform. The τὸ νῦν and first moment of their admission into the classis of divine offices is difficult to define; that these litanies made a distinct part of the liturgy in St. Augustine’s time is evident, for enumerating the several parcels thereof, he expostulateth, Quando non est tempus cantandi in Ecclesia, nisi cum legitur, aut disputatur, aut antistites clara voce deprecantur, aut communis oratio voce diaconi indicitur? ‘ What space is free from singing of psalms in the Church, unless it be when the lessons are reading, or the sermon preaching, or the priests are rehearsing the litany aloud, or common prayer is enjoined by the mouth of the deacon?” To ascend up unto St. Cyprian’ he testifieth as much of his time. Pro arcendis hostibus et imbribus impetrandis, et vel auferendis, vel temperandis adversis, rogamus semper et preces fundimus: “for deliverance from our enemies, for rain in time of droughts, for the removing or moderating of our afilictions we constantly pray.” Senior to St. Cyprian, Tertullian: Quando non geniculationibus nostris, et jejunationibus nostris siccitates sunt depulse? “Tell me the time when by our kneelings and fastings droughts are not changed into moisture?”
In the Greek Church they moved somewhat slower, not entering until about the year 300. In the days of Gregory Thaumaturgus, who flourished about the year 260, St. Basil tells the Neocesarians there were not any such things as litanies known, and his telling them so, implieth that in his own time they had made their entry. By what hath already been said, Mr. Cartwright’s mistake seems gross enough in founding the first rise of litanies upon Mamercus, bishop of Vienna. He, if he did any thing in their establishment, probably went no further than the reviewing of antecedent litanies, and disposing them into a form agreeable to Vienna’s sad condition, and the assigning three days before Ascension for that service. As did also the council of Aurelia after him, can. xxii.
Next Mamercus comes in Gregory the Great, the supposed author of the great litany, (that of Mamercus being styled the less,) and most probably so he was ; but the sneezing sickness being decried by all learned men as fabulous, and so it was no motive or inducement to the work, some other cause must be assigned, which perhaps might be some rage of contagious pestilence, or else it may be conjectured to have been compiled upon the general score of reformation. For Gregory, observing in the several offices of divers Latin Churches many things which give cause of dislike, some being vain, some unapt, some scarce making out sense, he presently applied himself to consider of, and compare them all together, and so to compile a liturgy of the most choice pieces extracted from them, which he performing left as a legacy to his successors, which was at first owned as the proper service of the Romish Church. Part of this liturgy was the great litany, which contained the very quintessence of all former models, with additions of his own, some for the better, and some for the worse, and these rather the blemishes of his times, than of himself. That age wherein he lived was none of the learnedest, but declined much towards ignorance, which is worthily styled the mother of blind devotion, or superstition. This ignorance soon brought in the mvocation of saints, an error which began to be whispered in the writings of others some few years preceding, but never durst shew itself γυμνῇ τῇ κεφαλῇ, “ bare-faced,” in the service of the Church, until this Gregory led it in; who over facile to credit misreported miracles (as his Dialogues demonstrate) was made susceptible of any error which presented itself under the shape of devotion, and consequently of invocation of saints. He there imbibing this fallacious opinion, acted agreeable to its principles, and after the address to the sacred Trinity inserted in the litany an application, first to the Virgin Mary, next to the Archangels and Angels, then to the Apostles, martyrs, confessors, and virgins, bestowing upon every one an ora pro nobis, nominally applied.
As for the litany used in our Church, a very near resemblance it hath with that devised by St. Gregory, if he were the author of the “ Sacramentary,” as I am prone to believe he was. The first part of it, whose responsory terminations are “ Have mercy upon us,” seems to be an exemplification of the most ancient forms, for in those liturgies extant under the names of misreputed authors, which nevertheless retain some relics of remote antiquity, Κύριε ἐλέησον is the great ingredient into the litanies : between these and the deprecatory part, immediately before “ Remember not Lord our iniquities,’ &c. grew that excrescence of misguided zeal, and the forementioned address to the saints, which our Church worthily expunged. Those answers of “ Good Lord deliver us,” vary little from the ancient mode. Those of “ We beseech Thee to hear us, good Lord,” pretend a near conformity to that model mentioned in the Clementine Constitution, and which answereth in substance to our prayer for the whole state of Christ’s Church: for that συναπτὴ καθολικὴ, or “ Catholic Collect,” as it is styled in the old liturgies, which was a prayer for the Catholic Church, was essentially the same with ours in the Communion Office, and differed in fashion only, being rehearsed litany-wise. Part of that prayer, so far as may conduce to make good my title, or may declare the alliance of that service with our litany, I shall here subjoin, and the rather, because to my apprehension those ancient Constitutions have not many parcels of farther extraction.
Ὑπὲρ τῆς ἐκκλησίας ταυτῆς καὶ τοῦ λαοῦ δεηδώμει. Let us pray for this Church and for the people. Ὑπὲρ πάσης ἐπισκοπῆς; παντὸς πρεσβυτερίου, metsτῆς ἐν Χριστῷ διακονίας, καὶ ὑπηρεσίας παντὸς τοῦ πληρώματος τῆς ἐκκλησίας δεηθῶμεν ὅπως 6 Κύριος πάντας διατηρήσῃ καὶ διαφυλάξῃ. Let us pray for the whole Constitut. order of bishops, for all presbyters, for all deacons and ministers of Christ, and for the whole family of the Church, that God would preserve and keep them. Ὑπὲρ βασιλέων καὶ τῶν ἐν ὑπεροχῇ δεηθῶμεν, ἵνα εἰρηνεύωνται τὰ πρὸς ἡμᾶς ὅπως ἥρεμον καὶ ἡσύχιον βίον ἔχοντες, διάγωμεν ἐν πάσῃ εὐσεβείᾳ καὶ σεμνότητι. Let us pray for kings, and all in high places, that under them being peaceably and quietly governed, we may spend our days in all godliness and honesty. Ὑπὲρ τῶν ἐν ἀῤῥωστίᾳ ἐξεταζομένων ἀδελφῶν ἡμῶν δεηθώμεν. ὅπως ὁ Κύριος ῥύσηται αὐτοὺς πάσης νόσου καὶ πάσης μαλακίας, καὶ σώους ἀποκαταστήσῃ τῇ ἁγίᾳ αὐτοῦ ἐκκλησίᾳ. Let us pray for our brethren afflicted with sickness, that the Lord would please to free them from their diseases, and restore them in perfect health to His Church. Ὑπὲρ πλεόντων καὶ ὁδούπορούντων δεηθώμεν. Let us pray for those that sail by water or travel by land. Ὑπὲρ τῶν ἐν μετάλλοις, καὶ ἐξορίαις, καὶ φυλακαῖς καὶ δεσμοῖς ὄντων διὰ τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ Κυρίου δεηθῶμεν. Let us pray for those that are condemned to mines, to banishment, to imprisonment and bonds for the name of the Lord. Ὑπὲρ τῶν ἐν πικρᾷ δουλείᾳ καταπονουμένων δεηθῶμεν. Let us pray for those that are oppressed. Ὑπὲρ τῶν διωκόντων ἡμᾶς διὰ τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ Κυρίου δεηθῶμεν ὅπως ὁ Κύριος πραὔνας τὴν καθ᾽ ἡμῶν ὀργὴν. Let us pray for those that persecute us for the Lord’s sake, that He would abate their rage, and confound all their devices against us. Ὑπὲρ τῶν ἕξω ὄντων καὶ πεπλανημένων δεηθῶμεν, ὅπως ὁ Κύριος αὐτοὺς ἐπιστρέψηη. Let us pray for all those that err and are deceived, that God would bring them into the way of truth. Ὑπὲρ χηρῶν καὶ ὀρφανῶν δεηθώμεν. Let us pray for all widows and orphans. Ὑπὲρ τῆς εὐκρασίας τῶν ἀέρων, καὶ τελεσφορίας τῶν καρπῶν δεηθῶμεν. Let us pray for seasonable and temperate weather, that we may receive the fruits of the earth.
The gesture proper to this service must be kneeling. This is manifest by the rubric belonging to Commination, where the litany is appointed to be read “ after the accustomed manner,” implying thereby both the place and posture formerly used. Now the accustomed place was the midst of the church, and the accustomed posture was kneeling, for so was it appointed in the queen’s injunctions‘, and in those of Edward VI., “ The priests shall kneel in the midst of the church, and sing or say plainly and distinctly the litany.” Indeed, what fitter posture can there be than kneeling? Excellently saith St. Chrysostom’, ἱκέτου σχῆμα καὶ γνώμην καὶ φρόνημα τὸν εὐχόμενον ἔχειν δεῖ, “it is fit that he who applies himself to prayer should put on the outward garb and deportment, as well as the inward mind of a supplicant.” What scheme suits a supplicant better than lowly kneeling, and can we kneel too low at such supplications as these? The motions of the body ought to keep pace with the affections of the soul; when this is most transported with zeal, the members of the body must move at the same rate; the higher the spirit soars in prayer, the lower falls the body. When our Saviour prayed in the garden, His first posture was, Gels τὰ γόνατα, “fallimg upon His knees,” Luke xxii. 41; but γενόμενος ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ, “ being brought to His agony,” and to pray ἐκτενεστέρως, “ more ardently,” ἔπεσεν ἐπὶ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ, “ He cast Himself prostrate upon His face,” Matt. xxvi. 39. Now if the litany be, as certainly it is, our most fervent resort to God, fit it is it should be made in the most significant, that is, in the lowest posture of supplication.
As for the exceptions made against this litany, they are so few, and so contemptible, as I disdain to honour them with a reply, and shall end in this true character of it; that in all concernments, so excellently is it contrived in accommodation to our general wants, so full of Christian rhetoric and pious raptures, as it justly deserves to be accounted a noble parcel of our liturgy. Nor can all the cavils of malevolent spirits balance the honour it hath acquired abroad. For Gilbertus Cognatus (a German, and amanuensis to the famous Erasmus) very near a hundred years since, under this title, Litania veteris Ecclesia, “The Litany of the ancient Church,” presents us with a form precisely the same with ours, as then established by act of parliament.
F. On Wednesdays and Fridays.] These were, in the primitive times, days of solemn assemblies, in imitation of the Jewish practice, “I fast twice a week,” said the Pharisee, Luke xviii. 1], and the Christians did disdain to be short of them in what might promote the honour of God. The reason given why these two days were chosen, is, because on the one (Wednesday) Judas conspired to betray his Master, and our Saviour Christ: and on the other (Friday) He suffered death upon the cross. And this is that which Clemens Alexandrinus intendeth in these words, οἶδεν αὐτὸς καὶ τῆς νηστείας τὰ αἰνίγματα τῶν ἡμέρων τούτων, τῆς τετράδος, καὶ τῆς παρασκευῆς, 1. 6. “He knows the mystical sense of those days, the fourth and the parasceve :” and he is the first Greek author wherein it occurreth, unless we will resort to those Constitutions of the Apostles recorded by Epiphanius, whence he borroweth so much, and to which in all probability he referreth, where he saith συνάξεις ἐπιτελούμεναι ταχθεῖσαι εἰσὶν ἀπὰ τῶν ἀποστόλων τετράδι καὶ TpocaBBatw: “the Apostles ordained that there should be sacred conventions on the Wednesdays and Fridays.”
Nor was this observation peculiar to the Greek Church; for Tertullian* expressly mentions, stationes quarte et sexte ferie, ‘the stations of the fourth and sixth days of the week.” The very nomination of these days may be enough against all contenders, to decipher to us what this ancient meant by stations, viz. days of humiliation, and the context of the place will not hear of any other construction, where pleading hard for Montanus against the Catholic Church in the point of fasts, he appeals to herself, whether the Apostles did ever yoke her to any such observances, and whether the days she hath assigned for those intents were not of her arbitrary choice: so that it being indisputably evident that the father here intended days of humiliation, I cannot think it probable, though very learned men have so opined; that the word should be capable elsewhere in this author of a sense diametrically opposite, or that it should import days of the highest festivity and rejoicing. For where he saith,
similiter de stationum diebus non putant plerique sacrificiorum orationibus interveniendum, quod statio solvenda sit accepto corpore Domini. Ergo devotum Deo obsequium Eucharistia resolvit, an magis obligat ? nonne solemnior erit statio tua, si ad aram Dei steteris ὁ Accepto corpore Domini et reservato utrumque salvum est, et participatio beneficii, et ewxecutio officii: “so also of days of station; many think they must then forbear to come to the prayers of the sacrifices, because the station is to be dissolved by the receiving of the body of the Lord : what then, doth the Eucharist countermand the duty due to God ? doth it not rather oblige us to it? Shall not thy station he the more solemn if performed before God’s Altar? the body of our Lord being taken and reserved, both are secured, the participation of His blessed Son, and the discharge of the duty :”
here I say some understand by stations, those days, viz. all Sundays of the year, and all the interval between Easter and Pentecost, on which, according to primitive custom, it was not permitted to kneel at prayers, and these days were noted as of singular contrariety to humiliation. The custom is acknowledged, and so also is it that statio properly signifieth standing, but both these concessions will be improved no further, but only to render their interpretation a specious fallacy. For, to my reading, statio is never by any author of those early ages applied in reference to that custom: not in Tertullian I am certain, no, notwithstanding his ad aram Dei steteris. For (not to reinforce the absurdity of one word denoting in the same author two things so contradictory as fasting and feasting) Tertullian tells us statio is of military extraction, de militari exemplo nomen accipit ; “it borroweth its name from military example;” if so, then not derived from the pretended custom of standing. Now the military mode was this; so many soldiers were ordered to be upon the respective guards, there were they to continue completely armed, and on horseback ready to receive any impression of an assaulting enemy ; in that posture were they to abide anciently from morning to night, until Paulus Amilius’ observing it to be too great a burden both for horse and man, appointed these guards should at noon be relieved with fresh both men and horses. Now because, according to the martial discipline, none was permitted to depart the guard until the time prefixed, Christians, who on the days of humiliation tied themselves as strictly to religious duty, did aptly enough impose upon those days the name of stations. And this will conclude sufficiently for the figurative, against the proper sense of stations.
Further to illustrate Tertullian by Tertullian; elsewhere remonstrating the mischievous consequences of unequal yokes, where a Christian woman matcheth with an infidel, he delivereth himself thus: si statio facienda sit, maritus eo die conducat ad balnea: si jejunia observanda sunt, maritus eadem die convivium exerceat; “if a station be to be kept, the husband may the same day lead her to the baths. If a solemn fast must be observed, the husband may the same day make a feast ; where statio must necessarily denote a day of humiliation. For Tertullian’s design is to shew that the Church and the husband may be at cross purposes, and to command things contrary to each other. And the bath being, as the mode was then, applied to luxury, was as opposite to humiliation as a feast to a fast. But here it seems, say some, Tertullian did not consider both these under a real identity, but as different things, for else one instance would have served. To which I answer, true it is Tertullian doth somewhat distinguish them, the difference being this, that stations signified the less, and jeunia the more “ solemn fasts,” these continued from morning to night, and they only to the ninth hour, or three in the afternoon, whence it is that Tertullian calls them in a scoff stationum semi-jejunia, “ half-fasted stations.”
Having thus, I hope, made a clear prospect into Tertullian’s dark mind in reference to these stations, the construction of the former passage is very facile, viz. that whereas many were scrupulous of coming to the Eucharist upon Wednesdays and Fridays, lest the receiving of the elements should prove a breaking of their fasts, which were to be continued until three in the afternoon, Tertullian tells them they were in the wrong, and that the Eucharist is so far from dissolving the duty of fasting, as it makes the work more valuable in God’s sight. But if they would not credit him, then there is another expedient will salve both sores, viz. the taking of the body, and reservation of it to be eaten at home ante omnem cibum, “ fasting,’' as he in the same book doth hint, whereby neither the fast will be interrupted, nor the other duty neglected.
The signification of the word Litany. AFTER the order of the morning and evening prayer in our present Liturgy, as well as in all the old ones, stands the confession of our Christian faith, commonly called the Creed of Athanasius, which hath already been spoken to: and then followeth the Litany or general supplication to be sung or said after morning prayer, upon Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and at all other times whem it shall be commanded by the ordinary. The word Litany, as it is explained by our present Liturgy, signifies a general supplication; and so it is used by the most ancient heathens, viz. "for an earnest supplication to the gods made in time of adverse fortune; and in the same sense it is used in the Christian Church, viz. for a supplication and common intercession to God, when his wrath lies heavy upon us." Such a kind of supplication was the fifty-first psalm, which may be called David's litany. Such was that litany of God's appointing in Joel, where, in a general assembly, the priests were to weep between the porch and the altar, and to say, Spare thy people, O Lord: (in allusion to which place, our Litany, retaining also the same words, is enjoined, by the royal injunctions still in force, to be said or sung in the midst of the church, at a low desk before the chancel door, anciently called the falled stool.) An such was that litany of our Saviour, which he thrice repeated with strong crying and tears.
§.2. The antiquity of litanies in this form. As for the form in which they are now made, viz. in short requests by the priests, to which the people all answer, it appears to be very ancient; for St. Basil tells us, that litanies were read in the church of Neocaesarea, between Gregory Thaumaturgus's time and his own. And St. Ambrose hath left a form of litany, which bears his name, agreeing in many things with this of ours. For when miraculous gills began to cease, they wrote down several of those forms, which were the original of our modern office.
§.3. Litanies used in procession. About the year 400 they began to be used in procession, the people walking barefoot, and saying them with great devotion; by which means, it is said, several countries were delivered from great calamities. About the year 600, Gregory the Great, out of all the litanies extant, composed that famous sevenfold litany, by which Home was delivered from a grievous mortality; which hath been a pattern to all the Western Churches since; and to which ours comes nearer than that in the present Roman Missal, wherein later popes had put in the invocation of saints, which our reformers have justly expunged. But here we must observe, that litanies were of use before processions, and remained when they were taken away. For those processional litanies having occasioned much scandal, it was decreed "that the litanies should for the future only be used within the walls of the church;" and so they are used amongst us to this day.
§.4. Why said on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. In the Common Prayer Book of 1549, (i.e. in the first book of king Edward) the Litany was placed between the communion office, and the office for baptism, with this single title, The Letany and Suffrages, and without any rubric either before or after it. But at the end of the communion office the first rubric began thus: Upon Wednesdays and Fridays the English Litany shall be said or sung in all places, after such form as is appointed by the king's Majesty's Injunctions: or as it shall be otherwise appointed by his Highness. What this form was I shall mention presently from the Injunctions themselves: but first I must observe, that Wednesdays and Fridays are here only mentioned, which were the ancient fasting-days of the primitive Church: the death of Christ being designed on the Wednesday, when he was sold by Judas, and accomplished on the Friday, when he died on the cross. As to Sunday, I find no direction relating to it; though I conclude from two other rubrics, which dispense with the use of it on some particular Sundays, that it was generally used on all the rest. For among the notes of explication at the end of that book, the two last allow that upon Christmas-day, Easter-day the Ascension-day, Whit-Sunday, and the feast of Trinity, may be used any part of holy Scripture, hereafter to be certainly limited and appointed instead of the Litany, And that if there be a sermon, or for other great cause, the curate by his discretion may leave out the Litany, the Gloria in Excelsis, the Creed, the Homily, and the Exhortation to the Communion. But in the review of the Common Prayer in 1552, the Litany was placed where it stands at this time, with direction at the beginning, that it should be used on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; and at other times when it shall be commanded by the ordinary. And the order for Sunday has continued ever since; I suppose partly because there is then the greatest assembly to join in so important a supplication, and partly that no day might seem to have a more solemn office than the Lord's day.
§.5. What time of the day it is to be used. The particular time of the day when it is to be said seems now different from what it was formerly: in king Edward's and queen Elizabeth's time, it seems it was used as preparatory to the second service. For by their Injunctions it was ordered, that immediately before high mass, or the time of communion of the sacrament, the priests with others of the quire should kneel in the midst of the churchy and sing or say plainly and distinctly the Litany which is set forth in English, with all the suffrages following. And even long afterwards it was a custom in several churches to toll a bell whilst the Litany was reading, to give notice to the people that the communion service was coming on. And indeed till the last review in 1661 the Litany was designed to be a distinct service by itself, and to be used some time after the morning prayer was over; as may be gathered from the rubric before the commination in all the old Common Prayer Books, which orders, that after morning prayer, the people being called together by the ringing of a bell, and assembled in the church, the English Litany shall be said after the accustomed manner. This custom, as I am informed, is still observed in some cathedrals and chapels: though now, for the most part, it is made one office with the morning prayer; it being ordered by the rubric before the prayer for the king, to be read after the third collect for grace, instead of the intercession al prayers in the daily service. Which order seems to have been formed from the rubric before the litany in the Scotch Common Prayer Book, which I have transcribed in the margin. And accordingly we find that, as the aforementioned rubric before the commination office is now altered, both the morning prayer and Litany are there supposed to be read at one and the same time.
§.6. One out of every family to attend the Litany. By the fifteenth canon above mentioned, whenever the Litany is read, every householder dwelling within half a mile of the church, is to come or send one at the least of his household fit to join with the minister in prayers.
§.7. The minister to kneel. The posture, which the minister is to use in saying the Litany, is not prescribed in any present rubric, except that, as it is now a part of the morning service for the days above mentioned, it is included in the rubric at the end of the suffrages after the second Lord's prayer, which orders all to kneel in that place, after which there is no direction for standing. And the Injunctions of king Edward and queen Elizabeth both appoint, that the priests, with others of the choirs shall kneel in the midst of the church, and sing or say plainly and distinctly the Litany, which is set forth in English, with all the suffrages following, to the intent the people may hear and answer, &c. As to the posture of the people, nothing need to be said in relation to that, because whenever the priest kneels, they are always to do the same.
§.8. The irregularity of singing the Litany by laymen. The singing of this office by laymen, as practised in several cathedrals and colleges, is certainly very unjustifiable, and deservedly gives offence to all such as are zealous for regularity and decency in divine worship. And therefore (since it is plainly a practice against the express rules of our Church, crept in partly through the indevout laziness of minor canons and others, whose duty it is to perform that solemn office; and partly through the shameful negligence of those who can and ought to correct whatever they see amiss in such matters) it cannot surely be thought impertinent, if I take hold of this opportunity to express my concern at so irreligious a custom. And to shew that I am not singular in my complaint, I shall here transcribe the words of the learned Dr. Bennet, who hath some time since, upon a like occasion, very severely, but with a great deal of decency, inveighed against this practice; though I cannot learn that he has yet been so fortunate as to obtain much reformation.
"I think myself obliged (saith he) to take notice of a most scandalous practice, which prevails in many such congregations, as ought to be fit precedents for the whole kingdom to follow. It is this; that laymen, and very often young boys of eighteen or nineteen years of age, are not only permitted, but obliged to perform this office, which is one of the most solemn parts of divine service, even though many priests and deacons are at the same time present.
"Those persons upon whom it must be charged, and in whose power it is to rectify it, cannot but know that this practice is illegal, as well as abominable in itself, and a flat contradiction to all primitive order. And one would think, when the nation swarms with such as ridicule, oppose, and deny the distinction of clergy and laity; those who possess some of the largest and most honourable preferments in the Church, should be ashamed to betray her into the hands of her professed enemies, and to put arguments into their mouths, and declare by their actions that they think any layman whatsoever as truly authorized to minister in holy things as those who are regularly ordained. Besides, with what face can those persons blame the dissenting teachers for officiating without episcopal ordination, when they themselves do not only allow of but require the same thing?"
Here followeth the Litany, or General Supplication, to be sung or said after Morning Prayer, upon Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and at other times when it shall be commanded by the Ordinary.
In the beginning it directs our prayers to the right object, the Glorious TRINITY. For necessary it is, that we should know whom we worship.
As for the so frequent repetition of “ Lord have mercy upon us,” in all probability Christianity did not devise it new, but imitated elder patterns, I mean that mode of the hundred and thirty-sixth Psalm, where “for His mercy endureth for ever,” is iterated no less than seven and twenty times, and which versicle was used litany-wise (that is, returned by the people) in the service of the temple, as is evident 1 Chron. xvi. 41, and 2 Chron. ix. 13.
The invocation. WE have a divine command to call upon God for mercy in the time of trouble; and all the litanies I have seen begin with this solemn word, Κύριε ἐλέησον, Lord have mercy upon us. So that this invocation is the sum of the whole Litany, being a particular address for mercy, first to each person in the glorious Trinity, and then to them all together. The address being urged by two motives, viz. first, because we are miserable; and secondly, because we are sinners: upon both which accounts we extremely need mercy.
§.2. Why repeated by the whole congregation. The design of the people's repeating these whole verses afler the minister is, that every one may first crave to be heard in his own words: which when they have obtained, they may leave it to the priest to set forth all their needs to Almighty God, provided that they declare their assent to every petition as he delivers it.
The deprecations. HAVING opened the way by the preceding invocation, we now begin to ask: and because deliverance from evil is the first step to felicity, we begin with these deprecations for removing it. Both the Eastern and Western Church begin their litanies after the same manner, theirs as well as ours being a paraphrase upon that petition in the Lord's prayer, deliver us from evil.
§.2. The method of them. But because our requests ought to ascend by degrees; before we ask for a perfect deliverance, we beg the mercy of forbearance. For we confess we have sinned with our fathers, and that therefore God may justly punish us, not only for our own sins, but for theirs also, which we have made our own by imitation: for which reason we beg of him not to remember, or take vengeance of us for them, especially since he has himself so dearly purchased our pardon with his own most precious blood. But however if we cannot obtain to be wholly spared, but that he may see it good for us to be a little under chastisement; then we beg his correction may be short, and soon removed, and that he would not he angry with us for ever.
And the sum of all that we pray against being deliverance from the evils of sin and punishment, we begin the next petition with two general words which comprehend both: for evil and mischief signify wickedness and misery: and as the first is caused by the crafts and assaults of the Devil, so the second is brought upon us by the just wrath of God here, and completed by everlasting damnation hereafter: and therefore we desire to be delivered both from sin and the punishment of it; as well from the causes that lead to it, as the consequences that follow it.
After we have thus prayed against sin and misery in general, we descend regularly to the particulars, reckoning divers kinds of the most notorious sins, some of which have their seat in the heart or mind, and others in the body. And first we begin against those of the heart, where all sins begin, and there recount first the sins concerning ourselves: and, secondly, those concerning our neighbours. Of the former sort are blindness of heart, (which we place in the front as the cause of all the rest,) and pride, vainglory, and hypocrisy, which are united together in this deprecation, as vices which generally accompany one another. Of the other sort are envy, hatred, and malice, and all uncharitableness; in which words are comprehended all those sins which we do, or can, commit against our neighbour in our hearts.
Deadly sin, what it signifies. From the heart sin spreads further into the life and actions, and thither our Litany now pursues it, beginning with that which St. Paul reckons first among the works of the flesh, but which is notwithstanding the boldest and most barefaced sin in this lewd age, viz. fornication, which is not be restrained to the defiling of single persons, but comprehends under it all acts of uncleanness whatsoever. But though this be a deadly sin, yet it is not the only one, and therefore we pray to be delivered from all other deadly sins; by which we understand not such as are deadly by way of distinction, or as they stand in opposition to venial sins, (for there are no sins venial in their own nature) but such as are those which David calls presumptuous, and begs particular preservation from, or those which are most heinous and crying above others. For though every sin deserves damnation in its own nature, yet we know that the infinite goodness of God will not inflict it for every sin. But then there are some sins so exceeding great, that they are inconsistent even with the gospel-clemency, and immediately render a man obnoxious to the wrath of God, and in danger of eternal damnation. And these are they which we pray against, together with all other sins, which we are apt to fall into through the deceits of our three great enemies, which we, renounced in baptism, the world, the flesh, and the Devil.
Why we pray against sudden death. When the cause is removed, there are hopes the consequences may be prevented: and therefore, after we have petitioned against all sin, we may regularly pray against all those judgments with which God generally scourges those who offend him; whether they are such as fall upon whole nations and kingdoms, and either come immediately from the hand of God, as lightning and tempest, plague, pestilence, and famine: or else are inflicted by the hands of wicked men, as his instruments, as battle and murder: or whether they are such as fall upon particular persons only, as sudden death; such as happens sometimes by violence, as by stabbing, burning, drowning, or the like; or else on a sudden, and in a moment's time, without any warning or apparent cause. And though both these kinds of death may sometimes happen to very good men, yet if we consider that by such means we may leave our relations without comfort, and our affairs unsettled; and may ourselves be deprived of the preparative ordinances for death, and have no time to fit our souls for our great account; prudence as well as humility will teach us to pray against them.
Having thus deprecated those evils which might endanger our lives, we proceed next to pray against such as would deprive us of our peace and truth: as well those which are levelled at the state, as is all sedition, privy conspiracy, and rebellion, as those which portend the ruin of the Church, as all false doctrine, heresy, and schism. And then we conclude with the last and worst of God's judgments, which he generally inflicts upon those whom neither private nor public calamities will reform, viz. hardness of heart, and contempt of his word and commandment: for when people amend not upon those punishments which are inflicted upon their estates and persons, upon the Church and State; then the patience of God is tired out, and he withdraws his grace, and gives them up to a reprobate sense, the usual prologue to destruction and damnation, from which deplorable state, good Lord deliver us.
And now to be delivered from all these great and grievous evils, is a mercy so very desirable, that it ought to be begged by the most importunate kind of supplication imaginable; and such are the two next petitions, which the Latins call Obsecrations, in which the Church beseeches our dear Redeemer to deliver us from all the evils we have been praying against, by the mystery of his holy incarnation, &c., i.e. she lays before our Lord all his former mercies to us expressed in his incarnation, nativity, circumcision, baptism, and in every thing else which he has done and suffered for us; and offers these considerations to move him to grant our requests, and to deliver us from those evils.
And though we are always either under or near some evil, for which reason it is never unseasonable to pray for deliverance; yet there are some particular times when we stand in more especial need of the divine help: and they are either during our lives, or at our deaths. During our lives we particularly want the divine assistance, first in all times of tribulation, when we are usually tempted to murmuring, impatience, sadness, despair, and the like; and these we pray against now, before the evil day comes: not that God would deliver us from all such times, which would be an unlawful request; but that he would support us under them whenever he shall please to inflict them. The other part of our lives which we pray to be delivered in, is all time of our wealth, i.e. of our welfare and prosperity, which are rather more dangerous than our time of adversity: all kinds of prosperity, especially plenty and abundance, being exceedingly apt to increase our pride, to inflame our lusts, to multiply our sins, and in a word, to make us forget God, and grow careless of our souls. And therefore we had need to pray that in all such times God would be pleased to deliver us. But whether we spend our days in prosperity or adversity, they must all end in death, in the hour of which the Devil is always most active, and we least able to resist him. Our pains are grievous, and our fears many, and the danger great of falling into impatience, despair, or security: and therefore we constantly pray for deliverance in that important hour, which if God grant us, we have but one request more, and that is, that he would also deliver us in the day of judgment; which is the last time a man is capable of deliverance, since if we be not delivered then, we are left to perish eternally. How fervently therefore ought we to pray for ourselves all our life long, as St. Paul prayed for Onesiphorus, that the Lord would grant unto us that we may find mercy of the Lord in that day!
The like good order is observed in our Petitions for good. First, we pray for the Church Catholick, the common mother of all Christians; then for our own Church, to which, next the Church Catholick, we owe the greatest observance and duty. And therein, in the first place for the principal members of it, in whose welfare the Churches peace chiefly consists. After this we pray particularly for those sorts of men that most especially need our prayers, such amongst others, as those whom the Law calls miserable Persons.
The Intercession. IF the institution of God be required to make this part of our Litany necessary, we have his positive command by St. Paul, to make intercession for all men; and if the consent of the universal Church can add any thing to its esteem, it is evident that this kind of prayer is in all the Liturgies in the world, and that every one of the petitions we are now going to discourse of are taken from the best and oldest litanies extant. All therefore that will be necessary here, is to shew the admirable method and order of these intercessions, which are so exact, curious, and natural, that every degree of men follow in their due place; and, at the same time, so comprehensive, that we can think of no sorts of persons but who are enumerated, and for whom all those things are asked which all and every of them stand in need of.
§.2. The method and order of them. But because it may seem presumptuous for us to pray for others, who are unworthy to pray for ourselves, before we begin, we acknowledge that we are sinners: but yet, if we are penitent, we know our prayers will be acceptable: and therefore in humble confidence of his mercy, and in obedience to his command, We sinners do beseech him to hear us in these our intercessions, which we offer up, first, for the holy Church universal, the common mother of all Christians, as thinking ourselves more concerned for the good of the whole, than of any particular part.
After this, we pray for our own Church, to which, next the catholic Church, we owe the greatest observance and duty; and therein, in the first place, for the principal members of it, in whose welfare the peace of the Church chiefly consists: such as is the king, whom, because he is the supreme governor of the Church in his dominions, and so the greatest security upon earth to the true religion, we pray for in the three next petitions, that he may be orthodox, pious, and prosperous. And though at present we may be happy under him; yet because his crown doth not render him immortal, and the security of the government ordinarily depends upon the royal family, we pray in the next place for them, (and particularly for the heir apparent,) that they may be supplied with all spiritual blessings, and preserved from all plots and dangers.
The Jews and Gentiles always reckoned their chief priests to be next in dignity to the king; and all ancient Liturgies pray for the clergy immediately after the royal family, as being the most considerable members of the Christian Church, distinguished here into those three apostolical orders of bishops, priests, and deacons; though in all former Common Prayer Books they were called the bishops, pastors, and ministers of the Church, except in the Scotch Liturgy, which for pastors had presbyters.
Next to these follow those who are eminent in the state, viz. the lords of the council and all the nobility, who by reason of their dignity and trust have need of our particular prayers, and were always prayed for in the old Liturgies, by the title of the whole palace.
After we have prayed for all the nobility in general, we pray for such of the nobility and gentry as are magistrates, or more inferior governors of the people, according to the example of the primitive Christians, and in obedience to the positive command of St. Paul, who enjoins us to pray for all that are in authority.
After these we pray for all the people, i.e. all the commons of the land, who are the most numerous, though the least eminent; and unless they he safe and happy, the governors themselves cannot he prosperous, the diseases of the members being a trouble to the head also.
And though we may be allowed to pray for our own nation first, yet our prayers must extend to all mankind; and therefore in the next place we pray for the whole world, in the very words of ancient Liturgies, viz. that all nations may have unity at home among themselves, peace with one another, and concord, i.e. amity, commerce, and leagues.
Having thus prayed for temporal blessings both for ourselves and others, it is time now to look inward, and to consider what is wanting for our souls; and therefore we now proceed to pray for spiritual blessings, such as virtue and goodness. And, first, we pray that the principles of it may be planted in our hearts, viz. the love and dread of God, and then that the practice of it may be seen in our lives, by our diligent living after his commandments.
But though we receive grace, yet if we do not improve it, we shall be in danger of losing it again; and therefore having in the former petition desired that we might become good, we subjoin this that we may grow better: begging increase of grace, and also that we may use proper means thereunto, such as is the meekly hearing God's word, &c.
From praying for the sanctification and improvement of those within the Church, we become solicitous for the conversion of those that are without it; being desirous that all should be brought into the way of truth who have erred or are deceived.
But though those without the Church are the most miserable, yet those within are not yet so happy as not to need our prayers; some of them standing in need of strength, and others of comfort: these blessings therefore we now ask for those that want them.
Having thus considered the souls of men, we go on next to such things as concern their bodies, and to pray for all the afflicted in general; begging of God to succour all that are in danger, by preventing the mischief that is falling upon them; to help those that are in necessity, by giving them those blessings they want; and to comfort all that are in tribulation, by supporting them under it, and delivering them out of it.
And because the circumstances of some of these hinder them from being present to pray for themselves; we particularly remember them, since they more especially stand in need of our prayers, such as are all that travel by land or by water, and the rest mentioned in that petition.
There are other afflicted persons who are unable to help themselves, such as are fatherless children and widows, who are too often destitute of earthly friends; and such as are desolate of maintenance and lodging; or are oppressed by the false and cruel dealings of wicked and powerful men; and therefore these also we particularly recommend to God, and beg of him to defend and provide for them.
And after this large catalogue of sufferers as well in spiritual as temporal things; lest any should be passed who are already under or in danger of any affliction, we pray next that God would have mercy upon all men.
G. To forgive our enemies, &c.] Amongst all the mordinate lusts of our corrupt nature, no one is so unreformable, so obstinate, so stubborn, as hatred ; and therefore our Saviour at His sermon upon the mount, that excellent summary of Christian institution, administereth more expressly towards the mortification of this immortal passion, “ Bless them that curse you,” a precept whereby the keen edge of revenge is not only blunted, but turned the contrary way: a precept by way of δευτέρωσις, and additional explication of the fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer. For lest we should imagine the whole duty of charity towards our neighbour, lodged in a bare remission of the injury, and an indisposition to revenge, He extends His discipline to a higher pitch, commanding us not only to forgive our enemies, but to love them, yea, to bless, i. e. to wish all the good we can to those which “ curse us:” for seeing κατάρα and εὐλογία are put here as terms contradistinct, as Grotius hath noted aright, and seeing that κατάρα never doth, nor (considering the simples whereof it is composed) can, import any malediction but what is attended with imprecation and cursing, I cannot conceive so meanly of εὐλογεῖν in this place to think, with this learned man, it implieth no more but denignis verbis compellare, “to speak our execrators fair ;’ but that it intendeth a serious praying for an accumulation of all blessings upon them; so I am sure did the primitive fathers understand it: for in the prayer for all states which was their litany and very near resembleth ours, one petition was “ for those that hate us, and persecute us,” as is evident by the Constitutions ascribed to Clemens, which I the more confidently rely upon, because Justin Martyr tells Trypho the Jew, ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν, καὶ ὑπὲρ τῶν ἄλλων ἁπάντων ἀνθρώπων τῶν ἐχθραινόντων ἡμῖν εὐχόμεθα“: “for you and all men whatsoever, who are maliciously minded against us, we send forth our prayers.” This I cannot but note in recommendation of our Church’s charity in this petition towards the great enemies of her religion: she praying in this excellent and solemn form even for those who do as solemnly curse her. The Jews first, καταρώμενοι ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς αὐτῶν τοὺς πιστεύοντας ἐπὶ TOV Χριστὸν, “ execrating in their synagogues all those who profess the Christian faith.” So in Justin Martyr’s time, and so etiam nunc, even at this very present, as the famous Grotius sufficiently demonstrateth. Secondly, the papists, who make it a peculiar part of their service appointed for Maundy-Thursday, to curse with bell, book, and candle, all whom they account for heretics, as appeareth by their Bulla Coenae.
And then, to shew we have no reserve or exception in our charity or devotions, we pray particularly for our enemies, persecutors, and slanderers; who we desire may be partakers of all the blessings we have been praying for, and that God would moreover forgive them, and turn their hearts.
After we have thus prayed, first for ourselves and then for others, we proceed to pray for them and ourselves together: begging, first, whatsoever is necessary for the sustenance of our bodies, comprehended here under the fruits of the earth.
And then, in the next petition, asking for all things necessary to our souls, in order to bring them to eternal happiness, viz. true repentance, forgiveness of all our sins, &c., and amendment of life. Which last petition is very proper for a conclusion. For we know that if we do not amend our lives, all these intercessions will signify nothing, because God will not hear impenitent sinners. We therefore earnestly beg repentance and amendment of life, that so all our preceding requests may not miscarry.
And now having presented so many excellent supplications to the throne of grace; if we should conclude them here, and leave them abruptly, it would look as if we were not much concerned whether they were received or not: and therefore the Church has appointed us to pursue them still with vigorous importunities, and redoubled entreaties. And for this reason we now call upon our Saviour, whom we have all this while been praying to, and beseech him by his divinity, as he is the Son of God, and consequently abundantly able to help us in all these things, that he would hear us...
... and then afterwards invocate him by his humanity, beseeching him by his sufferings for us, when he became the Lamb of God, and was sacrificed to take away the sins of the world, that he would grant us an interest in that peace, which he then made with God, and the peace of conscience following thereupon; and that he would have mercy upon us, and take away our sins, so as to deliver us from guilt and punishment.
H. O Christ hear us.] The civilians have a saying voluntas fortior attenditur ex geminuta expressione, “the meaning of a man is best understood by iterating and doubling of the expression.” No less true in those resorts we make to God, the frequent repeating of our supplications striking the more forcible impression upon our souls. Whence the so often redoubling of several members of David’s Psalms; whence our Saviour in His great agony and conflict prayed εἰπὼν τὸν αὐτὸν λόγον, “ using always the very same words ;” whence in the primitive Church the litanies which were, ai εὐχαὶ τῆς ἐκτενοῦς, “the prayers spirited with the greater vehemency,”’ were always full of such reduplications, as may be seen by the several forms mentioned by the Constitutions of Clemens, and in the several liturgies of those early times.
And lastly, we beg of him, as he is the Lord Christ, our anointed Mediator, to hear us, and favour us with a gracious answer to all these intercessions.
Finally, that our conclusion may be suitable to our beginning, we close up all with an address to the whole Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for that mercy which we have been begging in so many particulars: this one word comprehends them all, and therefore these three sentences are the epitome of the whole Litany; and considering how often and how many ways we need mercy, we can never ask it too often.
The original of the supplications. THE following part of this Litany we call the supplications, which were first collected, and put into this form, when the barbarous nations first began to overrun the empire, about six hundred years after Christ: but considering the troubles of the Church militant, and the many enemies it always hath in this world, this part of the Litany is no less suitable than the former at all times whatsoever.
The Church of England is generally in her Common Prayers, as for an humble, so for an audible voice, especially in the Lords Prayer appointing it to be said, in the Rubrick before it, with a loud, that is, an audible voice, not secretly; and this, for the more earnest repetition of so divine words, and to make them more familiar to the people. But though this Church does not order the Priest to say these Prayers secretly, yet she retains the same order of offering up by the Priest in Collects following the peoples foregoing supplications.
§.2. The Lord's Prayer. We begin with the Lord's prayer, of which we have spoke before, and need only observe here, that the ancients annexed it to every office, to shew both their esteem of that, and their mean opinion of their own composures, which receive life and value from this divine form.
§.3. After this, we proceed to beg deliverance from our troubles: but because our consciences presently suggest, that our iniquities deserve much greater, and that therefore we cannot expect to be delivered, since we suffer so justly; we are put in mind that God doth not deal with us after our sins, nor reward us according to our iniquities. And therefore we turn these very words into supplication, and thereby clear his justice in punishing us, but apply to his mercy to proportion his chastisements according to our ability of bearing, and not according to the desert of our offences.
§.4. The prayer against persecution. The way being thus prepared, the priest now begins to pray for the people alone: but lest they should think their duty at an end, as soon as the responses are over, he enjoins them to accompany him In their hearts still by that ancient form Let us pray: and then proceeds to the prayer against persecution, which is collected partly out of the Scripture, and partly out of the primitive forms, and is still to be found entire among the offices of the Western Church, with the title For tribulation of heart.
The Doxology, or Glory be to the Father, &c. is much used in our Service, after Confession, after Athanasius's Creed, and especially after each Psalm and Canticle, as a most thankful adoration of the holy Trinity, upon reflection on the matter going before, And therefore is very fitly divided betwixt the Priest and people in saying it, according as the matter going before was; and it is in those places said standing, as the most proper posture for thanksgiving or Adoration. Here in the Litany, it is said in a way somewhat different; for after that the Priest and people have in the supplications afore going besought God that He would arise, help and deliver them, as he did their fore-fathers of old for his Names sake and Honour, the Priest does Collect wise sum up This; praying, that by such deliverances, all glory may redound to God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, &c. the people answering only, Amen, as it were after a Collect, and continuing kneeling; because both this, as it is here used, and other parts of the Litany before and after, are matters of humble supplication, and so most fit to be tendred to God in that posture.
[The previous prayer] is not concluded with Amen, to shew that the same request is continued in another form: and what the priest begged before alone, all the people join to ask in the following alternate supplications taken from the Psalms.
§.5. When our enemies are rising against us to destroy us, we desire that God will arise and help us, not for any worthiness in ourselves, but for his name's sake, that he may make his power to be known.
§.5. Whilst the people are praying thus earnestly, the priest, to quicken their faith by another divine sentence, commemorates the great troubles, adversities, and persecutions, which God hath delivered his Church from in all ages: and since he is the same Lord, and we have the same occasion, this is laid down as the ground of our future hope.
For the wonderful relations which we have heard with our ears, and our fathers have declared unto us, of God's rescuing this particular Church at first from popery, and of his delivering and preserving it ever since from faction and superstition, from so many secret seditions and open rebellions, fully assure us that his arm is not shortened.
And therefore the people again say, O Lord, arise, help us, and deliver us for thine honour; which is no vain repetition, but a testimony that they are convinced they did wisely to ask of this God (who hath done so great things for his people in all ages) now to arise and help; that so the honour he hath gotten by the wonders of his mercy may be renewed and confirmed by this new act of his power and goodness.
§.6. To this is added the Doxology in imitation of David, who would often, in the very midst of his complaints, out of a firm persuasion that God would hear him, suddenly breakout into an act of praise. And thus we, having the same God to pray to, in the midst of our mournful supplications, do not only look back on former blessings with joy and comfort, but forward also on the mercies we now pray for: and though we have not yet received them, yet we praise him for them beforehand, and doubt not, but that, as he was glorified in the beginning for past mercies, so he ought to be now for the present, and shall be hereafter for future blessings.
§.7. The following responses. But though the faithful do firmly believe, that they shall be delivered at the last, and do at present rejoice in hopes thereof; yet because it is probable their afflictions may be continued for a while for a trial of their patience, and the exercise of their other graces; for that reason we continue to pray for support in the mean time, and beg of Christ to defend us from our enemies, and to look graciously upon our afflictions; pitifully to behold the sorrows of our hearts, and mercifully to forgive our sins, which are the cause of them.
And this we know he will do, if our prayers be accepted; and therefore we beg of him favourably with mercy to hear them, and do beseech him, as he assumed our nature, and became the Son of David, (whereby he took on him our infirmities, and became acquainted with our griefs,) to have mercy upon us.
And because the hearing of our prayers in the time of distress is so desirable a mercy, that we cannot ask it too fervently nor too often; we therefore redouble our cries, and beg of him as he is Christ, our anointed Lord and Saviour, that he would vouchsafe to hear us now, and whenever we cry to him for relief in our troubles.
And, to shew we rely on no other helper, we conclude these supplications with David's words in a like case, O Lord, let thy mercy be shewed upon us, as we do put our trust in thee. To him, and to him only, we have applied ourselves; and as we have no other hope but in him, so we may expect that this hope shall be fulfilled, and that we shall certainly be delivered in his due time.
The prayer of Saint Chrysostom, and 2 Cor 13:14. THE Litany, as I have already observed, was formerly a distinct service by itself, and was used generally after morning prayer was over; and then these two final prayers belonged particularly to this service. But it being now used almost every where with the morning prayer, these latter collects being omitted there (after some occasional prayers, which shall be spoken of next) come in here; and how fit they are for this place may be seen by what is said of them already.
Here endeth the Litany.