The six first occasional prayers. THE usual calamities which afflict the world are so exactly enumerated in the preceding Litany, and the common necessities of mankind so orderly set down there; that there seems to be no need of any additional prayers to complete so perfect an office. But yet because the variety of the particulars allows them but a bare mention in that comprehensive form; the Church hath thought good to enlarge our petitions in some instances, because there are some evils so universal and grievous, that it is necessary they should he deprecated with a peculiar importunity; and some mercies so exceeding needful at some time, that it is not satisfactory enough to include our desires of them among our general requests; but very requisite that we should more solemnly petition for them in forms proper to the several occasions. Thus it seems to have been among the Jews: for that famous prayer which Solomon made at the dedication of the temple, supposes that special prayers would be made there in times of war, drought, pestilence, and famine. And the light of nature taught the Gentiles, on such extraordinary occasions, to make extraordinary addresses to their gods. Nor are Christians to be thought less mindful of their own necessities. The Greek Church hath full and proper offices for times of drought and famine, of war and tumults, of pestilence and mortality, and upon occasion of earthquakes also, a judgment very frequent there, but more seldom in this part of the world. In the Western Missals there is a Collect, and an Epistle and Gospel, with some responses upon every one of these subjects, seldom indeed agreeing with any of our forms, which are the shortest of all; being not designed for a complete office, but appointed to be joined to the Litany, or Morning and Evening Prayer, every day while the occasion requires it; that so, according to the laws of Charles the Great, "in times of famine, plague, and war, the mercy of God may be immediately implored, without staying for the king's edict."
When first added. The two first of these prayers, viz. those for rain and for fair weather, are placed after the six collects at the end of the communion office, in the first book of king Edward VI. The other four were added afterwards to his second book, in which they were all six placed, as now, at the end of the Litany. But in the old Common Prayer Book of queen Elizabeth and king James I, the second of the prayers in the time of dearth and famine was omitted, and not inserted again till the restoration of king Charles II.
The Prayers in the Ember-Weeks. THE ordination of ministers is a matter of so great concern to all degrees of men, that it has ever been done with great solemnity: and by the thirty-first canon of the Church it is appointed, That no deacons and ministers be made and ordained, but only upon the Sundays immediately following jejunia, quatuor temporum, commonly called Ember-Weeks. And since the whole nation is obliged, at these times, to extraordinary prayer and fasting; the Church hath provided two forms upon the occasion, of which the first is most proper to be used before the candidates have passed their examination, and the other afterwards. They were both added to our Common Prayer Book at the last review; though the second occurs in the Scotch Liturgy, just before the prayer of St. Chrysostom, at the end of the Litany.
As to the original, antiquity, and reason of these four ember-fasts, and the fixing the ordination of ministers at those times, I shall take occasion to speak hereafter; and shall only observe further in this place, that it is a mistake in those who imagine that these prayers are only to be used upon the three ember-days, i.e. upon the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday in every ember-week; the rubric expressing as plain as words can do, that one of them is to be said every day in the ember-weeks, i.e. beginning (as it is expressed in the Scotch Liturgy) on the Sunday before the day of ordination.
When first added. Wrong placed in all the editions of the Common Prayer. THIS prayer was first added in queen Elizabeth's Common Prayer Book, and not by order of king James I, as Dr. Nichols affirms. When it was first inserted, it was placed just after the prayer in the time of any common plague or sickness, (that being then the last of the prayers upon particular occasions) but at the review after the Restoration, the two prayers for the ember-weeks were inserted just after that, and the collect we are speaking of ordered to be placed immediately after those prayers. The printers indeed set it in the place where it now usually stands, viz. between the prayers for all conditions of men and the general thanksgiving: but the commissioners obliged them to strike it out, and print a new leaf, wherein it should stand just before the prayer for the parliament. But notwithstanding this, in all the following impressions, this order was again neglected, and the prayer that we are speaking of has, in all editions ever since, been continued in the same place, viz. just after the prayer for all conditions of men. But as no edition of the Common Prayer is authorized by act of parliament, but such as is exactly conformable to the Sealed Books; we cannot justify ourselves in using it after that prayer, since the Sealed Books assign it a quite different place.
The prayer for the high court of parliament. THOUGH the ancient monarchs of this kingdom, Saxons and Normans, coming in by conquest, governed according to their own will at first; yet in after times they chose themselves a great council of their bishops and barons, and at last freely condescended to let the people choose persons to represent them: so that we have now had parliaments for above four hundred years, consisting of bishops and barons to represent the clergy and nobility, and of knights and burgesses to represent the commons. But these being never summoned but when the king or queen desires their advice, de arduis regni negotiis, and they having at such times great affairs under their debate, and happy opportunities to do both their prince and country service; it is fit they should have the people's prayers for their success. And accordingly we find not only that the primitive Christians prayed for the Roman senate, but that even the Gentiles offered sacrifices in behalf of their public councils, which were always held in some sacred place. In conformity therefore to so ancient and universal a practice, this prayer for our own parliament was added at the last review.
When first added. Whether to be used in the afternoons. BEFORE the addition of this prayer, which was made but at the last review, the Church had no general intercession for all conditions of men, except on those days upon which the Litany was appointed. For which reason this collect was then drawn up, to supply the want of that office upon ordinary days; and therefore it is ordered by the rubric to be used at such times, when the Litany is not appointed to be said: consonant to which it is now, I believe, a universal practice, and a very reasonable one, I think, to read this prayer every evening, as well as on such mornings as the Litany is not said: though Dr. Bisse informs us, that "Bishop Gunning, the supposed author of it, in the college whereof he was head, suffered it not to be read in the afternoon, because the Litany was never read then, the place of which it was supposed to supply." I know this form has been generally ascribed to bishop Sanderson: but the above-mentioned gentleman assures me, that it is a tradition at St. John's in Cambridge, that bishop Gunning, who was for some time master there, was the author, and that in his time it was the practice of the college not to read it in the afternoon. And I have heard elsewhere, that it was originally drawn up much longer than it is now, and that the throwing out a great part of it, which consisted of petitions for the king, the royal family, clergy, &c., who are prayed for in the other collects, was the occasion why the word finally comes in so soon in so short a prayer. It is not improbable, that the bishop might have designed to comprehend all the intercessional collects in one: but that the others who were commissioned for the same affair, might think it better to retain the old forms, and so only to take as much of Bishop Gunning's as was not comprehended in the rest.
Collects out of the Visitation Office not to be used here. There being a particular clause provided in this prayer, to be said when any desire the prayers of the congregation, it is needless as well as irregular to use any collects out of the Visitation Office upon these occasions; as some are accustomed to do, without observing the impropriety they are guilty of in using those forms in the public congregations, which are drawn up to be used in private, and run in terms that suppose the sick person to be present.
God’s blessings and our praises are the great intelligencers which negotiate betwixt Him and us. The first are testimonials to us that our prayers and alms miscarried not in their way, got safe to heaven. The last are certificates to Him, that His blessings got safe to us, for that we have received His gifts: no notice will He take from any but ourselves, and no notice can we convey to Him without the sacrifice of praise. Indeed, reason good, our hearts should move our lungs and lips as readily to thank as to supplicate Him for His benefits: therefore whereas in our service-book certain collects of prayers were framed applicable to cases of extraordinary visitations, it was noted as a great defect that set forms of thanksgiving were not also contrived relative to the same occasions, in case the issues and dispensations of the Almighty proved answerable to our requests. And though it hath been interposed by judicious Mr. Hooker: on our Church’s behalf, that “this were better provided for by select days assigned by supreme authority for that duty, and by set forms agreeable thereunto, than by a small collect,” that defence is in my opinion but partly satisfactory. For calamities are most commonly not national, but sometimes provincial; sometimes they quarter only in one city, sometimes but in a petty village, and unless they spread to be epidemical, they rarely reach the cognizance of the supreme magistrate ; or if they do, they will not carry with them importance enough to persuade the indiction of days of universal either humiliation or thanksgiving, for such minute mergencies: therefore (not to defraud the Reformation under King James of the honour it hath merited) the superadding of those relative thanksgivings was not only a commendable,but a necessary act.
The great duty of thanksgiving. PRAISE is one of the most essential parts of God's worship, by which not only all the Christian world, but the Jews and Gentiles also paid their homage to the Divine Majesty; as might be shewed by innumerable testimonies: and indeed considering how many blessings we daily receive from God, and that he expects nothing else from us in return but the easy tribute of love and gratitude, (a duty that no one can want leisure or ability to perform) it is certain no excuse can be made for the omission of it. It is pleasant in the performance, and profitable in the event; for it engages our great Benefactor to continue the mercies we have, and as well inclines him to give, as fits us to receive more.
§.2. These forms of thanksgiving, when added. Therefore for the performance of this duty the reverend compilers of our Liturgy had appointed the Hallelujah, the Gloria Patri, and the daily psalms and hymns. But because some thought that we did not praise God so particularly as we ought to have done upon extraordinary occasions, some particular thanksgivings upon deliverance from drought, rain, famine, war, tumults, and pestilence, were added in the time of Ling James I. And to give more satisfaction still, by removing all shadows of defect from our Liturgy, there was one general thanksgiving added to the last review for daily use, drawn up (as it is said) by Bishop Sanderson, and so admirably composed, that it is fit to be said by all men who would give God thanks for common blessings, and yet peculiarly provided with a proper clause for those who, having received some eminent personal mercy, desire to offer up their public praise: a duty which none, that have had the prayers of the Church, should ever omit after their recovery, lest they incur the reprehension given by our Saviour to the ungrateful lepers recorded in the Gospel, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?