All Glory be to God.
THE time of Lent now approaching, which has been anciently and very
Christianly set apart, for penitential humiliation of Soul and Body, for
Fasting and Weeping and Praying, all which you know are very frequently
inculcated in Holy Scripture, as the most effectual means we can use, to
avert those Judgments our sins have deservíd; I thought it most agreeable
to that Character which, unworthy as I am, I sustain, to call you and all
my Brethren of the Clergy to mourning; to mourning for your own sins, and
to mourning for the sins of the Nation.
In making such an address to you as this, I follow the example of St.
Cyprian, that blessed Bishop and Martyr, who from his retirement wrote
an excellent Epistle to his Clergy, most worthy of your serious perusal,
exhorting them, by publick Prayers and Tears to appease the Anger of God,
which they then actually felt, and which we may justly fear.
Remember that to keep such a Fast as God has chosen, it is not enough
for you to afflict your own soul, but you must also according to your ability,
deal your bread to the Hungry: and the rather, because we have not onely
Usual [1/2] objects of Charity to relieve, but many poor Protestant Strangers
are now fled hither for Sanctuary, whom as Brethren, as members of Christ,
we should take in and Cherish.
That you may perform the office of publick Intercessour the more assiduously,
I beg of you to say daily in your Closet, or in your Family, or rather
in both, all this time of Abstinence, the 51st Psalm, and the other Prayers
which follow it in the Commination. I could wish also that you would frequently
read and meditate on the Lamentations of Jeremy, which Holy Gregory Nazianzen
was wont to doe, and the reading of which melted him into the like Lamentations,
as affected the Prophet himself when he Peníd them.
But your greatest Zeal must be spent for the Public Prayers, in the
constant devout use of which, the Publick Safety both of Church and State
is highly concerníd: be sure then to offer up to God every day the Morning
and Evening Prayer; offer it up in your Family at least, or rather as far
as your circumstances may possibly permit, offer it up in the Church, especially
if you live in a great Town, and say over the Litany every Morning during
the whole Lent. This I might enjoyn you to doe, on your Canonical Obedience,
but for Loveís sake I rather beseech you, and I cannot recommend to you
a more devout and comprehensive Form, of penitent and publick Intercession
than that, or more proper for the Season. [2/3]
Be not discouragíd if but few come to the Solemn Assemblies, but go
to the House of Prayer, where God is well known for a sure Refuge: Go,
though you go alone, or but with one besides your self; and there as you
are Godís Remembrancer, keep not silence, and give Him no rest, till He
establish, till He make Jerusalem a praise in the earth.
The first sacred Council of Nice, for which the Christian world has
always had a great and just veneration, ordains a Provincial Synod to be
held before Lent, that all Dissensions being taken away a pure oblation
might be offeríd up to God, namely of Prayers and Fasting and Alms, and
Tears, which might produce a comfortable Communion at the following Easter:
and that in this Diocese, we may in some degree imitate so Primitive a
practice, I exhort you to endeavour all you can, to reconcile differences,
to reduce those that go astray, to promote universal Charity towards all
that dissent from you, and to put on as the Elect of God, holy and beloved,
bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering,
forbearing one another and forgiving one another, even as Christ forgave
I passionately beseech you to reade over daily your Ordination Vows,
to examine yourself how you observe them; and in the Prayers that are in
that Office, fervently to importune God for the assistance of His good
Spirit, that you may conscientiously perform them. [3/4] Teach publickly,
and from house to house, and warn every one night and day with Tears; warn
them to repent, to fast and to pray, and to give Alms, and to bring forth
fruits meet for repentance, warn them to continue stedfast in that faith
once delivered to the Saints, in which they were baptizíd, to keep the
word of Godís Patience, that God may keep them in the hour of Temptation;
warn them against the sins and errours of the age; warn them to deprecate
publick judgments, and to mourn for publick provocations.
No one can reade Godís holy Word but he will see, that the greatest
Saints have been the greatest Mourners: David wept whole Rivers; Jeremy
wept sore, and his Eyes ran down in secret places day and night like a
Fountain; Daniel mourned three full weeks, and did eat no pleasant bread,
and sought God by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth
and ashes; St. Paul was humbled and bewailed and wept for the sins of others;
and our Lord himself when He beheld the City wept over it. Learn then of
these great Saints, learn of our most compassionate Saviour, to weep for
the publick, and weeping to pray, that we may know in this our day, the
things that belong to our peace, lest they be hid from our eyes.
To mourn for National Guilt, in which all share, is a duty incumbent
upon all, but especially on Priests, who are particularly commanded to
weep and to say, Spare Thy people, O Lord, and give not Thine Heritage
to reproach, that God may repent of the evil, and become jealous for His
Land, and pity His people. [4/5]
Be assuríd that none are more tenderly regarded by God than such Mourners
as these; there is a mark set by Him on all that sigh and cry for the abominations
of the Land, the destroying Angel is forbid to hurt any of them, they are
all Godís peculiar care, and shall all have either present deliverance,
or such supports and consolations, as shall abundantly endear their Calamity.
Now the God of all Grace, who hath called you unto His eternal Glory
by Christ Jesus, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you in
the true Catholic and Apostolick Faith professíd in the Church of England,
and enable you to adorn that Apostolick Faith with an Apostolick Example
and Zeal, and give all our whole Church that timely repentance, those broken
and contrite hearts, that both Priests and People may all plentifully sow
in Tears, and in Godís good time may all plentifully reap in Joy.
From the Palace in Wells,
Febr. 17. 1687.
Your affectionate Friend and Brother,
Tho. Bath and Wells.