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AN EVENING PRAYER,
BY DEAN SWIFT,
FROM THE ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT FOUND AMONGST DR LYON'S
OH! Almighty God, the searcher of all hearts, and from whom no secrets are hid, who hast declared that all such as shall draw nigh to thee with their lips, when their hearts are far from thee, are an abomination unto thee; cleanse, we beseech thee, the thoughts of our hearts, by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that no wandering, vain, nor idle thoughts may put out of our minds that reverence and godly fear, that becomes all those who come in thy presence.
We know, O Lord, that while we are in these bodies, we are absent from the Lord, for no man can see thy face and live. The only way that we can draw near unto thee in this life, is by prayer ; but, O Lord, we know not how to pray, nor what to ask for as we ought. We cannot pretend by our supplications or prayers to turn or change thee, for thou art the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever ; but the coming into thy presence, the drawing near unto thee, is the only means to be changed ourselves, to become like thee in holiness and purity, to be followers of thee as thy dear children. O, therefore, turn not away thy face from us, but let us see so much of the excellencies of thy divine nature, of thy goodness, and justice, and mercy, and forbearance, and holiness, and purity, as may make us hate everything in ourselves that is unlike to thee, that so we may abhor and repent of and forsake those sins that we so often fall into when we forget thee. Lord! we acknowledge and confess we have lived in a course of sin, and folly, and vanity, from our youth up, forgetting our latter end, and our great account that we must one day make, and turning a deaf ear to thy many calls to us, either by thy holy word, by our teachers, or by our own consciences; and even thy more severe messages by afflictions, sicknesses, crosses, and disappointments, have not been of force enough to turn us from the vanity and folly of our own ways.
What then can we expect in justice, when thou shalt enter into judgment with us, but to have our portion with the hypocrites and unbelievers ? to depart for ever from the presence of the Lord; to be turned into hell with those that forget God! But, O God, most holy ! O God, most mighty! O holy and most merciful Saviour, deliver us not into the bitter pains of eternal death, but have mercy upon us, most merciful Father, and forgive us our sins for thy name's sake ; for thou hast declared thyself to be a God slow to anger, full of goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, and forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin. O Lord, therefore, shew thy mercy upon us.
0 let it be in pardoning our sins past, and in changing our natures, in giving us a new heart, and a new spirit, that we may lead a new life, and walk before thee in newness of life, that so sin may not have dominion over us for the time to come. O let thy good Spirit, without which we can do nothing, O let that work in us both to will and do such things as may be well pleasing to thee. O let it change our thoughts and minds, and take them offthe vain pleasures of this world, and place them there where only the true joys are to be found. O fill our minds every day more and more with the happiness of that blessed state of living for ever with thee, that we may make it our great work and business to work out our salvation,—to improve in the knowledge of thee, whom to know is life eternal. But, Lord, since we cannot know thee but by often drawing near unto thee, and coming into thy presence, which in this life, we can do only by prayer, O make us, therefore, ever sensible of these great benefits of prayer, that we may rejoice at all opportunities of coming into thy presence, and may ever find ourselves the better and more heavenly minded by it, and may never wilfully neglect any opportunity of thy worship and service. Awaken thoroughly in us a serious sense of these things, that so 'to-day, while it is called to-day, we may see and know the things that belong to our peace, before they be hid from our eyes, before that long night cometh when no man can work. O that every night may so effectually put us in mind of our last, that we may every day take care so to live, as we shall then wish we had lived when we come to die; that so when that night shall come, we may as willingly put off these bodies, as we now put off our clothes, and may rejoice to rest from our labours, and that our war with the world, the devil, and our own corrupt nature, is at an end. In the meanwhile, we beseech thee to take us, and ours, and all that belongs to us, into thy fatherly care this night. Let thy holy angels be our guard, while we are not in a condition to defend ourselves, that we may not be under the power of devils or wicked men ; and preserve us also, O Lord, from every evil accident, that, after a comfortable and refreshing sleep, we may find ourselves, and all that belongs to us, in peace and safety. And now, O Lord, being ourselves still in the body, and compassed about with infirmities, we can neither be ignorant nor unmindful of the sufferings of our fellow-creatures. O Lord, we must acknowledge, that they are all but the effects of sin; and, therefore, we beseech thee so to sanctify their several chastisements to them, that at length they may bring forth the peaceable fruits of righteousness, and then be thou graciously pleased to remove thy heavy and afflicting hand from them. And O that the rest of mankind, who are not under such trials, may, by thy goodness, be led to repentance, that the consciences of hard-hearted sinners may be awakened, and the understandings of poor ignorant creatures enlightened, and that all that love and fear thee may ever find the joy and comfort of a good conscience, beyond all the satisfactions that this world can afford, And now, blessed Lord, from whom every good gift comes, it is meet, right, and our bounden duty, that we should offer up unto thee our thanks and praise for all thy goodness towards us, for preserving peace in our land, the light of thy gospel, and the true religion in our churches; for giving us the fruits of the earth in due season, and preserving us from the plague and sickness that rages in other lands. We bless thee for that support and maintenance, which thou art pleased to afford us, and that thou givest us a heart to be sensible of this thy goodness, and to return our thanks at this time for the same; and as to our persons, for that measure of health that any of us do enjoy, which is more than
any of us do deserve. We bless thee, more particularly, for thy protection over us the day past ; that thy good spirit has kept us from falling into even the greatest sins, which, by our wicked and corrupt nature, we should greedily have been hurried into; and that, by the guard of thy holy angels, we have been kept safe from
any of those evils that might have befallen us, and which many are now groaning under, who rose up in the morning in safety and peace as well as we. But above all, for that great mercy of contriving and effecting our redemption, by the death of our Saviour Jesus Christ, whom, of thy great love to mankind, thou didst send into this world, to take upon him our flesh, to teach us thy will, and to bear the guilt of our transgressions, to die for our sins, and to rise again for our justification ; and for enabling us to lay hold of that salvation, by the gracious assistances of thy Holy Spirit. Lord, grant that the sense of this wonderful love of thine to us, may effectually encourage us to walk in thy fear, and live to thy glory, that so when we shall put off this mortal state, we may be made partakers of that glory that shall then be revealed, which we beg of thee, for the sake of thy Son Jesus Christ, who died to procure it for us, and in whose name and words we do offer up the desires of our souls unto thee, saying,
“ Our Father.” &c.