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THE LORD BISHOP OF ROCHESTER
CLERGY OF HIS DIOCESE.
I CAN scarce think it worth my while, or yours, my good brethren, that I should now spend much time in any long general exhortation to your diligent and conscientious performing the duties incumbent on you, as you are "the min"isters of God, duly called according to the will of our "Lord Christ, and the order of this excellent church of "England."
Did I find there were here any absolute need to use many words towards the exciting your care in the several administrations of your holy calling; yet, I am persuaded, I myself might well spare my own labour, and your patience, on this subject; since all that kind of wholesome advice has been already so very sufficiently and so much better given you, in arguments deduced out of the holy scriptures, and most fitly applied to this purpose, by the venerable compilers of our public liturgy, in the forms appointed for the ordering of deacons and priests.
There, you know, this work has been so wisely and so fully, long ago, done to a bishop's hands; there all the parts of your weighty office are so judiciously laid before you; the high dignity and great importance of it, towards the salvation of mankind, is so substantially urged; the blessed fruits and everlasting rewards of well-attending it, and the extreme dangers of neglecting it, are so justly amplified; the necessity of adorning your doctrine by an innocent, virtuous, and pious life of your own, towards the rendering it efficacious on the lives of others, is so pathetically enforced; that, I am confident, the very best charge
a bishop could give to his clergy, were to recommend seriously to all their memories, as I now do most affectionately to yours, those very same questions and answers, those very same promises and vows, as you ought to esteem them, wherewith every one of you did most solemnly charge his conscience, at the time of your admission into holy orders.
I profess I cannot, nor, I believe, can the wit of man, invent any more proper method of instruction to men in your circumstances, from a man in mine, than to exhort you all to a continual recollection of, and meditation upon, those many and great obligations you then seemed voluntarily and cheerfully to lay on yourselves.
Whence there could not but ensue, by God's blessing, a firm resolution in your minds to endeavour the performance of them, and a holy perseverance in those endeavours, and in conclusion, the happy effects of all on yourselves, and the flocks committed to you: that by thus meditating on these things, and giving yourselves wholly to them, your profiting may appear to all; and that by taking heed to yourselves, and your doctrines, and continuing in them, you may both save yourselves, and those that hear you.
Wherefore seeing that, which else had been a bishop's proper business in such meetings as this, I hope, is, or may be so easily shortened for me by you yourselves, by your having recourse to a rule so well known, and so obvious to you, in a book, which ought scarce ever to be out of your hands; I shall the rather, at this time, purposely omit the prescribing you many admonitions, touching the matter and substance of the duties of your sacred function. Instead of them, I shall only offer you some few familiar considerations, which may serve as so many friendly and brotherly advices, concerning, chiefly, the manner and way of performing some of the principal offices of your ministry.
Ånd, I trust in God, that if these advices shall be as carefully examined, and, if you find them useful, as industriously observed by you, as they are honestly intended by me, they may, in some sort, enable you to do laudably, and with commendation, the same things, which, I hope, you already do, without just exception.
Only, in this place, let me premise once for all, that whatever instructions I shall now give you, I intend them not only as directions to you, but especially to myself. As indeed, in all matters, that come under deliberation, he
ought to be esteemed no good counsellor, who is very ready and eager in giving, but averse from receiving the same counsel, as far as it may be also proper for himself.
The first advice I presume to set before your view shall relate to the manner of doing your part, in all the ordinary offices of the public liturgy.
As to that, it is my earnest request, that you would take very much care, and use extraordinary intention of mind, to perfect yourselves in a true, just, sensible, accurate becoming way of reading, and administering them as you
A suggestion, which some perhaps, at first hearing, may think to be but of a slight and ordinary concernment: yet, if I am not much deceived, it will be found of exceeding moment and consequence in its practice: and of singular usefulness towards the raising of devotion in any congregation piously inclined: when your weekly or rather daily labours of this kind shall be thus performed; I mean, not with a mere formal or artificial, but with such a grave, unaffected delivery of the words, as (if the defect be not in ourselves) will indeed naturally flow from a right and serious considering of their sense.
I pray therefore, take my mind aright in this particular. I do not only mean, that you should be very punctual in reading the Common Prayer Book, as the law requires; that is, not only to do it constantly, and entirely in each part, without any maiming, adding to, or altering of it, that so supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, may be made, by you, for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.
If you do not so, you are liable to a legal punishment and censure. But my aim now is, not merely to prevent that, or to provide only against your breaking the law. What I intend is something higher, and more excellent; something that you cannot be punished for, though you do it not; but if you shall do it in any reasonable perfection, it will redound to the unspeakable benefit of your congregations.
The purpose then of this my plain motion to you is, in short, to beseech you all to employ much serious pains in practising the public and private reading of all your offices, as the use of any of them shall occur, distinctly, gravely, affectionately, fervently; so as every where to give them all that vigour, life, and spirit, whereof they are capable: which certainly is as great as in any human writ