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meekly and thankfully, since they "speak" to them "the truth in love." Eph. iv. 15. Abp. Secker.

After this kind and affectionate address, the Exhortation proceeds, comprehending these several heads: 1. The matter of the Exhortation, namely, a call to confession, in these words; "The Scripture moveth us in sundry places to acknowledge and confess our manifold sins and wickedness." Secondly, A caution against cloking and concealing them, in these words; And that we should not dissemble nor cloke them before the face of Almighty God our heavenly Father." Thirdly, The manner and qualifications of true confession, in these words; "but confess them with an humble, lowly, penitent, and obedient heart." Fourthly, The end and design of confession, in these words; to the end that we may obtain forgiveness of the same, by his infinite goodness and mercy." Fifthly, The time or seasons of confession, which the next words tell us, must be in general, "at all times;" but more especially, "when we assemble and meet together," for the ends after mentioned. And lastly, the conclusion, in these words, "Wherefore I pray and beseech you, as many as are here present, to accompany me with a pure heart, and humble voice, unto the throne of the heavenly grace, saying after 'me." Dr. Hole.

e-the Scripture moveth us &c.] That the Scripture doth move us, as here affirmed, appears from the introductory sentences, particularly from 1 John i. 8, 9. Veneer. Many other passages might be cited to this purpose; two or three of the most remarkable are Ps. xxxii. 5; Prov. xxviii. 13; 1 John i. 8, 9. Besides these passages many others occur throughout the Bible, strongly inforcing the necessity of humiliation and confession, as well as many striking instances of the due performance of these duties; as may be seen in 1 Kings viii. 46, &c.; Ezra ix. 6, &c.; Nehem. i. 5, &c. ; the latter part of the book of Job; the penitential psalms of David, particularly the 51st.; Is. lxiv. 6; and sundry passages in the writings of the prophets. Waldo. To add weight to his exhortation the minister intimates, that it is not he only, but God himself, who moveth his people to repentance, so that he who refuseth, refuseth not man but God. Dean Comber.

-that we should not dissemble nor cloke them &c.] Since all our sins are known to Almighty God, who understands our thoughts, words, and works, it is but folly to "dissemble" our guilt by feigned excuses, as Saul and Ananias, 1 Sam. xv. 15; Acts v. 2, 8; and impudence to "cloke" and cover it with false denials, as Gehazi, 2 Kings v. 25: for he that covereth his sins shall not prosper," Prov. xxviii. 13. Though we could deny our faults so confidently, or dissemble them so cunningly, as to deceive all the world, we cannot conceal them from him, who will find us out and will condemn us for the transgression and the hypocrisy also.

The Scripture therefore teaches us a wiser way, namely, "to confess them;" shewing us withal what frame of spirit we must put on when we do confess. For we must have, first," an humble and lowly" heart, truly sensible of our own vileness by sin, and judging ourselves unworthy to lift up our eyes to heaven, Job xlii. 6; Luke xviii. 13. Secondly, "A penitent" heart full of sorrow, and indignation against ourselves, for offending so good a God, and thereby being in danger, not only to lose endless joys, but to fall into eternal misery, for short and empty pleasures, Matt. xxvi. 75. And this will produce, thirdly, "an obedient heart," and make us firmly resolve, and earnestly endeavour, to keep God's commandments better hereafter, John v. 14. Dean Comber.

It is to no purpose to confess our sins, unless we resolve to forsake them, and to obey those laws of God, which we have formerly transgressed. Thus much is intimated by the word "obedient:" for an "obedient heart" in this place signifies a heart that hath given itself up to the service of God, and is convinced that a profession of repentance without reformation is an insult upon God and an instance of the vilest hypocrisy. "Whoso confesseth and forsaketh his sins shall have mercy," Prov. xxviii. 13. Veneer.

A moment's serious reflexion on our manifold sins and wickedness can scarcely fail to convince us of the real excellence and propriety of this part of the Exhortation. Have we not in many instances neglected God, and wilfully transgressed against him? Have not our sins been attended with many, and almost unpardonable aggravations? What then can more become us, than humility and lowliness of mind? Without doubt a penitent and obedient heart is the very offering we ought to bring, when we would approach God's footstool. And this disposition is our preparation under the gracious influence of the Holy Spirit for the reception of his mercy and forgiveness. Rogers.

8-to the end that we may obtain forgiveness &c.] To encourage us to confess our sins in the manner just mentioned, we are told in the following sentence, that the Scripture hath promised us forgiveness upon true repentance; which comfortable doctrine is supported by a representation of the infinite goodness and mercy of God. "When the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed," saith the prophet Ezekiel," and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive," Ezek. xviii. 27. And St. Paul declares, that he had "testified both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ," Acts xx. 21. Veneer.

God in his "infinite goodness and mercy" willeth not the death of poor sinners, but is ready to acquit them on their sincere repentance. Still we must not think, that repentance is the meritorious cause, whereby we may

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claim from God impunity for our sins: for that is vouchsafed to us only by the "infinite mercy and goodness" of God, reached out to us in the mystery of our redemption, and procured for us by the suffering of our blessed Lord. Dean Comber, Dr. Nicholls.

h And although we ought at all times] Or in those more frequent courses of private devotion, (to which we are obliged by our religion, Eph. vi. 18; 1 Tim. ii. 8;) to exercise this duty of confession. Dr. Nicholls. Not that we are always to be upon our knees, actually repenting and making confession to him; for that would interfere with other necessary duties: but that we are to be ever willing and readily disposed, on all fit occasions and opportunities, to lay open our offences, without ever thinking or desiring to hide or cloke any thing from the knowledge of God. As our confessing in private will not excuse us from attending upon and joining in the publick confession; so our attending and making a publick confession will not excuse us from the private confession of our sins: the one must not exclude the other, but both are to be observed in their due and proper times; by doing which we may be said, "at all times humbly to acknowledge our sins before God;" especially if it be daily done and observed by us; for we are said to do always, that which we do every day. And this is no more than what is necessary and fit to be done; for since we daily renew our sins, it is but reason that we should daily renew our confession. And, because we daily commit some particular and secret sins, which enter not the publick confession, and which no eye but God's ever saw, therefore are we daily to make our private confessions, to bewail and repent of them before God; the doing whereof is the performing what is here required, namely, the acknowledging our sins at all times before him.. Dr. Hole.

The benefits of the frequent practice of private humiliation and confession will be unspeakably great, as it will check all tendency to spiritual pride and presumption, and be the best means of preventing any habit of sin from getting the dominion over us. And there is this peculiar advantage in it, that in our retirements we can look calmly and attentively into our hearts, and examine our dispositions and actions more thoroughly and minutely than we can in publick. Waldo.

i-yet ought we most chiefly so to do, when we assemble &c.] Namely, in the solemn assembly of Christians in the church. Dr. Nicholls.

As to the institution and use of such publick meetings and church assemblies for the celebration of divine worship, they have been as ancient as religion and christianity itself; which hath ever had, from the beginning, some publick places set apart, by divine authority, for such assemblies. The Jews had the temple and synagogues consecrated for that purpose, where they were commanded to make their confessions and oblations, and other acts of publick worship, which were resorted to and frequented by Christ and his apostles. After which, the Christians had their churches and oratories set apart

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for divine service, as we read in holy Scripture and ecclesiastical history, and find derived down and continued to us to this day. Dr. Hole.

"God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints," Ps. Ixxxix. 7. When Solomon was dedicating the temple of Jerusalem, he intimated in his prayer, not only that it was the properest place for the people to confess their sins in, but also that when they were at a distance from it, so that they were unavoidably deprived of this privilege, they should "confess their sins towards the house of God;" signifying thereby that their hearts should be there, even though their bodies could not. See 1 Kings viii. 29, 30; 38, 39. Veneer.

Our Saviour hath laid a peculiar stress on joint prayers; and made more especial promises to those petitions, which his disciples put up in common, Matt. xviii. 20; both to unite them closely in mutual affection by the mutual benefits they receive at each other's request; and to encourage a practice, which he foresaw would prove so powerful a means, both of our own edification, and the conversion of others.

We have reason therefore to entertain a much higher esteem, than we do, of the advantages to be obtained. from constancy in publick worship. But then, the more we expect from it, with the more care we must qualify ourselves for what we expect: else we shall certainly be disappointed. And, as penitent confession in the name of Christ is the great qualification for pardon and every mercy; and each one's example, in the church, of that or the contrary, must have a good or bad effect on those around him, we should endeavour, if there be room for any difference, to be more than ordinarily humble and fervent there yet we are in danger of being least so; unless we look well to our ways, and diligently "keep our foot when we go to the house of God," Eccles. v. 1. Abp. Secker.

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k—to render thanks &c.] If we consider for what ends we "assemble and meet together" in those sacred places, dedicated to God's service, we shall soon perceive, that every one of the duties, to be done there, requires, that we be first prepared by repentance; and till we have confessed and bewailed our transgressions, we are not fit nor likely to be accepted in any other parts of the offices. St. Augustine tells us, that the Christians in his time assembled, to learn God's law, to declare his wonderful work, to praise him for his gifts, and pray to him for his blessing:' and our Church here shews us, that we have these four things also to do in our assemblies: first, "to render thanks" to God for his benefits, as we do in our Thanksgivings: secondly, "to set forth that praise" of which he is "most worthy," which is done in our Psalms, Hymns, Anthems, and Doxologies: thirdly, "to hear his word," as we do in attending to the reading of the Scriptures, and to the sermons taken from thence: fourthly, "to ask things necessary for our bodies and souls," which we do in our Collects, Supplications, and Intercessions. But, unless true repentance go before, we are unworthy either to give

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thanks, or to sing praise to God, Ps. xxxiii. 1: unfit to hear his most holy word, Matt. vii. 6; or to offer up any prayers to him, John ix. 31. None of these services will be acceptable to God, or can be profitable to us, unless we repent before we go about them. Dean Comber.

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Wherefore I pray and beseech you, &c.] That the people may not come to church in vain, and lose the benefit of so many holy duties, as those just enumerated, the priest "prays" and earnestly "beseeches all that are now present," to join with him in the following Confession there are none so holy, but they have need to make it; and none so sinful, but they may be profited by it. Dean Comber.

The persons, thus addressed and intreated, are all that are present in the congregation: high and low, rich and poor, one with another, young and old, persons of all ages, sexes, states, and conditions; all being sinners, all are here called upon to come and make confession. The thing, to which they are invited, is to "accompany the minister to the throne of the heavenly grace." A great privilege, allowed to the people under the Gospel, which the Jews had not under the Law; for then none entered the temple but the priest only, the people being admitted no farther than the outward court, where they sent and offered up their petitions by the priest. But now they may come more boldly to "the throne of grace," and "accompany" the minister in offering up with him their prayers and confessions, to which he here invites them. Dr. Hole.

The conclusion of this Exhortation employs the same pathetick manner of expression that is often to be met with in the New Testament, particularly 2 Cor. x; the first verse of which chapter begins thus: "Now I Paul myself beseech you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ," &c. The substance of it is to teach us to pray "with a pure heart," and in "an humble" manner. Thus the Apostle, 1 Tim. ii. 8, commands men "to lift up holy hands in prayer;" and the Psalmist says, Ps. xvi. 18, that if he regarded iniquity in his heart, the Lord would not hear him." And, though the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews exhorts us, to go "boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need," Heb. iv. 16; yet it appears from chap. xii. 28, that this boldness must be tempered with humility: "Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear." Veneer.

It is worthy of observation, how right and judicious this Exhortation is in all its parts, to instruct the ignorant, to admonish the negligent, to support the fearful, to comfort the doubtful, to caution the formal, and to check the presumptuous; seeing all these tempers are

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found in every mixed congregation, and ought to be prepared for this solemn work. For without preparation, what, alas would be our approach to the throne of God, but a temptation? For it is a general rule for the temple, as well as for the closet, "before thou prayest, prepare thyself: and be not as one that tempteth the Lord," Ecclus. xviii. 23. Whilst then this Exhortation is reading by the minister, every person ought diligently to listen to its sense; and not ignorantly, as the manner of some is, to repeat the words after him and in so doing they will be best prepared to accompany him in making the following confession to the throne of grace. Dr. Bisse.


—saying after me;] It is highly reasonable that the minister should make such a pause between the end of the Exhortation, and the beginning of the Confession, that the whole congregation may have sufficient time, deliberately, and without the least hurry, to put their bodies in a praying posture, and to direct their minds to God, and fix them upon the divine Majesty; so that they may be thoroughly composed for so solemn and heavenly an exercise by the time that the minister begins the Confession. Dr. Bennet.

"A general Confession &c.] It is certain that sin unrepented of hinders the success of our prayers, Is. i. 15; lix. 1, 2; John ix. S1. Such therefore as would pray effectually have always begun with confession; because, when the guilt is removed by penitential acknowledgments, there is no bar to God's grace and mercy. Thus Ezra and Daniel prayed, Ezra ix. 5, 6; Dan. ix. 4, 5. And Christ taught his disciples to ask for pardon, as often as they prayed for their daily bread, Matt. vi. 11, 12. Dean Comber. To begin morning prayer with confession of sins may be called the Catholick custom of the primitive church. "Early in the morning," saith St. Basil, "the people rising go straight to the house of prayer, making confession of their sins to God with much sorrow." Which custom was not peculiar to his own church, but consonant, he tells us, to that of all other churches. Confession also was qualified in the same manner as ours, the congregation repeating the words after the minister, "every man," as he says, "pronouncing his own confession with his own mouth." L'Estrange. Accordingly, all ancient liturgies have some form for that very purpose: but none more full and proper can be found any where, than this of ours. Dean Comber.

There is no one subject in religion, on which the various denominations of Christians are more generally agreed, than the humble confession of our sins to Almighty God. If divine precepts, if the most striking examples and the happy consequences resulting from a right performance of this duty, ought to have any influence on the human heart; not one of us can wilfully

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neglect the solemn obligation without materially injuring his own soul. Rogers.

It is called "a general confession," which it is in a double respect. It is "general" in respect to the persons for all men are required to make it: "there is no man that liveth and sinneth not," as the Apostle saith; and therefore there is no man living, who is not bound to make confession of his sins. It is also "a general confession" in respect of its contents, which are the general failings and aberrations of human life, which are common to all men, and so may and ought to be confessed by all, without descending to particular sins, of which perhaps some of the congregation may not be guilty. These are to be the subject of men's private confessions, but may not enter into the publick confession of the Church, which ought to be so framed in general terms, that all may truly make and join in it: called for that reason likewise, "a general confession." Dr. Hole.

This confession is in its form most solemn, in its extent most comprehensive: for it takes in all kinds of sin, both of omission and of commission: and whilst every single person makes this general confession with his lips, he may make a particular confession with his heart; that is, of his own personal sins, known only to God and to himself: which, if particularly though secretly confessed and repented of, will assuredly be forgiven. This then is the privilege of our confession, that under the general form every man may mentally unfold "the plague of his own heart," his particular sins, whatever they be, as effectually to God, who "alone knoweth the hearts of men," as if he pronounced them in express words. Dr. Bisse.

And indeed had this form been more particular or express, it would not so well have answered the purpose, for which it was designed: for a common confession ought to be so contrived, that every person present may truly speak his own case; whereas a particular confession would be little less than an inquisition, forcing those that join in it to accuse and condemn themselves of those sins daily, which perhaps they never committed in their lives. Wheatly.

The Confession may be considered as consisting of two parts, besides the introduction or address to God: first, the confession properly so called, wherein we acknowledge our errings and strayings from God's ways by our original and actual transgressions, by our general and particular vices, and by our sins both of omission and commission; together with the forlorn and helpless condition to which they have all reduced us. The second part of it contains petitions for mercy and pardon for past offences, and likewise for grace to prevent them for the future. Dr. Hole.

-to be said of the whole Congregation] This provision of the Church is made with good reason. For could there be any thing devised better, than that we all, at our first access unto God by prayer,.should acknowledge, meekly our sins, and that not only in heart but with tongue; all that are present being made earnest witnesses, even of every man's distinct and deliberate

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assent to each particular branch of a common indictment drawn against ourselves? how were it possible that the Church should any way else, with such ease and certainty, provide, that none of her children may dissemble that wretchedness, the penitent confession whereof is so necessary a preamble especially to common prayer? Bp. Sparrow.

The Confession is directed "to be said of the whole congregation after the minister." If this be done by each person, as is also directed, "with an humble voice," he will give no disturbance to others, and every one must experience, that what he saith, on this occasion, with his own mouth, is brought more home to his soul, becomes more personal and affecting, than if he had silently assented to it, when said for him. And as it is a very useful, so it is a very old custom; revived in our Church, after being laid aside by the Church of Rome; who begin their service with an act of humiliation by the priest alone, in which the people have no share. Abp. Secker.

P-after the Minister,] Because the Church has injoined, that the general Confession shall be said by the whole of the congregation after the minister; therefore all ministers would do well to take care, that they do not begin a new portion thereof, before the people have had time enough to repeat the former with due deliberation. For nothing certainly can be more indecent, than the hurrying over of such an excellent form as this is; which ought to be so uttered, as that the souls of the people may go along with their words, that they may pass on leisurely from one thing to another, and the whole may be offered to God as a rational service.

The people also should remember, that when they are repeating the several portions of the Confession after the minister, they are speaking to God, and transacting with him the grand affair of repentance, and reconciliation to his favour, upon which their everlasting happiness depends. Let them therefore not behave themselves after a careless and slovenly manner; let them not utter the words in such a tone as betokens irreverence, and proves that they do not mind what they say, or to whom they speak but consider the vast importance of the duty of prayer, and the indispensable necessity of a due performance of it, and that confession of sins is the most solemn part of prayer. Let these considerations sink deep into them, and prevail upon them so to perform this duty, that it may obtain a remission, and not add to the number of their sins. Dr. Bennet.

And especially they should remember, that, since none are fit to pray till they have confessed their sins, it is necessary for every one to come early to prayers, and always to be there so soon as to join in this Confession, which, if duly considered, will greatly assist and direct us in the exercise of our repentance. Comber.


It is painful to see what numbers are habitually late in coming to church. The practice carries with it such an air of irreverence, as must be sufficient to convince every sober and thinking person of its extreme impropriety. Rogers.

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9-all kneeling.] There is nothing that we do in this world comparable to the publick acts and exercises of religion; and therefore nothing deserves or requires a greater solemnity. For which reason the Church requires us, in all our prayers and confessions, to be on our knees for which we have the example of our Saviour, and of all good men in all ages, who have always performed their publick devotions with humble and lowly gestures, and most commonly in this particular posture of kneeling. Dr. Hole.


And that posture in prayer, especially in this part, hath not only ancient authority but nature itself, on its side and doth so strongly both express and excite inward humility, that it should never be omitted wilfully, or negligently, in favour of ease and indolence: considerations, very unworthy of notice at such a time. Still they, whose infirmities will not permit them to be on their knees without pain or hurt, may doubtless allowably stand, or even sit: for God" will have mercy, and not sacrifice." Matt. ix. 18; xii. 7. And farther; as in many full congregations this rule cannot be observed by every one without taking up more room than can with convenience be spared; certainly the superior rule, of doing "the things wherewith one may edify another," Rom. xiv. 19, binds us rather to be content with standing, though a less eligible posture, than exclude numbers of our fellow Christians from being tolerably accommodated for joining in worship with us. For kneeling, though greatly preferable, is not prescribed as indispensably necessary. "The children of Israel," we read in the book of Nehemiah, "were assembled fasting," and, probably for the reason just mentioned, "stood and confessed their sins," Nehem. ix. 2. The penitent publican did not fail of being accepted, though he stood, when he said, " God be merciful to me a sinner," Luke xviii. 13. And on some days the early Christians did not kneel at all. Abp. Secker.

Kneeling is the attitude prescribed to us in this sclemn act of confession. This visible expression of humility will be adopted, so far as circumstances will permit, by every faithful worshipper. Undoubtedly every reasonable allowance will be made for age and bodily infirmity: but a wilful negligence, or a fashionable carelessness, in this part of our devotions must be unjustifiable, and therefore inexcusable. Rogers.

Almighty and most merciful Father;] This introduction sets before us Him, whom we have offended, under the two proper titles of "Almighty and most merciful Father" the first to shew us his power, and strike us with a holy fear of his anger; the second to manifest his love, and melt us with the sense of his mercy the former reminds us of the danger of standing out in our disobedience; the latter declares the hopes of being received into his favour again upon our repentance: and though his omnipotence might terrify us, yet his mercy invites us to return and confess our sins both small and great. Dean Comber.

We also invoke Him by the endearing appellation of "Father," according to the direction given us by our Lord in his prayer; thereby considering him as the

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7,8. 1 John

vii. 12.

Author and Preserver of our being, and above all, as "Father" by redemption, having "begotten us again unto a lively hope in Christ Jesus, and made us accepted in the Beloved." Waldo.

And here we may observe once for all the wisdom and piety of the Church in selecting such titles and attributes of God in the beginning of all her prayers, as are most proper for the petitions that follow them, and most likely to produce suitable affections. Such are the titles of Almighty and most merciful Father" here prefixed to the Confession. Dr. Hole.

• We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep.] It is well known that God's servants are called his sheep. Thus David says, "We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture," Ps. c. 2. and God is accordingly called a Shepherd; for instance, David says, "The Lord is my Shepherd," Ps. xxiii. 1: and our Saviour speaks of his disciples as his sheep, particularly John x. 1-5: and therefore when God's servants break his laws, and forsake the paths of his commandments, they are said to wander like sheep. Thus the Psalmist says, "I have gone astray like a sheep that is lost," Ps. cxix. 176. And the prophet says," All we like sheep have gone astray," Is. liii. 6: and our Saviour compares sinners to lost sheep, Matth. xv. 24: so that this expression is exactly scriptural, as well as very significant and proper. Dr. Bennet.

But to understand the full propriety of the phrase, it must be observed, that both the likelihood of straying was much greater, and the consequences of it much more fatal, in open countries, full of wild beasts, as those of the east were, than in ours. And such " a great and terrible wilderness" in this sense is the world. Deut. i. 19. Abp. Secker. Alas! how frequently do we forsake the safe fold, the pure streams, and the green pasture, which God hath provided for us, and wander into a dry and barren wilderness, where we want all true comforts, and are exposed to a thousand evils! And then how fitly are these errings and strayings of ours represented by a lost sheep! Dean Comber.

Some persons here distinguish between the words "erred" and "strayed;" supposing the former to relate to sins of ignorance, infirmity, and daily occurrence; the other, to more gross violations of God's laws, more wilful forsaking of his ways, and straying in the destructive paths of sin and wickedness. Dr. Hole.

We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts.] By this we understand the original corruption and depravation of our nature, which renders us too prone to evil, and averse from that which is good. Since the fall, our understanding is apt to imagine and devise evil, and our affections to lust after it. We devise false notions of evil things, and call them good, and under that false disguise we naturally desire them: but we do not charge God as the author of this corruption, but confess it springs from "our own hearts," James i. 13, 14, 15. Nor do we accuse ourselves for having, but for "following" those evil devices and desires: it is our unhappiness to have them, but that which we confess as our sin is our aptness to "follow them too much," our


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