FRIDAY AFTER THE THIRD SUNDAY
ON EVENING PRAYER
Consider first, that as God is our first beginning, forasmuch as we are made by him, so is he also our last end, because we are made for him, and, therefore, as we ought to begin the day with him, by morning prayer, so we ought to end the day in his company, by evening prayer. Morning and evening prayer are like the two daily meals of the soul, that ought not upon any account to be omitted, lest the soul should languish and grow sick for want of her daily food; and if upon any occasion we are hindered from taking these meals at their usual times, we ought to observe what we practise with regard to our bodily’ meals, that is, we must proceed to take them afterwards at the first opportunity. Moreover, as we make it our care that our families and such as are under our charge should not want their daily corporal sustenance, so we ought much more to make it our care that their souls may not starve for want of our assembling them to prayer, or seeing that they are regular in this daily exercise.
Consider 2ndly, that one of the principal businesses of the evening exercise is the daily examination of conscience, which may be made in this manner:
1. Place thyself in the presence of God, bow thyself down and adore him, and give him thanks for all he has done that day for thee and for the whole world.
2.Earnestly beg his light and grace, that thou mayest discover all thy sins and be heartily sorry far them.
3. Endeavour to call to mind how thou hast spent the day from morning till night; what care thou hast taken to discharge thyself well both of the common duties of a Christian, and of the particular duties of thy station or calling; and especially how thou hast behaved thyself with regard to thy customary failings and thy predominant passions.
4. Endeavour to be heartily sorry for all the sins of the day, and for all the sins of thy whole life, known or unknown; go in spirit to the feet of Christ, to make an humble confession of them to him, and implore his mercy.
5. Resolve upon a serious and thorough amendment for the future; determine to begin from that very hour a new life, and think upon the means of accomplishing it. O! how happy are those souls that labour in this manner every night to wash away their sins with penitential tears, and that never venture to lie down to rest under the guilt of sin! Unhappy they who, for want of this precaution, expose themselves every night to the evident danger of dying in their sins, and even finding themselves in hell before morning.
Consider 3rdly, that in order to end the day well, we ought every night to endeavour to put ourselves as much as possible in the condition in which we should be glad to be found at the hour of our death. And therefore, besides offering up to God every night the sacrifice of a contrite and humble heart, for all the sins of our life, the Christian should also think seriously of his last end, and dispose himself for it by acts of a lively faith, and of an entire confidence in his redeemer; by a perfect oblation and resignation of himself to the holy will of God, and by aspiring to an eternal union with him, and in the meantime hiding himself with great affection in the sacred wounds of Jesus Christ, and there composing himself to rest. See, my soul, thou never forget this practice.
Conclude never to neglect any part of this evening exercise, and to see that it be not neglected by any under thy care. A religious performance of this duty will be a great means to secure to thy soul a happy death.