BLTC Press Titles


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The Pictorial Key to the Tarot

Arthur Edward Waite


The Characters of Theophrastus

Theophrastus


The Count of Monte Cristo

Alexandre Dumas


Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll


Lancelot Andrewes and his private devotions

by Lancelot Andrewes

Excerpt:

Breviary.

The Book of Psalms is by far the oldest and it is by far the best of all the books of public or of private devotion that we possess. The Book of Psalms is the model also as it is the mother of all the excellent books of devotion that we possess in addition to itself. In the Early Church and in the Latin Church of the middle ages a great body of liturgical and other devotional matter grew up and lay scattered about throughout Western Christendom of which the Roman Breviary is a compilation and a condensation,—its own name and title tell us as much. And taken as a whole,—in its immense size and in its very real riches, as well as in its militarylike order and method and dramatic movement,— with all its grave and obvious faults, the Roman Breviary is not wholly unworthy of its great name. And then the Book of Common Prayer is just a Bookrayer" purer and a more portable English Church Breviary.

The Bible, the Breviary, and the ancient liturgies, both Greek and Latin and Anglo-Saxon, were the authoritative and acknowledged sources out of which the Book of Common Prayer was compiled at first, and time after time improved. In the first edition of Bishop Sparrow's Rationale of the Book of Common Prayer there is an old print representing

The Eng

the twelve compilers of the English Prayer-Book sitting at work around a table. At the head of the learned company Archbishop Cranmer is seen with his hand on an open Bible. Bishop Ridley sits at Cranmer's right hand with the Fathers open before him, and on the archbishop's other side Bishop Goodrich sits with the ancient Liturgies spread open. 'These learned Bishops and Divines,' says Downes in his preface to Sparrow, 'proceeded to inspect and examine the missals, breviaries, rituals, pontificals, graduals, psalters, antiphonals, and all other service-books then in use.'

The Eastern Churches have a very noble devotional literature, which has been made accessible to the English student in the works of Maskell, Palmer, Neale, Littledale, Hammond, Bright, and Robertson, as well as in the Prayer-Books of Edward and Elizabeth. And such heirs of such riches are we, and such joint-heirs with all the Churches, that we possess yet another great treasure in the more private and more personal devotional books of all ages and all nations. We have the Confessions of Augustine, the Prayers and Soliloquies of Anselm, the unfinished Holy Week and other great prayers and praises of Jacob Behmen, the Golden Grove of Jeremy Taylor, the Private Devotions of Lancelot Andrewes, and William Laud, and Thomas Wilson, and many other suchlike precious possessions. But, for its peculiar purpose and for its special use, Andrewes's Private Devotions stands out at the The head of them all. There is nothing in the whole range of devotional literature to be set beside Andrewes's incomparable Devotions. Its author's public and private life; his intense conscience of his past sins and of his abiding sinfulness; his

keen, all-realising faith in God and in the grace of God; his soaring and adoring love; his universal scholarship, especially in the sacred schools; his so original method and so peculiar plan in the conception and in the composition of his book; and the long lifetime of profoundest penitential and importunate prayer that he has put into his book,— all these and many other things combine to make Bishop Andrewes's Private Devotions to stand alone and unapproached in the literature of the closet and the mercy-seat. To myself one of the chiefest compensations and off-sets for the reign of James the First is this, that the Private Devotions of Lancelot Andrewes were being continually composed and were being continually employed,— were being continually wrung out of him,— during the whole course of that so mischievous and insufferable reign. As the chief interest of the reign of this and that king of Judah and Israel lies in such and such prophets and psalmists and righteous men who lived and wrote in the reigns of those kings, so is it with us in our own national history. Kings and queens, protectors and presidents, and the times of their rule, are ultimately memorable and honourable still by nothing so much as by the good and the great men they had among their subjects, the progress that the Kingdom of Heaven made in their day, and not least by the number and the quality of the books belonging to the Kingdom of Heaven that were written in their day. And that the English Bible, the Five Sermons on the Sacraments, Donne's Sermons, and the Private Devotions—not to speak in this place of Macbeth, and Hamlet, and Lear, and the Essays, and the Advancement—have all come down to us out of James's day, that covers a multitude of the sins of his day, and that will make his day to remain rich and illustrious to all time in the estimation of the Church of Christ in our land, and in all other English-reading lands. It is to James's insight that we owe it that John Donne ever was a minister,—of whom Professor Saintsbury says that in the strength and savour of his quality he has no rival in English, no rival indeed anywhere but in the author of the Confessions.


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