Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Prayers for a Time of Earthquakes and Violent Floods

Frustrated by a lack of decent modern prayers for such times of catastrophe as are now afflicting the world, I turned to older sources; and soon enough located James Merrick's Prayers for a Time of Earthquakes and Violent Floods, which was issued in 1756, just after the Great Lisbon Earthquake that devastated the Portuguese capital, slew tens to hundreds of thousands, and shook all Europe, on All Saints' Day 1755.  The term "Floods" in Merrick's pamphlet's title refers to what we now call tsunami, a word imparting such a sense of terror, signifying the vomiting forth of the sea upon the land to the destruction of every thing thereon.

Of your charity, pray in behalf of the people of Japan, whether those multitudes drowned and gone before God's Judgement, or their surviving kinsmen perhaps bereft of all possessions; pray that the threatened nuclear disaster be averted.

Herewith, as downloaded and proof-read, Merrick's Prayers:

For a Time of
Violent FLOODS:
Suited to the various Occasions and Circumstances of Persons who are apprehensive of such Calamities, or have already felt the Effects of them.
Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford.
Sold by John Rivington, in St. Paul's Church-yard. 1756.
[Price 1 d. or 7 s. a Hundred. ]

HE present Situation of the Author (who has lain under a long and painful Illness, which makes a very little Application to Writing and Reading oppressive to him)[1] may plead in some Measure for any Defects to be observed in the following Collection of Devotions. Had he not found this little Attempt too much for him, he might perhaps have made some Addition to it. As it now stands, he has been encouraged to hope, that the Publication of it may be of some Use.



HE Use of Prayer and Repentance, at a Time when we are threatened with Earthquakes, Inundations, or other like Events, may be considered under three Views; as intended either to secure to us a happy Condition in another Life, in case we perish by them, or to keep the Events themselves from happening, or lastly to bespeak God's Care and Providence for our personal Safety when they do happen. I shall offer some Reflections relating to each of these Points.
When the Calamities of the Time are regarded as the Fruit of our Sins, and Tokens of God's Anger, the Importance and Necessity of forsaking our Sins, and of recommending ourselves to the Favour of God by a strict Observance of his Laws, are clear and obvious to every Understanding. But if such Changes in the natural World were not the Signs of divine Wrath, nor the Destruction of some Persons and Preservation of others the immediate Appointment of Providence, though there would then indeed be no Hope of averting the temporal Calamities which threaten us, either by Prayer or any other religious Performances, yet in this Case likewise, the Necessity and Advantage of addressing ourselves to God in Prayer, and applying ourselves to the Duties of Religion with all possible Diligence, must appear to every thinking Man in the strongest Light. For whether we consider the astonishing Events, which have lately alarmed the World[2], as the Effects of Sin or not, sure we are that we have sinned, and we know likewise, that if we die in our Sins, we must suffer the Vengeance of God in another World, however we may escape it in this. When therefore we hear Accounts of Earthquakes, which have swept away great Multitudes of Men with a swift and sudden Destruction; when we are told that they have extended to vastly distant Parts of the World; that Nations near us have felt the Effects of them to a most dreadful Degree, and that our own Island has already in some Measure been affected by them, it deeply concerns us to make the best Preparation we can for a Trial, of which we have so much Reason to be apprehensive ; and which, if it should befal us, may plunge us into Eternity in a Moment. It will be our Wisdom and our Happiness to be frequent and earnest in our Prayers to almighty God, to examine our past Lives and the present State of our Souls, to shew the Sincerity of our Repentance by a thorough Amendment of Life, and to keep ourselves ready for that awful Account, to which we know not how soon we may be called. This will be a certain Method of securing ourselves from the worst Effects of any such calamitous Event, though it should come upon us: But Revelation has encouraged us to hope, that by a timely Application to the Duties of Religion, we may save ourselves even from the temporal Suffering with which we are threatened.
We have the clearest Evidence from Scripture, that almighty God, when he made the World, and appointed the Course of Nature, did not preclude himself from working such Changes in them as might at any Time answer the Designs of his Justice, or his Mercy, in regard to Mankind. We are there told, that he has actually wrought such Changes in them for the Punishment of wicked Men; and that not only in his Dealings with the Jews, his peculiar People, but with others also. The Account given us of Noah's Flood is alone a full Confirmation of the Point, as it shews that the Effects of his Vengeance have extended to all the Nations under Heaven. On the other Hand, the Instance of God's Mercy to the Inhabitants of Nineveh may well give us Hope of averting his temporal Judgements, if we follow the Example of their Humiliation and Repentance: For who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce Anger, that we perish not*?
But beside the Hope which the Scriptures afford us of preventing a national Calamity by a general Repentance and Reformation, they farther encourage the penitent Sinner to trust in the divine Goodness for his own personal Safety (if God sees that his Continuance in Life will be an Advantage to him) though the Judgements threatened should fall upon the Community to which he belongs. Without enlarging upon the Subject, I shall propose one Text from the New Testament, which may direct our Judgement in this Particular: Are not two Sparrows sold for a Farthing? (says our blessed Saviour) and one of them shall not fall on the Ground without your Father. But the very Hairs of your Head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore ye are of more Value than many Sparrows, Matth. Ch.x. Ver. 29, 30, 31. Let any Person consider what is here said of the Attention shewn by almighty God to every thing that may endanger the Life of a simple Bird, and of the superior Importance of Man, and judge whether a Calamity which destroys the Life of Thousands of Men, and puts an End to their State of Probation, can be effected merely by Chance, or a blind Concurrence of natural Causes. If not, we have the strongest Reason to cast ourselves on the Providence of God, and to use our utmost Endeavours to procure ourselves a Share in his Favour and Protection, who can govern and direct the alarming Changes which have begun to appear in the material World, in all their Circumstances, and in all their Consequences; can either Stop their Progress, or remove us out of the Reach of their Violence when they happen; and who will most certainly (if we do our Duty) either save us from Death, or make it a Step to our everlasting Happiness.


A Prayer to be used by a private Person or by a Family.

 Almighty God, Maker and Governor of Heaven and Earth, have Mercy on the whole Race of Mankind; and grant that the Ruin which thou hast brought upon the World by Earthquakes and Floods may awaken us all to a Sense of our Danger, and make us deeply and earnestly repent of those Sins which have most justly provoked thy Wrath and Indignation against us. Glory be to thee for thy Goodness to those of this Nation and Place, in allowing us Time for Repentance; O let us not increase our Guilt by neglecting to use it, but work in us all such a Regard to thy Laws, as may prevent the Continuance of thy Judgements, and save us from that sudden Destruction with which we are threatened: But if thou see it needful to inflict it upon us, O let it not find us unprepared, but grant that we may depart out of this World in thy Faith and Fear, with a perfect Resignation to thy Will, a full Trust in thy Mercy and Goodness, and a stedfast Hope of eternal Life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


A Prayer to be used by a private Person, either before or after an Earthquake or violent Flood.

N. B. The two following Prayers, being of different Lengths, may be used at different Times, according to a Person’s Opportunity.

Lmighty God, who seest me placed in the midst of many and great Dangers, watch over me I beseech thee, both now and for evermore. Unto thee I commit my Soul and Body, as unto a faithful and wise Creator. Take me not hence, O Lord, in thine Anger, by an Earthquake or Flood, or any other sudden Calamity, but mercifully appoint me such a Time and Manner of Departure, as thou knowest to be best for me. Forgive the Sins of my past Life, grant me Support and Comfort in all Trials and Afflictions, and keep me always prepared for the Hour of Death and the Day of Judgement. Let not the Sense of thy Terrors overwhelm me with Fear and Astonishment, or destroy my Hope in thy Mercy, nor the Knowledge of thy Mercy encourage me to Presumption and groundless Confidence: Grant that I may judge of myself as thou judgest of me, and be always careful to have a Conscience void of Offence towards thee, and towards all Men. Create in me a strong and lively Faith in thee, and in thy Son Jesus Christ. Subdue in me all sinful Thoughts and Desires; wean me from the Vanities of the World; fill me with devout and heavenly Affections; confirm, increase, and perfect in me every good Disposition and Temper; and grant that my whole Life and Conversation may be so ordered and governed by the Grace of thy Holy Spirit, that no Temptation may turn me aside from thee, or deprive me of thy Love and Favour: But whether I live, let me live unto thee, or whether I die, let me die unto thee, through Jesus Christ, my blessed Lord and Saviour. Amen.


Lmighty God, who hast visited the World with Earthquakes, Floods, and other Tokens of thy Vengeance, continue thy Mercy to me, and to all others whose Lives thou hast hitherto spared and preserved. Make us so truly repent of our Sins, that thine Anger may be turned away from us; comfort and support us in this Time of Danger and Distress; Fit and prepare us for every Trial which thy Providence shall bring upon us; and grant that we may live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present World; that when thou shalt call us to Death and Judgment, we may be found acceptable in thy Sight, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Three Prayers to be used either by a private Person, or by a Family, in any Place where an Earthquake has a little before been felt, or after such Appearances in the Sky, or other Signs, as seem to threaten them with immediate Danger.

OST gracious God, who hast now warned us to apprehend the near Approach of sudden and violent Death, look down with thy tenderest Compassion upon us thy sinful Creatures; and let thy merciful Kindness speedily help and deliver us, for the Sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


 Most holy Lord God, who sparest when we deserve Punishment, and in thy Wrath thinkest upon Mercy, assist and relieve all Orders and Degrees of Men among us, in this Time of Danger and Distress, according to their several Necessities. Turn the Hearts of the hardened and obstinate Sinners; pardon and restore all who truly repent of their Sins; comfort the fearful and weak-hearted, and vouchsafe to us all that Measure of thy Grace, which may deliver us from the Corruptions of our frail and sinful Nature, and enable us to triumph over Death and the Grave, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


 Almighty God, save and defend us, if it be thy blessed Will, from the Danger which threatens us. But if the Hour of our Departure be at Hand, let thy Holy Spirit strengthen, assist, and support us under this our last and greatest Trial. Pardon all the Sins which we have committed against thee by Thought, Word, and Deed; Extinguish in us all Remains of sinful Desire and Affection; Receive us to thy Mercy, and grant that in the last Day we may be presented faultless before thee with exceeding great Joy, through the Merits and Mediation of Jesus Christ, our blessed Lord and Saviour. Amen.

A Prayer of Preparation for Death, to be used by a private Person.

 Almighty God, Maker and Judge of all Men, have Mercy upon me, thy weak and sinful Creature; and if by thy most wise and righteous Appointment the Hour of Death be approaching towards me, enable me to meet it with a Mind fully prepared for it, and to pass through this great and awful Trial in the Manner most profitable for me. O let me not leave any thing undone which may help to make my Departure safe and happy, or to qualify me for the highest Degree of thy Favour that I am capable of obtaining. Pardon the Sins which I have committed against thee by Thought, Word, and Deed, and all my Neglects of Duty. Pardon the Sins which I have committed against my Neighbour; and if others have wronged or offended me, incline my Heart freely and fully to forgive them, and do thou forgive them also. Cleanse my Soul from all its Corruptions, and transform it into the Likeness of thy Son Jesus Christ; that being clothed with his Righteousness, and accepted through the Merits of his Death, I may behold thy Face in Glory, and be made Partaker of thy heavenly Kingdom. And, O merciful Father, give me that Supply of spiritual Comfort, which thou seest needful for me in my present Condition: And grant that, when my Change comes, I may die with a quiet Conscience, with a well-grounded Assurance of thy Favour, and a joyful Hope of a blessed Resurrection, through my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

A Prayer to be used on Occasion of Damage done by a Flood.

 Lord God, who seest the Loss and Damage which the Overflowing of Waters has brought on this and other Places, have Pity on all who are in danger of suffering by this Calamity. Prevent, if it be thy blessed Will, the farther Increase and Continuance of it, and keep it from being hurtful to our Dwellings, our Lands, and other Possessions. Give thy Grace to all who have suffered or shall suffer Loss, that they may bear their Lot with Patience and Contentment, improve their worldly Afflictions to their spiritual Advantage, and stir up the Minds of others to relieve their Necessities. Suffer not any of us to waste that portion of Wealth which thou preservest to us, in Luxury, Intemperance, or Profuseness; but make us to delight in good Works, and chearfully to contribute to the Support of those who are in Want and Distress; that when thou shalt call us to give an Account of the Talents which thou hast given us, we may be accepted by thee as good and faithful Servants, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


A Thanksgiving for a Person escaped from great Danger of Death.

 My most merciful God and Saviour, I bless thee, I praise thee, I give Thanks unto thee, for the great Deliverance which thou hast vouchsafed me. What Return can I make for thy Goodness towards me, but the Services of that Life which thou hast thus graciously preserved? Services, which were due to thee by numberless Obligations before this new Instance of thy Mercy was shown to me. O grant that I may express my Thankfulness to thee by a chearful and constant Obedience to all thy Laws and Commands, and so employ the Time which thou allowest for my Continuance in this World, as shall be most for thy Glory and the Salvation of my own Soul, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


A Prayer for a Person who has lost Friends or Possessions by the Effects of an Earthquake or Flood.

 Most gracious Lord God, who makest all things work together for Good to those who love and obey thee, give thy Grace, I beseech thee, to me and to all others whom thou hast afflicted by the Loss of Friends, the Loss of Possessions, or of any other worldly Comfort. Thou hast given, and thou hast taken away; blessed be thy holy Name. Glory be to thee for our Deliverance from Death, and for that Measure of the Necessaries and Conveniences of Life which we still enjoy. Make us truly thankful for these thy Mercies; make us patient and contented under all thy Dealings towards us; sanctify our temporal Losses to the Good of our Souls; give us that Portion of outward Blessings which thou knowest to be best for us; and grant, that beholding the Vanity and Uncertainty of all earthly Satisfactions, we may there fix our Hearts where true Joys are to be found, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


For a Person who has led a wicked Life, and desires to reform.

 Most gracious Lord God, have Mercy upon me thy sinful Creature, and forgive the many and great Offences which I have committed against thy divine Majesty. I thank thee, O Lord, that thou hast not cut me off in the midst of my Sins, but hast afforded me Time to reflect on my past Life, and to intreat thy Grace and Mercy. O continue this thy Goodness towards me, allowing me yet farther Space for a full and effectual Repentance and an intire Amendment of Life. Strengthen my faint Resolutions and Purposes, assist my weak Endeavours, and subdue my unruly Will and Affections by the Power of thy Holy Spirit. Make me careful to avoid every thing displeasing to thee, and keep me particularly from those Sins to which I am most inclined and accustomed: And grant, that being cleansed, renewed, and perfected by thy Grace, I may yield a ready Obedience to all thy Commandments, through Jesus Christ, my blessed Lord and Saviour. Amen.


[1] James Merrick (1720–1769) was an English poet and scholar; M.A. Trinity College, Oxford, 1742: fellow, 1745: ordained, but lived in college. It is said that "[h]e entered into holy orders, but never could engage in parochial duty, from being subject to excessive pains in his head". (Thomas Campbell, Specimens of the British Poets: With Biographical and Critical Notices (1855), p. 523.) He published poems, including The Chameleon; translated from the Greek and advocated the compilation and amalgamation of indexes to the principal Greek authors; versified the Psalms, several editions of which were set to music. His work was featured in Oxford religious poetry anthologies.]
[2] The Great Lisbon Earthquake, 1st November 1755.]
* Jonah, Ch. iii. V. 9.

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