Almighty God, we bless thee that thou hast sent thy Son to our broken-heartedness, our mourning, our unutterable distress and fear. Thou didst not send him to our greatness and power, but to our littleness and weakness and utter insufficiency. The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost—we bless thee for this, for in that word ” lost” we find our own true state. All we like sheep have gone astray: we have turned every one to his own way, there is no man to stand up before thee and challenge thy righteousness—each of us puts his hand upon his mouth and his mouth in the dust, and says, “Unclean, unprofitable, unworthy.” We see Jesus Christ, the Man we need, the Angel of the covenant, the Minister of light and hope, the Priest who offers his blood. Thou dost no longer require at the hands of man the cedar wood and the scarlet and the hyssop—there is a fountain opened in the house of David for sin and for uncleanness, and to that fountain we now repair. Lord, meet us every one, and give us cleansing of heart, sanctification of thought and will and purpose and hope, and make us without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, complete in thine own holiness, beautiful with thine own light. Thou hast been with us in the days that are gone, thou hast given us indeed to see the grave, but the tomb has been in a garden: we would look at the garden rather than at the grave, for all that sleep in Christ are roots that shall blossom and come to great fruitfulness in thine own heavenly harvest. O thou, who dost sow the earth with the dead, thou wilt surely put in thy sickle and reap, and the harvest shall live for ever. Thou hast smitten us sorely, and thou hast mingled some of our cups so bitterly that we shrink from tasting them, for surely they are full of what men call death—but thou hast strengthened us to drink those cups even to the dregs, and in the drinking of them there has been health. Thou hast led the blind by a way that they knew not; thou hast holden our eyes sometimes that we might not know thee, that we might accost thee as a stranger, and tell thee our complaint, in the bitter tone of despair. Thou hast dealt wondrously with us, our hearts have been ungrateful, our eyes have been quick to see the disadvantages of life, but our vision has been slow to discern the beauty of the divine presence, and the certainty of the divine way. We will fill our mouth with mourning because our heart is full of accusation, and each of us will say, “God be merciful unto me a sinner,” for every breath is evil and there is a taint even in our prayers. Keep us evermore at the Cross, bind us to the sacrifice offered thereupon; other hope we have none, out of that great darkness there streams a startling light, and out of that infinite woe there comes infinite reconciliation. Help us to find in the Son of God, God the Son, and all that our hearts ever need. Do thou undertake for us all the remainder of our days. What are they but a handful? We are as a hireling whose day is dying: the Lord help us to count with miserly care all the remaining moments, and may each of them be spent in thy sight and fear. Our grave is already dug, death is waiting for us, behold his sword is lifted up in the air and it awaits thy bidding that it may fall. Spare us yet a little longer, that we may serve thee with a more glowing love, with a more faithful diligence, and with a more joyous success. The Lord help us in all things to be true, honourable, and good, pure and wise—the Lord set his seal upon us that we may be claimed by none other. In the day when the wind is strong, do thou shelter us with thine own hand, in the time when the road is steep and difficult, do thou surround us with thy defenses and encourage us by all thy tender promises, and under all circumstances may thy will be our joy, in thy purposes may we find our soul’s rest, and hiding ourselves in the sanctuary of thy wisdom and goodness, may grace, mercy, and peace fill our hearts with a holy calm. Pity those who have no pity upon themselves, whose life is a daily self-laceration and self-loss: speak to the man who is far away from the light and house of God, and bring him near by the gracious compulsion of love. Send messages to our sick ones, and bid the most timid hope again. Thou knowest what messages to breathe in the ear that is closing to the voices of time, thou knowest what gospel will fall most gently on the failing and sinking heart of man. We commit all our loved ones to thy tender care —whom thou watchest are well watched, thou shepherdly, fatherly, motherly God. Have in Thy holy keeping all for whom we ought to pray: the bereaved and the desolated, those who are spending their first Sabbath as widows and orphans and lonely ones, who are feeling the cold of a great emptiness, the bitterness of all that death can bring to bear upon our poor trembling life. Let thy consolations abound where afflictions have had their way, and let all thy tenderest solaces spread themselves over the lives that have been desolated and blackened by severe bereavement. The Lord speak comfortably to every heart, bring back the old man’s youth, speak to those who are in trouble, saying that afflictions do not spring out of the dust. Hear the glad song of human thankfulness, listen to the bitter reproaches of self-accusation, and hear thou in Heaven thy dwelling-place, and when thou hearest, Lord, forgive. Amen.