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The private prayers of Bishop Andrewes

Introduction to: The Devotions of Bishop Andrewes
Translated from the Greek by John Henry Newman (vol I) and
Translated from the Latin by John Mason Neale (vol II),

London: S.P.C.K. and New York: The Macmillan Co. 1920, vii-xxv


Lancelot Andrewes was born in 1555, in the parish of All Hallows, Barking. His early education was received at Cooper's Free School in Stepney, and subsequently at Merchant Taylors' School; at the age of sixteen he went up to Cambridge, where he became successively scholar, fellow, and (1589-1605) master of Pembroke Hall. Ordained in 1580, he rose rapidly in his calling, becoming chaplain to Queen Elizabeth in or about 1586, canon of St. Paul's in 1589, canon of Westminster in 1597, and dean of the Abbey in 1601. Consecrated bishop of Chichester in 1605, Andrewes was translated to Ely in 1609, and to Winchester in 1619. From 1616 he was a member of the Privy Council, and from 1618 dean of the Chapel Royal. His death took /viii/ place in 1626; his body lies on the south side of the high altar at St. Saviour's, Southwalk.
    Andrewes lived through the reigns of Elizabeth and James I, and this bare chronicle of his life is enough to shew how large a part he took in the affairs of both Church and State in those difficult times. By temperament and early habit he was a student; he ‘never loved or used any games’; if he needed recreation, it was found in the study of Nature. Such a man might gladly have spent his days in the learned leisure of College rooms. But circumstances called him to the larger life of public service, and he threw himself into it without reserve. At St. Paul's he revived the office of penitentiary canon, attending in the aisles of the Cathedral during Lent to give spiritual counsel to any who sought it. At Westminster the boys of the school were not overlooked by the scholarly Dean, who associated himself with them both in their studies and their /ix/ hours of recreation. Under James I he attended the Hampton Court Conference of 1604, and took part in the preparation of the Authorized Version of 1611. At court he was frequently in attendance on the King, and for many years preached before him on the great festivals. It was Andrewes who was chosen to answer Bellarmine's attack upon the King and the English Church. His name appears on Royal Commissions, and on more than one occasion he was called to advise the King on perplexing questions of policy. Nor was the work of his own dioceses neglected. As Bishop he was munificent in his benefactions and untiring in his efforts to raise the standard of clerical life, and to secure decency in ritual and conformity to the doctrines and order of the Church.
    It was a full life that Andrewes led from boyhood to his death. As scholar, courtier, preacher, controversialist, bishop, he could have had little leisure, and must often have been /x/ harassed by the anxieties and wearied by the burdens of his high position and manifold labours. But, as his contemporaries witness, nothing seemed to disturb his serenity; the same grave, calm gentleness of manner marked him under all conditions. The secret of his victory over outward circumstances is disclosed in this book, which admits us to see the Bishop at his private prayers. Like the Confessions of St. Augustine, like many of the Psalms, the Preces privatae unlock the doors of a sanctuary where a saint kneels in fellowship with God.
    The private prayers of Bishop Andrewes were not written for publication. They grew up under the hands of the author in hours of solitude, perhaps when he was on his knees. That they are written in Greek, Hebrew, and Latin confirms this view of their origin; for others he would have used the English tongue; to Andrewes himself the three learned languages were as familiar and more expressive than /xi/ English. There are other indications that we have here the genuine outpourings of the saint's heart. Personal recollections are numerous: the writer prays for his schools and college, for the parishes he had served; for St. Paul's and Westminster, for the three dioceses which had been entrusted to him, for the men he had educated or ordained; he calls to mind that he was born on a Thursday, and thanks God for the church in which he was baptized. Lastly, the original MS., as we learn from one who had seen it, bore marks of long and constant use: it was ‘slubbered with his pious hands, and watered with his penitential tears.’ On his deathbed Andrewes gave a copy to his friend William Laud, then Bishop of Bath and Wells. But there is no reason to suppose that this book was entrusted to Laud for publication, nor was it in fact published by him, or as a whole and in the original until long after Laud's death. Some of the devotions appeared in an English translation as /xii/ early as 1620, and portions of the original in 1668, but the first edition which approached completeness issued from the Oxford Press in 1675.
      But private and personal as the Preces were in in their intention and original use, they have proved to be eminently fitted for adoption by Church people in general. Experience has shewn that Bishop Andrewes' private devotions are such as every devout member of the Church of England, and, it may almost be added, every good Christian would desire to make his own. What is personal is usually limited by the circumstances, the outlook, the mentality of the individual; it interests us by its individuality, but the field over which it ranges is necessarily narrow and may be one with which we ourselves have little in common. But the personal devotions of Bishop Andrewes are singularly free from this disadvantage. He had poured into them all the wealth of a rich nature; he has spent upon them all the resources of /xiii/ a mind stored with manifold knowledge and an experience as wide as his learning. There is no pedantry in his prayers; perhaps there is no conscious use in them of his great store of materials. Yet the Preces privatae embody recollections from most of the great fathers of the Church – Irenaeus, Tertullian, Cyprian, the Gregories, Chrysostom, Jerome, Augustine; from medieval writers such as Alcuin, Anselm, St. Bernard, Peter Lombard, Thomas Aquinas, Bradwardine, Gerson; from sixteenth-century writers such as Fisher and Erasmus; even the classical writers of Greece and Rome occasionally supply a phrase – Euripides, Aristophanes, Horace, Seneca have their mark. Of ancient liturgical books free use is made: we recognize portions of the great Horology and Euchology, of the liturgies of St. James and St. Basil; the Western Hours, Missal and Manual, several of the Primers, the Book of Common Prayer, and Knox's ‘Book of Common Order’ are /xiv/ all laid under contribution. One of the first scholars of his day, the friend of Causabon and Francis Bacon, at home both in patristic and classical lore, and in the newly-opened fields of Nature-study, Andrewes poured all the treasures of his wide reading and observation into his devotions; yet so utterly free is he from self-consciousness or love of display that they may be used by the unlearned without a suspicion that they are reaping the fruits of long years of laborious study.
      Even more remarkable is the Bishop's singular mastery over the words and thoughts of Holy Scripture. It does not lie in the ready stringing together of conventional Scriptural phrases, which neither assists devotion nor evinces any real knowledge of the Bible. Rather it is the art of the Christian scribe who, like an experienced householder, brings forth out of his treasure things new and old. So steeped is the mind of this great student and preacher of the Word with /xv/ Scripture that he weaves into the texture of his prayers history, psalm, and prophesy, gospel, epistle and apocalypse, often without regard to the literary history or historical order of the books, yet with such fitness and success that they blend and harmonize and gain fresh beauty from contact, as gold and silver and silks of divers colours worked into a glorious whole by the deft hands of a cunning artificer. It is a use of Holy Scripture which is widely remote from the critical and historical methods of our time, but which has its own value as an aid to devotion; nor does it often happen that this habit leads Andrewes into an interpretation which modern knowledge has shewn to be untenable.
Of the quaintnesses and eccentricities which would render the Bishop's sermons, notwithstanding their great merits, inappropriate in the modern pulpit, there is scarcely a trace in his devotions. There are a few verbal tricks or doubtful positions: a fondness for alliteration, as when he twice connects /xvi/ ‘Gethsemane, Gabbatha, Golgotha,’ and often brings together ὀρθοτομεῖν and ὀρθοποδεῖν : a tendency to combine alternative and inconsistent interpretations, as when he explains sanctorum communionem in the Apostles' Creed as the fellowship of holy persons in holy things: the too ready acceptance of such traditions as that the Angels were created on the second day, and that is was on a Friday that man fell, and the first promise of Redemption was made. But these defects, if they are such, are easily removed in the use of the prayers. More perplexing perhaps to the majority of readers are the occasional references to the events and conditions of Andrewes' own time: - allusions to the earthquake of 1580, and to ‘those in galleys’ (the slaves in Barbary corsairs), to ‘the foes of our most holy faith’ (the Turks); or the use of the technical language of theology, as when the Incarnation is called ‘the Dispensation,’ and the Incarnate is described /xvii/ as the ‘Coal of double nature,’ and the Divine Being as the Superessential Essence, or again where penitence after baptism is called ‘a second plank.’ The book, in fact, to impart its full measure of benefit, should be studied before it is used; the prayers are those of a scholar, and they assume a scholar's knowledge and interest in history and letters. But they are also prayers of a saint, and all who aim at the saintly life will find in them, notwithstanding occasional obscurities, one of their best helps in attaining their end.
    The Private Prayers being, like the Book of Common Prayer, with forms for daily Morning and Evening Prayer, and to these are added separate forms for Morning Prayer each day of the week. Each of these forms embraces certain chief elements of devotion, such as commemoration, petition, intercession; acts of penitence, faith, hope; offering of praise and thanksgiving. Beside these forms in which the elements are combined, there are /xviii/ separate offices of penitence, faith, thanksgiving, and petition which occupy nearly half the book.
    Nothing is more surprising in Andrewes' treatment of these great factors of private prayer than the infinitive variety of detail which he is able to introduce into the constantly recurring sections of his work. One would expect to find in fifty pages devoted penitential devotions much wearisome and unedifying repetition; but every page has its own representation of the evil of sin, and the justice an mercy of God; its own confessions, petitions, deprecations, hopes. The writer gathers up from Scripture every confession uttered by patriarch or prophet or psalmist or apostle, and makes it his own; he collects from the experience of life all that aggravates human sin, that exposes its depths of ingratitude, its intricacies of self-deceit; every consideration drawn from the mercies and the judgments of God which can enhance its guilt. Yet the ‘spirit of /xix/ bondage again to fear’ is wholly absent from these devotions; the sorrow they express is the sorrow ‘after a godly sort’ which works a ‘repentance that brings no regret,’ and not the sorrow of the world, which works death. Members of the Church who in the exercise of their discretion abstain from using the ministry of private confession and absolution will find no better substitute than these acts of penitence, with their intimate revelation of personal sinfulness, and their firm trust in God's mercy through Christ.
    There is the same breadth of outlook and minuteness of detail in Andrewes' intercessions. As Dean Church has written: ‘There is no class of men, no condition, no relation of life, no necessity or emergency of it, which does not at one time or another rise up before his memory, and claim his intercession: infants, children, the young, grown man, the middle-aged, the old, prisoners, foreigners, unburied, /xx/ the living and the dead.' <note 1> All estates are remembered: ‘farmers and graziers, fleet and fishers, tradesman and mechanics, down to the meanest workmen.’ The Church is especially present to Andrewes' mind: ‘the Church ecumenical, Eastern, Western, our own’; and for our own Church ‘that wat is wanting in it may be supplied; what is unsound, corrected.’
    In praise and thanksgiving Andrewes is not less helpful than intercession. He teaches us how without loss of reverence to descend into the smallest particulars of the mercies personally received. Nothing in his life from infancy onwards is forgotten: he thanks Gods for ‘house, kinsfolk, neighbours, friends; for healh, good repute, sufficiency; for parents, honest and good, teachers gentle, colleagues like-minded, retainers faithful; for all who have stood me in good stead by their writings, sermons, conversations, prayers, wrongs.’ He rises to his highest level when he is praising God for all that /xxi/ He is in Himself and has done for man.
    The Bishop's theological position calls for a few words. He was a devoted son of the Church of England as she emerged from the troubles of the first half of the sixteenth century. ‘But,’ to quote Dean Church again, ‘in Andrewes, as in Hooker, we come on a wide divergence from the language of the early theologians of Elizabeth … in Bishop Andrewes we see the awaking in the Church of wider knowledge, of freedom and independence of thought, of calmer and steadier judgment.’ <note 2> Of his loyalty to the English Reformation there can be no question; but he realizes more fully than could have been done in the earlier days of the movement the Catholic heritage of the Church, its relations to East and West, and not only the undivided Church of the first few centuries. He is conscious of the defects and needs of the Reformed /xxii/ Church; he adheres to ancient terms and traditions of which the Reformers had been not unnaturally shy. Thus he speaks of St. Mary as ‘ever-virgin’ and ‘Mother of God.’ He is supplied ‘with good hopes, touching the remission of sins through penitence and the works thereof, by the power of the thrice holy keys and sacraments that are in the Church’ of God. He prays repeatedly for the faithful departed, and ask for them ‘‘rest and light.’ The Eucharistic teaching of the short office for use before and at the Liturgy implies a full acceptance of the patristic doctrine: ‘the Mysteries are immaculate, awful, quickening, saving; they are unto remission of sins, healing of the sicknesses of the soul, provision for the journey of ghostly life, a pledge of renunciation.’ But of Roman assertions there is no trace. Nowhere in the devotions are the saints invoked; they are commemorated before God, and He is thanked for them, but there is no ora pro nobis, not even a prayer /xxiii/ that God will hear their intercessions for us. Nowhere is there any approach to the scholastic doctrine of Transubstantiation; there is no cult of the Blessed Sacrament, no desire for ‘access’ to it, apart from communion. The whole tone of the Preces privatae is akin to that of the Greek liturgies. It is interesting to note, by the way, that Andrewes seems, with some early Greek forms, to have attributed the consecration of the Bread and Wine to the Son rather than to the Holy Spirit: ‘Thou,’ he says, addressing to the Lord, ‘art with us invisibly to hallow the gifts that are set forth, and those for whom they are brought.’
    But the theology of the Preces privatae does not largely concern itself with controversial questions. It is for the most part an interpretation of the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds read in the light of the experience of life. The Incarnation and Atonement, the Resurrection and Ascension, the Coming of the Spirit and His work in the Catholic /xxiv/ Church, the heavenly life and the future Coming of our Lord, devotionally handled, supply abundant materials for prayer and praise. The connexion of these great doctrines one with another, the relation in which they all stand to the spiritual life of men, are continually recalled to the mind. No place is left for the spurious growth of devotions founded on baseless theory which disfigure many modern manuals, nor for the false sentiment and conventional phrases of an opposite school. In his private prayers Bishop Andrewes left the Church a legacy which, come what may, will always be one of her chief treasures; an heirloom second only in value to the Book of Common Prayer, the spirit of which it carries on ‘from the Church to the closet.’<note 3>
    The translation of the Greek devotions reprinted in this volume is due to John Henry Newman; it was made in his Anglican days for Tracts for the Times, where it first appeared as /xxv/ Tract lxxviii (1840). That of the Latin prayers which form the accompanying volume is from the pen of John Mason Neale, who published it in 1844 as a continuation of Newman's. Newman's version was made from the Clarendon Press text of 1675.


Hitchin, March 28, 1917

[The Introduction to this reprint was written by Professor Swete just before his death in 1917.]

Note 1: Dean Church, ‘Lancelot Andrewes’, in, Alfred Barry et al, Masters of English Theology being the King's College lectures for 1877, L:ondon: J.Murray 1877,104.

Note 2: Dean Church, op.cit., pp.76, 88.

Note 3:Dean Church, op.cit., p.105.