Joseph Butler, Bishop of Durham, Philosopher, 1752
Hear my just cause, O Lord; consider my complaint; listen to my prayer, which comes not from lying lips. Let my vindication come forth from your presence; let your eyes behold what is right. Weigh my heart, examine me by night, refine me, and you will find no impurity in me.
My mouth does not trespass for earthly rewards; I have heeded the words of your lips.
My footsteps hold fast in the ways of your commandments; my feet have not stumbled in your paths.
I call upon you, O God, for you will answer me; incline your ear to me, and listen to my words.
Show me your marvellous loving-kindness, O Saviour of those who take refuge at your right hand from those who rise up against them.
Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me under the shadow of your wings,
From the wicked who assault me, from my enemies who surround me to take away my life.
They have closed their heart to pity and their mouth speaks proud things.
They press me hard, they surround me on every side, watching how they may cast me to the ground,
Like a lion that is greedy for its prey, like a young lion lurking in secret places.
Arise, Lord; confront them and cast them down; deliver me from the wicked by your sword.
Deliver me, O Lord, by your hand from those whose portion in life is unending,
Whose bellies you fill with your treasure, who are well supplied with children and leave their wealth to their little ones.
As for me, I shall see your face in righteousness; when I awake and behold your likeness, I shall be satisfied.
The heavens are telling the glory of God and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
One day pours out its song to another and one night unfolds knowledge to another.
They have neither speech nor language and their voices are not heard,
Yet their sound has gone out into all lands and their words to the ends of the world.
In them has he set a tabernacle for the sun,
that comes forth as a bridegroom out of his chamber and rejoices as a champion to run his course.
It goes forth from the end of the heavens and runs to the very end again, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure and gives wisdom to the simple.
The statutes of the Lord are right and rejoice the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure and gives light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is clean and endures for ever; the judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, more than much fine gold, sweeter also than honey, dripping from the honeycomb.
By them also is your servant taught and in keeping them there is great reward.
Who can tell how often they offend?
O cleanse me from my secret faults!
Keep your servant also from presumptuous sins lest they get dominion over me; so shall I be undefiled, and innocent of great offence.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.
Then Zophar the Naamathite answered:
‘Should a multitude of words go unanswered, and should one full of talk be vindicated?
Should your babble put others to silence, and when you mock, shall no one shame you?
For you say, “My conduct is pure, and I am clean in God’s sight.”
But O that God would speak, and open his lips to you, and that he would tell you the secrets of wisdom!
For wisdom is many-sided. Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves.
Can you find out the deep things of God?
Can you find out the limit of the Almighty?
It is higher than heaven—what can you do?
Deeper than Sheol—what can you know?
Its measure is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea.
If he passes through, and imprisons, and assembles for judgement, who can hinder him?
For he knows those who are worthless; when he sees iniquity, will he not consider it?
But a stupid person will get understanding, when a wild ass is born human.
If you direct your heart rightly, you will stretch out your hands towards him.
If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away, and do not let wickedness reside in your tents.
Surely then you will lift up your face without blemish; you will be secure, and will not fear.
You will forget your misery; you will remember it as waters that have passed away.
And your life will be brighter than the noonday; its darkness will be like the morning.
And you will have confidence, because there is hope;
you will be protected and take your rest in safety.
You will lie down, and no one will make you afraid; many will entreat your favour.
But the eyes of the wicked will fail; all way of escape will be lost to them, and their hope is to breathe their last.’
What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
Most merciful redeemer, who gave to your bishop Richard a love of learning, a zeal for souls and a devotion to the poor: grant that, encouraged by his example, we may know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit are alive and reign, one God, now and for ever.