About "The Sentences"
What are "The Sentences" and what are they for? They are verses of Scripture that help us to prepare for prayer by reminding us to repent.
The first part of Morning and Evening Prayer in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer is designed to prepare the minds of the Congregation for the Service in which they are about to engage, to remind them in whose presence they are and of the preparation of heart which is necessary in those who draw near to the King of Kings. Of necessity, this means that we must first consider our sin, our need for repentance, and the promises given to those who truly do repent.
Subsequent revisions of the Book of Common Prayer have watered down our need to deal with sin before we begin to worship. Instead of there being only "Sentences" which remind us of our inherited sin, our debts, trespasses and errors, these prayer books make them optional, allowing praise and worship to begin directly, and then perhaps to go back to confessing our sin afterwards (or not). They present alternative Sentences which are typically connected with the season. For example, at Easter time, they ask us to skip right to "He is risen. The Lord is risen indeed", or on Whitsunday we read "Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."
For reasons of Anglican authenticity and Scriptural integrity, the Reformed Anglican position is that while it may be allowed to read different sentences of Scripture that are similar to those suggested in the 1662 liturgy, it is not permitted to ignore, truncate or alter the purposes for which the liturgy was designed. Here then is an outline of those purposes and how "The Sentences" are to be read.
They are taken from various parts of the Bible and the number of them to be read is left to the discretion of the Minister. They are grouped as follows:
Sentences which call upon us to repent
- Rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. Joel ii. 13.
- Repent ye; for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. St. Matt. iii. 2.
Sentences which contain the language of a penitent person
- I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Psalm li. 3.
- Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Psalm li. 9.
- O Lord, correct me, but with judgment; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing. Jer. x. 24. Psalm vi. 1.
- I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. St. Luke xv. 18, 19.
- Enter not into judgment with thy servant, O Lord; for in thy sight shall no man living be justified. Psalm cxliii. 2.
Sentences which contain promises for those who truly repent
- When the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive. Ezek. xviii. 27.
- The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. Psalm li. 17.
- To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him; neither have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in his laws which he set before us. Daniel ix. 9, 10.
- If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us; but if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 St. John i. 8, 9.