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Rector’s Reflections 

Friday 24th May 2024

Come, Holy Ghost, Our Souls Inspire

Over the last week or so, I have been sharing some reflections based on the hymn, “Come, Holy Ghost, Our Souls Inspire”.  This hymn was written by John Cosin, a Church of England clergyman who lived back in the 17th Century.  Following the restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, Cosin worked with others on producing a revised version of the Book of Common Prayer. Cosin’s hymn was included in this revised Book of Common Prayer, and it has been in use ever since.

I gave an outline of Cosin’s life in yesterday’s reflections. Cosin was identified with the High Church party within the Church of England, and was a supporter of King Charles 1st.  When Parliament and the Puritans came to power,  Cosin was removed from his various offices.  Now homeless and without an income, he left England to live as an exile in Paris.  Despite the difficulties and uncertainties of exile, Cosin remained loyal to the Monarchy and to the Church of England.  He had the good fortune to live long enough to see the restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, and with it the Church of England. The new king, Charles II, appointed Cosin to the Bishopric of Durham, and Cosin remained Bishop of this northern see until his death in 1672.

Cosin lived his life, as a Christian and as a priest, in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.  It provided him with wisdom and clarity of thought, whether he was dealing with the complexities of everyday life or the intricacies of theological debate.  It provided him with comfort during times of stress and anxiety.  And it led him closer to God,  enabling and enriching his worship of God the Holy Trinity.  It is no accident that Cosin’s hymn culminates in the praise and worship of God , Father ,Son and Holy Spirit :

“Teach us to know the Father, Son,

And thee, of Both, to be but One,

That through the ages all along

This may be our endless song,

Praise to thy eternal merit,

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.”

Amen indeed.  Cosin’s life and Cosin’s hymn focus on three aspects of the work of the Holy Spirit: the gifts of wisdom, comfort and true worship.  I think every Christian in every age and circumstance has need to pray to the Holy Spirit for these three gifts. I certainly need wisdom as I consider the challenges and issues in my own life and in the world around me. I also need God’s comfort at times of difficulty  and God’s help if I am to try to offer the worship which is His due.  Cosin was, of course, a man of his time, and not without his faults and limitations. He took particular views on particular questions, and not everyone would agree with the positions he took. But his life and his hymn remind us of the importance of praying to the Holy Spirit for the guidance and strength we need to live faithfully as followers of Jesus Christ.  I think it is unlikely that any of us will be able to meet the complexities and challenges of life in our own strength alone.  We need the help of the Holy Spirit.

So let us pray to the Holy Spirit for the gifts we need.  We might well make use of the words of Cosin’s prayer, or we might choose other words.  I think the precise words we use are neither here nor there.  What matters is that we are recognising our limitations, and asking God for the help we need. Our prayer is enabling God to be the God He wants to be – a God who wants us to help us and guide us in every circumstance of our lives.  Prayer to the Holy Spirit and for the Holy Spirit is the sort of prayer which can give us a sense that God really does care for us, and that He really is active in our lives and our world. 

The Holy Spirit guided and protected Cosin throughout his life, and he is guiding and protecting us too. But are we listening to what the Spirit is saying to us and to our churches?  That is quite another question!

 

Please note: Rector’s Reflections will take a break next week for half-term.

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