The Poetic Prayers of John Craig

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The 1769 autobiography of the Rev. John Craig (1709-1774), the Irish-American pioneer Presbyterian pastor who ministered in Augusta County, Virginia and elsewhere was originally titled “A Preacher Preaching to Himself From a Long Text of No Less Than 60 Years: On Review of Past Life.” The full text of this manuscript was included in Lillian Kennerly Craig’s Reverend John Craig, 1709-1774: His Descendants and Allied Families (1963), a valuable genealogical history, which was recently made available to the public domain via the Internet Archive, and recently added to Log College Press. It is a rich treasury of material, historical and devotional in nature, including Craig’s 1764 Farewell Sermon addressed to the congregation at Tinkling Spring of Fisherville, Virginia..

Craig, John, Autobiography Title Page.jpg

The editor has noted that Craig’s recorded prayers are poetic in nature.

Not intended by him to be blank verse, but that is what his beautiful prose really is. Reverend Craig was a gifted writer. I suggest that you rewrite aIl of his prayers in the form of blank verse.

Two particular prayers were rendered in blank verse by the editor.

O my God,
Perfect what Thou hast early begun in me.
Oh, let me lean upon Thee! Thou, Thou alone art the only
beloved of my Soul!
Keep my love stead to Thee,
and be Thou ever near me.
Drive away all my fears; give me true and saving faith in Thee,
and in Thy promises.
Strengthen, help and uphold me in life, and thro Death,
by the right hand of Thy Righteousness.
Forsake me not, or I am undone forever!
Save me or I perish! Oh grant these to me
for Christ’s sake.

And another:

Eternal and Almighty God, the Creator of the Universe,
who rules and over rules all the events therein,
Thou art my God by creation, and by dedication,
by preservation, and by personal covenant relation.
Make me Thine by renovation and sanctification.
And thro faith in Christ, make me one of Thy children,
precious in Thy sight.
Oh Heavenly Father in Christ,
I now praise Thee with all my heart!
Thou early won my love, and Thou hast been
the Guide of my youth. Thy love, care and bounty
never failed. And as a loving and tender parent,
Thou took notice of my pride, vice and folly,
chastised and corrected me, yet took not
Thy loving kindness from me. Ye delivered me
from the Gates of Death, from the grave’s cruel
and devouring mouth. Thou sanctify’d the corrections,
and brought me to a sense of sin. Thou humbled me
in mine own sight, brought me to repentance
and to a cheerful resignation to Thy will.

Thou brought me to serve Thee
how, when, and where Thou pleas’d to call me —
with a firm dependence on Thy promise of the Holy Spirit
to guide, support and comfort me.
Glory in the highest to my God!
who not withstanding all my shortcomings and backslidings
from Thee, hast not left me to myself,
but by various chastisements and kind restraints;
with many comfortable providence, and constant striving
of the Holy Spirit still calling after me,
”This day return, my backsliding child,
I will heal thy backslidings!”
O my God, for Christ’s sake, give, O give me a heart to say
”Behold I come unto Thee, for Thou art the Lord,
Thou art my God!”

Oh leave me not now when old age steals in upon me,
but hold me up with the right hand
of Thy Righteousness.
Wean my heart from the world and all its sensual pleasures!
Dearest Lord,
Arm me to meet the king of terrors with courage;
he is Thy captive, and Thy messenger.
Let his sting and terror be taken away;
let him be the welcome messenger at Thy command
to call me from a world of misery
to Thy kingdom of Glory, purchased by Thy Blood —
for all that believe in Thy Name!
There I shall be one monument of Thy richest mercy,
to the eternal Glory of Thy free Grace,
of Thy unmerited Grace to sinners of whom I, even I
am Chief. But yet I am Thine!
O, Save me for Thy Glory’s Sake

The present writer has taken it upon himself to follow the editor’s precedent and to put another of Rev. Craig’s prayers into blank verse (without changing the spelling) as follows:

O Father of Mercy,
ye Foundain of all Good, make me truly thankful to thee
for that mercy, goodness, and care thou hast taken of me --
especially in my days of foolish childhood and youthful vanity.
O remember not the errors of my youth,
but forgive them all for Christ’s sake, and in Him now
accept me a poor, guilty sinner.
Oh give strength and courage now, when Nature fails,
to fight the good fight of faith and to finish my course with joy;
not fearing even the King of Terrors thro Christ his Conqueror,
the Captain of my Salvation, the foundation of all my hopes,
and the Purchaser of present comfort and future joy and Glory for me,
and for all that truly believe in his name!
Make me faithful unto death so that I may truly expect life from thee!
And to ye, Three-in-one, thro Christ,
be all Glory, now and thro Endless Eternity.

Further editing of the poetic prayers of John Craig might result in a devotional work not unlike the Valley of Vision on a smaller scale. For now, this brief introduction to Craig’s personal writings — indeed, the soliloquy of a soul crying out to God — may serve to whet the appetite of those who share Craig’s spiritual hunger for his beloved Christ.