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sin we call Simony, and yet Peter bade him pray for pardon: and Saint James tells us, that if the sick man send for the elders of the church, and they pray over him, and he confess his sins, they shall be forgiven him; chap. v. 14.
That even in the case of very great sins, and great judgments inflicted upon sinners, wise and good men have declared their sense to be, that God vindicated his justice in that temporal punishment; and so it was supposed to have been done in the case of Ananias, 6cc.: that nothing can be more absurd than to think that so great and good a God, who is so desirous of saving all, as appears by his word, by his sending his Son, by his oaths and promises, by his very nature and daily overtures of mercy, should condemn any, without the greatest provocations of his majesty, and perseverance in them.
Upon the strength of these arguments, the despairing person may be further taught to argue thus with himself:—
I consider that the ground of my trouble is my sin; and were it not for that, I should have no reason to be troubled : but since the "whole world lieth in wickedness," and since there cannot be a greater demonstration of a man's abhorrence of sin, than to be so deeply affected with sorrow for it; I therefore will erect my head with a holy hope, and think that God will also be merciful to me a sinner, as he is to the rest of mankind. I know that the mercies of God are infinite; that he sent his Son into the world on purpose to redeem such as myself; and that he hath repeatedly promised "to give to them that ask, and to be found of them that seek him and therefore I will not distrust his goodness, nor look upon the great God of heaven and earth to be worse than his word. Indeed, if from myself I *ere to derive my title to heaven, then my sins were a just argument of despair; but now that they bring me to Christ, that they drive me to an appeal to God's mercy, they cannot infer a just cause of despair. I am sure it is a stranger thing, that the Son of God should come down from heaven, and take upon hira our nature, and live and die in the most ignominious state of it, than that a sinful man, washed by the blood of Christ, and his own tears and humiliation, should be admitted to pardon, and made "partaker of the kingdom of heaven : " and it were stranger yet, that he should do so much for man, and that a man that desires, that labours after it to the utmost of his power, that sends up strong cries and
prayers, and is still within the covenant of grace, should inevitably miss that end for which our Saviour did and suffered so much.
It is certain, that of all the attributes that belong to God, there is none more essential to his nature, and which he takes more delight in, than his mercy; and it is as certain also, there must be proper objects for this boundless and immense attribute of God; and the most proper, if not only, objects of mercy in the creation, are the children of men; and of men, surely those who are most grieved and wearied with the burden of their sins. I, therefore, who am as pitiful an object of mercy as any, will cheerfully hope, that God will both forgive me here, and give me the blessing of eternal life hereafter: for I know that eternal life is purely the gift'of God, and therefore have less reason still to despair. For if my sins were fewer, and my unworthiness of such a glory were less, yet still I could not receive it but as a free gift and donation of God, and so I may now; and it is not expectation beyond the hopes of possibdity, to look and wait for such a gift at the hands of the God of mercy. The best of men deserve it not; and I, who am the worst, may have it given me. I know that I have sinned grievously and frequently against my heavenly Father: but I have repented, I have begged pardon, I have confessed and forsaken my sins, and have done all that is possible for me, to make atonement. I cannot undo what is done; and I perish, if there be no such thing as a remedy, or remission of sins. But then I know my religion must perish together with my hope; and the word of God itself must fail as well as I. But I cannot, I dare not, entertain such a thought. I firmly believe that most encouraging article of faith, the remission of sins; and since I do that which all good men call repentance, I will also humbly hope for a remission of mine, and a joyful resurrection.
I know that the devil is continually lying in wait to seduce and destroy the souls of men ; wherefore I will fortify my spirits, and redouble my guard, and call upon God to enable me to resist all the fiery darts of this malicious adversary.
Or perhaps this exceeding dejection, or malady of mind, may arise from the distemper and weakness of my body; or at most, I nope, it is only a disease of judgment, not an intolerable condition, I am fallen into: and since I have heard of a great many others who have been in the same condition with myself, and yet recovered, I will also take courage to hope that God will relieve me in his good time, and not leave my soul for ever in this hell of depraved fancy and wicked imagination. In fine, I will raise up my dejected spirits, and cast all my care upon God, and depend upon him for the event, which I am sure will be just; and I cannot but think, for the same reason, full of mercy. However, now I will use all the spiritual arts of reason and religion, to make me more and more desirous of loving God; that if 1 miscarry, charity also shall fail, and something that loves God shall perish, and be damned: which if it be impossible (as I am sure it is), then I may have just reason to hope I shall do well.
These considerations may be of service to "bind up the broken hearted," and to strengthen the "bruised reed" of a good man's spirit, in so great and terrible a dejection. But as cases of this nature are very rare, so the arguments here made use of are rarely to be insisted upon; and never, but to well-disposed persons, or reformed penitents, or to such as, in the general course of their life, have lived pretty strictly and conformably to the rules of religion. For if the man be a vicious person, and hath gone on in a continual course of sin, to the time of his sickness, these considerations are not proper. Let him inquire, in the words of the first disciples after Pentecost, " Men and brethren, what shall we do to be saved V And if we can but entertain so much hope, as to enable him to do as much of his duty as he can for the present, it is all that can be provided for him. And the minister must be infinitely careful, that he does not attempt to comfort vicious persons with the comfort of God's elect, lest he prostitute holy things, and encourage vice, and render his discourses deceitful; and the man unhappily find them to be so when he descends into the regions of darkness.
But because very few are tempted with too great fears of miscarrying, but the generality, even of the most profligate sort, are rather inclined to unwarrantable assurances of their future salvation, it will highly concern the ministers to prevent in time so great and reigning an imposition of the devil.
Wherefore to the former considerations to awaken the careless sinner and a stupid conscience, the following may be added, upon occasion, to check the overweening thoughts of the presumptuous.
Considerations against Presumption.
And here, let the bold and arrogant sinner further know: that a man cannot think too meanly of himself, but may very easily run into the contrary extreme: that the growths in grace are long, difficult, uncertain, often interrupted, consisting of great variety, and almost innumerable parts and distinctions, which a careless person can never discover: that the more a man presumes, the greater reason he hath to fear; because the confidence of such men is generally like that of children and young people, who have no other reason, but that they understand not the dangers and follies of their self-conceits: that " the heart of man is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked;" deceiving itself, and deceiving others, in innumerable instances; and being often "in the gall of bitterness," when the man appears with the fairest outside to the world: that it is certain, all "have sinned and come short of the glory of God;" but not so certain, that any one's repentance is real, and effective to salvation: that virtue and vice are oftentimes so near neighbours, that we pass into each other's borders without observation, and think we do justice, when we are cruel; or call ourselves liberal, when we are loose and foolish in our expenses, &c.
That the self-accusing publican was justified, rather than the self-confident Pharisee: that if Adam in Paradise, David in his house, Solomon in the temple, Peter in the family of Christ, Judas among the twelve apostles, and Nicholas among the deacons, and if the angels in heaven itself, did fall so atrociously, then we have all the reason in the world "not to be high-minded, but to fear;" and when we are most confident of ourselves, "to take heed lest we fall;" there being nothing so likely to occasion it, as pride and a great opinion of ourselves, which ruined the angels, which God resists, which all men despise, and which betray us into carelessness, and a wretched, undiscerning, and unwary spirit.
These are the main parts of ecclesiastical duties and offices in the visitation of the sick; which being severally performed, as occasion requires, it remains only that the minister pray over the sick, and remind him to do all the good actions he is capable of; to call upon God for pardon, to put his whole trust in him; to be patient and resigned; and even to renounce every ill thought or word. or indecent action, which, the violence of his sickness may have caused in him; to beg of God to give him his Holy Spirit, to guide him in his agony, and to send his holy angels to guard him in his passage.
Whatsoever is besides this, concerns the standers-by, that they do all in their respective offices diligently and temperately: that they join in prayer with the minister, with much charity and devotion; that they make no outcries or exclamations on the departure of the soul; nor any positive judgment concerning the dying man; by his dying quietly or violently, with great fears or a cheerful confidence, with sense or without, like a lamb or like a lion, with convulsions and terrible agonies, or like the silent and well-spent flame of an expiring taper. For these may happen severally, according to the constitution of the persons, and the nature of the distemper that befalls them; or else according as God pleases to dispense the grace, or the punishment, for reasons only known to himself.
Let us lay our hand upon our mouth, and adore the mysteries of the divine wisdom and providence, and pray to God to give the dying man rest and pardon; and to ourselves grace to live well, and the blessings of a holy and happy death.
VISITATION OF THE SICK.
When any person is sick, notice shall be given thereof to the Minister of the parish, who, coming into tin- sick person's house, shall say,
Peace be to this house, and to all that dwell in it.
When he cometh into the sick, man's presence, he shall say, kneeling down,
Remember not, Lord, our iniquities, nor
Then the Minister shall say,
Christ have mercy upon us.
Lord have mercy upon us. Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven' Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. Amen.
Minister. O Lord, save thy servant,
Answer. Which putteth his trust in thee.
Min, Send him help from thy holy place;
Answ. And evermore mightily defend him,
Min. Let the enemy have no advantage of him;
Answ. Nor the wicked approach to hurt him
Min. Be unto Aim, O Lord, a strongtower,
Answ. From the face of his enemy
Min. O Lord hear our prayers:
Answ. And let our cry come unto thee.
0 Lord, Iook down from heaven; behold, visit, and relieve this thy servant. Look upon him with the eyes of thy mercy; give him comfort and sure confidence in thee; defend him from the danger of the enemy, and keep him in perpetual peace and safety, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Hear us, Almighty and Most Merciful God and Saviour ; extend thy accustomed goodness to this thy servant, who is grieved with sickness. Sanctify, we beseech thee, this thy fatherly correction to him; that the sense of his weakness may add strength to his faith, and seriousness to his repentance: that, if it shall be thy good pleasure to restore him to his former health, he may lead the residue of his life in thy fear, and to thy glory: or else give him grace so to take thy visitation, that, after this painful life is ended, he may dwell with thee in life everlasting; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Then shall the Minister exhort the sick person after this form, or other like.
Dearly beloved, know this, that Almighty God is the Lord of life and death, and of aft things to them pertaining, as youth, strength, health, age, weakness, and sickness. Wherefore, whatsoever your sickness is, know you certainly, that it is God's visitation. And for what cause soever this sickness is sent unto you; whether it be to try your patience: for the example of others; and that your faith may be found in the day of the Lord, laudable, glorious, and honourable, to the increase of glory, and endless felicity; or else it be sent unto you, to correct and amend in you whatsoever doth offend the eyes of your Heavenly Father: know you certainly, that if you truly repent of your sins, and bear your sickness patiently, trusting in God's mercy for his dear Son Jesus Christ's sake, and render unto him humble thanks for his [fatherly visitation, submitting yourself wholly unto his will, it shall turn to your profit, and help you forward in the right way that leadeth unto everlasting life.
If the person visited be very sick, then the Curate may end his exhortation in this place, or else proceed.
Take, therefore, in good part the chastisement of the Lord; for (as St. Paul saith, in the twelfth chapter to the Hebrews,) "whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth; and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons: for, what son is he whom the father chasteneth not 1 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh, which corrected us, and we gave them reverence; shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily, for a few days, chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness." These words (good brother) are written in holy Scriptures for our comfort and instruction, that we should patiently and with thanksgiving bear our Heavenly Father's correction, whensoever, by any manner of adversity, it shall please his gracious goodness to visit us. And there should be no greater comfort to Christian persons, than to be made like unto Christ, by suffering patiently adversities, troubles, and sicknesses. For he himself went not up to joy, but first he suffered pain: He entered not into his glory before he was crucified. So, truly, our way to eternal joy, is to suffer here with Christ; and our door to enter into eternal life, is gladly to die with Christ, that we may rise again from death, and dwell with him in everlasting life. Now therefore, taking your sickness, which is thus profitable for you, patiently; I exhort you, in the name of God, to remember the profession which you made unto God in your baptism. And forasmuch as,
after this life, there is an account to be given unto the Righteous Judge, by whom all must be judged without respect of persons; I require you to examine yourself, and your estate, both towards God and man; so that, accusing and condemning yourself, and your own faults,, you may find mercy at your Heavenly Father's hand for Christ's sake, and not be accused and condemned in that fearful judgment. Therefore I shall rehearse to you the Articles of our Faith, that you may know whether you believe as a Christian man should, or no.
Here the Minister shall rehearse the Articles of the Faith, saying thus
Dost thou believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth?
And in Jesus Christ his only-begotten Son, our Lord 1 And that he was conceived by the Holy Ghost; born of the Virgin Mary; that he suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; that he went down into hell, and also did rise again the third day; that he ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, and from thence shall come again, at the end of the world, to judge the quick and the dead 1
And dost thou believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy Catholic church; the communion of saints; the remission of sins, the resurrection of the flesh; and everlasting life after death?
The sick person shall answer.
All this I steadfastly believe.
Then shall the Minister examine whether he rejSent him truly of his sins, and be in charity with all the world; exhorting him to forgive, from the bottom of his heart, all persons that have offended him, and, if he hare offended any other, to ask them forgiveness; and where he hath done injury or wrong to any man, that he make amends to the utmost of his power. And if he hath not before disposed of his goods, let him then be admonished to make his will, and to declare his debts, what he oweth, and what is owing unto him; for the better discharge of. his conscience, and the quietness of his executors. But men should often be put in remembrance to take order for settling of their "temporal estates, whilst they are in health.
These words, before rehearsed, may be said before the Minister begins his prayer, as he shall see cause.
The Minister should not omit earnestly to move such sick persons as are of ability, to be liberal to the poor.
Here shall the sick person be moved to make a special confession of his sins, if he feel. his conscience troubled with any weighty matter. After which confession, the Priest shall absolve him (if he humbly and heartily desire it) after this sort:
Our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath left power to his church to absolve all sinners, who truly repent, and believe in him, of his great mercy forgive thee thine offences! And by his authority committed to me, I absolve thee from all thy sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
And then the Priest shall say the collect following.
Let us pray.
O Most merciful God, who, according to the multitude of thy mercies, dost so put away the sins of those who truly repent, that thou rememberest them no more; open thine eye of mercy upon this thy servant, who most earnestly desireth pardon and forgiveness. Renew in him, most loving Father, whatsoever hath been decayed by the fraud and malice of the devil, or by his own carnal will and frailness; preserve and continue this sick member in the unity of the church; consider his contrition, accept his tears, assuage his pain, as shall seem to thee most expedient for him. And, forasmuch as he putteth his full trust only in thy mercy, impute not unto him his former sins, but strengthen him with thy blessed Spirit; and when thou art pleased to take him hence, take him unto thy favour, through the merits of thy most dearly beloved Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Then shall the Minister say this Psalm.
In te, Domine, speravi.—Psalm Ixxi.
In thee, O Lord, have I put my trust; let me never be put to confusion: but rid me, and deliver me in thy righteousness; incline thine ear unto me, and save me.
Be thou a strong hold, whereunto I may alway resort: thou hast promised to help me, for thou art my house of defence, ana my castle.
Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the ungodly; out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man.
For thou, O Lord, art the thing that I long for: thou art my hope, even from my youth.
Through thee have I been holden up ever since I was born: thou art he that took me out of my mother's womb; my praise shall always be of thee.
I am become as it were a monster u many; but my sure trust is iu thee.
O let my mouth be filled with thy praise; that I may sing of thy glory and honour all the day long.
Cast me not away in the time of age; forsake me not when my strength failetli me.
For mine enemies speak against me; and they that lay wait for my soul, tale their counsel together: saying, God hath forsaken him; persecute him, and take him, for there is none to deliver him.
Go not far from me, O God; my God, haste thee to help me.
Let them he confounded and perish, that are against my soul: let them be covered with shame and dishonour, that seek to do me evil.
As for me, I will patiently abide alway; and will praise thee more and more.
My mouth shall daily speak of thy righteousness and salvation: for I know no end thereof.
1 will go forth in the strength of the Lord God ; and will make mention of thy righteousness only.
Thou, O God, hast taught me from my youth up until now: therefore will I tell of thy wondrous works.
Forsake me not, O God, in mine old age, when I am grey-headed, until I have showed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to all them that are yet for to come.
Thy righteousness, O God, is very high, and great things are they that thou hast done; O God, who is like unto thee?
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
O Saviour of the world, who by thy cross and precious blood hast redeemed us, save us, and help us, we humbly beseech thee OLord.
Then shall the Minister say:
The Almighty Lord, who is a most strong tower to all them that put their trust in him; to whom all things in heaven, in earth, and under the earth, do bow and obey; be now and evermore thy defence, and make them know and feel, that there is no other name under heaven given to man, in whom, and through whom, thou mayest receive health and salvation, but only the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.