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THE VISITATION OF THE SICK.
This Office is appointed to be used by the Minister, when he visits “the Sick.” It was a duty, which, in the earliest times, was esteemed to be one of the most solemn exercises of Religion.
It commences with the Salutation, which our Saviour himself used, "Peace be to this House." It is a benediction to all that are in the house. It is a salutation worthy of the disciples of the Prince of Peace. It was the Song of the Angels, and the first blessed gift of Christ, after his birth ;d “Peace on Earth.” It was his last gift which he bequeathed, when he was about to depart : “ Peace I leave with you ; my Peace I give unto you."e
In the sick man's presence, the Minister begins with supplications, which are taken from the Litany; then follow the Lord's Prayer, short versicles and answers, and Collects of comfort. After these, is read a pious exhortation, suitable to him
c Luke x. 5.
d Luke ii. 14.
e John xiv. 27.
in his weak condition, that he may improve that disposition of mind, which at that time possesses him, to his future Salvation.
The Minister afterwards proceeds to an examination into his faith and repentance, his love, charity, and forgiveness of injuries. The Christian Religion consists in a right Faith, and a good life. A right Faith, unaccompanied with a good life, can never save. He who said, “ do this, and live,” has also said, “ believe, and live." The question put to the sick person is, whether he believe as a Christian ought to believe? This question is answered after the Articles of the Creed are rehearsed. He may then be asked, whether he has kept his Baptismal Covenant; whether he forgive all the world; whether he has satisfied all injuries done to others; without which, no repentance will profit him. He is then exhorted to settle his worldly affairs, and to liberality towards the poor.
After the Confession of his sins, if he humbly and heartily desire it, the Priest is to absolve him in the form prescribed.
By the following Collect, it has been supposed that the Church only intended the remission of all Ecclesiastical' censures on account of his pre
f Matt. vi. 14,
& Matt. xxv. 30.-Luke xvi. 9.
vious sinful conduct; because it states, that the penitent still “ most earnestly desires pardon and forgiveness.” If by the preceding Absolution, he had been pardoned and forgiven by God, there would have been no occasion for this Collect in this place. The Minister also implores God" to preserve and continue him in the unity of the Church."
Being thus absolved by the Church, and recommended to the pardon and grace of God, the seventy-first Psalm follows. The Office is coneluded with three valedictory prayers; the first addressed to the Son, the second to the Father, and the third (which was added at the last Review) to the Holy Trinity; imploring the greatest blessings upon the sick person, which can be desired or conferred.
A few Prayers here follow, for a sick child ;for a sick person, when there appeareth small hope of recovery ;-for a sick person at the point of departure ;-and for persons troubled in mind or in conscience.
THE COMMUNION OF THE SICK.
With such introduction only as is applicable to this particular Service, the whole is taken from the “ Order of the Holy Communion.”
BURIAL OF THE DEAD.
Some part of the “Burial Service” is of great Antiquity; but the particular form of it is uncertain. It is universally agreed, that the Psalms were the chief part, accompanied with suitable prayers, and for praises of those virtues, which might have distinguished the deceased in their lives; concluding with recommendations of their good example to those that survived them.
Persons who die unbaptized, or excommunicate, or have laid violent hands upon themselves, in the full possession of their senses and understanding, are excluded from the use of this ceremony.
The Sentences, at the commencement of the Service, are remarkably awful, affecting, and consolatory. They begin with the words which our Saviour spake, when he was proceeding towards the grave of his beloved friend, Lazarus. h The sentence from Job is full of comfort to all who mourn for the loss of friends. i The last sentences
John xi. 25, 26.
i Job xix. 25, 26, 27.
from * St. Paul, and from Job,' represent to us the destitute state in which we entered the world; and recommend composure and resignation at our departure from it.
The Psalms, 39th and 90th, were inserted in the last Review in 1661. They had been previously used, but were replaced by others, in King Edward's first Book ; and at length again restored to this Service.
The Lesson is from St. Paul, on the subject of the Resurrection of the dead; and nothing could be more suitable.
The Service at the grave is most devout and impressive ; and is closed with two excellent prayers for our happiness with the departed, inculcating the acts of Faith and Hope."
The Blessing at the end was added at the last Review.
k1 Tim. vi. 7.
1 Job i. 21.
m 1 Cor. xv. 20. In 630, Honorius Romanus, Archbishop of Canterbury, divided his Province into Parishes ; and ordained Clerks and Preachers, requiring them to instruct the people, as well by good life as by doctrine. And, in 760, Cuthbert, Archbishop of Canterbury, procured of the Pope, that, in Cities and Towns, there should be appointed Church-Yards for burial of the dead, whose bodies had been, before this order, buried any where.