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them. And I hope it is a disease of judgment, not an intolerable condition, that I am falling into; because I have been told so concerning others, who therefore have been afflicted, because they see not their pardon sealed after the manner of this world, and the affairs of the Spirit are transacted by immaterial notices, by propositions and spiritual discourses, by promises, which are to be verified hereafter; and here we must live in a cloud, in darkness under a veil, in fear and uncertainties, and our very living by faith and hope is a life of mystery and secrecy, the only part of the manner of that life, in which we shall live in the state of separation. And when a distemper of body or an infirmity of mind, happens in the instances of such secret and reserved affairs, we may easily mistake the manner of our notices for the uncertainty of the thing: and therefore it is but reason, I should stay, till the state and manner of my abode be changed, before I despair: there it can be no sin, nor error; here it may be both; and if it be that, it is also this; and then a man may perish for being miserable, and be undone for being a fool. In conclusion, my hope is in God, and I will trust him with the event, which I am sure will be just, and I hope full of mercy. However, now I will use all the spiritual arts of reason and religion to make me more and more to love God, that if I miscarry, charity also shall fail, and something that loves God, shall perish and be damned; which if it be possible, then I may do well.
These considerations may be useful to men of little hearts, and of great piety: or if they be persons, who have lived without infamy, or begun their repentance so late, that it is very imperfect, and yet so early, that it was before the arrest of death. But if the man be a vicious person, and hath persevered in a vicious life till his death-bed, 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?" and if they can but entertain so much hope as to enable them to do so much of their duty, as they can for the present, it is all, that can be provided for them: an inquiry, in their case, can have no other purposes of religion or prudence. And the minister must be infinitely careful, that he do not go about to comfort vicious persons with the comforts belonging to God's elect, lest he prosti
tute holy things, and make them common, and his sermons deceitful, and vices be encouraged in others, and the man himself find, that he was deceived, when he descends into his house of sorrow.
But because very few men are tempted with too great fears of failing, but very many are tempted by confidence and presumption; the ministers of religion had need be instructed with spiritual armour to resist this fiery dart of the devil, when it operates to evil purposes.
Considerations against Presumption.
I HAVE already enumerated many particulars to provoke a drowsy conscience to a scrutiny and to a suspicion of himself, that by seeing cause to suspect his condition, he might more freely accuse himself, and attend to the necessities and duties of repentance; but if either before, or in, his repentance, he grow too big in his spirit, so as either he does some little violences to the modesties of humility, or abate his care and zeal of his repentance, the spiritual man must allay his forwardness by representing to him, 1. That the growths in grace are long, difficult, uncertain, hindered, of many parts and great variety. 2. That an infant grace is soon dashed and discountenanced, often running into an inconvenience and the evils of an imprudent conduct, being zealous, and forward, and therefore confident, but always with the least reason, and the greatest danger; like children and young fellows, whose confidence hath no other reason but that they understand not their danger and their follies. 3. That he that puts on his armour, ought not to boast, as he that puts it off; and the apostle chides the Galatians for ending in the flesh, after they had begun in the spirit. 4. That a man cannot think too meanly of himself, but very easily he may think too high. 5. That a wise man will always in a matter of great concernment think the worst, and a good man will condemn himself with hearty sentence. 6. That humility and modesty of judgment and of hope are very
good instruments to procure a mercy and a fair reception at the day of our death; but presumption or bold opinions serve no end of God or man, and is always imprudent, ever fatal, and of all things in the world is its own greatest enemy; for the more any man presumes, the greater reason he hath to' fear. 7. That a man's heart is infinitely deceitful, unknown to itself, not certain in his own acts, praying one way, and desiring another, wandering and imperfect, loose and various, worshipping God, and entertaining sin, following what it hates, and running from what it flatters, loving to be tempted and betrayed; petulant like a wanton girl running from, that it might invite the fondness and enrage the appetite of the foolish young man, or the evil temptation that follows it; cold and indifferent one while, and presently zealous and passionate, furious and indiscreet; not understood of itself, or any one else, and deceitful beyond all the arts and numbers of observation. 8. That it is certain, we have highly sinned against God, but we are not so certain, that our repentance is real and effective, integral and sufficient. 9. That it is not revealed to us, whether or no the time of our repentance be not past; or, if it be not, yet how far God will give us pardon, and upon what condition, or after what sufferings or duties, is still under a cloud. 10. 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 expenses; and are amorous, when we commend our own civilities and good nature. 11. That we allow to ourselves so many little irregularities, that insensibly they swell to so great a heap, that from thence we have reason to fear an evil: for an army of frogs and flies may destroy all the hopes of our harvest. 12. That when we do that, which is lawful, and do all that we can in those bounds, we commonly and easily run out of our proportions. 13. That it is not easy to distinguish the virtues of our nature from the virtues of our choice: and we may expect the reward of temperance, when it is against our nature to be drunk; or we hope to have the coronet of virgins for our morose disposition, or our abstinence from marriage upon secular ends. 14. That, it may be, we call every little sigh or the keeping a fish-day the duty of repentance, or have
entertained false principles in the estimate and measures of virtues; and, contrary to the steward in that gospel, we write down fourscore, when we should set down but fifty. 15. That it is better to trust the goodness and justice of God with our accounts, than to offer him large bills. 16. That we are commanded by Christ to sit down in the lowest place, till the master of the house bids us sit up higher. 17. That "when we have done all that we can, we are unprofitable servants:" and yet no man does all that he can do; and therefore is more to be despised and undervalued. 18. That the self-accusing publican was justified rather than the thanksgiving and confident Pharisee. 19. That if Adam in paradise, and David in his house, and Solomon in the temple, and Peter in Christ's family, and Judas in the college of apostles, and Nicolas among the deacons, and the angels in heaven itself, did fall so foully and dishonestly; then it is prudent advice, that we be not high-minded, but fear; and, when we stand most confidently, take heed lest we fall: and yet there is nothing so likely to make us fall as pride and great opinions, which ruined the angels, which God resists, which all men despise, and which betrays us into carelessness, and a reckless, undiscerning, and an unwary spirit.
4. Now the main parts of the ecclesiastical ministry are done; and that which remains is, that the minister pray over him, and remind him to do good actions as he is capable; to call upon God for pardon; to put his whole trust in him; to resign himself to God's disposing; to be patient and even; to renounce every ill word, or thought, or indecent action, which the violence of his sickness may cause in him; to beg of God to give him his Holy Spirit to guide him in his agony; and his holy angels to guard him in his passage.
5. Whatsoever is besides this, concerns the standers-by: that they do all their ministries diligently and temperately; that they join with much charity and devotion in the prayer of the minister; that they make no outcries or exclamations in the departure of the soul; and that they make no judgment concerning the dying person, by his dying quietly or violently, with comfort or without, with great fears or a cheerful confidence, with sense or without, like a lamb or like a lion, with convulsions or semblances of great pain, or
like an expiring and a spent candle: for these happen to all men, without rule, without any known reason, but according as God pleases to dispense the grace or the punishment, for reasons only known to himself. Let us lay our hands 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 blessing of a holy and a happy death.
Offices to be said by the Minister, in his Visitation of the Sick. In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
"Our Father, which art in heaven," &c.
Let the Priest say this Prayer secretly.
O eternal Jesus, thou great lover of souls, who hast constituted a ministry in the church to glorify thy name, and to serve in the assistance of those, that come to thee, professing thy discipline and service, give grace to me the unworthiest of thy servants, that I, in this my ministry, may purely and zealously intend thy glory, and effectually may minister comfort and advantages to this sick person (whom God assoil from all his offences); and grant that nothing of thy grace may perish to him by the unworthiness of the minister; but let thy Spirit speak by me, and give me prudence and charity, wisdom and diligence, good observation and apt discourses, a certain judgment and merciful dispensation, that the soul of thy servant may pass from this state of imperfection to the perfections of the state of glory, through thy mercies, O eternal Jesus. Amen.
Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. Psal. cxxx.