Page images
PDF
EPUB

all over in a disorder? how can he be called upon to confess his sins, when his tongue falters, and his memory fails him? how can he receive any benefit by the prayers which are offered up for him, when he is not able to give attention to them ? or how can he be comforted upon any sure grounds of reason or religion, when his reason is just expiring, and all his notions of religion together with it? or when the man, perhaps, had never any real sentiments of religion before?

It is, therefore, matter of sad consideration, that the generality of the world look upon the minister, in the time of their sickness, as the sure forerunner of death; and thinks his office so much relates to another world, that he is not to be treated with, as long as there is any hope of living in this. Whereas it is highly requisite the minister be sent for, when the sick person is able to be conversed with and instructed; and can understand, or be taught to understand, the case of his soul, and the rules of his conscience, and all the several bearings of religion, with respect to God, his neighbour, and himself. For to prepare a soul for its change is a work of great difficulty; and the intercourses of the minister with the sick have so much variety in them, that they are not to be transacted at once. Sometimes there is need of special remedies against impatience, and the fear of death; not only to animate, but to make the person desirous and willing to die. Sometimes it is requisite to awaken the conscience by the terrours of the Lord:' to open, by degrees, all the labyrinths of sin (those innumerable windings and turnings which insensibly lead men into destruction), which the habitual sensualist can never be able to discover, unless directed by the particular grace of God, and the assistance of a faithful and judicious guide. Sometimes there is need of the balm of comfort, to pour in 'oil and wine' (with the good Samaritan) into the bleeding wound, by representing the tender mercies of God, and the love of his Son Jesus Christ, to mankind : and at other times it will be necessary to reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with all long suffering and doctrine:' so that a clergyman's duty, in the visitation of the sick, is not over at once : but at one time he must pray; at another, he must assist, advise, and direct : at another, he must open to him the nature of repentance, and exhort him to a confession of his sins, both to God and man, in all those cases which require it; and, at another time, he must give him absolution, and the sacrament of the body and blood of our Lord.

And, indeed, he that ought to watch all the periods of his life, in the days of his health, lest he should be surprised and overcome, had need, when he is sick, be assisted and called upon, and reminded of the several parts of his duty in every instant of his temptation.

The want of this makes the visitations of the clergy fruitless, because they are not suffered to imprint those proper effects upon the sick, which are needful in so important a ministration.

2. When the minister is come, let him discourse concerning the causes of sickness, and by a general argument move him to a consideration of his condition. Let him call

upon

him first, in general terms, “to set his house in order,' 'to trim and adorn his lamp,' and 'to prepare himself for another world;' and then let him perform the customary duties of prayer, and afterwards descend to all other particulars, as occasion shall offer, and circumstances require.

3. According to the condition of the man, and the nature of his sickness, every act of the visitation is to be proportioned. If his condition be full of pain and infirmity, the exhortation ought to be shortened, and the minister more instant in prayer:' and the little service the sick man can do for himself, should be supplied by the charitable care of his guide, who is in such a case to speak more to God for him than to talk to him:"prayer of the righteous,' when it is 'fervent,' hath a promise to "prevail much in behalf of the sick' person : but exhortations must. prevail by their own proper weight, and not by the passion of the speaker; and, therefore, should be offered when the sick is able to receive them. And even in this assistance of prayer, if the sick man joins with the minister, the prayers should be short, fervent, and ejaculatory, apt rather to comply with his weak condition, than wearisome to his spirits, in tedious and long offices. But in case it appears he hath sufficient strength to go along with the minister, he is then wore at liberty to offer up long petitions for him.

After the minister hath made this preparatory entrance to this work of much

time and deliberation, he may descend to the particulars of his duty, in the following method.

SECTION III.

Of instructing the sick Man in the Nature of Repentance, and

Confession of his Sins. The first duty to be rightly stated to the sick man, is that of repentance; in which the minister cannot be more serviceable to him, than by laying before him a regular scheme of it, and exhorting him at the same time to a free and ingenuous declaration of the state of his soul. For unless they know the manner of his life, and the several kinds and degrees of those sins, which require his penitential sorrow, or restitution, either they can do nothing at all, or nothing of advantage and certainty. Wherefore the minister may move him to this in the following

manner.

6

Arguments and Exhortations to move the sick Man to Repent

ance, and Confession of his Sins. 1. That repentance is a duty indispensably necessary to salvation. That to this end, all the preachings and endeavours of the prophets and apostles are directed. That our Saviour

came down from heaven,' on purpose to call sinners to repentance.*

That as it is a necessary duty at all times, so more especially in the time of sickness, when we are commanded in a particular manner to set our house in order.' That is a work of great difficulty, consisting in general of a change of mind,' and a change of life. Upon which count it is called in scripture, 'a state of regeneration, or new birth;' a 'conversion from sin to God;' a 'being renewed in the spirit of our minds ;' a 'putting off the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lust of the flesh,' and a putting on the new man, which is created in righteousness and true holiness.'

That so great a change as this is not 'to be effected at once, but requires the utmost self-denial and resolution to put it in execution, consisting in general of the following particulars :--1. A sorrowful sense of our sins: 2. An humble confession of them: 3. An unfeigned abhorrence and forsaking of them, and turning to the Lord our God with all our hearts : 4. A patient continuance in well-doing to the end of our lives.

* Matt. ix. 13.

These are the constituent and essential parts of true repentance; which may severally be displayed from the following motives of reason and Scripture, as opportunity shall serve, and the sick man's condition permit.

The first part of true repentance is a sorrowful sense of our sins, which naturally produceth this good effect, as we'may learn from St Paul (2 Cor. vii. 10.), where he tells us, that godly sorrow worketh repentance. Without it, to be sure, there can be no such thing; for, how can a man repent of that which he is not sorry for? or how can any one sincerely ask pardon and forgiveness for what he is not concerned or troubled about?

A sorrowful sense, then, of our sins, is the first part of a true repentance, the necessity whereof may be seen from the grievous and abominable nature of sin; as, 1. That it made so wide a separation betwixt God and man, that nothing but the blood of his only-begotten Son could suffice to atone for its intolerable guilt: 2. That it carries along with it the basest ingratitude, as being done against our heavenly Father, in whom we live, and move, and have our being :' 3. That the consequence of it is nothing less than eternal ruin, in that the wrath of God is revealed against all impenitent sinners ;' and 'the wages of sin is death, —not only temporal but eternal.

From these and the like considerations, the penitent may further learn, that to be sorry for our sins is a great and important duty. That it does not consist in a little trivial concern, a superficial sigh, or tear, or calling ourselves sinners, &c.; but in a real, ingenuous, pungent, and afflicting sorrow : for, can that which cast our parents out of Paradise at first, that brought down the Son of God afterwards from heaven, and put him at last to such a cruel and shameful death, be now thought to be done away by a single tear or a groan? Can so base a piece of ingratitude, as rebelling against the Lord of glory, who gives us all we have, be supposed to be pardoned by a slender submission? Or can that which deserves the torment of hell, be sufficiently atoned for by a little indignation and superficial remorse?

True repentance, therefore, is ever accompanied with a

deep and afflicting sorrow; a sorrow that will make us so irreconcilable to sin, as that we shall choose rather to die than to live in it. For so the bitterest accents of grief are all ascribed to a true repentance in Scripture ; such as a weeping sorely,' or 'bitterly;' a 'weeping day and night;' a 'repenting in dust and ashes;' a “putting on sackcloth ;' fasting and prayer;' &c. Thus holy David: 'I am troubled, I am bowed down greatly, I go mourning all the day long, and that by reason of mine iniquities, which are gone over my head, and, as a heavy burden, are too heavy for me to bear:' Ps. xxxviii. 4, 6. Thus Ephraim could say: After that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth :' Jer. xxxi. 19.

And this is the proper satisfaction for sin which God expects, and hath promised to accept; as, Ps. li. 17. "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.'

2. The next thing requisite in a true repentance, is confession of sins, which naturally follows the other ; for if a man be so deeply afflicted with sorrow for his sins, he will be glad to be rid of them as soon as he can; and the way for this, is humbly to confess them to God, who hath promised to forgive us if we do.. 'I said, I will confess my sins unto the Lord, saith the Psalmist; and so thou forgavest the wickedness of my sin:' Ps. xxxii. 6. So, Prov. xxviii

. 13, and 1 John i. 9. If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. So the returning prodigal went to his father with an humble confession of his baseness, and was received into favour again. Luke xv. 18, 19.

And because the number of our sins are like the hairs of our head, or the sand of the sea, and almost as various too in their kinds as their numbers ; confession must needs be a very extensive duty, and require the strictest care and examination of ourselves : for who can tell how oft he offendeth ?' saith David; 0, cleanse thou me from my secret faults !'.

The penitent, therefore, should be reminded, that his confession be as minute and particular as it can ; since the more particular the confession is, to be sure, the more sincere and safe the repentance.

3. A third thing requisite in a true repentance, is an un

« PreviousContinue »