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remain. Now in these Cases it is natural to ask the Opinion of ferious and prudent Friends. The more such you have, and the more good Use you
make of them, the better. But at least the Ministers of the Gospel are bound to be such to you, as far as they are able, whenever you apply to them. Not only the
general Nature of our Office demands it; but we have all made a particular solemn Promise, to use both public and private Monitions and Exbortations, as well to the Sick as to the whole, within our Cures, as Need shall require, and Occasion shall be given'. Still we would obtrude ourselves on no one: but we must signify to you our Readiness to perform this Promise ; and indeed our Apprehensions, that you are often Lofers, by not claiming it. What we say to you here, passes with too many for Words of Course, to entertain you for the present half Hour, and be thought of no more. own Homes, when you are well, you expect to see us only on the same Footing with other Visitors: and when you are sick, you are unwilling to see us at all. Surely we might be of more Service to you, if you would admit us; and particularly we might be so in your more
i Office of ordaining Priests.
considerable, especially in your more lasting Illnefles ; when for a long Time together you are shut up, and canndt go into the House of the Lordk. We hope you have no Reason to fear, that we shall either artfully make a Gain of you', or otherwise intermeddle in your worldly Affairs; or indiscreetly augment your Danger by tiring or terrifying you. But if we can preserve
you from either vainly terrifying, or fatally deceiving yourselves; can inform, or but temind
of any Part of your Duty; or merely assist your Patience, and enliven your Hope: both you and we shall have Cause to rejoice.
Doubtless not a few of you can think of every Thing that is proper on such Occasions, both in your own Cafe and that of others, better than we can suggest it to you. And would God, that all the Lord's People were Prophets" ; able to officiate thus to themselves, and thofe around them. But many are not: and such as are, would surely do well, at fitting Times, were it only for Example's Sake, to observe St. James's Rule, which he delivers in general Terms: Is any fick among you, let him call for the k Jer. xxxvi. 5. 12 Cor. xii. 17, 18.
m Numb. xi. 29. 5
Elders of the Church and let them pray over him": which Prayers were doubtless preceded, or followed, by suitable Exhortations. It is true, he directs them particularly in order to a miraculous Cure of the Sick ; and prescribes at the fame Time, anointing with Oil in the Name of the Lord, which was used in performing such Cures. We will not therefore say, that his Injunction is exactly suited throughout to the present State of Things. But still, though Gifts of Healingo are ceased, and the Ceremony belonging to them is become totally superfluous; it remains notwithstanding a Christian
; Duty, in every Thing, by Prayer and Supplication, with Thanksgiving, to let our Requests be made known unto God”: and Petitions for the Sick, both public in the Congregation, and private in their Presence, may be of great Efficacy, not only to their spiritual, but their bodily Health. For the fervent Prayer of a righteous Man availeth mucho. Therefore in all Ages the Elders of the Church have attended them: andourown Church hath both given Directions, and providedan Office for that Purpose.
Possibly one Part of the Office may seem to have ascribed so high a Power to the Minister, - James v. 14.
o 1 Cor. xii. 9, 28, 30. James v. 16.
P Phil. iv. 6.
of absolving the Sick from their Sins, as may lead them into great Mistakes. And it is indeed more liable to be so misunderstood, than the earlier Forms, which were expressed in the Manner of a Prayer. But still all Writers on the Subject have agreed, that this Absolution either was intended (which indeed is most probable) only to set Persons free from any ecclefiastical Censures, which they might have incurred: (an Indulgence, granted in every Age of the Church to such as were dangerously ill, on their humble Request; but which is no more pretended to make a Change in their eternal State, than a Pardon from the King is) or, if it means also to declare them restored to the Favour of God, means it only on Supposition of a fincere and thorough Repentance; which being professed by them, it may be charitably presumed, though not certainly known, that it is real ; and without which, I beg you all to observe, no Absolution here, granted by whomsoever, or in what Words soever, will do you the least Good hereafter. Accordingly this Form is not appointed ever to be used, but when the Sick have made, by their own Choice, a special Confesion of some weighty Matter, troubling their Consciences, hum
bly and heartily defiring, that it
be used for their Confolation. And as this is but feldom requested, and consequently the Abfolution seldom pronounced over any one ; so whenever it is, it may and ought to be accompanied with such Explanations, as will prevent any wrong Constructions.
But there still remains to be mentioned, on this Occasion, another Act of Piety, receiving the holy Communion: which, though not particularly appointed in Scripture for the Sick, hath from the earliest Times been recommended to them, and practised by them; as a very fit Expression of their thankful Faith in the Merits of Christ's Death ; their Hope of a suture Resurrection, as Members of his Body ; and their being in Charity with every other Member of it, and all Mankind: by the Exercise of which Graces in this Manner, they obtain a Title to such Affistance from above for going happily through their present Time of Trial, as must needs be highly valuable to every serious Mind.
But then, to enjoy the true Benefit of the Ordinances of Christ, and the Prayers and Exhortations of his Ministers, you should desire them whilst you are capable of duly attending VOL. III.