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ON THE SOLICITUDE THE CLERGY QUGHT TO SHEW FOR THEIR PEOPLE, WHEN
CONFINED BY SICKNESS,
Be not slow to visit the sick ; for that shall make
thee to be beloved.
ON THE SOLICITUDE THE CLERGY OUGHT TO SHEW FOR THEIR PEOPLE, WHEN
CONFINED BY SICKNESS.
I AM this day to address you upon a subject which will, I doubt not, arrest the attention, and interest the heart, of every Clergyman who hear's me-which is, the care and solicitude we should shew for our flock, when they are confined by sickness. Negligence in other parts of our duty, however inexcusable in the sight of God, may, indeed, sometimes find an excuse in the judgment of men, who do not consider the nature of our engagements, and the extent of our duties : but to neglect a dying soul, betrays such a want of humanity, as to give great and serious offence to a whole parish, alarmed at beholding a wretch on the brink of death, without being assisted by his Minister, to possess himself of the comfort of hope, if he cannot arrive at the assurance of pardon.
Can a father see his children taken from him, without running to their support, and, at least, bestowing upon them his blessing, the last tokens of his tenderness and affection? Is he a Shepherd,
or an enemy to the flock, who perceives one of his sheep weak, it may be dying, and who does not deign to approach it, to see whether he can administer to it any relief ? The good Shepherd leaves his whole flock, to go after a single one that has strayed; and will you leave that which is dying before your eyes, to perish, unattended to, in the very midst of the fold?
No, my Brethren, a Clergyman who fails to visit those souls for whom he must one day give account, when they are confined by sickness, who goes, only, when he is sent for, in the last * extremity; who, after long delay, shews himself -when, from the violence of the disorder, neither the presence of the Pastor, nor the prayers appointed to be read in his dying agonies, can convey any comfort to the unhappy man ; can there remain in the breast of such a Clergyman a single sentiment of Religion : can he be otherwise than seized with horror at the reflection, that that soul is going to appear before the awful tribunal of God? What will it answer, in the severe exa. mination which it is to undergo, when it departs from the body, of the use it has made of its sickness, of the restitution of goods unjustly acquired, didst appoint to support my weakness, and encrease my faith, in the sickness with which it pleased thee to visit me, he, whose duty. it was to have taught me, by his instructions, and enabled me by his consolations, to bear it with submission, as a just punishment for the sins of my life, left me on that bed of sickness and of sorrow-although I was about to hear from thy own mouth the decisive decree of eternity—unwilling to give up any part of his time to preserve a soul whom thou hadst redeemed. Such will be the answer: and can a Minister of a Parish be persuaded of this, and dare to neglect those over whom he is appointed to watch, in the time of sickness, and in the hour of death? The souls committed to your should, in this state of weakness, claim the greatest share of your attention, and their salvation should be the constant subject of your prayers : your condemnation, or your apology, will form the first article of the severe examination they
repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ ?” What will be the answer it will make ?-He, Lord, whom thou
* The visits of the Clergy can, at that juncture, do no good, and are rather to be discouraged, than promoted.
* “ Relieving, or obtaining relief for such as are distressed in their circumstances : hearing your people willingly and patiently, though perhaps low in Rank, or weak in Understanding, when they would consult you upon any difficulty, and answering them with consideration and tenderness; disposing them to be visited when sick, praying by them with fervency, exhorting and comforting them with fidelity, compassion, and prudence ; and reminding them strongly, yet mildly, after their recovery, of their good thoughts and purposes during their illness ; will be further proofs, very beneficial and engaging ones, of your seriousness : which however you must complete by going through every other office of religion with dignity.”--Abp. SECKER.
will undergo at the tribunal of God. What mo, tive more interesting to prompt you to go to their support ! to leave every engagement, in order to administer to them consolation, to give them the most affecting marks of your zeal and love, and to melt them into sorrow, by the lively and sincere interest you take in their salvation !
Should you, on any other occasion, neglect to discharge your duty, you may always flatter yourselves that your negligence can be repaired; but if you suffer a sick person to die, without endea- . voring to prepare him for eternity, you are left without a possibility of atoning for you fault.The unhappy being had, through your means, lost those precious moments which the goodness of God had reserved for him in the support of your ministry : there is no resource ; his reprobation hangs, continually over your head : and what shall you be able to offer unto God, to compensate for the loss of a soul redeemed at so great a price ? Moreover, the case of your sick parishioners is the only opportunity you have of repeating and encreasing your assiduity and your concern for them,of repairing all the negligences,which, may, during your life, have rendered you account. able for their salvation. It is an happy conjuncture for
you, which the Almighty seems to have put into your hands, to the end that you may restore to him a soul, whom your inattention, your want of pas. toral solicitude, had left easy and unconcerned, without a feeling of remorse, or, it may be, with