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troubled in mind, (says Bishop Burnet, page 117 of his Pastoral Care,) are melancholy hypochondriacal people, who, what through some false opinions in religion, what through a foulness of blood, occasioned by their inactive course of life, in which their minds work too much, because their bodies are too little employed, fall under dark and cloudy apprehensions, of which they can give no clear nor good account. This in the greatest part is to be removed by medicines; yet such persons are much to be pitied, and a little humoured in their distemper. They must be diverted from thinking too much, being too much alone, or dwelling too long on thoughts, which are too hard for them to
Helps for conversing with one who is in despair.
Despair is a dishonour to God. Those who despair lose the comfort of God's mercies, by reen fusing to believe and apply them. "God is not "willing (says St. Peter) that any such perish, but "desires that all should be saved." For this end you were created. He is so far from being extreme to mark what is amiss, that he will not refuse the returning prodigal, nor reject any penitent. He has assured us he will not break the bruised reed: forgiveness of sins is the special grace of the Gospel: all preaching and prayers are in vain if God be unforgiving. Christ died for sinners, and hath comprehended all under sin, that through him he might have mercy upon all. (Rom. xi. 32.) If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. St. Paul advises, that if any man be overtaken in a fault, ye who are spiritual should restore such a man in the spirit of meekness, considering lest ye also be betrayed. Do not imagine God will be unfaithful to his promises. Those who are most grieved and wearied with the burden of their sins,
are most the objects of God's mercy. The best of men deserve it not, and you (though the worst) are not forbidden to hope for it. You cannot undo what you have done, but there is a remedy, a remission of sin, that you may not perish. You say in the Creed, that you believe in the forgiveness of sins: now prove the sincerity of that belief. Pray to God to enable you to resist all the fiery darts of the devil. Cast all your care upon God, and depend on him for the event, which you may be assured will be just, and for the same reason full of mercy. You should use all the efforts of reason and religion to make you love God: and can he, who loves God, perish? It is impossible.
These arguments should never be used but to well-disposed persons, or real penitents; for if the sick person have lived in a course of sin to the time of his sickness, these considerations are improper.
N. B. A Minister cannot be too careful how he administers that comfort to the vicious, which belongs only to real Christians, lest he should prostitute things sacred, encourage vice, and render his discourse deceitful, as the sick person would find it to be by dreadful experience in a place of punishment. Few however comparatively are tempted by too great fears of miscarrying: the most profligate are more inclined to unwarrantable assurances of their future salvation. Those, therefore, who attend the sick, should endeavour to prevent this great and reigning imposition of the devil.
Helps for conversing with a presumptuous sinner.
A man cannot think too lowly of himself, but may easily run into the contrary extreme. The bold and arrogant sinner should well consider this. The growth in grace is slow, difficult, uncertain, often interrupted, consisting of a great variety
and almost innumerable parts and distinctions, which a careless person can never discover. The more you presume, the greater reason you have to fear, because your confidence arises from your not understanding the dangers and follies of such a self-conceit. Your heart is deceitful, deceiving itself; deceiving others in various instances, being often in the gall of bitterness, when you appear with the fairest outside to the world. It is certain that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God; but not so certain that any one's repentance is real, and essential to salvation. Virtue and vice are often so near neighbours, that we pass the borders of each without observation, and think we do justice when we are cruel, or call ourselves liberal when we are profuse in our expences. 10 It is not easy to distinguish between the vices of nature and of choice; but oftentimes a man shall boast of his sobriety when it is against his nature to be intemperate, and think himself chaste by abstaining from women, when from a phlegmatic constitution he has little desire after them; or else from prudential, not religious, motives refrains from them. The self-accusing Publican was justified rather than the self-confident Pharisee. Adam in paradise; David in his house; Solomon in the temple; Peter and Judas, though disciples, and Nicholas among the deacons, fell, and even the angels in heaven. Be not high-minded, but fear. When most confident of yourself take heed, lest you fall.
Helps for conversing with the sick on the immediate duties of sickness.
1. It is your duty to bear your sickness with patience. If your pain or confinement tempt you to impatience, read (or cause to be read to you) these texts concerning patience, and frequently meditate
"In your patience possess ye your souls." Luke
"For ye have need of patience, that, after ye "have done the will of God, ye might receive the "promise." Heb. x. 36.
"Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man "for the punishment of his sins." Lam. iii. 39. "Ye have heard of the patience of Job." James v. 11. "Be ye also patient." James v. 8. S.
2. It is your duty to repent you truly of your sins. When you exercise your repentance, meditate on the following texts. St. John the Baptist has fully instructed you to know whether your repentance
"Bring forth, says he, fruits meet for repent"ance." Matt. iii. 8.
"For I acknowledge my transgression, and my "sin is ever before me." Psalm li. 3.
"Let the wicked forsake his way, and the un" righteous man his thoughts; and let him return "unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon "him, and to our God, for he will abundantly "pardon." Isa. lv. 7.
"The Lord is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should "come to repentance." 2 Pet. iii. 9.
"If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the "Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is "the propitiation for our sins; and not for our "sins only, but also for the sins of the whole "world." John ii. 1, 2.
3. It is your duty to believe in Christ, and to trust in God for the performance of his promises.
If you doubt the pardon of your sins, and are tempted to despond, you should meditate on the following texts.
"Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher "of our faith; who for the joy that was set before "him endured the cross, despising the shame, and
"is set down at the right hand of the throne of "God." Heb. xii. 2.
" He is able to save them to the uttermost that " come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to "make intercession for them." Heb. vii. 25.
Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” Job xiii. 15.
"He shall not be afraid of evil tidings; his "heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord." Psalm cxii. 7.
"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne "of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find 66 grace to help in time of need." Heb. iv. 16.
This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all ac"ceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world "to save sinners." 1 Tim. i. 15.
"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are "heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Matt.
Though you may be easy in yourself, as to your spiritual concerns, you may nevertheless be in great trouble and concern in regard to others. You have perhaps a wife and children very slenderly provided for; and it may grieve you to leave them in poverty.
If you should be troubled on their account, meditate on the following texts.
"Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve "them alive; and let thy widows trust in me." Jer. xlix. 11.
"Cast all your cares upon God, for he careth "for you." 1 Pet. v. 7.
"In thee the fatherless findeth mercy." Hosea xiv. 3.
4. It is your duty to be willing to die,
If you should be afraid to die, meditate on these texts.
"Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt re"turn." Gen. iii. 19.