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temptations of persons to many instances of sin, as intemperance, pride, and ambition, &c.; all which, therefore, do strangely blind the understanding and captivate the affections of sinful men, and lead them into a thousand snares of the devil which they are not aware of. 3. Some others do not reckon that they sin against God, if the laws have seized upon the person: and many who are imprisoned for debt, think themselves disengaged from payment; and when they pay the penalty, think they owe nothing for the scandal and disobedience. 4. Some sins are thought not considerable, but go under the titles of sins of infirmity, or inseparable accidents of mortality; such as idle thoughts, foolish talking, loose revellings, impatience, anger, and all the events of evil company. 5. Lastly, Many things are thought to be no sins; such as mispending of their time, whole days or months of useless or impertinent employment, long gaming, winning men's money in great portions, censuring men's actions, curiosity, equivocating in the prices of buying and selling, rudeness in speech or behaviour, speaking uncharitable truths, and the like.
These are some of those artificial veils and coverings, under the dark shadow of which the enemy of mankind makes very many to lie hid from themselves, blinding them with false notions of honour, and the mistaken opinions and practices of the world, with public permission and impunity, or (it may be) a temporal penalty; or else with prejudice, or ignorance and infirmity, and direct error in judgment.
Now, in all these cases, the ministers are to be inquisitive and strictly careful, that such kind of fallacies prevail not over the sick; but that those things, which passed without observation before, may now be brought forth, and pass under the severity of a strict and impar tial censure, religious sorrow and condemnation.
4. To this may be added a general display of the neglect and omission of our duty; for in them lies the bigger half of our failings: and yet, in many instances, they are undiscerned; because our consciences have not been made tender and perceptible of them. But whoever will cast up his accounts, even with a superficial eye, will quickly find that he hath left undone, for the
generality, as many things which he ought to have done, as he hath committed those he ought not to have done : such as the neglect of public or private prayer, of reading the Scriptures, and instructing his family, or those that are under him, in the principles of religion: the not discountenancing sin to the utmost of his power, especially in the personages of great men: the not "redeeming the time," and "growing in grace," and doing all the good he can in his generation: the frequent omissions of the great duty of charity, in visiting the sick, relieving the needy, and comforting the afflicted: the want of obedience, duty, and respect, to parents: the doing the work of God negligently, or not discharging himself with that fidelity, care, and exactness, which is incumbent upon him, in the station wherein the providence of God hath placed him, &c.
5. With respect to those sins which are committed against man, let the minister represent to the sick man that he can have no assurance of his pardon, unless he is willing to make all suitable amends and satisfaction to his offended and injured brethren; as for instance, if he hath lived in enmity with any, that he should labour to be reconciled to them; if he is in debt, that he should do his utmost to discharge it; or if he hath injured any one in his substance or credit, that he should endeavour to make restitution in kind for the one, and all possible satisfaction for the other, by humbling himself to the offended person, and beseeching him to forgive him.
6. If the sick person be of evil report, the minister should take care, some way or other, to make him sensible of it, so as to shew an effectual sorrow and repentance. This will be best done by prudent hints, and insinuations, of recalling those things to his mind whereof he is accused by the voice of fame, or to which the temptations, perhaps, of his calling, more immediately subject him. Or if he will not understand, when he is secretly prompted, he must be asked in plain terms concerning these matters. He must be told of the evil things which are spoken of him in public, and of the usual temptations of his calling.
And it concerns the minister to follow this advice
without partiality, or fear, or interest, or respect of persons, in much simplicity and prudence, having no other consideration before him, but the conscientious discharge of his duty, and the salvation of the person under his care.
7. The sick person is likewise to be instructed con cerning his faith, whether he has a reasonable notion of the articles of the Christian religion, as they are excellently summed up in the Apostles' Creed.
8. With respect to his temporal concerns, the sick is to be advised to set every thing in order, and (if he hath not already) to make his will as soon as he can. For if he recovers, this cannot be detrimental; but, if he dies, it will be of great comfort and satisfaction to him. And here it must be remembered, that he distribute every thing according to the exact rules of justice, and with such a due care, as to prevent all lawsuits and contentions for the future: and, if he be able, he is to be admonished to do something likewise out of charity, and for the sake of his poor brethren.
9. In all the course of his visitation, the minister should frequently be exhorting the sick man to patience and a blessed resignation to the will of God; and not to look upon his sickness as barely the effect of second causes, but as inflicted on him by Divine Providence for several wise and good ends: As, for the trial of his faith; the exercise of his patience; the punishment of his sins; the amendment of his life; or for the example of others, who, seeing his good behaviour in such a day of calamity, may glorify their Father which is in heaven or else, that it is for the increase of his future welfare, in order to raise him the higher in glory hereafter, by how much the lower he hath been depressed here.
10. When the spiritual man hath thus discharged his duty, and the sick hath made himself capable of it, by a religious and holy conformity to all the forementioned particulars respecting his condition and circumstances, he may then give him the sacrament of the Lord's sup per. And it is the minister's office to invite sick and dying persons to this holy sacrament, provided they discover a right sense of their duty. And,
Note, That the holy sacrament is not to be administered to dying persons, when they have no use of their reason to join with the minister in his celebration of it. For the sacraments operate not of themselves, but as they are made efficacious by the joint consent and will, and religious acts and devotion, of the party that receives them. And therefore all fools, and distracted persons, and children, and lethargical and apoplectical people, or that are any ways senseless and incapable of human and reasonable acts, are to be assisted only by prayers.
Note also, That in cases of necessity, where the sacrament cannot be so conveniently administered, the sick may be admonished to receive it spiritually, i. e. by representing the symbols of the body and blood of our Lord to his mind, and applying them to himself by faith, with the same preparations of faith and repentance, as if they were really present. For no doubt but God, in such a case, who considers all things with exact jus tice, and chiefly respects the sincerity of our hearts and intentions, will excuse the absence of the outward and visible sign, when necessity, and not contempt or neglect, was the occasion of it.
Of applying spiritual remedies to the unreasonable fears and dejections of the sick.
IT sometimes happens that good men, especially such as have tender consciences, impatient of the least sin, to which they are arrived by a long habit of grace, and a continual observation of their ways, overact their part, and turn their tenderness into scruples, and are too much dejected and doubtful concerning their future salvation. In such a case, the minister is to represent to them, that the man who is jealous of himself, is always in the safest condition; that if he fears on his death-bed, it is but what happens to most considering men; and that therefore to fear nothing then, is either a singular felicity, or a dangerous presumption.
But to restrain the extravagance of fear, let him be reminded of the terms of the gospel :-that it is a covenant of grace and mercy to all: that" Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners:" that he continues "our advocate in heaven," and daily" intercedes" with his Father for us: that the whole heavenly host rejoices at the conversion of a sinner: that the angels are deputed by God, to be our guardians against violent surprises and temptations: that there are different degrees of glory in heaven; so that, if we arrive not at the greatest, we may yet hope, by divine mercy, that we should not be excluded the less: that God hath promised to hear the " prayers of the righteous" for his servants: that he labours with us by his Spirit, and as it were "beseeches us, in Christ's stead, to be reconciled to him;" 2 Cor. v. 20.: that of all his attributes, he glories in none so much as in the titles of mercy and forgiveness: that therefore we do injustice to the Father of mercies, if we retain such hard thoughts and suspicions of him: that God calls upon us to forgive our brother" seventy times seven;" and yet all that is but like the forgiving " a hundred pence," for his sake who forgives us" ten thousand talents:" and therefore if we are ordered to shew such an unrestrained temper of forgiveness, it is only to animate us to trust in God's much more unbounded mercy.
By these and the like arguments, the spiritual man may raise the drooping spirits of good men, in their causeless dejections. But because there are many other cases of the like nature, which the physician of souls will meet with in visiting his neighbours, especially such as are of melancholy dispositions, it may not be improper to mark the principal of them here, and 'to prescribe the remedies.
Considerations to be offered to persons under religious
1. Some truly religious persons are under sad apprehensions of not being in the favour of God, because they find their devotions to be very often cold, their prayers distracted, and their delight in spiritual mat