Imatges de pÓgina

abused by evil customs and principles, apt to excuse themselves, and to be content with a certain general and indefinite confession; so that if you provoke them never so much to acknowledge their faults, you shall hardly ever extort any thing farther from them than this, viz. "That they are sinners, as every man hath his infirmity, and they as well as any; but, God be thanked, they have done no injury to any man, but are in charity with all the world." And, perhaps they will tell you, "they are no swearers, no adulterers, no rebels, &c. but that God forgive them, they must needs acknowledge themselves to be sinners in the main," &c. And if you can open their breast so far, it will be looked upon as sufficient: to go any farther, will be to do the office of an accuser, not of a friend.

But, which is yet worse, there are a great many persons who have been so used to an habitual course of sin, that the crime is made natural and necessary to them, and they have no remorse of conscience for it, but think themselves in a state of security very often when they stand upon the brink of damnation. This happens in the cases of drunk enness and lewd practices, and luxury, and idleness, and mispending of the sabbath, and in lying and vain jesting, and slandering of others; and ticularly in such evils as the laws do not punish, nor public customs shame, but which are counte nanced by potent sinners, or wicked fashions, or good-nature and mistaken civilities.


In these and the like cases, the spiritual man must endeavour to awaken their consciences by such means as follow:

Arguments and general heads of discourse, by way of consideration, to awaken a stupid conscience, and the

careless sinner.

1..And here let the minister endeavour to affect his conscience, by representing to him,

That Christianity is a holy and strict religion: that the promises of heaven are so great, that it is not reasonable to think a small matter and a little duty will procure it for us: that religious persons are always the most scrupulous; and that to feel

nothing is not a sign of life, but of death: that we live in an age in which that which is called and esteemed a holy life, in the days of the apostles and primitive Christianity would have been esteemed indifferent, sometimes scandalous, and always cold; that when we have "done our best, all our righteousness is but as filthy rags ;" and we can never do too much to make our 66 calling and elec. tion sure:" that every good man ought to be suspicious of himself, fearing the worst, that he may provide for the best; that even St. Paul, and several other remarkable saints, had at some times great apprehensions of failing of the "mighty prize of their high calling" that we are commanded to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling;" inasmuch as we shall be called to an account, not only for our sinful words and deeds, but even for our very thoughts: that if we keep all the cominandments of God, and yet offend in one point, (i. e. wilfully and habitually,) we are guilty of all;" James ii. 10,; that no man can tell how oft he of fendeth, the best of lives being full of innumerable blemishes in the sight of God, however they may appear before men: that no man ought to judge of the state of his soul by the character he has in the world; for a great many persons go to hell, who have lived in a fair reputation here; and a great many, on the other hand, go to heaven, who have been loaded with infamy and reproach: that the work of religion is a work of great difficulty, trial, and temptation: that "many are called, but few are chosen;" that "strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leadeth to life, and few there be that find it" and lastly, that, "if the righteous themselves shall scarcely be saved," there will be no place for the unrighteous and sinner to appear in, but of horror and amazement.

By these and such-like motives to consideration, the spiritual man is to awaken the careless sinner, and to bring him to repentance and confession of his sins; and if either of himself, or by this means, the sick man is brought to a right sense of his condition; then,

2. Let the minister proceed to assist him in understanding the number of his sins, i. e. the several

kinds of them, and the various ways of prevaricating with the Divine commandments. Let him make him sensible how every sin is aggravated, more or less, according to the different circum stances of it; as by the greatness or smallness of the temptation, the scandal it gives to others, the dishonour it does to religion, the injury it brings along with it to those whom it more immediately concerns; the degrees of boldness and impudence, the choice in acting it, the continuance in it, the expense, desires, and habit of it, &c.

3. Let the sick man, in the scrutiny of his conscience and confession of his sins, be carefully reminded to consider those sins which are nowhere condemned but in the court of conscience: for there are certain secret places of darkness, artificial blinds of the devil, which he uses to hide our sins from us, and to incorporate them into our affections, by the general practice of others, and the mistaken notions of the world: as, 1. Many sins before men are accounted honourable; such as fighting a duel, returning evil for evil, blow for blow, &c. 2. Some things are not forbidden by the law of man, as lying in ordinary discourse, jeering, scoffing, intemperate eating, ingratitude, circumventing another in contracts, outwitting and overreaching in bargains, extorting and taking advantage of the necessities or ignorance of other people, importunate entreaties and 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 title 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 uncha ritable truths, and the like.

There 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 fal lacies prevail not over the sick; but that those things, which passed without observation before, may now be brought forth, and pass under the se verity of a strict and impartial 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 in stances, they are undiscerned; because our con sciences 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 " grow. ing 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 commitagainst 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 show 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 temptation, 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 salva-`, tion of the person under his care.

7. The sick person is likewise to be instructed concerning his faith, whether he has a reasonable notion of the articles of the Christian religion, as they are excellently summed 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

« AnteriorContinua »