« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
voice of conscience, and done their own will, in bold defiance of the will of their God. Sickness, however, has made them to mourn the past, and amend. With what blissful anticipations this petition is offered by the faithful, they alone can tell. Are they sick unto death? their's is the brightening hope of soon sharing with angels their holy work, and doing God's Will not only after their manner, but in their glorious company. Is sickness subdued, and health restored? Then what glad resolves for a higher and holier and bolder obedience than their heart before ever aimed at ! The world at such a moment loses all its former influence, either by its frown to deter from honouring God, or by its smiles to lure from loving Him. To the righteous, as to the penitent, presumption is checked by the petition following. Do they severally resolve, and set themselves to do thy Will, O God ? Mark whence they look for power to do what they resolve! They look for it from Thee. To Thee they pray, that Thou wouldst give them grace : the true bread from heaven to sustain the soul in life and in the exercise of the powers thereof; even as they pray that thou wouldst give food, bread, the staff of man's bodily life, for the sustentation of the powers with which thou hast endowed him. Alive to the duties of this spiritual life, impressed with the responsibility which lies upon them to a strict and patient fulfilment of them, and awakened at last to the startling truth that, for power to fulfil them, there must be help from heaven, or the soul will as surely perish for lack of grace, as the body for lack of bread, and that God alone is the giver of both ;—under these new feelings they, day by day, with a patience which not even the weary hour of sickness can break, raise, with a weakened voice perhaps, though with a strengthened faith, the brief, yet hopeful petition, “Give us this day our daily bread.” But suppose God giveth us his aid for the time to come, that we may be enabled henceforth to walk in his holy laws, do his commands, and please Him both in will and deedremembrance of past sins will rise up in the awakened soul of the sick. For them no rest till sin be
pardoned. For pardon therefore we supplicate ; and supplicate hopefully, because so directed of Christ; and He mocketh not his “ brethren, and his friends!." At the same time, the Being, who thus encourages us to implore pardon, appoints the condition, and frames for us the very terms upon which we are to expect it. Without fulfilment of these, we may ask pardon from our childhood to the grave and shall ask in vain. What then are those terms ? Once perhaps thought hard and difficult, now they are accepted readily, gratefully. "O pardon me, Thou mighty Judge”—such is the heart-language of the sick and the dying—“0, pardon me; and what Thou wilt, that will I do: when Thou commandest, then will I obey ! Even my enemy will I, from my soul, forgive.” Therefore “ Forgive us our trespasses,” even“ as we forgive them that trespass against us.” “ So clear am I now of aught but love and good-will in my heart, that in the name and through the mediation of thy Son our Lord and Saviour Christ, I fear not, 0 gracious Father, thus to make conditions even with Thee.”—Indeed, nothing can prove more strikingly the truth of holy writ, that “ whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth," than the softening effect of a season of sickness upon hearts, formerly the most hard and unyielding. The profligate is horrorstruck, as his eyes open to see the awful precipice of death eternal on which he every moment stood. His reckless passions are controlled. The scoffer, the sabbath-breaker, the careless, the worldly, the indifferent—all deploring their sins, negligences, and ignorances-cry out for pardon, and acknowledge one only name under heaven given to man whereby he can be pardoned; that name, Christ: one only condition on which pardon can be granted; that condition, forgiveness of others. 0, the depth of the riches both of the knowledge and goodness of God! The self-love of the individual is made the very means of cherishing in his heart love towards his fellow-creatures. Thus the revengeful lays aside his enmity. He loves himself, and his fiercest anger then passes away. Even the slanderer, who in his health and strength with malice and ill-will strove against his neighbour's fame and good name, is no sooner laid on a bed of sickness and approaching death, than all is changed. He too loves himself, and as he finds, though late, that to rush into the presence of his Maker and Judge, with unforgiveness in his heart, will be at once a bar to his own forgiveness from God, he haply turns to better thoughts, confesses his sin, hates it and abhors it; and having at last freely and fully forgiven others their trespasses against him, offers the petition for pardon, with good hope that its conditions being fulfilled, its blessings will of grace be granted ; and he “ blesses the Lord, who hath given him a warning," so salutary, so saving'. Further benefit also has accrued to the soul from this season of sickness. Necessarily withdrawn from the world and thrown back upon itself, the mind feels at last man's utter weakness and inability to think or do any thing good as of himself. Its conviction is now clear, that man's “sufficiency is of God.” Hence a dread of future temptations, with a trust in God to deliver out of them, is avowed in the closing petitions of this prayer; “ Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Never before did the sufferer pour forth this supplication so humbly, so earnestly, so hopefully. He rejoices that God, his heavenly Father, willing to receive again his erring child, scourges him with sickness and sorrow, makes the way of sin distasteful to him, bends the pride of self to the humility of faith, and leadeth him back to the way of holiness and peace : if trial be appointed, deliverance is vouchsafed.
1 Matt. xii. 49. John xy. 15.
AFTER the Lord's prayer-in which, short as it is, and familiar as it has been to the sick from their earliest consciousness, their heart, their lips, and haply even their voice may join-follow some brief and appropriate responses, admirably suited to one weakened by sickness of body, yet earnest in mind to join in this holy worship. The words breathe the true spirit of Christian faith and Christian practice ; ever dread of man's weakness, with trust in God's grace; fear of self, with hope in the Lord.
The sufferer trusts in the Lord to send help in answer to his prayer; and though he knoweth full well, that the spiritual fight ceaseth not till death be swallowed up in victory, yet doth he fearlessly rely on help from above, that the enemy shall have no advantage over him ; nor the wicked, though they advance, and tempt, and assault, so approach as to hurt him. If the Lord hear his cry, what can harm him? The Lord himself is to him a tower, high above the face his enemies, and strong against all their assaultings. The Lord is his defence!
“ O Lord ! look down from heaven ., through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The sick man having raised his cry to heaven, the minister beseeches the Lord who reigneth there, to look down thence; to behold, visit, and himself relieve his servant-else, vain were the help of man. True it is, that love and affection are prompt to administer ease and a watchful supply of what the body needeth; and the Church by her ministers can sympathize ; can lend her ready aid to exercise the soul in a patient endurance; and be the herald of the message of peace to the penitent, and of hope to all : but life and death, body and soul, are in the hands of the Lord; health to the one, and healing to the other by the spirit of pardon and reconciliation, is his alone to give : whilst mercy, therefore, not merit, not even the sufferings of the sick are our plea to be heard ; we confess that if comfort and sure confidence is to be ours, it must rest upon divine help; even “on Thee, O God !” Thou alone canst defend thy sick servant from the danger of the enemy, the devil ; that great and constant foe
1 These Responses are from God's word. Psalm lxxxvi. 2. xx. 2. lxxxix. 23. lxi. 3. lxi. 1.