« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
conscience in sickness? Is repentance sincere and earnest? Is faith firm, and unshaken even by this thy present trial? What has been thy obedience? has it been such as now gives peace in the retrospect?-Remember thou art now, every hour, advancing nearer and nearer to the judgment-seat of God; the Searcher of hearts; the Judge of all men without respect of persons! Riches, and honour, and power, before Him win no favour; poverty, and shame, and lowliness, claim no exemption from judgment. "Examine yourself and your state, both before God and man.' Are you at peace with God, as a pardoned penitent though Christ? Are you at peace with men, forgiving as you would be forgiven? Suppose your heart condemn you on these points; better so, and you be startled into repentance, than wait till God judge you and repentance come too late. The hope which the Church here holds out,-that "you may find mercy at our heavenly Father's hand for Christ's sake, and not be accused or condemned in that fearful judgment"
is founded upon the bold language of St. Paul; who, as usual, always full of courage himself, and prompt either to arouse or sustain courage in others, thus speaks the language of faith, as in leading you to "judge yourself, that you be not judged of the Lord," he reminds you, that the Spirit of power for the work is yours if you pray for it; "We can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth us "."
1 Phil. iv. 13.
THE ARTICLES OF THE FAITH.
life after death 1."
THE minister is now directed to gain your direct assent to those articles of the Christian faith, to which at your Baptism you were first pledged, and to which in your daily service you have since, according to your profession, consented. It is desirable, however, that you refresh your fainting strength by now renewing and repeating these with the minister, in token that in sickness as in health, in death as in life, you rejoice to evidence yourself a member of "Christ's Holy Catholic Church;" having the hope of "the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the dead, and the life everlasting." you are armed for life or for death.
If recovery be vouchsafed, you return to this world a new man; no longer conformed to it, but transformed by the renewing of your mind." You have learned duly to prize the privilege of your high calling as of the "sons of God," a " fellow-heir with Christ,” "sanctified" by the Spirit. Are you rich? you no longer trust for happiness to your riches, but to the love of your heavenly Father, whose bounty bestows them, and to whose honour you henceforth apply them. Are you poor? you no longer make poverty a plea for dishonesty or murmuring or discontent; but you trust that your Father in heaven, who feedeth the birds of the air that call upon Him, will much more feed you,
1 Refer to pages 82, 134, and 276-where the several parts of the Belief are more fully explained.
THE ARTICLES OF THE FAITH.
if you pray to Him, and put your whole trust in Him. Are you ever betrayed into sin, you will not despair -God forbid !—you believe in Jesus Christ, who died to wash away your sin; and you rejoice in the gracious call of his Gospel, "Repent and be saved." Do you strive to lead a good and righteous life? you presume not; you glory not. Your trust for acceptance is still, more and more, on the sole righteousness which is through Christ Jesus, the only Saviour of a fallen world. Neither will the wise man, who believeth in the Holy Ghost, glory in his wisdom. With the Apostle he will at once allow, that the wisdom of the world is and must be foolishness with God; and that the wisdom which maketh wise unto salvation can be drawn only from the fountain whence it is free for all alike to draw, even the Holy Spirit of God. Never unmindful, however, of the same Apostle's warning against a presumptuous reliance on that wisdom to the neglect of active holiness, he will the more diligently "work out his own salvation;" because it is God who by his Spirit worketh for him and with him.
If God please that your present sickness end in death, you are well-armed against it. You present the shield of this faith against all those terrors of death and judgment by which Satan with fierce wrath assaults the soul of the sick and dying. Your heavenly Father, into whose presence you are about soon to pass, is reconciled by the willing sacrifice of his blessed Son. That you have sinned, you confess; but the word of God assures you-and "God is greater than your heart 1"-that "Christ," in whom
11 John iii. 20.
you believe, "hath died and become the propitiation for your sins." The world is leaving you. earthly comforts fail. The voice of love and affection will, indeed, pour its sorrows over you, but you will have left your earthly house; and that voice will fall unheeded on the ear of death. Yet, comfort is yours -comfort, which pain and anguish and agony cannot wrest from the heart-for the Holy Ghost, himself the Comforter, is with you still; bearing witness with your spirit that you are of the children of God.
Where then is fear? You are leaving the loved ones of earth; you are nearing a Father in heaven! You are passing into eternity, unworthy of mercy; but you believe in the forgiveness of sins. One has gone before you, whose own perfections will be imputed to you; He hath gone to prepare a place for you with Him; and He is now about to open to you, as you humbly trust, the kingdom of heaven; for you believe in the resurrection of the dead, and the life everlasting, through a risen and ascended Saviour. Your own powers of thought and mind are failing; behold the Spirit of wisdom and consolation is promised to abide with you ever! Where then is fear? the shield of Faith is at hand.-They know no fear, whose trust is the Lord!
THE Rubrics, which follow the required declaration of faith, open with a direction to the minister to examine the sick person as to his repentance and charity. But this direction is framed in so beautiful a spirit of sympathy, and with so tender a feeling, that the suf
ferer can hardly fail gladly to accept the proffered aid of one so deeply interested in his welfare as his minister. And it must be very comforting to a soul pressed down with an afflicted body, to feel that such help is at hand; checking his rising despair, animating his courage, quickening his hope. The authorized servant of his divine Master dare not but exhort the dying, well and faithfully to examine their own hearts, as to whatever sin be their burden; for all must be known to that great Being, before whose judgment-seat they will so soon stand. He also pointedly directs special attention to that most important Christian duty of forgiveness. For suppose it possible, that a soul could stand at heaven's gate, pure as snow, except the spot of unforgiveness-Alas! to the unforgiving of men, equally with the unforgiven of God, that gate openeth not. The very condition of an entrance there, reconciled through Christ Jesus to our Father in heaven, is, that we bring no enmity towards our brethren on earth. We daily ask forgiveness, only according to the measure by which we have first forgiven others. There is reconciliation therefore between man and his God, only so far as there is reconciliation between man and his brethren. The sick man may the more hopefully be thus exhorted to examine himself by a stricter scrutiny, and fairly judge how far he forgives them who either have offended him, or at whom he, groundlessly, may have taken offence, not only because he must be anxious himself to be forgiven of God; but because the difficulty on his part in forgiving his enemy, is now rendered easy. To the world he is dead. No false shame now intervenes with the withering suggestion, "Thou art lowering thyself.”