Изображения страниц

Dust to dust will soon return; and pride but mocketh dust and ashes. The heart too must be indeed base as stubborn, which sickness and approaching death soften not.

That part of the Rubric which relates to the due management of the sick man's temporal affairs had its origin in the strict view taken by our Church of the warning injunction which was addressed by St. Paul to Timothy' upon this subject; and which lays down a principle of action highly necessary in the case of those, who in former ages more especially were wont, for the honour of God and his religion, to bequeath their goods as well in liberality towards the poor, as to the general purposes of spreading far and wide the knowledge of the true God. Care was necessary, lest over-wrought zeal or any ill-regulated motive should lead the dying person to give to such purposes beyond his ability, and apply to them a greater share of his property than strict justice might permit, with reference to his kindred. Therefore he was exhorted first to see that they of his own household were duly cared for, as far as human prudence could provide, amid "the changes and chances of life." Due heed was ever to be taken for the proper support of survi


But there are pains sharper than death! sorrows deeper than the grave! The spirit of a man may bear his share of those infirmities, to which flesh is heirtrouble, sickness, sorrow, or other adversity, and even spiritual suffering-but a wounded spirit; a conscience smarting with the unhealed wound of sin, unforgiven because unrepented; who can bear? Peter

1 1 Tim, v. 8.

bore up under his infirmity. Judas sunk under his conscience. Therefore it is, that the closing direction of the Rubric, without insisting upon the absolute necessity of the duty, recommends, or "moves the sick person to make a special confession of his sins, if he feel his conscience troubled with any weighty matter.” Nothing can be more striking than the blended caution and boldness with which this direction is given to the minister. The Church forgets not for a moment. the authority with which she is invested by her divine Founder; at the same time, the minister is directed to proceed as sympathising with the sufferer, and prompt to speak such words of comfort, as the commission with which he is entrusted may justify. In health, the call is to general confession; in sickness, to special confession, if the soul of the dying have any special sin, of which it travails to disburden itself. And what to the dying, now, if their fellow-creatures know their sins?God always knew them. Before Him they are hastening to appear; and their fears importunately call upon them to heed the Apostle's warning—to judge themselves that they be not judged of God.


Ir the sick man-having wisely made confession; relieving his mind by disburthening it of its hitherto unacknowledged sin, pouring his griefs and sorrows into the heart of one who altogether sympathizes with him, and finding in the minister of Christ a loving brother" humbly and heartily desire it," the minister is ready to pronounce that absolution, the spirit of which pervades every page of the Gospel. Indeed,

were it otherwise, the Gospel were vainly within our reach, and all men would be yet in their sins. The power thus to absolve was deputed to his Church by Christ himself, in the memorable declaration which he made after breathing on his apostles and investing them with the authority attached to their mission—“ Whose sins soever ye remit, they are remitted unto them, and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained:" a declaration which was to make it clear, to the end of time, that for man, in the pride either of learning or of ignorance to set up for himself a standard of judgment between him and his God, other than that provided in the written Gospel, were indeed a vain thing. There is to be no other way to pardon, than that of repentance and faith, declared by the Church, in Christ; and so declared, because it is the word of God whilst the ministers of that Word, in the faithful discharge of their office, are neither to relax the conditions of forgiveness contained in their commission, nor limit the blessings attached to it; and since in that commission the offer of mercy is conditional— "Repent, and be saved"-" forgiveness of his offences is fully and fearlessly pronounced to the sick man," because he hath declared himself to be of those "who truly repent, and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ." The ministers, throughout, when exercising this their office on behalf of a sick brother, refer all authority to the great and glorious Being who is equally their Lord and Saviour as his. To themselves they arrogate nothing. Theirs is but to do the bidding of their Lord, lovingly and faithfully; thus absolving their penitent fellow-Christian, at his own request, of all his sins; for "the blood of Christ

[ocr errors]

cleanseth from all sin1.” To confirm this view of their ministration, they most solemnly add the name in which they pronounce this so great blessing-not in their own name; not in the name of the Church; but in the name of the blessed Author, and Giver, and Preserver of it" the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost." What mingled feelings must crowd the soul of the dying, as this Name falls upon his dying ear. In this Name he was in infancy admitted an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven


[ocr errors]


1 “O,mother,”—exclaimed a dying son in his penitence—“ O, Mo“ther ! I have found peace to my heart. I have confessed my sin. "I have lost my misery. O what misery it was to try and conceal "my sin from God. I once hated those who had offended me, and despised religion and its ministers; now I feel nothing but kind'ness to every body. Mother, come, kneel down by my bed-side. "I can pray now; for Jesus Christ will now pray for me*. Now, too, "I know God is here; and I did not know it once. That is now my "comfort. O, dearest Mother! you remember how the thought of "it used to be my horror. O that I had followed all your good "advice. But I remember it all now plainly as if it was yesterday. “O, how I wish I had minded you then. But your goodness God “ will reward. And if it had not been for your teaching then, what "should I have known now. O, Mother, come let us pray."—It would be difficult to say, which were more touching; this burst of feeling from the once stern and reckless son about to be cut off in his prime, or the reply of his heart-broken mother. "A blessing on "that voice of penitence, my son ! Now are all my prayers an"swered! all my trouble is repaid now, dear one! Son! I brought


you into a world of sin !-But, God be praised! you leave it, a child “ of grace, and I hope, through my blessed Saviour, that you will be “ a child of glory.”—Mothers! Thus, many a time and oft, when you have passed to your rest in the world of spirits, your early culture may give late fruit; and the seeds of virtue and holiness, which seemed long time lost, are proved to have been only dormant ; quickened into life by sickness, trouble, death. "Be ye then not weary in your well-doing."


* John xvii. 9.

this name he trusts to find that his inheritance is sealed, in the glorious spiritual world which is even now opening upon him.


AMONG the excellences which distinguish this prayer, is the clear proof it affords how entirely the form of absolution provided by the Church for those "who humbly and heartily desire it," though a ministerial act upon the authority of another—the power to absolve being referred to God-is yet a boon she dare not withhold, where it is desired by those who profess to be ready with the appointed conditions on which it is to be granted; inasmuch as she is authorised and commanded to confer it by the word of Him "who is head over all." A right view of the subject indeed is plainly opened to us in the first part of the prayer. There, not only does the word of God determine who are fit objects for this announcement of pardon; but the Being who authorises that announcement is at once declared to be God himself; and the grounds upon which the pardon is implored are stated -even the abounding mercy of God. Thus does the Church" absolve all sinners who truly repent and believe in Jesus Christ;" and this she does, because these are they whom the divine word absolves, and to whom it is Christ's ordinance that his ministers declare the same.-Does she address herself humbly to God on their behalf? She knows that He alone can "put away the sins" even "of them who truly repent:" so acknowledged a truth is it, that none "can forgive sins save God only 1." Again, are the grounds upon

1 Mark ii. 7.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »