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to the Sick? At such times the Clergyman can only act as the exigency of the case requires, having little time for exhortations and prayers, and less to inquire into the Sick Man's faith and repentance. In that case he must have recourse to his own discretion, as indeed the church allows him at other times, and act as " he shall think most needful and convenient," according to the present exigency; for it is scarcely possible, I think, to lay down any general rules for visiting the Sick in such extremity,
But as it is more than probable, that every one who has the care of souls will one time or other be called upon to visit those who are almost at the point of death, before they will see a Minister, I recoinmend him to be provided beforehand against such perplexing Visits with a suitable short form which he may find it necessary to dispatch in a little time from the very weak state which the person may be in, whom he is summoned thus hastily to visit *. For even at so late an hour of life what can be done, ought to be done : here however the Minister must use great care, neither to soothe the late penitent with ungrounded hopes of pardon, nor to drive him to despair. And he ought to be particularly cautious not to say any thing which may induce the standers-by, who perhaps may not yet have begun the great work of repentance, to think that they may go on in a course of sin, till they are brought to the condition of their dying friend, and that then by uttering a few ejaculations, and hearing a few prayers from the Minister, hastily sent for, but never before thought of, all shall be well; that God is all-merciful, and will forgive their sins; without considering that through their whole lives they
In Dr. Stearne's “ Tractatus de Visitatione Infirmorum” may be seen “ Forma interrogationum ex ANSELMO descripta,” and “Forma prolixior ex LAUDO deprompta:" which I have subjoined in page 139, for the sake of those who have not an opportunity of referring to that treatise.
have been provoking his justice, and perhaps never had him in all their thoughts, but when they have uttered his name from their mouths in profane cursing and swearing.
In order however to guard against a frequent return of applications for such fruitless pastoral Visits, I shall here give the advice of Dr. Stearne in his “ Tractatus de Visitatione Infirmorum;" and in our own language, rather than in that of his treatise, because I think it possible that this little book may fall into the hands of some who are not clergymen, and who by this may see the propriety of sending for å Minister at the beginning of sickness, and not when nature is so far exhausted, that they can neither attend to his exhortations, nor join with him in prayer..
“ Every one who has the care of souls " should frequently admonish the people " committed to his charge, either in his “ more private conversations, or in the “ discourses which he delivers from the pulpit, that they should take care to
“ have the Minister sent for in the begin“ ning of sickness.' For when the disor“ der is increased to a great height, it is " generally in vain to talk with a Sick " Man; since, when the body is agitated “ by the violence of a severe disorder, the “ mind for the most part suffers with it, “ and becomes unable to discharge its pro" per functions. People should therefore " be convinced, how expedient it is for “ them, that a Minister of God's word « should be sent for in time; that his “ prayers and advice will not hasten 4. death, (which is a vulgar and ridiculous “ opinion) but may be effectual in pro“ moting their true repentance, in re“ moving their sickness, and prolonging " their lives. And men are the more to “ be urged to require the Minister's at" tendance, when they are ill; because "many, particularly among the lower sort “ of people, decline calling for the as- ' "sistance of the Minister from a fear of " being troublesome to him.”