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William Paley.

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Online LibraryWilliam PaleyThe works of William Paley ... : Containing his life, Moral and political philosophy, Evidences of Christianity, Natural theology, Tracts, Horæ Paulinæ, Clergyman's companion, and sermons, printed verbatim from the original editions .. → online text (page 62 of 161)
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our sins is a great and important duty. That it
does not consist in a little trivial concern, a super-
ficial sigh, or tear, or calling ourselves sinners, &c.
but in a real, ingenuous, pungent, and afflicting
sorrow : for, can that whi.-h cast our parents out
of Paradise at first, that brought down the Son
of God afterwards from heaven, and put him at
last to such a cruel and shameful death, be now
thought to be done away by a single tear or a
groan 1 Can so base a piece of ingratitude, as re-
helHng against the Lord of glory, who gives us all
we have, be supposed to be pardoned by a slender
submission 1 Or can that which deserves the tor-
ment of hell, he suffiriently atoned for by a httle
indignation and superficial remorse'?

True repentance, therefore, is ever accompanied
with a deep and afflicting sorrow; a sorrow that
will make us so irreconcilable to sin, as that we
shall choose rather to die than to live in it. For
so the bitterest accents of grief are all ascribed to
a true repentance in Scripture ; such as a "weep-
ing sorely," or " bitterly ;" a " weeping day and
night;" a "repenting in dust and ashes;" a
"putting on sackcloth;" "fasting and prayer,"
&c. Thus holy David : " I am troubled, I am
IxDwed down greatly, I go mourning all the day
long, and that by reason of minO' iniquities, which
are gone over my head, and, as a heavy burden,
are too heavy for me to bear:" Ps. xxxviii. 4, 6.
Thus Ephraim could say : " After that I was
instructed, I smote upon my thigh : I was ashamed,
yea, even confounded, because I did bear the re-
proach of my youth:" Jer. xxxi. 19.



236



THE CLERGYMAN'S COMPANION.



And this is the proper satisfaction for sin which
God expects, and hath promised to accept; as,
Ps. li. 17." " The sacrifices of God are a broken
spirit : a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou
wilt not despise."

2. The next thing requisite in a true repent-
ance, is confession of sins, which naturally fol-
lows the other ; for if a man be so deeply afflicted
with sorrow for his sins, he will be glad to be rid
of them as soon as he can ; and the way for this,
is humbly to confess them to God, who hath pro-
mised to forgive us if we do. " 1 said, I will con-
fess my sins unto the Lord," saith the Psalmist ;
"and so thou forgavest the wickedness of my
sin," Ps. xxxii. (J. So, Prov. xxviii. 13, and
1 John i. 9: "If wc confess our sins, God is
faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to
cleanse us from all unrighteousness." So the re-
turning prodigal went to his father with an hum-
ble confession of his baseness, and was received
into favour again.— Luke xv. 18, 19.

And because the number of our sins are like
the hairs of our head, or the sand of the sea, and
almost as various too in their kinds as their num-
bers ; confession must needs be a very extensive
duty, and require the strictest care and examina-
tion of ourselves : for " who can tell how oft he
oflerdeth V saith David ; " O, cleanse thou me
from my secret faults I"

The penitent, therefore, should be reminded,
that his confession be as minute and particular as
it can ; since the more particular the confession
is, to be sure, the more sincere and safe the re-
pentance.

3. A third thing requisite in a true repentance,
is an unfeigned abhorrence and forsaking of sin,
and turning to the Lord our God with all our
hearts.

For so we find them expressly joined together
by St. Paul, when he charges those whom by
vision he was sent to convert, to change* their
mind, and " turn to God, and do works meet for
repentance:" Acts xxvi. 20. And a little before,
he says, he was sent " to open their eyes, and turn
them from darkness to light, and from the power
of Satan onto God, that they may receive for-
giveness of sin :" ver. 18. And we shall always
find, when we are commanded to cease from evil,
it is in order to do good.

The penitent, therefore, must be reminded, not
only to confess and be sorry for his sins, but like-
wise to forsake them. For it is he only " who con-
fesseth and forsaketh his sins, that shall have
mercy :" Prov. xxviii. 13. And this forsaking must
not be only for the present, during his sickness,
or for a week, a month, or a year ; but for his
whole life, be it never so protracted: which is
the

4. Last thing requisite in a true repentance,
viz. " a patient continuance in well-doing to the
end of our lives." For as the holy Jesus assures
us, that "he that endureth unto the end shall be
saved ;" so does the Spirit of God profess, that
"if any man draw back, his soul shall have no
pleasure in him:" Hob. x. 38. Hence we are
said to " be partakers of Christ, if we hold the
beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end,"
Heb. in. 14, but not el.se ; for it is to " him only
that overcometh, and kcepeth his works to the
end," that our Saviour hath promised a reward:



* ttrryiyyiKKov f^i



Rev. ii. 36. Hence our religion is said to be n.
continual warfare, and we nmst be constantly
"pressing forward toward the mark of our high
calling," with the apostle, lest we fail of the
prize.

And this it is which makes a death-bed re-
pentance so justly reckoned to be very full of
hazard ; such as none who defer it till then, can
depend upon with any real security. P^or let a
man be never so seemingly penitent in the day of
his visitation, yet none but God can tell whether
it be sincere or not ; since nothing is more com-
mon than for those who expressed the greatest
signs of a lasting repentance upon a sick bed, to
forget all their vows and promises of amendment,
as soon as God had removed the judgment, and
restored them to their former health. "It hap-
pened to them according to the true proverb," as
St. Peter says, " The dog is turned to his own
vomit again, and the sow that was washed to her
wallowing i.n the mire," 2 Pet. ii. 32.

The sick penitent, therefore, should be often
reminded of this: — that nothing will be looked
upon as true repentance, but what would ter-
minate in a holy life : that, therefore, he ought to
take great heed, that his repentance be not only
the effect of his present danger, but that it be last-
ing and sincere, "bringing forth works meet for
repentance," should it please God mercifully to
prove him by a longer life.

But here it is much to be feared, that after all
his endeavours to bring men to a sight of them-
selves, and to repent them truly of their sins, the
spiritual man will meet with Init very little en-
couragement : for if we look round the world, we
shall find the generality of men to be of a rude
mdifierence, and a seared conscience, and mightily
ignorant of their condition with respect to another
world, being abused by evil customs and princi-
ples, 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 fiiults, 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, per-
haps 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 lireasts 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 stanil upon the
brink of damnation. This happens in the cases
of drunkenness and lewd practices, and luxury,
and idleness, and misspending of the sabbath, and
in lying and vain jesting, and slandering of others;
and particularly in such evils as the laws do not
punish, nor public customs .shame, but which
are countenanced 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:



IN VISITING THE SICK.



237



Arguments and general Ueads of Discourse^ by
way of Consideration, to awaken a uliipid
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 ibr 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 apos-
tles and primitive Christianity would have been
esteemed indiiferent, 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 " calling
and election 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 ai)preliensions of failing of the " mighty
prize of their high calling:'' that we are com-
manded 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 commandments 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 offendeth, the best of lives being full of
innumerable blemishes in the sight of God, how-
ever they may appear before men ; that no man
ought to judge of the state of his soul by the cha-
racter he has in the world ; for a great many per-
sons 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 iew there be that find it :" and lastly, that,
"if the righteous themselves shall scarcely be
saved," there will be no place for the unrigliteous 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 hun in un-
derstanding the number of his sins, i. e. the seve-
ral kinds of them, and the various ways of preva-
ricating 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 inmiediatcly
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 con-
science and confession of his sins, be carefully re-
minded to consider those sins which are no where
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 incorixirate 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, scoff-
ing, intemperate eating, ingratitude, circumvent-
ing another in contracts, outwitting and overreach-
ing in bargains, extorting and taking advantage
of the necessities or ignorance of other people, im-
portunate entreaties and temptations of persons
to many instances of sin, as intemperance, pride,
and amljjtion, &c.; all which, therefore, do strange-
ly blind the understanding and captivate the affec-
tions 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 them-
selves 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 titles
of sins of infirmity, or inseparable accidents of
mortality ; such as idle thoughts, foolish talking,
loose revelhngs, impatience, anger, and all the
events of evil company. 5. Lastly ; many things
are thought to be no sms : such as mispending of
their time, whole days or months of useless or im-
pertinent employment, long gaming, winning
men's money in great portions, censuring men's
actions, curiosity, equivocating in the prices of buy-
ing and selling, rudeness in speech or behaviour,
speaking uncharitable truths, and the like.

These are some of those artificial veils and co-
verings, under the dark shadow of which the ene-
my 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
fallacies prevail not over the sick; but that those
things, which passed without observation before,
may now be brought forth, and pass under the
severity of a strict and impartial censure, religious
sorrow, and condemnation.

4. To this may be added a general dis[)lay of
the neglect and omission of our duty ; for in them
lies the bigger half of our failings: and yet, in
many instances, they are undiscerned ; because
our consciences 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 tliat 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 " growing in grace," and doing all the good
he can in his generation : the frequent omissions
of the gi-eat duty of charity, in visiting the sick,
relieving the needy, and comforting the afflict-
ed : the want of obedience, duty, and respect to



238



THE CLERGYMAN'S COMPANION



parents : the doing the work of God negligently,
or not discharging himself with that iidelity, 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 com-
mitted against 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 in-
jured 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 hvun-
bling himself to the offended person, and beseech-
ing him to forgive him.

(j. If the sick person be of evil report, the minis-
ter should take care, some way or other, to make
him sensible of it, so as to show an effectual sor-
row 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 temptations, 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 con-
cerning these matters. Ho 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 ad-
vice, without partiality, or fear, or interest, or re-
spect 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 up in the Apostle's
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 wUl as soon as he
can. For if he recovers, this cannot be detri-
mental ; but, if he dies, it will be of great comfort
and satisfaction to him. And here it must be re-
membered that he distribute every thing according
to the exact rules of justice, and with such a due
care, as to ])revent all law-suits and contentions
for the future : and, if he be able, he is to be ad-
monished to do something likewise out of charity,
and for the sake of his poor brethren,

9. In all the course of his visitation, the minis-
ter should freq\iently be exhorting the sick man
to patience and a blessed resignation to the will of
God ; and not to look upon his sickness as barely
the effect of second causes, but as indicted on him
by Divine Providence for several wise and good
ends : As, for the trial of his faith ; the exercise of
patience ; the punishment of his sins ; the amend-
ment of his life ; or for the example of others, who,
seeing his good behaviour in such a day of cala-
mity, may glorify their Father which is in heaven :
or else, that it is for the increase of his future wel-
fare, in order to raise him the higher in glory
hereafter, by how much the lower he hath been
depressed here.

10. When the spiritual man hath thus dis-
charged his duty, and the sick hath made himself



capable of it, by a religious and holy conformity to
all the forementioned particulars respecting his
condition and circumstances, he may then give
him the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. And
it is the minister's office to invite sick and dying
])ersons to this holy sacrament, provided they dis-
cover a right sense of their duty. And,

Note, That the Holy Sacrament is not to be ad-
ministered to dying persons, when they have no
use of their reason to join with the minister in his
celebration of it. For the sacraments operate not
of themselves, but as they are made efficacious by
the joint consent and will, and religious acts and
devotion of the party that receives them. And
therefore all fools, and distracted persons, and chil-
tlren, and lethargical and apoplectical people, or
that are any ways senseless and incapable of hu-
man and reasonable acts, are to be assisted only by
prayers.

Note also, That in cases of necessity, where the
sacrament cannot be so conveniently administered,
the sick may be admonished to receive it spiritu-
ally, i- e. by representing the symbols of the body
and blood of our Lord to his mind, and applying
them to himself by faith, with the same prepara-
tions of faith and repentance, as if they were real-
ly present. For no doubt but God, in such a case,
who considers all things with exact justice, and
chiefly respects the sincerity of our hearts and in-
tentions, will excuse the absence of the outward
and visible sign, when necessity, and not contempt
or neglect, was the occasion of it.



SECTION IV,

Of applying spiritual Remedies to the unreason-
able Fears and Dejections of the Sick.

It sometimes happens that good men, especially
such as have tender consciences, impatient of the
least sin, to which they are arrived by a long habit
of grace, and a continual observation of their ways,
overact their part, and turn their tenderness into
scruples, and are too much dejected and doubtful
concerning their future salvation. In such a case,
the minister is to represent to them, that the man
who is jealous of himself, is always in the safest
condition : that if he fears on his death-bed, it is
but what happens to most considering men ; and
that therefore to fear nothing then, is either a sin-
gular felicity, or a dangerous presumption.

But to restrain the extravagance of fear, let him
be reminded of the terms of the Gospel: — that it
is a covenant of grace and mercy to all : that
" Christ Jesus came into the world to save sin-
ners :" that he continues our " Advocate in heaven,"
and daily " intercedes" with his Father for us :
that the whole heavenly host rejoices at the con-
version of a sinner : that the angels are de])uted by
God, to be our guardians against violent surprises
and temj)tations: that there are different degrees
of glory in heaven ; so that, if we arrive not at the
greatest, we may yet hope, by divine mercy, that
we should not be excluded the less; that God hath
promised to hear the "prayers of the righteous"
for his servants : that he labours with us by his
Spirit, and as it were "beseeches us, in Christ's
stead, to be reconciled to him," 2 Cor. v. 20 : that,
of all his attributes, he glories in none so much as



IN VISITING THE SICK.



239



in the titles of mercy and fbrgfveness : that there-
fore we do injustice to the Father of mercies, if we
retain such hard thoughts and suspicions of huu:
that God calls upon us to forgive our brother " se-
venty times seven ;'' and yet all that is but like the
forgiving " an hundred pence," for his sake, who
fo^rives us " ten thousand talents:" and therefore
if we are ordered to show such an unrestrained
temper of forgiveness, it is only to animate us to
trust in God's much more unbounded mercy.

By these and the hke arguments, the spiritual
man may raise the drooping spirits of good men,
in their causeless dejections. But because there
are many other cases of the hke nature, which the
physician of souls will meet with in ^siting his
neighbours, especially such as are of melancholy
dispositions, ii may not be improper to mark the
principal of them here, and to prescribe the reme-
dies.

Considerations to be offered to Persons under
Religious Melanchohj.

1 . Some truly religious persons eire under sad
apprehensions of not being in the favour of God,
because they find their devotions to be very often
cold, their prayers distracted, and their delight in
spiritual matters not to be so great and permanent
as their pleasure £ind satisfaction are in the things
of the world.

Now to such as have made religion the great
business of their lives, who have endeavoured to
cure those distracted thoughts they complain of,
and to inflame their souls with divine love, it may
be offered, that the different degrees of affection
with which men ser^'e God, do very often depend
upon the difference of their tempers and constitu-
tions ; since some are naturally so dull and heavy,
as to be httle affected with any thing ; whilst others
are of such a tender make, as to be affi-cted almost
with every thing, so as to be soon exalted with joy,
or depressed with sorrow: that sickness, losses, and
all afflictions, and even rehgion itself, in its long
and continual exercise of self-denial and thought-
fulness, do naturally produce such a tenderness of
spirit, that the best of men have never been able
at all times to keep their affections at an equal
height : that the zeal and warmth with wliich
some are affected, is not always an argument of
their goodness : that a sensible pleasure in rehgious
exercises, wherein the passions are aflected, is not
so acceptable to God as a reasonable serv'ice : that



Online LibraryWilliam PaleyThe works of William Paley ... : Containing his life, Moral and political philosophy, Evidences of Christianity, Natural theology, Tracts, Horæ Paulinæ, Clergyman's companion, and sermons, printed verbatim from the original editions .. → online text (page 62 of 161)