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The Visitation of the Sick, and their Communion.
THE Visitation of the Sick being a private duty, and no part of the public Liturgy of the Church, and the case of the sick being so exceeding various, as to soul and body ; and it being requisite that ministers be able to suit their exhortations and prayers to the condition of the sick ; let the words of such exhortations and prayers be left to their prudence.
So urgent is the necessity of the sick, and so seasonable and advantageous the opportunity, that ministers may not negligently overpass them, but in love and tenderness instruct them according to their several conditions : endeavouring the conversion of the ungodly, the strengthening of the weak, and comforting such as need consolation ; directing them how to improve their afflictions, and helping them to be sensible of the evil of sin, the negligences and miscarriages of their lives, the vanity of the world, their necessity of a Saviour, the sufficiency of Christ, the certainty and excellency of the everlasting glory : exhorting them to repentance and to faith in Christ, and to set their affections on the things above; and (if they are penitent believers) comfortably to hope for the kingdom which God hath promised to them that love him, committing their souls to their Redeemer, and quietly resting in the will, and love, and promises of God: resolving, if God shall recover them to health, to redeem the time, and live the rest of their lives unto his glory; and being willing, if it be their appointed time, to depart and be with Christ. And they must be exhorted to forgive such as have wronged them, and to be reconciled to those with whom they have been at variance, and to make a pious, just, and charitable disposal of their worldly estates.
The Order for solemnizing the Burial of the
It is agreeable to nature and religion, that the burial of Christians be solemnly and decently performed. As to the cases, whether the corpse shall be carried first into the church, that is to be buried in the churchyard; and whether it shall be buried before the sermon, reading, or prayer, or after, or
in the midst of the reading; or whether any prayer shall be made at the grave for the living: let no Christians uncharitably judge one another about these things. Let no people keep up groundless usages, that, being suspicious, grieve their minister, and offend their brethren. Let no minister that scrupleth the satisfying of people's ungrounded desires in such things, be forced to do it against his conscience; and let ministers that do use (any of *) these customs or ceremonies, have liberty, when they suspect that the people desire them upon some error, to profess against that error, and teach the people better.
Whether the minister come with the company that brings the corpse from the house, or whether he meet them or receive them at the burial-place, is to be left to his own discretion. But while he is with them, let him gravely discourse of man's mortality, and the useful truths and duties thence to be inferred. And either at the grave, or in the reading-place, or pulpit, by way of sermon, accord
, ing to his discretion, let him (at least, if it be desired) instruct and exhort the people concerning death, and the life to come, and their necessary preparation : seeing the spectacle of mortality, and the season of mourning, do tend to prepare men for a sober, considerate entertainment of such instructions. And he may read such Scriptures as may mind them of death, resurrection, and eternal life ; as 1 Cor. xv. or from verse 10 to the end; and Job i. 21, and xix. 25, 26, 27; John xi. 25, 26, and v. 28, 29. And his prayer shall be suited to the occasion.
* The words, any of, appear for the first time in Calamy.-P. H.
Whenever the rain, snow, or coldness of the season, make it unhealthful to the minister or people to stand out of doors, at least then let the reading, exhortation, and prayers, be used within the church.
Of Extraordinary Days of Humiliation, and
Thanksgiving; and Anniversary Festivals. When great afflictions lie upon the Church, or any special part or members of it ; or when any great sins have been committed among them ; it is meet that in public, by fasting and prayer, we humble ourselves before the Lord, for the averting of his displeasure. And, on such occasions, it is the pastor's duty to confess his own and the people's sins, with penitence and tenderness of heart: and, by his doctrine and exhortation, to endeavour effectually to bring the people to the sight and sense of their sin, and the deserts of it; and to a firm resolution of better obedience for the time to come, being importunate with God in prayer for pardon and renewed grace.
Upon the receipt of great and extraordinary mercies, the Church (having opportunity) is to assemble for public thanksgiving unto God; and the minister to stir up the people to a lively sense of the greatness of those mercies, and joyfully to celebrate the praises of God, the author of them. And it is not unmeet on these days to express our joy in feasting, and outward signs of mirth, provided they be used moderately, spiritually, and inoffensively, and not to gratify our sensual desires ; and that we relieve the poor in their necessities, (which also, on days of humiliation, and other seasons, we must not forget.) The occasions of such days of humiliation and thanksgiving being so various, as cannot be well suited by any standing forms, the minister is to apply himself to the respective duties, suitable to the particular occasions.
Though it be not unlawful or unmeet to keep