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Few words may suffice for an introduction to this little Tract. It was found among the manuscripts of the late Archdeacon Coxe; in the class of religious and devotional compositions, which on various occasions, general and special, he produced in the exercise of his sacred profession. To his friends it will be endeared, when they are informed that the closing hours of his long, active, and beneficent life were occupied in preparing and revising it for the press.
It contains the Office for the Sick, with notes and explanations, founded on the doctrine and discipline of the Church of England; and is intended as a companion to two former Tracts, on the Church Catechism and Confirmation Service. It avoids all abstruse points of divinity, which, in their discussion, are surely illtimed in seasons of bodily affliction, or on the approach of death: and, whilst it suppresses the presumptions of enthusiasm on the one hand, and the forebodings of despondency on the other, and goes only to plain and practical questions of primary and vital interest, it will, it is hoped, both facilitate the labours of those who visit the sick, and be conducive to the best spiritual benefit of those who are visited.
VISITATION OF THE SICK,
Many words are not wanting to prove the uncertainty of human life, and that all are alike subject to the stroke of death. The holy Psalmist informs us, that thousands fall at our right hand, and tens of thousands at our left; and that we are exposed to the pestilence that walketh in the darkness, and to the sickness that destroyeth in the noon-day.
Death is, indeed, the lot of all. The rich are not protected for favour, nor the poor for pity; the old are not reverenced for their age, nor infants for their tender. ness; and, whatever be our condition, we must all lie down equally in the dishonour of the grave, and dwell with worms and creeping things, in a house of corruption and darkness. We ought, therefore, never to forget the impressive words of Holy Writ, that in the midst of life we are in death ; and we should be always prepared to appear before the judgment-seat of Christ. Oh! that we were wise and understood this, and would consider our latter end!
Although we are far from attempting to limit the infinite mercy of God, and must allow, from many passages in Scripture, and particularly from the example of the penitent thief, that no period is too late for the exercise of his mercy, yet it is our duty to impress earnestly on the minds of all, the awful danger of trusting to a death-bed repentance, or of deferring to a future day that contrition and amendment which the forbearance of God ought to work daily in our souls. Whilst we are thus mocking our heavenly Father by resolutions which may never be realised, we should not forget that the sudden stroke of death may reach us unprepared ;
or that pain and suffering may so far weaken our faculties, as to prevent us from working out our salvation by accom, plishing those conditions which are required for the dispensation of his pardon. It is, therefore, the bounden duty of all Christians to consider their latter end, even in the full flow of health, and with the prospect of a long life; but it is still more imperious when we are visited by sickness, or are før advanced in age.
On these considerations one of the earliest apostolical injunctions was the visitation of the sick, not merely as a duty of friendship and courtesy, but as a religious obligation. Although the administration of comfort and consolation to our neighbours is incumbent on all, yet it is more particularly the duty of the minister to fulfil this important office, as well to soothe the anguish of mental suffering, as to prepare the mind of the sufferer for that awful change which awaits all mankind. Sick persons are, therefore, strongly recommended to send