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Have you not been pleased with evil reports; and have you not been too forward to propagate them?

Have you not been vexatious to your neighbour, and grieved him without cause?

Have you not been dissatisfied with the condition which God allotted you?

Have you not coveted your neighbour's goods, envied his prosperity, or been pleased with his misfortunes?

Have you done to others as you wish they should have done to you?

Can you call to mind any injury or injustice, for which you ought to ask pardon, or make restitution?

And remember you are told the truth, that the unrighteous and unjust shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Is there any body that has grievously wronged you, to whom you ought to be reconciled?

Remember, that if you forgive not, you will not be forgiven; and that he will receive judgment without mercy, who hath shewed no mercy.

Are you therefore in charity with all the world?

Have you been kind to the poor according to your ability? And remember that the moment Zaccheus resolved to do right to every body, and to be kind to the poor, our Lord tells him, that salvation was then come to his house.

You would do well therefore, as a proof of your thankfulness to God, to be liberal to the poor, according to your ability.

And if you have not already settled your worldly concerns, and declared what you owe, and what is owing to you; it is fit you do so now, for the discharging a good conscience, and for preventing mischief after your death.

And be very careful that in making your will, you do no wrong, discover no resentment, that the last act of your life may be free from sin.

And now I will leave you for a while to God, and to your own conscience; beseeching him to discover to you the charge that is against you; that you may know, and confess, and bewail, and abhor the errors of your life past; that your sins may be done away by his mercy, and your pardon sealed in heaven, before you go hence and be no more



CONCERNING confession, archbishop Usher has these words: "No kind of confession, either public or private, "is disallowed by our church, that is any way requisite for "the due execution of the ancient power of the keys, which "Christ bestowed on the church."

Concerning absolution, bishop Andrews hath these words: "It is not said by Christ, Whose sins ye wish and pray for, 66 or declare to be remitted; but, Whose sins ye remit:-to "which he addeth a promise, that he will make it good, "and that his power shall accompany the power he has "given them, and the lawful execution of it in his church

for ever."

And indeed the very same persons baptize for the remission of sins, and administer the Lord's supper as a seal of the forgiveness of sins to all worthy communicants.

It is not water that can wash away sin, nor bread and wine; but these rightly administered, by persons truly authorized, and to persons duly qualified by faith and repentance. And thus absolution benefiteth, by virtue of the power which Jesus Christ has given his ministersd.

In short,―our Lord having purchased the forgiveness of sins for all mankind, he hath committed the ministry of reconciliation to us; that having brought men to repentance, we may in Christ's name, and in the person of Christe, pronounce their pardon.

And this will be the true way to magnify the power of the keys, which is so little understood, or so much despised; namely, to bring as many as possibly we can to repentance, that we may have more frequent occasions of sealing a penitent's pardon by our ministry.

And now, if the sick person has been so dealt with as to be truly sensible of his condition, he should then be instructed in the nature and benefit of confession (at least of such sins as do trouble his conscience) and of absolution.

For instance, he should be told, that as under the law of Moses, God made his priests the judges of leprosy f, and gave them rules, by which they were to determine who were clean, and fit to enter into the congregation, (which was a type of heaven,) and who were not clean:

Even so, under the gospel, he has given his priests authority to judge sin, which is the leprosy of the soul. He has given them rules to judge by, with authority to pro

Answer to the Jesuit, p. 84. d John xx, 23. e 2 Cor. ii. 10. f Lev. xiii.

nounce their pardon, if they find them qualified; for this is their commission from Christ's own mouth, Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them.

But then we dare not take upon us to exercise this authority, until sinners give such signs of a sincere faith and true repentance, as may persuade one charitably to believe, that amendment of life will follow, if God shall think fit to grant them longer time.

At the same time, therefore, that we are bound to encourage penitents earnestly to desire absolution, and to exhort them to receive the Lord's supper, as a pledge to assure them of pardon; we must sincerely admonish them not to hope for any benefit either from the one or the other, but upon condition of their sincere repentance.

It will be proper, therefore, before absolution, and for more satisfaction, to ask the sick person some such questions as these:

Have you considered the sins which you have been most subject to?

Are you convinced that it is an evil thing and bitter to forsake the Lord?

Are you resolved to avoid all temptations, and occasions of the sins you have now repented of?

Do you verily believe that you shall not fall into any of these sins again?

If you should do so, will you immediately beg God's pardon, and be more watchful over yourself?

Will you strive with all your might to overcome the corruptions of your nature, by prayers, by fasting, and by self-denial?

Do you purpose, if God shall prolong your days, to bring forth fruits meet for repentance?

Are you in perfect charity with all the world?

Every Christian, whose life has been, in the main, unblameable, and whose repentance has thus been particularly examined, and who has given a satisfactory answer to these questions, ought not to leave the world without the benefit of absolution, which he should be earnestly pressed to desire, and exhorted to dispose himself to receive, as the church has appointed.


IF a person of this character be visited with sickness, a prudent pastor will not presently apply comfort, or give

him assurances of pardon; he will rather strive to increase his sorrow to such a height, as, if God should spare him, might produce a repentance not to be repented of.

It was thus (as Dr. Hammond observes) that God himself dealt with such kind of sinnersg.

The children of Israel did evil again; that is, they went on in their wickedness, upon which God sorely distresses them. They cried unto God, but he answers them, I will deliver you no more. However, this did not make them utterly to despair; for they knew that his mercy had no bounds; they therefore still went on to apply to him for pardon and help, and resolved to do what was at present in their power towards a reformation;-at last God was prevailed on to accept and deliver them.

And thus should we deal with habitual sinners :-we should not break the bruised reed;-we should indeed give them assurances of pardon, upon their sincere repentance: but forasmuch as it is very hard, even for themselves to know, whether their sorrow and resolutions are such as would bring forth fruit answerable to amendment of life: all that a confessor can do is, to exhort such persons to do all that is in their present power;-to take shame to themselves;-to give glory to God in a free confession of their crimes, (which St. James saith is of great use towards obtaining their pardon ;)-to pray without ceasing;-to warn others to beware of falling into the same sad condition; and to consider, that a wicked life, to which God has threatened eternal fire, cannot be supposed to be forgiven by an easy repentance.

And though the church has no rules in this case to go by, but such as are very afflicting, yet God is not tied to rules; he sees what is in man, and may finally absolve one whom his ministers dare not, until after a long probation they have reason, in the judgment of charity, to believe that his repentance is sincere.


And this a prudent pastor will be careful to observe, both to prevent the scandal of an hasty absolution, and because he knows such ministrations do no good to those that receive them.

* Judges x. 6.



AND, in the first place, a pastor should be very careful to put his people in mind, that the first fruits of health should always be offered to God.

And forasmuch as there is nothing more common, nor more to be lamented, than for people in sickness to make very solemn promises of better obedience, and upon their recovery to forget all, and to return to their former careless life; a pastor will warn them betimes how God hates such backslidings, how unthankful, how provoking it is, and the readiest way to draw down a worse evil, or to be given over to a reprobate mind.


And indeed a man that has received the sentence of death in himself,-that has seen the hazard of a death-bed repentance, that has felt the horror of sin, when it is most frightful;-for such a person to grow secure, is an amazing instance of the corruption of our nature; and therefore it will require a pastor's greatest care to prevent a relapse. Especially to guard his people against general purposes of amendment, which lull the mind asleep; and before people are aware, they are just where they were before sickness seized them.

A love for sin returns;-God is provoked, and grace withdrawn ;—and every relapse makes a Christian's case more desperate.

A Christian, therefore, who is in good earnest, must be put upon rectifying the errors of his life immediately, as he hopes for mercy, whenever God visits him again.


If an idle life has been his fault, he must take to business;-if intemperance, he must at his peril be sober;if he has been given to appetite, to ease, and to luxury, he must deny himself, and labour to mortify these corrupt affections;-if he has observed no method of living, he must for the future fix proper times for prayer, for fasting, for retirement, and for calling himself to an account. short, he must avoid, as much as possible, all occasions and temptations to sin;-if he is overtaken in a fault, he must immediately repent of it, and be more careful; he must not be discouraged with the difficulties he will meet with, for the power of God is sufficient to make a virtuous life possible, easy, and pleasant, to the weakest Christian that depends upon his grace.

Let him therefore be exhorted to persevere in his good

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