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tyranny of an imperious lust, from the rebellion of concupiscence, from the disturbances and tempests of the irascible faculty, and from the fondness and childishness of the concupiscible; and St. Ambrose says well," the trouble of this life and the dangers are so many, that, in respect of them, death is a remedy," and a fair proper object of desires. And we find that many saints have prayed for death, that they might not see the persecutions and great miseries incumbent upon the church and if the desire be not out of impatience, but of charity, and with resignation, there is no reason to reprove it. Elias prayed that God would "take his life," that he might not see the evils of Ahab and Jezebel, and their vexatious intendments against the prophets of the Lord. And St. Austin', upon the incursion of the Vandals into Africa, called his clergy together, and, at their chapter, told them," he had prayed to God either to deliver his people from the present calamity, or grant them patience to bear it, or that he would take him out of the world, that he might not see the miseries of his diocese;" adding, “that God had granted him the last:" and he presently fell sick, and died in the siege of his own Hippo. And if death, in many cases, be desirable, and for many reasons, it is always to be submitted to, when God calls. And as it is always a misery to fear death, so it is very often a sin, or the effect of sin. If our love to the world hath fastened our affections here, it is a direct sin: and this is, by the son of Sirach, noted to be the case of rich and great personages: "How bitter, O death, is thy remembrance to a man that is at rest in his possessions'!" But if it be a fear to perish in the ruins of eternity, they are not to blame for fearing, but that their own ill lives have procured the fear. And yet there are persons in the state of grace, but because they are in great imperfection, have such lawful fears of death, and of entering
Hoc homo morte lucratur, nè malum immortale esset, Naz.
*Η τὰς ἁπασας ἡμέρας πάσχειν κακῶς. -- Eschyl. Prometh.
* Fortem posce animum mortis terrore carentem,
Nesciat irasci, cupiat nihil
1 Ecclus. xli. 1.
upon an uncertain sentence, which must stand eternally irreversible, be it good or bad, that they may, with piety and care enough, pray David's prayer, "O spare me a little, that I may recover my strength, before I go hence, and be no more seen." But in this, and in all other cases, death must be accepted without murmur, though without fear it cannot. A man may pray to be delivered from it; and yet, if God will not grant it, he must not go as one haled to execution: but if, with all his imperfect fears, he shall throw himself upon God, and accept his sentence as righteous, whether it speak life or death, it is an act of so great excellency, that it may equal the good actions of many succeeding and surviving days; and, peradventure, a longer life will be yet more imperfect, and that God, therefore, puts a period to it, that thou mayest be taken into a condition more certain, though less eminent. However, let not the fears of nature, or the fear of reason, or the fears of humility, become accidentally criminal, by a murmur or a pertinacious contesting against the event, which we cannot hinder, but ought to accept by an election -secondary, rational, and pious, and upon supposition that God will not alter the sentence passed upon thy temporal life; always remembering, that, in Christian philosophy, death hath in it an excellency of which the angels are not capable. For, by the necessity of our nature, we are made capable of dying for the holy Jesus and next to the privilege of that act, is our willingness to die at his command, which turns necessity into virtue, and nature into grace, and grace to glory.
20. When the sick person is thus disposed, let him begin to trim his wedding garment, and dress his lamp with the repetition of acts of repentance, perpetually praying to God for pardon of his sins, representing to himself the horror of them, the multitude, the obliquity, being helped by arguments apt to excite contrition, by repetition of penitential psalms and holy prayers; and he may, by accepting and humbly receiving his sickness at God's hand, transmit it into the condition of an act or effect of repentance, acknowledging himself by sin to have deserved and procured it, and praying that the punishment of his crimes may be here, and not reserved for the state of separation, and for ever.
21. But above all single acts of this exercise, we are
concerned to see that nothing of other men's goods stick to us, but let us shake it off as we would a burning coal from our flesh; for it will destroy us, it will carry a curse with us, and leave a curse behind us m. Those who, by thy means or importunity, have become vicious, exhort to repentance and holy life; those whom thou hast cozened into crimes, restore to a right understanding; those who are, by violence and interest, led captive by thee to any indecency, restore to their liberty, and encourage to the prosecution of holiness ; discover and confess thy fraud and unlawful arts, cease thy violence, and give as many advantages to virtue as thou hast done to viciousness. Make recompense for bodily wrongs, such as are wounds, dismemberings, and other disabilities: restore every man, as much as thou canst, to that good condition from which thou hast removed him; restore his fame, give back his goods, return the pawn, release forfeitures, and take off all unjust invasions or surprises of his estate, pay debts, satisfy for thy fraud and injustice as far as thou canst, and as thou canst, and as soon; or this alone is weight enough, no less than a mill-stone about thy neck. But if the dying man be of God, and in the state of grace, that is, if he have lived a holy life, repented seasonably, and have led a just, sober, and religious conversation in any acceptable degree, it is to be supposed he hath no great account to make for unpretended injuries, and unjust detentions for if he had detained the goods of his neighbour fraudulently or violently, without amends, when it is in his power and opportunity to restore, he is not the man we suppose him in this present question: and although, in all cases, he is bound to restore according to his ability, yet the act is less excellent when it is compelled, and so it seems to be, if he have continued the injustice till he is forced to quit the purchase. However, if it be not done till then, let it be provided for then. And that I press this duty to pious persons at this time, is only to oblige them to a diligent scrutiny concerning the lesser omissions of this duty in the matter of fame, or lesser debts, or spiritual restitution; or that those unevennesses of account, which were but of late
m Deteriores sunt qui vitam moresque bonorum corrumpunt, his qui substantias et prædia diripiunt. — S, Gregor.
transaction, may now be regulated; and that whatsoever is undone in this matter, from what principle soever it proceeds, whether of sin or only of forgetfulness, or of imperfection, may now be made as exact as we can, and are obliged; and that those excuses, which made it reasonable and lawful to defer restitution, as want of opportunity, clearness of ability, and accidental inconvenience, be now laid aside, and the action be done or provided for, in the midst of all objections and inconvenient circumstances, rather than to omit it, and hazard to perform it.
22. Hither, also, I reckon resolutions and forward purposes of emendation and greater severity, in case God return to us hopes of life; which, therefore, must be reinforced, that we may serve the ends of God, and understand all his purposes, and make use of every opportunity; every sickness laid upon us being with a design of drawing us nearer to God; and even holy purposes are good actions of the Spirit, and principles of religion: and though alone they cannot do the work of grace, or change the state, when they are ineffectual, that is, when either we will not bring them into act, or that God will not let us; yet, to a man already in the state of grace, they are the additions of something good, and are like blowing of coals, which, although it can put no life into a dead coal, yet it makes a live coal shine brighter, and burn clearer, and adds to it some accidental degrees of heat.
23. Having thus disposed himself to the peace of God, let him make peace with all those, in whom he knows, or suspects, any minutes of anger, or malice, or displeasure towards him, submitting himself to them with humility, whom he unworthily hath displeased", asking pardon of them who say they are displeased, and offering pardon to them that have displeased him; and then let him crave the peace of holy church. For it is all this while to be supposed, that he hath used the assistance and prayers, the counsel and the advices, of a spiritual man, and that, to this purpose, he hath opened to him the state of his whole life, and made him to understand what emendations of his faults he hath made, what acts of repentance he hath done, how lived after his
n Πρὸς τὸν τελευτήσανθ ̓ ἕκαστος, κἂν σφδρα
*Αν ἐχθρὸς ἦ τις, γίνεται φίλος τότε.
fall and reparation, and that he hath submitted all that he did, or undid, to the discerning of a holy man, whose office it is to guide his soul in this agony and last offices. All men cannot have the blessing of a wise and learned minister, and some die where they can have none at all: yet it were a safer course to do as much of this as we can, and to a competent person, if we can; if we cannot, then to the best we have, according as we judge it to be of spiritual advantage to us for, in this conjuncture of accidents, it concerns us to be sure, if we may, and not to be deceived, where we can avoid it; because we shall never return to life, to do this work again. And if, after this intercourse with a spiritual guide, we be reconciled by the solemn prayer of the church, the prayer of absolution, it will be of great advantage to us; we depart with our Father's blessing, we die in the actual communion of the church, we hear the sentence of God applied after the manner of men, and the promise of pardon made circumstantiate, material, present, and operative upon our spirits, and have our portion of the promise, which is recorded by St. James, that "if the elders of the church. pray over a sick person" fervently and "effectually," (add solemnly,) "his sins shall be forgiven him," (that is, supposing him to be in a capacity to receive it,) because such prayers, of such a man, are very prevalent.
24. All this is, in a spiritual sense," washing the hands in innocency," and then let him "go to the altar :" let him not, for any excuse less than impossibility, omit to receive the holy sacrament; which the fathers, assembled in the great Nicene council, have taught all the Christian world to call, "the most necessary provisions for our last journey ? ;" which is the memory of that death by which we hope for life; which is the seed of immortality and resurrection of our bodies; which unites our spirit to Christ; which is a great defensative against the hostilities of the devil; which is the most solemn prayer of the church, united and made acceptable by the sacrifice of Christ, which is then represented and exhibited to God; which is the great instrument of spiritual
Jam. vi. 14, 15.
Ρ Περὶ δὲ τῶν ἐξοδευόντων ὁ παλαιὸς καὶ κανονικὸς νόμος φυλαχθήσεται καὶ νῦν· ὥστε εἴ τις ἐξοδεύει, τοῦ τελευταίου καὶ ἀναγκαιοτάτου ἐφοδίου μὴ ἀποστερεῖσθαι. Conc.
Nicen. can. 13.