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solute; and that all the whole ministration be made by persons of experience and charity. For it is a sad thing to see our dead go out of our hands : they live incuriously, and die without regard; and the last scene of their life, which should be dressed with all spiritual advantages, is abused by flattery and easy propositions, and let go with carelessness and folly.
My Lord, I have endeavoured to cure some part of the evil as well as I could, being willing to relieve the needs of indigent people in such ways as I can; and therefore have described the duties which every sick man may do alone, and such in which he can be assisted by the minister: and am the more confident, that these my endeavours will be the better entertained, because they are the first entire body of directions for sick and dying people that I remember to have been published in the church of England. In the church of Rome, there have been many; but they are dressed with such doctrines, which are sometimes useless, sometimes hurtful, and their whole design of assistance, which they commonly yield, is at the best imperfect, and the representment is too careless and loose for so severe an employment. So that, in this affair, I was almost forced to walk alone; only that I drew the rules and advices from the fountains of Scripture, and the purest channels of the primitive church, and was helped by some experience in the cure of souls. I shall measure the success of my labours, not by popular noises, or the sentences of curious persons, but by the advantage which good people may receive. My work here is not to please the speculative part of men, but to minister to practice, to preach to the weary, to comfort the sick, to assist the penitent, to reprove the confident, to strengthen weak hands and feeble knees, having scarce any other possibilities left me of doing alms, or exercising that charity, by which we shall be judged at doomsday. It is enough for me to be an under-builder in the house of God, and I glory in the employment; I labour in the foundations; and therefore the work needs no apology for being plain, so it be strong and well laid. But, my , Lord, as mean as it is, I must give God thanks for the desires and the strength; and, next to him, to you, for that opportunity and little portion of leisure, which I had to do it in: for I must acknowledge it publicly (and besides my prayers, it is all the recompense I can make you), my being quiet I owe to your interest, much of my support to your bounty, and many other collateral comforts I derive from your favour and nobleness. My Lord, because I much honour you, and because I would do honour to myself, I have written your name in the entrance of my book; I am sure you will entertain it, because the design related to your dear lady, and because it may minister to your spirit in the day of visitation, when God shall call for you to receive your reward for your charity and your noble piety, by which you have not only endeared very many persons, but in great degrees have obliged me to be,
A General Preparation Towards A Holy And Blessed Death, By Way Of Consideration.
SECTION I. Consideration of the Vanity and Shortness of Man's Life.
A Man is a bubble (said the Greek proverb)*, which Lucian represents with advantages and its proper circumstances, to this purpose; saying, that all the world is a storm, and men rise up in their several generations, like bubbles descending a Jove pluvio, from God and the dew of heaven, from a tear and drop of rain, from nature and Providence: and some of these instantly sink into the deluge of their first parent, and are hidden in a sheet of water, having had ho other business in the world, but to be born, that they might be able to die: others float up and down two or three turns, and suddenly disappear, and give their place to others: and they that live longest upon the face of the waters, are in perpetual motion, restless and uneasy; and, being crushed with the great drop of a cloud, sink into flatness and a froth; the change not being great, it being hardly possible it should be more a nothing, than it was before. So is every man: he is
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