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the concordance and the usefulness, of the articles, and their compliance with all the needs of man, and the government of commonwealths, are like the strings and branches of the roots, by which faith stands firm and unmovable in the spirit and understanding of a man. But in sickness, the understanding is shaken, and the ground is removed in which the root did grapple, and support its trunk0; and therefore there is no way now, but that it be left to stand upon the old confidences, and by the firmament of its own weight; it must be left to stand, because it always stood there before: and as it stood all its life-time in the ground of understanding, so it must now be supported with will, and a fixed resolution d. But disputation tempts it, and shakes it with trying, and overthrows it with shaking. Above all things in the world, let the sick man fear a proposition, which his sickness hath put into him contrary to the discourses of health and a sober untroubled reason.
2. Let the sick man mingle the recital of his creed together with his devotions, and in that let him account his faith; not in curiosity and factions, in the confessions of parties and interestse: for some over-forward zeals are so earnest to profess their little and uncertain articles, and glory so to die in a particular and divided communion, that, in the profession of their faith, they lose or discompose their charity. Let it be enough, that we secure our interest of heaven, though we do not go about to appropriate the mansions to our sect: for every good man hopes to be saved, as he is a Christian, and not as he is a Lutheran, or of another division. However, those articles, upon which he can build the exercise of any virtue in his sickness, or upon the stock of which he can improve his present condition, are such as consist in the greatness and goodness, the veracity and mercy, of God through Jesus Christ; nothing of which can be concerned in the fond disputations, which faction and interest hath too long maintained in Christendom.
o Non jam validis radicibus haerens, Pondere fixa suo—.
d Sanctiusque ac reverentius visum de actis Deorum credere quam scire. —Tacit.
e Fides tua te salvum faciet: non exercitatio Scripturarum. Fides in regula posita est; (scil. in symbolo quod jam recitaverat) habet legem, et salutem de observatione legis: exercitatio autem in curiositate consistit, habens gloriam
solam de peritiae studio. Ccdat curiositas fidci; cedat gloria saluti Tcrt. de
Prescript. St. Augustinus vocat symbolum comprehensionem fidei vestra atque perfectionem; cordis signaculum, et nostra militiae sacramentum.—Amb. lib. iii. de Veland. Virgin. Aug. serm. 115. Non per difficiles nos Deus ad beatam vitam qurastiones vocat. In absolute nobis et facili est seternitas; Jesum suscitatum a mortuis per Deum credere, et ipsum esse Dominum confiteri. —St. Hilar. lib. 10. de Trinit. Hsec est fides Catholica, de symbolo suo dixit Athanasius, vel quicunque auctor est St. Athanas. de Fide Nicena.
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3. Let the sick man's faith especially be active about the promises of grace, and the excellent things of the gospel: those, which can comfort his sorrows, and enable his patience: those, upon the hopes of which he did the duties of his life, and for which he is not unwilling to die; such as the intercession and advocation of Christ, remission of sins, the resurrection, the mysterious arts and mercies of man's redemption, Christ's triumph over death, and all the powers of hell, the covenant of grace, or the blessed issues of repentance; and, above all, the article of eternal life, upon the strength of which, eleven thousand virgins went cheerfully together to their martyrdom, and twenty thousand Christians were burned by Dioclesian on a Christmas-day, and whole armies of Asian Christians offered themselves to the tribunals of Arius Antonius, and whole colleges of severe persons were instituted, who lived upon religion, whose dinner was the eucharist, whose supper was praise, and their nights were watches, and their days were labour; for the hope of which, then, men counted it gain to lose their estates, and gloried in their sufferings, and rejoiced in their persecutions, and were glad at their disgraces. This is the article, that hath made all the martyrs of Christ confident and glorious; and if it does not more than sufficiently strengthen our spirits to the present suffering, it is because we understand it not, but have the appetites of beasts and fools. But if the sick man fixes his thoughts, and sets his habitation to dwell here, he swells his hope, and masters his fears, and eases his sorrows, and overcomes his temptations.
4. Let the sick man endeavour to turn his faith of the articles into the love of them: and that will be an excellent instrument, not only to refresh his sorrows, but to confirm his faith in defiance of all temptations. For a sick man and a disturbed understanding are not competent and fit instrumerits to judge concerning the reasonableness of a proposition. But therefore let him consider and love it, because it is useful and necessary, profitable and gracious: and when he is once in love with it, and then also renews his love to it, when he feels the need of it, he is an interested person, and for his own sake will never let it go, and pass into the shadows of doubting, or the utter darkness of infidelity. An act of love will make him have a mind to it; and we easily believe what we love, but very uneasily part with our belief, which we for so great an interest have chosen, and entertained with a great affection.
5. Let the sick person be infinitely careful, that his faith be not tempted by any man, or any thing; and when it is in any degree weakened, let him lay fast hold upon the conclusion, upon the article itself, and by earnest prayer beg of God to guide him in certainty and safety. For let him consider, that the article is better than all its contrary or contradictory, and he is concerned that it be true, and concerned, also, that he do believe it: but he can receive no good at all, if Christ did not die, if there be no resurrection, if his creed hath deceived him; therefore all that he is to do, is to secure his hold, which he can do no way but by prayer and by his interest. And by this argument or instrument it was, that Socrates refreshed the evil of his condition, when he was to drink his aconitef. "If the soul be immprtal, and perpetual rewards be laid up for wise souls, then I lose nothing by my death: but if there be not, then I lose nothing by my opinion; for it supports my spirit in my passage, and the evil of being deceived cannot overtake me, when I have no being." So it is with all that are tempted in their faith. If those articles be not true, then the men are nothing; if they be true, then they are happy: and if the articles fail, there can be no punishment for believing; but if they be true, my not believing destroys all my portion in them, and possibility to receive the excellent things which they contain. By faith we quench the fiery darts of the devil: but if our faith be quenched, wherewithal shall we be able to endure the assault? Therefore seize upon the article, and secure the great object, and the great instrument, that is, the hopes of pardon and eternal life through Jesus Christ; and do this by all means, and by any instrument, artificial or inartificial, by argument or by stratagem, by perfect resolution or by discourse, by the hand and ears of premises or the foot of the conclusion, by right or by wrong, because we understand it; or because we love it, super totam materiam; because I will, and because I ought; because it is safe to do so, and because it is not safe to do otherwise j because if I do, I may receive a good; and because if I do not, I am miserable; either for that I shall have a portion of sorrows, or that I can have no portion of good things, without it.
f In Phaedon. VOL. IV. H H
Acts of Faith, by way of Prayer and Ejaculation, to be said by Sick Men, in the Days of their Temptation.
Lord, whither shall I go? thou hast the words of eternal life. John, vi. 68.
I believe in God the Father Almighty, and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, &c.
And I believe in the Holy Ghost, &c.
Lord, I believe: help thou mine unbelief. Mark, ix. 24.
I know and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself: for whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore or die, we are the Lord's. Rom. xiv. 14, 7, 8.
If God be for us, who can be against us? Rom. viii. 31—34.
He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up fof us all, how shall he not with him give us all things?
Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died; yea, rather that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God; who also maketh intercession for us.
If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins. 1 John, ii. 1, 2.
This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation,
That Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. 1 Tim. i. 15.
0 grant that I may obtain mercy, that in me Jesus Christ may show forth all long-suffering, that I may believe in him to life everlasting.
1 am bound to give thanks unto God alway, because God hath from the beginning chosen me to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth, whereunto he called me by the gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of jthe Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thess. ii. 13, 14, 16, 17:
Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God even our Father which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation, and good hope through grace, comfort my heart, and stablish me in every good word and work.
The Lord direct my heart into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ. 2 Thess. iii. 5.
O that our God would count me worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in me, and I in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thess. i. 11, 12.
Let us who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another. 1 Thess. v. 8—10, 12.
There is no name under heaven, whereby we can be saved, but only the name of the Lord Jesus. Acts, iv. 12. And every soul which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. Acts, iii. 23.
God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of Jesus Christ. Gal. vi. 14. I desire to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified. 1 Cor. ii. 2. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Phil. i. 21.
Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of? Isa. ii. 22. But the just shall live by faith. Hab. ii. 4.
Lord, I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God,