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were allowed to take place of real duties; idle penances to stand instead of true repentance and reformation: without a zeal for such follies as these, the best man was reckoned to have but small hope of future happiness ; and with a zeal for the notions and interests of holy Church, the worst man was easily secured from future misery. Absolution, if he were but ever so little sorry for having been a sinner, would set him clear at once from Hell; and, if he had but either time to perform a few silly devotions and mortifications while he lived, or money to purchase a good many prayers for him when he died, his confinement in purgatory must soon be over: and thus was the necessity of a holy life quite taken away, and the Gospel of Christ altogether made void. Far be it from us of this church to affright you with such vain terrors, or deceive you with such hopes. On the
, contrary, be assured that were all the priests on earth to refuse absolving a true penitent, it would never hurt him; and were they all to join in absolving a man that hath not repented as the Gospel requires, it would do him no good. Be assured that no equivalent in the world will be accepted instead of true inward piety, nor all the good works of all the saints in Heaven compensate in the least degree for the want of good works in any one man on earth. Never be moved then by the most confident pretences of this kind, but know, for a certainty, that whoever flies for refuge from his sins to those who will flatter him with such wretched expedients as these ; instead of mending his condition by trusting to them, only makes it worse and more desperate than it was before. The words of God in the case of the Israelites are just as applicable in this : Because ye have said; we have made a covenant with death,
and with Hell we are at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us, for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves : therefore thus saith the Lord God-Your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with Hell shall not stand: when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then shall ye be trodden down by it. Judgment will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet; and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place *.
Yet therefore, Beloved, to conclude with the words of St. Peter, seeing ye know these things, beware lest, being led away with the error of the wicked, ye fall from your own stedfastness : But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ t. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.
* Is. xxviii. 15. 17, 18.
t 2 Pet. üïi17, 18.
1 PET. V. 12.
-Exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace
of God wherein
AFTER fixing the rule of Christian faith and practice, I proceeded to compare with this rule the chief things which distinguish the Church of Rome from ours. Great numbers of these I have already considered, and shall now, for your fuller satisfaction, go
, on to some others.
Several of their notions concerning the pardon of sin I have mentioned and confuted; but there still remains one more to be spoken of: their custom, when a sick person is near death, of anointing his eyes, and ears, and nostrils, and mouth, and hands, sometimes also his feet, and reins, with oil consecrated by the Bishop, and praying, that in virtue of that anointing, the sins which he hath committed, by the several organs of his body, may be forgiven him. This they call extreme unction, or the Sacrament of dying persons; and teach, that besides forgiveness of sins, it gives composure and strength of mind to go through the agonies of death. All this they build wholly on the following passage of St. James. Is any sick among you ? Let him call for the elders of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up ; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him *. But a little consideration will show that what St. James appoints is very different from what the Church of Rome does. In those days miraculous gifts were common: that of healing diseases in particular : and the persons who had these gifts were usually the Elders of the Churches, whom the Apostle here directs to be sent for. And as miracles, in condescension to the genius of the Jewish people, to whom this Epistle is directed, were accompanied, for the most part, with some outward act of ceremony, by the performer of them; (a practice which our Saviour himself often complied with ;) so the ceremony used in healing the sick by miracle, viz. anointing them with oil, was one to which the Jews had been accustomed ; oil being a thing of which much use
! was made in the Eastern countries, on many occasions f. Accordingly we read, that, when our Saviour sent out his Disciples with a power from Heaven to cure diseases, though he prescribed to them no particular form for that purpose, yet they adopted this: they anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them I. Now what the Evangelist tells us they did, is evidently the very thing which St. James directs the Elders of the Church to do. And therefore, since the anointing mentioned in the Gospel was.
• James v. 14, 15.
+ See Wheatley, on the Office for the Sick. And Grotius on Mark vi. 13. says, the Jews used it when they prayed for the sick, to express their hope of obtaining from God in their behalf that joy and gladness which oil signifies. Preservative against Popery. Tit. vii. c. ii. g. iv. p. 62.
Mark vi. 13. The Council of Trent had at first said that Extreme Unction was instituted in this place, but afterwards changed that word for insinuated. F. Paul in Preserv. p. 64.
only a mere circumstance used in the miraculous cures; that also mentioned in the Epistles can be nothing more. Accordingly we find St. James neither appoints any consecration of the oil, nor ascribes any efficacy to it, as the Papists do : but
the prayer of faith shall save the sick. Now if this means only prayer offered up in a general faith of God's Providence, we use it for the sick as well as they, and may hope for the same good effect from it. But faith in many places of Scripture, signifies that supernatural persuasion and feeling of a power to work miracles, which in those days was frequent. Thus St. Paul says, though I had all faith, so that I could remove mountains *, &c. And therefore the prayer of faith, since it is so absolutely promised here that it shall save the sick, probably means, a prayer proceeding from this extraordinary persuasion and impulse; such a one as, in the next verse, we translate an effectual fervent prayer, but should translate an inwrought or inspired prayer. And therefore unless, in the Church of Rome, the priest, as often as he administers extreme unction, acts and prays by immediate inspiration, his prayers are not of the sort St. James speaks of; nor are they directed to the same end. The benefit, which he promises from the prayers that he appoints, is the recovery of health : The prayer of faith shall save the sick and the Lord shall raise him up; whereas they of the Church of Rome never use this ceremony with any hope of recovery, nor indeed, unless they happen to mistake, till the person is quite past recovery. And for this reason again, his anointing and theirs are quite different things. For though St. James does add ; And if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him : yet the very doubt implied
1 Cor. xiii. 2. See also Matt. xvii. 20. John xiv. 12, 13.