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Archive for the ‘Visiting the Sick & Dying’ Category

And O what a hard matter it is to deal with people that are ready to leave the world, and step in upon eternity! when their souls do, as it were, hang on their lips, and they have one foot (as we use to say) already in the grave! The minister is seldom sent for till the physician has given the patient over, and then they beg him to dress their souls for heaven, when their winding-sheet is preparing, and their friends are almost ready to dress the body for the funeral. Now, though some of these have lived well, and, like the wise virgins, have, oil in their lamps, yet it is a great matter to calm them, and to dispose their souls for that great change they are presently to undergo. But alas! it fares otherwise with the greatest part: they are yet strangers to the ways of religion; the work of their salvation is yet to begin, and their lusts to be mortified, their corruptions subdued, the whole frame of their souls to be changed: and though they have scarce so much strength as to turn them on their beds, yet their warfare against principalities, powers, and spiritual wickedness, is but newly commenced: their work is great, their disadvantages many, and the time very short that is before them. Perhaps they are dull and insensible, and we shall hardly persuade them of their danger: they will acknowledge they are sinners, and so are all others as well as they: they trust in the mercies of Christ, and have confidence enough of their salvation, and cannot be persuaded they want any thing that is necessary for the same. Others of these, again, are seized with fear, and call for the minister to comfort them: what shall he do? Shall he tell them that all their terrors are just, and it is now too late to repent? I know some divines are peremptory in this case, and think they should be left in despair: but sure it were a sad employment for a minister to go to visit a dying man, only to tell him he is damned: and withal, it is too great boldness in us to limit the grace and mercy of God. True and sincere repentance will never come too late, but certainly a death-bed repentance is seldom sincere; and it is hard either for the minister or the man himself to tell, whether it be only the fear of hell, or a true and godly sorrow that he feeleth in his soul. All that a minister can do, is to press him to all possible seriousness, and to resign himself to God for the event; or to lay before him in general, the terms and conditions of the gospel covenant: the application will be hard and uncertain. These, and many more, are the difficulties of the ministerial function.

-Henry Scougal (1650-1678)

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