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condition of all by nature, as being children of wrath, and under the curse; acknowledging that all diseases, sicknesses, death, and hell itself, are the proper issues and effects thereof; imploring God's mercy for the sick person through the blood of Christ; beseeching that God would open his eyes, discover unto him his sins, cause him to see himself lost in himself, make known to him the cause why God smiteth him, reveal Jesus Christ to his soul for righteousness and life, give unto him his Holy Spirit to create and strengthen faith, to lay hold upon Christ, to work in him comfortable evidences of his love, to arm him against temptations, to take off his heart from the world, to sanctify his present visitation, to furnish him with patience and strength to bear it, and to give him perseverance in faith to the end.
"That if God shall please to add to his days, he would vouchsafe to bless and sanctify all means of his recovery, to remove the disease, renew his strength, and enable him to walk worthy of God, by a faithful remembrance and diligent observing of such vows and promises of holiness and obedience, as men are apt to make in times of sickness, that he may glorify God in the remaining part of his life.
"And if God have determined to finish his days by the present visitation, he may find such evidence of the pardon of all his sins, of his interest in Christ, and eternal life by Christ, as may cause his inward man to be renewed, while his outward man decayeth; that he may behold death without fear, cast himself wholly upon Christ without doubting, desire to be dissolved and be with Christ, and so receive the end of his faith, the salvation of his soul, through the only merits and intercession of the Lord Jesus Christ, our alone Saviour, and allsufficient Redeemer."
The minister shall admonish him also (as there shall be cause) to set his house in order, thereby to prevent inconveniences; to take care for the payment of his debts, and to make restitution or satisfaction where he hath done any wrong, to be reconciled to those with whom he hath been at variance, and fully to forgive all men their trespasses against him, as he expects forgiveness at the hand of God.
Lastly, the minister may improve the present occasion to exhort those about the sick person, to consider their own mortality, to return to the Lord and make peace with him; in health to prepare for sickness, death, and judgment; and all the days of their appointed time so to wait until their change come, that when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, they may appear with him in glory.
Concerning Burial of the Dead.
When any person departeth this life, let the dead body, upon the day of burial, be decently attended from the house to the place appointed for public burial, and there immediately interred, without any
And because the customs of kneeling down, and praying by or towards the dead corpse, and other such usages, in the place where it lies, before it be carried to burial, are superstitious; and for that, praying, reading, and singing, both in going to, and at the grave, have been grossly abused, are no way beneficial to the dead, and have proved many ways hurtful to the living, therefore let all such things be laid aside.
Howbeit, we judge it very convenient, that the Christian friends, which accompany the dead body to the place appointed for public burial, do apply themselves to meditations, and conferences suitable to the occasion: and that the minister, as upon other occasions, so at this time, if he be present, may put them in remembrance of their duty.
That this shall not extend to deny any civil respects or deferences at the burial, suitable to the rank and condition of the party deceased while he was living.
Concerning public solemn Fasting.
When some great and notable judgments are either inflicted upon a people, or apparently imminent, or by some extraordinary provocations notoriously deserved; as also, when some special blessing is to be sought and obtained, public solemn fasting (which is to continue the whole day) is a duty that God expecteth from that nation or people.
A religious fast requires total abstinence, not only from all food (unless bodily weakness do manifestly disable from holding out till the fast be ended, in which case somewhat may be taken, yet very sparingly, to support nature, when ready to faint), but also from all worldly labour, discourses, and thoughts, and from all bodily delights (although at other times lawful), rich apparel, ornaments, and suchlike, during the fast; and much more from whatever is, in the nature or use, scandalous and offensive, as gaudish attire, lascivious habits and gestures, and other vanities of either sex; which we recommend to all ministers, in their places, diligently and zealously to reprove, as at other times, so especially at a fast, without respect of persons, as there shall be occasion.
Before the public meeting, each family and person apart are privately to use all religious care to prepare their hearts to such solemn work, and to be early at the congregation.
So large a portion of the day, as conveniently may be, is to be spent in public reading and preaching of the word, with singing of psalms, fit to quicken affections suitable to such a duty, but especially in prayer, to this or the like effect:
Giving glory to the great majesty of God, the creator, preserver, and supreme ruler, of all the world, the better to affect us thereby with a holy reverence and awe of him; acknowledging his manifold, great, and tender mercies, especially to the church and nation, the more effectually to soften and abase our hearts before him; humbly confessing of sins of all sorts, with their several aggravations; justifying God's righteous judgments, as being far less than our sins do deserve; yet humbly and earnestly imploring his mercy and grace for ourselves, the church, and nation, for our king, and all in authority, and for all others, for whom we are bound to pray (according as the present exigence requireth), with more special importunity and enlargement than at other times; applying by faith, the promises and goodness of God, for pardon, help, and deliverance from the evils felt, feared, or deserved; and for obtaining the blessings which we need and expect; together with a giving up of ourselves wholly and for ever unto the Lord."
In all these, the ministers, who are the mouths of the people unto God, ought so to speak from their hearts, upon serious and thorough premeditation of them, that both themselves and the people may be
much affected, and even melted thereby; especially with sorrow for their sins, that it may be indeed a day of deep humiliation and afflicting of the soul.
Special choice is to be made of such scriptures to be read, and of such texts for preaching, as may best work the hearts of the hearers to the special business of the day, and most dispose them to humiliation and repentance; insisting most on those particulars, which each minister's observation and experience tell him, are most conducing to the edification and reformation of that congregation to which he preacheth.
Before the close of the public duties the minister is, in his own and the people's names, to engage his and their hearts to be the Lord's, with professed purpose and resolution to reform whatever is amiss amongst them, and more particularly such sins as they have been more remarkably guilty of; and, to draw nearer unto God, and to walk more closely and faithfully with him in new obedience, than ever before.
He is also to admonish the people, with all importunity, that the work of that day doth not end with the public duties of it, but that they are so to improve the remainder of the day, and of their whole life, in reinforcing upon themselves and their families in private, all those godly affections and resolutions which they professed in public, as that they may be settled in their hearts for ever, and themselves may more sensibly find, that God hath smelt a sweet savour in Christ from their performances, and is pacified towards them, by answers of grace, in pardoning of sin, in removing of judgments, in averting or preventing of plagues, and in conferring of blessings, suitable to the conditions and prayers of his people by Jesus Christ.
Besides solemn and general fasts enjoined by authority, we judge, that at other times congregations may keep days of fasting, as Divine Providence shall administer unto them special occasions. And also, that families may do the same, so it be not on days wherein the congregation to which they do belong is to meet for fasting, or other public duties of worship.
Concerning the Observation of Days of Public Thanksgiving.
When any such day is to be kept, let notice be given of it, and of the occasion thereof, some convenient time before, that the people may the better prepare themselves thereunto.
The day being come, and the congregation (after private preparations) being assembled, the minister is to begin with a word of exhortation, to stir up the people to the duty for which they are met, and with a short prayer for God's assistance and blessing (as at other conventions for public worship), according to the particular occasion of their meeting.
Let him then make some pithy narration of the deliverance obtained, or mercy received, or of whatever hath occasioned that assembling of the congregation, that all may better understand it, or be minded of it, and more affected with it.
And because singing of psalms is of all other the most proper ordinance for expressing of joy and thanksgiving, let some pertinent psalm or psalms be sung for that purpose, before or after the reading of some portion of the word, suitable to the present business.
Then let the minister who is to preach, proceed to farther exhortation and prayer before his sermon, with special reference to the present work after which, let him preach upon some text of Scripture pertinent to the occasion.
The sermon ended, let him not only pray, as at other time after preaching is directed, with remembrance of the necessities of the church, king, and state (if before the sermon they were omitted), but enlarge himself in due and solemn thanksgiving for former mercies and deliverances, but more especially for that which at the present calls them together to give thanks: with humble petition for the continuance and renewing of God's wonted mercies, as need shall be, and for sanctifying grace to make a right use thereof. And so, having sung another psalm suitable to the mercy, let him dismiss the congregation with a blessing, that they have some convenient time for their repast and refreshment.
But the minister (before their dismission) is solemnly to admonish them, to beware of all excess and riot, tending to gluttony or drunkenness, and much more of these sins themselves, in their eating and refreshing; and to take care that their mirth and rejoicing be not carnal, but spiritual, which may make God's praise to be glorious, and themselves humble and sober; and that both their feeding and rejoicing may render them more cheerful and enlarged, farther to celebrate his praises in the midst of the congregation, when they return unto it, in the remaining part of that day.
When the congregation shall be again assembled, the like course in praying, reading, preaching, singing of psalms, and offering up of more praise and thanksgiving, that is before directed for the morning, is to be renewed and continued so far as the time will give leave.
At one or both of the public meetings that day, a collection is to be made for the poor (and in the like manner upon the day of public humiliation), that their loins may bless us, and rejoice the more with us. And the people are to be exhorted, at the end of the latter meeting, to spend the residue of that day in holy duties, and testifications of Christian love and charity one towards another, and of rejoicing more and more in the Lord, as becometh those who make the joy of the Lord their strength.
Of Singing of Psalms.
It is the duty of Christians to praise God publicly, by singing of psalms together in the congregation, and also privately in the family.
In singing of psalms the voice is to be tunably and gravely ordered; but the chief must be, to sing with understanding, and with grace in the heart, making melody unto the Lord.
That the whole congregation may join herein, every one that can read is to have a psalm-book; and all others, not disabled by age, or otherwise, are to be exhorted to learn to read. But for the present, where many in the congregation cannot read, it is convenient that the minister, or some other fit person appointed by him, and the other ruling officers, do read the psalm line by line, before the singing thereof.
An Appendix, touching Days and Places of public Worship. There is no day commanded in Scripture to be kept holy under the gospel but the Lord's day, which is the Christian sabbath.
Festival days, vulgarly called holidays, having no warrant in the word of God, are not to be continued.
Nevertheless, it is lawful and necessary, upon special emergent occasions, to separate a day or days for public fasting or thanksgiving, as the several eminent and extraordinary dispensations of God's providence shall administer cause and opportunity to his people.
As no place is capable of any holiness, under pretence of whatsoever dedication or consecration; so neither is it subject to such pollution by any superstition formerly used, and now laid aside, as may render it unlawful or inconvenient for Christians to meet together therein for the public worship of God. And therefore we hold it requisite, that the places of public assembling for worship amongst us, should be continued, and employed to that use.
THE CONTENTS OF THE DIRECTORY FOR THE PUBLIC WORSHIP OF GOD.
THE FORM OF PRESBYTERIAL CHURCH-GOVERNMENT
Agreed upon by the Assembly of Divines at Westminster; examined and approved, Anno 1645, by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, &c.
JESUS CHRIST, upon whose shoulders the government is, whose name is called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of peace*, of the increase of whose government and peace there shall be no end, who sits upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and justice, from henceforth even for ever, having all power given unto him even in heaven and in earth by the Father, who raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand, far above all principalities, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come, and put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all
* Isa. ix. 6, 7.