TO SUCH AS HAVE RECOVERED FROM SICKNESS.
AND in the first place, a pastor should be very careful to put his people in mind that the firstfruits of health should always be offered to God.
And forasmuch as there is nothing more common nor more to be lamented than for people in sickness to make very solemn promises of better obedience, and upon their recovery to forget all and to return to their former careless life; a pastor will warn them betimes how God hates such backsliding, how unthankful, how provoking it is, and the readiest way to draw down a worse evil, or to be given over to a reprobate mind.
And indeed a man that has received the sentence of death in himself--that has seen the hazard of a death-bed repentance--that has felt the horror of sin, when it is most frightful;--for such a person to grow secure is an amazing instance of the corruption of our nature, and therefore it will require a pastor's greatest care to prevent a relapse. Especially to guard his people against general purposes of amendment, which lull the mind asleep; and before people are aware, they are just where they were when sickness first seized them.
A love for sin returns; God is provoked and grace withdrawn; and every relapse makes a Christian's case more desperate.
A Christian therefore who is in good earnest, must be put upon rectifying the errors of his life immediately, as he hopes for mercy whenever God visits him again.
If an idle life has been his fault, he must take to business;--if intemperance, he must at his peril be sober;--if he has been given to appetite, to ease and to luxury, he must deny himself and labour to mortify these corrupt affections;--if he has observed no method of living, he must for the future fix proper times for prayer, for fasting, for retirement, and for calling himself to an account. In short, he must avoid as much as possible all occasions and temptations to sin; if he is overtaken in a fault, he must immediately repent of it and be more careful; he must not be discouraged with the difficulties he will meet with, for the power of God is sufficient to make a virtuous life possible, easy, and pleasant, to the weakest Christian that depends upon His grace.
Let him therefore be exhorted to persevere in his good resolutions; to depend upon God's power and promises to assist him; to pray daily for light to discover and for strength to overcome the corruptions of his nature; and lastly to he always afraid of backsliding: and then sickness and death, whenever they come, will he a blessing.
And as a faithful discharge of this duty will give a curate of souls the greatest comfort at the hour of death, so there is nothing do's more preserve the authority which a faithful pastor ought to have over his flock.