Project Canterbury

A Rationale upon the Book of Common Prayer
by Anthony Sparrow, D.D.

London, 1672.


THe Priest entring into the sick mans house, shall say, Peace be to this house: so our LORD commanded, S. Luke 10. 5. And if the Son of peace be there, his peace shall rest upon it.

Then kneeling down, he prayes those prayers and ejaculations following, which whosoever reads and considers impartially, shall find them to be both very pious and suitable to the occasion.

Then shall the Priest exhort the sick person after this manner. The prayers are all prescribed, but the exhortation is left arbitrary to the discretion of the Priest, who can hardly be thought to make a better.

Then shall the Priest examine the sick person concerning his Faith whether it be Christian. And this is very necessary, for if that be wrong, all is wrong. Christian Religion consists in these two, a right Faith and a righteous Life; and as a right Faith without a righteous Life, will not save, so neither will a righteous Life, without a right belief. He that hath said, Do this and live, hath said, Believe and live: and how then can we think him safe, that lives indeed justly, but blasphemes impiously? Cyril. Cat. 4. This then is a principal Interrogatory or question to be put to the sick person, whether he believes as a Christian ought to do? And this he does by rehearsing to him the CREED. And there can be no better rule to try it by. For whatsoever was prefigured in the Patriarchs, or taught in the Scriptures, or foretold by the Prophets, concerning God the Father; Son, and holy Ghost, is all briefly contain'd in the Apostles Creed. S. Aug. Ser. de Temp. 137. This Creed, 'tis the touchstone to try true faith from false, the rule of faith, contrary to which no man may teach or believe, Ruffin. in Symb. Tertul. de praescrip. This the Catholick Church received from the Apostles. Holding this rule, we shall be able to convince all Hereticks whatsoever; that they be departed from the truth, Irenaeus, l. 1. c. 3, & 19.

In the next place holy Church directs the Priest to examine the sick person concerning his life and conversation; especially concerning these two particulars. 1. Whether he forgives all the World. 2. Whether he hath satisfied all injuries done to others: without which the medicine of repentance, which is necessary to the sick persons salvation, will not profit him. For the first, our Saviour tells S. Matth. 6. 14. That unless we forgive others neither our persons nor our Prayers will be accepted: God will not forgive us. And for the second, Non remittetur peccatum nisi restituatur ablatum, Repentance without restitution and reparation of injuries cannot be true and serious; or if it can, it cannot profit, Aug. ep. 5. For if he that is injured by another cannot be forgiven of God, unless he forgives him that injured him; how can he that injures others, and does not make him restitution, hope for pardon? Chrysost. Hom. 15. in S. Matth. The Priest therefore is to advise him, that whereinsoever he hath injured any, he should make satisfaction to the uttermost of his power. By the uttermost of his power, is not meant that he must give to the injured persons all his estate, nor that he must restore four-fold, for injuries done, (which was required in some cases under Moses Law, by way of punishment, rather than of satisfaction) but that he be careful to the uttermost of his power, that the person injured be so repair'd, that hebe no loser by him; which is all, that by the law of justice, which commands to give every man their due, is required, Ezek. 33. 14, 15. When I say to the wicked, he shall surely die: if he turn from his sin, if he restore the pledge, give again that he hath robbed, it is not, it he restore four-fold, but if he restore that which he hath robbed, he shall surely live.

Then the Priest is to admonish the sick person to settle his estate, For the discharging of his own conscience, and quietness of his Executors. But holy Church exhorts men to do this work in their health, that when they are sick, they may not be troubled about the world, but may bestow their whole time and care, as it is fit, about setling and securing their future estate. And were men possest with that fear and trembling, that S. Paul speaks of, Phil. 2. 12. they would be careful to gain all the time that might be then, to work out their salvation.

The Minister may not forget to move the sick person, and that most earnestly, to liberality towards the poor. This is to have mercy upon our own souls, saies S. Aug. or Christum scribere haeredem, [to make Christ our heir.] For when the poor receives from us, Christ stands by and reaches out his hand to receive with them. In as much as ye have done it to one of these little ones, ye have done it to me. S. Mat. 25. 40. As it is always necessary to be put in mind of this duty, so especially, at this time of sickness. For then we are failing, and therefore most necessary it is then, to make friends of the unrighteous Mammon, that, when we fail, they may receive us into everlasting habitations, S. Luke 16. 9. Then we are going to give up our account to God, and therefore then most necessary it is to do the best we can to procure a gracious Absolution at the day of judgment.

Now nothing seems more powerful with God to procure that, than liberality to the poor, Come ye blessed, for I was hungry, and ye gave me meat, S. Mat. 25. 34, 35.

Here shall the sick person make a special Confession, if he feel his conscience troubled with any weighty matter. It would be considered, whether every deadly sin be not a weighty matter?

After which Confession the Priest shall absolve him. After which, follows a most excellent prayer or two, and the 71. Psalm, all very fit to a sick persons condition; as will appear without an Interpreter, to the attentive Reader.

A most excellent and pious Benediction of the Priest concludes all, and so ends this Office.

Project Canterbury