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to a sick or dying person.
It is far more common, however, than an inattentive observer would suppose ; and is shown either in seeking compassion and kindness by counterfeiting the appearance of greater suffering than really belongs to our cases, or in the affectation of more faith, more Christian resignation, more Christian humility and self-abasement, and a conscience more void of offence, than either our own hearts or God will sanction. The first of these differs so little from positive fraud, and springs so plainly from a too great attention to bodily comfort, and too little regard for the soul, that no more need be said than that its proper cure is by a seasonable meditation on that eternity to which we are tending, and in comparison with which the temporary objects, which we seek to gain by this disingenuous artifice, are utterly beneath our notice. The latter requires some little explanation, inasmuch as it may seem strange and uncharitable to impute such conduct to a dying man, or to suppose that any one will wear a mask at a moment when he is so soon to appear in the presence of Him by whom the inmost heart is known. It is certain, however, that the desire of worldly praise will sometimes linger so late, and cling so closely about the affections of man, that there are some persons who will continue to act a part till their voice and senses fail them, and even in the moment of death make up their
minds to depart with a lie on the conscience. I do not only mean those instances of dreadful and deadly self-deceit (if I may use the expression), spiritual suicide, in which men have denied to the last some crime of which they were undoubtedly guilty, and expressed a lively hope of salvation, which their conscience must have told them) their falsehood rendered impossible ; but I must own, when I have witnessed the triumphant expressions of confidence which have proceeded from those, of whose principles I have not been able to form an opinion by any means so favourable, I have been sometimes led to apprehend, that men have, even in death, adopted language to which their hearts were not responsive. Some instances of this conduct may, perhaps, have been occasioned by those wellmeant details which we often meet with, of the edifying and triumphant deaths of eminent Christians ; which, as tests and marks of a happy end, are copied even by those whom silence and prayer would become far better than exultation. Others, I apprehend, have proceeded from the popular doctrine of assurance, which has led men to suppose that, as the confidence of salvation is needful in order to be saved, so it was well and necessary to lash and encourage themselves into this absolute confidence by those outward expressions which can be proper to that confidence alone. But, be this as it may, it is
by no means the duty of our order to court popularity by encouraging any species of deception; and, surely, by far the greater number of those who go before the judgement-seat of God, may be content to go thither in humble hope, and as trembling, but not forsaken ; instead of assuming the lofty language of an apostle on the eve of martyrdom, and hailing, in the midst of their secret alarms, those glories which, as yet, are hid from them.
But, while we are thus reckoning up the duties which a sick man has to perform, and the temptations to which he is liable, let the difficulty of the first, and the number and greatness of the latter, be an argument with us to leave as little as possible to be done in that state of weakness and alarm ; and while our limbs are whole, and our understandings clear, to set about the work of our salvation. “ Defer not,” said the son of Sirach,“ defer not until death to be justified. Humble thyself before thou be sick ; and in the time of sins, show repentance. Before judgement, examine thyself; and in the day of visitation thou shalt find mercy.”
1 Ecclesiasticus, xviii. 20, 21, 22.
FIRST SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY.
ST. LUKE, ii. 52. Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with
God and man.
The history, which has been read to you in the Gospel of to-day, is one of the few circumstances, which the holy Evangelists have preserved, concerning the humble and peaceable childhood of our Saviour. Short as it is, however, it is full of valuable instruction both to young and old. There are, indeed, few, if any, passages of Scripture, of which this may not be said ; but those instructions are always the most impressive, which arise unexpectedly from the circumstances which happen to others; and which teach us not so much by doctrine, as by example. Such an one is the present history.
When Jesus was twelve years old, His parents, according to their yearly custom, went up to Jerusalem to keep the Passover.
This great feast, which answers to our Easter, was solemnly observed by every Jew; and could, by the law of God, be kept in that place only which He
had chosen to put His name there. It was the same, indeed, with all the other sacrifices : even those, which, in the early times of the world, had been offered up to God on high places, were, on account of idolatry, forbidden by the Prophets; and were only now allowed in the temple of Jerusalem, where they were presented to God by the Priests and Levites, on the great altar of burnt sacrifice; or, if their number was too great, on the stone platform of the inner court of the temple.
It was, therefore, necessary for the Jews, on many occasions, such as the birth of an eldest son; a year of jubilee, or a solemn vow to God; to attend in this great temple; which was the Cathedral, and Mother Church of all their nation; and to which the synagogues, and smaller places of worship, were only Chapels of Ease.
But, besides these particular occasions, there was, every year, as I have mentioned, the solemn time of Passover or unleavened bread : when every grown person was obliged (whatever the distance might be) to attend in the temple, and renew, in the presence of God, and all their nation, this solemn Sacrament, in remembrance of their great delivery from the house of bondage, and from the destroying Angel of God: who, while he slew the children of the Egyptians, passed over the houses of the Israel