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Faithful. And enjoins it to be administred for this Reason, as a most safe Guard about Christians, to make good the End of their Life.
Now because this Text, at the first Sight, seems very plausible on their Side; and the Reason given by the Councel very Pious and Charitable, viz. to make good the End, and to secure the Passage of Christians out of this World. It may be worth our while (avoiding all needless and unprofitable Controverfy) to explain the Meaning, and to restore this Text to its true Defign and Use. In order whereunto, I will do these Things. I. I will endeavour to give the genuine Sense
and Interpretation of the Place; what were the particular Reasons of this Practice of anointing the Sick with Oil ; and that it was peculiar to the Ages of Miracles.
II. I will shew, how far the Reason and
Usefulness of the Practice yet continue in the Christian Church ; what it is therein, that is beneficial and available to the dying Penitent.
III. I will make some Application of the
whole, and conclude the Discourse with suitable and practical Inferences.
I begin with the First of these. I. What may be the genuine Sense and Interpretation of this Place; what were the
particular Reasons of this Practice of anointing the Sick with Oil; and that it was peculiar to the Ages of Miracles. Now, I presuine, it will be granted on all Hands, that several extraordinary and miraculous Gifts were bestowed upon the Apostles and first Christians, by the Spirit of God; which the succeeding Pastors of the Church, in the ordinary Course of their Ministry, may not pretend to: Because the Reason of them was particularạnd temporary, viz. for the Conversion of the World, from Judaism and Paganism to Christianity : And among these, the Gifts of Heal
ing, and raising up the Sick was one. Thus Cor. 12. St. Parel reckons them up. The Manifestation
of the Spirit is given to every one to profit withal: To one is given by the Spirit, tbe Word of Wisdom ; to another the Word of Knowledge by the Same Spirit ; to another Faith by the same Spirit ; to another the Gifts of Healing by the same Spirit. Accordingly as the Spirit moved them, or as Occasion offered, they exercised this Gift, and restored the Sick to tbeir Health.
Now if it can be made appear, that this Text is to be understood of those extraordipary Gifts of Healing ; I suppose all will be clear, and easy, and natural." There will be no need of forcing it to speak a different Sense from the other Scriptures; or of carrying it beyond its proper and local Meaning: In order whereunto,
1. l observe, that the external Action or Ceremony of anointing the Sick with Oil, is a good Argument that the Cure was Miraculous and Supernatural. And this Observation hath good Ground and Warrant from Scripture;
where we find, that in Performan. ces of this kind, inspired Persons were wont : to use some certain Signs, which could not
have any Power of themselves to produce the Effee ; but to raise the Expectation of a Miracle, and to shew that what was done, was the immediate Work of the Finger of God. A few instances of this
Thus when God would convince the mure muring and discontented Ifraelites of his Almighty Power; he commanded Moses to smite the Rock in Horeb with his Rod, and there shall come Water out of it, and he did Exod. 17. so in the Sight of tbe Elders of Israel. Thus 6. our Saviour, when he cured him that was deaf, and had an Impediment in his Speech, put Finger in his Ears, and touched his Tongue. 33. And again, when he restored Sight to him that was born blind, be spat upon the Ground, and joh. 9.6. made Clay of the Spittle, and anointed bis Eyes. In like manner here in the Text. The Elders anointed the Sick, and healed them.
No Man will fay, that there was any natural Efficacy in these outward Actions or Things, to the producing such or such Efa fects; but that they were used meerly to en:
bis Mark 7.
the Attention and Consideration of the People to what was done, and to perswade them, that it was God who wrought by their Hands. To continue therefore the Sign, without being able to perform the Thing fignified, is not to relieve, but indeed to impose upon and deceive the Sick.
The Sum of the Observation is this. The raising up the Sick here, was restoring them to their Bodily Health, by that miraculous Power, which was then in the Church ; whereof the anointing them with Oil was fignificative and persuasive.
2. I observe further, that there is nothing in the Text or in the Context, which any way contradicts this Interpretation. As to the calling for the Elders of the Church, to pray over the Sick ; that may very well consist with the extraordinary Power of Healing. Prayer was the usual Companion of miraculous Cures
thus Elijah when he restored the poor Wi- K.17-21. dow's Son to Life, Aretched himself upon
the Child three times, and cried unto the Lord, and said, O Lord, my God, I pray thee, let this Child's Soul come into him again.
And St. Peter in the Cure of the Impotent Cripple, its
who lay at the Gate of the Temple, begging 3.6.
an Alms, used this Form, In the Name of Fesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.
If it be said, that what follows in the Context quite spoils this Interpretation ; because there is mention made of the Health and Cure
of the Soul. For it is said, that if be bave i committed Sins they shall be forgiven him; and 1 is not Sin the Disease of the Soul ? So that it
is rather a Spiritual Medicine, a good Viaticum, a standing Sacrament, for the Relief, the Assurance, the safe Conduct of departing Souls.
I answer ; The Words of the Apostle will by no means bear that Sense and Construction. Take them absolutely, and without regard to this particular Matter, and there can he no [IF) in the Cafe ; it cannot properly be faid of any meer Man if he have finned, because all have finned, and fallen short of the Glory of God. Therefore [if be bave committed Sins] must of necessity be restrained to what the Apostle was there discoursing of, viz. to that Bodily Sickness, which was to be removed by the Prayer of Faith. And so the Words will carry this Sense": If he have committed such Sins, for which it bath pleased God to visit him, and to punish him with Sickness; these alfo, by vertue of this powerful Means, shall be forgiven bim. And to give the more Advantage and Authority to this Interpretation.
I observe ; That in the Beginning of Christianity, God very often, for the greater Example and Terror to others, inflicted immediate Punilhments, and Bodily Sicknesses upon notorious Offenders. Thus St. Peter struckAds 5. 5o Ananias and Saphira dead upon the Place, for