The Blessings and Trials of Sickness
By Ashton Oxenden, 1863
This little book is intended for those whom God has afflicted. My great aim is to show that sickness usually comes as a messenger of love; that it is sent to be a blessing, and may be made, by God's grace, a very great blessing to the soul.
If by my words any suffering brother or sister shall receive comfort, if any careless one shall become awakened, or if any weak believer shall be helped on his way to Heaven, my end will be gained.
I commend the following pages to the kindness and love of God; and pray that He may be pleased to use them for His own glory, and for the Reader's present and eternal good.
God's Purpose in Sending Sickness
"Affliction does not come forth from the dust, neither does trouble spring forth out of the ground!" Job 5:6
"Just as a parent disciplines a child, the LORD your God disciplines you for your own good." Deuteronomy 8:5
"God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness!" Hebrews 12:10
"I know, O LORD, that your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness You have afflicted me!" Psalm 119:75
The Writer of this Book feels for you in your present affliction, and desires to do you some good. Dear Brother or Sister, I have come into your sick-room, as it were, and wish to tell you a few things for your comfort and profit.
God has seen fit to stop you in the midst of your busy life, and to lay you aside for a while. It is not by chance that His afflicting hand has fallen upon you. It is not at random that He has chastened you. It may seem to be a mere accident that you are afflicted, and not another. But no; God has done it purposely!
Not a sparrow even falls to the ground without our heavenly Father's ordering, and He prizes his redeemed children more than many sparrows.
Learn this then — that your present sickness or affliction is from God. It is His doing. He it is, who has brought this present chastisement upon you.
And what are God's reasons for afflicting us?
Is it to punish? Sometimes it is; but not, I think usually. "I have seen the wicked (says David) in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay-tree" — prosperous and happy. And, on the other hand, do we not constantly see the righteous suffering under the heavy hand of God? Do not take, then, so sad and gloomy a view of affliction as this. There must be another and truer reason why the Lord chastens.
It is because He desires to do you some great good. The Gardener cuts and prunes his tree, to make it grow better, and bear more precious fruit; and God often uses His sharp knife for some gracious purpose. The wise and loving Father thwarts his child, and sometimes scourges it, for its good: and God uses His chastening rod for the very same reason. The skillful Physician, again, prescribes nauseous medicines to restore his patient's health: and God bids us take His medicines, though at the time they are very distasteful to us.
Now, the Gardener, and the Parent, and the Physician all wish to do good, either to the plant, or the child, or the patient. And so, depend upon it, God wishes to do us good. This is the great object of His corrections — to do us good in our latter end.
Here then is an answer to the question, Why does God afflict us? Because He loves us, and wishes to make us holy as He is holy, and happy as He is happy. For, as it has been well said, "Fiery trials make golden Christians."
It is most important to feel this — My God loves me, and therefore He afflicts me. If you can but realize this, it will turn your present chastisement into a blessing, and your sick-room into a little paradise!
And remember, I am not going one step beyond Scripture; for is it not written there, ""As many as I love, I rebuke and discipline!" And again, ""For whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives." God had one Son without sin, but He never had any son without sorrow.
There is another thing too, which I want you to bear in mind — that God cannot afflict wrongly. He never makes mistakes. Our earthly parents sometimes do. They chasten us sometimes (St. Paul says), "as they think best"; that is, without rhyme or reason, according to their own whims and fancies; "but He disciplines us for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness."
Before then you go a step further, ask God to convince you of this precious truth — It is my Father who corrects me, even He who loves me. I will receive this chastisement then from God, and remember that it is a loving hand that smites. I will kiss the very rod that scourges me. I will say, "Father, not my will, but may Your will be done. Make me what you would have me to be. Show me what you would have me to do."
God's Purpose in Afflicting You
You are convinced, I hope, that God chastens purposely and lovingly. Affliction comes from Him; and He afflicts, not as a stern Judge, but as a Father and a Friend.
If I have made this clear to you, I thank God for it; for thus I have given you a sort of foundation-truth, on which your happiness and profit at this season greatly depends.
But now let us go a step further. You will naturally ask, Why does God afflict me? What is there in me that calls down His chastisement at this present time?
1.Perhaps you have hitherto been, like many others, unconcerned about your soul. You have gone on, from day to day, without any serious thought about the eternity which is before you. You have hitherto lived for the world, instead of living for God. I don't say that you have lived in willful sin. You may not have done this. But still you have lived too much as if this world was your home.
If so, your present affliction is sent to arouse you. Its voice is a voice of mercy, saying, "Awake, you that sleep, and arise from the dead; and Christ shall give you light." God sends it to alarm you, to disturb you, to quicken you. He seems to say to you, Are you prepared to meet your God? Have you pardon and peace in Christ your Savior? Is your soul saved?
Happy is it for you, if this affliction makes you consider, and if it leads you to think of the eternal world, which has been too much kept out of sight. Happy for you, if it makes you feel your great need of a Savior, and brings you as a penitent to His cross.
2.Or perhaps you are one who has at times some serious feelings. Eternity is something very solemn in your eyes. You feel yourself to be a sinner, and you know that your only hope of salvation is in Christ. But you have never given yourself heartily to Him. The world keeps you back. Or some secret sin, some little cherished sin it may be, stands like a strong barrier between you and God. Ah, you need decision. You want to break entirely with the world and sin, and to surrender your whole heart to the Savior. You are only an "almost Christian". You are not far from the kingdom of God — and yet you are not in it. You are near the door — but have never entered in.
Do you not at once see then why God has afflicted you? It is to bring you nearer to Him. He would have you now see that a little religion will give you no comfort, and will bring no peace to your soul. It will not do for a sick-bed, and much less will it do for a dying hour.
There is a voice that whispers to you now, which calls to you with loving earnestness, "Why will you die? Why stand so far off, when you may draw near?" Jesus comes close to you as it were now, saying, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. I have knocked before by my Word, by my Spirit, by my Ministers. Now I knock still louder!" Oh say not, "Depart from me!" But rather say, "Abide with me, O my Savior. Pardon my past half-heartedness. Draw near to me, and bless me. Claim me as your own. Make me your forever."
3.Or, it is possible you may be a Backslider. Once you felt deeply. You were in earnest. Jesus was your delight. Your chief interest was in holy things. You loved God's Word and God's House. Prayer was your sweetest employment. The company of God's people was pleasant to you.
But something happened, which turned you from this blessed path. You grew somewhat cold. The lamp burnt dimly within you. The world regained its power over you. Your language now is:
What peaceful hours I then enjoyed!
How sweet their memory still!
But they have left an aching void,
The world can never fill.
God might have left you in this state. But no; He loved you too well to do so. He now chastens you — and is it not in mercy? He may deal roughly with you; and would you not deal so with your dearest child or friend, if you saw them running into danger? I am sure you would. And so the Lord is forced to deal with you. Though you have acted treacherously towards Him, and "turned aside" from Him "like a deceitful bow," He still loves you, and will not let you perish, without sending after you His warning voice, and stretching out His arm to save you.
Oh make this illness a time for returning to Him whom you have forsaken. Think of God's great love in sparing you. Think of His kindness in making this gracious effort to bring you to Himself. He seems to say, "Return unto me, for I have redeemed you. My arms are still open to receive you. I have blessings, which may yet be yours!"
4.Once more. You may be a true Child of God, one whom He greatly loves, a precious plant over which He is watching with peculiar care. He sees you serving Him, and walking with Him, but He wishes your service to be a still more happy service, and your walk to be a closer walk with Him.
The Refiner takes a piece of gold, and is not satisfied that it is in the ore. He takes means to make it more precious, by putting it into the furnace. Thus he purifies it, burns out every particle of dross that was in it. Yes, and when he takes it out of the fire, he rejoices to see it so pure and bright, that it reflects his own image.
And so it is with you, dear Christian Sufferer. God's promise is, "I will turn my hand upon you, and purely purge away your dross." "I will refine them, as silver is refined, and will try them, as gold is tried." Even the very best of us — how short we come of what we ought to be, and what we might be! Even the best of us — what need we have to be thus trained and disciplined for Heaven!
No longer ask then, Why am I afflicted? But rather say, "Lord, let not my affliction be lost upon me! Accomplish in me your own most gracious purpose. May I come out of this furnace, as gold purified seven times in the fire."
How Affliction Should Be Received
Some receive affliction as if they deserved a different treatment from God. They murmur at it. It chafes and irritates them. Like "a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke," they will not bend their neck. This must be wrong; for shall we receive good at the hands of God, and not evil? If chastisement is our portion, must it not be well for us?
Others again receive it with unconcern, as something they must put up with as best they can. They look upon it simply as a misfortune, which is to be borne because it cannot be avoided. This too must be wrong.
A true Christian will receive affliction withsubmission. It is his Father's doing; and therefore he quietly submits. It comes from Him, and must therefore be well. He feels that there is a needs-be for it. What a sweet pillow is this, on which to rest his weary head! He cannot, perhaps, see why it is needful; but he acknowledges that it must be right, and that what he "knows not now," he will "know hereafter." It is a voice of love; and he is ready to exclaim with Samuel, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening." I can give you no better prayer than that contained in the well-known hymn,
Renew my will from day to day,
Blend it with Thine; and take away
All that now makes it hard to say —
Your will be done.
We should receive our affliction too withpatience. Paul says that "tribulation works patience." This ought to be its effect upon us; and this will be its effect, if God blesses it to us. Sometimes patience can be learned in no other school. We are taught in the chambers of sickness and suffering — what we cannot learn elsewhere. What precept and example fail to teach us, affliction sometimes will.
You are now called to patient, humble suffering. Others may be called to do much for God; you are called to suffer. Your duty is to be still. This is your work now. Your heavenly Father allots it to you. And, be assured, you may glorify Him quite as much by your patience, as you could do by the most active service.
Oh then, submit to this wholesome discipline; and pray that it may tame, and subdue, and chasten you — leading you to bear without a murmur whatever your heavenly Father shall lay upon you.
Our affliction shouldhumble us. The people of Nineveh humbled themselves in their trial. Job said, "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." David says, "I was silent, and opened not my mouth, for You are the one who has done this!" Even proud Nebuchadnezzar was for a while laid low. And we Christians are exhorted to "humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God."
Surely, if anything will bring down our high thoughts, and set us upon our right level, it is sickness. You may, perhaps, hitherto have prided yourself on your strength, or your appearance, or your abilities. What are they now that you are wasted by sickness? Or you have perhaps been inclined to boast of your learning. But can learning relieve your pains, or help you to meet death? It is utterly powerless on such occasions. Or, again, you may have been lifted up by riches. But how miserably poor we seem, when God's chastening hand is upon us! Fall down then before God, and say, "Naked came I into the world, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away: blessed be the name of the Lord!"
But I must go even further still, and say, that a real Christian will receive his affliction withthankfulness — yes, even with thankfulness!
I doubt not but you now find it very hard to say, "Thank God for this trial." And yet you ought to say it: and perhaps the time will come when you will be able to say it from your very heart. And even before this sickness has left you, your happy experience may be, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted. Before I was afflicted I went wrong, but now have I kept Your Word."
For the sake of those about you, as well as for your own sake, try and take your trial thankfully and cheerfully. Brighten up. There is good in store for you. Yes, it is even on its way to you, though you may not see it. This illness, or this misfortune, may prove to be among your richest blessings. Ask God to make it so; and then it will "yield the peaceable fruits of righteousness."
It has been said that there is a rough and a smooth side to every handle, and that we may take hold of things by either. It is good if you can get into the habit of always choosing the smooth side. And you will be able, if only you can believe that Word, which says that "We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose!" Romans 8:28
There is a dark and a bright side to every providence, as there was to the pillar in the wilderness. We naturally fix on the dark side and call it sorrow; but faith sees a ray of light amidst the gloom, and forthwith our sorrow is turned into joy.
Though your sufferings may be great — think how many mercies you have. Think too, how many people suffer, even more than you do. Above all, think of Him who suffered so bitterly, but yet so cheerfully — and that for your sake — who said, as His darkest hour drew near, "The cup which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it?"
Ah, if Jesus is with you — if He "speaks peace" to your soul — your gloomy chamber will be lighted up, and a peace will be there which the world knows not of. How true it is that "afflictions are blessings to us — when we can bless God for our afflictions."
It was said of a young Christian sufferer that, "Notwithstanding the sadness of seeing her suffer, her room was the happiest place in all the house — the place where her sisters were sure to see the bright side of things, and to learn that to the thankful heart, mercies lie thickly strewn along the path of suffering."
Some murmur when their sky is clear,
And wholly bright to view,
If one small speck of dark appear
In their great Heaven of blue.
While some with thankful love are filled,
If but one streak of light,
One ray of God's great mercy, gild
The darkness of their night.
The Duties of the Sick-room
"In the day of adversity (says Solomon) consider." This, my dear Friend, is "the day of adversity" with you. God has laid you aside for a while; and it is your duty to consider. In the days of your health, you were hurrying on perhaps a little too fast. God saw this, and in mercy stopped you. And now He bids you make this illness a kind of pause in your journey — a kind of halting place by the way — a time for "considering your ways," for buckling on your armor, and for making a new start heavenward.
But let us come a little to particulars; for there are certain Duties which a time of sickness specially calls forth.
1. You have a favorable time now for the study of God's Word.Perhaps your Bible has been hitherto a book but seldom read. Take it down from your shelf, and open its precious pages. Do not look into it carelessly, as you have often done; but search it, as one seeking for a hidden treasure. It contains the words of eternal life — God's message to your soul — a remedy for all your spiritual needs. You have probably more spare time now than you ever had before. Spend much of it in the careful and prayerful reading of that Book, which is your guide to Heaven. Your time, if thus spent, will prove to be a time of unspeakable profit to you.
And when you read, lift up your prayer to God, and ask Him for His blessing. Entreat Him to write His word in your heart, and to bring it home to your conscience. "Receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your soul."
2. Welcome the visits of your pastor.God sends him to you: receive him as His messenger. Speak freely to him. Tell him the state of your heart, and ask him to guide and direct you. When he is gone, think much of the words that he has read or spoken to you. This is the way to make his visits profitable.
Some like their Minister to speak smooth things to them, so as not to disturb their peace. But is it not far better that our peace should be disturbed, if it is not resting on a right foundation?
The Surgeon probes our wounds, and makes us flinch; but it is that he may heal us. And so must it be with our spiritual Physician. He may speak very home to us, and make our consciences smart; but no matter if it is to do our souls good. He tries perhaps to make us feel sorrow for sin — but why? It is that we may find joy and peace in Christ. Ask God then to make the visits of your pastor a blessing to you.
3. Give yourself much to Prayer.When health and strength were yours, and all seemed to go on smoothly, prayer was perhaps used merely as a form. You knelt down night and morning, but it was only as a habit. There was but very little meaning in your prayers. But this sickness has, I trust, made you somewhat thoughtful. It has reminded you that you will not live always — that you may be nearer death than you supposed — that your days may be numbered.
Now is the time for prayer — for real heart-prayer. Oh, fall down upon your knees, and cry earnestly to God. Entreat Him to pardon the past — to give you the Holy Spirit in larger measure — to make you a true disciple of Christ — and, in short, to send you from your sick-chamber a thoroughly altered person. God speaks to you, as it were, in this your hour of sickness. And you will do well to speak much to Him. Tell Him all that you are, and all that you need; and beseech Him to mold you into His image, and make you what He would have you to be.
Let the time of sickness be with you a special time of prayer. Let the walls of your chamber bear witness to your earnest cries to Heaven.
4. Self-examination is another duty very suitable to a sick-bed, or a sickroom. Our hearts need looking into. Our secret motives need sounding. The inner chambers of our soul need searching out.
Very likely you have been in the habit of telling God in a general way that you are a sinner, and asking Him in a general way to forgive you. But this must not be all. We must bring each separate sin out of its hiding-place. We must know the turnings and windings of our deceitful and wicked hearts. Thus alone can we make any real conquest over our besetting sins, and make any real progress in grace. Deal faithfully with your own self. Find out your true condition before God. Say, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts; and see if there is any wicked way in me — and lead me in the everlasting way."
I have one more duty to recommend.
5. Now is the time to make Good Resolutions.These are common enough in the hours of sickness. The heart is usually softened at such a time. The conscience is awakened. And we determine, if spared, to lead a very different life. But too often, when health returns, our resolutions prove to be like the morning cloud or the early dew, which soon pass away. There is hardly any one so bad, but he has at times resolved to be better. And we may say, with an old writer, that "Even Hell itself is paved with good resolutions!"
Ought we not then to make resolutions in our sickness? Certainly we ought. But our fault is, that we are apt to make them in our own feeble strength — and then they prove to be worthless. But if we distrust ourselves, and throw ourselves upon God's strength — if we are conscious of our weakness, and entreat the Lord to help us — then He will enable us to carry out our resolutions, He will grant us the needed strength, and will give us grace to go and sin no more.
Remember then, whatever you resolve to do, let it be done in simple reliance upon God's gracious help.
Difficulties in Prayer
When we are in health, and especially if we are much taken up with worldly business, we are apt to imagine that the days of sickness are especially favorable to prayer. Is this the case?
In some respects it is. For then we are called aside from the world, and we have ample time for serious thought, and for religious exercises. At such a season too the nearness of God, and of the unseen world, are forced as it were upon us.
But who that knows what true prayer is, does not feel the difficulty, even then, of lifting up the heart to God? The world still presses its claims upon us, though not in the same way that it did when we were in health. It comes rushing in upon us in some other shape. Even the sick-room is not beyond its reach. Satan too is as busy now as ever, plying his temptations, and taking every advantage of our weakness.
It sometimes happens that even real Christians feel prayer to be irksome. Our minds at times are sorely harassed by wandering and distracted thoughts. Or our souls feel dry and barren, and we are tempted to leave off praying. Prayer does not seem to open the gate of Heaven; and so we turn away from it, and give up knocking. At such times we should remember that, very likely, the prayers which cause us the greatest difficulty are the most acceptable to God. We should think of Jacob for our encouragement. He wrestled with the Angel, and said, "I will not let you go, except you bless me!" Or we may bear in mind the case of the Syrophenician Woman, who persevered in her petitions, until at length Jesus said unto her, "O Woman, great is your faith — be it unto you even as you will."
As you lie upon your bed of suffering, or are confined to your chamber, bear in mind that there are difficulties — and you must make a deliberate effort to overcome them.
You need to have your special hours of devotion in sickness, quite as much as when you were well. It may be thought that as you have now so much leisure, this will be unnecessary. But sure I am, that if you have no fixed times for prayer, your devotions will be very desultory and pointless. A duty, which we imagine we may engage in at any moment, is sure to be badly done, if not left undone altogether.
And again, now that you have so much time for drawing near to God, it will be very helpful to you to vary the subject of your prayers. For instance, at the beginning and close of each day, your prayers might be general. At noon you might pray especially for others — for your church, your minister, or any individuals whom you may desire to mention before God. For we must not think merely of our own needs and struggles: but we should remember the trials and difficulties and temptations of our brethren, and bear them on our hearts before the Throne of Grace. Then at some period in the afternoon, you might devote a time to prayer for a direct blessing on your affliction; and you might also couple with it Self-examination, specifying any particular sins which beset you, and any graces which are lacking in you.
This would give a point and meaning to your prayers, which they would not otherwise have; and it would also make them far more interesting to you than they would otherwise be.
But though it is very desirable to have stated times for devotion, yet, if your soul is spiritually alive, you will not be content with this. Just as when a Friend whom you really love is with you, you will not be satisfied with speaking to him at mealtime, or at other stated periods, but you will be constantly wishing to converse with him. So it will be with you, if you feel God to be your Father, and Jesus to be your Friend. You will be constantly longing to hold fellowship with Him who is so unspeakably dear to you. You will be constantly lifting up your heart to Him in short, broken prayers.
There are, be assured, "many hindrances in coming to the mercy-seat" — hindrances too from which you, my sick Brother or Sister, are by no means free. Be not cast down then, if you experience them. I have tried to give you a little help. But above all I would tell you that "The Holy Spirit helps our infirmities." Ask Him to afford you the needed assistance, to give you a prayerful frame of mind, and to teach you what to ask, and how to ask it.
Truly your sickness will not be in vain, if during the hours of confinement you gain this one good habit — the habit of prayer. It will grow upon you more and more. For a praying spirit, once formed during the season of illness, may become a blessed habit through life, never to be laid aside.
The Bible the Best Companion
There are many books which may be read with profit in the days of sickness. But there is one Book better than them all. I mean God's own Book, the Bible. Other books are from men: this is from God. And "who teaches like Him?"
Many a sick person wishes to read his Bible, but is a little perplexed, and scarcely knows when or where to begin. It may be said, Is not the Bible all profitable? Yes; but there are some parts of it more especially suitable to you in your present state.
I will take it for granted that you wish to profit by your illness; that God's Word is precious to you; and that you desire to make it your companion in your sick-room.
Do not fall into the mistake of thinking it necessary to read a large portion of Scripture at a time. A little, read thoughtfully, and with earnest prayer for God's teaching, will be far more likely to feed and refresh your soul.
Sometimes, when you are able, it will be well to take a verse or two of Scripture, and turn it into prayer. This you will find very profitable to your soul; and it will help you greatly in raising your heart heavenward. For this purpose either the Psalms or the Epistles will be very suitable.
I well know however that a sick person often feels very weary, and scarcely able to read at all. At such times the effort of thinking is too great for the mind of one who is weakened by illness. If such is the case with you, my dear Friend, be not cast down. Your Father in Heaven is fully aware of your infirmity. He knows our frame, and remembers that we are but dust. He will accept a few broken sentences, or even a trustful look, instead of a regular prayer; and He will bless the reading of a few short words, and make them as food to your soul.
May God's Word, whether read, or listened to, or treasured up in the storehouse of your memory, be very sweet to you in the time of your affliction! May it cheer many a lonely hour! And may your heart be so prepared by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, that you may feel as though God was Himself speaking to your soul, and pointing out to you the way to Heaven!
Poor weary sufferer, long have you perhaps occupied this sick-room. Your little world has for many weeks or months been contained within the walls of your chamber. Like an imprisoned bird, your wings are clipped, and you are still forbidden to rove beyond your narrow cage. Lonely days and wearisome months are appointed you.
Be it so. Since it is God's will, it is and must be well. "Even so, Father, for so it seems good in your sight."
Why has God sent you this long illness? He does not wish to weary you. He takes no pleasure in your sufferings. Does He not love you? And yet He has brought you into this state. Ah, is it not because He loves you, that He keeps you in it week after week?
Like a Father, He is chastening you, that you may be thoroughly weaned from the world, and may be made partaker of His holiness. A short affliction would not, in your case, accomplish the gracious work which He purposes to do; and so He lengthens out your trial. And, depend upon it, the day will soon come, when you will see that not one hour too long have you been kept here, and not one pain too many have you been called to bear. In your cup of suffering every drop has been carefully measured out by Him who cares for you.
Be content then to lie passive in your Father's hands. Instead of desiring that His chastening rod may be removed one moment before the time, rather ask that He will give you grace to bear your sufferings meekly, and that He will fully accomplish His great work in you.
With regard to prayer, order and regularity are never more valuable than in a lengthened illness. And to prayer forget not to add the delightful work of praise. But, you may say, surely a prolonged time of sickness, and perhaps of suffering also, can hardly be a time for praise? Yes, it may be, and it should be. God is good to all, and we may thank Him for His goodness. Whom He loves He chastens; therefore thank Him for His love to you.
It often happens, as a Christian writer observes, that "when the heart is torpid and yields not to the action of prayer, it will begin to thaw with the warm and genial exercise of praise. For how much is there to kindle the heart in the very thought of praise! It is the pious exercise of Heaven. Nature is offering it unceasingly. The whole creation sends up one grand chorus of praise to the Throne of God. Then join in with your feeble voice. Let some note of thankfulness be sounded, even in the chamber of sickness.
So too with regard to your Bible-reading. Not only let the study of God's Word be your chief employment, but read it on some fixed plan. Do not turn to it merely when you happen to be in the mood, or pitch upon a chapter at random, but read it according to some rule.
For instance, you may take some Book out of the Old Testament in the morning, and read it through in order, and one out of the New Testament in the evening. Thus you will get to know much of the Bible; and you will take an interest in it, which you never felt before.
Let your Bible-reading be as one of your regular meals, which you cannot do without. Seek that your soul may be fed and nourished by it. "Your word have I esteemed (says David) more than my necessary food." Above all, whenever you open the Bible, lift up your heart for the teaching of the Holy Spirit; for without it all your reading will be in vain.
There is one thought which often distresses a confirmed invalid. I mean the thought that he is leading a comparatively useless life. Now, do not imagine that you must needs be useless, even though you may be stretched upon a sick-bed. Depend upon it, if God has a work for you to do for Him, He can enable you to do it wherever He places you. And undoubtedly He has a work for you to do, prisoner as you are.
A Christian writer observes, "It may be God's will that our days may be passed upon a weary couch of pain — but still we need not be deprived of the heavenly joy of ministering. While a head to think, and a heart to care, are left to us, we may be planning for the spiritual welfare of some needy soul, and watering our plans with our prayers."
You may interest yourself in others, and do little acts of kindness towards them. You may have an alms-bag, or a missionary-box, by your bedside, and so collect little sums from those who visit you. You may speak a word in season, or you may let the light of your Christian example shine, so that all who come near you may see what Jesus is doing for you. You can pray for your fellow-men, whom you can reach by no other means. And who can tell what blessings you may bring down upon them by your earnest intercessions? And after all, a suffering child of God upon his sick-bed glorifies Him as much, by patient submission and resignation — as one actually engaged in more direct work for God.
Then, dear Friend, believe that your life, in this solitary sick-room, may be a very blessed life, a very peaceful life, yes, and a very useful life too. And truly, if you are Christ's
servant, you may cheer yourself with the happy thought, that when a few more suffering days and restless nights are past, and a few more trials are undergone, then you will be beyond the reach of suffering, and enjoy that "rest which remains for the people of God."
The Holy Communion
Are you a Communicant? I mean are you one who in the days of your health, loved to come to the Lord's table?
If you have hitherto lived in the neglect of this holy Ordinance, and imagine that the mere act of receiving it now will make all right, and set you fair on the way to Heaven, you are greatly mistaken. The Lord's Supper is no charm to fit us for death. It is no passport to Heaven. To look upon it in this light is to lower our Savior's blessed ordinance, and to encourage ourselves in disobeying His command.
But if the Lord's Table is no new place to you — if in past days you have loved to be there — then most welcome are you now to this sacred Feast. You may, in this your day of suffering, "draw near with faith, and take this holy Sacrament to your comfort."
Or if, though once a neglecter of the Savior's ordinance, you have through illness been brought to sincere repentance — if the Holy Spirit has wrought within you a deep conviction of sin, and led you to the Cross — if you have heartily entered upon a new and holy path — the thought may well come into your mind: May I now enjoy a privilege which in the days of my health I so sinfully neglected? Yes, if your heart has become tender, and if you love your Savior, and feel an earnest desire to be His true and faithful servant — you are permitted to partake of this most precious means of grace. Jesus welcomes you to His own Feast!
Whether then you have long been walking in the ways of Christ, or have but lately entered upon His service — so long as you are now truly in earnest, and desire henceforth to lead a holier life, then I would say to you, in my Master's name, "Come, for all things are ready. Do this in remembrance of your Lord."
This heavenly Feast is for the strengthening, feeding, and refreshing of your soul. And as you greatly need strength to help you on your way, and spiritual food to sustain you as you journey onwards, here in this Sacrament Christ is ready to give it to you; for He says, "My flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed."
And what a blessing to be permitted on your sick-bed thus to remember your suffering Savior, and to feed your hungry soul on Him!
Ask your Minister to explain any difficulty, or to clear up any doubt, which may trouble your mind. But above all, ask God to prepare you for this ordinance. Ask Him to give you a broken and contrite heart, that you may come as a penitent to the Cross. Ask Him to give you faith to believe in Christ, and to cast your whole soul upon Him. And ask Him to make His own Feast a very rich blessing to you.
Then I am sure that the Holy Communion will bring comfort to your soul, and help you on your heavenly way. Oh that you may derive much enjoyment from it, and may be able to say, "I sat under his shadow with much delight, and his fruit was sweet unto my taste. He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love!"
Perhaps the days of your illness are drawing to a close, and death with its rapid strides is approaching near to you. Perhaps something whispers in your ear that your end is near.
What a difference there is between the death-bed of a worldly person, for whom sickness has done nothing — and of one for whom it has been a blessed preparation for a world of holiness!
The one will be uncheered and unblest, still far from God, and still without Christ. His bed of suffering will be changed for that gloomy prison-house, where the worm never dies. An eternity will open upon him, where the voice of mercy will no more be heard!
But the Christian Sufferer who has committed his soul to Christ — who has felt his sins to be a burden and a grief to him, and has found refuge in the Savior — who has "washed his robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" — who has been taught by the Holy Spirit, and has been brought under His sanctifying influence — to him death is as a welcome messenger. It is the gate through which he enters into glory. He is like a traveler, who has endured many a toil and many a trial; and now he is near his home — that peaceful home which Christ has prepared in His Father's house.
My dear Brother, or Sister, look up, for "your redemption draws near!" Think of your sins so great and so many — and all atoned for — all forgiven! Think of your Savior, and all that He has done for you — how He has borne with your unbelief and hardness of heart — how He has welcomed you to His bosom, and received you, although the chief of sinners. And can you not trust Him now? Oh, believe on Him with all your heart. Cling to Him as the limpet clings to the solid rock. Let Him be everything to you — His blood your only plea — His righteousness the cloak to cover you — His atonement your only hope. Let Him be in your dying thoughts. Let His rod and His staff comfort you.
Think often of Heaven. Here on earth, you are but a stranger — there you will be at home. Here you have a suffering body — there there will be no more sin and no more pain. Here you are often cast down by the weakness of your faith, and the sinfulness of your heart. Here you have many a conflict and many a doubt, much darkness and ignorance. But there all will be peace; all will be light; we shall "know even as we are known." May your eye be fixed on Heaven, and may you be made daily more fit for the inheritance of the saints! Thank God for His past dealings with you; and trust Him, oh trust Him, for what is before you.
May the last steps of your wilderness journey be safe and peaceful! May you "lean on your beloved"; and say in the humble confidence of an assured hope, "The time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: and now there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness!"
Recovery; a Time for Encouragement and Caution
I will suppose that your illness has taken a favorable turn, and that, through God's mercy, you are now recovering. Your illness, whether long or short, is leaving you; and health is coming back, with its many duties, blessings, and dangers. The season of recovery is a critical season — and not only does it call forth our gratitude, but also our watchfulness.
The illness which you have just passed through has, I trust, been blessed to you. It leaves you better than it found you — more thoughtful, more humble, more thankful, more holy, more in earnest.
You have formed many a holy resolution, which you thoroughly mean to carry out; and you have declared before God, that you will henceforth live to Him, and give yourself to His blessed service.
These resolutions were made in the hour of your affliction, when God's heavy hand was upon you. And do you repent having made them? I trust not. I would hope that you are really anxious, God helping you, to live much nearer to Him than you have ever yet lived; and that the desire of your heart is to be His faithful disciple. You are resolved to make a new start, and to live an altogether new life. And I promise you that, if these resolutions are kept, your course will indeed be a happy one, and you will forever thank God for having chastened you, and thus brought you to Himself.
But remember that your best resolutions will be worthless, and will fall to the ground, if they are made in your own strength. Even Paul felt that he needed greater power than he himself possessed; for he says, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthened me."
Let me then remind you, dear Friend, that in yourself you are powerless. The strength you need must come from above. It is God alone who can "work in you to will and to do his good pleasure." Never forget this. You must throw yourself upon God, entreating His gracious help, and that help will most assuredly be given to you.
But there is another caution I must give you. During the weeks that are past you have been much in your sick room. You have been much alone. The world has for a time been shut out. But now you are going to plunge into it again; and Satan will try hard to make you forget your illness, your resolves, and the great mercies which God has shown you. He will whisper in your ear, "Death is no longer hovering over you — it is afar off. You may enjoy a little more of the world yet, and there will be ample time to think of religion."
Then again, there will be many who will try to persuade you that the Christian life is a hard and gloomy one. They will laugh at your pious feelings, and perhaps endeavor by persecution to turn you from the right path.
Now, it is well to be prepared for both these trials, for they will surely come. Remember, Satan desires to have your soul; and the more in earnest you seem to be, the more desperate will be his efforts to draw you from your steadfastness. And as for persecution — it is nothing more than the Christian's portion. For, does not the Word of God say that "those who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." And again, that "we must through much tribulation enter the kingdom of God." If you would gain the victory — you must fight the battle. If you would overcome — you must bear the Cross. But oh, how small these difficulties will seem, if God is on your side, and if Christ undertakes for you.
On leaving your Sick Room then —
1. Expect to meet with difficulties.None of us can win Christ without many an effort. None of us can reach Heaven without many a trial by the way. Do not flatter yourself that the path will be smooth and easy. "The kingdom of Heaven" says our Lord, "suffers violence, and the violent take it by force."
2. Go forth in the strength of the Lord.Conscious of your own weakness, be ever looking to Him for help. Lean upon His arm, and He will uphold you. Trust Him, and all will be well. Hear His loving promise, "My grace is sufficient for you; for my strength is made perfect in weakness."
3. Be decided for Christ.There are many half-hearted, undecided ones in the world; many who set out for Heaven, but never reach it; many who have pious feelings and promise well, but fail for lack of courage and decision. They are always wishing to be better, and hoping one day to be more in earnest; but they never surrender their whole hearts to Christ, and therefore they are never really His.
A decided course is far the easiest. Let the world see that your face is set heavenward — and half your difficulty is over. Be content to lose your character with worldly people. Declare plainly that you seek a better country, a heavenly one. This will make your course plain and straightforward.
Again, a decided course is far the happiest. If you are always wavering between the world and Christ, you will find no peace in religion. But if you are a bold, hearty, earnest disciple of Christ, then religion will give you the truest happiness. You will find her ways to be ways of pleasantness, and all her paths to be peace.
Remember, God might have cut you off in your illness. But He has graciously spared you. Oh then, show forth your thankfulness, not with your lips only, but by consecrating your spared life to Him who has so mercifully lengthened it out. It has been well said by an old writer, "Thanksgiving is good; but thanks-living is better."
A Week's Meditations for the Sick-room
"Why have you afflicted me?" Numbers 11:11
Why am I afflicted? For what reason is this sickness sent to me? These are solemn questions: let me try and answer them.
First of all, this is God's doing — that I am sure of. It is You, O Lord, who have afflicted me. It is no other than Your hand that is laid upon me.
And then, there is another thing, which I am equally sure of — there is a why and a wherefore for all that the Lord does. "Affliction," says Eliphaz, "comes not forth of the dust, neither does trouble spring out of the ground." It does not come by accident. It does not light upon this, or that person, as if by chance.
Let me seriously think over the matter, and try to find out why God has dealt thus with me. Ah, there was a "needs-be" for it! Perhaps I was growing worldly — and I needed something to bring me to my senses. Perhaps I was taking it easily, like many around me, slumbering on without any misgivings — and this is my Father's voice, saying to me, "Awake, you that sleep!" "The night is far spent, the day is at hand!" Or perhaps I was building too much on my health and strength, and imagining that death was a long way off; and here is a warning come to me, that mine is only an "earthly tabernacle," and it will soon be "dissolved."
Well, then, I see plenty of reasons for this affliction; and I see divine love in it all. Most true do I feel those words to be, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten." It is not, as I thought, because my God loves me not; but because He does love me, therefore He afflicts me.
If God had not loved my soul, He would have allowed me to live on as I was living. But He had pity on me; He cared for me; He longed to draw me to Himself. And so He called me aside for a while, that He might teach me something, and do me good.
Oh that this sickness may prove one of my greatest blessings! Oh that the Lord may sanctify it, and make it the means of bringing me nearer to Himself!
"Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God." 1 Peter 5:6
May I not say with Job, "The hand of the Lord has touched me!" Oh that I may feel its power, and not thrust it from me!
What is now my duty?
1. I will think over my past life. This cannot be done in a moment. Let me take a searching look into the very depths of my heart. This may give me pain, and make me feel uneasy. And so it is very painful sometimes to probe a wound — but is it not needful? Must we not get to the bottom of the sore, in order to heal it? What folly to shut one's eyes, and cry, "Peace, peace," when there is no peace. The great question is, Am I right with God?
What discoveries do I make! How many and great are my sins! There are some that I never noticed at the time; others that I have long ago forgotten; and some, alas, which I committed knowingly. How many sinful actions have I done! How many sinful words have issued from these lips! How many sinful thoughts have passed through my mind! Am I not indeed a great sinner? If I say otherwise, my own mouth will condemn me.
2. I will humble myself before God. I will cast myself down before His footstool. The cry that suits me best is the poor contrite Publican's, "God be merciful to me a sinner!"
Let mine be a heartfelt contrition — true repentance. Do I hate sin because my God hates it? Do I feel its misery, and desire to forsake it? Oh, when I look up, I seem to see God's hand lifted up against me; and my heart seems to say, "Lord, I deserve it all."
3. Now then, I dare not rest a moment longer without applying for pardon. And where should a poor sinner betake himself, but to the cross of Christ? There is the only remedy. There is the only fountain in which a sinner can wash and be clean. There has many a penitent gone before me, and found forgiveness and peace. And there too will I take my stand. "Lord, save me, or I perish!"
"Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28
Ah, how many "heavy laden" ones there are in this world of sorrow!
One is laboring under a painful disease.
Another is sick and weary of a false world.
Another's heart is full, and ready to burst, with some hidden inward grief.
Sin is the weight which bears down a fourth.
Well, whatever is our peculiar case, here is a word for each and all of us. Here is a word from One who has power to relieve us.
He says, "Come unto Me!" And how shall I come? I must come humbly, feeling my own unworthiness. I must come "in prayer believing." I must come just as I am, without waiting to be worthier. I must come like a needy beggar, with nothing to offer, and with all to receive.
There is not a moment to lose. I have waited too long. The sand in my hour-glass may be nearly run out. Who knows but that there may be only a few grains of sand left?
My Savior now says, "Come!" His invitation still sounds in my ears. His patience is not yet exhausted. Oh, God forbid that I should trifle with His mercy for a single instant longer, lest perchance it be soon withdrawn. I will kneel down at this very moment, and say to Him, "Lord, I come as you have bidden me: I am guilty, wash me, and make me clean. I am oppressed, undertake for me."
And what is it that Jesus offers me? It is "rest." This is just what I need — rest for my poor burdened soul. What! and is this rest then really for me? Is there pardon for me, who am the chief of sinners? Is there peace for my wounded conscience? Is there acceptance for one who has so often refused to come, that he "might have life"? Yes, there is all this, and even more. There is a Heaven held out to me; the door is open, and the words, "Welcome, Welcome!" are written as it were over it.
Oh, wondrous mercy! How is it that I have shut my eyes to it so long? There is rest here in Christ, "joy and peace in believing" — and a better rest above! "There remains a rest for the people of God."
"The Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20
What! did He love me? Long have I lived with hardly a feeling of love towards my Savior. I loved my family; I loved the world; I loved myself. And I did worse, for I loved my sins. But, alas! I felt little or no affection for my Savior. My heart was alive to earthly things; but was cold and sluggish towards Him. And can it be that, in spite of all this, He loves me?
Who is it that speaks thus? It is Paul. Ah, no wonder he could speak of his Savior's love, for he was a holy apostle. But stop! Does he not say (1 Timothy I. 15), "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief"? Does he not say, too, that he was "once a blasphemer, a persecutor, and injurious"? Then I too may take courage, and say, "He has indeed loved me." Poor and ignorant as I am, undeserving and vile as I must appear in His sight, still, still His feeling towards me is that of love.
And how has He shown His love? He has "given Himself for me." I have earthly friends, who I believe would give me money, if they had it. Some of them would give me up a portion of their time, if they thought it would be of service to me. But Jesus, my best and dearest Friend, what has He given? His own life — His very self!
Is not this enough to win my heart? Does it not touch me in the tenderest part? I can think of God's anger, and still remain stubborn. But now that I think of His love — my heart melts; it throbs with affection towards this most loving Savior.
And how is He dealing with me at this very moment? He might have cut me off, and then perhaps I would have been at this moment in Hell. This would have been no more than I deserve. But no — He is even now dealing tenderly and lovingly with me. He has stopped me in my wayward course, that He might lead me into a better and a happier path. He has "brought me into His net, and laid affliction upon me," that He might gather me into His fold. He has "loved me with an everlasting love, therefore with loving-kindness has he drawn me."
"Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest." Psalm 55:6
Rest — this is what I need. Sometimes, when I have come home at night, after working hard, I have felt, "How sweet is rest!" Sometimes, after a toilsome week, when the Sabbath dawns, I have said to myself, "How refreshing is this day of rest!" And now, in my sickness, when I have been racked with pain during a long and lonesome day, or have passed a sleepless night, I have thought, "Oh that I had wings like a dove, for then would I fly away, and be at rest!"
Now, is this a right wish? or is it a wrong one?
It is a wrong wish, when it arises merely from a desire to be released from present suffering. Elijah, being tired of life, "requested that he might die." Jonah, in a moment of disappointment, made a like petition. And David, under much the same feelings, uttered the words before us. The world sometimes goes badly with us. We are weary of it, and long leave it.
How is it with myself? Am I weary of my sick chamber? Do I feel that the joys of earth have left me, and therefore I wish to be gone? God forbid. I will cheerfully bear all. I will lie here just so long as my Father pleases. May His will — His blessed, holy, perfect will — and not mine, be done! "It is good for me to bear the yoke."
But is not the wish which David expresses sometimes a right wish? Yes, when it comes from the lips of a true Christian, who longs for Heaven, and is ripe for it. If we love anyone, we shall desire his company. And if our hearts throb with love to our absent Savior, well may we long to be with Him. Thus Paul had "a desire to depart, and to be with Christ." It was not because the world had shaken him off, or that he was weary of its toils and trials. No, he desired Heaven, because his Savior was there, and he panted to find himself by His side.
O God, give me such faith. Make me not only willing to leave this world at Your summons, but ready to welcome that summons, saying, "Even so come, Lord Jesus; come quickly!"
"I know their sorrows!" Exodus 3:7
Thank God for this! I have often said within myself, "No one knows my sorrows — no one can tell what I suffer!" But now I hear, as it were, a voice from Heaven, saying to me, "I know your sorrows!"
It is my Father who speaks these words. And He measures out every sorrow to me. There is not one too many. There is not one heavier, or sharper, than is needful. Neither am I called upon to bear them one day longer than is good for me.
No matter what my sorrow is; whether it arises from pain of body or anguish of heart — it is the cross that my heavenly Father has laid upon me, and I will cheerfully bear it. I will kiss the hand that smites me, for it is my Father's hand!
It is no small comfort to feel that the Lord "knows our sorrows." Therefore we may be quite sure He will not lay upon us more than we can bear. As the refiner of silver carefully watches the metal while it is in the hot furnace — so does Jesus watch over His suffering people. There is no trial too small, and no pang too hidden — for His eye to reach, and His heart to pity. He feels for them, and tenderly loves them.
"Why then are you cast down, O my soul?" Surely He who was with Daniel in the den, and with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the hot fire, and with Joseph in the prison — He who said to His mourning disciples, "I am with you always" — will be with me.
No, my Savior, I dare not distrust you. I will open to you all my heart. I will tell out all my sorrows to you one by one. I will "cast all my care upon you," knowing that you "care for me."
Has not Christ "borne my griefs and carried my sorrows"? Then, though they sorely try me, they cannot crush me. They may be very hard to bear; but I will not, I dare not, repine. The heavier my load, the more firmly will I lean upon my Savior. "I will trust, and not be afraid;" for "the Almighty God is my refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms."
"God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall he no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there he any more pain; for the former things are passed away." Revelation 21:4
Tears, and sorrow, and sickness, and death are man's heritage — they are his portion here. They are found in the cottages of the poor — and the mansions of the rich. We see them everywhere. There is not a spot in this wide world that is free from them.
Surely there must be a hidden cause for this. What is it? Sin is the cause. From the moment that sin entered into the world, man became a fallen creature; and death and misery became his portion.
But is there no remedy? "Is there no balm in Gilead, no Physician," who can heal us? In this stormy world, is there no hiding place, no safe refuge? Yes, "the Sun of Righteousness has arisen, with healing in his wings." He is able to pardon sin, and to free us from its hateful power. He was "made sin for us." He suffered in our stead. He has conquered death for His people. It can no longer really hurt them. There it is still; and I must taste it; but it has lost its sting and bitterness.
Oh then, how happy may the true believer feel even now! Sorrow cannot crush him; sickness cannot overwhelm him; death cannot hurt him — for his "life is hid with Christ in God." He is safe now, and safe forever.
And is there not a world before us, to which the Christian may look forward with thoughts of peace — a world where no sin can enter, and where sorrow and sighing shall flee away? Let me think of that happy world. And the more my thoughts dwell upon it, the more shall I be willing to bear a little trial here. What are a few days of pain, and a few more wearisome nights — to one who is drawing near to his heavenly home?
Oh, welcome sorrow! welcome suffering — if it only weans me from this treacherous world, and drives me to my Savior's arms!
My God, subdue every sin in me. Sanctify me by your Holy Spirit, and fit me for your presence, where "there is fullness of joy," and "pleasures for evermore."
PRAYERS for the Sick Room
1. For one just taken ill.
O Heavenly Father, now that I am visited by sickness, I desire to feel that I am in your hands. I thank you for my creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life. And I thank you also for this trial, which you have sent me. I know that it is for my good, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.
O my God, I confess that I am a sinful creature. When you gave me health and strength, I was not thankful. When you gave me opportunities for serving you, I lived too much for myself. But you have stopped me in my course, and brought me down in my journey. Oh, grant that this illness may be for much good to my soul. May it teach me to know myself. May it lead me to Jesus, my precious Savior. May it be a great help to me on my way to Heaven. Make this time of sickness to be a time of blessing. Let it not be thrown away upon me.
Restore me, O Lord, if it be your will. Bless the means used for my recovery. And grant that if through your mercy I return once more to my usual health — this sickness may not leave me as it found me.
Lord, take me under your special keeping. Do with me as you see best; and prepare me either for life or for death.
Hearken to this my prayer, and bless me, both in soul and body, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.
2. For Thankful Submission.
O Almighty God, in your hands are all things. In you I live, and move, and have my being. You do all things well. Make me to feel this in my present affliction. Show me that there is much love in this painful visitation. Show me that Your goodness and mercy have followed me hitherto, and enable me to see Your gracious hand in all that you do. Teach me by this affliction to know myself better, and to know more of Christ my Savior.
Lord, make me content to bear the yoke which you lay upon me. Grant that I may willingly and cheerfully receive whatever you are pleased to send me. Teach me to give up my own will, and to accept yours. Oh teach me that lesson, so hard to learn — teach me from my heart to say, Father, not my will but may your will be done.
I know not what is good for me; but you, O God, know. I would leave all to your disposal, and ask you to deal with me as you see best. Enable me to kiss the rod that scourges me, and thankfully to bear even the heaviest burden which you, my Father, lay upon me.
Oh, turn my sorrow into joy, and my heaviness into praise. And may I one day be able to say, It is good for me to have been afflicted.
Hear, O gracious God, this my prayer, and answer it for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.
3. Under much Suffering.
O Most gracious God, you do not afflict willingly or grieve your children for no purpose. Look upon me now suffering under your heavy hand. You know that my pains are great, and that I am sometimes tempted to murmur. Oh, come to my help; and give me grace sufficient for my present need.
Remove this great trial, if it be your will. Grant me some ease in the midst of my affliction. But if, O my Father — if you see fit that your servant should still suffer, oh give me grace to bow before you with humble submission. Grant me the needed strength — and then I shall patiently bear whatever you lay upon me. The cup which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it?
O blessed Savior, who endured the agony of the Cross for me, make me to feel how little my sufferings are, when compared with yours. You sympathize with your afflicted people — stretch out the arms of your compassion towards me. Meet me in this my hour of trial. Draw near to me, O my Lord; and make me to taste that you are very gracious.
All this I ask for your own name's sake. Amen.
4. For one under Concern for his Soul.
O My God, I desire to humble myself in your presence. Too long have I lived without any concern about my soul; but now you have in your great mercy awakened me.
Thanks be unto you for having shown me my exceeding sinfulness. Lord, make me to feel it more and more. O blessed Spirit, convince me of my guilt, and lead me to the Savior. I now see but very dimly — oh, give me more light. Remove every scale from my eyes, and shine brightly on my soul.
O Savior, I wish to be your servant. I wish to give myself, heart and soul, to you. I wish to be numbered among your people. Accept me, worthless as I am. Heal my soul's sickness. Give me health, and cure. Blot out every sin that I have committed, and wash me in your own most precious blood.
Oh that the remainder of my life may be devoted to you. Oh that I may hate sin even as you hate it, and may seek to be holy as you are holy. Blessed Jesus, make me to be your true disciple now; and fit me for your heavenly kingdom hereafter, for your own name's sake. Amen.
5. For one under a lengthened illness.
O You Father of mercies, and God of love, who have kept me so long under your chastening hand, I thank you for all the tender care and kindness you have shown me.
Pardon me for any impatience, and for any restless feeling, which has at any time sprung up within me. Pardon me for my lack of faith and love. Pardon me for my coldness and dullness of heart. Pardon me for those sinful thoughts and evil desires which have crept into my soul. Oh cleanse me, Savior, from my guilt. Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Give me peace, even in the midst of suffering. Make me to hear of joy and gladness, that the bones which you have broken may rejoice. When I read your holy Scriptures, make them speak words of life and power to my soul. When I pray, may the Spirit help my infirmities. When I am alone, be with me. When I am with others, may I try to do them good. When I sleep, guard me. When I lie awake, may I enjoy sweet thoughts of you.
O God, make this long illness a blessed preparation time for eternity. Make me to know Christ, to love Him, and to serve Him. May I live upon Him from day to day, and from hour to hour. And for His sake may I at length be admitted into Heaven, to dwell with you for evermore. Amen.
6. For a Sick Person before receiving the Lord's Table.
O Most gracious Savior, I thank you that you have provided a spiritual feast for your people. Teach me to come to you day by day; for you are my hope and my support. And now my soul longs to eat bread, and drink wine, in remembrance of you. My spirit is weak and feeble; and I need support and strength within. But you are able to supply all my needs out of your fullness. Oh, do so in this holy Sacrament. Feed me with heavenly food. And, when with my lips I receive the bread and wine, may I in my heart feed upon you.
I entreat you, O my God, to prepare me for this heavenly feast, by giving me a humble, penitent, believing heart. I feel that I am in your sight utterly unworthy, utterly unclean. Oh receive me as I am, and make me more holy. If it be your good pleasure, may my life be spared for your service. Or, if you are pleased to call me hence, make me meet for the inheritance of the saints above.
Grant me now a peaceful enjoyment of you, in this most blessed ordinance. Make yourself known to me, and bless me abundantly. Cheer me in the remainder of my journey. And, when I come to the end of it, receive me into my home in Heaven, for the sake of my only Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
7. For a Sick Person after receiving the Lord's Table.
Blessed Lord, you have not left me to myself in this my sickness. I thank you for the unspeakable comforts of your Gospel. I thank you for the visits of my Minister. You raise up kind friends to comfort me. But you have given me, what is better than earthly friends, a Savior for my guilty soul! Lord, there is pardon in your precious blood. To your cross alone I look for mercy.
Heavenly Savior, you have given me a welcome to your own most blessed Feast. I thank you for it. My soul has received comfort. Oh may that heavenly food nourish me unto eternal life! Mercifully pardon whatever was amiss. Forgive my coldness and deadness of soul.
May I now be more closely united to you than ever. O my Father, look upon your poor weak child. I desire to cling to you. Strengthen me upon my bed of sickness. Let your hand support and guide me. Place your everlasting arms underneath me.
Keep my soul alive, and in health, from day to day. You have graciously nourished me at your table. Feed me ever more and more. Make me to feel the power of your Spirit in my heart; so that my faith may be more lively, my love more earnest, my submission to your will more complete.
Grant that I may bear all that you shall lay upon me, with patient thankfulness. And when, at last, I am called to pass through the valley of the shadow of death, be you with me; let your rod and your staff comfort me. Hear me, O Lord, in these my imperfect prayers, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.
8. A short Prayer for one in Danger.
O My Father, hear me at this solemn time for Jesus Christ's sake. Pity a poor penitent sinner. Make me to feel my many sins, and to mourn over them. Lead me to my Redeemer. By your cross and sufferings, O Savior, by your agony and bloody sweat, good Lord, deliver me. Purge away all my guilt. May your blood cleanse me from my every sin.
O Lord, you received the dying thief; in your infinite mercy receive me. Pardon my iniquity, for it is great. Spare my life, if it be your will. And if so, oh that I may live more entirely unto you, and that I may be able each day to say: To me, to live is Christ.
But, O God, if you are going to call me away, take me I entreat you to yourself. My only trust is in Jesus. May I be found washed in the blood of that spotless Lamb. May I be found in Him pardoned and saved.
Lord, I would leave all to you. Do for me as you see best. But grant peace and salvation to my soul for Jesus Christ's sake, my only Redeemer. Amen.
9. Prayer for a dying Person.
O Most holy God, hear me at this solemn hour. My end is drawing near. Soon I shall leave this world. Oh that I may be with You. Oh take me unto your presence, where there is fullness of joy.
Lord Jesus, I am vile and sinful. Cleanse this guilty soul with your precious blood. Pardon me for all my transgressions; and fill my heart with love and peace.
Keep me from the assaults of Satan. And do you, O my Savior, stand by me as I pass through the valley, of the shadow of death. May I fear no evil. May your rod and your staff comfort me.
O my Father, deal tenderly with your poor weak and erring child. Look not upon my sins, but look upon Jesus my Savior. Pity me, and accept me, for His dear sake. I desire to bring all my sins to the foot of the cross. My cry is, God be merciful to me a sinner.
Stand by me, O God, in this my hour of weakness. Leave me not, neither forsake me, I beseech you. Stretch out your hand to hold me up, and let not my faith fail.
O pardon me, bless me, save me, keep me to the end, for Christ's sake. Amen.