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and some whose Tears procure a Multitude of Mercies. O the Comfort of the Forgiveness of Sins! Of being guided safely through the Shadow of Death! Of arriving securely at the heavenly Country! What is it that Prayer can't obtain?
But though the Wickedness and Impenitency of the dying Person be such, as that the Prayers of the Faithful will not be sufficient to avert the Wrath and Punishment of a justly incensed God; yet as this can be only known to God, it will not discharge Men from recommending him to the Divine Mercy, in the most passionate and affectionate Manner. They thereby express the most laudable Zeal, the most disinterested Charity; and whilst they are lo solicitous for the Happinels and Welfare of other Men's Souls, they cannot but be thereby influenced to have the greatest Concern for their own, and be both encouraged and directed to proceed with an holy Emulation from Strength to Strength, and endeavour, as the * Apostle advises, to go on to Perfection.
But, alas! we are fallen into Times of such Irreligion and Prejudice, such Contempt of Antiquity, and such too great Reformation, that what with Indolence on one Hand, and Ignorance on the other; what with no Zeal on this
* Heb. vi. I.
Side, and too * false a one on that; we either neglect the most decent Ceremonies of Religion, or we think it is Religion to have no Ceremonies at all. No Wonder then, that, in the Midst of such a crooked and perverse Generation, when the most of Men are negligent of themselves, they are aifo negligent of others: No Wonder, that when there is such a general Contempt of Religion, and Men are careless of their own Souls, they are not careful for the Souls of their friends.
But it is called † Popish and Superstitious; for what true Reason, I know not. Did we
* Among the many Objections of the Brownists, it is laid to the Charge of the Church of England, that though we deny the Doctrine of Purgatory, and teach the contrary, yet how well our Practice suits with it, may be considered in our ringing of ballowed Bells for the Soul. Bish. Hall. cont. Brown.
+ In a Veftry Book belonging to the Chapel of All Saints, in Newcastle upon Tyne, it is obfervable, That the Tolling of the Bell is not mentioned in the Parish Accounts, from the rear 1643, till 1655, when we find it ordered to be tolled again. At a Veftry holden January 21st, 1655. Whereas for some Years past, the collecting of the Duty for Bell and Tolling, hath been forborn and laid aside, which hath much lessened the Revenue of the Church, by which, and such-like Means, it is brought into Dilapidations; and having now taken the same into ferious Confideration, and fully debated the Objections made by some against the same, and having had the Judgment of our Ministers concerning any Superstition that might be in it; which being made clear, it is this Day ordered, That from henceforth, the Church Officer appointed thereunto, do collect the same, and bring the Money unto the Church-Wardens, and that those who desire to have the
indeed imagine with the Papists, that there is any * Virtue or extraordinary Power in a Bell, that it is † hallowed by Baptism, and drives away the Spirits of Darkness, then it might justly be called Superstition, and therefore justly abolished. But when we retain the Custom, only to procure the Prayers of the Faithful for a departing Soul, it would surely be of Advantage to observe it, if the Prayers of a righteous Man avail any Thing at all; which, if we may believe an inspired Apostle, are of very great Efficacy and Validity.
Art thou then attending a Friend in his last Moments ? Art thou careful for his Soul, and solicitous for his Salvation? Dost thou wish him fafe through the Valley of Death to the everlasting Hills? Wouldst thou have the good Angels protect him, and be his Shield against the Powers of Darkness? In short, wouldst thou have him crown'd with the Joys of Paradise? Be assured then, that the Prayers of good men
Use of the Bells, may freely have them as formerly, paying the accustomed Fees. It is certain they laid it aside, because they thought it superstitious, and it is probable, if they had not wanted Money, they had not seen the contrary, ** We call them Soul-Bells, for that they signifie the Depar. ture of the Soul, not for that they help the Passage of the Soul. Bis. Hall cont. Brown, P. 568.
| Item ut Dæmones tinnitu campanarum, Christianos ad preces concitantium, terreantur. Formula vero baptizandi seu benedicendi campanas antiqua est. Durant.. Lib. G. 22. S. 6.
will very much contribute to the gaining of these things. But how shall they then pray for him, if they know not of his Departure? And how can they know that, without the tolling of the Bell? Do thou therefore put in Practice this decent and profitable Custom, not as our Age generally does, after the Death of thy Friend, but before it; before he leave the World, when the Prayers of good Men can assist him, and facilitate his Journey into the other Life.
Or, art thou working in the Field, or grinding at the Mill? Remember then, when thou hearest the Sound of the Bell for one departing, that thou put up thy Prayers for him. Be thy Business what it will, it will always permit thee to say at least, LORD, now lettest thou thy Servant depart in Peace: Or to use the Words of St. Oswald, when he and his Soldiers were ready to be slain, Lord, have Mercy on the Soul of thy * Servant. It will not be
* Oravit ad dominum pro animabus exercitus fui. Unde dicunt in proverbio, Deus miserere animabus, dixit Oswaldus cadens in terram, Bed. Eccl. L. 3. C. 12. It is used (says Bede) even to a Proverb, That he died praying; for when the Enemy had surrounded him, and he saw himself about to be pain, he prayed unto the LORD for the Souls of his Army. Hence it is that the Proverb comes, LORD, have Mercy upon the Soul, as St. Oswald said when he fell to the Earth. Which Proverb, in all Probability, hath been the Original of this prefent national Saying,
When the Bell begins to toll,
long long, till thou thyself shalt have Occasion for such Prayers, till thou come to die, and enter on thy Journey to the other State: If then thou hast been merciful, thou shalt obtain Mercy; if by thy Prayers thou hast assisted the Souls of thy Brethren, thou shalt either be remembered in the Prayers of good Men, or surely these thy Prayers for others will be of Service to thyself also, at that dreadful hour.
But now it may be objected, That as the Bell is seldom tolled till after the Person's Den parture, it is to no Purpose to pray for the Soul; nay to pray for it, would be praying for the Dead: And since that is repugnant to the Doctrine of our Church, our Prayers at that Time had much better be omitted.
Indeed it is too true, this Custom is not so common as it should be; but however, it is so much observed, as will be able to vindicate the putting up of constant Prayers, I know several religious Fainilies in this place, and I hope it is so in other Places too, who always observe it, whenever the melancholy Season offers; and therefore it will at least sometimes happen, when we put up our Prayers constantly at the tolling of the Bell, that we shall pray for a Soul departing. And tho' it be granted, that it will oftener happen otherwise, as the regular Custom is so little followed; yet that can be no harmful praying for the Dead. We