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TO THE READER.
THE subject os this book, however melancholy it may appear to some, yet it is necessary to all; seeing the word of Cod, and our own experience, do assure us, that " Man, who is born of a woman, is of saw days, and full of trouble;" and that he "is born to troubles, as the sparks fly upwards." Nay, God's dearest children are not exempted from this common fate. We see what is the character God givethof his church, Ifa. liv. I1. " O thou afflicted, and tossed with tempests, and not comsorted."
If in this world, then, we must look for tribulation, it is highly necessary for every man to seek direction how to provide for it, and behave under it, so as he may glorify God, edify others, and attain to eternal happiness at last. The tribulations we have to look for here are manifold; but, among those that are outward, I know none about which men ought to be more thoughtful and concerned, than bodily sickness, that usual harbinger of death, and which ushers the way to judgment.
This is a subject not much handled in public sermons, which are delivered only to them that are in health, the sick being incapable to attend them. Wherefore, it seems the more necessary to handle it in writing, that so the afflicted may have a book in their houses, and at their bed-sides, as a monitor to preach to them in private, when they are restrained from hearing sermons in public.
And though sometimes ministers sermons may be very suitable to the case of the sick and afflicted; yet, alas! the most part are careless and forgetful hearers of these things, while they are in health and prosperity, as reckoning the evil day at some distance from them, A book, then, such as the following Directory, being with them in time of sickness and asfliction, may, by the divine blessing, be usesul to bring to their rememA 2 brance brance thofe counsels and admonitions which they very much neglected in the time of their health.
Again, ministers of the gofpel, though never so much inclined to attend the sick, yet, by reason of disability and multiplicity es ether work, cannot be always .with them, to direct, resolve, and comsort them. But such a book as this, they may have still at hand to consult with.
And, in regard the asflicted for the most part are out of case to read for themselves, it would be a most charitable work for friends or neighbours that attend them, to lay hold on proper seasons for reading such a book as this in their hearing; and especially such chapters or directions as they judge most suitable for them. Thus you might be helped in some measure to exoner your consciences, and do your last offices of kindness to your sick and dying friends, when you can serve them no longer in this world.
I might have brought in and handled some controversies (had I been fond of them) in the ensuing treatife, about the administration of the Lord's supper to the sick, and about extreme unction, which some also begin to plead for, and thence have taken occasion to touch at some other new ufages, such as the middle state, prayers for the dead, and other Popish errors, that some (called Protestants) would have revived and introduced among us. But I have industrioufly fliunned what is controversial, and kept close to what is practical and owned by all true Christians.
For preventing the growth os these and other errors, (from which this nation hath been much longer free than others) I wish all ranks among us would clofely observe the facred rule of faith, God's word, and remember the solemn and national engagements we of this land are under, to maintain the pure truths of God therein contained, in opposition to all sorts of errors, whether Popish, Pelagian, Arian, Antinomian, &c. And, may we ever abhor the doctrine that would teach us to break these bands asunder!
Have we not ground this day to suspect that Satan is carrying on a deep and subtle plot for shaking our