Monday, July 18, 2011

An Evangelical Understanding of Sickness and Healing

9 Lessons From God Concerning Sickness « J.C. Ryle Quotes list's Bishop Ryle's understanding of sickness in God's plan of redemption. So often we hear from leaders of the healing ministry that illness comes from Satan. But even Satan cannot do anything without the permission of God our Father. When we blame Satan for our illness, something Job did not do, we become as guilty as Adam and Eve who took no responsibility for their disobedience and were cast out of the Garden. When we blame, we justify ourselves, something the Pharisees were known for. God is in control all the time. Our bodies are frail from the time of the Fall! All the more to be dependant on God not only for healing but for our redemption. Illness is part of God's plan, His visitation, to help us draw closer to Him.

The reformation was not bereft of the knowledge of God's healing as so many charismatics are so wanton to believe. The English Reformation produced the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. It is filled with exhortations, many of which have been removed in later editions. After all, what churchgoer wants to be corrected! But a beautiful one exists in the Order of the Visitation of the Sick reminding the believer that God chastises those whom He loves!



The Order for the Visitation of the Sick.


When any person is sick, notice shall be given thereof to the Minister of the Parish; who, coming into the sick person's house, shall say,
PEACE be to this house, and to all that dwell in it.


When he cometh into the sick person's presence he shall say, kneeling down,
REMEMBER not, Lord, our iniquities, nor the iniquities of our forefathers: Spare us, good Lord, spare thy people, whom thou hast redeemed with thy most precious blood, and be not angry with us for ever.
      Answer. Spare us, good Lord.

Then the Minister shall say,
Let us pray.
      Lord, have mercy upon us.
           Christ, have mercy upon us.
     Lord, have mercy upon us .


OUR Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive them that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; But deliver us from evil. Amen.
      Minister. 0 Lord, save thy servant;
      Answer. Which putteth his trust in thee.
      Minister. Send him help from thy holy place;
      Answer. And evermore mightily defend him.
      Minister. Let the enemy have no advantage of him;
      Answer. Nor the wicked approach to hurt him.
      Minister. Be unto him, 0 Lord, a strong tower.
      Answer. From the face of his enemy.
      Minister. 0 Lord, hear our prayers.
      Answer. And let our cry come unto thee.


Minister.
OLORD, look down from heaven, behold, visit, and relieve this thy servant. Look upon him with the eyes of thy mercy, give him comfort and sure confidence in thee, defend him from the danger of the enemy, and keep him in perpetual peace and safety; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
 
HEAR us, Almighty and most merciful God and Saviour; extend thy accustomed goodness to this thy servant who is grieved with sickness. Sanctify, we beseech thee, this thy fatherly correction to him; that the sense of his weakness may add strength to his faith, and seriousness to his repentance: That, if it shall be thy good pleasure to restore him to his former health, he may lead the residue of his life in thy fear, and to thy glory: or else, give him grace so to take thy visitation, that, after this painful life ended, he may dwell with thee in life everlasting; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.



Then shall the Minister exhort the sick person after this form, or other like.
DEARLY beloved, know this, that Almighty God is the Lord of life and death, and of all things to them pertaining, as youth, strength, health, age, weakness, and sickness. Wherefore, whatsoever your sickness is, know you certainly, that it is God's visitation. And for what cause soever this sickness is sent unto you; whether it be to try your patience for the example of others, and that your faith may be found in the day of the Lord laudable, glorious, and honourable, to the increase of glory and endless felicity; or else it be sent unto you to correct and amend in you whatsoever doth offend the eyes of your heavenly Father; know you certainly, that if you truly repent you of your sins, and bear your sickness patiently, trusting in God's mercy, for his dear Son Jesus Christ's sake, and render unto him humble thanks for his fatherly visitation, submitting yourself wholly unto his will, it shall turn to your profit, and help you forward in the right way that leadeth unto everlasting life.



If the person visited be very sick, then the Curate may end his exhortation in this place, or else proceed.
TAKE therefore in good part the chastisement of the Lord: For (as Saint Paul saith in the twelfth Chapter to the Hebrews) whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh, which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verity for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. These words, good brother, are written in holy Scripture for our comfort and instruction; that we should patiently, and with thanksgiving, bear our heavenly Father's correction, whensoever by any manner of adversity it shall please his gracious goodness to visit us. And there should be no greater comfort to Christian persons, than to be made like unto Christ, by suffering patiently adversities, troubles, and sicknesses. For he himself went not up to joy, but first he suffered pain; he entered not into his glory before he was crucified. So truly our way to eternal joy is to suffer here with Christ; and our door to enter into eternal life is gladly to die with Christ; that we may rise again from death, and dwell with him in everlasting life. Now therefore, taking your sickness, which is thus profitable for you, patiently, I exhort you, in the Name of God, to remember the profession which you made unto God in your Baptism. And forasmuch as after this life there is an account to be given unto the righteous judge, by whom all must be judged, without respect of persons, I require you to examine yourself and your estate, both toward God and man; so that, accusing and condemning yourself for your own faults, you may find mercy at our heavenly Father's hand for Christ's sake, and not be accused and condemned in that fearful judgement. Therefore I shall rehearse to you the Articles of our Faith, that you may know whether you do believe as a Christian man should, or no.



Here the Minister shall rehearse the Articles of the Faith, saying thus,
DOST thou believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth?
     And in Jesus Christ his only-begotten Son our Lord? And that he was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary; that he suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; that he went down into hell, and also did rise again the third day; that he ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; and from thence shall come again at the end of the world, to judge the quick and the dead?
      And dost thou believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy Catholick Church; the Communion of Saints; the Remission of sins; the Resurrection of the flesh; and everlasting life after death?

The sick person shall answer,
All this I stedfastly believe.
Then shall the Minister examine whether he repent him truly of his sins, and be in charity with all the world; exhorting him to forgive, from the bottom of his heart, all persons that have offended him; and if he hath offended any other, to ask them forgiveness; and where he hath done injury or wrong to any man, that he make amends to the uttermost of his power. And if he have not before disposed of his goods, let him then be admonished to make his Will, and to declare his debts, what he oweth, and what is owing unto him; for the better discharging of his conscience, and the quietness of his Executors. But men should often be put in remembrance to take order for the settling of their temporal estates, whilst they are in health.
These words before rehearsed may be said before the Minister begin his Prayer, as he shall see cause.
The Minister should not omit earnestly to move such sick persons as are of ability to be liberal to the poor.
Here shall the sick person be moved to make a special confession of his sins, if he feel his conscience troubled with any weighty matter. After which confession, the Priest shall absolve him (if he humbly and heartily desire it) after this sort.
OUR Lord Jesus Christ, who hath left power to his Church to absolve all sinners who truly repent and believe in him, of his great mercy forgive thee thine offences: And by his authority committed to me, I absolve thee from all thy sins, In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.


And then the Priest shall say the Collect following.
Let us pray.
OMOST merciful God, who, according to the multitude of thy mercies, dost so put away the sins of those who truly repent, that thou rememberest them no more: Open thine eye of mercy upon this thy servant, who most earnestly desireth pardon and forgiveness. Renew in him, most loving Father, whatsoever hath been decayed by the fraud and malice of the devil, or by his own carnal will and frailness; preserve and continue this sick member in the unity of the Church; consider his contrition, accept his tears, assuage his pain, as shall seem to thee most expedient for him. And forasmuch as heputteth his full trust only in thy mercy, impute not unto him his former sins, but strengthen him with thy blessed Spirit; and, when thou art pleased to take him hence, take him unto thy favour, through the merits of thy most dearly beloved Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.