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Bible Dictionaries

The American Church Dictionary and Cycopedia

Visitation of the Sick

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A requirement of the Church is that "When any person is sick, notice shall be given thereof to the Minister of the Parish." When the Minister visits such sick person, the Prayer-book provides a service which may be used, entitled "The Order for the Visitation of the Sick." This service was first set forth in 1549 but was added to in 1662, since which date it has remained practically unchanged. It is a very beautiful and affecting service, bringing great peace and comfort to the sick and is another fine illustration of the tender care our Mother Church shows for all her children in all conditions of their life. As there is so much misapprehension as to the meaning and purpose of the ministrations of Christ's Ministers at the bedside of the sick, we give the following excellent comment on this Office in Wheatley's Treatise on the Prayer-book: "Though private friends may pray for us and with us, yet we can by no means place such confidence in their prayers, as we may in those sent to Heaven in our behalf by such as are peculiarly commissioned to offer them. For this reason it is enjoined by St. James in his Epistle, that if any be sick, they shall call for the Elders of the Church. From this it may be observed, that the care of sending for the Minister is left to the sick. For the Priest himself, it is very probable, may never have heard of his sickness; or, if he has, may not be so good a judge when his visit will be seasonable. For this reason it is ordered by the rubric that 'when any person is sick, notice shall be given thereof to the Minister of the Parish'; Not when the person is just expiring (as is too often done), but when the disease first discovers its approach. To put it off to the last scene of life, is to defer the Office till it can do no good. For when the sickness is grown past recovery, to pray for his restoration is only to mock the Almighty; and what spiritual advantage can be expected from the Minister's assistance to one who is unable to do anything for himself?"

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Bibliography Information
Miller, William James. Entry for 'Visitation of the Sick'. The American Church Dictionary and Cyclopedia. 1901.

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