For the due performance of these holy publick services, a Priest, ordained for men in things pertaining to God, Heb. 5. 1. is required by the Church, as it ought to be, and as it was of old. S. Chrys. Hom. 4. in Hebr. Ambr. Ser. 90. It was an ancient custom, after Burial to go to the holy COMMUNION, unless the office were performed after noon. For then, if men were not fasting, it was done only with Prayers. Conc. Carth. 3. 29. Can. Funeral Doles were an ancient custom, Chrys. Hom. 32. in Mat.
Christian burial denied to some sorts of persons. THOUGH all persons are, for decency, and some other of the reasons that have been mentioned above, to be put under ground; yet it appears by the rubric, (which was prefixed to this office at the last review,) as well as by the canons of the ancient Church, that some are not capable of Christian burial. Here it is to be noted, that the office ensuing is not to be used for any that die unbaptized or excommunieate, or have laid violent hands upon themselves.
I. As, first, to such as die unbaptized. The prohibiting the Burial-office to be used for any of these, is exactly agreeable to the ancient practice of the Church. For, first, in relation to such as die unbaptized, the first Council of Bracara, which was held A.D. 563, determines, that there should be no oblations or commemorations made for them, neither should the office of singing be used at their funerals. Not that the Church determines any thing concerning the future state of those that depart before they are admitted to baptism: but since they have not been received within the pale of the Church, we cannot properly use an office at their funeral, which all along supposes the person that is buried to have died in her communion.
§. 2. Whether persons baptized by the dissenters are here excluded. Whether this office is to be used over such as have been baptized by the dissenters or sectaries, who have no regular commission for the administering of the sacraments, has been a subject of dispute; people generally determining on one side or the other, according to their different sentiments of the validity or invalidity of such disputed baptisms. But I think that for determining the question before us, there is no occasion to enter into the merits of that cause: for whether the baptisms among the dissenters be valid or not, I do not apprehend that it lies upon us to take notice of any baptisms, except they are to be proved by the registers of the Church. Unless therefore we ourselves betray our own rights, by registering spurious among the genuine baptisms, persons baptized among the dissenters can have no just claim to the use of this office. For the rubric expressly declares, that it is not to be used for any that die unbaptized: but all persons are supposed to die unbaptized, but those whose baptisms the registers own: and therefore the registers not owning dissenting baptisms, those that die with such baptisms must be supposed to die unbaptized. But indeed the best way to put an end to this controversy, is to desire those that have separate places of worship, to have separate places for burial too; or at least to be content to put their dead into the ground, without requiring the prayers of a Minister, whose assistance in every thing hut in this and marriage they neglect and despise.
II. Secondly, to such as die excommunicate. The next persons, to whom the Church here denies the office of burial, are those that die excommunicate: i.e. those who die excommunicated with the greater excommunication, as it is expressed by the sixty-eighth canon. And to such as these Christian burial has ever been denied by the Catholic Church. The intent of which penalty is to bring the excommunicate to seek the absolution and peace of the Church, for the health of his soul, before he leaves the world; and if not, to declare him cut off from the body of Christ, and by this mark of infamy to distinguish him from an obedient and regular Christian.
§. 2. Whether an ipso facto excommunication seclude a man from Christian burial, before sentence is pronounced. The learned Mr. Johnson is of opinion, that persons notoriously guilty of any of those crimes, for which excommunication ipso facto is decreed against them by the canons of our Church, are really excommunicated, though they be not particularly by name published or declared to be so; and that therefore a Minister may refuse to bury them, if they die in this condition, and no one be able to testify of their repentance. To confirm which, he observes from the canonists, that it is a sufficient denunciation, if it come to the knowledge of the person excommunicated: so that the Curate, who has taken care that his parishioners who are guilty of those crimes be made sensible that they are excommunicated by canon, seems to be under no obligation to bury them when they are dead. And yet this learned gentleman observes just before, that the judges have declared that excommunication takes no effect as to the common law, till it be denounced by the Ordinary and Curate of the place where the offender lives. He also refers to Lyndwood, to shew, that if the fact be not notorious or evident beyond exception, then it must be proved, and the sentence passed in the ecclesiastical court, before the criminal be taken for excommunicated in foro Ecclesiæ. Now certainly before he be taken for excommunicated he is not to be denied Christian burial, which is treating him as excommunicated. It is true, Mr. Johnson is here speaking of a case where the fact is not notorious; but then he goes on to prove from the same author, that though the fact be notorious, yet the offender must be publicly declared excommunicated, before it can be criminal for other persons to converse with him. From whence I would infer, that so long as he is allowed the conversation of Christians, he may also be indulged with a Christian burial. But he further observes from the same place in Lyndwood, that when the fact is notorious, the Curate of the parish may denounce the excommunication, without any special order from his superior. If so, then nobody, I suppose, will deny, that, when the Curate has denounced it, he is to be refused the use of this office of burial by the injunction of the canon, and the rubric before us. But the greatest difficulty is in what he asserts in the following paragraph, viz. That the offender is to be deemed excommunicate, before such publication is made; which he founds upon supposition, that if it were otherwise, there would be no difference between Constitutio Sententtiæ latæ, and Constitutio Sententiæ ferendæ. But, with submission to this gentleman, I can conceive a difference between these constitutions, without deeming an offender excommunicate before publication is made. For Constitutio Sententiæ latæ may signify, that the criminal, as soon as ever he is convicted and found guilty of the crime alleged against him, incurs the penalty inflicted by the canon, without any further sentence pronounced, than a declaration that he actually is and has even under the censure of the said canon: whereas Constitutio Sententiæ ferendæ may require not only that the criminal should be convicted, but also that after his conviction the sentence should be pronounced solemnly and in form, notwithstanding the canon may expressly declare what the punishment shall be. And this I take to be the sense in which Lyndwood and other lawyers understand it, whom certainly we must allow to be the best judges in the case. And this will explain what Mr. Johnson observes the canonists say, viz. that Excommunicatio ipso facto is Excommunicatio facta nulla ministerio hominis interveniente; that an ipso facto excommunication is an excommunication that takes effect without the intervention of any man’s ministry. For whenever a canon says, that a criminal is ipso facto excommunicated, the excommunication takes place as soon as he is tried, and found guilty of the crime, without any one’s pronouncing any other sentence upon him, than that, by virtue of his crime, he is, and has been excommunicated by the canon; and that not only from the time that he is proved convict, hut from the very time that he committed the fault: insomuch that all the advantages, penalties, and forfeitures that may be taken and demanded of a person excommunicated, may be taken and demanded of such a person quite hack to the time when he committed the fact, for which he is now declared excommunicate. But still, though a criminal becomes liable to this censure from the very instant he commits the crime; yet he cannot legally be proceeded against, nor treated as excommunicate, before he is actually convicted and declared so to be. It is true the canonists suppose that a man may and ought to shun the company of one, whom he knows to have incurred excommunication; but private conversation is what any one may withhold from whomsoever he pleases, and what therefore a man ought to withhold from such a one as he knows, or believes, he is able to convict of having incurred a greater penalty. But this does not affect the question between Mr. Johnson and me. The question between us is about denying a man the sacraments and public offices of the Church, which the canonists assert every man may claim, till it appears legally that he has forfeited his right to them. And therefore (which is the principal point here concerned) no man can be refused Christian burial, however subject he may have rendered himself to an ipso facto excommunication, unless he has been formally tried and convicted, and actually pronounced and declared excommunicate, and no man is able to testify of his repentance. By this clause in the canon, indeed, one would be apt to imagine, that if any were able to testify of his repentance, the man has a right to Christian burial, though his sentence was not reversed: and to some such testimonies perhaps it might be owing, that since the Reformation, as well as before, commissions have been granted not only to bury persons who died excommunicate, but in some cases to absolve them, in order to Christian burial. But the rubric speaks indefinitely of all that die excommunicate, and so seems to include all whose sentence was not reversed in their lifetime, without supposing any benefit to be obtained by an absolution afterwards.
III. Thirdly, to such as lay violent hands upon themselves. The last persons mentioned in the rubric we are discoursing of, are such as have laid violent hands upon themselves; to whom all Christian Churches, as well as our own, have ever denied the use of this office. And indeed none have been so justly and so universally deprived of that natural right which all men seem to have in a grave, as those who break this great law of nature, the law of self-preservation. Such as these were forbid both by Jews and Heathens to be put under ground, that their naked bodies might lie exposed to public view. And the indignity which (if I mistake not) our own laws enjoin to the bodies of those that murder themselves, viz. that they shall be buried in the high-way, and have a stake drove through them, though it is something more modest, yet is not less severe.
§. 2. Whether a person that kills himself, being non compos mentis, be excluded by this rubric. This indignity indeed is to be only offered to those who lay violent hands on themselves, whilst they are of sound sense and mind: for they who are deprived of reason or understanding cannot contract any guilt, and therefore it would be unreasonable to inflict upon them any penalty. But then it may be questioned, whether even these are not exempted from having this office said over them; since neither the rubric nor our old ecclesiastical laws make any exception in favour of those who may kill themselves in distraction, and since the office is in several parts of it improper for such a case. As to the coroner’s warrant, I take that to be no more than a certificate that the body is not demanded by the law, and that therefore the relations may dispose of it as they please. For I cannot apprehend that the coroner is to determine the sense of a rubric, or to prescribe to the Minister when Christian burial is to be used. The scandalous practice of them and their inquests, notwithstanding the strictness of their oath, in almost constantly returning every one they sit upon to be non compos mentis, (though the very circumstances of their murdering themselves are frequently a proof of the soundness of their senses,) sufficiently shew how much their verdict is to be depended on. It is not very difficult indeed to account for this: we need only to be informed, that if a man be found felo de se, all he was possessed of devolves to the king, to be disposed of by the lord almoner, according to his discretion: and no fee being allowed out of this to the coroner, it is no wonder that the verdict is generally for the heirs, from whom a gratuity is seldom wanting. They plead indeed, that it is hard to give away the subsistence of a family: but these gentlemen should remember, that they are not sworn to be charitable, but to be just; that their business is to inquire, not what is convenient and proper to be done with that which is forfeited, but how the person came by his death; whether by another or himself; if by himself, whether he was felo de se, or non compos mentis. As the coroner indeed summons whom he pleases on the jury, and then delivers to them what charge he pleases, it is easy enough for him to influence their judgments, and to instil a general supposition, that a self-murderer must needs be mad, since no one would kill himself, unless he were out of his senses. But the jury should consider, that if the case were so, it would be to no purpose for the law to appoint so formal an inquiry. For, according to this supposition, such inquiry must be vain and impertinent, since the fact itself would be evidence sufficient. It is true indeed, there may be a moral madness, i.e. a misapplication of the understanding, in all self-murderers: but this sort of madness does not come under the cognizance of a jury; the question with them being, not whether the understanding was misapplied, but whether there was any understanding at all. In short, the best rule for a jury to guide themselves by in such a case, is to judge whether the signs of madness, that are now pretended, would avail to acquit the same person of murdering another man: if not, there is no reason why they should be urged as a plea for acquitting him of murdering himself. But this is a little wide from my subject: however, it may be of use to shew, what little heed is to be given to a coroner’s warrant, and that there is no reason, because a coroner prostitutes his oath, that the clergy should be so complaisant as to prostitute their office.
A peal to be rung before the Burial. BEFORE the burial a short peal is to be rung, to give the relations and neighbours notice of the time, and to call them to pay their last attendance to their deceased friend.
§. 2. The time for funerals. The time generally appointed for this is late in the evening, from whence the bearers had the name of vespillones. And as death is a sleep, and the grave a resting-place, the night is not improper for these solemnities. The primitive Christians indeed, by reason of their persecutions, were obliged to bury their dead in the night; but when afterwards they were delivered from these apprehensions, they voluntarily retained their old custom; only making use of lighted torches, (which we still continue,) as well, I suppose, for convenience, as to express their hope of the departed’s being gone into the regions of light.
§. 3. The manner of the procession. The friends and relations being assembled together, the body is brought forth, and in some places is still, as anciently it was every where, laid upon the shoulders of some of the most intimate friends of the deceased: though there have generally been some particular bearers appointed for this office, who were called by the Greeks Κοπιῶντες, or Κοπιαταὶ, and vespillones by the Latins, for the reasons before named. The body being in a readiness, and moving towards the church, the chief mourners first, and then all the company follow it in order, intimating that all of them must shortly follow their deceased friend in the same path of death.
§. 4. Rosemary, why given at funerals. But to express their hopes that their friend is not lost for ever, each person in the company usually bears in his hand a sprig of rosemary: a custom which seems to have taken its rise from a practice among the heathens, of a quite different import. For they having no thoughts of a future resurrection, but believing that the bodies of those that were dead would for ever lie in the grave, made use of cypress at their funerals, which is a tree that being once cut never revives, but dies away. But Christians, on the other side, having better hopes, and knowing that this very body of their friend, which they are nowgoing solemnly to commit to the grave, shall one day rise again, and be reunited to his soul, instead of cypress, distribute rosemary to the company, which (being always green, and flourishing the more for being cropt, and of which a sprig only being set in the ground will sprout up immediately, and branch into a tree) is more proper to express this confidence and trust; a custom not unlike that practised by the Jews, who, as they went with a corpse to the grave, plucked up every one a handful of grass, to denote that their brother was but so cropt off, and should again spring up in his proper season.
§. 5. The Priest and Clerks to meet the corpse at the entrance of the churchyard. The corpse having been brought in this manner or procession to the entrance of the churchyard, or to the church-stile, (as it was expressed in king Edward’s first book,) the Priest in his surplice, and the Clerks, of whom I have spoken before, are ordered by the rubric there to meet it; so that the attendance of the Minister at the house of the deceased, and his accompanying it all the way from thence, is a mere voluntary respect, which he is at liberty to pay or refuse as he pleases. For, as it was expressed in the Injunctions of king Edward VI, Forasmuch as Priests be public Ministers of the Churchy and upon the holy-days ought to apply themselves to the common administration of the whole parish; they are not bound to go to women lying in child-bed, except in time of dangerous sickness, and not to fetch any corpse before it be brought to the churchyard, And so by our present canons, the corpse must be brought to the church or churchyard, and convenient warning too must be given the Minister beforehand, or else there is no penalty lies upon him for either delaying or refusing to bury it.
§. 6. And to go before it to the church or grave. But the corpse being capable of Christian burial, and having been brought in due form, and after due notice given, to the entrance of the churchyard: there the Minister must meet it, and, as the present rubric further directs, go before it either into the church or towards the grave; i.e. (if I rightly understand the words) if the corpse be to be buried within the church, he shall go directly thither; but if in the churchyard, he may first go to the grave: for now, according to the general custom, every one is at liberty to be buried in which he pleases.
In what places the dead were used to be buried. And indeed all nations whatsoever, Jews, Heathens, and Christians, have ever had solemn places set apart for this use; but in permitting their dead to be buried either in or near their places of worship, the Christians differ from both the former. For the Jews being forbid to touch or come near any dead body, and it being declared that they who did so were defiled, had always their sepulchres without the city: and from them it is probable the Greeks and Romans derived, not only the notion of being polluted by a dead corpse, but the law also of burying without the walls. For this reason the Christians, so long as the law was in force throughout the Roman empire, were obliged, in compliance with it, to bury their dead without the gates of the city: a custom which prevailed here in England till about the middle of the eighth century, when archbishop Cuthbert of Canterbury obtained a dispensation from the pope for making churchyards within the walls. However, that the Christians did not do this out of any belief that the body of a dead Christian defiled the place or persons near it, may be inferred from their consecrating their old places of burial into places of divine worship, and by building their churches, as soon as they had liberty, over some or other of the martyrs’ graves. After churches were built, indeed, they suffered no body to be buried in them; but had distinct places contiguous to them appropriated to this use, which, from the metaphor of sleep, by which death in Scripture is often described, were called κοιμητήρια, i.e. cemeteries, or sleeping-places. The first that we read of, as buried any where else, was Constantine the Great, to whom it was indulged, as a singular honour, to be buried in the church-porch. Nor were any of the Eastern emperors, for several centuries afterwards, admitted to be buried any nearer to the church; for several canons had been made against allowing of this to any person, of what dignity soever: and even in our own Church we find, that in the end of the seventh century, an archbishop of Canterbury had not been buried within the church, hut that the porch was full with six of his predecessors that had been buried there before. By a canon made in king Edgar’s reign, about the middle of the tenth century, “no man was allowed to be buried in the church, unless it were known that he had so pleased God in his lifetime, as to be worthy of such a burying-place;” though above a hundred years afterwards we meet with another canon, made at a council at Winchester, that seems again to prohibit all corpses whatsoever, without any exception, from being buried in churches. But in later times, every one, that could pay for the honour, has been generally allowed it; but since all cannot purchase it, nor the churches contain all, there is a necessity of providing some other conveniences for this use. And this has generally been done, as I observed before, by enclosing some of the ground round the church, for a burying-place, or churchyard; that so, as the faithful are going to the house of prayer, they may be brought to a fit temper and disposition of mind, by a prospect of the graves and monuments of their friends; nothing being more apt to raise our devotion, than serious thoughts upon death and mortality. I need not say now whether the church or churchyard be the most ancient and proper place for burial; nor have I any thing left to say further on this head, than that in whichever the grave is, the Priest is to go before, and to lead the company thither, and to conduct, and introduce, as it were, the corpse of the deceased into its house of rest.
Here is to be noted, that the Office ensuing is not to be used for any that die unbaptized, or excommunicate, or have laid violent hands upon themselves.
THe Priest meeting the Corps at the Church stile, shall go before it to the grave, saying or singing, I am the resurrection and the life. This, in triumph over death, O death where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory? thou mayest a while hold the corps, but he that is the resurrection and the life, will make the dead man live again. Therefore thanks be to God, who gives this victory through Iesus Christ our Lord.
Much after this sort did the Ancients, Hieron. ep. 30. ad Ocean. de Fabiola. Chrys. Hom. 4. in Hebr. Quid sibi volunt istae lampades tam splendidae? nonne ficut athlet as mortuos comitamur? quid etiam hymni? nonne ut Deum glorificemus, quod jam coronavit discedentem, quod à laboribus liberavis, quod liberatum à timore apud se habeat? "What mean the bright burning torches? do we not follow the dead like Champions? what mean the Hymns? do we not thereby glorifie God, for that he hath crowned our departed brother, that he hath freed him from labours, that he hath him with himself, freed from fear? All these are expressions of joy, whereby we do in a holy valour laugh at death," saith Chrys. there. And this is Christian-like, whereas if we be sad and dejected as men without hope, mortem Christi, qua mors superata est, Calumniamur; [we disgrace the death of Christ, that hath conquered death: and Heathens and Atheists will deride us, saying, how can these contemn death, that cannot patiently behold a dead friend? talk what you will of the Resurrection, when you are out of passion, it is no great matter, nor perswades much; but shew me a man in passion of grief for the loss of his friend, playing the Philosopher, and triumphantly singing to God for his happy deliverance, and I will believe the Resurrection. Of so good use are such triumphant hymns at this time: and of this sort are the three first.
X. The priest meeting the corpse.] The rites of funeral exportation appear in antiquity so various as it is not easy by literal interpretation to determine of them that they are not contradictory. By the fourth council of Carthage it was decreed, ut mortuos ecclesie penitentes efferant et sepeliant, “that the penitents which were under excommunication should carry the bodies of Christians to the burial.” Where Epiphanius lived, others were peculiarly designed for this office, these were called κοπιάται, οἱ Ta σώματα περιστέλλονTes TOV κοιμωμένων, “ whose care was conversant about the disposal of dead bodies.” Whether voluntary charity inclined these copiates to this office, or whether they were hirelings and mercenary, I cannot determine; the labour they underwent maketh me suspect them servile, and of the lowest row. On the contrary, Nazianzen>, speaking of St. Basil’s funeral, saith, προεκομίζετο ὁ ἅγιος χερσίν ἁγίων ὑψούμενος, i.e. “his body was taken up and carried by the saints.” Which saints may very well be esteemed the eminentest of Christians, especially when this St. Gregory’s scholar, St. Jerome, tells us that his famous Paula was éranslata episcoporum manibus, et cervicem feretro subjicientibus, “carried by the bishops supporting the bier with their hands and shoulders. Whereby the office was not it seems so servile, nor of such disparagement as the first authorities would pretend to render it.
To bring these ends nearer together, and yet not to depreciate and undervalue the credit of the witnesses, I conceive the best way is to yield up all for true, and that the bishops and eminent persons did assume this office only at the first egress from the house, and also at the last ingress into the church; and that the great toil and drudgery between both was undergone by penitents, as part of their canonical penance, or by the copiate, who therefore gained the name of labourers, because they contracted a lassitude by bearing the corpse to church. But by these, all, or which you will, the corpse went ὕμνοις ἐξ ὕμνων παραπεμπόμενος, “in state with psalmodies one after another.” Ti of ὕμνοι; οὐχὶ τὸν θεὸν δοξάζομεν, καὶ εὐχαριστοῦμεν ὅτι λοιπὸν ἐστεφάνωσε τὸν ἀπελθόντα ; “ what’s the matter, what means this singing of psalms?” expostulateth St. Chrysostom, and then makes answer, “do we not praise and glorify God, because, at length, He hath given the deceased a crown of glory?” The body being in this solemn pomp brought to the church, was placed in media ecclesia‘, “in the midst of the church ;” over which, before interment, there was usually made, in praise of the dead, a funeral oration, and sometimes more than one. For as I said before of sermons upon other occasions, so at funeral solemnities, orations were performed by many, the first, at the end of his harangue or speech, usually raising up another. So St. Basil in his upon St. Barlaam ; te παιδικοῖς ἐλαττῶ τὸν ἀριστέα ψελλίσμασι;: ταῖς μεγαλοπρεπεστέραις τὸν εἰς αὐτὸν ὕμνον παρωχωρήσωμεν γλώτταις, τὰς μεγαλοφωνοτέρας τῶν διδασκάλων ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ καλέσωμεν σαλπίγγας. ἀνάστητέ μοι νῦν, ὅτο.: “but why do I, by my childish stammering, disparage this triumphant martyr? Let me give way for more eloquent tongues to resound his praise; let me call up the louder trumpets of more famous doctors to set him forth. Arise, then, I say,” &c. And so Nazianzen bespeaketh St. Basil, being present at his father’s funeral, ἐπάφες THY σὴν φωνὴν, “strike up with thine own voice.”
The Sentences. SINCE the following a dear and beloved friend to the grave must naturally raise, in us some melancholy and concern, the Church calls in the aids of religion to raise and cheer our dejected hearts. It was with this design that pious antiquity carried out their dead with hymns of triumph, as conquerors that had gloriously finished their course, and were now going to receive their crown of victory. To this end again were those hallelujahs sung of old, as they went to the grave; a custom still retained in many parts of this nation, where they divert the grief of the friends and mourners by singing psalms from the house to the very entrance of the churchyard. And here the holy man comes forth to meet us, and immediately salutes us with the gospel of peace. And indeed whither should we go for consolations on this occasion, hut to that storehouse of comfort, which is furnished with remedies for every grief?
The Priest and Clerks meeting the Corpse at the entrance of the Church-yard, and going before it, either into the Church, or towards the Grave, shall say, or sing,
Y. I am the Resurrection.] Our solemn attending on the hearse of a deceased friend, the embalming of him with a funeral oration, the care to see him decently inhumed, and all other dues of exterior honour we pay to that noble clod, are but those civilities which ethnic philosophy hath dictated to her disciples. God certainly expects more from Christianity, than from infidelity ; He expecteth from Christians conformity to His own precepts, whereof this is one, wa μὴ λυπῆσθε, καθῶς καὶ οἱ λοιποὶ. Not iva μὴ λυπῆσθε, “that ye be not sorrowful at all, at the loss of your friends ;’” not so, the tears our blessed Saviour shed at the death of Lazarus, legitimate and warrant ours; but we must not be sorrowful, καθῶς of λοιποὶ, “as others are,” some Jews, as the Sadducees and all heathens: how that? of μὴ ἔχοντες ἐλπίδα, “that are without hope.” They give all for lost ; if some few dreamed of . I know not what Elysian fields for the soul, yet generally concerning the body they were of opinion with the tragedian, post mortem nihil est; after death, nulla retrorsum, “no hope that ever the body should recover life,” and be re-united with the soul. So that upon such occasions hope is our Christian duty; our duty, I say, not our compliment, not what we may do, or leave undone, but what we must do. Now the proper object of this hope is the resurrection of the body, which followeth in the next verse, “them which sleep in Jesus, will God bring with Him.”
So then here is cause of great comfort as to the state of our departed friend: what though for the present, and an inconsiderable moment, his flesh shall rot and waste to dust, yet shall it rise again, and be restored to a state of glory; and as this meditation is of singular consolation in respect of the dead, so is it no less applied to the living. That spectacle of mortality presented to the eyes of the beholders, is lecture enough to assure them of their like change; and what must they do in the interim? The Apostle bids them hope ; for what? for temporal benefits and accommodations? for things of this life? No. “If in this life 1 Cor.15.13. only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” Of the resurrection of their flesh unto glory and eternal life? This undoubtedly. So then funeral solemnities ought to excite in us hope, that is, a certain expectation of the general resurrection.
Nor will closet soliloquies, and private contemplation of that day, serve our turns; it is a sociable duty, for so the Apostle makes it, “ Comfort yourselves one another with these words.’ What words? With discourses concerning the resurrection. (The premised context certainly implieth as much) as if he should say, that they who are laid into the earth, and nothing said at their interment, declaring the mystery of the resurrection, let their bodies be never so decently treated, human they may, Christian burial they cannot have. From all this which hath been said, the excellency of our Church her burial office, and the true conformity it beareth to canonical Scripture, will evidently appear. Of the whole service three parts of four are nothing else but pure canonical Scripture, the choicest parcels thereof being collected thence to declare the doctrine of the resurrection, agreeable to the primitive practice: οἱ λειτουργοὶ τὰς ἐν τοῖς θείοις λογίοις ἐμφερομένας ἀψευδεῖς ἐπαγγελίας περὶ τῆς ἱερᾶς ἡμῶν ἀναστάσεως ἀναγνόντες, ἱερῶς ἄδουσι τὰς ὁμολόγους καὶ ταὐτοδυνάμους τῶν ψαλμικῶν λογίων woasi: “the ministers reading those undoubted promises which are exhibited in sacred Scripture concerning our holy resurrection, next devoutly sung such of the sacred psalms as were of the same subject and argument.” For the rest, the praying part; what is it but the application of that doctrine to the benefit of the living, and a desire that they with all the faithful departed, may at that day “ have perfect consummation and bliss both in body and soul?”
He begins with the words which were spoken at first by the blessed JESUS, as he was going towards the grave of a beloved friend, with intent to comfort a pious mourner; words so proper to the occasion, that they have been used in the Burial-office of almost all Churches whatever. Poor Martha’s affection and sorrow for her brother had almost swallowed up her faith in Jesus, and it is not unusual for the same passions still to prevail to the same excessive degree: hut our Lord here comforts both her and us, by reminding us of his omnipotence, and absolute power to raise the dead, and restore them to life, as well in a natural as a spiritual sense. If then we can recover but the exercise of our faith, we shall be much more at ease; as remembering that the soul of our deceased friend, though parted from his body, is still alive, and that even his corpse, which we follow, shall live again as soon as ever Christ shall call it.
The next grace to be exercised at this time is patience, which, upon these occasions, is often violently assaulted by worldly considerations: for when we reflect on our own loss in being deprived of a friend; or descend lower, to reflect upon the comforts of the world which he hath left behind him, our passions are apt to overflow. But here a third sentence comes in to allay both these griefs. We have lost, perhaps, a tender, dear, and useful friend: but what then? we brought no friends with us into the world, nor can we carry them out from hence. They were given us by God, who can raise up others in their stead; and they are taken away by him, to wean our affections from any thing here. We should therefore rather bless the Giver for the time we have enjoyed them, than murmur at his taking them, after he has lent them us so long.
Again, as to our friend, it is true, he is going naked to the grave: but alas! he goes no otherwise than he came: for (saith the Wise Man) as he came forth of his mother’s womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand. He shall carry nothing away with him (saith the Psalmist) when he dieth, neither shall his pomp follow him. Whatever he had, or possessed here, was only useful to him so long as he stayed: where is the misfortune then, if, upon removing from hence, he leaves that behind him, which will be of no service to him in the place he is going to? Whilst he was engaged on this stage of the world, God furnished him with a habit suitable to the part which he expected him to perform: shall any of us therefore think it strange, that the actor is undressed when his part is done? In a word, let us consider ourselves tinder what character we please, there is still the same reason to join with the holy penmen in these noble reflections; We brought nothing into me world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out; the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.
Psalms always used at Christian funerals. THOUGH joy, at the first glance, may seem unsuitable to a funeral solemnity; yet, upon due reflection, we shall be of another opinion. The wiser sort of heathens bury their dead with expressions of joy, lamenting themselves for staying behind, whilst their friend is gone to be immortalized above. And that hymns and psalms were always used upon the like occasions by the primitive Christians, is abundantly testified by the ancient writers. In the Greek Church the order is much the same as in ours, viz. that when they come into the church the body shall be set down in the lower end thereof , and then they shall begin the ninetieth psalm. This, together with the thirty-ninth, are what our own Church uses on this occasion; both which will appear, upon a little reflection, to be exactly agreeable to this solemnity.
After they are come into the Church, shall be read one or both of these Psalms following.
The thirty-ninth Psalm is supposed to have been composed by David, upon Joab’s reproaching him for his public grief for Absalom’s death; and is of use in this place, to direct and comfort those that mourn, to check all loud and unseemly complaints, and to turn them into prayers and devout meditations.
The other was composed by Moses in the wilderness, upon the death of that vast multitude, who, for their murmuring and infidelity, were sentenced to leave their carcasses in the wilderness; and who accordingly wasted by little and little before they came into the land of Canaan. Upon this the prophet breaks forth into these religious meditations, not accusing the divine providence, but applying all to the best advantage; shewing us withal what thoughts we should entertain, when we have the prospect of a funeral before our eyes; viz. that we should reflect upon, and consider our own lot, and endeavour to apply the instance of mortality now before us, to the bettering and improving of our own condition.
In the first book of king Edward, instead of the Psalms of which we have now been speaking, there were three others appointed, viz. the 115th, the 139th, and 146th. And when they were left out at the next review, there were no other whatever ordered in the room of them, till these were inserted at king Charles’s restoration.
II. The Lesson. After the Psalms out of the Old Testament, follows the proper Lesson out of the New: for since the faith of the resurrection is not only the principal article of a Christian’s belief, but also the article which chiefly concerns us on this occasion, (as well to allay our sorrow for the party deceased, as to prepare us freely to follow him when God shall call us;) therefore the Church has chosen here the fullest account of the resurrection of the dead that the whole Scripture affords; that article being here so strongly proved, so plainly described, and so pertinently applied, that nothing could have been more suitable to the present purpose; for which reason we find it has always been used in this office of the Church.
§.3. The Psalms and Lesson, whether ever to be omitted. By the first Common Prayer, both the Psalms and Lesson, with the suffrages above mentioned, were to be said in the church either before or after the burial of the corpse. But from that time to the restoration of king Charles, the Lesson (for I have observed during all that time there were no Psalms) was appointed to be read wherever the grave was, whether in the church, or churchyard, immediately after the sentence taken out of the Revelation. But the Presbyterians objecting that this exposed both Minister and people to many inconveniences, by standing in the air, there was a rubric added at the last review, which orders, that the Psalms and Lesson shall be said after they care come into the church: so that now, I suppose, it is again left to the Minister’s discretion (as it was in the rubric of the first book of king Edward) whether he will read them before or after the burial of the corpse. For the second rubric at the beginning of the office permits him to go to the church or to the grave, i.e. to either of them directly, which he pleases: nor is there any further direction, that if he goes into the church, it shall be before he goes to the grave: but only that after they are come into the church, one or both of the Psalms shall be read with the Lesson that follows; and when they come to the grave, the rest of the devotions that are to be used.
I know some are of opinion, that the design of the rubrics, as they are worded now, is to give liberty to the Minister to go immediately to the grave, and so wholly to omit the Lesson and Psalms: but if that were the design of them» one would have expected some hint that they might be omitted; whereas the expression in the rubric, after they are come into the church, seems to suppose that either first or last they will come thither. I am therefore rather inclined to think, that the meaning of leaving the ruhric so dubious is, that if the Minister go directly into the church, the grave being there, he should use the Psalms and Lesson before the burial: but if the grave be without the church, he may first go thither to bury the corpse, and then afterwards, to prevent any inconveniency from the air, proceed to the church itself, to read the Psalms and Lesson, according to the rubric in the first Common Prayer. For I do not know any instance in the whole Liturgy besides, where the Minister is at liberty to leave out so considerable a part of an office, when it is so proper to be used. But I only give this as my private opinion: for I know it belongs to a much higher authority to appease diversity, and to resolve doubts concerning the manner how to understand, do, and execute the things contained in this book.
Then shall follow the Lesson taken out of the fifteenth Chapter of the former Epistle of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.
When they come to the Grave, while the corps is made ready to be laid into the grave, the Priest shall say or sing, Man that is born of a Woman, &c.] closing with a most devout prayer for grace and assistence in our last hour; a prayer very suitable to such a time, and such a spectacle before us.
I. The meditation at the grave. WHEN the body is stript of all but its grave-attire, and is just going to be put into the ground, it is most like to make the deepest impression upon us, and to strike us with the most serious apprehensions of our mortality. This happy opportunity the Church is unwilling to lose; and therefore, whilst we are in such good dispositions of mind, she presents us with a noble strain of devotion, consisting of a meditation on the shortness,, and misery, and uncertainty of life, together with an acknowledgment of our dependence on Goa, whom yet we have disobliged and offended with our sins. However, we presume to fly to him for succour, and beg of him to preserve us from eternal death hereafter, and to support us under the pains of temporal death here.
When they come to the Grave, while the Corpse is made ready to be laid into the earth, the Priest shall say, or the Priest and Clerks shall sing:
Then they commit the body to the earth (not as a lost and perislied carkass, but as having in it a seed of eternity) in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life. This is to bury it Christianly; the hope of the resurrection, being the proper hope of Christians. Such was the Christians burial of old, that it was accounted both an evident argument and presage of the resurrection; and an honour done to that body, which the Holy Ghost had once made his Temple for the Offices of piety. Aug. de Civit. l. 1. c. 13.
II. The taking leave of the body. Next after this follows the solemn interment: immediately before which the Gentiles took their leave of their deceased friends, by bidding them Farewell for ever. And the ancient Christians used to give a parting kiss of charity, just as the body was about to he put into the grave, to declare their affection, and evidence that he died in the unity and peace of the Church, a custom still retained in the Greek Church, and in some of the northern parts of England.
§. 2. The position of the corpse in the grave. As for the posture or position of the corpse in the grave, it hath been always a custom to bury them with their feet eastward, and their face upwards, that so at the resurrection they may be ready to meet Christ, who is expected from the east, and that they may be in a posture of prayer as soon as they are raised.
§. 3. The throwing earth upon the body. Casting earth upon the body was esteemed an act of piety by the very heathens; insomuch that to find a body unburied, and leave it uncovered, was judged amongst them a great crime. In the Greek Church this has been accounted so essential to the solemnity, that it is ordered to be done by the Priest himself. And the same was enjoined by our own rubric in the first Common Prayer of king Edward VI. But in our present Liturgy it is only ordered that it shall be cast upon the body by some standing by: and so it is generally left to one of the bearers, or sexton, who, according to Horace’s description, gives three casts of earth upon the body or coffin, whilst the Priest pronounces the solemn form which explains the ceremony, viz. Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
§. 4. The form of words. And indeed the whole form of words, which the Priest is to use whilst the ceremony is performed, is very pertinent and significant.* The phrase of committed his body to the ground, implies, that we deliver it into safe custody, and into such hands as will faithfully restore it again. We do not cast it away as a lost and perished carcass; but carefully lay it in the ground, as having in it a seed of eternity, and in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life: not that we believe that every one we bury shall rise again to joy and felicity, or profess this sure and certain hope of the resurrection of the person that is now interred. It is not his resurrection, but HIS resurrection, that is here expressed; nor do we go on to mention the change of his body, in the singular number, but of our vile body, which comprehends the bodies of Christians in general. That this is the sense and meaning of the words, may be shewn from the other parallel form which the Church has appointed to be used at the burial of the dead at sea,* And this being a principal article of our faith, it is highly reasonable that we should publicly acknowledge and declare our steadfastness in it, when we lay the body of any Christian in the grave.
Then, while the earth shall be cast upon the Body by some standing by, the Priest shall say,
Z. In sure and certain hope of the resurrection.] These words have not, as some mistake, peculiar reference to the party deceased, but import the faith of the congregation, then present, in the article of the resurrection, and that their own bodies shall rise again to eternal life, as is evident by the words, “shall change our vile bodies,” where the plural excludes the restraint to a singular number.
Then shall be said or sung,
III. The Sentence out of the Revelation. After the foregoing form follows a consolatory sentence from Rev. 14:3, to be said by the Priest alone, or to be sung by him and the Clerks together. The propriety of it to the present solemnity occasioned its being used in the Western Church many centuries ago. It is a special revelation that was made to St. John, and ordered to be recorded forever by him, to be a perpetual consolation in relation to the state of departed saints. For since JESUS hath now conquered death, from henceforth blessed are the dead which die in the Lord. They are no more, to be lamented, but to be the subjects of our joy. The Spirit assures us that they rest from their labours, their work is done, their warfare accomplished, and now they enjoy crowns of victory as the rewards of their pains.
IV. The Lord's Prayer. But though the deceased rest from their labours, yet we are in the midst of ours: and therefore in the next place we proceed to pray for our own salvation, and the consummation of our own happiness, beginning first (as in most other offices) with the lesser Litany and Lord’s Prayer.
After follows another Triumphant Hymn. Then a Lesson out of S. PAVL to the same purpose; Then a Thanksgiving for that our brothers safe delivery out of misery; Lastly a Prayer for his and our consummation in Glory, and joyful Absolution at the last day. By all which prayers, praises, and holy Lessons, and decent solemnities, we do glorifie God, honour the dead, and comfort the living.
Take away these prayers, praises and holy lessons, which were ordained to shew at Burials, the peculiar hope of the Church of the Resurrection of the dead, and in the manner of the dumb funerals, what one thing is there, whereby the world may perceive that we are Christians? HOOKER l. 5. Eccl. pol. §. 75. There being in those dumb shews nothing but what heathens and pagans do, How can any unlearned or unbeliever be convinced by them, that either we who are present at them do, or that he ought to believe any part of Christian Religion? but when the unlearned or unbeliever hears us sing triumphant songs to God for our victory over death, when he hears holy Lessons and discourses of the Resurrection, when he hears us pray for a happy and joyful Resurrection to Glory: by all these he must be convinced, that we do believe the Resurrection, which is a principal Article of Christian faith, and the same may be the means to convince him also, and make him believe the same, and so fall down and worship God. And this is according to S. Paul's rule, 1 Cor. 14. 23, 24, 25. who thence concludes, that all our publick religious services ought to be done, that the unlearned or unbeliever may be convinced, and brought to worship God.
The two prayers. After this follow two other Prayers; in each of which there is such a noble mixture of acts of faith and hope concerning the state of our deceased friend, and of prayers and petitions for our happiness with him, as, being duly attended to, will effectually pacify that unnecessary erief, which is pernicious to ourselves without benefiting the deceased; and will turn our thoughts to a due care of our own souls, in order to our meeting again, with infinitely more joy, than we now part with sorrow and grief.
§.2. Hope of the party's salvation, how much it necessarily implies. Against the last of these prayers it is often objected that we make declaration of hope that all we bury are saved. In order to appease the scruples about which, as far as the nature of the expression will bear, we desire it may be considered, that there are very different degrees of hope, the lowest of which is but one remove from despair. Now there are but very few with whom we are concerned, that die in a state so utterly desperate, as that we may positively affirm they are damned; which yet we might do, did we absolutely and entirely despair of their salvation. It remains, therefore, that we must have some, though very faint hopes of their salvation: and this seems sufficient to warrant this declaration, especially if it be pronounced as faintly as the hope itself is entertained. However, it must be confessed, that it is very plain, from the whole tenor of this office, that the compilers of it, presuming upon a due exercise of discipline, never supposed that any would be offered to Christian burial, who had not led Christian lives. But since iniquity hath so far prevailed over the discipline of the Church, that schismatics, heretics, and all manner of vicious livers, escape its censures, this gloss seems the best that our present circumstances will admit of. And if it be not satisfactory, there seems to be no other remedy left, than that our governors should leave us to a discretionary use of these expressions, either till they be altered by public authority, or, which is much rather to be wished, till discipline be so vigorously exercised, that there be no offence in the use of them.
§. 3. Celebration of the Communion at funerals formerly appointed. The prayer, against which this objection is made, is in our present Common Prayer Book called the Collect: the reason of which is, because in king Edward’s first book, at the end of the Burial-office, there is an order for the celebration of the holy Communion when there is a burial of the dead. The forty-second Psalm is appointed for the introit. The prayer I am now speaking of, with a little alteration at the end, which I shall give by and by, stands there for the Collect; 1 Thess. 4:13 to the end, is ordered for the Epistle; and for the Gospel, St. John 6:37 to 48.
Receiving the Eucharist at funerals is not without precedents in the ancient Church. Bishop Cosin was of opinion, that “the design of it was to declare, that the dead person departed out of this life in the public faith and unity of the Catholic Church of Christ. From whence, saith he, we learn, what the reason was, that Monica, the mother of St. Augustine, so much desired to be remembered at the altar after her death, which was not (as the fond and ignorant sort of people among the new Roman Catholics imagine) to fetch her soul so much the sooner out of purgatory, (for the papal purgatory fire was not then kindled or known;) but partly to testify her faithful departure in the religion and communion among all other good Christians; and partly to have praise and thanksgivings rendered to Almighty God, for her happy departure out of this world to a better; and partly also, that by the prayers of the Church, made at the celebration of the holy Eucharist, and by virtue of Christ’s death and sacrifice therein commemorated, she might obtain a joyful resurrection of her body out of the grave, and have her perfect consummation of glory, both in body and soul, in God’s everlasting kingdom.” “Innocent (saith Mr. L’Estrange) was this rite, whilst it preserved its first intent: but it degenerating from its original purity, by masses and dirges sung for the souls of the dead, wisely was it done of our second Reformers, to remove not only the evils themselves of such heterodox opinions, but even the occasions of them also, viz. the Communion used at Burials.” Which being so evident as to matter of fact, (for the second book of king Edward was published without it,) it may seem something strange, how it came to be reprinted in the Latin translation of queen Elizabeth’s Common Prayer Book, in the second year of her reign. That this was not a translation of a private pen not licensed by authority, and so the effect of mistake, or a clandestine practice, (as bishop Sparrow conjectures,) is plain from its being done by the command of the queen, and by her recommendation of it to the two Universities, and to the colleges of Winchester and Eton: and particularly by the express words of her Majesty’s proclamation, wherein she declares, that some things peculiar at the funerals of Christians she had added and commanded to be used, the Act for Uniformity, set forth in the first year of her reign, to the contrary notwithstanding. Perhaps it might have been ordered for the same reason that I have supposed the reservation of the elements was allowed, or indulged to those learned societies by the same book, viz. because they were in less danger of abusing it, and it might contribute to reconcile them the easier to the Reformation.
I have already hinted that the close of the prayer, which is called the Collect in our present office, was different, as it stood in the first Common Prayer, from what it is now. The present conclusion of it was taken from the end of another prayer, which was then in this office; but of which the beginning has ever since been left out: but the best way to give the reader a clear notion of it, is to transcribe the prayers at the bottom of the page, whither therefore I refer him.
§. 4. The blessing. The blessing was added at the end of the whole office at the last review, of which enough has been said in other places.
§. 5. The peal. The whole solemnity is concluded with another peal, which the same canon orders after the Burial, that appoints one before it.