THe Woman when she comes to give her thanks, shall kneel near to the place where the holy Table stands: but in the Church of Rome, she was to kneel at the Church door.
The Woman may come to give her thanks, whensoever she shall be able, Decretal. l. 3. Tit. 4. But if she be likely to live, she is required by the Civil Law, according to the Tradition of the Church, to forbear the coming to partake of the holy Mystery forty days after the Birth. Not for any unholiness in the Woman, or incapacity of receiving the holy Mysteries at that time; (for if there be fear of death, she may receive them, as soon as she please after the birth;) but for some secret reasons in the Law, which are set down, Constit. Leon. 7.
The Woman that is to be Churched, is to have a Veil; and good reason; For if as S. Paul 1 Cor. 11. sayes, Every woman, when she prayes in publick, ought to have a veil or covering on her head, in token of her modesty and subjection: then much more, when she is to sit in a more eminent place of the Church, near to the holy Table, apart from the rest of her Sex, in the publick view, ought she to have such a Veil or covering. Nor can it be deemed unreasonable for her at that time to have a Veil or habit distinct from others; that so it may be known, for whom thanks is then particularly given.
Α. The thanksgiving of women after childbirth.] When holy Scripture is concerned most graphically to describe sorrow superlative, and at the height, it assimilateth it to that of a woman in travail. If this sorrow be so excessive, how great must the joy be to be delivered from that sorrow? Commensurate certainly, and of adequate proportion: and no less must the dues of thankfulness be to the benefactor, the donor of that recovery ; whence a necessity of thanksgiving of women after childbirth.
But cannot this as well be done in private, at home in her family, or in her closet, without putting the Church to the cost of contriving a solemn office for it, considering there are other personal deliverances, wherein the dispensations of God’s mercy are as manifest, whereof she takes no notice? I answer, other deliverances present themselves in so many schemes, some being from fire, some from water, some from the casual ruin of houses, and other things endangering us, some from our own precipitations, some in war, some in peace, &c., as it is scarce possible to frame forms enough to suit all emergencies; and were they framed, rarely would they be made use of, in regard the occasions to which they relate so seldom occur; and then what would they prove but an unnecessary cumber: whereas this preservation out of child-bed pangs observeth one constant shape, so as one form is applicable to all, and almost daily provoketh to the duty. But it may be further opposed, that thousands are seized with corporal maladies, which are accompanied with as great periclitation, whom God sometimes, even to miracle, restoreth to their former strength, that those demonstrations of His protection appear very frequent, that one form of thanksgiving would commodiously enough agree with all, yet hath the Church appointed no such form. I answer, that our Church in this offer did not so much take measure of the peril, as accommodate herself to that note of separation which God Himself had put betwixt Gen. 3.16. this and other maladies. To “ conceive and bring forth in sorrow” was signally inflicted upon Eve, and in her upon all mothers, as a penalty for her first disobedience ; “ multiplying I will multiply thy sorrows and thy conception ;” the very breeding fits and nauseous qualms constitute a part of this chastisement. “In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children,” i. 6. the very fruit of thy womb, which by an Almighty power thou shouldest otherwise have been delivered of, without the least sense of pain, shall, henceforward, in the very act of parturition, put thee to the extremity of torment; so that the sorrows of childbirth have, by God’s express determination, a more direct and peculiar reference to Eve’s disobedience, than any other disease whatsoever, and though all maladies are the product of the first sin, yet is the malediction fixed and applied in specification to this alone. Now, when that which was ordained primarily, as a curse for the first sin, is converted to so great a blessing, God is certainly in that case more to be praised in a set and a solemn office.
Β. Churching of women.] The former word was purification, worthily expunged by our second reformers: this notwithstanding, we are charged by some weak opponents to judaize in the office; a slander certainly, a great, a senseless one, and it will appear no less to any who shall compare the Jewish or Levitical and the English practice together. First, the Jewish woman was interdicted the sanctuary forty days at least. The English woman withdraweth but her month. No judaizing there. Secondly, the Jewish woman was forbidden, because unclean, expressly so; the English woman abstaineth not upon any such account. If she did, first, the customary circuit of the same cause would operate, at every return, the same effect (sequestration from the congregation) in her, as it did in the Jewish; but our Church commands no such mensurnal forbearance. Again, the same pollution would as long debar her infant also, (as it did the Jewish,) which must needs take part of the mother’s impurity; but our Church not only admitteth, but commands all infants (where necessity interposeth not) into the church within a week at the farthest. So no judaizing there. Thirdly, the Jewish woman was interdicted, that is, excluded by necessity of law; the English woman not so, her separation is voluntary, not commanded by any law of our reformed Church, no nor by the canon law; nunc statim post partum ecclesiam ingredi non prohibetur; “now under the gospel, she may, if she please, there’s no prohibition to the contrary, enter the church as soon as she is delivered.” No judaizing here. Lastly, the Jewish woman was bound to legal offerings, a lamb, turtles or pigeons. The English woman is tied to none of these, only enjoined evangelical oblations, poor pittances, and inconsiderable retributions, yet such as God graciously accepts by the hands of His ministers, as evidences of a grateful heart, for so eminent a blessing. This, if any, is all the resemblance this office beareth to the Jewish rite, which cannot certainly be blamed but upon a false hypothesis, that we are obliged not to be thankful to God for this mercy because the Jews were so.
Now if it be demanded upon what motives this month’s abstinence from church is founded, I answer, upon custom and uninterrupted practice, practice that had strong inducements to it. First, some reasons of conveniency latent, and not so fit to be declared. Secondly, a provident regard to the woman’s personal safety. The whole structure of her body suffereth a kind of luxation through her labour, and therefore requireth no few days to knit and re-consolidate; she becomes feeble in her strength, wasted in her spirits, and such decays of nature are not repaired on the sudden. The pores of her skin by exsudations are relaxed, and when so many wind-doors are open, the cold air (death’s usual harbinger) is ready to enter. So that her stay at home is of medical prescription.
Why placed after the office for the Burial of the Dead. ONE would think that, after an office for the Burial of the Dead, no other should be expected; and yet we see here another rises to our view, which the Church has appointed for the use of such women as have been safe delivered form the great pain and peril of childbirth, and which she has placed in her Liturgy after the office foregoing, to intimate, as it were, that such a woman’s recovery is next to a revival or resurrection from the dead. For indeed the birth of man is so truly wonderful, that it seems to be designed as a standing demonstration of the omnipotence of God. And therefore that the frequency of it may not diminish our admiration, the Church orders a public and solemn acknowledgment to be made on every such occasion by the woman on whom the miracle is wrought: who still feels the bruise of our first parent’s fall, and labours under the curse which Eve then entailed upon her whole sex.
§. 2. The original of it. As to the original of this custom, it is not to be doubted, but that as many other Christian usages received their rise from other parts of the Jewish economy, so did this from the rite of Purification, which is enjoined so particularly in the twelfth chapter of Leviticus. Not that we observe it by virtue of that precept, which we grant to have been ceremonial, and so not now of any force; but because we apprehend some moral duty to have been implied in it by way of analogy, which must be obligatory upon all, even when the ceremony is ceased. The uncleanness of the woman, the set number of days she is to abstain from the tabernacle, and the sacrifices she was to offer when she first came abroad, are rites wholly abolished, and what we noways regard: but then the open and solemn acknowledgment of God’s goodness in delivering the mother, and increasing the number of mankind, is a duty that will oblige to the end of the world. And therefore though the mother he now no longer obliged to offer the material sacrifices of the law, yet she is nevertheless bound to offer the evangelical sacrifice of praise. She is still publicly to acknowledge the blessing vouchsafed her, and to profess her sense of the fresh obligation it lays her under to obedience. Nor indeed may the Church be so reasonably supposed to have taken up this rite from the practice of the Jews, as she may be, that she began it in imitation of the blessed Virgin, who though she was rather sanctified than defiled by the birth of our Lord, and so had no need of Purification from any uncleanness, whether legal or moral, yet wisely and humbly submitted to this rite, and offered her praise, together with her blessed Son, in the temple. And that from hence this usage was derived among Christians, seems probable, not only from its being so universal and ancient, that the beginning of it can hardly any where be found: but also from the practice of the Eastern Church, where the mother still brings the child along with her, and presents it to God on her churching-day. The Priest indeed is there said to purify them: and in our first Common Prayer, this office with us was entitled The Order of the Purification of Women. But that neither of these terms implied, that the woman had contracted any uncleanness in her state of childbearing, may not only be inferred from the silence of the offices both in the Greek Church and ours in relation to any uncleanness; but is also further evident from the ancient laws relating to this practice, which by no means ground it upon any impurity, from which the woman stands in need to be purged. And therefore, when our own Liturgy came to be reviewed, to prevent all misconstructions that might be put upon the word, the title was altered, and the office named (as it is still in our present Common Prayer Book) The Thanksgiving of Women after Childbirth, commonly called The Churching of Women.
The woman to be churched at the usual time after the delivery. IN the Greek Church, the time for performing this office is limited to be on the fortieth day; and therefore the office with them is called, The Prayer for a woman forty days after childbearing. But in the West the time was never strictly determined, as will appear from the Salisbury Manual, which was of use here in England before the Reformation, where the old rubric runs thus: Note, That women after childbirth may come to church, and, giving thanks, be purified whenever they will, and they are not guilty of any sin in so doing: neither is the entrance of the church to he denied them, lest we turn their punishment into a crime; but if, out of reverence, they will abstain for some time, their devotion is not to be disallowed. And as this was consonant to the ancient canons of the Church, in relation to this affair, so is it agreeable to our present rubric; which does not pretend to limit the day when the woman shall be churched, but only supposes that she will come at the usual time after her delivery. The usual time is now about a month: for the woman’s weakness will seldom permit her coming sooner. And if she be not able to come so soon, she is allowed to stay a longer time; the Church not expecting her to return her thanks for a blessing before it is received.
§. 2. The office to be always performed in the church. It is only required that whenever she does it, she shall come into the church. And this is enjoined, first, for the honour of God, whose marvellous works in the formation of the child, and the preservation of the woman, ought publicly to be owned, that so others may learn to put their trust in him. Secondly, that the whole congregation may have a fit opportunity for praising God for the too much forgotten mercy of their birth. And, thirdly, that the woman may in the proper place own the mercy now vouchsafed her, of being restored to the happy privilege of worshipping God in the congregation of his saints.
The absurdity of being churched at home. How great therefore is the absurdity which some would introduce of stifling their acknowledgments in private houses, and of giving thanks for their recovery and enlargement in no other place than that of their confinement ana restraint! a practice which is inconsistent with the very name of this office, which is called The Churching of Women, and which consequently implies a ridiculous solecism of being churched at home. Nor is it any thing more consistent with the end and devotions prescribed by this office, than it is with the name of it. For with what decency or propriety can the woman pretend to pay her vows in the presence of all God’s people, in the courts of the Lord’s house, when she is only assuming state in a bedchamber or parlour, and perhaps only accompanied with her midwife or nurse? To give thanks therefore at home (for by no means call it churching) is not only an act of disobedience to the Church, but a high affront to Almighty God; whose mercy they scorn to acknowledge in a church, and think it honour enough done him, if he is summoned by his Priest to wait on them at their houses, and to take what thanks they will vouchsafe him there. But me thinks a Minister, who has any regard for his character, and considers the honour of the Lord he serves, should disdain such a servile compliance and submission, and abhor the betraying his Master’s dignity. Here can be no pretence of danger in the case, should the woman prove obstinate, upon the Priest’s refusal, (which Ministers are apt to urge for their excuse, when they are prevailed upon to give public baptism in private;) nor is the decision of a Council wanting to instruct him (if he has any doubts upon account of the woman’s ill health) that he is not to perform this office at home, though she be really so weak as not to be able to come to church. For if she be not able to come to church, let her stay till she is; God does not require any thanks for a mercy before he has vouchsafed it: but if she comes as soon as her strength permits, she discharges her obligations both to him and the Church.
§. 3. The woman to be decently aparelled. Veils used formerly. When the woman comes to this office, the rubric (as it was altered at the last review) directs that she be decently apparelled, i.e. as the custom and order was formerly, with a white covering, or veil. And we find that as late as in the reign of king James I, an order was made by the chancellor of Norwich, that every woman who came to be churched should come thus apparelled; an order it seems so well founded upon the practice of the Church, that a woman refusing to conform with it was excommunicated for contempt And though she prayed a prohibition, and alleged in her defence, that such order was not warranted by any custom or canon of the Church of England, yet she got no relief; for the judges desiring the opinion of the archbishop of Canterbury; and he, together with several other bishops, whom he convened to consult upon it, certifying that it was the ancient usage of the Church of England for women to come veiled, who came to be churched; a prohibition was refused her. But that custom having now for some time been discontinued, long enough I suppose to make it obsolete, I take the decency of the woman’s apparel to be left entirely to her own discretion.
§. 4. Where to kneel. The woman being come into the church decently apparelled, must there kneel down in some convenient place, as has been accustomed. To know where that is, it is necessary that we look back into the Old Common Prayer Books. king Edward’s first Liturgy says, in some convenient place, nigh unto the quire-door, which is still rendered plainer by all the other Common Prayer Books from that time till this present one, which say it must be nigh unto the place where the Table standeth, i.e. to be sure, at the rails of the Communion Table, or where she is to kneel if she receives the Communion, which the last rubric of this office declares it is convenient she should do, if there be any Communion in the church at that time. And that this same place is meant by our present rubric, which orders her to kneel in some convenient place, as has been accustomed, is evident, because we see that was the accustomed and appointed place, when these words were put in. It is true, the Presbyterians, at the Conference in the Savoy, objected against the rubric as it was worded then: And in regard that the woman’s kneeling near the table was in many churches inconvenient, they desired that those words might be left out; and that the Minister might perform that service in the desk or pulpit. And it is also true, that these words were accordingly left out, and the rubric altered thus, viz. that the woman should kneel in some convenient place, as has been accustomed, or as the Ordinary shall direct. But yet it is plain, that wherever the Ordinary does not otherwise direct, the woman is still to kneel in the accustomed place. And that the accustomed place, till the last review, was nigh unto the place where the table standeth, I have shewed before. And that no alteration was then designed, is further evident beyond contradiction, from the answer which the Bishops and the other Episcopal Commissioners gave to the aforesaid exception of the Presbyterians, viz. It is fit that the woman performing especial service of thanksgiving should have a special place, where she may be perspicuous to the whole congregation; and near the holy Table, in regard of the offering she is there to make. They need not fear Popery in this, since in the Church of Rome she is to kneel at the church-door. So that the reason, I presume, of their altering the rubric was not to give the Ordinary a general power to change the accustomed place, where there was no occasion; but because in some places the churches were so inconveniently built, that by the interposition of a belfry between the church and the chancel (as I have observed elsewhere) the Minister could not be heard out of the chancel into the church; therefore the Ordinary should, in such cases, have power or authority to allow the woman to be churched in some other place. Just as I have shewed he has power, in the same case, to order the Morning and Evening Prayer to be read where he pleases. But where there is no such impediment, or at least where the Ordinary has not otherwise enjoined, there to be sure this office is to be performed, even by virtue of this rubric, at the Communion Table or Altar.
§. 5. In what part of the service to be performed. In what part of the service this office is to come in, the rubric does not say: but by some old Articles of Visitation, which the bishops used to make the subject of their inquiry, it appears to have been used just before the Communion-office: and no one, I believe, will deny, that it is more regular there, than when it interrupts the ordinary service, as it does when it is used either just before or just after the general Thanksgiving; or than when it is performed in the midst of the hurry and noise of the people’s going out of church, as it is when it is deferred till the whole service is done. All the difficulty that lies against confining it to be used just before the Communionoffice is, that no woman could then be churched but on a Sunday or a holy-day, when that office is to be read. But to this it may be answered, that if she could not, the inconvenience would not be great: and therefore since most of the other occasional offices of the Church are supposed to be performed on Sundays and holy-days, why should not this? If I judge right from the rubric at the end of this office, it is so supposed; for it is there said, that if there be a Communion, it is convenient that the woman receive it. Now there can never be a Communion, but when the Communion-office is read; and therefore since the Church supposes there may be a Communion when the woman is churched, she seems to make no doubt but that she will come to be churched on some Sunday or holy-day when that office is appointed; though if she come upon an ordinary week-day, the Communion may be administered if she desires to receive, and then she may be churched regularly at the holy Table, before the Communionoffice begins.
The Preface following. Forasmuch, &c. is left arbitrary to the Priest, but the prayers are all prescribed.
C. Shall come into the church.] If the woman come no further than into the church, how can she there kneel nigh unto the table, or the priest stand by her, when both priest and table are at the east end of the chancel? Therefore to reconcile this rubric with the constant practice of churching the woman in the chancel nigh unto the holy table, you must understand that in this place the word church comprehendeth all the consecrated fabric, both the body and chancel; no novel notion, considering the provincial in Lyndwood, where the archdeacons are enjoined in their visitations, diligently to take into their care fabricam ecclesia, “the fabric of the church ;” upon which word Lyndwood makes this gloss, ex hoc quod dicit, ecclesie, comprehendit ecclesiam integram videlicet navem cum cancello: “where it is here said ‘the church,’ the whole structure of the church, that is, its nave and chancel are comprehended.”
I. The Preface. IT is a common defect in all other Liturgies, that they have no prefaces to introduce the several offices, and to prepare the parties concerned to do their duties with understanding. But it is the peculiar care of the Church of England to instruct us how to do every duty, as well as to assist us in the doing it. Hence the daily prayers begin with an exhortation, as do most of the other offices of the Church. Even this short one is not without a suitable preface directed to the woman, whereby the Priest first excites her to a thankful acknowledgment for the mercy she has received, and then directs her in what words to perform it.
The Woman, at the usual time after her Delivery, shall come into the Church decently apparelled, and there shall kneel down in some convenient place, as hath been accustomed, or as the Ordinary shall direct: And then the Priest shall say unto her,
Then shall the Priest say the 121. Psal. I have lifted up mine eyes unto the Hills, &c.. The Church appointing this Psalm at this time, does not intend to perswade us by this, that this Psalm was pen'd for such a particular occasion as this; or that the promises of Gods protection and assistence there expressed, were directly and primarily made to persons in that danger of child-birth: but because the Psalm at the very beginning tells us all, that our help comes from God, it is thought seasonable at this time to be used, to mind the woman from whom she hath received that mercy of deliverance, and to whom she is to return the honour due for such a mercy, even to him from whom comes all our help, the Lord that made heaven and earth. And this were enough to justifie the Churches choice of this Psalm at this time; in that, part of it is so fit for this business in hand, though it were not penn'd upon this very occasion "for so we find Hezekiah commended, for appointing of the Psalms of David and Asaph, to set forth the praises of God in the publick services, 2 Chr. 29. 30: although neither had Hezekiah and the Church then, the very same occasions to use them, which David and Asaph had, nor did every particle of those songs, so directly and properly belong to Hezekias and the Church then, as they did to David and Asaph." But not only the beginning of this Psalm, but even the whole body of it is fit and suitable to this service, and those promises of divine assistence therein exprest, though they were primarily and in their first intention made to the Church of the Jews: yet in their proportion they do belong to the person coming to give thanks, and to every one that shall lift up their eyes to the Hills, and trust in God. For not Israel at large, but Israel lifting up her eyes to God, and trusting in God, is the formal and true object of this promise; which therefore belongs to every such person as shall be so qualified, so depending upon God. This rule S. Paul hath taught us, Heb. 13. 5. applying there the promise made particularly to Ioshuah Chap. 1. 5. to every one of us that shall contentedly depend upon God, as Ioshuah was commanded to do in expectance of that promise. Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have; For he hath said, I will not leave thee nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, the Lord is my helper.
One verse of this Psalm may perhaps at the first sight seem not so well expressed, namely this, the Sun shall not burn thee by day, nor the Moon by night; for the Moon does not burn but cool. But it is easily cleared, by taking notice that to burn is not always taken in the strict and proper sence, but usually in a larger; whereby it is the same with, to grieve or hurt; a ordinary skill in language will enform us; so the meaning is, The Sun shall not hurt thee by day, nor the Moon by night, whose shine is held to be very hurtful.
D. have lift up mine eyes, &c.] The trifling objection of the abuse of this psalm, by the woman’s usual coming in a veil, is easily answered, by affirming that the Church, as she doth not forbid, so neither doth she command any such habit, but leaveth it as an indifferent thing; and if the woman, who hath an arbitrary power in this concernment, think fit to come forth veiled, that is, better armed against the cold, her act cannot constitute a ceremony of the Church, and so the Church not chargeable with the abuse. Nor can this psalm be truly said to be abused, thus applied, when the contents thereof are expressly thus, “this psalm teacheth that the faithful ought only to look for help from God.”
II. The Psalms, Psalm 121. The Psalm appointed on this occasion, in all the Common Prayer Books till the last review, was the 121st,* which with the 128th was also prescribed by the office used in the Church of Rome. But neither of these is so very apt to the case, as those are which we have now. The first of which, though composed by David upon his recovery from some dangerous sickness, is yet, by leaving out a verse or two, which makes mention of the other sex, easily enough applicable to the case of a woman, who comes to give her thanks for so great a deliverance.
§. 3. The woman to repeat after the Minister with an audible voice. And here by the way the woman should observe, that she is to say the following Psalm of Thanksgiving, i.e. she is to repeat it with an audible voice, as she does the daily confession, after the Minister. For the Psalm is properly applicable to her alone; and the Minister reads it, not upon his own account, but only to instruct and lead the woman, by going before her, and, as it were, putting into her mouth what words she must say.
Then shall the Priest say the 116th Psalm.
§. 2. Psalm 127. The other more regards the birth of the child, and is very seasonable to be used whenever it is living, to excite the parents to the greater thankful, ness. And as the first is most proper, when we respect the pain and peril which the mother has gone through, so the last ought to be used when an heir is born, or a child bestowed on those who wanted and desired one. Nor may it less aptly be used when those of meaner condition are churched: for by enlarging on the blessings of a numerous family, it obviates the too common murmurings of those wretches who think themselves oppressed by such an increase.
After the Psalm follow the Kyrie or short Litany, and the Lords Prayer, so admirably good and useful, that there is scarce any publick service dispatcht without them[.]
III. The Lord's Prayer, and Responses. The Psalm being over, the Minister gives notice that another part of duty, viz. prayer, is beginning: in which by the usual form. Let us pray, he calls upon the whole congregation to join: and that the address may be humble, it is begun with the short Litany, Lord have mercy upon us, &c.
E. But deliver us from evil.] It hath been long enquired, why all the residue of the dominical prayer being rehearsed in one continued course, in some parts of our liturgy there is a break at this last petition, which is returned by way of response. In satisfaction to which doubt, the consideration of the praxis of former times will contribute very much. The manner, you must understand, was then, for the priest, who did officiate, to rehearse it as our office directeth. And this last position was not returned by the people, but by the choir or chorus, and that with an elevated voice. The design whereof was, to give notice to the people that the Lord’s Prayer was drawing on to an end, that they might be more ready to afford their Amen. For the service being all in Latin, a tongue unknown to them, all their business at church was only to join in the close of Amen, and for this they had no other queue to direct them, than the loud pronunciation of the foregoing member by the chorus: in the Lord’s Prayer, “but deliver us from evil” was their directory : in other prayers, in secula seculorum, or per omnia secula seculorum.
That it may also be effectual, it is continued in the Lord’s Prayer, (to which the Doxology was added at the last review, by reason of its being an office of thanksgiving:) ...
[A]fter these follow some Verses and Responds, of which and the reason of their use, together with the antiquity of it, hath been said already, and need not be here repeated. But there is one thing observable in these Responds or Answers which was not spoken of hitherto, nor was so observable in some of the former Verses and Responds as in these here; and that is this, that some of these Answers are not of themselves intire sentences or petitions, as the others were, but are parts or ends of the foregoing verses, the verse and Answer together making up one entire petition. For example,
O Lord save this Woman thy Servant,
R. Which putteth her trust in thee.
Be thou to her a strong Tower,
R. From the face of her Enemy.
This I observe, because it seems to be the remain of a very ancient custom. For Eus. in Hist. l. 2. c. 17. tells us, that the Primitive Christians in the singing of their hymns, had this use; that one began and sung in rhythm; the rest hearing with silence, only the last part, or akroteleutia, the ends of the Psalm or Hymn, all the rest joyned and sung together with him. Agreeable to this says Clem. Const. l. 2. c. 57. was the usage in his time and before. After the readings of the Old Testament, says he, Let another sing the Psalms of David, and let the people answer τὰ ἀκροστίχια, the extreams or ends of the Verses. What the reason of this ancient custome was, I will not peremptorily determine; whether it were only for variety, which much pleases and delights, and is a great help against weariness; which those Primitive Christians, (who continued in sacred exercises from morning to night) had need of. For which cause says Euseb. in the place above cited, they used all decent and grave variety of rhythmes and Meeters in their Hymns and Psalms. Or whether it were to avoid the inconvenience of indecorum and confusion, which the people (usually not very observant of decency) were guilty of in their joynt singing: and yet to reserve them apart in these Offices; that it was so appointed, that they should only sing the extreams or ends of the Verses. Or what else was the cause, I leave it to others to judge.
... and that all may bear a part, two or three short Responses are added for the woman’s safety and defence.
The prayer following is clearly fitted to the occasion.
The Prayer. And at last the whole office is closed with a short and pious Collect, consisting of a devout mixture of prayer and praise, so peculiarly suited to the present occasion, that it needs no enlargement to shew its propriety.
The woman that comes to give her thanks, must offer. Rubr. after the Thanksgiving. Although Offerings be always acceptable to God, yet some times there are, in which the Church hath held them more necessary, as hath been shewn formerly about offerings. First, when the Church is in want. Secondly, at the holy Communion. Thirdly, when we come to give thanks for some more than ordinary blessing received; Then not only in word, but in Deed also to thank God, by bringing a present to God. Psal. 76. 10, 11. That this is more than an ordinary blessing, a deliverance that deserves even perpetual thanks, David tells us, Psal. 71. 5. Thou art he that took me out of my mothers womb, my praise shall be always of thee. This service is to be done betwixt the first and second Service, as I have learnt by some Bishops enquiries at their Visitation; the Reason perhaps is, because by this means it is no interruption of either of these Offices.
The woman formerly to offer her chrisom, and why. The word Chrisoms in the weekly bills, whence it had its rise, and what it should signify. THE office being thus devoutly performed, the rubric gives notice, that the woman who comes to give her thanks must offer accustomed offerings. By the first Common Prayer of king Edward VI the woman that was purified was to offer her chrisom and other accustomed offerings. And by a rubric in the same book, at the end of the public office of Baptism, the Minister was to command, at the time of baptism, that the chrisom be brought to the church, and delivered to the Priests, after the accustomed manner, at the purification of the mother of every child. The chrisom, I have formerly had occasion to shew, was a white vesture or garment, which was put upon the child at the time of its baptism, as a token of innocency, and which took its name from the chrism or ointment, with which the child was anointed when the chrisom was put on. These, I have observed, it was the custom anciently for the new-baptized to appear in at church during the solemn time for baptism, to shew their resolution of leading an innocent and unspotted life for the future, and then to put them off, and to deliver them to be laid up, in order to be produced, as evidences against them, should they afterwards violate or deny that faith which they had then professed. And this, I suppose, was the design of our own Church at the beginning of the Reformation, in ordering the woman to offer the chrisom when she came to be churched. For if the child happened to die before, then it seems she was excused from offering it; and indeed there was then no occasion to demand it, since it would be of no use to the Church when the child was dead. And therefore in such case it was customary to wrap the child in it when it was buried, in the nature of a shroud. And from this practice I suppose the name of chrisoms had its rise in the weekly bills of mortality, which we may still observe among the casualties and diseases: though it is not now used to denote children that die between the time of their baptism and their mother’s being churched, as it originally signified; but, through the ignorance of parish clerks, and those that make the report, is put for children that die before they are baptized, and so are not capable of Christian burial.
§. 2. Accustomed offerings, what they are. But to return to the rubric. The Liturgy having been altered in the fifth year of king Edward, the use of the chrisom at the baptism of the child was then discontinued; and in consequence thereto, the order for the woman’s offering it at her churching was then left out: so that now she is directed only to offer accustomed offerings,* i.e. those offerings which were customary besides the chrisom, and which, when the chrisom was in use, was distinguished in the rubric by other accustomed offerings. By which undoubtedly is to be understood some offering to the Minister who performs the office, not under the notion of a fee or reward, but of something set apart as a tribute or acknowledgment due to God, who is pleased to declare himself honoured or robbed according as such offerings are paid or withheld. We see under the law, that every woman who came to be purified after childbearing, was required to bring something that put her to an expense: even the poorest among them was not wholly excused, but obliged to do something, though it were but small. And though neither the kind nor the value of the expense be now prescribed; yet sure the expense itself should not covetously be saved: a woman that comes with any thankfulness or gratitude should scorn to offer what David disdained, viz. of that which costs nothing. And indeed with what sincerity or truth can she say, as she is directed to do in one of the Psalms, I will pay my vows now in the presence of all his people, if at the same time she designs no voluntary offering which vows were always understood to imply?
§. 3. The woman to receive the Communion, if there be one. But, besides the accustomed offering to the Minister, the woman is to make a yet much better and greater offering, viz. an offering of herself, to be a reasonable, holy, and lively sacrifice to God. For the rubric declares, that if there be a Communion, it is convenient that she receive the holy Communion; that being the most solemn way of praising God for him by whom she received both the present, and all other God’s mercies towards her: and a means also to bind herself more strictly to spend those days in his service, which, by this late deliverance, he hath added to her life.
The Woman, that cometh to give her thanks, must offer accustomed offerings; and, if there be a Communion, it is convenient that she receive the holy Communion.