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A Rationale upon the Book of Common Prayer
by Anthony Sparrow, D.D.

London, 1672.


HOly Churches aim being in all her Services to make them Reasonable, that according to S. Paul 1 Cor. 14. We may all joyn with her in her Offices, both with our spirit and understanding, she hath been careful, not only to put them into a known tongue, but also to instruct us in the nature of them; making thus her Prayer-Book a sum of Divinity. Therefore here in the beginning, she instructs out of holy Scripture concerning the necessity and efficacy of Baptism, as very briefly, so very pithily and fully. First, laying down this for a rule, That we are all born in sin, as it is Rom. 5. 18, 19. all guilty in Adams fall, (so the Catholick Church spread over the world always understood it, CON. MILEVAN. c. 2.) and therefore by our first birth have no right to heaven, into which no unclean thing shall enter, Ephes. 5. 5. Secondly, that therefore there is need of a second birth, to give us right to that, as it is S. John 3. 3. Except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. Thirdly, that this second or new birth is by Water and the Holy Ghost, S. John 3 5. Except a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. By Water and the Holy Ghost is there meant holy Baptism. For first, this is the most literal interpretation of the words (for what is Baptism but Water and the Holy Ghost?) and therefore the best: for that is certainly the sense of the Holy Ghost, who, as we all believe, was the Author of the letter of the Scriptures, and therefore of the literal sense, where that is not contrary to, but agreeable with the other Scriptures. Now this literal sense given is agreeable to other texts: as namely, to Acts 8. 38. and 10. 47. Where Water is declared to be the element of Baptism. And expresly again, Ephes. 5. 26. Christ loved the Church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctifie and cleanse it with the washing of water. And as this is the most literal, so is it the most Catholick interpretation of the words, and therefore also the best, by S. Peters rule, 2 S. Pet. 1. 20. Knowing this first, that no prophesie of Scripture is of private interpretation. That this is the most Catholick interpretation appears by S. August. l. I. de peccator. mer. & rem. c. 30. Tertul. de Bapt. and all the ancient interpreters upon the place, who expound it all of Baptism. And indeed if it were lawful to expound it otherwise, seeing no other Scripture contradicts this literal sense; I know not how it can be avoided, but that men may lose all their Creed, by playing so with Scripture, leaving the letter for figures. Thus are we instructed in the nature, necessity, and efficacy of holy Baptism, that it is the only ordinary means of our Regeneration or second birth, which gives us a right and title to Heaven.

Then is prescribed a Prayer, usually called the Benediction or Consecration of the Water, which is used only for reverence and decency, not for necessity, as if the Water without this were not available to Baptism: For, as the Prayer hath it, Jordan and all other waters are sanctified by Christ to the mystical washing away of sin. So that there needs no Consecration here, as in the other Sacraments there is, where the Bread and Wine must be blessed by us, saith S. Paul, 1 Cor. 10. 16. before it be the Communion of the body and blood of Christ to us. And that the Church does not think any Consecration of Water necessary, appears in her office of PRIVATE BAPTISM, where haste admitting no delays, no such Prayer or blessing is used.

Then follows a Prayer for Gods merciful acceptance of the Infant that is brought; that, as he is to receive the Sacrament, so he may receive all the benefits of it, And lest any should doubt whether CHRIST will accept an Infant to Baptism, and the Effects of it, holy Church propounds to us the 10. chap. of S. Mark, out of which she concludes CHRISTS love and good will to children in general; For he commanded them to be brought to him; he rebuked those that would have kept them from him, he embraced them in his arms, and blessed them: which are all plain arguments that he will receive them when they are brought to him: Yea, and that he will so far embrace them as to receive them to eternal life, if they be brought to him, is plain by his own words in that Gospel; Suffer little children to come unto me, for to such, and therefore to themselves (for Quod in uno similium valet, valebit in altero, what belongs to others because they are such as children are, must needs belong to the children) belongeth the kingdom of God. Since then they be capable of the Kingdom of heaven, and there is no ordinary way for them to the Kingdom of heaven, but by a new and second birth of Water and the Holy Ghost, that is, Baptism; Doubt ye not, but that He who exprest so much love to them as is mentioned in the Gospel, will favourably receive the present infant to baptism, and gratiously accept our charitable work in bringing it to him. Thus holy Church concludes out of Scripture according to the practice and doctrine of the Catholick Church.

CYPRIAN tells us that no Infant is to be hindred from baptism. Ep. 59. This was the sentence of that Council: Anno Dom. 246. and this was no new decree, but fides Ecclesiae firmissima, the most established faith of the Church, AVG. ep. 28. ad Hieron. Haec sententia olim in Ecclesia Catholica summa authoritate fundata est. This definition was long before S. Cyprian settled in the Catholick Church by the highest Authority. AVG. de verb. Apost. Ser. 14. Let no man whisper to you any strange doctrines. This the Church always had, always held, this she received from our forefathers, and this she holds constantly to the end. And, Quicunque parvulos recentes, ab uteris matrum, baptizandos negat, Anathema sit, saith the COVNG. of Milevis, c. 2. being the CXth in the African Code. That Council pronounced Anathema to any that shall deny the baptism of Infants. And that Counc. is confirmed by the fourth and sixth GENERAL COVNCILS.

Next follows a Thanksgiving for our Baptism, which we are put in mind of by this occasion, with an excellent prayer for our selves; and the Infants before us, that we may walk worthy of baptism; and they be accepted to it graciously.

Then shall the Priest demand of the Godfathers, &c. These questions, Dost thou forsake, &c. This Form of interrogating the Godfathers in the name of the child, is very Ancient and Reasonable.

For the Antiquity of it, see S. Chrys. in Psal. 14. Adducit quisquam infantem ubera sugentem, ut baptizetur, & statim sacerdos exigit ab infirma aetate, pacta, conventa, assensiones, & minoris aetate fide jussorem accipit susceptorem, & interrogat an renunciat Satanae. The sucking Infant is brought to baptism. The Priest exacts of that Infant covenants, contracts and agreements: and accepting of the Godfather in the Infants stead, he asks, whether he does forsake the Devil, &c.] Cyprian ep. 7. We renounc'd the world when we were baptized: and their form of abrenunciation was much like ours, as you may see, Salvian. l. 6. Aug. Ep. 23. and Cyril. Cat. Mist. 1. Where you may see at large the ancient Form and Manner of Abrenunciations.

First, you entred into the Church Porch the place of the Font or Baptistery, and standing towards the West, you heard it commanded you, that with hands stretched out you should renounce the Devil, as if he were there present. It behoves you to know that a Type or Sign of this, you have in the Old Testament. When Pharaoh the most bitter and cruel Tyrant oppressed the free people of the Jews, God sent Moses to deliver them from the grievous servitude of the Egyptians, the posts of the doors were anointed with the blood of the Lamb, that the destroying Angel might pass by the houses which had that sign of blood: and the people were delivered beyond expectation. But after that the Enemy saw them delivered, and the Red sea divided; he followed and pursued them, and was over-whelmed with the waves of the Sea. Pass we from the Figure to the Truth, there was Moses sent by God into Egypt; here Christ is sent into the world; he to deliver the people oppressed by Pharaoh, Christ to deliver the Devils captives; there the blood of the Lamb turn'd away the Destroyer; here the blood of the immaculate Lamb Christ Jesus is the defence against the Devil; That Tyrant followed our Fathers to the Red Sea, this impudent Prince of wickedness the Devil, follows there even to the waters of Salvation; he was drowned in the Sea, this is stifled in the waters of Life. Hear now what with a beck of the hand is said to the Devil, as present; I renounce thee Satan: It is worth the while, to explain why you stand to the West when you say this. The sun-set is the place of darkness, and the Devil is the Prince of darkness; and therefore in token of this, ye renounce the Prince of darkness, looking towards the West, I renounce thee Satan thou cruel Tyrant, I fear thy force no more, for Christ hath dissolved the power of darkness, I renounce thee, subtle Serpent, who under the shew of friendship, actest all thy villany, Then he adds, and all thy works. Those are sins of all sorts, which you must of necessity renounce. And this you must not be ignorant of, that whatsoever thou sayest in that dreadful hour, is written down in Gods book, and shall be accounted for. After this you say, And all his pomp, all vain shews from which holy David prayes to be delivered. Turn away mine eyes lest they behold vanity, Psal. 119. and all thy worship, all Idolatry and Superstition, all Magick and South-saying, all worship of, and prayers to the Devil. Take heed therefore of all these things which thou hast renounced: For if after the renunciation of the Devil, you fall back again into his captivity, he will be a more cruel Master than before; the last state of that man is worse than the beginning.

When you have renounced the Devil, then the Paradise of God is opened to you, which was planted in the East; and therefore as a Type of this you are turn'd from the West to the East, the Region of light.

We have seen that it was Ancient. And that it is Reasonable we shall perceive, if we consider, that in baptism we are making or concluding a Covenant, the New Covenant of the Gospel; in which Covenant Gods part is promises, precious promises, as S. Peter calls them, 2 S. Pet. 1. 4. for performance of which he hath given his word; and therefore good reason it is, that we also should give our word, and promise for performance of conditions on our parts, viz. to renounce the Devil and the World, and swear fidelity to our LORD. In all other Covenants and Contracts it is thought reasonable, that the several parties should mutually engage for performance of conditions, and that at the making and concluding of the Contract.

And why should not that which is thought reasonable in all other contracts, be thought reasonable in this? As thus to give our faith and word for performance of conditions is reasonable; so, if it be done with grave solemnity and in publick, it is so much the better, and more obliging: For grave solemnities make a deep impression upon the apprehension: (whence it is, that a corporal oath vested with the religious solemnity of laying on the hand upon, and kissing the holy Gospels, is more dreaded, than a naked and sudden oath) and promises made in publick bind more, because of the shame of falsifying, where so many eyes look on: which very shame of being noted to be false, oft-times is a greater bridle to sin, than the fear of punishment, as the World knows.

And this use the ancient Fathers made of it, to shame gross offenders by remembring them of their solemn promise made in Baptism to renounce the Devil, and give up themselves to God. Children, who by reason of their tender age, cannot perform this solemnity, have appointed them by the Church, Susceptores, Godfathers, who shall in the name of the child do it for them. As, by the wisest laws of the World, Guardians may contract for their Minors or Pupils to their benefit; and what the Guardians in such cases undertake, the Minors or Pupils are bound, when they are able to perform. For the Law looks upon them, not the Guardians, as obliged. So did the Church always account, that these promises which were made by the God-fathers in the name of the childe, did bind the child, as if in person himself had made it. And when the Ancients did upbraid any offenders with the breach of their promise made in baptism; none of those that were baptised in their infancy, were so desperate, as to answer scornfully, it was not I but my Godfathers that promised; and if any should so have answered, he would have been loudly laught at for that his empty criticism.

Though this promise of Abrenunciation made in baptism be ancient and reasonable; yet is it not absolutely necessary to baptism, but when danger requires haste, it may be omitted, as the Church teaches in Private Baptism: yet if the child lives, it is to be brought to Church, and this solemnity to be performed after baptism. Rubr at private Bapt.

Then follow certain short prayers. O merciful God, &c. which I conceive to be the same in substance with the ancient Exorcismes, which were certain prayers taken out of holy Scripture, Cyril. Cat. 1. and compos'd by the Church, CONC. CARTH. 4. c. 7. for the dispossessing of the person to be baptized; who being born in sin is under the Devils tyranny, from which the Church by her prayers, endeavours to free him. And so available they were, that oftentimes those that were corporally possessed, were freed by them, Cyp. ep. 77. and thereupon Cyril, Nazianz. Gennadius, and others, earnestly perswade not to despise the Churches Exorcisms. That it was ancient to use these Exorcisms before baptism, Nazianz. in lavacrum, S. Cypr. ep. 77. and Gennadius witness, who sayes, that it was observed Vniformiter in universo mundo, uniformly throughout the World.

Next follows the Commemoration of Christs institution of Baptism; and his Commission to his Disciples to Baptize. Thus the Priest reads his Commission, and then acts accordingly: and because no man is sufficient for these things, 2 Cor. 2. 16. therefore he prayes for Gods assistance and acceptance of his ministration.

Then the Priest asks the childs name. As under the Law at Circumcision the name was given, so now at Baptism, because then we renounce our former Lord and Tyrant, and give up our names to God as his servants.

Then the Minister Baptizes the child dipping or sprinkling it, &c. either of which is sufficient Gennad. dog. 74. For it is not in this spiritual washing, as it is in the bodily, where if the bath be not large enough to receive the whole body, some part may be foul when the rest are cleansed. The soul is cleansed after another manner, Totum credentibus conferunt divina compendia, a little water can cleanse the believer, as well a whole River, CYPR. ep. 77.

The old fashion was to dip or sprinkle the person thrice, to signifie the mystery of the TRINITY, and the Apost. can. 50. deposes him that does otherwise. The Church so appointed then because of some Hereticks that denied the Trinity: upon the same ground afterwards it was appointed to do it but once (signifying the unity of substance in the Trinity) left we should seem to agree with the Hereticks that did it thrice. Toletan. 4. c. 5.

This baptizing is to be at the FONT. What the Font is, every body knows, but not why it is so call'd. The rites of baptism in the first times were perform'd in Fountains and Rivers, both because their converts were many, and because those ages were unprovided of other Baptisteries: we have no other remainder of this rite but the name. For hence it is that we call our Baptisteries, Fonts; which when Religion found peace, were built and consecrated for the more reverence and respect of the Sacrament. These were set at first some distance from the Church, Cyril cat. myst. 1. after, in the Church-Porch, and that significantly, because Baptism is the entrance into the Church mystical, as the Porch to the Temple. At the last, they got into the Church, but not into every, but the City-Church, where the Bishop resided, hence call'd the Mother Church, because it gave spiritual birth by baptism; afterward they were brought into Rural Churches. Wheresoever they stood, they were had in high veneration. Anastas. ep. ad Orthodox. complains sadly of impiety in his time; such as never was heard of in war, that men should set fire to Churches and Fonts, and after mentioning the Fonts. Good God! Christ-killing Jews, and heathenish Atheists, have without all reverence entred and defiled the Fonts.

After the Priest hath baptized the child, he receives it into the congregation, by this solemnity declaring that he is by baptism made a member of the Church, 1 Cor. 12. 13. We are all baptized into one body. And when he thus receives it, he signs it with the sign of the Cross, as of old it was wont, AVG. in Psal. 30. and on the forehead, the seat of blushing and shame, that he may not hereafter blush and be ashamed of the disgraced cross of Christ, Cypr. ep. 56. By this badge, is the childe dedicated to his service, whose benefits bestowed upon him in baptism, the name of the cross in holy Scripture does represent. Whosoever desires to be fully satisfied concerning the use of the cross in baptism, let him read the 30. Can. of our Church, Anno 1603.

After thanksgiving for Gods gracious admitting the child to baptism, and a most divine Prayer, that he may lead his life according to that beginning: This Office ends with a grave and pious exhortation to the Godfathers, to remember their duty towards the Infants; the like to which you may read, S. Aug. de Temp. Ser. 116.

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