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

London, 1672.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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 COMMVNION, 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.

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