London: Printed for J. Wyat at the Rose in St. Paul's Church-yard, 1695.
Wherein the Case is briefly stated, and all those Texts of Scripture alledged which relate to it: Together with the Arguments and Inferences which result from them.
§ 1. IT will not be necessary to spend much time in any elaborate stating of the Case, which I have undertaken. For it is agreed on all hands, that where there is a natural Inability or any bodily Infirmities in the Mother (real and not meerly pretended) that might have a pernicious Influence on her Nursery, God who by his Providence hath caused those Impediments, doth in such cases dispense with this Duty.
§ 2. So that this is the Case, Whether all Mothers, be their Quality what it will, who are neither disenabled by any natural Defect, nor contracted Infirmity, are bound in Duty to give Suck themselves to their own Children.
This I affirm, and shall endeavour to evince both from the Holy Scriptures recommending it as a Duty, the mischievous Consequences of neglecting it, and the Insufficiency of all the usual Plea's, which are made for such neglect. Which three general Heads shall limit by ensuing Discourse.
§ 3. I begin with the Holy Scriptures. And because I intend all possible plainness, without the Affectation of any artificial Method, I shall offer some Passages to Consideration in the same order as they lye in our Bibles, and make some obvious remarks upon them, and such Inferences as they will fairly bear, as I proceed.
§ 4. And to begin with the Old Testament, the first passage we meet with to this purpose is in Gen. 21. 7. where Sarah saith, Who would have said unto Abraham, that Sarah should have given Children Suck? For I have borne him a Son in his Old Age. We have Sarah a Nurse as well as a Mother, though she were the Wife not of mean Peasant, but of a mighty Prince; a Prince so Potent, that the neighbouring Kings courted his Alliance. A Prince abounding in Wealth and Power, the Master of a numerous Family, out of which he could number 318 Men fit to bear Arms, and all born in his House. Now the Wife of such an one could not want Conveniencies among so many Child-bearing Women that were in her family, for the Nursing of her Son by another; she might have pleaded either State or Business to have excused her self from the Employment; especially being grown into years, which made her less able to undergo the Fatigue of such an Office; and having Beauty beyond that which was ordinary at her Years, the decay of which, by the Toil and Watchings incident to a Nurse, she might have fairly pleaded. But waving all these Plea's, she includes it her Duty to Nurse the Fruit of her own Womb. For her words imply so much, Who would have said to Abraham, that Sarah should have given Suck? For I have born him a Son, q.d. It is, I doubt not, the Mothers Office, who bears the Child, to give it Suck; since then I have borne Abraham a Son, I must give it Suck and Nurse it for him. Had it been usual in those times for virtuous Mothers to decline this Office, she would not have inferred her Nursing a Son for Abraham from her bearing of one; whereas the one implying the other intimates a necessary Consequence of the one from the other. And I do with the great Confidence urge this Argument, because it is St. Ambrose's Note on this Verse, The Moral of this is, that Women are provoked to remember their Dignity, and to give Suck to their Children. This is the proper Grace, the Honour of a Mother, whereby she may recommend her self to her own Husband. However this is certain, that this Pious Mother whom the Apostle proposes as a Pattern to her Sex, and exhorts all Wives to imitate, that will do well, and discharge Faithfully the Duties of their Relations, she not only Nurses her Son her self, but plainly intimates, that she thought it her Duty to do so; though she might have pleaded as many Excuses as most of them can who decline this Office. They then that neglect the Duty, and have no better Pretences for such their neglect, than those which she waved as insufficient, are faulty as least on this account, that they refuse to imitate Sarah, whom the Apostle Wives they must follow, if they will do well.
§ 5. The next Text is in Gen. 49. 25. where the Patriarch Jacob having foretold the numerous increase of the Tribe of Joseph, that like a Fruitful Vine, whose Branches spread over the wall, it should multiply into two Tribes; he assures him that the God who had preserved and prospered him, notwithstanding his many Afflictions from his Brethren at first, and the Egyptians afterward, should Bless his Posterity with Blessings of Heaven above, Blessings of the Deep, that lieth beneath, Blessings of the Breast and of the Womb, i.e. He would provide for him an Inheritance, fertile and well watered with Fountains and Rivers, and a numerous Posterity to enjoy it. Where it is to be observed, that the Blessings of the Breast and of the Womb are conjoined, and a Promise made to this Tribe, that in order to its Increase, the Wives should be Fruitful to bear, and Careful to Nurse their own; that God would bless it with such Women, as both would bear a numerous Off-spring and nourish their own Off-spring with their own Breasts. Whence the Inference is obvious, that as a Fruitful Wife is a Blessing, so when she Nurses her Children she is a double Blessing to a Family. And as it is the Duty of every one to be as great a Blessing as she can be to her Family, so such Women must need be faulty, who after God hath given the Blessings of the Womb, refuse to compleat the Felicity by the Blessings of the Breast. The ten thousands of Ephraim, and the thousands of Manasseh, are the effects of these Blessings of the Breast and of the Womb; and intimates to us, that it is a likely way to obtain a numerous Posterity, such as Joseph's was, for Fruitful Mothers to become themselves Careful Nurses.
§ 6. In Exod. 2. 7,8. when Pharaoh's Daughter sends to seek out for a Nurse for Moses, whom she found exposed, her Maid called the Child's Mother, and to her she committed the little Nursery. Now this may be considered, either as the Act of the Royal Princess, the Contrivance of the Mother, or a Dispensation of Divine Providence. If we suppose that Pharaoh's Daughter sent on purpose to enquire out the Mother of the exposed Infant, we may conclude, she thought her the fittest to Nurse it. If it be rather thought, that the Mother laid her Daughter to watch and be ready if any such occasion should happen, to call her rather than another, we have a commendable Instance of her Pious and tender Concern for her Son, and earnest desire to Nurse it her self, rather than any other should ease her of that Burden, and do that work for her. But if besides either the Princess of the Mothers Intention God by his wise Providence determined the Messenger to apply her self to the Mother rather than any other Woman; we have the plain Determination of God himself, that the Mother is fittest to Nurse her own Child, and that it was best for this Infant, whom he intended for extraordinary Service, to have the advantage of the most suitable Nurse. And it is further observable, that tho' God would have Moses trained up in Learning by the Egyptian Doctors, that he might be better qualified for the great Charge he was hereafter to undertake, yet he would not have him Suck Milk from an Egyptian Nurse, which might have some bad Influence upon his Constitution and his Manners.
§7. Numb. 11. 12. Moses thus expostulates with God, Have I conceived all this People? Have I begot them? (or brought them forth) That thou shouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy Bosom, as a Nursing Father (or as a Nurse) beareth the Sucking Child to the Land, which thou swarest unto their Fathers. Where Moses's Argument stands upon this Foundation, that whosoever hath conceived and brought forth, ought to become Nurse to the Sucking Child, and carry it in her Bosom. Unless this be granted, his Argument is invalid and nothing to the purpose, the whole force of which seems to depend on that Supposition. Judge then whether it is more reasonable to charge Moses with an Absurdity, or those Women with an Immorality who neglect the Duty, which he takes for granted. He thought himself not obliged like a Nurse to bear that froward People in his Bosom, because he had not conceived them nor brought them forth. Thereby evidently implying, that the Mother who hath conceived and brought forth the Infant, ought (however froward it may be) to become its Nurse, and Suckle it in her Bosom.
§8. If we turn over to I Sam. 1. 22, 23. we find, that after Hannah by her Prayers had obtained a Son, she resolves to lay aside all other business, that she might attend this important one, the Nursing of her Samuel. She was a Woman of great Piety, who constantly went with her Husband to the Sanctuary at the Feasts. Yet knowing how much God prefers Mercy before Sacrifice, she resolves to do so too; staying at home to Nurse her Son, as what she apprehended more acceptable to God, than to appear at his Tabernacle with an Offering, and leave her Child at home to some Mercenary's Care. Whence we may conclude, that even the Pretences of Piety, which of all others are the most plausible, are not sufficient to excuse Mothers from this piece of Charity; and that if their Nursery should detain them from that time from a constant Attendance on God's publick Worship, he will in such a case dispense with their absence, and accept their Charity toward their Infants instead of Devotion to himself. Persons of Quality indeed may have such assistance, that there can be no necessity of their confinement from Gods House, especially since none of them but are much nearer to a Church than Ramah was to Shiloh, which is computed to be twelve Miles, so that ordinarily they cannot have that Plea to make. Yet if any be in such Circumstances, that either the publick Worship of God or the Nursing her Child must be neglected, she hath here a president to determine the case in favour of Charity against the specious Objections of Devotion. And it is further observable, that Hannah's Nursing of her first Son, was so far from hindring Fertility, that it rather procured a Divine Benediction, which multiplied her Posterity to three Sons and two Daughters, sufficient to rescue her from her Rivals Taunts, and rank her in the Catalogue of fruitful Mothers. So vain is that popular Pretence, that Nursing is an Impediment to Fruitfulness, and to be declin'd by Persons for the better securing of Succession by a numerous Posterity; for if those bear faster who dry up their Breasts, they that Nurse their Children commonly bear longer, and bring more up to an Healthful Maturity; which comes to pass, partly through their greater Care, and partly through Gods Blessing on their exemplary Piety.
§9. There is a Story in I Kings 3. 21. of two Women of an infamous Character, being stiled Harlots; nor will I take the advantage some Interpreters give me, to soften that Denomination into Victuallers; but will suppose them to have been bad Women, yet observing something remarkably good in one of them, it is the more to be took notice of. Now it is evident that the one of these Harlots was a tender Mother, though she had been an unchast Woman, and loved her Child very well, however she came by it; and it is recorded of her, that she her self gave it Suck. Which is an Argument, that though she had not virtue sufficient to secure her Chastity, yet she was not so overgrown with Vice, as to have obliterated Natural Affection. The better of these two Harlots hath the Character of a Fond Mother, and her pleading before King Solomon, that she rose to give her Child Suck, is an Intimation that this was a Duty of good Esteem in those days, and that it would make something for her that she had done so. And how can those Mothers pretend Affection to their Children, who attain not to the Tenderness of this good-natur'd Harlot?
§10. In the Book of Job, c. 39. 16. there is an elegant Description of the Ostriches stupid neglect of her young ones, wherein this is especially took notice of, That she hardened her self against her young ones, as though they were not hers. Whereby the Spirit of God intimates it to be an Aggravation of Hard-heartedness to deal hardly with those that are young, especially where natural Relation obliges to a tender Regard: And that the nearer any come to resemble the Ostriches Obduracy, in neglecting to take care of their Off-spring, the more unnatural and cruel they may be justly deemed. And if it be a piece of Hardship to turn off a tender Instant to a Mercenary Nurse (as I doubt not but in the sequel of this Discourse will be manifest) those Mothers must be accounted more Unnatural than the Ostrich, because they have not so much Stupidity.
§11. In Psal. 22. 9. the Psalmist says, Thou didst make me hope, when I was upon my Mothers Breasts. Now hope is an act of Reason, not be exerted by an Infant not yet arrived to the Exercise of Reason, yet here in a Poetical stile attributed to such an one; to intimate, that the Care God takes of Infants, and the early Provision he hath made for them, by filling their Mothers Breasts as soon as they have left her Womb, is an Argument that Mankind is under the Care of God's Providence, and of sufficient force to engage even Infants to hope in God, if they were capable. And hence it is evident, that it is the Intention of the God of Nature, in furnishing the Mother will full Breasts, to oblige her to minister thereby to his Providence for the Preservation of her Child. Moreover the Psalmist's using such a Phrase as this, doth not only imply that he was nursed by his own Mother, but also that it was usual in those days, for Mothers themselves to perform that Office. The Practise of our Age would scarce allow us to express the time of Infancy by hanging on the Mothers Breasts, wherein so few enjoy that Priviledge. And if we grant that such Idioms of Language are founded on the prevailing Customs of Nations, we may conclude from this Phrase (and that of Solomon's, who expresses a Brother Periphrastically by one that sucked the Breasts of his Mother) that it was in those days very common, and accounted most reasonable, that the Mother should Nurse at her Breasts all the Children she had born in her Womb.
§12. The Prophet Jeremiah exaggerates the extremity of Famine in Jerusalem by this Circumstance, that it had made Mothers Cruel to their Infants, and uncapable of giving them Suck, Lam. 4. 23. Even the Sea-monsters draw out the Breasts, they give Suck to their young ones; but the Daughters of the People is become Cruel, like the Ostriches in the Wilderness. It's true, it seems to be not so much from the Hardness of their Hearts, as of the Times, that the Daughters of Jerusalem do not that for their Off-spring, which the very Sea-monsters do for theirs, and which no Creature on the Land is so much a Brute as to neglect, except the Ostrich, whose stupidity is such, that she leaves her Eggs in the Sand and takes no further care of them, no nor of her young ones neither, after the heat of the Sun and of the Sand hath hatched them. And nothing certainly, but the Extremity of Famine, could make the Daughters of Jerusalem so Cruel, that no Monster at Sea, no Brute on Land, can parallel them, except the Ostrich. How then can they excuse themselves, who neglect their Children as much out of Luxury, and in the midst of Plenty, as those Israelites did through Famine? The Prophet thought this an Instance fit to exaggerate the great Misery of Famine, that it constrained Mothers to that which Nature most abhors. We may then reasonably conclude, That he would have passed a very severe Censure on those Mothers that become Cruel in the midst of Plenty; and for that very reason too, because they abound with Plenty. They are more unnatural than Sea-Monsters, that draw out their Breasts to their young ones, whilst these turn theirs off to some mean and Mercenary Neighbour.
§13. I shall conclude my Observations out of the Old Testament, with that passage of the Prophet Hos. 9. 14. Give them, O Lord, What wilt thou give them? Give them a miscarrying Womb and dry Breasts. For whether he pray for this as a Blessing for Israel, that they may not be more miserable (in the common Slaughter of their Country) for their Fertility, as our Lord Christ pronounces such comparatively Happy in the Destruction of Jerusalem, that were barren and had never born, and whose Paps had never given Suck. Or whether he denounce it as a Curse, that their Women should be Barren and punished with a miscarrying Womb and dry Breasts; which way soever we understand it, it affords us this Conclusion, that the Spirit of God in the Scriptures makes dry Breasts as well as a miscarrying Womb, the Periphrasis of Barrenness; thereby declaring it equally unnatural for a Mother by artificial Applications to dry her Breasts, as to force Abortion; and that where God gives a fruitful Womb, he expects ordinarily that the Breasts should give Suck. God gives dry Breasts as a Curse to some, as an Affliction to others; but they that invite that, whether Curse or Affliction, to themselves by voluntary Applications, love not Blessing, therefore it shall be far from them.
Thus have I lead you through the Old Testament, and shewed you the laudable Examples it gives Mothers for Nursing their Children, and the plain Intimations (at least) of the Divine Pleasure, that they should do likewise.
§14. I proceed to set before you such passages of the New Testament as are of the same Importance, and furnish us with some Proofs of the case proposed.
In the Gospel we read of a Woman, who in a Rapture of Admiration at Christ's Discourses, cries out, Blessed is the Womb that bare thee, and the Paps which thou hast Sucked. Which shews that she took it for granted, that the Mother of our Lord gave him Suck. And upon this evidence, and because we find that Joseph in his Flight with his Holy Infant into Egypt, took none other with him but the Blessed Virgin, it hath been unanimously agreed, that she was the Nurse as well as the Mother of Christ. And since this Virgin, not only for the Nobility of her Extraction (tho now sunk into a meaner Fortune) but especially for the Purity of her Manners, hath justly been reputed the Glory of her Sex, none can have an Example more worthy of her Imitation. God chose not (saith one of the Ancients) any ordinary Women to be the Mother of Christ, but one that excelled all other Women in Vertue; whom he therefore pronounces Blessed for Vertues, for which he vouchsafed her to be his Mother. And such eminent Vertues in this Royal Virgin recommend her as a fit Example for the best and the greatest of her Sex to imitate.
§15. In the next place it may be observed, That the Christian Religion hath adopted into Law and Duty, all those things which generally approve themselves to the unprejudiced Reason of Mankind, to be things Honest, Lovely, and of good Report. Things honest, Grave, or becoming Chast and Vertuous Matrons. Things Lovely which are generally Grateful to all wise and virtuous Persons, and apt to procure Love. Things of good Report, which are apt to procure to the persons that do them, and to the Religion which they profess, good Esteem and Commendation. Now I dare appeal to all the World, whether those few Persons of Quality and Honour are not generally looked upon with a Veneration and Esteem, who having brought through an unreasonable Custom, and preferred the good of their Children before a Fantastick Privilege of Greatness, become Nurses to their own Offspring. Who doth not approve of this as an Action becoming the Gravity of a Chast Lady? In whose Eyes is it not a Spectacle most Lovely? What virtuous and sober Persons but think it very Praise-worthy? From this general Precept of Christianity therefore we must conclude this generally to be the Duty of Christian Matrons.
§16. That of the Apostles I Thess. 2. 7. is not here to be omitted. We were gentle among you, even as a Nurse cherisheth her Children. Where two things are observable: First, That the Mother is here stiled a Nurse; for it is her own Children, not anothers, whom the Nurse is said to Cherish. Whence it seems, that the Apostle taking it for granted, that the Mother is her self the Nurse, implies it the Duty of all Mothers to undertake that Office. Secondly, that St. Paul chooses to express his own mild and gentle Behaviour toward the Church, by a Mother Nursing her own. Which implies, that the Mothers Care is the greatest, and her Carriage the most Tender toward her Nursery, who is influenced by Natural Affection, and not merely by hopes of Reward. It would have been a Disparagement to the Apostles mild and tender Behaviour towards them, to have compared him with a Mercenary Nurse, that looks to anothers Child for hire, and is rarely so careful of it as its own Mother, to whom Nature dictates the most compassionate Concern for its welfare.
§17. Hitherto in the next place belongs the Character which the Apostle gives of a Window indeed, who is to be maintained by the Churches Charity. He requires, among other Virtues, that she be well reported for good works, and that she have brought up Children. The Greek word denotes Nursing Children. Our Lexicons cite Aristotle for the use of it, and it is observable, that he uses the Verb, from which this is compounded to denote this peculiar Office of the Mother in his Oeconomicks, which because it gives us the Judgment of that great Philosopher, I will here transcribe. As to their Children, saith he, both Parents equally contribute to their Generation; but their Offices are peculiar as to their future Improvement. The Mothers Office is to Nurse, and the Fathers to Educate or Correct. In the Judgment then of St. Paul, those Widows who had nursed their own Children, were reputed to have done a good Work; and they that had not done so, were judged for that very reason unworthy of the Churches Charity. And as we may very well presume, the Apostle would not have exempted any indigent Widow from that Privilege for no Fault; but that it was a thing Scandalous and of very ill report, for any Christian Matron not to have nursed her own Children.
§18. I shall only add, That among the Duties of the younger Women, such as are not yet past Child-bearing, they are to be taught, That they love their Children, Tit. 2. 4. For if it be considered, that Nursing their own Children is a very proper and natural Testimony to maternal Love, and the most likely means not only to express but increase their natural Affection toward them; I see not how they can evade the Obligation of this Precept. For the Law of Love obliges a Mother to all proper Means and Ways of testifying and maintaining her Love, and consequently to this. The greatest Ladies are bound to love their Children as well as the meanest Beggar, and consequently to neglect no proper means of shewing and cherishing it: So that unless they deny Nursing of them to be such, they must hence conclude it to be their Duty.
§ 19. But before I put an and to this Chapter, it is requisite that I take notice of some passages which seem to discountenance the Cause I have been pleading for; least my pretermitting of them should make any to fancy it was not for the Weakness but Cogency and Weight of the Objection that is raise from them. I mean those Texts which mention some Nurses who were not the Mothers of the Children whom they Nursed. Such was Deborah, Rebecca's Nurse; Naomi, who became Nurse to her Grandson by Ruth; Mephibosheth's Nurse, who let him fall as she fled; and Joash's Nurse that was hid with him.
§ 20. Now in answer to these Instances, I shall only offer these things. I. That in some cases it is so far from being a necessary Duty, that it is not possible for the Child to be nursed by its own Mother: As if she die in Child-bed, or lye under some natural Inability from the want or Nipples or Suck. And in such cases recourse must be had to some other means for the Infants Preservation. And for what appears to the contrary, this may be the occasion of the Substitution of some of the Nurses abovenamed. Joash's Nurse it's probable supplied the Office of his deceased Mother; for his Aunts Care about his Preservation makes it likely, that his Mother was either dead before, or was Murdered in the universal Butchery of the Royal Family by Athaliah. 2. Some of those before named were dry Nurses, Assistants only not Substitutes to the Mother: Such doubtless was Naomi, whose Age and long Widowhood makes it very unlikely, that she should be ale to give her Grandchild Suck. And Pareus from Jacob's solemn Mourning at the Death of Deborah, concludes her to have been called Rebecca's Nurse, because she had assisted her in the Nursing of her Children, and not as if she had given her Suck; and that for this reason Jacob after his Mothers Death, had taken her into his own Family. 3. If it be granted most probable (as to me it seems to be) that Mephibosheth's Nurse gave him Suck, and was substituted in the room of his Mother; this will be no disadvantage to our Cause. For as it was his great Unhappiness to lose his Mother betimes, so it was a greater, to be committed to such a Nurse, as by her Carelessness (perhaps) made him a Cripple to his Death. Lastly, I cannot upon the whole, remember one Instance out of the Holy Scriptures, of any either good or bad Mother, who did her self deliver her Child to another to Nurse, nor is it probable that any of the Nurses instanced above, were made such by the Mothers of the Children themselves whilst they were living, and therefore they reach not to Patronize their Case, who ordinarily do so.
§ 21. Thus I have given a just and impartial account of the Testimonies of the Holy Scripture both of the Old and New Testament, which respect our present subject; and if they have been impartially considered, they must needs have satisfied you, that those Mothers are most conformable to the Dictates of God's Spirit in his Word, who themselves Nurse their own Children. And all the Favour I desire of any Mother upon the Survey of the forementioned particulars, is to allow her own Conscience to determine, whether God hath not in his Word plainly enough declared this to be her Duty. And then, I hope, none will be so Vain or Impious, as to oppose Custom or the Privilege of her Rank, to such indisputable Authority and plain Convictions of her Duty.