Images de page
PDF
ePub

thany: our Saviour staid in the field, till the sisters came forth to him; and the neighbours came forth after them: so they went together to the sepulchre. And, certainly, much might be said to this purpose for the convenience of out-funerals, without respect of those Jewish grounds, who held a kind of impurity in the corpses of the dead: but, that, which might be said, is rather out of matter of wholesomeness and civil considerations, than out of the grounds of theology:

In time, this rite of burial did so creep within the walls, that it insinuated itself into Churches; yea, into the holy of holies, quires and chancels, near unto the holy table, God's Evangelical Altar.

But, I must tell you, this custom hath found entertainment only in the Western Churches, that is, those that were of correspondence with the Roman: for the Greek Church allows no such practice, and the Roman at first admitted it very sparingly; so as Olim Episcopi et alii Principes sepeliebantur in Ecclesia; “None but Princes and Bishops," as Martinus Vivaldus, “ were of old interred in Churches:" afterwards, the privileges grew larger to other emi. nent benefactors unto the Church, and none but them. And now, that it is grown so cominon both in our Churches and the Roman, we may thank partly superstition, partly ambition and covetousness: Superstition, of them, that think the holiness of the place doth not a little avail the soul, at which error of the Romanists we shall touch anon; Ambition, of those, that love these qwtonhoias both living and dead; Covetousness, of those greedy hucksters of the Church of Rome, who, upon the sale of their suffrages, hoise the prices of their holy ground to their unreasonable advantages. · But, to speak freely what I think concerning this so common practice, I must needs say, I cannot but hold it very unfit and inconvenient; both,

First, in respect of the Majesty of the Place. It is supices“, “ the Lord's House;" Baoinine), “the Palace of the King of Heaven:” and what prince would have his Court made a charnel-house? How well soever we loved our deceased friends, yet, when their life is dissolved, there is none of us, but would be loth to have their corpses inmates with us in our houses: and why should we think fit to offer that to God's house, which we would be loth to endure in our own? The Jews and we are in extremes this way: They hold the place uuclean, where the dead lies; and will not abide to read any part of the Law near to ought that is dead: we make choice to lay our dead in the place, where we read and preach both Law and Gospel.

Secondly, in regard of the Annoyance of the Living: for the air, kept close within walls, arising from dead bodies, must needs be offensive; as we find by daily experience: more offensive now, than of old to God's people. They buried with odours; the fram grancy whereof was a good antidote for this inconvenience; She did this to bury me, saith our Saviour: not so with us; so as the air receives no other tincture, than what arises from the evaporation of corrupted bodies. To which must be added, that these human bo

dies are much more noisome this way, than the carcases of whatever other creature; like as those excretions which fall from them living yield more offence to the senses.

In both these respects, I hold it very inexpedient, to use the Church for ordinary burials.

Princes and great persons have their private Chapels for their repositories; as the east part of the famous royal Chapel of Westminster is severed and locked up, for the use of these regal sepultures. Their case differs therefore from the ordinary; as being secluded from the place of God's public service, and devoted to no other purpose: but that under the roof, which is wholly destined to the public service of God, we should bestow the dead bodies of our friends, I say, it is (though not unlawful, yet) very inconvenient, Have ye not houses to eat and drink in? saith the Apostle: much more may I say, Have ye not Church-yards, or other burial-places, for the interment of your dead?

It is reported by our history of St. Swithin, our neighbour-Bishop of Winchester, that he gave charge when he died, that his body should not be laid within the Church; but where the drops of rain might wet his grave, and where passengers might walk over it: an example worthy of our imitation; which now, upon the present occasion, I recommend unto you. There can no vault be so good to cover our graves, as that of heaven.

The very Mahometans might teach us this lesson; whose great ones have their sepultures near the Meskeito, never in it: the or. dinary sort contenting themselves with the burial in some pleasant place without the city; one stone erected at the head, another at the feet, with some inscription. But, though I approve not common buryings within the Church, as not deeming that a fit bestowage for the dead; yet, forasmuch as the Church is a place of most public resort and use, I cannot mislike, that, in some meet parts, whether floors, or pillars, or walls, especially of the side-Chapels pertaining thereunto, there be memorials or monuments of worthy and well-deserving Christians, whereby their knowledge and precious remembrances may be perpetuated to posterity. Like as we find it recorded of the nian of God, that prophesied against the altar of Bethel, whose inscription preserved his sepulchre. Memoria justi in benedictionibus; saith Solomon: and therefore it cannot be better recorded, than in the sacred Capitol of Blessings.

Thus much for the common employment of this field and cave; a meet burial-place, a place fixed, a place of choice, a field without the city: wherein I cannot but take occasion, to congratulate unto this city this day's work; that now, at last, all difficulties overcome, you have designed a field, a field before Mamre, a Machpelah, for the burial of the dead. As it was; surely, the corpses of our dead friends did, as it were, with the sons of the prophets, complain of the want of elbow-room, neither was it possible for any man to enjoy his last lodging-chamber alone. We, that disavow and punish inmates in the living, were fain to force them upon the dead. What need I recapitulate those now-forgotten inconveniences? This

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

day hath found a remedy for them all. I shall only, upon this occasion, make use of the words of Naomi concerning Boaz; Blessed be ye of the Lord, for you have not left off herein to shew kindness both to ihe living and to the dead.

2. We descend now to the PARTICULAR EMPLOYMENT of it, to the BURIAL OF SARAH; Abraham buried Sarah in the cave of the field. Which words look both at the act and the place: the act, Abraham's; the place, the cave in the field of Machpelah. It is an act wellbeseeming faithful Abraham, to bury the dead; although there had not been so near a relation as there was betwixt him and Sarah: now, there was a double tie

upon

him. This is justly one of the seven works of mercy: it is the charge, that is given us by the Wise Man, Mortuo non prohibias gratiam; Ecclesiasticus vii. 33. Our Romanists are apt to interpret it of their unseasonable suffrages, whereas that grace is no other than honest sepulture. To this purpose, is Naomi's blessing to her daughterin-law; Ruth i. 8: The Lord deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead and with me. Hence was the praise given to old Tobit; ii. 7. and i. 17: and, according to his practice, he gives advice; Pour out thy bread on the burial of the just ; Tobit iv. 17.

Let no man therefore think, when our Saviour gives that short answer to the cold disciple, Matth. viii. 22, Let the dead bury the dead, that he slights this work, as unmeet for the care of a zealous follower of his : no; it is a good and necessary duty to be performed to any son of the Church, much more to a natural father; neither could he possibly have been a good disciple, that would have been an ill son. But our Saviour's intention was, to imply a comparison of the necessity and worth of these two duties; burying of the dead, and following of Christ: both were good, but the following of Christ far more excellent; inasmuch as those that were dead in their sins might be capable of that service, but of this, in our Saviour's sense, none but the regenerate.

This commendable duty, as it was under the Old Testament carefully done by the Patriarchs and Prophets; and that, not without a meet solemnity: so, betwixt Law and Gospel, it was done by the disciples of John to their master, though put to death by the tyranny of a Herod; Matth. xiv. 12: and, under the Gospel, by the faithful to the protomartyr Stephen, notwithstanding the rage of his murderers; Acts viii. 2: and, to put it out of all thoughts of doubt, God himself performed this office to Moses, in a valley of the land of the Moabites.

I find here a double extreme.

The first, of those, that are careless of this last duty to their dead: not caring to do by their friends as by their hawks, which, alive, they can perch upon their fists; but, once dead, cast them upon the dunghill: to which add those canes sepulchrales, that care not to violate the tombs of the dead, as we know it was oft and publicly done in the late Marian times. Ye know the story of Paulus Fagius of Cambridge, and of the wife of Peter Martyr at Oxford, who was digged up and buried in a dunghill; but, in the change of times,

[ocr errors]

was taken up again, and the remainder of her body mixed with St. Frideswide's, past the danger of all future abuse. On the other side, I do both read and hear, that one of the greatest benefactors this Church ever had, Bishop Grandison, being shrouded in lead, was shamefully taken up again, the lead melted, and the Chapel demolished, in a zealous and sacrilegicus impiety. Indeed, in case of palpable and ring-leading idolatry, we find good Josiah did thus; 2 Kings xxiii. 16: He brake down the sepulchres, took out the bones, and burnt them upon that abominable altar of Bethely to prophane it. But this is no instance for fellow-Christians: those, that die in the faith of Christ, though with the mixture of many corruptions in doctrine or practice, God forbid but their bones should rest in peace.

The other extreme is, of them, who do so over-honour the dead, that they abridge some parts of them of a due sepelition. How many pieces of pretended saints have we partly seen, partly read and heard of; that have been, and are, kept from their graves, as subjects of religious venerations! Surely, it is hard to name that martyred Saint of ancient or latter times, that hath not left some limb, or some share of his blood, behind him, to be gazed on and adored. It is not my purpose, to dwell in the relation of the miserable mistakings and wilful impostures, (they are Cassander's own words, detestandæ imposture,) that there have been of this kind. Their own histories can tell us, that the bones of some of those, whom they have thus worshipped, have proved afterwards to have been the relics of thieves and murderers ; Non martyris, sed scelerati latronis; as St. Martin discovered in the Story of Sulpitius Servus: and the adored blood to have been of a drake, not a man. This foppery is more worthy, whether of pity or laughter, than of confutation.

It was a good word, which we have in the Constitutions Apostolical; s'È dei beve átoua; “That the relics of those that live with God are not unhonoured :" but those new bave were their bodies, and that honouring was by honourable sepulture. Such honour did good Josiah give to the corpse of the prophet, that came from Judah, whose title he saw upon his tomb: Nemo commoveat ; Let no man stir his bones. As if it were a wrong, to take the bone of a prophet out of his grave, though to make a relic of it. That, which Eusebius therefore tells us the citizens of Smyrna did to Polycarpus, that blessed Martyr; who took the bones of that holy man, more precious than the costliest stones and finest gold, and laid them, awe naà anónsdov yv, “in a place fit for them ;” is that, which we owe to all the parcels of the faithful departed, wheresoever we find them.

We will conclude this point then, with the advice and determination of their discreet and moderate Cassander; who, after the complaint of the abuses of this kind, in bis Consultation, Artic. 21. concludes, multò consultius videtur ut ab omni reliquiarum ostentatione abstineatur ; “ It were much the wiser way, that all ostentation of these bodily relics were forborne; and that people were taught rather to give due respects to the spiritual relics of holy men, in the imitation of the examples of their piety and virtues, which appear in those things that are written of and by them gravely and impartially.”

Away then with this insepulta sepultura ; as our learned Bishop calls it. Let their bones rest in peace; and let them take part with their Saviour, whose body was begged: not to be reserved, though more precious than all mortal bodies can be; but to be buried. And, as of his, so, in their measure, let it be said of theirs, Sepulchrum ejus gloriosum, Isaiah xi. 10: or, as the Greek letter, ávámeUOIS ; let their grave, their rest, not their ostension, be glorious.

Only the last point remaineth; the Place : In the cave of the field of Machpelah. There was the nest of the holy Patriarchs. Sarah began: Abraham followed: Rebekah succeeded them: then, Jacob: then, Joseph: and why thus, and there?

Some have fondly given out, that Adam and Eve were there buried. A vain tale. Theodoret's reason is good, TÒ yÉQ fugaywyw &c: “ Not,” saith he," that any of thein were curiously nice in the choice of their sepulchres, but that they might comfort their family, and teach them that God would surely bring them out of Egypt, and feoff them in this promised land.” Many other give several reasons, and not improbable; but I shall, out of Pererius's collection, add some few to the former. First, they desired their bodies might lie in that land, which they knew their posterity should possess and long inhabit, and wherein the holy and true God should be truly and publicly worshipped. Then, that their sepulchres might be, to all their posterity, the open monuments of that faith and piety, which they had and professed towards God; and vehement incitements to the following generations of continuing therein. Besides, they, by the spirit of prophecy, knew that the Messiah should be born there, and there live and die. Lastly, as Tostatus imagines, it was revealed to those famous Patriarchs, that the Lord Christ, there rising from the dead the third day, should be attended with many Saints thereabouts buried: in which number they made account to be; and, as some authors have boldly affirmed, were

All these may pass for possible arguments of this choice. But that, which Cardinal Bellarmin and some of his fellow Jesuits allege, is, at the least, groundless and absurd, That this was done with respect to the benefit of those prayers and suffrages, which their souls might have after death by the faithful, whereof they would fail in their remoteness amongst Infidels. What is to dream, if this be not ? For, who ever heard of a Patriarch praying for the dead, or expecting that office from another? Fevardentius is hard driven, when he is fain to have recourse to Isaac's meditating in the field; Gen. xxiv. 63: which he construes of his

for his mother's soul, departed three years before. These fancies are worthy of no answer, but hissing at: for, if there were a holy use of prayers for the dead, why should distance of place hinder it, or vicinity make it more effectual; since the communion of Saints is

prayers

« PrécédentContinuer »