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Christian religion, which prescribes severity and austere deportment, and the labours of love, and exemplar tenderness of affections, and piety to children, which are the most natural and nearest relations the parents, have. That religion, which commands us to visit and to tend sick strangers, and wash the feet of the poor, and dress their ulcers, and sends us upon charitable embassies into unclean prisons, and bids us lay down our lives for one another, is not pleased with a niceness and sensual curiosity (that I may not name the wantonnesses of lusts), which denies suck to our own children. What is more humane and affectionate than Christianity ? and what is less natural and charitable than to deny the expresses of a mother's affection ? which certainly to good women is the greatest trouble in the world, and the greatest violence to their desires, if they should not express and minister.
14. And it would be considered, whether those mothers, who have neglected their first duties of piety and charity, can expect so prompt and easy returns of duty and piety from their children, whose best foundation is love; and that love strongest, which is most natural; and that most natural, which is conveyed by the first ministries and impresses of nourishment and education. And if love descends more strongly than it ascends, and commonly falls from the parents upon the children in cataracts, and returns back again up to the parents but in gentle dews; if the child's affection keeps the same proportions towards such unkind mothers, it will be as little as atoms in the sun, and never express itself but when the mother needs it not; that is, in the sunshine of a clear fortune.
15. This, then, is amongst those instincts, which are natural, heightened first by reason, and then exalted by grace into the obligation of a law; and, being amongst the sanctions of nature, its prevarication is a crime very near those sins, which divines, in detestation of their malignity, call sins against nature, and is never to be excused but in cases of necessity' or greater charity ; as when the mother cannot be a nurse by reason of natural disability, or is afflicted with a disease, which might be transmitted in the milk;.or, in case of the public necessities of a kingdom, for the securing of succession in the royal family. And yet, concerning this last, Lycurgus made a law, that the noblest amongst the Spartan women, though their kings' wives, should at least nurse their eldest son, and the plebeians should nurse all theirs; and Plutarch reports, that the second son of king Themistes inherited the kingdom in Sparta, only because he was nursed with his mother's milk, and the eldest was therefore rejected, because a stranger was his nurse. And that queens have suckled and nursed their own children, is no very unusual kindness in the simplicity and hearty affections of elder ages, 'as is to be seen in Herodotus and other historians. I shall only remark one instance, out of the Spanish chronicles, which Henry Stephens, in his apology for Herodotus, reports to have heard from thence related by a noble personage, Monsieur Marillac : That a Spanish lady, married into France, nursed her child with so great a tenderness and jealousy, that, having understood the little prince once to have sucked a stranger, she was unquiet, till she had forced him to vomit it up again. In other cases, the crime lies at their door, who enforce neglect upon the other, and is heightened in proportion to the motive of the omission; as, if wantonness or pride be the parent of the crime, the issue, besides its natural deformity, hath the excrescences of pride or lust to make it more ugly.
| Necessitas, magnum imbecillitatis humanæ patrocinium, quicquid cogit excusat.--Senec.
16. To such mothers I propound the example of the holy Virgin, who had the honour to be visited by an angel ; yet, after the example of the saints in the Old Testament, she gave to the holy Jesus drink from those bottles, which himself had filled for his own drinking; and her paps were as surely blessed for giving him suck, as her womb for bearing him : and reads a lecture of piety and charity, which if we deny to our children, there is then in the world left no argument or relation great enough to kindle it from a cinder to a flame. God gives dry breasts, for a curse to some, for an affliction to others; but those, that invite it to them by voluntary arts, “ love not blessing, therefore shall it be far from them.” And I remember, that it was said concerning Annius Minutius the censor, that he thought it a prodigy, and extremely
ominous to Rome, that a Roman lady refused to nurse her child, and yet gave suck to a puppy, that her milk might, with more safety, be dried up with artificial applications. Let none, therefore, divide the interests of their own children; for she that appeared before Solomon, and would have the child divided, was not the true mother, and was the more culpable of the two.
O holy and eternal God, Father of the creatures, and King
of all the world, who hast imprinted in all the sons of thy creation principles and abilities to serve the end of their own preservation, and to men hast superadded reason making those first propensities of nature to be reasonable in order to society, and a conversation in communities and bodies politic, and hast, by several laws and revelations, directed our reasons to nearer applications to thee, and performance of thy great end, the glory of our Lord and Father; teach me strictly to observe the order of creation, and the designs of the creatures, that in my order I may do that service, which every creature does in its proper capacity. Lord, let me be as constant in the ways of religion, as the sun in his course ; as ready to follow the intimations of thy Spirit, as little birds are to obey the directions of thy providence, and the conduct of thy hand. And let me never, by evil customs, or vain company, or false persuasions, extinguish those principles of morality and right reason, which thou hast imprinted in my understanding, in my creation and education, and which thou hast ennobled by the superadditions of Christian institution; that I may live according to the rules of nature in such things, which she teaches, modestly, temperately, and affectionately, in all the parts of my natural and political relations; and that I, proceeding from nature to grace, may henceforth go on from grace to glory, the crown of all obedience, prudent and holy walking, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Of the great and glorious Accidents, happening about the Birth
1. ALTHOUGH the birth of Christ was destitute of the usual excrescences and less necessary pomps, which used to signify and illustrate the birth of princes; yet his first humility was made glorious with presages, miracles, and significations from heaven, which did not cnly, like the furniture of a princely bedchamber, speak the riches of the parent, or greatness of the son within its own walls, but did declare to all the world, that their prince was born, publishing it with figures and representments almost as great as its empire.
2. For, when all the world did expect, that in Judæa should be born their prince, and that the incredulous world had, in their observation, slipped by their true prince, because he came not in pompous and secular illustrations ; upon that very stock Vespasiana was nursed up in hope of the Roman empire, and that hope made him great in designs; and they being prosperous, made his fortunes correspond to his hopes, and he was endeared and engaged upon that fortune by the prophecy, which was never intended him by the prophet. But the fortune of the Roman monarchy was not great enough for this prince designed by the old prophets. And, therefore, it was not without the influence of a Divinity, that his decessor Augustus, about the time of Christ's nativity, refused to be called Lord b; possibly it was, to entertain the people with some hopes of restitution of their liberties, till he had griped the monarchy with a stricter and faster hold. But the Christians were apt to believe, that it was upon the prophecy of a sybil foretelling the birth of a greater prince, to whom all the world should pay adoration; and that the prince was about that time born in Judæa', the oracle, which was dumb to Augustus's question, told him unasked, the devil having no tongue permitted him but one to proclaim that “an Hebrew child was his Lord and enemy."
a Sueton. in Vita Vesp. Vide etiam Ciceron. de Divin. B Orosius, 1. vi. c. 22.
c Suidas in Histor. Verb. Augustus.
3. At the birth of which child, there was an universal peace through all the world. For then it was, that Augustus Cæsar", having composed all the wars of the world, did, the third time, cause the gates of Janus's temple to be shut; and this peace continued for twelve years, even till the extreme old age of the prince, until rust had sealed the temple doors, which opened not till the sedition of the Athenians, and the rebellion of the Dacians, caused Augustus to arm.
For he that was born, was the Prince of Peace, and came to reconcile God with man, and man with his brother; and to make, by the sweetness of his example, and the influence of a holy doctrine, such happy atonements between disagreeing natures, such confederations and societies between enemies, that “the wolf and the lamb should lie down together, and a little child," boldly, and without danger, “ put his finger in the nest and cavern of an aspe.” And it could be no less than miraculous, that so great a body as the Roman empire, consisting of so many parts, whose constitutions were differing, their humours contrary, their interests contradicting each other's greatness, and all these violently oppressed by an usurping power, should have no limb out of joint, not so much as an aching tooth, or a rebelling humour, in that huge collection of parts; but so it seemed good in the eye of Heaven, by so great and good a symbol, to declare not only the greatness, but the goodness, of the Prince, that was then born in Judæa, the Lord of all the world.
4. But because the heavens, as well as the earth, are his creatures, and do serve him, at his birth he received a sign in heaven above, as well as in the earth beneath, as an homage paid to their common Lord. For as certain shepherds were
keeping watch over their flocks by night,” near that part where Jacob did use to feed his cattle, when he was in the land of Canaan," the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them.” Needs must the shepherds be afraid, when an angel came arrayed in glory, and clothed their persons in a robe of light, great enough to confound their senses and scatter their understandings. But“ the angel said unto them, Fear not; for I bring unto you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For
e Isa, xi, 6.