1632 By George Herbert

The Parson in Sacraments.

THe Countrey Parson being to administer the Sacra-
ments, is at a stand with himself, how or what behaviour
to assume for so holy things. Especially at Commu-
nion times he is in a great confusion, as being not only to
receive God, but to break, and administer him. Neither
findes he any issue in this, but to throw himself down at the
throne of grace, saying, Lord, thou knowest what thou didst,
when thou appointedst it to be done thus; therefore doe
thou fulfill what thou didst appoint; for thou art not only
the feast, but the way to it. At Baptisme, being himselfe in
white, he requires the presence of all, and Baptizeth not
willingly, but on Sundayes, or great dayes. Hee admits no
vaine or idle names, but such as are usuall and accustomed.
Hee says that prayer with great devotion, where God is
thanked for calling us to the knowledg of his grace, Baptisme
being a blessing, that the world hath not the like. He will-
ingly and cheerfully crosseth the child, and thinketh the
Ceremony not onely innocent, but reverend. He instructeth
the God-fathers, and God-mothers, that it is no comple-
mentall or light thing to sustain that place, but a great
honour, and no less burden, as being done both in the
presence of God, and his Saints, and by way of undertaking
for a Christian soul. He adviseth all to call to minde their
Baptism often; for if wise men have thought it the best way
of preserving a state to reduce it to its principles by which
it grew great; certainly, it is the safest course for Christians
also to meditate on their Baptisme often (being the first step
into their great and glorious calling) and upon what termes,
and with what vowes they were Baptized. At the times of
the Holy Communion, he first takes order with the Church-
Wardens, that the elements be of the best, not cheape, or
course, much lesse ill-tasted, or unwholsome. Secondly, hee
considers and looks into the ignorance, or carelesness of his
flock, and accordingly applies himselfe with Catechizings,
and lively exhortations, not on the Sunday of the Com-
munion only (for then it is too late) but the Sunday, or
Sundayes before the Communion, or on the Eves of all those
dayes. If there be any, who having not received yet, are to
enter into this great work, he takes the more pains with
them, that hee may lay the foundation of future Blessings.
The time of every ones first receiving is not so much by
yeers, as by understanding: particularly, the rule may be
this: When any one can distinguish the Sacramentall from
common bread, knowing the Institution, and the difference,
hee ought to receive, of what age soever. Children and
youths are usually deferred too long, under pretence of
devotion to the Sacrament, but it is for want of Instruction;
their understandings being ripe enough for ill things, and
why not then for better? But Parents, and Masters should
make hast in this, as to a great purchase for their children,
and servants; which while they deferr, both sides suffer; the
one in wanting many excitings of grace; the other, in being
worse served and obeyed. The saying of the Catechism is
necessary, but not enough; because to answer in form may
still admit ignorance: but the Questions must be propounded
loosely and wildely, and then the Answerer will discover
what hee is. Thirdly, For the manner of receiving, as the
Parson useth all reverence himself, so he administers to none
but to the reverent. The Feast indeed requires sitting,
because it is a Feast; but man's unpreparednesse asks kneel-
ing. Hee that comes to the Sacrament, hath the confidence
of a Guest, and hee that kneels, confesseth himself an un-
worthy one, and therefore differs from other Feasters: but
hee that sits, or lies, puts up to an Apostle: Contentious-
nesse in a feast of Charity is more scandall then any posture.
Fourthly, touching the frequency of the Communion, the
Parson celebrates it, if not duly once a month, yet at least
five or six times in the year; as, at Easter, Christmasse, Whit-
suntide, afore and after Harvest, and the beginning of Lent.
And this hee doth, not onely for the benefit of the work, but
also for the discharge of the Church-wardens, who being to
present all that receive not thrice a year; if there be but three
Communions, neither can all the people so order their affairs
as to receive just at those times, nor the Church-Wardens
so well take notice who receive thrice, and who not.

Editor's Note:
  • On Communion
    • The Book of Common Prayer 1559 for George Herbert. Communion
    • On Approaching Communion: Love III
    • Other Poems in The Temple using Communion as a subject
Catholic Note: Protestants have only 2 sacraments. As listed above.

Protestant Note: Roman Catholics have 7 sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist (Communion), Penance, Holy Orders (Ordination to the Priesthood), Matrimony and Extreme Unction (once called "Last Rights," now this is Anointing the Sick).

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