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to those who have sought and found an interest in Christ Jesus, death hath lost his mighty terrors: and although the grave itself, which (considered as the door of another world, the entrance into eternity) appears so gloomy and awful to mere flesh and blood ; yet to the just,-»-to those who live by faith, earnestly longing and groaning to be clothed upon with their heavenly house, the grave appears more beautiful than the gates of paradise itself, for at the gates of paradise, upon the banishment of our guilty first parents, the angry cherubim, with his flaming sword, was placed to forbid all future entrance to any of mortal race; but angels of peace and love stand round the graves of the just, to shield them from harm and conduct them to glory!
By considerations such as these the approach of our own death will not only be reconciled to us, but on such occasions as the present, we may dry our tears, and commit to the dust the bodies of those who, according to our firm trust, have died in the Lord—believing that the angels of God have stood ready at their death-bed to receive their souls and waft them into Abraham's bosom.
We are now assembled to pay the last funeral honours to a minister of the altar, who has for many years been conspicuous in his station, both in public and in private life ; and much might be said as applicable to the sudden and melancholy occasion of his death—And though the suspicion of flattery too often accompanies the funeral characters of the present day, yet it is for the interest of virtue and mankind that they should not be brought wholly into disuse. The
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tribute of our praise and thankfulness to God is due for those who have, in some degree, been of benefit to the world, either in a civil or religious capacity, and who may be truly said not to have " lived to them"selves but for their country—her rights, her laws, "and her liberties, religious and civil; and, there"fore, at whatever stage of life they have died, they "have died unto the Lord"—They have died for us also, so far as we may improve their death to the great public and pious purposes, for which such holy solemnities, as the present, were first appointed, by the wisest nations. For
1st. They were appointed for the express purpose of commemorating the public virtues of the dead, nay even their crimes; for if they have been injurious to mankind, they may be held up to censure, with the great intent of leading mankind to imitate the former, and to abhor and shun the latter.
2dly. Such solemnities are intended to bring us into a proper familiarity with ourselves and our mortal condition; that we may be preparing for death, and enabled, through the grace offered us, to overcome his terrors!
Upon each of these heads, I shall beg leave seriously to address you on the present occasion.
On the first head, I say that to shed a few tears over our deceased friends, and even to set apart some decent and proper part of our time as days of mourning, is not only agreeable to the voice of nature, and the earliest examples of venerable antiquity; but likewise fully warranted by divine revelation itself.
"It is better, (says the wise man), to go to the *' house of mourning than to the house of feasting." A constant course of prosperity is apt to intoxicate us, and to make us forget either from whence we came, or whither we are going. It is often necessary that misfortune (or what we partially consider as such) should lay to her hand and check us in our wild career, either in depriving us of those we hold dear, or by other visitations. For thus shall we learn lessons which in our more prosperous moments we should never regard; and while, in veneration of the illustrious dead, we are led to exchange the accustomed walks of pleasure for the house of mourning, and to bedew its sacred recesses with tears of gratitude to their memory—in these serious and entendered moments, we are feelingly alive to the charms of virtue and dictates of religion. We strive to cloath ourselves with the mantles of the dead; to copy their laudable examples, and to catch some portion of the divine spirit wherewith they were animated, as it remounts from earth to its native regions in Heaven!
It was not only the manner of the Egyptians and Greeks, the fathers of arts and sciences, and of the chief heathen and moral wisdom, to celebrate the names, but also to embalm the bodies, of their virtuous dead, that they might be long preserved in view as public examples to others, and although dead yet speaking. Nor is the private unceremonious man-, mer which too much prevails among us in modern, times, of huddling our dead into the ground, even without the appointed offices of the church, any good. symptom of our regard to them, or to the cause of religion and virtue. On the contrary, it looks as if our whole aim was to succeed, as quickly and quiedy as possible, to their estates, their honours or places of employ, with but litde regard to their memories, or any due sense of their former usefulness, or the lessons which their deaths should teach.
The hand of a dead man stroaking the part is said, to be a cure for a certain unnatural swelling of the body, called the Tympany. But certain it is that the consideration of death is always one of the best cures for the unnatural swellings of the spirit, and of all pride and vain affections in men; since we see that whatever difference there may be among men or women in this world as to birth, education, wealth, honour, beauty, strength, character, and the like— death levels all, and leaves all alike, as the unpitied victims of his sad devastations.
But I said that the sacred scriptures, as well as the ancient customs of nations, justified funeral rites and eulogies on the dead.
When Joseph heard of the death of his venerable father Jacob, he hastened to the breathless clay; "fell "upon it, and wept over it, and kissed it, and com"mandedKs physicians to embalm the body; and he "and all his brethren, and kinsfolks, with chariots "and horsemen, a very great company, went up to "bury him in his own burying ground, as far as the "land of Canaan, and made a great and very sore "lamentation for their-father sexen days."*
So likewise, in the book of Ecclesiasticus, we find the following express command—
* Genesis, Chap. L.
"My son, let tears fall over the dfcaVl, and begin l' to lament, as if thou hadst suffered great harm "thyself; and then cover his body according to the "custom, and neglect not his burial;" but—" weep "bitterly and make great moan, and use lamentation, "and that a day or two, lest thou be evil spoken of— '' and then comfort thyself under thy heaviness."
Here we have a full and exact account-of funeral mournings, honours and solemnities, under the old Testament dispensation. In like manner, in the new Testament—" the devout men who carried Stephen to "his burial, made great lamentation over him; and "when Peter went to raise Dorcas from the dead "(whohad been a woman full of good works and alms"deeds) the widows whom she had relieved in her "life time, came round him weeping, and shewing "the coats and garments which she had made, while
"she was with them" "nay, a greater than Peter,
"even Jesus Christ, groaned in spirit over Laza"rus"—or rather, he shed tears of love and sympathy with the weeping relatives of the deceased, at the moment he was preparing to call him forth again from the dead. So far, concerning the duty of funeral solemnities. I come now more particularly—
2dly. To speak of commemorating the virtues of the dead, for the example and benefit of the living. This is an advantage, as I said before, which in these days is seldom improved. For the righteous and the good are too often taken away, and no man layeth it to heart; or if they lay it to heart at all, it is perhaps to murmur or complain of the wise dispensations of Providence, and say with the wise