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Peroration concerning the Contingencies and Treatings of our departed Friends after Death, in order to their Burial, etc.
When we have received the last breath of our friend, and closed his eyes, and composed his body for the grave, then seasonable is the counsel of the Son of Sirach: ‘Weep bitterly, and make great moan, and use lamentation, as he is worthy, and that a day or two, lest thou be evil spoken of; and then comfort thyself for thy heaviness. But take no grief to heart; for there is no turning again: thou shalt not do him good, but hurt thyself.185185Ecclus. xxxviii. 17, 20. Solemn and appointed mournings are good expressions of our dearness to the departed soul, and of his worth, and our value of him; and it hath its praise in nature, and in manners, and in public customs; but the praise of it is not in the Gospel, that is, it hath no direct and proper uses in religion. For if the dead did die in the Lord, then there is joy to him; and it is an ill expression of our affection and our charity to weep uncomfortably at a change that hath carried my friend to the state of a huge felicity. But if the man did perish in his folly and his sins, there is indeed cause to mourn, but no hopes of being comforted; for he shall never return to light, or to hopes of restitution; therefore, beware lest thou also come into the same place of torment; and let thy grief sit down, and rest upon thy own turf, and weep till a shower springs from thy eyes to heal the wounds of thy spirit; turn thy sorrow into caution, thy grief for him that is dead to thy care for thyself who art alive, lest thou die and fall like one of the fools whose life is worse than death, and their death is the consummation of all felicities. The church in her funerals of the dead used to sing psalms, and to give thanks for the redemption and delivery of the soul from the evils and dangers of mortality; and therefore we have no reason to be angry when God hears our prayers, who call upon him to hasten his coming, and to fill up his numbers, and to do that which we pretend to give him thanks for. And St. Chrysostom asks, “To what purpose is it that thou singest, ‘Return unto thy rest, O my soul,' etc., if thou dost not believe thy friend to be in rest? and if thou dost, why dost thou weep impertinently and unreasonable?” Nothing but our own loss can justly be deplored; and him that is passionate for the loss of his money or his advantages we esteem foolish and imperfect; and therefore have no reason to love the immoderate sorrows of those who too earnestly mourn for their dead, when, in the last resolution of the inquiry, it is their own evil and present or feared inconveniences they deplore; the best that can be said of such a grief is, that those mourners love themselves too well. Something is to be given to custom, something to fame, to nature, and to civilities, and to the honour of the deceased friends; for that man is esteemed to die miserable for whom no friend or relative sheds a tear186186Expectavimus lacrymas ad ostentationem doloris paratas: et ergo ambitiosus detonuit, texit superhum pallio caput, et nanibus inter se usque ad articulorum strepitum contritis, etc. Petron. 17.3. or pays a solemn sigh. I desire to die a dry death, but am not very desirous to have a dry funeral: some flowers sprinkled upon my grave would do well and comely; and a soft shower to turn those flowers into a springing memory, or a fair rehearsal, that I may not go forth of my doors as my servants carry the entrails of beasts.
But that which is to be faulted in this particular is when the grief is immoderate and unreasonable; and Paula Romana deserved to have felt the weight of St. Jerome's severe reproof, when at the death of every of her children she almost wept herself into her grave. But it is worse yet, when people by an ambitious and a pompous sorrow, and by ceremonies invented for the ostentation of their grief, fill heaven and earth with exclamations, and grow troublesome because their friend is happy, or themselves want his company. It is certainly a sad thing in nature to see a friend trembling with a palsy, or scorched with fevers, or dried up like a potsherd with immoderate heats, and rolling upon his uneasy bed without sleep, which he cannot be invited with music, or pleasant murmurs, or a decent stillness; nothing but the servants of cold death, poppy and weariness, can tempt the eyes to let their curtains down; and then they sleep only to taste of death, and make an essay of the shades below: and yet we weep not here; the period and opportunity for tears we choose when our friend is fallen asleep, when he hath laid his neck upon the lap of his mother, and let his head down to be raised up to heaven. This grief is ill-placed and indecent. But many times it is worse; and it hath been observed, that those greater and stormy passions do so spend the whole stock of grief that they presently admit a comfort and contrary affection, while a sorrow that is even and temperate goes on to its period with expectation and the distances of a just time. The Ephesian woman that the soldier told of in Petronius was the talk of all the town, and the rarest example of a dear affection to her husband. She descended with the corpse into the vault, and there, being attended with her maiden, resolved to weep to death, or die with famine, or a distempered sorrow: from which resolution nor his, not her friends, nor the reverence of the principal citizens, who used the entreaties of their charity and their power, could persuade her. But a soldier that watched seven dead bodies hanging upon trees just over against this monument crept in, and awhile stared upon the silent and comely disorders of the sorrow; and having let the wonder awhile breathe out at each other's eyes, at last he fetched his supper and a bottle of wine with purpose to eat and drink, and still to feed himself with that sad prettiness. His pity and first-draught of wine made him bold and curious to try if the maid would drink; who, having many hours since felt her resolution faint as her wearied body, took his kindness, and the light returned into her eyes, and danced like boys in a festival: and fearing lest the pertinaciousness of her mistress's sorrows should cause her evil to revert, or her shame of approach, essayed whether she would endure to hear an argument to persuade her to drink and live. The violent passion had laid all her spirits in wildness and dissolution, and the maid found them willing to be gathered into order at the arrest of any new object, being weary of the first, of which, like leeches, they had sucked their fill, till they fell down and burst. The weeping woman took her cordial, and was not angry with her maid, and heard the soldier talk; and he was so pleased with the change, that he who first loved the silence of the sorrow was more in love with the music of her returning voice, especially which himself had strung and put in tune: and the man began to talk amorously, and the woman's weak head and heart were soon possessed with a little wine, and grew gay, and talked, and fell in love; and that very night, in the morning of her passion, in the grave of her husband, in the pomps of mourning, and in her funeral garments, married her new and stranger-guest. For so the wild foragers of Lybia, being spent with heat, and dissolved by the too fond kisses of the sun, do melt with their common fires, and die with faintness, and descend with motions slow and unable to the little brooks that descent from heaven in the wilderness; and when they drink they return into the vigour of a new life, and contract strange marriages; and the lioness is courted by a panther, and she listens to his love, and conceives a monster that all men call unnatural, and the daughter of an equivocal passion and of a sudden refreshment. And so also was it in the cave at Ephesus: for by this time the soldier began to think it was fit he should return to his watch and observe the dead bodies he had in charge: but when he ascended from his mourning bridal-chamber, he found that one of the bodies was stolen by the friends of the dead, and that he was fallen into an evil condition, because, by the laws of Ephesus, his body was to be fixed in the place of it. The poor man returns to his woman, cries out bitterly, and in her presence resolves to die to prevent his death, and in secret to prevent his shame: but now the woman's love was raging like her former sadness, and grew witty, and she comforted her soldier, and persuaded him to live, lest by losing him who had brought her from death and a more grievous sorrow, she should return to her old solemnities of dying, and lose her honour for a dream, or the reputation of her constancy without the change and satisfaction of an enjoyed love. The man would fain have lived if it had been possible, and she found out this way for him; that he should take the body of her first husband, whose funeral she had so strangely mourned, and put it upon the gallows in the place of the stolen thief; he did so, and escaped the present danger to possess a love which might change as violently as her grief had done. But so have I seen a crowd of disordered people rush violently and in heaps, till their utmost border was restrained by a wall, or had spent the fury of the first fluctuation and watery progress, and by and by it returned to the contrary with the same earnestness, only because it was violent and ungoverned. A raging passion is this crowd, which, when it is not under discipline and the conduct of reason, and the proportions of temperate humanity, runs passionately the way it happens, and by and by as greedily to another side, being swayed by its own weight, and driven any whither by chance in all its pursuits, having no rule but to do all it can, and spend itself in haste, and expire with some shame and much indecency.
When thou hast wept awhile, compose the body to burial; which that it be done gravely, decently, and charitably, we have the example of all nations to engage us and of all ages of the world to warrant: so that it is against common honesty and public fame and reputation not to do this office.
It is good that the body be kept veiled and secret, and not exposed to curious eyes, or the dishonours wrought by the changes of death discerned and stared upon by impertinent persons. When Cyrus was dying, he called his sons and friends to take their leave, to touch his hand, to see him the last time, and gave in charge, that when he had put his veil over his face no man should uncover it: and Epiphanius's body was rescued from inquisitive eyes by a miracle. Let it be interred after the manner of the country, and the laws of the place, and the dignity of the person. For so Jacob was buried with great solemnity, and Joseph's bones were carried into Canaan after they had been embalmed and kept four hundred years; and devout men carried St. Stephen to his burial, making great lamentation over him. And Elian tells that those who were the most excellent persons were buried in purple; and men of an ordinary courage and fortune had their graves only trimmed with branches of olive and mourning flowers. But when Marc Anthony gave the body of Brutus to his freed-man to be buried honestly, he gave also his own mantle to be thrown into his funeral pile: and the magnificence of the old funeral we may see largely described by Virgil in the obsequies of Misenus, and by Homer in the funeral of Patroclus, It was noted for piety in the men of Jabesh-Gilead, that they showed kindness to their lord, Saul, and buried him; and they did it honourably. And our blessed Saviour, who was temperate in his expense, and grave in all the parts of his life and death, as age and sobriety itself, yet was pleased to admit the cost of Mary's ointment upon his head and feet, because she did it against his burial; and though she little thought it had been so nigh, yet because he accepted it for that end he knew he had made her apology sufficient: by which he remarked it to be a great act of piety, and honourable, to inter our friends and relatives according to the proportions of their condition, and so to give a testimony of our hope of their resurrection.187187Nam quid sibi saxa cavata, Quid pulchra volunt momumenta, Nisi quod res creditur illis Non mortua, sed data somno? Prud. Hymn in Eceq. Defunct So far is piety; beyond it may be the ostentation and bragging of a grief, or a design to serve worse ends. Such was that of Herod, when he made too studied and elaborate a funeral for Aristobulus whom he had murdered; and of Regulus for his boy,188188Cupit omnia ferre Produgus et totos Melior succendere census, Desertas exosus opes.—Statius, lib. ii. Sylner. at whose pile he killed dogs, nightingales, parrots, and little horses; and such also was the expense of some of the Romans, who, hating their left wealth, gave order by their testament to have huge portions of it thrown into their fires, bathing their locks, which were presently to pass through the fire, with Arabian and Egyptian liquors and balsam of Judea. In this, as in every thing else, as our piety must not pass into superstition or vain expense, so neither must the excess be turned into parsimony, and chastised by negligence and impiety to the memory of their dead.
But nothing of this concerns the dead in real and effective purposes; nor is it with care to be provided for by themselves: but it is the duty of the living.189189Totus hic locus contemneudus est in nobis, non negligendus in nostris.—Cicero. For to them it is all one190190Id cinerem aut manes credis curare sepultos? whether they be carried forth upon a chariot or a wooden hier; whether they rot in the air or in the earth; whether they be devoured by fishes or by worms, by birds or by sepulchral dogs, by water or by fire, or by delay. When Criton asked Socrates how he would be buried, he told him, I think I shall escape from you, and that you cannot catch me; but so much of me as you can apprehend, use it as you see cause for and bury it; but, however, do it according to the laws. There is nothing in this but opinion and the decency of fame to be served. When it is esteemed an honour and the manner of blessed people to descend into the graves of their fathers, there also it is reckoned as a curse to be buried in a strange land, or that the birds of the air devour them.191191Fugientibus Trojanis minatus est Hector. Some nations used to eat the bodies of their friends, and esteemed that the most honoured sepulture; but they were barbarous. The magi never buried any but such as were torn of beasts. The Persians besmeared their dead with wax, and the Egyptians with gums and with great art did condite the bodies and laid them in charnel-houses. But Cyrus the elder would none of all this, but gave command that his body should be interred, not laid in a coffin of gold or silver, but just into the earth from whence all living creatures receive birth and nourishment, and whither they must return. Among Christians the honour which is valued in the behalf of the dead is, that they be buried in holy ground; that is, in appointed cemeteries in places of religion, there were the field of God is sown with the seeds of the resurrection.192192Nam quod requiescere corpus Vacuum sine mente videmus, Spatium breve restat, ut alti Repetat collgia senus Hinc maxima cura sepulchris Impenditur.—Prud. Hymn, in exeq. Defunct. that their bodies also may be among the Christians, with whom their hope and their portion is and shall be for ever. “Quicquid feceris, omnia haec eodem ventura sunt.” That we are sure of: our bodies shall all be restored to our souls hereafter, and in the interval they shall all be turned into dust, by what way soever you or your chance shall dress them. Licinus the freed-man slept in a marble tomb,193193Marmoreo Licinus tumulo jacet, at Cato parvo, Pompeius nullo: credimus esse Deos?—Varro Atacinus but Cato in a little one, Pompey in none; and yet they had the best fate among the Romans, and a memory of the biggest honour. And it may happen that to want a monument may best preserve their memories, while the succeeding ages shall, by their instances, remember the changes of the world, and the dishonours of death, and the equality of the dead: and James the Fourth,194194Fama orbem replet, mortem sors occulit, at tu Desine scrutari quod tegit ossa solum. Si mihi dent animo non impar fata speulcrum, Angusta est tumulo terra Britanna meo. king of the Scots, obtained an epitaph for wanting of a tomb; and King Stephen is remembered with a sad story, because four hundred years after his death his bones were thrown into a river that evil men might sell the leaden coffin. It is all one in the final event of things.195195Cernit ibi moestos et mortis honore carentes Leucaspim, et Lyciae ductorem classis Orontem.—Eneid. vi. Ninus the Assyrian had a monument erected, whose height was nine furlongs, and the breadth ten, saith Diodorus: but John the Baptist had more honour when he was humbly laid in the earth between the bodies of Abdias and Elizeus. And St. Ignatius, who was buried in the bodies of lions, and St. Polycarp, who was burned to ashes, shall have their bones and their flesh again with greater comfort than those violent persons who slept among kings, having usurped their thrones when they were alive, and their sepulchres when they were dead.
Concerning doing honour to the dead, the consideration is not long. Anciently the friends of the dead used to make their funeral orations,196196Lustravitque viros, dixitque novissima verba.—Eceid. and what they spake of greater commendation was pardoned upon the accounts of friendship; but when Christianity seized upon the possession of the world, this charge was devolved upon priests and bishops, and they first kept the custom of the world, and adorned it with the piety of truth and of religion; but they also so ordered it, that it should not be cheap; for they made funeral sermons only at the death of princes or of such holy persons, who shall judge the angels. The custom descended, and in the channels mingled with the veins of earth through which it passed; and now-a-days men that die are commended at a price, and the measures of their legacy is the degree of their virtue. But these things ought not so to be: the reward of the greatest virtue ought not to be prostitute to the doles of common persons, but preserved like laurels and coronets, to remark and encourage the noblest things. Persons of an ordinary life should neither be praised publicly nor reproached in private; for it is an office and charge of humanity to speak no evil of the dead (which, I suppose, is meant concerning things not public and evident;) but then neither should our charity to them teach us to tell a lie, or to make a great flame from a heap of rushes and mushrooms, and make orations crammed with the narrative of little observances, and acts of civil, and necessary, and eternal religion.
But that which is most considerable is, that we should do something for the dead, something that is real and of proper advantage. That we perform their will, the laws oblige us, and will see to it; but that we do all those parts of personal duty which our dead left unperformed, and to which the laws do not oblige us, is an act of great charity and perfect kindness: and it may redound to the advantage of our friends also, that their debts be paid even beyond the inventory of their movables.
Besides this, let us right their causes and assert their honour. When Marcus Regulus had injured the memory of Herennius Senecio, Metius Carus asked him what he had to do with his dead? and became his advocate after death, of whose cause he was patron when he was alive. And David added this also, that he did kindnesses to Mephibosheth for Jonathan's sake; and Solomon pleaded his father's cause by the sword against Joab and Shimel. And certainly it is the noblest thing in the world to do, an act of kindness to him whom we shall never see, but yet hath deserved it of us, and to whom we would do it if he were present; and unless we do so our charity is mercenary, and our friendships are direct merchandise, and our gifts are brocage: but what we do to the dead or to the living for their sakes is gratitude, and virtue for virtue's sake, and the noblest portion of humanity.
And yet I remember, that the most excellent prince Cyrus, in his last exhortation to his sons upon his death-bed, charms them into peace and union of hearts and designs, by telling them that his soul would be still alive, and therefore fit to be revered and accounted as awful and venerable as when he was alive: and what we do to our dead friends is not done to persons undiscerning as a fallen tree, but to such who better attend to their relatives, and to greater purposes, though in other manner, than they did here below. And therefore those wise persons, who in their funeral orations made their doubt with an ει τις αισφνσιζ τοιζ τετελευτνκοσι τερι των ενφασε γεγνομενων, “If the dead have any perception of what is done below,” which are the words of Isocrates, in the funeral encomium of Evagoras, did it upon the uncertain opinion of the soul's immortality; but made no question if they were living they did also understand what could concern them. The same words Nazianzen uses at the exequies of his sister Gorgonia, and in the former invective against Julian: but this was upon another reason; even because it was uncertain what the state of separation was, and whether our dead perceive anything of us, till we shall meet in the day of judgment. If it was uncertain then, it is certain since that time we have had no new revelation concerning it; but it is ten to one but when we die we shall find the state of affairs wholly differing from all our opinions here, and that no man or sect hath guessed anything at all of it as it is. here I intend not to dispute, but to persuade; and therefore, in the general, if it be probable that they know or feel the benefits done to them, though but by a reflex revelation from God, or some under-communication from an angel, or the stock of acquired notices here below, it may the rather endear us to our charities or duties to them respectively; since our virtues use not to live upon abstractions, or inducements, but then thrive when they have material arguments, such which are not too far from sense. However, it be, it is certain they are not dead; and though we no more see the souls of our dead friends than we did when they were alive, yet we have reason to believe them to know more things and better; and if our sleep be an image of death, we may also observe concerning it, that it is a state of life so separate from communications with the body, that it is one of the ways of oracle and prophecy197197Ηυε του ανφρωπου ψυχη τοτε σηπου φειοτατη καταφαινεται, καιτοτε τι των νελλεντων προοορα τοτε γυρ ως εοικε ναλιοτα ελευφερυται.—Cyrus apud Xenoph. lib. viii. Instit. by which the soul best declares her immortality, and the nobleness of her actions and powers, if she could get free from the body, (as in the state of separation, or a clear dominion over it,) as in the resurrection. To which also this consideration may be added, that men a long time live the life of sense before they use their reason; and till they have furnished their head with experiments and notices of many things, they cannot at all discourse of anything: but when they come to use their reason, all their knowledge is nothing but remembrance; and we know by proportions, by similitudes and dissimilitudes, by relations and oppositions, by causes and effects, by comparing things with things; all which are nothing but operations of understanding upon the stock of former notices, of something we knew before, nothing but remembrances: all the heads of topics, which are the stock of all arguments and sciences in the world, are a certain demonstration of this; and he is the wisest man that remembers most, and joins those remembrances together to the best purposes of discourses. From whence it may not be improbably gathered, that in the state of separation, if there be any act of understanding, that is, if the understanding be alive, it must be relative to the notices it had in this world; and therefore the acts of it must be discourses upon all the parts and persons of their conversation and relation, excepting only such new revelation which may be communicated to it; concerning which we know nothing. But if by seeing Socrates I think upon Plato, and by seeing a picture I remember a man, and by beholding two friends I remember my own and my friend's need; (and he is wisest that draws lines from the same centre, and most discourses from the same notices;) it cannot be very probable to believe, since the separate souls understand better if they understand at all, that from the notices they carried from hence, and what they find there equal or unequal to those notices, they can better discover the things of their friends, than we can here by our conjectures and craftiest imaginations and yet many men here can guess shrewdly at the thoughts and designs of such men with whom they discourse, or of whom they have heard, or whose characters they prudently have perceived. I have no other end in this discourse, but that we may be witnesses of our transient affections and forgetfulness. Dead persons have religion passed upon them, and a solemn reverence; and if we think a ghost beholds us, it may be we have upon us the impressions likely to be made by love, and fear, and religion. However, we are sure that God sees us, and the world sees us; and if it be matter of duty towards our dead, God will exact it; if it be matter of kindness, the world will: and as religion is the band of that, so fame and reputation are the endearment of this.
It remains, that we who are alive should so live, and by the actions of religion attend the coming of the day of the Lord, that we neither be surprised nor leave our duties imperfect, nor our sins uncancelled, nor our persons unreconciled, nor God unappeased; but that, when we descend to our graves, we may rest in the bosom of the Lord, till the mansions be prepared where we shall sing and feast eternally. Amen.
To Deum laudamus.
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