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CONTENTS OF VOL. VI.
THE BURIAL SERVICE EXPLAINED.
VERY reverently do we treat the bodies of those that fall asleep in Christ; for though being dust to dust they do return, yet will they be raised again at the last day, that after their change they may pass into the kingdom of heaven. It is not only the soul of the saint which will dwell hereafter in heaven, but the body will go through the everlasting doors. Christ Jesus has sanctified both soul and body, and hence as Christians we treat them both in a very sacred way. “Know ye not,” says St. Paul, “ that your bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost which is in you.”
Very reverently therefore do we treat the bodies of Christian men, as being that dust which shall be quickened, that shall rise again, that shall be changed by the mighty working of Christ, that shall be glorified, that shall be lifted up even unto heaven, that when changed shall live eternally in God's presence. We do not lay them in our gardens and common fields where they may be torn up and trampled on; we fence them from all ill-usage and dishonour, inasmuch as they are designed for so high and great a change, and have been the habitations of the Spirit; we set apart consecrated plots of ground, holy places of burial, where they may rest in peace, undisturbed, untouched. Even natural affection would lead us thus to treasure the remains of our beloved ones and to keep them from harm and injury, but as Christians we are led to regard them in a still higher light and to mix holy reverence with warm affection.
And as this reverence leads us to have our churchyards, our calm consecrated enclosures, where the bodies of our friends may securely rest, so we have a solemn Service when we lay them in their graves. We place them in their tombs with solemn prayer; and while we shew all tender affection for their earthly members, we make it an occasion of edifying and of consoling the living, that while they weep they may depart from the grave with hope, and gain some grace for their own comfort in tribulation and in their endeavours to walk more closely with their God. Solemn and touching is the beautiful service which the Church has piously and lovingly
prepared for the burial of the dead, and of this affecting service I now design to speak.
And first of all, let me remind you that this service is not designed for all; it does not fit the case of all; it is not designed for notorious sinners, for the profligate, the abandoned, who have died in unrepented sin. All such should be expelled the Church, driven out for a time until they repent and amend their ways. We could not lay the bodies of such persons in the grave except with awe and trembling, with great dread and sadness. Words of hope grate upon our ears and sound false and hollow, when they are spoken of men of known evil lives who died without repentance.
Alas, as it is, this godly rule of excommunicating the profligate, of suspending them from all membership in the Church, has been relaxed ; and hence over many who die in sin this service is used for whom it was never meant, for whose case it is most fearfully unfit. We must hope and pray that this godly discipline may be restored; for even as with disobedient children we are often bound to be severe, for their own good, out of very love to their souls, so the open condemnation of great and glaring sinners, severe as it might seem, would be an aet of real