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ECCLESIASTES, xii. 5.
Man goeth to his long home, and the mourners
go about the streets.
HIS is a sight which incessantly presents itself:
Our eyes are so much accustomed to it, that it hardly makes any impression. Throughout every season of the year, and during the course of almost every day, the funerals which pass along the streets show us man going to his long home. Were death a rare and uncommon object; were it only once in the course of a man's life, that he beheld one of his fellow-creatures carried to the grave, a solemn awe would fill him; he would stop short in the midst of his pleasures; he would even be chilled with secret horror. Such impressions, however, would prove unsuitable to the nature of our present state. When they became so strong as to render men unfit for the ordinary business of life, they would in a great measure defeat the intention of our being placed in this world. It is better ordered by the wisdom of Providence, that they should be weakened by the frequency of their recurrence; and so tempered by the mixture of other passions, as to allow us to go on freely in acting our parts on earth.
Yet, familiar as death is now become, it is undoubtedly fit that by an event of so important a
nature, some impression should be made upon our minds. It ought not to pass over, as one of those common incidents which are beheld without concern, and awaken no reflection. There are many things which the funerals of our fellow-creatures are calculated to teach; and happy it were for the dissipated, if they would listen more frequently to the instructions of so awful a monitor. In the context, the wise man had described, under a variety of images suited to the eastern style, the growing infirmities of old age, until they arrive at that period which concludes them all ; when, as he beautifully expresses it, the silver cord being loosened, and the golden bowl broken, the pitcher being broken at the fountain, and the wheel at the cistern, man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets. In discoursing from these words, it is not my purpose to treat, at present, of the instructions to be drawn from the prospect of our own death. I am to confine myself to the death of others; to consider death as one of the most frequent and considerable events that happen in the course of human affairs; and to show in what manner we ought to be affected, first, by the death of strangers, or indifferent persons ; secondly, by the death of friends; and thirdly, by the death of enemies.
I. By the death of indifferent persons, be called indifferent to whom we are so nearly allied as brethren by nature, and brethren in mortality. When we observe the funerals that pass along the streets, or when we walk along the monuments of death, the first thing that naturally strikes us, is the undistinguishing blow, with which that common
enemy levels all. We behold a great promiscuous multitude all carried to the same abode; all lodged in the same dark and silent mansions. There, mingle persons of every age and character, of every rank and condition in life; the young and the old, the poor and the rich, the gay and the grave, the renowned and the ignoble. A few weeks ago, most of those whom we have seen carried to the grave walked about as we do now on the earth; enjoyed their friends, beheld the light of the sun, and were forming designs for future days. Perhaps, it is not long since they were engaged in scenes of high festivity. For them, perhaps, the cheerful company assembled ; and in the midst of the circle they shone with gay and pleasing vivacity. But now to them all is finally closed. To them no more shall the seasons return, or the sun rise. No more shall they hear the voice of mirth or behold the face of man. They are swept from the universe as though they had never been. They are carried away, as with the food: the wind has passed over them, and they are gone. !
When we contemplate this desolation of the human race; this final termination of so many hopes; this silence that now reigns among those who, a little while ago, were so busy or so gay; who can avoid being touched with sensations at once awful and tender? What heart but then warms with the glow of humanity? In whose eye does not the tear gather, on revolving the fate of passing and shortlived man? Such sensations are so congenial to human nature, that they are attended with a certain kind of sorrowful pleasure. Even voluptuaries themselves sometimes indulge a taste for funeral melan,
choly. After the festive assembly is dismissed, they choose to walk retired in the shady grove, and to contemplate the venerable sepulchres of their ancestors. This melancholy pleasure arises from two different sentiments meeting at the same time in the breast; a sympathetic sense of the shortness and vanity of life, and a persuasion that something exists after death; sentiments which unite at the view of the house appointed for all living. A tomb, it has been justly said, is a monument situated on the confines of both worlds. It, at once, presents to us the termination of the inquietudes of life, and sets before us the image of eternal rest. There, in the elegant expressions of Job, the wicked cease from troubling ; and there the weary be at rest. There the prisoners rest together ; they hear not the voice of the oppressor. The small and the great are there ; and the servant is free from his master. It is very remarkable, that in all languages, and among all nations, death has been described in a style of this kind; expressed by figures of speech, which convey every where the same idea of rest, or sleep, or retreat from the evils of life. Such a style perfectly agrees with the general belief of the soul's immortality ; but assuredly conveys no high idea of the boasted pleasures of the world. It shows how much all mankind have felt this life to be a scene of trouble and care ; and have agreed in opinion, that perfect rest is to be expected only in
There, says Job, are the small and the great. There the poor man lays down at last, the burthen of his wearisome life. No more shall he groan under the load of poverty and toil. No more shall he hear the insolent calls of the master, from whom he received
his scanty wages. No more shall he be raised from needful slumber on his bed of straw, nor be hurried away from his homely meal, to undergo the repeated labours of the day. While his humble grave
preparing, and a few poor and decayed neighbours are carrying him thither, it is good for us to think that this man too was our brother; that for him the aged and destitute wife, and the needy children, now weep; that, neglected as he was by the world, he possessed perhaps both a sound understanding and a worthy heart; and is now carried by angels to rest in Abraham's bosom. — At no great distance from him, the grave is open to receive the rich and proud: man. For, as it is said with emphasis in the parable, the rich man also died, and was buried. * He also died. His riches prevented not his sharing the same: fate with the poor man; perhaps, through luxury, they accelerated his doom. Then, indeed, the mourners go about the streets; and while, in all the pomp and magnificence of woe, his funeral is prepared, his heirs, in the mean time, impatient to examine his will, are looking on one another with jealous eyes, and already beginning to quarrel about the division of his substance. One day, we see carried along the coffin of the smiling infant; the flower just nipped as it began to blossom in the parents' view; and the next day we behold a young man or young woman, of blooming form and promising hopes, laid in an untimely grave. While the funeral is attended by à numerous unconcerned company, who are discoursing to one another about the news of the day, or the ordinary affairs of life, let our thoughts rather
* Luke, xvi. 22.