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This manual has been compiled in hope of assisting ministers and laymen in the task of preparing and conducting funeral services. Each occasion of bereavement is different from all others, and each funeral service requires special preparation. While, therefore, a “ general service,” containing selections appropriate to the majority of occasions, has been arranged, it is offered with the idea of being shortened and supplemented according to the judgment of the minister and the special circumstances that may arise.
For this purpose we have brought together all passages of scripture which seemed appropriate, and have grouped them under various headings, so that anyone, with comparatively little trouble, can form the special service he needs.
While the manual is compiled with reference to its use at funerals, it is hoped that the selections here made, of prose and poetry, may be of service, also, as devotional readings, in the sick room or elsewhere.
The choice of poems was not an easy task. Many favorites will be missed, no doubt, and it cannot be hoped that the poems given will be of equal value to all. We have selected, as far as possible, those which have already proved their fitness for such uses. With
very few exceptions, the poems are given without change, since every clergyman will feel at liberty to make his own alterations, if
they are deemed necessary. For lack of space, however, many of the poems have been shortened by the omission of stanzas irrelevant to funeral occasions. Such will be found marked with a star in the
index of first lines. We have not printed hymns easily accessible in the Revised Hymn and Tune Book of the American Unitarian Association, though many of them are specially appropriate.
A supplementary list of poems which may be found serviceable with slight changes, has been added. Selections from extra-biblical scriptures, and from various writers, ancient and modern, have also been made, in the belief that they will be useful, if not as readings in the service itself, then as suggestive thoughts. A few prayers, original and selected, are given for the use of laymen called upon to conduct funeral services.
The compilers are indebted to the kindness of many friends for the suggestions they have made and the assistance they have given. Special acknowledgment is due to Messrs. Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Roberts Brothers, and others, for their courtesy in permitting the use of copyright poems.
CHRISTOPHER R. ELIOT.
ALMIGHTY God, we come to thee because we need thee. Without thee we are poor and weak, and with thee we can be brave and strong. We bow ourselves before thy will. We yield ourselves to thy law. Thou sendest forth thy Spirit, we are created; thou takest away our breath, we die and return to the dust. In death as in life, in sorrow as in joy, thou art waiting to bless us, if we will but turn to thee.
Thou dost gird and guide us, though we know it not; and the shadow with which thou darkenest our way is but the shadow of thy close-approaching and over-brooding preserce.
Help us to find thee thus this day. Lead us from our weakness, to thy strength, and from our ignorance to thy wisdom, and give to us the peace and confidence which walks in the darkness even as in the light. It is thou who dost take to thyself the life of this, thy servant. Help us to say and to believe that it is well, — well with the life which seems to go away, because it finds thy rest and peace, and well for us who stay, because of tender memories and Christian hopes. In the midst of grief and solitude give to us the prayer of gratitude and praise. As we perceive that the things which are seen are temporal, so much the more may we find that the things which are unseen are eternal. Strengthen in us that immortal hope which is ours in the discipleship of Jesus. Make us know that if our earthly house be dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens; and, amid the sufferings of this present time, unveil to us the things which eye hath not seen, but which God hath prepared for them that love him.
Sanctify thus to these hearts the sorrow which thou
dost call upon them to bear. May they hear that voice which says,
- Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” As they walk through the valley of the shadow of death, may thy rod and staff support them, and may they be grateful for that Eternal Love which summons souls to rest from their labors, and dost permit them to enter into thy peace. Send us all back to our lives more eager to serve thee, and more inclined to love thee, as though in this mysterious presence we had learned to know the deeper meaning and responsibility of life. Amid the changes of this world make us strong and calm, because we rest in thee, and finally persuade us that neither death nor life, nor things present, nor things to come, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.
F. G. P.
O FATHER, we would not forget thy benefits. For life we thank thee; the throbbing life of Nature; the quick-beating pulse of human hearts, the swift flight of the spirit's prayer, the life eternal. For love we thank thee; that love which, from childhood onward, has been ours, blessing us, saving us, creating us anew. For hope we thank thee, and for light; for all that quickens faith; for the mind and heart of Christ; for the in-flowing of thy Spirit.
O God, we call thee, and thou art here. We are not strong; grant us thy strength. We cannot see ; grant us thy light. We do not know the way ; lead us, O Father, by thy Spirit. We falter, we wander, we dare not speak; only teach thou us to pray. So, in us, and through us, may thy kingdom come, and thy will be done. Amen.
C. R. E.