Cemeteries -- By: J. Richards

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 006:23 (Aug 1849)
Article: Cemeteries
Author: J. Richards


Rev. J. Richards

“It is the heaviest stone,” says the sententious doctor of physic, Sir Thomas, “that melancholy can throw at a man, to tell him that he is at the end of his nature; or that there is no further state to come, unto which this seems professional, and otherwise made in vain.” Hence the vast majority of men have endeavored to avert such missiles by cemeteries, monuments, cremations, embalmings, and obsequies of endless name. By these they testify to an innate conviction of another life, where thought and memory and affection shall survive. Antique sculpture at Rome (in Aedibus Barberinis) represents a man just arrived at the Elysian fields, holding out his hand to a shade whom he recognizes as his wife, and is mutually recognized by her. This expectation is common to Pagan and Christian, but with the Christian, how ennobled!

Again, it is a very heavy stone to be thrown at a man, as the knight might have gone on to say, to tell him there shall be no memory of him with posterity. Be it that “pyramids, arches, and obelisks are the irregularities of vain glory, and wild enormities q$ ancient magnanimity,” it is a natural feeling and not to be despised, that there lived such a man as I myself. “Siste viator! Stop, traveller! and read, howl once lived as you now do. Haply, if you inquire, you may find what I was, as well as who, and in that knowledge something that claims kindred and challenges interest in yourself, beyond that of community of species. This feeling is in the humblest as in the loftiest; it raises the rude monument in the country church yard as it does the costly structure in the cemetery of the proud city. The lines

of Gray, in which rhythm and sweet melancholy blend so inimitably, are exactly to this point:

“For who to dumb forgetfulness a prey,
This pleasing, anxious being e’er resigned?
Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
Nor cast one longing, lingering look behind?”

Another heavy stone thrown at a man would it be, to tell him, “Your friends will show no outward marks of respect and affection for your mortal relics. They will carry you out to the Esquiline Hill and throw you into the deep pit’s mouth with slaves and malefactors, or leave you to be devoured by dogs and vultures.” The man who laughs at obsequies ancient or modern, Pagan or Christian, has acquired an obtuseness of heart that should well nigh make him an outlaw from the community of sorrow and sympathy. The brutes do better when they bellow at the blood of their kindred. “Diogenes,” said one, “when you die, what shall be the disposition of your body?” “Hang me up,” said the...

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