Page images
PDF
EPUB

inform you upon these points, and also when your visit will least incommode the family, or interrupt meals or other domestic arrangements.

At all events it is well to avoid the hour when the physician is present, as he may need the attention of the patient; may have no sympathy with your object; and the two visits together may impose too great a tax upon the strength and attention of the patient.

3. It is often of great service to talk with some member of the family before seeing the invalid, in order to ascertain, as far as possible, his moral state and feelings, as well as his bodily condition, This will enable the minister the better to adapt his conversation, and the exercises generally, to the circumstances of the patient. And if the invalid be a young person, and a stranger to the pastor, it will often be well to ascertain his first name, and to address him familiarly by that name, especially after the introduction.

4. In case of visiting the irreligious, who are dangerously ill, it is often of great advantage to see the patient alone. The dying often find comfort in confessing to a minister what they have confessed and bewailed before God. And besides, the minister is thus prepared, from his more perfect knowledge of their moral state, both to advise and pray for the patient, as he could not but for a private interview. At the risk, therefore, of being suspected of tendencies to Romanism, we would recommend a private interview as far more satisfactory and useful in most cases of visiting the unconverted invalid.

5. The best exercises at the bed-side of the sick will usually be found to consist of conversation with the patient; reading the Scriptures with remarks ; singing and prayer; all adapted to the character and moral state of the sufferer. The manner should be grave and serious, yet pleasant; and the voice sub

dued and tender. An abrupt, harsh manner; loud conversation or a boisterous style of praying, illy becomes the sick-room. From the salutation to the leave-taking, everything should be mild and sympathetic, if we would have our visits appreciated, and secure the greatest good to the afflicted.

6. The frequency of such visits must of course be determined by circumstances, of which the faithful pastor must judge in each particular case. As a general rule, we should repeat our visits as often as we may hope for spiritual advantage to the patient, and our own time and strength will permit. It is often a great blessing both to the sick and to the pastor, for the latter to attend the former in his progress toward the close of life, and be present when the soul is dismissed from the burden of the flesh, to enter upon the scenes of another world.

CHAPTER V.

OF BURIAL SERVICES, AND THE PROPER MODE OF

CONDUCTING THEM. 1. The character of the services held at funerals, varies widely in different sections of the country, as well as among different denominations. In the rural districts a sermon is usually expected, on almost every occasion of the burial of the dead; but in the large towns and cities, funeral sermons are seldom preached.

2. In all ordinary cases the services are held at the late residence of the deceased, and consists of a brief prayer or invocation; the reading of the Scriptures, either from the Bible, or as compiled in more convenient form; an address with prayer and

the benediction. If the deceased is a Christian, or a person of note, instead of a full prayer after the address, the first prayer is more extended; and after the address, the Burial Service, page 124 is read (at the house), beginning with the portion, “Forasmuch as it hath pleased," &c.

3. If the minister is to go to the grave, the service at the house should close with an extemporaneous prayer and the benediction; and the burial service should take place at the grave. In view of the liability to exposure, from cold or rain, and the fact, that as a general rule, few comparatively of those who attend at the house, go to the burial; it is often far better to have all the services at the house. Indeed, this is becoming more and more the custom, we believe, in all the eastern cities at least. It secures quite as much profit, on the whole, from the burial service, and relieves the minister from what often becomes an insupportable tax upon his time and energies. On this account, we think, the custom of having all the services at the private house or church, should be encouraged by the ministry.

4. If the services are held at a church, they may consist of a sermon, followed by prayer and the burial service, or by the burial service at the grave. Or if two or more ministers officiate, there may be an opening prayer and several addresses ; or prayer, the reading of the Scriptures, an address, and the burial service, either in the church or at the grave.

Such a service may be made very impressive. The judicious pastor will be at no loss to adapt the services to the circumstances of the occasion.

5. The practice of preaching sermons at all funerals is rapidly going out of use, as we have intimated, in all large cities and villages, and must soon be discarded altogether, as it certainly should be. It is an

onerous tax upon the time and

strength of ministers, and serves no valuable purpose. In the country, where funerals are less common, and where many will hear a sermon at a funeral who never hear one on any other occasion, the case is somewhat different. And even there, the practice of preaching a sermon at every funeral, is of very doubtful utility. But ministers will be obliged to conform to the usages of the sections where they reside, till little by little they can mould the customs of the people to the demands of reason and piety.

6. When funerals are held at the late residence of the deceased, the minister is liable to several inconveniences, and occasions of embarrassment. The room is often small and crowded, and the corpse sometimes offensive; and the minister obliged to stand very near it. In the absence of a suitable manual, he may be furnished with a Bible too heavy for him to hold up before him, obliging him to bend forward over it as it lies on the stand, in order to read at all. This is not only an awkward position, but is very tiresome. In other cases a pocket Bible may be handed him, the print of which it is almost impossible to read in the dim light of the room ; and in some instances no Bible is furnished till called for, if indeed, you are not then informed that there is no Bible in the house! Such liabilities make a hand-book of Scripture lessons, &c., similar to the preceding, almost indispensable to the city pastor.

7. It is often difficult to furnish the necessary variety on such occasions, especially when a portion of the same audience attend several funerals in the same vicinity. Besides, such services must usually be brief, say from twenty to thirty minutes at longest; so that there is seldom time for the satisfactory treatment of any important topic. Remarks upon the lessons read, the brevity and uncertainty of life, the nature of death, the immor

tality of the soul, the relations of the present life to a future state, the resurrection of the dead, &c., will generally be in place. And yet funeral occasions will be found to tax the resources of most pastors quite as much as their ordinary pulpit ministrations.

8. To a sensitive person it is unpleasant to speak to a company, many of whom are standing and evidently uncomfortable, as is apt to be the case at funerals. Add to this a position where but half the audience is before you, a dark room on a noisy street, an undertaker who grudges you every moment you occupy;

and
you

have an outline of many a city funeral. And the recent city custom of sending the relatives above stairs into a private room, while the corpse and the services are in the parlor below, is as irrational and embarrassing as any of the previously mentioned difficulties. For whose benefit are funeral services held, if not for the bereft? Why, then, should they be kept out of sight and hearing while the services are being held ?

9. The style in which funeral services are conducted should correspond with the occasion. The pitch of voice, tones and modulations should be solemn and impressive, and at the same time natural and unaffected. Better indicate no feelings or sympathy, than to merely affect them. And to attempt to excite tenderness in your own bosom by harrowing up the feelings of the bereft and heart-stricken mourners, is not only inexcusable, but absolutely cruel. And yet, strange to say, with many, such exhibitions of pulpit oratory pass as evidences of great ability, as well as of deep sympathy with the afflicted!

10. And here we offer a suggestion upon another point. Most people believe in a future state of existence, and that the state of the dead in the future world depends upon their moral character at

« PreviousContinue »