THE BURIAL SERVICE.
We hear many complaints about the Burial Service, as unsuitable for the use for which it was intended. It expresses a hope, that the person departed, over whom it is read, will be saved; and this is said to be dangerous when expressed about all who are called Christians, as leading the laity to low views of the spiritual attainments necessary for salvation; and distressing the Clergy who have to read it.
Now I do not deny, I frankly own, it is sometimes distressing to use the Service; but this it must ever be in the nature of things, wherever you draw the line. Do you pretend you can discriminate the wheat from the tares? of course not.
It is often distressing to use this Service, because it is often distressing to think of the dead at all; not that you are without hope, but because you have fear also.
How many are there whom you know well enough to dare to give any judgment about? Is a clergyman only to express a hope where he has grounds for having it? Are not the feelings of relatives to be considered? And may there not be a difference of judgments? I may hope more, another less. If each is to use the precise words which suit his own judgment, then we can have no words at all.
But it may be said, "every thing of a personal nature may be left out from the Service." And do you really wish this? Is this the way in which your flock will wish their lost friends to be treated? a cold "edification" but no affectionate valediction to the departed? Why not pursue this course of (supposed) improvement, and advocate the omission of the Service altogether?
Are we to have no kind and religious thoughts over the good, lest we should include the bad?But it will be said, that, at least we ought not to read the Service over the flagrantly wicked; over those who are a scandal to religion. But this is a very different position. I agree with it entirely. Of course we should not do so, and truly the Church never meant we should. She never wished we should profess our hope of the salvation of habitual drunkards and swearers, open sinners, blasphemers, and the like; not as daring to despair of their salvation, but thinking it unseemly to honor their memory. Though the Church is not endowed with a power of absolute judg-