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Funerals-Most nations have paid extravagant
attention to their dead-The moderns follow their example-This extravagance, or the pageantry of funerals, discarded by the Quakers—Their
reasons for it-Plainness of Quaker-funerals. IF
we look into the history of the world, we shall find, from whatever cause it has arisen, whether from any thing connected with our moral feelings, such as love, gratitude, or respect, or from vanity and ostentation, that almost all nations, where individuals have been able to afford it, have incurred considerable expense in the interment of their dead. The Greeks were often very extravagant in their funerals. Many persons ornamented with garlands followed the corpse, while others were employed in singing and dancing before it. At the funerals of the great, among the Romans, couches were carried containing the waxen
or other images of the family of the deceased, and hundreds joined in the procession. In our own times, we find a difference in the manner of furnishing or decorating funerals, though but little in the intention of making them objects of outward show. A bearer of plumes precedes procession. The horses employed are dressed in trappings. The hearse follows, ornamented with plumes of feathers, and gilded and silvered with gaudy escutcheons, or the armorial bearings of the progenitors of the deceased. : A group of hired persons range themselves on each side of the hearse and attendant carriages, while others close the procession. These, again, are all of them clad in long cloaks, or furnished in regular order with scarfs and hatbands. Now all these outward appendages, which may
be called the pageantry of funerals, the Quakers have discarded, from the time of their institution, in the practice of the burial of their dead.
The Quakers are of opinion that funeral processions should be made, if any thing is to be made of them, to excite serious reflections, and to produce lessons of morality,
in those who see them. This they conceive to be best done by depriving the dead body of all ornaments and outward honours. For, stripped in this manner, they conceive it to approach the nearest to its native worthlessness or dust. Such funerals, therefore, may excite in the spectator a deep sense of the low and debased condition of man. And his feelings will be pure on the occasion, because they will be unmixed with the consideration of the artificial distinctions of human life. The spectator too will be more likely, if he sees all go undistinguished to the grave, to deduce for himself the moral lesson, that there is no true elevation of one above another, only as men follow the practical duties of virtue and religion. But what serious reflections, or what lessons of morality, on the other hand, do che funerals of the world produce, if accompanied with pomp and splendour? To those who have sober and serious minds, they produce a kind of pity that is mingled with disgust. In those of a ludicrous turn they provoke ludicrous ideas, when they see a dead body attended with such extravagant parade. To the vulgar and the ignorant no one use
ful lesson is given. Their senses are all absorbed in the show; and the thoughts of the worthlessness of man, as well as of death and the grave, which ought naturally to suggest themselves on such occasions, are swallowed up in the grandeur and pageantry of the procession. - Funerals therefore of this kind are calculated to throw honour upon riches, abstractedly of moral merit; to make the creature of as much importance when dead as when alive ; to lessen the humility of
man; and to destroy of course the moral and religious feelings that should arise upon such occasions. Add to which, that such a
Christians must be peculiarly improper. For the Christian dispensation teaches man, that he is to work out his salvation with “ fear and trembling.” It seems inconsistent, therefore, to accompany with all the outward signs of honour and greatness the body of a poor wretch, who has had this difficult and awful task to perform, and who is on his last earthly journey, previously to his appearance before the tribunal of the Almighty, to be judged for the deeds which he has committed in the flesh. Actuated by such sentiments as these, the
Quakers have discarded all parade at their funerals. When they die, they are buried in a manner singularly plain. The corpse is deposited in a plain coffin. When carried to the meeting-house or grave-yard, it is attended by relations and friends. These have nothing different at this time, in their external garments, from their ordinary dressNeither man nor horse is apparelled for the purpose. All pomp and parade, however rich the deceased may have been, are banished from their funeral-processions. The corpse at length arrives at the meetinghouse * It is suffered to remain there in the sight of the spectators. The congregation then sit in silence, as at a meeting for worship. If any one feel himself induced to speak, he delivers himself accordingly: if not, no other rite is used at this time. In process of time the coffin is taken out of the meeting-house, and carried to the grave. Many of the acquaintance of the deceased, both Quakers and others, follow it. It is at length placed by the side of the grave. A solemn silent pause immediately takes
* It is sometimes buried without being carried there.