Correspondence on Singing at the Graves of Our Brethren

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Dear —, I am glad you have written to me, as to my letter in “Words of Truth,” of May (Page 97), on the above subject, for I wished to have added a thought or so more to what I had written.
The letter, you will doubtless have perceived, left the matter quite open in cases which sometimes arise when there were no sorrowing mourners laying their dead in the grave, for the singing of hymns, as the Lord might lead, in the happy expression of Christian fellowship amongst those who are there. I have not the least objection to this. But I believe that those who go to the graves of their brethren, ostensibly do so, to “Weep with those that weep.” (Rom. 12:1515Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. (Romans 12:15).) If there are no weepers there, I am sure it is most happy to “Rejoice with those that do rejoice;” as it is to seize any occasion when we meet our brethren for Christian communion and joy.
I doubt if Paul could have sung at the grave of Epaphroditus had he died when performing this service for Paul, in bringing up the tender care-the “odor of a sweet smell,” of the beloved Philippians to his prison. “God had mercy on him,” says the aged prisoner, “and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.” (Phil. 2:2727For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. (Philippians 2:27).)
When the relatives, husbands of beloved wives, parents of beloved children, widows of beloved husbands, and the like, are surrounding the grave, the wrench has just come, and the deep wound of the heart is felt in all its keenness (though, doubtless, it may be more keen later still); I should doubt if it were spiritual power in their hearts to sing around the graves of those whom they had lost. I should (for myself at least), feel it were callousness and the want of “natural affection,” which characterizes the “last days.” (2 Tim. 3) I am sure God would not have us think lightly of these dealings of His hand. I would feel that His hand was upon me at such a moment, and that He was looking for a chastened, lowly spirit, that was bowing under the blow. I have no doubt but that “afterward” these things “yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness” to the exercised heart. But it is “afterward,” and not at the moment. Then, in the calm and quiet of an exercised heart, when the bitterness of the blow has passed away, we may surely rise above it all, and be able to praise Him, and be glad and rejoice for the joy of those who are “with Christ,” and away from the sorrows of this scene.
I believe that in John 14:2828Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I. (John 14:28), “If you loved me ye would rejoice, because I said I go unto the Father,” the Lord seeks such an interest in our hearts for His happiness, that He looks for our being happy in the thought of His happiness and joy, as gone on high, no more to be a “Man of sorrows” in this scene. I am sure none of them could have understood it at the moment. And besides, it is not rejoicing that they were then about to lose Him; but, as I have said, present rejoicing in the consciousness of the happiness of Jesus as exalted in the Father’s glory. It may be in principle true of those who are His; but the application and meaning of the passage refers to what I have said. Thus when our sorrow will have subsided for a loved one, we do learn to rejoice no doubt, that they are with Him.
The substance of my letter was written to a brother, on the occasion of the funeral of a beloved co-laborer, who was snatched away in the midst of his field of usefulness. The brother to whom I wrote showed it to others, who approved much of it, and no hymns were sung. For this I was deeply thankful. Another wrote to me of the funeral, and said, None of us could have sung; there was not a dry eye there. This was as it should have been. The Lord’s people should collectively feel that God’s hand is upon them, when a valued laborer is taken away. They should do so individually, in like manner, when a loved one, closely linked by ties of flesh, or special ties, is removed.
I would hesitate to speak of what Scripture does not— “The joy of the blessed Lord at receiving that loved one,” &c. I would rather speak of and enjoy His sympathy in the sorrow of the moment, when hearts are deeply feeling the death of one they loved. —Affectionately in the Lord, F. G. P.