Directory For The Publick Worship Of God
Concerning Burial of the Dead.
Question 1.—When any person departs this life, should the dead body, upon the day of burial, be decently attended from the house to the place appointed for public burial?
Answer.—Yes. Luke 7:12-14. The body, being prepared for burial, John 19:40; Acts 9:37, upon the day of burial is to be decently attended from the place of preparation to the place appointed for public burial. The place of burial is not to be under the “altar,” or in the place of assembling the Church, for the Word and sacraments as Papists do, but in some public place either near the church or some enclosed field, because the Jews sometimes buried in a cave, Gen. 25:9; sometimes in a valley, Deut. 34:6; and sometimes in a garden, 2 Kings 21:18; John 19:41.
Question 2.—Is it there immediately to be interred, without any ceremony?
Answer.—Yes. 1 Kings 13:29-31. Though Scripture records many burials, yet it gives no countenance to the notion of burial ceremonies or services for the deceased. Though there is mention of lamentation and mourning, yet there is no indication of any other activity at the interment of the corpse, 2 Chron. 26:23; Acts 8:2.
Question 3.—Should the custom of kneeling down, and praying by or towards the dead corpse, and such other usages, in the place where it lies before it is carried to burial, be laid aside as superstitious?
Answer.—Yes. 2 Kings 18:4. Even those things good and laudable in themselves may and often have been corrupted and turned to superstitious use. God provided that Moses should be interred secretly, so that ‘no man knoweth of his sepulchre to this day,’ Deut. 34:6, lest the Jews should have abused it to idolatry, wisely and graciously guarded against a practice which He foresaw would easily degenerate into superstition. When they began to lose the purity of their religion, one way in which they corrupted themselves, was by joining in the funeral services and commemorations of the heathen by ‘eating the sacrifices of the dead,’ Ps. 106:28, and ‘weeping for Tammuz,’ Ezek. 8:14.
Question 4.—Should praying, reading, and singing, both in going to and at the grave, having been grossly abused, be laid aside, as no way beneficial to the dead, and having proved many ways hurtful to the living?
Answer.—Yes. Eccl. 9:4, 5. As coming into the world, so neither interring and burial is performed in the Word of God with preaching, reading service over the dead, singing Scriptures (as Papists), or singing of Psalms (which has been forbidden amongst the Reformed churches), all which tend to superstition, therefore we use only with a company of Christians in decent manner to convey the corpse to the earth with moderate mourning, in conference concerning our mortality, as Sarah, Gen. 23:2,19; Abraham, Gen. 49:31; Joshua, Josh. 24:30; and Samuel, 1 Sam. 25:1; and Josiah were buried, 2 Kings 23:30.
Question 5.—Is it very convenient, that the Christian friends, which accompany the dead body to the place appointed for public burial, apply themselves to meditations and conferences suitable to the occasion?
Answer.—Yes. Acts 8:2; Eccl. 7:1-4. Mourning for the death of friends is very consistent with true piety, providing always that it is in moderation, mixed with submission to God, and comfort drawn from the faith of the resurrection, Matt. 5:4; 1 Thess. 4:13; James 4:6, 9. So, too, it is very appropriate for the friends of the deceased to seek to bring some comfort to the remaining family members, Job 2:11; John 11:19, 31.
Question 6.—Should the minister, if he be present, as upon other occasions, so at this time, put them in remembrance of their duty?
Answer.—Yes. Eccl. 12:9-11. It is the duty of the minister to be conscientious in his work of exhorting and calling the people of God to remembrance of their duty, 1 Tim. 4:6; 2 Tim. 4:2. Therefore, he ought to be careful not to study to please the corrupt and sinful humors in men by concealing necessary truths, or venting anything contrary to truth, Gal. 1:10; by extenuating men’s sins, or speaking peace, and comfort to them in their evil ways, Ezek. 13:17-23; yet it is very lawful for him to study such a strain and method in delivering truth, and such a timing thereof, as may be most pleasing to his hearers for their good to edification, Rom. 15:2.
Question 7.—Should the lack of ecclesiastical ceremony be extended to deny any civil respects or deferences at the burial, suitable to the rank and condition of the party deceased, while he was living?
Answer.—No. Jer. 34:4,5. The Biblical principle is to render honour to whom it is due, Rom. 13:7. Clearly, this was observed amongst God’s people in the paying of respects to the deceased, 1 Sam. 28:3; 2 Sam. 3:31-39.