« PreviousContinue »
divinity as a novel doctrine. "The pfalms and fongs of the brethren, fays "Eufebius', which were written by the faithful, from the beginning, fet "forth the praises of Chrift as the Word of God, afcribing divinity to him." From the whole it may be concluded, that this ordinance of finging of pfalms, as it was used by Christ and his apoftles, fo it was continued in the ages next to them; and though it has been dragged through the finks of Popery, yet it ought not to be rejected on that account: Had our reformers treated the ordinances of Chrift in fuch a manner, because they found them corrupted, we should have had no ordinance now in being: Let us rather do all we can to clear this of every degree of superstition, and restore it to its native fimplicity and spirituality.
S Ψαλμοι da οσοι και ωδαι αδελφων απαρχης (fcribendum eft απ' αρχής) υπο πισων γραφείσαν τον λόγον το Θεό τον Χρισον υμνεσι, θεολογωνίες, Ibid. 1. 5. c. 28. p. 196.
ON THE ORIGINAL OF
Funeral SERMONS, ORATIONS, and ODES Occafioned by Two FUNERAL DISCOURSES, lately published on the Death of Dame MARY PAGE, Relict of Sir GREGORY PAGE, Bart. The one by Mr HARRISON, with an Oration at her Interment; and an Ode facred to her Memory. The other by Mr RICHARDSON. With fome Obfervations on each of them. In a LETTER
HAVE for some time been of opinion, that the custom of preaching Funeral Sermons, and making Orations at the interment of the dead, took its rise from some such practice first in use among the heathens: Two discourses of this kind having been lately published on the death of the Lady Page, both attended with fome odd circumstances, which I am fenfible you are no stranger to, they have occafioned fome fresh thoughts on this fubject, the result of which I now fend you, together with fome few obfervations on the said discourses, all which I humbly fubmit to your impartial judgment.
The Egyptians, the pofterity of Ham, were the firft cultivators of idolatrous worship, and fuperftition, after the flood; they were the firft that gave names to deities, built temples, erected altars, and fet up images for divine adoration. They were the first who afferted the imortality of the foul", its tranf migration
Herodot. 1. 2. c. 4. & 58. Lactant. de Orig. Error. 1. 2. c. 14.
Herodot. 1. 2. c. 133.
migration into all kinds of animals in earth, air, and fea, and its return to the human body, which they fuppofed to be within the term of three thoufand years: Hence proceeded their very great care in embalming of their dead bodies, and their being at fuch vaft expences, as they were, in building proper repofitories for them; for they were more folicitous about their graves than their houses: This gave birth to those wonders of the world, the pyramids, which were built for the burial of their kings, with fuch vaft charges, and almost incredible magnificence, the fame whereof has fince fpread itself all the world over. It cannot therefore be foreign to my prefent defign, to en-, |quire after what manner thefe people performed their funeral obfequies, which, I find, was as follows:
"When the corps was to be buried, the nearest a-kin gave notice of the "day for the funeral to the judges, the relations, and the friends of the de"ceased; and particularly gave out, that he, naming the name of the de"ceased, would then pass the lake. The day being come, more than forty "of the judges feated themselves in the form of a femi-circle by the fide of "the lake, where the boat, which is managed by a pilot, whom the Egyptians "in their language call Charon, being first prepared for use, is drawn up in "readiness. The veffel being let into the lake, before the deceafed's coffin is put into it, every one has a liberty to bring in an accufation against him. If any one can prove he has lived a bad life, the judges pronounce the fen"tence, and the corps is forbid the ufual fepulture; but if it appears, that "the accufer is guilty of calumny, he is liable to the feverest punishment. "When either there is no accufer, or a false one, the relations lay afide their "mourning, and praise the deceased. They make no mention of his descent, as the Grecians do, because they reckon that all in Egypt are equally noble; "but then they rehearse his education and learning in childhood, and his "piety, justice, continency, and other virtues in his adult age; befeeching "the gods below to receive him into the fociety of the pious: while the mul ❝titude, in the mean time, applaud and proclaim the praises of the deceased, "as one that is to spend an eternity with the godly in Hades"."
In this account it is easy to obferve the first rudiments of funeral orations, and what was the fubject of them, which were afterwards formed into a more polite and regular manner by other nations, who received this custom from the Egyptians. Nor can I omit remarking, that thofe funeral folemnities were attended, not only with orations in praife of the deceased, but with prayers
Diodor. Sicul. 1. 1. c. 5.
for him; which prayers, it seems, were made by one who perfonated the deceased: an entire form of one of them is preserved by Porphyry, and perhaps it may in some measure, gratify your curiofity to recite it from him. " When,
says he, they, taht is, the Egyptians, embalm their deceased nobles, they pri"vately take out the entrails, and lay them up in an ark or chest: more"over among other things which they do in favour of the deceased, lifting "up the ark or cheft to the fun, they invoke him; one of the Libitinarii making a prayer for the deceased, which Euphantus has translated out of "the Egyptian language, and is as follows: O lord, the fun, and all the "gods who give life to men, receive me, and admit me into the fociety of "the immortal ones, for as long as I lived in this word, I religiously wor shipped the gods whom my parents fhewed me, and have always honoured "those who begat my body: nor have I killed any man, nor have I de"frauded any of what has been committed to my trust, nor have I done any "thing which is inexpiable. Indeed, whilft I was alive, if I have finned "either by eating or drinking any thing which was not lawful; not through "myself have I finned, but through thefe, fhewing the ark and chest where "the entrails were. And having thus fpoke, he cafts it into the river, but "the rest of the body he embalms as pure." I cannot but couclude, that fuch like practices as these among the heathens, have given rife to praying for departed faints among the Papifts. But to go on: The Grecians received the feeds of superstition and idolatrous worship from the Egyptians, through the coming of Cecrops, Cadmus, Danaus, and Erechtheus, into Greece. The first of these was the first king of Athens, from whose coming thither, the Attic Era begins; where he first introduced the worship of Jupiter and Minerva, fetting up an altar for the one, and the image of the other; and among the rest of the Egyptian customs and laws which he brought along with him into Greece, the burial of the dead bodies in the earth was one. Of this Cicero particularly informs us in the following words: "They report, fays he, that from the times of Cecrops, it "remained a custom at Athens to that day, to bury the bodies of their dead in the earth ":" which fome fay were laid with the head towards the Eaft', and others towards the Weft. But what Cicero fays, as to their manner of interment,
De Abftinentia, 1. 4. feet. 10.
• These were a sort of men who provided every thing needful for burials, fo called from the goddess Libitina, in whose temple all fuch things were exposed to fale. Vid. Kennet's Antiq. par. 2. b. 5. c. 10. p. 340. f Herodot, 1. 2. c. 4. & 58.
Eufeb. de præpar. Evangel. 1. 1o. c. 9.
b Delegibus, 1.2. prope finem. * Ælian, var. Hift. 1. 5. c. 14. &7.19.
&c. 609 interment, is this: "That the relations, or neighbours of the deceased, laid "the body in the ground, and having caft the earth over the corps, fowed “the ground with all manner of grain or fruit; that so the earth might be "as the bofom or lap of a mother to the deceased; and yet, being expi"ated by these fruits, might be restored, or rendered ufeful, to the living. "After the interment, as he further tells us, followed the epula, or feasts, at "which the company used to appear crowned; when they spoke in praise "of the dead, fo far as they could go with truth, it being esteemed a no"torious wickedness to lie upon fuch an occafion *." A rule that very well deserves to be observed in making panegyrics or encomiums on the dead in Funeral Sermons and Orations; in many of which, I fear, the bounds of truth are too often exceeded. And not only at those feafts, but 'even before the company departed from the fepulchre, they were fometimes entertained with a panegyric upon the dead perfon.
The Grecian foldiers, who died in war, had not only their tombs adorned with infcriptions fhewing their names, parentage, and exploits, but were also honoured with an oration in their praife. Particularly the cuftom among the Athenians in the interment of their foldiers was as follows", namely, "They "used to place the bodies of their dead in tents three days before the funeral, "that all perfons might have opportunity to find out their relations, and pay "their last respects to them. Upon the fourth day, a coffin of cypress was "fent from every tribe, to convey the bones of their own relations; after "which went a covered hearse, in memory of those whose bodies could not be "found. All these, accompanied with the whole body of the people, were "carried to the public burying place, called Ceramicus, and there interred.. "One oration was spoken in commendation of them all, and their monuments. "adorned with pillars, inscriptions, and all other ornaments usual about the "tombs of the most honourable perfons. The oration was pronounced by "the fathers of the deceased persons, who had behaved themselves most valiantly. Thus after the famous battle at Marathon, the fathers of Callimackus "and Cynagyrus, were appointed to make the funeral oration". And upon "the return of the day, upon which the folemnity was first held, the fame "oration was conftantly repeated every year °."
From the Egyptians and Grecians, especially from the latter, the Romans received many of their laws and cuftoms, as well as much of their polytheism