Tuesday, September 21, 2010
The Directory for the Publick Worship of God: Part 12 of 16
Concerning Burial of the Dead.
WHEN any person departeth this life, let the dead body, upon the day of burial, be decently attended from the house to the place appointed for publick burial, and there immediately interred, without any ceremony.
And because the custom of kneeling down, and praying by or towards the dead corpse, and other such usages, in the place where it lies before it be carried to burial, are superstitious; and for that praying, reading, and singing, both in going to and at the grave, have been grossly abused, are no way beneficial to the dead, and have proved many ways hurtful to the living; therefore let all such things be laid aside.
Howbeit, we judge it very convenient, that the Christian friends, which accompany the dead body to the place appointed for publick burial, do apply themselves to meditations and conferences suitable to the occasion and that the minister, as upon other occasions, so at this time, if he be present, may put them in remembrance of their duty.
That this shall not extend to deny any civil respects or deferences at the burial, suitable to the rank and condition of the party deceased, while he was living.
Comment and analysis: The Directory here dispenses with superstitious ceremonies relating to the burial of the dead. The body is interred “without any ceremony.” Christianity does not teach ancestor worship. Nonetheless, the directory does allow for Christian friends to have suitable “conferences and meditations” and that the minister might be present to “put them in remembrance of their duty.” Again, the key is God-centered simplicity and sincerity. What would the Puritans make of our practice today? Of maudlin ceremonies, balloons, and “celebrations of life”?