« AnteriorContinuar »
It is not the design of the Writer to preface this work with an essay on sepulchral customs in general, which have varied so much in different nations, and in successive ages. On such an extensive subject a considerable volume might be compiled. Not only have they varied in different countries, and at different periods, but it would require too much space even to describe all the rites and ceremonies which have obtained in England, through all their different grades, from the mummeries of a Popish funeral down to the unostentatious burial of a Quaker, or the silent and unceremonial interment of a Scotch Presbyterian.
The writer must, therefore, confine himself to a few customs mentioned in Scripture, and
to some of those in our own country, which may be traced, either to the common feelings of our nature, or to a Scriptural origin; concluding the whole with observations on the importance of that superintendence of sepulchral inscriptions, which the late decision in the “ Court of Arches"* has rendered imperative on his clerical brethren.
For the elucidation of a few passages of Scripture it may be proper to remark, that the Jewish sepulchre, from the earliest to the latest period, (Gen. xxiii. 9. and Mark xv. 46.) was generally a large cave, hewn out of a rock, to the hereditary possession of which families of distinction attached the greatest importance.
Many of these caves are still to be seen in Judea ; and two, in particular, which are more magnificent than the rest, are supposed to be the sepulchres of the Kings. One of these is in Jerusalem, and contains twenty-four cells for the dead bodies to be laid in; the other,
* Breeks v. Woolfrey.
containing twice that number, is without the city.”—Lowth's Lect.
As the Jews did not use coffins, their dead were laid separately, in open, horizontal excavations cut in the sides of the cave ; and as many of the Jewish sepulchres were caves, we can readily comprehend how the two men that were possessed with devils had their dwelling among the tombs;” (Matthew viii. 38.) where, no doubt, they would find a melancholy abode, in some deserted excavation of the dead. But we may infer, that the Jewish modes of burial varied, as in other nations, according to the rank of the person ; for besides“ sepulchres,” we read of “ the graves of the people,” (2 Kings xxiii. 6.) i. e. the graves of the common people; who were, no doubt, interred with but little expense or ceremony, whilst the bodies of others were “wound in fine linen, with spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.” (John xix. 41.) In the case of Lazarus, the friend of Jesus, it would seem that nothing had
been done to retard the decomposing of his body; and it is probable that his sisters were not able to buy “ sweet spices and ointment" for their brother; but his memory was embalmed in their affections; and in his sickness and death, sufficient is recorded for a memorial of their love; and not of theirs only, but of His, also, who had power to command his resurrection from the dead.
To die, unlamented, has ever been considered a reproach ; and by the Jews, regarded as a calamity, hardly to be surpassed by the curse pronounced upon Jezebel, “and there shall be none to bury her.” (2 Kings ix. 10.) We thrice meet with this curse, united in the same prediction; “they shall not be lamented, neither shall they be buried.” (Jer. xvi. 4, xxv. 23.) Of the usual manner in which princes were bewailed by their subjects, we learn from Jeremiah's prophecy of the unlamented death, and ignominious burial of Jehoiakim; “they shall not lament for him, saying, Ah Lord ! or, Ah