Lessons from a Funeral
Psalm 39:1-13
I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me.…

It is toll of Archbishop Leighton that a friend once met him by the way, and said, "You have been to hear a sermon?" His answer was, "I met a sermon - a sermon de facto, for I met a corpse, and rightly and profitably are the funeral rites performed, when the living lay it to heart." This psalm, so often read at deaths and funerals, suggests some precious lessons for such solemn occasions.

1. A funeral is a time for silence. There is much to think of and ponder in our hearts. We have need to put a restraint upon ourselves, lest we speak rashly or fall into idle and unprofitable talk. But silence cannot always be maintained. As we muse the fire burns, and we are constrained to speak. Let us take care that we speak wisely, with feeling and solemnity, as in the presence of God.

2. A funeral is a time when we are taught the vanity of life. One thing forced on our attention is that life has an end. We know it had a beginning, but we are slow to recognize, at least as to ourselves, that it must have an end. "All men think all men mortal but themselves."

3. Another thing brought to our mind is that life is frail and soon passes away. Measured by human standards, it is but a very little thing - a "hand-breadth;" looked at in the light of God and of eternity, it dwindles away to "nothing." And yet of what stupendous importance to us is this "nothing"!

4. Another thing is that life at the best is full of sorrow and disappointment (ver. 6). Sophocles, one of the wisest of the heathen, said, "I see that we who live are nothing else but images and vain shadows." The great orator, Burke, said, "What shadows we are, and what shadows we pursue!" Shakespeare also speaks to the same effect -

"Out, out, brief candle,
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more." What, then, comes of all our labours, all our cares and disquietudes, all our hopes and ambitions? Is there no good that abideth? Is there no wealth laid up which will endure? Must we say, "All is vanity"? Yes, if there were no God, no future world. But let us take heart; let us turn from the thoughts that vex and disquiet our souls, and that leave us without hope, to the Lord our God and to Jesus Christ who has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. When we mourn the loss of friends, or when we take part with others in love and sympathy in the last rites of the dead, let us renew our faith in God. "My hope is in thee." Thus we shall gain strength to bear our trials meekly, and to rise, even at the grave's mouth, to the bright vision of immortality. Let us also cry to God for deliverance from sin (vers. 8-11), from the burden of its guilt, from the slavery of its power, from the miserable reproaches which it brings upon us from without and from within, from the base murmurings and discontent which it breeds, and from the cruel forebodings of evil with which it darkens our lives. God alone can bring us help and comfort in such straits. Finally, let us pray earnestly for spiritual invigoration, that we may not fail in our duty to God and to our brethren. We have not only to sympathize, but to act. The best way we can honour the dead is to work for the living. Every breach made in our ranks is a call to close up and to quit ourselves like men, as good soldiers of Jesus Christ. Every bereavement is a reminder to us that we too are but "strangers" and sojourners here, and that soon God will call us home. If some father in the Church is gathered as a "shock of corn in his season," let us give thanks, and take courage to follow in his steps; if some young man of rare gifts and promise, and very dear to our hearts, is cut down early, let us be assured that it is because his Master has need of him for service in nobler fields, and let us strive to fill up what he may have left undone of good work for God; if some child, the light of our eyes, has been taken from us, let us believe that it is to enter a higher school than ours, where the holy angels are the teachers, and where progress is quick and sure under the radiant smiles of God. - W.F.

Parallel Verses
KJV: {To the chief Musician, even to Jeduthun, A Psalm of David.} I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me.

WEB: I said, "I will watch my ways, so that I don't sin with my tongue. I will keep my mouth with a bridle while the wicked is before me."

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