Memento Mori

If there a place that proclaims Memento Mori more loudly and clearly than the Princeton Cemetery, it is unknown to this writer. In the Presidents Plot alone, there are three ministers who died soon after preaching a New Year's sermon on the Scriptural text Jer. 28:16: "This year thou shalt die": Aaron Burr, Sr. (1716-1757); Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758); and Samuel Davies (1723-1761) (the same is true of Jonathan Edwards, Jr. (1745-1801), who is buried elsewhere).

The day of my visit happened to coincide with the anniversary of Charles Hodge's passing into glory. The morning began with a passing rain shower, but the clouds parted and the sun shined. There was time to meditate at the graves of Archibald Alexander, and many others. The weather was very different when Moses Hoge visited the cemetery in 1820. 

"He also visited Princeton College, which, in 1810, had conferred on him, in company with his friend, Mr. [Archibald] Alexander, the degree of S.T.D.; and passed a few days with Dr. Alexander. A cold easterly rain was falling the whole time of his visit. He examined thoroughly the condition of the two institutions, the College and the Seminary, with reference to the two in Prince Edward. He rejoiced in the extended influence of his friend Alexander, and [Samuel] Miller the co-laborer. He could not refrain from a visit to the grave-yard to meditate by the tombs of [Aaron] Burr, [Sr. and Jr.]; [Jonathan] Edwards, [Samuel] Davies, [John] Witherspoon, and [Samuel Stanhope] Smith. As he tarried in that hallowed spot, the bleak wind pierced his diseased frame, and hastened his descent into the valley of death. His heart was elevated as he went from grave to grave, and read the epitaphs of these Presidents of College and teachers of Theology; and his body under the cold rain was chilled in preparation for his own resting in the silent tomb. The conversations of Hoge and Alexander those few days, had there been a hand to record them, laying open the hearts, as by a daguerrotype, of men of such exalted pure principle, so unselfish and so unlike the mass of men - what simplicity of thought, benevolence in feeling, and elevation of piety! -- but there was no man to pen what all men would have been glad to read. Mr. Hoge took his seat in the Assembly - but his fever returned upon him, of a typhus case, and by means of the cold caught in Princeton, became too deeply seated for medicine to remove. He bowed his head meekly to the will of the Head of the Church, and fell asleep in Jesus, on the [5th] of July" (William Henry Foote, Sketches of Virginia, Second Series, p. 373). 

The French Huguenot Charles Drelincourt once wrote (The Christian's Defence Against the Fears of Death, p. 59): 

"And let the most learned Philosophers learn, That the soundest Philosophy is the Meditation of Death.

In short, Whatever be our Employment, Condition, or Age, let us lift up our Minds and Hands unto GOD, to speak to him in the Language of the Prophet DavidLord, let me know my end, and the number of my days, that I may know how long I am to live. Or of MosesSo teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto Wisdom." 

Today is always a good day to consider one's standing before God (Rom. 13:11). Memento mori

John L. Girardeau Entered Glory

It was on June 23, 1898, that John Lafayette Girardeau entered Paradise. He had recently suffered a stroke, but his passing was peaceful. After a life spent as a husband, father, pastor, theologian, professor, chaplain, philosopher and poet, including many years of service to the black community, he completed his task on earth and went on to receive his heavenly reward. 

After his death, an anonymous poem was published in the July 14, 1898 issue of The Southern Presbyterian, a tribute to the man who wrote his own poems on "Life" and "Death." 

ON THE DEATH OF A BELOVED MINISTER.

Affectionaly dedicated to the family of Rev. J.L. Girardeau.

Brother, all thy toils are ended;
All thine earthly warfare's done;
To thy long-sought rest ascended,
Thou has won thy starry crown!
There the welcome plaudit met thee;
Well-done Servant of thy Lord,
Faithful toiler in My vineyard,
Enter on thy full reward!

Thou was faithful with the talents
I committed to thy care,
And each burden laid upon thee,
Gladly for Me thou didst bear.
Now beside the 'living waters,'
In my greenest pastures rest;
And forget thine early sorrows,
Leaning on My loving breast!

Oh! methinks the holy angels
Never had a dearer care,
Than that ransomed soul to glory,
On their shining wings to bear!
Hark! the golden harps of Heaven,
Quiver with a richer strain,
As that voice with holy rapture
Blendeth in the glad refrain!

While on earth, Redemption's story,
Ever dwelt upon his tongue.
And to him the 'Songs of Jesus'
Were the sweetest ever sung.
Now the loved ones led to Heaven,
By his earnest pleadings here,
Join with him to praise the Saviour,
Who redeemed and brought them there.

Names Carved on Hearts

Charles H. Spurgeon once wrote: "A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble." 

In remembrance of beloved pastors and pilgrims, many Presbyterian funeral discourses, wherein the lives and legacy of saints have been preserved, more so on hearts than marble, but also digitally, and assembled in one place at Log College Press

They include tributes to the lives of pastors and professors, men and women, old and young, and lead into discourses on the providence of God, how one can triumph in the midst of suffering, and the doctrine of the resurrection of the body. 

James M. Garrettson, author of Pastor-Teachers of Old Princeton: Memorial Addresses for the Faculty of Princeton Theological Seminary, 1812-1921, also assembled some of these memorial discourses in his valuable volume, which is available here

Bookmark our Funeral Discourses page to learn more about these beloved saints, and the lessons that can be learned from their lives and legacies. 

Will the Saints Know Each Other in Heaven?

It is a question often asked by saints in mourning - will Christians know one another in heaven? It has been addressed by many theologians in the past, for example, by the German Reformer Martin Luther after the 1542 death of his daughter Magdalena; the English Puritan Thomas Watson in his Body of Divinity; the English Puritan Richard Baxter in The Saints' Everlasting Rest; and the Dutch Puritan Wilhelmus à Brakel in The Christian's Reasonable Service; to name a few

The American Presbyterian John Aspinwall Hodge (1831-1901), nephew of Charles Hodge, wrote a book-length volume on the subject, titled Recognition After Death (1889), to respond pastorally to the concerns of those with this common question. In this little book, he considers common objections to the idea that the saints will recognize each other in heaven. He also takes into account what it means for a man or woman, body and soul, to be made in the image of God, and how that which is immortal, spiritual and of good character is reflective of that image; he analyzes the phrase "Abraham's bosom," from the parable of the rich man and Lazarus; he studies the implications of Christ's resurrection body as they relate to the recognition issue; and he discusses the methods of recognition, and how the ability to communicate is retained in heaven. 

Among his closing thoughts, he cites Archibald Alexander from his Thoughts on Religious Experience thus: "As here knowledge is acquired by the aid of instructors, why may not the same be the fact in heaven? What a delightful employment to the saints who have been drinking in the knowledge of God and his works for thousands of years to communicate instruction to the saints just arrived! How delightful to conduct the pilgrim, who has just finished his race, through the ever blooming bowers of paradise, and to introduce him to this and the other ancient believer, and to assist him to find out and recognize, among so great a multitude, old friends and earthly relatives. There need be no dispute about our knowing, in heaven, those whom we knew and loved here; for if there should be no faculty by which they could at once be recognized, yet by extended and familiar intercourse with the celestial inhabitants, it cannot be otherwise but that interesting discoveries will be made continually; and the unexpected recognition of old friends may be one of the sources of pleasure which will render heaven so pleasant."

This is a subject of great interest to many. Be sure to add this volume by John Aspinwall Hodge to your reading list. 

The Pastor in the Sick-Room

John Dunlap Wells (1815-1903) was licensed to preach the gospel in 1842, and graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1844, learning, as he reports, "at the feet of Dr. Archibald Alexander, Dr. Samuel Miller, Dr. Charles Hodge and Dr. Joseph Addison Alexander, all of blessed memory." In his 61-year ministry as a pastor, he attended "hundreds" of sick beds and death beds, and acquired a store of wisdom that is shared both his The Last Week in the Life of Davis Johnson, Jr. (1861), and, most especially, in the three lectures he delivered at Princeton in 1892 and which were published a year later under the title The Pastor in the Sick-Room

In this latter volume, which is permeated with compassion for the suffering and the lost, Wells distinguishes between the sick bed and the death bed, while also emphasizing the connection between body and mind, and the need to deal lovingly and wisely with the whole person in all their circumstances. In the context of his discussion of death-bed conversions, he also recounts famous last words by various Christians (in a fashion similar to Alfred Nevin's How They Died; or, The Last Words of American Presbyterian Ministers)

For those who minister to the sick and suffering and dying, this book will serve as an encouragement to do so in love and with compassion for the bodies, minds and souls of those in the greatest need. "Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me: (Matt. 25:34-36).

Have you lost a loved one? Few books address the topic of bereavement as beautifully as The Broken Home by B. M. Palmer

Benjamin Morgan Palmer's book The Broken Home: Lessons in Sorrow is a poignant, powerful journey through the deaths of Palmer's children, wife, and mother. He writes to bind up the broken-hearted by sharing the depth of his own feeling as he watched the Lord take his loved ones home to heaven. If you are grieving the loss of a family member, especially a child, this book will be a healing balm to the soul.