The Applause of the Dead Regulated, Vindicated and Improved
Ecclesiastes 4:2
Why I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive.

Scripture itself sets us an example of applauding the virtues of the departed; but I think that in our funeral sermons, in our obituaries and on our sepulchres, there is much which needs to be regulated.

I. It must be QUALIFIED.

1. We are not to praise the dead with indiscriminate eulogy; for there is such a thing as confounding moral distinctions, as smiling alike on vice and virtue.

2. We are not to praise the dead with exaggerated panegyric. For it should never be forgotten, that however the grace of God has formed the subject of it to excellence, he was still the possessor of remaining moral infirmities.

3. We are not to praise the dead in a spirit of discontent with life.

4. We are not to praise the dead in the exercise of gratified envy.

5. We ought not to praise the dead in the spirit of relative pride.

6. In one word — we should not praise the dead without a humble and grateful recollection that all their gifts and virtues proceeded from God. Let the survivor not glory in the erudition, in the riches, in the wealth or virtue of the deceased, but let him glory only in the Lord.

II. This eulogy is to be JUSTIFIED. It may be so by a variety of reasons.

1. There is that of Scripture precedent. It speaks, in high terms, of the distinguished faith of Abraham, the patience of Job, the meekness of Moses, the devotion of the man after God's own heart, the wisdom of a Solomon, the magnanimity of a Daniel, the fortitude of a Stephen, the humanity of a Dorcas.

2. This procedure may also be sanctioned on the ground of utility. How often does the perusal of the memoirs of eminent persons excite desires in the hearts of survivors to imbibe their sentiments, to catch their spirit, and to imitate their example.

3. The principal grounds on which we are justified in praising the pious dead are connected with themselves, as —

(1)  The blessedness of their condition on which they have at once entered.

(2)  The developed excellences of their character.

(3)  The usefulness of their course.For much of this as may have been apparent while they were yet alive, much more is very often discerned after their decease. Then are discerned in their diaries and records what were the sacred principles on which they acted, and how they were constrained by the love of Christ to live not unto themselves, but to Him who died for them and rose again. Not till the crisis of death, too, has much of the usefulness of the Christian minister been made apparent.

III. The sentiment in the text is to be IMPROVED. If the question be asked — in what way shall I praise departed ministers? I answer —

1. By repenting of the treatment you often showed them while they were alive.

2. By recalling to serious reflection the important subjects of their ministry.

3. By an imitation of the excellencies with which they were clothed.

4. By meditating on your joint responsibility with them at the bar of God.

5. By a devout application to the great Head of the Church to raise up men of similar and surpassing qualifications to carry on the interests of religion in the Church and in the world.

(J. Clayton.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive.

WEB: Therefore I praised the dead who have been long dead more than the living who are yet alive.

Praising the Dead More than the Living
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