Recollections of John Pounds: John Pounds Funeral by Reverend Henry Hawkes
Saturday was a bitterly cold day; dark and gloomy; blowing a gale, with a cutting north-east wind. The frost was intense. The streets were sheeted with ice and frozen snow. But this did not prevent large crowds attending the poor old cobbler to his grave. As the funeral came out of White Horse Street into High Street, and turned to the left towards the Chapel, it seemed as if all St. Mary’s Street were pouring after it. The Nephew, and Mr. Lemmon and his family, and others of his near friends and relatives, walked after the coffin as mourners; but hundreds more came crowding along, – one mass of bereavement and lamentation.
The Pastor met the coffin at the Chapel door: – solemnly repeating those words: – “I am the Resurrection and the Life, saith the Lord. He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.”
And he led the coffin into the Chapel: – the chief mourners following: – and all the rest crowded in after. Presently, and all was still. And the solemn service proceeded.
The Pastor spoke of the transitoriness of life. “As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.”
He spoke of the Departed, as a fellow-worshiper in their Brotherhood; and most constant among them. “Last Sabbath evening, my friends, he was here with us; joining happily in our devotions: – How little thinking, that, – when next he entered this place, – he should be borne in by other hands; – for his funeral! We mourn the loss of our Brother from amongst us.”
“But, my friends, we sorrow not as those who are without hope. For now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”
“But every man in his own order: Christ the first fruits; afterward they are Christ’s, at his coming. Then cometh the end; when he shall have delivered up the Kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy shall be destroyed, Death. For he hath put all things under him.”
“But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, who did put all things under him. “And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him; that God may be all in all. But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?”
“Inconsiderate man! – That which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die. And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain; it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain. But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed its own body. All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.”
“So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.”
“There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written: The first man, Adam, was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural: and afterwards that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.”
“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God: neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I show you a mystery: we shall not all sleep; but we shall all be changed; in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump. For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible; and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”
“So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 0 Death, where is thy sting? 0 Grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin: and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord: forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”
When that part of the service which was solemnized in the Chapel was completed; and they carried the coffin out, and placed it beside the grave: it was a very solemn sight, – deeply affecting, – to look upon that large thronging crowd; – hundreds of sorrowing countenances, – pressing towards the grave; – largely, a mass of poverty and suffering destitution: – mothers, with their babes in their arms; poor sickly invalids; aged cripples, leaning on their sticks and their crutches; respectable young men and women, formally the old man’s scholars; – wretched creatures, crouching among the crowd, forlorn and desolate: – all deeply sorrowing. And there were many little children, huddling together in groups; – many of them his scholars, – who were in the shop, – when the dead body was lifted in among them, – and they flew off – screaming and affrighted, in all directions; – now gathered together, – sorrowing at his grave.
When all was still; and they were lowering the coffin into the grave: – the Pastor said, with a clear voice, heard through all the crowd: – “The dust returneth to the earth as it was: the spirit returneth unto God who gave it.”
As he drew near the close of the service; he addressed himself direct to the crowd. He spoke of the awful suddenness of the death. “The last evening of the Old Year,” he said, “our departed Friend was bright in spirit; and full of bright expectations for the morrow: – very happy! – going about among you doing good. The first morning of the New Year, he rose before the sun; full of life and vigour; and joyfully set to work at his accustomed usefulness: happy – in making others happy! – That morning, – in the very midst of his usefulness; – he dropped down, – and died.
“Our Friend was ready. Are you ready? None of you can be more confident in life than he was last Monday evening. The next morning – he suddenly dropped down – and died. If it please God to call you suddenly; with little warning: – are you ready to render in your last account? Our Friend lived a long life – continually doing good. He loved his neighbour as himself. He loved God; and blessed him for all his mercies and loving-kindness; and lived ever as in his presence; and did all he could – to fulfil his will.”
“And I seem to see our Saviour – welcome him into heaven: – Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of thy Lord. You have lost your dear old Friend; and you are full of sorrow. But God is with you; your almighty Friend. Live – as with him. Remember that he is always with you; that he sees all you do; and hears all you say; and knows all you think, and intend, and desire. Put your trust in him. Live faithful to him.
“Live, – as about to meet your dear departed Friend in heaven. Let us pray.” – And the Pastor prayed for them all; and for all dear to them: That they might live on earth – as preparing for a happy home in heaven”. When he had finished praying; – he opened his eyes, and looked round upon them all, and said: – “May the blessing of our Heavenly Father be with you all, and with all dear to you, now, – and evermore. Amen.”