Both the just and the wicked, when their days are fulfilled, must die. Between their bodies in the grave thee is no visible difference; between the souls of the one and the other, in the world of spirits, thee is a vast difference, and so there is, or ought to be, between their memories, which survive them.
I. Good men are and ought to be well spoken of when they are gone; it is one of the blessings that comes upon the head of the just, even when their head is laid. Blessed men leave behind them blessed memories. 1. It is part of the dignity of the saints, especially those who excel in virtue and are eminently useful, that they are remembered with respect when they are dead. Their good name, their name with good men, for good things, is then in a special manner as precious ointment, Eccl. 7:1. Those that honour God he will thus honour, Ps. 112:3, 6, 9. The elders by faith obtained a good report (Heb. 11:2), and, being dead, are yet spoken of. 2. It is part of the duty of the survivors: Let the memory of the just be blessed, so the Jews read it, and observe it as a precept, not naming an eminently just man that is dead without adding, Let his memory be blessed. We must delight in making an honourable mention of good men that are gone, bless God for them, and for his gifts and graces that appeared in them, and especially be followers of them in that which is good.
II. Bad men are and shall be forgotten, or spoken of with contempt. When their bodies are putrefying in the grave their names also shall rot. Either they shall not be preserved at all, but buried in oblivion (no good can be said of them, and therefore the greatest kindness that can be done them will be to say nothing of them), or they shall be loathsome, and mentioned with detestation, and that rule of honour, Deut. mortuis nil nisi bonum—Say nothing to the disadvantage of the dead, will not protect them. Where the wickedness has been notorious, and cannot but be mentioned, it ought to be mentioned with abhorrence.
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