the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
For I will be with thee thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.”
As the notes of the hymn died away, there was for a few moments profound stillness, and not a move was made by any one. The touching words of the old hymn expressed quite vividly the disaster of the previous day, and awakened in us many memories of home. For a time we were silent, while eyes unused to weeping filled with tears. I do not know how long we remained so. It may have been only for a moment, it probably was; but I do know the silence was not broken till the aged minister, who stood at the head of the coffin, began his discourse. We stood with uncovered heads during the service, and when the old minister addressed us he spoke as though he might have been holding family worship and we had been his children. He invoked Heaven to comfort and sustain the mother when the news of her son’s death reached her, as she would need more than human aid in that hour; he prayed that her faith might not falter and that she might again meet and be with her loved ones forever in the great beyond. He then took up the subject of life,—spoke of its brevity, its many hopes that are never realized, and the disappointments from which no prudence or foresight can shield us. He dwelt at some length on the strange mingling of sunshine and shadow that seemed to belong to every life; on the mystery everywhere, and nowhere more impressively than in ourselves. With his long bony finger he pointed to the cold, mute form that lay in the coffin before us, and said, “But this, my friends, is the mystery of all mysteries.” The fact that life terminated in death, he said, only emphasized its reality; that the death of our companion was not an accident, though it was sudden and unexpected; that the difficulties of life are such that it would be worse than folly in us to try to meet them in our own strength. Death, he said, might change, but it did not destroy; that the soul still lived and would live forever; that death was simply the gateway out of time into eternity; and if we were to realize the high aim of our being, we could do so by casting our burdens on Him who was able and willing to carry them for us. He spoke feelingly of the Great Teacher, the lowly Nazarene, who also suffered and died, and he concluded with an eloquent description of the blessed life, the immortality of the soul, and the resurrection of the body. After the discourse was ended and a brief and earnest prayer was covered, the two young girls sang the hymn, “Shall we meet beyond the river?” The services being at an end, the coffin was lowered into the grave.
Campbell thanked the old minister and his two granddaughters on their taking leave, for their presence and assistance; and a number of us boys also shook hands with the old man at parting.