I had the privilege of offering a few words of comfort during the funeral service for my 25-year-old cousin T.J. Jernigan Saturday afternoon in Canton. Following is a slightly edited version of the prepared text I share because I'm certain T.J. would want me to:

Jesus said: "I am the resurrection and the life; He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me, shall never die." (John 11:25-26)

I am Jim Prince, T.J.'s second cousin - big brother, former employer, friend. He and I were blessed with the gift of words - he was an exceptional journalist and I say that not just because he is my cousin, but because my colleagues in the Mississippi Press Association recognized so.

So, I speak for our 122-member newspapers when I say T.J. was an exceptionally gifted journalist.

T.J. and I shared a love of writing and music, particularly the old traditional hymns sung with a pipe organ or piano.

We are going to sing a hymn in a moment, "It Is Well with My Soul," but first a little background.

Horatio C. Spafford, a successful Chicago lawyer and businessman wiped out financially by the great 1871 Chicago Fire, penned this hymn after yet another tragedy. They had previously lost a son to scarlet fever at the age of 4.

Two years after the fire the family decided to take a holiday to England. Detained by business concerns, in a last-minute change of plans he sent his wife and four daughters on to Europe.

Crossing the Atlantic, their ship was struck by another vessel and sank rapidly. Two hundred and 26 people lost their lives, including all four of Spafford's daughters.

When his wife reached England, she sent a telegram that read: "Saved alone."

Traveling to meet his grieving wife, Spafford penned the words to this hymn as his ship passed near where his daughters had died.

The Spaffords would have three more children and went on to establish a Christian outreach in Jerusalem ministering to the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities during World War I.

We sing this hymn today because it is about the peace of God found through Christ. Even at the death of T.J., we have great peace amid our tears of grief.

We don't know the purpose the Lord has in calling T.J. home at such a young age, but we trust Him because He works all things together for the good of those who believe in Christ.

T.J. struggled mightily with the demon of addiction. It's nothing to be ashamed about, it was his particular struggle with sin.

Like all of us, he was a sinner in need of redemption and that's what this hymn is about. Sin entered the world through Adam and Eve in the Garden.

Christ came in human form to willingly pay it all with his shed blood on the Cross.

We win, the Bible tells us. Satan and all his minions will be cast into the pit of fire at the Last Day.

The body in this casket is a mere shell. T.J.'s soul at his death ascended immediately into the presence of Christ. At the Resurrection, when Christ returns to Earth, T.J.'s new body and his soul that ascended will be reunited. Believers in Christ will recognize him in Heaven, healed and forgiven, like all of us who trust in Him alone.

And if the Lord will allow me, I have a few stern words for T.J. when we meet again at Heaven's gate.

This glorious hymn answers the question: "If you died tonight, then what?"

Our assurance is found in the peace of God through Christ alone.

T.J. believed in Christ and he would not want you to leave here today without knowing with absolute certainty the answer to that question, "If you died tonight, then what?"

So, if you are here today and you're struggling with sin or assurance, speak to one of us after the service.

In Christ, our sin - T.J.'s sin - has been nailed to the cross and we bear it no more.

When we sing in Christian worship, we're singing with all the Saints in Heaven. I suspect that's what T.J. may be doing right now with Jessica, Momma Young, Pap and Granny.

So let us stand and sing to the glory of God Hymn #691 "It Is Well with My Soul" found on the sheets that have been handed out.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, it is well with my soul.

It is well with my soul;

It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,

Let this blest assurance control,

That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,

And has shed his own blood for my soul.

My sin-O the bliss of this glorious thought!-

My sin, not in part, but the whole,

Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more;

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

O Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,

The clouds be rolled back as a scroll,

The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend;

"Even so"-it is well with my soul.


Jim Prince is editor and publisher of The Neshoba Democrat and immediate past president of The Mississippi Press Association.