Our last chapter concluded
with the words, "For childhood and youth are vanity": that is, childhood
proves the emptiness of all "beneath the sun," as well as old age. The
heart of the child has the same needs--the same capacity in kind--, as
that of the aged. It needs God. Unless it knows Him, and His love
is there, it is empty; and, in its fleeting character, childhood proves
its vanity. But this makes us quite sure that if childhood can feel the
need, then God has, in His wide grace, met the need; nor is that
early life to be debarred from the provision that He has made for it. There
are then the same possibilities of filling the heart and life of
the young child with that divine love that fills every void, and turns
the cry of "Vanity" into the Song of Praise: "Yea, out of the mouth of
babes and sucklings Thou hast perfected praise."
But our writer is by no means
able thus to touch any chord in the young heart that shall vibrate with
the music of praise. Such as he has, however, he gives us: "Remember now
thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor
the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them."
This counsel must not be
separated from the context. It is based absolutely and altogether on what
has now been discerned: for not only is our writer a man of the acutest
intelligence, but he evidently possesses the highest qualities of moral
courage. He shirks no question, closes his eyes to no fact, and least of
all to that awful fact of man's compulsory departure from this scene which
is called "death." But following on, he has found that even this cannot
possibly be all; there must be a
judgment that shall follow this
present life. It is in view of this he counsels "Remember thy Creator in
the days of thy youth," whilst the effect of time is to mature, and not
destroy, the powers He has given thee: for not forever will life's enjoyment
last; old age comes surely, and He who made thee, holds thy spirit in His
hand, so that whilst the body may return to dust, the spirit must return
to Him who gave it.
We will only pause for a
moment again to admire the glorious elevation of this counsel. How good
were it if the remembrance of a Creator-God, to whom all are accountable,
could tone, without quenching, the fire and energy of youthful years, and
lead in the clean paths of righteousness. But, alas, how inadequate to
meet the actual state of things. Solomon himself shall serve to illustrate
the utter inadequacy of his own counsel. What comfort or hope could he
extract from it? His were now already the years in which he must say "I
have no pleasure in them." A more modern poet might have voiced his cry,--
"My age is in the yellow
The bud, the fruit of 'life,'
The worm, the canker, and
His youth was no more: its
bright days were forever past, never to be restored. What remains, then,
for Solomon, and the myriads like him? What shall efface the memory of
those wasted years, or what shall give a quiet peace, in view of the fast-coming
harvest of that wild sowing? Can Reason--can any human Wisdom--find any
satisfactory answer to these weighty questions? None!
Verses 2 to 7 beautifully
and poetically depict the fall of the city of man's body under the slow
but sure siege of the forces of Time. Gradually, but without one moment's
pause, the trenches approach the walls. Outwork after outwork falls into
the enemy's hands, until he is victor over all, and the citadel itself
Verse 2.--First, clouds
come over the spirit: the joyousness of life is dulled,--the exuberance
of youth is quenched. Sorrow follows quickly on the heel of sorrow,--"clouds
return after rain." Those waves that youth's light bark rode gallantly
and with exhilaration, now flood the laboring vessel and shut out the light--the
Verse 3.--Then the hands
(the keepers of the house) tremble with weakness, and the once strong men
(the knees) now feeble, bend under the weight of the body they have so
long borne. The few teeth (grinders) that may remain fail to do their required
service. Time's finger touches, too, those watchers from the turret-windows
(the eyes): shade after shade falls over them; till, like slain sentinels
that drop at their posts, they look out again never-more.
Verse 4.--Closer still the
enemy presses, till the close-beleaguered fortress is shut out from all
communication with the outer world; "the doors are shut in the streets";
the ears are dulled to all sounds. Even the grinding of the mill,* which
in an eastern house rarely ceases, reaches him but as a low murmur, though
it be really as loud as the shrill piping of a bird, and all the sweet
melodies of song are no longer to be enjoyed.
[* This differs from the
usual interpretation, which makes this verse a metaphor of the mouth and
teeth. This has been rejected above, not only on account of the direct
evidence of its faultiness, and the fanciful interpretation given to the
"sound of grinding," but for the twofold reason that it would make the
teeth to be alluded to twice, whilst all reference to the equally
important sense of "hearing" would be omitted altogether. I have therefore
followed Dr. Lewis's metrical version:--
"And closing are
the doors that lead abroad,
When the hum of the mill
is sounding low,
Though it rise to the sparrow's
And voices loudest in the
song, do all to faintness sink."
Although, I might here add,
I cannot follow this writer in his view that Ecclesiastes is describing
only the old age of the sensualist. Rather is it man as man,--at his highest,--but
with only what he can find "under the sun" to enlighten him.]
Verse 5.--Time's sappers,
too, are busily at work, although unseen, till the effect of their mining
becomes evident in the alarm that is felt at the slightest need of exertion.
The white head, too, tells its tale, and adds its testimony to the general
decay. The least weight is as a heavy burden; nor can the failing appetite
be again awakened. The man is going to his age-long home;* for now those
four seats of life are invaded and broken up--spinal-cord, brain, heart,
and blood,--till at length body and spirit part company, each going whence
it came;--that, to its kindred dust; this, to the God who gave it.
[* The word rendered above
"age-long," in our authorized version "long,"--"man goeth to his long
one of those suggestive words with which the Hebrew Scriptures abound,
and which are well worth pondering with interest. To transfer and not translate
it into English we might call it "olamic," speaking of a cycle: having
a limit, and yet a shadowy, undefined limit. The word therefore in itself
beautifully and significantly expresses both the confidence, the faith
of the speaker as well as his ignorance. Man's existence after death is
distinctly predicated. The mere grave is not that olamic home; for the
spirit would, in that case, be quite lost sight of; nor, indeed, is the
spirit alone there,--the man
goes there. It appears to correspond
very closely to the Greek word Hades, "the Unseen." Man has gone to that
sphere beyond human ken, but when the purposes of God are fulfilled, his
abode there shall have an end: it is for an "age" but only an "age."All
this seems to be wrapped up, as it were, in that one phrase--Beth-olam,
the age-long home. How blessed for us the light that has since been shed
on all this. In One case (and indeed already more than in that One) that
"age" has already come to an end, and the first fruits of that harvest
with which our earth is sown has even now been gathered. We await merely
the completion of that harvest: "Christ the first fruits: afterwards they
that are Christ's, at His coming."]
Thus to the high wisdom of
Solomon man is no mere beast, after all. He may not penetrate the Beyond
to describe that "age-long home," but never of the beast would he
say "the spirit to God who gave it." But his very wisdom again leads us
to the most transcendent need of more. To tell us this, is to lead
us up a mountain-height, to a bridgeless abyss which we have to cross,
without having a plank or even a thread to help us. To God the spirit
goes,--to God who gave it,--to Whom, then, it is responsible. But in what
condition? Is it conscious still, or does it lose consciousness as in a
deep sleep? Where does it now abide? How can it endure the searching Light--the
infinite holiness and purity--of the God to whom it goes? How shall it
give account for the wasted years? How answer for the myriad sins of life?
How reap what has been sown? Silence here--no answer here--is awful indeed,--is
if reason does still hold her seat, then "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity,"
is alone consistent with the fearful silence to such questions, and the
scene is fitly ended by a groan.
Deep even unto the shadow
of death is the gloom. Every syllable of this last sad wail is as a funeral
knell to all our hopes, tolling mournfully; and, like a passing bell, attending
to their "age-long home"!
Oh, well for us if we have
heard a clearer Voice than that of poor feeble human Reason break in upon
the silence, and, with a blessed, perfect, lovely combination of Wisdom
and Love, of Authority and Tenderness, of Truth and Grace, give soul-satisfying
answers to all our questionings.
Then may we rejoice, if grace
permit, with joy unspeakable; and, even in the gloom of this sad scene,
lift heart and voice in a shout of victory. We, too, know what it is for
the body thus to perish. We, too, though redeemed, still await the redemption
of the body, which in the Christian is still subject to the same ravages
of time,--sickness, disease, pain, suffering, decay. But a gracious Revelation
has taught us a secret that Ecclesiastes never guessed at; and we may sing,
even with the fall of Nature's walls about us, "Though our outward man
perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day." Yea, every apparent
victory of the enemy is now only to be answered with a "new song" of joyful
It is true that, "under the
sun," the clouds return after the rain; and, because it is true, we turn
to that firmament of faith where our Lord Jesus is both Sun and Star, and
where the light ever "shineth more and more unto perfect day."
Let the keepers tremble,
and the strong men bow themselves. We may now lean upon another and an
everlasting Arm, and know another Strength which is even
this very weakness.
The grinders may cease because
they are few; but their loss cannot prevent our feeding ever more and more
heartily and to the fill on God's Bread of Life.
Let those that look
out of the windows be darkened: the inward eye becomes the more accustomed
to another--purer, clearer--light; and we see "that which is invisible,"
and seeing, we hopefully sing--
"City of the pearl-bright
City of the jasper wall,
City of the golden pavement,
Seat of endless festival,--
City of Jehovah, Salem,
City of eternity,
To thy bridal-hall of gladness,
From this prison would I
Heir of glory,
That shall be for thee and
Let doors be shut
in the streets, and let all the daughters of music be brought low,
so that the Babel of this world's discord be excluded, and so that the
Lord Himself be on the inside of the closed door, we may the more
undistractedly enjoy the supper of our life with Him, and He (the
blessed, gracious One!) with us. Then naught can prevent His Voice being
heard, whilst the more sweet and clear (though still ever faint, perhaps)
may the echo to that Voice arise in melody within the heart, where God
Himself is the gracious Listener!
Let fears be in the
way, we know a Love than can dispel all fear and give a new and holy boldness
even in full view of all the solemn verities of eternity; for it is grounded
on the perfect accepted work of a divine Redeemer--the faithfulness of
a divine Word.
The very hoary head becomes
not merely the witness of decay, and of a life fast passing; but the "almond-tree"
has another, brighter meaning now: it is a figure of that "crown of life"
which in the new creation scene awaits the redeemed.
If appetite fail here, the
more the inward longing, and the satisfaction that ever goes hand in hand
with it, may abound; and the inward man thus be strengthened and enlarged
so as to have greater capacity for the enjoyment of those pleasures that
are "at God's right hand for evermore."
Till at length the earthly
house of this tabernacle may be dissolved. Dust may still return to dust,
and there await, what all Creation awaits--the glorious resurrection, its
redemption. Whilst the spirit--yes, what of the spirit? To God who gave
it? Ah, far better: to God who loved and redeemed it,--to Him who has so
cleansed it by His own blood, that the very Light of God can detect no
stain of sin upon it, even though it be the chief of sinners. So amid the
ruins of this earthly tabernacle may the triumphant song ascend above the
snapping of cords, the breaking of golden bowls and pitchers, the very
crash of nature's citadel: "Oh, death, where is thy sting? Oh, grave, where
is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the
law. But thanks be to God that giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus
This meets--meets fully,
meets satisfactorily--the need. Now none will deny that this need is deep,--real.
it can be no mere sentiment, no airy speculation, no poetical imagination,
no cunningly devised fable that can meet that need. The remedy must
be as real as the disease, or it avails nothing.
No phantom key may
loosen so hard-closed a lock as this: it must be real, and be made for
it. For suppose we find a lock of such delicate and complicated construction
that no key that can be made will adapt itself to all its windings. Many
skilled men have tried their hands and failed,--till at length the wisest
of all attempts it, and even he in despair cries "vanity." Then another
key is put into our hands by One who claims to have made the very lock
we have found. We apply it, and its intricacies meet every corresponding
intricacy; its flanges fill every chamber, and we open it with perfect
facility. What is the reasonable, necessary conclusion? We say--and rightly,
unavoidably say--"He who made the lock must have made the key. His claim
is just: they have been made by one maker."
So by the perfect rest it
brings to the awakened conscience--by the quiet calm it brings to the troubled
mind--by the warm love that it reveals to the craving heart--by the pure
light that it sheds in satisfactory answer to all the deep questions of
the spirit--by the unceasing unfoldings of depths of perfect transcendent
wisdom--by its admirable unity in variety--by the holy, righteous settlement
of sin, worthy of a holy, righteous God--by the peace it gives, even in
view of wasted years and the wild sowing of the past--by the joy it maintains
even in view of the trials and sorrows of the present--by the hope with
which it inspires the future;--by all these we know that our key (the precious
Word that God has put into our hands) is a reality indeed, and as far above
the powers of Reason as the heavens are above the earth, therefore necessarily--incontestably--DIVINE!
This brings us to the concluding
words of our book. Now who has been leading us all through these exercises?
A disappointed sensualist? A gloomy stoic? A cynic--selfish, depressed?
Not at all. Distinctly a wise man;--wise, for he gives that unequivocal
proof of wisdom, in that he cares for others. It is the wise who ever seek
to "win souls," "to turn many to righteousness." "Because the preacher
was wise, he still taught the people knowledge." No cynic is Ecclesiastes.
His sympathies are still keen; he knows well and truly the needs of those
to whom he ministers: knows too, how man's wretched heart ever rejects
its own blessing; so, in true wisdom, he seeks "acceptable words": endeavoring
to sweeten the medicine he gives, clothes his counsel in "words of delight"
(margin). Thus here we find all the "words of delight" that human wisdom
in view of life in all its aspects from youth to old age.
For whilst it is certainly
difficult satisfactorily to trace the order in detail in the book,--and
perhaps this is perfectly consistent with its character,--yet there can
be no question but that it begins by looking at, and testing, those sensual
enjoyments that are peculiarly attractive to youth, and ends with
the departure of all in old age, and, finally--dissolution. There
is, evidently, that much method. We may also, further, note that the body
of the book is taken up with such themes as interest men who are between
these two extremes: occupations, business, politics, and, as men speak,
religion. All the various states and conditions of man are looked at: kings,
princes, nobles, magistrates, rich and poor, are all taken up and discussed
in this search for the one thing that true human reason can call absolutely
"good" for man. Further method than this might perhaps be inconsistent
with the confusion of the scene "under the sun" he is regarding, and his
own inability to bring order out of the confusion. There would be thus
true method in the absence of method, as the cry of "Vanity," doleful
as it is, is alone in harmony with the failure of all his efforts. Yes,
for whilst here he speaks of "words of delight," one can but wonder to
what he can refer, unless it be to something still to come. Thus far, as
he has taken up and dropped, with bitter discouragement, subject after
subject, his burdened, overcharged heart involuntarily has burst out with
the cry, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!" Words of delight! Find one
in all that we have gone over that can be to a guilty sinner's ear a "word
of delight"--such as it can really take in as meeting its needs; for
this seems to be the force of the word here translated "acceptable": so
perfectly adapted to the needs of the heart it addresses that that heart
springs joyfully to embrace it at once. We have surely, thus far, found
none such. A Judge has been discerned in God; but small delight in this
surely, if I am the sinner to be judged.
Verses 11-14. Wisdom's words
are not known by quantity, but quality. Not many books, with the consequent
weary study; but the right word--like a "goad": sharp, pointed, effective--and
on which may hang, as on a "nail," much quiet meditation. "Given, too,
from one shepherd," hence not self-contradictory and confusing to the listeners.
In this way Ecclesiastes would evidently direct our most earnest attention
to what follows: "the conclusion of the whole matter." Here is absolutely
the highest counsel of true human wisdom--the climax of her reasonings--the
high-water-mark of her attainments--the limit to which she can lead us:
"Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing,
whether it be good or whether it be evil."
Who will deny that this is
indeed admirable? Is there not a glorious moral elevation in this conclusion?
Note how it gives the Creator-God His rightful place; puts the creature,
man, in the absolutely correct relationship of obedience, and speaks with
perfect assurance of a discriminative judgment where every single work,
yes, "secret thing," shall be shown out in its true character as it is
good or evil in His holy sight: where everything that is wrong and distorted
here shall be put right.
It is truly much, but alas
for man if this were indeed the end. Alas for one, conscious of having
sinned already, and broken His commandments, whether those commandments
be expressed in the ten words of the law, as given from Sinai, or in that
other law which is common to all men, the work of which, "written in their
hearts," they show--conscience. There is no gleam of light, ray of hope,
or grain of comfort here. A judgment to come, assured, can only
be looked forward to, with, at the best, gloomy uncertainty, and awful
misgiving--if not with assured conviction of a fearful condemnation; and
here our writer leaves us with the assurance that this is the "conclusion
of the whole matter."
Who can picture the terrors
of this darkness in which such a conclusion leaves us? Guilty, trembling,
untold sins and wasted years behind; with the awful consciousness that
my very being is the corrupt fountain whence those sins flowed, and yet
with a certain judgment before in which no single thing is to escape a
divinely searching examination: better had it been to have left us still
asleep and unconscious of these things, and so to have permitted us to
secure, at least, what pleasure we could out of this present life "under
the sun," without the shadow of the future ever thrown over us;--yea, such
"conclusion" leaves us "of all men most miserable."
I would, beloved reader,
that we might by grace realize something of this. Nor let our minds be
just touched by the passing thoughts, but pause for a few minutes, at least,
and meditate on the scene at this last verse in the only book in our Bible
in which man at his best and highest, in his richest and wisest, is heard
telling us his exercises as he looks at this tangled state of affairs "under
the sun" and gives us to see, as nowhere else can we see, the very utmost
limit to which he, as such, can attain. If this sinks down into our hearts,
we shall be the better prepared to apprehend and appreciate the grace that
meets him there at the edge of that precipice to which Reason leads but
which she cannot bridge. Oh, blessed grace! In the person of our royal
Preacher we are here indeed at our "wit's end" in every sense of the word;
but that is ever and always the place where another hand may lead us, where
another Wisdom than poor feeble human Reason may find a way of escape,
and "deliver us out of our distresses."
Then let us turn our ear
and listen to another voice: "For we must all appear before the judgment-seat
of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according
to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." But stay. Is this the
promised grace of which even now we spoke? Is this the deliverance for
which we hoped? A judgment-seat still?--from which still no escape for
any: and a "reception" according to the things done, whether they be good
or bad! Wherein does this differ from Solomon's "conclusion of the whole
matter"? In just two words only--"Of Christ." It is now the "judgment-seat
of Christ." Added terror, I admit, to His despisers and rejecters; but
to you and me, dear fellow-believer, through grace the difference these
two words make is infinity itself. For look at: Him who sits upon the judgment-seat;--be
not afraid; regard Him patiently and well; He bears many a mark whereby
you may know Him, and recognize in the Judge the very One who has Himself
borne the full penalty of all your sins. See His hands and His feet, and
behold His side! You stand before His judgment-seat. Remember, too,
the word He spake long ago, but as true as ever, "Verily, verily, I say
unto you, he that heareth my word, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath
everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but is passed from
death unto life"--and as we thus remember both His word and His work, we
may be fully assured, even as we stand here, that there must be a sense,
and an important sense, in which judgment for us is passed forever. I may
not be able to harmonize these Scriptures; but I will cleave, at least,
to that which I clearly understand; in other words, to that which meets
my present needs (for we only truly understand what meets our need); afterward,
other needs may arise that shall make the other scriptures equally clear.
He bore my sins--the judgment of God has been upon Him, cannot, therefore,
be upon me--into that judgment I shall never come.
Then why is it written we
must all appear (or rather "be manifested," be clearly shown out
in true light) before the judgment seat of Christ? There is just one thing
I need before entering the joys of eternity. I am, as Jacob in Genesis
xxxv., going up "to Bethel, to dwell there." I must know that everything
is fully suited to the place to which I go. I need, I must have, everything
out clearly. Yes, so clearly, that it will not do to trust even my own
memory to bring it out. I need the Lord "who loved me and gave Himself
for me" to do it. He will. How precious this is for the believer
who keeps his eye on the Judge! How blessed for him that ere eternity begins
full provision is made for the perfect security of its peace--for a communion
that may not be marred by a thought! Never after this shall a suspicion
arise in our hearts, during the long ages that follow, that there is one
thing--one secret thing--that has not been known and dealt with holily
and righteously, according to the infinite purity of the Judgment Seat
of Christ. Suppose that this were not so written; let alone for a moment
that there never could be true discriminative rewards; might not memory
be busy, and might not some evil thought allowed during the days of the
life in the flesh, long, long forgotten, be suddenly remembered, and the
awful question arise, "Is it possible that that particular evil thing has
been overlooked? It was subsequent to the hour that I first accepted Him
for my Saviour. I have had no thought of it since. I am not aware of ever
having confessed it." Would not that silence the song of Heaven,
embitter even its joy, and still leave tears to be wiped away? It
shall not be. All shall be out first. All--"every secret thing." Other
Scriptures shall show us how these things are dealt with. "Every man's
work shall be made manifest, for the day shall declare it, because it (that
is, the day) shall be revealed in fire, and the fire shall try every man's
work, of what sort it is. If any man's work abide, he shall receive a reward.
If any man's work shall be burnt, he shall suffer loss, but he himself
shall be saved, yet so as by fire. If any man defile the temple of God,
him shall God destroy." (1 Cor. iii.)
That day is revealed in fire,
(Divine judgment,) and gold, silver, precious stones--those works which
are of God--alone can stand the test. All others burn like "wood, hay,
Look forward a little. In
the light of these Scriptures, see one standing before that Judgment Seat.
He once hung by the side of the Judge Himself upon a cross on earth. See
his works being manifested. Is there one that can be found gold, silver,
precious stones? Not one. They burn; they all burn: but mark carefully
his countenance as his works burn. Mark the emotions that manifest themselves
through the ever-deepening sense of the wondrous grace that could have
snatched such an one as is there being manifested from the burning. Not
a sign of terror. Not a question for a single instant as to his own salvation
now. He has been with Christ, in the Judge's own company, for a long time
already, and perfectly established is his heart, in the love that said
to him long ago, "This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise." Now as all
his works burn, the fire within burns too, and he is well prepared to sing
"unto Him who loves us and washed us from our sins in His own blood." And
yet stay:--Here is something at the very last. It is his word, "Dost thou
not fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation, and we indeed justly,
for we receive the due reward of our deeds, but this man hath done nothing
amiss. Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom." Gold! gold
at last! as we may say; and he too receives praise of God. Yes, not one
that shall have the solemn joy of standing before that tribunal but has,
in some measure, that praise. For is it not written, "then" (at that very
time) "shall every one have praise of God." "This honor have all his saints."
Where and when does this
judgment of our works, then, take place? It must be subsequent to our rapture
to the air of which we have spoken, and prior to our manifestation with
Christ as sons of God. For by all the ways of God, through all the ages,
those scenes could never be carried out before an unbelieving hostile world.
Never has He exposed, never will He so expose His saints. All will be over
when we come forth with Him to live and reign a thousand years. "The bride
has made herself ready," and the robes in which she comes forth--the white
linen--are indeed the righteousnesses of the saints, but these have been
"washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb."
But "all" must stand
before Him; and not even yet has that been fulfilled. Cain and the long
line of rejecters of mercy and light, ever broadening as time's sad ages
have passed till their path has been called the "broad way," have not yet
stood there. Has death saved them from judgment? No, for we read of the
"resurrection of judgment"--the judgment that comes necessarily after death,
and includes the dead, and only the dead. "I saw a great white throne,
and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heavens fled
away, and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small
and great, stand before God; and the books were opened, and another book
was opened, which is the Book of Life: and the dead were judged out of
those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and hell delivered
up the dead which were in them, and they were judged every man according
to their works, and death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This
is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the Book of
Life was cast into the lake of fire." Here, too, we see an exact, perfect,
retributive, discriminating judgment. The Book of Life bears not the name
of one here. There is that one broad distinction between the saved and
the lost--the "life-line," as we may call it. How carefully are we told
at the very last of this Book of Life, that we may most clearly understand,
for our comfort, that the feeblest touch of faith of but the hem of His
garment--perhaps not even directly His Person, but that which is
seen surrounding His Person, as the visible creation may be said to do--(Psalms
cii. 25, 6) let any have touched Him there, and life results. His
name is found in the Book of Life, and he shall not see the second death.
Apart from this--the second death: the lake of fire!"
And yet, whilst "darkness
and wrath" are the common lot of the rejecters of "light and love," there
is, necessarily, almost infinite difference in the degrees of that darkness
and fierceness of that wrath, dependent exactly on the degree of rejection
of light and love. As our Lord tells us, "he that knew his Lord's will,
and prepared not himself, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that
knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes shall be beaten with
few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given of him shall be much required;
and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more." All
is absolutely right. Nothing more now to be made
ages of eternity may roll in unbroken peace; with God--manifested in all
the universe as light and love--all in all.
And now, dear readers, the
time has come to say farewell for a season to our writer and to each other.
Let this leave-taking not be with the groans of Ecclesiastes' helplessness
in our ears. We have stood by his side and tested with him the sad unsatisfying
pleasures connected with the senses under the sun. We have turned from
them, and tried the purer, higher pleasures of the intellect and reason,
and groaned to find them equally unsatisfying. We have looked through
his wearied eyes at this scene, restless in its unending changes, and yet
with nothing really new. We have felt a little, with his sensitive, sympathetic
heart, for the oppressed and down-trodden "under the sun," and groaned
in our helplessness to right their wrongs. We have groaned, too, at his
and our inability to understand or solve the contradictory tangle of life
that seemed to deny either the providence or the goodness of a clearly
recognized Creator. We have followed with him along many a hopeful path
till it led us to a tomb, and then we have bowed head with him, and groaned
in our agonizing inability to pierce further. We have seen, too, with him
that there is not the slightest discrimination in that ending of man's
race, and worse, even than groans to our ears, has been the wild, sad counsel
of despair, "Merrily drink thy wine." But quickly recovering from this,
we have wondered with great admiration as our guide's clear reason led
him, and us, still on and on to discern, a final harvest-judgment that
follows all earth's sowings. But there, as we have stood beside him in
spirit, before that awful judgment-seat to which he has led us, and turned
to him for one word of light or comfort in view of our sin and wrong doings--the
deepest need of all--we have been met with a silence too deeply agonizing,
even for the groan of vanity. Groans, groans, nothing but groans, at every
And then with what relief--oh,
what relief, ever increasing as the needs increased--have we turned to
the Greater than the greatest of men "under the sun," and, placing the
hand of faith in His, we have been led into other scenes, and have found
every single need of our being fully, absolutely, satisfactorily met. Our
body if now the seat of sin and suffering, yet we have learned to sing
in the joyful hope of its soon being "like Him forever." Our soul's affections
have in Him a satisfying object, whilst His love may fill the poor, empty,
craving heart till it runs over with a song all unknown under the sun,--our
spirit's deep questions, as they have come up, have all been met and answered
in such sort that each answer strikes a chord that sounds with the melody
of delight;--till at last death itself is despoiled of his terrors, and
our song is still more sweet and clear in the tyrant's presence, for he
is no longer a "king" over us, but our "servant." Even the deepest, most
awful terror of all to sinners such as we--the Judgment-seat--has given
us new cause for still more joyful singing; for we have in that pure, clear
light recognized in God--our Creator-God, our Redeemer-God--a love so full,
so true,--working with a wisdom so infinite, so pure,--in perfect harmony
with a righteousness so unbending, so inflexible,--with a holiness not
to be flecked or tarnished by a breath,--all combining to put us at joyful
ease in the very presence of judgment--to find there, as no where else
possible, all that is in God in His infinity told out, ("love with us made
perfect,") and that means that all the creatures' responsive love must
find sweet relief in a song that it will take eternity itself to end. In
our Father's House we only "begin to be merry," and end nevermore, as we
sound the depths of a wisdom that is fathomless, know a "love that passeth
knowledge";--singing, singing, nothing but singing, and ever a new song!
May God, in His grace, make
this the joyful experience of reader and writer, for the Lord Jesus Christ's
CEASE, ye Saints, your occupation
with the sorrow-scenes of earth;
Let the ear of faith be opened,
use the sight of second birth.
Long your hearts have been
acquainted with the tear-drop and the groan;
These are weeds of
foreign growing, seek the flowers that are your own.
He who in the sandy desert
looks for springs to quench his thirst
Finds his fountains are but
slime-pits such as Siddim's vale accursed;
He who hopes to still the
longing of the heart within his breast
Must not search within a
scene where naught is at one moment's rest.
Lift your eyes above the
heavens to a sphere as pure as fair;
There, no spot of earth's
defilement, never fleck of sin-stain there.
Linger not to gaze on Angels,
Principalities, nor Powers;
Brighter visions yet shall
greet you, higher dignities are ours.
All night's golden constellations
dimly shine as day draws on,
And the moon must veil her
beauties at the rising of the sun.
Let the grove be wrapt in
silence as the nightingale outflings
Her unrivaled minstrelsy,
th' eclipse of every bird that sings.
Michael, Israel's Prince,
is glorious, clad in panoply of war;
*"Who is as the God of Israel"
is his challenge near and far;
But a higher still than Michael
soon shall meet your raptured gaze,
And ye shall forget his glories
in your Captain's brighter rays.
[*"Michael" means "who is as God."]
List a moment to the music
of the mighty Gabriel's voice,
With its message strange
and tender, making Mary's heart rejoice.
Then on-speed, for sweeter
music soon expectant faith shall greet:
His who chained another Mary
willing captive at His feet.
But, let mem'ry first glance
backward to the scenes "beneath the sun,"
How the fairest earthly landscape
echoed soon some dying groan.
There the old-creation's
story, shared between the dismal Three:
Sin and Suffering and Sorrow
summed that Babel's history.
Now the contrast--vain ye
listen for one jarring note to fall;
For each dweller in that
scene's in perfect harmony with all.
Joy has here expelled all
sadness, perfect peace displaced all fears
All around that central Throne
makes the true "music of the spheres."
Now upsoar ye on faith's
pinion, leave all creature things behind,
And approach yon throne of
glory. Love in Light ye there shall find;
For with thrill of joy behold
One--woman-born--upon that Throne,
And, with deepest self-abasement,
in His beauties read your own.
Joyful scan the glories sparkling
from His gracious Head to Feet;
Never one that does not touch
some tender chord of memory sweet;
And e'en heaven's music lacks
till blood-bought ones their voices raise
High o'er feebler angel choirs;
for richer grace wakes nobler praise.
Vain the quest amongst the
thronging of the heavenly angel band
For one trace of human kinship,
for one touch of human hand;
'Mongst those spirits bright,
ethereal, "man" would stand a man alone;
Higher must he seek for kinship--thought
amazing--on God's Throne!
Does it not attract your
nature, is it not a rest to see
One e'en there at glory's
summit, yet with human form like thee?
Form assumed when love compelled
Him to take up your hopeless case,
Form He never will relinquish;
ever shall it voice His grace.
Wondrous grace! thus making
heaven but our Father's house prepared;
Since, by One who tells God's
love, in wounded human form 'tis shared.
See, His Head is crowned
with glory! yet a glory not distinct
From an hour of deepest suffering,
and a crown of thorns succinct.
Draw still closer, with the
rev'rence born of love and holy fear;
Look into those tender eyes
which have been dimmed with human tear--
Tears in which ye see a glory
hidden from th' Angelic powers;
Ours alone the state that
caused them, their beauty then alone is ours.
Look once more upon that
Head: finds memory no attraction there
In the time when, homeless-wandering,
night-dews filled that very hair?
Brightest glories sparkle
round it--crowned with honor now; and yet,
Once it found its only pillow
on storm-tossed Gennesaret!
See that Hand! it once grasped
Peter's as he sank beneath the wave,--
Snatched the widow's son
at Nain from the portal of the grave,--
Touched with healing grace
the leper, gave the light to him, born dark.
Deeper love to you is
spoken in that nail-print--precious mark!
Let your tender gaze now
rest on those dear Feet that erstwhile trod
All the weary, painful journey
leading Him from God to God;
Took Him in His gentle grace
wherever need and suffering thronged,
Or one lonely soul was found
who for the living water longed.
Those the very Feet once
bathed with a pardoned sinner's tears,
And anointed, too, with spikenard
speaking Mary's love and fears;
Took Him weary on His journey
under Sychar's noontide heat,
Till the thirsty quenched
His thirsting, and the hungry gave Him meat.
Blessed Feet! 'tis only sinners
the depth of beauty there;
Angels never have
bowed o'er them with a penitential tear.
Angels may regard the nail-print,
with a holy, reverent calm;
Ye who read the love it
tells of, must break forth with thankful psalm.
Draw yet nearer, look more
fondly; yea, e'en nestle and abide
In that covert from the storm-blast,
in the haven of His Side.
That deep wound speaks man's
great hatred, but His love surpassing great:
There were focused ,
at one spear-point, all God's love and all man's hate!
Rest, ye saints! your search
is ended; ye have reached the source of peace.
By the side of Jesus risen,
earth's dull cares and sorrows cease.
Here are Elim's wells and
palm-trees, grateful shade and waters cool,
Whilst in Christ's deep love
there's healing far beyond Bethesda's pool.
Closer, closer, cluster round
Him, till the kindling of that Love
Melt your hearts to like
compassions whilst amid like scenes ye move.
Only thus abiding in Him
can ye fruitfulness expect,
Or, 'mid old-creation sorrows,
new-creation love reflect.
Ever closer gather round
Him, till "the glory of that Light"
Dims the old-creation glitter,
proves earth's glare to be but--night!
Gaze upon Him till His beauties
wing your feet as on ye run,
Faith soon bursting into
sight, in God's clear day "Above the Sun."