Man goes forth to his work and to his labor until the evening.
"Man goeth forth." And thus tents and ships have, from time immemorial, charmed the attention of young and lively minds. The ocean and the desert have ever been the pathways along which the most adventurous spirits of our race have travelled; and the most romantic and imaginative have transported their thoughts over the same mysterious fields — hailing any means of escape from the present monotony. We are the subjects of Divine, or of merely natural, sometimes infernal, restlessness; and, in truth, we do not much prize the lymphatic and indifferent beings who sit still in their chimney-nook, and take no interest in the great world roaring around them.
I. WORK IS THE TRUE SACRAMENT OF LIFE. It has been truly said, "a man cultivates himself by working." Very plainly God has put us into such a universe that He only can shape us by, — destiny only Spins its purpose out of us by, — work. Every toil may be the platform for a higher toil; and all toils point to the consummation and perfection of the worker, the invisible, but living, personal soul. Work! it never ends with its act; it has a great beyond, and there is a great beyond to thee. It is from brave labour that life rises, "rises the God-like force, the sacred life-essence breathed by God. It is by labour, by work you rise to all nobleness — you rise to all knowledge." This is the Work of nature, to which, man goes forth. In the kingdom of grace there is work too. Understand, as has been said, the Gospel does not abrogate works, but it provides for them. Man goeth forth to his work and labour from the morning of the world to its evening.
II. I turn from the thought of the work as a fact, to THE SPIRIT IN WHICH IT SHOULD BE ENGAGED. A nobleness of soul looks out from the words, "go forth!" The view of labour is not only great objectively, it is subjectively also. Some men's souls are like a French drawing-room, all looking-glass, whichever way they look they see themselves. It is not so with noble souls; they see their work, and not merely the little piece which lies before them, they see its end. So man goeth forth. The blessed glow of labour spreads over the man. "He goeth forth"; and it means that he calls to patience, courage, perseverance, and to that simple, weak-looking little faculty, good temper, to wait upon him. "He goeth forth"; then what to him are the doubts and difficulties that beset him? "Doubt of any kind — it is extinguished by action," and difficulties retreat as the man goeth forth. As the ploughman drives his team through the stubble, and knows it is for the harvest, — the sailor waves a farewell to the shore, and knows it is for the freightage, — as the builder rears the scaffolding and knows it is for the building, so man goeth forth; so the Christian goeth forth, refreshed by prayer; "the crooked becomes straight" before him, "the rough places plain," "the valleys are exalted," "the mountains brought low." Have you not heard in some of those old wild legends of the Middle Ages, how, while men slept, some of the old church towers and spires rose in the night — invisible builders working in the air: so rise the towers and the spires of our life — a mystic building: so it is also with our life. Or, say it is like a building, the design of the architect hidden behind the scaffolding; but, at last, the building is complete, the scaffolding falls, and all stands revealed.
(E. P. Hood.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labour until the evening.