O Ephraim, what shall I do to you? O Judah, what shall I do to you? for your goodness is as a morning cloud…
By the word of the prophet Hosea, the Divine reproach fell on Ephraim and on Judah, that their goodness was as a morning cloud, and that us the early dew it passed away. Bright was the promise of the innocent dawn, but the promise was unfulfilled. Mr. Kingsley, in a touching reflection — literally reflection, looking back on the "long lost might-have-been," adverts to that personal idea which every soul brings with it into the world, which shines dim and potential in the face of every sleeping babe, before it has been scarred, and distorted, and entrusted in the long tragedy of life. Dr. Caird has said of the birthday of the worst of men, that although it ushered a new agent of evil into existence, and was a day fraught with more disasters to the world than the day in which the pestilence began to creep over the nations, or the blight to fasten on the food of man, or any other physical evil to enter on a career of world-wide devastation, yet might this day, when the vilest of humanity first saw the light, be in some aspects of it regarded as better (despite Solomon's text) than the day of his death. "For, to take only one view of it, when life commenced, the problem of good or evil, to which death has brought so terrible a solution, was, in his case, as yet unsolved. The page of human history which he was to write was as yet unwritten, and to that day belonged, at all events, the advantage of the uncertainty whether it was to be blurred and blotted, or written fair and clean." Life, even in the most unfavourable circumstances, it is urged, has ever some faint gleams of hope to brighten its outset. The preacher owns that the simplicity, the tenderness, the unconscious refinement that more or less characterise infancy, even among the lowest and rudest, soon indeed pass away, and give place to the coarseness of an unideal, if not the animal repulsiveness of a sensual or sinful life. But he insists that at least at the beginning, for a little while, there is something in the seeming innocency, the brightness, the unworldliness, the unworn freshness of childhood, that gives hope room to work. Is there not, he asks, for every child, not in the dreams of parental fondness only, but in reality, and in God's idea, the possibility of a noble future? "The history of each new born soul is surely in God's plan and intention a bright and blessed one. For the vilest miscreant that was ever hounded out of life in dishonour and wretched ness, there was, in the mind of the All-good, a Divine ideal, a glorious possibility of excellence, which might have been made a reality." The most hardened ruffian, the most obdurate criminal, the most impenetrable reprobate was once a child. Most of what he has, the grown-up man is shewn to inherit from his infant self, but it does not follow that he always enters upon the whole of his natural inheritance.
(Francis Jacox, B. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away.