The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field:…
This passage is brought to our minds, in the early summer-time, by the sight and the smell of the fields. One day they shine with the glory of the golden flowers, and, in a little while, the flowers are fallen, the grass is withered, and we are freshly impressed with the mutability of all earthly things. Man changes; God is the "same, yesterday, and to-day, and for ever" Man removes; God abides, and his dwelling-place is as the everlasting hills. Man dies; God lives for ever and ever. From changing, passing, transitory earth, we may look upward to God, saying, "He liveth, and blessed be my Rock." Of this double truth our text is one of the most poetic and eloquent expressions. The figure is sufficiently impressive to us, who see the swathes lying in the path of the mower; but it is full of force and suggestion in the East, where sudden blasts of scorching wind burn up the vegetation in an hour, and change freshness and flowers into barrenness and death. The Word of God endures for ever. It cannot be likened to anything on which rests the earthly stamp. It is not even like the giant trees, which grow on while the grass and the flowers of a hundred passing summers flourish and fade beneath them; for at last even the trees fail to respond to the wakening spring-breath, and the great trunks crumble down to dust, and pass away. It is not even like the mighty hills, which, towering high over us, seem to have their foundations in the very centre of the earth, and to outlast the generations; for they too are wearing down, and shall one day change and pass. It is not like the vast firmament, which keeps, through summer and winter, its broad expanse of blue, though clouds all blackness and clouds silver-tinged sweep in ever-varying shapes across it; for at last even "the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up."
I. THE TRANSITORINESS OF ALL EARTHLY THINGS. All nature echoes the message of the grass. The winter snow falls lightly, and lies in its white purity - mystic, wonderful - over all the land; but too soon it soils, and browns, and sinks, and passes all away. The spring flowers that come, responsive to the low sunshine and the gentle breath, are so fragile, they stay with us only such a little while, and then they pass away. The summer blossoms multiply and stand thick over the ground, and they seem strong, with their deep rich colouring; and yet they too wither and droop and pass away. The autumn fruits cluster on the tree branches, and grow big, and win their soft rich bloom of ripeness; but they too are plucked in due season, and pass away. The gay dress of varied leafage is soon stripped off with the wild winds; one or two trembling leaves cling long to the outmost boughs; but, by-and-by, even they fall and pass away. Down every channel of the hillsides are borne the crumblings washed from the everlasting hills, as we call them, that yet are passing away. And man - does he differ from the things in the midst of which he is set? Nay; he is but flesh. "He fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not." It is even true of man's work. All the glory, all the goodliness, of man's genius and enterprise and effort - it is all as the "flower of the field." Man's strength, and wisdom, and riches, and learning, and beauty, and science, and art, all are subject to decay; the "moth and the rust eat into them, and the thief steals them away." It is even true of the very forms and modes in which one man strives to bless and help another. The forms are not the principal things; they are but the temporary human stamp; and God may remove or change them to make us feel our entire dependence on him.
II. THE PERMANENCE OF ALL. DIVINE THINGS. More especially of all Divine revelations and declarations, for these are properly gathered up in the term, the "Word of God." Everything that speaks to our souls of God is a revelation to us. It may be a touch of nature. It may be only a pure white flower. It may be the pale gold and green of a late sunset. It may be the snowy crest of an Alpine mountain, lying soft and pure against the summer's deep blue sky. It may be the weird mist of the gloaming creeping over the landscape. It may be the glimpse "down some woodland vale, of the many-twinkling sea." It may be the thunder-voice of God echoing among the hills, or it may be the voice of some fellow-man, translating into human words for us the mysteries of Divine truth and love revealed to him for our sakes. Howsoever the Word of God may come into our souls, it is true for ever. All things that our souls hear and feel and know are Divine, are permanent, eternal things. When God speaks to our souls by his providence, the message is permanent. The revelation of redemption is permanent. Everything that pleads in us for duty is eternal, because it bears on the culture of character. All God's comfortings abide with us. And when God kindles hope, it is hope that cannot disappoint, that will never make ashamed. ]n Dr. Bushnell's life is the following passage, found pencilled by him on a stray sheet of paper. Referring to the time of his infancy, when he "came out in this rough battle with winds, winters, and wickedness," he says, "My God and my good mother both heard the cry, and went to the task of strengthening me, and comforting me together, and were able ere long to get a smile upon my face Long years ago she vanished; but God stays by me still, embraces me in my grey hairs as tenderly and carefully as she did in my infancy, and gives to me, as my joy and the principal glory of my life, that he lets me know him, and helps me with real confidence to call him my Father." - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: