when men fear the heights and dangers of the road, when the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper loses its spring, and the caper berry shrivels--for then man goes to his eternal home, and mourners walk the streets.
preceding verses, there is no doubt at all as to the Preacher's meaning in the text; he has death in his view, and he suggests to us -
I. ITS CERTAINTY. Childhood must pass into youth, and youth into prime, and prime into old age - into the days which are bereaved of pleasure (ver. 1); and old age must end in death. Of all the tableaux which human life presents to us, the last one is that of "the mourners going about the streets." Other evils may be shunned by sedulous care and unusual sagacity, but death is the evil which no man may avoid.
II. ITS MEANING. What does death mean when it comes?
1. It means a shock to those that are left behind. The mourners in the street express in their way the sadness which is afflicting the hearts of those who weep within the walls. Here and there a death occurs which disturbs no peace and troubles no heart. But almost always it comes with a shock and an inward inexpressible pain to those who are bereaved. Even in old age the hearts of near kindred and dear friends are troubled with a keen and real distress.
2. It means separation. Man "goes to his long home." They who are left go to their darkened home, and he who is taken goes to his long home, to dwell apart and alone, to revisit no more the familiar places, and look no more into the faces of his friends. They and he henceforth must dwell apart; the grave is always a very long distance from the old home.
3. It means loss. The loss of the beautiful or the useful, or of both together. "Our life may have been like a golden lamp suspended by silver chains, fit for the palace of a king, and- may have shed a welcome and a cheerful light on every side; but even the durable costly chain will be snapped at last, and the beautiful 'bowl be broken.' Our life may have been like 'the bucket' dropped by village maidens into the village fountain, or like the ' wheel' by which water is drawn from the village well, - it may have conveyed a vital refreshment to many lips; but the day must come when the bucket will be shattered on the marble edge of the fountain, and the timeworn wheel drop into the well" (Cox). The most beautiful life vanishes from our sight; the most useful life is taken away.
4. It means dissolution. "The dust shall return to the earth as it was." Our body, however fair and strong it may be, however trained, clothed, adorned, admired, must return to "dust and ashes," must be resolved into the elements from which it was constructed.
5. It means departure. "The spirit shall return unto God who gave it." This is by far the most solemn view of death. At death we "return to God" (see Psalm 90:3). Not, indeed, that we are ever far from him (see Acts 17:27; Psalm 139:3-5). We stand and live in his very near presence. Yet does there come an hour - the hour of death - when we shall consciously stand before our Divine Judge, and when we shall learn from him "our high estate" or our lasting doom (2 Corinthians 5:10). Death means departure from the sphere of the visible and tangible into the close and conscious presence of the eternal God.
III. ITS MORAL. The one great lesson which stands out from this eloquent description is this: Be the servant of God always; take care to know him and to serve him at the end, by learning of him at the beginning, and serving him throughout your life. Remember your Creater in youth, and he will acknowledge you when old age is lost in death, and death has introduced you to the judgment-scene. Happy is that human soul that has drawn into itself Divine truth with its earliest intelligence, and that has ordered its life by the Divine will from first to last; for then shall the end of earth be full of peace and hope, and the beginning of eternity be full of joy and of glory. - C.
The almond-tree shall flourish.
(T. De Witt Talmage.)
Because man goeth to his long home
I. THE HOME-GOING. "Man goeth home." He does not enter it by a sudden leap or bound, but he is, as on a journey, continuously progressing nearer and nearer to it. This is life — a constant home-going. There are what we may call years of preparation for the conscious start. When the infant first breathes these mortal airs; when the child is growing in stature and developing in mind and soul, scarcely thinking, or even knowing that, right on before, there lies an eternal destiny; and when the youth is just catching the faint glimmerings of consciousness as to duty and responsibility, and the need for heroic spiritual efforts — then is the time of a silent equipment, physically and morally, for entering on the hard, rough way of the homeward journey. And only at its close is the thought borne in on the soul that life is not to be considered as an automatic, purposeless thing, but is a well-marked and controllable progression which ends somewhere in a "long home." When that thought is first clearly and earnestly realized by a boy or girl, then the real conscious start in the home-going is made. It usually happens, if not earlier, when the young people are in their teens. They can, at the very outset, if only they will, bound forward and gain splendid spiritual lengths. They have ardent affections, they have burning enthusiasms, which can go out untrammelled to what is highest and best. They have not yet entangled themselves with evil habits which have to be sternly battled with before they can be flung off. They have not yet come under the burden of life's many cares, which sometimes make the feet heavy and slow in the heavenward way. Are your eyes dimmer, or your ears duller, or your limbs feebler, or your appetites blunter, or your hair whiter and scantier, or your soul less enthusiastic than in other days? Then, these are the Divine monitors telling that you are not to be always here — that, in your progressive home-going, you are fast ripening for the final exit.
II. THE LONG HOME. "Man goeth to his long home," or, as the Hebrew has it, to "his house of eternity." Used by other and earlier writers, this may have been only a synonym for the grave; but more than this was meant by the writer of our text, for in ver. 7 he speaks of "the dust returning to the dust as it was, and the spirit returning to God who gave it." So the "long home" in his mind was, for the body the grave, and for the spirit an existence within the veil. May we not, therefore, think of man's "long home" as having an outer and an inner court? The outer court is the grave. That is the "long home" to which our bodies are daily, hourly, going — our poor bodies, which we deck and pamper, and on which we bestow such thought and care. The inner court is within the veil. And back from it, when the spirit enters, there is no returning to these earthly scenes. It is "our house of eternity" — an eternal home. About that unseen world we know so little that it is not wise to say much.
III. THE MOURNERS LEFT BEHIND. When a man enters the long bright home, he receives the "Welcome home!" of the Saviour and of all the blessed. But his home-going throws a shadow on the earth: it causes an aching void, a bitter lamentation. "The mourners go about the street." Rather since they have gone to join in "the song of them that feast," ought we not to strive to catch the blessed infection of their celestial joy, and put on festal robes, and sing hymns of triumph over their departure? This is what we would do were the Christian hope and faith sure and strong within us. This is what we are asked to do. Listen, my mourning friends, listen! Your Saviour speaks to you, and says, Your loved ones have but come to their bright long home with Me. "Then why make ye this ado, and weep?"
(T. Young, B. D.)
II. CONSIDER THE DEATH OF OUR FRIENDS. Then, indeed, is the time to weep. Let not; a false idea of fortitude, or mistaken conceptions of religious duty, be employed to restrain the bursting emotion. Let the heart seek its relief in the free effusion of just and natural sorrow. It is becoming in every one to show, on such occasions, that he feels as a man ought to feel. At the same time, let moderation temper the grief of a good man and a Christian. He must not sorrow like those who have no hope. They whom we have loved still live, though not present to us. They are only removed into a different mansion in the house of the common Father. In due time, we hope to be associated with them in these blissful habitations. Until this season of reunion arrive, no principle of religion discourages our holding correspondence of affection with them by means of faith and hope. Meanwhile, let us respect the virtues and cherish the memory of the deceased. Let their little failings be now forgotten. Let us dwell on what was amiable in their character, imitate their worth, and trace their steps. Moreover, let the remembrance of the friends whom we have lest strengthen our affection to those that remain. The narrower the circle becomes of those we love, let us draw the closer together. But they are not only our friends who die. Our enemies also must go to their long home.
III. CONSIDER HOW WE OUGHT TO BE AFFECTED, WHEN THEY FROM WHOM SUSPICIONS HAVE ALIENATED, OR RIVALRY HAS DIVIDED US; they with whom we have long contended, or by whom we imagine ourselves to have suffered wrong, ARE LAID, OR ABOUT TO BE LAID, IN THE GRAVE. How inconsiderable then appear those broils in which we have been long involved, those contests and feuds which we thought were to last for ever! The awful moment that now terminals them makes us feel their vanity. Let the anticipation of such sentiments serve now to correct the inveteracy of prejudice, to cool the heat of anger, to allay the fierceness of resentment. When a few suns more have rolled over our heads, friends and foes shall have retreated together; and their love and their hatred be equally buried. Let our few days, then, be spent in peace. While we are all journeying onwards to death, let us rather bear one another's burdens, than harass one another by the way. Let us smooth and cheer the road as much as we can, rather than fill the valley of our pilgrimage with the hateful monuments of our contention and strife.
(H. Blair, D. D.)I. EXAMINE THE TERM APPLIED HERE TO DESCRIBE THE GRAVE — "the long home." We are not to look down into the earth, but up at the skies. Above the grave we may discern the glory.
II. WHAT AN ADDED AND INTENSIFIED INTEREST BELONGS TO THOSE WHOM WE HAVE KNOWN WHEN THEY PASS AWAY FROM US INTO "THE LONG HOME," THUS EQUIPPED.
1. There was the process of the spirit disentangling itself from the body.
2. There was the new consciousness of the spirit, freed from the limitations of the flesh, and really entering the new world.
3. As we think upon the long home we cannot but remember that we too must finish with this world and die.
4. We, toe, must be judged, our conduct and character will be examined by the Infallible Judge.
5. We, too, must prepare. We may well consider whether the preparation is really made, and whether it is continually enlarged and perfected.
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