Say not you, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for you do not inquire wisely concerning this.
As we grow older we are more prone to look back into the past. Our best days and brightest hours are those which have long since passed away. Most of the old poets have written and sung of a golden age. But it was away in the distant past. They have pictured it near the world's beginning, in the days when the human race was yet in its youth. And so every nation has had its fancied golden age. Dreamers have dreamed of its charms. A time of peace, and love, and joy, when the earth yielded all manner of fruits and flowers, and all nations lived together in harmony and peace. And the Bible, too, tells of a golden age in the far distant past. As our thoughts go back to that blessed time, we can scarcely refrain from asking bitterly, "What is the cause that the former days were better than these?" But in our text the wise man cautions us that we do not inquire wisely concerning this. The tree is beautiful when it is covered with blossoms. But is it not a richer, though a different kind of beauty, when in autumn it is loaded with delicious fruit? The morning is beautiful when the rising sun bathes stream and flood, hill and dale with his glorious beams. But is it not another and a higher kind of beauty when, at the close of day, the sun is slowly sinking in the west, like a king dying on a couch of gold, and the fading hues of even light up the whole heavens with a glory that seems to have come down from the New Jerusalem! The field is beautiful when the fresh green blades appear, like a new creation, life out of death. But it is another and a higher order of beauty when, instead of the fresh young blade, you have the rich golden harvest. The spring is beautiful with all its stores of bloom and fragrance and song. But is it not a higher beauty, a more advanced perfection when the bloom of spring has given place to the golden sheaves and plentiful stores of autumn? Life's opening years may be beautiful, but its close may be glorious. You may have seen the raw recruit, fresh from his country home, setting out to join the war in a distant land. His laurels are yet unsullied. The keen edge of his sword has never yet been blunted. See him years afterward, when he comes home, after a long service in some foreign land. His clothes are tattered and torn; his colours are in rags; his steps are feeble and tottering; his brow is seamed and scarred; his sword is broken. He seems but the wreck, the mere shadow of his former self. But in all that is true, and noble, and unselfish, he is a braver and a better man. His courage has been tried. The tinsel has been lost, but the fine gold all remains. And so is it with the youthful Christian. In the first days of his profession, when he has given his heart to Jesus for the first time, all his graces seem so fresh and lovely All his being is filled with joy unspeakable. Years pass on. The young professor grows into the aged Christian. His graces do not now seem so fresh and beautiful as they did forty or fifty years ago. His feelings do not flow out so steadily toward the Saviour whom he loves, nor do the tears come as freely now as they did long ago when he sits down at the table of the Lord. You would say that in his ease the former days were better than these. But you do not inquire wisely concerning this. His last days are his best days. The blossoms may have perished, but you have in their stead the mellow, luscious fruit. The golden age of a nation is not always behind, lost in the myths of its earliest existence. Years of conflict, ages of revolution, centuries of daring and doing nobly, freedom's battle bequeathed by bleeding sire to son, through long decades of stern resistance to all oppression and tyranny. It is through such a fiery discipline as this that a nation becomes truly great in all those qualities that ennoble them in the sight of God. When they stand up as the champions of right, the defenders of the oppressed, then are they entering on their true golden age, the perfection of their national existence. Nor is it true in regard to the world that its former days were better than these. Its golden age has not all passed away. A still more glorious golden age awaits it in the ages that are to come. The curse of sin is to be fully and for ever removed. The old earth is to pass away. The destroying fire will burn out the footprints of evil And God will make all things new. A new heaven and a new earth.
(J. Carmichael, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this.