A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth.
There is much both of exalted enjoyment and of valuable influence in a man's reputation. It is said of the great explorer and philanthropist, David Livingstone, that he used to live in a village in Africa until his "good name" for benevolence had been established and had gone on before him: following his reputation, he was perfectly safe. A good reputation is -
I. THE AROMA WHICH OUR LIFE SHEDS AROUND US. We are always judging one another; every act of every kind is appraised, though often quite unconsciously, and we stand better or worse in the estimation of our neighbors for all we do and are. Our professions, our principles, our deeds, our words, even our manners and methods, - all these leave impressions on the mind concerning ourselves. What men think of us is the sum-total of these impressions, 'and constitutes our "name," our reputation. The character of a good man is constantly creating an atmosphere about him in which he will be able to walk freely and happily. It is indeed true that some good men seriously injure their reputation by some follies, or even foibles, which might easily be corrected and which ought to be avoided; but, as a rule, the life of the pure and holy, of the just and kind, is surrounded by a radiance of good estimation, as advantageous to himself as it is valuable to his neighbors.
II. THE BEST LEGACY WE LEAVE BEHIND US. At "the day of one's birth" there is rejoicing, because "a man is born into the world." And what may he not become? what may he not achieve? what may he not enjoy? But that is a question indeed. That infant may become a reprobate, an outcast; he may do incalculable, deplorable mischief in the world; he may grow up to suffer the worst things in body or in mind. None but the Omniscient can tell that. But when a good man dies, having lived an honorable and useful life, and having built up a noble and steadfast character, he has won his victory, he has gained his crown; and he leaves behind him memories, pure and sweet, that will live in many hearts and hallow them, that will shine on many lives and brighten them. At birth there is a possibility of good, at death there is a certainty of blessedness and blessing.
1. Reputation is not the very best thing of all. Character stands first. It is of vital consequence that we be right in the sight of God, and tried by Divine wisdom. The first and best thing is not to seem but to be right and wise. But then:
2. Reputation is of very great value.
(1) It is worth much to ourselves; for it is an elevated and ennobling joy to be glad in the well-earned esteem of the wise.
(2) It is of great value to our kindred and our friends. How dear to us is the good name of our parents, of our children, of our intimate friends!
(3) It is a source of much influence for good with our neighbors. How much weightier are the words of the man who has been growing in honor all his days, than are those of either the inexperienced and unknown man, or the man whose reputation has been tarnished! - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth.