Cursed be the day wherein I was born: let not the day wherein my mother bore me be blessed.…
Here is one who evidently thought it was not. How bitterly he grieves over the fact that he was ever brought into existence! It is an illustration, as has been pointed out, of the maddening force of suffering.. It drives a man to the use of wild language. For great sufferings generate great passions in the soul. They rouse the whole man into action. And these great passions thus roused often become irrepressible. Many men of no ordinary meekness and self-control are overborne at such times - Jeremiah, Job, Moses, Elijah; and then they express themselves in unmeasured terms. It is as a flood broken loose. Its rushing, foaming waters pour along, and over all that lies in their path. Hence it is that the prophet here, not content with cursing the day of his birth, utters wild execrations on the messenger that announced it to his father. Thus passionately does he protest against the misery and misfortune of his life. Nor has he been alone in such dark thoughts concerning life. Cf. Job 3., where the patriarch, in almost identical language, deplores the fact of his birth. And Moses prayed that God would kill him out of hand (Numbers 11:15); and Elijah (1 Kings 19:4). And there have been a whole host of men who have in the most emphatic way affirmed their belief that life is not worth living by refusing to live it any longer - Saul, Ahithophel, Judas, and the suicides of all ages declare this. And many more who have not given this dread proof of their sincerity have yet maintained the same. Sophocles said, "Not to be born is best in every way. Once born, by far the better lot is then at once to go back whence we came." Goethe, as he drew near his end, notwithstanding that all men regarded his career as one which had been highly favored and very enviable, is reported to have said, "They have called me a child of fortune, nor have I any wish to complain of the course of my life. Yet it has been nothing but sorrow and labor; and I may truly say that in seventy-five years I have not had four weeks of true comfort. It was the constant rolling of a stone that was always to be lifted anew. When I look back upon my earlier and middle life and consider how few are those left who were young with me, I am reminded of a summer visit to a watering-place. On arriving one makes the acquaintance of those who have already been some time there and leave the week following. This loss is painful. Now one becomes attached to the second generation, with which one lives for a time and becomes intimately connected. But this also passes away and leaves us solitary with the third, which arrives shortly before our own departure, and with which we have no desire to have much intercourse." And the gloomy musings of Hamlet, "To be or not to be, that is the question," is another example, which-has been followed by the whole tribe of those who are called pessimists, of representing life as a curse rather than a blessing. And we cannot deny that there are many now whose lot in life is so sad, that, if we looked only at the present, we could not vindicate the justice and still less the goodness of God in regard to them. And the terrible lottery that life is, a lottery in which the blanks far outnumber the prizes, goes far to account for the apathetic indifference with which the deaths of such myriads of children are regarded. If all parents knew for certain that the lot of their children would be bright or mainly so, how much mole jealously would their lives be guarded and avenged! And there are many men who, whilst they stammer out some kind of thanksgiving for their "preservation and all the blessings of this life," fail utterly to feel thankful for their "creation." They would much rather not have been. So that there can be no doubt that there is a larger and it is to be feared an increasing number of people who are desperately or despairingly asking the question which stands at the head of this homily, and which this passionate protest of the prophet against his birth has suggested. But how is all this? Let us therefore inquire -
I. WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF SUCH CHEERLESS THINKING AND SPEAKING? We reply:
1. Temperament has a great deal to do with it. Some are born with a sunny, bright, cheerful disposition; let them go down on their knees and give God thanks for it, for it is a better gift to them, more surely secures their happiness, than thousands of gold and silver. But others are born with a temperament the very reverse-pessimists from their mothers' womb, always seeing the dark side of things, melancholy, foreboding, complaining. It Is a positive disease, and calls for mingled pity and careful discipline.
2. But more often still it is, the continued and sore pressure of sorrow. So was it with Job and here with Jeremiah. And it is still the bitter disappointments, the miserable failures, "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune," trouble upon trouble, - these are prolific sources of the sad views of life of which we speak.
3. But most of all, sin - moral evil - is the real cause. The "philosophy of melancholy" finds its true parentage there. It is this which causes that unrest and torment of soul, that hiding of the face of God and uplifting of the scourge of conscience, which throws all life into shadow and blots out the sun from the heavens. It is this which leads it to be said of and felt by a man, that it had been better for him that he had never been born.
II. WHAT IS THE TRUTH ON THE MATTER? Such conclusion as that of the pessimist never can be right, for our deepest moral instincts teach us that, if life were more of a curse than a blessing, he who is the God of mercy and righteousness would never have given it; and that if it were better for a man that he had not been born, he would not have been born. Life must be a blessing or it would not be given.
1. Universal instinct says so. See how men cling to life. The law of self-preservation is the first law of nature.
2. The summing up of the hours in which we have enjoyed peace and satisfaction, and of those which have been darkened by pain and distress, would probably in all lives show a vast balance on the side of the former. Let any one honestly make the calculation for themselves.
3. The laws of life all tend to produce happiness; "In keeping of God's commandments there is great reward."
4. Good men who may have held dark views of life have done so "in haste," as Psalm 31:22 and Psalms 116:11; or through looking at one point of their lives only (cf. the joyous praise of ver. 13; what a contrast and contradiction to the verses that follow!); or in ignorance of the truths and consolations which the gospel has introduced. Thus was it with Job and the Old Testament saints generally, and, of course, with all pagan nations.
5. Evil men are not to be credited. They have themselves poisoned life's springs, and whilst they speak truly enough concerning their own life, they are not competent witnesses as to what all life is.
6. Then "it is the Lord that hath made us, and not we ourselves," and because of this all lands are bidden "be joyful in the Lord" (Psalm c.). Now, how could this be if life were not worth living?
7. The future which Christ has prepared. Let that be taken into view and quoestio coedit. Life is but the porch way to that which is life indeed - the eternal life. Our afflictions, therefore, which here we suffer are light, and "but for a moment," and so, "not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed."
(1) Then, "Sursum corda," "Lift up your hearts;" "Be joyful in the Lord," because he hath made us.
(2) Be reticent of such thoughts and words as these of Jeremiah. How far short he falls of the apostles of our Lord! They rejoiced in tribulations. Jeremiah had better not have so spoken; better have copied him who said, "If I speak thus I shall offend against the generation of thy children."
(3) Pray to be kept from temptation so to speak or even think, for such temptation is hard to overcome. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Cursed be the day wherein I was born: let not the day wherein my mother bare me be blessed.