How is the gold become dim! how is the most fine gold changed! the stones of the sanctuary are poured out in the top of every street.…
We might so far alter the obvious meaning of the text as to lay great stress upon the meaning of the word "How" — as if it involved a mystery rather than declared the fact. How is it possible? It is gold, but it is dim; it is fine gold, but it is changed — how has it been done? Marvellous is the history of deterioration.
1. Archbishop Trench in his book upon "Words" has shown this in a very vivid manner in the matter of certain expressions and phrases which have gradually but completely, changed their meaning in English speech and intercourse. He quotes the word "innocent." A word of gold, yea, of fine gold, indicating beauty of character, simplicity of spirit, incapability of double-mindedness or ambiguity of thought and intent; all so plain, so pure, so straight forward. How is the word now employed in many cases? To indicate people who have lost mental strength, or people who never had mental strength; weak-minded people; even those who are little short of imbeciles are described as "innocent" — those having no longer any responsibility; having outlived the usual obligations of life or never having come under them; persons from whom nothing may be expected. "How is the gold become dim! how is the most fine gold changed!" A change of that kind does not take place on the surface; changes of that sort have history underneath them as their cause and explanation; the soul has got wrong in order to allow a word like that to be perverted from its original beauteousness. This is not a trick in merely vocal transition; underneath this is a sad moral history. Even words may indicate the moral course which a nation has taken.
2. What is true of words is true also of merely social manners. How different you are now in some of your social relations from what you used to be! Every man will supply his own illustration. How civil we used to be; how courteous; how prompt in attention; how critical in our behaviour; how studious not to wound! "How is the gold become dim! how is the most fine gold changed!" How rough we are, and brusque! How blunt — and we call our bluntness frankness! How positive, stubborn, self-willed, resolute, careless of the interests of others! What off-handed speeches we make! What curt answers we return! "How is the gold become dim! how is the most fine gold changed!" What if that dimness should so deepen and extend as to lead some persons to question the reality of the gold? In these matters we must as Christian men be careful, thoughtful, watchful, critical. There is nothing little that concerns the integrity and the fulness of Christian character.
3. What is true of words and of manner is also true of the high ideals with which we began life. Let us be thankful for ideals. We cannot always live up to the ideal, but we can still look at it and cherish it; and from our uplifted ideal we may sometimes draw healing when we have been bitten by some flying fiery serpent whose bite has flung us in agony upon the ground for a while, like worsted and mortally wounded things. We cannot have ideals too lofty, too pure, too heavenly. We cannot strike the star. but the arrow goes the higher for the point it was aimed at. What ideals we used to have! Who dares bring back to memory all the ideals with which he started life? Where are they? "How is the gold become dim! how is the most fine gold changed!" Let me add to the criticism the Gospel which says, We may every one begin again. What say you to that Gospel opportunity and Gospel challenge? Let each say, "I will arise and go to my Father"; let each one say, "I will arise and go to my Ideal, and say, I have wounded Thee, dishonoured Thee, fallen infinitely short of Thee in every particular. I am no more worthy that Thou shouldst be associated with my poor name."
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: How is the gold become dim! how is the most fine gold changed! the stones of the sanctuary are poured out in the top of every street.