It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men…
To many readers these statements appear startling and incredible. The young are scarcely likely to receive them with favor, and to the pleasure-seeking and the frivolous they are naturally repugnant. Yet they are the embodiment of true wisdom; and are in harmony with the experience of the thoughtful and benevolent.
I. FEASTING, LAUGHTER AND MIRTH ARE TOO GENERALLY REGARDED BY THE FOOLISH AS THE BEST PORTION AND THE ONLY JOY OF HUMAN LIFE.
1. It is not denied that there is a side of human nature to which merriment and festivity are congenial, or that there are occasions when they may be lawfully, innocently, and suitably indulged in.
2. But these experiences are not to be regarded by reasonable and immortal beings as the choicest and most desirable experiences of life.
3. If they are unduly prized and sought, they will certainly bring disappointment, and involve regret and distress of mind.
4. Constant indulgence of the kind described will tend to the deterioration of the character, and to unfitness for the serious and weighty business of human existence.
II. INTERCOURSE WITH THE SORROWFUL AND THE BEREAVED YIELDS MORE TRUE PROFIT THAN SELFISH AND FRIVOLOUS INDULGENCE.
1. Such familiarity with the house of mourning reminds of the common lot of men, which is also our own. In a career of amusement and dissipation there is much which is altogether artificial. The gay and dissolute endeavor, and often for a time with success, to lose sight of some of the greatest and most solemn realities of this earthly existence. Pain, weakness, and sorrow come, sooner or later, to every member of the human race, and it is inexcusable folly to ignore that with which every reflective mind must be familiar.
2. The house of mourning is peculiarly fitted to furnish themes of most profitable meditation. The uncertainty of prosperity, the brevity of life, the rapid approach of death, the urgency of sacred duties, the responsibility of enjoying advantages and opportunities only to be used aright during health and activity, - such are some of the lessons which are too often unheeded by the frivolous. Yet not to have learned these lessons is to have lived in vain.
3. The house of mourning is fitted to bring home to the mind the preciousness of true religion. Whilst Christianity is concerned with all the scenes and circumstances of our existence, and is as able to hallow our joys as to relieve our sorrows, it is evident that, inasmuch as it deals with us as immortal beings, it has a special service to render to those who realize that this earthly life is but a portion of our existence, and that it is a discipline and preparation for the life to come. Many have been indebted, under God, to impressions received in times of bereavement for the impulse which has animated them to seek a heavenly portion and inheritance.
4. Familiarity with scenes of sorrow, and with the sources of consolation which religion opens up to the afflicted, tends to promote serenity and purity of disposition. The restlessness and superficiality which are distinctive of the worldly and pleasure-seeking may, through the influences here described, be exchanged for the calm confidence, the acquiescence in the Divine will, the cheerful hope, which are the precious possession of the true children of God, who know whom they have believed, and are persuaded that he is able to keep that which they have committed to him against that day. - T.
Parallel VersesKJV: It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.