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O LESSED above women shall Jael be, The wife of Heber, the Kenite, Blessed shall she be above women in the tent. He asked water, she gave him milk ; She brought him butter in a lordly dish. She put her hand to the tent-pin, And her right hand to the workmen's hammer ; And with the hammer she smote Sisera, she smote through his head. Yea, she pierced and struck through his temples. At her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay : At her feet he bowed, he fell : Where he bowed, there he fell down dead. Through the window she looked forth, and cried. The mother of Sisera cried through the lattice, ^Why is his chariot so long in coming ? Why tarry the wheels of his chariots ?' Her wise ladies answered her. (Yet she repeateth her words unto herself,) ^Have they not found, have they not divided the spoil? A damsel, two damsels to every man; To Sisera a spoil of dyed garments, A spoil of dyed garments with embroidery. Of dyed garments with embroidery on both sides, on the necks of the spoil?"' These striking, yea, startling, words are understood only in the light of the history with which they are connected. It v/as in the days of the judges. Ehud, the second judge, had been slain, the rule of Shamgar, the third, had ended, and it was unto Deborah, a prophetess, who dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Eamah and Bethel, that the children of Israel came for judgment.
Preceding her rule, the Canaanites, whom Joshua had left in the land, had grown mightier than their masters, and for twenty years Jabin, their king, had sorely oppressed the people of God. Jabin^s rule was in Hazor, but Sisera, the captain of his host, had his headquarters in Harosheth, on the west. The cries of the oppressed had gone up to God, and he had revealed unto Deborah that deliverance was at hand. Deborah called upon Barak of Kedesh to gather ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun, and meet Sisera's hosts on the field of battle. Barak's judgment was greater than his valor, and he declared that he would not go unless Deborah should be at his side. This the prophetess was willing to do, and when Barak went dov/n from Mount Tabor to meet Sisera's hosts on the plain he had Deborah at his side, Jehovah leading on before and ten thousand choice warriors following at his heels. The battle was joined. The conflict was fiercely waged. God was with his people, and victory was theirs. The hosts of Sisera were pursued unto their camp at Harosheth, and all fell by the edge of the sword. But Sisera himself escaped from his chariot and fled on foot to the tent of Jael for shelter and protection. Following this signal victory, Deborah and Barak sang their song of exultation, and it is from this song that the words of the text are taken. This text presents two striking pictures, both of which are tragic scenes in the homes of women. One is in the east of Esdraelon in the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber, the Kenite, and the other, on the west of Esdraelon, is in the palace of the unnamed mother of Sisera, the captain of Jabin's hosts. Heber had separated himself from his people, the Kenites, and taken up his abode on the borderland of N"aphtali. Though seemingly closely allied with God's people, he was friendly with Jabin, the king of Canaan, and it was in Heber's home that Sisera fled when he escaped on foot from the battle that his forces had lost.
THE UNRETUEXING. 249 But Jael, the wife, had her heart with God^s people, and while re-
freshing him v/ith milk when he had asked only water, and serving him with butter in a lordly dish, she was laying plans to compass his destruction. As he lay concealed under a rug in her tent and slept the sleep of exhaustion, she drove a tent-pin through his temple and into the ground beneath. So the sleep of exhaustion became the last sleep — death. The second picture of the text is a scene in Sisera^s home in Harosheth. His mother has seen him go out to battle, and how long seem the hours while she awaits his return! She looks out through the latticed window with anxious longing and cries in tones of piteous pleading : ' 'Why is Ills chariot so long in coming ? ^Miy tarry the wheels of his chariots?" Her wise ladies are about her, and they seek to allay her fears with the assurance that the length of his stay is due only to the abundance of the spoil. They have stopped to divide the captive maidens and the dyed garments so rich in embroidery. But these words are not enough to still an anxious mother's heart, and even as they speak she keeps repeating to herself in undertones of piteous anguish, "Why is his chariot so long in coming? Why tarry the wheels of his chariots?'' But her anxious longing must only pass into hopeless despair, for beyond Kishon, at the further side of the plain of Esdraelon, in the tent of Heber, the Kenite, there lies cold in death the son of her heart's love. Sisera had gone out to lift up his hand against the people of the Lord, and in that going out he numbered himself among the unreturning. II. THE UlS^RETURNIXG W'ORLD-W'IDE It were not so sad were Sisera's case the only one, but there have been unreturning through all the years, and to-night there are thousands who, for all that is known of their whereabouts in the homes that they left, have been swallowed up by the earth, A few years ago, in a Xew England town, the body of an unknown girl was found, and in answer to advertisements large numbers of letters were received from those who had daughters of whose whereabouts they knew nothing, and several different ones went so far as to iden-
250 THE AMERICAN BAPTIST PULPIT.. tify as their own the girl that was found. It is sadly true that for every lost one found there are many who are lost ones seeking. These unreturning wanderers include all classes. It was in yesterday's daily that you read of a son who had stolen away from loved ones and home, and the paper of to-day tells the story of a husband who has deserted wife and children for a life of endless journeyings. Then there are daughters, and sometimes even wives and mothers, who have severed for all time the ties that they once counted sacred and true, and entered upon lives in which there seems to be no place of repentance and return. The kinds of homes from which the unreturning have gone out are as varied as are the classes of wanderers themselves. No home is exempt by reason of the abimdance of its wealth, and none by reason of the abjectness of its poverty. In the busy centres of population there are costly painted portraits that are turned toward the wall, and in the little vine-clad cottage far removed from the world'Si busy strife, a wanderer's candle burns in the window with every eventide. I went one morning into a home of wealth and luxury, where the father was cold and stern and the mother was pale and silent. They were too proud to speak of their erring wanderer to the stranger within their gates, but the traces of their grief could not be effaced. On that same day I went into the hut of a tenant, and though manifested in a different manner, the same sorrow had sought them out. Theirs was not a silent but a voluble grief, and their hearts ached none the less for her who came not again to the threshold that she had crossed for all time. In this city there are many homes from which loving ones look out to-night with the same anxious longing that filled the heart of Sisera's mother when she softly repeated to herself, "Why is his chariot so long in coming? Why tarry the wheels of his chariots ?''
The circumstances under which the unreturning go out are many. There are those who go out with the best motives in the world. They are honest and capable, and go out, like birds from the nest, to make their way in the world. But it is too often the case that those who go out witli the best of motives grow indifferent and neglectful as tlio days go by. Soiiu' yeai-s ago a young man loft a country home
THE UNRETURXING. 251 in northern New York and sought his fortune in the great cit}^ of his State. There came to him prosperit}^ and rapidh^ he grew wealthy. For a time he visited annually the old homestead and his loved ones. But as he grew more engrossed in business and more interested in the new ties that were formed, the visits ceased, and finally even letter- writing became a thing of the past. The mother had passed away, and in the absence of relatives the old father had cast his lot with neighbors. He was not in povert}^ but he was hungry for the son's love that might have cheered his closing days. Feebler and feebler still grew the old man, until there came one day to the son in his city home the brief telegram: "Come home, John, your father is dead." It may not have been intentional neglect, but it was neglect none the less cruel, that left the father to pass in loneliness to the end of his life, when those closing days might have been so greatly cheered by a son's attention and love. During my stay at the Seminary in Louisville there came to the President a letter from a Texas mother, asking for traces of her son, who had entered school at the opening of the session, but from whom she had not heard for a long time. The student was in school, was well, was busy with his studies, but had simply neglected his mother until she knew not whether he were living or dead. So there are thousands every year who thus go out innocently, but allow indiiference and neglect to grow upon them. Amid strange surroundings and new friendships they realize not how empty is the place that they have left in the homes and hearts of their deserted loved ones.
Young men, have you let the days pass into weeks and months, and even years, perchance, since 3'ou went in person or by letter to that old home of yours, where anxious eyes look out through the window and longing hearts await your return? Then there are those who go out to throw off the restraints of home. They are eager to taste for themselves life's sinful pleasures. There has come to them the same restlessness and the same chafing under parental restraint that came to the prodigal son, when he said : "Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth unto me." As the appetite for sin constantly increases there is a constantly growing desire to lengthen the distance that separates from those
252 TPIE AMERICAN BAPTIST PULPIT^ who know "US and whose very lives are a rebuke to the waywardness of our careers. The further we drift the more difficult does return become, and while the story books may tell you of an occasional wanderer who comes back to his waiting loved ones with fame and fortune, the fact about the great majority is that they drift further and further away, and are finally numbered with the unreturning. Again, there are those who go out because of crime committed. They cannot stay though they would, and their departure is hastened by those who love them best. They leave those behind who are fearful that their erring ones will never return, and are more fearful still that they will return. This is the saddest class of all, for words of consolation for those who remain are but words of condemnation for the sinning one who has gone. It is true, with Bryant, that "There are pangs of keenest woe, Of which the sufferers never speak, Nor to the world's cold pity show The tears that scald the cheek, Wrung from their eyelids by the shame
And guilt of those they shrink to name, Whom once they loved with cheerful will, And love, though fallen and branded, still."
"But they, who for the living lost Tliat agony in secret bear, Who shall wdth soothing words accost The strength of their despair ? Grief for their sake is scornod for them Whom they lament and all condemn ; And o'er the world of spirit lies A gloom from which they turn their eyes. ' ' But what is the secret of this going out ? What is the philosophy of the unreturning? It is found in one little word of three letters — s-i-n, sin. Sin is the out-driving power. In nearly every case it is sin that drives away from loved ones and home, and in every case it is sin that keeps away. It was not sin, perchance, that led that young man from his country home to make his way in the great city
THE UNEETURNING. 253 of his State, but it was sin that made him forget utterly the claims of aged loved ones upon his life. It was not sin that started that Texas student out for a better equipment for his life's work, but when he let even the duties of his student life interfere with a loving mothers claims upon his time, sin had found a place in his heart, even though it be only the sin of omission. The restlessness that leads the young man away from home in-
fluences that it may pass into recklessness is due to sin. Sin was the out-driving power in the case of the prodigal son, and sin brought him to ruin amid the swine in that far country. Sisera was left dead in JaeFs tent, numbered among the imreturning, because he had sinfully lifted up his hand against the people of Jehovah. III. god's unreturning This thought of sin, being the basis of wandering lives, leads us from the tliis-world to the yon-world aspect of the unreturning. There is something sadder than turning one's back upon an earthly home. There is something more cruel than trampling under foot the goodness and love of an earthly parent. There is a Heavenly Father, and just in proportion as his love and mercies surpass those of earthly parents to that extent is it sadder to see the back turned for all time on that love and those mercies. Most of those who are wanderers from earthly homes are also numbered among God's unreturning, and many who are yet true to earthly homes take no thought whatever of that one which is heavenly. Come with me to the ]iIount of Olives and stand by Jesus' side while he looks out over old Jerusalem and pours out his heart in that pathetic wail: "0, Jerusalem, Jerusalem ! how often would I have gathered thee, . . . but ye would not!" Men and women, those same tender eyes look down upon you to-night, and that same loving heart is filled with yearning for your return. Will you heed the wooing call that he makes to you now? or will you by sinful neglect let your life be numbered among the unreturning for time and for eternity ? From the latticed window in Harosheth comes the pathetic "Why?" of Sisera's mother. But far more solemn is the "Why?" that comes to sinful man out of the compassionate love of the Eternal God.
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