It was good to be back home in my bed this past Saturday night. The older I get, the more I enjoy my personal routines. Reading Spurgeon on Saturday nights before Sunday worship is one of them.
This time I read his message, “The House of Mourning and the House of Feasting.”1 It was a sermon preached in September of 1854. Mr. Spurgeon exegetically examines Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes 7:2, “It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting.”
In the excerpt below, Spurgeon is addressing the wisdom behind avoiding the sinful house of feasting:
We are going, first of all, to the house of sinful feasting. No, we are not going inside, but we will look at the outside of the house and hear a little of its history. I would have none of you cross the threshold of that place! But we are going together up the side of the hill to that “house of feasting.” What a crowd I have around me and I seem to be half ashamed of myself!
There is the low drunkard and here comes the vile profligate—and they are going to the same house. “Where are you going, Drunkard?” I ask. “I am going to the house of feasting,” he says. “And you, bloated one, where are you going?” “I am going to the house of feasting.” I begin to be ashamed of my company. I fear that whatever the house may be, the people going there are not very choice spirits, and I hardly like to proceed further. I begin to think that the gloomy “house of mourning” is better than “the house of feasting” after all, considering the company that frequent it. I fear that I must turn back at once—I cannot enter there, for I love good company. I would rather go to “the house of mourning” with the children of God! I would rather be chained in a dungeon, wrist to wrist with a Christian, than I would live forever with the wicked in the sunshine of happiness! The company I meet makes me suspect that it is true that “the house of mourning” is better than “the house of feasting.”
Now I have got to the gate of this palace. I have climbed the hill and stand there, but before I enter, I want to know something of the history of those who have gone there. I will not go in until I know whether there is any hope of my returning. The house is comely and good outside, but I want to know whether it is all that it seems. I want to know if there is that happiness there which it professes to have—and I ask them to bring me out the records of the house. They bring me out the roll wherein is kept a record of the persons who have gone there. I turn it over and I resolve that I will never go into the house, for the list of persons who have gone there is a catalog of woe!
I will just tell of you one or two cases of persons who went to this house of feasting. Or rather, let me tell it to you in another way by reminding you that most of the awful catastrophes that have ever happened in this world have happened to men when they have been in “the house of feasting.” It is a fact which I will prove in a moment or two, that the most terrible calamities that have ever come upon man, or on the world, have happened in the house of mirth.
Where was the world when Noah entered into the ark? Where was it when God rent the clouds and opened the windows of Heaven and sent down waterfalls from the skies? Is it not written, “They were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark”? What were the Israelites doing when the plague came and smote them, so that their carcasses fell in the wilderness? Is it not written, “While the flesh was yet between their teeth, before it was chewed, the wrath of the Lord was kindled against the people and the Lord smote the people with a very great plague”?
Where were Job’s sons and daughters when the great wind came from the wilderness and smote the four corners of the house? They “were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house.” Where was Samson when he lost his strength? He was in the house of sinful pleasure, lying asleep with his head in Delilah’s lap. What had Nabal been doing when “his heart died within him and he became as a stone”? Inspiration says that he had been feasting—“he held a feast in his house, like the feast of a king; and Nabal’s heart was merry within him, for he was very drunk.” Who slew Amnon? Did not Absalom’s servants slay him at a feast? Turn to the melancholy catastrophes that you find recorded in Holy Writ and you will find that almost every one of them happened at a feast!
So, throughout the whole history of nations, I might tell you instance after instance in which a feast has been a real funeral, for the most terrible calamity has followed.
There is, however, one instance which I must not pass by without describing it more fully than those at which I have briefly hinted. There was a feast, once, such as I think was scarcely ever seen before or since. Ten thousand lamps lit up the gorgeous palace! The king sat on his lofty throne and around him were his wives and concubines, and the princes and lords of his realm. They ate, they drank—the bowls were filled to the brim and emptied again and again! And merrily the hours danced on—wild was the Bacchanalian shout, and loud the lascivious song. They drank yet more deeply and invoked curses upon the God of Jacob. The king sent for the gold and silver vessels from the Temple at Jerusalem and they poured into them their unhallowed liquors. They drank and drank again, and the merry shout rang through the hall!! The violin and harp were there, and all sorts of music sounded loud and long. But listen! Listen! Listen! This is the last feast that Babylon shall ever see! Even now her enemies are at her gates. They come! They come! O Belshazzar, read the writing on the wall! “You are weighed in the balances, and are found wanting. Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” O Belshazzar, stop your feasting! Look, the shaft of God! The death-shaft is whizzing through the air! It has pierced his heart—he falls dead—and with him great Babylon falls! That feast was a feast of death! It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of such “feasting” as that! Here is a melancholy proof of the assertion I made, that most of the terrible calamities that have ever happened to men have happened in “the house of feasting.”
Here is another house. I have read your record, O mistress of the house! I say, Woman, I have read your record and it is enough for me—I need not cross your threshold! I do not want to see your magnificent temple. I never wish to sit in your splendid halls. Rather would I sleep nightly in my shroud and sit on my coffin—and have my gravestone in the wall of my study and live in a vault forever—than I would enter that “house of feasting.” O God, may I be kept from sinful mirth! May I be kept from the house of sinful feasting! May I never be tempted to cross that threshold!
O young men who are enchanted by its gaiety, charmed by its music, stay away, stay away, for every plank in the floor is rotten, every stone that is there is dug from the quarries of Hell! And if you enter into that woman’s mansion, you shall find that her house is the way to Hell, going down to the chambers of death! “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting”—the house of sinful feasting.