SUNSET---The moment when the trailing edge of the Sun's disk disappears below the horizon. It is when the hurtful "Reality" fades and the pleasant "Dream" takes place and comes to life.
How many sunsets have you seen during this last week, this last month, this last year? How many have you seen in the last ten years, the last twenty, the last thirty? I do not ask how many have you glanced at, but how many have you gazed upon, paid attention to, pondered? On how many have you held your mind long enough for it to become impressed, for an influence to be diffused through your heart, for a discipline to be exercised upon your spirit? How many sunsets stand out vivid and glorious on the walls of your memory? How many of you can say, that the glory of setting suns is an appreciable factor in the development of your emotional and spiritual life?
It is a lamentable fact, that what is customary soon becomes commonplace. The oft-repeated soon loses its power over us. Repetition seems to sear the heart as if by a red-hot iron. If the sun went down only once in a hundred years what a world-wide commotion the sunset would create! If only once in a hundred years the western sky glowed and burned as though some colossal, celestial glory were about to burst through upon the world; if only once in a hundred years, the clouds along the western horizon took on unwonted brilliancy, flashing with a magnificence leaping" beyond the power of language to express or the ingenuity o the human mind to conceive; if, only once in a century, after the sun went down, an ethereal softness began to steal toward the zenith, and an unspeakable beauty began to flush the upper spaces then the fame of the spectacle would be heralded around the earth, and would give people something to talk about for another hundred years.
If such an event had taken place seventy-five years ago, how enthusiastically we should gather round the old men and women of eighty and eighty-five and ninety, begging them to tell us of the sunset which they saw in the days of their childhood. And how eagerly the reporters would harass these old people for descriptions of the great event of the long ago* And if we knew that there would not be another sunset until twenty-five years from now, some of us would be filled with sadness, saying one to another, "I am afraid I shall not live so long. I fear I shall die before I have seen that thrilling and sublime event." Young people, however, would stand on the tiptoe of expectation, counting the passing years, reading the poets and historians for descriptions of the last sunset, and preparing their minds and hearts for the great experience awaiting them a quarter of a century from now. If a sunset took place once in a century, everybody would be interested in it, but such is the perversity of human nature that a sunset occurring every day loses its power to charm or thrill, and the majority of human beings now living on our planet pay no more attention to a sunset than do the animals at their feet.
We never rightly value anything which happens every day. We cannot appreciate any blessing which we possess all the time, nor do we appreciate anything which we get for nothing. The only things we value highly are the things which we buy at a great cost. We should all enjoy the sunsets more, if we had to pay an admission fee, if some enterprising showman could curtain off the western sky, and, walling in the edge of the world, should advertise in all the papers: "Beautiful Sunsets every evening next week- best seats ten dollars each; seats in the balcony five and four and three dollars according to location; gallery seats one dollar each" what a scramble there would be to get in! We should all want to go, and the ticket-scalpers would do a booming business. We should save up our money for this great treat, and we should ask one another: "How many times do you expect to go? Which sunsets have you seen this season?" just as we now talk about grand opera. Yes; if It only cost something to see the sunset we should be eager to see it. But because an angel of the Lord stands in the glory of the blazing west, crying, "Ho, ye who thirst for beauty,, come ye to the fountain, come, without money and without price," we turn on our heel and go away. We do not want things which are free.
The sun sets at different times in different seasons of the year. You are not always at work, not always in the subway, not always in the kitchen when the sun is going down. If you do not live in a home with a western outlook you could walk to Riverside Drive, or you could walk to the end of the street in which you are living, and stay there long enough to see the sun go down. And If you could not do that on any other evening of the week, you could do it on Sunday evening. You could put down the sunset as one of the features of your Sunday worship. Or, If you could not do this on every Sunday evening, you could make it a habit to devote a half -hour every evening to sunsets during your summer vacation. If you only wanted to see the sunset and believed that it had a blessing to impart, and that your life is impoverished because you see so few sunsets, you would make it possible to see more sunsets this year than you have ever seen before.
The sunset is a parable. A parable is a verbal picture used in order to set forth a spiritual truth. All our Lord's parables are pictures. The Prodigal Son, The Good Samaritan, The Foolish Virgins, The Sower, Dives and Lazarus what are they all but unfading pictures, hung in the gallery of the mind, not to be taken down for ever? Our Lord loved to speak in parables, and on some days He spake in no other way. He loves to speak in parables now. One of His favourite parables is the sunset. It is a picture, setting forth a spiritual truth. The fact which it proclaims is that God is a lover of beauty, God is fond of colour, God is an artist. There is no parable recorded in the New Testament which makes that fact so vivid and impressive as the parable which God speaks daily in the sky of the west.
The sunset Is a medicine. Shakespeare says that sleep is a balm for hurt minds. So, also, is a sunset. It is soft and tender and beautiful, and that is what we need at the end of the day. In the morning we are courageous and jubilant, but the cares of the day sap our vitality, and we often come to the evening hour with strength depleted and much of our vim and zest gone. Life which was spangled in the morning becomes in the late afternoon a dingy drab, and so God hangs up a beautiful picture to cheer our heart a bit. Just when the beauty is fading out of life, God gives this great splash of colour to create hope and joy again. When we begin to stagger under life's routine and monotony, God sets the western sky on fire to make the world romantic again.
The sunset is a mystery. Did you ever hear a scientist talk about the mechanism of a sunset? You can read all that up some time for yourselves. My sermons are not scientific lectures. They are not scientific expositions, but sermons, their inner purpose being the purpose of all true sermons the moving of the soul toward God. But if you should hear a physicist talk to you about the sunset, he would surprise you by his declarations. He would tell you that the sunset is made of a few gases, a multitude of drops of vapour, millions of particles of dust, and a handful of sunbeams. He would go on to assure you that the gorgeousness of the sunset is due to atmospheric dust. The earth is tied up in a dust-bag. An ocean of dust flows round our planet several miles deep. The dust particles nearer the earth are large and coarse. But as you ascend they become smaller and smaller, until at last they become microscopic, and in the highest regions they are so small that no instrument can detect them. We know of their existence solely from the effects they produce. If it were not for this dust, the sky would not be blue and the sun would not be golden. If it were not for the dust, the sunset would be shorn of its glory.
Why is the sun more beautiful on the horizon than it is above our heads? It is because we see it through more air, and that means we see it through more dust; the more dust the greater scope for reflection and refraction, and the operations of all the other principles by which the potential glories of light are unfolded. The sunsets near great cities are usually red, and this is because of the dust. The red waves are longer and stronger than the yellow and orange rays, and much longer than the green and the blue, so that it is oftentimes only the red waves which shoulder their way through the dust-ocean and succeed in reaching the eye. Why is yonder cloud so gloriously white? It is because of the dust-particles in it. They are reflecting the light. Why are its edges gorgeously crimson or purple? It is because of the dust particles which are refracting the light
A sunset is like a romance: you never know how it is coming out. You may have seen five hundred sunsets, and the way they concluded; but you cannot tell what God will do with the sun this evening.
And lastly, sunset is a revelation of God. It reveals His infinite resources. It lights up for us the idea of infinity. A sunset is one of the most transitory of all creations. It is shorter lived than the flower of the field. In the morning the flower grows up; in the evening it is cut down and withered. But a sunset grows up in the evening and is cut down in the evening. Its entire life covers but a few minutes. You have known a child to draw a picture on a slate, and rub it out, draw another and rub it out, draw still 1 another and rub it out. But he soon gets tired and lays down his slate. God draws a sunset and rubs it out, draws another and rubs it out, another and another and another, and rubs them out He has been doing this for thousands of years, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, mil- lions, ten of millions, possibly hundreds of millions of years, every evening of every week of every month of every year. For hundreds of millions of years a sunset, and no two sunsets alike, "since the morning stars sang together and the sons of God shouted for joy." I have studied sunsets for many years, and I have never seen two alike.