Reprinted from When Thou Sittest In Thine House, by Abraham Kuyper, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1929. Used by permission of Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Rightly viewed, the Scripture knows but two seasons of year: summer and winter.
You hear this in the divine utterance after the Flood: “Henceforth, while the earth remaineth, cold and heat, summer and winter shall not cease” (Gen. 8:22).
So in Psalm 74:17, in silence passing spring and autumn by: “Thou hast made summer and winter.”
And in the vision of Zechariah (Zech. 14:8) it is said that “living waters shall go out from Jerusalem, and that these waters shall be in summer and in winter.
Spring and autumn are transitions, they form no antitheses. There is heat or cold, there is life or death, there is light or darkness; and everything that lies in between may differ in degree but is no third, new something.
When Jesus says: “Now learn a parable of the fig-tree, when his branch becomes tender, and putteth forth leaves, then know that summer is nigh” (Matt. 24:32), and from Matthew 21:19 you observe how already before Passover the fig-tree was in leaf, it is clear, that “the nearness of summer” means what we call spring.
That this antithesis between summer and winter is altogether the outcome of the curse and is come upon us exclusively on account of sin is difficult to accept.
The curse certainly operates definitely in the intense cold of severe frost, and in the sultriness of excessive heat, which makes breathing difficult.
Frost that is too severe in winter kills man, even as sunstroke at too great summer-heat is always death by reason of the curse.
So there is ground of acceptance that the curse has intensified the antithesis between summer and winter; but from this it does by no means follow that this antithesis originated from the curse.
Already at the creation, before sin came in, you come upon the antithesis between day and night, between light and darkness, and it is evident that the antithesis between cold and heat, and also between summer and winter, is of one piece.
Night cools off, day brings a softer atmosphere.
And so we may accept that the antithesis between summer and winter, i.e., between two periods of time during the course of the year, in which now cold predominates, and again heat prevails, belongs to the ordinance of creation.
Summer abounds in wealth of nature, but winter also exhibits a glory of its own, and in both of these God glorifies His majesty.
If you subtract from winter the cutting sharpness of the wind and the stiffening of nature by reason of too great severity of cold, winter has a beauty altogether its own and an attractiveness which nothing else can supply. There are days in winter, so tempered in cold, with high, clear skies, that in beauty of kind is by nothing excelled.
To suppose that this winter beauty would forever have remained hidden if man had not fallen falls short of the glory of God’s work.
That a result of sin has its aftermath in winter as it now is, even as in summer, which frequently loosens every restraint of human elasticity, is clear; and it also apappears from John’s Revelation, in which the Tree of Life blooms twelve months together and bears fruit, that in the state of glory this antithesis also, even as that of day and night, of light and darkness, falls away; but this does not take away the fact that in this provisional dispensation, both summer and winter were made to give us a speech of God’s majesty; and it is this speech that goes out not only from winter, but also from summer, to all nations and to all parts of the earth.
That speech of summer is the language of brightness and ardor, of fullness of life and of super-abounding wealth.
The nights are short, and even in their brevity less dark. The day is long begun before you leave your couch, and reaches almost to the hour of retiring.
Artificial light is little needed, and fire, indispensable for the preparation of food, is put out as soon as possible.
So in summer there is far less suffering. The lot of the poor, in winter oft so bitter and so hard, in summer is far more enjoyable. Human need grows less. Food is more abundant. Even all fruit and vegetables do not pass by the dwelling of the poor. His frugal home no longer shuts him in. Windows are opened wide. In streets and byways one runs out, and even sits down, to enjoy the freer life.
The misery of the sickroom is lessened with the coming of summer.
The consumptive, who fetched the summer, revives again with the feeling of recuperation. Unless an epidemic breaks out, hospitals depopulate.
All suffering of troubled humanity summer cannot dispel, but summer brings moderation and amelioration of pain.
Even where fullest enjoyment of summer is not possible, the warm, softer season of year renders almost everyone’s lot in life more bearable.
Summer has also this wondrous good to its credit, that it accustoms us again to life in and with nature.
Compelled by necessity, life in our homes is for the most part artificial, and in many respects unnatural. Too narrowly enclosed. Too greatly crowded. Too greatly separated from God’s rich creation.
But when summer is come, nature entices us again out of doors. The full impression of God’s glorious creation is upon us. Nature fondles us to her heart and affects us benignly by her soft embrace.
We become as children again, who revel in what God gives us to enjoy.
And this life with nature rejuvenates physical powers, enriches the blood, and opens the heart to purer sensations.
The motion and struggle of spirits takes a surcease during the summer months, as though we refuse to disturb the pleasure which God grants us in the wealth of summer.
Schools are closed for many weeks. Children are at liberty. Parents and children, brothers and sisters, live together again the livelong day.
Even the heavy-hearted feel moods of cheer come upon them. The end of it all is that life is lived in a happier way.
True, thunder sounds time and again from on high, and lightning darts through the clouds, as though to remind man of God, and in the midst of so great wealth not to forget Him; but even that thundershower leaves a blessing behind, and when the skies clear, and the sun breaks out, for everything that hath breath, there is fuller happiness.
But harvest is not yet. This follows in autumn days. At least the harvest of the finer fruits. So everything together bears the character of preparation for the harvest that comes later.
In the wealth of summer, the work of God which aims at fruit goes restlessly on.
There is brightness, there is richness and splendor, there is fragrance and choice of blossom and flowers, but in all this life aims at a still higher something.
The wealth of summer is not simply for its own sake, but finds its consummation only when presently the full harvest is brought in.
Herein lies the admonition to seriousness.
In our human life there may be much beauty, and much may be granted us to enjoy, but in that beauty and in that wealth our life must not lose itself.
The most beautiful and richest life is worthless, when in the end nothing buds but leaves.
Presently the heavenly Husbandman comes to gather fruit from us.
And woe unto him, in the hour when his life is cut off, on whose branches fruit, well-ripened fruit for the barns of heaven, is wanting.
Yea, there is more.
Though summer is only consummated in autumn harvest, yet the Scripture speaks of a summer fruit, and of a “hasty fruit before summer” (Is. 28:4).
Such is God’s ordinance in nature that already in summer itself there is fruit ready to be gathered, and so is His ordinance with respect to you, that already in the summer of your life fruit shall not be wanting.
The spring of your life is your youth, and harvest reminds you of old age, but the summer of your life is the years of your full manly strength.
From you, therefore, it is demanded that the years of your manly strength are not merely marked by harmony of character and enriched by the unfolding of your God-given talents, but that they shall cast off those desired summer fruits, in behalf of your environment, of yourself, but above all for the glory of God.
In the summer of your life something must ripen for the great day of harvest, when the angels shall put forth the sickle into the corn; but there must already now be fruit ripened, a summer fruit that can be picked already on earth, a fruit received from God, and therefore in deep humility laid on His altar.
And when the years run their course, and every time again summer comes after spring, that new summer always comes back to you with the old inquiry: whether at length you will become wise not merely to make a show of leaf and blossom, but also to be mindful of the fruit of your life, which must ripen to the glory of God.