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Meaning Of The
Vacant Chair
Adapted From
B. Carradine
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TOPIC: Realization And Reasons For

TITLE: Absence - The Vacant Chair

Here is a piece of household furniture that is beheld everywhere. Other articles of the home furnishing may come or go, may be present or absent, according to the taste or caprice of the owners of the dwelling, but this strangely pathetic and all but ubiquitous thing called the vacant chair is to be found in palace and hovel, in club room and hotel, in legislative chamber and in business exchange. Wherever we go we notice the empty seat. The chair is left, but a face and form is gone that once being beheld there gives a meaning, interest and value to the piece of furniture that could never be expressed in dollars by the thousand or the million.

Whether the chair is made vacant by death, or by an absence of months and years, still its peculiar power is exercised. Its very emptiness has a voice and language; its silence pleads; its pathetic loneliness seems in a strange sense to atone for the mistakes and failures of the past, while at the same time it recalls the kind and beautiful things which the absent occupant once performed. So that we turn away with a swelling heart and filling eyes, all but overpowered with the feeling that some how the big, busy world has become wonderfully empty and that life is hardly worth the living and all because of a single vacant chair.

When the absent one has been the soul of kindness, lived to make others happy and comfortable, the empty seat then becomes so powerful in its mute eloquence that it has to be moved out of sight to the garret or lumber room. Truly a person needs no better lawyer to argue in his behalf in the ecclesiastical, social, and home circle than his or her own vacated chair. Those that have been emptied by unkindness injustice and wrong cannot be numbered. They are to be found in the church, both in pulpit and pew.

Faithful men and women for no other reason than that they have been true to the Bible, to the Blood of Christ, and to the doctrines they believed have been invited out, frozen out, and legislated from their places. Other forms are thrust quickly into the forsaken seat to keep memory and conscience quiet; but the fact remains that Davids place is empty, a piece of history that is remembered on earth, and never forgotten in heaven.

The vacant chair is to be found also in the household. There are women today driven forth into a lonely, desperate struggle for bread, through the drunkenness, unkindness and unfaithfulness of their husbands. And there are not only women forced from home, but sons, husbands, and fathers. We are not sure that Wesley deserved all the credit he obtained for his intense activity and multiplied labors. He had no home life.

We have known a son exiled from home by the perpetual faultfinding and petulant outbreaks of his parents. They were in financial trouble, and allowed this misfortune to make them inconsiderate, harsh and unjust. When the youth was in a far distant State, his lonely chair, sitting back against the wall, did some faithful pleading as well as rebuking.

We know men who have been slowly but surely pushed out of their own homes. King Lear is not an unnatural or impossible character. We have seen husbands driven out of their true places in the household by priests, preachers, society people, mothers-in-law, and female friends of the wife. Sometimes it is none of these, but the woman has a loveless nature, and lives an intensely selfish life. Sometimes the wife is a kind of hermaphrodite in mental and moral constitution. This of course means shipwreck to the happiness of the family.

There is something very pathetic in the sight of men spending the entire day in city libraries, or sitting for hours in the lobbies and reading rooms of hotels. It is true that some are there for reasons that exculpate the family circle, but there are many others who frequent these and other similar places because while owning or renting a house, they have no home.

There are men today who, in leaving office and store, or jumping off from the train with satchel or valise in hand, do so with a thrill at the heart and in profound thankfulness to God for that section of Paradise left in the world, that sweet Asylum of Rest on earth a congenial household, a home of peace and love.

But there are many other mansions, cottages and cabins where Davids place is empty. And he has been banished by some kind of injustice or wrong. Like David he endured long, but slipped away at last. The cold look was cast so often. The javelin of reproach shot so frequently. His presence seemed so to disturb and annoy. He was so often made to feel he was in the way; that one day his place was empty. Or others crowded him out, and there was nothing to do, but to go.

And now the gun, riding whip, book, paper, slipper and dressing gown are put away out of sight. The portrait is removed, for its face troubles. The chair is pushed back into the corner, and various efforts are made to remove all signs that another being ever belonged to the household. But little things come back unexpectedly, a picture is found in an old trunk, and the abandoned, lonesome looking chair has a voice of its own, and above all there is a presence that strangely fills the absence and that will not down or depart.

The Bible informs us that Davids vacant seat remained empty forever. He never came back. He was in other places, but never in this one again. He sat at other tables, but never more at the one from which he had been cruelly driven.

It is this feature which makes certain vacant chairs one of the most heart moving of spectacles.

The preacher cast out of the synagogue from preaching and pressing Full Salvation, never gets back to the pulpit from which he was flung. He may out-grow the seat, or get a better one, but history records the curious fact that he never sits again in the chair from which he was driven. There is a can not in the case, as well as a will not or shall not. According to what we see in life there is no backward path for such cases. The place they leave is never filled by them again.

So the boy driven from home by unkindness comes back no more. The daughter rushed into marriage to escape unpleasant surroundings, does not care to revisit the scenes of past wretchedness. The man outraged and wronged for successive years, at last turns his thoughts and pursuits into other channels for occupation and happiness, slips away from the unhappy environment and is gone. His place, like that of David, becomes empty forever.

The seasons come and go; people arrive and depart; the house is lighted up; the song floats out of the window; the table is set and has its guests; but some one is gone, who never returns.

One memorable hour the javelin was shot for the last time. Next day the seat was empty. Some one had gone. Another vacant chair had been added to that already great number, which are to be found all over the land, in church and State, in hall and home, each one standing for some melancholy chapter of life history, and speaking in its dumb but eloquent way of unrighted wrong, of unconsoled sorrow, and of some absent wandering one who never will return again. -- Living Illustrations By B. Carradine

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