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like a correspondence to what God has been pleased to do in your behalf.
And thou, God Almighty, the Sovereign, the Searcher of all hearts ! thou who movest and directest them which way soever thou wilt! vouchsafe, Almighty God, to open to us the hearts of all this assembly, that they may yield to the entreaties which we address to them in thy name, as thou hast been thyself propitious to the prayers which they have presented to thee. Thou hast reduced the measure of our days to an hand breadih, Psa. xxxis. 5. and the meanest of our natural faculties is sufficient to make the enumeration of them: but so to number our days as that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom, we cannot succesfully attempt without thy all-powerful ad-Lord, so teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hear's unto roisdom. Amen.
In order to a clear comprehension of the words of my text, it would be necessary for me to have it in my power precisely to indicate who is the author of them, and on what occasion they were composed. The Psalin from which they are taken, bears this inscription: A prayer of Moses, the man of God. But who was this Most's? And on the supposition that the great legislator of the Jews is the person meant, did he actually compose it ? Or do the words of the superscription, A prayer of Moses, the man of God, amount only to this, that some one has imitated his style, and, in some measure, caught his spirit in this composition ? This is a point not easily to be decided, and which indeed does not admit of complete demonstration.
The opinion most venerable from its antiquity, and the most generally adopted, is, that this Psalm was composed by the Jewish Lawgiver, at one of the most melancholy conjunctures of his life, when
after the murmuring of the Israelites, on occasion of the report of the spies; God pronounced this tremendous decree : As truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord.... your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number .... shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, Numb. xiv. 21, 29, 30. .
If this conjecture be as well-founded as it is probable, the prayer under review is the production of a heart as deeply affected with grief, as it is possible to be, without sinking into despair. Never did Moses feel himself reduced to such a dreadful extremity, as at this fatal period. It appeared as if there had been a concert between God and Israel to put his constancy to the last trial. On the one hand, the Israelites wanted to make him responsible for all that was rough and displeasing, in the paths through which God was pleased to lead them; and it seemed as if God, on the other hand, would likewise hold him responsible for the complicated rebellions of Israel.
Moses opposes to this just displeasure of God, a buckler which he had often employed with success; namely, prayer. That which he put up, on this occasion, was one of the most fervant that can be imagined. But there are situations in wbich all the fervor, of even the most powerful intercessor, is wholly unavailing. There are seasons wlien, though Moses and Samuel stood up before God, Jer. xv. 1. to request him to spare a nation, the measure of whose iniquity was come to the full, they would request in vain. In such a situation was Moses now placed. Represent to yourselves the deplorable condition of the Israelites, and the feelings of that man, whose leading character was meekness; and who, if we may be allowed the expression, carried that rebellion people in the tenderest and most sensible part of his soul : to be excluded from all hope beyond thirty or forty years
of life, and to be condemned to pass these in a desert; what a fearful destiny !
What course does Moses take? Dismissed, so to speak, banished from the throne of grace, does he however give all up for lost ? No, my brethren. He was unable by intreaty to procure a revocation of the sentence pronounced against persons so very dear to him, he limits himself to imploring, in their behalf, wisdom to make a proper use of it.“ Thou hast sworn it, Great God; and the oath, which thy adorable lips have pronounced against us, can never be recalled. Thou hast sworn that none of us; who came out of Egypt, shall enter into that land, the object of all our hopes and prayers. Thou hast sworn that die we must, after having lingered out, for forty years, a miserable existence in this wilderness, a habitation fitter for ferocious beasts of prey, than for reasonable creatures, than for men whom thou hast chosen, and called thy people. The sighs which my soul has breathed to heaven, for a remission, are unavailing; the tears which I have shed in thy bosom, have been shed in vain ; these hands, once powerful to the combat, these hands which were stronger than thee in battle, these hands against which thou couldst not hold out, which made thee say, let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them, Exod. xxxii. 10: these hands have lost the blessed art of prevailing with God in the conflict ! Well, be it so. Let us die, great God, seeing it is thy sovereign will! Let us serve as victims to thy too just indignation ; reduce our life to the shortest standard. But at least, since we had
not the wisdom to avail ourselves of the promises of a long and happy life, teach us to live as becomes persons who are to die so soon. Lord, so teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom."
This is a general idea of the end which our text has in view. But let us enter somewhat more deeply into this interesting subject. Let us make application of it to our own life, which bears a resemblance so striking to that which the children of Israel were doomed to pass in the wilderness. We are to enquire,
I. What is implied in numbering our days?
II. What are the conclusions which wisdom de duces from that enumeration ?
I. In order to make a just estimate of our days, let us reckon, 1. Those days, or divisions of time, in which we feel neither good nor evil, neither joy nor grief, and in which we practice neither virtue nor vice, and which for this reason, I call days of nothingness ; let us reckon these, and compare them with the days of reality. 2. Let us reckon the days of adversity, and compare them with the days of prosperity. 3. Let us reckon the days of languor and weariness, and compare them with the days of delight and pleasure. 4. Let us reckon the days which we have devoted to the world, and compare them with the days which we have devoted to religion. 5. Finally, let us calculate the amount of the whole, that we may discover how long the duration of a life is consisting of days of nothingness and of reality; of days of prosperity and of adversity ; of days of pleasure and of languor ;
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days devoled to the world, and to the salvation of the soul.
1. Let us reckon the days of nothingness, and compare them with the days of reality. I give the appellation of days of nothingness to all that portion of our life in which, as I said, we feel neither good nor evil, neither joy nor grief, in which we practice neither virtue nor vice, and which is a mere nothing with respect to us.
In this class must be ranked, all those hours which humán infirmity lays us under the necessity of passing in sleep, and which run away with a third part of our life : time, during which we are stretched in a species of tomb, and undergo, as it were, an anticipated death. Happy, at the same time, in being able, in a death not immediately followed by the judgment of God, to bury, in some measure, our troubles together with our life!
In this class must be farther ranked those seasons of inaction, and of distraction, in which all the faculties of our souls are suspended, during which we propose no kind of object to thought, during which we cease, in some sense, to be thinking beings; seasons which afford an objection, of no easy solution, to the opinion of those who maintain, that actual thought is essential to mind; and that from this very consideration, that it subsists, it must actually think.
In this class must be farther ranked, all those portions of time which are a burden to us; not because we are under the pressure of some calamity, for this will fall to be considered under another head, but becanse they form, if I may say so, a wall between us and certain events which we ardently wish to attain. Such as when we are in a state of uncertainty respecting certain questions, in which we feel ourselves deeply interested, bi