Sermon 3414. 'Brief Life Is Here Our Portion'
A SERMON PUBLISHED ON THURSDAY, JULY 9, 1914.
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"LORD make me to know my end and the measure of my days, what it is, that I may know how frail I am." Psalm 39:4.
ACCORDING to the judgment of Calvin, and some of the ablest commentators, there is a kind of pettishness in this verse. Thecontext appears to imply that David had grown impatient under the chastening hand of God. Job, under similar circumstances,longed to accomplish as a hireling, his day, and sought the repose of the grave. And so the Psalmist inquires how much longerhe has to bear the ills and griefs of life, or when the goal shall be reached. But I am sure it is not for any of us to upbraidthe Psalmist, for what is his impatience compared with ours? When I read of Elijah casting himself under the juniper tree,saying, "Let me die, I am no better than my fathers!"-should I wonder at the weakness of so great a man-it is only becausehe is great! No doubt that kind of weakness has seized us all. We have, every now and then, expressed a longing to depart-notso much, I fear, because of our eagerness to be with Christ, as because we have grown weary with the trials, the servicesand the sufferings of this poor wilderness. Well, if we are the subjects of the same infirmity as these godly men of old,we must flee where they fled for strength to grapple with these infirmities and overcome them! We must look to the Strongfor strength and pray God to work in us that ripe fruit of patience so rare and yet so precious, for it greatly glorifiesGod wherever it is brought forth!
David here asks the Lord to be his Teacher. Observe the words, "Make me to know.." That is to say, "Instruct me, let me bethe scholar, and You condescend to my ignorance and weakness, and teach me." What? But did not David know his end? Did henot know the measure of his days? Was his frailty a secret that he could not discover? We may be sure that he knew it in part-knewit, perhaps, in that superficial manner in which many of us assent to moral and spiritual truths, with little understandingand no appreciation. But he wanted to know it after a more perfect way-he would apprehend it with that spiritual enlightenmentwhich God alone can communicate. Upon the dishes at the china factories you have, perhaps, seen an impression produced-theinscription is to be there in the future-that is, like common knowledge. Have you afterwards seen that piece of china whenit has passed through the oven, has been baked, and comes forth with what you saw there, superficially baked into its verysubstance? Such should be our prayer, that what we know as upon the surface may be burned into our innermost consciences,may become indelibly a part of our own selves. Lord, not only make me to know, but make me to know by Your own Divine art-burnit into me-make me to know my end and the measure of my days. Observe the condescension of God, that we are allowed to askHim to teach us such a lesson as our frailty! And mark the proof of our own ignorance and our own forgetfulness that we cannoteven learn this lesson unless God teaches us! And must He make us know? We need that our minds should be renewed, as it were,by a creative or a regenerating process, else we shall fail to discern the very simplest Truths of God. Confessing our ignorance,let us go to God with the prayer of the Psalmist and He willanswer us.
There are, then, three things which the Psalmist wishes to know-his end, the measure of his days and growing out of these,a just estimate of his own frailty. May the Lord teach us to profit while we meditate upon them!
I. "LORD, MAKE ME TO KNOW MY END."
Do we know this already? If you do, let your pure minds be stirred up by way of remembrance. The certainty of your end-tryto know that by grasping the fact and letting the truth of it affect your souls. Yes, I must die unless the Lord should comeand I should be caught up together with the saints in the air. I must reach the terminus of this mortal life as other men,on the couch of weakness and the bed of death. I must die. There is no discharge in this war. There is no possibility of yourhaving an everlasting life here. You don't desire it if you are Christians! Neither could you have it if you did desire it-atime will come when you must depart. Think, then, dear Brothers and Sisters-common places will beuseful to you. Let it passover your soul, that for you the funeral bell must toll, for you the grave be dug, for you the winding-sheet and the cerementsof the tomb, for you, "earth to earth, and dust to dust, and ashes to ashes," as sure as you are a man. Being born mortal,you must die. The Lord make you to know this! You must die, not another for you! You must gather up your feet into the bedand, like old Jacob, pass across the stream, the narrow stream of death. You, though now in the prime of life, or in the gaietyof childhood. You who have escaped so many accidents and are now ripe and mellow in the quietude of old age-the dearest friendand companion cannot be a sponsor for you. When the call shall come, your pitcher must be broken at the fountain, your wheelat the cistern and you, in your own proper flesh and blood, must pass away-and your disembodied spirit must stand before God.Forget not, then, the certainty, or the personality of it!
It shall be conclusive, "Make me to know my end." It shall not be a halt, but a finale. Not a starting on the road, but atermination of the great journey of life. "My end," my end for all things beneath the sun, the end of my sin as far as thisworld is concerned and the end of my service of Almighty God! The end of all my opportunities of doing good, of my occasionsof getting good. My end so that whatever after is done under the sun, I shall have no share nor interest in it. The livingknow that they must die, but the dead know not anything! Other saints walk over their graves, nations rise and fall, convulsionsshake the most solid empires, all things change-but there, beneath the sod, they slumber on. Their memory and their love arelost alike-"unknowing and unknown." Certainly we shall come to an end. Certainly I, myself, shall come to that end, and whenmy death comes, it will, for this life and this mortal state, be a veritable end which I cannot pass.
While musing on our end, the accompaniments of our end may well excite passing reflection. In all probability, Brothers andSisters, though we know not what may come to us, our departure out of this life will be attended with the same languor andprostration we have witnessed in the case of others. We may expect the sick bed, the days of pain and the sleepless nightswhich are the premonitions of decease. We may imagine for ourselves what we have so often seen among our kinsfolk and acquaintances-thefamily gathered in silent watchfulness and the weeping children summoned to give the parting kiss-while the hot tears fallon the blanched cheeks of the departing. We can picture it all to our minds. It may be well we should, and make a rehearsalof it, too, for it is probable enough that so it may come. We are not sure that we shall take so deliberate a leave of theworld. It may happen to us in the crowded streets. Our end may come to us as we go by the way. That, however, rather strikesus as the course of Nature, when there is the taking down of the tent, the folding up of the canvas, the putting away of eachpin and pin-hold, and so we shall be removed as a shepherd's tent. Then will come a leaving of all earthly things-your shutterswill be put up by somebody else-your books will be no more kept by you-you will have struck the balance for the last time.Some other hand must go out to earn the children's bread, now that the father is gone. Some other woman's tender care mustwatch over the little ones, now that the mother is no more. And the time must come when the rich man shall bid farewell tohis parks and lawns, when he must bid farewell to his mortgages, to his bonds, his deeds and his estates. And the poor man,who may, perhaps, find it as hard, must bid farewell to the cottage and the hearth, and all that made life dear to him. Therewill be a parting time for each of us, and we pray the Lord make us to anticipate it! In connection with this, it is probablethere will be many regrets to all of us. I hope when we come to die it will be no question as to whether we are saved or not.But even to a saved man, there arises this thought, "Oh, that I had glorified God more! Oh, that I had devoted of my substance,and of my time, and of my talents, more to my Master's service! I can no more feed the hungry, or clothe the naked, or teachthe ignorant. Oh, that those golden opportunities had been seized more eagerly, and employed more industriously by me! Butnow my time for service here is over, and I am mourning the scantiness of my life-work-and I cannot amend that which is faulty,or supply that which is lacking." Our end, Beloved, will be the end of all our Christian labor here below. No going to yourSunday school class any more. No coming, again, of the preacher to his rostrum. No standing here to admonish or to console.No more will the corner of the street listen to your voice, my Brother, in your earnest evangelizing. No longer can your handbe outstretched to distribute the Word which tells of the great Savior and the good Shepherd-our Lord Jesus Christ. On thatbed you will be taking leave of all your Christian service and if anything has been left undone, there will then be no opportunityto complete it. Depend upon it-and it is wise to look forward to the event-our end will be no child's play. We may often smileand sing about death and long for evening to approach, that we may rest with God, but it is, at the same time, a most solemnthing. The best way to deal with it is to die daily, to go down to Jordan's brink and bathe every morning in that death stream,till death shall be as familiar as life, till you shallcome to think of it with daily expectation! Yet at times we almostwonder that we are lingering here, for we are expecting to be called away to dwell in the land of the living, where thereis no more death, nor sorrow, nor sighing.
Then, again, it will be well for us to be made to know our end in all its results. Although it is called our end, yet surelyit is, strictly speaking, a great beginning! A more true beginning, I was about to say, even than our first birth. The momenta man dies, he then enters upon the most solemn part of his existence. Make me, Lord, to know what it will be after this,my departure. What will then happen to me? Come, let me reflect. My soul must wing her way without the body up to the Throneof God, and there, at once, receive the preliminary sentence, the forecast of the sentence of the Last Tremendous Day. "Committedfor trial," to lie in durance vile without the body till the Resurrection trumpet, or be admitted into Glory, such as thatGlory can be without the body, until the Lord Jesus Christ shall descend from Heaven with a shout, and the trumpet of thearchangel, and the voice of God! Which will it be with me? Ask this, dear Hearers, and ask your God to make you to know whichit shall be-your spirit rejoicing in the Presence of Christ, your Savior, far from the world of grief and sin, eternally shutin with God-or shall it be your spirit mocking among kindred condemned in the Pit that has no bottom, where the iron key isturned and through the door of which there can be no escape? Which shall it be with you? When you think of your end, rememberone of these must be your portion-Heaven or Hell! Then comes the Day of Judgment and of the Resurrection. The clarion, clearand shrill, shall be such as wakens man, not for battle, nor sleepers for the fray-it shall wake the long-buried from theirsilent graves and they shall rise from sea and land an exceedingly great multitude! Then shall the Great White Throne be setand the books be opened! This is the end God will have you to know. Oh, seek to know it! When that book is opened, and Christshall read with eyes of fire, and with a voice of thunder, what shall the Lord award you? Will He turn to the page and say,"Blotted out with My blood are all the transgressions that were once recorded here and, therefore, there is nothing now toread except that which is the award of My chosen. I was hungry, and you gave Me meat; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink;sick and imprisoned, and you ministered unto Me! Come, you blessed!" Or will it be to see the page turned over and to hearthe voice declare, "I was hungry, and you gave Me no meat; thirsty and you gave Me no drink"? Will it be a record all of sin,and not of virtue, with the accompanying sentence, "Depart, you cursed, into everlasting fire"? "Lord make me to know my end,"and let not my end be to be banished forever with the wicked! Gather not my life with sinners, nor my soul with bloody men!Cast me not away from Your Presence! Banish me not from Your mercy! Shut me not up in the lowest Pit! Condemn me not to eternaldestruction from the Presence of the Lord! "Make me to know my end," and let this be the end-to be with Christ where He is,to behold His Glory, the Glory which You gave Him from before the foundation of the world!
It seems to me that when David prayed that he might be made to know his end, he well knew these were the accompaniments. Butthe way in which he wished to be made to know them was that he might be made to believe in them firmly, so as to realize themvividly, look upon them not as fictions, myths and traditions, but as realities-that he might be made to know them, so asto meditate upon them, to have his mind exercised constantly about them-that he might be made to know them so as to be preparedfor them and to set his house in order, because he must die, and not live, preparing to meet his God. And, above all, thathe might know his end by having a full assurance of being saved in Christ Jesus, so that his end should be everlasting peace!"Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace." Oh, that we might, while mentioning suchmen, become such men ourselves-and know that our end shall be peace through Jesus Christ! Now, in the second part of the prayer,David says-
II. "MAKE ME TO KNOW THE MEASURE OF MY DAYS."
It is a very humbling thing to recollect that our days have a measure. In the Latin there is a proverb, "As poor men counttheir sheep." And it is only because we are so poor in life that we are able to measure our days. God's days are not to becounted. "Your generations, who can tell, or count the number of Your years? From everlasting to everlasting You are God.""The measure of our days." Ask in prayer that you may be made to know this. I will just give some outlines, like a drawing-master'ssketch on the blackboard. How insignificant the measure of my days-what a very little time I have to live after all. If 70years is my term, of what small account they are! Perhaps you have sometimes stood by a sand-cliff, as I did the other day,looking at alternate layers of shells, one above another. I should think at least one hundred feet thick of shells of a modernsort succeeded by thin layers of sand! Now, this must undoubtedly have been formed by the gradual deposit of some ancientsea, but how long must it have taken to have composed a rock of one hundred feet thick of white shells and sand? Well, butthat is only a comparatively small layer of this earth. We go a little deeper andwe find sandstone and limestone which musthave taken, if the laws of Nature have been at all in other times as they are now, not thousands, but even millions of yearsto form by the gradual deposit of the ocean! You go deeper, still, and at last you come to rocks made by fire, and the geologistis most reasonably led to the conclusion that this world, as it now stands, must have existed several millions of years, becauseit has taken so long a time to collect these various deposits. I know as I stood poking my stick into this sand and shells,I felt as if I had shriveled into a little ant and less even than a tiny animalcule which had scarcely come into this worldwhen it was driven away and there were these rocks looking at me, and saying, Where were you when we were formed? When thewaving ocean was washing up these shells, where were you? But now take your mind away from this world and recollect that somebeings dear to us are older than this world, for when this world was made, the morning stars sang and shouted for joy! Oh,you angels-what infants we must seem in comparison with your age! Where were you when Gabriel first flew upon his errand,swift as lightning? Where were you when sin made Lucifer, Sun of the Morning, descend swift beneath the wrath of God intothe shades of darkness which are reserved for him forever? What is your life when once compared with the period of life whichcherubim and seraphim have seen? Oh, but what are cherubim and seraphim compared with God? When, in this great world, sun,moon and stars had not begun, God was as great and glorious as He is now! And when the whole of this Creation shall be rolledup like a worn out scroll, He will be the same-no older in a myriad myriad years than He is now, for with Him there is notime-
"He fills His own eternal Now, And sees our ages pass."
All things are present to Him! We are carried away as with a flood, but He sits serene, neither age nor time change Him! "Lord,make me to know the measure of my days." Help me to fall down in my utter insignificance before Your Throne, adoring Youreternal majesty-
"Great God, how infinite are Thee, What worthless worms are we! Let the whole race of creatures bow, And pay their praiseto Thee."
While seeking to know the measure of our days, let the great importance that attaches to them stand out distinctly beforeus, for on this link our everlasting destiny is hung. It is this life which, as far as we are concerned, decides the next.In this life a Believer, then a life of Glory, happiness, and immortality! In this life an unbeliever, then in the next life,in the world to come, everlasting punishment from the hand of God! This thought makes even this little life swell to won-drouslygreat proportions! Here is a man next door to a worm and yet next door to God-born but yesterday and yet his existence willgo on perpetually with God, for man shall not die! So momentous, and yet so insignificant! So magnificent, and yet so minuteis the measure of my days!
"Lord, make me to know the measure of my days"-the certainty of that measure. God has appointed that you shall not die beforethe time-you shall certainly not live beyond it. That thread shall be cut off in its due season-
"Plagues and death around me fly, Till He wills, I cannot die."
While I admonish you to remember the certainty, let me urge you to reflect upon the uncertainty of it, as far as you are concerned.You may live another twenty, thirty, or forty years-or you may not live as many seconds! You may be spared for the next 50years, and still taking part in life's battle. Or it may be that before the clock has ticked again, you may be like a warriortaking his rest. Certain to God, but uncertain to you! It is well, in thinking of our days, to remember they will be quitelong enough for us if God helps us to use them well. Life is very short, but a great deal may be done. Our Lord Jesus Christ,in three years, saved the world! Some of His followers in three years have been the means of saving many and many a soul.It was a short life that Luther had to do his great work in. If I remember rightly, he was hard upon 50 before he began topreach the Truth of God at all! This is a hopeful sign for some of you who have wasted your young days! There have been menof 60 that have yet achieved a life's work before they had slept and gone their way. After all, time is long or short as youlike to make it so. One man lives a 100 years and dies a worldling. And yet another man, through God's Grace, puts forth asmuch energy in two or three years as if he were a thunderbolt launched from the hands of God! And he leaves his name amongimperishable memorials. Your life will be long enough to achieve great things if God will help you to remember, in measuringyour days, that they will be quite short enough for the enterprise you have in hand. You will only have finished the picturewhen the master palsies the arm and makes you drop the pencil.
And you will only have completed the day's work when the shadow shall have fallen and you shall go Home to your rest. Workwith all your might, but don't work despondingly-there is time enough for your soul to glorify God! Do your piece of the greatwork, though it be but a hair's breadth you are allowed to perform, and though it is as nothing in the presence of Him whosemighty deeds are shown through all generations. Shall I need to say anything more about measuring our days, except that itmay be a painful recollection for us to remember that if they are not longer days, it is the prevalence of sin that made itnecessary to shorten them! We might have lived to the age of Methuselah but the Antediluvian fathers so filled the earth withviolence that God sent a flood and swept them all away! It is great mercy that men don't live too long. Where were progressif the old men of 200 years ago were here to obstruct it? Where the chance for reform if the vested interests of avarice werepermitted to accumulate without any check? Now, however, the old blood is constantly superseded by fresh blood and the streamof life is kept purer by the passing away of the old conservative element, which when here, was exceedingly good in its season,but must give place to the influx of a spring tide more adapted to the growth of the times. Thank God, the great infidelsdon't live forever-who would have wished to have a Voltaire forever stalking about this world! What a mercy that his was buta short life! What would you think if you had a Tom Paine blustering against Almighty God 500 years at a stretch? A mercyit is that even good men don't live here forever, because their temptations would so accumulate in the recollection of yearsof service, that self-righteousness would become inveterate, hero worship an established idolatry and dogmatism a nuisancewithout abatement! I grant you experience might come in to modify some of the evils, for so the Grace of God can do anything-butthere would be at least a natural tendency to perpetuate corruptions. We don't measure, I am afraid, our own years, in somerespects, as we are known to do those of others. Some have to thank themselves that their lives are short-sins of their youthlie in their bones! And as we remember our days, we may provoke very painful recollections as to past sin, be checked as toall future folly and desire henceforth to walk in holiness and fear in the service of God until our days are ended. To numberour days seems to me to mean, "not let them run away and be wasted." Hours ought to be counted-we sleep too much, some ofus-we spend too much time at the table, too much in idle talk. Lord, help us to measure out our days, count them as they fly,and even the odd five minutes-those little pieces of time which we think we may idle away-much may be accomplished with themif we really set our minds as in the sight of eternity to employ the scraps for God. "Lord teach me to know the measure ofmy days." But my time has failed and, therefore, I must have but one or two words about the third point. David prays thathe might know his frailty-
III. LORD, HE SAID, "MAKE ME TO KNOW THAT I HAVE AN END, THAT I MAY KNOW MY FRAILTY."
I must come to that end soon. I am coming to it now. Lord, make me to know that I am so frail that I may die at any time-earlymorning, noon, night, midnight, cockcrow. I may die in any place. If I am in the house of sin, I may die there. If I am inthe place of worship, I may die there. I may die in the street. I may die while undressing tonight. I may die in my sleep.I may die before I get to my work tomorrow morning. I may die in any occupation. But God, grant I may never die a blasphemer!I may die with the cup of Communion at my lips. I may die preaching. I may die singing. In all, grant I may die as I wishto die-doing Your service for the love of Christ and by the power of Your Spirit. Perhaps, as I stand here and readily speak,the arrow is on its way-soon may the hand be stretched and dumb the mouth that lisps this faltering strain! Oh, may it neverintrude upon an ill-spent hour, but find me wrapped in meditation and hymning my great Creator, or serving my fellow man withlove to God, or in some way so laboring that it shall not come to me as a thief in the night, but shall find me watching,ready for His Advent! And this is what David meant, "Make me to know my end." It may come at any time, but let me always beready for it. Make me to know the measure of my days with the same object. My days are measured. These days may be few-theymay be very few-I may have come to the last one. The pilgrimage of life is a very solemn one. It reminds me of a caravan proceedingforward in a track-some know it, some of the travelers have forgotten it-but on the road which they are pursuing, there isa deep gulf or chasm, and some in the front part of the caravan have already fallen into the gulf. Others are proceeding.In some cases they can hear the shrieks and cries of those who have fallen into the chasm on ahead. But here in the darkness,in the rear of the caravan, there may be many others indulging in such sparks of fire as they have kindled. They are soundingthe tabret and the cymbal, and still making merry-though everyone of them is going onwards towards the same precipice overwhich their comrades, who led the way, have already fallen! There they go-onward, onward, onward in the darkness, till theycome to that fatal step which will plunge them into the world unknown! God has led you to this tabernacle well in health andstrong, but your next step may be into eternity! Beware, then, that you lay hold on the hand which was once crucified lest,whenyou slip, there be none to hold you up! And, when you fall, there be none to rescue you, and you fall through the blackand cheerless darkness forever and ever, lost, lost, lost, beyond hope of rescue! God forbid this for His mercy's sake. Amen.
EXPOSITION BY C. H. SPURGEON: PSALM90.
"A prayer of Moses, the man of God." It is well to know the author because it helps you to an understanding of the Psalm.Remember that Moses lived in the midst of a pilgrim people who were dwelling in tents, journeying towards Canaan. He livedin the midst of a people doomed to die in the wilderness. Only two of them-Moses, himself, not one of them-only two of thosethat came out of Egypt were to be permitted to enter into the promised land. You may expect, therefore, to find much thatis somber about this Psalm-and yet there is much that is very restful and trustful about it. If it is the prayer of Moses,it is the prayer of a man of God.
Verse 1. LORD, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Your chosen people have dwelt in You. You are their rest,their refuge, their comfort, their home. It is just the same, now, as in the days of Moses. God's people have no dwellingplace for their souls, but their God. They are happy when they get to Him. In Him they dwell at ease.
2. Before the mountains were brought forth-Before they were born like infants, gigantic as they are.
2. Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. Everything else changes.You do not. We lose our comforts. We dwell, as it were, in tents which are taken down and removed, but there is no changein You. Beloved Brothers and Sisters, you know this Truth of God, but do you enjoy it? I think there is no sweeter food forthe soul than the Doctrine of the Immutability of the eternal existence of God-God who cannot die and cannot change-that is,and always is, God. Oh, He is our confidence and joy! As for men, what are they?
3. You turn man to destruction and say, return, you children of men. He has only to speak-no need to take the scythe and mowus down. He does but say, "Return, you children of men," and we go back to the dust!
4. For a thousand years in Your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night. A thousand yearsis a very long period in human history. If you fly back and try, in your knowledge of history, to recollect what the worldwas a thousand years ago, it seems a long, long time ago. But to God, who always lives, all the age of the world must seembut as the twinkling of an eye! What are a thousand years to You, You glorious One, before whom the past is present, and thefuture is as now?
5. You carry them away as with a foot. Men stand, as they think, firmly, but as the best built buildings are swept away bya torrent-trees, cattle, everything dispersed before the impetuous outburst-so, great God, do You carry men away as with aflood!
5, 6. They are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which grows up. In the morning it flourishes, and grows up;in the evening it is cut down and withers. Have you ever watched a field of grass when in full bloom? There is, perhaps, nomore beautiful sight! What variety of colors in the flowers which are the glory of the grass! And then you come by and themower has done his work-and there it all lies. It has been withered by the sun's heat. Just such are we. Our generations fallbefore the scythe of death as falls the grass. And it is done at once. "In the morning it flourishes; in the evening it iscut down."
7. For we are consumed by Your anger, and by Your wrath are we troubled. Whenever God's anger breaks forth against a people,it must consume them! Oh, what a blessing it is if you and I know that His anger is turned away and He comforts us. Then weare not troubled by it any longer. Do not apply these words to yourselves. They belong to the Israelites in the wildernesswho were dying, consumed by God's anger and troubled by His wrath. But as for us who believe in Jesus Christ, we have loveinstead of anger-and the sure mercies of David instead of wrath-and in this we may rejoice.
8. You have set our iniquities before You, our secret sins in the light of Your countenance. And what was the result of thatbut that they all had to die? Their carcasses fell in the wilderness. Oh, if you are a Believer in Jesus Christ, this textis not true to you-does not belong to you. Here is another that doesbelong to you-"You have cast all my sins behind Your back."He has not set them in the light of His Countenance, but He has cast them into the depths of the sea and,
Beloved, you stand acquitted, justified! And yet there may be some here who feel their sins, tonight, and know that God islooking at their sin. Do you know, dear Friend, there is no hope for you but one? And that is written in the Book of Exodus-"WhenI see the blood, I will pass over you." If you do but put your trust in the blood of Jesus Christ, God will turn away Hiseyes from your sins and look upon the blood of Jesus Christ! Yes, the blood of Jesus shall blot out your sins and you shallrejoice!
9, 10. For all our days are passed away in Your wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told. The days of our years arethreescore years and ten, and if by reason of strength they are fourscore years, yet is their strength, labor and sorrow;for it is soon cut off and we fly away. It is well to have such a sense of our mortality upon us as this Psalm suggests. Andyet, it is better still to recollect that we are immortal-that when we die after the flesh, we shall not die, but live inChrist, world without end! Life is cut off and it is like a string that holds a bird by the leg-we fly away. Which way? Ifwe are God's own, we fly away above yon clouds. We reach the eternal fields where we shall sing forever and ever!
11. Who knows the power of Your anger? Even according to Your fear, so is Your wrath. Dreadful is God's anger, indeed. Whoknows it? None of us do. The lost in Hell begin to know it, but it will need eternity for them to learn it all! Oh, I chargeeveryone here who is unpardoned never to attempt to learn what God's anger means! It will be an awful lesson, the power ofthat anger! Why, when it is let loose against a man, even in this life, in a measure it crushes him. But what the power ofthat anger must be, who can tell?
12. So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. Count how many days have gone. Will not thetime past suffice us to have worked the will of the flesh? You cannot tell how few remain, but still, if you live to the longestperiod of life-taking that for granted which you may not take for granted-how little remains! Oh, that we might, by the shortnessof life, be led to apply our hearts unto wisdom, so as to live wisely! And what is the best way of living wisely, but to livein Christ and live to God?
13. Return, OLORD, howlong?It is an earnest prayer, full of grief. The Prophet of Israel, Moses, was attending one continualfuneral. Whenever the tribes halted, they formed a cemetery and buried another legion of their dead. I do not wonder thathe prays, "Return, O Lord, how long?"
13, 14. And have compassion on Your servants. O satisfy us early with Your mercy: that we may rejoice and be glad all ourdays. If they are but few, help us to live happily in them. Grant us the art of Your Grace of knowing Yourself, the sourceof happiness, that we may drink ofbliss to the fullest.
15. Make us glad according to the days wherein You have afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil. Give us measurefor measure-sweets in bounty, according to the bitterness. Surely God has done more than this to some of us! We can blessHis name because His love has abounded and He has made our cup to run over with His goodness!
16. Let Your work appear unto Your servants, and Your glory unto their children. We will do the work and the next generationshall have the glory. We will be content to wait, plodding on. Jesus will come, by-and-by. "Let Your work appear to us-YourGlory to our children."
17. And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us and establish the work of our hands upon us. That if we must go, wemay do something that will live, that we may not have lived in vain. "Establish the work of our hands upon us."
17. Yes, the work of our hands establish. It is my daily prayer. My heart often goes up to Heaven that the work that is donein this place may never pass away, but that God would make it such a work of true and real Grace, that it may abide untilthe Lord, Himself, shall come! We may expect it if we seek it at His hands. "Yes, the work of our hands, establish."