Psalm 90:12
So teach us to number our days, that we may present a heart of wisdom.
Numbering Our DaysR. Tuck Psalm 90:12
The Right Numbering of Our DaysS. Conway Psalm 90:12
God -- the Home of the Soul of ManPsalm 90:1-17
God a Dwelling-PlaceC. Bradley, M.A.Psalm 90:1-17
God as a Dwelling-PlaceF. B. Meyer, B.A.Psalm 90:1-17
God Our HomeR. Rainy, D.D.Psalm 90:1-17
God Our HomeM. B. Riddle, D. D.Psalm 90:1-17
House and HomeJ. J. Wray.Psalm 90:1-17
Jehovah Our HomeHomilistPsalm 90:1-17
Man and His MakerHomilistPsalm 90:1-17
The Abiding-PlaceJ. G. Van Slyke, D.D.Psalm 90:1-17
The Gate to God's AcreM. R. Vincent, D.D.Psalm 90:1-17
The Glorious HabitationPsalm 90:1-17
The Lord Our Dwelling PlaceS. Conway Psalm 90:1-17
The Prayer of MosesT. W. Chambers, D.D.Psalm 90:1-17
The Psalm of the WanderingsF. B. Meyer, B.A.Psalm 90:1-17
Divine TeachingBp. Sumner.Psalm 90:12-17
For the New YearR. V. Hunter.Psalm 90:12-17
How Rightly to Number Our DaysT. De Witt Talmage.Psalm 90:12-17
Life Measured by DaysHomilistPsalm 90:12-17
Life WisdomS. S. Mitchell, D.D.Psalm 90:12-17
Man Imploring the Mercy of GodHomilistPsalm 90:12-17
Numbering Our DaysJ. O. Davies.Psalm 90:12-17
Numbering Our DaysS. Summers.Psalm 90:12-17
Numbering Our DaysJ. E. Henry, M.A.Psalm 90:12-17
On Numbering Our DaysJames Saurin.Psalm 90:12-17
Right Estimate of LifeHomilistPsalm 90:12-17
The Brevity of Human LifeG. T. Noel, M.A.Psalm 90:12-17
The Divine Arithmetic of LifeE. J. Hardy, M.A.Psalm 90:12-17
The Just Estimate of the Shortness of Human LifeT. Secker.Psalm 90:12-17
The Transitoriness of LifeF. W. Robertson, M. A.Psalm 90:12-17
The True Use of TimeW. H. Murray.Psalm 90:12-17
The Wise Reckoning of TimeD. L. Carroll, D.D.Psalm 90:12-17
Time Wisely ComputedC. F. Childe, M.A.Psalm 90:12-17

There are certain seasons which come round to men - birthdays, anniversaries, the close of the year, and the like - which seem to compel some sort of numbering of our days. The giddiest, the most thoughtless and worldly, are, for the moment, constrained to recollect the flight of time, the passing away of their life. Like as in dead of night, in the heart of a great city, when its business is hushed, and the traffic of its streets is still, the almost solitary passenger, though thinking of quite other things, is startled and arrested by the sudden simultaneous sounding of the hour of the night from the multitudinous clocks and bell towers which are on every hand. In the rush and roar of the midday business, when the full tide of the city's trade is sweeping on, their stroke and chime would hardly have been heeded. But in this quiet hour, when all is still, the boom of the cathedral bell or the chime from yonder tower floats along the deserted streets, and the wayfarer cannot but take notice that another hour is gone. So in the quiet of thought, to which such seasons as those I have referred to incline us, the evident fact of the passing away of our days strikes upon our mind, and leads us to some sort of numbering of our days - a numbering which may or may not be profitable, and which can only be so according to the manner in which it is done. And this is the teaching of our text. It craves the teaching of God, that we may so number our days as to apply, etc. That, then, is the right numbering of our days which leads us to apply our hearts unto wisdom. Therefore let us inquire -

I. WHAT IS THIS WISDOM TO WHICH WE SHOULD APPLY OUR HEARTS? It is that which leads us to so use this life as the preparation for the life eternal. This life is our school, our training ground, the scene of our education for eternity. What folly, then, to waste and squander such a season! We chide sternly the boy who wastes his school time, but how many men throw away the opportunities which are given to them in this school of life to prepare them for the real life which awaits us when this is over! To the foolish child we say, "School time does not come twice." To many men the same needs to be said. But we shall never use this life aright until we have surrendered our wills - given our hearts - to God, that by his wonder working grace he may cleanse, and sanctify, and keep, and use them for himself. Then all will be well.

II. HOW DOES THE RIGHT NUMBERING OF OUR DAYS LEAD TO THE APPLYING OF OUR HEARTS TO WISDOM? Because it makes us realize how transitory our life is. This is the burden of this psalm. But to really see this, to absolutely believe it, as few do, is to think but little of this world.

1. Of its riches and glory. For if I know - not merely think, but know certainly - that I must have done with them all in a very little time, shall I care very much for them? Would a prisoner in the condemned cell be greatly elated if, the day before his death, he was left a fortune? Would any struggle as they do for this world's wealth if they knew that their lease of it was so brief?

2. And so, too, of this world's sorrows. Should we be so moved by them if we knew how little time they lasted? The martyrs were wont to strengthen their minds by this thought as they anticipated their cruel tortures and death. Paul says, "Our light afflictions which are but for a moment. Hence he who rightly numbers his days lives above the world, is independent of it, is free from its terrible down drag and tyranny.

3. And he will, knowing the transitoriness of this life, seek for that which is eternal.


1. Because we do not like the task. It breeds melancholy and fearful thoughts.

2. We persuade ourselves there is no need. We shall have plenty of time (cf. the rich fool).

3. We so love the world.

4. Doubt. The teachings of Holy Scripture and the Church are dimly seen, or doubted, or, it may be, absolutely denied. Many more than we think are practical atheists. Therefore we need to pray, So teach us to number our days," or else we shall never do it at all. - S.C.

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
Moses prays —

I. FOR A RIGHT ESTIMATE AS TO THE DURATION OF LIFE. "Teach us to number our days," etc.,

1. There is a certain judgment to be formed as to the duration of our earthly life. The prayer does not mean that we should know the hour, scene, or circumstance of our end; but that we should have a practical impression that life is temporary and preparative.

2. There is a tendency in man to neglect to form a true estimate of life. "All men think all men mortal but themselves."

3. The formation of a correct judgment is essential to practical wisdom (ver. 12).


1. Divine favour (ver. 13). The meaning is, remove the sense of Thy displeasure, bless us with the consciousness of Thy favour.

2. True satisfaction (ver. 14). Let the satisfaction be early. Come at once. Let it run through the whole of our life. "That we may rejoice and be glad all our days." Let the satisfaction be proportioned according to our past affliction (ver.15). Let our future joys compensate for our past affliction.


1. In His works, to men and their children (ver. 16). The glory of human life is to see the glory of God in all the works of His hand.

2. In the prosperity of man's own works.


This is a psalm of life and death, and one of the finest in the whole Bible. The comparisons made between the frailty and brevity of human life and the omnipotence and eternity of God are very striking. But a right use of the sense of mortality is a priceless blessing. We must all be accountants and arithmeticians in the best sense. Like the wise merchants we must frequently take stock in order to see where we stand. And we must also number our nights, with their blessings of rest and repose and renewal, for human life is incomplete without the night as well as the day.

I. Every man must come to his last day. We are born to die, and we die daily. Our home is not here, but yonder.

II. Man has a set time in which to live. Job speaks of certain bounds which man cannot pass. His life is fitted within certain boundaries by Divine Providence.

III. Man's life on earth is comparatively short. We are asked to number our days, and not our years or months or weeks. We must live a day at a time.

IV. Man is dangerously apt to forget this numbering. He allows the days to slip away unnoticed. He counts his oxen and sheep, but not his days. He numbers other men's days, but not his own. As Sir Thomas Smith said some months before his death, "It is a great pity men know not to what end they are born into the world until they are ready to go out of it."

V. The nature of the numbering advocated by the psalmist. "Teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." We cannot number our days rightly without the Lord as our Teacher. We must go in for numeration under Divine guidance. It is not mathematical but moral counting — a numbering that brings glory to God. The chief end of man is to seek wisdom — not riches, or worldly honours, or sinful pleasures — but wisdom and not the wisdom of the world, but that of God. We have emphasized the truth of man's mortality, let us also emphasize his immortality.

(J. O. Davies.)

I. WHO IS IT THAT TEACHES? It is God Himself. The mere record, as contained in the world which we see, or in the written Word which we read or hear, is not of itself sufficient. It is the letter, not the life: it cannot of itself convey a saving knowledge of the truths, of which it is nevertheless the chosen depository. Christ must be revealed in us as well as to us ere we can know Him as we ought. It was in Him, as the apostle tells the Galatians, that God was pleased to "reveal Himself."

II. How DOES GOD TEACH? In many ways. By parents, ministers, friends. Also by outward objects — churchyard, storm, epidemic, etc.

III. THE END OF GOD'S TEACHING. "That we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." Do you find this a hard lesson? The Israelites found it so, and their stiff-neckedness is written in an enduring record for your learning. The old world found it so; for they were "eating and drinking," etc. The foolish virgins found it so. Their lamps were gone out, they themselves were slumbering, when the bridegroom came and the door was shut. Are you wiser? Have you profited by these warnings? Have you been "taught"? Are you numbering your days with a consciousness of the relative difference between time and eternity? But what is wisdom? That is the practical question which so many never ask, though it concern them so vitally to learn the lesson; that is the question, too, which so many ask, but not of Him who alone can give them the true answer. What, for instance, did Moses himself esteem wisdom to be? Not all the learning of the Egyptians with which he was conversant, for he renounced it all, esteeming the reproach of Christ better than all the riches of Egypt. And what is Job's definition of wisdom (Job 28:28; 1 Corinthians 3:19). What did the great apostle pronounce is not to be, after he had ceased to sit as Saul of Tarsus at the feet of Gamaliel? And what does he say it is? First, the receiving of Christ by us as sinners; secondly, the adorning of the doctrine in our lives.

(Bp. Sumner.)


1. We must form a correct estimate of human life, comparing its average length with its interests.

2. We must cherish a serious conviction of the uncertainty of life. Boast not thyself, young man, of thy strength, nor old man of thy wisdom, for a worm is in the bud of youth and at the root of age.

3. We must pay an observant regard to our days as they pass away. Days, weeks, and years are but the landmarks.


1. Wisdom consists in the adoption of the best means to secure the best ends. In what relation do I stand to God and eternity? is the first question which every man should put to himself. Until he can answer this solemn inquiry satisfactorily, he is but a fool in knowledge and a child in his pursuits.

2. To apply our hearts unto wisdom, we must moderate our affections to earthly objects. Eternity will be our grand concern. Like the apostle, we shall learn to die daily, we shall be crucified to the world with its affections and lusts; it will gradually recede and eventually disappear as an object of felicitous contemplation.

3. We must peculiarly cherish those graces which mitigate the sorrows and heighten the joys of the present life.

4. We must cultivate those dispositions of mind which will increase all the lawful enjoyments of life. Habitual dependence upon God, walking with humility and gratitude beneath his favour, adds zest to all our enjoyments.

(S. Summers.)


1. The analogies of nature which correspond with human life. All things here are double. The world without corresponds with the world within. No man could look on a stream when alone by himself, and all noisy companionship overpowering good thoughts was away, without the thought that just so his own particular current of life will fall at last into the "unfathomable gulf where all is still." No man can look upon a field of corn, in its yellow ripeness, which he has passed weeks before when it was green, or a convolvulus withering as soon as plucked, without experiencing a chastened feeling of the fleetingness of all earthly things. No man ever went through a night-watch in the bivouac, when the distant hum of men and the random shot fired, told of possible death on the morrow; or watched in a sick room, when time was measured by the sufferer's, breathing or the intolerable ticking of the clock, without a firmer grasp on the realities of Life and Time.

2. Moses is looking back, and his feeling is loss. Many a one consumed, like Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, by the wrath of God. Many a Hebrew warrior stricken in battle, and over him a sand-heap. And those who remembered these things were old men — "consuming," his strong expression, "their strength in labour and sorrow." We stand upon the shore of that illimitable sea which never restores what has once fallen into it; we hear only the boom of the waves that throb over all — for ever.

3. There is, too, an apparent non-attainment. A deeper feeling pervades this psalm than that of mere transitoriness: it is that of the impotency of human effort. "We are consumed" — perish aimlessly like the grass. No man was more likely to feel this than Moses. The cycles of God's providences are so large that our narrow lives scarcely measure a visible portion of them. So large that we ask, What can we effect? Yet there is an almost irrepressible wish in our hearts to see success attend our labours, to enter the Promised Land in our own life. It is a hard lesson: to toil in faith, and to die in the wilderness, not having attained the promises, but only seeing them afar off.

II. THE RIGHT USE OF THESE SAD SUGGESTIONS. Duty is done with all energy, then only, when we feel, "The night cometh, when no man can work," in all its force. Two thoughts are presented to make this easier.

1. The eternity of God. Shall we give up our hopes of heaven and progress, because it is so slow, when we remember that God has innumerable ages before Him? Or our hopes for our personal improvement, when we recollect our immortality in Him who has been our refuge "from generation to generation"? Or for our schemes and plans which seem to fail, when we remember that they will grow after us, like the grass above our graves?

2. The permanence of results.(1) The permanence of our past seasons. Spring, summer, autumn, are gone, but the harvest is gathered in. Youth and manhood are passed, but their lessons have been learnt. The past is ours only when it is gone.(2) The permanence of lost affections. The sound and words are gone, but the tale is indelibly impressed on the heart. So the lost are not really lost. Perhaps they are ours only truly when lost. Their patience, love, wisdom, are sacred now, and live in us.(3) The permanence of our own selves — "The beauty of the Lord our God be upon us." Very striking this. We survive. We are what the past has made us. The results of the past are ourselves.(4) The permanence of work. Not a true thought, pure resolve, or loving act, has ever gone forth in vain.

(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

I. THE WISDOM CONTEMPLATED IN OUR TEXT means something like the following: "Teach us, O God, the essential truth as embodied in the Lord Jesus Christ, and in His life. Then enable us to accept Him in faith."

II. THE WORD "HEART" INCLUDES ALL THE FACULTIES. The whole soul and spirit, with all their strength, are to be applied in the search for wisdom.


1. He possesses sufficient knowledge. Is it not true that in the study of history, science, or philosophy, we are thinking God's thoughts? It is said of Agassiz, that before he would venture upon a line of investigation, he would bow his head in prayer, and ask God to direct him in the discovery of the truth. Let us pray, likewise, that God will teach us wisdom; that He will enable us to discover the highest, and the greatest truth; the truth as it is in Christ Jesus, His only begotten Son.

2. God has the power to teach.

3. God has the strong personality necessary to impress the learner.

4. God's works are evidence to us that He is competent to teach us wisdom. Can we look across the broad meadows of our valleys, the rolling pasture lands on the hillsides, and the boundless grain-fields of redeemed prairies, without feeling in our souls that He has stretched these out before us, and for us, in infinite wisdom? And as we dig into the bowels of the earth, and discover stupendous and varied forces, undreamed-of wealth of gold, silver, copper, oil and gas, are we not confounded and led to exclaim, "What infinite wisdom, goodness and power are manifested here"?

IV. TIME IS OUR ONLY OPPORTUNITY FOR ACQUIRING WISDOM. An Italian philosopher expressed in his motto "that time was his estate; an estate, indeed, that will produce nothing without cultivation, but will always repay abundantly the labours of industry, and satisfy the most extensive desires, if no part of it be suffered to lie waste by negligence, to be overrun by noxious plants, or laid out for show rather than for use." Time is our opportunity to estimate human life by the purpose to which it should be applied. It should be measured by the eternity to which it leads.

(R. V. Hunter.)

Life must be measured by days —


1. This division of our time by God into periods whose coming and going must be felt, is a beneficent arrangement. Without it the voice of time would be a monotone in which we should sleep, not listen; or, even if we listened, it would make no impression on us. "Days should speak."

2. God has given us, in the arrangement of "days," striking symbols of the lifetime they unitedly compose. Each day is an epitome of a life. Morning paints our childhood, noon our manhood, night our death.

II. BECAUSE OF ITS BREVITY. We do not attempt to reckon our mortal life by centuries, scarcely by years; for they are so uncertain, and at best there are so few of them. Only then do we realize that the sum of life demands, and will repay, careful calculation, and that a blunder in it is of immense mischief.

III. BECAUSE OF ITS WORTH. Gold-dust and diamonds shall be weighed by grains, not by tons. So, because of its preciousness, "Time is dealt out by particles," and we number it, not in decades or in years. Life, as a whole, is of such untold worth, that every portion of it is priceless.

IV. BECAUSE OF ITS IMPERCEPTIBLE DEPARTURE. Its final departure is marked and emphatic enough. The agonies of bereavement, the mysterious process of dying, make that known and felt. But it is equally and more solemnly true, that life is always departing. It ebbs from us with every breath.


The frailty of our being; the certainty of our death; the shortness of the intervening period; these are ideas with which we are familiar; and yet, strange to say, they seldom influence us, either justly or constantly. We may use this knowledge, in order to add to stoical indifference; to give pathos and interest to poetry; to induce certain arrangements with respect to our property or our families: to augment, by contrast, the enjoyment of the passing hour; but these are not the essential purposes to which our knowledge of the shortness of life ought to be applied. In the midst of all these speculations we may fail to "apply our hearts unto wisdom."

I. THE BREVITY OF HUMAN LIFE. "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." Against this destiny no sagacity and no prosperity can build up a shelter.

II. OUR INDISPOSITION TO CONTEMPLATE WISELY THE RESULTS OF THAT BREVITY. That which follows death; the introduction to another world; responsibility; judgment to come; the vision of God; eternal weal or woe; the friendly or unfriendly mediation of Christ; the spiritual character which welcomes or opposes the celestial manifestations of truth and wisdom; these are the associations which properly belong to death. Yet from this view of death, men deliberately turn away!

III. Thus situated, thus exposed, thus beguiled, how palpable becomes the truth, THAT A WISE USE OF OUR CONVICTION OF MORTALITY IS THE GIFT OF GOD. Unless God shall deign to teach, we refuse to learn. The means of instruction are indeed abundant. Much knowledge is afloat in the world; and the daily events of life utter solemn accents, were we disposed to listen. But the machinery of instruction; the apparatus of revelation; the combination of events, are inadequate to make us wise. These are the means of wisdom, but they are not the disposition to be wise. The conversion of the heart is from God.

(G. T. Noel, M.A.)

(to children): —


1. To find out the number of them. You cannot hope to live above seventy; it is an even chance whether you live to be thirty; and you are not sure that you will live a day.

2. To consider the kind of them. They have all been days of blessing — yet all of sin. Still God has spared you, and all His gifts continue with you.


1. So as to be ready for the last one when it comes. What is the preparation needed? To be in Christ, and so escape condemnation in the judgment (Romans 8:1). To be like Christ, and so fit for the pure joys and company of heaven (1 John 3:2). To be each of these things now, as our last day may come at any time (Matthew 24:44).

2. So as to use them to the best advantage. Time given to sin is wasted and something worse. You must not only be doing, but doing good. Cultivating the garden of life. Digging out the weeds, and digging in the flowers and useful herbs (Ephesians 4:22). Cultivating the garden of your neighbour also. Helping the sinful out of sin, the suffering out of sickness, the sorrowful out of grief (1 John 3:17; Romans 9:1-3; 2 Corinthians 1:4).

3. So as to make up for lost days. Time is a river, and runs only once under the bridge of life. Still lost time may be made up for a little by working extra in the time that remains. The train behind time makes up for it by putting on extra speed. You may do the same. In one hour get through the work of two.

III. HOW WE ARE TO LEARN TO NUMBER OUR DAYS ARIGHT. "So teach us," etc. The text is a prayer. Moses could not number his days profitably. But God could teach him, and he cries to be taught. You cannot begin all this too soon. The Inquisition tortured its victims by putting them in a cell which gradually contracted till at last it crushed them to death. So life — large and roomy-looking in youth — gets narrower year by year, till at last we are pressed in the arms of death. Therefore begin early.

(J. E. Henry, M.A.)

I. WE OUGHT, AS CHRISTIANS, TO APPRECIATE THE OPPORTUNITIES PRESENTED OF MAKING GREAT PROGRESS IN KNOWLEDGE — IN INTELLECTUAL IMPROVEMENT. Every thing is tending to show that the human race will soon be under no other government but that of mind; that, whatever may be the instruments which it shall use, intelligence will be the arm that will rule the world. By no higher ends than earth can afford, a multitude of unsanctified minds have been stimulated even to death in the career of mental improvement. Time, health, riches, life, have been sacrificed in the over-reachings of their souls after knowledge. But every Christian has infinitely higher motives to impel him to make acquisition of true science. If he be asked why he is labouring to obtain stores of knowledge, he can answer, because "the Lord hath need of them."


1. One of these is the awakened attention and increased facilities for studying the Bible.

2. As another event in these times, adapted to form religious character, we may notice in some respects a salutary change in the ministry of the Gospel. It is now freed from many of the encumbrances of former ages that destroyed its power on the conscience and the heart.

3. Another fact bearing on this point is, that the days which we are numbering are days in which "the glorious ministration of the Spirit," in that form which it took after the ascension of Jesus, has become more pervading and effective than it has been since the day of Pentecost.

III. WE OUGHT TO COUNT UPON EXERTING A FAR MORE WIDELY EXTENDED INFLUENCE AS CHRISTIANS. Such are the laws of our intellectual and social being, arid such are the relations and connections of one mind with another, that an influence of some kind we must and shall inevitably exert. The kind of influence exerted, and the direction which that influence shall take, will be one of the most solemn items of man's last account to his God. The elements of Christian influence are knowledge and holiness. How much more available is the power of holy example now than in those past days, when population was more sparse, and the means of personal intercourse more restricted! What an organ of extended Christian influence does the religious Press constitute! Think, too, what instruments of power are put into the hands of Christians by the organization of the great benevolent societies of these times. They can thus truly extend themselves, in an important sense, "beyond their measure," — can stretch out the arm of mercy and pour light on the darkness and miseries of the whole earth.

(D. L. Carroll, D.D.)

I. WHAT IS IMPLIED. 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 practise 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. The days of adversity, and compare them with the days of prosperity.

3. The days of languor and weariness, and compare them with the days of delight and pleasure.

4. The days which we have devoted to the world, and compare them with the days which we have devoted to religion.

5. The amount of the whole, that we may discover how long the duration is of a life consisting of days of nothingness and of reality; of days of prosperity and of adversity; of days of pleasure and of languor; of days devoted to the world, and to the salvation of the soul.


1. The vanity of the life that now is, affords the clearest proof of the life to come.

2. Neither the good things, nor the evil, of a life which passes away with so much rapidity, ought to make a very deep impression on a soul whose duration is eternal.

3. This life is a season of probation, assigned to us for the purpose of making our choice between everlasting happiness or misery.

4. A life through which more time has been devoted to a present world, than to preparation for eternity, corresponds not to the views which the Creator proposed to Himself, when He placed us in this economy of expectation.

5. A sinner who has not conformed to the views which God proposed to Himself in placing him under an economy of discipline and probation, ought to pour out his soul in thanksgiving, that God is graciously pleased still to lengthen it out.

6. Creatures in whose favour God is pleased still to lengthen out the day of grace, the economy of long-suffering, which they have improved to so little purpose, ought no longer to delay, no, not for a moment, to avail themselves of a reprieve so graciously intended.

(James Saurin.)

The prayer implies —

I. THAT THERE IS A CERTAIN JUDGMENT TO BE FORMED AS TO THE DURATION OF AN EARTHLY LIFE. What is it? Not the exact hour, scene, or circumstances of our end. We thank Heaven for concealing all this. Ignorance of this is —

1. Essential to our practical watchfulness.

2. To our personal enjoyment.

3. To our social usefulness. It means that we should have a practical impression that life here is temporary and preparative.


1. Not from the want of circumstances to suggest it. History, observation, experience — all remind us every day of our end.

2. Not from any doubt that we have about the importance of realizing it. All acknowledge the importance. But —

(1)From the secularity of one controlling purpose.

(2)From the instinctive repugnance that we have to death.

(3)From the moral dread of future retribution.

(4)From the delusive suggestions of the tempter. "Ye shall not surely die."


1. Such judgment would serve to impress us with the connection between this life and the future.

2. It would serve to moderate our affections in relation to this earth.

3. It would serve to reconcile us to the arrangements of Providence. We are pilgrims, voyagers, scholars.

4. It would serve to stimulate us to render all the circumstances of this life subservient to a higher. Time is bearing us and all away.



1. As all virtues in general, both by their own proper influence, and the blessing of God, which reason leads us to expect, and Scripture expressly assures us of, conduce to prolong our days, the consideration of their natural brevity may well direct us to a virtuous conduct; particularly to sobriety, temperance, and chastity; to a prudent moderation of anger; and to whatever duties have especially the promise or the prospect of long life annexed to them.

2. Since we have but a small time to stay here, it is our wisdom to make it as easy and agreeable to ourselves, and all with whom we have any intercourse, as we are able; and to imitate persons of prudence, who occasionally go journeys together; bearing with each others' temper and behaviour; giving mutual comfort and assistance under the misfortunes and inconveniences of the way; and continually endeavouring to preserve or restore the good humour and cheerfulness of the company.

3. The shortness of life should teach us to be speedy and diligent in doing all such things as we ought to do.

4. The shortness and precariousness of our present state of being should teach us to avoid long pursuits of worldly profits or pre-eminences; which probably either we shall not have time to attain, or must soon quit.

5. A fifth use of numbering our days is, to check and compose all strong emotions of mind about worldly concerns; for in so transitory a state there can be nothing to deserve them. Why should we be elated with hope of future good, when both our own lives, and those on whom our expectations may depend, are subject to such innumerable chances; and the higher we raise ourselves in imagination, the more afflicting will be our fall? Why, again, should we be dejected with fear of future evils, when a thousand accidents which none of us can guess at beforehand, may prevent their coming; or, if they do come, our head may be laid low enough before that time, and far enough out of the way of feeling them?

6. The most important lesson, taught us by the shortness and uncertainty of our present life, considered in itself, is, that we may reasonably expect, and should therefore continually look forward to another.

II. WITH RESPECT TO THE ETERNAL LIFE WHICH IS TO FOLLOW. Whatever conclusions men may think they can draw from the former view, yet, when our life on earth is contemplated as a state of preparation for another and an endless one, then neither the wit, nor almost the folly of man, can make any other than virtuous inferences from the shortness of it.

1. Conviction of the necessity of applying diligently to know and do our duty.

2. Encouragement to persist in it to the end against temptation.

3. Support under the afflictions to which we are exposed in the meanwhile.

(T. Secker.)

What is the wisdom which comes from the numbering of our days? Rather let me put it in this way: What are the varieties of human life which this wisdom condemns?

1. The anxious life. A matter of temperament, you say. Yes, to a certain extent. Blood, inherited disposition, may not be overlooked here. Then it is said that this over-anxious condition of the mind is a result of impaired health. And here also is a truth. It is only a very superior person who can rise above and triumph over his physical condition; who can be equable, and wise, and tender, when the body is sick. But admitting all this, still education, reason, truth, must not be left out here. There is such a thing as a man taking himself in hand for correction. He may call reason to his aid. He may smite his propensity with the hand of truth. So here, the hand of truth is raised for smiting, for condemnation. First, this truth, — your own helplessness; secondly, — God's infinite goodness. And now comes the wisdom of the text, sharpest, strongest of all to rebuke and condemn here. Thus it speaks: It will soon be over. The dream will soon be past. The battle will soon be fought. Do not worry then. The burden so heavy, you shall carry it but for a day. The trial so sharp, you shall soon have an escape from it. These things will soon have an end, and that for ever. Oh, how quiet, how peaceful is the region to which human life hasteth!

2. The selfish life. This covers the whole range from mere indifference to hate; from hands which are folded in the presence of human want, to hands which are raised to beat down the weak and the struggling. Consider that only for the brief period of this life is it given unto any one of us to work our life power into the welfare of our fellow-men.

3. The worldly life. It may be to make money; it may be to get into places of honour; it may be the acquisition of knowledge. It matters not. Only so that the life of man is circumscribed by sense. Only so that in its noblest outreachings it is bounded by this world. So that the man does not love, or think upon, or care for, anything which he cannot handle, or see, or analyze. Just so sure as this is the case, so surely does the wisdom prayed for in the text condemn, "Thou fool, thou hast not numbered thy days."

4. The irreligious or unchristian life. Doth not the fact that our days may end at any time condemn such a life? Unpreparedness for an event which may be precipitated at any moment, — is not this folly?

(S. S. Mitchell, D.D.)


1. A duty to be discharged: "number our days." The very term implies —(1) That they have a limit, and that this is within the scope of our powers to calculate. The tale may soon be told.(2) The uncertainty of life.(3) The preciousness of time. As the miser counts and recounts his gold because it is his treasure, and fears lest a single piece should be lost, so should the child of eternity number those few and fleeting days which constitute his only season for preparing for eternity. Here alone is parsimony a virtue.

2. An inaptitude on the part of man for the fulfilment of the duty. He is called, indeed, to that for which his understanding is qualified, but to which his heart is not inclined.

3. This duty involves —(1) A comparison of the number of our days with the duration of eternity.(2) A comparison of the work which we have to do, with the space allotted for its accomplishment.

3. His need of assistance in the duty. God communicates this necessary instruction by His Word, and Providence, and Spirit — reminding by many a solemn text, by many an awakening dispensation, and by many an inward admonition, that "The time is short."

II. THE END TO WHICH THE PETITION WAS DIRECTED. What is "wisdom"? We need no better definition than that which describes it to consist in "pursuing the best end by the best means"; and seeing that happiness is "our being's end and aim," and that holiness is the only revealed means of securing it, the definition in question obviously identifies wisdom with godliness. "The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom." Seek, then, to apply your hearts to the "wisdom which cometh down from above."

(C. F. Childe, M.A.)

If ever we ought to practise what has been called the Divine arithmetic of life, it is at the close of one year and the beginning of another. In garrison towns there is a cannon fired at noon, and when people not accustomed to it hear it for the first time, they generally start and say, "Oh my!" so that the gun is often called by soldiers the "Oh my!" People are startled by the noise, but they might start, too, at the thought of how quickly each day passes. How much more ought we to feel the passing of a year !We have known fond mothers who got their children photographed annually to compare the pictures and see the progress that had been made. Were our spiritual photographs compared with those of last year, would we be found to have grown in grace? Have we been as happy as we might have been; have we done any acts of purely unselfish kindness; has any one been much the better for our existence during the past year; have we offered up one uninterrupted prayer? Let the walls of our chambers speak; let our churches, houses, offices speak. Are we more trusting in God and more useful to man?

(E. J. Hardy, M.A.)

The man who numbers his days rightly, numbers them not as if they ended anything, but as if they began something. He thinks of them in their termination as bringing him, not to an end, but to a beginning, a beginning for which, if rightly used, they prepare and fit him. You should not look upon men and women as if they were grown, as trees which stand in their maturity plain to your sight. You should look upon them as seeds which are planted, which are hidden as yet, but which are destined to have appearance of full growth by and by. If you will only carry yourself in thought over beyond the time of what you call death; if you will only stretch your lives out endlessly, and conceive of yourselves continuing as living beings with all your present powers amplified and quickened to greater intensity of expression for ever and ever; if you will only think of yourselves as having close and emphatic connections with that which is beyond as well as that which is here — if you will only think of yourselves in this way, I say, until the next world has become as actual and impressive to your consciousness as the present world is, you will then put true measurement upon and give the true significance to time. You will then see what it is worth and what it is not worth. You will then see what it should lead to and what you cannot afford to have it lead to. And seeing this you will apply your hearts unto wisdom. Wisdom is a great word, because the idea it symbolizes is great. It is greater than knowledge, for knowledge symbolizes only what one has received. Knowledge symbolizes the accumulation of facts, the gathering and retention of information, the reception on the part of our memories of whatever has been discovered. But wisdom represents that finer power, that higher characteristic of mind, which suggests the proper application of facts, the right use of knowledge, the correct direction of our faculties. He whose heart is applied to wisdom has put himself in such a position that he can think divinely — think as God would think in his place. Have you this wisdom touching the government of your lives? Do you see your connections with eternity, with its law and its love, with its opportunities and: its occasions, with its joys and its glories? Are you living as those should live who can never stop living, who cannot even remain what they are, but must become better or worse? It is well for us that we can be taught of God. It is well that heaven has not left us in our ignorance. What would the world know of right and wrong but for God? What should we know even of ourselves but for Him? Let us, therefore, more and more accept God as our Teacher. Let us read His Holy Word with profound attention. Let us study Nature with reverent and inquisitive eyes. Let us by every method inform ourselves in respect to those great duties and obligations which deliver us from frivolity and sin.

(W. H. Murray.)

I was reading of King Alfred, who, in the days long before the modern time-pieces were invented, used to divide the day into three parts, eight hours each, and then had three wax candles. By the time the first candle had burned to the socket, eight hours had gone; and when the second candle had burned to the socket, another eight hours had gone; and when all the three were gone out, then the day had passed. O that some of us, instead of calculating our days by any earthly time-piece, may calculate them by the numbers of opportunities and mercies which are burning down and burning out, never to be relighted.

(T. De Witt Talmage.)

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