Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Wise Arithmetic

Alexander Smellie, In the Secret Place: A Book of Daily Devotional Meditations (1907), p. 396 (December 30):


"So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom."—Ps. xc. 12.

I Number my days, when I feel their fewness. To the imagination of the young, life seems long. They catch no echo of "the roar of the waves of eternity as they dash on the shores of time," so far away those shores appear to lie. But the farther I advance the more swiftly and imperceptibly the hours and weeks and years steal on. At the outset of the voyage I mark my progress by the objects on the river-banks: trees, houses, church-spires, towering hills. But, later, I have left the channel, and am on the trackless sea ; and nothing indicates how remorselessly the miles accomplish themselves. Before I look for it, I shall hear the cry, "Land ahead!" and my voyage will be finished and past.

I number my days, when I recall their uncertainty. Often they are abruptly broken, before they have attained their bound. "Lord, spare the green and take the ripe," a lion-hearted man cried once as he entered the fight in which he fell; but the cry is not always answered, and the child as well as the parent is laid in the churchyard grave. And mental activity is no guarantee of continuance; God strikes His silence through my thoughts, my schemes, my enterprises. And unreadiness for the stupendous change of death—is it not a broken staff on which to lean ? Let me remember how brittle my years are; and let me seize hold in them upon the things which cannot be shaken.

I number my days, too, if I compare them with the abidingness of God. The world is old. It watches the generations come and go. The Talking Oak was thriving before King Harry turned the monks adrift; it heard the Roundhead hum his surly hymn; and still it blossomed with each returning spring. But God is both older and younger than the world. He is without beginning, and the millenniums have left Him unhurt by the tooth of time. How paltry my fourscore winters seem, in the light of His unending ages! Yes! but let me turn to Him. Let me cast myself on the Everlasting Arms. And the enduringness of my God will pass into my frailty and littleness.

And I number my days, if I think of them in relation to the limitless future. In one sense, I am easily robbed of them; in another sense, they will come to no conclusion at all. Short as they are, they prelude an existence unimaginable, stable, deathless. Now I am laying the foundations of a palace or of a prison, from which I shall go no more out. Now I am moulding for myself a king's unfading crown or a captive's inexorable chain. And since such momentous issues hang on the slender thread of my fleeting days, let me seek and find Christ's pardon, let me live as one about to migrate, and let me be diligent in my Father's business.

This is, indeed, the wisest arithmetic.

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