The wisest arithmetic!
(Alexander Smellie, "The Secret Place" 1907)
"So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." Psalm 90:12
I number my days aright, 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 be. But the farther I advance in age, 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, towering hills. But, later, I have left the river, and am on the trackless sea; and the sea remorselessly impels me on. Soon I shall hear the cry, "Land ahead!" and my voyage of life will be finished and past!
I number my days aright, when I recall their uncertainty. Often they are abruptly broken, before they have attained their bound. "Lord, spare the green — and take the ripe," is a cry often sounded. But the cry is not always answered, and the child as well as the parent is laid in the churchyard grave.
Let me remember how brittle my years are — and let me seize hold upon eternal realities which cannot be shaken.
I number my days aright, also, if I compare them with the unchangeableness of God. The world watches the generations come and go. But God 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 aright, if I think of them in relation to the limitless future. In one sense, I am easily robbed of them; in another sense, my years will come to no conclusion at all. As short as they are, they prelude an unimaginable, deathless existence. Now I am laying the foundations of an eternal palace — or of an eternal prison, from which I shall never leave. Now I am moulding for myself a king's unfading crown — or a criminal's inexorable chain. And since such momentous outcomes hang on the slender thread of my fleeting days, let me live as one about to migrate to the eternal world, and let me be diligent in my Father's business.
This is, indeed, the wisest arithmetic!