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Psa. 39. 4.
The Prophet David hath in the 39th Psalm a Prayer very near in words, and of kin ( it seems ) in sense to this here ; Lord, prays he, Make me to know my end, and the measure of my days, what it is, that I may know how frail I am: Concerning the drift of which place, as well as of this here, it were obvious to conceive, that both these Prophers do request of God, that he would discover to them the definite term of their life ( which by his decree he had fixed, or however by his universal prescience he did difcern; concerning which we have these words in Job, Seeing man's days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou haft appointed bis bounds, that he cannot pass ) we might, I say, at first hear. ing be apt to imagine, that their Prayer unto God is, ( for the comfort of their mind burthened with afflictions, or for their better dire. ction in the management of their remaining time of life that God
Job 14. 5.
would reveal unto them the determinate length of their life. But this sense, which the Words seem so naturally to hold forth is by many of the Fathers rejected; for that the knowledge of our lives determinate measure is not a fit matter of Prayer to God; that being a secret reserved by God to himself, which to inquire into favours of presumptuous curiosity ; the universal validity of which reason I will not debate ; but shall defer so much to their judgment, as to suppose that the numbring of our days ( according to their sense doth here onely imply a confused indefinite computation of our days number, or the length of our life ; such as, upon which it may appear, that necessarily our life cannot be long (not according to the accompt mentioned in this Psalm (the same with that of Solon, in Herodotus ) above feventy or eighty Years, especially as to purposes of health, strength, content) will probably by reason of
B 3 various
various accidents, to which it is exposed, be much shorter (leven or ten Years according to a moderate esteem ) may possibly, from furprises undiscoverable, be very near to its period; by few instants removed from death (a Year, a Month, a Day, it may be somewhat lefs. ) This I Thall allow to be the Arithmetick that Moses here desires to learn; whence it doth follow that teaching (or making to know, so it is in the Hebrew ) doth import here (as it doth other-where frequently
in Scripture ) God's af'Ou zás 611 ogéyes'égono arbgény agrody, návdow. fording the Grace to To ã or asi Suntiv, fő72 know practically, or rézovey és To ámc.sevæv. Plut. with serious regard to au Apoll. p. 202.
Quis eft tam fultus, quam consider this state and vis fit adolescens, cui fit explo- measure of our life (for ratum fe vel ad vefperum eße in fremgalorinn na Mon
in fpeculation no Man victurum. Cic. de Sen.
can be ignorant of humane lifes brevity and uncertainty ; but most Men are lo negligent and stupid, as not to regard it sufficiently, not to employ this knowledge to any good purpose.) This Interpretation I chuse, being in it felf plausible enough, and countenanced by so good authority; yet the former might well enough (by good consequence, if not so immediately ) ferve my design: Or be a ground able to support the discourse I intend to build upon the Words; the subject whereof briefly will be this, that the confideration of our lives certain and necessary brevity and frailty, is a mean proper and apt to dispose us toward the wise conduct of our remaining life; to which purpose such a confideration seems alike available, as the knowledge of its punctual or definite meafure; or more than it ; upon the same, or greater reasons. · As for the latter clause, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom ; 'tis according to the Hebrew, And we phall bring the heart to wisdom; implying, the application of our hearts to wisdom to be consequent upon the skill and practice (bestowed by God) of thus computing our days.
As for wisdom, that may denote either Sapience, a habit of knowing what is true; or prudence, a disposition of chusing what is good; we
may here understand both, especiDe fin. II. p. ally the latter; for, as Tully faith of
Philolophy, Omnis fumma Philofophiæ ad beate vivendum refertur, The summ or whole of Philosophy refers to living happily ; so all Divine Wisdom doth respect good practice. The word also comprehends all the
consequences and adNatura dedit ufuram vita, juncts of such wisdom tanquam pecunia, nulla prasti. tuta die. Tusc.quaft. I. p. 326. (for so commonly such
words are wont by way of metonymie to denote, together with the things primarily fignified, all that naturally flow from, or that usually are conjoined with them) in brief ( to cease from more explaining that, which is in it lelf conipicuous enough ) I so understand the Text, as if the Prophet had thus expressed himself: Since, O Lord, all things are in thy hand, and Sovereign disposal; since it appears that