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progress in wickedness, so as to arrive at a mastery in it, without great interruption and contradiction from his natural genius : insomuch as we see men usually take degrees in wickedness, and come not to a perfection in it
saltum ; which can proceed from nothing but the resistance it finds from the nature of man. And if we do seriously consider, how few men there are who endeavour by art or industry to cultivate that portion which nature hath given them, to improve their understanding, and to correct any infirmity they may be liable to, by so much as abstaining from any vice which corrupts both body and mind; we must conclude that they owe that which is good in themselves to nature, since they have nothing by their own acquisition. We cannot justly be reproached, that in this magnifying and extolling nature, we do too much neglect and undervalue the influence of God's grace ; nature is as much the creation of God as grace is; and it is his bounty that he created nature in that integrity, and hath since restored it to that innocence, or annexed that innocence to it, if it be not maliciously ravished, or let loose, from it. All the particulars mentioned before may properly be called the operation of nature, because they have been often found in those who have had no light of grace, and may be still thought to be the supply
of nature in those who seem not to walk by that light; nor is the price of grace at all advanced, or the way to attain it made more clear and easy, by such an affected contempt of nature, which makes us only capable of the other.
Jersey, 1647. So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom, was the ejaculation of Moses, when he was in full contemplation of the providence and power of God, and of the frailty and brevity of the life of man: And though, from the consideration of our own time, the days allotted for our life, we cannot make any proportionable prospect toward the providence and power of God, no more than we can make an estimate of the largeness and extent of the heavens by the view of the smallest cottage or molehill upon
the earth; yet there cannot be a better expedient, at the least an easier, a thing we believe we can more easily practise, to bring ourselves to a due reverence of that providence, to a due apprehension of that power, and thereupon to a useful disposition of our time in this world, how frail and short soever it is, than by applying ourselves to this ad
vice of Moses, to learn to number our days. There is not a man that reads, or hears this read, but thinks the lesson may be learned with little pains; nay, that he hath it so perfect, that he needs not learn it : and yet if the best of us would but fix our minds upon it, sadly number our days, the days which we have or shall have in this world, we could not but, out of that one single notion, make ourselves much the fitter for the next; and if the worst of us would but exercise ogrselves in it, but number our days, we should even in spite of the worst cozen ourselves into some amendment of life, into some improvement of knowledge, into some reformation of understanding : it would not be in our power, nor in His who is ready to assist us in any evil, to continue so weak, so wilful, so wicked as we are ; but we should insensibly find such an alteration, as, how much soever we contemn now, we shall thank ourselves for obtaining.
They who understand the original, tell us, that the Hebrew verb, which our interpreters translate into Number, hath a very large signification, (as that language which is contracted into fewest words extends
many words to a marvellous latitude of sense,) and that as well as to number, it signifies to weigh, and to ponder, and, thirdly, to order and appoint ; so that to number, or any other single word, I believe, in any other tongue, is far from
expressing to the full the sense of that Hebrew verb; except we could find a word that might sig. nify to reckon, to examine, and consider the nature and the use of every unit in that reckoning, and then to order and appoint it accordingly. And no doubt it was such a numbering, with that circumstance of deliberation, and the other of direction and determination, which Moses here prescribed; and so the duty may seem larger, and at first more full of difficulty, than it did; and that we are not to rest merely in the arithmetical sense of it. But as the setting out is oftentimes more troublesome them the whole journey, and the first disposal of the mind to sobriety and virtue, is more difficult than any progress after in it; so if we but really and severely execute this injunction in the usual and vulgar acceptation of the word, no more but number our days by the rules of arithmetic, we should make a progress in the other acceptances too; and we should find 'evident comfort and benefit from the fruit we should gather from each of those branches.
Without diminishing or lessening the value of a long life, with the meditation that a thousand years are but as yesterday in his sight who made the years and the days; or that not only the longest life that ever any man hath lived, but even the life that the world hath lived since the creation, is but
a moment in comparison of that' eternity which must be either the reward or punishment of the actions of our life, how short soever it is: if we did but so number our days, as to consider that we experimentally find the shortness of them; if we did but number the days we have lived, and by that pregnant evidence of our memory, how soon they are gone, and how insensibly, conclude how very soon so much more time, which possibly would bring us to the utmost of Moses's account of eighty years, will likewise pass away ; we could not think the most sure and infallible purchase of twenty or thirty years of life, and the unquestionable fruition of the most heightened pleasures the appetite or fancy can imagine during that term, without any abatement by the interposition of the infirmities and weakness of nature, or the interruption of accidents, so near worth the consenting to any thing that may impair the conscience, or disturb the peace or quiet of the mind, that it were a valuable consideration for the interruption of a night's rest, for the parting with six hours of our sleep'; which, though any man could spare, is so much time of our least faultiness : I say, it were not possible seriously to make this estimate in our thoughts, to revolve the uncertainty and brevity of our life, but we should also take an account of ourselves, weigh and ponder the expence of every article of this