Genesis 47:9
Few and evil, yet 130 years; and how many blessings temporal and spiritual had been received during their course. We need not suppose him unthankful. But blessings do not of themselves make a man happy. Some worm may be at the root. And in Jacob's case early faults cast a shadow over his whole life. The remembrance of early deceit, his natural shrinking from danger, his family cares, his mourning for Rachel (Genesis 48:7) and for Joseph, gave a tinge of melancholy not entirely to be taken away even by receiving his son as it were from the dead. The retrospect of his life seemed that of a suffering man.

I. ABIDING SORROW IS THE FRUIT OF EARLY FAULTS, THOUGH REPENTED OF (1 Corinthians 15:9). It does not necessarily imply separation from God, or doubt of personal salvation. If "a godly sorrow," it works repentance, i.e. a more complete turning to God. But just as early neglect of the laws affecting bodily health produces a lasting effect, however carefully these laws may be attended to in after years, so neglect of God's moral and spiritual laws produces sorrow, varying in kind, and in the channel by which it comes, but bearing witness to the truth of God's unceasing watchfulness.

II. THE DISCIPLINE OF LIFE IS NOT IN ANGER, BUT FOR OUR PURIFICATION. Thus suffering may be a blessing. But for sorrow Jacob might have sunk into taking his ease. His besetting danger was worldly carefulness (Genesis 30:41). So sorrow, from outward circumstances or from inward reflection, often brings us nearer God. It teaches the vanity of earth that we may realize the blessedness of the inheritance above; that frail and weary we may cling more closely to the promises of the rest which remaineth (Hebrews 4:9).

III. THIS LIFE IS INTENDED TO BE A PILGRIMAGE, NOT A REST. Its blessedness consists not in present enjoyment, but in preparation for the rest to come (Luke 12:20, 21). We are reminded that there is a goal to be reached, a prize to be won (1 Corinthians 9:24; 1 Peter 1:3-9), and that the time is short, that we may put forth all our efforts (Ecclesiastes 9:10) to overcome Besetting faults and snares of worldliness. A pilgrim (Hebrews 11:14) is seeking a country not yet reached. The remembrance of this keeps the life Godward. True faith will work patience and activity; true hope will work cheerfulness under hindrances, and, if need be, under sufferings. And the love of Christ (John 14:2, 3), and the consciousness that we are his, will constrain us "to walk even as he walked." For what are you striving? to lade yourself with thick clay? To gain honor, renown, admiration, bodily enjoyment? or as a pilgrim (Numbers 10:29) walking in Christ's way, and doing Christ's work? - M.







And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been.
I. LIFE HAS BEEN TO HIM A PILGRIMAGE. He thinks of all his wanderings from that far-off day when at Bethel he received the promise of God's presence "in all places whither thou goest," till this last happy and yet disturbing change. But he is thinking not only, perhaps not chiefly, of the circumstances, but of the spirit, of his life. This is, no doubt, the confession "that they were strangers and pilgrims" referred to in the Epistle to the Hebrews. He was a pilgrim, not because he had often changed his place of abode, but because he sought the city which had foundations, and therefore, could not be at home here. The goal of his life lay in the far future; and whether he looked for the promises to be fulfilled on earth, or had the unformulated consciousness of immortality, and saluted the dimly descried coast from afar while tossing on life's restless ocean, he was effectually detached from the present, and felt himself an alien in the existing order. We have to live by the same hope, and to let it work the same estrangement, if we would live noble lives. Not because all life is change, nor because it all marches steadily on to the grave, but because our true home — the community to which we really belong, the metropolis, the mother city of our souls — is above, are we to feel ourselves strangers upon earth. They who only take into account the transiency of life are made sad, or sometimes desperate, by the unwelcome thought. But they whose pilgrimage is a journey home may look that transiency full in the face, and be as glad because of it as colonists on their voyage to the old country which they call "home," though they were born on the other side of the world and have never seen its green fields.

II. To JACOB'S EYES HIS DAYS SEEM FEW. Abraham's one hundred and seventy-five years, Isaac's one hundred and eighty, were in his mind. But more than these was in his mind. The law of the moral perspective is other than that of the physicial. The days in front, seen through the glass of anticipation, are drawn out; the days behind, viewed through the telescope of memory, are crowded together. What a moment looked all the long years of his struggling life — shorter now than even had once seemed the seven years of service for his Rachel, that love had made to fly past on such swift wings! That happy wedded life, how short it looked! A bright light for a moment, and

"Ere a man could say ' Behold!'

The jaws of darkness did devour it up."It is well to lay the coolness of this thought on our fevered hearts, and, whether they be torn by sorrows or gladdened with bliss, to remember "this also will pass" and the longest stretch of dreary days be seen in retrospect, in their due relation to eternity, as but a moment. That will not paralyze effort nor abate sweetness, but it will teach preparation, and deliver from the illusions of this solid-seeming shadow which we call life.

III. THE PENSIVE RETROSPECT DARKENS, AS THE OLD MAN'S MEMORY DWELLS UPON THE PAST. His days have not only been few — that could be borne — but they have been "evil," by which I understand not unfortunate so much as faulty. We have seen in former lessons the slow process by which the crafty Jacob had his sins purged out of him, and became "God's wrestler." Here we learn that old wrong-doing, even when forgiven — or, rather, when and because for-given — leaves regretful memories life-long. The early treachery had been long ago repented of and pardoned by God and man. The nature which hatched it had been renewed. But here it starts up again, a ghost from the grave, and the memory of it is full of bitterness. No lapse of time deprives a sin of its power to sting. As in the old story of the man who was killed by a rattlesnake's poison fang imbedded in a boot which had lain forgotten for years, we may be wounded by suddenly coming against it long after it is forgiven by God and almost forgotten by ourselves. Many a good man, although he knows that Christ's blood has washed away his guilt, is made to possess the iniquities of his youth. "Thou shalt be ashamed and confounded, and never open thy mouth any more, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done."

IV. BUT THIS SHADED RETROSPECT IS ONE-SIDED. It is true, and in some moods seems all the truth; but Jacob saw more distinctly, and his name was rightly Israel, when, laying his trembling hands on the heads of Joseph's sons, he laid there the blessing of "the God which fed me all my life long, .... the Angel which redeemed me from all evil." That was his last thought about his life as it began to be seen in the breaking light of eternal day. Pensive and penitent memory may call the years few and evil, but grateful faith even here, and still more the cleared vision of heaven, will discern more truly that they have been a long miracle of loving care, and that all their seeming evil has "been transmuted into good.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The patriarch called his days few and evil, not because his life was shorter than his father's, but because it was nearly over. When life is past, it is all one whether it has lasted two hundred years or fifty. And it is the fact that life is mortal which makes it under all circumstances equally feeble and despicable.

I. THIS SENSE OF THE NOTHINGNESS OF LIFE IS MUCH DEEPENED WHEN WE CONTRAST IT WITH THE CAPABILITIES OF US WHO LIVE IT. Our earthly life gives promise of what it does not accomplish. It promises immortality, yet it is mortal; it contains life in death and eternity in time, and it attracts us by beginnings which faith alone brings to an end.

II. Such being the unprofitableness of this life viewed in itself, IT IS PLAIN HOW WE SHOULD REGARD IT WHILE WE GO THROUGH IT. We should remember that it is scarcely more than an accident of our being — that it is no part of ourselves, who are immortal. The regenerate soul is taken into communion with saints and angels, and its "life is hid with Christ in God." It looks at this world as a spectator might look at some show or pageant, except when called upon from time to time to take a part.

(J. H. Newman, D. D.)

Jacob looked back on his life and saw but three things — God, love, grief. These were all he had to speak of. They were a trinity of the past; they dwarfed everything else.

I. "GOD appeared unto me at LUZ." This one first and great appearance of God was memorable in all his life, because it was the first. It stamped itself upon his life; even in old age the memory of it was not obscured, effaced, or weakened, but was with him in the valley of the shadow of death.

II. Less august, but even more affecting, was the second of his three experiences — LOVE. Of all whom he had known, only two names remained to him in the twilight between this life and the other — God and Rachel. The simple mention of Rachel's name by the side of that of God is itself a monument to her.

III. The third of these experiences was that RACHEL WAS BURIED. When Rachel died, the whole world had but one man in it, and he was solitary, and his name was Jacob. Application:

1. See how perfectly we are in unity with the life of this, one of the earliest men. How perfectly we understand him! How the simplest experiences touch us to the quick!

2. The filling up of life, however important in its day, is in retrospect very insignificant.

3. The significance of events is not to be judged by their outward productive force, but by their productiveness in the inward life.

4. In looking back through the events of life, though they are innumerable, yet those that remain j last are very few — not because all the others have perished, but because they group themselves and assume moral unity in the distance.

(H. W. Beecher.)

1. The character given of human life. He considers this life as a pilgrimage.

2. The estimate of its worth. He counted the days of the years of his life to be few and evil.

3. The consequent necessity of provision for its ultimate result.

I. We are to consider this life under the figure which the text sets before us. It is a pilgrimage. Let us dwell for a short time on the practical view of life which is taken by the true believer.

1. He does not regard this world as his home. There are many who live in it as if they were permanently fixed in it. But the Christian pilgrim is conscious that he has a home to which he is travelling. "There remaineth a rest for the people of God."

II. We notice the estimate which true wisdom gives us of the real worth of this life, regarded in itself. "Few and evil," said the patriarch, "have the days of the years of my life been." Life is short. And oh! how short! — how limited! "The days of our years are threescore years and ten"; sometimes with difficulty they reach to fourscore years. But how few of our race reach even the nearer limit! But the wise estimate of human life is not only that it is short in its duration, but that it is evil in its nature. It is evil, as it is the scene of continual trial and affliction, as it is chequered by calamities of various kinds, which bow down the spirit, and gradually render the end of life desirable. But we observe, again, that life is full of evil, because it is full of sin. Jacob knew his own heart well, and the contemplation of his own history could afford him no self-satisfaction. Let the votary of this world make a fair estimate of his days. "They are few and evil." Can you make better of them? The cutting conviction of your heart, when you look within, is that they are so. You have no means of lengthening their duration. You cannot dismiss their oppressive sorrows.

III. We notice, then, the absolute need of a provision for the ultimate result of life. In conclusion, the subject suggests to us a few practical remarks.

1. It becomes all those who make a Christian profession diligently to examine their own ground of hope for a better world.

2. Again, we are called upon by our professed principles to take care that we are not bound down by an improper attachment to the perishing goods of this world.

3. We are called upon by our principles, as pilgrims towards another and a better world, to do our utmost as faithful stewards of the gifts of God in alleviating the sufferings and the sorrows of our fellow-creatures.

4. There is a duty incumbent on us also to use every fair opportunity of inculcating on our fellow-men the consideration of the true character of this life and its speedy termination.

(E. Craig.)

I. CONTRAST THIS POOR VANISHING LIFE OF OURS WITH THE GREAT CAPABILITIES OF OUR SOULS.

II. CONSIDER SOME FACTS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE.

1. Consider the case of a man who dies full of days,

2. Consider the case of a man who dies before his time.

3. Consider the ease of the death-beds of some of the saints.

III. OUR DUTY IN THE PRESENCE OF THESE FACTS.

1. Seek eternal life.

2. Look forward to the compensations of another world.

(T. H. Leale.)

I. LIFE AS A DISCIPLINE.

1. The changes of life often bring us nearer to the changeless God.

2. Bereavements teach us to set our affections on things above.

3. The heavy trials of life often remind of past sin and cause despondency, and yet reveal the wisdom and love of God.

II. LIFE AS A PILGRIMAGE.

1. Life is long in anticipation, but short in retrospect.

2. Life is bright in anticipation, and sad in retrospect.

3. Life as a pilgrimage is an incentive to effort (Hebrews 11:13-16; 1 Peter 2:11-25).

4. Life as a pilgrimage is an encouragement to endurance.Conclusion:

1. What cause we have for gratitude, trust, hope!

2. To what are you looking forward?

3. What effect has your hope upon your life (1 John 3:3)?

4. Who is your guide? Self, Satan, or God?

(A. F. Joscelyne, B. A.)

Homilist.
I. HUMAN LIFE IS RETROSPECT IS SADDENING.

1. Unsettled.

2. Brief. The shorter perhaps the better.

3. Evil. Because —

(1)Never to be recalled.

(2)Memory of moral imperfections more or less distressing.

II. IT STANDS IN CONTRAST WITH IT IN PROSPECT. Hope makes life to the young a settled, lengthened, and joyous thing.

III. IT SUGGESTS THE IDEA OF A BETTER EXISTENCE. Underlying this wail of the old patriarch, there was an impression of a life settled, long, and blessed. This impression was the standard by which he measured the ever-changing, brief, and unblessed past. Truly, a belief in a future life is almost necessary to reconcile us to the present.

(Homilist.)

I. THAT THE LIFE OF MAN UPON EARTH IS A PILGRIMAGE.

II. THAT MAN'S DAYS IN THIS PILGRIMAGE STATE ARE FEW AND EVIL.

III. THE CAUSE OF THIS; AND WHETHER, AND HOW FAR, THE EVIL ADMITS OF A CURE. Inferences:

1. Is this a pilgrimage state? Then why should we be so much attached to or affected with anything here — a country where we are pilgrims?

2. Are our days few? Then let us make haste, for we have a great work to do.

3. Are they evil? Then why are we in love with them? Why unwilling to go where days are evil no more?

4. Has God provided a cure? Then let us take care we do not reject it.

(J. Benson.)

I. LIFE IN ITS GENERAL CHARACTER.

1. It is evil. This may be understood as including two things — sin and affliction. Sin is evil and only evil, and that continually. This is man's true misery, and the only way to save man from misery is to save him from sin. Affliction is not misery; it may not have the sting of moral guilt in it, and therefore, although in itself an evil, by God's merciful guidance it may become the means of great good to us.

2. This leads us to remark that another feature in man's natural life is that it is met by the great redemption of Christ Jesus the Lord. The man who uttered the words of my text spoke also of the Divine Messenger who redeemed him from all evil.

3. Life may become a pilgrimage to heaven. You may travel through the wilderness to Canaan; you may now set out for a city which hath foundations, whose Maker and Builder is God. Will you?

II. LIFE AS TO THE PERIOD OF TIME IN WHICH IT FALLS.

1. What a contrast between the time when the patriarch lived and our own!

2. And what is its state?

3. It is a time of great discovery and rapid and well-nigh universal communication.

4. The missionary work of the Church has only been preparatory; soon it will break forth in its proper strength.

5. The Church is being tried as silver is tried; every man's work is being tried of what sort it is.

6. There is a yearning in the Church of God for union; this we hail with delight!

III. LIFE IS ITS INDIVIDUALITY. "My life."

1. Consider your life as a gift from God with its consequent responsibilities.

2. Your life as the time of your salvation.

3. But, again, let me remind you that your life is the opportunity for Christian activity.

IV. AND, LASTLY, LIFE AS TO ITS BREVITY, AND THE DIVISION OF ITS DURATION.

1. Its shortness. It is not only a vanity, but a short-lived vanity.

2. But think for a moment of its swiftness. Have you ever seen a shadow run along the ground, darkening the places beautified by the beams of the sun, but quickly disappearing? Such is man's life; "for he fleeth as it were a shadow, and continueth not." A weaver's shuttle is very swift in its motion; in a moment it is thrown from one side of the web to the other; yet our days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle. "My days are swifter than a post," says one; "they flee away as the eagle that hasteth to the prey"; the eagle flying, not with his ordinary flight, for that is not sufficient to represent the swiftness of our days, but as when he flies upon his prey, which is with an extraordinary swiftness.

(T. E. Thoresby.)

I. The general life of man was in ancient times, that is, in the first ages of the world, MUCH LONGER THAN AT PRESENT. AS old as Methuselah has passed into a proverb. He lived 969 years. Adam lived 930 years. Noah lived longer than Adam by 20 years. He died at the age of 950. Lamech lived 777 years. But, after the flood, we scarcely read of one who lived up to even 200. And it is thought by some that, when God brought about the flood, He at the same time, by a Divine decree, shortened man's life. The three patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, little surpassed this age; and we know that many of those connected with them sank into their graves at a very much earlier age.

II. THE LIFE OF MAN NOW IS NOT ONLY SHORT, BUT UNCERTAIN. The death that happens, happens frequently in a place when we least expect it. Those who we think are going to die many times earlier, and those who we think have years of life before them drop unexpectedly into the grave.

III. THE LIFE OF MAN IS CHEQUERED WITH EVIL. "Few and evil have the days of the years of my life been." All people have their troubles. To use the expressive language of Scripture, "Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward." As Christians we are expressly warned to be prepared for trouble. "In the world," says our Lord to His then immediate disciples, and doubtless He meant the same truth to be conveyed to us, "in the world," says He, "ye shall have tribulation." And, again, intimating the same truth, He says, "Behold I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves." But I need not accumulate texts on a truth so evident, and so fully verified by experience. Who is there without trouble? Who has not heavy cares on his mind? Who can, with joyous mind, say that his fond expectations have not been disappointed?

(W. Lupton, M. A.)

I. IT IS SHORT IN COMPARISON WITH THE LIVES OF THE EARLY MEMBERS OF THE HUMAN FAMILY.

II. HUMAN LIFE IS SHORT IN COMPARISON WITH OUR EXPECTATIONS OF ITS CONTINUANCE.

III. HUMAN LIFE IS SHORT IN COMPARISON WITH ETERNITY.

IV. HUMAN LIFE IS SHORT IN COMPARISON WITH THE WEIGHTY INTERESTS WHICH ARE AFFECTED AND UNALTERABLY SETTLED BY IT.

V. HUMAN LIFE IS NOT ONLY SHORT, BUT ALTOGETHER UNSATISFACTORY.

1. The shortness of life is a consoling reflection to the Christian.

2. The shortness of life should admonish those who are impenitent immediately to enter on the work of their salvation.

(I. Foot, D. D.)

I. THERE IS A SENSE IN WHICH LIFE MAY BE REGARDED AS EVIL.

1. It appears so when we consider the disparity between the good it affords and the good we desire. "The earth hath He given to the children of men," and it is a goodly inheritance. Its sights and sounds are dear to our hearts; we love it as our first home — the only home we have hitherto known. But, like Jacob and his fathers when they sojourned in the promised land, we seek a better country; this world, with all its beauty, glory, and grandeur, does not satisfy our hearts. Our spiritual instincts make it impossible for us to find here perfect rest; they point us to the future, and are a prophecy of the world that shall be revealed.

2. Life may appear evil when we compare what it is with what in many cases it might be. Men spoil their own lives, and then complain that life is evil; they mar and rend the picture, and murmur because its beauty has disappeared; they run the ship upon the rocks, and weep to find her a wreck; they crush the flower with a rude hand, and are disappointed because it withers.

II. But the words of Jacob do not exhaust the subject; IN THE HIGHEST, TRUEST SENSE LIFE IS GOOD AND NOT EVIL.

1. It is the gift of God. He thought it right, and wise, and kind that we should be. Our existence appeared to Him a good and desirable thing; and what is good in His sight is and must be so in reality, for He sees things as they are, and not as they seem.

2. Our life is under His control. Let us then trust His perfect love. Seeing that He is with us in the ship, we will not fear the voyage, stormy though it be.

3. Our present life is connected with an endless future.

(T. Jones.)

Pilgrimage is the broad condition of every life-course that passes upward, as well as onward, and has its bourne in God. Pharaoh speaks of years of life, Jacob of pilgrimage. Pharaoh measured existence by days of power and pleasure, by banquets, triumphs, and festivals of the gods. Jacob by the stages where, after stern battle, he had left a lust, a vice, a weakness buried; by the waning of the stars which lit his night of sorrow, and the rosy flush in the east which was already brightening, breaking into the morning of his everlasting day. It is a very wonderful fact that God's elect, His friends, in the early dawn of history, were men who lived upon promises, and who possessed absolutely not one clod of the land which God called their own, except the cave where they buried their dead. Very splendid, very wealthy, was their inheritance (Genesis 13:14-17). But the cave which they bought of Ephron (Genesis 23.)was their only possession in the land which yet was all their own. Pilgrimage of the hardest, sternest character was their portion; and the wonder is that they never made a moan over it, and never reproach the justice and fidelity of the Lord. Bravely they accepted their lot as pilgrims; and they blessed the angel who had guided their pilgrimage when their heads were bowed in death. What had they then which was a richer possession than those graves? Well, they had the land; all its beauty and splendour, morning pomp and golden evening mists, moonlight that silvered its ridges, shadows that slept in its hollows, stars that watched its wolds through the dewy night, and the myriad gems that glittered a laughing welcome to the rising day. They had that; it was all their own. They lived with Nature as God's children alone can live with her, and were filled with her blessing. Yes! they had the land, as we may all have the land, as no lustful heathen could have the land; and with hearts bursting with joy and thankfulness they praised His name, whose bounty and tenderness had laid all this wealth of beauty and splendour at their feet. Yes! they had the land, and they held it by the tenure of praise. And the things which were seen were prophets to them of the things which were not seen. Through the vestibule they looked into the temple; they had vision of fairer homes, of brighter suns, in the world to which they had the mysterious entrance; where, too, they had seen the white-winged troops of angels gleaming in the celestial sunlight, and whence they had heard the voice of the Invisible King. The pilgrims held in fee two worlds. They had the promise of the life that now is (compare Lot and Abraham), and of the life that is to come. And bravely Jacob bears witness before Pharaoh of his pilgrim life and lot. To Pharaoh earth was the home; men were pilgrims in the shades. Here the sunlight, the sun warmth, the joy of a home; there, behind the veil, the king could see only a rout of shivering, shuddering ghosts. Jacob had his pilgrimage here; his home, his kingdom, in eternity. Some sense of this perhaps flashed on the king as he gazed. It was a strange puzzle to him. Nebuchadnezzar, Herod, Pilate, Felix, were all perplexed by it in their times. These pilgrims, landless, penniless, powerless, were after all heaven's priests and kings. But there is something special in the experience which this pilgrim confesses before the king. "Few and evil have the days of the years of my life been." A sad and weary old man. Would faithful Abraham or pious Isaac have borne this testimony? The life of the one was nobler, purer, grander, than Jacob's; the life of the other more simple and serene. The old age of either would have been fairer and brighter to look upon. Jacob's experience, on the other hand, has much to do with the habit of his nature and the sins and follies of his life. It is one of the most profoundly interesting biographies in history; because of the breadth of human experience it covers, the heights and the depths through which this princely pilgrim passed. He had a keen and subtle intellect, easily tempted to display itself in cunning, but with a lordly power in its compass when set on its noblest use. While he had a craving, grasping appetite for riches, and intense power of acquisition, joined with a grand faculty of spiritual insight and constant vision of the realities of the unseen world. A power at once to grope and to soar; now the huckster, now the seer. Two powerful natures struggling within for the mastery; the spirit wresting the victory from the flesh through bitter anguish and wasting pain. This false brother, this crafty steward, this scheming chief, this foolish father, had terrible lessons to learn at the hand of the Angel who was redeeming him from all evil; and it is the glory of the man that he had patience, courage, and faith to learn them, and to bless the Angel who had redeemed him as he bowed on his bed's head in death. He was such a pilgrim as most of us may be, with the double nature strongly developed. He might have made a successful venture of this life, as men count success, if God would have let him. But God endowed him with a nature which marred his prosperity, which would be aiming at unseen blessings, far-off fruits of birthright, and everlasting results. It is the battle of the two natures, both so strong and in such high development, which makes the striking interest of the patriarch's history. Few and evil were his days compared with his fathers, for his heart was rent by contending passions, his home was torn by hostile factions. The patriarch had won his freedom when he stood before Pharaoh; but the marks of the struggle, the dim eye, the furrowed brow, the sad lip, were on him.

(J. B. Brown, B. A.)

A recent writer, who spent some years on the banks of the Nile and on its waters, and who mixed freely with the inhabitants of Egypt, says: "'Old Jacob's speech to Pharaoh really made me laugh, because it is so exactly like what a Fellah says to a Pacha, 'Few and evil have the days of the years of my life been,' Jacob being a most prosperous man, but it is manners to say all that." But Eastern manners need scarcely be called in to explain a sentiment which we find repeated by one who is generally esteemed the most self-sufficing of Europeans. "I have ever been esteemed," Goethe says, "one of Fortune's chiefest favourites; nor will I complain or find fault with the course my life has taken. Yet, truly, there has been nothing but toil and care; and I may say that, in all my seventy-five years, I have never had a month of genuine comfort. It has been the perpetual rolling of a stone, which I have always had to raise anew." Jacob's life had been almost ceaseless disquiet and disappointment. A man who had fled his country, who had been cheated into a marriage, who had been compelled by his own relative to live like a slave, who was only by flight able to save himself from a perpetual injustice, whose sons made his life bitter — one of them by the foulest outrage a father could suffer, two of them by making him, as he himself said, to stink in the nostrils of the inhabitants of the land he was trying to settle in, and all of them by conspiring to deprive him of the child he most dearly loved — a man who at last, when he seemed to have had experience of every form of human calamity, was compelled by famine to relinquish the land for the sake of which he had endured all and spent all, might surely be forgiven a little plaintiveness in looking back upon his past. The wonder is to find Jacob to the end unbroken, dignified, and clear-seeing, capable and commanding, loving and full of faith.

(M. Dods, D. D.)

It was very true of the past of Jacob's life that it had been a pilgrimage, for he had been twenty-one years a stranger in the land of Padan-aram, and even after his return to Canaan he had not dwelt continuously in one place. For years, indeed, he had been at Hebron, near the Machpelah cave, where the ashes of his fathers were entombed; but now again he was away from the only spots of earth in Shechem and in Hebron which legally he could call his own. So with literal exactness he could say that his life had been a pilgrimage. But the expression had a forward as well as a backward look. It told that he was seeking a home beyond the grave, that he was desiring the better country, "even the heavenly," and that his hopes were anchored there. It indicated that his feelings regarding his fathers were not so distinct and definite indeed, but of the same kind as those of Baxter when he wrote concerning a venerable relative who died at the age of a hundred years: "She is gone after many of my choicest friends, and I am following even at the door. Had I been to enjoy them only here, it would have been but a short comfort mixed with many troubles which all our failings and sins, and some degree of unsuitableness between the nearest and dearest, cause. But I am going after them, to that blessed society where life and light and love, and therefore harmony, concord, and joy are perfect and everlasting." Thrice happy they who can look forward to such an end of their pilgrimage!

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Remember that life at the longest is very short. Therefore, do at once that which you feel you ought to do at all. Yea, do first that which is most important. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Young man, do not leave it to a future day, but do it now, that all your life may be one of usefulness and enjoyment. Men of middle-age, you have a vivid sense of the rapidity with which your years have gone, but they will go just as rapidly in the future as in the past, and you will be on your death-bed before you know it; therefore, "what thy hands find to do, do it with thy might." Men of old-age, you have to make haste, for you have no time to lose. The ancient law said kindly as to the sale of an estate, "according to the number of the years thou shalt diminish the price"; the nearer they were to the Jubilee, the cheaper were they to sell their land. So the nearer you come to the end of your days, you ought to hold earthly things more loosely, and prize heavenly things more highly. When your business day is drawing to a close, you hasten to finish your work, and sometimes you do more in the last hour than in all that went before. As your paper becomes more filled you write more closely, to get all in that you want to say. And in the same way, the older you grow, you should become the more earnest in the service of your God in Christ. And if you have not yet begun to serve Him, I beseech you to begin now! When Napoleon came on the field of Marengo, it was late in the afternoon, and he saw that the battle was really lost. But looking at the western sun, he said, "There is just time to recover the day! " and giving out his orders with that rapid energy for which, combined with quick perception of what an emergency needed, he was so remarkable, he turned a defeat into a victory. So your sun is nearing its setting, but there is time, in the present opportunity, to "recover the day." Avail yourself of it, therefore, at once, lest your life should end in utter blank, eternal failure.

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

A backward look is very different from a forward look in life. A quarter of a century, or a half-century, would seem a long way ahead to a young person; but how short it seems when it is remembered by those who have passed it! And our estimates of value vary as much as our estimates of time, in looking forward or backward. It is not those things which we thought most of while we were striving for them, that seem of highest worth when we have them, or when we remember how they missed us. Among the memories of Jacob, his pleasantest, we may be sure, were not his cheating Esau, or his deceiving his father, or his getting the advantage of Laban. Nor was it saddest to him to remember his disappointment in the loss of Joseph. There can be no doubt that the one-tenth which Jacob gave to the Lord was more of a treasure to him in memory than the nine-tenths he held on to; and that his being lamed at Penuel was a pleasanter recollection than his standing up so firmly to lie to Isaac at Beer-sheba. The days of the years of our lives will seem few enough at the best when we come to their close. Whether they are then to seem evil, or not, will depend on the use we now make of them. No day spent in the Lord's service, no self-denial or generous act for others, will ever be counted evil in its memory. Now is the time to make ready for a pleasant old age — if our lives should be long spared.

(H. C. Trumbull.)

We have a comment upon this answer, in Hebrews 11:13, 14, where it is called a "confession," and its implication is insisted on: "They that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country." We may see in it a charming example of spirituality, and how such a state of mind will find a way of introducing religion, even in answer to the most simple and common questions. We go into the company of a great man, and come away without once thinking of introducing religion: nay, it would seem to us almost rude to attempt it. But wherefore? Because of our want of spiritual-mindedness. If our spirits were imbued with a sense of Divine things, we should think of the most common concerns of life in a religious way; and so thinking of them, it would be natural to speak of them. Jacob, in answer to this simple question, introduces several important truths, and that without any force or awkwardness. He insinuates to Pharaoh that he and his fathers before him were strangers and pilgrims upon the earth — that their portion was not in this world, but in another — that the life of man, though it extended to a hundred and thirty years, was but a few days — that those few days were mixed With evil; all which, if the king properly reflected on it, would lead him to set light by the earthly glory with which he was loaded, and to seek a crown which fadeth not away.

(A. Fuller.)

When I look back to the earlier and middle periods of my life, and now, in my old age, think how few are left of those who were young with me, I always think of a summer residence at a bathing-place. When you arrive, you make acquaintance and friends of those who have already been there some time, and who leave in a few weeks. The loss is painful. Then you turn to the second generation, with which you live a good while and become most intimate. But this goes also, and leaves us alone with the third, which comes just as we are going away, and with which we have nothing to do. I have been esteemed one of Fortune's chiefest favourites; nor will I complain or find fault with the course my life has taken. Yet, truly there has been nothing but toil and care; and I may say that in all my seventy-five years I have never had a month of genuine comfort. It has been the perpetual rolling of a stone, which I have always had to raise anew.

(Goethe.)

If men have been termed pilgrims and life a journey, then we may add that the Christian pilgrimage far surpasses all others in the following important particulars: in the goodness of the road, in the beauty of the prospects, in the excellence of the company, and in the vast superiority of the accomodation provided for the Christian traveller when he has finished his course.

(H. G. Salter.)Theodore Monod said he would like the epitaph on his tombstone to be "Here Endeth the First Lesson."

(S. Smiles.)

"Old age," remarks Bishop Patrick, "is not to be known by a withered face, but by a mortified spirit; not by the decays of the natural body, but by the weakness of the body of sin; not by the good we have enjoyed, but by the good we have done; and if we be prepared for death, we have lived long enough; if our life be a death, then no death can be untimely to us."

The whole course of a man's life out of Christ is nothing but a continual trading in vanity, running a circle of toil and labour, and reaping no profit at all.

(Archbishop Leighton.)

Clerical Library.
Mr Hughes tells a characteristic anecdote of starting one winter's night with his friend, Charles Kingsley, to walk down to Chelsea, and of their being caught in a dense fog before they had reached Hyde Park Corner. "Both of us," Mr. Hughes adds, "knew the way well, but we lost it half-a-dozen times, and Kingsley's spirit seemed to rise as the fog thickened!" "Isn't this like life?" he said, after one of our blunders; "a deep yellow fog all round, with a dim light here and there shining through. You grope your way on from one lamp to another, and you go up wrong streets and back again. But you get home at last — there's always light enough for that."

(Clerical Library.)

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