Cortland Van Rensselaer on Numbering Our Days

In January of 1860, an article appeared in The Presbyterian Magazine by its editor, Cortlandt Van Rensselaer, Sr., and it was included posthumously in his Essays and Discourses, Practical and Historical (1861), edited by his son, Cortlandt Van Rensselaer, Jr.. Titled “On Numbering Our Days,” it was based on the text from Moses in Psalm 90:12: “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”

It is a meditation on the brevity of life and our need, consequently, to seek after wisdom. The time that is given to us is precious. He highlights especially the value of Sabbath-time, noting that 52 Sabbaths, or roughly seven weeks, each year amount to a special opportunity to glorify God. Are we making use of the time given to us? Are we improving the opportunities, temptations, afflictions and experiences of our lives consistent with our purpose on this earth as we look ahead to our permanent abode in heaven?

Our days indeed are numbered, but we do not know the number. Seven months after his meditation on numbering our days was published, Cortlandt Van Rensselaer, age 52, entered into his eternal rest. One does not know when that final numbered day will come, but Van Rensselaer’s meditation on the wisdom of Moses should ever be before our eyes. Take time to consider his counsel to number our days and apply our hearts unto wisdom.

”God has made our days long enough and short enough; certain enough and uncertain enough ; with joys enough and sorrows enough, to adapt life to the purposes of his grace and providence. May he, in his infinite mercy, so teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”