Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 8, 1956

"As A Tale That Is Told"

F. Y. T.

It was Moses who wrote, "We spend our years as a tale that is told. The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength but labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away." (Psalm 90:9,10.) The brevity of human life, its fleeting, haunting, vaporish quality, has been ever in the minds of thoughtful men — both pagan and Christian, atheist, agnostic, or believer. Bowed with grief at his brother's grave, Robert Ingersoll, one of the most tragic figures in American history, declared, "Life is but a narrow vale between the cold and barren peaks of two eternities." Out of one eternity we came; for a few fleeting years we move upon the face of the earth; then into another eternity we go — forever. In a few short years it is all over, all the dreams and ambitions, all the confusion and chaos, the struggle and strife, the heartaches and the happiness. We bring our years to an end as a tale that is told, "because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets."

One of the most literate of the modern pagans has written on the utter worthlessness and total insignificance of humanity these words, "In the visible world the Milky Way is a tiny fragment. Within this fragment the solar system is an infinitesimal speck, and of this speck our planet is a microscopic dot. On this dot tiny lumps of impure carbon and water crawl about for a few years, until they dissolve into the elements of which they are compounded." But is this the true measure of mankind? Are we nothing more than this? Where is there room in such a view for love, for beauty, for those noble traits of heart and soul which have given dignity and priceless value to human existence? Is life indeed "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing"?

The inarticulate answer of countless millions to that question is an unconscious affirmative. To them life is exactly that, "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." Some there are who are so distressed over the failure and futility of their lives that they end it all. But for every one who debates with Hamlet whether "to be or not to be," and reaches a decision "not to be," there are a thousand others who go a dull, dreary, monotonous, plodding way through life — unhappy, disappointed, disillusioned, cynical, tired of living, yet afraid to die. Like beasts of the field they are stolid and unthinking, measuring out the hours of one meaningless day after another. The "Man With The Hoe" is a true picture not only of the peasant in the fields of France, but of vast numbers of our friends and acquaintances with whom we rub shoulders in the street day by day, "Bowed by the weight of centuries he leans upon his hoe and gazes on the ground, The emptiness of ages in his face, And on his back the burden of the world. Who made him dead to rapture and despair, A thing that grieves not and that never hopes, Stolid and stunned, a brother to the ox...?

Yet there are many, many others for whom life is a glorious adventure; they are filled with the joy of living, and looking forward hungrily, eagerly, expectantly to the greatest adventure of all, that joyous moment when the shackles and restrictions of mundane life shall be left behind, and "that bright and cloudless morning when the dead in Christ shall rise," will burst upon us. If we are to make the most of our restless years, we must regard our lives as an entrustment. The greatest spirits of the race have always felt an obligation, an inescapable debt, both to past and to future. We are not left free to float about upon the surface of a meaningless world; but God has put us here, each one of us, with a specific mission to fulfill. We have a work to do, a responsibility resting upon us. Our life is not our own, but we have been "bought with a price."

The church of Christ is made up of men and women who have recognized, and accepted, this obligation. And, most glorious of all paradoxes, they have discovered that in surrendering their lives, they have actually found the secret of life, the true happiness of which the Lord spoke when he said, "He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it." For these elect souls, the materialistic philosophy of the pagan (be he hedonistic savage or college professor) is simply incredible. His vapid little syllogisms, his childish effort to evaluate all things in terms of size and space are fantastic. (As though an elephant were more valuable than a precious baby; or a huge boulder than a diamond.) The Christian knows the value of life. He says with Paul, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Or again, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me."

God has given to each of us a few hurrying days of existence upon this earth. Their number is strictly limited. Each day calls for its own peculiar tasks and accomplishments. Not one of those days can be wasted; not one of them can ever be recalled. Once the sun has gone down the day is forever closed. Unless that day has seen its own quota of work done, it will have been lost forever. All our tears and all our, prayers cannot bring back one single moment of it. How fortunate the man who understands, early in life, the infinitely precious value of his years, who sets his heart "in the days of his youth" to seek Jehovah, and to walk before Him with a perfect heart. How unutterably tragic that man who comes into his middle years, or even into the sunset, without ever having really understood the meaning of life or the significance of eternity! His life has been wasted, but even more terrible than that, his eternity has been wasted as well. "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom!"