For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid to his fathers, and saw corruption:
I. OUR AGE — the people of the nineteenth century now resident upon earth. For this lasting earth was destined to be the successive habitation of thousands of generations. "One generation passeth away," etc. The edifice has lasted for ages, and is much as it was in the morning of time; but its tenantry are ever changing. Notwithstanding the alterations in the material world, there is nothing new but souls. For each the Father of spirits builds an earthly house, and everyone who has answered the Divine purpose of its short residence ascends to the "house eternal in the heavens." It is a solemn thought that earth as well as heaven is a world of spirits. These are the generation we are to serve.
II. THE SPIRITUAL SERVICE WE OWE IT. Other services are demanded, but these are inferior in worth and consequences. Many serve their age not according to the will of God. There are, e.g., those who investigate matter, study the human frame, shed fresh light on the origin, nature, and destiny of mind, dedicate themselves to education or reform; in a word, those who labour to promote man's temporal interests. Amongst these, indeed, are some of the holiest men in the world; but there are others who are wholly dead to God. Yet these latter often subserve the religious interests of the age, but without professing it or knowing it.
III. HOW ARE WE TO SERVE THE SPIRITUAL INTERESTS OF THE AGE? We must —
1. Be the servants of God. In Philippians 2:15, 16, Paul described the moral character of his age. In its mind, morals, laws, institutions, etc., it was "crooked and perverse"; and he reminded Christians placed in their age that it was their office, by living holiness and new truth from heaven, to direct their perilous course in the deep towards that land of life and glory. And finally he taught them that to be fit for this they must be and act as sons of God. Divine worship was then, and is now, the first qualification for serving souls. With God's power, love, and will within us what wonders may we do!
2. Study the age. An age does not know itself; just as an individual, it dislikes self-examination. The ages of Rome, Greece, Persia, Assyria, Noah, nay, even Paradise, did not know themselves. Yet every age has had its prophet. Enoch read his age, and served it. So did Noah, Abraham, Moses, John, etc. And if past ages were only efficiently served by those who studied them, how important that we should study our own! To do this certain qualifications are necessary. E.g., there must be correct views of the Divine government, a clear, observant eye to discern the signs of the times, and, as a key to the interpretation of those signs, an acquaintance with the religious history of past ages. No two ages are alike, or can be. We must therefore study its peculiarities — its distinguishing privileges; its predominant virtues and sins; its moral tendencies and wants; and, above all, its first duties to the age which is immediately to follow.
3. Spread our affections over the length and breadth of it. Love for souls is one of the Divinest virtues which God breathes into our nature. The reigning philosophy of every age has denied or overlooked the spirituality of man. It is only the man whose spiritual nature has been divinely awakened that feels the love of heaven: it is only he who can send it forth on the world. Greatly as we value natural love, we must not mistake nor substitute it for spiritual love. Love for souls as souls is not a passion of earthly growth; love for their justification, renewal, and union with God is a holy fire from heaven. Let us take care lest the best things we have — our schools, benevolent societies, churches, religion, should have more to do with "the life that now is" than with "the life that is to come." This love we should spread over our age. And how numerous and constraining are our obligations! God has given us hearts capacious enough to embrace the human family, and can we reflect on the love of God who spared not His own Son without feeling our hearts burn for the restoration of all souls to their Father's bosom?
4. Ascertain the particular department of service assigned us by God, and be thoroughly devoted to it. By self acquaintance, by consulting the wise and faithful, by the teachings of Providence, by prayer, let us learn what our mission is, and then in the name and power of God let us live only to fulfil it.
IV. WHY SHOULD WE SERVE OUR AGE?
1. It is the will of God. This is our law, but can we love and obey it without knowing what it is? God has not left us to infer His will from His works and ways. His paternal love has given us a book which reveals as much of His infinite will as it is necessary for us to know on earth. And if God wills us to serve our age it must be right to do so, and we may rely upon His help. He expects the right use of what He gives — nothing less, nothing more. To serve our age is a difficult work, but let us not be discouraged, for there is an infinite fulness of power for us in God.
2. It has faithfully served us. What have we that we have not received through the instrumentality of our age, either temporally or spiritually? Let, then, a holy sense of our numberless obligations to the age bind us to its spiritual service.
3. This is the only age we can directly serve, and both the age and ourselves must soon appear before the Lord of all ages. Let us work, then, while it is day.
Parallel VersesKJV: For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption: