Job 14:1
Job's troubles are typical of the common doom of mankind - the "subjection, to vanity." And again (comp. Job 3:7; Job 7:1-5) he bursts forth into lamentation over the universal doom of sorrow.

I. HIS NATURAL WEAKNESS. (Vers. 1-2.) His origin is in frailty; he is "born of woman." His course is brief, and full of unrest. He sees himself mirrored in all natural things that fleet and pass:

(1) in the flower of the field, briefly blooming, doomed to the speedy scythe;

(2) in the shadow, like that of a cloud, resting for a moment on the ground, then vanishing with its substance. "Man is a bubble," said the Greek proverb (πομφόλυξ ὁ ἄνθρωπος). He is like a morning mushroom, soon thrusting up its head into the air, and as soon turning into dust and forgetfulness (Jeremy Taylor). Homer calls man a leaf; Pindar, the "dream of a shadow."

II. HIS MORAL WEAKNESS. (Vers. 3, 4.) On the natural frailty is founded the moral. And this poor, weak being is made accountable, dragged before the tribunal of God. And yet, asks Job, how is it possible that purity should be exacted of him? How can the product be diverse from the cause; the stream be of purer quality than the source?

III. REASONING AND EXPOSTULATION FOUNDED ON THESE FACTS. (Vers. 5, 6.) If man, then, is so weak, and his life determined by so narrow bounds, were it not the part of Divine compassion and justice to give him some release and respite until his brief day of toil and suffering be altogether spent (comp. Job 7:17; Job 10:20)? It seems to Job, in the confusion of his bewildered thought, that God is laying on him a special and extraordinary weight of suffering, which makes his lot worse than that of the common hireling.

IV. FURTHER IMAGES OF DESPONDENCY. (Vers. 7-12.) Casting his eye upon the familiar scenes of nature, it seems that all things reflect the sad thought of the transiency and hopelessness of man's fate, and even to exaggerate it.

1. Image of the tree The tree may be hewn down, but scions and suckers spring from its well-nourished root; an image used by the prophet to symbolize the spiritual Israel. The stump of the oak represents the remnant that survives the judgment, and this is the source whence the new Israel springs up after the destruction of the old (Isaiah 6:13). But when man is broken down and falls like the trunk of the tree, there is an end of him. This is undoubtedly a morbid perversion of the suggestion of nature. She by the sprouting scion teaches at least the great truth of the continuity and perpetual self-renewal of life, if she can tell no more.

2. Image of the dried-up waters. (Ver. 11.) These forsake their wonted channels and flow in them no more (comp. Job 7:9). So, it seems to the eye of nature, man passes away in a mist from the earthly scene and leaves no trace behind.

3. Image of the abiding heavens. (Ver. 12.) This is introduced, not in illustration of the transient life of man, but in contrast to it (comp. Psalm 89:29, 36, 87). The heavens appear eternally fixed, in contrast to the fluctuating scene below. They look calmly down, while man passes into the sleep of death, and into Sheol, whence there is no return. But when man rises into the full consciousness of his spiritual nature through the revelation of life and immortality, all seems passing compared with the life in God. The heavens shall vanish away like smoke, but God's salvation shall not be abolished. He that doeth the will of God shall abide for ever. - J.

Man that is born of a woman is of few days.
The knowledge and the conduct of mankind are very frequently at variance. How general is the conviction of the brevity of human life and of the certainty of death! How wise, virtuous, and happy would the human species be were their conduct conformable to this conviction! But how rarely is this the case! Do not the generality live as if their life were never to have an end?

1. Our life is of short duration. Many are snatched away by death while children. A considerable portion of mankind fall a prey to the grave in the liveliest period of their youth. Many are taken off by sudden disease. If a man lives long, how short life appears to him on review of it.

2. Our life is full of trouble. To how many evils and dangers, how many calamities are we not subject from our birth to our death! How often are our joys converted into sorrows! Our life is interwoven with many perils and distresses. Let us never add to their number by a disorderly and criminal conduct. If life then be so short and so insecure, how irrational is it to confine our hopes to these few moments, and to seek the whole of our happiness here on earth! We impose upon ourselves in thinking to build our felicity on the unstable possession and enjoyment of these fugacious objects. We are formed for eternity. Our present condition is only a state of preparation and discipline; it only contains the first act of our life which is never to terminate. The blessed, undecaying life should be the object of our affections, our views and our exertions; it should be the principal ground of our hopes and our comfort.

(G. J. Zollikofer.)

I. MAN'S DAYS ARE FEW. Time is a word of comparison. Time is a portion of eternity, or unlimited duration. But who can form a just conception of eternity? That which we call time we may attempt to illustrate by observing that when one event has reference to and is connected with another which precedes it, the distance between them is marked, and the portion of duration is designated time. Eternity was, before the sun and moon were made, eternity is now, and eternity will continue to be, when suns and moons shall have finished their course. To aid our meditations on the shortness of time, we may endeavour to contemplate eternity. We may draw a circle, place our finger upon any part of it, then follow by tracing the line, but when shall we reach the termination of that line? Round and round the circle we may move, but we shall come to no end. Such is eternity, it has no limits. Turning from the thought of the vastness of eternity, while contemplating which we cannot but feel our own insignificance, let us see if, in comparison, time be not a very little thing, less than a drop of water compared with the ocean, or a grain of sand with the dimensions of the globe. In the short period of a few years one generation passes away, and another and another succeed. Few are man's days, but long and important is the train of events dependent upon the manner in which they are spent.

II. THE DAYS OF MAN ARE FULL OF TROUBLE. The troubles of man commence at a very tender age. In man's daily movements he is liable to many personal dangers. He is brought through distressing scenes. No stage of life is exempt from troubles, from infancy to grey hairs; but although this is a state and condition of sorrow, it need not be one of despair. Trials and troubles are our portion, but there is a state to which we may attain which will far more than compensate for all we may be called to endure here below, and true wisdom consists in securing to ourselves this inestimable blessing.

(Sir Wm. Dunbar.)

That life is of short continuance and disquieted by many molestations every man knows, and every man feels. But truth does not always operate in proportion to its reception. Truth, possessed without the labour of investigation, like many of the general conveniences of life, loses its estimation by its easiness of access. Many things which are not pleasant may be salutary, and among them is the just estimate of human life, which may be made by all with advantage, though by few, very few, with delight. Since the mind is always of itself shrinking from disagreeable images, it is sometimes necessary to recall them; and it may contribute to the repression of many unreasonable desires, and the prevention of many faults and follies, if we frequently and attentively consider —

I. THAT MAN BORN OF A WOMAN IS OF FEW DAYS. The business of life is to work out our salvation; and the days are few in which provision must he made for eternity. Our time is short, and our work is great. We must use all diligence to make our "calling and election sure." But this is the care of only a few. If reason forbids us to fix our hearts upon things which we are not certain of retaining, we violate a prohibition still stronger when we suffer ourselves to place our happiness in that which must certainly be lost; yet such is all that this world affords us. Pleasures and honours must quickly fail us, because life itself must soon be at an end. To him who turns his thoughts late to the duties of religion, the time is not only shorter, but the work is heavier. The more sin has prevailed, with the more difficulty is its dominion resisted. Habits are formed by repeated acts, and therefore old habits are always strongest. How much more dreadful does the danger of delay appear, when it is considered that not only life is every day shorter, and the work of reformation every day greater, but that strength is every day less. It is absolutely less by reason of natural decay. In the feebleness of declining life, resolution is apt to languish. One consideration ought to be deeply impressed upon every sluggish and dilatory lingerer. The penitential sense of sin, and the desire of a new life, when they arise in the mind, are to be received as monitions excited by our merciful Father, as calls which it is our duty to hear and our interest to follow; that to turn our thoughts away from them is a new sin.

II. THAT MAN BORN OF A WOMAN IS FULL OF TROUBLE. The immediate effect of the numerous calamities with which human nature is threatened, or afflicted, is to direct our desires to a better state. Of the troubles incident to mankind, everyone is best acquainted with his owe share. Sin and vexation are still so closely united, that he who traces his troubles to their source will commonly find that his faults have produced them, and he is then to consider his sufferings as the mild admonitions of his Heavenly Father, by which he is summoned to timely repentance. Trouble may, sometimes, be the consequence of virtue. In times of persecution this has happened. The frequency of misfortunes and universality of misery may properly repress any tendency to discontent or murmuring. We suffer only what is suffered by others, and often by those who are better than ourselves. We may find opportunities of doing good. Many human troubles are such as God has given man the power of alleviating. The power of doing good is not confined to the wealthy. He that has nothing else to give, may often give advice. A wise man may reclaim the vicious and instruct the ignorant, may quiet the throbs of sorrow, or disentangle the perplexities of conscience. He may compose the resentful, encourage the timorous, and animate the hopeless.

(John Taylor, LL. D.)

Man's life is short.

1. Comparatively. Our fathers before the flood lived longer. Compared with the duration of the world. Compared with the years that some irrational creatures live. Eagles and ravens among birds, stags and elephants among beasts. Compared with those many days that most men abide in the grave, in the land of oblivion. Compared with the life to come.

2. Absolutely. It is a great while before he really lives, and he is a long time alive before he knows it, and understands where he is. When he comes to five, the whole work of life has to be dispatched in a short compass. Man is made of discordant elements, which jar and fall out with one another, and thereby procure his dissolution. So that it is no wonder that he drops into the grave so soon.

3. Man's life is thus short by the just judgment of God. By reason of Adam's sin and our own.

4. Man's life is abbreviated by the mercy and favour of God. Apply —

(1)Be thoroughly convinced of this truth, and often revolve it in your minds.

(2)Complain not of the shortness of life.

(3)Make this doctrine serviceable to all holy and religious purposes.Seeing life is so short and uncertain, how absurd a thing is it for a man to behave himself as if he should live forever! Do not defer repentance.

(J. Edwards.)

Job's beautiful and impressive description of human life contains no exaggerated picture. It is a just and faithful representation of the condition of man on earth.

I. MAN IS OF FEW DAYS. The short duration of human life, and its hasty progress to death and the grave, has in every age been the pathetic complaint of the children of men. If he escape the dangers which threaten his tenderer years, he soon advances to the maturity of his existence, beyond which he cannot expect that his life will be much prolonged. He must fall, as does the ripe fruit from the tree. No emblem of human life can be finer than this used in the text, "as a flower"; "as a shadow." How rapid the succession of events which soon carry man into the decline of life! How frequently is the hopeful youth cut off in the very pride and beauty of life!

II. MAN'S DAYS ARE FULL OF TROUBLE. Trouble and distress are our inevitable inheritance on earth. In every period, and under every circumstance of human existence, their influence on happiness is more or less perceptible. Some reflections —

1. Since man is of few days and full of trouble, we should sit loose to the world and its enjoyments; we should moderate our desires and pursuits after sublunary objects.

2. Instead of indulging in immoderate sorrow for the loss of relations or friends, we should rejoice that they have escaped from the evils to come.

3. We should rejoice that our abode is not to be always in this world. The present state is but the house of our pilgrimage.

4. We should prepare for the close of life by the exercise of faith, love, and obedience to our Saviour; by the regular discharge of all the duties of piety; by the sincere and unremitting practice of every Christian grace; and by having our conversation at all times becoming the Gospel.

(G. Goldie.)

I. THE SHORTNESS. When God first built the fabric of a human body, He left it subject to the laws of mortality; it was not intended for a long continuance on this side the grave. The particles of the body are in a continual flux. Subtract from the life of man the time of his two infancies and that which is insensibly passed away in sleep, and the remainder will afford very few intervals for the enjoyment of real and solid satisfaction. Look upon man under all the advantages of its existence, and what are threescore years and ten, or even fourscore? "He cometh up like a flower, and is cut down." An apt resemblance of the transient gaieties and frailties of our state. The impotencies and imperfections of our infancy, the vanities of youth, the anxieties of manhood, and the infirmities of age, are so closely linked together by one continued chain of sorrow and disquietude, that there is little room for solid and lasting enjoyment.

II. THE TROUBLES AND MISERIES THAT ATTEND HUMAN LIFE. These are so interspersed in every state of our duration that there are very few intervals of solid repose and tranquillity of mind. Even the best of us have scarcely time to dress our souls before we must put off our bodies. We no sooner make our appearance on the stage of life, but are commanded by the decays of nature to prepare for another state. There is a visible peculiarity in our disposition which effectually destroys all our enjoyments, and consequently increases our calamities. We are too apt to fret and be discontented under our own condition, and envy that of other men. If successful in obtaining riches and pleasures, we find inconveniencies and miseries attending them. And whilst we are grasping at the shadow, we may be losing the substance. And we are uneasy and querulous under our condition, and know not how to enjoy the present hour. Substantial happiness has no existence on this side the grave. The shortness of life ought to remind us of the duty of making all possible improvements in religion and virtue.

(W. Adey.)

Never man was better qualified to make just and noble reflections upon the shortness of life and the instability of human affairs than Job was, who had himself waded through such a sea of troubles, and in his passage had encountered many vicissitudes of storms and sunshine, and by turns had felt both the extremes of all the happiness and all the wretchedness that mortal man is heir to. Such a concurrence of misfortunes is not the common lot of many. The words of the text are an epitome of the natural and moral vanity of man, and contain two distinct declarations concerning his state and condition in each respect.

I. THAT HE IS A CREATURE OF FEW DAYS. Job's comparison is that man "cometh forth like a flower." He is sent into the world the fairest and noblest part of God's work. Man, like the flower, though his progress is slower, and his duration something longer, yet has periods of growth and declension nearly the same, both in the nature and manner of them. As man may justly be said to be of "few days," so may he be said to "flee like a shadow and continue not," when his duration is compared with other parts of God's works, and even the works of his own hands, which outlast many generations.

II. THAT HE IS FULL OF TROUBLE. We must not take our account from the flattering outside of things. Nor can we safely trust the evidence of some of the more merry and thoughtless among us. We must hear the general complaint of all ages, and read the histories of mankind. Consider the desolations of war; the cruelty of tyrants; the miseries of slavery; the shame of religious persecutions. Consider men's private causes of trouble. Consider how many are born into misery and crime. When, therefore, we reflect that this span of life, short as it is, is chequered with so many troubles, that there is nothing in this world which springs up or can be enjoyed without a mixture of sorrow, how insensibly does it incline us to turn our eyes and affections from so gloomy a prospect, and fix them upon that happier country, where afflictions cannot follow us, and where God will wipe away all tears from off our faces forever and ever.

(Laurence Sterne.)


1. Its limited duration, expressed by the term "few days." How short life often is! In sleep alone one-third is consumed. The period of infancy must be deducted, and the time lost in indolence, listlessness, and trifling employment, in which much of every passing day is wasted. The varied employments in which men are compelled to labour for the bread that perisheth rarely furnish either pleasure or spiritual improvement.

2. The frailty of man's state. "He cometh forth like a flower and is cut down." The allusion is to man's physical origin and condition.

3. It is full of trouble. It has been remarked that man enters the present life with a cry, strangely prophetic of the troubles through which he must pass on his way to the grave. No stage of life is exempted from trouble.

II. MAN'S DUTY. His chief business on earth is —

1. To prepare for death.

2. To dread sin.

3. To be humble.

4. To be grateful to the Saviour.

(Peter Samuel.)

We should hardly imagine this verse to be correct if we were to judge of its truth by the conduct of mankind at large. The text is more awfully true, because men willingly allow their senses to be stupefied by the pleasures, or distracted by the cares of this their fleeting existence. Ever and anon, however, we are startled from our stupor, and awake in some degree to our real position.

I. THE SHORTNESS OF LIFE. In the first ages of the world, the term allotted to man was much longer than it is at present. In the sight of God, the longest life is but, as it were, a handbreadth. Life is compared to a vapour, or fog, which is soon scattered by the rising sun; to a swift ship; to an eagle hastening to its prey. "Lord, teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom."

II. THE TROUBLES OF LIFE. These come alike to all. All may say, "Few and evil have the days of the years of my life been." Man is "full of trouble." But we must discriminate between the saint and the sinner. When we think and talk of death, we should ever connect it with that which follows. We must stand before the judgment seat of Christ. May you all be found standing with your lamps burning, and with your loins girded, "like men that wait for the coming of their Lord."

(C. Clayton, M. A.)

Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.

1. That human life is flattering in its commencement. Man "cometh forth like a flower." Imagery more appropriate could not have been selected. Children are like flowers in the bud, unfolding their beauty as days and months increase; the expansion of the mind, and acquisition of new ideas, fascinate and involuntarily allure the affections of their parents, who watch over them with the tenderest anxiety. The flower is cut down (Psalm 103:15, 16; Isaiah 40:6, 7; James 1:10, 11; 1 Peter 1:24).

2. Disastrous in its continuance. "Full of trouble."

3. Contracted in its span. "Few days." Life, in its longest period, is but a short journey from the cradle to the tomb (Genesis 47:9). Various are the figures employed to illustrate the shortness of human life; it is compared to a "step" (1 Samuel 20:3), "a post" (Job 9:25), "a tale that is told" (Psalm 90:9), "a weaver's shuttle" (Job 7:6), and a "vapour" (James 1:14).

4. Incessant in its course. "Fleeth as a shadow." Human life is measured by seconds, hours, days, weeks, months, and years. These periodical revolutions roll on in rapid succession. Some suppose it the shadow of the sun-dial; but whether we consider it as the shadow of the evening, which is lost when night comes on; or the shadow on a dial plate, which is continually moving onward; or the shadow of a bird flying, which stays not; the figure fully represents the life of man, which is passing away, whether we are loitering or active, careless or serious, killing or improving time.

5. Eventful in its issue. Death introduces us into the fixed state of eternity, and puts a final period to all earthly enjoyments and suffering; the soul, dismissed from its clay tabernacle, is introduced into a world of spirits, from whence there is no return.

II. IMPROVE THEM BY PRACTICAL INFERENCES. Such being the character of human life, it is the duty and wisdom of piety —

1. To enrich the juvenile mind with religious instruction. "Man cometh forth as a flower," therefore let instruction drop as the rain and fall as the dew: no time must be lost.

2. Improve the dispensations of providence.

3. Be diligent.

4. Maintain a noble detachment from the world.

5. Live in a constant readiness for your change.

(Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)

Goethe was considered by his compeers a man highly favoured of providence. Yet, what said he, as he drew near his end, and passed in review his departed years? "They have called me a child of fortune, nor have I any wish to complain of the course of my life. Yet it has been nothing but sorrow and labour; and I may truly say that in seventy-five years I have not had four weeks of true comfort. It was the constant rolling of a stone that was always to be lifted anew. When I look back upon my earlier and middle life, and consider how few are left of those that were young with me, I am reminded of a summer visit to a watering place. On arriving one makes the acquaintance of those who have already been some time there, and leave the week following. This loss is painful. Now one becomes attached to the second generation, with which one lives for a time and becomes intimately connected. But this also passes away, and leaves us solitary with the third, which arrives shortly before our own departure, and with which we have no desire to have much intercourse."

Never a day passes but we are presented with objects which ought to make us reflect on our final exit. And serious reflections on this important event would never fail to have a due influence on our conduct here, and, consequently, on our happiness hereafter. But such is the depravity of our nature, that, regardless of the future, wholly engrossed by the present, we are captivated by the vain and empty pleasures which this world affords us. If man were capable of no higher happiness than what arises from the gratification of his carnal appetites, then to vex and torment himself with the thoughts of death would serve no other purpose but to interrupt him in the enjoyment of his sensual pleasures. But if, on the contrary, man is not only capable of but evidently designed by his Creator for a happiness of the most lasting and durable, as well as the most noble and exalted nature, then it is the greatest madness not to lay to heart and seriously to consider this great event, which is big with the fate of eternity. There is nothing in nature so full of terror as death to the wicked man. But to the righteous man death is divested of all its terrors; the certainty of the mercy of God, and the love of his blessed Redeemer, fill his soul with the most entire resignation, enable him to meet death with the most undaunted courage, and even to look upon it as the end of his sorrow and vexation, and the commencement of pleasures which will last when the whole frame of this universe shall be dissolved.

1. Some particulars that ought to make us reflect on death. Such as the decay of the vegetable world. There seems to be a surprising resemblance between the vegetable and animal systems. The Scriptures make frequent allusions to this resemblance, e.g., the grass. Sleep is another thing which ought to make us mindful of death. Death and sleep are equally common to all men, to the poor, as well as to the rich. We ought never to indulge ourselves in slumber till we have laid our hand on our breast, and in the most serious manner asked ourselves whether we are prepared alike to sleep or die.

2. The decay of our bodies, by sickness or old age, ought to make us reflect on our last change. The life of every man is uncertain; and the life of the aged and infirm much more than that of others; they, therefore, in a peculiar manner, ought to devote their meditations to this subject.

3. The death of others is another circumstance which ought to lead us to reflect on our own. From attending to these circumstances, and improving the feelings described, we may be enabled to appreciate the discoveries and embrace the consolations of the Gospel, which alone can enable us to conquer the fear of death, and to look forward with devout gratitude to that happy state where sorrow and death shall be known no more.

(W. Shiels.)

Some things last long, and run adown the centuries; but what is your life? Even garments bear some little wear and tear; but what is your life? A delicate texture; no cobweb is a tithe as frail. It will fail before a touch, a breath. Justinian, an Emperor of Rome, died by going into a room which had been newly painted; Adrian, a pope, was strangled by a fly; a consul struck his foot against his own threshold, his foot mortified, so that he died thereby. There are a thousand gates to death; and, though some seem to be narrow wickets, many souls have passed through them. Men have been choked by a grape stone, killed by a tile falling from the roof of a house, poisoned by a drop, carried off by a whiff of foul air. I know not what there is too little to slay the greatest king. It is a marvel that man lives at all.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

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