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We contrast our prefent with our former condition_Once we were men ; now we feel our. felves to be but babes. Once we poffeffed adive powers ; now we are become impotent. Once we sustained our children and ministered to them with pleasure ; now we are sustained by them ; and we are sure, our once experienced pleasure is not reciprocated. Once we were of fome importance in fociety; now we are sunk into insignifi
Once our advice was fought and regarded ; now we are passed by with neglect, and younger men take our place : even the management of our own substance has fallen into the hands of others,and theyperhapsscarcely think us worthy of being consulted. And if we are, now and then, consulted, perhaps our jealousy whispers, that it is done merely to flatter our aged vanity and keep us in good humor.
Such a contrast Job experienced, and he found it no small aggravation of his adversity. Looking back to former days, he says, “When I went out of the gates through the city, the young men faw me, and hid themselves; the aged arose and stood up. When the ear heard me, then it blessed me; and when the eye faw me, it
witness to me, because I delivered the poor and fatherless, and the blessing of thofe who were ready to perish, came upon me.
But now they who are younger than I have me in derision. They abhor me and flee from me. They mar my path, and set forward my calamity."
And not only the remembrance of what is paft, but the fore thought of what is to come, aggravates the calamity of the aged man.
In earlier life hope ftood by him to comfort him in all his troubles. If he was disappointed in his bufiness, he hoped to succeed better in a future effay. If he met with misfortune, he hoped by and by to retrieve it. If he loft his health, he hoped by time and medicine to regain it. If he suffered pain, he hoped it would be fhort. Whatever calamity he felt, he looked forward to bet. ter days. But now hope has quitted its station and retired from his company. “ His days are spent without hope.” The joys of life are fled, never to return. He anticipates the increase of infirmities and pains from month to month, and the probable event of total decrepitude and confinement, and the entire loss of his feeble remains of sensibility and intellect.
Well might Solomon call this an evil day.
In the probable expectation of such a day, there is no solid comfort, but in the hope of enjoying the presence of God. Therefore, as we observed,
I. We ought to adopt the prayer of David, * Caft me not off in the time of old age : Forsake, me not when my strength faileth.”
In the first place, the Plalmist may here be supposed to request, that God would not cast him off from the care of his providence.
When we have reached old age, or find ourselves. near it, we may reasonably and properly pray, that God would excuse us from those pains of body and infirmities of mind, with which some have been afflicted ; that he would place us in easy and unembarrassed circumstances, and in connex. ion with kind and faithful friends; that he would free us from worldly carefulness and anxiety, and allow us liberty for those devout exercises, which are suited to prepare us for our momentous change. David had seen the gross misbehavior of some of his children, and was now probably suffering un. der the cruel persecution of an ungracious son, who wished the father's death, that he might pol
sess the father's throne. In this situation the old man prays, “ Deliver me out of the hand of the wicked, out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man. O God, be not far from me ; make haste to my help.” Under this severe affliction he doubtless requested, that God would incline the hearts of his children to treat him with filial duty and affection, and to study the peace and comfort of his declining age. The happiness of the parent, in the latter fta
of his life, depends much on the good behaviour of his children; and particularly on their kind attention to him. I pity the aged man, who, when his strength fails, looks anxioufly around, and fees not a son on whom he can lean : no ; not a child, who will reach out a hand to fustain his finking frame, and guide his tottering fteps. But I congratulate the happy old man, who sees his children about him, all attentive to his wants, listening to his complaints, compassionate to his pains, and emulous each to excell the other in acts of filial duty. I honour the children, when instead of seeing the old father tossed from place to place, unwelcome wherever he is sent, they adopt the language of Joseph, “ Come to me, my
father ; thou halt be near to me, and I will nourish thee.” Such filial kindness foothes the pains, and cheers the spirits of the parent. It makes him forget his affliction, or remember it as waters which pass away.
But, fecondly, what David principally requefted was, that God would grant him the presence of his grace. Thus he
in another Pfalm, “ Caft me not away out of thy presence ; take not thy holy spirit from me; restore to me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with thy free spirit.”
His outward man was decaying ; but he solicita ed such supplies of grace, as should renew the in. ward man day by day. In his increasing infirmi. ties he.could take pleasure, when the power of God refted upon him ; for however weak in him. self, he was strong in the Lord.
1. In this prayer he asks grace, that he may maintain a temper and behaviour suited to his age and condition.
It becomes the aged to be grave and sober, for they stand on the brink of the eternal world. And who would not be sober there? If we should ever happen to see such men light and vain, addicted to frothy discourse, fond of diffolute company, and seeking guilty amusements, we should be shocked at the spectacle. We should naturally conclude, that their hearts were totally alienated from God and religion, and completely stupified by the habits of fin.
· It becomes them to be temperate and vigilant, and to avoid every indulgence, which might tend to increase the peevishness and irritability naturally incident to a period of pain and infirmity.
It becomes them to be patient and resigned. As they are subject to peculiar trials, and the strength of nature fails, they should implore the presence of that good spirit, whose fruitsaregentleness,meek. nessandlongsuffering. They should call to mind for. mer mercies, and meditate on God's works of old. They should consider that their time is short, and their trials will soon be over. “ Now for a season, if need be, they are in heaviness through manifold temptations ; but if patience has its perfect work, the trial of their faith, which is more precious, than that of gold which perishes, will be found to praise and honour at the coming of Christ. And these light afflictions, which are but for a mo
ment, will work for them a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."
2. They fhould pray for grace, that by a pat, tern of piety and heavenly mindedness, they may recommend religion to others. They are requira ed to be found in charity, as well as patience ; not only to bear their troubles with fortitude and dig. nity, but to exhibit in all things a behaviour, which becometh holiness, that they may teach the. young to be faber minded. This is the best exercise of their charity. : David, in his old age, felt a benevolent concern for rifing posterity. Hence he prays, “O God, forfake me not, when I am old, until I have thewed thy strength to this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.”
The aged man, taken off by his infirmities from the active buliness of life, can in no way do more service for God and for mankind, than by exhibiting a visible example of contentment and humility, piety and spirituality, faith and hope, in the Rear views of another world. He thus demonstrates the excellence and power of religion, and calls on all around him to embrace and cherish it, that like him, they may bear affliction with seren. ity, and meet death with fortitude.
3. David here folicits communion with God. “ Caft me not off.” Deny me not free access to thee. “ Turn not away my prayer, nor thy mercy from me.”
The good man, in all circumstances, would maintain a heavenly intercourse. But he desires and values this privilege most in a time of affliction, and in the near expectation of death. Our Saviour, who was, at all times, filled with a devout fpirit, exercised this fpirit most fervently and frequently toward the clofe of his life. And so ought