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SERMON XLIII.

CAUTIONS AND DUTIES OF OLD AGE.

THE PRAYER.

GRANT, O Lord, that as we are baptized into the death of thy blessed Son our Saviour Jesus Christ; so by continual mortifying our corrupt affections, we may be buried with him; and that through the grave and gate of death, we may pass to our joyful resurrection, for his merits who died and was buried, and rose again for us, thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prov. xvi. 31.

THE HOARY HEAD IS A CROWN OF GLORY IF IT BE FOUND IN THE

WAY OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.

We now come to the consideration of the last stage of human life-old age, and even there we shall find that the Christian soldier has still the good fight to fight, and no where in this world can he be said to have entered “into his rest.” The hoary head is indeed said to be “a crown of glory;" but not unless it be “ found in the way of righteousness.”

The suggestions which I have to offer upon this point, may be classed under the following heads.

I. First, those deviations from virtue, to which the old are peculiarly subject.

II. Those virtues and that conduct which are especially becoming and required at that period of life.

When the aged man is found in the state described in the text, what can be more honourable and venerable ? An aged man experienced in the ways

of righteousness, cleaving to his God, and gradually advancing through the vale of years to that gate which will receive him to his reward, and through which he must pass to be crowned with glory in the presence of his Heavenly Father, is a spectacle which ought to be regarded by every one with the utmost respect and affection. His knowledge, his experience, his situation--on the verge of eternity-showing forth the long continued grace and mercies of his God — all are calculated to inspire every rightly thinking mind with sentiments of reverence, and with a desire to demonstrate those sentiments by proper outward tokens of deference.

The propriety and justice of so doing was recognized among the more civilized nations of the heathen world, and the Scriptures distinctly recognize the same principle. “ Thou shalt rise up,” said the inspired lawgiver of the Israelites, “ thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man 1.

1 Levit. xix. 32.

But, on the other hand, a more painful, and were it not awful, a more contemptible sight cannot be exhibited, than age, when it is not found in the way of righteousness. What can be more terrible, not to say disgusting, than an old man, older in sin than even in years, inveterate in habits of wickedness, unreformed by experience, not called off by infirmities, deliriously walking on in vice, not sobered by the grave yawning beneath his faultering footsteps, or by the prospects of eternity and judgment rising rapidly in his almost terminated path. He, then, that would claim for his hoary head the crown of glory; he that would be revered by man, or beloved of God, he must be “ found in the way of righteousness.”

With respect and deference, then, to the maturer judgment of my elder brethren, I shall proceed in the course of my ministerial office, and more as one whose duty it is to put them in mind, than as one who would presume to teach them. Thus I shall proceed to lay before them some vices to which age is admitted to be more peculiarly tempted; and some habits and virtues, which peculiarly become that period of life, and without which the hoary head will be robbed of “ its crown of glory,” both in time and in eternity.

1. We may observe, that aged persons should be on their guard against proneness to suspicion, and hardness of heart. They have witnessed much of the treachery and imposture of mankind, and, frequently disgusted and grieved, they acquire habits of distrust, and excessive caution. These causes, operating with the decline of the warmth of the affections, which decline for wise purposes, seem to follow some general law of nature, tend to encourage a proneness to suspicion, and to harden the heart. Their sympathy in the sufferings of others is in danger of being affected by that state of their affections, and by their experience of the wickedness and corruptions of the world; and they are cautioned, therefore, to be on their guard against the encroachments of selfishness, and the failure of charity in their breasts. However just the views, which they take of human character, may be, and however many may be the real causes of distrust, which the world may present to them, still they must not lose sight of the energy and long-suffering of that Christian grace of charity, which“ never faileth.They must bear in mind that they themselves are of that frail and fallen race, which they so much condemn, and themselves stand in need of that indulgence and forgiveness, which they are to extend to others. They should remember also, that the infirmities of age frequently destroy that elasticity of spirit, which preserves good humour and cheerfulness; and that there is a tendency to peevish and querulous opinions, which they should watch, lest it cause them to exaggerate the actual depravity of mankind, and incline to dis

trust those about them more than the real state of the case can justify.

Not unconnected with this feeling is a propensity which has been remarked, amongst aged persons, to take a dislike to those whom the law, or natural relationship, points out as their proper heirs. It happens, not unfrequently, that in the disposal of their effects, this prepossession causes them to leave the world with an act of great injustice to those persons. Suspicious, and jealous, they are ready to take umbrage at any supposed neglect of their successors. They often attribute even their attentions to a wrong motive, and think that they have no other view than securing the inheritance. Nor are there wanting those who will take advantage of this propensity, wretches that will creep around the aged, flatter their foibles, render themselves necessary by compliances and officiousness, and then excite or foster the prejudices which the aged is sometimes too ready to admit against his heir; misrepresent the best intentions of the latter, and aggravate those actions which may have given real cause of offence. Against this bias, and these mercenary tempters it is the duty of the aged to be vigilant. They are responsible to God, and God will bring them to judgment for whatever injustice they may cause to be done by the testamentary disposal of their property; for all the strife, all the heart-burnings, all the malice, and all the decay of Christian charity, which they may occasion, as well

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VOL. II.

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