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If any of you, my aged brethren, have let this time pass away unregarded, you have lost your best time ; and I deplore your loss. But for heaven's fake, lose not what remains. Be humble for past neglect, apply with diligence to the work, which you ought to have begun before. Death is advancing ; it lingers not. Time is passing; it flumbers not. It is high time to awake out of sleep. Wherefore, let me apply to you the words of the apostle, “ Awake, ye that sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light. And walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are SERMON V.
The Infirmities and Comforts of Old Age.
A Sermon to Aged People.
MY AGED BRETHREN AND FRIENDS,
YOU will permit an aged man, like yourselves, to speak, this afternoon, a few words to you.....Or, if you please, he will in your hearing speak to himself.......Pertinent to our case, and worthy of our adoption, is the pe. tition of the Psalmist in
PSALM lxxi. 9.
Caft me not off in the time of old age........ Forsake me not when my strength
HERE is little doubt, that David was the author of this Pfalm. And from several expressions in it we learn, that he wrote it in his old age. He prays in our text, “ Caft me not off in the time of old age.” And, in verse 18, “ Now, when I am old and grey headed, forsake me not.” But David, when he died, was but about seventy years old, and he probably wrote the Psalm some years before his death ; perhaps in the time of
Absalom's rebellion ; for he speaks of “ enemies, who then took counsel together, and laid wait for his life." And we find not that he was ever in this perilous and critical situation after that rebell. ion. David, then, realized old age earlier than some seem to do. He noticed its first appearance; he brought it near in his meditations, before it had actually invaded him ; or, at least, when he began to perceive its approach in the decline of his strength, and the increafe of his grey hairs. But many choose to view it as diftant." Grey hairs are here and there upon them, and they perceive it not.” They enjoy, in a comfortable degree, the pleasures of life, and that evil day, in which there is no pleasure, they put far from them.
It would be wise for us to imitate David's example; to think of, and prepare for the evil day, before it comes ; to secure God's gracious pre. fence now; and in our daily prayers to ask, that “ he would not cast us off in the time of old age, nor forsake us when our strength faileth.”
The Pfalmift here reminds us, that old age is a time when strength faileth : and that at such a time God's presence is of peculiar importance.
1. Old age is a time when strength faileth. There is then a sensible decay of bodily strength.
As we come into the world, so we depart, impotent, feeble and helpless. From our infancy we gradually acquire strength, until we arrive to our full maturity. We then for a few years continue stationary, without sensible change. After a little while we begin to feel, and are constrained to confefs an alteration in our state. Our limbs lose their former activity ; our customary labour becomes wearisome ; pains invade our frame ; our feep, often interrupted, refreshes us less than
heretofore ; our food is less guftful ; our sight is bedimmed, and our ears are dull of hearing ; 6 they that look out at the windows are darkened, and the daughters of music are low ;' the pleasures of reading and conversation abate ; our ancient companions have generally withdrawn to another world, and the few who are left are, like us, fhut up, that they cannot go forth. Hence social visits are more unfrequent and less entertaining; and our condition grows more and more folitary and disconsolate.
With our bodily, our mental strength usually declines.
The faculty, which first appears to fail, is the memory. And its failure we first observe in the difficulty of recollecting little things, such as names and numbers. We then perceive it in our inability to retain things which are recent. What we early heard or read, abides with us; but later information is foon forgotten. Hence, in conver. fation, aged people often repeat the same questions and relate the same stories ; for they soon lose the recollection of what has paffed. “And hence perhaps, in part, is the impertinent garrulity, of which old age is accused. You see, then, my young friends, the importance of laying up a good store of useful knowledge in early life. What you acquire now, you may retain : later acquisitions will be small and uncertain. Like riches, they will make themselves wings and fly away. In the decline of life you must chiefly depend on the old stock ; and happy, if you shall have then a rich store to feed upon,
When memory fails, other faculties foon follow. The attention is with more difficulty fixed, and more easily diverted : the intellect is less acute in its discernment, and the judgment more fallible in its decisions.
The judgment is the last faculty which the pride of age is willing to give up. Our forgetfulness we cannot but feel, and others cannot but observe. But we choose to think our judgment remains solid and clear. We are never apt to distrust our own opinions ; for it is the nature of opinion to be satisfied with itself. It is certain, however, that judgment must fail in some proportion to the failure of attention and recollection.
We form a just judgment by viewing and comparing the evidences and circumstances, which relate to the case in question. "If then any material evidence, or circumstance escapes our notice, or slips from our memory, the judgment formed is uncertain, because we have but
a partial view of the case. In all matters, where a right judgment depends on comparing several things, the failure of memory endangers the rectitude of the decision.
When we perceive a decline of bodily and mental strength, fear and anxiety usually increase. Difficulties once trifling now swell to a terrifying magnitude, because we have not power to encounter them ; want ftares upon us with frightful aspect, because we have not capacity to provide against it ; the kind and patient attention of our friends we distrust, because we know not how long we may be a burden to them, and we have nothing in our hands to remunerate them, except that property which they already anticipate as their own. “ The grasshopper now becomes a burden ; we rise up at the voice of the bird; we are afraid of that which is high, and fear is in the
This state of infirmity and anxiety, painful in itself, is rendered more so by the recollection of what we once were, and by the anticipation of what we soon shall be. VOL. V.