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see infancy in the fairest form in which it ever was or can be exhibited, and age adorned with its best graces, and enjoying its strongest consolations. In such a scene we behold all that can be desired to make childhood holy, the church delightful, age venerable, and death blessed. Let us then contemplate it with an earnest desire to receive its lessons and to imbibe its spirit.
In this discourse I shall call your attention to the character, the privilege, and the request of this venerable man.
I. Let us mark the character of Simeon. The excellence of this man is presented to us in no elaborate panegyric, but in some of its striking features, and in terms simple and concise. In the lengthened eulogy the attention is often turned from the character to the ardour of the writer, and to the qualities of the composition; but in the descriptions of the Bible it is fixed on the worth exhibited, and the obligation which it imposes is felt and acknowledged.
Let us consider the qualities which are specified in the conduct of this man. He was just. He had been in the former periods of his life distinguished by his fidelity to his engagements, his veracity in his statements, his honesty in his dealings, and his care to give to all their due; and though amidst the seclusion of old age he had not the same opportunities as formerly of testifying his regard to justice, he, in every way in which it could be done, showed his uprightness. The noble resolution of Job was his :-" Till I die I will
not remove my integrity from me. My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go; my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live."
There have been old men who have been abhorred or feared for their deceit and knavery. They have artfully gained the confidence of youth, to abuse it for their own interest or that of their friends; they have taken ungenerous advantage of the straits of those to whom they intrusted their money or goods : the maxims they have instilled into the young have been those of a crooked and selfish policy; they have disregarded the claims which the relatives of those who once befriended them have on their aid, and in their disposal of their property have acted according to the dictates of arbitrary humour, of favouritism or prejudice, and not according to the rules of equity or justice. But the old man who is entitled to the character in the text will use his experience to teach the young prudence and discretion ; will be eager to fulfil every claim sanctioned by gratitude and honour, though it cannot be enforced by law; and will regulate his worldly arrangements by the strictest impartiality.
Let those in the active scenes of life be persuaded, that justice is the surest guide to success in any worldly pursuit, and its best security when attained ; and let the young consider, that the habits of duplicity, intrigue, and treachery at that period will assuredly lead to the villany whose sad result is infamy and ruin.
Job xxvii. 5, 6.
He was also devout. Some pique themselves on their justice, deem it quite sufficient to give worth to their character, speak of devotion with contempt, apply to its exercises the most degrading epithets, and represent it as in general the covering of knavery. Nothing can be more false and wicked than such representations. That is the only justice worthy of the name which is prompted by the fear of God, and which is influenced by a regard to his authority. The fear of shame and of punishment may deter a man from the open invasion of his neighbour's rights, but the coyetous wish, or the fraudulent purpose, can only be checked by religious principle.
Simeon was not only just but devout. He was a punctual observer still of all the ordinances of religion. This had been the habit of his former years, and he could not have been happy unless he had still watched daily at Wisdom's gates. Those who have been careless about religious ordinances in youth and middle life, are generally found in old age eager to avail themselves of every pretext for absence, will offer to take any employment which will furnish them with an apology, and when, in circumstances where no excuse is deemed necessary, will, without scruple, disregard every holy service; but the pious old man feels that the house of God is the scene of his best enjoyment, and longs for the Sabbath as the day of the gladness of his heart.
But the expression likewise intimates, that he lived under the influence of all the feelings and principles of piety. Knowing the Lord as revealed in his word, he loved him with a pure heart fervently, reposed in
him entire and unlimited confidence, shuddered at the idea of offending him, and felt an ardent zeal for his glory. He maintained a solemn sense of his constant inspection, and walked, not only in his ordinances, but in his commandments blameless.
Simeon lived at a period and in a place where rites and ceremonies were viewed as the whole of piety, and where the religion of the heart was neither inculcated nor exemplified by those who sat in the seat of Moses ; yet was he eminent in the power of godliness; he worshipped God in the spirit, and walked before him in the land of the living.
Devotion is the best solace of age. In this sanctuary the
of God rules in the heart, and everlasting rest opens to the view. The sighs and the groans which cannot be uttered are known to our Father who seeth in secret; and this shall be the testimony, borne from on high to him who hath lived in love to God and to man, “ Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.”
It is mentioned, as the last feature of his character, that he waited for the consolation of Israel. This was à character of the Messiah given to him in consequence of some of the ancient prophecies respecting his coming, and it was peculiarly gratifying to the Jews at this time on account of the evils under which they groaned. In the Messiah they expected to find a deliverer from an oppression painful in itself and odious to their pride, and a conqueror who should raise Israel to a prosperity, dominion, and glory beyond all that it had known in its happiest days.
But the pious felt that they were under a yoke
more intolerable than that of Rome or Babylon, even the bondage of corruption; that they had enemies more formidable than any of the powers of this world, even Satan and his angels; that they were exposed to evils more horrible than human malice could inflict, even the vengeance of eternal fire; and that there were blessings more valuable than dominion and glory, even peace with God and the liberty of his children; and this deliverance and this felicity they expected by the Messiah.
Now, such were the views which Simeon had of the Saviour. In this character he believed that he would come ; for his approach with such blessings he longed earnestly; and, in spite of every temptation to impatience, arising from the pressure of the evils which the Messiah would remedy, and his own advanced period of life, he waited for his arrival.
My aged friends, ye know that the Word was made Alesh, but he is coming the second time without sin to the salvation of them that look for him; and I call on you to gird up the loins of your minds, to be sober, and to hope to the end for the grace that shall be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. You ought also to wait for his coming to you in the consolations and supports of his grace. Worldly comfort is retiring from you, but religious comfort is approaching; and it is comfort which will gladden all your solitary hours, and mitigate all your feelings of pain and languor.
II. Let us now consider the signal manifestations of the Divine regard to this venerable man.