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THE BEST SUPPORT IN FRAILTY.
ISAIAH xlvi. 4. Even to your old age I am he; and even to your hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.
NOTHING can exhibit the character of God in a more amiable point of view, than the representations which the Scriptures give us of his conduct to youth and age. Youth is ardent, thoughtless, and presumptuous. Confident in their own powers, the young are eager to engage in courses which lead to perplexity, grief, and ruin. The world tells them not to imbitter the choicest moments of life by thoughts of hereafter, and bids them not withhold their hearts from any joy. But to them God says, Wilt thou not from this time forth cry unto me, My Father, thou art the guide of my youth? He will check its rashness by the restraints of wisdom, and direct its energies to action by the safest counsels. He will point its glowing affections to the noblest objects, and its pursuits to pleasures which sanctify while they bless, to riches which perish not in the using, and to honours which are bright for ever. He will guard them from companions with whom it would be unsafe to associate, and lead them to friendships conducive to wisdom and goodness. These offices he hath performed in num
berless instances for the young; and there are many in heaven who will look back through eternity on the days of their youth as marked by a care which must be for ever first in their grateful remembrance, and by a grace which must be for ever highest in their song.
. Old age needs a comforter. To its dull cold ear the voice of pity seldom speaks, and the arm on which they hoped to lean in their frailty has been withered and broken by the power of death. But to them God saith in the text, "Even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you." The serious consideration of this text would remove from the mind that aversion and even horror with which old age is thought of by the young, and might make them welcome the frailty which is thus supported, and the hoar hairs thus crowned with loving kindness and with tender mercies. The belief of it will make aged saints not only patient, but joyful. Whatever reason they may have to complain of men, they can have none to complain of God. They are arrived at a period of life when they can do little for God; but he delighteth in mercy, and will do better for them than at their beginning, and will cause them to sing as in the days of youth.
In this discourse I shall illustrate the gracious assurances God here delivers to his aged saints, and then point out the grounds of confidence here stated, that he will act to them in this manner.
1. In illustrating the import of this gracious promise, I remark, in the first place, that it assures aged saints of God's continued presence with them.
Few of the companions of their early days remain with the aged in the last stage of their journey. Their partners in the gay sports of childhood, and in the active pursuits of business, have gone to their long home. When their engaging appearance and amiable qualities arise to their remembrance, the heart is saddened by the thought, that their beauty hath consumed in the grave from their dwelling, and that to us and to the world their accomplishments are lost. Few remain to whom they can talk of the mercies of former years. A new race has risen around them which cares little for them, and which they feel' little solicitude to please. The relatives who survive, they are ready to imagine visit them from the cold impulse of duty, and are glad of any pretext to shorten their stay. The same sun which shone upon them in the days of their youth still shines on them; but how different is its influence on the languid feelings and on the freezing blood! The same spring returns which in their early days renovated the face of nature; but how different does its influence appear to the dim eye, and amidst the sad impressions of their own decay!
But the promise in the text assures them, that the Guide of their youth lives to be the companion of their age. Solitary and deserted as you may deem yourselves, yet as you stand in the churchyard, and mark around you the graves where your friends are sleeping, you may sing, "The Lord lives, and blessed be my Rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted." To Him you can talk of the days that are past, and thank Him for that help through which you continue
to this day. On many a scene you are disposed to write, "The glory is departed;" for none appears decked with the charms which youthful fancy beheld in it: but your God is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever, and the longer you live he will be more kind than before.
I have seen aged persons who had survived all their friends. They had devoted themselves to the care of aged connexions, and for their sakes declined an advantageous settlement in life, and, amidst the anxious thoughts which arose in their minds respecting their future lot, persevered in their duty in humble trust in the divine mercy. To those who are strangers to them, it may seem that they have reason to repent their generous sacrifice, or, as others would say, their romantic folly; but God will not forget their labour of love, and to them his cheering presence and his kindest care are pledged.
The aged are
2. It implies unabated affection. ready to complain, and in many cases with truth, that relatives and friends are cold to them, and weary of them. They think that they minister to them in their infirmities with reluctance, and listen to their complaints with disgust. Seldom do the soft tones of affection reach their ear, and far more frequently do they hear the language of mockery and reproach. There is something in the scowl with which their wishes are thwarted, and the taunts with which the trouble they give is stated, which has made them think that they were outcasts from every human heart. They feel that they have become less amiable to their fellow-creatures; and they fear that their mo
ral infirmities will provoke the anger of their Father in heaven, and that their incapacity to serve him will make him say, "I have no delight in thee." The most painful of a good man's fears are of this description. They feel that with the assurance of God's love they could bear every act of unkindness from men ; but when they imagine they see in their harshness that God is wroth with them, their eye trickles down, and ceases not till the Lord look down and behold from heaven.
But God having loved his own that are in the world, will love them to the end. The bloom of beauty, the elegance of form, the vivacity of spirit, and that activity of character, which made them the delight of all around them, are long since gone; and gone with them are the persons whom they attracted to your side. To man there is nothing alluring, nay, there is much that is repulsive in declining faculties, in ghastliness, and in infirmity. But the love of God to you was not founded on such perishable qualities, and with them it did not decay. He loved you for the righteousness he hath imputed to you, and for the graces he hath formed within you; and in the winter of age he sees those graces flourishing. The heart of the best of beings can never be alienated, and he will rest in his love.
In looking back on the scenes through which you have passed, you see reason to admit the truth of that proverb which once appeared so strange to the ardent and sanguine heart of youth, "Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain ;"* but you are more dis
* Prov. xxxi. 30.