« السابقةمتابعة »
PROVERBS XVI. 31.
ON OLD AGE.
The boary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.
THE hoary head, as here applied, is a SERM. very obvious figure of speech, and must needs express the man full of years, on whom time and age have wrought that outward change of person, which commonly takes place as we advance towards the limits of human life. Old age has generally been allowed to have a natural claim to honor and respect. Nor is the reason of this difficult to discover; for as human knowledge is progressive, it is plain that the older a man is, the wiser we may expect him to be, and the wiser the better; for wisdom is one of those things
SERM. which must be judged by its fruits. All is X. not wisdom that men are disposed to call
so. Cunning and craft, buffoonery and wit, are often in their effects the very contrary of wisdom. Neither can knowledge of itself be said to constitute wisdom, for men may acquire great knowledge without having one grain of real wisdom. If a man know many difficult arts, or understand the whole circle of sciences, yet if he has not a competent idea of his own nature as a dependent being, or has not learnt so to provide for the chances of another life, as to have more to hope than to fear, such knowledge will be of no real service to himself be
yond the compass of a few years; nor will
transitory nature of all sublunary enjoy- SERM. ments; of the evil consequences, one time or other, of all wickedness and sin; the sorrow that is sure to follow from it, and the bitter reflections it inevitably leads to; the fear and apprehensions that arise in a man's mind when he comes to consider the precipice he stands on, and that he has hitherto only merited God's anger and displeasure. The consequent repentance and contrition that these reproaches of his conscience gradually induce, and the hope that springs up at last from becoming sensible of his errors, and so applying himself before the lamp of life is extinguished, to make his peace with God. This is the wisdom that renders age respectable; this is the saving knowledge which a long life is almost sure to lead to. For the pleasures of this world lose their attraction greatly as the body decays, and a man is then able to appreciate all that he has gained by them. Has he amassed great store of gold? his whole treasures cannot purchase him a respite from death, or stand him in any stead so soon as ever
SERM. his doom is sealed. Has he passed his days X. in rioting and wantonness; or in a constant gratification of his senses, heedless of the condition of his soul? Lo! now those very senses that administered to these vain and unprofitable pleasures, grow feeble and dull; his limbs totter, his appetite fails, his eyes grow dim, his hearing indistinct, his very voice faulters; these have been but false friends, and so at the last they gradually forsake him. In the meanwhile, however, his Soul perhaps, which he had hitherto neglected, now steps forth to support and comfort him; she bids him notice this decay of his earthly tabernacle, and the vanity and emptiness of all he had been about; she calls upon him to reflect upon the many years he has passed unprofitably, and the very few that may be left in which to make up his accounts; she represents to him, perhaps, that she need not die with the body, that she is vigorous and firm still, though the body be wasting away, and that if the latter should soon descend to the grave none can convey thither the spirit of man. She encourages
encourages him to look forward to another SERM. life, and to the God who gave him the one he has enjoyed, and thus gradually leading him forward, from thought to thought, and from reflection to reflection, she fixes him at last where alone the aged can find rest and repose, in the way of repentance and amendment, of faith and hope. But though I have said and shewn, that old age commonly leads to this wisdom, because there is really nothing else for old age to take refuge in, and therefore becomes naturally respectable, as being enlightened by all the experience that life can afford; yet there is commonly another ground for this honor and respect due to age. It is probable that very old men, though they may not have been altogether good men, have yet been better than many others; for vice, and folly, and wickedness, seldom suffer a man to fill up the measure of his days. Vice is as destructive of the body as it is of the soul; the numerous diseases that intemperance leads to, I need not lay before you; they are among the very worst foes the body has to struggle M 2