( Originally Published 1868 )
JAMES HAMILTON. D. D.
"The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree."—Psa. xcii. 12.
THE Palm brings forth its best fruit in old age. The best dates are said to be gathered when it has reached a hundred years. So it is with eminent Christians : the older the better ; the older the more beautiful; nay, the older the more useful; and, different from worldlings, the older the happier. The best Christians are those who improve to the end, who grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ to the very cose of life.
They loved him at first, but now they ove him more. At first they were selfish, and only sought to escape from wrath ; now they are jeaous of the Saviour's honour, and ong to be saved from sin. At first they only thought of the Priest; now they perceive the Priest upon a throne, and ove not only the Saviour's cross, but the Saviour's yoke and the Saviour's laws. One Jesus is their King. And they grow in knowledge of themselves. The truth to which they once assented becomes a deep-wrought experience. " In me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing." And the discovery of this depravity, the knowledge how debased and worthless their nature has become, instead of making them morose and bitter towards their felow-sharers in the fall, makes them lenient and considerate. They know themselves too well to expect perfection in their friends, and find brethren to whom they can stick close in the face of obvious failings ; and even when they hear of awful wickedness, indignation is chastened by shame and self-consciousness. It is something of the old Reformer's feeling when he saw the malefactor led to prison :—" There, but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford." And they grow in wisdom. Long experience, and still more the secret of the Lord, dispassionate observation and heavenly-mindedness, have given them sagacity ; and sometimes in homely adages, sometimes in direct and sober counsel, they deal forth that mellow wisdom. And they grow in spirituality. We have seen those aged pilgrims to whom earthly things at last grew insipid ; they had no curiosity for the news of the day, and little taste for fresh and entertaining books. They stuck to God's testimonies, and you never went in to see them but the ample Bible lay open on the table or the counterpane ; and they could tell the portion which had been that morning's food or the .meditation of the previous night. The word of God dwelt in them so richly that you could see they were becoming fit to dwell with God; for when a mind has become thoroughly scriptural it wants but another step to make it celestial. And the last harvest came, and the last gleanings of their precious words, and when next we went that way their place knew them no longer. They were flourishing in the courts of God's house on high, and we should sit under their shadow and be regaled by their goodness no more. But when we recollected how fair their Christian profession was, how beneficent and services able they had ever been, and remembered that their last days were their brightest, and their last fruits their fairest, we said over to ourselves, " The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree. Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall bring forth fruit in old age ; they shall be fat and flourishing; to show that the Lord is upright ; he is my Rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him."
Dear Christian reader, when your own ear cannot hear it, may this be your euogy : when your own eye cannot read it, may this be your epitaph. In the meanwhile, for the sake of that Saviour who is dishonoured by proud and selfish and unovely disciples, do you strive and pray for consistency. And for your own soul"s sake, which is dulled by defective views, and depressed by each besetting sin, do you seek a serene and lofty faith-do you covet earnestly a blameless conversation. Let your triumphs over self, and your high-hearted zeal for the Saviour, let the largeness of your spirit and your heavenly elevation, let the exuberance of your goodness and the multitude of its special acts, let the fulness of your affections and the freshness of your feelings, and the abundance of your beneficence, make the Christian manifest and unmistakable. Let your happy piety be the far-eyed signal announcing an oasis in the desert, and .pray that your church or congregation may become to weary pilgrims another Elim, where when they came they found " twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees."