Piety Exempt From The Decays Of Age
( Originally Published 1868 )
JOHN GOSMAN. D. D.
EVERY period of life—youth, manhood, and age—has its peculiar characteristics. Advanced years we naturally associate with infirmity, and consider them as those in which we have no pleasure. It is the time of retreat from the business and turmoil of life, in which, from the sinking of the bodily powers, we seem hourly to advance to the closing scene. We are deprived of many sources of delight, and are thrown, so to speak, on our own resources. As the susceptibility to pleasure is abated, and the senses lose much of their acuteness, social intercourse in a great measure ceases to charm. The gifts of mind often folow the laws of decline ; the power of combining, the glow of fancy and the faculty of retention are impaired ; the mind wearies and becomes perplexed. But in the case of the aged believer how changed the aspect ! The spiritual principle resists decay—" it abideth for ever." The powers with which grace has endowed the soul never experience the exhaustion of debility. This happy independence of the mind, its capacity for enjoyment, distinct and spiritual, is seen in the vigour of perception and glow of emotion attesting its divine origin. The knowledge of advanced years is comprehensive ; truths long familiar by contemplation become in-vested with new attractions. The glory of redemption is seen more clearly; the mind becomes assured of the certainty of the word of God ; and their influence is continually advancing and diffusing its sacred power over the whole character. Like the tree, it seems to shoot deeper its roots. Like the lofty cedar of Lebanon, it stands unmoved by the tempests of earth.
The great essential truths of the word of God, of the sinfulness of our nature, the necessity of divine and gracious influence to quicken, purify and invigorate the soul are understood and felt to be true by the test most decisive-experience. Cut off from many sources of enjoyment, the aged believer finds an admirable substitute in the fellowship of the spirit with God. He can say, "Truly our felowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." He has the best society, and his sympathies are more elevated than those which connect with imperfection and change. After exploring the heavens and the earth for happiness, they seem to him- a mighty void, a wilderness of shadows, where all will be empty and unsubstantial without God. The language of his heart is, Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee." He has inward self-enjoyment, for the good man is "satisfied from himself." There is an entrance now into the joys of the future; he enters now into peace —for what is spiritual life but the life of God in the soul of man? What are peace and joy in believing but the tranquillity of heaven brought down to earth ? It is not the attribute of elevated genius alone to soar above the skies ; borne on the wings of faith, the believer can adopt the language of Milton in a more exalted sense,
" Upled by thee, Into the heaven of heavens I have presumed, An earthly guest, and drawn empyrean air."
The enjoyments of religion are peculiar. They depend not on the senses, which may lose their quickness, or on the animal passions, which may become languid and faint, or on anything which is merely outward. They spring from the recesses of the heart. The natural eye may fade, but the eye of the spirit is vivid.
The review of the past, while it humbles the spirit, yet comes with rich and fragrant recollections of the goodness and faithfulness of God, which strengthen his confidence as to the future. An advanced believer happily expresses this trust : " I am only learning as yet the alphabet of that supernatural science which teaches us to rest in him every day, and all the day, as the ' Lord our Strength.' " His mind occupied with such grateful subjects of contemplation, his heart in repose on his covenant God, he is a stranger to the vacuity, the peevishness of caprice, and, above all, the dissatisfaction with themselves, which embitter the lives of those who, idolizing the world, find it an empty pageant. If such the joys of the believer while still imprisoned in his "house of clay," what raptures shall swell his enfranchised spirit when, dropping this decaying earthly tabernacle, he shal ascend into the immediate presence of his God !