Words In Season
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
"CAST me not off in the time of old age ; forsake me not when my strength faileth." Psa. lxxi. 9.
Aged believer ! you feel your dependence upon God for support and succour. If he should forsake you, if he should cast you off, you would indeed be helpless and hopeless. But you rejoice in the assurance that this can never be realized. You know that he will never leave you to bear up aone the pressure of your trials and infirmities ; that he will never relax the grasp which enfolds you in his ove. And therefore your prayer is rather the expression of confidence than the apprehension of fear. You ask for that which he has promised, which you are certain he will grant—the continuance of his gracious aid. In youthful days, it may be, in healthful hours, you found that without him you were weak and unprotected; and now in the time of old age, when your strength faileth, you are more deeply conscious of your need of his help. Well, ask and you shall receive ; cast your burden, cast yourself upon him, and he will sustain you. Fear not, for he is with you ; be not dismayed, for he is your God ; he will strengthen you ; yea, he will help you ; yea, he will uphold you with the right hand of his righteousness.* These things will he do unto you, and will never forsake you.
" Why should I doubt his love at last,
"Thou hash taught me from my youth : and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works. Now also when I am old and gray-headed, 0 God, forsake me not." Psa. lxxi. 17, 18.
" Thou hast taught me from my youth." How encouraging it is to ook back to our early life, and recognize the goodness of God in its varied events ! He was our Guide, our Instructor, our Father. He restrained us from evil ; counselled us in difficulty; directed us in uncertainty ; preserved us through danger. All the knowledge which we have gained of his character, of his will, of ourselves, of futurity, he has communicated to us. And how gradual, how wise, how gentle are his teachings ! How patiently has he borne with our ignorance and forgetfulness ! how tenderly has he imparted his most difficult lessons ! And though we have been dull and wayward. scholars, though we have not profited as we might have done by his Divine instructions, yet we know, if we are disciples of Christ, that we have so learned of him as to find rest unto our souls. We have learned to rely upon his strength, to depend upon his faithfulness, to trust in his righteousness.
" And hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works." Grateful for his favours towards us, we have striven to live to his praise and show forth his gory. It has been our aim to communicate to others the knowledge which we have received. We have spoken of his goodness to those around us. We have not been ashamed of his gospel, nor indifferent to his honour.
"Now also when I am old and gray-headed, O God, forsake me not." Those who have been taught of God from their youth, and have made it the business of their lives to serve and honour him, may be sure that he will not leave them when they are old and gray-headed: he is not a Master that is wont to cast off old servants."
"In early years thou wast my guide,
"And even to your old age I am He; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you." Isa. xlvi. 4.
Ah, Christian, here is ground for your confidence in God. You have his promise that he will be with you in your old age, to support you under its infirmities, and therefore you are cheerful and tranquil. Listen to the testimony of an aged pilgrim : " What a comfort it is, as we get old and feeble, and friends drop off one after another, to remember that our God does not change ! He says to us, 'I am he ;' the same that I ever was ; 'I am he ;" the Lord who preserved and guided you from your infancy ; ' I am he :' all that I have promised to be to you, all that you can possibly need. 'And even to hoar hairs will I carry you.' What tender and expressive language! How can we help trusting in such a mighty and loving Friend ? Whether we look at the present or the future, there is no room for fear. Those who can walk have his rod and staff to help and comfort them; and those who cannot walk find that his everlasting arms are beneath them, and that they are borne safely onwards. We are like children, who, when they are weak and tired, are carried in a father's arms, and lifted over difficulty and danger."
"Fear not, I am with thee ; oh, be not dismayed
E'en down to old age all my people shall prove
The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness." Prov. xvi. 31.
Old age is honourable, and commands respect. " Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man." But we cannot expect to receive true and lasting deference from others unless our character is calculated to win their esteem. Superiority in age should be combined with superiority in excellence. Multitude of years should teach wisdom. " The hoary head is a crown of gory, if " —mark that—" if it be found in the way of righteousness." If it be found in the way of wickedness, its honour is forfeited, its crown profaned and laid in the dust. How is it with you, reader ? Are you sanctified through faith in Christ ? are you " walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless ?"* Oh, how ovely and dignified is old age when marked by piety and consistency !
"When piety adorns declining years,
" Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil." Heb. vi. 19.
A vessel was driving ashore. Her anchors were gone, and she refused to obey the helm. A few moments more and she would strike. If any should be saved, they must be tossed by the waves on the beach. In the midst of the general consternation there was one person quite calm. He had done all that a man could do to prepare for the worst when the wreck was inevitable ; and now that death was apparently near he was quietly waiting the event. A. friend of his asked the reason of his calmness in the midst of danger so imminent :
" Do you not know that the anchor is gone, and we are drifting upon the coast ?"
" Certainly I do; but I have an anchor to the soul." On this was his trust. It entered into that within the veil. It was the ground of his confidence in the storm, and enabled him to ride securely in the view of instant and awful death.
Have you this, anchor, reader ? Is the hope of the gospel yours ? Amidst the storms and trials of life, and in the prospect of danger and death, are you calm and trustful, assured that you will soon be admitted into the haven of everlasting peace ?
Or are you destitute of this hope? Without it, how can you be happy ? Without it, what will you do in the swellings of Jordan ? It may be yours—yours even now—if you will seek it, if you. will accept it. The gift of God is eternal life. Confidence in him—faith in Christ—will link your tempest-tossed, troubled, and perishing spirit with perpetual repose and security—with the unseen gories of heaven.
"How still, amidst commotion, The bark at anchor cast!
" They shall still bring forth fruit in old age." Psa. xcii. 14.
The palm tree, to which God's people are in this psalm compared, is remarkable for its lengthened and increasing fruitfulness. The best dates are said to be gathered when it has reached a hundred years. How beautiful an emblem of the aged believer, growing in grace and maturing in holiness to the cose of his earthly existence ! Each day, each year, added to his life, adds to the oveliness and perfection of his Christian virtues. His character has a mellowness and sweetness which it lacked in earlier seasons. He is ripening for heaven. In knowledge, in wisdom, in love, in humility, in gentleness, in forbearance, in peace, in usefulness, in happiness, he is steadily and constantly advancing. He is filled with the Spirit, and therefore brings forth the fruits of the Spirit.
Is this portraiture of an aged Christian yours, reader ? Alas, it does not beong to all who profess and call themselves by the Saviour's name. Nay, it may be feared that there are some, really and manifestly his, to whom it bears but little resemblance.
They have long been " planted" in the house of the Lord, but they do not appear to " flourish" in the courts of our God and as years augment they seem to imagine that the infirmities of age are excuses for their little fruitfulness. But they certainly never gathered such an idea from God's word, nor rightly studied and pleaded his promises to themselves. Follow not their example. Rest not satisfied with past attainments. Strive to glorify God more than you have ever yet done. Let your last days be your best days ; your latest fruit, the richest. " And this I pray, that your ove may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; that ye may approve things that are excellent ; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the gory and praise of God."
"How beautiful to see
Then I am sure that they will be wisely ordered. Thou hast all power in heaven and in earth ; thou art acquainted with the end from the beginning ; everything is subject to thy control, and the future to thee is as the present ; therefore there can be no mistake in thy purposes—no imperfection in thy plans,
" My times are in thy hand." Then I will not be anxious nor distressed about the future. Varied may be the times which I have yet to experience—times of sorrow or joy ; of poverty or plenty ; of sickness or health ; of life or death ; but I can calmly leave them to thy disposal. I cannot foresee the events which thy providence appoints, but I can wait and trust. The period and the manner of my departure hence are unknown to me, but I am free from all solicitude on these points, because thou hast arranged them for the best.
"My times are in thy hand; the night, the day,
" Bless the Lord, 0 my soul: and all that is within, me, bless his holy name : Bless the Lord, 0 my soul, and forget not all his benefits." Psa. ciii. 1, 2.
How animating is the sight of an aged Christian, who is rejoicing in hope of the glory of God, and furnishing, by daily conduct, a bright example to others of cheerfulness and gratitude ! His life is a psalm of thanksgiving ; his happy look and thankful spirit fill his home with sunshine, and cast. their radiance on all around him. It is impossible to be ong in his society without feeling gladdened and invigorated by it. You can scarcely tell why, but you feel less disposed to complain, and more inclined to rejoice, than you did before. Your own path seems to grow more hopeful and promising ; you are reminded of mercies which you had hitherto forgotten and the troubles which you thought so heavy insensibly grow lighter. The fact is, that for a time at least you have caught his spirit and imbibed his tone of mind.
A lovely instance of real and sustained cheerfulness was the late justly celebrated William Wilber-force. "A stranger might have noticed that he was more uniformly cheerful than most men of his time of life. Closer observation showed a vein of Christian feeling, mingling with and purifying the natural flow of a most happy temper; whilst those who lived most continually with him could trace distinctly in his tempered sorrows, and sustained and almost childlike gladness of heart, the continual presence of that peace which the world can neither give nor take away. The pages of his later journal are full of bursts of joy and thankfulness; and with his children and his chosen friends his full heart swelled out ever in the same blessed strains ; he seemed too happy not to express his happiness ; his song was ever of the oving-kindness of the Lord." Everything became with him a cause for thanksgiving.: When some of the infirmities of years began to press upon him, " What thanks do I owe to God," was his reflection, " that my declining strength appears likely not to be attended with painful diseases, but rather to lessen gradually and by moderate degrees! How good a friend God is to me ! When I have any complaint, it is always so mitigated and softened as to give me scarcely any pain. 'Bless the Lord, 0 my soul.' What thanks do I owe to my gracious and kind heavenly Father !" And so, when one of his friends had passed through a painful operation, " Seldom," he says, " have I felt anything so deeply. How thankful should I be to be spared such trials, my strength not being equal to them ! I humbly commit myself unto Him who surely has given me reason to say, ' Goodness and mercy have followed me all my days.' "
Aged Christian, do you sympathize with these feelings? do you share this thankfulness? do you manifest this gladness ? " The fruit of the Spirit is ove, joy, peace."* Every alowance must be made for natural temperament. Some persons are naturally sanguine and cheerful ; others are naturally goomy and desponding. But, in either case, the promises of the gospel, if simply believed and heartily appropriated, cannot fail to gladden the heart and influence the conduct. And it is no less our duty than our privilege to " rejoice in the Lord alway;" to " show forth his oving-kindness in the morning, and his faithfulness every night ;" to " be thankful unto him, and bless his name."* We must cultivate this joyous and grateful frame of mind; we must strive by meditation, practice, and prayer to. acquire or to strengthen it ; for we ought no more to dishonour God by our unhappiness and unthankfulness than by our unholiness.
The weakness and the infirmities of old age sometimes tend to depress our spirits and dim our hopes. Therefore let us be upon our guard; and instead of giving way to discontent and despondency, let us count up our mercies, and ook more steadfastly on the bright side of things ; and as often as we do this sadness will be chased from our brow, and the self-exhortation to praise will burst from our lips : "Bless the Lord, 0 my soul : and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, 0 my soul, and forget not all his benefits." ,
"Farewell to sadness,
Let every tear depart ;
"Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day." 2 Cor. iv. 16.
" We must, of necessity," says a celebrated writer, " become better or worse as we advance in years. Unless we endeavour to spiritualize ourselves, and supplicate in this endeavour for that grace which is never withheld when it is sincerely and earnestly sought, age bodylizes us more and more, and the older we grow the more are we imbruted and debased ;—so manifestly is the text verified which warns us that, `Unto every one which hath shall be given ; and from him that hath not, even that he bath shall be taken away.'* In some the soul seems gradually to be absorbed and extinguished in its crust of clay ; in others, as if it purified and sublimed the vehicle to which it was united. Nothing therefore is more beautiful than a wise and religious old age ; nothing so pitiable as the latter stages of mortal existence, when the world, and the flesh, and that false philosophy which is of the devil, have secured the victory for the grave."
Aged Christian, thank God for the strengthening and invigorating grace which he imparts to you. Your earthly frame is weak and enfeebled; it has ost its vigour and elasticity ; it is harassed with pain and infirmity ; it must soon die. But while your body decays your soul thrives. If the one is preparing for the grave, the other is ripening for glory. Your faith grows firmer, your hope stronger, your love deeper, your views clearer.
The soul's poor cottage, battered and decayed,
"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." 2 Cor. iv. 17.
"In visiting," writes a clergyman, "a poor man who has been bed-ridden these twenty-five years, I was preparing to pity him, but he called on me to rejoice. "Are you not wearied out with the length of your afflictions ?" " Wearied, sir !" said he; " no, nature will soon faint, but God sustains me. I could lie here for another twenty-five years, if it pleased God. I have found this bed to be the very gate of heaven. Length of my affliction, sir! Oh, let me not call it ong : it is short, very short, and will soon be over. These light afflictions, which are but for a moment, work for me a far more exceeding and eternal weight of gory. Is not God all love ? He cannot then be unkind. Is he not all wise? He cannot then do wrong. Are not his promises yea and amen in Christ Jesus? He cannot then break his word. None who have trusted him have repented of it. Oh, sir, I dare hot complain. My affliction is a mercy."
Troubled and afflicted Christian, remember, the troubles of earth will enhance the joys of heaven. And, compared with that weight of gory which is prepared for you above, are not your sorrows light? Measured by the eternity of the happiness you anticipate, is not their duration that of a moment? Murmur not at the present; think of the future. How striking the contrast! how glorious the change!
"The gloom of the night adds a charm to the morn;
"Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." John vi. 37.
During his last hours a highly distinguished writer called for his chaplain and said, " Though I have endeavoured to avoid sin and please God to the utmost of my power, yet I am still afraid to die."
"My lord," said the chaplain, "you have forgotten that Jesus Christ is a Saviour."
" True," was the answer; "but how shall I know that he is a Saviour for me "
" It is written, my lord, ' Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.'
"Yes, it is !" was the quick reply ; " and I am surprised that though I have read that Scripture a thousand times over, I never felt its virtue till this moment; and now I die happy."
Reader, are you coming to the Saviour? Then this promise is yours.
"Jesus, the sinner's friend, to thee,
" When a few years are come, then I shall go the way whence I shall not return." Job xvi. 22.
An approaching journey lies before me. I have to pass from time to eternity; from this world to the next. And the time of my departure, although to me uncertain, cannot be very far distant. A few years—perhaps a few days—will cose my stay on earth.
It is an unavoidable journey. I 'must go. There is no choice. Willing or unwilling, when the summons for me arrives, I shall have to set off.
It is an unknown journey. I have never taken, it before. I have no practical acquaintance with the road, the mode of transit, the dangers or the discom forts which await me. And there is no one who can clearly explain them to me. Those of my friends who have travelled that way have never come back to relate their experience.
It is a solitary journey. I must accomplish it alone. The most loved of my present companions cannot accompany me. They may think of me, feel for me, pray for me, but they cannot be with me. We must separate ; they to remain behind, I to go forward.
It is a momentous journey. For at its termination I enter upon my everlasting destiny. It will convey me either to the mansions of happiness or to the abodes of misery. The narrow boundary between the present and the future state once crossed, there will be no possibility of change. " He that is unjust, let him be unjust still ; and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still." Rev. xxii. 11.
It is a final journey. I shall go the way whence I shall not return. My pilgrimage will be for ever ended. No more parting, no more change, no more toil, no more fatigue. It will be my last journey.
And if I am a Christian how welcome is this fact ! I shall have done for ever with sin and sorrow. Eternal felicity will be mine—perfect holiness, per-feet happiness. This journey leads me to my home, to my father's house, to my everlasting rest.
Then I will not shrink from its approach, nor complain of its accompaniments. It may be linked with much that is painful and unpleasant, but it is the only way home ; and therefore, although life has many ties and many joys, I feel an earnest desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better than being here.
Death is a solemn journey, but it is a safe one to Christ's people ; for he will not only receive and welcome them at its close, but he will be them as they are passing through it. Oh, it will not be onely with him ! And he is a guide who is well acquainted with the way, for he has trodden it himself, and the marks of his footsteps are visible there still. He went for the purpose of smoothing its difficulties, clearing its dangers, dispersing its terrors ; and he fully accomplished his purpose: " That through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil ; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage."* Therefore when I walk through the dark valley, I will fear no evil ; for thou, 0 Jesus, wilt be with me, and thy rod and thy staff shall comfort me.
" The spirit shall return unto God who gave it." Eccles. xii. 7.
Not to a stranger, not to an unknown, untried master ; but to Him who has preserved and watched over it from year to year; to him who knows its struggles, its anxieties, its throbbings of hope and fear ; to its own God, even the " God who gave it ;" nay, more, who gave for it his only and well-beloved
Son. Therefore, Christian reader, you need not fear to depart. Does the child dread to return home, to go back to its oving parents ? Oh, happy moment !
When you shall be admitted into your heavenly Father's presence, and shall share in those which are at his right hand for evermore!