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seek the protection of the God of Heaven. I conclude with the solemn words, in which a great Prince delivered his dying charge to his son ; words which every young person ought to consider as addressed to himself, and to engrave deeply on his heart: Thou, Solomon, my son, know thou the God of thy fathers; and serve him with a perfect heart, and with a willing mind. For the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts. If thou seek him, he will be found of thee ; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for SERMON XII.
1 Chron. xxviii. 9.
ON THE DUTIES AND CONSOLATIONS OF THE AGED.
PROVERBS, xvi. 31.
The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found
in the way of righteousness.
To fear God, and to keep his commandments, is the rule of our duty, in every period of life. But, as the light which guides our steps varies with the progress of the day, so the rule of religious conduct is diversified in its application, by the different stages of our present existence. To every age, there belongs a distinct propriety of behaviour. There arises from it, a series of duties peculiar to itself.
Of those which are incumbent on youth, I
have treated in the preceding Discourse. As we advance from youth to middle age, a new field of action opens, and a different character is required. The flow of gay and impetuous spirits begins to subside. Life gradually assumes a graver cast ; the mind a more sedate and thoughtful turn. The attention is now transferred from pleasure to interest ; that is, to pleasure diffused over a wider extent, and measured by a larger scale. Formerly, the enjoyment of the present moment occupied the whole attention. Now, no action terminates ultimately in itself, but refers to some more distant aim. Wealth and power, the instruments of lasting gratification, are now coveted more than any single pleasure. Prudence and foresight lay their plans. Industry carries on its patient efforts. Activity pushes forward ; address winds around. Here, an enemy is to be overcome ; there, a rival to be displaced. Competitions warm ; and the strife of the world thickens on every side. To guide men through this busy period, without loss of integrity ; to guard them against the temptations which arise from mistaken or interfering interests; to call them from worldly pursuits to serious thoughts of their spiritual concerns, is the great office of religion.
But as this includes, in a great measure, the
whole compass of moral duty, as the general strain of religious exhortation is addressed to those who are in this season of life ; a delineation of the virtues properly belonging to middle age, may appear unnecessary, and would lead us into too wide a field. Let us there. fore turn our view to a bounded prospect; and contemplate a period of life, the duties of which are circumscribed within narrower limits. Old age is a stage of the human course, which every one hopes to reach ; and therefore the consideration of it interests us all. It is a period justly entitled to general respect. Even its failings ought to be touched with a gentle hand ; and though the petulant, and the vain, may despise the hoary head; yet the wisest of men has asserted in the Text, that when found in the way of righteousness, it is a crown of glory, I shall first offer some counsels, concerning the errors which are most incident to the aged. Secondly, I shall suggest the peculiar duties they ought to practise ; and, thirdly, Point out the consolations they may enjoy.
I. As the follies and vices of youth are chiefly derived from inexperience and presumption ; so almost all the errors of
age may be traced up to the feebleness and distresses peculiar to that time of life. Though in every part of life, vexations occur, yet, in former years, either business or pleasure served to obliterate their impression, by supplying occupation to the mind. Old age begins its advances, with disqualifying men for relishing the one, and for taking an active part in the other. While it withdraws their accustomed supports, it imposes, at the same time, the additional burden of growing infirmities, In the former stages of their journey, hope continued to flatter them with many a fair and enticing prospect. But in proportion as old age increases, those pleasing illusions vanish. Life is contracted within a narrow and barren circle. Year after year steals somewhat away from their store of comfort, deprives them of some of their ancient friends, blunts some of their
powers of sensation, or incapacitates them for some function of life.
Though, in the plan of Providence, it is wisely ordered, that before we are called away from the world, our attachment to it should be gradually loosened; though it be fit in itself, that as in the day of human life, there is a morning and a noon, so there should be an evening also, when the lengthening shadows shall admonish us of approaching night ; yet we have no reason to be surprised, if they