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SERMON 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 therefore turn our view to a bounded prospect; and contemplate a pea riod of life, the duties of which are circumscribed within narrower limits. Old
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 bead; 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 errours which are most incident to the aged. Sę
condly, I shall suggest the peculiar duties SERMON 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 errours 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, în 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 with. draws 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
steals somewhat away from their store of comfort, deprives them of some of their ancient friends, blunts some of their
SERMON powers of sensation, or incapacitates them
for some function of life.
Though, in the plan of Providence, it is wisely ordered, that before we 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 ing also, when the lengthening shadows shall admonish us of approaching night; yet we have no reason to be surprised, if they who are arrived at this dejecting season, feel and lament the change which they suffer.
The complaints, therefore, of the aged, should meet with tenderness, rather than censure. The burden under which they labour, ought to be viewed with sympathy, by those who must bear it in their turn, and who, perhaps, hereafter may complain of it as bitterly. At the same time, the old should consider, that all the seasons of life have their several trials allotted to them; and that to bear the infirmities of age with becoming patience, is as much their duty, as is that of the young to resist the temptations of youthful pleasure. By
calmly enduring, for the short time that re- SERMON mains, what Providence is pleased to inflict, they both express a resignation most acceptable to God, and recommend themselves to the esteem and assistance of all who are around them.
But though the querulous temper imputed to old age, is to be considered as a natural infirmity, rather than as a vice; the same apology cannot be made for that peevish disgust at the manners, and that malignant censure of the enjoyments, of the young, which is sometimes found to accompany declining years. Nothing can be more unjust, than to take offence at others, on account of their partaking of pleasures, which it is past your time to enjoy. By indulging this fretful temper, you both aggravate the uneasiness of
age, and you alienate those on whose affection much of your comfort depends. In order to make the two extremes. of life unite in amicable society, it is greatly to be wished, that the young would look forward, and consider that they shall one day be old; and that the old would look back, and, remembering that they once were young, make
SERMON proper allowances for the temper and the
manners of youth.
But, instead of this, it is too common to find the aged at declared enmity with the whole system of
present customs and manners ; perpetually complaining of the growing depravity of the world, and of the astonishing vices and follies of the rising generation. All things, according to them, are rushing fast into ruin. Decency and good order have become extinct, ever since that happy discipline, under which they spent their youth, has passed away.-Part, at least, of this displeasure, you may fairly impute to the infirmity of
which throws its own gloom on every surrounding object: Similar lamentations were, in the days of your youth, poured forth by your fathers ; and they who are now young, shall, when it comes to their turn, inveigh, in the like strain, against those who succeed them. Great has been the corruption of the world in every age.
Sufficient ground there is for the complaints made by serious observers, at all times, of abounding iniquity and folly. But though particular modes of vice prevail in one'age more than in others,