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Abfalom's rebellion ; for he speaks of “ enemies, who then took counsel together, and laid wait for his life.” And we find not that he was ever in this perilous and critical situation after that rebellion. David, then, realized old age earlier than some seem to do. He noticed its first appearance ; he brought it near in his meditations, before it had actually invaded him ; or, at least, when he began to perceive its approach in the decline of his strength, and the increase of his grey hairs. But many choose to view it as distant-“ Grey bairs are here and there upon them, and they perceive it not.” They enjoy, in a comfortable degree, the pleasures of life, and that evil day, in which there is no pleasure, they put far from them.
It would be wise for us to imitate David's example; to think of, and prepare for the evil day, before it comes ; to secure God's gracious presence now ; and in our daily prayers to ask, that “ he would not cast us off in the time of old
age, nor forsake us when our strength faileth.”
The Pfalmift here reminds us, that old age time when strength faileth : and that at such a time God's presence is of peculiar importance.
1. Old age is a time when strength faileth. There is then a sensible decay of bodily strength.
As we come into the world, so we depart, impotent, feeble and helpless. From our infancy we gradually acquire strength, until we arrive to our full maturity. We then for a few years continue stationary, without sensible change. After a little while we begin to feel, and are constrained to confefs an alteration in our state. Our limbs lose their former activity ; our customary labour becomes wearisome ; pains invade our frame ; our fleep, often interrupted, refreshes us less than
heretofore ; our food is less guftful ; our fight is bedimmed, and our ears are dull of hearing i " they that look out at the windows are darken. ed, and the daughters of music are low ;' the pleasures of reading and conversation abate ; our ancient companions have generally withdrawn to another world, and the few who are left are, like us, fhut up, that they cannot go forth. Hence focial visits are more unfrequent and less entertaining; and our condition grows more and more fol. itary and disconfolate.
With our bodily, our mental strength usually declines.
The faculty, which firft appears to fail, is the memory. And its failure we first observe in the difficulty of recollecting little things, such as names and numbers. We then perceive it in our inability to retain things which are recent. What we early heard or read, abides with us; but later information is foon forgotten. Hence, in conversation, aged people often repeat the fame questions and relate the same stories ; for they foon lose the recollection of what has passed. And hence perhaps, in part, is the impertinent garrulity, of which old age is accused. You see, then, my young friends, the importance of laying up a good store of useful knowledge in early life. What you acquire now, you may retain : later acquisitions will be small and uncertain. Like riches, they will make themselves wings and fly away. In the dechne of life you must chiefly depend on the old stock ; and happy, if you shall have then a rich ftore to feed upon.
When memory fails, other faculties soon follow. The attention is with more difficulty fixed, and more easily diverted : the intellect is less acute in its difcernment, and the judgment more fallible in its decisions.
The judgment is the last faculty which the pride of
age is willing to give up. Our forgetfulness we cannot but feel, and others cannot but observe. But we choose to think our judgment remains folid and clear. We are never apt to distrust our own opinions ; for it is the nature of opinion to be satisfied with itself. It is certain, however, that judgment must fail in some proportion to the failure of attention and recollection. We form a just judgment by viewing and comparing the evidences and circumstances, which relate to the case in question. If then any material evidence, or circumstance escapes our notice, or flips from our memory, the judgment formed is uncertain, because we have but a partial view of the case. În all matters, where a right judgment depends on comparing several things, the failure of memory endangers the rectitude of the decision.
When we perceive a decline of bodily and mental strength, fear and anxiety usually increase. Difficulties once trifling now swell to a terrifying magnitude, because we have not power to encounter them ; want ftares upon us with frightful aspect, because we have not capacity to provide against it ; the kind and patient attention of our friends we distrust, because we know not how long we may be a burden to them, and we have nothing in our hands to remunerate them, except that property which they already anticipate as their own. “ The grasshopper now becomes a burden ; we rise up at the voice of the bird; we are afraid of that which is high, and fear is in the way.”
This state of infirmity and anxiety, painful in itself, is rendered more so by the recollection of what we once were, and by the anticipation of what we foon shall be. Vol. V.
We contrast our present with our former condition-Once we were men ; now we feel ourfelves to be but babes. Once we pofseffed active powers ; now we are become impotent. Once we sustained our children and ministered to them with pleasure ; now we are sustained by them ; and we are sure, our once experienced pleasure is not reciprocated. Once we were of some importance in society; now we are sunk into insignifi
Once our advice was fought and regarded; now we are passed by with neglect, and younger men take our place : even the management of our own substance has fallen into the hands of others,and they perhaps scarcely think us worthy of being consulted. And if we are, now and then, consulted, perhaps our jealousy whispers, that it is done merely to flatter our aged vanity and keep us in good humor.
Such a contrast Job experienced, and he found it no small aggravation of his adversity. Looking back to former days, he says, “When I went out of the gates through the city, the young men faw me, and hid themselves ; the aged arose and stood up. When the ear heard me, then it blessed me ; and when the eye faw me, it gave witness to me,
, because I delivered the poor and fatherless, and the blessing of those who were ready to perish, came upon me. But now they who are younger than I have me in derision. They abhor me and flee from me. They mar my path, and set forward my calamity.”
And not only the remembrance of what is paft, but the fore thought of what is to come, aggravates the calamity of the aged man.
In earlier life hope ftood by him to comfort him in all his troubles. If he was disappointed in his bufiness, he hoped to succeed better in a fu. ture essay. If he met with misfortune, he hoped by and by to retrieve it. If he lost his health, he hoped by time and medicine to regain it. If he suffered pain, he hoped it would be short. Whatever calamity he felt, he looked forward to better days. But now hope has quitted its station and retired from his company.
“ His days are spent without hope.” The joys of life are fled, never to return. He anticipates the increase of infirmities and pains from month to month, and the probable event of total decrepitude and confinement, and the entire loss of his feeble remains of sensibility and intellect.
Well might Solomon call this an evil day.
In the probable expectation of such a day, there is no solid comfort, but in the hope of enjoying the presence of God. Therefore, as we observed,
II. We ought to adopt the prayer of David, “ Caft me not off in the time of old age : Forsake me not when my strength faileth.”
In the first place, the Psalmist may here be supposed to request, that God would not cast him off from the care of his providence.
When we have reached old age, or find ourselves near it, we may reasonably and properly pray, that God would excuse us from those pains of body and infirmities of mind, with which some have been afflicted; that he would place us in easy and unembarrassed circumstances, and in connexion with kind and faithful friends; that he would free us from worldly carefulness and anxiety, and allow us liberty for those devout exercises, which are suited to prepare us for our momentous change. David had seen the gross misbehavior of some of his children, and was now probably suffering under the cruel persecution of an ungracious fon, who wished the father's death, that he might pofa