« PreviousContinue »
him that is preparing you a mansion with himself; and whose office it is to receive the departing souls of true believers. Live therefore in the daily thoughts of Christ, and comfort your souls in the belief of that full supply and safety which you have in him.
Direct. iv. “Let the ancient mercies and experiences of God's love through all your lives, be still before you, and fresh upon your minds, that they may kindle your love and thankfulness to God, and may feed your own delight and comfort, and help you the easier to submit to future weaknesses and death. Eaten bread must not be forgotten: a thankful remembrance preseryeth all your former mercies still fresh and green; the sweetness and benefit may remain, though the thing itself be past and gone. This is the great privilege of an aged Christian; that he hath many years' mercy more to think on, than others have. Every one of those mercies was sweet to you by itself, at the time of your receiving it (except afflictions, and misunderstood and unobserved mercies): and then how sweet should altogether be? If unthankfulness have buried any of them, let thankfulness give them now a resurrection. What delightful work is it for your thoughts, to look back to your childhood, and remember how mercy brought you up, and conducted you to every place that you have lived in; and provided for you, and preserved you, and heard your prayers, and disposed of all things for your good: how it brought you under the means of grace, and blessed them to you; and how the Spirit of God began and carried on the work of grace upon your hearts? I hope you have recorded the wonders of mercy ever upon your hearts, with which God hath filled up all your lives. And is it not a pleasant work in old age to ruminate upon them? If a traveller delight to talk of his travels, and a soldier or seaman, upon his adventures, how sweet should it be to a Christian to peruse all the conduct of mercy through his life, and all the operations of the Spirit upon his heart. Thankfulness taught men heretofore, to make their mercies, as it were, attributes of their God. As “ the God that brought them out of the land of Egypt,” was the name of the God of Israel. And Gen. xlviii. 15. Jacob delighteth himself in his old age, in such reviews of mercy: “The God which fed me all my
life long unto this day. The angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads.” Yea, such thankful reviews of ancient mercies, will force an ingenuous soul to a quieter submission to infirmities, sufferings, and death; and make us say as Job, "Shall we receive good at the hands of God, and not evil?" and as old Simeon, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace.” It is a powerful rebuke of all discontents, and maketh death itself more welcome, to think how large a share of mercy, we have had already in the world.
Direct. v. • Draw forth the treasure of wisdom and experience, which you have been so long in laying up, to instruct the ignorant, and warn the inexperienced and ungodly that are about you. Days should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom." “ The aged women must teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands and children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the Word of God be not blasphemed d.” It is supposed that time and experience hath taught you more than is known to raw and ignorant youth. Tell them what you have suffered by the deceits of sin : tell them the method and danger of temptations : tell them what you lost by delaying your repentance; and how God recovered you : and how the Spirit wrought upon your souls : tell them what comforts you have found in God; what safety and sweetness in a holy life; how sweet the holy Scriptures have been to you; how prayers have prevailed; how the promises of God have been fulfilled; and what mercies and great deliverances you have had. Tell them how good you have found God; and how bad you have found sin; and how vain you have found the world. Warn them to resist their fleshly lusts, and to take heed of the ensnaring flatteries of sin : acquaint them truly with the history of public sins, and judgments, and mercies in the times which you have lived in. God hath made this the duty of the aged, that the “ Fathers should tell the wonders of his works and mercies to their children, that the ages to come may praise the Lord e.”
Direct. vi. · The aged must be examples of wisdom, gravity, and holiness unto the younger.' Where should
c Job xxxii. 7. d Tit. ii, 3-5. e Deut. iv. 10, Psal. lxxviii, 4-6.
they find any virtues in eminence, if not in you, that have so much time, and helps, and experiences? It may well be expected that nothing but savoury, wise, and holy, come from your mouths; and nothing unbeseeming wisdom and godliness, be seen in your lives. Such as you would have your children after you to be, such shew yourselves to them in all your conversation.
Direct. vii. • Especially it belongeth to you, to repress the heats, and dividing, contentious, and censorious disposition of the younger sorts of professors of godliness. They are in the heat of their blood, and want the knowledge and experience of the aged to guide their zeal: they have not their senses yet exercised in discerning good and evil ® : they are not able to try the spirits : they are yet but as children, apt to be tossed to and fro, and “carried up and down with every wind of doctrine, after the craft and subtlety of deceivers f.” The novices are apt to be puffed up with pride, and “ fall into the condemnation of the devil 6.” They never saw the issue of errors, and sects, and parties, and what divisions and contentions tend to, as you have done. And therefore it belongeth to your gravity and experience to call them unto unity, charity, and peace, and to keep them from proving firebrands in the church, and rashly overrunning their understandings and the truth.
Direct. viii. · Of all men you must live in the greatest contempt of earthly things, and least entangle yourselves in the love or needless troubles of the world : you are like to need it and use it but a little while : a little
serve one that is so near his journey's end : you have had the greatest experience of its vanity : you are so near the great things of another world, that methinks you should have no leisure to remember this, or room for any unnecessary thoughts or speeches of it. As your bodies are less able for worldly employment than others, so accordingly you are allowed to retire from it more than others, for your more serious thoughts of the life to come. It is a sign of the bewitching power of the world, and of the folly and unreasonableness of sin, to see the aged usually as covetous as the young ; and men that are going out of the world, to love it as fondly, and scrape for it as eagerly, as if they never looked to leave
* Eph. iv. 14.
81 Tim. iii. 6.
e Heb. v. 12.
it. You should rather give warning to the younger sort, to take heed of covetousness, and of being ensnared by the world, and while they labour in it faithfully with their hands, to keep their hearts entirely for God.
Direct. ix. 'You should highly esteem every minute of your time, and lose none in idleness or unnecessary things; but be always doing or getting some good; and do what you do with all your might.' For you are sure now that your time will not be long: how little have you left to make all the rest of your preparation in for eternity! The young may die quickly, but the old know that their time will be but short. Though nature decay, yet grace can grow in life and strength; and when “ your outward man perisheth, the inner man may be renewed day by day.” Time is a most precious commodity to all; but especially to them that have but a little more to determine the question in, • Whether they must live in heaven or hell for ever.' Though you cannot do your worldly businesses as heretofore, yet you have variety of holy exercises to be employed in; bodily ease may beseem you, but idleness is worse in you
than in any
Direct. x. When the decay of your strength, or memory, or parts, doth make
unable to read, or pray, or meditate by yourselves, so much or so well as heretofore, make the more use of the more lively gifts and help of others.' Be the more in hearing others, and in joining with them in prayer; that their memory, and zeal, and utterance may help to lift
carry you on. Direct. xi. “Take not a decay of nature, and of those gifts and works which depend thereon, for a decay of grace.' Though your memory, and utterance, and fervour of affection, abate as your natural heat abateth, yet be not discouraged; but remember, that you may for all this grow in grace. If you do but grow in holy wisdom and judgment, and a higher esteem of God and holiness, and a greater disesteem of all the vanities of the world, and a firmer resolu-: tion to cleave to God and trust on Christ, and never to turn to the world and sin ; this is your growth in grace. Direct. XII.
' Be patient under all the infirmities and inconveniencies of old age.' Be not discontented at them, repine not, nor grow peevish and froward to those about you.
This is a common temptation which the aged should carefully resist. You knew at first that you had a body that must decay: if you would not have had it till a decaying age, why were you so unwilling to die? If you would, why do you repine? Bless God for the days of youth, and strength, and health, and ease which you have had already! and grudge not that corruptible flesh decayeth.
Direct. XIII. Understand well that passive obedience is that which God calleth you to in your age and weakness, and in which
you must serve and honour him in the conclusion of your labour.' When you are unfit for any great or public works, and active obedience hath not opportunity to exercise itself as heretofore, it is then as acceptable to God that you honour him, by patient suffering. And therefore it is a great error of them that wish for the death of all that are impotent, decrepit, and bedrid, as if they were utterly unserviceable to God. I tell you, it is no small service that they may do, not only by their prayers, and their secret love to God, but by being examples of faith, and patience, and heavenly-mindedness, and confidence and joy in God, to all about them. Grudge not then if God will thus employ you.
Direct. xiv. ' Let your thoughts of death, and preparations for it, be as serious as if death were just at hand.' Though all your life be little enough to prepare for death, and it be a work that should be done as soon as you have the use of reason, yet age and weakness call louder to you, presently to prepare without delay. Do therefore all that you would fain find done, when your last sickness cometh; that unreadiness to die may not make death terrible, nor your age uncomfortable.
Direct. xv. Live in the joyful expectation of your change, as becometh one that is so near to heaven, and looketh to live with Christ for ever. Let all the high and glorious things, which faith apprehendeth, now shew their power in the love, and joy, and longings of your soul. There is nothing in which the weak and aged can more honour Christ and do good to others, than in joyful expectation of their change, and an earnest desire to be with Christ. This will do much to convince unbelievers, that the promises are true, and that heaven is real, and that a holy life is indeed the best, which hath so happy an end. When they see you highest in your joys, at the time when others are deepest in dis