A DISCOURSE CONCERNING Old-Age, TENDING TO The Instruction, Caution and Com∣fort of Aged Persons.
Tit. 2. 2, 3.
That the Aged men be sober, grave, tem∣perate, sound in Faith, in Charity, in Patience. The aged Women likewise, &c.
Ben Syra. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉.
Chrysost. in Psal. 50.
By RICHARD STEELE, M. A. Minister of the Gospel.
LONDON, Printed by I. Astwood, for Tho. Parkhurst at the Bible and three Crowns, at the lower end of Cheap-side, near Mercers-Chappel, 1688.
Apr. 10. 1688.
THE EPISTLE to the Readers.
YOU have here a plain Dis∣course concerning Old-age. The Design of it is to In∣struct, to Warn, and to Comfort the Weaker sort of Ancient persons, amongst whom I must place my self. The Wiser and strong∣er may find divers things upon this Sub∣ject collected here together, which they have met with asunder, and which they know and practise better than I. But that which put me upon this Attempt, was, 1. Some years Experience of Old-age in my self. 2. More Leisure by reason of my bodily Infirmities, and other Re∣straints than I could have desired. 3. An Observation, that there was no full Treatise in our Tongue upon this Point. 4. And lastly, an unfained desire to be some way usefull in the World. These Page [unnumbered] were the true Occasions of this Ad∣venture. Whatsoever in it tasts of the cask, impute that to my weakness; whatsoever is worthy, ascribe it only to God•… Goodness. I know it is full of imperfections, but when the Principle, Matter, and End of an action are ho∣nest, Candid persons will interpret the rest in the best sence: Such Ancient and Modern Authors, I could meet with,* as have written upon this Subject, I have perused, and digested their Obser∣vations in their places. But the Scrip∣tures here produced are my great Vouch∣ers, and which I do most earnestly re∣commend to the Readers, for they are worthy the highest Regard. That the Lord would enable me and you to frame our Old-age according to these Instructi∣ons, is the earnest Prayer of
May 10▪ 1688.
CHAP. I. The Description of Old-age.
- Sect. 1. OF the Names for Old-age. Page. 2
- 2. Of the Nature of it. Page. 6
- 3. Of the Beginning of it. Page. 9
- 4. Of the long lives of many persons. Page. 12
CHAP. II. The Causes of Old-age, and Preservatives.
- Sect. 1. The Original Cause, Mans Sin. Page. 18
- 2. The Natural Cause, Driness and Coldness. Page. 23
- 3. The Preternatural Causes,
- 1. Unwholsome Air. Page. 24
- 2. Diseases. Page. 25
- 3. Immoderate Care and Labour. Page. 26
- 4. Intemperance. Page. 28
- 5. Inordinate Passions. Page. 29
- 4. Preservatives.
- Page [unnumbered]1. Piety. Page. 32
- 2. Sobriety. Page. 36
CHAP. III. The Sins and Vices of Old-age.
- Sect. 1. Frowardness. Page. 41
- 2. Loquacity. Page. 45
- 3. Envy. Page. 50
- 4. Arrogance. Page. 54
- 5. Covetousness. Page. 57
- 6. Also,
- 1. Craftiness. Page. 69
- 2. Unteachableness. Page. 70
- 3. Implacableness. Page. 72
- 4. Speculative Wickedness. Page. 74
CHAP. IV. The Graces and Vertues of Old-age.
- Sect. 1. Knowledge. Page. 79
- 2. Faith. Page. 85
- 3. Wisdom. Page. 91
- 4. Patience. Page. 98
- 5. Stedfastness. Page. 106
- 6. Temperance. Page. 113
- 7. Love. Page. 120
CHAP. V. The Inconveniences or Miseries of Old-age.
- Generally out of Eccles. 12. Page. 129
- Page [unnumbered]Sect. 1. It is deprived of Pleasures. Page. 133
- 2. Strength and Beauty decreased. Page. 139
- 3. Faculties weakned. Page. 145
- 4. Senses decayed. Page. 151
- 5. Distemper and Pain. Page. 158
- 6. Broken with Crosses. Page. 164
- 7. Attended with Contempt. Page. 171
- 8. Disabled from Service. Page. 176
- 9. Unfit for Religious Exercises. Page. 181
- 10. Terrified with the Approach of Death. Page. 186
CHAP. VI. The Priviledges and Comforts of Old-age.
- Sect. 1. It is greater in Authority. Page. 196
- 2. Richer in Experience. Page. 200
- 3. Freer from Sin. Page. 206
- 4. Proner to Piety. Page. 211
- 5. Riper in its Fruits. Page. 217
- 6. Worthier of Respect. Page. 221
- 7. Further from the World. Page. 226
- 8. Nearer to Heaven. Page. 232
CHAP. VII. The Work and Business of Old-age.
- Sect. 1. Repentance of their Sins. Page. 241
- 2. Obtaining Assurance. Page. 251
- 3. Prayer and Praises. Page. 259
- 4. Instruction of the younger. Page. 267
- Page [unnumbered]5. Watchfulness against the temptations
- 1. Of Discontentedness of Mind. Page. 274
- 2. Of Hardness and Secu∣rity of Heart. Page. 276
- 3. Of Slothfulness of Spi∣rit. Page. 278
- 4. Of Expectation of long life. Page. 283
- 6. Providence for Posterity. Page. 287
- 7. Mortification,
- 1. To Sin. Page. 292
- 2. To the World. Page. 296
- 8. Laying up a treasure in Heaven. Page. 299
- 9. Meditation on Death and Eter∣nity. Page. 307
- 10. Perseverance,
- 1. In Doing. Page. 316
- 2. In Suffering the Will of God. Page. 322
PAge 41. line 4. read persons. p. 76. l. 2. r. pleased. p. 77. marg. r. laniant. p. 80. l. 27. r. as if for unless. p. 81. marg. r. cernere—corporis. p. 95. marg. r. senum. p. 110. l. 4. r. deprive. p. 117. l. 1. r. in for to. p. 140. l. 18. r. let him be useless for make away with him. p. 194. l. 20. r. Prov. p. 195. marg. r. honestissimum domicilium senectu∣tis. p. 196. l. 4. r. Authority. p. 202. marg. r.〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. p. 209. marg. r. mole•…è. p. 272. l. ult. r. self-willed. Other literal Mistakes are left to be rectified by the Candid Reader.Page 1
A DISCOURSE CONCERNING Old-Age:
INtending a Discourse con∣cerning Old-Age, I shall use that Method, which I conceive will be most comprehensive, and most commodious for my pur∣pose; which is, 1. By making some Description thereof. 2. By shewing the true Causes of it, and the best Preser∣vatives against it. 3. The Sins or Vices which are most usual in it. 4. The Gra∣ces and Vertues that are most proper for it. 5. The Inconveniences and Miseries which attend it. 6. The Priviledges and Comforts peculiar to it. And Lastly, the Work and Business that is most need∣ful in it.
CHAP. I. The Description of Old-age.
FOR the First, we must come to a* right Notion of Old-age, partly by its Name. The Words which are used for it in the Orientala Languages, do on∣ly signifie Persons or Things •…at are du∣rable, that have lasted long; And some of them are us'd promiscuously for such as are dignified by Office, as well as for such as have filled their Days. And none of them do direct us in the Computati∣on, when it begins; but do comprehend as well those Persons that are decrepit, as those that are only decayed. For in Gen. 18. 11. Abraham was an Old Man; and in Gen. 24. 1. there he is called with the very same word, but an Old Man, tho he was then forty years older than before. The Hebrew commonly calling an Old Man, one full of days, or stricken in Years, tho sometimes they are distin∣guished, Page 3the aged with him that is full of days, Jerem. 6. 11. by which it should seem, that Old-age comes somewhat short of fulness of daysb.
The Greekc words also for an Old Man do signifie one that hath lived long; or one that looketh towards the Earth; or whose vital moisture is dried away, and nothing but an earthy matter left. The Latined words for Old-age, do signifie multitude of years, or Decay of strength: Or Precedence and Priority of Existence. But the most usual and proper word for it denotes a Person, who hath one Foot in the Grave, that is half dead already; tho some derive it from the Diminution of the Senses, as if no body were old, till they were decrepit and began to dote.
Our English word Old is of a German descent. The High-Dutch calling an Aged person, Alt-man. The Saxons, Eald or Olt-min; the Low-Dutch, Oud-man. All which some derive from the Latines,eo∣thers from the Hebrewsf: but none of them affording us any light concerning the proper Nature, or distinct Time of Old-age; tho, in their native significati∣on, it is likely they in some sort did ex∣press the Thing in question.
Page 4It is clear, that there are divers Peri∣ods in the life of Man, which are like so many Stages in the Race which is set before us. Herein we have some light in the Holy Scriptures. In Levit. 27. 3, 4, &c. where One Interval of time is, from a Month to Five years of Age; a Second, from Five years of Age to Twenty; a Third from twenty to sixty; and the last from sixty to the end of Life. And mens Strength and Ability, at least in those Times and Places, may be collected from their Valuation, which is there adjusted by God himself. Humane Authors have variously divided the Life of Man. Some into Four parts, answering the four parts of the Year; Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. Others into Seven; assign∣ing each part of it to a different Planet; and so Old-age to Saturn. But Man's Age seems most fitly to be distributed into, 1. His Growing. 2. His Ripe or con∣sistent, and 3. His Decaying Age.
As to the First of these; we need not be so Critical, as to begin it at his Conception, or Quickning in the Womb, tho he doth then begin to live and to grow; sith the Holy Ghost in the Scrip∣ture above-said makes no reckoning of his Age, until he be a Month old. Page 5 Leaving therefore that State of Non-age, we may distinguish his Growing Age in∣to Infancy, Child-hood and Youth. Infan∣cy ends when we begin to go and speak. Child-hood reacheth to the fourteenth or fifteenth year; and Youth lasts to Twenty five. Unto these years we usually in∣crease in Strength or Stature. Not but that some particular Persons, or in some Countries do ripen sooner; and also that Females are reckon'd to attain to the Se∣cond Stage of their Growing Age, two years sooner, and to the third Stage, four years sooner than the Males; yet still the foresaid Computation agrees with the nobler Sex, and comprehends the Generality of them.
The Ripe Age of Man follows, when the Parts of his Body, and the Powers of his Soul are come•… to some Consistence; and therefore it may be called his Best Estate, or as the Hebrew signifies in Psal. 39. 5. his setled Estate: Verily every man at his setled, or best Estate, is altogether Vanity. The former is the Spring, this is the Summer of a mans life; wherein they who are truly wise, will be ga∣thering both Temporal and Spiritual Provision for the Winter of Old-ageg. Now this Rational Flower is in its prime. Page 6As the Flower of the Field, so he flourish∣eth, Psal. 103. 15. Many indeed are cropt and gathered in their Youth, and others are cut off in the midst of their days: for when the Wind passeth over this Flower, it is gone. And it is observable, that Enoch in the first World, and Elijah in the second, and our Dear Saviour in the last, were called away in the midst of their days; to warn us, that this is not our Country, but that even in the time of Youth and Strength, it behoves us to prepare for another World. But if the Lord do still by his Power and Pati∣ence, hold our Soul in life, and that His visitation do preserve our Spirit, this brings us to Old-age; and this Ripe Age com∣monly lasts as long as our Growing Age, and so we may assign unto it, Twenty five years more.
AND so we are comen to the Third* and Last Stage of Life, the De∣caying Age or Old-age; which is the Sub∣ject of the following Discourse; which may be thus describ'd, namely, That Part of Mans life, wherein through the Multi∣tudePage 7of Years his Strength is decay'dh. For, 1. It is not meerly such a number of Years without some Decay of Nature, that can properly denominate Old-age; sith in former times before the Flood, when men usually lived eight or nine hundred years, he that was an hundred years old, was a very Young man; and still we find that many are stronger at sixty, than others are at fifty years of Age. Thus Athana∣sius testifies of Antony the Monk in Egypt, that he had all his Teeth, and his Eye∣sight sound, when he was an hundred and five years old. Neither, 2ly. Doth the Decay of Strength alone, determine a man Old; sith Diseases and other Ca∣sualties may weaken and wither him, who in respect of his Age, hath not at∣tain'd the Meridian of his Life. Thus our Blessed Saviour was guess'd to be near fifty years old, Ioh. 8. 57. when he was but little past Thirty, being a man of Sor∣rows, and acquainted with Grief. But when our Strength is decayedi through the multitude of Years, then Old-age com∣menceth.
From whence it followeth, that neither Gray-hairs, nor Wrinkles, nor any such separable Adjunct can be a Demonstration of Old-age; seeing Sickness, or Cares, Page 8 or Fears, or Grief may produce these Effects, without any considerable Decay of strength, or Number of years, Prov. 12. 25. Heaviness in the Heart of man maketh it stoop. Here the Heart stoops like an old man, and that through hea∣viness. And Psal. 6. 7. Mine Eye is con∣sumed, because of Grief, it waxeth Old, because of all mine Enemies; here Grief brings Old-age into the Eye. And Psal. 32. 3. When I kept silence, my Bones waxed Old: here Old age is ante-dated in the Bones by trouble of Mind. Thus Authors tell us of those, whose Hairs have be∣come hoary by Sickness, and have grown black again at the return of Health k. And the Story of the Dutch Captain is famous, who being put into a Fright, had his Hair turned Gray in the space of one Night. But all these being preternatural and accidental, do not constitute Old age at all.
Neither doth any occasional Eclypse upon the internal Faculties, the Mind, Me∣mory or Phancy, certainly declare Old-age; for many Accidents may produce these Effects in the youngest persons: whereas Old-age is not incident to the Soul. Its Organs may be weakned ormaimed either by natural Decays, or by violent Acci∣dents, Page 9 so that they cannot exert them∣selves; but the Soul can never proper∣ly be said to grow old, because the na∣ture of it is unperishable; and that which never perishes, can never be said to decay. But when natural Heat be∣gins to abate, when no food can suffi∣ciently supply that Radical Moisture in the Body, and when the digestive facul∣ty is weakened; so that both the Sen∣ses and Members begin to feel a Decay, then Old-age hath taken you by the hand, to lead you to your long homel.
NOW touching the precise Year* wherein Old-age may be said to begin, it is not so material to be known, as it is doubtful to be fixed. But if we allow five and twenty years to the Grow∣ing part of mans life, and reckon five and twenty years more to the Ripe or staid part thereof, then doth Old-age ordinarily commence at Fifty years of age. And there or thereabout many Learned men m have fixt it, and then five and twenty years more will reach the End of most mens lives, or bring Page 10 them to seventy five, an age wherein commonly men grow every way impo∣tent, and have one foot in the Grave. It's true, an universal fixed period cannot be set herein; the diversity of mens na∣tural Constitutions, Imployments, Diet, Exercises, &c. causeth Old-age to come sooner to some, and slower to others. Some persons through the happiness of their Descent, have a better stock of natural Heat, and radical moisture at their setting out than others, and consequently Old-age being nothing else but the cold and dry temper of the Body, seizeth upon the per∣son more slowly. Some peoples imploy∣ments do not spend or impair their Vitals so much as others. Some persons are nou∣rished by more sound and vigorous Food, than others are. In short, a Chearful Heart, a Sober Diet, and moderate Exer∣cise, may defer Old-age for a time; but come it will at length, even an House of Stone will at last decay, and grow out of repair, Iob 14. 19, 20. The Waters wear the Stones: thou washest away the things which grow out of the Dust of the Earth, and thou destroyest the hope of Man. Thou pre∣vailest for ever against him, and he passeth, thou changest his Countenance and sendest him away.
Page 11As for the Progress of Old-age, there be some that make a First, Second and Third part thereof n, but they undertake not, or else agree not to determine pre∣cisely their respective periods. But this is plain, that there is a Vigorous, and a Decrepit Old-age. During the Former, natural Abilities are not so decayed, as to render a Man uneasie, or unservicea∣ble. Abraham was an elderly man, Gen. 18. 11. He was Old and well stricken in years, Gen. 24. 1. being then about one hundred and forty years of Age: but Gen. 25. 8. He was Old and full of years, being one hundred seventy and five, then he was very Old. Thus Iacob was an Old man at one hundred and seven years, for Benja∣min is called a Child of his Old-age, Gen. 44. 20. But he lived Forty years after that, Gen. 47. 28. But then he was a very Old-man; his Eyes were dim for Age, and he was confin'd to his Bed. In the former part of Old-age, many injoy a good Consistency of Mind and habi∣tude of Body; whereby they are very comfortable in themselves, and very ca∣pable of Counselling and Governing o∣thers: Yea, upon some accounts it may be esteemed the best parcel of our Life; wherein our impetuous Passions being al∣ready Page 12 spent, we are furnished by great experience to be very useful in our Gene∣ration. But when a Man is arrived at the latter part of Old-age, to be impo∣tent and decrepit, then he grows uneasy to himself, and unserviceable to others. These days may be called Evil days, and of these years it may be said, I have no plea∣sure in them, Eccles. 12. 1.
THE last Period of Old-age is*Death: Some indeed have been longer 'ere they tasted of Death, and some sooner; there is no certain definite year, wherein that last friendly Enemy comes.
o The Antediluvians lived eight or nine hundred years. Those which were born after the Flood, did scarce live half so long; for Arphaxad, who was born after it, lived but 440 years, Gen 11. 13. And in the time of Peleg his Grand-child, the Age of man was shrunk half in half shorter; he lived only 239 years, Gen. 11. 21. And in the Age of Nahor, great Grand-child to Peleg, it fell to 150. Gen. 11. 25. And so the ordinary term of mans life was by degrees curtail'd, that Page 13 in Moses time, the dayes of his years were reckon'd at threescore years and ten; and the strongest constitutions did reach but to fourscore years, Psal. 90. 10. Howbeit, there have been in all ages of the world, some Instances of such as have exceeded the ordinary standard; the causes and ends whereof are known only to God, in whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind, Job 12. 10. Thus we read of many in the Primitive times of Christianity that lived on mean Food, and yet overpassed an hundred years; and Rivet in the end of his Epistle to his Brother concerning Old-age, makes a Relation of the pious life and remark∣able Death of Iacobus Faber Stapulensis, who An. 1538. died above an hundred years of Age. Yea Eusebiusp assures us, that Narcissus Bishop of Ierusalem attained to an hundred sixty and six years. Our late Geographersq also tell us of the Brazilians, that they live common∣ly to 150. years, and that free from diseases. Fran. Alvarez affirmeth, that himself saw an Ethiopian Bishop who was an hundred and fifty years of age. And I have read that in one region of Italy there were found upon a survey, Page 14 Fifty four persons of 100. years of age. Fifty seven of 110. Two of 125. Four of 130. and Three of 140. r Yea Fern. Lopez the Portugal Kings Historiographer, gives a relation of an Indian, who up∣on clear evidence was found to have lived Three hundred and forty years: and of another Indian Prince, who was seen by M. D' Ottigni, and had lived Two hundred and fifty years s.
Thus Anacreon in Plinyt relates of one Arganthonius King of the Tartessians, and the like of Tullius Fullonius of Bo∣nonia, that lived an hundred and fifty years; of Cinyras who lived an hundred and sixty; of Aegymius that lived two hundred. And Hellanicus in the same Author affirmeth, that divers in Aetolia lived two, and some three hundred years. In Greece, Nestors age became a kind of Proverb, attaining to three hundred years. And Sabellicus tells of divers in Arabia, who lived four hundred years. Famous is the Instance of Iohannes de Tempori∣bus, who bore arms under Charles the Great. An. 800. and was alive in the reign of Conrade 3. A o. 1124. having lived three hundred sixty and one years. And in latter times Masseus tells us, in his Indian Histories of One in the last Page 15 age but one, that lived three hundred thirty and five years, whose teeth had several times faln out, and new ones came in their stead, his hoary hairs re∣turning by degrees to black again.
There have been also in our Age and Countrey many Instances of such as have attained to an extraordinary Age. In Northumberland an Old Minister of Gods Word, called Mr. Michael Vivon, who in the year of our Lord, 1657. being then one hundred and ten years of age, had within two years time before, three young teeth sprung up; and though for the space of forty years before, he could not read the largest Print with∣out Spectacles; yet afterwards he could read the smallest without them, having also new hair come•… upon his head, and had five children after that he was fourscore years old. And it is but A o. 1635. that Thomas Parr died in Lon∣don, who had lived in the Countrey above one hundred and fifty years; In all. 152. years and nine months. Yea there were two Brothers and a Sister, Richard Green, Philip Green, and Alice, who lived but a while ago not far from Marlborough, that were alive to∣gether, and each of them above an hun∣dredPage 16 years old; the last of them, which was Richard, dying about A o. 1685. at an hundred and fifteen years of age. And a modern Historianu of our own tells us, that Ao. 1588. one Iames Sands of Harbourn in Staffordshire died, aged one hundred and forty, his wife al∣so being 120. And produces several others, that lived to see their Grand∣childrens Grand-children.
Yea, even Women, though the weak∣er Sex, yet have sometimes survived unto a great Age. The Scripture re∣lates, that Sarah Abrahams wife lived 127. years, Genes. 23. 1. the onely wo∣man whose Age is recorded in the Book of God. Pliny's Note of Terentia Ci∣cero's wife that lived an hundred and three years, or of Clodia that lived an hundred and fifteen, is rendred inconsi∣derable by examples of our own. For it is recorded of Dame Hester Temple of Stow in Bucking hamshire, who having four Sons and nine Daughters, lived to see. seven hundred extracted from her own body. And the instance of holy Mistris Honywood of Kent is well known, who lived to see Three hundred of her offspring alive together: and both these must needs be full of dayes. Yea, it Page 17 was but about A o. 1670. that one Mrs. Pyfield died in Ireland, who had lived one hundred thirty and six years. But the R. H. the late Countess of Desmond exceeds all late examples in these Coun∣tries; who, when she was an hundred and forty years old, had a set of young teeth, and was able to walk many miles, who died within our memories, being, as it is credibly affirmed, an 184. years old.
In all which Instances, as the strength of Nature was great, so the Power and Goodness of the God of Nature was greater; to the honour whereof I have Collected and mention'd them: not that any of us should deferr our Re∣pentance or any Good Work, upon an expectation of arriving at the like term of Life; sith an hundred thousand are dead and rotten, for one that reach such Longevity.
CHAP. II. The Causes of Old-age, and Pre∣servatives.
HAving thus Described Old-age, and* selected some of the most emi∣nent Examples thereof, I come now in the Second place, to inquire into the true Causes of it, and Preservatives against it. For the Causes thereof.
First, the Original meritorious Cause* is Mans Sin and Defection from God. The truth is, it may seem somewhat strange, that Man being created at the first in the Image of the Immortal God, placed but little lower than the Angels, crowned with glory and honour, and made Ruler over all other creatures, should have his life burdened with so many sorrows, and then so soon arrive at Old-age and Death. And some of the Heathens did foolishly charge Nature with Envy and Cruelty towards Man, Page 19 in causing so noble a creature to tarry so short a time in the world, and to grow old as soon as he begins to grow ripe; And Others as wisely concluded, that Men were sent into this world on∣ly for their Punishment, for crimes com∣mitted in others Bodies before. And in∣deed, if you set the Scriptures aside which resolve the Case, it is somewhat unaccountable to have so short an Hi∣story of so noble a creature. If a cu∣rious Architect should frame and rear up a firm and stately pile of Building, and being compleatly furnished, the same should presently shrink, and in a short time decay and fall to the ground; Passengers would be apt to call in que∣stion the sidelity or skill of him that made it; or exceedingly wonder by what means it came to ruine, till they come to know, that the Inhabitant himself undermin'd, pluck'd down, or fir'd his own house: So in the Case be∣fore us, it is matter of grief and asto∣nishment to see the most exquisite piece of Gods workmanship upon earth, to become decrepit in so short a space, and to be reduc'd so soon into dust and ashes.
We must know therefore, that Man Page 20 at his first Creation being made up of a Body and a Soul, was neither in his own nature so unchangeable and immor∣tal as the Angels, nor so frail and weak as other creatures below. Not so unchangea∣ble, I say, in his own nature; for having a body that was to be continually supplied with food, that is, repair'd, it follows that, that which needs repair, is liable to decay; but yet while the sweet harmony, wherein it was first form'd, was not di∣sturb'd, the frame might well have in∣dured for a long time; especially, if the Tree of Life in Eden were intend∣ed, as some of the Learned* thought, to support, strengthen, and perpetuate Life. But the dismal Fall of our first Parents did so crush the Body, and wound the Soul, that neither of them can be recovered in this Life. For im∣mediately that Death, which was threat∣ned to him, by degrees seized upon his Body; and fear, shame and sorrow en∣tred into his Soul. And though the divine Providence permitted Him and divers of his posterity to live many hun∣dreds of years, that the naked world might be peopled, and that Religion with all other useful knowledge might be procur'd, preserv'd and propagated Page 21 in the world; yet we date his decaying and dying state from that word, Gen. 3. 19. For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. That righteous Sen∣tence brings our hoary hairs upon us. Thou turnest man to destruction, and say∣est, Return ye children of men—In the morning they are like grass which groweth up. In the morning it flourisheth and groweth up, in the evening it is cut down and withereth. Psal. 90. 3, 6. If you in∣quire therefore into the ruines of hu∣mane nature, the answer will be, that Sin is the moth, which, being bred therein, hath fretted the garment, wi∣thers the man, and layes his honour in the dust. Every decay therefore of our Strength should mind us of our Aposta∣cy from God by the Fall, and should renew our grief for the same. Whe∣ther Adam wept as oft as he looked towards Paradise, is uncertain; but sure∣ly when we find our Eye-sight fail us, our Skin to wrinkle, and the pillars of the house to tremble, we should mourn for that woful Disobedience and Ingra∣titude, which was the Original cause of the decayes of Nature. When your Eyes cannot do you service in Seeing, let them do it in Weeping for this root of sin and misery.
Page 22Say not, that you are unconcern'd in what was done by another, time out of mind. For certainly we should ne∣ver feel the effects, which we daily find to cur smart, if we had no hand in the procuring cause of them. They who would perswade you, that no sin is in∣herent in you, but that its only con∣tracted by imi•…ation and custome, must needs yield that the Decayes, the •…ee∣bleness and the Dyscrasy, even of the temperatest man in the world, must pro∣ceed from some wound upon humane nature, which the Creator would never have inflicted without a fault. O there∣fore let us not only lament our Actual and daily offences, but let us go up to the Spring, and bewail that first rebel∣lion, which is the root of evil both of sin and punishment. I say again, when thy bones ake, and when thy hand shakes, let thy heart mourn for the Sin that hath poyson'd thy nature, and made thee miserable. The body which was the Instrument in the crime, is justly the Subject in the punishment.
THE Second which is the Immediate* and Natural Cause of Old-age, is the Dryness and Coldness of the Tempera∣ment of the Body. There is according to the Old Philosophy, a certain Native Heat and Radical Moisture ingenerated in all mankind at their Conception, whereby Life is preserved: The one is like the Flame, the other like the Orl that feeds it. Diseases and Disasters are like a Thief in the Candle, that makes it wast the sooner: but if no such thing happen, yet the Lamp will consume, and at last extinguish. All the supplies of Food and Physick, are not able to maintain nor repair that Heat nor that Moisture, but a cold and dry temper grows upon the Bo∣dy, till it be quite exhaust and wasted.
It is true, some there be who have de∣rived to them from their Progenitors, a greater measure of radical Heat and Moi∣sture, and therewith more lively and vi∣gorous Spirits; and these, meeting with no external Inconveniences, do continue longer in their strength, as may be ob∣served Page 24 in some Families every where: as some generous Wines will preserve themselves from decay much longer than others; but at length they grow acid and spiritless: so in tract of time that Moth of Mortality, which lurks in all our Bodies, will fret that Garment into Rags. Things which are Compounded must dis∣solve; contrary Qualities in the same Sub∣ject, tho never so equally temper'd, will work out one another. No care or Art can preserve these Houses of Clay, for as much as their foundation is in the Dust, Job 4. 19.
THE Third sort of Causes, which* may be termed Preternatural and Adventitious, that do accelerate or hasten Old-age, some of them are such as these.
1. Unwholsome Air. For the Air, be∣ing the constant Food of the Vital parts, must needs contribute much to the Re∣pair or Decay of the Body; and the more impure it is, must consequently impair and weaken it. Hence and from the Corruption of Food it is not impro∣bable, Page 25 that the Age of Man, after the Deluge became so much diminished; insomuch as Arphaxad, who was the first-born in the New World, lived scarce half so long as those before the Flood; as ap∣pears by comparing, Gen. 5. 27. with Gen. 11. 13. the Air being now become more impure and unwholsome, than it was before. However it is most evident, that people do commonly at this day grow weak, crazy and impotent, who live in those places, which mourn under a malignant Air; and others are fresh and lusty at the same years, that injoy the blessing of a purer breathing.
2. Secondly, Diseases are another Cause that brings on Old-age. For these must needs weaken that strength of Nature, whereby our life is supported, Psal. 39. 11. When thou with rebukes dost correct man for Iniquity, thou makest his Beauty to con∣sume away like a Moth: and not only his Beauty, but his Strength and Spirits, for the Hebrew runs there,—Thou makest that which is desirable in him to melt away. And thus it was with holy Iob. Thou hast fil∣led me with wrinkles, which is a witness against me, Job. 16. 8. His grievous Di∣stempers had made him old before his time. Thus we daily see divers persons, Page 26 who, in respect of the number of thei•… years, have not pass'd the Meridian of their Age, yet by reason of their Sicknesses, and especially the Dregs which some kinds of them do leave behind them, are old in their very Youth. These are like Storms without, which battering the best built House, will the sooner bring it unto ruin. Holy David said of himself, Psal. 119. 83. I am become like a B•…tle in the Smoak, that is, my natural moisture is dryed, burnt up, and withered. And Hezekiah by reason of sickness complains, Mine Age is departed, and is removed from me as a Shepherds Tent, Isa. 38. 12. Thus the Lord doth sometimes weaken a mans strength in the way, and shortneth his days, Psal. 102. 23. implying, that a mans life is like a Iourney through this into a another World; now by Diseases he weakens us in the way, as we are travel∣ling through the World, causes us to commence Old per saltum, and shortens our days: so that by this means, some have but a winters day of life, while others injoy a longer.
3. Thirdly, Another Cause which ha∣stens Old age, is, immoderate Care or La∣bour. Each of these, when they exceed a due proportion, do exhaust the Spirits, Page 27 and produce early wrinkles; whenas, being moderately used, they do us no hurt, but good. It is indeed a part of the Curse pronounced at the Fall, on Adam and all his posterity, Gen. 3. 19. In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; and the carking Heart and sweating Face, hastens man to the Ground. One of these alone, immoderate Care, or im∣moderate Labour will do the work; but when the mind within is eaten up by continual thoughtfulness, and the Body without is harrast with extreme La∣bours, no wonder that Weakness, Lan∣guishment, and Old-age hasten on a pace: x then doth our strength give place to labour and sorrow, for it is soon cut off, and we fly away, Psal 90. 10. Great indeed is mens folly thus to ruin themselves; sith it is certain that neither our immo∣derate cares, nor our immoderate labour, do us any good at all: less Care and more Prayer would avail us much more; yea, and they do us much hurt, they disquiet the Mind, they disturb the Body, they provoke God to leave us to our selves; and then we shall soon find, that it is vain to rise early, to sit up late, and to eat the Bread of Sorrow: whereas the blessingPage 28of the Lord, it maketh rich, and he addeth no Sorrow with it, Prov. 10. 22. Assure your selves, if moderate care and labour will not bring in Riches, then they are not good for you; and whatsoever is gained otherwise, hath a Curse in it, and will bring misery on the Body, or on the Soul, here or hereafter.
4. A Fourth Cause which hastens Old∣age, is Intemperance, that is, excess in Eating, or in Drinking, or in lustful Em∣braces. Any of these, especially the last, do bring Old-age into youthful years. Sad it is, that our Life being in its ut∣most extent so short, and our Bodies by nature so frail; we, that have a desire to live, and who for that end will be content to use the most irksome remedies, should yet so commonly invite distempers by our Luxury, and so shamefully dig our Graves with our Teeth, and deprive our selves of the residue of our years. In so much, that altho in St. Hieroms time he affirmed, that there were reck∣oned five thousand Martyrs for every day in the Year, save one, yet we may sadly conclude, that Bacchus and Venus have had daily more Martyrs, if we may so call them, in one place or other of the World, than Iesus Christ. In this sense doth Se∣necaPage 29y truly say, Non accepimus brevem vi∣tam, sed fecimus. From whence come for the most part those pains of the Gout, Stone, Dropsy, Convulsions and Apo∣plexies, with such other Distempers, but from Intemperance in some of the fore∣said Objects? A moderate use of Meat, Drink, and conjugal rights, as it doth tend much to the alacrity of the mind, so doth it no less to the Health of the Bo∣dy: but excess in any of them, doth either suffocate Nature, or else impoverish and exhaust it; as it is observed of the more lecherous Creatures, that they are short-liv'd in comparison of others.
If therefore you would arrive at a good Old-age, good in respect of the com∣fort of the Mind, or in respect of the welfare of the Body, oppose and check your unruly Appetites z; resolve with the Grace of God, Hitherto thou shalt come and no further: conclude, I am a Man, yea, a Christian, and not a Brute; and conse∣quently, am not to be guided by Sense, but by Reason and Religion, which teach me to use all these outward comforts, so far as they will promote the Glory of my Maker, and the present and future good of my Body and Soul.
5. Fifthly, Inordinate Passions of the Page 30mind are another means to bring on Old∣age; such as Anger, especially Sorrow. For these do manifestly prey upon the Spirits, and also produce such bodily Di∣stempers, as do hurry people into Old-age before their time. a Hence it was, that Valentinian the Emperor, by an excessive straining of his Voice, in an angry reply against some Offenders, fell into a griev∣ous Fever, which at length brought him to his End. And for Sorrow, the wisest of men tells us, Prov. 15. 13. A merry Heart maketh a chearful Countenance; but by Sorrow of the Heart, the Spirit is brokenb And when the Spirit is broken, the Body must sensibly wast and decay. For these Passions like a Torrent or Land flood break down, and overthrow all before them: you know a River, while it proceeds with its usual stream, passes harmlesly, yea, profitably through all the Fields and Meadows, and makes no breaches on the Banks on either side; but when a sud∣dain and excessive Rain swells it up, then it lays about it without mercy, and tears up the Ground, the Fences and Trees on every side: And even so our Passions be∣ing moderate, are innocent and useful; but he that hath no rule over his own Spi∣rit, is like a Flood of Water broke loose, Page 31 or like a City that is broken down, and with∣out Walls.
Yea, there have been Instances of such, as by sudden Grief have grown Gray in a few days time; and there be hundreds that carry the Badge of their great Sor∣rows on their Heads, long before a due course of years would have brought them.
Let us not therefore suffer these Vul∣tures to feed upon our Hearts, nor yield our selves Slaves to these unruly Passions; which war not only against the Soul, but even against the Body, and will ruin both, except they be restrained and mor∣tified by the Grace of God. Philosophy hath gone far in this work, God forbid but that Christianity should go much fur∣ther.
There are also other both Moral and Na∣tural Causes of Old-age, but these may suf∣fice. The curious may satisfie themselves elsewhere c And by these Causes, you may easily discern what are the best Preservatives against Old-age. For tho no Art or Care can prevent the unavoid∣able access thereof, yet effectual Means may be used to deferr it. 'Tis true, Galen tells d us of a Philosopher, who affirm'd, that there was a way to prevent it, and wrote a Book of it, when he was fortyPage 32years old; but the said Author takes no∣tice, that when he was arriv'd to eigh∣ty, he was wasted to skin and bones, and could not any way cure himself. But the most effectual Preservatives, are, 1. Piety, and 2. Sobriety.
FIrst, serious Piety. By which I* mean, a Course of life in the Faith, and Fear of God, and in holy Obe∣dience unto him. This is that Godliness, which hath the promises of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come, 1 Tim. 4. 8. This is the best Antidote against that Poyson which hath original∣ly infected our Nature, and which makes it swarm with Distempers, that hurry us to Old-age, and Death at last. This is, certainly, the best Means whereby to avoid that fatal Curse so early pronounc'd, or else to turn it into a Blessing. If thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my Satutes and Commandments, then I will lengthen thy days, 1 King. 3. 14. What man is he that desi∣reth Life; and loveth many days, that he may see good? Depart from evil, and do good, &c. Psal. 34. 12, 14. It is the ob∣servation Page 33 of Hierome, and of Origenf before him, that Abraham is the first per∣son called Old in the Scripture, tho Adam and Methuselah and many others were richer than he in years, but not in Faith and Obedience. I know, that some of the worst of men have, without this, flourished long, and some that have been most Religious, have withered quickly.; and therefore do conclude, that all such Outward blessings and afflictions are conditionally promis'd and threatned: and yet it abides certain, that the ordi∣nary way to a vigorous Age, and a long Life, is the true fear of God; and that which makes it short and miserable, is Ungodliness. And the Holy Scripture is ex∣press herein, Prov. 10. 27. The fear of the Lord prolongeth days: but the years of the wicked shall be shortned. For doubtless, our Lord God, who is the giver of Life, is also the Conserver of it; and whose word we may rely upon, as the best Prescrip∣tion and Preservative in this case. This Holy course doth contribute to this end
1. In a Natural way. And that, 1. By Mortifying and discarding those Sins which do more directly hurt the Body. Such are those Passions and Excesses above∣named, such is Anger, Envy, Covetous∣ness,Page 34Ambition, and many such like, which like wind in the Intrails of the Earth do rend and shatter it. I think there is no Sin, whatsoever, but it hath a malig∣nant influence upon the Body; either to disorder and inflame it, or to macerate and dispirit it: Now the Fear of God obliges a man not only to restrain, but to pluck up all such by the Roots. Those are the Weeds, which both rob the sweet Flowers of their nourishment, and also depauperate the soil where they grow; which being cast out, the whole man fares the better after them. And 2. True Piety refresheth the Body with the Comforts of a good Conscience. That Peace, that Hope, that Joy which result from a Conscience, that is pacifi'd by the Blood, and purified by the Spirit of Christ, do most efficaciously cherish the whole man, they daily feast him. This is that merry Heart, that is called a continual feast, Prov. 15. 15. And that doth good like a Medicine, Prov. 17. 22. There is that Intimacy between the Soul and the Body, that whatsoever refresheth the one, doth also cheer the other. Whereupon the Learned have judged, that Hope, Love and Ioy are great prolongers of Life, by the influence which these have upon the Page 35 Humours and Spirits in the Body: much more when these Affections have hea∣venly and eternal things for their Object: and the Holy Scripture speaks that way, when it saith, Prov. 19. 23. The fear of the Lord tendeth to Life, and he that hath it, shall abide satisfied. 3. True Piety is the best Preservative against Old-age in a Spiritual way, to wit, by Procuring the Blessing of God. For when the Body is consecrated to him, and imployed for him, we may expect it to be blessed by him; it is under his peculiar care and Providence. When it is united to Iesus Christ, it will receive influence from Him for its good. So that true Religiousness, tho it more immediately tend to the re∣covery and felicity of the Soul, yet it is really most friendly also to the Body. He that feareth God, and walketh in his ways, shall see his Childrens Children, Psal. 128. last. And on the other hand, all those destroying, and life-shortning Diseases mention'd, Deut. 28. 27. 61. even every sickness, and every plague, are denounced to the ungodly. And fully Eccl. 8. 12, 13. Tho a Sinner do Evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him. But it shall not be well with the wick∣ed,Page 36neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow, because he feareth not be∣fore God. Therefore you that would protract the time of your flourishing strength, learn to love and fear God, devote your selves to him, bestow your Hearts upon him, imploy your time and strength to please and honour him: abide not in a State of ungodliness, rest not with a form of Godliness; but resolve upon that Real Holiness, which will produce a long and happy life in this World, and a longer and happier life in a better.
2. The Second Preservative against Old∣age, which indeed is contained in the for∣mer, is Temperance and Sobrietyg. I mean that gracious Vertue, which retains the Sensi∣tive Appetite within the bounds of Reason and Religion, whereby we keep a Medio∣crity in the use of Meats, both in respect to their Quantity, neither loading nor pi∣ning the Stomack; and in respect of their Quality, neither debauching it by too much Variety, nor injuring it by things noxious. The same care in Drinks, lest the Quality of them be pernicious, or the Quantity of them prejudicial. That the Marriage-bed be moderately used, so that the vital Spirits be not exhausted. Now mans sinful Nature above all other Crea∣tures Page 37 inclines to excess in all these: and it is pleasant to the Flesh; but it is the pleasure▪ of poyson: At last they bite like a Serpent, and sting like an Adder, Prov. 23. 32. not the Soul only, but the Bo∣dy. They do insensibly, but infallibly weaken nature, disorder the Harmony of the parts, breed the most fatal distempers, and render him, as we may daily observe, old in infirmities, that is but young in years. So that if they who give themselves up to Gluttony, Drunkenness or Lasciviousness, did truly love their own Souls, or yet their own Bodies, they would bridle their un∣ruly Appetites for their own sakes, and not pay so dear for that which must be re∣pented of. And as a plain and even way is much more delectable, than always to be going up Hill and down; so certainly there is a thousand times more ease and sweetness in an even and temperate course, than in the perpetual unevenness of in∣temperance. How should that body hold out, that is daily clogg'd and inflam'd with preternatural excesses? The intem∣perate man is constantly feeding an Ene∣my, whom it is charity to starve; and deals with his Body as the Ape, who is said to hugg her young to death. Where∣as a wise Sobriety is health to the Navel,Page 38 and marrow to the Bones; by it the Hu∣mours, the Blood, the Spirits are all main∣tain'd in order and in vigour. His meals are pleasant, and his sleep is sweet, and he is a Stranger to those crudities, and consequent distempers which pester others. Thus Plato by his careful tem∣perance spun out his life, tho a great Student, till he attain'd above fourscore; and Galen to above sevenscore years; and Senecah concludes, that there is no way to retard Old-age like a frugal Sobriety.
Let me then persuade all such, as are lovers of pleasures, more than lovers of God or of their own Souls, to have some pity on their poor Bodies. O break off your destructive Course, sow not the Seeds of consuming Maladies in your own Flesh. Be not among Wine-bibbers, amongst riotous eaters of Flesh. Put a Knife to thy Throat, if thou be a man given to Appetite, Prov. 23. 1. 20. Give not your Strength unto Women, nor your ways to that which destroyeth Kings, Prov. 31. 3. Let not the Beast captivate the Man, nor your Reason be enslav'd by Sense; but re∣cover a just dominion over your blind and brutish affections, that your days may be long and lively in the Land which the Lord giveth you.
Page 39If it be here Objected, that the most Re∣ligious and temperate persons grow old as soon as others. It is Answered, that tho in these external things, all things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous and to the wicked; yet every wise man will take the likeliest course for the blessing he desires. Tho some Children that have had no good Educa∣tion, nor good Example, have afterward proved eminent men; yet who but a desperate man will hereupon resolve, I will take no care about the instruction of my Children? but the prudent Parent will conclude, tho some of the best Edu∣cation do miscarry, and some with the worst do flourish, yet I ought and will take the likeliest course to bring up my Children in the fear of God: Even so in this case, the Old-age and Death do seize upon divers pious and circumspect per∣sons, as soon or before they come upon others, yet is it the Interest and Duty of all such as regard God, or wish well to themselves, to use the fittest means to pre∣serve their strength and vigour, until their time and work be done.
For it is certain, that when the suc∣cess answers not the means, and that Distempers, notwithstanding our Piety Page 40 and Sobriety, do overtake us; then it is permitted and ordained by the Wisdom of God for the setting forth some way of His Glory, and for the real Good of the party affected. For an Holy and Good God never makes Exceptions to his Gene∣ral Rules, but in Cases reserved for his greater honour, and his Servants greater good. For all the paths of the Lord, tho never so cross and crooked, are Mercy, I say, Mercy and Truth to those that keep his Covenant, and his Testimonies. Psal. 25. 10. And thus you have had some Account of the true Causes, and the best Antidotes against Old-age, which is the se∣cond Point to be handled.
CHAP. III. The Sins of Old-age.
I Come in the Third place to treat of* the Vices and Sins, which are most incident to Old-age: for the best Wine that is, hath some Dregs. And tho there be none of Old-folks Sins, but they are Page 41 found in some Young-folks breasts; yet there are some particular vices, which are more proper, because more common to Aged pesons, than to others. Neverthe∣less as the work of Sanctification hath been deeper, and the care in Education greater, so far the less lyable shall the Aged per∣sons be, unto these Corruptions i. He that bears the Yoke in his youth, will be happily fortified against them in his age. I do not therefore charge every Old man or wo∣man with the following Faults; for many have better learned Christ, and are as free from them as any other: but for the most part Old people are propense to these Vices.
First, Frowardness or peevishness, where∣by they are prone to be morose, way∣ward* and hard to be pleased; easily an∣gry, often angry, and sometimes angry without a cause. Seldom are they pleased with others, scarce with themselves, no not with God himself: yea, they think, as poor Ionah did, that they do well to be angry. Too apt they are to aggravate every fault to its utmost dimensions, and so never want matter for unquietness.
Now this is both a Sinful and Mise∣rable distemper. It is displeasing to God, and it is very uncomfortable both to them∣selves, and to others. Its true, that An∣gerPage 42 in it self is not evil: our Blessed Savi∣our was once angry, but it was at Sin, and it was accompanied with Grief for the hardness of their Hearts. Mark 3. 5. When we are angry at Sin, we are an∣gry without Sin. And it is also true, that Old people by reason of their know∣ledge in matters, do see more things a∣miss and blame-worthy, more Sin, and more evil in Sin than others do; and having liberty by reason of their Age and Authority to speak their minds, they are too prone to express, that which others must digest with silence; and withall k their bodily distempers dispose them to more testiness than others, whose con∣tinual health and ease makes their Con∣versation more smooth and quiet; and lastly, they discern themselves in some danger of being despis'd l, and therefore are tempted to preserve their Authority by frequent and keen reproofs and reflexi∣ons, and so iniquum petunt, ut justum ferant, they require too much, lest they should receive too little.
But tho these things may abate the faultiness of this Sin, yet they are far from being sufficient to justifie the same m. Say, that this froppishness is their Disease rather than their Sin; yet the Disease is Page 43 the effect of Sin, and the cause of Sin, and Sin it self. The mind is distemper'd by it, both your own and others; the Bo∣dy is disordered; unjustifiable words are spoken; the Soul unfitted for any seri∣ous devotion; and the proper ends of reproof seldom attained; for as the wrath of man never works the righteousness of God, so it rarely cures the iniquities of men. The plaister being too hot, burns more than it heals n; and the frequency of finding fault, tempts the faulty to heed it the less; yea, they are prone to harden them∣selves in evil, by retorting your unquiet∣ness upon you, as a Sin you live in with∣out reformation.
Strive therefore against this infirmity: pray earnestly unto God for a meek and quiet Spirit: connive at smaller slips; be not severe against involuntary faults: expect not the same Wisdom or Circum∣spection in young people, as you have in so long time attained: bridle the first emotions of anger; and weigh the na∣ture and quality of a miscarriage, before you let fly at it, and do not kill a Flea upon the Forehead of your Child or Ser∣vant with a Beetle. Learn of Plato an Heathen, who being incensed at his Ser∣vant, desir'd his Friend Xenocrates, who Page 44 then came in, that he would correct him; for now, saith he, my anger surmounts my reason. Or rather go to School to your heavenly Master, Christ Iesus, who was meek and lowly, who being reviled, re∣viled not again, and when he suffer'd, threatned not. Give place to any one ra∣ther than to the Devil. Resolve if others cross you, that yet you will not punish your self; for frowardness hurts no body so much as ones self. And mortifie Pride, from whence, for the most part, these passions spring; for we are apt to as∣sume so much, and value our selves so highly, that we think every one should humour us; and they that expect much, will meet with many disappointments.
Say not, that the cure is impossible; for in all ages there have been Instan∣ces of victories in this case. There was Patricius the father of St. Augustine, and there was Mr. Calvin, both of them na∣turally of hot and hasty spirits; yet did so moderate their temper, that an un∣beseeming word was scarce ever heard to come from them: yea divers of the Heatheno were eminent herein; and Page 45 doubtless the Grace of God will not be wanting to you, if you sincerely seek it, which will of lions make you lambs.
A Second Folly incident to Old-age, is*Loquacity or Talkativeness; that is, an exceeding proneness to speak much; so that it hath pass'd into a Pro∣verb, Senex psittacus, an old person is a Parrot. Herein they are twice chil∣dren, whose faculty you know lies this way.
Speech is a most wonderful and ex∣cellent Faculty conferr'd only on humane nature, and for their common good, and it is great pity that it should be abused. As our Reason begins to work, so our Speech comes in; which shews that all our words should be govern'd by Reason. And yet how unruly is this little member! insomuch as the Apostle Iames, c. 3. 6. calls the Tongue, a World of iniquity; the hand is not call'd a world of iniquity, for that cannot reach very far; but with the tongue we can walk over the whole world, and by the venome of it hurt even all man∣kind. Page 46 And Old people, whose eyes and ears, whose hands and feet are much decay'd and disabled, are apt to make the greater use of their tongues.
And whereas the noblest and best subject of Discourse is the ever blessed God, his Properties, Word and Works, too few of them deal in this argument; but the ordinary Theme of their speech, is concerning Other folks, and concern∣ing Themselves: and here you may find in their tongues the Perpetual Motion. About Others, their tongue travelleth round about, and few of their neigh∣bours escape the scourge of it. It is their delight to be judging, censuring, and condemning all mankind. How much good might the same breath pro∣duce, if it were imployed in good in∣struction, in faithful counsel or in wise reproof? But their talent lies not that way, but rather like Zoilus of old, who being asked, why he carped so much at others, answer'd, that he spoke ill of them, because he could do no other ill to them; so the impotence of old people must be a plea for their ill lan∣guage: but God will reprove thee, and set this and all thine other sins before thee, because thou sittest and speakestPage 47against thy brother, and standerest thine own mothers son, Psal. 50. 20, 21.
But their most pleasing Harangues are concerning Themselves. What they have bin, what they have done, what they have had, what Strength, what Beauty, what Estates, what Affairs they have managed, what adventures they have made, what victories they have gotten; in summe, wherever the Story begins, it shall be sure to end at their dear selves, the feats they have done, or the respect they have receiv∣ed.
Now all this must be nauseous to eve∣ry ingenuous hearer, and is most loath∣some in the sight of God. For He and his Glory is the only center, towards which all our words and actions should tend. All other discourse is no other or better, than wherein Turks and Pagans may vye with you: and our Blessed Book assures us, Mat. 12. 36. That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account there∣of in the day of judgement. If all your extravagant words in one day should be written down, and presented at night to you, it would amaze you; how then will ye answer whole volumes of them at the day of Judgment? say not, that Page 48words are but wind; since they are such a wind as, if irregular, will blow the soul into Hell; for by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.
Bridle therefore this unruly member. Nature hath placed two barrs unto it, the teeth and the lips; but except watch∣fulness and prayer be added to them, they'l be too weak. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, Jam. 3. 2. and you will confess, that every man should labour to be perfect in his Profession; especially you that are Old disciples, and should exceed others in strict holiness, as much as you do in years.
Consider, that he who often said, let him that hath ears to hear, hear; said not, let him that hath a tongue to speak, be ready to speak. No, he hath given to men two ears, and but one tongue; to shew that we should be swift to hear, but slow to speak. It is true, as Elihu grants, Iob 32. 7. Dayes should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom. Their knowledge and ex∣perience qualifies them for it; and if young people would but see their own weakness, and were modest and hum∣ble, Page 49 they might with much ease learn those things of the Elder, which they have dearly bought. p So that the Talka∣tiveness, which is culpable in Old persons, is utterly intolerable in Young ones. But yet even by those that are Old, both the Matter and the Measure of their talk is to be observed; and you should consider, What good shall I now procure by speak∣ing? Whither is my Tongue walking? What hurt by holding my peace? What words are these, that are bursting out? It is Plutarchs Counsel. And the same*Author a Heathen resolves, that we should never speak, but when it is some way ne∣cessary, or useful to our selves, or others. And that was a nipping answer, which Zeno the Philosopher gave to some Embas∣sadors that were come to Athens, and had feasted some Learned men there, who had talked liberally to them: And what, said they to him, have you to tell us? Why, saith he, tell those that sent you, that you met with one Old man, who knew how to hold his peace. And a wise man resolves, that he that hath knowledge, who of all men may best speak, spareth his words, Prov. 17. 27. And you whose humour prompts you to be sparing, should not be so pro∣digal herein. He was a wise man, that*Page 50 said, he had often repented that he spake, but never that he held his peace.
Let the Glory of God, and the Profit of the hearer be still the measure of your talk. Hunt not after the applause of men, which is but empty Air; and remember, that you may never justly commend your self, but when you are unjustly accused by another. And then consider withal, that the more a Man speaks, commonly the less he is heeded; and therefore if you would have people to mind what you say, check your loquacity q, and take notice how the Wise man placeth Si∣lence before Speech, saying, Eccles. 3. 7. A time to keep silence, and a time to speak.
THE Third Sin more peculiar to Old∣age,* is Envy, which is an inward Grudging at those who do in any thing excell us. Now because they which are Old do see many that surpass them in strength, beauty, riches or esteem, they are too apt to look at them with an envious Eye, and to grudge them those blessings, which God hath vouchsafed them. Hence Page 51 it is but too usual with them, to lessen their deserts, to carp at their enjoyments, to abound in all such reports and stories, as may degrade or blacken them; think∣ing by a great mistake, that what is de∣tracted from others, is added to them∣selves. Thus when an House is decay∣ing, all the props men can get, they will buttress it up withall: but these are but rotten Pillars, and will but expose you to more contempt.
For this is an odious sin in it self: from hence proceeded the Fall of the first Adam, and the Death of the Second, for which mischiefs we should hate it the more. And indeed it is a very unreasonable thing to envy those mercies to others, whereof we have had our share as well as they. Are they strong, comely or respected? You have in your time partaken of them, and why should you grudge at those that do but come after you? It is like as if the Southern Husbandman, who hath inn'd his Harvest in Iuly, should repine at them that live more Northerly, whose Harvest is in September: why, the former had his Harvest as well as the Other; and hath reason rather to be thankful to God, than to envy them that follow him. Besides, would you have two Harvests? What Page 52 answer can you give to our Saviours questions, Matth. 20. 15. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with my own? is thine eye evil, because I am good? He that grudges at Gods gifts, would make a miserable distribution of them among men, if they were at his disposal. No no, younger people have their propor∣tion of comeliness, strength, estate, ho∣nour and parts, and you have yours; and they are distributed by a wise Hand, who is ever righteous in all his wayes, and holy all in his works.
And therefore labour with all your might to extinguish this cursed flame. Remember that wrath killeth the foolish man, and that envy slayeth the silly one, Iob 5. 2. You envy others, but you hurt your selves. Few sins have a more ma∣lignant influence upon Mind and Body, than this Sin of Envy. On the other side, if you bless the Lord for other mercies, you have the comfort of them r; if you repine at them, you lose the comfort of your own. I know that the spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to en∣vy, Jam. 4. 5. but to them that seek it, God giveth more grace. Be content∣ed with such things as ye have: 'tis not said, with such things as 1. you havePage 53had, or such things, as 2. others have, or such things as 3. you would have, but with such things as ye have, be∣cause he hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee. If you have him, you have enough; if you have him not, you have too much.
Let him who is infinitely wise have liberty to dispose his gifts as he plea∣seth: and instead of grudging at the excellencies of others, labour you for something in your selves to ballance them. Your Gravity will be as valua∣ble as their Beauty, your Wisdom as their Strength, your Grace as their Wealth. They do but surpass you in things that will fade as yours have done, but you may excell them in things which are everlasting.
Besides, you should consider, that we are all fellow-members of the same bo∣dy, and so we should rejoyce in their welfare and in their comforts; that's the way to bring them to sympathize with us in our defects; and they that pay respect to those above them, shall most usually receive it from them be∣low them; whereas the Envious man takes pleasure only in punishing of him∣self.
THE Fourth Vice too common to*Old-age, is Arrogancy and Conceit∣edness. An humour whereby they as∣sume so much to themselves, as if they had a Monopoly of Wisdom to themselves, and that their word must be a law in all cases, so that they can endure no contradiction. It is likely enough that Iobs friends had a spice of this distem∣per: for they were very aged, Iob 32. 6. and we find them very wise in their own conceit. And it is most true, as before, that Dayes should speak, and that they are most likely to be in the right. Happy had Rehoboam bin, if he had acquiesced in the counsel of the Old men: for which is abler to ad∣vise, they who are only helped by some natural parts, a working fancy and a fluent tongue, or they who have read many men, as well as many books, and have weighed things as well as words, and by experience are grown wise? These persons may certainly expect, that a great regard be given to their opinions. But yet as Iob, c. 32. 9. GreatPage 55men are not alwayes wise, neither do the aged understand Iudgment. All aged peo∣ple have not a Patent for Infallibility, nor any at all times. If old Nicodemus his notion of Regeneration must have pass'd for Orthodox, what kind of Divi∣nity should we have had? he knew not what it was to be born again, though he were a Teacher in Israel; and I great∣ly fear he hath his fellows in all Ages and Places. Sometimes Old men dream dreams, and young men see visions, as Io∣el 2. 28.
The Almighty will not confine his Gifts, no more than he doth his Gra∣ces to any order of men; and therefore no man should think of himself more high∣ly than he ought to think, but to think so∣berly, as God hath dealt to every man, Rom. 12. 3. And accordingly, the Aged are exhorted, Tit. 2. 2. in the first place to be Sober. It becomes no man to abound alwayes in his own sence, or to dictate in every company; but ra∣ther according to that Levites method, Iudg. 19. last. Consider the matter, take advice, and then speak your minds. The Spirit of God dwells not in a proud heart: Pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth he hates, Prov. 8. 13.
Page 56Check therefore and mortifie this sin∣ful Temper. Mind the Apostles coun∣sel, Rom. 12. 16. Be not wise in your own conceits. Let not your Determinations begg respect by the number of your years, but command it by the weight of your Reasons; so there will be more of God than of man in your Counsels. Believe it, neither great Age, nor great Honour, nor both together do infuse wisdom; for Solomon hath said, Better is a poor and a wise child, than an Old and foolish King, who will no more be ad∣monished, Eccl. 4. 13. Why should you therefore imagine, that Wisdom must needs live and dye with you? that your words must be alwayes Oracles? O La∣bour for more Humility, and be con∣tent with your proper measure. Know for certain, that all conceitedness comes from Pride, which Sin cleaves to a man even to the grave. Consider how the Scripture disgraces this humour of yours, Prov. 26. 12. Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him. Reflect sometimes, how often you have bin mistaken, even wherein you have been extreamly con∣fident. He must be omniscient, that is alwayes infallible. Let God be true, butPage 57every man a lyar. Young Elihu may sometimes out-strip Iob and his three friends, and no meer man is wise at all times.
THE Fifth and most Epidemick*Sin of Old-age, is Covetousness or Worldly-mindedness, that is, an inordi∣nate love of Riches, which is shown in an insatiable endeavour to procure them, and in an unreasonable lothness to part with them. Though this Vice be frequently found in young people, as in that young man, Matth. 19. 22. who was free from other gross Sins, but infected with this; yet it is a Disease more peculiar to Old-age. They feel the decayes of Na∣ture, and think to support themselves by their abundance. They must have some Recreation, and are by reason of their Age incapable of other pleasures, and so do place their delight in heaping up Riches, as somes of them have in∣genuously acknowledged▪ They also know Page 58 that their weakness and infirmities do expose them to contempt, and therefore endeavour to obviate that by their Wealth, and so make themselves consi∣derable by their Estates. These are the •…rutches, which when weakness over∣takes them, they lean upon and sup∣port their fainting spirits withal.
And they want not variety of Pre∣tences whereby to justifie their course: as that they are only providing for a rainy day, for troubles and Casualties that may besall them; that they ought to lay up for their Children and Po∣sterity, or else they were worse than In∣fidels; yea, that they are gathering on∣ly to bestow it at their death on some pious or charitable use. And Satan is not wanting to nurse this humour in them, by suggesting to them expectati∣ons of a long life, a distrust in the Pro∣vidence of God, and continual fears of want: which is nursed by the coldness of their temper, and by their conscious∣ness of their inability to get much by their labour: And these meeting with that inveterate Self-love, which is in∣herent in them, and consequently an uncharitable frame of mind towards others, hardens them in their tenacious Page 59 temper; so that as they grow weaker, this lust grows strongert; until Divine grace doth open their eyes, or else the Earth at last stop their mouths.
This bitter root spoils their Devoti∣ons, interrupts their prayers, renders the word of God tastless, becramps them to all God Works; this disturbs their Rest, the thoughts and cares about these things do visit them last at night, and meet them first in the morning, and disquiet them the day throughout; for where the treasure is, there will the heart be also. Oh the cares, the fears, the vex∣ations that possess a covetous heart! but only that we can digest any thing that we delight in, though it be never so bitter, else no man could endure the life of a covetous miser. But it is the Old-mans recreation; the best of his time and the strength of his spirits are con∣sumed, either about the keeping of what he hath, or about getting more: for as he hath no vent for his abundance, so he observes no limits for his desires. As the bladder, the more it is filled with wind, it stretches the more; so the more his riches increase, the more his heart is set upon them; so that he seeth more beauty in his Money, than in the Sun in Page 60 the firmament u. No thoughts, no dis∣course, no design pleaseth them, except it end in gain: but when there is an opportunity of doing good, the heart is cold, and the hand is lame. Nay some of them will not afford conveniences, scarcely necessaries to their families or to themselves, but run in debt to their own backs and bellies, to their chil∣dren and servants, and foolishly choose to live poor, that they may dy rich.
Now this Vice in it self it is plain Idolatry, and the root of all evil, leading men into temptation and a snare, into ma∣ny foolish and hurtful lusts, which at last drown men in destruction and perdition, 1 Tim. 6. 9, 10. For the worldly man gets and keeps his Estate with travel to his Body, vexation to his Spirit, scru∣ple to his Conscience, with danger to his Soul, with envy of his neighbours, with suits to his children, and with a curse to his posterity. Do but turn to Iob 20. 15. and read that chapter out. But in no sort of men is Covetousness so unaccountable, so very foolish as in Old people. For what can be more ab∣surd (said a Heathenw) than to be so Page 61 much concern'd for travelling Expences, when we have so small a part of our way to travel? Or as St. Augustinex expresseth it, to load our selves with the greatest Burdens, when we are nearest the end of our Journey? It is no doubt a plain infatuation, and an instance of the power of the Prince of this World on mens minds, and of the Corruption of our Nature to effect this; that those who have seen the Vanity of all these things, the uncertainty, the unsatisfactoriness, the vexatiousness of them, should so dote upon them: that they who not only know, but even feel in themselves, that they must shortly, and may suddenly leave them all, and perhaps have no thanks at all from them that enjoy them; that yet these persons, wise in other things, should set their Hearts upon them, and hunt after a World that is flying from them. How much* more comfortable were it, to do all the good they can? to feed the hun∣gry, cloath the naked, to procure the Prayers of the distressed, while they have opportunity? to make Friends of the Mammon of unrighteousness, to be esteemed of men, to be loved and ho∣noured of God! A good man sheweth fa∣vourPage 62and lendeth: he will guide his affairs with discretion. Surely he shall not be mo∣ved for ever, the righteous shall be in ever∣lasting remembrance, Psal. 112. 5, 6.
The Pleas which they produce for their Justification or Excuse, are all insuffici∣ent. Have you no other Recreation? Surely, there are more and better Di∣versions, Natural, Artificial, and Spiritual, than heaping up riches. Instance but in the last of these, Psal. 119. 14. 72. I have rejoyced in the way of thy Testimo∣nies, as much as in all Riches: yea, The Law of thy mouth is better unto me, than thousands of Gold and Silver. Again, Do you think that these will defend you from Contempt? True Piety and Cha∣rity is a far better way, Psal. 112. 9. He hath despersed, he hath given to the Poor; his righteousness endureth for ever: his Horn shall be exalted with Honour. Think you, that in your decays of Na∣ture, there be no better supports, than your Riches? Yes, the favour of God, the love of Christ, the comforts of the Spirit, the feast of a good Conscience, and the joyful hopes of eternal Happi∣ness, are as much beyond them, as the Sun i•… brighter than•… Glow-worm. Will providing for Contingencies excuse you? Page 63 Alas, your Riches will be no certain refuge for you, Prov. 18. 10, 11. The Name of the Lord is a strong Tower: the Righteous runneth into it and is safe. The Rich mans Wealth is his strong City, and as an high wall (but 'tis only) in his own conceit. That bond, Heb. 13. 5. sealed to us, is worth all your Special∣ties, and all your Estates: He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. Can you justifie your immoderate scrap∣ing by a just provision for your Chil∣dren and Relations? No, no, That's but an excuse; for they that have no Chil∣dren, are as sick of this Disease as others. But if you have Children, this course of yours is the way to undo them. A moderate care for Posterity, is a Duty, wherein we may expect a Blessing: but the Covetousness of the Parent, doth but provide for the Luxury of the Child, and so the Parents Soul is ruin'd in the getting, and the Childs in the spending of what is so gotten. If your posterity fear God, they shall want no good thing, they shall have enough: but if they do not, they will have too much. God will be dishonoured, and themselves undone for ever.
Neither will religious purposes of do∣ing Page 64 some Good with your Estates, ex∣cuse your present penuriousness: for that is to do evil that good may come of it. Hear what God himself saith to this, Isa. 61. 8. For I the Lord love judg∣ment, I hate robbery for a burnt Offering. They that will part with nothing while they live, nothing will be accepted from them when they dye. Plead not your unspotted Justice, Honesty and Equity, against this charge; as if a Man could not be covetous, that meddles only with his own. For tho fraud, injustice and oppression be sometimes the Effects, yet the Nature of covetousness stands in over∣loving the World; and so you may be damnably guilty of this Sin, tho you keep you within the limits of your Estate. For as a man may be guilty of uncleanness with his own Wife, and be drunk with his own drink, so a man may be covetous with his own Riches. We do not find that the rich Fool, Luk. 12. nor that the rich Glutton, Luk. 16. did other folks wrong; nor those on the left hand of Christ, Mat. 25. that they robb'd the poor or wrong'd the needy, but yet all guilty of this accursed vice.
Strive therefore to break this snare; And to this end, 1. Consider these few Page 65 things, namely, The absolute Vanity of all these worldly things; that is, they are not able to satisfie the Mind, or to cure the Body, or to imbelish your Name, or to lengthen the Life, or to save the Soul: and all this hath been prov'd, and concluded by Solomon a King of vast knowledge and experience. And their Va∣nity is yet further seen in their uncertain∣ty, there being an hundred ways to rend them from you, and as many ways to rend you away from them. And are they not vain then? And why wilt thou set thine Eyes upon that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves Wings, they fly away as an Eagle to•…ards Heaven, Prov. 23. 5. Consider again the End for which these things are bestowed upon you, which is, that you should imploy them, and use them for him. God doth hereby try you, whether you will deny your self, whether you will glorify him, whe∣ther you will lay out your Talent, or lay it up. He makes some persons poor, that he may exercise their patience and humility; and others Rich, to exercise their bounty and their charity. In short, Riches were never given to any man to spend upon his Lusts, or to hoard them up without just cause; but to doPage 66good withal, first to your selves, then to your Families and Relations, and then to others: when they are not thus im∣ploy'd, you utterly pervert the End for which you are intrusted with them. Consider also, that you are but Stewards in your Estates, and you must give a just account of them to him. All that you possess is His Stock only in your Hands, it is not your own. The Earth is the Lords, and the fulness of it. If you really believed this, you would never pinch or grudge to your self or others, that which is convenient. For what is it to a Steward, when his Lord and Ma∣ster shall order him to abate so much to his Tenant, or pay so much to another poor man? He sticks not at it, he knows it will pass in his account, and there's an end. And why cannot you, who are only Stewards to the God of Heaven and Earth, of that Estate which is in your hand, when you can discern that he re∣quires it; I say, why cannot you give, forgive, lend, lay out freely, for none of it is your own? and whether will it pass better in your accounts; so much left in Bags or Bonds, or to a prodigal Heir; or so much of it spent in hospi∣tality, so much in well-plac'd bounty, Page 67 and so much in prudent charity? And lastly, consider the plain Command and blessed Promise of God in that fore∣said, Heb. 13. 5. Let your Conversati∣on be without Covetousness—For he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. q. d. Thou shalt have that which is sufficient, or, thou shalt have him that is All-sufficient.
2. Pray earnestly against this Sin. Let your Eyes be ever towards the Lord, to pluck your Feet out of this Net. Without his divine Grace, this snare will be too strong for you. There are Medicines to purge choler, and such Hu∣mours which feed our Corruptions, but none to purge Covetousness: No, this Lust is rooted only in the Soul, the bodily Complexion is very little con∣cern'd: and therefore you have the more need to cry earnestly to God with Da∣vid, Psal. 119. 36. Incline my Heart un∣to thy Testimonies, and not to Covetous∣ness.
3. Labour for Faith. To believe what God hath revealed, and to rely upon what he hath promised. I have read of a certain Person, that in a change of times, after some debate about what was then impos'd, swore by his Faith, he must live; Page 68 but another of the same Cloth answered, that he would learn to live by his Faith: so when you plead for your selfish pe∣nurious course, that you must live, I counsel you to learn the life of Faith: for if you did believe the Revelation which God hath made of his Nature and Covenant, if you did believe the Iudg∣ment to come, and the everlasting World after it, if you did believe the Promises or the Threatnings, which referr to this affair, you would readily despise all the things of this World, and set your affe∣ctions on things above; you would, as you ought, be rich in good works, rea∣dy to distribute, willing to communicate, laying up in store for your selves a good foundation against the time to come, that sith this life is slipping from under your feet, you may lay hold on eternal Life, 1 Tim. 6. 18, 19.
AND these are the most proper Sins* of Old-age: some other there are, which because they are neither so com∣mon to all ancient people, nor yet pecu∣liarPage 69 to them, and yet are more often found in them than in others, I shall not wholly conceal them, but rather more briefly handle them. Which are,
1. Craftiness, which is Prudence dege∣nerate. Old people have had much deal∣ing in the World, and have seen, yea, perhaps felt the effects of other mens sinister Carriage; and being too much devoted to a selfish interest, do thereup∣on too often strain a point of equity and integrity, to compass their own ends. If this subtilty were only imployed for their own security, it were less culpa∣ble; but when it is an Engine to insnare, or to over-reach their Brother, it is inex∣cusable. When a Crafty old Miser, hath a young Prodigal in his Tallons, what work doth he make with him? What cunning arts, what tricks and stratagems hath he to distill his Estate into his own Coffers? But this is a baseness unbecom∣ing a Moral Heathen, who would put himself into anothers case, and deal with him as he would be used by him: how enormous then is it for a Christian, that ought by no means to live to himself, that should remember he is but a Stran∣ger in this Earth, and is seeking a better Country, that is a professour of self-de∣nial and sincerity!
Page 70Beware therefore of this unworthy Trade: believe, that what you save or gain by indirect ways, brings to you a Curse along with it; resolve, that if you cannot stand by plain dealing, to fall with it, your fall will be glorious. Esau was a cunning Fellow, but Iacob was a plain man, and so should all his Off-spring be. But if you will needs be exercising your Talent, imploy it in a wise con∣triving, which way to do good to your Neighbour. So did St. Paul, 2 Cor. 12. 16. Being crafty, I caught you by Guile, but he sought not theirs, but them. You may also exercise your utmost prudence, in the preserving your outward Estate and Credit; provided always, you do it not out of an inordinate affection to these things, nor to the injury or prejudice of any other: for that which doth harm to your Neighbour, will never do good to you, there being a just God that, Iob 5. 13. taketh the wise in their own Craftiness, and the counsel of the froward is carried head∣long.
2. Unteachableness. When the fault is only in the understanding or memory, it is rather matter of pity, but when it is in the will, it is highly criminal. Now this is a fault very incident to Old-age, yea, Page 71 the more ignorant, the more obstinate y. Hence we read, Eccl. 4. 13. of an old and foolish King, who will no more be admonish∣ed. They think it a disgrace to learn; they are more ready to teach, than to learn. It's grown proverbial, They are too old to learn. Indeed if the things propounded be unnecessary and useless, you may safely remain in your ignorance; but if they be proper either to your ci∣vil or spiritual Calling, it is a greater shame to be ignorant of them, than to learn them: especially in the great Points that are necessary to Salvation. How many instructive Discourses have you heard about these things, and how little have you learn'd? You have your Lesson to get, and your Master is just coming.
O therefore begg of God and Man to teach you, and do not grudge to take somewhat the more pains to redeem your former negligence. Cato learn'd the Greek Tongue, when he was an Old man: and Solonz glories in this, that he was still learning something in his Old-age. How many famous Divines have learn'd the Greek and Hebrew in their Old-age? Why should you think your selves too wise or too good or too old to learn what∣soever Page 72 may make you more useful here, or more happy hereafter? It will be small comfort for you to say, I am rich,* and have need of nothing, when you shall be found at last, to be poor, and blind, and naked.
3. Implacableness is charg'd as a fault common with Old People. That is, such a deep resentment against such as of∣fend them, as is scarce abolished. On the one hand, their impotence is such, by reason of their Age, that they cannot easily revenge themselves; and on the other, their thinking, Sedentary, and wakeful condition gives, them opportu∣nity to rowl their disgusts in their minds, till they are boil'd into a settled rancour. Thus they who in malice should be Chil∣dren, and in understanding should be Men, are on the contrary men in malice, and Chil∣dren in understanding: not apt to forgive, not easie to forget. What an impla∣cable Spirit was in Aristides and Themi∣stocles of old in Athens, until the wisdom and integrity of the former, did some∣what asswage it for a time in the latter? The melancholly and stiffness of Old-age, will not suffer such impressions to wear off, and their Humour disposes them to aggravate things to the utmost. So Page 73 that the contentions of Old People, like those among Brethren, are like the Bars of a Castle. They will owe a Man an ill∣turn seven long years together, and then pay him at last.
But this is an inhumane, and ungod∣ly temper. Would you have every one deal so by you? have you offended no body in all your course? What Brute is it, that continueth an everlasting Rage? Would you be so treated by the great God, when you have offended him? How can you pray in this condition without Cursing your selves? If you do not forgive, you cannot be forgiven. I am sure the affronts and injuries which you have received from men, are not to be compared to those which you have offered to God. Away then with this devilish Distemper; make your Neigh∣bour sensible of his offence, by a cool re∣presentation of it to him, by your self if possible, or else by some fit Friend, perhaps you may gain him. By revenge you can be but even with him, but hereby you'l get above him, and conquer him. However do not you punish your self for his aversion, by suffering a Fire in your Bosom, which will hurt your own Soul, more than it doth your Neigh∣bour. Page 74 And do not nullifie all the good that is in him, nor all the kindness that you have received from him, but muster up all his worthy qualities, and all the former respects and benefits that you have received from him, and this will melt you into a better temper. And especially make it your earnest request unto God, to root up this Gall and Wormwood out of your Heart, and that he would make you tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christs sake hath forgiven you.
4. Speculative wickedness is another Sin too incident to Old-age. That is, either Reflecting upon former Sins, or Fancying others with delight. There is a Three∣fold complacence in sin; before its com∣mission, by contrivance; in the Com∣mission by present satisfaction, and after the Commission by remembrance: and as the set purpose before, so the delight∣ful reflexion afterwards, is a Sin before God. Now weakness of Body, poverty in Estate, or other impediments may hinder Old people from those Exorbitan∣ces, which they inwardly love, or in which they have heretofore actually lived: but yet they ruminate on them with pleasure, and Re-act them in their Page 75 fancy. They do not, and perhaps they cannot now profane the Lords day as they have done, fight and quarrel as they have done, nor commit uncleanness as they have done, nor drink and debauch themselves as they have done: but they can reflect upon these things with content; strength and opportunity is wanting, but their Hearts are as wicked as ever. Hence it is, that you shall hear divers Old peo∣ple rehearsing their former disobedience to Parents, their refractoriness to their Masters, their petty purloynin•…s, and other extravagances, with as fresh delight as they were at first committed.
Now this is in effect to act over those Sins again: Ezek. 23. 19. She mul∣tiplied her Whoredoms in calling to remem∣brance the days of her Youth, wherein she had plaid the Harlot in the Land of Egypt. Yea, perhaps this guilt will be found in some respects greater than the first: be∣cause it's likely that then there was less knowledge, and more temptation, than now there is. This contemplative wickedness nails on the former guilt, and contracts more: this demonstrates, that the man would be always sinning, if he could; and that he is a meer stranger to true Repentance. I deny not, but that the Page 76 first sudden glance of the memory upon former Vanities may be pleased, but 'tis only a surprize; every pious Soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in it. Thus Holy Augustine in his Con∣fessions reflects upon his Robbing an Or∣chard in his younger days, with all the heart-breaking Aggravations imaginable. Thus Holy David cryes out, Psal. 25. 7. Remember not the Sins of my Youth, nor my Transgressions. Labour you to write after their Copies; let the remembrance of your former follies be always bitter: never dwell upon the thoughts of them, but with a Sigh. O what a Fool, what a Beast have I been! O what have I done! I am asham'd, yea, even confound∣ed, because I bear the reproach of my Youth, Jerem. 31. 19. Make not the Wound to bleed again by rubbing it afresh, lest it fester and grow incurable at length. Let it appear some way, that it is not want of power, but want of will that makes you Sober. A diligent care to avoid the Sins of your present Age and State, will be a good proof, that you would not commit the faults that are past, if you were to live over your life again. A better Life is the best Repentancea.
And so much shall suffice upon this Page 77 unpleasant but necessary Subject, concern∣ing, the Sins of Old-age: which as they should be matter of our hearty Grief, so they should be the subject of our ho∣ly Iealousy and continual Caution. For tho perhaps we may not be guilty in them all, yet it is as unlikely that we are clear in all. So that whereinsoever the Spirit of God hath in these Papers or otherwise found us out, it is our indispensable du∣ty to watch and pray with all seriousness and constancy against the same; and tho they be rooted never so deep, we must mortify and pluck them up, tho we should (they are grave Seneca's words) pluck our very Hearts up with themb. For as one Disease is sufficient to kill the Body; so any one Sin unmor∣tified, is able to send Body and Soul in∣to Hell. On the other hand, it will be one special token, that we are upright before God, when we keep our selves from our own Iniquity, Psal. 18. 23.
And yet this is but the one half of our bounden Duty. For if you pluck up all the Weeds out of your Garden, it will be but a desart place, unless you procure some Herbs and Flowers therein: so tho we should clear our Hearts of these Vi∣ces, we shall have but naked and emp∣ty Page 78 Souls, unless we be furnished with such Graces as are proper for us: which is the next point now to be treated of.
CHAP. IV. The Graces of Old-age.
FOrasmuch as Old-age is liable to so* many vicious Habits, it greatly concerns all that are in Years, to excell in some eminent Qualifications, which may praeponderate the other; or else Old-age would be a Miserable Age indeed. Now tho we may well hope, that they having been so long in Christs School, have throughly learned Christ, that they are indued with every Grace, and in∣structed to every good work; yet there be some Peculiar Graces, wherein the Aged do or should excell. Not that any of them is confined to Gray Hairs alone: for as all the Sins above-mentioned may be found in those that are young; so also the following Graces do apparently shine in many of them, whereby they promise a plentiful Harvest in after-time, if they Page 79 hold on or mend c. For alas, to speak the plain truth, too few possess them all, and too many are strangers to them all. And therefore where I describe them with the following Excellencies, understand it rather by way of Instruction, in what they should be, than by way of Assertion of what they are, and you must remem∣ber also, that the Denomination is à parte potiori, the better sort have them, and all should endeavour after them: for since they are actually possessed by some, they may be certainly obtained by all.
The First Grace most proper for Old∣age* is Knowledge. They have or might have a great measure of all kind of Know∣ledge, having read so much in the Book of Nature, and in the Book of Providence. But there is a nobler Object of their Know∣ledge, which is God himself, his Word and his Ways: Herein the Aged person hath been versed for a long time, 1 Ioh. 2. 13. I write unto you, Fathers, because you have known him that is from the be∣ginning. There is no Truth, Duty, Case, Sin, or Temptation, but they have either heard, or read something concerning it, and that often; and therefore must be supposed to have a more clear and di∣stinct knowledge in all these things, Page 80 than younger people d. Young people think that they know much, but Old peo∣ple cannot chuse but sigh and smile at their ignorance. They find that the more Knowledge they have, the more Ig∣norance they discover in themselves; and wherein they have been confident in their younger years, they see cause to alter their sentiments afterwards.
For Knowledge is either Infused, or Ac∣quired by Study, Reading and Converse. In these the Aged must needs out-strip the Young, as having been much longer conversant in the use of them: and for the former, the Holy Ghost doth com∣monly impart these Habits in the use of means; and so every way the Old man hath the advantage in this accomplish∣ment. Now Knowledge is that, where∣in the Image of God partly consists, it is the glory of Angels, and it is the ho∣nour of Man. Those therefore were a strange sort of Friars in Italy, that Lu∣ther writes of, call'd Fratres Ignorantiae, that took a solemn Oath, that they would know nothing at all, but answer to all questions with Nescio: unless men were resolved to renounce both Divinity and Humanity at once. No, doubtless, sav∣ing Knowledge is to the Soul, as the EyePage 81 to the Body, of great excellency and of great use. 'Tis this that Crowns the hoary head, and conveys Beauty unto wrinkles, Prov. 14. 18. The prudent are crowned with knowledge. Its true, many there are, who have tasted of the Tree of Knowledge, that have never tasted of the Tree of Life; and knowledge of it self puffeth up, so that a man may have all know∣ledge, and yet no Charity, 1 Cor. 13. 2. Yet as it is true, there may be much knowledge without a grain of Grace; so it is certain, there cannot be one spark of Grace with∣out Knowledgee. For how shall a Man know Sin, unless he understand the Law of God: how can he imbrace Iesus Christ aright, except he know him? or build for Heaven without a Foundation?
Now the Aged person hath lived long, hath conversed both with Men and Books, hath the Rust of natural Ignorance well scour'd offf; and if he have not more Riches than others, yet surely he hath more Knowledge, especially if he hath put on the New Man, which is renewed in knowledge, after the Image of him that created him, Colos. 3. 10. And therefore tho it be a Brutish thing in any body, to be ig∣norant in those things that concern their Happiness, yet it is intolerably ab∣surd Page 82 for one that is Old in Years, to be a Child in understanding: to be like the Old man, which Mr. Pemble tells of, who, tho by a probable computation, he had heard two or three thousand Sermons, being above sixty years old, yet being exami∣ned by a Minister on his Death-bed con∣cerning his Knowledge of God, he thought he was a good Old man; concerning Christ, that he was a towardly young Youth; concerning his Soul, that it was a great Bone in his Body; and concern∣ing his future Estate, he said, if he had done well, he should be put into a plea∣sant green Meadow: what a woful thing is this, that a constant Hearer, and seem∣ing Lover of the Word of God, as this man was, should live and dye in such gross Ignorance? No Trade how difficult soever, but seven or eight years will teach it; what a shameful thing then is it to be sent into the world, purposely to learn to be a true Christian, and after fifty or sixty years to remain ignorant in the mysteries of it? To be ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the Truth, 2 Tim. 3. 7. On the other side, Iosephus tells us, speaking of the Iews, Every one of our Nation be∣ing demanded of our Laws, can answer as readily, as tell his own Name; learning it Page 83 as soon as we come to the use of Reason, it is imprinted in our minds. Certainly an ignorant Old person is the shame of Chri∣stianity, yea, of Humanity it self.
Let it therefore be your Study that are ripe in years, to be ripe in Iudgment, to be well-grounded in the Knowledge of God and Godliness: whilest others are heaping up Riches, do you treasure up Knowledge. The Knowledge of Natural things, as also of Civil affairs will adorn you; the least dram of this is more excel∣lent than many Talents of Gold; but the least grain of Spiritual and divine Know∣ledge, is more valuable than all the Natural and Civil knowledge under Heaven. Hence it is reported of Albertus Magnus, that, be∣fore his Death, he prayed that he might obtain the oblivion of all former vain knowledge, which might hinder his happi∣ness in the knowledge of Christ. Hear also the Apostle, Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the Know∣ledge of Christ Iesus my Lord, Philip. 3. 8.
Be not discouraged with the seeming impossibility of attaining a sufficient mea∣sure hereof. He that taught Old Nicode∣mus, will teach you. Industry and Re∣solution will facilitate your atchievement. You must be convinced, that IgnorancePage 84 will never excuse those that have the means of Knowledge; that tho God doth nor require the same degree of knowledge from all Christians, but doth allow for mens Education, Parts and Imployments; yet he doth indispensably require, so much as is necessary to the forming of the new Creature, to the necessary Do∣ctrines and Duties of Christian Religion; that neither the spiritually dumb, nor the blind, can enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Awake therefore ye that sleep, out of your stupid negligence, and Christ will give you light. Redeem some time daily for Reading, Meditation and Prayer. If thou cryest after Knowledge, and liftest up thy Voice for understanding. If thou seekest her as Silver, and searchest for her as for hidden treasure: Then thou shalt un∣derstand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God, Prov. 2. 3, 4, 5. Espe∣cially improve the Lords-day to this end. There are variety of Books, which handle the Grounds of Religion, some more brief∣ly, some more largely. Take not upon trust the Doctrines of your Salvation, but endeavour to be able to give a rea∣son of the hope that is in you. You should be able to instruct others; for shame be not you Children in Know∣ledge Page 85 your selves. And ye that are com∣petently knowing, should thirst for more, and grow in Grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Iesus Christ, 2 Pet. 3. 18. This is the fittest Covetousness for an Old Man or Womang: this will make you like unto God, honoured of wise men, and useful to all men.
THE Second Grace proper for Old∣age,* is Faith, whereby the Soul doth embracehIesus Christ as Mediator, and also rely upon the Promisesi of God for all good things needful. Now altho this Grace be needful for every Christi∣an, insomuch as he is said to live by Faith, a life unknown to all unregenerate men; yet it is or should be the particu∣lar Jewel of Old-age. For as Gods Word and Ordinances are the usual means to work Faith, and herein young and old stand upon the same level, they have equal capacity for the attaining of it: so still further Grounds and longer experi∣ence, are proper helps for the strength∣ning and encreasing thereof. So that Page 86 as Reason is much improved by Learn∣ing, so is Faith by use and experience, hereby Recumbence is advanced into Ple∣rophory. Thus Abraham is represented, Rom. 4. 19, 20. Not weak in Faith, when he was an hundred years old, and so stag∣gered not at the promise of God through unbelief. Tho his years rendred the Promise very unlikely, yet those years had taught him, that the performance would be certain, and so being strong in Faith, he gave Glory to God. As they have heard, so have they seen it in the City of God, and what they have often seen, they may well believe.
They have seen the wicked in great pow∣er, flourishing like a green Bay-tree, and yet suddenly they have passed away; and therefore they are not so startled at the prosperity of ungodly men, as younger people may be. They have also seen the righteousness of the upright brought forth as the light; and so are hir'd to believe, that it shall be well with the righ∣teous, and it shall go ill with the wicked at length. They themselves have been in outward straits and dangers, and then wonderfully preserved and provi∣ded for, and doth not this strengthen their Faith? And then in case of spiri∣tual Page 87 wants and troubles, when their Spirit is overwhelmed, the Old-man can say with Asaph, Psal. 77. 5. I have con∣sidered the days of old, the years of anci∣ent times, and so prop up their Spirits in their greatest dejections. If you that are Old want Faith, it is an arrant shame for you. For you have been so often told and assured of the Veracity, the Power, and the Goodness of God; and then you have so often seen these Properties of his exemplified to others, and to your selves, so many wonders of Providence done in your remem∣brance, that ye your selves must be the greatest wonder, in case you do not be∣lieve and trust him. When your Soul is cast down, you may do as David did, remember God from the Land of Ior∣dan, and of the Hermonites, from the Hill Mizar: that is, you may review the help and comfort which you have had in this and the other place of your Pilgrimage, and so hope still in God, that the Help of his Countenance will be the Health of yours. Psal. 42. 5, 6, 11.
Learn therefore this life of Faith; and endeavour as you grow weaker in body to grow stronger in Faith. 1. For Tem∣poralPage 88mercies. You may be tempted to fear want in your Old-age: here's now occasion for Faith, whereby you are firmly to believe either that you shall want nothing, or else no good thing, Psal. 34. 9, 10. That the Lord will either sup∣ply your wants, or inrich you by your wants. It was a memorable saying of an Ancient pious Woman, I have made many a meal upon the Promises, when I have wanted bread. And Christ hath said it, that Man lives not by bread on∣ly, but by every word that cometh out of the mouth of God, Matth. 4. 4. So that a child of God shall never want a live∣lihood, so long as there is a Promise in the Book of God. But then he had need of Faith, and the stronger the faith, the chearfuller life he lives. For as by it he injoyes God in all things in case of plenty, so by it he injoyes all things in God in case of want. 2. For Spiritual blessings it concerns you to live by Faith*, to wit, for Pardon, Grace and Comfort. You have bin long conversant with the Promises of God for these mercies, and have had often Experiences of the Grace and Mercy of God unto you; and so may conclude with the Psalmist, The Lord hath bin mindful of us, be will blessPage 89us, Psal. 115. 12. He that forgave you ten thousand talents upon your first Re∣pentance, will readily forgive an hun∣dred pence upon your second. And he that gave you good Desires, when you were not worth a good thought, will surely give you your Desires of more grace, when your hearts are now fully set upon it. And he that spoke Peace to your Consciences, when you were younger; will restore unto you the joy of his Salvation, as soon and as far as is good for you, now you are older; though at present you walk in darkness, and see no light. For an old servant he never utterly casts off.
Cast not you away therefore your confi∣dence, which hath great recompence of re∣ward; the dimmer the eye of your sense grows, the clearer let the eye of your Faith become; by which you may see, as Moses did on mount Pisgah, into the promised Land, and may Comfort your hearts with the foretasts of Glory. By this Faith it was, that Isaac when he was blind through Age, blessed Iacob and Esau concerning things to come. By this Faith Iacob when he was dying for Age, blessed both the Sons of Ioseph, and worshipped leaning upon the top of hisPage 90Staff, Heb. 11. 20, 21. In short, nothing is more needful for the Old person, whose limbs are weak, eye-sight weak, memory, all weak, than a strong and lively Faith.
And this you must labour for by earnest and frequent Prayer; for every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, sindeth; Cry out therefore with the Apostles, Luk. 17. 5. Lord increase our faith; and when you find it waver, then cry again with the man, Mark 9. 24. Lord, I believe, help mine unbelief. Wee'l relieve a poor Old man, when we pass by the younger; and he that hath plant∣ed that Compassion in us, hath much more in himself. And then consider of∣ten of the Truth and Faithfulness of God, whose Word is as sure as Deed. For all his promises are Yea and Amen in Christ. Which Promises you ought to store up and study; instead of count∣ing over your Coyn or surveying your Bonds, review the rich and precious promises of God, and clear your Inte∣rest in them; and they will beget new blood and spirits in your Souls, so that your youth will be renewed as the Ea∣gles. And as long as ye are able, at∣tend upon the Preaching of Gods Word;Page 91 for as Faith comes, so it comes on by hearing. The same Texts, the same Truths, the same Promises which you have often read and heard, will still afford new strength to your Faith and Hope, as long as you live.
THE Third Grace proper for Old∣age* is Wisdom: which we take here in the largest and yet truest sence, not once regarding that meer worldly wisdom, which is not only earthly and selfish, but wicked and devilish; that is only skill'd in getting an Estate by hook or crook, and in keeping it without re∣spect to God or our Neighbour. No, this cannot in any tolerable sence be called Wisdom. It's absolute folly to lose, yea to venture a Soul, for what may be utterly lost to morrow. But I speak here of true Wisdom in its la∣titude, teaching men to live safely and comfortably here, and happily hereafter; as it fixes upon a right End, and chu∣ses and uses the proper Means to attain it. This Grace directs a man to make choice of God for his Happiness, and Page 92 then diligently to apply himself to know, love, serve and enjoy him. This also guides him in all his imployments in this world, to attempt nothing but what is possible, honest and useful; to chuse the fittest means for the attainment of his just ends; to place his words and acti∣ons in their proper circumstances; not alwayes to take the next, but the safest way to his desires; and in short to or∣der his affairs with discretion.
And this is the crown of Old-agel: Every Aged person is or should be true∣ly wise; multitude of years should teach wisdom, Iob 32. 7. The crown of youth is their strength, but the glory of Old∣age is their wisdom. And wisdom is bet∣ter than strength, Eccl. 9. 16. VVisdom strengtheneth the wise more than ten migh∣ty men in a city, Eccl. 7. 19. By this the Aged are better inabled to discharge their duties to Husbands, Wives, Chil∣dren, Servants and Neighbours, than ordinarily younger people are; to dis∣pose Spiritual and Secular duties in their right places; to temper and guide that zeal and affection, which without it is foolish and dangerous. The Rashness of young Counsels is evident in the case of Rehoboam, 1 King. 12. who following Page 93 the heady and fierce advice of his Young Courtiers, lost ten Tribes in one day, which the sage Counsel of his Old Coun∣sellours had certainly preserved. And it is known, how often the Common∣wealths of Athens, and Rome were in∣dangered by the folly and rashness of young heads, had they not bin ballast∣ed by the Sober and wary Interpositi∣on of graver persons.
Younger people may excell in feats of activity, but the Ancient do exceed in the skill of managerym. And upon this account that famous Fabius was called Maximus, and was esteemed more use∣ful to his Countrey by being the Buck∣ler, than Marcellus who was the Sword of the Common-wealth. Young people in∣deed may sooner apprehend a business, and may more strenuously execute it; but the Old man by comparing and weighing all circumstances can make a better judgment of it, and so give bet∣ter directions for the execution of it n. As it is said of young Musicians, that they may Sing tunes better, but the Old Musician can set lessons better. The Aged have not only read and heard, but also seen such variety of Actions and Events, Page 94 that it renders them much more circum∣spect and wary in their courses. This made that Roman soon answer the Con∣sulo, that boasted he had many Arms by him; Yes, said he, and I have ma∣ny Years. And the wisest of men con∣cludes, Eccl. 9. 18. that wisdom is better than weapons of war. And this is rare∣ly found in Novices, they are too young to look backward, and too rash to look forward. But the Aged person being taught by things past, hath a clearer sight of things present, and consequent∣ly doth more cautiously provide for things future. Words and Shews and Appearances do more easily deceive the Young; but the Old see through all such varnish, and penetrate into the inside of men and things p: and so are strange∣ly stupid, if they be not much accom∣plished with this vertue. Miserable is that Old-age, saith Ciceroq, that hath nothing grave besides gray hairs and wrinkles. But any man that hath made but common Observations of what hath fallen out, with their Causes and Effects, during the space of forty or fifty years, must needs understand better, VVhat, and How, and VVhen a thing is to be Page 95 done, than those that have neither read, seen, or observed half so much r. Hence that Expression, Psal. 119. 100. I under∣stand more than the ancients; which im∣plies, that the Ancients have ordinarily the greatest stock of understanding. Hereupon Themistocles is said to be sor∣ry to dye, when he began to be wise, be∣ing* then an hundred and seven years of age: which is the common fate of man∣kind, to dye even just then when they begin to know how to live; and there∣fore no man should deferr his careful endeavours to get wisdom, since there is a price put into our hands for that end, if we have but an heart to it, Prov. 17. 16.
Let it therefore be your study to get and increase in all wisdom s: chiefly for the attaining everlasting happiness. For unto man God hath said, Behold the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to de∣part from evil, that is understanding, Job 28. 28. For as it would be curious folly to contrive a neat House, and then set it upon a quick-sand; so doubtless all the policy of worldly men to get riches and a name, if they do not truly fear God, is but like an house upon the sand, or a spiders web in the cieling, which will quickly Page 96 vanish. It's true Wisdom for every man to chuse the Chiefest Good for his ulti∣mate End, and then to take Gods Coun∣sel how to obtain it. I have seen five Princes, (said Sir Io. Mason, on his death-bed,) and bin Privy Counsellour to four, I have seen the most remarkable Ob∣servables in forreign parts, and bin present at most State-transactions for Thirty years together, and I have learned this, after so many years experience, that Seriousness is the greatest VVisdom, Temperance the best Physick, and that a good Conscience is the best Estate: yea, I would change the whole life I have lived in the Palace, for one hours enjoyment of God in the Chappel. O that all young persons would believe and consider this sage Observation of a dying man! For judge your own selves, Is it wisdom to do that daily and wit∣tingly, which must be undone? To pre∣tend the End, happiness; and neglect the Means, holiness? To maintain strong hope, and yet to have no ground for it? To chuse the worst of Evils, before the chief Good? To live in Sin, and yet expect to dy in Christ? To defer the greatest business, till we have the least fit time, and strength to do it? and yet this is the wisdom that passes currant in this world.
Page 97Endeavour also to store your minds with Prudence to order your affairs aright. There is no time, or place, or business, but there is use for this; not such con∣stant use for Iustice, Fortitude, or many other vertues. This will render your gray hairs really comely. I had rather, saith Nazianzen, have one drop of Pru∣dence, than a Sea of worldly riches. In∣tegrity and Wisdom are good Compa∣nions. A Serpents Eye is a singular or∣nament in a doves head. Hereby you will be useful to your selves, helpful to others, beneficial to all. Happy is that City, said Plutarch, where the counsels of Old men, and the arms of Young men concurr for the Common good t. Your time will be rightly divided, your house∣hold affairs calmly and constantly ma∣naged, and your mind freed from the hurry and perturbation, which fills the lives of other men. Then I saw that wisdom, excelleth folly; as far as light ex∣celleth darkness, Eccl. 2. 13. The first Di∣rection which the Apostle gives to Old men, is, Tit. 2. 2. That the aged men be sober, grave—The infirmity of your bodies should promote the sobriety of your mindsu: and folly is no where less ex∣cusable than in an aged person.
Page 98You should therefore pray incessantly unto God for this Blessing. Jam. 1. 5. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, and it shall be given him. And improve your Thinking time; for meditation in∣riches the mind, and helps us to draw such Inferences from what we have read and heard and seen, which will serve for Rules of practice in every case. And especially Converse with the Scripture, which will make you wise to Salvation. Surely there is no book under heaven, which affords such Rules of ture Prudence for the conduct of our lives, as the Book of Proverbs. And still remember this, that the more wisdom, the liker you will be to God, and the more useful you will be to men. And certainly Usefulness is next to the fruition of God, the greatest happiness of man up∣on earth.
THE Fourth Grace that Old-age doth* or should excell in, is Patience. Which is a quiet and chearful undergo∣ing whatever Difficulties, or Troubles, Page 99 are incident to us in this world w. It extends indeed, in its largest sence, to comprehend, both VVaiting Gods time for the Blessings we want, and Bearing what crosses he inflicts upon us, either by his Own hand or by Others. When we neither sink by Despondency, nor rage by inordinate Passion either at the stone, or at the hand that throws it. And this not by vertue of a Stoical insensibleness, or of some moral Arguments which might qui∣et some of the Philosophers under pain or losses, but could never do it under disgrace. But that Patience which is directed by the Example of Christ, and strengthened by the Grace and Spirit of Christ, keepeth the Soul from secret re∣pining, or open murmuring at any event, saves from distraction at present and from ruine hereafter.
And herein Old-age doth or should excel x. They have met with many troubles in their pilgrimage; and the Scripture tells us, that tribulation work∣eth patience, Rom. 5. 3. consequently, the more troubles, the greater patience. They have bin taught to wait for some Mer∣cies which they have desired, for many years; and so have bin taught Patience, which when they have well learned, Page 100 then the Mercy hath been conferr'd. They have been tryed with many Afflictions from the hand of God, either upon their Bodies, as Sickness, Pain, &c. sometimes by acute, sometimes by chronical Di∣stempers; and these have exercised and taught them Patience; or upon their Souls, as Desertions, or other Impressi∣ons of divine Displeasure, and thereby have learned quietly to wait for the Sal∣vation of God; or by the Death of their dear Consorts or Children; all which, by the blessing of God concurring there∣with, have like continual burdens on the shoulder, inur'd and strengthened them in this Excellent Grace. The Aged Person hath also had many provocations, losses, and injuries from Men, which have both tried and tamed his met∣tle. He hath been either uncomfortably Match't, whereby his Patience hath been put to it every day; or cross'd in his Children, or fix't near some unquiet Neigh∣bour; or harrass'd by a costly and tedi∣ous suit of Law; any of which have for∣ced him to exercise this Grace: Or else he hath been smitten in his Reputation, or maim'd by some great loss or disap∣pointment in his Estate, where he hath had no Remedy but Patience. I know Page 101 these things do too often work the wrong way, that is, they produce fretfulness, rage, melancholy, and other dismal ef∣fects; but in the upright man, they sor∣tifie his Spirits, they break the pride, security and stubbornness of his Soul, and make him by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory, honour and im∣mortality, and so fit him for Eternal Life.
And the Aged do or should exceed those that are young herein. For the tender shoulders of these cannot well bear these burdens: As Ephraim once, so they are like bullocks unaccustomed to the yoke, which fret and fume, and are gall'd under the aforesaid tryals: Thô the Holy Ghost hath told us, that it is good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth: But commonly it is some tract of time, before this yoke is quietly and evenly carried. Old age doth most per∣fectly teach this lesson. He that in his youth would quickly have answered the Lye with his Sword, will then answer it with a smile. The tears which in our youth we spent upon any trivial occasion, we then reserve for better pur∣poses; and we come to learn manners to wait Gods time for the mercies we Page 102 desire. Time and trials have taught the Old-man to digest hard words, and hard things, rather than to fight it out. Good David could better bear Shimei's Curse when he was grown into years, than Nabal's Uncharitableness, when he was younger: Now it was nothing but kill and slay, at least every Male in Na∣bal's house; but afterwards, so let him Curse, because the Lord hath said unto him, Curse David: Who shall then say, Where∣fore hast thou done this? 2 Sam. 16. 10. And those Disciples of our Saviour, who in their younger years would have had Fire sent from Heaven, to revenge the incivility of the Samaritans, they in their riper years had learned, when reviled to bless, when persecuted to suffer it; and to bear all indignities not only with much patience, 2 Cor. 6. 4. but with all patience, 2 Cor. 12. 12. Such is the effect of years and experience by the blessing of God.
And you that are in years must be in∣excusable, if you be defective in this Grace, because you have been for a long time Scholars under a Patient Master, who hath lest us an Example, that we should follow his steps; who when he was reviled, reviled not again, when he suffered,Page 103he threatned not, 1 Pet. 2. 21, 23. You have also read and heard many convincing Discourses upon this Subject; you have seen the folly and madness of Impati∣ence, and of Revenge in others; and you have had so many Crosses of your own, that it is the absurdest thing imagina∣ble for you to be destitute hereof. No great wonder to see an unback't Colt to winch and curvet at the spur or whip, but if the old tryed Beast do so, he is better fed than taught. No, you should be Patterns of Patience to others. We may well feel things as Mortal men, (saith Mr. Hooper) yet overcome them as Chri∣stian men. Outward Afflictions may prick us, but yet they should not pierce us. The Old Soldier will not fret at hard Marches, hard Weather, hard Usage, for he hath been beaten to them: The Old Mariner repines not at the boiste∣rous Winds, or the threatning Waves. You are too Nice my Brother, saith Hie∣rom, if you grudge to be Tried below, yet expect to be Crown'd above.
Labour therefore to get and increase your stock of Patience: Let Patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and intire, wanting nothing, Jam. 1. 4. This Grace you will daily need, and Page 104 daily use. For we have need of Patience, that after we have done the Will of God, we may receive the Promise, Heb. 10. 36. It will be like a Buckler, to save you harmless from the evil of Affliction: Though you have Faith, Vertue, Know∣ledge, Temperance, yet ye must add un∣to these Patience, that ye may never fall, 2 Pet. 1. 6. This will not only bridle your Tongue, but quiet your Mind, and keep you, when dispossest of all other things, in possession of your own Souls y: For an impatient man, whilst he is affli∣cted by another, even then punishes him∣self, and so is his own greatest torment∣er. Alas! you must still expect a suc∣cession of troubles, and unexpected cross∣es, until your Course be finished; and if you escape these from abroad, yet you may find occasion enough for your Pa∣tience with your own Children and Ser∣vants, and perhaps with nearer Relati∣ons; and though you should miss of these, yet your own Distempers will try your Patience; when you can nei∣ther eat your meat, nor live without it; neither sleep with refreshment, nor lye awake with ease; neither endure company, nor be contented alone; when you will be weary of every place, of Page 105 every posture, and without Patience, weary of your self: And therefore it greatly concerns you to store your selves with this needful, this useful Grace.
And to that End, Inure your selves unto it by degrees: Strive to digest lesser wrongs, provocations and losses, which will prepare you to be quiet under greater. Whilst others are endeavour∣ing to out-wit, or out-power their ad∣versaries, be you labouring to overcome your own resentments, to conquer your selves: And then set before you that mirrour of Patience, the Lord Iesus Christ, who alwayes had Right and Power on his side, and yet patiently bore the an∣ger of God, the reproaches of Men, and the rage of Devils. It is reported of that noble Elziarius, that he would set himself to think of the Injuries done to Christ, 'till he was fully contented to digest his own: For alas, each of us de∣serves infinitely greater, and yet we suf∣fer infinitely less than He did. And this prevailed with the Apostle Iames and other Martyrs to express such Patience at their Sufferings, that even that con∣vinced some of their very Persecutors to declare themselves Christians. Above all, Pray earnestly to him who is call∣ed, Page 106Rom. 15. 5. the God of Patience, for a sufficient portion of this Grace: No Philosophical Arguments will compose the Mind like the Grace of God. I have read of a Learned Man, it was Iu∣stus Lipsius, that being on his Death∣bed, One of his Friends told him, it was needless to suggest arguments of Pati∣ence to him that was so well read in the Writings of the Stoicks; thereupon, instead of an answer, turns him to God, saying, Da mihi, Domine Iesu, patienti∣am Christianam; Lord Iesus bestow upon me the Christian Patience! So will your Burdens be tolerable, your Life amiable, your Relations comfortable, your Mind calm, and your Body easie.
THE Fifth Excellency that doth or* should adorn Old-age, is Stedfast∣ness: Which is a fixed settledness of the Soul, influencing our Life and Actions; and is oppos'd to that Levity and In∣constancy which is incident to young per∣sons. The Aged man is Stedfast in his Mind and Iudgment, and not easily un∣hinged Page 107 there; he is Fixed in his Will, and not easily charm'd or drawn from his well-chosen Objects. In respect of God and the things of Religion, a per∣son in years is or should be like a Rock, unmoveable, not like the Ship that is tossed to and fro. Having considered and weighed their Principles, no world∣ly consideration, no plausible harangues, no loss or punishment will induce them easily to alter the same. In respect of Others, their Friendship being grounded upon a firm bottom is constant, and they have learned to overlook ordina∣ry failings, and to put the best sense on the words and actions of a Friend. So likewise their Conjugal Love, though the frothy fondness of it be worn off, yet the strength and substance of it is unquestionable and unalterable. And then as to Themselves, their Passions are by long endeavours so moderated and re∣gulated, that as their temper is far more even and uniform, than once it was; so also their Actions and course of life are more steady and consistent, than in the dayes of their Vanity.
I will not contend that all Aged People excell in this Stedfastness, especially when Dotage invades Old-age; but that gene∣rally Page 108 it is so, and universally it should be so; and particular exceptions do al∣ways confirm general conclusions: Nor do I conclude that all young People are light and inconstant, but it is too manifest to be denyed, that Childhood and Youth have usually the large Sails, but Old-age hath the solid Ballast, and and therefore doth sail more steadily and more safely. Every Wind will make impression on the Young Tree, but the Old Oak stands firm against the Storms. The young Horse may go more nimbly, but the tried Beast goes more stedfast∣ly and surely. Youth is the unsettled age; the Head unsettled, the Heart unsettled, and the Life unsettled. When the Wise man exhorts to remember our Creator in the days of our Youth, Eccles. 12. 1. that word Youth comes of a root signifying Choice; which seems to imply, that Youth is a time wherein Persons are undeter∣mined; they have their Religion, their Relations, their Vocation to choose; but when a man is crown'd with years, then he is in a settled estate: Settled in Judgment, settled in his Purposes, settled in his Practice, and commonly settled in his Comfort: When the Apo∣stle Paul was near his End, then he could Page 109 say, 2 Tim. 1. 12 I know whom I have be∣lieved, and I am perswaded, &c.
For indeed the Constitution and Tem∣per of the Aged disposeth them hereun∣to: Their Sanguine and Mercurial days are done; their Phlegm and Melancholy further their Stedfastness, either in good or evil. They have seen the World, the vanities and varieties of men and things, of opinions and practices, they have tried all things, and therefore are likelier to hold fast that which is good. And as there is a wearisomness of the Body, so there is a certain weariness of the Mind, which makes it desirous to be fixt, and to be at rest. And having often heard, read and pondered the things of Religion, and also tasted the real com∣fort and sweetness in them, they are not easily either flatter'd, or frighted out of them. Their approach to Death adds also to their Constancy; why should they through fear recede from their Principles, that in a short time must dye of necessi∣ty? Hence that saying of Archbishop Whitgift, Two things help men to be resolute in a good Cause, namely Old-age and Want of Issue. And it is recorded, that when all the City of Athens yield∣ed to the Tyranny of Pisistratus, SolonPage 110 only oppos'd him; and being interroga∣ted by him, what made him have such Confidence, he answer'd, It was his Old∣age: He knew the Tyrant could not de∣spise him of many years; and he that cannot lose many years, needs not fear other losses; and so may well be sted∣fast and unmovable in his Duty.
Let it be your Care therefore to be rooted and grounded in the Principle and Practice of true Piety: Be not like Chil∣dren tossed too and fro with every wind of Doctrine. It is an arrant shame for you that are Old, to have your Religion to chuse, or to change it every month: It is not for you to follow fashions in Re∣ligion: But you should be rooted and built up in Christ, and stablished in the Faith as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving, Colos. 2. 7. Ability and Stability should be your peculiar honour. Young Persons may have a land-flood of Devotion and Zeal: You ought to pass like a still and constant River; you should be constant in Prayer, in Watch∣fulness, in Charity, &c. While the good∣ness of many young People is as a morn∣ing cloud, and as the early dew that passeth away; your path should be as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto thePage 111perfect day. As the the motion of natu∣ral bodies, when they approach their center, is more swift; so your motions should withal be more steady. It was no honour to that Noble Marquessz, who being askt how he could maintain his standing in the reign of four Princes, who also were of different Sentiments in Religion, to return this Answer; he perform'd it by imitating the twining Willow, and not the sturdy Oak. No, it is impossible to be upright without Couragea. That's the happy man, ei∣ther young or old, who is like Athana∣sius, Magnes & Adamas; of a temper and converse to attract Love and Respect; and yet of Principles and Resolutions to withstand, in a good cause, all op∣position. The weakness of your Limbs and Senses, should be compensated with stability and strength in your Spi∣rit. The Aged mind alone grows young b. We faint not, saith the Apostle, but as the outward man perisheth, so should your in∣ward man be renewed day by day, 2 Cor. 4. 16.
For this purpose, you should weigh and examine your Principles well. Those of Religion, by the Rule of the Scriptures; those of humane Life, in the scales of Page 112Reason: and having once well fixt them, alter them not upon every Suggesti∣on. The manifest cause of most mens Unstedfastness, both in Iudgment and Practice, is their rash embracing of those Points that should have been well weigh∣ed at the first: for what they have swallowed down by Wholesale, they will Vomit up again by Retail in time of tryal. My Lord Verulam's observation is very true, He that begins in doubts, will end in certainties; and he that begins in certainties, will end in doubts. Add to this, a conscionable Practice of your sound and honest Principles†. This will acquaint you with that comfort and sweetness, which will stablish your mind in them more and more. A rot∣ten Heart is apt to produce a giddy Head; whereas righteousness both directs, and keeps him that is upright in the way, Prov. 11. 5. with chap. 13. 6. All the parts and learning in the World will not fix the Head and Heart, like Sin∣cerity: It is good that the Heart be esta∣blished with Grace, Heb. 13. 9. Experi∣ence in Religion, will make you sted∣fast in Religion. And lastly, Pray ear∣nestly unto God to make you stedfast. See how emphatically the Apostle PaulPage 113 mentions this, 2 Thes. 2. 17. Now our Lord Iesus Christ himself, and God even our Father—stablish you. For we are weak Creatures, yea, Knowledge and Grace are but Creatures; but earnest Prayer will ingage the help and support of Almighty God, who can and will stablish, strengthen, settle you, 1 Pet. 5. 10.
THE Sixth Grace wherein Old-age* doth or snould excell, is Tempe∣rance and Sobrietyc. That's the Injunction of the Apostle, Tit. 2. 2. That the Aged men be sober, grave, temperate. By this Temperance, I understand that Fruit of the Spirit which bridleth our inordinate affections in all outward mercies; or more strictly, which observes a right mean in desiring, and using the Plea∣sures of the Senses: and so in respect of Meat, it is Abstinence; in respect of Drinking, Sobriety: in respect of other carnal pleasures, Chastity. All these the Temperate man curbs by holy Reason, and by holy Force. Hereby he sti•…es Page 114 the inordinate Desire, and restrains the Use within its due bounds; he mortifies the unlawful, and moderates the lawful pleasures and recreations of the Body; He neither absolutely refuseth them, nor inordinately desireth or useth them.
Now this Grace is very proper, tho not peculiar to Old-age. They especially do or ought to excell herein. There is in∣deed a Proverbial saying, that Wine is the*Milk of Old-men: some intemperate men there may be of every age, but God for∣bid that this Proverb should be adaequate to Old-age. True it is, that where there be the decays of Nature, there is more need of reparation, and that the most reviving means are expedient for that end. Whereupon Plato permits ancient* persons to drink more liberally, to allevi∣ate their troubles, and to soften their Spirits, as Iron is softned by the Fire. But commonly the Aged are by Gods Grace, weaned from the excesses of Youth. The Lusts of the Flesh, the Lust of the Eyes, and the Pride of Life have, too usually, their distinct Seasons of rule, or at least molestation in the Soul of man. And the First having had its course in the time of Youth, its reign is expired, and the Aged must now combate th•…Page 115 other Two as well as he can. The De∣cays of natural strength are great helps to the Old-mans Temperance; he cannot, if he would, Eat and Drink, and act his Lust as heretofore; and altho this Inability doth not make him a Tempe∣rate man, yet hereby the Discontinuance of the Acts weaken the Habit; and his contentedness therewith, and his hearty thankfulness for this reformation may be accounted real Temperanced: especially when he can reflect upon his former disorders with Grief, Hatred and Shame. Now they find by experience, that a man may live more comfortably, and health∣fully with less Meat, less Drink, and less Sleep, than young people indulge themselves withal: and other carnal pleasures are indifferent to them, because desire doth fail: and it is much better and easier to want desires, than to ful∣fill them; as it is far better not to Itch, than to have the pleasure of scratching where it itcheth.
But now the pious Old person hath really crucified the Flesh with the Affecti∣ons and Lusts; His Sins did not leave him, but he hath left them. They have not heard and read the Scripture so long in vain, which every where disgraceth Page 116 and condemneth all excess and riot, all Chambering and Wantonness, and obligeth all Christians to deny themselves, and to pluck out the right Eye that doth offend them. They have found by experience that as true Vertue, so true Satisfaction is only found in a Mediocrity; and that all extremes and inordinacies, are offen∣sive both to the Mind and Body. I said of Laughter, it is mad, and of Mirth, what doth it? Eccles. 2. 2. This was the Verdict which wise Solomon brought in his Old-age, when he had not withheld his Heart from any joy, &c. yet then he concludes, all was vanity and vexation of Spirit, and there was no profit under the Sun, Eccles. 2. 10. Besides, they who have lived long, have seen the woful Effects of Drunkenness, Uncleanness, and Lux∣ury; how many Bodies they have de∣stroyed, how many Estates and Families they have ruined, and what small pity the miserable Spend-thrift meets with in those persons and places, where he hath consumed his substance. These and such like observations have con∣tributed to the Aged mans Sobriety, they have been Pillars of Salt to him.
So that any Licenciousness in a person of Years, as it is most pernicious to him, Page 117 so it is intolerable to him. It makes them the objects both of laughter, scorn, and detestation. Every excess in them debi∣litates their Nature, sullies their Reputa∣tion, and shakes their Grace exceeding∣ly. When Old people fall, they fall with a great weight, and are crush'd more than younger people, and perhaps they have more difficulty to rise again. Far more excuses are found for the Lapses of young people, than can be pretended by the Aged; their faults are crimes, and their crimes are prodigiese. As their Diseases, so their Exorbitances are far more dangerous.
Let it therefore be your constant care to keep your selves within the bounds of Temperance and Sobriety. And that both for Others sakes, and for your Own. You should be examples, O be not stum∣bling Blocks to younger people. Your vices may propagate when your persons are past it; and those that are Eye or Ear-witnesses of your follies, may derive the practice of them to the Child that is yet unborn; and altho you may reco∣ver by true Repentance, yet they may stumble upon you, and fall and never rise again. Entail not a Curse upon your Posterity, do not nourish in them, Page 118 that natural depravation, which in equi∣ty you ought rather to cure. And for your Own sake be sober, be vigilant; for you are upon the confines of the ever∣lasting World; a World wherein all sensual enjoyments will be for ever out of date; endeavour to go off the Stage without a Blemish. When some Courtiers were sent to Sr Fr. Walsingham, being sick and sad, to make him merry,
And here comes in the use and exer∣cise of Mortification, wherein tho a wise man may make some steps, yet the work cannot be done without the assi∣stance of Gods Holy Spirit. If ye through the Spirit mortify the deeds of the Body, ye shall live, Rom. 8. 13. Implore there∣fore the aid of this good Spirit, who can make you mortally to hate that which you now do ardently love; and will pluck up the roots of that, where∣of Morality doth only shave the Hair. Set the Spectacle of Death oft before you, and of that endless Estate to which you are such near Neighbours; and think how unsuitable a vain life is, to a serious Death. Be much in Prayer, and if need be add Fasting thereunto, that your moderation may be known unto all men, seeing undoubtedly to Old people, The Lord is at hand.
THE Seventh Grace proper for Old∣age,* is Charity or Love. Not that sensual or carnal Love which is proper or rather common to Youth, and which hath long since dropt off, like Leaves, in the Autumn of their Age; but that Grace which disposeth the Heart to think the best, the Tongue to speak the best, and the whole man to promote the Wel∣fare of Others. The Seat or chief Man∣sion of this, is the Heart, which being filled with this Grace, it is diffused eve∣ry way, and the whole man is tin∣ctur'd with it. It obligeth a man to Think the best of every man. Charity thinketh no evil, believeth all things, ho∣peth all things, beareth all things. By this we are ready to account the Certain good things in Others, better than they are; the certain Evils in others, less than they are; the good that is but doubtful in others, certain; and doubtful Evils, nonef. And it rests not in Opinion, but works by De∣sire, whereby the Heart doth unfeign∣edly desire the Temporal, Spiritual and Page 121Eternal good of all men. Neither doth it rest there, but shews it self in Endea∣vour, and that both by Word and Deed; speaking To them, Of them, For them to God and man what may conduce thereunto; in their Lips is the Law of kindness. Charity vaunteth not it self, is not puffed up, doth not behave it self un∣seemly, is not easily provoked, 1 Cor. 13. 5. Neither will Words satisfie it, but doth actually help and cheerfully succour every Body, as their occasion requires, and his own ability extends.
And in this Grace doth every good Old Man and Woman excell. This was the eminent Grace of the Evangelist Iohn in his Old-age, for he lived longer than any of the Apostles; and his Swan∣like Song still was Love, as is evident in all his Epistles: yea, some Church Hi∣storians affirm, that when he could go no longer by reason of his Age into the Christian Assemblies; yet he was in∣stant to be led or carried there, where the substance of what he was able to say, was, little Children, love one another. And you may find, how pathetical was Paul the Aged in his tender charity to One∣simus, Philem. 9. Being such a one as Paul the Aged, for loves sake I beseech thee for my SonPage 122Onesimus. And this Spirit did continue in the Ancient Christians in the Primi∣tive times g, who loved, as Tertullian tells us, as Brethren, and were ready to dye for one another. We that did hate one another, saith Iustin Martyr, now do live familiarly together, and do pray for our Enemies. In all Ages, as men have increased in Piety, they have increased in Charity, and come to relent of their rigour and keenness. It was Age, Experience and Consideration, as well as a Prison that melted Bishop Ridley to accost his Brother Hooper in this manner:
For besides the advantage they have Page 123 had of Gods holy Ordinances, the Scope whereof is to increase our Faith and Loveh; they have found by experience, that the Life and Soul of Religion lies not in these lesser matters, that have cau∣sed the greatest noise in the World; that every difference in Religion makes not a different Religion: so that where∣soever they see any thing of Christ, these they love. Their Consciousness of their own mistakes, and of their own imper∣fections, hath forced them to more charitable thoughts of others. They have observed, that true Grace hath liv∣ed in the midst of great infirmities; yea, they have found this Flower in divers persons, where they thought there had been nothing but VVeeds. Being con∣versant most at home in their own Souls, they have in their long experience disco∣vered so much Vanity and Iniquity there, that they are are very charitable Iudges of all other persons. They grow like the famous Pliny, who so past by others offences, as if himself had been the greatest offender; and yet was so severe to himself, as if he would pardon no body: their Charity covers a multitude of Sins. In short, their Age and Afflicti∣ons have so happily humbled them, that Page 124 they are ready to esteem every one bet∣ter than themselves; and so they are far from that uncharitable Censoriousness, which tears mens Names in pieces, and keeps up a continual civil War among mankind.
And then for other Acts of Charity, who should be more ready to Give a part, than they that know they must shortly leave the whole? who should be good in his Stewardship, but he that is sure he must shortly be out of it? But the noblest Charity is that which respects the Soul, which consists in Counselling, Perswading, Reproving and Praying for Others. And Old-age is evidently quali∣fied for these above the young. Their Wisdom and Authority gives them a great advantage herein: and they have found by experience, that sometimes a word of good Counsel and charitable Reproof fitly spoken, hath been like Apples of Gold. And then for Prayer, it is observed that the Charity of young persons therein, doth begin and end at themselves; where∣as the Prayers of the Aged are much imployed for the good of others. Few Children pray for their Parents, as the Parents pray for their Children. Yea, they have learned to love and pray for Page 125 their Enemies, as well as for their Friends; and for the ungodly, as well as for the godly. And the poorest Old Man or Woman may be rich, in these acts of Charity.
Therefore as ye abound in every thing, in faith, in utterance and knowledge, see that ye abound in this Grace of Charity also. It is the Apostles Exhortation, 2 Cor. 8. 7. We use to say, that in Win∣ter the natural heat retreats inward, and there resides about the vital parts: ye that are in the winter quarter of your life, let this warm Grace dwell richly in your Hearts, and then it will influence all your words and actions. It is the Image of God, for God is Love; it is the fulfilling of the Law, and it is the great command of the Gospel; and tho you have Knowledge, Faith, Wisdom, Riches, &c. yet if you have not Charity, you are nothing. You are going out of the World, now is your time to exercise this Grace. In the World where you are going, there will be no infirmities to cover, no poor to relieve, no injuries to forgive, no ignorant persons to in∣struct, no miserable Creature to pray for: and you have but a short time for these imployments. Yea, perhaps you Page 126 are reprieved all this while for these Services; and to be useful in these and such like ways is the greatest happiness on Earth, it is the next step to eternal Glory. Yea, nothing should hire an Old person, or make him content to live out of Heaven with such a Body of Sin about him, but only that they may do God and Man that service, which can∣not be done in Heaven.
And for the obtaining this sweet Grace, the Scripture tells us, that it is a Fruit of the Spirit, Gal. 5. 22. and there it is ranked in the first place: It must be sought then in the Word of God, which is the vehicle of the Spirit; where, it being carefully read and heard, we shall find an account of the infi∣nite love of God to us, and of the stupendous love of Christ. There we shall discern how nearly we are rela∣ted to all men, especially to all Chri∣stians, and how unnatural it is for one hand to be unkind to the other. And in short, we shall there find, that Love and Charity is still the Character of good men, and hatred and uncharitableness of the bad. And you must beg this Grace of God, that the Spirit of Love, would plant this Grace of Love in your Page 127 Hearts. You will feel your hearts warm∣ing as you are praying, and the Lord will fill you with this Charity which is the bond of perfectness.
And so I have done with the Ver∣tues and Excellencies of Old-age: Where∣by you may perceive that all Old things are not to be cast away: But as Old Wood is best to burn, Old Wine best to drink, Old Authors best to read, and Old Friends best to trust; so Old People, if they have improved their Time aright, are good for something i; yea are emi∣nently good for their Knowledge, for their Faith, for their Wisdom, for their Patience, for their Stedfastness, for their Temperance, and for their Charity. And so much for the Fourth Point concern∣ing Old-age, viz. The Graces most proper for it.
CHAP. V. The Inconveniences of Old-age.
I Am come now in the Fifth place to* examine the Inconveniences and Dis∣advantages of Old-age; adding withall somewhat towards the Mitigation there∣of, as I pass along. Some here set themselves with immoderate vehemence to cry down Old-age, and to load it with such intolerable Miseries, as might affright one: And to this purpose they muster all the Evils which are either the effect of mens Vices, or other sepa∣rable Accidents of their Age, and put all these upon its score to inflame the rec∣koning k: Insomuch that some of the Old Philosophers took upon them to quar∣rel with Providence, for giving man Life, and thereby involving him in a conti∣nual state of misery. And all this, part∣ly out of their Ignorance of mans Primi∣tive happiness, and woful fall, and part∣ly out of their dim-sightedness about his endless felicity; about all which materialPage 129points they lived in great uncertainty.
Others on the Contrary have been rea∣dy so to mince the matter, as if there were nothing in Old-age, but what is desirable, guilding its hairs and smooth∣ing all its wrinkles; as if the Spiritual advantage did annihilate the corporal bur∣dens. The truth dwells, as I conceive, between these extremes: And it must be granted, that as the dreggs of the pu∣rest Wines are left in the bottom, so Old-age hath many Inconveniences pecu∣liar to it l; for which cause those dayes are called Evil dayes, wherein the man hath no pleasure, or with which he is greatly displeasedm, Eccles. 12. 1. But yet the same Old-age hath divers Priviledg∣es to ballance them; and their pressures are not properly Miseries, because there is abundance of Comfort, and Benefit, which mitigate them n.
We have an Elegant Description of many of them in that Twelfth Chapter of Ecclesiastes, vers. 2, 3, &c. Then the Sun, and the Light, and the Moon, and the Stars will be darkned; that is, all Outward Comfort or Prosperity, whether by Day or by Night will be eclypsed and withdrawn from us: And the clouds will return after the rain, that is, one bo∣dilyPage 130Distemper and outward Trouble will successively follow another. Then will the keepers of the house tremble, that is, the arms and hands which defend the Body, will by reason of their cold and dry temper, shake and quiver. And the strong men will bow themselves, that is, the thighs and leggs, which have strong∣ly born up the structure of the Body, will be weak, and need the support of a staff to assist them. And the grinders will cease, because they are few, that is, the Teeth which chew and grind our meat, will break, rot, and fall out, so that being reduced to a few, they will be unable to do their office. And those that look out of the windows, will be dar∣kened, that is, the Eye-sight will fail, the Organs of the Eye, through which, as through a window, the Soul looks out, being dried up and weakned. And the doors shall be shut in the streets, that is, the Lips and Mouth will be disabled from speaking, or eating. When the sound of the grinding is low, that is, Digestion which is furthered by chewing, and per∣fected in Chylification, Sanguification, &c. will be obstructed. And he shall rise up at the voyce of the bird, that is, our Sleep will be so shallow, that the least noisePage 131 will awake us, and so short, that it will prevent the Cock-crowing. And all the daughters of musick shall be brought low, that is, our Ears will grow dull, so that as we cannot so we care not for the sweet∣est musick. Also they shall be afraid of that which is high, that is, we shall by reason of weariness, dizziness, or short∣windedness, be afraid of mounting up to high places, and attempting such high things, as in youth we adventured up∣on. And fears shall be in the way, that is, we shall be afraid of and in our Iourneying, lest we dash our weak and weary foot against a stone. And the al∣mond-tree shall flourish, that is, our Head will grow hoary, like the almond tree which soon ripens. And the grashopper shall be a burden, that is, the least weight shall load our infirm Body; yea we be∣ing then like enough to grashoppers, will grow burdens to our selves and others. And desire shall fail, that is, our Appetite to meat, and our desire to Marriage-im∣braces will be cooled and cease by de∣grees. At length the silver cord will be loosed, that is, the Chine-bone with its marrow, and the Nerves and Fibres there∣unto belonging will be resolved and weak∣ned. And the golden bowl will be broken,Page 132 that is, the vessel and membrane that contains the Brain, which is aptly call∣ed golden, both for its colour and value, will at last be shattered. And the pitch∣er will be broken at the fountain, that is, the Veins will cease from doing their office, at the right Ventricle of the Heart, which is the fountain of life, and so our blood stagnating we are soon extinguished. And the wheel will be broken at the cistern, that is, the great Artery which is knit to the left side of the Heart, by which the Blood is derived into the parts, ceas∣es its action and the Pulse with it, which are the immediate forerunners of Death. And then the Dust returns to the Earth as it was, and the spirit returns unto God who gave it. Thus you see Mans Body, like some curious Edifice, first battered by various Storms, at length the Roof and Walls decay, and at last falls to the ground, but our Blessed Redeemer hath provided for the Inhabitant an house not made with hands, eternal in the Heavens.
AND now let us more distinctly sur∣vey* the Inconveniences of Old-age; the chief whereof are these following.
First, The Aged are Deprived of many Pleasures. They cannot divert them∣selves by Hunting, Hawking, Fishing: They can neither well ride abroad, nor walk about home. They have done with Visits, and Feasts, and Musick: All the recreations of sense are generally tastless to them. Yea, they have scarce any pleasure in their meat, and drink, and sleep: So that their Condition seems to be sad and lamentable. And we have the substance of all this confessed by an Old man himself, namely Barzillai, 2 Sam. 19. 35. I am this day fourscore years old; and can thy servant tast what I eat, or what I drink? can I hear any more the voyce of singing men and singing women? q. d. These things will signifie nothing to me; they have forsaken me, and I value them as little. Here you have the Verdict which Barzillai brings in the Case. Yea instead of Pleasure, a constant SadnessPage 134 takes place in their Countenance with∣out, and, as may be judged, in their Hearts within. Sobs and sighs are the accent of their language, and their com∣plaints are frequently mixt with tears. Their Condition then must needs be miserable, when they have such con∣stant heaviness within, and no recreati∣on without to alleviate it. Company bur∣dens them, and Solitariness saddens them. Yea they are loth that any body should be merry about them: So that they seem to lead a dolorous life, and to be estrang∣ed from all manner of Pleasure.
Now Pleasure is the life of Life: What is Life without Delight? why do men toyl to get Estates, but for the pleasure they take in them? why do others hunt for Applause, and climb for Honour, but to please their fancy and their hu∣mour? even the Schollar would take leave of his Books, if he had not De∣light in them: So that Pleasure acts all mankind, and rules the world. Now those years are lamentable, wherein a man shall say, I have no pleasure in them. And this makes some Old People wea∣ry of their lives, they reckon that a Life stript of joy and comfort, is not worth the keeping.
Page 135Nevertheless, Old-age may support it self very well under this Inconvenience: Inasmuch, as the Pleasures they are de∣prived of, are in themselves and to their experience, dangerous Injoyments: For nothing is more apt to disorder and fully the Soul, than carnal Pleasure. Those very Recreations which may be harmless in themselves, yet too commonly lead to Intemperance, to Lasciviousness, to Quar∣rels, and other mischiefs. Now if a Dish be never so palatable, yet if there be but danger of Poyson in it, no wise man will meddle with it: Therefore Tully brings in Cato congratulating with himself, that he was delivered from the slavery of Pleasure, and concludes, that it is a singular Priviledge of Old-age, that it frees us from that which is most pernicious in youth o. And whatever re∣gard weak men may have to these Va∣nities, the wisest among the very Hea∣thens have concluded, that there is no plague so deadly to man as the pleasures of the bodyp. And that comes to pass through the depravation of our Natures, whereby we can hardly enjoy them, but we run mad upon them; we exceed the limits, and miss the ends which should be observed in the using of them. Where∣fore Page 136Cicero tells of Sophocles, who being ask•…d, whether he did still converse with Womankind, answered, The Gods have done better for me, I have willingly left that furious Masterq. Indeed the great∣est part of the Pleasures aforesaid, do belong only to the brutal part of man, and consequently the defect of them lit∣tle concerns the Rational Creature. For, as a late worthy Authorr saith, None can think God so unkind to his own Image in humane nature, as in dispensing Feli∣city to assign the larger share to the Beast. No, all these sensual Pleasures are so distracting, or so fulsome, or so transient, that the utmost fruition of them, cannot make a man happy, nor the want of them miserable. And this is the more Evident, in that the wisest men have found the greatest Pleasure, in refusing those pleasures; and as an Epicure hath eaten for his pleasure, so many an Abstemious man hath profest, that he hath forborn for his pleasure also.
Again, as the Aged person is deprived of these Pleasures, so he is freed from any Desires after them. As his sensual Delights fail, so his Desires to them fail also. As he hath not the Pleasure of Page 137Scratching, so he is free from the trouble of Itching, and what man ever complains of such a want? We are never molested by the want of any thing, which we do not desires. Neither is Old-age without it's particular Pleasures. Tully tells us of divers Old-men, that diverted themselves with great delight in their Studies. And for those that have any smattering of Learning, there is no Earthly Pleasure comparable to that of penetrating into the works of Creation and Providence, of observing the Natures, Causes, and Effects of those things, the Surface where∣of only is known to younger people.
Furthermore, the Religious Old person hath an unexpressible Pleasure in the Reflexion of a well-spent Life, and upon the various Preservations and Delive∣rances, which the Lord hath vouchsafed him, out of many Temptations and Af∣flictions. They have also the solid com∣fort of seeing their Posterity grow up in the endowments of Mind, Body or Estate; and so of a Generation after them to serve and honour God, while the World stands.
There are also several honest Recreati∣ons, in which their Years do not hinder them. And however, it can be no disparagement Page 138 to them, if they can take as much Pleasure in Reading and Medi∣tating upon Gods Word, as ever they did in any other Divertisement whatsoever t. This is certain, that their Pleasures are more Pure, more Sound, more Strong, and more Lasting, than the frothy and unsatisfactory pleasures of Sense and Sin, which are but for a Season.
Finally, Sickness of Body or Trouble of Mind, to both which the Young are equally obnoxious as the Old, are able to divorce the youngest persons from all sensible Pleasures, and to cloath their Faces with sadness: so that this Incon∣venience must not be so appropriated to Old-age, but that any Age may partake thereof. Even St. Augustine tells us, that in his younger years, he had con∣tracted such sadness upon his Spirits up∣on occasion of his good Mothers Death, that nothing could comfort him. He went into the Bath, hoping for some re∣freshment thereby, but his sorrow met him when he came out again. A thou∣sand Accidents may fix such sorrow even upon young people, which all the Plea∣sures in the World cannot remove.
And tho the consideration of their own and others Sins, and of the EffectsPage 139 of them, do make them often sad, yet there is both a secret comfort at the bot∣tom of it, and a certain Ioy at the end of it; they know what belongs to the Laughter of the Soul, and have frequent tasts of the joy that is unspeakable.
A Second Inconvenience which attends*Old-age, is this, That their Strength and Beauty is decreasedu. Those Arms and Hands which once were able and useful for any imployment, are now scarce strong and steady enough to feed themselves. The Legs and Thighs that have carried them many a pleasant journey, yea, to many an holy Exer∣cise, are grown stiff and weak, and grudge to carry them up Stairs to Bed. Yea, that Back which was the support of the whole building, and many a Load that was piled upon it, begins to bow and bend, and can scarce carry it self erect. Their Parts and Members in ge∣neral are quite enervated and spent, as if they were weary of their Imploy∣ment; so that there seems to be Page 140 left little of a Man but his Shape: ac∣cording to the Proverb, Senex est, & non est. He is old, and so is No-body. Like some ruinated Palace, here was the stately Porch, there the fair Stair-case, the shape of a fair Parlour below, and the shadow of an handsome Chamber above: so here, the Carkass of the Man remains, but the Beauty is changed in∣to wrinkles, and the Strength into weak∣ness. They had a pleasant prospect in their Glass, but their Flesh hath bid them farewell, their Roses and Lillies are withered, and a wan duskishness hath taken possession: their Strength and Beauty are buried both together: So that it was a Saying among the Ro∣mans, Sexagenarius de ponte dejiciendus. He is sixty, make away with him.
For when a mans Strength is gone, he seems to be useless. He can neither defend himself, nor help others. He can neither fight in War, nor labour in Peace. Whether he be in the Temple, or in the Campaign; whether he be in the Shop or in the Field; he is quickly weary. He that could run to Sin, can hard∣ly creep to Church. He that had Strength to vanquish his Adversary, hath now scarce strength to wrestle with his Cough:Page 141 and the burden of his discourse is, I have known the time, that I could have done this and that. Thus Milo that pro∣digious man of strength, when coming in his Old-age to see them exercise in the Olympick Games, is said to look down with tears on his own Arms, and to cry, Alas, these now are dead. Yet this Loss some Aged persons can better bear, than Others can digest the decay of their Beauty. O to be lean, withered, and deformed vexeth them at the Heart. They cannot look upon themselves with Patience: and they conclude, that when they be so unwelcome to themselves, they must be unacceptable to every body else, Job 14. 20. Thou changest their Coun∣tenance, and sendest them away.
But yet neither of these Inconvenien∣ces are chargeable upon Old-age it self. For as Tully well observes x, the defects of strength, whereof we are sensible, do rather proceed from the Vices of our Youth, than from the fault of Old-age. An intemperate Youth transmits a weak body unto the time of Old-agey, and then we lay all the blame on Age. Galen in one place tells us, About the 28th. year of my Age, when I knew there was a certain way to preserve Health, I Page 142 followed the same all my life after, so that I was never Sick but of an Ague for a day, and that seldom, and there∣by he was vegete and brisk at Sevenscore years of Age. And M. Valerius Corvi∣nus was strong enough to be the sixth time Consul, when he was an hundred years old. Whereas on the contrary a Luxurious youth, produces a loathsome Age. As the Thief in the Candle wasts it more than the Flame; so any Intem∣perance or Incontinence, doth wast the Strength and Beauty more than years.
Neither is Old-age alone subject to these Evils. For one Weeks Sickness, to which Youth is as lyable as Old-age will ruine your Strength and spoil your Beauty, as much as twenty years time can do. How many are crippled in their Youth? how commonly doth the Small-pox disfigure their beauty! David himself complains, Psal. 102. 23. He weakened my strength in the way; he shortned my dayes. And he cries, O my God, take me not away in the midst of my dayes. So that these Decayes must not be impropriated to Old-age; any Age may be afflicted with them as well as that.
Neither is this Loss so insupportable, if we consider the true Nature and Va∣luePage 143 of these Mercies. They are but bo∣dily accomplishments; they are not the endowments of the Soul. Many Brutes surpass the youngest in Strength, and many Flowers surpass them in Beauty. Why should I, saith Cato in Tully, now more desire the strength of a Young man, than I should, when young, desire the strength of a Bull or Lyon? There is the like absurdity in both these desires. Or as he saith in another place, we may as reasonably in our Youth, call back the State of Childhood, which few will do, as in Old-age to expect the Strength and Beauty of youth, which is past and gone. You have, if it be not your own fault, the Priviledges proper to your Age, and according to the Old Observation it is far better to want the strength of Milo, than the Wisdom of Pythagorasz. Every Age hath its peculiar Talent, to have them in perfection is not to be expected up∣on Earth. We should be Thankful for the Strength and Features we have had, and bewail our abuse of them, and con∣clude, 'Tis well that all our Comforts have not left us together.
But the great support under these de∣fects is, As the outward man perisheth, to find the inward man renewed day by day:Page 144 what the River loseth on the one side, it gaineth on the other, and then all's well enough: the inward man is the better man. Let strength and beauty go, sith they will not stay, strive that you may be Strong in Grace, and Beautiful within. Those things may make you acceptable unto Men, but these will render you lovely both unto God, and to all wise men. When you can say with him in the Poeta, tho my foot be slower, yet my mind is swifter. When Severus the Emperour was sick of the Gout at York, he was asked by one of his Nobles, how he being so Lame, could rule so vast an Empire; he told him, that he rul'd the Empire with his Brain, not with his Feet. While the Head and Heart are strong, it passeth less, how it fares with the Arms and Legs. Faith, Hope and Charity are Beau∣ties, that will not fadeb: and the de∣cays of the Body do by the blessing of God, further the true vigour of the Soul. For the Soul is a distinct Substance, and as the House may be battered by a Tem∣pest, and yet the Inhabitant merry in't all the while: so an holy Soul may prosper very well, tho the Body be lame and crazy. And this Decrease of Strength and Beauty are very useful, to Page 145 awaken the Soul from that Lethargy, which is natural to it; they deprive us only of that which is the fewel of our Lusts, and of our security. Our strength hath not weaned us from the World, God will try what feebleness will do. Brisk∣ness and Beauty hath been a snare, these being removed, perhaps He may now speak with you, and be heard. When you have seen an end of all perfection, then hee'l shew you that his Command∣ments are exceeding broad, Psal. 119. 96.
A Third Inconvenience upon Old people;* is, That they are weakned in their Faculties. Their Apprehensions dull, their Phantasy barren, their Memories broken, and their Affections dry. Formerly they could have penetrated into things, they could have learn'd any thing; now they are so clouded, that they fumble at the plainest things. They could have soar'd by their Fancy, and coin'd varie∣ty of notions; which they found to be a great help to their devotion and other∣wise, Page 146 but their Invention now is grown poor, and their Notions flat. But the most sensible loss is of their Memory, whereby formerly they could have pro∣duced things both new and old; but now their Memory is so wofully shat∣tered, that this day forgets what yester∣day said and did. O the excellent things that they have heard and read: and now they are like water spilt on the Ground, no notices left that ever such things had been within. Time was, their Love and Zeal for God, and their Hatred to Sin was strong as Death, and ardent as the Coals of Fire, which hath a most vehement flame: many waters could not quench it. Their holy Ioys and Sor∣rows were transcendent; penitential Tears were frequent with them: But now their Hearts are cold, and their Eyes are dry. These Wheels of the Soul are gone, and thereby their motion is sadly interrupted.
Now this manifest stroke upon their Faculties, is a very sensible Inconvenience. The Decay of the Outward man might be someway tolerable, but this inward Decay sinks their Spirits. When holy David said, Psal. 6. 2. My bones are vex∣ed, his distress was great, but when he Page 147 adds in the next verse, my Soul also is sore vexed, his case was more lamenta∣ble. What comfort can a man have, when his Apprehension is grown blunt? What's a Knife good for, when the met∣tle is gone? When a man can attain lit∣tle, and retain nothing? The deficiency of these is a great impediment in all hu∣mane affairs, but of greater consequence in Religious matters. The Communion which the Soul hath with God is in the Word and Prayer. How disconsolate must the Heart be, when one can remember almost nothing of what he reads or hears? When his affections flagg, and his words freeze in Prayer? Why, he thinks he has lived long enough, he feels himself more than half dead already. The House is left standing, but all the rich Furni∣ture is gone, and what can be said to mitigate this misery, or to reconcile any body to Old-age?
To stop any further Impatience, Con∣sider, 1. That this great Decay in the Faculties doth not befall every Aged per∣son. Divers there are and have been, that retain the free use of their Facul∣ties till they dye. How many doth Tully name, as Simonides, Stesichorus, Isocrates, Hesiod, Homer, Pythagoras,Page 148Democritus, Socrates, Plato, &c. who lived long, and yet continued a course of Studies as long as their life? c And he tells us there particularly of Sophocles, whose Sons accused him for a Dotard in his Old-age, till he before the Iudges repeated the Tragedy of Oedipus, which he had newly written, and so was by them acquitted. And Seneca tells of himself then in years, that he was able to repeat Two thousand Names in Order, so faithfully did his Memory stick to him in his Old-age. And there are many Instances every day of fresh and lively parts in withered Bodies. Yea, for the most part we may observe that accord∣ing to the Old saying, Omnia quae curant Senes meminerunt. What old people most regard, they best remember. They seldom as Tully observes, forget their Bonds, their Mortgages, what they owe, or what is owing unto them, or where they have laid up their Treasure. So that this charge lies not against all Old people, nor in all cases.
2. These Decays proceed not from Old-age only, but many times from Sloth and Negligence. Their Faculties would continue more intire to them, if they did exercise them with Study and Industry.Page 149 but the best mettal will rust with dis∣use, and the meanest by constant use will be kept bright and in good or∣der.
3. The blastingof Parts is not peculiar to Old-age. For many Diseases and other Accidents do often Eclypse our Facul∣ties as well as Old-age. Witness Messala Corvinus, who was so weakned in his Head, that he forgot his own Name. Yea, many a mans bad Morals have spoiled his good Intellectuals, before he hath made one step into Old-age. And there∣fore this misery is not to be confin'd to Old-age, which neither attends all old people, nor only such, nor meerly upon the account of their Age.
4. There is this Comfort, that tho all these Decays be the fruit of Sin, yet in themselves they are rather Afflictions, than Faults, and so are more ordinable to our good. How much better is the Decay of our faculties, than the perver•… use of them? Nay, how many thing•… may we afford to forget, rather than chuse to remember? Again, as there may be quick Apprehension, clear fan∣cy, and firm memory without one grain of Grace; so there may be strong Gra∣ces, where there are but lame Faculties.Page 150 You may have a warm Heart, tho you have but a weak Head. The Favour of God is not determin'd by our natural parts, but is disposed according to his everlasting Covenant; according to which he will require no more than he gives. He will welcome him that improveth his Two talents to Four, with the same words as he was received, that made Ten of his Five.
And finally, It is a Mercy that the use of your Faculties is not wholly lost; that you are able, in some measure, to expound the Book of Ecclesiastes concern∣ing the Vanity of all things below, though you cannot so clearly unfold the Book of Canticles; that you are able to un∣derstand and chuse the best things; that you can press others, to the things that you cannot now perform your selves. An Old man can direct, though he cannot work. When David was al∣most spent, yet if you read 2 Sam. 22. 〈◊〉 23 Chapters, you will find his Last words were not in vain. In short, in unavoidable Shipwracks, as these are, we must not vainly murmur at what we have lost, but thankfully and dili∣gently improve what we have left; for it is certain, that in this case habentiPage 151dabitur; to him that hath and improv∣eth what he hath, it shall be given, and he shall have abundance.
A Fourth Inconvenience incident to*Old-age, is the 〈◊〉〈◊〉 their Sen∣ses; and especially in •…ose which are called Senses of Discipline, Seeing and Hearing, by which as through windows Light is derived into the Soul. For as in Natural things nothing is found in the Understanding, which was not be∣fore in the senses; so in Spiritual things, the Mysteries of Religion are not invent∣ed by our Minds, but conveyed to us by the sacred Oracles. And therefore it is very probable that Satan beareth a particular spite to these, as some have observed from the Persons possest by him, whom he so frequently struck deaf, and dumb, and blind. But it is evident, that as by these Doors sin en∣tred into the Soul, so we find our De∣cayes sooner in them, than in our other Senses. The Eye it grows dim, and the Ear it grows dull, and both grow worse Page 152 and worse, and that without hopes of Cure. This was the case of the Patri∣arch Isaac, Gen. 27. 1. And it came to pass, that when Isaac was old and his Eyes were dim, so that he could not see, &c. whereupon using his Hands for Eyes, he was mistaken in his own Sons. In∣deed the Degrees of these Decayes are different, in some less, in some greater: but as in Houses the Windows suffer first and most; so in our houses of Clay, the Organs of sight and hearing, do more or less, wax out of tune, before the Fabrick fall.
Now the Decayes of the Eye and Ear are grievous Afflictions; when one can scarce discern one thing, or person, or one letter from another; to continue in a perpetual night or twilight, how un∣comfortable must it be? Or, to see peo∣ple speak, and yet scarce to hear what they say, it is next to being buried alive. For man is a sociable creature; and the All-wise God saw that it was not good for Adam himself, to be alone: but the Privation of these senses leaves a man to himself alone. He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, because he hath born it upon him. He is liable to be abused and in∣jured both in word and deed, and is Page 153 uncapable to help himself. He is also rendred useless; hereupon T. Manlius Torquatus excused himself from the Con∣sulship, saying it was not fit he should be intrusted with the Lives and For∣tunes of others, that could not see or hear, but with others eyes and ears: yea, which is worst of all, such persons are precluded from the Means of Grace and Salvation. There is no better com∣pany sometimes than a good Book, but they cannot see a letter. And then Faith comes by Hearing, and it is preserved, and increased by the same means; but let them press never so near, they can scarce hear a distinct word, much less a whole sentence: and what a dry and dead Soul must that be, that lives out of the road of these ordinary helps?
It is some Question whether of these losses is the greater, of the Eye-sight or of the Hearing. And upon some accounts the latter seems to be the sadder loss of the two; partly because God hath ordain∣ed Hearing, to be the ordinary Means of Grace and Comfort: partly because there are no such, at least no such ready and commodious Helps yet found out, for the Dulness of the Ear, as there are for the Dimness of the Eye. However, Page 154 the Decayes of either of them, especially of Both these senses, are a great Disad∣vantage, and a heavy burden upon Old∣age.
Notwithstanding all this allegation, Old-age is not altogether so miserable as it is painted. For there are many Aged People, of whom it may be said, as it was of Moses, Deut. 34. 7. his Eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated: So it pleaseth the Lord to continue to ma∣ny Aged personsd, very great vivacity in both those Senses, the greater cause they have to be thankfull for the same. But though it must not be denyed, that for the most part Old-age is dim of sight* and dull of hearing; yet 'tis as true, that even these decayes are incident to younger persons. How many young peo∣ple may we meet with, that are de∣fective in one or other of them? Some that are purblind, others dim-sighted, some from their birth, some by casual acci∣dents, some by distempers: nay, it is one of the wonders of Gods Providence, that considering the folly and rashness of Chil∣dren, any of us carry our Eyes untouched unto elder years: so that neither is this af∣fliction to be confined to Old-age. Yea, if we grant that these Defects should Page 155 unavoydably befall Old people, yet they do not alwayes make them useless, and then all's well enough. Even Blind and Deaf persons have bin more serviceable in their places, than multitudes of some people, that have their eyes and ears. Tully tells of divers, that were wholly dark, yet Ornaments to their Countrey. In particular, he relates of Appius, that was old and blind, yet retaining his Au∣thority, he governed a great Family with that dexterity, that his Children feared him, his Neighbours respected him; and when a dishonourable Peace was likely to be made with Pyrrhus, he caused himself to be carryed in his Chair to the Senate, and there did ef∣fectually interpose to hinder it.
But that which should chiefly support a wise and good man under these De∣cayes of the Senses, is, The comfortable review of the right use he hath made of them, that he hath not us'd them as Instruments of unrighteousness unto Sin, but as the Instruments of righteousness un∣to God; or an hearty Grief for his Abuse of them: And the joyful Prospect of the Resurrection, when all our Imper∣fections will be done away, and our vile bodies made like Christs glorious body.Page 156 There's no body much grieved at the want of repair in a House which he is leaving, when he is ready to go to one that will need reparation no more. Yea, there is cause of Thankfulness, that we have enjoyed the use of these Senses so long, whereas we might have bin born blind, and deaf, and dumb: but especially, that God hath given us a spiritual Eye, and an inward Ear.
And through the Goodness of God it often falls out, that these outward De∣fects are more than compensated with greater measures of Understanding and of Memory. He may well be contented to lose an Eye or Ear, which must pe∣rish at last, that in lieu thereof receives a greater portion of Faith, Love, Wis∣dom and Patience, and so becomes the Page 157 better man, and the better Christian.
It is also some alleviation of this Af∣fliction, to consider that all these Visible things are but Vanity, yea vanity of va∣nities. That the Eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the Ear filled with hearing, Eccles. 1. 2. 8. And that whose wants his Sight or Hearing, escapes many a Temptation, which do frequently surprize the Soul through those Windows: and that, as at other times, so especially in the Service of God. How often doth the Heart walk after the Eyes, and so steal away from God? How apt is every noise, to disorder the Soul? so that as we are deprived of the comfort of these Senses, so we are freed from the snares that attend them. And the Answer is not to be forgotten which Maris the Godly Bishop of Chalcedon gave to Iulian the Apostate, who upbraided him, that his God had not cured him of his Blind∣ness; which was, That he praised his God with all his heart for his Blindness, whereby he was kept from seeing such an ungracious face, as his was.
And lastly, let us that feel these De∣cayes, greatly magnify the Lord, who hath directed us to the use of Glasses and Spectacles, whereby we have in a Page 158 manner new Eyes put into our Heads, and are inabled to read, and write, and work, even to the very Sun-set of our Lives. This is so great a Mercy, that we should do well to take thankfull no∣tice of it, every time we use them, to the Praise of God, who is the Father of Lights, and from whose holy Spirit comes the knowledge of witty Inven∣tions.
THE Fifth Inconvenience incident to*Old-age is, That it is burdened with Distemper and Pain. Thus Asa, 2 King. 15. 23. in the time of his Old-age was diseased in his feet. Then Aches and Dis∣eases take possession of every part. Me∣grims and Dizziness seize on the Head; Catarrhs; Ptisick and Astma's on the Lungs; Palsyes on the Nerves; Weak∣ness and Pain on the Back and Loins; Gravell and Stone on the Reins and Blad∣der: The Gout on the Ioynts; The Hy∣pochondriack Melancholy on the Spleen; The Colick on the Gutts; and lastly, a Dropsy or an Hectick, which carry the Page 159 man away. So that an Aged person is* a very Hospital, and Old-age is it self an incurable Disease, and any other added to it makes the case desperate. Some of them indeed speed better than others, but usually if they escape Acute diseases, some Chronical distemper attends them to their Graves.
Now this is a very sensible Inconve∣nience: None of these afflictions are joy∣ous, but grievous with a witness. They vex and torment the Body, that a man hath no mind to live, and yet no power to dye. Hear Iob, c. 7. 20. I am a bur∣den to my self. Job 10. 1. My soul is wea∣ry of my life. The Old person cries out with him, Iob 16. 12. I was at ease, but he hath broken me asunder, he hath taken me by my neck and shaken me to pieces;—he cleaveth my reins asunder, and doth not spare, he poureth out my gall upon the ground. He breaketh me with breach upon breach, &c. These Distempers and Pain imbitter all worldly comforts; House, goods, Money, Friends, Relations, they are all dead to a man that is sick and in pain. They deprive a man of himself, he hath Ears and Eyes, but no comfortable use of them: those things that used to re∣fresh him, now offend him; his Meat,Page 160Chair, his Bed tires him; his Friends, their absence offends him, and he is di∣sturb'd with their presence; poor wretch! he is not well, and nothing is well about him, as to the giddy all things turn round. These also waste his Estate, what will not one spend for ease and health? one Remedy is commended and used, and then another; one Physician employed, and then another; skin for skin, all shall go for Life and Health. Yea, these have a sad influence upon the Soul. When it is lodg'd in a ruinous body, it is stifled within it self for want of motion, and move it cannot, or but lamely for want of Organsf. It is like a traveller with a tired Horse; he spurs and strains, but his Horse is foundred; so here, the Soul would pray, and meditate, and flie up∣ward, but the dead weight of a crazy Body hinders; so that both his flesh up∣on him hath pain, and his Soul within him doth mourn, Job 14. 22.
But yet this Burden is not to be ap∣propriated to Old-age, as if they and they only were the subject of distempers and of pain. For, if we observe it, we shall find Diseases more common yea and more dangerous among Young people, than a∣mong Oldg. In the Sacred Story you will Page 161 meet with more young People brought to our Saviour for Cure, than Old. There was Iairus daughter, there was the Noblemans son, there was the Syro∣phenicians daughter, and then the Centu∣rions servant, with many others. In contagious Diseases it's evident that they are sooner infected, and every Register will inform us, that a far greater num∣ber of Infants and Young People are yearly carried to their long home, than of Aged Persons. And then for Casu∣alties, there are far more of young and middle-aged persons, that are slain and taken captives, than of the Old.
Neither are all Aged people so laden with these pains and distempers; many of them having a very convenient mea∣sure of health to their lives end. Thus Tully brings in Cato at eighty four years of age declaring, that notwithstanding these years, he was well enough to appear in the Senate, to defend his Cli∣ent, and to entertain his Friends: And Masinissa, King of Mauritania, that at fourscore and ten years old, he would not be perswaded to ride in his jour∣neys, or to be covered on his head in the hardest frost, or sharpest storm. And one of the old men mentioned in Page 162 the first chapter, made nothing of walk∣ing twenty miles to dine with a Relati∣on, when he was above an hundred years old. Neither are these Diseases always the fruits of Old-age, but rather of an heedless and intemperate youth. This layes up such crudities, surfeits and noxious humours, which lurk in us till Old-age, and then seize upon us; and then we find fault with the Choler in our Sto∣mack, but forget the sweet meats which have caused it. So that this Inconve∣nience doth neither befall all Old Peo∣ple, nor only them, nor only upon the account of their Old-age.
The best Supports however for the Aged under their Maladies, are a deep Study on the Wisdom, Power, Goodness, and Promises of God. His Wisdom, where∣by he knows what condition is best for us. His Power, whereby he hath all Diseases at his Command, as the Cen∣turion had his servants. His Goodness, whereby he pities us more than the ten∣derest Parent doth his weak Child; who also knoweth our frame, and remem∣bers that we are but dust, Psal. 103. 13, 14. His Promises, that he will not af∣flict without need, Lam. 3. 33. that he will correct in measure, Jer. 30. 11. that Page 163 he will not leave us, Psal. 23. 4. that all shall work for the best, Rom. 8. 28. that he will cease, when his good Ends are accomplished, Lam. 3. 22.
And then we should revolve the great Benefit and use of them. For by our Distempers the Lord is pleased to shew us more effectually the frailty of our Condition, the Evil of sin, the Vanity of the World, and many other Lessons that are not commonly learn'd other∣wise. It's plain, that these are fair warn∣ings to us to provide a better house for the Soul, that will endure. In this Disease, said Old Olevian, I have learn∣ed to know aright what sin is, and what the Majesty of God is. Nay, said that Learned Rivet near his death, I have learned more Divinity in these Ten dayes of my Sickness, than in Fifty years before; it hath sent me home into my self. And now who would not be Con∣tent with such useful Discipline? To con∣clude, try it who will, there is no Con∣dition of Life without some Inconveni∣ence. Marriage is desired, they are S. Ba∣sil's wordsh, but how many troubles in it? Children are long'd for, but how many griefs with them? rich People are counted happy, but how many thorns Page 164 are found there? These are the tributes of Life, which if a man know how to bear patiently, his Soul will be better∣ed, and his Vertues adorned. Our busi∣ness is to prepare for them beforehand, to lay up a stock of Prayers, of Pati∣ence, of Promises, of Faith, of Eviden∣ces; and when they come, to possess our Souls in patience, to resign up our selves to the holy will of God, and if we can∣not turn off this our Burden, to carry it with all the ease and satisfaction we can; and to keep a sound mind, if we cannot have a sound body.
A Sixth Inconvenience in Old-age, is,*that it is broken with Crosses and outward Troubles. These, though they meet us in every stage of our life, yet a whole troop of them commonly fall upon us in Old-age. Then doth Po∣verty often come as an armed man: His getting dayes are gone, now his spend∣ing time is come: And if he have need of much, and yet hath little in store, he seems to be in a miserable Condition. Page 165 The Cynick Philosopher, when he was asked, what was the most calamitous Creature in the world, confidently an∣swered, It was an indigent Old person. Likewise every body is ready to injure and run down the Aged, reckoning that they are least able to defend themselves. For as to the weakest part of the body, there is a confluence of all humours, which settle there, so very often it falls out, that a combination of troubles seize upon Aged people, Ioh. 21. 18. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, when thou wast young thou gird∣edst thy self, and walkedst whither thou wouldst: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldst not.
And of these Troubles, the sharpest are from their Relations; the Disobedi∣ence of some, or the Death of others. How doth the pride, prodigality or wil∣fulness of Children or Grand-children pro∣voke, and grieve the hoary head! And how many Aged persons see husband, wife, children, and other dear Friends, and Relations posted to the grave be∣fore them, which do each of them, as it were, tear away a piece of him, and leave him as a sparrow alone upon thePage 166house-top? In short, Old-age is recorded as the Sink of mans life, into which run all the miseries incident to humane nature.
And that which makes this Burden more grievous, is, That these seize up∣on the persons when their strength is spent, their spirits low, and their bodily infirmities many. They are within sight of the shore, and yet in danger to be sunk and wrack'd, with the storms which beat upon them. When they had thought all their troubles had been blown over, it frets them sore to meet them again. And especially, if they have had plenty and prosperity in the course of their lives, their straits, losses and troubles, now ag∣gravate their affliction.
Now to Mitigate these Pressures we must know, 1. That these Crosses are common to all. As they do not infalli∣bly attend all Aged persons, for many have fair weather all their journey long; so they befall all mankind indifferently in every part of life. If these be Miseries, there's no mortal man without his Mi∣sery. We are in this World, as Israel was in the Wilderness, who had no day without a Cloud, but then they had no night without a glympse of light. Where Page 167 dwells the man, or of what Cloth is his coat made, who hath not met with straits, and with vexations? that hath not buried many of his Relations and Friends? so that we must quarrel with every age, as well as Old-age, yea with the Providence of God by this argu∣ment.
2. These Crosses and Losses are abso∣lutely Hurtful to none. They are not properly and intirely Evils. Criminal evils are real Evils, poenal Evils are not so. These fluunt a summo bono, are in∣flicted by Him that is eminently Good; ducunt ad summum bonum, they guide and help us towards the greatest Good; erant in summo Bono, they were upon him who was intirely Good. Prosperi∣ty hath, but Adversity hath never hurt a good man. Yea some of the Hea∣thensi have been bold to judge those men miserable, that have never met with any troubles. They are our Physick, which may disturb us; but Sin is our Poyson, which will destroy us. The bit∣terest Physick is better than the sweetest Poyson.
3. They are Useful to those that are good. Though they be briars, thorns and thistles in themselves, yet by the Page 168 blessing of God, they prove sweet-bryars and holy-thistles to holy men. How ma∣ny things do we count Evil, that are most wholsom for us? They Exercise our Faith, our Wisdom, our Patience, and the tryal of these is more precious than of fine gold. They teach us, as was said of Diseases, many lessons more effectually, than the Word it self with∣out them can do. The Chyrurgeon and the Executioner do both bind men, but to different Ends; the one doth it to be∣reave of life, the other to preserve itk. When the good man is bound in fetters, and holden in cords of affliction, Then the Lord sheweth them their work, and their transgressions that they have exceeded. He openeth also their ears to discipline, Job 36. 8, 9.
4. These Crosses and Afflictions are most fit for Old men. They are or should be •…ost strong to bear them; they have 〈◊〉 a long Summer, to lay up for a sharp Winter: If they have not stored up a great deal of Faith and Patience, they have slept in harvest: They also have been trained, and inur'd to them before this time of day, by long expe∣rience. They have received much good at the hands of the Lord, and therefore Page 169 may the better receive evil. As Cato in Tully answers Caecilius, who objected this against Old-age, that living long a man sees many displeasing and uncom∣fortable events; Yea, said he, and per∣haps many comfortable things alsol. But the true and only Remedy against this Inconvenience, is Faith and Patience; which the wise God hath largely pre∣scribed in the 11th. and 12th. Chapters of the Hebrews. By these a sound Chri∣stian shall not only bear these Onsets, but overcome them, and adorn the hoary head with trophies. We cannot, saith a Foreigner to Christianity, change the course of things, but we can take a good heart, a masculine spirit, to bear sad accidents with substantial courage, and to be re∣conciled to Providencem. And present∣ly again, It is our best way to abide what we cannot amend, and to attend God without murmuring, from whom all ailments come; for it is an ill Sol∣dier that follows his Commander grumb∣lingn. But we have a more sure word of prophecy, Rom. 8. 28. All things, mark it, all things work together for good to them that love God, that are called ac∣cording to his purpose: Which blessed word, if it be understood, believed and Page 170 considered; and our love to God and effectual calling evinced, is alone able, Gods spirit accompanying it, to settle, quiet, and comfort our hearts under all troubles whatsoever.
Let it therefore be the chief care of all Aged Persons to make their calling and election sure, to strengthen their Faith in God, and by their hope to travel into the other World; for then only will our afflictions feel light, while we look not at things seen, but at things unseen. The thoughts of the grave will mortifie us to things seen, and the thoughts of the Countrey beyond the grave will rea∣lize the unseen World, and then our troubles will be easie, and our crosses blessings. The sight of the approaching shore, will make an Aged Person bear the present storms with chearfulness, knowing that he shall shortly be well, either under Heaven, or in Heaven: None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto my self, so that I may finish my course with joy, Act. 20. 24.
THE Seventh Inconvenience that is* charged on Old-age is, That it is attended with Contempt. Old People com∣monly are despis'd, especially when they are not supported with good Estates. Most People avoid them, and treat them as superfluous Creatures. For the gene∣rality of men do value others not for their Wisdom, or real Vertue, but either for some likeness of disposition, or some usefulness. Now the Ancient are not, by the disparity of their years, so com∣plaisant, nor by their disability so help∣ful as heretofore; and thereupon they are contemned by younger people: Espe∣cially also when they are grown de∣crepit, and confin'd to their chairs or chambers; then are they an eye-sore to their successors, who secretly wish them well in Heaven, or any where out of their way upon Earth. It is too evident, how unpleasing their groans, their coughing, and their other weak∣nesses are. They that can brook the peevishness, and the uncleanliness of their Page 172Children, cannot bear with it in their Parents: All their former parts and pains are forgotten, and they are be∣held, as last years Almanacks, wholly out of date.
Now this is a sore Affliction, and touch∣es man or woman to the quick. For such as have been regarded and reve∣renced, to be neglected and despised, grates even the most ingenuous spirits. Iob 29. 30. Unto me men gave ear, and waited, and kept silence at my counsel: but now they that are younger than I, have me in derision; they abhor me, they flee from me, &c. Miserrimum est fuisse felicem. The respects and honour that one hath formerly had, makes his present contempt more intolerable. Not but that a good man is satisfied with himself; but he is aware, that hereby he is rendred unuse∣ful to others: For when the Person is despised, his Example nor his Counsel, let them be never so profitable, will be regardable or useful: He passes for an old Dotard, and there's an end. The truth is, every man would be beloved, and in some sort esteemed, but when on the contrary, he perceives that he is nothing set by, what should he do in this world? That man is a burden to Page 173himself, who discerns that he is a bur∣den to every body else.
But yet as we have observed in other Cases, This Inconvenience is not peculiar to Old-age, as if they only were despi∣sed, or set at nought: For they that will contemn them, will set light by any other sober and wise Person also, yea they will contemn God himself. Plain is the connexion, Levit. 19. 32. Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the Lord. They that will despise an Ancient Person upon that score, will despise the Ancient of dayes himself; so that they are not alone under this Inconvenience. Neither is this Contempt universal; some young persons have that Wisdom, which teacheth them to value, and respect their Elders. Thus Tully again brings in Cato answering Caecilius, who had said, that there was nothing more miserable in Old-age, than to find themselves odious to others; nay, sayes Gato, I believe such Old men as we, are very acceptable to such young men as you, Scipio and Lelius: And so goes on, shewing that look as Old men take pleasure in vertuous young men, though far inferiour to them, in age and wis∣dom; Page 174 so all Iudicious young men take delight, and yield great respect to grave and Ancient men: And thus Plato brings in Socrates saying, I love to hear the Discourses of Old men, seeing they have already traced the way that I must go. And most commonly those Ancient Peo∣ple meet with most Contempt, who by their Frowardness or otherwise do lessen themselves, and alienate the respects of others from them; or such as have liv∣ed meerly to themselves, without regard to the good of others: Or else▪ perhaps to repay into their own bosoms that neg∣lect and contempt, which they heretofore have been guilty of, either to their Pa∣rents, or other Seniors.
But however it be, this Inconvenience is not the fault of Old-age, but rather of such undutiful Relations, who have forgotten the Law of Nature; or of such inconsiderate people, as never foresee that the case will e're long be their own; and they must look for the same mea∣sure, which they have meted to others, to be repaid into their bosoms. The Infirmities of Old People should rather breed Pity, than Contempt: Inasmuch as though, by reason of their Age, they are become twice Children, yet even theirPage 175Angels behold the face of their heavenly Father. And though, by reason of their impotence or poverty, they cannot vindi∣cate their just Authority, or punish their Contemners; yet God will certainly take their parts, and revenge their wrongs.
In the mean time they must comfort themselves in the Favour and Protecti∣on of the most High, in the Promises which he hath made, in the Iudgment and esteem which he hath of them, in the Integrity of their hearts, in the for∣mer Usefulness of their Liveso, and in the Hopes they have to be shortly out of the reach either of envy or contempt. What matter is it for the esteem of a company of worms, when a man is well accounted of among the Angels? how easily may he want the respects of Men, that enjoys the smiles of God? Alas we are but strangers in this world, and there∣fore must not grudge to be strangely used; he greatly forgets himself, and the coun∣trey to which he is travelling, that is much concern'd either with the Admi∣ration, or Contempt of foolish men.
Yet it should be the Care of all Anci∣ent people, to use all good Means to prevent, as much as may be, this In∣convenience; to wit, to watch against Page 176 all Peevishness, Covetousness, Envy, and all the other aforesaid Vices of Old-age: For there is nothing doth so much vilifie, yea nullifie a person as sin. And then to study and practise Wisdom, Pa∣tience and Charity, and those other Gra∣ces before specified: For there is no∣thing doth so much command Regard as the Image of God. Sincere Piety will procure respect, more than birth or riches; and you have seldom seen Old People despised but for some real or supposed failings. Particular instances do never invalidate, but establish general Rules; and that is, Them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me, shall be lightly esteemed, 1 Sam. 2. 30.
THe Eighth Infelicity of Old-age is,*That it is Disabled from Service, and rendered incapable of doing good in their Generation. Which though it be an Effect of some of the former, yet is a distinct Affliction. When the Fa∣culties are impaired, the Strength ex∣hausted, Pains and Diseases inflicted, Page 177 alas! what Service can such a one do for the Church! how little for the Com∣mon-wealth! how little for their own Family? Hence the Levites, Numb. 8. at Fifty were discharged from the sub∣stance of their work. Hence the Soldi∣er at Sixty was Miles emeritus. For how should the Head, Heart or Hand be serviceable, that are shatter'd with breach upon breach? His useful dayes are done: He must now be labouring for Life, who before liv'd for Labour. They see things out of order in the places where they live, but they can∣not amend them. He that formerly could have Studied many hours, is spent now with a few minutes; and those that have served at the altar, are now glad to sit by the fire. Hence the old Ro∣man Proverb beforementioned, Sexage∣narios de ponte dejiciendos, that is, Let those that are sixty years old be turn'd off the bridge: Their work is done, they live to no purpose.
Now this is a heavy Trouble to a Good man, yea to any Ingenuous man. Such do know, that Usefulness is the End, and Happiness of Life: Take that away, and what is Life good for? A man is thenceforth but a Cypher, yea Page 178 and worse; for he eats, and drinks, and troubles the world, and no way helps the Inhabitants of it. Hereupon in a certain Countrey, its said, that the Old people, when they found themselves decrepit, went into an adjacent Climate, where by the quality of the Air they were soon extinguished: Which Reme∣dy is not to be liked, though their sense of unserviceableness is to be remarked. For Platop could say, The more benefi∣cial we can be to mankind, the liker we are to God. To become therefore disabled from Service, is Death to an active use∣ful spirit. Besides, as Imployment makes improvement, so on the other side Rest breeds Rust, and they that leave off the Acts, lose the Habits, and become more empty and insignificant, than ever they were before. Upon all which accounts this Disability is a most disconsolate Af∣fliction, and sufficient of it self to sink their weak spirits with despair.
But as we have observed in other Cases, this Grievance is not peculiar to Old-age. But people of all Ages have divers ways become unable to serve their generation. Some by the hand of God, inflicting such Distempers on their Minds or Bodies, as have made them useless in Page 179 their places. Some by the Procurement of Men, by whom many in the prime of their time have been laid aside; sometimes justly, sometimes unjustly, and all opportunity taken from them of do∣ing good in the World. Neither are all Aged persons rendred useless: For many there be of both Sexes, that per∣severe in well-doing to the last. Cato pleaded causes, when he was past four∣score years, and Isocrates wrote excel∣lent things at fourscore and fourteen years of age. And not only the Tongues, but the Hands of very many Old people are found as nimble to good works, as of younger Persons. They that have been useful in their strength, will scarce ever become useless in their weakness. Plu∣tarch observes that an industrious Bee, never degenerates into a Drone, in its Old-age. Too many there be of every Age that live only to themselves, that neither Serve God, nor observe Man, but in order to their own Interest, or Appe∣tite: These are good for nothing, young or old; but they that understand, and embrace the true Ends of life, will be useful one way or other, to their lives end.
And the great Service that the AncientPage 180 do perform, is by their sage Advice. When the Levites were at fifty releas'd from the labour of the Sanctuary, they are said yet to be Iudges in their Cities. So that although they cannot do that service, which younger persons may, yet they do greater: For the greatest things are compassed, not by strength, but counsel. They cannot be counted useless, says Tully, that pre∣scribe to the more raw and ignorant their work. Like as a Pilot, who thô he run not up and down the Ship, but sits at the helm, yet is the most use∣ful person in the ship: So the Aged head is the most useful part in a fami∣ly or Commonwealth, though it be con∣fined to the fire sideq Hence Homer brings in Agamemnon, wishing rather for ten Nestor's, an Aged wise man a∣mong the Greeks, than so many Ajax's, who was a man of Arms, for the win∣ning of Troy. And it is well known, that the grand Magistrates both in Greece and Rome were the Ancients of their Ci∣ties; and thereupon they were called Senators, and the great Council of Rome, The Senate, being composed of Aged men.
Yea if they should by reason of their Page 181Age be wholly unserviceable, yet their Example is useful. To see a man or woman deprived of all outward com∣fort and respect, and laden with heavy Distempers, yet patient and thankful, se∣rious and devout, it is a powerful Le∣cture to all the spectators; and may teach them to be doing their own great work with all their might, to be thank∣ful to God for their present strength and ease, to beware of slothfulness and self∣ishness: That when they arrive at that decrepit estate, they may have the plea∣sant prospect of a fruitful life behind them, and the joyful prospect of a blessed life before them.
THe Ninth Disadvantage of Old-age* is, That it is unfit for Religious Exercises. When we are in years, we are indisposed to Prayer and Fasting, to Hearing or Reading, and in general to all such Spiritual Imployments, where∣in the Soul and Body must concurr. They need these Helps as much as Others, and perhaps desire them as much as Others;Page 182 but the dead weight of a crazy body sinks down the towring of their pre∣cious Souls. To will is present with them, but how to perform the same, they find not; and no wonder, having not only a law of sin within them, but a body of death without them. Their senses are grown weak, their faculties weak, their spirits weak: How then should they wrestle with God in Prayer, or continue instant therein? Let the Rider be never so good a Horsman, yet he must travel as his Horse will give him leave: So let the Soul be never so active, it can operate only as the organs of the body will permit it. Instead of taking pains about their Souls, they are forc'd to prop up their decrepit bodies. Their weaknesses keep them in bed, while the holy zeal of others is burning in Devo∣tion. And as the Old woman in Plau∣tus being askt why she went no faster, answer'd, because she carried so great a load, to wit of eighty four years on her back; so the load on Old peoples back either hinders them from coming to ho∣ly Assemblies, or else causes them to tra∣vel thither very slowly; so that they are constrained to live, in a mannet, without God in the world.
Page 183Now this Affliction to an holy heart is a very heavy burden. When a poor man is cut short in all his other Com∣forts, and as it were besieged with all the Calamities of this life; yet while he hath this River of Gods Ordinances free and open, thereby he receives con∣tinual supplies from Heaven, the streams thereof make glad the City of God: But when this is stopt, the Soul grows sad, and dry, and barren. Hence holy Da∣vid in his Exile, never mentioning his temporal losses, yet cries out, Psal. 42. 4. When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude to the house of God. This went nearest to his heart. For when a man is harras'd with cares and troubles all the week long, yet he is relieved and refreshed in his approach unto God up∣on his own Day: But with the decre∣pit Old man, every day is alike, and his Soul is left destitute of spiritual supplies in an ordinary way. And this Afflicti∣on is saddest of all, when by disuse of the means of Grace, the Soul grows stupid and unconcern'd in the matter; as without special Grace, we shall be apt to be: So that the misery is great in the want, and greater when insensiblePage 184 of the want. No great wonder there∣fore that when all these miseries meet together, a man cry out with Iob, I would not live always. So that Tiberius Caesar had a saying, as Plutarch tells us, that it was a shameful thing for a man that was past sixty, to stretch out his hand to a Physician; reckoning that it was fit he should then be content to dye.
But yet, if we weigh the matter well, the Case of Ancient people is not so desperate as it seems. For to proceed in our former Method, it is evident that many others besides the Aged are cut short in the means of Grace; some will∣ingly in Factories beyond the Seas, some willfully by their own Atheism and Un∣godliness, some unwillingly by Distempers and other hindrances. And on the other side, divers Ancient people have been capable to attend the Service of God even to their dying day. Thus Ahi∣jah, though his Eyes were set for Age, yet was enabled to prophecy to Ierobo∣am's wife. And Iacob could worship God, leaning on the top of his Staff. And St. Iohn was an Evangelist, when he was an hundred years old. And there was Anna, a widdow of about fourscore andPage 185four years, yet departed not from the Tem∣ple, but served God with fastings and pray∣ers night and day, Luk. 2. 37. So that all Aged persons are not precluded from spiritual exercises.
And though they should become un∣able to frequent the Publick Ordinances of God, yet they may pray, and sigh, and meditate in their chambers; and these, proceeding from a sincere and sensible Soul, are most acceptable unto God. As for the external Acts of Re∣ligion, they avail nothing without faith and love, which lodge in the heart. The immanent Acts of the Soul, which are to understand, to meditate, to will, and to desire, do most perfect the same. And where the Deed cannot be done, God doth accept the will for the Deed. The weakest and poorest Old man or woman may have high meditations un∣der a low roof, and a large heart with∣in narrow walls.
No Aged person therefore should be discouraged by their Inability for Gods Service; since He knoweth their frame, he remembreth that they are but dust. The Lord hath said, When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst: I the Lord willPage 186hear them, I the God of Israel will not for∣sake them. I will open Rivers in high pla∣ces, and fountains in the midst of the valleys, I will make the Wilderness a pool of water, and the dry Land springs of water, Isa. 41. 17, 18. In the want of ordinary supplies, I will provide them with extraordinary supports: the wilderness shall produce a pool of water rather than any Child of God shall dy for thirst. When they can∣not wait upon God as before, he will wait to be gracious to them, he will come to them, and teach, and comfort them. If indeed a man be inwardly pleased, that his weakness excuseth him from his De∣votions, he hath cause to blame himself; but if he hath the same desires and holy affections with others, the old Law shall stand; to wit, he that stayes by the Stuffe, shall part the Spoil, with him that goes out to battel. You have a trade going in every Ship, an Interest in every holy Assembly in the World.
THE Tenth and last Inconvenience in*Old-age, is, That they are Terrified with the approach of Death. For Death is a word hard of digestion to any man. Page 187 The Philosopher counted it of all dread∣full things the most Terrible. And Mr. Latimer observes of Hezekiah, that he was more afraid of Death, than of all Senacheribs Army. Now Old-age is a near neighbour to it, and the aspect of it al∣wayes before them, is not very pleasant. Most men, saith Seneca, are miserably tost between the fear of Death and the mise∣ries of Life, are unwilling either to live or dyr. Especially they who have had their portion in this life, and have made no provision for a better. This made Lewis 11th of France to charge all about him, to forbear the mention of Death. The strict Account which follows it, and the long Eternity which follows that, makes Death a most serious matter. No won∣der if the hand tremble, when it is go∣ing to take that Cup, which will mend or end them. Now the Old man is at the door of this fatal place. Though a Casu∣alty may bring Death suddenly, though a sickness may bring it probably, yet Old∣age brings it certainlys. Peradventure there are fifty weeks or dayes remaining in their life, peradventure but forry five; perhaps but forty, but thirty, yea but twenty, as Abraham said of Sodom; nay, since it is dubious every moment, and Page 188 no mortal man knows at what Wat•… of the Night he shall be called, the 〈◊〉 person that is but a step from death, must be through fear of Death in continual bon∣dage.
But the Lyon is not so terrible as he is painted, neither is Death so formidable as it is by many represented. Though it be against the Desires of Nature, yet it is not against the Series of Naturet. For if we consult this, we find Autumn kind∣ly after Summer, and Winter after Au∣tumn; and Death is as natural after Old∣age. And the Light of Nature taught some of the Heathens to reckon the wor∣thy men, especially that are dead, to be most truly alive, in that while we live in this world, the Soul is imprison'd in the body, and is set at liberty by Death. Thus Xenophon brings in Cyrus discours∣ing to his Children on his Death-bed.
In short, 1. All Aged People are not oppressed with the fear of Death. Too few there are that think at all of it. Men generally put far from them the evil day; and it will be an evil day to such as put it far from them. Most people can think of any place in the Parish ra∣ther than the Church-yard; yea, I doubt it be one of the Faults of the Aged to think seldom of Death, and they who think little of it, are in no danger of being frighted with its thoughts.
2. The Young have the same reason to be concern'd about Dying as the Old. For Youth hath more wayes to Death than Age hath. And far more dye in their Youth, than that dye for Age. It's true, they hope to live longer, but their hopes have no good ground at all. They have neither Promise nor Experience to build their hopes upon. And in Young Peo∣ples Death, they being in their strength, Page 190Nature receives a more violent shock, whereas the Aged are more quietly ex∣tinguished, like a Candle in the Socket.
3. No good man need be affrighted at the approach of Death. For the pow∣er and sting of Death is utterly taken away by our Saviours Death, and so it can do us no hurtw. A Child of God doth not so much as tast Death. The true Believer now hath not to do with Death, but with its shadow, with a tooth∣less Dog, with a dead Lyon, with a Wasp without a Sting, with a conquer'd Enemy. What man in his wits is afraid after a tempestuous Voyage, that he is drawing nigh his Haven. It was a sweet saying of S. Ambrose, near his end:
4. There is much Folly in this slavish fear of Death. A holy Care to prepare for it, is far better than an unprofita∣ble Fear. For the passion of Fear is plant∣ed in us for the avoiding of things hurtful, but there is no avoiding of this fatey. There is no man that hath power over the Spirit, to retain the Spirit, and there is no discharge in that War, Eccles. 8. 8. That disquiet is therefore foolish, that torments but profits not. How can the mind be quiet at any time, which is afraid of what is impendent at all timesz It is observed by Seneca, that neither Children nor Idiots are afraid of Death; and he infers, that it is a base thing, that Reason (I add the Scripture) should not work as much security in us, as Folly doth in them. Shall learned Old men fear that, which foolish Young men do not? O wretched Old man, said Tully, that in so long life hast not learn'd to despise Death! I end this with the Ob∣servation of Iudicious Mr. Calvin: He that cannot quiet his Heart in the ho∣ly contempt of Death, hath profited Page 192 but little in the Faith of Christ.
Let it therefore be the business of each Aged person to be reconciled to Death; to be dying daily, by Mortifying your affections to all the vanities of this life, and by meditating on the life to come. Never fret at that Death which leads you to immortality. Rather re∣joyce, that you are taking leave of a World of Sin, and taking flight into a Land of uprightness; O Father (said an Officer to a noble Ancient Persian Mini∣ster, that trembled at the approach of Death) shut your Eyes but a little, and you shall see God in Glory. And thus I conclude this Particular, that too ma∣ny Old people never fear Death, for they never spend thoughts about it; that the young have as much reason to apprehend it, as the Old; that a slavish fear of it is folly in any; and that no good man needs to be affrighted, but rather comforted with it.
So that upon a just Survey of all the Inconveniences of Old-age, all Aged per∣sons may answer, as Tully tells of one Gorgias, who being 107 years old, was asked why he was contented to live so long? Why, said he, I have nothing whereof to accuse Old-age; and the Page 193 truth is, it seems perverse and unrea∣sonable, that all people should desire to attain unto it, and then when they have attain'd it, to dislike it a. Difficulties and Disadvantages there are with it. Where∣of no Age or condition is free, but they are Tolerable and Ordinable to the good* of all that fear God. And so much may suffice for this fifth Point to be handled.
CHAP. VI. The Priviledges of Old-age.
I Proceed now in the Sixth place, to* discourse the Priviledges, and Com∣forts of Old-age. That there is some pe∣culiar Blessing and Dignity in Old-age, is evident, both by the Light of Scripture, and the Light of Nature. The First Commandment with promise is, Honour thy Father and thy Mother, that thy days may be long in the Land, which the Lord thy God giveth thee: The like PromisePage 194 you will find, Psal. 91. last. With long life will I satisfie him, and shew him my Sal∣vation. Which shews that Old-age, whatever Inconveniences it is attended withall, is in its self a special Blessing. And on the Contrary, it is threatned as an heavy Judgment unto Eli, that God would cut off his Arm, and the Arm of his Fathers House; that is, he would take away his might, and the strength of his Family, in that there should not be an Old man in his House, 1 Sam. 2. 31. And in general, that bloody and deceit∣ful men shall not live out half their days, Psal. 55. last. Whereupon holy David prays, Psal. 102. 24. O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days. Fi∣nally, the Holy Ghost assures us, that the Beauty of old men, is the Gray Head, Psal. 20. 29. By all which it plainly ap∣pears, that Old-age is a desirable Mercy, in the judgment of God himself.
Agreeable hereunto is the Ancient He∣brew Proverb in Ben Syra, to this effect, Senex in domo, bonum signum in domo. And if that be a real good thing which all men desire, then certainly there is some peculiar Goodness in Old-age, for that all men desire to attain it. So also we mingle among our good wishes to Page 195 others, this of a long life. When Kings and Grandees are saluted, this is the common Acclamation, that they may live longb, and if it were possible, live for ever. And Antiquity is so valuable a thing, that not only Families and Cities, but Nations have had long and sharp disputes about the Antiquity of their re∣spective people, as the Egyptians, Phoe∣nicians, Scythians. And the Athenians had this Character affixed upon them, that they could discourse well, but the La∣cedemonians could do well; because an aged person coming upon a time into a great Assembly at Athens, had no Respect given him; but at Sparta in the like Convention, they all rose up to seat him. So that it grew Proverbial, That Old-age dwelt most like its self at Spartac. So then as there are some Inconveniences in Old-age, which yet as you have seen, have divers things to mitigate them, so it hath many Priviledges and Com∣forts* which do over-ballance them. God hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing af∣ter him. There is only this difference, that all our Troubles spring from below, but all our Mercies drop from above. The particular Priviledges and Com∣fortsPage 196 of Old-age, are these following.
First, Old-age is Greater in Authority,* than any other Age. There is an Au∣thory resulting from the Law of Nature, as well as that which is conferr'd by Civil Laws; the former is that wherewith Old-age is invested. God himself, who is the Fountain of Honour, hath given them a Patent for it: so that their Authority hath something in it divine, and they seem to have a kind of Natural Govern∣ment over others. Hereby the Sentence or Opinion of the Aged may well con∣clude, as much as the Arguments of the younger; and he must have a great deal of Wisdom or of Confidence, that shall contradict what a wise Aged person hath asserted.
That there is a certain Authority in Old-age is plain from divers Scriptures. As, Isa. 9. 15. The Ancient, and the Ho∣nourable he is the Head. Now we know that the Head is the Seat of Rule. When Moses had occasion for some Coadjutors with him in Judgment, the Lord caused Seventy of the Elders of Israel, to be set apart for that work, Num. 11. 16. And so the Iudges who constituted the San∣hedrin, were made up of Seventy two Elders. Again, when the Apostle would Page 197 most efficaciously perswade Philemon, ver. 9. he accosts him with his Title of Honour, being such a one as Paul the Aged. And the beloved Disciple autho∣rizeth his two latter Epistles with this Periphrasis. The Elder to the Elect Lady, and the Elder to the wel-beloved Gaiusd. And as this Preeminence proceeds from the Will of the All-wise God, so it is the Sence of wise Men. The Philosophere af∣firms, that the Elder do naturally pre∣cede the younger. And Tully tells us, that as any one exceeded in years, so he had a kind of Ruling voice in de∣bates f. Yea, Pliny and Solinus report it of the Elephants, and of the very Ants, that when they go by Troops, the Elder commonly go before the others.
And there is a very rational Ground for this Authority in Old-age. In that the greater Seniority any one hath in years, the nearer, even upon that ac∣count, do they approach to the likeness of the Eternal God, who is called the Ancient of Days, Dan. 7. 9. whose Gar∣ment is represented to be white as Snow, and the Hair of his Head like the pure Wool. Withal, it is presumed that the Aged know more, for that they have seen and heard more than the younger g. Page 198 Now Wisdom and Knowledge do chal∣lenge Authority, by a certain Natural right, because the determinations pro∣ceeding thence, are ever supposed to be grounded on the soundest Maxims.
Now this Authority is a considerable Priviledge, being as is supposed in the hand of a wise person, insomuch as it is called by Cato in Tully, Senectutis apex, the Crown of Old-age. For it derives weight unto all their Counsels, Reproofs, or Instructions. The Iudges Decrees are held ponderous by reason of his years, as well as from his Office. The Mini∣sters Advice becomes venerable by the Authority which his Age hath cloathed him withal. The Old Physician can sway by his Authority more than the younger. So that Authority is a Talent, which being well imployed, doth much further our Usefulness in the World: yea, their Example is more effectual than others; for one may learn much from such an one, though he say never a word h. The more Authority any man hath, the more conspicuous he is, he is like a City set on a Hill, and his way and carriage are still instructive. The dignity of the person ever adds lustre to the example. And therefore all Aged persons had need Page 199 to be circumspect in their ways, lest in∣stead of leading others in the narrow way to life, they do by their Example lead them in the broad way to destru∣ction.
It doth therefore greatly behove all those that are in years, to be Sober, Grave, Temperate, &c. For the hoary Head is a Crown of glory, if it be found in the way of Righteousness, Prov. 16. 31. That which is the Crown of Glory on the hoary Head, is the Wisdom and Piety that lodgeth in the heart. The Heathen could say, Gray hairs and wrinkles do not presently create Authority, but the former life well managed, makes the latter part justly respected i. So that Old age, simply considered, will not always pass for a leading demonstrative Argument; as if it were enough to say, I am an old man, and therefore you must needs believe or yield unto me; no, true worth and wis∣dom must lead the Van: but it is a good Second, and carries with it a great pre∣sumption, that Prudence and Piety dwell there. And hence it is, that in all So∣cieties and Assemblies, whether Civil or Religious, that Dignity is allowed to Se∣niority, that commonly the Eldest pre∣sides in the company, and guides the af∣fairs thereof.
THE Second Priviledge of Old-age is,*That it is Richer in Experience, than any other age. This is manifest on the first view, that Experience is the conse∣quent of a long lifek. We have a con∣fused knowledge of things by Hear-say, or Instruction, but by tract of time we arrive at an experimental knowledge thereof. Iob could say, I have heard of thee by the hearing of the Ear, but now mine Eye seeth thee, Job 42. 5. By which it appears, that ocular demonstration is the most certain, wherein Old-age hath the greatest advantage l. They have liv∣ed long enough to find, in matters Spe∣culative, what is true and what is false. We owe the knowledge we have of the Celestial Bodies, to the Study and obser∣vation of Aged men. We discover what is Safe, or Dangerous in matters of Pra∣ctice, to the well-tried Maxims of men in years. What was it, which found out the nature and use of herbs and druggs, but long observation? It's true, Experi∣ence is a dear Mistress, but yet 'tis a surePage 201 one, and the Instructions we have that way, stick fastest to us. We far sooner forget the particulars of those Countries of which we have read, than of those which we have traversed our selves. The Aged person can tell expe∣rimentally of the wisdom and justice of Gods Providence, of the Truth of his Promises and Threatnings, of the De∣vices of Satan, of the Deceitfulness of Riches, of the Wisdom of Integrity, of the Vanity of all carnal Delights, of the wickedness of his own Heart. Old-age is rich in the Experience of these things, whereby they are able to govern them∣selves, and to advise others.
As for themselves, by this Experiencem they are taught to avoid many Dangers, which others fall into. For it is made up from long observation of particular things, to wit, of Memory of things past, Knowledge of things present, and Providence of things future. And as their long tryal of the effects of Diet, and Exercise, have made them capable of the Conservation of Health; so their manifold Experience of the deceitfulness of the Flesh, of the World, and of the Devil, hath enabled them to countermine and conquer them. And as to Others, their Experi∣encePage 202 renders them able to give the most prudent Counsels, and to forewarn them of those Consequences, which they easi∣ly foresee. Aeschines saith, that among the Athenians by an old Law of Solon, the Oldest did first make his Speech to the people, and after him each accord∣ing to his age; for, saith he, they thought, that the Eldest through their Experience counselled best for the City n. And without doubt in Publick affairs, the Experienced man out-strips the learn∣ed man. For as the Philosophero observes, Art teaches only General Notions, but Experience acquaints us with Particular Actions, by conversing with which we arrive at Skill and Conduct. Iustin re∣lates it of Alexander the Great, that* he would have his Squadrons led by none under Sixty years old. For who will chuse him for a Captain that's well-read in martial affairs, and that's all? Who will trust his life in the Hands of a Speculative Physician? No, Experi∣ence goes further in all these things than Learning.
For the Aged and Experienced person having seen such great mistakes in him∣self and others, is cured of that vain Credulity, which hath ruin'd young peo∣ple; Page 203 and having met with so many disappointments in the World, is well freed from that carnal Confidence, which hath undone others. And yet their great Experience of the power and faith∣fulness of God, is a mighty Bulwark to their Faith. As they have heard, so have they seen in the City of God, what he hath done to vindicate his Attributes, and to verify his Promises. Hence ho∣ly David, Psal. 37. 25. I have been young, and now am old: yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his Seed begging Bread. This was the advantage he had by his Old-age, to trace out the Provi∣dence of God towards the posterity of good men, that walking in their Parents steps, they were seldom or never redu∣ced to want, at least to common beggery; or if so, yet were never quite forsaken of God, as himself found, when though, 1 Sam. 21. 3. and 25. 8. he was glad to ask supplies of men, yet was he still sup∣ported and owned of God.
The good Old man can say, Thou art my King of old, O God, Psal. 74. 12. He can say, I remembred thy judgments of old, O Lord, and have comforted my self, Psal. 119. 52. And thus he may direct others. I will guide thee with my Eye,Page 204 Psal. 32. 8. And thus a man may vindi∣cate and honour God: Concerning thy Testimonies, I have known of old, that thou hast founded them for ever, Psal. 119. 152. The unexperienced Newness of any case or trouble, is apt to stagger the strong∣est faith or courage. Such things assault a man by way of Surprize, but when we have had an experience of them, we are corroborated to grapple with them. No doubt the first Night was a strange thing, to them that had seen nothing but Light before, but when when they found by Experience the re∣turn of the Light again, they could brook it well enough. So the Burden that did at first affright us, by often carrying it, we easily bear it, Psal. 63. 7. Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy Wings will I rejoyce. And it is conceived, that this caused David to speak so of Goliahs Sword, 1 Sam. 21. 9. There is none like that, give it me. He might have found ano∣ther Sword of equal mettle, but he had Experience of the goodness of that, and so there was none like that.
From this long Experience, the Aged person not only contemns many things which others admire; but grows able Page 205 to give a great guess concerning future events, both in publick and particular Cases. So that such persons may well be resorted unto as to common Oracles, if they have treasured up wisdom accord∣ing to their years.
To conclude this, there lies a double Du∣ty upon Aged persons in reference hereun∣to; the One is, to take due Notice of all such passages of the Providence of God, or the Improvidence of men, that come within the sphere of their Cognizance, and not heedlesly to neglect them; ano∣ther is, to store up in their memories such Observations. For experience is made up of divers Memories of the same things p, Psal. 143. 5. I remember the days of old, I meditate on all thy works, I muse on the work of thy hands. And then to produce these in time and place convenient, ei∣ther for their own, or others direction, caution or consolation.
THirdly, another Priviledge of Old∣age,* is, That it is freer from Sin. The Corruption of Nature, and the Fruits thereof, are the great blot, and woful plague upon mankind, and the first thing which every person, arrived at the use of Reason should seriously set about, should be to be healed of it. But in∣stead of that, most people meeting with temptations without them, and finding Strength and Youth within them, forget the care of their Hereditary Disease, and pursue their iniquities with greediness. Some are tickled with applause, and so they hunt after an airy renown, and an ungrounded reputation; others let the reins loose to sensual delights, and wal∣low in the pleasures of Sin for a Season; Others setting aside all fear of God, and love to their Neighbour, are set upon Revenge, and will run down every one that stands in their way; and others hoping for that fatisfaction in Riches, which they will never find, set their minds to grasp after a plentiful Estate, Page 207 by hook or crook. Now tho some young people do happily escape these snares, as was the case of Obadiah; and some Old people are unhappily intrapt in them, as was the case of Solomon; yet most commonly Youth, by reason of it's inex∣perience and unmortifiedness, is full of Sin. Iob could reflect on the Sins of his Youth, and David saw cause to cry for the par∣don of those offences. Hence Aristotle would scarce admit them capable of Moral Lectures. And indeed that ardour and vehemence which is almost insepa∣rable from that age, makes them an easie prey to many Temptations.
Now when Old-age takes possession, the proud, the furious, and the wanton spirits are spent. As Wine at first is mixt with dregs, till by time it settles and is refined; so the Passions of youth, if they be not mortified by the Grace of God, yet they are weakned and deaded by the age of men. As Tully hath it, when Pleasures have almost depraved both body and mind, then age comes and cures that, which VVisdom could not; and it is an happiness to be rid of such unruly Guests any way.
But you will say, though one sort of sins are gone, yet others succed in their Page 208 room: and it is too evident by what hath been said before, that Old-age hath it's sins, as well as Youth. The Objection must be answer'd with Tears: No age in this World without it's temptations; this Leprosy will not be fully cleansed, until the House be taken down: but yet as we find Children and Youth more apt to breed vermine, than aged persons; so there are fewer Enormities in this age, than in that q For Transgressions do generally proceed either from Igno∣rance, which Old-age doth usually inform and heal; or from the strength of Pas∣sions, which are much rebated and re∣prest in Old-age; or from Malice, now the wiser a man is grown, the less likely he is to chuse evil: the more di∣vine Strokes and Iudgments one hath seen upon evil doers, the more he should be afraid of tampering with it: the nearer a man is to his end, the more in all reason he will beware of clogging his Conscience; so that dying lusts are fittest for a dying Body, and an holy Heart for an hoary Head.
And this is a great Priviledge, for as much as Sin is the Disease of the Soul, and the greatest Evil in the World: so that that State of life, which is freestPage 209 from it, must needs be the happiest. For it is this that helps to compleat our felicity in Heaven, that no Sin lodgeth there, and the Aged person is hastning thither, and consequently strives to break this Yoke, and fit himself for that Estate. As the pleasures he hath had in these is gone, so his desires after them are gone also. He now finds that there is more Satisfaction, in not desiring them, than there is in enjoying of them, and so is far from being grieved at his re∣leasement from those Shackles r. He would not live over again his sinful life for all the world; and he is con∣cern'd, not because they are past, but because at any time they had dominion. Yea, he finds more real content in his Poenitential Tears, than ever he had in his Youthful Frolicks: with what contempt doth he behold the Debaucheries, the Duels, and the frothy Follies of the roar∣ing Sparks, which they triumph in, as in an Heaven upon Earth? But he hath fathom'd them, and found them empty as vanity, and filthy as the Mire. He now believes what he had often heard, that the pleasures of Sin are but like a golden dream, which leave nothing but Pensiveness behind them, till God upon Page 210 his repentance, restore unto him the joys of his Salvation. Now the Varnish of his Sin is worn off, he sees the filthy and ugly nature of it, and wonders that any rational person should ever love it. He is now frighted at the remembrance of those Pranks, that he formerly com∣mitted without remorse; and in short, he is well pleased, that he hath a weak body instead of his strong corruption; and is ready, with that excellent Philosophers to count his Old-age, his flourishing age, be∣cause he only finds his Vices, and the fewel of them withered, and that his mind be∣gan now to be freed from the Snares, wherein it was held by the Body, &c.
Let every Aged person labour to find these blessed Effects, and so be content with the fall of that House, which was continually haunted with such Furiest But take heed of being only Passive in this parting; these Fires should not on∣ly go out of themselves, but should be quenched by true Mortification. It is not sufficient, that Sin be dead in you, but you must be dead to it: you must be Page 211Active in the Crucifixion of it, or else the Corruption of one vice will be the Generation of another. If ye through the Spirit▪ mortify the deeds of the Body, ye shall live, Rom. 8. 13.
THE Fourth Priviledge of Old-age* is, That it is Proner to Piety. True and solid Piety is the Dominion of Gods Fear and Love, in the Heart of Man, and exerts its self in the constant Pra∣ctice of all the Duties of Religion, in a conscientious manner. For in Religion there is a Body and a Soul. The Body of it consists in the Form of Godliness; the Soul of it, is that which animates all the outward Acts, and is fitly cal∣led the Power of Godliness; for that the Activity and force of any thing pro∣ceeds from the Soul, or inward Principle. Now the separating this form and power of Godliness, like as that of the Soul and Body, is the death of Godliness. And therefore, though we prefer the Soul, or inside of Religion, yet we divorce it not from the Body: but do take Piety in Page 212 it's just Latitude, comprehending the Acts of Devotion, from a right principle, in a right manner, and to a right end, and expressing it self in a sober, righte∣ous, and godly life. And however the pro∣phane Atheist may wickedly deride it on the one hand, or the rotten Hypocrite falsly pretend it on the other; yet there is a wonderful excellency in it, and an absolute necessity of it, even the Con∣sciences of it's greatest Enemies, first or last, being Iudges.
To this serious Piety, Old-age is more propense, than any other age of man. Insomuch as we find divers in Scripture, and other Stories bent for Heaven in their declining years, who in the former parts of their lives minded nothing, but the World and the Flesh. They whom no Perswasions, no Ordinances, no Afflicti∣ons could fully reduce to the obedience of Christ, yet the lively sense and feel∣ing of their own decay, and of their ap∣proach to the eternal Judgment obligeth them to true repentance, and to make their calling and election sure. So that it hath pass'd for an Observation, that they who are not fair at twenty, strong at thir∣ty, wise at forty, rich at fifty, pious at sixty; are never like to be fair, or strong,Page 213 or wise, or rich, or religious. When any man is warn'd out of the House he lives in, laying aside all other unnecessa∣ry business, he sets himself to provide another Habitation: Now every decay of strength, of sense; every gray Hair, or Wrinkle is a sensible warning out of the earthly House of his Tabernacle; and he must be strangely stupid u, that buc∣kles not, in good earnest, to provide for his Soul, when not only it may sud∣denly, but must shortly go either to Heaven or Hell. These kind of Sentiments cau∣sed that learned Grotius to profess, when he approached Death, that he would gladly exchange all his Learning and Ho∣nour, for the plain integrity of one Iean Urick, who was a devout poor man, that spent eight hours of his time in Devotion, eight in Labour, and but eight in Sleep, and all other Refreshments. So also that great States-man, St Tho. Smith, Secretary of State to Q. Eliza∣beth, some time before he fell sick, sent for Directions to two Bishops, how he might live most piously and make his peace with God w
Besides, all the unruly Passions being now cooled by time and years, Reason obtains a fair hearing, and the Spirit ofPage 214God gets a compleat victory over the Heart, that had resisted so long. Even as a City which hath been long besieg'd, and often summoned to surrender, yet stands it out, till provisions begin to fail, and that the defender of it sees the Walls terribly shaken, and then he finds it high time to capitulate and deliver it: so Almighty God calls, and cryes, and knocks time after time at the sinners Heart, but it is heedless of these calls, it's feasted and filled with the Vanities of this present life; but when it finds all the Fabrick ready to fall upon it's Head, and no provision made for a fu∣ture and eternal State; it is high time to be getting Oyl, and laying up a good foundation for the time to come. And for those who have been well disposed before, yet Old-age is a great Incentive to great∣er holiness. As a Man in sailing, saith Mr. Bradford, the nearer he comes to the Shore, the nearer he would be; so the nearer I am to God, the nearer still I would be. A person of years must needs have a more clear and comprehensive knowledge, of the Doctrine and Duties of Christianity, of the life of Faith, of Mor∣tification, of the extent of the Divine Law, of the Nature and Power of God∣liness; Page 215 and having more leisure, and being somewhat retired out of the throng of worldly business, they are fitter to recollect these things, and to reduce them into practice.
And this certainly is a great Privi∣ledge, to have a greater Aptitude to that which is good. Alas, young people are under a great disadvantage herein: it's true, their Faculties are more nimble, and their Memories more fresh; but then they come into the World like raw Souldiers into the Field; they are compassed and daily allured with divers Temptations, and have boisterous lusts within themselves, and so they are in a more remote distance from true Piety. They are like an unruly Colt in a large and fat Pasture, there's no coming near them, till they are driven into a Cor∣ner, till their way be hedged up with Thorns, and then you may catch them. Such is the fate of young people, they are born like a wild Asses Colt, Job. 11. 12. they care not for any thing that's good, they fear not any evil, adding Iniquity unto Iniquity, until it come to snow upon their Heads, and that their Arms and Legs begin to fail them; and then the Voice of God will Page 216 be heard, and his counsel shall be follow∣ed. So that though Old-age will not bring a man to Heaven, yet it will fit a man for it, it removes the Obstacles of repen∣tance, and promotes the Exercises of Re∣ligion.
And it is high time it should be so; their activity for this world is past, if they do not grow active for another, they will be good for nothing. They cannot work, O but they can fast and pray, and that's better. The Aged person remem∣bers, that he is going into an holy world, and labours to have on Earth some suita∣bleness to the life of Heaven; because men begin their Heaven or Hell upon Earth. And this age fits his purpose, be∣ing proper for Mortification and Meditati∣on. The more knowledge, and holiness he arrives at here, the riper and fitter he is for that place to which he is ready to goe x.
Let every Aged person then, endea∣vour to verify this Priviledge by their solid Piety in all the instances thereof. Let there be a Principle of holiness with∣in, Page 217 and the Practice of it without in all manner of Conversation, for as you were told, then is the hoary head a crown of glory, when it is found in the way of righteousness, Prov. 16. 31.
THE Fifth Priviledge of Old-age is,* That it is Riper in its Fruits, than any other age. That is, their Iudg∣ments are more refined, their Passions more sedate, their Devotions more strong, their Actions more regular and uniform, and their spiritual Stature taller. This may be gathered, à fortiori, from the Apostle, 1 Cor. 13. 11. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. The words and the thoughts then of an Aged experienced man must, by a just inference, be very solid and weighty. Eve∣ry man must needs observe the rawness of his younger conceptions, and the light∣ness of his former assertions: that Dies diem docet, every day learns somewhat of that which went before it; and so Page 218 I may allude to that passage, Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night addeth knowledge. Yea the Psalmist ex∣•…sly tells us, that the righteous shall 〈◊〉 bring forth fruit in Old-age, yea that they shall be fat and flourishing, Psal. 92. 14. And to this do other Authorsy, and Experience bear witness. Trace some Aged good men from morning to night, you shall still find them (humane and unavoidable infirmities excepted) so dis∣creet in their Charity, so grave in their Counsels, so savoury in their Discourse, so constant in their Devotion, so conside∣rate in their Resolutions, so faithful in their Reproofs, so poized in their Tem∣per, so charitable in their Censures, and so uniform and useful in their Lives, that their Practice may be a perpetual Sermon, and Copy to teach others their duty to God and man: So that it was no small Title of Honour, which was given to Mnason. Act. 21. 16. That he was an Old Disciple.
And there is a rational account to be given of this; seeing the Aged person hath had Time and means to sift and weigh all vulgar Notions, to observe the frailties both of himself and others, to distinguish realities from appearances, Page 219 and to penetrate through the surface •…nto the substance of spiritual things, and of temporal. They have past through all Relations, and having been Children and Parents, Husbands or Wives for a •…ong time, and many of them Servants and Masters; they are hereby inabled both to speak and to act in all cases, with the greater solidity and efficacy. Add to this, that their long acquaint∣ance▪ with God cannot but assimilate them unto him, and make their fruits holy, just, and good. Let observation be made, and it will be commonly found, that the Discourses, the Sermons, the Booksz that proceed from persons of years, thô they may want the external ornaments and ardour, which are usual with young∣er persons, yet have that congruity, weight, and wisdom that raise their value, and render them more truly useful: So that we may well say in this Case, that the best wine is reserved to the last.
Now this is a valuable Priviledge. For who doth not rather chuse the fruit that is ripe, than that which is raw? if it be not to some palates more toothsome, yet it is to all bodies more wholsome: Summer fruit may be more luscious, but Winter (Old-age) fruit is Page 220 more solid, and will keep longer. The stony ground were they that received the Word with joy, but having no root, they soon withered: But the good ground were they, that kept the word, and brought forth fruit with patience. And that which puts a value upon these ripe and well∣digested fruits, is that they tend more eminently to the glory of God; hereby they shew forth the vertues, and so the praises of him, that hath called them: And they do more largely conduce to the good of all, that have occasion to use them, or are conversant with them. To which purpose Plutarch observeth,* that as they who teach Musick do by their own singing, direct their Scho∣lars; so they that would instruct young men in private or publick affairs, must not only outwardly dictate good axioms and rules to them, but by their own steady course in word and deed, endea∣vour to frame their minds to vertue. There is an incredible charm in Ex∣ample, and thereby a good man is a common blessing.
Let all you Aged persons then, consi∣der what fruits ye bring forth. It doth not become you to be credulous in what ye hear, nor rash in what ye Page 221 speak, nor precipitate in what ye do: Whatsoever savours of youth is unseem∣ly in you. You must study to live as patterns, you should do more than others. They that have been long at a Trade, should be accurate in it. The Apostle puts much upon the Time, Heb. 5. 12. When for the time ye ought to be teach∣ers, &c. you have been long in Christs school, you should be perfect in the Rules of Christian life a. They who had received Five talents, will not be ac∣cepted, unless they bring ten again. If your figs be not good, very good, it is probable they will be bad, very bad. If an Aged person be not ripe for Hea∣ven, let him take heed he be not ripe for Hell.
THE Sixth Priviledge of Old-age is,* That it is worthier of Respect, than those of an inferiour Age. I mean here∣by, both an Inward Reverence, and the External expression thereof; and the for∣mer is and ought to be the foundation of the latter. An Aged person, even Page 222 on that account, though neither ric•… nor wise, though neither noble nor pi∣ous, yet deserves a respect for the Pri∣ority of his Being. The Veneration d•… to them is founded on the Lawbof Na∣ture. Hence Plato appoints that ever•… one should honour the Aged both in word and deed, and this he often re∣peats. And it was much observed in Three Indians once in Paris, that kept strictly to the order of their Age in speaking, without any Directour but the Law of Nature. All the disputes abou•… the Antiquity, and consequently the Dig∣nity of Families or Cities is grounde•… on this foundation. Why should Ol•… Monuments, Old Coins, yea even Ol•… Ruines be regarded, and not Old men and Old women? This is also directly injoyned in the Fifth Commandment, where by Father and Mother that are to be honour'd, Divines do rightly de∣termine, that such as are Elders by Age, as well as those that are so by Relati∣on, and Office are intended. And Ho∣nour in that Précept means an inward Esteem, and Reverence in the heart, and the same expressed by a suitable be∣haviour towards them, in word and deed. And this is expresly specified, Page 223Levit. 19. 32. Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the Lord. The Iews indeed had a Tradi∣tion hereupon, that it was not only fit to rise, when an Aged person was passing by us, but that we should rise up, when they were four cubits distance from us; and then we should presently sit down again, thereby to manifest that we rose up in honour to them: But the plain scope of that Command is only, that we ought to make all due expression of Respect to the Aged. And the indefiniteness of the Precept shews, that it is due to all that are Aged; even that pale and wrink∣led face challengeth a regard; and the fear of God is joyned with it: q. d. As you fear God, honour the Aged: and be∣cause the young, the rich, and the proud will be loth to stoop herein, therefore he adds, I am the Lord: Whose Autho∣rity is unquestionable, and whose Will is the highest Reason, who will reward the keepers of this law, and punish the breakers of it. Agreeable to this is that, Prov. 23. 22. Hearken unto thy fa∣ther that begat thee, and despise not thy mother, when she is old. Likewise, 1 Tim. 5. 1, 2. Rebuke not an Elder, but intreatPage 224him as a father, and the younger men as brethren, the elder women as mothers. Where you see the Apostle interpreting the Fifth Commandment as abovesaid; elder men as fathers, elder women as mothers.
Accordingly it is threatned as a sore Iudgment, when the child shall behave himself proudly against the Ancient, Isa. 3. 5. and so it was resented, when it was executed, Lam. 4. 12. When the fa∣ces of the Elders were not honoured. And we have a Comment upon this in a heathen Poetc, who tells us that they held it for a wickedness worthy to be expiat∣ed by Death, if one that was young did not rise, to shew respect to one that was Old. Let those consider this, who make no difficulty to take place of their elders, meerly because themselves are somewhat richer. And upon this very Principle the Eldest son is by a natural right concluded to be heir, and I que∣stion whether he should be defeated of it for any defects or immoralities. Upon all which it is apparent, that there is a special Respect and Reverence due to Old-age.
Now let us consider what Priviledge there is herein. If there were nothing in it but a matter of Preference or pre∣cedence,Page 225 it were no great attainment; though many an Estate hath been spent, and many a Life lost for the compassing of these. But this Respect is chiefly va∣luable for its Use. For hereby the Aged person is fenced from Contempt, unto which he is liable enough through his impotence, poverty, and infirmities; and any ingenuous man had rather dye with comfort, than live in contempt. But prin∣cipally, they are hereby preserved in a capacity of doing some good; their exam∣ple, their instructions, their reproofs, and their advice will become significant. We generally value mens Iudgments and De∣terminations according to the persons that give them. Great care they should have how they advise, and a great deference should be given to their advice. So the Apostle, 1 Pet. 5. 5. Likewise ye younger submit your selves to the elder. And hereupon I would exhort and charge all young people, that shall cast their eyes on these papers, to remember their place and duty, to deny themselves, their own humours and preconceits, and to strike sail to their Seniors. They were praying, perhaps before you had a being; they had done God and their Countrey good service, before you had Page 226 done one stroke of work. Holy Paul laid something upon seniority in Grace, Rom. 16. 7. Andronicus and Iunia, who were in Christ before me; and by the like reason, it is some Dignity to be in the world before others. Insomuch as when the Latines would express their esteem of any thing, they use this word of Antiquityd to express it by. Away then with that unchristian, yea unman∣ly, and unmannerly pertness and disre∣spect too frequent every where, to∣wards Aged persons: Instead whereof reckon it to your good Breeding, yea charge it upon your Conscience, to give Honour to whom honour is due.
THE Seventh Priviledge of Old-age* is, That they are Further from the World than younger persons are. These are in the midst of it, and of all its troubles, and temptations; but those have travelled through them, and are now almost past them. There are Two things in the World that make it un∣easie, Sin and Suffering. Sin that makes Page 227 it uneasie to Good men, Suffering that makes it uneasie to All men. A good man hath contracted a deep hatred a∣gainst sin, and yet he cannot be rid of it. He meets with it in every place; among the looser sort of people it swarms, he sees and hears that every day, which vexeth his righteous soul; and returning home he finds it in his own heart, and that grieves him most. He is chain'd to a body of death without any reme∣dy; and the more knowledge and grace he hath, the more he hates it, and ab∣horrs himself by reason of it. It meets him in every Imployment, in every Pray∣er, and vexeth him at the heart. He is like a man who lives by a bad Neigh∣bour, or that is yoaked to a froward Wife, that cannot live comfortably with them, and cannot live possibly without them: Hence he cries out, O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this Death? Now the young person, is in the midst of these Philistines; the corruption of his Nature meeting, as is said before, with the temptations of the World, is as tinder to the sparks, too easily set on fire with lust, anger, glut∣tony, and such like; wherewith he must be either in continual and sharp Page 228conflict, or else miserably ruin'd. Now the Aged person hath gotten many vi∣ctories in this spiritual warfare, where∣by his enemies are grown weaker, and he bolder and stronger. He knows this bickering will not last long, and sees the reward of his victory, and so plea∣seth himself with his Condition. This made the Apostle, when Aged, to say, 2 Tim. 4. 7, 8. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith, and henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness: And is not this a Priviledge? would he accept a new lease to live over his life again? not for the whole world. Seneca could say, if some God would indulge me so far, as that I might return into my cradle again, I would earnestly refuse it: I would never yield, when I have almost run my whole race, to return quite back again e.
And for the Sufferings in the World; man whether he be born to an Estate or not, yet is born unto troubles as the sparks flie upward. We meet them in every stage of our Life; we come into the world with Cries, and go out with groans; and a great part of the space between, is replenisht with sighs, and Page 229cares, and troubles. Some inflicted by the hand of God, and some by the hand of Man. One while pain or sickness up∣on the body, another while wants or losses in our estates; sometimes wound∣ed in our names, and sometimes in the unhappy life, or untimely death of our Relations; yea if we escape these, and have a perpetual Sun-shine, yet the cares and troubles that attend Prosperity are not few nor small. So that when God surveyed the world at first, he pronoun∣ced all was good; but when the wisest of men had made his survey of it since the Fall, he pronounced all things in it to be vanity, and vexation of spirit; and the Aged man can conclude it by his own experience, to be a sea of storms, a sink of sins, and a very prison to the soul.
Indeed it is a Stage whereon we have opportunity to honour God, and do some service to our fellow-creatures; but other∣wise the best Notion of it, is only a con∣venient Inn for Pilgrims in their Iour∣ney. And upon this account we ought to be content while we are in it, and and very well content to be released out of it. For what wise man but is glad Page 230 to part with the most convenient Inn, to be going towards his own homef? Alas, they who are Old have seen so much of the falseness of the world, of the deceits of men, of the divisions of the Church, of the weakness of good men, and of the wickedness of evil men, that they are sick of this world, and could not be hired with all it can give, to abide in it one day after their work is done. When a man hath found some∣thing above, beyond, and after this world, he is weary of it g.
So that the Priviledge of Aged per∣sons who are even past the World, is really great. They have escaped those rocks and gulfs, of which younger per∣sons are yet in danger. They may look back with pity on younger persons, who are to grapple with the difficulties, which they have overcome. They have also attained that, which all young men desire, for these would live long, and the Aged have lived longh. They have seen an end of all perfection, and that is a poor perfection that hath an end; and after all they find, that this is not their rest, because it is polluted. Although they have been crucifying the world a long time, Page 231 yet they cannot make it wholsome enough to feed on, without much caution and jealousie. And finding it so dangerous a Master, and so troublesome a Servant, they are glad to be rid of it, and glad that they are near parting: So that he who hath tried the world, and yet loves it, is bewitcht by it. As a man that hath surfeited on any thing, his Stomach ri∣seth against it: so is it with the Aged, they have too long surfeited on it, and now their Hearts rise against it i. The World and they are easily parted, for it cares little for them, and they care less for it. Farewell (think they) thou false and flattering World, that promised me content, and never performed it; that pre∣tended to be my good Friend, and hast proved my constant Snare, my deadly Ene∣my; I am now going to a peaceable holy and endless World. Hence it was that when the Physicians once told holy Mr. Dod, in a dangerous Sickness in his Old∣age, that they had good hopes of his Re∣covery; he answered them, that the news pleased him no better, than if one should tell the weather-beaten Mariner that was putting into the haven, that he must turn back to conflict with the Storms again. Page 232 No certainly, they who are almost got safely through this dangerous World, would be loth to venture into it a∣gain.
Indeed if a man have no portion but in this Life, if he have no house but Hell to go to, when he leaves the world; it is no wonder if he be loth to part with it: but they who are dead to this world, and ripe for a better, would not live here alway, but rejoyce exceedingly, and are glad, when they can find the grave, Job 3. 22. And this leads me to
THE Eighth Priviledge of Old-Age,* which is, that it is Nearer to Death than in the Course of Nature, younger persons are, and consequently if they be in Christ, nearer to the Ever∣lasting Life. For though it is possible for the Young to dye soon, yet it is impossible for the Aged to live long†. Their ma∣nifest Decayes are a certain presage of their approaching Dissolution, and no Me∣dicinePage 233 hath yet bin found to cure Old∣age. The graves are ready for them, and the Worms wait for their last repast upon them. The moth of Mortality, which is bred in our Nature, will still be fretting the Garment of our Bodies, till they be consumed. Death is already got into the Aged persons Eye, and Ear, and in a short time will bring him unto the dust. Now though this be an unwelcome Mes∣senger to those that live at ease, yet to an holy Old man and woman it is a blessed Priviledge: for as looking back∣ward they see a tempting troublesome world, so looking forward they see by Faith a state of perfect Holiness and Hap∣piness prepared for them. This Faith as∣sures them, that the end of their fight, is the beginning of their Victory, and as they part from their labours, they take possession of their honoursk. And doth not any Apprentice rejoyce, when the time of his service is near its expiration? I know Nature recoils at the approach of Death in the best, but Faith is then of greatest need and use, and the just may be said to dy, as well as to live by his faith. Thereby he sees Life and Immortality just before him, and one only miry step to pass, and then he is Page 234 well. Indeed the idle man desires not to go to bed, but to all that take or suf∣fer pain, saith S. Chrysostomel, an end of it is sweet; the traveller gladly be∣holds his Inne; the hireling often com∣putes when his year is out; the husband∣man greedily expects harvest; the preg∣nant woman waits for her expected deli∣verance and the Aged person for his Writ of Ease.
One would wonder what shift even the Heathen made to render Death de∣sirable, who had such weak glimmer∣ings of any other life. And yet even they would thus argue: Death, either it anni∣hilates us, or else translates us: Annihi∣lation will but reduce me into the State wherein I was; and if it translate me, it will put me into better lodgings; my Soul can be no where so pen'd up, as here it is in the Body m. What boast would they have made of Death, had they but firmly believed everlasting life? For this it was which enabled the Apo∣stle to make this expression, Phil. 1. 23.—Having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better. For where should the Spouse desire to be, but with her husband? or where the members, but with the head? And upon this account, Page 235 that good Lady Falkland would usually say, when she was going to bed, Now am I nearer Heaven by one day than ever I was. The Aged person sees a wofull wilderness behind him, and the blessed land of Promise before him, and there∣fore no wonder that, with Moses, he longs to be in it. And the nearer the holy Soul approacheth its perfection, the more earnest and almost impatient it is to attain it.
And one great Advantage of the Aged lies in this; that the Meditation of Death, which is then in view, is of great use to compose the Mind, to keep us in the Fear of the Lord all the day long, and our Consciences void of offence towards God and men, to work in us a great con∣tempt of the World, and a singular freedom of spirit and of speech. It will make us neither much to fear, nor much to hope, or desire any thing, that the world can do for us, or against usn; and finally doth greatly conduce, to keep us steady and constant in faith and holiness.
And if some Ancient people do not make this use of their approaching disso∣lution, what would they or others do, if they did not grow Old at all? what a careless worldly and vain life would Page 236 men live, if they had no certain Indi∣cations of their dying? Surely the nearer to Heaven, the more heavenly we should be: as any man when he is come to the confines of another Countrey, will frame himself to the guise thereof, so he that hath this hope in him, doth purifie himself as he is pure, and will begin the Life below, which he expects to live above.
And the other Priviledge herein con∣tained is this, that being weary, they are near to their Journeys end. They have bin long toss'd upon the Sea, and now they see the Haven, and rejoyce that they are ready to put into it. This could make Cato in Tully to say, My old-age is herein pleasant to me, that by how much I approach nearer to death, so much sooner do I, as it were, descry land, and after long sailing am ready to enter the Port. Not that a good man should desire to dye for ease, only to be freed from the troubles of life: all the tribulations of that blessed Apostle Paul, never made him cry out, O wretched man that I am! but his body of death forc'd him to it. But whil'st we carry these earthly Tabernacles about us, even the Sufferings of this present time will make us rejoyce in hope of the glory of God.Page 237 Especially when we behold that innu∣merable company of Angels, the general assembly and Church of the first born, the spirits of just men made perfect, yea God the Iudge of all, and Iesus the Mediator of the new Covenant, amongst whom we are going to reside in perfect bliss; then will our heart and our flesh cry out, O when shall we come and appear before God! And this is the Priviledge of Old-age, that there is but one feeble life between them and a Crown; and you know that he who is shortly to be invested in some Dignity, feasts himself with the hopes of it o. Yea this is the constant relief of the Aged man under all his bo∣dily, and other temporal afflictions, that they will last but for a moment. Hold out Faith and Patience, the Iubilee is at hand.
Therefore it behoves all that are in years, to lay up for themselves a good founda∣tion for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life: to get some un∣questionable evidence of their right to the tree of life, of their part in Paradise; and then their thoughts of what's be∣yond death, will support them against all events on this side it, or in it. That Death is never to be dreaded, saith an Page 238Heathen Poetp, which is followed with Immortality. All your riches, reputati∣on, or friends will then nothing com∣fort you, like a lively sense of Christ in you, the hope of glory. He that hath liv'd to God, will chearfully go to him; and they who have run with difficulty, will dye with easeq.
And thus you have an account of some of the many Priviledges of Old-age: for besides all these; it is a Priviledge to attain to such an Age, as that we may our selves see to the Education, and Disposal of our Children; and also to have the comfort of their piety and prosperity. Thou shalt see thy childrens children, and peace upon Israel, Psal. last. Hereupon it is recorded among, and as the crown of the Blessings bestow'd upon Iob, after his restoration, that he lived an hundred and forty years, and saw his sons, and his sons sons, even four generations, Job 42. 16. From all which we may conclude, that although every Age of mans life hath its peculiar bitterness and sweetness, yet all things well weighed, a quiet and honest Old-age is to be preferr'd before any other age. It is the assertion of the learned Petrarchr, who thereupon breaks forth into the praises of it; concluding Page 239 them unworthy to arrive at it, that are afraid of it, and them unworthy to pos∣sess it, that accuse it. So that though we commonly say, That every thing is worse for its age, yet a pious Old person is the better; and therefore no man needs to be, as too many are, ashamed of their gray hairs. Forasmuch as Old-age, is Greater in Authority than any other age, Richer in Experience, Freer from sin, Proner to Piety, Riper in its Fruits, Worthier of Respect, Further from the World, and Near∣er to Eternity. And so much for the Pri∣viledges of Old-age, which is the Sixth point to be handled.
CHAP. VII. The Work of Old-age.
AND so I come in the Seventh,* and Last place to treat, concern∣ing the Work and Business of Old-age: What special and proper Imployment, besides their necessary and ordinary af∣fairs, Page 240 their Years obligeth them unto. Their labouring and travelling dayes are done, but yet they have much Work to do. Sith they have not yet apprehended, this One thing they must do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reach∣ing forth unto those things which are be∣fore, they must press towards the mark. There is no compleat rest for the body, on this side the grave; nor for the soul, on this side Heaven. They that were Idle in the eleventh hour, were checkt with, Why stand ye here idle all the day? Matth. 20. 6. You have been busie a great while for Time, it is but reasonable, you should take some pains for Eternity. The shadows of the Even∣ing have overtaken you, ye have but a little time to work in. It was wise counsel of the Wise man; Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might, for there is no work, nor device, nor know∣ledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goest, Eccles. 9. 10. Behold and see how fast the sands of your glass are running; hearken how fast the Pendu∣lum of your Clock hastens. The Bills of Mortality, besides other Diseases, con∣tain some weekly that dye for Age; and which week your Name will be called, Page 241 you know not: But when it is called, you must go, no Bail is taken by Ser∣jeant Death. Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord when he cometh, findeth so doing. And therefore to use the Pro∣phet Ioel's words, Ioel 1. 2. Hear this, ye Old men, and give ear all the inhabi∣tants of the land: Suffer the word of Exhortation, and buckle in sober sad∣ness to these Imployments of Old-age.
The First Work of Old-age, is Repent∣ance*of your sins. This is a bitter Pill to flesh and blood, but it must be swal∣lowed here or hereafter. When it is tasted here, it is only bitter-sweet, there is comfort in it, there is comfort after it: It is like the pains of an honest wo∣man in travel, the remembrance of the loving Father supports her at present, and the birth of a comely child revives her after; but if it be deferr'd, and plac'd on the wrong side of Death, then it will be bitter, bitter; there is no pre∣sent, no future comfort: Then it will be like the gnawing pains of a woman with a Cancer, though infinitely sharper, and infinitely longer. So that it is not re∣ferred to the Old-man, or any man else, whether he will Repent or not, for it •…annot be avoided; but whether he will Page 242 repent for a time, or repent for ever; whether he will repent with hope, or repent with despair.
Now Repentance may be considered, in a Double respect. 1. Initially, at the first Conversion of the Soul to God; and 2. Secondarily, at the Renewing of the acts thereof afterwards. It concerns An∣cient people to be acquainted respective∣ly with both. This needful message then is directed,
1. To such Aged persons, who are yet in the state of unrenewed Nature; who have never past through the New∣birth, nor know any thing by experi∣ence of Regeneration, which was the Case of Old Nicodemus, though a Master in Israel, Joh. 3. 9. Now that a Funda∣mental Repentance or Conversion, call it how you will, is necessary to all that shall be saved, I should think is past dispute. For it cannot be denyed, that we come into the world in a sinful state: And it is manifest, that Baptism doth not cure the Soul of that Disease; but that all people in general have a strong propensity either to the lusts of the flesh, or to the lusts of the eyes, or to pride of life, until an inward Change be wrought in the heart; which is the Page 243 effectual Calling of a careless Sinner, to turn to God and Godliness. Now if an Aged person have been a stranger to this Grace, though perhaps he hath led a sober, industrious, just, yea a chari∣table life, and also hath complied with the outward acts of devotion in use: Yet except the tree have been made good by Regeneration, it cannot have its fruit unto holiness, nor the end ever∣lasting life.
I would therefore conjure all such Unconverted Old people, to apply them∣selves with all speed and seriousness to this First Repentance; to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, to make you new hearts and new spirits, or else infalli∣bly you must dye. Say not with Nico∣demus, How can a man be born when he is old? For the Work is possible and the Method is plain. Harder it may be for an Old man to become a New man, than for the younger; hence the Pro∣verb, An old naught, will never be ought: That is rarely, or difficulty, according to the Greek sayings: For that the Fa∣culties of the Soul are enfeebled, and the Habits of Sin strengthened by continu∣ance; former guilt and negligence, makes men to doubt of future assistance or ac∣ceptance.Page 244 But since God doth call Old people to Repent, sith he hath spared you alive hitherto, and to them that are joyned to the living there is hope; sith there be innume∣rable instances of Old Converts: In fine, sith God looketh upon men, and if any, mark, if Any say, I have sinned and perverted that which was right, and it profiteth me not; he will deliver him from going down to the pit, Iob 33. 27, 28. Never question the possi∣bility, but set about the work. Set the Necessity against the Difficulty, it is Turn in Time or Burn in Eternity; for Truth hath said, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of heaven. How can you imagine that a limb of the Devil, should become a member of Christ, a child of wrath become a child of God, but by Regeneration? Outward Reformation may shave the hair, but this Leprosie must be cur'd inwardly.
O lay to heart the long time you have lived in sin, and in enmity to Godt; the short time you have to live in the world; that Death makes no Converts, and Sickness but a few: Consider what mercies and deliverances you have re∣ceived from this good God; and how little true service you have done him, and whether it be not now high time Page 245 to turn unto him with your whole heart and not feignedly. If that Holy man would not be in an unregenerate state but one hour for all the world, left he should dye in that hour, what is your pillow, or rather your heart made of, that you can sleep so long in a state of Condemnation? To be born in sin is sad, but to live and dye in sin, will prove a thousand times worse. Remember that the destroying Angels began, at the An∣cient men before the house, Ezek. 9. 6.
Its true, late Repentance is seldom true, but yet true Repentance is never too late. O then lay all business aside, and set your selves about the New creature. Now or never, now and ever. If you turn the deaf ear unto God now, beware lest he deny you either the space, or the grace to repent hereafter; lest he answer you, Ubi consumpsisti farinam, &c. where thou hast spent the flour of thy life, there be∣stow the bran of it. Take warning by that Penitent in story, who had often determin∣ed to begin his Amendment from som•…eminent time, as the First day of the year, or his Birth day, that so his Repentance might have some Remarkable date; but when that Time came, he was ready to ad∣journ it till another time: Who thereupon Page 246 concluded, that he would make that present Day, though it were obscure in the Calen∣der, yet memorable to his Soul by his turn∣ing, through divine assistance, unto God.
Do you not perceive how you are in danger to be trapann'd by Satan, who suggested to you in the time of youth, that Repentance was then too early, and who will now perswade it is grown too late? ye have de•…err'd this work long enough already, now you must use double diligence about it. It is said of the Mulberry tree, that it casts out its buds latest, but then thrusts them all out in a night: You are late in the Vineyard, you must work the harder. The whole business of your life hitherto stands for nothing; if you be not new born, you will cease to be in this world, before you begin to liveu; if your last change get the start of this first change, you will curse the day of your birth to all eternity.
Now for your Direction in this great Work, your present business is to get a Competence of Knowledge, in the Do∣ctrine of Religion: and then searching your own Hearts to compare them with the holy Law of God. For example, look your face in the glass of that hun∣dredPage 247 and nineteenth Psalm, or of the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh of Matthew, and then, through Gods help you will presently find the dissimilitude, yea the contrariety between them. And then fix your mind upon the Wrath of God, hanging over all persons in your Condition, and upon the sufficient satisfaction made by Iesus Christ for all that believe and re∣pent, and apply all this to your selves. Frequent the serious Preaching of Gods word, and begin to pray in good earnest, Turn thou me and I shall be turned▪ and be assured, that Spirit, which inclines you to the use of these means, will breath life into your dead and dry bones, and make you new Creatures.
And in case you find your selves at a loss in this affair, repair to some Able and faithful Minister of Christ, and be not afraid or asham'd to lay open your Condition, and follow his guidance there∣in. For if men are not content, in case of an Infirmity of body, to hear the Phy∣sick Lectures, or to read books of Receits, but will state their own case to the Physician himself; and will do the like to the Lawyer in weighty cases concern∣ing their Estates, how much more need have you of a Godly Divine, to direct Page 248 and assist you in an affair, wherein bo∣dy and Soul are at stake, and that for Eternity? And so much for that First and fundamental Repentance, so absolute∣ly necessary for such Ancient people, as have spent their lives in the service of the world, and the flesh, and were ne∣ver truly converted unto God.
But besides these, Repentance in the renewed Acts thereof, is a proper and necessary work for All Old people what∣soever. You have lived a long time, and through Omissions and Commissions have contracted abundance of guiltw. Trace your selves therefore from place to place, from one period of your life to another, and strictly reckon with your selves. Study the Ten Commandments in their true extent; they are called Ten words, but they command ten thousand Duties, and forbid ten thousand Sins, ma∣ny whereof you have ten thousand times failed in, and in divers of them with great aggravations: and then sit down and cry out, O that my head were a foun∣tain, and mine Eyes rivers of tears, to bewail these offences against a gracious Godx. Upon this account did holy Au∣gustine in his Old-age write his Confessi∣ons; wherein he makes no difficulty to Page 249shame himself, that he might give glory to God. And the Book of Ecclesiastes is judged to be the Poenitenials of King So∣lomon, in his Old-age; wherein he plain∣ly confesseth his Vanity, in seeking for Happiness in a vain and vexatious World, and warns all young men to beware of such like folly. Alas if you had fal∣len but seven times a day, yet in seven∣ty years those Sins would have amount∣ed unto almost Two hundred thousand of∣fences; and can you reflect upon this without amazement; nay it is a won∣der that we do not, as Nectarius his Accuser of old, weep out our Eyes for very griefy. When the leaves are fal∣len from the trees, as is aptly observed by One, the birds nests are easily seen, which were in∣visible before; so when through Age our frothy vanities are wither'd, we may palpably discover, the sallies of Pride, Wantonne•…s and Folly; yea those nest of vermine, and vipers which replenished our youthful dayes.
It was the sober Advice of that States∣man, Sir Thomas Randolph in his Old-age, after he had been eighteen times Embas∣sadorPage 250 in forreign parts, to Sir Thomas Walsingham Secretary of State: It is now time, sayes he, for us to leave the tricks of State, and to imploy our time before Death in Repentance▪ for the Sins of our Lives. And Blessed be God that hath appointed this Remedy, and the Blood of Christ without which all our tears could not wash out one Sin, that poor Sinners have this after-game of Recovery, when they have been undone by Sin! when we have eaten so much of the forbid∣den fruit in our youth, we have need of this worm-wood in our Old-age. Re∣new therefore daily the Acts of unfaigned Repentance, and take account duly of your selves, as some of the very Heathensz have done, sith you must give account to God very shortly; and he that dai∣ly reckons with himself, will have but one day to reckon for, when he comes to dye.
But be sure you mistake not the Na∣ture of Repentanee. For it is not only a Trouble, an Anger, a Sorrow; but it is made up of Grief, and Hatred: Grief for the Offence to God, and Hatred of the Sins we grieve for. So that Repen∣tance is a turning to God from all sin, with grief for it and hatred of it. And Page 251 the best Proof you can give of your Repen∣tance for the Sins of your Youth, is a watchful care against the Sins of your Old-age: otherwise, your Sins are not forsaken, but changed. Withal, if your Repentance be sound, it is attended with a will and endeavour to make Restitu∣tion, wherein you have injur'd any in their Souls, Bodies, Names, or Estates. This will be as Letters Testimonial of the truth of your Repentance: you must not, nay, you cannot be quiet, if your Repentance be sound, until you have seri∣ously endeavour'd, as far as in you lies, to recover the Souls, to restore the Bodies, to heal the Reputations, and to repair the Estates, which you have injur'd: without which, there can be no true Re∣pentance on Earth, and without which, there will be no Remission in Heavena.
ANother work of Old-age is, obtaining*Assurance of Salvation. I mean hereby, not only a General Certainty, that some good people shall be saved; for the Devils believe this, and rage at Page 252 it, which, I think, is the same with Ob∣jective Certainty; nor that Assurance which may come by special and extra∣ordinary Revelation, sith we find few or no examples in Scripture of such a thing; but rather that the Apostle Paul himself grounds his Assurance of the Crown, up∣on the righteousness of God, which he ex∣tends to all them, that love Christs ap∣pearing, 2 Tim. 4. 8. Neither do I mean a Conjectural Hope of Salvation, which ad∣mits both of anxiety and of slavish fear; fith the Scripture represents it by Faith, and full assurance, and produceth Ear∣nests and Seals for confirmation. Nor lastly, is this Assurance confin'd to Grace at present, but extends to final Salvation. Thus the Apostle, 2 Tim. 1. 12. I know whom I have believed; there is Assurance of his present State, but was he certain of his Perseverance? Yes, that follows, and I am perswaded, that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.
That such Assurance hath been attained, is clear enough from the Instances of Iob 19. 25, 26. of David, Psal. 16. 9, 10. of Paul, 2 Tim. 4. 7, 8. and many others. That it may be attained, is as clear; sith there is no intimation that Page 253 these, or the rest, had any extraor∣dinary Discovery thereof unto them, but arriv'd thereat in the use of those means, and by the consignation of that Spirit, unto which we have access as well as they. And the Apostle doth expresly comprehend the generality of Believers in this Priviledge, 2 Cor. 5. 1. For we know, that if our earthly House of this Tabernacle were dissolved, we have a build∣ing of God, &c. That it ought to be en∣deavoured by all true Christians, is most evident from the plain commands to that purpose, 2 Pet. 1. 10. Wherefore the rather, Brethren, give diligence to make your cal∣ling and election sure, &c. That few do labour to attain it, thinking it to be im∣possible or unnecessary, is to be bewail∣ed. That many deceive themselves with a false perswasion of present Grace and future Glory, is manifest by Scripture and daily Experience. And that it is most proper and needful for Old people, the thing it self speaks.
For you cannot deny but that you have Souls, immortal Souls, which be∣ing Spirits cannnot dye, but must return to God that gave them: and are these Souls of so small value to be left to a Ha∣zard, to an everlasting venture? And it Page 254 is as evident, that this life is uncertain: we may say as Isaac, Gen. 27. 2. Be∣hold now, I am Old, I know not the day of my Death; and therefore it's time for us to go about this work without delay. Chil∣dren desire the time of youth, and youth longs to be at mans age, and they then would live to be Old, but Old-age hath no further Age to desireb, it hath none other to succeed it here, and they are wholly uncertain how long it will last; and therefore it is absolutely necessary, that they should be on sure grounds for Eternity, and then the day of death will be better than the day of their Birth. You know how much of your life is already spent, you can see the Sands that are run into the nether end of the Glass, but the upper Part is covered with a Man∣tle, you know not how few Sands are left there to run. Nay, you cannot but perceive, that Death is approaching ve∣ry near you. You are filled with Wrinkles which is a Witness against you, and your leanness rising up in you, beareth witness to your Face, as it is, Job 16. 8. For as it is observed of All men, that they are Mortales, apt to dye, and of all Good men, that they are Mortificati, dying to Sin; so it is of all Old men, that they Page 255 are Morituri, about to dye. And for such to have Oyl to seek, when they should have it to Use; Evidences to procure, when they should have them to produce, is an unexcusable neglect.
Especially knowing, that your last Breath wafts you into an unalterable Estate. What Journeys and Presents were heretofore made to the Oracles, to assure the Votaries concerning the Event of some temporal affairs! and how many do now Hazard their Souls by seeking to Necromancers, to know the success of their Marriages, Voyages, and such like; and yet a miscarriage in these things is remediable, there may be some alleviation in them, there may be some end of them: but you are lanching into the Ocean of Eternity, and are at no certainty, whether it be eternal Happiness, or eternal Misery. What an anxious and uncomfortable State must this be? If you were not loose in your be∣lief of future things, you would be restless in this condition: you owe your Ease to your Let•…argy; if you were not half Infidels, you would be more than half distracted. Which brings to mind the course which some Eminent persons a∣mong the Heathensc took, they durst not Page 256dye sober, but drank great Draughts o•… Wine, saying, That no voluptuous person can go in his Wits into an invisible Estate▪ With what poor comfort must that man dye, that must cry out with that Old Phi∣losopher; I dye in great doubt, and know not whither I am going; yet out the Soul must go, ready or unready. Then will the careless sinner gnash his Teeth for rage at his slothful and sinful life, which he hath spent as a Tale that is told. Then will he have time enough, to curse all the worldly business, or wick∣ed Company, that hath devoured his pre∣cious time, and left his Soul to shift for it self for ever.
Do not we in all other cases strive to be at a point? will May-be's and Perad∣venture's satisfie us in any material hu∣mane affairs? The Tenant who is warn∣ed out of one House, cannot enjoy him∣self, until he be sure of another; The Steward that was discharged of his Of∣fice, Luk. 16. took present course to be provided of some other Subsistence; The poorest man is uneasie, when his old Suit of Cloaths is worn out, till he have a new one; what then are your Souls dreaming on, which find the Garment of the Body quite worn out, your earth∣lyPage 257House ready to fall upon its Head, and yet Sleep quiet only with some weak ungrounded hopes of endless happi∣ness? Have you left your outward Estates under no better Assurance? your Convey∣ances, your Fines and Recoveries will rise up in witness against you, and you will be found at last to be wise in trifles, and Fools in the things of moment. Yea, you will see, when Friends and Relati∣ons will leave you, your Estates and Pleasures leave you, Life it self leave you, that they who make not sure of Heaven, are sure of Nothing.
Think not, that your Outward Bles∣sings are any certain Arguments of Gods love to you; that, because God hath done much for you in this World, he will therefore Crown you in another; or because ye have lived long here in the day of his Patience, that you must live always with him in Heaven. No, no, Iob 21. 7. 20. Even the wicked live, be∣come old, yea, and are mighty in power: yet his Eyes shall see his Destruction, and he shall drink of the wrath of the Almigh∣ty. Many a man hath been strangely saved from Death, that will not be saved at last from Hell: and men do hold temporal mercies by one Tenure, and Eter∣nal by another.
Page [unnumbered]Be advised therefore to set about this •…eedful work, with all possible speed•…nd care. And to that end, chuse out •…wo or three Scriptures, which do most •…vidently describe a Sanctified Heart; •…ch as Mat. 5. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Or •…om. 8. 1. 5. 9. and endeavour by the best h•…lps you have, to know the true. Ge∣n•…ine meaning thereof: Then compare your own Hearts with them. And whatsoever doubt you have of your Con∣formity thereunto, examine it to the bot∣tom; and in case of any insuperable difficulty consult with some discreet Messenger of God. And when you have throughly sifted one Scripture, go to ano∣ther, and another, that in the Mouth of two or three witnesses, your Assurance may be established. And this done, be∣take you to your Knees, and spreading these tryed Evidences before God, hum∣bly beg the help of his Holy Spirit; both to clear your understanding, to guide your Conscience, and to seal you up to the day of Redemption. And then you must pa∣tiently wait in the use of all the means of Grace, Sermons, Prayers and Sacra∣ments, until His Spirit witness with your spirit, that ye are the Children of God.
THE Third Work of Old-age, is Pray∣ers* and Praises. 1. For Prayers. I do not here mean only the Ordinary Devo∣tions, which I presume every good Christi∣an useth, both Old and Young, and where∣by indeed the Soul Breaths; for a true Believer lives by Faith, and breaths by Prayer: whereof that excellent Bishop Hall thus concludes, I may truly say, that man hath no Grace nor Goodness in him, that Prays not by Himself, and with his Family: but also that they should be frequent in Prayer. It is said of Luther, that he spent daily at least Three hours in Prayer. And holy David saith, Psal. 55. 17. Evening and Morn∣ing and at Noon will I Pray, and cry aloud: yea, in his Old-age we may conclude, that he dyed with a Prayer in his Mouth, from Psal. 72. last. The Prayers (and be∣like the life) of David the Son of Iesse are ended together. And therefore the Egyptian Hieroglyphick of an Aged person was a Swan, whom they imagined to dye Singing: for there is no Musick so Page 260 sweet in the Ears of God, as hearty Prayers and Praises.
And if you find your selves unable to hold out in the more stated and so∣lemn Prayers, you should be more fre∣quent and fervent in shorter Addresses; for it is not the length, but the strength of a Prayer that carries it with God. And in case of the want of Ability, or Opportunity for this frequency, for every poor crazy Old Man or Woman hath them not, you may and should abound in holy Ejaculations, or short Elevations of the Soul to God; sometimes by way of Confession, sometimes by way of Ad∣miration, sometimes by way of Petition, and sometimes by way of Thanksgiving, of all which there are various Instances in Scripture. And these you may dart upward, as you sit by the fire, as you lie in your beds, as you put on and off your cloaths. Thus ye may pray with∣out ceasing, as it is, 1 Thes. 5. 17. And the Lord will accept of these, coming from a sincere and holy heart, and which in its present circumstances can do no better. But still Prayer is the proper Province of the Aged person, and both you and your Pictures will look best, when they are (as Paul thePage 261Hermites carkass was) found in a pray∣ing posture.
For as was noted before, your la∣bouring and travelling dayes are done, your Hands and Feet have done their work: the best service you can now do is upon your knees. There you may do much, therein you may ingage Him who can do All: nothing can stand before the prayer of Faith. And therefore, when you reflect upon the slips and falls in the course of your Life, so that your hearts begin to ake and faint for fear, then enter into your Closet, and pour out your hearts before God, and that will revive you. When that coward Satan sets upon an Aged man or wo∣man, with his Assault and Battery, ei∣ther to weaken their faith, or to unra∣vel their repentance, or to cloud their comforts, their only course is to run to God by Prayer; God is a refuge for us. When we feel the decayes of Nature, and are almost overwhelmed with Di∣stempers or Troubles, then let us by Pray∣er cast our burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain us. Thus that learned and holy Rivetd did every day in his Old-age repeat the seventeenth and eigh∣teenth verses of the seventy first Psalm.Page 262O God, thou hast taught me from my youth, and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works. Now also when I am Old and gray∣headed, O God, forsake me not, untill I have shewed thy strength to this generati∣on, and thy power to every one that is to come.
And here the Aged shall do well not only to plead their own Cause with God, but to lay up a stock for Posterity, that the generations yet unborn may be the better for them. Thus David, in that Psal. 72. 1. Give thy Iudgments to the King, O God, and thy righteousness to the Kings Son, &c. What you are now sow∣ing, may be reaped by your Posterity hundreds of years afterwards. And per∣haps this will be the best Intail which you can make of your Estates, for hi∣therto whatever Settlements the Will of men hath devised, the Wit of men hath defeated; but by faithfull Prayer, God himself is made Trustee, who only can establish your Purposes.
So also you should be instant with the Lord for his Church, Truth, and Gospel. So was David, Psal. 122. So was Paul, alwayes in every Prayer of his. And we cannot better approve our selves to be members of that mystical Body, than by Page 263 our incessant Prayers for the Increase, the Unity and the Happiness thereof. And when you are thinking of your Countrey, of your Kindred, and of your Friends, add an Ejaculation to every of these your thoughts for a blessing upon them. These are Employments fit for a Christian Aged person, and will become them better, than endless Complaints, or groundless Presages. Pray, pray, and do not Pro∣phesie, was holy Mr. Palmers saying to those, that were alwayes boding misery. I tell you, that you may do your selves, the Church, the Nation, and Posterity more service by your fervent Prayers, than you have done by the cares and la∣bours of your whole life.
And then, 2. For Praises; when you consider all the Good which God hath done In you, the Good he hath done For you, and the Good he hath done By you, you cannot sure be silent. Reflect upon your own Hearts, and remember what a plight you were in, when his Grace and Mercy found you out; what Me∣thods he hath used to recover you; what light and love and life he hath be∣stowed upon you; what outward Means and inward Motions he hath vouchsafed you; how he hath rescued you out of Page 264 various temptations, recovered you out of sad relapses, stablished you in times of tryal and defection, and brought you within sight of the Promised Land. And then review your whole Life, and con∣sider what great things he hath done For you. Observe Old Davids course. Psal. 71. 6. By thee have I bin holden up from the Womb, thou art he that took me out of my Mothers bowels; my praise shall be continually of thee. Remember the care he took of your Education, the won∣derfull Preservations in your Childhood, and Youth, when your rashness and folly did every day precipitate you into pal∣pable dangers; how many sicknesses and distempers he hath either prevented or healed; in how many Iourneys and Voy∣ages his Angels have had the Charge of you; in what perils by day and by night, by Land and by Sea he hath pre∣served you. O remember the works of the Lord, surely you should remember his won∣ders of old. Psal. 77. 11. Have you not heard of that Man, who having pass'd over a Plank on Horseback, over a deep River over night, and being brought in the Morning to see his deliverance, fell down dead with the apprehension? How many Lives have you had given you? Page 265 How many thousands have bin cut off, and you have bin spared? What a won∣der is it, that your Eyes and Limbs have bin kept safe so long! Now you are weak, but remember how long you were strong: now you cannot eat, or sleep, as •…heretofore; but you have lost your Re∣gister, if you have forgotten the chearful meals, and restful nights you have en∣•…oyed.
〈◊〉 in respect of your Outward Estate,•…emember how naked you came into the world, how the Lord hath fed you all •…our life long; he it is that hath given •…ou power to get wealth, he hath still spread your Table, and filled your Cup, and •…ent you more than ever you expected, at •…east deserved. Remember how merciful •…e hath bin unto you in your Names, in your Relations, Posterity, every way. And •…hen conclude with David, 2 Sam. 7. 18. Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, •…hat thou hast brought me hitherto? My •…outh shall shew forth thy Righteousness •…nd thy Salvation, for I know not the num∣•…ers thereof. I will hope continually, and will •…et praise thee more and more. Psal. 71. 14, 15. Let Hallelujah be your Song, as •…t was the Motto of Godly Mr. Bruen, which he wrote in the first leaf of all his Page 266Books. Let not your present weakness and pain, bury your sense of all your former health and ease. A thankfull life is a pleasant life.
And lastly review the Good that God hath done By you, that still God may have all the praise. You have wrestled with God in Prayer, though now you are soon faint and weary. You have measured many a step to hear Gods Word, though now you cannot: and have read many a good Book, though now your Eyes be quickly dazled. Ma∣ny a Soul hath bin the better for your Counsel, and many bowels have bin re∣freshed by your relief. Now as God is not unrighteous to forget your work and la∣bour of love, so your remembrance of it in this your Old-age, must oblige you to renewed thanks and praise. Thus David in that Psal. 18. which he spake unto the Lord, when he was delivered out of the hands of all his enemies, toucheth all these Topicks or Heads of Mercies, and then cries out, vers. 46. 49. The Lord liveth, and blessed be my rock, and let the God of my Salvation be exalted. It is God that—Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O Lord, among the Heathen, and sing praises unto thy Name. Thus will you conjoyn Page 267 the Life of Heaven and Earth; you will end your Lives with that work, where∣with you will begin your Everlasting Life.
THE Fourth Work of Old-age is, In∣struction*of the Younger. God hath in great Wisdom lodged his various gifts in divers subjects, that there may be a mutual dependance one upon another, and a mutual helpfulness of each to others. Thus he intrusts the Young with Strength to support and aid the Elder, whose strength is decayed; and the Aged with knowledge and wisdom to guide the young∣er, whose judgment is yet unripe. And as it is a great misery, when the Aged are not relieved by the strength and in∣dustry of those that are young, so it is a great infelicity, when the Aged are either unable or unwilling to instruct, or when those who are young are too careless or conceited to receive Instruction. That is therefore a barbarous Precept in the Alcoran, and like the rest of that Di∣vinity, You are not obliged to lead men inPage 268the right way, God guideth whom he listeth. But we have better learned Christ.
The whole Current of Scripture runs for this Practice. Thus did Abraham, as we may gather from Gen. 18. 19. Thus Iacob—Thus Moses, leaving more espe∣cially that excellent Chapter, Deuter. 32. just before he died, for an Instruction to those he left behind him. The like did Ioshua, in Cap. 24. when he was Aged, and about to dy. So Samuel, 1 Sam. 12. So David, 1 Chron. 28. 9. to his Son. And thou Solomon my Son, &c. Thus did Peter when he was ready to put off his Tabernacle, 2 Pet. 1. 12, 13. and the like did Aged Paul in his Epistle to Ti∣mothy, when the time of his departure was at hand, 2 Tim. 4. 5, 6. So that we have a whole cloud of Witnesses, showring down their counsels and directions on the younger sort.
And the Aged are furnished for this Imployment, having Ability and Opportu∣nity for such purposes. Their peculiar Talent lies this way; For Dayes should speak and multitude of years should teach know∣ledge, Ioh 32. 9. You must have a stock of Observations, and your Speech com∣monly is least impaired of all Faculties; and it is best imployed in communica∣ting Page 269 your usefull Notions unto others. The Vestal Virgins of old, in the First part of their time, learned the Myste∣ries of their Religion, in the Second, they produced them into Practice, in the Third, they taught them unto others e. One end of our learning any thing, is that we may instruct others. And the Heathensf thought, that the greatest part of our time should be devoted to the Common good. Hide not therefore your Talent in a Napkin, but produce your Stock, and without impoverishing your selves, inrich those that need it. You have Op∣portunity, you have your Children and Posterity about you, you have some Au∣thority with them, let your words drop as the dew, and let your lips feed many. What profit have they by your longe∣vity, if you further them not in good∣ness? In short, our lives are little worth, when they are not usefull; and we can∣not better bestow them, than in making others better.
And here is a large field to walk in: You should be able and ready to instruct the younger in the Word of God, in the Doctrine of the Gospel, in that great my∣stery of Godliness, God manifest in the flesh. The publick Explications hereof, should be Page 270 familiarly opened by you at home. You should talk of them, as you sit in your house, as you walk by the way, when you lye down, and when you rise up, Deut. 6. 7. Thus David, Come ye children, hearken unto me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord, Psal. 34. 11. So also Solomon at large, Prov. 4. 1, 2. Hear ye children the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding: For I give you good do∣ctrine, &c. Thus Timothy's mother, yea and grandmother instructed him. You are to instruct them also in the Works of God, both of Creation and Providence▪ wherein you may convey to them ma∣ny things, tending to the glory of you•… Maker, and the benefit of their Souls You should acquaint them with such particular Instances of the Wisdom, Righ∣teousness, Power, and Goodness of God which you have read, heard or seen▪ That the generation to come might kno•… them, even the children that should be born who should arise and declare them to thei•… children, that they might set their hope i•… God, and keep his Commandments, Psal. 78▪ 6, 7. You can tell them also the Me∣thods of Satan, and the wicked devic•… whereby he beguileth poor Souls. •…Slave who hath been in Algier, and i•…Page 271 redeemed or rescued, can discover the miserable bondage there, and relate, with pleasure, the means of his Deliverance. You can describe the intriegues of Sin, and warn young people of the deceit∣fulness, and folly thereof by your own experience. They who have been almost mir'd in a puddle or quagmire, can easily shew others the place, and direct them to avoid it. In Summe, you should in∣struct the younger to know, and serve, and trust in God; and whatsoever you have observed in the course of your lives conducive thereunto, you should impart unto them. That as ungodly men do wickedly communicate their▪ sinful acts and practices, and endeavour to propa∣gate them unto posterity, that each ge∣neration may be ▪worse than other; so all wise and good men, especially when they are in years, should transmit the knowledge and practice of Piety to their Successors, that the next age may be better than this; and that when we are dead and gone, yet it may be truly said, the world was the better for us.
Besides these Instructions in the excel∣lent matters of Religion, it lies in the power and way of many Ancient per∣sons, to direct and advise the young∣er Page 272 in many useful Observations other∣wise: As concerning the Education of their Children, and the disposing of them into Callings or Marriage; con∣cerning the preservation or recovery of their health. And in case they have any peculiar Skill, Receipt, or Art use∣ful for the good of Mankind, they ought not to bury it in their graves, but to assign it to Posterity. And whatsoever you have learned or observed, that may be beneficial or any way useful to the Church or Common-wealth, to your Coun∣trey, Town or Family, all these Notices you should communicate to those that are younger, with all possible fidelity and exactness. And if need be, com∣mit them to writing for the benefit, at least, of your own posterity. And al∣though your Instructions may not at present seem to be much regarded, yet be not discouraged by this; for the wise Counsels of the Ancient, like the seed of the word of God, seems to dye and to be lost, and yet in process of time it re∣vives, and brings forth fruit.
Howbeit, there is Wisdom to be used in the Instructing of young people. For they too commonly are proud, conceit▪ ed, and self-witted: your Lessons there∣fore Page 273 must be at such seasons, and by such degrees, as may render them most valuable and welcome: and must be sweetned with that love and dearness, and withal interlac'd with such plea∣sant Diversion, that their Appetite may not be cloyed, nor your grave Advices be distasted. Thus the Emperor Augu∣stus accosted his Hearers. Audite Iuve∣nes senem, quem senes juvenem audiverunt; You that are young, hearken to me, that now am old, whom Old men hearkened unto, when I was yet but young.
Finally, your Example should be a Continual Instruction to young people. They that will not heed your good words, yet seeing your good works will have a constant copy before them, and be in∣duced to write after it. The objects of the Eye make deeper impression, than those of the Ear: When they see the constant practice of piety and charity, prudence and patience, they conclude that your Directions are in good ear∣nest, that they are practicable, that they are necessary, or else what the right hand of good Counsel builds up, the left hand of a loose practice will pull down.
THE Fifth Work of Old-age is,*Watchfulness against your special Temptations. For besides the abovesaid Sins, that are most usual in Old-age, there are some particular Weaknesses, to which they are rather tempted, than overcome; wherein if they be not watch∣ful, they will become miserable. Such as
1. Discontentedness of mind. This is a Distemper to which Old-age is very liable. They want this, and they want that, which perhaps they have had heretofore, and they cannot bear these wants. One loss or cross befalls them, and e're they have well digested this, another comes. One while this Dis∣ease or pain afflicts them, and that no sooner over, but they are smitten in ano∣ther part, so that they are prone to perpe∣tual murmurings. Never was any bo∣dies life so miserable, as theirs; they are ready to quarrel at God, at men, at any thing, at nothingg. They are neither content to live, nor ready to dy; but yet Page 275 seem to be fallen out with life, and to be in love with death, whereupon their common note is, I have lived too long, O that I were in my grave.
But this Distemper argues great weak∣ness of Grace, yea a great weakness of Spirit. Hence that Philosopher that some∣times resolved, that a wise and coura∣gious man should not flee from life, how discommodious soever; but fairly depart from ith: yet at other times ad∣vised, to let the wearied Soul out of the useless body, before its timei. A crime of the deepest tincture! to snatch the Prerogative of our Soveraign Creatour out of his hands, whose rightful priviledge alone it is, to give life to men, and to take it away. And why should you be so uneasie under these momentany tryals? Is it not the Lot, which your heavenly Father hath in great wisdom, set out for you? It is better to be Old, and crazy on earth, than to have been sent young to hell. You have your ailments, and if you were privy to others mens, you would be reconciled to your own. It was Socrates his Obser∣vation, that if every mans burden were laid on a common heap, each man would be glad to take up his own again. Page 276 You should rather be thankful to God for the blessings of the former part of your life, than murmur at the troubles of the present. You think it the only happiness, to have all the Comforts of this World; but Others have thought it a greater, to have a Mind above them. You have, or else the fault is your own, the Company of a gracious God and a good Consciencek, when you are uncapa∣ble of other company. You should imi∣tate the Grashopperl, to whom the Old man by some is likened, who is made the Emblem of Contentation, because she only sucks the dew and sings; and is content with that, hoping, for better. One Crown will swallow up all your Crosses, whereas Discontent makes your Condition most uneasie here, and most unfit for Heaven hereafter.
2. Another Temptation which you that are Old are in danger of, is Hardness of Heart and Security. You ha•… sinned often, and perhaps repented bu•…seldom: you have heard and read many convin∣cing Sermons, and made but slender ap∣plication of them: you have seen many swept away by the hand of God, and you have escaped: yea some of you per∣adventure have lived long in some sin∣fulPage 277 course, are grown Old in adulteries, Ezek. 23. 43. or in oppression, or in some other Sin. These things you have done, and the Lord hath kept Silence, and now you are ready to think, that He is such a one as your selves, and to bless your selves in your woful wayes, till your iniquity be found to be hateful. The Aged person surely must have either a very tender heart, or a very hard one. If Gods Ordinances and Providences, that is Mercies and Afflictions, have made a due impression upon you, your hearts must be very soft, but otherwise, you are in the greatest danger of a hard heart, and a spirit of slumber.
Watch and pray therefore, in the fear of God, against this dangerous Temptation. They are most guilty of this distemper, that were never afraid of itm. Preserve a due tenderness in your Con∣sciences, suffer not any sin to ly upon them unrepented. Endeavour to have daily a clearer sight of sin, and a deep∣er sense of the evil of it. Let the ex∣emplary Judgments upon others, startle you. Know, that if you sleep in sin, your Preservation will be but a Reser∣vation to some fearful issue. Remember that though a Sinner do evil an hundredPage 278times, and his dayes be prolonged, yet it shall not be well with the wicked, Eccl. 8. 12, 13. The greatest Iudgment that can befall a man upon earth, is to prosper in any sinful way.
There is a Natural hardness in All men, there is an Habitual hardness in some men, but there is a Iudicial hard∣ness only in such, as are ripe for hell. And the First, if it be not cured by Gods grace, leads to the second, and the se∣cond prepares for the third. Of all sorts of men, ye that are Old have least cause to be secure, that have one foot already in the grave. The green apple may be pluckt off, but the ripe one is falling off already. But it is not the approach of Death, without the effectual influ∣ence of Gods Spirit, that will soften an hardned sinner; as is too evident in the Malefactors in Newgate, that will be drunk and swear at a dreadful rate, when they know that the Execution∣day is certainly at hand. Be instant therefore with the Lord, to deliver you from hardness of heart, from a spirit of slumber and from a reprobate sense.
3. A Third Temptation which Old-age must watch against, is, Slothfulness of Spirit. The decay of natural Spirits dis∣poseth Page 279 them hereunto, and corrupt Na∣ture joyns with the temptation. It is an easie thing to be idle, and flesh and blood is glad enough of excuses from pains and trouble. Indeed, where na∣tural Parts, or natural Strength are wa∣sted, much cannot be expected, Iob 30. 2. Yea, whereto might the strength of their hands profit me, in whom old age was pe∣rished? yet that which will release them in part, will not do it altogether. Time is so short, so precious, so irrevocable, that it should not be slept or trif•…ed away, if we can do any thing for the ends of life. The Aged person must consider, how much wast ground there hath been in the field of his lifen; how many years are lost in Infancy and Childhood; how much time at riper years in unnecessary sleep and recreati∣ons; how much hath been consumed in doing nothing; and how much in do∣ing worse than nothing; and that it is an easie thing to lose time, that it is an hard thing to redeem time, and that it is an impossible thing to recall time; and therefore they who have lost so much time, and can recall none of it, had need to redeem, and make the best of that which is left. Few men will throw Page 280 away their money, but most men squan∣der away their lives; being most pro∣digal of that wherein we may most just∣ly be covetous, as the same Philosopher discourseth.
Let no Aged person imagine, that they are to live to no purpose. The Levites, though at Fifty years of age, they were discharged from the most la∣borious service of the Temple, yet they were not left to be Idle, but to do the work of the Lord in some more easie imployments. Tully brings in Cato tel∣ling how he learned Greek in his Old∣age, and that even at those years no bo∣dy came to see him, but they found him imployedo: and he reports of Le∣ontius Gorgias, who was an hundred and seven years old, and yet never was wea∣ry of his studies and labours. The truth is, sloth is a vice that accelerates Old∣age, as you heard before, and abetts that languishment of the Spirits which fur∣thers it. We shall not feel it so sensi∣bly, while we are continually imploy∣edp. How much knowledge and wis∣dom have we neglected, which we might have obtained, if our sloth had not beguiled us?
Hence comes Neglect of the means ofPage 281Grace, to which we may adde Drowsi∣ness in the use of them. Aged people are apt to satisfie themselves in the Omis∣sion of Reading, Hearing, Praying by their craziness and infirmities. Indeed when we are inevitably hindred in these Means, and are grieved for that hin∣drance, God will supply those wants; but if we be glad that we have an oc∣casion comen in the way, whereby we may, without sin omit our duty, it sa∣vours strongly of hypocrisie. And Old people are more concern'd than others to be diligent herein; for many of them have put off much of their greatest bu∣siness to their Old-age, and therefore their plea of Impotence will be overru∣led. I have lost a World of time, said the learned Salmasius on his death-bed; If I had one year longer, I would spend it in reading David's Psalms, and in Paul's Epistles. Neither imagine, that you are too old to learn: for the Fundamentals of Doctrine and Practice may easily, and must necessarily be learned, else he that made you will not save you, and he that formed you will shew you no favour, Isa. 27. 11. As weak as you are, you could creep to the Assembly to be laden back again with Gold; and a grain of Page 282 grace is worth a world of riches. When some outward sickness afflicts, you find a man carried in a bed to Christ, and the house untiled to let him down through the roof, rather than continue under it, Luk. 5. 18. and will you languish in your spiritual distempers, and use no means for healing? Be not deceived, God is not mocked: he never accepts the will for the deed, if the deed can well be done; nor chuses Mercy before sacri∣fice, where both may be offered.
And though your Years may dispose you to Drowsiness in the service of God, yet they will not wholly excuse you. We read but of one person in the Bi∣ble, that slept at Sermon, and he was taken up dead thereby, Act. 20. 9. It is a sin charged on them of old, Isa. 64. 7. There is none that calleth on thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold on thee. You should use all possible means to shake off that drowsie distemper, and set the holy God before you, and remember that your own cause is still pleading or trying; that the diligent hand makes rich in this world, and the diligent heart rich for ever; and that Grace and Comfort are like the Manna, which was to be gather'd early, or else it vanished: Page 283 they that loved their beds, starved their bellies. How much good might you do and get, notwithstanding your years, if you would shake off that slothful distem∣per, that haunts. you? how many have lamented at their end their loss of time? Nothing so much troubled that Excel∣lent Preacher, Dr. Robert Harris, when he was on his death-bed, as Loss of time. Rouse up then your benumbed spirits, your time of Action will last but a while. Consider, wherein you are ca∣pable to serve your generation by the will of God, and up and be doing. The Grave will be most irksome to the loy∣terer, but most welcome to the labourer, for there the weary, and only they will be at rest.
4. The Fourth Temptation which Aged persons are liable unto, is, Expectation still of longer life. No man is so Old, saith the Orator, but thinks it very possible to weather it out a year longerq; and such men do, upon the matter, think they may live alwayes. It hath been an old complaint, that men eat and drink, as though they must dye to morrow, and yet buy and build as though they must live alwayes. How usual is it with ve∣ry Aged men and women, to contrive Page 284 and appoint affairs for a month, or a year beforehand? It is not only young persons that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a City, and continue there a year, and buy and sell and get gain. Whereas you know not, what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? it is even a vapour that appeareth for a lit∣tle time, and then vanisheth away, Jam. 5. 13, 14. But even Old persons are apt to think the same thing. The most de∣crepit person fancies he shall abide here a little longer; and when that time is expir'd, still reckons to continue a little longerr.
The folly and ungroundedness of this Imagination, is obvious. For what should induce one that is already dying, to think that he shall not very quickly dy out and out? Alas! Death hath laid its cold hand already upon uss. Our Eyes, our Ears, our Hands, our Legs, our Lungs, our very Vitals are death-struck already. Death puts in for a share in every day we spendt Have we taken any Lease of our lives, for a determinate time? Can we produce any Reason, any one Reason to prove that we should live a year, or a week longer? I am sure the provoking Sins, which are in our Souls, and the Page 285 unruly Humours which are in our Bo∣dies, render our speedy death more like∣ly, than a longer life: besides the rage of Satan against us, and the many Ca∣sualties incident to us. Now when a man expects any thing, and hath no reason for such his expectation, it is la∣mentably ridiculous.
But what little Reason soever there is for such an Imagination, there is some Cause of it: And the cause seems to be a Lothness to dy. Too few there are, that are willing to part with things seen, for things unseenu. They are loth to go out of this world of men and wo∣men, into a world of Souls. Death is like a cup that will either mend or end, and such a dose is taken with a trem∣bling hand. And therefore the heart cryes out, Let me alone this year also. Thus men would put far from them the evil day, and it will prove an evil day, when it is thus deferr'd. Alas! it is not the duration of ones life, but the goodness and comfort of it, that is con∣siderable. This the dim eye of Nature saw and concluded, that a wise man chuses to live as long as he ought, not as long as he couldw. I know it is a hard pluck, to have a Soul and a body that Page 286 have▪ lived long together, to part a-sun∣der: but it is irrevocably appointed unto men to dye; and when a thing is indispensably necessary, it is the best course to consider what will best miti∣gate, and render it either desirable or to∣lerable. Wherein as right Reason may contribute much, so Christian Religion much more; whereby the holy Soul is assured of a far better house, than the body, and the body of a far better estate, after it hath slept a while in the grave.
To Remedy therefore this Temptation, Consider the Folly and ill Effects there∣of. That is a foolish Traveller, who be∣ing quite spent with the fatigue of his journey, would turn again and trave•… it over again; when as nothing is more welcome to the weary than a quiet lodg∣ingx. Upon occasion of this groundless Expectation in that rich man, Luk. 12▪ our Saviour plainly calls him, Thou fool▪ For it is the rankest folly, to expect when winter is coming, that it will re∣lent and retire again, because we distast it. No more will Death forbear us, but when our Name is called, we must go.
But this vain expectation of a longer life unfits us for Death, it keeps the Soul secure and careless, we deferr that Page 287 till to morrow, which should be done to day; we lose the present time, and dis∣pose of the future which is not in our hands, but in Godsy. This causes Men to procrastinate their Repentance, to de∣ferr the Good works which they have purposed to do, yea the very making of their Last Will hath been protra∣cted hereupon by many, until they have bin uncapable to do it. Let all Aged persons therefore be advised, to set Death each morning between themselves, and the ensuing night; and every night make that reasonable supposition, that it may arrest you before morning: The messenger that you have so long look∣ed for, will not amaze you, when he comes. As the meeting of a stroke breaks the force of it, so the Sting of death is in a great measure lost, when we are first aware of it. He that in this respect dyes daily, will easily and happily dye at last.
THE Sixth Work of Old-age is, Pro∣vidence*for Posterity. Too many when they are going out of this World, Page 288 care not what becomes, either Tempo∣rally, or Eternally, of those that shall come after them. And accordingly will neither plant'a Tree, nor repair an House, nor do any thing for the benefit of Po∣sterity. They cry, It will serve our time: and so suffer all things to go to ruine, because they are removing into another world themselves; yea and commit, or permit wilfull wast divers ways, for somepresent small advantage, leaving great inconveniences to their Successors: whereas the very Heatheus had better principles, and injoyned their Old men to plant trees, &c. which might be use∣full to another Generationz. Thus a man may be benefiting others still, af∣ter he is dead and gone, and God may be praised for your care and kindness, by them which succeed you.
And another sort there are, that in stead of leaving any Blessing or benefit, do lay up a Curse for their Posterity; by leaving them Estates which they have got by Fraud and Injustice, or some unconscio∣nable course; which is the ready way to melt away the rest how justly soever ob∣tained. You cannot invent a more com∣pendious and infallible means to undoe all your Posterity, than by transferring Page 289 to them Goods or Estates indirectly got∣ten: for God is righteous, and will not prosper unrighteous dealings. Those riches will perish by evil travel, and he begetteth a Son, and there is nothing in his hand. Eccl. 5. 14.
But if you have any care or concern for your Posterity, lay up a stock of Pray∣ers for them, and leave them, as is afore∣mention'd, wholsome and good Rules concerning Piety, Equity and Charity. Leave them an Account of your own Experience in all things material; that so, if they have any brains, they may cheaply learn what you have dearly bought. And especially leave them a Copy of your own good Example, which will be a constant Monitor, and Check to them in the whole course of their conversation.
But these having bin touched before, that which remains for the Peace, Com∣fort and good of Posterity, is a Prudent and seasonable Settling of your outward Estate. It is strange to see the great backwardness of many Aged persons to this work, as if making their Will would either lessen their Estates, or shorten their Lives, a gross and groundless Opinion; whereas the neglecting of this affair, hath a train of very ill consequences;Page 290 particularly, many of the most tedious Suits of Law are occasion'd thereby, mu∣tual Love among Relations spoiled, the poor overcome by the rich, the simple by the cunning, the Orphan by the Guardian, and very often the whole Estate squan∣dred away in trying for it. What a folly is this, to neglect that which would both quiet your own minds, and pre∣serve quiet among them that come after? Ten lines discreetly written, would pre∣vent ten thousand lines when you are dead. When the Lord therefore sent a Message of Death, by the Prophet Isaiah, to King Hezekiah, he commanded him to set his house in order, Isa. 38. 1. as if that work must of right go before his death. The Aged person then ought to present this Message daily to his Soul, Man, Woman, set thy house in order. For since it is uncertain in what place, or in what moment Death waiteth for us; it behoves us to wait for it in every place, and every moment, and consequently to set not only the heart, but the house in Order.
And in the doing of this work, let Reason and Iudgment over-rule Passion and Affection. If need be, advise in Law; the neglect whereof renders the Testa∣mentsPage 291 of many persons nothing, but Bones of Contention; and so the sparing of a small Fee at present, proves the spending of many in a short time. But however, weigh your Purposes in a good Consci∣ence, and remember that you are only Deputies under God, whose you are, and your whole Estate; that it be so Devi∣sed, as may agree with his Revealed will▪ Think with your selves, what judgment wise, and impartial persons will pass up∣on your Disposals, when you are in the grave. Pray therefore unto God on this occasion, that he would first Direct, and then Establish your Purposes, which is the likeliest way to bring them to pass.
And dispatch this affair Timcusly, while you are in health and strength. For you can never do it as you would, nor per∣haps as you should, when you are in the power of those, that stand waiting for your Estate a. They who are so weak, that they must be beholden to their Re∣lations, for every Refreshment they have need of, cannot have the liberty or oppor∣tunity to order their affairs in an impar∣tial manner. What if upon the altera∣tion of your circumstances, you revise your Will, and alter it every year? Is it not much better to be at that trouble, Page 292 than either to deferr it till you can make none at all, or such as must savour great∣ly of your present weakness? Do not imagine, that the Expedition of this, will hasten your Death. For what in∣fluence or efficacy can this have, to pro∣cure any such effect? It were easie to produce those, that have never bin with∣out a Will written and sealed, for Thir∣ty or Forty years together. It affords a man great satisfaction, in case any sudden sickness seize upon him, that he hath nothing of any earthly affairs to trouble him, nothing to do but to bear, or to be relieved of his distemper. For when our inward State is fixed, and our outward State is settled, yet we shall find it work enough, to grapple with the disquiets of a disease, and with the pangs of Death.
THE Seventh Work of Old-age, is,*Mortification. And the Object here∣of is double: 1. That which is Evil in it self. 2. That which is Lawful in it self. The Religious Old person hath work in both these.
Page 2931. One great work of Old-age is Dy∣ing to sin, to all sin. The time past of our life may suffice us to have walked in lasci∣viousness, lusts, excess of Wine, revellings, banquettings, &c. 1 Pet. 4. 3. We have sinn'd enough already, yea much more than enough; it is high time to undo that which hath almost undone us. We are dying, it is necessary that our sins dy before usb, and that by Faith in the death of Christ, and Repentance from dead works; for want of which course, our Evidences prove litigious, and snarled with inextricable doubts. It is not enough, that we want strength, or opportunity to sin, but our wills and desires towards it, must be dead also. Sin is only asleep, or benumbed in us, if we have not used Gods means to crucify it. It's not sufficient that we leave it, except we loath it. Go through-stitch therefore with this work; do it quickly, do it sincerely: it is, Kill or be Kill'd, and necessity makes the Coward resolute. Dread not any Scriptural seve∣rities necessary in Mortification. Some De∣vils are not cast out without Prayer and Fasting; and Hippocratesc observes, that Old-age is the fittest for the use of Fast∣ing. The wounds that sin hath made, must be searched to the bottom, and Page 294 doubtless it is never crucified, no more than Christ was, without pain.
How justly doth the Scripture still stig∣matize sin with the name of Folly? to weave a Webb that must be unrav'led; and to make us spend our lives between sinfull joyes, and painfull sorrowes. And though Old-age doth not mortify sin by it self, yet cooling our lusts and passi∣ons, it proves helpfull in that work d: and provided, we be truly thankful unto God for that advantage, and that we use other necessary means to that end, we may comfortably acquiesce in that bles∣sed effect; and rejoyce that the things which are displeasing to God, are be∣come unpleasant to us. But we must not be content to be only passive, in the de∣cayes of sin; we must be active in that work. If ye, through the Spirit, mortifie the deeds of the Body, ye shall live, Rom. 8. 13.
And as All sin must be the Object of Mortification, so especially all Youthful sinse. For as Chrysostom says, An Old man acting juvenile sins, is far more ridiculous than young persons, that commit those sins. To have our hearts Page 295burn with Lust, or Revenge, when our veins are freezing with Age, the soul rampant and the body dying, is mon∣strous f. And yet we know, how S. Hierom himself complains of scalding motions, that were ready to invade his withered body. And the Scripture gives us a sad Instance hereof, even of Solo∣mon the best and wisest of men alive, that had done more for God, and God for him, than any man in the age he lived in; that he when he was be∣tween Fifty and Sixty years of age, should be so far inslaved to his strange wives, as to be carried by them to wor∣ship strange gods. For it came to pass, when Soloman was Old, that his wives turn∣ed away his heart, &c. 1 Kin. 11. 4. Where∣by he set in such a cloud, as hath drawn his very Salvation into question. Let it be a warning to all Aged people, to see that their Corruptions be not asleep but dead, as far as is attainable in this life; that the Old man, as well as the outward man perish, and which will be a good proof thereof, that the inward man be renewed day by day. That our Thoughts, our Words, our very Behaviour and At∣tire proclaim, that Sin and we are part∣ed never to meet again. It was a good Page 296 answer of a Lacedemonian to one that asked him, why he wore his Beard so long? Answ. It is to mind me, that I do nothing unbeseeming my hoary hairs. A light behaviour in a grave person is foolish and loathsome: For as dead flies cause the ointment of the Apothecary to send forth a stinking saviour; so doth a little folly, him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour, Eccl. 10. 1.
2. The Other Object of Mortification proper for Old-age, is The World and all the innocent, but charming vanities there∣of. Not that they are bound actually to forsake the World, either the need∣ful cares, or the lawful comforts of it: But to wean and abate their desires of it, their delights in it, their cares about it g. This should be every Christians work, but it should be the Aged per∣sons care, in a more eminent measure. For they are ready to leave this world, and ascend into another; and every one takes off their mind from an house they are leaving. The world also is forsak∣ing them, the pleasure they have for∣merly taken in meats, apparel, build∣ing, is much decayed; the things which did formerly ravish, are now grown in∣sipid; and doth not this call aloud to Page 297 them to real Mortification? you should most readily consent to part with them, and say, Farewell my gold and all my gayeties, I meant not to injoy, but use you, I can be happy without you.
It is the absurdest sight in the world, to see one gaping and grasping after this world, when he is going into ano∣ther. Let your moderation be known un∣to all men, the Lord is at hand, Phil. 4. 5. Your loyns should be always gird∣ed about, and your lights burning, and ye your selves like unto men that wait for your Lord, Luk. 12. 35. I write unto you Fathers, Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world, 1 Joh. 2. 14, 15. Abate your love to things be∣low, and increase your love to things above: Nothing can overcome love but Love, love of earthly things, but the Love of heavenly things, as nothing can fetch out fire like fire. O when we do love all these things for God, we will willingly leave them all to go to God, for whose sake only we valued them. Otherwise you will find it an hard pluck to leave them, even like the plucking the Skin off your hand; whereas the heart that is mortified to them, can part with them, as easily as you can Page 298 draw the glove off your hand. How readi•… did 〈◊〉 g•… up into the mount, and dye! what little noise or dispute did Iacob, or David, or Paul make a∣bout leaving •…he world? They were dead to 〈◊〉〈◊〉▪ He that said I am ready to be offer•…, had said before, the world is crucified to me, and I unto •…he world.
So that the Aged person should be mortified to Life it self; he should be very well content to dy. It was a sad Confession of Caesar Borgia that ambiti∣ous Grandee, when he was near his end, that he was prepar'd for every occur∣rent but Death; which was the only thing that he should have been most ready for. But 'tis Grace, not years that makes us dead to the world, and to the desire of Life h. When the Aged man hath made it his business to honour God, to save his own soul, and to serve his own generation, he may with uncon∣ceivable comfort say with Old Simeon, Lord, now lettest thou thy Servant depart in peace; I have done with this life, welcome be the grave, welcome ever∣lasting life.
THE Eighth Work of Old-age is,*Laying up a treasure in Heaven. Where by Heaven I understand not on∣ly the Place, but the Nature of the Treasures, heavenly Treasures. Some of these the Aged will have need of Before Death, of some At Death, of some After Death.
1. You should lay up for your selves a Treasure of Prayers, and Promises to support you before Death comes. Of Prayer I have spoken before; but there are Promises that are very comfortable and very necessary for Old people; which they who are assured of Gods Veracity, and their own Integrity, may apply to themselves, as if individually directed unto them. The Apostle makes that inference from that excellent Promise, which hath more value in it, than all the Old mans baggs and bonds, Heb. 13. 5. I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee; whence he inferrs, vers. 6. So that we, even we, may boldly say, The Lord is my helper. Another Promise there is, Page [unnumbered] most comfortable for Ancient people, Isa. 46. 4. Even to your Old-age I am he, and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear, even I will carry, and will deliver you. When our feeble legs will not carry us; when the pillars of the house tremble, and in effect cry out, we can bear you no longer; then will the power and goodness of God carry us up and deliver us, yea when we approach to Death, and fear presents it, and the grave most formidably, we may then apply what the Lord spake to Old Iacob, concerning his going down in∣to Egypt, Gen. 46. 3. I am God, the God of thy father, fear not to go down into Egypt: For I will go down with thee, and will also surely bring thee up again. So assuredly will the Lord go down with us to the grave, and as surely bring us up again, and how can we be afraid with such company, and with such a pro∣mise? Hoard on still, there is another gracious Promise, Psal. 23. 4. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff they com∣fort me: More yet, Psal. 48. last. For this God is our God for ever and ever, he will be our guide even unto death. These Page 301 and such like Promises, left by him that cannot lye, will support the sinking spi∣rits of a poor Christian more than all the friends, the cordials, the extrinsick comforts in the whole world.
2. At Death you will need a Trea∣sure of Faith and Patience. The reign of Sense is expired; somewhat is ne∣cessary to support a dying man, more than a living healthy man. What is it that makes Death terrible to a poor creature? The withdrawing of all a mans outward comforts, and the Appearance of all his Sins: When one is dying, they must leave husband, wife, children, pa∣rents, friends, house, all. Now Faith will give us a real sight of the other world; and one sight of that quite dis∣graces and annihilates all the comforts of this world. Adieu poor house, I see a far better ready for me! adieu my dear∣est friends and relations, I see those en∣joyments before me, that utterly eclypse you all! And then, when your Sins are mustered up before you, their heinous nature, and deserved punishment, and that Satan bestirs him, to represent them with the greatest Terror, to the Aged dying person; if Faith be dormant, the poor soul is driven into the pit of de∣spair.Page [unnumbered] But a lively Faith flies to Iesus Christ, runs into his wounds, lays hold on his everlasting righteousness, and so bids defiance to Satan, yea even to the law, and all his sins, with, Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that dyed. It is related in an Epistle prefixed to Brenti∣us's works, that when a certain Senator in Suevia lay dying, one like a Scribe came into his chamber with pen and paper, calling to him to reckon up his sins; for, saith he, I am sent from God to bring an account of them to his Tri∣bunal: Well, saith the Sick man, raising up himself as well as he could, and per∣ceiving that he had to do with his great Enemy, the Devil; write this down first, The seed of the woman shall break the ser∣pents head, and thou mayst write all my sins under it: Whereupon the Accuser of the brethren presently vanished, and left the weak man in peace.
And you will have need of Patience also, that after ye have done and suffer∣ed the will of God, ye may receive the promise, Heb. 10. 36. So acute, or else tedious are some Distempers, that they will strain all the nerves of the Soul, to wrestle with them. Lay up there∣fore, by diligent reading, hearing, me∣ditation, Page 303 and Prayer, a stock of these Graces, before the evil day come. These are the true riches, and which neither the fire can burn, nor the plague in∣fect, nor time wast, nor thieves pur∣loyn.
3. And lastly, It behoves the Aged to lay up a Treasure, which they may meet with After death; to wit, of Good works. In this life is your seed time for these; and they that scatter this preci∣ous seed, shall doubtless, mark, doubtless they shall come again with rejoycing, bring∣ing their sheaves with them, Psal. 126. 6. Faith and good works may well agree in a Christian, and though they cannot co∣operate to a mans Iustification, (for though both of them are Acts of a crea∣ture, yet Faith derives not this influ∣ence from the Subject, but from the Ob∣ject; it justifies as it apprehends and imbraces Christ) notwithstanding both are necessary to Salvation, Luk. 12. 33. Sell that ye have, and give alms, provide your selves baggs which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth; i. e. This treasure is neither liable to intrinsick decay, nor to extrin∣sick casualty. What other treasure hath Page 304 escaped danger, but who can scale the Empyrean Heaven? These the Apostle calls a good foundation, 1 Tim. 6. 19. Charge the rich that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to di∣stribute, willing to communicate: Laying up in store for themselves a good founda∣tion against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. Other rich∣es you lay up for others, yea perhaps for such as you know not; but by doing all the good you can, you lay up some∣thing in store for your selves. What if the advantage be not at present visi∣ble, men will lay out money upon a good Reversion, though they never live to injoy it. Here is a Reversion worth the having, Eternal life.
Many useful things may be done in this life, which cannot be done by you when this life is ended. Now you may feed the poor, cloath the naked, redeem the captive, incourage learning, promote Soul-saving Preaching, &c. Are you any other than Gods Stewards? and poor Chri∣stians, poor Tradesmen, poor Scholars, poor Ministers are Gods Assigns, to whom he appoints you to do good out of his stock in your hand, according to your ability and their necessity. You do but Page 305draw Bills upon Almighty God by every good Work, which he will most faith∣fully and fully pay in the Kingdom of Heaven. I omit the Story of Synesius; our blessed Saviour hath said enough to perswade us, if we be not Infidels, from that Parable of the unjust Steward, Luk. 16. where he thus concludes, ver. 9. Make to your selves friends of the Mam∣mon of unrighteousness, that when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting ha∣bitations. Consider now before it be too late, what a sad prospect it will be for you on your death-bed, to re∣view the book of a life, wherein is no∣thing but Blots, transgressions on the one side of the page; and Blanks, omissi∣ons of good on the other.
Bethink your selves therefore, which way you may yet do some good in the world. Do not live, do not dye to your selves: poor Christ in his members begs of you to remember him. Oblige him here in the Countrey, and he will be∣friend you at the Court. Whilst you have opportunity, do good unto all, especi∣ally to the houshold of faith, Gal. 6. 10. your opportunity will shortly be over and past; yet you have something to give, and some body to give unto: but if you Page 306refuse or delay it, shortly you will have nothing to give, no body to relieve. And remember Gods Counsel, 2 Cor. 9. 6. He which soweth sparingly, shall reap sparing∣ly; and he which soweth bountifully, shall reap bountifully. I urge you not, to un∣doe your selves by doing good to others; but that ye be ready, willing, and rich in good works, according to the talents wherewith you are intrusted. And this will be a good Proof that your Faith is sound, when you can part with pre∣sent and visible things, upon the word and promise of an Invisible God, for fu∣ture things which are unseen.
And, if the circumstances of your Estate will bear it▪ let me prevail with you to make your own Eyes your Overseers, and your own hands your Executors. For though I would not discourage any one from making pious or charitable Be∣quests in their Wills, by bewailing the un∣certainty, the abuse, and loss of such inten∣tions: But the thing it self is no way so laudable, or acceptable; only to part with what we cannot keep: it insinuates, that if we could alwayes live, we would ne∣ver part with any thing; whereby there is neither that Faith, nor that Charity exercised which becomes a Christian.Page 307Withhold not good from them to whom it is due: mark, it is due to them, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it, Prov. 3. 27. You are just ready to travel in∣to another Countrey, take care to send something before you, lest you lose both Earth and Heaven at once.
THE Ninth Work of Old-age is Me∣ditation*of Death and Eternity. Meditation in general is the application of our thoughts to some particular Sub∣ject: which being imployed about things Holy, becomes one of the parts of In∣ward Religion. A most excellent and useful exercise, and which greatly in∣riches the Soul i. It was a clear proof of the great sanctity of Davids heart, that he was so frequent and familiar in this imployment; sometimes on God, sometimes on his Word, sometimes on his Works, both of Creation and of Pro∣vidence, &c. O that we all had the Art of it, the Heart of it, for the heart is all. Doubtless if our Love were stronger, our meditation would be longerPage 308 on these things, for where the trea∣sure is, there the heart will dwell also. I know some Constitutions of body are more capable of it than others, but certainly the more the soul is sanctified, that is, mortified to things below and vivified to things above, the more chear∣fully will it dwell upon spiritual things; such as the Stomach is, such food will it desire.
But among other useful Points, The Aged is greatly concern'd to Meditate on Death, and the endless Life after it; which is, to pencill out before the Eyes of his mind the time of his Departure, the serious Circumstances and Consequen∣ces of it. We should place our selves upon our Death-beds, gasping there for breath, our Friends ready to close our Eyes, the dabbe of flegme ready to stop our breath, and our Souls just forsaking the poor carkass. When we look upon our hands and feet, it should be attend∣ed with these thoughts, that shortly they will be turn'd to rottenness; that the worms will make furrows in our faces, and feed upon our very hearts; yea that we at present do breed and nourish the vermine, that wait for to devour us: that e're long we shall have Page 309 nothing to do here, our house and goods in the possession of those that would be affrighted to see us again: that we must lodge a long time in the dark grave, and the Soul must go into an unknown world, and that unto all Eter∣nity. These are thoughts for Aged per∣sons; and not to▪ be roving about things past to no purpose, or contriving about things of this world to come. This is in some sence to dy daily, to wit, by serious thoughts concerning our latter end.
The truth is, this is a duty incumbent upon all. Hence that saying, Deut. 32. 29. O that they were wise, that they un∣derstood this, that they would consider their latter end. A Deaths-head is no unfit furniture, for a young persons closetk. The serious apprehensions of the exceed∣ing great change, which Death will make, would give a check to that wantonness, worldliness and vain-glory, which cleaves to us all by nature. For Death observes not our humane order, it▪ is anomalous, we are not called ac∣cording to our Age; it proceeds not according to our Registersl. Your con∣sidering of Death will not make you Older but Better. But principally it con∣cerns Page 310 the Aged, who live in the con∣fines of the grave. You should be ac∣quainted with it, for you are neighbour's to it. It is one of the Spanish Proverbs, That the Old mans Staff is the Rapper at Deaths-door. When Cato would awaken the Roman Senate to level Carthage, he brought in some green figs thence among them, thereby to shew unto them, how soon those their inveterate Enemies, their distance being so small, might be with a Fleet among them; alas! how small is the distance between an Old man and his grave! Is it not reasonable therefore, is it not necessary, that we should be provided for this enemy? and since we cannot escape it, ought we not to be re∣conciled to it, to be better acquainted with it, yea and learn some way to overcome it. And certainly the more we rightly think of it, the less we shall fear it or be hurt by it m. We must drink this Cup, and therefore it is all the reason in the world, that we should take some foretasts of it, especially con∣sidering the sequele of it: that it sets us on an everlasting shore. It's time for Old people to bethink them well, sith a Crown or Flames are just before them: When you sit trimming the fire ponder Page 311 this, whether you can indure the fire that is unquenchable; when you lift up those dazled eyes towards Heaven, consider what title you have to the blessed Man∣sions there. What have you to do be∣low? your traffick now should be in Invisibles; you have studied long enough how to live, at length you should study how to dy.
These Meditations are certainly of great Excellence, and of great Use. Bet∣ter it is to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men, and the living will lay it to his heart, Eccl. 7. 2. 'Tis more pleasant indeed to go to the house of feasting, how gladly do people go that way? but it is better to go to the house of mourning, for there we see what is the end of all men, and so the living will lay something that's useful to his heart. These thoughts will quicken any rational man to do and get all the good he can, while he is on this side the line of Eternity. The less a poor Old creature can do about the affairs of this life, the more he should endeavour to do about that better life. These presentiating thoughts of Death will make us care∣ful and conscionable in all our wayes, Page 312 as seeing that Change alwayes at hand. I write this Letter, saith Senecan, with such a mind, as if Death were to call me away, before I have done: and being ready to go, the less I value Life, the more comfortably I enjoy it. For, as the same Authouro saith in another place; Theirs is the most anxious life, that forget what's past, neglect what's present, and are a∣fraid of what's to come. For certainly they that for∣get their past sins, and neg∣lect their present duty, have cause to fear their reckoning to come. As on the the other side, he that, having an in∣lightned and sensible Conscience, can think of Death without disturbance, hath made a good progress in Religion.
And yet if Death, were only the fi∣nishing of Life, these Thoughts about it were not so necessary or considerable: but we are assured of an Everlasting Life im∣mediately following; that the extremest happiness or misery commences thereupon, which also never ends. Now what Thoughts or cares can be so momentous, as those about our endless Glory or Torment?Page 313 Sit down then, compose your selves to this Meditation; draw a Curtain over all this present World and your Con∣cerns therein, and open a window into Eternity, and by Faith look steadily into it. Look Upward first, and survey those blessed Mansions, that glorious Company, the sweet Imployment, the unconceivable Injoyment, the transcendent Bliss of Body and Soul in the full Fruition of God to all Eternity. And will not these Medi∣tations nullifie all the faint and fading comforts of this Life? will they not cause you to trample under foot the Plea∣sures of sin, that are but for a season? will they not easily wean you from your dearest Relations upon Earth? will they not carry you with longing desires to in∣joy the beatifical Vision? will you not cry out with Augustine, Can no man see thy face and live? O let me dy then, to see thy face!
Again, look Downward into that Bot∣tomless Pit, and by faith behold the de∣sperate condition of the Damned: lay your Ear to the Key-hole of Hell, and hearken a while to the weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth there. Consider the torments of a roaring Conscience, the fury of exasperated Devils, the unspeak∣able Page 314 racks and tortures of wofull Bodies, which must be as much beyond what the most cruel Malice can invent or act, as the Almighty and just indignation of God exceeds the weak and finite wrath of Man: And these to continue during the innumerable spaces of an unconceiv∣able Eternity; and the Aged man must conclude, that there is no other way for him to take at Death, but into one of these Receptacles: and that he may just∣ly expect by reason of his Age very short∣ly to determine this point, that he is even at the door; that he hangs over this Etenity by a slender twist, which is now almost fretted through, and that before a few weeks or days are come, he must go the way whence he shall not return. What agitations of heart would these Meditations produce in us? what dili∣gence in making our Calling and Ele∣ction sure? what contempt of all the World? what detestation of the sweetest sins? In short, the Thoughts of Eternity would effectually disgrace the trifles of Time, and prepare the Aged for the in∣joyment of it.
How comes it then to pass, that we are so backward to the thoughts of Death and the World to come? The truth is, Page 315 it is not gratefull to Flesh and Blood. Hence, when thousands died in the Wil∣derness, which should probably of it self have made impressions on the rest, yet then Moses finds it needfull to beg of God, Psal. 90. 12. So teach us to number our dayes, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom. Alas! we find that we can think on any Person in the world ra∣ther than of God, and of any Thing in the world rather than of our Soul, and of any part of our Lives rather than of Death, and of any place in the world ra∣ther than of Heaven. But should Flesh and Blood be gratified, rather than our Maker, our Redeemer, our Comforter, our own Souls? God forbid. How many un∣pleasant doses do we take, to preserve or recover the health of the body? But here the health and happiness both of body and soul are concerned. I may boldly say, that Death will prove a bitter Cup to those that live at ease, and that will make no acquaintance with it, before it seize upon them. We are surpriz'd with any thing that is altogether new, but frequent converse maketh the most fear∣full Objects familiar. Walk then into the place of Skulls; make room for your Coffin in your Chambers or in your Minds,Page 316 and call before you all the solemn Cir∣cumstances of your own Funerals, and step now and then into the other world by holy Meditation. Your natural Eye growes dim, open then the Eye of Faith, and penetrate into things unseen. You cannot work, but you can think; your sleeps are broken, but then you may have golden hours: When you have va∣rious discomforts below, you may have hereby unspeakable comfort above; yea this will inure you unto, and begin that blessed life which you hope to live for ever. He that thus travels often to Hea∣ven while he lives, will more certainly and comfortably be lodged there for ever, when he dies.
THE Tenth and last Work of Old∣age,* is Perseverance to the End, and that, 1. In doing: 2. In suffering the will of God.
1. In Active Obedience. You must never be weary of well-doing, nor imagine that your work is done, till your life is done. It was an evil Servant, that because his Lord delayed his coming, fell Page 317to smite his fellow-servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken, Matt. 24. 48. Alas! there are many points of your duty, which you have formerly Omitted, and there are other which you have done by the halves, and spoiled them in your performing of them. You had need therefore to be as busie as ever you can, to correct the Errata's in the large book of your Lives. You should think, that there be many Persons who were born after you, who have got the start of you in Knowledge, Holiness and Charity, and therefore you had need to crowd as much work into your narrow time, as you can. If your Principles be sound, you will be some way fruitfull to the last. The righteous man will hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands will be stronger and stronger, Job 17. 9. It's Elementary fire that's apt to go out, the celestial fire is never quenched. If you had but one grain of the right Mustard-seed, it will grow to be a great tree. The path of the just is like the shining light, that shi∣neth more and more to the perfest day. Prov. 4. 18. O labour to cross that un∣charitable Proverb, A young Saint, and an old Devilp: rather, he that is a Saint when he is young, should be an AngelPage 318 when he is old. The nearer any thing comes to its center, the faster it moves; so the nearer we approach perfection, the more we should hunger after it and labour for it. No man approached near∣er unto God than Moses, and no man made so ambitious a suit, that he might draw nearer to him. And the Lord said unto Moses, thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name. And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy Glory, Exod. 33. 17, 18. It was a complaint of old, that few people were solicitous how well, but only how long they should live: when as a good life might be at∣tained by many, a long life only by a fewq. But our business should be to live well, and referr it to the wise God to determine how long. It is said, Isa. 65. 20. There shall not be an old man that hath not filled his dayes: Its true, that signifies, all the Aged shall compleat their time, they shall fall ripe into their graves: But then it should follow, that if God in his goodness please to fill up the dayes of the Aged, surely they also should fill their dayes with some good service or other.
Hold out then to run with patience the race that is set before you. He that sits Page 319 down within sight of the goal, loseth the race, and so loseth the things that he hath wrought: Si dixisti, sufficit, peri∣isti. He that concludes, I have believ∣ed or obeyed sufficiently, is a lost man. The hoary head must be still found in the way of righteousness, Prov. 16. 31. If our face be withered, yet we must take care that our faith be not withered. We should make it appear, that our spiritu∣al heat or zeal did not result only from our natural heat and vigour. To see a young man wise, and an Old man zealous are most grateful objects to God and man. They are those that by patient con∣tinuance in well doing, seek for glory and honour and immortality, that shall obtain eternal life, Rom. 2. 7.
And here let all Aged persons beware of the Rock of Carnal Security and Pre∣sumption. Some of those that have lived long, are prone to rely upon their very Age as an Argument of Gods favour: Whereas Old-age will save no man. It may be a means of Salvation in a large sence, in affording you Space of Re∣pentance: And it will be an aggrava∣tion of your impenitence, in case you have such space, and yet not grace to re∣pent: But otherwise it can make no Page 320 argument for your salvation; for God hath said, that the sinner being an hun∣dred years old shall be accursed, Isa. 65. 20.
And Others that have been serious and serviceable in their dayes, may perhaps presume upon what they have been or have done, as if they might be justified thereby; or else that they need to take no further pains about their own Salva∣tion or others good; whereas in the morning we must sow our seed, and not withhold our hand in the evening; for we know not whether shall prosper, either this or that; or whether they both shall be alike good: Which S. Hierom applies to this matter; Say not, saith he, I have been diligent while I was able; I may rest my self in mine Old-age; for thou know∣est not, whether shall more please and honour God in thy Youth, or in thine Age r. Thus we read that when Old Mr. Knox was dying, he was assaulted with this proud Engine, what Service he had done his Master, which he pre∣sently repelled with that of the Apostle, 1 Cor. 4. 7. Who maketh thee to differ, and what hast thou that thou di•…st not receive? And the same Apostle had said a little before, ver. 4. I know nothing by my self, yet am I not hereby justified. Alas! all our Page 321righteousness will not cover one of our Sins. We must say without a comple∣ment, we are unprofitable Servants, when we have done our best. Neither may we imagine that any our former dili∣gence, will excuse our future negligence. As long as we live we must not live to our selvess, but we ought to live unto the Lord, Rom. 14. 7, 8. The ancient Ser∣vant cannot do so much as he hath done, but he oversees affairs, he directs others in their imployments, his head is full of cares about his Masters busi∣ness, and therein he dies and so must we. No man must think, saith Sene∣cat, that because of his gray hairs only or wrinkles he hath lived long; he may have indured long, but he hath not lived, unless he have improved his life. It was the honourable Epitaph of Abraham, Gen. 25. 8. He died in a good old age, an old man and full—there is no more in the Hebrew, you may adde full of dayes, full of Grace and Comfort, full of Hea∣ven. And it was the comfortable in∣couragement of Eliphaz to Iob, which was truly fulfilled unto him, Thou shalt come to thy grave in a full age, like as a shock of corn cometh in, in its sea∣son, Job 5. 26. for he died old and fullPage 322of dayes, Job 42. last: he had lived as long as he could wish, and had lived to good purpose. He was full of dayes, and his dayes were full of good fruits.
2. The Other branch of Perseverance is, in Suffering the will of God, or in Pas∣sive Obedience. The Aged person must hold out herein to the end. He that endureth to the end shall be saved. Per∣haps you will be followed with great distress and of long continuance, and sore sickness and of long continuance, as is threatned, Deut. 28. 59. You cannot rea∣sonably expect, but that at least some bodily distemper will last as long as your life, yea peradventure such painful dis∣eases as will put all your patience to the rout, if the Lord be not your helper: but yet you must not murmur, nay you must not grudge, nor make hast; but in∣dure the Lords pleasure, and wait the Lords leisure. I was dumb, I opened not my mouth, because thou didst it. The sight of the haven animates the weather∣beaten mariner. Hitherto the Lord hath helped you, and as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. He that hath put that compassi∣on into the heart of a father, hath a surpassing infinite Ocean of it in himselfu: Page 323 and withal he knows our frame, he re∣members that we are but dust, Psal. 103. 13, 14. He that hath the wisdom and power of a God, and the pity of a father, will be sure to lay no more upon you, than he will inable you to bear and to overcome.
And therefore the Aged must beware of the other Extream, namely, the Gulf of Despondence, and Dejection of Spirit. Their Sins are mustered up against them, their outward strength is decayed, their Spirits broken with a succession of cares and troubles, their distempers and pains are heavy upon them, their friends and relations seem to be weary of them, and an unperswadable Enemy Death stands just before them. And what flesh alive can bear up under such and so many weights together! But besides what hath been offered before, I adde, that as all these Mortifications are need∣ful to wean us from this world, from the love whereof even these can hardly divorce us; so all such Discomsorts should drive the Aged person no lower than his knees, even unto God who hath said, Be not dismayed, for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee, yea I will help thee, yea I will uphold thee with the right handPage 324of my righteousness, Isa. 41. 10. Have not all the Saints and Servants of God that have lived to Old-age, pass'd these pikes before you? have they not born these burdens, that you sink under. There is no temptation befaln you, but what is common to men. Where is the faith, where are the prayers that you have been laying up for such a time? O miserable Old-man, said the Heathen Orator, that in so long a life, hast not yet learned to despise Death; which is not at all to be feared, if it extinguish the Soul; and greatly to be desired, if it convey the Soul into an everlasting good condition w. And then for the pain in Death, the same Author tells us, that if there be any sense of pain in dy∣ing, it is but very short; especially to Old people, that have prevented it and tasted it by degrees. And therefore ne∣ver render your life or death unquiet as many do, that even dye for fear of dying, that create by their melancholy fancies greater torments to themselves, than Death brings with it. Behold it through the glass of Gods word, which represents it only as a Dissolution, to wit, out of a prison to go to Christ, Phil. 1. 23. Go∣ing to rest, Isa. 57. 2. Finishing our course,Page 325 2 Tim. 4. 8. Falling asleep in Iesus, 1 Thes. 4. 14. and a stepping out of this world unto our father, Joh. 13. 1. and why should the prospect hereof at all deject us? Yea, in case you should have the honour to be called to suffer Death for Christ, and his Truth; yet fear it not under its most terrible Aspect: for the Supports and Comforts of that Tryal will ballance, yea surmount the fears and pains thereof. As the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abound∣eth by Christ, 2 Cor. 1. 5. Strive there∣fore rather to adorn, than to avoid the Cross: considering that, as it is a great honour for you in your Old-age to suf∣fer for the Truthx, so it is a great shame, that the Truth should suffer by you. It was the worthy Resolution of Old Eleazar, when he was urged to counterfeit the eating of Swines flesh, to save his life:
Nay, it is not enough, that we be con∣tent and quiet under these discouragements, that we who have received good at the hands of the Lord, be content with evil also: but we should triumph over them. In all these things we should be more than conquerours through him that loved us. Our rooted Faith, our fixed Hope, our long Experience should lift us up to sur∣mount all these fears and troubles. The veterane Soldier must not be scared with such Hydra's. We are near the promi∣sed Land, the news of these Anakims in our way should not affright us, they Page 327 are bread for us, as Ioshua said. When these things come upon you, then look up and lift up your heads, for your redemp∣tion draweth nighy. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life, Rev. 2. 10.
And thus we are at length arrived at the end of the Aged persons Work, which was the Seventh and Last thing to be treated of in this Subject.
The Practice of these things now only remains: That we study to correct the Causes, avoid the Sins, obtain the Graces, sustain the Inconveniences, improve the Priviledges, and dispatch the Work descri∣bed before us. Wherein we must ear∣nestly implore the gracious Assistance of God, who worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure, and who will not fail us therein, unless we be wanting to our selves.
And O that all Younger people would learn Knowledge, Temperance, and Indu∣stryz in their youth, which will be the only means to attain to an Healthy, Weal∣thy, and Holy Old-age.
Books Printed for, and sold by Thomas Parkhurst at the Bible and three Crowns at the lower end of Cheap-side near Mer∣cers Chappel.
- A Present for Teeming Women to be given to them by their Husbands or Friends. By Iohn Oliver Minister of the Gospel. In Octa∣vo.
- A Serious Exhortation to Self-Examination, delivered in five Sermons on the 2 Cor. 13. 5. By Thomas Wadsworth M. A. Minister of the Go∣spel, sometime at Newington Butts Southwark, In Octavo.
- The difference between the Spots of the God∣ly and the Wicked. By Mr. Ieremiah Burroughs of Cripplegate.
- Scripture Warrant, sufficient proof for Infant Baptism, being a Reply to Mr. Granthams Pre∣sumption no proof: by Giles Firmin. In Octavo.
- Mr. Wadsworth's Remains, being Meditations with Respect to the Lords Supper, &c.
- Thoughtfulness for the Morrow.
- The Redeemers Tears.
- Charity in Reference to other Mens Sins. All Three by Iohn How, Minister of the Gospel.