The Old Man
James Smith, 1858
In my walk this morning, I met an old man, his few locks were silvery white, his body was bending toward the earth, and he appeared to lean heavily on his strong staff. His days on earth must now be few, and his pleasures fewer. An old man is always an interesting object, one naturally feels led to reverence the hoary head. I had a few kind words and a Christian tract for the venerable man, and so left him, perhaps to see him no more on earth. But his figure is still before me, and I feel that I would like to pen a few lines, which may perhaps be of use to some aged man, or aged woman.
Few are called by grace at an advanced age — but blessed be God, some are. It is as easy for God to regenerate the aged, as the young — but it is not generally his method. Most Christians are converted young, or by when they have arrived at middle age. Nevertheless, the Lord does call some at the eleventh hour, and who shall say, that this paper may not be the means of blessing to some.
My aged friend, religion is always necessary — but for you it is especially needful. You need its comforts to cheer you, its promises to animate you, and its prospects to brighten your few remaining days. You find but little pleasure in earthly things now, and soon, if it is not so at present — your strength will be but labor and sorrow. If you had the grace of God working in your heart, and the Word of God dwelling in your memory — you would enjoy sweet meditations in your lonely hours by day, and in your sleepless hours by night. The presence of Jesus, the light of God's countenance, and the comforting influences of the Holy Spirit, would more than make up for the privations of age, and would reconcile you to your present difficult lot.
And not only so — but with the grace of God in your heart, you would be prepared for Heaven, and possess the witness in your own heart, that absent from the body, you would be present with the Lord. Real religion — sweetens all the joys of life, extracts much of the bitterness from its sorrows, and gives us a glorious victory over death and the grave.
What a lovely sight is an aged believer! Long has he experienced the love of his covenant God. Often has he proved the Most High God to be faithful to his word. For years he has been useful to his fellow men, and an ornament to the religion he has professed. And now, like a tree laden with precious fruit, he is not only an ornament — but a blessing. He waits for his change with patience. He walks on the banks of Jordan, with a lively hope animating his heart. He looks to the promised land, and anticipates the time when he shall depart and be with Christ, which he is persuaded is far better.
But what a painful sight is an aged sinner! Bending beneath the weight of threescore years and ten, with no hope founded on God's Word, with no bright prospect of everlasting life — but ignorant of God, a stranger to the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, and ending his days in gloom and sadness! He has lived to no purpose. He has made no provision for eternity. He has wasted his life, and must now reap the bitter fruits of what he has sown. His mental powers are weakened and dimmed by age, and his physical powers are all but worn out — what can he do? How will he be able to stand before his Maker. . .
with the sins of a long life to answer for;
with the demands of God's law to meet;
with the curse hanging over his head;
with Hell blazing before him!
What, oh! what can he do? He has no Savior to support him, no Heavenly Father to comfort him, no good hope to animate him. He has lived without faith in Christ. He is a stranger to repentance for sin. He knows nothing of the privilege of prayer.
Within, all is dark and dreary.
Behind him, is a long life spent in folly, thoughtlessness, and sin.
Before him, there is the judgment seat of Christ, the place of torment, and eternity without a ray of light shining upon it!
How sad, how unspeakably sad is such a state! And yet, we fear that many of our aged people are in this state. Reader, is this your case? Is there any reason to fear that it will be? Every sinner is in danger — but an aged sinner is in peculiar danger. It is no use saying, "God is merciful," because he is as just — as he is merciful. Besides which, he is not bound to show mercy to any sinner outside of Christ — but he must be just. And if you are found outside of Christ, justice demands that you should be punished. There was no mercy for the old world — but in the Ark of Noah; and there is no saving mercy for anyone out of Christ. There was no mercy for anyone of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, therefore Lot must be brought out; and there is no mercy for a world that lies in wickedness, therefore every one that obtains mercy must be brought out of the world, and be brought into Christ.
God is not affected by the hoary head, the wrinkled face, the tremulous voice, and the stooping gait — as we are. Therefore he has said in his word, that "the sinner dying a hundred years old, shall be accursed."
There is great difficulty in the way of the salvation of an old sinner. It is so difficult to make him understand the way of salvation, to bring him to feel his totally lost condition, and lead him as a naked sinner to the Lord Jesus. We generally find old sinners very self-righteous. They imagine that have not done any very great evil — but they have done many good deeds. Then they cannot think that God will be so very severe, or that they should be sent to so horrible a place as Hell. They speak, as if God was altogether such a one as themselves, and could not find it in his heart to punish a poor old man, or a poor old woman. They are full of self-pity and self-love, and think that God will take just such a view of them and of their lives, as they do.
This is a fearful, a fatal mistake — but it is most difficult to convince them of it, or drive them from it. If you tell them they are sinners, they may assent to it — but they do not feel it. Set Christ before them, and they will admit the truth of all you say — but they never take one step toward him, however you may urge them to flee to him for refuge. Their minds seem to have come to a stand-still, and their feelings are fearfully blunted in reference to all spiritual subjects. O how few are ever led to Jesus in old age! How difficult is the salvation of an old man!
We know that grace is omnipotent — but it is seldom exerted to save the old and hardened. With God all things are possible, or not one such would be saved, nor should we find the least encouragement to write; but we seldom see old people striving to enter in at the strait gate, or agonizing with God for the salvation of their souls.
And, if an aged person is called at the eleventh hour, and is saved so as by fire — what bitter regrets most be felt. To look back — and see all one's days spent in the service of the devil, all one's talents employed in the practice of sin, and to realize that for sixty or seventy years, we have been a curse instead of a blessing! To think that many may be in Hell — through our influence; and many more hardened in sin — by our example! To find that though we are laid under infinite obligations to the Lord Jesus, we have now neither time nor talents to make him any return. O how bitter must be the reflections of one, who has lived all his days in sin, and only sought the Lord just as he was about leaving the world.
Not that such must necessarily be fully useless, as they may still bear a feeble testimony for God. They may warn the young against following their example, and exhort and encourage others to seek that Savior whose grace is infinite, and whose blood cleanses from all sin.
Some time ago an old woman was called by grace, and joined a Christian Church. Her pastor received her with joy — but yet felt sad to think that Satan had had all the best of her days, and that, though now converted to God — yet she would not be able to do anything for God. Some time afterwards, calling to see her, he found she was away from home, and was directed by a neighbor where to find her. He entered the house where she was, and found her sitting by the bed-side of a neighbor, and reading to her of Jesus, out of "The Messenger of Mercy." Then, said he, "I stood reproved, for I saw that though the aged cannot do much for Christ, everyone will do something if the heart is right."
Still, the young are the hope of the Church, and to them we must look as the instruments in the hands of God, of carrying on the Savior's cause.
To conclude, to everyone who reads these lines, whether young or old, I am authorised by my Master to say: you may be saved, for the Lord Jesus Christ is able to save you, and he has saved some just your age, and in very similar circumstances to yours. His grace is sufficient to save the vilest, the most hardened, the most advanced in life. His blood will cleanse the foulest, it will cleanse you.
Let me entreat you, if you are young — to seek the Lord at once, that you may never be exposed to the danger in which an old sinner is placed, or suffer the bitter pangs which an old sinner feels. There is mercy for you now, you may obtain it, enjoy it, and be made a blessing through it.
If you are aged — do not delay one moment, for it will soon be too late. Your sun is not yet gone down — but it may sink suddenly, your case is not desperate — but it may be soon. Flee, O flee to Jesus! Cry, cry mightily to God for mercy! You are in imminent danger — delay not! Hell is dreadful — and even now it yawns to receive you! Eternity is fearful — and it is just ready to burst upon you! What will you do in your dying hour — if death finds you without Christ? What will you do at the day of judgment — if you die in your sins? How will you endure the wrath of God, which like a tremendous storm will forever beat upon your naked soul, if you die unpardoned and unsanctified? O, by all that is sweet in happiness, by all that is terrible in pain, by all the glories of Heaven, and by all the horrors of Hell — I beseech you flee from the wrath to come! I warn you, I entreat you, I beseech you — flee from the wrath to come!!!