HOW TO GROW OLD GRACEFULLY. BY JOEL HAWES, D. D.

Job 5 : 26. Thou shalt come to thy grave in a full age, like as a shock of corn Cometh in in his season.

A FIELD of grain, fully ripe, waving to the breeze, and ready to be gathered, in rich golden sheaves, into the garner, is a beautiful sight to behold. That field had its season of ploughing, sowing and cultivation. The seed, scattered in the mellowed and well prepared soil, sprung up and grew, under the genial influence of the sun, the rain and the dew ; showing first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear, till ripened and ready for reaping, the husbandman thrust in his sickle and gathered the rich, " yellow harvest home." This is the strik-

282 HOW TO GROW OLD GRACEFULLY.

ing comparison used in our text to set forth the process, growth and issue of a well spent, religious life. It was applied by Eliphaz to Job, and was designed to assure him that if he should S23end life as he ought, in obedience to God, he would advance intd age pleasantly, and happily ; would not be cut off before the fruits of righteousness had fully ripened in

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his life ; but would be preserved to a good old age, and would finally come to his grave, and thence to heaven, as a shock of corn fully ripe in his season. This is to be taken as expressing a general principle or rule. A w^ell spent life is usually a prolonged and happy life. As it passes from childhood to youth, and from youth to middle age, and from thence to old age, it exhibits, at its different stages, the various aspects and beauties of a springing and ripening field of grain, and finally terminates in a rich harvest, meet to be gathered into the garner of heaven. Thou shalt come to thy grave in a full age, like as a shock of corn cometh in in his season.

I shall take occasion from the text to show how to grow old gracefully, or how to grow old so that age, as it advances, may be an honor and a comfort to us, and terminate in peace and happiness. The subject may seem to be applicable only to the aged, or those just passing the meridian of life. But I mean so to treat it as to make it instructive and useful to all of every age, who hear me. All are advancing along a common path, conducting through the several stages of life, to old age and death. We occupy different positions on that path, — some are just setting out, others are mid way, and others are near the end ; while others still occupy the intermediate points, and all the way is filled with travellers, moving on as a long funeral procession, to old age, to the grave and eternity. And there is no stopping on the way. Those in the front ranks will quickly

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reach the appointed goal and be gone; those following after will as quickly move forward to fill their places, and the youngest here to-day, will swiftly be hurried through the different stages of life's brief journey, and, ere they are aware, they will be the aged, next to yield up their life and pass to the unseen world. This being the inevitable lot of all, all have an interest in knowing how to gi-ow old gracefully, or in a right and becoming manner.

1 . Here my first remark is, we should bear it in mind that we must grow old. This is the law of our being, fixed and certain as the law of mortality. Those who are now going on in

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the meridian of life may not, it is true, live to old age. Many of this class here present will, no doubt, die in the midst of their days, and never know from experience what it is to be old. But if life be prolonged, the swift passing years will, sooner than they think, whirl them on through the successive periods allotted them on earth, and having, passed the meridian line, the sun of life will begin to decline ; decay will commence its certain, inevitable work, and go on, taking away health, vigor, strength, and activity, till at length it will impress, both on

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body and mind, the infirmities, weaknesses and sufferings of old age. This is the inevitable allotment ; and we should ever be mindful of it, and begin betimes to prepare for the hastening crisis. For if we would grow old gracefully the requisite preparation must be entered upon in early life, before the character is formed and the habits fixed. He who misimproves the morning of his life, or spends it in contracting habits of vicious indulgence, or of impenitence, and estrangement from God, will, even should he become a Christian, feel the effects of his course all his days, and they will be likely to hang upon him as a depressing weight, in the decline of his age. Many a man, as old age comes on, finds himself sorely visited with the sins of" his youth, and he goes groaning under his burden to the end of his days. This is an argument for early piety, which should have great weight with the young. If they would pass gracefully into mature life, and be prepared for a bright and happy old age, let them devote the morning of their days to the service of the Lord their God, and begin, while young, to walk in the path of duty and heaven. It is a truth of great practical importance, yet but little thought of by many, that each successive period of life gives character and coloring to that which is before it, and all have a bearing on that which is last. The child is the father of the man ; the youth, of maturer life, and old age receives its character and hues, as bright or gloomy, as happy or cheerless, from all that preceded it. He then, who would grow old gracefully, must begin right ; must look, while

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young, to the end of his course, and endeavor to make each successive step in his progress help him on toward the attainment of a peaceful, dignified and happy decline of life. He must so spend the present, that it shall brighten the future, and make the waning of his days happy, cheered with pleasant remembrances of the past, and animated with bright hope of the future.

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284 HOW TO GROW OLD GRACEFULLY.

2. If we would grow old gracefully, we must possess true piety ; faith in Christ as our Saviour, and hope in God as our everlasting portion. This every man needs in the whole course of his life ; he needs it to guard him against the temptations and sins of the world ; he needs it to keep him from such habits and courses of living as will bring sorrow and gloom in the decline of life ; he needs it to sustain him under the afflictions and trials he will have to meet with in this state of probation and change ; he needs it to enable him to form such a character and to cultivate such virtues and graces as will minister to his usefulness in life, and to his comfort as he draws to the close of his course; as will inspire him with filial freedom in com-

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ing to God as his Father, and shed upon his path the light of hope full orbed and bright, when earthly things are taking leave of him and the scenes of a future world open before him. Indeed a man destitute of religion is, in no sense, qualified to pursue the journey of life in a right and graceful manner. He is like one going a journey, halt, lame and blind. He bears on his character a great and palpable defect, a deformity it may be called"; he is without hope and without God in the world ; go»ing forward to the grave and eternity with no preparation for the scenes before him. How can such a man grow old gracefully, or in a manner suited to the dignity and destiny of an intelligent, immortal being..

And then, when he is old, how sad his condition, how gloomy his prospects ! He has done with the world ; it is leaving him, and he is leaving it ; his early friends have passed away ; he is, as it were, a stranger and alone in the world where he has lived so long ; and now bending under the burden of years with all his former sources of enjoyment cut off and eternity just at hand, he has no God to whom he can go as a Father, no Saviour in whom he can hope as his Saviour ; the dark valley is just before him ; he enters, but gives no sign. Indeed, I can conceive of no situation in this world more desolate and sad than that of an old man unblessed by religion, uncheered by hope, estranged from God and shut out from his presence and kingdom. No ; if we would spend life right and have peace

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and hope as we come to the close of it, we must have religion for our guide, our consolation, our joy and support. Nothing but this can meet the wants of man as he approaches the last stage of his earthly being. And this is all-sulficient. It takes us up in youth and bears us on in wisdom's ways, which are

HOW TO GROW OLD GRACEFULLY. 285

ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peace. It is our strength in temptation, our counsellor in difficulties, our guide in all the intricate windings of life, our solace in affliction, our aid in duty, our stay and support when heart and flesh are failing us, and the infirmities and trials of age are thickening upon us. Religion sheds a beauty and a radiance over declining age which nothing else can impart to it. Hence it is said — The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness. And who does not admit the justness of this declaration ? What indeed is more comely in itself, or more interesting to behold than hoary age, sustained by living piety, marching on to its culminating point in death, calm, serene, cheerful, full of faith in God and hope of heaven? The Psalmist had this thought in mind where he says — The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree, he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those that be planted in the house of the

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Lord, shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall bring forth fruit in old age ; they shall be fat and flourishing.* I remark,

3. If we would grow old gracefully, we must cultivate a love of nature. The works of creation never grow old. They are always fresh, always young, full of beauty and grandeur, full of God; and if we love to view and. to study them, they will be a source of the purest and most satisfying enjoyment ; always open and always accessible to us, and what is better, they will appear more and more beautiful and interesting the longer we live, and will thus renew our life and cheer our spirits as age comes on and deprives us of other sources of enjoyment.

The time soon comes when the tradesman must give up his occupation and the merchant retire from business ; when the lawyer must lay aside his briefs, and the statesman his honors, and descend to private life. But the time never comes when the true lover of nature need give up the interest he feels in the works of creation around him. In youth, in middle age, in old age, he can survey the bright heavens above him, can look upon the hills and valleys, upon the mountains and rivers and seas; upon the trees, and flowers and birds, and upon the ten thousand objects of grandeur and beauty that surround him on

_ *One of the finest sights in the world, says Mr. Jay in his IMorning and Eve-

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ning Exercises, p. 418, is a Christian at the end of a long course, with an unsullied reputation, not only sincere, but without offense, and still alive to the things of God. His hair may be white, but his leaf is green, and his hoary head is a crown of glory, adorned with the fruits of righteousness.

286 HOW TO GROAV OLD GRACEFULLY.

every side, and derive ever new and ever refreshing pleasure from all; and never is a man more gracefully or more properly employed, than when, as age comes on, he continues to hold converse with nature and seeks to renew his life by drinking at the ever new and refreshing streams that flow from God's most wise and beneficient works of creation and providence. It is an exercise well suited to cheer, to animate and minister to his happiness as he goes on to finish his course, preparatory to his entering iiito the new heavens and new earth where he is to have his eternal home.

4. Equally important is it, if we would grow old gracefully, that we continue to take an interest in the young, and in whatever is moving around us, affecting the welfare of Society and the cause of Christ. It is a beautiful sight when the aged seek to keep their own blood warm and in lively circulation by bringing themselves in contact with the young, and taking an

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interest in whatever affects their happiness and well training for future life. The pleasant word, the cheerful smile, the mingling sometimes in their innocent sports and loving to hear their merry voices and see their gambols, all this costs the aged little, but it is of great use to the young ; and it has a reactive influence of the pleasantest character on the elder ones who perform these kind oflQces ; tending to keep off the sombre feelings of age and to prolong the cheerfulness and buoyancy of youthful days.

It is said of Mr. Burke, that in the interim of Parliamentary duties, he used frequently to amuse himself by joining in the noisy sports of children, and that for the time, he was as merry a boy as any one of them ; and it was he, I believe, who made the 'remark, that a man, who is not sometimes a child, is always one. Nor is it a matter of small importance which we here notice. Age needs the rejuvinating influence of youth, and youth needs the counsel and guidance of age. Both should walk together, each imparting to each what neither can have alone ; and age, I am sure, is never more usefully or more gracefully employed, than when it feels a kind and tender interest in -the young; and it never fails to be repaid many fold, by having the evening of life made brighter and happier.

For the same reason, persons, as they advance in age, should keep up an interest in the living moving world around them.

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They should keep their own hearts alive and warm, by keeping them in contact with that world that is so full of life and mo-

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tion. I do not mean by this, that men as they pass into age, should mingle in the rivalries of business, or in the strife of politics, as they may have done in their younger days. But let them not retire within themselves ; let them not feel that they have nothing more to do in the world, and give up all active interest in what respects the prosperity of religion and the welfare of society. This is just to hasten one's self on to an oyster state, and cloud the decline'of life in peevishness and gloom. There is a wide field left for the exercise of the social, benevolent and active virtues, when one is no longer able to engage in the harder labors and sterner conflicts of life. And every man, as he finds himself growing old, should seek some place in that field and give it the richest and best cultivation he can. Elliot, the Apostle to the Indians, as he was called, when too old, longer to preach the gospel, busied himself in instructing a poor negro, whom he w^as accustomed to visit, while at work in the field, for that purpose. This was a beautiful and graceful close of a long and useful life. And who, that has heard of the fact, has not admired the manner in

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which the late Dr. Cooley, of Granville, Mass., just gone to his rest in the 88th year of his age, spent the last few weeks or months of life ; visiting all the families of his charge, and conversing with them personally, as far as he could, and charging them all so to live as to meet him in heaven. In a similar way might many of the aged, who are now wearing out life heavily and gloomily, make it bright and cheerful, if they would but busy themselves in some method of doing good ; for instance, visiting the poor, or making garments for them, as Dorcas did, or instructing a class in a Sabbath school, and in other ways keep up an interest in the benevolent "tnovements of the day. The sun never goes down upon one who is benevolently employed ; but it shines upon him all the way through life, keeps off" the fogs and clouds of age, illuminates the darkness of the grave and passes him on, full of youthful vigor and love in his soul, to a higher sphere of activity, and usefulness in heaven. I remark,

5. There are some peculiar faults and tins incident to age against which we must be guarded if we would grow old gracefully. The germs of these sins often lie far back in early life ; but time developes them, and by degrees they grow into habits and stand out as sad deformities of character as age comes on. The first of thes.e, which I mention, is peevishness ; a disposi25*

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288 HOW TO GROW OLD GRACEFULLY.

tion to find fault, to murmur and complain. " Old men," says Cicero, " are peevish, and fretful and passionate and unmanageable. They fancy they are neglected and despised, and every offense is irritating to them." This is a little severe, but it is too true ; and wherever the habit exists, it indicates a great defect of character and is as uncomfortable to him who indulges it, as it is to all around him. ^Nothing is more unlovely than peevishness sitting on the brow, or scowling from the looks, or venting itself in murmuring and fault-finding from the lips. Wherever this is seen, it may be taken as full evidence of an ill-disciplined temper, and of a selfish, unsubdued will. It is true, there are many things in old age that are trying to the feelings, — the passing away of health and strength, and the wonted sources of enjoyment, the coming on of lonely hours and being dropped out of the usual places of occupation and influence, — things of this kind are necessarily incident to old age, and when one begins to feel them, he should submit to them with cheerfulness as the appointment of providence, and

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not make himself and others around him miserable by fretting against what can not be helped. There is an old proverb, of much use to all men, but which w^ould be of special advantage for an old man to remember : " There are two things which a man ought not to fret about, what he can help and what he can not."

Avarice, or covetousness is another of the faults which are peculiarly apt to appear in the aged. It seems strange that it should be so, but the fact is unquestionable. It is often seen that as a person advances in life, especially if he has not been in the habit of being generous in his early days, he becomes more and ftiore avaricious and parsimonious in his habits. If he can not accumulate as he once did, he can at least hold on upon what he has got, and so it comes to pass that when life is almost over, and he can need what he has but a little while longer, he keeps it the closer and is the more covetous and the less willing to give as the time draws near when he must leave all and go to render up an account of his stewardship. This is a melancholy chairacteristic where it appears in an old man or woman ; and it should be guarded against by forming early habits of liberality and resolutely carrying them forward into advancing years. To refer to Cicero again, he says in his treatise on old age — '' What avarice in an old man proposes to itself, I can not conceive ; — for can any thing be more absurd

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HOW TO GROW OLD GRACEFULLY. 289

than, in proportion as less of our journey remains, to seek a greater supply of provisions ; to be the more greedy of gain as a man has the less time to use it."

Another fault incident to age is jealousy of whatever is new, and a proneness to think that things are growing worse because they are different from what they were in former days.* This is a weakness to which the aged are much exposed, and against which, if they would not make themselves needlessly unhappy, they must carefully guard. The world moves on, but old people are apt to stand still, and it is not easy for them to believe that the world is moving for the better, if it leaves them behind or moves differently from what it did when they had an active part in its concerns. It is difiicult for them to feel that any changes in habits and customs, any deviaations from former methods of doing things, are not* for the worse, the inlets of evil, and proofs of the growing degeneracy of the age. It is not true however that the former times were better than the present, as the aged are prone to imagine ; on the contrary the present are, on the whole, better than the past, and the next will be better still. The world is moving forward, slowly indeed, and sometimes in what seems to us a very zig

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zag course, still it is moving on toward a higher state of improvement, and if we would grow old gracefully we must, as far as we are able, move along with it; at least we should discipline our minds to the state of things around us, and not make ourselves unhappy, because things do not go just as we

*Tliere is a fault just the opposite of the one mentioned as too apt to be found in the aged, and to which the young are especially exposed. It is that of undervaluing and discarding what is old and tried, and a too great eagerness to run after novelties. They are prone to have very.little respect for antiquity, or for manners and customs that have long been tried and found to work well. The fathers, they are apt to think, were a dull, unknowing, fossilized class of people, and that wisdom and the elements of true progress are to be found only in themselves, or in the generation now on the stage. Hence their too great readiness, as a class, to innovate upon what has been long established and tested by experience, whether formularies of doctrine, or usages in worship, or modes of conducting Sabbath day services, and what not, while whatever is new and strange is apt to be seized upon as evidence of progress and marking a higher civihzation. This is certainly the tendency of the times. Young America, as he is called, is, indeed, a fast character ; little disposed to stop and thmk before he acts, easily carried away by what is new, and little inclined to take counsel from the past. It is a truth of great practical importance and should be carefully considered and acted upon by all, — whatever, whether in doctrine or practice or social and religions usages has long been tried and found to work well, is all the more valua-

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ble for its antiquity, and should not be changed without serious consideration ^ and never for novelties, untried and of doubtful utility.

290 HOW TO GROW OLD GRACEFULLY.

would have them, or just as they did when -we made our advent on the stage.

I must mention one other fault of age to be guarded against, — an unwillingness to let go of the duties, responsibilities and honors of life, retire from the stage of action and be forgotten. This is indeed a hard lesson to learn ; but it is necessary to learn it if we would pass life pleasantly and close it gracefully and honorably. Our day of toil is appointed us of God ; and while the sun is up we should apply ourselves with all diligence to the doing of our allotted work ; but when the sun is going down and the shades of the evening are spreading around u^, we should observe the sign, prepare to lay down our task, with its attached responsibilities, and go to our rest ; or if time and strength yet remain, we should busy ourselves within doors, as I may say, doing such easy and useful things as are suited to our circumstances. This is the end of earth and we should be contented. Having served God and our generation according to his will, we should be willing to retire when the time

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comes, and give place to others, who, coming after us, will be better able to do what demands to be done than we should, even if life Avere preserved to us. In order to this, we should do well often to reflect that we are not of so much importance in the world, as we may sometimes imagine. Individually we are of little importance in the world. It will move on just as well without us when we are gone as with us. And since it is the appointment of providence that we should have our day and then retire, we should be willing to have it so, and retire cheerfully and gracefully, soon to be forgotten among the living as if we had not been.

" I shall sink,

As sinks a stranger in the crowded streets Of busy London ; some short bustle caused, A few inquiries, and the crowds close in And all is forgotten. On my grassy grave The men of future time will careless tread, And read my name upon the sculptured stone ; Nor will sound, familiar to themsp-lves, Recall my vanished memory."

6. Besides guarding against the faults that have now been specified, there are certain virtues which demand to be cultivated if we would grow old gracefully. Several of these I

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HOW TO GROW OLD GRACEFULLY. 291

have already mentioned. I have said that we must early admit to our minds the fact that we must grow old, and study to make the whole of life a preparation for declining age. I have said that religion, a living, active piety is necessary to fit us to perform the duties and meet the trials and changes of life in a right and becoming manner. I have said that if we would pass into age cheerfully and gracefully, we must cultivate a love of nature, feel an interest in the works of God and in the various sources of enjoyment which he has so bountifully provided for us. I have said also that we must continue, as age comes on, to feel an interest in the young, seek their improvement and their happiness, by conversation and intercourse with them, and as far as we can, keep our own hearts alive and active by keeping them in contact with the living, moving world around us.

I now just note, without enlarging upon them, some other virtues of great importance to be cultivated if we would grow old gracefully. The first is patience, gentleness, kindness, to counteract the peevishness and petulence which are so apt to be the vices of age. The second is liberality in the use of the

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pecuniary means God has given us ; to counteract covetousness and parsimony which so often mar and dishonor the character of men in the decline of life.

The third is a willingness that the world should move on, and that its honors and interests should pass out of our hands and be held and controlled by others; to counteract that jealousy of whatever is new, and that disposition to hold on upon what we have and to keep things as they are to which the aged are so peculiarly exposed.

The fourth is cheerfulness; a buoyant, contented, happy spirit, to counteract the gloom and sadness that are apt to come over the aged and make the decline of life so uncomfortable and often miserable.

The fifth is hopefulness as to the future progress of the church and the world, to counteract that unhappy proneness of age to forbode evil to come and to think that all things are going to ruin just because they go differently from what they once did.

The sixth is a readiness to yield the field of labor and responsibihty to them that are younger, and retire and be forgotten, if need be, to counteract a disposition to hold on and attempt to sustain duties and cares to which declining age is no longer competent.

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292 HOW TO GROW OLD GRACEFULLY.

And yet one other virtue I must name, more important than any yet specified, to the aged, indeed the consummation and crown of all, — an hahitual and cheerful posture of readiness, to leave the world and go to be with Christ. There all the graces, that have adorned and dignified a truly Christian life, culminate and find their reward. And truly no character appears so graceful and beautiful as that of an asjed disciple who, having served God and his generation according to his will, now waits in cheerful hope, the hour of his departure, and who, as lie reviews the past, surveys tlie present and looks to the future, can adopt as his own the language of the aged Paul, and say,— I am now ready to go, — I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge shall give me at that day. It is Christianity and Christianity alone, experienced in the heart and acted out in the life, that holds out to man the hopes, the joys, the bright anticipations which are appropriate to age, and which adorn the evening of one's datys with grace and beauty. And not a few from the midst of us, from the circle of our own loved friends, have realized and illustrated this in their own happy experience. They loved and served

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God in their youth and in their age ; they passed through the various stages of life in the faith of Christ and in the hope of his glory, and we saw them, as they approached their end, calm, confiding and happy ; the graces of the gospel shining forth in their spirit and life and its hopes, cheering and sustaining them as they entered the dark valley ; we bade them farewell there ; but in hope of meeting them again in heaven, and there if faithful unto the end, we shall meet them to part no more forever. Such is the way to grow old gracefully, and such the happy termination of a life, devoted to God in youth and carried forward into age in the spirit of Christ and in consecration to his service and glory.

The subject is of great practical importance to all present. To those in the morning of life, it addresses itself with special earnestness and tenderness. It meets you here, my young friends, on this first day and sabbath of a new year, and tells you how you may make life useful and happy, adorned with the beauties of holiness and crowned with immortal happiness in heaven. It is by remembering your Creator now in the days of your youth, committing yourselves to him in the freshness of your age, and entering into his service in this the form-

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ative period of your life, that so, should you be preserved to old age, you may then have the beauty of the Lord your God shining upon you, be cheered with his presence and favor in the closing scene, and go to be clothed with immortal youth and vigor in heaven. It is difficult, I am aware, to persuade the young to fix their thoughts on a distant old age. The intervening time seems so long that they can hardly measure it. But it will rapidly fly away, and ere you are aware, you will be swept forward into middle life and then onward to declining age. Be wise then in this spring season of your being, and plant in the mellow, receptive soil within, the seeds of virtue, intelligence and goodness, of piety and devotion to God your Creator and Redeemer, which will spring up and grow as life passes away, adorning your age with grace and beauty and preparing you to be gathered to your grave as a shock of corn fully ripe in its season.

The subject addresses itself also to the middle aged present. It asks you, my friends, how you have spent that portion of life which has already passed over you. Have you spent it gracefully, rightly, in the love and service of God, and in the cultivation of those virtues which will be an ornament to your old age and fit you to meet the closing scene of life in peace and hope? Are you dressing your souls out in that garb, forming and putting on those traits of character which you would

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b*e willing to wear in old age and carry with you into eternity? Kaised from the death of sin, are you alive unto God, subdued to his authority and seeking to be conformed to his will and devoted to his glory? Or is the reverse of this true of many in the meridian of life whom I now address — dead in sin, far from God and living only to self and the world ? Remember, my friends, that the life you now live is fixing your future life and deciding the character of your old age. You are now putting on what in all probability will become the dying dress of your souls ; your dispositions, your habits, your manner of life, the dress in which you will pass into eternity and go to appear before God.

To the aged, my compeers in life, our subject makes its appeal. We can not now, my friends, well speak of growing old gracefully. We are already old, and our character whatever it be, is not likely to change essentially in any of its governing elements. What is that character? Was it in its process of formation imbued with the love of God, animated with the faith of Christ and cheered with the hope of heaven; and as we

passed on our way, were these virtues manifested in our life and did they adorn our character so that it could be said of us, we were growing old gracefully, in a manner suited to honor religion and mark us in the eyes of the world, friends of Christ and heirs of heaven ? And how is it with us now ? Are we

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waiting in patience, in faith and hope, for the time of our departure, ready to go whenever God shall call us to enter into his rest ? Let us realize that at our time of life, we shall not wait long. The summons will soon come, and we shall pass away. O that it might be true of all the aged whom I now address, and of all present, that they shall come to their grave, like as a shock of corn cometh fully ripe in their season.

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