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SERMON X V I.
ST. LUKE ii. 37, 38.
And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years,
which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
HAVE now, to the best of my abilities, en.
deavoured to explain the duties towards God and towards man, which are required of every human being. I have recommended the sacred Word of God as the only light of our paths. I have enforced the necessity of prayer, of selfexamination, of the religious observance of the Sabbath and the great festivals of the church, and of frequent attendance at the Lord's table. I have spoken of the reverence due to the holy name of God, and of that constant and pious regard to his commands which ought to direct all our actions. I have mentioned the duties which belong to particular situations in life, and what is required of us, as children, as young men, as husbands, as fathers. I have shown you where to look for protection against the temptations of vice, and for support in the hardships of poverty. I have recommended sobriety, industry, and contentment, as necessary for our own happiness in this world and the next. I have exhorted you to promote the happiness of others by mutual kindness and charity; and the good of your country by dutiful submission to the laws. I have recommended the christian duties of resignation and forgiveness of injuries; and I have constantly set before your eyes the bright example of every virtue which is left us by our Saviour Jesus Christ. In the course of these inquiries I hope I have proved that in this life, as well as in the next, happiness can only be found in the paths of piety and virtue; and that high and low, rich and poor, will alike know and feel the truth of the Prophet's awful declara
But as I wish to trace the progress of human life from first to last, and to show the superior happiness which, in every situation, is enjoyed by the pious and virtuous man; I will now take a view of that period, to which we look forward with little expectation of enjoyment, and consider the duties of the aged. Though most men wish to live to be old, yet it must be acknowledged that many sorrows almost always attend that
that part of life. “ The days of our age are threescore years and ten, and though men be so strong that they come to fourscore years, yet is their strength then but labour and sorrow. These are the evil days, of which Solomon speaks, and the years in which we have no pleasure. The loss of health and of friends, perhaps of some of our faculties; the weariness and disgust which are often the consequence of disappointed hopes, and the fear with which many view the approach of death; these and other circumstances often make extreme old age a state of labour and sorrow. But still it is a state through which many of us must pass, before we leave this world; and I hope to convince you, that even in this gloomy period religion offers support and comfort sufficient to brighten
* Psalm xc. 10.
the closing scene of life, and to gild with sunshine the evening of our days. In this part of my subject, I cannot set before you the example of our Lord, for his life on earth was short ; though in the course of that short life he practised all the virtues, which in age as well as in youth must be the support of his faithful servants. I havet herefore taken for my text part of the interesting account, which we find in St. Luke's Gospel, of Anna, the prophetess, who was an illustrious example of piety and virtue in the last stage of life. In the same chapter we find another instance of a similar kind in good old Simeon. Both these excellent persons appear to
. have been chiefly employed in the duties of religion, and serving God in his temple ; and from their example we may learn how the latter part of life should be spent ; while from the same example we are taught to hope for that heavenly consolation, for which the pious widow gave thanks to God, and which enabled Simeon to say, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in
Every period of life has its sorrows, and in general it must be confessed that
many ; but it has also advantages which should be pro
perly considered, and thankfully acknowledged. If the amusements of life have lost their relish ; if you say, as Barzillai did to King David, "I am this day fourscore years old, and can I discern between good and evil? Can thy servant taste what I eat, and what I drink? Can I hear any more the voice of singing men or singing women ?"* Let it at the same time be remembered that you are no longer exposed to the temptations which attend on every earthly enjoyment. The old man rests secure after the storms of life are over.
Pleasure or ambition will not now lead him astray ; he will not now forfeit his honour, or his character. If his hopes in this world are over, so are his fears. He only wishes “to die in his own city, and to be buried in the grave of his father and of his mother.” To those whose hearts have been fixed on the things of this world, age must indeed be a scene of disappointment and sorrow; and I do not know a more melancholy sight than the latter years of such a man ; when we see him still wishing for pleasure
l which he can no longer enjoy, peevish and discontented with all around him, tired and disgusted with this life, and afraid of being called
* 2 Sam. xix. 35.