Delivered on Sabbath Morning, May 25, 1856, by the
REV. C. H. Spurgeon
At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.
The substance of which was also delivered at Stambourne, Essex, on the commemoration of the Jubilee of his Grandfather, the REV. JAMES SPURGEON, Tuesday 27th May. 1856.
"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."Isaiah 46:4.
HOSE will be peculiar circumstances under which I shall stand up to address the people next Tuesday; circumstances which perhaps seldom occur,possibly may never have occurred before. It might have been more in order that the aged minister should himself address the people; but nevertheless, as it is his own choice, so it must be; and I shall draw my consolation from the third verse, where it is declared, that though God be the God of the close of our life, yet he is also the God of its beginning. He carries us from the very womb; therefore the child may trust in God, as well as the grey head; and he who giveth special blessings to the hoary hairs does also crown the head of the young with his perpetual favor, if they be his children.
His sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And when hoary hairs do their temples adorn,
Like lambs they now still in his bosom are borne."
Ask yon aged friend, ask any aged Christian, whether he finds God has, in the least forsaken him, and you will see him shake his head, and hear him say, "O young man, if I had another seventy years to live, I would trust him still, for I have not found him fail all the way that the Lord God hath led me. Not one promise hath failed, but all hath come to pass;" and I think I see him lifting up his hand in the midst of the assembly, and saying, "I have nothing to regret but my sin. If I had to live over again, I should only want to put myself into the hands of the same Providence, to be led and directed by the self-same grace." Beloved, we need not prove to you farther, for living witnesses do testify, that God carries out his promise, "I have made and will bear; even I will carry and deliver you."
II. But now we come to our real subject, which is, to consider THE TIME OF OLD AGE AS A SPECIAL PERIOD, and to mark, therefore, the constancy of divine lovethat God bears and succours his servants in their later years. I cannot imagine or dream that I need offer any apology for preaching to aged people. If I were in sundry stupid circles where people call themselves ladies and gentlemen, and always want to conceal their ages, I might have some hesitation; but I have nothing to do with that here. I call an old man, an old man, and an old woman, an old woman; whether they think themselves old or not is nothing to me. I guess they are, if they are getting anyway past sixty, on to seventy or eighty. Old age is a time of peculiar memories, of peculiar hopes, of peculiar solicitudes, of peculiar blessedness, and of peculiar duties; yet in all this, God is the same, although man be peculiar.
(1.) First, old age is a time of peculiar memory; in fact, it is the age of memory. We young men talk of remembering such-and-such things a certain time ago; but what is our memory, compared to our father's? Our father looks back on three or four times the length of time over which we cast our eyes. What a peculiar memory the old man has! How many joys he can remember! How many times has his heart beat high with rapture and blessedness! How many times has his house been gladdened with plenty! How many harvest homes has he seen! How many treadings of the vintage! How many times has he heard the laugh run round the ingle fire! How many times have his children shouted in his ear, and rejoiced around him! How many times have his own eyes sparkled with delight! How many hill Mizars has he seen! How many times has he had sweet banquetting with the Lord! How many periods of communion with Jesus! How many hallowed services hath he attended! How many songs of Zion hath he sung! How many answered prayers have gladdened his spirit! How many happy deliverances have made him laugh for joy! When he looks back, he can string his mercies together by the thousand! and looking upon them all, he can say, though he will think of many troubles that he has had to pass through, "Surely, goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life." God hath been with him to hoary hairs, and even to old age he hath carried him. His joys he looks back upon as proof of God's constancy.
And how many griefs hath he had! How many times hath that old man been to the chamber of sickness! How many times hath that aged sister been stretched on the bed of affliction! How many diseases can he or she look back upon! How many hours of bitter travail and pain! How many seasons of trouble, infirmity, and approachings to the grave? How many times hath the old man tottered very near that bourne from which no traveller can return? How many times hath he had the Father's rod upon his shoulders? And yet, looking back upon all, he can say, "Even to old age he is the same; and even to hoary hairs he hath carried me." How frequently, took, hath that old man gone to the grave where he hath buried many he has loved? There, perhaps, he has laid a beloved wife, and he goes to weep there; or, the husband sleeps, while the wife is yet alive. Sons and daughters, too, that old man can remembersnatched away to heaven almost as soon as they were born; or, perhaps, permitted to live until their prime, and then cut down just in their youthful glory. How many of the old friends he hath welcomed to his fireside hath he buried? How frequently has he been forced to exclaim, "Though friends have departed, yet 'there is a Friend who sticketh closer than a brother,' on him I still trust, and to him I still commit my soul."
And mark, moreover, how many times temptation hath shattered that venerable saint! how many conflicts hath he had with doubts and fears! how many wrestlings with the enemy! how often he hath been tempted to forsake his faith! how frequently he hath had to stand in the thickest part of the battle; but yet he has been preserved by mercy, and not quite cut down. He has been enabled to persevere in the heavenly road. How travel-sore are his feet! how blistered by the roughness of the way, but he can tell you, that notwithstanding all these things, Christ hath "kept him till this day, and will not let him go;" and his conclusion is, "even to old age God hath been the same, and even to hoary hairs he hath carried him."
There is one said reflection which we are obliged to mention when we look upon the bald head of the aged saint, and that is, how many sins he hath committed! Ah! my beloved, however pure may have been your lives, you will be obliged to say, "Oh! how have I sinned, in youth, in middle age, and even when infirmities have gathered around me! Would to God I had been holy! How often have I forsaken God! how frequently have I wandered from him! alas! how often have I provoked him! How frequently have I doubted his promises, when I had no cause whatever to distrust him! how frequently has my tongue sinned against my heart! how constantly have I violated all I knew to be good and excellent! I am forced to say now, in my grey old age,
Simply to thy cross I cling."
I am still
A sinner saved by blood"
I have no hope now, save in the blood of Christ, and can only wonder how it is that Christ could have preserved me so long. Truly, I can say, "Even to old age he is the same, and even to hoary hairs he hath carried me."
(2.) The aged man, too, hath peculiar hopes. He hath no such hopes as I or my young friends here. He hath few hopes of the future in this world; they are gathered up into a small space, and he can tell you, in a few words, what constitutes all his expectation and desire. But he has one hope, and that is the very same which he had when he first trusted in Christ; it is a hope "undefiled, that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for them that are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." Let me talk a little of that hope, and you will see from it that the Christian is the same as ever he was; and even down to hoary hairs God deals the same with him. My venerable brother, what is the ground of thy hope? Is it not the same as that which animated thee when thou wast first united with the Christian Church? Thou saidst then, "My hope is in the blood of Jesus Christ." I ask thee, brother, what is thy hope now, and I am sure thou wilt answer, "I do not hope to be saved because of my long service, nor because of my devotedness to God's cause."
All my help from him I bring:
He covers my defenceless head
With the shadow of his wing."
And, my brother, what is the reason of thy hope? If thou art asked what reason thou hast to believe thou art a Christian, thou wilt say, "The self-same reason I gave at the Church-meeting." When I came before it, I said, then "I believe myself to be a child of God, because I feel myself to be a sinner, and God has given me grace to put my trust in Jesus." I think that is all the reason you have to believe yourself a child of God now. At times you have some evidence, as you call it; but there are hours when your graces and virtues are obscured, and you cannot see them, for gloomy doubts prevail, and you will confess, I am sure, that the only way to get rid of your doubts will be, to come and say, again
On Christ's kind arms I fall;
He's still my strength and righteousness,
My Saviour and my all."
And the object or end of hope, is not that the same? What was your hope when you first went to the wicket gate? Why, your hope was that you might arrive at the land of the blessed. And is it not the same now? Is your hope of heaven changed? Do you wish for anything else, or for anything better? "No," you will say, "I thought when I started I should one day be with Jesus; that is what I expect now. I feel that my hope is precisely the same. I want to be with Jesus, to be like him, and to see him as he is." And is not the joy of that hope just the same? How glad you used to be when your minister preached about heaven, and told you of its pearly gates and streets of shining gold! and has it lost any of its beauty in your eyes now? Do you not remember, that in your father's house, at family prayer, one night, they sang,
Name, ever dear to me!
When shall my labors have an end.
In joy, and peace, and thee"?
Cannot you sing that now? Do you want any other city besides Jerusalem? Do you remember how they used to rise up sometimes in the house of God, when you were children, and sing,
And cast a wishful eye!"
Will not that hymn do for you now even better than it did for you then? You can now sing it, as your old father used to sing it, with a firm heart, and yet with a quivering lip. The hope that ravished you then ravishes you now. You start at the same watchword. Heaven is your home still.
There, God your Saviour reigns."
Does not all this prove, again, that though our hopes are somewhat more contracted than they were, yet "God is still the same, and even to hoary hairs he will carry us."
(3.) Again, old age is a time of peculiar solicitude. An old man is not anxious about self. He hath not the cares of starting in business, as he once had. He hath no children to launch out in business. He hat not to cast his anxious eyes on his little family. But his solicitude hath somewhat increased in another direction. He hath more solicitude about his bodily frame than he once had. He cannot now run as he used to do; but he must walk with more sober gait. He fears every now and then that the pitcher will be "broken at the cistern;" for "the noise of the grinders is low." He hath no longer that strength of desire he once possessed; his body begins to totter, to shake, and to quiver. The old tenement has stood these fifty years; and who expects a house to last for ever? A bit of mortar has gone off from one place, and a lath out of another; and when a little wind comes to shake it about, he is ready to cry out, "The earthly house of my tabernacle is about to be dissolved." But I told you before, this peculiar solicitude is but another proof of divine faithfulness; for now that you have little pleasure in the flesh, do you not find that God is just the same? and that, though the days are come when you can say, "I have no pleasure in them," yet the days are not come when you can say, "I have no pleasure in him;" but, on the contrary,
His goodness is the same:
With this you still are satisfied,
And glory in his name."
If he had only been your God when you were a strong young man, you might have thought that he loved you for what you could do for him; but, now you have become a poor worn-out pensioner, have you any better proof that he is an unchanging God, because he loves you when you can do so little for him? I tell you, even your bodily pains are but proofs of his love; for he is taking down your old tenement stick by stick, and is building it up again in brighter worlds, never to be taken down any more.
And remember, too, there is another solicitudea failure of mind, as well as of body. There are many remarkable instances of old men, who have been as gifted in their old age as in their youth; but with the majority the mind becomes somewhat impaired, especially the memory. They cannot remember what was done yesterday, although it is a singular fact that they can remember what was done fifty, sixty, or seventy years ago. They forget much which they would wish to remember; but still they find that their God is just the same; they find that his goodness does not depend on their memory; that the sweetness of his grace does not depend upon their palate. When they can remember but little of the sermon, they still feel that it leaves as good an impression on their heart as when they were strong in their memories; and thus they have another proof that God, even when their mind faileth a little, carries them down to their hoar hairs, their old age, and that to them he is ever the same.
But the chief solicitude of old age is death. Young men may die soon. Old men must die. Young men, if they sleep, sleep in a siege; old men, if they sleep, sleep in an attack, when the enemy has already made a breach, and is storming the castle. A greyheaded old sinner is a greyheaded old fool; but an aged Christian is an aged wise man. But even the Christian hath peculiar solicitudes about death. He knows he cannot be a long way from his end. He feels that, even in the course of nature, apart from what is called accidental death, there is no doubt but in a few more years he must stand before his God. He thinks he may be in heaven in ten or twenty years; but how short do those ten or twenty years appear! He does not act like a man who thinks a coach is a long way off, and he may take his time; but he is like one who is about to go a journey, and hears the post-horn blowing down the street, and is getting ready. His one solicitude now is, to examine himself whether he is in the faith. He fears that if he is wrong now, it will be terrible to have spent all his life dabbling in profession, and to find at last that he hath got nothing for his pains, except a mere empty name, which must be swept away by death. He feels now how solemn a thing the Gospel is; he feels the world to be as nothing; he feels that he is near the bar of doom. But still, beloved, mark, God's faithfulness is the same; for if he be nearer death, he has the sweet satisfaction that he is nearer heaven; and if he has more need to examine himself than ever, he has also more evidence whereby to examine himself, for he can say, "Well, I know that on such-and-such an occasion the Lord heard my prayer; at such-and-such a time he manifested himself to me, as he did not unto the world," and, though examination presses more upon the old, still they have greater materials for it. And here, again, is another proof of this grand truth. "Even unto old age I am the same," says God; "and even to hoar hairs will I carry you."
(4.) And now, once more, old age hath its peculiar blessedness. Some time ago I stepped up to an old man whom I saw when preaching at an anniversary, and I said to him, "Brother, do you know there is no man in the whole chapel I envy so much as you!" "Envy me," he said"why, I am eighty-seven." I said, "I do, indeed; because you are so near your home, and because I believe that in old age there is a peculiar joy, which we young people do not taste at present. You have got to the bottom of the cup, and it is not with God's wine as it is with man's. Man's wine becomes dregs at the last, but God's wine is sweeter the deeper you drink of it." He said, "That's very true, young man," and shook me by the hand. I believe there is a blessedness about old age that we young men know nothing of. I will tell you how that is. In the first place, the old man has a good experience to talk about. The young men are only just trying some of the promises; but the old man can turn them over one by one, and say, "There, I have tried that, and that, and that." We read them over and say, "I hope they are true;" but the old man says, "I know they are true." And then he begins to tell you why. He has got a history for everyone, like a soldier for his medals; and he takes them out, and says, "I will tell you when the Lord revealed that to me; just when I lost my wife: just when I buried my son; just when I was turned out of my cottage, and did not get work for six weeks; or, at another time, when I broke my leg." He begins telling you the history of the promises, and says, "There, now. I know they are all true." What blessed thing, to look upon them as paid notes; to bring out the old cheques that have been cashed and say, "I know they are genuine, or else they would not have been paid." Old people have not the doubts young people have about the doctrine. Young people are apt to doubt; but when they get old, they begin to get solid and firm in the faith. I love to get some of my old brethren, to talk with me concerning the good things of the kingdom. They do not hold the truth with their two fingers, as some of the young men do; but they get right hold of it, and nobody can take it from their grasp. Rowland Hill once somewhat lost his way in a sermon, and he turned to this text"Oh, Lord, my heart is fixed." "Young men," he said, "there is nothing like having your hearts fixed. I have been all these years seeking the Lord; now my heart is fixed. I never have any doubts now about election, or any other doctrine. If man brings me a new theory, I say, 'Away with it!' I stand hard and fast by the truth alone." An old gentleman wrote me a little time ago, and said I was a little too high. He said he believed the same doctrine as I do, but he did not think so when he was as old as I am. I told him it was just as well to begin right as to end right, and it was better to be right at the beginning than to have to rub off so many errors afterwards. An old countryman once came to me, and said, "Ah! young man, you have had too deep a text; you handled it well enough, but it is an old man's text, and I felt afraid to hear you announce it." I said, "Is God's truth dependant on age? If the thing is true, it is just as well to hear it from me as from any one else; and if you can hear it better anywhere else, you have got the opportunity." Still, he did not think that God's precious truths were suitable to young people; but I hold they are suitable to all God's children; therefore I love to preach them. But how blessed it is to come to a position in life where you have good anchorage for your faith,where you can say,
Assail my faith with treacherous art."
I shall not be very polite to them
And bind the Gospel to my heart."
And I think there are peculiar joys which the old Christian has, of another sort; and that is, he has peculiar fellowship with Christ, more than we have. At least, if I understand John Bunyan rightly, I think he tells us that when we get very near to heaven there is a very glorious land. "They came into the country of Beulah, whose air was very sweet and pleasant; the way lying directly through it, they solaced themselves there for a season. Yes, here they heard continually the singing of birds, and saw every day the flowers appear on the earth, and heard the voice of the turtle in the land. In this country the sun shineth night and day; wherefore this was beyond the valley of the Shadow of Death, and also out of the reach of Giant Despair; neither could they from this place so much as see Doubting-castle. Here they were within sight of the City they were going to: also here met them some of the inhabitants thereof: for in this land the shining ones commonly walked, because it was upon the borders of heaven. In this land also the contract between the Bride and the Bridegroom was renewed; yea, here, 'as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so doth their God rejoice over them.' Here they had not want of corn and wine; for in this place they met with abundance of what they had sought for in all their pilgrimages. Here they heard voices from out of the City, loud voices, saying, 'Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh! Behold, His reward is with him!' Here all the inhabitants of the country called them, 'the holy people, the redeemed of the Lord.'" There are peculiar communings, peculiar openings of the gates of paradise, peculiar visions of glory, just as you come near to it. It stands to reason that the nearer you get to the bright light of the celestial city, the clearer shall be the air. And therefore there are peculiar blessednesses belonging to the old, for they have more of this peculiar fellowship with Christ. But all this only proves that Christ is the same; because, when there are fewer earthly joys, he gives more spiritual ones. Therefore, again, it becomes the fact"Even to old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you."
(5.) And now, lastly, the aged saint has peculiar duties. There are certain things which a good man can do, which nobody else ought to do, or can do well. And that is one proof of divine faithfulness; for he says of his aged ones, "They shall bring forth fruit in old age;" and so they do. I will just tell you some of them.
Testimony is one of the peculiar duties of old men. Now, suppose I should get up, and say, "I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread," some one would reply, "Why, you are not twenty-two yet; what do you know about it?" But if an old man gets up, and says, "I have been young, and now am I old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread," with what power that testimony comes! Suppose I say to you, "Trust in God, with all thy troubles and trials; I can bear witness that he will not forsake you;" you will reply, "Oh! yes, young man, but you have not had many troubles; you have not been a child of God above these six years; how should you know?" But up gets an old Christianand well do I remember an ancient Christian rising up at the sacramental table, and saying, "Dear brethren, we are met again around this table, and I think all an old man can do is to bear testimony to his master. These five-and-forty years, I have walked in his truth. Young people, hear what I have to say. He has been my God these five-and-forty years, and I have no fault to find with him; I have found religion's ways to be ways of pleasantness, and her paths to be paths of peace." You know, if you hear an old man talk, you pay greater attention to what he says, from the fact that he is old. I remember hearing the late Mr. Jay. I fancy that if I had heard the same sermon preached by a young man, I should not have thought so much of it; but there appeared such a depth in it because is came from an old man, standing on the borders of the grave; it was like an echo of the past, coming to me, to let me hear my God's faithfulness, that I might trust for the future. Testimony is the duty of old men and women; they should labour whenever they can to bear testimony to God's faithfulness, and to declare that now also, when they are old and grey-headed, their God forsakes them not.
There is another duty which is peculiarly the work of the aged, and that is, the work of comforting the young believer. There is no one more qualified that I know of than a kindhearted old men to convert the young. I know that down in some parts of the country there is a peculiar breed of old man, who for the good of the Church I heartily hope will soon become extinct. As soon as they see a young believer, they look at him with suspicion, expecting him to be a hypocrite; they go off to his house, and find everything satisfactory; but they say, "I was not so confident as that when I was young; young man, you must be kept back a bit." Then there are some hard questions put, and the poor young child of God gets hardly pressed, and is looked upon with suspicion, because he does not come up to their standard. But the men I allude to are such as some I have here, with whom I delight to speak, who tell you not hard things, but utter gentle words: who say, "I was imprudent when I was a young man. I know that when I was a little child I could not have answered these questions; I do not expect so much from you as from one who is a little older." And when the young Christian comes to them they say, "Do not fear; I have gone through the waters, and they have not overflown me; and through the fire, and have not been burned. Trust in God; 'for down to old age he is the same, and to hoar hairs he will carry you.'"
Then there is another work that is the work of the old, and that is, the work of warning. If an old man were to go out in the middle of the road, and shout out to you to stop, you would stop sooner than you would if a boy were to do it; for then you might say, "Out of the way, you young rascal," and go on still. The warnings of the old have great effect; and it is their peculiar work to guide the imprudent, and warn the unwary.
Now I have done, except the application. And I want to speak to three classes of persons.
What a precious thought, young men and women, is contained in this text"That even to old age God will be the same to you; and even down to you hoar hairs he will not forsake you!" You want a safe investment; well, here is an investment safe enough. A bank may break; but heaven cannot. A rock may be dissolved, and if I build a house on that it may be destroyed; but if I build on Christ, my happiness is secure for ever. Young man! God's religion will last as long as you will; his comforts you will never be able to exhaust in all your life; but you will find that the bottle of your joys will be as full when you have been drinking seventy years, as it was when you first began. Oh! do not buy a thing that will not last you: "eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness." Oh! how pleasant it is to be a young Christian! How blessed it is to begin in the early morning to love and serve God! The best old Christians are those who were once young Christians. Some aged Christians have but little grace, for this reasonthat they were not young Christians. Oh! I have sometimes thought, that if there is any man who will have an abundant entrance into heaven, it is the man who in early life was brought to know the Lord. You know, going into heaven will be like the ships going into harbour. There will be some tugged in almost by miracle, "saved so as by fire;" others will be going in just with a sheet or two of canvasthey will "scarcely be saved!" but there will be some who will go in with all their canvas up, and unto these "an abundant entrance shall be ministered into the kingdom of their God and Saviour." Young people! it is the ship that is launched early in the morning that will get an abundant entrance, and come into God's haven in full sail.
Now, you middle aged men, you are plunged in the midst of business, and are sometimes supposing what will become of you in your old age. But is there any promise of God to you when you suppose about to-morrows? You say, "Suppose I should live to be as old as so-and-so, and be a burden upon people, I should not like that." Don't get meddling with God's business; leave his decrees to him. There is many a person who thought he would die in a workhouse, that has died in a mansion; and many a woman that thought she would die in the streets, has died in her bed, happy and comfortable, singing of providential grace and everlasting mercy. Middle aged man! listen to what David says, again, "I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread." Go on, then, unsheath thy sword once more. "The battle is the Lord's;" leave thy declining years to him, and give thy present years to him. Live to him now, and he will never cast you away when you are old. Do not lay up for old age and keep back from the cause of God; but rather trust God for the future. Be "diligent in business;" but take care you do not hurt your spirit, by being too diligent, by being grasping and selfish. Remember you will
Nor want that little long."
And lastly, my dear venerable fathers in the faith, and mothers in Israel, take these words for your joy. Do not let the young people catch you indulging in melancholy, sitting in your chimney corner, grumbling and growling, but go about cheerful and happy, and they will think how blessed it is to be a Christian. If you are surly and fretful, they will think the Lord has forsaken you; but keep a smiling countenance, and they will think the promise is fulfilled. "And 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." Do, I beseech you, my venerable friends, try to be of a happy temperament and cheerful spirit, for a child will run away from a surly old man; but there is not a child in the world but loves his grand-papa if he is cheerful and happy. You can lead us to heaven if you have got heaven's sunlight on your face; but you will not lead us at all if you are cross and ill-tempered, for then we shall not care about your company. Make yourselves merry with the people of God, and try to live happily before men; for so will you prove to usto a demonstration, that even to old age God is with you, and that when your strength faileth, he is still your preservation. May God Almighty bless you, for the Saviour's sake! Amen.
The foregoing sermon exceeding the limits of the usual Penny Number, and it being desirous that it should be given in full, it has been deemed advisable to make the present a double number. The two appended Tracts have been inserted as a specimen of a series called "The New Park Street Tracts," printed in a large type, at 1s. 4d. per 100.