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your companions. If in the midst of so much devastation, you have been preserved and blessed; consider seriously what returns you owe to the goodness of Heaven. Inquire whether your conduct has corresponded to these obligations; whether in public, and in private, you have honoured, as became you, the God of your fathers; and, whether, amidst the unknown occurrences that are yet before you, you have ground to hope for the continued protection of the Almighty.
Bring to mind the various revolutions which you have beheld in human affairs, since you became actors on this busy theatre. Reflect on the changes which have taken place in men and manners, in opinions and customs, in private fortunes, and in public conduct. By the observations you have made on these, and the experience you have gained, have you improved proportionably in wisdom? Have the changes of the world which you have witnessed, loosened all unreasonable attachment to it? Have they taught you this great lesson, that, while the fashion of the world is ever passing away, only in God and in virtue stability is to be found ? Of great use, amidst the whirl of the world, are such pauses as these in life; such resting-places of thought and reflection; whence we can calmly and deliberately look back on the past, and anticipate the future.
To the future we are often casting an eager eye, and fondly storing it, in our imagination, with many a pleasing scene. But if we would look to it, like wise men, let it be under the persuasion that it is nearly to resemble the past, in bringing forward a mixture of alternate hopes and fears, of griefs and joy. In order to be prepared for whatever it may
bring, let us cultivate that manly fortitude of mind, which, supported by a pious trust in God, will enable us to encounter properly the vicissitudes of our state. No quality is more necessary than this, to them who are passing through that stormy season of life of which we now treat. Softness and effeminacy let them leave to the young and unexperienced, who are amusing themselves with florid prospects of bliss.
But to those who are now engaged in the middle of their course, who are supposed to be well acquainted with the world, and to know that they have to struggle in it with various hardships ; firmness, vigour, and resolution, are dispositions more suitable. They must buckle on well this armour of the mind, if they would issue forth into the contest with any prospect of success.— While we thus study to correct the errors, and to provide against the dangers, which are peculiar to this stage of life, let
V. Lay foundation for comfort in old age. That is a period which all expect and hope to see; and to which, amidst the toils of the world, men sometimes look forward, not without satisfaction, as to the period of retreat and rest. But let them not deceive themselves. A joyless and dreary season it will prove if they arrive at it with an unimproved or corrupted mind. For old age, as for every other thing, a certain preparation is requisite ; and that preparation consists chiefly in three particulars; in the acquisition of knowledge, of friends, of virtue. There is an acquisition of another kind, of which it is altogether needless for me to give any recommendation, that of riches. But though this, by
many, will be esteemed a more material acquisition than all the three I have named, it may be confidently pronounced, that without these other requisites, all the wealth we can lay up in store will prove insufficient for making our latter days pass smoothly away.
First, he who wishes to render his old age comfortable, should study betimes to enlarge and improve his mind; and by thought and enquiry, by reading and reflecting, to acquire a taste for useful knowledge. This will provide for him a great and noble entertainment, when other entertainments leave him. If he bring into the solitary retreat of age, a vacant, uninformed mind, where no knowledge dawns, where no ideas rise, which has nothing to feed upon within itself, many a heavy and comfortless day he must necessarily pass. Next, When a man declines into the vale of years, he depends more on the aid of his friends, than in any other period of his life. Then is the time, when he would especially wish to find himself surrounded by some who love and respect him; who will bear with his infirmities, relieve him of his labours, and cheer him with their society. Let him therefore, now in the summer of his days, while yet active and flourishing, by acts of seasonable kindness and beneficence, ensure that love, and by upright and honourable conduct lay foundation for that respect, which in old age he would wish to enjoy.--In the last place, Let him consider a good conscience, peace with God, and the hope of heaven, as the most effectual consolations he can possess, when the evil days shall come, wherein, otherwise, he is likely to find little pleasure. It is not merely by transient acts of devotion that such consolations are to be provided. The regular tenor of a virtuous and pious life, spent in the faithful discharge of all the duties of our station, will prove the best preparation for old age, for death, and for immortality.
AMONG the measures thus taken for the latter scenes of life, let me admonish every one not to forget to put his worldly affairs in order in due time. This is a duty which he owes to his character, to his family, or to those, whoever they be, that are to succeed him; but a duty too often unwisely delayed, from a childish aversion to entertain any thoughts of quitting the world. Let him not trust much to what he will do in his old age. Sufficient for that day, if he shall live to see it, will be the burden thereof. It has been remarked, that as men advance in years, they care less to think of death. Perhaps it occurs oftener to the thoughts of the young than of the old. Feebleness of spirit renders melancholy ideas more oppressive; and after having been so long accustomed and inured to the world, men bear worse with any thing which reminds them that they must soon part with it. - However, as to part with it is the doom of all, let us take measures betimes for going off the stage, when it shall be our turn to withdraw, with decency and propriety; leaving nothing unfulfilled which it is expedient to have done before we die. To live long, ought not to be our favourite wish, so much as to live well. By continuing too long on earth, we might only live to witness a great number of melancholy scenes, and to expose ourselves to a wider compass of human woe. He who has served his generation faithfully in the world, has duly honoured God, and been beneficent and useful to mankind; he who in his life has been respected and beloved; whose death is accompanied with the sincere regret of all who knew him, and whose memory is honoured; that man has sufficiently fulfilled his course, whether it was appointed by Providence to be long or short. For honourable age is not that which standeth in length of time, nor that which is measured by number of years; but wisdom is the grey hair to man; and an unspotted life is old age.