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to the king,- How long have I to live, that I should go up with the king unto Jerusalem? I am this day fourscore years old: and can I discern between good and evil? can thy servant taste what I eat or what I drink? can I hear any more the voice of singing men and singing women? wherefore then should thy servant be yet a burden unto my lord the king? Thy servant will go a little way over Jordan with the king: and why should the king recompense it me with such a reward? Let thy servant, I pray thee, turn back again, that I may die in mine own city, and be buried by the grave of my father and of my mother!
That was the answer of Barzillai, and what a good answer it was! how full of wisdom and sound judgment! what a true and touching picture does it draw of the condition of old age, and of its infirmities! He was fourscore years old; he had, he well knew, but a short time to live : why should he change his home? why, even for the attractions of a king's court, should he alter his quiet habits? what to him was the music and the singing, and the delicate fare that no doubt was to be found in David's palace? To his blunted taste all meats were alike; and his ear was no longer sensible to distinguish sounds. But the king meant it well, and he was grateful. He would go a little way with him over Jordan,
far enough to then return.
mark his respect and duty, and He had but one wish left to die where he had lived, in his own city, and to lay his bones in the same grave to which his father and his mother had been already gathered!
as I have said before—it was a wise and good answer, and it is recorded in the Bible for our learning. We from it may gather some guidance for ourselves, when we shall come-if we come at all—to an advanced period of life.
And this foremost—that in old age quietness is best; that then is the time to retire from the hurry and bustle of life; then is the time to loosen our hold of pursuits, and pleasures which befit us while we are young, but which are not convenient in old age. Then is the time to reflect, much and often, upon our approaching change; to have often in our thoughts-Yet a little and I must die: and in expectation of that hour to set our house in order, to live prepared and always ready for our Lord's call.
Those are the lessons of Barzillai's answer; and they are further enforced by the language and behaviour of other aged persons in the Bible.
Look, for instance, at the example of Simeon, that just and devout old man, who, led by the Spirit, came into the temple at the moment when our Blessed Lord, an infant of eight days old,
was brought there to undergo the rite of circumcision. And he took Him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation!
Look at Anna, the aged prophetess, of whom we read that 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!
our own case
Think of these examples, brethren; see how they all combine to set before us a picture of that old age which we must allow to be the most befitting; which we must wish to see realised in an old age free from worldly harass and desires-with leisure for higher things; occupied with the care of the soul; calmly waiting for the great change; employed much in religious meditation and prayer; anxious for nothing which the world can give; anxious only to be found of the Lord, ready and prepared, when He arrives-walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless!
That, surely, is the sort of old age that we must wish to pass ourselves; and that-be sure of it—is the old age which conducts to a calm death-bed, and confirms in us the hope of immortality.
But such an old age is not, we fear, very commonly seen. For the most part, as men grow in years, they grow more worldly; and instead of putting off the cares and pleasures, and occupations of youth and middle life, they cleave to these with an unwise.tenacity. We seldom see any who, like Barzillai, or Simeon, or Anna, have detached themselves from all unnecessary business, in order to walk the closer with God; who have set their affections not upon things on the earth, but upon things above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God!
What we do see is often just the contrary: aged men and aged women clinging to the pursuits, and hankering after the pleasures which no longer suit their years, draining to the dregs the cup of worldliness; living, aye even on the threshold of eternity, without God, without prayer, without any preparation for the life to come!
You know it is even so; then suffer me to recall to you what Scripture says about the duties of the old. St. Paul, in his Epistle to Titus, has these words-Speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: that the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to
much wine, teachers of good things.
And then he goes on to say, more fully, what it is they are to teach :- That they teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.
There, in a few words, you have the qualities which ought to adorn old age-sobriety, gravity, temperance, wisdom. The old, whether men or women, should be known among us for all these things. They should be examples and guides to the youth in the ways and works of godliness. To them we should look for counsel, for advice, for help, in the practice of a Christian life. Above all, they ought to be examples of piety, of reverent respect for all God's holy ordinances. It is recorded of Simeon and of Anna, that in their old age they were diligent in their attendance upon God's worship. The place where they were to be found was the temple. The service which most occupied them was the service of God. And so, surely, ought it to be with the old amongst ourselves. No place so well befits them. as the sanctuary. If any, they most of all should be able to say-Lord, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honour dwelleth! No guests are more fit than these at