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and trials. Then, when the birthday morning came, many a salutation cheered her, and many a kiss of affection was impressed on her cheek; but it is not so now, and she is ready to take up the words of an ancient mourner, "call me not Naomi, call me Marah, for the Lord hath dealt bitterly with me." Her husband is no more, and one after another, most of her children either preceded or followed him to the silent grave. The few who remain, are far away, it may be in foreign lands, and she feels alone in a friendless world. These facts, and the feelings which the remembrance of them produce, make the birthday a weeping day.
"Of joys departed ne'er to be recalled,
How painful the remembrance!"
Take another case. A man who in early life was comparatively affluent, and who delighted on the return of his natal day to call around him the friends of his boyhood, that they might together rehearse those sayings and doings which were at the time a source of so much happiness. Alas! he has lived to know experimentally the truth of that scripture," the rich hath many friends, but the poor is separated from his neighbour," and now he keeps his birthday alone; reflecting upon the uncertainty of human riches, and the unstability of human friendship.
Survey one other instance. Consider the emigrant who with sad heart left his native land, a solitary
adventurer in a distant country. His dear native village, his father's cottage, and the familiar faces of beloved ones, flit before the eye of the mind, as he recollects what morning it is; but there is no greeting for him as in time past. I would not say a word to increase his feeling of lonesomeness, or to enervate his heart for action; but still I cannot regret that he calls the day to mind, and should be sorry if he could think upon home without emotion.
But to all those, and to all similar supposable cases, there is one rich word of counsel and comfort, HOPE IN GOD." Jehovah is the widow's God, and if sought unto, he will be the friend of the friendless, and the home of the wanderer.
Perhaps, my widowed friend, God was forsaken when husband and children were all around you. Like Martha you were careful and troubled about many things; now, if like Mary you have chosen the better part, and are willing to sit at the feet of Jesus, and hear his words, he will surely come to you, hold sweet communion with you, and then you will not feel lonely; his presence will make the wilderness smile, and you will come up from it leaning upon your beloved.
And you, who have exchanged affluence for poverty, and who have lived to prove that earthly friends are often like summer brooks; you, perhaps, were once ready to say, "Soul take thine ease, eat, drink, and be
merry." What a mercy that God, instead of taking away your soul into an eternity for which you were quite unprepared, took away your idols, and now he is willing to give you himself, and to become your God and portion for ever and ever.
Wanderer in a distant clime; what a mercy will it be, if God has led you into a wilderness in order to speak to your heart. Listen to his voice, hope in his mercy, trust his promises, and you shall find that "the Lord loveth the stranger, and giveth him food and raiment." Yea, "that the Lord God is a sun and shield, that he will give grace and glory, and no good thing will be withhold from them that walk uprightly."
"O great vine dresser! teach my heart
Thy searching knife to bear;
With every branch of pride to part,
"Yea, quell my overgrown array,
Lop fortune, friends, and fame away,
So thou art with me still."
THE AGED MAN'S BIRTHDAY.
"I am this day four-score years old."-2 Sam. xix. 35.
How few survive to this age. The majority of our race die before they reach the period of youth, many
die in youth, the path of manhood is strewed with victims, and only a few stragglers reach the age of seventy or eighty. In vain we say—
"Gather ripe fruits, Oh death!
Strew not the pathway of the tomb with flowers,
Pass by, and touch not youth's bright sunny bowers!"
Death heeds us not, but gathers the aged and the young alike into his garner, and in the short space of thirty years a generation of the human race pass into eternity.
Only a few live to say, "I am this day fourscore years old." And what then? What are these ancients constrained to add to this testimony? "It is labour and sorrow, it is soon cut off and we flee away." Hear the testimony of the aged Barzillai-"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 a burden to my lord the king. Let thy servant, I pray thee, turn back again, that I may die in my own city, and be buried by the grave of my father, and of my mother." These are words of wisdom, worthy of being pondered over by every aged person on their birthday. They shew a mind weaned from earth, heedless of its attractions, and dead to its pleasures. It is
sad to see aged men greedy of gain, or grovelling in sensual enjoyments; or aged women fond of dress, and taking pleasure in trifling amusements. Concerning many the poet's words are too true :
"Though grey our heads, our thoughts and aims are green,
Not so Barzillai, the good man, for such we can but deem him, looks steadily into the grave; because he had learned to look beyond it. He was anxious to spend his last days in peaceful retirement, and prayerful preparation for the great change which awaited him. My aged friends, I pray you imitate him, do not go on delving and mining in this poor earth, till exhausted from very feebleness, you gasp and die. Do not cry as the horse-leech, Give, give, and still pant for earth, till the heart ceases its pulsations. If you have competence, stand by and let the young have an opportunity; the dusty highway, the craggy precipice, are not suitable places for your tottering feet. Retire, and prepare for eternity.
But though Barzillai deemed himself too old to be entertained at court by the king, he did not deem himself so old as to be excused from ministering to the king. He did all he could to comfort his afflicted sovereign. Here, again, he is a pattern for the aged. We are never too old to serve God, and to do good to