IF our sun do not go down ere it be noon, we may all of us expect to have an evening time of life. Either we shall be taken from this world by death, or else, if God should spare us, ere long we shall get to the evening of life.
In a few more years, the sere and yellow leaf will be the fit companion of every man and every woman. Is there anything melancholy in that? I think not. The time of old age, with all its infirmities, seems to me to be a time of peculiar blessedness and privilege to the Christian. To the worldly sinner, whose zest for pleasure has been removed by the debility of his powers and the decay of his strength, old age must be a season of tedium and pain; but to the veteran soldier of the cross, old age must assuredly be a time of great joy and blessedness.
I was thinking the other evening, whilst riding in a delightful country, how like to evening time old age is. The sun of hot care has gone down; that sun which shone upon that early piety of ours, which had not much depth of root, and which scorched it so that it died — that sun which scorched our next true godliness, and often made it well-nigh wither, and would have withered it, had it not been planted by the rivers of water — that sun is now set. The good old man has no particular care now in all the world.
He says to business, to the hum, and noise, and strife of the age in which he lives, “Thou art nought to me; to make my calling and election sure, to hold firmly this my confidence, and wait until my change comes, this is all my employment; with all your worldly pleasures and cares I have no connection.” The toil of his life is all done, he has no more now to be sweating and toiling, as he had in his youth and manhood; his family have grown up, and are no more dependent upon him; it may be God has blessed him, and he has sufficient for the wants of his old age, or it may be that in some rustic almshouse he breathes out the last few years of his existence.
How calm and quiet! Like the laborer who, when he returns from the field at evening time, casts himself upon his couch, so does the old man rest from his labors. And at evening time we gather into families, the fire is kindled, the curtains are drawn, and we sit around the family fire, to think no more of the things of the great rumbling world; and even so in old age, the family, and not the world, is the engrossing topic.
Did you ever notice how venerable grandsires, when they write a letter, fill it full of intelligence concerning their children? “John is well,” “Mary is ill,” “all our family are in health.” Very likely some business friend writes to say, “Stocks are down,” or, “the rate of interest is raised;” but you never find that in any good old man’s letters; he writes about his family, his lately married daughters, and all that. Just what we do at evening time; we only think of the family circle, and forget the world. That is what the greyheaded old man does. He thinks of his children, and forgets all beside.
Well, then, how sweet it is to think that for such an old man there is light in the darkness! “At evening time it shall be light.” Dread not thy days of weariness, dread not thine hours of decay. O soldier of the cross, new lights shall burn when the old lights are quenched; new candles shall be lit when the lamps of life are dim. Fear not! The night of thy decay may be coming on; but “at evening time it shall be light.”
At evening time the Christian has many lights that he never had before; lit by the Holy Spirit and shining by his light. There is the light of a bright experience. He can look back, and he can raise his Ebenezer saying, “Hither by thy help I’ve come.” He can look back at his old Bible, the light of his youth, and he can say, “This promise has been proved to me; this covenant has been proved true. I have thumbed my Bible many a year; I have never yet thumbed a broken promise. The promises have all been kept to me; ‘not one good thing has failed.’“ And then, if he has served God, he has another light to cheer him: he has the light of the remembrance of what good God has enabled him to do. Some of his spiritual children come in and talk of times when God blessed his conversation to their souls. He looks upon his children, and his children’s children, rising up to call the Redeemer blessed; at evening time he has a light.
But at the last the night comes in real earnest: he has lived long enough, and he must die. The old man is on his bed; the sun is going down, and he has no more light. “Throw up the windows, let me look for the last time into the open sky,” says the old man. The sun has gone down; I cannot see the mountains yonder; they are all a mass of mist; my eyes are dim, and the world is dim too. Suddenly a light shoots across his face, and he cries, “O daughter! daughter, here! I can see another sun rising. Did you not tell me that the sun went down just now? Lo, I see another; and where those hills used to be in the landscape, those hills that were lost in darkness, daughter, I can see hills that seem like burning brass; and methinks upon that summit I can see a city bright as jasper. Yes, and I see a gate opening, and spirits coming forth. What is that they say? Oh, they sing! they sing! Is this death!” And ere he has asked the question, he hath gone where he needs not to answer it, for death is all unknown. Yes, he has passed the gates of pearl; his feet are on the streets of gold; his head is bedecked with the crown of immortality; the palm-branch of eternal victory is in his hand.
God hath accepted him in the Beloved.