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Prov, xvi. 31.
The boary Head is a Crown of Glory, if it be
found in the Way of Righteousness,
of it are many, and often heavy : but old Age abounds with Sufferings beyond the
Some of these proceed unavoidably from our Make, and the Situation in which we are placed ; but so much a larger Share from our own ill Conduct, that the wisest of Men hath not feared to pronounce in the Text, that an uniform Course of Religion and Virtue would crown even that Part of our Days with Honour and Happiness, in which we are too commonly despised by others, and wretched within ourselves.
To illustrate and confirm a Truth fo instructive and important, I have proposed to shew from these Words,
I. What Affistances Religion and Virtuç contribute to this most desirable End.
II. That they must be effectual.
Now the first Way, as you have already seen, in which Religion and Virtue contribute to render old Age honourable and happy, is by directing us, in the former Part of Life, to make the necessary Provisions for its being so: not to ruin our Healths beforehand by Irregu. larities, nor our Fortunes by Extravagance ; not to make our grey Hairs contemptible for want of timely Application to useful Knowledge and Business, nor hateful by a preceding Life of Injustice or Ill-nature ; nor fill our Souls with Terrors, when our latter End
approaches, by forgetting our Creator in our Youth. For these are Burthens, with which we need not, unless we will, load our declining Years.
I then shewed you, that after this previous Care, Virtue and Religion direct us, how to behave aright, when the Time comes; to avoid the Temptations, and practise the Duties, which it brings along with it.
1. To avoid the Temptations,
Amongst these, one capital Danger is that of a felfish Disposition : which too frequently manifests its peculiar bad Influence on the
Aged, in Artifice and Fraud, Hard-heartedness and Insensibility; unfeasonable and immoderate worldly Pursuits ; in their denying themselves what is fit; or grudging to bestow on others, what Nearness of Blood, or Promises made, or Expectations raised, or Gratitude, or Friendship, or Generosity, or Charity, require. And besides all this, they are very liable to give improperly and unequitably what they do give. Another Fault, that greatly diminishes both the Honour and the Comfort of the Old, is ill Temper: fometimes arising from their own Infirmities, and Envy at the Health and Gaiety of others; sometimes from thinking, that they are not respected and esteemed enough, and indulging Suspicions that their Death is wished for; sometimes again, from seeing younger People, especially those under their Care, conduct themselves in a Manner they disapprove.
Under each of these Particulars, I laid be-, fore you the Maxims and Methods, which Virtue and Religion prescribe, for the avoiding of Dishonour and Unhappiness in the concluding Scenes of Life. I now proceed to an Error of a different Nature ; into which they, who escape the former, frequently fall, though equally contrary to the Rule of Duty; I
mean, Fondness for unallowable Gratifications
, and Amusements.
Vicious Pleasures in old Age are doubly immoral. Offences against Modesty and Chastity at that Time of Life are unnatural, void of all Excuse, and deliver over those who commit them to a most peculiar Sort of Contempt. Offences against Sobriety and Temperance, far from cheering and enlivening, in any proper Manner, opprefs and precipitate declining Age; and turn the Wisdom, which should procure Reverence to the hoary Head, into gross and often public Childishness, if not worse. Continuing therefore to these Years in Follies, which we ought never to have begun, is exceeding bad : and nothing but beginning them at these Years, of which there are sometimes Examples, can be worse.
But suppose old Persons only to dote upon innocent Levities, they must expect to be ridiculed for it by the livelier Part of the World, and lamented by the more serious. That no prevailing Taste for any Thing more valuable, fhould be even yet acquired, is very deplorable : and throwing away, in this idle Manner, the small Remainder of their Days, after all the foregoing Part, will render their Cafe com
pletely pletely wretched. A Life well spent hitherto, would have made better Ways of employing their Time agreeable now: and one ill spent will make them absolutely necessary. Not that the Aged are to be totally debarred from fitting Relaxations. Very often, by Reason of Infirmities of Body or Mind, fome Indulgences of that Sort become highly requisite for them. And indeed, unless there be very particular Occasion requiring it, old Age is not the Season for Men to increase their Application to any Thing that fatigues them; but to moderate it gradually, and give themselves Ease in Proportion as they need it. Besides, it is a good-natured Part, sometimes to join a little in the Diversions of the Young; which also we may be able thus, much more effectually than by any other Way, to superintend and bring under prudent Regulations. But to make this, or any Thing else, a Pretence for gratifying Inclinations, that we are ashamed of owning ; to fill up as many of our Hours, as we possibly cản, with idle Entertainments; to pursue them eagerly; be lavish of Expence upon them, and make them the Business of Life; to be continually seeking out for still more Opportunities of running away from Thought,