How Old Are You?
James Smith, 1861
Birthdays are solemn days, they remind us of our entrance into the world, and direct our thoughts forward to the period when we shall leave it. Like milestones on the road of life, they inform us how far we have traveled — but say not one word about how far we have to go! Every mile sensibly lessens the distance between us and our journey's end. Today I am reminded of a passage in Old Testament history, "And Pharaoh said unto Jacob: How old are you?" Genesis 47:8. What a touching question! How calculated to awaken solemn thoughts, and to call up interesting reminiscences! Let us glance at,
The two PARTIES.
A sovereign — and a subject.
The greatest monarch of his day — and a plain unsophisticated shepherd.
One accustomed to rule in courts — and one in the habit of dwelling in tents.
A citizen of the world — and an old pilgrim to mount Zion.
One who was of the world, and at home in the world — and one who was only passing through the world, to take possession of a better country.
An idolatrous sinner — and a saint of the Most High God.
One who had no clear or correct conception of the divine nature and character — and one who knew God, and walked in daily fellowship with him.
A greater contrast could not be, than between the patriarch Jacob — and the monarch Pharaoh.
Pharaoh appears to have had some excellent
qualities, and in many points to have been a fine character — but he was . .
a stranger to God,
a worshiper of dumb idols, and
was led captive by the devil at his will.
Jacob had many faults, and some striking defects — but he was a friend of God, walking with him in peace and righteousness.
The pilgrim was introduced to the king, who
perhaps to make him feel at ease during his interview, or from some other
good motive, proposed the question, "How old are you?"
Let us look atthe INQUIRY.
Questions may be meddlesome — and should not be answered.
Questions may be offensive — and should not be noticed.
Questions may be mischievous — and should call forth a serious reply.
This sincere question by Pharaoh may have been called forth by the patriarch's venerable looks. What a beautiful sight is a fine old man! His locks are silver. His brow is wrinkled. His cheeks have fallen in. His voice is tremulous. His form stoops. All unite to excite veneration, and may therefore well prompt the question, "How old are you?"
It may have been curiosity on the part of the
king, or even a benevolent feeling, which led him to make the inquiry
— but whatever it was, it may be turned to very good account. Let us take it
home, and examine ourselves by it.
How old am INATURALLY? I was once a babe, and then a youth — but I am such no longer.
This should awaken REFLECTION — and lead us to remember all the way which the Lord our God has led us in the wilderness.
It should produce GRATITUDE. How many have been cut down younger, and cut down unprepared. How many are in Hell now — who were born since we were! How many have sunk in poverty, been crushed by troubles, or been hurried out of time into eternity — by disease.
It should lead us to REPENTANCE. This is always the design of God's goodness. This is also its tendency to a gracious heart. Upon how many points, we have seen reason to change our minds. For how much that we have done, we have reason to weep bitter tears. How necessary it is on some points, to change our course. Can we attend to this question, and not reflect on the past? Can we reflect on the past — and not be grateful? Can we reflect, and be grateful, and not repent, and turn again unto the Lord?
Let us then improve the question, for some neglect it — but it cannot harm us, and it may do us good.
How LONG have I lived? Twenty — thirty — forty — fifty — perhaps sixty years?
To what PURPOSE have I lived? Have I secured my salvation? Have I served my generation? Is the world better for me being in it all these years? Have those about me reason to bless God for me? How would I live — if I had my time over again? Would I DO — just as I have done? would I BE — just what I have been?
What has been the grand end of my life? Have I
lived to myself, or to him who died for me, and rose again? Have I lived to
enlighten others by my knowledge, to help others with my property, to bless
others through my influence?
How old am I
If we are born again, can we tell anything about the time when? Can we remember when we were convinced of sin, felt our need of a Savior, and fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us. That was the time of our new birth. But the time of the new birth is of little or no importance — compared with the fact itself. The great question is, AM I born again? Do I believe in Jesus? Is salvation mine?
If we are born again — where are the proofs? Who is the better for it? Are our relations, our children, our neighbors? Even the animals which serve us, or live to please and amuse us — will be the better for our religion, if it is genuine.
Whether our lives have been long or short — we have lived long enough to have LEARNED more; and if we were not great dunces — we would have done so!
We have lived long enough to have GAINED more, for we have had some fine opportunities. Grace was to be had for asking for, and our talents may not only have been improved — but increased, yes doubled — if we had been wise.
We have lived long enough to have DONE more. Alas! how little we have done for God, for Christ, for the Church, and for the souls of men — and how very imperfectly has that been done, which we have performed. O if we had but realized our responsibility, if we had but been zealous for our God and his glory, if we had but been fired with the love of Christ — how much might we have done, during the life we have lived here below!
How shall we act NOW? Let us flee to the open fountain — to wash away our stains; let us repair to the throne of grace — that we may find mercy, and obtain grace to help us; and then let us begin life afresh, determined if we live — to live unto the Lord; or if we die — to die unto the Lord; so that whether we live or die we may be the Lord's!