Reflections on his Fiftieth Birthday. What a Wonderful Being is Man! Governed, not by Instinct, but by Reason. Man Lives by Deeds, not Years. How to Grow Old. Half of Life Spent in Satan's Service. Renewed Consecration. Last Three Birthdays. His Trust in God.
The seventh day of March has come again. Fifty times has come this anniversary of my natal day! Half a hundred years old to-day! What a period through which to carry the burdens and responsibilities of life! (What a time for which to give account to God for wasted moments and opportunities lost!) What a period to be devoted to building a character for the skies! What a period of time devoted to the issues of eternity!
What a wonderful being is man! Time is but his cradle, from which he walks forth into a world where life is parallel with the ages of God. An intelligent, expansive being that will never cease to be -- what a thought! When the sun grows gray with age, his eye is dimmed, and darkness reigns, man will still be drinking in the light of heaven from the morning star of eternity. The century-living crow doubles this period of man's probation, with life as it began. She builds her nest the last year, as she did the first, with no improvement sought. She rears her young the hundredth time as she did the first, by the long experience none the wiser. This is her nature. God made her thus. Instinct is wonderful, but it never improves. It grows not wiser with age nor the ages. It nothing from experience learns. The sparrow builds her nest, and the beaver his dam, just as they did in the years before the flood. The little quails an hour from the shell, will hide at the danger-signal of the mother bird, when they never saw a hawk, nor heard of one's existence. How different this from man! More helpless than the stupid beast, and more senseless than the creeping worm, he starts to make the pilgrimage of life. But what a change does time produce! The child more helpless than the humming insect of an hour, becomes the monarch of the world. He bridles the lightning in its home above the mountain peaks, and makes it do his bidding. The terror of the ages past, becomes his willing servant. He harnesses the steam, that for ages spent its power in the open air, and with it moves the world. He sends his whisperings through old ocean's bed, where the great leviathan sports, as if he talked to one across the room. He leaps aloft as if on steady wing, till his look is downward where the lightnings play and the thunderbolt leaps to its deadly mission. Wonderful development! The heavens declare the glory of God, and the earth proclaims the dominion of man. He was made a little lower than the angels, and crowned with majesty. Age counts with man, and years bring knowledge, but not unfailing wisdom. Did man grow wise with age, as a sure result, age should be an unfailing blessing sought. But imbecility it often brings and childish discontent. These are the blighted sheaves of evil sowing in the spring and summer days of life. With right ideas of life, men grow wiser and better, as they older grow in the service of their God. Life is not measured simply by the flight of time. Men live more now than they did before the flood. Intenser now is life. Into a few decades, is now crowded the patriarch's experience of nearly a thousand years. How to grow old, is a problem not to be despised. It should not be left to solve itself. To grow old gracefully, is to make a picture on which the world delights to look. But, alas! how sadly blurred is the picture by many made! It is sad to see one's religion sour with age. While young and strong the loved disciple on the bosom of the Master leaned. Then when age had dimmed his eagle eye, and time had stolen his elastic step, he had the same love for his children in the faith. His was a sweet old age, the outgrowth of a life of faith and love. He grew old gracefully. When brought, as was his wont, and before his congregation set, his last sermons were mainly the touching, tender words, |My little children, love one another.| O, that his mantle could on many of us fall! But oft, alas! we see grow cross, self-willed and sour the shepherd of the flock. This, too, when age should give his words both weight and wisdom. Lord, give me poverty and affliction, if it be thy will, but save me, I pray, from this sad end. Far better that one die young, than grow old against the grain. |Is life worth living?| the sages ask. That depends on how one lives it. Lived aright, it is worth living, and many such worlds as this beside. Otherwise 'tis not. Of right living, the more the better; of wrong, the less. The life lived faithfully to God, can never be too long; its opposite, too short.
Of the half-century, this day gone, one claim I can safely make -- it was not spent in idleness. The years to Satan's service given, were well to his account put in; and those devoted to a better cause, I have tried to give as faithfully to Him to whom they all belonged. For the years in Satan's service spent, like Saul of Tarsus, I conscientious ignorance plead. O'er eyes unused to heaven's light, sectarianism's vail was thick. But no sooner was known the way of life, than in its path I tried to walk; and in it have I tried to keep, till this good day. Thus equally divided has the time been spent. Except the years of childish innocence, twenty-five were in the service spent of him who for this life pays the soul in spurious coin, and leaves it bankrupt in the life beyond; while an equal number, praise the Lord, have a better Master claimed. For the rest of life, be it long or short, the long side will the right side be, while hitherto it otherwise has been. The periods of service have not before been equally divided, nor will they be again. But the sides have changed proportions, praise the Lord! Should not this turning-point in life an epoch make? A half century, and a half divided life, in one! Surely I shall not look upon its like again.
The past few birthdays I have noted as those of former years were noted not, and for reasons I need hardly state. The first that deep impression on the mind did make since apprehension was that each would be the last, was three years ago, amid the orange groves of the sunny South. The day was lovely as the Queen of May; and friends more lovely than the day, made it a time not to be forgotten. The feasting of the outer man was the lesser part of the day's enjoyment. |The feast of reason and the flow of soul| was chief. Three of us were seeking health in that sunny land. Two have found it, but not there. In a fairer land by far than this world can boast, did they find the fountain of perpetual health. Beneath the branches of the tree of life, have they also sat and plucked its leaves for the healing of the nations given. I, the feeblest of the three, and thought the nearest to the other side to be, on the shores of time am struggling still. Thus it is with man's poor guessing.
Two years ago the day was cold and bleak. It drizzled through the dreary hours, freezing as it fell. But to many loving hearts, its sleet and rain were not its gloom. On this day was laid to rest in Mother Earth the loved remains of one numbered in the health-seeking trio of the year before. What a contrast with that day one year before! The day and its events, how sadly changed! But such is life. Well do I remember on this asking, |Shall I another birthday live to see?| And well do I remember, too, the thought expressed in grave response. While, in the providence of God, it was possible, of course, the other way were all the probabilities. But this so oft before the case had been, it left a ray of hope. And that has now been more than realized. As said our sweetest poet, how truly can we say:
|God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform.|
One year ago, in the balmy breezes of the |Lone Star| State, compelled was I by feebleness of frame to miss the sumptuous feast by loving hands so deftly spread. And sad, yet happy thought, those as ever ready on the poor to wait, are now in those of the Master clasped. And still I linger, and the years go by. Such is life. Deep and many are her mysteries. God knows it all, but he keeps it to himself. But what are now the prospects for the year to come? Better now, by far, than they before have been in all these dreary years of pain. Would it not be strange, if once again in providence divine I should mingle with my fellow men, and tell them, as of yore, the story of the cross? Indeed, it would; but stranger things have happened. Stranger things by providence divine have come to pass without the aid of |Warner's Safe Cure,| or other disgusting humbuggery, with its offensive intrusion into the reading of decent men. The providence of God is not dependent on patent nostrums; nor is He limited in His healing power to calomel or blue mass. Prayer is oft more potent than all the noxious drugs of man's device. God has promised, when consistent with His holy will, the prayers of His believing children to hear and bless. And in numbers more by far than this poor life is worth, have these from earnest, pleading souls gone up to God. Hence to-day we rest in the cheering hope that these have not been in vain.
Should it please the Lord to give the health I need to fight again the battles of Christian life, what responsibilities will it bring! That strength must all be counted His who gave it. All those years must be wholly His, His cause to serve. The interests of His kingdom to His children left, must be strictly guarded. Conflicts with men, even those we love, will come to him who strictly guards the faith, as Jude directs. In all conflicts with fellow men, for two good graces I humbly pray -- the courage of Paul and the gentleness of John.
This holy Lord's-day morning, the sun rose bright and charming as on the seventh day of March it did three years ago in the sunny land of Florida. For the first time in many weary months did I a whiff of the outside air inhale. Oh! how delicious! 'Twas like a prisoner's whiff of the air of freedom. But this was not the best. To sit again with the brethren around the table of the Lord and hear again the sweet old story that is forever new, what a feast to the hungry soul! Then the birthday feast is next to be enjoyed. Loved ones gathered at the dear old |cottage home| to celebrate the marked event with music, song and recitation.
The birthday cakes and other |dainty tricks| by loving hands prepared and sent to grace the festive board, told tales of love. One thing alone marred the pleasure of the day and checked the overflow of its cup of bliss: Two loved and loving ones were far away and disappointed in their hope of being here. These would have made the ring complete, the family circle whole. But such, again, is life. Its disappointments will forever come. We should expect them, therefore, and be content.
This is my fiftieth milestone along life's rugged road. At this half-century mark I set up a pillar, as did Jacob of old.
|Here I'll raise my Ebenezer,
Hither by Thy help I've come,
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.|
Thus far in life has a loving Father led me, and in his providential care I trust for all the rest. I place my trusting hand in His, asking to be led as He sees the way. |Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah,| shall be my constant prayer. And thus, dear Father, the rest of life I leave with thee.
Dear Lord, should birthdays more be mine
To spend on earth to Thee,
Thy cause shall claim them wholly Thine
As earnest work can be.
And should'st Thou will the next be one
In Thy bright home above,
I gladly say, |Thy will be done,|
And join Thee in Thy love.
COTTAGE HOME, March 7, 1886.