THE NEED FOR WATCHFULNESS IN OLD AGE
compiled by Michael Jeshurun
If there is anything these 51 years in the flesh (of which 32 of them I have walked with the Lord on and off) has taught me; it is that there is no protection in years! Meaning – the flesh or the old man or the depraved nature in us NEVER LETS UP! “There is no discharge in this war” with our Flesh, Sin and the Devil! [Ecc 8:8] You fight them with a perpetual warfare till you drop dead! And the older you grow the greater the need to stay close to the Lord by spending more time in the Word, prayer and Christian fellowship!
Our beloved brother J.C. Philpot put it well when he said –
“There is no promise made that in this life, we shall be set free from the indwelling and the in-working of sin. Many think that their flesh is to become “progressively holier and holier”—that sin after sin is to be removed gradually out of the heart—until at last they are almost made perfect in the flesh. But this is an idle dream, and one which, sooner or later will be crudely and roughly broken to pieces.
The flesh will ever remain the same—and we shall ever find that the flesh will lust against the Spirit. Our fleshly nature is corrupt to the very core. It cannot be mended. It cannot be sanctified. It is the same at the last, as it was at the first—inherently evil, and as such will never cease to be corrupt until we put off mortality—and with it the body of sin and death.
All we can hope for, long after, expect, and pray for—is that this evil fleshly nature may be subdued, kept down, mortified, crucified, and held in subjection under the power of grace. But as to any such change passing upon the flesh—or taking place in the flesh as to make it holy—it is but a pharisaic delusion, which, promising a holiness in the flesh, leaves us still under the power of sin.
The true sanctification of the new man of grace—which is wrought by a divine power—is utterly distinct from any imagined holiness in the flesh—or any vain dream of its progressive sanctification.”
Here are some gleanings from older divines of the need for watchfulness as we grow older . . . .
“For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.” [1 Kings 11:4]
MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): When Solomon WAS OLD―when it might have been expected that age should have cooled his lust, and experience have made him wiser and better, and when probably he was secure as to any such miscarriages; then God permitted him to fall so shamefully, that he might be to all succeeding generations an example.
A. W. PINK (1886-1952): God thus shows us that there is no protection in years.
C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): It is very remarkable that all the falls, as far as I remember, recorded in Scripture, are those of OLD MEN. This should be a great warning to us who think we are getting wise and experienced. Lot and Judah and Eli and Solomon and Asa were all advanced in years when they were found faulty before the Lord.
THOMAS ADAMS (1583-1656): Apostasy in old age is fearful. So wretched is it for old men to fall near to their very entry of heaven, as old Eli in his indulgence, 1 Samuel 2; old Judah in his incest, Genesis 38; old David with Bathsheba, 2 Samuel 11; old Asa trusting in the physicians more than in God, 2 Chronicles 16:12; and old Solomon built the high places.
JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): Satan made a prey of old Solomon, Asa, Lot, others; whom when young he could never so deceive…Many that have held out well in youth, have failed and been shamefully foiled in old age.
A. W. PINK: Lot did not transgress most grossly until he was an old man. Isaac seems to have become a glutton in his old age, and was as a vessel no longer meet for the Master’s use, which rusted out rather than wore out. It was after a life of walking with God, and building the ark, that Noah disgraced himself. The worst sin of Moses was committed not at the beginning, but at the end of the wilderness journey. Hezekiah became puffed up with pride near the sunset of his life. What warnings are these!
C.H. SPURGEON: Thus many men have borne temptation bravely for years—and just when the trial was over and they reckoned that they were safe—they turned aside to crooked ways and grieved the Lord. You are greatly surprised aren’t you? You would have believed it of anybody sooner than of them, but so it is.
JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): I have observed in some good men and good ministers, improprieties in their latter days, which I have been willing to ascribe to the infirmities of old age, than to a defect in real grace…I have known good men, in advanced life, garrulous, peevish, dogmatic, self-important, with some symptoms of jealousy, and perhaps envy, towards those who are on increase while they feel themselves decreasing.
A. W. PINK: We have often heard older saints warning younger brothers and sisters of their great danger, yet it is striking to observe that Scripture records not a single instance of a young saint disgracing his profession…It is true that young Christians are feeblest, and with rare exceptions, they know it; and therefore does God manifest His grace and power upholding them: it is the “lambs” which He carries in His arms! But some older Christians seem far less conscious of their danger, and so God often suffers them to have a fall, that He may stain the pride of their self-glory, and that others may see it is nothing in the flesh—standing, rank, age, or attainments—which insures our safety; but that He upholds the humble and casts down the proud.
MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall,” I Corinthians 10:12. The harms sustained by others should be cautions to us. He that thinks he stands should not be confident and secure, but upon his guard. Others have fallen, and so may we.
RICHARD STEELE (1629-1692): When old people fall, they fall with a great weight, and are crushed more than younger people, and perhaps they have more difficulty to rise again. Far more excuses are found for the lapses of young people, than can be pretended by the aged…Take warning by poor Noah―one hour’s drunkenness discovered that [nakedness] which six hundred years sobriety had concealed.
C. H. SPURGEON: Take this, then, as a caution, lest we spoil a lifelong reputation by one wretched act of sin.
THOMAS MANTON (1620-1677): All sins are rooted in love of pleasure. Therefore be watchful.
THOMAS WATSON (1620-1686): A wandering heart needs a watchful eye.
MATTHEW HENRY: Sometimes those who, with watchfulness and resolution, have, by the grace of God, kept their integrity in the midst of temptation, have through security, and carelessness, and neglect of the grace of God, been surprised into sin when the hour of temptation has been over.
MATTHEW POOLE: Thus Lot―he who kept his integrity in the midst of all the temptations of Sodom, falls into a grievous sin in a place where he might seem most remote from all temptations; God permitting this, to teach all following ages how weak even the best men are when they are left to themselves, and what absolute need they have of Divine assistance.
JOHN RYLAND (1723-1792): How many are the evils of our hearts! What need do we find of constant watchfulness and earnest prayer for the supply of the Spirit. Self, that most subtle and dangerous of all our foes, will assume a thousand forms to draw our supreme attention from our Lord. Both the lusts of the flesh and the lusts of the mind must be continually opposed and mortified.
THOMAS MANTON: The Lord’s grace is promised to him that resisteth. God keepeth us from the evil one, but it is by our watchfulness and resistance; His power maketh it effectual.
C. H. SPURGEON: Cool passions are no guarantees against fiery sins, unless grace has cooled them.
A. W. PINK: If we do need not more grace, certain it is that we need as much grace when we are grown old, as while we are growing up.
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): As it starts, so it continues. It is a “fight of faith” always, right to the end.