Job xi. 17 “Thine age shall be clearer than the noonday; thou shalt shine forth; thou shalt be as the morning.”
"The Bible," she says, "gives us the bright side of everything: and in this case of ‘growing older' it gives us three bright sides of a fact, which without it could not help being gloomy.
"First, it opens the sure prospect of increasing brightness to those who have begun to walk in the light. Even 'our age is to be clearer than the noonday' (Job xi. 17). How suggestive that word 'clearer' is! The light, though intenser and nearer, shall dazzle less: 'in Thy light shall we see light'—be able to bear much more of it, see all else by it more clearly. We should have said, 'At evening-time there shall be shadow:' God says, 'At evening time there shall be light.'
"Also, we are not to look for a very dismal afternoon of life, without some final sunset glow: for He says it ' shineth more and more unto the perfect day.' So those who are willing only to walk in the light are to expect a continually brightening path. Just think, when you are seven, or ten, or twenty years older, that will only mean seven, or ten, or twenty years' more experience of the love and faithfulness of Jesus: and still the 'more and more unto the perfect day' will be opening out before us! We are 'confident of this very thing.'
"The second bright side, is increasing fruitfulness. Do not let us confuse between works and fruit. Many are not able to do anything at all, and yet are bringing forth fruit unto God, beyond the busiest workers —'They shall still bring forth fruit in old age.' Some of the fruits of the Spirit seem to be especially and peculiarly characteristic of sanctified older years. Look at the mellowness of St. Paul's 'joy' in his later epistles; and the wonderful 'gentleness' of St. John, which makes us almost forget his early character of 'a son of thunder.' And 'the same Spirit' is given to us that we too may bring forth 'fruit that may abound,' and always ‘more’ fruit.
"The third bright side is brightest of all: 'Even to your old age, I am He.' Always the same Jehovah-Jesus; with us 'all the days;' bearing and carrying us 'all the days;' reiterating His promise—'Even to hoar hairs will I carry you . . .; even I will carry and will deliver you,' just as He carried the lambs in His bosom. For we shall always be His little children, and 'doubtless' He will always be our Father. The rush of years cannot touch this!"
Truly these are "bright words" indeed—words of Gospel light and love, revealing "the bright side of growing older." Walking beneath the light of God's countenance, forgiven and accepted in the Beloved, and daily "increasing in God's Holy Spirit more and more," what can the New Year bring—but "the supply of all our need"?
"God's reiterated 'All!'
O wondrous Word of Peace and Power!
Touching with its tuneful fall
Each unknown day, each hidden hour
Of the coming year!
He shall 'all' your need supply,
And He will make 'all' grace abound;
Always all sufficiency'
In Him for 'all' things shall be found
Through the coming year!"—F. It. H.
Perhaps one thought more may be added, to guard against a possible misconception. We must not forget that the bright side of Christian experience is ever found in the way of "crucifixion with Christ." Progress in holiness, or the bringing forth of "the fruits of the Spirit" as the unfailing law and result of Christian life—must ever be the measure of Christian light and joy and peace; and this progress in holiness necessarily involves discipline and trial and spiritual conflict. The road to Heaven is indeed a bright road, but we have to learn much on the way; and clouds, and crosses, and even falls are often our lesson books. There could indeed be no growth in grace at all, unless we were being thus constantly taught our need of more grace—even of all "the riches of grace " that God has stored up for us "in glory, by Christ Jesus."
Hence we know the forgiven, who have "known the love that God hath to them," are those who are ever feeling their fresh and constant need of the renewed sprinkling of the Atoning blood; and those who walk most closely with God are ever "counting themselves not to have attained," and for this very reason are "pressing towards the mark for the prize of their high calling in Christ Jesus." The deeper the Christian experience, the higher is the standard of holiness, and the greater the sense of spiritual need.
Thus it was with Frances Ridley Havergal. There was "growth in grace," in knowledge, in humility, and holiness, even to the end. Up to the last she sweetly sang;—
"O precious blood! Lord, let it rest on me!
I ask not only pardon from my King,
But cleansing from my Priest. I come to Thee
Just as I came at first—a simple helpless thing.
"O Saviour, bid me 'go and sin no more;'
And keep me always 'neath the mighty flow
Of Thy perpetual fountain. I implore,
That Thy perpetual cleansing I may fully know."
And so also she ever felt that in order to the daily walk of holy, happy, bright communion with God and usefulness to man, there must be unceasing prayer for the continued increase of faith. "Let us," she writes in one of her latest letters to a Christian friend, "let us ask Him together to increase our faith, so that we may more and more come under the beautiful description of those who 'through faith obtained promises.'"
Yes! ever “More and more"—the Christian's onward watchword on his heavenward way—more light, more grace, more holiness!" More light from my Saviour's Face, that I may shine the brighter; more knowledge of God, that I may instruct others; more holiness of walk, that the world may learn that there is a power which crucifies self, and enables the possessor to live 'as seeing Him who is invisible'!"
If then we would learn better this New Year the secret of "The Bright Side of Growing Older," one aim must be to abide closely beneath the shadow of the Cross—"looking unto Jesus"—and to be often found as waiting and needy supplicants at the throne of grace. To us it may then be said,—
"Fear not the westering shadows,
O children of the Day!
For brighter still and brighter
Shall be your homeward way.
Resplendent as the morning,
With fuller glow and power,
And clearer than the noonday,
Shall be your evening hour."—F. R. H.
Originally published in Royal Bounty, later republished in Home Words, 1880, 12-14