True Godliness at the Door of Old Age

From Benjamin Keach’s allegory The Travels of True Godliness. This is a warning to all!

Godliness being rejected both by Riches, Poverty, and Youth, resolved to see whether he might not be entertained by a certain decrepit and feeble person called Old Age, concluding within himself that it was very probable his dear friend Consideration, whom he had a long time sought for, might lodge in his house; for, said he, surely Wisdom, though he dwell not with Riches, Poverty, nor Youth, yet doubtless he doth with the aged (Job xxxii. 7): and therefore he made up directly to his door, where he knocked and called a considerable time without any answer; but at last Old Age inquired who was at his door?

Old Age. Who are you?

Godliness. Your real friend, True Godliness, who would fain have a lodging with you now at last.

Old Age. Godliness, I have heard, I think, of you, but I do not know you. Besides, I am not able to rise up from my chair to let you in, I have such a weak and crazy carcass, and so full of pain and aches, that I have enough to do to sustain my own infirmities. Pray come another time, don’t trouble me.

Godliness. Alas, Father, you may not live another day; death may seize you before to-morrow morning (Prov. xxvii. 1). Why should you put me off? I was formerly at your door, when you were young, and then you told me you could not open to me, because you had not sowed all your wild oats, and you were too young, and I was not a fit companion for youth. Moreover, you then said when you were old you would let me in, and will you put me off now too? pray rise and open to me.

But all the ways and means Godliness could use signified nothing; he was settled on his lees, and had such abundance of stubborn and rebellious servants and children, that they would not suffer him to shew Godliness the least favour (Jer. xxviii. 11; Zeph. i. 12). The names of some of them were, besides Weary-limbs, Dim-eyes, and peevish Hard-heart, Impenitency, Self-conceit, Enmity, Unbelief, and Ignorance, with many more of the like sort. The first I named were his own natural offspring, and somewhat younger than the rest. Hard-heart he had nourished and fed continually from his youth, for Godliness found him at his house when he gave him a visit in the prime of his days. But now he has grown a very stout, stubborn, and obdurate piece; this fellow made Old Age not to regard at all, nor fear the threats of God. And he was so void of pity, that he stirred Old Age up to stifle poor Conscience, who kept his accounts, and at every turn to tread him under foot if he had at any time so much light and power as to tell him of his debts, viz., what abundance of abominable sins he had committed against God; nay, not only so, but not to regard nor pity the sad estate of his own soul; nor did he concern himself with the low condition of God’s Church and the Protestant religion in this dismal hour, but would curse and swear, and tell many stories and filthy lies, and now and then be drunk, notwithstanding he was even ready to drop into hell, and but seldom cry, God save me ! And all this comes to pass through the evil nature of this cursed Hard-heart, and his companions Enmity and Unbelief.

These three had also bred up another graceless villain as bad as themselves, one Impenitency, so that all that could be said to him by Godliness, and his servant Theology, concerning the detestable nature of sin and his miserable condition, yet he could not be brought to repent, nor let one tear fall for his sins; so that word of the blessed Apostle was made good in him, “But after thy hard and impenitent heart, treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgments of God; who will render to every man according to his deeds” (Rom. ii. 5, 6).

Ignorance was in Young-man’s house, and in Poverty’s house, but not such a sottish Ignorance as seemed to be with this father Old Age, for he told him God did not mind nor trouble Himself to take notice of what men did here below, but was taken up about high matters in heaven; neither, indeed, could he believe he saw through the thick clouds: “Is not God,” saith he, “in the heights of heaven, and behold the height of the stars, how high they are!” And, “How doth God know ? Can he judge through the dark clouds? thick clouds are a covering to him, that he seeth not; and he walketh in the circuit of heaven” (Job xxii. 12, 13, 14).

Moreover, he and Unbelief told him though he was a notorious swearer, liar, and a very drunken sot, that he had as good a heart as the best, and that to hear and read some good prayers, and to mean well, was godliness enough for him. Besides, they would not suffer him to believe that God would ever cast any of His creatures whom He had made into a lake of fire and brimstone for such a small frivolous thing as sin was; nay, he was persuaded by them to believe there was no hell at all. And, as touching heaven, they told him there might be some such thing; and that, though he might not have so good a place there as some men, yet he should get in amongst the crowd, and find some corner or other, for heaven was a very large place.

Self-conceit caused him to think so highly of himself, that, notwithstanding all that Godliness could say to confute Ignorance and Unbelief, he did not mind it at all; for he said they were all fools who troubled themselves about sin and another world, and that he, who had lived so many years, understood better, and he knew what he had to do, and bid Godliness, in conclusion, hold his prating; for, saith he, every tub must stand upon its own bottom, and sure I am God will not cast away an old man. I was born a Christian, and made a child of God, a member of Christ, an heir of the kingdom of heaven, by my baptism (our minister told me so), and would you persuade me to think my condition is bad at last; no, sir, I understand what religion is very well: do not mistake yourself, for I do not see I am much pressed by my ordinary to strict godliness, but to come now and then to hear prayers and receive the sacrament, and this I resolve to do ; and though my condition is rendered so bad by you, I am sure there are many in our parish, yet good churchmen, as bad, nay, far worse, than I.

Godliness by this time perceiving Old Age was so hardened in his sins, and trained up by Ignorance so long a time, that it was next to an impossibility ever to think the evil habits he had got, by being accustomed so long to those ways of vice and ungodliness, should ever be changed, considering he was become so unteachable and self-conceited, was resolved to leave him, not thinking it was worth his time to wait longer at his door, nor give any reply to those base-bred children and servants he kept in his house; for Peevish made him so foppish that there was no speaking to him, remembering that word of the prophet, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Then may you, who are accustomed to do evil, learn to do well” (Jer. xiii. 23). Yet he could not but take pity on him, considering his age, therefore gave him this following general reply, and departed.

Godliness. Father Old Age, it grieves me to find you thus blind and hardened in your evil ways, and the rather because I see your enemy death also standing, with his sword drawn, here at your door, ready to enter in, and hell is at his heels. Alas! death, who now shakes his sword over your head, will soon sheath it into your heart. What will you do, who contemn true godliness through ignorance, when you come to stand before God in judgment ? There is but a little airy breathing between you and eternal burnings; it is better to have your eyes open on earth to bewail your sins, than to have your eyes open in hell to bewail your suffering; though you will not let me in now, who would make you happy, yet you will not be able erelong to keep death out, who will make you eternally miserable (Ps. Ixxxix. 48). It is sad you will not see your danger till you cannot escape your danger. As I now stand at your door, saying, “Open to me,” but am not let in, so you erelong will say, “Lord, Lord, open to me;” but you shall be kept out, for none but those who receive me into their hearts on earth shall be received by Christ hereafter into heaven. Those who contemn godliness here shall be condemned for their ungodliness hereafter. Your poor deluded soul, who thinks its state so good without grace and regeneration, will find it bad erelong under wrath and condemnation; ” for except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John iii . 3). This is the day of God’s long-suffering, but quickly will come the day of your long-sufferingfor He whose mercy you have abused while you live will let out His vengeance against you to eternity when you die (2 Thess. i. 8, 9).

Much to the same purpose he spoke to him, and, with abundance of sorrow, left him to perish in his sins.