A Picture Of The “Old Man”
We desire to give a likeness of the “old man” that will be remembered. As his features are sketched, the reader may compare the picture with what he finds now, or remembers once to have had in his heart, and be sad or glad accordingly.
He is a cold “old man.”
He is opposed to all religious warmth and demonstrativeness. A shout of joy in church or at a camp meeting nearly throws him into a congestive chill. He likes meetings that are frigid and rigid. He believes in frost in the choir, snow in the pew, and an icicle six feet long in the pulpit. A picture of the Ship of Zion surrounded with great spiritual icebergs, hung up in the church library would be according to his taste.
One may start out on the day’s duties with a warm heart secured in answer to a fervent morning prayer, but the “old man” will cool off the heart before ten o’clock. The soul may be revived by public worship, greatly exhilarated and gladdened by protracted or camp meeting exercises, but the chill of his presence is soon felt coming on again, and after a few hours or a few days the soul is back in its former state of coldness and indifference. The “old man” stretched as it were upon the soul is continually striking the chill of its freezing presence into the spirit. A constant spiritual rubbing by prayer and Church work is needed to keep up anything like spiritual warmth.
When the “old man” is gone it is both delightful and wonderful to note the undeparting heat of the soul. The heart feels warm, and remains warm all the time.
He is an easily offended “old man.”
He seems to be looking out for slights. Two people cannot be seen speaking together but the “old man” translates it to mean, and persuades the man to believe, that he is the subject of discussion. There are countless other topics upon which two people could converse without thinking of the party in question; but no, the hypersensitive spirit is convinced that present parties are struck at, and being criticised and ridiculed. Evidently something about his or her dress, or something connected with them, is absorbing the mind and employing the colloquial powers of those two whisperers.
This being the case, at once the backbone begins to stiffen, and the nostrils to inflate. The mental debate going on now is whether or not to be decidedly cool hereafter to those aforesaid innocent parties, who, unconscious of the swelling “old man” in the neighborhood, had been quietly conversing about a child that was sick with the measles.
The presence of the “old man” necessitates the nicest of handling of some people. So many visits a year are absolutely essential to keep on amicable terms. A prompt rushing around to the house in case of sickness in the family must take place, or you must prepare to be socially frozen by a distant bow or an icy smile at the next meeting on street or in parlor.
Great wrongs like the following make life a burden: He was not invited to sit on the platform! He was not allowed to lead the singing, or to conclude with prayer! His name appeared third instead of second or first in some published article or important resolutions! Alas, now! what does it avail to live any longer? Let me die. Behold nothing profits or contents, so long as something or somebody is seen sitting at the king’s gate.
When the fires of sanctification burn out the “old man,” all this sad experience ends, and Paul’s description applies–“Not easily provoked.” The man is thinking so little of himself that he hardly knows when he is insulted. We recall an instance, where the President of a large religious body shook his finger violently in a certain direction while uttering severe things about a man who would produce schism in the church. The brother thus assailed, cried out “Amen!” feeling perfectly innocent of the charge; and did not know for months afterwards that he was the man referred to. Not easily provoked.
Get the “old man” out, and any seat will do. Platforms lose their glory, varying treatment fails to disturb. In all things the man has learned to be content. He has shot ahead of Diogenes, who was so far from being contented with his life in a tub that he wanted Alexander to get out of his light. Whereas when we get depravity out of the heart, Alexander can stand where he pleases, we have a blessing in which we live that satisfies us, whether we are in the shade or sunshine.
He is a talkative “old man.”
In spite of all caution, watchfulness, and severe self-restraint, suddenly the tongue will begin at a wrong rate and in a wrong spirit. For a half dozen hours we run well, and lo! in the seventh hour the regretted speech is made. We visit several families, determined not to be entrapped into saying anything that is not in perfect harmony with the spirit of love; when lo! at the fourth house a circle of bright people is met, whose tongues are rattling, and before one knows it, the blood gets warm, the thoughts excited, the powers of speech become suddenly animated, the tongue lubricated, and things are said that cost sighs, tears, confessions, and promises of amendment to God. The “old man” seems to take advantage of favoring circumstances to awaken the frivolous, hysterical, or unkind spirit as it may be. Sigh, grieve, promise, as one will, not to do so again–it happens again and again, until God takes out the “old man.”
How difficult it is to retain bad news so long as inbred sin is in the heart! The tendency is to confide the painful tidings to wife or friend. The breast is burdened with the secret of a brother’s fall.” O how sad! Have you heard about poor Jones? It is shocking.” Then follows the history of the fall with a strange inward relish over the imparted information. The sigh is heard but there is the strange enjoyment in confiding the secret to another. It is only told to two others besides the wife or husband; and each one tells it to two others besides, and so it is not long before the town, State, and country have the news that was “so sad and shocking.”
Get the “old man” out, and the power to retain sad and bad information, and to be silent generally, actually becomes like a new gift to the soul. You do not care to whisper around these things. The ear becomes a graveyard for countless things heard, and there is no trumpet of an archangel around to blow them into resurrection form.
The “old man” is a great faultfinder.
We have a certain bird in the South that sails high in the air in graceful circles. Round and round it goes with wonderfully observant eye on the land. Wide forests of fragrant pine toss their branches in the sunlight underneath the dizzy flight, but this circling bird does not care for aromatic pine boughs. It passed over broad meadows and pastures, but it is not on the search for, and cares not for, clover blossoms. With like indifference it refuses to look upon the pink and white blossoms of the orchard. The landscape spreads in rare loveliness far beneath, and unrolls before the flying bird, but he is not after and cares nothing for landscape beauties. He is looking for something that looks black, and lies right still on the ground. By and by he spies it, some say that he smells it. Anyhow he begins to descend rapidly in spiral curves nearer and nearer until at last with hovering wings he alights near by or upon the silent form. It is a carcass! And now he begins to pull and haul on one side, while the rest of his family pull away at the other. Some have beheld the scene. The bird is called a buzzard.
In the regenerated man a strange resemblance in conduct is seen. The “old man” accounts for it. Many times it manifests itself in listening to a sermon. Some people come not to hear the truth, and not to see beauties and excellences in the discourse. A hundred good things are said, but the “old man” is not after good things. It is not fragrant pine branches and clover blossoms he is after. He is looking for something dead and objectionable, something that smacks of error, a grammatical blunder, an unfortunate and unwise speech. In a word, he wants a carcass to light upon. Suddenly he sees it. Next morning at the breakfast table he begins the pulling and hauling process: “Wife, did you hear what that man said last night?” Promptly on the other side of the carcass, taking hold and beginning to pull, she also replies: “Yes, husband; I heard him say so and so.” Then the children chime in, each one taking hold of some part of the sermon or conversation or occurrence, and jerking and dragging it all over the breakfast table.
Years afterwards the father and mother of the family begin to wonder why their children have no reverence for the pulpit and the Bible. They stay from church and laugh at religion and all holy things. The explanation is that they were so instructed by example to pull and haul at ministers, sermons, doctrines, and experiences of the Christian life, that they have grown up argumentative, faultfinding, and skeptical.
It is wonderful with what a perfect absence of the critical faculty we listen to indifferent sermons, or behold blemishes in consecrated lives when the “old man” is taken out of the heart. The grammatical blunder in the pulpit, the sophomoric style, the historic misstatement, the inaccurate Scripture quotation are all overlooked and condoned for as the eye takes in pleasanter things as seen in the earnestness and devotion of the person who may be preaching or living before us.
He is a bitter “old man.”
Never was there a gland in the body that more certainly secreted saliva, bile, or gall than does the “old man” generate bitterness. As the hours go by there is a steady drip, drip, drip in the heart until it suddenly overflows on some slight provocation, and is emptied on the head of the wife or husband. Instantly repentance sets in, apologies are made to the injured, forgiveness is sought and obtained of God, and life is begun again fair and promising. This time you intend being very careful; the door of the lips is guarded, and all goes well for awhile. Meanwhile the “old man,” gland-like, drips on within the heart, and suddenly on returning home from the street, store, or farm, tired and jaded, the provocation comes from an unexpected quarter and over goes the full heart again!–this time on a child or servant, or an animal. Now then for confession, repentance, sighs, and tears again. Again God is entreated, and the same old prayer is offered: “Lord, forgive.” And the Lord does forgive. He does what we ask him. The suppliant, we notice, does not ask to be sanctified, and that the “old man” should be put to death and cast out. No, he does not believe in sanctification. He believes in pardon and growth in grace. So on he goes, and as he grows the “old man” grows also. And the drip, drip, drip of bitterness goes on inside, and the sudden overflowings of gall as described are periodic as the tides.
The writer recalls a sermon he once preached before his sanctification at a large camp ground. The Spirit fell on the word, and salvation flowed. A prominent minister, meeting the writer after the signal victory, called him “a prince of Israel.” How this did please the “old man” that dwelt inside! At once a plume of gratified vanity was hoisted, and the invisible feathers waved in the wind of human praise. At the same time came a sudden inclination to return home. Better leave now with a fine camp meeting reputation than stay and risk it with another sermon, that may not measure up to the other. Done! Go we must, in spite of urgings to remain. Important duties call home. Heavy pastoral work must be met. So we covered up the voice within, and go we did with the glow of victory in the heart and the aforesaid feathers waving in the wind. A prince of Israel so acknowledged and called was going home. He will tell his wife what a sermon he preached; what an altar scene followed; how a prominent minister said he was “a prince.” The wife must be informed what a husband she has. So the prince and his plume returned home. Meantime the “old man” is not dead. The drip, drip is going on, unnoticed in the princely heart; and suddenly, just eight hours after the signal victory on the camp ground, the prince with his feathers, after having told his wife, like Haman told his, what a wonderful man he was, this same prince with his feathers under a slight provocation got mad in the midst of his family! Off went the feathers and down went the prince.
When God casts the “old man” out, and the New Man takes his place, how marvelous and blessed the change! Instead of these secretions of gall there is a constant dripping of sweetness within as if a lump of golden honey was lodged somewhere in the heart. Let the reader obtain the experience and know for himself.
He is a gloomy “old man.”
Sudden spells of melancholy, or fits of blues, constitute one of the features of the regenerated life. Regeneration does not produce it, but it comes in spite of regeneration. To many Christians it is unaccountable. One day they are bright and cheerful, and the next day this peculiar gloom settles upon the soul. Sometimes one awakens with this heavy something on the heart and weighing down the spirits. There is a disinclination to talk–worse still, a disposition to be faultfinding and snappish. The person does not know what brought it on, but on awakening in the morning found the incubus on the heart.
This is the day, if the spell is on the husband, that the wife asks no questions. With a swift glance over the breakfast table she sees that something is wrong, and is careful to say nothing, or if anything at all, speaks in the most soothing manner. Think of a wife studying her husband’s face to see if she can break to him a piece of news, or ask a question. It is a peculiar day in the family history. The children are shy of “Papa” on such days. The meals are eaten in silence. The man gulps down his food with his eyes on his plate, and communicates only in monosyllables and grunts. He despises himself for the churlishness that is in him, but feels utterly powerless to shake it off. Poor fellow! he does not know what it is, and does not dream that Christ can take it out forever.
Sometimes it is the wife upon whom the “spell” comes. This is the day on which the husband takes lunch down town; this is the day that the peculiar music of hand-slapping upon the cheeks of the children reverberates through the house. Whippings and scoldings abound that day. Nothing seems to go right. The steam of inbred sin works itself off in voice-raisings and hand motions of punitive character.
The writer knew a lady who on a slight provocation on one of these gloomy days struck at one of the children with a switch. From the careless and vehement motion of the rod, another child was struck accidentally, who promptly blubbered, when immediately the lady whipped the blubberer, and in the commotion that followed never stopped until she whipped the whole family. After that, with fearful convictions of what she had done, she took her Bible and went to the woods, where she spent three hours in bitter reflection, repentance, and prayer, and came back with an “Amazing grace! how sweet the sound!” look on her face. She was forgiven, it was true, but what a picture lesson to her family!
The writer has known ladies to go off to themselves on one of these gloomy days of the “old man” administration, and cry out their heaviness and blueness, not dreaming that inbred sin was the cause of the whole trouble. They thought it was forebodings of ill, or memory of past sorrows, etc., but the real cause they did not know, and so wept themselves into temporary relief, only to cry again in like manner in a few days or weeks.
The world’s explanation of this moody condition is that the wind is in the east, when really it is the “old man” in the heart.
The world says, again, that we have gotten out of the wrong side of the bed; when the fact is, if we get inbred sin out of us, it does not matter which side of the bed we get out at, whether on the right or left, whether over the head or foot, or even if we break through the slats and come from under the bed–still we will always come out right.
A lady told the author that her father would be like a beam of sunshine one day, and lo! the next morning he would appear grum, glum, and dumb. He looked as if he had heard that half the town was dead, and the other half was dying, and the hearse was on its way for himself. In this mournful frame he would address himself to the task of carving the meat at breakfast and in the most lugubrious tone say, “Daughter, will you have a piece of the beefsteak?” and she, bright, cheery, winning, would say, “Yes, father, but there is no use of being so brokenhearted about it!”
Here was a man who had been the center of an admiring social circle the evening before. His wit had flashed. His wonderful memory and gifted tongue had charmed the roomful of guests, his laughter had rung out cheerily and contagiously when lo! presto, change! Next morning there is left for the enjoyment of the family itself a man of groans and sighs and monosyllables and depressed appearance generally. The lines of his face that were all turned up the night before are now all turned down. He seems to be sitting under a willow, a statue of a weeping. Niobe is close by, the sun is set, darkness has settled upon the plain, and a gray mist has crept in from the sea. A cemetery glistens faintly under the cold starlight–and what is the use of living anyhow? All this is wrought out by the presence of the “old man” in the heart.
When inbred sin is taken out, the awakening in the morning is one of peace and gladness. The whole day becomes like a sweet bright leaf turned by the hand of God. The world soon takes notice of a man who is even-tempered and sweet-spirited at every meal, in every hour, and under every circumstance. This is the kind of Christian living the world craves to see, and this is the character of life that a genuine sanctification will produce.
He is a man-fearing “old man.”
It is marvelous how he stands in awe of men, especially of men in high place and authority. Their voices and foot-falls seem to send a thrill of terror through him.
Akin to this is his disposition to conform to the world. He, while doing this, would have you call it prudence, tact, or policy; but it is really conformity.
He believes in churches, but wants them run to please people of the world. Nothing must be done that will provoke the world’s criticism or displeasure. Think of it! a church managed so as to please a God-forgetting, Christ-crucifying world. If there were such a church, God would spew it out of his mouth!
He is a tyrannical “old man.”
On the shoulders of Sindbad dropped an old man of the sea, who made him go wherever he desired. The afflicted man resorted to various expedients to get rid of him, but for a great while to no purpose; the old creature of the sea clung to him and ruled his motions as he brooded, a dead, dark weight upon his back.
Not less tyrannical is the “old man” that we are speaking of in this volume. Many a time the child of God desires to do certain things, discharge certain duties, and yet realizes at the same time something powerful within opposing and pulling back.
The voice of the Spirit bids one go to a neighbor and clear up some trouble or misunderstanding; the Christian obediently starts, comes in sight of the house, and at once the “old man” arrests his progress, sends him off another way, and finally he returns home without having done the Heaven-impressed duty.
Again the Spirit urges one to come to the altar; but the “old man” keeps him rooted to his seat, and, with a leaden-like sensation in heart, mind, and members, the man feels unable to move.
Still again the Christian would confess a wrong to some one, and instantly the “old man” paralyzes the tongue in the presence of the wronged party.
He is a corrupt “old man.”
God himself says so in Ephesians iv. 22: “That ye put off … the old man, which is corrupt.” It is the presence of inbred sin in the heart that accounts for desires and imaginations that are not chaste. It is wonderful how pure the thoughts, and even the dreams, become when God’s holy fire falls upon the “old man.”
He is a deceitful “old man.”
A person will think he is dead a hundred times, when he is only slumbering and resting. Like a certain animal in our Southern forests, he can play the opossum. He can counterfeit death. He often lies low during a Holiness revival. He is afraid of the baptism of fire falling upon the human soul. He has need to be afraid.
After a rough handling from the pulpit, or upon hearing a vigorous prayer, or melted by some discourse or touching hymn, or chastened by some heavy sorrow, the “old man” will make out that he is converted, and even that he is dead.
The writer thought that he was dead many times before the Lord slew him. More than once he carried him to the cemetery and buried him; and lo! the “old man” would arise from the grave, take a near cut to town, and open the door for us on our arrival, saying with a smile:” I beat you back, you see.” We have been driving him in a hearse to the burial ground, when he would get out of the coffin, take a seat by the driver, and assist in the rest of the expedition, which it is needless to say would be cut short.
Christians under certain preaching or religious singing have had hearty bits of weeping over their sins and unworthiness; after which the “old man” would be quiet for weeks, and they would think that he was drowned. But it is not in the power of water to destroy him; it is the blood of Christ alone which cleanseth from all sin.
That sermon, no matter how powerful, was never preached that can destroy the “old man.” Equally helpless are hymn and prayer. It takes the divine hand and power to hurl him from the heart, and rid the soul of his dark and gruesome presence forever. Hence for this purpose was the Son of God manifested, that he might destroy this work of the devil.