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vantages that have been put into his hand by the kind providence of God, has gained where. withal to relieve and help any such necessitous persons, has good reason to rejoice. Which leads me to another particular.
4. Some time ought to be employed in serving others. Man is naturally a sociable creature. The christian religion teaches us to consider ourselves as members of one and the same body. It is a particular and express direction of St. Paulo “ Look not every man on his own things : but every man also on the things of others,” Phil. ii. 4.
Some have perplexed and difficult affairs before them: and they want the assistance and the united counsels of others. If men of understanding carefully improve their time, and dispatch their own affairs with diligence, they may have leisure to advise, help, and solicit for others, in those intricacies in which they happen to be involved.
Some are weak through want of knowledge, or experience and credit in the world: and they are overpowered by men of superior might, who are artful, and skilful in carrying on oppressive measures, and then securing and defending themselves by specious pretences against the resentment due to their unjust proceedings. Will it not be an act of great virtue, to afford some help to the weak cause, when upon good grounds we know it to be right? Among those things which Job urges in his own vindication, he does not omit this part of his character: “I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame. I was a father to the poor, and the cause, which I knew not, 1 searched out. I brake the jaws of the wicked, and plucked the spoil out of his teeth,” Job xxix. 15–17.
That is a grand performance; but it is reserved for those who have well improved their time in cultivating their own minds; and who know how to discharge the encumberances of their own affairs with expedition.
II. I now proceed to show how time may be best improved in these good works, and for carrying on these good designs and purposes.
i. We are to do these things with all our might. What we do, or engage in, we are to be intent upon, in proportion at least to its importance. If we are about our own work, in the business of our calling, we are to mind it, and not be slothful therein ; but to do it with diligence, that it may be dispatched, and we may not be hindered from the service of God, or our neighbour.
If we are engaged in the service of God, we are to mind that, and not to suffer other things then to occupy our thoughts. Cold and indifferent services will neither be acceptable to God, nor profitable for ourselves. Do we think to obtain those blessings which we ask but faintly? Will those instructions do us any good, which we scarce regard when given ? Or, have those instructors discharged their duty, who have proposed indeed reasonable admonitions, and weighty arguments, but without inward affection, or visible zeal and concern; as if the things discoursed of were indifferent, of little or no moment. It is no wonder, if the time allotted even to the worship of God runs waste, if we are unattentive and negligent.
So likewise, when you undertake any service for another, you are to do it with all your might, as if it were your own. You are to study the most proper and effectual means of suc. ceeding that can be thought of. Whatever good cause you espouse, you are to do it heartily; for otherwise you betray, instead of promoting it.
2. Another way of improving time is to lay aside -as much as possible such things as are trifling, unnecessary, and of small moment; and to contract the number and length of our re:creations. Hereby we gain more time for those things which are material and important.
It is true, the mind ought to be diverted, and cannot be always intent upon great matters > but we should take care that diversions are not so indulged as to unfit us for business afterwards. This is the proper use and design of relaxation, to fit us better for things of weight. But some by giving way to amusements and diversions, by exceeding therein as to length of time, contract so light a habit. as to be disgusted at every thing grave and serious.
The body too needs to be refreshed by rest:; but, certainly, we were not born to sleep only. And it has been often observed, that when that is indulged beyond the proportion which nature requires, all the powers of the bodily frame, instead of being invigorated and strengthened, are slackened and enervated.
3. Another thing that will be of service for improving, or redeeming time, is to lay hold of, and take the advantage of opportunities.
Every one knows that this is of great importance in commerce, and in all the affairs of life. There are likewise opportunities, or special seasons for gaining religious knowledge, and advancing the good dispositions of the mind. Such is the friendship and conversation of a serious, understanding and communicative Christian. The Lord's day is an opportunity for our souls, as it is a day of rest and leisure from the cares and business of this present life. It
It may be reasonably supposed, that then, when we are disengaged from other things, we may give a closer attention to those instructions which are proposed to us in the public worship of God: and we may then likewise, especially in private, without inconvenience, carry on our meditations to a greater length than we can ordinarily do on other days.
There may likewise also be opportunities arising from the temper of our minds. Possibly we do at some seasons, and in some circumstances, perceive in ourselves a more ready, or a more pliable disposition than at others. These are special opportunities. We should not let them slip, but by all means take the advantage of them for adjusting maturely the great principles of reason and religion, upon which we are to act, and for settling in our minds a full persuasion of the vanity of this world and all its glories; and for confirming the resolutions of virtuous and holy obedience, which are just and reasonable.
As there are such seasons as these, favourable to our own best interests, so opportunities may offer for the serving others; either for giving them advice and counsel, or reproof, or for interposing with other persons in their behalf, and to their advantage.
4. It will be of great use for redeeming, or the right improving of time, to dispose our several affairs and concerns in good order. This contrivance and disposal of things may, itself, take up some thought and time, and seem to retard our progress for the present; but it will be amply recompensed afterwards. It will afford pleasure not to be conceived beforehand. All the perplexity of confusion and disorder will be avoided : and many things will be done and effected with ease, which otherwise would have been left undone to our own great vexation, and the loss and detriment of others.
5. Time may be upon some occasions wisely redeemed by avoiding contention about trifling things of little value.
This I apprehend to be one reason why our blessed Lord, in such emphatical expressions, recommends to men to acquiesce and sit down contented under lesser injuries and abuses, rather than withstand them, or seek satisfaction for them. “ I say unto you, That ye resist not evil : but whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him two,” Matt. v. 39-41.
It is a point of prudence, as well as virtue, to pass by lesser offences. Better it is to lose a small sum, than run the hazard of wasting a great deal in a long and tedious prosecution, which may never succeed at last. Or, it is better to let it go at once, without farther concern, than to spend time in the recovery, which may be employed to more advantage another way.
The like may be said with regard to many other things, which are causes of strife and dif. ference among men. Begin not a strife abouť trifles, lest you should thereby be drawn into a long and ruinous contention. The observing this rule may be of great and singular use on the point before us, of redeeming time.
6. Lastly, Time is to be redeemed by a pruilent, circumspect and inoffensive behaviour to all men. This is supposed to be what is particularly intended by the apostle : if so, it is of near affinity with other directions elsewhere." If it be possible, as much as in you lies, live peaceably with all men.” Rom. xii. 18. And, “Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God," 1 Cor. 10.32. Solomon's observation may be reckoned applicable here, as well as upon other occasions : “ A soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger.” Prov. xv. 1. In this way redeem time to yourselves, for all the good purposes of life. In this
In this way seek the prolongation of your peace and tranquillity, by avoiding all needless offence and provocation, by mildness and affability of discourse, prudence of behaviour, meekness of answer to all those who inquire after your belief, and the grounds and reasons of it. By a readiness to good offices, watching your temper, guarding against such discourses and actions, as are offensive and disagreeable to many about you, and which your peculiar principles do by no means oblige you hereby, I say, do you redeem and gain time for the worship of God, for your own interests, and
for the good of your friends, and indeed for every useful design which you liave at heart, and you are at all qualified for.
III. I beg leave to add, in the third place, as at first proposed, a serious exhortation, which shall consist of two parts. First, an address to persons of different ages, stations and characters : and then, secondly, some considerations by way of motive and argument.
1. Let me say somewhat by way of counsel and advice upon this subject, to persons of different ages and characters.
Are any still in a sinful course, and under the power of evil habits? Do any daily add sin to sin? They do somewhat worse than barely waste time : for they employ it to bad purpose.
Are there any who have not yet sincerely devoted themselves to God, with full purpose of heart to serve and obey him? There is somewhat yet undone, which must be done, or you are miserable beyond redress. Be persuaded to take some time to consider the course you are in. Probably, you will then see reason to alter it, and enter upon a new way of life.
« I thought on my ways,” says the Psalmist, “and turned my feet unto thy testimonies. I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments,” Ps. cxix. 59, 60.
They who have devoted themselves to God in Christ Jesus, may do well to consider, that their engagement to be the Lord's, implies an obligation to serve him with all their might. Good habits ought to be improved and strengthened. You are to glorify God with your soul and your
have consecrated to him. You ought to 'stir up and awaken men to attend to the great things of religion, and their most important concerns. You are to invite and draw as many as you can into the paths of virtue and holiness. So your time of life will be well employed : and in the end you will receive from the Lord, whom you serve, a very abundant reward.
Young persons may perceive, from what has been said, how great an advantage may be made by an early dedication of themselves to God. You are in, or approaching to, the best part of life. Have you no desire that it may be employed to some good purposes? Is it not a pity that the world and you should lose your best time, and all the vigour and activity of your highest powers ?
Improve then the early days of life in preparatory studies and labours for future usefulness ; that you may be qualified to discharge the duties of your station with reputation and credit. How great is their happiness, if they know how to improve it, whose parents furnish them with the best helps for knowledge and wisdom, secular and religious, and who constantly watch over their conduct, and quicken and encourage their pursuit of every thing excellent and laudable ! Great likewise is their privilege, who, when their nearest relatives are straitened, are kindly forwarded and assisted by others of generous minds, who liberally afford them all proper helps for attaining the knowledge suited to their rank and condition. These are accountable for such a privilege, and should improve the time allotted for attaining that skill and science, which may enable them to live comfortably in the world.
Are you in years ? Have you passed the morning and noon of life? and are you drawing toward the very evening ? and has all that time been wasted ? It is time to think and consider, and take care to improve what remains. This every one must be convinced of; but perhaps some may be apt to despair of doing any good now. To such I would say: that regard for time past and lost, should not by any means exceed so far as to prevent the improving of what is left. As yet you have an opportunity. Nature may be impaired; but then, possibly, you have fewer avocations. And some temptations, that were strong, have lost their force. Endeavour then to do this good at last, by immediate care and diligence in the great work and business of this life, the service of God, and serious preparation for another world, to leave behind you the testimony of a full conviction, that after having tried the ways of sin, the way of holiness and virtue is to be preferred.
Are you rich and exalted in this world ? You are by your condition discharged from many of the low offices of life which are performed for you by others. You may therefore employ yourselves in things of a higher nature : in contemplating the works of creation and Providence, in studying the principles of natural and revealed religion. So you may furnish your minds with a rich treasure of delightful and useful knowledge. And you may have opportunities of communicating excellent instruction to those whose mean employments hinder their making many reflections for themselves. Or, you may assist, direct, relieve, such as are in want and perplexity.
Are you poor? By that condition of life you are especially necessitated to redeem time by assiduity and diligence in your calling. Sloth and idleness would throw you into want and distress : and at the
same time dishearten others from giving you relief. Diligence is one of the proper virtues of your station, and the chief merit you can attain to. It will therefore recommend you to the regard of others, and induce them to lend you
their helping hand for your support ; especially, if, notwithstanding your best care, you should come into any remarkable straits and difficulties : whereas, if, whilst you are in poor and low circumstances, you are idle and unactive, by this demonstration of a worthless mind, at least a very great defect of virtue, you check the charity even of those who are of a kind and benevolent disposition.
And let me observe, that as the nature of your condition very much engages your time and thoughts in providing the necessaries of life, you ought most carefully to improve the rest of the Lord's day for the concerns of your souls and another life.
II. Having mentioned these advices and counsels, I shall now conclude all with some considerations by way of motive and argument.
1. Consider that time is precious, and the improvement of it is of great importance. It is the season and opportunity of serving and glorifying God, and securing the eternal welfare and salvation of our souls.
Though there are special opportunities in the time of life, it may be all considered as an opportunity which God has given us of preparing and qualifying ourselves for another and better life. How careful should we be to improve that time and season on which so much depends ; no less than everlasting glory and happiness, or final ruin and misery:
2. Consider that time is short and uncertain. There is no very long space between the day of our birth, and the day of our death. How strongly, by a variety of comparisons, does Job represent the shortness of human life, and the swift and irrevocable progress of time! 66 Now my days are swifter than a post: they fee away. They are passed away as the swift ships : as the eagle that hasteth to the prey,” Job ix. 25, 26. And in another place, “ My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle,” Job vii. 6.
3. Proportionable to your care and diligence will be your progress and improvement. So it is often seen in the affairs and business of this world. Among many who have the same or like outward advantages, he usually is the most successful who is the most diligent and punctual. In the pursuit of knowledge he likewise has, for the most part, the advantage, who best employs his time. It is the same in religion. The diligent, the watchful, the circumspect Christian, is the growing and improving Christian.
Perhaps you know some who set out with you in the Christian course. You began together with equal ardour, and have enjoyed in a great measure the same external means and helps : but yet, their improvements, you think, are by far more considerable than your's. Their knowledge of religious truths appears more distinct and clear. Their faith of invisible things is lively and affecting. They are prepared both for life and for death. They have no tormenting fears of the one, nor solicitous desire and concern for the other. Their moderation of affection toward the good and the evil things of this life, you evidently perceive, is not insensibility and stupidity : but a wise and reasonable, and determined preference of things heavenly and eternal, to things earthly and temporal.
They are seldom moved by anger: whereas you often fall into excesses of that passion. They can overlook and forget an injury, when almost every little offence produces deep resentment in your breast. They bear courageously very afflicting strokes of providence. You shrink under the weight of small burdens.
What is the reason of this ? Is it not that you have too much depended upon the fervour of your first resolutions, and have much neglected the means of your progress and improvement? Whereas they have been careful in redeeming their time by frequently impressing on their minds the obligations they are under, and reviving the sense of the engagements they have entered into. They allot time for serious meditation and consideration. When they pray, or hear, or engage in other religious services, they are intent, and do it with all their might, as in the presence, and under the eye of God,
They not only read, but think. They not only hear, but recollect also, and meditate afterwards. They have not only been intent and fully engaged in their private and public devotions,
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but they have also gladly embraced opportunities of edifying conversation and conference; and have carefully treasured up many valuable observations which they have made themselves, or received from others. By these and other means they are continually on the improving hand, and grow daily stronger and stronger in the Lord.
4. For better exciting to the right improvement or redeeming of time, you may do well to observe some great examples of diligence and zeal. Such an one was the apostle Paul, who was in labours more abundant, and carried the knowledge of true religion to a vast extent in the
compass of his indefatigable life. And such was Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour, who, as St. Peter justly says, “ went about doing good,” Acts x. 38. And himself once said, work the works of him that sent me, whilst it is day. The night cometh, wherein no man can work,” John ix. 4. And how well every portion of the short time of his ministry was employed, we evidently perceive from the history of it in the gospels; which history, though very brief and compendious, sets before us the most eminent example of zeal for the glory of God, and the welfare of men, and of diligence in pursuing those great ends that ever the world saw.
5. Lastly, consider, that time well improved will afford comfort and peace in a day of affiction, and in the hour of death ; especially, if you begin early to mind the true business of life, and proceed with steadiness in the way of religion and virtue. You will not have reason for boasting, nor will you be disposed to it. You will never be proud of your good works, but will humbly own your defects, and cheerfully ascribe the glory of what has been well done to God, the fountain of all perfection, who has upheld, guided, taught and strengthened you. But still it will be very pleasing and delightful to be conscious of those virtuous dispositions and services which God himself approves and will reward. And you may be able in the end to say with the apostle, and with a like joy and triumph : “ I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous judge will give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing, 2 Tim. iv. 7, 8.
JESUS MADE A CURSE FOR US.
Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us : for it is written,
cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree. That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the spirit through faith. Gal. iii. 13, 14.
Every one knows that the main design of the apostle in this epistle, is to dissuade the Galatians from coming under the yoke of the law of Moses, as necessary to acceptance with God, and eternal salvation.
As these Christians were his own converts, and they had paid too great regard to some artful men, since come in among them; he reproves them with sharpness, and sets arguments before them with warmth and earnestness. “ O foolish Galatians," says he in this third chapter, 66 who has bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth ? before whose eyes Jesus Christ has been evidently set forth crucified among you? He therefore that ministereth the spirit to you, doth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith ? Even as Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore, that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying: In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse. For it is written : Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that