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for your own interests, and for the good of your friends, and indeed for every useful design which you have 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 charac
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 body, which you 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 in
vite 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 quali
fied 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 op-. portunities 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!" Now my days are swifter than a post; they flee 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, 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 apos
tle 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, "I must 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
5. Lastly, consider, that time well improved will afford comfort and peace in a day of affliction, 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.