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several parts of time, which we are called upon to redeem and improve."
The first and principal employment of our present time should be in the service of God. For surely it is an indisputable point of reason, that the God who made us what we are, should command the first fruits of our abilities. We should therefore make his word and will a principal part of our study, we should labour to promote his honour, we should meditate frequently on heavenly things, we should diligently attend the stated times and seasons of public worship, we should strive to conform ourselves to his divine perfection by conquering our lusts, by resisting the temptations of the world, by working out our own salvation, and by promoting that of others. And surely these are duties, which will leave no time unemployed, no intervals of leisure to hang heavy and oppress us.
I must however remark, that though these great duties should be our first and principal concern, yet they ought not to be our only one. It is a very wrong and injurious notion of the duty we owe to God, to suppose, that it requires us to be always upon our knees, or shut up in cells or caves. God never made a hermit or a recluse; the pride or weakness of man has made
many. But surely, if any truth be plain, it is so, that the christian religion was never meant for the destruction of society: Its natural tendency is to make men good fathers, good friends, and good subjects. The man, therefore, who spends his time in the faithful discharge of the duties which belong to these several relations, spends it usefully, and agreeably to the will of God; nay, I will not scruple to say, is better and more acceptably employed than the strictest devotee, who macerates his body with incessant fasting, or wears his knees to the bone with con tinual praying.
To spend the present time well then, is to spend it in a manner suitable to the glory of God, and our own circumstances in life.
And as these circumstances vary, so our duties, must necessarily vary in the same proportion. But yet, so long as we improve our time in the best manner to the faithful discharge of the duties of our calling, be it what it will, we may rest assured that we are fulfilling the will of God, who hath assigned to every man his several movements in the great machine of the universe, his several parts to act on the great theatre of life.
But the words of the text not only thus call upon us to employ the present moment well, but also still more strongly call upon us to redeem the time that is past. And that can only be done by redoubling our diligence and zeal, and by doing that in a little time, which ought to have been the labour and business of our whole lives. And who is there that feels not in himself the necessity of thus redeeming the time he has lost? If I look back upon my past life, how many: parts of it do I see mere blanks and vacuities, unmarked by any, or at least any laudable, traces of action?
How many more, alas! stained with the blots of guilt, or deformed with the ridiculous devi ations of folly? How few distinguished by the performance of reasonable, useful, or generous actions? The apostle therefore wisely calls upon every man to redeem the waste of his past time: If I am in the prime and vigour of age; to redeem the follies of youth by a strenuous application of those talents to laudable purposes, which are now in their highest perfection and power. If I am in the middle of life, and am, as it too often happens at that age, heavy laden with the burden of my sins, and under the dominion of evil habits; to redeem the time, thus doubly lost, by endeavouring to root the evil
seed out of my heart, by resisting that torrent of temptation, which carries me down the dangerous stream of perdition, and by putting on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. And if I am in the decline of age; if I have seen many revolving years pass over my head without improving them as I ought; if I feel the springs of nature within me weak, but the power of confirmed habit strong; if I see the work to be done is much, and the time for doing it, both short and uncertain; then to redouble my speed, to make haste to be wise unto salvation, lest advancing age and growing infirmities should render me incapable of running the race that is set before me, or the night of death should overtake me, when no man can work. This is the way, in which the apostle advises every man to redeem the past time. Let every man, therefore, who hears me this day, seriously lay it to heart, and forgetting those bad habits which are behind, and reaching forth unto those better things which are before, press towards the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
But farther. We may not only thus redeem the past time, but we may also, in some sense, redeem the time to come, by our wisdom and virtue. Thus the man who labours to conquer
the infirmities of his nature, to subdue the force of temptation, and to establish wise and pious resolutions, certainly redeems the time to come, by making his future progress in holiness easy and pleasant.
Thus again, the man who by works of charity and beneficence, shews his zeal for religion, and his love for the poor members of Jesus Christ, certainly redeems the time to come, and lays up in store for himself a treasure in heaven, which shall be repaid him when he stands in need of it, in any future hour of distress. Thus also those noble benefactors to their country and mankind, who by permanent establishments have endeavoured to alleviate the various miseries of afflicted mortality, may justly be said to have redeemed the time to come, nay, I had almost said, eternity itself. Being dead, they yet speak by their works to posterity, in this forcible language, "Go and do thou likewise." Being taken from among men, their memory liveth for ever, and shall be had in everlasting honour. Being poor and miserable sinners like ourselves, their alıns and oblations are gone up for a memorial before God, and, through faith in Christ, will entitle them to a glorious reward, when time itself shall be no more..