|Remember how short my time is.| -- Ps.89:47.
|To everything there is a, season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.| -- Eccl.3:1.
|Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.| -- Eph.6:16.
|Behold NOW is the accepted time.| -- 2 Cor.6:2.
MY DEAR SISTER,
When you entered into solemn covenant with the Lord, you consecrated your whole life to his service. Your time, then, is not your own, but the Lord's. If you waste it, or spend it unprofitably, you rob God. You are not at liberty even to employ it exclusively to yourself. You are bound to glorify God with your time. And how can this be done? By so employing it that it will be most beneficial both to yourself and others. The Christian, who properly considers the great work he has to perform in his own soul, as well as the wide field of benevolent exertion which opens everywhere around him, and reflects how exceedingly short his time is, will not be disposed to trifle away any of the precious moments God has given him. Hence we are exhorted to redeem or rescue the time, as it flies. A very common fault lies in not estimating the value of a moment. This leads to the waste of immense portions of precious time. It is with time as with an estate. The old adage is, |Take care of the pennies, and the pounds will take care of themselves.| So, if we take care of the moments, the hours will take care of themselves. Indeed, our whole lives are made up of moments. A little calculation may startle those who carelessly and foolishly trifle away small portions of time. Suppose you waste only ten minutes at a time, six times in a day; this will make an hour. This hour is subtracted from that portion of your time which might have been devoted to active employments. Sleeping, refreshment, and personal duties, generally occupy at least one half of the twenty-four hours. You have then lost one twelfth part of the available portion of the day. Suppose, then, you live to the age of seventy years. Take from this the first ten years of your life. From the sixty remaining, you will have thrown away five years! These five years are taken from that portion of your time which should have been employed in the cultivation of your mind, and in the practical duties of religion. For, the common excuse for neglecting the improvement of the mind, and the cultivation of personal piety, is want of time. Now, if you employ one half of this time in reading, at the rate of twenty pages an hour, you will be able to read more than eighteen thousand pages; or sixty volumes of three hundred pages each. If you employ the other half in devotional exercises in your closet, in addition to the time you would spend in this manner, upon the supposition that these five years are lost, what an influence will it have upon the health of your soul? Or, if you spend the whole of it in the active duties of Christian benevolence, how much good can you accomplish? Think what you might do by employing five years in the undivided service of your Master.
But, the grand secret of redeeming time is, the systematic arrangement of all of our affairs. The wise man says, -- |To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.| Now, if we so divide our time as to assign a particular season for every employment, we shall be at no loss, when one thing is finished, what to do next, and one duty will not crowd upon another. For want of this system, many people suffer much needless perplexity. They find a multitude of duties crowding upon them at the same time, and they know not where to begin to discharge them. They spend perhaps half of their time in considering what they shall do. They are always in a hurry and bustle, yet, when the day is gone, they have not half finished its duties. All this would have been avoided, had they parcelled out the day, and assigned particular duties to particular seasons. They might have gone quietly to their work; pursued their employments with calmness and serenity; and at the close of the day laid themselves down to rest, with the satisfaction of having discharged every duty. Form, then, a systematic plan to regulate your daily employments. Give to each particular duty its appropriate place; and when you have finished one, pass rapidly to another, without losing any precious intervals between. Bear continually in mind that every moment you waste will be deducted from the period of your earthly existence; but do not try to crowd too much into the compass of a single day. This will defeat your object. You will always be liable to numerous and unavoidable interruptions. You have friends who claim a portion of your time. It is better to interrupt your own affairs than to treat them rudely. You have also many accidental duties, which you cannot bring into the regular routine of your employments. Give, then, sufficient latitude to your system to anticipate these, so that your affairs may not be thrown into confusion by their unexpected occurrence.
The duty of being systematic in all our arrangements is enforced by several considerations.1. By the example of our Creator. By a careful perusal of the first chapter of Genesis, you will see that God assigned a particular portion of the creation to each day of the week, and that he rested on the seventh day. Now the Lord has some design in everything he does. He never did anything in vain. But he could as easily have made all things at once, by a single word of his power, as to have been occupied six days in the creation. As for resting the seventh day, the Almighty could not be weary, and therefore needed no rest. What, then, could have been his design in this, but to set before us an example for the regulation of our conduct?
2. This duty is also enforced by the analogy of the visible creation. The most complete and perfect system, order, and harmony, may be read in every page of the book of nature. From the minutest insect, up through all the animal creation, to the structure of our own bodies, there is a systematic arrangement of every particle of matter. So, from the little pebble that is washed upon the sea-shore, up to the loftiest worlds, and the whole planetary system, the same truth is manifest.
3. This duty is enforced by our obligation to employ all our time for the glory of God. If we neglect the systematic arrangement of all our affairs, we lose much precious time, which might have been employed in the service of the Lord.
I shall close this letter with a few remarks upon the nature of obligation. The very idea of obligation supposes the possibility of the thing being done that is required. There can be no such thing as our being under obligation to do what is in its own nature impossible. The idea itself is absurd. This principle is recognized by our Lord in the parable of the talents. The man only required of his servants according to their ability. Nothing, then, is duty except what can be done at the present moment. There are other things which may be duty hereafter; but they are not present duty. Now, the great principle which I would here establish is, as I have elsewhere remarked, that the obligation of duty rests upon the present moment. No principle can be of greater importance in practical life than this. It lies at the foundation of all Christian effort. It is the neglect of it which has ruined thousands of immortal souls, who have sat under the sound of the gospel. It is the neglect of it which keeps the church so low. If it is the duty of a sinner to repent, it is his duty to do it now; and every moment's delay is a new act of rebellion against God. If it is the duty of a backslider to return and humble himself before God, it is his duty to do it now; and every moment he delays, he is going farther from God, and rendering his return more difficult. If it is the duty of a Christian to live near to God; to feel his presence; to hold communion with him; to be affected with the infinite beauty and excellence of his holy character; the obligation of that duty rests upon the present moment. Every moment's delay is sin. And so of every other duty. Our first object, then, is to know present duty; our second, to do it. We cannot put off anything which we ought to do now, without bringing guilt upon our Souls.
Your affectionate Brother.