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"He lives long that lives well; and time mis-spent is not lived, but lost."—Thomas Fuller.
"Not on flowery beds, nor under shade
'' For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
—J. G. Whittier.
"How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
"Thrift of time will repay you in after-life with a usury of profit beyond your most sanguine dreams; while the waste of it will make you dwindle, alike in intellectual and moral stature, beyond your darkest reckonings."— Right. Hon. W. E. Gladstone.
|HE commodity of which every man has the least, and, generally speaking, wastes the most, is Time. When we consider how small is the portion allotted to each of us, we cannot but wonder at the carelessness with which men expend it. We can be chary of our love, our gratitude, our substance, but with Time we deal as lavishly as a prodigal. Very few of us care to examine into the way in which we dispose of it; to ask ourselves how much we give to sleep, how much to relaxation, how much to unprofitable idleness, how little to useful work or more useful thought, or what, if any, to our religious duties. The fact is, we are uneasily conscious that the balance-sheet would be one to cover us with shame and confusion. Of all the trite themes touched by moralists and poets, the tritest is the shortness of life. Life, we are told, is a bubble, a shifting dream, a thing of nought, evanescent as a morning mist, uncertain as a young maid's promise, brittle as a reed; and yet men proceed to deal with it as if it were as inexhaustible as the widow's cruse of oil, as if it were as sure and stable as the foundations of the everlasting hills. There is something very curious and very pitiful in this. When we see the waste of time which goes on around us, we cannot but marvel whether the teaching of sages and divines, and the lessons of centuries of experience, have been of any avail; whether men have even yet learned to realise how precious a thing it is, how solemn a responsibility it brings with it, how great a trust it puts into their hands. Does this waste arise from want of thought, or from want of a sense of duty? The two causes are closely connected, and may very well exert a combined influence. It is difficult to believe that the great 16 TAKE CARE OF THE MINUTES.
majority of time-wasters are inspired by feelings of recklessness and desperation; are in a feverish hurry to consume as rapidly and as waywardly as possible the precious treasure committed to their charge. Their folly is doubtless due to an unwillingness or an inability to reflect, and to the absence of high purposes and lofty motives. In most cases they have not been taught how to value time or how to use it. What they should do with that which is their real wealth, our children never learn. We provide them with instruction in the "various branches of a polite education;" we open up to them the regions of art and science; we guide them sedulously in the flowery paths of literature; but we do not teach them how to employ and economise their time. We don't impress upon them the value of the minutes: "Take care of the minutes, and the days will take care of themselves." It is astonishing how much "raw material" is allowed to run to waste in every school. Precious quarters of an hour are thrown aside which might be turned to excellent account; and thus the young grow accustomed to a thoughtless and unprofitable expenditure. They find, too frequently, the same waste at home. Time is squandered before and after meals, in the morning, in the evening, upstairs and downstairs, in the bedroom, and the dining-room, and the drawing-room; and at the end of each day the burden is, "This should have been done, and has been left undone; that should have been remembered, and has been forgotten; but never mind, we will make up for lost time to-morrow!" Yes, to-morrow! We venture to say that no other word in our language has to answer for so much sin and folly, for so many broken vows, so many blighted hopes, so many neglected duties, so many wrecked lives. For the worst of it is, "tomorrow" never comes. It is always "to-day" and "yesterday." The yesterday we can never recall; can never take up and absorb into to-day. When once it is dead, let it lie. There is nothing more to be done but to shed a tear on its grave, and turn to the to-day. Some people, be it said, waste a good deal of time in grieving over the time they waste. In other words, they spend to-day in fretting over the useless yesterday. It is said of the Emperor Titus that when he had done no good deed in the course of the day he would exclaim, "Perdidi diem /" The lament was natural; but be it remembered he did not wait until the morrow to make it, and he did not fail to TIME AS A MAN'S ESTATE. IJ
turn the "to-day" to better account by professing his regret over the yesterday that had gone out so blankly. We desire to advocate a constant recollection of the inestimable value of "minutes," but not a vain yearning after those that can never be recovered.
Men become great and good just as they understand how to make use of their time.1 The most brilliant genius avails its possessor nothing if he do not seize his opportunities; and opportunities never occur to the spendthrift. The hours he wastes may be the very hours that would have ensured his success. Therefore it is that, at the outset of the present volume, we seek to enforce on its readers the necessity of economising time, of turning every minute to the best advantage. That seems to us the very first lesson to be learned by a young man who honestly desires to do his duty towards his God and his neighbour. Let him not trouble himself about his talents or his means ; he can at least say, with the celebrated Italian, that "Time it his estate," and his first care must be to understand its proper cultivation. We think it is Horace Mann who suggests that most young men (and, we fear, too many of riper years) might daily put forth some such melancholy notice as the following:; "Lost,- yesterday, somewhere between sunrise and sunset, two golden hours, each one worth sixty diamond minutes. No reward is offered, for they are gone for ever." Gone for ever I in these words lies the sting of the moralist. Bitter jest! What more deplorable sight can there be than that too common one of the unfortunate who has lost (in other words, wasted) a "golden hour" at the beginning of the day,' and for the rest of the twenty-four is fruitlessly endeavouring to1 overtake it ? 2 Why, it is gone irrevocably; like the empire of the Pharaohs, like the wisdom' of the Chaldeans, like the old man's youth, like last year's summer sunshine. It would be easier to rebuild the temple-palaces of
1 In his last hours the: American merchant, Gideon Lee, specially enjoined upon his sons, speaking to them with all the authority of experience, to "fill up the measure of time." "Be always employed profitably," he said, "in doing good, in building up; aim to promote the good of yourselves and of society. No' one can do much' good without doing some harm, but you will do less harm, by striving tc do good. Be industrious, and be honest."
2 As Lord Chesterfield said of the Duke of Newcastle, "His Grace loses an hour in the morning, and is looking'- fof it all the rest of the day."