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them. What would they not give for one of your days, under the means of grace —So will you, first or last, be convinced. But if you be not convinced except in the manner in which they are, it will be too late.
There are two ways of making men sensible of the preciousness of time. One is, by shewing them the reason why it must be precious, by telling them how much depends on it, how short it is, how uncertain, &c. The other is experience, wherein men are convinced how much depends on the improvement of time. The latter is the most effectual way; for that always convinces, if nothing else doth. But if persons be not convinced by the former means, the latter will do them no good. If the former be ineffectual, the latter, though it be certain, yet is always too late. Experience never fails to open the eyes of men, though they were never opened before. But if they be first opened by that, it is no way to their benefit. Let all therefore be persuaded to improve their time to their utmost.
Advice respecting the improvement of Time. Į SHALL conclude with advising to three things in particular':
1. Improve the present time without any delay. If you delay and put off its improvement, still more time will be lost; and it will be an evidence that you are not sensible of its preciousness. Talk not of more convenient seasons hereafter; but improve your time while you have it, after the example of the Psalmist, Psalm cxix. 60.“ I made baste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments.”
2. Be especially careful to improve those parts of time which are most precious. Though all time is very precious, yet some parts are more precious than others; as, particularly, koly time is more precious than common time. Such time is of great advantage for our everlasting welfare; therefore, above all, improve your Sabbaths, and especially the tine of public worship, which is the most precious part. Lose it not either in sleep, or in carelessness, inattention, and wandering imaginations. How sottish are they who waste away not only their common, but boly time, yea, the very season of attendance on the holy ordinances of God!—The time of youth is precious, on many accounts. Therefore, if you be in the enjoyment of this time, take heed that you improve it. Let not the precious days and years of youth slip away without improvement. A time of the strivings of God's spirit is more precious than other time. Then God is near; and we are directed, in Isa. lv. 6, “ To seek the Lord while he may be found, and to call upon him while he is near.” Such especially is an accepted time, and a day of salvation: 2 Cor. vi. 2. “ I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in a day of salvation bave I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation."
3. Improve well your time of leisure from worldly business. Many persons have a great deal of such time, and all have some. If men be but disposed to it, such time may be improved to great advantage." W ben we are most free from cares for the body, and business of an outward nature, an happy opportunity for the soul is afforded. Therefore spend not such opportunities unprofitably, nor in such a manner that you will not be able to give a good account thereof to God. Waste them not away wholly in unprofitable visits, or useless diversions or amusements. Diversion should be used only in subserviency to business. So much, and no more should be used, as doth most fit the mind and body for the work of our general and particular callings.
You have need to improve every talent, advantage, and opportunity, to your utmost, while tine lasts; for it will soon be said concerning you, according to the oath of the angel, in Rev. x. 5, 6, “And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth, lifted up his band to heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven and the things that therein are, and the earth and the things that therein are, and the sea and the things which are therein, That there should be time no longer.”
THE SIN AND FOLLY OF DEPENDING ON
Proy. XXVII. 1.
Boast not thyself of to-morrow ; for thou knowest not what a
day may bring forth.
The design of the wise man, in this book of Proverbs, is to give us the precepts of true wisdom, or to teach us how to conduct ourselves wisely in the course of our lives. Wisdom very much consists in making a wise improvement of time, and of the opportunities we enjoy. This is often in scripture spoken of as a great part of true wisdom; as Deut. xxxii. 29. " that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!” And, Psalm. xc. 12. “ So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." So the wisdom of the wise virgins is represented as consisting much in this, that they improved the proper season to buy oil.
Therefore the wise man, in these books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, agreeably to his design, insists on this part of wisdom. He tells us the advantage of seeking Christ early; Prov. viii. 17. And advises us to do what our hand findeth to do, with our might; Eccles. ix. 10. He advises young people to remember their Creator in the days of their youth, while the evil days come not, in which they shall say they have no pleasure; Eccles. xii. I. So here he advises us to a wise improvement of the present season. In the words are two things to be particularly observed.
1. The precept, not to boast of to-morrow; i. e. not to speak or act as though it were our own. It is absurd for men to boast of that wbich is not theirs. The wise man would not have us behave ourselves as though any time were ours, but the present. He that boasts of to-morrow, acts as though he had to-morrow in bis possession, or had something whereby he might depend on it, and call it his own.
2. The reason given for this precept; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth. It is a good reason why we should not behave ourselves as though the morrow were our own, that indeed it is not; we are not sure of it; we have no hold of future time; we know not whether we shall see the morrow: or if we do know that we shall see it, we know not wbat we shall see on it.-Hence, we ought to behave ourselyes every day, as though we had no dependence on any other.
To prevent a misunderstanding of the doctrine, I observe, that it is not meant, that we should in every respect behave as though we knew that we should not live another day. Not depending on another day, is a different thing from concluding, that we shall not live another day. We may have reason for the one, and not for the other. We have good reason not to depend on another day, but we have no reason to conclude, that we shall not live another day.
In some respects we ought to carry ourselves as though we knew we should not live another day, and should improve every day as if it were the last. Particularly, we should live every day as conscientiously and as holily as if we knew it were the last. We should be as careful every day to avoid all sin, as if we knew that that night our souls should be required of us. We should be as careful to do every duty which God requires of us, and take as much care that we have a good account to give to our Judge, of our improvement of that day, as if we concluded that we must be called to give an account before another day.
But in many other respects, we are not obliged to behave ourselves as though we concluded that we should not live to another day. If we had reason to conclude that we should not live another day, some things would not be our duty which now are our duty. As for instance, in such a case it would not be the duty of any person to make provision for his temporal subsistence during another day: to neglect which, as things now are, would be very imprudent and foolish, as the consequences would shew, if every man were to act in this manner. If so, it would never be man's duty to plough or sow the field, or to lay up for winter; but these things are man's duty; as Prov. yi. 6–8. “Go to the ant, thou sluygard; consider ber ways, and be wise; which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest." And chap. x. 5, &c. “He that gathereth in the summer is a wise son; but he that sleepeth in harvest, is a son that causeth shame.” And many other places might be mentioned.
So, on the other hand, if we were certain that we should not live another day, some things would be our duty to-day, which now are not şo. As for instance, it would be proper for us to spend our time in giving our dying counsels, and in setting our bouses in order. If it were revealed to us, that we should die before to-morrow morning, we ought to look upon it as a call of God to us, to spend the short remainder of our lives in those things which immediately, concern our departure, more than otherwise it would be our duty to do. Therefore, the words which forbid us to boast of to-morrow, cannot be extended so far as to signify, that we ought in all respects to live, as if we knew we should not see another day, Yet they undoubtedly mean, that we ought not to behave ourselves in any respect, as though we depended on another day.
The Precept explained.
Boast not thyself of to-morrow. In this precept two things seem to be forbidden.
1. Boasting ourselyes of what shall be on thic morrow, or behaving ourselves as though we depended on particular things to come to pass in this world, in some future time. As when men behave themselves, as though they depended on being rich, or promoted to honour hereafter; or as though they were sure of accomplishing any particular design another day. So did the rich man in the gospel, when he did not only promise himself, that he should live many years, but promised himself also, that be should be rich many years. Ülence he said to his soul, that he had much goods laid up for many years.
And if men act as though they depended upon it, that they should another day accomplish such and such things