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at all resembling his. And it is with redoubled earnestness, that the apostle renews his exhortation to this evangelist, near the conclusion of the epistle, ch. vi. 13, 14, "I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and of Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession: that thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of Jesus Christ." 3. And lastly, The same considerations do also in a like manner direct the conduct of all christians in general. They should be engaged to use their best endeavours to uphold and maintain the doctrine of the gospel, "the mystery of godliness," which, confessedly, is very great.
It has been " manifested," and has been fully "justified by the Spirit, seen of angels, preached" to all nations, "believed" by men of all characters in every part of the world, and gloriously exalted by its happy fruits and effects.
After this there can be no reason to doubt of its truth. And they who have received it, ought to use all reasonable methods to preserve it pure and entire. It cannot be justly expected, that if we lose the truth, after it has been so delivered to us, God should again manifest it to us, or appoint a new series of like miracles and wonderful events to give it credit. Instead of indulging such vain expectations, we should diligently search the scriptures, and labour to know the mind of God contained therein. And "we should give earnest heed unto the things which we have heard, lest at any time," or by any means, we should let them slip," Heb. ii. 1. And "we should earnestly contend for the faith, which was once delivered to the saints," Jude ver. 3. Which, as before said, will not be so delivered any more, as it once was, by Christ himself, and his apostles. Nor can any thing else be substituted in its room, that shall be equally excellent, important, and beneficial.
ON VARIOUS SUBJECTS.
THE EDITOR'S ADVERTISEMENT.
Or the following Sermons, the first four were fairly transcribed by the author, but probably had not undergone his last correction; the fifth and sixth (preached at the Tuesday Lecture in the Old Jewry) were not transcribed, but had upon them this remark: Perused, and so far as I ' am able to perceive, all is right; and I humbly conceive ought to be published:' the seventh was transcribed in part; the eighth and last is entirely printed from his notes, and may therefore, with the fifth and sixth, be considered as specimens of his usual compositions for the pulpit.
THE RIGHT IMPROVEMENT OF TIME.
Redeeming the time because the days are evil. Eph. v. 16. WE find this advice twice given in St. Paul's epistles; and in both places recommended as a branch of prudence and circumspection. So it is here: "See then, that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise; redeeming the time, because the days are evil." And in like manner in the epistle to the Colossians: "Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time," Col. iv. 5.
Some expositors suppose, that the right improvement of time is the direct meaning and design of the expression, as used in this place; and say, that Redeeming is a meta'phorical expression taken from merchants, who diligently 'observe the fittest time for buying and selling, and easily part with their pleasure for gain. So do you also deny
yourselves in your ease and pleasure, to gain an opportunity for doing good.' Again: Time past, strictly speaking, cannot be recalled. But you are to redeem, or recover as far as possible, that time which has been lost by a 'double diligence in improving what remains.'a
Others think, that the proper meaning of the apostle's direction is, that the christians to whom he is writing, 'Should secure themselves, by a prudent carriage_toward 'all men, from the inconveniences of those difficult times in which they lived:" or "redeeming the time;" that is, 'gaining as much time as you can, prolonging your own tranquillity, and the opportunity of spreading the gospel. Observe a prudent behaviour toward unconverted Gentiles, and unbelieving Jews: that they may be as little exasperated as possible, by your different sentiments from theirs, or by your pure and holy life, whereby you seem to condemn, and reproach them."
I shall however take occasion from these words to discourse of the right improvement of time, or "redeeming " it in a more general sense. And I shall consider them as setting before us the same practice which Solomon recommends: "Whatever thy hand findeth to do," whatever lies before thee, which is useful or innocent, "do it with thy might," with vigour and perseverance: " for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goest," Eccl. ix. 10.
And indeed, if we were to suppose this exhortation connected with what precedes, we might be inclined to think, that the apostle intended to stir up these Christians to care and diligence in general, as well as to circumspection in particular, and a prudent carriage toward those who were of different sentiments, for securing and prolonging their tranquillity, and keeping off those evils which some were inclined to bring upon them. This more enlarged, and general design of the exhortation may be argued, I say, from the context. Which, if we take it in more fully than we have yet done is this: "Wherefore he says, Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then, that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise; redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”
The right improvement of time seems to imply two things; employing ourselves in that which is good, and doing that good with care and diligence.
a Pool upon the place. The same upon Col. iv. 5. the place. To that purpose, Peirce upon Col. iv. 5.
b Locke upon
I. I shall therefore in the first place show, what things we ought to be employed in.
II. And then, secondly, how we may best improve our time for those good things that lie before us.
III. To which I intend to add, in the third place, an exhortation.
I. The first thing to be considered by us is, in what things we ought to employ ourselves. Here I shall mention these several particulars.
1. "The service of God." For God is the creator of all things, and their Lord and Sovereign. He it is who gives us all things to enjoy. And in him we live and move and have our being. We breathe in his air, and tread on his earth, and live upon the provisions he affords us. Every moment of our time produces fresh instances of his bounty and goodness.
He is the great governor of the whole world, not of one part or portion only, but of the whole universe; and therefore he is able, and does direct and overrule all things with a wise and almighty inspection and providence. A continued supply is made for us, and for all creatures in general. He also overrules the spirits of men, so that notwithstanding the unreasonable and exorbitant desires of many, their violence does not break forth to disturb the general peace and tranquillity of the world; in which peace and tranquillity we have our share, and quietly enjoy ourselves, our goods, and our friends.
We should therefore very much employ our thoughts in admiring and adoring God, in praising him for his goodness, and in praying to him for the continuance of his favour and good will, and for every thing necessary to our comfort and happiness.
Some time will be fitly spent in secret, in meditating upon his glorious perfections, in contemplating his great and wonderful works, and in recollecting the many benefits bestowed upon us hitherto in the past stages of life.
And we should allow some time for the united and public worship of God, which is an obligation founded in reason, and is prescribed by revelation.
Can any of us think we have well employed our time in this world, if we have never, or rarely with seriousness and attention, thought of that Being, who is the most perfect, surpassing all the united perfections of the whole creation; without whom nothing would have been, of whom are all things, and by whom they subsist?
2. We ought also to employ ourselves, and improve our
time in securing and advancing our own spiritual interests. We should endeavour to know the state of our own souls; what are our chief passions; what our greatest temptations. It may require some time and care to form a right judgment of ourselves. There seems to be good reason to say that few men know themselves. The heart is deceitful. Many deceive others: some mistake and are deceived about themselves.
It may not be improper therefore to allot some time for this; to consider what is the bent of our mind, in what course we are, and whither it leads; and whether our behaviour is agreeable to our profession and principles.
Our mind is ourselves, and our chief care ought to be its culture and ornament. There is nothing of equal importance with this. When we remove hence, when death puts a period to our present state of action and existence, we leave behind us our estates and treasures, we drop our titles, and all external ornaments. But we shall carry with us the same temper and disposition which we had here; and our works will follow us. Are we here unholy? We shall be hereafter lodged in the company of such beings, who will be torments to themselves, and tormentors to each other. Are we now proud? We shall then be abased. Are we humble? We shall then be exalted. Are we pure in heart? We shall then see God. Are we merciful? We shall then obtain mercy.
It is incumbent on us therefore to employ some time in considering the nature.and obligation of those virtues and dispositions of the mind, upon which so much depends; to confirm ourselves in the love and practice of them, and to watch against temptations that might ensnare us, and carry us off from the course which leads to happiness. It behoves us, as St. Peter says, " to give all diligence, to add "to to faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to that charity; and to make our calling and election sure. For," says the same apostle, " if ye do these things ye shall never fall. For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ," 2 Pet. i. 5, &c.
The obligation to these virtues seems not to lie far out of sight. But might be soon discerned, if men would be persuaded to attend, and to exercise their rational powers and faculties. However it is certainly obvious to all who are acquainted with the christian revelation.