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ON THE DUTY OF REDEEMING TIME..
EPHES. V. 16.
Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
As we advance in life, various are the motives that might induce us, at the commencement of another year*, to look back on the days that are past with some degree of self-condemnation, and regret. If they have not been actually "evil," they might have been, in a great measure, unprofitably spent, and checquered with no small mixture of thoughtlessness and folly. Our boyish years might have passed rapidly away, without that diligent improvement of time, which would have laid a better foundation for future wisdom, and virtue; or for wellearned reputation, and honorable independence. If, indeed, the seed-time of life has been neglected, the harvest of intellect can seldom be
* Preached in January.
productive, and the whole is in danger of wither
In youth, we might have suffered many blessings to pass by us unenjoyed, because we foolishly did not properly appreciate their nature, or their value. Eager, also, for liberty and power, and impatient of all control, when prudent restraint was most necessary, we might have plunged into excesses, and yielded to temptations, which, in their results, have impeded our progress, or laid a lasting foundation for self-reproach, and unavailing regret. Many, perhaps, in taking a retrospective view of life, can mark some evil hour, when, if they had not rashly followed their own self-will, or the wild dictates of ungoverned passions, they might have escaped numberless, difficulties and sorrows, and been at present, comparatively speaking, virtuous, prosperous, and happy. How often is the whole current of life changed, and its future prospects clouded, or destroyed, by one disastrous act, committed in the intoxicating hours of folly, and of sin! To resist the first approaches of evil, therefore, to guard the avenues of the heart with vigilant circumspection, and to defend, with the panoply of Christian armour, all the outworks of virtue and reli
gion, long before the citadel itself is stormed, or summoned to surrender, is the duty of every human being; but it is peculiarly incumbent on the young and, in proportion as it is the more arduous, it is the more necessary.
It may be almost useless to dwell, with particular attention, on the valuable portions of time, which, from fickleness of character, and impatience of labor, are frequently lost in changing from one pursuit to another;—in frivolous amusements;-in a passion for pleasure; -and in certain habits of ordinary dissipation, which lead slowly, but surely, to future embarrassment, degradation, and ruin.-These, and many other subjects of reflection, are best left to the conscience and experience of every individual.
- If it hath pleased the Almighty Father to prolong our lives sufficiently to enable us to look back on the mature season of manhood, we may remember omissions and transgressions of duty in greater number, perhaps, or of equal magnitude, and importance. There can be no doubt, indeed, but that to whatever portion of the path of life a being of superior intelligence were to direct his eye, he would perceive the evident marks of folly, negligence, and sin.
But, to notice some probable and specific causes of regret, at a later period of our existence. One of the first evils of advancing life, and one which we feel severely, is the successive loss of friends. Year after year they drop into the grave, till at length we seem, unless we form fresh connections among the wise and good, to be left in a state of comparative solitude and desolation, though surrounded with a crowd, and in the midst of a noisy, busy, and ambitious world. As this, however, is the inevitable decree of Divine Providence, we might learn, in time, the lesson of resignation, and " possess our souls in patience," if such events were not sometimes connected with secret causes of sorrow in our own bosoms. In remembering the melancholy hour, which deprived us of a father, or a mother, -of some dear relative, or beloved friend, it may be our condemnation, that, while living, we did not value them as we ought;—that we were not duly sensible of their worth, until we were deprived of them for ever;-that we foolishly heeded not sufficiently their affectionate regard, and anxious cares for our welfare, and that our want of duty, added to the headstrong current of our own selfish passions, served, on many occasions, to embitter the days of their pil
grimage on earth, rather than to increase its few comforts and ordinary blessings.
Other causes of mortification and regret may arise, in abundance, from the vices and untractable tempers of disobedient and undutiful children; more especially, if the effects, which we deplore, may be ascribed, in the least degree, to our own folly, and misconduct. We may not, perhaps, be justly chargeable with any want of care and attention; nor with any harshness, caprice, or unnecessary severity: but the greatest evils often flow from very opposite causes. If, from excessive indulgence, and ungovernable affections, you render the tender minds of children vain, proud, and selfish, when they should be humble, teachable, and obedient ;-if, relaxing all parental authority, you act with such preposterous folly, as if you would invert the wise order of nature, and of providence, by teaching your offspring, that you are dependent on them, instead of the reverse ;-then, indeed, as they grow up, you may expect to have deep and lasting causes of regret. The seeds of every vice and every folly have been profusely scattered, and you must expect to "reap as you have sown." In the language of the prophet, you may say, "we looked for peace, but no