Sermons on Important Subjects
By James M. Pendleton
The Value and Improvement of Time *
Redeeming the time. - Ephesians v:16.
Another year has fled. Its joys and its sorrows, its pleasures and its vexations, its successes and its disappointments are past. To some of you it has been a favored year. Death has not invaded your family circle; you have enjoyed health, and are to-day living monuments of God's preserving mercy. To others it has been the saddest of years. While the earth has brought forth its fruits abundantly, the chilling winds of adversity have howled around your dwellings. The partners of your joys and sorrows have been taken from you; your children have died, your parents have gone to their long home, and you are left to weep and wonder why God has dealt with you thus.
We have entered upon a new year. Whether we shall see its close is known only to God. What occurrences shall take place while its days and weeks and months pass away, no created being can tell. We can not say whether we shall
* A New Year's Day Sermon, January 1, 1856.
draw our last breath during the present year, or whether our hearts shall continue to throb after it is numbered with the years before the flood. But we know that time is precious, and that it is wise to improve our fleeting moments. In the language of the text, we should redeem the time. Let us notice,
I. The Value of Time
That time is of great value will be denied by no person capable of rational reflection. A variety of arguments may be adduced in proof of its value. I will mention a few.
1. Its relation to eternity. - Our existence in this world is the introductory period of our being, and will be succeeded by our initiation into the solemnities of an eternal state. Time hurries all its generations to eternity. Yes, every voyager on the ocean of time is bound for the port of eternity. It is not optional with any of the race of Adam whether they will make this voyage. They are already embarked, and willing or reluctant, must proceed to the point of destination. Dying man, you must go, however earnestly you protest against it.
It should be remembered, too, that there is not among men an indiscriminate preparation for eternity. Indeed, none in their natural state are prepared. Nor can the appliances of reason and philosophy prepare them. There is, however, a method of obtaining preparation. Jesus has died for sinners, and salvation is offered to the world
in his name. Those who have a personal interest in this salvation are prepared for eternity. They go to heaven when they die. The unprepared go to hell. Who can describe the bliss of heaven or the miseries of hell? How attractive the glories of the upper world! How terrible the torments of perdition! How important and desirable to secure the one and avoid the other! All this shows the value of time; for preparation for eternity is the work of time. Salvation, if obtained at all, must be obtained in this life. There is no repentance, no faith, no regeneration, no justification after death. The blood of atonement may be applied to the guilty conscience on this side of the grave - on the other side, never. The regenerating Spirit may perform his work in time - in eternity he never does. It follows, therefore, that preparation for eternity is confined exclusively to this life. Whether immortal glory is to be secured, whether eternal life is to be enjoyed, whether the wrath of God is to be incurred and the soul forever lost, are questions of time. They receive an answer in this life.
"Great God ! on what a slender thread
Hang everlasting things!
The eternal states of all the dead,
Upon life's feeble strings!"
Does not the relation of time to eternity prove its value? If there is value in the inheritance of the saints in light, there is value in time; for the ultimate possession and enjoyment of that
inheritance, depend on the proper employment of time. Neither gold, nor pearls, nor diamonds are to be compared in value with time. How precious are our fleeting moments!
2. It is short. Inspiration says, "time is short." "Man, born of woman, is of few days, and full of trouble." Life is compared to the grass which soon withers and dies. It is termed a vapor. Contracted, indeed is the space intervening between one's birth and death. The cradle rocks on the verge of the grave. The helpless infant opens its eyes and beholds the light - but if that infant becomes an adult, and even reaches three-score years and ten, how soon are the same eyes closed in the darkness of death! Is it necessary to elaborate the proposition that time is short? Surely not. But it follows that if time is short, it is valuable. Its shortness contributes materially to its value. If you were destined to live here thousands of years, you might argue, with some plausibility, that time would not be so valuable as it now is. But when you know that it is short, and that during its continuance, transactions of infinite importance are to be performed, or, if unperformed, the soul will be lost, do you not see the value of time? Truly our moments are golden moments!
3. The flight of time is irrevocable. - The moment once gone, is gone forever. No regrets, no tears, no prayers, no lamentations will bring it back. It hastens to make its report to eternity. And so of days, and months, and years. The
year 1855 is gone irrevocably fled. However we may regret the misimprovement of its fleeting hours, they come not back that they may be improved. They are gone as irrevocably as the hours of the world's infancy. Does not the irrevocable flight of time prove its value? You can easily see that if your misimproved moments returned, that you might improve them, it would lessen their original value. You might say, the time which I now misemploy will return, and then I will spend it wisely. But you know it will not return. There is no duplicate of time. This fact conduces greatly to its value.
II. The Improvement of Time.
Under this division of the subject, two questions arise: How should time be improved? And why should it be improved? How, etc.
1. By securing our eternal interests. - If this is not done, there is no improvement of time. Men may amass wealth, secure secular distinction, establish kingdoms and empires, but their time is wasted, worse than wasted, if they neglect their immortal interests. We have seen that time sustains an important relation to eternity, and that it is, on this account, of great value. It must follow, then, that there can be no adequate improvement of time, unless the interests of eternity are secured. That man, who neglects the salvation of his soul, has not the remotest conception of what is meant by improving time. Those who improve their time look not at the
things which are seen and temporal, but at the things which are unseen and eternal.
2. By a fixed determination to do some good every day. - Unless there be a settled purpose in the mind, nothing can be done. Idleness, needless sleep, unprofitable reading, and useless conversation, must all be abjured. Without industry, there can be no improvement of time. The Bible pronounces its condemnation on idleness. Nothing is more at war with the spirit of Christianity than idleness. An indolent disposition prevents multitudes from improving their time. Some good may be done every day, and ought to be done. Opportunity to do good always creates obligation to do it. It is lamentable to think how many who profess to be Christians, do little or no good in the world. They profess to be the salt of the earth, and the light of the world. What are they in fact? Instead of being trees of righteousness, bearing the fruits of the Spirit, they are, like the barren fig tree, cumberers of the ground.
Christian friends, will you not, during the present year, inquire every morning, What good can I do to-day? Aim to be useful. Wisely employ your time. Gather up the fragments of time that nothing be lost. Consider it practicable to do good in a moment if you have not an hour. Be not deterred from an attempt to do good, because you can not do so in a regular, formal way. Be willing to do good irregularly and informally. And be sure to be willing to do good in little things. Comparatively few can operate
on a large scale. Unless a large majority of professors of religion are willing to do good on a small scale, they will never accomplish anything.
But why should time be improved?
1. Because of its value. - It is worse than folly to waste that which is worth so much. All generations since the days of Esau, have condemned his folly in selling his birthright for a mess of pottage. He who squanders his precious time, acts more foolishly. He disregards all the weighty considerations which prove the value of time. The fact that time is of so much value, is surely a good reason why it should be improved.
2. Much of our time, has already run to waste. - How many precious moments have we misspent! How much more good we might have done in the world! How much better Christians we might have been! Alas, we are not what we ought to be. And why is it so? Because we have not improved our time. Much of it has been useless for purposes of good. And as so much of our time has run to waste, but little remains. How important, then, to employ it advantageously. Let saints and sinners do with their might what their hands find to do; for there is no work in the grave to which, they are hastening.
3. The improvement of time will have a material hearing on our eternal destiny. - The Word of God informs us that whatever a man sows that he shall reap. He that sows to the flesh shall of the
flesh reap corruption, while he that sows to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life-everlasting. To sow to the Spirit involves the improvement of time. The improvement of time is, therefore, intimately connected with everlasting life. This is an all-sufficient reason why time should be improved. To "Sow to the flesh" involves the misimprovement of time, whatever else it may imply. What a dreadful harvest will result from such, sowing!
1. How manifestly does it appear the part of wisdom to improve time! The wisdom of improving it will be much more manifest when the light of eternity dawns upon us.
2. How great the folly and wickedness of employing time unprofitably! We sometimes hear men speak of killing time. To kill time! What a phrase! Sinners plunge into their amusements to kill time. Alas, those who kill time secure for themselves a miserable eternity.
[From J. M. Pendleton, Short Sermons on Important Subjects, 1859. This book is from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Library, Wake Forest, NC via ILL through Boone County Public Library, Burlington, KY. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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