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and life to the holy will of God and the perfect pattern of holiness, Christ Jesus; the working out of my salvation with fear and trembling; the giving all diligence to make my calling and election 'sure; the fitting and purging of myself, to be a vessel of glory and immortality, and fitted for the use of my Great Lord and Master; the casting myself into such a frame and posture of mind and life, that I may
be fitted and ready to die, and give up my account to my Lord with peace and cheerfulness and comfort; so that, if I should, either by the hand of some disease or casualty, or other providence, receive this solemn message, Set thine house in order, for thou shalt die, I might receive it with as much readiness, willingness, and cheerfulness, as a faithful and diligent servant would receive this command from his master: “ You must take such a journey for me to-morrow.”
These, and such like businesses as these, besides the constant tenor of a just, virtuous, and pious life, are the most important businesses of a Christian. First, Such as are of absolute necessity to him: he may not, he cannot be without them. Secondly, Such as cannot be done elsewhere than in this life: this world is the great laboratory for perfecting of souls for the next. If they are not done here, they cease to be done for ever: death shuts the door, and everlastingly seals us up in that state it finds us in. Thirdly, And every season of this life is not, at least, so suitable for it: sickness and pain, and wearisome and froward old age, have business enough, of themselves, to entertain us; and any man, that hath had experience of either, will find he hath enough to do, to bear them, or to struggle with them. And, Fourthly, We know not whether the grace and opportunities, that God hath lent us, and we have neglected in our lives, shall ever be afforded again to us in the times of our sicknesses, or upon our deathbeds: but, little portions of time, in our lives and healths, are furnished with thousands of invitations and golden opportunities for these great works. Let us, therefore, redeem those portions of time that our life and health lend us, for this great and one thing necessary
I come to the reasons why we ought thus to redeem our time; which may be these :
1. Our time is a talent, put into our hands by the Great Lord of the whole family of heaven and earth, and such whereof we are to give an account, when our Master calls: and it will be a lamentable account, when it shall consist only of such items as these: Item, So much of it spent in plays, and taverns, and gaming. Item, So much of it spent in sleeping, eating, drinking. Item, So much spent in recreations and pastimes. Item, So much spent in getting wealth and honour, &c. And, there remains so much, which was spent in doing nothing.
2. Our time is a universal talent, that every man, that lives to discretion, hath. Every man hath not a talent of learning, or of wealth, or honour, or subtilty
of wit, to account for; but every man, that lives to the age of discretion, hath time to account for.
3. Every man hath not only a talent of time; but every man hath a talent of opportunity, to improve his talent in some measure, put into his hand. The very works and light of nature, the very principles of natural religion, are lodged in the hearts of all men; which, by the help of his natural reason, he might exercise to some acts of service, duty, and religion towards God. But the Christian hath much more.
4. The redemption and improvement of our time is the next and immediate end why it is given, or lent us, and why we are placed in this life; and the wasting of our time is a disappointment of this very end of our being; for thereby we consequently disappoint God of his glory, and ourselves of our happiness.
5. Upon the management and disposal of our time depends the everlasting concernment of our souls. Ex hoc momento pendet Æternitas. Ifit be redeemed, improved, and employed as it ought to be, we shall, in the next moment after death, enter into an immutable, eternal, and perfect state of glory: if it be either sinfully or idly spent, we fall into an everlasting, irrecoverable, and unchangeable state of misery.
6. The business we have to do in this life, in order to the cleansing of our souls, and fitting them for glory, is a great and important business; and the time we have to live hath two most dangerous qualities in reference to that business. (1.) It is short: our longest period is not above eighty years: and few
there be that arrive to that age. (2.) It is very casual and uncertain : there be infinite accidents, diseases, and distempers, that cut us off suddenly; as, acute diseases, such as scarce give us any warning: and, considering how many strings, as it were, there are to hold us up, and how small and inconsiderable they are, and how easily broken, and the breach or disorder of
any of the least of them may be an inlet to death, it is a kind of miracle that we live a month. Again, there be many diseases that renders us, in a manner, dead, while we live; as, apoplexies, palsies, phrensies, stone, gout; which render our time either grievous, or very unuseful to us,
7. Time once lost, it is lost for ever : it is never to be recovered : all the wealth of both the Indies will not redeem, nor recall, the last hour I spent: it ceaseth for ever.
8. As our time is short, so there be many things that corrode and waste that short time; so that there remains but little that is serviceable to our best employment. Let us but take out of our longest lives the weakness and folly of childhood and youth; the impotency and morosity of our old age; the times for eating, drinking, sleeping, though with moderation; the times of sickness and indisposedness of health; the times of cares, journeys, and travel; the times for necessary recreations, interview of friends and relations, and a thousand such expenses of time; the residue will be but a small pittance for our business of greatest moment; the business, I mean, of fitting our souls for glory: and if that be mis-spent, or idly spent, we have lost our treasure, and the very flower and jewel of our time.
19. Let us but remember, that, when we shall come to die, and our souls sit, as it were, hovering upon our lips, ready to take their flight, at how great a rate we would then be willing to purchase some of those hours we once trifled away!—but we cannot.
10. Remember, that this is the very elixir, the very hell of hell to the damned spirits, that they had once a time, wherein they might, upon easy terms, have procured everlasting rest and glory: but they foolishly and vainly mis-spent that time and season, which is not now to be recovered.
The manner in which Sir Matthew Hale laid out his time, is thus related by his biographer, Bishop Burnet.
He took a strict account of his time: of which the reader will best judge, by the scheme he drew for a Diary; which I shall insert, copied from the original: but I am not certain when he made it.
It is set down in the same simplicity in which he writ it for his own private use.
1. To lift up the heart to God in thankfulness, for renewing my life.