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comfortable to ourselves and most profitable to men, when it is best adapted to our relations and circumstances.
4. Be circumspect, that you may do every duty in its time and place.
You are to attend on the daily worship of God in your families and closets, and you are also to pursue the business of your respective vocations. Here call in the direction of wisdom, that you may not give to the former that time which belongs to the latter ; nor that application to the latter which would divert you from, or unfit you for the former. Let each have its due share of your time and attention.
Be kind and beneficent to the poor ; but take heed to yourselves, that ye do not your alms to be seen of men, that you feed not their vices, when you should relieve their necessities, and that you give not in os. tentatious charity, what you owe to the wants of your families or the demands of your creditors. And on the other hand, make not the calls of domestic exigence, or the obligations of social justice a mere pretext to excuse yourselves from doing good, when theoccasion of others requires, and your own ability permits.
You are to regard principally the interest of your souls ; but you may not neglect the care of your bodjes. Here you must be circumspect, lest you suffer your temporal concerns to exclude those of eternity ; or lest, under pretence of engagedness in religion, you forget the obligations of industry, justice and beneficence.
You are to attend on the instituted ordinances of the gospel ; but beware lest you substitute these for that solid and substantial holiness, which these were in. tended to promote. .
You must observe the outward forms of religion with godly sincerity ; but never plead the possible want of sincerity as a reason for neglecting the forms.
Prudence will direct you to avoid, when you innocently can avoid, the temporal inconveniences attendo VOL. III.
ing a profession of religion. “When they persecute you in this city flee to another.” But in your caution to escape the evils of the world, you must not decline a profession, deny the faith and put away a good conscience. “ Whosoever is ashamed of Christ in an evil generation, of him will Christ be ashamed in the presence of his Father.” This seems to be the case especially intended in the text. As the times were dangerous, Christians were to walk circumspectly, that they might preserve their integrity, and yet avoid the evils which threatened them. If both could not be done, they must maintain their integrity at all hazards.
5. Walk circumspectly, that your good may not be evil spoken of.
On no consideration may you do evil or neglect duty : But in the manner of performing your duty, you may often, with great advantage, accommodate yourselves to the weaknesses, humors and inclinations of others. Innocent liberties you must avoid, when your use of them would be perverted to the dishonor of religion and the prejudice of your own character. In things indifferent be not rigid and uncomplying, but by an easy condescension please all men for their good. Thus the Apostle “ was made all things to all men, that he might by all means save some.
The behavior of Christians is watched, by some; that they may imitate it; by more, that they may vilify it. So act in all things, that you may encourage the virtuous, silence the captious, and cut off occasion from them who desire occasion to reproach your profession and the gospel which you profess. “Walk in wisdom toward them who are without. And let your speech be always with grace seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man."
I have illustrated the circumspect behavior which the Apostle recommends. The argument by which he urges it, is this :
II. “ The days are evil.”
The argument was not peculiar to those early times, It is pertinent at all times.
The Christian, while he dwells on earth, may say, " The days are evil,” because he finds, in himself much disorder and corruption. In the world of glory watchfulness will be superseded by perfection. Here he must walk circumspectly, that he may not be drawn away by fleshly lusts and worldly affections—may keep under his body and bring it into subjection-may strengthen the principles of holiness in his soul, and confirm his heavenly hopes.
The days are evil, as he is exposed to various affic, tions. He must walk circumspectly, that he may comport with the aspects of providence, accommodate himself to all changes of condition, learn obedience and resignation to God by the things which he suffers, and by faith and patience obtain the promises.
The days are evil, for there are many adversaries. Evil spirits, worldly objects, wicked examples and Heshly inclinations 'oppose his progress. He must walk circumspectly, that he may foresee and avoid temptations, guard against a surprise, prevent the un. due influence of sensible objects, and be blameless and harmless in the midst of a perverse nation.
The days are evil, as iniquity abounds. He must walk circumspectly, that he may keep himself unspotted from the world, may secure his good profession from contempt, may stop the progress of vice and error, and support the languishing cause of truth and righteousness.
Let us apply to ourselves these considerations; and as we profess to be Christians—to be children of light and of the day, let us not walk as those who are in darkness, and know not at what they stumble ; but let us walk wisely and circumspectly, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
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Redemption of Time.
EPHESIANS v. 16.
-Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
THE redemption of time, together with the reason for it, “ the days are evil,” will be the subject of our present meditations.
1. We will consider what it is to redeem the time,
To redeem is to reclaim by price, or recover by labor that which has been lost or alienated; or to preserve by prudence that which is in danger. It is a metaphor taken from the practice of merchants, who observe the favorable seasons of buying and selling, of making profits and repairing losses, who keep regular accounts of their expenses and gains, and often inspect their affairs, to know whether their interest is in prog. ress or decline.
It is here supposed that time is precious. That we may redeem it, we must make a just estimate of its value.
It is precious, because we have much business on our hands—business which relates, nat to our bodies only, but to our souls--not merely to this life, but to the whole duration of our existence.
It is precious, because it is short and uncertain ; and our work must be done soon, or it never can be done at all.
It is precious, because part, and, with many, the greater part of it is gone already. What remains is increased in value, as it is contracted in length. We had none to waste at first ; we have need to be frugal now.
To redeem time is to regain what is lost, and to save what is left.
First : We must regain the time which is lost.
Time passed, indeed, cannot be recalled. Each moment, which flies off, is gone forever, and will return no more. Like the wind, it passeth away and cometh not again. But we do the best we can toward the recovery of lost time, when we reflect with sorrow on follies past, and resolve to be wise in future. Though we cannot revoke the past guilty scenes, yet we may repent that we have lived as we have done ; and be careful now to live as we should have done. We shall not amend our lives, until we repent of past sins ; nor improve our future time well, until we are humbled, that the past has been spent so ill.
Sit down then, and take a serious review of life. Inquire how it has been employed-what attention you have paid to the great end of your existence-what good you have done for others, or gained for yourselves-what proficiency you liave made in knowledge and holiness--what hope you have acquired, and on what ground it rests.
Upon strict inquiry, many, I am afraid, will find, they have done little or nothing to the purpose, and their work is all to be done, when much of the day is spent. And all, no doubt, may confess, that their progress has not been answerable to the time they have enjoyed. Let the time past suffice to have been wasted in negligence and folly. Henceforth “ walk circumspectly, redeeming the time.”.
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