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The Duty of redeeming the Time in evil
Days, illustrated and enforced.
S E R
Preached at ETTRICK, May 27. 1722, being the
Lord's day immediately following the rising of the
EPHESIANS V. 16.
N the preceding verse, the apostle exhorts the E
phesians to walk circumspectly, that is, accu.
rately, exactly, and precisely, endeavouring in the most minute things in their walk to be regular and holy; shewing withal, that true wisdom requires fuch exactness of life. Our text points out one thing wherein their fpiritual wisdom should especially appear, viz. Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. In which words we have,
1. A duty enjoined, redeeming the time. The expression is metaphorical, taken from merchants who wait the market, improve the season of making gain; and if at any time they have lost by theic negligence, they bestir themselves to catch the season again when it offers. Thus should we do with the time, or season of grace and good works, the season for doing or getting good. That time is often mispent, the season is lipt; and we must endeavour to buy it back again, by doubling our diligence in the present time, as the traveller who has gone too flow through the day, lať
bours to redeem the time by mending his pace, when it grows towards evening.
2. The reason of the duty, becanse the days are evil. Not that any days are in themselves evil or unlucky, more than others; but that they were days wherein much evil fell out and was to fall out, The days the apostle speaks of were evil, in respect of the great evils going on in them among men, which put professors in hazard of sinning or suffering. They were ensnaring days, both in respect of principles and practices; falle doctrine was vented by many, the resurrection was denied, justification by faith alone opposed, and the purity of the gospel overthrown by many: scandalous practices were introduced; and perfecution was raised in several places, and was on the growing hand.
The scope and meaning of the words may be summed up in the following doctrinal note, viz.
Doct. When mens lot falls in evil days, the evil of these days calls aloud to them to redeem time, and double their diligence.
For the illustration of this doctrine, I shall fhew,
cast should move them to redeem time. III. Lastly, Apply the subject in an use of exhor
tation and of reproof.
I. The first thing proposed is, to fhew what it is to redeem time. It imports,
I. A conviction of mispending of time, and mifimproving seasons of grace.
Those will never set themselves to redeem time, who are not duly convinced of their fquandering it away, selling it off, and not enriching themselves with the price. We have feen better days than now they are; glorious days of the Son of man have been in Scotland, in purity, plenty, and peace. But may not the looking
back to the improvement made of them, fill us with convictions of mifimprovement? And,
(1.) How many are there, who to this day are out *** of Christ, and have no saving interest in the covenant of grace, but are aliens from the commonwealth of If rael, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world? Eph. ij. 12. If the market of free grace were closed, they, poor souls, have as yet bought none of Christ's wares, for as long as they have stood in the market-place.
(2.) What have ye done for God, and what have you done for eternity, in the time which ye have had? God's glory is the end of your creation ; the work he has
your hand to Áll up your tiine with, is to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, Phil. ii. 12. Ye were not set down in the world, as the leviathan in the fea, to play yourselves; but to honour God, and see to your eternal salvation. Now much of that time is over. Ye have done much to advance your worldly interest, to satisfy your lufts, to dishonour God, and to ruin your own souls ; but what have ye done for God's glory and your souls falvation ?
(3.) Who of us all have done for God, what we might have done, and what we have had opportunity to have done? Have we not flipt many precious occasions that might have been improved for the honour of God ? Has not a vain world often cheated us, and spiritual flothfulness cast us into a deep sleep, and an inactive frame and disposition, while fair and promising occasions have flipt through our fingers ?
(4.) Has any of us got that victory over our corruptions, or made such advances in holiness of heart and life, as are answerable to the time that we have had under the means of grace? Have we grown up in grace, answerable to the years of our standing in the Lord's vineyard ?
(5) Are ye provided for a time of trial, and furnished for a wilderness-journey? If not, surely it is neither A 2
for want of warning, nor want of time and opportu nity; but by mispending of time. A day of common calamity seems to be making haste upon us ; but are Cour chambers of protection provided by us to enter into? A darkness, a mist is arisen in the way to Zion; are you so acquainted with the way in the clear day, as to be capable to know the road even in a mist?
(6.) Lastly, Are your evidences for heaven clear? We know not how soon we are to pass off into another world; but, alas! it is to be feared, that many have no evidences at all for a better world; and that such as have, theirs are very dark. These things may suffice to convince of mispending of time; the redeeming of which imports a conviction of.
2. To redeem time, imports activity and application to our great work which we have to do in the world. Thus we find the spouse setting herself to re
deem time, Cant. iii. 1. 2. By night on my bed I fought him whom my soul loveth: I fought him, but I found him not. I will rise now, and go about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways I will seek him · whom my soul loveth. We must at length bestir our. selves, fhake off floth, bę denied to our carnal eafe, and ply our work in good earnest. Merchants who through their own Nothfulness have missed their mar. ket at a time, will do so that they may get their lofs made up; and Christians .must do fo too, who mind to redeem their time; for there is no getting sleeping 40 heaven.
3. It imports catching of seasons that offer them. felves again for procuring or increasing our spiritual ftock. We must be fober, and watch unto prayer, 1 Pet. iv. 7. We must do as Benhadad's servants did, 1 Kings xx. 33. Now the men did diligently observe whether any thing would come from him, and did haftily catch it. As men who being to go a long voyage, but have flept while wind and tide served, and so mifled the occafion of setting off, will watch the fuft opportunity thereafter, and lay hold on it
when it comes. Many a fair occafion for Immanuel's land has been neglected; O that at length we were wife to let no more slip!
4. Lastly, It imports improving the present time diligently, as men who have a great loss to make up. Thus did the spouse, Cant. iii. 4. It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found him whom my soul loveth : 1 beld him, and would not let him go, until I had brought him into my mother's house, and into the chamber of her that conceived me. There is no other way of redeeming paft time, but by better improving the present time while it is among our bands. We should then be more frequent and more fervent in spiritual exercises, carefully laying out ourselves, that the time remaining may be filled up to the best advantage. Time is precious, let us not be lavish of it any more.
II. The fecond head of difeourse is to fhew, why the evil of the days wherein mens lot is cast should move them to redeem time.
1. Because it is the mispending of time and mir-improving the seasons of grace, that brings such evil: days on a church or people called by the name of Christ. That is the fixed rule of God's dispensations towards his church, 2 Chron.xv. 2. The Lord is with you, while ye be with him, and if ye feek. him, he will be found of you ; but if ye forfake him, he will forsake you. Misimproving of seasons of grace makes finning times, and finning times make ensnaring;. and suffering times. And what is the reason of all. the evils of our day, but unfruitfulness under the glorious gospel? The light has been abused, and dark-ness therefore comes on: we have long had light. without heat and warmth of affection, and therefore the light itself is on the declining hand. And it is highly reasonable, that fmarting under mispending of time we be stirred up to redeem it. 2. Because such days threaten the removal of oppor-