The Preciousness of Time

hourglass

“Redeeming the time…” – Ephesians 5:16

Reasons Time is a thing that is exceedingly precious:

I. Because eternity depends on the improvement of time. Things are precious in proportion to the importance of them, or according to the degree wherein they concern our welfare. Men are wont to set the highest value on those things that they are sensible, and that they have their chief dependence upon. Other things they may easily part with, but they won’t very easily part with such things. And this renders time so exceeding precious, because our welfare, and interest of it, depends upon the improvement of it….

And hence it is that time is a thing so exceeding precious, because ’tis by that that we have opportunity of escaping everlasting misery and of obtaining eternal blessedness and glory. ‘Tis upon the improvement of time that there depends an escape from an infinite evil and an obtaining an infinite good. And this puts an infinite value upon time.

Eternity depends upon it, for eternity is an infinite or endless duration. And to be miserable through eternity is an infinite evil; ’tis infinitely dreadful. And so to be happy through {eternity is an infinite good}.

II. Time is very short, which is another thing that renders it very precious: the scarcity of any commodity occasions men to set an higher value upon it, especially if it be a thing that is necessary to be had and that they can’t do without, or be that which their interest much depends upon….

Time is so short, and the work is so great that we have to do in it, that we have none of it to spare. The work that we have to do to prepare for eternity must be done in time, or it never can be done; and ’tis found to be a work of great difficulty and labor.

We read of silver being so plenty in Solomon’s time that it was as the stones of the street: it was nothing accounted of; they had more of it than they needed, or knew what to do with. But this is not the case with us with respect to time. And.’tis but a little time that God hath allotted to us, a short space that is soon all of it gone.

If a man loses any of that that he has but little of, and yet is absolutely necessary to him, his loss is the greater. [It is] as if he has but a little food wherewith [to] support his life: if he loses some of it, his loss is greater than if had an abundance. So we ought to prize our time the more highly, and to be careful that we don’t lose any of it, because it is so short, and yet what is so necessary to us.

III. Time ought to be looked upon as very precious by us upon this account also, that we are uncertain of the continuance of it. We know that ’tis very short, but we don’t know how short: we don’t know how little there is of it remaining, whether a year or several years, or only a month, or a week, or a day.

We don’t know but that every day be not the last, or how little of the day we are to have. There is nothing that experience doth more verify than this….

How much more would many men prize their time, if they knew that they had but a few months, or a few days more in the world; and certainly a wise man would prize his time the more, because he does not know but hat it is so. This is the case with multitudes now in the world that now are in health, and so [see] no signs of approaching death. Many without doubt are to die the next month, and many are to die the next week; many are to die tomorrow that now know nothing of it, and think nothing about it. And neither they nor their neighbors can say [they] are any more likely soon to be taken out of the world than others. How many have died out of this town at one time and another, when neither they nor their neighbors saw any signs of death a week beforehand. And probably there are various persons now here present, hearing what I now say, that are to die in a very little time, that have no apprehension of it.

This teaches us how we ought to prize our time, and be careful that we don’t lose any of it.

IV. Time is very precious, because when it is past, it can’t be recovered.

Therefore we should be the more choice of it, while we have it; for that which is well improved is not lost; though the time itself be gone, yet the benefit of it abides with us.

It is so with our time, both in whole and in every particular part. When any part of time is lost, ’tis irrecoverably gone. The offer is never but once made us, whether we will improve it or no. Every part of our time is as it were successively offered to us, that we may choose whether we will make it our own or no; but there is no tarry to wait upon us, to see whether we will or not. But if we refuse, ’tis immediately taken away, and never offered more. As to that part of time that is gone, if we han’t well improved it, ’tis out of our possession, and out of our reach. ‘Tis only what is yet before us that we have any opportunity to make our own, whether that be less or more.

If we have lived fifty, or sixty, or seventy years, and han’t improved them, it now can’t be helped. ‘Tis all eternally gone from us. All that we can do, is to improve the little that remains. Yea, if we have spent all our lives, but a few minutes was improved, all that is gone is lost; and ’tis only those few remaining minutes that ’tis possible should be made his own.

But when the time of life is gone, it is impossible that we should ever obtain another such time. ‘Tis utterly and everlastingly gone.

Jonathan Edwards (1703-58), exert from sermon “The Preciousness of Time” in Sermons and Discourses, 1734-1738 (WJE Online Vol. 19), 243-61.

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Filed under Applied Theology, Bible, Christian Thinking, Church History, Commentary, Ephesians, God, Preaching, Theology, Worldview

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