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The Duty of redeeming the Time in evil Days, illuftrated and enforced.
Preached at ETTRICK, May 27. 1722, being the Lord's day immediately following the rifing of the General Affembly that year.
EPHESIANS V. 16.
Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
N the preceding verfe, the apoftle exhorts the Ephefians to walk circumspectly, that is, accurately, exactly, and precifely, endeavouring in the most minute things in their walk to be regular and holy; fhewing withal, that true wisdom requires fuch exactnefs 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 expreffion is metaphorical, taken from merchants who wait the market, improve the season of making gain; and if at any time they have loft by their negligence, they beftir themselves to catch the season again when it offers. Thus fhould we do with the time, or season of grace and good works, the feafon for doing or getting good. That time is often mispent, the season is flipt; 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, la
bours to redeem the time by mending his pace, when it grows towards evening.
2. The reafon of the duty, because 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 refpect of the great evils going on in them among men, which put profeffors in hazard of finning or fuffering. fuffering. They were enfnaring days, both in respect of principles and practices; falfe doctrine was vented by many, the refurrection was denied, juftification by faith alone oppofed, and the purity of the gofpel overthrown by many: fcandalous practices were introduced; and perfecution was raised in several places, and was on the growing hand.
The fcope and meaning of the words may be fummed up in the following doctrinal note, viz.
DOCT. When mens lot falls in evil days, the evil of thefe days calls aloud to them to redeem time, and double their diligence.
For the illuftration of this doctrine, I fhall fhew, I. What it is to redeem time.
II. Why the evil of the days wherein mens lot is caft fhould move them to redeem time.
III. Lastly, Apply the subject in an use of exhortation and of reproof.
I. The first thing propofed is, to fhew what it is to redeem time. It imports,
1. A conviction of mifpending of time, and mifimproving seasons of grace. Thofe will never fet themselves to redeem time, who are not duly convinced of their fquandering it away, felling 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 faving intereft in the covenant of grace, but are aliens from the commonwealth of If rael, and frangers from the covenants of promife, having no hope, and without God in the world? Eph. ii. 12. If the market of free grace were clofed, they, poor fouls, have as yet bought none of Chrift's wares, for as long as they have ftood 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 put in your hand to fill up your tine with, is to work out your own falvation with fear and trembling, Phil. ii. 12. Ye were not fet down in the world, as the leviathan in the fea, to play yourfelves; but to honour God, and fee to your eternal falvation. Now much of that time is over. Ye have done much to advance your worldly intereft, to fatisfy your lufts, to dishonour God, and to ruin your own fouls; but what have ye done for God's glory and your fouls 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 occafions that might have been improved for the honour of God? Has not a vain world often cheated us, and fpiritual flothfulness caft us into a deep fleep, and an inactive frame and disposition, while fair and promifing occafions have flipt through our fingers?
(4.) Has any of us got that victory over our corruptions, or made fuch 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, anfwerable 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, furely it is neither
for want of warning, nor want of time and opportunity; but by mifpending of time. A day of common calamity feems to be making hafte upon us; but are our chambers of protection provided by us to enter into? A darkness, a mist is arifen in the way to Zion; are you fo acquainted with the way in the clear day, as to be capable to know the road even in a mist? (6.) Laftly, Are your evidences for heaven clear? We know not how foon we are to pafs off into another world; but, alas! it is to be feared, that many have no evidences at all for a better world; and that fuch as have, theirs are very dark. Thefe things may fuffice to convince of mifpending 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 fetting herself to redeem time, Cant. iii. 1. 2. By night on my bed I fought him whom my foul loveth: I fought him, but I found him not. I will rife now, and go about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways I will feek him whom my foul loveth. We must at length beftir our felves, fhake off floth, be denied to our carnal cafe, and ply our work in good earneft. Merchants who through their own flothfulness have miffed their market at a time, will do fo 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 fleeping so heaven.
3. It imports catching of feasons that offer them. felves again for procuring or increasing our spiritual fock. We must be fober, and watch unto prayer, 1 Pet. iv. 7. We muft do as Benhadad's fervants did, 1 Kings xx. 33. Now the men did diligently obferve 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 ferved, and fo miffed the occafion of setting off, will watch the first 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 flip!
4. Laftly, It imports improving the present timediligently, as men who have a great lofs 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 foul loveth: I held 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 prefent time while it is among our e hands. We fhould then be more frequent and more
fervent in fpiritual exercifes, 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 difcourfe 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 mifpending of time and mifimproving the seasons of grace, that brings fuch evil days on a church or people called by the name of Chrift. 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 forfake you. Mifimproving of feafons of grace makes finning times, and finning times make enfnaring. and fuffering times. And what is the reason of all. the evils of our day, but unfruitfulness under the glorious gofpel? The light has been abused, and darknefs 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 mifpending of time we be stirred up to redeem it.
2. Because fuch days threaten the removal of oppor-