Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.
~ Ecclesiastes 9:10
Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.
~ Colossians 4:5, Romans 13:11, Galatians 6:10
By the redemption of time, we must understand the study, care, and diligence of Christians at the rate of all possible pains, at the expense of all earthly pleasures, ease, and gratifications of the flesh to rescue their precious seasons, both of salvation and service, out of the hands of temptations that so commonly rob unwary souls of them.
We have a great deal of work to do, but little time. Therefore, we should redeem it from pleasure and rather encroach upon our recreation to spend it in matters that most concern us. All complain of the shortness of time, and yet everyone hath more time than he useth well.
Time Is Your Opportunity, by Richard Baxter.
Time being man’s opportunity for all those works for which he liveth and which his Creator doth expect from him, and on which his endless life dependeth, the redeeming or well improving of it must necessarily be of most high importance to him. Therefore, it is well made by holy Paul the great mark to distinguish the wise from fools. “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time” (Eph 5:15-16a). I shall therefore give you special directions for it, when I have first opened the nature of the duty to you and told you what is meant by time and what [is meant] by redeeming it.
Time, in its most common acceptation, is taken generally for all that space of this present life, which is our opportunity for all the works of life and the measure of them. Time is often taken more strictly for some special opportunity that is fitted to a special work, which we call the season or the fittest time. In both these senses, time must be redeemed.
As every work hath its season that must be taken, so have the greatest works assigned us for God and our souls some special seasons besides our common time.
1. Some times God hath fitted by nature for His service: the time of youth, health, and strength are specially fit for holy work.
2. Some time is made specially fit by God’s institution, such as the Lord’s Day above all other days.
3. Some time is made fit by governors’ appointment, such as the hour of public meeting for God’s worship and lecture-days,1 and the hour for family worship, which every head of a family may appoint to his own household.
4. Some time is made fit by the temper2 of men’s bodies: the morning hours are best to most, but some prefer the evening. And all prefer the time when the body is freest from pain and disabling weaknesses.
5. Some time is made fit by the course of our necessary, natural, or civil business: the day is fitter than the sleeping time of night, and that hour is the fittest wherein our other employments will least disturb us.
6. Some time is made fit by a special shower of mercy, public or private: when we dwell in godly families, among the most exemplary, helpful company, under the most lively, excellent means, the most faithful pastors, the most profitable teachers, the best masters or parents, and with faithful friends.
7. Some time is made fit by particular acts of providence:3 a funeral sermon at the death of any near us, or the presence of some able minister or private Christian whose company we cannot ordinarily have, or a special leisure, such as the eunuch had to read the Scripture in his chariot (Act 8:26-39).
8. And some time is made specially fit by the special workings of God’s Spirit upon the heart, when He more than ordinarily illuminateth, teacheth, quickeneth,4 softeneth, humbleth, comforteth, exciteth, or confirmeth. As time in general, so especially these seasons must be particularly improved for their several5 works: we must take the wind and tide while we may have it and be sure to strike while the iron is hot.
9. Some time is made fit by others’ necessities and the call of God: the time to relieve the poor when they ask or when they are most in want;6 or help to our neighbour when it will do him most good; to visit the sick, the imprisoned, and the afflicted in the needful season. Thus are the godly like trees planted by the riverside, which bringeth forth fruit in their season (Psa 1:3). So it means to speak in season to the ignorant or ungodly for their conversion or to be sorrowful for their consolation.
10. Our own necessity also maketh our seasons: the time of age and sickness is made by necessity the season of our special repentance and preparation for death and judgment.
11. The present time is commonly made our season, through the uncertainty of a fitter time or of any more. “Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it. Say not unto thy neighbour, Go, and come again, and tomorrow I will give; when thou hast it by thee” (Pro 3:27-28). “Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth” (Ecc 11:2). “Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth” (Pro 27:1) “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Gal 6:10). These are our special seasons.
To redeem time supposeth,
1. That we know what we have to do with time, on what we ought to lay it out, and of how great worth the things are for which we must redeem it.
2. That we highly value time in order to this necessary work.
3. That we are sensible of the greatness of our sin and loss in our negligent and wilful losing so much as we have done already.
4. That we know the particular season of each duty.
5. And that we set less by all that with which we must part in redeeming time than we do by time itself and its due ends; or else we will not make the bargain.
And as those five things are presupposed, so these following are contained in our redeeming time:
1. To redeem time is to see that we cast none of it away in vain but use every minute of it as a most precious thing and spend it wholly in the way of duty.
2. That we be not only doing good but doing the best and greatest good that we are able and have a call to do.
3. That we do not only the best things but do them in the best manner and in the greatest measure and do as much good as we possibly can.
4. That we watch for special opportunities.
5. That we presently take them when they fall and improve them when we take them.
6. That we part with all that need to be parted with to save our time.
7. And that we forecast the preventing of impediments,7 the removal of our clogs,8 and the obtaining of all the helps to expedition9 and success is duty. This is the true redeeming of our time.
The ends and uses that time must be redeemed for are these:
1. In general, and ultimately, it must all be for God. Though not all em- ployed directly upon God—in meditating of Him or praying to Him—yet all must be laid out for Him, immediately or mediately,10 that is, either in serving Him or in preparing for His service: in mowing or in whetting;11 in travelling or in baiting12 to fit us for travel. And so our time of sleeping, feeding, and needful recreation is laid out for God.
2. Time must be redeemed especially for works of public benefit: for the church and state, for the souls of many, especially by magistrates and ministers, who have special charge and opportunity; who must “spend and be spent” for the peoples’ sakes, though rewarded with ingratitude and contempt (2Co 12:14-15).
3. For your own souls and your everlasting life: for speedy conversion without delay, if you be yet unconverted; for the killing of every soul-endangering sin without delay; for the exercise and increase of young and unconfirmed grace and the growth of knowledge; for the making sure our calling and election (2Pe 1:10); and for storing up provisions of faith, hope, love, and comfort against the hour of suffering and of death.
4. We must redeem time for the souls of every particular person to whom we have opportunity to do good, especially for children, servants, and others whom God hath committed to our trust.
5. For the welfare of our own bodies, that they may be serviceable to our souls.
6. And, lastly, for the bodily welfare of others. And this is the order in which those works lie, for which and in which our time must be redeemed.
The price that time must be redeemed with is, above all,
1. Our utmost diligence: that we be still doing, put forth all our strength, and run as for our lives; and whatever our hand shall find to do, that we do it with our might, remembering that “there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave” whither we go (Ecc 9:10). Our sluggish ease is an easy price to be parted with for precious time. To redeem it is not to call back time past; nor to stop time in its hasty passage; nor to procure a long life on earth, but to save it, as it passeth, from being devoured and lost by sluggishness and sin.
2. Time must be redeemed from the hands and by the loss of sinful pleasures, sports,13 and revellings,14 and all that is of itself or by accident15 unlawful: from wantonness, licentiousness, and vanity. Both these are set together. “And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof” (Rom 13:11-14).
3. Time must be redeemed from things indifferent and lawful at another time, when things necessary do require it. He that should save men’s lives, or quench a fire in his house, or provide for his family, or do his master’s work will not be excused if he neglect it by saying that he was about an indifferent or a lawful business. Natural rest and sleep must be parted with for time when necessary things require it. Paul preached until midnight, “ready to depart on the morrow” (Act 20:7).
The lamenting church, calling out for prayer, saith, Arise, cry out in the night: in the beginning of the watches pour out thy heart like water before the face of the Lord” (Lam 2:19). Cleanthes 16 lamp must be used by such, whose sunlight must be otherwise employed.
4. Time must be redeemed from worldly business and commodity17 when matters of greater weight and commodity do require it. Trades, plough, and profit must stand by when God calls us (by necessity or otherwise) to greater things! Martha should not so much as trouble herself in providing meat for Christ and His followers to eat when Christ is offering her food for her soul. She should with Mary have been hear- ing at His feet (Luk 10:38-42). Worldlings are thus called by Him: “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters…Wherefore do ye spend your money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness” (Isa 55:1-2).
5. Time must be redeemed from smaller duties, which in their season must be done, as being no duties when they hinder greater duty that should then take place. It is a duty in its time and place to show respect to neighbours and superiors, to those about us, and to look to our family affairs—but not when we should be at prayer to God or when a minister should be preaching or at his necessary studies. Private prayer, meditation, and visiting the sick are duties—but not when we should be at church or about any greater duty that they hinder.
1 lecture-days – days, other than the Lord’s Day, appointed by Puritans for hearing sermons.
2 temper – constitution; temperament.
3 providence – God’s…most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all His creatures and all their actions. (Spurgeon’s Catechism, Q. 11)
4 quickeneth – makes alive.
5 several – distinct; particular.
6 want – need.
7 impediments – hindrances.
8 clogs – hindrances to motion or activity.
9 expedition – promptness or speed in doing something.
10 immediately or mediately – indirectly or directly.
11 mowing or in whetting – cutting down grass in a field or sharpening a tool or weapon.
12 baiting – giving food to horses.
13 sports – games; diversions.
14 revelings – morally loose and noisy feasts or parties.
15 accident – quality or characteristic of a thing.
16 Cleanthes (300-232 BC) – Greek philosopher.
17 commodity – profit; interest.