He that is choice of his time will also be choice
of his company, and choice of his actions; lest the first engage him in vanity
and loss; and the latter, by being criminal, be a throwing his time and himself
away, and a going back in the accounts of eternity.
God hath given to man a short time here upon
earth, and yet upon this short time eternity depends: but so, that for every
hour of our life (after we are persons capable of laws, and know good from
evil) we must give account to the great Judge of men and angels. And this is it
which our blessed Saviour told us, that we must account for every idle word;
not meaning that every word which is not designed to edification, or is less
prudent, shall be reckoned for a sin; but that the time which we spend in our
idle talking and unprofitable discoursings; that time which might and ought to
have been employed to spiritual and useful purposes - that is to be accounted
For we must remember that we have a great work to
do, many enemies to conquer, many evils to prevent, much danger to run through,
many difficulties to be mastered, many necessities to serve, and much good to
do; many children to provide for, or many friends to support, or many poor to
relieve, or many diseases to cure; besides the needs of nature and of relation,
our private and our public cares, and duties of the world, which necessity and
the providence of God have adopted into the family of religion.
And that we need not fear this instrument to be a
snare to us, or that the duty must end in scruple, vexation, and eternal fears,
we must remember, that the life of every man may be so ordered (and indeed
must) that it may be a perpetual serving of God: the greatest trouble and most
busy trade and worldly encumbrances, when they are necessary, or charitable, or
profitable in order to any of those ends which we are bound to serve, whether
public or private, being a doing of God's work. For God provides the good
things of the world to serve the needs of nature, by the labours of the
ploughman the skill and pains of the artisan, and the dangers and traffic of
the merchant: these men are, in their callings, the ministers of the Divine
Providence, and the stewards of the creation, and servants of a great family of
God, the world, in the employment of procuring necessities for food and
clothing, ornament, and physic. In their proportions also, a king and a priest
and a prophet, a judge and an advocate, doing the works of their employment
according to their proper rules, are doing the work of God; because they serve
those necessities which God hath made, and yet made no provisions for them, but
by their ministry. So that no man can complain that his calling takes him off
from religion; his calling itself, and his very worldly employment in honest
trades and offices, is a serving of God; and, if it be moderately pursued and
according to the rules of Christian prudence, will leave void spaces enough for
prayers and retirements of a more spiritual religion.
God has given every man work enough to do, that
there shall be no room for idleness; and yet hath so ordered the world, that
there shall be space for devotion. He that hath the fewest businesses of the
world is called upon to spend more time in the dressing of the soil; and he
that hath the most affairs may so order them that they shall be a service of
God; whilst at certain periods, they are blessed with prayers and actions of
religion, and all day long are hallowed by a holy intention.
However, so long as idleness is quite shut out
from our lives, all the sins of wantonness, softness, and effeminacy, are
prevented and there is but little room left for temptation; and, therefore, to
a busy man temptation is fain to climb up together with his business, and sins
creep upon him only by accidents and occasions; whereas, to an idle person they
come in a full body, and with open violence and the impudence of a restless
Idleness is called `the sin of Sodom and her
daughters,' and indeed is "the burial of a
living man;" an idle person being so useless to any purpose of God and man,
that he is like one that is dead, unconcerned in the changes and necessities of
the world; and he only lives to spend his time, and to eat the fruits of the
earth; like a vermin or a wolf, when their time comes they die and perish, and
in the meantime do no good; they neither plough nor carry burdens; all that
they do is either unprofitable or mischievous.
Idleness is the greatest prodigality in the
world; it throws away that which is invaluable in respect of its present use,
and irreparable when it is past, being to be recovered by no power of art or
nature. But the way to secure and improve our time we may practise in the
1. In the morning, when you awake, accustom
yourself to think first upon God, or something in order to his service; and at
night, also let him close thine eyes: and let your sleep be necessary and
healthful, not idle and expensive of time beyond the needs and conveniences of
nature; and sometimes be curious to see the preparation which the sun makes,
when he is coming forth from his chambers of the east.
2. Let every man that hath a calling be diligent
in pursuance of its employment, so as not lightly or without reasonable
occasion to neglect it in any of those times which are usually, and by the
custom of prudent persons and good husbands, employed in it.
3. Let all the intervals or void spaces of time
be employed in prayers, reading, meditating, works of nature, recreation,
charity, friendliness and neighbourhood, and means of spiritual and corporal
health; ever remembering so to work in our calling, as not to neglect the work
of our high calling; but to begin and end the day with God, with such forms of
devotion as shall be proper to our necessities.
4. The resting days of Christians, and festivals
of the church, must in no sense be days of idleness; for it is better to plough
upon holy days than to do nothing, or to do viciously: but let them be spent in
the works of the day, that is, of religion and charity, according to the rules
5. Avoid the company of drunkards and busybodies,
and all such as are apt to talk much to little purpose; for no man can be
provident of his time that is not prudent in the choice of his company; and if
one of the speakers be vain, tedious, and trifling, he that hears, and he that
answers in the discourse, are equal losers of their time.
6. Never talk with any man, or undertake any
trifling employment, merely to pass the time away; for every day well spent may become a "day of salvation,"
and time rightly employed is an "acceptable time." And remember, that the time
thou triflest away was given thee to repent in, to pray for pardon of sins, to
work out thy salvation, to do the work of grace, to lay up against the day of
judgment a treasure of good works, that thy time may be crowned with
7. In the midst of the works of thy calling,
often retire to God in short prayers and
ejaculations; and those may make up the want of those larger portions of time,
which, it may be, thou desirest for devotion, and in which thou thinkest other
persons have advantage of thee; for so thou reconcilest the outward work and
thy inward calling, the church and the commonwealth, the employment of the body
and the interest of thy soul: for be sure, that God is present at thy
breathings and hearty sighings of prayer, as soon as at the longer offices of
less busied persons; and thy time is as truly sanctified by a trade, and devout
though short prayers, as by the longer offices of those whose time is not
filled up with labour and useful business.
8. Let your employment be such as may become a
reasonable person; and not be a business fit for children or distracted people,
but fit for your age and understanding. For a man may be very idly busy, and
take great pains to so little purpose, that, in his labours and expense of
time, he shall serve no end but of folly and vanity. There are some trades that
wholly serve the ends of idle persons and fools, and such as are fit to be
seized upon by the severity of laws and banished from under the sun; and there
are some people who are busy; but it is, as Domitian was, in catching flies.
9. Let your employment be fitted to your person
and calling. Some there are that employ their time in affairs infinitely below
the dignity of their person; and being called by God or by the republic to help
to bear great burdens, and to judge a people, do enfeeble their understanding
and disable their persons by sordid and brutish business. Thus Nero went up and
down Greece, and challenged the fiddlers at their trade. Eropus, a Macedonian
king, made lanterns. Harcatius, the king of Parthia, was a mole-catcher; and
Biantes, the Lydian, filed needles. He that is appointed to minister to holy
things must not suffer secular affairs and sordid arts to eat up great portions
of his employment: a clergyman must not keep a tavern, nor a judge be an
innkeeper; and it was a great idleness in Theophylact, the patriarch of C.P. to
spend his time in the stable of horses, when he should have been in his study,
or in the pulpit, or saying his holy offices. Such employments are the diseases
of labour, and the rust of time which it contracts, not by lying still, but by
10. Let your employment be such as becomes a
Christian; that is, in no sense mingled with sin: for he that takes pains to
serve the ends of covetousness, or ministers to another's lust, or keeps a shop
of impurities or intemperance, is idle in the worst sense; for every hour so
spent runs him backward, and must be spent again in the remaining and shorter
part of his life, and spent better.
11. Persons of great quality, and of no trade,
are to be most prudent and curious in their employment and traffic of time.
They are miserable if their education hath been so loose and undisciplines as
to leave them unfurnished of skill to spend their time: but most miserable are
they, if such misgovernment and unskilfulness make them fall into vicious and
baser company, and drive on their time by the sad minutes and periods of sin
and death. They that are learned know the worth of time, and the manner how
well to improve a day; and they are to prepare themselves for such purposes, in
which they may be most useful in order to arts or arms, to counsel in public,
or government in their country; but for others of them, that are unlearned, let
them choose good company, such as may not tempt them to a vice, or join with
them in any; but that may supply their defects by counsel and discourse, by way
of conduct and conversation. Let them learn easy and youthful things, read
history and the laws of the land, learn the customs of their country, the
condition of their own estate, profitable and charitable contrivances of it;
let them study prudently to govern their families, learn the burdens of their
tenants, the necessities of their neighbours, and in their proportion supply
them, and reconcile their enmities, and prevent their lawsuits, or quickly end
them; and in this glut of leisure and disemployment, let them set apart greater
portions of their time for religion and the necessities of their souls.
12. Let the women of noble birth and great
fortunes do the same things in their proportions and capacities; nurse their
children, look to the affairs of the house, visit poor cottages, and relieve
their necessities; be courteous to the neighborhood, learn in silence of their
husbands or their spiritual guides, read good books, pray often and speak
little, and "learn to do good works for necessary uses;" for by that phrase St.
Paul expresses the obligation of Christian women to good housewifery, and
charitable provisions for their family and neighbourhood.
13. Let all persons of all conditions avoid all
delicacy and niceness in their clothing or diet, because such softness engages
them upon great mispendings of their time, while they dress and comb out all
their opportunities of their morning devotion, and half the day's severity, and
sleep out the care and provision of their souls.
14. Let every one of every condition avoid
curiosity, and all inquiry into things that concern them not. For all business
in things that concern us not, is an employing our time to no good of ours, and
therefore not in order to a happy eternity. In this account our neighbours'
necessities are not to be reckoned: for they concern us, as one member is
concerned in the grief of another: but going from house to house, tattlers and
busybodies, which are the canker and rust of idleness, as idleness is the rust
of time, are reproved by the apostle in severe language, and forbidden in order
to this exercise.
15. As much as may be, cut off all impertinent
and useless employments of your life, unnecessary and fantastic visits, long
waitings upon great personages, where neither duty, nor necessity, not charity,
obliges us; all vain meetings, all laborious trifles, and whatsoever spends
much time to no real, civil, religious, or charitable purpose.
16. Let not your recreations be lavish spenders
of your time; but choose such which are healthful, short, transient,
recreative, and apt to refresh you; but at no hand dwell upon them, or make
them your great employment: for he that spends his time in sports, and calls it
recreation, is like him whose garment is all made of fringes, and his meat
nothing but sauces; they are healthless, chargeable, and useless. And therefore
avoid such games, which require much time or long attendance; or which are apt
to steal thy affections from more severe employments. For to whatsoever thou
hast given thy affections, thou wilt not grudge to give thy time. Natural
necessity and the example of St. John, who recreated himself with sporting with
a tame partridge, teach us, that it is lawful
to relax and unbend our bow, but not to suffer it to be unready or unstrung.
17. Set apart some portions of every day for more
solemn devotion and religious employment, which be severe in observing: and if
variety of employment, or prudent affairs, or civil society, press upon you,
yet so order thy rule, that the necessary parts of it be not omitted; and
though just occasions may make our prayers shorter, yet let nothing but a
violent, sudden, and impatient necessity, make thee, upon any one day, wholly
to omit thy morning and evening devotions; which if you be forced to make very
short, you may supply and lengthen with ejaculations and short retirements in
the day-time, in the midst of your employment or of your company.
18. Do not the `work of God negligently' and idly: let not thy heart be upon the world
when thy hand is lift up in prayer; and be sure to prefer an action of
religion, in its place and proper season, before all worldly pleasure, letting
secular things, that may be dispensed with in themselves, in these
circumstances wait upon the other; not like the patriarch, who ran from the
alter in St. Sophia to his stable, in all his pontificals, and in the midst of
his office, to see a colt newly fallen from his beloved and much-valued mare
Phorbante. More prudent and severe was that of Sir Thomas More, who, being sent
for by the king when he was at his prayers in public, returned answer, he would
attend him when he had first performed his service to the King of kings. And it
did honour to Rusticus, that, when letters
from Caesar were given to him, he refused to open them till the philosopher had
done his lecture. In honouring God and doing his work, put forth all thy
strength; for of that time only thou mayest be most confident that it is
gained, which is prudently and zealously spent in God's service.
19. When the clock strikes, or however else you
shall measure the day, it is good to say a short ejaculation every hour, that
the parts and returns of devotion may be the measure of your time; and do so
also in all the breaches of thy sleep; that those spaces, which have in them no
direct business of the world, may be filled with religion.
20. If, by thus doing, you have not secured your
time by an early and fore-handed care, yet be sure by a timely diligence to
redeem the time; that is, to be pious and religious in such instances in which
formerly you have sinned, and to bestow your time especially upon such graces,
the contrary whereof you have formerly practised, doing actions of chastity and
temperance with as great a zeal and earnestness as you did once act your
uncleanness; and then, by all arts, to watch against your present and future
dangers, from day to day securing your standing: this is properly to redeem
your time, that is, to buy your security of it at the rate of any labour and
21. Let him that is most busied set apart some
solemn time every year, in which, for the
time, quitting all worldly business, he may attend wholly to fasting and
prayer, and the dressing of his soul by confessions, meditations, and
attendances upon God; that he may make up his accounts, renew his vows, make
amends for his carelessness, and retire back again, from whence levity and the
vanities of the world, or the opportunity of temptations, or the distraction of
secular affairs, have carried him.
22. In this we shall be much assisted, and we
shall find the work more easy, if, before we sleep, every night we examine the actions of the past day with a particular
scrutiny, if there have been any accident extraordinary; as long discourse, a
feast, much business, a variety of company. If nothing but common hath
happened, the less examination will suffice; only let us take care that we
sleep not without such a recollection of the actions of the day, as may
represent any thing that is remarkable and great, either to be the matter of
sorrow or thanksgiving: for other things a general care is proportionable.
23. Let all these things be done prudently and
moderately, not with scruple and vexation. For these are good advantages, but
the particulars are not Divine commandments; and therefore are to be used as
shall be found expedient to every one's condition. For provided that our duty
be secured, for the degrees and for the instruments every man is permitted to
himself and the conduct of such who shall be appointed to him. He is happy that
can secure every hour to a sober or a pious employment: but the duty consists
not scrupulously in minutes and half hours, but in greater portions of time;
provided that no minute be employed in sin, and the great portions of our time
be spent in sober employment, and all the appointed days, and some portions of
every day, be allowed for religion. In all the lesser parts of time, we are
left to our own elections and prudent management, and to the consideration of
the great degrees and differences of glory that are laid up in heaven for us,
according to the degrees of our care, and piety, and diligence.
This exercise, besides that it hath influence
upon our whole lives, it hath a special efficacy for the preventing of, 1.
beggarly sins, that is, those sins which idleness and beggary usually betray
men to; such as are lying, flattery, stealing, and dissimulation. 2. It is a
proper antidote against carnal sins, and such as proceed from fulness of bread
and emptiness of employment. 3. It is a great instrument of preventing the
smallest sins and irregularities of our life, which usually creep upon idle,
disemployed, and curious persons. 4. It not only teaches us to avoid evil, but
engages us upon doing good, as the proper business of all our days. 5. It
prepares us so against sudden changes that we shall not easily be surprised at
the sudden coming of the day of the Lord: for he that is curious of his time
will not easily be unready and unfurnished.
 Ezek. xvi. 49
 See chap. iv. sect. 6.
 S. Bern. de Triplici Custodia.
 Laudatur Augustus Caesar apud Lucanum, -
media inter praelia semper Stellarum coelique plagis, superisque vacabat. - x.
 Cassian, Bellat. 24. c. xxi.
 Plutarch. de Curiosit. c.x.
 Jer. xlviii. 10.
 fd dn autots
euokiglomtes, ots husrtom, euprepdpdserm dhu apogiam eisaei feromtai. -
Procop. 2 Vandal.
 1 Cor. vii. 5.