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thing commonly more reproachful than want of courage: so bad are the causes of delay.
2. And the effects are no less unhappy, being disappointment, damage, trouble, and sorrow. As expedition (catching advantages and opportunities, keeping the spirit up in its heat and vigor, making forcible impressions wherever it lighteth, driving on the current of success) doth subdue business, and achieve great exploits, (as by practising his motto, 'to defer nothing,' Alexander did accomplish those mighty feats, which make such a clatter in story; and Cæsar more by the rapid quickness and forwardness of undertaking, than by the greatness of courage, and skilfulness of conduct, did work out those enterprises, which purchased to his name so much glory and renown;) so delay and slowness do spoil all business, do keep off success at distance from us; thereby opportunity is lost, and advantages slip away; our courage doth flag, and our spirit languisheth; our endeavors strike faintly, and are easily repelled; whence disappointment necessarily doth spring, attended with vexation.
3. Again, we may consider that to set on our duty is a great step toward the performance of it: if we can resolve well, and a little push forward, we are in a fair way to dispatch; 'to begin,' they say, is to have half done;' to set out is a good part of the journey; to rise betimes is often harder than to do all the day's work: entering the town is almost the same with taking it; it is so in all business, it is chiefly so in moral practice for if we can find in our hearts to take our leave of sin, if we can disengage ourselves from the witcheries of present allurement, if we can but get over the threshold of virtuous conversation, we shall find the rest beyond expectation smooth and expedite; we shall discover such beauty in virtue, we shall taste so much sweetness in obedience, as greatly will engage us to proceed therein.
4. Again: we may consider that our time itself is a gift, or a talent committed to us, for the improvement whereof we are responsible no less than for our wealth, our power, our credit, our parts, and other such advantages, wherewith for the serving of God, and furthering our own salvation, we are entrusted : To redeem the time' is a precept, and of all precepts the most necessary to be observed; for that without redeeming (that is,
embracing and well employing) time we can do nothing well; no good action can be performed, no good reward can be procured by us well may we be advised to take our best care in husbanding it, seeing justly of all things it may be reckoned most precious; its price being inestimable, and its loss irreparable; for all the world cannot purchase one moment of it more than is allowed us; neither can it, when once gone, by any means be recovered: so much indeed as we save thereof, so much we preserve of ourselves; and so far as we lose it, so far in effect we slay ourselves, or deprive ourselves of life; yea by mis-spending it we do worse than so, for a dead sleep, or a cessation from being, is not so bad as doing ill; all that while we live backward, or decline toward a state much worse than annihilation itself. Farther,
5. Consider that of all time the present is ever the best for the purpose of amending our life. It is the only sure time, that which we have in our hands, and may call our own; whereas the past time is irrevocably gone from us; and the future may never come to us: it is absolutely (reckoning from our becoming sensible of things, and accountable for our actions,) the best, as to our capacity of improving it;
Optima quæque dies miseris mortalibus ævi
Our best days do first pass away, was truly said; the nearer to its source our life is, the purer it is from stain, the freer from clogs, the more susceptive of good impressions, the more vivid and brisk in its activity; the farther we go on, especially in a bad course, the nearer we verge to the dregs of our life; the more dry, the more stiff, the more sluggish we grow : delay therefore doth ever steal away the flour of our age, leaving us the bran and refuse thereof. Again,
6. If at any time we do reflect on the time that hath already slipped away unprofitably from us, it will seem more than enough, and (if we consider well) it will be grievous to us to lose more; the morrow will seem too late to commence a good life; ἀρκετὸς ὁ παρεληλυθὼς χρόνος, • The time past of our life, saith St. Peter, may suffice us to have wrought the will of the
Virg. Georg. iii.
Gentiles,' or to have continued in ill courses: more indeed it might than suffice; it should be abundantly too much to have embezzled so large a portion of our precious and irreparable time after we have slept in neglect of our duty, pa n éуepoñvaι, 'it is,' as St. Paul saith, now high time to awake' unto a vigilant observance thereof: this we shall the rather do, if we consider that,
7. For ill living now we shall come hereafter to be sorry, if not with a wholesome contrition, yet with a painful regret; we shall certainly one day repent, if not of our sin, yet of our sinning; if not so as to correct for the future, yet so as to condemn ourselves for what is past: the consideration of our having sacrilegiously robbed our Maker of the time due to his service; of our having injuriously defrauded our souls of the opportunities granted to secure their welfare; of our having profusely cast away our most precious hours of life on vanity and folly, will sometime twitch us sorely. There is no man who doth not with a sorrowful eye review an ill-past life; who would not gladly recal his mis-spent time; Omihi præteritos! O that God would restore my past years to me, is every such man's prayer, although it never was heard, never could be granted unto any. And what is more inconsistent with wisdom, than to engage ourselves on making such ineffectual and fruitless wishes? What is more disagreeable to reason, than to do that for which we must be forced to confess and call ourselves fools? What man of sense, for a flash of transitory pleasure, for a puff of vain repute, for a few scraps of dirty pelf, would plunge himself into such a gulf of anguish?
8. On the contrary, if, laying hold on occasion, we set ourselves to do well, reflexion thereon will yield great satisfaction and pleasure to us; we shall be glad that we have done, and that our task is over; we shall enjoy our former life: our time which is so past will not yet be lost unto us; but rather it will be most securely ours, laid up beyond the reach of danger, in the repository of a good conscience.
9. Again, all our time of continuance in sin we do treasure up wrath,' or accumulate guilt; and the larger our guilt is, the sorer must be our repentance; the more bitter the sorrow, the more low the humbling, the more earnest the deprecation re
quisite to obtain pardon; the broader and deeper the stain is, the more washing is needful to get it out; if we sin much and long, we must grieve answerably, or we shall be no fit objects of mercy.
10. And whenever the sin is pardoned, yet indelible marks and monuments thereof will abide. We shall eternally be obliged to cry peccavi: although the punishment may be remitted, the desert of it cannot be removed; a scar from it will stick in our flesh, which ever will deform us; a tang of it will stay in our memory, which always will be disgustful: we shall never reflect on our miscarriages without some confusion and horror; incessantly we shall be liable to that question of St. Paul, What fruit had ye of those things, whereof ye are now ashamed? If, therefore, we could reasonably presume, yea if we could certainly foresee that we should hereafter in time repent, yet it were unadvisable to persist in sin, seeing it being once committed, can never be reversed, never expunged from the registers of time, never dashed out from the tables of our mind and memory; but will perpetually rest as matter of doleful consideration, and of tragical story to us. 'Then shalt thou remember thy ways, and be ashamed.' 'That thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord God.' Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall loathe yourselves in your own sight, for your iniquities, and for your abominations.'
11. Again, so much time as we spend in disobedience, so much of reward we do forfeit; for commensurate to our works shall our rewards be; the fewer our good works are in the course of our present life, the smaller shall be the measures of joy, of glory, of felicity dispensed to us hereafter; the later consequently we repent, the less we shall be happy: One star,' saith the Apostle, differeth from another in glory;' and of all stars, those in the celestial sphere will shine brightest, who did soon rise here, and continued long, by the lustre of their good works, to glorify their heavenly Father; for the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.' While, therefore, we let our interest lie dead
by lingering, or run behind by sinful practice, we are very bad husbands for our soul; our spiritual estate doth thereby hugely suffer; every minute contracteth a damage, that runneth through millions of ages, and which therefore will amount to an immense sum: and who for all the pleasures here would forego one degree of blissful joy hereafter? who for all earthly splendors would exchange one spark of celestial glory? who for all the treasures below would let slip one gem out of his heavenly crown?
12. Farther, let us consider that whatever our age, whatever our condition or case be, the advice not to procrastinate our obedience is very suitable and useful.
Art thou young? then it is most proper to enter on living well. For when we set out, we should be put in a right way; when we begin to be men, we should begin to use our reason well; life and virtue should be of the same standing. What is more ugly than a child, that hath learnt little, having learnt to do ill? than naughtiness springing up in that state of innocence? The foundation of good life is to be laid in that age, on which the rest of our life is built; for this is the manner of our proceeding; the present always dependeth on what is past; our practice is guided by notions that we had sucked in, is swayed by inclinations that we got before; whence usually our first judgments of things, and our first propensions do stretch their influence on the whole future life. Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it,' saith the wise man.
That age, as it is most liable to be corrupted by vice, so it is most capable of being imbued with virtue; then nature is soft and pliable, so as easily to be moulded into any shape, ready to admit any stamp impressed thereon; then the mind is a pure table, in which good principles may be fairly engraven, without rasing out any former ill prejudices; then the heart being a soil free of weeds, the seeds of goodness being cast therein will undisturbedly grow and thrive; then the complexion being tender will easily be set into a right posture: our soul is then a vessel empty and sweet; good liquor therefore may be instilled, which will both fit it, and season it with a durable tincture; the extreme curiosity and huge credulity of that age, as they