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The Preciousness of Time – Jonathan Edwards (1734)

Posted On April 2, 2020

Time is a precious commodity that must be treasured.  Such is the argument in Jonathan Edward’s piece entitled, The Preciousness of Time and the Importance of Redeeming It.

The subject of time was no stranger to Edwards.  He thought about the “improvement” of time often.  Even in his famous 70 resolutions, he addressed the matter of time.

Resolution # 5

Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.

It would serve us well, then, to consider the precious matter of time from Jonathan Edwards’ perspective.

Section 1: Why Time is Precious

Jonathan Edwards states four reasons why time is precious.

  1. Because a happy or miserable eternity depends on the good or ill improvement of it.
  2. Time is very short, which is another thing that renders it very precious.
  3. Time ought to be esteemed by us very precious, because we are uncertain of its continuance.
  4. Time is very precious, because when it is past, it cannot be recovered.

Edwards argues concerning time, “…When once that [time] is gone, it is gone forever; no pains; no cost will recover it.”  So typical is this eternal perspective that flows so freely from the pen of the Northampton preacher.  Tragically, many Christ-followers are not following the counsel of this godly man as they squander their time with worldly pursuits.  He reminds us, “Eternity depends on the improvement of time; but when once the time of life is gone, when once death is come, we have no more to do with time; there is no possibility of obtaining the restoration of it or another space in which to prepare for eternity.”

Section 2: Reflections of Time Past

In section 2, Edwards encourages believers to reflect on time, which has been granted in order to prepare for eternity.  Indeed, the argument goes, “Your future eternity depends on the improvement of time.”  He challenges readers, “How have you let the precious golden sands of your glass run?”

Section 3: Who Are Chiefly Deserving of Reproof From the Subject of the Preciousness of Time

Edwards begins section three with a discussion of how people waste their time: “There is nothing more precious, and yet nothing of which men are more prodigal.”  He demonstrates the kinds of people are who reproved for their negligence in this area.

  1. Those who spend a great part of their time in idleness.
  2. They are reproved by this doctrine who spend their time in wickedness, who do not merely spend their time in doing nothing to any good purpose but spend it to ill purposes.
  3. Those are reproved by this doctrine, who spend their time only in worldly pursuits, neglecting their souls.

Section 4: An Exhortation to Improve Time

“Time is money.”  So goes the conventional wisdom of the day.  Edwards essentially agrees as he argues, “If you have a right conception of these things, you will be more choice of your time than of the most fine gold.”  He exhorts readers with four  bold propositions:

  1. You are accountable to God for your time.
  2. Consider how much time you have lost already.
  3. Consider how time is sometimes valued by those who are come near to the end of it.
  4. Consider what a value we may conclude is set upon time by those who are past the end of it.

Section 5: Advice Respecting the Improvement of Time

Edwards concludes his piece by offering three encouragements with respect to time.

  1. Improve the present time without any delay.
  2. Be especially careful to improve those parts of time, which are most precious.
  3. Improve well your time of leisure from worldly business.

The notion of “improving” time is seen throughout the writings of Jonathan Edwards.  He gave a great deal of thought to it and chose to live wisely in light of his discoveries.  Indeed, Jonathan Edwards sought to “live with all his might unto the Lord.”  By God’s grace, he accomplished resolution # 5: Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.

“Therefore, spend not such opportunities unprofitably, nor in such a manner that you will not be able to give a good account thereof to God.  Waste them not away wholly in unprofitable visits, or useless diversions or amusements.”

– Jonathan Edwards

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