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of God, and his righteousness?” I am not taking the extreme case. I suppose family prayer to be still conducted, though at irregular hours; but I believe the experience of some will have read to them the well-known truth, that what we think we can do at any time, is very often done at no time. Indeed I am sure that irregularity in the time given to the duty is a step towards its entire omission, though that omission brings down upon the family the threatened wrath of an offended God.
I place family prayer as next in order to public worship; but let me not be misunderstood as exalting either of these duties in importance above the entering into our chamber, and shutting the door, and praying to our Father which is in secret. No! it is private prayer-it is the solitary and secret drawing upon the God of all grace to supply all our need, which can alone give life and spirit to public and social devotion, and without which, public and social devotion, conducted even under the most favourable circumstances, will alike degenerate, as far as the prayerless soul is concerned, into a Popish observance, a mere external ceremony. If we wish that our souls prosper and be in health, we shall fix our hours for private prayer-giving ourselves sufficient time for the performance of the duty-for “pouring out our hearts," and uttering all our words before the Lord,” and we shall not lightly suffer the things of earth to break in on the time allotted to our highest duty, our dearest privilege. Closely connected with habitual secret prayer, is the devotional reading of scripture; and more depends upon the methodizing and economizing of time for the performance of these duties, than we are willing to allow. Satan, who hates to see us on our knees, with the Bible in our hands, knows what we appear to forget, and though we cannot plead ignorance of his devices, we act as if we knew them not. And is there not many a heart that can respond with bitterness to the inquiry, whether our crafty and powerful enemy does not often gain advantage over us, by tempting us to omit secret prayer? It is an old saying but it can hardly be too often repeated, that declensions in religion, begin in the closet; and to a want of punctuality, may very often be traced up and attributed those declensions in the closet.
1 Judges xi. 11.
I am not pleading for the performance of an outward act, for I would guard my meaning as far as I can, on the right hand and the left. The mere kneeling down at a stated period, and remaining on the knees a given time, with the eye fixed on the clock or watch till the season of penance is expired; the mere uttering of a given form of words, while the heart wanders to the end of the earththat is not prayer : and whether it be performed in a Popish oratory, or in the closet of a member of the Church of England, is alike a delusion of the evil one, to lull the conscience asleep, and the soul into a fatal security. Punctuality is not devotion, but it is a bandmaid to devotion; and, in descanting on the importance of private prayer, I have been almost tempted to forget that punctuality is the duty which it is the immediate object of my paper to enforce.
I have dwelt so long on this part of my subject, that I can only account for it, and justify my proceeding, by alleging its extreme importance. Prayer is the spring which must set the machinery to work, and it is the power which must keep it going.
I proceed to punctuality, as exemplified in the arrangement of our daily employments. The observance of it will prevent that hurry and confusion which are sad obstacles to the proper discharge of our duty, and will enable us to get through more business than we should otherwise do. It is one excellent means of learning the value of time, because we may thus be sensibly inconvenienced by the loss, of a few minutes. One of the children of this world, who was in his generation wiser than are many of the children of light, has told us to take care of the minutes, and the hours will take care of themselves.' And though he was himself an example that time may be economised while life is mis-spent, still a useful lesson may be drawn from his words. Full leisure' is a very questionable possession; leisure for any pursuit, or any charitable object, ought to be earned, and, in the great majority of cases, may be earned, by a proper arrangement of the other employments.
A curious calculation has been made as to the number of hours lost throughout Great Britain by late rising. If a similar calculation could be made, as to the number of hours lost by want of punctuality to appointments, the result would, perhaps, be quite as startling and formidable. I think it was Sir Matthew Hale, of whom it was said, that he was never known to keep a person waiting five minutes in bis life. Many people, whose time is thus frittered away, are precisely those for whose time the greatest consideration ought to be had-I mean professional persons, and trades-people. To them their time is money, and in some cases bread; and yet, to judge by actions, there are some persons who seem to have as little idea of this self-evident truth, as they have of applying their own powers, either of body or mind, to any thing which can in any way benefit either themselves or their fellow-creatures. Such cumberers of the ground, who might share with Sardanapalus the glory of the epitaph which Aristotle pronounced equally applicable to a hog; human animals, who in one respect-inasmuch as they do not fulfil the end of their existence—are beneath the brutes; creatures who eat, drink, sleep, and die, giving (to allude to another celebrated epitaph-that of La Fontaine on himself) one half of their time to sleep, the other to doing nothing; and w
because they do nothing, assert that they have nothing to do; such persons may as well be in one place as another :—and to apply to them, with a slight alteration, that caustic remark of Bishop Andrewes on his brother Neale, “ It seems to me pot unlawful to take their time, for they offer it. But let not these useless eaters, drinkers, sleepers, and vagabonds, presume to waste the hours of persons higher in the scale of creation than themselves, though lower in that of society; and let them pay the respect due to the time of the industrious tradesman and hard-working mechanic.
It is not however my wish to speak of, or to censure those who are without. I would rather address a word to those who are within the pale of profession at least. Yet surely they who profess to regulate their conduct by Christian principles, need hardly be reminded that, redeemed themselves from eternal suffering, it is their duty to “ redeem their time" for the service of Him who died for them. And there is another consideration ; want of exactness to engagement is, in effect, a species of lying. Knowing as we all do, how lynx-eyed the world is to the faults of the professed followers of Christ, want of punctuality may, and perhaps often does, give “occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme.” Oh! when we think of all, the course which we are encouraged to run-the goal at which we are to aim—the cloud of witnesses around us-how strongly should the divine admonition press upon us.
“ In all things that I have commanded you, be circumspect !” And we should pause before making the slightest engagement, before giving a promise about the smallest tbing. When the promise regards the future, it is wise to give only a co
ional one. “ Boast not thyself of to-morrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.” This would not prevent the common business of life. I should much more readily believe a person who would say to me, “I will call to-morrow at ten o'clock, if notbing prevent me,' than one who could assert, ‘I will certainly call at ten o'clock to-morrow.'
I cannot say by my own observation how this world went on sixty years since,” nor yet thirty; but I am rather inclined to believe the testimony of those who pronounce the present a laggard and degenerate age;" and one of my reasons for believing them, is, that when we want a sentence with compressed thought, and sterling sense, we have to turn to the stores of ancestral wisdom. With one of these valuable maxims, I will close my present paper, and I fearlessly select one which has the advantage of being generally known, the disadvantage of being