Improvement of Time

Philip Lindsley (1786-1855) was a minister and educator who served as acting president of the College of New Jersey (Princeton), 1822-1824; and as the first president of the University of Nashville, Tennessee (1824-1850). 

His Works in three volumes (comprising of Educational Discourses, Sermons and Religious Discourses, and Miscellaneous Discourses and Essays) are filled with much wisdom and piety on topics that include (in Vol. 2 alone) Sabbath-keeping, self-examination, the necessity of a learned ministry, the pastoral office, evangelical repentance, and more. 

Towards the end of 1822, Lindsley gave two discourses at the chapel of the College of New Jersey on the subject of the improvement of time. These discourses were delivered just after a student had passed away the previous month (whose eulogy was given by Archibald Alexander), and another, the previous February, which were rare events at the College. 

Lindsley took occasion to encourage his students on the first Sabbath of December, 1822, on the basis of Psalm 90:12 ("So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom"), to consider the brevity of life, and the need for sobriety and industry, and to be content to "use the world, but abuse it not." He also reminded them to remember to seek first the kingdom of God, and that this life is preparation for the next. 

His next discourse, given on the last Sabbath of December, 1822, and taken from Eph. 5:16 ("Redeeming the time"), reminded his students of the value of time - once lost, it is not to be found again, an appropriate theme for the end of one year and the beginning of another. The opposite of redeeming the time is wasting time. This he warned his hearers against, and preached equally to himself: "We have all erred in this matter. There is not an individual in this house; —there is not a child of Adam on earth who has not abused time. Nay more, there is not a day in which the best of men, when they review, at evening, their conduct during the day, do not find abundant cause of humiliation and repentance before God for their unfruitfulness, their sloth, or their forgetfulness of Him who has solemnly charged them to occupy till he come." 

He then proceeded to direct his students on how to improve the time given to them - in a word, or two, to make religion the "every-day work" of the Christian. Also, to acquire knowledge in the service of God. As students, this was their present business. To them, he said: "Time is the talent committed to you to improve to the very utmost of your ability, according to the opportunities and advantages enjoyed." While giving general guidance about how to study aright, he pointed his hearers first and foremost to the study of the Bible, the class book of the College, and "the richest treasure ever bestowed by heaven on man. The Bible — inestimable, inexhaustible fountain of truth, and wisdom, and purity, and consolation!" There is a lesson here for all of us that is timeless, but requires us to take time to heed it.