For you have spent enough time in the past carrying out the same desires as the pagans: living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing, and detestable idolatry.
I. WHAT DOES REFLECTION SUGGEST TO US CONCERNING TIME PAST IN ITSELF?
1. Its passage has been rapid, yet it has been filled with events of great importance.
2. It is perfectly irrecoverable; we cannot live the expiring year over again.
3. It has left ineffaceable traces upon our character. We are all changed by its influences, its occupations, its lessons - some for the better, some for the worse.
4. It is not forgotten by the Lord and Judge of all. In this sense he "requireth that which is past."
II. IN WHAT SPIRIT SHOULD THE CHRISTIAN CONSIDER THE TIME PAST?
1. His first and most prominent thought should be of the mercy and loving-kindness of God revealed to him as the days and weeks have passed by.
2. Especially should he remember the long-suffering and forbearance which has been displayed towards him by his heavenly Father upon repeated occasions, when such consideration has been called for by failures in duty and by forgetfulness of Divine love.
3. He should remember with regret and repentance the opportunities of obedience and usefulness which he has neglected.
4. Nor should he lose sight of the discipline which he may have been called upon to endure, and which he should remember, not with a rebellious, but with a submissive spirit.
III. IN WHAT SPIRIT SHOULD THE IRRELIGIOUS AND UNDECIDED REVIEW THE TIME PAST?
1. He should remember with humiliation and shame that he has broken the Law of God, and rejected the gospel of Christ.
2. He should reflect upon the evil influence which his example of religion has exercised over his fellow-men, especially over those within his family and social circle.
3. He should consider that he is the worse at the end of the year than at its beginning, because of his delay to repent and to commence by God's grace a new and better life.
IV. How SHOULD THE MEMORY OF THE TIME FAST AFFECT THE TIME TO COME?
1. We may be helped to realize the brevity of life, and the uncertainty and probable brevity especially of what of life yet remains.
2. We may be induced to turn away from the evil which has been indulged in during bygone years, and to enter upon the holier life and more consecrated service which our conscience approves and enjoins. The sands are fast falling; the tide is fast ebbing; the light is fast fading. Let the future see our vows fulfilled, our hopes realized, our aims achieved! - J.R.T.
The time past of our life may suffice us.1. The time spent in sin, we know how much it is, but what is behind we know not. The devil is sure of his part, but what God shall have, whether half or a quarter, so much is uncertain. If we knew we should live twenty years more to serve God as we have done twenty years in sin, God should have but the half, but we know not whether we shall live twenty days. Should we then defer?
2. Time is very precious, above gold and silver, and hereof we have squandered a great part.
3. There is no time to be spent in sin, but we are to serve God in holiness and righteousness all the days of our life. Therefore, having robbed Him of some of His due, is it not well He will take this that remains?
4. Whatsoever time is spent till we return to God is all going out of the way; and if a man hath gone out of the way but till eight or nine o'clock, assuredly that is more than enough.
5. Whatsoever time is spent that way is but doing that that must be undone again and repented of. Is not a little of this too much? Who will willingly so do his work that it must be ravelled out again?
6. All that is done this way is for the devil, our sworn enemy, for whom even the least is too much; for the flesh, to which we owe nothing; and for the world, which is our deadly enemy.
7. It is all done against God, to whom we owe all; and is it not then sufficient we have wronged Him so far?
8. And all is against our own souls; and have we not wounded them enough already?
I. AS A PORTION OF PROBATIONARY EXISTENCE. "Time past of our life." Take three views of the years that have departed.
1. Look at what they have given us.
2. Look at what they have taken away from us. The warm impulses and tender sensibilities of childhood and youth. Precious gifts are these! What friends are gone!
3. Look at what they have left us. They have left us life, reason, memory, religious privileges, augmented responsibility, wider memories, and greater power for good and evil. Many precious germs of blessedness.
II. AS A COURSE OF WRONG MORAL CONDUCT. The apostle intimates that those to whom he wrote had, during the past years, "wrought the will of the Gentiles." During the time past of their lives they had not been passive but active. What was this will of the Gentiles? The will of corrupt humanity. Nothing more, nothing less. Every wheel in its vast and complicated machinery is moved and ruled by this. It is true that this will works in different men with different instruments and under different phases of character. Its language in some is vulgar, in others classic; in some obscene, in others refined.
1. That this will is generally the ruling power in the first stages of man's history.
2. That there is a danger even of good men yielding to its influence.
III. AS AN ARGUMENT FOR IMMEDIATE IMPROVEMENT. "For the time past of our life may suffice," etc. The urgency of this will appear from two considerations.
1. The will of God ought to have swayed with an absolute power from the commencement of our responsible life.
2. All the time that has been spent in neglect of this has been spent in contracting guilt and increasing our exposure to ruin.
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
A London Suburban Minister.Life! What mystery is wrapped up in life! How great the power needed to originate it! What transcendent worth be longs to human life! to —
I. "OUR LIFE." "Our life" is redeemed life. It was great to speak a world from nought; greater to create moral life and fashion it after the Divine original; greatest to redeem.
II. "THE PAST OF LIFE." How little we know of the past — taking the word in its comprehensive relationship to the world! As question of history we know something of the world's civilisation, science, art, human laws, etc. But what do we know of the individual experience of mankind — its joys and sorrows? But there is a past for which God holds us responsible — an individual past.
III. "THE TIME PAST OF OUR LIFE." Nothing that I have is my own. I belong to God, in body, soul, and spirit. I am, therefore, accountable to Him for my time. Life is God's loan to man, and time man's "life rent of the world." In the great day we are to stand before God to give an account of our stewardship. The "life rent" which the great Proprietor claims is service. He has put us into His beautiful world to make it more beautiful by adding moral to material beauty. If we fail to render this service we shall lose our life, in a sense which human language is not adequate to express. "And now what have we to say with respect to this strange, solemn thing — Time? — that men do with it through life just what the apostles did for one precious irreparable hour of it in the garden of Gethsemane — they go to sleep! What opportunities have we lost! What privileges forfeited! What work for God neglected!" The secret of all the failures which have been enumerated is expressed by the apostle in one word, self-will — "the will of the Gentiles." Man doing his own will is the history of the world's sin and woe. Adoption into the family of God does not exempt us from its insidious workings. "The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" asks us to let the past "suffice to have wrought the wilt of the Gentiles," to renew our early vows, our first love, to be henceforth inspired with the holy ambition to be "conformed to the image of His Son." To attain unto this we must yield our wills to God. What are we living for? — for God or for self?
(A London Suburban Minister.)
(H. W. Beecher.)I. THE WALK OF A NATURAL MAN DESCRIBED. He works "the will of the Gentiles," and lives in sin.
II. THE GREAT CHANGE THAT THE GRACE OF GOD MAKES IN A NATURAL MAN. The change we mean is far more than the mere reformation of a sinner's life; it is an inward, supernatural change wrought by the Spirit of God, and by means of the gospel of Christ (Romans 1:16).
III. THE REASONABLENESS OF THIS CHANGE.
1. Sin is a dreadful waste of precious time.
2. Sin is a useless thing.
3. Sin is extremely hurtful and dangerous to ourselves and others.
4. Sin is highly dishonourable to the blessed God.
5. A life of sin is directly contrary to our Christian profession.
IV. THE USAGE WHICH A CHANGED PERSON MAY EXPECT TO MEET WITH FROM A WICKED WORLD. Now, here observe that where such a change as this takes place it is visible; for if the world did not see it, they could not hate it. The change cannot be hid. Carnal companions will be deserted; places of vain amusement forsaken. This will excite hatred. "The carnal mind is enmity against God," and everything godly and Godlike (Romans 8:7).
The Evangelist.I. THE WORLD SILENTLY CONDEMNED BY THE CHURCH. This is often done not so much positively as negatively. It is very peculiar, for they condemn them without saying a word, simply by "not running into the same excess of riot"; and this, it seems, is exceedingly well understood by the worldly party. Noah condemned the world by what he did, as well as by what he said; every stroke of his hammer was a sermon. The marked avoidance of the prevailing sins and follies of the world is often felt to be a powerful condemnation of them. But why should Christians thus refuse to mingle themselves up with the evil of the world?
1. Love to Christ requires it. "Forasmuch, then, as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves, therefore, with the same mind."
2. The painful remembrance of the past prompts it. "The time past may suffice to have wrought the will of the Gentiles." It is always a sad thought to the Christian to look back upon his past devotedness to the sins of the world.
3. Christian consistency requires it. "Let every one depart from iniquity." A wicked life in a Christian is an indignity committed upon his Master in the disguise of a friend, and an outrage against the gospel. It seems to declare either that this religion tolerates immorality, or that it has not sufficient authority to enforce its own laws.
4. Your own highest interests demand it.
II. THE CHURCH CENSURED BY THE WORLD.
1. In their thoughts. "They think it strange that ye run not into this excess of riot"; but pardon me if I say they would think it stranger if you did. They may dislike you now, but they would certainly despise you then. "They think it strange." Why? Because they know nothing of the high standard of excellence which Christians possess; nor of the elevated principles by which they are actuated; nor of the superior sources of pleasure which are open to them. The Christian and the worldly man have both reason to wonder at each other. The worldling wonders that the Christian loves Christ so much: the Christian wonders that the worldling loves Him so little.
2. In their speeches. They speak evil of you, and contemptuously, as precise, formal, unsocial, repulsive. The Jews spoke evil of the prophets; Ahab spoke evil of Micaiah: "I hate him, for he always prophesies evil of me." The disciples were "a sect everywhere spoken against."
3. In their writings. Pliny wrote to the Roman emperor to complain of the Christian converts, as addicted to a morose and severe superstition. Infidel and irreligious men have indited many a sarcasm against the Christian cause.
4. By their conduct. That is, towards Christians, whom they persecute in various ways.
III. THE JUDGMENT OF GOD CONCERNING BOTH. "Who shall judge both quick and dead."
1. The certainty of the judgment. "They shall give an account."
2. The speediness of the judgment. "He is ready to judge."
3. The universality of the judgment. "The quick and dead."
4. The consequences of the judgment. The awards of eternity are final, and they are extreme.
(The Evangelist.)Acts 6:13; Acts 21:28). They abide by the old slander, "We have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes" (Acts 24:5). To the righteous acts of the pious man unworthy motives are attributed, and he is made a mark for the arrows of evil tongues, solely because he seeks the good of Israel all his life long. If he rest in the promises of God, even these are made the subject of mockery! But such blasphemy and pretended surprise is very painful to the righteous, and a real snare to their feet, out of which they do indeed need to be helped. How often are the weak, and even the apparently strong in faith, induced for a time to run with those who make either a mock or a sport of sin! Yes, verily, nothing short of almighty grace will suffice to enable a man calmly to take on himself the dishonour with which his Lord was dishonoured, and to bear with a chivalrous courage the contempt and shame which, for Christ's name's sake, the world heaps upon him!
(H. F. Kohlbrugge, D. D.)
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
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