"Redeeming the time." Eph. 5:16.
1. "See that ye walk circumspectly," says the Apostle in the preceding
verse, "not as fools, but as wise men, redeeming the time;" saving all
the time you can for the best purposes; buying up every fleeting moment
out of the hands of sin and Satan, out of the hands of sloth, ease, pleasure,
worldly business; the more diligently, because the present "are evil days,"
days of the grossest ignorance, immorality, and profaneness.
2. This seems to be the general meaning of the words. But I purpose,
at present, to consider only one particular way of redeeming the time,"
namely, from sleep.
3. This appears to have been exceeding little considered, even by pious
men. Many that have been eminently conscientious in other respects, have
not been so in this. They seemed to think it an indifferent thing, whether
they slept more or less; and never saw it in the true point of view, as
an important branch of Christian temperance.
That we may have a more just conception hereof, I will endeavour to
I. What it is to "redeem the time" from sleep.
II. The evil of not redeeming it. And
III. The most effectual manner of doing it.
I. 1. And, First, What is it to "redeem the time" from sleep? It is,
in general, to take that measure of sleep every night which nature requires,
and no more; that measure which is the most conducive to the health and
vigour both of the body and mind.
2. But it is objected, "One measure will not suit all men; -- some require
considerably more than others. Neither will the same measure suffice even
the same persons at one time as at another. When a person is sick, or,
if not actually so, yet weakened by preceding sickness, he certainly wants
more of this natural restorative, than he did when in perfect health. And
so he will when his strength and spirits are exhausted by hard or long-continued
3. All this is unquestionably true, and confirmed by a thousand experiments.
Whoever, therefore, they are that have attempted to fix one measure of
sleep for all persons did not understand the nature of the human body,
so widely different in different persons; as neither did they who imagined
that the same measure would suit even the same person at all times. One
would wonder, therefore, that so great a man as Bishop Taylor should have
formed this strange imagination; much more, that the measure which he has
assigned for the general standard should be only three hours in four-and-
twenty. That good and sensible man, Mr. Baxter, was not much nearer the
truth; who supposes four hours in four and twenty will suffice for any
man. I knew an extremely sensible man, who was absolutely persuaded that
no one living needed to sleep above five hours in twenty-four. But when
he made the experiment himself, he quickly relinquished the opinion. And
I am fully convinced, by an observation continued for more than fifty years,
that whatever may be done by extraordinary persons, or in some extraordinary
cases (wherein persons have subsisted with very little sleep for some weeks,
or even months,) a human body can scarce continue in health and vigour,
without at least, six hours' sleep in four-and-twenty. Sure I am, I never
met with such an instance: I never found either man or woman that retained
vigorous health for one year, with a less quantity of sleep than this.
4. And I have long observed, that women, in general, want a little more
sleep than men; perhaps, because they are, in common of a weaker, as well
as a moister, habit of body. If, therefore, one might venture to name one
standard, (though liable to many exceptions and occasional alterations,)
I am inclined to think this would come near to the mark: Healthy men, in
general, need a little above six hours' sleep, healthy women, a little
above seven, in four-and-twenty. I myself want six hours and a half, and
I cannot well subsist with less.
5. If anyone desires to know exactly what quantity of sleep his own
constitution requires, he may very easily make the experiment which I made
about sixty years ago: I then waked every night about twelve or one, and
lay awake for some time. I readily concluded that this arose from my lying
longer in bed than nature required. To be satisfied, I procured an alarum,
which waked me the next morning at seven; (near an hour earlier than I
rose the day before,) yet I lay awake again at night. The second morning
I rose at six; but, notwithstanding this, I lay awake the second night.
The third morning I rose at five; but, nevertheless, I lay awake the third
night. The fourth morning I rose at four; (as, by the grace of God, I have
done ever since;) and I lay awake no more. And I do not now lie awake (taking
the year round) a quarter of an hour together in a month. By the same experiment,
rising earlier and earlier every morning, may anyone find how much sleep
he really wants.
II. 1. "But why should anyone be at so much pains? What need is there
of being so scrupulous? Why should we make ourselves so particular? What
harm is there in doing as our neighbours do? -- suppose in lying from ten
till six or seven in summer, and till eight or nine in winter?"
2. If you would consider this question fairly, you will need a good
deal of candour and impartiality; as what I am about to say will probably
be quite new; different from anything you ever heard in your life; different
from the judgment, at least from the example, of your parents and your
nearest relations; nay, and perhaps of the most religious persons you ever
were acquainted with. Lift up, therefore, your heart to the Spirit of truth,
and beg of him to shine upon it, that without respecting any man's person,
you may see and follow the truth as it in Jesus.
3. Do you really desire to know what harm there is in not redeeming
all the time you can from sleep? suppose in spending therein an hour a
day more than nature requires? Why, First, it hurts your substance; it
is throwing away six hours a week which might turn to some temporal account.
If you can do any work, you might earn something in that time, were it
ever so small. And you have no need to throw even this away. If you do
not want it yourself, give it to them that do; you know some of them that
are not far off. If you are of no trade, still you may so employ the time
that it will bring money, or money's worth, to yourself, or others.
4. The not redeeming all the time you can from sleep, the spending more
time therein than your constitution necessarily requires, in the Second
place, hurts your health. Nothing can be more certain than this, though
it is not commonly observed, because the evil steals on you by slow and
insensible degrees. In this gradual and almost imperceptible manner it
lays the foundation of many diseases. It is the chief real (though unsuspected)
cause of all nervous diseases in particular. Many inquiries have been made,
why nervous disorders are so much more common among us than among our ancestors.
Other causes may frequently concur; but the chief is, we lie longer in
bed. Instead of rising at four, most of us who are not obliged to work
for our bread lie till seven, eight, or nine. We need inquire no farther.
This sufficiently accounts for the large increase of these painful disorders.
5. It may be observed, that most of these arise, not barely from sleeping
too long, but even from what we imagine to be quite harmless, the lying
too long in bed. By soaking (as it is emphatically called) so long between
warm sheets, the flesh is, as it were, parboiled, and becomes soft and
flabby." The nerves, in the mean time, are quite unstrung, and all the
train of melancholy symptoms -- faintness, tremors, lowness of spirits,
(so called,) come on, till life itself is a burden.
6. One common effect of either sleeping too long, or lying too long
in bed, is weakness of sight, particularly that weakness which is of the
nervous kind. When I was young, my sight was remarkably weak. Why is it
stronger now than it was forty years ago? I impute this principally to
the blessing of God, who fits us for whatever he calls us to. But undoubtedly
the outward means which he has been pleased to bless was the rising early
in the morning.
7. A still greater objection to the not rising early, the not redeeming
all the time we can from sleep, is, it hurts the soul, as well as the body;
it is a sin against God. And this indeed it must necessarily be, on both
the preceding accounts. For we cannot waste, or (which comes to the same
thing) not improve, any part of our worldly substance, neither can we impair
our own health, without sinning against Him.
8. But this fashionable intemperance does also hurt the soul in a more
direct manner. It sows the seeds of foolish and hurtful desires; it dangerously
inflames our natural appetites; which a person stretching and yawning in
bed is just prepared to gratify. It breeds and continually increases sloth,
so often objected to the English nation. It opens the way, and prepares
the soul, for every other kind of intemperance. It breeds an universal
softness and faintness of spirit, making us afraid of every little inconvenience,
unwilling to deny ourselves any pleasure, or to take up or bear any cross.
And how then shall we be able (without which we must drop into hell) to
"take the kingdom of heaven by violence?" It totally unfits us for "enduring
hardship as good soldiers of Jesus Christ;" and, consequently, for "fighting
the good fight of faith, and laying hold on eternal life."
9. In how beautiful a manner does that great man, Mr. [William] Law
treat this important subject! [Viz., Redeeming time from Sleep] Part of
his words I cannot but here subjoin, for the use of every sensible reader.
"I take it for granted that every Christian who is in health is up early
in the morning. For it is much more reasonable to suppose a person is up
early because he is a Christian, than because he is a labourer, or a tradesman,
or a servant.
"We conceive an abhorrence of a man that is in bed when he should be
at his labour. We cannot think good of him, who is such a slave to drowsiness
as to neglect his business for it.
"Let this, therefore, teach us to conceive how odious we must appear
to God, if we are in bed, shut up in sleep, when we should be praising
God; and are such slaves to drowsiness as to neglect our devotions for
"Sleep is such a dull, stupid state of existence, that, even among mere
animals, we despise them most which are most drowsy. He, therefore, that
chooses to enlarge the slothful indolence of sleep, rather than be early
at his devotions, chooses the dullest refreshment of the body, before the
noblest enjoyments of the soul. He chooses that state which is a reproach
to mere animals, before that exercise which is the glory of angels.
10. "Besides, he that cannot deny himself this drowsy indulgence, is
no more prepared for prayer when he is up, than he is prepared for fasting
or any other act of self-denial. He may indeed more easily read over a
form of prayer, than he can perform these duties; but he is no more disposed
for the spirit of prayer, than he is disposed for fasting. For sleep thus
indulged gives a softness to all our tempers, and makes us unable to relish
any thing but what suits an idle state of mind, as sleep does. So that
a person who is a slave to this idleness is in the same temper when he
is up. Every thing that is idle or sensual pleases him. And every thing
that requires trouble or self-denial, is hateful to him, for the same reason
that he hates to rise.
11. "It is not possible for an epicure to be truly devout. He must renounce
his sensuality, before he can relish the happiness of devotion. Now, he
that turns sleep into an idle indulgence, does as much to corrupt his soul,
to make it a slave to bodily appetites, as an epicure does. It does not
disorder his life, as notorious acts of intemperance do; but, like any
more moderate course of indulgence, it silently, and by smaller degrees,
wears away the spirit of religion, and sinks the soul into dullness and
"Self-denial of all kinds is the very life and soul of piety; but he
that has not so much of it as to be able to be early at his prayers cannot
think that he has taken up his cross, and is following Christ.
"What conquest has he got over himself? What right hand has he cut off?
What trials is he prepared for? What sacrifice is he ready to offer to
God, who cannot be so cruel to himself as to rise to prayer at such a time
as the drudging part of the world are content to rise to their labour?
12. "Some people will not scruple to tell you, that they indulge themselves
in sleep because they have nothing to do; and that if they had any business
to rise to they would not lose so much of their time in sleep. But they
must be told that they mistake the matter; that they have a great deal
of business to do; they have a hardened heart to change; they have the
whole spirit of religion to get. For surely he that thinks he has nothing
to do, because nothing but his prayers want him, may justly be said to
have the whole spirit of religion to seek.
"You must not therefore consider how small a fault it is to rise late;
but how great a misery it is to want the spirit of religion, and to live
in such softness and idleness as make you incapable of the fundamental
duties of Christianity.
"If I was to desire you not to study the gratification of your palate,
I would not insist upon the sin of wasting your money, though it is a great
one; but I would desire you to renounce such a way of life, because it
supports you in such a state of sensuality as renders you incapable of
relishing the most essential doctrines of religion.
"For the same reason, I do not insist much upon the sin of wasting your
time in sleep, though it be a great one; but I desire you to renounce this
indulgence, because it gives a softness and idleness to your soul, and
is so contrary to that lively, zealous, watchful, self-denying spirit,
which was not only the spirit of Christ and his Apostles, and the spirit
of all the saints and martyrs that have ever been among men, but must be
the spirit of all those who would not sink in the common corruption of
13. "Here, therefore, we must fix our charge against this practice.
We must blame it, not as having this or that particular evil, but as a
general habit that extends itself through our whole spirit, and supports
a state of mind that is wholly wrong.
"It is contrary to piety; not as accidental slips or mistakes in life
are contrary to it; but in such a manner as an ill state of body is contrary
"On the other hand, if you was to rise early every morning, as an instance
of self-denial, as a method of renouncing indulgence, as a means of redeeming
your time and fitting your spirit for prayer, you would soon find the advantage.
This method, though it seems but a small circumstance, might be a means
of great piety. It would constantly keep it in your mind, that softness
and idleness the bane of religion. It would teach you to exercise power
over yourself, and to renounce other pleasures and tempers that war against
the soul. And what is so planted and watered, will certainly have an increase
III. 1. It now only remains to inquire, in the Third place, how we may
redeem the time, how we may proceed in this important affair. In what manner
shall we most effectually practise this important branch of temperance?
I advise all of you who are thoroughly convinced of the unspeakable
importance of it, suffer not that conviction to die away, but instantly
begin to act suitably to it. Only do not depend on your own strength; if
you do, you will be utterly baffled. Be deeply sensible that as you are
not able to do anything good of yourselves, so here, in particular, all
your strength, all your resolution, will avail nothing. Whoever trusts
in himself will be confounded. I never found an exception. I never knew
one who trusted in his own strength that could keep this resolution for
2. I advise you, Secondly, cry to the Strong for strength. Call upon
Him that hath all power in heaven and earth, and believe that he will answer
the prayer that goeth not out of feigned lips. As you cannot have too little
confidence in yourself, so you cannot have too much in him. Then set out
in faith; and surely his strength shall be made perfect in your weakness.
3. I advise you, Thirdly, add to your faith, prudence: Use the most
rational means to attain your purpose. Particularly begin at the right
end, otherwise you will lose your labour. If you desire to rise early,
sleep early; secure this point at all events. In spite of the most dear
and agreeable companions, in spite of their most earnest solicitations,
in spite of entreaties, railleries, or reproaches, rigorously keep your
hour. Rise up precisely at your time, and retire without ceremony. Keep
your hour, notwithstanding the most pressing business: Lay all things by
till the morning. Be it ever so great a cross, ever so great self-denial,
keep your hour, or all is over.
4. I advise you, Fourthly, be steady. Keep your hour of rising without
intermission. Do not rise two mornings, and lie in bed the third; but what
you do once, do always. "But my head aches." Do not regard that. It will
soon be over. "But I am uncommonly drowsy; my eyes are quite heavy." Then
you must not parley; otherwise it is a lost case; but start up at once.
And if your drowsiness does not go off, lie down for awhile an hour or
two after. But let nothing make a breach upon this rule, rise and dress
yourself at your hour.
5. Perhaps you will say, "The advice is good; but it comes too late!
I have made a breach already. I did rise constantly and for a season, nothing
hindered me. But I gave way by little and little, and I have now left it
off for a considerable time." Then, in the name of God, begin again! Begin
to-morrow; or rather to-night, by going to bed early, in spite of either
company or business. Begin with more self-diffidence than before, but with
more confidence in God. Only follow these few rules, and, my soul for yours,
God will give you the victory. In a little time the difficulty will be
over; but the benefit will last for ever.
6. If you say, "But I cannot do now as I did then; for I am not what
I was: I have many disorders, my spirits are low, my hands shake; I am
all relaxed," -- I answer: All these are nervous symptoms; and they all
partly arise from your taking too much sleep: Nor is it probable they will
ever be removed, unless you remove the cause. Therefore, on this very account,
(not only to punish yourself for your folly and unfaithfulness, but,) in
order to recover your health and strength, resume your early rising. You
have no other possible means of recovering, in any tolerable degree, your
health both of body and mind. Do not murder yourself outright. Do not run
on in the path that leads to the gates of death! As I said before, so I
say again, In the name of God, this very day, set out anew. True, it will
be more difficult than it was at the beginning. But bear the difficulty
which you have brought upon yourself, and it will not last long. The Sun
of Righteousness will soon arise again, and will heal both your soul and
7. But do not imagine that this single point, rising early, will suffice
to make you a Christian. No: Although that single point, the not rising,
may keep you a Heathen, void of the whole Christian spirit; although this
alone (especially if you had once conquered it) will keep you cold, formal,
heartless, dead, and make it impossible for you to get one step forward
in vital holiness, yet this alone will go but a little way to make you
a real Christian. It is but one step out of many; but it is one. And having
taken this, go forward. Go on to universal self-denial, to temperance in
all things, to a firm resolution of taking up daily every cross whereto
you are called. Go on, in a full pursuit of all the mind that was in Christ,
of inward and then outward holiness; so shall you be not almost but altogether,
a Christian; so shall you finish your course with joy: You shall awake
up after his likeness, and be satisfied.
[Edited by George Lyons for the Wesley Center for Applied
Theology at Northwest Nazarene College (Nampa, ID).]