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PROCRASTINATION; OR THE SIN AND FOLLY OF DEPEND
ING ON FUTURE TIME.
Prov. xxvii. 1.
Boast not thyself of to-morrow ; for thou knowest not what a
day may bring forth.
The design of the wise man, in this book of Proverbs is, to give us the precepts of true wisdom, or to teach us how to conduct ourselves wisely in the course of our lives. Wisdom very much consists in making a wise improvement of time, and of the opportunities we enjoy. This is often in scripture spoken of as a great part of true wisdom; as Deut. xxxii. 29.
O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!” And Psalm xc. 12. So, teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” So the wisdom of the wise virgins is represented as consisting much in this, that they improved the proper season to buy oil.
Therefore the wise man, in these books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, agreeably to his design, insists on this part of wisdom. He tells us the advantage of seeking Christ early ; Prov. viji. 17. And advises us to do what our hand findeth to do, with our might; Eccles. ix. 10. He advises young people to remember their Creator in the days of their youth, while the evil days come not, in which they shall say they have no pleasure ; Eccles. xii. 1. So here he advises us to a wise improvement of the present season. In the words are two things to be particularly observed.
1. The precept, not to boast of to-morrow; i. e. not to speak or act as though it were our own. It is absurd for men to boast of that which is not theirs. The wise man would not have us behave ourselves as though any time were ours, but the present. He that boasts of to-morrow, acts as though he had to-morrow in his possession, or had something whereby he might depend on it, and call it his own.
2. The reason given for this precept; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth. It is a good reason why we should not behave ourselves as though the morrow were our own, that indeed it is not; we are not sure of it ; we have no hold of future time; we know not whether we shall see the morrow : or if we do know that we shall see it, we know not what we shall see on it.—Hence, we ought to behave ourselves every day, as though we had no dependence on any other.
To prevent a misunderstanding of the doctrine, I observe, that it is not meant, that we should in every respect bebave as though we knew that we should not live another day. Not depending on another day, is a different thing from concluding, that we shall not live another day. We may have reason for the one, and not for the other. We have good reason not to depend on another day, but we have no reason to conclude, that we shall not live another day.
In some respects we ought to carry ourselves as though we knew we should not live another day, and should improve every day as if it were the last. Particularly, we should live every day as conscientiously and as holily as if we knew it were the last. We should be as careful every day to avoid all sin, as if we knew that that night our souls should be required of us. We should be as careful to do every duty which God requires of us, and take as much care that we have a good account to give to our Judge, of our improvement of that day, as if we concluded that we must be called to give an account before another day.
But in many other respects, we are not obliged to behave ourselves as though we concluded that we should not live to another day. If we had reason to conclude that we should not live another day, some things would not be our duty which now are our duty. As for instance, in such a case it would not be the duty of any person to make provision for his temporal subsistence during another day: to neglect which as things now are, would be very imprudent and foolish, as the consequences would show, if every man were to act in this manner. it would never be man's duty to plough or sow the field, or
to lay up for winter; but these things are man's duty; as Prov. vi. 6—8. “Go to the ant, thou sluggard : consider her ways, and be wise : which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest." And chap. x. 5, &c. " He that gathereth in the summer is a wise son ; but he that sleepeth in the harvest, is a son that causeth shamc.” And many other places might be mentioned.
So,on the other hand, if we were certain that we should not live another day, some things would be our duty to-day, which now are not so. As for instance, it would be proper for us to spend our time in giving our dying counsels, and in setting our houses in order. If it were revealed to us, that we should die before to-morrow morning, we ought to look upon it as a call of God to us, to spend the short remainder of our lives in those things which immediately concern our departure, more than otherwise it would be our duty to do.Therefore the words which forbid us to boast of to-morrow, cannot be extended so far as to signify, that we ought in all respects to live, as if we knew we should not see another day. Yet they undoubtedly mean, that we ought not to behave ourselves in any respect, as though we depended on another day.
The Precept explained.
Boast not thyself of tomorrow. In this precept two things seem to be forbidden.
1. Boasting ourselves of what shall be on the morrow, or behaving ourselves as though we depended on particular things to come to pass in this world, in some future time. As when men behave themselves as though they depended on being rich, or promoted to honour hercafter; or as though they were sure of accomplishing any particular design another day. So did the rich man in the gospel, when he did not only promise himself, that he should live many years, but promised himself also, that he should be rich many years, Hence he said to his soul, that " he had much goods laid up for many years."
And if men act as though they depended upon it, that they should another day accomplish such and such things for their souls, then may they be said to boast themselves of to-morrow, and not to behave themselves as though they depended on no other day. As when they behave themselves, , as though they depended upon it, that they should at another day have such and such advantages for the good of their souls ;
that they should at another day have the strivings of God's spirit; that they should at another day find themselves disposed to be thorough in seeking their salvation ; that they should at another day have a more convenient season; and that God at another day would stand ready to hear their prayers, and show them mercy,
Or if they act as though they depended upon it that they should have considerable opportunity on a death-bed to seek mercy; or, whatever they promise themselves should come to pass respecting them in this world, if they act as depending on it, they boast themselves of to-morrow.
2. Another thing implied, is our boasting of future time itself, or acting as though we depended on it, that we should have our lives continued to us another day. Not only is the command of God delivered in the text transgressed by those who behave themselves as depending upon it, that they shall see and obtain such and such things to-morrow; but by those who act as depending upon it, that they shall remain in being in this world to-morrow.
Both these ways of boasting of to-morrow are reproved by the apostle James, chap. iv. 13. “Go to now, ye that say, To-day or to-morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain.” By promising themselves that they shall do such and such things, and that they shall get gain, they boast themselves of what shall come to pass in such a time. The apostle in the next verse teaches them, that they ought not to do this, no nor so much as depend upon seeing another day, or on having their lives continued, ver. 14. “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow : For what is your life? It is even a vapour that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." And in ver. 15, he teaches us that both are uncertain and dependent on the will of God, viz. Whether we shall live another day, and if we do, whether such and such things shall come to pass. “For that you ought to say, if the Lord will, we shall live, and do this or that." Therefore he adds in ver. 16, “ But now you rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil."
When men act as though they depend on another day.
1. They will do so, if they set their hearts on the enjoyments of this life. I mean not, if they have any manner of affection to them. We may have some affection to the enjoyments of this world : otherwise they would cease to be enjoyments. If we might bave no degree of rejoicing in them,
we could not be thankful for them. Persons may in a degree take delight in earthly things, and other earthly enjoyments. It is agreeable to the wise man's advice that we should do so, Eccles. v. 18. “It is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all this labour that he taketh under the sun.”—But by setting our hearts on these things, by placing our happiness on them, and letting out the current of our affections after them—by turning and fixing our inclinations so much upon them, that we cannot well enjoy our. selves without them, so that very much of the strength of the faculties of our minds is employed and taken up about these things—we show that we have our dependence on another day.
The man who doth thus, acts as though he depended on another day, yea many other days, in the world; for it is most evident, that if the enjoyments of this world be of such a nature that they are not to be depended on for one day more, they are not worth the setting of our hearts upon them, or the placing of our happiness in them. We may rejoice in the enjoyments of the world, but not in such a manner as to place the rest of our souls in them. As the apostle saith, we should rejoice in them as though we rejoiced not, 1 Cor. vii. 30. So that if this joy should fail, our stock may hold good : and in this case we must behave ourselves only as if we had lost a small stream of joy, but still had the fountain in full possession. We should conduct ourselves as those who have not the foundation of their joy shaken, though some appurtenances have failed. - Our happiness as to the body of it, if I may so speak, should yet stand as on an immovable foundation.
They who are very much pleased and elated with the enjoyments of the world, certainly behave themselves as though they had much dependence on their continuance for more than one or two days more. They who addict themselves to vain mirth, and lead a jovial life, show that they set their hearts on the enjoyments of the world, and act as those who depend on more days than the present. For if they were sensible that they could not depend on any future time, but that death would put an eternal end to all their carnal mirth before to-morrow, they would have no heart to spend the present day in such a manner as they now do. It would immediately produce in them a disposition far from levity and vanity.
And when persons are very much sunk with the loss of any temporal enjoyments, or with any temporal disappointments, it shows that they set their hearts upon them, and behave as though they boasted of to-morrow, and depended on their long continuance in life. If they had no such depen