Spend Time Rightly
My dear brethren, let me beg of you to consider, first, that those spend their time aright and truly observe this festival, who spend their hours in reading, praying and religious conversation.
What can we do to employ our time to a more noble purpose, than reading of what our dear Redeemer has done and suffered. To read that the King of kings and the Lord of lords, came from his throne and took upon him the form of the meanest of his servants. And what great things he underwent. This, this is a history worth reading, this is worth employing our time about. And surely, when we read of the sufferings of our Saviour, it should excite us to prayer, that we might have an interest in the Lord Jesus Christ; that the blood which he spilt upon mount Calvary and his death and crucifixion, might make an atonement for our sins, that we might be made holy; that we might be enabled to put off the old man with his deeds and put on the new man, even the Lord Jesus Christ; that we may throw away the heavy yoke of sin and put on the yoke of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Indeed, my brethren, these things call for prayer and for earnest prayer too. And O do be earnest with God, that you may have an interest in this Redeemer and that you may put on his righteousness, so that you may not come before him in your filthy rags, nor be found not having on the wedding garment. O do not, I beseech you, trust unto yourselves for justification. You cannot, indeed, you cannot be justified by the works of the law.
Tell of the Good News
I entreat that your time may be thus spent. And if you are in company, let your time be spent in that conversation which profiteth. Let it not be about your dressing, your plays, your profits, or your worldly concerns but let it be the wonders of redeeming love. O tell, tell to each other what great things the Lord has done for your souls. Declare unto one another how you were delivered from the hands of your common enemy, Satan and how the Lord has brought your feet from the clay and has set them upon the rock of ages, the Lord Jesus Christ. There, my brethren, is no slipping. Other conversation, by often repeating, you become fully acquainted with but of Christ there is always something new to raise your thoughts. You can never want matter when the love of the Lord Jesus Christ is the subject. Then let Jesus be the subject, my brethren, of all your conversation.
Let your time be spent on him. O this, this is an employment which if you belong to Jesus will last you to all eternity. Let others enjoy their cards, their dice, and gaming hours. Do you, my brethren, let your time be spent in reading, praying, and religious conversations. Which will stand the trial best at the last day? Which do you think will bring most comfort, most peace, in a dying hour? O live and spend your time now, as you will wish to have done, when you come to die.
Secondly, let the good things of life, you enjoy, be used with moderation. I am not, as the scoffers of this day tell you, against eating and drinking the good things of life. No, my brethren, I am only against their being used to an excess. Therefore, let me beseech you to avoid those great indiscretions, those sinful actions, which will give the enemies of God room to blaspheme. Let me beseech you, to have a regard, a particular regard to your behaviour, at this time. For indeed the eyes of all are upon you and they would rejoice much to find any reason to complain of you. They can say things against us without a cause. And how would they rejoice if there was wherewith they might blame us? Then they would triumph and rejoice indeed. And all your little slips, my dear brethren, are and would be charged upon me. O at this time, when the eyes of so many are upon you, be upon your guard. And if you use the good things of this life with moderation, you do then celebrate this festival in the manner which the institution calls for.
Remember the Poor
And instead of running into excess, let that money, which you might expend to pamper your own bodies, be given to feed the poor. Now, my brethren is the season in which they commonly require relief. And surely you cannot act more agreeable, either to the season, to the time, or for the glory of God, than in relieving his poor distressed servants. Therefore, if any of you have poor friends, or acquaintance, who are in distress, I beseech you to assist them. And not only those of your acquaintance but the poor in general. O my dear brethren, that will turn to a better account another day, than all you have expended to please the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, or the pride of life. Consider, Christ was always willing to relieve the distressed. It is his command also. And can you better commemorate the birth of your king, your Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, than in obeying one of his commands?
Do not, my dear brethren, be forgetful of the poor of the world. Consider, if providence has smiled upon you and blessed you with abundance of the things of this life, God calls for some returns of gratitude from you. Be ye mindful of the poor and when you are so, then you may be said to have a true regard for that time which is now approaching. If you would truly observe this festival, let it be done with moderation and a regard to the poor of this world.
Don’t Neglect Your Calling
Thirdly, let me beg of you not to alienate too much of your time from the worldly business of this life but have a proper regard thereunto and then you may be said rightly to observe this festival.
God allows none to be idle. In all ages business was commended. And therefore do not think that any season will excuse us in our callings. We are not, my brethren, to labour for the things of this life inordinately but we are to labour for them with all moderation. We are not to neglect our callings. No, we are to regard those places and stations of life, which God in his providence has thought convenient for us. And therefore, when you neglect your business to the hurt of your families, whatever pretence you thereby make for so doing, you are guilty of sin. You are not acting according to the doctrine of the gospel but are breaking the commands of the Lord Jesus Christ, both according to his word and to his own practice at this festival, persons are apt to take a little more liberty than usual. And if that time from our vocations is not prejudicial to ourselves or families and is spent in the service of God and the good of immortal souls, then I do not think it sinful. But there is too much reason to fear, that the time is spent upon our own lusts and then it is exceeding sinful, it is against our own souls and it is against the good of our families and instead of commemorating the birth of our dear Redeemer, we are dishonouring him in the greatest degree possibly we can.
Therefore, inquire strictly into your end and design in spending your time. See, my brethren, whether it proceeds from a true love to your Redeemer, or whether there is not some worldly pleasure or advantage at the bottom. If there is, our end is not right. But if it proceeds entirely from love to him that died and gave himself for us, our actions will be a proof thereof. Then our time will be spent, not in the polite pleasures of life but according to the doctrine and commands of the blessed Jesus. Then our conversation will be in heaven. And O that this might be found to be the end of each of you, who now hear me. Then we should truly observe this festival and have a true regard to the occasion thereof, that of Christ’s coming to redeem the souls of those which were lost.
Think On the Love of Christ
Let me now conclude, my dear brethren, with a few words of exhortation, beseeching you to think of the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. Did Jesus come into the world to save us from death and shall we spend no part of our time in conversing about our dear Jesus? Shall we pay no regard to the birth of him, who came to redeem us from the worst of slavery, from that of sin and the devil? And shall this Jesus not only be born on our account but likewise die in our stead and yet shall we be unmindful of him? Shall we spend our time in those things which are offensive to him? Shall we not rather do all we can to promote his glory and act according to his command?
O my dear brethren, be found in the ways of God. Let us not disturb our dear Redeemer by any irregular proceedings. And let me beseech you to strive to love, fear, honour and obey him, more than ever you have done yet. Let not the devil engross your time and that dear Saviour who came into the world on your accounts, have so little. O be not so ungrateful to him who has been so kind to you! What could the Lord Jesus Christ have done for you more than he has? Then do not abuse his mercy but let your time be spent in thinking and talking of the love of Jesus, who was incarnate for us, who was born of a woman and made under the law, to redeem us from the wrath to come.
This article is adapted from The Sermons of George Whitefield (Two-Volume Set) edited by Lee Gatiss.