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THE EMPLOYMENT OF TIME.
LECTURE BEFORE THE BOSTON LYCEUM, DELIVERED IN THE FEDERAL STREET THEATRE, FEBRUARY 18, 1846.
HAVE lost a day," was the exclamation of the virtuous Roman Emperor," for on this day I have done no good thing." The Arch of Titus still stands midway between the Forum and the Colosseum, and the curious traveller discerns the golden candlesticks of conquered Judæa sculptured on its marble sides; but this monument of triumph, and the memory it perpetuates of the veteran legions of Rome and the twenty cohorts of allies before whose swords the sacred city yielded its life in terrible fire and blood, give not to the conqueror such true glory as springs from these words, destined to endure long after the arch has crumbled to dust, and when the triumph it seeks to perpetuate has passed from the minds of men. That day was not lost. On no day wast thou so great or beneficent as when thou gavest this eternal lesson to man. Across the ages it still reaches innumerable hearts, even as it penetrated the friendly bosoms that throbbed beneath its first utterance. The child learns it, and receives a new impulse to labor and goodness. There are few, whether old or young, who do not recognize it as more than a victory.
If I undertake to dwell on the suggestions of this theme, it is because it seems to me especially appropriate to the young, at whose request I have the honor of appearing before you. My subject is the Value of Time, and the way in which it may be best employed. I shall attempt nothing elaborate, but simply gather together illustrations and examples, which, though trite and familiar, will at least be practical.
The value of time is one of our earliest lessons, taught at the mother's knee, even with the alphabet,
S is a sluggard," — confirmed by the maxims of Poor Richard, printed at the end of almanacs, and stamped on handkerchiefs, - further enforced by the examples of the copy-book, as the young fingers first learn to join words together by the magical art of writing. Fable comes in aid of precept, and the venerable figure of Time is depicted to the receptive, almost believing, imagination of childhood, as winged, and also bald on the top and back of the head, with a single tuft of hair on the forehead, signifying that whoso would detain it must seize it by the forelock. With such lessons and pictures the child is trained.. Moralist, preacher, and poet also enforce these teachings; and the improvement of time, the importance of industry, and the excellence of labor become commonplaces of exhortation.
The value of time has passed into a proverb,-"Time is money." It is so because its employment brings money. But it is more. It is knowledge. Still more, it is virtue. Nor is it creditable to the character of the world that the proverb has taken this material and mercenary complexion, as if money were the highest
good and the strongest recommendation. Time is more than money. It brings what money cannot purchase. It has in its lap all the learning of the Past, the spoils of Antiquity, the priceless treasures of knowledge. Who would barter these for gold or silver? But knowledge is a means only, and not an end. It is valuable because it promotes the welfare, the development, and the progress of man. And the highest value of time is not even in knowledge, but in the opportunity of doing good.
Time is opportunity. Little or much, it may be the occasion of usefulness. It is the point desired by the philosopher where to plant the lever that shall move the world. It is the napkin in which are wrapped, not only the talent of silver, but the treasures of knowledge and the fruits of virtue. Saving time, we save all these. Employing time to the best advantage, we exercise a true thrift. Here is a wise parsimony; here is a sacred avarice. To each of us the passing day is of the same dimensions, nor can any one by taking thought add a moment to its hours. But though unable to extend their duration, he may swell them with works.
It is customary to say,." Take care of the small sums, and the large will take care of themselves." With equal wisdom and more necessity may it be said, "Watch the minutes, and the hours and days will be safe." The moments are precious; they are gold filings, to be carefully preserved and melted into the rich ingot.
Time is the measure of life on earth. Its enjoyment is life itself. Its divisions, its days, its hours, its minutes, are fractions of this heavenly gift. Every moment that flies over our heads takes from the future and gives to the irrevocable past, shortening by so much the measure
of our days, abridging by so much the means of usefulness committed to our hands. Before the voice which now addresses you shall die away in the air, another hour will have passed, and we shall all have advanced by another stage towards the final goal on earth. Waste or sacrifice of time is, then, waste or sacrifice of life itself: it is partial suicide.
The moments lost in listlessness or squandered in unprofitable dissipation, gathered into aggregates, are hours, days, weeks, months, years. The daily sacrifice of a single hour during a year comes at its end to thirty-six working days, allowing ten hours to the day, — an amount of time, if devoted exclusively to one object, ample for the acquisition of important knowledge, and for the accomplishment of inconceivable good. Imagine, if you please, a solid month dedicated, without interruption, to a single purpose, to the study of a new language, an untried science, an unexplored field of history, a fresh department of philosophy, or to some new sphere of action, some labor of humanity, some godlike charity, and what visions must not rise of untold accumulations of knowledge, of unnumbered deeds of goodness! Who of us does not each day, in manifold ways, sacrifice these precious moments, these golden hours?
There is a legend of Mohammed which teaches how much may be crowded into a moment. It is said that he was suddenly taken up by an angel, and borne beyond the flaming bounds of space, where he beheld the wonders of Heaven and Hell, the bliss of the faithful and the torments of the damned in measureless variety, and was then returned to the spot of earth from which he had been lifted, all in so short a time that the water had not entirely run out of the pitcher which
he let fall from his hands when he was borne upwards. But actual life furnishes illustrations of greater point. It is related of a celebrated French jurist, one of the ornaments of the magistracy, that he composed a learned and important work in the quarter hours that draggled between dinner ordered and dinner served. Napoleon directed one of his generals to move on a battery of the enemy, although reinforcements were in sight, saying, "It will take them fifteen minutes to reach the point; I have always observed that these fifteen minutes decide great battles." In the currents of common life they are often as decisive as in the heady fight.
It would be easy, from literary and political history, from the lives of all who have excelled in any way, to accumulate illustrations of the power of industry. Among those who have achieved what the world calls greatness, the list might be extended from Julius Cæsar to Napoleon, whose feats of labor are among the marvels of history. Nor should we forget Alfred, the father of English civilization, whose better fame testifies also to the wise employment of time. Our own country, this very town, furnishes a renowned example in Benjamin Franklin. Here I pronounce a name which has its own familiar echoes. His early studies, when a printer's boy,his singular experience of life in its extremes, sounding in childhood all the humilities, as in maturer years he reached all that was exalted in place, the truant boy become a teacher to the nations, and pouring light upon the highest schools of science. and philosophy, touching the throne with hands once blackened by types and ink,- all this must be present to you. His first and constant talisman was indus