Time is very short, which is another thing that renders it very precious: the scarcity of any commodity occasions men to set an higher value upon it, especially if it be a thing that is necessary to be had and that they can’t do without, or be that which their interest much depends upon. … When bread is very scarce, they that have bread have but a little of it. They will be more choice of it, and will set an higher value upon it, because bread is what they must have or perish.
So time is the more to be prized by men, because an whole eternity depends upon it; and yet we have but a little of it. When a few days are gone, then we must go where we shall not return (Job 16:22). Our “days are swifter than a post. They are passed away as the swift ships, and as the eagle that hasteth to the prey” (Job 9:25–26). Our life, what is it? “It is but a vapor, that continues a little while, and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). ‘Tis but a moment to eternity, and bears no proportion to it.
Time is so short, and the work is so great that we have to do in it, that we have none of it to spare. The work that we have to do to prepare for eternity must be done in time, or it never can be done; and ’tis found to be a work of great difficulty and labor.
We read of silver being so plenty in Solomon’s time that it was as the stones of the street: it was nothing accounted of; they had more of it than they needed, or knew what to do with. But this is not the case with us with respect to time. And ’tis but a little time that God hath allotted to us, a short space that is soon all of it gone.
If a man loses any of that that he has but little of, and yet is absolutely necessary to him, his loss is the greater. [It is] as if he has but a little food wherewith [to] support his life: if he loses some of it, his loss is greater than if had an abundance. So we ought to prize our time the more highly, and to be careful that we don’t lose any of it, because it is so short, and yet what is so necessary to us.
Sermons and Discourses, 1734-1738, WJE (Yale University Press, 2001), 248–249.