In my previous post ‘The Swiftness of Time‘ I spoke about the third chapter of ‘An Essay on the Improvement of Time’ by John Foster. We now will consider the fourth and final chapter of the first part of his essay, ‘The Ultimate Object of the Improvement of Time’.
One important thing to note at the start is that for there to be any ultimate object for the improvement of time there must be more to existence than this life. If this life is all there is then there is no point in seeking to improve with an aim towards something. I might as well just seek to fulfill my animal passions and await death. If there is no existence after death then what should we do? Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die. Sadly, this is how much of the world lives. If you believe honestly that there is nothing after death then there is no reason to do anything that does not benefit you solely in the present life. But, if, as of course is true, life continues after existence then we must be using our time in a way that benefits not just us in this life, but the life to come.
To live with the next life in view means to properly view this short life as a preliminary or introductory life before the fuller existence in the next. It means pondering daily, moment by moment, how I may best use this life to prepare myself (and as a side-effect others) for the next life. That is the chief motive and ultimate object for the improvement of time. We improve our time in this life so that we will have a “better” life in the next.
For those of you who come quickly to agree that the time in this life impacts the next, you can easily move on to the next paragraph. But for those who do not agree, let me just briefly say that the best use of your time, the best way to improve your time, is to apply all of your efforts to the question of whether this life impacts the next. Without a proper understanding of this life’s implications on the next, you cannot hope to consider how to better use your time, for the obvious points already stated. Let me briefly mention that I am not suggesting that every single thing must be done with your future in mind. Food is eaten, sleep is had, toilets are used, and we do these things for the present life. Yet, if we care not for our life in the present time, how can we commit ourselves to endeavours for the future life? So you see, even the simplest thing carries a sense of consideration for the future life.
Since, the future life is our goal, that our efforts apply to it, it makes sense that we vigorously apply ourselves at each moment in preparation for that life. But what, or, who is the one that we should look to in order to know what we should strive for? Is it another man? Well, it can’t be a man like me, for we are all striving for something greater. It can only be one who knows the future state and the rewards contained there. Who can we look to for that, but the Lord Jesus Christ. He in whom the fulness of Deity dwelt, he is our model and chief aim by which we mark our aims. He is our plumb line, therefore, let us fix our eyes on him, the author and perfecter of our faith.
In this first part of Foster’s essay, we have begun to understand the general principles for understanding the value, capacity, swiftness and ultimate aim of the improvement of time. As we can appreciate through this part we may have many more questions than answers. I hope personally that like myself you are challenged to improve your time. Though you, life myself, may be unsure what that looks like. Let us trust that as we walk through the rest of Foster’s essay that we may begin to gain a better insight into that.