the duty of using present opportunities

The Lord Jesus says to us all, “Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you. While ye have light believe in the light.” [John 12:35–36] Let us not think that these things were only spoken for the sake of the Jews. They were written for us also, upon whom the ends of the world are come.

The lesson of the words is generally applicable to the whole professing Church of Christ. Its time for doing good in the world is short and limited. The throne of grace will not always be standing – it will be removed one day, and the throne of judgment will be set up in its place. The door of salvation by faith in Christ will not always be open – it will be shut one day forever, and the number of God’s elect will be completed. The fountain for all sin and uncleanness will not always be accessible; the way to it will one day be barred, and there will remain nothing but the lake that burns with fire and brimstone.

These are solemn thoughts; but they are true. They cry aloud to sleeping Churchmen and drowsy congregations and ought to arouse great searchings of heart. “Can nothing more be done to spread the Gospel at home and abroad? Has every means been tried for extending the knowledge of Christ crucified? Can we lay our hands on our hearts, and say that the Churches have left nothing undone in the matter of missions? Can we look forward to the Second Advent with no feelings of humiliation, and say that the talents of wealth, and influence, and opportunities have not been buried in the ground?” Such questions may well humble us, when we look, on one side, at the state of professing Christendom, and on the other, at the state of the heathen world. We must confess with shame that the Church is not walking worthy of its light.

But the lesson of the words is specially applicable to ourselves as individuals. Our own time for getting good is short and limited; let us take heed that we make good use of it. Let us “walk while we have the light.” Have we Bibles? Let us not neglect to read them. Have we heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Let us not linger halting between two opinions, but believe to the saving of our souls. Have we Sabbaths? Let us not waste them in idleness, carelessness, and indifference, but throw our whole hearts into their sacred employments and turn them to good account. Light is about us and around us and near us on every side. Let us each resolve to walk in the light while we have it, lest we find ourselves at length cast out into outer darkness forever. It is a true saying of an old divine, that the recollection of lost and misspent opportunities will be the very essence of hell.

—J.C. Ryle, 'Expository Thoughts on John'


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