I Blot Out a Day

Founders Journal 78 · Fall 2009 · pp. 8-9

“I Blot Out a Day”

James Petigru Boyce

The Southern Baptist

December 20, 1848

While driving my busy pen, I at times pause and lift my eyes, from my work, and linger for a moment, for a little rest. Directly before me, in a niche of my writing desk, is a little printed card, containing the months of the year, and also the day of the week, in columns of figures. That I may keep accurately the day of the month, I draw my pen, each day, over the figure of the day that is gone. So I blot out a day.

I have just done it. But I am arrested in the very act, and a train of most serious reflection is started in my mind.

My crossing out that day signifies, that it has gone. I have no power over it. It was mine; but it is not mine now; I think of it, but cannot lay my hands upon it, or any part of it, any more. That day was with me, a precious gift of God–a friend, a most precious friend of my best welfare. It came on an errand of kindness to me. It came to offer me the momentary advantages of a longer probation, an opportunity to do something more for my own eternal welfare, something more for the eternal good of others. I cross out the day because it is gone. And every thing belonging to it, is gone with it. The little black mark I make, most strikingly signifies to me, that the day is gone. I must not make that mark hastily, and forget what it implies. A day gone! Then an opportunity for improvement is gone. How was it improved? An opportunity of usefulness too. Did I take advantage of it or not? A day gone! That is a link of the chain of life.

I blot out a day! I am startled at the thought? What can I do with a day. Can I destroy it? Will the stroke of my pen send it into non-existence? That stroke may say to me, it is gone; but as for blotting it out, who am I that can have such a thought?

That day had its history. It was a part of the active, busy, responsible existence of my soul. It was filled up with emotion and action. And having been filled up and finished–all its hours having run out, it has, indeed, gone; but what can I do with its history? I can take back no emotion. I can throw back into non-existence no action. I can alter nothing. Its facts all stand, whatever I may wish or attempt to do about them.

That day had its influence. Each affects its successor. “Day unto day uttereth speech”–gives its own hue, imparts its own character. A well-spent day augments the moral power of spending another day as well or better. A mis-spent day weakens the power of principle, and increases the probability of another one being misspent. The sins of one day reach forward to throw their baneful influence on the one that approaches, and make the bands of iniquity stronger; while the active holiness of one day prepares the golden thread of that girdle by which the saint binds his soul to more devoted and eminent consecration to God. My pen can cross out the figure representing a day, and proclaim the day as gone; but can I blot out the influences of a day? Can I break the chain of that influence by which a day and its successors are bound together? Can I say, that the wrong of yesterday shall do no harm to-day? The day is gone, yet it is not gone; its moral power remains.

Since I began this article, I have drawn my pen over another day. But I did it more seriously and thoughtfully than before the train of thought was indulged which I have been exhibiting. I shall not stop the process. I shall yet mark the days as they fly. Mark them–not with ink only, but with solemn thought. My little card grows blacker, as I go through the month; but by this very process, perhaps I may be made wiser.

I pause to say, I have just read a prayer that a day might perish. I think that a dreadful prayer, if so good a man as Job did utter it. In the pressure of his sorrows, he must have lost his balance just at that moment. I will venture so great a variance with him as to say, “Let the day live.” I will try so to improve it, that it shall live–shall live in my happy recollections–shall live in the life and power it shall give my spiritual being in its appropriate work–shall live, and come and meet me at the judgment, and give a joyful account of the manner in which it was improved.

–Excerpt from Stray Recollections, Short Articles and Public Orations of James P. Boyce, edited by Tom Nettles (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2009), 32-33.