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By T. Austin Sparks

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"I'll love thee in life,
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And say when the death dew
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If ever I loved thee,
My Jesus tis now."
by William R. Featherston

(Composed in 1862 at the age of 16)

The Old Book and the Old Faith

The old Book and the old faith
Are the Rock on which I stand!
˜ ˜ ˜
The old Book and the old faith
Are the bulwark of the land!
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Thro' storm and stress
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In every clime and nation blessed;
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The old Book and the old faith
Are the hope of every land!

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George H. Carr, 1914

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Time is one of the world's deepest mysteries. No one can say exactly what it is. Yet, the ability to measure time makes our way of life possible. Most human activities involve groups of people acting together in the same place at the same time. People could not do this if they did not all measure time in the same way.

One way of thinking about time is to imagine a world without time. This timeless world would be at a standstill. But if some kind of change took place, that timeless world would be different "now" than it was "before." The period, no matter how brief, between "before" and "now" indicates that time must have passed. Thus, time and change are related because the passing of time depends on changes taking place. In the real world, changes never stop happening. Some changes seem to happen only once, like the falling of a particular leaf. Other changes happen over and over again, like the breaking of waves against the shore.

Any change that takes place again and again stands out from other changes. The rising and setting of the sun are examples of such change. The first people to keep time probably counted such natural repeating events and used them to keep track of events that did not repeat. Later, people made clocks to imitate the regularity of natural events. When people began to count repeating events, they began to measure time.

Units of time measurement. For early peoples, the only changes that were truly regular, that is, repeated themselves evenly, were the motions of objects in the sky. The most obvious of these changes was the alternate daylight and darkness, caused by the rising and setting of the sun. Each of these cycles of the sun came to be called a day. Another regular change in the sky was the change in the visible shape of the moon. Each cycle of the moon's changing shape takes about 29 1/2 days, or a month.

The cycle of the seasons gave people an even longer unit of time. By watching the stars just before dawn or after sunset, people saw that the sun moved slowly eastward among the stars. The sun made a full circle around the sky in one cycle of the seasons. This cycle takes about 365 1/4 days, or a year.


While the earth travels through space around the sun, it also spins on its own axis. A solar day is the length of time that it takes the earth to turn around once with respect to the sun. We usually say day for the time when the sun is shining on our part of the earth, and night for the time when our part of the earth is dark, or turned away from the sun. But the night is really a part of the whole day. We also say business day sometimes to mean the hours of business in any one day.

Each day begins at midnight. In most countries, the day is divided into two parts of 12 hours each. The hours from midnight to noon are the a.m. (before noon) hours. The hours from noon to midnight are the p.m. (afternoon) hours. The military services often designate the time of day on a 24-hour basis, such as 0000 for midnight, 0100 for one o'clock in the morning, 1200 for noon, and 1800 for six o'clock in the evening.

The Babylonians began their day at sunrise. The ancient Jews began the day at sunset. The Egyptians and the Romans were the first to begin the day at midnight.

The length of daylight changes during the year in all parts of the world. It does so because the tilt of the earth's axis causes first one pole to slant toward the sun and then the other as the planet orbits the sun. The longest day in the Northern Hemisphere usually is June 21 and that in the Southern Hemisphere is December 21. Each of these days has 13 hours and 13 minutes of daylight at 20 degrees latitude. The same days have 14 hours and 30 minutes of daylight at 40 degrees latitude and 18 hours 30 minutes at 60 degrees. The shortest day in the Northern Hemisphere usually is December 21 and that in the Southern Hemisphere is June 21. Each has only 10 hours and 47 minutes of daylight at 20 degrees latitude, 9 hours 9 minutes at 40 degrees, and 5 hours and 30 minutes at 60 degrees. The length of daylight changes very little during the year at the equator.

When the tilt of the earth's axis causes the North Pole to face the sun, the South Pole is continuously dark and the North Pole is always in daylight. As the North Pole is tilted away from the sun, it becomes dark there while the South Pole has constant daylight. These periods of darkness and daylight last about six months.

Astronomers use a day called a sidereal day. It is based on the period of the earth's rotation as measured by fixed stars. This day equals 23 hours, 56 minutes, and 4.091 seconds of mean solar time.

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Week is a division of time that includes seven days. We do not know exactly how this division of time began, but the ancient Hebrews were among the first to use it. The book of Genesis in the Bible says that the world was created in six days and the seventh day, or Sabbath, was a day of rest and worship.

The ancient Egyptians named each day of the week for one of the planets, which they incorrectly believed included the sun and the moon. They considered the seventh day merely as a day of rest and play. Among the later Romans, the days of the week were named after the sun, the moon, and the five planets then known. Each day was considered sacred to the Roman god associated with that planet. The days were known as Sun's-day, Moon's-day, Mars'-day, and so on. This system was used about the beginning of the Christian Era. The English names for the days Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were derived from the names of Norse gods.


The calendar year is divided into 12 parts, each of which is called a month. But the word month has other meanings. Several kinds of months are measured by the moon's motion. At one point in the moon's path, it is closest to the earth. This point is called the perigee. The time the moon takes to revolve from one perigee to the next is an anomalistic month. This period averages 27 days, 13 hours, 18 minutes, and 33.1 seconds.

If the moon were looked at from a distant star it would seem to make a complete revolution around the earth in 27 days, 7 hours, 43 minutes, and 11.5 seconds. This period is a sidereal month. The proper lunar month, which is called the synodical month, is the period between one new moon and the next, an average of 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes, and 2.8 seconds.

The synodical month is one of three natural divisions of time. The other two are the rotation of the earth on its axis, or a day, and the revolution of the earth around the sun, or a year. Another astronomical month is the solar month, which is one twelfth of a solar year. The solar month is the time taken by the sun to pass through each of the 12 signs of the zodiac.

Our calendar months vary in length from 28 days to 31 days. The lengths of calendar months have no relation to astronomy. At first the 12 months were 29 and 30 days alternately. Later, days were added to the months to make the year come out closer to a solar year, the time the earth takes to go once around the sun.

In the Gregorian calendar, which we use today, each day of the month is called by its number. June 1 is the "first of June," and so on. The ancient Greeks divided the month into 3 periods of 10 days, and the French Revolutionary calendar used months of equal length divided into 3 parts of 10 days each. The fifteenth day of the month was called the fifth day of the second decade.

The Roman system was even more complicated. The Roman calendar had three fixed days in each month, the calends, the nones, and the ides. The Romans counted backward from these fixed days. They would say something would happen, for example, three days before the nones. The calends were the first day of the month. The ides were at the middle, either the 13th or 15th of the month. The nones were the ninth day before the ides, counting both days. When the soothsayer told Julius Caesar to "beware the Ides of March," he meant a very definite day.

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Year is the time the earth takes to make one complete revolution around the sun. There are two different kinds of years that are used by astronomers. The solar, equinoctial, or tropical year is the time between two passages of the sun through the March equinox. In the Northern Hemisphere, this equinox is called the vernal equinox. This year is 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds long. This year is used for all practical and astronomical purposes. It is the basis of our common, or calendar, year.

The sidereal year is made up of 365 days, 6 hours, 9 minutes, and 9.5 seconds. This is the time it takes the earth to return to the same place in its orbit, with reference to the fixed stars. The sidereal year is longer than the solar year because of the precession of the equinoxes. The sidereal year is seldom used except in the calculations of astronomers.

The calendar year is only 365 days long, and so we have to add an extra day every four years to correct the difference in time between the calendar year and the solar year. This fourth year is called leap year, and the extra day is February 29. Adding an extra day every fourth year makes the average calendar year 11 minutes, 14 seconds too long. So, the day is not added in the century years, except in those divisible by 400. The years 1700, 1800, and 1900 have had only 365 days. The year 2000 contained 366 days.

Today, the leap second corrects for differences in the earth's rate of rotation from year to year. It is usually added to or subtracted from the last minute of the year.

The lunar year is made up of 12 lunar months. The ancient Greeks used this year. It contained 354 days.

In most Western nations, the calendar year begins on January 1. During the Middle Ages, however, most European nations considered March 25, Annunciation Day, to be the first day of the calendar year. By 1600, most of them had adopted the Gregorian calendar, which recognized January 1 as the beginning of the year.

The church calendar, which is used in the Roman Catholic and in most Protestant churches, is regulated partly by the solar and partly by the lunar year. This causes a difference between the fixed feast days, which always fall on the same day every year, and movable feasts such as Easter, whose dates vary from year to year. The fixed feast days are determined by the solar year, and the movable feast days, by the lunar year.

In the early ancient Roman calendar, the year began on March 1. Later, the Romans used January 1 as the new year. The Jewish year begins near the September equinox, which is known as the autumnal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. The Islamic year is based on the changing of the phases of the moon and lasts 354 days. Therefore, the beginning of the Islamic year continually falls earlier in the seasons. Thirty Islamic years make up a cycle during which there are 11 leap years at irregular intervals.


Century ordinarily means 100 years. The word is from the Latin centuria, meaning a hundred. The years 1 through 100 after the birth of Christ are called the first century; from 101 through 200 is the second century. The 21st century began on Jan. 1, 2001.

A.D. is the abbreviation for anno Domini, which is Latin for in the year of our Lord. In 532, the monk Dionysius Exiguus started a Christian system of dating events, beginning with the year he believed Christ was born. He called the years after this event anno Domini. Something that happened in A.D. 500 took place 500 years after the birth of Christ. Something that took place a year later happened in A.D. 501. The years before the birth of Christ are called B.C. (before Christ). The events of 500 B.C. took place 500 years before Christ. Events that took place a year later occurred in 499 B.C.

B.C. stands for Before Christ. In A.D. 532, a monk named Dionysius Exiguus worked out a Christian system for dating events starting with the year he believed Christ was born. He called the years after this event anno Domini (in the year of our Lord), as in A.D. 532. The years before the birth of Christ are called Before Christ, as in 400 B.C.

To date an event before the birth of Christ, we count backward from 1. The numbers continue indefinitely, just as they do in A.D. When counting years B.C., the lower the number, the later the event. For example, something that happened in 299 B.C. took place a year later than an event that occurred in 300 B.C.

Overview of Calendars

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© 1999 The Old Time Gospel Ministry
"When to seek God has become life and to glorify God has become self, then you have truly found God."