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God, and ministering succour to us; God himself is ever SERM. watchful, and ever busy in preserving the world, and proLII. viding for the needs of every creature.
The lives of our blessed Saviour, of all the Patriarchs, the Prophets, the Apostles, the Saints, in this respect have been more exemplary; no virtue being more conspicuous in their practice than industry in performing the hard duties and painful tasks imposed on them for the service of God, and the benefit of mankind.
Such is the virtue upon which I have formerly discoursed in general and at large; but shall now more specially consider, according to St. Paul's prescription, in reference to its most proper matter, business, explaining and pressing it accordingly.
Be not slothful in business, (that is, in discharge of it,) or to business, (that is, to undertake it:) this is the rule; the nature and needfulness whereof we shall declare.
By own, business, we may understand any object of our care and endeavours which doth require them, and may deserve them; which by reason of its difficulty cannot well be accomplished or attained without them; and which is productive of some fruit or recompense answerable to them; the which hath operæ causam, a need of labour, and operæ pretium, some effect worth our pains: if it be not such, it is not a due matter of virtuous and laudable industry.
There are many things, about which men with great earnestness employ themselves, called business, but not deserving that name: there are divers spurious kinds of industry, which may not pretend to commendation, but rather do merit blame; according to that of St. Chrysostom, Labour which hath no profit, cannot obtain any praise b.
There is a κενοσπουδία, a vain industry, and a κακοσπονδία, a naughty industry, both agreeing with genuine virtuous industry in the act, as implying careful and painful acti
• Πόνος οὐδὲν κέρδος ἔχων, ἐγκωμίου παντὸς ἀπεστέρηται. Chrysost. tom. v.
SERM. vity, but discording from it in object and design; and consequently in worth and moral esteem.
Aliud agere, to be impertinently busy, doing that which conduceth to no good purpose, is in some respect worse than to do nothing, or to forbear all action; for it is a positive abuse of our faculties, and trifling with God's giftse; it is a throwing away labour and care, things valuable in themselves; it is often a running out of the way, which is worse than standing still; it is a debasing our reason, and declining from our manhood, nothing being more foolish or childish, than to be solicitous and serious about trifles: for who are more busy and active than children? who are fuller of thoughts and designs, or more eager in prosecution of them, than they? But all is about ridiculous toys, the shadows of business, suggested to them by apish curiosity and imitation. Of such industry we may understand that Eccles. x. of the Preacher, The labour of the foolish wearieth every one of them; for that a man soon will be weary of that labour, which yieldeth no profit, or beneficial return.
2 Cor. ii. 11.
But there is another industry worse than that, when men are very busy in devising and compassing mischiefs; Luke xxii. an industry whereof the Devil affordeth a great instance; for the cursed fiend is very diligent, ever watching for occasions to supplant us, ever plotting methods and means to do harm, ever driving on his mischievous designs with unwearied activity; going to and fro in the earth; running about as a roaring lion, looking for prey, and seeking whom he may devour.
And his wicked brood are commonly like him, being
Job i. 7.
· *Αλλῳ γὰρ ἐδενὶ φιλοπόνω τὸν κενόσπεδον ὀρίζομεν ἐν τοῖς ἔργοις ἔντα πολλάκις,
τὸν μὲν εἰς ἀνωφιλῆ πονεῖν, καὶ ἀδιαφόρως, τὸν δὲ ἕνεκά τε τῶν συμφερόντων καὶ λυTha Plut. de Commun. Not. p. 1949. edit. Steph.
Σπουδάζειν καὶ πονεῖν παιδιᾶς χάριν ἠλίθιον φαίνεται καὶ λίαν παιδικόν, Arist. Eth. x. 6.
Ἡ ἐπὶ μικροῖς σπουδὴ μέμψιν φέρει. Plut. ibid.
Vid. de Glor. Ath. p. 621.
Οἱ σπουδάζοντες ἐν τοῖς γελοίοις, ἐν τοῖς σπουδαίοις ἔσονται καταγέλασοι. Cata Maj. apud Plut. iu Apoph.
workers of iniquity &, oi Forgoì, painful men, oi zavoũgyor, men SERM. that will do all things; who will spare no pains, nor leave LII. any stone unturned, for satisfying their lusts, and accom- Psal. vi. 8. plishing their bad designs.
So indeed it is, that as no great good, so neither can any great mischief be effected without much pains; and if we consider either the characters or the practices of those, who have been famous mischief-doers, the pests of mankind and Catiline, Marius, disturbers of the world, we shall find them to have been no Stilico, sluggards. Cæsar, &c.
These two sorts of vain and bad industry the Prophet Isaiah seemeth to describe in those words; They hatch Isa. lix. 5. cockatrice' eggs, and weave the spider's web; of which expressions one may denote mischievous, the other frivolous diligence in contrivance or execution of naughty or vain designs; and to them both that of the Prophet Hosea may be referred; They have sown the wind, and they shall reap the Hos. viii. 7. whirlwind; guilt, remorse, and punishment being the con- xxxiv. 2. sequences of both. And of them both common experience Prov. xxii. doth afford very frequent and obvious instances, a great Hcs. x. 13. part of human life being taken up with them. For,
How assiduously intent and eager may we observe men to be at sports! How soon will they rise to go forth to them! With what constancy and patience will they toil in them all the day! How indefatigable are they in riding and running about after a dog or a hawk, to catch a poor beast or silly bird!
How long will men sit poring on their games, dispensing with their food and sleep for it e.
How long and serious attention will men yield to a wanton play! How many hours will they contentedly sit thereat! What study will men employ on jests and impertinent wit! How earnest will they be to satisfy their vain curiosity!
Εργάται τῆς ἀδικίας. Luke xiii. 27.
Συνάφουσὲ γὰρ οἱ φιλόκυβοι νύκτας ἡμέραις ἄσιτοι καὶ ἄποτοι, καὶ ἡδονὴς ἡδονῆ περίϊει. Lib. Orat. 31.
How in such cases do men forget what they are doing that sport should be sport f, not work; to divert and relax us, not to employ and busy us; to take off our minds a little, not wholly to take them up; not to exhaust or tire our spirits, but to refresh and cheer them, that they may become more fit for grave and serious occupations!
How painful will others be in hewing them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that will hold no water; that is, in immoderate pursuit of worldly designs! How studiously will they plod, how restlessly will they trudge, what carking and drudgery will they endure in driving on projects of ambition and avarice! What will not they gladly do or suffer, to get a little preferment, or a little profit! It was a common practice of old, and sure the world is not greatly mended Psal. xxxix. since the Psalmist did thus reflect, Surely every man walketh in a vain shew; surely they are disquieted in vain : he heapeth up riches, and cannot tell who shall gather them.
How many vigilant and stout pursuers are there of sensuality and riotous excess; such as those of whom the ProIsa. v. 11. phet speaketh, Wo unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them!
Jer. ii. 18.
How busy (O shame, O misery! how fiercely busy) are some in accomplishing designs of malice and revenge! How intent are some to overreach, to circumvent, to supplant their neighbour! How sore pains will some take to seduce, corrupt, or debauch others! How active will some be in sowing strifes, in raising factions, in fomenting disorders in the world! How many industrious slaves hath the Devil 8, who will spare no pains about any kind of work, which he putteth them to! How many like those of whom the Wise Prov. i. 16. Man saith, Their feet run to evil, and are swift in running to mischief: they sleep not, except they have done mischief; and their sleep is taken away, unless they cause some to fall!
vi. 18. iv. 16.
'Τῷ γὰρ ὄντι παίζοντα δεῖ παίζειν. Plut
δ' Εννοήσωμέν τινα ὁ διάβολος ἐπέταξε, πῶς ἐπίπονα, τῶς ἐμίμοχθα, &c. Chry *Ανδρ. 16.
Now with all these labourers we may well expostulate in SERM. the words of the Prophet; Wherefore do ye spend money for L.I. that which is not bread, and your labour for that which sa- Isa. Iv. 2. tisfieth not?
Such labours are unworthy of men, much less do they beseem Christians.
It becometh us not as rational creatures to employ the excellent gifts of our nature, and noble faculties of our highborn soul, the forces of our mind, the advantages of our fortune, our precious time, our very care and labour, vainly or unprofitably upon any thing base or mean: being that our reason is capable of achieving great and worthy things, we must debase it by stooping to regard toys, we do entremely abuse it by working mishief.
Much more doth it misbecome us as Christians (that is, persons devoted to so high a calling, who have so worthy employments assigned to us, so glorious hopes, so rich en- Eph. i. 18. couragements proposed to us for our work) to spend our thoughts and endeavours on things impertinent to our great design, or mainly thwarting it.
The proper matter and object of our industry (those false ones being excluded) is true business; or that which is incumbent on a man to do, either in way of duty, being required by God, or by dictate of reason, as conducing to some good purpose; so that in effect it will turn to account, and finally in advantageous return will pay him for his labour of mind or body; that which the Wise Man did intend, when he advised, Whatever thy hand findeth to do, do it Eccles. ix. with all thy might; whatever thy hand findeth, that is, whatever by divine appointment, (by the command or providence of God,) or which upon rational deliberation, doth occur as matter of our action; comprising every good purpose and reasonable undertaking incident to us.
But our business, according to the holy Apostle's intent, may be supposed especially to be the work of our calling; to which each man hath a peculiar obligation; and which ◆herefore is most properly his business, or emphatically, the business allotted to him.