« PreviousContinue »
long prayers at these times; but thus much I think may be said, that if prayer is proper at these times, we ought to oblige ourselves to use such a form of words as should shew that we solemnly appeal to God for such graces and blessings as are then proper to the occasion. Otherwise the mock ceremony, instead of blessing our victuals, does but accustom us to trifle with devotion, and give us a habe. it of being unaffected with our prayers.
If every head of a family was, at the return of every meal, to oblige himself to make a solemn adoration of God, in such a decent manner as becomes a devout mind, it would be very likely to teach him, that swearing, sensuality, gluttony, and loose discourse, were very improper at those meals, which were to begin and end with devotion..
And if in these days of general corruption, this part of devotion is fallen into a mock ceremony, it must be imputed to this cause, that sensuality and intemperance have got too great a power over us, to suffer us to add any devotion to our meals. But thus much must be said, that when we are as pious as Jews and Heathens of all ages have been, we shall think it proper to pray at the beginning and end of our meals.
I have appealed to this pious custom of all ages of the world, as a proof of the reasonableness of the doctrine of this and the foregoing chapters: that is, as a proof that religion is to be the rule and measure of all the actions of ordinary life. For surely, if we are not to eat, but under such rules of devotion, it must plainly appear, that whatever else we do, must in its proper way, be done with the same regard to the glory of God, and agreeably to the principles of a devout and pious mind.
Persons that are free from the necessity of labour and employ ments are to consider themselves as devoted to God in a higher degree.
A GREAT part of the world are free from the necessities of labour and employments, and have their time and fortunes at their own disposal.
But as no one is to live in his employment according to his own humour, or for such ends as please his own fancy, but is to do all his business in such a manner, as to make it a service unto God; so those who have no particular employment, are so far from being left at greater liberty to live to themselves, to pursue their own humours, and spend their time and fortunes as they please, that they are under greater obligations of living wholly unto God in all their actions.
The freedom of their state lays them under a greater necessity of always choosing and doing the best things. They are those, of whom much will be required, because much is given unto them.
A slave can only live unto God in one particular way; that is, by religious patience and submission in his state of slavery.
But all ways of holy living, all instances, and all kinds of virtue, lie open to those who are masters of themselves, their time and their fortunes.
It is as much the duty, therefore, of such persons to make a wise use of their liberty, to devote themselves to all kinds of virtue, to aspire after every thing that is holy, and pious, to endeavour to be eminent in all good works, and to please God in the highest and most perfect manner; it is as much their duty to be thus wise in the conduct of themselves, and thus extensive in their endeavours after holiness, as it is the duty of a slave to be resigned unto God in his state of slavery.
You are no labourer, or tradesman, you are neither merchant nor soldier; consider yourself, therefore, as
placed in a state in some degree like that of good angels, who are sent into the world as ministering spirits, for the general good of mankind, to assist, protect, and minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation.
For the more you are free from the common necessities of men, the more you are to imitate the higher perfections of angels.
Had you, Serena, been obliged by the necessities of life, to wash clothes for your maintenance, or to wait upon some mistress, that demanded all your labour, it would then be your duty to serve and glorify God, by such humility, obedience, and faithfulness, as might adorn that state of life.
It would then be recommended to your care, to improve that one talent to its greatest height. That when the time came that mankind were to be rewarded for their labours by the great Judge of quick and dead, you might be received with a well done good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of the Lord. St. Matt.
But as God has given you five talents, as he has placed you above the necessities of life, as he has left you in the hands of yourself in the happy liberty of choosing the most exalted ways of virtue, as he has enriched you with many gifts of fortune, and left you nothing to do, but to make the best use of variety of blessings, to make the most of a short life, to study your own perfection, the honour of God and the good of your neighbour; so it is now your duty to imitate the greatest servants of God, to inquire how the most eminent saints have lived, to study all the arts and methods of perfection, and to set no bounds to your love and gratitude to the bountiful Author of so many blessings.
It is now your duty to turn your five talents into five more, and to consider how your time, and leisure, and health, and fortune, may be made so many happy means of purifying your own soul, improving your fellow-creatures in the ways of virtue, and of carrying you at last to the greatest heights of eternal glory.
As you have no mistress to serve, so let your own soul be the object of your daily care and attendance. Be
sorry for its impurities, its spots and imperfections, and study all the holy arts of restoring it to its natural and primitive purity.
Delight in its service, and beg of God to adorn it with every grace and perfection.
Nourish it with good works, give it peace in solitude, get it strength in prayer, make it wise with reading, enlighten it by meditation, make it tender with love, sweeten it with humility, humble it with patience, enliven it with psalms and hymns, and comfort it with frequent reflections upon future glory. Keep it in the presence of God, and teach it to imitate those guardian angels, who, though they attend to human affairs, and the lowest of mankind, yet always behold the face of our Father which is in heaven. St. Matt. xviii. 10.
This, Serena, is your profession. For as sure as God is one God, so sure it is, that he has but one command to all mankind, whether they be bond or free, rich or poor; and that is, to act up to the excellency of that nature which he has given to them, to live by reason, to walk in the light of religion, to use every thing as wisdom directs, to glorify God in all his gifts, and dedicate every.c condition
of life to his service.
This is the one common command of God to all mankind. If you have an employment, you are to be thus reasonable, and pious, and holy in the exercise of it; if you have time, and a fortune in your own power, you are obliged to be thus reasonable, and holy, and pious, in the use of all your time, and all your for
The right religious use of every thing, and every talent, is the indispensible duty of every being that is capable of knowing right and wrong.
For the reason why we are to do any thing as unto God, and with regard to our duty, and relation to him, is the same reason, why we are to do every thing as unto God, and with regard to our duty, and relation to
That, which is a reason for our being wise and holy in the discharge of all our business, is the same reason for our being wise and holy in the use of all our money.
As we have always the same natures, and are every where the servants of the same God, as every place is equally full of his presence, and every thing is equally his gift, so we must always act according to the reason of our nature; we must do every thing as the servants of God; we must live in every place, as in his presence; we must use every thing, as that ought to be used, which belongs to God.
Either this piety and wisdom, and devotion is to go through every way of life, and to extend to the use of every thing, or it is to go through no part of life.
If we might forget ourselves, or forget God, if we might disregard our reason, and live by humour and fancy in any thing, or at any time, or in any place, it would be as lawful to do the same in every thing, at every time, and every place.
If therefore, some people fancy that they must be grave and solemn at church, but may be silly and frantic at home; that they must live by some rule on the Sunday, but may spend other days by chance; that they must have some times of prayer, but may waste the rest of their time as they please; that they must give some money in charity, but may squander away the rest as they have a mind; such people have not enough considered the nature of religion, or the true reasons of piety. For he that upon principles of reason, can tell why it is good to be wise and heavenly minded at church, can tell that it's always desirable, to have the same tempers in all other places. He that truly knows, why he should spend any time well, knows that it is never allowable to throw any time away. He that rightly understands the reasonableness and excellency of charity, will know that it can never be excusable to waste any of our money in pride and folly, or in any neadless expenses.
For every argument that shews the wisdom and excellency of charity, proves the wisdom of spending all our fortune well. Every argument that proves the wisdom and reasonableness of having times of prayer, shews the wisdom and reasonableness of losing none of our time.
If any one could shew, that we need not always act as in the divine presence, that we need not consider and use