Page images
PDF
EPUB

that of Solomon; The idle soul shall suffer hunger,' and, • The sluggard, who will not plough by reason of the cold, shall beg in harvest, and have nothing.'

Of all our many necessities, none can be supplied without pains, wherein all men are obliged to bear a share ; every man is to work for his food, for his apparel, for all his accommodations, either immediately and directly, or by commutation and equivalence; for the gentleman himself cannot (at least worthily and inculpably) obtain them otherwise than by redeeming them from the ploughman and the artificer, by compensation of other cares and pains conducible to public good, The wise poet did observe well when he said,

-Pater ipse colendi

Haud facilem esse viam voluit.–Virgil. Georg. i. And St. Chrysostom doth propose the same observation, that God, to whet our mind, and keep us from moping, would not that we should easily come by the fruits of the earth, without employing much art and niany pains ; in order thereto there must be skill used in observing seasons, and preparing the ground; there must be labor spent in manuring, in delving and ploughing, in sowing, in weeding, in fencing it; there must be pains taken in reaping, in gathering, in laying up, in thrashing and dressing the fruit ere we can enjoy it; so much industry is needful to get bread : and if we list to fare more daintily, we must either hunt for it, using craft and toil to catch it out of the woods, the water, the air ; or we must carefully wait on those creatures, of which we would serve ourselves, feeding them that they may feed us; such industry is required to preserve mankind from starving. And to guard it from other inconveniences, mischiefs, and dangers surrounding us, it is no less requisite : for to shelter us from impressions of weather, we must spin, we must weave, we must build ; and in order thereto we must scrape into the bowels of the earth, to find our tools; we must sweat at the anvil, to forge them for our use ; we must frame arms, to defend our safety and our store from the assaults of wild beasts, or of more dangerous neighbors, wild men. To furnish accommodations for our curiosity and pleasure, or to provide for the convenience and ornament of our life, still greater measures of industry are demanded; to satisfy those intents, a thousand contrivances of art, a thousand ways of trade and business do serve, without which they are not attainable. In whatever condition any man is, in what state soever he be placed, whatsoever calling or way of life he doth embrace, some peculiar business is thence imposed on him, which he cannot with any advantage or good success, with any grace, with any comfort to himself, or satisfaction to others, manage without competent industry: nothing will go on of itself, without our care to direct it, and our pains to hold it, and forward it in the right course : all which things show that divine wisdom did intend that we should live in the exercise of industry, or not well without it; having so many needs to be supplied, so many desires to be appeased thereby; being exposed to so many troubles and difficulties, from which we cannot extricate ourselves without it. But farther yet,

6. Let us consider that industry hath annexed thereto, by divine appointment and promise, the fairest fruits, and the richest rewards: all good things (being either such in themselves, or made such by human esteem) are the fruits of industry; ordered to sprout from it, under the protection and influence of God's blessing, which commonly doth attend it.

All good things indeed are the gifts of God, and freely dispensed by his hand; but he doth not give them absolutely without condition, nor miraculously without concurrence of ordinary means : by supporting our active powers, and supplying needful aid to our endeavors; by directing and upholding us in the course of our action ; by preventing or removing obstacles that might cross us; by granting that final success which dependeth on his pleasure, he doth confer them on us; our hand commonly is God's hand, by which he worketh good, and reacheth out benefits to us; governing and wielding it as he pleaseth.

God indeed could not well proceed otherwise in dispensing his favors to us; not well, I say; that is, not without subverting the method of things which himself hath established; not without slighting and voiding his own first bounty, or rendering the common gifts of nature (our reason, our senses, our active powers) vain and useless; not without making us incapable of

[ocr errors]

any praise, or any reward, which suppose works achieved by our earnest endeavor; not without depriving us of that sweetest content, which springeth from enjoying the fruit of our labor.

Hence it is, that whatever in holy Scripture is called the gift of God, is otherwhile affirmed to be the effect of industry; it being the useful condition on which, and the instrument whereby divine providence conveyeth good things to us : what God said to Joshua, doth imply the general method of his proceeding, * Only be thou strong and courageous—that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.'

Hence whatever we are directed to pray for, we are also exhorted to work for; declaring thereby, that we are serious in our devotion, and do not mock God, asking that of him, which we deem not worth our pains to acquire. It was well said of Cato in Sallust, vigilando, agendo, bene consulendo, prospere omnia cedunt: ubi socordiæ te atque ignaviæ tradideris, nequicquam Deos implores ; irati, infestique sunt. We are bid to pray even for our daily bread, yet we may starve if we do not work for it; and in St. Paul's judgment deserve to

do so.

Hence we are bound to thank God for all those things, for the want of which we must thank ourselves, and condemn our own sloth.

Hence, although we should cast our care on God, and rely on his providence, being solicitous for nothing; yet we must not so trust him, as to tempt him, by neglecting the means, which he doth offer, of relieving ourselves; to be presumptuously slothful being no less blameable, than to be distrustfully careful.

Hence God in all such cases, when we do need any good thing, is said to be our helper and succorer to the obtaining it; which doth imply that we must co-operate with him, and join our forces to those which he doth afford ; so that as we can do nothing without him, so he will do nothing without us; yea, so that sometime we are said also to help God; • Curse ye Meroz, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty.' If ever God doth perform all without human labor conspiring, it is only in behalf of those who are ready to do their best, but unable to do any thing, being overpowered by the insuperable difficulty of things : but he never doth act miracles, or control nature; he never doth stretch forth his arm, or interpose special power in favor of wilful and affected sluggards.

In fine, it is very plain, both in common experience, declaring the course of providence, and in holy Scripture, expressing God's intention, that Almighty God doth hold forth all good things as the prizes and recompenses of our vigilant care, and painful endeavor; as by surveying particulars we may clearly discern.

Nothing is more grateful to men than prosperous success in their undertakings, whereby they attain their ends, satisfy their desires, save their pains, and come off with credit; this commonly is the effect of industry, (which commandeth fortune, to which all things submit and serve,) and scarce ever is found without it: an industrious person, who as such is not apt to attempt things impossible or unpracticable, can hardly fail of compassing his designs, because he will apply all means requisite, and bend all his forces thereto ; striving to break through all difficulties, and to subdue all oppositions thwarting his purposes : but nothing of worth or weight can be achieved with half a mind, with a faint heart, with a lame endeavor : any enterprise undertaken without resolution, managed without care, prosecuted without vigor, will easily be dashed and prove abortive, ending in disappointment, damage, disgrace, and dissatisfaction: so the wise man doth assure us; • The soul,' saith he,

of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat:' the one pineth away with ineffectual and fruitless desires; the other thriveth on satisfaction in prosperous success.

Plentiful accommodations for our sustenance and convenience all

agree to be very desirable ; and these are indeed the blessings of him, who visiteth the earth and enricheth it;' who crowneth the year with his goodness,' and

whose clouds drop fatness;' but they are so dispensed by heaven, that industry must concur therewith in deriving them to us, and sloth will debar us of them; for 'he,' saith the holy Oracle, • that tilleth his land shall be satisfied with bread; and the thoughts of the diligent alone tend to plenteousness :' but the

men will

sluggard shall beg in harvest, and have nothing ;' and the idle soul shall suffer hunger.'

Wealth is that which generally men of all things are wont to affect and covet with most ardent desire, as the great storehouse of their needs and conveniences, the sure bulwark of their state and dignity: the universal instrument of compassing their designs and pleasures ; and most evident it is, that in the natural course of things, industry is the way to acquire it, to secure it, to improve and enlarge it; the which course pursued innocently and modestly, God will be so far from obstructing, that he will further and bless it ; for that indeed it would be a flaw in providence, if honest industry, using the means it affordeth, should fail of procuring a competency; which joined with a pious contentedness, in St. Paul's computation, is great wealth. Wherefore although Solomon telleth us that the blessing of the Lord is that which maketh rich ;' yet doth he not forget or contradict himself, when he also doth affirm that the hand of the diligent maketh rich ;' and that he who gathereth by labor shall increase :' because God blesseth the industrious, and by his own hand, as the most proper instrument, maketh him rich. When the preacher said, • There is a man to whom God hath given riches and wealth,' he knew well enough what man it was to whom God giveth them, and that sluggards were not fit objects of that liberality; for be had observed it to be their doom to be poor and beggarly, their nature to waste and embezzle an estate : he could assure us that drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags ;' he could propound it as a certain observation, that he who is slothful in his work, is brother to a great waster ;' or that want of industry in our business will no less impair our estate than prodigality itself; he could more than once warn the slothful, that if he did · sleep on,' or persist in his sluggish way, indigency would surprise and seize on him with an insupportable violence : ·So,' saith he, · shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.

Another darling of human affection (and a jewel indeed of considerable worth and use in our life) is honor, or reputation among men : this also plainly, after the common reason and course of things, is purchased and preserved by industry: for

« PreviousContinue »