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he that aspireth to worthy things, and assayeth laudable designs, pursuing them steadily with serious application of heart and resolute activity, will rarely fail of good success, and consequently will not miss honor, which ever doth crown victory; and if he should hap to fail in his design, yet he will not lose his credit; for having meant well, and done his best, all will be ready to excuse, many to commend him the very qualities which industry doth exercise, and the effects which it doth produce, to beget honor, as being ornaments of our person and God himself (from whom honor cometh, and whose special prerogative it is to bestow it, he, as King of the world, being the fountain of honor) will be concerned to dignify an industrious management of his gifts with that natural and proper recompense thereof; conducting him who fairly treadeth in the path of honor, that he shall safely arrive unto it. It is therefore a matter of easy observation, which the wise prince doth prompt us to mark; Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men' that is, diligence, as it is the fairest, so it is the surest way to the best preferment as it qualifieth a man for employment, and rendereth him useful to the world, so it will procure worthy employment for him, and attract the world to him; as the same great author again doth assert: The hand,' saith he, of the diligent shall bear rule;' yea, so honorable a thing is industry itself, that an exercise thereof in the meanest rank is productive of esteem, as the wise man again doth observe and tell us; ' He that waiteth on his master (that is, with diligence attendeth on the business committed to him) shall be honored.'
No industrious man is contemptible; for he is ever looked on as being in a way of thriving, of working himself out from any straits, of advancing himself into a better condition. But without industry we cannot expect any thing but disrespect, shame, and reproach, which are the certain portion of the slothful; he not having the heart to enterprise or the resolution and patience to achieve any thing deserving regard, or apt to procure it; he wanting all the ornaments and good fruits that grow from industry; he being only fit for a sordid and servile condition; whence the slothful,' saith Solomon, shall be
under tribute;' and, He that sleepeth in harvest, is a son that causeth shame;' he causeth it to his relations by his beggarly accoutrements, he causeth it much more to himself by his despicable faultiness, and by the disgraceful consequences of it.
Another yet more precious good, far surpassing all external advantages of our state; the which in the judgment of him who (together with it having a full possession of all secular prosperity, wealth, dignity, and power) was best able to prize it, 'is better than rubies, and incomparably doth excel all things that may be desired,' as ennobling, enriching, and embellishing our better part: wisdom, I mean, or a good comprehension, and right judgment about matters of highest importance to us, is the prize of industry, and not to be gained without it; nature conferreth little thereto, fortune contributeth much less; it cannot be bought at any rate: 'It cannot,' saith Job, 'be gotten for gold, neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof; it cannot be valued with the gold of Ophir, with the precious onyx, or the sapphire;' it is the offspring of watchful observation and experience, of serious meditation and study; of careful reflexion on things, marking, comparing, and weighing their nature, their worth, their tendencies and consequences; these are needful to the getting of wisdom, because truth, which it seeketh, commonly doth not lie in the surface, obvious to a superficial glance, nor only dependeth on a simple consideration of few things; but is lodged deep in the bowels of things, and under a knotty complication of various matters; so that we must dig to come at it, and labor in unfolding it: nor is it an easy task to void the prejudices springing from inclination or temper, from education or custom, from passion and interest, which cloud the mind, and obstruct the attainment of wisdom.
If we will have it, we must get it as Solomon himself did, that great master of it. How was that? I gave,' saith he, 'my heart to know wisdom.' He who made it his option and choice before all things; who so earnestly and so happily did pray for it; on whom it is so expressly said, that God in a special manner and plentiful measure did bestow it; who averreth God to be the sole donor of it, (for, The Lord,' saith
he, giveth wisdom, out of his mouth cometh knowlege and understanding;') yet even he did first give his heart to it, before it was given into his heart: he did not only gape for it, to receive it by mere infusion; but he worked and studied hard for it. He was indeed a great student, an inquisitive searcher into nature, a curious observer of the world, a profound considerer and comparer of things; and by that industrious course, promoted by divine blessing, he did arrive to that great stock of so renowned a wisdom.
And the same method it is which he prescribeth to us for getting it exhorting us that we 'incline our ear unto wisdom, and apply our heart to understanding;' that we 'cry after knowlege, and lift up our voice for understanding;' that we 'seek her as silver, and search for her as for hid treasures;' in following which course he doth assure us of good success; for 'then,' saith he, shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowlege of God,' which is the head or chief part of wisdom; and Blessed,' saith he again, in the person and place of wisdom itself, is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors; for he that findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favor of the Lord.' It is the way he supposeth of finding wisdom, to watch assiduously, to wait diligently on the means of attaining her; and how infallible the acquist of her is thereby, she doth again by his mouth thus acquaint us; I love them that love me, and those that seek me early shall find me;' and 'she,' saith his imitator, is easily seen of them that love her, and found of such as seek her; whoso seeketh her early, shall have no great travel, for he shall find her sitting at his doors.'
This indeed is the only way; idleness is not capable of so rich and noble a purchase: a slothful person may be conceited, yea needs must be so; but he can never be wise: A sluggard,' saith Solomon, is wiser in his own conceit, than seven men that can render a reason.' This conceit of wisdom is a natural issue of his ignorance; and it is indeed no small part of his folly, that he doth not perceive it; being no less stupid in reflexion on his own mind, than in considering other matters: being always in a slumber, he will often fall into such pleasant dreams; and no wonder that he should presume on abundance
of knowlege, who not listing to take any pains in the search or discussion of things, doth snatch the first appearances, doth embrace every suggestion of his fancy, every conceit gratifying his humor, for truth.
What should I speak of learning, or the knowlege of various things, transcending vulgar apprehension? Who knoweth not that we cannot otherwise reach any part of that, than by assiduous study and contemplation? Who doth not find that all the power in the world is not able to command, nor all the wealth of the Indies to purchase one notion? Who can be ignorant that no wit alone, or strength of parts can suffice, without great industry, to frame any science, to learn any one tongue, to know the history of nature, or of providence? it is certainly by Horace's method,
Multa tulit, fecitque puer,—
by much exercise and endurance of pains, that any one can arrive to the mark of being learned or skilful in any sort of knowlege.
But farther yet, virtue, the noblest endowment and richest possession whereof man is capable; the glory of our nature, the beauty of our soul, the goodliest ornament and the firmest support of our life; that also is the fruit and blessing of industry; that of all things most indispensably doth need and require it. It doth not grow in us by nature, nor befal us by fortune; for nature is so far from producing it, that it yieldeth mighty obstacles and resistances to its birth, there being in the best dispositions much averseness from good, and great proneness to evil; fortune doth not further its acquists, but casteth in rubs and hindrances thereto, every condition presenting its allurements, or its affrightments from it; all things within us and about us conspire to render its production and its practice laborious.
It is ('tis true) a gift of heaven, and cannot be obtained without a special influence of divine grace; but it is given as children are, (of whom it is said, 'Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is his reward,') not without sore travail and labor of the mother, not without grievous difficulty and pangs in the birth. In our conversion
to embrace virtue God doth guide us; but to what? to sit still? No, to walk, to run in his ways: Grace doth move us, but whereto? to do nothing? No, but to stir, and act vigorously; The holy Spirit doth help our infirmities:' but how could it help them, if we did not conjoin our best, though weak, endeavors with its operations ? Το what doth it συναντιλαμβάνειν, or co-help us, but to strive against sin, to work righteousness, to perform duty with earnest intention of mind, and laborious activity? God,' saith St. Chrysostom, hath parted virtue with us, and neither hath left all to be in us, lest we should be elated to pride, nor himself hath taken all, lest we should decline to sloth.".*
Indeed the very nature and essence of virtue doth consist in the most difficult and painful efforts of soul; in the extirpating rooted prejudices and notions from our understanding; in bending a stiff will, and rectifying crooked inclinations; in overruling a rebellious temper; in curbing eager and importunate appetites; in taming wild passions; in withstanding violent temptations; in surmounting many difficulties, and sustaining many troubles; in struggling with various unruly lusts within, and encountering many stout enemies abroad, which assault our reason, and war against our soul' in such exercises its very being lieth; its birth, its growth, its subsistence dependeth on them; so that from any discontinuance or remission of them it would soon decay, languish away, and perish.
What attention, what circumspection, and vigilancy of mind, what intention of spirit, what force of resolution, what command and care over ourselves doth it require, to keep our hearts from vain thoughts and evil desires; to guard our tongue from wanton, unjust, uncharitable discourse; to order our steps uprightly and steadily in all the paths of duty? Kaì rí ovk ÉTÍTOVOV TWY Tηs ȧperns;† and what,' as St. Chrysostom ἐπίπονον ἀρετῆς;† asketh, ' of all things belonging to virtue is not laborious?'
is no small task to know it, wherein it consisteth, and what it demandeth of us; it is a far more painful thing to conform our practice unto its rules and dictates.
If travelling in a rough way; if climbing up a steep hill; if
Chrys. Tom. 5. Or. 28.
+ Chrys. in Joh. Or. 36.