Page images


combating stern foes, and fighting sharp battles; if crossing the grain of our nature and desires ; if continually holding a strict rein over all our parts and powers, be things of labor and trouble, then greatly such is the practice of virtue.

Indeed each virtue hath its peculiar difficulty, needing much labor to master it : Faith is called čpyov niotews, the work of faith;' and it is no such easy work, as may be imagined, to bring our hearts unto a thorough persuasion about truths crossing our sensual conceits, and controlling our peevish humors; unto a perfect submission of our understanding, and resignation of our will to whatever God teacheth or prescribeth ; to a firm resolution of adhering to that profession, which exacteth of us so much pains, and exposeth us to so many troubles.

Charity is also a laborious exercise of many good works; and he that will practise it, must in divers ways labor hardly; he must labor in voiding from his soul many dispositions deeply radicated therein by nature; opinion, and custom ; envy, frowardness, stubbornness, perverse and vain selfishness; from whence wrath, revenge, spite, and malice do spring forth. He must labor in effectual performance of all good offices, and in catching all occasions of doing good ; he must exert that kórov dyarns, that · labor of love,' whereof St. Paul doth speak; he must (as that holy Apostle directeth, not only in precept, but by his own practice) work with his own hands, that he may supply the wants of his neighbor.

Hope itself (which one would think, when grounded well, should be a no less easy than pleasant duty) doth need much labor to preserve it safe, straight, and stable, among the many waves and billows of temptation assaying to shake and subvert it; whence a patience of hope is recommended to us; and we so often are exhorted to hold it fast, to keep it sure, firm, and unshaken to the end.

Temperance also surely demandeth no small pains; it being no slight business to check our greedy appetites, to shun the enticements of pleasure, to escape the snares of company and example, to support the ill-will and reproaches of those zealots and bigots for vice, who cannot tolerate any noncomformity to their extravagances; but, as St. Peter doth express it, think

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

it strange, if others do not run with them to the same excess of riot, speaking ill of them for it.'

What should I speak of meekness, of patience, of humility, of contentedness? Is it not manifest how laborious those virtues are, and what pains are necessary in the obtaining, in the exercise of them? what pains, I say, they require in the voidance of fond conceits, in the suppression of froward humors, in the quelling fierce passions, in the brooking grievous crosses and adversities, in the bearing heinous injuries and affronts ?

Thus doth all virtue require much industry, and it therefore necessarily must itself be a great virtue, which is the mother, the nurse, the guardian of all virtues; yea, which indeed is an ingredient and constitutive part of every virtue ; for if virtue were easily obtainable or practicable without a good measure of pains, how could it be virtue? what excellency could it have, what praise could it claim, what reward could it expect ? God hath indeed made the best things not easily obtainable, hath set them high out of our reach, to exercise our industry in getting them, that we might raise up ourselves to them, that being obtained, they may the more deserve our esteem, and his reward.

Lastly, the sovereigo good, the last scope of our actions, the top and sum of our desires, happiness itself, or eternal life in perfect rest, joy, and glory; although it be the supreme gift of God, and special boon of divine grace, (xópioua roữ Oegū, • But,' saith St. Paul, “ the gift of God's grace is eternal life ;') yet it also by God himself is declared to be the result and reward of industry; for we are commanded to work out our salvation with fear and trembling,' and to give diligence in making our calling and election sure,' by virtuous practice; and God,' saith St. Paul, 'will render to every man according to his works; to them who, by patient continuance in well doing, seek glory, and honor, and immortality, eternal life;' and, in the close of God's book, it is proclaimed, as a truth of greatest moment, and special point of God's will, · Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life. It is plainly industry, which climbeth the holy mount; it is industry, which taketh the kingdom of


heaven by force ;' it is industry, which so runneth as to obtain' the prize, which so tighteth as 'to receive the crown,' which so watcheth as to secure our everlasting interest to us.

Thus do the choicest good things, of which we are capable, spring from industry, or depend on it; and no considerable good can be attained without it: thus all the gifts of God are by it conveyed to us, or are rendered in effect beneficial to us ; for the gifts of nature are but capacities, which it improveth; the gifts of fortune or providence are but instruments, which it employeth to our use ; the gifts of grace are the supports and succors of it; and the very gift of glory is its fruit and recompense,

There are farther several other material considerations and weighty motives to the practice of this duty, which meditation hath suggested to me: but these, in regard to your patience, must suffice at present; the other (together with an application proper to our condition and calling) being reserved to another occasion.






INDUSTRY, which is recommended in the text, is a virtue of a very diffusive nature and influence, so that no business or design can be well managed without it: we ought therefore to conceive a high opinion of it, and inure ourselves to the practice of it on all occasions : additional considerations proposed to this end.

1. We may consider that industry is productive of ease itself, and preventive of trouble. Sloth indeed affects ease and quiet, but by affecting loses them : it hates labor and trouble, but by hating incurs them, &c.: but industry, by a little voluntary labor, in due place and season, saves much labor after. wards and great distress.

2. Industry begets ease, by procuring good habits, and a facility of transacting things expedient to be done : it breeds assurance and courage needful for the prosecution of business and the performance of duties, &c.

3. We may consider that it will sweeten all our enjoyments, and season them with a grateful relish, according to the saying of the preacher, The sleep of a laboring man is sweet.

4. Especially those accommodations prove most delightful, which our industry hath procured to us; for we look on them with a special affection, as the children of our endeavors.

5. The very exercise of industry immediately in itself is delightful; the very settlement of our mind on fit objects, where

, by we are freed from doubt and distraction, ministers content ; the consideration that we are spending our time and talents to

[ocr errors]

good advantage, in serving God, benefiting our neighbor, and bettering our own state, is very cheering and comfortable : this topic enlarged on

6. Let us consider that industry affords a lasting comfort, deposited in the memory and conscience of him that practises it: this point enlarged on, and a life spent in unfruitful and unprofitable idleness compared with it.

7. Industry argues a generous and ingenuous complexion of soul : it implies a mind not content with mean and vulgar things, but aspiring to things of high worth and pursuing them with courage : it signifies a heart not enduring to owe the sustenance and convenience of life to the liberality of others, &c. of which generosity we have a notable instance in St. Paul : this topic enlarged on.

8. Industry is a fence to innocence and virtue ; a bar to all kinds of sin and vice, guarding the avenues of the heart, and keeping off occasions and temptations to vicious practices; whilst idleness is the nursery of sin, &c.

9. Particularly industry prevents the sins of vain curiosity, pragmatical troublesome impertinence, and the like pests of common life, into which persons not diligently following their own business will assuredly fall.

10. Let us consider that industry is needful in every condition and calling of life; in all relations, for our good behavior, and right discharge of our duty in them. Are we rich? then is industry requisite for keeping and securing our wealth, or managing it wisely. Are we conspicuous in dignity, honor, and good repute amongst men ? then is industry requisite to keep us fast in that state ; since nothing is more frail than honor, which must be nourished by worthy actions; otherwise it will languish and decay. On the other hand, are we poor and low in the world ? then do we much need industry to shun the extremes of want and ignominy, and to improve our condition, &c.

« PreviousContinue »