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than in such exercises of the mind.. Consider farther, that idle and spare time is a dangerous state, and calls for great care and watchfulness; to have recourse then to evil and impertinent books, is like inviting the devil because you are alone. If you could read ill books when you were in haste, or in a hurry of other matters, it would do you much less harm than to read them because your time hangs upon your hands. So that that season which you take to be an excuse for such reading, is a stronger argument against it; because evil thoughts and vain subjects have twice the effect, and make double. in pressions, when they are admitted at times of leisure and idleness. Consider again, to what a miserable unchristian state you are reduced, when you are forced to have recourse, to foolish books to get rid of your time. Your fortune, perhaps, has removed you from the necessity of labouring for your bread; you have been politely educated in softness; you have no trade or employment to take up your time; and so are left to be devoured by corrupt passion and pleasures. Whilst poor people are at hard labour; whilst your servants are drudging in the meanest offices of life; you, oppressed with idleness and indulgence, are relieving yourself with foolish and impertinent books, feeding and delighting a disordered mind with romantic nonsence, and poetic follies. If this be the effect of riches and fortune; only to expose people to the power of disordered passions, and give them time to corrupt their hearts with madness and folly, well might our blessed Lord say, Wa unto you that are rich!
When you see a poor creature drudging in the meanest offices of life, and glad of the dirtiest work to get his bread, you are apt to look upon him as a miserable wretch; it raises a mixture of pity and contempt in you; and you hardly know whether you pity or disregard him most. But remember,
that every time you see such a person, you see a more reasonable creature than yourself, and one that is much more nobly employed than you are. He is acting conformably to the state of human life, and bearing a hard part with patience; he is doing a work, which, mean as it is, will be looked upon as done unto the Lord; whilst you, idling in softness and pleasures, are unable to bear your time, unless it be stolen away from you by foolish, corrupt, and unedifying books.
Fancy that you saw a patient Christian, old, broken, and crooked, with carrying burdens all his life: fancy that you saw another Christian lolling in state and softness, and making every day a day of vanity and impertinence, of foolish reading's, and vain imaginations; which of them do you think is most likely to die into the hands of good angels, and be carried into Abraham's bosom.
But after all, what a vain imagination is it to think that you have any such thing as spare time. Is there any time for which you are not accountable to God? Is there any time which God has so left to your own disposal, that you may sacrifice it to the indulgence of vain tempers, and the corruption of your heart? You can no more show this than you can show, that all your time is your own. To talk therefore of spare time, is to talk of something that never did, nor ever will, belong to any Christian. You may have a spare time from this or that labour or necessity; you may abate or change any particular exercise; you may leave off this or that way; you may take this or that refreshment; you have all these spare times from particular actions, but you have no spare time that releases you from the laws of Christianity, or that leaves you at liberty not to act by the principles of religion and piety. · You have a spare time to recreate and refresh yourself, but this time is to be governed by the same principles of religious wisdom, as the time that is spent in cares and labours. For your recreations and pleasures are only lawful, so far as they are directed by such wisdom and piety as is to direct your cares and labours. If therefore the providence of God has placed you above the necessity of labouring for your livelihood, you must not think that you have so much spare time to spend as you please, but that you are as certainly called to some. other labour, as others are called to labour for their bread. Great part of the world is doomed to labour and slavery; they hare it not in their power to choose any other way of life, and their labour is, therefore, an acceptable service to God, because it is such as their state requires. Happy you, therefore, if you knew your happiness, who have it in your power to be always doing the best things, who, free from labour and hardships, are at liberty to choose the best ways of life, to study all the arts of self-improvement, to-practise all the ways of doing good, and to spend your time in all the noblest instances of piety, humility, charity, and devotion! Bless God, therefore, not because you have spare time, for that you have none; but that you have spare time to employ in the best ways that you can find; that whilst others are opprest with burdens, and worn out in slavery, you have time, and leisure, and retirement, to think and meditate upon the greatest and best of things, to enlighten your mind, to correct the disorders of your heart, to study the laws of God, to contemplate the wonders of his providence, to convince yourself of the vanity and folly of the world, and to comfort and delight your soul with those great and glorious things which God has prepared for those that love him. This is the happiness of being free from labour and want; not to have spare time to squander away in vanity and impertinence, but to have spare time to spend in the study of wisdom, in the exercise of devotion, in the practice of piety, in all the ways and means
of doing good, and exalting our souls to a state of Christian perfection.
It is a doctrine of Scripture, and highly agreeable to reason, That unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required. Consider, therefore, that a life of leisure, and freedom from want and hardship, is as much as can well be given you in this world, as it is giving you an opportunity of living wholly unto God, and making all the parts of your life useful to the best purposes. As sure therefore as it is a state that has so many advantages, that furnishes you with so many means of being eminent in piety, so sure is it, that it is a state from which God expects fruits that are wor- ,thy of it. Had it been your lot to labour in a mine, or serve under some cruel master, you must have served as unto God, and in so doing, you had finished the work which God had given you. But as you are free from all these states of life, you must look upon yourself as God's servant, as called to choose that way of labouring and spending your time, which may most promote that which God desires to be most promoted. God has given you liberty to choose, but it is only that you may have the blessedness of choosing the best ways of spend-. i ing your time. Though therefore you are at liberty from servile and mean labour, yet you are under a necessity of labouring in all good works, and making all your time, and fortune, and abilities, serviceable to the best ends of life. You have no more time that is your own, than he has that is to live by constant labour; the only difference betwixt you and him is this, that he is to be diligent in a poor slavish labour, that oppresses the body, and dulls and dejects the mind; but you in a service that is perfect freedom, that renders your body a fit temple for the Holy Ghost, and fills your soul with such light, and peace, and joy, as is not to be found in any other way of life.
Do you think that a poor slave would displease God by refusing to act in that painful drudgery that is fallen to his share? And do you think that God will not be more displeased with you, if you refuse to act your full part in the best of labours, or neglect that happy joyful business of doing good, which your state of life has called you to? Is it expected that poor people should make a right use of their condition, and turn all their labour into a service unto God? And can you think that you are not obliged to make the proper improvement of your condition, and turn all your rest, and ease, and freedom from labour, into a service unto God? Tell me, therefore, no more that you indulge yourself in idle amusements, in vain, corrupt, and unedifying books, because you have spare time; for it is absolutely false to say, that you have any such thing; it is also saying, that because God has given you spare, time from servile labour, that you may choose the best ways of life, devote yourself to the most divine exercises, and become eminent and exemplary in all the instances of a holy and heavenly life; therefore you presume to throw it away in idleness and impertinence,
| CHAP. XI. A farther Consideration of that Purity and Holiness
of Conversation, to which the Necessity of divine Grace calleth all Christians; wherein is shown, that the Entertainment of the Stage is a corrupt and sinful Entertainment, contrary to the whole Nature of Christian Piety, and constantly to be avoided by all sincere Christians.
T HAVE shown in the foregoing chapter. that the 1 reading of plays, or any other books of that kind, is a dangerous and sinful entertainment, that