Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

The same reasoning applied to the procuring of accommodations for our sustenance and convenience ; also to the production of wealth ; of honor or reputation amongst men ; of a still more precious good, viz. wisdom, or a right comprehension and judgment about matters of the highest importance; of learning, or the knowlege of various things transcending vulgar apprehensions; and farther yet, of virtue, the noblest endowment and richest possession whereof man is capable ; of which, though it be a gift of heaven, the very nature and essence consist in the most difficult and painful efforts of the soul ; in extirpating rooted prejudices, bending stiff wills, and taming the most violent passions, &c. : peculiar difficulties in the acquisition of faith, hope, and charity, specified. In short, the sovereign good, the last scope of our actions, the sum of our desires, happiness itself, or eternal life in perfect joy and glory, though it be the supreme gift of God, is yet by himself declared to be the result and reward of industry, for we are commanded to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, &c. Conclusion.

SERMON L.

OF INDUSTRY IN GENERAL.

ECCLESIASTES CHAP. IX.--VERSE 10.

Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might.

IN St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, among divers excellent rules of life, prescribed by that great master, this is one, To orovdn un ókumpol, Be not slothful in business,' or to business; and in the second Epistle to the Corinthians, among other principal virtues, or worthy accomplishments, for abounding wherein the Apostle commendeth those Christians, he ranketh all diligence,' or industry exercised in all affairs and duties incumbent on them : this is that virtue, the practice whereof in this moral precept or advice the royal preacher doth recommend unto us; being indeed an eminent virtue, of very general use, and powerful influence on the management of all our affairs, or in the conduct of our whole life.

Industry, I say, in general, touching all matters incident, which our hand findeth to do,' that is, which dispensation of Providence doth offer, or which choice of reason embraceth, for employing our active powers of soul and body, the wise man doth recommend; and to pressing the observance of his advice (waving all curious remarks either critical or logical on the words) I shall presently apply my discourse, proposing divers considerations apt to excite us thereto; only, first, let me briefly describe it, for our better apprehension of its true notion and nature.

By industry we understand a serious and steady application

and ear

of mind, joined with a vigorous exercise of our active faculties, in prosecution of any reasonable, honest, useful design, in order to the accomplishment or attainment of some considerable good; as for instance, a merchant is industrious, who continueth intent and active in driving on his trade for acquiring wealth ; a soldier is industrious, who is watchful for occasion, nest in action toward obtaining the victory; and a scholar is industrious, who doth assiduously bend his mind to study for getting knowlege.

Industry doth not consist merely in action ; for that is incessant in all persons, our mind being a restless thing, never abiding in a total cessation from thought or from design ; being like a ship in the sea, if not steered to some good purpose by reason, yet tossed by the waves of fancy, or driven by the winds of temptation somewhither. But the direction of our mind to some good end, without roving or flinching, in a straight and steady course, drawing after it our active powers in execution thereof, doth constitute industry; the which therefore usually is attended with labor and pain ; for our mind (which naturally doth affect variety and liberty, being apt to loathe familiar objects, and to be weary of any constraint) is not easily kept in a constant attention to the same thing; and the spirits employed in thought are prone to flutter and fly away, so that it is hard to fix them: and the corporeal instruments of action being strained to a high pitch, or detained in a tone, will soon feel a lassitude somewhat offensive to nature ; whence labor or pain is commonly reckoned an ingredient of industry, and laboriousness is a name signifying it; on which account this virtue, as involving labor, deserveth a peculiar commendation; it being then most laudable to follow the dictates of reason, when so doing is attended with difficulty and trouble.

Such in general I conceive to be the nature of industry; to the practice whereof the following considerations may induce.

1. We may consider that industry doth befit the constitution and frame of our nature; all the faculties of our soul and organs of our body being adapted in a congruity and tendency thereto : our hands are suited for work, our feet for travel, our senses to watch for occasion of pursuing good and eschewing evil, our reason to plod and contrive ways of employing the other parts and powers; all these, I say, are formed for action ; and that not in a loose and gadding way, or in a slack and remiss degree, but in regard to determinate ends, with vigor requisite to attain them; and especially our appetites do prompt to industry, as inclining to things not obtainable without it; according to that aphorism of the wise man, Επιθυμίαι οκνηρόν å nokteLVOvoiv— The desire of the slothful killeth him, for his hands refuse to labor ;' that is, he is apt to desire things which he cannot attain without pains; and not enduring them, he for want thereof doth feel a deadly smart and anguish : wherefore in not being industrious we defeat the intent of our Maker; we pervert his work and gifts; we forfeit the use and benefit of our faculties; we are bad husbands of nature's stock.

2. In consequence hereto industry doth preserve and perfect our nature, keeping it in good tune and temper, improving and advancing it towards its best state. The labor of our mind in attentive meditation and study doth render it capable and patient of thinking on any object or occasion, doth polish and refine it by use, doth enlarge it by accession of habits, doth quicker and rouse our spirits, dilating and diffusing them into their proper channels. The very labor of our body doth keep the organs

of action sound and clean, discussing fogs and superfluous humors, opening passages, distributing nourishment, exciting vital heat: barring the use of it, no good constitution of soul or body can subsist; but a foul rust, a dull numbness, a resty listlessness, a heavy unwieldiness must seize on us; our spirits will be stifled and choked, our hearts will grow faint and languid, our parts will flag and decay; the vigor of our mind and the health of our body will be much impaired.

It is with us as with other things in nature, which by motion are preserved in their native purity and perfection, in their sweetness, in their lustre, rest corrupting, debasing, and defiling them. If the water runneth, it holdeth clear, sweet, and fresh ; but stagnation turneth it into a noisome puddle : if the air be fanned by winds, it is pure and wholesome; but from being shut up, it groweth thick and putrid : if metals be employed, they abide smooth and splendid; but lay them up, and they soon contract rust: if the earth be belabored with culture, it yieldeth corn; but lying neglected, it will be overgrown with brakes and thistles; and the better its soil is, the ranker weeds it will produce : all nature is upheld in its being, order, and state, by constant agitation; every creature is incessantly employed in action conformable to its designed end and use; in like manner the preservation and improvement of our faculties depends on their constant exercise.

3. As we naturally were composed, so by divine appointment we were originally designed for industry; God did not intend that man should live idly, even in his best state, or should enjoy happiness without taking pains; but did provide work enough even in paradise itself: for the Lord God,' saith the text, took man, and put him into the garden of Eden, to dress it, and to keep it :' so that had we continued happy, we must have been ever busy, by our industry sustaining our life, and securing our pleasure ; otherwise weeds might have overgrown paradise, and that of Solomon might have been applicable to Adam; • I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; and lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof.'

4. By our transgression and fall the necessity of industry (together with a difficulty of obtaining good, and avoiding evil) was increased to us; being ordained both as a just punishment for our offences, and as an expedient remedy of our needs : for thereupon the ground was cursed to bring forth thorns and thistles to us ;' and it was our doom pronounced by God's own mouth, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground:' so that now labor is fatally natural to us; now 'man,' as Job saith, is born to labor, as the sparks fly upward,' (or, as the vulture's chickens soar aloft,' according to the Greek interpreters.)

5. Accordingly our condition and circumstances in the world are so ordered, as to require industry; so that without it we cannot support our life in any comfort or convenience; whence St. Paul's charge on the Thessalonians, that if any one would not work, neither should he eat,' is in a manner a general law imposed on mankind by the exigency of our state, according to

« VorigeDoorgaan »