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for a part of his service, if we eat or drink; so it be done temperately, and as may best preserve our health, that our health may enable our services towards him: and there is no one minute of our lives (after we are come to he use of reason), but we are or may be doing the work of God, even then, when we most of all serve ourselves.
3. To which if we add, that in these and all other actions of our lives we always stand before God, acting, and speaking, and thinking in his presence, and that it matters not that our conscience is sealed with secrecy, since it lies open to God; it will concern us to behave ourselves carefully, as in the presence of our judge.
These three considerations rightly managed, and applied to the several parts and instances of our lives, will be, like Elisha, stretched upon the child, apt to put life and quickness into every part of it, and to make us live the life of grace, and do the work of God.
I shall therefore, by way of introduction, reduce these three to practice, and shew how every Christian may improve all and each of these to the advantage of piety, in the whole course of his life: that if he please to bear but one of them upon his spirit, he may feel the benefit, like an universal instrument, helpful in all spiritual and temporal
The first general instrument of holy Living,
HE that is choice of his time, will also be choice of his company, and choice of his actions: lest the first engage him in vanity and loss; and the latter, by being criminal, be a throwing his time and himself away, and a going back in the accounts of eternity.
God hath given to man a short time here upon earth, and yet upon this short time eternity depends: but so, that for every hour of our life (after we are persons capable of laws, and know good from evil) we must give account to the great
ο πυθομένου τινὸς, πῶς ἐστιν ἐσθίειν ἀρεστῶς θεοῖς; εἰ δικαίως ἐστὶν, ἔφη, καὶ εὐγνωμόνως, καὶ ἴσως, καὶ ἐγκρατῶς, καὶ κοσμίως, οὐκ ἔστι καὶ ἀρεστῶς τοῖς θεοῖς;
Arrian. Epist. 1. i. c. 13.
Judge of men and angels. And this is it which our blessed Saviour told us, that we must account for every idle word: not meaning, that every word, which is not designed to edification, or is less prudent, shall be reckoned for a sin; but that the time, which we spend in our idle talking and unprofitable discoursings, that time, which might and ought to have been employed to spiritual and useful purposes; that is to be accounted for.
For we must remember, that we have a great work to do, many enemies to conquer, many evils to prevent, much danger to run through, many difficulties to be mastered, many necessities to serve, and much good to do, many children to provide for, or many friends to support, or many poor to relieve, or many diseases to cure, besides the needs of nature and of relation, our private and our public cares, and duties of the world, which necessity and the providence of God have adopted into the family of religion.
And that we need not fear this instrument to be a snare to us, or that the duty must end in scruple, vexation, and eternal fears, we must remember, that the life of every man may be so ordered, (and indeed must) that it may be a perpetual serving of God: the greatest trouble and most busy trade and worldly incumbrances, when they are necessary, or charitable, or profitable in order to any of those ends, which we are bound to serve, whether public or private, being a doing God's work. For God provides the good things of the world to serve the needs of nature, by the labours of the ploughman, the skill and pains of the artisan, and the dangers and traffic of the merchant: these men are, in their calling, the ministers of the Divine Providence, and the stewards of the creation, and servants of a great family of God, the world, in the employment of procuring necessaries for food and clothing. ornament and physic. In their proportions, also, a king and a priest and a prophet, a judge and an advocate, doing the works of their employment according to their proper rules, are doing the work of God, because they serve those necessities, which God hath made, and yet made no provisions for them, but by their ministry. So that no man can complain, that his calling takes him off from religion: his calling itself and his very worldly employment in honest trades and offices is a serving of God; and, if it be moderately pursued and ac
cording to the rules of Christian prudence, will leave void spaces enough for prayers and retirements of a more spiritual religion.
God hath given every man work enough to do, that there shall be no room for idleness; and yet hath so ordered the world, that there shall be space for devotion. He, that hath the fewest businesses of the world, is called upon to spend more time in the dressing of his soul; and he, that hath the most affairs, may so order them, that they shall be a service of God; whilst, at certain periods, they are blessed with prayers and actions of religion, and all day long are hallowed by a holy intention.
However, so long as idleness is quite shut out from our lives, all the sins of wantonness, softness, and effeminacy, are prevented, and there is but little room left for temptation; and therefore, to a busy man, temptation is fain to climb up together with his businesses, and sins creep upon him only by accidents and occasions; whereas, to an idle person, they come in a full body, and with open violence, and the impudence of a restless importunity.
Idleness is called " the sin of Sodom and her daughters"," and indeed is " the burial of a living man," an idle person being so useless to any purposes of God and man, that he is like one that is dead, unconcerned in the changes and necessities of the world; and he only lives to spend his time, and eat the fruits of the earth: like a vermin or a wolf, when their time comes, they die and perish, and in the mean time, do no good; they neither plough nor carry burthens; all that they do, either is unprofitable or mischievous.
Idleness is the greatest prodigality in the world: it throws away that, which is invaluable in respect of its present use, and irreparable when it is past, being to be recovered by no power of art or nature. But the way to secure and improve our time we may practice in the following rules.
Rules for employing our Time.
1. In the morning, when you awake, accustom yourself to think first upon God, or something in order to his service; and at night also, let him close thine eyes: and let your sleep be necessary and healthful, not idle and expensive of time, beyond the needs and conveniences of nature; and sometimes be curious to see the preparation, which the sun makes, when he is coming forth from his chambers of the east.
2. Let every man that hath a calling, be diligent in pursuance of its employment, so as not lightly or without reasonable occasion to neglect it in any of those times, which are usually, and by the custom of prudent persons and good husbands, employed in it.
3. Let all the intervals or void spaces of time be employed in prayers, reading, meditating, works of nature, recreation, charity, friendliness and neighbourhood, and means of spiritual and corporal health: ever remembering so to work in our calling, as not to neglect the work of our high calling; but to begin and end the day with God, with such forms of devotion, as shall be proper to our necessities.
4. The resting days of Christians, and festivals of the church, must, in no sense, be days of idleness; for it is better to plough upon holy days, than to do nothing or to do viciously but let them be spent in the works of the day, that is, of religion and charity, according to the rules appointed.
5. Avoid the company of drunkards and busy bodies, and all such as are apt to talk much to little purpose: for no man can be provident of his time, that is not prudent in the choice of his company; and if one of the speakers be vain, tedious, and trifling, he that hears, and he that answers, in the discourse, are equal losers of their time.
6. Never walk with any man, or undertake any trifling employment, merely to pass the time away: for every day well spent may become a "day of salvation," and time rightly employed is an "acceptable time." And remember, that the time thou triflest away, was given thee to repent in, to pray for pardon of sins, to work out thy salvation, to do the work of
e S. Bem. de Triplici Custodia.
d See chap. iv. sect. 6.
grace, to lay up against the day of judgement a treasure of good works, that thy time may be crowned with eternity.
7. In the midst of the works of thy calling, often retire to God' in short prayers and ejaculations; and those may make up the want of those larger portions of time, which, it may be, thou desirest for devotion, and in which thou thinkest other persons have advantage of thee; for so thou reconcilest the outward work and thy inward calling, the church and the commonwealth, the employment of the body and the interest of thy soul: for be sure, that God is present at thy breathings and hearty sighings of prayer, as soon as at the longer offices of less busied persons; and thy time is as truly sanctified by a trade, and devout though shorter prayers, as by the longer offices of those, whose time is not filled up with labour and useful business.
8. Let your employment be such, as may become a reasonable person; and not be a business fit for children or distracted people, but fit for your age and understanding. For a man may be very idly busy, and take great pains to so little purpose, that, in his labours and expense of time, he shall serve no end but of folly and vanity. There are some trades, that wholly serve the ends of idle persons and fools, and such as are fit to be seized upon by the severity of laws and banished from under the sun: and there are some people, who are busy; but it is, as Domitian was, in catching flies.
9. Let your employment be fitted to your person and calling. Some there are, that employ their time in affairs infinitely below the dignity of their person; and being called by God or by the republic, to help to bear great burdens, and to judge a people, do enfeeble their understandings, and disable their persons by sordid and brutish business. Thus Nero went up and down Greece, and challenged the fiddlers at their trade. Æropus, a Macedonian king, made lanterns. Harcatius, the king of Parthia, was a mole-catcher: and Biantes, the Lydian, filed needles. He, that is appointed to minister in holy things, must not suffer secular affairs and sordid arts to eat up great portions of his employment: a clergyman must not keep a tavern, nor a judge be an innkeeper; and it
f Laudatur Cæsar apud Lucanum,
media inter prælia semper
Stellarum cœlique plagis, superisque vacavi.—x. 186.