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vants; living in the world, as in a holy temple of God, and always worshipping him, though not with our lips, yet with the thankfulness of our hearts, the holiness of our actions, and a charitable use of all his gifts. That we must not only send up petitions and thoughts now and then to heaven; but must go through our worldly business with a heavenly spirit, as members of Christ's mystical body; that with new hearts, and new minds, we are to turn an earthly life into a preparation for a life of greatness and glory in the kingdom of heaven.
Now the only way to arrive at this piety of spirit is to bring all your actions to the same rule, as your de. votions and alms. You well know, what makes the piety of your alms or devotions ; now the same rules, the same regard to God, must render every thing else, you do, an acceptable service to God.
Enough, I hope, has been said, to show the necessity of thus introducing religion into all the actions of your common life, and of acting with the same regard to God in all, that you do, as in your prayers and alms.
Eating is one of the lowest actions of our lives; it is common to us with mere animals ; yet we see that the piety of all ages has turned this ordinary action of animal life, into piety to God, by inaking every meal begin and end with devotion.
We see yet some remains of this custom in most Christian families; some such little formality, as shows that people used to call upon God at the beginning and end of their meals. But indeed it is now generally so performed, as to look more like a mockery of devotion, ihan any solemn application of the mind to God. In one house you may perhaps see the head of the family just pulling of his hat, in another half getting up from his seat; another may proceed so far, as to make, as if he said something ; but however, these little attempts are the remains of some devotion, that was formerly used at such times; and are proofs, that religion has belonged to this part of common life.
But to such a pass are we now come, that, though the
custom is yet preserved ; yet we can hardly bear with him, that seems to perform it with any degree of serious
and look upon it, as a sign of a fanatical temper, if a man has not done it as soon, as he begins.
I would not be thought to plead for the necessity of long prayers at these times ; but thus much I think may be said, that, if prayer is proper at these times; we ought to oblige ourselves to use such a form of words, as should show that we solemnly appeal to God for such graces and blessings, as are proper to the occasion. Otherwise, the mock ceremony, instead of blessing our victuals, does but accustom us to trifle with devotion, and give us a habit of being unaffected with our prayers.
If every head of a family, at the return of every meal, were to oblige himself to make a solemn adoration of God in such a decent manner, as becomes a devout mind, it would be very likely to teach him that swearing, sensuality, gluttony, and loose discourse, were very improper at those meals, which were to begin and end with devotion.
If in these days of general corruption, this part of devotion is fallen into a mock ceremony ;
it must be imputed to this cause, that sensuality and intemperance have too great a power over us, to suffer us to add any devotion to our meals. But thus much must be said, that, when we are as pious, as Jews and Heathens of all ages have been; we shall think it proper to pray at the beginning and end of our meals.
I have appealed to the pious custom of all ages of the world, as a proof of the reasonableness of the doctrine of this and the foregoing chapters; that is, as a proof, that religion is to be the measure of all the actions of ordinary life. For surely, if we are not to eat, but under such rules of devotion ; it must plainly appear, that, whatever else we do, must in its proper way, be done with the same regard to the glory of God, and agreeably to the principles of a devout and pious mind.
Persons, that are free from the necessity of labor are to con
sider themselves, as devoted to God in a higher degree.
A GREAT part of the world are free from the necessities of labor, and hare their time at their own disposal.
But, as no one is to live according to his own humor, or fancy, but in such manner, as to please God; so those, who have no particular employment, are so far from being left at greater liberty to live to themselves, and spend their time and fortune, as they please, that they are under greater obligations of living wholly to God in all their actions. The freedom of their state lays them under a greater necessity of choosing and doing the best things. They are those of whom much will be required, because much is given unto them.
A slave can live unto God in one particular way; that is, by religious patience and submission in his state of slavery.
But all ways of holy living, and all kinds of virtue, lie open to those, who are masters of themselves, their time, and their fortune.
It is as much the duty therefore of such persons, to make a wise use of their liberty ; to devote themselves to all kinds of virtue ; to aspire after every thing, that is holy, and pious; to endeavour to be eminent in all good works, and to please God in the most perfect manner; as it is the duly of a slave, to be resigned to God in his state of slavery.
You are no laborer or tradesman, you are neither mer. chant, nor soldier; consider yourself therefore, as placed in a state in some degree like that of good angels, who are sent into the world, as ministering spirits, for the general good of mankind; to assist, protect, and minister for them, wbo shall be heirs of salvation. For the more you are free from the common necessities of men ; the more you are to imitate the higher perfections of angels.
Had you, Serena, been obliged by the necessities of life, to wash clothes for your maintenance, or to wait upon some mistress, that demanded all your labor; it would then be your duty, to serve and glorify God, by such humility, obedience, and faithfulness, as might adorn that state of life.
It would then be recommended to your care, to improve that one talent to its greatest beight; that, when the time came, that mankind were to be rewarded for their labors by the great Judge of quick and dead, you might be received with a well done good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of the Lord.
But, as God has given you five talents; as he has placed you above the necessities of life ; as he has enriched you with many gifts of fortune, and left you nothing to do, but to make the best use of a variety of blessings, to study your own perfection, the honor of God, and the good of your neighbour; so it is now your duty, to imitate the greatest servants of God; to inquire, how the most emis nent saints have lived ; to study all the arts and methods of perfection, and to set no bounds to your love and gratitude to the bountiful Author of so many blessings.
It is pow your duty, to turn your five talents into five more; and to consider, how your time, and leisure, and health, and fortune, may be made so many bappy means of purifying your own soul, improving your fellow creatures in the ways of virtue, and of carrying you at last to the greatest heights of eternal glory.
As you have no mistress to serve ; so let your own soul be the object of your daily care and attendance.
Be sorry for its impurities and imperfections; and study all the holy arts of restoring it to its natural and primitive purity. Delight in its service, and beg of God to adorn it with every grace and perfection. Nourish it with good works, give it peace in solitude, get it strength in prayer, make it wise with reading, enlighten it by meditation, make it tender with love, sweeten it with bumility, humble it with patience, enliven it with psalms
and hymns, and comfort it with frequent reflections upon future glory. Keep it in the presence of God, and teach it to imitate those guardian angels, who, though they attend to human affairs, and the lowest of mankind; yet always behold the face of our Father, which is in heaven.
This, Serena, is your profession. For as sure, as God is one God; so sure it is, that he has but one command to all mankind, whether they be bond or free, rich or poor; and that is, to act up to the excellency of that nature, which he has given them; to live by reason; to walk in the light of religion, to use every thing as wisdom directs ; to glorify God in all his gifts, and dedicate every condition of life to his service.
This is the one common command of God to all mankind. If y you have an employment; you are to be thus reasonable, pious, and holy in the exercise of it ; if you have time, and a fortune in your own power; you are obliged to be thus reasonable, holy, and pious, in the use of all your time and all
fortune. The right religious use of every thing, and every talent, is the indispensable duty of every being, that is ca. pable of knowing right and wrong. For the reason, why we are to do any thing as unto God, and with regard to our duty, and relation to him ; is the same reason, why we are to do every thing as unto God, and with regard to our relation to him. That, which is a reason for our being wise and holy in the discharge of all our business ; is the same reason for our being wise and holy in the use of all our money.
As we have always the same nature, and are every where servants of the same God; as every place is equally full of his presence, and every thing is equally his gift ; so we must always act according to the reason of our nature ; we must do every thing, as servants of God; we must live in every place, as in his presence ; we must use every thing, as that ought to be used, which belongs to God.
Either this piety, and wisdom, and devotion is to go through every way of life, and to extend to the use of every thing; or it is to go through no part of life. If