Page images
PDF
EPUB

and what God has separated, let no man pretend to join. Indeed, the spirit of religion can have no fellowship with sloth, indolence, and self-indulgence. But, still, a Christian does not carry on his common trade quite like another man neither; for something of the spirit which he labors to attain at church, he carries with him into his worldly concerns :-while there are some who set up for Sunday Christians, who have no notion that they are bound to be weekday Christians too.

Will. Why, master, I do think, if God Almighty is contented with one day in seven, he won't thank you for throwing him the other six into the bargain. I thought he gave us them for our own use; and I am sure nobody works harder all the week than you do.

Stock. God, it is true, sets apart one day in seven, for actual rest from labor, and for more immediate devotion to his service. But show me that text wherein he says, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God on Sundays—thou shalt keep my commandments on the Sabbath-day-to be carnally minded on Sundays, is death-cease to do evil, and learn to do well one day in seven-grow in grace on the Lord's-day—Is there any such text?

Will. No, to be sure there is not; for that would be en, couraging sin on all the other days.

Stock. Yes, just as you do, when you make religion a thing for the church, and not for the world. There is no one lawful calling, in pursuing which we may not serve God acceptably. You and I may serve him while we are stitching this pair of boots; farmer Furrow, while he is ploughing yonder field; Betsy Best, over the way, whilst she is nursing her sick mother; neighbor Incle, in measuring out his tapes and ribands. I say, all these may serve God just as acceptably in those employments, as at church-I had almost said, more so.

Will. Ay, indeed—how can that be? Now, you're too much on t'other side.

Stock. Because, a man's trials in trade being often greater, they give him fresh means of glorifying God, and proving the sincerity of religion. A man who mixes in business, is naturally brought into continual temptations and difficulties. These will lead him, if he be a good man, to look more to God than he perhaps would otherwise do. He sees temptations on the right hand and on the left: he knows that there are snares all around him; this makes him watchful: he feels that the enemy within is too ready to betray him; this

makes him humble himself; while a sense of his own diffi. culties makes him tender to the failings of others.

Will. Then you would make one believe, after all, that trade and business must be sinful in itself, since it brings a man into all these snares and scrapes.

Stock. No, no, Will; trade and business don't create evil passions; they were in the heart before; only now and then they seem to lie snug a little; our concerns with the world bring them out into action a little more, and thus show both others and ourselves what we really are. But, then, as the world offers more trials on the one hand, so on the other it holds out more duties. If we are called to battle oftener, we have more opportunities of victory. Every temptation resisted, is an enemy subdued; and “ he that ruleth his own spirit, is better than he that taketh a city.”

Will. I don't quite understand you, master.

Stock. I will try to explain myself. There is no passion more called out by the transactions of trade than covetousness. Now, 'tis impossible to withstand such a master-sin as that, without carrying a good deal of the spirit of religion into one's trade.

Will. Well, I own I don't yet see how I am to be religious when I'm hard at work, or busy settling an account. I can't do two things at once; 'tis as if I were to pretend to make a shoe and cut out a boot at the same moment.

Stock. I tell you, both must subsist together. Nay, the one must be the motive to the other. God commands us to be industrious; and if we love him, the desire of pleasing him should be the main-spring of our industry.

Will. I don't see how I can always be thinking about pleasing God.

Stock. Suppose, now, a man had a wife and children whom he loved, and wished to serve; would not he be often thinking about them while he was at work?' and though he would not be always thinking nor always talking about them, yet would not the very love he bore them be a constant spur to his industry? He would always be pursuing the same course from the same motive, though his words, and even his thoughts, must often be taken up in the common transactions of life.

Will. I say, first one, then the other; now for labor, now for religion.

Stock. I will show that both must go together. I will suppose you were going to buy so many skins of our currier: that is quite a worldly transaction; you can't see what a spirit of religion has to do with buying a few calves' skins. Now, I tell you it has a great deal to do with it. Covetousness, a desire to make a good bargain, may rise up in your heart. Selfishness, a spirit of monopoly, a wish to get all, in order to distress others; these are evil desires, and must be subdued. Some opportunity of unfair gain offers, in which there may be much sin, and yet little scandal. Here a Christian will stop short; he will recollect, that “he who maketh haste to be rich shall hardly be innocent." Perhaps the sin may be on the side of your dealer; he may want to overreach you : this is provoking; you are tempted to violent anger, perhaps to swear : here is a fresh demand on you for a spirit of patience and moderation, as there was before for a spirit of justice and self-denial. If, by God's grace, you get the victory over these temptations, you are the better man for having been called out to them; always provided, that the temptations be not of your own seeking. If you give way, and sink under these temptations, don't go and say that trade and business have made you covetous, passionate, and profane. No, no; depend upon it, you were so before; you would have had all these evil seeds lurking in your heart, if you had been loitering about at home and doing nothing, with the additional sin of idleness into the bargain. When you are busy, the devil often tempts you; when you are idle, you tempt the devil. If business and the world call these evil tempters into action, business and the world call that religion into action too, which teaches us to resist them. And in this you see the week-day fruit of the Sunday's piety. 'Tis trade and business in the week, which call us to put our Sunday readings, praying, and church-going into practice.

Will. Well, master, you have a comical way, somehow, of coming over one. I never should have thought there would have been any religion wanted in buying and selling a few calves' skins. But I begin to see there is a good deal in what you say. And, whenever I am doing a common action, I will try to remember that it must be done after a godly sort.

Stock. I hear the clock strike nine; let us leave off our work. I will only observe further, that one good end of our bringing religion into our business is, to put us in mind not to undertake more business than we can carry on consistently with our religion. I shall never commend that man's diligence, though it is often commended by the world, who is not diligent about the salvation of his soul. We are as much forbidden to be overcharged with the cares of life, as with its pleasures. I only wish to prove to you, that a disa creet Christian may be wise for both worlds; that he may employ his hands without entangling his soul, and labor for the meat that perisheth without neglecting that which endureth unto eternal life; that he may be prudent for time, while he is wise for eternity.

PART VI. Dialogue the Second. On the Duty of carrying Religion

into our Amusements. The next evening, Will Simpson being got first to his work, Mr. Stock found him singing very cheerfully over his last. His master's entrance did not prevent his finishing his song, which concluded with these words:

“ Since life is no more than a passage at best,

Let us strew the way over with flowers.When Will had concluded his song, he turned to Mr. Stock, and said, “I thank you, master, for first putting it into my head how wicked it is to sing profane and indecent songs. I never sing any now which have any wicked words in them.”

Stock. I am glad to hear it. So far you do well. But there are other things as bad as wicked words ; nay, worse perhaps, though they do not so much shock the ear of decency.

Will. What is that, master ? What can be so bad as wicked words?

Stock. Wicked thoughts, Will. Which thoughts, when they are covered over with smooth words, and dressed out in pleasing rhymes, so as not to shock modest young people by the sound, do more harm to their principles than those songs of which the words are so gross and disgusting, that no person of common decency can for a moment listen to them.

Will. Well, master, I am sure that was a very pretty song I was singing when you came in, and a song which very sober, good people sing.

Stock. Do they? Then I will be bold to say, that sing. ing such songs is no part of their goodness. I heard indeed but two lines of it, but they were so heathenish that I desire to hear no more.

Will. Now you are really too hard. What harm could there be in it ? there was not one indecent word.

Stock. I own, indeed, that indecent words are particularly offensive. But, as I said before, though immodest expressions offend the ear more, they do not corrupt the heart, perhaps, much more than songs of which the words are decent, and the principles vicious. In the latter case, because there is nothing that shocks his ear, a man listens till the sentiment has so corrupted his heart, that his ear grows hardened to, and by long custom he loses all sense of, the danger of profane diversions; and I must say I have often heard young women of character. sing songs in company, which I should be ashamed to read by myself. But come, as we work, let us talk over this business a little; and first let us stick to this sober song of yours that you boast so much about. (Repeats.)

“ Since life is no more than a passage at best,

Let us strew the way over with flowers." Now, what do you learn by this?

Will. Why, master, I don't pretend to learn much by it. But 'tis a pretty tune and pretty words.

Stock. But what do those pretty words mean?

Will. That we must make ourselves merry, because life is short.

Stock. Will! Of what religion are you?

Will. You are always asking one such odd questions, master: why, a Christian, to be sure.

Stock. If I often ask you, or others, this question, it is only because I like to know what grounds I am to go upon when I am talking with you or them. I conceive that there are in this country two sorts of people-Christians, and no Christians. Now, if people profess to be of this first description, I expect one kind of notions, opinions, and behavior from them; if they say they are of the latter, then I look for another set of notions and actions from them. I compel no man to think with me. I take every man at his word. I only expect him to think and believe according to the character he takes upon himself, and to act on the principles of that character which he professes to maintain.

Will. That's fair enough I can't say but it is to take a man at his own word, and on his own grounds.

Stock. Well, then. Of whom does the Scripture speak, when it says, “Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die?

Will. Why, of heathens, to be sure; not of Christians.

« PreviousContinue »