LECTURE 23.

HOW TO PREVENT OUR EMPLOYMENTS FROM INJURING OUR SOULS.


Text.--Rom. 12:11: "Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord."

In remarking upon this subject, I design to show:

I. That idleness is inconsistent with religion.

II. That all persons are bound to pursue some lawful employment.

III. That they are to be diligent in their calling whatever it is.

IV. How to prevent employments, either secular or spiritual, from becoming a snare to the soul.


I. Idleness is inconsistent with religion.

II. All persons are bound to pursue some lawful employment.

This is a plain inference from what has already been said.

But what is a lawful employment? This is an all-important question, in answer to which I observe,

It is generally admitted, that ministers are to be specially called of God to the work of the ministry. But all men are to be equally devoted to God, and all employments are to be pursued equally for the glory of God. Every faculty, every day, and moment of all men are to be devoted to the Lord. And all men are equally bound to consult the will of God in the selection and pursuit of their employments. And no man can give himself up to employments to which he is not called of God, or to which he does not really believe himself to be called of God, without thereby apostatizing from the service of God. Now every one of you would say that if a minister should select the ministry to please himself he would lose his soul. This is equally true of every other employment.
III. Men are to be diligent in their calling. IV. How to prevent secular or spiritual employments from being a snare to the soul.

It has come to be a subject of almost universal complaint, that our employments lead us away from God. Men complain of their cares, and having so much business on their hands as to secularize their spirit--blunt the edge of devotional feeling--and more or less insensibly, but certainly to draw off their hearts from God. And those who are engaged in intellectual and even spiritual occupations, such as teachers of science and teachers of religion, are by their employments apt to fall into an intellectual and hardened frame of mind, and to wander far from God. It seems to be understood that there is a kind of necessity in the case, and that we are naturally unable to attend to the various duties and callings incidental to our relations in this world without secularizing our spirit, and annihilating a devotional state of mind. Now to suppose there is any necessity for this result is to charge God foolishly. He has never placed us here surrounded with these necessities to be a snare and a curse to us. On the contrary, all the employments that are strictly lawful, instead of being a snare, are indispensable to the highest development of our powers, and to the growth and consummation of our piety. The whole difficulty lies in the abuse of a thing eminently wise and good. That the facts are according to the general complaint cannot be doubted. Men really are ensnared by their employments. But why? Many seem to suppose that the only way to maintain a spiritual frame of mind is by a total abstraction from those employments, in which it seems to be necessary for men to engage in this world. It was this conceit that led to the establishment of nunneries and monasteries, and to all those fanatical and odious seclusions from society that have abounded among the Papists. The truth is that the right discharge of our duties to God and man, as things are, is indispensable to holiness. And voluntary seclusion from human society and abstracting ourselves from those employments by which man may be benefited, are wholly inconsistent with the principles and spirit of the Christian religion. So did not Christ nor the Apostles. They were eminently active, zealous and useful, in promoting the glory of God and the good of man, in every way in their power. It is a desideratum, therefore, in religion, to understand the secret of making our employments, whatever they are, the means of increasing instead of destroying our spirituality. A great deal needs to be said upon this subject. I can now only say the following things, and may at a future time, if God permit, resume the subject.

REMARKS.

1. God calls you to no employment in kind or amount, that is inconsistent with entire holiness of heart and life. Whenever you find therefore that your employment really prevents your walking wholly with God, something is certainly wrong. Either your employment is unlawful in itself, or if in itself a lawful one, it is that to which you are not called, or you have taken too much upon you, or too little, or your motives have become wrong. There is utterly some fault in you. Make a solemn pause then as on the very brink of eternity, and inquire after and remove the stumbling blocks out of the way. If it be a right hand or a right eye give it up in a moment, as you love the ways and dread the wrath of God.

2. God never calls you to any business and withholds the necessary grace for the perfect discharge of your obligations. If grace be sought as it ought to be and constantly will be, while your motives are right, it will not be withheld.

3. But if God calls you to a business and you become selfish in it, it is no longer acceptable to him, and your pursuing it with a selfish heart is an utter abomination to him. I fear it is not an uncommon thing for young men who suppose themselves to be called to the gospel ministry, in the course of their preparation, to become cold, and ambitious, and any thing but holy. And yet they persevere, because they dare not go back, and relinquish their course. They are sensible that they are away from God, but believing themselves to have been called to the work of the ministry, they feel as if they must go forward, partly lest they should lose their reputation with men, and partly because they fear the displeasure of God, while they know that as a matter of fact, their hearts are not right with him. And thus they go through their classical studies, hoping that when they enter upon theology, their studies will be of such a character as to make them holy. But coming as they do, in such a state of heart, to the study of theology, they are only hardened more rapidly than before. But finding this to be the case does not deter them from going forward. They think that now they must make up their opinion on various points of doctrine, and that when they have settled all these things, and entered upon the active duties of the ministry, then they shall be aroused to a better state of feeling. But the hardening process still goes on. So that by the time they are through their course their hearts are like the nether millstone. They are all head and no heart--all intellect and no emotion. In this state they come to the active duties of the ministry, and woe to the Church that shall employ one of them. They might as well place a skeleton in their pulpit, for he is but the shadow of a minister, and not the substance. He has the bones but not the marrow and life, and spirit of the Gospel.

4. No man has a right to undertake so much business, for any compensation whatever, as to interfere with his hours of devotion. In cases where persons labor by the day, or month, or year, allowance should always be made in the prices they receive, for sufficient time and opportunity for devotional exercises. They have no right to exact or receive such wages as to render it necessary for them to give up all their time to labor nor ought their employers to expect them to encroach, under any pretense whatever, upon those hours appointed to secret communion with God.

5. There is great danger of a diligence in business, which is inconsistent with fervency of spirit in serving the Lord.

6. From my own observation, I am persuaded that there is a great error in requiring too much study of young men who are preparing for the ministry. There is such a great cry for a learned ministry--so much stress is laid upon a thorough education--and so much competition among Colleges and Seminaries, as to present a great temptation to Instructors to push the intellectual pursuits of young men to the utmost, and even beyond the utmost limit of endurance.

Now while I am in favor of a thorough education, I do not and cannot believe, with the facts as they exist before me, that the great difference in the usefulness of ministers depends on their being learned men in the common acceptation of that term. Human science, by itself, never made a useful minister, and wherever human science is pushed beyond its proper limit, and made to encroach upon the hours and spirit of devotion--wherever the spirit of human science, instead of the Spirit of God, comes to be that fountain at which a man drinks, he may become in the language of men, a great man, but he will never be a good minister. Until there is a great change upon this subject--until the great effort of the teachers is to make their pupils pious as well as learned, and they are more anxious, and take more pains to effect the former than the latter, our Seminaries can never send out efficient ministers. To require diligence in study, without requiring fervency of spirit--to concern ourselves more that our students have their lessons than that they walk with God--that they commune with Cicero, Horace, and Demosthenes, rather than with God--for us to satisfy ourselves every day in relation to their intellectual progress, and pay little or no attention to the state of their hearts, is an utter abomination, and teachers who do so, whatever other qualifications they may have, are unfit to have the care of young men.

7. When you find yourselves proceeding in any employment without prayer for direction, support, and guidance, you may rest assured that you are selfish, and however diligent you may be, you may know that you are not fervent in spirit serving the Lord.

8. The speculations of the last few years have so secularized the Church as to annihilate her power with God. She has in reality, been engaged in gambling under the pretense of making money for God. In doing this multitudes of leading Church members have involved themselves and the cause of Christ in great embarrassment and disgrace. And it does seem as if they were deranged in their spasmodic efforts to enrich themselves.

9. No amount of money can save or even benefit the world in the hands of a secular Church. If professors of religion had made all the money they have endeavored to make, and did they possess a universe of gold, it would do nothing towards converting the world, while the very spirit and life of the Church is secular, earthly, sensual and devilish.

10. No idle person can enjoy communion with God, for the plain reason, that his idleness is perpetual disobedience to God.

11. The Apostle has commanded that they who will not work (i.e. who are idle) shall not eat. If persons are able to pursue, and can find any employment, by which they can benefit mankind, and are idle, it is no enlightened charity to feed them.

12. If idle persons eat, they cannot digest their food. It is an unalterable law of God, that men shall perform some kind of labor. This is essential to the well-being of their body and mind. Idleness is as inconsistent with health as it is with good morals. So that if men will be idle, they must suffer the penalty of both physical and moral law.

13. You see from this subject the great importance of training children to habits of industry, and of early imbibing their minds with the spirit of continually doing something that is useful.

14. Every one can do something to glorify God, and in some way benefit mankind. He can labor with his hands, or his head, or his heart--he can work, or teach, or pray, or do something to contribute his share to the common stock of good in the universe. It is the language of a sluggard, to complain that you can do no good. The truth is that if you have a spirit to do good, you will certainly be trying to do good.

15. If we do what we can, however little, it is just as acceptable to God, as if we could do a thousand times as much. "If there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what a man hath and not according to what he hath not." Christ said of the poor widow who cast in her two mites, she has cast in more than the rich, who of their abundance cast in much. It is well if you have a heart to do a great deal more than you are able to do. It is that which you really would do for which Christ gives you credit, and not for that which you are really able to do. It is according to the largeness of your heart, and not according to the weakness of your hands that God will reward you.

16. Not one of the employments that are essential to the highest good of mankind, has any natural and necessary tendency to alienate the heart from God. By this, I do not mean that the perverted state of the human heart, is not such that it is natural for it, being in a state of selfishness, to take occasion to depart from God in these employments. But I do mean, that the real tendency of all these employments, to a mind not given up to selfishness, is to increase and perpetuate the deepest communion with God.

17. There is no excuse for a secular spirit. And, as I have already said, whenever your spirit is secular, your heart is selfish.

18. If you have been called of God to any employment, and have become selfish in it, it has become an abomination to God, and you are bound to abandon it instantly or to renounce your selfishness, and diligently pursue your employment for God. By this, I do not mean that you would do right to abandon the employment to which God has called you, but that if you will not repent, and be "fervent in spirit serving the Lord," you are as far as possible from pleasing him in pursuing your business selfishly. If God be not with you, in any employment, whether it be study, the ministry, merchandise, farming. or any thing else, if God does not go with you in it you are certainly out of the way, are bound to reform, to turn instantly and wholly to the Lord, and go not a step forward until you have evidence of the Divine acceptance.

19. Lastly, let me ask you solemnly, beloved, have you some employment, in which you are endeavoring, honestly and fervently to glorify God? What is your employment--in what manner do you pursue it--with what design--in what spirit--and what is its effect? Do you as a matter of fact, find yourself walking with God, and does the peace of God rule in your heart? Or is there some ingredient in your business, that vitiates the whole? Are you dealing in some article of death--are you poisoning your fellowmen for the glory of God? Are you a Real-estate or a Multi-caulis speculator? Are you pursuing some scandalous traffic for some selfish purpose?

O that the Lord may search you, and pour the gaze of his eye through and through your inmost soul. And if your hands are clean, may the blessing of the Lord, that maketh rich and addeth no sorrow, be multiplied to you a thousand fold. But if you are out of the way, may he lay his reclaiming, sanctifying hand upon you, and not suffer you to rest till all you have and are, are wholly devoted to the Lord.