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of the state; perhaps he extends his care also to Muscovy and Persia, as well as Great Britain, while the care of his shop is a little thing with him, the business of his study or counting-house is forgotten, and his family complains of woeful neglect: Nor are public affairs mended by all his impertinence.
[If this sermon be too long, it is best divided here.]
III. Regularity in the conduct of our affairs is a becoming As character, and will gain us a good name amongst men. there are many and various duties that belong to the natural, the civil, and the religious life; it is a piece of eminent wisdom to appoint proper seasons and rules for the performance of them; nor should we think it beneath us, as far as possible, to govern ourselves by those rules, and keep to our own appointed seasons; otherwise all our affairs will be ready to run into confusion, one duty will be apt to intrench upon another,, and some of the duties of life or godliness will be neglected, or quite forsaken, under a pretence of want of time.
One thing that intrenches upon the regular hours and orders of life, is a trifling and dilatory temper, putting off necessary business, whether it be work or devotion, till the last moment; and then, if the least accident intervenes, we have not left ourselves sufficient time to perform it. These are the persons who are frequently found in a hurry and confusion, because they have neglected to do the proper work in the proper season. Their business is always done in haste, and often unfinished. These are they who keep no appointments, who are seldom true to their hour, who make their friends wait for them upon all occasions, who often create uneasiness to all the company, and put a whole family out of order. What an unbecoming behaviour is this! What an ill aspect it bears! especially if these delayers are in any degree inferior, or the younger parts of a house. And yet it might easily be prevented, by taking the first opportunity for every business. O it is an excellent, a golden rule, "Never leave that till to-morrow, which may be done to-day, nor trust the business of this hour to the care of the next," for the next is not mine.
When servants are of this dilatory and trifling humour, they waste their master's time perpetually, and put their superiors to many inconveniences. They prevent one another's business as well as neglect their own. You would wonder how they could spend three or four hours in a common errand, and make a family wait half a day for a message, that might be dispatched in half an hour. They cannot keep their eyes or their ears from attending to every object they meet; their endless curiosity of enquiry, and their irresistible inclination to talk of every thing that does not concern them, is an everlasting hinderance to their proper
work. This active sort of idleness is much harder to be cured than that of the slow and stupid kind; and you see it belongs to the poor as well as the rich; though it is a matter of disreputation and infamy to both.
Persons of this unhappy conduct, whether of high or low degree, are in great danger of trifling in the most sacred and divine concernments, as well as in common life. They sometimes manage their spiritual and immortal affairs in the same dilatory manner, but with more dreadful and fatal consequence, They put off repentance from day to day, and delay their solemn transactions with God, till sickness seizes them, or till death approaches: Then what hurry of spirit! What dreadful confusion of soul! What tumults and terrors overwhelm them! And it is well if the matters of their salvation be not unfinished at the last hour, and themselves made miserable to all eternity, because they trifled away life and time.
A second enemy to this regular conduct of life, and which indeed is derived from the former, is this, an inversion of the order of nature, and a change of the seasons which God hath appointed for business and rest. I confess this is not now-a-days a matter of ill report in itself, however contrary it be to the laws of nature and the creation: But it is attended with many irregularities, and sometimes with infamous practices too: And therefore I would spend one page to give it an ill name; and to bring it into just discredit.
God has made every thing beautiful in its season; Eccl. iii. 11. The sun ariseth ;—and man goeth forth to his work until the evening; Ps. civ. 22, 23. It is more natural and healthful to pursue the concerns of life, as much as possible by day-light. Midnight studies are prejudicial to nature: A painful experience calls me to repent of the faults of my younger years, and there are many before me have had the same call to repentance. Wearing out the lightsome hours in sleep, is an unnatural waste of sun-beams. There is no light so friendly to animal nature as that of the sun. Midnight assemblies, festivals, and entertainments, exhaust the spirits, and make a needless profusion of the necessáries of life: They carry a very ill appearance with them, even where no wickedness is indulged, they are practices of evil report, and deserve censure and shame.
It is no honour to our whole nation, that we have learned the fashion of doing nothing in the morning; among persons of mode the day often begins at noon: The hours of business are grown much later among us than our forefathers could bear. They knew the worth of day-light. In some things indeed we are bound to comply with custom, or we must forsake the world: for a few can never stem the general tide, or reform a degenerate
age: And there are some few trades and employments which demand labour at night. But in our general conduct we should endeavour to act more agreeably to the laws of creation and nature, and to reduce families to a little better order, wheresover we have power and influence. Surely it can be no great hardship for any persons in health to begin their duty with the rising sun, for almost half the year. We should not think it sufficient to get up a little before noon, nor should we turn the morning of God and nature into midnight, nor make the decline of the sun serve for our morning work.
I would not be thought in this page to reflect upon the weak, the sickly, and the aged parts of mankind, whose nature may require longer sleep, and a larger degree of rest to recruit their spirits: Nor do I accuse those unhealthy persons, who can get no slumber till the night is half spent, and are thereby constrained, merely for the sake of health, to let their bed intrench upon so many hours of day-light: Yet I persuade myself, that if these last would but bear the inconveniences they complain of for a week or two, if they would break off their morning-slumber early, and carly betake themselves to rest, nature would quickly learn a better habit, the reformation would soon grow easy: And perhaps this might advance their health in a sensible manner, beyond all their old indulgences, or their present expec
An excessive love of company, an affectation of going abroad, a delight in wine and strong drink, are the third sort of enemies to that regularity and order which I am now recommending. Such practices are censured in the word of God; I have called the prophet Isaiah, in a former discourse, to witness against the drunkard, but I must ask leave to cite the same text again, against the wasters of time in taverns, or meaner drinking-houses. Wo to them that go to their cups in a morning: This throws all the business of the day out of order; and sometimes they are tempted to continue until night, or at least they return thither again and stay till wine inflames them: then all the follies of life play their parts; but they forget religion, and regard not the work, nor the worship of the Lord; Is. v. 11, 12. How often has it been found, that the religion of the closet, as well as that of the family, hath been shortened and omitted, and by degrees thrust out of doors, and forgotten, for want of shaking off every impediment, and confining ourselves to proper seasons. We intend to fulfil our duties, but we intend it at random, without keeping any time for it: And thus some households, that would be called christians, live without God in the world, They that tarry long at wine, or in any needless company, and lengthen out the hours of their needless absence from home, may count
themselves guilty of the several disorders that are committed in the family; which would be rectified, or entirely prevented by the presence of the master.
I confess sometimes necessary business detains a person beyond his usual and appointed hour: there must also be some allowances made for the unhappy engagements which may attend some particular callings in the world. Our own consciences must be the final judges in this case: But let us be faithful and honest, and frequently make an enquiry, whether our conduct be regular or no: and whether it be the necessity of affairs that intrenches upon the seasons of duty, or whether it be a careless indifference of spirit. Good orders in a household, and regular hours for all the duties and enjoyments of life, give beauty and ornament to life itself: Like a musical instrument, where every string is wound up to strike its proper note, and the skilful musician keeps his time, how does it entertain the ear with innocent pleasure, and refresh the heart, when practised at proper seasons? Such a family appears like a Bethel, a house of God, and the Lord himself delights to dwell in it. O may it be my lot and portion always to inhabit in such a tabernacle, till I lay down this body in the dust, and my soul arises to the well-ordered family of heaven!
IV. Sorting ourselves with the best company is another beautiful part of christian conduct, and procures a good report. By the best of company, I do not intend the greatest or the richest, nor the most ingenious and witty; for there are some of these that are vain and vile enough; but the best in my esteem, are those who are most virtuous, most pious, most knowing and wise, or those that are seeking after virtue, piety, and wisdom. Thus by conversation with the one, we may be always doing good, and with the other we may be always receiving some good. He that walketh with wise men, shall grow yet wiser, but the companion of fools shall be destroyed; Prov. xiii. 20. Be not deceived, God is not mocked, evil communications corrupt good manners. A heathenish poet, and an inspired apostle agree in these words; 1 Cor. xv. 33. If we are engaged much in converse with those that are light, and frothy, and vain, we shall gain the same levity of temper. If we talk much with the profane, we shall be tempted now and then to a profane expression too. "Can a man touch pitch, and not be defiled!" Can a man pass through the flames, and his clothes not be singed? Neither can those that walk frequently and delightfully amongst light, vain, intemperate persons, escape being defiled by them."
It is true, the apostle tells us, if we would utterly seclude ourselves from all manner of converse with persons of ill character, we must abandon society, and almost go out of the world;
1 Cor. v. 10. But the meaning of the apostle, when he bids us avoid evil companions is, as much as possible, to shun their company; see therefore that it is a necessary call of providence leads you amongst them; otherwise abstain, Those who give themselves up to be entertained by every one that will entertain them, those who will walk with every companion, and will herd with every drove, they are in danger of being corrupted with any vice, and of learning every ill principle. But if through the grace of God, we should escape the infection, of error or sin, yet we shall loose our good name by keeping ill company. A delight in base and worthless companions, will make the world judge that we are like them: Whereas we shall gain a part of the good character of our associates and acquaintance, and derive honour from them, if we are so happy as to have friendship and intimacy with persons of piety, learning and virtue. May these be the friends of my choice, and my companions for ever!
V. Abstinence from the utmost bounds of things lawful, is another practice of good report amongst men. It is but a narrow line in many cases, that divides, between a lawful and a sinful practice; and if we will venture, as near as possible to the very borders of what we think lawful, we shew too great an inclination to the bordering iniquity, and we shall often be in danger of treading on forbidden ground. If we indulge the love of pleasure, or give an unguarded loose to any unlawful passion, we shall find it difficult to with-hold the violence of corrupt nature from transgressing the lawful bounds. If a wild horse be indulged in his career, it is well if he does not break the reins, and fling the rider. It is a foolish fancy to walk upon the edge of a precipice, unless we could infallibly secure our head from giddiness, or our feet from stumbling. It is much safer therefore to keep a proper distance from fatal danger. The world will give us but an ill character, and say very justly concerning us, that we are not much afraid of vice, if we dare rashly venture into temptation,
It is the advice of the Holy Spirit, and St. Paul to the christian converts, Abstain from all appearance of evil; 1 Thess. v. 22. And the Apostle Jude requires us to hate even the garments that are spotted by the flesh; Jude, verse 23. Every thing that looks like guilt should forbid our approach; we should chuse to stand afar off, and withhold our desires, lest we defile our consciences, and bring a blemish upon our character. What an honour is it to any man, when it is said concerning him, "He has a tender soul, and a conscience that will not stretch, to the length of the loose customs and fashions of the times: he dares not allow himself all the liberties that are innocent and lawful, lest he should wound his own spirit, and his good name, by venturing