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they had chiefly in view when they were twenty years old, what at twenty-five, what at thirty, what at forty, what at fifty, and so on, till they were brought to their last bed, numbers of people would find that they had liked, and disliked, and pursued as many different appearances of happiness as are to be seen in the life of Flatus.
The providence of God has so ordered the course of things, that there is no action, the usefulness of which has made it the matter of duty, and of a profession, but a man may bear the continual pursuit of it without loathing or satiety. The same shop or trade that employs a man in his youth, employs him also in his age. Every morning he rises fresh to his hammer and his anvil; he passes the day singing: custom has naturalized his labour him ; his shop is his element, and he cannot with any enjoyment of himself live out of it. Whereas no custom can make the painfulness of a debauch easy or pleasing to a man ; since nothing can be pleasant which is unnatural. But now, if God has interwoven such pleasure with the works of our ordinary calling, how much superior and refined must that be that arises from the survey of a well-governed life? Surely as much as Christianity is nobler than a trade.
Just in proportion to the improvement of those faculties with which heaven has entrusted us our beings are ennobled, and our happiness heightened. The enjoyments of mere animal
existence are flat and low. The comforts of plain ordinary life, in those who have some feelings of the connexion of society, but no idea of any thing higher, rise in the next degree. The pleasures of an improved imagination take in a circle vastly wider, and more fair. The joys of a benevolent heart, animated by an active and diligent spirit, refined sentiments, and affections justly warm, exceed the most gay imagination.
The strong sense of genuine love of truth and goodness, with all those noblest dispositions that fill a mind affected and penetrated with a sense of religion, and practising every part of Christian duty, ascends still higher, and raises humanity to that point from which it begins to claim nearer alliance with superior natures.
Regret not that you must labour and toil. Be thankful that you are obliged by Providence to exercise and improve those various faculties and powers of mind and body which might otherwise have been buried in sloth, or run to waste.
Dr. Isaac Barrow.
God has sent no greater evil into the world than that in the sweat of our brow we shall eat our bread; and in the difficulty and agony, in the sorrows and contention of our souls, w shall work out our salvation. But see how in the first of these God has outdone His own anger, and defeated the purposes of His wrath, by the inundation of His mercy; for this labour and sweat of our brow is so far from being a curse,
that without it our very bread would not be so great a blessing. It is labour that makes the garlic and the pulse, the sycamore and the cresses, the cheese of the goats, and the butter of the sheep, to be savoury and pleasant as the flesh of the roebuck, or the milk of the kine, the marrow of oxen, or the thighs of birds. If it were not for labour, men neither could eat so much, nor relish so pleasantly, nor sleep so soundly, nor be so healthful, nor so useful, so strong, nor so patient, so noble, nor tempted. And as God has made us so beholden to labour for the purchase of many good things, so the thing itself owes to labour many degrees of worth and value. And, therefore, I need not reckon that, besides these advantages, the mercies of God have found out proper and natural remedies for labour; nights to cure the sweat of the day, sleep to ease our watchfulness, rest to alleviate our burdens, and days of religion to procure our rest; and things are so ordered that labour is become a duty, and an act of many virtues, and is not so apt to turn into a sin as its contrary; and is therefore necessary, not only because we need it for making provisions for our life, but even to ease the labour of our rest; and there being no greater tediousness of spirit in the world than want of employment, and an inactive life; and the lazy man is not only unprofitable, but also accursed, and he groans under the load of his time, which yet passes over the active man light as a dream or the feathers of a bird; while the disemployed is a disease, and like a long, sleepless night to himself, and a load unto his country. And, therefore, although in this particular God has been so merciful in this infliction, that from the sharpness of the curse a very great part of mankind are freed; and there are myriads of people, good and bad, who do not “ eat their bread in the sweat of their brow ;" yet this is but an overrunning and an excess of the Divine mercy. God did more for us than we did absolutely need; for He has so disposed the circumstances of this curse, that man's affections are so reconciled to it, that they desire it, and are delighted in it; and so the anger of God is ended in loving-kindness, and the drop of water is lost in the full chalice of the wine, and the curse is gone out into a multiplied blessing
But then for the other part of the severe law and laborious imposition, that we must work out our spiritual interest with the labour of the spirit, seems to most men so intolerable, that rather than pass under it, they quit their hopes of heaven, and pass into the portion of devils. But this (other part) has in it also a great ingredient of mercy, or rather is nothing else but a heap of mercy in its entire constitution. For if it were not for this, had nothing of our own 'to present to God, but nothing proportionable to the great rewards of heaven, but either all men or no man must go thither; for nothing can distinguish man from man, in order to beatitude, but choice and election;
and nothing can ennoble the choice but love; and nothing can exercise the love but difficulty; and nothing can make that difficulty
but the contradiction of our appetite, and the crossing of our natural affections. And, therefore, whenever any of you are tempted violently,
, or grow weary in your spirits with resisting the petulancy of temptation, you may be cured, if you will please but to remember and rejoice that you now have
something of your own to give to God, something that He will be pleased to accept, something that He has given you, that you may give it Him; for our money and our time, our days of feasting and our days of sorrow, our discourse and our acts of praise, our prayers and our songs, our vows and our offerings, and whatever else can be accounted in the sense of our religion, are only accepted according as they bear along with them portions of our will, and choice of love, and appendant difficulty.
Bp. Jeremy Taylor.
Certainly it is heaven upon earth to have a man's mind move in charity, rest in Providence, and turn upon the poles of truth.
SIN. Woe unto the world because of offences ! for it must needs be that offences come ; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!
Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. Matt. xviii. 7, 8.