A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life


                                       Adapted to the State and Condition of


                                                 All Orders of Christians












                                        By WILLIAM LAW, A.M. (1686-1761)





                            He that has ears to hear, let him hear.   St. LUKE viii. 8.

                And behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me.   REV. xxii. 12.





                                      LONDON:   Printed for WILLIAM INNYS,

                                                   at the West End of St. Paul's.



                                 Table of Contents

Chapter 1 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
Chapter 2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Chapter 3 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
Chapter 4 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
Chapter 5 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43
Chapter 6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50
Chapter 7 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58
Chapter 8 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65
Chapter 9 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75
Chapter 10  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  88  
Chapter 11 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102
Chapter 12 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 116
Chapter 13 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 129
Chapter 14 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 142
Chapter 15  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  162  
Chapter 16 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 178
Chapter 17 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 189
Chapter 18 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 201
Chapter 19 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 215
Chapter 20 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 235
Chapter 21 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 256
Chapter 22 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 273
Chapter 23 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 285
Chapter 24 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 298
Appendix A . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 310
Appendix B  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 325
Appendix C  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 327
Indexes  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  329     

             A SERIOUS CALL TO



                                              CHAPTER I


   Concerning the nature and extent of Christian devotion.


   DEVOTION is neither private nor public prayer; but prayers, whether

   private or public, are particular parts or instances of devotion.

   Devotion signifies a life given, or devoted, to God.


   He, therefore, is the devout man, who lives no longer to his own will,

   or the way and spirit of the world, but to the sole will of God, who

   considers God in everything, who serves God in everything, who makes

   all the parts of his common life parts of piety, by doing everything in

   the Name of God, and under such rules as are conformable to His glory.


   We readily acknowledge, that God alone is to be the rule and measure of

   our prayers; that in them we are to look wholly unto Him, and act

   wholly for Him; that we are only to pray in such a manner, for such

   things, and such ends, as are suitable to His glory.


   Now let anyone but find out the reason why he is to be thus strictly

   pious in his prayers, and he will find the same as strong a reason to

   be as strictly pious in all the other parts of his life. For there is

   not the least shadow of a reason why we should make God the rule and

   measure of our prayers; why we should then look wholly unto Him, and

   pray according to His will; but what equally proves it necessary for us

   to look wholly unto God, and make Him the rule and measure of all the

   other actions of our life. For any ways of life, any employment of our

   talents, whether of our parts, our time, or money, that is not strictly

   according to the will of God, that is not for such ends as are suitable

   to His glory, are as great absurdities and failings, as prayers that

   are not according to the will of God. For there is no other reason why

   our prayers should be according to the will of God, why they should

   have nothing in them but what is wise, and holy, and heavenly; there is

   no other reason for this, but that our lives may be of the same nature,

   full of the same wisdom, holiness, and heavenly tempers, that we may

   live unto God in the same spirit that we pray unto Him. Were it not our

   strict duty to live by reason, to devote all the actions of our lives

   to God, were it not absolutely necessary to walk before Him in wisdom

   and holiness and all heavenly conversation, doing everything in His

   Name, and for His glory, there would be no excellency or wisdom in the

   most heavenly prayers. Nay, such prayers would be absurdities; they

   would be like prayers for wings, when it was no part of our duty to



   As sure, therefore, as there is any wisdom in praying for the Spirit of

   God, so sure is it, that we are to make that Spirit the rule of all our

   actions; as sure as it is our duty to look wholly unto God in our

   prayers, so sure is it that it is our duty to live wholly unto God in

   our lives. But we can no more be said to live unto God, unless we live

   unto Him in all the ordinary actions of our life, unless He be the rule

   and measure of all our ways, than we can be said to pray unto God,

   unless our prayers look wholly unto Him. So that unreasonable and

   absurd ways of life, whether in labour or diversion, whether they

   consume our time, or our money, are like unreasonable and absurd

   prayers, and are as truly an offence unto God.


   It is for want of knowing, or at least considering this, that we see

   such a mixture of ridicule in the lives of many people. You see them

   strict as to some times and places of devotion, but when the service of

   the Church is over, they are but like those that seldom or never come

   there. In their way of life, their manner of spending their time and

   money, in their cares and fears, in their pleasures and indulgences, in

   their labour and diversions, they are like the rest of the world. This

   makes the loose part of the world generally make a jest of those that

   are devout, because they see their devotion goes no farther than their

   prayers, and that when they are over, they live no more unto God, till

   the time of prayer returns again; but live by the same humour and

   fancy, and in as full an enjoyment of all the follies of life as other

   people. This is the reason why they are the jest and scorn of careless

   and worldly people; not because they are really devoted to God, but

   because they appear to have no other devotion but that of occasional



   Julius [1] is very fearful of missing prayers; all the parish supposes

   Julius to be sick, if he is not at Church. But if you were to ask him

   why he spends the rest of his time by humour or chance? why he is a

   companion of the silliest people in their most silly pleasures? why he

   is ready for every impertinent [2] entertainment and diversion? If you

   were to ask him why there is no amusement too trifling to please him?

   why he is busy at all balls and assemblies? why he gives himself up to

   an idle, gossiping conversation? why he lives in foolish friendships

   and fondness for particular persons, that neither want nor deserve any

   particular kindness? why he allows himself in foolish hatreds and

   resentments against particular persons without considering that he is

   to love everybody as himself? If you ask him why he never puts his

   conversation, his time, and fortune, under the rules of religion?

   Julius has no more to say for himself than the most disorderly person.

   For the whole tenor of Scripture lies as directly against such a life,

   as against debauchery and intemperance: he that lives such a course of

   idleness and folly, lives no more according to the religion of Jesus

   Christ, than he that lives in gluttony and intemperance.


   If a man was to tell Julius that there was no occasion for so much

   constancy at prayers, and that he might, without any harm to himself,

   neglect the service of the Church, as the generality of people do,

   Julius would think such a one to be no Christian, and that he ought to

   avoid his company. But if a person only tells him, that he may live as

   the generality of the world does, that he may enjoy himself as others

   do, that he may spend his time and money as people of fashion do, that

   he may conform to the follies and frailties of the generality, and

   gratify his tempers and passions as most people do, Julius never

   suspects that man to want a Christian spirit, or that he is doing the

   devil's work. And if Julius was to read all the New Testament from the

   beginning to the end, he would find his course of life condemned in

   every page of it.


   And indeed there cannot anything be imagined more absurd in itself,

   than wise, and sublime, and heavenly prayers, added to a life of vanity

   and folly, where neither labour nor diversions, neither time nor money,

   are under the direction of the wisdom and heavenly tempers of our

   prayers. If we were to see a man pretending to act wholly with regard

   to God in everything that he did, that would neither spend time nor

   money, nor take any labour or diversion, but so far as he could act

   according to strict principles of reason and piety, and yet at the same

   time neglect all prayer, whether public or private, should we not be

   amazed at such a man, and wonder how he could have so much folly along

   with so much religion?


   Yet this is as reasonable as for any person to pretend to strictness in

   devotion, to be careful of observing times and places of prayer, and

   yet letting the rest of his life, his time and labour, his talents and

   money, be disposed of without any regard to strict rules of piety and

   devotion. For it is as great an absurdity to suppose holy prayers, and

   Divine petitions, without a holiness of life suitable to them, as to

   suppose a holy and Divine life without prayers.


   Let anyone therefore think how easily he could confute a man that

   pretended to great strictness of life without prayer, and the same

   arguments will as plainly confute another, that pretends to strictness

   of prayer, without carrying the same strictness into every other part

   of life. For to be weak and foolish in spending our time and fortune,

   is no greater a mistake, than to be weak and foolish in relation to our

   prayers. And to allow ourselves in any ways of life that neither are,

   nor can be offered to God, is the same irreligion, as to neglect our

   prayers, or use them in such a manner as make them an offering unworthy

   of God.


   The short of the matter is this; either reason and religion prescribe

   rules and ends to all the ordinary actions of our life, or they do not:

   if they do, then it is as necessary to govern all our actions by those

   rules, as it is necessary to worship God. For if religion teaches us

   anything concerning eating and drinking, or spending our time and

   money; if it teaches us how we are to use and contemn the world; if it

   tells us what tempers we are to have in common life, how we are to be

   disposed towards all people; how we are to behave towards the sick, the

   poor, the old, the destitute; if it tells us whom we are to treat with

   a particular love, whom we are to regard with a particular esteem; if

   it tells us how we are to treat our enemies, and how we are to mortify

   and deny ourselves; he must be very weak that can think these parts of

   religion are not to be observed with as much exactness, as any

   doctrines that relate to prayers.


   It is very observable, that there is not one command in all the Gospel

   for public worship; and perhaps it is a duty that is least insisted

   upon in Scripture of any other. The frequent attendance at it is never

   so much as mentioned in all the New Testament. Whereas that religion or

   devotion which is to govern the ordinary actions of our life is to be

   found in almost every verse of Scripture. Our blessed Saviour and His

   Apostles are wholly taken up in doctrines that relate to common life.

   They call us to renounce the world, and differ in every temper and way

   of life, from the spirit and the way of the world: to renounce all its

   goods, to fear none of its evils, to reject its joys, and have no value

   for its happiness: to be as new-born babes, that are born into a new

   state of things: to live as pilgrims in spiritual watching, in holy

   fear, and heavenly aspiring after another life: to take up our daily

   cross, to deny ourselves, to profess the blessedness of mourning, to

   seek the blessedness of poverty of spirit: to forsake the pride and

   vanity of riches, to take no thought for the morrow, to live in the

   profoundest state of humility, to rejoice in worldly sufferings: to

   reject the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of

   life: to bear injuries, to forgive and bless our enemies, and to love

   mankind as God loves them: to give up our whole hearts and affections

   to God, and strive to enter through the strait gate into a life of

   eternal glory.


   This is the common devotion which our blessed Saviour taught, in order

   to make it the common life of all Christians. Is it not therefore

   exceeding strange that people should place so much piety in the

   attendance upon public worship, concerning which there is not one

   precept of our Lord's to be found, and yet neglect these common duties

   of our ordinary life, which are commanded in every page of the Gospel?

   I call these duties the devotion of our common life, because if they

   are to be practised, they must be made parts of our common life; they

   can have no place anywhere else.


   If contempt of the world and heavenly affection is a necessary temper

   of Christians, it is necessary that this temper appear in the whole

   course of their lives, in their manner of using the world, because it

   can have no place anywhere else. If self-denial be a condition of

   salvation, all that would be saved must make it a part of their

   ordinary life. If humility be a Christian duty, then the common life of

   a Christian is to be a constant course of humility in all its kinds. If

   poverty of spirit be necessary, it must be the spirit and temper of

   every day of our lives. If we are to relieve the naked, the sick, and

   the prisoner, it must be the common charity of our lives, as far as we

   can render ourselves able to perform it. If we are to love our enemies,

   we must make our common life a visible exercise and demonstration of

   that love. If content and thankfulness, if the patient bearing of evil

   be duties to God, they are the duties of every day, and in every

   circumstance of our life. If we are to be wise and holy as the new-born

   sons of God, we can no otherwise be so, but by renouncing everything

   that is foolish and vain in every part of our common life. If we are to

   be in Christ new creatures, we must show that we are so, by having new

   ways of living in the world. If we are to follow Christ, it must be in

   our common way of spending every day.


   Thus it is in all the virtues and holy tempers of Christianity; they

   are not ours unless they be the virtues and tempers of our ordinary

   life. So that Christianity is so far from leaving us to live in the

   common ways of life, conforming to the folly of customs, and gratifying

   the passions and tempers which the spirit of the world delights in, it

   is so far from indulging us in any of these things, that all its

   virtues which it makes necessary to salvation are only so many ways of

   living above and contrary to the world, in all the common actions of

   our life. If our common life is not a common course of humility,

   self-denial, renunciation of the world, poverty of spirit, and heavenly

   affection, we do not live the lives of Christians.


   But yet though it is thus plain that this, and this alone, is

   Christianity, a uniform, open, and visible practice of all these

   virtues, yet it is as plain, that there is little or nothing of this to

   be found, even amongst the better sort of people. You see them often at

   Church, and pleased with fine preachers: but look into their lives, and

   you see them just the same sort of people as others are, that make no

   pretences to devotion. The difference that you find betwixt them, is

   only the difference of their natural tempers. They have the same taste

   of the world, the same worldly cares, and fears, and joys; they have

   the same turn of mind, equally vain in their desires. You see the same

   fondness for state and equipage, the same pride and vanity of dress,

   the same self-love and indulgence, the same foolish friendships, and

   groundless hatreds, the same levity of mind, and trifling spirit, the

   same fondness for diversions, the same idle dispositions, and vain ways

   of spending their time in visiting and conversation, as the rest of the

   world, that make no pretences to devotion.


   I do not mean this comparison, betwixt people seemingly good and

   professed rakes, but betwixt people of sober lives. Let us take an

   instance in two modest women: let it be supposed that one of them is

   careful of times of devotion, and observes them through a sense of

   duty, and that the other has no hearty concern about it, but is at

   Church seldom or often, just as it happens. Now it is a very easy thing

   to see this difference betwixt these persons. But when you have seen

   this, can you find any farther difference betwixt them? Can you find

   that their common life is of a different kind? Are not the tempers, and

   customs, and manners of the one, of the same kind as of the other? Do

   they live as if they belonged to different worlds, had different views

   in their heads, and different rules and measures of all their actions?

   Have they not the same goods and evils? Are they not pleased and

   displeased in the same manner, and for the same things? Do they not

   live in the same course of life? does one seem to be of this world,

   looking at the things that are temporal, and the other to be of another

   world, looking wholly at the things that are eternal? Does the one live

   in pleasure, delighting herself in show or dress, and the other live in

   self-denial and mortification, renouncing everything that looks like

   vanity, either of person, dress, or carriage? Does the one follow

   public diversions, and trifle away her time in idle visits, and corrupt

   conversation, and does the other study all the arts of improving her

   time, living in prayer and watching, and such good works as may make

   all her time turn to her advantage, and be placed to her account at the

   last day? Is the one careless of expense, and glad to be able to adorn

   herself with every costly ornament of dress, and does the other

   consider her fortune as a talent given her by God, which is to be

   improved religiously, and no more to be spent on vain and needless

   ornaments than it is to be buried in the earth? Where must you look, to

   find one person of religion differing in this manner, from another that

   has none? And yet if they do not differ in these things which are here

   related, can it with any sense be said, the one is a good Christian,

   and the other not?


   Take another instance amongst the men? Leo [3] has a great deal of good

   nature, has kept what they call good company, hates everything that is

   false and base, is very generous and brave to his friends; but has

   concerned himself so little with religion that he hardly knows the

   difference betwixt a Jew and a Christian.


   Eusebius, [4] on the other hand, has had early impressions of religion,

   and buys books of devotion. He can talk of all the feasts and fasts of

   the Church, and knows the names of most men that have been eminent for

   piety. You never hear him swear, or make a loose jest; and when he

   talks of religion, he talks of it as of a matter of the last concern.


   Here you see, that one person has religion enough, according to the way

   of the world, to be reckoned a pious Christian, and the other is so far

   from all appearance of religion, that he may fairly be reckoned a

   heathen; and yet if you look into their common life; if you examine

   their chief and ruling tempers in the greatest articles of life, or the

   greatest doctrines of Christianity, you will not find the least

   difference imaginable.


   Consider them with regard to the use of the world, because that is what

   everybody can see.


   Now to have right notions and tempers with relation to this world, is

   as essential to religion as it have right notions of God. And it is as

   possible for a man to worship a crocodile, and yet be a pious man, as

   to have his affections set upon this world, and yet be a good



   But now if you consider Leo and Eusebius in this respect, you will find

   them exactly alike, seeking, using, and enjoying, all that can be got

   in this world in the same manner, and for the same ends. You will find

   that riches, prosperity, pleasures, indulgences, state equipages, and

   honour, are just as much the happiness of Eusebius as they are of Leo.

   And yet if Christianity has not changed a man's mind and temper with

   relation to these things, what can we say that it has done for him? For

   if the doctrines of Christianity were practised, they would make a man

   as different from other people, as to all worldly tempers, sensual

   pleasures, and the pride of life, as a wise man is different from a

   natural [5] ; it would be as easy a thing to know a Christian by his

   outward course of life, as it is now difficult to find anybody that

   lives it. For it is notorious that Christians are now not only like

   other men in their frailties and infirmities, this might be in some

   degree excusable, but the complaint is, they are like heathens in all

   the main and chief articles of their lives. They enjoy the world, and

   live every day in the same tempers, and the same designs, and the same

   indulgences, as they did who knew not God, nor of any happiness in

   another life. Everybody that is capable of any reflection, must have

   observed, that this is generally the state even of devout people,

   whether men or women. You may see them different from other people, so

   far as to times and places of prayer, but generally like the rest of

   the world in all the other parts of their lives: that is, adding

   Christian devotion to a heathen life. I have the authority of our

   blessed Saviour for this remark, where He says, "Take no thought,

   saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal

   shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the Gentiles seek."

   [Matt. vi. 31, 32] But if to be thus affected even with the necessary

   things of this life, shows that we are not yet of a Christian spirit,

   but are like the heathens, surely to enjoy the vanity and folly of the

   world as they did, to be like them in the main chief tempers of our

   lives, in self-love and indulgence, in sensual pleasures and

   diversions, in the vanity of dress, the love of show and greatness, or

   any other gaudy distinctions of fortune, is a much greater sign of an

   heathen temper. And, consequently, they who add devotion to such a

   life, must be said to pray as Christians, but live as heathens.





   [1] Julius: the suggestion is, that Caesar is the worldly power as

   opposed to God.

   [2] impertinent=unsuitable, incongruous, uncongenial.

   [3] Leo, the lion probably suggesting the favourite of Society.

   [4] Eusebius, pious in the Ecclesiastical sense, as the name of the

   first Church historian, but without reference to that historian's

   character. cf. Eusebia.

   [5] a natural, i.e. an idiot.


                                     CHAPTER II


   An inquiry into the reason, why the generality of Christians fall so

   far short of the holiness and devotion of Christianity.


   IT MAY now be reasonably inquired, how it comes to pass, that the lives

   even of the better sort of people are thus strangely contrary to the

   principles of Christianity?


   But before I give a direct answer to this, I desire it may also be

   inquired, how it comes to pass that swearing is so common a vice among

   Christians? It is indeed not yet so common among women, as it is among

   men. But among men this sin is so common that perhaps there are more

   than two in three that are guilty of it through the whole course of

   their lives, swearing more or less, just as it happens, some

   constantly, others only now and then as it were by chance.


   Now I ask, how comes it, that two in three of the men are guilty of so

   gross and profane a sin as this is? There is neither ignorance nor

   human infirmity to plead for it; it is against an express commandment,

   and the most plain doctrines of our blessed Saviour.


   Do but now find the reason why the generality of men live in this

   notorious vice, and then you will have found the reason why the

   generality even of the better sort of people live so contrary to



   Now the reason of common swearing is this; it is because men have not

   so much as the intention to please God in all their actions. For let a

   man but have so much piety as to intend to please God in all the

   actions of his life, as the happiest and best thing in the world, and

   then he will never swear more. It will be as impossible for him to

   swear, whilst he feels this intention within himself, as it is

   impossible for a man that intends to please his prince, to go up and

   abuse him to his face.


   It seems but a small and necessary part of piety to have such a sincere

   intention as this; and that he has no reason to look upon himself as a

   disciple of Christ who is not thus far advanced in piety. And yet it is

   purely for want of this degree of piety that you see such a mixture of

   sin and folly in the lives even of the better sort of people. It is for

   want of this intention that you see men that profess religion, yet live

   in swearing and sensuality; that you see clergymen given to pride, and

   covetousness, and worldly enjoyments. It is for want of this intention,

   that you see women that profess devotion, yet living in all the folly

   and vanity of dress, wasting their time in idleness and pleasures, and

   in all such instances of state and equipage as their estates will

   reach. For let but a woman feel her heart full of this intention, and

   she will find it as impossible to patch or paint, as to curse or swear;

   she will no more desire to shine at balls or assemblies, or make a

   figure amongst those that are most finely dressed, than she will desire

   to dance upon a rope to please spectators: she will know, that the one

   is as far from the wisdom and excellency of the Christian spirit as the



   It was this general intention that made the primitive Christians such

   eminent instances of piety, and made the goodly fellowship of the

   saints, and all the glorious army of martyrs and confessors. And if you

   will here stop, and ask yourselves, why you are not as pious as the

   primitive Christians were, your own heart will tell you, that it is

   neither through ignorance nor inability, but purely because you never

   thoroughly intended it. You observe the same Sunday worship that they

   did; and you are strict in it, because it is your full intention to be

   so. And when you as fully intend to be like them in their ordinary

   common life, when you intend to please God in all your actions, you

   will find it as possible, as to be strictly exact in the service of the

   Church. And when you have this intention to please God in all your

   actions, as the happiest and best thing in the world, you will find in

   you as great an aversion to everything that is vain and impertinent in

   common life, whether of business or pleasure, as you now have to

   anything that is profane. You will be as fearful of living in any

   foolish way, either of spending your time, or your fortune, as you are

   now fearful of neglecting the public worship.


   Now, who that wants this general sincere intention, can be reckoned a

   Christian? And yet if it was among Christians, it would change the

   whole face of the world: true piety, and exemplary holiness, would be

   as common and visible, as buying and selling, or any trade in life.


   Let a clergyman be but thus pious, and he will converse as if he had

   been brought up by an Apostle; he will no more think and talk of noble

   preferment, than of noble eating, or a glorious chariot. He will no

   more complain of the frowns of the world, or a small cure, or the want

   of a patron, than he will complain of the want of a laced coat, or a

   running horse. Let him but intend to please God in all his actions, as

   the happiest and best thing in the world, and then he will know, that

   there is nothing noble in a clergyman, but a burning zeal for the

   salvation of souls; nor anything poor in his profession, but idleness

   and a worldly spirit.


   Again, let a tradesman but have this intention, and it will make him a

   saint in his shop; his every-day business will be a course of wise and

   reasonable actions, made holy to God, by being done in obedience to His

   will and pleasure. He will buy and sell, and labour and travel, because

   by so doing he can do some good to himself and others. But then, as

   nothing can please God but what is wise, and reasonable, and holy, so

   he will neither buy nor sell, nor labour in any other manner, nor to

   any other end, but such as may be shown to be wise, and reasonable, and

   holy. He will therefore consider, not what arts, or methods, or

   application, will soonest make him richer and greater than his

   brethren, or remove him from a shop to a life of state and pleasure;

   but he will consider what arts, what methods, what application can make

   worldly business most acceptable to God, and make a life of trade a

   life of holiness, devotion, and piety. This will be the temper and

   spirit of every tradesman; he cannot stop short of these degrees of

   piety, whenever it is his intention to please God in all his actions,

   as the best and happiest thing in the world. And on the other hand,

   whoever is not of this spirit and temper in his trade and profession,

   and does not carry it on only so far as is best subservient to a wise,

   and holy, and heavenly life, it is certain that he has not this

   intention; and yet without it, who can be shown to be a follower of

   Jesus Christ?


   Again, let the gentleman of birth and fortune but have this intention,

   and you will see how it will carry him from every appearance of evil,

   to every instance of piety and goodness. He cannot live by chance, or

   as humour and fancy carry him, because he knows that nothing can please

   God but a wise and regular course of life. He cannot live in idleness

   and indulgence, in sports and gaming, in pleasures and intemperance, in

   vain expenses and high living, because these things cannot be turned

   into means of piety and holiness, or made so many parts of a wise and

   religious life. As he thus removes from all appearance of evil, so he

   haveens and aspires after every instance of goodness. He does not ask

   what is allowable and pardonable, but what is commendable and

   praiseworthy. He does not ask whether God will forgive the folly of our

   lives, the madness of our pleasures, the vanity of our expenses, the

   richness of our equipage, and the careless consumption of our time; but

   he asks whether God is pleased with these things, or whether these are

   the appointed ways of gaining His favour? He does not inquire, whether

   it be pardonable to hoard up money, to adorn ourselves with diamonds,

   and gild our chariots, whilst the widow and the orphan, the sick and

   the prisoner, want to be relieved; but he asks, whether God has

   required these things at our hands, whether we shall be called to

   account at the last day for the neglect of them; because it is not his

   intent to live in such ways as, for aught we know, God may perhaps

   pardon; but to be diligent in such ways, as we know that God will

   infallibly reward.


   He will not therefore look at the lives of Christians, to learn how he

   ought to spend his estate, but he will look into the Scriptures, and

   make every doctrine, parable, precept, or instruction, that relates to

   rich men, a law to himself in the use of his estate.


   He will have nothing to do with costly apparel, because the rich man in

   the Gospel was clothed with purple and fine linen. He denies himself

   the pleasures and indulgences which his estate could procure, because

   our blessed Saviour saith, "Woe unto you that are rich! for ye have

   received your consolation." [Luke vi. 24] He will have but one rule for

   charity, and that will be, to spend all that he can that way, because

   the Judge of quick and dead hath said, that all that is so given, is

   given to Him.


   He will have no hospitable table for the rich and wealthy to come and

   feast with him, in good eating and drinking; because our blessed Lord

   saith, "When you make a dinner, call not thy friends, nor thy

   brethren, neither thy kinsman, nor thy rich neighbours, lest they also

   bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee. But when you make a

   feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: and you shalt

   be blessed: for they cannot recompense thee: for you shalt be

   recompensed at the resurrection of the just." [Luke xiv. 12, 13, 14]


   He will waste no money in gilded roofs, or costly furniture: he will

   not be carried from pleasure to pleasure in expensive state and

   equipage, because an inspired Apostle hath said, that "all that is in

   the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride

   of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world." [1 John ii. 16]


   Let not any one look upon this as an imaginary description of charity,

   that looks fine in the notion, but cannot be put in practice. For it is

   so far from being an imaginary, impracticable form of life, that it has

   been practised by great numbers of Christians in former ages, who were

   glad to turn their whole estates into a constant course of charity. And

   it is so far from being impossible now, that if we can find any

   Christians that sincerely intend to please God in all their actions, as

   the best and happiest thing in the world, whether they be young or old,

   single or married, men or women, if they have but this intention, it

   will be impossible for them to do otherwise. This one principle will

   infallibly carry them to this height of charity, and they will find

   themselves unable to stop short of it.


   For how is it possible for a man that intends to please God in the use

   of his money, and intends it because he judges it to be his greatest

   happiness; how is it possible for such a one, in such a state of mind,

   to bury his money in needless, impertinent finery, in covering himself

   or his horses with gold, whilst there are any works of piety and

   charity to be done with it, or any ways of spending it well?


   This is as strictly impossible, as for a man that intends to please God

   in his words, to go into company on purpose to swear and lie. For as

   all waste and unreasonable expense is done designedly, and with

   deliberation, so no one can be guilty of it, whose constant intention

   is to please God in the use of his money.


   I have chosen to explain this matter, by appealing to this intention,

   because it makes the case so plain, and because every one that has a

   mind may see it in the clearest light, and feel it in the strongest

   manner, only by looking into his own heart. For it is as easy for every

   person to know whether he intends to please God in all his actions, as

   for any servant to know whether this be his intention towards his

   master. Every one also can as easily tell how he lays out his money,

   and whether he considers how to please God in it, as he can tell where

   his estate is, and whether it be in money or land. So that here is no

   plea left for ignorance or frailty as to this matter; everybody is in

   the light, and everybody has power. And no one can fail, but he that is

   not so much a Christian, as to intend to please God in the use of his



   You see two persons: one is regular in public and private prayer, the

   other is not. Now the reason of this difference is not this, that one

   has strength and power to observe prayer, and the other has not; but

   the reason is this, that one intends to please God in the duties of

   devotion, and the other has no intention about it. Now the case is the

   same, in the right or wrong use of our time and money. You see one

   person throwing away his time in sleep and idleness, in visiting and

   diversions, and his money in the most vain and unreasonable expenses.

   You see another careful of every day, dividing his hours by rules of

   reason and religion, and spending all his money in works of charity:

   now the difference is not owing to this, that one has strength and

   power to do thus, and the other has not; but it is owing to this, that

   one intends to please God in the right use of all his time, and all his

   money, and the other has no intention about it.


   Here, therefore, let us judge ourselves sincerely; let us not vainly

   content ourselves with the common disorders of our lives, the vanity of

   our expenses, the folly of our diversions, the pride of our habits, the

   idleness of our lives, and the wasting of our time, fancying that these

   are such imperfections as we fall into through the unavoidable weakness

   and frailty of our natures; but let us be assured, that these disorders

   of our common life are owing to this, that we have not so much

   Christianity as to intend to please God in all the actions of our life,

   as the best and happiest thing in the world. So that we must not look

   upon ourselves in a state of common and pardonable imperfection, but in

   such a state as wants the first and most fundamental principle of

   Christianity, viz., an intention to please God in all our actions.


   And if any one was to ask himself, how it comes to pass, that there are

   any degrees of sobriety which he neglects, any practices of humility

   which he wants, any method of charity which he does not follow, any

   rules of redeeming time which he does not observe, his own heart will

   tell him, that it is because he never intended to be so exact in those

   duties. For whenever we fully intend it, it is as possible to conform

   to all this regularity of life, as it is possible for a man to observe

   times of prayer.


   So that the fault does not lie here, that we desire to be good and

   perfect, but through the weakness of our nature fall short of it; but

   it is, because we have not piety enough to intend to be as good as we

   can, or to please God in all the actions of our life. This we see is

   plainly the case of him that spends his time in sports when he should

   be at Church; it is not his want of power, but his want of intention or

   desire to be there.


   And the case is plainly the same in every other folly of human life.

   She that spends her time and money in the unreasonable ways and

   fashions of the world, does not do so because she wants power to be

   wise and religious in the management of her time and money, but because

   she has no intention or desire of being so. When she feels this

   intention, she will find it as possible to act up to it, as to be

   strictly sober and chavee, because it is her care and desire to be so.


   This doctrine does not suppose that we have no need of Divine grace, or

   that it is in our own power to make ourselves perfect. It only

   supposes, that through the want of a sincere intention of pleasing God

   in all our actions we fall into such irregularities of life as by the

   ordinary means of grace we should have power to avoid; and that we have

   not that perfection, which our present state of grace makes us capable

   of, because we do not so much as intend to have it. It only teaches us

   that the reason why you see no real mortification or self-denial, no

   eminent charity, no profound humility, no heavenly affection, no true

   contempt of the world, no Christian meekness, no sincere zeal, no

   eminent piety in the common lives of Christians, is this, because they

   do not so much as intend to be exact and exemplary in these virtues.




                                    CHAPTER III



   Of the great danger and folly, of not intending to be as eminent and

   exemplary as we can, in the practice of all Christian virtues.



   ALTHOUGH the goodness of God, and His rich mercies in Christ Jesus, are

   a sufficient assurance to us, that He will be merciful to our

   unavoidable weakness and infirmities, that is, to such failings as are

   the effects of ignorance or surprise; yet we have no reason to expect

   the same mercy towards those sins which we have lived in, through a

   want of intention to avoid them.


   For instance; the case of a common swearer, who dies in that guilt,

   seems to have no title to the Divine mercy; for this reason, because he

   can no more plead any weakness or infirmity in his excuse, than the man

   that hid his talent in the earth could plead his want of strength to

   keep it out of the earth.


   But now, if this be right reasoning in the case of a common swearer,

   that his sin is not to be reckoned a pardonable frailty, because he has

   no weakness to plead in its excuse, why then do we not carry this way

   of reasoning to its true extent? why do not we as much condemn every

   other error of life, that has no more weakness to plead in its excuse

   than common swearing?


   For if this be so bad a thing, because it might be avoided, if we did

   but sincerely intend it, must not then all other erroneous ways of life

   be very guilty, if we live in them, not through weakness and inability,

   but because we never sincerely intended to avoid them?


   For instance; you perhaps have made no progress in the most important

   Christian virtues, you have scarce gone half way in humility and

   charity; now if your failure in these duties is purely owing to your

   want of intention of performing them in any true degree, have you not

   then as little to plead for yourself, and are you not as much without

   all excuse, as the common swearer?


   Why, therefore, do you not press these things home upon your

   conscience? Why do you not think it as dangerous for you to live in

   such defects, as are in your power to amend, as it is dangerous for a

   common swearer to live in the breach of that duty, which it is in his

   power to observe? Is not negligence, and a want of sincere intention,

   as blameable in one case as in another?


   You, it may be, are as far from Christian perfection, as the common

   swearer is from keeping the third commandment; are you not therefore as

   much condemned by the doctrines of the Gospel, as the swearer is by the

   third commandment?


   You perhaps will say, that all people fall short of the perfection of

   the Gospel, and therefore you are content with your failings. But this

   is saying nothing to the purpose. For the question is not whether

   Gospel perfection can be fully attained, but whether you come as near

   it as a sincere intention and careful diligence can carry you. Whether

   you are not in a much lower state than you might be, if you sincerely

   intended, and carefully laboured, to advance yourself in all Christian



   If you are as forward in the Christian life as your best endeavours can

   make you, then you may justly hope that your imperfections will not be

   laid to your charge: but if your defects in piety, humility, and

   charity, are owing to your negligence, and want of sincere intention to

   be as eminent as you can in these virtues, then you leave yourself as

   much without excuse as he that lives in the sin of swearing, through

   the want of a sincere intention to depart from it.


   The salvation of our souls is set forth in Scripture as a thing of

   difficulty, that requires all our diligence, that is to be worked out

   with fear and trembling. [Phil. ii. 12]


   We are told, that "strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that

   leads unto life, and few there be that find it." [Matt. vii. 14] That

   "many are called, but few are chosen." [Matt. xxii. 14] And that many

   will miss of their salvation, who seem to have taken some pains to

   obtain it: as in these words, "Strive to enter in at the strait gate:

   for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be

   able." [Luke xiii. 24]


   Here our blessed Lord commands us to strive to enter in, because many

   will fail, who only seek to enter. By which we are plainly taught, that

   religion is a state of labour and striving, and that many will fail of

   their salvation; not because they took no pains or care about it, but

   because they did not take pains and care enough; they only sought, but

   did not strive to enter in.


   Every Christian, therefore, should as well examine his life by these

   doctrines as by the commandments. For these doctrines are as plain

   marks of our condition, as the commandments are plain marks of our



   For if salvation is only given to those who strive for it, then it is

   as reasonable for me to consider whether my course of life be a course

   of striving to obtain it, as to consider whether I am keeping any of

   the commandments.


   If my religion is only a formal compliance with those modes of worship

   that are in fashion where I live; if it costs me no pains or trouble;

   if it lays me under no rules and restraints; if I have no careful

   thoughts and sober reflections about it, is it not great weakness to

   think that I am striving to enter in at the strait gate?


   If I am seeking everything that can delight my senses, and regale my

   appetites; spending my time and fortune in pleasures, in diversions,

   and worldly enjoyments; a stranger to watchings, fastings, prayers, and

   mortification; how can it be said that I am working out my salvation

   with fear and trembling?


   If there is nothing in my life and conversation that shows me to be

   different from Jews and heathens; if I use the world, and worldly

   enjoyments, as the generality of people now do, and in all ages have

   done; why should I think that I am amongst those few who are walking in

   the narrow way to Heaven?


   And yet if the way is narrow, if none can walk in it but those that

   strive, is it not as necessary for me to consider, whether the way I am

   in be narrow enough, or the labour I take be a sufficient striving, as

   to consider whether I sufficiently observe the second or third



   The sum of this matter is this: From the abovementioned, and many other

   passages of Scripture, it seems plain, that our salvation depends upon

   the sincerity and perfection of our endeavours to obtain it.


   Weak and imperfect men shall, notwithstanding their frailties and

   defects, be received, as having pleased God, if they have done their

   utmost to please Him.


   The rewards of charity, piety, and humility, will be given to those,

   whose lives have been a careful labour to exercise these virtues in as

   high a degree as they could.


   We cannot offer to God the service of Angels; we cannot obey Him as man

   in a state of perfection could; but fallen men can do their best, and

   this is the perfection that is required of us; it is only the

   perfection of our best endeavours, a careful labour to be as perfect as

   we can.


   But if we stop short of this, for aught we know, we stop short of the

   mercy of God, and leave ourselves nothing to plead from the terms of

   the Gospel. For God has there made no promises of mercy to the slothful

   and negligent. His mercy is only offered to our frail and imperfect,

   but best endeavours, to practise all manner of righteousness.


   As the law to Angels is angelical righteousness, as the law to perfect

   beings is strict perfection, so the law to our imperfect natures is,

   the best obedience that our frail nature is able to perform.


   The measure of our love to God, seems in justice to be the measure of

   our love of every virtue. We are to love and practise it with all our

   heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength.

   And when we cease to live with this regard to virtue, we live below our

   nature, and, instead of being able to plead our infirmities, we stand

   chargeable with negligence.


   It is for this reason that we are exhorted to work out our salvation

   with fear and trembling; because unless our heart and passions are

   eagerly bent upon the work of our salvation; unless holy fears animate

   our endeavours, and keep our consciences strict and tender about every

   part of our duty, constantly examining how we live, and how fit we are

   to die; we shall in all probability fall into a state of negligence,

   and sit down in such a course of life, as will never carry us to the

   rewards of Heaven.


   And he that considers, that a just God can only make such allowances as

   are suitable to His justice, that our works are all to be examined by

   fire, will find that fear and trembling are proper tempers for those

   that are drawing near so great a trial.


   And indeed there is no probability, that any one should do all the duty

   that is expected from him, or make that progress in piety, which the

   holiness and justice of God requires of him, but he that is constantly

   afraid of falling short of it.


   Now this is not intended to possess people's minds with a scrupulous

   anxiety, and discontent in the service of God, but to fill them with a

   just fear of living in sloth and idleness, and in the neglect of such

   virtues as they will want at the day of Judgment. It is to excite them

   to an earnest examination of their lives, to such zeal, and care, and

   concern after Christian perfection, as they use in any matter that has

   gained their heart and affections. It is only desiring them to be so

   apprehensive of their state, so humble in the opinion of themselves, so

   earnest after higher degrees of piety, and so fearful of falling short

   of happiness, as the great Apostle St. Paul was, when he thus wrote to

   the Philippians: "Not as though I had already attained, either were

   already perfect: . . . but this one thing I do, forgetting those things

   which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are

   before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of

   God in Christ Jesus." And then he adds, "Let us therefore, as many as

   are perfect, be thus minded." [Phil. iii. 12-15]


   But now, if the Apostle thought it necessary for those, who were in his

   state of perfection, to be "thus minded," that is, thus labouring,

   pressing, and aspiring after some degree of holiness, to which they

   were not then arrived, surely it is much more necessary for us, who are

   born in the dregs of time, and labouring under great imperfections, to

   be "thus minded," that is, thus earnest and striving after such degrees

   of a holy and Divine life, as we have not yet attained.


   The best way for anyone to know how much he ought to aspire after

   holiness, is to consider, not how much will make his present life easy,

   but to ask himself, how much he thinks will make him easy at the hour

   of death.


   Now any man that dares be so serious, as to put this question to

   himself, will be forced to answer, that at death, everyone will wish

   that he had been as perfect as human nature can be.


   Is not this therefore sufficient to put us not only upon wishing, but

   labouring after all that perfection, which we shall then lament the

   want of? Is it not excessive folly to be content with such a course of

   piety as we already know cannot content us, at a time when we shall so

   want it, as to have nothing else to comfort us? How can we carry a

   severer condemnation against ourselves, than to believe, that, at the

   hour of death, we shall want the virtues of the Saints, and wish that

   we had been amongst the first servants of God, and yet take no methods

   of arriving at their height of piety, whilst we are alive?


   Though this is an absurdity that we can easily pass over at present,

   whilst the health of our bodies, the passions of our minds, the noise,

   and hurry, and pleasures, and business of the world, lead us on with

   eyes that see not, and ears that hear not; yet, at death, it will set

   itself before us in a dreadful magnitude, it will haunt us like a

   dismal ghost, and our conscience will never let us take our eyes from



   We see in worldly matters, what a torment self-condemnation is, and how

   hardly a man is able to forgive himself, when he has brought himself

   into any calamity or disgrace, purely by his own folly. The affliction

   is made doubly tormenting, because he is forced to charge it all upon

   himself, as his own act and deed, against the nature and reason of

   things, and contrary to the advice of all his friends.


   Now by this we may in some degree guess how terrible the pain of that

   self-condemnation will be, when a man shall find himself in the

   miseries of death under the severity of a self-condemning conscience,

   charging all his distress upon his own folly and madness, against the

   sense and reason of his own mind, against all the doctrines and

   precepts of religion, and contrary to all the instructions, calls, and

   warnings, both of God and man.


   Penitens [6] was a busy, notable tradesman, and very prosperous in his

   dealings, but died in the thirty-fifth year of his age.


   A little before his death, when the doctors had given him over, some of

   his neighbours came one evening to see him, at which time he spake thus

   to them:--


   I see, my friends, the tender concern you have for me, by the grief

   that appears in your countenances, and I know the thoughts that you

   have now about me. You think how melancholy a case it is, to see so

   young a man, and in such flourishing business, delivered up to death.

   And perhaps, had I visited any of you in my condition, I should have

   had the same thoughts of you.


   But now, my friends, my thoughts are no more like your thoughts than my

   condition is like yours.


   It is no trouble to me now to think, that I am to die young, or before

   I have raised an estate.


   These things are now sunk into such mere nothings, that I have no name

   little enough to call them by. For if in a few days or hours, I am to

   leave this carcass to be buried in the earth, and to find myself either

   forever happy in the favour of God, or eternally separated from all

   light and peace, can any words sufficiently express the littleness of

   everything else?


   Is there any dream like the dream of life, which amuses [7] us with the

   neglect and disregard of these things? Is there any folly like the

   folly of our manly state, which is too wise and busy, to be at leisure

   for these reflections?


   When we consider death as a misery, we only think of it as a miserable

   separation from the enjoyments of this life. We seldom mourn over an

   old man that dies rich, but we lament the young, that are taken away in

   the progress of their fortune. You yourselves look upon me with pity,

   not that I am going unprepared to meet the Judge of quick and dead, but

   that I am to leave a prosperous trade in the flower of my life.


   This is the wisdom of our manly thoughts. And yet what folly of the

   silliest children is so great as this?


   For what is there miserable, or dreadful in death, but the consequences

   of it? When a man is dead, what does anything signify to him, but the

   state he is then in?


   Our poor friend Lepidus [8] died, you know, as he was dressing himself

   for a feast: do you think it is now part of his trouble, that he did

   not live till that entertainment was over? Feasts, and business, and

   pleasures, and enjoyments, seem great things to us, whilst we think of

   nothing else; but as soon as we add death to them, they all sink into

   an equal littleness; and the soul that is separated from the body no

   more laments the loss of business, than the losing of a feast.


   If I am now going into the joys of God, could there be any reason to

   grieve, that this happened to me before I was forty years of age? Could

   it be a sad thing to go to Heaven, before I had made a few more

   bargains, or stood a little longer behind a counter?


   And if I am to go amongst lost spirits, could there be any reason to be

   content, that this did not happen to me till I was old, and full of



   If good Angels were ready to receive my soul, could it be any grief to

   me, that I was dying upon a poor bed in a garret?


   And if God has delivered me up to evil spirits, to be dragged by them

   to places of torments, could it be any comfort to me, that they found

   me upon a bed of state?


   When you are as near death as I am, you will know that all the

   different states of life, whether of youth or age, riches or poverty,

   greatness or meanness, signify no more to you, than whether you die in

   a poor or stately apartment.


   The greatness of those things which follow death makes all that goes

   before it sink into nothing.


   Now that judgment is the next thing that I look for, and everlasting

   happiness or misery is come so near me, all the enjoyments and

   prosperities of life seem as vain and insignificant, and to have no

   more to do with my happiness, than the clothes that I wore before I

   could speak.


   But, my friends, how am I surprised that I have not always had these

   thoughts? for what is there in the terrors of death, in the vanities of

   life, or the necessities of piety, but what I might have as easily and

   fully seen in any part of my life?


   What a strange thing is it, that a little health, or the poor business

   of a shop, should keep us so senseless of these great things, that are

   coming so fast upon us!


   Just as you came in my chamber, I was thinking with myself, what

   numbers of souls there are now in the world, in my condition at this

   very time, surprised with a summons to the other world; some taken from

   their shops and farms, others from their sports and pleasures, these at

   suits of law, those at gaming tables, some on the road, others at their

   own firesides, and all seized at an hour when they thought nothing of

   it; frightened at the approach of death, confounded at the vanity of

   all their labours, designs, and projects, astonished at the folly of

   their past lives, and not knowing which way to turn their thoughts, to

   find any comfort. Their consciences flying in their faces, bringing all

   their sins to their remembrance, tormenting them with deepest

   convictions of their own folly, presenting them with the sight of the

   angry Judge, the worm that never dies, the fire that is never quenched,

   the gates of hell, the powers of darkness, and the bitter pains of

   eternal death.


   Oh, my friends! bless God that you are not of this number, that you

   have time and strength to employ yourselves in such works of piety, as

   may bring you peace at the last.


   And take this along with you, that there is nothing but a life of great

   piety, or a death of great stupidity, that can keep off these



   Had I now a thousand worlds, I would give them all for one year more,

   that I might present unto God one year of such devotion and good works,

   as I never before so much as intended.


   You, perhaps, when you consider that I have lived free from scandal and

   debauchery, and in the communion of the Church, wonder to see me so

   full of remorse and self-condemnation at the approach of death.


   But, alas! what a poor thing is it, to have lived only free from

   murder, theft, and adultery, which is all that I can say of myself.


   You know, indeed, that I have never been reckoned a sot, but you are,

   at the same time, witnesses, and have been frequent companions of my

   intemperance, sensuality, and great indulgence. And if I am now going

   to a judgment, where nothing will be rewarded but good works, I may

   well be concerned, that though I am no sot, yet I have no Christian

   sobriety to plead for me.


   It is true, I have lived in the communion of the Church, and generally

   frequented its worship and service on Sundays, when I was neither too

   idle, or not otherwise disposed of by my business and pleasures. But,

   then, my conformity to the public worship has been rather a thing of

   course, than any real intention of doing that which the service of the

   Church supposes: had it not been so, I had been oftener at Church, more

   devout when there, and more fearful of ever neglecting it.


   But the thing that now surprises me above all wonders is this, that I

   never had so much as a general intention of living up to the piety of

   the Gospel. This never so much as entered into my head or my heart. I

   never once in my life considered whether I was living as the laws of

   religion direct, or whether my way of life was such, as would procure

   me the mercy of God at this hour.


   And can it be thought that I have kept the Gospel terms of salvation,

   without ever so much as intending, in any serious and deliberate

   manner, either to know them, or keep them? Can it be thought that I

   have pleased God with such a life as He requires, though I have lived

   without ever considering what He requires, or how much I have

   performed? How easy a thing would salvation be, if it could fall into

   my careless hands, who have never had so much serious thought about it,

   as about any one common bargain that I have made?


   In the business of life I have used prudence and reflection. I have

   done everything by rules and methods. I have been glad to converse with

   men of experience and judgment, to find out the reasons why some fail

   and others succeed in any business. I have taken no step in trade but

   with great care and caution, considering every advantage or danger that

   attended it. I have always had my eye upon the main end of business,

   and have studied all the ways and means of being a gainer by all that I



   But what is the reason that I have brought none of these tempers to

   religion? What is the reason that I, who have so often talked of the

   necessity of rules, and methods, and diligence, in worldly business,

   have all this while never once thought of any rules, or methods, or

   managements, to carry me on in a life of piety?


   Do you think anything can astonish and confound a dying man like this?

   What pain do you think a man must feel, when his conscience lays all

   this folly to his charge, when it shall show him how regular, exact,

   and wise he has been in small matters, that are passed away like a

   dream, and how stupid and senseless he has lived, without any

   reflection, without any rules, in things of such eternal moment, as no

   heart can sufficiently conceive them?


   Had I only my frailties and imperfections to lament at this time, I

   should lie here humbly trusting in the mercies of God. But, alas! how

   can I call a general disregard, and a thorough neglect of all religious

   improvement, a frailty or imperfection, when it was as much in my power

   to have been exact, and careful, and diligent in a course of piety, as

   in the business of my trade?


   I could have called in as many helps, have practised as many rules, and

   been taught as many certain methods of holy living, as of thriving in

   my shop, had I but so intended, and desired it.


   Oh, my friends! a careless life, unconcerned and unattentive to the

   duties of religion, is so without all excuse, so unworthy of the mercy

   of God, such a shame to the sense and reason of our minds, that I can

   hardly conceive a greater punishment, than for a man to be thrown into

   the state that I am in, to reflect upon it.


   Penitens was here going on, but had his mouth stopped by a convulsion,

   which never suffered him to speak any more. He lay convulsed about

   twelve hours, and then gave up the ghost.


   Now if every reader would imagine this Penitens to have been some

   particular acquaintance or relation of his, and fancy that he saw and

   heard all that is here described; that he stood by his bedside when his

   poor friend lay in such distress and agony, lamenting the folly of his

   past life, it would, in all probability, teach him such wisdom as never

   entered into his heart before. If to this he should consider how often

   he himself might have been surprised in the same state of negligence,

   and made an example to the rest of the world, this double reflection,

   both upon the distress of his friend, and the goodness of that God, who

   had preserved him from it, would in all likelihood soften his heart

   into holy tempers, and make him turn the remainder of his life into a

   regular course of piety.


   This therefore being so useful a meditation, I shall here leave the

   reader, as I hope, seriously engaged in it.




   [6] Penitens, penitent almost in the sense of remorseful.

   [7] Amuses = occupies the attention (cf. Watts in 1789, We are so

   amused and engrossed with the things of sense that we forget our


   [8] Lepidus = elegant.


                                 CHAPTER IV


   We can please God in no state or employment of life, but by intending

   and devoting it all to His honour and glory.


   HAVING in the first chapter stated the general nature of devotion, and

   shown that it implies not any form of prayer, but a certain form of

   life, that is offered to God, not at any particular times or places,

   but everywhere and in everything; I shall now descend to some

   particulars, and show how we are to devote our labour and employment,

   our time and fortunes, unto God.


   As a good Christian should consider every place as holy, because God is

   there, so he should look upon every part of his life as a matter of

   holiness, because it is to be offered unto God.


   The profession of a clergyman is an holy profession, because it is a

   ministration in holy things, an attendance at the altar. But worldly

   business is to be made holy unto the Lord, by being done as a service

   to Him, and in conformity to His Divine will.


   For as all men, and all things in the world, as truly belong unto God,

   as any places, things, or persons, that are devoted to Divine service,

   so all things are to be used, and all persons are to act in their

   several states and employments, for the glory of God.


   Men of worldly business, therefore, must not look upon themselves as at

   liberty to live to themselves, to sacrifice to their own humours and

   tempers, because their employment is of a worldly nature. But they must

   consider, that, as the world and all worldly professions as truly

   belong to God, as persons and things that are devoted to the altar, so

   it is as much the duty of men in worldly business to live wholly unto

   God, as it is the duty of those who are devoted to Divine service.


   As the whole world is God's, so the whole world is to act for God. As

   all men have the same relation to God, as all men have all their powers

   and faculties from God, so all men are obliged to act for God, with all

   their powers and faculties.


   As all things are God's, so all things are to be used and regarded as

   the things of God. For men to abuse things on earth, and live to

   themselves, is the same rebellion against God, as for angels to abuse

   things in Heaven; because God is just the same Lord of all on earth, as

   He is the Lord of all in Heaven.


   Things may, and must differ in their use, but yet they are all to be

   used according to the will of God.


   Men may, and must differ in their employments, but yet they must all

   act for the same ends, as dutiful servants of God, in the right and

   pious performance of their several callings.


   Clergymen must live wholly unto God in one particular way, that is, in

   the exercise of holy offices, in the ministration of prayers and

   Sacraments, and a zealous distribution of spiritual goods.


   But men of other employments are, in their particular ways, as much

   obliged to act as the servants of God, and live wholly unto Him in

   their several callings. This is the only difference between clergymen

   and people of other callings.


   When it can be shown, that men might be vain, covetous, sensual,

   worldly-minded, or proud in the exercise of their worldly business,

   then it will be allowable for clergymen to indulge the same tempers in

   their sacred profession. For though these tempers are most odious and

   most criminal in clergymen, who besides their baptismal vow, have a

   second time devoted themselves to God, to be His servants, not in the

   common offices of human life, but in the spiritual service of the most

   holy sacred things, and who are therefore to keep themselves as

   separate and different from the common life of other men, as a church

   or an altar is to be kept separate from houses and tables of common

   use; yet as all Christians are by their Baptism devoted to God, and

   made professors of holiness, so are they all in their several callings

   to live as holy and heavenly persons; doing everything in their common

   life only in such a manner, as it may be received by God, as a service

   done to Him. For things spiritual and temporal, sacred and common,

   must, like men and angels, like Heaven and earth, all conspire in the

   glory of God.


   As there is but one God and Father of us all, whose glory gives light

   and life to everything that lives, whose presence fills all places,

   whose power supports all beings, whose providence ruleth all events; so

   everything that lives, whether in Heaven or earth, whether they be

   thrones or principalities, men or angels, they must all, with one

   spirit, live wholly to the praise and glory of this one God and Father

   of them all. Angels as angels, in their heavenly ministrations; but men

   as men, women as women, bishops as bishops, priests as priests, and

   deacons as deacons; some with things spiritual, and some with things

   temporal, offering to God the daily sacrifice of a reasonable life,

   wise actions, purity of heart, and heavenly affections.


   This is the common business of all persons in this world. It is not

   left to any women in the world to trifle away their time in the follies

   and impertinences of a fashionable life, nor to any men to resign

   themselves up to worldly cares and concerns; it is not left to the rich

   to gratify their passions in the indulgences and pride of life, nor to

   the poor, to vex and torment their hearts with the poverty of their

   state; but men and women, rich and poor, must, with bishops and

   priests, walk before God in the same wise and holy spirit, in the same

   denial of all vain tempers, and in the same discipline and care of

   their souls; not only because they have all the same rational nature,

   and are servants of the same God, but because they all want the same

   holiness, to make them fit for the same happiness, to which they are

   all called. It is therefore absolutely necessary for all Christians,

   whether men or women, to consider themselves as persons that are

   devoted to holiness, and so order their common ways of life, by such

   rules of reason and piety, as may turn it into continual service unto

   Almighty God.


   Now to make our labour, or employment, an acceptable service unto God,

   we must carry it on with the same spirit and temper, that is required

   in giving of alms, or any work of piety. For, if "whether we eat or

   drink, or whatsoever we do," we must "do all to the glory of God"; [1

   Cor. x. 31] if "we are to use this world as if we used it not"; if we

   are to "present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to

   God"; [Rom. xii. 1] if "we are to live by faith, and not by sight," and

   to "have our conversation in heaven"; [2 Cor. v. 7; Phil. iii. 20] then

   it is necessary that the common way of our life, in every state, be

   made to glorify God by such tempers as make our prayers and adorations

   acceptable to Him. For if we are worldly or earthly-minded in our

   employments, if they are carried on with vain desires, and covetous

   tempers, only to satisfy ourselves, we can no more be said to live to

   the glory of God, than gluttons and drunkards can be said to eat and

   drink to the glory of God.


   As the glory of God is one and the same thing, so whatever we do

   suitable to it must be done with one and the same spirit. That same

   state and temper of mind which makes our alms and devotions acceptable,

   must also make our labour, or employment, a proper offering unto God.

   If a man labours to be rich, and pursues his business, that he may

   raise himself to a state of figure and glory in the world, he is no

   longer serving God in his employment; he is acting under other masters,

   and has no more title to a reward from God, than he that gives alms,

   that he may be seen, or prays, that he may be heard of men. For vain

   and earthly desires are no more allowable in our employments, than in

   our alms and devotions. For these tempers of worldly pride, and

   vain-glory, are not only evil, when they mix with our good works, but

   they have the same evil nature, and make us odious to God, when they

   enter into the common business of our employment. If it were allowable

   to indulge covetous or vain passions in our worldly employments, it

   would then be allowable to be vain-glorious in our devotions. But as

   our alms and devotions are not an acceptable service, but when they

   proceed from a heart truly devoted to God, so our common employment

   cannot be reckoned a service to Him, but when it is performed with the

   same temper and piety of heart.


   Most of the employments of life are in their own nature lawful; and all

   those that are so may be made a substantial part of our duty to God, if

   we engage in them only so far, and for such ends, as are suitable to

   beings that are to live above the world, all the time that they live in

   the world. This is the only measure of our application to any worldly

   business, let it be what it will, where it will; it must have no more

   of our hands, our hearts, or our time, than is consistent with a

   hearty, daily, careful preparation of ourselves for another life. For

   as all Christians, as such have renounced this world, to prepare

   themselves by daily devotion, and universal holiness, for an eternal

   state of quite another nature, they must look upon worldly employments,

   as upon worldly wants, and bodily infirmities; things not to be desired

   but only to be endured and suffered, till death and the resurrection

   have carried us to an eternal state of real happiness.


   Now he that does not look at the things of this life in this degree of

   littleness, cannot be said either to feel or believe the greatest

   truths of Christianity. For if he thinks anything great or important in

   human business, can he be said to feel or believe those Scriptures,

   which represent this life, and the greatest things of life, as bubbles,

   vapours, dreams, and shadows?


   If he thinks figure, and show, and worldly glory, to be any proper

   happiness of a Christian, how can he be said to feel or believe this

   doctrine, "Blessed are ye when men shall hate you, and when they shall

   separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out

   your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake"? [Luke vi. 22] For

   surely, if there was any real happiness in figure, and show, and

   worldly glory; if these things deserved our thoughts and care; it could

   not be matter of the highest joy, when we are torn from them by

   persecutions and sufferings. If, therefore, a man will so live, as to

   show that he feels and believes the most fundamental doctrines of

   Christianity, he must live above the world; this is the temper that

   must enable him to do the business of life, and yet live wholly unto

   God, and to go through some worldly employment with a heavenly mind.

   And it is as necessary that people live in their employments with this

   temper, as it is necessary that their employment itself be lawful.


   The husbandman that tills the ground is employed in an honest

   business, that is necessary in life and very capable of being made an

   acceptable service unto God. But if he labours and toils, not to serve

   any reasonable ends of life, but in order to have his plough made of

   silver, and to have his horses harnessed in gold, the honesty of his

   employment is lost as to him, and his labour becomes his folly.


   A tradesman may justly think that it is agreeable to the will of God,

   for him to sell such things as are innocent and useful in life, such as

   help both himself, and others, to a reasonable support, and enable them

   to assist those that want to be assisted. But if, instead of this, he

   trades only with regard to himself, without any other rule than that of

   his own temper; if it be his chief end in it to grow rich, that he may

   live in figure and indulgence, and to be able to retire from business

   to idleness and luxury; his trade, as to him, loses all its innocency,

   and is so far from being an acceptable service to God that it is only a

   more plausible course of covetousness, self-love, and ambition. For

   such a one turns the necessities of employment into pride and

   covetousness, just as the sot and epicure turn the necessities of

   eating and drinking into gluttony and drunkenness. Now he that is up

   early and late, that sweats and labours for these ends, that he may be

   some time or other rich, and live in pleasure and indulgence, lives no

   more to the glory of God, than he that plays and games for the same

   ends. For though there is a great difference between trading and

   gaming, yet most of that difference is lost, when men once trade with

   the same desires and tempers, and for the same ends, that others game.

   Charity, and fine dressing, are things very different; but if men give

   alms for the same reasons that others dress fine, only to be seen and

   admired, charity is then but like the vanity of fine clothes. In like

   manner, if the same motives make some people painful [9] and

   industrious in their trades, which make others constant at gaming, such

   pains are but like the pains of gaming.


   Calidus [10] has traded above thirty years in the greatest city of the

   kingdom; he has been so many years constantly increasing his trade and

   his fortune. Every hour of the day is with him an hour of business; and

   though he eats and drinks very heartily, yet every meal seems to be in

   a hurry, and he would say grace if he had time. Calidus ends every day

   at the tavern, but has not leisure to be there till near nine o'clock.

   He is always forced to drink a good hearty glass, to drive thoughts of

   business out of his head, and make his spirits drowsy enough for sleep.

   He does business all the time that he is rising, and has settled

   several matters before he can get to his counting-room. His prayers are

   a short ejaculation or two, which he never misses in stormy,

   tempestuous weather, because he has always something or other at sea.

   Calidus will tell you, with great pleasure, that he has been in this

   hurry for so many years, and that it must have killed him long ago, but

   that it has been a rule with him to get out of the town every Saturday,

   and make the Sunday a day of quiet, and good refreshment in the



   He is now so rich, that he would leave off his business, and amuse his

   old age with building, and furnishing a fine house in the country, but

   that he is afraid he should grow melancholy if he was to quit his

   business. He will tell you, with great gravity, that it is a dangerous

   thing for a man that has been used to get money, ever to leave it off.

   If thoughts of religion happen at any time to steal into his head,

   Calidus contents himself with thinking, that he never was a friend to

   heretics, and infidels, that he has always been civil to the minister

   of his parish, and very often given something to the charity schools.


   Now this way of life is at such a distance from all the doctrine and

   discipline of Christianity, that no one can live in it through

   ignorance or frailty. Calidus can no more imagine that he is "born

   again of the Spirit"; [St. John iii] that he is "in Christ a new

   creature"; that he lives here as a stranger and a pilgrim, [1 Pet. ii.

   11] setting his affections on things above, and laying up treasures in

   heaven, [Col. iii. 1] -- he can no more imagine this, than he can think

   that he has been all his life an Apostle working miracles, and

   preaching the Gospel.


   It must also be owned, that the generality of trading people,

   especially in great towns, are too much like Calidus. You see them all

   the week buried in business, unable to think of anything else; and then

   spending the Sunday in idleness and refreshment, in wandering into the

   country, in such visits and jovial meetings, as make it often the worst

   day of the week.


   Now they do not live thus, because they cannot support themselves with

   less care and application to business; but they live thus because they

   want to grow rich in their trades, and to maintain their families in

   some such figure and degree of finery, as a reasonable Christian life

   has no occasion for. Take away but this temper, and then people of all

   trades will find themselves at leisure to live every day like

   Christians, to be careful of every duty of the Gospel, to live in a

   visible course of religion, and be every day strict observers both of

   private and public prayer.


   Now the only way to do this, is for people to consider their trade as

   something that they are obliged to devote to the glory of God,

   something that they are to do only in such a manner as that they may

   make it a duty to Him. Nothing can be right in business, that is not

   under these rules. -- The Apostle commands servants to be obedient to

   their masters "in singleness of heart, as unto Christ. Not with

   eye-service, as men-pleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the

   will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as unto the

   Lord, and not to men." [Eph. vi. 5; Col. iii. 22, 23]


   This passage sufficiently shows, that all Christians are to live wholly

   unto God in every state and condition, doing the work of their common

   calling in such a manner, and for such ends, as to make it a part of

   their devotion or service to God. For certainly if poor slaves are not

   to comply with their business as men-pleasers, if they are to look

   wholly unto God in all their actions, and serve in singleness of heart,

   as unto the Lord, surely men of other employments and conditions must

   be as much obliged to go through their business with the same

   singleness of heart; not as pleasing the vanity of their own minds, not

   as gratifying their own selfish worldly passions, but as the servants

   of God in all that they have to do. For surely no one will say, that a

   slave is to devote his state of life unto God, and make the will of God

   the sole rule and end of his service, but that a tradesman need not act

   with the same spirit of devotion in his business. For this is as

   absurd, as to make it necessary for one man to be more just or faithful

   than another.


   It is therefore absolutely certain that no Christian is to enter any

   farther into business, nor for any other ends, than such as he can in

   singleness of heart offer unto God, as a reasonable service. For the

   Son of God has redeemed us for this only end, that we should, by a life

   of reason and piety, live to the glory of God; this is the only rule

   and measure for every order and state of life. Without this rule, the

   most lawful employment becomes a sinful state of life.


   Take away this from the life of a clergyman, and his holy profession

   serves only to expose him to a greater damnation. Take away this from

   tradesmen, and shops are but so many houses of greediness and filthy

   lucre. Take away this from gentlemen, and the course of their life

   becomes a course of sensuality, pride, and wantonness. Take away this

   rule from our tables, and all falls into gluttony and drunkenness. Take

   away this measure from our dress and habits, and all is turned into

   such paint, and glitter, and ridiculous ornaments, as are a real shame

   to the wearer. Take away this from the use of our fortunes, and you

   will find people sparing in nothing but charity. Take away this from

   our diversions, and you will find no sports too silly, nor any

   entertainments too vain and corrupt, to be the pleasure of Christians.

   If, therefore, we desire to live unto God, it is necessary to bring our

   whole life under this law, to make His glory the sole rule and measure

   of our acting in every employment of life. For there is no other true

   devotion, but this of living devoted to God in the common business of

   our lives.


   So that men must not content themselves with the lawfulness of their

   employments, but must consider whether they use them, as they are to

   use everything as strangers and pilgrims, that are baptized into the

   resurrection of Jesus Christ, that are to follow Him in a wise and

   heavenly course of life, in the mortification of all worldly desires,

   and in purifying and preparing their souls for the blessed enjoyment of

   God. [Col. iii. 1; 1 Pet. i. 15, 16; Eph. v. 26, 27]


   For to be vain, or proud, or covetous, or ambitious, in the common

   course of our business, is as contrary to these holy tempers of

   Christianity, as cheating and dishonesty.


   If a glutton was to say, in excuse of his gluttony, that he only eats

   such things as it is lawful to eat, he would make as good an excuse for

   himself, as the greedy, covetous, ambitious tradesman, that should say,

   he only deals in lawful business. For as a Christian is not only

   required to be honest, but to be of a Christian spirit, and make his

   life an exercise of humility, repentance, and heavenly affection, so

   all tempers that are contrary to these are as contrary to Christianity,

   as cheating is contrary to honesty.


   So that the matter plainly comes to this; all irregular tempers in

   trade and business are but like irregular tempers in eating and



   Proud views, and vain desires, in our worldly employments, are as truly

   vices and corruptions, as hypocrisy in prayer, or vanity in alms. And

   there can be no reason given, why vanity in our alms should make us

   odious to God, but what will prove any other kind of pride to be

   equally odious. He that labours and toils in a calling, that he may

   make a figure in the world and draw the eyes of people upon the

   splendour of his condition, is as far from the pious humility of a

   Christian, as he that gives alms that he may be seen of men. For the

   reason why pride and vanity in our prayers and alms renders them an

   unacceptable service to God, is not because there is anything

   particular in prayers and alms, that cannot allow of pride, but because

   pride is in no respect, nor in anything, made for man; it destroys the

   piety of our prayers and alms, because it destroys the piety of

   everything that it touches, and renders every action that it governs

   incapable of being offered unto God.


   So that if we could so divide ourselves, as to be humble in some

   respects, and proud in others, such humility would be of no service to

   us, because God requires us as truly to be humble in all our actions

   and designs, as to be true and honest in all our actions and designs.


   And as a man is not honest and true, because he is so to a great many

   people, or upon several occasions, but because truth and honesty is the

   measure of all his dealings with everybody; so the case is the same in

   humility, or any other temper; it must be the general ruling habit of

   our minds, and extend itself to all our actions and designs, before it

   can be imputed to us.


   We indeed sometimes talk, as if a man might be humble in some things,

   and proud in others; humble in his dress, but proud of his learning;

   humble in his person, but proud in his views and designs. But though

   this may pass in common discourse, where few things are said according

   to strict truth, it cannot be allowed, when we examine into the nature

   of our actions.


   It is very possible for a man that lives by cheating, to be very

   punctual in paying for what he buys; but then everyone is assured,

   that he does not do so out of any principle of true honesty.


   In like manner it is very possible for a man that is proud of his

   estate, ambitious in his views, or vain of his learning, to disregard

   his dress and person in such a manner as a truly humble man would do;

   but to suppose that he does so out of a true principle of religious

   humility, is full as absurd as to suppose that a cheat pays for what he

   buys out of a principle of religious honesty.


   As, therefore, all kinds of dishonesty destroy our pretences to an

   honest principle of mind, so all kinds of pride destroy our pretences

   to an humble spirit.


   No one wonders that those prayers and alms, which proceed from pride

   and ostentation, are odious to God; but yet it is as easy to show, that

   pride is as pardonable there as anywhere else.


   If we could suppose that God rejects pride in our prayers and alms, but

   bears with pride in our dress, our persons, or estates, it would be the

   same thing as to suppose, that God condemns falsehood in some actions,

   but allows it in others. For pride, in one thing, differs from pride in

   another thing, as the robbing of one man differs from the robbing of



   Again, if pride and ostentation is so odious that it destroys the merit

   and worth of the most reasonable actions, surely it must be equally

   odious in those actions which are only founded in the weakness and

   infirmity of our nature. As thus, alms are commanded by God, as

   excellent in themselves, as true instances of a divine temper, but

   clothes are only allowed to cover our shame; surely, therefore, it must

   at least be as odious a degree of pride, to be vain in our clothes, as

   to be vain in our alms.


   Again, we are commanded to "pray without ceasing," [1 Thess. v. 17] as

   a means of rendering our souls more exalted and divine, but we are

   forbidden to lay up treasures upon earth; [Matt. vi. 19] and can we

   think that it is not as bad to be vain of those treasures which we are

   forbidden to lay up, as to be vain of those prayers which we are

   commanded to make?


   Women are required to have their heads covered, and to adorn themselves

   with shamefacedness: [1 Cor. xi. 13; 1 Tim. ii. 9] if, therefore, they

   are vain in those things which are expressly forbidden, if they patch

   and paint that part, which can only be adorned by shamefacedness,

   surely they have as much to repent of for such a pride, as they have,

   whose pride is the motive to their prayers and charity. This must be

   granted; unless we will say, that it is more pardonable to glory in our

   shame, than to glory in our virtue.


   All these instances are only to show us the great necessity of such a

   regular and uniform piety, as extends itself to all the actions of our

   common life.


   That we must eat and drink, and dress and discourse, according to the

   sobriety of the Christian spirit, engage in no employments but such as

   we can truly devote unto God, nor pursue them any farther than so far

   as conduces to the reasonable ends of a holy, devout life. -- That we

   must be honest, not only on particular occasions, and in such instances

   as are applauded in the world, easy to be performed, and free from

   danger, or loss, but from such a living principle of justice, as makes

   us love truth and integrity in all its instances, follow it through all

   dangers, and against all opposition; as knowing that the more we pay

   for any truth, the better is our bargain, and that then our integrity

   becomes a pearl, when we have parted with all to keep it. -- That we

   must be humble, not only in such instances as are expected in the

   world, or suitable to our tempers, or confined to particular occasions;

   but in such a humility of spirit, as renders us meek and lowly in the

   whole course of our lives, as shows itself in our dress, our person,

   our conversation, our enjoyment of the world, the tranquillity of our

   minds, patience under injuries, submission to superiors, and

   condescensions to those that are below us, and in all the outward

   actions of our lives. -- That we must devote, not only times and places

   to prayer, but be everywhere in the spirit of devotion; with hearts

   always set towards Heaven, looking up to God in all our actions, and

   doing everything as His servants; 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 the pious and charitable use of all His gifts. -- That we must not

   only send up petitions and thoughts to Heaven, but must go through all

   our worldly business with a heavenly spirit, as members of Christ's

   mystical body; that, with new hearts and new minds, we may 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 devotions

   and alms. You very well know what it is, that makes the piety of your

   alms or devotions; now the same rules, the same regard to God, must

   render everything else that you do, a fit and acceptable service unto



   Enough, I hope, has been said, to show you the necessity of thus

   introducing religion into all the actions of your common life, and of

   living and 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 of the world

   has turned this ordinary action of an animal life into a piety to God,

   by making every meal to begin and end with devotion.


   We see yet some remains of this custom in most Christian families, some

   such little formality as shows you, that people used to call upon God

   at the beginning and end of their meals. But, indeed, it is now

   generally performed, as to look more like a mockery upon devotion, than

   any solemn application of the mind unto God. In one house you may

   perhaps see the head of the family just pulling off his hat; in

   another, half getting up from his seat; another shall, it may be,

   proceed so far as to make as if he said something; but, however, [11]

   these little attempts are the remains of some devotion that was

   formerly used at such times, and are proofs that religion has formerly

   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 seriousness, and look upon it as a sign of a

   fanatical temper, if a man has not done 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 then 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 [12] with

   our prayers.


   If every head of a family was, at the return of every meal, 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.


   And 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 got 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 this 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 rule and

   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.




   [9] painful = taking pains.

   [10] Calidus = hot, i.e. fervent in business.

   [11] however, in the old sense of "at any rate."

   [12] unaffected = insensible.


                                   CHAPTER V


   Persons that are free from the necessity of labour and employments, are

   to consider themselves as devoted to God in a higher degree.


   A GREAT part of the world are free from the necessities of labour and

   employments, and have their time and fortunes in their own disposal.


   But as no one is to live in his employment according to his own humour,

   or for such ends as please his own fancy, but is to do all his business

   in such a manner as to make it a service unto God; so those who have no

   particular employment are so far from being left at greater liberty to

   live to themselves, to pursue their own humours, and spend their time

   and fortunes as they please, that they are under greater obligations of

   living wholly unto God in all their actions.


   The freedom of their state lays them under a greater necessity of

   always choosing, and doing, the best things.


   They are those, of whom much will be required, because much is given

   unto them.


   A slave can only 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, all instances, and all kinds of virtue,

   lie open to those who are masters of themselves, their time, and their



   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 everything that is holy and pious, to endeavour to be

   eminent in all good works, and to please God in the highest and most

   perfect manner; it is as much their duty to be thus wise in the conduct

   of themselves, and thus extensive in their endeavours after holiness,

   as it is the duty of a slave to be resigned unto God in his state of



   You are no labourer, or tradesman, you are neither merchant 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 who 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, [13] been obliged, by the necessities of life, to wash

   clothes for your maintenance, or to wait upon some mistress that

   demanded all your labour, 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 height. That when the time

   came, that mankind were to be rewarded for their labours by the great

   Judge of quick and dead, you might be received with a "Well done, good

   and faithful servant: enter you into the joy of thy Lord." [Matt. xxv.



   But as God has given you five talents, as He has placed you above the

   necessities of life, as He has left you in the hands of yourself, in

   the happy liberty of choosing the most exalted ways of virtue; 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 make the

   most of a short life, to study your own perfection, the honour 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 eminent 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



   It is now 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 happy 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, its spots,

   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



   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 humility, humble it with penance,

   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, which, though they attend on

   human affairs, and the lowest of mankind, yet "always behold the face

   of our Father which is in heaven." [Matt. xviii. 10]


   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 everything 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 you have an

   employment, you are to be thus reasonable, and 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, and holy, and pious, in the use of

   all your time, and all your fortune.


   The right religious use of everything and every talent, is the

   indispensable duty of every being that is capable of knowing right and



   For the reason why we are to do anything as unto God, and with regard

   to our duty, and relation to Him, is the same reason why we are to do

   everything as unto God, and with regard to our duty, and relation to



   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 natures, and are everywhere the servants of

   the same God, as every place is equally full of His presence, and

   everything is equally His gift, so we must always act according to the

   reason of our nature; we must do everything as the servants of God; we

   must live in every place, as in His presence; we must use everything,

   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 everything, or it is to go through

   no part of life.


   If we might forget ourselves, or forget God, if we might disregard our

   reason, and live by humour and fancy, in anything, or at any time, or

   in any place, it would be as lawful to do the same in everything, at

   fancy, at every time, and every place.


   If therefore some people fancy that they must be grave and solemn at

   Church, but may be silly and frantic at home; that they must live by

   some rule on the Sunday, but may spend other days by chance; that they

   must have some times of prayer, but may waste the rest of their time as

   they please; that they must give some money in charity, but may

   squander away the rest as they have a mind; such people have not enough

   considered the nature of religion, or the true reasons of piety. For he

   that upon principles of reason can tell why it is good to be wise and

   heavenly-minded at Church, can tell that it is always desirable to have

   the same tempers in all other places. He that truly knows why he should

   spend any time well, knows that it is never allowable to throw any time

   away. He that rightly understands the reasonableness and excellency of

   charity, will know that it can never be excusable to waste any of our

   money in pride and folly, or in any needless expenses.


   For every argument that shows the wisdom and excellency of charity,

   proves the wisdom of spending all our fortune well. Every argument that

   proves the wisdom and reasonableness of having times of prayer, shows

   the wisdom and reasonableness of losing none of our time.


   If any one could show that we need not always act as in the Divine