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
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
A DEVOUT AND HOLY LIFE
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  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  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
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
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  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,  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
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  ; 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.
 Julius: the suggestion is, that Caesar is the worldly power as
opposed to God.
 impertinent=unsuitable, incongruous, uncongenial.
 Leo, the lion probably suggesting the favourite of Society.
 Eusebius, pious in the Ecclesiastical sense, as the name of the
first Church historian, but without reference to that historian's
character. cf. Eusebia.
 a natural, i.e. an idiot.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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  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
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
Is there any dream like the dream of life, which amuses  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  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
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
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.
 Penitens, penitent almost in the sense of remorseful.
 Amuses = occupies the attention (cf. Watts in 1789, We are so
amused and engrossed with the things of sense that we forget our
 Lepidus = elegant.
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
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  and
industrious in their trades, which make others constant at gaming, such
pains are but like the pains of gaming.
Calidus  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
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
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
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, 
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  with
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.
 painful = taking pains.
 Calidus = hot, i.e. fervent in business.
 however, in the old sense of "at any rate."
 unaffected = insensible.
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
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,  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