Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

barbarism, but civilization itself must be Christianized. The masses must be reached; the poor must be clothed, and fed, and comforted; the ignorant must be instructed, the vicious reclaimed ; political economy, civil government, every social institution must be brought under the control of the law of love. Christianity does not have to do merely with the souls of men ; with their spiritual interests alone. It cares for these first and most of all, but it cares for men's bodies also—for their temporal well-being. It seeks to do away with poverty, with oppression, with wrong, with all unjust and unnatural distinctions, with every social and moral evil, from the face of the earth. And he who embraces Christianity finds himself enlisted for life in that work. It is a great work. To do his part of it, every Christian must be diligent in his calling, that so far as that contributes to the improvement and happiness of mankind, he may do good therein ; he must be dili. gent in business, that he may thus gain the means of usefulness in other modes; he must be diligent in business, that he may gain time for engaging directly in acts of benevolence. Jesus felt that he had a work to do. “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day.” “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business ?” So the Christian feels that he has a work to do for Christ and for the world, which calls upon him to be diligent in all things—to lead a life of laborious and unceasing activity.

This requirement reaches Christians of all classes and in all circumstances. The pious female dispenses comfort and happi. ness to her household; but she does not limit her affections or her zeal by the circle of home. Dorcas-like, she plies her needle upon garments for the poor, or she goes forth on errands of sympathy and relief, to the dwellings of the needy and the sorrowing; and to gain time for these labors, she is diligent in her own affairs. Both in the daily routine of household duties and in the various offices of kindness to others, the desire to be useful and to honor Christ in her appointed sphere, quickens every movement, graces every labor, lightens every care.

Again, the Christian religion promotes industry, by impressing the mind with a deep conviction of the value of time. The Christian, at the moment of conversion, starts with this feeling: I have wasted thus much of life ; I have lost years on years of precious time; and now I must go to work to redeem it. The time past of my life must suffice for worldliness, self-seeking, folly, sin; I now have something to live for, and I must not live any longer to myself—it is high time to awake out of sleep.

With this feeling he becomes conscientious in the use of time. He has none to waste ; he takes the time needed for sleep as a matter of duty; he takes the time necessary for relaxation, for social visiting and enjoyment, for the amenities of life, as a matter of principle, that he may be refreshed, and have health and vigor for life's great work. But he does not seek amusement, or lie idle, for want of something to do, or because he feels that he has time to spare. “Time is money,” to the man of business ; to the Christian it is more-it is growth in holiness; it is works of be. nevolence; it is the salvation of souls ; it is the conquest of the world, for Christ; it is an immortal crown. He who attaches such a value to time can never be remiss, can never be idle.

But it may be said that though the Christian religion in these ways commends and favors industry, it yet interferes with the business of life, by the frequency of religious observances, by drawing men away from business to religious meetings, and by appropriating one-seventh part of time to that use alone.

But if we compare the Christian religion in this respect with any other, or with irreligion, we shall see that the objection has no force. If you will take the pains to reckon up the number of festivals and other religious days, among the Greeks and Romans, days on which men were drawn aside from the ordinary pursuits of life, by religious observances, you will find, I think, that more than half the year was thus appropriated. The same is true of some pagan nations, to this day. And in Roman Catholic countries, where Christianity is corrupted till it is little more than a baptized paganism, you will find perhaps two-thirds of the year, or four days out of six, appropriated to religious ceremonies. When Atheism had sway in France, it was not much better; the fête took the place of the holy-day, and the decade of the Sabbath. The Jewish system, though of Divine origin, demanded a much larger proportion of time for religious observances than the Christian. In this respect, therefore, the world has gained greatly by the introduction of Christianity, and must gain wherever a pure Christianity prevails. The reason of this is, that Judaism, Romanism, and Paganism, are all alike ritual, ceremonial systems. Under those systems, men are to be saved by rites and ceremonies, and so the more of them the better. But Christianity is a spiritual system ; men are saved under it by faith and holy living. It has but one sacred day—the Sabbath, and that not ceremonially, but morally sacred. All other observances are voluntary.

Now, as to the effect of the Sabbath on industry, let facts speak. These show us that both man and beast need this stated season of rest, and can do more work with it in six days, than without it in seven. It is a benevolent and an economical provision. Where the Sabbath is observed, individuals, the community, the nation, are more thrifty and prosperous than where it is not observed. The Sabbath strengthens good habits. It does not, when religiously observed, encourage idleness and vice, or leave any of those demoralizing influences that follow in the train of a pagan festival. The Sabbath is the great regulator of human industry ; the balance-wheel in a well ordered political economy. Under every aspect, then, the Christian religion is found to favor indus. try. By precept, by motives and influences, direct and indirect, and by its own positive institutions.

In accordance with this, was the greeting of the apostle John to the beloved Gaius. “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth." So far from regarding temporal prosperity as necessarily adverse to religion, he wished that his friend might be as prosperous in his temporal affairs and in bodily health, as he was in his soul.

But while religion thus favors industry, it would infuse into all the business of life the leaven of piety. Not slothful in busi. ness, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. The fervor here spoken of is not necessarily a religious, or devotional fervor, but an earnestness such as an ardent mind brings to any object upon which it is intent. Do not be slothful, but warmly engaged, fervid, active in what is before you. Do the business of the hour, what. ever it may be, in serious earnest, and that as a part of the great work of life. “Let each hour be busily filled up with its own proper employment,” and that, in subordination to the will of the master whom you serve. Let all the business of life be conducted as a part of your Christian duty, not as distinct from it; but in the spirit of Christianity, in obedience to the commands of God; for the glory of your Saviour; for the good of mankind. This comprehensive precept is given in other forms. “Whether, there. fore, ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters, according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your 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.” .... “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not to men.” “Whatsoever ye do, in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” That is the rule of the Christian life. To some it may seem hard to be understoad, and almost im. possible to be obeyed. Yet nothing can be plainer, for nothing is more common among men, than to have some one governing motive, some ruling purpose, running through all their conduct, shaping all their plans, and influencing all their actions.

The father toils year after year to provide for his family; per. haps goes to some distant region, or foreign land, and there amid hardships and privations, digs and delves, or buys and sells, that he may lay up something for the comfort of the dear ones at home. They are not momently in his thoughts; his mind is occupied with business, and he carries on the details of business just as other men. Yet there is in his soul a deep spring of action unknown to the youthful adventurer, who labors at his side. When prospered, he rejoices for their sakes who are far away; when unsuc. cessful, his sorrow is deepened on their account; when weary

and almost disheartened, he thinks of them, and his spirits rally and his strength returns. Thus is he ever acting, not mechanically nor from impulse, but from one fixed motive, a motive which does not lie upon the surface, but is deeper and stronger even than the love of gain.

Another, under that sordid motive, will transmute the very virtues of social life into ministers of avarice.

A third, moved by a more generous passion, will make every plan and action of his life subordinate to its gratification. Thus the hero of romance and often the hero of real life, who for lack of fortune or fame, is denied the hand of her he loves, will traverse seas and continents, make any sacrifice, meet any danger, undergo any privation, perform prodigies of labor or valor, and even hazard life itself, to secure bis end. In these and a thousand other instances, men know what it is to act under one ruling motive, which gives color and direction to all that they do, even when it is not apparent to others, and even at times when they themselves are not distinctly conscious of it. So should it be with the Christian; the one grand absorbing object of his life should be to serve the Lord. With a view to this, not his religious exercises merely, but his daily business should be conducted. He should leaven that with the spirit of the gospel. :

How this is done may be best learned by illustration. A minister goes into his study in a prayerful spirit, to prepare a discourse for the pulpit. His great desire is to bring the Word of God before the minds of his hearers with distinctness and power. In order to get at the full meaning and spirit of his chosen text, he studies it critically in the original tongue. Wishing to avail bimself of the help of German scholarship and criticism, he studies also the German language. If while he is thus engaged, a friend should enter his study and ask him why he is studying German, he might answer truly, “ to save souls." But how so? Does he expect to preach in German? No. But by consulting the Biblical scholars and grammarians of a country pre-eminent in Biblical criticism, he hopes to get a clearer insight into the meaning of his text, and thus to exbibit more clearly and convincingly the truth as it is in Jesus. A minister may be intent upon the salvation of souls, while turning over the leaves of a Greek or German lexicon

The young student who has devoted himself in heart to the missionary work, in studying each lesson during his long preparatory course, is doing what he can for the glory of Christ and the salvation of the heathen. He may not reflect that each lesson is designed to fit him for his chosen work; other local and tempo

all, the mainspring of his every-day diligence in study is the work which he has in view at the close of his course.

The merchant, whose mind is intent on the advancement of Christ's kingdom is not merely selling cotton cloth and calico, all the day long, but in doing that—if that is his business--besides providing for his own support and that of his family, giving employment to others, and contributing to the general welfare of society, he is also sustaining a church, supporting a missionary, or a colporteur, founding a college, doing whatever the avails of that business shall do to promote Christ's kingdom.

A compositor or a pressman in the Bible-house may work merely for his daily bread; and it may be to him a matter of in. difference whether he prints the Bible or Paine's Age of Reason. But if he is living for Christ, it will be a matter of great satisfac. tion to him, that while laboring for his daily bread, he is also con. tributing to multiply copies of the Word of God. And in like manner any lawful and useful occupation may be pursued as a religious duty, and with constant reference to the glory of God, though it may be simply mechanical and may terminate wholly in physical effects.

A minister calling early one morning on a parishioner, a currier by trade, the latter apologized for being in his working dress. “May I be found so," replied the minister, " when the Master shall come for me.” “What !” exclaimed the other, “in such a filthy dress?" "When Christ comes," rejoined the pastor, “ may I be found about my business.”

In view of the subject I remark: 1. That the Christian who makes his attention to business a pretext for inattention to the duties of religion, takes a wrong view both of business and religion, and sets against each other things that were meant to be in harmony. True, indeed, it is, sadly true, that worldly employ. ments often, perhaps commonly, draw off the mind from God. Sometimes this is owing to the nature of the employment; but it is often the case where the business is lawful, because it is looked upon as a thing distinct from the service of God, a sort of necessary bondage to the world, or a necessary temptation and discipline. And even those who aim to do business on Christian principles, do not always regard the the doing of business as itself a duty to be performed in its own time and place, for the glory of God, as truly as the duty of prayer. “The right discharge of our duties in the various employments of life, is to be regarded as serving God. He has arranged the order of things in this life to promote industry; he has made industry essential to happiness and success. He has required that all our employments should be conducted with reference to his will and to his honor." He who so conducts his business will not find it a hindrance to piety, and will be relieved of the painful strife between the claims of business and the claims of God.

« AnteriorContinuar »