Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;
I. THE GREAT DUTIES OF DAILY LIFE ARE INDISPENSABLE TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE WHOLE NATURE OF MAN. The prayer-meeting, etc., were once spoken of as "means of grace," and they are such when they produce grace. But it would seem as if they were meant to exclude common occupations; whereas, everything that pertains to the well-being of the individual and the community is part and parcel of the Divine scheme. Therefore the man who bends over his bench may be as really worshipping God as he who bends over the altar. Let us look at a few points which are needed to constitute a true manhood.
1. Order. How will you learn that? Not by hearing sermons about it or thinking of it; but by the conduct of business. Business trains. Punctuality and exactitude are learned in life.
2. Carefulness, frugality, benevolence, also spring out of dealing with practical life. If you shield your child from all avocations, he may learn a small round of such things in the family; but no such education does he receive as one that is pushed out into life. One may learn boating on a pond; but a man who does well on a pond may do poorly on the Atlantic. I am not one of those who revile the denizens of Wall Street. If some sink nearly to the bottom of the scale, others rise nearly to the top. If a man in that street goes steadily on with fidelity and trustworthiness, I think he reaches about as high a mark of honesty as any man on the globe. On the other hand, there may be many who are virtuous in the farmhouse, who, when they are brought into the street and under its influence, have been destroyed. They have not been drilled in street operations. How is it with soldiers? Raw recruits are easily scattered. Why? Because they have not had drill. So, in worldly affairs, a man cannot be trusted who has not been trained in the school of those affairs. When the spiritual disposition goes with diligence in business, men find more that follows manhood in its essential elements than can be found in any temple.
II. EVERY MAN OUGHT TO FIND HIS CHRISTIAN LIFE IN CONNECTION WITH THAT WHICH GOD HAS MADE HIS DAILY BUSINESS.
1. There be many with whom religion is a kind of luxury, and business a necessary evil. They mean to be religious, therefore, on the Sabbath and in the church. But religion is right-acting as well as right-thinking. The schoolboy's religion must lie in the duties of the schoolboy; the sailor's in those of the mariner; the merchant's in commercial life. You have no business to touch a thing which it is not right to do; and whatever it is right to do is compatible with fervency of spirit; and real service to the Lord.
2. How cold and cheerless is the palace where there is no love; but the old brown house where you were brought up, and the old fields over whose hills you have climbed — homely as these scenes are, is there anything so beautiful when you go back to them? It is what you have put on to these old things that makes them so dear to you. So the duties of life become more agree able by their association with that which is dear to us. The service of a mother to a child is invested with a feeling which makes it to the mother one of the most delightful of occupations; but the same service performed by any other would be odious to her. And that which we see in the mother extends more or less through every part of life. That to which you bring diligence, conscience, taste, and gladness becomes transformed. A noble-spirited man can redeem many duties which are in themselves unattractive, and make them beautiful.
3. There is no place where God puts you where it is not your duty to say, "How shall I perfume this place and make it beautiful as the rose?" If you are a boy in school you are to perform the duties which are assigned you by your master, by reason of your allegiance to Christ. You are working in a joiner's shop; you are a shoemaker, a street-sweeper, or a boot-black; but, whatever you are, unless in some business that you know is wrong, you are not to say, "How shall I get out of this occupation in order that I may be made a Christian?" but, "How, being a Christian, shall I work grace out of this occupation?"
4. Exactitude, trustworthiness, where there is no eye but God's to see. These things constitute taking up the cross. Parents say, "Now, my son, if you won't eat any sugar or butter for six months in order that you may give to the missionaries, that will be taking up the cross." But there are enough crosses to take up without resorting to such modes as that. When a boy does not want to get up in the morning, and he gets up, he takes up the cross. When a person is cross before breakfast, that is a good time for him to take up the cross, by keeping his temper. Where one does not like to be punctual, there is a good opportunity for him to take up the cross. It is better to take up the cross in things that mean something. Men often seek artificial crosses to take up; but mostly we have crosses enough to take up in subduing the recreancy of our selfish nature to true kindness, and noble enterprise, and faithful manhood.
III. MARK THE STRANGE AND INCONGRUOUS ETHICS WHICH MEN INTRODUCE INTO DIFFERENT DEPARTMENTS OF THEIR LIVES. Men say that you cannot expect one to act in politics as he does in private life. Why not? Are there ten commandments for politics different from the ten commandments for the rest of life? Was the Sermon on the Mount given for men unknown to politics? It is said that you cannot expect a man to act in business as he would in his household. Why not? A man should be the same under all circumstances; and that which is true, honest, fair in the household, is true, honest, fair in the store and in the state. The scrupulousness of honour ought to augment in proportion to the enlargement of the sphere in which one acts. You cannot be a man of honour, though you tell the truth in your household and neighbourhood, if you lie without scruple in public affairs.
IV. NOTE THE MISTAKE AND UNREASONABLENESS OF THOSE WHO PROPOSE TO LEAD A CHRISTIAN LIFE BEFORE THEY DIE, BUT WHO THINK THEY CANNOT FOR THE PRESENT ENTER UPON IT ON ACCOUNT OF THEIR BUSINESS. If religion were something apart from daily life, there might be some validity in this excuse; but if religion is the right conduct of a man, then everything is religious that tends to build up men in perfect manhood. Then why should one wait? Religion is to the soul what health is to the body. One does not say in respect to health, "I will wait till I have perfected this or that before I recover." On the contrary, he says, "In order that I may perfect my plans, I will seek health." A man's capacity to do business is improved by religion. There is nothing that one is called to do in life that he will not do better with a conscience void of offence and a heart at peace with God.
(H. W. Beecher.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;