Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;
Industry denotes the steady application and vigorous exercise of our active powers in the pursuit of some useful object. Our minds, indeed, by their own nature, are active and restless; while we are awake they are never wholly unemployed — they are continually thinking, contriving, and imagining even in those seasons in which we are scarcely conscious of their operation. But there is a negligent state of mind in which some waste a great proportion of their time. To this negligence industry stands directly opposed.
I. That if you would cultivate the industry which Christianity recommends you MUST SELECT PROPER OBJECTS OF PURSUIT.
1. It is the nature of the objects which we pursue that characterises our industry as useful or frivolous, as virtuous or vicious. The wicked sometimes discover the most unwearied activity in executing their schemes of guilt. They who are most negligent of their own affairs are often officially attentive to the affairs of their neighbours. There is a frivolous industry which others display in the pursuit of vanity and folly. They fly from scene to scene, seeking in every amusement a relief from that languor of mind with which indolence is always accompanied. Such persons forget that amusement ceases to be innocent when it is followed as the business of life.
2. The things which are innocent and useful are the only proper objects of that industry which the text recommends. What are these? Religion and morality.
3. But as our minds cannot be continually fixed on those great and interesting concerns; there are a variety of inferior objects in the pursuit of which our industry may be usefully exercised. Our worldly affairs, for example, demands a portion of our attention and care. It is surely pitiful in any person who is capable of exertion to be altogether ignorant of his own concerns, and to acknowledge himself unworthy of the station which he fills by committing to others the whole arrangement of his interests. He who attends not to his own affairs is not prepared either to reward the services of the faithful or to check the encroachments of the dishonest; he becomes a prey to the indolence of one, to the profusion of another, and the rapacity of a third: his wealth is dissipated he knows not how. Those who are placed in stations of trust will find in the discharge of the duties which more particularly belong to them an extensive sphere of employment, and for the faithful performance of these every person to whom they are committed is accountable to himself, to the world, and to his Maker. There are also works of general utility which, though not immediately connected with the duties of any particular station, may exercise the industry of the higher classes of men, and which their extensive influence may enable them to forward. To them it belongs to reform public abuses, to encourage useful arts, and to establish such wise regulations as may contribute to maintain the order and advance the happiness of society.
4. Even in his hours of relaxation from the more serious concerns of life the industrious man finds a variety of engagements in which he may exert the activity of his mind.
II. That in the pursuit even of such objects as are innocent and useful in themselves you cannot hope to be successful unless you PURSUE THEM ACCORDING TO A REGULAR PLAN.
1. Among the objects in the prosecution of which our industry may be lawfully exercised there are some which claim our first attention, and there are others to which only a secondary regard is due. Religion first. To cultivate useful knowledge is also a proper exercise of our powers. But we value knowledge too highly if we suffer the love of it so completely to fascinate our minds as to leave to us neither leisure nor inclination for performing the duties of active benevolence; and our benevolence itself becomes excessive when we indulge it beyond the limits of our fortune, so as to involve ourselves in distress or bring misery and ruin on those who are more immediately committed to our care.
2. If you wish, then, that your industry may be successful, let it be conducted with order and regularity. Assign to every duty a suitable portion of your time. Let not one employment encroach on the season allotted for another. Thus shall you be delivered from that embarrassment which would retard your progress. Your minds, when fatigued with one employment, will find relief in applying themselves to another. The seasons which you consecrate to devotion will hallow your worldly cares; and your worldly business, in its turn, will prevent your piety from degenerating into moroseness, austerity, or enthusiasm.
III. Having selected proper objects of pursuit and arranged the plan according to which you resolve to pursue them, it will be necessary that you ACT ON THIS PLAN WITH ARDOUR AND PERSEVERANCE. There may, indeed, be an excess of ardour in the pursuit even of the most valuable objects. Too close an application of mind wastes its strength, and not only unfits us for enjoying the fruits of our industry, but also obstructs our success. When our faculties are fatigued and blunted, we are no longer in a condition to make advancement in any pursuit.
IV. I proceed now to suggest some arguments, with a view to RECOMMEND THE DUTY which I have thus endeavoured to explain.
1. Consider that industry is the law of our condition. Nothing is given us by God but as the prize of labour and toil. The precious treasures of the earth lie hid from human view, and we must dig in order to find them. Our food, our raiment, our habitations, all the conveniences that minister to the defence and the comfort of our lives, are the fruits of those numberless arts which exercise the ingenuity of mankind. The circumstances in which we are placed declare the purpose of Heaven with regard to the human race, and admonish us that to abandon ourselves to sloth is to forget the end of our being.
2. Nor is industry to be chosen by man only for the sake of the many advantages which cannot otherwise be attained. It is itself a source of happiness. The mind delights in exercise. The comforts which industry procures have a relish peculiar to themselves. Business sweetens pleasure as labour sweetens rest. Recreation supposes employment; and the indolent are incapable of tasting the happiness which it is fitted to yield.
3. Industry contributes to the virtue no less than to the happiness of life. The man whose attention is fixed on any useful object is in little danger of being seduced by the solicitations of sinful pleasure; his mind is pro-engaged, and temptation courts him in vain. Among the lower orders of men idleness leads directly to injustice. It first reduces them to poverty and then tempts them to supply their wants by all the arts of dishonesty and baseness. In the higher ranks of life it leads to dissipation and extravagance.
(W. Moodie, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;