1 Corinthians 7:24
Brothers, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.
The Christian calling doth not at all prejudice, much less overthrow, it rather strengtheneth those interests that arise from natural relations, or from voluntary contracts betwixt man and man. I desired to speak, and judged expedient for you to hear, concerning —
1. The necessity.
2. The choice.
3. The use of particular callings.Points, if ever need to be taught, certainly in these days most. Wherein some habituated in idleness will not betake themselves to any calling: like a heavy jade that is good at bit and nought else. These would be soundly spurred up and whipped on end. Other some, through weakness, do not make good choice of a fit calling: like a young unbroken thing that hath mettle and is free, but is ever wrying the wrong way. These would be fairly checked, turned into the right way, and guided with a steady and skilful hand. A third sort, through unsettledness, or discontentedness, or other untoward humour, walk not soberly and uprightly and orderly in their calling: like an unruly colt that will over hedge and ditch, no ground will hold him, no fence turn him. The first sort are to be taught the necessity of a calling; the second, to be directed for the choice of their calling; the third, to be limited in the exercise of their calling. Of which three, in their order; and of the first —
I. THE NECESSITY OF A CALLING. The necessity whereof you are to imagine not an absolute and positive, but a conditional and suppositive necessity. Not as if no man could be without one, de facto, but because, de jure, no man should be without one. And this necessity we are now to prove. And that — First, from the obedience we owe to God's ordinances, and the account we must render for every one of God's gifts. Amongst those ordinances this is one, and one of the first, that in the sweat of our faces every man of us should eat our bread (Genesis 3:19; Ephesians 4:28), and woe to us if we neglect it. But say there were no such express command for it; the very distribution of God's gifts were enough to lay upon us this necessity. Where God bestoweth He bindeth; and to whom anything is given, of him something shall be required. We may not think the God of nature' doth bestow abilities whereof He intendeth no use, for that were to bestow them in vain. Secondly, the necessity of a calling is great in regard of a man's self, and that more ways than one. For man being by nature active, so he must be doing. There is no Cross, no holy water, no exorcism so powerful to drive away and to conjure down the fiend, as faithful labour in some honest calling. Thirdly, life must be preserved, families maintained, the poor relieved; this cannot be done without bread, and bread cannot be gotten honestly but in a lawful vocation or calling. Fourthly and lastly, a calling is necessary in regard of the public. God hath made us sociable creatures; contrived us into commonwealths; made us fellow-members of one body. Every man should put to his helping hand to advance the common good. For which reason the ancient renowned commonwealths were so careful to ordain that no man should live bug in some profession. It is the sin of many of the gentry whom God hath furnished with means and abilities to do much good, to spend their whole days and lives in an unprofitable course of doing either nothing, or as good as nothing, or worse than nothing. Manual, and servile, and mechanic trades and arts are for men of a lower condition; but yet no man is born, no man should be bred unto idleness. There are generous, and ingenuous, and liberal employments sortable to the greatest births and educations. But for our gallants who live in no settled course of life, but spend half the day in sleeping, half the night in gaming, and the rest of their time in other pleasures and vanities to as little purpose as they can devise, as if they were born for nothing else but to eat and drink and sport. The third sort of those that live unprofitably and without a calling, are our sturdy rogues and vagrant towns-end beggars; the very filth and vermin of the commonwealth. I mean such as have health and strength and limbs, and are in some measure able to work and take pains for their living. God is just, and will not call any man to that which is not honest and good. God is all-sufficient, and will not call any man to that which is above the proportion of his strength. God is wonderful in His providence, and will not call any man to that whereto He will not open him a fair and orderly passage. Somewhat by your patience of each of these. And first, of the course we intend. Wherein let these be our inquiries — First, whether the thing be simply and in itself lawful or no. Secondly, whether it be lawful so as to be made a calling or no. Thirdly, whether it will be profitable or rather hurtful to the commonwealth. Now observe the rules.
II. Our first care past, which concerneth the calling itself, our next care in OUR CHOICE MUST BE to inquire into ourselves, what calling is most fit for us and we for it. Wherein our inquiry must rest especially upon three things; our inclination, our gifts, and our education.
III. Remaineth now the third and last point proposed, THE USE OF A MAN'S CALLING. Let him walk in it (ver. 17). Let him abide in it (ver. 20). Let him abide therein with God. It may seem he would have us stick to a course; and when we are in a calling, not to forsake it, nor change it, no, not for a better, no, not upon any terms. Perhaps some have taken it so, but certainly the apostle never meant it so. It is lawful to change it, so it be done with due caution. It is lawful, first, in subordinate callings. How should we do for generals for the wars if colonels, and lieutenants, and captains, and common soldiers might not relinquish their charges? It is lawful, secondly, yea, necessary, when the very calling itself, though in itself good and useful, doth yet by accident become unlawful or unuseful. As when some manufacture is prohibited by the State. It is lawful, thirdly, when a man by some accident becometh unable for the duties of his calling, as by age, blindness, maim, decay of estate, and sundry other impediments which daily occur. It is lawful, fourthly, where there is a want of sufficient men, or not a sufficient number of them in some callings, for the necessities of the State and country; in such cases authority may interpose. But then it must be done with due cautions. As first, not out of a desultory lightness. Nor, secondly, out of the greediness of a covetous or ambitious lust. Thirdly, nor out of sullenness, or a discontentedness at thy present condition. Much less, fourthly, out of an evil eye against thy neighbour that liveth by thee. But, fifthly, be sure thou change not, if thy calling be of that nature that it may not be changed. Wheresoever thy calling is, therein abide; be content with it. The second is faithfulness and industry and diligence. What is here called abiding in it, is at ver. 17 called walking in it, and in Romans 12:17, waiting on it. The third is sobriety, that we keep ourselves within the proper bounds and limits of our callings. For how doth he abide in his calling that is ever and anon flying out of it, and starting beyond it? like an extravagant soldier that is always breaking rank. But yet abide with God. The clause was not added for nothing; it teacheth thee also some duties. First, so to demean thyself in thy particular calling as that thou do nothing but what may stand with thy general calling. Magistrate, or minister, or lawyer, or merchant, or artificer, or whatsoever other thou art, remember thou art withal a Christian. God is the author of both callings. Do not think He hath called thee to service in the one, and to liberty in the other; to justice in the one, and to cosenage in the other; to simplicity in the one, and to dissimulation in the other: to holiness in the one, and to profaneness in the other. It teacheth thee, secondly, not to ingulf thyself so wholly into the business of thy particular calling as to abridge thyself of convenient opportunities to the exercise of those religious duties which thou art bound to perform by virtue of thy general calling, as prayer, confession, thanksgiving, meditation, &c. God alloweth thee to serve thyself, but He commandeth thee to serve Him too. It teacheth thee, thirdly, to watch over the special sins of thy particular calling. Sins, I mean not that cleave necessarily to the calling, for then the very calling itself should be unlawful; but sins unto the temptations whereof the condition of thy calling layeth thee open more than it doth unto other sins, or more than some other callings would do unto the same sins.
Parallel VersesKJV: Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.