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various functions of magistracy; the management of local concerns and institutions ; and the discharge of many public trusts connected with the superintendence of the revenue and the civil and military welfare of the community. In some of the occupations appertaining to men of your class emulation and ambition often seek their gratification; and the ensnaring influence of interest, immediate or remote, is powerfully felt. The temptation however to which you are peculiarly obnoxious is, partly because your labour seems voluntary, partly because it is not unfrequently gratuitous, to applaud yourselves as nobly and needlessly relinquishing a portion of your time and ease for the benefit of others; and as laying up merit with God and man by works of supererogation. Merit! Shall they who have received the most from God, labour for Him the least? Shall they who have the largest opportunities, the amplest leisure, for looking on the things of others; for advancing the general and individual welfare of their fellow-creatures, labour for them the least? Works of fupererogation ! To him that knoweth to do good, of whatever kind that good may be, and doeth it not ; ta bim it is fin (i). Occupy till I
Occupy till I come, is the © James, iv. 17.
universal mandate of your Lord. And what was his example ? Christ pleased not himSelf (k); lived not to his own indulgence. Was not his life a continued scene of spontaneous extreme and most disinterested la. bour ? Do you grudge disinterested labour, and profess to follow his steps? Are you so blind to the demerits of your best performances as to demand reward not of grace, but of debt ? Even if
Even if your best performances had no demerits, and your whole lives were occupied in such performances; what would be your claim ? Learn from the word of God. When ye shall bave done all, fay; we are unprofitable servants : we have done that, and that only, which was our duty to do (1).
III. Consider briefly some of the benefits resulting to the individual from Occupation; and you will confess that, if God enjoined labour as a judgement, he enjoined it also in mercy.
Labour, in the first place, not only is the medium of acquisition ; but naturally tends to improvement. Whether the body is to be strengthened or the mind to be cultivated; whether subfistence or knowledge is sought; whether the necessaries or the accommodations of life are at stake; (A) Rom. xv. 3:
() Luke, xvii 10.
whether our own interest or that of others is to be forwarded : by labour, under the blessing of Providence, the object of to-day is attained; by the labour of to-day are augmented the facilities of attaining similar objects to-morrow.
Labour is, in the next place, a powerful preservative from sin.
The unoccupied hand is a ready instrument of mischief. The unoccupied mind is a vacant field, in which the seeds of evil natural to the soil shoot with unlimited growth. On what day is the wickedness of the irreligious the most flagrant? On the Sabbath: because to them it is a day of idleness. When are popular excesses most to be dreaded? When Idleness gives the reins to licentiousness. Behold, this, saith the Lord God, was the iniquity of Sodom : pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in þer (m). Abundance of idleness was among the primary sources of those enormities, which drew down the fiery deluge from above. He who listens not to the voice of temptation because employment prompts the answer, " I have not leisure to attend to “ thee :" though he has not attained the praise of virtue, may have escaped the guilt of many a transgression. (m) Ezek. xvi. 49.
Occupation, restricted to laudable pursuits, claims a place among the secondary causes, which pre-dispose men to progress in religion. . Idleness is irreligious in itself, as a breach of duty : and contributes to form and establish a habit of mind not merely averse from all exertion; but commonly marked by stronger repugnance to religious efforts and researches than to any other branch of employment.
Farther : Occupation, originating in Christian principles and directed to Chriftian purposes, is effential, not only to the refreshing enjoyment of leisure (for the rest that refreshes is rest after toil); but to the acquisition of genuine composure, of serenity of conscience, of that peace of God which passeth all understanding. To be a blankin creation, acumberer of the ground; to be torpid amidst furrounding industry; to be entrusted with talents, and employ them not for good; to owe infinite obligations, and withhold active evidences of
giatitude ; to be commanded to occupy until the coming of your Lord, and to waste life in habitual disobedience with these features in your character is your mind at ease? Have you stable satisfaction within ? Does not shame redden your cheek? Does not alarm agitate your soul ?
Single out from the passing crowd of examples a character habitually nothful : a character slumbering in lazy listlessness, or busied in the laborious idleness of folly. Single out a sluggard protracting night unto noon ; fauntering in the irksomeness of inactivity; hearing in languid vacancy the news of the day; and killing time (weigh well the import of this his customary phrase), killing time evening after evening at the card table! Select a young man devoted to the chase and its attendant cares : or with skill worthy of a game-keeper, with ardour which might befit a favage in a wilderness constrained to a perilous war against the beasts of the field, dealing day after day and year after year destruction from his gun amidst the animal race. Select a young woman rolling round the vortex of dissipation, living to accomplishments and fashion and the song and the dance. Is this to improve life? Is this to watch against sin? Is this to prepare the heart for religion? Is this to be a servant of Christ, who could not but be about his Father's business? Shall the Idler, roused on the great day by the enquiry, “What has been thy oc
cupation,” reply to the Judge;" I scoffed not at thy word; I respected thine ör
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