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HERE are various terms by which a
man's work is described. It is his oc
cupation, business, vocation, calling. The latter two words are better than the former. They not merely denote that with which he is engaged, but present this as the work to which he is summoned. There is something outside of the mere preference and the personal will. This adds dignity, bravery, patience, satisfaction: to know that one has been called to his place and work. It gives meaning to his years, and brings them into harmony with other well-ordered lives. One of Dr. Bushnell's sermons is from the words, “I girded thee, though thou hast not known me." The title is, “ Every man's life a plan of God.” The reference is to Cyrus; but it has been equally true of many men in all times. Our Lord said to his disciples, “Ye did not choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you.” This was for special service; but the fact of the divine call is not restricted. It may be for anything which needs to be done. Moses was called to be the leader of his people and the lawgiver of the world. But Bezaleel was called “to devise skilful works, to work in gold and in silver, and in brass, and in cutting of stones for setting, and in carving of wood, to work in all manner of workmanship.” At the same time Oholiab and others were called to make the Tabernacle and the ark and the mercy-seat, and the altar and sacred vessels, the garments of the priests, and the anointing oil and the incense. Thus all the way down the centuries we find men raised up for particular service; called, instructed, inspired, for that which was required of them; or, better, that which they were permitted to do. The call may be direct, given into the heart of man by the Divine Spirit; or, it may be indirect, yet none the less divine. It is assumed here, and in many countries, that a man will have a work which is his, by which he will serve the community and provide for his own wants. When a young man leaves college he is asked, “What are you going to do?" Afterwards the inquiry is, “What is he doing?” That is, what is his calling; for it is taken for granted that he has a business of some sort. Even if he has wealth, so that he need not earn his living, he is quite likely to have some profession, or occupation, by which he is known. Fortunately for most men this is a necessity, and the question is not, Shall I do anything, but What shall I do? For his choice has an important part in the determination. His choice responds to the call and these combine to make it his occupation. We may speak of it under either term.
He is to take it for granted that he is to have his work,—that he is made for something which he can do better than he can do other things. What this is he is to find out. His health, his virtue, his manhood, his contentment and usefulness, his generosity and patriotism, all demand that he shall work. The Apostolic injunction is virtually without limit: “If any will not work, neither let him eat.” More than the sleep of a labouring man is sweet. It is one of the features of the advance of civilization, that labour is honourable. There is a clear improvement in the popular feeling regarding it. It has come to be seen that there is little likelihood of a man's growth unless he works, and that the same rule applies to a people. One of the advantages of a Northern climate is in the necessity for exertion.
The question presses, “What shall I do?” The answer is of vital importance, for the life is involved with it. Not only does the work maintain the life, but it affects it in every part of the man's nature. There are many kinds of work from which one's own is be selected. The number of pursuits which can be followed by one who chooses to be called a gentleman, rather than a workman, or labourer, is much enlarged. It is not very long since there were, in popular speech, three professions, Theology, Law, and Medicine.
it be so.
There was also the profession of the Teacher, who was in many cases a Minister. Beyond these were the merchants, bankers, architects, builders, and others. The lines were purely artificial and they have disappeared. The college degrees are more widely dispersed. Scientific schools have made new professions. Indeed, anyone who does work of a high and special grade is entitled to whatever distinction remains in a professional life. The gentleman can do anything honest and make it honourable, if he does it as a gentleman.
It relieves the matter somewhat, that the choice need not be made early. If it makes itself, let
Otherwise it can wait, and it is usually better that it should wait. A man should find himself, and get some knowledge of the world before he commits himself and his one chance in life. It is not required that a young man when he enters college should know what profession he will enter when he graduates. If he does know, he may select studies closely related to that calling, but this is of doubtful value. It is best for the student to gain a broad knowledge, and in departments which may seem to be aside from the proposed leading method of life. All knowledge is useful and there are not many things for which a man will not at some time find the use. The exactions of professional life are so great, that unless a man in his preparatory
years learns something of many things, there will be many things which he will never learn, although he will have need to know them. The road of learning narrows with one's advance and should be kept wide as long as he can have it so. In the strictly professional school special studies will have their place and will lay hold upon the student and retain their hold.
How shall a man know his true calling? How shall he find his right work? For it is evident that men are not all suited to the same employment. It may be assumed that there is a place for everyone. It is a pity that a youth should be obliged to go to work before he has had time to find out what he can do best. Many a man spends his years in the wrong place because he was forced to go into it. He was obliged to support himself, and perhaps to help support his family. It is a severe necessity and should be avoided whenever it can be. The laws against employing children in mines and factories are rational, and it were well if they could be raised to a higher age. There is a tendency which can be resisted, by which the youth, in weariness of study, and impatient "to be at work," refuses to continue in school that he may make himself ready, and hence is bound to lower tasks than he could easily have reached if he had taken time for preparation. He is deluded. He seeks more liberty and finds less. The authority of his elders