« PreviousContinue »
for such purposes in which they may be most useful, in order to arts or arms, to counsel in public, or government in their country. But for others of them that are unlearned, let them learn easy and useful things, read history and the laws of the land, learn the customs of their country, the condition of their own estate, profitable and charitable contrivances of it: let them study prudently to govern their families, learn the burdens of their tenants, the necessities of their neighbours, and in their proportions supply them; and reconcile their enmities, and prevent their law-suits, or quickly end them; and, in this glut of leisure and dis-employment, let them set apart greater portions of their time for religion, and the necessities of their souls.
12. Let the women of noble birth and great fortunes do the same things, in their proportions and capacities; nurse their children, look to the affairs of the house, visit poor cottages, and relieve their necessities, be courteous to the neighbourhood, learn in silence of their husbands or their spiritual guides, read good books, pray often, and speak little, and learn to do good works for necessary uses; for by that phrase St. Paul expresses the obligation of Christian women to good housewifery, and charitable provisions for their family and neighbourhood.
13. Let all persons, of all conditions, avoid all delicacy and niceness in their clothing or diet; because such softness engages them upon great mis-spendings of their time, while they dress and comb out all their
opportunities of their morning devotion, and half the day's severity, and sleep out the cares and provisions for their souls.
14. Let every one, of every condition, avoid curiosity, and all inquiry into things that concern them not. For all business, in things that concern us not, is an employing our 'time to no good of ours, and therefore not in order to a happy eternity. In this account, our neighbour's necessities are not to be reckoned; for they concern us, as one member is concerned in the grief of another. But, going from house to house, tattlers and busy-bodies, which are the canker and rust of idleness, as idleness is the rust of time, are reproved by the Apostle, in severe language.
15. As much as may be, cut off all impertinent and useless employments of your life, unnecessary and fantastic visits, long waitings upon great personages, where neither duty, nor necessity, nor charity, obliges us; all vain meetings, all laborious trifles, and whatsoever spends much time to no real, civil, religious, or charitable purpose.
16. Let not your recreations be lavish spenders of your time; but choose such which are healthful, short, transient, recreative, and apt to refresh you ; but at no hand dwell upon them, or make them your great employment: for he that spends his time in sports, and calls it recreation, is like him whose garment is all made of fringes, and his meal nothing but sauces; they are healthless, chargeable, and useless. And therefore avoid such games which require much time or long attendance, or which are apt to steal thy affections from more severe employments. For, to whatsoever thou hast given thy affections, thou wilt not grudge to give thy time.
17. Set apart some portions of every day for more solemn devotion, and religious employment, which be severe in observing; and, if variety of employment, or prudent affairs, or civil society, press upon you, yet so order thy rule, that the necessary parts of it be not omitted: and, though just occasions may make our prayers shorter, yet let nothing but a violent, sudden, and impatient necessity make thee, upon any one day, wholly to omit thy morning and evening devotions; which, if you be forced to make very short, you may supply and lengthen with ejaculations and short retirements in the day-time, in the midst of your employment or of your company.
18. Do not the work of God negligently and idly : let not thy heart be upon the world, when thy hand is lift up in
prayer; and be sure to prefer an action of religion, in its place and proper season, before all worldly pleasure.
19. When the clock strikes, or however else you shall measure the day, it is good to say a short ejaculation every hour, that the parts and returns of devotion may be the measure of your time: and do so also in the breaches of thy sleep, that those spaces, which have in them no direct business of the world, may
be filled with religion.
20. If by thus doing you have not secured your time by an early and forehanded care, yet be sure, by a timely diligence, to redeem the time; that is, to be pious and religious in such instances in which formerly you have sinned; and to bestow your time especially upon such graces, the contrary whereof you have formerly practised.
21. Let him that is most busied set apart some solemn time, every year; in which, for the time quitting all worldly business, he may attend wholly to fasting and prayer, and the dressing of his soul by confessions, meditations, and attendances upon God; that he may make up his accounts, renew his vows, and retire back again, from whence levity and the vanities of the world, or the opportunities of temptations, or the distraction of secular affairs, have carried him.
22. In this we shall be much assisted, and we shall find the work more easy, if, before we sleep every night, we examine the actions of the past day: with a particular scrutiny, if there have been any accidents extraordinary; as, long discourse, a feast, much business, variety of company. If nothing but common hath happened, the less examination will suffice: only, let us take care that we sleep not without such a recollection of the actions of the day as may represent any thing that is remarkable and great, either to be the matter of sorrow or thanksgiving.
23. Let all things be done prudently and moderately; not with scruple and vexation. For these [rules) are good advantages; but the particulars are not Divine commandments; and therefore are to be used as shall be found expedient to every one's condition.
THE BENEFITS OF THIS EXERCISE.
This exercise, besides that it hath influence upon our whole lives, it hath a special efficacy, l. For the preventing of beggarly sins; that is, those sins which idleness and beggary usually betray men to; such as are, lying, flattery, and dissimulation. 2. It is a proper antidote against carnal sins, and such as proceed from fulness of bread and emptiness of employment. 3. It is a great instrument of preventing the smallest sins and irregularities of our life, which usually creep upon idle, disemployed, and curious persons. 4. It not only teaches us to avoid evil; but engages us upon doing good, as the proper business of all our days. 5. It prepares us so against sudden changes, that we shall not easily be surprised at the sudden coming of the Day of the Lord.