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cording to the rules of Christian prudence, will leave void spaces enough for prayers and retirements
and retirements of a more spiritual religion.
God hath given every man work enough to do, that there shall be no room for idleness; and yet hath so ordered the world, that there shall be space for devotion. He, that hath the fewest businesses of the world, is called upon to spend more time in the dressing of his soul; and he, that hath the most affairs, may so order them, that they shall be a service of God; whilst, at certain periods, they are blessed with prayers and actions of religion, and all day long are hallowed by a holy intention.
However, so long as idleness is quite shut out from our lives, all the sins of wantonness, softness, and effeminacy, are prevented, and there is but little room left for temptation; and therefore, to a busy man, temptation is fain to climb up together with his businesses, and sins creep upon him only by accidents and occasions : whereas, to an idle person, they come in a full body, and with open violence, and the impudence of a restless importunity.
Idleness is called “the sin of Sodom and her daughters b." and indeed is "the burial of a living mane;" an idle person being so useless to any purposes of God and man, that he is like one that is dead, unconcerned in the changes and necessities of the world; and he only lives to spend his time, and eat the fruits of the earth : like a vermin or a wolf, when their time comes, they die and perish, and in the mean time, do no good ; they neither plough nor carry burthens; all that they do, either is unprofitable or mischievous.
Idleness is the greatest prodigality in the world: it throws away that, which is invaluable in respect of its present use, and irreparable when it is past, being to be recovered by no power of art or nature. But the way to secure and improve, our time we may practise in the following rules.
Ezek. xvi. 49.
Rules for employing our Time.
1. In the morning, when you awake, accustom youself to think first upon God, or something in order to his service; and at night also, let him close thine eyes : and let your sleep be necessary and healthful, not idle and expensive of time, beyond the needs and conveniences of nature; and sometimes be curious to see the preparation, which the sun makes when he is coming forth from his chambers of the east.
2. Let every man that hath a calling, be diligent in pursuance of its employment, so as not lightly or without reasonable occasion to neglect it in any of those times, which are usually, and by the custom of prudent persons and good husbands, employed in it.
3. Let all the intervals or void spaces of time be employed in prayers, reading, meditating, works of nature, recreation, charity, friendliness and neighbourhood, and means of spiritual and corporal health : ever remembering so to work in our calling, as not to neglect the work of our high calling; but to begin and end the day with God, with such forms of devotion, as shall be proper to our necessities.
4. The resting days of Christians, and festivals of the church, must, in no sense, be days of idleness; for it is better to plough upon holy days, than to do nothing or to do viciously: but let them be spent in the works of the day, that is, of religion and charity, according to the rules appointed a.
5. Avoid the company of drunkards and busy bodies, and all such as are apt to talk much to little purpose: for no man can be provident of his time, that is not prudent in the choice of his company; and if one of the speakers be vain, tedious, and trifling, he that hears, and he that answers, in the discourse, are equal losers of their time.
6. Never walk with any man, or undertake any trifling employment, merely to pass the time away®: for every day well spent may become a “day of salvation,” and time rightly employed is an “acceptable time.” And remember, that the time thou triflest away, was given thee to repent in, to pray for pardon of sins, to work out thy salvation, to do the work of
See chap. iv, sect. 6.
* S. Bern. de Triplici Custodia.
grace, to lay up against the day of judgement a treasure of good works, that thy time may be crowned with eternity.
7. In the midst of the works of thy calling, often retire to God' in short prayers and ejaculations; and those may make up the want of those larger portions of time, which, it may be, thou desirest for devotion, and in which thou thinkest other persons have advantage of thee; for so thou reconcilest the outward work and thy inward calling, the church and the commonwealth, the employment of the body and the interest of thy soul: for be sure, that God is present at thy breathings and hearty sighings of prayer, as soon as at the longer offices of less busied persons; and thy time is as truly sanctified by a trade, and devout though shorter prayers, as by the longer offices of those, whose time is not filled up with labour and useful business.
8. Let your employment be such, as may become a reasonable person;
and not be a business fit for children or distracted people, but fit for your age and understanding. For a man may be very idly busy, and take great pains to so little purpose, that, in his labours and expense of time, he shall serve no end but of folly and vanity. There are some trades, that wholly serve the ends of idle persons and fools, and such as are fit to be seized upon by the severity of laws and banished from under the sun : and there are some people, who are busy; but it is, as Domitian was, in catching flies.
9. Let your employment be fitted to your person and caļling. Some there are, that employ their time and affairs infinitely below the dignity of their person ; and being called by God, or by the republic, to help to bear great burdens, and to judge a people, do enfeeble their understandings, and disable. their persons by sordid and brutish business. Thus Nero went up and down Greece, and challenged the fiddlers at their trade. Æropus, a Macedonian king, made lanterns. Harcatius, the king of Parthia, was a mole-catcher: and Biantes, the Lydian, filed needles. He, that is appointed to minister in holy things, must not suffer secular affairs and sordid arts to eat up great portions of his employment: a clergyman must not keep a tavern, nor a judge be an innkeeper; and it
'Laudatur Cæsar apud Lucanum,
media inter prælia semper
was a great idleness in Theophylact, the patriarch of C. P. to spend his time in his stable of horses, when he should have been in his study, or the pulpit, or saying his holy offices. Such employments are the diseases of labour, and the rust of time, which it contracts, not by lying still, but by dirty employment.
10. Let our employment be such as becomes a Christian; that is, in no sense, mingled with sin : for he that takes pains to serve the ends of covetousness, or ministers to another's lust, or keeps a shop of impurities or intemperance, is idle in the worst sense; for every hour, so spent, runs him backward, and must be spent again in the remaining and shorter part of his life, and spent better.
11. Persons of great quality, and of no trade, are to be most prudent and curious in their employment and traffic of time. They are miserable, if their education hath been so loose and undisciplined, as to leave them unfurnished of skill to spend their time: but most miserable are they, if such misgovernment and unskilfulness make them fall into vicious and baser company, and drive on their time by the sad minutes and periods of sin and death. They that are learned, know the worth of time, and the manner how well to improve a day; and they are to prepare themselves 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 choose good company, such as may not tempt them to a vice, or join with them in any; but that may supply their defects by counsel and discourse, by way of conduct and conversation. 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 proportion supply them, and reconcile their enmities, and prevent their law-suits, or quickly end them; and in this glut of leisure and disemployment, 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 mispendings 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 care and provision 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 busybodies, which are the canker and rust of idleness, as idleness is the rust of time, are reproved by the apostle in severe language, and forbidden in order to this exercise.
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 meat 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