« PreviousContinue »
No. 11, Vol. xxiii.
Whole No. 275.
BY REV. JOSEPH P. THOMPSON,
RELIGION IN BUSINESS. Not slothful in business ; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord.”-Romans 12 : 11
The revival of business is now the common topic of conversation with business men. There is no more complaining of “ a dull season,” of “nothing doing ;" but every sort of business is active, and there is promise of a season of unusual prosperity. For one, I am glad of it. As a Christian minister, I rejoice in it; for dull times in business are apt to be dull times in everything. Though in a season of general distress, many may turn their thoughts to religion and eternal things, yet it is in a time of general prosperity that the cause of Christ, as a whole, moves forward. Then it is that men build churches, schools, and colleges, plant missions, send forth evangelists, distribute freely the Word of God, in short, push forward with vigor all th: enterprises of benevolence. The opening of a railroud through a certain county in Massachusetts wiped off som half-a-dozen churches from the list of beneficiaries of the Home Missionary Society. It revived business ; it brought trade and money to the doors of the people, and thus gave them the means of supporting the institutions of the gospel. The same process is going forward in other States, both North and West. Religion has an interest in the railroad, the canal, the factory, the mine, the ship, the steamboat, the machine, the plow, the anvil, and the loom. Where the fruits of industry and commerce most abound, there religion may look for her largest tribute ; as also, in turn, where religion is best sustained there the arts and occupations of civilized life are most flourishing. Therefore, let not Christians look upon the reviving of business as of course a hindrance to the revival of religion, nor eel that nothing can he done to revive religion in a busy seaLet them not set religion in opposition to all the temporal interests of men ; neither let them separate their own business from their religion, and attempt to carry each forward at intervals only, and distinct from the other. While we congratulate our fellow-citizens on the revival of business, let us turn their thoughts to the higher blessing of the reviving of religion; making the return of temporal prosperity the occasion of gratitude to God and of renewed activity in his service. In so doing, we shall carry out the spirit of the apostolic precept in our text.
I am aware that some understand by “ business ” here, the work of Christ-referring the exhortation to “religious activ: ity," rather than to " the active performance of our several vocations." The word translated business” means properly, haste, zeal, activity, diligence ; and hence it comes very naturally to denote industry, labor. The meaning of the apostle may then be expressed as follows : As to diligence, activity, labor, do not be remiss or slothful-do not grow weary or indolent. Thus taken, it is a general precept, corresponding with that given in Ecclesiastes, 9 : 10, " Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.” In this view of the text, we may say with Dr. Chalmers, “ Whether we retain the word business or render it into any other of the relative terms, there is no mistaking the sense of this first clause, which is not to be slothful but diligent; and that whatever the business may be, if an expedient and a lawful one. The question whether it be a sa
red or secular employment which is here referred to, will not mbarrass him whose honest aim is to leaven with the spirit - the gospel every hour of his life, and every work which he puts his hand to. The man who studies to observe all things whatsoever' Christ hath commanded him, will still feel bimself religiously employed when following the precept - Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.' He will see no difficulty in making the advice here given to be of uuiversal application, who aspires to a conformity with the sayings—Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God;'Whatsoever ye do in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.'
We may, therefore, apply the text, at least in its spirit, to secular business. Not only in the work of the ministry, not only in labors of brotherly love, or of benevolence towards mankind, but in the daily vocations of life, in our every day business, we are to be "not slothful” but diligent.
In order to a full development of this idea, I remark
1. The Christian religion favors activity and diligence in business. In this remark it is implied, of course, that the business is in itself lawful; not lawful merely according to the statute-book of the state or code of commerce, but lawful according to the great moral law of benevolence which extends to all the conduct and relations of life.
A business whose direct tendency is to injure the community in property, bealth, or morals, like the sale of intoxicating drinks, though it may be licensed by the civil authority, is in violation of the law of love, and is, therefore, an unlawful busi. ness. There is no commendation of such business in the Word of God; no exhortation to faithfulness and diligence therein; but, on the contrary, the curse of God is upon it and its gains, "Wo to him that giveth his neighbor drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken......the cup of the Lord's right hand shall be turned to thee, and shameful spewing shall be on thy glory;” The very house built by such gains is accursed. "For the stone shall cry out of the wall, , and the beam out of the timber shall answer it, wo to him that buildeth a town with blood, and estabĮisbeth a city, by iniquity!” Any business which tends to injure mankind is un. lawful, and is disallowed of God. But whatever business is of a useful tendency, whatever contributes in any way to the wellbeing of mankind-physically, intellectually, socially, or more ally—that it is not only lawful for us to engage in, but being engaged in it, we are commanded to follow it with diligence, The scriptural rule is, that every man shall have some useful occupation, and that he shall be industrious in bis calling.
Paul, in his letters to the Thessalonians, says : “ We beseech you, brethren, that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing." And again : "For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busy bodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort, by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread." He then refers to his own example. Though he might have called upon them to support him while he was laboring for their good, yet, for example's sake, he “ did not eat any man's bread for naught, but wrought with labor and travail night and day, that he might not be chargeable to any." The Bible nowhere tolerates laziness, Both the Old Testament and the New abound in exhortations to diligence. The book of proverbs is a manual of industry, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard ; consider her ways and be wişe." " The soul of the sluggard desireth and hath nothing : but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.” “ He that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster.” thou a man diligent in his business? He shall stand before kings ; be shall not stand before mean men.” Christ condemns sloth in his own service, as in the sentence of the wicked and slothful servant in the parable of the talents : He was ever acs tive in doing good, and doubtless before entering on his publio
ministry, was industrious in his sphere as the carpenter's son. Paul labored at his trade of tent-making while in Ephesus, ministering to his necessities with his own hands; and he ex horts the Ephesians to labor, working with their own hands, in some good and useful occupation.
Thus much for the teachings of Scripture upon this point. Idleness is utterly discountenanced. It is condemned as a sin. The Christian religion enjoins industry and diligence in our secular concerns.
What Christianity thus enjoins by positive precept, it favors also by its influence, direct or indirect, in various ways. On this point, it has been well observed, that religion “ draws off the mind from those pleasures and pursuits which generate and promote indolence.”" Vain, frivolous, and vicious amusements are not only forbidden by the spirit and precepts of the gospel, but are surperseded by those higher occupations with which it fills the mind. The pursuits of idleness, --if that be not a contradiction in terms,--are foreign to the temper of the Christian. He has no relish for them. He can take no satisfaction in idling away his time. One can hardly conceive of such a character as a Christian loafer,--a devout, God-fearing idler. One of the first fruits of the gospel among a people who have been living in idleness and wantonness, is industry. When once a man realizes that he is immortal, he is no longer content to live like a beast; he forsakes the filthy hut for the neat cottage ; he gives up his roving, reckless manner of life for the quiet occupations of husbandry, or for some mechanic art, or for the more active pursuits of trade and commerce. The thought that he is to live hereafter, leads him to set a higher value on the present life. He no longer walks in la. sciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revelings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries. The idler, the spendthrift, the prodigal, is transformed into a sober and industrious man, through the power of the gospel. Those who have watched the progress of civilization in connection with missionary labor at the Sandwich Islands, or among our own aborigines, will need no further argument or illustration on this point. The progress of Christianity is the progress of man in physical comfort and social refinement. The gospel makes the desert bloom, and covers the wilderness with gladness and plenty.
Again : the Christian religion by holding forth the great idea of the renovation of the world, demands of all who em: brace it, the active improvement of time. The Christian religion contemplates man in a state of degradation ; the world in ruins. Its office is to bring man out of that state ; to build ap those ruins. And in order to this, the whole fabric of society must be penetrated by its influence, and if need be, molded anew. Not only barbarism, but civilization itself must be Christianized. The masses must be reached ; the poor must be clothed and fed, and comforted; the ignorant must be instructed, the vicious restrained : political economy, civil government, every social institution must be brought under the control of the law of love. Christianity does not have to do merely with the souls of men ; with their spiritual interests alone. It cares for these first and most of all, but it cares for men's bodies also—for their temporal well-being. It seeks to do away with poverty, with oppression, with wrong, with all unjust and unnatural distinctions, with every social and moral evil, from the face of the earth. And he who embraces Christianity finds himself enlisted for life in that work. It is a great work. To do his part of it, every Christian must be diligent in his calling, that so far as that contributes to the improvement and happiness of mankind, he may do good therein ; he must be diligent in business, that he may thus gain the means of usefulness in other modes; he must be diligent in business, that he may gain time for engaging directly in acts of bepevolence. Jesus felt that he had a work to do. “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day.", " Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business ? So the Christian feels that he has a work to do for Christ and for the world. which calls upon him to be diligent in all things—to lead a life of laborious and unceasing activity:
This requirement reaches Christians of all classes and in all circumstances. The pious female dispenses comfort and happiness to her household; but she does not limit her affections or her zeal by the circle of home. Dorcas-like, she plies her needle upon garments for the poor, or she goes forth on errands of sympathy and relief, to the dwellings of the needy and the sorrowing ; and to gain time for these labors, she is diligent in her own affairs. Both in the daily routine of household duties, and in the various offices of kindness to others, the desire to be useful and to honor Christ in her appointed sphere, quickens every movement, graces every labor, lightens every care.
Again, the Christian religion promotes industry, by impressing the inind with a deep conviction of the value of time. The Christian, at the moment of conversion, starts with this feeling : I have wasted thus much of life ; I have lost years on years of precious time ; and now I must go to work to redeem it. The time past of my life must suffice for worldliness, selfseeking, folly, sin ; I now have something to live for, and I must not live any longer to myself—it is high time to awake out of sleep
With this feeling he becomes conscientious in the use of time. He has none to waste ; he takes the time needed for sleep as a matter of duty; he takes the time necessary for relaxation, for social visiting and enjoyment, for the amenities of life as a matter of principal, that he may be refreshed, and have health