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Enough, I hope, has been said, to show you the necessity of introducing religion into all the actions of your common life, and of living and acting with the same regard to God in all which you do, as in your prayers and alms.
Eating is one of the lowest actions of our lives. It is common to us with mere animals; yet we see, that the piety of all ages in the world has turned this ordinary action of an animal life into piety to God, by making every meal to begin and end with devotion.
We see yet some remains of this custom in most christian families ; some such little formality, as shows you, that people used to call upon God at the beginning and end of their meals. But indeed it is now generally so performed, as to look more like a mockery upon devotion, than any solemn application of the mind unto God. In one house you may perhaps see the head of the family just pulling off his hat, in another half getting up from his seat. Another shall, it may be, proceed so far, as to make, as if he said something. But however these little attempts are the remains of some devotion, which was formerly used at such times, and are proofs that religion has formerly belonged to this part of common life.
But to such a pass are we now come, that, though the custom is yet preserved, we can hardly bear with him, who seems to perform it with any degree of seriousness ; and look upon it as a sign of a fanatical temper, if a man have not done it as soon as he begins.
I would not be thought to plead for the necessity of long prayers at these times; but thus much, I think, may be said, that, if
be proper at these times, we ought to oblige ourselves to use such a form of words, as should show, that we solemnly appeal to God for such graces and blessings as are then proper to the occasion ; otherwise the mock ceremony, instead of blessing our victuals, does but accustom us to trifle with devotion, and give us a habit of being unaffected with our prayers.
If every head of a family were, at the return of every meal, to oblige himself to make a solemn adaration of God, in such a decent manner, as becomes a devout minu, it would be very likely to teach him, that swearing, sensuality, gluttony, and loose discourse were very improp. er at those meals, which were to begin and end with devotion.
If, in these days of corruption, this part of devotion is fallen into a mock ceremony, it must be imputed to this cause, that sensuality and intemperance have too great a power over us, to suffer us to add any devotion to our meals. But this must be said, that, when we are as pious, as Jews and heathens of all ages have been, we shall think it proper to pray at the beginning and end of our meals.
I have appealed to this pious custom of all ages of the world, as a proof of the reasonableness of the doctrine of this and the foregoingchapters ; that is, as a proof, that religion is to be the rule and measure of all the actions of ordinary life. For surely, if we are not to eat, but under such rules of devotion, it must plainly appear, that whatever else we do, must, in its
proper way, be done with the same regard to the glory of God, and agreeable to the principles of a devout and pious mind.
Persons, who are free from the necessity of labour, are
to consider themselves as devoted to God in a higher degree.
GREAT part of the world are free from the necessities of labour and employments, and have their time and fortunes at their own disposal.
They are those, of whom much will be required,' because 'much is given unto them.'
A slave can only live unto God in one particular way ; that is, by religious patience and submission in his state of slavery.
But all the ways of holy living, all instances, and all kinds of virtue, lie open to those, who are masters of themselves, their time, and their fortune.
It is as much the duty therefore of such persons, to make a wise use of their liberty, to devote themselves to all kinds of virtue, to aspire after every thing, that is holy and pious, to endeavour to be eminent in all good works, and to please God in the highest and most perfect manner; it is as much their duty to be thus wise in the conduct of themselves, and thus ex.
tensive in their endeavours after holiness, as it is the duty of a slave to be resigned unto God in his state of slavery.
You are no labourer nor tradesman ; you are neither merchant nor soldier. Consider
yourself therefore as placed in a state, in some degree, like that of good angels, who are sent into the world as ministering spirits for the general good of mankind, to assist, protect, and minis. ter for them, who shall be heirs of salvation.
For the more you are free from the common necessities of men, the more you are to imitate the higher perfections of angels, · Had you, Serena, been obliged by the neces. sities of life to wash clothes for your mainten, ance, or to wait upon some mistress, who demanded all your labour, it would then be your duty to serve and glorify God by such humility, obedience, and faithfulness, as might adorn that state of life.
It would then be recommended to your care, to improve that one talent to its greatest height; that, when the time came, that mankind were to be rewarded for their labours by the great judge of quick and dead, you might be receiv. ed with a well done, good and faithful sere vant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.'