2. He Takes Advantage of All Opportunties
Statement of the proposition:
The industry of a man about his calling, or whatsoever he makes his business, appeareth in his taking all advantages for the furtherance thereof.
A tradesman that minds his employment, doth not only in his shop, but also abroad, and when he is from home, drive forward his trade. Indeed, when he is in his shop, his eyes are most about him to see what is wanting, that it may be supplied, to take care that all his customers may be satisfied, and to order things so, that by his buying and selling his stock may be increased; but if he walk from home, he doth not wholly leave his trade behind him.
If he visit his friends or acquaintance, and there be any likelihood of doing any good, you may observe him questioning the price of such and such commodities, inquiring at what rates they are afforded in those parts; and if they be cheap, possibly furnishing himself from thence; if dear, it may be, put off a considerable quantity of his own.
Having developed the illustration, he here applies the illustration to his proposition:
Because he makes it his business, his mind runs much upon it, that wherever he is, he will be speaking somewhat of it, if occasion be offered, whereby he comes now and then to meet with such bargains as tend much to his benefit;
so the Christian that makes religion his business, is industrious to improve all opportunities for the furtherance of his general calling.
Second application: He here takes uses some allusions to Scripture to flesh out the application. The first allusion is based upon Psalm 102:7, “I lie awake; I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop.” (ESV) The basis of the allusion is “I like awake.” Thus, I am constantly watching, like David’s sparrow.
As his time (for he is God’s servant) so his trade goeth forward every hour; he is, David-like, as a sparrow upon the house-top, looking on this side and that side, to see where he may pick up some spiritual food.
He doth not only in the church and in his closet, but also in all his converses [his interactions, broader than merely speaking] with men, walk with his God. If God prosper him, as the ship mounts higher according to the increase of the tide, so his heart is lifted up the nearer to God, as God’s hand is enlarged towards him. If God afflict him, as the nipping north wind purifies the air, so the besom of affliction doth sweep the dust of sin out of his heart. As his pulse is ever beating, so his heavenly trade is ever going forward.
Note that last epigram: As his pulse is ever beating, so his heavenly trade is ever going forward. It is a well balanced line. The beats are not identical on both sides of the pause, but the concepts “rhyme” and clauses “pulse is ever beating” and “trade is every going” does balance perfect. Thus the “forward” drops one more metrical “foot.”
Again, such epigrams work particularly well at the beginning or end of an idea as a way to summarize and recall the whole.
His visits to his friends are out of conscience as well as out of courtesy; and his endeavour is, either by some savoury Scripture expression, or some sober action, to advantage his company. He will watch for a fit season to do his own and others’ souls service, and catch at it as greedily, and improve it as diligently, as Benhadad’s servants did Ahab’s words.
A few things which this last paragraph. Benhadad’s servants are referenced in 1 Kings 20. The allusion is ironic, because they were “diligent” in an evil matter. Again, note how he uses repetition – with an increase information (not a mere repetition of synonyms):
His visits to his friends are
out of conscience
as well as out of courtesy;
and his endeavour is,
either by some savoury Scripture expression,
or some sober action,
to advantage his company.
There are two main verbs: visit/endeavor. Each verb is modified by two clauses, each marked with alliteration. There is a result clause: to the advantage of his company. Such rhetorical structures are not overdone; they are not gaudy – even non-rhetorical age. They make it easier to understand are more affective than something such as: He makes it is his habit to to do his best to speak and act like a godly man whenever he is in company.
This next section has an allusion to “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Cor. 10:31. He applies the principle to eating, commerce, and socializing.
If he be eating or drinking, the salt of grace is ever one dish upon the table to season all his diet. He will raise his heart from the daily bread to the bread that came down from heaven. He eateth, is full, and blesseth the Lord. Before he begins he asketh God’s leave, while he feeds he tasteth God’s love, and when he hath done he giveth God thanks.
If he be buying or selling, he is very willing that God should be a witness to all his bargains; for he prayeth to God as if men heard him, and he tradeth with men as if God saw him. His shop, as well as his chapel, is holy ground.
If he be amongst his relations, he is both desirous and diligent to further religion. His endeavour is that those that are nigh him in the flesh may be nigh God in the spirit. He is careful that both by his precepts and pattern he may do somewhat for their profit. His house, as well as his heart, is consecrated to God.
He here shifts a bit on the nature of his exhortation: rather than focusing on someone whose does a certain thing, Swinnock explains the godly man in terms of nature: this is a thing he is (not merely a thing he does):
As Cæsar’s image was stamped on a penny, as well as on a greater piece, Mat. 22:20, so godliness, which is the image of the King of kings, is imprinted not only on his greater and weightier, but also upon his lesser and meaner practices.
He returns to the question of conduct:
Godliness is not his physic, which he only now and then (as at spring and fall) makes use of, but his food, which he daily dealeth about; besides his set times for his set meals of morning and evening devotion, he hath many a good bait by the by in the day-time. ‘Evening, morning, and at noon will I pray, and cry aloud,’ Ps. 55:17. ‘Oh, how love I thy law; it is my meditation,’ not some part, but ‘all the day.’
Whether the actions he be about be natural or civil, he makes them sacred; whether the company he be in be good or bad, he will mind his holy calling; whether he be riding or walking, whether it be at home or abroad; whether he be buying or selling, eating or drinking, whatsoever he be doing, or wheresoever he be going, still he hath an eye to further godliness, because he makes that his business.
And now back to ontology. This switch back-and-forth, detracts a bit from the structure. In a day of long-hand writing, I assume he completed one section (godliness as conduct) switched to godliness as being, and then thought of another section, added it, and then returned to his subject. Note that the second of the above-sections repeats the concept from above about eating and buying.
What the philosopher said of the soul in relation to the body—The soul is whole in the whole body, and whole in every part of it1—is true of godliness, in reference to the life of a Christian; godliness is whole in his whole conversation, and whole in every part of it.
As the constitution of man’s body is known by his pulse; if it beat not at all, he is dead; if it beat and keep a constant stroke, it is a sign the body is sound. Godliness is the pulse of the soul; if it beat not at all, the soul is void of spiritual life; if it beat equally and constantly, it speaks the soul to be in an excellent plight.
He ends this question of godliness as matter of constant attention and action by means of a contrast between the example of the Lord and the one who shifts to circumstance:
It was the practice of our Saviour, who left us a blessed pattern therein, to be always furthering godliness. When bread was mentioned to him, upon it he dissuaded his disciples from the leaven of the pharisees, Mat. 16:5, 6. When water was denied him by the Samaritan woman, he forgets his thirst, and seeks to draw her to the well-spring of happiness, John 4:10. When people came to him for bodily cures, how constantly doth he mind the safety of their souls: ‘Thou art made whole, go sin no more,’ or, ‘Thy sins are forgiven thee.’ He went about doing good; in the day-time working miracles and preaching, in the night-time he often gave himself to meditation and prayer.
The example of the Lord is useful in two ways. First, this is the supreme example of what is required. Second, there is a reference back to his prior description: the godly man is concerned with godliness while he is eating or drinking.
Now we turn to the contrast, who reminds on of Mr. By-Ends in Pilgrim’s Progress:
Money-Love: Alas! Why did they not stay, that we might have had their good company? for they, and we, and you, Sir, I hope, are all going on pilgrimage.
By-ends: We are so, indeed; but the men before us are so rigid, and love so much their own notions, and do also so lightly esteem the opinions of others, that let a man be never so godly, yet if he jumps not with them in all things, they thrust him quite out of their company.
Save-All: That is bad, but we read of some that are righteous overmuch; and such men’s rigidness prevails with them to judge and condemn all but themselves. But, I pray, what, and how many, were the things wherein you differed?
By-ends: Why, they, after their headstrong manner, conclude that it is duty to rush on their journey all weathers; and I am for waiting for wind and tide. They are for hazarding all for God at a clap; and I am for taking all advantages to secure my life and estate. They are for holding their notions, though all other men are against them; but I am for religion in what, and so far as the times, and my safety, will bear it. They are for religion when in rags and contempt; but I am for him when he walks in his golden slippers, in the sunshine, and with applause.
He that minds religion by the by doth otherwise; he can, Proteus-like, turn himself into any shape which is in fashion. As the carbuncle, a beast which is seen only by night, having a stone in his forehead, which shineth incredibly and giveth him light whereby to feed; but when he heareth the least noise, he presently lets fall over it a skin, which he hath as a natural covering, lest its splendour should betray him; so the half Christian shines with the light of holiness by fits and starts; every fright makes him hold in and hide it. The mark of Antichrist was in his followers’ hands, which they can cover or discover at their pleasure; but the mark of Christ’s disciples was in their foreheads, visible at all times.
A note on the fabulous beasts and events referenced by our ancestors. When we look at back at these things, we can think: How credulous they were. But think for a moment.
1 Anima est tota in toto et tota in qualibet parte.