A complaint that this trade is so dead, and the world’s trade so quick [lively]
The use which I shall make of this doctrine, shall be either by way of complaint or counsel.
Lament Over the Neglect of Godliness:
First, By way of lamentation.
I. INTRODUCTION TO THE LAMENT
If godliness ought to be every one’s principal business, How sadly should it be lamented that this calling is so exceedingly neglected!
A. Compare the efforts in trade to effort in godliness
This argument is first laid-out in an A1-B1-A2-B2 structure: Commerce, Christ – Commerce, Christ. This provides a basis for the lamentation: we are so taken with making money and so neglectful of the things of God.
1. The Loss of Trade
What one man is there of many that doth follow this trade, and exercise himself to godliness? Men generally cry out, trading is dead, their particular callings are gone; they make no considerable returns, they stand in their shops all the day idle.
But may not God rather complain, the holy heavenly trade is decayed and dead; general callings are left and lost; why stand ye all the day idle, and refuse to work in my vineyard?
2. The Abundance of Earthly Trade Contrasted with the Dearth of Heavenly Trade
This return to commerce is interesting: In the first example, he addresses those who lack work. In the second, he addresses those who have abundant work. This is not a contradiction: one always desires more work – even if things are going well at the moment. But here it serves his argument is follows: Are you complaining about no work, then think of the heavenly trade which goes missing. Look at how diligent you are going after worldly trade, when heavenly trade go missing.
The structure of this paragraph is well done: There are three parallel introductory clauses built around alliteration followed by a contrasting four short clauses. The move from alliteration to known also creates another element of contrast. This is extraordinarily fine writing.
a. The Devil has Droves
i. While the devil has whole droves to do his drudgery,
the flesh [has] vast flocks to flatter its fancies,
and the world many millions to admire and adore its vanities,
ii. ‘The ways of Zion mourn,
they are unoccupied,
none come to the solemn feasts,
all her gates are desolated.’
b. The Lawyer’s Closet
i. While the lawyer’s closet is filled with clients for counsel about their estates,
the physician’s chamber with patients about their bodily health,
and the tradesman’s shop crowded with customers,
ii. Jesus Christ is left alone;
though he offereth wares which are of infinite worth,
and stretcheth out his hand all the day long,
yet no man regardeth.
B. We fail in this effort, because we love the wrong things.
Swinnock does not state this matter in terms of love, but does so by means of illustrations.
1. Too Much Trouble
It is reported of some Spaniards that live near the place where is store of fish, that they will rather go without them than take the pains to catch them. Heaven and happiness, Saviour and salvation, are near men, they are brought to their very doors; and yet men will rather lose than labour for them, rather go sleeping to hell, than sweating to heaven. ‘All seek their own, and none the things of Jesus Christ.’
2. It is of no use to me
Offer a crust to a dog and he will catch at it, offer him a crown and he will contemn it; offer these men the crusts of vanity, and how greedily are they embraced, while the crown of glory is most unworthily despised; like beastly swine, they trample this pearl under their feet, and love to wallow in the mire.
C. Answering an Objection
This is an important aspect of making any argument wherein only one person is speaking. When preaching, the auditors has no ability to interrupt and ask a question. Therefore, the preacher (or teacher) should anticipate objections and provide an answer. Spurgeon did this particular skill by combining this work with the introductory phrase “Someone here will be thinking” or “Someone will say”.
This objection is “Maybe you are overstating the case and there actually are many who do this – but you just haven’t noticed”.
But possibly you may say that there are many that make religion their business, only they are so near me that (according to the rule of optics, which requires a due distance between the faculty and the object) I cannot behold them; they abound in every country, parish, family; all are Christians, and make the worship of God their main work.
1. Answer: the real thing is rare.
I must answer as he did when he saw the vast army of Antiochus, There are many men, but few soldiers; many mouths, but few hands: there are many nominal, but few real Christians; many that flourish like fencers, beating only the air, but few that fight in earnest the good fight of faith.
a. They provide only outward show.
Godliness hath many complimental servants, that will give her the cap and the knee, a few good words and outward ceremonies; but godliness hath few faithful friends, that make her the mistress of their affections, that give her the command of their hearts, and that wait upon her, and walk with her all the day long.
b. They have no real love or relationship
Pretenders to her service are indeed like the sand of the sea, numerous; but practitioners or faithful servants are like the pearl of the sea, rare and precious; many court her, but few marry her; for indeed men generally deal with godliness as the Germans with the Italians, or the Dutch with the Spaniards, hold a fair outward correspondency, enough to serve for mutual trade and traffic, but enter not into a near familiarity; they have no great intimacy with godliness; it is rather a stranger to them, whom now and then they bestow a visit on for fashion sake, than an indweller or constant inhabitant.
2. An illustration and diagnosis
This answer begins with an illustration, which is then followed by the argument. This sort of illustration to assertion contains within it an unstated premise: that laziness (not rest, but actual failure to work) is dangerous and defective. He does this by means of using a soldier who wished not to soldier. This would unvirtuous because he would not be what was suitable to his position. Likewise, the Christian who will not seek godliness is also unvirtuous.
Lepidus Major, a loose Roman, when his comrades were exercising themselves in the camp, would lay himself down to sleep in the shade, and cry out, Utinam hoc esset laborare, Would this were all the duty I were to do.
Such soldiers are many who pretend to fight under Christ’s banner; when they should be watching their souls, and warring with Satan and sin, they are sleeping and snoring, as if that were the way to work out their salvations.
Reader, I must acquaint thee with the physician’s rule, that Spontaneæ lassitudines morbos loquuntur, Weariness without some apparent cause is a sign of a diseased body; so thy laziness doth speak a very unsound soul.