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BY JOB ORTO
OR FREQUE TLY ABSE T FROM HOME. PrOV. XXVII, 8. As a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a vian that wandereth from his place. It is an observation of an ancient Jewish writer, in the Apocrypha, and it is confirmed and sealed by the ruin of thousands, that " he that despiseth small things, shall fall by little and little," Ecclus. xix. 1. This important remark is applicable to the affairs both of this world and of another. There are multitudes ruined for this world, by not calculating the amount of small expenses, and by throwing away small parcels of time. There are multitudes ruined for another world, by allowing themselves some indulgences, which prudence should restrain ; and by neglecting a religious care of themselves and their families, in some instances which appear to them of little moment. Whereas nothing that affects our religious interests can, properly speaking, be called little. Every thing that can influence the present temper and future state of the soul, is weighty and important. Some things are indeed necessary to the very being of religion ; others are ornamental to it, and perhaps necessary to promote our progress in it, and give it credit and esteem in the world ; and to despise these is the way to lose all that we have gained, to contract bad habits, and by degrees to become loose and abandoned. I would now apply these general remarks concerning the danger of despising small things, to one particular instance ; namely, that of persons neglecting their proper business and wandering from home. This is the evil which Solomon points at in the text ; where he observeth, "As a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his place." This remark and sentiment may appear indeed to some of no great moment, and scarcely worthy of their serious regard. Yet I hope the authority of the wisest of men will concur with what shall be said for the
illustration of it, to convince them to the contrary. Some interpret the words as a caution against quitting a station in which persons are fixed ; leaving any country where they are settled ; any trade or office in which they are employed : leaving these rashly, and without attending to their conveniences as well as their inconveniences. As this frequently ariseth from an unsettled, discontented spirit, such persons seldom mend their condition ; but in every place and occupation will be likely to meet with the same difficulties or greater, and be exposed to many new inconveniences, which they did not expect. It is indeed a M2
164 orton's practical works. maxim of great prudence not hastily to quit that place or station in which providence hath fixed us. The apostle Paul warns against this, when he saith, " Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called," 1 Cor. vii. 20, " abide with God," as he afterwards expresseth it, or continue to act faithfully in it, as in the presence of God. But there seems no reason for confining Solomon's remark to this instance of prudence and duty. I apprehend that he cautious against a rambling disposition in general ; and it is justly applicable to the case of those who, though they do not quit the country or station in which they are fixed, yet are frequently absent from their proper place, and do not pay a becoming attention to the duties of their stations and callings. And this interpretation best suits the comparison in the former part of the text. The words will therefore afford us this useful observation. That it is very inconvenient and dangerous for a person to be long, or often, absent from home. " A bird that wandereth from her nest" leaves her eggs unhatched, or starves her young ones, or exposeth them to be destroyed by many creatures, whom she hath strength to resist, and from whom, had she been near, she might have fled to
defend them, Isa. xxxi. 5. She hath no opportunity of exercising that astonishing art and sagacity, which many birds have, to deceive those who approach their nests, as they suppose, with an intention to plunder and destroy them ; and lead them to believe that they are in some other place. Besides this injury to her nest, she herself is exposed to birds of prey, and the arts of the fowler, which she might have escaped, had she stayed on or near her nest, or quickly returned to it. A lively emblem of that danger into which men run, when they are needlessly absent from home ! Every person hath a proper place or station in life, and some business to do, which requireth his attention and diligence. Every person hath also some connexions with others ; from whence arise certain duties, which ought to be discharged. There are various employments in life which frequently call those who are engaged in them from home ; and they are in the way of their duty, while thus absent from their families and stations. It is also necessary sometimes, by way of relaxation and amusement, to change our place and company ; for man was formed for society, and not to live recluse, and without converse with others. To confine his converse to one or two relations or intimate friends, is restrainins; his benevolence and pleasure within narrow bounds, and withholding those services which he might be doing to multitudes. Such a conduct would be dishonourable to religion, and injurious to his own character; as it would be judged to proceed from pride or ill-nature, or a want oi benevolence and humanity. But the contrary seems to be
DIS. XX.] ABSE CE FR03I HOME I CO VE IE T. 165 the extreme of the present day ; and therefore I would caution you against it. I would address the caution especially to masters and mistresses of families, and to those who have any particular occupations in life ; that they do not wander from their place ; or, in other words, that they be not long and often absent from home. The evil consequences of which are these : they who wander from home lose many of the comforts of relative life ; their domestic affairs suffer ; a great deal of
precious time is lost ; they are exposed to many temptations ; and it is especially a great hindrance to family religion. 1. They who wander from home lose many relative comforts. Real love should be the foundation of every relation into which we enter by choice; and it should be found in every natural relation. As there can be no rational pleasure in any relation of life without love, constant care should be taken to cherish, strengthen, and increase it. ow nothing will be so likely to do this as frequent converse, and a constant series of kind offices mutually exchanged. These cement friendship and give relations a higher esteem and affection for each other, especially as they tend to their common advantage. Where persons unnecessarily wander abroad, and seem to think any place more agreeable than home, their relations there can scarcely help suspecting, that they want that affection to them, which is desirable, and which they probably deserve. The natural consequence of such a suspicion is, that their own affection cools and decays. Hence proceed shyness and disgust. Whereas the enjoyment of each other's company, and thereby discerning the excellency of some qualities and dispositions which appear in proportion to intimacy, will increase respect and delight. Again, persons who are much at home are free from seeing and hearing certain occurrences that may give them uneasiness ; this they sometimes bring home with them, and spread it through the whole family, and so embitter the comfort of it. A heathen philosopher observes, that " wanderers about have many acquaintance, but few friends ."* Thus, as a means to render life comfortable, amidst the various vanities that attend it, Solomon gives this advice : " Eat thy bread with joy, drink thy wine with a merry heart ; and live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest," Eccl. ix. 9, and endeavour that nothing may interrupt the cheerfulness. 2. The domestic affairs of wanderers greatly suffer. David describes it as part of the character of a good man, that " he guideth his affairs with discretion," Ps. cxii. 5. He reflects beforehand what will be the consequence of his schemes and actions. Solomon often exhorts men to be diligent in their business, to rise early, to apply closely to their proper work. He exhorts the husbandman, for instance, to " be diligent to know
\t)6 orton's practical works. the state of his flocks, and to k^ok well to his herds," Prov. xxvi. 23. When persons are absent from home, their work often stands still, or goes on very indifferently. If a tradesman accustoms himself to leave his shop or counting-house, to frequent ale-houses, or even keep what may be called good company ; if he is ready to go out with every idle person that calls on him ; to join every party of pleasure; to pursue some unprofitable amusement ; he is in the likely way to come to poverty. If he is no where to be found, when customers want him, or is gone abroad when he should be at his post, they will think themselves neglected, have a very ill opinion of his prudence and attention, and decline having any dealings with him. While the master is absent, the servants are often idle, or nod over their work. They have opportunities to steal and defraud, or spend their master's time with company as slothful and dissolute as themselves. Whereas, if masters would be more at home, and would work themselves, when their business will permit it, or overlook what is going on, it would have a happy influence both on the skill and the diligence of their apprentices ; and indeed this is but justice to those whom they have engaged to teach their trade. Many inconveniences arise, when mistresses of families are fond of visiting and wandering about ; particularly when they leave their families in an evening and stay out late at night ; but more especially when they fall into the pernicious practice of frequenting the play-house and public assemblies. Thus waste and confusion enter into their houses, and they lay before their servants temptations to be idle and extravagant. It is part of the character of the virtuous woman, that " she provideth meat for her family ; that she looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness," Prov. xxxi. 15. 27. A caution upon this head is especially proper for young tradesmen and housekeepers. Peculiar diligence in their affairs, frugality in their expenses, and solicitude to oblige others, are
necessary for them, if they would thrive in the world, and live honourably and comfortably. Let me add, under this head, that it is particularly inconvenient for the master and mistress of a family to be abroad together for any long time ; and there ought to be peculiar care, that one should attend to domestic concerns while the other is necessarily absent on account of business or health. Solomon represents it as the character of a bad wife, that " her feet abide not in her house. ow she is without, now in the streets ;" though " the good man was not at home, but gone a long journey," Prov. vii. 11, 12. On the contrary, he observeth concerning the virtuous woman, that " the heart of her husband safely trusteth in her, while he is absent from home, and he shall have no need of spoil " to enrich himself, Prov. xxxi. 11. 3. A great deal of precious time is lost by wandering front
DIS. XX.] ABSE CE FROM HOME I CO VE IE T. 167 home. There are very few who are sufficiently sensible of the value of time, and of the strict account which will at last be demanded, how it hath been employed. There are many who are obliged to go abroad upon their lawful business, yet they stay much longer than is needful. They trifle at every place where they come, and must chat with every person who hath as little prudence as themselves. There are many who need frequent relaxations for their health, but think that an excuse for taking more than they need ; till the fatigue injures them more than the relaxation profits them. Thus a trifling, indolent habit is contracted. If persons' necessary business doth not require constant application, they have important works of other kinds to apply themselves to; as reading, meditating, praying ; visiting the sick, helping their neighbours, and the like. o one who is truly wise and thoughtful will find time hang heavy on his hands, or want sauntering and amusement to kill it. Yet how many hours are spent by heads of families and persons in business, of which they can give no good account ! Had these hours been faithfully redeemed, it would have tended to the increase of
their substance, or the improvement of their minds, or the comfort of their families, or the advantage of the public. It is seldom that persons can find useful employment any where but at home, and when engaged in their proper business. 4. Wanderers are exposed to many temptations which ought to be avoided. The apostle Paul observes concerning the young women, and I hope they will attend to his remark, that they are in danger of " learning to be idle, wandering about from house to house;" and the consequence of that love of visiting and wandering is, that " they become tatlers also and busy-bodies, speaking things which they ought not," 1 Tim. v. 13. When persons wander from home they become a prey to Satan ; they are often seduced by vile and worthless men, and led to drink to excess or to game. Those who are very fond of company and visiting, for want of heads or hearts for better conversation, rake into the character of their neighbours, become slanderers and false accusers, and speak evil of others. Hence tea-table scandal is become a proverb, and thousands of characters are daily sacrificed upon that altar. By frequent wandering about, persons contract a disinclination to labour; they have no heart to their work, and they are weary with a few minutes' application. They also do injury to others, by drawing off their diligent neighbours from their business, or furnishing inferiors with an excuse for indolence and wandering. " When persons are fond of cultivating a large acquaintance, are taken up in collecting and retailing news, rambling from place to place, from company to company, pleased to be any where rather than at home, employed about any thing rather than their own business, and to converse with any per-
168 * orton's practical works. sons rather than themselves, it hath a very ill aspect on their temporal affairs; but it is next to impossible they should improve in the knowledge of God and their own hearts, or that the other world should gain upon their affections, when their time is almost all devoted to the pleasures and avocations of
this."* Once more, 5. Wandering from home is a great hindrance to family religion. Every house ought to be a church, in which religious instruction should be given to the family, and religious worship paid to God every morning and evening. Every Christian family should be a nursery for heaven. But how can this be the case, where the members of it, especially the heads, wander about, spend their evenings from home, and tarry at their visits or diversions till almost midnight, or past it ? The consequence of this is, that family duty is entirely neglected, or hurried over in a cold, formal, sleepy manner. It is also shortened, and reading the scriptures and singing the praises of God are quite omitted. In consequence of heads of families lying long in bed, which is much the same as being abroad, the servants are obliged to be in the shop or abroad at their work, and the children at school, before family duty is performed ; or if they keep late hours, the young branches of their families are in bed before the season of worship, or, which is worse, asleep at it. Further, in families where religious worship is daily used, there are, I fear, few mistresses who will perform that service when their husbands are abroad, though it is evidently their duty; which is another reason why the caution in the text should be attended to by masters of families. Another reason of this kind is, men in business, mechanics, and labourers, seldom have leisure, except in an evening, to hear their children read, and to converse w'ith them upon useful subjects, in order to improve their understandings and their tempers. This ought to be part of their daily employment; therefore they should very seldom spend their evenings abroad. eedless absence from home, and a neglect of having fixed hours for family w^orship, as there are for meals, throw all into confusion. " Good orders in a household, and regular hours for all the duties and engagements of life, give beauty and ornament to life itself. Such a family appears like a Bethel, a house of God, and the Lord himself delights to dwell in it."t These are the chief inconveniences and bad consequences of persons being long and often absent from home. They lose many relative comfwts ; their domestic affairs greatly suffer ; much precious time is lost ; they are exposed to many temptations which ought to
have been avoided ; and it is a great hindrance to family relisrion. Let me add some inferences and advices p rounded upon this subject. * Grove. + U'alls.
bis. XX.] ABSE CE FROM HOME I CO VE IE T. 169
APPLICATIO . 1. Let us all apply these thoughts to ourselves, and inquire how far we are concerned in this admonition, I know that the circumstances or occupations of many call them frequently abroad ; but I would entreat such carefully and uprightly to inquire, as in the sight of God, whether they are not oftener and longer from their families than need requires ? Whether it be their care, when necessarily called abroad, to return home as soon as possible ? Whether, for instance, some who are obliged fi'equently to attend fairs and markets, return to their houses so soon as they ought? Whether they are not too inquisitive about news and trifles, and often tempted to sit drinking in company, sometimes I fear to excess, when they should be at their proper work ? Whether some who are obliged to attend meetings about trade or other important concerns, or to call upon their neighbours in the way of business, do not stay longer than the business requireth, and so waste their own time and that of others, and expose themselves to many temptations ? Let the female part of my hearers inquire whether those visits, which custom hath rendered necessary to civility and good neighbourhood, are not too frequent, too long, and too late? And whether they do not often see this by finding, not only mismanagement at home, but their own spirits less fit for meditation and devotion, or perhaps utterly unfit for them ? These are not small evils, brethren, whatever you may apprehend; and they will " increase unto more ungodliness ;" and, by degrees, you will become triflers for this world and another. I
exhort you all, therefore, to be upon your guard against such irregularities. I must add another important caution under this head. It is much to be feared that frequent meetings on week days, for hearing occasional sermons, for prayer, conference, and other exercises of the religious kind, are little better than solemn trifling. And I have known some to whom those words might justly be applied, " Ye are idle, ye are idle ; therefore ye say. Let us go and sacrifice to our God," Exod. v. 17. Thus many are called oft' from their proper business; and those who are most zealous for these exercises do, and must, shamefully neglect the duties of their families and callings, and, therefore, cannot please the God of order. While others, who, from conscience towards God, seldom attend them, but sanctify the sabbath, daily and regularly perform family worship, social duties, and the business of their proper stations, are approved in his sight, and even by judicious and serious Christians, and do much more honour to religion. " Every thing is beautiful in its season." Let us all endeavour to cultivate a diligent, active spirit; to have the utmost regularity and good order in our families, that we nuvy adorn the Christian doctrine, be honour-.
170 orton's practical works. able in the eyes of the world, find every religious habit strengthening, see all about us regular and sober, and at length rise to the well-ordered family in heaven. 2. It is of importance for young people to cultivate a habit of staying at home. Some diversions and relaxations are necessary for children and youth. But it is a very ill sign, if they are never easy but when abroad or at play ; if they are uneasy and out of temper when they are confined at home, to work or to read. It is an instance of parental wisdom to restrain children from such excesses ; remembering that they are otherwise contracting a bad habit, which it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to cure. The necessary confinement to which they must submit when they go abroad into the world, to school, or to be servants and apprentices, will be peculiarly grievous to
them. Parents should endeavour to find some various, and, as far as may be, agreeable employments for their children at home, to prevent their becoming wild, idle, and untractable. I must caution the younger women also upon this head; that they restrain their love of company and diversions, and keep it within due bounds ; that they may have time to be helpful to their parents, to contribute to the welfare and order of the family, and to improve their own hearts. Frequenting public places and assemblies, multiplied as they are, hath this ill effect, among many others, that it maketh home irksome ; and thereby such ramblers expose themselves to many dangers and temptations, as well as to the contempt of the wise and the sober. Those are likely to make very bad wives and mistresses of families, and to have very disorderly houses, whose single state is so very irregular and disorderly, I exhort such therefore, in the language of the apostle, "to be discreet and chaste;" and in order to that, " to be keepers at home ;" or as the original is, " lovers of their own houses ; that the word of God be not blasphemed," Titus ii. 5. 3. It is peculiarly bad in servants to wander from their place. For, besides the other evils attend it, as mentioned above, it is in them injustice and infidelity. Their time is their master's ; and for them to be gadding about, when they should be at their work, taking care of the families where they live, and some way or other promoting the interests of them, is very wicked in the sight of God : it is a violation of his law, as well as dishonest to those that hire them. To spend an hour or two on an errand which might be despatched in a few minutes ; to be curious to know every thing relating to the town and neighbourhood and to tell it again, diverts them from their business, and makes them unfaithful to God and man. Their work is neglected ; their masters and mistresses are justly displeased ; and, as a consequence of this idle trifling spirit, uneasiness and differences arise in families, and the peace and comfort of them is destroyed.
DIS. XX.] ABSE CE FROM HOME I CO VE IE T. 171
I exhort servants therefore, in the language of the apostle, that they be " obedient to their own masters ; endeavouring to please them well in all things ; doing service heartily as to the Lord ; not with eye-service ; and showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things," Col. iii 23; Titus ii. 10.* We may infer, 4. Relations should endeavour to make hope agreeable to one another. This would prevent many of the evils which I have been reproving. Let husbands, for instance, as St. Paul exhorts, " love their wives, and not be bitter against them," and tyrannize over them, Col. iii. 19. Let wives be careful that they do not make home disagreeable to their husbands, by an angry peevish, and fretful spirit. This is, according to Solomon's beautiful similitude just after the text, " like a continual dropping in a rainy day." When a man's wife is contentious, ^'it is as when his house raineth in ; he cannot stay at home with comfort or quiet. Let this then, to use the words of the poet, This be the female dignity and praise, To give society its highest taste ; Well order'd home, man's best delight to make, And sweeten all the toils of human life.f Let parents endeavour to be agreeable companions to their children, and not, by a tyrannical, austere behaviour, lead them to hate home ; or create such an awe and terror in them, as shall make them prefer any company to that of their parents. Let masters and mistresses treat their servants kindly, and not " make their lives bitter by hard bondage," Exod. i. 14, or re* Shall I be allowed, in this connexion, to hint to the ministers of the gospel, who are more immediately the servants of God and our Lord Jesus Christ, how much it is their duty to be peculiarly solicitous that they do not wander from their place, nor
ever leave their studies and flocks but when it is quite necessary ? Great caution [and resolution are needful, especially for young ministers, that they attend to their proper duties ; and decline, as far as possible, all invitations which may divert them from the faithful discharge of them. othing can be more contemptible in the character of a minister, than a readiness to be, as one emphatically expresseth it, the make-weight of every company. Those who seem most fond of the agreeable companion, will despise the divine. Let me enforce this important caution by the example of that learned, judicious, and eminently pious minister, Mr. Abemethy. His biographer saith, " Mr. Abernethy did not go much into mixed company, when the business of his station did not call him to it." He often said, " As conversation was conducted, he had little satisfaction in it." He therefore stayed much at home, and applied himself to study. This was not owing to any thing sour or unsociable in his temper ; for he had a taste for conversation, and was of a most cheerful as well as affectionate spirit ; but to a persuasion, that most of the time spent in company was lost, at least might be much better employed. He was persuaded that when a habit of passing time in a' trifling manner was contracted, it must have a bad effect upon the mind ; unbending it too much, and begetting an indolence, by which men were rendered averse to application, and;in some measure incapable of it. He thought that, of all men, ministers had most reason to guard against this ; as it was more particularly their duty to preserve the mind always in an aptitude for the best exercises, and to avoid every thing which has a tendency to
dissipate the vigour of it; observing likewise, that where the taste of the company was such that they could not manage conversation so as to render it worthy men of sense and good affections, that dignity of character, which they ought always carefully to maintain, must suffer by it." Abernethy's Post. Serm. v. i. pref. p. 79. t Thomson.
172 orton's practical works. proachful and insulting words. Let all relations, and others who live together, study to render themselves agreeable to each other ; that they may take pleasure in one another's company ; "that home may be the place of their principal delight, and that they may never occasionally quit it, without finding the pleasure of returning to it increased in proportion to the time of their absence from it." We infer from the whole, 5. How bad must it he to wander from the house of God. We are all members of God's family. We are by profession his children and servants. As immortal creatures his house is our home in this world. There are stated seasons of attending it. There every one hath, or should have a place. Every good man " loveth the habitation of God's house." When we are necessarily detained from it, we should earnestly desire and long to return, saying, " When shall I come and appear before God?" To wander from his house, to " forsake the assembling of yourselves together," is dishonourable and affronting to him. It is unjust, unkind, and discoui'aging to Christian ministers. It is injurious to yourselves; losing all the advantages of public worship and instruction. It is weakening the credit of religion; setting a bad example before others ; and disqualifying you for the business and blessedness of God's upper family in heaven. To this I would add that it is the duty of Christians statedly and regularly to attend their own place of worship, or with that society of Christians, to which they have thought it right to
join themselves. This is, on many accounts, an important duty. It is an act of respect, and indeed of justice to their pastors, and an encouragement to them in their work. It is setting a good example before their families and fellow-Christians. It is the way to gain a clearer knowledge of the truths and duties of the gospel, and to become judicious and established Christians. Thus likewise they are most likely to obtain the assistance and blessing of God, " who is not the author of confusion, but of order and peace." Whereas they who are frequently " wandering from their place," from one place of worship to another, to indulge their curiosity, gratify their love of novelty and variety, and " please their itching ears," 2 Tim. iv. 3, grow wise in their own conceits. They become fond of talking and disputing about religious sentiments, contract a censorious spirit, and defeat the great end of preaching and all divine ordinances. It was a clause in the covenant, which eheniiah and the Israelites made, after their return from Babylon, " We will not forsake the house of our Crod," eh. x. 29. Let us make this resolution and keep it; often expressing our regard to the solemn assembly in the devout language of David, with which I conclude ; " One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after ; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my. life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire his will in his temple," Ps. xxvii. 4.
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