William Burkitt (1650-1703) on glorifying God in our everyday employments

WilliamBurkitt

 

William Burkitt (1650-1703) was a Reformed divine of the Church of England. After studying at Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, Burkitt ministered successively at Milden, Suffolk, and Dedham, Essex. His name is primarily associated with his biblical expositions and his devotional book titled The Poor Man’s Help, and Young Man’s Guide. To add to a previous post from Wilhelmus a’ Brakel (1635–1711) on this same topic, Burkitt writes in this latter book about glorifying God in our everyday employments, labour, and callings. The excerpt is taken from the 2nd edition (1694), ch. 5:

Almighty God has sent no man into the world to be idle, but to serve him in the way of an honest and industrious diligence: He that says, Remember the Sabbath-day to keep it holy, says also, Six days shalt thou labour, either with the labour of the mind, or of the body, or with both. Riches and a great estate will excuse none from labouring in some kind or other, in the service of our Maker; for he that receives most wages, surely ought to do some work.

  1. Labour to understand and be thoroughly sensible how much you are beholden to God for the benefit of a calling: Thousands are now blessing God in heaven for the blessing of a calling here on earth, by which multitudes of temptations were prevented; how many sins doth a life of idleness expose unto?

  2. Be diligent and Industrious in the way of thy calling, and that from a principle of obedience to the divine command: He that says, Be fervent in prayer, says also, Be not slothful in business. An idle man has no pattern or precedent either in hell or heaven: Not in hell, for the devils are diligent about their deeds of darkness: Not in heaven, for the angels are continually employed, either in beholding God’s beauty, or in executing God’s commands.

  3. If thou art called to the meanest and most laborious calling, that of an husband-man, murmur not at it, because it is wearisome to the flesh; but eye the command of God, and in obedience thereunto be diligent in thy place, and then thou glorifiest God as truly when digging in thy field, as the minister in his pulpit, or the prince upon his throne.

  4. Be strictly just and exactly righteous in the way of thy calling, and with a generous disdain and resolute contempt abhor the getting of riches by unrighteousness: Cursed gain is no gain. How sad is it to be rich on earth, and to roar in hell for unrighteous riches. He that cheats and over-reaches, he that tricks and defrauds his neighbours, is as sure to go to hell without repentance and restitution, as the profanest swearer or drunkard in a town. Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God? (1 Cor. 6:9).

  5. Be very careful that thy particular calling as a private person, do not encroach upon thy general calling as a Christian: The world is a great devourer of precious time, it robs the soul of many an hour which should be spent in communion with God, and in communing with our own hearts. How many are so taken up with their trade on earth, that they forget to converse with heaven: Verily there is a holy part in every man’s time, which the daily exercises of religion call for, and which it is our daily duty to keep inviolable from the sacrilegious hands of an encroaching world.

  6. Labour after an heavenly frame of spirit in the management of thy earthly business; and take heed that thy worldly employments do not blunt the edge of thy spiritual affections, but endeavour to keep thy heart close with God when thy hand is employed in the labours of thy calling. A faithful and loving husband, when he has been abroad all day in varieties of company, yet when he comes home at night he brings his affections with him as entire to his wife, as when he went forth in the morning from her; yea he is inwardly pleased, that he is got from all other company, to enjoy hers: Thus doth a heavenly-minded Christian, after he has spent some time amidst his worldly business in the labours of his calling; he desires and endeavours to bring his whole heart to God with him, when at night he returns into his presence to wait upon him; yea he strives to keep his heart with God all the day long, by often lifting it up to God, in holy thoughts and pious ejaculations [i.e. utterances], which are an help rather than an hindrance to worldly business.

  7. Eye God in every providence thou meetest with in thy calling. Dost thou meet with any disappointment, see and be sensible of God’s hand in it. All that are diligent are not thriving in this world: There are mysteries of providence as well as mysteries of faith, which we can never fathom. Dost thou meet with a blessing? Own God in all that good success thou findest in thy employment; with holy Jacob, The Lord hath dealt graciously with me, and I have enough (Gen. 33:11). When God at any time sends thee in profit, let it be thy care to send him back praise: For nothing is so acceptable to God as a grateful mind.

  8. Watch daily against the sin of thy calling, as also against the sin of thy constitution; and whatever temptations thou meetest with from either, cry mightily to heaven for power to resist them; knowing that thou never yieldest to a temptation, but the Spirit withdraws in tears, and the devil goes away in triumph.

  9. Having used faithful diligence in thy lawful calling, perplex not thy thoughts about the issue and success of thy endeavours; but labour to compose thy mind in all conditions of life to a quiet and steady dependence on God’s providence, being anxiously careful for nothing. There is a threefold care which the Scripture takes notice of: Namely, a care of the head, a care of the hand, and a care of the heart. A care of the head, and that is a care of providence and prudential forecast, this is commendable. A care of the hand, that is a care of diligence and industry, this is profitable. But then there is the care of the heart, which is a care of diffidence and distrust, a care of anxiety and perturbation of mind, this is culpable, and exceeding sinful (See Matt. 6:31-34).

  10. Resolve it in thy mind to be cheerful and contented with thy portion (little or much) which God as a blessing upon thy endeavours, allots unto thee: Not content because thou canst not have it otherwise, but from an approbation of divine appointment. Necessity was the heathen school-master to teach contentment, but faith must be the Christian’s. I have learnt, says the holy Apostle, (not at the feet of Gamaliel, but in the School of Christ,) both how to be abased and how to abound; how to be full, and how to be empty; yea I know in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content (Phil. 4:11). How are some Christians minds like musical instruments, quite out of tune, with every change of weather. But it is an even composedness of mind in all conditions of life, that glorifies God, and is advantageous to ourselves. Godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Tim. 6:16). Not godliness with an estate, but godliness with contentment.

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