Second. To stand, amounts to as much as, to stand every one in his rank and proper station, and here is opposed to all disorder, or straggling from our place. When a captain sees his soldiers march, or fight our of their rank and order, then he bids stand. Military discipline is so strict in this case, that it allows none to stir from their place without special warrant. It hath cost some their lives for fighting out of their place, though with great success. Manlius killed his own son, for no other fault. From hence the note is—
Doctrine. That it should be the care of every Christian, to stand orderly in the particular place wherein God hath set him. The devil’s method is first to rout, and then to ruin. Order supposeth company, one that walks alone cannot go out of his rank. This place therefore and rank wherein the Christian is to stand, relates to some society or company in which he walks. The Christian may be considered as related to a threefold society —church, commonwealth, and family. In all there are several ranks and places. In the church, officers and private members; in the commonwealth, magistrates and people; in the family, masters and servants, parents and children, husband and wife. The welfare of these societies consisteth in the order that is kept—when every wheel moves in its place without clashing, when every one contributes by performing the duty of his place to the benefit of the whole society. But more distinctly, a person then stands orderly in his place when he doth these three things—
First. When he understands the peculiar duty of his place and relation; ‘The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way,’ Prov. 14:8—his way, that is, the way in which he on particular is to walk. It will not profit a man to know the way to York, if going to London; yet how prone are we to study another’s way and work [rather] than our own—the servant more what his master’s duty is, not what his is to his master—the people what the minister in his place should do, rather than what is incumbent on themselves to such as are over them in the Lord. It is not knowing another’s duty, no nor censuring the negligence of another, but doing our own [duty, that] will bring us safely and comfortably to our journey’s end. And how can we do it except we know it? Solomon in no one thing gave a greater proof of his wisdom than in asking of God wisdom, to enable him for the duty of his place.
Second. When knowing the duty of our place, we conscientiously attend to it and lay out ourselves for God therein. When Paul charged Timothy in his place, that every Christian must do in his. He must ‘meditate upon these things,’ and ‘give himself wholly’ to the discharge of his duty, as a Christian, in such a place and calling—_v τoύτoις _σθι, be in them, let thy heart be on thy work, and thou wholly be taken up about it, I Tim 4:15. The very power of godliness lies in this. Religion, if not made practicable in our several places and callings, becomes ridiculous and vanisheth into an empty notion that is next to nothing. Yet many there are that have nothing to prove themselves Christians, but a naked profession, of whom we may say as they do of the cinnamon tree, that the bark is worth more than all they have besides. Such the apostle speaks of, ‘They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate,’ Titus 1:16. What good works the apostle means, will appear in the next words, Titus. 2, where, in opposition to these, he presseth those duties which Christians in their particular places and relations, as becometh holiness, ought to perform. A good Christian and a disobedient wife, a godly man and an unfaithful servant, or undutiful child is a contradiction that can never be reconciled. He that walks not uprightly in his house, is but a hypocrite at church. He that is not a Christian in his shop, is not in his closet a Christian, though upon his knees in prayer. Wound religion in one part, and it is felt in every part. If it declines one way, it cannot thrive in any other. All that miscarry in religion do not the same way miscarry. As it is in the regard of our natural life; some, it is observed, die upwards, some downwards. In one, the extreme parts, his feet, are first dead, and so [the malady] creeps up to the legs, and at last takes hold on the vitals; in another his superior parts are first invaded. Thus in profession. [With] some, their declining appears first in a negligence of duties about their peculiar callings, and the duties they owe, by their place and relation, to man, though all this while they may seem very forward and zealous in the duties of worship to God, much in hearing, praying, and such like; while others falter first in these, and at the same time seem very strict in the other. Both are alike destructive to the soul; they both meet in the ruin of the power of godliness. He stands orderly that makes conscience of the whole duty that lies on him in his place to God or man.
Third. to stand orderly, it is requisite that we keep the bounds of our place and calling. The Israelites were commanded every man ‘to pitch by his own standard,’ Num. 2:2. The Septuagint translates it κατα τάγμα—according to order. God allows no stragglers from their station in his army of saints. ‘As the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk,’ I Cor. 7:17. Our walk must be in that path which our call beats out. We are therefore commanded every one to ‘do his own business,’ I Thes. 4:11. That which is the commander’s business in the army, is not the private soldier’s; the magistrate’s [business] not the subjects’s; the minister’s is not the people’s. That which is justice in the ruler, is murder in another. They are _δια, our own things—[things] that come within the compass of our general or particular calling. Out of these, we are out of our diocese. O what a quiet world should we have, if every thing and person knew his own place! If the sea kept its own place, we should have no inundations; if men had theirs, we should neither have seen such floods of sin, nor miseries, as this unhappy age has been almost drowned with. But it must be a strong bank indeed, that can contain our fluid spirits within our own terms. Peter himself was sharply chidden for prying, out of curiosity, into that which concerned him not—‘What is that to thee?’ John 21:22. As if Christ had said, ‘Peter, meddle with thy own matters, this concerns not thee;’ which sharp rebuke, saith one, might possibly make Peter afterwards give so strict a charge against, and set so black a brand upon, this very sin, as you may find, I Peter 4:15, where he ranks the ‘busybody’ among murderers and thieves. Now to fix every one in his place, and persuade all to stand orderly there without breaking their rank, these five considerations, methinks, may carry some weight—among those especially with whom the word of God in the Scripture yet keeps its authority to conclude and determine their thoughts.