4. Consideration.There is poor comfort in suffering for doing that which was not the work of our place and calling. Before we launch out into any undertaking, it behoves us to ask ourselves, and that seriously, what our tackling is, if a storm should overtake us in our voyage. It is folly to engage in that enterprise which will not bear us out, and pay the charge of all the loss and trouble it can put us to. Now no comfort or countenance from God can be expected from any suffering, except we can entitle him to the business we suffer for. ‘For thy sake are we killed all the day long,’ Ps. 44:22, saith the church. But if suffering finds us out of our calling and place, we cannot say, ‘for thy sake’ we are thus and thus afflicted, but ‘for our own sakes;’ and you know the proverb, ‘self-do, self-have.’ The apostle makes a vast difference between suffering ‘as a busy-body,’ and suffering ‘as a Christian,’ I Peter 4:15,16. It is to the latter he saith, ‘Let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God on this behalf.’ As for the busy-body, he mates him with thieves and murderers, and those, I trow, have reason both to be ashamed and afraid. The carpenter that gets a cut or wound on his leg from his axe, as he is at work in his calling, may bear it more patiently and comfortably, than one that is wantonly meddling with his tools, and hath nothing to do with such work. When affliction or persecution overtakes the Christian travelling in the way God hath set him in, he may show the Bible, as that holy man suffering for Christ, did, and say, ‘This hath made me poor, this hath brought me to prison,’ that is, his faith on the truths and obedience to the commands in it; and therefore may confidently expect to suffer at God’s cost, as the soldier [expects] to be kept and maintained by the prince in whose service he hath lost his limbs. But the other that runs out of his place and so meets with sufferings, he hath this to embitter them, that he can look for nothing from God but to be soundly chidden for his pains—as the child is served that gets some hurt while he is gadding abroad, and when he comes home at night with his battered face, meets with a whipping from his father in the bargain for being from home. This lay heavy on the spirit of that learned German Johannis Funccius, who of a minister of the gospel in his prince’s court, turned minister of state to his prince, and was at last for some evil counsel at least so judged, condemned to die. Before he suffered he much lamented the leaving of his calling, and to warn others left this distich—
Disce meo exemplo mandato munere fungi, Et fuge ceu pestem πoλυπραγμoσυvηv.
To keep thy place and calling learn of me; Flee as the plague a meddler for to be.
- Consideration.It is an erratic spirit that usually carries men out of their place and calling. I confess there is an heroicus impetus, an impulse which some of the servants of God have had from heaven, to do things extraordinary, as we read in Scripture of Moses, Gideon, Phinehas, and others. But it is dangerous to pretend to the like, and unlawful to expect such immediate commissions from heaven now, when he issueth them out in a more ordinary way, and gives rules for the same in his word. We may as well expect to be taught extraordinarily, without using the ordinary means, as to be called so. When I see any miraculously gifted, as the prophets and apostles, then I shall think the immediate calling they pretend to is authentic. To be sure we find in the word that extraordinary calling and extraordinary teaching go together. Well, let us see what that erratic spirit is which carries many out of their place and calling. It is not always the same.
(1.) Sometimes it is idleness. Men neglect what they should do, and then are easily persuaded to meddle with what they have nothing to do. The apostle intimates this plainly, ‘They learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busy-bodies, I Tim. 5:13. An idle person is a gadder. He hath his foot on the threshold—easily drawn from his own place—and as soon into another’s diocese. He is at leisure for to hear the devil’s chat. He that will not serve God in his own place, the devil, rather than he shall stand out, will send him off his errand, and get him to put his sickle into another’s corn.