EVERY man in his CALLING has a sermon preached to him. The farmer has a thousand sermons. He need not go an inch without hearing the songs of angels and the voice of spirits wooing him to righteousness; for all nature round about him has a tongue given to it, when man hath an ear to hear.
There are others, however, engaged in a business which allows them to see but very little of nature, and yet even there God has provided them with a lesson. There is the baker who provides us with our bread. He thrusts his fuel into the oven, and he causes it to glow with heat, and puts bread therein. Well may he, if he be an ungodly man, tremble as he stands at the oven’s mouth, for there is a text which he may well comprehend as he stands there: “For the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud and they that do wickedly shall be as stubble; they shall be consumed. Men ingather them in bundles, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” Out of the oven’s mouth comes a hot and burning warning, and the man’s heart might melt like wax within him if he would but regard it.
Then see the butcher. How doth the beast speak to him? He sees the lamb almost lick his knife, and the bullock goes unconsciously to the slaughter.
How might he think every time that he smites the unconscious animal — who knows nothing of death — of his own doom! Are we not, all of us who are without Christ, fattening for the slaughter? Are we not more foolish than the bullock, for doth not the wicked man follow his executioner, and walk after his own destroyer into the very chambers of hell? When we see a drunkard pursuing his drunkenness, or an unchaste man running in the way of licentiousness, is he not as an ox going to the slaughter, until a dart smite him through the liver? Hath not God sharpened his knife and marie ready his ax, that the fatlings of this earth may be killed, when he shall say to the fowls of the air and the beasts of the field, “Behold, I have made a feast of vengeance for you, and ye shall feast upon the blood of the slain, and make yourselves drunken with the streams thereof?” Ay, butcher, there is a lecture for you in your trade; and your business may reproach you.
And ye whose craft is to sit still all day, making shoes for our feet, the lapstone in your lap may reproach you, for your heart, perhaps, is as hard as that. Have you not been smitten as often as your lapstone, and yet your heart has never been broken or melted? And what shall the Lord say to you at last, when, your stony heart being still within you, he shall condemn you and cast you away because you would have none of his rebukes, and would not turn at the voice of his exhortation?
Let the brewer remember that as he brews he must: drink. Let the potter tremble lest he be like a vessel marred upon the wheel. Let the printer take heed that his life be set in heavenly type, and not in the black letter of sin. Painter, beware! for paint will not suffice, we must have unvarnished realities.
Or you engaged in business, where you are continually using scales and measures. Might you not often put yourselves into those scales? Might you not fancy you saw the great Judge standing by’ with his gospel in one scale, and you in the other, and solemnly looking down upon you, saying, “Mene, mene, tekel — thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.” Some of you use the measure, and when you have measured out, you cut off the portion that your customer requires. Think of your life, too; it is to be of a certain length, and every year brings the measure a little farther, and at last there come the scissors that shall clip off your life, and it is done. How knowest thou when thou art come to the last inch? What is that disease thou hast about thee but the first snip of the scissors? What that trembling in thy bones, that failing in thy eyesight, that fleeing of thy memory, that departure of thy youthful rigor, but the first rent? How soon shalt thou be rent in twain, the remnant of thy days past away, and thy years all numbered and gone, misspent and wasted for ever!
But you say you are engaged as a servant, and your occupations are diverse. Then diverse are the lectures God preaches to you. “A servant waits for his wages, and the hireling fulfilleth his day.” There is a similitude for thee, when thou hast fulfilled thy day on earth, and shalt take thy wages at last. Who, then, is thy master? Art thou serving Satan and the lusts of the flesh, and wilt thou take out thy wages at last in the hot metal of destruction? or art thou serving the fair Prince Emmanuel, and shalt thy wages be the golden crowns of heaven? Oh, happy art thou if thou servest a good Master! for according to thy master shall be thy reward; as is thy labor such shall the end be.
Or thou art one that guideth the pen, and from hour to hour wearily thou writest. Ah, man! know that thy life is a writing. When thy hand is not on the pen, thou art a writer still; thou art always writing upon the pages of eternity; thy sins thou :art writing, or else thy holy confidence in him that loved thee. Happy shall it be for thee, O writer, if thy name is written in the Lamb’s book of life, and if that black writing of thine, in the history of thy pilgrimage below, shall have been blotted out with the red blood of Christ, and thou shalt have ‘written upon thee the fair name of Jehovah, to stand legible for ever.
Or perhaps thou art a physician or a chemist — thou prescribest or preparest medicines for man’s body. God stands there by the side of thy pestle and thy mortar, and by the table where thou writest thy prescriptions, and he says to thee, “Man, thou art sick; I can prescribe for thee. The blood and righteousness of Christ, laid hold of by faith, and applied by the Spirit, can cure thy soul. I can compound a medicine for thee that shall rid thee of thy ills, and bring thee to the place where the inhabitants shall no more say, ‘I am sick.’ Wilt thou take my medicine, or wilt thou reject it? Is it bitter to thee, and dost thou turn away from it?
Come, drink, my child, drink, for thy life lieth here; anti how shalt thou escape if thou neglect so great salvation?” Do you cast iron, or melt lead, or fuse the hard metals of the mines? Then pray that the Lord may melt thine heart, and cast thee in the mold of the gospel? Do you make garments for men? Oh, be careful that you find a garment for yourself for ever.
Are you busy in building all day long, laying the stone upon its fellow, and the mortar in its crevice? Then remember thou art building for eternity too.
Oh, that thou mayest thyself be built upon a good foundation! Oh, that thou mayest build thereon, not wood, hay, or stubble, but gold and silver, and precious stones, and things that will abide the fire! Take care, man, lest thou shouldest be God’s scaffold, lest thou shouldest be used on earth to be a scaffolding for building his church, and when his church is built thou shouldest be cast down and burned up with fire unquenchable. Take heed that thou art built upon a rock, and not upon the sand, and that the vermilion cement of the Savior’s precious blood unites thee to the foundation of the building, and to every stone thereof.
Art thou a jeweler, and dost thou cut thy gem and polish the diamond from day to day? Would to God thou wouldest take warning from the contrast: which thou presentest to the stone on which thou dost exercise thy craft!
Thou cuttest it, and it glitters the more thou dost cut it; but though thou hast been cut and ground, though thou hast had cholera and fever, and hast been at death’s door many a day, thou art none the brighter, but the duller, for, alas! thou art no diamond. Thou art but the pebble-stone of the brook, and in that day when God makes up his jewels he shall not enclose thee in the casket of his treasures; for thou art not one of the precious sons of Zion, comparable unto fine gold.
But be thy situation what it may, be thy calling what: it may, there is a continual sermon preached to thy conscience. I would that thou wouldest now from this time forth open both eye and ear, and see and hear the things that God would teach thee.