RESIDENCE OF PAUL IN ARABIA.
The Interval between the selection of a profession or calling, and the entrance on its active duties.
Length of Paul's residence in Arabia.—Its locality.—Its purpose.—Lesson suggested to those entering on active life.—Professions or callings open before men.—Variety of occupations.—Variety of talents.—The same ends to be sought in all.—Principles on which the choice should be made. —It must be in accordance with the will of God; and therefore (1) such as best secures the purposes of life; (2) such as best meets the circumstances of life; (3) such as best suits individual endowments; (4) such as is strictly honourable; (5) such as presents fewest temptations; (6) such as most promotes the welfare of society; (7) such as will not hinder the interests of the soul.—Interval between the choice of a profession and entrance on it.—Time for preparation not lost time.—Preparation, special and general.—Training for this life subordinate to preparation for eternity.
"But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the heathen, immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood; neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. Then, ater three years I went up to Jerusalem."
Gal. L 15—18.
A SCENE IN THE DESERT.
t IT is a fair interpretation of the statement made by Paul, in his Epistle to the Galatians, that he spent three years in Arabia, before he returned to Damascus on his way to Jerusalem. It might, indeed, from the mere language be suggested as a matter of doubt or uncertainty, whether after having been compelled to flee for a time, he did not soon return to Damascus, and whether some considerable part of these three years may not have been spent there before he went up to Jerusalem; but we are to bear in mind that although the language might bear this construction, yet it is not the necessary or the most obvious one; and, further, we are to remember that the same causes which may have made it necessary for him to flee from Damascus, would have probably prevented his speedy return there with any view of preaching the Gospel. We are not to suppose that those who were his enemies, and the enemies of the Gospel there, would have been soon calmed down so as to welcome his return; nor are we to suppose that the authorities at Jerusalem, whose commission he had disregarded, would have failed to send men with ample powers to arrest and punish one whom they could not but deem one of the worst apostates. The narrative, therefore, fairly requires us to understand this as affirming that the three years were spent in some part of Arabia.
This is the most obscure, and indeed may be regarded as the only obscure portion of the life of Paul after his conversion. Of any other three years of his apostolic history we could give a more satisfactory account than we can of these; for, after this, we can trace his course with a good degree of certainty through perhaps every year of his life. But a singular uncertainty rests on this entire journey. To what part of the great country known (in ancient times or now) as Arabia, he went; why he went there at all; how he was employed; why he did not at once enter on his public work in connexion with the other apostles ; why he did not immediately "repor himself" at Jerusalem to be recognized as an apostle; and what was the bearing of this season of retirement and meditation, if such it was, on his future life,—all these are points on which we are left entirely to conjecture, and on which conjecture is wholly useless. The word "Arabia" has always been a term very vague in its application. "Sometimes it includes Damascus; sometimes it ranges over the Lebanon itself, and extends over to the borders of Cilicia. The native geographers usually reckon that stony district of which Petra was the capital, as belonging to Egypt,—and that wide desert towards the Euphrates, where the Bedouins of all ages have lived in tents, as belonging to Syria,—and have limited the name [Arabia] to the peninsula between the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, where Jemen, or 'Araby the Blest,' is secluded on the south. In the threefold division of Ptolemy, which remains in our popular language when we speak of this still untravelled region, both the first and second of these districts were included under the name of the third."1
Into which of these parts of Arabia Paul went, we have not the means of determining. If he went into that part which was near Syria, he may not have gone very far from Damascus. If, however, he went into Arabia Petraea, "then perhaps his steps were turned to those mountain heights by the Red Sea, which Moses and Elijah had trodden before him."
We are not told his reason for going into Arabia, nor his employment when there. His mind would naturally long for solitude; and, in view of the work before him, he may have felt that by a season of calm contemplation, of prayer, of profound meditation on that new system which he had embraced, and which he had been so suddenly called to make known to the nations of the earth, he might be better qualified for his great mission. It may give some confirmation of this view to remember that the great Hebrew lawgiver, Moses, spent years in the
1 Conybeare and Howson, voL i. p. 94.
desert of Midian before he was prepared for his great work of leading forth and delivering the people of God; that Elijah, the great prophet, wandered in such deserts before he came forth to his great work; that the forerunner of Messiah—John the Baptist—"was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel," and there grew and waxed strong in spirit; and that the Redeemer himself was "led by the Spirit into the wilderness" to be tempted and tried, after His baptism, and before He entered on His public work as the Messiah.
With these examples before us, we shall not probably err in supposing that the time spent by Paul in Arabia was passed with some reference to his future life, as preparatory to his great work, in meditation and occupations which tended to qualify him for prosecuting it to the best advantage. It is to be remembered that the other apostles were three years under the instructions of the Great Teacher himself; and, in like manner, these three years may have been spent by Saul of Tarsus in some way best adapted to make his subsequent life what it was. He had been called to the apostleship, and his future course had been designated; but there might have been an important work of self-culture, of prayer, of meditation, of communion with God, necessary before he entered fully on his work. He was yet a young man; he had been trained for one profession or calling, as a Pharisee; he was now to prepare himself for another and a very different calling, as a minister of the despised Jesus of Nazareth,—as a preacher to the Gentiles,— as an apostle to the world.
The point thus suggested is the interval between the choice of a profession or calling in life and the entrance on the public duties of that profession or calling. No period of human life is more important than this; and if I can bring forward any thoughts which will be of use to any in that period of life, I may be rendering to them an important service for all their future course.
To place the whole subject before the mind, it would be necessary to contemplate these points: the professions or callings which are open before those who are in early life; the principles on which the choice of a profession or calling should be made; and the manner in which the interval between the choice of a profession or calling and the entrance on its active duties should be spent. This latter is, indeed, the main point; but a few remarks on the two former will aid us in its contemplation. Although they do not arise directly from my subject, they are appropriate as preparing for that.
I. The first point relates to the professions or callings •which may be properly regarded as presenting themselves to one who is about to embark on life.
(1) The first thing which strikes us on this point is tl1e great variety of things to be done in the world, during any one generation; or, the variety of the fields for exertion and employment. Among the problems which we may suppose to have been before the mind of the Creator when about to make living beings, this could not but have been a material one, how to give employment or occupation to the numberless creatures which He purposed to bring on the stage,—as it is still a most important problem, and one which it is beyond the power of created intellect to solve, how such employment shall be given to countless myriads of minds that are to exist for ever,—how the eternity of our being shall be occupied. There would have been no kindness—there would have been the utmost want of kindness—in creating minds for which no employment had been arranged. With the highest wisdom, and with the most benevolent adaptation to the necessities of created mind, and to the varied endowments of men, an arrangement has been made for this in our world; and we cannot doubt that a similar arrangement will be made in eternity. On our earth, with the vast numbers that people it at any time, and with the almost endless diversity of talents, tastes, powers, and individual propensities that exist among men, there is enough to be done, in any one generation, to keep that generation occupied; there is a sufficient variety of things to be done, to meet the peculiar endowments of the numberless individuals in each generation. No one has undertaken to estimate the number of things to be done; the number of the professions, pursuits, or callings, which may occupy the attention of men. No one, who is about to make choice of an avocation, would undertake to enumerate or compare them, so that he could have them all before him in making his selection. The choice is, in fact, commonly made within very narrow limits; but these by no means exhaust the fields of occupation, or define the range of the human powers. Agriculture, commerce, the mechanic arts, the fine arts, literature, the learned professions, civil life, the service of the army or the navy,—these are the callings which commonly occur to the mind as constituting those from which the young are to choose. But how small a part of the actual things to be done, and that are done, in each generation is embraced under these general terms. In any one of these callings, moreover, what a variety of things there may be to be done. In agriculture, what a variety of employments are actually included. How many men may be employed on the different parts of making a gun, or a locomotive engine, or even a pin,— and that with so distinct an occupation as to be in itself a calling. In building a ship, or in navigating it,—in the manufacture of cloth,—in domestic arrangements,—in war,—in peace,—in travel,—in thearts,—in the businessof a great city,—in the employments of a country life,—what an endless variety of things is to be done at any one time; —so endless, that when we contemplate it, we see that the problem has been in fact solved in regard to our world, and that there is enough to be accomplished to occupy all who at any time may dwell on our globe.
(2.) The next point, under this head, relates to the variety of endowments among men, as adapted to these various occupations,—endowments such that these various ends are in fact secured, and such that at the same time they are secured voluntarily, or so that men enter on their different pursuits not by force or compulsion, but of preference and choice. While there is, in any one generation, enough for all to do, there is at the same time talent enough upon the earth to do all that needs to be done in that generation. There are men enough to subdue and cultivate the earth; there are enough to maintain the interests of commerce, to navigate distant seas, to ply the mechanic's tools, to constitute armies, and to man ships of war, to occupy the seats of learning, to push the discoveries of science, to occupy the positions of trust and responsibility in civil life, to perform the work of legislation, and to administer the laws; there are enough for even the most humble and lowly occupations in life. If a new invention is required to promote the progress of human affairs at a quicker rate than ordinary, some Arkwright, or Fulton, or Morse, is endowed by the Creator with genius to strike out the invention; if some new and great discovery is to be made in science, some Kepler or Newton is endowed for that purpose; if unknown lands are to be discovered and explored, some Columbus or Cook is endowed to undertake the task, and disclose the existence of islands or continents to the rest of mankind.
And thus it is, also, in those professions and callings which would seem to be most perilous and least inviting. Commerce is needful for the world; and it is evidently a part of the Divine arrangement that, in the best state of human affairs, there should be an exchange of the commodities of different climes and regions, involving the dangers and hardships of a seafaring life. If this were left to parents, it could not be accomplished,—for no parent would be likely to select the profession of a sailor for his son. If there were no special propensity in the minds of any, it could not be accomplished,—for the perils of the sea are so great, and the rewards of a seafaring life are so small, that under ordinary impulses men would not undertake it. But God has arranged this so as to secure the end. In each generation there is about the same relative number endowed with the -desire of a mariner's life,—as many as are needful to accomplish the purposes of commerce in that generation. It is an early propensity in the mind of the boy; it is among the most fixed of all propensities; it is so settled that ordinarily when it seizes upon the mind, the boy cannot be diverted from it. It is God's purpose that the seas shall be navigated, and the world united by commercial relations. "A poet must be born a poet,"1 and so a sailor must be born a sailor. In this way ordinarily God fills up the ranks of seamen by implanting this strong propensity in the mind, and bringing about what could be accomplished in no other way.
(3.) A third remark under this head; the ends of life may be secured, the purposes of society advanced, and God may be honoured, in any one of these occupations and employments. Those on the ocean serve Him as really as they do who are on the land; those in humble life, as really as those in an exalted rank; those who perform menial offices, as well as their employers; those who are private citizens, as well as those on thrones, invested with state, and pomp, and power; those whose names perish as soon as they die, as really as those whose names are blazoned abroad, or preserved in everenduring brass. "Art thou called," says the apostle, "being
a servant? Care not for it; for he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman" (1 Cor. vii. 21, 22). "The eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee; nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you " (l. Cor. xii. 21).
Within this range, this wide range of employment,— with these varied natural propensities and endowments,— and with this assurance that in any of these employments the purpose of life for which we are individually designed may be accomplished, and that within any of these professions or callings, life may be honourable and useful, and the Creator acceptably served,—the profession which is to determine our condition on earth is to be chosen.
II. In the next place, we have to inquire on what principles should such a profession or calling be chosen?
In the case of Saul of Tarsus, it was determined by the declared purpose of the Redeemer (Acts xxvi. 16 —18). Young men now cannot hope for any such direct and infallible guidance. Are there any principles which will be a sufficient guide to them in the choice of a profession or calling? If so, what are those principles?
It is important to remark here that every one should be able to make it clear to his own mind that in selecting a profession or calling, he is acting in accordance with the will of God. We speak of ministers of the Gospel as having a "call" to the ministry, and of its being improper for them to engage in that work without evidence that they are so called. It is, indeed, true that ministers of the Gospel should have such a "call" to their work; but if it be meant that this is of the nature of a miracle, or is a distinct voice from heaven, addressed to them on the subject, then that is demanded in their case for which there is no authority, and for which there is no special necessity. It remains yet to be shown that there is any thing in their case which does not exist in the case of every other man and every other profession. The great question for each one, taking into view his qualifications, circumstances, and endowments, and the wants of the world, is,—how he can make the most of his life for the purpose for which life was given him,—how he can best serve his Maker,—and how he can best promote the great interests needful to be promoted in the world in his generation. The merchant, the artizan, the mariner, the soldier, the man of letters or science, should be able to make it clear to his own conscience that his is the course of life in which his Maker intended that he should walk; or, that he has a "call" to that, as really as the minister of the Gospel has a call to preach the word.
What, then, are the principles on which such a choice should be made, or which are to guide us in the choice?
I shall here suggest a few things on this point which it seems to me—as I now view life, looking back on it when I have passed over most of the journey—are just views, and which might be adopted by those in early life, as rules in determining on the course to be chosen.
(1.) The first is, that the profession or calling should be selected in which the most can be made of life for its proper purposes; or, in which life can be turned to the best account. Life, though transitory, short, uncertain, has its purpose. There is an end for which we were made; for which we have been endowed as we are; for which we were brought on the stage at the time when we were; for which we were placed in the circumstances in which we have been placed. If we can find out that, and can follow it, we shall make the most of life. If we err in that —if we take a wrong direction,—if we attempt what we cannot accomplish,—if we fail to accomplish what we might,—life with us will be wasted; its great purpose will be frustrated.
(2.) The second principle which I mention is, that, consequently, when there is a fitness for either of two or more courses of life, tl1at should be chosen which under the circumstances will- be most adapted to secure the ends of life. Within a certain range—which is in fact quite limited—a man might be equally adapted to two or more callings. It may not be strictly true that he would even within this range, succeed in one as well as in another of these; but still he is so constituted that if the condition of society should be such that he could not find an opening in that calling for which he is best fitted, there may be another, or perhaps more than one other, which he could enter, and in which the great ends of life would be substantially secured. This "play" if I may use a term drawn from one of the mechanic arts,1 was arranged for in the endowments of men, that no one might be thrown out of all employment, or that
*' Play—room for motion; the play of a wheel or piston."—Webster.
there might be opportunity for a choice between such different employments as might promise almost equal success; and, at the same time, that there might be at any one period genius and talent enough upon the earth, as above stated, for all the purposes to be accomplished. Now, the principle which I am laying down is, that within this range—this room for choice—this "play" in the endowments of our nature, the selection of a profession should be made, and that a man should not attempt to force himself into a condition or calling for which he was never designed; nor should he envy those who are differently endowed.
(3.) A third rule would be, that the profession or calling should be chosen which will be best adapted to develope the peculiar endowments of the mind, or which will be in the line of those endowments. We cannot originate or create endowments of the mind; we cannot, by any culture or training, create a talent for music, where the germ of it does not exist in the soul ; nor can we originate a talent for painting, or sculpture, or the mechanic arts; nor can we give to ourselves high mathematical endowments, or the power of invention, or a brilliant imagination. To a certain extent, most of these exist in every mind, so far as to enable us to find enjoyment in what is done by others of richer genius; but it would be vain for us to endeavour to make them the basis of our own purposes of living. They struggle in vain who attempt to be distinguished in that for which nature has not endowed them. He who would succeed in life must make it a point to put forth his efforts in the line of his native endowments. Thus carrying out the purposes of God, life is easy; toil becomes a pleasure; the vessel moves, not against a current and against obstructions, but it is moved by the current, and the course of life is gentle, tranquil, prosperous, and happy.
(4.) A fourth thing which is vital to any just views of life, to a proper choice of a profession, is, that that only should be chosen which is just and honourable; which is itself right, and is consistent with the highest standard of morality; and which can be pursued in all its ramifications, and always, and in all respects, on the principles of honesty, truth, justice, and fairness. There are sufficient employments of this nature; and those are the only employments which God has set before men, or to which He ever calls any of the human race. There are employments, indeed, founded wholly on the idea of injustice and falsehood; which involve, in all their stages, corruption, perjury, dishonesty; which secure no success except as others are defrauded of their rights; which require the employment of cunning, trick, concealment, as essential to their prosecution,—employments, not unlike the occupations of those who kindle false lights on a dangerous coast, that they may allure vessels in a storm to a rocky shore, and who gather the rich cargoes of the vessels thus decoyed to ruin. But, on the other hand, there are employments numerous enough to occupy all the talent of the world, whose beginning is honourable, and which may be honourably prosecuted to the utmost extent. Such, for example, is agriculture —the primitive employment of man—which may be carried on in all its departments—from the purchase of the soil; the levelling of the forests; the enclosing of the fields; the ploughing, the sowing, the harvest, the threshing, the sale,—on principles of entire honesty; where, through the whole course, there is not necessarily involved, at any stage, or in reference to any department, the idea of dishonesty or fraud. Such, too, are the mechanic arts; such the operations of commerce; and such, too, may be the employments of those in the learned professions. Such, and such only, is the course of life which a young man should choose.
(5.) A fifth principle is that that course should be chosen in which there are the fewest temptations to evil. We cannot, in our world, place ourselves absolutely and certainly beyond the reach of temptation; for all are liable to it. If the Saviour of the world was tempted, we may be certain that no man, however pure and honest he may be, can be sure that he will be beyond its reach. But, at the same time, it is obvious that, of two callings in life, one may clearly be much nearer to dangerous temptations than another; that one will be comparatively free from danger, while the other will be in fact a voluntary warfare with the most enticing forms of evil. The one, too, may be a course where the associates and companions will be naturally among the pure and the good; the other, where they will be the crafty, the unprincipled, and the corrupt. All wise young men will foresee this, and will make it an element in determining their choice. He calculates much on the strength of his own virtue, and commonly reposes in it a degree of confidence to which it is not entitled, who puts himself deliberately in the way of temptation, or who exposes himself needlessly to it. One of the best maxims in determining our course of life is, to select, at the outset, that in which virtue and principle will be least likely to be put to a test, and in which, from the nature of the calling, a man may bring around him such associations and influences as will be an auxiliary in keeping him in the paths of virtue.
(6.) A sixth principle is, that a young man should choose that which while it will conduce to his own individual interest and to the purpose of his life, will, at the same time, promote the general good of society, and contribute to the advancement of the race; which will not interfere with the happiness of others, but will add to those influences that tend to secure liberty, civilization, moral and intellectual culture, and religion. "None of us liveth to himself." For good or for evil, the life of every man will affect the interests of others. Every just and proper employment, while it promotes the welfare of him who pursues it, will, at the same time, subserve the progress of society at large;—like the insect which, while it performs its little part for itself, aids in the common work of raising the coral reef higher and higher, until it lifts itself above the surface of the waters, and becomes the abode of higher orders of beings. Society is organized on the principle that any lawful and proper employment will not injure, but will advance the interests of the whole community ;—as the movement of each wheel in a well-constructed machine will not only not embarrass, but will promote the harmonious and regular operation of every other part. Every man might be his own blacksmith or shoemaker; but it is an advantage to the farmer and the professional man that these should be distinct departments of labour. It is a saving of time and expense to a community that there should be men trained to these callings. So it is with all other lawful occupations. There are callings which cannot be pursued without ruin to others. The individual engaged in the pursuit may be, for a time, prospered; but in his prosperity, and just in proportion to his prosperity, he is scattering poverty, and woe, and tears, and broken hearts, around him:—making men's houses the abodes of crime and sorrow; filling almshouses, and prisons, and graves. Such, always, is the result of the manufacture and sale of intoxicating drinks. The distinction between a lawful and an unlawful employment, in its tending to good or evil, should always be a consideration in influencing a man what profession to choose.
(7.) A seventh principle may be added. It is, that tl1at calling should be selected which will not interfere with, but which will best aid the preparation for another world. There are employments which are necessarily inconsistent with such preparation; there are those, otherwise lawful and proper, which will greatly embarrass a man in it; there are those, which are directly in the line of that, and which will tend to promote it. Our chief interests are beyond the grave, and all that we do in this life should have a bearing on the life to come. Obviously, then, it is a just principle that those interests should not be jeopardied by our avocations in this life J but that while we seek to fill up life in a way that will best secure the ends of our existence here, our whole plan and course of life should be such as will not hinder but serve our preparation for a future world.
It would be easy greatly to extend these remarks, but the above rules embody the main principles which should guide those who are forming their plans for life.
III. These remarks and suggestions will enable us, in the third place, to answer the main inquiry with which we started,—In what way shall the interval between the choosing of a profession and the entrance on its active duties be employed f The point was suggested by the supposition that, in some way now unknown to us, in the deserts or towns of Arabia,—by prayer, by meditation, by some active discipline,—the three years spent there by Paul were designed to fit him for the better performance of the vast and the untried duties of the apostleship.
A very few simple hints will be all that it will now be necessary to suggest.
(1.) The first is, That time enough should be taken to prepare for the profession or calling which has been selected. It might seem to be a waste of life to spend so many years in the mere work of preparation for future life; and doubtless many would say that, on the supposition that Saul of Tarsus, after all his previous training, spent these three years in prayer, or meditation, or study, it is unaccountable that so much of life should have been wasted when the world was perishing for lack of the Gospel which he was appointed to preach. But on the same principle, also, it would seem unaccountable that, by the arrangements of God Himself, so much time should be spent in helpless infancy; so much in childhood; so much in the studies of youth, in the schools, and in practice of the mechanic arts :—one-third of life, even when life reaches its longest allotted limits,— ordinarily, more than half of life,—often, more than three-fourths of the whole of existence here on earth, thus spent in mere preparation. There is undoubtedly a tendency in these times, in all the professions and callings, to abridge the period of training for the future work in which a man is to be engaged. So short does life seem, so unprofitable appears the time spent in preparation, so vast seems the work to be done, that they who are to engage in the active duties of life become impatient and restless, and leave the place of preparation only half-furnished for their work. Thus it is often difficult to retain youths in our colleges during the time usually prescribed for an academic course; thus young men, destined to the work of the ministry, pant to be engaged in their great work, and feel as if in their studies, they were wasting time that might be employed in winning souls to the Saviour.
Yet all this is based on a false principle, and a false view of life. He does not accomplish most who enters earliest on his work, but he who is best trained and prepared. The raw recruit is of little service in battle; the long, and minute, and tedious process of drilling is not lost; but all the time spent in that is a gain when the battle comes. The contest among the Grecian wrestlers, boxers, racers, lasted usually but a few moments—certainly not beyond a few hours,—and to many the long previous training and discipline might seem to have been wasted;—yet to one who should have acted on that principle, the contest would have ended in defeat, and the crown would have passed into the hands of another. More by far was accomplished by that previous training than would have been, or could have been, without it. So it is in the battle, the race, the struggle, the conflict of human life. He does most who is best prepared; he usually carries away the palm who has given himself to the most thorough discipline.
Take another view of the matter. Not only is life itself short,—short in itself, and short in reference to the objects to be gained,—but professional life is very short. The average life in a profession or in any calling,—as physician, lawyer, clergyman, farmer, mechanic—is not much, if any, above twenty years; and in that time a man is to do what he has to do for this world and the next. The real question, then, would be, whether—in view of this brevity of professional life—this moral certainty that it cannot ordinarily be more than twenty or thirty years—it would be better to enter on it at thirty, well prepared, or to enter on it at twenty, or earlier, with a very imperfect preparation, or with none at all. Now, the period from thirty to fifty, and even sixty, is ordinarily the best period; the period of most vigour, of most maturity, of most practical wisdom;—a better period altogether for securing what men have to secure, than an earlier period of life. How short were the public lives of Chatham, of Fox, of Burke, of Curran, of Patrick Henry, of Daniel Webster! How short was the period when Demosthenes stood conspicuously before the world! Yet who would venture to say that the long previous and careful self-training of the orator—the use of his voice beside the roaring ocean—the filling of his mouth with pebbles to correct a defect in his speech— was lost and wasted time?
(2). Secondly; The studies should obviously have reference to the future calling. No man is a "universal genius;" no man can hope to be master of all arts, and to become possessed of all knowledge. The duty of one, therefore, who is preparing to be a farmer, is to perfect himself in that calling; the duty of one who is to be a machinist, is to make himself master of the mysteries of his trade; the duty of one who is to be a merchant, is to perfect himself in what pertains to commerce; the duty of one who is preparing for either of the learned professions, is to make himself master of that one which he has chosen, and not to prepare for all professions or callings. He must feel that this is to be the business of life; this is what is to constitute his life; this is what he is to make of life. A man will feel the importance of this when he reflects that what constitutes life to him is to be found in that calling. This idea concentrates on that preparation all that there is to him of greatness, of solemnity, and of responsibility in life itself. If he were to spend his life in varied and different employments, then this idea of solemnity, responsibility, and greatness might be diffused over them all. If he could be a farmer, and a mechanic, and a merchant, and a soldier, and a sailor, and a physician, lawyer, clergyman, then his idea of life would embrace all these; and no one calling, in this view, would have any special or supreme importance. But he is not to be all these. He is to be a farmer, or a mechanic, or a merchant, or a soldier, or a sailor, or a physician, lawyer, clergyman; and all that there is of life to him is to be concentrated in that one calling. Others are to fill up life, and make it to themselves what it will be in sonic one of the other callings ;—life to him is to be what it will be in that profession alone. By that, he is to be known; by that, he is to be remembered, if remembered at all. How momentous, therefore, does the time of preparation for a profession become! How solemn must this thought have been to Saul of Tarsus, when he abandoned, at the call of the Saviour, his former course of life, so brilliant to him in the prospect, and now felt that to him the whole of life was embodied in the idea of his being an apostle of Christ!
This remark is so obvious that I need not enlarge on it. There is, however, an observation connected with this point, so important, and so often overlooked, that I may be permitted to dwell on it a moment. It is, that every man, while he aims to perfect himself in his particular calling, should seek to cultivate his mind in all respects, and to know all that he can, consistently with his main purpose, on all that belongs to the subjects of human inquiry. In the course of a professional life it will be found that nothing which a man has learned on any subject is useless. Occasions will occur in which, in his regular calling, all that he has acquired will find an appropriate place, and will aid him in his work. But, besides, every man is to be more than a mere professional man. He is a husband, a father, a neighbour, a voter, a citizen; he is to be one of a generation, and to move and act with it; he is to be a patron of schools, and colleges, and institutions of benevolence; he is to be identified with the interests of learning, liberty, and religion ; he is a traveller to another world, and has great interests beside those which relate to his mere calling. He is, or should be, a Christian man, and is to act, or should act, with Christians in their efforts to save the world. Life is narrowed down almost to nothing when a man is merely a business man.
(3.) One thought only remains. It is, that the preparation for that profession should be—as the choice of the profession, and the profession itself should be,—subordinate to the life to come—to the preparation for eternity. The one will not interfere with the other. No man is impeded in his proper business by prayer; no man is injured in any calling by seeking to obtain instruction daily from the Bible; no man is hindered in intellectual pursuits, by cultivating the pure affections of the heart, by exercising love to God, love to the Saviour, love to men,—by cultivating a spirit of gentleness, conscientiousness, purity, kindness; no man is injured in his prospects for this life by cherishing the hope of the life to come. It should not be forgotten, also, that the real preparation which a man is at any time making may be for the eternal world. He may not live to enter on his chosen profession; long before the anticipated time shall arrive for entering on that, a more material question may be before his mind and heart,—whether he is prepared for the unchanging world.
Life is great if properly viewed in any respect; it is mainly great when viewed in connexion with the world to come. Its most momentous period is that which we have been considering; the results of the manner in which that period is spent, will reach beyond the skies.