- Sermon I. the Rising Generation Exhorted to Adopt the Religion of Their Christian Forefathers.
- Sermon II. Hope In God.
- Sermon III. On the Means and the Importance of Grace.
- Sermon IV. Corruption of Heart the Source of Irreligion and Immorality.
- Sermon V. Against Despair and Suicide.
- Sermon VI. On the Folly and Danger of Thoughtlessness.
- Sermon VII. Perseverance In the Religious Principles Taught In Youth, and Particularly In Faith and Hope, Recommended.
- Sermon VIII. Good Intentions the Least Fallible Security For Good Conduct.
- Sermon IX. Religion the Chief Concern of Life.
- Sermon X. On Conformity to Fashion and the Customs of the World
- Sermon XI. On Seeking a Remedy For Sorrow, In Vice and Dissipation.
- Sermon XII. Christian Politeness
- Sermon XIII. On the Duty of Preventing Evil, By Actual Coercion, As Well As By Advice and Remonstrance.
- Sermon XIV. On Pursuing Visionary Schemes of Happiness, Without Attending to Scripture, and Revealed Religion
- Sermon XV. the Pride of Human Learning and False Philosophy, a Great Obstacle to the Reception of Christianity.
- Sermon XVI. On the Duty of Servants.
- Sermon XVII. On the Wickedness and Misery of Envy and Contention.
- Sermon XVIII. the Cunning Oe the Wicked Inconsistent With Wisdom.
- Sermon XIX. On the Snares of the Devil, and Means of Escaping Them.
- Sermon XX. Moderation Necessary to All Solid and Durable Enjoyment.
- Sermon XXI. Happiness to Be Found Rather In the Enjoyment of Health and Innocence, Than In the Successful Pursuits of Avarice and Ambition.
- Sermon XXII. On the Duties of the Preacher and the Hearer.
- Sermon XXIII. * On the Benefits to Be Derived From the Sight of a Funeral.
- Sermon XXIV. a Preparatory Persuasive to the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.
- Sermon XXV. the Prospect of Perpetual and Universal Peace to Be Established On the Principles of Christian Philanthropy.
- Sermon XXVI. On the Necessity of Increasing the Places of Public Worship On the Establishment; and On the Duty of Supporting the Objects of the Philanthropic Society.
- Sermon XXVII. the Support of the Magdalen Hospital Recommended.
- Sermon XXVIII. the Education of the Poor Recommended.
on the duty of servants.
Psalm ci. 9, 10.—Whoso leadeth a godly life, he shall be my servant. There shall no deceitful person dwell in my house. He that telleth lies, shall not tarry in my sight.
If we consider these words as the words of a king, declaring his resolution to choose no ministers of his government, but those whose characters are distinguished for piety and probity, they will afford instruction of a most valuable kind to all who sit upon thrones. Happy indeed would it be, if those who are exalted to honourable offices of state, were elevated, because they were eminent examples of all moral virtue. They are too often forced into offices, by their own restless ambition, and the furious zeal of deluded parties; or, when they are chosen, it too often happens, that ability, and not virtue, determines the choice.
It would be a most effectual mode of preaching to a whole nation, if princes would adopt the resolutions of the text, and exalt none to high honours and great power, who were not as conspicuous for exemplary piety and goodness of heart, as for intellectual abilities and political influence. A virtuous court would produce a virtuous people. But when men, whose conduct, and even professions, furnish reason to conclude that they disbelieve the national religion, are raised to the rank of nobles, counsellors of princes, and disposers of preferment, religious as well as civil, the people will naturally suppose, that those who appoint them, neither fear God, nor believe in Christ; and that all religion is but the invention of knaves to awe fools. Such an opinion, founded on such appearances, will militate more powerfully against Christianity, among the people at large, than all the arguments of the infidel, all the derision of the profligate. The people do indeed reason wrong in this case; but since they will reason so, and conduct themselves accordingly, governors should not act in such a manner as to cause and continue their error.
But, I do not at present intend to consider the text, as describing either the ministers of church or state. I shall understand the words in their literal sense, and endeavour to derive from them some instruction, for a very great and very valuable part of the human race; those who are placed by Providence in the humble state of menial servitude.
The state of human affairs, as instituted by Providence, evidently requires a regular subordination. Some must govern, and others must of necessity be subject to their government. Some must employ the faculties of their minds, in ordering and regulating schemes for the general benefit; and others must exercise their bodies in manual labour, and conform their wills to the direction of lawful and expedient superintendants. If all men attempted to establish the equality of all, they would contend against God and nature; and the contest must proceed, by bloodshed, to universal destruction.
A very numerous rank of human creatures appear in the world to act the humble part of executing the commands, and performing the work, of other men. In all ages of the world, and in every part of the globe, the distinction of masters and servants has been observed: But let it be duly attended to, that before that happy period when Jesus Christ came in the form of a servant, servitude was slavery. Servants among the heathens differed very little from beasts of burthen, but in the external figure. This was among the many abominations of the heathens, and evinced into what deplorable errors whole nations may fall, when enlightened only by the glimmering lamp of that reason, of which man so proudly boasts, as his best distinction.
Jesus Christ came to preach the gospel to the poor; he was sent to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind; to set at liberty them that are bruised.
It appears to me from this passage, that the abolition of slavery was one of the principal purposes of our Saviour's gracious mission. They who lived and died in slavery, and left the bitter inheritance to their children and their children's children, were now to be set at liberty, enabled to enjoy the fruits of their labour, and to rise in the ranks of society, in consequence of their merits and their exertions. From this time no particular race was doomed to servitude. All might, in their turn, be reduced to it by misfortune; and all might escape it, by successful industry.
Servitude indeed (for slavery existed no longer) became voluntary, and the compact between master and servant was attended with conditions equally advantageous to both. It began and terminated according to agreement. No personal ill-treatment was to be tolerated. The law was open to all; and servants were as much under its protection as the most powerful and wealthy lords.
Servitude in a good family, and in its present state, is comparatively a happy condition. The wants of nature are supplied without expense, and without solicitude. The master labours, and leads an anxious life, to secure plenty and ease to the domestics. Nothing of that hard labour, which might be esteemed unreasonable or grievous, is usually exacted. And indeed it is obvious to remark, that few persons who live in their own houses, and support themselves by labour, enjoy so comfortable a situation, as that of domestic servants in well-disposed families. Exempted from the common cares of life, they have time to consider, and perform their duties; both those which immediately belong to their office, and those which, as human creatures, they owe to man and God.
I argue then; that, since servants are under such particular obligations to the Christian religion, and possess a state of freedom from the many cares of those who have to provide for a household, they are peculiarly bound to the regular performance of their religious and social duties.
Every good and wise master will be inclined to say with David in the text, Whoso leadeth a godly life, he shall be my servant. There shall no deceitful person dwell in my house. He that telleth lies, shall not dwell in my sight.
The first requisite in a good servant is, that he lead a godly life. A due sense of religion, or the fear of God, will be to him, as indeed to all men, the beginning of wisdom. All real virtues and good qualities must flow from religion, rightly understood.
And here I cannot but lament, that, in some distinguished families, the domestic servants appear to be Christians only in name. Sunday is too little regarded by many, who are proud of being distinguished by trifles, and even by vice and impiety, as fashionable people. The ministers of their luxury look up to them as models of behaviour; and if they can vie with them in none of the good qualities which they may have, aspire after an equality in vice and impiety. It is customary, in such families, to spend the Lord's day in peculiar dissipation; and the servants are often prevented, even if they were desirous, from performing the religious duties which their own consciences, and the laws of their church and their country require.
If the heads of families have neither time nor inclination (which they ought to have) to teach their servants the doctrines and duties of religion, they ought not only to permit them to attend, but to require their attendance on the public worship of God, and at the sacrament of the Lord's supper.
How heinous must be the offence of them, who, not content with neglecting those religions ordinances which conduce to the preservation of good order and virtue, exercise that authority which their situation gives them, in preventing their dependants from the performance of duties in which they would otherwise delight; who force them from God, to employ them in luxury?
There is no less imprudence, than impiety and injustice, in such conduct. For nothing will so effectually make a servant really valuable and useful, as sincere religion. Hypocrisy is indeed a cloak for every fraudulent practice, but sincere religion cannot but produce good behaviour. And the master who is so happy as to infuse religious principles, either by precept or example, will probably receive a reward for his endeavours in this world, as well as in a better.
I proceed to point out, and recommend, the peculiar virtues which become a servant. The text specifies religion, as the very first requisite. Whoso leadeth a godly life, he shall be my servant, says David; and he proceeds thus: There shall no deceitful person dwell is my house. He that telleth lies, s hall not dwell in my sight.
It appears, by this passage, that truth and moral honesty are the foundation of the social virtues, which more particularly adorn a state of servitude. David spoke like one who was well acquainted with real life, and who drew his observations from actual experience.
Every one knows, that servants are usually ready to conceal their faults of omission or commission, by evasion or denial; that they are apt to create misery in families, by fabricating tales to their disadvantage; that they are often inclined to exaggerate the foibles of their superiors, in revenge for a just reprimand; to disclose secrets, and to give them an unfavourable colour, by adding or concealing some momentous circumstance. The opportunities they possess of animadverting on the manners and character of those who support them, render them particularly dangerous when they are disposed to misrepresentation, which unfortunately is but too often the case. The heathen poet observed with justice, that the tongue is the worst part of a bad servant.
Falsehood is a great sin in all men; for lying lips are an abomination to the Lord. But servants are confided in with singular reliance; and their lies and, calumnies against their employers are for that reason singularly base.
They should habituate themselves to consider their masters as their friends and protectors, to whom they owe truth and fidelity as a just return for the benefits they enjoy; and they must never suppose that their low situation exempts them from the necessity of reverencing that truth in word and deed, which their masters are obliged by the laws of religion and honour to observe. They have been called the humble friends of those who employ them, and like friends, should endeavour to extenuate, as far as truth will allow, rather than aggravate, the foibles and errors of those under whose roof they enjoy plenty and peace.
With respect to the concealment of their faults by a lie, it is obvious to remark, that this is to add one sin to another; and that though they should escape the notice and punishment of an earthly master, they will incur the displeasure of a heavenly one; who, perhaps, might not have been extreme to mark what was done amiss in the first offence.
And with respect to the other source of lies, a love of tale-bearing, and a wish to revenge themselves on their superiors, by diffusing scandal, it is an aggravated offence. Calumny and detraction are universally reprobated, as practices odious in themselves, and destructive of society. But in a servant against a master, they become crimes of such an atrocious nature, that a name adequate to their malignity is not yet invented. They are a complication of ingratitude, treachery, cruelty, and dishonesty. Families lie at the mercy of servants with respect to their good name, more than their property; and thousands have been defamed, so as to have been miserable in themselves, and injured in their fortunes, by the false tongue of an unprincipled servant.
From a love of truth, aud conscientious adherence to it, will arise such a sense of duty and propriety, as will guide a servant in the performance of all that is required from him, both as a man, and as one who is placed in a subordinate rank of society.
But the love of truth will more immediately display itself in the preservation of honesty. Servants are exposed to particular temptations to theft. It is extremely easy to secrete many valuable articles of property, which their masters may not immediately notice, or which they may suppose either to be lost, or stolen by others. This facility operates as a snare. Many, who would never have brought themselves to rob on the highway, or break into a house, have suffered themselves to be tempted to little petty tricks, and secret acts of dishonesty, not at all less criminal in the eye of heaven than open robbery. They have indeed often led to it, for the mind is easily allured from small to great acts of villainy.
Let the good servant then be upon his guard, and not take any advantages which are not fair and allowable, though he knows that he might escape detection. As his situation is exposed to great temptations, he will, if he has a due sense of the value of his soul, take particular precautions; not purloining, but showing all fidelity.
A ready obedience to the commands of their masters, is a duty indispensable: To whom we yield ourselves servants to obey, his servants we are whom we obey. He who refuses to obey the lawful commands of his master, does in fact deny the relation between master and servant. He acts absurdly in the eye of reason, culpably in the eye of man, and rebelliously in the eye of God. There are few commands more expressly given, than that which requires obedience to masters. Servants, obey in all things your masters; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing God; knowing, that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance. Thus it appears, that the Apostle enjoins obedience to masters on religious principles, and proposes a particular reward as an inducement. Ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance; that is, ye shall become the children of God, and be heirs of salvation, together with good men, whom God has adopted into his family. There is reserved in heaven for you, an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away. Look for your reward from your master in heaven; not as men-pleasers, but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will, doing service as to the Lord, and not to men: knowing, that whatsoever good thing any man doth, the same he shall receive of the Lord.
How valuable and respectable a member of society is he, however low his situation in it, who performs his duty to man from the fear of God∗ He is humbled now, but he shall hereafter be exalted: for there is no respect of persons with God. He is Lord over all.
The bad behaviour of a master will not tempt a good servant to improper disobedience; for the Scripture thus teaches him: Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is thankworthy, if a man, for conscience sake, endure grief, suffering wrongfully. The good servant will, indeed, have many opportunities of exercising patience, as well as all other virtues; and while he takes no offence, let him be careful to give none.
Respect, indeed, will be due from him to his master, according to the law of nature and good order; for inferiors should reverence their superiors in rank, so far as to pay them that submission, which civility and decorum, as well as the existence of a well regulated society, require ; and real respect will conduce greatly to secure a ready obedience. The Apostle therefore, among other excellent advice to servants, directs them, to please their own masters well in all things, not answering again. The eyes of the servants look unto the hands of their masters; and the eyes of a maiden, unto the hands of her mistress,
In this free country, and in the state of liberty which the lowest ranks enjoy, it sometimes happens, that abuse and ill-language are used by servants towards those who protect them, and whose rank and virtue demand respect. But this behaviour is not only indecent and unreasonable, but strictly forbidden by the holy Scriptures. Railing and reviling are unlawful in any Christian; servants are commanded not to answer again, but to hear and bear reproof with patience and resignation, even if it is unjust; and if it is just, they are to receive it with great thankfulness, and to reform the errors which occasioned it.
I need not spend many words in convincing you, that diligence is a prime virtue in a good servant. To consume that time in idleness, which should be spent in promoting the purposes of an employer, is to be guilty of robbery. The time of a servant, within the limits of reasonable hours, belongs to the master. He has purchased it, and perhaps paid for it dearly. It is his right and property, no less than his estate. How guilty are many, who conceive themselves to be perfectly innocent∗ 1 mean those, who resolve not to exert themselves for another, but to enjoy ease and security, without making any return, though an equivalent is expected, and implied in the original engagement.
If they are not guilty of lying, fraud, or ill-language, they conclude that all is well; not considering, that they owe a debt of services to their masters, which, if they neglect to pay, by voluntary omission, they are to be numbered among the unjust; and are worthy to receive the punishment due to unprofitable servants.
That temperance and sobriety are virtues particularly requisite in servants, will be readily admitted. For how can they be fit to obey the commands of others, who render themselves incapable of governing themselves? A thousand evils arise in families, from the intemperance of servants. No servant is without some trust or confidence reposed; but how shall he be vigilant or faithful, even if his principles incline him, whose eyes and ears and memory are destroyed, or weakened by drunkenness and gluttony? It is necessary to be sober, in order to be vigilant; which is the reason why sobriety and vigilance are conjointly recommended in the holy Scriptures.
I will not trespass on your patience so far, as to go through the whole circle of moral virtues, in pointing out the duty of servants. The text more particularly recommends a strict regard to truth; and I repeat, that from a strict regard to truth every other virtue characteristic of a good servant and a good man will be likely to arise.
And now let me entreat those in this useful class of mankind, who may now happen to hear me, not to suppose, that we recommend those virtues to them for our own sakes only. It is indeed true, that a good servant contributes greatly to the comfort of life, and that every wise master wishes for his own sake, that his servant should, be well-principled in morality and religion. But believe me, ye to whom this advice is more particularly addressed, your own happiness is more concerned, than that of your masters can possibly be. Your services can contribute only to their interest or accommodation in this world, and during the short period of this life; but your own virtues will recommend you to the favour of him, one day in whose courts is better than a thousand; will secure you a mansion of bliss, from which no caprice or evil accident can exclude you.
And I must add, that your good behaviour will be likely to promote your interest in this world, more than any art or cunning on which you may value yourselves; for since all wise masters esteem good servants so highly as they evidently do, there is no doubt but that he who can approve himself a good servant will be encouraged, rewarded, and promoted in life. The prosperity and advancement of servants are certainly, for the most part, according to the characters they fix by their behaviour. A really good and faithful servant is indeed a most respectable person, a most valuable member of the community; and they who do not endeavour to advance such a one from a low estate to a comfortable competency, or to render his burthen easy in service, deserve not the blessing which they enjoy.
But imagine not, that, in the relations of master and servants, we mean to insinuate, that there are more duties incumbent on servants than on masters. By no means. Masters are under strict obligations to treat their servants kindly and justly, and to promote both their temporal and spiritual interest; but it must be allowed, that masters, from the opportunities of a better education, from reading and various other sources, of knowledge, are generally better acquainted with their duty than servants. Happy are they if they act according to their better knowledge. As much is given to them, much will be required.
I have devoted these few hints of advice to servants, with a sincere desire to promote their eternal happiness, as well as their present; and it appeared to me, that discourses have not been sufficiently often addressed, in particular, to persons in this low, but useful order. But if Christ came to preach the gospel to the poor, surely it behoves his ministers to imitate his amiable condescension.
Indeed, it behoves us all to consider, that the distinctions of rank are but of short duration. Death will soon level the high with the low. He who is clothed in purple and fine linen, and fares sumptuously every day, shall soon wear a shroud, and lie down in the earth, no less a prey to corruption, than he who, in the livery of servitude, was but the humble minister of another's pride and luxury. Let us then make it our chief care to behave well to each other during the short time of this mortal life, remembering, that high and low, rich and poor, meet together; the Lord is the maker of them.
It is not for us to describe the particulars of the heavenly state; but there is reason to believe (as we are told by our Saviour, that in his Father's house there are many mansions,) some superior degree of honour will await those who are distinguished by superior degrees of holiness in this life; so that while bad masters may be degraded to low degrees, good servants may be exalted, according to that rule, the first shall be tost, and the last first.
I will conclude, with exhorting those who are servants of men, to remember, that they ought to be, at the same time, the servants of God; and to take care, that they are not the servants of sin, for the wages of sin is death.