by Gorham D. Abbott, 1833
ADVICE TO YOUNG TRADESMEN
It is often the case, that when a young man first sets up in business, he needs advice. I here insert a little for the benefit of such.
"In order to succeed in business, it is absolutely necessary that you should maintain the character and appearance of an honest man. The easiest and most effectual way of doing this, is to be really so. If principles of strict integrity reign in the heart, there will be no little tricks and deceits to conceal and glaze over, in words or actions. It is the most honorable and valuable character which can be established by a young tradesman; and a certificate which will carry him through life. 'He is thoroughly upright and transparent in all his dealings; he is incapable of an action that could raise a blush on his countenance, if all the world beheld it.'
"Let your standard of honesty and integrity not merely be to keep clear of those things that would expose you to disgrace and punishment; but do nothing to your neighbor or your customer, that you would not think upright if he did the like to you. The golden rule of our Lord Jesus Christ, if universally acted upon, would set aside quarrels and lawsuits. There may be a few cases, in which people do not know what is legally right, and may find it necessary to consult a lawyer; but ninety-nine cases out of a hundred begin in a failure of attending to this rule, and are carried on in determined opposition to it.
"Detest the petty acts of fraud by short weights and measures, by delivering goods inferior to sample, or by making incorrect entries in your book. 'Divers weights and divers measures are an abomination unto the Lord.'
"Punctuality is a great friend both to integrity and peace. Therefore, deliver and receive all things by exact number, weight, or measure; and take regular accounts of all things sent out or received in.
"For everything you buy or sell, rent or hire, make an exact bargain at first, and neither allow nor practice the common evasion, 'Never mind the price; we sha'nt disagree about trifles.' This is a common source of disagreement, and often an intentional cloak for fraud.
"Let your books be always kept in such a state as would be no disgrace to yourself, or injury or trouble to others, if sudden death should throw them into the hands of your executors, or unexpected calamity should put them in the power of your creditors.
"Be diligent to know the state of your own affairs. Do not deceive yourself by getting in a good stock, and thinking your shop is well filled, and you have good debts on your books, and ready money for your use, while you have not paid your wholesale dealer. Have your accounts so that you can tell at one view what you owe, what you possess, and what is due to you, and then reckon your own property at less than half the balance that stands in your favor.
"Never forfeit a good conscience, or a good name, for the sake of gain. The gain will be found but momentary, the injury as lasting as life. Honesty is always the best policy. Wise men take things in the long run; and they know very well, that to get ten pounds a-year, for life, is better than to get twenty or thirty by one crafty action. To the very poorest a good character is better than ten pounds a-year, and will be found worth more than that in the long run. Let the poor, struggling, honest man look back, and he will find reason to say, 'I got such a one's work, and such a one's good will, and such a one's assistance, by bearing an unblemished character. Where would I have been without a good name for honesty?' While the crafty, unprincipled man is often obliged to think, though he does not choose to say, 'Such an advantage I lost, because I was looked upon with suspicion; such an appointment would have been mine, but they did not like to trust me; I might at this moment have been a richer man, if I had strictly kept to the paths of integrity.' Craft generally outwits itself; as the wise man says, 'The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way; but the folly of fools is deceit.' How true are the sayings, 'Tricks and treachery are the practice of fools, who have not sense enough to be honest!' 'That which is unjustly gained, will prove like a barbed arrow, wounding the conscience as it enters, and, still more, the character, when it is torn back with violence.'
"If you wish to maintain a clear conscience and a good name, avoid the very common crime of defrauding government. In all your dealings, whatever duties are levied, or taxes required, let them be punctually rendered, according to the scripture precept, 'Render to all their dues; tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom.' Many people, who imagine themselves very honest, think, 'it is no crime to cheat the king.' But there are, at least, three principles on which the dishonesty of such conduct is very evident— Government must be supported; and everyone who shares the protection of government, is bound to contribute his share towards its support. Then, if a certain sum is to be raised among a certain number of people, and if one or more evade paying their share, the deficiency must be made up among the remainder. So, the person who says there is no harm in cheating the king, is, in fact, guilty of cheating the whole community. Then, again, the tradesman who evades any duty, is especially guilty of injustice to other tradesmen in the same line of business. If they pay the duty which he evades, he is enabled to undersell them; or, if he maintains their price, he gains a much larger profit, and so an end is put to all fair competition. In addition to this, it may be observed, that those who begin by smuggling, or in any way defrauding government, generally go on to acts of private fraud. Their conscience is hardened; they are in the daily practice of deeds at which they would once have revolted; they become selfish and ungenerous in all their habits; integrity and respectability are forever sacrificed.
"Avoid as much as possible either taking or giving credit. Nothing establishes the character of a young tradesman more than applying his first returns of ready money to paying debts before they become due, and taking the discount. Many a young tradesman has been ruined by allowing his customers to run up bills with him, which they were unable to pay, and he, in consequence, has been unable to meet the demands of his wholesale dealers.
Never seek to promote your own interest by injuring a brother tradesman. It is a common saying, 'Two of a trade can never agree;' but this ought not to be the case, especially among those who profess to be under the influence of true religion: 'Live, and let live,' 'The world is wide enough for us both,' are much better sayings. Those who maintain uprightness, candor, and good feeling, may live in the same town, and carry on their respective operations in perfect harmony, and find, in the end, that their mutual interests have been promoted by such a course. But any spiteful attempt to injure a brother tradesman will generally meet the reward that Solomon speaks of, 'He who rolls a stone, it shall return upon him.'
"In a certain small town there were two tradesmen in the same line of business. A nobleman in the neighborhood wished to give equal business to every honest tradesman, and directed that the business of his house should be divided between the two. Both these men were of a sly and spiteful disposition, and each endeavored to undermine the other. Whenever an order was given, or a bill was paid, the one who received it took the opportunity of hinting something to the disadvantage of his neighbor. After endeavoring for several years to cure them of this baseness and malignity, the nobleman became so much disgusted that he took away his custom from both, encouraged a third to set up in the town, and both the former were ruined.
"Be faithful and punctual to your employers. Never crib the articles entrusted to you to make or repair, nor run them to needless expense, for the sake of lengthening your bill. Never draw people in to put a job into your hands, by intimating that the expense will be smaller than you know will really be the case. Such tricks will not serve more than once or twice.
"Never promise customers to get their work done by a certain time, which you know it is impossible to accomplish. Many tradesmen, unwilling to turn away a job, will promise one and another, that their work shall be sure to be done by the time desired, at the same time well knowing that almost everyone of them must be disappointed. The wives of some tradesmen will boast of their ingenuity in inventing falsehoods to appease an angry customer whom their husband has disappointed. It need scarcely be added, that such tradesmen soon lose their best customers, as well as forfeit their integrity and respectability. An eminently pious tradesman said, 'For many, many years, I have never omitted this supplication in my morning prayer, 'Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait on You.' His prayer was heard and answered; amidst every trial he was preserved in peace of mind; and maintained a character for integrity that the bitterest enemies of religion dared not impeach.
"Integrity is the young tradesman's first requisite, and industry the second. He must keep his shop, if he wishes his shop to keep him. Rise early in the morning. 'The early bird catches the worm.'
'Early to bed, and early to rise,
'Sloth makes all things difficult; but industry makes all things easy.' 'Let your shop be open, and your hammer be heard, the first in the street.' There is no time when the hands and spirits are so nimble, and when all is so free from interruption, as early in the morning; therefore, 'Take time by the forelock, for he is bald behind.' 'One today is worth two tomorrows.' 'Defer not until tomorrow, what should be done today, else you will have a day's work the more to do, and a day less to do it in.' But rather, if you have something that must be done tomorrow, strive if possible to do it today, and 'drive your business, rather than let your business drive you.' 'He who rises late, may trot hard all day, and shall scarcely overtake his business by night; while Laziness travels so slowly that Poverty soon overtakes him.' It is a common saying that, 'Diligence is the mother of good luck.' We do not talk about good luck, for we know there is no such thing, but that all is under the direction of a wise and righteous Providence; but we know also the Book that says, 'The hand of the diligent makes rich.' 'Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty; open your eyes, and you shall be satisfied with bread.' The blessing of God is commonly seen to rest on honest industry. Therefore,
'Plough deep while sluggards sleep,
"Let the following sacred proverbs be deeply engraved on your memory: 'The way of the slothful man is as a hedge of thorns, but the way of the righteous shall be made plain.' 'Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle soul shall suffer hunger.' 'The sluggard will not plough, by reason of the cold; therefore he shall beg in harvest, and have nothing.' 'The desire of the slothful kills him, for his hands refuse to labor.' "The slothful man says, 'There is a lion outside, I shall be slain in the street.'" 'I went past the field of the sluggard, past the vineyard of the man who lacks judgment; thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds, and the stone wall was in ruins. I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw: A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.' Proverbs 24:30-34
"The very appearance of diligence is advantageous. The young tradesman should always be found at home, and in some way employed. Busy, meddling neighbors have their eyes always open. You had better weigh and measure your old stock, than let them see you doing nothing. Indeed, it is no bad plan to spend your leisure moments in weighing out pounds or ounces of such things as take no injury, and it is a great saving of time in the bustle of market-day. The very principle and habit of finding a handy little job to fill up every vacant minute, is of great value.
"The young tradesman's three best instructors are Necessity, Habit, and Time: from these everything may be learned, common sense alone excepted, the peculiar and rarest gift of Providence. At his starting in life, Necessity teaches him that if he hopes to live, he must labor; Habit turns the labor into ease, and Time gives to every man an hour for everything, unless he chooses to throw it away.
"Beware of pride; it has been the bane of many a promising young tradesman: 'pride often breakfasts with plenty, dines with poverty, and sups with infamy.' If you wish your business to befriend you—never be too proud to own your friend. Wear an apron, if such be the custom of your business, and consider it rather a badge of distinction than a mark of disgrace. It will gain you respect and credit with the wise and good. Let there be no part of your business, however inferior, which you do not thoroughly understand, and to which you cannot turn your hand, if occasion require.
"If you have men or boys employed under you, be among them early and late; 'the master's eye does more than both his hands!' Much waste and fraud would never have been practiced, if servants could not have ensured themselves with 'Master won't be up for this hour or two,' or, 'Master is safe enough at the public-house.' Not to oversee workmen, is to leave them your open purse. Trusting too much to others, is the ruin of many.
'He who by the plough would thrive,
'If you would have your business talked of—send someone else. If you would have it done—go and do it yourself! If you would be sure of a faithful servant, serve yourself.' These are the sayings of a philosopher, who gained his knowledge, not from books, but men.
"If you would wish to prosper, do not despise small jobs or little customers. You are not to expect, as soon as you set up shop, that people will leave their old tradesmen, and deal with you; and yet they may sometimes send to you for a small article, or to do some little thing in haste. Receive their orders civilly and thankfully, and take as much pains to do them well, as if they were ten times as great. You will get your proportion of profit; and these little things may lead to greater—perhaps, in time, to the whole custom of the parties who came at first to your shop on some little two penny errand, for mere convenience. But the carpenter, shoemaker, or tailor, who rudely scorns a little mending job, from those who do not employ him on new work, stands a fair chance of driving away all his customers, both little and great, new and old.
"You may sometimes meet with those who do not treat you with as much courtesy as you think you have a right to expect. It might be very natural for you to resent these little indignities, but it will be much more for your peace and advantage if you pass them by: the noble lion is not soon roused to resentment, but the insignificant cur is always ready to snarl and bark. There is much true dignity, as well as sound wisdom, in passing by little affronts. But in order to this, the pride of corrupt nature must be mortified; 'that would break a proud man's heart, which would hardly break a humble man's slumber.'
"The celebrated Benjamin Franklin, many of whose maxims are here recorded, was early instructed in this useful lesson, 'Learn to stoop.' Having called on the Rev. Cotton Mather, that gentleman, when he took his leave, proposed to show him a shorter way out of the house. It was through a narrow passage, crossed by a beam overhead: as they were still talking, Mr. Mather hastily said to his young friend, 'Stoop! stoop!' He did not understand the warning, until he struck his head against the beam. On this, Mr. Mather observed to him, 'You are young, and have the world before you; stoop as you go through it, and you will miss many hard thumps.' 'This advice,' said Franklin, many years afterwards, 'thus beat into my head, has frequently been of use to me; and I often think of it, when I see pride, and misfortunes brought upon people, by carrying their heads too high.' 'Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall,' and 'before honor is humility.'
"Beware of false dependences and sudden elevations; go steadily on, laboring and earning, buying and selling, and 'be content to spend a penny less than your clear gains.' Many have been ruined by calculating on an expected legacy, or an extraordinary run of business. As to legacies, never think about them until you have actually got them. If you do, you may be insensibly led into expenses, which your present circumstances do not justify, and which future circumstances never may; and instead of being benefitted by occasional gain, you may be exposed to financial embarrassments through life. In like manner, if a peculiar season, or some public change of peace or war, should give you a brisk and prosperous run of trade, remember that it will not last always. Be not hasty in enlarging your expenses, or making a more showy appearance on the strength of it. Let extra gains go quietly towards increasing your capital, and then they may prove a real and permanent advantage; but if spent on appearance or present gratification, they will only excite in yourself a taste for indulgences and gratifications, that you cannot continue to enjoy, and in your neighbors an estimate of your circumstances which truth and time will not support.
"Always act by a plan. It is said, 'A good contriver is better than an early riser.' Now, early rising is a piece of good contrivance, that no person of good character will ever omit. Those who waste their morning hours in bed, are generally notorious for indolence and ill-management throughout the day. Indeed, their life is a scene of lazy bustle and laborious confusion. However, though every good contriver is an early riser—it does not follow that every early riser is a good contriver. The great matter is—to have an allotted and profitable employment for every hour of the day, and something always at hand to fill up the odd minutes. Much time may be wasted in considering what to set about next; and much time frittered in pursuits not worthy our attention. As every shred of gold is precious, so is every moment of time. Time is the stuff that life is made of, and he who wastes his moments is a kind of self-murderer. He does not live so long as he might do. Remember, 'time is money;' if you loiter away an hour, you might just as well, perhaps better, throw away the money you might have earned in that hour. If you spend an hour or half a day in amusements, you must reckon that it costs you, not merely the money you pay, but the money you neglect to earn; and you ought also to take into account the offence given to neglected customers, and the loss of character sustained.
"Do not be regardless of appearance, or of the remarks that are made of you. Every man may command respect. If he conducts himself well, bad people may hate or envy, but they cannot despise him; and all good people feel a pleasure in manifesting respect towards one whose character is respectable. A wise man will neither seek nor despise a good reputation. He does right, because it is right; and in so doing, he finds the advantage of being reputed to do so, in the confidence and respect he gains. But he who despises what men may say; is likely to be very careless whether he does right or wrong. It is an advantage to a young tradesman, and will be found to set him higher in the esteem, both of his creditors and his customers, to have it known that he spends his evenings at home with his family, and his Sabbaths at the house of God, than if his voice were heard in the tavern, or at the billiard table, or skittle ground.
"Wherever a man goes, his good or his bad character will be sure to fly before him, or at least to tread on his heels. Character will rather generally be grounded on small habits, than on great acts.
"Idleness leads to extravagance: for that reason they are often coupled together in the book of Proverbs: thus, 'he who is slothful is brother to him that is a great waster;' 'the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty, and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.'
"Shun a public-house; it is the grave of a tradesman's respectability and prosperity, and a snare to his soul. Avoid making bargains or paying wages in a public-house; the very appearance is not creditable, and the habit is highly injurious. Form no connection with a club that holds its meetings at a public-house. Savings banks and life insurances will answer your purpose better, and neither cost you a farthing in drink, nor run the hazard of exciting in you a love of liquor. There are two houses which a thrifty young tradesman will never enter—the public-house or liquor-shop, and the pawnbroker's. Every pound borrowed at the pawnbroker's amounts, in the course of a year, to at least three pounds, and sometimes (according to circumstances) to as much as sixteen pounds. This may seem incredible, but it is a fact.
"Every pound spent at the public-house should be reckoned as two pounds, at the end of three years, and sixteen pounds, at the end of twenty-four years. Many a tradesman who complains that he cannot get on for lack of capital, forgets how much capital he has wasted by littles. 'He who despises small things, shall fall little by little.' Do not say it is only a penny, only a shilling; but remember that 'a penny a day is a groat a year, and a groat a day is six pounds a year.' Besides, if a groat a day be spent the first year, sixpence a day will hardly suffice for the second year; and so a man may go on spending, until what would keep his family in bread and grocery, shall scarcely suffice for his own selfish and sensual expenses. Many a good estate has been swallowed from a wine glass! Well has the wise man said, 'He who loves pleasure shall be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil shall not be rich.'
"The young tradesman who wishes to thrive, must avoid all needless expenses, both in his shop, his person, and his household concerns. There is nothing got by ostentatious display in the fitting up of your shop. Every sensible customer says, 'I must pay for part of this finery.' The cleanness of your shop windows is much more likely to attract profitable notice than the size of the panes; and the neat and tasty selection and arrangement of your goods, than the mahogany counters on which they are served.
"Every tradesman should maintain a clean, neat, and respectable appearance; but if he becomes foppish and extravagant in his dress, he will be suspected of either imposing on his customers, or of running the way to his own ruin; and except frugality presides over all his personal and household expenses, whatever be his gains, his ruin is certain.
"In order to secure economy in the management of household expenses, as well as many other important advantages, it will be his wisdom to choose an industrious, prudent and discreet wife, rather than a showy one. For in vain will he earn and spare—if she is wasteful and extravagant! He who has an extravagant wife, as the saying is, 'may keep his nose to the grindstone all his life, and not leave a dollar behind him at last.' 'A fat kitchen, makes a lean will.'
"Check the first inclination in yourself or your wife, to lay out money on selfish gratifications. 'Those who buy superfluities are likely soon to sell necessaries.' 'Silks and satins put out the kitchen fire.' Do not be induced to buy things merely because they are offered cheap—'a cheap bargain is a pick-pocket!' When you feel inclined to buy anything, it will not take long to ask yourself the following questions, and may be the means of saving you from ruin—
"Many families, for the sake of a fine showy appearance, endure the lack of real comforts; their miserable, confined, ill-furnished bed-chambers and kitchen, but poorly agree with their drawing-rooms and sofas, their ribbons and feathers. But, as the saying is, 'pride is as loud a beggar as poverty, and a great deal more saucy.' 'When you have bought one fine thing, you must buy ten more—that your appearance may be unified.' It is easier, therefore, to suppress the first desire—than to satisfy all that follow it.
"Beware of the folly of hankering after things, either in dress or furniture, merely because your neighbor has them; perhaps his means are above yours; if they are, you would only make yourself as ridiculous as the frog in the fable—who killed himself in trying to swell as large as the ox. If your neighbor's means are not larger than your own—there is no reason why you should make a fool of yourself merely because he chooses to do so. Those who strive to make an appearance above their circumstances, are often reduced to seek assistance of those who are content with living a little below their circumstances. And so 'a ploughman on his legs, is higher than a gentleman on his knees.'
"If you have a little money in hand, and are tempted to take a little for costly foods, and a little for fine clothes, and a little for grand entertainments; remember that 'many a little—makes a mickle (that is—a large sum).' 'A small leak will soon sink a great ship.' 'If you are always taking out of the meal tub, and never putting in, you will soon come to the bottom.' If you act thus, and come to poverty, don't be laying the blame on bad times and heavy taxes! 'You are taxed twice as much by your idleness, three times as much by your pride, and four times as much by your folly! And from these taxes, the commissioners cannot ease or deliver you by making an abatement.'
"'My neighbor,' says one, 'had a terrible itching for bargains.' 'Never mind,' he used to say, 'I'll have that, it will not ruin me. Give me that other thing—it is dirt cheap. I don't much need these things, but I may use them occasionally.' He was sadly wrong here—he filled his house with useless lumber, and made good the saying, 'Feather by feather, the goose was plucked!'
"One great evil of extravagance is, that it leads to running in debt. He who, having ready money, cannot resist the temptation to spend it on superfluities; when he has no ready money, is more likely to run in debt than to deny himself; and then what follows? You will be ashamed to see your creditor, ashamed to speak to him, and driven to make poor, pitiful, sneaking excuses, until you come by degrees to lose all principle, and sink into base, downright lying, as it has been well said, 'Lying rides on debt's back!' 'The second vice is lying, the first is running in debt.' 'It is hard for an empty bag to stand upright.'
"Poverty, brought on by extravagance, often deprives a man of all spirit and virtue. Very different is this, from honest poverty; a poor man, his wife, and family, may labor hard and fare hard, perhaps go to bed supperless; but when he rises, he feels that he owes no man anything, and goes forth cheerfully to earn the daily bread in its day, happy to think that he is not burdened with the expenses of yesterday. And if he begins with one honest penny in his pocket, he feels himself a little prince, compared with that man, who, for past gratifications, is suffering nightly disturbances and daily apprehensions. The way to be rich and respectable is to 'let industry make a purse, and frugality find strings to it. Let the strings only be drawn as frugality dictates, and there will always be found a useful penny at the bottom.'
"The prosperous young tradesman is generally one whom his customers find at home. If a customer calls again and again, without seeing the master, it is likely he will seek business elsewhere. Many a good order has been lost, for lack of the master being in the shop, to make hay while the sun shines. 'As a bird that wanders from her nest, so is a man that wanders from his place.' All his plans are likely to be defeated, and the whole to issue in a failure.
"Whatever is amiss in your circumstances, do not indulge a restless, discontented spirit, and try to lay the blame anywhere but on yourself. It is bad enough if you have brought yourself to ruin, but if you realize that it was because of your own folly—by all means cherish the conviction rather than stifle it, for after all it affords the best hope of mending matters. Surely you have more power to correct your own follies—than the follies of other people. Industry and patience can remedy almost any common grievance; but discontent and despair only increase them. 'The foolishness of man perverts his way, and his heart frets against the Lord.' Instead of indulging this repining spirit, submit yourself; humble yourself under the mighty hand of God; acknowledge that you have deserved all you suffer, and much more. Resolve to act differently for the future, and beg of God to give you strength and grace to keep your resolutions. Let the fear of God rule in your heart; this will make you think well and act well, and when you most need it and least expect it, God may raise you up a friend, or open to you a way of deliverance.
"Do not meddle with politics. I never knew a young tradesman either do good or get good, who was fond of political debates or newspapers. 'Fear the Lord and the king, and meddle not with those who are given to change.' 'Let God govern the world, and the king the nation—and mind your own business!'
"If you wish to prosper, you must be persevering as well as industrious. Be not discouraged if you do not at first enjoy as much success as you could desire, but try again and again, still humbly depending on the blessing of God, and sooner or later you will in some measure succeed, perhaps far beyond your present expectation. One great man was encouraged to perseverance by observing a spider, which, in attempting to reach the beam on which to fix its web, failed twelve times, but succeeded the thirteenth. Another person, when forced to take shelter from the pursuit of his enemies, concealed himself in a ruined building, and remained there several hours. While meditating on his hopeless condition, he saw a little ant carrying up a high wall a grain of corn much larger than itself. He numbered the efforts made by this diligent little creature to accomplish its object; sixty-nine times the grain fell to the ground, but the seventieth time the ant successfully reached the top of the wall. The lesson thus imparted was never forgotten.
"It is greatly to the honor of a young tradesman, instead of consuming all the gains of his industry—to lay aside a portion for old age or sickness.
'For age and want, save while you may;
Lay up while young, and you will find it when you are old. A prudent care and savings may be cherished, without yielding to a selfish or distrustful spirit.
"But with all your industry, perseverance, and good management, guard against worldly-mindedness. 'Are you seeking great things for yourself? Seek them not!' 'Labor not to be rich; cease from your own wisdom. Will you set your heart upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle towards heaven!' Money is only valuable for the good it will procure; in itself, it is very unworthy, and unsatisfying, and uncertain. Unsanctified riches are a curse! 'Those who will be rich, fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in perdition and destruction!' While laboring diligently, never forget the solemn question, 'What will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?' In your pursuit of wealth, never be drawn to neglect the one thing needful, or to waste time, especially sacred time, from the concerns of your soul. 'Prayer and provender hinder no journey.' Real success will never attend that cause on which the blessing of God is not sought; but the blessing of God is seen to rest, in an especial manner, on that house in which the worship of God is maintained, and his sanctuary frequented; while those who have been induced, for the sake of worldly gain—to slacken their attendance on pious duties—have generally fallen, both in property and enjoyment, instead of rising.
"Never forget your entire dependence on Providence. Though the advice here given is consistent with sound reason and sacred wisdom—do not depend too much on your own industry, frugality, and prudence, though excellent things, for they may be blasted without the blessing of God! Therefore, seek that blessing humbly, and be not uncharitable to those who at present seem to need it—but comfort and help them.'
"'Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat.' Constantly remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, or who in wisdom withholds it. It is He who appoints your straits or your sufficiency. In either, his blessing alone can make truly rich and happy. The only security for a blessing, on either prosperity or adversity, is in being found among those 'for whom all things work together for good, even those who love God, and are the called according to his purpose.'
"Now the question is—whether all this good advice will be taken heed to, or whether it will be allowed to run off—like water from a duck's back. We can give counsel, but we cannot give conduct. 'One man can lead a horse to the water, but twenty cannot make him drink.' Remember, that 'those who will not be counseled, cannot be helped,' and 'if you will not hear reason, she is likely to rap your knuckles.' 'Therefore, hear counsel, and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter end. Keep sound wisdom and discretion, so shall they be life to your soul, and grace to your neck.' 'For the Lord detests a perverse man but takes the upright into his confidence. The Lord's curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the home of the righteous. He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble. The wise inherit honor, but fools he holds up to shame.' Proverbs 3:32-35
The following is part of a letter from Rev. James Hervey to his brother, while he was an apprentice—
"As soon as you are apprenticed, you are at your master's disposal, and not at your own. He has then a right to your hands, your strength, and ALL that you can do. He becomes a sort of parent to you; and though not a natural, yet a legal father. You are also obliged, not only by the laws of your country, and the tenor of your indentures, but by the fifth commandment of God, to pay him all due submission and honor. To do this is a most material part of your duty as a Christian, as well as your undeniable debt as an apprentice. It is required of you by God, in Holy Scripture, and you must not once imagine that you do what is pleasing to him unless you conscientiously perform it. Now, that you may know what it is that your master will expect from you, and what it is that the Lord has enjoined you with regard to him, remember it consists, first, in respect of his person; secondly, in obedience to his commands; and, thirdly, in faithfulness in his business.
"First, in respect of his person. You must esteem him very highly for his superiority's sake and the authority he has under God. For God, who made you, and has an uncontrollable power over you, has communicated some of that power to your master; so that you are to look upon him as the representative, in some sort, of the divine majesty, and invested with some of his authority. Accordingly, Paul says, 1 Tim. 6:1, 'You must count him worthy of all honor;' all, that is, internal and external, that of the actions and words, as well as that of the heart. It is not enough to maintain a worthy estimation inwardly, but you must let it appear on all occasions outwardly, by behaving yourself very obligingly to him before his face, and by speaking very respectfully of him behind his back. Suppose you should discern failings and infirmities in him, you must by no means divulge them, or make yourself merry with them, much less must you dare neglect any of his orders. Whatever you have reason to think will grieve or displease him, or will be harmful or offensive to him—that you must cautiously forbear.
"Secondly, obedience to his commands. See how full the apostle speaks to this purpose, Col. 3:22. 'Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh.' Observe, likewise, from this passage, not only the necessity, but also the compass and latitude of your obedience—how large and extensive it is. It reaches not barely to a few, but to all and every instance. If you should receive orders that are ever so much against the grain of your own inclination, you must force yourself to comply with them; receive them as you used to do with bitter medicines; though they may be unpleasant at first, they will do you good, and be comfortable to you afterwards. Your own pleasure must always stoop, and give way to your master's. If he sets you a task that is low and ignoble, and such as (according to the expression of the world) is beneath a gentleman's son—do not hesitate, dear brother, but despatch it cheerfully. Remember who has said, 'Servants, obey your masters in all things.'
And, oh! remember that, however well born and bred we are, yet He who was higher than the highest of us all, even the most excellent and illustrious person who ever lived, condescended to the lowest and (such as our fine folks would account) most shameful offices. The Lord Jesus Christ, though 'the brightness of his Father's glory,' did not disdain to wash his disciples' feet. Neither be dejected because you are treated in an unworthy manner, or set to do some base and low office for your master, or his family; but rejoice rather in that you are made like unto your Redeemer, and in the happy prospect you will have of becoming great in heaven—by being little on earth.
I am aware that this piece of advice is not so striking as the rest; but never forget that the things which are most highly esteemed by God, are held in least repute by men. I know, and am sure, that if any apprentice would make such a compliance for the sake of preserving peace, and out of conscience to the command of God, and with an eye to the example of Christ, there is a day coming when he will not repent of it; when it will not be deemed a blot in his character, but be 'an ornament of grace to his head, and more lovely than chains about his neck.' (Proverbs 1:9.)
Well, you see your obedience must be universal; you must come when he calls you—and go where he bids you; do all that he commands you—and let alone all that he forbids you. This must, moreover, be done, not grudgingly, or of necessity, but readily and gladly. Hear what the scripture says, 'Whatever you do, do it heartily' (Col. 3:23;) and again, 'with good will doing service' (Eph. 6:7;) so that we must not creep, but be quick and expeditious in our business, however disagreeable. You must not go about it with grumbling words and muttering in your mouth, but with so satisfied a a disposition, as may show that you are pleased with whatever pleases your master.
"Thirdly, in faithfulness in his business. This is the last branch of your duty to your master; and since Moses has obtained an honorable testimony on this account, be you also 'faithful in all his house.' (Heb. 3:5.) You may find this, as indeed all the qualifications of a good servant, described by Paul, Titus 2:10, 'Not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.' You are charged not to steal, that is, not to keep back from your master, nor to put into your own pocket, nor convert to your own use—any of that money which, in the way of trade, passes through your hands. You were taught from your childhood to keep your hands from picking and stealing, and I hope you abhor such abominable practices from the bottom of your heart. You must not sell at a cheaper rate, and buy at a dearer rate, in order to have some valuable consideration made you privily in your own person. These differ from robbing on the highway, only in being less open and notorious; but they are flagrant acts of dishonesty, and will cry to Heaven for vengeance! Such tricks and villainies do the same thing by craft and treachery, as housebreakers do by force and violence. Therefore, dear brother, renounce, detest, and fly from them—as much as from fire, arrows, and death! Besides, you are not only to abstain from such clandestine knavery, but also to show all good fidelity. What is meant by this you may understand by reading how Joseph conducted himself in Potiphar's service. Your master, it is likely, will commit the management of some of his affairs to you; and you must endeavor, by a discreet behavior and a pious life—to bring the blessing of the Lord upon all that you take in hand. You must lay out your time, and your labor, and give all diligence to answer the trust reposed in you. You must not delay the business which is urgent, nor do your work by halves, nor transfer that to others—which it is expected you should do yourself. 'One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys.' Therefore you must avoid idleness and carelessness. In a word, you must do nothing knowingly and willfully, which is likely to impoverish your master, but seek by all lawful and laudable means to increase his substance.
All this you must observe, not only when he stands by you, and inspects you—but when his back is turned, and you are removed from his view. Otherwise your service is nothing but eye-service, such as will prove odious to man, and is already condemned by God. For if you appear to be industrious, and in earnest, before your master—and loiter and trifle when out of his sight—you will be chargeable with hypocrisy, a sin extremely hateful to Christ, and grievously pernicious to the soul. But I am afraid I tire you; this one sentence, therefore, and I am done. You must carry yourself, throughout the whole course of your apprenticeship, so respectfully, so obediently, so faithfully, that at the end of it you may truly say with Jacob, 'With all my power I have served.'