WALKING WITH GOD
William Bridge, 1600 – 1670
“Brethren, let every man wherein he is called, therein abide with God. ” (1 Cor.7. 24)
It is the duty of every man to abide or walk with God in his calling;
take calling for your state or condition, or take calling for your ordinary way of employment in either sense, the doctrine is true, that it is our duty to abide or walk with God in our calling. It is commanded ver. 17, “As the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk.” It is commanded again ver. 20, “Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.” And it is commanded again ver. 24, “Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.” Plainly then, it is the duty of every man to walk or abide with God in his calling.
First, a good calling is a great mercy.
It is a great mercy for a man to have an honest, good, and a lawful calling: whether you take the word calling for the calling of condition, or for the calling of employment, it is a great mercy to be planted in an honest and a lawful calling.
This was the condition of Adam in the state of innocency; then the Lord set Adam for to till the ground: He gave him an employment in the state of innocency, and there was nothing given him in the state of innocency but blessing. Now in that state God put an employment upon him. Employment did not come in by the fall; it is not a badge of that conquest that the devil made upon us by the fall: therefore an honest calling is a great mercy.
Thereby a man is kept from idleness. Idleness is the nurse of all wickedness; our vacation is the devil’s term. Men by doing nothing learn to do evil. Idleness, saith the heathen, is the burying of a living man. When a great senator of Rome would go to live privately in his country house that he might be more retired, Seneca coming by, said, “Here lies Vacia”; for idleness is the burial of a living man, but what more contrary to a man than to be buried alive. Now the honest lawful employment or calling will keep ever from idleness.
Thereby also a man shall be kept from being a busybody and too much meddling: the more idle a man is, the more apt he is to be too busy and meddling with others’ matters. Mark, therefore, I pray, how they go together in 2 Thess. 3. 11: “We hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, being busy-bodies.” Working not at all, and yet overworking as busy-bodies; how should this be cured? Why, saith he, in the next verse, “Now them that are such, we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work and eat their own bread.” Either a man must eat his own bread or he will eat another’s; if he eat another’s constantly that will be uncomfortable; if he would eat his own bread, then let him work;
if he do not work when he should, he will be at work when he should not; he will meddle with others’ matters, and be a busybody. “Now, therefore, I command and beseech you in the Lord (saith the apostle), that every one work.”
A lawful honest calling both of condition and employment is God’s ground, as no calling is the devil’s ground. When a man is out of his calling and place, he may then say, “What do I here on the devil’s ground?” and look when a man is in his place and calling, then he may say, “What dost thou here, Satan, tempting me? this is none of thy ground, this is God’s ground to me.” And so it is, indeed, for there God will appear to men. God appeared to the shepherds, bringing the news of Christ’s birth; but where did he appear to them but in their calling? They were keeping sheep, and suddenly they heard a noise of heavenly angels. He appeared to Peter and Andrew in their callings to follow Christ; but where did he appear to them, but in the way of their callings? They were casting their nets into the sea, and Christ came and said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Calling ground is appearance ground; there God appears unto his people. Surely, therefore, it is a great mercy to be on this ground, to have an honest lawful calling and employment.
Secondly, a man, having a honest and a good calling, is to abide therein.
Now on this point I shall briefly speak four things:
1. That there is an tendency in us to change or lay down our callings.
2. That it is not absolutely unlawful so to do.
3. Yet ordinarily a man is to abide in his calling, and not readily to be removed from it.
4. I shall answer to some objections or cases of conscience about change or relinquishment of our calling.
1. There is a tendency in us to change or lay down our callings. Why should the apostle three times, one after another, call upon us to “abide in our callings?” If you look into 2 Thess. 3, you will find that as soon as the apostle had commanded the Thessalonians to work, and eat their own bread by working, verse 10, he presently adds, “But ye, brethren, be not weary of well doing.” Why so? But because there is a tendency in us, and an itching disposition to leave and desert our callings.
2. But it is not absolutely unlawful for a man to leave or to change his calling for possibly a man may be qualified for higher employments than his own calling bears. In this case, David left his calling of a shepherd and became a king; Amos left the calling of a herdman and became a prophet; the apostles left the calling of their fishing and became apostles. Possibly a man may be qualified for better and higher employments and in that case it is lawful to change or leave his calling.
Possibly a man may see the same hand of God leading him out of his calling which did bring him into it. So when Noah had the same command to go out of the ark that he had to go in, then he went out, but not before, though the waters were gone off the earth. Now sometimes a man may hear the same voice of God leading him out of his calling, which did bring him in, and that case it is lawful for a man to leave or lay down his calling.
Possibly a man may be forced through want, to change or desert his calling. Paul though a preacher and apostle, was sometimes forced to
work with his hands, so that it is not absolutely unlawful for a man to change or lay down his calling.
3. Though it be lawful in some cases to do so, yet ordinarily a man is to abide in his calling, and not readily to be removed from it: for a good calling is the Lord’s gift.
It is God that calls a man to that state, condition, or employment. Now a man should not readily leave or desert that calling or employment which God hath called him to and blessed him in. For how do I know whether God will bless me when I shall desert that calling, wherein He has appeared to me. It is my duty to follow God, and not to go before Him; as God has distributed to every man. As the Lord has called every man, so let him walk. God distributes and carves out our callings for us. Has the Lord called me to a place or employment, then am I with thankfulness to walk in it. It is not for the private soldier, says Peter Martyr, to appoint his own station; but look where he is set by his commander, there he is to abide. Has the Lord set me in this or that calling or employment, am I to wait on God, and abide in it, and not readily to be removed from it.
There is no calling either of employment or condition, but God may be served and enjoyed in it. No calling or employment so mean, but a man may honourably serve, and comfortably enjoy God in it. Art thou called being a servant, care not, saith the apostle; why? For he that is called being a servant, is the Lord’s free man, verse 22. Likewise also, he that is called being free, is the Lord’s servant. I remember I heard a preacher say some twenty-five years since, that a man is never ashamed of his calling, though it be very mean, but a man is ashamed of his sin, although he be very great. If, says he, you call a man a tinker or cobbler, yet he is not ashamed thereof, because it is his calling; but if you call a man a drunkard, or adulterer, he is ashamed, because that is none of his calling. A man may honourably serve God in his calling, though it be very mean, and he may comfortably enjoy God in his calling although it be very great.
4. But, someone may say, that is the reason why I would lay down my calling, because I cannot serve God so well therein. I meet with many temptations, provocations, and impediments, which hinder me in the service of God; if I were free from this calling, then I should be more free for God, and should be more free from those snares and provocations that I now meet with. But I answer:
Are you sure of that? Luther tells us of a certain man that was given to anger, and to avoid provocation, he would go live alone, as an hermit; and going to the well with his pitcher was somewhat displeased with it. He threw it down and broke it in anger; which when he had done, and reflecting on himself, and his own actions, he said, “Well, now I see it is not in my condition, but in my heart and self, that doth cause anger and provocation; therefore I will return to my calling again.” And when men make this objection, what do they do but lay the fault of their anger and provocation upon their condition, and excuse themselves? But our Saviour
says, That which comes from within, defiles a man, not that which comes from without. It is not the condition, or the places, or the employment, or calling, that defiles the man, but that which is from within, that defiles the man. Mr. Greenham being asked whether a man might avoid the doing of a thing whereunto he is called, because he feels corruption in himself, said, “In avoiding society, you shall cover, but not cure your infirmities; and though you depart from men, you cannot go out of yourself; it is not the use of the creatures, but the love of the creatures, that hinders from good. I never look,” said he, “for a better estate than that wherein I am; but I oft prepare for a worse.” I pray tell me, beloved, was not Joshua, when Moses died, and he was to lead the people into Canaan, a man of great employment? “Yet even then,” saith the Lord to him, “this book of the law, shall not depart out of thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate therein day and night,” Josh. 1, 8. And was not David a man of great employments? Yet, says he, “At evening, morning, and at noonday will I pray, yea seven times a day; yea, I meditate on thy law all the day long.” Surely therefore our hinderance to good, doth not lie in our calling, place, or employment; but it lies within ourselves. And therefore why should we lay down our callings to be rid thereof.
5. But, you may say, this is not my reason, I know that a man may serve God in the worst of honest callings, but callings are made for maintenance. Now I have enough to maintain myself and mine; and therefore why may not I now lay down my calling?
Because you are mistaken. A calling is not only to maintain yourself and your family, but it is an ordinance of God to preserve and keep you from idleness: whereby you are not only to maintain yourself, but to help others, and therefore you find that Paul says, “he wrought with his hands:” not only to maintain himself but others. “Yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me,” Acts 20. 34. He did not only work occasionally to maintain himself, but others also. And if you look into Eph. 4, the same church that he spake to in Acts 20, you will find that he lays this injunction on them and us: “Let him that stole steal no more, but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing that is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth,” verse 28. Surely therefore a calling is not only appointed to raise a maintenance for ourselves: and therefore, though you can live, and have outward means enough to maintain both you and others, yet you may not therefore leave or desert your calling; it is that trust that God has committed to you, and you must make good your trust.
But though I may not leave my calling altogether, yet may I not leave it for a time, that on the week-day I may go and hear and enjoy the ordinances?
Yes, surely, for man is not made for the calling, but the calling is made for man. You read of a converted woman in John 4, that when she had a taste of Christ’s preaching, she left her pitcher or pail, and went and called others to hear the same. And so, though you do not break your pail or pitcher, yet you may leave your pail
or pitcher for a time, to tend on the words of Christ. Did not the Jews go up three times a year to Jerusalem from their homes, employment, and callings? Is it not said that the converted Jews did “continue daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house?” Acts 2, 46. Indeed God will have mercy and not sacrifice; but though you may not leave or lay down your callings readily, yet for a time you may leave them, that you may attend on the ordinances. But though you may so leave your callings for a time, yet you must abide therein with God.
Thirdly, It is the duty of every man to walk with God in his calling.
It was so from the beginning. Adam had a calling, even in the state of innocency, but therein he was to walk with God.
And if a man do not walk with God in his calling, how can he walk with God at all. A man is not said to walk with God because he prays in the morning or evening; walking is a constant thing.
now it is the duty of every man to walk with God; and therefore it is his duty to walk with God in his calling.
Thereby a man is distinguished from the world and the men of the world. A man is not therefore one of another world, because he deserts his calling that he may give himself to his devotions: for then the monks, and nuns, should be men and women of another world; he is a man of another world, “that doth use the world as if he used it not.” Christ himself was in the world, “but not of the world.” And if you would not be of the world, you must not go out of the world, but you must walk with God in the world. Hereby you will be distinguished from the world, and men of the world. Now it is our duty so to walk, as it may appear that we are not of this world. Therefore it is our duty to walk with God in our callings, not only to abide therein, but to walk with God therein.
This is that which will sweeten and elevate your callings:
everything is raised or depressed as God is present with it or absent from it. Bethlehem was but a little city, therefore says the prophet Micah, chap. 5, ver. 2, “Thou Bethlehem, though thou be little amongst the thousands of Judah;” yet in Matt. 2, it is said, “And thou Bethlehem art not the least.” Why? because Christ was born there. Whatever town or condition that is where Christ is, though it be little in itself, yet it is raised by Him. The more, therefore, that you walk with God in your calling, the more your calling is sweetened and elevated.
Every man is as he is in his calling; a man has no more grace than he may or can use in his calling; and though I have all parts and gifts, so as I can remove mountains, yet if I be not gracious in my calling, all is nothing, my parts and gifts are but as sounding brass and as tinkling cymbal. My calling is that ground whereon I am to plant all my gifts and graces. If I have grace, it will appear in my calling; if I be wicked, it will appear in my calling: every man is as he is in his calling. Surely, therefore, it is not only our duty to abide, but to abide and walk with God in our callings.
Now, by way of application, I might speak something in reference to every branch of the doctrine. If a good calling be a great mercy, then why should not parents provide honest callings
for the child, and children be thankful to God and their parents for such provision? And if it be our duty to abide with God in our callings, then why should not every man be contented with his condition, whatever it be, though it be never so mean? And if it be our duty to walk with God in our callings, then why should we not make it our business not to be rich by our callings, but to walk with God in our callings. But you will say,
Fourthly, What should a man do that he may walk with God in his calling?
This is of daily concern. How should we so walk in our callings, that we may walk with God in our callings?
I answer negatively and affirmatively.
Negatively, if you would walk with God in your calling, you must not be ignorant of the way of your calling; for if you take up a calling, and are ignorant of the way and mystery thereof, you may tempt God therein. “The wisdom of the wise (says Solomon) is to direct his way,” his own particular way. Every man should be the master of his art. Possibly a man may step into a calling both of condition and employment before he knows the way and the manner of it. A man may enter into a calling without gifts at the first, yet if God afterwards furnish him with able gifts, he does not only shew that his former sin, in running into that calling, is pardoned, but that he is blessed. But if a man be not the master of his art, and gifted for his calling, then he leaves God therein, and doth not walk with God.
If you would walk with God in your calling, you must not be negligent in your place and calling. Diligence in our callings is commanded, commended and rewarded in Scripture. It is commanded: “Whatever is in the power of thy hand to do, do it with all thy might;” Be not slothful in business, go to the ant, O sluggard.” It is commended: “He that is diligent in his business shall stand before princes.” And it is rewarded; “For the diligent hand maketh rich.” Now if God doth command, commend, and reward diligence in our calling, then surely you cannot walk with God and be negligent therein.
If you would walk with God in your calling, then you must not be too familiar with your calling. God hath given you a calling that it may be a nurse to you, and your grace. Children sometimes are so fond of their nurse that they regard not their parents; and if you be too fond of your calling, you will forget the God of your calling. man cannot walk humbly with God that doth not deal justly and righteously with men in his calling.
If you would walk with God in your calling, then you must not be too familiar with your calling. God hath given you a calling that it may be a nurse to you, and your grace. Children sometimes are so fond of their nurse that they regard not their parents; and if you be too fond of your calling, you will forget the God of your calling. “Let him that marrieth be as if he married not (says the apostle), and he that useth the world as if he used it not.” You will go with an apron into your shop that you may keep your clothes clean, and
hath not your soul as much need of an apron when you are in your shop and your calling. If the ivy clings too close unto the oak, it hindereth the growth of the oak; so if your callings cling too close to you, and you to your callings, it will hinder your spiritual growth. The world may be well used at a distance: it is not evil to meddle with the world, but to mingle with it. Would ye, therefore, walk with God in your place, then you must not be too familiar with the world and the things thereof. Thus negatively.
Now affirmatively. If you would walk with God in your place and calling, then you must observe what are the snares and temptations in your calling, and beware of them; such there are, for says the apostle, chap. 7, 23, “He that is unmarried, careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord;
but he that is married careth for the things of the world, how he may please his wife.” And this says he, verse 35, “I speak for your own profit, not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that you may attend upon the Lord without distraction.” Plainly, then, there are snares and temptations that are incident unto all, and the best conditions and callings; and if we would attend unto God without distractions, we must observe what these snares and temptations are, and take heed thereof.
If you would walk with God in your calling, then your must live by faith in your callings. “For by faith Enoch walked with God.” “And the life that I live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God.” Thereby you shall be kept from covetousness and love of the world. “This is our victory, whereby we overcome the world, even our faith.” Thereby you shall be contented with your condition, whatever it be. Now if you would live by faith in your calling, then you must have an eye to God’s commandment, promise, and providence. You must go to your callings as to God’s ordinance; otherwise you cannot look with both eyes to God, but with one eye to the world, and with the other to God. The way, therefore, to look with both eyes to God in your calling, is to your calling as to God’s ordinance; and because faith and the promise are as buckle and clasp, the one cannot be without the other. Therefore you must observe those promises that are made to your calling, and rest thereon. And because God doth sometimes guide us by His eye in the way of our callings, therefore you must have an eye to providence; and whatever you do in the way of your calling, you must quietly leave the issue of it and success to God. And thus shall you live by faith in your calling, and so walk with God in your place.
If you would walk with God in your calling, then whatever you do therein, do all to the glory of God. “Whether you eat or drink, (says the apostle), do all to the glory of God.” If I work in my calling for my own profit only, then I walk with myself therein; but if I do all for God’s glory, not my own profit, then I walk with God in my calling.
If you would walk with God in your spiritual calling, then be sure that you so manage your calling, that your secular calling may not be an hindrance, but an help to your spiritual. Woe to that
calling which eats up prayer. The spiritual and secular callings are joined together by God: “Those that God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.”
If you would walk with God in your calling, then be sure that you turn as God turns, sweetly complying with His dispensations in the way of your calling. If two men walk together, when one turns the other turns, and if one do not turn as the other turns, they cannot walk together; but if one turns as the other turns, then they walk together. So in our walking with God, it may be God’s dispensations in my calling are comfortable, then am I to rejoice and to praise the Lord. It may be God turns and his dispensation is sad, in the way of my calling; then am I to humble myself before the Lord, and to comply with His dispensation; which if you do in your calling, then shall you walk with God therein.
If you would walk with God in your calling, then you must judge of things in your calling, as God judges, and measure things by His scales. We are very apt to measure and judge things in our callings, by the verdict of the means and second causes: if the means and second cause smile, then we smile, though God frown; if the means and second cause frown, then we frown, though God smile:
if the second cause be big, and promise a great mercy or blessing to us, then in strength of the second cause, we promise it to ourselves, though God threatens the contrary; if the second cause or means threaten a misery, then in the strength thereof, we threaten ourselves with that misery, though God promise the contrary blessing. This is not to walk with God in our callings. He that walks with God in his place and calling, must judge and measure things according unto God’s verdict.
If you would walk with God in your place and calling, then you must spiritualise your particular calling with heavenly things, and the things of God; not put all upon a morning and an evening prayer, but your particular calling must be sprinkled with holy meditations and gracious speeches. Thus it was with Abraham’s servant when he went for Rebecca, he sprinkled his service with meditation, prayer, and godly speech. And if you look into Judges 5, you will find that upon a glorious victory that God gave to His people, it is said, ver. 11, “They that are delivered from the noise of the archers, in the places of drawing of water, there shall they rehearse the righteous acts of the Lord.” Not only at their church meetings, and in prayer or duty, but while they are drawing of water. Thus our particular calling is to be sprinkled with heavenly things: and if you do thus, then shall you walk with God in your calling. And oh, that there were an heart in us all, thus to walk with God in our callings. This is every man’s work, and every day’s work. Now, therefore, that you may do it, allow me, by way of motive, to leave these few considerations with you.
If you walk with God in your spiritual callings, God will walk with you in your secular calling.
Then shall your calling be a blessing to you indeed, and you shall have another, further and greater reward than the wealth of your calling. “Servants obey your masters in all things, not with
eye-service as men pleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing the Lord.” Col. 3, 22. “And whatever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and unto men,” ver. 23. “Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance; for ye serve the Lord Christ.” It seems then, by this scripture, that though a man be a servant, yet therein he may serve the Lord, and walk with God;
and if he do so, he shall not only have wages from his master, but of the Lord he shall receive the reward of the inheritance. Now he is best paid, who the Lord pays; the Lord will not only give him his outward wages, but an everlasting inheritance. Oh, what a good thing it is to walk with God in our callings!
Thereby the knots and difficulties of your callings shall be resolved, and your way made easy; that God whom ye walk with in your callings, will lift you over all the stiles that are in your callings. If a child walk with his father in the fields, when they come at a high stile, the father lifts him over it. So if you walk with God in your callings, then he will lift you over all the stiles and difficulties of your callings.
Thereby you shall be kept from the sins and temptation of your calling. A man’s calling is like to a great log or piece of timber in a green field; look upon the field, and you see it all green and handsome, but take up the log or timber that lies in the midst thereof, and there you find worms and vermin that breed under it. So look upon a man’s carriage, and generally it is very green, civil and handsome; but if ye look under his calling, you will find nothing but worms and vermin. Now this walking with God in your calling, will keep you from the vermin of your callings.
Thereby shall your way of godliness be convincing and winning. “As God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk and abide with God,” saith the apostle in this chapter. Why so? “For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt not save thine husband;” or, “how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?” Yea, says the apostle Peter, “Likewise ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands, that if any obey not the word, they also without the word, may be won by the conversation of the wives,” 1 Peter 3, 1. It is not therefore a morning or evening duty, though that is good, that is so attractive; but a constant walking with God in our places and callings, this is convincing and attractive. Yea,
Thereby also you shall be fit to die, and leave all the world with ease. The more a man runs his heart into the world in his calling, the harder it will be to die; and the more a man walketh with God in his calling, the fitter he will be to die, and leave all the world with ease. And so brethren, “Let every one wherein he is called therein abide with God.” For it is the duty of every man to abide and walk with God in his calling.