by Richard Steele
As trade and commerce employ a very considerable part of mankind, an attempt to render the conduct of those who are engaged in it more happy and successful, will appear to be, at least, a benevolent undertaking; and to this end it is evident, that moral as well as prudential directions may contribute. Certainly to discharge in a proper manner the respective duties of the common callings of life, which take up six parts of our time in seven, requires greater attention of mind than is usually paid to them, for the regular discharge of their respective duties; and may admit of more assistance than has been yet offered to the world in any treatise now extant. There is, indeed, an excellent piece which has met with considerable and deserved acceptance, called the Complete English Tradesman, which I could wish were in the hands of all that are concerned to appear in that character with honor or success; but as it is chiefly employed in considerations of a prudential nature, it leaves room for an attempt of the present kind. Instead therefore of useless speculations, or perplexing controversies in religion, which neither enrich the mind, nor reform the manners of men; I shall endeavour to direct the conscientious tradesman in the duties of his daily calling, wherein he is surrounded with manifold temptations and difficulties, and stands in need of all the assistance he can obtain from God or man. He hath the same depraved nature to bias him, and the same malicious spirit to tempt him as others; and he hath a much greater variety of trials and temptations from the world, than either the scholar, or gentleman. The particular circumstances of trade and the duties flowing from thence, are indeed too numerous to be contained in so small a tract as this; yet I doubt not, but the principles and rules here laid down, being faithfully applied to particular cases, will generally be found sufficient for his direction; though after all it must be owned, that the religious fear of God, and a sincere love to our neighbour, will do more to direct us in many doubtful and critical cases, than can be expected from any treatise whatsoever.
Let me beg that the reader would take into serious and mature consideration the hints that are here suggested, and if he meets with any thing which recommends itself to his conscience, as agreeable to the laws of God, and the nature and reason of things, that he would not fail immediately to put it in practice. Surely, no one can be so absurd as to think it sufficient to appear religious on the Lord’s day, or to be serious in the devotions of the closet, and then leave conscience asleep all the intermediate time; since these religious duties were designed as the means of producing and maintaining those principles of wisdom and justice, virtue and goodness, which are to be in continual exercise; and the infinite Creator and proprietor of the universe, claims our constant obedience to his laws, as well as our devout ascriptions of worship and adoration. It may be fit to acquaint the world, that the substance of this piece is taken from a book entitled, The Tradesman’s Calling; which though it has lain some time in obscurity, is thought by many judicious persons to be very deserving of the public regard. The publisher could have wished it had been revised, and sent into the world by a more able hand; and the sense he had of its deficiency, was the chief cause of its lying so long unpublished; but he does not absolutely despair of its being in some degree useful, since as a learned writer observes, “Truth influences the mind of man more by its own authority, evidence and excellency, than by any ornaments of wit and eloquence in which it may be drest.” And such ornaments are in this case the less needful, as the subjects are chiefly addressed to persons of plain sense and understanding; if the God of the spirit of all flesh, is pleased to smile upon it so far as to render it effectual to reform the practices, and improve the tempers of those that read it, the Publisher will have the full reward he hopes for from this essay of benevolence to his fellow beings; and a thousand encomiums on the elegance of the composition, without these effects, would afford him little satisfaction. He has added some passages of scripture at the conclusion of each subject, that they might have the sanction of divine authority to enforce them; firmly believing that however men may despise it, if ever the blessed God is pleased to reform a sinful world, He will honor His own word as the instrument of producing such a happy event.
Table of Contents
To the Reader
CHAPTER I: The Nature of a Life of Business, and Obligations to it.
CHAPTER II: Of Choosing a Calling.
CHAPTER III: Of Prudence or Discretion.
CHAPTER IV: Of Diligence.
CHAPTER V: Of Justice.
CHAPTER VI: Of Truth.
CHAPTER VII: Of Religion.
CHAPTER VIII: Contentment
CHAPTER IX: Of Leaving our Callings.