Dialogue on the Threshold

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Sunday, 25 April 2010

Labour sub tecto

Both S. Basil, and S. Chrysostome put this difference in that place, between the labour of the Ant, and the Bee, That the Ants worke but for themselves, the Bee for others: Though the Ants have a Commonwealth of their own, yet those Fathers call their labour, but private labour; because no other Common-wealths have benefit by their labour, but their own. Direct thy labours in thy calling to the good of the publique, and then thou art a civill, a morall Ant; but consider also, That all that are of the houshold of the faithfull, and professe the same truth of Religion, are part of this publique, and direct thy labours, for the glory of Christ Jesus, amongst them too, and then thou art a religious and a Christian Bee, and the fruit of thy labour shall be Hony. The labour of the Ant is sub Dio, open, evident, manifest; The labour of the Bee is sub Tecto, in a house, in a hive; They will doe good, and yet they will not be seene to doe it; they affect not glory, nay they avoyd it. For in experience, when some men curious of naturall knowledge, have made their Hives of glasse, that by that transparency, they might see the Bees manner of working, the Bees have made it their first work to line that Glasse-hive, with a crust of Wax, they they might work and not be discerned. It is a blessed sincerity, to work as the Ant, professedly, openly; but because there may be cases, when to doe so, would destroy the whole worke, though there be a cloud and a curtaine betweene thee, and the eyes of men, yet if thou doe them clearely in the sight of God, that he see his glory advanced by thee, the fruit of thy labour shall be Honey.

John Donne, Sermon preached at White-hall, 8 April 1621 (Prov. 25.16 Hast thou found honey? Eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it)

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