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out turning to the Lord, we have no evidence of acting with propriety, and we cannot turn to him but by fervent supplication and prayer. Many exercises, by some called prayer, are far removed from proving God. When his hand is upon us, we should wrestle with him; and give him no rest. We should stir up ourselves, take hold of his strength, and implore the blessing. Were we willing to ask, he is never unwilling to give. He calls us to prove, that we may seek, and he bestow. There cannot be a worse sign than carelessness, obduracy, and insensibility under judgments. They often provoke the Lord to give up with a people, saying, "Why should ye be stricken will revolt more and more." any more? ye
PROVERBS XXIV. 30, 31, 32.
I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; and lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction.
IF the carnal mind were not enmity against God, and incapable of discerning spiritual things, the Scriptures would be universally admired. Laying aside the idea of Divine inspiration, they are inimitably beautiful both in respect of sentiment and composition. There is a vast variety, and every one would find something to gratify his peculiar taste. The mind which loves the historic page would be wonderfully pleased with the history of the old world; and the amazing vicissitudes of the posterity of Jacob. How many miraculous events took place from their going down into Egypt to the destruction of their city and temple by the Romans! The person delighted with the lofty strains of poetry, would find infinite gratification in some ancient songs composed to celebrate certain signal deliverances; as when Israel sang after their passage through the Red Sea,
and Deborah when Sisera fell before her. The book of Job, the prophecies of Isaiah, and the performances of the sweet singer of Israel, would fill his heart with admiration. The book of Ecclesiastes would suit the mind anxious to be acquainted with the works of nature; and the Proverbs of Solomon are an unequalled system of morality. Were it not for the vitiated and depraved taste of mankind, the celebrated Parnassus would be forsaken for Zion hill, and the poisonous streams once sacred to the Muses, would be exchanged for the wells of salvation. But the Scriptures are divine; and "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." God hath written to us the great things of his law, but they are counted as a strange thing by the bulk of mankind; and the distinguishing beauty and excellency of Divine revelation are for the most part hid from the wise and prudent, and revealed unto babes.
The book of Proverbs has been justly compared to a great number of bright gems cast together in a large heap, without regard to order. The text is a striking account of the sluggard, and the sad consequences of his conduct, with a design to awaken him from his fatal lethargy, and delusive dream, before it be too late; and to be a beacon and monitor to others. A greater than Solomon passes by, and observes the conduct of the sons of men.
I. We propose to delineate the character of the
11. To consider the state of his field and vineyard, all grown over with thorns, and covered with nettles, and the stone wall thereof broken down. Then,
III. With Solomon, To inquire what instructions may be received. We return to the first of these, which is,
I. To delineate the character of the slothful.
1. He enjoys the same seasons and opportunities with others. He had a vineyard, and a proper opportunity for cultivating and dressing it. Without this he could neither deserve the character, nor be subject to the blame. Misimproving the opportunity, losing the proper season, and neglecting his field, constitute the distinguishing features of his character. The spiritual sluggard enjoys a season of merciful visitation, and a day of grace, with an express injunction to work while it is to-day, and a certain assurance that the night cometh in which no man can work. Where Divine revelation is enjoyed, the sinner has precious opportunity for every duty. The sluggard might improve much of the time he spends in idleness and sleep, in searching the Scriptures, and performing other duties. He enjoys the Sabbath in common with others; but that day is the greatest burden to him, as the other six are to the man who is slothful about his temporal concerns. He enjoys a summer and harvest for working out his own salvation. This season is called a seed-time, and he is certified, that as he sows, so shall he reap. How
can the man expect a plentful or seasonable harvest who sits in his house, sleeps in his bed, or whiles away his time, when others are taking the seed from the barn, and filling the ground. The Jews enjoyed a precious opportunity when Christ was among them; but if we now turn our eyes to Shiloh, we will discover the fatal effects both of malice and sloth. Could we look within the vail, and listen to the doleful complaints of those who have perished through sloth, we would hear them cursing that love of ease which brought them to such an horrible situation, and bewailing and gnashing of their teeth over neglected opportunities.
2. He is thoughtless about futurity, and neglects the means without which the end cannot be attained. He is thoughtless about futurity. He does not consider how he shall be, or what he shall do. He prefers present ease to his true interest. In a sense diametrically opposite to what Christ intended, he lets tomorrow provide for itself, if he can get sleep and ease to-day. The man who deserves the name about spiritual things, acts in the same manner. He never thinks of the hour of trial. Death and future judgment, though infinitely important in themselves, seldom come under his consideration; and if they occur, he tries to fall the sooner asleep, that he may dismiss such painful subjects. It is certainly true wisdom in the Gospel-hearer to prepare for eternity, and to take no sleep to his eyes, nor slumber to his eyelids, till he find a place for the Lord. The Saviour who laid down his life for sinners, and has the greatest concern about them, makes this his first and chief direction,