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"Seek first the kingdom of God, and the righteousness thereof;" but it is the last thing to which the slothful attends. Summer is the fit season for laying in for winter; and elsewhere Solomon sends the sluggard to the most diminutive of all creatures to learn the duty of providing for futurity, Prov. vi. 6—8, " Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise which, having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest."
He neglects the means without which the end cannot be attained. This is the effect of the former. If his field is not ploughed, nor his vineyard dressed, he can expect no crop; and, if he attempts any of these, it is commonly out of season. How can the man expect to reap who only begins to prepare his ground when others are reaping their fruits? God has appointed a certain connexion between the means of grace and salvation; and a total neglect, and careless performance of duties, leave no room to expect salvation, and are full evidence that it is not the great concern. The slothful man often begins only to think about eternity, when death or his harbinger threaten to summon him before the Judge; and then he makes some noise about the blessing. Esau is an example of his conduct, and in all probability of his success. A mess of pottage was compensation enough for the blessing once a day; and on apprehending his mistake, that which he once so easily parted with, cannot be now had, though sought with tears: though the least exertion would secure the blessing, the slothful will not trouble himself to make it, and says,
Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep;" and when death approaches, his application is commonly insincere and too late.
Some on hearing this say, "We cannot be sure of success though we use the means; what a mercy if we could be assured that all who use the means would be saved!" In our temporal concerns, we cannot be sure of success even when we use the means; but where is the man, who, on this account, neglects to prepare and sow his field, or plant his vineyard! If we cannot be absolutely sure of a full harvest after using the means; we may be sure enough that we will have none without them. We have greater certainty of success in spiritual than in temporal concerns. He that useth the means, seeks the blessing, and aims at believing, will receive the end of his faith, the salvation of his soul." Others object, "that many have got grace here, and glory hereafter, who did not improve the means; and, like the thief on the cross, have been rescued from the mouth of hell and wafted to heaven." How would it look, if the greater part would give over their employ, and sit down at ease, because some unexpectedly have got a legacy enough to support them to their dying hour? Many have been imprisoned and condemned for some atrocious. crime, who, on the very day appointed for execution, have received a a full pardon: will others on that account commit the crime and run the risk? God, who is rich in mercy, may perform miracles of grace, and take persons into his vineyard at the eleventh hour; but his usual way is to bestow the blessing in the use of
means. His great direction is, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." He calls us expressly to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling;" and sets before us great encouragement, "for it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
3. The least thing he does is a burden, and he is deaf to every argument and consideration which would tend to reclaim him. The very thought of working, or putting himself to any trouble, is like tearing the flesh from the bone; and is, by many degrees, more tormenting to him than the thing itself to one of another character. In a spiritual sense, if he is under the necessity of attending on ordinances, or being in a company where religion is the leading subject; his heart says, "what a weariness is it!"
He is deaf to every consideration calculated to reform him. The slothful man's relations, and neighbours, who live around him, are pained at his folly, and use every argument which bids fair to reclaim him; but all in vain, for "the sluggard is wiser in his own conceit, than seven men that can render a reason.' They point out in the plainest manner his hazard, and the risk which he runs. They warn him of the approach of the winter storm, and the straits to which he must then be reduced, when he has neither provided fuel to keep him warm, food to supply his wants, or, the other necessaries of life. He may, perhaps, allow in part the propriety of all they say; but still he persists in his former course. He would rather feel the fears of future difficulties than shake
off his sloth, and exert himself to prevent them. Often is the sinner warned that the storm of Divine wrath hangs over his head, and that it will burst forth in the most tremendous peals at death. He is repeatedly told that now is the accepted time, and day of salvation. The example of others, labouring after the meat which endures to everlasting life, is set before him. He is often put in mind of the importance of eternity, and that it is a most intolerable thing to dwell with everlasting burnings. In some degree he allows the force of such arguments, and has some conviction in his own mind of the propriety of them; but if they have any effect at all, it is only such as leaves him still in the same situation.
4. He looks upon those, who reprove his present course, and advise the contrary, as his worst enemies; or at least as officious intruders disturbing his peace. We have just said, that often he partly allows the propriety of what they say, gives a tacit consent, or does not openly contradict them; but whatever he says, he entertains a secret aversion, and despises them in his heart. Though, perhaps, he does not tell it, the effect of all their reasoning, instead of amendment, is irritation. He finds them disturbing, and trying to break, his present repose. They force upon his mind the vexing thoughts of future straits, and plague him by pointing out his present duty. How descriptive is all this of the spiritual sluggard! He feels a strong aversion to every method used to break the snare, and bring him to thoughtfulness about eternity. Sometimes the assiduity and entreaties of his nearest friends have so provoked him,
that, breaking over the ties of natural affection, he has left them to see them no more, and exposed himself to many hardships to get rid of their troublesome advice and tormenting reproof. Public ordinances faithfully dispensed have often proved so pungent to his heart as to make him desert them. He found he could not attend and sleep too. They stript him of all his excuses, till at last he said of them as Ahab of Micaiah, "I hate him, for he doth not prophesy good concerning me but evil." Nay more, the holy law of God itself irritates his heart, and "sin taking occasion by the commandment works in him all manner of concupiscence." The restraint which the holy law of God lays upon corrupt nature makes it more passionate and rebellious. This does not arise from any evil design or tendency in the law itself, but from the desperate wickedness of the human heart. As a full and complete proof of his reckoning those his greatest enemies who do all they can to reclaim him, he flies to persons of the same cast with himself, and tells them all the difficulties he apprehends he has been exposed to from those, who would force their own gloomy sentiments on others, and turn the world upside down. His heart feels vast complacency in opening itself to one of a similar character, and it seems to alleviate his misery. They strengthen one another's hands, try to stifle every conviction, and resolve to sleep on, and allow no one whatever to disturb them. They open their hearts to one another concerning the sweetness of repose, and the difficulty of always poring on death, hell, and other forbidding objects of the same nature. They even begin