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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 bis 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
to talk about their own virtues, and solace themselves with the soothing reflection that they do ill to nobody but themselves; and that God is merciful, and it would be harsh once to think he would condemn all, except such as are awakened by a lawwork, and fears of hell, and pray without ceasing. Thus, happy in one another, they sleep on, and take their rest.
5. The longer the sluggard is habituated to sloth, he is the more in love with it, and the more averse to alter his course. Natural sleep, the longer it is enjoyed, like a powerful opiate, more and more benumbs the senses, is sweeter in the enjoyment, and increases the difficulty of shaking it off. Every habit, however innocent, gathers force by continuance; and is strengthened by every act. This holds true in an eminent degree of such habits as are sinful. The powerful principle of sin within is ever operative, and strengthens the habit. Many to whom this character fully belongs at last, began in very small degrees, and sloth crept on imperceptibly.
In a religious sense, many were slothful all their lives. Activity and concern about religion they never had, nor desired. Others seemed to run well, but began to slacken. One duty turned tasteless and insipid, and then another. As their love and relish to duties declined, their performance was less accurate and frequent. Excuses, which formerly were of no avail, are now valid; and duty is frequently omitted. Sin is down-hill road. From partial they proceed to total neglect; and from that to contempt. Instead of being at pains to shake off security, they
use every mean to increase it. Often a sluggard is åt more trouble finding excuses to shift the work, than the work itself would cost him. It is impossible to name all their empty pleas. The least difficulty furnishes an excuse: “ the sluggard will not plough by reason of the cold.” Nay, rather than want an excuse, he forms imaginary difficulties to himself, and says, “ there is a lion without: I shall be slain in the streets.” – Now he excuses himself from religious duties by the cares of this world : then by a kind of promise that he will perform them at a convenient
At any rate, instead of being affected with his present omission, he pleads earnestly for farther indulgence, and says, Let' me alone to-day,--tomorrow, or some day, I shall think of religion; at present I cannot do it; “yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep.” Thus “ he hideth his hand in his bosom, and will not so much as bring it to his mouth again.”
6. He sleeps away his time, amuses himself with unavailing resolutions of doing better in a little, and thinks that if the strait come, he will make some shift or other. If any expostulate with him, and say, “ How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard; when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep?" instead of being affected with the just reproach, he still claims indulgence, and if he has any faint resolutions, they respect only some future period. That time comes, and finds him more in love with his situation than he was before; and still more unwilling to give up with it. So it is likely to be at any future period. Sinners, if they resolve to be religious at all, they cannot think of it
at present, but resolve to be in earnest against such a time. Such a resolution, instead of having any good effect, lulls them asleep, is considered as an extenuation of every crime, and a toleration for the neglect of every duty. They promise on life, till the time appointed arrive, which they ought by no means to do. Life is uncertain; but though they should reach the period fixed upon for the commencement of religion, every intervening hour has rendered their hearts more unfit to make their purpose effective; or rather, it has wonderfully fitted them for a new lease of sin; and is likely to issue in fixing their resolution at another period equally distant. Sinful appetites and inclinations, so long indulged, become clamorous, insist upon being gratified, and reject every excuse.
The slothful man always indulges a secret thought that if a real strait comes, he will some way or other get over it. He fondly hopes that some friend or neighbour will supply him, and neither expose him to beggary or death. The sinner pleases himself with a secret thought that, before he die, matters will be some way or other settled between God and him, though he knows not how. He speaks peace to his soul, and thinks that God is like himself. Though little acquainted with the Divine Being, he hopes he will be merciful. Sin bulks little in his eye, and he makes his own apprehensions of it the rule by which he judges of God's. Thus, as in Deut. xxix. 19, “ He blesses himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst."