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5. That if these noxious weeds are allowed to grow to the harvest, they will be cast into the fire as fit for nothing but fuel. Though the slothful man should sleep long, he must awake; and if not sooner, surely when in hell he lifts up his eyes! He must give an account of his vineyard, the time he had it, and all his opportunities. God, the great proprietor, will say, Give an account of thy stewardship; and the Lord of the vineyard will come and reckon, and will certainly cast the unprofitable servant into outer darkness, and there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." The angels will be employed as reapers, and will come with that injunction, " Gather ye together the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them." Then the soil "which brought forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, will receive blessing from God; but that which bare thorns and briers will be rejected, and nigh unto cursing, whose end is to be burned." Then, the greater the quantity of noxious weeds, the burning will be the fiercer, and the flames the more furious. All the weeds in the sluggard's vineyard will be collected into one great heap, and the poor creature himself bound hand and foot, and placed in the midst of them, and cast into the fire which cannot be, quenched. However agreeable he once thought his sleep, he will then find, that every folding of the hands to sleep was a treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath. There is one obvious difference between the natural thorns, and these which grow in the vineyard of the spiritual sluggard; his will retain their prickles in the fire, and instead of
losing their sharpness, will rather increase in force and power, and eternally pierce him to the heart. . Solomon also saw that "the stone wall thereof was broken down." With relation to this we shall only mention the few following things.
1. It was a full proof that the slothful man took no care of what was within. A vineyard has always been considered as valuable and important, and accordingly has been inclosed. Thus, Mark xii. 1, we read that "A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it." And the sluggard had a stone wall about his, though it was now broken down. This is necessary on many accounts. While it tends to the preservation and nourishment of the tender plants, it also preserves them from the pillaging hand of the robber, and from the destructive foot of the beast of prey. We find, Psal. lxxx. 12, that it is reckoned one of the heaviest judgments which the church can suffer when, "her hedges are broken down, so that all they who pass by do pluck her; and the boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast of the field doth devour it." If the church reckons this such a judgment from God, it surely indicates a sad want of concern in the sluggard, when he neither endeavours to preserve the wall before it fall, nor repair the breaches. By much slothfulness the building decayeth, and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through." How careless is the sinner about his soul! Surely the heart of a slothful man is little worth! How negligent is a corrupt church about the purity of doctrine, disci
pline, and government! Here, as in a natural wall, a small breach, if not rebuilt, soon grows larger.
2. God's law originally written on tables of stone, may justly be considered as a fence or wall placed around the sinner's vineyard. It is excellently calculated to guard the soul, and keep out beasts of prey. It points out duty, and warns against sin. It is the great rule of faith and manners, and is clothed with the highest authority. When the sinner tramples the commandment under foot, disregarding both the Divine authority and his own happiness, truly his soul is left in a defenceless situation.
It must be remembered as already mentioned, that along with the law he is also favoured with the Gospel. These, the one in subserviency to the other, constitute a complete fence. The Gospel sets a suitable remedy before him, and the law discovers his need, and, like a schoolmaster, drives him to improve it. Under the Gospel we include all the privileges and opportunities which the sinner enjoys. When the duties enjoined by the law, and the grace and love made over in the Gospel, are equally despised, the soul of the slothful is truly in a wretched and miserable situation, and justly may the stone wall be said to be broken down.
3. This wall may be said to be broken down when conscience loses its authority, and its dictates are despised. God has placed this power in the soul with a kind of Divine authority. Where the light of revelation is not enjoyed, it accuses or excuses. It has vast influence upon individuals and societies.
Nothing so much constitutes evil times as evil men, and they are greatly brought to this state by disregarding their conscience, and trampling it under foot. The way to make matters better is to enlighten and purify the conscience. Many deceive themselves, and think their conscience good, because it is quiet, and gives them no disturbance; while it, like the watchman spoken of by Isaiah, is dumb, and cannot speak. With professing Christians, conscience is not silenced all at once, but gradually. In proportion as its authority is disregarded, its injunctions and reproofs are less frequent, and have less power, till at last it becomes seared, and then the soul is without a wall or fence.
We shall only add, that when the stone wall is broken down, every enemy and temptation have easy access at any place, and may waste the vineyard at their pleasure. The soul of the sluggard is the place where Satan dwells and works. So to speak, he travels out and in at pleasure; and scarcely can any temptation be too gross when the soul is brought to this situation. Sin is no sooner suggested than complied with: duties are neglected: and eternity, and the great account which must be made to the Proprietor, are seldom, if ever, thought of. Thus he sleeps on thoughtless about, and unprovided for futurity.
When Solomon considered well the vineyard of the slothful," he received instruction." With him, we now come to inquire what lessons may be learned from this affecting subject; and among others we may observe the following,
1. That sin is most deceitful. We can scarcely conceive a more pitiful object than the sluggard, or a more disagreeable situation than his; and yet he is greatly satisfied, much at ease, and apparently pleased and happy. No remonstrance prevails to make him change his course. Looking around us we see the slothful and careless sinner living in the neglect of almost every duty, and yet enjoying himself, and speaking peace to his own soul. Neither his present sins, nor his future reckoning gave him any disturbance.
2. The amazing patience of the great Husbandman. One cannot but be surprised that he leaves the vineyard so long in the possession of one of such a character. We would be ready to think that as soon as there was no fruit, or the least appearance of briers and thorns, it would be taken from the sluggard, and given to another. But "God is long-suffering, and slow to anger, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." His thoughts are not as ours. Though the Lord does not immediately dispossess him, he takes the most particular notice of the fruit he ought to have had, and the length of time he enjoyed his privileges, as is expressed Luke xiii. 7, he said, "Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree, and find none, cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?" Often the Lord is so provoked as to lay the ax to the root of the tree, and yet through the intercession of Christ, "lets" the unfruitful cumberer of the ground" alone another year, to see if he bring forth fruit."