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SEEST thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men.
Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds.
For riches are not for ever: and doth the crown endure to every generation?
He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich.
The hand of the diligent shall
bear rule: but the slothful shall be under tribute.
Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty: open thine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread.
He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread: but he that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough.
The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.
WE are so constituted by the God who formed us, that fixed employment tends to the invigoration of mind and body, and is thus promotive of our personal happiness. The disuse of our faculties, whether intellectual or corporeal, prepares the way for their premature decay; and the divine providence has benevolently designed, that our means of subsistence should mainly depend on our own exertions, that we might thus have an adequate motive for calling our faculties into healthful exercise. It is a real unhappiness to be without employment, as experience uniformly proves; and the life of leisure, at which so many aim ́as the chief good, is always more agreeable in anticipation, than in actual possession. Time that hangs as a burden on the shoulders of the indolent, passes along with sprightly steps and cheerful smiles to him that is usefully employed; so that it may be said, that industry
is not only a good medicine, but an agreeable pastime. Whatever may be our calling, in that we should labour diligently; this is the intimation of reason, as well as the requirement of Scripture.
It is a Christian duty; for he that provides not for his own household is worse than an infidel; and it is an absurdity to expect that God will provide for those who will not exert themselves; for if a man will not work neither should he eat. The Christian should, in his industrious habits, be a model to all around him, since to all other motives he may be presumed to have the superadded one, that thus he honours God, who has required him to be diligent in business.
The duty being manifest, the Christian should remember that it is not an exclusive one. If we are to be diligent in our secular vocation, we are not to suffer it so to preoccupy the mind, and absorb the attention, as not to leave a full measure of time for those duties which more immediately bear on our spiritual wellbeing. Some seem to regard honesty and diligence in business as the sum and substance of true religion, and if they neglect those duties which more immediately relate to God and their own souls, they, with evident self-satisfaction, urge in excuse, that they cannot spare the time from their ordinary occupation. This is to convert duty into sin, and to reverse the divine rule, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." No one is justified in giving his whole attention to even lawful occupations; and He who best knows the superior value of the soul to the body, sanctions no engagements of a secular kind which preclude attention to the welfare of the soul. "Diligent in busi
ness, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord," are consistent duties, and should not be disunited.
In all situations, as a Christian, I am required to be an example to others. As I should not eat the bread of idleness, I am bound to give attention to my peculiar calling, and work that I may eat. Far be it from me, however, to be so absorbed in these earthly pursuits as to neglect my higher destiny. I have to work out my own salvation, and this requires industry. If I only labour for the body, I am laying up riches in bags with holes; there is more enduring wealth, the acquisition of which requires my best and freshest efforts. Lord, may I principally labour to lay up treasure in heaven, where moth and rust do not corrupt, nor thieves break through and steal,
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.
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.
Yet a little sleep, a little slum
How long wilt thou sleep, Ober, a little folding of the hands sluggard? when wilt thou arise
out of thy sleep?
Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep :
So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.
The slothful man saith, There is a lion in the way; a lion is in the streets.
As the door turneth upon his hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed.
The slothful hideth his hand in his bosom; it grieveth him to bring it again to his mouth.
The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason.
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
to sleep :
So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man.
Slothfulness casteth into & deep sleep; and an idle soul shall suffer hunger.
The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour.
The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing.
He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster.
As vinegar to the teeth and as smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to them that send him.
He that gathereth in summer is a wise son: but he that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame.
THE opposite of the virtue just treated, is here most strikingly and graphically portrayed. Solomon dwells emphatically on the vice of slothfulness, as if his soul had been disgusted with numerous examples of it in practical life around him. It is the besetting sin of
oriental countries, which is, in a measure, to be attributed to the enervating influence of climate; but even under these circumstances it is inexcusable. To their inhabitants, rest and inaction constitute the chief luxury of life, and it requires determination of mind to shake off this indolence of disposition. Numerous examples of it are not wanting even where the influence of climate cannot be pleaded as an apology. The occupations of regular business are to many an intolerable burden; and did not necessity compel exertion, they would doze away existence in doing nothing.
Slothfulness is not merely a negative quality, but a positive vice. Its example is pernicious to the community, and its prevalence would loosen the bonds of society. The work-shops would be deserted, the fields lie untilled, commerce cease, and literature have no ardent students; and the ultimate consequence would be, that the supply of the necessaries and comforts of life would be cut off.
Where this disposition is indulged it soon brings its just reward. Solomon graphically depicts the estate of the sluggard which has run to waste, while he folds his hands to sleep. Did its consequences stop there, it would be a limited evil, as its effects would be chiefly confined to the delinquents themselves; but it is a diffusive poison, and as the encourager and promoter of all other vices, it becomes seriously hurtful to the community. Those who cast away the restraints of regular occupation are the devil's readiest instruments for every evil work. The slothful would rather beg and steal than work, and the mass of those who crowd the alms-houses and jails, as paupers and felons, may trace their degradation and ruin to their disinclination for