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it. Should not you then exert yourselves with all diligence ? Are you not convinced, that to prepare for eternity is "a reasonable service,” yea, that it is, in fact, “ the one thing needful ?”- Will you then grudge your labour? Will you not put forth willingly and habitually all the powers of your souls in this blessed work? -] 3. Her prudent care
[Is she careful to prevent her labours from ever proving abortive; and should not you prosecute your work to a successful issue? Yet Solomon justly observes, that “the slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting°;" yea, that “his very desire killeth him, because his hands refuse to labour'." Some kind of pains we all have taken in attending ordinances, and in complying with outward forms; but there we have rested, without any persevering efforts to render those means effectual for the salvation of our souls. We feel somewhat of a general desire after eternal happiness; and with that consciousness of desire we are satisfied, without pressing forward for the attainment of the things desired : and thus is fulfilled in us another declaration of Solomon, “ The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing &?" If good desires would suffice, the sluggard would get to heaven as well as others: but if great and persevering exertions are necessary, he will rather forego the prize, than use the diligence necessary for the attainment of it. In a word, instead of " looking to himself that he lose not the things that he has wrought, but that he receive a full reward",” he suffers Satan to take out of his heart the seed that has been sown in it, and to keep him, like the foolish virgins, from providing oil for himself, till it is too late. Say, thou sluggard, whether these things be not true of thee, and whether thou hast not need to go and learn wisdom of the diminutive and despised ant?]
We will yet further prosecute our address, II. In a way of solemn warning
As a man who has no provision independent of his labour, and no disposition to exert himself, must soon feel the pressure of poverty and want, so, sluggard, shalt thou feel these evils in relation to thy soul1. Reflect on the awfulness of thy state
[The consequences of thy sloth are coming upon thee: they are coming gradually indeed, but irresistibly.
" A traveller" comes not to his journey's end all at once, but gradually, and almost imperceptibly, by many successive steps. So neither wilt thou find the fatal consequence of thy sloth all at once ; e Prov. xii. 27. f Prov. xxi. 25. 8 Prov. xiii. 4. h 2 John, ver. 8. but every day and hour brings them nearer towards thee; and that too so clearly, that, if thou wouldst stop to examine, thou shouldst see evident symptoms of their approach. Who has not found, that the longer he lives in any sin, the more he becomes addicted to it, and enslaved by it? The truth is, that as a man by indulging sloth, whether of mind or body, becomes daily more unfitted for exertion, so the man who is remiss and negligent in his spiritual concerns becomes daily more alienated from God, and more averse to those efforts that are necessary for his salvation'. The curse which is denounced against him seems so distant, that it will never come: but it is advancing as fast as the wings of time can carry it; as St. Peter says, “ Their judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth notk." O sluggard! remember this: thou mayest “linger, like Lot in the plain ;” but “thy judgment lingereth not; thou mayest slumber on yet a little while, but thy damnation slumbereth not:" the time is fast approaching when God will say to thee, as to him who hid his talent in a napkin, “ Thou wicked and slothful servant !” and will give orders concerning thee, “Cast the unprofitable servant into outer darkness, where shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth?."
These judgments too shall come upon you irresistibly. You well know how entirely a man unarmed and sleeping is at the mercy of “ an armed man that seeks his life. And such will be your state, in the day that God shall deal with you, and visit you for your sins. You may call on the hills to fall upon you, and the rocks to cover you, from the wrath of your offended God; but they cannot perform for you this friendly office: no creature in the universe can help you: “ though hand join in hand, you cannot pass unpunished.” Reflect on this, thou sluggard! Now thou mayest "puff at God's judgments :" but ere long thou wilt bitterly regret that thou didst not improve the opportunities afforded thee to escape from them.] 2. Reflect also on the vanity of thine excuses
[There are none so hardened as to avow a fixed determination never to seek after God: on the contrary, there is in almost all an indistinct purpose to turn unto the Lord at some more convenient season, which they hope is at no very great distance. Hence to those who would rouse them to exertion, they say, " A little more sleep, a little more slumber, a little more folding of the hands to sleep.” They acknowledge in general terms the propriety, and even the necessity, of exertion; but they wish a little more time for indulgence to the flesh, before they set themselves in earnest to mortify and subdue it. But what has been the consequence of indulgence
i Prov. x. 4. and xix. 15. k 2 Pet. ii. 3. i Matt. xxv. 26, 30.
hitherto? Are you at all more disposed for exertion now, than you were when first you were bidden to arise? Is your ability for God's service at all increased by deferring your attempts to serve him? Have you not found, invariably, that procrastination has increased your difficulties, at the very time that it also enfeebled your powers ? Say not then any longer, “ There is a lion in the way,” nor plead any longer for delay : but arise and call upon your God, if peradventure time may be yet afforded you to "work out your salvation," and to "flee from the wrath to come."] ADDRESS1. Those who have never yet been awakened
[Have you no work to do? or is it a matter of small importance whether it be done or not? Is not the present life the only time for doing it? “How long, then, wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? When wilt thou arise out of thy sleep?" Knowest thou not, that if thou sleepest on till this short life be past, thou wilt assuredly awake in hell? What then shall I say to thee? Shall I say to thee, as Christ did to his sleepy disciples, “ Sleep on now, and take thy rest?” No: God forbid. Let me rather say, “ Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee lightm." Verily, if thou wouldst now, even now, call upon his name, it should not be too late. Whatever thou wantest, it should be given thee: he would give thee the light of truth to shine into thy heart; the light of joy in his reconciled countenance; the light of holiness to attest thine acceptance with him; and the light of glory to perfect thy felicity. While ye have the light then, walk in the light, that ye may be the children of light.]
2. Those who, though in part awakened, are yet disposed to give way to slothful habits
[This, alas! was the case both with the wise and foolish virgins; “ they all slumbered and slept." But let me affectionately guard you against yielding to sloth. It is said, and the very best amongst us know the truth of it by bitter experience, that “the idle soul shall suffer hunger"." Who has not heard of the vineyard of the sluggard, where, through inattention, nothing was produced but nettles and thorns ? To him is the same warning given as to the sluggard in the texto. Guard then against the excuses which ye are ready to make. See the excuses made by the Bride in the book of Canticles; how injurious to her welfare! how destructive of her peaceP! “Watch ye then, and pray always.” Had the disciples watched, when they were directed to do it by their Lord, they m Eph. v. 14.
n Prov. xix. 15. o Prov. xxiv. 30-34.
p Cant. v. 2—7.
would never have forsaken him as they did in the hour of his deepest trial. But, if you do not watch and be sober, depend upon it that Satan will prevail against you, and “ sift you as wheat.” “Be sober then, and vigilant.” Give not way to drowsiness in your spiritual calling: but "give all diligence to make your calling sure." And, seeing that ye look for a period when God shall come to judge the world, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot and blameless. And “what I say unto one, I say unto all, Watch."]
DCCLXVIII. LOVE TO THE HOLY SCRIPTURES INCULCATED. Prov. vii. 1—4. My son, keep my words, and lay up my com
mandments with thee. Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye. Bind them upon thy fingers ; write them upon the table of thine heart. Say unto Wisdom, Thou art my sister; and call Understanding thy kinswoman.
THROUGHOUT the book of Proverbs, we are strongly reminded of that expression of Paul to Philemon, “ Though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient, yet for love's sake I rather beseech thee.” There is an exquisite tenderness in the exhortations of Solomon, addressed as they are by a father to a son. Not that we are to suppose that they were intended only for Rehoboam: they were intended for the Church of God, in all ages : and to us, no less than to Rehoboam himself, is the affectionate language of our text addressed. But indeed a greater than Solomon is here. Condescending as the expressions are, they are addressed to us by the Lord Jesus Christ himself, who is Wisdom itself incarnatea; and his are the counsels which we are so earnestly entreated to treasure up in our minds.
In discoursing on the words before us, we will shew, 1. The respect which we should pay to the counsels
of Divine Wisdom By comparing our text with similar language in the New Testament, we see, that by the terms here used we have to understand, not the Decalogue only, but the whole revealed will of God. Now to whatever the counsels of the Deity relate, 1. They should be treasured up with diligence-
a See Prov. viii. 22–32.
(Whatever is of more than ordinary value in our eyes, we lay it up with care in a place of safety; and the more of it we can amass, the richer we feel ourselves to be. Now there is nothing in the whole universe to be compared with the Scriptures of truth, nothing that will so enrich the mind, nothing that will so benefit the soul. In the great mystery of redemption “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” The precepts too, and the promises, and the histories, and the examples, O! who can estimate them as they deserve? To treasure these up in our minds should be our daily and most delightful employment. Not a day should pass without adding to this blessed store. We should always furnish ourselves with some fresh portion, on which to ruminate. Not that it is merely in the mind and memory that we are to store up this wealth, but, as Moses tells us, in our heart and in our soul ; “ Ye shall lay up these my words in your heart and in your soulb:" this is the proper seat of Divine knowledge ; and here should we endeavour to amass the only true wealth, “ the unsearchable riches of Christ."] 2. They should be watched over with care
[Nature has made peculiar provision for the eye, so that, by an involuntary and instantaneous motion of the eye-lid, it is preserved from innumerable injuries which it must otherwise sustain. Now with the same care that we guard of our eye,” we should watch over and preserve the treasures of wisdom, which we have accumulated in our hearts. Satan is ever labouring to “take out of our hearts the word of life,” as our Lord has told us in the parable of the Sower: and it requires the utmost vigilance on our part to defeat his efforts. Indeed the heart itself is but too prone to lose its riches through any apertures by which the world has entered; so that we need to“ give the most earnest heed lest at any time we should let them slip.” Besides, if we be not constantly on our guard against “ the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches,” and other foolish and hateful lusts, we shall find to our cost, that these “ weeds and thorns will choke all the good seed that has been sown in our hearts, and will render it unfruitful.” Our care and watchfulness therefore should be incessant, that nothing be permitted to rob us of our good principles, or to weaken their influence on our souls. If, as we are told, God “ himself keeps his people as the apple of his eyed,” surely we b Deut. xi. 18.
c Heb. ii. 1. d Deut. xxxii. 10. and Zech. ii. 8.
“ the apple