Page images
PDF
EPUB

in their own practice, they often set the example of what they reprobate severely in others. I shall study so show, that the idle man is, in every view, both foolish and criminal ; that he neither lives to God; ; nor lives to the world; nor lives to himself.

[ocr errors]

1. He lives not to God. The great and wise Creator certainly does nothing in vain. A small measure of reflection might convince every one that for some useful purpose he was sent into the world. The nature of man bears no mark of insignificancy,

neglect. He is placed at the head of all things here below. He is furnished with a great preparation of faculties and powers. He is enlightened by reason with many important discoveries ; even taught by revelation to consider himself as ransomed, by the death of Christ, from misery; and intended to rise, by gradual advances, to a still higher rank in the universe of God. In such a situation, thus distinguished, thus favoured and assisted by his Creator, can he hope to be forgiven, if he aim at no improvement, if he pursue no useful design, live for no other purpose but to indulge in sloth, consume the fruits of the carth, and to spend his days in a dream of vanity? Existence is a sacred trust; and he who thus misemploys and squanders it

away,

is treacherous to its Author. Look around

you,
and
you

will behold the whole universe full of active powers. Action is, to speak so, the genius of nature. By motion and exertion, the system of being is preserved in vigour. By its different parts always acting in subordination one to another, the perfection of the whole is carried on.

The heavenly bodies perpetualy revolve.

Day and night incessantly repeat their

appointed course. Continual operations are going on in the earth, and in the waters. Nothing stands still. All is alive and stirring throughout the universe.--In the midst of this animated and busy scene, is man alone to remain idle in his place? Belongs it to him to be the sole inactive and slothful being in the creation, when he has so much allotted him to do; when in so many various ways he might improve his own nature; might advance the glory of the God who made him; and contribute his part to the general good?

Hardly is there any feeling of the human heart more natural, or more universal, than that of our being accountable to God. It is what the most profligate can never totally erase. Almost all nations have agreed in the belief, that there is to come some period when the Almighty will act as the Judge of his creatures. Presentiments of this work in every breast. Conscience has already erected a tribunal, on which it anticipates the sentence which at that period shall be passed. Before this tribunal let us sometimes place ourselves in serious thought, and consider what account we are prepared to give of our conduct to Him who made us. “ I placed you,” the great Judge may then be supposed to say, “ in a station “ where you had many occasions for

occasions for action, and many opportunities of improvement. You were

taught, and you knew your duty. Throughout a “ course of years I continued your life.

I sur“ rounded you with friends to whom you might be “ useful. I gave you health, ease, leisure, and various “ advantages of situation. Where are the fruits “ of those talents which you possessed ? - What good “ have you done with them to yourselves? What

good to others ? How have you filled up your

place, or answered your destination in the world ? “ Produce some evidence, of your not having ex“ isted altogether in vain.”—Let such as are now mere blanks in the world, and a burden to the earth, think what answer they will give to those awful questions.

II. The idle live not to the world, and their fellowcreatures around them, any more than they do to God. Had any man a title to stand alone, and to be independent of his fellows, he might then consider himself as at liberty to indulge in solitary ease and sioth, without being responsible to others for the manner in which he chose to live. But on the face of the earth, there is no such person, from the king on his throne, to the beggar in his cottage. We are all connected with one another by various relations; which create a chain of mutual dependence, reaching from the highest to the lowest station in society. The order and happiness of the world cannot be maintained, without perpetual circulation of active duties and offices, which all are called upon to perform in their turn. Superiours are no more independent of their inferiours, than these inferiours are of them. Each have demands and claims upon the other; and he who, in any situation of life, refuses to act his part, and to contribute his share to the stock of felicity, deserves to be proscribed from society as an unworthy member. If any man will not work, says the Apostle Paul, neither should he * cat. If he will do nothing to advance the purposes of

general society, he has no title to enjoy the advantages of it.

* 2 Thess. iii. 10

It is sometimes supposed, that industry and diligence are duties required of the poor alone, and that riches confer the privilege of being idle. This is so far from being justified by reason, how often soever it may obtain in fact, that the higher one is raised in the world, his obligation to be useful is proportionably increased.

The claims upon him from various quarters multiply. The sphere of his active duties widens on every hand. Even supposing him exempted from exerting himself in behalf his inferiours, supposing the relation between superiours and inferiours abolished, the relation among equals must still subsist. If there be no man, however high in rank, who stands not frequently in need of the good offices of his friends, does he think that he owes nothing to them in return? Can he fold his arms in selfish indolence, and expect to be served by others, if he will not exert himself in doing service to any?

Were there no other call to industry, but the relation in which every one stands to his own family, the remembrance of this alone should make the man of idleness blush. Pretends he to love those with whom he is connected by the dearest ties, and yet will he not bestir himself for their guidance, their support, or their advancement in the world? - How immoral, and cruel, is the part he acts, who slumbers in sensual ease, while the wants and demands of a helpless family cry aloud, but cry in vain for his vigorous exertions? Is this a husband, is this a father, that deserves to be honoured with those sacred names ? How many voices will be lifted up against him at the

Let such persons remember the awful

last day!

words in Scripture, and tremble. It is written in the First epistle to Timothy, the fifth chapter and eighth verse, If any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

III. The idle man lives not to himself with any more advantage than he lives to the world. It is indeed on a supposition entirely opposite, that persons. of this character proceed. They imagine that, how deficient soever they may be in point of duty, they at least consult their own satisfaction. They leave to others the drudgery of life; and betake themselves, as they think, to the quarter of enjoyment and ease. Now, in contradiction to this, I assert, and hope to prove, that the idle man, first, shuts the door against all improvement ; next, that he opens it wide to every destructive folly; and lastly, that he excludes himself from the true enjoyment of pleasure.

Finst, he shuts the door against improvement of every kind, whether of mind, body, or fortune. The law of our nature, the condition under which we are placed from our birth, is, that nothing good or great is to be acquired without toil and industry. A price is appointed by Providence to be paid for every thing ; and the price of improvement is labour. Industry may, indeed, be sometimes disappointed. The rače may not be always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. But at the same time it is certain that, in the ordinary course of things, without strength, the battle cannot be gained; without swiftness, the race cannot be run with success. In all labour, says

the wise man, there is profit; but the soul of the sluggard

« PreviousContinue »