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desireth and hath nothing. * If we consult either the improvement of the mind, or the health of the body, it is well known that exercise is the great instrument of promoting both. Sloth enfeebles equally the bodily and the mental powers. As in the animal system it engenders disease, so on the faculties of the soul it brings a fatal rust, which corrodes and wastes them ; which, in a short time, reduces the brightest genius to the same level with the meanest understanding. The great differences which take place among men, are not owing to a distinction that nature has made in their original powers, so much as to the superiour diligence with which some have improved these powers beyond others. To no purpose do we possess the seeds of many great abilities, if they are suffered to lie dormant within us.
It is not the latent possession, but the active exertion of them, which gives them merit. Thousands whom indolence has sunk into contemptible obscurity, might have come forward to the highest distinction, if idleness had not frustrated the effect of all their powers. .
Instead of going on to improvement, all things go to decline with the idle man. His character falls into contempt. 'His fortune is consumed. Disorder, confusion, and embarrassment, mark his whole situ. ation. Observe in what lively colours the state of his affairs is described by Solomon. 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 covered the face thereof; and the stone wall thereof was broken down. Then I saw and considered it well : I looked upon it, and re
ceived instruction.* In the midst, too, of those distresses which idleness brings on its votaries, they must submit to innumerable mortifications, which never fail to attend their shameful conduct. They must reckon on seeing themselves contemned by the virtuous and wise, and slighted by the thriving part of mankind. They must expect to be left behind by every competitor for rank or fortune. They will be obliged to humble themselves before persons, now far their superiours in the world, whom, once, they would have disdained to acknowledge as their equals.
Is it in this manner that a man lives to himself? Are these the advantages which were expected to be found in the lap of ease? The down may at first have appeared soft : But it will soon be found to cover thorns innumerable. How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? When wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, yet 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 manat But this is only a small part of the evils which persons of this description bring on themselves: For,
In the second place, while in this manner they shut the door against every improvement, they open it wide to the most destructive vices and follies. The human mind cannot remain always unemployed. Its passions must have some exercise. If we supply them not with proper employment, they are sure to run loose into riot and disorder. While we are unoccupied by what is good, evil is continually at hand; and hence it is said in Scripture, that as soon as Satan found the house empty, he took possession, and filled it with evil spirits. * Every man who recollects his conduct, may be satisfied, that his hours of idleness have always proved the hours most dangerous to virtue. It was then that criminal desires arose; guilty pursuits were suggested; and designs were formed, which, in their issue, have disquieted and embittered his whole life. If seasons of idleness be dangerous, what must a continued habit of it prove? Habitual indolence, by a silent and secret progress, undermines every virtue in the soul. More violent passions run their course, and terminate. They are like rapid torrents, which foam, and swell, and bear down every thing before them. But after having overflowed their banks, their impetuosity subsides. They return by degrees into their natural channel; and the damage which they have done can be repaired. Sloth is like the slowly-flowing putrid stream, which stagnates in the marsh, breeds venomous animals, and poisonous plants; and infects with pestilential vapours the whole country round it. Having once tainted the soul, it leaves no part of it sound; and at the same time gives not those alarms to conscience, which the eruptions of bolder and fiercer emotions often occasion. The disease which it brings on is creeping and insidious; and is, on that account, more certainly mortal.
* Prov. xxiv. 30, 31, 32. + Prov. xxiv. 33, 34.
One constant effect of idleness is, to nourish the passions, and, of course, to heigliten our demands for gratification; while it unhappily withdraws from us the proper means of gratifying these demands. If the desires of the industrious man be set upon
Matt. xii. 44.
opulence or rank, upon the conveniences or the splendour of life, he can accomplish his desires by methods which are fair and allowable. The idle man has the same desires with the industrious, but not the same resources for compassing his ends by honourable means.
He must therefore turn himself to seek by fraud, or by violence, what he cannot submit to acquire by industry. Hence the origin of those multiplied crimes to which idleness is daily giving birth in the world; and which contribute so
to violate the order, and to disturb the peace of society.-In general the children of idleness may be ranked under two denominations or classes of men; both of whom may, too justly, be termed, The children of the devil. Either incapable of any effort, they are such as sink into absolute meanness of character, and contentedly wallow with the drunkard and debauchee, among the herd of the sensual; until poverty overtake them,
or disease cut them off: Or they are such as, retaining some
remains of vigour, are impelled, by their passions, to venture on a desperate attempt for retrieving their ruined fortunes. In this case, they
employ the art of the fraudulent gamester to ensnare
They issue forth with the highwayman on the road; or with the thief and the prisons are peopled; and by them the furnished with those melancholy admoni
the unwary: to plunder
robber, they infest the city by night. From this
are so often delivered from it to the
class, our scaffold is
tions, which crowd. Such are frequently the tragical, but wellknown consequences of the vice against which I now
it to possess.
In the third, and last place, how dangerous soever idleness may be to virtue, are there not pleasures, it may
be said, which attend it? is there not ground to plead, that it brings a release from the oppressive cares of the world; and soothes the mind with a gentle satisfaction, which is not to be found amidst the toils of a busy and active life?-- This is an advantage which, least of all others, we admit
In behalf of incessant labour, no man contends. Occasional release from toil, and indulgence of ease, is what nature demands, and virtue allows. But what we assert is, that nothing is so great an enemy to the lively and spirited enjoyment of life, as a relaxed and indolent habit of mind. He who knows not what it is to labour, knows not what it is to enjoy. The felicity of human life depends on the regular prosecution of some laudable purpose or object, which keeps awake and enlivens all our powers. Our happiness consists in the pursuit, much more than in the attainment, of any temporal good. Rest is agreeable; but it is only from preceding labours that rest acquires its true relish. When the mind is suffered to remain in continued inaction, all its powers decay. It soon languishes and sickens; and the pleasures which it proposed to obtain from rest, end in tediousness and insipidity. To this, let that miserable set of men bear witness, who, after spending great part of their life in active industry, have retired to what they fancied was to be a pleasing enjoyment of themselves in wealthy inactivity, and profound repose. Where they expected to find an elysium, they have found nothing but a dreary and comfortless waste.
Their days have dragged on, in uniform languor; with the melancholy remembrance often returning of the