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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 sloth, 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 general 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 * eat. If he will do nothing to advance the purposes of
* 2 Thess. iii. 10.
society, he has no title to enjoy the advantages of it.
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 last day! Let such persons remember the awful
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.
FIRST, 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 race 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
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 situation. 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
* Prov. xiv. 23. .xiii. 4.
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 man.† 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,
* Prov. xxiv. 30, 31, 32.
+ Prov. xxiv. 33, 34.