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off his sloth, and exert himself to prevent them. Often is the sinner warned that the storm of Divine wrath hangs over his head, and that it will burst forth in the most tremendous peals at death. He is repeatedly told that now is the accepted time, and day of salvation. The example of others, labouring after the meat which endures to everlasting life, is set before him. He is often put in mind of the importance of eternity, and that it is a most intolerable thing to dwell with everlasting burnings. In some degree he allows the force of such arguments, and has some conviction in his own mind of the propriety of them; but if they have any effect at all, it is only such as leaves him still in the same situation,
4. He looks upon those, who reprove his present course, and advise the contrary, as his worst enemies; or at least as officious intruders disturbing his peace. We have just said, that often he partly allows the propriety of what they say, gives a tacit consent, or does not openly contradict them; but whatever he says, he entertains a secret aversion, and despises them in his heart. Though, perhaps, he does not tell it, the effect of all their reasoning, instead of amendment, is irritation. He finds them disturbing, and trying to break, his present repose. They force upon his mind the vexing thoughts of future straits, and plague him by pointing out his present duty. How descriptive is all this of the spiritual sluggard! He feels a strong aversion to every method used to break the snare, and bring him to thoughtfulness about eternity. Sometimes the assiduity and entreaties of his nearest friends have so provoked him,
ome and lety only
that, breaking over the ties of natural affection, he has left them to see them no more, and exposed himself to many hardships to get rid of their troublesome advice and tormenting reproof. Public' ordinances faithfully dispensed have often proved so pungent to his heart as to make him desert them. He found he could not attend and sleep too. They stript him of all his excuses, till at last he said of them as Ahab of Micaiah, “I hate him, for he doth not prophesy good concerning me but evil.” Nay more, the holy law of God itself irritates his heart, and “sin taking occasion by the commandment works in him all manner of concupiscence.” The restraint which the holy law of God lays upon corrupt nature makes it more passionate and rebellious. This does not arise from any evil design or tendency in the law itself, but from the desperate wickedness of the human heart. As a full and complete proof of his reckoning those his greatest enemies who do all they can to reclaim him, he flies to persons of the same cast with himself, and tells them all the difficulties he apprehends he has been exposed to from those, who would force their own gloomy sentiments on others, and turn the world upside down. His heart feels vast complacency in opening itself to one of a similar character, and it seems to alleviate his misery. They strengthen one another's hands, try to stifle every conviction, and resolve to sleep on, and allow no one whatever to disturb them. They open their hearts to one another concerning the sweetness of repose, and the difficulty of always poring on death, hell, and other forbidding objects of the same nature. They even begin
out turning to the Lord, we have no evidence of acting with propriety, and we cannot turn to him but by fervent supplication and prayer. Many exercises, by some called prayer, are far removed from proving God. When his hand is upon us, we should wrestle with him; and give him no rest. We should stir up ourselves, take hold of his strength, and implore the blessing. Were we willing to ask, he is never unwilling to give. He calls us to prove, that we may seek, and he bestow. There cannot be a worse sign than carelessness, obduracy, and insensibility under judgments. They often provoke the Lord to give up with a people, saying, “ Why should ye be stricken
will revolt more and more.”
PROVERBS XXIV. 30, 31,
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 received instruction.
IF the carnal mind were not enmity against God, and incapable of discerning spiritual things, the Scriptures would be universally admired. Laying aside the idea of Divine inspiration, they are inimitably beautiful both in respect of sentiment and composition. There is a vast variety, and every one would find something to gratify his peculiar taste. The mind which loves the historic page would be wonderfully pleased with the history of the old world; and the amazing vicissitudes of the posterity of Jacob. How many miraculous events took place from their going down into Egypt to the destruction of their city and temple by the Romans! The person delighted with the lofty strains of poetry, would find infinite gratification in some ancient songs composed to celebrate certain signal deliverances; as when Israel sang after their passage through the Red Sea,
and Deborah when Sisera fell before her. The book of Job, the prophecies of Isaiah, and the performances of the sweet singer of Israel, would fill his heart with admiration. The book of Ecclesiastes would suit the mind anxious to be acquainted with the works of nature; and the Proverbs of Solomon are an unequalled system of morality. Were it not for the vitiated and depraved taste of mankind, the celebrated Parnassus would be forsaken for Zion hill, and the poisonous streams once sacred to the Muses, would be exchanged for the wells of salvation. But the Scriptures are divine ; and “ the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” God hath written to us the great things of his law, but they are counted as a strange thing by the bulk of mankind; and the distinguishing beauty and excellency of Divine revelation are for the most part hid from the wise and prudent, and revealed unto babes.
The book of Proverbs has been justly compared to a great number of bright gems cast together in a large heap, without regard to order. The text is a striking account of the sluggard, and the sad consequences of his conduct, with a design to awaken him from his fatal lethargy, and delusive dream, before it be too late; and to be a beacon and monitor to others. A greater than Solomon passes by, and observes the conduct of the sons of men.
I. We propose to delineate the character of the slothful.