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a sluggishness of disposition, together with all its ill consequences, are likely to increase. - Let youth be inured to labour from early life, if you wish to have them free from the evils of sloth in manhood.
But I must now proceed to a more particular use of my subject; for since Solomon says, “ the way of the righteous is made plain," and opposes the righteous to the sluggard, whose“ way is as an hedge of thorns;" hence with him the slothful is but another word for the wicked. Sloth in divine things,--in the care of the soul, is that, then, which I would argue against from the Text. A man may be very active and laborious for this world, may see and abhor the evils of sloth respecting temporal pursuits, and yet be himself slothful, with respect to his soul; and be devoured with the same tormenting fears and idle imaginations, that agitate others in their temporal business. There are many sluggards in religion. Many are brought to see something of their need of a change of state and heart : Their understanding is exercised about some of the great things of Christianity, and they may be
laborious in some lesser matters : But in really coming to Christ ; in denying themselves ; in crucifying the old man; in learning to love the Lord, and to long after the heavenly inheritance, they are slow and feeble. Here human nature, in its present fallen state, raises up difficulties in their way, which it does not raise up in things of a worldly or of an indifferent nature. Hence what we have said of idleness and its hedge of thorns, is peculiarly applicable to such souls.
By this time, then, we may form a distinct idea
of that which ought to be the object of our attention, for the remainder of this discourse. It is to show those who, through sloth, never yet began to be heartily religious, and those who once were heartily religious, but have relapsed into a slothful state, how and by what means they may be cured of this ruinous disorder of the soul.— The Lord grant it may be a word in season! True godliness will not thrive in a way
of sloth: And the cure of sloth is the cure of one of the most deadly maladies of the human soul.
That the subject may appear to advantage, let us first indulge the slothful soul in a short review of his difficulties. His fancy will do this work for him
time. That faculty is with him very laborious, however idle be his understanding, his heart, his hands, and his feet. “ True: I should be glad to escape the wrath to come: and I see a person like me, worldly-minded and enslaved by various lusts, can never arrive at heaven without a new heart. But what shall I do? I begin sometimes to pray, to read a good book, to watch my conduct more closely; but I find it hard and unpleasant work; and I am soon overcome again, if I gain a little ground now and then. My conscience is hence more uneasy than ever. I am discouraged by the view of exceedingly great difficulties ever before my eyes. If one be surmounted, others rise in their stead to torment me. These difficulties I cannot encounter. They prey on my soul continually. Other persons may succeed better than I, but they have not such hinderances, respecting their tempers and their situations in life, as I have. Moreover, if I ever make a little progress, and
then cease to advance, I always find I am in a worse state than if I had never begun. Others may talk of sweetness and delight in religion ; but I experience none. My lusts are so very craving, that they will not bear to be denied. You tell me of the necessity of certain duties ; how can I practise them when such thorny hedges are in the way?” Every slothful soul here present, can, if he please, adapt this general account to his own particular situation, and swell it out to an immense length. Let then the principle of Solomon, briefly set forth in the latter clause, “ the way of the righteous is made plain,” be applied to this case; and oh! may the slothful understand and be rouzed to profitable labour.
That a person may be delivered from a state of sloth and laziness, in the ways of God, it is neces-, sary that he should set out with faith in the divine promises. I do not mean here that “assurance of hope*,” and that joy of faith, which generally speaking, is not attained in the beginnings of real religion ; but I mean that faith of dependence by which the soul is animated with the expectation of success, though success be not yet attained. The language of such a soul is this : “admitting that I never yet had, to this hour, one grain of the faith of God's elect; that I have lived at enmity with my Maker, and am at this moment a child of wrath; yet even now the Lord willeth not the death of a sinner, but would rather he should turn from his wickedness and live. Where sin hath abounded, as in me, grace did much more abound. Jesus Christ gave himself a ransom for all, and his blood is able
* Heb. yi. 11.
to cleanse from all sin. He invites me, accordingly, to come unto him for life ; and the Father's record concerning him is true; that he “ hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” I will receive this testimony as true, and while I seek to have a particular application of his benefits to my own soul, will not doubt but that the Lord will grant it unto me. “I, indeed, am blind, poor, vile, filthy, unworthy, wretched, and corrupt in my will, and in all my faculties; nevertheless, I have, even now, the word of God's grace, in Christ Jesus, to rely upon. I will not then consider myself,—vile as I am,-in such a light, as to prevent me from trusting in this Saviour : I will not stagger at the promises of God, through unbelief; but give glory to God, believing that what he hath promised he is able to perform. Surely, the divine veracity requires this confidence, warrants this expectation, and gives me room to seek the Lord with a steady prospect of finding that peace, joy, and holiness which is promised."
Ye, whom sloth and deadness of spirit hinder from walking in God's ways, consider how the Lord, in mercy, requires you to begin; not by working with a formal and pharisaical spirit, in the hope of making satisfaction for past neglects, and of thereby meriting eternal salvation; but, by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, by receiving HIM in all his offices, and by relying on his merits for pardon, peace of conscience, and a title to eternal life; and also for strength to proceed in all manner of holiness and purity of living.--Your inability to labour needs be no impediment here. Apply to the great Physician of souls; he will, in due time, cure you of all your evils : And, if you so far understand the Gospel plan of salvation aright, as to put in practice this first direction against sloth, you will be already in the way of righteousness. You will find your selves taken out of the way of the slothful, which is
, as an hedge of thorns. Till guilt, slavish fear, and enmity of heart are expelled by faith, these will unite their efforts to keep you in a state of uneasy sloth and thorny inactivity. While unbelief makes you afraid of God, not daring to hope that he will be gracious to you, you hide yourselves from him as Adam did. But trust in his grace and power, and be much in prayer : With the Psalmist, entreat the Lord, that his loving Spirit would lead you“ forth into the land of righteousness.” Your prospects will then brighten : You will see God in Christ waiting to be gracious, loving, and kind to your soul; not, as you now, in slothful unbelief, deem him to be unmerciful and intending your destruction. The belief of this once settled in
your soul, will draw you out of a state of sloth, as sure as it is true that faith worketh by love. You will exclaim, “Shall I not seek the face of God?” when he saith, “ Seek ye my face, incline your ear and come unto me, eat ye that which is good, and I will make an everlasting covenant with you." « Fool that I am ! to be so backward to run with eager arms to embrace my best friend; to flee from vain unsatisfying pleasures to those which deserve the name.”—Thus faith, working by love, will deliver you from the way of the slothful; and this
; first direction being observed, you will profit by those that follow.