« PreviousContinue »
powers and capacities were given us, which were not meant to be exerted and improved. Even in the state of innocence man had his task assigned him, whilst the io, ferior animals were left to roam at large, without being accountable for their conduct. And as our natures are formed for action, so our inclination evidently prompts us to it. This is plain from the various methods by which those who will not labour endeavour to relieve them. selves from the oppressive load of idleness. Their time itself is a misery: and there is nothing so impertinent to which they will not fly, that they may be free of it. The burdens of the most laborious slaves are light, when compared with the burden which the sluggard carries about with him in an enfecbled body, and a vacant, discontented mind.
2dly. The sluggard sins against the manifest design of Providence. God hath indeed made a liberal provi. sion for the supply of all our returning wants. But he hath done this in a way that requires iudustry on our part, in order to render that provision effectual. The earth, by the blessing of God, is fruitful of berbs and grain for the use of man. But man must be careful to do his part in the labour of the field, that it may yield him a regular or a certain produce. The rough materials of all tbings necessary and convenient for the purposes of life are laid plentifully at our hands; but the skill and inilustry of the workmen must bring them into form, and render them fit for use. “ All things are full of labour.” Who then art thou, O sluggard, to counteract the de. signs both of Nature and of Providence?
But some may say, perhaps, We have nothing to do. Our wants are abundantly supplied from the patrimony which we have inherited; and nothing remains for us but to enjoy what we have. Do you then indeed believe,
that any human being can have a right to live idle on the earth ? If ye believe this, ye have yet to learn this fundamental principle of common sense, That all obli. gations are reciprocal. Ye sluggards, why cumber ye the ground ? Shall God give you all tbings richly to enjoy, and is there no active service which he requires of you ? Must the labour of the husbandman nourish, and the art of the manufacturer clothe you ? Must all ranks of men labour for your convenience; and are there no obligations which ye are bound to discharge to them in return for so many, and so important services ? For what end then do you live? Your being is an embarrassment and burden to the creation, “For if any man will not work, neither should be eat."-Once more, in the
3d place, The sluggard sins against the great design of the Gospel. For we have not only a Guide to instruct us, an Overseer to observe us, and a Judge to whom we are accountable; but we have also a great Redeemer, who shed bis blood for the ransom of our souls, and who gave himself for us, not to purchase our release from du- . ty, but to “purify unto himself a peculiar people, zeal. ous of good works." Christ spoiled principalities and powers," that we, being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before bim all the days of our lives." Let us hear and reverence the language of the Gospel. “ Ye are not your own : ye are bought with a price : therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling: for it is God that worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and
to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kind. ness charity. For so an entrance shall be ministered un. to you abundantly, into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."
Let us then be no longer “slothful in business, but fervent in spirit, serving the Lord." Amen.
JAMES iv. 13, 14, 15.
Go to now, ye that say, to-day or to-morrow we will go
into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain. Whereas ye konow not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? it is even a vapour that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the LORD will, we shall live, and do this or that.
TAE obvious design of this passage is to detect the fol. ly and presumption of those who lay schemes for futurity, without a proper acknowledgment of their dependance on the providence of God. The particular scheme, which the Apostle represents and condemns, is one of the most plausible that can well be imagined. A merchant resolves on a journey to some city, in which he can carry on bis trade to advantage. That he may lose no time, he saith, “ To-day," or, at farthest, "to-morrow, I will go into such a city, and coutinue there a year, and buy
and sell, and get gain." There is no intimation that he meant to enrich himself by fraud or extortion. The gain he had in view may be supposed to have been the profits of a fair and honourable commerce; tbe honest reward of his attention and diligence.
I apprehend that none of us would be greatly startled, thongh we should hear some of our friends talking in the manner which is here represented. There are few of us, perhaps, who have not on some occasions beld such a language, without suspecting that it was either presumptuous or wrong. In order, therefore, to discover what is faulty in it, and to enter into the spirit of this text, leť us examine with attention,
1st. The form of expression which the Apostle condemns. And,
2dly. The amendment which he suggests. And if it shall please God to afford us the assistance of his Spirit, I am persuaded that several remarks will occur to us in the course of this inquiry, which may be "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness." Let us then attend,
First. To the form of expression wbich the Apostle condemns. “Go to now, ye that say, to-day or to-morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain.”
In general, we may observe, that this language relates altogether to a worldly project. The principal object is gain : “not the true riches;" or " that good part" which shall never be taken from those who choose it; but the gain of this world, the gain which is acquired by buying and selling. They say nothing of the measure of gain that wonld satisfy them, and nothing of the use to which they meant to apply their wealth. For any thing that their expressions imply, their desires might be without
bounds, and their sole aim might be to "heap up silver as the dust, and fine gold as the mire of the streets;” or, in the language of Isaiah, “ to join house to house, and field to field, till they were placed alone in the midst of the earth.”
If this remark is just, we have already discovered one capital error in the expressions before us.—To seek gain by honest industry, either for the supply of our own wants, or to enable us to relieve the necessities of others, is not only lawful but honourable: But to seek wealth for its own sake, and merely for the sordid pleasure of possessing it, betrays a mean and selfish spirit, unwor. thy of a man, and much more unworthy of a Christian.
Supposing this then to be the end in view, there can be no doubt that it is in a high degree culpable. But as the Apostle is silent on this head, we shall admit, that the persons who bold the language before us, might intend to make a proper use of their riches, and proceed to examine the means by which they propose to obtain them. " To-day," say they, “or to-morrow, we will go into such a city." These words may pass in common conversation; but when we seriously weigh the import of them, as at present we are called to do, we shall find that they are chargeable both with folly and presumption.
The great Lord of all has no part in this scheme. These little arrogant words, WE WILL, thrust him out at once, and occupy his place. And for what do the persons here described undertake? They undertake, without hesitation, to insure their lives against death, their bodies against sickness, and their effects against every casualty or hazard. They speak of the morrow as if they had the absolute property of it. They promise themselves, that to morrow they sball not only be alive,