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God, in the Scriptures, doth frequently send us to learn our duty from the example of the beasts of the field, and of the fowls of heaven. Thus, ingratitude is reproved by the example of those animals which are accounted the most stupid and untractable, (Isaiah i. 3.) “ The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib; but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider." An inattention to the conduct of divine Providence, and a neglect of the proper seasons of activity, are in like manner condemned by the example of the fowls of hea. ven. “ The stork knoweth her appointed times, and the turtle, and the crane, and the swallow, observe the times of their coming; but my People (saith God) know not the judgment of the Lord,” Jerem. viii. 7. To cure us of excessive carefulness and anxiety, our Saviour sends us to “ consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap; they have neither storehouse nor barn; yet God fcedeth them: How much more," saith be, " are ye better than the fowls?” Luke xii. 24. And in my text, to cure us of negligence and sloth, Solomon sends us to a creature of the smallest size, but of most wonderful activity. Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: which, having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest."

In discoursing of these words, I will,

1st, Consider the character of the person whom the wise man bere addresses. And,

2dly, l'he counsel or advice which be gives him; and will then conclude with a practical improvement of the subject.

I begin with the character of the person to whom this adrice is addressed. “ Go to the ant," saith Solomon, ** thou sluggard :" and the character of the sluggard is

so minutely described in this book, and in the book of Ecclesiastes, that any of us may soon be acquainted with it.

Solomon observes in general, that sloth casteth into a deep sleep; and he represents the sluggard in this state in the verses immediately following my text. When it is said to him, “ How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep?" Instead of being affected with the just reproach, he begs earnestly for farther indulgence, “ Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep.” “ As the door turneth upon its hinges, so doth the slothful man upon his bed.” At length, when sleep itself hath become wearisome, and he hath risen from bis bed, he hath changed his situation only to give a new indulgence to his sloth. “ He bideth his hand in bis bosom,” and will not so much as “bring it to his mouth again." He spends his time in fruitless wishes : The soul of the sluggard "desireth and bath not.” To. morrow is always a day of labour, to-day is always spent in idleness : And thus the desire of the slothful killeth him, because his hands refuse to labour." He is discouraged by the least opposition: “ The way of the slothful man is as a hedge of thorns.” Every difficulty furnisheth him with an excuse for his idleness : “ The sluggard will not plough by reason of the cold.” Nay, rather than want an excuse, he creates imaginary dan." gers to himself: He saith, “ There is a lion without, I shall be slain in the streets." At length, “ By much slothfulness the building decays, and through the idleness of the bands the house droppeth through.”—“ His field and his vineyard are grown over with thorps : nettles cover the face thereof; and the stone-wall is broken down." Thus, “ Poverty cometh upon him like one

that travaileth, and his want as an armed man, till drowsiness at last clothes him with rags."

Such is the picture which Solomon draws of the sluggard; and the features are so strongly marked, that there is no room to doubt that it was drawn from the life.

Whether there are persons in the present state of society to whom all the parts of this character agree, is a question which every man will answer to himself, either from his knowledge or experience. The charge is indeed so complex, that it might be difficult perhaps to prove it in its full extent against any one individual.

We know well who they are whose hands refuse to labour, who are clothed with rags, and make poverty not only their complaint, but their argument. But though the idle vagrant is plainly described and condemned by these articles, there are other parts of the charge against which he might offer a plausible defence.

He might answer to the charge of excessive sleep, that he riseth as early, or at least is as soon abroad, as any from whom he can expect an alms: and that he is so far from hiding bis hand in his bosom, that he stretcheth it forth from morning to night, to levy contributions from every passenger he sees. Nay, to strengthen his defence, might he not argue, that as the Preacher was a king, per. sons of a higher rank were far more likely to be the objects of his attention, many of wbom eat the bread of idleness, and labour as little as the beggar? And as he speaks of fields and vineyards, that this shows him to have had sluggards of a superior order in his eye, who originally possessed some property, and held a station above the lower tribes of the people. By this defence, he will certainly elude some articles of the charge. Enough, however, will still remain to evince his right to the character in the text. And what he throws off from himself doth not fall to the ground, but will bear hard on the idle and voluptuous in the higher ranks of life. At the same time, there are some articles in the charge, to which those of a better station would no doubt object in their turn. They might attempt to evade the charge of sluggishness, by alleging, that though indeed they apply thelaselves to no active business or employment, yet the fatigues of dress, of ceremony, and of equipage; the anxities of gaming, and the attendance on fashionable amusements, render the pursuit of pleasure in the present age as toilsome and laborious as any mechanical employment whatsoever. And that so far from being clothed in rags, which Solomon makes the badge of a sluggard, the fact is, that Solomon himself, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of them.

Were this a controversy of any importance, it would be an easy matter to detect the fallacy of these reasonings, and to show, that the defences on both sides are weak and frivolous. But this would be an idle waste of time; for as neither of the parties can deny that some parts of the description apply to them, it is of little consequence to which of them the larger share of it belongs.

But sloth is not confined to the common affairs of life, nor the character of a sluggard to men in any particular station. There is sloth in religion as well as in common life; and the description in my text applies to all, without exception, who, however active and industrious in their secular employments, neglect the one thing needful, the care of their precious and immortal souls.

The laborious mechanic, the busy merchant, the painful student, and the bustling statesman, are all slaggards in a spiritual sense, unless they are active in the love and service of the God that made them; and unless the advancement of his glory, and the final enjoyment of his

favour, are the ends to which all their pursuits are directed.

Here we are only to sojourn for a short time. Our great Creator bath made us for higher occupations and better joys than the present world affords us. He hath formed us for the knowledge and enjoyment of himself in an eternal and unchangeable state, and hath instructed us bow we may attain this glorious object of our being. And therefore, however busy a man may be for himself, however industrious for his family, however active for the public; yet if all his views terminate in this present life, he is still a sluggard in the eye of God. For he who labours only for the meat that perisheth, doth as fatally counteract the end of his creation, as be that sleeps on the bed of sloth, or as he that fatigues himself in pursuing the vain and fugitive pleasures of this world. I will add, that even those who have chosen the better part, and who seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness in the first place, do often incur the imputation of sluggishness, by the omission or careless performance of what God hath required of them. For, alas! where is the man who doth 6 whatsoever his hand findeth to do" in the business of religion, “ with all his might?” Where is the man who “ strives," as in an agony (for so the original word imports) “to enter in at the strait gate?" or who "gives all diligence to make his calling and election sure?” We see much activity in the pursuits of the world; but a very small portion of it, indeed, in that pursuit which most requires and deserves it.

I may therefore venture to affirm, that there is not one in this assembly to whom my text is not addressed in one view or another. And, therefore, without questioning the propriety of the description, let us go on, as was proposed,

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