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thorough conviction, that all of us pass evidently the disposition of a slavish and too slightly over our omissions, even in mercenary mind? You do no more in the the most serious review which we take of service of God than you suppose to be neour conduct. We are, alas! too fruitful cessary, in order to escape eternal misery; in excuses, and too ready to gloss over and this is the only consideration which deour most culpable neglects, with the spe- ters you from open transgressions of his cious color of ignorance or incapacity. law. You have therefore no regard for him, But God, to whom the night shineth as but only a concern for your own safety. the day, knows the conviction of mind Your plan of conduct is to offend God as against which we sin ; and our most dex- far as you can, without incurring his venterous arts of concealment cannot screen geance : So that any appearance of goodus from his penetrating eye. A just im- ness about you is nothing more than the pression of this would prevent many fatal effect of a natural timidity. Do ye thus mistakes in our conduct.
requite the Lord, O foolish people and I have now, for example, an oppor- unwise? Doth his goodness challenge no tunity of doing good; and my conscience better return from you, than merely to retells me, that I ought to improve it. On frain from acts of open rebellion against the other hand, I have many strong temp. him ? Consider, I beseech you, the basetations to neglect it. It would put me to ness and ingratitude of this conduct; and too much cost or trouble; it would involve if your hearts retain any spark of inme in a train of action against which my genuity, you will surely be persuaded to indolence revolts; or it would divert me yield him a more faithful and generous from other employments more agreeable service in time to come. But, to my inclination. On which side shall I 2dly. This subject administers reproof resolve ? May I not so manage it that also to the slothful and inactive servant, the neglect shall escape the observation who rests contented with low attainments of my neighbor ? Or if he should per- in religion. You perhaps flatter yourself, ceive it, may I not put a good face upon that although you are remiss in seeking it, and find out some excuse to save me out opportunities of doing good, yet you from his censure ? Ah! but here is the are not unfaithful to any known obligacheck. The Searcher of hearts knows my tion. But in this case you greatly deceive present conviction. In vain shall I at- yourself. For is it not a known obligatempt to prevaricate with him. I may tion, that we should aim at as much perelude the censure of man; but I never fection as we are capable of attaining ? can escape the just judgment of that God But you have renounced this desire altowho is greater than my heart, and know-gether. In other words, you have deeth all things. Such reasoning as this, if liberately left off that work to which our it were once become habitual to us, would Saviour hath expressly commanded us to be'a constant and powerful incitement to devote ourselves. For, are not these his all holy obedience; and would prevent the words ? “ Be ye perfect, even as your deep guilt of neglecting to do good, even Father who is in heaven is perfect.” when we know the extent and obligation Once more, of the law of God, and are convinced that What hath been said on this subject it is our duty to comply with it.
ought to quicken the zeal and activity Having thus endeavored to illustrate even of those who have made the greatest and confirm the two propositions contain- progress in the good ways of God. ed in my text, I proceed now to the prac- The declining state of religion calls tical improvement of the subject. And, loudly on all who are its real friends, to
1st. This subject administers a sharp exert themselves to the utmost, in order reproof to those who, in any case, attempt to revive its influence in the world. Noto evade their convictions of duty. “ To thing, be assured, will be so effectual him that knoweth to do good,” saith the for accomplishing this desirable object, as apostle, “and doth it not, to him it is the bright and exemplary lives of prosin.” For, consider what kind of dispo- fessing Christians. Are you then zealous sition this conduct betrays. Is it not for the glory of God ? be " zealous of
THE ANT AN INSTRUCTOR.
good works." Let it
SERMON XLI. ligion gives authority to your conscience, by your being more just, and humane, and generous than other men. "Ye are the salt of the earth, ye are the light of the PROVERBS VI. 6, 7, 8.—“Go to the Ant, thou world." Your divine Master hath in
Sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:
which, having no guide, overseer, or ruler, trusted you with the honor of that reli
provideth her meat in the summer, and gion which he taught on earth, and ex- gathereth her food in the harvest.' pects that you should display it in an amiable light. But surely a mere nega- Man was created with more understandtive degree of virtue will never convince ing than the beasts of the earth : But our men that your principles have any ex- minds are so debased by our apostasy from cellence superior to their own; and that God, that the meanest creatures may beprofessing Christians satisfy themselves come our teachers. And accordingly, the with a virtue of this sort, is, I am afraid, Spirit of God, in the Scriptures, doth in no small degree, the cause to which the frequently send us to learn our duty rapid growth of infidelity in these times from the example of the beasts of the must be ascribed.
field, and of the fowls of heaven. Thus, If this is at all the fact, doth it not ingratitude is reproved by the example afford us a subject of the most serious of those animals which are accounted lamentation ? "It is impossible but that the most stupid and intractable, (Isaiah offences will come, but woe unto him i. 3.)
6. The ox knoweth his owner, through whom they come. It were better and the ass his master's crib; but for him that a millstone were hanged Israel doth not know, my people doth not about his neck, and he cast into the sea. » consider." An inattention to the conduct O then, study to adorn the doctrine of of divine Providence, and a neglect of the God your Saviour in all things. “Let proper seasons of activity, are in like manyour light so shine before men, that they ner condemned by the example of the may see your good works, and glorify your fowls of heaven. " The stork knoweth Father which is in heaven." “Whatso- her appointed times, and the turtle, and ever things are true, whatsoever things the crane, and the swallow, observe the are honest, whatsoever things are just, times of their coming; but my people whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever (saith God) know not the judgment of the things are lovely, whatsoever things are of Lord." Jerem. viii. 7. To cure us of exgood report, if there be any virtue, and cessive carefulness and anxiety, our Savif there be any praise, think on these iour sends us to “ consider the ravens things," and do them. This will admin. they neither sow nor reap; they have neiister to you true pleasure in life, and solid ther storehouse nor barn; yet God feedeth. hope in death; and hereafter the sound them: How much more," saith he,” “are of the last trumpet, the terror of the neg- ye better than the fowls ? " Luke xii. 24. ligent and unfaithful servant, will be the And in my text, to cure us of neglitriumphant signal of your release from gence and sloth, Solomon sends us to a the
grave, and the summons of your Lord creature of the smallest size, but of most to enter into his joy. Amen.
6 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 here addresses. And,
2dly. The counsel or advice which he gives him; and will then conclude with.
a practical improvement of the subject..
I BEGIN with the character of the per- / room to doubt that it was drawn from son to whom this advice is addressed the life. "Go to the ant,” saith Solomon, “thou Whether there are persons in the presluggard : " and the character of the slug- sent state of society to whom all the parts gard is so minutely described in this book, of this character agree, is a question and in the book of Ecclesiastes, that any which every man will answer to himself, of us may soon be acquainted with it. either from his knowledge or experience.
Solomon observes in general, that sloth The charge is indeed so comples, that it casteth into a deep sleep, and he represents might be difficult perhaps to prove it in the sluggard in this state in the verses its full extent against any one individual. immediately following my text. When it We know well who they are whose is said to him, " How long wilt thou sleep, hands refuse to labor, who are clothed O sluggard ? when wilt thou arise out of with rags, and make poverty not only thy sleep?" Instead of being affected their complaint, but their argument. But with the just reproach, he begs earnestly though the idle vagrant is plainly defor farther indulgence, “Yet a little scribed and condemned by these articles, sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of there are other parts of the charge against the hands to sleep." " As the door turn- which he might offer a plausible defence. eth upon its hinges, so doth the slothful He might answer to the charge of exman upon his bed.” At length, when cessive sleep, that he riseth as early, or sleep itself hath become wearisome, and at least is as soon abroad, as any from he hath risen from his bed, he hath whom he can expect an alms : and that changed his situation only to give a new he is so far from hiding his hand in his indulgence to his sloth. “ He hideth his bosom, that he stretcheth it forth from hand in his bosom," and will not so morning to night, to levy contributions much as "bring it to his mouth again." from every passenger he sees. Nay, to He spends his time in fruitless wishes : strengthen his defence, might he not arThe soul of the sluggard “desireth and gue, that as the Preacher was a king, hath not.” To-morrow is always a day persons of a higher rank were far more of labor, to-day is always spent in idle- likely to be the objects of his attention, ness : And thus “the desire of the sloth- many of whom eat the bread of idleness, ful killeth him, because his hands refuse and labor as little as the beggar ? And as to labor.” He is discouraged by the he speaks of fields and vineyards, that this least opposition; “ The way of the sloth- shows him to have had sluggards of a sufull man is as a hedge of thorns.” Every perior order in his eye, who originally difficulty furnisheth him with an excuse possessed some property, and a station for his idleness : “ The sluggard will not above the lower tribes of the people. By plough by reason of the cold.” Nay, this defence, he will certainly elude some rather than want an excuse, he creates articles of the charge. Enough, however, imaginary dangers to himself: he saith will still remain to evince his right to the “There is a lion without, I shall be slain character in the text. And what he in the streets." At length, “ By much throws off from himself doth not fall to the slothfulness the building decays, and ground, but will bear hard on the idle through the idleness of the hands the house and voluptuous in the higher ranks of life. droppeth through.” “ His field and his At the same time, there are some articles vineyard are grown over with thorns: net- in the charge, to which those of a better tles cover the face thereof; and the stone station would no doubt object in their wall is broken down." Thus, “ Poverty turn. They might attempt to evade the cometh upon him like one that travaileth, charge of sluggishness, by alleging, that and his want as an armed man, till drow- though indeed they apply themselves to no siness at last clothes him with rags.” active business or employment, yet the
Such is the picture which Solomon fatigues of dress, of ceremony, and equidraws of the sluggard; and the features page; the anxieties of gaming, and the atare so strongly marked, that there is no tendance on fashionable amusements, ren.
der the pursuit of pleasure in the present (vain and fugitive pleasures of this world. age as toilsome and laborious as any me. I will add, that even those who have chosen chanical employment whatsoever. And the better part, and who seek the kingdom that so far from being clothed in rags, of God and his righteousness in the first which Solomon makes the badge of a slug place, do often incur the imputation of gard, the fact is, that Solomon himself, in sluggishness, by the omission or careless all his glory, was not arrayed like one of performance of what God hath required of them.
them. For, alas ! where is the man who Were this a controversy of any impor- doth “whatsoever his hand findeth to do" tance, it would be an easy matter to detect in the business of religion, “ with all his the fallacy of these reasonings, and to might?” Where is the man who "strives," show, that the defences on both sides are as in an agony (for so the original word weak and frivolous. But this would be an imports) “to enter in at the strait gate? idle waste of time; for as neither of the or who“ gives all diligence to make his parties can deny that some parts of the calling and election sure ? " description apply to them, it is of little much activity in the pursuits of the world; consequence to which of them the larger but a very small portion of it, indeed, in share of it belongs.
that pursuit which most requires and deBut sloth is not confined to the com- serves it. mon affairs of life, nor the character of a I
may therefore venture to affirm, that sluggard to men in any particular station. there is not one in this assembly to whom There is sloth in religion as well as in my text is not addressed in one view or common life; and the description in my another. And, therefore, without questext applies to all, without exception, tioning the propriety of the description, who, however active and industrious in let us go on, as was proposed, their secular employments, neglect the Secondly. To consider the counsel or one thing needful, the care of their pre advice which the wise man hath given us: cious and immortal souls.
“Go to the ant, thou sluggard ; consider The laborious mechanic, the busy mer- her ways, and be wise; which, having no chant, the painful student, and the bust- guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her ling statesman, are all sluggards in a meat in the summer, and gathereth her spiritual sense, unless they are active in food in the harvest.” the love and service of the God that He directs us to a creature, indeed, of made them; and unless the advancement the most diminutive size and appearance, of his glory, and the final enjoyment of but whose sagacity and unremitting achis favor, are the ends to which all their tivity strike the eye of every beholder. pursuits are directed.
The ant instructeth us, not by speech, but Here we are only to sojourn for a short by actions; and therefore we are called time. Our great Creator hath made us upon " to consider her ways;" how she for higher occupations and better joys is employed, and for what end she is acthan the present world affords us. He tive : not merely that we may gratify our hath formed us for the knowledge and en- curiosity, or even extend our knowledge joyment of himself in an eternal and un- of the natural world; but that we may changeable state, and hath instructed us become wiser and better. The wisdom how we may attain this glorious object of we learn from the ant is the wisdom of our being. And therefore, however busy living well: the wisdom of acting suitably a man may be for himself, however indus- to our superior nature, and our glorious trious for his family, however active for hopes. the public; yet if all his views terminate There are three very important lessons in this present life, he is still a sluggard which we learn from the conduct of the in the eye of God. For he who labors ant. The only for the meat that perisheth, doth as 1st is, A foresight and sagacity in fatally counteract the end of his creation, making provision for the time to come. as he that sleeps on the bed of sloth, or as The ant gathereth more than she hath he that fatigues himself in pursuing the present occasion for; and in the summer and harvest lays up a store for the ap- knows that it will be effectual. Unlike to proaching winter. Thus she arms herself man, whose folly prompts him to neglect against the rigors of the inclement season; the season in which his talents might be and whilst the grasshoppers, that sung and usefully employed, till he hath lost it for sported in the summer and harvest: nay, ever; and who spends on trifles the day whilst many creatures of larger size and of his merciful visitation, till the things greater strength, perish for want of food, which belong to his peace are for ever hid she lives on the fruits of her industry, and from his eyes. reaps the reward of her care and provi- All this foresight, diligence, and sagadence. Othat this wisdom were more city, the ant employs by an instinct of common among men ! and that we could nature, untutored and unawed. She hath be persuaded, while the season of action neither guide, overseer, nor judge : There lasts, to “lay up in store for ourselves a is none to go before and mark out her good foundation against the time to come, task; none to superintend and prompt her while the evil days come not, nor the to her labor; none to require an account years draw nigh, when we shall say we of her industry, or to punish her either have no pleasure in them." How dreary for her neglect or miscarriages. This must the winter of life be, when the pre- circumstance the wise man mentions with vious seasons have been passed in sloth, in a peculiar emphasis, on purpose to draw idleness, or in folly; when the body lan- the sluggard's attention to it. For surely guishes under poverty and wretchedness; nothing can be suggested of greater force or when the mind, unfurnished with know- and efficacy to rouse him from his lethargy, ledge, and virtue, and faith, and devotion, and to convince him that his sloth is not sojourns in a crazy tabernacle, tottering to only criminal, but without excuse. the dust ? A
The ant hath no guide; but we, my 2d lesson to be learned from the con- brethren, have many guides. " There is duct of the ant is activity and diligence. a spirit in man, and the inspiration of the The ant never intermits her labors as long Almighty giveth them understanding." as the season lasts. In summer, when the Our Maker hath endued us with reasonweather is hottest, at sultry noon, as well able souls, capable of discerning betwixt as in the cool of the morning and of the good and evil. He hath favored us with evening, this busy creature is continually a complete revelation of his will, and hath in motion, either seeking her food abroad, showed us “what is good, and what the or disposing it in her cells at home. Nay, Lord our God requireth of us. her labors end not with the day, but, as law of the Lord is perfect, converting the naturalists have observed, she often takes soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, the benefit of the moon, and plies her making wise the simple.” He hath sent work with a surprising alacrity. Happy his Son into the world to show us the were it for man, that he as faithfully em- path of life, not only by his doctrine, but ployed that precious time which is given by his example too. And he offers us his him, either to render himself useful in this Spirit, to lead us into all truth, to open world, or to prepare for eternity. Then our eyes, and to turn us from darkness to would he not be seen encroaching on the light, by taking of the things of Christ, day by sloth, nor turning it into night by and showing them unto us.
He hath asintemperance and riot. The
sured us of his willingness to assist and to 3.1 lesson which we learn from the con- guide us. "If any man lack wisdom, let duct of the ant is sagacity in making use him ask it of God, who giveth to all men of the proper season for activity. Oppor- liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall tunity is the flower of time; or it is the be given him." If men therefore are most precious part of it, which if once lost sluggards, and loiter in their work, they
This the ant knoweth can neither pretend ignorance of their how to seize with admirable skill. She duty, nor the want of a guide to direct goeth forth in quest of food when it can them in it. be had with ease and certainty : She em- Again, the ant “hath no overseer; ploys her labor at the time when she but man acts under the immediate inspec
may never return.