The slacker craves, yet gets nothing, but the soul of the diligent is fully satisfied.
I. THE WORTH OF THIS WORLD'S GOODS IS ASSUMED. It is needless to show that property is a necessary institution of life under present conditions. All the strong things said in the gospel about riches do not dispute their value; it is in the relation of the spirit to them that evil arises. Their value as a means to the ends of the spirit is unquestioned, and everywhere assumed.
II. THE VANITY OF RICHES WITHOUT CORRESPONDING ACTION. Wishes are a great force in our nature (compare Mozley's sermon on the 'Power of Wishes'). Still, they have no practical effect unless they are transformed into will and into exertion of means to an end. It is the very characteristic of the fool that his mind evaporates in wishes; he is always desiring, but never at the pains to get anything. He is always idly expecting something to "turn up." This is a sheer superstition, a sort of clinging to the magical belief that the course of nature can be altered for one's private benefit. The lesson is, of course, equally applicable to higher things. "He would lain go to heaven if a morning dream would carry him there." He wishes to be good, to die the death of the righteous, but, at the same time, to continue in a way of life that can lead neither to the one nor to the other. Hell is paved with good intentions.
III. THE SECRET OF PROSPERITY IS DILIGENCE. Here desire is united with exertion, and it is an almost irresistible combination, as the careers of men who have risen constantly show. To conceive a good thing with such is to desire it; to desire it is to begin at once to work for it. This course must bring "rich satisfaction" - the satisfaction, by no means the least, of the pursuit, and the satisfaction in the end of entire or partial fruition. And so in moral and spiritual progress. We cannot overcome our weaknesses and sins by direct resistance, but we may react upon them by filling the mind with profitable matter of thought. The rich satisfaction depends in every case upon the same law; the personal energies must be aroused, and an object must be aimed at. Satisfaction is the complete joy of the mind in closing with and possessing a worthy and desirable object.
IV. THE CONCEIT OF RICHES IS NOT REAL RICHES. (Ver. 7; comp. Proverbs 12:9.) The saying may he directed against the foolish pride of birth and ostentation without anything real to back it up. It strikes a common vice of modern times - the aim to keep up appearances, and to pass for something greater in position than one really is. The contrasted example teaches the lesson of preferring the substance to the show, of being willing to appear much less than one is. And so in higher matters; take care to be what is sound and good in principle, and the seeming may be left for the most part to take care of itself. No appearances deceive God, and nothing that is real escapes him.
V. THE PRACTICAL SERVICE OF RICHES. (Ver. 8.) They may provide a ransom from captivity, from penal judgment, from the hand of robbers. Their power to procure deliverances from the evils of life is much wider in the present day. The poor man, on the contrary, "listens to no rebuke," i.e. no threats can extort from him what he has not got. He is helpless for want of means. A lesson not often taught from the pulpit, and perhaps not needed for the majority - prudent regard to the possible advantages of money, stimulating to industry in the quest for it. Still, some do need the lesson. And the Bible has no affectation of a false contempt for the means of living. Business men should be encouraged in their pursuit of wealth, and guided in their application of it.
VI. WEALTH ONLY PERMANENT WHEN WELL-GOTTEN. (Ver. 11.) Perhaps the, translation to be preferred is, "Swindled wealth becomes small." Hastily gotten generally means hastily spent. And dishonest gain burns the fingers. How often do we see a feverish passion for spending going hand in hand with unlawful or unhealthy getting! A healthy acquisition of wealth is gradual, and the result of steady industry. Rapid fortune making, or sudden "strokes of luck," are certainly not to be envied in view of the good of the soul.
1. Wealth is a good in itself. When we speak of it as an evil, we are using a certain figure of speech; for the evil is in the false relation of the soul to this as to other earthly objects.
2. In the desires that relate to wealth, their proper control and direction, the moral discipline probably of the majority must ever lie.
3. Safety is to be found in the religious habit, which sees in earthly objects good only as they can be connected with that which is beyond themselves, and is Divine and eternal. - J.
The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat
I. THE NATURE AND EFFECTS OF SLOTH. The slothful man wants to attain the end without the use of the proper means. He would be rich without labour, learned without study, and respected without doing anything to deserve respect. This desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour. Such persons waste their days in forming idle schemes and vain wishes. The consequences are often very terrible. They become a plague and a burden to all who are connected with them. They frequently injure their best friends, prey upon the property of others, and bring disgrace and ruin upon their dearest earthly connections. Our land, all our lands, abound with such drones. Slothfulness also gives birth to envy, discontent, fraud, lying, and almost every other evil work. In whatever situation of life a slothful person is fixed, he will, from this disposition, fall into some destructive vice, and become miserable in himself and mischievous to others. A sluggard, whatever he may profess, cannot be a truly religious person, or possessed of those graces which form the character of a member of Christ and a child of God. The sluggard may desire the good things of religion, but as he will not use the means for attaining them, he "desires, and has nothing." God will be found only of them who diligently seek Him. A slothful disposition is so pernicious in its nature and effects that wherever it reigns and has the dominion, it must debase a person's character and pervert the end for which he was sent into the world.
II. THE NATURE AND EFFECTS OF INDUSTRY. Plenty and comfort are, in general, the consequences of diligence, both in our temporal and spiritual calling. Whatever may be a person's rank or circumstances, the providence of God has given him something to do. The sober and industrious are the glory and strength of every nation. And the industrious disposition is a great preservative against vice. Those who are trained up to honest labour and habits of industry seldom fall into those criminal excesses to which the slothful are prone. The most salutary effects of diligence are seen in religion. The diligent use of all appointed means of grace is crowned with the Divine blessing. These are the persons who have always done the most good in the world, and whom God and men have delighted to honour. There may, of course, be exceptions to the general rule. Would you, then, provide things honest in the sight of all men, pursue your profession with success, maintain yourselves and your families, and become easy in your circumstances, you must be sober and industrious, diligent and laborious. And so you must be if you would enjoy the peace and blessing of God. Some may from this learn the true reason of their embarrassments. They have spent themselves in wishing, not in working.
(Edwin Harwood, D.D.)
I. WHAT ARE THE SEVERAL THINGS WHICH ARE IMPLIED IN TRUE DILIGENCE?
1. Diligence includes the employment of every part of our time in proper business. This is opposed to sauntering life away; to trifling, or doing what is to no purpose; and to mistiming the businesses which are to be done.
2. Diligence includes earliness — in opposition to delay. The early man shows that his heart is in his work. If we begin betimes the service of the day, we happily provide against hindrances, and we are not in danger of being thrown into a hurry by accidental avocations.
3. Diligence implies activity and vigour. Lazy wishes will neither perform work nor obtain a blessing. What poor work doth a Christian make who is cold, indifferent, slothful in the things which concern his soul and salvation!
4. Diligence implies watchfulness — in opposition to a drowsy, heedless temper, a thoughtless security of soul. We must be awake to seize all advantages for our work, as well as to guard against surprises and dangers.
5. Diligence implies a constancy in our work — in opposition to looking back, and perpetual avocation by diversions and pleasures.
6. Another thing implied in true diligence is, firmness and resolution in our labour — in opposition to all the difficulties which attend our work. If we are frighted at every shadow of difficulty, we shall never fulfil our service, nor perfect our design.
7. There is also implied perseverance — in opposition to fainting and weariness. It is the end that crowns all.
II. THE BLESSINGS WHICH ATTEND DILIGENCE IN A COURSE OF VIRTUE AND GOODNESS.
1. Diligence hath a natural tendency to success and to obtain the good things we seek.
2. Diligence hath the rich and special promises of a faithful God to encourage its hope.
3. Diligence and industry are a happy guard against snares and temptations of every kind. When the devil finds you idle, he hath a proper moment to assault you with some powerful temptation.
4. Diligence is always making a progress towards its designed end, but the slothful man is in great danger of going backward. The gardener who neglects his daily work will soon find the ground overrun with weeds.
5. The diligent Christian is a most useful person in the world. He does the most good himself, and becomes an excellent example to all that are round about him.
6. The diligent Christian finishes his work with peace, hope, and joy. He will review his conduct and his labours with an inward satisfaction and a sacred pleasure of soul. Let us dread the curse of the wicked and slothful servant.
( Isaac Watts, D.D.)
Homilist.I. SOUL-CRAVING IS COMMON TO ALL. Souls have a hunger as well as bodies, and the hunger of the soul is a much more serious thing. What is the ennui that makes miserable the rich but the unsatisfied hunger of the soul?
1. The hunger of the soul, as well as the hunger of the body, implies the existence of food somewhere.
2. The unsatisfied hunger of the soul as well as the body is painful and ruinous.
II. SOUL-CRAVING CAN BE ALLAYED ONLY BY LABOUR.
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