Page images

usefulness are afloat among us, and plans including, of necessity, so much of the exact machinery of worldly business!-the plea is a base mockery. Not know how to do good, in a world where evil and suffering present themselves through all the stages of life, from the feeblest infancy to the man of grey hairs, from the lowest pauper to the proudest noble!-who can believe it? Will it obtain credence in a dying hour, or at the bar of God? And as to avoiding all serious occupation, unless stimulated by the old inducement, filthy lucre, there is something in it so truly odious, as connected with a pretension to Christianity, that the man who has not been unfortunate enough to have seen such instances of miserable delusion may perhaps be excused in doubting their existence.

Let every man, then, to whom these remarks are applicable, examine those scriptures well which speak of the value of time, and of the account to be rendered concerning it. Happily, there are men possessing the talents by which fortunes are realized, who have learnt to deem it their imperative obligation, and their high privilege, to consecrate them daily to the cause of religion and humanity. And among those who are thus active and efficient as labourers in the vineyard of the church, are many who have been successful in their enterprises among the men of the world.

The unoccupied are also exposed to much danger from the slow, and almost imperceptible


manner, in which the habit of indolence and its attendant evils make their advances. An unemployed man is the same thing with an idle man, and idleness is not only a sin in itself, but one which must lead to others. We have remarked, in another place, on the connexion between indolence and insincerity; and have noticed its influence in disposing men to adopt corrupt views of the gospel. But these are not the only dangerous attendants on this vice. Justice was described by the ancients as having leaden feet and iron hands, slow in its progress, but resistless when it comes. It is much the same with idleness; it creeps on, as though a worm in feebleness, but secures every step it has gained as with a giant strength. Now this mixture of deceitfulness and power which belongs to the habit of indolence belongs equally to all those vices which are fostered by indolence, to that spirit of insincerity, that profane handling of the word of God, that fretfulness, that avarice, that sensuality, that hardness of heart,—in a word, to that irreligion, in all its forms, of which idleness is so commonly the parent and the nurse. These all creep on with the same apparent feebleness, and hold their place of influence, when obtained, with the same strong hand; they are as the blight by which the tree is deprived of its blossom, its bud, and, at length, of its very leaves and existence. The idler is a vicious man; and it is only by vicious reasoning, and a vicious interpretation of holy scripture, that he can soothe his

conscience, or at all justify his ways. He has no grave duties to occupy him; and by his restlessness, and sometimes by his ill-humour, about the veriest trifles, he gradually becomes an annoyance to himself and to all about him. He has done with getting money; and that very thought perhaps constrains him to attach an idolatrous value to what he has secured. The day sometimes passes heavily along, and tempts him to luxuriate at the table, and tarry at the wine; and as the habits of a man centre thus in himself, the less can he think of others, and the harder must his heart grow. Thus the individual who lives without an object, is in danger of living to many vices, and is in especial peril from the insidious manner in which these evils make their advances. They may be sometimes seen extending their gloomy and withering power by steps as slow, and yet as regular, as those of the evening shadows, or as the approach of winter. The space allotted to sleep, and lounging, is gradually increased; while that assigned to private devotion, domestic religion, or public duty, is in the same proportion lessened. The services of the sanctuary are less valued, less attended, and more frequently a topic of complaint. Christians are regarded with less affection, and less candour; are exposed to many injurious insinuations, sometimes to loud and unmerited censures. The scale of contribution to religious or charitable objects is gradually contracted; and the scale of expense, in some other respects, is

perhaps in the same degree enlarged. One indulgence is followed by another still more dangerous, and one excuse by another still more futile, until the mind becomes the place of all selfishness, and of all subtlety. No care has been taken to make the good seed grow, and the bad has come up in its room; the soil would bear something, and, wickedly neglected, it has borne the weed, the thorn, and the brier. This was the main occasion of those iniquities which brought the judgment from heaven on the cities of the plain-pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness.

It is delightful to know that there are Christians who obtain grace to withstand these dangers. There are others, however, who, though not overpowered by them, still suffer very seriously from them; and, unhappily, there are those who are no sooner placed within the vortex adverted to, than they show their total want of that strength of principle which could alone enable them to stand in the evil day. The intoxicating cup approaches them; and, though they perish, they will drink of it.

It follows, that we cannot too gravely consider the various motives which should induce the unoccupied to guard against the perils of their circumstances. Such persons are expected to become blessings to the church, and to the world; and the motives which should lead to this end, will assuredly possess a marked influence over us in

proportion as we are Christians. Can we meditate on the example of Christ, as enforcing benevolent activity, and not be moved by it? There was no necessity resting on him to become active on our behalf; no evil, no defectiveness of character, could have been proved against him, if he had chosen to remain for ever in that rest and glory which he had with the Father before the world was; yet he came to the earth in the form of a servant, and went about doing good, accomplishing his generous errand by means of industry almost incredible, and in the midst of sufferings much beyond our understanding. He was rich, and for our sakes became poor; infinitely happy, and for our cause became a man of sorrows; the Prince of Life, and, that he might befriend us, deigned to be numbered with the dead. To do good was evidently dearer to him than the kingdoms of the earth, or the glories of heaven, dearer than repose, or honour, or even life itself. Away, then, with that device, which would tell a selfish useless professor that he may, by possibility, be a Christian.

But, if the example of Christ can teach thus powerfully, what shall we say of his gifts-the blessings of his salvation? Of these, no tongue can adequately speak, no mind conceive. They embrace a deliverance from infinite evil, the possession of infinite good; a claim upon the kingdom of heaven, in virtue of the Saviour's righteousness, and a fitness for the enjoyment of it by means

« PreviousContinue »