For even while we were with you, we gave you this command: "If anyone is unwilling to work, he shall not eat."
I. IT INJURES THE RECIPIENT. Thus paupers are bred and multiplied.
1. The sin of idleness is encouraged; for idleness is a sin. Those who encourage it will have to bear part of the guilt of it.
2. The indolent are tempted to many vices. The idle members of the Church gave to the Thessalonians the greatest trouble. Work is a moral antiseptic.
3. Independence is destroyed. The able-bodied pauper is quite unmanned by the loss of his independence. There was some sense in those stern old Elizabethan laws against sturdy beggars and vagrants.
II. IT INJURES THE GIVER.
1. Where public funds are thus misappropriated, an injustice is done to those who contribute to them. We do not pay poor rates in order to encourage idleness, nor do we give communion offerings for that unworthy object. District visitors who have the administration of moneys subscribed by other people should remember this, and not permit soft-heartedness to oust justice.
2. Where only private benevolence is concerned, the heart is hardened in the end by the sight of the abuse of charity.
III. IT INJURES THE TRULY NEEDY. We take the children's bread and give it to dogs, and the children starve. The idlers are the most clamorous for assistance, while the deserving are the most backward to make their wants known. Suffering in silence, they are often neglected, because greedy, worthless persons step in first and ravage the small heritage of the poor.
IV. IT INJURES THE COMMUNITY.
1. It discourages industry generally. Not only are the idle encouraged in their discreditable way of living, but a tax is put upon industry, and men do not feel so strongly inclined to work honestly for their daily bread.
2. It propagates the worst class of society. The idle part of the population of great cities are the canker of civilization. There vice and crime breed most freely. It is the law of England that no man need starve. But it is right and necessary that when the state gives bread it should compel labour - i.e., of course, if there is health for work. Idleness is the curse of the East; Syrian felahin will sit to reap their corn. Wise Christians will ever protest against this fatal vice, and all who administer Church funds should feel a heavy responsibility resting upon them to guard against increasing it by well meant but foolish doles of charity. - W.F.A.
We commanded you that if any man would not work, neither should he eat
I. THE IRRATIONAL CREATION.
1. The inanimate creation is God's great chemical laboratory.
2. His animated creation is one enormous factory where the law of labour is rigidly enforced, from the royal eagle to the meanest reptile. The swallows skimming round us seem to be only sporting in the air. In reality they are working for their food, opening their beaks as they fly, and carrying home insects to their young. How many miles daily does a sheep walk to get its living? Look into the insect world (Proverbs 6:6; Proverbs 30:24) at the ant hills, spider's webs, coral reefs, marvels of scientific, artistic, and laborious industry. The law everywhere is — no work, no life.
II. THE SPIRITUAL LIFE OF MAN.
1. Here we might imagine that another great law meets us in opposition — the law of grace. Scripture teaches us that we are saved not by our own endeavours but by God's free and unmerited mercy. May we then lie down in antinomian security? That moment we cease to live. Antinomianism is spiritual suicide. Hear the word of God: "Agonize to enter into the strait gate." "Labour for the meat which endureth," etc. How is a Christian described? As a soldier, husbandman, pilgrim, and by other figures, every one of which implies exertion of the most strenuous character. Every promise is held out to the energetic; and not only so, but the result is proportionate. "The diligent soul shall be made fat." The more we pray and toil, the richer will be our present harvest in peace of conscience, the sense of pardoning love, and in the world to come eternal glory.
2. And if this be true individually in what we have to do in working out our own salvation, how much more in our labours of love. Here nothing is done without toil. You need but look at all the benevolent institutions of the country to see that no real good is done without trouble.
III. MAN IN HIS NATURAL STATE. Work was the law of Paradise; it only became a painful one after the fail. From the moment of its utterance, "By the sweat of thy brow," this law has ruled all human life. There is not a man who has attained to eminence save in obedience to it. In our country, whose distinction is that the paths of fame and wealth are open to the meanest, it is a fact that the vast majority of our greatest men in Parliament, the army, science, the law, the Church, have sprung from the lower or middle classes. It is not the poor mechanic only, but all must work or die. But what about the born wealthy? Well, that is the result of their ancestor's labour. It did not originally come by chance or fortune. And even those who are under no obligation to toil for their daily bread are obliged to have recourse either to it or to artificial labour in travel or sport to maintain their health and save their life.
(H. O. Mackay.)
(R. S. Barrett.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(H. O. Mackay.)
(J. L. Nye.)
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