Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;
I. THIS PRECEPT IS VIOLATED —
1. By those who have no business at all. You may have seen attached to an inundated reef in the sea, a creature rooted to the rock as a plant might be, and twirling its long tentacula as an animal would do. This plant-animal's life is somewhat monotonous, for it has nothing to do but grow and twirl its feelers, float in the tide, or fold itself up on its foot-stalk when that tide has receded, for months and years together. But what greater variety marks your existence? Does not one day float over you like another, just as the tide floats over it, and find you vegetating still? Are you more useful? What real service to others did you render yesterday? And what higher end in living have you than that polypus? You go through certain mechanical routines of rising, dressing, visiting, dining, and going to sleep again; and are a little roused by the arrival of a friend, or the effort needed to write some note of ceremony. But as it curtseys in the waves, and vibrates its exploring arms, and gorges some dainty medusa, the sea-anemone goes through nearly the same round. Is this a life for a rational and responsible creature to lead?
2. By those who are diligent in trifles — whose activity is a busy idleness. Fancy this time that instead of a polypus you were changed into a swallow. There you have a creature abundantly busy. Notice how he pays his morning visits, alighting elegantly on some house-top, and twittering politely to the swallow by his side, and then away to call for his friend at the castle. And now he is gone upon his travels, gone to spend the winter at Rome or Naples, or perform some more recherche pilgrimage. And when he comes home next April, sure enough he has been abroad — charming climate — highly delighted with the cicadas in Italy, and the bees on Hymettus — locusts in Africa rather scarce this season; but upon the whole much pleased with his trip, and returned in high health and spirits. Now this is a very proper life for a swallow; but is it a life for you? Though the trifler does not chronicle his own vain words and wasted hours, they are noted in the memory of God. And when he looks back to the long pilgrimage, what anguish will it move to think that he has gamboled through such a world without salvation to himself, without any real benefit to his brethren.
3. By those who have proper business, but —
(1) Are slothful in it. There are some persons of a dull and languid turn. They trail sluggishly through life, as if some adhesive slime were clogging every movement, and making their snail-path a waste of their very substance. They do nothing with healthy alacrity. Having no wholesome love to work, they do everything grudgingly, superficially, and at the latest moment.
(2) Others there are who are a sort of perpetual somnambulists: not able to find their work, or when they have found it, not able to find their hands; too late for everything, taking their passage when the ship has sailed, locking the door when the goods are stolen.
(3) Besides these there is the day-dreamer. With a foot on either side of the fire, with his chin on his bosom and the wrong end of the book turned towards him, he can pursue his self-complacent musings till he imagines himself a traveller in unknown lands — the solver of all the unsolved problems in science — the author of something so stupendous that he even begins to quail at his own glory. The misery is, that whilst nothing is done towards attaining the greatness, his luxurious imagination takes its possession for granted; and a still greater misery is, that the time wasted in unprofitable musings, if spent in honest application, would go very far to carry him where his sublime imagination fain would be. Some of the finest intellects have exhaled away in this sluggish evaporation, and left no vestige except the dried froth, the obscure film which survives the drivel of vanished dreams; and others have done just enough to show how important they would have been had they awaked sooner, or kept longer awake at once.
II. TO AVOID THIS GUILT AND WRETCHEDNESS —
1. Have a business in which diligence is lawful and desirable. The favourite pursuit of AEropus, king of Macedonia, was to make lanterns. And if your work be a high calling, you must not dissipate your energies on trifles which, lawful in themselves, are as irrelevant to you as lamp-making is to a king. Those of you who do not need to toil for your daily bread, your very leisure is a hint what the Lord would have you to do. As you have no business of your own, He would have you devote yourself to His business.
2. Having made a wise and deliberate selection of a business, go on with it, go through with it. In the heathery turf you will find a plant chiefly remarkable for its peculiar roots; from the main stem down to the minutest fibre, you will find them all abruptly terminate, as if shorn or bitten off, and superstition alleges that once it was a plant for healing all sorts of maladies, and therefore the devil bit off the roots in which its virtues resided. This plant is a good emblem of many well-meaning but little-effecting people. All their good works terminate abruptly. The devil frustrates their efficacy by cutting off their ends. But others there are who before beginning to build count the cost, and having collected their materials and laid their foundations, go on to rear their structure, indifferent to more tempting schemes. The persevering teacher who guides one child into the saving knowledge of Christ is a more useful man than his friend who gathers in a roomful of ragged children, and after a few weeks turns them all adrift on the streets again. So short is life that we can afford to lose none of it in abortive undertakings; and once we have begun it is true economy to finish.
(J. Hamilton, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;