For the Egyptians shall help in vain, and to no purpose: therefore have I cried concerning this, Their strength is to sit still.
I. SOME THINGS TO WHICH THE SENTENCE OF THE TEXT WILL NOT APPLY.
1. It will not apply when we have to get our daily bread. We are to be diligent in business, as well as fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. Neither do we say so when learning is to be acquired. This is to be sought by application, and earned by incessant toil. Neither is our preaching by sitting still. If any think to enter the ministry that they may sit still, and spend a life of ease, they utterly mistake the office.
3. Nor when any temptation is to be resisted, or any evil overcome. You are to resist the tempter. And you are to maintain that particular virtue, which is in direct defiance of the particular temptation. If you are tempted, there is another thing which you can do. You can flee. Safety is often in flight. Joseph fled. "Flee youthful lusts."
4. Nor does the text apply when duties of any kind are to be done. Idleness is a base condition. Better dig a hole and fall it up again. Better roll a stone up and down a hill, than pass your time in listlessness and languor. There are duties belonging to every state of life. Let them be attended to in promptitude and despatch.
5. Nor is the text applicable when good works are to be undertaken. We have many instructions in Scripture on this subject. "Be not weary in well-doing," etc. "Be steadfast, unmovable," etc. "These things," says St. Paul, "I will that ye affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God, may be careful to maintain good works."
6. We do not say it when the heavenly prize of eternal life is to be contended for.
II. STATE THE CONDITION OF THINGS TO WHICH THE AXIOM DOES APPLY.
1. It will apply to many important questions concerning the salvation of the soul. It will apply to the expiation of guilt. So respecting regeneration. "Ye must be born again." There must be wrought an inward change. It will be wrought of God. And the Spirit of God works when, how, and where He pleases.
2. There are some matters belonging to our daily and nightly life, in which the principle is likewise of great value and importance. For example, the evening is come. The day's labour is finished. It is time to cease. God says to you, Lie down; go to sleep. And when you sleep, "Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain." Be not afraid. God will keep both the city and the watchman. Then, here is God's own day. This is the day when God emphatically says, "Sit still"; and in quietness and rest is your strength. Be not afraid. Commerce will be uninjured, and none the worse for your being quiet on this day. You will return to your occupations with augmented might and vigour on the morrow.
3. Then, again, there are providential conjunctures, in which we can do nothing, in which every effort and interference of ours is of no avail. And now the end of all this is manifest. Man's chief wisdom is —
(1) To be active and diligent in all his appointed fields of labour and exertion.
(2) To be tranquil, and resigned, and passive in matters over which he has no control.
(3) To trust God, and acquiesce in the Divine will in everything.
Parallel VersesKJV: For the Egyptians shall help in vain, and to no purpose: therefore have I cried concerning this, Their strength is to sit still.