I went past the field of a sluggard and by the vineyard of a man lacking judgment.
I. A PICTURE OF INDOLENCE. (Vers. 30, 31.) The vineyard in the East corresponds to the garden, orchard, or small farm in the West. In the parable it is overgrown with nettles and thorns. The stone fence is crumbling for want of repair. We may contrast the picture in Isaiah 5:1, sqq., of what a vineyard ought to be. The way in which God tilled the chosen people is the way in which he would have each of us attend to the garden of the soul.
II. THE SIGHT CARRIES A LESSON AND A WARNING. (Vers. 32-34) Let us attend to the parables of Nature. The eye is the great critical organ, and we never want lessons if we use it. The lesson here is - the effect has a cause - the wildness of Nature betrays the sin of man. Neglect marks itself on her truthful face. The sluggard's soul is revealed in her aspect not less than in the unkempt hair and squalid face of the human being. Here is the "vile sin of self-neglect," which involves all other neglect, clearly mirrored. In such spectacles and in the gloomier ones of malarious swamps, once smiling fields, God writes his judgment on the broad earth's face against the crime of sloth. The warning is against poverty and want, which stride on with noiseless footsteps, rushing in at last with sudden surprise upon dreaming self-indulgence, like an armed robber. Sudden seeming woes are long preparing, and no curse "causeless comes."
III. THE MORAL APPLICATION.
1. The analogy of Nature and the human spirit. Both are of God. Both contain principles of life, beauty, and use. Both need cultivation in order to their perfection. In both sloth and neglect are punished by loss and ruin.
2. The personal moral duty. To "awake from sleep," to "stir up the gift within us," to "work out our salvation," to be good husbandmen, good and faithful servants in this garden of the Lord - the soul. If not faithful here, how can it be expected that we shall be faithful in spheres more remote? - J.
I went by the field of the slothful.
1. The fatal consequences of irreligious sloth and negligence in those whom Providence hath raised up to be the heads of families. Families are the nurseries of the Church and state: it is from them that every department of life is filled up. Who is the slothful man? It is the moral sluggard whom the inspired writer has in view — the man who shows his children and servants, by all his pursuits, that this world is all for which they need to care. He neglects the important seasons and opportunities for moral culture. He does not teach them the duties which they owe to one another and to society. He may permit them to be instructed by others, but he does not support the instruction by his own influence and example. See the consequences of this negligence illustrated in the sluggard's garden. Being destitute of rule, management, or control, his children absorb every wrong sentiment with their earliest sense, and are more and more corrupted with every breath they draw. There is no order, calmness, moderation, or self-command among the members of his family.
2. The futility of such apologies as are usually made for this negligence. They have not time; they have not capacity; or they do not feel under obligation in this direction.
I. THE DESCRIPTION OF A SLOTHFUL MAN. Solomon was right when he called him "a man void of understanding." Not only does he not understand anything, but he has no understanding to understand with. He is empty-headed if he is a sluggard. As a rule we may measure a man's understanding by his useful activities. Certain persons call themselves "cultured," and yet they cultivate nothing. If knowledge, culture, education do not lead to practical service of God, we cannot have learned what Solomon calls wisdom. True wisdom is practical; boastful culture vapours and theorises. Wisdom ploughs its field, hoes its vineyard, looks to its crops, tries to make the best of everything; and he who does not do so, whatever may be his knowledge of this, of that, of the other, is "a man void of understanding."
1. Because he has opportunities which he does not use.
2. Because being bound to the performance of certain duties he did not fulfil them.
3. Because he has capacities which he does not employ.
4. Because he trifles with matters which demand his most earnest heed. The Christian who is slothful in his Master's service has no idea what he is losing.
II. LOOK AT THE SLUGGARD'S LAND.
1. Land will produce something; some kind of fruit, good or bad. If you are idle in God's work you are active in the devil's work.
2. If the soul be not farmed for God, it will yield its natural produce. What is the natural produce of land when left to itself?
3. If we are slothful, the natural produce of our heart and of our sphere will be most inconvenient and unpleasant to ourselves.
4. In many instances there will be a great deal of this evil produce.
III. THERE MUST BE SOME LESSON IN ALL THIS.
1. Unaided nature will always produce thorns and nettles, and nothing else.
2. See the little value of natural good intentions. This man, who left his field and his vineyard to be overgrown, always meant to work hard one of these fine days. Probably the worst people in the world are those who have the best intentions but never carry them out. Take heed of little delays and short puttings-off. You have wasted time enough already; come to the point at once before the clock strikes again.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. LOOK AT THIS BROKEN FENCE. In the beginning it was a good fence, a stone wall. Mention some of the stone walls that men permit to be broken down when they backslide.
1. Sound principles instilled in youth.
2. Solid doctrines which have been learned.
3. Good habits once formed.
4. Week-night services are a stone wall.
5. So is Bible-reading.
6. So is a public profession of faith.
7. So is firmness of character.
II. THE CONSEQUENCES OF A BROKEN-DOWN FENCE.
1. The boundary has gone. He does not know which is his Lord's property, and which remains an open common.
2. The protection is gone. When a man's heart has its wall broken all his thoughts will go astray, and wander upon the mountains of vanity. Nor is this all, for as good things go out, so bad things come in.
3. The land itself will go away. In many parts of Palestine the land is all ups and downs on the sides of the hills, and every bit of ground is terraced, and kept up by walls. When the walls fall the soil slips over terrace upon terrace, and the vines and trees go down with it; then the rain comes and washes the soil away, and nothing is left but barren crag which would starve a lark. Then I charge you, be sternly true to yourselves and God. Stand to your principles in this evil and wicked day.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. Each man has a field and a vineyard entrusted to his care — the immortal soul.
2. He is provided with various implements of husbandry, with good seed, sure directions, and animating promises.
3. See the soul, the vineyard of such a labourer. The effects will generally be commensurate with the means used. As we sow we reap.
4. Observe the deplorable condition of the soul described in the text. Here is a desolate and neglected soul which once was cultivated — the backslider. Whence the cause of this sad change? What is the miserable end to be dreaded?
(F. Close, M.A.)
(W. E. Elmslie, D.D.)
1. There is no fence.
2. There is no fruit.How comes this waste of precious ground? Traced to one source — self-indulgence. This reveals itself in various ways. In procrastination. In an easy assent to the popular misrepresentations of Christianity. In taking up doubts at second-hand, and parading them as though proof of their superior wisdom. But self-indulgence in every form will bring ruin. And the ruin of self-indulgence is fast approaching. "Thy poverty shall come as one that travelleth." There may be seeming delay about its arrival; but there is also certainty. It is even now upon the road.
(J. Jackson Goadby.)
1. The home sluggard. Usually a woman. Neglected homes lie at the root of much of the misery, sin, and unhappiness of the world to-day.
2. The sluggard in the battle of life. A good-for-nothing — a waster of time, money, and precious opportunities. God has not given us life to idle away. Maybe that something of this sluggish disposition lies within us all, and must be continually struggled with. The men who have done most in life, achieved the greatest fame, and gained its best prizes, have all been steady workers, diligent plodders.
3. The sluggard in the field of conscience. Weeds always grow quickly, though imperceptibly. There is a law of degeneration. It may be stated in this way: "Let a thing alone, and it is certain to deteriorate." It is thus in the realm of conscience. There is nothing more dangerous than procrastination in the affairs of the soul and conscience. Many a man is aware of evil habits, and intends to give them up by and by. They never are given up in that way. Let your life alone, and you will awaken some day in awful astonishment at the depths to which you have sunk. Give up indolence and procrastination, then.
(Wm. Hay, B.D.)I. IT IS FOOLISH. Solomon characterises this indolent man as one "void of understanding." therein do you see this man's folly? In the flagrant neglect of his own interests. You may cultivate your field by proxy, but you can only cultivate your soul yourself.
II. IT IS PROCRASTINATING.
III. IT IS RUINOUS.
1. Consider the wretched condition to which his estate was reduced. "Lo, it was all grown over with thorns," etc. It might have waved in golden grain.Two things suggested by the words.
1. That the ruin is gradual in its approach. It does not burst on you at once, like a thunder-storm.
2. The ruin is terrible in its consummation. "As an armed man." It will seize you as with the grasp of an indignant warrior.
(D. Thomas, D.D.)I. SURVEY THIS WASTE VINEYARD.
1. We can see nothing but weeds. The outgrowths of the depraved heart yield no real revenue to man. Covetousness, malice, vain thoughts, evil desires, unbelief.
2. How luxuriantly they grow! Our evil propensities must, if unchecked by grace, increase.
3. There are various kinds of growth. Thorns and nettles. There may be a man of one book, business, virtue — but not of one evil propensity.
4. They are all harmful. "Thorns" to lacerate; "nettles" to sting.
5. The wall is broken. Anybody might sow there, or water the unprofitable crop — except the good sower, and he must enter by the door. God saves us from our sluggishness, not in it.
II. WHY IT REMAINS IN THIS DEPLORABLE CONDITION. Ignorance that will not learn, and slothfulness that will not work.
III. EXPOSTULATE WITH THE SLUGGARD.
1. The vineyard is not your own.
2. Think what this vineyard might produce. Grapes for the cup of the King — fruit for days of sickness — refreshment for old age.
3. In its present state it is harmful to your neighbours. The thistle-down will float far and wide.
IV. IN CONCLUSION, SOME WORDS OF EARNEST COUNSEL.
1. Come forth from your couch of indifference and resolutely inspect this desolate scene.
2. Do not seek to satisfy conscience by pulling a weed here and there. It must be thoroughly delved; ploughed up. "Ye must be born again."
3. Do not be content with showing a few wild grapes.
(R. A. Griffin.)
Preacher's Magazine.Some preachers teach morality without showing its vital connection with the gospel. Some fall into the opposite error, and fail to exhibit the ethical side of the gospel.
I. THE FIELD OF THE SLUGGARD TEACHES THAT IT IS WRONG TO ABUSE WHAT WE REGARD AS OUR OWN. The sluggard might contend that the garden was his own. The assumption is unfounded, and even blasphemous.
1. It is a sigh of gross disloyalty to God, who prefers an absolute claim to our life and service.
2. It involves a serious loss to our fellow-creatures, because the wind carries the seeds of our neglect into our neighbour's garden. Apply to moral influence.
II. THE POSSESSION OF ADVANTAGES, SO FAR FROM ABSOLVING US FROM THE NECESSITY OF LABOUR AND SELF-CULTURE, RENDERS THEM MORE NECESSARY. The area of our responsibility coincides with the area of our possessions.
1. The cultivation of the body is a sacred obligation.
2. The mind is a vineyard that ought to be cultivated.
3. There is, too, the vineyard of the heart.
III. NEGLECT, AS WELL AS WILFUL WICKEDNESS, MOVE IN THE DIRECTION OF DESTRUCTION. Observe that not only was the soil covered with noxious growths, but the means of protection were destroyed.
IV. GOOD MEN WILL LEARN FROM THE FOLLIES AND MISERIES OF WICKED MEN. Such instruction is gathered by observation and reflection. The two principal methods of acquiring wisdom. Observation collects facts, reflection arranges and applies them, converting them into solid nutriment for mind and heart.
(Preacher's Magazine.)1. To every minister of God there is entrusted a field and a vineyard.
2. God supplies his labourer with various implements of husbandry, with good seed and providential opportunities.
3. God makes special promises to every devoted husbandman.
4. What a blessed sight is the field and vineyard of such a labourer!
5. But consider the different picture drawn in the text. What is so affecting as the contemplation of a neglected parish? How is this to be accounted for? "This is the field of the slothful, and the vineyard of the man void of understanding."What is the people's duty, in the consideration of such a subject as this?
1. Let us all be anxious to avail ourselves of the religious privileges which we possess.
2. If it is our misfortune to have a slothful husbandman, let us not desert the Church, but unite in prayer for him and wait on God in meek submission to His will.
(F. Close, M.A.)
I. THE SCENE SHOWS US THAT IF WE WILL NOT HAVE FLOWERS AND FRUITS WE SHALL CERTAINLY HAVE THORNS AND NETTLES. We cannot set aside the laws of nature. There is a law of growth in the very ground. It is the same with the character of man. We cannot simply do nothing. Life has its laws. We may pay them no heed, but they will assert themselves notwithstanding.
1. A man may resolve not to cultivate his mind. What then? The weeds of false notions, the thorns and nettles of prejudice, will prove his intellectual indolence.
2. A man may neglect to cultivate his moral nature. He will have nothing to do with religion. What then? Look at his false ideas, his superstition, his narrowness, his want of veneration, his superficial judgments, the weeds that have grown up.
II. THE SLUGGARD AND THE FOOL CANNOT HIDE THE RESULTS OF THEIR NEGLECT.
1. We cannot confine the results of a wasted life within our own bounds.
2. This being the case, we have not a right to do with what we call our own as we please. There is nothing which we can strictly call our own. Society will not allow us to do what we please with our own.
III. IT IS POSSIBLE TO BE RIGHT IN SOME PARTICULARS AND TO BE GRIEVOUSLY WRONG IN OTHERS. The legal right of the slothful man to the possession of the field might be undisputed. The vineyard might have fallen into the hands of the fool by strict lawful descent. So far so good. The case is on this side perfectly sound. Yet possession was not followed by cultivation. It is not enough to possess; we must increase. You ought not to allow even a house to fall into decay. There is no right of abuse. You have not a right to be dirty, to be ignorant, to be careless of life; on that line no rights have ever been established.
IV. THE SCENE SHOWS THAT EVEN THE WORST ABUSES MAY BE TURNED TO GOOD ACCOUNT. The good man is an example; the bad man is a warning.
1. You will see that the finest possessions may be wasted; property, talent, influence, opportunity.
2. You will see that wickedness always moves in the direction of destruction. It must do so. All indolence must go down. All sin forces itself in the direction of perdition. How did the wise man know that the man was void of understanding? By the state of his vineyard. Know a man by his surroundings, know him by his habits; there is character in everything.
(J. Parker, D.D.)
1. The intellectual faculty is the understanding. If not cultivated, it will produce an attendant crop of evil thoughts and vain imaginations, which, like thorns and nettles, will injuriously affect the soul.
2. Another property of the soul to be cultivated is the memory, and unless that is attended to, all the other would be like casting seed by the wayside.
3. Another section of the soul is that of the affections which are ever disposed to run wild, and want continual pruning and training, to guide them in a right direction. The heart is liable to alight upon objects that may pierce it with many sorrows, to prevent which the most efficient remedy is to have the mind occupied as much as possible in contemplation of eternal blessings. If the mind were to dwell on the attributes of the Deity, especially as the God of love, it would expand with delight as the blossom to the sun.
(William Neville, M.A.)
(S. Cox, D.D.).
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