I. IT IS FULL OF EXCUSES. (Ver. 13.) There is always some pretext for evading duty, however frivolous and absurd, with the idle man. Idleness is the parent of almost every sin; here of cowardice, he who excuses, accuses himself. Every manly act of exertion is imagined to be full of danger by the lazy mind. The sluggard does not see what danger of another and deadlier kind there is in stagnation. Danger is the brave man's opportunity, difficulty the lion in the way, by victory over which he may earn the laurel of victory and gain the joy of new conscious power.
II. IT LOVES REPOSE AND SELF-INDULGENCE. (Ver. 14.) As the door swings perpetually upon its hinges, without moving a step from its fixed position, so with the sluggard. He "turns round and round, with dull stupidity, like the dyer's horse in the ring" (Proverbs 19:24). How often the cannot of the slave of vice or evil habit only disguises the will not of the sloth-eaten heart! To make mere rest our life-object is to contend against the order of God.
III. IT HATES EXERTION. (Ver. 15.) Even the most necessary exertion may become by habit distasteful. To take his hand from his bosom, even merely to reach after the bread of life, is too much labour for him. And thus his life, instead of being a continual feast, sinks into spiritual indigence and starvation.
"The idle soul shall suffer hunger." IV. IT BREEDS CONCEIT AND FOLLY. (Ver. 16.) This is the strange irony of the vice, that the empty hand shall fancy itself full of wisdom. But such fancies are the very growth of the soil of indolence. It is impossible to make such a one understand his ignorance, for it requires knowledge to perceive it; and he who can perceive it has it not (Jeremy Taylor). The evil may creep into the Church. One may fall into an idle and passive piety, content with sitting still, hearing, praying, singing, from one end of the year to the other, without advancing one step in the practical Christian life (1 Thessalonians 5:6). - J.
IV. IT BREEDS CONCEIT AND FOLLY. (Ver. 16.) This is the strange irony of the vice, that the empty hand shall fancy itself full of wisdom. But such fancies are the very growth of the soil of indolence. It is impossible to make such a one understand his ignorance, for it requires knowledge to perceive it; and he who can perceive it has it not (Jeremy Taylor). The evil may creep into the Church. One may fall into an idle and passive piety, content with sitting still, hearing, praying, singing, from one end of the year to the other, without advancing one step in the practical Christian life (1 Thessalonians 5:6). - J.
The slothful man saith, There is a lion in the way; a lion is in the streets.
I. "There is a lion in the way." In what way? In the way of life — of every life. Life, if it is to be a true life, is not an easy thing. There is, indeed, such a thing as a life which is no true life, only a living death. Sloth, self-indulgence, self-abandonment to a besetting sin, caring for nothing but self, and the keeping one's self miserably alive, to live at ease, to live selfishly, to live for pleasure, all this is to be dead while we live. If you live thus you may for a time live at home quite secure, fearless of the only lions you dread. If, on the other hand, you mean to live for nobler objects than those of shameless selfishness, you too, like Saul, will have to fight with wild beasts at Ephesus or elsewhere. There will be needed the girded loin and the burning lamp, the swift foot, and the sharp sword, and the stout heart, and the strong arm; faith and prayer, and the battle, and the Cross.
2. There are many lions, and not one only. True courage does not consist in the absence of any sense of fear — that may only be due to brute apathy — but it is to feel fear and to overcome it.
I. FOR THE BRAVE, TRUE MAN THERE IS THE LION OF THE WORLD. We live in days of wonderful, and for some men, pleasant compromises. Religion walks in silver slippers. Good and evil lie flat together, side by side, in amiable neutrality. You may take your choice. If what you are content with is compromise and conventionality, and the broad beaten road, and success and popularity, you may have it for the asking: it is quite easy to offend nobody. But if you would have any of the nobleness, any of the usefulness, of the prophet or the reformer, boldly rebuke vice, denounce a fashionable iniquity, fling away from you a theological falsehood, run counter to a general delusion, deal vigorously with the "lion in the way." The lion of the world's hatred and opposition may be avoided. It is avoided by thousands of sleek and prosperous men.
II. But there is another lion which each man must meet, THE LION OF HIS OWN FLESHLY NATURE, OF HIS OWN PHYSICAL AND MENTAL PASSIONS. describes each man as consisting, so to speak, of three beings in one: a lion, a many-headed monster, and a man. Of these the man represents the controlling reason; the lion the fierce and irascible temper; the many-headed monster the low and animal passions. The man, the reason, must absolutely rule; the irascible impulses must not be crushed, indeed, but controlled; the monster of fleshly lusts must be utterly subdued. By every one of us that lion, that multitudinous and many-headed monster, must be fought.
III. ANOTHER LION IS HE WHO "GOETH ABOUT, SEEKING WHOM HE MAY DEVOUR." Each of us knows by experience that there are some tendencies and temptations — to pride, to falsity, to blaspheming thoughts, to causeless hatred — which often come upon a man with fierce and unlooked-for suddenness, and we know not whence or where the tempting opportunity suddenly meets the susceptible disposition. "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." Remember that he can be fought face to face, but the Christian has no armour for the back.
IV. CONSIDER THE DUTY OF FACING THESE LIONS IN OUR OUTWARD LIFE. Everywhere individual license invades public rights. The slothful man (and the slothful man is the epitome of the slothful nation) is ingenious in excuses. Happily every now and then God-strengthened, God-inspired, good, brave, unsophisticated men, have torn their way through these thorny hedges of indolence, greed, and opposition; have faced the wild beast of demoralised public opinion, in spite of its erect mane and flaming eye.
V. THE SLOTHFUL MAN PLEADS THAT MANY HAVE BEEN SLAIN BY THIS "LION IN THE WAY." Yes, it is quite true. But to them, as to their Lord, through death, and after death, if not in life, hath come the glory and the victory. Slain: yet no harm has come to them. Better a thousand times their death than the life of the selfish and the base. There is one way in which a man can die even better than this. It is when, homeless, landless, wifeless, childless, without even a hope of earthly things, he faces those fearful odds, not for his own wealth or his own comfort, but for his brother man; faces them for the sake of simple duty, faces them for the common love of humanity, faces them because, if God wills it, he, too, is ready to die for those for whom Christ died. Take courage, then, all ye who are fearless enough and noble enough to care for any righteous cause.
(James Flint, D. D.)
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