As I live, said the Lord GOD, Sodom your sister has not done, she nor her daughters, as you have done, you and your daughters.…
Of the various evils to which mankind are subject, few steal upon the soul with such fatal security, and deprive us at once of dignity, of happiness, and virtue, as Idleness. To active crimes that annoy the peace of others, even the most hardened sinner is forced to be awake; but against the still, corroding vices of the heart, that chiefly affect ourselves, we are seldom guarded, except by the voluntary exercise of our own reason, or the friendly admonitions of others.
1. If we look up to the great Creator, as to the source of all perfections, and contemplate His wisdom and His goodness in His works, we shall find that no living example of Idleness or inactivity is ordained by His Providence. All seem "working together," and gradually fulfilling some wise and beneficent purpose, which He has appointed. While the face of nature presents us with this general scene of action, shall man remain, in contradiction to the will of heaven, in the rest and sloth of Idleness? Nothing could degrade him more in that scale of being in which he was intended to hold so distinguished a rank. There are active duties allotted to every human being; and the fulfilling of them with cheerfulness and diligence should form no inconsiderable portion of our happiness. While some are assiduously providing for their own household, by following their respective avocations, others may be engaged in laudable attempts to extend the boundaries of science, and to increase the comforts of social life; — while many are anxiously employed in protecting the helplessness of infancy, and in forming the manners of childhood, a few, whom fortune has placed above these humble duties, might fill the offices of state with advantage; and, by their industry, their virtues, and their wisdom, greatly contribute to the general welfare.
2. In a state of indolence are engendered many evils and many sorrows. Among the lower classes of the community Idleness is productive of misery and guilt in every varied form. The ties of every duty, indeed, will be but slightly felt by him who gives himself up to Idleness. His predominant vice gradually undermines his principles, and spreads licentiousness through his character. If a man of this description have a family, all bred up under the contagious influence of his vices, it is impossible to tell how far and wide the stream of corruption will spread. So much is Idleness to be dreaded in its consequences when it infects the poor. If we consider those of middle life, who might be said to possess the object of Agur's prayer, and to have "neither poverty nor riches," we shall perceive the same vice diffusing its miseries. Under the pleasing delusion of comfort and of ease we may observe some quitting the active scenes of life, which habit had rendered familiar, and almost natural, in pursuit of happiness in retirement. But it is not every mind that is formed or prepared for the enjoyment of solitude. A languid discontent and a peevish neglect of ordinary comforts soon lead to sensuality and excess of every kind. Self-indulgence is the last idol of the heart; and the short remnant of life is often divided between the feebleness or pain of disease and the stupors of intoxication. To those who may not be in danger of gross and sensual vices, Idleness still brings with it distresses that ought to be dreaded. If temptation from the body should be resisted, it seldom fails to fasten on the mind. The human frame is so constituted as to require frequent alternations of action and of rest. The animal functions cannot be properly performed without them; and how these affect the mind is well known. It may be remarked, however, that even excess of labour is not so injurious as excess of ease. Idleness, indeed, completely disqualifies us for every rational enjoyment. One chief pleasure in human life is the blessing of repose after fatigue; or the relaxation of amusements, either solitary or social, after labour. But these, to the idle, are like food to one whose appetite is already cloyed.
3. Let me earnestly exhort you, therefore, to guard against a vice, whose pernicious influence is so extensive, and whose consequences ought to be so much dreaded. Whatever be your situation, reason and religion will point out to you some scheme of duties appropriated to it, which it should be at once your interest and pleasure to fulfil. Life abounds also with such frequent opportunities of doing good, or improving time, that no part of the small portion which remains should be squandered away in trifles; for, next to the vice of Idleness, is that of employing time amiss. It is fortunate, indeed, for the generality, that many of the active duties are forced on them by necessity: for those who have it in their power to do what they please, always do the least; and soon find the ardour of voluntary pursuits gradually subside, till it is wholly lost in a passion for pleasure, or the love of ease.
(J. Hewlett, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: As I live, saith the Lord GOD, Sodom thy sister hath not done, she nor her daughters, as thou hast done, thou and thy daughters.