I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding;…
The whole scene is before us. The sluggard is asleep while everything is going wrong; instead of the flower is the thorn; the ground is coloured with the green weeds; the wall is breaking down; where should be beauty is unsightliness; where should be fruitfulness is barrenness or wilderness; ruin is written, on everything, everywhere. So is it with the farmer, with the tradesman, with the merchant or manufacturer, of the sluggard order. Consider it well. Negligence, dilatoriness, half-heartedness, in any department means decay, breakdown, ruin. Poverty is on its way, and will certainly be knocking at the door; want will present itself with a force that cannot be resisted.
1. We have all of us a garden, an estate of our own, Which God has given us to cultivate - that which is of more value than many thousands of acres of fertile soil, that which no riches can buy - our own true self, our own human spirit. God has solemnly charged us to cultivate that, to weed it of error and prejudice, of folly and of passion; to plant truth there, his own living, abiding truth; to plant righteousness there, purity of heart, integrity of soul; to plant love there, such as fills his own gracious Spirit; to build there walls of wise, strong, protecting habits, which will fence and guard the soul from intruding enemies.
2. There are all too many who treat this garden, this estate, with careless negligence; they throw their energy and force into everything else - business, love, politics, art, pleasure, society; but themselves, their own spirit, their own character, they leave to fare as best it may without care and without culture.
3. Very sad indeed are the results of this foolish and guilty negligence. This picture of the sluggard's garden will tell us what they are.
I. UNSIGHTLINESS. What a dreary picture - weeds, thistles, thorns, a broken wall! The eye turns from it with repugnance. And the neglected garden of the soul? Instead of the beautiful flowers of Christian reverence and love, and the lair fruits of holiness and zeal, and the strong walls of a noble character, there are seen by God and man the unsightly weeds of transgression, of selfishness, of untruthfulness - perhaps the thorns of intemperance and impurity and profanity.
II. WASTE. African travellers tell us that passing over uncultivated regions they have to make their way through all kinds of rank growth, grass, or shrub which is high, strong, or thorny, covering many miles at a stretch. What waste is there! What corn, what fruit, would not that land produce? Alas! for the pitiful waste of an uncultured human soul! What beauties might not be seen there, what fruits might not be grown there, what graces and virtues might not be produced there, if only the truth of Christ were received into the mind and welcomed to the heart!
III. MISCHIEF. These weeds will not be confined to the sluggard's garden; their seeds will be carried by the winds into his neighbour's, and do mischief enough them. A neglected soul is a mischief-working soul. It cannot confine its influence to itself or its own life. Those influences cross the wall and get into the neighbour's ground. And the seeds of sin are hurtful, poisonous things, spreading error, falsehood, delusion, into the minds of men. If we are not blessing our neighbours by the lives we live, we are an injury and an evil to them.
IV. RUIN. The man who neglects his estate is really, steadily, ruining himself. He may not see it until it is too late. Poverty has been travelling toward him, but only at the last bend of the road does it come in sight. Want suddenly appears "as an armed man," strong, irresistible; there is no way of escape; bankruptcy is before him. The soul that is neglected is being ruined; day by day it is being enfeebled, enslaved, deteriorated; the good that was there is lessening and disappearing; the hard crust of selfishness and worldliness is thickening. The soul is being lost; it is perishing. "I considered it well" - "set my heart up in it" (marginal reading) This is, indeed, a thing to be well considered, to "set the heart upon," for the issues of it are those of life or death. There is time to restore it; but a little more negligence, and the hour of "ruin" will have struck. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding;