How long will you sleep, O sluggard? when will you arise out of your sleep?
The various authors of Scripture are accurately acquainted with the human character. Among numerous defective habits and characteristics of our nature, which Solomon points out and condemns, is that of indolence; excessive fondness for ease and personal indulgence. The language of the text may be used in connection with the affairs of religion and of the soul.
I. THE STATE WHICH IS DEPRECATED. It is a state of "sleep"—a moral condition of which corporeal sleep furnishes the most apt representation.
1. Notice its moral characteristics. The state of sleep is a state of forgetfulness, a state of ignorance, and a state of insensibility. What man is to the material world in a state of corporeal sleep, that he is to the spiritual world when he is influenced by his original and his natural passions. The spiritual characteristics of man's condition, illustrated by the metaphor of the text, will be found to be borne out by the entire and uniform testimony of the Word of God. That testimony is, from the commencement to the close, a record of human depravity, operating in connection with forgetfulness, with ignorance, and with insensibility, and hence deriving, and hence preserving over the species its empire of corruption and of abominable foulness.
2. Notice its penal evils. Sleep is a state of privation and insecurity. The characteristics we have noticed are not involuntary, they are wilful. They are not unfortunate, they are guilty. They are heinous and flagrant transgressions against the law, and against the authority, of God. And hence it is, they expose the persons indulging them to a dispensation of displeasure and of wrath.
II. THE CHANGE WHICH IS DESIRED. There should be an awaking and "arising out of sleep."
1. In what does this change consist? The spiritual awakening which is desired constitutes a condition precisely the reverse of that which already has been defined. It consists in s state in which man exchanges forgetfulness for remembrances, ignorance for illumination, and insensibility for sensitiveness and tenderness. Spiritual truth is now discerned, contemplated, believed, and felt; and it produces in the mind all the affections, and in the life all the habits, for which it was designed: repentance, prayerfulness, love to God, zeal for God, obedience to God, diligence in working out the salvation of the soul, and intense and constant aspirings after a state of salvation in the glory of another world. The penal evils, which formerly dwelt over the horizon of the spirit as with the darkness of midnight, are dispelled, and are made to disappear.
2. How is this change produced? There is one Agent, by whose power it must exclusively and efficaciously be performed—the agency of the Holy Spirit of God. The Divine Spirit is the one efficacious source of all that is holy and redeeming in the character and circumstances of man. But there are certain means, appointed by the authority of God, to be addressed by those who have been changed to those who have not, and in connection with them it is that the Spirit produces the desired and happy result. Illustration of the use of means is found in the parable of the valley of dry bones. The system of means exists with remarkable plenitude and sufficiency in the dispensation of the gospel.
III. THE APPEAL WHICH IS ENFORCED. The challenge implies that there ought to be no procrastination or delay in the change which is desired and pleaded for. Pleading with sinners, I would say —
1. Consider the protracted period of time during which you have indulged in slumber already.
2. Consider the increased difficulty of awakening the longer the slumber is indulged.
3. Consider the rapidly approaching termination of life, and arrival of judgment and eternity.
Parallel VersesKJV: How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep?