I. THE PICTURE OF INSECT INDUSTRY. The ant was viewed as the very picture of laboriousness in ancient as in modern times. It is interesting that the German word for "industrious" (emsig) seems derivable from amessi, "emmet, ant." The like may probably be traceable in some English dialects,
1. The industry of the ant has all the appearance of a virtue. For it seems unforced; there is no judge, superintendent, or onlooker, or taskmaster, to superintend its work. Contrast with the representations on various monuments of the taskmasters with whips superintending gangs of labourers.
2. It is provident industry. It lays up against the rainy day. The closer study of ant life by modern observers opens a world of marvel, and suggests other lines of thought. It is sufficient for didactic purposes to note the general principle; the external appearances of nature reveal moral analogies.
II. THE CONTRAST OF HUMAN SLOTH. (Vers. 9-11.)
1. The lazy man seems as if he would sleep forever (ver. 9).
2. He knows not when he has reposed enough (ver. 10). An ironical imitation of his langour, his lazy attitude. The arms ever crossed, instead of being opened and ready for toil. "When I begin to turn about," said the Duke of Wellington, "I turn out."
3. The result of sloth (ver. 11). Poverty surprises him like a robber, and want like an armed man. A striking picture of the seeming suddenness with which men may sink into destitution. But it is only seeming; it has been long really preparing.
III. MORAL ANALOGY AND APPLICATION. Sloth in all its forms is ruinous to body and soul. Mental inertness and vacuity is a common form, The mind must be aroused, interested, filled. Here is one of the great sources of drunkenness, because of depression. If you have no occupation, invent one. Goad your temper by hopes and fears, if it will not wake up without them. In religion "be not slothful." Work at the practical or theoretical side of it, whichever suits your capacity best. Work out your own salvation. Take it all for granted, and you will presently find that all has slipped away, and naught remains but an impoverished intellect, a stagnant will. - J.
Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler.
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