How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep?
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.
How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep?
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.
I. GOD WILL CALL MEN TO A RECKONING FOR THEIR TIME.
1. God gives us time as a talent in trust.
2. God looks for some good from men in their time.
II. TOO MUCH SLEEP IS AS BAD AS WAKING IDLENESS.
1. Overmuch sleep is the fruit of idleness. Men that have much to do have little mind or time for sleep.
2. As little good is done in sleep as in waking idleness. Moderate your sleep. Too much sleep makes a man heavy and dull-witted.
(Francis Taylor, B. D.)
I. WHY IS IT THAT GOSPEL-HEARERS DELAY AND PUT OFF REPENTANCE?
1. Satan has a great hand in this. He is always urging either that it is too soon or else that it is too long a doing.
2. The cares and business of the world contribute much to this.
3. The predominant love of carnal ease.
4. The predominant love of sin.
5. A natural aversion and backwardness to holiness. When light is let into the mind, but the aversion still remains in the will, what can be expected but that the business of repentance, which they dare not absolutely refuse, will be delayed?
6. The hope of finding the work easier afterwards.
7. A large reckoning on the head of time that is to come.
8. A fond conceit of the easiness of salvation-work.
9. A conceit of sufficient ability in ourselves to turn ourselves from sin unto God.
II. THIS DELAYING IS A SOUL-RUINING COURSE.
1. It is directly opposite to the gospel call, which is for to-day, not for tomorrow. All the calls of the gospel require present compliance.
2. It is threatened with ruin. And this threatening has been accomplished in many whom their slothful days have caused to perish.
3. Whenever grace touches the heart men see that it is so.
4. It has a native tendency to soul-ruin. The state of sin is a state of wrath, where ruin must needs compass a man about on every hand. The longer men continue in sin, spiritual death advanceth the more upon them. While they remain in this state there is but a step betwixt them and death, which you may be carried over by a delay of ever so short a time.Use
1. For information: That delayers of repentance are self-destroyers, self-murderers. By delays the interest of hell is advanced. Satan is most busy to ply the engine of delays. They are sinners' best friends that give them least rest in a sinful course.Use
2. Of lamentation: Thou knowest not the worth of a precious soul, which thou are throwing away for what will not profit. Thou knowest not the excellency of the precious Christ. Thou knowest not the worth of precious time. Thou knowest not the weight of the wrath of God. Thou dost not observe what speed thy ruin is making while thou liest at ease. Thou dost not observe how near thy destruction may be. Thou dost not observe how utterly unable thou art to ward off the blow when it comes.Use
3. Of reproof to delayers of salvation-work: To delaying saints. A delay of righting their case when matters are wrong, by receiving their repentance and the actings of faith. The delaying to give up some bosom-idol that mars their communion with God. The delaying to clear their state before the Lord. The delaying of some particular duty, or piece of generation-work, which they are convinced God calls them to. The delaying of actual preparation for eternity. To delaying sinners: Is the debt of sin so small upon thy head that thou must run thyself deeper in the debt of God's justice? Is not the holy law binding on thee? Who has assured thee that ever thou shalt see the age thou speakest of? Who has the best right to thy youth and strength? Ye middle-age people, why do ye delay repentance? I exhort you all to delay repentance and salvation-work no longer.
(T. Boston, D. D.)
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